‘The “Fever Pitch” of telly.’ Scotland on Sunday
‘Like Linus’ blanket in Charlie Brown, like breast fixations among men in their fifties, television can become an embarrassing addiction.’ But for most of us, sitting in our living rooms looking for an excuse not to talk to each other of a Thursday night, a million million miles away from moon landings and Cold War tension and Third World famine, it is this addiction to a queer little flickering box in the corner that has shaped our lives since the late 1950s.
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"The average Briton spends 11 years in front of a television set during an average 72 year lifespan." This statistic--which does not even begin to consider the implications of the multimedia-rich society into which we are all running apace--is disturbing. It is also the starting point from which Stuart Jeffries validates his personal quest to find the effect television has had on his generation of viewers.
Young people--and not so young people, these days--do not grow up. Not completely. Two shandies in the bar and everyone will be singing the tune from Captain Pugwash, or reciting the name of the firemen from Camberwick Green. This same televisual nostalgia sparked "100 greatest adverts", and has proven a boon to purveyors of Bagpuss merchandise. It is with one eye on this never-ending appetite for the re-heated soup of cultural and personal remembrance (the other eye is fixed firmly on media studies students) that Stuart Jeffries has written this book. Certainly, it is a personal story. Thirtysomething contemporaries of Jeffries who cut their teeth on Bill and Ben and Andy Pandy will reap the greatest rewards from the spot-on descriptions of times gone by. However Mrs Slocombe's Pussy also works as an investigation into the cultural values of British society, using well-argued qualitative analysis of "throwaway" shows such as Are You Being Served? (from which the book's title is derived) and It Ain't Half Hot Mum, to judge the attitudes of the nation through perhaps the most pervasive influence of all--light entertainment.
Jeffries viewpoint is clear and well defined and he has managed to wrestle complicated ideas into a format which should be accessible to anyone with a basic knowledge of media terminology. Of course, any study such as this is subjective, since the writer's choice of viewing is, and always has been, influenced by any number of social and cultural--school, family and class factors--which shape the individual within the nation's cultural context. If you can live with the belief that Billy Connolly is bad while The Thin Blue Line is good, you will find Mrs Slocome's Pussy a rewarding read. --Helen LamontReview:
‘Jeffries’ scintillating humour conveys serious and though-provoking ideas in this hilariously Proustian, witty, entertaining and wholly idiosyncratic study of growing up with television.’ Daily Mail
‘This is as captivating an account of a life lived with television as one is likely to encounter.’ TLS
‘Unnervingly clever and witty.’ Independent
‘Enviably funny and original.’ Evening Standard
‘This is a cracking read, cutting a humorous, intelligent swathe through thirty years of British television. No mean feat, but, tie us up and whip us with John Inman’s measuring tape if he hasn’t pulled it off. Oooooh!’ Maxim
‘Quite irresistible, perceptive and thought-provoking.’ Daily Telegraph
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Book Description Flamingo, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0006551750