Category Archives: New Book Release

Interview with Andrew Lee Fielding, author of “The Lucky Strike Papers”

In case you missed it, the Dec. 16 edition of TV Confidential is now available online on our archives page. Our guest that night was Andrew Lee Fielding, author of The Lucky Strike Papers: Journeys Through My Mother’s Television Past. Andrew’s mother, singer Sue Bennett, was a featured performer on Your Hit Parade, Kay Kyser’s College of Musical Knowledge and other early network musical variety shows. His book explores the pioneer days of live TV via the shows on which his mother sang.

Ed Robertson
Co-Host, TV CONFIDENTIAL
Every other Tuesday at 10:30pm ET, 7:30pm PT
Share-a-Vision Radio, KSAV.org
www.tvconfidential.net
blog.tvconfidential.net
Also available as a podcast via iTunes and FeedBurner

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Interview with Paul Green, author of PETE DUEL: A BIOGRAPHY, now available on Share-a-Vision Radio

Most of us think of Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes, the amiable outlaw that he played so well on the short-lived but long-remembered television Western series, Alias Smith and Jones (ABC, 1971-1973). That, of course, was the image we saw on screen. Off screen, Pete Duel was a complex man who led an unpredictable and often tumultuous life—a fact best characterized by his highly publicized suicide on Dec. 31, 1971, at the height of his television celebrity.The story of Pete Duel is one of the great

Hollywood tragedies… but it’s also a reminder that the true value of a person rests not in the manner of their death, but in the way they lived their life and continue to touch the lives of the people of who knew them. That’s really the focus of Pete Duel: A Biography, a fascinating new book by Paul Green that Frankie and I talked about last week on TV Confidential.In case you missed it, our interview with Paul is now available on our archives page at www.tvconfidential.net. The program also features film and television actress Kim Darby, who not only co-starred with Pete Duel in the film Generation but was among the actor’s closest friends.  

Ed Robertson
Co-Host, TV CONFIDENTIAL
Every other Tuesday at 10:30pm ET, 7:30pm PT
Share-a-Vision Radio, KSAV.org
www.tvconfidential.net
blog.tvconfidential.net
Also available as a podcast via iTunes

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Author Michael Seth Starr: This week on Share-a-Vision Radio

The life and career of Raymond Burr will be the subject of the next edition of Talking Television with Dave White, this Tuesday, July 10, beginning at 10:30pm ET, 7:30pm PT on Share-a-Vision Radio, KSAV.org. Whether you knew him as Perry Mason, Robert Ironside or the many movie villains he played (including Lars Thorwald in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window), Raymond Burr was a powerful presence on television for over 40 years. But offscreen, he was something of an enigma. We’ll unwrap the mystery that was Burr with our guest Michael Seth Starr, author of “Hiding in Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr,” a compassionate look at the life and career of this TV icon. If you’re a fan of Raymond Burr, if you grew up watching Perry Mason and/or Ironside, we invite you to join guest hosts Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte beginning at 10:30pm ET, 7:30pm PT on KSAV.org. What’s your favorite Raymond Burr movie role or TV series? Let us know and tell us why. Phone number is (800) 407-KSAV (5728), email address is talk@ksav.org or ed@talkingtelevision.org.

Ed Robertson
Pop Culture Critic and Entertainment Journalist
Co-Host, Talking Television with Dave White
Share-a-Vision Radio, KSAV.org
www.edrobertson.com
www.doctorrerun.com
www.talkingtelevision.org

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Q&A with Jeremy Wisnewski, editor of “The Office and Philosophy”

Most of us would agree that we are who we are. But could it also be said that we are who we think we are? Is that not a contradiction, or is it also inherently true? These are just a few of the questions explored in The Office and Philosophy, a series of essays that use examples from The Office – both the Emmy Award-winning NBC series, as well as the BBC series (created by Ricky Gervais) on which it is based – to explore timeless philosophical questions. Edited by Jeremy Wisnewski, assistant professor of philosophy at Harwick College in New York, it’s the latest in a series of books by Wiley-Blackwell that uses popular movies and TV shows as a vehicle to introduce philosophy. With The Office having recently aired its season finale, it’s a fun way to look back at previous episodes until the show returns in the fall. I recently chatted by phone with Wisnewski about the book.

ER: How did you come up with the idea for the book?

JW: I’m chronically philosophical. I really can’t help myself. The first time I saw the show, I immediately knew it was something I would like to write on and think about. In fact, at that time, I was already working on a book in the genre [Family Guy and Philosophy], so I was working in the genre. I saw a couple episodes [of The Office], and thought, “Wow, this is just so rich. The show really does tap into something universal” – at least, it’s universal in advanced capitalist nations. There is a kind of alienation that seems to go with 9-to-5 labor that they exploit, that they adequately represent, and enable us to look at through comedy (and hence, in a way that we can deal with). I think this also explains why it’s been successful not only in Britain and in the U.S., but also in France, Germany, and Canada. They all have their own versions of the show.

ER: There’s certainly a universal element to the series, in that there is always some degree of office politics and social mores and things that you can or cannot do.

