BARNES is the author of three books
including the discreetly mysterious
Flaubert's Parrot which made the 1984
Booker Teaze short-list. But he is
possibly better known to the teeming
masses as The Observer's TV critic (all
teeming people read The Observer).
and a half years ago Barnes succeeded
Clive James who had wriggled, writhed and
dozed in his fabled armchair since 1972.
James is often thought of as the man who
brought TV criticism into the present
century. He filled his columns with his
customary humour but also imbued them
with a multi-browed appreciation which
corresponded to the diverse output
emanating from the box itself.
Like James, like most TV
critics, Barnes came to the post in a
"I would think it
very odd if people left school or college
saying 'I want to be a TV critic',"
he says, perched beside his typewriter in
a tasteful room in a tasteful house in a
tasteful part of north London.
"In a way it's a job
that everybody thinks they can do and
everyone is equally qualified because
they all watch television. I happened to
be working at the New Statesman when the
TV critic failed for the umpteenth time
to deliver his copy, so I filled in for a
few weeks and ended up doing it for two
years. Then I had a year off and went to
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