small screen Facts and facticity

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The Independent Culture
Facts and facticity

As you have probably noticed, the world of television is bursting with facts. Every programme is cloaked in a miasmic halo of factoids - who's in it, who wrote it, who directed it, what the dolly grip had for breakfast, and so on. Indeed, you might say, with suitably epistemological rigour, that all of television is nothing more than the totality of testable facts about it. Hmmm. Now, that's all very well, but such a monstrous bath of facts as that provided by more than 40 years of TV history is a bath you could easily get lost in. All hail Guinness, then, who are bringing out The Guinness Television Encyclopaedia (pounds 14.99, 23 Oct), the first one- volume telly reference guide, into which all those intimidating facts have been safely coralled. The single author, Jeff Evans, has done a heroic job, providing more than 2,000 informative entries on everything from The A- Team to Zoo Time. "There are no attempts to rate or criticise programmes or performers," Evans writes in the introduction - so, while extremely useful, the volume lacks the scabrous wit of, say, Halliwell's Film Guide. And what about the theme tunes? We get told that Mike Post wrote the Hill Street Blues music, for instance, but most composers don't even get mentions, even when those who performed theme songs do. Pshaw. Luckily, however, for those who can never get tired of singing "Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his black and white cat...", the BBC have just released The Very Best of Children's BBC Theme Tunes on cassette (pounds 3.99). Good.