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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

Launched as a replacement for The Six-Five Special, with the Radio Times referring to it as "The Six-Five Show", broadcast on Saturdays from 6:05 to 6:30 pm.


Producer Francis Essex spoke of the show's competition with Jack Good’s Oh Boy! "this is going to be a straight forward fight". Good retorted "the whole thing is very flattering that my former employers should have paid me such a tribute". Essex claimed at the time never to have seen Oh Boy! the show Dig This was meant to compete with. Essex had success previously with the BBC's Off The Record, so was considered a capable pair of hands.


However, it was not intended initially to be anything more than a stop-gap show between the demise of The Six-Five Special and what ever was to come next in April 1959. Melody Maker in December 1958, even before The Six-Five Special had even finished ran details of Russell Turner's 'special mission by BBC-TV'. He would 'roam Britain, the Continent and America to glean ideas for a new teenage TV series starting at the end of April'. Dig This was only expected to run for 13 weeks.


The resident group were the seventeen-piece Musician's Union band Bob Miller & The Millermen, while the host was ex-serviceman and Sandhurst graduate Gary Marshall. It tried to copy Oh Boy! in terms of pace, but failed. The set design was the opposite of the stern black background of Oh Boy by having back projected lights. A report in The Stage in early 1959 suggested that the show had an usual attitude to visuals while mocking the show’s musical style. Bob Miller & The Millermen seemed to be able to move around the stage like a marching band adding to the visual style. Talking to The Stage producer Essex said "in Dig This we play seventeen numbers, half of which are already in the hit parade and half we think will be shortly".


The media were invited into rehearsals on the Tuesday before the first broadcast and producer Essex told Melody Maker "We were asked to put together a teenage show to replace 'Six Five' and we are doing just that. We are expecting it to run for at least 26 weeks." If the idea was to replace a failing format then the fate of Dig This was sealed before it had begun.


Singer Al Saxon was tried out in late January and added to the cast of singers including Gary Marshall, Susan Jons and Barry Barnett. Talking to Melody Maker about the future of the show producer Francis Essex claimed "We are booked until June and will then probably have a summer recess and we may be back in the autumn. So far I am extremely pleased with the series. It is a brand new show with brand new faces and is not out to copy 'Oh Boy' or any other production. Viewing figures dropped a bit after the initial show but have picked up since."


Complaints about the show seemed to suggest that it was big on noise, but low on energy and failing to attract the kind of rock and roll names in favour of Light Programme fare. However, it must have proved successful as it was announced in late February that the original thirteen week run was to be extended until the end of June. However, in early March sense prevailed when it was announced that it would be taken off the air later in the month due to poor ratings.


Producers had failed to address the main problem that plagued The Six-Five Special which was its musical allegiance and identity. It promoted itself as lively and 'with it', but not really rock n roll. Dig This regulars The Polka Dots were there for the mums, but this wasn't a show for mums. Attracting the elder audience was not what these shows should have been doing and Jack Good knew that. The problem that Dig This and others like it had was the lack of great new rock n roll talent. Elvis was in the army, but would never come to Britain anyway, while very few American artist came to the UK. Buddy Holly, Conway Twitty, Marvin Rainwater, The Teenagers with Frankie Lymon and, briefly Jerry Lee Lewis had made the transatlantic crossing to great acclaim, but the vacuum could only be filled with more American acts, not with pale imitators from the UK. These shows relied on second best and the kids knew it.


A BBC spokesman told Melody Maker "We have been considering switching the show from the usual spot for some time. The competition from 'Oh Boy' did not influence our decision." Producer Essex explained his departure to Melody Maker "I volunteered the leave the show. I have been in TV too long to be upset by failures. Personally, I thought the show was wonderful, but it seems that it did not meet with full public approval."


The decision to cancel and replace it was made very quickly. Bob Miller & The Millermen must have been seen as a success as they were to be brought over to the replacement show Drum Beat scheduled to start at the beginning of April, while American drama Wells Fargo would fill the gap in the meantime.


An ill-advised attempt to take on the best of its genre, something that producers of The Roxy would find to its cost thirty years later.



DIG THIS!


BBC

3rd January 1959 - 28th March 1959