Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik
Syracuse University Press, $26.63
The second edition of this book has been out for a few years, but it's still the best one-shop-stopping detailed overview of TV, season by season, ever published. It has season-by-season schedules, a running timeline, and annual summaries of TV events and trends that are written clearly, with more insight and scope than you usually find in such wide-ranging overviews.
Watching TV isn't absolutely complete - its coverage of the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike covers exactly one sentence, in the timeline - almost every essay, introducing each TV season, will reward the reader with some fresh insight or obscure but illuminating fact.
Schedules begin way back with the 1944 wartime schedule, when CBS had only a handful of shows, including Missus Goes A'Shopping - and that was one of the week's highlights. The last schedule analyzed in the book is from the fall of 2002. In between is - well, just about everything you really wanted to know about television, but were afraid, or ashamed, to ask.
Watching TV works as a textbook, a reference book, and a bathroom book: Flip to any page, and you'll find something really interesting. Let's try it: a random flip to page 377, for example, yields the stunning statistic that in 1995, broadcast TV's evening newscasts all devoted double-digit percentages of their respective programs to the O.J. Simpson trial. NBC gave up 17 percent of its flagship newscast to Simpson trial coverage, CBS 14 percent, and ABC 10 percent.
That's just one page, and one fact. Watching TV is full of them.
Buy it now