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Digging deep for more TV nostalgia

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: January 04, 2007

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Who amongst the wide and varied Bugle readership can remember shows such as Boyd, QC, Errol Flynn Theatre, Hey Jeannie and The Governor and J. J.? These are the titles from the next batch of early television programmes which have been revived for our entertainment by TV history buff Alan Keeling:

"Boyd, QC, was once hailed by TV critics and viewers in general as Britain's answer to Perry Mason. But there was one distinct difference between the British courtroom drama and the American version, which gave it the edge in realism. Boyd would occasionally lose a case, whereas unrealistically Perry Mason would always win his. Richard Boyd was a respected and highly professional barrister, suitably played by Michael Denison, and every one of the 78 half-hour episodes were hosted and narrated by Jack, Boyd's clerk of the court, played by Charles Leno. The British barrister took on all manner of clients, which in turn brought him into contact with many different kinds of criminal activity. In one episode the proprietor of an Asian restaurant was accused of using tinned cat-food in curries and ended up in court. The turban-wearing character from the restaurant was played by Kenneth Connor.

"The successful Boyd, QC series was produced by Caryl Doncaster (initially a live performance, then later videotaped) at Television House, Kingsway in London, by Associated Rediffusion, and networked nationally on evenings during the week from 1956 until 1964.

"The second item from my mixed bag of television memories may be a little obscure to most folk, but is certainly worth a mention. It was the Errol Flynn Theatre, all 26 episodes of which were filmed at Bray Studios in England, and was a Moxley Films/International TV co-production, produced by Norman Williams over 50 years ago in 1956. This series, filmed entirely in black and white, was shown in the Midlands by ABC on Saturday evenings towards the end of 1956, and re-run in a late Sunday afternoon slot, two years later.

"The great Errol Flynn himself was both the host and narrator, and also starred in six of the episodes. Among the guests appearing in the series were Patrice Wymore Flynn (Errol's wife), Christopher Lee, Arthur Lowe, Glynis Johns, Herbert Lom, Jean Kent, Leslie Phillips and Patricia Roc. The series was fairly similar to another at the time called Douglas Fairbanks Presents (1953-1957), with a mixture of drama and swashbuckling adventure. They were last seen on British television over forty years ago, circa 1962, but hopefully, perhaps, they may be released on DVD in the future.

Next up is Hey Jeannie!, an American sitcom that followed the adventures (or more likely misadventures) of Jeannie MacLennon, a young Scottish lass newly arrived in New York. In fact the star of the show, Jeannie Carson, hailed from Pudsey in Yorkshire. Back in the sitcom, she lodged with her guardian Al Murray, a cab driver played by Allen Jenkins (Officer Dibble's voice in Top Cat), and his sister Liz, played by Jane Dulo. Chales Isaacs produced the series for 4 Star Television, and there was always plenty of scope for some well known guest artists to make an appearance, such as Chuck Connors, Charles Bronson and even Dickie Henderson. The script writers allowed Jeannie's singing voice to come to the fore, and during every episode she would sing one or two songs, such as When you're smiling, and The Skye Boat Song. It was filmed during 1956/7, and the BBC screened all 26 of its episodes on week nights during 1957/58. In 1958 the show progressed to another format that in the end never saw the light of day here in the UK. Entitled "The Jeannie Carson Show," the leading lady became an airline stewardess and lived alone in an apartment, but the new format proved a failure and only six episodes were made.

"Bringing things a little bit more up to date, I would like to cast my net across programmes of the past and recall The Governor and J.J., a 1970 US sitcom which only well established TV buffs will probably remember. The series ran for 39 half-hour episodes and was screened at prime-time viewing hours in America. But in Britain only half of the 39 were shown, and the BBC put them out in 1972 at 3.30 in the afternoon, specifically for an audience of mainly housewives and shift workers.

"The storyline evolved around Governor William Drinkwater (a widower played by Dan Dailey of Four Just Men fame) and his screen daughter, twenty-three year old Jennifer Jo (J.J. for short), who was curator at a local zoo in a fictional mid-western state in which the show was set. William Drinkwater was a man of conviction and always made his own decisions, but J.J. was the one who decided whether they were the right decisions or not, making a habit of regularly getting him in and out of the political hot tub. Other characters were George, the governor's press secretary played by James Callahan, Maggie, the governor's private secretary played by Neva Patterson, and Nora Marlowe who played Sara the housekeeper. In collaboration with the TV series, a comic was published which followed the governor's trials and tribulations in comic strip format."

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