Syndicated to UK newspapers on 29 January 1966
THERE IS NO SADDER sight on television than watching the speed at which the teenage shows develop visual hardening of the arteries.
In my day youth used to be identified with an erratic and unpredictable change of mood, interest, fad, foible, passion.
If one can judge by the most popular TV proprammes, the teenagers of the 1960’s have been stuck in a one-taste groove like a baby dinosaur growing up in the ooze.
Pop music, if we are to believe the programme planners, is the all-consuming cultural interest of modern youth – and practically nothing else!
For almost four years the only evening programmes aimed at adolescents have been little more than public relations adjuncts of the record business.
Juke Box Jury, Top of the Pops, Ready, Steady, Go! Thank Your Lucky Stars, Gadzooks, It’s All Happening and Stramash! have not only reflected the need of teenagers stimulated by rhythm but they have exaggerated the relevance of that need into a gigantic lie.
Sociological historians studying this decade from the pages of the Radio Times and TV Times would have to conclude that in their formative years the young of the ‘sixties had only a minimal or negligible interest in films, the theatre, sports, polities, books, conversation, science, debate, serious music, travel, poetry, art or even love. Their sole relaxation appeared to be to shake in a large hall – usually on their own, mute and devoid of contact with the opposite sex – displaying neither enjoyment, passion nor involvement
Even more depressing is the bovine manner in which they have accepted the same formula, the same setting, the same atmosphere, the same jargon, even the same personalities, of these pop shows.
For the past few weeks I have been watching Ready Steady, Go! and Thank Your Lucky Stars and find that they are practically indistinguishable in mood and manner from what they were a year ago.
Ready, Steady, Go! has suffered worst from imaginative paralysis with artists introduced in the same way to the same platform to the same accompaniment of massed bodies gawking or jiggling.
What was once fresh, immediate and zestful has been allowed to stale into tired familiarity and predictable routine. The fact that it has gone “live” has coincided with the fact that it is really dead.
Thank Your Lucky Stars, too, has gelled into formula stuff, with the designers being the only ones called upon to be inventive. And there is more than a sign of desperation about some to be of their efforts. I thought last week the motif was traffic signs for drunken drivers.
The over-all tone is adulatory and non-critical with the comperes of both programmes vying with each other in their use of copy-writers’ adjectives.
Cathy McGowan of Ready, Steady, Go! now has a serious rival in Jim Dale of Thank Your Lucky Stars in the use of the word “fantastic.”
Last week’s show, according to Mr. Dale, had items which were great, fabulous, the best, tremendous, in addition to being merely fantastic. He asked the audience to give each of them “a great big hand.” Must the vocabulary of these shows really be so poverty-stricken?
Against such an uninspiring background it is a relief to welcome the B.B.C.’s A Whole Scene Going. Although it, too, over emphasises pop music, it at least makes an intelligible effort to examine the phenomena and provide more than a fan club’s view of the performers.
When Pete Townshend, of The Who, admitted that his group had no musical quality and that he was baffled by the tastes and personalities of the fellow-members of his group, I felt a rush of honest fresh air into this pop formula for the very first time.
“In pop business, you know, we’re lucky there are no standards,” he said, and when someone in the studio pressed him about their sexual appeal, he bluntly replied: “Look, our group’s one of the most unglamorous on the stage.” One may resent the grammar, but not the sentiment.
The inclusion of a letters’ column with various teen-age and older experts answering questions such as when a provincial girl should leave home and come to London, should a new pop singer get himself a manager, and what do you do about a boy friend who is constantly being mistaken for a pop star provided lively and relevant discussion.
The film montages on fashion are zippy and gay, while the introduction of other interests like sport, cinema and clothes is a welcome rebuttal of the libel that we are rearing an adolescent herd, brainwashed by pop alone.