From the New Zealand TV Weekly. May 20, 1968
After three months filled with more downs than ups, drastic action is being taken to give Town and Around its old zest and prestige. The NZBC is shifting one of its most highly-regarded producers, Maurice Smyth, to Auckland to take over the evening magazine programme. Odds are the move will provoke howls of protest from Wellington viewers as Maurice seems to have made Town and Around the top favourite on capital surveys . . . . The scriptwriter for one of the BBC's hottest series, The Trouble-shooters (still known here as Mogul), John Lucarotti, is due here shortly. His world trip will involve research into future episodes so it could be that Mogul will strike oil in New Zealand in the near future even if other companies seem to have had to satisfy themselves with natural gas . . . . Insects and circumstances are no respecters of persons and Perry Mason has been less successful in fighting them than he has been in his court-room battles. A Fiji report says that a wave of influenza has laid low nearly all the 180 people on the Fijian island of Naitauba, owned by Television's Raymond Burr, better known as Perry Mason. He radioed for help and medical supplies were air-dropped to him. Earlier on, a Hamilton top-dressing firm got the contract to spray the island in an effort to get rid of the swarms of mosquitoes . . . . David Scott, now with the Hamilton newsroom, is planning on returning with his family to England shortly . . . . Yet another TV name has got into the amateur theatrical business locally. Listed as producer for the North Shore Operatic Society's Oklahoma, is TV news reader, Alan de Malmanche . . . . Kevan Moore busy on plans for this year's C'mon! may find his plans crossed somewhat by the departure of local Pop artists to Vietnam. A recent visit of a Saigon booking agent led to the signing up of Sandy Edmonds, Allison Durbin, The Dallas Four, The Soundells, go-go dancers and others for troop entertainment tours, and if all goes well, this could be just the start of a flow of such entertainers.
Mr J. B. MacFarlane has moved over from his post as number two to Mr T. F. Shankland, controller of Television, to become manager of WNTVI in succession to Mr Ken Donaldson, now district manager in Dunedin. He headed off strong competition from editor of the news service, Mr R. E. Coury, for the job. It is expected that Mr Ash Lewis, operations supervisor at WNTVl, will take Mr MacFarlane's place at Head Office . . . . Opposition Leader, Mr Norman Kirk, has renewed his pledge that under Labour the NZBC will operate the second Television channel. It will be entirely commercial. There would be one buying authority for overseas programmes, to avoid competitive bidding. (Who would decide, which channel should have which programme?) The channels would be competitive, including news programmes. These ideas coincide to a degree with official NZBC thinking. Where Mr Kirk diverged was in his statement that
the corporation tends to censor itself in anticipation of Government displeasure. Let's hope when Labour becomes the Government, the corporation will always feel confident it will not incur Mr Kirk's displeasure . . . An official of the NZBC is quoted as saying that 30 percent of NZBC time is taken up with locally-made programmes. This presumably includes news programmes. But several recent samples of local programmes have added little to the reputation of those who made them. A half-hour interview with Sir Francis Chichester irritated many viewers because of the very bad interviewing technique employed by James McNeish who had a knack of chopping Chichester off every time it seemed as if Chichester was about to say something of interest. Then a programme titled To Live in the City, tackled, with the best of intentions, the problems of young Maoris coming from rural areas to cities. Its failure lay in a commentary that lacked depth or
bite. Then there was John Miles' production about young musicians, a very sad piece with Bruce Mason asking questions that might have been relevant in his youth 20 years ago, but seemed out of place in the late 60's . . . . As predicted in this column earlier this year when we said that Eddie Harris was being groomed for the Town and Around producer's chair, the director of Television, Mr Noel Palmer, has announced the change, which follow's Maurice Smyth's move to Auckland to take over the programme there. lt is clear that Head Office feels that Maurice is the man to make Auckland's Town and Around the news back-up programme Head Office wants it to be. Eddie will get a chance to put new life into WNTV1's Town and Around which has been a bit tired lately . . . . Mr R. Cornell, NZBC's audience research officer, notes that The Forsyte Saga scored consistently well in the ratings on the four channels. It was most popular with
adult females, but its total audience popularity was very high. This surprised the NZBC who had felt it would not have had much appeal to young people, especially teenagers.
Recent events in Christchurch underline a fact that will be generally realised by the more perceptive licence-fee-paying viewers and listeners-after all these years the NZBC still has not even reached first base as far as public relations are concerned. For example: By far the most popular local production (and, let's face it, there aren't many) is CHTV3's Town and Around. Thus any changes in the Town and Around team are news. There were rumours a plenty that producer Des Monaghan was likely to join a reconstituted Compass team, but confirmation had to be literally screwed out of officialdom. Even then it was left to front man, Bernard Smyth, to inform viewers that Monaghan had produced his last Town and Around. offering at the conclusion of the news-magazine programme on April 25. There was no on-screen information about where he was going or what he was going to do (although most people had probably read about it in the newspapers). Nor was there any information about Monaghan's successor. The public found out about that in Christchurch's evening paper the following day when it was bluntly stated that former Auckland Town and Around producer, Bute Hewes, would be filling the breach about the end of the month. No mention mind you, about who would fill in between Monaghan's departure and Hewe's arrival. Much the same sort of veil of secrecy surrounded the transfer of David Pumphrey, one of the few surviving 'heavy-weights' in CHTV3's sadly depleted producing team, from his post as producer of the popular afternoon On Camera programme to Wellington to work on the other largely unheralded public affairs programme, Gallery. Once again it was left to the newspapers to tell the public that Pumphrey's successor would be Canterbury University science graduate and former presentation officer at Channel 3, Peter Lambert. In the newspaper world names are news, but apparently the NZBC with its own comprehensive news service and its own 'names', does not think so. But, apart from the local angle, the viewing public might well be excused for wondering why the corporation was so tardy about giving away any real information about the future of its only worthwhile public affairs programme, Compass, and its newly-born ancillary, Gallery,
Well there it was . . . a line which should be familiar . to the many viewers who followed the local Have a Shot on Television programme a couple of years ago. On this occasion, 'it' was not an item by a hopeful contestant, but an item on The Late Show, and the speaker was, of course, former Have a Shot host, John Blumsky. John was standing in for the regular Late Show host, Peter Sinclair, who was in Australia, and a number of local viewers had been looking forward to John's reappearance in new surroundings. For most, it was rather disappointing. Mr Blumsky seemed not entirely at home in his new surroundings and appeared to be following a forced style, rather than his own, more relaxed and genial manner. One point which stood out in his favour, though, was his ability as an interviewer. He quickly put his guests at ease with direct questions (which, incidentally, he left for his guests to answer) and it is a pity that the interviews, particularly that with Sir Leslie Munro, could not have been allowed to develop further . . . . Former DNTV2 personality, David Beatson, has not been idle while waiting for the long-awaited 1968 series of Compass to begin. A number of news interviews with visiting dignitaries have impressed, but perhaps most outstanding was the documentary entitled Inside, which he wrote and narrated. Inside described conditions at the Dunedin Women's Prison, and was screened on all channels, not only as part of On Camera, but also as a repeat during evening viewing.