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Appleyards, The (1952-57, 1960)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Appleyards, The (1952-57, 1960)
BBC, tx. 2/10/1952-24/12/1960
160 x 20 min episodes approx, black and white
Production CompanyBBC
ProducerNaomi Capon
WriterPhilip Burton

Cast: Frederick Piper/Douglas Muir (Mr Appleyard); Constance Fraser (Mrs Appleyard); David Edwards (John Appleyard); Tessa Clarke (Janet Appleyard); Derek Rowe (Tommy Appleyard); Pat Fryer (Margaret Appleyard)

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The lives of the members of the Appleyard family - parents, teenagers John and Janet and younger siblings Tommy and Margaret.

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This series, presented in a fortnightly children's television slot between 5 and 6pm (often sharing the hour with Children's Newsreel, BBC, 1950-59), began in a decade of teenage rebels and rock'n'roll hysteria. In this context, the ongoing narrative serialisation of the everyday lives of the Appleyard family (the first of its kind in 'toddlers television'), seems in retrospect a peculiar turn, especially during a tumultuous period when teenagers still seemed to be regarded as children before they suddenly developed into adults.

To the majority of 1950s viewers (those few lucky enough to be in range of the then limited broadcast signals), this domestic account of an average (that is, upper-middle-class) Home Counties family must have appeared a little tame and uneventful; although the constant close observation of a fictitious TV family, instalment by instalment, may have made The Appleyards an addictive entertainment in itself at a time when the first really successful British TV soap, The Grove Family (BBC, 1954-57), was still a couple of years off.

In the series' early years, Frederick Piper's Mr Appleyard was a finely spoken, if somewhat remote character; Constance Fraser made a slight, but warm-hearted, Mrs Appleyard; and David Edwards and Maureen Davis gave a brief display of young adult spirit as the teenage offspring John and Janet. Young Tommy (Derek Rowe) and Margaret (Patricia Wilson) represented the tiny tots of the family.

Producer-director Naomi Capon, who helmed the serial's early years, also worked on more typical BBC fare for family audiences in serials such as The Black Tulip (1956), from Alexandre Dumas; The Black Arrow (1958), from Robert Louis Stevenson; and The Lost King (1958), from Rafael Sabatini.

The Appleyards is a particularly engaging example of trusting a children's soap serial to tell itself, in a form simplified to suit its assumed audience, seemingly pointing up the interests of some hypothetical child of the 1950s. The family children remain concentrated and unaffected, while the family group as a whole avoids becoming a mere showcase of 1950s (family values) British convention.

In the beginning, the programme was transmitted live, and therefore no episodes from this period are known to exist. Later episodes were telerecorded onto tape but, apparently, were almost all wiped. Although the series ended in 1957, a seasonal special episode, Christmas with the Appleyards (tx. 24/12/1960), followed some three years later, in a very different TV context.

Tise Vahimagi

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Video Clips
Complete episode (27:55)
Children's Ward/Ward, The (1989-2000)
Grove Family, The (1954-57)
Children's Television
Soap Opera