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The Encyclopedia Of Cult Children’s TV by Richard Lewis

01/03/2002. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

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pub: Allison & Busby Ltd. 354 page paperback-size hardback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 0-7490-0576-9.

You know how it is. You see a little publicity about a book and think cos its got a low price, there can’t be any harm in buying it for a looksee.

If I’d see it on the shelf first, I think I’d have probably left it there. As there is some reference to some TV SF shows here, then it needs to be covered here if for no other reason that you can save your pounds for a more deserving book.

Author Lewis goes out of his way in the introduction to say he is only going to focus on series from the mid-1960s to 1988. Then through lack of material, every cast member from ‘Wacky Races’ and ‘Top Cat’ get separate entries to make up the space that could have easily covered ‘Huckleberry Hound’, ‘Yogi Bear’ (where Daws Butler is first recognised for these voices than for his later work), ‘Space Patrol’ (it isn’t though it wasn’t out on video when this book was compiled) amongst many others.

He even forgets 70s delights like ‘Timeslip’ and the more slightly bizarre surreal ‘Bright’s Boffins’. The latter might not have everyone’s favourite but should have been noted.

When it comes to factual errors, it’s on par with that ‘The Mammoth Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction’ I reviewed last year. Does anyone remember Lady Penelope having a co-starring role in ‘Stingray’?? Me neither. The TV ‘Batman’ entry hits on secondary characters who played the Riddler and Catwoman then those who played them regularly. There’s worse but why dwell on them.

Yes, there is some things that are noted correctly but it isn’t hard to see why as they’re what Lewis either remembered watching or was able to get from source. Anything else got a cursory glance. Whoever was editing him should have been able to have recognised some of the mistakes with minimal research.

Lewis was also extremely patronizing in his attempts at being funny at the expense of the series he notes. Whether this was a demonstration of his own boredom or cheering up the text when he had little to say is debatable.

Personally, if you were going to buy this book for some knowledge or insight about your favourite series then you’re going to be sadly disappointed by this author’s uncaring attitude. Recognising a series has a cult following based on this book’s title, there should have been sufficient detail covering why its appeal has stood the passage of time.

This is obviously a book put together by publishers to make money. It’s a pity that they couldn’t have chosen some author with a better awareness of the subject matter. Certainly there’s enough of us around.

GF Willmetts

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