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Kevin Cryan
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #60: 27.01.12 at 16:31 »
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I can do no better than recommend the reading of  this week’s column in full. It's vintage James - in other words its jam-packed with the kind of observations that made him a pleasure when he was television critic with The Observer and makes him a pleasure to read now that he seems to have settled for that role with Rhe Telegraph.
 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #61: 03.02.12 at 19:53 »
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I think that it’s not unreasable to suggest that if there were one programme that really did impress Clive this week it was Jonathan Meades on France (BBC Four)
 
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Experts are always on tap, but a wise presenter tries to do without them. I mustn’t bang on too often about Jonathan Meades on France (BBC Four), although it became evident that this would be a landmark series from the moment that Meades began to speak. Far from discussing French history with any experts on French history, Meades discusses the whole vast, intricately ramified subject with himself.  
 
This self-sufficiency leaves him plenty of room to employ language at a high level: quite the most attractively written commentary I have heard on television in years, if you don't count Rich Hall, who can do it too, but with a less baroque vocabulary. As Meades dominates the shot like a close-up of an eloquent gargoyle that has broken loose from its cathedral, his dizzy powers of articulation remind you that the baroque, at its best, always had the Renaissance inside it: a discovery, not just a refinement.  
 
“Concupiscent popes with chancels full of nephews.” Meades’s use of words is as kinky and eclectic as one of those French rooflines he is always warning us against, but underneath the floridity there are firmly held moral principles. Treating the subject of the French female professor of gender studies who started her career as a terrorist (score: killed four, maimed 40) he evoked her and those like her in a single sentence “There are countless instances of the scum rising to the top.”


 
The wonderful thing about Clive in this mode is that while telling the reader what is good about a particular piece of work he is also setting up in his readers' minds a set of criteria by which they will judge all future pieces of work of that kind. He is preaching without being preachy.
 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #62: 10.02.12 at 16:43 »
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This week's column
 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #63: 17.02.12 at 09:55 »
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This week's column  
 
If, for some reason, you cannot read the whole thing, then I urge all who take the television documentary as a form seriously to read what he has to say about Bomber Boys (BBC One).
 
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A more than usually engaging documentary about the Second World War was Bomber Boys (BBC One), starring the actor Ewan McGregor, his ex-RAF jet pilot brother, and the last remaining Lancaster in Britain that can still fly. The gimmick of the show was that the brothers would find out what they needed to know before they went for a trip in the plane. In other words, they were on a Journey. It’s always a word to dread when used in connection with a documentary but this time it would have been all right except for a strange omission that set me furiously thinking about whether this kind of show is worthwhile at all if it can’t transmit the facts.  
 
Throughout the programme, everyone spoke as if the Lancaster had been the RAF’s only type of four-engined bomber. A veteran German night fighter pilot mentioned the Halifax, but nobody explained what he was referring to. He was, in fact, referring to one of two other types, because as well as the Lancaster there were the Halifax and the Stirling. A lot of young men died in them, too, as well as in Lancasters.  
 
Isn’t it a kind of blasphemy to leave facts like that out, in the name of simplicity? If the simplicity amounts to an untruth, what use is it? Anyone old enough would spot the fudge, but these programmes are surely made to educate the young, by saying what things were like. Most galling lapse of all, a single paragraph and a couple of photographs would have supplied the necessary information. But the boys were too busy being prepared for their Journey by being told what they already knew.  

 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #64: 22.02.12 at 23:48 »
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Interesting to hear Clive praise The Singing Detective so highly, since most of his reviews of Dennis Potter's programs were decidedly mixed--which lead to the irony of  Potter providing a ripely enthusiastic blurb for the collected edition of Clive's TV criticism. Perhaps Clive wrote some positive reviews that never made it into the book...
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #65: 24.02.12 at 16:55 »
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As I recall it,  Clive very often expressed reservations about Potter, but then as I also recall it,  this was at a time when many of the cultural critics were hell-bent making us believe that Potter was a genius of some standing. He - Potter - was good. but not that good. We needed someone who could spot the flaws and write them up. Xlive was the man.
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In this week’s column, writing about Connie Field’s series The World Against Apartheid (BBC Four), Clive admits that in the past he had some reservations about handing power to the blacks.
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To prove that racism was a global thing, there were several appearances by the head of the International Olympic Committee, that condescending old bore Avery Brundage. I remember him well from the newsreels, but I can’t remember that my opinions were all that different from his. When young, I never thought the blacks had a chance; or that they should have one, in their current state of “development”. They would need time. I might have grown old in that opinion: the mind will play almost any trick to avoid facing the scale of the horror that was revealed at Sharpeville in 1960. One says “revealed” because the horror had been there for as long as white men had ruled the country: injustice, torture, the whole works.  
 

