How does Knightmare feature in Isy Suttie's memoirs? I'll tell you.


Comedian Isy Suttie is known for being a Knightmare enthusiast, first as a watcher and then as an actor after appearing as Treguard's assistant in the 2013 Geek Week episode. It's no surprise that her 2016 book The Actual One: How I tried, and failed, to remain twenty-something for ever mentions Knightmare (though in fairness, Isy said it would).

The first two mentions come in response to Isy not being mentioned in her boyfriend's parents' round-robin Christmas letter:

'His parents hadn't excluded me out of malice - it just hadn't occurred to them. I could have won an Olympic medal, or broken a world record for watching back-to-back episodes of ITV's seminal fantasy gaming show Knightmare (ah, another unfulfilled ambition - Knightmare, not the Olympics), but it wouldn't have crossed their minds to mention me.'

I had two reactions to Knightmare being referred to like this. My first reaction was "Yes. It is seminal. Hooray!" My second reaction was to wonder what the book's criteria were for things that needed no instruction. Takeshi's Castle, Temple Run and The Crystal Maze get mentions elsewhere but need no introduction; Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine (who Isy meets during the book) do need an introduction, and again it's 'seminal' (which, in the case of a sex machine, could well be a naughty pun - or should that be seedy?). Knightmare was on TV for seven years, not counting repeats every decade since, and watched by millions, so I was a little disappointed to imagine the book's editor classing it as obscure.

Isy also mentions Knightmare in connection with a hipster party she attends, at which she encounters an Alice in Wonderland room.

'On a table next to the door of the room was a vial of what looked like absinthe with a sign saying, 'Drink me' Sellotaped to it, a few sweaty hot-dog sausages on a paper plate with a bite taken out of one, and a silver key which I discovered was actually tinfoil wrapped around a real key, which was already silver. It was like Knightmare, except real. Anything could happen!'

Then a fellow partygoer talks to her in rhyme, which for a Knightmare fan was perhaps quite comforting.

Finally, Isy talks about how a good friend with benefits allowed her to pursue other interests.

'You've carved up fresh pineapple and presented it to them balanced on a hardback copy of The Vibe History of Hip Hop. Then it's like a French film - till you put on trackie bottoms and politely ask them to leave because you're doing a Knightmare marathon. Then, it's better than any film. The good thing is you don't make plans. Stuff just happens.'

Now you know about the Knightmare bits, is The Actual One still worth reading? Yes, as long as you know what to expect. This isn't a complete autobiography, only a partial one. It doesn't even reveal that Isy did meet her Actual One (Elis James, on-screen sitcom flatmate of Josh Widdicombe, who is quoted on the back of the book and also happens to like Knightmare). Nostalgia for past TV isn't a big theme: rather, it's part of the background to Isy's reluctance to embrace the future. You might find that you can relate much more strongly to some aspects of Isy's worldview than others. And the running uncertainty over how much of the detail is fictionalised can be a little distracting. Even so, she manages to make her anecdotes both entertaining and strikingly candid: a refreshing approach to life storytelling in the social media age. There's an amusing turn of phrase on nearly every page. And there are illustrations by the author.

You can buy The Actual One here.

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