Previously published in New Zealand TV Weekly, December 16 1968
Does quality count? Great local talking point is just how much impact the superb Talking to a Stranger(UK) series had. Without doubt this was one of the best-tailored jobs for TV we have seen in ages and it was catnip for the connoisseurs—but did it hit the spot with most of the viewing public? Possibly not, because a lot of viewers came in halfway through and could not figure out the basic angle that it was a day (and what a horrible day!) in the life of a family seen through the eyes of the four members of that family. Must be infuriating for any TV producer to realise that it is impossible to take anything for granted with the viewing audience... Why does head office have to pinch all the plums? I gather that the New Year show is to be made in Wellington, but shouldn’t it be a revolving business? Each channel should be given its head to cook up a New Year’s Eve goodie—and if it goofs, let the blame fall where it may... Can't help thinking that TV could have made a lot more of the fact that the film of the Wahine disaster won an international news film award. Town and Around producer Maurice Smyth was in a similar job in Wellington at that time. He cancelled his normal show and got cracking on a special edition—shown all too late on most channels, because a link takes time to arrange, or did at that time. Indeed, it is rather interesting to speculate what would happen if another Wahine disaster was to take place. The Golden Disc Awards can be linked, but could this be effected for a major local news story? Anyway, I feel that there should have been a special feature giving the background to the Wahine award and getting Maurice, brogue and all, to tell the story.
Even some weeks after the fuss, the Compass programme on the Broadcasting Authority Bill was still causing repercussions. One report had It that the fuss might have put Compass itself—the prestige public affairs series—in jeopardy. There was also speculation that front man, Ian Cross, might be ending his association with the programme when the series finishes for this year. He could not be reached for comment, as he went off to Australia with the Compass men... Christopher Bourn is in charge of a show for New Year’s Eve, What a Way to Go, and is busy lining up some of the New Zealanders who have made their name on TV this year, as well as some old favourites. The 40-minute show should be a lively, swinging affair. Yolande Gibson, Brendan Dugan and Allison Durbin are expected to be featured... Undoubtedly one of the best discussion programmes came on Gallery, with a panel discussing 'What’s Wrong With the NZBC?' It reached a high standard not only because the three on the panel were deeply concerned with the state of the corporation and its programmes, but have been intimately involved in one way or another. Mr M. H. Hoicroft, former Editor of the Listener, scored heavily with his moderate, reasonable approach. Now that the NZBC has discovered Mr Holcroft as a potential Television star, it is to be hoped they can invite him more frequently to appear... The NZBC rightly joined in the praise of the cameramen who, with their 51 film of the Wahine disaster, won the World News Film Award for best coverage of a dramatic event. The cameramen were Barry Lissette, Joe Wright, Roger Johnston, Andrew Roelants, Grant Chirnside, and Gary Cunningham. It should also be mentioned that producer Maurice Smyth, then with Wellington's Town and Around, now with Auckland's, was out on the job dropping his usual Town and Around stint to bring in a special report on the Wahine... Somebody in the sports section of the NZBC must be a real cycling enthusiast or else cycling is thought to be the New Zealand public’s first love. It seems to be prominent on every second Sportsview or Sports Magazine. Time to give the old pedals a rest, chaps?
After the Christchurch opening round in Landscape — a look at Tuakau — the second round was, appropriately, as fresh as a breath of mountain air, and South Island mountain air, at that. Directed by former CHTV3 Town and Around man, David Pumphrey, this was a good glimpse of two Christchurch mountaineers, Lynn Crawford and Peter Farrell, in their element in the Mount Cook region. The photography was first-class, the dialogue, unlike that in Tuakau’s day, was natural and, in toto, the whole production looked marketable overseas. Landscape’s purpose is apparently to knock the rough edges off some of the NZBC's TV producers. If subsequent productions reach Pumphrey’s standard, the current crop should be classified as pretty smooth... Some local viewers will not find it difficult to agree with one of the local newspaper’s TV critic’s correspondents who wrote recently that she felt Town and Around here would be greatly improved if only some of the reporters on the programme could be discouraged from fancying themselves as comedians. Some of these little cameos provide a neatly packaged spot of brightness, but there are occasions when the male members of the team indulge in antics a bit embarrassingly on the dainty side, such as a recent woodlands frolic that amounted to nothing more than a spot of nauseating nothingness... As far as Channel 3 is concerned, the NZBC-TV programmers are continuing to be outstandingly successful in providing a fair-sized helping of gloom and sorrow on Sunday evenings. A recent night’s fare included an excellent documentary dealing with the problems of deafness from birth as they affected child, parent and teacher, an episode of Eugenic Grandet and John Betjeman reading the poems he likes. One of the three would have been fair enough, but all three was surely a bit more than the most cultured and intelligent palate could stomach. If it were not for Rolf Harris, there would probably be little point in switching on at all in many homes. Taken individually, all these offerings were worthwhile, but collectively and on a Sunday night when most viewers face the prospect of noses to the grindstone for another five successive days, this sort of thing is drab in the extreme. After all, Sunday night is one night in the week when NZBC TV has its most captive audience. Under the circumstances, it surely has an obligation to give of its best and that does not mean an extra large dose of culture and education, often not very well presented, at the expense of good, wholesome, relaxing entertainment. Could it be that in this particular instance, the corporation is frightened to incur the displeasure of a very small minority. Hardly. If the most recent affair over Compass and the Broadcasting Bill is any indication, the corporation — or at least those who say
To be or not to be — is just plain frightened.
Christmas... just what does it mean to most of us these days? For Dad it’s the time of 'that empty feeling' in the bank balance; for Mum it’s aching feet and long hours over a hot stove; and for the young fry it’s a seemingly endless wait for a batch of new toys and a round of rich foods, followed by an upset tummy. One is inclined to forget the reason behind it all in the preceding rush and the slow recovery. Not this year, though, if DNTV2’s Well I Never cast can help it. Screening from all channels next Friday is a special Christmas programme in the series and in it producer Rod Cornelius and his team have undertaken to remind viewers of some of the more important aspects to the Festive Season. The stories behind the Christmas tree and Father Christmas will be explained (without, we hope, exposing too much of that bitter truth), and the major part of the programme will feature an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel, A Christmas Carol. Rod Cornelius explained that this particular novel was chosen because in addition to its assured popularity with young and old, it does more to explain the meaning of 'Christmas Spirit' than any other story of its kind. This final episode of Well I Never has involved a very large number of personnel, both in the cast and backstage, preparing scenery and adapting the novel to a suitable length play and will be well worth watching— if you can take time off from all that buying and baking, that is . . 'Gone fishin' is generally accepted as an off-hand term to explain someone’s absence or departure. At DNTV2, however, the term is 'Gone North', and there’s nothing off-hand about it! Latest member of the on-screen staff to be claimed by the North Island is Dudley Scantlebury. Dudley has taken a post in his home-town, Hamilton, where he will, no doubt, be working with another former Dunedin man, Ray Schofield. Dudley made his Television debut here earlier this year and apparently took to the medium like the proverbial duck to water. We’re sorry to see him leave so soon, but wish him every success in his new position.