LIFE ITS OWNSELF: The Semi-Tougher Adventures of Billy Clyde Puckett and Them by Dan Jenkins
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LIFE ITS OWNSELF: The Semi-Tougher Adventures of Billy Clyde Puckett and Them

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Thanks in part to the semi-disastrous play of such teammates as Alvin (Point Spread) Powell and amphetamine-fortified Dreamer Tatum, Billy Clyde Puckett--the celebrated Giants halfback of Semi-Tough (1972)--winds up with a torn medial collateral ligament. . . and the end of his football career. What to do? Go on TV, of course--as ""color"" man for broadcaster Larry Hoage, a Fluff Dry dolt who ""had a way of making an off-tackle run for no-gain sound like a mid-air collision of 747's."" After all, Billy Clyde's two best buddies are both now media types: Shake Tiller is the author of The Art of Taking Heat, the ultimate in crass self-helpers; and Billy Clyde's semi-estranged wife Barbara Jane Bookman, moving from modeling into sit-corn stardom, is out in L.A. making the pilot for Rita's Limo Stop, about an Upper East Side restaurateur with encroaching blindness (for ""vulnerability""). Before taking up his TV duties, however, the recuperating Billy Clyde visits the old TCU crowd in slickly changing Fort Worth: old teammate T. J. Lambert is now the TCU coach, happily putting ""fear back into the game"" and doing his best to bribe/recruit high-schooler Tonsillitis Johnson for next year's team. (Unfortunately, the recruitment process gets more complicated once Tonsillitis falls under the spell of a local swami: ""What I be wearin' a helmet for? What I be doin' on this planet?"") And when Billy Clyde does at last get on the air, he's promptly nominated for an Emmy--but his backstage chumship with gorgeous stage-manager Kathy Montgomery gets misinterpreted by the jealous Barbara Jane, who must be won back somehow (even if it means plugging Rita's Limo Stop, on a rival network, during the Super Bowl broadcast). As before, Billy Clyde's good-ol'-boy narration has what it takes to offend blacks, Jews, homosexuals, and--above all--women. The plotting, such as it is, is lazy and predictable. But, while getting some solid mileage out of the old football-world/Texas targets, Jenkins is truly inspired by the garish mediocrity of TV-land--especially when it comes to the wretched scripts and script-doctors for Rita's Limo Stop. (Among the inter-office memos: ""We are concerned that Rita is depicted too brazenly when she reminds Ko, the Chinese chef, of his need for cosmetic dentistry."") And, along with the epic raunchiness, there's that distinctive strain of Jenkins-ian sweetness--making it all semi-endearing as well as semi-tasteless and semi-hilarious.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1984
Publisher: Simon & Schuster