THE pot-boilers are back. At -a about this time of year when the evenings draw in and the leaves fall, the unsentimental kings of the telly snatch out Of the hat those programmes which they hope will win our loyalty during the long winter nights. Give or take a commercial or two its the same bag as last winter.
Three such old series, freshly greased, slipped off the fun factory assembly line last week. Dr. Kildare— slicker, more professional, duller. Sunday Night at the London Palladium surely identical in format and presentation as it was when first born seven or eight years ago. And Armchair Theatre—warm comedy in the first few minutes collapsing into ineptitude.
Dr. Kildare is of course an American series, and like all American series has to start with two minutes of its best material.
This is because the American
system demands a commercial break two minutes after the start of the programme, as well as a couple in the middle.
Such is the competition in American television with a multiplicity of channels that the advertisers insist on the strongest possible start to the programme before this early commercial break to hold the audience. This often explains the long "introduction" to many American series before the opening credits or even the titles are shown, Kildare had a crisp contribution to this early spot last week wiih a brilliant montage. Unfortunately it succeeded so well that the entire plot was either revealed or made so obvious as to be entirely predictable. The necessity to watch the inevitable story churning its way to banality was thus removed.
It is sometimes said that the fierceness of competition in the American system produces better television. But if this is true the example of their soap operas certainly do not prove it.
They are slicker, faster, more expertly done than ours. But the stories and the entertainment value are if anything weaker.
The Palladium must he the prime example of the British television system of squeezing the last possible drop out of a good thing.
For years it has been the standby of ITV's Sunday night audience-catchers. But so anxious are its producers to keep the golden goose happy that they might just as well start repeating the early editions of the show.
Many of the stars are the same now as then and the jokes are not noticeably different. The routine begins as always with a dance number followed by the compere's joke spot. followed by a speciality act and the No, 2 on the bill then winds up the first part.
The second part is given over to old Beat-the-Clock and how the inveniive floor manager Mr, Jim Smilh goes on thinking up variations on those humiliating inane games is certainly a mystery to me aud I suspect to hint as well.
After the second commercial comes another act followed by the star, It's really the old vaudeville pattern of before the war.
Other successful programme /series like Ward 10, Dixon of Dock Green and others make some effort to change their pattern as they go along. The Palladium makes none.
But the Palladium audience is as loyal as ever. II hope the moral to that is not as gloomy as it seems.
Much of the coming winter's television entertainment is already lying in silver-clouded cans awaiting its hour on the tape machines, On 'Tv only the Palladium among the big audience shows goes out 'live' and I suspect there are not many more on the B13C.
So it is all the more encouraging to have two imaginative sixes of live television in the next few days. The first is in Grandstand this Saturday (October 3rd). Here three remote radio television outside broadcast cameras will be airborne to watch Army and R.A.F. parachutists drop from 12,000 feet.
This ought to add greatly to any viewer's enjoyment of this scene, not just because it is showing the scene from the airplane as well as front the ground, but because the viewer will know that it is actually taking place at the veey moment he is watching it.
This very fact adds a cubit to the quality of the entertainment right front the start, The other item is on Monday (October 5) when Richard Dimbleby will introduce via Telstar an edition of Panorama from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Canada on the occasion of the Queen's official visit there next week.
I warmly recommend The Travels of Jamie McPhee(ers tRBC-TV Saturdays) as a western suitable for even young children. It is .a relief to find a western on television that relies on an exciting story line and warm characters rather than squalid exhibitions of needless violence and death.
Presumably, being a series, it will have its off-days but after seeing some half-a-dozen the prospects look bright.