Tag Archives: Private Eye

➤ David Frost salutes TW3, the TV show that pioneered satire 50 years ago tonight

Hugh Carleton-Greene, David Frost, TW3, BBC, satire, 1960s,Private Eye, Bernard Levin, JFK, Christopher Booker, Millicent Martin,

Satirists on their firing range: at left, David Frost leads the TW3 team in the studio

❚ THE MOST INFLUENTIAL TV SERIES in British history – the lodestar for all future comedy, and more – won no fulsome retrospective from the BBC on its 50th anniversary today. Only a brief item on the Today show reminded us how the earth tilted at 10:30pm on this night in 1962 with the launch of TW3 – the adopted shorthand for That Was The Week That Was. New research reveals that this politically insolent television voice of Britain’s nascent satire movement attracted complaints by the thousand. “No other programme has so many files in its correspondence section,” we were told this morning by historian Morgan Daniels on the Today programme. What it had done, according to Private Eye’s first editor Christopher Booker in his landmark 1969 book The Neophiliacs, was finally to break free from the Presbyterian straitjacket of Lord Reith, the BBC’s founder. Within weeks pubs started emptying on Saturdays as the nation made a ritual of rushing home to catch TW3’s 37 broadcasts which grew an audience of 12 million in less than a year.

A galaxy of leading “Northern Realist” writers and national newspaper journalists contributed razor-sharp sketches and what little remains available on video makes today’s comedy seem lily-livered. TW3 made the career of Sir David Frost who was its “classless” front-man at the age of 23. Though many satirists say they achieve no lasting change, on tonight’s Loose Ends radio show, Frost insisted that satire does have a knock-on influence in its day, even if it may not reform legislation in the long term. TW3’s second series was curtailed on December 28, 1963, for fears it would unbalance the general election campaign of 1964.

Roy Kinnear, David Frost, Lance Percival, TW3, satire, 1960s

At the TW3 bar: Roy Kinnear, David Frost, Lance Percival

TW3 captured a zeitgeist unique to the 60s before they began to swing. Booker argued in The Neophiliacs: “It was a final drawing together of almost all those threads which had been working for ‘revolution’ and sensation in the England of the previous seven years.” [Namely, since the election of 1955 when slippage of the tectonic plates supporting Britain’s centuries-old class system saw the subsequent rise of the “unposh” intellectual and of John Osborne’s “angry young man”] … “[TW3] brought the destructive force of the satire craze to a mass audience.”

Britain was changing. Deference was on the way out, The Beatles were on their way in. The satire boom was in full swing…/ Continued inside

➢ Read on inside for a fuller analysis by Shapersofthe80s
of the 60s satire boom – plus a gallery of rarely seen images from TW3, and more vintage videos

❏ Year-ending round-up of TW3 highlights, Dec 1963 (above) – includes notorious Mississippi number with black-and-white minstrels in the week a white protester walking from Alabama to Jackson was shot dead by the road … The consumer guide to religion … Timothy Birdsall draws the Duke and Duchess of Eastbourne … MPs who have not spoken in Parliament are named and shamed … Bernard Levin harangues a pride of lawyers with their failings.

➢ Click through to compare and contrast the satirists of the 60s with the “alternative comics” of Alexei Sayle’s generation when they formed the Comic Strip – Analysis by Shapersofthe80s from 1980


➤ Happy golden anniversary to Lord Gnome, Glenda Slagg, Topes, O’Booze, Knacker, Knee and especially Gnome-Mart’s theme tune

Private Eye, First 50 Years,magazine covers,satire
❚ HOW ONE MAGAZINE has enriched a nation’s vocabulary over 50 years is evidenced by the enormous page at Wikipedia, detailing euphemisms for sex (“Ugandan discussions”) and drunkenness (“tired and emotional”), and the eternal cast of daft characters from public life, as headlined above.

October 25, 1961, saw the first issue of Private Eye as a silly-jokes threat to the ancient humourous periodical, Punch. The Eye was quickly given a worthy role by the nation’s thirst for incisive satirical critiquing of all aspects of the British Way of Life, the irony being that today the Eye itself has become an institutional beacon in the democratic process. As editor for the past 25 years, Ian Hislop’s best boast is that he is the most sued man in Britain, libel writs being substantially provoked by the rear-end pages of sound investigative journalism. Not a bad metamorphosis. Is it then churlish to mention that what some of us really, really miss are the hilarious sketches once enacted on 7-inch flexi-discs attached to the cover and given away with the Christmas issues? [See below]

➢ Private Eye’s own library of epochal covers

➢ Bags of Private Eye memorabilia as Creative Review previews the new V&A studio display paying homage to the magazine’s humourists

➢ Direct link to the V&A’s video and display Private Eye: The First 50 Years, running October 18 to January 8

Private Eye, First 50 Years,magazine covers,satire,humour
❏ Back in the 1960s the then new technology of offset litho encouraged cut-and-paste techniques such as the DIY speech balloon photograph (one Queen and a bevy of prime ministers, above). This didn’t stop the Eye from becoming a prominent outlet for the nation’s leading cartoonists (the Thompson effort below appears in the V&A display).
Private Eye, First 50 Years,satire,V&A exhibition,humour, cartoons


Private Eye, 50th anniversary, issue No 1300, Gnome-Mart,satire ➢ The Eye celebrates its 50th anniversary with issue No 1300 and at its website a page of unfunny audio recordings that simply don’t come close to the efforts 40 years ago of Peter Cook, Willie Rushton & Co.

➢ Update Nov 5: Fortunately The Grauniad has released an exclusive CD of classic audio sketches made by Private Eye legends Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron, Willie Rushton, John Wells and Richard Ingrams — 34 excerpts spread over 40 minutes include Grocer Heath, E J Thribb, Farginson, I Musicci di Neasden, Inspector Knacker and many more favourites.

➢ The full archive of Private Eye recordings made by Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Barry Humphries, John Wells, John Bird, Barry Fantoni, Richard Ingrams and Spike Milligan – plus rare photos, video clips and historical notes – can be found at privateeyerecords.com. The whole catalogue of Golden Satiricals is due for release on CD in January 2012.

➢ Whistleblowers and those with a social conscience can download past Eye investigations into subjects such as NHS whistleblowers; How Britain’s poverty relief fund abandoned the poor; full background to the ACTIS-CDC sell-off; How Blair’s government blew £12.4bn on useless IT for the NHS; deaths of four young recruits at the Deepcut army barracks, etc.

Private Eye, 50th anniversary, privateeyerecords, Gnome-Mart,satire,CD,Golden Satiricals