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Films I Genre I Biographies I Practical I Reference


and why not? Film reviewer Barry Norman's life on the box
Roger Moore
The Babylon File - Volume 2
Coronation Street
Cult TV - The Comedies
The Images of Disability on Television
The Planet of the Apes Chronicles
Pray TV: Televangelism in America
Shut It!
Television Studies: The Key Concepts
Watch Out!
X-Treme Possibilities

The Babylon File - Volume 2
Andy Lane.
Virgin. 1999, Pbk. 286 pages. £6.99. 

This covers plot guides to series 4 and 5 of this cult science fiction TV programme. Comics, books and games are also reviewed. After being transfixed by the programme, which reached its zenith with series 3, Lane confesses that the 5th and final series was a big let-down. 

Cult TV - The Comedies 
Jon E. Lewis and Penny Stempel 
Pavilion. 1998. Pbk. 256 pages. £14.99. 

The proliferation of new TV channels, and the release of more TV shows on video tape, means that there are a vast amount of programmes from the archives to select for our viewing pleasure. TV comedies draw huge audiences and are regarded with affection by their fans, so this A-Z guide is an excellent means of reminding ourselves of half-forgotten treasures and the brilliance of current offerings. 

Lewis and Stempel cover US and UK productions that they regard as comedy treasures, so we get entries that range from Hancock's Half-Hour, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rhoda to The Simpsons and Friends. You can argue about what they have included and discarded (e.g. how could they have overlooked Third Rock From The Sun?) but this is easily compensated by their informative and concise text. 

Each entry is accompanied by the country of origin, date of transmission, number of episodes, length of episodes, the production company, and cast and crew details. There are plenty of half-tone photographs, and the layout makes it easy to use and enjoy. 

The only thing that would stop me agreeing that this is what they sub-title ‘The Ultimate Critical Guide' is that they do not supply references, reading lists or video release details. Otherwise it is the perfect comedy guide for anyone who takes their TV viewing seriously. 

Shut It! 
A Fan's Guide to 70s Cops on the Box 
Martin Day and Keith Topping. 
Virgin. 1999. Pbk. 328 pages. £6.99. 

This is a fun episode-by-episode companion to The Sweeney and The Professionals. The birds. shooters, motors, music, threads, and lines like "Freedom is a warm Jag," are affectionately recalled from the vaults of TV nostalgia in a time when a kipper tie could kill at fifty paces. 

With quotes like this from John Thaw's, Regan about a dead body: "I'll tell you this: having his head cut off hasn't helped identification" it's very hard to shut this book. 

Watch Out!
My Autobiography 
Jeremy Beadle. 
Century. 1998. Hbk. 210 pages. £15.99. 

Oh no, a book about the king of practical jokers and popular TV entertainment, the thought is enough to make any critic puke. Beadle shamelessly confesses to inventing the TV formats that now dominate our Saturday evening viewing slots. When he was driving minicabs he started collecting odd facts and informa-tion, which he used as the foundation for a regular newspaper feature and for getting work on local radio. His gift as a prankster was given full reign on his Sunday night slot on LBC radio, and then he became involved with a variety of TV projects. His prolific flow of ideas for candid-camera type stunts, and for people shows has put his minicabbing days far behind him. 

Beadle enthuses about his family and his career, and it is clear that he has worked hard for his success. He now has probably the world's largest collection of odd facts linked by date, and he has about 20,000 reference books. 

You don't have to like Beadle to enjoy this fast- paced story of life, love and television.

X-Treme Possibilities
A Comprehensively Expanded Rummage Through Five Years of The X-Files 
Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping. 
Virgin. 1998. Pbk. 476 pages. £6.99. 
The X-Files delves into the wildest and weirdest corners of the American psyche, but unlike AI Adamson films, this TV series does it with exquisite style and post-modernist awareness. 

The authors provide an episode-by-episode guide that includes a range of facts, trivia and opinion. They try to discern the overall 'masterplan' that links the characters, episodes and series together but as they admit, this 'assumption looks very dodgy on some occasions... but without it, we couldn't have any fun.' 

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