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Old Television Programming FAQs
Further Reading

Can you recommend any books to read?

BOX OF DELIGHTS by Hilary Kingsley and Geoff Tibballs. Macmillan, £14.95. Masterpiece research combined with gifted, sympathetic writing, covering the 1950s to the 1980s. Programmes, personalities and even favourite commercials are all included, plus a Where are they now? section.

BRITISH TELEVISION by Tise Vahimagi. Monster illustrated paperback from the Oxford University Press, £12.99. Detailed entries on more than 1,100 favourite TV programmes from 1936 to the present.

CLASSIC BRITISH TV by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping. Guinness Books, £14.99. Substantial in-depth study of over 100 classic and well-loved programmes.

GOLDEN AGE OF CHILDREN'S TELEVISION by Geoff Tibballs. Titan Books, £9.99. Large format paperback covering the years 1950 to 1975, difficult to fault.

OLD TELEVISION by Andrew Emmerson. Shire Publications, 1998, £2.95. This is the cheapest introduction to the subject of old television in its broadest sense.

WHAT’S ON THE BOX by David Lazell (£9.99 from Evergreen, P.O. Box 52, Cheltenham, GL50 1YQ). An engaging history of television viewing from early times to modern.

Also these -

A FOR ANDROMEDA TO ZOO TIME, THE TV HOLDINGS OF THE NATIONAL FILM & TELEVISION ARCHIVE 1936-1979. Edited by Simon Baker and Olwin Terris. Hardback, 188 pages, illustrated. BFI Publishing (ring 020-7255 1444 for current price). ISBN 0-85170-420-4.

The NFTVA is one of the world's largest independent archives dedicated to the preservation of national television output and this catalogue contains all the programmes in the Archive's possession at the end of July 1992. However certain parts of the Archive's collection have been excluded from this volume, notably News output, although included in this catalogue is the pre-1980 material which has been recently donated by companies such as Granada, LWT, Yorkshire and Tyne Tees – as they have dealt with the problems of obsolete 2" videotape formats.

Steve Bryant (Keeper of Television) provides a most comprehensive and informative account of the history of acquisition of television material by the Archive and an explanation of the basis of the catalogue. It is arranged alphabetically by series title and main titles (which do not form part of a series) with a brief descriptive entry for each title.

The compilers have tackled the difficult area of genre classification of television programmes. Their genre index appears to be a mixture of subjects and programme types; e.g. railways and dramas, or discussion or sitcoms; as well as reflecting other social criteria e.g., Black and Asian culture, or Consumer programmes; or reflecting modes of transmission e.g. Daytime Television or Regional News.

This book supersedes the earlier catalogue Keeping Television Alive – The Television Work of the National Film Archive edited by Paul Madden, and benefits from the addition of useful extra information. However, the listing under production company, now missing from this new catalogue, was a most useful way of accessing the information in the original volume and the additional alternative titles might have been more usefully included in the main listings as 'see' references rather than as a separate listing. [This review by Sue Malden, Manager, Broadcast Archives, BBC, appeared first in FOCAL International, the journal of the Federation of Commercial Audio Visual Libraries. Entries in the catalogue give, for each programme title, the TV network on which it was shown, the transmission date, a brief synopsis and where appropriate, the director, presenter, producer, leading artistes, etc.. The book, although expensive, is a must for any serious researcher.]


This book was due for publication in December 1998 (in fact it has been delayed). The remainder of this note is taken from the publisher’s own advance announcement.
This innovative new book is a detailed chronological listing of every programme and broadcast in British television's earliest period, charting the development of the medium from John Logie Baird’s first primitive experimental transmissions – his attempts at "seeing by wireless" – in 1923 to the shutdown of the BBC on the outbreak of the Second World War.

There has never been any form of catalogue published covering the pioneering period of British television programmes (Radio Times began only partial television listing as late as 1936). Although BBC Television officially commenced in November 1936, it was regularly transmitting Baird-produced programmes from as early as September 1929. And Baird-produced programmes without help from the BBC actually began a year earlier during the National Radio Exhibition at Olympia.

Here for the first time are the names of those creative pioneers behind the cameras who wrote and produced many of the earliest television programmes, and those bygone entertainers who performed in them. Entries provide times, transmission dates and times, credits (producer/writer/presenter), cast lists (with character names), and synopses. The vast index lists every personality and programme title, as well as song;s sketches and pieces of music. The author’s painstaking research also reveals numerous ‘firsts’ in television history, thus correcting the establishment's handed-down history - for example, that the first televised play was John Maddison Morton's Box and Cox (15th December 1928), nearly two years earlier than previously thought.

