The world of British television off and on the screen, as it was sixty years ago.

Silence is Golden

Television’s status as, at best, a second division art when compared to the theatre is exemplified by a short news item to be found in The Times of Monday, 18 July 1955. Headed Mr. Peter Brook’s Play for Television it says, and I quote it in its entirety:

Mr. Peter Brook has written a “psychological” play for television. It is called The Birthday Present and deals with a divorced couple, to be played by Miss Yvonne Mitchell and Mr. Michael Gwynn when the play is televised on July 22 in the series “Appointment with Drama.” The producer will be Mr. Tony Richardson.

Now there’s nothing wrong with this per sé, but I wonder how many times The Times has carried a special news story because a production by Rudolph Cartier or another television alumnus will be televised within the next few days. Few if any, I suspect.

But even if it does trail behind the stage, it has its uses.  In The Guardian‘s “Miscellany” column a vicar with the initials A.L.R. records how he met a man returning home from work. He continues:

His mother-in-law, who lives with him, has a certain local fame on account of her volubility, especially indoors. John could hardly allow himself to acknowledge my greeting but blurted out, “I’ve done it, vicar!” “Done what?” I cautiously enquired. “I’ve bought a television,” he went on, “and it’s fixed ma-in-law. She’s crazy about the thing: she gives herself a front seat and never says a word for the rest of the evening.” John went on: “You’d never guess, vicar, how peaceful the house has become since the set was installed.”

The Guardian’s radio critic (hereafter, RC) isn’t especially enamoured of the current run of panel shows on BBC, describing One of the Family as “the best of the somewhat tired panel games that are going on at present.” RC wonders whether it is always necessary to have one and thinks the formula has generally become stale, except in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral? “which is in an entirely different class.”

The premise behind One of the Family is that the challengers are all descendants, relatives or, possibly, ancestors of someone famous, and the panel has to deduce who their illustrious relation was or is. RC records for posterity that last night’s programme featured one of Shelley‘s ancestors, a direct descendent of Oliver Cromwell, a grandson of W. G. Grace, a cousin of Lord Beaverbrook and a decendent of Lady Godiva.


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