October 25, 2017

The TV historian

The historian at work - but where's the television set?
I don't Google my own name very often; it strikes me as just a bit pretentious, as if I expect to find something about myself that I don't already know. It's also a bit embarrassing (at least to me) to see my name in print thanks to someone else - I don't even like to see myself on tape or listen to my voice on a recording, so the idea of reading what someone else thinks about me is a bit much.

Occasionally, I'll run across my name because of something I wrote, usually for this site. As I've noted before, for some reason I don't get pinged when someone links to one of my pieces, so I usually find out purely by accident and oftentimes long after the fact. If the person in question said something nice about me then I have to reply with an apology for not having acknowledged them sooner (while they probably were thinking I was a jerk for ignoring them), and more embarrassment ensues.

The point of all this is that apparently I'm now recognized on the internet as a television historian. And as we all know, if it's on the internet it has to be true.

Let me explain.

A couple of weeks ago I was looking up Sterling Hayden to check on some details for this piece. As is my wont, I wound up getting lost in one of those rabbit holes that led to the Wikipedia page for "United Nations television film series."* As you might recall, I wrote an article about this very thing for TV Party! a few years ago, so naturally I was interested in what this had to say that I might have missed in my earlier research. Now, in my opinion, next to reading about yourself, the most embarrassing thing that can happen to you is to read an article about a topic you're written about yourself. Suppose it's better than what I wrote? Suppose the author found out more information than I did, or - horror of horrors - contradicted me? Could I have been wrong? Did I make a fool out of myself? How will people take me seriously after this? If nothing else, this little exercise demonstrates how insecure writers can be; no wonder so many wind up in analysis. (Something I've been able to avoid so far, as long as the drugs keep working.)

*In case you're interested, the trail was "Sterling Hayden/Carol for Another Christmas/United Nations television film series"

Anyway, the entry was pretty good: comprehensive, well-written, and - as far as I could tell - no contradictions! The only regret I had was that there was a lot more information that what I'd included, but then greatness is often built on the shoulders of giants. And then, right near the end, I came to it. Under the section "Other films associated with the series," the first paragraph starts off, "According to TV historian Mitchell Hadley. . ."

Well! If that don't beat all! I might as well hang it up, now that I've been recognized by no less an authority than Wikipedia as a TV historian! (You can see it for yourself right here.) In fact, what had been written, according to me, was something I didn't even remember. If you were interviewing me today and you asked me about it, I wouldn't have had a clue. Oh, there was no doubt I'd written it, and when I went back and reread my own article at TV Party!, it all came back to me. It's just that it was so long ago, and of all the things that I've written, I found it curious to be identified as a TV historian for something so obscure I'd forgotten all about it. But, then, perhaps that's what a TV historian does.

In fact, my article was cited several times as a source for the Wikipedia entry, which actually didn't surprise me; I've been listed as a source before, partly because I do tend to write about obscure things that nobody else cares about. Besides, my UN article was one of only three sources that weren't contemporary to when the original telefilms ran, and the other two were merely providing background, so if you're going to rely on the word of a historian writing about this in retrospect, it's pretty much me or nothing.

Still, there's no denying that it's a bit of an ego boost to see oneself identified as a "TV historian" by someone I don't know (and I promise I didn't write it myself). For a minute it even made me think that I'd arrived, that the thousand pieces I'd written for this webpage over the last six years had finally been justified. As Mary Tyler Moore might have said, "You're gonna make it after all!"

And then, of course, someone in the comments section of the blog pointed out I'd misspelled a word in one of those thousand pieces. I was glad of it, glad that I had to go back and correct something I'd written. I hope you keep doing that to me, to keep me honest whenever you see something that doesn't look quite right. Here at "It's About TV," we strive for 100% accuracy, which is a good way to achieve and maintain credibility. Being reminded that you're not perfect keeps you humble.

Besides, if I was perfect, wouldn't that be just too much?   TV  


  1. That's awesome, but then I've recognized you as a film historian for years!

    1. You are too kind, good sir! Seriously, thanks for the very kind words, Rick. When I joined the Classic TV Blog Association I knew I was going to have to up my game!

  2. Love this. I called myself a TV historian in the 'About the Author' section of my last book, and no one has objected yet so I'm sticking with it. What I haven't decided yet is whether the title connotes insight and intelligence, or just someone with nothing better to do than watch television.

    1. Aye, there's the rub. It's how I justify my purchases of old TV Guides - I tell the storekeepers that it's for research purposes. I don't collect them like, you know, Homer Simpson. I'm not that kind of guy at all...


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!