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Note to the television producers : it’s time for a proper book programme

posted on 12 Jan 2016

Note to the television producers : it’s time for a proper book programme

A quick scan down the television schedules will soon tell you just how many programmes there are about antiques and vintage collectibles. Just about every format has been developed since the early days of Going For A Song and the rather conservative Antiques Roadshow – which is still seemingly going strong on the BBC. If the rather traditional parade of smug middle-class people having their heirlooms valued doesn’t do it for you, you can see dealers and celebrities competing with each other to win at auction on behalf of charity; dealers scouring people’s houses and sheds for lost treasures; and, all sorts of misfits hanging around storage facilities to pick over the sad detritus of people who have presumably gone bankrupt and done a runner.

When it comes to books however, the television is a wilderness. Say books to a television producer and you can almost see the tumbleweed rolling across the space behind his/her eyes. When there is occasionally a book related programme on television it is usually a vehicle for talking about the life of the author or the social and cultural background that produced them. Sometimes there is a book review programme which usually involves a panel of celebrities or literary worthies providing a critique of the content of new releases – something which I suspect most media types would think is best located on the radio where visual gimmicks and beautiful people are less obligatory.

What I’ve never seen is a programme about books as objects and I think it’s something that offers considerably more scope than sewing or pottery – two activities that I find hard to imagine have any televisual qualities at all and yet have found their way onto our screens. It’s not hard to come up with a list of topics that would lend themselves to a short television series:

·         Books as works of art ( just think of those magnificent volumes created by Matisse or Dali );

·         Profiles of famous illustrators and the great books they created;

·         Visits to the great book shops of the world;

·         Limited and special editions of books;

·         Book jackets and the great illustrators that created the images of some of the great novels;

·         Celebrity collectors and what they collect;

·         Great personal libraries

I could go on – and I’m sure you have your own ideas when it comes to filling a magazine programme on books. Just imagine how fab that would be!

I suspect that those who commission and create television programmes think that either there is only a very limited audience for a programme like this or that books are sort of old fashioned, fusty old things just waiting to be replaced by an electronic reader. In truth, unless you love books I suspect you’re unlikely to think about them as fabulous artefacts with hundreds of stories to tell – and not just the one that’s on the pages.

So, if anyone is looking for the next idea to develop for television and you happen upon this – you can have the idea for free. When you make the programme and you’re looking for someone to hack around the world’s great bookshops then I’m your man!

 

Terry Potter

January 2016