Entertainment Book Club

Television Books - Selections

The Last Lone Inventor : A Tale of Genius, Deceit, and the Birth of Television
by Evan I. Schwartz (Author)
Paperback: 352 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.88 x 8.04 x 5.29 Publisher: Perennial; (May 13, 2003)

In a story that is both of its time and timeless, Evan I. Schwartz tells a tale of genius versus greed, innocence versus deceit, and independent brilliance versus corporate arrogance. Many men have laid claim to the title "father of television," but Philo T. Farnsworth is the true genius behind what may be the most influential invention of our time. Driven by his obsession to demonstrate his idea,by the age of twenty Farnsworth was operating his own laboratory above a garage in San Francisco and filing for patents. The resulting publicity caught the attention of RCA tycoon David Sarnoff, who became determined to control television in the same way he monopolized radio. Based on original research, including interviews with Farnsworth family members, The Last Lone Inventor is the story of the epic struggle between two equally passionate adversaries whose clash symbolized a turning point in the culture of creativity.

Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live
by Tom Shales, James Andrew Miller
Hardcover: 566 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.85 x 9.52 x 6.34
Publisher: Little Brown & Company; 1st edition (October 2002)

For the first time ever, with the rare cooperation of reclusive SNL producer and creator Lorne Michaels, Pulitzer-Prize winning television critic Tom Shales and James Miller have interviewed the stars, the writers, the crew, and the special guests who have made "Saturday Night Live" the greatest long-running comedy of all time. From these backstage stories and uncensored memories, they have woven a brilliant oral history that stands as the definitive account of the show's history. The creative frenzies, the clashing egos, the actors who went on to megastardom in movies and those who just disappeared, the origins of famous routines, the censorship battles, the humor so corrosive that it never got on the air, the love affairs, the drugs, the ferocious feuds, the good hosts and the bad-it's all here, much of it for the first time, and all of it from the people who lived through it.

Give Me a Break : How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media...
by John Stossel (Author)
Hardcover: 294 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.08 x 9.38 x 6.34
Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (January 20, 2004)

When he hit the airwaves thirty years ago, Stossel helped create a whole new category of news, dedicated to protecting and informing consumers. As a crusading reporter, he chased snake-oil peddlers, rip-off artists, and corporate thieves, winning the applause of his peers. But along the way, he noticed that there was something far more troublesome going on: While the networks screamed about the dangers of exploding BIC lighters and coffeepots, worse risks were ignored. And while reporters were teaming up with lawyers and legislators to stick it to big business, they seldom reported the ways the free market made life better. In Give Me a Break, Stossel explains how ambitious bureaucrats, intellectually lazy reporters, and greedy lawyers make your life worse even as they claim to protect your interests. Taking on such sacred cows as the FDA, the War on Drugs, and scaremongering environmental activists -- and backing up his trademark irreverence with careful reasoning and research -- he shows how the problems that government tries and fails to fix can be solved better by the extraordinary power of the free market. He traces his journey from cub reporter to 20/20 co-anchor, revealing his battles to get his ideas to the public, his struggle to overcome stuttering, and his eventual realization that, for years, much of his reporting missed the point. Stossel concludes the book with a provocative blueprint for change: a simple plan in the spirit of the Founding Fathers to ensure that America remains a place "where free minds -- and free markets -- make good things happen."

Reading Sex and the City
by Kim Akass (Editor), Janet McCabe (Editor)
Paperback: 288 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.86 x 8.40 x 5.46 Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; (April 24, 2004)

Although HBO's Sex and the City has won Emmy, Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe awards, film studies lecturers Akass and McCabe are peeved that some find the show a "'worthless pile of swill' with no cultural relevance." With this wide-ranging collection of essays, they set out to dispute that view, calling on various contributors to reveal the myriad ways of interpreting the show's plot and characterization. Sex's narrator, Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker), details the exploits of gal pals Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte, simultaneously exploring issues of sex, independence and relationships from a decidedly female perspective. The book's most heated debate centers on whether the overall image of women on the show is positive or negative. Are Carrie and company third-wave feminists who won't conform to a preconceived image of emancipation? Or are they enmeshed in a traditional yearning for Mr. Right? In the 21st century, according to most contributors, happy endings are relative. The book covers a wide array of topics, such as the symbiotic relationship between fashion and costume, and historical representations (by Woody Allen and Theodore Dreiser, among others) of single New York women. Some writers criticize the show's image of men and the instances of lesbian homoeroticism, claiming both detract from the celebration of women, sex and gay life. Others enjoy walking in Carrie's Manolo Blahniks. Most of the analysis is thought provoking, and the majority of the clearly written arguments allow readers to make the final judgment. Some viewers may not crave such scrutiny, but other fans will enjoy the added depth. Photos

