Rerun Junkie Books–The Electronic Mirror by Mitchell Hadley

As a listener of (and sometimes guest on) Eventually Supertrain, I’ve been introduced to several knowledgeable people. Dan Budnik does a fab job of finding guest hosts to discuss his short-lived TV shows. It’s an eclectic mix of voices, which I appreciate.

One of those voices is Mitchell Hadley of It’s About TV (absolutely check out his site; it’s super cool and informative). And when Mitchell said he wrote a book about TV, I knew I had to get it.

I actually acquired and read it a while ago, but I was a person who’d gotten lax with her blog then. That’s why I’m writing the book up now. I’m a new person.

Anyway.

The Electronic Mirror: What Classic TV Tells Us About Who We Were and Who We Are (and Everything In-Between!) is a collection of essays that gives the reader a cultural context of television. Organized by channels (which I love), the book covers topics such as the concept of classic television, the impact television has on us, communism, censorship, politics, violence, religion, and the various personalities who’ve made their marks.

Nothing occurs in a vacuum and television definitely didn’t. Mitchell provides so much context for a lot of the television that happened back in the day, stuff that people my age experienced in reruns. For example, there’s an essay called “Man on the Run” about The Fugitive and how ground breaking it was at time when the justice system and all of its components were seen as the ultimate authority. To say that it was fallible because an innocent man had been convicted of a horrible crime was kind of a big deal. This is a show that I used to watch in high school when I had insomnia. It’s a good show. I like it. But the context of it never really occurred to me until I read the essay. Yeah, it would kind of be a thing in 1963, wouldn’t it?

There’s a lot of history packed into these pages, which I appreciate. As someone who likes to learn things, I ended up acquiring a bunch of knowledge from the book. Some of the history is to provide context, but some of it is because television made history itself. Or was used to make history.

It’s fascinating to put all of those pieces together to create a much fuller picture of life not only at that time, but also how that picture informs the picture we’ve got going on today.

It’s an informative book and if you’re looking to go a little deeper into your TV knowledge, it’s definitely a read for you. Acquire it!

Rerun Junkie Books –From Beverly Hills to Hooterville by Daniel R. Budnik

Welcome to the Henningverse!

In 1962, The Beverly Hillbillies premiered. Created by Paul Henning, the sitcom quickly became a hit much to the consternation of the critics who hated it. It’s success permitted Henning to create another show the next year, Petticoat Junction. In 1965, along came Green Acres, which was produced by Henning but created by Jay Sommers, who’d worked on Petticoat Junction and was tapped by Henning for the third show as he was busy with the previous two. The three shows lasted until the Rural Purge in the early ’70s.

From Beverly Hills to Hooterville: Exploring TV’s Henningverse 1962-1971 is an excellent companion guide for all three series. Covering a combined 666 episodes of all three shows, each episode comes with a synopsis, review, and technical details such as writer, director, and an air date, as well as Nielsen ratings for each season and time slots for each show. The episode reviews are arranged in a layered sort of way that gives you an idea of how the Henningverse was operating during any given season.

Dan provides context for the origins of the Henningverse, the popularity of Westerns at the time, and the intense dislike of the critics. He wraps up the book with talk of the Rural Purge, mentions of the various reunions, and his final thoughts on each series. There are also interesting notes and factoids scattered throughout.

It’s a hefty tome -over 700 pages. But considering that it contains words on every episode of three series, it’s not an unreasonable length when you think about it.

If you’re a fan of Dan’s podcasts (and you should be), this book is very much in his voice. His humor is present and his observations are keen as always.

Am I biased because Dan is a friend? Maybe. But I am familiar with Dan’s quality content, including his book ’80s Action Movies on the Cheap, and I feel like he’s written yet another book that’s a must-have, in this case for retro television fans.

It’s available in paperback and for Kindle over at Amazon. Bulk up your bookshelf.

Rerun Junkie Books–Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted by Jennifer Keishin ArmstrongMy chronic rerun habit paid off in a big way when I won a Me-TV contest. The prize was Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s book, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And All the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic. I didn’t check the winner’s list so I was completely unaware that I’d won until a package from the publisher showed up. My confusion (“I didn’t order a book from these people”) gave way to pure joy as soon as I saw what book was in the package (“HOLY CROW I WON I WON I WON!”)

And indeed, I was the winner.

I’m one of those people that’s fascinated with behind-the-scenes stuff about TV shows, any sorts of TV trivia, even if I don’t watch or like the show (I’m the same way with movie trivia, which is more absurd given that I don’t really watch many movies). It’s not necessarily the dirt I’m into. Who’s sleeping with who, who’s fighting with who doesn’t intrigue me quite as much as how something was made.

This book is that and more.

Not only does it give you insight into the show itself, but it goes above and beyond in recognizing that the show didn’t occur in a vacuum and the people involved didn’t pop into existence just for the purpose of the show. While the show is the main focus, of course, it also talks about the TV landscape at the time, some of the other shows on the air, the spin-offs, and a bit about the state of the country in relation to the show, how the show impacted the country and the country impacted the show.

It also goes beyond just the actors, those lovely faces we see and associate more readily with the show. It profiles the creators and their mission to make a realistic sitcom featuring a working, single woman and their dedication to their vision. It also shows how they broke the rules by looking for and hiring women writers in a time when women weren’t thought of as funny. And, naturally, talks about the women who wrote for the show.  There’s even a bit about one of the show’s most dedicated fans.

The show broke more ground than a lot of people might realize.

It was actually a really inspiring read, in a way. The idea of working in this environment of a people that were dedicated to making this the best show that they could, who wouldn’t compromise or settle for less. It wasn’t all hearts and flowers, but it was special and it makes me wish I could be apart of something just like that.

This is also the kind of book I wish I could write about my TV show loves. Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s narrative isn’t some dry account, by the numbers and letters of what happened. She allows the people she’s writing about to be the real people they are and brings out the emotions of the time. I cringed while reading about the first rehearsal that went so badly and I teared up during the recounting of the final episode. Every bit of it is readable, approachable, and educational without feeling like you’re being lectured to or otherwise schooled.

Now it’s time for my disclosure. The Mary Tyler Moore Show is one of those shows that half-ass watch, which means most of the time I’m not paying a whole lot of attention to it unless Rhoda or Murray are talking (they are my favorites and I have no shame about this). However, I KNOW it’s a good show and I’ve caught myself, over time, watching more of the episodes rather than just putting them on for background noise.

But this book has made me appreciate the show on a whole new level.

I’m going to be paying more attention now.