Watch closely… very closely

August 6, 2020

Our second ‘Night In’ of classic ABC television contains an interesting little nugget that’s sure to be of interest to anyone with a taste for vintage broadcasting: an edition of the arts series Tempo that includes an almost complete evening of television compressed into the space of a few minutes… a ‘Night in within a night in’ if you like.

What was it all about? Producer Mike Hodges had been with Tempo since 1965, and during his tenure the series had leaned increasingly towards experimentation. With the beginning of a new run in January 1967, the focus became decidedly avant-garde, with some self-consciously ‘trippy’ film making, not all of which was well received by the ITA: during the 10-week season, one edition would be banned outright, whilst another would feature that most avant-garde of composers, John Cage, perhaps best known for his ‘composition’ 4’33” – a work of orchestral silence.

Tempo

Now retitled New Tempo, the first edition set the scene for what viewers could expect over the coming weeks: Information took a quirkily abstract look at modern life and the explosion of electronic information available to the average consumer. Speeded-up film, montage and sound collage was employed to create 25 minutes of psychedelic chaos – albeit in black and white.

The film’s narrative (such as it is) follows an average day in the life of an average female author of science fiction, who tours the shops with her pair of long-haired Dachsunds before returning home to the typewriter and, ultimately, an evening in front of a very trendy little portable television. And that’s where our ‘evening within an evening’ comes in. The film’s producers aimed their camera at the TV screen, and, shooting at a rate of around one frame every four seconds, condensed three and a half hours of television into roughly two and a half minutes.

Arthur Haynes

We’re nothing if not TV detectives here at Network, so as soon as we saw this sequence we set ourselves the task of identifying the date on which it was filmed. Various programmes were immediately identifiable: Professional WrestlingEmergency Ward TenGeorge and the Dragon and The Baron. The wrestling suggested a Saturday, and most likely ITV London, given the preponderance of ATV productions. But there was a more significant clue that finally gave us the exact date of the filmed evening: towards the end of the sequence, there’s a complete ITN News bulletin: and amongst the images that flash by at high speed are several frames of comedian Arthur Haynes, who died on November 19th, 1966. A quick check through the TV Times archive turned up the programme schedule for that evening: an exact match for the line-up of programmes seen in New Tempo.

Notably, the film makers omitted the evening’s big movie, Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (almost certainly on copyright grounds), but everything else is there from the wrestling at 5.15 right through to the weather forecast following the ITN News. Somewhat frustratingly, the sequence ends here: had it continued, it would have captured a now lost episode of supernatural anthology series Mystery and Imagination.

We now set to work to ‘deconstruct’ the rest of the evening’s content: by reducing the playback speed to around 25%, it’s possible to identify the products in all the advert breaks, and the resulting line-up reads like a summary of 1960s gracious living. See how many of these you can spot: 

Toffee Crisp Commercial

Sunsilk/ Daz/ Mick dog food/ Trex lard/ New Zealand Cheddar/ Smarties/ Fairy Toilet Soap/ Castrol oil/ Bri Nylon Carpets/ Antussin cough medicine/ Polaroid camera/ Dairy Box/ Martini/ Noily Prat/ Bri Nylon (again!)/ 99 Tea/ Pal dog food/ Phyllosan/ Weetabix/ Contrast Chocolates/ Hotpoint oven/ Mothers’ Pride/ Big S soap powder/ McVitie’s milk chocolate home wheat/ Wrigley’s spearmint gum/ Dubonnet/ Viota sponge mix/ Birds Eye/ Esso Blue/ Fairy Snow/ Eskimo fish fingers/ Bird’s custard/ Ribena/ Gilette/ Polo/ Panatellas/ Anadin/ Pyrex crockery/ Toffee Crisp/ Lux/ Aspro pain killers/ Hotpoint

Aspro Commercial

Still want more? We went on to analyse the ITN News bulletin, which can be viewed in full, although the complete 10-minute bulletin zips past in a mere 22 seconds. Here’s the line-up of news items based on what can be seen on screen:

Ypapanti shipwreck
The Panamanian cargo vessel Ypapanti had run aground on the previous day. The ship grounded on Long Sand Head, off Harwich, and was wrecked. The crew were taken off by the Walton on the Naze lifeboat.

