Nigel Andrew

Box Clever

Television: A Biography


Thames & Hudson 412pp £19.95 order from our bookshop

Play All: A Bingewatcher’s Notebook


Yale University Press 200pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Here are two very different books about television. One is a great slab of a thing that calls itself a ‘biography’ of the medium, the other is a slim volume that claims to be merely a ‘bingewatcher’s notebook’, though as that binge watcher is Clive James, we can be sure it will be rather special.

First, to the slab. David Thomson’s book is hardly a biography of television, or even a history, but rather a collection of long, loosely thematic essays about various aspects of the medium. These discursive essays mingle production credits, potted biographies and thumbnail sketches with general observations that are sometimes insightful but are often less clever than they sound. ‘Jokes are like sex or sneezing: you have to be there’ (hmm). The cast of Friends ‘were more lifelike than the figures on The Muppets or The Simpsons’ (well, they would be). ‘Presidents are still capable of doing BIG things – like Abu Ghraib, Health Care, and Monica Lewinsky. Perhaps they are just big, or big…’ (what does this even mean?).

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Terrifyingly I'm already at work (ha!) making the April issue. Feel like the March number came out but seconds ago.… ,
    • Charles I: King & Collector is until 15 April: Here's assistant editor Davi… ,
    • "Ivor Novello installed a mirrored bedroom in his apartment over the Strand Theatre ... with furniture veneered in… ,
    • Our 'footprints' series has writers talking about place and inspiration. This month it's Donald Rayfield on Dostoev… ,
    • RT : ‘Meticulously documented, full of drama … complex and compelling … this is a tale fluently told, and a thriller as… ,
    • There's still time to enter: win a brace of tickets to see the new West End production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Hu… ,
    • "For Jane Austen, ‘abroad’ was Lyme Regis. What if the author, celebrated on postage stamp and banknote, had ‘seen… ,