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Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television Paperback – May 31, 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (May 31, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195064844
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195064841
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.4 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #391,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"On of the better texts on the history of TV. The writing is emotive and well informed. Students read this text with interest and many comment on its excellence."--William Prior, Ramapo College


"Tube of Plenty has established itself as a book that every student of communications must read. It is also a book that every American citizen should read."--David Marc, Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California


Praise for previous editions:


"A major achievement."--The Philadelphia Inquirer


"By condensing his scholarly three-volume History of Broadcasting in the United States into a revised and updated paperback...Barnouw has produced an authoritative, well-informed, and highly readable account of the growth and present status of radio and television."--Backstage


"A master of the on-point anecdote, Barnouw has provided us with an eminently readable guide to the forces and personalities, both on and off the air, that developed this nation's system of broadcasting. It is well worth turning off the set for three hours to read."--Fred Friendly, former President, CBS News


"One of the most complete works on [television], a true history in the exact meaning of the word, thorough, and remarkably up-to-date."--Film Library Quarterly


"Still the finest, most readable history of early TV we have."--Richard Gross, University of Wyoming


"An excellent historical introduction to television's emergence in modern American life and culture. Useful for the undergraduate student interested in media/culture studies."--Mark Kosinski, Bradford College


"The best single-volume history of radio and TV in this country."--The New York Times Book Review


"The best single-volume history of television ever written."--Nathan Angell, Brown University


"Barnouw's classic on the evolution of American television is a book worthy of n encore. In Tube, Barnouw achieves the most challenging of feats for a writer--he ennobles without pontificating. And he is as welcoming to the uninitiated as he is respectful of the well informed....With graceful and insightful storytelling, Barnouw also vividly illustrates how the medium's maturation has been intertwined with the course of American history. It's a brilliant stroke....With masterly elegance he crafts a compelling narrative tht simultaneously documents and evaluates television's past and gives us a framework for engaging the future. Understandably, every scholar examining TV history cites Erik Barnouw."--Television Quarterly


"A condensation of much of the material in his monumental three-volume History of Broadcasting in the United States....Tube of Plenty is ideal for undergraduate reading....His is solid libertarian history based on careful reading of primary sources, years of work in the Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcast, and Sound Division, and enormous skill in synthesizing huge amounts of material....Barnouw devotes a lot of space to the notion of White House news management. Just the chronology of that issue alone would make an important unit for an undergraduate history class."--American Journalism


"The best general history of television available. An integrated social-institutional-content history. It doesn't fall into the traps of simplistic technological determination, nor does it ignore the importance of the industrial organization and development of the medium."--Michael Griffin, University of Minnesota


"Lively, detailed and briskly written, this panoramic survey is the best I know. Accessible to undergraduates as well as more advanced students."--Stuart Liebman, Queens College, CUNY


"Excellent."--Raymond Foery, Quinnipioc College


About the Author

Erik Barnouw, Professor Emeritus of Dramatic Arts at Columbia University, co-founded and chaired Columbia's Film Division for many years. He also helped to organize, and headed, the Writers Guild of America. He is Editor in Chief of the International Encyclopedia of Communications and the author of several books, including Indian Film (with S. Krishnaswamy) and The Magician and the Cinema.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Stuart_Blacklaw@ccmgate.sunyjefferson.edu on September 29, 1998
Format: Paperback
Erik Barnouw tells the story of television from the beginning. It does not begin with Uncle Miltie and I Love Lucy, in fact Milton Berle doesn't appear until page 117. This is a story of television which begins seven decades earlier, when the first piece of the puzzle which would become television was unveiled: the telephone. This, Barnouw recognizes, is the birth of television, because it fired the imaginations of scientists and engineers, artists and entrepreneurs, and, perhaps most importantly, boys plowing fields with their horse teams.
The stories of the young geniuses like Marconi and Farnsworth capture the imagination, and Barnouw highlights these heros' struggles in the wars waged by RCA against each of them. Greater attention is due Edwin Howard Armstrong, another young genius who was crushed by the monstrous corporation, but Barnouw gives Armstrong more than most. By the time RCA premieres television service in 1939, the reader understands that television has already had a tremendous impact on America.
Television's greatest moments are here, and Barnouw does a excellent job of devoting appropriate amounts of time to each. The author recognizes how interwoven television has become in our society and some chapter breaks are measured by historical events, rather than by eras of television. The end of World War II and the assassination of JFK not only marked shifts in our nation's history, but in television as well. What followed were not historical events, as before TV, but media events.
The book also features a very useful and interesting 11-page chronology, an excellent biographical notes section, and an exceptional indexes, all of which make this tremendously accessible. It is tremendously compelling reading. Don't pick it up before your favorite show, because you won't be able to put it down in time!
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Format: Paperback
This is a generous single-volume condensation of Erik Barnouw's seminal three-volume HISTORY OF BROADCASTING IN THE UNITED STATES. It is not a perfect book--took much is left out for that--but it does provide any student of American TV with an essential overview of many aspects in the birth and development of the medium. Despite the great length of the book, even in the single-volume abridgment, there are some curious omissions, but the strong points of the book are very strong indeed and make the book one of the crucial volumes for any personal library on television.

Barnouw tells in wonderful (and wonderfully entertaining) detail the development of the technologies that allowed the existence of radio and television, as well as the economic realities that turned it into the massive business that it has long been. He also explores the political aspects of the medium, both in terms of serving as part of the Fourth Estate by providing oversight to government actions and policies, and the erosion of that role as right wing groups have undermined that role (Barnouw anticipates the ultimate melding of right wing politics and corporate owned media, while at the same time crying crocodile tears over the mythical liberal media). He is also exceptional at detailing what kinds of shows arose at what time and what the constituent factors were. Even if one has a pretty decent idea of what was happening on TV at what time, Barnouw will both broaden and deepen one's understanding of the medium.

Nonetheless, while this is an outstanding book, one can't help but be struck by what was left out. For instance, there is no mention of a large number of seminal television shows. Although one of the most popular shows on TV in the fifties, THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW with Silvers as Sgt.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T. Burrows on September 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
This used to be a standard text in media studies classes - I am not sure who the champ is now, but it is safe to say that this used to be the most popular history of American television out there. This is a condensed version of a longer history that Barnouw wrote. It seems that this endeavor probably seems a lot less vital than it once did, back when television was America's number one pastime and source of information about the world. It may still be that, but the advent of the internet has clouded the picture and cast doubt on what were widely accepted verities.

I liked the first part of the book the most. It really is great to read a clear summary of the history of radio and television technology, how the first stations and networks came to be, and who were some of the big names in this great leap forward - David Sarnoff, Marconi, Edwin Armstrong, and others. It is also interesting to read a little about the first attempts at video technologies, such as the Nipkow disc. There is not a lot about the personalities involved, so in that sense the writing can be a bit colorless.

Around the 1950s, Barnouw changes his approach. He shifts his attention more to the political side of things. There is a discussion of the Senator McCarthy affair, and the roles of Edward R. Murrow and his producer, Fred Friendly, and the infamous quiz show cheating scandal that involved Prof. Mark Van Doren. Barnouw follows the trends of what shows are popular - the vogues for Westerns, quiz shows, and spy thrillers for example - and lists what the top 10 shows are at various points. He delves into the role that television coverage of the Vietnam War played. The book becomes, in my opinion, not enough about television and radio, and too much about American political history.
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