“Yes, it’s true they watch the box all the time. But haven’t you noticed what it is they’re watching?Repeats, repeats, repeats! We’re lucky to get one new production a week now on each channel. Upcome the old programmes, time after time. Look at the Radio Times; what do you see?
Last of theSummer Wine, Cheers, The Good Life
- for the umpteenth time. Any minute now they’ll put on
?”David stared at Appleton. “You mean you never heard of . . . ? My God, I should remember howyoung you are. Well, it seems there’s nothing they won’t repeat nowadays so long as it hasn’t been onfor six months or more.”“But why is it like that?”“Why? Because there’s no money about. The Labour government cut the cost of the TV licence asyou know, so the BBC’s finances depend on more and more on government grants, and theindependent companies can’t put up their fees to advertisers again, they just won’t wear it. So out comethe repeats.”“So you’re saying there are no jobs for people like me? People who’ve spent years training as actorsand looking forward to their first real part?”“Son, that’s not only what I’m saying, I’m also saying there’s little or no work for established actors- big names. Acting’s going down the toilet as a profession, that’s what.”John Appleton was silent for a moment. “So you really can’t help me? I’m a good actor; I won theOlivier trophy and the Redgrave award. And I had rave notices after the academy’s production of
The Apple Cart.
”David smiled a little. “
The Apple Cart
? Appleton in
The Apple Cart
?”“Yes, all right.. But that’s quite a part, the king.”Stoner’s eyebrows rose a little. “You played the king, eh? Yes, that is quite a part. Hmm.”A year or two ago he would have attended all the drama schools’ productions, looking for newtalent, but these days there seemed little point when work was so difficult to find anyway. He ponderedfor a few moments. “Wait a moment. You any relation of Ambrose Appleton?”“He was my dad.”“Well, well! One of the best, Ambrose. We were all sorry about the heart attack.”Watkins had sent him details of the lad’s experience, but he’d overlooked that bit. If he wasAmbrose’s son, he could well have inherited some of the family talent. He certainly seemed to be theright stuff. Pity about the looks . . .“Well, John, is it? I’ll certainly keep you in mind, but I’ve told you the score. I may be able to findyou something; let’s both keep hoping. Meanwhile, we’ll put you on the books. You’re agreeable to mytaking twelve and a half per cent?”John Appleton looked up in surprise. “Ten per cent, surely?”The agent raised his eyebrows and spread his hands, and the aspiring actor nodded despondently.“Got your Equity card with you? Right, well, you go out there and show it to my secretary and giveher any more details she wants. And good luck.”They shook hands and the young hopeful departed to the outer office. Stoner heaved another sigh.Running his finger down his desk diary, he checked his afternoon appointment at the BBC TelevisionCentre. “Hmm, I think I’ll take an early lunch. Ruby, book me a taxi for 1.30 at the Feathers.” JUST BEFORE TWO O’CLOCK Stoner made his way up to the third floor to meet KevinBestwick, a television producer in his late thirties. He didn’t often come to the TV centre to meet producers, he mused: they normally phoned him or came round to look through his books for suitableactors. What do I mean, normally? They used to come to me . . .“Hi, Kevin, how’s tricks?” he asked as the two shook hands.“Pretty bloody poor. Two productions in the last six months. I did
Twice Round the Block
and thenew Alan Bennett —
Heads of State
. See either of them?”“Saw them both. Damn good work. But what’s in the pipeline? Anything new?”“Not a sausage. All I do is sit around all day; that’s when I’m not dropping broad hints to thecontroller . . . ““It’s these repeats, isn’t it? Night after night after night.”“You said it. Know what the latest is?
, the whole blasted series.”“Good God, that again? Well, some of my people will get a bit of a fee out of that. Not as good as anew production, obviously. Lack of money again?”“Yep. We’re on such a tight budget these days, our jobs are all walking on tightropes. Rumour has itthere’ll be more job cuts soon. If something can’t be done before long the whole television business