“It's Everywhere You Want to Be”
Julie Nixon Eisenhower once stated, “television has tremendous power over our lives.” Television is one of the most influential accomplishments of the human race, but it encountered many challenges before becoming popular. Television was created from a “sudden flash of inspiration” or the “sole prize of a single nation.” Television was not an immediate success, but it took multiple efforts, new technology, and billions of dollars before television worked its way into the hearts of every American. After finally making a name for itself, television became the glue that brought communities and families together. Television had lofty goals of banishing illiteracy and ignorance and brought people closer to a better world. In The History of Television, 1942 to 2000 by Albert Abramson, Abramson focuses on the components of the television and all the intricate parts that have made recording and sharing accessible to everyone. Before the dawn of flat-screen TVs, televisions consisted of screens that are smaller than the tablets there are today. Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television by Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik, shares the tale of how TV companies transformed from struggling laboratories into lucrative, multimillion dollar corporations. Television was the ugly stepsister of Hollywood before it proved itself to be worth the time, effort, and money. While the other books focus on history, Michael Winship’s Television focuses on shows that changed the way television was produced and developed. Shows ranged from game shows to the action-packed dramas millions of Americans look forward to watching every week. This “savior to our culture” united the world and has allowed people to connect on a different level.
The history of television is recorded in Albert Abramson’s The History of Television, 1942 to 2000. This book is Abramson’s second book on the history of television and the sequel to his previous book The History of Television, 1880 to 1941. Abramson focuses on the specific devices and cameras that made television possible. After the attack on Pearl Harbor and entry into World War II, TV programming was halted to make time for the more important war effort. TV became a tool for guiding missiles, long-range reconnaissance, and mass destruction. TV became a weapon for governments and not the entertainment hub it was meant to be. The three television systems used during the war were BLOCK, RING, and MIMO. The BLOCK system was used by the army and navy and used the “new image orthicon” (iconoscope) that could operate on different frequencies. RING used “high-resolution airborne television system” to aid reconnaissance. Lastly, MOMO used similar BLOCK technology but was a fraction of the size. These primitive television systems led the way for further innovations in the “new art” of television. Television was also used during the atomic-bomb Manhattan Project. The inadequate use of mirrors made it difficult to get a good view of the bomb without radiation.. As early as 1942, television was used for viewing in the development of the atomic bomb. In the race to create television, the Nazis were far advanced and had numerous television stations for entertainment and news. After taking over France, the Nazis used the Eiffel Tower television station to spread their dominance onto the rest of Europe. The king of television at the time was David Sarnoff. An office boy from Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America. rose to the position of president of RCA ( Radio Corporation of America) and NBC (Nation Broadcasting System). Sarnoff pioneered the way for television and made it the global giant it is today. Television had a rocky start, but the competition between NBC and CBS boosted television into the minds of every America.
Television, by Michael Winship, recounts how television went from theatrical variety vaudeville shows to thrilling shows we record today. In the early years of television, “anything could happen.” Everyone was learning and TV had to be filmed live. Accidents, stage fright, and flubbed lines were common but they added to the “spirit of Adventure and discovery.” Early TV was a gateway for young actors and producers to make their way in show business. Edwin Newman writes in the introduction of this book that “television speaks for itself.” Television covers all aspects of life from dramatic reality shows to amusing comedies. It varies from sports to exploring the wilderness. Shows like Studio One were anthology shows that showcased a variety of young people looking for their lucky break in entertainment. As TV shows evolved, Sitcoms, or situation comedy, took the place of anthologies and were typically transplants from radio. The most famous sitcom of the century was I Love Lucy. The spunky Lucille Ball paved the way for female actresses and the perfect combination of comedy and reality. More serious show like Dragnet mixed mystery, adventure, and police drama to create a suspenseful show for all generations. Families looked forward to watching theses action-packed television spectacles each week and as a result, TV time became family time. Prime time was the perfect time to lure crowds away from the movies and entice them to watch TV in the comfort of their own homes. As a Result, the Tonight Show was created as a sequel to its Today Show counterpart and to fill the prime time slot. Early on, sport television has been crucial to the development and popularity of TV. Sports were inexpensive to film and attracted men for being “ super manly.” This golden age of television brought popularity and prestige to television with its variety of shows and led to much anticipated union between television and Hollywood.
Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television by Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik is the happy medium between Michael Winship's and Albert Abramson’s two books. The book reports the TV schedule and shows of each of the season while also mentioning the technology and hard work behind the glamor of the TV sets and actors. The book zeroes in on the competition between the four major network giants at the time: NBC, CBS, ABC, and Dumont. NBC and ABC were once property of NBC before the Supreme Court ruled that the two must split to avoid monopolies in the budding television industry. ABC struggled in the beginning, but was saved when it merged with United Paramount Theaters. It became a notable competitor when “Disneyland” (narrated by Walt Disney himself) premiered in 1954. While ABC and it's shows were making their way to the top of the TV charts, Dumont was struggling. Dumont was founded to be the prime rival of NBC but could not keep up with NBC's power or popularity. While other networks were no match for NBC and CBS, the two networks dueled for decades for the next hit show to be “the moneymaker potentially more lucrative than network radio.”
Television was seen by visionaries as “ the savior of the nation's artistic soul.” Although now it is ofter considered the slayer of the “artistic soul,” television has taught people in a new way. In the beginning, NBC was at the forefront of television. It was far ahead of all the other networks and had the most popular stars and shows. William Paley, president of CBS, hoped to surpass NBC and introduced on-the-spot coverage and better sitcoms. In the “biggest programming coup in history,” Paley stole most of NBC's performers in the now infamous Paley's Comet” After the scandal, CBS finally beat NBC when I Love Lucy was put on air. The silly sitcom had fun actors and a insane script that NBC could not match. The rivalry between the two networks has not ended and both are still in the top five best networks in America.
All three books focus on a different aspect on TV and ultimately have different theses. The authors describe television as “just a very fancy new way to present mainstream entertainment and sell soap at the same time” in Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik's Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television. Television was a great feat for mankind, but it turned into the “greatest ad medium” and a moving catalog. Michael Winship agrees that TV is all about the money. Networks were driven by the need to make television a “moneymaking proposition.” All networks cared about was need to find the next big hit and start making money. Money came before all else in the race against networks. After World War II, television was “more mature and ready to serve the world.” The process of creating television is more important than the structure itself. People take for granted the amazing creations that sit in every room of their house, but few know or even care about the struggle it took to get them there. Television is made of hundred of parts that the available technology did not support at the time. Inventors and visionaries hoped that one day televisions would be able to reach every human and leave a lasting impression. All these authors' theses tie into one larger picture that television is important and it is here to stay.
Walter J. Podrazik and Harry Castleman are not great television historians but their book has been called the “best one-shop-stopping detailed overview of TV.” Harry Castleman is a lawyer by trade and works for Michienzie and Sawin in Boston, Massachusetts. Castleman has worked as a media producer for the Democratic National Committee, press secretary for the Florida Democratic Party, and a media consultant for political campaigns all over the country. Castleman is a regular lecturer on TV history on radio, television, and colleges ( including Boston University’s College of Communication). Walter Podrazik works as a project planner and consultant. Podrazik enjoys “making media work” and has handled media logistics for the Democratic party's quadrennial presidential nomination conventions. Podrazik teaches communication and media history at the University of Illinois, Department of Communication. Both men are obvious democrats from the 21st century. They try to keep their political views out of their work but they seem to favor NBC who tends to lean democratic. The authors write from the modern period ( the book was published in 2010) and have a modern point of view. The duo has written numerous books together that range from radio, television, and to the legendary band, the Beatles.
