3 NOVEMBER 1979, Page 26


Richard Ingrams

The desperation of the ITV companies to win back their audience at any price resulted in at least one act of terrible cynicism. The programmes resumed on 24 October with The Muppet Show (guest star Dudley Moore) at the awkward and unusual time of 6.05 p.m. with the result that many key people such as myself missed it. Not the best way of regaining lost goodwill. The Muppets are now to be shown on Friday at 7 p.m. — a time which the IBA knows perfectly well is not favoured by the working fathers and TV critics who constitute the backbone of the nation.

Thames Television has meantime spent a lot of money — over £1 million I think — on their new science fiction serial Quatermass. This stars John Mills made up as a lookalike of the late Rosarian Harry Wheatcroft (no relation) and the beautiful Barbara Kellerman, once my co-star on Call My Bluff. Envisaging a future Britain, the author Nigel Kneale pictures a state of dangerous anarchy. Muggers roam the streets, the motorways are littered with crashed cars, while in the countryside hippies proceed through the fields following ancient lay-lines. Television however seems to be in full swing, even if people need armoured cars to get to the studio. A great deal of effort and expense has gone into making all this look realistic but as so often happens in science fiction epics the human beings go by default. It is easy to believe in Dalelo and Triffids, even when they are obviousb made out of cardboard, so long as one can identify with the humans who are ur against them It is not yet clear ill Quatermass what extra-terrestrial force! are threatening the planet but I cannot feel very involved when the human race is represented by such unconvincing fig' ures as the whiskered John Mills and hil young Jewish sidekick maintaining one-man Kibbutz in the shadow of Jodrell Bank telescope. ITV deserved higher marks for showini the Frost-Kissinger interview on Sunday. (The BBC, I noted, detailed the great political expert and student of foreign affairs, Parky, to interview the Great White Chief when he passed through orl, his recent book-plugging trip to Britain. Kissinger is a tough and nasty man with a) . hard Teutonic mien and a sinister bas0 s. profondo croak. Nowadays he is embittered rubbed d o u s a e n hl n. E t o ftvheen o n o Nixon x mud b u d being b ; s. profondo croak. Nowadays he is embittered rubbed d o because c af f o u s a e n hl n. E t o ftvheen o n o Nixon x mud b u d being b ; fduelblyateau, Ifareitm rent movement started by William Sh wa remained he d the s pGi crieoant s Ca mt hbeo_ cross's book Sideshow to cast him as the major baddy of the Vietnam show. Frosty seemed to be following in the Shawcross footsteps by trying to show that it was the American bombing of Cambodia, ordered by Kissinger, which led to the dreadful state of that country today. There is some truth of course in this theory but it does conveniently ignore the fact that the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese were also involved in the process. There are certain smart people about who have either to adulate or denigrate politicians at different junctures. In the case of Kissinger, I suspect, it was the sort of characters who once sang his praises over their stripped pine dinner tables who are flow blackening him as a dreadful ogre. The real trouble with Kissinger is that, like our own Lord Goodman who in many ways he resembles, he is not cut out for the political world. He is really an 'advisor', a don whose rightful place is standing in front of a blackboard waving a stick. Such men usually create havoc when they are brought in to the political process.

There was some fuss last week about Comedians, a play by Trevor Griffiths which apparently had a long run in the West End. It contained a smattering of obscenities which upset some people but I myself found it tremendously dull. Perhaps there was some hidden symbolism in the idea of a sort of Leavisite sergeant-major type holding a night-class for aspiring stand-up comics somewhere in Manchester or thereabouts. There was certainly nothing realistic in grown men sitting at desks being coached in the art of tongue-twisting etc. I didn't stay to the end. Nor will readers be surprised to hear that I didn't see the end of what I hope is the final episode of Fawity, Towers which starred a large whiskered rat. If anyone ought to attend a night-class for comedians it is John Cleese. Lesson one would consist of How Not to Labour Jokes to Death.