They spend the money

Sydney Newman former Head of Television Drama for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, came to ABC nearly three years ago.

Trained on documentary films through eight years with John Grierson at the National Film Board of Canada and winner of several international production awards,

Sydney Newman determined that his ABC programmes should reflect contemporary Britain. He now has seven playwrights under contract and many more under commission, and although Armchair Theatre is often the subject of controversy its consistently high standard draws the best creative talents in the country

David Southwood is a Liverpool man who joined ABC on the Company’s formation after a successful career as a BBC radio commentator and producer and a working introduction to television in Canada and the USA.

He built ABC’s Outside Broadcast Unit into the largest in ITV, and has made notable use of its widely varied programmes to foster good relations throughout the North and Midlands, pioneering many ventures such as the first telecast from the Isle of Man. Now he is ABC’s principal executive in the North

Brian Tesler took a first in English at Oxford University, spent four years at the BBC, where he won the 1954 National TV Award for Devising and Producing the Best Light Entertainment, and three years at ATV, where his work on Saturday Spectacular and Sunday Night at the London Palladium won him the 1957 Light Entertainment Production Award of the Guild of TV Producers and Directors.

He came to ABC early in 1960 to extend the range of the Company’s Light Entertainment and to develop further the work of the Features Departmentl

Sydney Newman

Drama Supervisor

What a year for television drama!

This is the year when a play by the most controversial and esoteric new playwright in the London theatre topped the popularity poll of the week’s television programmes. Harold Pinter’s first TV play, A Night Out, commissioned for Armchair Theatre, was seen by over fifteen million viewers.

Who can say that the television public is incapable of responding to the same challenge that enlivens our theatre when this medium has opened the door to the work of writers like Angus Wilson, Alun Owen, Harold Pinter, Clive Exton and others, who are subtle, often deep and never make concessions to easy popularity.

If the magic of drama lies in widening our horizons, consider the frequency with which television enables us to enrich our experience. You are a seaman looking for kicks on your shore-leave and discover there’s No Tram to Lime Street. You are a middle-aged woman with a selfish brother and a father problem in Where I Live. You are a boy experiencing the first bewildering pangs of love in After the Show. Sometimes you are a skilled and enviably attractive Police Surgeon coping with a human emergency and sometimes you are a Pathfinder facing the wonders and terrors of outer space in one of our children’s serials. Sometimes you hunt a murderer and sometimes the murderer hunts you … and all this without leaving your armchair!

Is the live theatre suffering as a result? Only, I would suggest, if its standards are not high enough … if its plays don’t illumine the common experiences and frustrations of us all. By putting to work the country’s best writers, directors and actors, television whets the appetite of a vast, play-hungry audience. And, to see plays, they won’t always be content to stay at home.

What a year for television drama? No, what an augury for the future of British theatre!

Armchair Theatre

The 1959-60 season of Armchair Theatre, the only ITV [drama anthology] programme presented every week by the same company, was a notable success with audiences. Thirty-two of the thirty-seven plays featured in TAM’s Top Ten ratings, one gained the highest viewing figure to date for an ITV play and another became the only play ever to achieve first place in the Top Ten

Producer Sydney Newman’s determined work among authors also resulted in a record proportion of new writing; eighteen of the plays were specially commissioned for the programme, among them the first original work for TV by Angus Wilson, Alun Owen and Harold Pinter. Of the remainder, all but seven were by British writers, and several were adaptations made for ABC

The season opened with The Scent of Fear, specially written by Ted Willis and directed by John Moxey, one of ABC’s ablest and most experienced directors, whose cigar is seen left in consultation with Sydney Newman

George Varjas
1960 // TRANSDIFFUSION BROADCASTING SYSTEM