❉ Ben Baker returns with another love letter to the programmes, presenters and spin-off shows that he’s fallen for down the years.
“There’s a great chapter on the weird world of Russian TV, looking at an average day on Russian TV’s most popular channel. The revelation that their TV isn’t that far removed from what we see in the UK, especially their daytime shows, probably says a whole lot about the world today….”
Following his look at Christmas programming, Ben Baker returns with another collection about the television he loved. As Baker explains in the introduction, often it’s the worst television that stays in your brain and surely that makes it just as worth celebrating as all the worthy, well made stuff that gets celebrated everywhere else.
By no means though does this mean Baker is limiting himself to writing about rubbish television.
In these essays he celebrates popular shows like Red Dwarf, The Simpsons and TFI Friday alongside long forgotten TV like Sky One’s DJ Kat Show (of which I was a regular viewer, if only to catch the random showings of, the not often seen at that time, Star Trek: The Animated Series) and how Rita Rudner became a bit of a British phenomenon for a few years in the 1980s.
“There’s plenty of nostalgia to be found in these essays, always something interesting to read and none of the essays outstay their welcome.”
Some of the best chapters explore worlds of TV you probably had no idea about all. There’s a great chapter on the weird world of Russian TV, looking at an average day on Russian TV’s most popular channel. The revelationi s that their TV isn’t that far removed from what we see in the UK, especially their daytime shows probably says a whole lot about the world today.
Even better is Baker’s personal recollections of the Paramount Channel’s teletext pages, and how the Paramount Mailbox on page 720 became a little community for its readers, as contributors could phone in or use new-fangled emails to take part in the conversations, becoming a fledging message board, with Baker, a shy 15 year old taking his first steps to becoming as he puts it, “a pop culture nostalgia gumphus”. It’s lovely stuff to read.
There’s plenty of nostalgia to be found in other essays. I very much enjoyed Baker’s look at Saturday Morning TV from the late 80s and early 90s, with reminders of plenty of shows I’d quite forgotten about. Baker’s rating system for these is great fun and it leads into a good essay about the rise of Ant and Dec, with particular focus on their wonderful SM: TV and how their popularity on this show lead them to become the Primetime colossuses they are now.
With other chapters covering TV Pilots, another looking at the naming conventions for episodes of certain shows, there’s always something interesting to read and none of the essays outstay their welcome. In fact, if anything I’d have liked to have had a few more of them!
Baker has a warm and witty style that makes this a very readable collection of eclectic essays. A perfect read for the summer, this is a book you can dip in to and out of and always find something that grabs your interest. A lovely little book and I hope there will be another larger collection from Ben Baker soon.
❉ Buy Kill Your Television by Ben Baker (Paperback) online at Ben Baker’s Lulu page, RRP £12.99.
❉ Green-fingered librarian Simon Hart is a regular contributor to We Are Cult.