1 9 6 1 – 1 9 6 3 (UK)
32 x 60 minute episodes
A soap-like series about the young back-office executives and shop-floor sales staff of a bustling West End department store, which according to the publicity blurb presented “shopping with the lid off” and featured all the life and loves of the staff in the store.
“The characters are real, the carpets are plush, the atmosphere is authentic – Yes madam, you’ll enjoy buying at Harpers – that’s our slogan”.
The hour-long stories featured a “family” of regular characters in an authentic setting and the show did well for a while, topping the ratings in mid-1961.
While mostly following the daily lives of the store’s employees, Harpers West One also introduced guest characters with their own story to tell, one of which turned out to be a pop singer named Johnny St Cyr, played by actor John Leyton, fresh from the children’s series Biggles.
St Cyr was written into the storyline to open the shop’s new record department and perform his latest release, Johnny Remember Me – a song produced by songwriter Geoff Goddard and maverick record producer Joe Meek, about a distressed guy who hears his deceased lover’s voice calling to him from beyond the grave.
The atmospheric production of Johnny Remember Me made a huge impact on the viewing public and – issued as a single in its own right – it broke into the charts within two weeks of airing on the show, giving Leyton a huge #1 hit.
The (soap) bubble eventually burst in the second series, largely pricked by its intentions of serious dramatic purpose.
Harpers West One was co-created by future IBA Director-General John Whitney.