Syndicated to UK newspapers on 19 March 1966
SINCE EAMONN ANDREWS seems to have a hammer-lock contract with ABC TV that guarantees him large sums of money for some time yet, it is doubtful if anything so drastic as annihilation will take place in the near future.
His recent Sunday evening programmes have managed to reduce conversation to an intellectual level that makes tiddly-winks, by comparison, a major art form.
Neither the producer of this programme, Malcolm Morris, nor its editor, Tom Brennand, seem to have the faintest conception of what conversation really is.
Any dictionary will tell them that it is an exchange or inter-change of views and ideas and not a succension of monologues or party turns stimulated by nothing better than a pre-organised cue on one of Mr. Andrews’s mysterious prompt cards.
And as any hostess from Surbiton to Belgravia can tell them, you are not likely to get good conversation unless the assembled people have something remotely in common about which they are prepared to argue, chat or joke.
But judging from recent recruits to the dentist’s waiting-room laughingly described as a set your chances of being invited to this programme are considerably enhanced if you happen to be an American actor making a film in England, if only a minute proportion of the viewing audience has ever beard of you, and if your talent as a talker is largely confined to your ability to answer questions about your early life with something more than a grunt.
Euphemistically Eamonn’s guests are hailed as Sunday Night People, but consider ing the relative obscurity of a large proportion of them I suggest Wednesday Matinee People as a more appropriate description.
Obscurity, of course, is no bar to being a good conversationalist, but rarely have any of these people anything to offer but an innocuous grin, a knowing nudge about what went on when they saw Frank Sinatra (“He’s one of the greats! Just one of the greats!”) wearing a funny hat on a golf course in Milwaukee, and a mention for the film they’re involved in.
The plugging that goes on during this programme is sometimes shamefully blatant. I remember him introducing a girl called Sheila White, who had an undistinguished song to sing in the musical On The Level, as “A little girl I reckon’s going to be a big star.”
She proceeded to stomp around in a noisy, grimacing manner that would hardly have justified her appearance on Hughie Green’s Amateur Nights and displayed as much star potential as Eamonn Andrews in the role of Othello.
Sometimes the programme luckily gets an extrovert like Sir John Barbirolli who is amusing value as long as no one interrupts his stories. But more often vital personalities like Vanessa Redgrave are reduced to the status of embarrassed, limp observers trying to smile bravely at show biz anecdotes told by their more exhibitionist fellow-guests.
And if his guests could be orchestrated into some sort of a central discussion and leave him with little to do but act as a direction finder, there is no good reason why Eamonn Andrews should not continue to compere it. He is a pleasant, likeable professional.
But it could be that The Eamonn Andrews Show has already reached the point of no-return.
When the best brains, the best wits, the best conversationalists often refuse to take part in it because its standards have become embarrassingly low then there is nothing for ABC to do but either wind it up or get down to some drastic reshaping of the show’s entire structure and philosophy.