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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Books about TV: The Encyclopedia of 20th-Century American Television

Wanted to do a write-up about another one of the books in my television collection. "The Encyclopedia of 20th-Century American Television" by Ron Lackmann, copyright 2003 Checkmark Books, an imprint of Facts on File, Inc tells the story of 20th century US television in an alphabetical model.

The non-fiction book includes an introduction, an A to Z listing, Appendixes, a Bibliography and an Index. Unlike many earlier informative books about television, this volume lists not just important series, but also influential stars and behind-the-scenes personnel. Not every soap opera is listed and the ones that are don't list all cast members due to space. The soaps (daytime and primetime) mentioned in the index under the heading soap operas are All My Children, Another World, As the World Turns, The Bold and the Beautiful, The Colbys, Dallas, Dark Shadows, Days of Our Lives, Dynasty, The Edge of Night, Falcon Crest, Family, The First Hundred Years, From These Roots, General Hospital, Guiding Light, Knots Landing, Love of  Life, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, The Nurses, One Life to Live, Peyton Place, Ryan's Hope, Santa Barbara, Search for Tomorrow, The Secret Storm, Soap, The Young and the Restless, and Young Dr. Malone. If a program aired less than a year or 26 episodes unless it was very significant it won't be mentioned. That said landmark miniseries like Roots have an entry. This wasn't written by someone who knows soaps, just to give one example for the All My Children entry Susan Lucci of course is mentioned as are David Canary along with some cast members who were part of the show at the beginning or were famous. The AW entry barely mentioned anyone who first appeared on the program after the early 70s. Some shows have more specific information than others and there are occasional typos like in one place Capwell (from Santa Barbara) is spelled Capweel.

The appendix section has an A and a B entry. A are top rated programs from 1952-1999, while the other is a list of winners of Primetime Emmys from 1948-1999. 

This book is great if you want an overview of shows, but it isn't specific enough for the "serious" soap opera fan. I wouldn't use it to write a report on the genre as while so many series are mentioned by name, there isn't enough details to fill a long paper. So calling it an encyclopedia is apt as most give a quick overview, and are best to use to discover what else you'd like to learn about in more detail.

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