FILMS, TV and BOOKS… Revisiting the celebrated wit of Clive James on Television


A tribute to the TV and Film critic and presenter Clive James…


Remembering a favourite, inspiring author, critic and presenter in quotes and more.


Ask this Scottish kid what she remembered most vividly from her English lessons, and my mother wouldn’t be surprised. As amongst those War poets, The Catcher in The Rye and Anne Frank’s Diary would have been the writing of this Australian TV and film critic. Clive James, the author was discovered in an English Comprehension (which can still be found online!). With more on my introduction to his work HERE with a splendidly accurate review on The Incredible Hulk (1977-82) in his book The Crystal Bucket : television criticism from The Observer 1976–79.

James wrote many a seventies and eighties TV review and was one of my favourite reads as a teen. After learning of Clive James’ passing last week, through the actress and friend, Judy Matheson. Bizarrely as well as the previously mentioned piece, he’d written about her in a review on Z Cars (1962-78) in this same book I’d read as a kid. Here James eloquently describing her part in this show as “a foul-mouthed dockside stripper, cowering at the prospect of having a steel comb shoved up her nose”.

Although I was only a toddler when Clive James became a TV critic back in 1972, I enjoyed reading his reviews on all things seventies and eighties TV and movies. I also remember watching his TV series Clive James on Television (1982-98), his fascination with British and worldwide TV – especially those bizarre Japanese games shows – such as Endurance (1984-) – and his candid interviews with everyone from Mel Gibson or Mr T.

His vivid, witty descriptions came to life in his many books and illustrated beautifully in clips from many TV Shows. His dry and non-offensive humour added to his wonderful descriptions and observations were a wonderful combination. Much, much later this down to earth and non pretentious critic with that unmistakable Australian accent was an inspiration when writing this blog.

With just some of my favourite bits on all things entertainment here, as said by the man himself… in words and pictures…


A few random quotes from his book Visions Before Midnight: television criticism from The Observer 1972–76

On The World of Hugh M Hefner (1973)…

We were shown the finer points of a Bunny Dip, which is the technique a waitress uses to bend down without springing out of her wired costume like an auto-inflated life raft.


On Columbo (1971-2003)…


That Kojak can dress so well and Columbo so badly on what must be basically the same salary is one of the continuing mysteries of American television.



On TV about Doomwatch (1970-72)…

Clive James Doomwatch Comedy, Another Youtuber


From his book The Crystal Bucket : television criticism from The Observer 1976–79

On The Man from Atlantis (1977-78)…

Now we can see the way they must have looked in Atlantis, with their webbed hands and long yellow bathing trunks.


On The Incredible Hulk

He is made remarkable by his avocado complexion, eyes like plover’s eggs and the same permanently exposed lower teeth displayed by Richard Harris when he is acting determined, or indeed just acting.

On TV… Endurance

endurance japanese game show clive james on television 1, Best Vines

More random quotes from is book Glued to the box : television criticism from The Observer

On Finland’s 1981 entry to the Eurovision Song Contest

Sung by Riki Sorsa, or it could have been Saucer it was called something like “Bef norka wumple gorst Reggae OK” and had the same connection with reggae as a dead budgerigar has with a live eagle.

On The Cassandra Crossing (1976)…

Some, though not all, of those mentioned are good actors in normal circumstances, but even Martin Sheen finds it difficult to turn in an Oscar-winning performance when he is pretending to be a drug-addict mountain climbing gigolo with the plague.

On the film Conspiracy Theory (1997) from Clive James meets Mel Gibson

Clive James Conspiracy Theory,


From his books and beyond, it was clear that he was an ardent fan of Dallas (1978-91) writing on everything from the JR Ewing’s shooting to his vivid descriptions of JR’s screen wife Sue Ellen. He admitted to recording it twice and diagnosing himself as having Dallasosis which he defined as a “condition brought about by excess Dallas”. Now readers watch this space, as now having seen even more 70s and 80s tv and film thanks to this blog, I’ve gone and ordered all his books (again). So expect more than a few random quotes on this series in a later post on this Antipodean critic.

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