The Crystal Bucket

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
First edition (publ. Jonathan Cape)

The Crystal Bucket is the second selection of Clive James's television criticism for The Observer, for which the British Press Awards named him 'Critic of the Year' in 1981: "His contribution to the art and enjoyment of TV criticism over the past ten years has been immense. His work is deeply perceptive, often outrageously funny and always compulsively readable."

First published the same year, the volume covers 1976–79; its title is taken from Walter Raleigh's The Passionate Man's Pilgrimage. It is dedicated to the poet Peter Porter. The compilation ends not with a review but with a tribute to James's friend Joyce Grenfell who had died at the end of November 1979: "Joyce Grenfell's death gave pause for thought to all who knew her. Her faith was profound. So was her humour, which was so devoid of malice that some people called her sentimental. She wasn't. She was just greatly good."

Writing in The Listener, Gavin Ewart expressed the view that James, "didn't get where he is today just by being funny. He is humane, liberal and compassionate.... What he writes is always pertinent and always witty. We owe him a deep debt of gratitude."

Programmes reviewed[edit]

  • Newsday – with Albert Speer, interviewed by Ludovic Kennedy – "Speer is willing to be contrite about Nazi atrocities but only on the understanding that he knew very little about them. But when Ludo pressed that very point, Speer dropped eine kleine clanger.
    "... Speer is willing to be contrite about Nazi atrocities but only on the understanding that he knew very little about them. But when pressed Speer dropped eine kleine clanger. 'I can't say I didn't know it had happened.'
    'I can't say I didn't know it had happened,' he conceded"
  • Flash Gordon – "Flash, played with incomparable awkwardness by Buster Crabbe"
  • Doctor Who – "you can't tell the heroes from the heavies, it's all so sophisticated."
  • Panorama with David Dimbleby – " David did a brief linking spiel into a film on Rhodesia. The film on Rhodesia rolled without sound. He tried again. This time the film on Rhodesia failed to roll at all.... One of the reasons people want to spend their lives in television is the beauty of the technology... all the heaped jewellery of big and little lights, with the sound and vision engineers sitting in a row like the crew of an airliner.... But you don't know what's going on. Only about two people in the entire building can really understand how the toys are put together."
  • Horizon, Brian Gibson's Billion Dollar Bubble – "Probably it is only in free countries, however, that a humorous regard for corruption is possible. In the totalitarian countries, corrupt from top to bottom, nobody is laughing because nothing is laughable. There is no difference between what things are and what things ought to be, since what things ought to be no longer exists even as a standard."
  • Marcel Ophüls' The Memory of Justice – "Mad old Nazis were to be heard deploring modern decadence"
  • Stars on Sunday with Noele Gordon
  • Tonight with David Pryce-Jones and Oswald Mosley discussing Unity Mitford – " Sir Oswald looked simultaneously ageless and out of date, like some Art Deco metal sculpture.... Sir Oswald was bent on establishing that Unity's life was 'a simple, tragic story of a gel who was what we called stage-struck in those days' and that Pryce-Jones, in writing a book about such of her little quirks as anti-Semitism and blind adoration of Hitler, had done nothing but stir up trouble."
  • I, Claudius – " Caligula's famous horse made an appearance. 'His life has really opened up since I made him a senator.' "
  • Miss World – "Patrick Lichfield and Sacha Distel helped herd the beef."
  • The Royal Variety Performance, hosted by Max Bygraves – "'And if you doan like our finish/You doan have to stay for the show.' Thanks. Click. "
  • Face the Music with Patrick Moore and Joseph Cooper – " the new model Robin Ray remained calm...The week before, on the same programme, Robin had failed to remember that the K-number of Mozart's 'Coronation' piano concerto is 537. There was a day when such a lapse would have sent him into paroxysms of defensive laughter. But this time he just sat there, silently smiling: a fatalist. Robin Ray has acquired gravitas...."
  • The Lively Arts with Robin Ray – introducing a production of The Barber of Seville with Teresa Berganza – " the merits of the opera itself – Mozart minus the brains"
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with Laurence Olivier, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner – "the whole production was a spankingly neat surround for Olivier's magisterial talent"
  • The Lady of the Camellias with Kate Nelligan – "Nelligan did astonishingly well- As for Peter Firth's Armand, he is wet where Robert Taylor was wooden. On the whole I prefer moisture to splinters."
  • Panorama with David Dimbleby and The Shah of Iran – "David asked, 'Are you satisfied with the methods that SAVAK uses to get confessions?' The Shah replied : ' They are improving every day'. "
  • The Superstars – "the scene of the action was France, where the pluie was pissant down."
