Whicker's early ITV on DVD

Sunday, 22 May 2016 23:00 Written by 

Whicker and Whickers New World come complete to DVDAlan Whicker has rightly gained the reputation of television legend on British shores. The incisive journalism took him to global locations, and saw him create an inimitable niche over 50 years of broadcasting. Having previously had three volumes from Network over the years of what many would consider his ‘greatest hits’, now the company goes back to the beginning to release a chronological collection of his entire ITV output. The first two double DVD sets are out now, from 1968 and 1969.

And there is good reason to do this relaunch. You very much get to see the development of the television character, the honing of the most incredible of narrations to the material you get to see, and also appreciate the scope of how what initially local current affairs for the ITV network from the Yorkshire Television area became something far more. The scope increases, as must have done the budgets, where the characters Whicker encounters become more outlandish, doused in cash and idiosyncratic.

A handful of the episodes on these sets were on the ‘greatest hits’, but it’s the chronology which is definitely the selling point. You begin to appreciate that Whicker’s format was hardly nailed down – in the run of episodes, sometimes you’d get a show to fill half an hour of commercial television, some it would seem 45 minutes. And then some one hour slot material. It’s an interesting way to go – Whicker gives you what he thinks is necessary, without any padding, or consigning good material to the cutting room floor.

The best way to get your head around the scope and cultural relevance of Whicker’s exploits is to take a look at what you get in these sets. As historical documents providing a snapshot of the times, they make essential viewing to students who cannot perceive a time before the internet and smartphones, to when international travel was an exception rather than an expectation, and when the elites were dumb enough to be exposed to the harsh spotlight of both publicity and enquiring journalists.

Whicker’s World 1 - Whicker

Subjects of his scrutiny in this volume – first broadcast in the late 1960s – include local British airports, the world of horse racing, hereditary peers, Le Touquet’s most famous of hotels, Christmas in Equador, British ex-pats in Buenos Aires, and the man who invented “Cat's Eyes”. Episodes are colour expect where they are stated as being ‘B&W’ – bizarrely original transmission order sees the show switching from colour to monochrome frequently during its run, symbolising it was being broadcast in an era where preparation for colour was beginning.

1. “Let’s Have An Airport”. (30 min format) (B&W). Whicker investigates the plans for the Leeds/Bradford Airport, then known as Yeadon, and modern audiences will be bemused that those in charge have no grand plans for expansion, happy to carry on as they are, seemingly with little ambition.

2. “The Trainers”. (30 min) (B&W). Whicker investigates the characters and the scene surrounding horse racing in Yorkshire.

3. “The Glorious Twelfth”. (30 min). Whicker looks at the lifestyles and events surrounding the date which signals the start of 17 weeks of grouse shooting across the moors.

4. “Water, Water”. (30 min) (B&W). Whickers considers the fascination the British have for water – be it on rivers or at the seaside. He speaks of a contemporary time when there were more anglers than football fans attending matches. Then, there’s the rise of boating and accompanying sailing clubs. He throws in a quote from JP Morgan for good measure: “If you have to think about the cost of a yacht, you can’t afford it”.

5. “The Aristocracy Business”. (30 min) (Originally released on Whicker’s World: Volume Two). Whicker investigates the aristocracy and talks to a number of rich peers and landowners, including the Baron of Guiseborough, the Baron of Faversham, Viscount Down, and George Howard (Castle Howard).

6. “The Most Beautiful Hotel in the World”. (45 min) (B&W). Whicker takes us to Le Torquet, and particular a residence there he describes as a fairytale fortress of the Thirties. This is the Royal Picardy, which with consummate disarmament Whicker announces is just 100 miles from Croydon! We find it in a terrible state of repair, The place where Princes and Presidents went to be seen, and the hotel’s brand of cigars had to be kept in the safe due to their value. “The Prince’s Smile” was a famous cocktail there, made of Cointreau, Kirsch and Orange Juice. We find that Whicker is actually there to document its demolition in 1968, after it had finally closed down in 1951.

7. “The Road from Rose Linda’s”. (45 min) (B&W) (Originally released on Whicker’s World: Volume Three). Percy Shaw was the man who invented Cat’s Eyes which you saw in the middle of roads. Rose Linda was the landlady at a local pub Percy used to frequent in Queensbury, near Halifax in West Yorkshire. It was her inspiration which gave Percy the idea for his life-changing invention, and which investigates the man and his life.

