In the hands of Jeremy Isaacs This Week has become one of television’s most fearless programmes.
From the TVTimes for week commencing 10 April 1965.
Three recent editions — dealing with different types of social deviations — were among the most stark ever seen on the British TV screen.
Yet there were only THREE complaints from viewers — and one of those was to point out that Amsterdam was not the capital of Holland as the programme had wrongly said.
But This Week has built up its reputation mainly by its skilful analysis of the news and the background to it.
I spent three days watching producer Isaacs bringing his weekly programme (Thursdays) to life. For half of the time he hardly stopped talking or moving about.
At the end of it, he was still as fresh as a spring morning. I was worn out.
The door of this dynamic man’s office is always left open so he can yell non-stop instructions to his secretary and staff as ideas cascade through his mind.
Yet this is no wild egotist getting caught up in a tangled maze of his own ideas. In conference with those who work with him, he is a great listener and most receptive to his colleagues’ ideas. He absorbs, and either accepts or discards — with rapid-fire judgment and appropriate action.
Jeremy Israel Isaacs comes from Glasgow… “and I’m as Scottish as any Glasgow Jew can be,” he said. Thirty-two years old, he lives with his South African wife Tamara and their two young children at Turnham Green, London.
How did he arrive in his present job – one of the toughest in television?
“When my National Service ended I had £100 scraped together. I’d determined, somehow. to break into either TV or journalism. But for months the only job anyone would offer me was as a soap salesman,” he said. However, I hung on and finally got a job as researcher for What the Papers Say. Later, I moved to All Our Yesterdays. I wasn’t so keen on that. I’m interested in today, not yesterday.”
Isaacs’ office is sparsely fitted, the walls are almost bare. But one of the things on the walls illustrates his feelings – or lack of them — for politicians.
It is a framed newspaper cutting, referring to This Week’s recent election coverage.
It quotes him: “If they (the politicians) want to complain, they can do it afterwards…” At the bottom, he has black pencilled, in block capitals — “THEY DID.”
Isaacs’ pet aversion is what he calls “waffle.” With his volatile make-up he is interested only in getting to the heart of a matter, cutting away all undergrowth, as ruthlessly and as rapidly as can be.
“What I won’t have in This Week,” he said, “is a room full of so-called ‘experts’ — self-styled pundits — sitting around in a semi-circle discussing the subject in hand in some vague, airy, pompous, non-committal way — i.e., waffling.
“The time is past for this form of television. The 1965 public is an enlightened public, greedy for detailed interpretations of the big news of the day. They want to see it put before them from every angle. And be left to form their own judgment.
“They don’t want to be told — they want to be shown.”
Isaacs is the first to point out that This Week is a team show. “Although I may be the man who decides what goes into the programme, I’m only one of 30 or 40 people who make it up,” he said.
At one of the most hectic-periods of the week — and believe me, it IS hectic on This Week — a young girl called to see Isaacs, by appointment. He gave her a private interview, lasting nearly half an hour.
Afterwards, he said to me, wistfully: “Such promising young people about… all mad to get into TV… there just isn’t room for all of them… I wish there was…”