TV tells the story of television season by season, from the medium’s inception
to twenty-first century programming, combining an engaging narrative text,
key dates, annual fall prime time schedule grids, and more than one hundred
Watching TV is available now. Contact Syracuse University Press at
Or check online at the usual book sellers, including
Watching TV is 8 ½ x 11 inch format, trade softcover, 472 pages (including
Bonus Special Feature:
The stories behind each chapter title
Copyright © 2003 by Walter J. Podrazik and Harry Castleman
Each chapter of Watching TV captures the essence of its slice of
history by focusing on key programs, personalities, and events of that era.
To set the tone, the individual chapter titles themselves are a mix of
allusions to pop culture, literature, music, and history. As an online special
feature (not appearing in the book itself), here’s a peek behind each chapter
"Three Stars in the East"
To open the entire book, this title conveys a sense of a significant moment
in history by lifting and mixing images from the Christian tradition surrounding
the birth of Jesus. The story is of the three "magi" (kings) following a star
in the East to the location of "the new king of the world." Here, the arrival
of a new U.S. President, Lucille Ball’s real life son, and the fictional Lucy
Ricardo’s son within one twenty-four-hour period in 1953 symbolizes a pivotal
moment in pop culture history.
"The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise"
Title is a reference to the 1919 song "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise"
(words by Eugene Lockhart; music by Ernest Seitz), originally popularized
by Isham Jones and John Steel in the early 1920s, and then revived in 1951
as a chart-topping success by Les Paul and Mary Ford. Here the symbolism refers
to a world waiting for a revolution in communication technology.
"Shadows in the Cave"
Title alludes to Plato’s concept of how difficult it is to understand a
situation by simply looking at shadows cast on a wall, rather than seeing
the participants directly. Without seeing things first hand, you can only
guess the details. At the beginning of the television era, people had no idea
how TV would turn out and so were similarly in the dark. The title also appropriately
reflects the fuzzy, indistinct, and shadowy images that filled the TV screens
in the early experimental days.
Straightforward reference to the beginning (the dawning) of the new TV
Chapter 4. 1944-45 Season:
"We Want to Find Out First Where TV’s Goin’"
Title is a quote from James C. Petrillo, president of the American Federation
of Musicians, explaining the reason for banning all television appearances
by his union musicians. The line also captures a more general mix of curiosity
and skepticism in the very early TV age, as individuals wondered just what
this new medium would deliver.
Chapter 5. 1945-46 Season:
"After the Storm"
Title is evocative of a sense of calm following the end of World War II.
Now, anything can happen. So, too, after the stormy start-and-stop beginnings
of television. Though still in its early days, television is starting to learn
what works. And that people will watch.
Chapter 6. 1946-47 Season:
"TV Gets the Green Light"
Title refers to the practical effect of a March 1947 FCC ruling that, in
effect, opened the floodgates for TV growth. The FCC said that CBS’s proposed
system for color broadcasts (in the UHF range, channels 14 to 83) was not
yet ready for commercial use and thus black and white transmissions could
continue on channels 2 through 13 for the foreseeable future. This was taken
by businesses as a "green light" for aggressive investment and growth.
Chapter 7. 1947-48 Season:
"Vaudeville Is Back"
The William Morris talent agency used the title wording as its headline
in a May 1948 ad placed in Variety touting plans for the Texaco
Star Theater, which (hosted by Milton Berle) became television’s first
big smash. The phrase is also a reference to the style of comedy-variety used
in that show. Vaudeville style entertainment had long been considered passé
on stage, but with television it was back, in millions of TV homes.
Chapter 8. 1948-49 Season:
Straightforward reference to the action by the FCC "freezing" station applications
while working out a variety of technical issues. The flip side comes in Chapter
11 with "The Thaw."
Chapter 9. 1949-50 Season:
"Behind the Ion Curtain"
Title plays with the cold war phrase "behind the iron curtain," which referred
to the political line of demarcation at the time that divided Europe between
the Communist forces of the Soviet Union and the Western democracies. In a
completely different arena, there was a technical divide in the U.S., a technical
"ion curtain" between those cities that had television stations and those
that did not.
Chapter 10. 1950-51 Season:
"What’s My Crime?"
The question in the title applies to two different situations in the chapter.
First, those affected by blacklisting could ask that question in puzzlement
and frustration because they often faced guilt by mere accusation. The second
is a play on the title of the popular game show "What’s My Line?" and alludes
to the evasive nature of the figures called to testify before the Senate committee
holding televised hearings on crime, in a setting not all that different from
the "mystery guests" on the game show.