Albert Abramson is the author of The History of Television, 1942 to 2000. For much of the book Abramson draws on his own knowledge. Abramson noted that naming someone the “father” of television is “patent distortion of history.” Each individual component is more important than the whole structure of the television. Early TV inventors had to create most of the technology themselves before the final framework was completed. He worked as at CBS over thirty years as a cameraman, video editor, and sound technician knows many of the pieces because of his experience behind the scenes. Working for CBS did not bias him toward only speaking about CBS and his knowledge of television expands beyond American borders. Abramson wrote four books focusing on telecommunications and television.
Michael Winship, the author of Television, is a writer and producer for major television networks in America. Winship calls himself a “self-confessed TV junkie” and has a passion for all things television. Television can be used to “[widen] horizons” and exposes “the most incredible tripe and nonsense at the same time.” He has worked for stations in PBS, A&E, Disney Channel, the Sesame Workshop, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and Learning Channel and is famous for producing the popular show, NOVA. His wide range of television knowledge and behind-the-scenes information targets each genre of shows individually in his book. Winship is now the president of the Writers Guild of America where he represents TV and film writers. To Winship, television is a beautiful thing that should not be tampered with by the government.
An anonymous writer and fan comments on Abramson's vast knowledge TV in a review of the book. The author of the review takes large portions of Abramson's book and writes brief commentary after each section. They describe Abramson as “scouring the globe for the fast-disappearing scientist whose imagination and enterprise combined to make television a reality.” The author goes on to comments how Abramson was able to take “unrelated” material and present it as a compatible whole. Abramson wanted to condense thousands of facts into the single book and categorizes them by date, second-hand information, and assumptions. The brief biography on Albert Abramson recalls his work for CBS and the author also mentions the transition into high-definition television during the early 1980's. The review praises Abramson's careful organization and details of the book.
Alex Ben Block, who specializes in covering the business of entertainment, wrote a review of Michael Winship's Television. Block starts off by mentioning how television had barely been envisioned by the early 1920s but went on to control Madison Square Garden by 1984. Block calls the book “exciting and entertaining” but ends up ultimately a “shallow approach to the presentation of history.” The book mostly consists of long transcribed quotes from eyewitnesses. The purpose of the book is not to question the value of television, but spotlight the special moments. The book is a “piling up of images” that does not fit in with modern times.
Harry Castleman and Walter Podrazik are notable authors who wrote Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television. David Bianculli, from Syracuse University Press, wrote a brief review of the book and something “really interesting” could be found on every page. He refers to the book as a “textbook, reference book, and a bathroom book.” The book has schedules from every season dating back to 1944 and summaries of all the important events of that season. The book is an in-depth collection of everything TV that anyone would want to know.
Each book has something different to contribute to the history of television. However, Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television is a balance between shows and behind-the scene. The book gives insight to the rivalry and competition between the networks and the never-ending goal to find the next hit show. While Television describes almost every show on television since the beginning and the producers and writers that made scripts into reality, it fails to mention the cameras doing all the work. Television is directed on TV shows, The History of Television, 1942 to 2000 focuses on the gear that makes the show. It presents a detailed hisory on each device but gets tedious when it drones on about every little piece. Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television is the best choice for a television history book because it covers all aspects of TV and displays it in an exciting way.
Television was an important achievement of the 1940s. All the authors will agree that the invention of the television divided the past from the present. After the war, everything old-fashioned was rejected as humans moved into a technology world. Before television, the world was divided and preoccupied with it's own country. The war united the world and the TV was another means of connecting to each other. Television allowed people to reach others around the globe and became one of the “greatest means of mass communications in the world” and the “biggest ad medium.” Television has taken time to reach perfection and the sacrifice of workers have helped television reach its peak.
Television is a universal language that people all around the world understand. While we have different languages, television can connect to people on a deeper basis and does not rely on words to tell a story. TV helps people learn about the world around us without having to leave the couch. This “miracle of spectacular technical achievement” has come a long way from its early day.