September 21, 2018

Odds and ends for a Friday morning

One of the drawbacks to returning from vacation, especially a working vacation as was just the case, is that things are kind of a mess when you get back.

As you know if you read Wednesday's "diary," we're back from Hunt Valley, Maryland, where we were attending the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. Welcome, by the way, to the many nice people who stopped by our table during the three days of MANC and either bought a copy of The Electronic Mirror or took one of my cards. It was a pleasure meeting and talking with all of you, and I hope you enjoy both the book and It's About TV. Remember, it all exists for your pleasure as well as mine.

As I said on Wednesday, it was, as usual, a great time, and it was also interesting viewing the convention from the other side of the table, so to speak. There remains, however, the return home—and while I'll never again complain about coming back to Minnesota, it was, as usual, a rude awakening seeing everything waiting for your attention. That would be the case even if I didn't have a "real" job during the daytime, which just adds to the stockpile. There are emails waiting to be acknowledged, comments requiring a response, questions asking to be answered, new material demanding to be written. Trust me, if you fall into one of these categories, be patient—I'm working on it.

In the meantime, while you're waiting, might I suggest a trip to or to buy a copy of The Electronic Mirror? Carol Ford, who was gracious enough to write a blurb for the cover, says that after reading The Electronic Mirror, "You won't watch TV the same way again!" With no false modesty on my part, it really is a good read—a serious look at the relationship between television and American culture, that manages to be both fun and informative as well. And while you're at it, feel free to check out my other books: The Car, my newest novel, and The Collaborator, which seems more prophetic now than ever. These were a popular item at MANC, going for a special price if bought with The Electronic Mirror, and while that deal has expired, you can't go wrong picking these up! And for any of my books, if you'd like a personal inscription, drop me an email with your name and address, as well as how you'd like me to sign it, and I'll send you a sticker to go in the front of your book.

And now, a solicitation for help from one of our readers, who stopped by after my talk with a couple of questions that I'm confident you can assist with. If I remember correctly (and if I don't, I hope she'll chime in with a correction in the comments), her two questions are as follows:
  1. Is there a site out there that provides historical data on weekly series ratings? We all know that several sources provide year-end ratings for each TV season, and I've seen occasional top-10 weekly ratings, but does anyone know where one could find weekly data for every regularly-scheduled program, going back indefinitely? Television Obscurities doesn't have the info, and if that site doesn't, I can't think of another site that does, but if anyone can answer this question, I know one of you out there can.
  2. There used to be a blog out there called, I believe, the TV Guide Historian. The blog's no longer being kept current; does anyone out there know what happened?
Again, my apologies if I don't have the questions quite right, but I trust you all to provide the information that I'm lacking.

Then there are the emails. I mentioned earlier, there are emails that you good readers have sent me over the past two or three months, when I was tied up with edits and rewrites to The Electronic Mirror, and I'm shamefully behind in answering these emails. Please understand that it's nothing personal; I read and appreciate every bit of correspondence I get, and it was only my workload, combined with a tight publishing deadline, that has kept me from being responsive. That will change over the next couple of weeks; I will dedicate myself to cleaning out the inbox and getting back you you posthaste, before I've alienated you forever.

Finally: there is an audio version of my presentation, although I'm not yet sure about the quality. If it's sufficiently listenable and I can figure out how to do it, I'll put it up on the website for your enjoyment. And if I really luck out and can synchronize the audio with the actual PowerPoint, I'll do that as well. Keep your fingers crossed.

Anyway, it's good to be back, and hopefully by next week we'll be back to a normal schedule as well. One think you can depend on, though, and that's a TV Guide review tomorrow! TV  


  1. Bob Crane? Wasn't he that actor on "Hogan's Heroes" who had a pornography addiction that escalated to a sex addiction?

    1. That, my friend, is detraction, and if you had the courage to use your own name, it would have earned you a commentary ban. As it is, I'm leaving it up so you can serve as an example to anyone else you wants to take this happy community and turn it into a snarkfest. Only I get to do that, and even then it's only because people understand my style. You don't get that privilege.

    2. Now, having said that, you do raise an interesting point regarding the relationship between porn and other behavioral changes. Setting aside the question of Bob Crane, who was a very complex man (a sex addict? He recognized it himself. A porn addict? Not, I think, in the sense that I'm about to explore), this is an important question, and the suggestion that a porn addiction will lead to a sex addiction, whether or not you meant it seriously (see - this is why I discourage snarkiness) is a provocative one. I don't know what psychologists say about this; I suspect there's ample writing about it for anyone inclined to check it out. But it passes the smell test for me - it makes sense that, once someone is sated with one form of addiction, they'll need to go to the next level to feed their need; this is how drug use can spiral out of control, and it's one reason why opposition to marijuana legalization can be justified.

      But what does this have to do with television? Well, I don't think there's any doubt that contemporary TV offers programming that, to put it mildly, would have been considered pornographic at one time in history; even today some of it goes beyond soft-core. What effect does that have on the viewer, and in turn what effect does it have on society? You'll recall there's been a great deal of discussion in TV history as to the effects of violence on the viewer, and as the '60s move to the '70s we see the debate expanded to include sex as well. Is it not reasonable, or at least plausible, to suggest that, with some viewers, the sex they see on cable TV will lead them into internet porn? And from there, to a full-blown sex addiction? I think it is, and I think it's something that needs to be considered when looking at the relationship between TV and societal behavior. It suggests two things to me: one, that television cannot escape responsibility for its effect on viewers; and two, that this is yet another example of how television in general has suffered a degradation from the classic era to today.

