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Television's Second Golden Age: From Hill Street Blues to ER (Television and Popular Culture) Paperback – October 1, 1997
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It's fashionable to assert that television is bad and is inherently doomed to be worse, even evil. However, every now and then, the rabbit ears capture spasms of glory -- and this book makes a reasonably convincing case that shows such as Hill St. Blues, Moonlighting, Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure, and ER are not only good television, but possibly even works of high culture. The flip side of the story is also compellingly reported: that in many cases, these anomalous movements towards quality will be suppressed or even suffocated by the industry, regardless of public sentiment. A good book -- possibly excellent. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Thompson (coauthor of Prime Time, Prime Movers) argues that TV's so-called Golden Age of the 1950s does not equal television of the '80s and early '90s. He gives a short history of every decade and shows how government and social climate affected the programs aired, as for example under the Kennedy administration, networks were scrutinized by the FCC. He believes the renaissance of the '80s began when NBC was "stuck in third place and fresh out of ideas [and that] critical acclaim might be their quickest way to commercial success." When Grant Tinker became NBC president in 1981, he made a commitment to produce good shows from Mary Tyler Moore Enterprises (which he had led) that would radically change TV. Under his aegis, Hill Street Blues was first to emphasize writing and character. Its success was followed with St. Elsewhere ("Hill Street Blues in a hospital"). Thompson also takes an intimate look at Cagney & Lacey; the rise and fall of Moonlighting; and thirtysomething, a show about "yuppie angst." He explains as well how a program could have a success without getting a major audience share. Informative and insightful, this book takes the convincing stance that TV's good old days are really today. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
I didn't like the book because it was outdated,written in 1996.If I had known this,I wouldn't of bought it. I read a couple chapters,most of the info I knew about already.Its not worth buying. Sue Adams
That is why in the final analysis I see Thompson's argument as being not so much for a specific time period of great television, but rather advancing the proposition that the hour-long dramatic television series is the chief art form of the medium (yes, even more so than the situation comedy). I would even extend this argument to the mini-series, from "Roots" and "Shogun" to "War and Remembrance" and "Lonesome Dove," because the guiding principle of the extended narrative form remains the common denominator. "24" takes the idea of season-long story arc a unique extreme, but "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" did all of its complete seasons have a first-half story arc (e.g., Spike & Dru in Season 2) that then merged with a second-half story arc (e.g., the return of Angelus) that provided a framework for all of the individual episodes. Then there was "Murder One," which rather successfully devoted an entire season to one sensational murder trial. When a series loses its driving story arc, as when Dave and Maddie consummated their love on "Moonlighting," or when what was supposed to be the hook becomes the line and sinker as well, as when the question of who killed Laura Palmer ultimately derailed "Twin Peaks," the demise of the show simply affirms the principle in the negative.
Thompson's starting point is January 1981 when prime-time television was about to make a sudden and dramatic turn towards quality because of "Hill Street Blues," the show that Steven Bocho did not want to make and that nobody wanted to watch, but which became "television's first true masterpiece." However, Thompson argues that it was "St. Elsewhere" that was "TV's greatest show, ever" (having to do with key notions of "intertextuality" and "self-reflexivity"). Ultimately he is not defining a particular time period (especially since the "golden age" in question is clearly not over), but explaining why in the "vast wasteland" that Newton Minnow bemoaned so many years ago "quality" television is flourishing in terms of hour-long dramatic programming. Within that context Thompson clearly makes his case for much of the best television ever made having appeared on the networks since 1980. The book is half critical evaluation of these programs and half insider's tour looking at the decision-making process as well as the social, economic, and artistic forces that ended up revolutionizing the medium. Thompson also more than adequately proves he knows his television history, which is necessary to help convince those of us who are true students of the medium. Consequently, the fact that the title of this book is not a fair representation of its most significant claim, is not to be held against the author, because he has made in public an argument I have been making in private (okay, in class as well), for several years.