If you couldn’t see the first Tiswas

Saturday mornings on British television really was a turn-off, not just for children, but for most viewers. Schedules would be made up of ancient films, adult education and imported third-rate serials, all filling the time before World Of Sport kicked off in the afternoon. On the day Tiswas launched, there were only two other purpose-made Saturday morning shows for children made by other ITV franchises.

Tiswas began as a product of the midlands, for the midlands. It was an experimental idea for the ATV service, emanating from Birmingham. The huge cultural impact this cult show has had, makes it stand alongside Mercian legends like Robin Hood, Beowulf and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. It’s also far more exciting than William Shakespeare.

By the time Tiswas reached its final series in late 1981, it was in almost every part of the UK. It never got fully networked across ITV at any point, unlike later Saturday morning shows from the mid 1980s onwards.

Not everyone could see the first edition of Tiswas, as it was strictly a midlands affair. One exception – the airwaves of a region could reach the fringes of others. Someone outside of, but close to the midlands could, with the caveat of inferior vision and sound, receive ATV’s output.

At TiswasOnline, we have a fairly solid idea of how the morning TV schedules looked across the 14 areas of the ITV network on Saturday 5th January 1974:

If you couldn't see the first Tiswas

London (LWT)

LWT (London Weekend Television), serving the Greater London area and surrounding areas for the ITV network during the allocated weekend periods of the 1970s
Saturday Scene
Sally James presenting a 1975 edition of Saturday Show

9:05 Camping And Caravanning
We kick off with some general interest. This is the first edition of six programmes that promise to showcase the “luxury and comfort of the modern camping scene”. Narrated by Michael Reinhold, who examines tents, caravans, equipment and sites both in the UK and abroad. 
ATV Network Production

9:30 Angling Today
Unsurprisingly aimed at fishermen. In an alternate universe where Chris Tarrant is living in the London area and not involved with Tiswas, we’d like to think he’d be watching this show about his favourite interest. Terry Thomas, who would later be involved with a fishing segment on Tiswas, is the presenter of this programme.
ATV Network Production

9:50 Saturday Scene
Presented by Sally James (yes, really), this was LWT’s Saturday morning show for children. It had been launched in November the prior year, so was older than Tiswas by two months. Saturday Scene was very much centred around pop music. It was typically recorded on the preceding Friday in the tiny environment of Studio 5 at LWT’s South Bank HQ. Pop stars were usually the studio guests and there’d be a few pop videos appearing. Like Tiswas and other Saturday morning shows, it served up other programmes within itself. On this day the assets were Joe 90 (‘Most Special Astronaut’); The Addams Family (the 1964-1965 TV series by ABC in America); Junior Police Five (an ATV creation of sorts, but this was an LWT production), The Partridge Family (‘Heartbreak Keith’) and Tarzan (which also appeared within Tiswas, this episode is ‘Prodigal Puma’). Although there doesn’t appear to be a trace of this edition online, you can get a taster of a 1976 edition when it was somewhat ‘merged’ with LWT’s Top-Of-The-Pops-aping SuperSonic, on YouTube here.
London Weekend Television Production

12:00 World Of Sport
A compendium of sport, with 12:05 On The Ball; 12:35 Ski-ing; 1:00/1:15/1:45/2:00/2:15/2:30/2:45 Racing from Sandown and Market Rasen; 2:45 Table Tennis and 3:20 Wrestling.
Compiled by London Weekend Television

North West (Granada)

Granada Television, serving the north west of England for the ITV network in the 1970s
Susannah Of The Mounties, an old film
The film Susannah Of The Mounties was screened by Granada.

