Late Night Line-Up

Late Night Line-Up was a pioneering British television discussion programme broadcast on BBC2 between 1964 and 1972.


From its launch in April 1964, BBC2 began each evening's transmission with a programme called Line-Up, a ten-minute collection of reviews and previews of the channel's output, presented initially by Denis Tuohy. Although intended to draw attention to the considerable variety of original programming on BBC2, Line-Up was perceived as little more than a self-promotion exercise by the newspapers and the viewing public alike. Later in the same year, it was decided that Line-Up be replaced by something of a similar intention but with a more intellectual edge. Instead of a guided tour of BBC2's output, the new programme would be an open and candid discussion among invited guests, transmitted live after the 9.00 p.m. watershed. The new programme was named Late Night Line-Up and took over from Line-Up in September 1964.

The original theme tune was "Blue Boy" by Gerry Mulligan, replaced in the 1970s with a version of "Jordu" by the Dave Hancock Six.


Denis Tuohy carried over his presenter's role from Line-Up but the new programme also brought Joan Bakewell to prominence as a broadcaster. An innovative feature of Late Night Line-Up was that it was deliberately scheduled as the last programme of the evening before closedown. This meant that the discussion need not be constrained by time; topics could be explored as far as the participants were willing to talk about them. (Another open-ended discussion programme, After Dark, began on Channel 4 fifteen years after Late Night Line-Up had ceased production.)

Broadcasting hours on British television were tightly controlled by the Postmaster General in the 1960s, and, for the majority of the 1960s, weeknights on BBC Two were limited to 7 hours of programming in a day (excluding sport, political conferences, schools, religion and adult education which were exempt from the restrictions). As BBC Two would normally only air for 30 minutes in the morning at 11 am with Play School, this meant 6.5 hours were left over, with BBC Two normally starting their evening at 7.00pm, it meant Late-Night Line-Up could remain on the air until 1.30am if they so wished. It never happened, but the freedom for discussion, without worrying about exceeding the broadcasting day allowance made the programme very popular, especially with those who enjoyed watching television late at night, as BBC One and ITV generally closed down by 11.45pm each weeknight.

Participating in the discussion were TV personalities, subject experts and members of the public with relevant experience. For example, a real-life single mother might be invited to discuss a drama themed around single parenthood. Some panelists were deliberately chosen to talk about something outside their usual sphere of expertise. In one edition, the playwright Harold Pinter held his own on the subject of cricket, even when his fellow panelists were a distinguished cricketer and a cricket journalist.

Late Night Line-Up eventually went well beyond its initial remit of examining BBC2's output and came to incorporate interviews, live music and poetry performances and discussions of other TV channels (which meant ITV to all intents and purposes) and even current affairs issues. However, television criticism was always seen as the main focus, a fact which did not exactly endear the programme to the BBC's senior executives. Indeed, presenter Denis Tuohy quotes the then Head of Light Entertainment, Tom Sloan, as saying: "We now employ two kinds of broadcaster: those who make programmes and those who knock them.... Don't ask me why we do it."

On 26 May 2008 Late Night Line-Up returned for a special one-off edition as part of BBC Parliament's Permissive Night.[1] Presented by Joan Bakewell, it featured discussion of the themes and programmes shown over the course of the evening and examined the liberalising legislation passed by Parliament in the late 1960s. Archive programmes shown included editions of Man Alive, Panorama, Twenty-Four Hours and Late Night Line-Up.

Crew of Late Night Line-UpEdit

Episode guideEdit

As with many shows of its era, much of Late Night Line-Up no longer survives. This was not only due to videotapes being wiped, but the programme's usual live broadcast meant they were often not recorded at all. Luckily, some records do survive containing many dates and details of these shows.[2]











  • Revived for a week to celebrate BBC TV's 50th Anniversary, with Michael Dean, Tony Bilbow, Joan Bakewell and Sheridan Morley.



  1. ^ "Bank Holiday means 'Permissive Night'". 22 May 2008. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2][permanent dead link]

External linksEdit