Creating Television: Conversations with the People behind 50 Years of American TV

By Robert Kubey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Introduction
Bringing Television Creators to Life

The beginnings of television, depending on what you read, date back to Philip Nipkow's 1885 patent for the idea of a television scanner, Boris Rosing's 1906 electronic picture tube, Vladimir Zworykin's 1923 invention of the iconoscope, or Philo T. Farnsworth's 1927 patent on an “image dissector. But in America, television as a true, nationwide medium began when the networks first linked the country from coast to coast in 1951. In the half century since, the television industry has grown from a poor relation and spin-off of radio and vaudeville to the world's premier entertainment medium. People throughout the developed world spend more time watching television than doing any other activity but for sleep and work.

In the 1980s, American television truly went global. Programs like Dallas and The Cosby Show were regularly watched in more than 90 countries. In that decade, as American television's grip on the rest of the world was reaching new heights, a group of 50,000 fans nearly shut down the center of Athens when the cast of the American soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful visited the ancient capital.

Much of the world watches television, particularly American television, and is simultaneously fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes. There is a growing sophistication and curiosity among laypersons and scholars alike regarding how programs are created, how actors are cast in roles, how deals are made, and how ratings pressures affect programming decisions.

Long-standing theoretical work on the mass culture industries has informed this work, but purely theoretical treatments of the media industries often convey detached and unrealistic understandings of the roles of the people actually involved in the creation of popular culture products. The book you hold in your hands offers an opportunity to learn how leading professionals from the medium's first half century think about their experiences working in television. In so doing, the book offers real-world examples

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