Friday, January 31, 2014

Three-Thousand And Thirty Funny Minutes

I just read Ken Bloom and Frank Vlastnik's Sitcom: The 101 Greatest TV Comedies Of All Time. I checked it out because I enjoyed their book on the 101 greatest Broadway musicals.  But don't rush out to your bookstore (as if there are bookstores any more) since the thing came out in 2007.

It's pretty good for what it is--a lavishly illustrated coffee table book with a short essay on each show.  Which shows?  The usual suspects (up to 2007). I won't bother to list them.

Not to put down the writing, but the photos are the best reason to buy the book, especially since they've chosen a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff and plenty of color shots for shows that were in black and white.

As for the essays, they're generally solid, though I caught a few minor errors, and some occasionally indifferent editing (re Eve Arden, she had "an Oscar-nominated role in Mildred Pierce, for which she bagged an Oscar nomination"; discussing The Phil Silvers Show they mention one character's "court-marshal"). Though they mostly point up the positives, every now and then they'll register some doubt.  For instance, they note in later years M*A*S*H could get preachy. And that while Julia was groundbreaking it wasn't much of a show.  And that Murphy Brown is now dated since it so often used topical references.  And that Bonnie Franklin on One Day At A Time is one of the most annoying TV characters ever.

It might be fun to see a book that goes all the way, coffee table be damned.  It'd be fun to see, amongst the encomia, some jaundiced views, like Leave It To Beaver is boring, Gilligan's Island is stupid, Frasier is bland, whatever. The reader wouldn't have to agree--after all, most buy it for the pictures.  But you could dip in here and there, never knowing what to expect.


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