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  Simon and Laura TV Din
Year: 1955
Director: Muriel Box
Stars: Peter Finch, Kay Kendall, Muriel Pavlow, Hubert Gregg, Maurice Denham, Ian Carmichael, Richard Wattis, Thora Hird, Terence Longdon, Clive Parritt, Alan Wheatley, Beverley Brooks, Hal Osmond, Joan Hickson, Charles Hawtrey, Esma Cannon, Gilbert Harding
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A naive young television writer, David Prentice (Ian Carmichael), has had a bright idea, and has brought it to the head of programming at the BBC (Richard Wattis). He runs it past two of the senior executives, and they are sceptical: yes, a new serial is not a bad idea and would have the viewers tuning in regularly if it was good enough, but David's concept of following a celebrity couple in their domestic life would be difficult to succeed with unless they could find one to agree. Easier said than done, basically, say the execs, but he has already thought of that...

Two decades before he won his Oscar for Network, Peter Finch starred in a no less caustic take-off of the television medium, although only by the standards of the day. Here the jabs and digs at cinema's smaller screen relative looked less like an attempt to lay bare the damaging effects of sucking on the glass teat, and more like sour grapes that it was keeping audiences out of the cinema when they could get the entertainment they wanted at home. It was no coincidence that this was made in colour, as if to play up what television lacked at the time, for it was all black and white back then.

The premise was that TV was a sham, and the movies could deliver the more authentic package to the amusement-seeker, so whereas the programme that David ends up making depicts the celebs, the Simon (Finch) and Laura (Kay Kendall) of the title, as living a life of utter marital bliss, the truth is far different. Indeed, the first time we meet them they are in the middle of a blazing row which sees Laura flinging about any ornament she has to hand and her spouse averring that he is going home to mother. However, once the lure of big money, and a regular supply at that, is waved under their noses they opt to set aside their differences.

Not so much for the sake of the marriage, more for the sake of their bank accounts which have been looking rather empty this past year. That was the central joke: TV is pure candyfloss and made a mockery out of what diversion you could be getting if you left the house and headed out to your local picture palace. Needless to say this would all fall flat if it were not for the sterling efforts of the cast, and Finch and Kendall made for a bitingly believable couple, bickering at every opportunity, with the former witty and the latter sparkling as was her wont. The support, even in the bit parts, were obviously keen to get their teeth into this material, and the cynicism exhibited itself in every frame.

Well, almost every frame. Yes, you did have then Brit TV megastar (now forgotten footnote) Gilbert Harding sounding off about the ghastliness of the United Kingdom's public, and the rest of the characters appeared to take his cue, the ones not enamoured of the small screen at any rate, but it was as if they couldn't keep up their acid satire for long. Certainly the whole story built up satisfyingly to a confrontation on a live broadcast of Simon and Laura's show, a special Christmas edition which goes wrong with very funny results from the recording of carol singers skipping to the eventual breakdown of the marriage as the arguing erupts into a massive brawl. As the characters sit about surveying the wreckage, they learn the show has been a massive success, the perfect place to finish, but they had to carry on as we watched the spikiness turn to mush. One suspects the censor had a hand in this undercutting of what had been agreeably droll. Music by Benjamin Frankel.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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