  • The John Curry Spectacular – "the art-thrill which sometimes emerges in the rigour of competition turned to kitsch in conditions of creative freedom."
  • This Week, in Soho's Underworld
  • The Key to the Universe with Nigel Calder – " Calder had an uncanny knack of finding the example that compels your inattention."
  • Winifred Wagner – "Self-indulgence" said Jean de La Bruyère "and severity towards others are the same vice," a crack worth remembering when the unrepentant features of Winifred Wagner filled the screen."
  • The State of the Nation – "cast journalists as politicians, – Anthony Croslands unexpectedly trenchant arguments against cuts in social services were put by the best natural actor of the bunch, Peter Jenkins of The Guardian "
  • Another Bouquet – " why am I watching such trash?"
  • The Country Wife – "Wycherley's witticisms are not witty."
  • Moses – the Lawgiver, with Burt Lancaster – "Burt hit the dirt. The titles rolled. It had not been a compasionate series. Nor is the Old Testament. The show was remarkably true to the spirit of the book- hence the chill."
  • The Flying Dutchman
  • B.C. with Magnus Magnusson – "it appears that the Philistines, far from being arid materialists, were deeply artistic, with a terrific line in pottery. Boy, could they pot. Once again the Bible had got it all wrong."
  • Serpico – "of the American fuzz operas currently on offer, Serpico is easily the best."
  • Goodbye Longfellow Road, about the housing problem – "it was just too discouraging to see such glaring evidence of the compassionate society failing to deliver the goods."
  • Jack Rosenthal's Spend Spend Spend – " a true story about a silly lady called Vivian, whose even sillier husband, Keith, won £152,319 on the pools.... Vivian described her early grapplings with Keith as 'The greatest sexual experience in the history of Castleford." Vivian and Keith were played, dead straight without a tinge of contempt, by Susan Littler and John Duttine: two admirable performances."
  • Headmaster with Frank Windsor and Mark Farmer – " Hideous little Stephen, played by Mark Farmer, looked like Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and behaved even worse. You were struck with a mixture of emotions. Your first reaction was 'little bastard', your second was 'poor kid', and the best compromise you could come up with was 'poor little bastard.' "
  • Inside Story, on the 1976 Oxford eight
  • Horses in our Blood narrated by Robert Hardy
  • Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth – "Olivia Hussey doesn't make a bad Mary.... Of the 30-plus years she is supposed to age during Jesus's lifetime, she manages about three, but the Mother of God doesn't necessarily obey the same rules as other girls."
  • Michael Tippett's A Child of our Time – "serious, complex and unspeakable, film clips of various low moments were copiously employed to reinforce the libretto. The oratorio ends on a 'personal' note of Hope, indicating that Sir Michael hasn't understood the blasphemy inherent in even flirting with the notion that the innocent dead suffered to some purpose."
  • Alex Haley's Roots – "anaemic high art is less worth having than low art with guts. It could be said that Roots is as low as art can get. It could even be said that it isn't art at all. But guts it's got."
  • The Nixon Interviews with David Frost – "'Yep, I let the American people down.' Nixon let them down, you see, by allowing a silly little mistake to deprive them of his services. It still hasn't occurred to him that he let them down by running for office in the first place."
"... a gallery of Gustav Klimt lovelies filled the screen – high-born ladies whose lustrous eyes and moist mouths suggested that the life which had given them everything had been empty until they met Klimt"
  • Vienna : The Mask of Gold, written and presented by Michael Frayn – " a gallery of Gustav Klimt lovelies filled the screen – high-born ladies whose lustrous eyes and moist mouths suggested that the life which had given them everything had been empty until they met Klimt. Somewhere else in the picture, death looked on. In Schiele's pictures death ate the women up from inside."
  • Tony Palmer's All You Need Is Love – "that famous clip of an open-mouthed Mama Cass digging Janis Joplin's act at Monterey still arouses the old joy, if you can manage to forget what happened to both of them."
  • Lively Arts on the Dance Theatre of Harlem – "some of the male dancers joined up because they were caught girl-watching through the studio sky-light and told either to go away or join in."
  • World in Action report on the Japanese economy
  • White Rhodesia presented by Hugh Burnett
  • René Cutforth's The Forties Revisited – "Cutforth is that rare thing,a front-man with background. Fitzrovia and Soho weigh heavily on his eye-lids. His voice sounds like tea-chests full of books being shifted about."
  • Elaine Morgan's Marie Curie with Jane Lapotaire, – "By a remarkable coup on Miss Lapotaire's part, what must have been the beauty of the great scientist's mind is projected with a vividness made all the more intense by the absence of ordinary charm."
