From Publishers Weekly
For many Americans, the television serves as an "electronic hearth, " the place where we assemble as cultural voyeurs. According to this comprehensive survey, television appeals to the best and worst in its audience and reflects both what we want to see and what we might consider avoiding if it were not so accessible to us. The author focuses more on the impact of television than on the tastes of viewers, declaring that "during a time when Americas ideals are enduring the greatest test of the very fabric of their foundation, television provides a cohesive bond... and a window to the events impacting American society." Roman devotes expansive chapters to each genre of programming, from network news and Hollywood cowboy serials to hard-boiled detective stories and doctor dramas. The book reads alternately like an encyclopedia of shows and a study of television as a mirror of society. An expansive chapter on racial, ethnic and gender manifestations reveals how upward mobility among minorities appears to have reached the small screen before the real world, and how womens liberation was often represented by a badge, a gun and a catchy nickname (à la Charlies Angels). At the heart of the tour, however, is the examination of that very American invention: the sitcom. With their innocent humor, The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy and Father Knows Best were "seminal" programs, reflecting a postwar American ethos; but it was the taboo-breaking creations of Norman Lear (which included All in the Family and Sanford and Son) that showed television as responding, subverting and in some ways predicting societal attitudes and changes. A thorough if not always insightful read, this book will appeal to those searching for a general overview of Americas most popular medium of ideas, culture and communication.
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"This book will appeal to those searching for a general overview of America's most popular medium of ideas, culture and communication."
"Drawing important connections between viewing choices and changing consumer expectations, a fine history presents a logical set of transitions between themes and delivery choices based on programming history."
"Roman (film and media studies, Hunter College, CUNY) outlines the history of American television programming from its beginnings as an experimental spinoff of radio broadcasting to its current role as an omnipresent and, arguably, omnipotent force of media and culture."
Reference & Research Book News
"A member of the Hunter College (CUNY) faculty, Roman takes a topical rather than chronological approach, and thus is better able to pull out some of the key themes….[R]oman does well by staying on example programs long enough to make a point and illustrate larger trends."
CBQ Communication Booknotes Quarterly