About a year ago, I was approached by a chap from Faber and Faber called John Grindrod, asking if I'd contribute a few hundred words on just about anything to an anthology he was editing called Shouting at the Telly. We e-mailed back and forth, and discovered that we had a lot in common, from favourite television programmes to mutual ex-colleagues, so the decision was pretty easy. I got on one of my favourite hobby horses and did a piece about ITV start-up sequences and continuity.
Last week, when most urgently in need of a boost, a finished copy of the book arrived in the morning post. Some of the contributors are more enjoyable than others, but I'm happy to admit that Sam Delaney has made me reconsider the unfavourable impression I got from him as a talking head on various clip shows, by turning in a couple of very funny articles. His feverish nightmares of being kidnapped and fed chalk by Carol Hersee and her clownish henchman were the turning point for my perceptions of him. Unfortunately, another prominent contributor fails to confound my expectations. Boyd Hilton, TV editor of Heat magazine, lists the 10 sitcoms to which he is most addicted, but does so in a bland, 'this'll do' manner at odds with most of the rest of the book - everyone else seems to relish and seize the freedom and spirit of the project. Also, with the exception of Rhoda, his 10 choices seem to come straight from those spurious polls that proliferate now.
Back to the highlights: a nice piece by Jonathan Carter about sitcom neighbours, with a foreseeable, but still enjoyable, twist; Christien Haywood's fantastic and utterly unreliable account of the development of Knight Rider; Kevin Eldon's memories of ray-gun deaths in Orlando; Susan le Baigue being utterly right and very amusing about property programmes and their responsibility for the economic shitstorm; Richard Herring's post-doctoral thesis on Goodnight Sweetheart; an affectionate and broadly unassailable assessment of Upstairs Downstairs from Andrew Collins; theme tune writer Daniel Pemberton on classic theme tunes; Framley-type Robin Halstead on Christmas television; belting efforts from Ian Jones and Steve Williams of that TV Cream; and all of Grindrod's own warm, funny linking material, particularly the story of how he chose an ad break in Taggart as the moment to come out as gay to his parents, outlining the impeccable logic involved.
The contributors were paid a flat fee, and so I gain nothing by recommending it as an ideal stocking-filler, which it is. It will be in the shops from early November. My fine words also appear in the latest issue of the Kettering, the magazine of elderly British comedy. I am assured that my copy is in the post, and I can't bloody wait.