(Television History and Trivia)
THE HOLOGLOBE PRESS
Victor Edward Swanson,
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- - - T.H.A.T., Edition No. 20 - - -
To begin this edition of T.H.A.T., I must pass along some facts. It was around 1972 that I became a regular subscriber to Variety, which is a weekly entertainment-themed publication, which is produced by the same entity that publishes Daily Variety. A short while after becoming a subscriber to Variety, I became a regular subscriber to Broadcasting, which became known as Broadcasting & Cable in 1993, and then I became a regular subscriber to TV Guide. Since the early 1970s, I have gone to libraries to look at past editions of Variety, Broadcasting & Cable (or the magazine under the other titles that it has had), and TV Guide; in fact, for instance, I have seen most of the television reviews that exist in editions of Variety that were published between the late 1940s and the early 1970s by looking at the editions at the main library of the Detroit Public Library system. I am very familiar with how Variety, Broadcasting & Cable (et cetera), and TV Guide have changed over the years, and I am also familiar with the development of newspapers and magazines in the country since the 1700s, such as by having read such books as A History of American Magazines 1741-1880 by Frank Luther Mott and American Journalism: A History: 1690-1960 by Frank Luther Mott, and by having taken journalism courses at Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan).
Now that you have that information, you are aware of my background, and I can now talk about TV Guide, which was given an extreme makeover in October 2005, particularly through the edition dated October 17-23, 2005 (or October 17, 2005). TV Guide was first published in 1953, and since 1953, the magazine has gone through changes, though I will say only "slight" changes in most cases. Between the edition for September 13, 2003, and the edition for October 9, 2005, the magazine went through somewhat big changes a couple times; for example, the edition of TV Guide for September 13, 2003, had less information in the program grids than the previous edition had, and TV Guide had less information--such as about programs but not channels--in the program grids starting with the edition for February 28, 2005. On Friday, October 15, 2005, I received in the mail a copy of the edition of TV Guide for October 17-23, 2005, and because of that edition, I can say that the magazine went through a "big" revision with that edition, and a discussion of the new TV Guide is the main topic of this edition of T.H.A.T., and good points and bad points are going to be presented, and I make my presentation as a review--giving facts and commentary.
Generally speaking, the new weekly publication, which is eight inches by ten inches and a half--is now made up of two main parts. A little more than half of each edition is made up of articles and snippets and photographs. And each edition is made up of 39 pages of program listings (program grids and some snippet articles).
By the way, page one of the first edition of the revised publication began with: "Dear Readers: Welcome to the first issue of your new TV Guide. It's a new size. A new attitude. A new magazine...." Right from the start, the writer was pushing the hype, the flash, the superficial.... I ask: Did the writer have to use two non-sentences in the first paragraph of the statement? There were more non-sentences (such as "Exclusive, behind-the-scenes scoop about your favorite shows and stars."). Should not writers use full sentences? Ian Birch (Editor-in-Chief of TV Guide) wrote the material on page one.
Actually, I received in the mail two copies of the new TV Guide. The first copy arrived in the mail on October 15, and I barely looked at it (busy installing electricity lines (12/2 WG ) underground for friends and doing other work for friends) before giving it to a friend a few days later, a day or so after having received a second copy of the new publication in the mail with an edition of Broadcasting & Cable (both of which were wrapped in heavy plastic wrapping). This review is based on the second copy of the new TV Guide that I received. (I later received my first copy back.)
Here is problem one. The first copy was missing pages and had additional pages. For example, the pages of program grids for Saturday were missing (which should have existed somewhere in the back of the publication), and the first section of listings for Sunday was missing, and there were duplicate pages of grids associated with Tuesday and Wednesday. (Because of how the magazine was made, there were missing pages and duplicate pages in the beginning of the edition). This copy was a very bad introduction to a new product line, especially considering the publication has existed since 1953 (and considering the magazine was not the first edition of a first-time publication).
