Earlier this week we reviewed the first ITV series of Whicker’s World released in full on DVD for the first time in ‘Whicker’s World 1‘ from Network Releasing, now we turn to the second release, ‘Whicker’s World 2: Whicker’s New World’, the second ITV series hosted by Alan Whicker in 1969.
Whicker’s New World was Alan Whicker’s second series produced by Yorkshire Television for ITV in the sixties. Network Releasing have promised to release all the ITV series’ of Whicker’s World and this week we saw series one, from 1968, released along with series two on May 23rd.
The first episode on disc one is ‘Immortality Inc‘. While the first ITV series had mainly focused on stories from around the Yorkshire area, series two begins with Alan in America looking at the business of selling eternal life. Shots of stateside graves leads us to a ‘new resting place’ in California’s San Fernando Valley where Alan discovers ‘the start of a silent revolution’. Inside huge freezers are the deceased, people who have decided to ‘live twice’. The corpse frozen solid waiting for ‘future’ discoveries which will enabled them to be brought back to life.
The programme talks to relatives of those who have undergone the ‘waiting process’; a mother discusses her son while a husband talks about his wife and how they believe one day the icy bodies will be thawed back to life.
“In cryonic suspension the body is preserved against natural decay, every cell, every bacterium is frozen. You won’t get better, but you won’t get any worse…”
The next episode ‘MicroMedia Inc‘ looks at ‘the first media generation’ with shots of a school media centre in Larchmont, New York, with students operating the cameras, mixing desks and presenting segments such as weather forecasts. The school each weekday presents to 850 students across the complex their own news programme The Morning Report where today Alan is the studio guest. He also visits a ‘charm school’ where a group of girls are learning to walk like catwalk models.
It’s off to Hollywood to take a look at the an audition process with some ‘professional tots’ where he meets those with a stage-name at five, but are too old by nine. Contrast with New York’s West Side YMCA where Alan meets the teenagers of the city and the dangers these youngsters encounter often on a daily basis.
“Childhood once conjured up long lazy days, excitement and wonder. But today’s kids dance to a cool tune.”
It’s back to America for ‘Swingles Inc‘ the third episode of the 1969 series. Alan informs us there is in the states at the time of production a new economic force, 24 million single adults who aren’t keen to get married. He meets the ‘affluent and independent’ unattached across the country and how they spend their time. For some who do want to settle down, the dating agencies and their modern computers can make a love match via computer data. Alan visits one such business and their technology to see how its all brought together. Alan undergoes a test to see the kind of person he could be matched with, and then meets up with his match to find out more about the dating game.
The end of the programme joins singles at a meet and greet gathering where they hope to find their perfect match. Alan ponders that the word swingles is just another way of saying ‘alone’.
“With quiet desperation, they preside over their endless rejection.”
Episode four is entitled ‘Papa Doc: the Black Sheep‘ and sees Whicker’s World head to Haiti to meet the ‘voodoo president’ François Duvalier (1907-1971) who over his years in power, since 1957, has brought terror to his people, ruin to his country and the inescapable threat ‘whoever destroys Duvalier destroys Haiti.’ Alan also informs us that in such a place a white face is ‘unexpected, distrusted, hated.’ Nonetheless Alan continues to venture into the world of Duvalier.
We’re told Duvalier at the point in time had executed at least 2000 of his citizens and sent another 30,000 into exile. The rest live in a terrified silence. Yorkshire Television cameras take us on a tour of the country, some of its buildings and workers such as the coffee industry. Alan then gets a chance to meet ‘Papa Doc’ in the presidential palace for himself, as he recalled in The Daily Telegraph in 2013:
“We later learnt that his chargé d’affaires in London was a Whicker’s World enthusiast, and upon our request for visas had sent Papa Doc an approving telex… With the lowest income, food intake and life expectancy in the hemisphere, the lives of the long-suffering Haitians had changed little since the days of slavery two centuries ago. Shoes were still a luxury. When we arrived in December 1968, I found it impossible to exaggerate the poverty of a land so out of step with the rest of the world”
Alan suggests, in only a way he could, to Duvalier that he could be described as a ‘dictator’. He retorts ‘Not a dictator, a strong man! Democracy is only a word – it is a philosophy, a conception. What you call democracy in your country, another country might call dictatorship.’
