Clive James, a transplanted Australian whose wit and aphoristic style made him a fixture in Britain as a literary critic of unusually wide range, a longtime television writer for The Observer and a reliable comic presence on numerous television shows, notably “Clive James on Television,” died on Sunday in Cambridge, England. He was 80.
His literary agents confirmed the death in a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday. In 2010, Mr. James learned he had leukemia, kidney failure and emphysema.
Mr. James shared with his Australian compatriot Robert Hughes a pithy, muscular prose style and a zest for landing the knockout punch, the key to his success as The Observer’s television critic from 1972 to 1982.
He once dismissed a tedious public affairs program as “the mental equivalent of navel fluff.” He described William Shatner’s acting technique in “Star Trek” as “picked up from someone who once worked with somebody who knew Lee Strasberg’s sister.”
Unlike his British counterparts, who tended to sneer at popular programming, Mr. James regarded the entirety of television as precious raw material waiting to be mined. He found the peculiar language of sports commentators and Barbara Woodhouse’s dog-training show just as fascinating as a plush historical drama from the BBC.