Prime Time, Prime Movers: The Inside Story of the Inside People Who Made American Television

Overview

Television is the most maligned of the modern media. Critics and even viewers casually call it the "boob tube" or the "idiot box" or even "bubble gum for the eyes." But in the hands of certain individuals it can become a creative canvas, a dramatic art that opens a distinctive window on our culture. There is a growing argument--an auteur theory--that despite all the commercial constraints, the television producer is capable of using TV as a medium of personal expression. Prime Time, Prime Movers is an ...
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Overview

Television is the most maligned of the modern media. Critics and even viewers casually call it the "boob tube" or the "idiot box" or even "bubble gum for the eyes." But in the hands of certain individuals it can become a creative canvas, a dramatic art that opens a distinctive window on our culture. There is a growing argument--an auteur theory--that despite all the commercial constraints, the television producer is capable of using TV as a medium of personal expression. Prime Time, Prime Movers is an entertaining and informative guide to the major creators of televisual art who have emerged over the past forty-five years. From dominant performers such as Jackie Gleason and Carol Burnett to powerhouse producers such as Norman Lear and Steven Bochco, it reviews the stories and styles of the most important architects of the airwaves. Milton Berle brought a "hellzapoppin'" vaudeville aesthetic to TV. Gleason used it as an autobiographical medium. Red Skelton was the classic clown from the heartland. Paul Henning, who created, wrote, and produced The Beverly Hillbillies, was himself a kid from Missouri who grew up to become a millionaire in Los Angeles. Norman Lear modeled Archie Bunker after his own cantankerous father. Steven Bochco productions, such as Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law, made TV watching respectable for yuppies. Authors David Marc and Robert J. Thompson are the most outspoken proponents of the auteur argument. Covering a broad spectrum of TV programming formats, from old-time variety shows to sitcoms, from action/adventure shows to documentaries, from gameshows to soap operas, they challenge the tastes and interests of television viewers--a group roughly equivalent to the American population at large.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316545891
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 3/7/1992
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 304

Table of Contents

Introduction 3
Pt. 1 Comedy
1 From Performer Authorship to Producer's Genre 13
2 Paul Henning: Corn King 30
3 Sherwood Schwartz: An Empire of His Own 38
4 Norman Lear: A Post-McCarthy Sitcom 49
5 James L. Brooks: An American Comedy of Manners 61
6 Garry Marshall: Back to the Future 70
7 Susan Harris: Seriously Funny 84
8 Diane English: The Superwoman as Comic Hero 93
9 Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner: The Family Moderne 99
10 Comedy: Honorable Mention 108
Pt. 2 Drama
11 The Golden Age of Television Drama: The Writer as Auteur 117
12 Jack Webb: The Struggle Against Evil 132
13 Roy Huggins: Let Cooler Heads Prevail 141
14 Quinn Martin: Republican Supersleuths 153
15 Aaron Spelling: Crime, Punishment, and Affirmative Action 163
16 Glen Larson: Hacking Away 171
17 Richard Levinson and William Link: The Rotating Umbrella 180
18 Lee Rich: Blood, Soap, and Dirty Laundry 195
19 Stephen J. Cannell: Action/Adventure Mogul 205
20 Steven Bochco: Yuppie Catharsis 218
21 Michael Mann: Knowing the Score 231
22 Drama: Honorable Mention 241
Pt. 3 Other Genres
23 The Edges of Prime Time: Gamesters, Soapsters, Documentarians 249
24 Mark Goodson: The Gameshow King 251
25 Chuck Barris: Life's a Dirty Game 261
26 Irna Phillips: Queen of the Soaps 271
27 Agnes Nixon: Soap Opera Goes Post-Victorian 279
28 David Wolper: From Documentary to Docudrama 285
29 Ken Burns: The Art of the Artifact 301
Selected Bibliography 309
Index 315
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