TELEVISION AND RADIO
WE live in the age of Pickles's Pony. More deadly than radioactivity, more humiliating than a stammer, emotionally more carminative even than Gilbert's Growl. Pickles's Pony hath thee jolly nearly in thrall.
The simplest form of the unpleasantness consists (as the name suggests) in bringing to- gether a little girl who wants a pony and a Pony. This Mr. Pickles did at Shepherd's Bush on a day that ranks in television history about where Rutherford's first successful carve at an atom in Cambridge does in the development of modern nuclear physics. In America, of course, this was admittedly pretty old hat; there, six little girls at a time were being given six ponies each by gentlemen with even warmer, humaner personalities than Mr. Pickles. But nevertheless on that proud day Lime Grove felt much the same as the leader- writers did when Dr. Penney made an explo- sion in Australia : it was only a little one, but It was ours.
Now our screens are ever more thickly be- fogged with cases of Pickles's Pony in all its Mutated forms. Ninety-two-year-old unem- ployed lighthouse-keepers on panel games arc offered sixty-eight jobs before they've left their chairs; the War Office maintains a fleet of fast aircraft at continual standby so that Ron can be brought home in time for Gran's appear- ance as a trap-drummer; only Mr. Ledger, MP, has so far managed to meet long-lost rela- tives outside a studio—the result, one can only Infer, of some deep-seated trouble between Transport House and Sir George Barnes; or perhaps it's a matter of privilege. Anyway, the latest case blew up at dinner-time on Monday evening when, as the climax of a perfectly sensible programme about dogs, Mr. McDon- ald Daly—with a deal of warm, human self- satisfaction—introduced a pleasant enough Young man called Dennis who had lost a foot while saving a mongrel from being run over by a train, squeezed his stow out of him like toothpaste—and then presented him (on be- half of the Tailwaggers) with the red cocker he'd always wanted. I'm all for Dennis getting a spaniel; that's fine. But why does it have to be played out—a kind of warm, human dirty Picture—in front of a good few million (in- creasingly embarrassed, I think) eyes?
This is just the• sort of cheap, gimmicky stickiness that the BBC keeps on warning us Will happen when commercial television comes along. If only a, few hundred cold, inhumatt letters were to arrive on the desks of a few Warm, human producers we'd perhaps be able to put a brake on this kind of exhibitionist exploitation of decent sentiments.
Happily, Mr. Bradcn, in a totally successful Programme, had already done something to Make the week worth while. This is one come-
dian (unlike the hapless Mr. Barker) who has been able to translate his material from sound to sight without falling flat on his face. All I have to complain of is seeing too little of Braden and a bit too much of Lee. The same complaint in principle applies to Mr. Hard- ing's new series; but all this needs, I'm sure, is time to settle down. The argument about Sunday promised well but petered out in an unwontedly mild exchange of compliments. Tougher, more controversial subjects and a tighter, quicker presentation of background facts are needed if this is to be the excellent programme it's capable of being.