Friday 20 May 2022

The Age of Static by Phil Harrison #TheAgeOfStatic @MrPMHarrison @melvillehouse BLOG TOUR #MH20 #BookReview


You can tell a lot about British society by its television. More than any other country, Britain still gets a sense of itself from the output of its national broadcasters. So what can we learn from the TV of the last two decades?

Beginning in 2000, this book explores the televisual contours of Britain, via five themed chapters: Britain's identity crisis; property and the class system; 'banter' and political correctness; the role of the BBC; and the impact of reality TV on politics. Over this period, Britain has become more divided, more fractious and less certain of its place in the world.

What did Jamie's School Dinners tell us about our perceptions of the working classes? What does our love of Downton Abbey say about the national psyche under duress? And how did Top Gear help to ignite Britain's culture wars? In this lively and wide-ranging account of twenty tumultuous years, Phil Harrison asks how we got here - and the role television played in the process

The Age of Static by Phil Harrison was published on 22 October 2020 by Melville House. I am delighted to join this special blog tour that celebrates twenty years of publishing by Melville House. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

The Age of Static by Phil Harrison does exactly what the sub-title says. In it, the author looks at how TV explains modern Britain, from the year 2000 through the next twenty years. 

This is a book that I've dipped in and out of over the past month or so, it's not the type of book that I'd read straight through but it is fascinating and telling. Phil Harrison is a TV critic and his observations within the text are precise and on the mark.

For most of us, the television burbles away in the corner of the room. We all have our favourite, must-watch shows, and if you are anything like me, there are hundreds, probably thousands of other shows that people will avoid. The beauty of the growth of TV over the years is the amount of choice. I'm old enough to remember when we had three channel and these all shut down at night. No scrolling through hundreds of channels, and watching TV through the night for us!

What this did mean was that most people watched the same shows and the amount of viewing numbers meant that the issues raised in the programmes often became things that the whole country talked about. It was a form of community, as we all looked on at the escapades of various soap characters - some were even mention in the House of Commons! 

What Phil Harrison does so very well in this book is align our behaviours to the things that play out on screen, from small community values, to the rise of social media and 'banter', the celebrity of the often untalented reality show contestant, to the searing political wit that screen writers so often include in their scripts. 

It's a fascinating book that not only brought back memories, it also made me think hard about how that box in the corner can influence the nation. Enjoyable and informative read, written with style and authority.

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