  • The Case of Yolande McShane – "Yolande slipped her mother eighteen Nembutals in a Jelly-tots packet and urged her not to hang about."
  • Portrait with Peter Blake and Twiggy – "artist and model reminisced about the allegedly golden 1960's. 'It was like a complete Renaissance event,' opined Peter. 'Yeah, that was it,' concurred Twiggy. 'It was just like a Renaissance.' Except that in the Renaissance the artists knew how to draw."
  • The Foundation – "Davinia Price (Lynette Davies), is a business woman of flair and determination, with a sister named Katherine. 'Do be careful,' Katherine staunchly advises her beautiful sister. 'Try not to get yourself hurt.' Davinia is lucky to have so wise a confidante as Katherine. After all, Katherine's advice might easily have been the opposite. 'Do be careless. Try to bugger yourself up as much as possible."
  • Parkinson – with Cliff Richard
  • The World About Us, in the tropical jungle – "There are horrors here, the voice-over admitted grudgingly. In triumphant proof, a spider the size and shape of a roller-skate in a mink coat came charging at the camera."
  • The Long Search with Ronald Eyre, on religious belief – "Immunised from birth against religion of any kind, your critic can only look on longingly. The photography is very nice."
  • Everyman, on the persecution of religion in the Soviet Union
  • World in Action on Steve Biko
  • Labour Party Conference – "Joan Lester was a splendid chairperson. When a speaker's time was up, she slung him off the platform. 'Thanks, comrade. Lovely speech. Don't spoil it.' And back the poor sod went for another year of anonymous toil."
  • Man from Atlantis – "at the start of each episode, younger viewers are warned not to copy his trick of sleeping in a full bath-tub, but they are not warned against copying his acting."
  • The Rockford Files – "I wouldn't want to lose The Rockford Files; James Garner a droll leading man during his time in the movies, is worth watching even when the script is routine."
  • The World About Us with Ron Pickering on Cuban sport – "Selective schools train the future champions, but nobody calls it elitism."
"Elkie Brooks... an ex-scruff turned glamour queen"
  • Sight and Sound in Concert, with Elkie Brooks – " an ex-scruff turned glamour queen."
  • Nationwide, with French lingerie expertette Nadine Grimaud – "Ziss one is also veree sexe... sportive... sexee.' As Sue was patently aware, it was an arousing display. Randy cameramen zoomed and focused desperately on filmy knickers hugging soft crotches."
  • Interlude – "the one where a disembodied hand makes a clay pot.... I had never realised that the pot was doomed to remain unfinished: forever changing shape, it goes everywhere and nowhere, like the history of the human race."
  • Charlie's Angels – "Farrah Fawcett, has been replaced by Cheryl Ladd. Cheryl's teeth are big and strong like Farrahs so she will probably become equally famous, if my theory is correct. (My theory is that the majority of males in the audience harbour an unspoken desire to be eaten alive.")
  • Hard Times – "remarkably successful in transmitting the largeness of Charles Dickens's spirit."
  • You Never Can Tell – "Shaw knew that love is real, and hurts. He just took a light tone... there was a high charge circulating between Kika Markham (Gloria) and Robert Powell (Valentine). "
  • Rock Follies of 77 – "an unwritten law, that talent is destiny, was working itself out. Anna and Q went to the wall. Dee and Rox headed for the top."
  • Verdi's Macbeth produced by Brian Large – "it sounded all right, but it looked like hell."
  • L P Hartley's Eustace and Hilda – "had excellent performances in the name parts. Christopher Strauli was so vulnerable.. Susan Fleetwood was vitality incarnate."
  • Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas – " a load of olde rubbishe."
  • The Dick Emery Christmas Show – "Most of Emery's alleged humour was about poo, pee and buggery."
  • The Best of Benny Hill – " the trailer was all I could stand."
  • The Best of Stanley Baxter – "There is something desperate about his mimicry of female movements. He is too good at it: the laughter dies, leaving a sad admiration."
  • The Little and Largest Show on Earth – "Little is not pretending to be just standing there. He is just standing there. Meanwhile Large knocks himself out. There is a certain terrible fascination to it, like watching two men share one parachute."
  • The Two Ronnies – "tried hard"
  • Max's Holiday Hour with Max Bygraves – "no more fun than a sinus wash"
  • Morecambe and Wise – "Eric was twice as funny busking with Dickie Davies on ITV's World of Sport on Christmas Eve."
  • Christmas with The Osmonds – "sincerely vacuous"
  • The Lively Arts with Karen Kain – "the thing I liked best about Christmas. Watching her dance, you could forget the world without feeling that you were running away."
