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That Was The Week That Was
It ran for just two series but That Was The Week That Was ("TW3") is still revered more than four decades later.
In November 1962, Britain was changing. Deference was on the way out, The Beatles were on their way in. The "satire boom" was in full swing, revue "Beyond the Fringe" had stormed to success on both sides of the Atlantic, Private Eye had just launched and the Establishment club was up and running in Soho.
At the same time the BBC had seen the arrival of a new Director-General, Hugh Carleton-Greene, determined to sharpen up the Corporation's output.
Keen to move away from the cosiness embodied by early evening news programme "Tonight" (nothing to do with Trevor McDonald) he put one of that programme's producers, Ned Sherrin, in charge of creating a live, late-night show to "prick the pomposity of public figures".
Sherrin immediately set to wining and dining the top young satirists working the cabaret circuit, as well as many of the team behind Private Eye.
The product was TW3 – a show unlike any seen before. Each week it was introduced by Millicent Martin belting out the theme tune, its words altered to reflect the week's news, before going into a topical monologue by host David Frost and then onto a series of sketches, invective from journalist Bernard Levin, songs, cartoons drawn live, monologues and studio debate.
Cameras kept in shot, footage of autocue and waving of scripts emphasised the live nature of the programme, as did a tendency for performers to stumble over lines and miss cues, not to mention the fact the show often overran.
It didn't matter.
After its first outing on 24 November 1962 the programme was being hailed in the press, with Dennis Potter writing "Satire... is getting a hold in the most unlikely places. Even Auntie BBC is having a go... More than enough blows thudded home for the purple bruises to be counted".
Arriving just in time for the Profumo affair, TW3 gained a reputation for savage satire. It witnessed and commented on all the major events of the time, including producing a special, non-satirical, edition as a tribute following the assassination of President Kennedy.
As well as launching David Frost into the nation's living-rooms, the programme also established the careers of such varied talents as Roy Kinnear, Lance Percival and Willie Rushton as well as providing an outlet for writing by Keith Waterhouse, Richard Ingrams, David Nobbs, Christopher Booker, Peter Tinniswood, Bill Oddie, Michael Frayn, Johnny Speight, Clement Freud and Graham Chapman among numerous others.
With the satire came a vast numbers of complaints. Nonetheless the BBC kept the show on for two series, only finally bowing to the inevitable when the perceived need to avoid political controversy during the run-up to the 1964 General Election resulted in the programme being halted.
It was never re-commissioned but nonetheless proved the inspiration for every satirical show that followed it.
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