MixedThe Star TribuneEbersol refuses to provide any real insight about the bigwigs he\'s befriended. Controversial figures like Daniel Stern, Don Ohlmeyer, Jeff Zucker and Robert Kraft all come across like saints. Michael Phelps gets so much love you\'ll want to give him another gold medal. The only darts he throws are at NBCUniversal chairman Steve Burke, who nudged Ebersol out of his lofty position — and the tips are pretty dull ... Ebersol is just as easy on himself. If he has any shortcomings, he\'s keeping them to himself. The only time Ebersol departs from celebrating his success and famous pals is when he talks about the plane crash that took the life of his son, Teddy. But he quickly moves on from bereaved parent and back to head cheerleader ... Those fascinated with how great television is made will enjoy the backstage access. Just don\'t expect to learn much about the masterminds pulling the strings.
PanThe Star TribuneYou might imagine that a book focused primarily on the pop-culture scene in 1974 Los Angeles might be limited in scope. But Rock Me on the Water has the opposite problem. Author Ronald Brownstein...attempts to tackle music, film, TV and politics, only skimming the surface of each medium. A lot of the narrative seems to depend on Brownstein\'s personal tastes and who would answer his calls. His choices are good news for fans of Jackson Browne\'s early work, All in the Family and Shampoo. Other milestones from the period...get shorted. Brownstein writes in a chatty tone perfect for younger readers who think of 1974 as the prehistoric age. But those hungry for a more substantial nostalgia trip would be better off focusing on books and films that don\'t try to serve so many masters.
MixedThe Star TribuneNo actual fists are thrown...but this behind-the-scenes takedown of the daytime juggernaut is determined to prove that heated words pack a wallop. Author Ramin Setoodeh, a veteran entertainment reporter and editor, gives Barbara Walters props for creating a multigenerational platform for women, but quickly glosses over that accomplishment, painting the legendary broadcaster as a terrorizing, hopelessly out-of-touch egomaniac who never got over not casting herself as the show’s moderator ... Setoodeh’s decades of covering the program pays off with the kind of details you normally don’t get from the hush-hush world of show business. But his obsession with deep-dish gossip overshadows any attempt to analyze what has made the show so popular and influential.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune\"...the most thorough biography yet of the legendary entertainer ... Itzkoff’s research shines considerable light on what led to the Oscar winner’s unexpected suicide in 2014 and how a form of body dementia was already creeping in, a devastating diagnosis for a man whose life depended so much on being animated ... Still, Itzkoff can’t quite crack the surface, a shortcoming he admits in the book’s epilogue ... For the most part, Robin is a nimble, joyous journey down memory lane — just the way Williams might have planned it.\
RaveThe Star TribuneBill Murray, who improvised nearly all of Spackler’s lines, as well as co-stars Chevy Chase and Michael O’Keefe, share intimate, often hilarious, memories of the blockbuster that seemed destined for disaster before unexpectedly setting the stage for a new era of loosey-goosey, juvenile romps. Nashawaty’s unabashed passion for the film is a little over the top, but his enthusiasm most likely persuaded the show’s major players to open up. Even nonbelievers will appreciate the valuable insight into how the style of comedy being practiced on Second City stages and Saturday Night Live began making its impact on the big screen.
RaveThe StarTribune\"Chozick aims her most withering criticism at herself. You’ll feel sympathy every time she checks into a low-rent motel or is relegated to another lunch from Panera Bread, but she’s quick to confess how much her complicated feelings for Clinton could override her duties to report all the news that’s fit to print. Those revelations may not sit well with her colleagues at the New York Times, but those looking for a raw, brutally honest examination of a reporter’s life will be riveted.\
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneIn his studious but breezy book, author Sam Wasson tracks the relatively young craft of creating humor in the same time it took Neil Simon to sharpen a pencil, making readers feel like they’re sweating on stage with its quick-witted practitioners. ... Wasson has far less to say about the lack of diversity in the improv world. More on the influence of In Living Color and the recent success of Key & Peele would have made sense ... Those shortcomings aside, Wasson has assembled a loving tribute to one of entertainment’s most daunting challenges, with lots of laughs to boot.
PanThe Minneapolis Star TribuneThe book, light on family history and heavy on Letterman's days at NBC, doesn't have the rich drama of Bill Carter's The Late Shift or the juicy gossip in Henry Pushkin's Johnny Carson. Instead, you get a blurry portrait of a relentless grouch ... for the most part, you're left not learning much more than what die-hard viewers already surmised by watching Late Show desk pieces or reading the March 6 issue of New York magazine in which reporter David Marchese got Letterman at his most unguarded.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune...there are moments where you wonder if he'd rather be scrubbing toilets then sitting in front of the tube. Despite his occasional pouts the British author presents readers with one clever observation after another ... Thomson may not be the most enthusiastic consumer, but he's among our most thought-provoking, which makes this dense but highly readable collection of essays a sturdy companion to your yellowing back copies of TV Guide.