  • Washington: Behind Closed Doors – "had its origins in the mighty intellect of John Ehrlichman, a Nixon aide chiefly distinguishable by his fanatical loyalty. After being locked up he became chiefly distinguishable by his fanatical disloyalty, but there is nothing remarkable in that, since the abiding characteristic in men like Ehrlichman is not loyalty but fanaticism." "Nixon was out to subvert the Constitution of the United States. In Doors Richard Monckton, the Nixon figure, is shown doing the same thing."
"... Melly knows a lot about the British branch of Surrealism, since he used to hob-nob with its founder members... richly aromatic stuff"
  • Arena, George Melly on Surrealism – "Melly knows a lot about the British branch of this artistic movement, since he used to hob-nob with its founder members... richly aromatic stuff."
  • The South Bank Show – "the second half saved the night. Melvyn interviewed Paul McCartney, who was even more engaging than you might expect."
  • Laurence Olivier Presents, Daphne Laureola, by James Bridie – "A hit in 1949, a crafty text by a playwright whose reputation should never have been allowed to fade so completely.... An unmistakable post-war tristesse, luxury of language offsetting the reality of rationing."
"... Kissinger burns down Cambodia, delivers the people of Chile into the hands of torturers, and then wonders why young people in the democratic countries become disaffected"
  • Kissinger on Communism – "the modern Metternich.... Kissinger burns down Cambodia, delivers the people of Chile into the hands of torturers, and then wonders why young people in the democratic countries become disaffected."
  • Grandstand – from Kitzbühel, the event was the Men's Downhill – " a man referred to as 'Britain's sole representative' came plummeting down the Streif. 'He won't be looking for a first place today,' said David Vine, 'he'll be looking for experience.' At that very instant – not a bit later, but while David was actually saying it – Britain's sole representative was upside down and travelling into the crowd at 60 m.p.h. plus."
  • Grandstand, The Boat Race, Cambridge's sinking – "the commentator.... 'And now its panic...unbelievable how they could go down so quickly... they're all still alive...what a tragic finish...."
  • Conservative Party Political Broadcast – "which twice referred to a Russian writer called Solzhenitskyn. The pronunciation 'Solzhenitskyn' was invented last year by Margaret Thatcher, who thereby suggested that she knew nothing about Solzhenitsyn's writings beyond what she had heard from her advisers, who in turn had apparently mixed him up with Rumpelstiltskin."
  • Are We Really Going to be Rich?, on North Sea Oil – "a marathon drone-in..our host was David Frost..He was on terrific form, cueing in savants from all over the world, cutting them off before they said enough to subtract from the confusion, switching to the studio audience whenever somebody sitting in it had something irrelevant he urgently wanted to contribute."
  • The 50th Academy Awards – "a bad scene. Woody Allen had the right idea: he stayed away."
  • The Eurovision Song Contest 1978 – "a more than usually cretinous annual instalment.... 'A man is born to do one thing,' Colm C.T. Wilkinson of Ireland yelled desperately. 'And I was born to sing.' How wrong can a man be ?"
  • The South Bank Show – "a fascinating interview from Harold Pinter..Describing how Fascists used to chase him during his East End childhood, he recalled some lines of dialogue with which he once extricated himself from a close encounter. It sounded exactly like a scene from The Birthday Party."
  • Football World Cup 1978 – Peru versus Scotland – "the Peruvians, one goal down, suddenly revealed an ability to run faster with the ball than the Scots could run without it."
  • The South Bank Show, Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling – "Lynn Seymour...Just standing there, she is not particularly shapely or even pretty, but when she moves she somehow becomes simultaneously ethereal and sexy, like a Platonic concept in Janet Reger underwear."
  • Golden Gala, a celebration of half a century of women's suffrage – "Petula Clark pretended to have a little cry at the end. Some of us out in the audience were crying for real. Golden Gala was the bummer of the century. It put the feminist movement back fifty years at least."
  • Clouds of Glory, Ken Russell's study of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge – " somewhat subdued for Ken Russell"
  • John Mortimer's Will Shakespeare – "Mortimer was careful to give Shakespeare a believably ordinary life.... Shakespeares uniqueness lay in the power with which he expressed the realization that he was not unique."
  • Multi-Racial Britain, a series of lectures – "the outstanding paper was delivered by Dr Bikhu Parekh..The triumph of his speech was its positive character. He argued, surely with good reason, that immigration had already been a boon ..For people apt to delude themselves that Enoch Powell is a distinguished speaker, here was an example of what a truly distinguished speaker sounds like."
  • Thames at Six – " produced Judy Carne, fresh from her car-crash and still suffering from a broken neck...Since Laugh-In, Judy Carne's career has gone as haywire as Kathy Kirby's."
