By EVE itleADAM
WHAT is religious TV and Radio trying to do? Does it know? Does anyone? Or is there, as there appears to be, a Mad Hatter's Tea party in progress whenever policy and programmes are cooked up?
What induced Barry Westwood of "The Sunday Break" to invite uninformed and unimpressive teenagers to propound views on prison life, and whether or not, in the opinion of Anne, Barry, Sheila, Elizabeth and Peter, the British penal system should be reformed?
DOES ABC seriously expect to attract adult audiences with this kind of programme? By all means set up youthful oracles on trad and jazz, but spare the overtwenties the owlish delivery and dotty saws of the young man who started every sentence with "I fink".
Prison reform is a heavyweight topic unsuited to a lightweight programme like "The Sunday Break". As it is, both Independent Television and the BBC have given of their best to it last summer: the BBC with "Crime in Britain" interviewed 500 prisoners and went into every big jail, and ITV with "Prison Officer" was watched by 13 million viewers.
I suppose Fr. Augustine Harris had no alternative but to appear on this piece as he is the Senior Catholic priest in the prison service. At least he talked sense. But the programme, I think, did more harm than good. Apart from the inanities of teenagers, there was the questionable screening, and naming, of a young, self-confident convicted thief who admitted, smiling. that he was unrepentant and would steal again if only he could be sure he wouldn't be caught.
This programme ended up, as silly Programmes often do, by glamorising the very evil it sought to condemn.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND week on religious TV was celebrated also on ATV's "About Religion" with Norman Fisher trying and failing to induce a wrangle between Lord Longford and Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper. "You're right, Hugh", Lord Longford kept saying, and "I agree" echoed the Professor.
The argument that wasn't arrived under the title of "Can you be a Christian in Politics?" and fizzled out in the first minute when both men said "yes", and Lord Longford added that it helps to have three virtues, kindness, honesty and humility.
Since there were 24 minutes to fill, Norman Fisher, in the chair, spent them trying to bang heads (metaphorically) together.
I was curious to see if the three Susie hobby horses would be pill out to grass.
These are stock questions put to Catholics in (he House of Lords or Commons: Are Catholic politicians in contact — presumably by phone — with the Holy Father taking his orders on divorce bills, birth control debates and finance for denominational schools?
Sure enough, out they trotted.
In "This Week" in June 1960 Lord Longford disposed of them, and a year later when Norman Fisher was again in the chair, three Catholic M.P.'s gave their answers in "The Church in Parliament". Look out for the horses next summer.
NOW and again a religious programme throws up a sport, a blue rose, a personality who bewitches the viewer.
Last Sunday this happened when Fr. Michael Hollings, M.C., appeared. He arrived. incongrously, in TV's first coverage of High Mass at a convent, that of The Daughters of the Cross, Carshaiton, Surrey, sent out by ATV on Sunday morning.
Rows and rows of little girls, and big girls, 250 of them, as alike as peas in a pod. waited expectantly for a sermon on vocation. They got it, but not the one they expected.
Fr. Hollings started by telling a funny story about the Holy Spirit: the girls probably couldn't believe their ears. But the good-humoured bantering tone persisted. "You think I'M a square. don't you? You think, Oh dear, he's going to tell us we ought to be nuns . . . looking at you, I should say 99 per cent of you ought NOT to be nuns."
Fr. Hebb, who gave the commentary, said Fr. Hollings was a man who had found his vocation
in the crucible of war (as Fr. Rebh himself did), was formerly a major in the Guards, saw service in Africa and Monte Cassino, and won the M.C.
Let's hope the gifts of this born TV personality, of speaking modern idiom naturally, of commonsense, and charm, will be used,
FR. JOHN BEER'S commentary was, as always, highly individual. The transmission could only be faulted by the omission of closc-ups of the choir, and not one glimpse of the Sister Superior, Sister Mary Winifred, who, at the aid described the distinctive dresses of postulant, novice, and professed religious.