Remembering Derek Batey: The Mr & Mrs Years

ATV Today takes a look back at the long running ITV game show Mr & Mrs following the news its most famous presenter Derek Batey has died at the age of 84.

Susan Cuff and Derek Batey

Susan Cuff and Derek Batey on Border Television’s Mr & Mrs.

Batey passed away in Blackpool’s Trinity Hospice last night (17th February) after falling ill on holiday in the US. He hosted a number of series for ITV, and more so for regional company Border Television where he was a senior boss for many years. He will however be best known as the quiz master on the couples game show.

Mr & Mrs was devised by Roy Ward Dickson for Canadian network CTV who sold the format to Television Wales and West in 1964 who in turn produced two versions of the show for the ITV West and ITV Wales regions. Despite popular culture saying otherwise, Alan Taylor was the original host of the series which originally ran until 1967 when TWW was replaced by HTV as the regional company for Wales and West. This version was also briefly networked in the sixties, but it wouldn’t be until the 1970s the show really took off nationally…

Derek Batey became best known nationally as the host of Mr & Mrs from Border Television.

In the same year that TWW went off air Border Television executive Derek Batey saw a tape of the format and decided to locally produce a version for the smallest ITV region in the UK. It became a local hit between 1967 and 1971.

In 1969 Anglia Television attempted a networked version with Norman Vaughan as host. While Border TV’s series was produced in their Carlisle studios Anglia took a different approach with the series travelling around the East and recording at different venues. The first Anglia version was recorded in a Town Hall in Hellesdon, near Norwich, in May 1969. The series however didn’t prove popular with ITV bosses and a network slot wasn’t gifted. It ended in September 1969 with the final edition airing from Hull.

When in 1972 ITV’s daytime hours were extended Mr and Mrs was picked up as one of the programmes to fill the schedules. The Border version was finally networked. At the same time Sion a Siân was revived for Welsh viewers by HTV with Alan Taylor returning as presenter.

Taylor would also front another English language version once more for HTV – this time also networked. A rare case of one game show having two presenters, produced by two production companies, alternating in the schedules with each other at the same time.

The Anglia Television version, with Norman Vaughan as host. Image: Anglia Press.

In 1976 Dai Jones replaced Alan Taylor as the HTV host and the Welsh version finally said farewell in 1987, the Border version ended in 1988. Comedian Julian Clary hosted a rather saucy version for network ITV, which included gay partners. However this kitch camp late night version proved a major flop and ended after one series in 1999.

The most recent network revival was a celebrity version, All Star Mr & Mrs, hosted by Fern Britton and Phillip Schofield, although the more recent series have seen Schofield present solo.

Last year Sion a Siân in Wales was revived once more in its originating UK country of broadcast – now hosted by Stifyn Parri and Heledd Cynwal. The new S4C series has introduced what the broadcaster describe as fresh, new elements that make the popular couples’ format even more entertaining. The production, from ITV Wales, is for the first time open to same-sex participants in the mainstream version.

The game saw partners answer questions about each other. To make sure there was no cheating while one answered the other would sit in a sound-proofed booth so they couldn’t hear the answers. Unlike Family Fortunes the booth was seen on-screen so the partner also would wear an eye mask too. The couples would then reunite to see how much they know about each other, the more questions answered correctly would lead to victory.

Mr & Mrs is back on ITV, relaunched with This Morning hosts Phillip and Fern.

Mr & Mrs Trivia

  • Hostess Susan Cuff was a former Miss Great Britain who married former BBC North West sports reporter David Davies. He went on to become an Executive at the Football Association. The programme was also the first to feature a black hostess.

 

  • The famous ‘Mr & Mrs, be nice to each other’ theme tune was composed by Tony Hatch with lyrics by Jackie Trent. They also went on to write the theme to Australian soap opera Neighbours.

 

  • While the Border version used the Tony Hatch theme the HTV version used musical number Getting To Know You from the Rodgers & Hammerstein production, The King and I.

 

  • Border Television not having any colour facilities in 1972 produced the first networked daytime series in Newcastle Upon Tyne at the Tyne Tees Television studios until Border could afford colour equipment.

 

  • Questions would range from the obvious to the ridiculous, such as ‘When driving does ‘George’ always wear gloves, sometimes wear gloves or never wear gloves.’

 

  • Mr & Mrs was spoofed by comedian Stanley Baxter in which the ‘Mrs’ contestant claimed that her husband wouldn’t save her from a flood. Instead he’d leave her to die and claim her life insurance. Ken Dodd in his 1979 ITV series also spoofed the show in one episode, however the joke in that sketch was they weren’t each others husband and wife.

 

  • HTV and Border stage versions toured theatres in the UK with Derek Batey and Alan Taylor continuing in their role as host.

Original article from April 2012 on the news the ITV Wales series was to welcome same-sex couples.
[Source: TV Times, Anglia TV: A Knight on the Box, official Derek Batey Website, Memories of Tyne Tees TV and ITV Wales]
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