For All Nails #199: What's on the Vita Then?
by Sir Francis Burdett
- Brooklyn Eagle
- Saturday morning edition page E3
- 11 January 1975
Executive Office Drama
by-line John Henry
Wednesdays 8:00 PM NABC North American Broadcasting Company
On paper, BEHIND THE PALACE GATES, the hour-long drama Wednesday nights on NABC looks like one of the sure winners of the new vitavision season. It has bright, attractive people and a wonderful premise –- an insiders view at the Executive Palace -- created by Gerald Heffernan, who wrote the award winning THE GRENADIER FN1 for the big screen. Add to that a decent period, preceding one of the network's most popular programmes, CONFEDERATION PANORAMA, FN2 and the prospects look favourable.
The programme premiered on Wednesday January 8 and in it all the featured players parade before us with three brief story lines, which hold out some interesting possibilities for future development. The players are just what you hope to find in the real executive offices; they were to a body bright, attractive, articulate and earnest.
The cast is an interesting mix of old friends from other series and films, and some new faces. Paul DeVillers, from EVENINGS WITH MURRAY, is the wizened chief of staff HIRAM BANKS. David Anderson, long time patriarch of the eponymous CASTERBRIDGE FAMILY, plays the Minister of Home Affairs DANIEL FIELDING. Playing against type Wilkie Darrow of the MILLIE ON THE CASE film series does an admirable job as the distinctly Masonist Foreign Minister CECIL MONTGOMERY. FN3 The rest of the cabinet are not fully fleshed as of yet but there are some welcome new faces among the executive political staff; chief among these playing the Governor-General's tough as nails chief political operative MARCIA REYNARD is the lovely Anne McClellan, a very welcome discovery. A newcomer to vita but long time King's Way stage actor Wayne Easter plays the youthful ever-earnest Governor-General MATTHEW TENNANT.
The most impressive feature of the premiere was the dialog, which was crisp, smart and on key, and the atmosphere, which, with several exceptions was very close to the real world of the Executive Palace Offices. On the programme Governor-General Tennant is a member of the "Independence Party" clearly an analogue for the Reform and Justice Party. A sensible reasoned political philosophy is exhibited throughout the programme.
The only problem in tone was a distinct lack of edginess on the part of the players. During the Mason years, on my (admittedly infrequent) visits to the Palace, I was struck by the tenseness of the younger staff members. They always seemed to be looking over their shoulders, as though someone was out to get them, or, worse yet, their boss. However, that may have been peculiar to that particular Governor-General-ship.
My prediction is that in spite of the fact that few North Americans are bored with Governor-General Skinner, they will welcome this programme and make it the hit of the season. As an old political hack, I shall certainly look to live the next 5 years through my vita rather than face the harsh realties of our own real political landscape.
- Michigan City Banner page C7
- 11 January 1975
New Wednesday Vita offerings are a mixed bag
By-line Roswell Kinsolving
Please see page C1 for the entire 1975 season review
8:20 Following Dr Russell Snow's venerable BOOKNOTES (or is that the venerable Dr Snow's BOOKNOTES) is the relatively lively adventure show FORT PITT EXPLOITS. It purports to show life in the frontier colonial fort (and soon to be national capital) in the heady days directly after the first Britannic Design. Robert Scott plays the ahistorical COMMANDER JOHN MANLEY of Fort Pitt. Though the programme makes claims of historical accuracy it is in essence forty minutes of Millies and Indians. Children should enjoy it; parents may be able to stomach it. In the first installment the DUKE OF ALBANY, as played by English stage actor Peregrine Hadley, makes a surprise inspection. Pass the time by spotting the anachronisms. Grade: **1/2
9:00/10:00 MIDWEEK CONCERT AT GALLOWAY HALL and MY PIONEER FATHER have switched starting times. Presumably adding some chronological order to the NUBS programmes as well a metaphor for the civilizing force of vita, perhaps. From Fort Pitt to the Vandalian Prairie to concert halls of the Galloway. Well that's my theory anyway for this otherwise useless switch.
