1960s 1970s BBC Billy Smart Play For Today Play of the Month Radio Times Radio Times covers The Wednesday Play

BBC drama productions on the cover of the Radio Times 3: Single plays, 1965-74

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.

By the 1960s and 70s the proportion of original plays for television (against theatrical adaptations) represented on the cover of the Radio Times increased with the introduction of the Wednesday Play (BBC1 1964-70) slot and its successor Play for Today (BBC1 1970-84). Compiling this list, I was surprised by how few of the plays from these series that reached the cover were the better-remembered ones. There are two principal reasons for this. Whereas series would generally receive peak publicity when their first episode was screened (in the hope of attracting attention and building an audience), a regular single play slot (which would always have at least a brief article published in the Radio Times for every production) could be turned into a cover feature in a quiet week.

RT Mayfly

The second reason is that the chief attraction of new plays for the casual viewer lay in casting rather than in subject or theme, as seen in the cover for 17 December 1966 (illustrated). The reader notices that John Gielgud and Felicity Kendall will be starring in this Wednesday’s play, but the any sense of what that play might be about can only be guessed from the title (‘The Mayfly and the Fog’) and details of costume (Gielgud’s smoking jacket) and properties (Kendall’s cognac glass).

Radio Times covers: Single plays 1965-74

09 Jan 1965 The Wednesday Play: Sir Jocelyn, the Minister Would Like a Word

06 Feb 1965 Theatre 625: Poor Bitos

27 Feb 1965 Blodeuwedd (Welsh edition only)

15 May 1965 Monitor Special: The Debussy Film

05 Jun 1965 Rookery Nook

14 Aug 1965 Gaslight Theatre: Britons to the Rescue

09 Oct 1965 The Wednesday Play: Alice

06 Nov 1965 The Wednesday Play: The Trial and Torture of Sir John Rampayne

13 Nov 1965 Play of the Month: A Passage to India

27 Nov 1965 Theatre 625: 1984

12 Mar 1966 Play of the Month: Lee Oswald – Assasin

27 Aug 1966 Good Old Summertime

17 Dec 1966 The Wednesday Play: The Mayfly and the Frog

14 Jan 1967 The Wednesday Play: The Order

04 Feb 1967 Much Ado About Nothing

03 Jun 1967 A Flea in her Ear

13 Apr 1968 Play of the Month: The Corn is Green

25 May 1968 Detective: A Man and his Mother-in-law

21 Sep 1968 The Jazz Age: Majesty

01 Feb 1969 Out of the Unknown: Something in the Cellar

08 Feb 1969 Play of the Month: Maigret at Bay

03 May 1969 Thirty-Minute Theatre: Conversation at Night

10 May 1969 Play of the Month: An Ideal Husband

21 Feb 1970 Play of the Month: Portrait of a Lady

02 May 1970 W. Somerset Maugham: Rain

09 May 1970 The Wednesday Play: Emma’s Time

06 Jun 1970 W. Somerset Maugham: The Door of Opportunity

25 Jul 1970 Richard II

10 Oct 1970 Play for Today: The Long Distance Piano Player

22 May 1971 Play of the Month: Platonov

03 Jul 1971 Stage 2: Trelawny of the ‘Wells’

31 Jul 1971 Stage 2: She Stoops to Conquer

09 Oct 1971 Play for Today: Traitor

23 Oct 1971 Play of the Month: Rasputin

22 Jan 1972 Play of the Month: Summer and Smoke

26 Feb 1972 That Quiet Earth/Walk into the Dark

04 Mar 1972 Playhouse: The Grievance

15 Apr 1972 Play of the Month: The Merchant of Venice

01 Jul 1972 Shelley

18 Nov 1972 The Edwardians: Mr Rolls and Mr Royce

06 Jan 1973 Play of the Month: Don Quixote

17 Mar 1973 Menace: Judas Goat

14 Apr 1973 Play of the Month: A Room with a View

02 Jun 1973 Play for Today: Three’s One

11 Aug 1973 Black and Blue: Secrets

06 Oct 1973 Omnibus: The British Hero

03 Nov 1973 Wessex Tales: The Withered Arm

02 Mar 1974 Bedtime Stories: Goldilocks and the Three Bears

11 May 1974 Twelfth Night

03 Aug 1974 Playhouse: The Joke

07 Sep 1974 Play of the Month: The Linden Tree

14 Sep 1974 Microbes and Men: The Invisible Enemy

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

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