Posts from 8th September 2019

8
Sep 19

3 and 9 could show you any fantasy

FT + Hidden Landscapes4 comments • 307 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

Sometimes I wonder if it all ended on 2 November 1982, the night Channel 4 began. Silver Screen, the NME film and TV section, was edited by Monty Smith then – and almost everything about C4 in its first instance seemed perfectly pre-designed to suit the Silver Screen worldview. Except of course Silver Screen’s internal logic and tone demanded a response at once slantwise and happily disrespectful. This tone was largely set by ‘On the Box’, a what-to-watch-out-for summary of coming TV schedules, which was a tiny ruled-off square of page adjusted weekly to fit available space, full of two-sentence film squibs written at speed, a dozen at most, more likely half that. As a workaround for extreme space limitation, it had begun to evolve into a kind of script, a long-running skit full of intra-office chitchat about specific personal tastes (who liked Herzog, who preferred Hitchcock), its sense of humour derived from deep expertise lightly worn. It was reacting, as often as not, against assumptions made and attitudes struck in other film publications, with authority treated more as a pratfall than a value – and its tone, smart and playful, judgmental and unfooled, helped entice you the reader into discovering more. You sensed that if you paid attention week-on-week, you got a lot more joy from it, and knowledge too [Footnote 1].

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