Academic journal article Journalism History

Please Stand By: A Prehistory of Television

Academic journal article Journalism History

Please Stand By: A Prehistory of Television

Article excerpt

Ritchie, Michael. Please Stand By: A Prehistory of Television. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 1995. 248 pp. $15.95.

"The artists you will read about in Please Stand By," Michael Ritchie notes, "were dedicated professionals usually blundering their way into television history." Indeed, Please Stand By: A Prehistory of Television is as much about the often comical growing pains of a new medium as it is about the innovations that ultimately made it a success.

Ritchie is a director whose films include Fletch, The Candidate, Smile, and Semi-Tough. He is also a member of the Creative Counsel of the Museum of Television and Radio. In Please Stand By, he chronicles television's development from the 1920s to the late 1940s. Using personal interviews, oral histories in the Broadcast Pioneers Library and biographical memoirs, he attempts to bridge what he calls "the strange gap between 'history' and 'nostalgia'."

The book begins by chronicling television's technical development and the maneuvering of radio barons such as David Sarnoff and William Paley. Unfortunately, Ritchie's account is often superficial. He dismisses the early rivalry between the mechanical and electronic systems far too easily, noting that the mechanical systems "just stank"; his characterization of the medium's pioneers as "scientists with vision but no money and businessmen with plenty of money but little vision" is a decided oversimplification.

The bulk of the book concentrates on early programming, an area in which Ritchie is clearly more comfortable. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.