That Was The Week That Was

That Was The Week That Was

"That Was The Week That Was", also known as TW3, was a satirical television comedy programme that aired on BBC Television in 1962 and 1963.

Devised, produced and directed by Ned Sherrin, the programme was fronted by 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 Kernan and 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 tune and 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 Waterhouse and others.

The programme was groundbreaking in its lampooning of the establishment. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was 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 programme did not return in 1964, as this was a General Election year and the BBC decided it would be unduly influential.

At the end of each episode, Frost would usually sign 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 always the 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 television series "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 Thorndike and the tribute song "In the Summer of His Years" sung by Martin. This edition was screened on NBC in 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 Box pop 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 Four to 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 Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 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.

Alternative versions

An American version of "TW3" was broadcast on the NBC television network; initially as a one-time pilot episode on November 10, 1963, and then as a regular series from January 10, 1964, to May 1965. The pilot featured hosts Henry Fonda and Henry Morgan, guest stars Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and various supporting performers including Gene Hackman. The series had a recurring cast that included Frost, Morgan, Buck Henry and Alan Alda, with Nancy Ames singing the ever-changing lyrics to the opening theme song; regular contributors included Gloria Steinem, Tom Lehrer and Calvin Trillin. The announcer was Jerry Damon. Also appearing as a guest was Woody Allen, performing some of his stand-up comedy act; 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 Records in 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 Walsh has been running since 1992 although the two projects are in no way directly related.

The New Zealand show "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 Rowley and Chris McVeigh and Comedian/musicians Jon Gadsby and 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 Reve was another notable cast member.

Kristy Glass and Kevin Ruf starred 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, Ohio local 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
last =Watson
first =Elena M.
authorlink =
coauthors =
title =Television Horror Movie Hosts: 68 Vampires, Mad Scientists and Other Denizens of the Late Night Airwaves Examined and Interviewed
publisher =McFarland & Company
date =2000
location =Jefferson, North Carolina, United States
pages =
url =
doi =
id =
isbn =0786409401


External links

*|id=comedy/twtwtw/|title="That Was The Week That Was"
* " [ That Was the Week That Was] " at the British Film Institute
* " [ That Was the Week That Was] " at the Museum of Broadcast Communications

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