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

The Night Before

What’s a natural break? That question vexed Daily Express writer Cyril Aynsley who notes that last night “interruptions were made in the middle of four programmes”.

Most of the examples he cites sound like cock-up rather than conspiracy, but here they are: “In Sportsclub… commentator Ken Johnstone said: ”Now let’s go into the gym and see how soccer player Danny Blanchflower is getting on”. Before Johnstone reached the gym an advertisement for soap powder appeared on screen.”

Aynsley continues, “In the middle of… Take Your Pick, compère Michael Miles was asking the audience to applaud competitors – when the programme vanished and a voice said: ”There’s nothing like a good solid breakfast to set you up for the day.” With margarine.”

And then there was, “The American crime film, Dragnet” where “a hunt for a dangerous criminal was about to start – when a Fleet Street editor appeared to boost his newspaper. Toilet soap was discussed before viewers went back to the crime hunt.”

And lastly: “In the fourth programme Orson Welles, describing a film, was held up while three swift spots advertised soap, cigarettes and radio sets.”

Bernard Levin, writing in The Guardian, was disappointed by ITV’s second night. Compared to Thursday’s programmes, “Last night”, he says, “the standard fell with a thump.” In what way(s)?

Well… according to Mr Levin, ITV’s newsreader last night was Robin Day who was, “to put it mildly, far too eager to please”; Sports Club featured “half a dozen footballers all shouting imperfectly rehearsed lines at each other”; in Take Your Pick, Michael Miles asked “a young lady whether a flying mare is a wrestling term, a horse that has flown the Atlantic, or a type of architecture”; Dragnet “was as tired in conception and flabby in execution as anything the BBC has ever used to while away a wet afternoon in winter”.

Is that all? Apparently not, because even Leslie Mitchell came in for both barrels. Mr Mitchell was the host of Visitor of the Day, and last night the guest was Mrs John Baird. And while Mrs Baird was “charming, gracious and, above all, interesting” she was “tucked into the corner [of the screen]” while Mr Mitchell occupied “two-thirds of the screen most of the time” and “his questions were so phrased that she rarely had the opportunity to say more than yes or no to them.”

Only Round the World with Orson Welles, the opening edition of which took us on a tour of the Basque country and introduced us to the game pelote, receives any praise. While not perfect: “impressively angled shots alternated with distressingly precious shadows; a fine natural effect would be spoilt by a thundering platitude dressed as a paradox” it was still “head and shoulders and Mr Welles’s chubby cheeks above everything else”.

With his or her radio hat on, The Guardian’s Radio Critic (RC) mentions that Geoffrey Webb and Edward J. Mason – in charge of The Archers and responsible for Grace’s death – appeared on last night’s Highlight programme “to answer for their deed.” Now wearing the TV titfer, RC notes that the BBC’s evening schedule included ten different programmes during its four hours yesterday. Despite this, RC manages mentions Highlight in this review column too. Then onto Meet Jeanne Heal where Max Nauta, the Dutch painter was a guest. This, along with Highlight, were described as “two good moments” in the first part of the evening, though what specifically was good about the Heal programme remains unsaid. Although “good” these were not the best, that honour going to Facts and Figures. RC concludes, “The odd facts at the end about a French survey of the speed and pulling power of snails showed a glancing kind of humour which is rare in television.”

In the Daily Mirror, Clifford Davis reports on a stick problem affecting the BBC Water Rats gala. The BBC wanted Norman Wisdom to appear, but he’s already booked for Associated Broadcasting’s variety show from the London Palladium. So is host Tommy Trinder, but Val Parnell “is letting Tommy appear for the BBC – after compèring his TV show at the London Palladium!”

Davis also introduces us to “twenty-nine-year-old Nan Winton, mother of two” who will be making her first TV appearance in Information Desk, a programme whose mission “is to answer queries sent in by housewives”. However, Miss Winton explained, “Believe me, I’m not really an expert at general information or anything like that. Both the viewers and I will be learning a lot.”

Elsewhere, the same paper reports on what it described as Independent TV’s “first operating breakdown” during yesterday’s midday news. It reports that “A woman announcer was SEEN seated at a table reading from a script but no sound could be HEARD.” The reports notes that the four-minute breakdown, “was traced to a sound fault in apparatus operated by Associated-Rediffusion.”

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