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Made for television

Part I

There was no television set in our house until I was about fifteen. I’m not all that old – most of our neighbours and friends had a set and it was common for several families to gather around favourite programs. But my parents decided it would be a distraction from study for me and my younger brother. They were right, once a set was installed (I think it was because Dad wanted to watch sport and I Love Lucy) I watched it until the bitter end most nights. Which was sometimes midnight!

Recently I saw that a commercial channel was showing reruns of Emmerdale. For most of my working life I’ve worked irregular hours so had seen some episodes of this day-time show. The first character I noticed looked familiar and it took a while to work out that it was an elderly Patrick Mower. Still distinctive but so different from the handsome, brash James Cross in my very favourite series of all time, Callan. I decided at a young age that I wanted to be a spy. Am I a spy?

It sent me searching out the books and DVDs. A few years ago I bought everything I could find and am now rereading a wonderful collection of short stories that were originally published in a newspaper. Written by James Mitchell and collected and edited by Mike Ripley, they are superb examples of short story writing. I can see and hear Edward Woodward as David Callan so clearly. And all the other characters – Hunter, Meres, Cross and of course, Lonely. Callan has been described as the antithesis of James Bond, who I also love. But nobody has ever taken Callan’s place. Yes, he’s a killer but such a beautifully written killer; full of wit, compassion and humour.

The early series are in black and white, which adds to their charm. Some full length episodes are available on YouTube, such as this heart-rending story:

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