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The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever Paperback – November 21, 2012
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"Mr. Sepinwall's book, which was self-published, has all the immediacy and attention to detail that has won his blog so many followers (including this one). It also stands as a spirited and insightful cultural history." -The New York Times
"So when I picked up Alan's terrific new self-published book, The Revolution Was Televised --by which I mean, when I downloaded it onto my phone and scrolled nonstop for two days--I knew it would be good. And it is: the book is a smart and substantive walk through the past fifteen years of television drama, making a lucid case for the auteurist mentality among modern showrunners." -The New Yorker
"Sepinwall is a sharp and prolific critic in his own right. In Revolution, though, he admirably often stands back and lets his subjects' words speak for themselves. But then he stitches the narrative together with insights that will make you see anew just how a Friday Night Lights or Buffy season truly worked, while tossing off the kind of dead-on descriptions that make his blog a blast to read." -Time
About the Author
Alan Sepinwall has been writing about television for close to 20 years, first as an online reviewer of "NYPD Blue," then as a TV critic for The Star-Ledger (Tony Soprano's hometown paper), now as author of the popular blog What's Alan Watching? on HitFix.com. Sepinwall's episode-by-episode approach to reviewing his favorite TV shows "changed the nature of television criticism," according to Slate, which called him "the acknowledged king of the form."
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Top Customer Reviews
However, for those shows, Alan Sepinwall delves into the history of each series and the people involved in getting it off the ground, generally from origin to present. For The Wire, for example, he covers how David Simon's and Ed Burns' association, and how each of the series they'd worked on--notably The Corner and Homicide--helped build into being able to release the show in question. Using interviews and quotes with the people in question (or archival quotes when certain people, generally from showrunners who are still in the middle of production, are unavailable), Sepinwall's essays create a vivid history--undoubtedly mildly rose-colored but still authentic--of the production of each of the series, and he very clearly defines what he believes makes each of the series listed so important to how television is viewed now.
Each essay is self-contained, thankfully; while other shows are discussed in each chapter, it's typically used in a historical context (as a lot of the show creators involved worked with one another previously) one can avoid most spoilers for a series by not reading the chapter involved. This doesn't work for all of them; there was a mention of a character death in The Sopranos, but without context I can't figure out how important it is. (The book may take for granted that one knows about most of the plot points in The Sopranos.) Aside from that, however, the chapters I read were limited to coverage of the shows themselves.
Sepinwall makes a good argument for the shows listed as to how they've influenced modern television. I can't argue that it manages it 100% (one of the arguments for Friday Night Lights was the DirecTV distribution deal that came with the third season, and Sepinwall acknowledges that it was previously done with the NBC soap Passions) but his arguments are worth reading anyway just to hear the industry side as to how a lot of these series managed to be so successful (or survive by the skin of their teeth).
If you're a modern television enthusiast, you owe it to yourself to give this a read.
The book is not stuffy or endlessly philosophical but an engaging and detailed synopsis of how each show came to be, what its creators intended for it, slip-ups along the way and their eventual ending.
You don't need to have watched every show that is discussed in this book. I, for example, didn't watch either The Sopranos or The Wire when they were on. I've seen the occasional episode but could never really get "into" either of those shows. That didn't stop me, however, from enjoying the chapters on those two shows. In fact, I've decided to rent episodes of The Wire and give that show another shot after reading that particular chapter. The author enjoyed some pretty enviable access to show creators and you find yourself wishing you could have been in on those interviews.
The only beef that I have with the book (and why I gave it four stars) is that the quantity of grammatical errors is pretty high in this book. I can expect one or two in a professionally published book, but even a self-published book needs to be proofread before being putting out there. There are at least three or four sentences in every chapter that make no sense. Of course, you can figure out what the author meant but when the grammatical errors are so numerous that a reader actively gets distracted by them, that's too many errors.
I was 42 when, with only a month left in its run, I somehow watched 52 episodes of Breaking Bad in a week, not stopping the heroin like flow of that amazing story into m'mellon.
Alan's book, chapter after chapter breaks down with sugical precision what made those shows and the medium great, revolutionary.
With only a couple of exceptions, I enjoyed all of his chapter subject's shows (never liked Buffy.) This long, chaptered essay reads like an exceptional piece of fan fiction, by a professional who loves what he is doing, who knows what I want: Good writing well executed.
For quality reference, I would equate this with N. Pelleggi's "Wiseguy", any album by Rush, or George Carlin's "Carlin at Carnegie". Effortlessly enjoyable, created by a master who makes it look easy to do.
There is a bit too much insider baseball throughout the book. Names of producers and writers come and go in each chapter (and sometime reappear in later chapters) and the lack of an index makes it hard to remember who is who. Also on the minor quibble side, I disagreed with the inclusion of Oz in the book. While it may be a precursor to some of the other shows, I felt it devolved into farce by the second or third season and became unwatchable at that point. None of the other series (I've seen 7 of the other 11) have this quality.
But if you have lived through these series, which really did change TV drama, this is by and large a very good read.