Historians are not certain of the first image broadcast by television. Perhaps it was the toy figure of the comic strip character Felix the Cat; perhaps a dollar sign. Either would be appropriate and equally true—or false. So much is unclear about this medium which is so relatively new—the first commercial broadcast began in July, 1941. For that reason alone, Jeff Kisseloff’s THE BOX: AN ORAL HISTORY OF TELEVISION, 1920-1961 is an invaluable resource.
Yet THE BOX is more than a series of archival information. It is a glorious unfolding of stories by brash, opinionated, and often brilliant men and women who created the medium which has helped to create modern American—-and, by extension, world-wide—culture. They are here: Don Hewitt of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), establishing the style of hard-nosed, hard-hitting journalism that resulted in the acclaimed 60 MINUTES series and the excesses of tabloid journalism; Red Barber, bringing major league baseball into the living rooms of America with a sophistication far in advance of the technology at his disposal; Milton Berle and Bishop Fulton Sheen, two widely divergent superstars of the early days of television but linked, improbably yet inevitably, on the same, small black and white screen.
Television changed how Americans looked at—and thought about and acted on—entertainment, religion, politics and economics. More people watched the episode of I LOVE LUCY about the birth...
(The entire section is 372 words.)
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