We interviewed Special Request founder Paul Sethi back in 2013 on the publication of the first issue of his magazine; that issue was themed Food and he promised a second issue about Television. Now, at last, four years later it’s here and is notable for several reasons.
The issue celebrates Television. This may not seem such a unique approach when celebration is such a common position for indie titles, but Special Request isn’t loving today’s television. ‘Remember when the only screen you looked at was your television?’ asks editor Josh Jones in his intro letter. This is a celebration of television then, when every family sat down to the same shows at the same time with no chance of watching on delay or suffering twitter spoilers. When watching TV was a core activity rather than another way of accessing more stuff.
When we last spoke to Sethi he stressed that the prevailing idea of the magazine was that the content would be incredible, and the new issue matches that ambition, with a contributors list any magazine would envy. Fiction by Ben Loory and Haruki Murakami adds real depth to the project, while other names involved include Buzz Aldrin, Philip Pullman and Mick Jones (they select their favourite TV snacks, above). This mix of high culture writing and throwaway list-making sums up both Special Request and its subject this issue.
The 80s/90s era being examined is intriguing as we can see the beginnings of today’s TV obsessions: reality TV and ever-trashier trash. An original ‘Baywatch’ comic offers the origin stories of today’s super-celebs David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson (above) and writer/presenter Antoine de Caunes recalls the shock of his ‘Eurotrash’ series (below). The power of European MTV is remembered too (also below).
There are enjoyable visual treats too. Testcards are evoked by the graphic exploration of Bruno Drummond (above, even better seen when animated on the magazine’s website), while the scatological world of ‘Beavis and Butthead’ is recalled in Alex de Mora and Marisha Green in their saturated series of still lives (below).
Special Request is our Magazine of the Week because of the richness of its content, its unabashed, realistic nostlagia and because it extends itself beyond simple celebration. There’s a strong point of view in the pages that builds up bit by bit.
The final pages of the issue sum up this view. The greyest, most unsaturated image in the whole issue shows an old-fashioned cathode ray television set floating away against a seventies New York skyline.
TV is dead! Long live TV!
Read our 2013 At Work With interview with Paul Sethi.