December 9, 2020

Your 2020 Christmas Gift Guide!

One of the more wonderful things about the most wonderful time of the year is that, thanks to our friend the internet, you don't necessarily have to head for the mall on December 24 to get that last-minute gift. With that thought, and keeping in mind some of you might even be looking for a treat for yourself, here are some suggestions for gifts to please the classic TV fan you know and love. I've included the appropriate links to take you to where you can place your order.

Since this is my website, I'm going to cast any modesty aside and start off with my three books, all of which are available in either paperback or for the Kindle. The Electronic Mirror: Wbat Classic TV Tells Us About Who We Were and Who We Are (and Everything In-Between) is my collection of essays on classic television and the effect it's had on American pop culture. Many of the essays come from right here on It's About TV, but The Electronic Mirror also includes ones that were written exclusively for the book. I've also thoughtfully put them together in a narrative form, arranged by subject, so you can see how certain things have changed throughout the years. You can read it from cover-to-cover, or just pick out a story here and there for those times when you've got a few minutes to spare. (In other words, while you're in the bathroom.)

As many of you know, I also write about things other than television; for instance, there's my novel The Collaborator, which tells the story of a conflict for control of the Catholic Church between a liberal pope and traditional cardinal. Any resemblance between this story and current affairs is, well, up to you. And if you're not in the mood to deal with the battle for your eternal soul, there's The Car, in which a man becomes obsessed with trying to find the owner of an abandoned car, and nothing is quite what it seems to be. All of these books can be inscribed as you like; just send me an email.

Assuming, as I do, that you already own all my books, may I recommend David Hofstede's new book, When Television Brought Us Together. It's a look at why so many Americans find themselves left out in the cold when it comes to today's television, and reminds us of when classic shows could bring us together in more ways than one. 

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of talking with William Bartlett, the author of a terrific coffee table book that might just find its way to your nightstand, NBC and 30 Rock: A View from Inside. It's a vivid history of the Peacock Network, lavishly illustrated, and sure to make you feel as if you're right there in the studio with some of television's greatest stars. 

Among the many biographies of television stars, I always recommend Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography by Carol M. Ford, Dee Young, and Linda J. Groundwater. It's a much-needed corrective that sets the story straight on the life and times of a very talented, very complex man 

If you'd rather watch TV than read about it, one of the recent purchases that I've really enjoyed watching is The Eleventh Hour, the 1962-64 NBC psychiatric drama starring Wendell Corey and Jack Ging as two men dedicated to patients whose illnesses don't always show on the outside. Unfortunately, Warners hasn't seen fit to release the second season (yet), in which Ralph Bellamy replaces Corey, but Corey's humane and often moving portrayal of Dr. Theodore Bassett makes the first season a must.

One of my favorite Friday night pleasures is watching Robert Conrad and Ross Martin bringing a little bit of James Bond to the old West in The Wild Wild West. The individual seasons on Amazon are reasonably priced, but if you want the four-season box set, try Ebay or one of your favorite second-hand dealers. You'll find the effort well worth it.

Two classics from the early 1960s made it onto DVD this year: the first seasons of ABC's medical drama Ben Casey, with Vincent Edwards (two volumes and outrageously priced, but it is Christmas); and the much-admired NBC drama Mr. Novak, with James Franciscus as the earnest young teacher. As a bonus, you should pick up the excellent book Mr. Novak: An Acclaimed Television Series, by Chuck Harter. (Read my interview with Chuck here.)

As for some old favorites, there's a trio of British shows you'll want if you don't have them already: the companion series Danger Man and The Prisoner, both starring Patrick McGoohan as secret agent John Drake, and The Avengers, with Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg. (And don't stop there; make the effort to find the episodes with Honor Blackman and Linda Thorson.)

To round out your shopping, I refer you to the guide at one of my go-to sites, Television Obscurities, where you can find excellent gift ideas for both recent and vintage shows.

As I mentioned, the links above are to Amazon, but there are deals to be had out there, and a little investigative work can probably produce them. Regardless, all the ingredients are here for you to make that someone special a little happier come Christmas morning. TV  


  1. I've been meaning to order "The Eleventh Hour" forever - now I've done it. Thank you for the timely reminder!

    1. Glad to be of service - I'll be interested to see what you think!

  2. In this Covid Christmas season, strongly consider purchasing "The Electronic Mirror" as a gift for anyone who loves television, especially TV history. More than just a reference, it is a sociological view inside the history of television in which many of us grew up. If you love visiting this site weekly, TEM is a true treat and great read! Plus, you don't have to leave your house to receive it through Amazon....


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!