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

The Weather and Winter Hill

As suggested a few weeks ago, the construction of the ITA transmitting mast at Winter Hill near Bolton is running behind schedule, with only 120ft of the 450ft mast complete. Thoughtfully, The Guardian clarifies that it’s “the first 120ft” which has been finished. The cause of the delays: the weather, and specifically fog. The Guardian quotes a worker saying, “Some days we have thick fogs until lunch-time. We can’t see men working on the top of the mast, and can’t pull steel up from the ground when we can’t see where it is going.”

There’s a new musical film Empire Cinema, Leicester Square – It’s Always Fair Weather – and The Guardian‘s Penelope Houston records that “it tilts, with slightly self-conscious daring, at television commercials, the degrading practice of TV ‘human interest’ programmes, and the jargon of advertising”. Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse and Dolores Gray star.

The same paper’s man-with-a-telly-that-can-get-ITV, Bernard Levin, is moderately content with the appearance, on that very service, of Sir John Barbirolli and the Hallé Orchestra. Items were introduced by Archie Camden “whose gnarled and kindly face is evidently more at home blowing down a bassoon than talking into a camera”. Levin notes that ITV producers have so far failed to solve the problem that besets their BBC rivals – what to do with the cameras while the music is in progress. He writes, “The method they adopted throughout – which was to focus in close-up on the player or section prominent at that moment in the score – will not, unfortunately do. For if we cut from a long shot of the whole orchestra to a close-up of, say, the first horn the eye – generous fellow – insists that brother ear shall have a close up of horn too. But, of course, brother ear may not.” He concludes, “I suspect that the problem will not be solved until some producer has the courage to stick a couple of cameras on the edge of the balcony, focus them, and go home to bed.”

This leads Levin to note that those early to bed may be missing the best ITV programmes. He praises in particular, a discussion on emigration in Points of View, and The Peaceful Atom which “entertained and instructed”.

BBC Television output remains the province of The Guardian‘s Radio Critic (RC) and yesterday’s Information Desk with Nan Winton and Peter Haigh was “lively and amusing, because the job [of answering the public’s questions] has been tackled in a constructive and ingenious way.” In yesterday’s programme, for instance, Carl Dolmetsch played and described the recorder in response to a question from a parent about the instrument and whether her daughter should play one. RC mentions a brief, unlisted, programme after Information Desk, a kind of interlude in which a new book on Yugoslavia was “if not reviewed, described briefly” adding that, “this little item showed that no elaborate programme building is necessary for introducing books to viewers.”

Today’s viewers could see the last of “”Six portraits in crime by Berkely Mather” in As I Was Saying... and comedy with Dave King on the BBC while Associated Broadcasting give us Saturday Showtime with Harry Secombe and TV Playhouse: “The Rescue”.

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