Hall's Pictorial Weekly, which was anchored by Frank Hall and set in the office of a mythical small newspaper, combined a mixture of social and political satirical sketches with bizarre rural news items. The fictional town where the series was set was called Ballymagash. In testament to the show's popularity the name Ballymagash entered every day usage as a term for any small Irish town in the 1970s.
The show had its origins in the Newsbeat programme, in which its editor Frank Hall toured Ireland in search of colourful characters and off-beat situations. According to Hall, it occurred to him one day that he would be much more the master of the situation, if he simply sat at home and wrote the sketches, instead of looking for stories around the country.
Hall's Pictorial Weekly was at its strongest during the 1973-1977 term of the Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition government. So sharp and constant was its satirical send up of the government ministers of the time, that it is generally accepted that the programme played an important part in bringing the coalition into disrepute and perhaps even contributed to bringing it down. Ireland at the time had a very volatile economic situation and the show spared no political expense in portraying the then Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, as the "Minister for Hardship," while the Minister for Finance, Richie Ryan, was portrayed as "Richie Ruin".
The show also portrayed the former Taoiseach Jack Lynch (played by Frank Kelly) as a rather benign pipe-smoking figure. The political party he led, Fianna Fáil, was also lampooned as being called "Feel and Fall". Charles Haughey was parodied as "Charlie Hawkeye".
A curious aspect of Hall's program was that in 1978 Frank Hall was appointed Ireland's Official Censor -- responsible for banning, for example, the Life of Brian (although after intense pressure from the Catholic Church.) What was interesting was that Hall's Pictorial Weekly in the late 1970s became steadily more risque, introducing such notable comedians as Dermot Morgan, Frank Kelly, Rosaleen Linehan and many others. It may be that Hall's status helped protect the program -- after all who would a complaint be rendered to but Hall himself. It is also likely that he calibrated the humor just inside the edge of trouble. Later Dermot Morgan, Graham Linehan and others started the radio show Scrap Saturday which was even more savage.
Hall's Pictorial Weekly ended in 1982 after twelve years and over 250 episodes.