  • Nationwide, with schoolchildren doing impersonations – "a girl did a dazzling Shirley Bassey, her mouth suddenly appearing under one ear."
  • Rhythm on Two – "Marion Montgomery quietly demonstrated that she possesses Blossom Dearie's touch, Cleo Laine's technique, and an elegantly judged oomph all her own."
  • The Incredible Hulk – "why can't the soft twit cut the soul-searching and just enjoy his ability to swell up and clobber the foe? But David Banner is in quest of 'a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him.'"
  • Jane Fonda – "after you have heard a few of your own liberal opinions coming out of Jane Fonda's mouth you start wondering whether the John Birch Society is so bad after all."
  • Holocaust – "The German Jews were the most assimilated in Europe. They were vital to Germany's culture – which, indeed, has never recovered from their extinction. They couldn't see that they were hated in direct proportion to their learning, vitality and success. Hitler's dream of the racially pure future was of an abstract landscape tended by chain-gangs of shadows and criss-crossed with highways bearing truckloads of Aryans endlessly speeding to somewhere undefined. Dorf, (played with spellbinding creepiness by Michael Moriarty), sounded just like that: his dead mackerel eyes were dully alight with a limitless vision of banality. Meryl Streep, as Inga Helms Weiss, gave an astounding performance."
  • Skateboard Kings – "As opposed to life, which is various, a life-style concentrates on one activity and flogs it to death."
  • Beneath the Pennines – "'The history of pot-holing can be told in Alum Pot.' Since the history of pot-holing seems to be composed mainly of a long list of people getting stuck upside down in holes, there was no reason to doubt this."
  • Stalin – "As usual, footage ruled, and most of the footage from the first decade of the Soviet Union shows things being built, not people being broken."
  • Wuthering Heights with Ken Hutchison as Heathcliff and Kay Adshead as Kathy – "is the blithering pits"
  • Do You Remember Vietnam? with John Pilger – "on the whole Pilger's message wasn't only clear, it was manifestly correct. The North Vietnamese never had any intention of being dominated by China. The domino theory was wrong."
  • No Man's Land – "no wonder actors and directors love Pinter. He knows so much about what they would like to do. Actors love drinking on stage. During the course of No Man's Land the two leading characters are obliged to imbibe at least a hundred glasses of Scotch each."
  • Fearless Frank by Andrew Davies – "a good play about Frank Harris, with Leonard Rossiter rampant in the title role. "
  • Luigi Nono – "There were shots of Nono's apartments to indicate that he is even better off than the usual run of Italian Marxist composers."
  • Lillie – "So great is the beauty and powerful the talent of Francesca Annis that she almost contrives to distract you from the inanity of the lines she has been given to speak."
  • The Voyage of Charles Darwin – "Reputedly a million pounds has been laid out, much of it on constructing a practical replica of The Beagle. For once the money looks well spent."
  • World Gymnastics – "Ronda Schwandt of the US was on the beam when Alan Weeks had yet another of his Great Moments in the History of Commentating. 'Whichever way you look at it,' burbled Alan, 'the improvement by the Americans is really quite AAGH!' While Alan had been talking, Ronda had mistimed a somersault and landed sensationally astraddle the beam...." "Some of this years tricks look outright dangerous. Of the Russian girls, only the sweetly fluent Mukhina harks back to the days when the Soviet Union produced gymnasts more like ballerinas than like bullets."
  • Jonathan Miller's The Body in Question – "Miller has a poet's gift of metaphor: he is marvellous at seeing similarities. He also has the poet's tendency to mistake a metaphor for a rigorously considered proposition."
  • Dylan, a 2 hour examination of Dylan Thomas's death throes – "Ronald Lacey turned in a bravura performance."
  • Edward and Mrs Simpson script by Simon Raven – "had a jaunty air... it is already suffering slightly from the fact that Edward Fox has too formidable a presence to be quite believable as a Weak King. Fox's great gift is to body forth hidden depths. All Edward ever had was hidden shallows. As Queen Mary Dame Peggy Ashcroft is quietly giving everyone else on television a lesson in how to act for the camera."
  • Miss World – "Sacha Distel was just the man to host Miss World, a contest which he had every right to call a voyazh of discarvry... near the start, all the girls came lurching forward one at a time in national dress. Thus we discarvred that the national dress of Malta, for example, is a coal sack."
  • Botanic Man, with David Bellamy – "He has an extraordinary manner of speaking, in which one impediment is piled on top of another...explaining that Hamilton fwogs possess special skins 'fwew which vey bweave'. Thus the Hamilton fwog is able to survive and not become one of the 'mere memowies of pahst ages of evowution."
  • Some Mothers do 'ave 'em – "the slapstick is almost invariably funny. The level of language is high, too."
