His first big break came along in 1970 when he began to present the London Weekend Television [LWT] culture programme ‘Aquarius’, the forerunner to ‘The South Bank Show’ which was created to compete with the BBC rival programme ‘Omnibus’. The programme allowed Russell to travel the world, including interviewing Salvador Dali, a programme for which he was awarded an ‘Emmy’
ITV gave Russell his own chat show in 1973 called ‘Russell Harty Plus’ and put him up against the legendary ‘Parkinson’ on the BBC. He was to conduct lengthy celebrity interviews from all areas of public life, some of which have become part of TV legend. His relaxed and unique style contributed to some memorable responses. His Northern accent and his distinctive delivery was a godsend to the famous impressionists of the time with particularly Mike Yarwood who picked up on Russell’s catchphrase ‘You are, are you not?’ He also won a Pye Award for Outstanding New Personality of the Year.
One of his notorious interviews was his 1973 interview with the rock band The Who, parts of which were included in the 1979 film ‘The Kids Are Alright’ where Pete Townshend & Keith Moon rip off each other’s shirts. Russell recalled the interview in 1988 ‘"I used to believe that unless you had each question written on a clipboard, and unless you followed a rigorous sequence of inquiry, all would not be well. My clipboard was an anchor and I had full need of it. The Who blasted their way through the opening number, and then came to sit down and around. Question 1 (and I blush even as I write): 'When did you first come together to form the group?' Question 2: 'Who writes the words and who the music?' Question 3: 'Are you big in America?' and so on. I hope you will spare me the embarrassment of rehearsing the fretful litany. The Who were clearly thinking to themselves that there must be better ways of spending an evening. So they did what any high spirited, rich, young band would do. They tried to make it more interesting. They ripped off each other's designed shirts and shredded them in front of a delighted audience. Droning on in the background was this still small voice: Question 10: 'What are your plans for the future?' Their plans were to liven things up a little. When they had reduced each other to bare essentials and high laughter, they turned their attention to me, pulled me to the floor and started to divest me of my chaste Jaeger. The clock, which is often an enemy, developed a friendly aspect and put a timely stop to this madness. Time also put a stop to The Who. Keith Moon died. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend were encouraged to explore other paths to salvation, via entertainment. I learnt two things - The first was to jettison the clipboard if the ship appeared to be sinking. Such an object lacks buoyancy. The second was that if your body should become a battleground, it is better to lie back and pretend to enjoy it. You may lose the sympathy vote, but you might get a new suit from it."
When ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ the classic Edwardian TV Series ended on 21st December 1975 Russell visited the set to present a one-off special of the show which aired on Boxing Day 1975. Regular cast members such as Jean Marsh, Gordon Jackson and Lesley Anne Down appeared along with Simon Williams and Gareth Hunt.
On 17th December 1980 Russell was ‘captured’ on the This Is Your Life show by Eamon Andrews, guests who appeared included Lewis Collins and John Conteh.