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Newcomers, The (1965-69)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Newcomers, The (1965-69)
BBC1, tx. 5/10/1965-13/11/1969
Over 400 x 25 min episodes, black & white
Devised byColin Morris
ProducersVerity Lambert
 Ronald Travers
 Bill Sellars
Writers includeBob Stuart
 John Cresswell
 Christopher Bond

Cast: Alan Browning (Ellis Cooper); Maggie Fitzgibbon (Vivienne Cooper); June Bland (Vera Harker); Wendy Richard (Joyce Harker); Robert Brown (Bert Harker); David Janson (Jimmy Harker); Sandra Payne (Janet Cooper); Jeremy Bulloch (Philip Cooper); Raymond Hunt (Lance Cooper); Judy Geeson (Maria Cooper); Gladys Henson (Gran Hamilton); Vanda Godsell (Mrs Heenan); Naomi Chance (Amelia Huntley); Michael Collins (Jeff Langley); Michael Redfern (Rufus Pargeter); Jenny Agutter (Kirsty Kerr); Robin Bailey (Andrew Kerr); Malcolm McDowell (Ernie)

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The country town of Angleton welcomes a new engineering factory, headed by Ellis Cooper, who moves to the town with his young family.

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The Newcomers was the BBC's most successful continuing drama serial before the advent of EastEnders (BBC, 1985-). Its predecessor, Compact (BBC, 1962-65), a glossy show set in a magazine publishing house, had began to look dated in an environment where Coronation Street (ITV, 1960-) was the dominant force. The Newcomers was conceived as a grittier alternative, featuring a mix of cosmopolitan and down-to-earth characters.

Created by Colin Morris and initially produced by Verity Lambert, the serial told the story of Ellis and Vivienne Cooper, a London couple who decamped with their family when Ellis's employer opened a new factory in the overspill town of Angleton. They weren't the only people to find the move a struggle, and The Newcomers examined the impact of the new factory on locals and new arrivals alike.

The serial was predominantly about class and the interactions between factory workers, management and the long-suffering locals. Storylines switched between work and home: minor industrial disputes, frustrated love affairs across class boundaries and boardroom skullduggery were all regularly revisited. The business and management elements in particular were clearly antecedents of later series such as The Brothers (BBC, 1972-76) and Howards' Way (BBC, 1985-90).

Although there was a number of engaging characters, the show owed much of its popularity to Maggie Fitzgibbon's performance as Vivienne Cooper. She dominated the serial to such an extent that the press began to call her 'the BBC's answer to Elsie Tanner', a slightly odd comparison in as much as The Newcomers was always more comfortable letting the middle-class characters take the lead, and had a tendency to caricature the locals and factory workers in a way that would rarely happen in Coronation Street.

For all its faults, The Newcomers remained very popular throughout its four-year run, but when Alan Browning left and his character Ellis suffered a fatal heart attack, the show began to unravel. After a year, producers decided Vivienne would marry again following a whirlwind romance; unhappy with this plan, Fitzgibbon left the series in a storm of publicity. Only a few months later, the show was cancelled, despite the BBC remarking that it was still 'at its peak'. Subsequent years have not been kind to The Newcomers; not only has it faded from the collective memory, only four episodes survive out of hundreds made, and so, like United! (BBC, 1965-67), it remains effectively one of the 'lost' soaps.

John Williams

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete episode (5.5.1967) (23:53)
Compact (1962-65)
Emmerdale Farm / Emmerdale (1972-)
Weavers Green (1966)
Lambert, Verity (1935-2007)
Soap Opera