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Same Time, Same Station: Creating American Television, 1948–1961

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Ever wonder how American television came to be the much-derided, advertising-heavy home to reality programming, formulaic situation comedies, hapless men, and buxom, scantily clad women? Could it have been something different, focusing instead on culture, theater, and performing arts? In Same Time, Same Station, historian James L. Baughman takes readers behind the scenes of Ever wonder how American television came to be the much-derided, advertising-heavy home to reality programming, formulaic situation comedies, hapless men, and buxom, scantily clad women? Could it have been something different, focusing instead on culture, theater, and performing arts? In Same Time, Same Station, historian James L. Baughman takes readers behind the scenes of early broadcasting, examining corporate machinations that determined the future of television. Split into two camps—those who thought TV could meet and possibly raise the expectations of wealthier, better-educated post-war consumers and those who believed success meant mimicking the products of movie houses and radio—decision makers fought a battle of ideas that peaked in the 1950s, just as TV became a central facet of daily life for most Americans. Baughman’s engagingly written account of the brief but contentious debate shows how the inner workings and outward actions of the major networks, advertisers, producers, writers, and entertainers ultimately made TV the primary forum for entertainment and information. The tale of television's founding years reveals a series of decisions that favored commercial success over cultural aspiration.


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Ever wonder how American television came to be the much-derided, advertising-heavy home to reality programming, formulaic situation comedies, hapless men, and buxom, scantily clad women? Could it have been something different, focusing instead on culture, theater, and performing arts? In Same Time, Same Station, historian James L. Baughman takes readers behind the scenes of Ever wonder how American television came to be the much-derided, advertising-heavy home to reality programming, formulaic situation comedies, hapless men, and buxom, scantily clad women? Could it have been something different, focusing instead on culture, theater, and performing arts? In Same Time, Same Station, historian James L. Baughman takes readers behind the scenes of early broadcasting, examining corporate machinations that determined the future of television. Split into two camps—those who thought TV could meet and possibly raise the expectations of wealthier, better-educated post-war consumers and those who believed success meant mimicking the products of movie houses and radio—decision makers fought a battle of ideas that peaked in the 1950s, just as TV became a central facet of daily life for most Americans. Baughman’s engagingly written account of the brief but contentious debate shows how the inner workings and outward actions of the major networks, advertisers, producers, writers, and entertainers ultimately made TV the primary forum for entertainment and information. The tale of television's founding years reveals a series of decisions that favored commercial success over cultural aspiration.

31 review for Same Time, Same Station: Creating American Television, 1948–1961

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    In the fifteen years after World War II, television went from an experimental form of broadcasting available to only a few to a national presence enjoyed by most American families. It was during this period that many of the parameters of television, from technological standards to advertising models and the dominance of the three networks, were established in ways that largely continue down to the present day. James Baughman's book is a chronicle of this formative period in the history of Americ In the fifteen years after World War II, television went from an experimental form of broadcasting available to only a few to a national presence enjoyed by most American families. It was during this period that many of the parameters of television, from technological standards to advertising models and the dominance of the three networks, were established in ways that largely continue down to the present day. James Baughman's book is a chronicle of this formative period in the history of American broadcasting, one that explores both how television broadcasting industry came to be and why it developed the way that it did. One of the key themes running through Baughman's book is that nothing about television was preordained. From its beginnings in the 1940s there were many directions in which it might have developed but for the choices made by people at the time. Perhaps the most basic was that of the broadcasters themselves, as the Hollywood studios (who, given their resources and personnel, might have seemed the logical starting point for developing programming for a visual medium) effectively conceded the development of television broadcasting to the radio networks. The two dominant networks, NBC and CBS, soon took the lead in developing content for a national audience. With many radio performers disdainful and even fearful of television, a unique opportunity was presented for relative unknowns such as Milton Berle and Lucille Ball to become stars through the new medium. The emergence of television as a medium for popular entertainment was not foreordained, however. Here Baughman focuses on Sylvester "Pat" Weaver, the head of programming for NBC in the mid-1950s. Convinced that television offered the promise of cultural uplift, he supported the broadcasting of operas, plays, and orchestral performances. Yet Baughman makes it clear that in the end ratings mattered, if not to Weaver than to the advertisers who paid for them. Though William S. Paley, the head of CBS, spearheaded the move away from the single-sponsor model (where one company underwrote the entire program, giving them considerable influence on the content) that had predominated radio advertising, the flexibility multiple advertisers provided to a program did not guarantee the support Weaver's programming needed. Instead the viewers gravitated towards variety shows, situation comedies, and dramas with continuing characters, dooming Weaver's vision and setting the pattern for programming with which we are familiar today. Well researched and sharply argued, Baughman's book is a superb history of the development of television in America. His scope is impressive, encompassing executives, regulators, entertainers, and the nascent news sectors which would exert so much influence in the decades to come. For anyone who is interested in learning about what television was like when it was new and how it came to take the forms as it did, this is the work to read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Interesting book on the beginnings of television. It helped me gain perspective on how it went from Playhouse 90 to The Beverly Hillbillies. It also relates how ABC struggled while NBC and CBS flourished. Growing pains when TV tried to make NYC its home while talent found their lure in Los Angeles. Intellectuals were seen as NYC based while more LA seemed to be more able to satisfy average Americans. Edward R Murrow tried to be above ratings but was ultimately sunk by them and the Justice Depart Interesting book on the beginnings of television. It helped me gain perspective on how it went from Playhouse 90 to The Beverly Hillbillies. It also relates how ABC struggled while NBC and CBS flourished. Growing pains when TV tried to make NYC its home while talent found their lure in Los Angeles. Intellectuals were seen as NYC based while more LA seemed to be more able to satisfy average Americans. Edward R Murrow tried to be above ratings but was ultimately sunk by them and the Justice Department has to force networks to commit to an hour of local and national news. I think I learned a lot and there was much I didn’t know.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brandi

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Catlos

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cassie

  7. 5 out of 5

    scott kinkley

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Flores

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shaun

  10. 4 out of 5

    cptfunk

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Phillips

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rory

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nicole G.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Bland

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jim Miller

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chi Dubinski

  18. 5 out of 5

    Octavia W

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elle

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Marshall

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carla

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christofer

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nick Smedira

  24. 4 out of 5

    Prince Ogunjobi

  25. 5 out of 5

    awelshons

  26. 5 out of 5

    Steve Pemberton

  27. 5 out of 5

    Allison

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  29. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shadowcha

  31. 4 out of 5

    Mareya

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