September 2, 2016
Around the dial
Stephen Battaglio, author of the fine biography of David Susskind, has a nice piece in the Los Angeles Times about the DVD release of The Defenders, and helps place the series in its perper historical context. When the chapter is written explaining how TV's vast potential seemed to fade away, one hopes we'll find out how CBS, the Tiffany Network, was turned into the network of “broads, bosoms and fun” by James Aubery. Strike that; I'm not sure I want to know.
I've made reference in the past to the "big game voice" of the great sportscasters (mostly when writing their obituaries, alas), but the AV Club gives us some food for thought by discussing what makes a sports announcer great. A very good list; sometimes there's just that intangible - the timbre of a voice, the sense of the dramatic - that puts an announcer in that class. Many of the Premier League announcers, who are British, have it; as Jon Champion once said, "I was taught very early on that the picture is so powerful, you can’t hope to compete with it." On a related note, at The Ringer Bryan Curtis takes a closer look at one of those big-time voices, the retiring Verne Lundquist.
Also at The Ringer, it's an excerpt from the new book TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time, by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz, which purports to give us the top ten American TV shows ever. I'm always leery of books like this, because they seem overly-slanted toward contemporary shows, which often contain the type of "innovative" storytelling that I don't think is always necessary to tell a good story. I do take some hope in the comments of the authors that they want to be able to shed some light on series that readers might not be familiar with, but I suspect that their top ten and mine aren't going to look much alike.
One of my favorite political thrillers is the novel Seven Days in May, which was made into a movie starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, directed by TV veteran John Frankenheimer, and with a screenplay by Rod Serling (often taking dialog verbatim from the book). Author John Kenneth Muir reflects on the movie, which according to me is something of a compromise; Serling jettisoned some of the book's soap opera elements, which was good, but also wrote a more traditional ending, featuring a showdown between Lancaster and Douglas, that loses some of the book's subtle observation on power and self-doubt. I also think that it's a bit of a stretch to suggest, as Muir does, that the story parallel's today's political scene as closely as he thinks.
At Comfort TV, David has a very, very good essay on "looking back vs. looking forward'; in other words, not just what classic television we watch but how we watch it. In particular, the "forward-looking" viewer "is content with the agendas that dictate how television shows are now put together. They’re pleased when CBS is chastised for scheduling too many shows about white men on this fall’s roster – and even happier when the network quickly goes into self-flagellation mode, desperately apologizing and vowing to do better. [...] Are the shows good or not? No mention of that." I can't do it justice in a paragraph - go read it. I'll wait.
If it's Friday, then that means Ken Levine is answering questions, and right off the bat the first one is especially apropos, given my participation in the recent panel discussion on sitcoms and a companion piece I'll have up this coming Wednesday: does the addition of streaming video channels increase the odds of getting better sitcoms?
The Hitchcock Project is back at bare-bones e-zine, with another look at a seventh season episode, this time the crime drama "The Big Score." Likewise, Lincoln X-ray Ida reviews the fourth season Adam-12 episode Truant, and British TV Detectives gives us the lowdown on the amateur-detective series Grantchester, and Cult TV Blog looks across the pond at the legendary Sesame Street, which seemed to the author to be coming from a foreign country - literally.
Finally, Classic TV Sports recalls the 1974 college football season, when ABC experimented with the idea of using active head coaches as guest analysts on its games. I must confess that, although I would have watched as much football as anyone at the time (given the limitations coming from living in the World's Worst Town™), I have no memory of this experiment. Did it work? What do you think?
Hope this worked for you, though. Come back tomorrow, we'll talk about an old TV Guide and a new televisions season.