October 5, 2018

Around the dial

t the political-industry site The Hill, Jack Lule blames television news for our increasing hatred of politics, and cites Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death (which, contra Lule, is not a novel, by the way) in it's excoriation of television news as entertainment. Obviously, coming from an era when Cronkite, Huntley/Brinkley, and Smith/Reynolds were the dominant anchors, I've got a bias that the "classic TV" era featured harder, more journalistic news than today. Questions for the house: 1) Are Lule/Postman right in their critique? 2) Was the news more incisive back in the day, given its narrower television footprint?

The Ringer's Miles Surrey savages NBC's new medical drama New Amsterdam, with 24 pressing questions that come to mind after watching just two episodes. This is one of the things about today's television shows that annoys the hell out of me: critics of classic TV often point out that we no longer live in simplistic times; if that's so, we should not tolerate contemporary programs that provide only simplistic answers to today's complex world. This serves as a dramatic illustration of why it can be so annoying to watch TV with me. There are only two differences: 1) I probably would have come up with twice as many questions as Surrey did, except that 2) I never would have made it through the first episode, let alone two. This is also why you should have great sympathy for my wife

One of the jobs of a historian is to make history come alive—to paint a picture, so to speak, to pull people into the story and let them see what things were like. At Garroway at Large, Jodie provides a graphic demonstration of this with an example of the difference it can make when you have access to the original picture rather than a poor photocopy. And, by the way, not only does this help history to come alive for readers, it helps it come alive for the historian as well.

Television's New Frontier: the 1960s looks at another of Rod Cameron's syndicated series of the era, the crime drama Coronado 9. I don't think our reviewer is particularly impressed, although I'll plead the Fifth because I haven't seen it. Incidentally, Rod Cameron made it a point to always work in syndication in order to maximize his residuals. Smart businessman.

I may have mentioned this before, but James Lileks once wrote something to the extent that watching a favorite television show should never become a chore, a grind. And I think that's a point that David makes at Comfort TV this week in writing about a completely remarkable, completely unremarkable episode of Father Knows Best, "Bud the Philanthropist." It's "smart and perceptive and entertaining" while at the same time it's just an everyday, average episode. One could say that it carries none of the baggage that weighs down a series like, say, New Amsterdam. Jim's perceptive comments on the existential aspect of doing a good dead show that, indeed, father does know best. I also want to take this opportunity to thank David for the very kind words in his review of The Electronic Mirror. I'm grateful, and also humbled.

Joanna's back at Christmas TV History with a very interesting answer to a very interesting question in her latest ask me anything column.

Finally, I leave you with this picture from the Broadcast Archives at the University of Maryland. Need I say any more? TV  

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!