TV Times 30th July 1967

My View… Keep drama out of the TV rut

Producer and scriptwriter Philip Mackie enthuses about the continuation of the television play. Looking through schedules for this period, there are plays in abundance. There are one-offs and more so, there are those under what Mackie calls ‘omnibus titles‘. He names Love Story but there is also Armchair Theatre, Play of the Week and The Wednesday Play. Mackie says he wants a place for these sort of programmes ‘two or three or four times a week‘ and I think, how bloody marvellous! I would settle for one today!

The only similar such series we have now is Inside No. 9. Undoubtedly, a large part of the appeal of Inside No. 9 is the twists and fans’ appreciation of the writers’ style. But for me, I also enjoy having stories that stand alone, where I don’t have to remember every plot point from last week and we get a constantly changing, yet still brilliant cast.

Mackie doesn’t want television schedules to be identical, week in, week out. He argues lots of television is predictable as ‘too much of television is stuck in a comfortable rut of sameness and tameness and mediocrity‘. I suppose with a series, that is usually true. Detective series will all follow a similar course each episode, soaps cycle through similar plotlines every few years and sitcoms tend to function in the same way every episode. I do think this has changed a little compared to 1967 (particularly the point on mediocrity) but nonetheless, Mackie’s main point still stands; plays are allowed to be far more unpredictable.

I am wholly behind this urging for programmes ‘which are not written according to formula, nor produced according to routine‘ and it is still a relevant argument today. One of Mackie’s final points really deserves expansion; ‘I know there’s a National Theatre in the Waterloo Road in London, and I know it does marvellous work. But Britain’s real national theatre is on television‘. This being the northern edition of TV Times only cements this. I am glad there is a National Theatre in London but I don’t live in London. Television makes theatre much more accessible. 

PlayBill – Summer Playhouse ‘The Big Killing’

Philip Mackie has written this week’s Summer Playhouse. ‘The Big Killing’ has an interesting-sounding plot of a man betting his neighbour he can get away with killing the neighbour’s wife. Barry Foster stars and clearly relished playing against type as ‘this is what I call posh, proper acting‘. He faced up to the challenges that come with this. ‘It looks easy until you try juggling with all those gin and tonics that have to be poured with precision timing while you stay suave and charming‘.

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The play was written a few years earlier. In 1962, Ian McKellen had a role in a stage production, though he was rather scathing about it, ‘Another miserably-written “comedy-thriller”, which made the cast laugh more than the audience and which thrilled no one‘.

ERIC the conceited computer

Absolutely no idea.

Susan Maugham – Dear Young Men…

For a change, Susan’s dishing out fashion tips to blokes this week. She is a bit dictatorial about it though. It’s quite fine for young men to have long hair now but they are not allowed to comb it in public as women have always been told they aren’t allowed to. If they are going to wear these new army-style jackets, they should be wearing them buttoned up so they look smarter.

The one insistence of Susan’s that is really necessary is her final one, ‘There are lots of men’s deodorants on the market, and if it is not cissy to wear your hair long, then it certainly is not cissy to smell nice‘.

Tommy Simpson

A short note about the death of cyclist Tommy Simpson shortly before the last issue was printed. Tom Simpson died during the Tour de France, with an official death given as ‘heart failure caused by exhaustion’. Simpson had been suffering from diarrhoea and had diuretic amphetamines and alcohol in his system when he died. Footage of his death was broadcast live on French television. A memorial stone now exists at the point where he fell.

There is a 2005 BBC documentary about Tom Simpson.

Current affairs

Miss Audrey Conway of Ainsdale, Lancashire, wants ‘more entertainment, less education‘. She also wants ‘less sport‘ though she neglects to provide any reasons for either of these requests. The letter she refers to was in the July 8th issue, not 6th as printed. A Mrs S.E. Bushnell of King’s Park Road, Bournemouth, stated she and her husband did not want to be more informed on current affairs because ‘Our already jangled nerves do not deserve to be tensed even more by contentious arguments on political and foreign issues which we have already read and discussed fully in working hours‘. I don’t think I have ever known anyone who could say they have fully read and discussed political and foreign issues in their working hours. Mr and Mrs Bushnell are clearly either both journalists or civil servants.

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Max Caulfield Interview: Dame Gladys

Dame Gladys is interviewed, as she is appearing in Callan this week, though sadly this episode is now missing. Though the name is familiar, I have to say I don’t know Dame Gladys’s work at all. However, this interview paints her as a remarkable woman.

She is described as ‘a national monument‘, a nice change from the overused ‘national treasure’ we have today. Caulfield was expecting someone rather grand and was instead ‘greeted by a slim, tomboyish figure‘. She is going ‘up the Thames‘ after the interview. A few years previously, Dame Gladys had driven herself 3,500 miles from New York to Hollywood. ‘“Alone?”‘ asked Caulfield. ‘“Naturally”‘ came the reply.

I find it rather sad that Dame Gladys felt she was limited by the standards of her lifetime. ‘“If I had to live my life over again, I would want to be a man. Why? Because they have much the best of it. And a woman is really so dependent on a man – even someone like me.

A man can go wherever he likes, do whatever he likes. There are so many things I should like to have done but couldn’t, as a woman.”

Caulfield compounds this, writing that ‘A great man of action was clearly lost to the world when Dame Gladys was born a woman‘.

District Bank

The advert here has two messages: save and spend. It has very neatly summed up what a bank is for. The main one is the ‘spend’ part as it emphasises the convenience of a cheque book.

At a time when many, if not most, people were paid in cash in physical pay packets, some still didn’t see the need for a bank account. Additionally, the first cash machine had only been unveiled the previous month, so even if you had a bank account, you had to actually walk into a bank to withdraw any funds in there. Cheque books meant you could chuck your money around without having to carry the wads around with you.It would be another thirty years before the first debit card was introduced. Nowadays, a lot of businesses no longer accept cheques as they are not the most secure payment method and so lots of people don’t bother to have a cheque book anymore.

Within a few years, the District Bank would become part of National Westminster Bank Limited, better known today as NatWest.

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