My friend Herbie J Pilato, whose book Bewitched Forever is one of the best in the genre, has two new books out this month: The Bionic Book: The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman Reconstructed, a comprehensive behind-the-scenes history of those two iconic shows (just in time for the new Bionic Woman series on NBC) and Life Story: The Book of Life Goes On, an insightful look at Life Goes On, the first prime time network series to portray issues of adolescence, family values, diversity, prejudice, and physical and mental disabilities in a honest, realistic way. One of the things I love about Herbie’s work is that he takes the discussion of network television to a whole new level. Besides giving us a sense of the time in which shows like Bewitched and the Bionic shows were originally made, they also explore the various social issues that are reflected in these and other popular television shows.“The Bionic and Life Goes On books both expand upon the theme of my previous TV tomes: prejudice,” Herbie explains. “As Samantha was a witch in a mortal world, Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers felt isolated from society as well: they were half-human, half-machine. And Corky and Jesse on Life Goes On were also outside the ‘norm’ of society’s standards. Corky had Down syndrome and Jesse was first diagnosed as HIV-positive and then with full-blown AIDS.“The TV themes thread that run through all of my books also have to do with strong family ties, a solid work ethic and true inner power, however we may name it: confidence, compassion, grace, joy and, of course, love. All of those things are stronger than Samantha’s twitch or any number of Steve and Jaime’s various special powers.”Television can inform as well as entertain. That’s not only the key message behind all of Herbie’s titles (his other books include
The Kung Fu Book of Caine, it’s also the focus of his TV and Self-Esteem Seminars, a lecture series he offers to schools, colleges and community and business organizations across the country. It’s a program that strives to bridge the gap between popular culture and academia. “Popular television programs,” says Herbie, “are an untapped resource for education – beyond PBS and The Learning Channel.” Shows like Bewitched, I Love Lucy, All in the Family, Star Trek, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and others can all “teach us to look beyond our differences and to concentrate on what makes us the same.”We talked to Herbie about his books, his seminars and much, much more on last week’s edition of Talking Television with Dave White. If you missed the conversation, click on the link and listen to the archive. You’ll never think of television quite the same again.