Can You Name These British TV Shows From the '60s and '70s?

By: Zoe Samuel

Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker had the same name, but they were otherwise very different. Corbett was absolutely tiny, and Barker was a big guy. Their wholesome comedy made fun of class distinctions and the various vagaries of British society.

Before Marvel's "Avengers" were a household name outside comics, "The Avengers" was a British TV show about a super-cool spy and his glamorous and beautiful colleagues. It ran for eight seasons and featured former Bond girl Honor Blackman.

This show featured the five Tracy brothers and their father, who together formed "International Rescue", a superhero team that showed up whenever they were needed by people in peril. The father was a billionaire who decided to dedicate his fortune to helping people in need.

Coronation Street premiered in Decmber 1960, and it is still on the air today. It is a soap opera on ITV, produced by Granada Television. It tells the story of neighbors on a street in Weatherfield, a fictionalized version of Salford, Manchester.

"The Prisoner" is about a man who wakes up one day in a weird seaside village. He finds that leaving is not an option and that nobody will tell him what is going on. The villain is played by a different actor in each episode, and goes by Number Two, as he is the second-in-command in the mysterious town.

This show went by a number of titles across the world, including "Danger Man", "John Drake", and "Destination Danger". It is about a British spy, and no less a figure than James Bond creator Ian Fleming was involved in creating it. The hero, John Drake, tends to announce himself with the words "Drake, John Drake", a nice little Easter egg care of Fleming.

A rag-and-bone business run by a father and son was the setting for this dark comedy that was sold to multiple territories. The son, Harold, dreams of moving up in the world while his trashy father constantly embarrasses him. The show is all about all the conflict between their different attitudes to ambition, and how this affects their relationship.

This sitcom ran for an impressive 432 episodes, of which 400 are lost to posterity. This is unusual for the BBC, as they generally archive absolutely everything. It is all about a bobby on the beat, George Dixon, and the various shenanigans he encounters doing the rounds.

This charming show was about the older men who were unable to join the regular army in World War II and thus were appointed to defend the "Home Front". Bank manager Captain Mainwaring leads a group of absurd but lovable duffers as they do their very best to protect Britain from a Nazi invasion, a grim topic that becomes hilarious in this show's capable hands.

This show ran for an amazing 20 years, though it "only" put out 152 shows in those years. It dared to put working-class people's stories front and center, and boldly put then-controversial stories about issues such as interracial marriage on the screen. Writers included Harold Pinter, who said it was the biggest audience any of his shows ever had!

This show starred Roger Moore before his James Bond days, and made him famous. Indeed, it nearly cost him Bond, due to scheduling conflicts, but as the hero Simon Templar was a role he had dreamed of playing for years, even trying to acquire the rights himself, he made the TV show a priority. Happily, he was eventually able to do both.

This show was all about the members of the eponymous Special Branch, who are tasked with protecting London from terrorism. Earlier episodes were black and white, though the show later moved to color. It ran for four seasons over five years.

After "Danger Man" had to go off the air, "Man In A Suitcase" was the replacement. It was about a spy who has lost his job due to being accused of a crime he did not commit, who decides that the way forward is to move to the UK and become a detective for hire. We never learn the hero's first name, though his initial is R.

This show was from the same studio that created "Thunderbirds", though it only lasted one season partly due to being a more grownup show that didn't hit the same notes. It pioneered a new way of syncing the puppets' lips to existing dialogue, which is the opposite of how many other puppet and animated shows are made.

This is a variety show and chatshow in one for children, and it has been on the air since just before the '60s began. The show has had 37 presenters during its life, and is the longest-running kids' series in the world, including "Sesame Street".

Before there was MTV, there was "Top of the Pops". This Friday night show would feature the top 10 hits of the week, either live or with a pre-recorded segment or video, at a time that record purchases and not live ticket sales were by far the most important measure of success. Bands would often appear several weeks in a row if their song hung on long enough. An appearance could make or break a band's career.

