Mrs. Toy sat contentedly in her own chair in front of the telly surrounded by her entire family. The washing-up done, tea and biscuits on the table, knitting on her lap.
blub band Horace shouted suddenly. Dammit, she would have known that herself. Without warning her, they had already started doing Let’s play guess the advertisement. But no need to get cross. Not until after the news would things get really serious, lipton! shrieked Prudence. Clever pants, thought Mrs Toy.
As the signature tune to Telly addicts sounded, Mrs Toy started to come alive. Here she was far and away the best of her family. Television 's toughest programme, a quiz with questions on all kinds of British and American television series - and she nearly always knew the right answer.
Quiet now everyone. The over-familiar brightly coloured little television appeared on the screen. Aeroplanes, chairs, glasses and countless other things disappeared into it. The little set must have incredible suction power!
For her too, it had a strong appeal. She had already asked herself so often what would happen if she let go of her chair and just let herself be swept along. She had already played the game so often, but what would it really be like in there? It looks just like home, except that they are looking in the opposite direction to us. What would there be behind the edge of the television screen? Would the compere really be the sympathetic boy he seems to be... and would he smell nice? For that is just the kind of thing you don’t know.
Wouldn't it be nice if you could let your-self be sucked through that screen, just to fly through that lovely telly and see what it’s like to be part of Telly Addicts for once.
Mrs Toy just had time to say, let s pretend were in the quiz, before everything became misty and a strong wind began to blow. One moment she was still sitting in front of the television and the next she was in a thick fog. Oh, phantoms in the mist if I’m not mistaken, she said. But it wasn’t a mist that surrounded her - the television screen was slowly melting away. When the glass had gone completely soft, she let herself be blown through it. Before she knew what was happening, she was shuffling cautiously along Telly Addict Street in the direction of the television chairs. Just like our street, she thought, only here it is day on one side and night on the other. In the distance she saw the compère striding towards her. Glad you were able to come, Mrs Toy, he said, holding out his hand while she sniffed him as inconspicuously as possible. At least that wasn’t a disappointment.
Wouldn’t it be funny if the whole of Gloucester was watching me now on television. And tomorrow everyone would say, did you see Mrs Toy on the telly too, warn't she fantastic? And as she was walking past, on her way to the grocer, they would nudge each other and smile at her admiringly. Hey look, isn't that Horrace and Prudence sunk deeply into the tv chairs reserved for the quiz candidates? And her son-in-law Perry? How did they get there? She wanted to ask the quiz master, but he shouted that he had no 'sound' and disappeared. However he certainly had 'sound', she could hear him herself.
What she was used to seeing on television every week seemed to resemble her own living room even more now that everything was bigger. But one glance at the part that always remains hidden from the viewer at home made it clear to her that the similarity didn’t go very far. It could do with a good clean here. What a mess! Grumbling to herself, Mrs Toy pushed one of the doors open and peeped inside. Goodness me, these houses weren't houses at all, merely painted cardboard facades: fake. And behind the cardboard, electric leads were lying about all over the place waiting for someone to fall over them. Mrs Toy was just about to start clearing up when she heard her name being called. The game was obviously about to begin.
Two steps in the direction of the chairs were enough to take her along the whole street, when she knew without a doubt that the one in Gloucester was at least a couple of hundred yards long. She stopped for a moment because she felt a bit dizzy. Quirk quicker, quickest, shouted the compère dragging her along with him. Where is your
badge? he asked. She hasn't got one, she came flying through the television, the audience explained. The compère straightened his
moustache. It would have been better to have come by train at your age.
Mrs Toy wanted to protest but didn't really know what to say so she sat down in the first chair she came to. Thundering laughter arose from the audience: she had sat down in the compère’s chair, who came forward and spoke sternly to the offenders. If you by any chance think you're here to be amused, he said, then you will be the ones to pay. On the contrary, it's the other way around entirely. We pay you to clap so that the people at home can amuse themselves. The audience looked embarrassed. We're very sorry, they said in chorus and began to clap obediently. After all money is money, they all thought together. The compère grinned, on the contrary, he muttered into his moustache and lifted Mrs Toy from his chair.
Mrs Toy landed with a bang in the empty tv chair among her family. Mum in the middle where she belongs, because mothers are in fact the very best Telly Addicts. What is your name, actually I whispered the compère in her ear, your first name, I mean. My name is Mrs Gladys Toy - Courtesy, of course. Surely he didn't think that she wouldn’t know that. Next question. How old did you say you were? Sixty-one. Wrong, yelled the compère, you didn’t mention your age yet! Oh dear, she'd have to be careful. She was thoroughly mixed up. That's what you get from living the other way round. The four of them were in fact sitting in front of a television as usual, but at home Horrace sat on her left and Prudence on her right, and now it was just the other way around. Was it so strange then that an ordinary person got in a bit of a muddle. Where were her smelling salts?
Somebody shouted action! and everything started happening very quickly: the lights went on, the signature tune sounded and the audience clapped for the compère.She now began to feel at ease, she hummed the familiar melody softly with the others and looked around happily. While the other candidates were being introduced, her confidence grew. She could cope with those Plants, they didn’t look all that smart. And then it was their turn. And these are the Toys. The game had begun.