9:15 Thunderbirds
“Stand by for action!” Yes, I think you all know what this is. The most famous puppet series from Gerry Anderson, packed with stunts and James-Bond-esque gadgetry.
AP Films

10:00 Sesame Street
A hugely popular American educational series for young children, featuring a lot of Jim Henson’s Muppets. Originally made for America’s national public television provider PBS, this show got picked up by various ITV regions, with HTV being the first to transmit it.
Children’s Television Workshop

11:05 Film: Susannah Of The Mounties
This is one of several 1930s American movies starring Shirley Temple airing in the UK this morning. She plays an orphan in rural Canada, where the Mounties are under siege from attacks by Red Indians. If you want to watch it, someone’s uploaded it in full to YouTube here.

12:00 World Of Sport
See the LWT listing for details.
Compiled by London Weekend Television


Yorkshire Television, serving most of the Yorkshire area for the ITV network in the 1970s (prior to Belmont transmitter acquisition)
The Little Rascals
A scene from a Little Rascals excerpt

10:00 The Little Rascals
This is presumably the television-targeted repackaging of Our Gang – short black-and-white comedy movies from the early 20th Century, produced by Hal Roach (most famous for Laurel And Hardy). The stars of these slapstick capers were a gang of children, each with their own characteristics (possibly an influence on the Double Deckers; the Beano’s Bash Street Kids and Charles Schultz’s Peanuts comic strip). Both Allied Artists and MGM had been syndicating these television edits to American stations since the 1950s, as well as King World Productions from 1963. The latter of these distributors, in 1971, made careful edits due to outdated racial references.

10:20 Skippy: The Bush Kangaroo
Australian adventure series for family audiences, made between 1967-69. The show’s title star is an intelligent pet kangaroo, owned by 9-year-old Sonny Hammond. The concept seems to derive from Flipper and Lassie, only with a kangaroo at the centre of the action. Midlands broadcaster ATV managed to debut this show in October 1967, four months before it had even aired in its native Australia.
Fauna Productions

10:50 Film: The Prince Who Was A Thief
Everett Sloane plays an assassin who has been instructed to murder a baby prince, but finds himself unable to carry out this deadly deed. He raises the child, who grows up to be – well, you guessed it – a thief. A 1951 American adventure film from Universal Pictures.

12:00 World Of Sport
See the LWT listing for details.
Compiled by London Weekend Television

East of England (Anglia)

Anglia Television, serving the east of England, plus East Riding of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, for the ITV network in the 1970s (prior to Yorkshire Television's acquisition of the Belmont transmitter)
Clarence The Cross Eyed Lion
A close look at Clarence The Cross-Eyed Lion

9:05 Play With A Purpose
An “adult education series for parents about creative play for very young children”, according to the IBA’s ITV yearbook for 1974.
Tyne Tees Television Production

9:30 Fit To Last
From 1973, one of 13 programmes touching on the subject of physical fitness and diet. Presented by Charlotte Allen and Paul Young.
STV Production

9:55 The Fabulous World Of Ski-ing
Yet again, a really generic title in the regional variations listings, but hey, we think this features some skiing!

10:20 Film: Clarence The Cross-Eyed Lion
Directed by Ivan Tors (who came up with Flipper, more on that later), this is a comedy adventure movie. A nature reserve in east Africa is threatened by poachers, yet it’s a cross-eyed lion that comes to the rescue. Like Flipper (which began as a standalone film), Ivan had this turned into a TV series. Running from 1966-69, the series was called Daktari and featured Clarence. You can view the trailer here.

12:00 World Of Sport
See the LWT listing for details.
Compiled by London Weekend Television

South East (Southern)

Southern Television, serving south and south east of England for the ITV network in the 1970s
The Shirley Temple film, The Little Princess
The Little Princess, a film starring Shirley Temple

9:55 Joe 90
The late 1960s science-fiction puppet TV series from Gerry Anderson, focusing on a nine-year-old schoolboy Joe McClaine. We don’t know which particular episode is airing on this date.
Century 21 Television Productions

