No Books, Lots of TV… Blimey I Must Be Feeling Ropey, But I Am Thinking About Books on TV

I’ve not been feeling quite myself (tired, full of cold, drained, more tired) for the last few days and today its culminated in my reading going out of the window. I have been rather glued to the television, well television on demand if I am honest, and its been kind of lovely, though its made me think why oh why are there no good TV shows about books on every week, or fortnight, or something… But before I go off on that what on earth have I been watching?

Well when I am feeling a bit ropey there are two sorts of TV that I like. One such thing is reality TV, no I am not talking about Celebrity Big Brother (which I can inform you I have barely seen any of, in fact I haven’t been in the slightest interested this year) I am talking about shows with real British people doing terribly British things. This has included catching up with the whole of ‘Village SOS’, a show hosted by Sarah Beeny (always pregnant, quite busty who you wish was your mate) where a city saves itself, or its high street and tries to reboost itself and not become a ghost town. Fab. Though not quite as fabulous as ‘The Great British Bake Off’ which I am now utterly hooked on and cant wait for the next episode on Tuesday. It’s basically the comedy duo Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins (who loves a book) hosting a show where Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood judge average joe’s who have a passion for baking, whilst telling us the history of baking, and who have a bake off with three tests (we have so far had fairy cakes, pastry and bread) and if you loose you are off. So simple, so brilliant.

The other thing I have been in the mood for is some good murder on the telly box and so I am watching ‘Waking The Dead’ from the beginning. This might also have something to do with interviewing Sue Johnston on Tuesday (I must watch the first episode of ‘Brookside’ too) and ooh its good. I do love that show, how could the BBC cut it? Anyway this then led me to ‘Sue Johnston’s Shangri La’ where she goes in search of the world she read in the book ‘Lost Horizon’ by James Jilton, which I had never heard of, she read about with her mum as a child. Have any of you read that?

Looking on all the different ‘TV on demand’ channels I was really distressed, though it should come as no surprise, that there are no TV shows featuring books on at the moment in the UK. Not even the blinking TV Book Club is on. This needs addressing. I am now wondering how on earth you suggest a TV show to a TV channel, as I have an idea… and in involves Sue Perkins and Sue Johnston (who don’t know it yet but who both love books).

What would be your very ideal TV show about books? Who would you want presenting it, a celebrity or a (possibly unknown, ha) book lover? Who would you like to see on it and what books? A mix of old and new? Features on the book world or just peoples thoughts on specific books? Let me know. Time for ‘Dr. Who’ shortly, so must dash… yes that’s right MORE telly! Are you watching anything good at the moment?


Filed under Random Savidgeness

20 responses to “No Books, Lots of TV… Blimey I Must Be Feeling Ropey, But I Am Thinking About Books on TV

  1. gaskella

    Yes Dr Who! But I know my daughter will be petrified by the monsters this week!

  2. Louise

    I was thinking the same thing the other day, I think The TV Book Club should be a little longer, or maybe there should be more of them. My ideal TV book show would be a similar type of format, a panel, but not so scripted, more relaxed environment, and maybe a mix of current and older titles without it getting stuffy and literary, I really don’t like the book show on Sky Arts.
    I’m having a tv fest this weekend Lost dvd’s, Ally McBeal dvd’s and the X-Factor, I miss Simon Cowell but Gary is filling the gap just fine ;-)… Oh Downton Abbey and Strictly Come Prancing start soon 🙂

    • Strictly Come Prancing… That’s made me howl with laughter! Thank you! I watched Downton Abbey, was it only me who was bored? Oops.

      I think an hour long panel lead chat of books one old, one new, what everyones been reading and loving in-between and lots of bookish banter and maybe the odd feature is just what we need on the telly! How do we make it happen?

  3. The trouble with books on TV is that TV demands images whereas books, though sometimes a pleasure to look at, are primarily about words. Having said that, BBC Two’s “My Life in Books”, broadcast earlier in the year, showed how it is possible to make interesting viewing from people talking about books, so long as the discussion is lively and passionate.