The ultimate television programme challenged the ultimate television viewer in the field of television, on television. The one had the advantage of the archives, the other had to draw on his memory. Any programme could crop up, there was only one taboo: Telly Addicts. Who was going to win...
The first round, questions on comedy fragments, went off smoothly. She certainly knew her subject there: she knew the only right answer to four of the five questions. On Telly Addicts mum was the champion. The question in the next round, in which fellow telly addicts outside the studio give cryptic descriptions of television personalities, was a really tough one. A young man said: He could luwe done with a lift. A mischievous girl added: He left no fingerprints because he wore white gloves. She had no idea - a gentleman burglar? His job had its ups and downs.
That made it clear. It had to be Hudson.
Good, three more points. But unfortunately, the Plants were not as stupid as they looked. The score was even and the tension mounted.
During the drama fragments everything threatened to go wrong. Good gracious, wherever did that clip come from? She never watched westerns. She threw a hopeful glance at Perry, the family cowboy. The slob was asleep again. Horrace thumped him, and after some arguing they arrived at the right answer together: Big Valley.
During Vintage, the golden oldies, she pulled herself together. Wlwt could Tex Tuckers magic feathers do? Without any hesitation she said: They made both his revolvers go off and his dog and horse talk. The audience was flabbergasted. Mrs Toy was the best Telly Addict ever! Made reckless by this success, she answered the Titles and Tunes question too quickly and everything went to pieces. She gave not only the wrong title but the wrong tune as well. A wave of disappointment washed over the audience. This was not supposed to happen - of course she knew the right answer. The compère sniggered. Don't lose control now, she would make up for it and ensure that Gloucester would be proud of her tomorrow.
On to the next round, channel hopping. In this round you could expect anything. She chose channel 6 using the hoover doover. Channel 10 appeared on the screen. This was wrong of course, but in her short television career she had already grown accustomed to this kind of thing. All of a sudden, the compère rose up behind her. A big one or a small oneI That meant a props question. Completely taken by surprise, she stuttered: A big one please, and before she knew what was happening a sort of gas-ring appeared on her lap. Who does this prop belong to? She hadn’t a clue. The Swedish Chef, she said making a wild guess, a question mark written all over her face. The audience roared. You're right, that's wrong. You obviously don't watch enough television, sneered the compère, who else could this belong to hut - the Interceptor! The next question was for Prudence. She chose channel 4 and prompdy channel 9 flashed up: Sing the Sig. Sing the Dynasty intro, the compère read from his notes. Luckily the whole family was allowed to help Prudence answer this question. In chorus, the Toys started up the Dallas theme. Wrong again. It was going to be a close finish. The compere explained: Apart from the score, nothing has changed yet. Between the Toys and the Plants there is a gap of no less than three points against the Toys. Can they still catch up? They have ONE chance left...The spotlight round in which within one minute each member of the family in turn comes under the spotlight and has to answer three questions.
The Plants had to go first in this race against time, in which every second counts. Mrs Toy saw to her pleasure how panic set in. They made a few silly mistakes and lingered over questions they did not know. Now it was the Toy's turn. Lights out, spotlights on. The questions were fired at them at breakneck speed. Fast, faster, fastest, the compère spurred them on. When it was Mrs Toy’s turn she realised that she would have to get all her three questions right to win the game - and she had only eight seconds to go. The compère’s moustache quivered with tension. Without any sign of hesitation - Mission Impossible, Terry Wogan, Zachary Smith! - she brought the quiz to a glorious end. The children beamed at her and Horrace patted her shoulder: Well done, mumlWhalfun, said Mrs Toy. Who would ever have thought that I would win Telly Addicts one day! She acknowledged her applause. First she smiled a bit stiffly. She didn't quite know how to deal with her new status. But before long she was clapping and cheering with the others. Later she would sayOh... it was rather fun there in the television (and she would make her favourite gesture, smoothing her hand over her hair), only it was so hot under those lights... Meanwhile, the applause was swelling. Loud, louder, loudest! shrieked the compère. It quickly became so loud that it drowned her own cheering. Good heavens, what a rumpus. Far away in the background she heard the fabulous prizes she had won being announced. Exactly what, she couldn't make out, the applause drowned everything.
What causes thunder ? hissed the compère in her ear. Lightning, she said, oh no, the other way around. She honestly didn't know any more. What’s said is said, she heard the compère say. Lightning began to flash all around. A whirlwind sprang up - she had been through this before. Soon she was flying through the mist again. The thunder died down and she could hear Perry snoring. It became louder and clearer by the second. You shouldn't snore so loudly young man, it's extremely bad manners, said Mrs Toy, rubbing her eyes and looking around in amazement. Her knitting had fallen to the floor and the biscuits were all finished.
Luckily no-one had noticed her temporary absence.
translation Gay Wylie and Marion Olivier [the bbc will resume broadcasting Tilly Addicts after the summer]