That Was the Week That Was

That Was the Week That Was, informally TWTWTW or TW3, was a satirical television comedy programme on BBC Television in 1962 and 1963. It was devised, produced and directed by Ned Sherrin and presented by David Frost. An American version by the same name aired on NBC from 1964 to 1965, also featuring Frost.

The programme is considered a significant element of the satire boom in the UK in the early 1960s. It broke ground in comedy through lampooning the establishment and political figures. Its broadcast coincided with coverage of the politically charged Profumo affair and John Profumo, the politician at the centre of the affair became a target for derision. TW3 was first broadcast on Saturday, 24 November 1962.

That Was the Week That Was
That Was the Week That Was opening title
Also known asTW3
Presented byDavid Frost
Theme music composerRon Grainer
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series2
Producer(s)Ned Sherrin
Running timec. 50 minutes
Production company(s)BBC
Original networkBBC TV
Picture formatBlack-and-white, 405-line
Audio formatMonaural
Original release24 November 1962 – 28 December 1963
Followed byNot So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life (1964–1965)

Cast and writers

Cast members included cartoonist Timothy Birdsall, political commentator Bernard Levin, and actors Lance Percival, who sang topical calypsos, many improvised to suggestions from the audience, Kenneth Cope, Roy Kinnear, Willie Rushton, Al Mancini, Robert Lang, David Kernan and Millicent Martin. The last two were also singers and the programme opened with a song – "That Was The Week That Was" – sung by Martin to Ron Grainer's theme tune and enumerating topics in the news. Frankie Howerd also guested with stand-up comedy.

Script-writers included John Albery, John Antrobus, John Betjeman, John Bird, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Peter Cook, Roald Dahl, Richard Ingrams, Lyndon Irving, Gerald Kaufman, Frank Muir, David Nobbs, Denis Norden, Bill Oddie, Dennis Potter, Eric Sykes, Kenneth Tynan, and Keith Waterhouse.[1]


1963 Radio Times cover promotes the return of the programme for a second series.

The programme opened with a song ("That was the week that was, It's over, let it go ...") sung by Millicent Martin, referring to news of the week just gone. Lance Percival sang a topical calypso each week. Satirical targets, such as Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and Home Secretary Henry Brooke were lampooned in sketches, debates and monologues. Some other targets included the monarchy, the British Empire, nuclear deterrence, advertising, public relations and propaganda, capital punishment,[2] sexual and social hypocrisy, the class system, and the BBC itself. Well-remembered sketches include a controversial 'consumers' guide to religion', which discussed relative merits of faiths in the manner of a Which? magazine report, which received controversy from religious figures at the time.[3]

The programme was not party political but did not treat all issues with what the producers considered to be a false level of impartiality and balance; one example of this is the issue of racism and "the evils of apartheid",[2] following the view of BBC Director-General Sir Hugh Greene that the BBC should not be bound by its charter to be impartial on issues of racism, which Greene and the producers of TW3 viewed as "quite simply wrong".[4] Following the 1963 murder of 35-year-old white postal worker William Lewis Moore in Alabama, who was on a protest march against segregation in the American South, TW3's Millicent Martin dressed as Uncle Sam sang a parody of "I Wanna Go Back to Mississippi" ("... where the Mississippi mud/kinda mingles with the blood/of the niggers who are hanging from the branches of the tree ...") accompanied by minstrel singers in blackface ("... we hate all the darkies and the Catholics and the Jews / Where we welcome any man / Who is strong and white and belongs to the Ku Klux Klan"), thus parodying The Black and White Minstrel Show, which was then being shown on the BBC despite accusations of racism over its use of blackface.[4][5]

On Saturday, 20 October 1962 the award of Nobel prizes to John Kendrew and Max Perutz, and to Francis Crick, James D. Watson, and Maurice Wilkins was satirised in a short sketch with the prizes referred to as the Alfred Nobel Peace Pools; in this sketch Watson was called "Little J.D. Watson" and "Who'd have thought he'd ever get the Nobel Prize? Makes you think, doesn't it". The germ of the joke was that Watson was only 25 when he helped discover DNA; much younger than the others.

