3 DECEMBER 1954, Page 13


THE week has been instructive on the subject of comedians seen and heard. In particular, Bob Monkhouse, emerging firmly as a television star, occasioned excitement. His material is crisp, his lines build quickly and naturally, his sketches have a flinging fury about them. The man himself—still gawky, uncertain still, lacking yet the pirouetting Poise that'll come later—is already a star. His personality has a dash and glitter to it that we see too rarely: quite a bit of Bob Hope, a pinch of Jack Buchanan, a sprinkle of Groucho; very pleasing indeed; and with a mind behind it (that you can see working too much at the moment). Mr. Monkhouse Writes a deal of his own material. Sure, he still makes plenty of mistakes (the sickroom sketch, for example, in last week's show Wasn't very funny to begin with and went on far too long); but Mr. Monkhouse is something: the first comedian to use tele- Vision as his prime medium, and to succeed. He comes way up top in the league table; after him—Norman Wisdom, Terry Thomas, Eric Barker, Arthur Askey. Jimmy Edwards, if only we could see more of him, would be challenging. His rare appearances (most lately in Larry Adler's well-above-average SPIce of WO are always uproarious. His excellent radio partner Dick Bentley is suffering badly in his current And So To Bentley series from tired Muir-and-Norden Material. Last week's programme was lamentable.

Eric Barker I still regard as primarily a radio comedian. Listening last week to Just Fancy I found his delicate astringent

laugh to the problem or making people laugh as refreshing and biting as ever. His two old men are a masterpiece of observa- tion. He's inclined to overdo the Fumed Oak social satire stuff. But on the whole he's the deftest and most adult comedian broadcasting (always excepting Bernard tiraden; he's not around just now). Together With Just Fancy I'd put The Goon Show. It scents to me to have pulled itself into a much fighter shape; and last week's documentary °I) The Last Tram was genuinely funny. It Will be interesting to see how Take It From 'fere tastes when it returns. It's been con- eistently good for so long; much depends on the writing team; if they can get back the test that they've lost, one feels, on television, It Will still be the best comedy show.

The difficulty of writing comedy for television, the visual nature of the medium, the need for simplicity of effect—all this is still not sufficiently realised by the people who write the funny things to say and the funny people who say them. All the more applause, then, for Mr. Monkhouse, who's really getting the feel of the thing.

Three grumbles. First, can't something be done to get the camera on to the half-way line instead of up behind one goal, as in last week's Clyde v. Sunderland match? Accepting the fact that the BBC's doing a fine job on Outside Broadcasts with all too few spare cameras and crews, surely we can get the one camera and crew available into the right place? Second, the amateurish and dreary production of Special Enquiry on Monday. An uncomfortable programme be- cause the people taking part were uncomfort- able. This is a documentary problem that television has to lick, and lick quickly. Thirdly, the determinedly gay compering of Mr. Whittaker in this week's fashion show.

And three cheers. For the excellence of the BBC's cricket service from Australia; as usual, an immaculate job of work. For the tight little, well-acted play The Right Person. For the solid work that Humphrey Lestocq (whom we used to know as Flying Officer Kite) is doing on children's television.