First published in New Zealand TV Weekly December 26, 1967.
Pity that the John A. Lee biographical piece, An Angel Slightly Battered, looked as battered as its subject. No doubt about Mr Lee’s interesting past, nor his extrovert enthusiasm for playing out the whole sentimental journey in front of the camera. But why was it so fragmentary? And why was the sound and photography so hairy? This could have been a fascinating survey of a person and a political party instead of a rather scrappily-done vignette which left a lot of questions Unanswered and opportunities untaken ..... Kevan Moore’s Late Show still seems undecided on its proper course. Not unexpectedly, it is a polished production technically, but it seems to lack proper balance . . . and is the late slot on Saturdays really its proper position? While Kevan is still tinkering around with it, could he toss the applause machine out the window? Nothing more irritating than synthetic applause, especially when it is only used as a break between items and not when it could be justified during an act ..... Test teams have no need to look to their laurels because of the AKTV2 team’s showing on the cricket field. Boys up to bat include Keith Bracey, Barry Crump (a good keen man) and Rhys Jones, with Brian Ashbridge as the skipper. ...... Interesting to see that the new overseas trend in TV commercials, in which the sell is soft and the product refuses to take itself seriously, is starting to sneak in here. For example, take a look at Gillette fooling gently with razor blades or BOAC sending up swinging London. What sort of kinky programme thinking lumbered us with The Monroes‘ as our prime Saturday night treat? ..... About time the NZBC provided more material on racing, the sport with the biggest following. Must be miles of material on stud breeding and the administration of racing just waiting to be filmed ..... Won’t be long before Hamilton is cutting in with its own news services.
It was hardly a surprise when the corporation announced that it had appointed the Wellington district manager, Mr J. L. Hartstonge, to the newly created post of deputy-controller of news and public affairs. Mr Hartstonge will be groomed to succeed former BBC man, Mr E. Parkinson, as controller of news when Mr Parkinson ends his 3-year term next year. Mr Hartstonge has wide experience in administration. He had to head off some strong competition from men like Mr K. Hay (district manager in Christ- church), Mr G. W. Harte (news train- ing officer), Mr R. Coury (Editor of the News Service), and Mr G. L. Martin (chief reporter of the “New Zealand Herald”). There was obviously some disappointment that the corporation was unable to attract Mr Ian Cross of Column Comment fame into the job. Although Mr Hartstonge does not appear to have had much editorial experience, the qualities of vigour and enterprise may be what the corporation was looking for in an effort to revive the news and current affairs programmes. Newsmen may be disappointed that a person conversant with the problems of newsgathering did not get the job but perhaps Mr Hartstonge will have the compensating advantage of knowing how to squeeze additional funds out of the corporation to strengthen the news and public affairs programmes..... The NZBC, with its well-known impartially, invited the five candidates in the Palmerston North by-election to appear on a television question-and-answer session. This was an incredibly bad programme; the questions were poor, the chairmanship feeble, and the answers confusing (which might have been expected). Such a witless programme invites retribution; and the corporation by giving equal time to the candidates of the minor or fringe parties can no longer duck the issue of giving the Communist Party candidates time on television and radio in election campaigns-unless of course it comes out into the open and admits it discriminates against Communists.... The decision to screen Peyton Place in the afternoon has brought angry reaction from the afficionados. Certainly evening viewing without all those odd people from the Place to remind us what ‘real’ living is like will be very different. After half an hour wallowing in the inanities of Peyton Place I always felt New Zealand was not so bad after all. To the programme planners, however: for this relief, much thanks.
If Christchurch can be taken as an example, there is some character in NZBC’s TV programming department who is making a concerted effort to drive people away from their screens on Saturday nights. Recent offering included the opening round of The Monroes (dad and mum drowned, Sioux Indian Jim considerably messed up by cattlemen), Dr Finlay’s Case-book (lighthouse - keeper blood poisoned, Finlay well and truly seaick), Point of View (spotlight on smoking and lung cancer), and The Untouchables (racketeer’s daughter gunned down). Followed by the late news and weather. Doubt if many waited up for The Late Show. Maybe the programmer is SICK..... Compass, CHTV3’ s Town and Around and its newsroom scored heavily with devaluation coverage. It was all good stuff and viewers should really have a pretty good idea of what it’s all about. . . . . Launched with great hopes, the Canterbury Theatre Trust was packing. up before November’s end. Christchurch is one of the best centres for live theatre, but houses have not been good enough to keep the trust in business. Nobody’s said as much, but it could be that TV and the recent resurgence of interest in cinema has knocked home- spun theatricals. Trust activities have had a good deal of local TV cover- age, but the fact remains imported live shows seem to be the only ones that boost the box office. Among the victims is Pat Smyth, brother of Town & Around front man, Bernard, and member of the cast of Rosaline Goldring’s and Chris Thomson’s Christchurch contribution to Theatre Workshop, Game for Five Players. Pat knows what TV is about - and not only as an actor - so, if the NZBC has its wits about it, he should not be job-hunting for long..... Many Christchurch viewers sincerely hoping that the NZBC has used up its job lot of Russian and Greek tragedy. Enough’s as good as a feast, but that lot left many positively bloated. Taking things by and large, Rolf Harris now about the only really bright interlude on at a reasonable hour. Even the kids are missing Dino, now he’s been switched beyond a lot of bedtimes..... More than one cynic wondering what will replace brief (and more often than not, unrelated) regular Vietnam war film footage, if and when the adversaries decide to call it a day: The news won’t be the same without these cameos ..... Rugby fans wondering why somebody did not sort out the French section of the All Black tour thereby ensuring Sunday continuity. This tour has been essential viewing even for folks who would hate to be labelled Rugby fanatics.
Top marks for a skilful interview go to Ian Ralston, of the Town and Around team, who recently spoke to the Russian actor, Innokenty Smoktunovsky. Mr Smoktunovsky’s English was limited to the extent that an interpreter, Dr Michael Irwin, of Otago University, was required for all but the briefest sentences. Interviews of this kind very often tend to become drawn-out and dull, but not so in this case, where the actor’s personality lost nothing in the translation. Mr Smoktunovsky was in Dunedin for the screening of the film, Hamlet, in which he starred in 1963, and which was shown here as part of a festival of Russian films. Incidentally, he recently played the part of Prince Mishkyn in The Idiot a BBC adaptation of which was shown in New Zealand recently.... Tui Uru and Noel Robson were the only two off-duty members of the announcing staff who were able to sit back and relax after Christmas dinner this year. For the others, it was on with the job of keeping holiday-makers entertained. It will be interesting to see if the recent change of time for Peyton Place will cause as big a stir in Dunedin as it seems to be doing in Christchurch. Reason for the change? NZBC’S Head Office has the following to say:
Letters from viewers and research figures indicate the need for a change after three years. Research shows Peyton Place has a strong female following and has been moved accordingly to afternoons, with frequency increased to twice a week. Nothing to do with the above announcement, but Mrs Pat McGregor, who is head of the Audience Research department for Otago and Southland is off to Wellington soon for a course. She also hopes to compare notes with representatives from the other three channels.