  • Horizon on hibernation – "Animals, it appears, have been helping us in our attempts to understand hibernation. Dr.Beckman was shown experimenting on a squirrel, whose entire brain was exposed to view under a transparent cap. 'The animal has had the top of its skull surgically replaced', murmured the voice-over 'so that it can be clamped into Beckman's apparatus.' Ones plans to clamp Dr. Beckman into an apparatus of ones own devising were interrupted by an assurance that 'there are no nerves in the brain itself.' This was a relief. It was safe to assume then, that the squirrel did not mind the experiment at all. Later on it could always wear a little beret." "Whatever is not forbidden will be done."
  • World in Action, The Hunt for Dr.Mengele – "Unfortunately most of the Nazi hierarchs cheated justice."
  • A Winter's Journey – " a little classic of misinformation, it conveyed the impression that Schubert was a tragic, doomed rebel 'against the bourgeois world'. He was, on the contrary, bourgeois to the roots and a byword for merriment."
  • Jean-Paul Sartre's Kean, translated by Frank Hauser – "Slap-happily composed but full of interest..Sartre simply admired and envied actors. Actors are, after all, the only true existentialists. Or so writers tend to believe. As evoked by Sartre, Kean (played by Anthony Hopkins), is an actor whose own life is his greatest role."
  • Charlie's Angels – " Chris (Cheryl Ladd), wore pink shorts, out of which the pert cheeks of her delectable bottom hung a precisely calculated half an inch."
  • Romeo and Juliet – "Patrick Ryecart and Rebecca Saire looked fetching enough in the title roles. Both spoke cleanly, but neither gave the sense of having spotted the difference between prose and blank verse. They didn't murder the poetry; they merely ignored it."
  • Alan Bennett's Me, I'm Afraid of Virginia Woolf – "Stephen Frears directed with his usual sure touch."
  • Lohengrin – "It was just as boring as every other production of Lohengrin I have ever seen, but that was inevitable, because Lohengrin simply happens to be a bore."
  • Richard II – "Derek Jacobi gave intelligent, fastidiously articulated readings from beginning to end."
  • Grandstand – "featured the Rose Bowl: University of Southern California v. Michigan. It becomes clearer all the time that American football leaves our kind looking tired. Even when you couldn't follow the American commentators you could tell they were talking sense. The tactics and strategy were engrossing even when you only half-understood them. The spectacle, helped out by action replays of every incident from four different angles, was unbeatable."
  • David Attenborough's Life on Earth – "against all the contrary evidence provided by James Burke, Magnus Pyke and Patrick Moore, here is proof that someone can be passionate about science and still look and sound like an ordinary human being..the chief attribute..is his gift for the simple statement that makes complexity intelligible."
  • The Aphrodite Inheritance – "there is no one here on Cyprus they can trust, with the sole exception of the script-writer. They can trust him to keep on coming up with lines that mention Cyprus, so that nobody in the audience will fall prey to the delusion that the series is set in Dagenham."
  • The Old Crowd – "it needed Lindsay Anderson, director of The Old Crowd (LWT), to bring out a quality in Alan Bennett's writing which had hitherto lain dormant – crass stupidity."
  • Dennis Potter's Blue Remembered Hills – " helped by Brian Gibson's effortlessly fluent cameras, the dialogue echoed through a forest as big as the world."
  • John Mortimer, fronted Shakespeare in Perspective, introducing Measure for Measure – " He spoke about two great conflicting claims in Shakespeare's mind, namely the impulse towards order and the distrust of authority."
  • Alan Bennett's One Fine Day – "a subtle text that was well served by the director, Stephen Frears. "
  • Where We Live Now, presented by Christopher Booker – "the modern architects got a hammering."
  • The Kenny Everett Video Show – "brimming with ideas"
  • Circus World Championships – "the trapeze competition between the Oslers and the Cavarettas in which girls of incredible pulchritude turned triple somersaults..was an air-show for lechers, a Freudian Farnborough of flying crumpet."
  • Stewart Parker's I'm a Dreamer, Montreal – "transmitted the feeling of urban fright with a delicate touch"
  • Alma Cullen's Degree of Uncertainty – " Almost every university department I have ever heard of is haunted by at least one Lothario who sees nothing wrong with trying to screw the prettier students."
  • The Serpent Son, The Oresteia of Aeschylus in a translation by Frederic Raphael and Kenneth McLeish – " Kassandra took the biscuit. Helen Mirren played her as an amalgam of Régine, Kate Bush and Carmen Miranda."
  • Blankety Blank – "Among the contestants is Nicholas Parsons. How wrong, how needlessly cruel, one has been about Nicholas Parsons. He is not, in fact, the chortling twit that he appears."
