What is the main intention of the TV Book Club? To get people reading? Opinion ranges from like to love to loathe, it appears, with the most vocal in the latter camp. However, it has certainly galvanised some action amongst those who already avidly read. Within hours of episode 1, @twittbookclub appeared on twitter and by today (25/1) it has nearly 200 followers with the promise of a monthly selection covering more than one genre and a website coming soon. Taking inspiration from Sam Jordison’s “Not the Booker Prize” of last year in the Guardian, four general book bloggers have set up “Not the TV Book Group”. (The blog in the link actually had its own successful book group for some time.) So, those who have disappointed with the programme are doing it for themselves.
Was episode 2 any better than the first? Well, a little bit of “yes” and a bit of “no”. The first two shows have been pre-recorded so there was little change in the format. Amanda Ross conceded in an interview that they had got some things wrong with epi 1 during the week, citing the omission of focusing on the fact that the book selections are all good books. Thus epi 2 kicked off with a run through of the books. This felt more of a nod to the publishers than anything else. And I felt that the ultimate customer was overlooked here: the reader. The show will get its viewers and the publishers will get their sales if the programme is good. But it appears that patience is being stretched, although most people are hanging in there.
The format remained the same, but some felt it was better and with a better discussion on the selected novel. Closer inspection explains why. This week’s “celebrity guest”, Alan Davies had approx 6 mins and 20 secs devoted to him, down from Chris Evan’s 8.5 mins last week. Where the author revisited and comedy/quirky sections remained about the same, time spent on Bauer’s novel came in at nearly 8 mins, an increase of 1.5 mins over Waters in epi 1. With an author video of nearly 1 minute less, the discussion session gained the most at approx 5.5 mins, nearly 2 mins more than last week.
The discussion was more lively and more balanced across the participants in epi 2, but it still feels that it should be longer. Various comments by Alan Davies, Nathaniel Parker and Laila Rouass could have been further explored. Unfortunately, Brand’s comments on the book, for those have not yet picked it up, may be a put-off. If only there had been time to point out that, on the surface, part of the theme of the book may appear distasteful, but it’s handled well and is never graphic. The distaste is felt and conjured up in the imagination of the reader. Blacklands handles a topic, a crime and its impact that is a major focus of parents today; and it is this impact on which the novel focuses.
Brand’s demeanour is not working for me, alas. She built her comedy career on being droll, but seems to have retained some it for the Book Club studio. In a real life book club she’d be the one causing inward groans amongst the others as soon as she arrived. From the look on her face – sometimes caught off guard by the camera – it looked like she really didn’t engage with this novel. I suspect she hated it.
And talking of the camera, it wasn’t only Brand who suffered from being in shot when someone else was talking. Two others were caught looking perplexed. Hilariously, this included Parker during the introductions.
Where Alan Davies proved to be the one most capable of an in depth discussion of meaning on a novel, Parker was not far behind.
And yes, this is a panel aimed at a broad audience, one that compares to “too many cooks spoil the broth”. From the horse’s mouth, Gok Wan is indeed the one to represent the people that feel they don’t read enough.
Thanks for your comments on episode 2 in the previous post.
My comments on episode 1 can be found here.