Chapter 11. 1951-52 Season:
The FCC ends its freeze on processing station applications (begun in Chapter
8, "The Freeze"), opening the door for the next great spurt of growth for
Chapter 12. 1952-53 Season:
In the pre-TV glory days of Hollywood, the film studios churned out a high
volume of less expensive, formula movies to fill screen time in between the
front line titles. These second-tier offerings were known in the industry
as "Grade-B" films. By the early 1950s, the TV industry had begun to copy
that same concept, with filmed series such as Fireside Theater plugged
in more to fill a slot than to compete as top shelf material.
Chapter 13. 1953-54 Season:
"Point of Order"
During the much-publicized Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954 (which were all
televised live), Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy frequently interrupted
other Senators by raising arguably procedural objections, using the parliamentary
term "point of order." McCarthy used the phrase so much that it became a national
catch-phrase meant to imply that McCarthy was more interested in making his
own points than in addressing any mistake in procedure.
Chapter 14. 1954-55 Season:
"Showbiz in a Hurry"
This was the season in which NBC’s Pat Weaver presented his latest plan
to invigorate television, the "spectacular" broadcasts. These consisted of
mammoth ninety-minute theatrical and variety productions (averaging about
one per week) all aired live. The title is a colloquial expression describing
the general method of turning out such "spectaculars" so quickly and so often.
Chapter 15. 1955-56 Season:
"The Road to Reruns"
In the 1940s, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby starred in a series of light-weight
comedy-adventure films which all used "The Road to…" format in their title
(beginning with "The Road to Singapore" in 1940). The chapter title is a play
on those movie titles, alluding to the fact that the television industry was
abandoning its live New York roots and moving towards a more film-based Hollywood
production focus. Practically speaking, filmed series could be easily rerun
over and over again, to help defray the costs of production.
Chapter 16. 1956-57 Season:
"It’s Been a Tremendous Strain"
The title is based on a quote from quiz show contestant Charles Van Doren
just after he was dethroned as champion on NBC’s Twenty-One. The quote
is symbolic for three reasons. First, at the time, it would seem odd for someone
who earned so much money and fame as Van Doren did to complain about the pressure
of the quiz contests. Second, in hindsight, after the revelations emerged
about how the shows’ producers rigged the outcome to keep Van Doren on the
air, the quote almost seems like a subconscious admission of what Van Doren
was really feeling during the time. Third, the quote is an apt summary of
the effect of the rise and fall of quiz shows on the TV industry.
Chapter 17. 1957-58 Season:
"Oh, Dem Oaters"
In Hollywood insider slang, Western films had often been dubbed "oaters,"
referring to the oats on which the omnipresent horses usually munched. When
Westerns began popping up on TV, the nickname came with them. The title is
a rhetorical raised eyebrow at the sudden overload of Westerns that filled
the TV schedules this season.
Chapter 18. 1958-59 Season:
"Dotto Goes Blotto"
Entertainment industry publications such as Variety and the Hollywood
Reporter have their own shorthand style, especially for headlines, which
can be both blunt and lyrical. This title is in that spirit. Dotto
was the first program to be taken off the air because of the erupting quiz
show scandal. "Blotto" is a slang phrase that usually means being stinking
drunk. Here, with poetic license, the word is used with a more general meaning
of being out of service or ceasing to operate.
Chapter 19. 1959-60 Season:
"Adventures in Syndication"
In 1959, ABC featured a bland filmed series, Adventures in Paradise,
starring Gardner McKay (later referenced in the 1983 Jimmy Buffet song "We
Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About"). While never particularly successful
in its three-year network run, Adventures in Paradise subsequently
turned up in local rerun syndication for almost twenty years after it left
the air. It was a nearly timeless commodity. The series can also be seen as
the harbinger of what far too many filmed (rather than live) television series
would become: merely the filler that could be rerun endlessly around ever-changing
lineups of commercials.
Chapter 20. 1960-61 Season:
"The Vast Wasteland"
Newton Minow, Chairman of the FCC under President John F. Kennedy, coined
perhaps the most famous phrase about the TV industry in his May 1961 address
to broadcasting executives when he referred to it as a "vast wasteland."
Chapter 21. 1961-62 Season:
"I Still Have the Stench in My Nose"
A quote from Rhode Island Senator John Pastore, a vocal critic of what
he saw as TV’s lax moral standards in the early 1960s. He was referring to
being unable to shake from his memory the December 1961 episode of ABC’s
Bus Stop that featured teen singing sensation Fabian as a crazed killer.
