Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Television Years


THE TELEVISION YEARS, published by Popular Library (and James E. Galton, later the head of Marvel for many years) in 1974, is a book masquerading as a one-shot magazine. At the time it came out, however, it was just about the only book, magazine or anything else on television history. At age 15 I purchased this at Woolworth’s and sat down for the first time to learn the rich and varied history of Newton Minnow’s so-called "vast wasteland." From Paul Winchell and Mary Hartline to Molly Goldberg and Chester Riley to Archie Bunker and Richard Nixon, it’s all here in brief snippets that either trigger memories or make you want to learn more.
Laid out year by year, each section is labeled (as in 1961’s "Year of the Surly Surgeon" and 1971's "Year of the Bigot")) with little one-liner bits of nostalgia and a few pages of pertinent pictures. The cowboys, the kids’ shows, the detectives, the doctors, the game shows, the monsters, the spies, the heroes-all the trends are here. Within the pages of this book, though, I also met for the first time Edward R. Murrow, Dave Garroway and Ernie Kovacs. I first heard here of the quiz show scandals, the McCarthy hearings and the Amos and Andy controversy.
Considering its price of 98 cents, THE TELEVISION YEARS may well have been the best bargain any budding pop culture buff could have bought in 1974. With television evolving and becoming ever more important in real world issues during that period and since, I remember speculating on just where it would end up by the turn of the century. If you had told me we would have more than a hundred channels and still not be able to find anything worth watching most of the time I simply would not have believed you. Let’s get a couple channels that just rerun 1947-1974. Now THAT was good television! MY MOTHER, THE CAR and THE PRUITTS OF SOUTHAMPTON may have seemed stupid at the time but then we’d never seen JACKASS or FEAR FACTOR. Sigh.

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