Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 9. 9 May 1972
Several months ago, the opening of the Satelite Receiving Station at Warkworth was greeted with great outpourings of glad tidings from the NZBC and Post Office and even given newspaper supplements(admittedly no recommendation for anything). Visions of the future flashed before us - instant Kabuki from inscrutable Japan; inscrutable Kangaroos dead from Australia and, in time to come perhaps, man's first faltering steps on the surface of Mars and Venus. We allowed ourselves to believe that the merest twiddle of a dial would bring instant global telecomunications into our very living rooms — the McLuhan dream/nightmare come to pass.
Two weeks ago, as the Apollo 16 astronauts (whose eminently forgettable names escape me) were about to land in the Valley of Tears of wherever, the NZBC main News Bulletin ran a lead-item of gripping visual and emotional intensity. First we saw a what appeared to be a longshot of a case of terminal smallpox. But the sound-track quickly dispelled this childish notion. The unmistakably boring tones of the nameless moonmen were heard, describing their inch-by-inch descent to that strange place known as the "lunar-surface". As this went on, the camera slowly zoomed in on this pock-marked plastic abortion. Suddenly, over the picture, came the caption: "Simulation - NZBC". Jesus wept!
Everyone knows that the NZBC is desperately trying to appear poor. But all the same, someone ought to ask Mr Ben Coury to ask Mr Bruce Broad head to ask Mr Cooper Marshall to ask Mr Lionel Sceats to ask Major-General McKinnon to ask whoever this week's Minister of Broadcasting happens to be to give him/them/they/us enough money to buy a little live time on this coaxial cosmic contraption. The public needs stimulation not simulation. To quote Dylan Thomas (himself a frustrated astronaut): "Finches fly in the clawtracks of hawks On a seizing sky...."
Everyone seems to have had a peck at the poor corpse of Section Seven so, for what its worth, here's my four cents worth. Very briefly.
The series was ill-conceived - thirty-minute feature television must be either fast, funny or serialised. The plots suffered from chronic gutlessness and a tendency to nauseating liberal cliche. We badly need some play wrights who know how to write decent dialogue and to create credible characters. We need to see more - much more - of Ian Mune on television - he totally out-acted Ewen Solan even taking into consideration the fact that he had much the better role to play. The series appeared to do a disservice to the NZ Probation Service. Be they ever so humble, there's no place for this kind of unhelpful picture. Given such a bunch of pseuds, any self-respecting probationer would immediately ask for a retrial and plead guilty in the hope of being sent to Paremoremo. To sum up: not enough action, generally poor writing, an overambitious idea, wrong guest-star.
Frankie Howard is a genius. With a bevy of carefully rehearsed ad libs and a collection of camp jokes almost as old as he is, he weekly takes the top spot on my list for sheer enjoyment. The secret of his success is his willingness - even eagerness - to send-up everyone and everything in sight, especially himself. He is, in effect, a Brechtian lampoon of every television programme, real or imagined hacking his way through a script as full of porn as Pat Bartlett's bookcase. And he never appears to feel any qualms ("Qualms dear? Who's she?").
The show is filthy, corny, totally devoid of taste and about as intellectually stimulating as a Thugee's loincloth But whatever you do, don't miss it.
Alun Owen's double-bill The Ladies was made to look even better than it was by its placement - immediately after the last episode of Section Seven. The difference lay largely in the scripts. Alun Owen, like his contemporary John Hopkins, is a masterly writer of dialogue. He gives his actors lines of beautiful shape and rhythm, lines which roll effortlessly from the tongue. Nothing is wasted Not one opportunity for the development of character or situation is missed.
We have yet to see the best works of Hopkins and Owen, I am sure. So far, neither has bettered Hopkins's devastating quarted Talking to a Stranger. But it's bound to happen sooner or later - so keep watching.
Watch For: Dad's Army (Sunday night) - the generally welcomed return of this gentle comedy series featuring the harmless bunch of bunglers ironically called the Home Guard.