Chapter 22. 1962-63 Season:
"CBS + RFD = $$$"
Another Variety style showbiz headline, boiling down the then current
state of television into a simple mathematical equation about early 1960s
TV. At the time, CBS’s aggressive mining of rural sitcom themes resulted in
the network earning enormous profits, giving it the largest over-all lead
in ratings throughout the day that any network had yet enjoyed. "RFD" stands
for Rural Free Delivery, which was a U.S. Postal Service term from the end
of the nineteenth century for the then-new concept of delivering mail to rural
citizens free of charge, just like they did for city dwellers. CBS’s Andy
Griffith Show (one of its original rural comedies) eventually was known
as Mayberry R.F.D.
Chapter 23. 1963-64 Season:
"Hands Across the Ocean"
Title refers to the British invasion of U.S. culture in the mid-1960s on
multiple fronts: musically (led by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones), in
movies (led by the James Bond films), and on television (led initially by
spy series such as The Avengers and Secret Agent and, eventually,
in U.S. hits such as All In The Family and Sanford and Son,
modeled after U.K. series). As long-time fans of the Fab Four, we were also
subliminally influenced by a "hands across the water" reference in Paul McCartney’s
song "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" on his 1971 album Ram.
Chapter 24. 1964-65 Season:
"The Unloved Messenger"
In ancient days, before direct communication between cities and regions,
breaking news came to powerful leaders via messengers. According to storytelling
tradition, there were instances in which rulers or military figures, angered
by hearing bad news in this manner, would sometimes take out their frustrations
by killing the messenger, although the messenger had no part in causing the
calamity reported. This concept appears in such works as the Sophocles play
"Oedipus Rex" and Shakespeare’s "Henry IV." The analogy here is to the TV
news industry that, in the mid-1960s, kept bringing unhappy news to the American
people, whether it was about the civil rights movement, the war in Vietnam,
or the changing social mores of the younger generation. It was at this point
that the very presence of TV news began to be actively resented and disliked
by many Americans.
Chapter 25. 1965-66 Season:
"The Second Season"
A reference to ABC’s programming strategy initiated in January 1966, in
which it replaced failed fall series with brand new programs in the winter,
promoting them as if there was a brand new season beginning. ABC called this
the "second season," and the name stuck.
Chapter 26. 1966-67 Season:
"Same Is the Name of the Game"
Conveying the same essential message as the title of Chapter 19, this refers
to NBC’s "Fame Is the Name of the Game," one of the first made-for TV movies
(as Name of the Game, it later became a ninety-minute weekly series).
While far better than Adventures in Paradise, "Fame Is the Name of
the Game" did help pave the way for a slew of fairly interchangeable made-for-TV
films that quickly became network programming staples.
Chapter 27. 1967-68 Season:
"The Whole World Is Watching"
This was the chant of some protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention,
well aware that reporters were filming the violent confrontations between
them and the Chicago police force that was desperately attempting to keep
order. The phrase succinctly captured the essence of the new world order in
communication: a local event that previously would not have affected many
outside the region where it occurred now could become a national (or even
an international) phenomenon simply by being transmitted via television.
Chapter 28. 1968-69 Season:
"The One Punch Season"
An industry nickname given to this season because of the pressure put on
producers to reduce the violence in police and Western series. To counter
the rise in criticism of the effects of TV violence, industry insiders complained,
it seemed as if stories were effectively allowed just "one punch."
Chapter 29. 1969-70 Season:
"Effete and Impudent Snobs"
Vice President Spiro Agnew’s caustic description (delivered in November
1969) of the powers behind the TV news industry.
Chapter 30. 1970-71 Season:
"Totally Committed and Completely Involved"
A variation on CBS’s incessant hyping of its silly fall 1970 series
Storefront Lawyers. The phrase is also symbolic of TV’s fervent attempts
this season to make it appear as if it were keeping up with the whirlwind
of social change going on in America.
Chapter 31. 1971-72 Season:
"Not Just Another Pretty Face"
A reference to the lead characters in such series as Cannon and
Columbo, among the first successful departures from TV’s belief that
all leading men (at least in cop/detective shows) had to embody the image
of a classically handsome Hollywood star.
Chapter 32. 1972-73 Season:
Picking up on the sentiments expressed by Vice President Spiro Agnew (title
of Chapter 29), this term is from President Richard Nixon’s aide Clay Whitehead,
who was describing his view of the general content of TV network news and
public affairs programming.
