In this timely examination of television and American identity, Cummins and Gordon take readers on an informed walk through the changes that TV has already wrought-and those still likely to confront us.
Commercial television in America is less than 60 years old, yet it has had an enormous impact on what we like, what we do, what we know, and how we think. A family transplanted from the 1940s to the present day would certainly be stunned by a fundamentally different world: instead of gathering in the living room for a shared evening of radio, they would be scattered around the house to indulge their individual interests on one of a hundred cable channels; instead of a society with rigid racial and ethnic divisions, they would see people of different ethnicities in passionate embraces; and certainly they would see very different sets of values reflected across the board. They would, in short, find themselves in an unrecognizable America, one both reflected in and shaped by television, a medium that has been shown to have an unprecedented influence on our lives both for better and for worse.
By focusing on the development of television within the cultural context that surrounds it, and drawing on such phenomena as quiz shows, comedy hours, the Kennedy assassination, the Olympics, sitcoms, presidential ads, political debates, MTV, embedded journalism, and reality TV, the authors reveal television's impact on essential characteristics of American life. They cover topics as diverse as politics, crime, medicine, sports, our perceptions, our values, our assumptions about privacy, and our unquenchable need for more things. In addition, they consider the future of the medium in the light of the proliferation of programming options, the prevalence of cameras and receivers in our lives, the growing links between TV and computers, and the crossed boundaries of television throughout the world. [via]