Book Review: Play All: A Bingewatcher’s Notebook by Clive James

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Once upon time, conversations about TV used to be like this:

“Did you see Neighbours yesterday?”

“Yes, I saw most of it. Bouncer had a dream…” And so on.

A few years later, it would often be more like.

“Did you see Sex and the City last night?”

“Don’t tell me about it. I’ve taped it.”

Now, it’s more like:

“I watched Santa Clarita Diet yesterday.”

“Cool. I’ve not seen that. Or heard of it actually. Get back to me in 2020.”

For we live in the age of bingewatching. All of our viewing is laid out before us. In the 1970s, this would have meant whole series of The Onedin Line, Upstairs Downstairs and er, Poldark would have been presented to us in one go. Today, it means I’m bang up to date with some things (13 Reasons Why, Crazy Ex Girfriend, Transparent) and miles behind on others. I’m only on about 2013 in the story of The Good Wife. A shame as Mr. James unleashes a supermassive epic spoiler about this series early on! Be warned.

But otherwise, Clive James, once a famous TV critic before his own TV career is the perfect man to write this book. He has always been a superb writer and has taken the opportunity created by his recent illness to bingewatch a plenty with his family and as usual elevates this material far above the level an unknown scribe like myself has ever managed while writing for the likes of magazines like Geeky Monkey, Bingebox and DVD Monthly.

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As usual, with such things, it’s more fun if you’ve seen the show he’s discussing for yourself. He tackles the major shows of our time: The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, The West Wing, Homeland, The Good Wife and Game of Thrones amongst others. Most controversially, he thinks Breaking Bad is very overrated. He thinks Steve Buscemi isn’t quite tough enough for Boardwalk Empire (which should be renamed Boredwalk Empire in my view. Only Buscemi’s presence and Michael Shannon’s hypnotic voice kept me watching as long as I did). He is probably right to claim House of Cards goes off a lot once Frank Underwood becomes president (er, spoiler alert! Although surely everyone knows that?). He is also probably right about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Aaron Sorkin’s follow up to The West Wing. It probably suffered from trying to apply the same level of seriousness to a TV comedy show as Sorkin did to life in the White House. It also probably didn’t help that none of the comics on the show within a show (Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg aside) were actually very funny.

Occasionally, James shows his age. He dismisses anything with superheroes and zombies in outright. I, at forty, am only just starting to do this. He also makes it a little too obvious which actresses he does and doesn’t fancy.

But who am I to criticise? Nobody does this sort of thing better than Clive James.

He is the Master.

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Five Classic Books which take no time to read…

Chris Hallam's World View

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Want to become very well read but not much time to spare?Then try these…

Goodbye Mr Chips: James Hilton

Is it possible too condense a Victorian schoolteacher’s life from 1870s upstart to 1930s school institution in a few hours’ reading? Hilton shows us how it should be done. Actually quicker than watching the Martin Clunes TV version.

Candide: Voltaire

Sounds highbrow doesn’t it? Voltaire? But it’s honestly really easy, short and fun to read. And you’ll soon be able to explain what “Panglossian” means.

Animal Farm: George Orwell

A great novella and much more political than The Animals of Farthing Wood.

The Catcher in the Rye: JD Salinger

A short one, brilliantly written, although to be fair, more rewarding if you read it twice. This still won’t take you long though.

A Christmas Carol: Charles Dickens

Dickens isn’t exactly famed for his brevity but this one really is a speedy…

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Top 6 rejected 2017 Tory campaign General Election slogans

Chris Hallam's World View

Philip Takes Out The Rubbish…Now Let Theresa Take Out The Trash!

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Vote Theresa May 2016 in an election which definitely isn’t presidential at all, y’all.

Don’t Let Cyber Attacks Ruin Our NHS…That’s Our Job!

Jeremy Hunt nhs

Vote Conservative: Because Who Honestly Likes Going To Hospital Anyway? Exactly. Soon We’ll Make Sure You Can’t Go Ever Again

Pass At 11: And Be Ours Forever!

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Vote Conservative: Because If You’re Not Middle Class By Puberty, You Never Will Be

Come On! Theresa May’s Nothing Like As Bad As Thatcher Really…Unless? You Like That Kind Of Thing? In Which Case, She Kind Of Is. Whatever You Want…

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Vote Conservative: She’ll U-Turn If You Want Her To. The Iron Lady’s Not Returning

Supported Brexit? Got Your Own Way On It But Still Very Angry About It And Many Other Things For No Real Reason?