In essence, my first copy of the first edition of the new TV Guide had no information about the programming of the local television stations (which can be another "horrible" thing that I could have talked about in the previous edition of T.H.A.T.); however, the first copy did give information about programming of the broadcast networks during prime time, or the edition hinted that what television stations associated with broadcast networks could be showing during prime time. It can be said that not only were the commercial television stations not listed but also the local PBS affiliate was not listed; the PBS feed times were listed for programs, but the real schedule for the PBS station in Detroit, which plays some programs at times that are different from PBS feed times, was not listed, and so, for instance, I could not get a good idea about what the PBS affiliate is really doing, which might be airing non-PBS-type programs, such as airing The Red Green Show or outdoor programs produced in Michigan on Thursday. No dates were shown on the pages that had the program grids, and they should have been there; the second edition of TV Guide (October 24-30, 2005) would have the dates. The grids provided little information beyond the names of programs; for example, the description of a program, if there was a description, was not much more than a very short sentence, and it was rare when performers got any listings (I will talk a little more about descriptions later in this edition of T.H.A.T.).
Stop! Hold it! Time out!
I now give an example, and I am using Emma Samms in the example (but you can use any performer you want, from Henry Jones to Lillian Lehman). Because of the way in which TV Guide is now designed or formatted or constructed, it is less likely that I am going to be aware of a new movie or a new show in which Emma Samms might be in as a second-listed performer or third-listed performer or lower-than-fourth-listed performer before it airs. Now, I have to do the work that TV Guide sort of used to do and should be doing--I have to do research, such as check databases for articles about Emma Samms or see an Emma Samms Web site (fan site) to get information about when Emma Samms might be seen in a new production (and I may not come up with information about her appearing in a show till after the show airs). TV Guide used to report more information, at least somewhat like a "paper of record." You should see most viewers are now less likely to know when actors that they want to see can be seen in new productions. (This theme falls in the category of "one of those horrible things for actors these days.")
Okay! In the program-grid section, there was a "Highlights" feature (two pages) associated with each day (mostly related to prime time), and it gave a bit of information about a few programs (maybe a dozen). The snippet articles did not pass along much information about guest performers, and some of the information was repeated information (though formatted slightly differently) from the "Hot List" part of the magazine (which existed in the other main part of the magazine). TV Guide wasted space in relation to presenting information about some movies or shows--hinting at the theme of a movie or an episode of a series in the program grid and then giving about the same information in the "Highlights" part (and foregoing new and more information, such as about guest stars and their characters). (I could talk about the bad tone of some of the pieces in the "Highlights" sections, but I will not, since I would have to put together a long article focusing on writing.)
Forget about the local television stations for a moment. The prime-time program grid for Wednesday, October 12, 2005 (of the October 9-16, 2005, edition of TV Guide), covered 70 cable channels and superstations (this edition was the last edition of the old format). The prime-time program grid for Wednesday, October 19, 2005 (of the October 17-23, 2005, edition), covered 72 cable channels and superstations. You should see not much of a gain was really made by going from the old format to the new format.
No matter which copy of the first edition of the new type of TV Guide that I looked at, I see the same big error that should not have occurred. On page 106, there was a heading entitled "Masterpiece Theatre." Under that heading was text that noted that a program entitled "Sherlock Holmes and the Silk Stalkings" was going to air on PBS on Sunday. The title was wrong. The program was Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking. TV Guide made an error, and TV Guide should not have made such an error.
Consider some general statements. TV Guide wasted space in the way in which it listed who was showing up on the late-night talk shows, such as The Late Show with David Letterman, in the program-grid part of the magazine; the information could have been put in a smaller space (using smaller letters), and the opened-up space could have be used to give more information about shows, such as guest stars and themes. I think the "Previously On..." section (in the program-grid part) was a waste of space, and it was space that should have gone to giving more information about shows and such; anyway, the shows covered were the mostly well-known shows, which people know about, and some of the shows probably got more than one run during the week (the week associated with this TV Guide).
