Between 1962 and 1964 a Television Wales and West magazine series going by the no-nonsense name of Wales and the West featured 12 short documentaries under the banner John Betjeman in the West Country. The series was lost along with most other broadcasting of the time, but six of the films later came to light (they've been released on DVD as The Lost Betjemans). Directed by Jonathan Stedall, each film focused on a specific location in the region, setting evocative images to Betjeman's narration. I'll be featuring four of them here at TV Minus 50. The first takes us to a genteel hotel in the Somerset resort of Clevedon during its winter season, when the only guests are its elderly permanent residents. Betjeman imagines the thoughts going through the heads of the old people as they go about their lonely lives, each day the same as the last. My writing can't hope to match his, so I'll just give you a selection of images (no titles exist for these films - or, if they do, they've been omitted from the released versions).
From the perspective of this blog, the scene showing a pair of elderly women glued to a TV screen displaying the unmistakable spiky-haired form of Joe Brown is especially fascinating
Viewers tuning in tonight to witness the aftermath of Pamela Wilder's gleeful sabotage of her husband's chances of becoming chairman of Scott-Furlong last week are, sadly, going to be disappointed...
As the episode's title implies, there's no sign of John Wilder this week - he's found a convenient business trip to Australia to slink off on upon discovering Sir Gordon Revidge (not even mentioned as being in the running last week) has been appointed Scott-Furlong's new chair. We discover all this during a breakfast conversation between sales director Don Henderson and his wife Pat (Anthea Wyndham), who it's apparent he didn't marry for her towering intellect.
"That cute little man with the accent," is how Pat refers to Scott-Furlong's general works manager, Arthur Sugden. He's got a lot on his plate at the moment: a pair of time and motion men (Simon Oates and Paul Dawkins) are stalking the factory, and the grapevine has it that it's all part of a plot by Wilder to get Sugden out. What's more, there's news from up north that his sister Phyllis is dying. Arthur and his wife Mary's display of stiff upper lippery in the face of the news is more affecting than any wailing or gnashing of teeth could be: "I always liked your Phyll." "Aye, she's a good soul."
Unfortunately, along with Wilder has gone any real sense of drama. Coronation Street writer John Finch does a good job with the working relationships between the men on the factory floor and Arthur's uncertainty of how much he's still one of them, but it's all too plainly an episode that's marking time until Patrick Wymark returns. Still, there's a few things in its favour, like the always welcome sight of Arthur's Fag Ash Lil secretary Margie, plus the return of factory sage Ernie Lucas, while John Junkin makes his debut as new union convener Dusty Miller.
And then there's the remarkable hairdo sported by Wilder's secretary Kay Lingard this week.
It's just a shame that the main thrust of the episode's so uninvolving. Arthur, due to travel to Phyllis's bedside detained at the factory due to a squabble over who stole one of the time and motion men's notebook, but (and I know I sound like I'm contradicting myself here) we never see sufficiently beyond his stiff upper lip to suggest that leaving's a matter of real urgency to him. Once the matter's sort-of resolved (Eddie Fish, due to retire the next day, is covering for his colleague Alec Reed, but Arthur decides not to question the old man any further about it), Arthur gets home to be told Phyllis has died already, and he wouldn't have had time to get there anyway. Sighing, he and Mary settle down to a cup of tea. It could have been a quietly touching way to end the episode, butthis scene, the whole point of which is its ordinariness, is ruined by a bizarrely inappropriate swell of dramatic music before the usual closing theme.