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Mrs. Slocombe's Pussy: Growing Up in Front of the Telly

Mrs. Slocombe's Pussy:  Growing Up in Front of the Telly - Stuart Jeffries Stuart Jeffries works for The Guardian, he expects to have spent eleven years in front of the television by the time he is 72, and when he wrote this book he was half-way there and had 150 TV channels to choose from. Sadly, not one of them showed Carol Hersey, the much missed girl pictured playing noughts and crosses against some clown-dummy-monster on the Test Card. It gave some children nightmares. (Snorky from the Banana Splits had the same effect on me.)(For the benefit of youngsters, the test card was shown on British TV when it shut down for the afternoon in the 1970's. No, seriously. It really did. No Jeremy Kyle, no Deal or No Deal, nothing. Just a pretty pattern and some bland music. Imagine instrumental versions of Westlife hits playing over a shopping centre tannoy.)Jeffries' aim in writing this book is to counter the notion that: "television viewing is a chain of coffee spoons leading through an unfulfilled, worthless life."Early on it is quite amusing and enjoyable, especially for people of my generation who grew up with Andy Pandy, Top Cat and P.C. McGarry No.452 of Trumpton. (All together now: Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grub!) I laughed out loud at his description of the way he ate custard tarts while watching Bill & Ben as an infant by sucking out the filling, then putting the case on his head and saying 'flobadopalop'! And his comparison of Trumptonshire with Walmington-on-Sea is just inspired - why had I never seen the similarities before? He also suggests that the development of reality television has put us on the road to a future like that in David Cronenberg's film of J.G. Ballard's Crash. But it was his egg-headed likening of Sooty to the Greek philosopher Cratylus that was a better clue to the way the book was going to develop. Have you ever been happily stroking a pussy and then suddenly it snaps at you without warning? Well that's what happens here. When he finally got down to Mrs. Slocombe's Pussy, it transpired that he hates Are You Being Served? He sees in Grace Brothers a metaphor for everything in Great Britain he finds contemptible. What started as an amusing ramble down memory lane became a philosophical commentary on society by the analysis of popular television. It's only TV, it doesn't need in depth deconstruction and analysis does it? I found his intellectualizing a little tiresome.He also launches an assault on Billy Connolly's anti-PC ranting and the "thick people in his audiences" pointing out that "political correctness isn't a term invented by social workers; rather, it is one that is consistently invoked to defend everything from telling anti-Irish jokes to the notion that Benny Hill was a comic genius." There are some good bits later on: his description of a 'duel' between overblown darts commentators for example, and it has a frightening amount of trivia. (Either he's been keeping a diary of his television viewing since childhood, or he must have done an incredible amount of research.) At the end there is a helpful TV-ography, with humerous potted descriptions of the programmes talked about in the book, although they are listed in order of their appearance in the book rather than alphabetically. I borrowed Mrs. Slocombe's Pussy from the mucky books section of my local library (sadly now defunct). It wasn't as funny as I thought it was going to be, so this is one pussy I'm glad I didn't splash out on. [Adapted from a review I posted on dooyoo.co.uk in 2001.]