The Simpsons and Society: An Analysis of Our Favorite Family and Its Influence in Contemporary Society
by Steven Keslowitz
Paperback: 160 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.42 x 8.56 x 5.58
Publisher: Hats Off Books; (October 2003)

A recent internet poll of "most admired Americans" placed the comic everyman Homer Simpson at the top of the heap, outdistancing such patriotic figures as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. What does that say about the United States of America? What would Immanuel Kant say about Homer's approach to parenting? What would Neil Postman say about Homer's excessive television watching? How does The Simpsons portray Descartes' Evil Genius argument? In what ways does Homer represent the industrialized employee? In The Simpsons and Society, Steven Keslowitz explores the world of The Simpsons as it relates to contemporary society. Inside, readers will find discussions of whether Homer is a good father, whether Bart is truly America's "bad boy", whether Maggie should remain quiet, and whether Lisa is truly a "Simpson." Additionally, Keslowitz addresses the age old question of whether money invariably creates happiness, as he analyzes the actions and mindset of the rich capitalist, C. Montgomery Burns. And, just for fun, Keslowitz also analyzes the importance of Marge¡¯s hair. Keslowitz has also included essays pertaining to medical malpractice (Dr. Nick), media culture, American Exceptionalism, how The Simpsons matches up against other TV sitcoms (specifically focusing on how Homer¡¯s parenting techniques compare with those utilized by Bill Cosby on The Cosby Show), Simpsonian news and views, Descartes' Evil Genius argument, American Industrialization, and more. Each essay relates some aspect of American culture to Simpsonian life. Full of quotes, jokes, and insight, this book is for every Simpsons fan! As Homer would say ... mmm ... bookalicious.

The Pythons
by Graham Chapman (Author), Michael Palin (Author), John Cleese (Author), Terry Gilliam (Author), Eric Idle (Author), Terry Jones (Author), Bob McCabe (Author)
Hardcover: 368 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.32 x 12.60 x 10.20
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; (October 7, 2003)

Python fans will need to clear a large space on their bookshelf or coffee table for The Pythons--a big, vital autobiography of the comedy troupe. This is an oral history by the six members (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin) from birth to--in the case of Chapman--death. We get reminisces about childhood, university days, early successes, and rich details about the landmark Flying Circus TV series and subsequent films. The voices are fresh (with expectation of Michael Palin's insightful diary entries), not just complied from earlier publications. "Due to his insistence of being inconveniently dead," Chapham's voice is heard through his longtime partner David Sherlock, his brother and sister-in-law (and some archival materials). As a whole, the six impart a refreshing ability to deal honestly with the frustrations that arose over the years and it comes out in the text even when events are recalled differently. The book is not a light read (figuratively and literally), perhaps a smaller size would have been better for the amount of text; a cursory glance at the coffee table is tough. What does fill the book is an abundance of photos (over 1,000), most never published and many from the troupe's private collections. Along with concept sketches, Gilliam's drawings and doodles, and a few correspondences, this is a keepsake memento of the legendary group.

