That Was The Week That Was: Wikis


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That Was The Week That Was
1963 Radio Times cover promotes the return of the programme for a second series.
Also known as TW3
Genre Satire
Presented by David Frost
Theme music composer Ron Grainer
Country of origin  United Kingdom
Language(s) English
No. of series 2
Producer(s) Ned Sherrin
Running time approx 50 minutes
Production company(s) BBC
Original channel BBC tv
Picture format Black-and-white, 405-line
Audio format Monaural
Original run 24 November 1962 (1962-11-24) – 28 December 1963 (1963-12-28)
Status Ended
Followed by Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life (1964–1965)

That Was The Week That Was, also known as TW3, is a satirical television comedy programme shown on BBC Television in 1962 and 1963, devised, produced and directed by Ned Sherrin and presented by David Frost.

It was first broadcast on Saturday 24 November 1962, and "nothing quite like it had ever been seen before on British television. Flouting the convention that television should not acknowledge that it is television, the show made no attempt to hide its cameras, allowed the microphone boom to intrude and often revealed other nuts and bolts of studio technology. The show also adopted a relaxed attitude to its running time: loosely-structured and open-ended, it seemed to last just as long as it wanted and needed to last, even if that meant going beyond the advertised time for the ending". But "the real controversy of course, was caused by the content." [1]

The programme was groundbreaking in lampooning the establishment. Its broadcast coincided with coverage of the politically-charged Profumo affair, and John Profumo, the politician at the centre of the affair, became one of the targets for derision. "TW3...did its research,thought its arguments through and seemed unafraid of anything or anyone...Every hypocrisy was highlighted and each contradiction was held up for sardonic inspection. No target was deemed out of bounds: royalty was reviewed by republicans; rival religions were subjected to no-nonsense 'consumer reports'; pompous priests were symbolically defrocked; corrupt businessmen, closet bigots and chronic plagiarists were exposed; and topical ideologies were treated to swingeing critiques. No one was spared"[1]

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was initially supportive, chastising the Postmaster General Reginald Bevins for threatening to "do something about it".


Cast and writers

Cast members included cartoonist Timothy Birdsall, political commentator Bernard Levin, and actors Lance Percival, who sidelined in topical calypsos, many improvised to suggestions from the audience, Kenneth Cope, Roy Kinnear, Willie Rushton, Al Mancini, Robert Lang, Frankie Howerd, David Kernan and Millicent Martin. The last two were also singers and the programme opened with a song – That Was The Week That Was – sung by Martin to Ron Grainer's theme tune and enumerating topics in the news. Off-screen script-writers included John Albery, John Betjeman, John Bird, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Peter Cook, Roald Dahl, Richard Ingrams, Gerald Kaufman, Frank Muir, Denis Norden, Bill Oddie, Dennis Potter, Eric Sykes, Kenneth Tynan and Keith Waterhouse. Another script contributor was John Antrobus[2]

At the end of each episode, Frost would usually sign off with: "That was the week, that was." At the end of the final programme he announced: "That was That Was The Week That Was...that was." After two successful series in 1962 and 1963, the programme did not return in 1964, an election year, as the BBC felt the show's political material could compromise the channel's impartiality.


The show was the last of the BBC's Saturday night, and often under- or overran as cast and crew worked through the material as they saw fit. For the first three editions of the second series in 1963, the BBC attempted to limit the team by scheduling repeats of The Third Man after the programme, so that they could not overrun. Frost took to reading synopses of the plots of Third Man at the end of each TW3, meaning there was little point in watching. The BBC dropped the repeats and TW3 was left open-ended.

The most acclaimed edition was broadcast on Saturday 23 November 1963, the day after the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy. TW3 produced a shortened 20-minute programme with no satire, reflecting on the loss, including a contribution from Dame Sybil Thorndike and the tribute song "In the Summer of His Years" sung by Martin. This edition was screened on NBC in the US the following day, and the soundtrack was released by Decca Records. A clip of this broadcast, featuring Roy Kinnear, was shown on the History Channel 2009 documentary JFK: 3 Shots that Changed America.