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Vote Conservative: Because There Might Actually Be Something A Bit Wrong With…

View original post 68 more words

Top 6 rejected 2017 Tory campaign General Election slogans

Philip Takes Out The Rubbish…Now Let Theresa Take Out The Trash!

may_and_may

Vote Theresa May 2016 in an election which definitely isn’t presidential at all, y’all.

Don’t Let Cyber Attacks Ruin Our NHS…That’s Our Job!

Jeremy Hunt nhs

Vote Conservative: Because Who Honestly Likes Going To Hospital Anyway? Exactly. Soon We’ll Make Sure You Can’t Go Ever Again

Pass At 11: And Be Ours Forever!

Eleven_Plus_Students_in_Exam_Hall.jpg

Vote Conservative: Because If You’re Not Middle Class By Puberty, You Never Will Be

Come On! Theresa May’s Nothing Like As Bad As Thatcher Really…Unless? You Like That Kind Of Thing? In Which Case, She Kind Of Is. Whatever You Want…

thatcher

Vote Conservative: She’ll U-Turn If You Want Her To. The Iron Lady’s Not Returning

Supported Brexit? Got Your Own Way On It But Still Very Angry About It And Many Other Things For No Real Reason?

the_sun_jeremy_corbyn_frontpage

Vote Conservative: Because There Might Actually Be Something A Bit Wrong With You

Jeremy Might Not: Theresa May…

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Vote Conservative: Sleep Easy Knowing If Anyone Else Kills Us All, We’ll Make Sure The Rest Of The World Also Die Very Soon Afterwards As Well

Jeremy Corbyn Will Ensure Black Lesbian Dwarves Overrun Your Homes, Steal Your Property and Kidnap Your Children If Labour Win Power

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Vote Conservative: Because We’ll Say Any Old Bollocks If It Means We Get To Win

John Smith: Twenty years on

Chris Hallam's World View

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The Labour leader John Smith died suddenly of a heart attack, twenty years ago this Monday on May 12th 1994. Had he lived, he would now be seventy five. He would also, no doubt, be a former Prime Minister, rather than an Opposition leader whose tragic premature death prevented him from getting to the top.

Smith only led the Labour Party for two years. I don’t recall much popular excitement about his election as leader in July 1992. The contest against the perfectly decent left winger Bryan Gould (who subsequently returned to his native New Zealand) was a foregone conclusion and a dull affair.

There was also some feeling that after losing for the fourth time in a row in April 1992, Labour might never win again. After all, if Labour couldn’t win during a Tory recession when could it win? Surely the economy would have recovered by 1996…

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Tom Sharpe: a tribute

Chris Hallam's World View

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There are few authors who I can claim to have read every single book they have had published. Tom Sharpe, who has just died, aged eighty five, was one such author. Every one of his sixteen books is both funny and incredibly readable.

That is not to say they are low brow either. Although sex, contraceptives, misunderstandings and even famously, a sex doll, famously play a part, Sharpe’s novels are extremely well written and a world away from the low comedy of the Carry On films which were still being published when his novels first began appearing.

His heyday in fact occurred at that time of great low national self esteem, the mid-Seventies. Porterhouse Blue (1975) in which a reforming Tony Benn-style minister is transferred to the position of Master of an ancient and very traditionalist Cambridge college, is for me, his masterpiece. The efforts of the new Master (driven…

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General Election memories 9: 2015

Chris Hallam's World View

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha wave as they return to Number 10 Downing Street after meeting with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace in London, Britain May 8, 2015. Prime Minister David Cameron won a stunning election victory in Britain, overturning poll predictions that the vote would be the closest in decades to sweep easily into office for another five years, with his Labour opponents in tatters.   REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Exeter, May 7th 2015.

Some of you may have spotted the occasional hint of pro-Labour bias in this blog. From this, you might very well have concluded that I would have been more than slightly disappointed with this election’s result.

You would be right.

What is more, while you may, for all I know, be reading this at some point during Boris Johnson’s second term as Prime Minister in 2024, I am writing this in the same month the election actually happened. So be kind please: the wounds are still raw.

That said, I am at least fortunate not to be a Liberal Democrat. I was never keen  on the idea of a Lab-Lib coalition bin 2010, not because I disliked what was then the third party but because I felt Labour had so clearly lost that it would look a bit desperate for Gordon Brown to attempt to cling…

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