10:20 The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan
In 1969, animation studio Hanna-Barbera came up with Scooby Doo, a wildly successful cartoon adventure. In the wake of that, they put out a lot of similar cartoons that matched the template. The Chan Clan adheres to many of the factors found in Scooby Doo – a bunch of teenagers; scary ghouls/monsters; a minivan for transport purposes; wacky disguises; breaking off into groups for detective work and a daft animal for comic relief. It also channelled a trope from Josie And The Pussy Cats as the older children played in a band and so every episode featured them playing a song. This franchise was loosely based on the Charlie Chan series of mystery novels and movies. Sixteen episodes were made, originally airing on America’s CBS network on Saturday mornings in late 1972. Jodie Foster was among the voice talent.
Hanna-Barbera Productions

10:43 Weather
What’s the weather going to be like across Hampshire, Sussex, Kent, The Isle Of Wight, Berkshire and Dorset? Here are three minutes of someone telling you that.
Southern Television Production

10:45 Film: The Little Princess
Another Shirley Temple vehicle! In this 1939 drama set in Victorian London, she plays a girl forced to become a servant when her father is believed to have died in combat during the Second Boer War. Cesar Romero (who played the Joker in the 1960s Batman TV series) is among the cast. Originally distributed by Twentieth-Century Fox, this film is now in the public domain due to a copyright lapse. Someone’s uploaded it to YouTube.

12:00 World Of Sport
See the LWT listing for details.
Compiled by London Weekend Television

Wales and West (HTV)

HTV (Harlech Televsion), serving Wales and the west of England for the ITV network in the 1970s
Orbit, HTV's Saturday morning show
Alan Taylor, the host of HTV Saturday morning show Orbit, with puppet alien, Chester.

9:25 Better Driving
We presume this is more adult education.

9:50 Hammy Hamster
Featuring real rodents and other animals interacting with props and miniature sets as a narrator tells the story of this week’s adventure. Almost entirely filmed on the Isle Of Wight. The full title of this was Hammy Hamster’s Adventures On The Riverbank. If you believe this was involved with Tales Of The Riverbank, which aired on the BBC from 1960, you’d be right. This was a colour ‘sequel’ of sorts, which first aired on ITV in 1972, with the BBC having turned it down.
Astral-Delroy Production

10:05 Sesame Street
We covered this in the Granada listing, noting that HTV was the first ITV franchise to show this educational children’s show from America. Hence, this isn’t likely to be the same edition going out on Granada.
Children’s Television Workshop

11:05 Orbit
The second purpose-made Saturday morning children’s show to air on British television! Orbit aired exclusively on HTV the previous year, preceding LWT’s Saturday Scene but certainly not beating Grampian’s effort (more on that, later). Presented by a jumpsuited Alan Taylor (a prolific on-screen personality in many HTV shows, including their version of Mr & Mrs), we were led to believe he was in an orbiting spaceship above the Earth. The other passenger was a caterpillar-esque alien creature called Chester, a puppet largely made from green felt. I suppose you could view it as a primitive version of Get Fresh! Alan would read out lots of viewers’ letters. This seemed to be an evolution from his earlier role on birthday greetings show Tinker And Taylor, where Tinker was a glove puppet. He retired from television work in 1982, moving to Spain. There seems to be only three minutes worth of a 1974 Orbit on YouTube, giving you a small taster of what this Bristol-produced show was like.
HTV Production

11:35 The Partridge Family
A musical sitcom, originally made for America’s ABC network on Friday nights between 1970 to 1974. It concerned the adventures of a band made up of family members. As the show’s popularity waned in America, it actually increased among children and teenagers in the UK, albeit treated as a children’s show rather than prime time output. Cast member David Cassidy went onto become a real-life pop star throughout the decade.
Screen Gems

12:00 World Of Sport
See the LWT listing for details.
Compiled by London Weekend Television

South West (Westward)

Westward Television, serving the south west of England for the ITV network in the 1970s
The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan
Hanna-Barbera's Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan

9:15 Faith For Life
This is an odd item to kick off broadcasting, as it seems to be a repeat of Westward’s nightly epilogue, produced in their continuity studio. Someone on YouTube has uploaded a late 70s edition, which might give you an idea of what this was about.
Westward Television Production

9:20 Skilful Rugby
Presumably the huge following rugby has in Wales was an influence on HTV producing this series. Former player Ray Williams, the world’s first professional full-time rugby union coach, was a presenter. Carwyn James was the other presenter, also with great credentials. He was a former Welsh international player and known for coaching the British And Irish Lions in a victory over the All Blacks in their native New Zealand. This series shone a light on the various rules of the game of rugby.
HTV Production

9:45 Artists At Work
We have no programme information for this, I’m afraid!

