Prime-time television: A concise history: Interpreting television: Television: The critical view.

Author:Ferri, Anthony J.
Position:Book review
 
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Moore, B., Bensman, M. R., & Van Dyke, J. (2006). Prime-time television: A concise history. Westport, CT: Praeger. 305 pages.

Lury, K. (2005). Interpreting television. London: Hodder Headline Group. 198 pages.

Newcomb, H. (Ed.). (2007). Television: The critical view (7th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. 671 pages.

This book's title is correct in that it is a concise history of prime-time television and follows a clear historical track. This book is an examination of the creation and re-creation of American prime-time television programs. The authors note, where applicable, those factors affecting this evolution of television genres like regulation, technology, culture, advertising, and research. For example, they discuss the impact of the "fin/sny" rule in which networks could not syndicate programs in the United States. The authors' taxonomy of some genres seems somewhat unclear and inconsistent as in the labeling of programs like "Happy Family Sitcoms" (e.g., Ozzie and Harriet); "Rural Comedies" (e.g., The Real McCoys); "Occult Sitcoms" (Bewitched, The Addams Family); and "Silly Sitcoms" (Gilligan's Island, Get Smart, and I Dream of Jeannie). Aren't most sitcoms "silly" in some way and isn't The Addams Family a "family" sitcom even though they're not Ozzie and Harriet?

The authors' brief history opens with a useful chapter on early radio noting the medium's programming and economic development and its later obvious impact on television. Interesting facts are noted in the second chapter as in the first simulcast between television and radio in 1928. Another historical note was the short- lived and first Lip-Sync programs like The Paul Dixon Show and This is the Music during the 1950s in which singers and audience understood the ruse. The importance of "finding an audience" (pp. 39-79) is examined in chapter 3 and an important industry principle was to follow the audience by matching family patterns with programming making room for workday audiences, weekends, and weeknights while women, men, and children generally varied in their viewing habits. While not noted by the authors, it would be of interest to readers that the RCA chair, David Sarnoff, predicted in 1941 that America's large cities would lose population to the new automobile suburbs during the period 1945-1960, and that this would increase the audience for television. Most introductory texts in media do not include discussion of the short-lived DuMont network and this book...

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