By Mary Craig
Crisis Christmas is nearly upon us, and the usual good cheer threatens to be in short supply. We used to have one crisis at a time. now they come "not single spies but in battalions." However, in spite of power cuts and other impediments, the television companies will do their best to cheer us up.
Both BBC and ITV are presenting a balanced and attractive schedule which should cater for the majority of tastes (more details below). The main emphasis is on entertainment and relaxation, but Christ has not been neglected.
Putting first things first. Midnight Mass of the Nativity will he broadcast on BBC I from the Priory Church of Christ the King at Cockfosters. Dom Edmund Jones. O.S.B., is the celebrant and preacher.
On ITV, Christmas Morning Mass comes from the chapel of St. John Fisher High School, Harrogate. The special service has been devised by Mgr, Michael Buckley (who is also the celebrant) and is cast in a joyous setting to bring out the mood of a Christian family celebrating the birth of God's Son. On December 22, Lincoln Cathedral is the magnificent setting for a dramatised performance of Berlioz' The Childhood of Christ (BBC 2). In the Songs of Praise slot (BBC I) on Sunday there will be carols, including two new ones written by a 10-yearold and an 18-year-old.
Also on Sunday there will be Christmas music from Lincoln Cathedral. sung by the King's College Choir. Cambridge.
Perhaps the most interesting carol concert will he on Christmas Eve when the Prime Minister, Mr. Heath. conducts the annual Robert Mayer Concert for Children (BBC 1).
At 11.15 p.m. on Christmas Eve there is a second opportunity to see Kontakion (Greek for "A Song of Praise"), the prizewinning modern religious ballet portraying events in the life of Christ (All ITV except STV, WTV. CHA).
On Christmas Night the Prime Minister will make a special appearance on Thames TV to talk about his personal view of Jesus Christ. (What Was He Like? Thames TV only. 12.15 a.m.). The Pilgrimage of Everyman (BBC 2) on Boxing Day tells the story of the pilgrimage made by tens of thousands of ordinary people in the Middle Ages to the tomb of James the Apostle.
* * * To round off the old year. I asked a few friends who are well known to television audiences what they most like and dislike about the medium. Here are their answers:
Francis Matthews, of Paul Temple fame, accepts TV as a fact of life. He says "It is there, like frozen foods. tranquillisers and the need for motorways. Its patent drawback is the mindanaesthetising mediocrity of 80 per cent of its output, particularly as that depressing 80 per cent is highly popular.
Its value is its ability to break down communication harriers quickly and create a healthy realism about many sacred cows which (or who) used to hide behind a pontificating smokescreen.
I hate to take up moral postures about whether nudity should be tolerated, or whether plays should portray the indisputably animalistic side of man's nature. I doubt if you could shock God with nudity, since he didn't create us in sports jacket and flannels.
But pornography in all its forms, not only sexual. is abhorrent, pathetic, and ultimately yawn-inducing. However, self-righteous prudery and the raised eyebrow are as pathetic as, and perhaps even sadder than, the itch of permissiveness."
Leslie Crowther: "What I like best are beautifully-done costume pieces, first-rate British comedy, and sport. I don't like badly-done soapoperas, and I'm not madly keen on well-done ones either. That goes for quiz games too, except 'The Generation Game,' which is marvellous. Any, programme to do with ant iquesis a must for me.
"Overall, I don't really feel the right sort of balance has been struck yet. That's true of religious programs ies most of all. You've either got the Stars
on Sunday sort of approach, or an over-earnest duologue between an interviewer and an academic theologian. They may he talking to each other, but no one's talking to the poor viewer. There must be a better way."
Andrew Cruickshank likes documentaries wherever he finds them: "Science invented TV for the communication of knowledge about ourselves and the world we live in. so that we could have the information we need to make decisions about life. We've not begun to realise the diversity of opportunity, but we are improving, and television's potential in this direction is enormous."
Dana: "Like everything else in our lives, TV can be used for good or for bad. I don't think the TV planners ever deliberately convey what is bad: they try to put on what people want. So people should raise their voices and say what it is they want. The single spokesman (or woman) isn't a good idea. He or she gets labelled and becomes too predictable.
"TV can he a wonderful educational force. You can switch on the box and watch and listen to men of genius
and to completely new ideas. We can choose what we watch: the trouble is that too many people go beyond choice. They get to the point where the television set runs their lives."
Donald Swann believes that TV in Britain is currently at a peak: good comedy series, fine plays excellently performed, often by new playwrights, good music. "I enjoyed Bernstein's Mass recently, which is in three forms theatrical, musical and 'ideological.' This reminds me that current TV is full of spiritual ideas, many of them original, especially for any who arc able to watch in the small hours. Colour has at last given TV authenticity.
"I'd like much more time for politicians (including foreign ones), industrialists and union leaders to talk to us, not to Frost or the familiar interviewers. If we don't get to know our elected representatives and work out how to run the country with them, there's going to be no TV at all."
And that would be the unkindest cut of all. Mr. Heath, please note!