TW3 was broadcast on Saturday night and attracted an audience of 12 million. It often under- or overran as cast and crew worked through material as they saw fit. At the beginning of the second season in the autumn of 1963, in an attempt to assert control over the programme, the BBC scheduled repeats of The Third Man television series after the end of TW3. Frost suggested a means of sabotaging this tactic to Sherrin, and he agreed. For three weeks, Frost read out the plot of The Third Man, until the repeats were abandoned following the direct intervention of Greene.[6]

Frost often ended a satirical attack with the remark "But seriously, he's doing a grand job".[7] At the end of each episode, Frost usually signed off with: "That was the week, that was." At the end of the final programme he announced: "That was That Was The Week That Was...that was."

Kennedy tribute

For the edition on Saturday, 23 November 1963, the day after the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy, TW3 produced a shortened 20-minute programme with no satire, reflecting on the loss, including a contribution from Dame Sybil Thorndike and the tribute song "In the Summer of His Years" sung by Martin with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. This edition was screened on NBC in the US the following day, and the soundtrack was released by Decca Records. A clip, featuring Roy Kinnear, was shown in the David L. Wolper documentary film Four Days in November and on the History Channel 2009 documentary JFK: 3 Shots that Changed America. In addition to the Millicent Martin studio recording of "In the Summer of His Years" issued in the US by ABC-Paramount, other versions were recorded and released by Connie Francis (MGM), Mahalia Jackson (Columbia), Kate Smith (RCA Victor), Sarah Vaughan (Vernon) and The Chad Mitchell Trio (Mercury); the Francis recording became a Top 40 hit on the Cash Box pop singles chart in January 1964. BBC presenter Richard Dimbleby, who broadcast the president's funeral from Washington, said the regular programme was scrapped when news of the assassination was received and that the programme was a good expression of the sorrow felt in Britain.[8]


After two successful series in 1962 and 1963, the programme did not return in 1964. The reason given by the BBC was that 1964 was an election year and political material could compromise the corporation's impartiality.


Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was initially supportive, chastising the Postmaster General Reginald Bevins for threatening to "do something about it".[9] However, the BBC received many complaints from organisations and establishment figures. Lord Aldington, vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, wrote to the BBC's director-general Hugh Carleton Greene that Frost had a "hatred" of the Prime Minister, which "he finds impossible to control". The programme also attracted complaints from the Boy Scout Association, upset by an item questioning the sexuality of its founder Lord Baden-Powell, and the government of Cyprus, which claimed that a joke about Archbishop Makarios, the country's ruler, was a "gross violation of internationally accepted ethics".[10]

Historians have identified TW3 as breaking ground in comedy and broadcasting. Graham McCann said it challenged the "convention that television should not acknowledge that it is television; the show made no attempt to hide its cameras, allowed the microphone boom to intrude and often revealed other nuts and bolts of studio technology."[11] In the 1960s, this was unusual and gave the programme an exciting, modern feel.[12] TW3 also flouted conventions by adopting "a relaxed attitude to its running time: loosely structured and open-ended, it seemed to last just as long as it wanted and needed to last, even if that meant going beyond the advertised time for the ending [...] the real controversy of course, was caused by the content."[11]

Its subject matter has also been praised. McCann says: "TW3...did its research, thought its arguments through and seemed unafraid of anything or anyone.... Every hypocrisy was highlighted and each contradiction was held up for sardonic inspection. No target was deemed out of bounds: royalty was reviewed by republicans; rival religions were subjected to no-nonsense 'consumer reports'; pompous priests were symbolically defrocked; corrupt businessmen, closet bigots and chronic plagiarists were exposed; and topical ideologies were treated to swingeing critiques."[13]


TW3 was live and recordings were not made of all editions, although only two editions are missing; the first pilot, and the 13 April 1963 edition. A compilation of surviving material was shown on BBC Four to celebrate the 40th anniversary. In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted by industry professionals, That Was The Week That Was placed 29th.

Sherrin attempted to revive the formula with Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life but was less successful.

