Kaleidoscope Publishing
REVIEW BY Andrew Screen

It has been a long wait, but certainly worth it, as the highly anticipated Independant Television Drama Guides published by Kaleidoscope are now finally with us. Weighing in at five volumes, with one volume dedicated solely to the nations' favourite soap operas, this is a truely comprehensive guide to all the non-BBC drama output in the last fifity years.

The books are a credit to the researchers, Simon Coward, Christopher Perry and the late Richard Down in being so comprehensive in tracking down details for practically every drama production from all the independant UK broadcasters. I've racked my brains trying to catch them out and thought I'd come up with one in the shape of the obscure 70s drama Alternative Three, but even this is in the book under the series Science Report (Alternative Three was a spoof docudrama tacked onto the end of this science strand).

Each volume, except the fifth one, has a prefeace by Steve Bryant, archivist for the BFI's Television Archive, followed by a concise, but informative, essay detailing the history of commercial broadcasting in the UK. There is a vital overview to the format of the guide and the different codes (for example J stands for junked) utiilised in the programme entries which is very easy to understand. Finally the afterword does some heavy number cruching and comes up with some fascinating nuggest of trivia including the most used title for an episode!

Volumes one to four have several pages of photographs with detailed notes on each of them towards the front of the book as well as an essential index to every programme entered into the first four volumes. Volume five lacks the essay, photographs and index as space was needed to detail all the episodes conatined within, but the treasure trove of data contained within more than makes up for these omissions.

The layout of the individual programme entries are well designed with an excellent choice of typeface that still manages to to be legible and easy on the eye despite so much text appearing on a page. Each entry details series name, individual episode names, production company, transmission date, scriptwriter, director, regular and guest cast for each episode, Most entries also include running times, producers and other data. Finally, and most interesting too many, are the details regarding the archive status - if a production is still existing or not.

The only downside to the guides is that the guides are produced in paperback versions, and this is only going to become a problem because these guides will be so heavily consulted and won't stand up to as much wear and tear as a hardback edition. This really is nitpicking as such editions would have made the guides cost prohibitive to many purchasers.

These guides really are something of a holy grail for TV historians and researchers and Kaleidoscope should be applauded for such well presented and meticulously researched tomes. It's only fitting that these guides have appeared during ITV's 50th anniversary as they help to demonstrate the breadth and scope of the drama the channel and later independant broadcasters have enetertained millions with over the last half century. If the BBC editions, to be published in 2006, continue this high standard with such breathtaking detail then I'm first in line to buy them. These guides are the bees knees and an essnetial purchase to all serious TV enthusiasts.