Tuesday, September 11, 2007


The other week I delivered a short piece to Radio Times about a 1956 production of David Copperfield. It was for my regular On This Day bits and there was no question in my mind that this was a worthy entry because according to the RT of the day, this 13-part serial was the first time the BBC had devoted so much time to one story.

Or something, I can't remember if that was qualified, whether it was the first 13-part classic serial. But it was something, and it was written by Vincent Tilsley, whose name leaps out at me because he wrote for The Prisoner.

Only... tonight a fine, fine woman who is really smart at spotting problems a thousand miles off at Radio Times did some of that there spotting. David Copperfield, by Vincent Tilsley, was not broadcast in September 1956, it was in January 1966.

I am not above making colossal mistakes, of course, and I was pale-faced aware of how calamitously late this spot was, how impossible it would be to fix before that page had to go to press.

I'm the laziest man you'll ever meet but I blurred tonight. And the reason I'm able to talk to you now is solely that I own a copy of the Kaleidoscope Television Drama Research Guides. And it showed me the truth: Vincent Tilsley wrote two David Copperfield serials, one in 1956 and one in 1966.

Both were for BBC, both were 13-parts long (though the former was 13x30minutes, the latter 13x25) and there was no other connection between the two. So do you think he just got to dust off his 1956 scripts, crop five pages out and hand it over?

Either way, he wrote considerably more than I did on the topic: my On This Day was about ninety words. Nonetheless, I expect his work then required whisky as much as mine did today.


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