WHO are the writers of real influence'? First of all, of course, the handful of titans. But then? Far and away ahead of the ruck conic the people who write for children. These are the authors who have pliable minds to play with. What they say goes. And when they have said it, the mould sets.
On the television screen, in the nature of things. we seldom see the titans. Skipping, for this once, the awkward question "Are there any titans striding about now in our midst anyhow?" we might take a brief look at how the giants of the past fare on the little box.
Dickens occasionally appears. But always he is emas• culated into a mere quotationreplete storyteller. Most of the others are given the same treatment, only with fewer quotations. Shakespeare does. as one might expect, occasionally split the luminescent screen wide open.
Otherwise. only a genuinely magnificent shot at Dostoievski, the version of The Idiot on RBC-2 come time ago. conies to mind. It is time this was given a second showing on the poor people's channel.
But when we come to the writers for the infant imagination, the situation is very different. There are plenty of these in all shapes and sizes from the Batman team to the brains behind The Wooden tons. So regard it as average-togood entertainment. much on a level with the grown-ups' new plaything, Alan Bennett's "On the Margin" show, now getting into its stride on BBC-2.. Here too the jokes are very reasonable, though they spring from sharpish observation rather than the frenzied word-play of Batman. But equally there is a sort of amateurish lack of timing and polish which demote the show into something to take or leave alone.
And what about the English rival to Batman, Dr. Who? How does it measure up? Pretty well. Artistically, it is a good way ahead. The plot of its current serial "The Power of the Daleks" is on the whole well thought out. Each scene makes its point strongly and clearly and is then rounded off. The whole adds up. You know where you are.
Pa trick I to ughton. the ney, Dr. Who himself, gives a performance of great skill and considerable charm. If you want to whiz off to the Bahamas this winter, secure him as a tutor for your children. You would return to find them much nicer people.
On the other hand, you would be unable to leave without a fair storm of protest. Dr. Who is a nice enough old boy, but when it comes to "Wham" he just does not rate. And this is a serious fault in the programme. It fails to supply the violence the kiddiwinkies rightly love.
My blood-crazed nine-yearold daughter said sternly at the end of the second episode "It isn't at all adventurous." and she was right. I felt obliged to watch her carefully next day in case the unsatisfied urge to violence broke out. By and large, it didn't, but T worried.
It would seem then that what we want is a combination of Who and Batman. But this may not he so. I was discussing all this the other day with an American father when he suddenly confronted me
with a view of the telly which plunged me into a fair degree of doubt and torment.
It might be called the Paper on the Wall theory. Television, my American said cheerfully, is just something that's there. You see it, but you don't take too much notice of it. You don't expect it to be something that holds your full attention all the time. You want it to he familiar, a little repetitive even so that you know where you are without having to expend too much effort. You want it in short to be like the wallpaper.
His children. he said proudly. could watch Man-Beast, a pleasure we British have yet to experience. and write to their dear old grandmother at the sametime. The hair rose up on my scalp as if I was at that moment glued to Man-Beast myself.
Then a worse thought struck. me: We have already begun to apply the Paper on the Wall theory over here. And we are doing it where you would least expect: in possibly the most earnest of all departments that make up dear Auntie B.B.C.—in the Music Programme.
After all. for hour on hour nowadays the B.B.C. pumps out the greatest music of the ages with the plain intent of simply supplying something to listen to for those whose taste rejects pop. It could be a sign.