"The Forsyte Saga" was based on a series of novels by John Galsworthy that were set in the inter-war years in England. This period drama came out in 1967, and it was well-received. Indeed, there was another adaption in 2002.

This show consists of punking a famous or high-achieving person in a really nice way. The person is brought to the studio believing they are there to see a live taping, whereupon the presenter turns to them and announces, "John Doe, this is your life!" They are then treated to a documentary mixed with a chatshow, which presents their many laurels to the world.

If the Benny Hill music doesn't ring a bell, look it up, as you have certainly heard it. This comic genius had a show that was on the air on-and-off for the best part of 40 years. It was all about farcical slapstick comedy in the music hall tradition, and it was great fun.

Morecambe and Wise were such a big hit that their 1977 Christmas special pulled in a shocking 28 million, which meant literally half the UK was watching. It was a sketch and variety show with songs included, and people loved it. Unfortunately, some tapes of earlier episodes were lost for a while, but they were later found in 2018, renewed, and broadcast again!

Gerry Anderson never had a hit as big as "Thunderbirds", but he did have plenty of other shows. After a successful first season, "Supercar" came out under his "Supermarionation" label in its second season. It was a Space Age show all about the future, and while it only ran for two seasons, it set the stage for the later success of "Thunderbirds".

This show was about a detective duo where one of them was a murder victim who has become a ghost that only his partner can see or hear. The duo solves crimes as they try to figure out who murdered Hopkirk. The show did not run very long, but it still enjoyed a remake in 2000.

This was a show about the World Aquanaut Security Patrol (WASP), who patrol the seas in their submarine "Stingray". Another splendid show from the Supermarionation label, care of Gerry Anderson, "Stingray" only enjoyed a single season. However, Anderson was about to hit it very big with "Thunderbirds", so he probably got over it.

There have now been 13 actors who played the Doctor (not counting one-offs and recastings for time jumps), who as an alien from Gallifrey is able to regenerate into a new body. He (now she) travels the world with a companion in his TARDIS, a spaceship disguised as a traditional police box that is bigger on the inside. It continues to be on the air today.

"Panorama" has been on the air since 1953, enjoying a prime Sunday slot. Its biggest ever hit was probably when Martin Bashir was able to land an interview with Princess Diana, but that was not until the 1990s. "Panorama" is a serious show that delves deeply into tough issues, for example examining what would actually happen if a nuclear war broke out.

This show was a precursor to more elaborate successors like "Pop Idol" and "The Voice". "Opportunity Knocks" was unusual because it allowed the public to pick the winners, which they did by postal vote! The following week, the winner would be announced. The show then pioneered the use of telephone voting.

"University Challenge" is a quiz show featuring teams of four from universities that have to answer general knowledge and then specialist questions about some very arcane subjects. It has been on the air since 1962 and remains one of the more satisfying quiz shows to watch, as getting a decent score requires being pretty well-informed. It's also a chance to root for your own alma mater and hope they became a champion!

This panel show was a Saturday night hit for the BBC that drew on the American show of the same format. Celebrity guests would pick a winner from songs released that week, with the audience offering a tiebreaker if required. The winning artist would typically then pop out and thank the judges.

A game show that began on radio then jumped to TV in the '50s, this show ran straight through almost the whole of the '60s. It involves choosing between taking cash and gambling on what might be in a box, that contained either a great prize or a booby prize. It remains very beloved and is being revived today.

This show really needs no introduction. It is a classic that launched its creators, the "Pythons", to internationale fame. The group met at Cambridge and were discovered at the Edinburgh Festival. "Monty Python" is one of the most successful sketch comedies of all time, with satirical sketches like "The Ministry of Silly Walks" and just plain ridiculous ones like "The Fish-Slapping Dance".