Chapter 33. 1973-74 Season:
"The New Centurions"
Another nod to departures from Hollywood’s long-standing image of classically
handsome and often flawless heroes (similar in spirit to the sentiments behind
the title of Chapter 31). The reference here is to distinctive "new wave"
crime fighters such as Kojak and Shaft, as well as to innovative series such
as Police Story. The chapter title is literally taken from the title
of a book (later turned into a movie) written by Los Angles policeman-turned-author
Joseph Wambaugh, who created Police Story.
Chapter 34. 1974-75 Season:
A play on words, combining two key concepts. One comes from the political
term "affirmative action," meant to describe steps government, educational
institutions, and industry could take to advance the progress of previously-disadvantaged
minorities. This was reflected in television in the mid-1970s by the growth
of series starring minority performers. The other concept in the title refers
to a new variation of the FCC’s "access’ rule, meant to increase opportunities
for independent program producers. This season, it resulted in an effort by
the government to mandate the types of programs that could fill a few segments
of prime time.
Chapter 35. 1975-76 Season:
"Freddie or Not?"
Wordplay on the children’s game phrase "ready or not?" Here, the question
refers to whether or not ABC’s sudden rise to #1 ratings status was the result
solely of the efforts of its new programming boss, Fred Silverman. Or was
Silverman simply lucky in inheriting a lineup poised for success that just
needed fine tuning?
Chapter 36. 1976-77 Season:
"The Big Event"
Literally, the title refers to a new NBC series that season, The Big
Event, a revival of the Pat Weaver "spectacular" concept from the 1950s.
More elliptically, the title refers to ABC’s mega-hit Roots, which
broke all TV ratings records over eight nights in early 1977, ensuring that
ABC would win the season’s ratings contest while cementing the viability of
the miniseries format.
Chapter 37. 1977-78 Season:
"T & A TV"
In crude showbiz parlance (especially on stage and in movies), "T&A" refers
to a low-brow style of entertainment featuring as much revealing comely feminine
anatomy as it can get away with, focusing especially on chests and
derrieres. Here, it is a swipe at one aspect
of popular TV programming at the time, ranging from ABC’s Charlie’s Angels
and Three’s Company to NBC’s soapy miniseries The Moneychangers
Chapter 38. 1978-79 Season:
"Born Again Broadcasting"
The title is a reference to the apparent (and sudden) change of programming
strategies by Fred Silverman upon leaving ABC for NBC. One of his first acts
at his new network was to dump a planned sexy series on stewardesses for the
medical documentary series Lifeline. This was not the Fred Silverman
the TV industry had come to know. Instead, he seemed more like a reformed
sinner, "born again" and embracing a new approach to TV.
Chapter 39. 1979-80 Season:
"Gleam in the Eye"
Since the early 1950s, the CBS corporate symbol had been the "eye" logo,
so the network was often dubbed the "Eye" in industry parlance. The title,
then, refers to CBS’s stunning rebound in ratings performance this season
(fueled by Dallas and The Dukes of Hazzard), as the network
nosed out ABC in a down-to-the-wire season victory.
Chapter 40. 1980-81 Season:
A strike by actors (lasting more than two months) delayed production of
the fall 1980 TV series and threw the entire season into confusion.
Chapter 41. Transition:
"Stop and Start It All Again"
This is the title of a 1972 song by folk-country artist Jonathan Edwards.
It also refers to the object of this chapter: to stop the narrative flow for
a moment, to go back, and to focus on alternative access to the airwaves and
to the beginnings of cable television. Then, to start the narrative again
Chapter 42. 1981-82 Season:
Hill Street Blues was in the vanguard of a revival of NBC’s prime time
fortunes, though at first it made a greater impression among critics than
the general public. Accolades for this high-class series (and for NBC) often
conveniently overlooked the fact that it had its debut (and received its crucial
first renewal) during the NBC administration of Fred Silverman, who was still
thought of more as the champion of Charlie’s Angels, not innovative,
high-quality programming. A second meaning for the title is more direct: despite
such efforts, Silverman was fired as head of NBC.
Chapter 43. 1982-83 Season:
"Send in the "A" Team"
Literally, this refers to The A-Team, NBC’s most successful new
series this season. More generally, it also refers to the impressive list
of other new series that all debuted on NBC, including such A-list titles
as St. Elsewhere, Family Ties, Cheers and Remington
Chapter 44. 1983-84 Season:
This refers both to the era immediately following the end of M*A*S*H,
one of television’s most successful sitcoms ever, and to the specific spinoff
series on CBS, AfterMASH.