 
When I first read that paragraph, I wondered why he had  unflatteringly self-revealing  as to admit that he was not always unswervingly “on the right side” of the race question. It took me a little time to realise that he couldn’t possibly write honestly about history, as he is here, without being honest about his own history. He may not always been "on the right side" on the "race question", but he is I'd suggest on the right side of the history question.
 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #66: 02.03.12 at 19:52 »
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The 350 or so words he Clive writes this week about Melvyn Bragg on Class and Culture (BBC Two)  should be read over and over/ Here the lucky reader is faced with a critic who is not just satisfied with telling the reader what he thinks of a programme but who is suggesting ways in which the programme might develop and be viewed.  
 
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Unchanged in his rugby-playing bohemian beauty, the presenter of Melvyn Bragg on Class and Culture (BBC Two) is the personification of upward mobility. Surely the old class system must be over, if a boy from Wigton can make it all the way to the House of Lords.  
 
To do Lord Bragg credit, he didn’t say anything as crude as that. In the first part of his new series he showed how the old stratification was shaken up as the working class extended its cultural expectations from brass bands to ballroom dancing and then to the cinema. For that last thing, the poet C Day Lewis had a famous line about the workers as they sat there in darkness: he said the darkness was “a fur you can afford.” Melvyn didn’t quote that but he quoted a lot of other literature, always to pointed effect. He really has read a lot of books. Heaven knows how he does it, on top of all the books he has written.  
 
Hidden loosely under this familiarity of his with the cultural heritage was a subject that he will no doubt treat more fully later on: access to education was the decisive liberating element. As the 20th century went on, it became more and more tolerable to be in the working class or the middle class, but few people from those lower orders made it into the upper class without a grammar school education. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the Labour Party, with its eye less on those who escaped upwards than on those who were left behind, shut the grammar schools down.  
 
The grammar schools were the most striking manifestation of what Melvyn called “the will… to pull the working class up the ladder.” But now that the grammar schools are gone, we are left with the question of whether any comparably effective mechanism has taken their place. Millionaire rock stars will hob-nob with royalty at the Jubilee parties, but that isn’t quite the same as the mobility that could be achieved when those on the way up were taught to know what the toffs knew, and know it better.


 
It will be difficult for anybody who watches the later episodes Bragg’s excellent series not to have Clive’s thoughts on whether the demise of the grammar schools was a good or bad thing in mind. In that he has done the viewer the sevice of reminding him or her that tellevision viewing is an activity in whch he or she can very frutifully engage.  
 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #67: 09.03.12 at 16:18 »
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Clive James on... Upstairs Downstairs, Melvyn Bragg on Clive James on... Upstairs Downstairs, Melvyn Bragg on Class and Culture, and Make Bradford British..
Clive James reviews his pick of the week's TV, including Upstairs Downstairs, Melvyn Bragg on Class and Culture, and Channel 4's reality show Make Bradford British
 

Rashid took part in Make Bradford British Photo Channel 4
 
In Upstairs, Downstairs (BBC One) Ed Stoppard makes a believable head of the grand household, but unfortunately he is not always in the grand household: he is in places like Munich, trying to stop Hitler. So a show that is mainly a lesson in sociology becomes a lesson in political history, where it is less sure-footed. Couldn’t we have heard from the fascinatingly sinister lady Persephone about just why she finds the Nazis so attractive?  
 
The Nazis did quite a lot to break down the old class system in Germany. They also did quite a lot to introduce an era of unlimited terror, but until the day when nobody with eyes and ears could ignore their level of violence, they looked like a force for social mobility. Lady Persephone, clearly modelled on Unity Mitford, was probably impressed. There are always a few members of the upper orders ready to pledge allegiance to any force promising to drive a plough through the background that gave them their privileges.  
 
