Leonard Swindley and Wally Hunt had been fired from their jobs at Dobson and Hawks department store in the last episode of Pardon the Expression. Developing an interest in astrology Swindley travelled the country employed as professional speaker on the subject. Wherever they went Swindley and Hunt stumbled across supernatural mysteries and set about exploring them. The series was a mixture of comedy and light drama.
Six fifty-five minute-long episodes gained their first broadcast on ITV from Monday 2nd January to 6th February 1967 on Associated Rediffusion (London) and Tyne Tees Television (North East England) with all the other regions, including Granada Television, broadcasting the episodes on the following Friday from 9.10 to 10.05pm. The series was also broadcast in two ITV regions (Westward Television and Channel Television) where no single episode of Pardon the Expression had ever been shown however it was not shown by Teledu Cymru. Though a smaller number of episodes were commissioned the double running time essentially meant this series lasted as long as the first season of Pardon the Expression.
The series was produced by Derek Granger, the second producer of Coronation Street and later producer of Brideshead Revisited. Peter Eckersley and John Finch were two of the writers and the former co-wrote two of his episodes with Kenneth Cope, alias Jed Stone. Denis Parkin, the original designer of Coronation Street designed three of the episodes.
Several Coronation Street regulars made appearances in the series; Neville Buswell, Judith Barker, William Moore, Joan Heath and Noel Dyson although Leonard Swindley was the only character from the programme to appear. In addition to these cast members, several notable actors, including some who appeared on the Street made contributions including Ben Kingsley, Wendy Richard, Yootha Joyce and Bob Todd.
The first episode of the series was critically panned by Nancy Banks-Smith in the 3rd January edition of The Sun (not The Guardian as has sometimes been claimed) when she said…
- "I say, that's quick off the mark. Only the 2nd of January and yet last night 'Turn Out the Lights' put in a powerful claim to be the worst series of 1967. Let's not be niggling in our tribute. Possibly the worst-written, worst-directed and worst-acted series of the year. You think I'm overstating the case about the new series…don't you? So I started to make a list of the jokes to give you the flavour of it. But that didn't work out as I had the greatest difficulty in spotting which were the jokes. Mark you, it's not meant to be a comedy show, I gather. But I refuse to believe it is a serious one. I'm darned if I know what it is intended to be.
She went to describe the storyline as "confused", and commented on the "loose ends" and the "sickly modulation to pathos and homespun philosophy at the end."
John Finch has described his contribution as the "worst thing I ever wrote". Although almost everyone seems to have hated the programme, Arthur Lowe for one is described as having thoroughly enjoyed it and a theory has been posited that he might have signed for another series if ongoing fame the following year in the role of Captain George Mainwaring in Dad's Army hadn't beckoned.
The series performed favourably at first in the charts with the first episode achieving 7,250,000, more than either episode of Coronation Street shown in the same week. After that, ratings dropped slightly but never fell below 6,100,000 homes.
Along with the Dry Runs and the inserts for the All Star Comedy Carnival, the two pilot programmes for Pardon the Expression, and Episode 1202 (24th July 1972), the six episodes of Turn out the Lights are the only Coronation Street-related material missing from the Granada Television archives.