Alternative versions

US versions

An American version was on NBC, initially as a pilot episode on 10 November 1963, then as a series from 10 January 1964 to May 1965.[14] The pilot featured Henry Fonda and Henry Morgan, guests Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and supporting performers including Gene Hackman. The recurring cast included Frost, Morgan, Buck Henry and Alan Alda, with Nancy Ames singing the opening song and Stanley Grover and Ames performing solos and duets; regular contributors included Gloria Steinem, William F. Brown, Tom Lehrer and Calvin Trillin.[15] The announcer was Jerry Damon. Also a guest was Woody Allen, performing stand-up comedy; the guest star on the final broadcast was Steve Allen. A running gag was a mock feud with Jack Paar, whose own programme followed TW3 on the NBC Friday schedule; Paar repeatedly referred to TW3 as "Henry Morgan's Amateur Hour".

The American version is largely a lost program, although the pilot survives and was donated to the Library of Congress by a collector.[16] Amateur audio recordings of most episodes also survive.[17] After the series' cancellation, Lehrer recorded a collection of his songs used on the show, That Was The Year That Was, released by Reprise Records in September 1965.

In the American version, an episode showed a smiling U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson contemplating an easy 1964 campaign against the Republican nominee, U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona. The satirists sang that Goldwater could not win because he "does not know the dance of the liberal Republicans", then a substantial component of the GOP, many of whose members had supported Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York for the Republican nomination.

On April 21, 1985 in the United States, the ABC network aired That Was The Week That Was as a special, hosted by David Frost (also serving as an executive producer) and Anne Bancroft, and featuring future Saturday Night Live cast members Jan Hooks and A. Whitney Brown and puppetry from Spitting Image.[18]

Kristy Glass and Kevin Ruf starred in a remake of TW3 for ABC's Primetime Live in the fall of 2004. Soon after its premiere, Shelley Ross, the executive producer, was fired and TW3 ended with her dismissal.

International versions

A Canadian show, This Hour Has Seven Days, aired from 1964 to 1966 on CBC. Although partially inspired by That Was The Week That Was, the Canadian show mixed satirical aspects with more serious journalism. It proved controversial and was cancelled after two series amid allegations of political interference. This Hour Has 22 Minutes, created by Newfoundland comic Mary Walsh, has been running since 1992 although the two are not related.

An Australian show, The Mavis Bramston Show, aired from 1964 to 1968 on the Seven Network. It grew out of the recent local theatrical tradition of topical satirical revue—most notably the popular revues staged at Sydney's Phillip Street Theatre in the 1950s and 1960s—but it was also strongly influenced by the British satire boom and especially TW3 and Not Only... But Also.

The New Zealand show A Week Of It ran from 1977 to 1979, hosted by Ken Ellis, and featuring comedians David McPhail, Peter Rowley and Chris McVeigh and comedian/musicians Jon Gadsby and Annie Whittle. The series lampooned news and politics and featured songs, usually by McPhail and Gadsby, who continued with their own show, McPhail and Gadsby in similar vein.

A Dutch version, Zo is het toevallig ook nog 's een keer, aired from November 1963 to 1966. It became controversial after the fourth edition, which included a parody of the Lord's Prayer ("Give us this day our daily television"). Angry viewers directed their protests especially against the most popular cast member: Mies Bouwman. After receiving several threats to her life she decided to quit the show. The show was praised as well: in 1966 it received the Gouden Televizier-ring, a prestigious audience award—though it turned out afterward that the election was rigged.[19]

An Indian version titled The Week That Wasn't was launched and hosted by Cyrus Broacha.


Cleveland, Ohio, local personality Ghoulardi (played by Ernie Anderson), host of WJW-TV's Shock Theater in the 1960s, ran clips of local celebrities and politicians and satirised them in a Shock Theater segment entitled That Was Weak Wasn't It?[20]