8. “A Right Royal Fiesta”. (30 min). The debut of new titles, and one of several well-known Whicker music themes, which herald a trip to Ecuador. Whicker is bemused by a guard of honour, which he describes as like a line of toy soldiers. In a country of many revolutions, it is their Christmas celebrations which our star takes a forensic focus on.

9. “After Us – What? Penguins”. (60 min). Football, Fangio, Foot and Mouth. Whicker explores Argentina, its gauchos – their cowboys, in a show subtitled “Whicker goes about as far as he can go”.

 

Whickers World 2 - Whickers New World - comes to DVD completeWhicker’s World 2: Whicker’s New World – The American LifeStyle

Subjects of his scrutiny in this volume – first broadcast in 1969 – include cryogenics, media stardom, swinging singles, wage slavery, old age and more – as well as an encounter with Haitian dictator Papa Doc Duvalier. Interestingly, six of these eight editions are under the umbrella title, fitting half hour commercial slots and titles ending in “…Inc”, whereas two of the run are one-hour instalments not connected to the rest of the episodes. As previously noted, it appears that Whicker would pop up in the schedules here and there, with little consideration for any over-arching themes which might have been applied.

1. “Immortality Inc”. (30 min) (Originally released on Whicker’s World: Volume Three). Whicker investigates America’s emerging cryogenics industry, and what people expect from their investments into the technology.

2. “Micromedia Inc”. (30 min). Declaring this to be the first media generation, Whicker begins by looking at American children running their own television studios, the output feeding out by closed circuit delivery to their 825 fellow pupils across the school. The tables are initially turned as Whicker is interviewed by a precocious ten-year-old, before Whicker gets back to putting others in the hot seat.

3. “Swingles Inc”. (30 min). Whicker meets the swinging singles, 24 million in number, privileged and envied, with few inhibitions about their marital status, or lack of one. And whilst the pitch is that those at the areas under the spotlight are young, Whicker does question the older males present, asking what makes them not be seen as “Dirty Old Men”. There is then an investigation into the increasing sophistication at the time of computer dating.

3A. “Papa Doc – The Black Sheep”. (60 min) (Originally released on Whicker’s World: Volume One). Haiti was the world’s first black republic, ruled from 1957 to 1971 by ‘President For Life’ Dr Francis Duvalier - Papa Doc. Whicker meets the man in his Presidential Palace at Port au Prince in the company of his Tontons Macoutes - murderous civilian thugs. This show won the Dumont International Journalism Award at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1971. Not part of the Whicker’s New World umbrella.

4. “Tenderlovingcare Inc”. (30 min). Whicker visits ‘The Greenhouse’, described as selling moonbeams, providing a million pound atmosphere for those is search of solace and repair. Giving up to 35 participants the keys to becoming younger, sexier and slimmer, this is a beauty spa, Whicker notes sometimes called a ‘fat farm’, where those who pay for the privilege are earnest, funny, sad, and somehow charming in their pursuit of beauty.

5. “Bodysnatchers Inc”. (30 min). Whicker takes a lie detector test, a polygraph, and is being observed through a two-way mirror. This is all to showcase how jobs will be applied for in the future (although he was not to know that psychometric testing would eventually be devised which would supersede such technology). Headhunters considered that this development was key to them ensuring a ‘professionally sound placement’ of candidates in roles they were suited to.

6. “Happy-Happy Inc”. (30 min). Whicker hears that the elderly are being driven from cities by their changing cultures. He visits Sun City, a retirement community in Arizona, learning there are also others in Florida and California, and how these will develop further in the future.

6A. “Carl Gustav von Roen – Pugnacious Pacifist”. (60 min). Whicker paints a revealing portrait of a man described as a Swedish Don Quixote of the 1960s. Carl was the son of a millionaire, had held a pilot’s licence for 40 years, and a civil aviation pioneer who was part of the Finnish Air Force group which bombed Russia during World War II. His Uncle was Hermann Goerring, and his first wife was thrown into the Dachau Concentration Camp and killed herself there. He was responsible for getting Red Cross aid into Biafra, and surrendered his Swedish neutrality in order to bomb Nigerian Air Force aircraft. Not part of the Whicker’s New World umbrella.

 

Whicker’s World 1 – Whicker is out now from Network Releasing. The two DVD set has an ‘E’ certificate, a running time of 275 mins approx., and a RRP of £19.99, or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com   

Whicker’s World 2 – Whicker’s New World is also a two DVD set with an ‘E’ certificate a running time of 257 mins approx., also with a RRP of £19.99, and again get it for less at www.culttvstore.com        

 

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