In a unique experiment, Dallas Campbell (‘Bang Goes the Theory’), Professor Danielle George (‘The Christmas Lectures’) and Dr. Hugh Hunt (‘Dambusters: Building the Bouncing Bomb’,) join forces in an attempt to restage the very first official broadcast on British Television, exactly 80 years after it made history.
The inaugural BBC transmission came from Ally Pally on the 2nd November 1936. But there are no recordings of the event - so, to find out just went on, this 21st century team will attempt to piece back together every aspect of show from scratch – from the variety acts to the cameras.
It’s not going to be easy. At the dawn of TV, two rival camera technologies competed live on air to take control of the fledgling industry. The system that went first on opening night was a 7 feet tall mechanical monster built by John Logie Baird’s company. It was called the “Flying Spot” and at its heart was a huge steel disc spinning almost at the speed of sound – meaning mechanical engineer Hugh Hunt had better be careful as he attempts to resurrect it. Meanwhile, Professor Danielle George will find out how the rival and highly experimental, all-electronic camera system had problems of its own.
The team will uncover the mixed influences of high-minded radio and bawdy variety shows on early TV, at a time when it was still a science experiment and not a mass medium. They’ll seek advice from pre-war television pioneers, including Logie Baird’s former assistant, now aged 104 but still full of handy tips about how to build a mechanical camera. And presenter Dallas Campbell will learn just how much harder his job would have been 80 years ago, when the very first television announcer Leslie Mitchell was plastered in bizarre makeup and given a cue for “action” that bordered on physical assault!
As they prepare for broadcast, the team will discover a story of cogs and gears, electron beams and dancing girls – and one mad night that, for better or worse, helped invent television as we know it.