A couple of days ago there was a documentary on ITV4 about Panini sticker albums. And I have to say, it was fantastic. From the time of writing it’s still available to watch online for about 28 days and it’s also being shown again next Tuesday, 21st Nov at 8pm on ITV4. But first, let’s back up…

Sticker albums were a huge part of my childhood, and I’m sure the majority UK readers who are reading this just now feel the same. Americans had their baseball trading cards and things like that, but in the UK it was football stickers that were the big thing in the 80s, and Panini were the kings of that market. At the time I didn’t even know Panini was an Italian company. Now I realise there was much more that I didn’t know.

What I did know at the time, however, was the joy that these things brought me. The thrill of the chase hunting for the stickers you needed, the excitement about getting a pack of stickers and opening them up to see what you got, the foil stickers, (oh, the foil stickers), swapping stickers with friends in the schoolground, having all your doubles in a pile with an elastic band round them. We had a tradition in our school that when you completed the album, you had to bring in your spare doubles which you didn’t need any more, and throw them in the air in the playground yelling ‘Scramble!’ and then watch the carnage ensue. Oh those were the days. There was a boy in the year above us at school whose dad was a football referee and he was somehow given a whole box of sticker packs. A whole box. You know those long cardboard boxes that the newsagents had that contained the sticker packs? One of those. I think it contained 100 packs of stickers. That was seriously the most exciting thing in the world to 9 year old me. Still pretty exciting to me now to be honest.

I had loads of sticker albums. Below is a collection of ones I have now. None of my original ones survived but these are ones I have since acquired from eBay. There are several more I still want to get. These are mostly Panini, but the WWF one is from Merlin.

So, being a big sticker fan I was very intrigued to watch this documentary ‘Stuck on You’. I had no idea what to expect. But I absolutely loved it. It’s very well shot – the interviews are extremely well lit etc. It’s very well edited – there are some clever bits where the music links in with what’s happening on screen, such as when they play Two Tribes by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and also when they mention the Smash Hits sticker album and they cut straight to a “Whoo hoo!” soundbit from Wham! Just slickly done. Not every documentary is as well edited. The visual effects are great – it’s cool how they show you pages from sticker albums and transpose video clips of that footballer scoring a goal, or they have stickers of the interviewees peel down onto a page etc. The interviewees are all great – the four main protagonists are all very interesting, engaging and great on camera. And there is a truly interesting story at the heart of it. It’s so well made, that I actually got a bit emotional in places. It must have been such a whirlwind journey that these guys were on, and a fascinating time to be there first hand.

I won’t spoil the story for anyone watching, but I had no idea the link between Panini and Merlin, or the importance of the WWF sticker album, and I didn’t know the involvement of Robert Maxwell, or any of that.

Well done to the documentary makers. You did an amazing job. But what people watching the documentary may not realise is that it’s based on a book of the same name, ‘Stuck on You’ by Greg Lansdowne. I don’t know all the full details but my understanding is that Greg wrote the book a couple of years ago, did all the research for the majority of the story of what’s in the documentary himself, contacted most of the key players and also advised and contributed to the documentary, and appears a few times as one of the talking head interviews, but neither he nor his book are credited at the end of the show, which is a shame. I believe it was Greg who proactively contacted the production company in the first place to see if they wanted to turn his book into a documentary so it’s a shame there isn’t a mention of the book anywhere, particularly as the documentary uses the name of the book. But as I say, I don’t know the full story. I haven’t read the book yet myself as I only heard about it yesterday, but I’m definitely going to get it and I’ll write another blog post when I’ve read it.

In the meantime, here are some screenshots from the documentary…

As mentioned above, the documentary is available to watch online on ITV.com until about Dec 13th but is also being shown again on Tuesday 21st Nov at 8pm on ITV4.

Also please do check out the original book by Greg Lansdowne, ‘Stuck on You: The Rise & Fall… & Rise of Panini Stickers’ available on Amazon.