1 9 5 7 (UK)
1957 saw the emergence of a programme that was to be the bane of British husbands for years to come.
No longer could they lie in bed reading the Sunday Pictorial; they were expected to be dashing around the house putting shelves up with a minimal loss of blood.
The culprit was Barry Bucknell, and his long-running programme Do It Yourself taught men everything they never wanted to know about doing jobs around the home.
From the first edition – a festive show in which Bucknell demonstrated how to make a stand for a Christmas tree as well as giving some tips on tree lights – his popularity soared to the point where he received more mail than anybody else on British television, up to 35,000 letters a week (He needed to employ ten secretaries).
Yet Bucknell only really became a television celebrity because of his wife. A former engineer in the car industry, he had done a few radio talks on housing and education, but it was his wife, Betty, noted for her cookery programmes on radio, who made the break into television.
Bucknell casually chatted to her producer about the possibilities of doing some sort of practical programme but thought no more about it; then out of the blue, he got a call from the BBC to appear on the afternoon series About The Home – and Do It Yourself duly followed.
“The show was very much a one-man effort”, said Bucknell. “I used to build all the shelves, tables, whatever we were using on the programme, in the basement of my own house and transport them en bloc to the studio. Even the rehearsals used to take place in my basement.”
“The early editions were live, and I was dependent on the floor manager to ensure that things like screws were close at hand. The whole show could fall apart without a few screws, and it didn’t look very good if I had to search around for them. And it wasted valuable air-time”.