That Was The Week That Was

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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. An American version by the same name aired on NBC from 1964–65, also featuring 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."[1]. In the 21st century, viewers often see TV cameras, but in the 1960s, this was still unusual and gave the programme an exciting, modern feel.[2].

This wasn't the only way the show flouted conventions. It "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 [...] the real controversy of course, was caused by the content."[1]

The programme broke new ground 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. Script-writers included John Albery, John Antrobus, John Betjeman, John Bird, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Peter Cook, Roald Dahl, Richard Ingrams, Lyndon Irving, Gerald Kaufman, Frank Muir, Denis Norden, Bill Oddie, Dennis Potter, Eric Sykes, Kenneth Tynan, and Keith Waterhouse.[3]

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