- That Was The Week That Was
"That Was The Week That Was", also known as TW3, was a
satirical televisioncomedy programme that aired on BBC Televisionin 1962 and 1963.
Devised, produced and directed by
Ned Sherrin, the programme was frontedby David Frost and cast members included improvising cartoonist Timothy Birdsall, political commentator Bernard Levin, and actors Lance Percival, who sidelined in topical calypsos, many improvised in response to suggestions from the audience, Kenneth Cope, Roy Kinnear, Willie Rushton(then known as 'William'), Al Mancini, Robert Lang, David Kernanand Millicent Martin. The last two were also singers and the programme opened with a song – eponymously entitled "That Was The Week That Was" – sung by Martin to Ron Grainer's theme tuneand enumerating topics that had been in the past week's news. Off-screen script-writers included John Albery, John Betjeman, John Bird, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Peter Cook, Roald Dahl, Richard Ingrams, Gerald Kaufman, Frank Muir, Denis Norden, Bill Oddie, Dennis Potter, Eric Sykes, Kenneth Tynan, Keith Waterhouseand others.
The programme was groundbreaking in its
lampooningof the establishment. Prime Minister Harold Macmillanwas initially supportive of the programme, chastising the then Postmaster General Reginald Bevins(nominally in charge of broadcasting) for threatening to "do something about it". During the Profumo affair, however, he became one of the programme's chief targets for derision. After two successful seasons in 1962 and 1963, the programmedid not return in 1964, as this was a General Election year and the BBC decided it would be undulyinfluential.
At the end of each episode, Frost would
usuallysign off with: "That "was" the week, that was." At the end of the final programme he announced: "That "was" That Was The Week That Was...that was."
The show was
alwaysthe last to be scheduled as part of the BBC's Saturday night programming, and as such often extensively under- or overran as the cast and crew worked through the material as they saw fit. For the first three editions of the second season in 1963, the BBC attempted to limit the activities of the team by scheduling repeats of the televisionseries "The Third Man" after the programme, so that they could not overrun their slot. However, Frost took to reading out detailed synopses of the plots of the following "Third Man" episode at the end of each edition of "TW3", revealing all the twists and details and meaning there was little point in anybody watching them. The BBC quickly dropped the repeats, and "TW3" was left open-ended once more.
Possibly the most famous, and certainly most acclaimed, edition of the programme was that broadcast on Saturday
November 23 1963, the day after the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy. "TW3" produced a shortened 20-minute programme with no satire, reflecting on the loss, including a contribution from Dame Sybil Thorndikeand the tribute song "In the Summer of His Years" sung by Martin. This edition was screened on NBCin the US the following day, and the soundtrack was released as a vinyl LP recording by Decca Records. In addition to the Millicent Martin studio recording of "In the Summer of His Years" being issued in the U.S. by ABC-Paramount, numerous other versions were hurriedly recorded and rush-released by Connie Francis(MGM), Mahalia Jackson(Columbia), Kate Smith(RCA Victor), Sarah Vaughn(Vernon) and The Chad Mitchell Trio(Mercury); the Francis recording became a Top 40 hit on the Cash Boxpop singles chart in January 1964. " The New York Times" quoted BBC presenter Richard Dimbleby, who travelled to the U.S. to broadcast the president's funeral as having said that the regular programme was scrapped when news of the assassination was received in London. The programme was a good expression of the sorrow felt in Britain, Dimbleby said.
As with many contemporary BBC shows, the programme was transmitted live, and recordings were not made of all editions. A compilation taken from
telerecordings of the original live broadcasts was shown on BBC Fourto celebrate the programme's fortieth anniversary. Although historically interesting, most of the recordings are of poor quality.
In a list of the
100 Greatest British Television Programmesdrawn up by the British Film Institutein 2000, voted for by industry professionals, "That Was The Week That Was" was placed 29th.
Ned Sherrin later attempted to revive and modify the formula with "
Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life", but this was less successful.
An American version of "TW3" was broadcast on the NBC television network; initially as a one-time
pilot episodeon November 10, 1963, and then as a regular series from January 10, 1964, to May 1965. The pilot featured hosts Henry Fondaand Henry Morgan, guest stars Mike Nicholsand Elaine May, and various supporting performers including Gene Hackman. The series had a recurring cast that included Frost, Morgan, Buck Henryand Alan Alda, with Nancy Amessinging the ever-changing lyrics to the opening theme song; regular contributors included Gloria Steinem, Tom Lehrerand Calvin Trillin. The announcerwas Jerry Damon. Also appearing as a guest was Woody Allen, performing some of his stand-up comedyact; the guest star on the final broadcast was Steve Allen. After the series' cancellation, Lehrer recorded a collection of his songs that were used on the show, " That Was The Year That Was", which was released by Reprise Recordsin September 1965 and became a major hit LP.
A Canadian show, "
This Hour Has Seven Days", aired from 1964 to 1966 on the CBC. Although partially inspired by "That Was The Week That Was", the Canadian show mixed satirical aspects with more serious journalism. It also proved highly controversial, and like its inspiration, was cancelled after two seasons amid allegations of political interference. A near-namesake, " This Hour Has 22 Minutes," created by Newfoundland comic Mary Walshhas been running since 1992 although the two projects are in no way directly related.
New Zealandshow " A Week Of It" could also be considered to be directly inspired by TW3. The series ran from 1977 to 1979, hosted by Ken Ellis, and featuring regular comedians David McPhail, Peter Rowleyand Chris McVeighand Comedian/musicians Jon Gadsbyand Annie Whittle. The series lampooned current news and politics and frequently featured songs - usually performed by McPhail and Gadsby, who (after "A Week Of It"'s demise) continued with their own show " McPhail and Gadsby" in similar vein.
A Dutch version, "Zo is het toevallig ook nog 's een keer", aired from November 1963 to 1966. It was highly controversial and public broadcaster VARA was under constant pressure to axe the show. They did after 18 editions.
Mies Bouwman, The Netherlands' most popular TV presenter of the time, was part of the cast but decided to quit after the fourth edition because of the hate mail she received. Writer Gerard Revewas another notable cast member. Kristy Glassand Kevin Rufstarred in a remake of TW3 for ABC's Primetime Live in the fall of 2004. Soon after its premiere, Shelley Ross, the Executive Producer who brought TW3 back, was fired, and TW3 ended with her dismissal.
Cleveland, Ohiolocal personality Ghoulardi(played by Ernie Anderson), host of WJW-TV's "Shock Theater" in the 1960s, routinely ran film clips of local celebrities and politicians and satirized them in a "Shock Theater" segment entitled "That Was Weak Wasn't It ?" cite book
first =Elena M.
title =Television Horror Movie Hosts: 68 Vampires, Mad Scientists and Other Denizens of the Late Night Airwaves Examined and Interviewed
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*bbc.co.uk|id=comedy/twtwtw/|title="That Was The Week That Was"
* " [http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/series/20860 That Was the Week That Was] " at the
British Film Institute
* " [http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/T/htmlT/thatwasthe/thatwasthe.htm That Was the Week That Was] " at the
Museum of Broadcast Communications
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