Visions Before Midnight

Clive James

06 April 2017
100 pages


From the man who made TV criticism an entertainment in its own right comes Visions Before Midnight, a selection from the column hundreds of thousands of devoted fans would turn to first thing on a Sunday morning.

Clive James's comic brilliance is displayed here, from the 1972 Olympics (But your paradigm no-no commentary can't be made up of fluffs alone. It needs flannel in lengthy widths, and it's here that Harry and Alan come through like a whole warehouse full of pyjamas) to the 1976 Olympics ('Jenkins has a lot to do' was a new way of saying that our man, of whom we had such high hopes, was not going to pull out the big one).

In between we have 'War and Peace' (Tolstoy makes television history), the Royal Wedding (Dimbling suavely, Tom Fleming introduced the scene), the Winter Olympics (unintelligibuhl), the Eurovision Song Contest (The Hook of their song lasted a long time in the mind, like a kick in the knee. You could practically hear the Koreans singing it. 'Waterloo . . .' ), and much more.

Clive James's television reviews are sufficiently potent to turn the pale glimmers on the set into something like a gaudily lit portable theatre of clacking wooden puppets speaking a splintered language which is instantly recognizable. His stunning pieces readjust horizontal and vertical holds almost before there is time to blink away the images that were actually transmitted