Saturday, 23 May 2015

The unexpected TV watcher

I don’t really do research on the history of watching TV any more, but I still like coming across examples of incongruous meetings of the viewer and the viewed. I found this in The Unexpected Professor by John Carey (pp. 231-3), who began writing TV reviews for the Listener in 1969:

‘I knew nothing about television. We didn’t even have a set. But it was not for me to reason why, so we hired a set from Radio Rentals … I made dreadful mistakes at first, because I didn’t recognise even the most famous TV personalities when they appeared on screen – people like bow-tied Robin Day, then a ubiquitous pundit. However, no one seemed to notice, possibly because no one read the column … The other programme I liked [apart from Monty Python] was the late-night snooker. Our set was black and white – almost no one had colour in those days – so the state of play was hard to follow. But I was gripped by the dramatic details – the waistcoats, the silence punctuated by tiny flurries of applause, the nervous sips of water taken by the player waiting his turn. When Karl [Miller, the Listener’s editor] switched me from television to book reviewing in 1974 the snooker was what I missed most. However, we felt there was no point keeping our set, so we phoned Radio Rentals to tell them. The two men who came round were built like heavyweight boxers, evidently expecting to have to wrest their property from the bosom of a distraught family unable to keep up the payments. They seemed disappointed we gave it up without a struggle.’

Professor Carey joins my long list of intellectual snooker fans, which also includes George Mackay Brown, A.S. Byatt, Clive James and Raymond Williams.

Mundane quote for the day: ‘The routine of life goes on, whatever happens, we do the same things, go through the little performance of eating, sleeping, washing. No crisis can break through the crust of habit.’ – Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca


  1. Ed Milliband is a big snooker fan too -- though perhaps you wouldn't want to include him in your band of intellectuals.

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