Read on....,
 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #68: 16.03.12 at 13:03 »
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Clive James on... White Heat, Orbit: Earth's Extraordinary Journey, Horizon and Empire
 
Previously the title of a famous movie starring James Cagney, White Heat is currently the title of a new TV series on BBC Two, but in the course of not very much time the movie will probably get its title back, because the TV series, at first blush, looks pretty ordinary.  
 
Forty or more years on, a bunch of quondam students are assembling at the London house they used to share. One of their number has died, but as yet we don’t know which. Once they were seven, now they are six. So The Big Chill meets The Return of the Secaucus Seven, with southern overtones of Our Friends in the North.  
 
Not only does it taste like plot soup, one is soon on the alert to see if there is any standard plot that the writer, Paula Milne, has missed out: Bad Day at Black Rock? The casting of the younger selves is visually sumptuous but Sam Claflin, as the young toff rebelling against his background, rants on so exactly like Jimmy Porter that you can see John Osborne pulling his strings. We know that Claire Foy will one day turn into Juliet Stevenson but her younger self looks and behaves like the heroine of An Education.  
 
In the first episode the strongest individual voice belonged to Roger Daltry, raving ….read on
 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #69: 23.03.12 at 17:42 »
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I am setting this link up in Zurich and using a keyboard that has been reconfigured. So the usual neatness has to go out the window..  
 
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/9160284/Clive-James-on...-Frost-on -Interviews-White-Heat-A-Sentimental-Journey-Doris-Day-Dirk-Gently-and-Nothing-to-Declare.html
 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #70: 30.03.12 at 15:34 »
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This week's column
 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #71: 06.04.12 at 10:19 »
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This week’s column
 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #72: 13.04.12 at 20:58 »
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I found this week's Telegraph column to be Clive's most entertaining yet. Though I had never expected Clive's Telegraph columns to match the pyrotechnics of his work for the Observer, they didn't read like Clive at full capacity, perhaps due to health issues. But that and Clive's work seem to be on the up-spring.  
 
Incidentally, a new essay of Clive's has appeared in The Atlantic today, on one of his critical heroes, Dwight MacDonald. And it too represents Clive at full capacity. Read it here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/style-is-the-man/8944/
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #73: 14.04.12 at 15:36 »
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This week’s column… .
 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #74: 26.04.12 at 01:49 »
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I see Clive's column didn't appear this week. I hope the reason has nothing to do with ill-health or all the garbage the media has been printing about him recently.
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #75: 21.05.12 at 19:27 »
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Clive's back!
 
"In my frail old age, my idea of a holiday from reviewing television is just to lie around and watch television, which I have been doing for the last four weeks, getting myself in shape to resume expressing the critical attitude appropriate to my advanced years, the unhurried overview..."
More at:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/9279804/Clive-James-on...-Homeland -The-Bridge-and-the-rest-of-his-holiday-viewing.html
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #76: 22.05.12 at 09:06 »
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 Clive James on... Homeland, The Bridge and the rest of his holiday viewing
 
Clive James reviews Homeland, The Bridge, The Good Wife, Twenty Twelve and World Championship Snooker.
 

The Bridge: Sofia Helin as detective Saga in a drama which threatened cuteness from the start
 
This week’s column
 
Welcome back.
 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #77: 22.05.12 at 14:20 »
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I suddenly feel vindicated!  One of my guilty pleasures has been watching The Good Wife.  As Clive likes it I can now remove the "guilty"  Cheesy
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #78: 25.05.12 at 10:28 »
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Clive James on... The Diamond Jubilee Armed Forces Tribute, Lewis, Silk, Episodes and The Two Thousand Year Old Computer
 
Clive James on the current crop of courtroom dramas. Plus reviews of The Diamond Jubilee Armed Forces Tribute, The Bridge, Episodes and The Two Thousand Year Old Computer.  

Courtroom queen: Maxine Peake as QC Martha Costello in the BBC One legal drama Silk Photo: BBC
 
A second column for the week  
 
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Re: Clive James, television critic
« Reply #79: 01.06.12 at 08:03 »
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Clive James on... Harlots, Housewives and Heroines, Eurovision and The Fall of Singapore: the Great Betrayal
Clive James looks back at last week's television, including Lucy Worsley's new BBC Four history series Harlots, Housewives and Heroines.
 

Dr Lucy Worsley riding side saddle at Broughton Castle, Oxfordshire Photo: BBC, Photographer: Sam Mitchell
 
And it's all to be found right here.
 
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