on 2 February 2011
I'm sure you remember, a few years ago, there was a spate of nostalgia programmes, most of them I think on Channel 4, with names like `I love the 70s', `The Hundred Best TV moments of the 80s', `I love that bit 15 minutes ago they haven't given a name to yet', and `Your All Time Greatest Test Cards'. The trend for nostalgia about things that we didn't think much of the first time seems to be slightly in abeyance now. But never fear! Because, through the technological breakthrough known as `Pay-per-view'... sorry, I mean `Paper-view', you can relive all your favourite 80s TV moments, like, you known, when that thing happened on Neighbours, and JR said that thing on Dallas, and the shoulder pads eh? And goodness didn't we laugh?
OK, I'm being unfair. Just like `I love the 80s', `All in the Best Possible Taste' was clearly intended as a bit of fun, and not high art, and that's what it is. If you enjoyed that sort of nostalgia-fest, there's a fair chance you'll enjoy this too.
But it does suffer from three problems. Firstly, I'm afraid to say it's not actually that funny. A lot of the humour involves rather heavy handed riffs on what a lot has changed in 30 years. `Can you believe we only had three TV channels!?! I mean, less than four?!!?! Until Channel 4 of course. And we didn't know what a mobile phone was??! Isn't that amazing!?!! And did I mention the shoulder pads??!' Given that the book is subtitled `Growing Up Watching TV in the 80s', there's very little here about the growing up bit. Usually I'd say that was a good thing - I'm getting fed up with reading books by journos who think that, because they've squeezed something about pop-music, or football, or Dr Who or something genuinely popular into the title, this gives them carte blanche to go on endlessly about their dull lives, like we care. But in Bromley's case, it's actually a bit of a shame, because the details of his childhood turn out to be some of the funniest bits of the book. His description of visits to pre-McDonald's fast food outlets did indeed make me laugh out loud.
Secondly, it's a bit of a list. For example, Bromley will talk about, say, sit-coms, and he'll have to run through all the sit-coms he can remember from the 80s, in a sort of `oh, and then there was that one... and do you remember whatsit... oh, and who can forget...' way. This relentless production of lists means that parts of the book resemble York Passnotes on 80s culture.
Which brings me to the third, and related, problem - there's not a lot here that you don't already know, as least if you remember the 80s (and if you don't, why are you buying it? Research?) The potted descriptions of soaps and sitcoms tend towards basic plot overviews, and rarely deviate from the mainstream - Dallas and Dynasty, Grandstand, Neighbours, East Enders, Blackadder and the Young Ones. All well and good, but I was hoping for something more obscure - to be reminded of the programmes I'd forgotten or at least to learn something new about the ones I hadn't.
That, in a nutshell, is why (as another review points out) this book isn't nearly as good as Brian Viner's account of 70s viewing - `Nice to see it, to see it nice'. Viner is a professional TV reviewer. He sits at the feet of the Gods. I mean, he plays golf with Brucie for goodness sake. Bromley is a novelist.
Anyway, buy this if you enjoy things like `I heart the 80s' and want a few hours of nostalgic distraction. But, like so much of 80s programming itself, it's ultimately throwaway.