The View from Highway 1 (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
If a reasonably intelligent person were to read carefully through the latest “Fall Preview” of TV Guide, by far the most popular magazine in America, he would probably have a difficult time taking seriously most of the new offerings. Redd Foxx describes his new variety program, for only one example, with the following: “’I’m going to do anything that can possibly be different from what’s been done before,’ he says. ’I’ll be doing skits, bits, obnoxious things. I might play “Romeo and Juliet” with a gorilla.’” “The show will be aimed at adults,” TV Guide replies glibly. Michael J. Arlen, acutely aware of the difficulties of dealing with such deliberate nonsense, nevertheless takes television, its form and content, seriously. In a collection of twenty-one critical essays published originally in the New Yorker between September, 1974, and December, 1975, Arlen uncovers the significance of television, the meanings that lie deep beyond the meretricious, banal, and outright sappy shimmering and flickering surfaces that play on the millions of Zeniths and Sonys throughout the land. In doing so, he performs a great service to those who wish to understand the cultural and sociological and even psychological effects of the medium that enthralls or deadens but nonetheless captures anywhere from one-quarter to one-third of the nation on any viewing night.
In his truly fine introduction to the collection, Arlen...
(The entire section is 1805 words.)
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