One of the very best writers working in UK TV in the 60s and 70s in my view was Brian Clemens (recently awarded an OBE for services to drama, it turns out.) Even as a young kid I grew to recognise his name on the credits of TV shows like The Avengers and its reboot The New Avengers and ‘proper grown up drama’ The Professionals which he created. He’s done a writing stint on just about every ITC crime show from the period that I can remember, and his presence was always the hallmark of rock-solid writing and the best of plot ideas.
Somehow I’d missed the fact that he was behind a drama anthology show called Thriller that ran from 1973 until 1976, which is a bit odd since it’s probably the thing that most people will now remember him for. I can only assume that I was too young for it, and that my parents didn’t watch it either, so it never entered my consciousness like many programmes of that era managed to do. Hence I’d never come across it until a writer I follow on Twitter started tweeting about watching the boxset recently. After a few weeks, I was hooked and had to get the DVDs for myself – 43 hour-plus episodes over 16 discs.
I watched the first episode first (that might sound like an oxymoron, but since I skip ahead to two later stories after this, it’s still a point worth making.) That’s an episode called “Lady Killer” in the UK but revised to the rather obvious “The Death Policy” in the US – the entire show was made with a view for resale to American TV and as a result an American actor or at least character is included in every episode, even if the series as a whole is set firmly in the cosy southern counties of England. Outside of the week’s token American(s), the cast is routinely filled with the type of actor who was a familiar sight from just about every show being made, even if (especially if) they weren’t quite so much star names at the time or since.