20 MARCH 1976, Page 29


More likely

Jeffrey Bernard

First, the good news. Five consecutive days of television with no mention of the millionaire Russian novelist, Solzhenitsyn. Now for the bad news. Mary Hammond, mother of The Brothers, has taken to reading the Sporting Life at breakfast. Furthermore, her eldest son, the retarded and brain-damaged Edward, spoke to his wife last Sunday thus, 'Every time I reach out to you, you slam the door in my face.' Does this mean that Andrea Newman has started work as an undercover dialogue writer on the series? Very probably. Someone should start an organisation called The Brothers Anonymous. We could meet in church halls on Sunday evenings at 7.25 p.m. and discuss our disgusting addiction. We could even telephone each other when the going got really tough. 'Can you come round ? 1 think I'm going to watch The Brothers.' Now hang on. Don't do anything silly. Don't switch on the set. I'll be round in a minute.'

What addiction to television is all about though is a lollipop like In Praise of LOve (Anglia) by Terence Rattigan. Lydia is dying of leukaemia and there is little hope of comfort or sympathy from her egotistical writer husband, Sebastian. She must confide in someone though, so she tells the family friend and her would-be lover Mark. But wait. Sebastian knows all the time and he's only been behaving like an unfeeling shit so that she won't suspect that something's amiss. Throw in a liberal son who's just written a play for the BBC's Heavy Entertainment department, and there you have it. Lydia will snuff it, but she'll do so knowing that Sebastian loves her. I wouldn't have thought the knowledge of that would be quite enough to stop anyone screaming on their way to meet the big producer in the sky, but Claire Bloom as Lydia goes up the stairs to bed at the end looking serene and brave while Dad and son play chess with jade and ivory chessmen.

It's very lucky for both of them that Rattigan and More should be contemporaries. It's unlikely that Rattigan will go into everlasting repertory and in Kenneth More he has the ideal actor to play his favourite character, the thinking man's Sunday drinker. Rattigan's hero—More played him before in The Deep Blue Sea— may wear a blazer, Hush Puppies, a polkadotted scarf and have left his heart in Biggin Hill, but for all that he's deeply sensitive. Sebastian was meant to be Cyril Connolly, but he came over as Douglas Bader with a deadline. I particularly liked the way he put his head around the study door and announced, 'Just one more sentence. • I thought it was a pun at first

but then I realised how insecure writers like people to know how they're getting on. Kenneth More is very good at portraying the 'real' people amongst the middle classes and as he did as Jolyon in The Forsyte Saga he is a wow at conveying a mixture of British stuffiness with exciting new thinking. I half expected him to say to his son, 'Now look here old chap, why don't you pop along and have a chat with Ronnie Laing. He'll sort you out.'

Of all the current affairs men, Jonathan Dimbleby of This Week (Thames Television) comes over as the strongest. The programme from Guatemala was excellent and of course it was awful. The monster of the week, the sugar cane plantation owner, made the monster quote of the week. Re the earthquake—'Fortunately, my house stood up quite well, but some of my workers' houses, the church and other minor buildings fell down.' This particular Dimbleby has, or seems to me to have, a latent aggression and toughness that's a welcome change from the apologetic witterings of some reporters who appear to be embarrassed by what they're doing. Years ago, I remember a camera picking up Fyfe Robertson sitting on an eagle's nest halfway up a mountain in Scotland and it may have been vertigo but he looked as nervous as a man reporting a story from a ladies' lavatory. Jonathan Dimbleby in Guatemala had just the right deadpan and stony-faced contempt for the plantation owner plus the confidence of the reporter who knows what he's talking about. Fyfe Robertson was frightened of mummy eagle's return. Dimbleby would have interviewed her.

Another nasty face on the box this week probably owns a plantation too. Van Der Byl on Weekend World (London Weekend) is one of those cultured-looking, charmingseeming steel men that Ian Fleming used for villains. It occurred to me that Eric Sykes and Jimmy Edwards must be out of their minds to entertain—if you can call it that—troops in Rhodesia but, yes I know, they have every right to. The danger is that their brand of humour may harden the hearts of those soldiers beyond recall. In fairness to the black majority Equity might at least have the decency to send Bob Monkhouse, Cyril Fletcher, Terry Scott and the cast of Clayhanger out to entertain the guerrillas.

Meanwhile, the continuing story of Read ,4// About It (BBC!) had whizz kid Martin Amis getting a terrific send-off from the panel of paperback experts. While they were at it, they gave Susan Howatch a nasty clip over the ear. Now it's not going to do anyone any harm to appear on the show and if they've just written a book it's going to do them a lot of good. So I suppose that anyone who appears must be prepared to be shot down in flames for the sake of publicity. But. What I do think is that the panel of experts might be fractionally more gentle on easy targets. I haven't read Susan Howatch's book Cashelmara and I'm sure it's not as good as the collected think pieces

of Alan Brien or Madame Bovary or War and Peace, but Alan Brien's swipe at her was rather like a man flexing his muscles by punching a ten-year-old between the eyes. She took it very well and I hope her book sells like hot cakes. I don't particu

larly want to see a lot of Alan Brien on television, but I hope he appears on other panel games since the presence of other people is always good discipline for a monologuist. And, Melvyn, please bring back Diana Quick.