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Orlando (1965-68)

Courtesy of Archbuild ltd

Main image of Orlando (1965-68)
Rediffusion for ITV, 13/4/1965-10/6/1968
76 episodes in 3 series, black & white
Directors includeHugh Munro
 John Rhodes
ProducerRonald Marriott
Writers includeDavid Butler
 David Weir

Cast: Sam Kydd (Orlando O'Connor); Gregory Phillips (Long John Turner); Margo Andrew (Triss Fenton); David Munro (Steve Morgan); Judy Robinson (Jenny Morgan)

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Espionage adventures with old Irish sea dog Orlando O'Connor and his associates.

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Research in the mid-1960s showed that children often preferred 'adult' action series to those programmes specifically intended for them, and Orlando (ITV, 1965-68) can be seen as a direct response to these findings. The series spun off from the prime-time adult thriller Crane (ITV, 1963-65), which starred Patrick Allen as a hardheaded businessman living the glamorous life of a smuggler in Morocco. Orlando O'Connor (Sam Kydd), a wily old Irish salt educated at the school of hard knocks, helped Crane smuggling cigarettes and booze.

When Crane ended, the craggy and taciturn O'Connor returned as the unlikely star of a children's adventure series. The first series had Orlando running a boatyard back in Britain but taking time out to solve a series of episodic crimes with the help of two kids, Long John and Triss. From the second season onwards the format adapted to a series of short-run cliffhanging serials - for the huge second run of 51 episodes Orlando was accompanied by brother and sister Steve and Jenny Morgan (actors in their mid-twenties playing teens).

The series became increasingly influenced by the massive popularity of imported American shows The Man From UNCLE and Batman, moving into gadgets and camp humour.

Episodes were made largely 'as-live' in the studio, but with a pleasing amount of location filming (mostly around London's docklands) giving it a more polished look. Elsewhere was the odd fluff (the shadow of a studio hand is seen to appear over the end credits on one of the few surviving episodes). This fixture of the ITV children's schedules for three years ended when producers Rediffusion merged with ABC to form Thames TV in 1968. It was replaced in the affections of viewers by the more hardware-obsessed action series Freewheelers (ITV, 1968-73).

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. 'Steve's in trouble' (2:57)
2. Mysterious rhymes (2:53)
3. Caught (4:05)
4. The Clue (2:01)
Children's Fantasy and SF
Children's TV in the 1960s