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Looking back into TV history

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: January 01, 2009

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DURING the past fifty years, a period in which the home TV receiver has been transformed from a small but heavyweight wooden-cased box to an ultra thin HD Digital screen capable of filling the entire wall of a living room, hundreds of programmes have inevitably been broadcast without much notice. But for the purposes of TV history Alan Keeling couldn't let the following shows disappear into the ether without at least one more mention:

"If Black Country viewers caught a glimpse of 'Camp Runamuck' at all, it would probably have been in the mid '70s when BBC 1 showed the entire series during a Saturday morning run. It was in fact screened in the UK for the first time in 1969 by the Anglia ITV region who scheduled it for a prime-time slot.

"Camp Runamuck was a US TV comedy that ran for just 16 half-hour episodes in 1965, and was produced in full Technicolor by Runamuck Productions for Screen Gems. The programmes told the story of the rivalry and competitiveness between two summer camps located on opposite sides of a lake, one run by the boys called Camp Runamuck and the other by the girls called Camp Divine, and included story lines about missing kids and food poisoning, etc. The leader at the boys camp was Commander Wivenhoe (played by Arch Johnson), and other individuals with authority were Senior Councillor Spivey (Dave Ketchum), Councillor Pruett (Dave Madden), Doc Joslyn (Leonard Stone), with occasional visits from the local sheriff played by George Dunn.

"The girls camp on the other side of the lake was led by Eulalia Divine, played by the well known British actress Hermione Baddeley, ably assisted by Mahalia May Gruenecker (Alice Dunn) and the gorgeous Caprice Yeudleman played by Nina Wayne. It was filmed on location at the Franklin Canyon Reservoir in Los Angeles, California, but was a concept the script writers presumably found difficult to extend beyond the 16 episodes that were made.

Who remembers 'Seaway', a Canadian based series filmed along the St Lawrence Seaway in 1965? It was yet another crime series to come out of North America and during its broadcast enjoyed prime-time slots. Twenty-eight hour long monochrome and two colour episodes were made, the last two (in colour), chillingly entitled 'Don't Forget to Wipe the Blood Off', were also edited together to create a 90 minute movie. Stephen Young was the star of the show and he played trouble-shooter Nick King, working for Associated Owners and Shippers. The much older and wiser Admiral Henry (Foxy) Fox, a WWII veteran played by Austin Willis, co-starred as an official with the Department of Transport and head of operations on the St Lawrence Seaway. Working together they investigated espionage and crimes such as diamond smuggling and contaminated foodstuffs.

"Guest stars in the series included Rita Moreno, Faye Dunaway, Richard (John Boy Walton) Thomas, Ralph Bellamy, Ralph Meeker and Barry Morse. If you were lucky to catch Seaway on the small screen here in the Black Country, then you can go back over 40 years to the spring of 1967 when commercial TV screened it on Wednesdays at 8 pm, followed by late-night and afternoon repeats until 1973.

"We have to return to the 1950s to recall 'Mark Saber', a series that starred Donald Gray as a one-armed private. Gray was in fact a real life war hero who lost an arm in action during the Second World War, and his character was written into the final season of a 65 episode half-hour crime anthology called The Vise which ran from 1954 - 1957. The Vise was produced by Edward and Harry Lee Danziger, and the filming done at the Associated British Studios, Elstree.

"In his first series Saber was assisted by his secretary Stephanie Ames (played by Diana Decker), a chap called Barney O'Keefe (Michael Balfour), and Inspector Parker (Colin Tapley) of Scotland Yard. Various other guest stars included Patrick McGoohan, Leslie Phillips, Michael Caine, Sandra Dorne, Nanette Newman, Bill Fraser, Bernard Bresslaw, and Ron Moody. The second batch of 91 monochrome half-hour shows were released under the new title, 'Saber of London'. The series had a two year run from 1957 - 1959, and included some notable star guests; Honor Blackman, Gordon Jackson, John Le Mesurier, Harry Fowler, Bernard Cribbins, as well as up and coming new actors Rolf Harris and Shaw Taylor.

Both series were screened throughout the entire ITV network including the Midlands region, and from 1968 - 1971 Saber enjoyed re-runs on afternoons or late at night. If you recall the show you'll probably remember the conclusion of every Saber of London story, when the actor Donald Gray would stand in front of Big Ben and say, "Be with us next week when Big Ben chimes in another mystery." But there has been one thing troubling me all these years. How did the one-armed detective manage to drive his fast sports car?"

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