Home TV by Decade TV Shows - 1950s Brains Trust, The

Brains Trust, The

1 9 5 5 – 1 9 6 1 (UK)

This completely unscripted discussion programme began on BBC Radio in 1941, at the height of the Blitz, and became a valuable morale-lifter during the hostilities.

Its popularity stemmed as much from the badinage among its three main participants (Professor C.E.M Joad, Commander A.B. Campbell and Dr Julian Huxley) as from the knowledge it imparted.

When this television version began, 14 years later, a more sober tone prevailed, with the intimacy of the cramped radio studio replaced by a TV set filled with armchairs and coffee tables.

The first host was Hugh Ross Williamson and the panel changed on a regular basis. Guests included such diverse personalities as Julian Huxley, Egon Ronay and the Archbishop of Cape Town, but one of the stalwarts was Dr Jacob Bronowski (later to compile The Ascent Of Man).

Viewers’ contributions varied from the sublime to the ridiculous, taking in factual queries, philosophical posers and, at times, almost rhetorical questions, and the panellists (unaware of what was going to be asked) made every effort to provide a coherent and accurate response.

The Brains Trust was exhumed for a six-programme late-night series in 1996, with Assistant Editor of The Times, Mary Ann Sieghart, in the chair and panellists including Jonathan Miller, philosopher Edward de Bono and novelist Ben Okri.

Hugh Ross Williamson
Michael Flanders
Mary Ann Sieghart