Finally, I bring the other main part of the publication into my discussion, but in order to talk about the other main part, I have to talk about other magazines and publications that are available in the marketplace, such as at bookstores and grocery stores. Entertainment Weekly is a weekly magazine that focuses on movies, television shows, books, and more (and it has no program grids or the like). Inside TV is a magazine that focuses on the television industry, and it even has information about some shows, but it has no program grids or television listings. In Touch is a weekly magazine with entertainment information, gossip-like stuff, and photographs related to performers. OK!, People, Teen People, and US are some of the magazines that give information about performers, such as television performers, and what the performers are doing or not doing. For celebrity news, which may be or may not be useful, people often look at Globe, The National Enquirer, National Examiner, Star, and Sun. Magazines exist that focus on particular shows; for example, around the middle of October 2005, I found a magazine focusing on only Battlestar Galactica, a magazine focusing on only Lost, and a magazine focusing on only Smallville at a bookstore, And, of course, there are publications that focus on the "soaps," such as Soap Opera Digest and Soap Opera Weekly.
Those are the only magazines that I will report on, not wishing to give any more information, such as on all the magazines about hair or fashion in relation to the "stars" that exist.
I now give attention to the other main part of the new TV Guide, and in talking about the other main part of the new TV Guide, I will from time to time talk about the program-grid part (or the television-listings part), too. There was a "Hot List" section, and it gave information about 21 shows (basically, only well-known shows), and that information was about what episodes were about, but then the information was repeated on "Highlights" pages in the television-listings part of the magazine, so, in essence, I got the same information (which was "fluff" information) in two parts of the magazine and got no real extra information (such as more information about guest stars and more details about other shows) in the program-grid part of the magazine, and that was a waste of space or paper. The best piece of information in this part of the magazine was an article entitled "CSI: New Blood: Fresh faces liven up NY's force" (which was on page 37), and it was the best article because it helped me learn about actors and characters in shows (in this day and age when it is hard to see the credits on TV shows, especially the closing credits of shows, a topic that I have talked about in a past edition of T.H.A.T.)
Let me stop here so that I can expand my discussion. I want you to keep in mind that article entitled "CSI: New Blood...." and read information about what I have as impressions of the first four editions of the new TV Guide in relation to the non-program-grid part of the new TV Guide. I am going to show you what is "useless information" or non-helpful information when compared to the article focusing on the CSI franchise, which noted a change in the regular cast of CSI: Miami and the regular cast of CSI: NY.
Here we go! On page 37 of the first edition of the new magazine (October 17-23), there was a bunch of useless information under "the Love Column." In the October 17-23 edition, there were four pages of material that made up the "Photo Booth," and the October 24-30 edition had three pages that made up the "Behind the Scenes" section, which was made up of perfect stuff for a Hollywood-gossip-type magazine (and not TV Guide), and page 15 of the October 24-30 edition had the useless "TV Guide party" stuff, and there was a "Behind the Scenes" section of useless stuff in the October 31-November 6 edition, and there was a "Behind the Scenes" section of useless stuff in the November 7-13 edition. (Boy, I saw a lot of the same few faces in the four editions of the new TV Guide.) A number of articles could be put under a review heading entitled "so what?" such as "LOST: Burning Questions" (on pages 18-20 in the October 17-23 edition), "tvguide.com POLL" about Oprah Winfrey (on page 21 in the October 17-23 edition), "My Extreme Experience" (on page 28 in the October 17-23 edition), "LILLY LETS HER HAIR DOWN" (on page 37 in the October 17-23 edition), "Is it Just Me? (on page 50 in the October 17-23 edition), "Oprah's Most Wanted" (on page 8 in the October 24-31 edition), "JUST THE FACTS" (on page 11 in the October 24-31 edition), "ODDS ARE" (on page 11 in the October 24-31 edition), "SURVIVOR: Burning Questions" (on pages 32 and 33 in the October 24-31 edition), "Exclusive! THE HOUSE THAT EDIE BUILT" (on pages 40-41 in the October 24-31 edition), "Radar: Stuff we can't live without" (on pages 44 and 45 in the October 24-31 edition), "The All-American Campout" (on pages 50-52 in the October 24-31 edition), "It's Time to Party!" (on page 16 in the October 31-November 6 edition), "The Unsinkable Martha Stewart" (on pages 18-21 in the October 31-November 6 edition), and "...Inside Prison Break's Tattoo" (on page 24 in the November 7-13 edition). Much of what was presented in this part of each of the first four editions of TV Guide was really shallow stuff and was the type of stuff that is better suited to other publications.