      See, that's why I reacted as I did to your comment. If your purpose was to pick on Bob Crane, I think that's out of bounds. But if you wanted to make a more serious point, then that's what this site is all about.

  2. I am the person who asked the question. It was a question, not a comment. Your roundabout answer that attempted to relativize Crane's behavior speaks volumes. Thanks for responding.

  3. Dear Anonymous (by the way, I’m curious as to the etymology of your unusual name; is it Greek?), I'm not quite sure what you're getting at here. If you're suggesting that I made excuses for his behavior, nothing could be further from the truth. Attempting to understand why people do what they do does not equate to making an excuse. It's certainly not relativism - that's a philosophy that I reject utterly.

    What I was trying to do is redirect your question toward the main topic of this site, which is television. Since I don't go for character assassination, the only possible value I could see in leaving your comment intact was to explore how this relates to television, i.e. the larger question of television's role in shaping not only the culture at large but the behavior of the individuals inhabiting it. Can you associate television's content with a consequent behavior that arises in its viewers? Certainly - in fact, you must. Does that mean that the viewer is absolved of that behavior? Absolutely not! If you look at the dictionary definition of relativism, which is "the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute," then you'll see why I reject this.

    Morality does not in fact exist in relation to cultural context; what was wrong yesterday is wrong today and will be wrong tomorrow. (See, for example, Cardinal Ratzinger's homily in which he spoke out against a philosophy "which does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely” of satisfying “the desires of one's own ego.” Menninger points out in Whatever Became of Sin when he specifically decries a situation where "society is dictating the morality."

    To attempt to understand the root cause of sin (aside from Original Sin, which is, of course, the very root) does not excuse it; were that the case, and we were to say (for example) that pornography is not sinful, then it would hardly matter why one views it, would it? We would be content to say that pornography exists purely for the physical and psychological pleasure it provides.

    Attempting to understand it, on the other hand, implies that it is a behavior detrimental not only to the individual but to society. To understand why people become addicted to it is to hope that such behavior can be dealt with; cured in the individual suffering from it, and perhaps prevented from occurring in others. I have my own views on this, but this venue is neither the time nor the place to discuss it.

    Bob Crane was a sex addict, which he himself acknowledged by seeking treatment before his death. Whether or not he was addicted to pornography, I do not know, nor do I attempt to presume. To draw the inference, as you are apparently doing, that I am trying to relativize his behavior - to blame it on his environment, for example - is quite simply not correct. As the current vernacular would say, he "owned" his sin.

    I hope this clears up any misconception you might have had regarding my opinion, and reassures you that I am not, in fact, trying to relativize anything. If you still have doubts about that - well, then, there's probably nothing I can say that would change your mind.

    As to your original comment on Bob Crane, that's a rabbit hole as far as this blog is concerned, one that I indulged in because I enjoy looking at the larger topic, which you might have been able to figure out based on the length of my answers. However, that rabbit hole is now CLOSED. If you want to engage the effect television has on culture, bring it on - I'm all for it. Anything else, and I'm not going to approve it.

    1. Oh, and one more thing. Please, for my sake - I've been very lenient in allowing anonymous comments in the past. Philosophically, I'm reluctant to ban them; Ben Franklin, for instance, frequently wrote under a pseudonym. Sometimes making a public comment while using your own name can be damaging, dangerous to one's reputation (or life, in some societies), or otherwise invite unwelcome attention. On the other hand, newspapers still maintain the old principle of declining anonymous communications, except in the most exceptional circumstances, and I agree with this. As Fr. John Hunwicke has written, "One of the problems, surely, about the internet is the encouragement it has given to people to hurl anonymous, and therefore unaccountable, abuse for which they take no responsibility."

      This is a harmless blog, one designed for people who enjoy classic television. I can hardly see that anyone would put themselves under threat by commenting under their own name. As Hunwicke points out, "my name, history, and personality are public knowledge," but anonymous commenters "maintain a lofty and protective anonymity."

      I like to maintain at least the façade that I'm conversing with a real person, and there can be no better way of doing that than by sharing one's actual name. I could ask everyone to create a Google account in order to comment, but since I'm not a big fan of Google myself, I don't ask people to share their personal information with Google. I trust you all to leave your real names, as I have done. I can always change my mind, though. So please, in the future, eliminate all the guesswork. Do not hide behind anonymity. Otherwise, I'll judge the comments on a case-by-case basis, and the ones who take potshots without standing behind their comments through the use of a real name will probably be consigned to the delete bin.

  4. I'd love to find a weekly source that goes back indefinitely on the Nielsens myself. Unfortunately I have yet to find one either.

    Probably the best source overall that I've found is this site:

    It has Television magazine archived until its 1968 demise, and Broadcasting magazine as well, from 1931 to 2001. You can sometimes, but not always, find complete weeks between the two during the 1960s/1970s.

    1. Thanks, Hal - hopefully that gives our reader some help!


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!