“You feel his menace in the pit of your stomach, you hear his presence in the silence of his subjects.”
Disc Two begins with ‘Tender Loving Care Inc’ as we head back to America for further adventures stateside. ‘Something hidden and unusual’ is to be found behind the walls of a very normal looking building in Texas. ‘Behind these locked doors, something ‘funny’ is going on’.
Yes this Texas ranch is the ‘greenhouse which sells moonbeams’. Yes its a world for some of the richest women in America who are on a quest for youth and beauty. This spar – or ‘fat farm’ is a place which offers assistance in that search for body perfection. ‘Surrendering dollars and dignity for reassurance.’ Alan suggests its along way from Coronation Street before offering us a shot of an ‘Ena Sharples look-a-like’ taking a dip in the swimming pool.
For £800-per-week, patrons – entirely female – are treated to make-overs, manicures and every possible fat-shreding exercise plan possible. Their rooms provide all the lavish luxuries you require – apart from food of course, which is kept to the minimum – and there is even colour television to distract from wanting to eat; screening ‘exotic foreign performers’ – cue a clip of ATV’s This Is Tom Jones on the television. Alan then meets the staff and guests of the Greenhouse spa, to discuss the beauty business.
Edition six in YTV’s second series of Whicker’s World is entitled ‘Body snatchers Inc‘ which sees Alan in Manhattan, America, taking a lie detector test; a staple part of The Jeremy Kyle Show these days, but back in 1969 it was quite a rare sight on television. We learn that the lie detector test will soon be part of the employment process. The programme then investigates the business of the ‘body snatchers’ – the companies who poach staff from one business empire for another.
We get to see the New York Motor-show, where we find that the new is always better. However there isn’t enough new executives for corporations, this is thanks, Alan tells us, due to low birth rates in the depression years, while a later baby boom means there is an ever growing workforce to be overseen. And the executives that are employed are over worked and over stressed. Alan then looks at how the over-strained business minds unwind.
“There is an endless demand for the loyal organisation man, who as they say ‘plays on the team’ and doesn’t stick his head up. There are classic rewards for those who fit in.”
‘Happy Happy Inc’, the seventh and penultimate episode of the second series continues with Alan in America. We learn that in the states the elderly are being driven out of the city, defeated by the violence and the noisy interests of the young. The answer is the ‘retirement towns’ – a whole community especially created for the senior citezens. Alan heads to Arizona where one such community is thriving, keeping one foot in the groove.
We see the residents who have a ‘regulation happy happy, holiday camp attitude’ and the salesmen who offer the over 60s a dream in the desert. Alan takes in some of the weekly schedule of events on offer to the residents, ranging from golf to knitting clubs and bowling to country dancing and a cycling group. Suncity offers something for everyone who has retired. It’s one solution for things to do for the old folks at home, Alan suggests.
“What happens to people when they’re too old to work, and too young to die? What do we offer them?”
The final show in the series sees Alan Whicker meet Carl Gustav von Rosen in the episode ‘Pugnacious Pacifist.’ The Swedish pioneer aviator, humanitarian, and mercenary pilot chats with Whicker at his home in Sweden about his life.
“This improbable Don Quixote of the sixties is for Sweden a national hero, a national embarrassment. Simple, stubborn, happiest at home with his countess hes that unusual blend of humanity – a good man who is also a man of action.”
At the time these programmes first aired on ITV Alan was looking at the changing world around him, the changing ways of living and the changing values of society. Today the shows are an interesting look back at that time, where some things have changed drastically while others continue to remain relevant to our society today.
Our view is its definitely worth venturing back into Whicker’s World again.