Plays and Cliches
By CHRISTOPHER BOOKER
The hour-long TV drama was essentially a thing of the Fifties; in these days of highly- polished, entertaining, intelligent series like The Plane Makers and Paris 1900, the one-shot play must be something very special to deserve a place in the schedules. Think of TV plays—and one thinks of trite little plots that any self-respecting series-writer churning out fifteen shots a year wouldn't sniff twice at. Of the eternal little group of British tourists thrown together in some Spanish or Italian pensione to get on each other's nerves or to discover that the innkeeper is up to something fishy with a group of-,ex-Nazis, of sub-Pinteresque tedium' in a provincial boarding- house, of cardboard Blacks and Whites enacting some ritual plea for racial toleration. One thinks of those terrifying plasterboard and plastic gar- den exteriors, occasionally eked out with a foggy bit of film or back projection. And yet all this time-filling, unconvincing, pretentious nonsense is 'decked out under the title of Television Drama as some sort of significant strand in the heritage of Ibsen and Shakespeare. By all means let us have occasional good plays on television—but let us not rate them as intrinsically any higher a form than The Avengers or Steptoe and Son— even if occasionally a new play or an old one does rise above that level.
It would be interesting to know just how Lord Hill of Luton managed to reconcile his respon- sibility for keeping ITV programmes politically impartial with Rediffusion's screenifig on Novem- ber 24 of an American film called The Last Banzai. This was the story of the life of the Emperor Hirohito of Japan—made, it would appear, by some American public-relations firm to demonstrate (a) that although he was nomin- ally all-powerful as the Sun Emperor, Hirohito had no responsibility whatever for the Japanese part in the Second World War; that (b) after the war, Hirohito had done as much as anyone to lead Japan into the ways of brotherly love and democracy; and that (c) as today he wanders through groves of lotus blossom and distant views of snow-capped Fuji, Hirohito is a fine example to the world of a statesman, poet, scientist and thinker who cares deeply about the problems of Peace and his People and occasionally dashes off the odd haiku to prove it.
The whole film had the air of a hard-sell, before-and-after advertisement, made utterly light of Japan's behaviour in the early Forties, and was both badly made and dishonest. Perhaps the secret is that you can be as politically partial as you like as long as you only put the film on to fill up the schedules after eleven o'clock and as long as it's about foreigners.