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

Vim Without Vigour

Writing in The Observer, Maurice Richardson has much to say about the new kid on the block as well as its more established rival. Noting a tendency for ITV “to imitate BBC patterns and actual features” he describes Twopenny Corner (sic) as “being du cote de chez Grove”. On the other hand “Dragnet… promises well”, Take Your Pick is “riotously low-brow”, the new variety “is perhaps a bit slicker than BBC”. While “ITA’s (sic) weather report is definitely livelier and sexier” its “most successful single feature yet is Orson Welles compèring his own travelogues.”

So ITV may not yet “beat the BBC at its infrequent best” but Richardson clearly thinks it did better than the BBC over the last few days. He notes that the BBC repeated “perhaps the third worst play (The Adventurer) in its extensive repertory of rot”, that it “egregiously over-did the Pickles Silver Wedding” and although Philip Mackie’s adaptation of The Hole in the Wall was “bold” the original novel was “horrific” – one hopes this is meant as “conveying a sense of horror” and not something much worse.

Richardson fills in further details about the first-day’s commercials which he felt lacked attack and vulgarity. He mentions that the Summer County Margarine commercial featured a policeman being fed, a later Coty ad consisted of “a girl making up her face” and Mabel Pickles advertised a woman’s magazine. Shell’s five-minute film of Wiltshire with commentary by John Betjeman “was excellent”.

This week’s edition of The Stage has TV coverage spread across, though not filling, four pages. On page one it seeks to reassure those working in the theatre that commercial television does not sound the death knell. It mentions that commercial television “has already helped John Clements to launch a company at the Saville, whose productions will draw considerable revenue from televised performances” and also makes the point that commercial televisions programme contractors “have emphasised repeatedly that there can be no successful television without a flourishing live theatre… from which to draw experienced artists.” The Granada Group, with a foot in each camp, “have planned a £50,000 season for their theatres” which will cover “variety, opera, pantomime and Sunday-night celebrity concerts.”

Elsewhere in the paper’s TV coverage, we learn that Granada have appointed Guy David Nottingham as a producer. He “will be responsible for several of Granada’s most important dramatic and variety series” and “will be active in the training of all Granada’s production personnel, including the planning and organisation of Granada’s Training School which is to be inaugurated in London in 1956.”

Although not solely a TV thing, the TV Page also mentions Associated London Scripts who have so far found six new writers – Johnny Speight, Lewis Schwarz, Eric Merriman, Terry Nation, Dick Barry and John Antrobus – “who have all had a series on the BBC during last winter.”

One of the paper’s reviewers, rejoicing in the initials FGB, believes that “Time has been unkind to The Scarlet Pimpernel, which viewers saw last Sunday evening.” FGB feels that Sir Percy Blakeney, “cavorting in rustic and royal England like a ham actor in Restoration comedy” makes the whole thing unbelievable, not helped by a visit to France “complete with Dick Barton escape scene.” FGB suggests that “It may prove interesting to compare this production with the serial version to be presented on CTV, though many of us now feel that a little Pimpernel goes a long way.”

As for the other shows on view, AG felt that “The latest Variety Parade under Ernest Maxin’s guidance, was slick enough but there was not sufficient variety” and that the “Best laughs came from Hal Monty’s timing.” Monty, AG says, “is a first-rate television comedian, with his expressions as he listened to the radio, his wrestling match with bagpipes and his musical finale, with two helpers.”

It will be interesting to see what the next edition of The Stage has to say about commercial television’s programmes.

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