LOST AND FOUND

by Nick Cooper © 1995

All things considered, it still comes as something of a surprise just how popular Steptoe and Son continues to be with the viewing public. Taking the December 1991 outing for the 1974 Christmas Special as the first of the "recent" repeats, it reached a commendable 6.2 million viewers - the highest BBC2 repeat figure (although only last month Cuckoo in the Nest reached 5.27). This did not seem to strike an immediate chord with the BBC2 programme planners, since it was just over a year before one of the first batch of recovered episodes was screened in January 1993, and since it seems to have had less than 2.68 million viewers, this can't have helped the series' cause. The same can also be said for the two BBC1 repeats the same month and the screening of The Offer during BBC2's One Day in the 60s event.

The decision to screen four more of the recovered episodes in January 1994 rather came as a surprise given the poor picture quality of Without Prejudice (which juddered appallingly in places), but the reasonably steady viewing figures - the third episode highest with 4.32, the second the lowest at 3.67 - can perhaps be seen as the main catalyst for what followed. The second batch of The Lost Steptoes averaged 3.44, a figure perhaps "artificially" held down by the surprisingly poor second showing of Without Prejudice. This was a pity given that some additional restoration work had obviously been done to stabalise the picture, but understandable given that it was its second repeat in under eighteen months.

The three episodes shown randomly in July, August and September seem something of a mystery given that they appeared on different days of the week and at different times. It began to look as if BBC2 had chosen Steptoe as stock material to fill schedule gaps, but it could also have been a conscious effort to "test the water" as to showing them without a gimmick such as the previous eight.

The rating of the three "odd" episodes may well be reflected in the choice of the initial Monday night timeslot for the concerted run of repeats starting in November 1994, and it is interesting to note that far from falling when the repeats were moved to Fridays (which are notorious schedule deadends, given that most people with lives go out on that night), the viewing figures actually got better. In fact, the subsequent changes of transmission day seem to have had little effect on the ratings - viewers, it seems, are prepared to seek out their weekly dose of Steptoe....

TRANSMISSION EPISODE RATING (MILLIONS) POSITION
Sat 21/12/91 Steptoe and Son [1974 Xmas special] 6.2 4/10 - BBC2 [11]
Sat 02/01/93 Without Prejudice Below 2.68 - BBC2 [2]
Wed 13/01/93 Come Dancing Below 9.87 [3]
Wed 20/01/93 The Desperate Hours Below 9.35 [3]
Mon 30/08/93 The Offer Below 2.40 - BBC2 [4]
Sun 09/01/94 A Winter's Tale [5] 4.29 6/10 - BBC2/C4
Sun 16/01/94 The Colour Problem (Two's Company) [5] 3.67 9/10 - BBC2
Sun 23/01/94 TB or Not TB [5] 4.32 8/10 - BBC2
Sun 30/01/94 Robbery with Violence [5] 3.76 8/10 - BBC2
Wed 27/04/94 Tea for Two [5] 3.59 7/10 - BBC2
Wed 04/05/94 Without Prejudice [5] 2.71 10/10 - BBC2
Wed 11/05/94 Any Old Iron? [5] 3.30 10/10 - BBC2/C4
Thu 19/05/94 Steptoe and Son, and Son! [5] 3.51 5/10 - BBC2/C4
Thu 26/05/94 Two's Company [5] 3.43 8/10 - BBC2/C4
Thu 02/06/94 The Three Feathers [5] 4.21 4/10 - BBC2/C4
Thu 09/06/94 A Death in the Family [5] 3.15 8/10 - BBC2
Thu 16/06/94 Pot Black [5] 3.62 5/10 - BBC2/C4
Mon 04/07/94 The Lead Man Cometh 3.23 8/10 - BBC2
Fri 19/08/94 The Seven Steptorai 2.82 8/10 - BBC2
Thu 22/09/94 A Star is Born 4.17 7/10 - BBC2/C4
Mon 14/11/94 The Offer 4.97 2/10 - BBC2/C4
Mon 21/11/94 Wallah-Wallah Catsmeat 4.11 7/10 - BBC2/C4
Mon 28/11/94 The Bath Below 3.72 - BBC2/C4 [7]
Mon 05/12/94 The Stepmother Below 3.64 - BBC2/C4 [7]
Mon 12/12/94 Sixty-Five Today 4.78 4/10 - BBC2/C4
Mon 19/12/94 A Musical Evening 4.65 3/10 - BBC2/C4 [6]
Sat 24/12/94 Steptoe and Son [1973 Xmas special] 3.74 8/10 - BBC2/C4 [6]
Mon 09/01/95 Is That Your Horse Outside? 3.47 8/10 - BBC2
Mon 16/01/95 Full House 4.01 6/10 - BBC2
Mon 23/01/95 Homes Fit for Heroes 3.99 5/10 - BBC2
Mon 30/01/95 And Afterwards At... 3.56 8/10 - BBC2
Mon 06/02/95 Steptoe a la Cart Below 3.54 - BBC2
Fri 17/02/95 The Siege of Steptoe Street 4.42 6/10 - BBC2
Fri 24/02/95 The Lodger (A Box in Town) 4.23 6/10 - BBC2
Fri 03/03/95 The Wooden Overcoats 4.33 7/10 - BBC2
Fri 10/03/95 Sunday for Seven Days 4.28 7/10 - BBC2/C4
Fri 24/03/95 The Bonds That... (Those Magnificent Men...) 3.72 7/10 - BBC2
Fri 31/03/95 Those Magnificent Men.... (The Bonds That...) 4.05 6/10 - BBC2/C4
Fri 07/04/95 Crossed Swords 3.54 9/10 - BBC2/C4
Fri 14/04/95 My Old Man's a Tory Below 2.75 - BBC2
Thu 20/04/95 Pilgrim's Progress 3.92 6/10 - BBC2/C4
Thu 27/04/95 Cuckoo in the Nest 5.27 2/10 - BBC2/C4
Wed 10/05/95 A Star is Born 3.78 6/10 - BBC2
Wed 17/05/95 Oh What a Beautiful Mourning 4.02 3/10 - BBC2
Tue 23/05/95 Live Now, P.A.Y.E. Later 3.35 8/10 - BBC2
Tue 30/05/95 Loathe Story
Tue 06/06/95 Divided We Stand
Tue 13/06/95 The Desperate Hours
Tue 20/06/95 The Seven Steptorai
Titles in regular brackets refer to the episode actually advertised in Radio Times, but replaced. When the episode appeared in the joint BBC2/Channel 4 Top Ten (published in Broadcast) its position is shown followed by - BBC2/C4 . If the viewing figure was so low that the episode is only listed in the BBC2 Top Ten (published in the Radio Times), then this position is used - BBC2. If no viewing figure is known, the lowest known figure for another programme is noted as an indicator only, along with the chart referred to.
1. Shown as part of BBC2's A Perfect Christmas banner and also placed 8th in the week's Sitcom Top Ten
2. Shown under BBC2's London Weekend banner
3. These episodes screened on BBC1, neither appearing in the all-channel Top 50
4. Shown under the One Day in the 60s banner. No BBC2 programmes listed in the Top 50
5. Episodes shown under the title of The Lost Steptoes
6. Both episodes appeared in the same ratings week, and therefore the same BBC2/C4 Top Ten
7. No BBC2 Top Ten available for this week - figure refers to tenth placing in joint BBC2/C4

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