Created by John Cleese of "Monty Python" fame, along with then-wife Connie Booth (who played Polly the maid/waitress), "Fawlty Towers" was based on a real experience that Cleese and friends had when staying in an absolutely terrible hotel. They could only think of 12 episodes and decided to quit while they were ahead instead of making inferior episodes. This is one of the most-loved shows of all time, and the only tragedy is that there isn't more of it.

This British TV drama began as a made-for-TV movie and then expanded into a series. It was unusual as previous British cop shows had depicted the police as very clever and decent, and "The Sweeney" suggested that they were rulebreakers and sometimes thugs. The lead character sometimes whistles the theme song of "Dixon of Dock Green", a contemporary show that took a more amenable approach to the police.

This sitcom starred Ronnie Barker opposite Richard Beckinsale, father of Kate Beckinsale. It takes place in a men's prison and follows cellmates as they try to pass time as they serve their sentences. It is widely considered to be one of the best shows of all time.

Clocking in at an astonishing 31 seasons, "Last of the Summer Wine" debuted in 1973 and is one of the longest-running comedies in TV history. Even more astonishing, a single writer, Roy Clarke, wrote the whole thing! It was set in a country village and followed a trio of friends in the "late summer" of their lives.

This show was all about a group of Brits in Burma toward the end of World War II, trying to put on a concert. They love the job because it means they cannot go into battle, but they aren't very competent. The show is based on the experiences of creators Jimmy Perry and David Croft.

An ITV sitcom of the mid-1970s, this show was about a landlord of a crummy townhouse and his various lodgers. It was unusual for having a black character as a member of the core cast, which was not typical at that time. (The character claims he is an African Prince but is actually from Croydon.)

This show starred Michael Crawford, better known to US audiences as the guy who originated the role of the Phantom in "Phantom of the Opera", and also as Cornelius Hackl from the "Hello Dolly" movie. He plays Frank Spencer, the lead, who despite his inability to keep a job is prone to pretention. Crawford felt he was typecast for TV by the show, though he did a huge amount of musical theater later.

"Upstairs Downstairs" was that rare thing, a show so beloved that the original creator got to revive it decades later. It followed an Edwardian family and their servants over a period of 27 years, and is widely seen as a precursor to "Downton Abbey". It was going to be a comedy focused on the housemaids, but it changed in development to adopt the format that made it a hit.

Starting in the late '70s, this show ran for 30 years. It was a soapy drama about teenagers at a comprehensive school, and it took a darker and less wholesome approach than some other shows, which courted controversy at the time. Show alumnus Anthony Minghella, who edited some scripts, later went on to become an Oscar-winning director.

This show was designed around the main character, played by then-star Richard Briers. It is about the tension between a couple who decide to become "self-sufficient" by growing their own vegetables and farming in the suburbs, while their upwardly mobile neighbors look down on them for their attempt to embrace a primitive lifestyle. It ran for four seasons in the mid-to-late '70s.

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Image: ITV / ABC / Thames

About This Quiz

British TV shows have always proven themselves capable of competing on an international stage. Some shows find a cult following overseas, such as "The Great British Baking Show", and simply cannot be remade. Some are sold directly into foreign territories and become huge hits, like the 1980s sitcom "Keeping Up Appearances". Others get a good ("The Office") or bad ("Coupling") foreign adaptation that sinks or swims on its own merits. Some classic British shows that never made this leap before have found new life and new audiences today as they head to streaming services and countries where they were unknown.

Still, not everything that has appeared on British TV made the leap, and that means there are plenty of shows that only a true Brit or a dedicated expert in British television history would know. The '60s and '70s, in particular, were a time of rapidly scaling content production, thanks to every household finally owning a color TV, and everyone finally having a little leisure time in which to actually watch it.

How well do you remember this period of exploding creativity and constant new ideas? Do you know the ones that flickered and died, the ones that hit it big in their day but didn't last, AND the ones that stood the test of time? Let's find out!

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