In the days of two channel television there used to be a thing called 'Armchair Theater' from, I think, ATV TV. This competed with plays shown on the BBC and the other day the type of plays shown came to mind for some reason now forgotten. In between those featuring Judie Dench overemoting,(at least it saved writing scripts) there appeared plays which took us well aware from the run of the mill stuff that now dominates the small screen. Today, as you know, anything that appears on screen is merely a soap opera! Often it is an American version which includes guns, explosions and women throwing themselves at the anti-hero star. (British version differ in that they contain guns, explosions and a woman throwing herself at the anti-hero star.)
However in the sixties this was not the case. One of the first, which appeared around the time we first had our Ferranti Telly, featured a spacecraft hanging over London threatening earth! I can remember the scene in the Cabinet Room as the Prime Minister and his cohorts discussed the situation. As they spoke my folks debated whether this was 'live' or not! I can remember my dad saying "That's not Harold MacMillan!" as if to convince my mum that it was indeed a play. Now you understand why I have no brains! A later play featured two men sitting on a park bench discussing life. As the talk continued it became obvious one of them came from Mars. Such events are not shown today, nor is the one concerning the department store. This featured a young men wandering around a store after closing time and discovering the mannequins that modelled the clothes in the store window. As he looked at them, and those inside the shop, they began to speak to him. By the end of the play he had of course become one of them and was found standing in the window, statuesque like. One other featured Bernard Cribbens, at least my memory tells me so, and this concerned a man who's skin slowly began to turn into steel. This began around his midriff and slowly made its way upwards. His anxious wife and not so anxious doctor stood by the bed, ignoring him, and discussing the situation. In the end he dies. Maybe this had a satiric value that my young mind could not gather, possibly it was just written by a nutter?
Now tastes change and time passes but it appears to me that television today only wants soaps and simple to understand 'drama.' That is why the quality is so poor. A comment made on the 'Steptoe & Son,' programme claimed that comedy today was poor because it required a laugh every thirty seconds, there being no time to create characters or situations. We live in simpler times, the TV audience cannot cope with much beyond soaps and reality shows. The drama I mentioned from the past may be a bit esoteric, whatever that means, but at least it was something different. I suppose in the fifties and sixties TV had room for experiment, today this is not allowed. There again red tape intervenes. Memory tells me that the radio programme 'I'm sorry I haven't a clue,' was created by Graeme Garden and one other discussed the idea in the BBC canteen, went upstairs to the Radio controller and were given the go-ahead there and then. Now it takes several layers of suits before a programme is offered to the nation. Somewhere along the way creativity and spontaneity have been lost.
There again, maybe it's just me thinking today's telly is garbage of course and past times appear better.