Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
That Was The Week That Was
Devised, produced and directed by Ned Sherrin, cast members included: David Frost, Roy Kinnear, Bernard Levin, Kenneth Cope, Lance Percival, David Kernan, Timothy Birdsall, Al Mancini and Willie Rushton. The programme opened with a song — also entitled That Was The Week That Was — sung by Millicent Martin and enumerating topics that had been in the past week's news. Off-screen script-writers included Bill Oddie and Keith Waterhouse.
The programme was groundbreaking in its lampooning of the establishment. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was initially supportive of the programme, chastising the then-Postmaster General Reginald Bevins (nominally in charge of broadcasting) for threatening to "do something about it". During the Profumo affair, however, he became one of the programme's chief targets for derision. After two successful seasons in 1962 and 1963, the programme did not return in 1964, as this was an election year and the BBC decided it would be unduly influential.
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."
The show was always the last to be scheduled as part of the BBC's Saturday night programming, and as such often extensively under- or overran as the cast and crew worked through the material as they saw fit. For the first three editions of the second season in 1963, the BBC attempted to limit the activities of the team by scheduling repeats of the television series The Third Man after the programme, so that they could not overrun their slot. However, Frost took to reading out detailed synopses of the plots of the following Third Man episode at the end of each edition of TW3, revealing all the twists and details and meaning there was little point in anybody watching them. The BBC quickly dropped the repeats, and TW3 was left open-ended once more.
Possibly the most famous, and certainly most acclaimed, edition of the programme was that broadcast on Saturday November 23 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 a tribute song sung by Martin. This edition was later screened on network television in the US, and the soundtrack was released as a vinyl LP recording.
As with many contemporary BBC shows, the programme was transmitted live, and recordings were not made of all editions. A compilation taken from telerecordings of the original live broadcasts was recently shown on BBC Four. Although historically interesting, most of the recordings are of very poor quality.
An American version of TW3 was broadcast on the NBC television network; initially as a one-time pilot episode on November 10, 1963, and then as a regular series from January 10, 1964, to May, 1965. The pilot featured hosts Henry Fonda and Henry Morgan , guest stars Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and various supporting performers including Gene Hackman. The series had a cast that included Frost, Morgan, Buck Henry and Alan Alda; contributors included Gloria Steinem, Tom Lehrer and Calvin Trillin.
A Canadian show, This Hour Has Seven Days, aired from 1964 to 1966 on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Although partially inspired by That Was The Week That Was, the Canadian show mixed satirical aspects with more serious journalism. It also proved highly controversial, and like its inspiration, was cancelled after two seasons amid allegations of political interference.
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