In addition to the Millicent Martin studio recording of "In the Summer of His Years" issued in the US by ABC-Paramount, other versions were recorded and released by Connie Francis (MGM), Mahalia Jackson (Columbia), Kate Smith (RCA Victor), Sarah Vaughn (Vernon) and The Chad Mitchell Trio (Mercury); the Francis recording became a Top 40 hit on the Cash Box pop singles chart in January 1964. The New York Times quoted BBC presenter Richard Dimbleby, who broadcast the president's funeral that the regular programme was scrapped when news of the assassination was received.[3] The programme was a good expression of the sorrow felt in Britain, Dimbleby said.[3]

TW3 was live and recordings were not made of all editions. A compilation was shown on BBC Four to celebrate the programme's 40th anniversary.

In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, That Was The Week That Was placed 29th.

Sherrin attempted to revive the formula with Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life, but this was less successful.

Alternative versions

An American version of TW3 was on NBC initially a pilot episode on 10 November 1963, then as a series from 10 January 1964, to May 1965. The pilot featured Henry Fonda and Henry Morgan, guests Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and supporting performers including Gene Hackman. The recurring cast included Frost, Morgan, Buck Henry and Alan Alda, with Nancy Ames singing the opening song; regular contributors included Gloria Steinem, Tom Lehrer and Calvin Trillin. The announcer was Jerry Damon. Also a guest was Woody Allen, performing stand-up comedy; the guest star on the final broadcast was Steve Allen. A running gag on this version of the show was a mock feud with Jack Paar, whose own program followed TW3 on the NBC Friday schedule; Paar would repeatedly refer to TW3 as "Henry Morgan's Amateur Hour." After the series' cancellation, Lehrer recorded a collection of his songs used on the show, That Was The Year That Was, released by Reprise Records in September 1965.

In the American version, an episode showed a smiling U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson contemplating an easy 1964 campaign against the Republican nominee, U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona. The satirists sang that Goldwater could not win because he "does not know the dance of the liberal Republicans", then a substantial component of the GOP, many of whose members has supported Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York for the Republican nomination.

A Canadian show, This Hour Has Seven Days, aired from 1964 to 1966 on CBC. Although partially inspired by That Was The Week That Was, the Canadian show mixed satirical aspects with more serious journalism. It proved controversial and was cancelled after two series amid allegations of political interference. This Hour Has 22 Minutes, created by Newfoundland comic Mary Walsh, has been running since 1992 although the two are not related.

The New Zealand show A Week Of It ran from 1977 to 1979, hosted by Ken Ellis, and featuring comedians David McPhail, Peter Rowley and Chris McVeigh and comedian/musicians Jon Gadsby and Annie Whittle. The series lampooned news and politics and featured songs, usually by McPhail and Gadsby, who continued with their own show, McPhail and Gadsby in similar vein.

A Dutch version, Zo is het toevallig ook nog 's een keer, aired from November 1963 to 1966. It became controversial after the fourth edition, which included a parody of the Lord's Prayer ("Give us this day our daily television"). Angry viewers directed their protests especially against the most popular cast member: Mies Bouwman. After receiving several threats to her life she decided to quit the show. The show was praised as well: in 1966 it received the Gouden Televizier-ring, a prestigious audience award.

Kristy Glass and Kevin Ruf starred in a remake of TW3 for ABC's Primetime Live in the fall of 2004. Soon after its premiere, Shelley Ross, the executive producer, was fired and TW3 ended with her dismissal.

An Indian version titled "The Week That Wasn't" has been launched hosted by Cyrus Broacha.


Cleveland, Ohio local personality Ghoulardi (played by Ernie Anderson), host of WJW-TV's Shock Theater in the 1960s, ran clips of local celebrities and politicians and satirized them in a Shock Theater segment entitled That Was Weak Wasn't It ?[4]


  1. ^ a b McCann, Graham (2006). Spike & Co.. London: Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 313-314. ISBN 0-340-89809-7.  
  2. ^ McCann (2006). p. 156.  
  3. ^ a b "A British Program Honoring Kennedy Shown Over NBC". The New York Times: p. 10. November 25, 1963.  
  4. ^ Watson, Elena M. (2000). Television Horror Movie Hosts: 68 Vampires, Mad Scientists and Other Denizens of the Late Night Airwaves Examined and Interviewed. Jefferson, North Carolina, United States: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786409401.  

External links



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