Ball of Fire : The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball
by Stefan Kanfer (Author)
Hardcover: 384 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.35 x 9.50 x 6.60
Publisher: Knopf; (August 19, 2003)

Those expecting a vicious Hollywood tell-all from Stefan Kanfer¡¯s Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball will be disappointed. Kanfer, whose past work includes a biography of Groucho Marx and a history of the animation industry, comes to his famous red-headed subject with admiration, and readers will be drawn by his exuberance for early film and television history. Kanfer opens with a brief recounting of Ball's tragic childhood (her father died of typhoid when she was 3 years old) and her early career as an unintentionally starving model in New York City. The significant portion of the book begins, however, when Ball gets her first offer for a stint of film work in California and finds herself launched on a moderately successful film career. Here Kanfer provides details of the inner workings of United Artists, Columbia, and RKO as Ball does battle with Ginger Rogers, Kathryn Hepburn, and a host of other young actresses struggling for screen time. But, as Kanfer notes, it was in television that Ball made her great mark, starring with her husband Desi Arnaz. I Love Lucy debuted in 1951, and readers will delight in Kanfer¡¯s behind-the-scenes details of the show¡¯s production. The first situation comedy to be filmed before a live audience, Lucy offered countless challenge--technical, professional, and personal?for the volatile couple. Kanfer argues that Ball is one of the few truly enduring television personalities to emerge from the early years of television. His book, entertaining as it is educational, does much to secure her legacy

One More Time : A Memoir
by Carol Burnett (Author)
Paperback: 365 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.85 x 8.00 x 5.20
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; (August 12, 2003)

Carol Burnett spent most of her childhood in a Depression-scarred Hollywood neighborhood, where she lived in a single-room apartment with her endearingly batty grandmother, Nanny, a hypochondriacal Christian Scientist with a buried past. The child of two alcoholic parents, Burnett presents a sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking coming-of-age: from her sadly hopeful mother, who was hooked on Tinseltown fantasy, to the first signs of her own comic gift; from happy weekends spent with her father, to their last tragic meeting in a public sanatorium. Featuring a new Afterword by the author, about teaming up with her daughter to bring this story to Broadway, One More Time is an intimate, touching, and astonishing narrative of a financially desperate but emotionally rich childhood on the wrong side of Hollywood¡¯s tracks.

by Merv Griffin (Author)
Hardcover: 240 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.86 x 9.57 x 6.40
Publisher: Simon & Schuster; (January 7, 2003)

Griffin, a self-described "Depression baby," lost his home to the bank as a kid and admits that as an adult "I've placed far too much value on material things." Yet his entrepreneurial nature is the dramatic wheel that drives this autobiography. The book's chatty style is reminiscent of a talk show, and beneath its light tone are suggestions of a complex, enthralling person. Dubbed the "Merv of All Trades" by Larry King, Griffin mowed lawns, put out a newspaper and sold Christmas wreaths as a child in California. Early exposure to such stars as Errol Flynn came through his uncle Elmer, a national tennis doubles champion and founder of the Beverly Hills Country Club. Admittedly resentful of being told what to do, Griffin pursued a career as a band singer and eventually made a screen test, which resulted in the disastrous So This Is Love (1953). When Hollywood stardom didn't materialize, Griffin turned to TV; the book presents numerous profiles of the guests he hosted on his own show, from 1962 to 1986, including the temperamental Peter O'Toole and the hostile Al Pacino. Such diverse personalities as Rosalind Russell, Ronald Reagan (who actually liked peanut brittle, not jelly beans), Whitney Houston and Peter Ustinov fill these entertaining pages. The final portion covers Griffin's years as a hotel magnate, bout with prostate cancer, psychoanalysis, divorce and weight problems. He conveys his upbeat outlook most effectively when he comments, "I don't watch Survivor. If something requires cheating, lying and cruelty to other people to stay on top, it's nothing I want any part of." Photos.

Are You Hungry, Dear? : Life, Laughs, and Lasagna by Danelle Morton (Author), Doris Roberts (Author)
by Danelle Morton (Author), Doris Roberts (Author)
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Griffin Trade Paperback; (May 1, 2004)

In Are You Hungry, Dear?, Doris takes her signature line from the show and makes it her own in a program that pairs hilarious stories and dramatic turning points from her fascinating life with delicious recipes from her kitchen. She shares the lessons learned in two marriages and numerous love affairs, her struggles with her own family, and her heroic efforts to build a career and raise a son on her own. Those who love feisty, judgmental, opinionated Marie Barone will see how Doris is all that and more: tough, sweet, brave, direct, and vibrant. Listeners will embrace the unforgettable life of this very open star, and relate to the issues--like ageism in Hollywood, sex in the senior years, and her daughter-in-law¡¯s imperfect meat sauce--that Doris cares about passionately.

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