Drawing on extensive archival material and other scattered information, this book is of enormous historical interest, and serves as a unique reference source to the programmes and personalities of the first 17 years of the world’s most powerful medium of information and entertainment.

Hailed by the Sunday Times as the "custodian of the nation's nostalgia", Denis Gifford is the author of over 50 books, many of them catalogues of British film production. He is also a deviser of television and radio programmes, and a cartoonist, and has lectured on comics and films. His most recent book is Entertainers in British Films. [Sadly Denis died in 2000 but his manuscript was delivered well before his death.]

The publisher of Denis’s book is Flicks Books, 29 Bradford Road, Trowbridge, BA14 9AN (telephone 01225-767728, fax 01225-760418).

Which magazines cover the subject?

Apart from the cult television titles that you'll find at newsagents:

405 ALIVE, Now incorporated into the BVWS Bulletin.

PRIMETIME, Kaleidoscope Publishing, 47 Ashton Road, Ashton Gate, Bristol, BS3 2EQ (0117-983 0934) or e-mail Quarterly publication containing 40 pages sold at £2.50 at selected outlets and by subscription, providing serious coverage of television programmes, most of which will feature episode guides, a regular comic strip and other entertaining features such as quizzes and crosswords. It is understood that the magazine incorporates the now defunct TIMESCREEN title.

TELEVISION CHRONICLES, 10061 Riverside Drive, #171, Dept. M, Toluca Lake, CA 91602, USA. Quarterly magazine for TV program collectors. Each series covered is represented by a profile of the show's origins, production and evolution, followed by a complete episode guide. Also supplementary features, such as interviews, spotlights on individual performers, and book reviews. Four quarterly issues are $20 ($35 in Canada) by check or money order.

How can I track down whether a particular old programme still exists?

For most kinds of programmes, the KALEIDOSCOPE guides are the definitive reference works to British-produced programmes; they are used by the archives themselves. You could also approach the archive owners but some of these, the BBC in particular, do not release catalogue information to outsiders as a matter of policy.

The British Television Drama Research Guide 1950-1997
A reference work covering all the major drama series, serials, plays and soaps on all terrestrial channels, including Armchair Theatre, The Bill and Upstairs, Downstairs - includes archive holdings.
ISBN 1 900203 04 9;£25.00     

The British Television Music & Variety Research Guide 1950-1997
Overview of British television music and variety shows commissioned by the light entertainment departments of the BBC and ITV companies (such as Wogan and The Old Grey Whistle Test) with full archive holdings.
ISBN 1 900203 06 5;£25.00     

The British Children's Television Research Guide 1950-1999
Now spanning two volumes, this is an updated and hugely expanded version of an earlier Guide we released. The new book is so big it has had to be split into two volumes and info is now featured on over 600 more detailed series than before including Crackerjack, Animal Magic, Jim'll Fix It, Teletubbies, Rainbow, Magpie and Runaround. All archive holdings have been updated and all series made by the Children's departments have been included, so drama series such as Grange Hill now live here (with plot synopses). £35

The British Television Comedy Research Guide 1950-1997
This guide features listings for series commissioned by the comedy departments of the BBC and ITV companies, including Steptoe and Son, Man About the House and Only Fools and Horses....
ISBN 1 900203 05 7;£18.00

Other guides are in preparation. Add £5 per book to listed prices (£6.60 for the Children's guide) for postage and packing within the British Isles (these books are monsters!). Please send cheques or Postal Orders, payable to "Kaleidoscope Publishing", to the postal address below. Please be aware that this address is different to the main Kaleidoscope address. Customers outside the UK please make contact via e-mail or at the address below, so that special arrangements can be made for payment and postage. Orders are not accepted via electronic mail. Proceeds from sales of the above books are channelled into financing Kaleidoscope's ongoing activities, and are produced on a non-profit basis.
Kaleidoscope Publishing, 47 Ashton Road, Ashton, Bristol, BS3 2EQ, UK;e-mail: richarddown (at)

As well as these volumes you also need to consult A for Andromeda to Zoo Time - The Television Holdings of the National Film & Television Archive 1936-1979, edited by Simon Baker and Olwen Terris (BFI Publishing, ISBN 0-85170-420-4, hardback (ring 020-7255 1444 for current price).

Another valuable book for the serious researcher is The Researcher’s Guide to British Film and Television Collections, published by the British Universities Film & Video Council at £28. 234 packed pages listing more than 300 film and television collections in Britain and Ireland, ISBN 0-901299-68-5.
BUFVC, 77 Wells Street, London, W1P 3RE. 020-7393 1500, fax 020-7393 1555.

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