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Family programmes (1964)

1964-03-13 Tribune (London).jpg

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WRESTLING is an obligatory piece of viewing indulgence for me. "Mon-keys" my two-year-old daughter calls these performers; she has just become television-conscious. And in turn I've been introduced to, among other things, the wonderful world of anthropomorphised creatures on the children's programmes. It's not all kids' stuff in this immensely important, branch of television, as the reorganisation of the Children's and Women's Programme Departments at the BBC might suggest, They now form a single new department, Family Programmes. And on both channels, it seems to me, programmes for children are in good shape.

There's an argument which insists that, considering the large and guaranteed captive audience children's television has, it's inexcusable for the time to be "wasted" with so many bits and bob-tails, Children could be learning something instead. I don't accept this view, Children ought to have been learning all day at school (possibly a period was spent watching an educational programme), they don't want to be choked by earnest do-gooding between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m, while mother makes tea.

Besides, children do learn all the time; BBC's Fascinating Facts might look like a Russian salad of information to the older viewer but this process of collecting little pieces of knowledge goes on in the playground as much as in front of the screen. Children love superlatives and the unusual and the Did you know? formula Is not to be despised. So let's leave "education" to schools transmissions. To confuse it with "Children" is to run the risk of alienating the audience of both.

Nevertheless, the charming and motherly Ursula Eason who is responsible for all the BBC's transmissions to the under-fourteens, was emphatic in directing my attention to "our policy of stretching the audience in the content of our programmes, though not In their presentation. We like to inform the audience as well as entertain it. Children are very choosey about the programmes they watch and develop fierce loyalties."

Apparently the title is vitally important. A series called Circus Boy on a Magic Horse would be an all-time smash hit if it were made. Personal identification comes next and this can be as much with a puppet or an animal as with a human. In spite of the two comperes on the BBC magazine Blue Peter, Petra the dog really runs the show. The puppets in A-R's Small Time — Pussy Cat Willum, Basil and Spikey and Muskit and Dido get an enormous and deserved following. They're humorous and skilful projections of children's speech and fantasies. For instance, "I can build a house in ten minutes." Pussy Cat Willum might say with his usual solemn conviction and the rest of the time is spent edging him towards a compensatory realm of the possible.

Serials, of course, are ever popular and fill that age gap where girls are interested in much the same things as the boys but where boys are contemptuous of anything which might be "soppy". BBC's Swallows and Amazons (repeat) is a delightful and efficient case in point, so is A-R's The Barnstormers. Both are rather too obviously middle-class; and there doesn't seem to be any reason for this except that writers and producers of this type of "adventure" programme seem to find it difficult, if not so far, impossible, to create a genuinely neutral and classless set of characters. Bullies tend to be "bad eggs" with inhibitingly heavy regional accents — a symbol as ubiquitous as the Western villain's black shirt.

After this comes the teenage band-wave — literally, with pop groups bustin' out all over. You loved them on the soundtrack of BBC's Pinky and Perky and you rave with Ready, Steady, Go! and Juke Box Jury. But here there is no longer any clear age distinction. What's fab for the teens is at least foot-tapping for the parents, and the concept of the family programme takes over. (Where it leaves off is anybody's guess, but that's another matter.)

Dr. Who is quite properly acceptable to children between six and 60, so is 'A-R's Boots and Saddles. For special mention is Granada's z% Time, an excellent programme, full of the kind of information I'm resentful if I miss, BBC's Martin Chuzzlewit is In a bracket of its own. When yet think how poor such an adaptation could be, its quality never fails to surprise with pleasure It's "real" enough and "different" enough, and for children at any rate, what's "real" has to be "different"; for them, there's no verisimilitude at the kitchen sink.

This late afternoon television is a large and very mixed bag. I can't pretend to have done justice to it in the space, but if I can be permitted to rest on a complacent generalisation, it would be that the standard on each channel is high. The danger in these, programmes is not so much of theta being no improvements, as a lack of enterprise. The present formulae adequate, but they could easily turn on themselves and become cosy, we must be alert against this.

And finally: I wish the adult audiences were treated with the respect television producers reserve for children. That will be a big day.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Haworth, J. D. S. (1964-03-13). Family programmes. Tribune (London) p. 14.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Haworth, J. D. S.. "Family programmes." Tribune (London) [add city] 1964-03-13, 14. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Haworth, J. D. S.. "Family programmes." Tribune (London), edition, sec., 1964-03-13
  • Turabian: Haworth, J. D. S.. "Family programmes." Tribune (London), 1964-03-13, section, 14 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Family programmes | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Family_programmes | work=Tribune (London) | pages=14 | date=1964-03-13 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 December 2018 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Family programmes | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Family_programmes | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 December 2018}}</ref>