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Piece for


Thanks to Derek Paget

Other errors in Shubik

Errors to do with Edna


Desire to trivialise (as in Memoires)

Related – author led to director led

From Jeremy Sandford

Mistakes in Irene Shubik’s

Play for Today;

the Evolution of Television Drama’

and the reason for them

‘I can find no evidence to suggest that the BBC ... altered Cathy Come Home between its first and second transmissions as suggested by Irene Shubik.’ So Derek Paget wrote in February 1999 in New Theatre Quarterly.

I was very pleased to read this. The myth of changes to Cathy with the implication that I as its writer had got my facts wrong had been copied from ‘Play for Today; the Evolution of Television Drama’ by Irene Shubik, into a largish number of other books.

In Shubik’s words, ‘On its second showing, most of the background comments giving statistics were in fact omitted because of doubts about accuracy’.

The allegation upset me partly because inaccuracy annoys me anyway, but also because its implication that I had got my facts wrong was hugely injurious to my professional reputation – and the reputation of ‘Cathy Come Home’ itself.

In many ways, ‘Play for Today’ is an attractive book, one of the few giving an insider’s view of the making of television drama in the sixties and seventies, a humorous book which gives a strong flavour of what it was like to work in television drama at that time.

But it is also an annoying book, partly because it fails to spot the remarkable changes that were taking place in television drama at that time – Up the Junction, crucially placed both technically and stylistically in the evolution from studio drama to the filmed drama that is everywhere now – is not mentioned.

More annoyingly, the book is riddled with other inaccuracies. I want to put the record straight about some of these – in itself perhaps a rather dry and pedantic exercise, but it becomes interesting if we relate it to the ‘canteen culture’ of television at that time and understand why a large part of Shubik wished to believe these mistakes, because they fitted in with her view of television as a whole, rather than conduct the simple checks which would have established the truth.

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