Thursday, July 28, 2005

Booknote: Kissing Bill O'Reilly, Roasting Miss Piggy

Title: Kissing Bill O'Reilly, Roasting Miss Piggy: 100 Things to Love and Hate About TV
Author: Ken Tucker
Publication Information: New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005
ISBN: 0-312-33057-X
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Criticism. Popular Culture (Television)
Pages: 254

Ken Tucker, film critic for New York magazine, has put together his list of 100 things to love and hate about television. It seems a few of these books of lists are coming out recently, such as Bernard Goldberg's 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America: (and Al Franken is Number 37). I have not read Goldberg's book yet, but I have seen him do a couple of rounds on the news show circuit, so I guess I have an idea of the gist of his book. It does not seem a positive list, but I will reserve judgment until I at least look at the book.

Ken Tucker's book is a light and entertaining read. You may not agree with some of his choices ("you mean you love MTV's Real World but hate the videos?" He also hates The Brady Bunch, with a passion. Then again, so do I. ), but overall, it is well written. His explanations are well reasoned. He does provide some interesting insights on various television shows as well as on events in television history. I also found the book interesting for the various references to shows before my time, so I learned a few things in the process as well. He chooses the best and worst parents by decade starting from the 1950s. You may want to see if you agree or not. He does a good job of making a distinction between the artistic quality of a show and the nostalgia effect, namely when people who grew up idolizing a show as children see it as great even though the quality of the show is, well, tripe (ok, or not so good). All in all, he provides a good look at television, and I think it will give readers material to think about and argue about with their friends. Readers who watch a lot of television will likely enjoy it and argue some of the choices with the most energy. But even casual television watchers like me will find things to love and hate as well. The sections are short, and the tone is casual and conversational, making this book a good leisurely read. Highly recommended.

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