Here are some general comments about the first four editions of the magazine. I found too many typographical errors for such a publication as TV Guide, and I now show one that was in the November 7-13 edition--on page 64 under "American Chopper" (at 10:00 p.m. on the Discovery Channel), you will see "...from Mikey and and an unwilling Junior." (TV Guide should have no typographical errors, since a lot of people are paid money to make sure there are no errors.) It is too bad TV Guide had to give only partial titles to shows at times in the television-listings part of magazines, such as "Homewrec," which was on page 97 of the October 24-30 edition, at the expense of putting, for example, "New" (to note a show is "new") in the listings. (If TV Guide abbreviated "New" at all the places it is used in the listings section of its magazine, such as by using "N" (in red ink), TV Guide could put in more useful information.) There was too much duplication of synopsis information for a particular show (such as up to three times--in (1) the "HOT List," (2) "Highlights," and (3) "listings") when more different information could have been given. (Am I repeating myself about a topic?) Too much promotion for the same few shows was done, and I think it gave TV Guide a boring feeling (despite all the colored ink used). The first four covers (the cover page for the first four editions) looked too much the same, having all that "white" space and same structure (and I think the format could get boring quickly to readers). The "Movie Guide" pages are not very useful, promoting only a few movies, and it looks as if the section will come down to promoting the same few movies over the years (all of which have been seen many times by people and many of which probably already exist in VHF form or DVD form in the homes of viewers). I think the "C" (which denotes closed captioning") in the television listings section was unnecessary, since many shows are closed captioned, and I think putting an "H" to denote "HDTV" or "L" to denote "letter-box format" (and digital) would be more useful in this day and age when HDTV shows and the like are yet to be the majority of the shows. At the bottom of several pages in each edition of TV Guide, the definitions of the "Content Ratings" were given, and that was a waste of space, space that could have been used for more useful information (TV Guide should show the definitions only once in each edition, such as at the beginning of the television-listings part of the magazine). The "Record This!" recommendations were a waste of time, because people do not really need the recommendations, and considering all the shows that were in the listings, TV Guide gave note to a really small number and to some that--really--people did not need to waste tape (or whatever) on (and the "Record This!" symbol used in the television-listings part took up space that could have been better used for something else and could even be considered unnecessary clutter); by the way, in the October 31-November 6 edition, the symbol and feature was used on Monday Night Football, Medium (three repeat episodes on Monday), The Scorned (a movie on Lifetime on Monday), NCIS (on Tuesday), House (on Tuesday), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (on Tuesday), Criminal Mines (on Wednesday), That '70s Show (on Wednesday), Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy (on Wednesday), Survivor: Guatemala--The Maya Empire (on Thursday), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (on Thursday), The Apprentice (on Thursday), Supernanny (on Friday), Threshold (on Friday), What I Like About You (only the 8:00 p.m. episode on Friday), George Carlin: Life Is Worth Losing (on Saturday), Desperate Housewives (on Sunday), The Simpsons (only the 8:00 p.m. episode on Sunday), Law & Order: Criminal Intent (on Sunday) (I may have missed a few). Some of the synopses were useless or worse; for example, on page 76 of the November 7-13 edition, you will find "Freddie vies with Chris" (under the listing for Freddie), "Babe in bookstore" (under the listing for Stacked), and "Generational clash" (under the listing for Teen Angels).
I have some thoughts (in exaggerated form, maybe, sometimes). It seems to me, because of budget cuts at TV Guide and lack of direction, TV Guide will become nothing more than a publication that lists "Local Programming," "Various Programming," "Paid Programming," and "Movie" in the television-listings part. It seems the managers and writers at TV Guide would rather make articles, such as to get their names in print, than make and provide useful synopses and television-show listings, probably feeling working on synopses and television-shows listings is boring work. In a time when television listings in other publications, such as newspapers, are shallow or are being cut back and it is hard to read the credits of television shows (especially the closing credits), TV Guide is getting more involved in presenting material that already gets presented in other publications (such as photo magazines) and is leaving its niche behind, leaving a niche poorly covered (by the way, for instance, in the Detroit area, people who have been subscribing to The Macomb Daily for a while have seen the TV-listings magazine become less detailed recently). The new TV Guide is bad for the television industry, because it is not an improvement over the old TV Guide--and one improvement that is sorely needed is more information about when actors (more than only a few big already established stars) are appearing in shows and information that promotes who the nonestablished actors are so that viewers can follow actors, which is good for the producers of shows, since viewers can be attracted to their shows when viewers know what actors--those who have been around for a long time or not--are appearing in their shows (by the way, the cute Asian gal who appeared as "Misty" with Mel Gibson in the "Officer Steve" segments of Complete Savages last season was Candace Kita, and I pass that information along to all the guys who have never been able to find out who she was.)
