Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

TW3 That Was The Week That Was - David Frost

A revolutionary satirical show which caused controversy when it lampooned major politicians following its debut on BBC Television in November 1962. The show was devised by members of the current affairs programme ‘Tonight’, who included Ned Sherrin, Alasdair Milne, Donald Baverstock and Anthony Jay. Sir Hugh Carleton Greene, Director General of the BBC gave the go ahead for the programme to be produced – and it was made by the Current Affairs rather than the Light Entertainment department, presenting a blend of current affairs and comedy. Baverstock was put in charge of the project and Sherrin became Director of the weekly show, transmitted live on Saturday evenings. It reached an audience of ten million, well above the expected figure and eventually achieved an audience of twelve million per show.

The scripts were written by journalists rather than scriptwriters and included Dennis Potter, Kenneth Tynan, John Mortimer, Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, Peter Shaffer and Christopher Booker while the taboo subjects they covered included racism, royalty and religion.

The new permissive image which ‘TW3’ (as it came to be known) projected, introduced satirical comment on the week’s events in songs and sketches and there were abrasive interviews conducted by Bernard Levin. The show was fronted by David Frost, a minister’s son from Beccles, and other residents included William Rushton, Levin, Lance Percival, Roy Kinnear, Kenneth Cope, John Bird, Eleanor Bron, Al Mancini, John Wells, Timothy Birdsall and Roy Hudd.

The show opened with Millicent Martin singing a theme song which incorporated the week’s events, always beginning: “That was the week that was. It’s over - let it go.” One Anglican clergyman called Millicent, “a repulsive woman with a grating voice.”

TV watchdog Mary Whitehouse said the programme was “the epitome of what was wrong with the BBC – anti-authority, anti-religious, anti-patriotism, pro-dirt, and poorly produced, yet having the support of the Corporation and apparently impervious to discipline from within or disapproval from without.” Yet the programme didn’t withstand disapproval from without and, despite its success, was taken off the air in 1963. The official reason given was that 1964 was election year and there was a fear that the show might influence voters.

‘That Was The Week That Was’ ran from November 1962 until April 1963 and from September to December 1963. The last show was screened on 27th December and it was taken off the air 13 weeks earlier than planned. When it was pointed out that not only was 1964 election year, but also the year in which Parliament was to debate the renewal of the BBC’s charter, Carleton Greene commented, “It was in my capacity as a subversive anarchist that I yielded to the enormous pressure from my fellow subversives and put TW3 on the air; and it was as a pillar of the Establishment that I yielded to the Fascist hyena-like howls to take it off again.”

Frost took TW3 to America in 1964, maintaining the basic British format, but losing much of the programme’s satire and bite and the show was not as successful as the British version. The American shows ran on NBC from 10th January 1964 to May 1965. The TW3 girl who sang the theme song each week was Nancy Ames. Other members of the cast included Henry Morgan, Phyllis Newman, Pat England, Buck Henry, Tom Bosley and Alan Alda. 1964 saw a successor to TW3 – ‘Not So Much A Programme…More A Way of Life,’ which featured most of the original team, including Frost, Levin, Rushton, Hudd and Bird, although it only managed to attract half the audience of its predecessor.

Sir David Paradine Frost, OBE, born 7th April 1939, was an English journalist, comedian, writer, media personality and television host. After graduating from Cambridge University, Frost was chosen to host 'That Was the Week That Was' in 1962. The success of this show led to his work as a host on American television. He became famous for his TV interviews with major political figures, particularly 'The Nixon Interviews' with former US President Richard Nixon in 1977, which were adapted into a stage play and film.
Frost was one of the 'Famous Five' who were behind the launch of ITV breakfast station TV-am in 1983. For the BBC he hosted the Sunday morning interview programme 'Breakfast with Frost' from 1993 to 2005. He also spent two decades as host of 'Through the Keyhole'. From 2006 to 2012 he hosted the weekly programme 'Frost Over the World' on Al Jazeera English and from 2012, the weekly programme 'The Frost Interview'.
David Frost died on 31st August 2013, aged 74, on board the cruise ship MS Queen Elizabeth, on which he had been engaged as a speaker.
Millicent Martin
TW3 That Was The Week That Was - David Frost
TW3 That Was The Week That Was - David Frost
TW3 That Was The Week That Was

Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Article Text Bill Harry               Original Graphics SixtiesCity     Other individual owner copyrights may apply to Photographic Images

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