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Before the Title, Past
A Nonfiction Column
By Jeff Shelby

Don’t Change That Channel!

The writers strike has really disrupted my life. I am an unabashed fan of television, a slave to checking the schedule every evening to see which of my favorites is on. And I’ve got no issue with repeats, but after awhile, I start to miss original programming. It makes me cranky. I NEED my new episodes.

Unfortunately, though, the powers that be and the writers can’t seem to get on the same page. And being a writer myself, I feel compelled to support the folks who create my favorite shows. So while they are out on the picket lines, fighting for what they definitely deserve, I will keep my complaints to a minimum.

To get my fix, I’ve turned to books about television. Here are a few good ones that might keep you occupied while we wait for the writers to return:

The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present by Tim Brooks and Earle F. Marsh

This book is the end-all, be-all of modern television encyclopedias. Currently in its 9th edition, I can’t think of anything that isn’t in this book. Need the name of an actor? Need the name of a show? Want to know when a show first hit the air? Want to know anything related to television that might win you a ridiculous bet? Then you need this book.


Sitcoms: The 101 Greatest TV Comedies of All Time by Ken Bloom and Frank Vlastnik

I was raised on sitcoms. The Brady Bunch, I Love Lucy, Three’s Company, The Dick Van Dyke Show. So I’ve always had a particular affinity for goofy plots, the pratfalls and the way things were always solved for the better in half an hour. This book isn’t as heavy on facts as the Brooks and Marsh book, but it does provide the basics. What this book is heavy on is pictures, big, glossy photographs of the actors and casts and some never before seen behind the scenes photos. This is a great coffee table book and an excellent conversation piece.

Emergency!: Behind the Scene by Richard Yokley and Rozane Sutherland

Emergency! was one of my all-time favorite shows as a kid. I had a Squad 51 fireman’s hat and my sister and I used to pretend to be Johnny and Roy, running around the backyard saving imaginary people. This book provides the whole history behind the show. While most people tend to dismiss the show as 70’s camp, I prefer to view the show as the grandfather of the medical shows that have dominated the airwaves in the last 30 years, shows like St. Elsewhere, ER and CSI. Maybe that’s aiming high, but this was a highly entertaining show and it’s comforting to know that others share my enthusiasm for it.

Successful Television Writing by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin

Think you’ve got an idea for a show? Can you create the next big hit when the shows go back into production? Look no further. Goldberg and Rabkin, two television vets, take you behind the scenes and show you how it’s done. It’s not as easy as it might seem, but if you’ve got any inclination to see your name in the end credits, this one is a must read.

Now where’d I put the remote?

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