  • Omnibus, with Natalia Makarova – "brought out the discipline that underlines the magic, and thus made the magic seem more magical than ever."
  • The 51st Hollywood Academy Awards – "exactly answering its host Johnny Carson's description of it – i.e., 'two hours of sparkling entertainment spread over a four-hour show' "
  • The British Rock and Pop Awards – "The speakers were tongue-tied and the audience was drunk. The representative of the Electric Light Orchestra, which won the Best Album award was unique in having bothered to prepare a speech of acceptance. 'That's right, yeah. It's fantastic, this. We can't believe it. It's wonderful. Yeah.' Kate Bush had turned up too. Receiving her award, she congratulated herself for being in attendance. 'It was well worth it, reely.'"
  • Everest Unmasked – "no importance of any kind can nowadays be attached to the increasingly routine business of climbing Everest. There is something to be said for man testing himself against the unknown. Where boredom sets in is when man tests himself against the known."
  • Election Night '79
  • Noël Coward's Design for Living – "it is not much of a play, principally because it is desperately short of good lines. But given lashings of style it could still be brought off.... But nobody in the show except Dandy Nichols, who was pretending to be the maid, had any idea of how to underplay a scene. They all shouted their heads off while offering one another cigarettes...."
  • Bob Hope at the London Palladium – "standing up and delivering one-liners that somebody else has written takes more nerve, but less skill, than might appear. Of all the comic forms it is the most limited. That was how Hope appeared on this show: a stunted giant. Raquel Welch was involved in a lengthy comic routine which required that she should pretend to sing and dance very badly. This she accomplished with ease. The trouble started when she reappeared in propria persona and tried to convince us that she can sing and dance very well. Thousands of pounds' worth of feathers, could not disguise the fact that she sings like a duck."
  • James A. Michener's Centennial – "What a comic actress of Sally Kellerman's stature was doing in an epic bore like this was a conundrum best left ravelled."
  • Crime and Punishment – "John Hurt's performance is a brilliant job of exteriorising interior turmoil."
  • The South Bank Show on the painter Allen Jones – "... the author of the only Pirelli Calendar that nobody bothered to look at twice...."
  • Panorama on Gustav Franz Wagner – "He is, or at any rate was, the man who did his best to make Sobibor extermination camp even more hellish than it was supposed to be. It instantly became apparent that Wagner had the intellectual complexity of a turnip. All the evidence suggests that Wagner enjoyed murdering people."
  • Yesterday's Witness, with Gergana Taneva, a survivor of Ravensbrück – " giving us at least some idea of what life is like when people whose highest morality is to obey orders are controlling your fate."
  • Rumpole of the Bailey – "Already he [Rumpole] is an adjective. He is also an idea."
  • Wimbledon '79 – "Wimbledon was back and Dan Maskell was back with it. 'Ooh I say! there's a dream volleh!'" "Evonne Cawley is the supreme technician in women's tennis and wins when she feels like it. What confuses the issue is that she hardly ever feels like it."
  • The Mallens – "But once again Squire Mallen (John Hallam), and Miss Brigmore (Caroline Blakiston), have collided on the stairs. Within seconds they are raining hot dialogue on one another. A foot-race to the nearest bedroom ends in a dead heat. END OF PART THREE."
  • The Wooldridge View, with Ian Wooldridge – "in Pamplona, where Wooldridge goes every year to test his courage and his capacity for wine... the programme gave you some useful hints about how to run before the bulls. Clearly the best technique is to book your flight for the week after the event takes place, or else just not turn up at all."
  • Outcasts on the China Sea – "the best programme I have yet seen on the dread-provoking subject of the boat people."
  • Panorama, on Charter 77.
  • Circuit Eleven Miami – "alternately – and indeed often simultaneously – gripping and repulsive trilogy recorded the trial, conviction and sentence of one Thomas Perri, a citizen of Miami."
  • The Mini – " was all about a British engineering feat... but... the managers forgot to include a profit margin in the price."
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – "fully lived up to the standard set by the original novel. Though not quite as incomprehensible, it was equally turgid. John Le Carré's early novels were among the best in the spy genre, but by the time he wrote TTSS he had started believing in his own publicity. He shifted the emphasis from plot to character – especially in the character of George Smiley. As the later novels have gone on to prove, Smiley gets less interesting the more interested in him the author gets. What's going on is a concerted attempt to inflate a thin book into a fat series."
  • Public School at Westminster School – "the pupils... seemed to combine easy charm with the fanatical motivation of suicide pilots." "... it makes no sense talking about children going to 'the school of their choice' when choice is something only the well-off can afford."
