11 JANUARY 1963, Page 17


The Old Rivals


Ii might be interesting to know how many honest tele- vision efforts are abandoned by the viewers because the viewers have thought of some- thing else to do. Here's a thought that must still haunt the lads, after all these years.

The telephone still rings bang on the big laugh, Uncle Fred still falls through the door demanding a drink during the tender renunciation, and, of cOurse, Granny still sud- denly exclaims that there's a sexy play on the other Channel.

Without apologising for my old monotonous plaint, 1 must say I would have lingered al Carson Corners on Sunday night (The Re- markable Incident at Carson Corners, BBC) if I had known ITV were screening last year's Cup Final. It wasn't a bad play, the American atmosphere was quite solid and •plausible, and the gradual distribution of guilt among all the assembled players had some point. But in the end I decided that it was mechanical, though workmanlike, play-writing; that there was too much moral and not enough character; and I nipped over to the opposition.

1 wouldn't have done this, you see, if the BBC had put the thing on to coincide with the screening of last year's Cup Final. Anyway. the opposition was Blue and White, which was also slightly mechanical– pallid .younger brother of Successful screenwriter picks up naïve innocent girl, poses as his brother, fails to deceive her, .quarrels with brother, decides . to live• own life. So-so, as a synopsis. Kenneth Jupp, however, succeeded in writing character and dialogue that bounced along, and I was trapped. The brother may have sounded like a caricature, but I have in fact met the precise individual, and he was as true as hell. Trap me, that's all I ask.

The brother, oddly enough, had overtones of that most successful of empty shells, [any Hancock----the -word empty refers to his screen character, of course. And how about Folly Hancock? Having gone over to ITV, for more freedom, or a change, or something, he is still the most absorbing of our comic characters, but his first • programme last week showed a diminution of scale. He seemed more like a very funny man instead of the funny man. Comedy, however, is murder, and I am on Hancoek's side and shall stick with him.

Also sN ith Benny Hill, whose new series has not so far been vintage. The two programmes, I have seen, one on a loony space station and the other in the bad old West, have been written efficiently enough, but without producing the onset of hysteria we expect. Hancock and Hill, in fact, are now in the dread position of being so good that we won't believe they're as good as ever.