This is CJ's best book. He used to be a media pundit, on paper and then on television. But he aspired to be some kind of literary and intellectual figure (he can be forgiven, the 80s were like that). But don't bother with his serious stuff, it's unreadable. By far his best writing is contained in this compendium of his television criticism. Why read crits of television programmes from the stone age? It's a fascinating time capsule and shows what we in the UK have lost as much as what we've gained. (We don't have to suffer It's a Knockout any more, but are instead tortured by Big Brother. And for every Vanity Fair there are 20 abysmal travesties of The Moonstone.)
Even if you're uninterested in what goes out on the box in any decade, this book is worth reading for the sparkle of its writing and observation. An actress who reveals a little too much is advised that she might like to keep something in reserve to show close friends. CJ manages to slip in some pithy stuff about people and life in general. He's never so serious as when he's being funny. He's viperous about people who go to far flung places to "find themselves". They didn't listen - they're still doing it. And it's fascinating to read about the way TV treated WWII and the Holocaust. Some people were still reacting to the unspeakable reality with denial, distancing and nervous laughter. Read this book and meditate on the transitory nature of fame. Who on EARTH was Malcolm Muggeridge and why should we care? Clue: he was an elderly pundit, one of a breed who had far too much attention and airtime in those days. He and many others must be looking down (or up) in dismay at the complete oblivion that has overtaken their reputations. CJ went on to make some very funny TV programs that explored the medium (a pompous catchphrase he loved to throw rotten tomatoes at) as well as his columns, and run a witty chat show. His reviews of the year on New Year's eve were worth staying in for. Where are you now, CJ? His reputation seems to have fallen down the rubbish chute of time, and no one, except for Nancy Banks Smith of the Guardian, comes up to his stature.