Lunar photographs
NASA’s Lunar orbiter 2 had been sending back pictures of the moon surface since Friday 18thNovember, in a mission paving the way for the eventual lunar landing. And coincidentally, one of the men who took part in that historic mission also appears in the next item…

Buzz Aldrin in space
Six days earlier, orbiting the Earth in his spacecraft Gemini XII, Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin had left the capsule and worked outside for over two hours without tiring. The footage of Aldrin in space had just been released to the media and was remarkable for its time.

LBJ leaves hospital
US President Lyndon Baines Johnson had been hospitalised for the removal of a throat polyp at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The operation attracted much attention from the world’s media, and the news item sees him fully recovered from surgery, leaving the hospital accompanied by his wife, Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson. Johnson would remain in office until 1969, his presidency dogged by the ongoing war in Vietnam. He died of a heart attack in 1973, at the age of 64.

Italian floods
Venice and Florence had both been severely affected by the flooding of the Arno on November 3rd–4th, and this bulletin covers the ongoing situation in Northern Italy as communities struggled to deal with the widespread devastation.

NDP Election victories
The far right were celebrating in Germany after election wins in Hesse and Bavaria by the ultranationalist National Democratic Party. Dissatisfaction about the state of the country’s economy and the leadership of Chancellor Ludwig Erhard was blamed for this political set-back.

Richard Crossman

Richard Crossman speech: prices and incomes freeze
Leader of the House of Commons Richard Crossman gave a speech to a Labour Party conference in Sheffield, warning that Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s prices and incomes ‘freeze’ would be successful only if it managed to avoid the ‘twin dangers of premature reflation… and an overdose of deflation.’ The so-called ‘July measures’ had been introduced four months earlier in an effort to stave off potential devaluation of the pound, and saw some of the most swingeing tax increases to hit the UK since World War II. The policy ultimately failed, and 364 days after this news bulletin, on November 18th, 1967, sterling was devalued by 14%… leading to Wilson’s famous comments about the ‘pound in your pocket’.

Car crash
The piece about Crossman’s speech is followed by an item on what appears to be a fatal collision between a car and an HGV.

Death of Arthur Haynes
Popular ATV comedian Arthur Haynes died this day from a heart attack. Haynes, 52, was riding high at the time, having recently appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, and was making preparations for a new series of his ATV show.

Arthur Haynes

Miss World 1966
The global beauty contest, then in its 16th year, had been held at the Lyceum Ballroom in London on the preceding day, and the winner was Reita Faria of India, becoming the first Asian entrant to win the title.

Results… and finally…
The bulletin ends with football results and a short a report on the RAC International Rally of Great Britain, which had commenced earlier in the day and would run until the 25th. ‘And finally’ (which would later become a news broadcasters’ cliché), we were offered the amusing sight of a Ford Cortina that had run off the road and fallen into the basement ‘area’ of a house…

Tomorrow’s weather was, ITN assured us, set to be cloudy, with occasional rain and rather cold. We’ll take their word for it! The ABC logo seen at the end of the sequence is sadly all that remains of that evening’s edition of Mystery and Imagination!

* * *

And what of Tempo itself? The arts series would continue until almost the very end of ABC in 1968. In its seven years on air, it had seen contributions from a diverse range of writers, actors and directors, including Orson Welles, Anthony Hopkins, Samuel Beckett, Kenneth Tynan, Franco Zeffirelli, Alan Bennett and Peter Sellers to name but a few. As for series producer Mike Hodges, he went on to direct a little thing called Get Carter...

Further Tempo episodes are available to stream as part of our collections at watch.networkonair.com



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