  1. ^ McCann 2006, p. 156.
  2. ^ a b Hegarty 2016, p. 55.
  3. ^ Briggs, Asa (1995). The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom: Competition. Oxford University Press. p. 361. ISBN 978-0-19-215964-9.
  4. ^ a b Strinati, Dominic; Wagg, Stephen (24 February 2004). Come on Down?: Popular Media Culture in Post-War Britain. Routledge. p. 267. ISBN 978-1-134-92368-7.
  5. ^ Hegarty 2016, p. 65.
  6. ^ Humphrey Carpenter That Was Satire That Was, London: Victor Gollancz, 2000, pp. 270-71
  7. ^ Stuart Jeffries, "This'll kill you", The Guardian, 16 January 1999, p. B5.
  8. ^ "A British Program Honoring Kennedy Shown Over NBC". The New York Times. 25 November 1963. p. 10.
  9. ^ "BBC marks TW3 anniversary". BBC News. 26 November 2002.
  10. ^ Hastings, Chris (17 June 2007). "Tories helped take TW3 off the air". The Daily Telegraph.
  11. ^ a b McCann 2006, pp. 313–314.
  12. ^ "TV Trends: Conspicuous Cameras". Image Dissectors. 2010-06-08. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  13. ^ McCann 2006.
  14. ^ Gardner, Paul (January 3, 1964). "ORIGINATOR HERE TO ASSIST 'T.W. 3' / David Frost Will Appear on New Satirical Revue". The New York Times, p.49. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  15. ^ "Morse for 'T.W. 3'" (The New York Times, January 20, 1964, p.87). Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  16. ^ "• View topic - The Last Sundown for Cinesation: 2013 Fest Report". Retrieved 2014-05-31.
  17. ^ "Lost and Found Sound: The Stories". Retrieved 2014-05-31.
  18. ^ "'THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS (TV)'". Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  19. ^ Nijland, Yfke. "'Zo is het toevallig ook nog 's een keer'" (in Dutch). Geschiedenis 24. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
  20. ^ Watson, Elena M. (2000). Television Horror Movie Hosts: 68 Vampires, Mad Scientists and Other Denizens of the Late Night Airwaves Examined and Interviewed. Jefferson, North Carolina, United States: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-0940-1. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2014-05-31.

External links

16th Primetime Emmy Awards

The 16th Emmy Awards, later known as the 16th Primetime Emmy Awards, were presented in May 25, 1964. The ceremony was hosted by Joey Bishop and E. G. Marshall. Winners are listed in bold and series' networks are in parentheses.

The top shows of the night were repeat winners.The Defenders, won its third consecutive Drama Emmy, while The Dick Van Dyke Show won its second straight Comedy Emmy. The Dick Van Dyke Show tied the record (since broken) for most major category wins, with five.

7th Annual Grammy Awards

The 7th Annual Grammy Awards were held on April 13, 1965, at Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills. They recognized accomplishments of musicians for the year 1964. João Gilberto & Stan Getz won 4 awards.

Buck Henry

Henry Zuckerman, credited as Buck Henry (born December 9, 1930), is an American actor, writer, film director, and television director. He has been nominated for an Academy Award twice, in 1968 for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Graduate and in 1979 for Best Director for Heaven Can Wait.

David Frost

Sir David Paradine Frost (7 April 1939 – 31 August 2013) was an English television host, media personality, journalist, comedian, and writer.

After graduating from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Frost rose to prominence in the United Kingdom when he was chosen to host the satirical programme That Was the Week That Was in 1962. His success on this show led to work as a host on U.S. television. He became known for his television interviews with senior political figures, among them the Nixon Interviews with former U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1977, which were adapted into a stage play and film.

Frost was one of the "Famous Five" who was 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 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.

Frost died on 31 August 2013, aged 74, on board the cruise ship MS Queen Elizabeth, on which he had been engaged as a speaker. In March 2014, his memorial stone was unveiled in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey for his contribution to British culture.

In the Summer of His Years (song)

Not to be confused with the song of that title from the Bee Gees' 1968 album "Idea."

"In the Summer of His Years" is a 1963 pop song with lyrics written by Herb Kretzmer and music by David Lee. Kretzmer and Lee composed the song as a tribute hours after learning that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas."In the Summer of His Years" was first performed by English singer Millicent Martin during a tribute broadcast to President Kennedy that aired on the BBC on 23 November 1963. The show on which the song was introduced was a special broadcast of the BBC's satirical weekly news programme That Was the Week That Was; after the news of the assassination broke, the producers of the show discarded the week's planned scripts and sketches and decided to refashion that week's show as a somber and respectful tribute to President Kennedy. NBC later rebroadcast the programme. A soundtrack to the That Was the Week That Was broadcast was also released in the United States on Decca Records.

