Sunday, December 03, 2006

Missing The Point

At the National Film Theatre yesterday for Missing Believed Wiped 2006, the annual round-up of recovered television episodes and random clips from programmes previously thought lost after the broadcasters fervently wiped tapes back in the 1960s and early ‘70s.

I’m never that keen on watching old programmes. I don’t understand people the mentality who still watch shows from their childhood – as in the mangy rascals who still steadfastly watch old episodes of Doctor Who. While I enjoyed them as a kid, who didn’t know any better, there’s adult drama to watch now that I’m an adult.

But Missing Believed Wiped screens programmes that I would have been too young to watch at the time of their original broadcast. The production values may be basic and some of the younger actors, obviously new to the medium, seem to be projecting their lines to the gods at times, but it all adds to the innocent charm.

After watching the two different presentations, I have a few confessions to make. I’m of the age where I missed the original Quatermass trilogy, the BBC adaptation of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and just about everything else written by Nigel Kneale, apart from the 1978 ITV Quatermass. Which means there is this revered figure of English television drama that I have no knowledge of. In the first presentation – Nuclear Threats – Missing Believed Wiped screened the 1964 drama The Crunch, written by Kneale. I fell asleep.

The other thing is, I don’t find Douglas Adams’ work at all funny. This is like speaking ill of the dead, part two, but there you go. I liked The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when it was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4, not so all the various incarnations since. It tried to be Oxbridge clever. The comedy came across as an afterthought.

Part Two: Comedy Plus of Missing Believed Wiped included the pilot of Out of the Trees. Co-written by Graham Chapman, Bernard McKenna and Douglas Adams, it felt like we were watching sketches rejected from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. For thirty minutes I sat stone-faced.

That aside, the forty-year-old Level Seven from the anthology series Out of the Unknown was interesting, even if it was a real downer. Most remarkable was a 3-minute BBC News Extra from November 22, 1963. Reporting on The Death of President Kennedy, it presented all the facts of Oswald’s involvement in quite astonishing detail.

Any sensible person might have thought it had already been prepared for the news outlets in advance.


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