Exhibit / March 7, 2017
The thunderous strains and spinning lozenges of this ITC ident preceded all kinds of disparate television programs from the 1960s to the early ’80s—from the surreal spy tales of The Prisoner, to the pre-Star Wars sci-fi of Space: 1999, to the beloved The Muppet Show. They were all distributed internationally by Incorporated Television Company (ITC), or ITC Entertainment, as the company was known in the States. ITC was founded in 1954 by British entertainment impresario Lew Grade, who intended to provide programming for independent British broadcaster ITV, which was set up as a competitor for the BBC under 1954’s Television Act. The “triple diamond” ITC logo existed since the company’s very earliest days, but the original 1950s logo ran horizontally, in a pattern more reminiscent of wave patterns meant to evoke television broadcasting.
Lew Grade’s own career (he was knighted and made a Baron in 1969) echoes the story of British entertainment itself in the 20th century. Grade’s family fled anti-Semitic pogroms in the Russian Empire, settled in the East End of London, and worked in the clothing business. But the teenage Grade was bitten by the showbiz bug; he won a Charleston contest, became a professional dancer and, later, a theatrical agent. By the end of World War II, he’d assembled a powerful stable of clients and was a mover and shaker in the postwar British entertainment scene. With the opening up of British television to independent, non-BBC productions, Grade saw his chance. From the beginning of his career in television, Grade saw the opportunity of supplying programming to the U.S.: his first American partnership produced the hit series The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-1959).
In the 1960s, the floodgates opened. With the popularity of the James Bond films in America, Grade saw his chance to distribute authentic British spy series for an American audience hungry for Cold War espionage tales. Grade’s series Danger Man (1960-1968), The Saint (1962-1969), and The Prisoner (1967-1968) filled the weekend, night-time, and summer schedules of independent UHF stations throughout the States. Grade also gave puppeteers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson (themselves a transatlantic partnership) a shot with their famous Supermarionation series of programs: Stingray (1964-1965), Thunderbirds (1965-1966), and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-1968), among others. And, by the time Jim Henson decided to follow up his success on Sesame Street with a new variety show starring a stable of “Muppets,” Grade’s ITC was the only production company that would take it. Hence, The Muppet Show (1976-1981) was born.
As they tried to expand into motion pictures, ITC and Grade met with far less success. Grade later did work as head of distribution for Embassy Pictures, however, and thus was partially responsible for the popularity of two of the biggest cult classics of the ’80s: Blade Runner (1982) and This Is Spinal Tap (1984).