That should be enough talk about the new TV Guide for now.
It is up to you to decide whether or not you think TV Guide is better in the new form than in the old form and whether or not you should buy it, but I will pass along one definite statement about TV Guide--It seems to me viewers will not be any more informed or clear about what is going on in the television industry based on what TV Guide now does.
It is time to provide answers to questions posed in T.H.A.T. #19, the previous edition of this monthly Internet-only publication. I talked about a syndicated comedy series in T.H.A.T. #19, a series that featured such performers as Vincent Price and Billy Van. You had to find the name of the series and the name of the nationally known disc jockey who took part in the series. The title of the series was The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, and the disc jockey who took part in the series was Wolfman Jack. I also talked about an episode of the original The Outer Limits series, and the episode was entitled "The Mutant." I wanted you to discover the name of the actor who played the dangerous scientist in the episode. The actor was Warren Oates. Finally, through the previous edition of T.H.A.T., I wanted you to come up with the answer to who played Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (a presentation of January 7, 1968) and who also played Dracula in Dracula (a TV movie of February 8, 1974). The actor was Jack Palance.
I only have one trivia question to pose to you in this edition of T.H.A.T., and the question is: Who hosted the TV Guide Award Show of June 13, 1961? The show is one of 21 shows that I can quickly find in my files (which are not complete) that have the words TV Guide in the title at the start. Some of the other shows associated with TV Guide that I have in my files are TV Guide Awards (February 1, 1999), TV Guide Awards (March 5, 2000), TV Guide Awards (March 7, 2001), TV Guide: Greatest Moments 2003 (December 28, 2003), TV Guide's 50 Best Shows of All Time (May 13, 2002), TV Guide - The First 25 Years (October 21, 1979), TV Guide: 1980 - The Year in Television (January 26, 1981), TV Guide's 40th Anniversary (December 20, 1993), and TV Guide's Truth Behind the Sitcoms 5 (May 4, 2000).
P.S. (No. 1): And here is something that I happened to notice in the edition of Variety for October 17-23, 2005 (page 63). An advertisement stated: "TWILIGHT ZONE ACTORS. If you appeared in the 1959-1964 Twilight Zone series, you are invited to the 2006 TZ Convention in NY Aug. 12-13 to sign autographs for $...." I now note that many actors who appeared in the series have died, such as Claude Akins, James Best, Lloyd Bochner, Wally Cox, Ivan Dixon, James Doohan, Herbie Faye, Ned Glass, James Gregory, Richard Haydn, Richard Kiel, Ida Lupino, Burgess Meredith, Elizabeth Montgomery, Agnes Moorehead, Warren Oates, Nehemiah Persoff, Vic Perrin, Inger Stevens, Ed Wynn, and Gig Young, but some actors are still alive, such as Shelley Berman, Carol Burnett, Veronica Cartwright, Peter Falk, Russell Johnson, Jack Klugman, Martin Landau, Cloris Leachman, Martin Milner, Billy Mumy, Leonard Nimoy, Mickey Rooney, and William Shatner, and there must be a number of extras and others that are still alive. Incidentally, the advertisement had a Web site listed, and the Web site was www.tzconvention.com.
P.S. (No. 2): An advertisement for TV Guide that I saw during prime time on Fox TV on October 9, 2005, had two actors say that they like the bigger format of TV Guide and the new movie section, which focuses on only the "best movies." Ugh!
copyright c. 2005
Date published: November 10, 2005
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