Chapter 45. 1984-85 Season:
"We Are the World"
The title of the U.S. charity single recorded in early 1985 to raise funds
for those starving in Africa, a follow-up the successful U.K. song "Do They
Know It’s Christmas?" Another interpretation of the title refers to the audience
on several continents who watched live TV coverage of the Live Aid concert
of July 1985 that raised money for the same cause.
Chapter 46. 1985-86 Season:
"Isn’t That Amazing?"
On the corporate ownership side, the title refers to a series of sudden
upheavals in the broadcasting status quo: the sale of the ABC network, announced
plans for a brand new network (Fox), and NBC at last winning a season
outright for the first time in almost thirty-five years—followed in the next
breath by that same network’s sale to GE. On the programming side, the title
refers to the surprising reemergence of the anthology format in prime time,
led by the Steven Spielberg-produced series Amazing Stories.
Chapter 47. 1986-87 Season:
"Finally a Fourth"
After decades of the FCC (and the TV industry) saying it would be good
for viewers to have available a fourth national commercial TV network in the
U.S., one at last appeared this season in the form of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox
Chapter 48. 1987-88 Season:
"The Boomer Years"
The immediate title reference is to ABC’s finely-crafted sitcom, The
Wonder Years, which debuted this season. More generally, the reference
is to the coming-of-age of the "baby boomer" generation, now inheriting some
of the upper echelons positions in the entertainment industry.
Chapter 49. 1988-89 Season:
Title alludes to Roseanne Barr’s sarcastic self-references in her stand-up
act, in which she described herself as a "domestic goddess." This season,
the success of her hit ABC sitcom accelerated the trend of stand-up comics
transferring to lead roles in TV comedies.
Chapter 50. 1989-90 Season:
"Mmmm … Doughnuts"
Primarily, this refers to the often-expressed love of Homer Simpson (of
Fox’s animated The Simpsons) for doughnuts (or any other tasty junk
food). It also alludes to the equally-strong admiration by FBI agent Dale
Cooper (of ABC’s Twin Peaks) for the local snacks he found in town
(although he tended to prefer the pie at the diner to the doughnuts and coffee
at the sheriff’s office).
Chapter 51. 1990-91 Season:
"The Live Storm"
Continuing the use of storm analogies for warfare (see Chapter 5), this
title refers to the live coverage (largely on cable) of the start of the invasion
of Iraq (dubbed "Operation Desert Storm").
Chapter 52. 1991-92 Season:
"The Sax Man"
During the 1992 presidential election campaign, Bill Clinton displayed
his "cool" side by donning dark glasses and playing the saxophone on the syndicated
Arsenio Hall Show. He subsequently won the election and became the
first baby boomer president
Chapter 53. 1992-93 Season:
The usual thumbnail description of NBC’s sitcom Seinfeld was that
it was "a show about nothing." In this, its fourth season, Jerry Seinfeld’s
show at last became a hit.
Chapter 54. 1993-94 Season:
"The Truth That’s Out There"
Debuting on Fox this season, The X-Files told viewers each week
that "The Truth Is Out There," pushing the show’s central premise that there
was a high-level governmental conspiracy to keep disturbing truths from the
American public. For the TV industry, the truth out there hit closer to home:
the ground rules for the business of television were changing rapidly. There
were new networks, new laws, and growing strength by cable TV, which was becoming
an increasingly significant player.
Chapter 55. 1994-95 Season:
"In the Blink of an Eye"
In the span of just one season, CBS (the "Eye" network) fell from #1 to
#3, suffered the loss of key affiliates, and ended up being sold. On a completely
different stage, in the trial of O. J. Simpson, the prosecution’s case suffered
irreparable harm in the blink of an eye when (on camera) Simpson tried on
a pair of gloves found at the murder scene, held up his hands, and showed
that they did not seem to fit him.
Chapter 56. 1995-96 Season:
"Ready For Reform"
Since the 1800s, outsiders running against entrenched urban political "machines"
(such as New York’s Tammany Hall) presented themselves as "reform" candidates.
In 1955, when Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley defeated one such opponent,
ward boss Paddy Bauler triumphantly exclaimed, "Chicago ain’t ready for reform!"
Here, the title specifically refers to the regulatory reform coming to the
television industry as a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. However,
there’s a hint of sarcasm present because some of the "reforms" heralded in
the new law would not end up achieving the spoken goals behind the new statute.
