Television show, Defying Gravity, Season 1, Episode 4: Wrathful Tibetan Mask on space ship, Tibetan Buddhism in American culture
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The information contained in this book is astounding. I can’t tell you how many times I have consulted this book whenever we see an actor on a TV show and wonder, “Where have we seen him/her before?” Rarely has that question not been answered in the pages of this book. I’ve bought the last four editions, and have a “hand-me-down chain” well established: my sister gets the second-most-recent edition, and she passes the previous one onto her son-in-law.
Inaccuracies? With the volume of television information out there, there are bound to be small mistakes here and there. The authors encourage readers to submit corrections to the book, and I myself have done so. (In fact, my name appears in the acknowledgments page of this edition as having contributed a correction.)
Out-of-date information? This book is only updated once every three to four years (to update it more often would be cost-prohibitive), and the last revision was in 1999. The publication information on the Amazon.com item page clearly says this, and the book’s introduction also gives the “official” cut-off date for updated information. The next edition should be just around the corner.
My library would not be complete without this book, and I will, without hesitation, be buying the next edition as soon as it hits the shelves.
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Brooks and Marsh have compiled what is far and away the best reference book for prime time television. Each entry includes the genre, the dates of first and last broadcast, the broadcast history of the show as to times and days of the week, and the cast members (hosts or regulars for reality programming). Then there is a description of the program, the length of which depends on how long that particular program aired. Clearly, the basics are covered in this compilation. My guess is that sooner or later they are going to have to come out with a CD-Rom edition or they are going to have to do two volumes.
The other strengths of this volume are the introductory essay “A Short History of Network Television” and the Appendixes which provide Prime Time Schedules, Emmy Award Winners, Top-Rated Programs by Season, Longest-Running Series, The Top 100 Series of All Time, Prime Time Series Reunion Telecasts, Series Airing in Prime Time on More Than One Network, Prime Time Spinoffs, Prime Time Series Based on Movies, Prime Time Network TV Series that Also Aired on Network Radio, and Hit Theme Songs from Series. The Index of Personalities and Performers allows you to track your favorites from series to series throughout the history of the tube.
In regards to their introductory examination of the trends in programming that have created specific eras in prime time, I would argue that Brooks and Marsh jumped the gun a little bit on characterizing the 1990s as the Ear of Choice. Certainly that is where we are now, but for the first part of that decade I think that network programming was dominated by female oriented programs. The Nielsen Top 10 included “Roseanne,” “Murphy Brown,” “The Golden Girls,” “Designing Women,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and “Grace Under Fire” at some point during that period. Even shows will male stars-such as “Home Improvement” and “Coach”-presented ironic portraits of the traditional macho male. By presenting traditional males in explicit comic and inherently negative ways, even these shows work into the feminist perspective. Clearly women as the dominate audience for television were being courted by such shows and I think that constitutes a distinct era for Brooks and Marsh to include.
Note: If you are looking for a book that covers daytime programming, then Alex O’Neill’s “Total Television” is where you want to start.
PRE-DELIVERY COMMENTS: This is the latest edition of a big fat guidebook to everything that is or was television in the US. Previous editions have been so thorough in their content that I can’t imagine what will be added to this one I am a trivia nut-case and I’m sure there will be more lists and more cross-indexes than ever before! I have been buying this book every time it’s revised since the 3rd edition, when I first discovered it. In addition to listing all TV shows in alphabetical order, it gives the cast members’ names and the years they played their characters. It gives a synopsis of each show’s plotline and the roles the characters played in the plot development. Cast changes are explained, where necessary. Every listed actor is cross-indexed in the back of the book to all the shows he/she played on, no matter how many shows there were.
Various appendices give fascinating insight into television history and trivia, like top 20 shows each year, theme music that became hit records and shows that hopped from one network to another in the search for success. Special shows, like The Tonight Show, get special treatment. A history of the development of the TV networks is also presented.
If enthusiasm qualified me for a free book, I’d have a carton of them on my doorstep, but I’ll be buying mine, just like everybody else and doing it eagerly.