Leon Rosselson

Leon Rosselson (born 22 June 1934, Harrow, Middlesex) is an English songwriter and writer of children's books. After his early involvement in the folk music revival in Britain, he came to prominence, singing his own satirical songs, in the BBC's topical TV programme of the early 1960s, That Was The Week That Was. He toured Britain and abroad, singing mainly his own songs and accompanying himself with acoustic guitar.

In later years, he has published 17 children's books, the first of which, Rosa's Singing Grandfather, was shortlisted in 1991 for the Carnegie Medal.

He continues to write and perform his own songs, and to collaborate with other musicians and performers. Most of his material includes some sort of satirical content or elements of radical politics.

Millicent Martin

Millicent Mary Lillian Martin (born 8 June 1934) is an English actress, singer, and comedian, who was the resident singer of topical songs on the weekly BBC Television satire show That Was The Week That Was (1962-1963). For her work on Broadway, she received Tony Award nominations for Side by Side by Sondheim (1977) and King of Hearts (1978), both for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Other television roles include her recurring role as Gertrude Moon in the NBC sitcom Frasier (2000–04).

Roscoe Lee Browne

Roscoe Lee Browne (May 2, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American actor and director known for his rich voice and dignified bearing. He resisted playing stereotypically black roles, instead performing in several productions with New York City's Shakespeare Festival Theater, Leland Hayward's satirical NBC series That Was the Week That Was, and a poetry performance tour of the United States in addition to his work in television and film.

In 1976, Browne was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama Series for his work on ABC's Barney Miller. In 1986, he won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Performer in a Comedy Series for his work on NBC's The Cosby Show. In 1992, he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance as "Holloway" in August Wilson's Two Trains Running.In 1995, he received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for his performance as "The Kingpin" in Spider-Man.

Browne was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1977 and posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2008.


The rowans or mountain-ashes are shrubs or trees in the genus Sorbus of the rose family, Rosaceae. They are native throughout the cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with the highest species diversity in the mountains of western China and the Himalaya, where numerous apomictic microspecies occur. The name rowan was originally applied to the species Sorbus aucuparia and is also used for other species in Sorbus subgenus Sorbus.Formerly, when a wider variety of fruits were commonly eaten in Europe and North America, Sorbus was a domestically used fruit throughout these regions. It is still used in some countries, but Sorbus domestica, for example, has largely vanished from Britain, where it was traditionally appreciated. Natural hybrids, often including Sorbus aucuparia and the whitebeam, Sorbus aria, give rise to many endemic variants in the UK.

Roy Kinnear

Roy Mitchell Kinnear (8 January 1934 – 20 September 1988) was an English character actor. He is known for his roles in films directed by Richard Lester; including Algernon in Help! (1965); Clapper in How I Won the War (1967); and Planchet in The Three Musketeers (1973), reprising the latter role in the 1974 and 1989 sequels. He is also known for playing Private Monty Bartlett in The Hill (1965), Henry Salt in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and cruise director Curtain in Juggernaut (1974).

Kinnear made his stage debut in 1955, and came to prominence in the BBC satirical comedy series That Was the Week That Was in 1962. He went on to appear in numerous British television comedy programmes, including The Dick Emery Show (1979–81), and in the sitcoms Man About the House (1974–75), George and Mildred (1976–79) and Cowboys (1980–81).

Tom Lehrer

Thomas Andrew Lehrer (; born April 9, 1928) is a retired American musician, singer-songwriter, satirist, and mathematician. He has lectured on mathematics and musical theater. He is best known for the pithy, humorous songs he recorded in the 1950s and 1960s.

Lehrer’s work often parodied popular song forms, though he usually created original melodies when doing so. A notable exception is "The Elements", where he set the names of the chemical elements to the tune of the "Major-General's Song" from Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. Lehrer's early work typically dealt with non-topical subject matter and was noted for its black humor in songs such as "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park". In the 1960s, he produced a number of songs that dealt with social and political issues of the day, particularly when he wrote for the U.S. version of the television show That Was the Week That Was. Despite their topical subjects and references, the popularity of these songs has endured; Lehrer quoted a friend's explanation: "Always predict the worst and you'll be hailed as a prophet."In the early 1970s, he largely retired from public performances to devote his time to teaching mathematics and music theatre at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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