Laid out encyclopedically and ranging from the 1950s through today, his account of TV's evolution is as dizzying in scope as it is intimate in detail ... As huge as the book is — and it's a whopper — it's not meant to be an exhaustive encyclopedia. Instead, Bianculli conscientiously curates five shows in each of his chosen genres that best exemplify what he calls 'Key Evolutionary Stages' in the growth of television ... a wise, engaging celebration of a type of entertainment that's as much of an art form as it is a pastime.
Bianculli has researched with gusto, watching thousands of hours of TV, digging through manuscript archives and talking with legendary TV figures. A high point of this history is the author’s interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer and many others ... Bianculli has written a highly readable history, but he could have delved more deeply into how technology has transformed television from a solitary pastime into an interactive and communal experience.
Bianculli has been a TV critic for 40 years. NPR listeners know him for his reviews and guest-hosting spots on Fresh Air. Those experiences, along with various sideline academic gigs, add up to a perfect combination for studying and explaining TV with a learned and accessible approach ... Bianculli loves TV and his passion shines throughout these pages. Again and again, he displays genuine enthusiasm for what’s current and what’s ahead ... There are bound to be missteps in a book this comprehensive and this one is no different. Bianculli tends to repeat himself in the interview sections ...Those are minor complaints, though, in a book that is always thoughtful and comprehensive.
Mr. Bianculli goes on to offer illuminating profiles of the creators that succeeded in those genres. Some of these will read like playbooks to those who aspire to the television industry. Others will read as cautionary tales ... With this combination of historical perspective, critical insight and effective interviews, Mr. Bianculli makes a persuasive argument for television as a medium that is evolving constantly, however slowly. The profiles, especially, show that influence and inspiration come from places that might not be readily apparent ... Mr. Bianculli is convincing in his argument that television has never been better, but he doesn’t offer much insight into what comes next ... While imminently readable, Mr. Bianculli’s book is ultimately academic. The overview-show profile-creator profile format of the Platinum Age of Television makes for a thorough account of the subject matter, but does give rise to considerable overlap.
In his fourth book, Bianculli considers today to be the 'Platinum Age of Television.' Playing off the gold-record statistics studios use to indicate sales, he claims the 'quality and quantity of today’s TV offerings make the modern era worthy of that title' ... To support his point, Bianculli goes through the various genres of television and then talks with key players in chapter-long interviews, asking about early influences and later artistic ambitions and decisions ... One of Bianculli’s most compelling analyses centers on why things changed for the medium ... Another fun element of the book is the focus on series finales. Even if you haven’t seen all the shows profiled, reading about the scrutiny various endings received is entertaining.