11 AUGUST 1961, Page 16


Cliches Capped

By PETER FORSTER NOT since the Christians tangled with the lions in the Colosseum has audience participation to rate seriously—the point being that they do show what the public is thinking but only what the programme's producer selects to show.

The air of sameness in programmes at preset!' is deeply depressing. This Week's new look, in which most of the half-hour was devoted to al single topic, appears to have given way to the old formula of the poor man's Panorama. Boari Connell makes a commanding and persuasive anchor-man, but the reporting is very uneven' perhaps because there seems to be no halt'. geneous approach. Last week, for instance, a nevi recruit, Peter Duval Smith, kicked off with 3 rather blah and condescending survey of piers and the plebs who use them, of a kind like'', to irritate said plebs without greatly amusin' those of Mr. Smith's height of brow. Then came the programme's regular contribir tor, the American statesman Mr. Al Capp, Whic° I believe also draws cartoons. On Berlin, the Wee before, Mr. Capp had been grave and firm: hc, Americans would not be pushed around all longer. Last week Mr. Capp indulged in a ten- minute survey of the British character and matched cliché for cliché with Sir Charles and Lady Snow about our moderation and evolving ways. I am bound to say that Mr. Capp showed not one iota of the perception, concision and lucidity that enabled Mr. Walter Lippmann to hold the screen so compulsively for fifty minutes on BBC the following Sunday, but then Mr. L1Ppmann does not have to take time off from being a statesman to draw cartoons. Finally, This Week turned to tired shock tactics by showing ninety coffins to emphasise road dangers in the !'nlpending holiday. In all, the Programme was a Jumble amounting to a mumble.

And the pity is all the greater because a Challenger is needed to the formulas of Panorama and Tonight. The latter has returned on good standard form, though without any evidence of a single really new idea, save possibly for Spike Milligan beautifully burlesquing the interview manner of their own Alan Whicker. In short Tonight is in a rut—a point ironically empha- sised by a smug little article in Radio Times claiming that the team's average age is thirty, alongside which were printed photos of Michelmore, Allsop, Hart, Mac Hastings and Fyfe Robertson, and if any of that dear, admira- ble lot see thirty again then I' am a teenage werewolf.

In variety the story is the same—Dickie Henderson, Dickie Valentine, Russ Conway, Anne Shelton, Rosemary Clooney: the same old styles, the same old formats. Ideas, ideas, ideas—where are they? Don't talk about them to Pilkington—produce them, here and now, or we shall be forced to conclude that nobody has any!