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AQUARIUS

London Weekend
2nd January 1970 - 16th July 1977

Coverage of the arts scene was one of the deal clinchers for the newly created London Television Consortium when they applied for one of the new ITV franchises in 1967. Led by broadcaster David Frost the channel would undergo a name change to London Weekend and went live in August 1968.

The contemporary arts scene was well represented in its opening weeks with new plays by Johnny Speight and Willis Hall, there was even a play about the recent ITV franchise battle itself, The Franchise Trail. Stravisnski, Gershwin and other musical greats were also featured in live concerts. But where was the entertainment? Where was the new comedy? That would come in time, but just as the station underwent a name change, it now had to go further, a change of identity.

By summer 1970 Rupert Murdoch was now in charge and Frost was on his way out. Finger pointing and recriminations had kept the station on the front pages of the tabloids, just as Frost's TV-AM would do twelve years' later.

A consolidation of its arts programming was required. Aquarius was launched at the beginning of 1970 and their first look at popular music would be a report on the musical show Hair in Tel Aviv in the summer. The show's opening theme was itself taken from the musical. Humphrey Burton was the studio host, but most of the shows would be location shoots, featuring Burton, Peter Hall and Russell Harty.

It was first broadcast fortnightly on Friday evenings, but moved to Saturday, opposite BBC1's Match of the Day which demonstrated the stations' new attitude to the arts. Despite the emphasis on the heavier end of contemporary arts it would on occasion feature popular music, looking at Jack Good's take on Othello, a documentary on George Melly, and giving Elton John his own special, the oddly titled Mr Superfunk in April 1971. The show would also give time for Kenny Everett's look at London, a play starring Marianne Faithfull, a look at the reggae scene in the UK, the folk singing Copper family, Elton John live at the Royal Festival Hall among others, but the show lost interest in pop culture as time went on.

The series came to and end in summer 1977 and was replaced the beginning of 1978 with The South Bank Show. That show would be hosted by Melvin Bragg, the host of BBC2's Aquarius knock-off, Second House, itself sounding like a reference to the song Aquarius.