10:10 The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan
This musical Scooby Doo clone, already covered in Southern’s listing, aired at this time throughout January. I think I’m on safe ground by assuming this would be the timeslot for it. There aren’t any full episodes on YouTube, but I did find this compilation of chase scenes.
Hanna-Barbera Productions

10:35 Film: Sword Of Sherwood Forest
The early days of ITV saw Richard Greene playing the green-clad arrow-wielding socialist in The Adventures Of Robin Hood, a show commissioned by ATV’s Lew Grade before the network had launched. Hammer Films have snapped up the actor to have him played Robin Hood again, although the rest of the cast don’t appear in this, so it’s no cinematic conversion of the TV series. Peter Cushing plays the foe, the Sheriff of Nottingham. It was all filmed in the Republic of Ireland in 1960, a year after the TV shows ended. There’s a trailer for the film on YouTube.

11:55 Gus Honeybun’s Birthdays
In certain parts of the ITV map, there’d be regional presentation featuring an announcer reading out birthday greetings for younger viewers. Some would put in the effort to entertain this audience by having an on-screen puppet that would help/hinder the presenter. Notably, Anglia had a crazy tiger called BC (Birthday Club) and Channel Television used the services of Oscar Puffin in Puffin’s Pla(i)ce. This kind of thing would sent up by Victoria Wood in her TV series, As Seen On TV.
Westward Television Production

12:00 World Of Sport
See the LWT listing for details.
Compiled by London Weekend Television

North East (Tyne Tees)

Tyne Tees Television, serving the north east of England for the ITV network in the 1970s
The Prince Who Was A Thief
The Prince Who Was A Thief, a film screened in both the Yorkshire and Tyne-Tees regions on 6th Jan 1974

9:55 Inter-Schools Basketball: Sunderland vs North Riding
I guess the title says it all really. The coverage of these basketball games would last right into February. Say what you like about ITV’s Geordie broadcaster, but this shows commitment to their region.
Tyne Tees Production

10:25 Film: The Prince Who Was a Thief
This is covered in the listing for Yorkshire, although viewers in the north east are getting this 25 minutes earlier!

12:00 World Of Sport
See the LWT listing for details.
Compiled by London Weekend Television


Border Television, serving southern Scotland and the far northern reaches of England (including Cumbria) for the ITV network in the 1970s
Our Little Girl
Shirley Temple in the film Our Little Girl

10:15 Elephant Boy
The adventures of 12-year-old orphan Toomai (played by Esrom Jayasinghe) and his elephant, Kala Nag. The concept was derived from the short story by Rudyard Kipling, Toomai Of The Elephants. This was an Australian/German/British series filmed in Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) made from 1973 to 1975.
Portman Productions

10:55 Film: Our Little Girl
Shirley Temple crops up again in a 1930s movie! This time she plays Molly, a physician’s daughter, a rare example of her not being an orphaned character. Her father is such a workaholic that his wife (played by Rosemary Ames) seeks passion elsewhere, which eventually leads to a divorce. Molly runs away from home in the wake of this parental break-up. This 1935 Twentieth-Century Fox film was also a rare case of no dance sequences being performed by Temple. The full film appears to be viewable in this YouTube upload.