No changes to the early evening Wednesday NCCC schedule though according to press reports this is the last series for Alan Rock with DOWN ON THE FARM, FN4 and it would be a travesty for this comedy to continue without Mr. Rock. The eight o'clock hour in which NCCC has dominated for the last seven years is in doubt. Though who knows in these troubled times what next week may bring much less next year.
9:30 NCCC is going with a fresh face. The newspaper "journalist" Caroline Habsburg will have her own half hour vita programme imaginatively titled INTERVIEWS WITH CAROLINE HABSBURG. The tiara-less Archduchess FN5 will be interviewing "celebrities" from the "worlds of vita, film, stage and Society" according to the NCCC programme prospectus. That this programme will detract from CLOSING TIME at 11:30 seems not to have occurred to the NCCC Directors. If you watched Walt in the past few weeks you'd assume that Miss Habsburg now has her own monogrammed chair on CLOSING TIME as she has appeared so often and been so heavily promoted. I give this programme six weeks at most. Grade: **
8:00 BEHIND THE PALACE GATES is a tediously earnest drama that will probably earn some undeserved early viewership due to NABC's relentless promotion during the Football finals. Writer/Director Gerald Heffernan is capable of very fine work when he is not sidetracked by his ideological blinders (see MY YEAR AT OXBRIDGE and despite of my personal political disapproval, the uproariously funny KING HENRY AND I DOWN A PINT) FN6 but allows his Masonist party sentiments full rein in this dramatization of the Executive Offices.
As a complete review is available elsewhere (please see page C1) please allow for nitpicking here. As BEHIND THE PALACE GATES is a supposed insider's view of the workings of the Governor-General's Office it is surprising how unrealistic is its view of politics. One realizes this immediately when we see the character of Governor-General MATTHEW TENNANT played by first time vita actor Wayne Easter. His saintliness is emphasized to such an extent that we expect him to be wearing a halo and wings. Again for a programme about politics there is very little of it about, except for the most Masonist feel-good variety. The hard choices and harsh realities of modern life hardly intrude on this imagined Confederation. In light of recent tragic events this may count as a scandal, though in the producer's defence these episodes were filmed last year.
In the first episode (which was not to be the premiere episode, the original premiere contained a storyline involving a state visit from King Edward of Australia which was hastily pulled for obvious reasons) the Governor-General receives a request from a British Prime Minister Roberts for help in liberating a country called Iraq (an imaginary despotism somewhere in Arabia). This "Conservative Party" leader is a supposedly close friend of the "Independent" Tennant. "She" met the Governor-General while teaching at Webster. This introduction contains so many implausibilities that I do not know where to begin. FN7 The entire episode leaves us with a multitude of questions of which some of most trivial and thus the most needling are listed below.
How likely is it that the Primate of the Church of North America just happens to be a life long mentor to the Governor-General? How likely is it that said Bishop would have been the rector of the younger G-G's public school during the latter's school days -- in Manitoba no less? (As an aside, it was a nice touch to have aging actor Stephane Dion play the ARCHBISHOP MACKINTOSH. Dion played the title role in the fondly remembered 1940's vita programme COUNTRY VICAR) Given the Governor-General's busy schedule how likely is it that he would have tea with the Primate twice in a week's time? At the beginning of both teatime scenes, did the producers have to use the same stock footage of the Anglican National Cathedral? Have the producers even ever left Hoboken and set a single foot in Burgoyne? These and other questions left unanswered. I pray for a quick programme run. Grade **
11:40 THE SAINTJOHN SMYTHE VARIETY CAVALCADE As stated earlier, a horrible idea all round. If this is NABC's answer to CLOSING TIME, I demand a new question. Just because the Liberals are in power doesn't mean that the vita public will accept any old imported English NRVS twaddle. FN8 Grade *1/2
Forward to FAN #200: The Lads From Luanda.
Forward to 13 January 1975: Angry Johnnie.
Forward to Vitavision: These Are the Journeys.
Return to For All Nails.