Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously

Overview

We all know about literacy and its recent upper-crust cousin cultural literacy. The time has come for TELELITERACY--a concept that defines, explores, and embraces what we know about, and have learned from, the mass medium of television. This clear-eyed and lively book shows that television, contrary to the opinion of many, is a medium that is opening the American mind. The knee-jerk reaction television often elicits from critics, literati, even well-intentioned parents and educators actually follows a pattern ...
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Overview

We all know about literacy and its recent upper-crust cousin cultural literacy. The time has come for TELELITERACY--a concept that defines, explores, and embraces what we know about, and have learned from, the mass medium of television. This clear-eyed and lively book shows that television, contrary to the opinion of many, is a medium that is opening the American mind. The knee-jerk reaction television often elicits from critics, literati, even well-intentioned parents and educators actually follows a pattern that has come down to us through history. In The Republic, for example, Plato attacked poetry and drama on the grounds that they were mere "imitations." His early denunciation of what we would today call the docudrama also implied a disdain for the popularity of all public performances. Closer to our own time, little respect was initially accorded radio and film, though both (significantly the latter) are now accepted as subjects for serious study. Grounding his argument in such historical fact, television critic David Bianculli goes on to present in Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously a spirited argument for television. "It's time to realize TV must be doing something right," Bianculli observes, "to reach and affect so many people." If one hasn't watched television in the recent past, one has missed I, Claudius; Holocaust; Shogun; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Brideshead Revisited; The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby; Anne of Green Gables; The Singing Detective; the Gulf War; The Civil War; the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings; the collapse of the Soviet Union; Bill Moyers talking with Joseph Campbell; and much more. As Bianculli admits, "Because television is so widely and convincingly attacked, it isn't easy to come to its defense without being put on the defensive. It's as though, by taking TV seriously, you automatically prevent yourself from being taken seriously." But through interviews conducted expressly for this book, with Pet

The first book to seriously defend TV, Teleliteracy asserts that television is actually opening the American mind. Insightful interviews with Peter Jennings, Bill Moyers, Bill Cosby, and others serve to illustrate television's educational and social value. "A ringing defense of TV as a forum for art, information, and education."--Kirkus Reviews.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This conversationally written, zesty but hollow manifesto extolling the benefits of television is only likely to persuade the switched-on. Bianculli, TV critic for the New York Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer , concedes that ``90% of television is . . . crap,'' but insists that ``the best of television is very good indeed.'' Far from being a corrupter of literacy, the tube, he speciously argues, can make viewers more literate through programs like Sesame Street and adaptations of Dickens or Trollope that send viewers back to the novels. Dismissing links between TV violence and street violence as impossible to prove, he urges that classrooms teach children what TV can offer and praises the medium's coverage of the Gulf War. Drawing on interviews with Linda Ellerbee, Bill Cosby, Peter Jennings, Kurt Vonnegut, Shelley Duvall and others, Bianculli presents a rosy image of television as a growing, maturing medium, better now than in its golden age. A gimmicky ``teleliteracy quiz'' is included. Photos. (June)
Library Journal
At times taking television too seriously, newspaper columnist Bianculli nonetheless offers a thoughtful view of a much-maligned medium. Contradicting Marshall McLuhan, he asserts, ``it's the message, not the medium, that's the message.'' Television's global reach, he argues, ``can open windows of observation--and opportunity--that otherwise would be unavailable or incomprehensible.'' He wants television ``to be judged in context, without preconceptions, on its own merits.'' The author interviews a number of experts, including Peter Jennings, Linda Ellerbee, and Bill Moyers, who offer frequently insightful reflections. Among the subjects discussed at length are news coverage, dramatic programming, and television as a learning tool. An interesting study for any media or popular culture collection.--Carolyn M. Mulac, Chicago P.L.
Booknews
Bianculli, TV critic of the New York post, catalogs the positive aspects of the medium and the shows, and the beneficial impact of television viewing on individuals and on American society. He likes it, and he counters the knee-jerk disdain often voiced by its detractors with example after example of good times with the tube over the years. Indexed by name and show title, but not by subject. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671882389
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 4/5/1994
  • Edition description: 1st Touchstone ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

David Bianculli
David Bianculli

David Bianculli has been a television critic for more than thirty years, currently on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross and at www.tvworthwatching.com. He is also the author of two books on television and its impact: Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously and Dictionary of Teleliteracy: Television's 500 Biggest Hits, Misses, and Events.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Pt. 1 A Media Perspective 1
1 Television Days 3
2 Teleliteracy Pretest 7
3 Mass Media and Mass Contempt 23
4 Instant Replay: a Broad Look at Broadcast History 41
Pt. 2 A Media Manifesto 63
5 TV Is Too Important to Turn Off 65
6 TV Is Not a Vast Wasteland 72
7 Links between TV and Violence Should Be Taken with a Grain Assault 74
8 TV Can Be Literacy's Friend as Well as Its Foe 78
9 Marshall McLuhan Was Right: There Is a Global Village 86
10 Marshall McLuhan Was Wrong: The Medium Is Not the Message 98
11 Television Deserves More Respect 107
12 Some Television Is Literature--and Vice Versa 138
13 Television Deserves Serious Study 142
14 Teleliteracy Is Here...So Telefriend 148
Pt. 3 A Media Roundtable 161
15 A Serious Look at Children's Television--No Kidding 164
16 Television as a Teacher 184
17 The Civil War to the Gulf War 197
18 Television as a Maturing Medium 245
19 Television at Its Best 266
20 Television as a Serious Subject 280
Conclusion 288
Bibliography 296
Index 305
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