Opening of Commercial TV in The North

A review of Granada TV’s first night

Liverpool Echo masthead
From the Liverpool Echo for 4 May 1956

WERE you one of the viewers who last night switched over for your first look at commercial television when Granada TV, who provide the week-day programmes, opened the North’s commercial programme?

Reception, let me say first of all was excellent on my set, but not on all, I understand. There were no vision breakdowns during the evening, but some little trouble with the sound from Liverpool during the Stadium boxing.

To launch the new service Granada brought in from America commentator Quentin Reynolds, who introduced some of the men who have helped to create Granada Television.

The first commercial “plug” — a chocolate advertisement — came after 15 minutes — and was followed by Arthur Askey, who quipped: “It’s not all as bad as this.”

Few Celebrities

This opening half-hour in the Granada Studio was not particularly original, but it was casually bright and was aimed fair and square at the very ordinary viewer. Few celebrities! Just ordinary men in overalls and pullovers who told how they did their various jobs to bring the studio into being.

The lion’s share of the first programme, Parnell’s “all star” variety from London, went to comedians Bob Monkhouse and Dennis Goodwin. They played energetically to the gallery, but as laugh-raisers took second place to Sid Millward and his eccentric orchestra.

And, since it seems traditional that no big Lancashire occasion is complete without Miss Gracie Fields, there was a short film of her in Dallas. Texas, telling us a funny story with whiskers on it a foot long.

By this time the “plugs” were coming thick and fast … soap flakes, self-raising flour, tea … and, after the admirable Lena Horne, cheese, beef-extract, and a cake-mix.

Sound Defect

Liverpool Stadium maintained its reputation for always giving viewers a good fight when Granada’s “Travelling Eve” unit brought us the featherweight bout between Hogan Bassey and Aldo Pravisani. It was good television, marred only by a brief sound defect (“We’ve lost the sound” is the I.T.V. equivalent of the B B.C.’s “Normal service will be, &c.”) But it will probably take usa little time to become accustomed to seeing the fighters stagger back to their corners to be followed by some such announcement (as last night) as – “To-night you must rest. To-night you must sleep like a child. Drink so-and-so.” Then back into battle again.

I liked the Douglas Fairbanks play, “Blue Murder,” although the margarine advertisement in the middle of it interrupted the flow of the very slender plot. But even that could not spoil a typically smooth Fairbanks performance, with a good supporting cast. Our old friend Roy Rich was the producer.

Tribute To B.B.C

The most provocative programme of the evening was Granada’s tribute to the B.B.C., presented by Aidan Crawley, a man who left the B.B.C. for ITV and is now going back to the B.B.C. The B.B.C. won lavish praise in this item and in return TV’s Sir George Barnes warned ITV that the B.B.C. could compete with them on any terms.

Then came Mrs. Unsworth, of Atherton, Lancashire, to detail some of her likes and dislikes in the matter of TV entertainment. She doesn’t like opera and she doesn’t like “Look.” “It’s about birds and animals,” she remarked suspiciously.

Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who earlier in the evening had been entertaining B.B.C. viewers in “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?” was seen on film extolling the merits of television, and Gilbert Harding, who is on B.B.C. contract, added a few encouraging

The evening ended with a rather dull news bulletin, presented by Chris Chataway, another man who is leaving ITV to join the B.B.C.

Everything considered, it was a very modest first night. Did you find the advertising spots irritating? Or did you find them entertaining? For the life of me at the end of the evening couldn’t remember more than a couple of them.

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