Instead, the changed legal landscape ended up allowing large media conglomerates
to expand further and to centralize their empires. Appropriately, a more sweeping
interpretation of the title would be that in the eyes of its critics, the
television/entertainment industry was truly in need of (ready for) reform.
Chapter 57. 1996-97 Season:
"All Around the Dial"
On a straightforward level, the title signals the major topic of this chapter:
a look at the tremendous number of offerings now available on the many cable
TV channels, providing enough for an evening’s entertainment without once
turning to the broadcast networks. At the same time, the chapter title also
alludes to a pair of songs that evoke a sense of loss in a changing world.
"Around the Dial" by The Kinks (from the 1981 album Give the People What
They Want) is the lament of a radio fan over the disappearance of a long-time
favorite DJ from the airwaves. Another song, "Sidewalks of New York (East
Side, West Side)" also laments the loss of familiar sights, with its refrain
"all around the town" describing New York City, circa 1894.
Chapter 58. 1997-98 Season:
"Devil with the Blue Dress On"
Title of a song originally released in 1964 by Frederick "Shorty" Long,
who co-wrote it with Motown producer William "Mickey" Stevenson. The more
popular (and far more frenetic) version was recorded in 1966 by Mitch Ryder
and The Detroit Wheels, pairing it with Little Richard’s "Good Golly Miss
Molly," evoking the image of a young woman whose irresistible allure is heightened
by the breathless descriptions of the observing male. The energetic duality
of this song makes the title particularly appropriate as an allusion to the
highly-charged coverage of the relationship between President Bill Clinton
and "Miss" Monica Lewinsky.
Chapter 59. 1998-99 Season:
"Sex and Violence"
Over the history of commercial television, two topics have consistently
raised the ire of critics and watchdogs of the medium: sex and violence. With
a deliberate sense of irony, this chapter title embraces those twin lightening
rods of criticism as it focuses on two enthusiastically praised cable series:
Sex and the City and The Sopranos. Despite the fact that they
pushed, respectively, sex and violence to new levels of explicit detail for
television, they were also touted as representing some of the best that TV
had to offer.
Chapter 60. 1999-2000 Season:
"Not the Final Answer"
As part of its contest routine, the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
would ask contestants, "Is that your final answer?" to confirm their chosen
selection. The twist on that phrase used for this chapter title hints that
ABC’s embracing of the quiz show as a quick fix to weak ratings will not prove
to be the "final answer" to its woes.
Chapter 61. 2000-01 Season:
"Reality Is Bad Enough"
The title of an album released in 1968 by folk singer Patrick Sky, this
expression carries an implicit sense of puzzlement here. Why turn the escapist,
entertainment side of television into an attempt to recreate "reality"? Isn’t
reality itself sometimes a bad enough experience on its own? And yet, from
reality game shows to series that blur the lines between news and entertainment,
television in this chapter seems irresistibly drawn to an odd amalgam of self-proclaimed
slices of the "real world." Yet it is actually only a heartbeat away from
a sobering dose of true reality on September 11, 2001.
Chapter 62. 2001-02 Season:
A direct reference to the most commonly-used description of the site of
New York’s World Trade Center buildings after they were destroyed in the hijacked
airplane attack of September 11, 2001. The phrase "ground zero" first came
into general use when describing the epicenter of a nuclear bomb explosion.
Chapter 63. 2002-03 Season:
"Go Pound Sand"
This title quotes an aggressive colloquial expression meant to indicate
that the speaker has vanquished an opponent and defiantly, almost profanely,
taunts that opponent to either fight back or walk away in abject defeat. In
this context, the expression can be aptly applied to the desert battlefield
conflict between the United States and Iraq, and then further to mirror President
George W. Bush’s post-war urge to the U.S.’s remaining opponents in Iraq to
"bring it on." On a more literal level, it also refers to the military bombardment
occurring in Iraq. Closer to home, the same sense of stand-off defiance also
applies to the competitive TV talent stage in such shows as American Idol.
"On Beyond Zebra"
Title of a 1955 book by children’s author Theodore Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss),
in which he postulates that there are letters in the alphabet that follow
"Z." We just never hear about them. In classic children’s alphabet books,
where each letter "stands" for some object beginning with that letter, "Z"
usually stands for "zebra." Here the chapter title is used metaphorically
to indicate that, even with this concluding chapter, there is much more to
follow in the story of television. We just have not seen it yet.
Now that you’ve read the stories behind the chapter titles,
pick up a copy of Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television to
follow the complete story, from beginning to end.
Copyright © 2003 by Walter J. Podrazik and Harry Castleman