YTV - Celebrating 40 years of hits

Yorkshire TV's golden era continued well into the 1990s as the network produced hit after hit, with shows like The Darling Buds of May, A Touch of Frost, The Beiderbecke Connection and Heartbeat and made hard-hitting documentaries which made national news.

It was a period which saw the birth of several long-running series, some of which – such as Frost and Heartbeat – are still going strong today.


Meanwhile, stalwart shows such as Emmerdale Farm, as it was still then named, continued to come up with gripping storylines.

Documentaries had never been stronger and YTV was described by Grant McKee, former head of drama at YTV (1989-94) and head of programming (1994-1997) as "a broadcasting powerhouse".

Mr McKee made the trilogy of Guildford 4 programmes, which led to a public inquiry and the acquittal of men who had been behind bars for 10 years wrongly convicted of bombing carried out by the IRA.

He said: "YTV was making documentaries which brought it national and international recognition. To have that sort of strength in Kirkstall Road was wonderful."

In 1989 David Jason starred in A Bit of a Do, a comedy drama with each episode taking place at a different social function or 'do'. Based in a fictional Yorkshire town, the show explored class rivalry with warm wine and vol-au-vents never far off.

A Touch of Frost premiered in 1992, introducing the world to Det Jack Frost, a hard-nosed, no-nonsense detective played by David Jason.

Martin Auty is a producer currently working on three new two-hour episodes to be screened in the autumn.

"Frost has been going an incredibly long time, this is now the 15th season. I think it testifies to the strength of the casting and writing. The episodes are well crafted and we take our time to make them and I think the audience appreciates that.

"David Jason has a long history with YTV and I think the partnership between him and David Reynolds is the key to the success of the shows both have been involved in, from Darling Buds to A Bit of a Do, they understand what the audience want."

David Jason also took the lead role in The Darling Buds of May, which was first broadcast from 1991 to 1993 and portrayed rural life in idyllic 1950s Kent and was the first feel-good Sunday night programme. It also launched the career of Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Heartbeat, another long-running series, first aired in 1992, a police series set in the 1960s, is now into its 17th season. It gave rise to The Royal, a spin-off series based around the fictional St Aiden's Royal Free Hospital circa 1969.

Home to Roost (1985-90) was a sitcom which focused on the father-son relationship and starred John Thaw as Henry Willows and Reece Dinsdale as his 18-year-old son Matthew.

Yorkshire TV produced shows like Tears In The Rain, a 1998 TV film starring Hollywood actress Sharon Stone; Magic Moments, starring Jenny Seagrove; Till We Meet Again, starring Michael York, Courteney Cox and Juliet Mills; Yellowthread Street, a 1990 police drama about detectives of the Royal Hong Kong Police based on the novels by William Leonard Marshall; Shoot To Kill, a drama about the troubles in Northern Ireland starring Jack Shepherd, which won Royal Television Society Best Single Drama Award in 1991.

Other noteworthy programmes included It's a Vet's Life, Stay Lucky, Missing Persons, The World Of Eddie Weary, Guests Of The Emperor, Death Trail, The Life & Death Of Philip Knight, Ellington, Finney, Paparazzo, Blood And Peaches, Strike Force, Parkinson One to One, Dingles Down Under, and The Inspector Pitt Mysteries – The Cater Street Hangman.

Keith Richardson is head of drama at ITV Yorkshire. He first worked for the station in 1969 – his CV reads like a programming hall of fame.

He said: "I had been a stage manager in the theatre when I first came to work for YTV. The first thing I produced was Thundercloud, a comedy.

"I worked on Harry's Game, the first drama series for Channel 4 and later Scab and May We Borrow Your Husband?, starring Dirk Bogarde, then Emmerdale, Heartbeat, The Royal.

"Many of the shows won Emmys, like Lost for Words, with Pete Postlethwaite and Thora Hird which was a tender account about old age.

"There is still a Government requirement to film a certain amount of material outside the M25. The only thing that's changed over the years is that where we used to have guaranteed hours, now we have to 'sell' programmes to the network before they are made. It's harder to be experimental."

Michael Barrington, of Roundhay, and Megan Bruce, of Robin Hood, at Leeds's Thought Bubble comic art festival.

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