On this day (7th January)

Hot Snow, the first episode of The Avengers, was broadcast on ITV in 1961.

The surviving fragment of this debut episode gives us a tantalising glimpse into the birth of the series. Totally different of course from what was to come later – this is a straightforward crime story with ‘cor blimey guvnor’ bad guys and a good guy – Dr David Keel (Ian Hendry) – who’s yet to realise that he’s about to swop a medical career for a crime-fighting one.

There are various ways to sample most of the first series (Big Finish’s audio remakes, the camera scripts) but I wouldn’t be averse to a few more episodes turning up. Maybe one day.

The first edition of World in Action was broadcast on ITV in 1963.

Running for 35 years between 1963 and 1998, Network have released four volumes of World In Action on DVD and they’re all worth investigating. Right from the start the series had a brash, brisk approach which quickly got to the heart of each topic (this was necessary, since they usually only had 25 minutes to play with).

A Family Festival, the first episode of The Forsyte Saga, was broadcast on BBC2 in 1967.

This sprawling adaptation of John Galsworthy’s Forsyte novels was the brainchild of Donald Wilson and ran for 26 episodes during the first half of 1967. Ratings on BBC2 were fairly modest (only a fraction of the country could receive the channel at that time) but when it was repeated on BBC1 the following year it suddenly became a hot topic of conversation.

As the legends have it, pubs were emptied and church services went unattended as a nation were glued to each twist and turn every Sunday evening. How much truth there is in that I’m not sure, but it is easy to get hooked on The Forsyte Saga.

The cast is packed with talent, but Eric Porter’s performance as Soames has to be the highlight. Hero or villain? He’s both at different times of the story as Porter was able to give the character plenty of shade – Soames was never simply painted in black and white.

Given that this was a monochrome serial, we have to be thankful that it’s survived in full. Certainly worth checking out if you’ve never seen it before.

Also making their first appearances today – The Last of the Mohicans (1971, directed by David Maloney and featuring a mesmerising performance by Philip Madoc – albeit one that you wouldn’t see today), Telford’s Change (Peter Barkworth), Ripping Yarns, Wish You Were Here, Keep It In The Family and The Fourth Arm (one of Gerard Glaister’s less well known WW2 dramas).

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