ATV - Asia Television Limited

Troubled 'times'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 February, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 February, 1997, 12:00am

The people at TVB Pearl have responded promptly to my raging on Tuesday over the scheduling of The Politician's Wife at 11.50pm on Sunday.

They did, I am assured, try their very best to get the drama into a prime-time slot.

'We certainly agree the series is top-notch and worthy of primetime positioning,' a spokesman said.

Apparently, the problem lies in the length of the British Channel 4 programme.

'Regrettably, the structure of the series as we received it - three 63-minute episodes - prevented us from treating it as a movie-length programme suitable for the 9.30pm time slot.

'Had we run all three episodes consecutively, we would have carried beyond the Government's 12.30am deadline for the late news.' According to licensing regulations, ATV and TVB are obliged to air two news slots between 6pm and 12.30am.

The explanation goes on: 'Trying to edit the three episodes into two movie-length programmes would have been a nightmare.' I cannot agree more. Conversely, cutting it to fit into a single hour-long slot would have removed too much of the storyline.

'That, by a process of elimination, left us with only the late-night slot,' said the spokesman.

The crux of the issue then is a matter of minutes.

Had Channel 4 made the drama in 50-minute episodes - as Cracker is, for example - the three episodes could have been run together and still allowed enough time (with commercial breaks included) to meet the 12.30am deadline.

Appreciating that it had to be shown at full length, TVB resorted to running it between 11.50pm and 1am, when the majority of viewers are in bed.

Why, can I suggest, did they not run it from 8pm to 9.10pm and then put in a 15 or 20-minute programme (they do exist) to fill the gap between the drama finishing and the 9.30pm film starting? The lack of flexibility imposed by the stations themselves by so meticulously preserving the established time slots backfires not just on the viewer but the station, too.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Clint Eastwood stars in tonight's only prime-time movie, Hang 'Em High (Pearl, 9.30pm), a well-produced, well-cast western about a wrangler Jed Cooper (Eastwood), who is lynched for the suspected theft of some cattle. Cooper survives the hanging and, after being nursed back to health by Rachel (Inger Stevens), determines to exact revenge.

Pat Hingle and Ed Begley co-star and cowboy veteran Bob Steele puts in a cameo appearance as a dungeon prisoner. Richard Burton may have appeared earnest in most of his movies but he never denied that most of his choices were made based on the money.

That, inevitably, meant that many of the films he appeared in failed to match his own immense talents.

Raid On Rommel (World, 12.55am) is one of them.

The story about a British officer who leads released POWs on a raid appears to be little more than an excuse to run stock footage of Tobruk.

Incidentally, Burton, who was christened Jenkins, changed his name to Burton because of the schoolmaster, Philip Burton, who helped him win a scholarship to Oxford.

If only life could be as lively for all over-60s as it is for The Golden Girls (World, 7pm).

Tonight, after Dorothy admits of her ex-husband, following a recent date, 'Stanley Zbornak made me weak at the knees. You think I am proud of that?', the ladies offer their sympathies and best sex stories.