Disregard the fact that I've matured into an over-sensitive poof who now cries at the telly uncontrollably when a) legendary showbiz pensioners sing (cf. Shirley Bassey) b) fluffy animals are being hopelessly cute in HD (cf. David Attenborough's Life) or c) when an episode of Paradox or Bonekickers is on (or indeed a combination of all three that often occur in one evening's viewing). When I'm not trying to see through rivers of salt water as Gillian Anderson and Anna Maxwell Martin perform that scene in Bleak House, you will usually find me wearing the 'telly smile'. The secret of the 'telly smile' is revealed in John Grindrod's wonderful selection of essays, Shouting At The Telly.
Getting in a tizz about what's on the box or championing telly underdogs is the general thrust of the brief but heartfelt opinions here. Like many of the authors in this volume I have been known to get hot under the collar and lob a few acidic comments at Tess Daly and her questionable choice of frocks on a Saturday night. And what I like about John Grindrod's selection here is that it embraces all sorts of televisual pleasures. Mainly the very guilty ones. And it doesn't quantify what would be considered 'cult' viewing as something old, made in TC1 in 1972. This is one of those books which will immediately evoke feelings of familiarity, horror and shock, will have you nodding in agreement or laughing on the bus. Or on the loo. In these pages are the distilled thoughts of writers, viewers and comedians about the highs and lows of the output that's piped into your homes 24/7.
I was particularly enamored of Matthew Sweet's rather joyous trouncing, born out of love, of Howard's Way. The series, which I never had the good (or bad) fortune to see, always came across as a low rent version of Dynasty on a minute BBC drama budget and with its 80s idea of glamour susceptible to the vagaries of the British climate. For those who gobble up 'bad' telly it must have indeed been a bit of a feast and Sweet's droll essay might even inspire me to go and seek out some episodes. It also sits as a wonderful accompaniment to Adrian Riches 'Ten Reasons To Love Dallas'. Only ten? Must be more than that. Riches quite rightly sets his sights at the series' resident Three Witches (and three of the above 'reasons' into the bargain) - Barbara 'Miss Ellie' Bel Geddes, Linda 'Sue Ellen' Gray and Charlene 'Poison Dwarf' Tilton.
Steve Williams 'You're Watching STV' conjures up a time in my own childhood when all I wanted to be was 'the man in charge of putting things on the telly'. How much blood, sweat and tears did I put into my own bizarre schedules at such a sensitive age? Too much, as I fear the vestiges of that process have certainly affected my preference for the Radio Times over 'those other publications' and an insistence on marking up the 'must see' programmes of the week in red felt pen. What a sad git.
I do feel Andrew Collins is slightly unfair on Upstairs Downstairs in 'When Lord Bellamy Looks At The Camera' by shining a great big spotlight on faults that quite frankly only exist because of the way the programme was made in 1974. It can't help being the way it is, Andrew. However, he gleefully shares my love of the programme too and his worship at the hem of actress Patsy Smart must be applauded. Not only did she put in a bit of a storming performance when Lady Bellamy copped it on the Titanic, complete with emotion packed tears and snot (either that or she had one hell of a cold), but she uttered some of my favourite lines in The Talons Of Weng Chiang's opening episode: 'Oooohhh, you wouldn't serve 'at wiv onions. Make an 'orse sick 'at would'. God bless you, Patsy.
Elsewhere are other treasures: 'Sick TV' is Sam Delaney's great paean to what we all euphemistically call 'duvet days' when as kids we took a sickie off school and spent the day watching Australian soaps and Granada's bleak if not compelling Crown Court. I was often very fond of The Flumps too. David Quantick is quick to point out that it's actually quite hard work researching for the likes of Harry Hill and Monica Long attempts to rehabilitate Freddie Starr. And almost succeeds.
A delicious concoction, Shouting At The Telly is welcome support for those sore-throated, idiot box insult throwers who truly understand the guilty pleasures of terrible soaps, geek fests and bonkers reality TV shows. I am not alone, it seems.
You can also catch up with John's wonderful blog Shouting At The Telly
Shouting At The Telly - Edited by John Grindrod (Published November 5th - Publisher Faber And Faber - ISBN: 9780571248025)