1950s 1960s BBC Billy Smart Radio Times Radio Times covers The Grove Family

BBC drama productions on the cover of the Radio Times 2: Series and serials, 1955-64

To help clarify my thinking about what sort of television drama gets remembered and forgotten in Britain, I’ve been looking at how the Radio Times publicised BBC drama over 1946-82, the period covered by the ‘Forgotten Television Drama in the UK’ project.

I’ve put together lists of all of the covers of the Radio Times that promoted original BBC drama productions during these years. As this information hasn’t previously been collated or put online before I’m posting these lists up here in six parts, where a general readership of magazine collectors and fans of particular programmes may find them useful.

RT Grove Family

The first Radio Times cover devoted to a series or serial was published in March 1955, promoting the first anniversary of the prototype soap opera The Grove Family (BBC 1954-57). The success of the image for the reader is based around a different set of values than those conveyed by the first cover to publicise a television single play in 1948. Where the photograph of Margaret Lockwood in Pygmalion promoted film star glamour, the portrait of Nancy Roberts as the cantankerous ‘Gran’ Grove depends upon the viewer’s familiarity with the character, rather than inherent interest in the performer. The accompanying text promises a pen portrait of the whole Grove family, filling in some of the imaginative curiosity built up over the preceding year by the regular viewer about the Groves and their “everyday happenings”.

The pleasures of reading about familiar favourite shows is one strand of Radio Times cover that recurs during this period and that still happens today. I have marked when a series appeared on the cover more than once by numbering each successive edition in brackets, with Compact (BBC Television/ BBC1 1962-65), Dixon of Dock Green (BBC Television/ BBC1 1955-76) and Z Cars (BBC Television/ BBC1 1962-78) all having been honoured with four covers by the end of 1964.

Another complimentary strand of covers attempted to raise viewer interest in unknown new series and serials, especially important with serial dramas, where viewers who had not seen the first episode would have felt disadvantaged. Two types of these serials are particularly apparent on the cover of the Radio Times in this period; the literary classic (often intended for a family audience) and the half-hour thriller serial (Francis Durbridge Mysteries and similar stories), a largely forgotten form and genre now, but a bedrock of the BBC television schedule for over twenty years:

Radio Times covers: Series and serials 1955-64

27 Mar 1955 The Grove Family

23 Sep 1956 David Copperfield

28 Oct 1956 Kidnapped (Scotland edition only)

06 Jan 1957 Dixon of Dock Green (1)

03 Mar 1957 The Railway Children

31 Mar 1957 Nathanial Titlark

14 Apr 1957 Jesus of Nazareth (1)

02 Mar 1958 The Diary of Samuel Pepys

30 Mar 1958 Jesus of Nazareth (2)

07 Sep 1958 Champion Road

02 Nov 1958 Our Mutual Friend

25 Jan 1959 The Last Chronicle of Barset

05 Apr 1959 Great Expectations

07 Jun 1959 The Adventures of Brigadier Wellington-Bull

27 Sep 1959 The Third Man (1)

14 Feb 1960 Spy-Catcher

21 Feb 1960 Emma

06 Mar 1960 Dixon of Dock Green (2)

24 Apr 1960 An Age of Kings

24 Jul 1960 Golden Girl

29 Oct 1960 Maigret (1)

12 Nov 1960 The World of Tim Frazer

17 Dec 1960 The Adventures of Alice

06 May 1961 Paul of Tarsus (Scotland edition only)

16 Sep 1961 Dixon of Dock Green (3)

30 Sep 1961 A for Andromeda

07 Oct 1961 Flower of Evil

18 Nov 1961 The Escape of R.D.7/ A Chance of Thunder

06 Jan 1962 Oliver Twist

03 Feb 1962 Z Cars (1)

10 Mar 1962 The Six Proud Walkers

16 Jun 1962 Compact (1)

30 Jun 1962 The Third Man (2)

07 Jul 1962 The Dark Island

11 Aug 1962 Dr Finlay’s Casebook (1)

22 Sep 1962 Maigret (2)

29 Sep 1962 Zero One

24 Nov 1962 The Old Curiosity Shop

29 Dec 1962 Compact (2)

12 Jan 1963 Mr Justice Duncannon

16 Feb 1963 Moonstrike

23 Mar 1963 The Desperate People

27 Apr 1963 The Spread of the Eagle

01 Jun 1963 Compact (3)

15 Jun 1963 Lorna Doone

31 Aug 1963 Z Cars (2)

07 Sep 1963 Dr Finlay’s Casebook (2)

12 Oct 1963 Kidnapped

30 Nov 1963 Compact (4)

18 Jan 1964 Martin Chuzzlewit

22 Feb 1964 Doctor Who (1)

29 Feb 1964 Z Cars (3)

27 Jun 1964 Call the Gun Expert

04 Jul 1964 Kipling: A Bank Fraud

01 Aug 1964 Cluff

08 Aug 1964 Diary of a Young Man

15 Aug 1964 Swizzlewick

22 Aug 1964 The Children of the New Forest

05 Sep 1964 Z Cars (4)

19 Sep 1964 Dixon of Dock Green (4)

03 Oct 1964 The Count of Monte Cristo

14 Nov 1964 R.3

21 Nov 1964 Doctor Who (2)

(Thanks to Simon Coward for his assistance in double-checking the lists)

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