    Personally, I think I will always prefer radio to TV. On radio I get to concentrate on what people are actually saying, without being distracted by what they look like or what they are wearing. I also have a theory that, generally speaking, you get more genuine discussion on the radio, because even in a radio studio participants are in a far more natural environment than when under television’s blazing studio lights, having just spend fifteen minutes in the make-up artists chair. Radio can be like a conversation, whereas television has a tendency to turn into a performance.

    How about taking your inspiration from The Captive Reader’s Library Lust feature (e.g. and suggesting a book discussion programme recorded in a different library each week? This would help take care of the ‘something to look at’ angle.

    Another idea might be to follow the book event format in which an author gives a short talk about their work, and then invites questions or debate from members of the audience. I doubt you have much time for Niall Ferguson’s politics, but the event he did at Hay this year made for a brilliant hour of television, even though most of it was just him talking. Maybe TV does not need to be so obsessed with the visual after all?

    • Great points there David. I hadn’t thought of the TV vs. Radio aspect but I guess your true. Though the review show is always great discussion it’s just not always about books.

      I do like the idea of different libraries around the UK being part of a show. What a thought. Thanks for the link.

  4. Across the pond , we have a station called “Book TV”. The problem is that they mosrly choose the books that I am not interested in reading. The best shows are when they have book festival and have authors do readings from their books. That I love.

  5. This may sound rather obvious, but I do like a decent book adaptation. Maybe pick a relatively unknown but promising (and highly visual) book, then make a mini-series or something of that ilk out of it. I would agree with the above suggestions, but I think that discussions about books have so much potential to fail: there’s the problem of visuals and there’s also the problem that few are likely to want to sit down and watch people talking for half an hour (or whatever other arbitrary time you wish to assign for this programme).

    • I like an adaptation too, but that can only shift one book – though it will shift lots if it’s on a major channel over a number of weeks. I also am not sure if I ever discuss adaptations really. Or do I? I’ll have to have a think!

  6. Eva

    Michael Woods did a neat episode on Shangri-La as part of his Myths and Legends series! 🙂

    I’m one of those readers who also loves movies and ‘TV on DVD’ (aka, television without commercials), so I’d love a show that somehow centered around bookish things! Here in the States, we do have CSPAN’s Book TV, but that’s pretty much all nonfiction, usually of the social sciences variety.

    • I’m amazed that there aren’t more shows on American telly! Your country is huge. I’m with you on th adverts thing. Downton Abbey started this week here and the adverts were ridiculous. I started to loose interest. Oops.

  7. I have to agree with David Nolan – the only TV book show that I have ever really enjoyed was ‘My Life in Books’. Hearing why people love a book, how they came to read it and their enthusiasm for the book is exactly what a TV book show should deliver. I always get the feeling with other book shows that it’s about pushing the latest releases and promotion rather than the joy of reading. It seems round the wrong way, making people read certain books and them telling us if they liked it or not. Have people (celebrities or otherwise) tell us the books they have read and loved and share their enthusiasm.

    • I liked My Life in Books a lot too. In fact it lead me to a few books because of people’s enthusiasm. Sue Perkins was one (people are going to think I’m obsessed with Sue!).

      I think any really enthusiastic show would work it’s just getting that special mix.

  8. cath

    Simon, there is a black and white 1939 film adaptation starring Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt called Lost Horizon from the novel by James Hilton. And I too loved watching Sue Johnston’s visit to Shangri-La .
    I would applaud the idea of a bookprogram taken in different libraries, I would also like a program on a single author’s biograpy and context.

  9. There is a real gap for a good book show on tv I ve been watching a lot of cop shows of late as there not very challenging to watch all the best stu

    • I love a good cop show. Mind you I’m currently furious with the BBC first Waking The Dead went and now Spooks is ending! What are they trying to do to me!?

      I did watch the first episode of The Body Farm which is a spin off of Waking the Dead. I’m reserving judgement a while longer.

  10. I’ve just been catching up on the new series of Dr. Who and it’s brilliant! But I would love to see more programmes about books and authors.

    • I don’t like Dr Who at the mo. Paul Magrs thinks I am being top bolshy. I just want Amy, Rory and River Song to do one. And can they stop the repeat story of how he Mikey let his companions go, yawn lol.

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