TIME THEY WOKE UP
By Eve McAdam IT gives no pleasure to belabour -111religious television week after week. But who is going to contradict the statement that a twist of the knob on the religious slot opens on a view of the second-rate ? Now and again, it's true, someone swims up from the still, dark depths of TV's ocean bed and makes a little splash. But it doesn't happen often. Most of the time the two leading TV religious programmes, the BBC's " Meeting Point" and ATV's "About Religipn ", are about as stimulating as a schoolboy's essay.
And the reason for this is laziness.
Last Sunday ATV's "About Religion" once again employed the hackneyed device of lantern-slide technique to tell the story of the Resurrection: this time the illustrations were of pictures. Bible extracts and songs. This method is now a cliche, it has lost its impact, and like all cliches should not be employed. No matter how well chosen the pictures, how apt or well read the Bible extracts. or how pleasing the songs, the style bored by it.
is too familiar. Audiences are All creaked
OVER Easter this creaking device was employed by every company who turned out a religious programme: indeed the BBC used it twice. On Good Friday Handel's "The Passion of Christ" was "illustrated " with Rembrandt's pictures, and on Easter Sunday Meeting Point's" "Give us Peace" was illustrated with the pictures of the Swiss contemporary painter, Willy Fries. Associated Rediffusion used a miscellany of famous paintings for "The Easter Story ". In "The Image of Majesty ATV used 183 photographs to accompany John Whiting's script. I do not wish to imply that these programmes were poor ones. Far from it, "The Image of Majeety" was considered by many to he one of the finest Catholic programmes ever mounted by ATV. Fr. Bebh tells me he is going to enter it for the 1963 Monte Carlo Award, and thinks it is a great pity that this programme was not seen by all viewers. It was sent out by only three, instead of eleven networks.
So worn out
WHAT I do want to hammer home is that TV squanders money and talent putting out programmes in worn-out containers. Such programmes lack freshness. surprise, and the illustrated text is deadly. Audiences are simply not prepared to watch the stow march another. Couldn't one still picture after the Couldn't Whiting have been asked to do his proper job--that is, to write a play about the Passion? Is one asking too much? Yes, if producers feel that the present standards of religious television are good enough. The fact is TV audiences are away ahead of TV producers. The human capacity for religion is infinite: people cannot live without iite Everyone is ready for programmes that are alert, hardhitting, courageous. And religious broadcasting should be the most daring of all. At present, however, it is without valour and vitality.
MAY one suggest that at least oncea month the Independent companies and the BBC mount one creative religious programme. aiming at giving audiences something akin to a religious experience. Granada, perhaps the most goahead of all the television cornpanics, has, so far, done nothing about religious programmes. Why doesn't it take this opportunity to show what can be done on week days to feed the hunger of Sundays'? Why doesn't it invite outstanding poets, dramatists, novelists to base a half-hour script on any story or situation from the Bible that fires the imagination? I have yet to meet the creative writer who would not jump at the chance to write what appeals to him, instead of reclothing hack ideas.
F last Sunday's programmes, Joy Harrington's five-minute script. "The Story of Peter ". was one of the most moving. Told by Michael Flanders its merit was truth. It was written with truth, and was told with the kind of simple, loving truth that makes children listen, wide-eyed. Home Service's " The Way of Life" presented another true and moving programme, "Youth Builds Bridges". about the young Germans who are trying to make amends for sins of their fathers by building an International Centre of Reconciliation in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral. This programme was a little marred. however, by a sentimental ending. There was no need to sugar a gallant story by naming the individual participants and gushing "Thank you Elli, Thank you Wolfgang, Thank you Peter ".
IN Meeting Point " (BBC) the Anglican Canon Collins, of nuclear disarmament fame, ably defended himself against his critics, Charles Curran. M.P.. Geoffrey Smith and Patrick Wymark. He was not shaken by their attack that, as a priest, his primary duty was the celebration of the Eucharist, and not meddling with politics. Wymark, as an actor, also asked to what extent the Canon revelled in limelight. Canon Collins replied that while he believed in sacramental religion, he also believed that religion cannot be isolutee from politics or any other manifestation of workaday life. He was quite sure he could have it both ways. and so winning is his personality, it isn't surprising he has a large following. He was emphatic that his Christian Action movement " sterns from the Eucharist. We must bring Incarnate Christ into the harshness of the world. We must not use Christianity as an escape ". As for the limelight, the Canon " brushed it aside. In a campaign you must employ all possible means to get your views across ". I wonder Should you?