TV Eye: 30 Rock and Jonathan Meades on France

Jacob Knowles-Smith on homophobia in elitist liberal comedy and nationalism in polymath documentaries After the inconvenience of creator Tina Fey’s pregnancy, the new season of 30 Rock (NBC) has finally aired. If there was one impact of her pregnancy on the show it was Fey’s slightly fuller face – which, I should say, was only […]

TV Eye: The Story of Musicals and Timeshift: The Smoking Years

Jacob Knowles-Smith tries to make sense of this season’s viewing With the Christmas schedule now safely out of the way, viewers can settle into shows designed to ward off the effects ‘the lull’ and winter blues that come without an enforced sense of Christmas cheer. This year Charles Dickens, the codifier of our Christmas traditions, […]

TV Eye: BBC Fours’s All American season

Jacob Knowles-Smith sits down for a TV dinner with Tom Wolfe Thankfully BBC Four hasn’t been demolished just yet. If it had been, we wouldn’t have had chance to enjoy its recent ‘All American’ season. They say that BBC 2 would absorb the channel’s role, but doubtless this would come with – if not dumbing-down […]

Future Media: edited by Rick Wilber

Reviewed by Jacob Knowles-Smith Norman Mailer hated television. He distrusted email. He even hated plastic. Marshall McLuhan was probably right, to some extent, to suggest that Mailer had a Victorian attitude towards technology. Other critics, past and present, will probably find sympathy with Mailer’s assertion that man’s relationship with technology is some kind of Faustian […]

TV Eye: Bored to Death and Desperate Housewives

Gender agenda: Jacob Knowles-Smith on men without women, dysfunctional families, and killer whales After many years of not watching Friends on any of the Channel 4 family of stations, since they flogged it to Comedy Central, I’ve suddenly been spending entire Saturday afternoons watching episode after episode. Now that the show is no longer the […]

TV Eye: True Stories: Kissinger and House

You wait all season for a misanthropic, sociopathic doctor, then two come along at once. Jacob Knowles-Smith reviews Around the turn of the last century, events both natural and unnatural conspired to shed the giants of the 19th century, such as Queen Victoria and William McKinley. In our new century, however, assassinations being less frequent […]

Christopher Hitchens: Arguably (Atlantic Books)

Reviewed by Jacob Knowles-Smith The critic, wrote H.L. Mencken in his Prejudices, “makes the work of art live for the spectator; he makes the spectator live for the work of art”. If we take this as a fair and desirable definition of a critic; which, Mencken continues, results in “understanding, appreciation, [and] intelligent enjoyment”; then […]

TV Eye: Boardwalk Empire

This week, Jacob Knowles-Smith ponders whether its us or them to blame for the muted response to HBO’s lavish series Wikipedia is a killer. A plot killer, that is. Before its advent, the history of a period drama like HBO’s Boardwalk Empire would be known only by those with an interest in prohibition-era American history. […]

TV Eye: Downton Abbey and The Story of Film: An Odyssey

This week, Jacob Knowles-Smith takes on the 20th century as seen through the cinema lens and the eyes of Julian Fellowes It is curious that since the first series of Downton Abbey (ITV 1) the BBC has also made an effort to create period dramas set in the 20th, rather than 18th or 19th, century. […]

Jill McGivering: Far from my Father’s House

Jill McGivering is a BBC foreign correspondent and has reported from all over the world, including some of its poorest and most conflict scarred countries. In Far from my Father’s House, her second novel, she employs her wealth of experience in the field to tell tale of Layla, a young Muslim woman, and the destruction […]

TV Eye: Bill Hicks, The Field of Blood and Page Eight

Jacob Knowles-Smith settles down for an original American comic and some not so original British drama It might be a cliché for fans of Bill Hicks to reminisce about the man and wonder what he might have to say about the present day, but it isn’t much of a stretch of the imagination: he wouldn’t […]

TV Eye: HBO’s Entourage

In the first instalment of a new column on TV programmes, Jacob Knowles-Smith reviews Entourage As anyone who has ever read Casanova’s memoirs knows, even the Great Seducer was knocked back once or twice. But it took seven seasons of Entourage and a drug problem for Vincent Chase, arguably a modern-day equivalent, to get himself […]

On Curling Up In A Ball: Ronald Dworkin: Justice For Hedgehogs

Ronald Dworkin’s latest book attempts to engage with moral truths and the pursuit of a meaningful life. Jacob Knowles-Smith reviews No mention of Professor Dworkin’s latest work, Justice for Hedgehogs, can pass by without the following: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”. So goes the old fable. The hedgehog, […]

Repackaged Misogyny: Natasha Walter: Living Dolls

Jacob Knowles-Smith considers whether gender politics have lost their direction and clout through the prism of two recent books Anyone who has even the briefest acquaintance with nightclubs in recent years will have seen girls dressed as Playboy bunnies in almost just their underwear, replete with stockings and suspenders, quite as frequently as one will […]

Eric Hobsbawm: How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism

Reviewed by Jacob Knowles-Smith In the week after Michael Foot, socialist and former-Labour Party leader, died I encountered a veteran taxi-driver early one morning in Liverpool. What started as mere headshaking and tutting at the fellow revellers eventually became a discourse on the political traditions of Liverpool and the state of Britain as a whole. […]