The Box (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
For a medium that has transformed the world, television had unlikely, even uncertain beginnings. There is still dispute as to when, where, and what constituted the first public broadcast: Was it a toy statue of the comic-strip character Felix the Cat or a crude drawing of a dollar sign? (Either one could be seen as appropriate and would serve as an apt, even symbolic representation of the new technology and its impact.) From the first, the producers as well as the consumers were baffled: Was television a vehicle for news or entertainment? Was it radio with pictures, a newsreel in the home? Or was it—is it—something entirely different? Above all, what did one do with television—and what did it do to human beings?
Such questions intrigued the men and women who pioneered television and television broadcasting during its first forty years, and their stories have been captured in Jeff Kisseloff’s candid, iconoclastic, and ultimately revealing book, The Box: An Oral History of Television, 1920-1961. Here, in their own words, with their likes and prejudices faithfully recorded and presented, their friendships and animosities carefully preserved and displayed, are the producers, directors, writers, executives, and performers who first established television and then transformed it from a novel technology to a central feature of modern culture.
In that sense, the sense of television as a central factor in modern culture, one of the...
(The entire section is 1762 words.)
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