Have you yet reached bursting point?
By EVE MacADAM
F• R. AGNELLUS ANDREW, 0.F.M., tells me that when discussion groups arc invited to debate television programmes at the Catholic TV Centre at St. Gabriel's, Hatch End, they "go for them, hammer-and-tongs"; a great deal of pent-up resentment seems to be released.
Anyone whose job it is to tackle this subject understands just how they feel. Their attitude is not prompted by a need to castigate but to relieve bottled-up disappointment. So much in television falls short of what is promised that a time comes when a viewer must erupt or burst.
Two series which have aroused this sense of frustration are ATV's "Probation Officer"-due to end next month after 39 instal ments-and "The Seven Deadly Sins", which ended last Sunday. First let me congratulate the originators, Julian Bond and Michael Redington, on the ideas for the series which could not be better suited to the probing eye of television.
FOR a start, no-one, not even J. B. Priestley, could have scripted 18 hour-long plays in a few months, as Julian Bond did, and made them all first class.
I found only one outstanding, the piece transmitted on February 1, about the Jewish tailor and his son. The rest of Bond's work shared the general criticism of television drama: ideas-shallow, invention-poor. Only one of the 33 plays so far produced in this series received praise in all quarters. This was by Tessa Diamond, the most consistently competent dramatist working in television. She wrote with compassion and tact of a doctor charged with importuning. Another by her. about a nannie who kidnapped a baby, also gripped because it had the feel of truth.
Peter Yeldham, an Australian and coming up fast as a television writer, sent in six good scripts; one of them. about a Hungarian refugee (and how well Sandor Eles played the part), was almost up to the Diamond standard.
NONE of the writers of "The Seven Deadly Sins" possessed the touch of Diamond and Yeldham, but I daresay this was not their fault so much as the timidity and vagueness surrounding the intention of this series. The five cameos failed, as did most of the "Probation Officer" plays, because the programmes, serious in character, were not treated with integrity. One concerned an im portant public service which ti ics to get the best out of human mituie, the other was a religious programme. that is, it was about the Law of God.
Neither programme made an honest attempt to do its job but, under the cloak of investigation and comment, was busy doing something else-and this was the good old business of giving the public what it wants-or rather what certain people think it wants: vicarious thrills, stories about sex, and other forms of titillation.
None of the writers of "The Seven Deadly Sins" presented religion in real and intelligible terms, but made do with vague, praiseworthy, benevolent, friendly exercises in humanistic values.
THERE arc several major 1 Catholic programmes on Good Friday, three of them produced by converts. Chloe Gibson, one of the outstanding television directors in this country, who became a Catholic last year, produces the BBC's "Stations of the Cross" in the afternoon.
She was reluctant to speak about herself in relation to this programme and pointed out that she is not having her name on the screen, nor is Fr. McQuaid who is conducting the meditations. "If it was a play, it would be different," she said. "This is a holy moment and not one for personal publicity."