Research query: did other countries do anything like Play for Today?

Does anyone know whether there were any drama anthology strands of unconnected one-off plays similar to the BBC’s Play for Today (1970-84) from other countries? I ask as I am studying a PhD project that aims to be a history and analysis of PFT and I am conscious of a certain parochialism in my research which I want to address, plus, I am just genuinely stumped on this and wanting to find out!

I am aware of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)’s 1960s-70s transnational pan-European project ‘The Largest Theatre in the World’. Plus, that there were US strands which broadcast plays by Paddy Chayefsky, Reginald Rose, Gore Vidal, Rod Serling and others: the one I am aware of is Playhouse 90 (1956-60). I am also aware there was much “authored” TV work in Europe by film and theatre luminaries such as Ingmar Bergman, Jacques Rivette and Rainer Werner Fassbinder – though these were, I gather, primarily TV films or mini-series rather than for anthologies?

I am aware of the more populist, ‘genre’-based TV anthology traditions of the US and UK – The Twilight Zone (CBS, 1959-64), The Outer Limits (ABC, 1963-65), Night Gallery (NBC, 1970-73) and UK equivalents Thriller (ATV, 1973-76), Armchair Thriller (Thames/Southern, 1978-80) and Tales of the Unexpected (Anglia, 1979-88), some of which involved creative personnel who also worked on Play for Today: notably, John Bowen, Robin Chapman and Alan Gibson.

Many thanks in advance for any help you can give: you’ll be acknowledged in my published PhD if you can assist! Please comment here or email me at

One thought on “Research query: did other countries do anything like Play for Today?

  1. Tom, I think the key model you should look at is drama for US television in the 1950s. Not just Playhouse 90 but numerous other strands, including Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One, The US Steel Hour and many more. There’s a rough genealogy that runs from these to CBC’s output from Toronto, which is where Sydney Newman learned his craft, then Armchair Theatre, then The Wednesday Play and on to Play for Today. Although that’s a ridiculous over-simplication.

    One key source on US television in the 1950s is Will Body’s excellent Fifties Television: The Industry and its Critics (University of Illinois Press, 1990). Parallels in the rest of Europe would be really good to know about, but there’s so little writing available in English on French, German, Scandinavian television.

    Liked by 1 person

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