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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 33, Number 10. 8 July, 1970

The 625 Line

The 625 Line

TV with David Smith


Often we are told that in certain small hours of the morning when it is dark and the blinds are drawn New Zealand politicans can actually be human. Presumably this means that they drink heavily or knock up their secretaries. Certainly there is a startling lack of warmth amongst them in their television appearances even when presented with the opportunity to appear human. These stilted individuals, the Prime Minister in particular, seem, almost wilfully, to turn down every opportunity of putting themselves forward as friends of widows, and orphans and good sons of their mothers. Holyoake stands out as the low priest of sterility and Muldoon as a cardboard man on the make. Marshall is so dull he ought to work for the NZBC. Opposition members goggle at the camera like a hedgehog caught in someone's headlights and the less said about them the better. In contrast, ex-Prime Minister Harold MacMillan exceeded all expectations in his interview with Ian Trethowen as he recollected the years between the end of the War and his elevation to the premiership in '56. Most viewers, myself included, had been tempted from the outset to write him off without more. After all, in the early 60's he appeared as nothing more than a tired anachronism with a suspect prostate. In this programme, his flesh-and-bloodliness was never in doubt for a moment. The interviewer needed to be no more than a discreet foil gently prodding here and there, and great though his contribution was it was almost unnoticed in the flow of first-hand reminiscences which was entertaining to behold and virtually impossible to put down. All this of course is cheating because Mr MacMillan is no longer in office—a fact he himself seems to have adjusted to with surprising success. Every question was given a direct answer. It was the unvarnished truth delivered with wit and good taste. New Zealand suffers rather badly from a dearth of elder statesmen in their anecdotage (most of them were at that point when they were in office) and if we want to see more of this unique form of television we shall, I am sad to say, have to rely on overseas purchases. A poor state of affairs, but unavoidable.

Mission Impossible does not quite explain why the Americans are a pack of pricks, but it does go a long way towards it.

The Underseas World of Jacques Cousteau and The Lions of Longleat: prove even in black and white to have enough substance to sustain peak viewing. Superb camera work particularly in the Undersea programme, make rewarding viewing for a wide spectrum of the potential audience. Walt Disney they are not—thank God.

For all that we learnt that was new in the CBS expose of marijuana it might just have been the name of a pitcher of the New York Dodgers. A potpourri of the last four years of Time and Newsweek without even the commercials which are the basis of any artistic endeavour on the US scene (to paraphrase Gore Vidal).

Bewitched? More often bothered and occasionally bewildered.

Just as WNTV1 managed to get away with delivering a previous night's weather forecast without anybody noticing (keep it up Claire, you're doing a grand job) so too is Studio 1 capable of reproducing itself from year to year. From the appalling Mr Chamberlain to the rank amateur newcomers (not much of a jump admittedly), this creation reeks of all that is abominable on the local scene. Apart from that it is quite good.