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Encyclopedia > The Wednesday Play

The Wednesday Play was a British television drama anthology series, which ran on BBC ONE from 1964 to 1970. Every week a different play, usually written directly for television although adaptations from other sources were not uncommon, would be presented. The series gained a reputation for presenting gritty contemporary social dramas, and for bringing issues to the attention of a mass audience that would not otherwise have been discussed on screen. BBC One (or BBC1 as it was formerly styled) is the oldest television station in the United Kingdom, and indeed, the world. ... 1964 was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1970 was a common year starting on Thursday. ...


The series was initiated by the BBC's Head of Drama Sydney Newman, who had previously enjoyed great success with the similar programme Armchair Theatre, which he had produced while Head of Drama at ABC Television from 1958 to 1962. Armchair Theatre had tackled many difficult and socially relevant subjects in the then-popular "kitchen sink" style, and still managed to gain a mass audience on the ITV network, and Newman wanted a programme that would be able to tackle similar issues with a broad appeal. He also wanted to get away from the BBC's reputation of producing very 'safe' and unchallenging drama programmes, to produce something with more bite and vigour. Sydney Newman (April 1, 1917 - October 30, 1997) was a film and television producer, and was responsible for creating and overseeing numerous popular British television shows of the 1960s, including The Avengers, Doctor Who, The Wednesday Play and The Forsyte Saga. ... Armchair Theatre was a British television drama anthology series, which ran on the ITV network from 1956 until 1969 in its original form, and was intermittently resurrected at various points during the 1970s. ... ABC logo, 1960s ABC Television or ABC Weekend TV was the British Independent Television (ITV) (commercial television) contractor on Saturdays and Sundays in the Midlands and North of England between 1956 and 1968. ... 1958 was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1962 was a common year starting on Monday (link will take you to calendar). ... This article is about the British television network. ...


The Wednesday Play certainly succeeded in the latter task, with one of its productions, 1965's The War Game, being banned from broadcast by a nervous BBC under pressure from the government. Written and directed by Peter Watkins, The War Game was a drama-documentary showing the effects of a nuclear attack on the UK in graphic detail. The production was given a cinematic release, and won the 1966 Academy Award for Documentary Feature. It was eventually screened by the BBC in the 1980s. 1965 was a common year starting on Friday (the link is to a full 1965 calendar). ... The War Game is a 1965 television film on nuclear war. ... Peter Watkins (born October 29, 1935) is an English film and television director. ... 1966 was a common year starting on Saturday (the link is to a full 1966 calendar). ... The Academy Award for Documentary Feature is one of the most prestigious awards for documentary films. ... Events and trends The 1980s marked an abrupt shift towards more conservative lifestyles after the momentous cultural revolutions which took place in the 1960s and 1970s and the definition of the AIDS virus in 1981. ...


Other high profile Wednesday Plays which did make it to the screen included Dennis Potter's Nigel Barton plays (1965), which first brought him to widespread public attention, and Potter also contributed several other scripts to the series, including a version of Alice in Wonderland (1965) and Son of Man (1969), a modern interpretation of the story of Jesus. Dennis Christopher George Potter (May 17, 1935 – June 7, 1994) was a controversial British dramatist who is best known for several widely acclaimed television dramas which mixed fantasy and reality, the personal and the social. ... 1965 was a common year starting on Friday (the link is to a full 1965 calendar). ... 1969 was a common year starting on Wednesday (the link is to a full 1969 calendar). ... The neutrality and accuracy of this article are disputed. ...


Director Ken Loach made two highly regarded plays for the series: an adaptation of Nell Dunn's Up the Junction (1965) and the saga of a homeless young couple and their battle to keep their children, Cathy Come Home (1966). The success of Up the Junction led to a 1967 cinematic version, setting a trend for film versions of successful or controversial BBC television plays that would continue for some years. Ken Loach (born June 17, 1936) is a British television and film director, known for his social realist style and socialist themes. ... Nell Dunn is an English dramatist who created the plays Up the Junction, Poor Cow and Steaming, which have all been adapted into films. ... Up the Junction was a 1963 book written by Nell Dunn depicting contemporary life in the industrial slums of Battersea near Clapham Junction. ... 1965 was a common year starting on Friday (the link is to a full 1965 calendar). ... Cathy Come Home is a British television play, originally broadcast on November 16, 1966 on BBC1. ... 1966 was a common year starting on Saturday (the link is to a full 1966 calendar). ... 1967 was a common year starting on Sunday (the link is to a full 1967 calendar). ...


