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Not Remotely Controlled: Notes on Television Paperback – June 26, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0465078103 ISBN-10: 0465078109

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (June 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465078109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465078103
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,689,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this book of collected television criticism, Siegel channel surfs and rides every wave, and no genre of programming escapes his analysis. Siegel, a senior editor at the New Republic, plumbs game shows, reality programming, cartoons, sitcoms, miniseries and iconic personalities with equitable rigor and flare. Above all, this collection showcases Siegel's talent as a semiotician, as he unmasks and dismantles the value systems at work behind popular shows. Siegel proclaims that the television critic's job is not really to pass judgment at all. It's merely to announce a new reference point. Luckily, the author rarely adheres to his own rule. While Siegel announces cultural referents aplenty, amid discussion of Baudrillard's Simulacra, the post 9/11 Irony Controversy, the Frankfurt school of criticism and the august status of contemporary fiction, perhaps his greatest strength as a critic is his ability to tell what's good from what's bad. There are as many surprising victors as there are victims. Siegel stands firm that Jon Stewart's comedy is poisoning politics and the work of Ken Burns brings Caucasian condescension to a new low, while Friends has lent dignity to ordinary experience. One of Siegel's favorite modes, as well as one of his favorite words, is deconstruction. Thankfully, Siegel deconstructs as a means to an end: to discern quality programming from drivel. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Why are we so fascinated with television, and how does the medium manage to reflect or deflect American culture? New Republic television critic Siegel offers a collection of essays and reviews on television fare from cop shows to sitcoms, cartoons to reality shows, as well as topical categories of race, religion, war, and politics. Siegel likens the allure of cop shows to the fascination the ancient Greeks had for the gods, as we watch police struggle with good and evil in themselves and the perpetrators. Tracing the social and political changes that moved the cop-show genre from Dragnet to Kojak to NYPD Blue, Siegel sees in the television portrayal of police the "consummation of the American promise of radical individualism." Putting myriad television shows into broader social and political context, he explores Lost as a reflection of the American obsession with secrecy, the move away from portrayals of geniuses as misfits who suffer for their talent to the appealing geniuses of Numb3rs, and the "medical porn" offered by CSI. A fascinating look at American culture and its most ubiquitous medium. Bush, Vanessa

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22 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Mediaman on July 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is a compilation of dated columns about the television business from a New York writer who sees the medium through his New York elitism. His writing style is "clever" and his comments almost always condescending. Namely, he is more in love with hearing his own critical voice than in love with the medium.

The book has a few essays in each category, including sitcoms, race, religion, war, game shows, news and reality TV. None of them stand out and most of them leave the reader frustrated. In his introduction the author admits that since most TV shows are "thin," he needs to pad his writings with tangential issues. So in writing about Donald Trump and The Apprentice, the author feels the need to use it as reason to bash President Bush. (Don't see the connection? Well, you won't get it when you read the book either.)

Some of his information is factually incorrect or distorted. Then he offers opinions that are laughable. He overly praises Oprah, makes fun of James Lipton (who is an easy target--maybe Lipton is too close to the author's own elitist style?), and LOVED the failed Friends spin-off entitled Joey.

He tends to overuse superlatives ("hugely successful" and "runaway hit" are just two phrases used for the short-lived Apprentice) and all of the columns seem very dated. Why were the writings not updated for book publication? Why print a two-year old review praising a show that got good ratings in its first week and proclaim it a hit, but fail to add an update that within a couple of months the viewership levels dropped so dramatically that the show was cancelled?

So if you are a TV lover or media historian this is not a good book to read. If you are outside the East Coast circle it will seem crass, frustrating and even boring.
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