  • BBC News – "President Jimmy Carter... jogging... was to be seen lumbering awkwardly along among hundreds of fitter men. The President was then to be seen in close-up, gasping like a tuna who had been on deck for several hours."
  • Something Else, an 'open-door' programme made by young people for young people – "Wilde was certainly right about youth being wasted on the young."
  • Panorama on Cambodia – "Pol Pot ranks high on the list of Great Bastards in History. There was film of the Khmer Rouge's now happily abandoned torture factory, where the torturers apparently kept a photographic record of everything they got up to, thereby revealing a metaphysical interest in agony which sorted ill with their materialist pretensions. Enough of these photographs were fleetingly on show to make you very glad that you weren't seeing the rest, or the same ones longer."
  • Frederick Ashton – "At 75 he still moves like a boy."
  • Churchill and the Generals, by Ian Curteis – "Chosen for the mighty task of reincarnating our hero, Timothy West was the man responsible for ultimate victory. He started the war facing grave difficulties. He was critically short of proper scenes."
  • Star Trek – "the last episode of Star Trek was made years ago, but the series obeys Einstein's laws of space and time, forever circum-navigating the universe on its way back to your living room.... Spock, Kirk, Scottie and Mr Sulu have suddenly appeared on the surface of a planet that looks exactly like a set. Appropriately enough, the planet seems to be populated exclusively by bad actors."
  • Tosca in Tokyo – "featured Montserrat Caballé. The Japanese were impressed. It was clear that they hadn't seen anything that size since the battleship Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay in 1945."
  • Friday Night...Saturday Morning – "Latest guest host was Sir Harold Wilson, erstwhile Prime Minister of Great Britain. Those of us who expected him to be terrible received a shock. He was really terrible."
  • Shirley Williams in Conversation – "Her latest guest was Willy Brandt... a man of stature and vision. As a result we heard the rationale of the Ostpolitik directly from its inventor's mouth."
  • Newsweek with Chairman Hua of China – "Mao it appears, remains the fountainhead of all wisdom. His wonderful revolution came within a whisker of being hijacked by the Gang of Four. Everything that went wrong after Mao's death was due to 'sabotage by Lin Piao and the Gang of Four.' "
  • Kissinger and Frost – "Nixon and Kissinger might have had short-term military reasons for their policy on Cambodia, but the ruinous long-term consequences were easily predictable.... Nor was there anything legal about the way he and his President tried to keep the bombing secret. In fact they conspired to undermine the United States Constitution. Kissinger's personal tragedy is that his undoubted hatred of totalitarianism leads him to behave as if democracy is not strong enough to oppose it." "By what right did he topple Salvador Allende?"
  • Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth – "Vera Brittain was obviously ideally equipped to tell two great stories at once. One story was about her own education as a liberated young woman. The other story was about how the First World War cut down the generation of young men of whom she aspired to be an equal."
  • The Magic of Dance with Margot Fonteyn – "the American ballet critic Arlene Croce explains that the whole idea of ballet is to transcend sex and that any man who is aroused by looking at a ballerina is missing the point. I am afraid I have been missing the point in a big way, and that when I look at Dame Margot I go on missing it." "Nureyev, whom Dame Margot interviewed at length, was the lad who opened ballet up for the male stars. One is glad about this, but finally it is the ballerinas who are the fons et origo of the art."
  • Mastermind – "gets battier all the time. In the latest instalment a man took agriculture as his special subject. Yes, all of agriculture, any time, anywhere. He did not do well. A woman, on the other hand, took the Dragon Books of Anne McCaffrey. Not surprisingly she did very well indeed."
"... It seems that the arts in China are now being allowed to recover from the damage done to them by the vengeful puritanism of the MK II Mrs Mao.... She was obviously an even bigger bitch than we thought. Like all cultural commissars, she was an artist manqué"
  • The Arts of Chinese Communism – "It seems that the arts in China are now being allowed to recover from the damage done to them by the Cultural Revolution in general and the vengeful puritanism of the Mk II Mrs Mao in particular. She was obviously an even bigger bitch than we thought. Like all cultural commissars, she was an artist manqué."
  • Dallas – "It transpires that Sue Ellen's baby may well be suffering from neuro-fibrowhosis, a rare disease which attacks children who have been written into a long-running series and may have to be written out again later."
  • The South Bank Show with Germaine Greer on women painters – " using as examples the star graduates of the Slade School in the 1890s. Brilliantly refuting her own argument, she inadvertently stumbled on the real reason why so few women painters have been geniuses like Gwen John. According to Dr. Greer, men painters make women painters neurotic. But the case of Gwen John suggested that only the rare woman is neurotic enough."

External links[edit]