12:00 World Of Sport
See the LWT listing for details.
Compiled by London Weekend Television

Central Scotland (STV)

STV (Scottish Television), serving central Scotland for the ITV network in the 1970s
Flipper the dolphin, doing a jump

9:20 Adventures In Words
The first of two adult education offerings this morning. This thirteen-part series promises to showcase the “fun in language” while improving your speaking and writing skills.
Tyne Tees Television Production

9:35 Jobs In The House And Garden
Made in 1972, this is an adult education fulfilment presented by Mike Smith (no, not him) and Gordon Cooper. Mike was known for the DIY series Tool Box and two series of follow-up Jobs Around The House. This edition is about guttering and drain pipes.
Yorkshire Television Production

10:05 Joe 90
One of Gerry Anderson’s most loved puppet-based action series, this is covered in more detail in Southern’s listing.
Century 21 Television Productions

10:30 Flipper
The 1963 film of the same name was a surprise hit, so the following year, the film’s producer began making the first of 88 episodes for America’s NBC network. Basically, it’s an aquatic Lassie, with the dolphin star helping its human friends rescue others from disasters or criminals. This Florida-based series did well in American television ratings and the last original show was transmitted there in 1967. It’s been a heavily syndicated staple on both sides of the Atlantic, with the show getting occasional national airings in the 1980s for British viewers tuned into TV-am. We don’t know which episode was being screen on STV, but as a sample, here’s the first episode of the second series which I found on YouTube.
Ivan Tors Films

10:55 Film: Stowaway
Yet another Shirley Temple film from the 1930s. Did ITV ship them in as a job lot? In this 1936 musical drama from Twentieth-Century Fox, she plays a young orphan called Ching Ching. She and her dog are taken in by a wealthy American, played by Robert Young.

12:00 World Of Sport
See the LWT listing for details.
Compiled by London Weekend Television

Northern Scotland (Grampian)

Grampian Television, serving northern Scotland for the ITV network in the 1970s
Ron And Friends
This black-and-white coulrophobia-inducing photo featured in Look-In magazine seems to be the only trace of Ron And Friends, which is considered to be the first purpose-made Saturday morning children's TV programme on British television

11:15 Ron And Friends
The first purpose-made Saturday morning children’s show on British television, with its launch episode airing almost exactly a year before Tiswas, on 6th January 1973. Described by the broadcasting authority IBA as “constructive material for the young”, this bizarre show covered music, cooking and careers all from a studio in Aberdeen. It also came with cartoons and film series – inserts that would become typical of the Saturday morning show template. Plus there were regular wacky characters – Kenny The Clown; the chaotic Potty Professor and country bumpkin Simple Dimple. These would be the ‘friends’ of the show’s title, but what of Ron himself? In the 1960s, County-Durham-born actor and lecturer Ronald Sawdon narrated documentaries for the BBC as well as writing scripts for children’s educational programmes. When he moved to Grampian Television in the 1970s, he would be instrumental in their networked schools programmes, particularly with Mathman. What of the show itself? Well, finding any footage online is a task that so far has resulted in nothing. There is a photograph from an edition of Look-In where a frankly terrifying Kenny The Clown is stood next to a guest dressed as Rupert The Bear. The result looks like a children’s show from the Scarfolk universe. Grampian would eventually replace this show with a strand called Scene On Saturday.
Grampian Television Production

12:00 World Of Sport
See the LWT listing for details.
Compiled by London Weekend Television

Northern Ireland (Ulster)

Ulster Television, serving Northern Ireland for the ITV network in the 1970s
Yoga For Health
Cheryl Fischer, Richard Hittleman and Lyn Marshall in Yoga For Health

10:20 Yoga For Health
Richard Hittleman, self-described as “America’s leading yoga expert” was involved with setting up a foundation called Yoga For Health. In 1970, he fronted a show of the same name. In these educational shows, he would be typically accompanied by two women trainees. One of these was Lyn Marshall, who would go on to be a leading yoga teacher in the UK with her own shows on LWT and the BBC. Richard’s instructional programme had quite a cult following among a UK audience and is credited with helping drive the take-up of yoga. If you want to know what the series was like, here’s an excerpt from an episode filmed in 1970, uploaded to YouTube.