The Wednesday Play came to an end in 1970 when the transmission day changed, and the series morphed into the equally well-remembered Play for Today. It is regarded as one of the most influential and successful programmes to be produced in Britain during the 1960s, and is still frequently referenced and discussed to this day. In a 2000 poll of industry professionals conducted by the British Film Institute to find the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century, two Wednesday Plays made the list: The War Game was placed twenty-seventh, and Cathy Come Home was voted the second greatest British television programme of the century. 1970 was a common year starting on Thursday. ... Play for Today was a British television anthology drama series, produced by the BBC and transmitted on BBC One from 1970 to 1984. ... Events and trends The 1960s was a turbulent decade of change around the world. ... 2000 is a leap year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The British Film Institute (BFI) is a charitable organisation established by Royal Charter to encourage the development of the arts of film, television and the moving image throughout the United Kingdom, to promote their use as a record of contemporary life and manners, to promote education about film, television and... 100 Greatest British Television Programmes was a list compiled in 2000 by the British Film Institute (BFI) chosen by a poll of industry professionals, to determine what were the greatest British television programmes of any genre ever to have been screened. ... (19th century - 20th century - 21st century - more centuries) Decades: 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s As a means of recording the passage of time, the 20th century was that century which lasted from 1901–2000 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar (1900–1999 in the...


Some examples of The Wednesday Play, such as The War Game, Cathy Come Home and some of the Potter plays, are available on VHS and DVD. However, as with much British television of the 1960s, not all of the series survives in the archives. The War Game is a 1965 television film on nuclear war. ... Cathy Come Home is a British television play, originally broadcast on November 16, 1966 on BBC1. ... Top view VHS cassette with US Quarter for scale Bottom view of VHS cassette with magnetic tape exposed The Video Home System, better known by its acronym VHS, is a recording and playing standard for video cassette recorders (VCRs), developed by JVC (ironically, with some of its critical technology under... DVD is an optical disc storage media format that can be used for storing data, including movies with high video and sound quality. ... Events and trends The 1960s was a turbulent decade of change around the world. ...


External links

  • Page on the series at the TV Cream website (http://tv.cream.org/lookin/playfortoday/index.htm)

  Results from FactBites:
 
Wednesday Play, The (1006 words)
The Wednesday Play is now nostalgically looked back upon as the legendary lost past of British television drama-- a halcyon time in the 1960s when practitioners had the luxurious freedom of exploring the creative possibilities of the medium through the one-off television play, egged on by broadcasters and audiences alike.
The Wednesday Play, arose, in fact, not as a benign gift of liberal broadcasters but as a desperate attempt by the head of BBC TV Drama, Sydney Newman, to save the single play from being axed from the BBC's premier channel (BBC-1), due to poor ratings.
He wanted a play slot that would be relevant to the lives of a mainstream popular audience; that would reflect the "turning points" of society: the relationship between a son and a father; a parishioner and his priest; a trade union official and his boss.
THE WEDNESDAY PLAY | A TELEVISION HEAVEN REVIEW (841 words)
Now regarded as a shining light of British television's golden age, 'The Wednesday Play' is often held up as the perfect example of the impact that television had on a generation of viewers, and just how much that impact has diminished in more recent years.
Newman's brief was for a series of plays that would be relevant to the lives of a mainstream popular audience, using the talents of fresh new writers to television.
The plays courted controversy from the outset and became the target for 'Clean-Up TV' campaigner Mary Whitehouse, a move that simply boosted publicity and ratings as audience figures rose from one to eight million.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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