There’s a lot to celebrate around here. TVWW turned nine years old last week. I turn seven times that old today. And today also happens to be the official birth day of my new book, The Platinum Age of Television…
Nine years is a long time for a website – and so many of you have been around since or near the start, so thanks for that. Thanks, too, for welcoming me back so warmly after my summertime health scare, which almost precluded today’s birthday celebration. (When I gave a copy of Platinum Age to my surgeon, my inscription thanked him for not making the book a posthumous release.)
But the new book, which “drops” today – as a very nice post from my Rowan University website put it – is what I’m really most happy to celebrate. So bear with me. And, if you care to, celebrate with me as well.
At present, I have two book signings, with Q&As and video presentations, scheduled - one on each coast. Any TVWW readers will be welcomed extra warmly:
On Monday, Dec. 5, at 6:30 p.m. ET, I'll be at the Rowan University Barnes & Noble, Rowan University, 201 Rowan Blvd., Glassboro, NJ 08028. And on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 7:30 p.m. on the West Coast, I'll be at the oldest bookstore in Hollywood: Larry Edmunds Bookshop, 6644 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028. If you're in either area, please come out and say hello!
And last week, I was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air about the book, and our discussion included some great clips featuring Fred Rogers and The Andy Griffith Show. To listen to or download the podcast, visit the Fresh Air website, and scroll down to the Nov. 10, 2016 show.
The Platinum Age of Television is a celebration of today’s quality TV, and a detailed analysis of how it got that way. Fifteen of the chapters are evolutionary “studies,” showing the development of individual TV genres, from the family sitcom and the Western to the medical and crime series. Attached to those chapters are twice as many others, in which I interview and profile some of the most gifted writers, producers and performers in the history of the medium – and representing every phase in the history of the medium.
From the earliest days of television, we spend time with Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Norman Lear and others. From the second generation, we hear from such pivotal TV writer-producers as James L. Brooks, co-creator of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Simpsons, and Steven Bochco, co-creator of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue. And from 1999, the year I consider the actual start of TV’s Platinum Age, we get the insights of both Aaron Sorkin from NBC’s The West Wing and David Chase of HBO’s The Sopranos.
Covering various periods of TV history, other interview profiles include Carol Burnett, Bob Newhart, Tom Smothers, Kevin Spacey, David E. Kelley, Ken Burns, and, in what turned out to be one of his final interviews, Garry Shandling.
And from the current century, we get such representatives of fabulous TV as Matthew Weiner of Mad Men, Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad, and Louis C.K. of Louie. In the evolutionary chapters, I make the case for the slow but sure maturation of quality television. In the profile chapters, the artists interviewed make the case for me.
One of the most enjoyable things about conducting the interviews for this book, other than just having conversations with people whose work I’ve admired and appreciated for so long, was letting them lead themselves down memory lane. I intentionally avoided any leading questions: Instead of asking them, say, what they thought of The Twilight Zone, I merely asked open-ended questions, such as which series excited them when they were young or influenced them later. That way, when The Twilight Zone ends up being mentioned more than any other show, it’s more significant, and honest, a revelation.
Speaking of revelations: This was the first book I’ve written for which I’ve also recorded an audio version, and I had no idea how hard that was – even after being on the radio for decades. It took nine recording days to get the 205,000-word, 550-page book on tape, or on digital – and I’ve just learned, in the description to the finished version available for purchase or download, that it takes almost a full day to listen to it. A full 23.5 hours.
Amortize that by the hour, and this book, whether in print or in audio form, is a bargain.
So please buy one – audiobook or print book, ebook or coloring book. (Okay, so I made that last one up.) The hardback book version of The Platinum Age of Television: From ‘I Love Lucy’ to ‘The Walking Dead,’ How TV Became Terrific, and the audio version, and the ebook version, can all be bought here. And the audio version, directly from Penguin Random House audio publishing, can be bought here, with a sample excerpt, if you want to hear what my book sounds like as read by me, is provided for free here.
Here’s the pitch: For parents and grandparents, the book, in whatever form, makes a great gift, because the shows covered here include such golden oldies as Your Show of Shows, That Was the Week That Was and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Or younger TV viewers can buy one for themselves or each other, because the best modern shows, from Inside Amy Schumer to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, are amply represented.
Oh, and the book has appeal to very young readers as well. I have photographic proof: The picture at the top of this blog, and another at left, shows my grandson Luke reading The Platinum Age of Television to his new little brother, Dylan. And midway through this blog is a picture of my granddaughter, Reina, reading the book to herself.
When I see them all next week, guess what book I’ll be reading to them at bedtime?