10:45 Sesame Street
As covered in the Granada listing.
Children’s Television Workshop

11:45 The Enchanted House
A bizarre pseudo-cartoon for a pre-school audience, this was originally made for ITV’s weekday afternoon slots around 1970-72. The house in question was home to Tiny the Giraffe and his friends – Nellyphant the Elephant, Joe the Kangaroo, Leo the Lion, Sammy the Seal, Bob the Robin, Jock the Dog and the eponymous Worm. This dwelling had a Tardis-like quality as it was bigger on the inside than the outside. Much of the action was static, with lots of camera shots aimed at cut-out 2D drawings sitting within a 3D room. Animation, if it can be called that, was very sporadic, usually resulting in certain drawings moved around by hand. Commissioned by Thames Television. The entire series was thought to be completely lost, but a few years ago, some episodes resurfaced on YouTube, here’s one of them.
Limar Television Production

12:00 World Of Sport
See the LWT listing for details.
Compiled by London Weekend Television


Channel Television, serving the Channel Islands for the ITV network in the 1970s

The farthest flung outpost of ITV, this region is the smallest (both in terms of geographic area and potential viewers). Its domain is the Channel Islands, technically not part of the United Kingdom and roughly half the area of the Isle Of Wight. It was still broadcasting in black-and-white at this time, not embracing colour until two and a half years later. As such, it can’t be much of a surprise that this franchise did not air anything on Saturdays until past midday, when it usually kicked off with a few minutes of birthday greetings in Puffin’s Pla(i)ce (featuring puppet Oscar Puffin), followed by ITV’s staple World Of Sport at 12:30. (Except that networked sports compendium starts at 12:00 around this part of 1974, at least.)

Midlands (ATV)

ATV (Associated Television), serving the midlands for the ITV network in the 1970s
Today Is Saturday, or the Tis-Was Show
'Today Is Saturday' - the early opening titles of Tiswas

9.05 Skilful Rugby
A series about the various rules in rugby. A more detailed description is written up in the Westward listing.
HTV Production

9:35 Jobs Around The House
A DIY-centric adult education series. Today, this is an edition entitled ‘Damp’ and the TV Times billing promises that it’ll demonstrate “how to reduce condensation on the walls”. Presented by Mike Smith, no, not that one.
Yorkshire Television Production

10:00 This Is Saturday or The Tis-Was Show
Yeah, this really is the first edition of Tiswas. Presented by John Asher, with Chris Tarrant playing a minor part in his own segment about news. Much of this edition and the following week’s one were made up of live phone-ins from viewers. Cartoons and film clips were common components of this two-and-a-half-hour show. All presented from a tiny presentation studio (Studio 4) on a really tight budget at ATV’s Birmingham HQ.
ATV Production

12:00 World Of Sport
See the LWT listing for details.
Compiled by London Weekend Television

Phew, this has been quite a tour round the various nooks and crannies of 1970s ITV. This wouldn’t have been possible without some of our friends helping out on research, particularly Tiswas superfan Dave Clark. A huge amount of it came from television historian Steve Arnold, who I commissioned to get as much information as possible on regional ITV schedules during Tiswas’s time. That’s a Herculean task and I’m very grateful for his work there. Additional thanks to Aidan Lunn, Jeremy Rogers and Twitter’s @UKPRES1 who have helped correct and update these schedules with their excellent research skills. Aidan and Jeremy have been particularly helpful on Anglia and Westward, and @UKPRES1 has specialised on STV and also highlighting that World Of Sport was brought forward 30 minutes all over the network, something not reflected in our original source, TV Times (usually printed six weeks before transmission).

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1 Response
  1. Al

    What a brilliant article.

    Here in HTV-Land I watched Orbit at the time. Chester was actually given his name in a competition. I have no idea what my suggestion was, but these day’s I’d suggest ‘Negus’.

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