Adventures on Prime Time: The Television Programs of Stephen J. Cannell

By Robert J. Thompson | Go to book overview
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Introduction

A quick trip to your local mall is a good way to learn about the state of television studies in this country. The film and television sections of Waldenbooks, Crown Books, or B. Dalton's will offer you a wide selection of volumes about the works of well-known movie artists such as John Ford, Charlie Chaplin, and Alfred Hitchcock. You can even spend vast sums on oversized, glossy-paged treatments of the films of George Lucas, suitable for the coffee table in ways that only books about artists like Michelangelo or Cézanne used to be. You will not find any books, however, on the works of individual televisionmakers. If you are like most customers, in fact, you will not even be able to name any individual televisionmakers. Three books about The Andy Griffith Show are now available, for example, but none that treat the collected works of any of the show's creative staff. And who does that staff include? Sheldon Leonard? Aaron Ruben? Jim Fritzell? Everett Greenbaum? Bob Sweeney? Never heard of them--pass me that book about Spielberg.

One of the reasons for this state of affairs is that it is often eminently unclear just who the televisionmaker is. Amid all the writers, producers, directors, networks, advertisers, and others who contribute to the creation of a TV program, it is much more difficult to decide who to write a book on than it is when considering poems, paintings, or even films. Furthermore, the material has been, until very recently, unavailable for study. When you want to write a book on Shakespeare, a trip to the library will yield an assortment of editions of the poet's complete works from which to choose. And movies are readily available on videotape, often as close as the comer convenience store. Most television, however, is available neither in libraries nor in archives, especially outside New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Washington, D.C.

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