The view from the sofa

<p>My first reaction was of a slight jarring of tone; a &quot;cultural show&quot;-style ident with classical-sounding music and riffling pages seguing into a brightly lit &quot;daytime&quot; set with cerise background and purple carpet.<br />
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With Jo Brand presiding, it seemed to take a little while for the hosts Gok Wan, Dave Spikey, Nathaniel Parker and Laila Rouass to find their feet. The idea is of a &quot;club&quot; of pals sitting around discussing the latest books, although pals don't tend to sit in a row on two sofas. Guest author Chris Evans, seated in the centre, had to turn his head as though at a tennis match.<br />
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First up a rip through Evans' autobiography, which included quite a lot of interesting discussion on how and why he wrote (&quot;you write and write and write and then the publisher gets a red pen and crosses things out&quot;).<br />
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Then cut to a VT of Cecilia Ahern chatting warmly about the effects of the R&amp;J book club on her sales, and how she writes, and then back to Jo holding a sign reading &quot;cockalorum&quot; &ndash; cut to the break.<br />
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After ads for the <i>Sunday Times</i>, &quot;Decoded&quot; a TV programme on Dan Brown, and, unnervingly an NHS warning about chlamydia, we were back (cue awkward chorus of &quot;hiyas&quot;) with some scripted to and fro about the forthcoming feature, which was Mark Watson filmed pestering members of the public with large signs blazoned with unusual words and getting them to guess what they meant.<br />
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Back to the studio, and another VT of Sarah Waters discussing this week's book club pick, <i>The Little Stranger</i>. It was a stylish and interesting piece, and made me reflect not only about the book, but on how unusual it is to see an author on TV, talking about their book, its themes and their thoughts. <br />
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Then back to the presenters. Jo Brand held the discussion together, with Spikey an increasingly amusing and incisive sidekick (a camera shot showed a pad full of scribbled notes on his lap). Gok Wan rather acerbicly commented that &quot;the story didn't fascinate me&quot;, Parker was avuncular and Rouass mostly silent. Brand summed up the title as a &quot;good read&quot; although the general discussion was downbeat, which felt a little odd. <br />
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A swift mention of the website and of Alan Davies guesting next week and that was that.<br />
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A friend of mine, roped in to hold the coathanger so our TV could pick up the show, said it reminded her of &quot;Loose Women&quot; and that it was also a perfect show for early evening, cooking the dinner time, a la R&amp;J.<br />
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The <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/book-club-beg... has pondered whether the show will make people buy books. Any coverage of a book on TV, whether it is negative or positive, is going to raise awareness and hopefully sales. The debate was much more challenging than I expected and this can only be a good thing.<br />
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Other comments about the first show have been less than positive, but I think that pitching the programme at the right level was always going to be difficult. A programme about books that avoids the rather highbrow and offputting nature of &quot;Newsnight Review&quot;, plus one following the intimidating success of R&amp;J, is always going to be difficult. Plus there was barely half an hour to fit in a lot.</p>
<p>But as Amanda Ross said over the weekend, her m&eacute;tier is <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jan/16/amanda-ross-tv-bookclub-inte..., and it was entertaining. Plus with two showings per week, including on Channel 4 daytime, it should at least attract more viewers than the much-derided Watch. <br />
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The disparate hosts will take a while to warm up but I think the trade should give it a chance,&nbsp; which of course it will so long as the sales continue to grow.<br />
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