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S J Birkill
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just a sensible reserve



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The Observer TV Review column
« : 06.05.24 at 08:56 »
Quote

I wonder how many of us, having come to know Pete's songs in the early 1970s, had our interest piqued by the lyrics and couldn't wait to hear some more from their shadowy Australian writer Clive James. I certainly had, and in 1973 I switched my Sunday newspaper from The Sunday Times (no, not The News of the World!) to The Observer, in order to read his weekly television criticism column, which turned out to be TV Crit like none other, ever. Like many of us, I found it hard each week to avoid laughing out loud at some of the stuff he wrote.
 
Clive began the column in August 1972 and finally quit at the end of March 1982. He wrote: "After 10 years of writing this column I still face the gleaming tube with undiminished enthusiasm, but with increasing frequency I find my own face looking back at me. It is time to quit my chair, before I find myself reviewing my own programmes. Creativity and criticism, in my view, are more continuous than opposed, but there is such a thing as a conflict of interest. There is also such a thing as making way for fresh talent. By standing up and moving aside for my gifted successor, Julian Barnes, I avoid the possibility of finding him suddenly sitting in my lap."
 
So wasn't it a treat to discover that, between 1977 and 1983, Jonathan Cape published three collections of Clive's column in hardback, followed by paperback editions under the Picador imprint. Except (and here I take as my reference the Picador hardback combining all three collections into a single volume) there were only 215 Sundays represented, out of (allowing for Clive's holidays and other assignments) what must have been close on 440 issues of The Observer. We only had half of them! And closer inspection revealed that most of the re-issues were abridged or otherwise edited versions.
 
It's taken me a while, but I've now completed the task of creating a Web page for every original copy of the column I could find, totalling (as of today) 417 pages. This is part of my self-imposed quest, initiated in 2019 after a meeting with Clive, Pete, and Clive's daughter Claerwen, to rebuild and expand Clive's original Website, lost in 2018.
 
These pages all appear in the site's section menu system (left-hand side-bar on each page), but I have just put to bed a new index page listing all Observer issues and re-issues in date order, with titles and  links to each piece. To aid navigation, I've also created a list of topics covered by each of the Observer original entries, accessible by hovering the mouse pointer over the title in the left-hand column of the table. This latter feature, though, isn't available on touch-screen devices. Here's the link:
 
https://archive.clivejames.com/essays/obsindex.htm

 
Each entry has a colour-coded flag indicating its status: the red flag signifies a missing or incomplete issue. 22 are flagged in this manner, though there's uncertainty over a handful of these, some of which may actually be 'amber flag' dates -- either when Clive was absent, a locum providing the copy, or indeed when the newspaper wasn't published.
 
I hope in time to restore the missing issues, but it might not be easy. The days of libraries storing paper copies seem to be long gone; most newspapers are archived on microfiche, but there's a worrying trend to digital online-only access. When libraries all access the same database, errors and omissions in that database become part of the permanent record. Ideally I'd find a library somewhere with its own microfiched scans, or an enthusiast with bundles of old newspapers in his or her attic. Writer Christopher Bray has been an enormous help to me so far, but these 22 red flags are persistent.
 
Can you help? If you have, or know where to gain access to, any of the lost editions, please get in touch. A reply in this thread would be perfect. Meanwhile, or otherwise, you might enjoy re-reading these brilliant reviews.
 
Steve
 
PS: I have augmented the text with screen-shots (where available and apposite) to illustrate some of the programmes being reviewed -- in certain cases showing a specific utterance or action that Clive mentions in the text. Locating and capturing these is a time-consuming process, and I haven't yet quite caught up: at present the final three years appear as text only.
 
« Edit May 12 to insert an Oxford comma! »
« Last Edit: 12.05.24 at 19:49 by S J Birkill »     https://peteatkin.com/forum?board=Words&action=display&num=1714982190&start=0#0   copy 

Stephen J Birkill
S J Birkill
MV Administrator
*****



just a sensible reserve



Posts: 855
Re: The Observer TV Review column
« Reply #1: Today at 07:43 »
Quote

The Archive's index of Clive's Observer 'Television' column is now searchable by programme name. I've created a new cross-reference page listing every* TV show reviewed or even just mentioned by Clive between 1972 and 1982, in alphabetical order, with publication dates and links to the site's page or pages featuring that programme. Find it here, or via the Archive's menu system, 'Essays' section.
 
https://archive.clivejames.com/essays/obsprogs.htm

Steve
 
( * - with the exception of those missing 22 issues of the paper. So far no-one has come up with any. )
    https://peteatkin.com/forum?board=Words&action=display&num=1714982190&start=1#1   copy 

Stephen J Birkill
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