JW: Right. Plus I should also say that The Office, in addition to presenting the work load and alienation and also ways of dealing with it – Jim in the American version, or Tim in the British version – are both great examples of people trying to cope with absurdity. They don’t get any particular fulfillment out of pushing paper, but they find ways to essentially invite meaning in their lives, through comedy and other things. But I also want to say, I think it’s just a great format to dealing with all these issues that we face all the time: issues about race, issues about sexual harassment, about diversity in general, and less business-centric views, like issues about self deception, and ethics, and humiliation. It’s all right there, and it’s wonderful to actually have a show that’s sometimes hard to watch.

ER: Let’s play devil’s advocate for a second. Do you think Gervais had that sort of social commentary in mind when he originally conceived The Office, or do you think he was more or less just trying to put a good show together?

JW: It’s so hard to say, although as a matter of fact, Gervais does a background in philosophy. But no matter what he was trying to do, he’s smart enough that he couldn’t help but offer commentary. He’s just a smart insightful guy. So even if he was just intending to do a good show, his intelligence seeps through… I’m sure he’d like that response!

ER: What’s the purpose of the Blackwell series of books?

JW: They’re meant to fix a bad public relations problem that philosophy has had for the past 2,500 years. The books are meant to introduce philosophy to a wider audience, and also to make people get a new perspective on stuff they really enjoy. And they’re meant to be fun, and I find that that’s really useful for some students. You might start exploring a particular philosopher by taking a look at one of these chapters.ER: Do you use The Office, Family Guy, or some of the shows that have been the basis of other books in the Blackwell series, in the course of your own teaching?

JW: You know, I haven’t yet… although I have been thinking of taking my standard Intro to Philosophy course, which uses a whole lot of actual philosophers, primary sources, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, those guys, and supplementing it with a couple of the other books [in the Blackwell series] because they’re fairly inexpensive. I actually do think about how much my students have to spend, and you can get a good primary source text and you can put them all together for about 60 bucks. And thinking about it pedagogically, I think it’s really good for a certain kind of student….. I can see the pedagogical value in it.

ER: That leads to another question I want to ask you, which is the flip side. Is there a danger, for lack of a better word, in reading too much into popular shows – or at least, certain popular TV shows?

JW: I don’t think there’s a danger in that. Quite frankly, I think that everything can be an object of philosophical inquiry. And I think, when you get to a point where that’s true, where you can recognize the philosophy loitering around in everyday things, that’s a good place to be – and in certain ways, that’s the very goal of a liberal arts education. However, I do think there’s a danger in doing too much of pop culture stuff at the expense of other stuff.

ER: In other words, popular television has its place, but not as a substitute for the classics.

JW: Right. I could never imagine doing a course where we did Family Guy instead of Plato.

ER: What would you like readers in general to get out of the book?

JW: I’d like them, first of all, to enjoy the read. We’ve got no axe to grind. What we’re engaging in is the celebration of ideas, and I would like people to learn a little something, to be able to see things they haven’t seen before, and to do it in a way that they find rewarding and entertaining.

ER: And maybe look at television a little bit differently than perhaps they would have before.

JW: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Ed Robertson

Pop Culture Critic and Entertainment Journalist

www.edrobertson.com

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New book by Will Durst skewers partisan politics from every angle

We mostly think of Will Durst as a stand-up comic, radio personality (his talk show with Willie Brown is back as a podcast via willandwillie.com) and political satirist nonpareil. But he’s had his share of odd jobs – 103, to be exact. Why so many? “I have always, still have and probably forever will have an eensy-weensy, teeny-tiny, itty-bitty problem with authority,” Durst confesses in his new book, The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing. “Of course, I was always aiming for Big-Time Headlining Comedian, for which there is no apprenticeship program, and it was necessary to keep my nights free.”Durst is at his edgy best in All-American Sport, a witty collection of short riffs that skewer partisan politics from every conceivable angle. I had a chance to chat with him last week for The Wave Magazine; click here for the complete article.

Ed Robertson
www.edrobertson.com

 


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Recommended reading: “Far From Home: Latino Baseball Players in America”

Spring training is in full swing this month, with the start of the new baseball season just two weeks away. After a tumultuous offseason that saw the indictment of Barry Bonds, the release of the Mitchell Report and the implosion of Roger Clemens on Capitol Hill, baseball fans could use a feel good story. They’ll find that and more in Far From Home: Latino Baseball Players in America, a new coffee table book that chronicles the ups and downs of the many Latinos who have come to the US to pursue the dream of baseball stardom.

The book comes out this Tuesday, Mar. 18, but I had a chance to review it last week for The Wave Magazine; click here for more details.

Ed Robertson
Pop Culture Critic and Television Historian
http://edsweb.wordpress.com
www.edrobertson.com
www.doctorrerun.com

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New from UC Press: “Berkeley: A City in History”

From the flap jacket cover:

The Railroad Age, the Depression, World War II, the Atomic Age, the Sixties. These periods shaped and were in turn shaped by Berkeley, California… a city that has had a remarkable influence, given its modest size. This concise book (240 pages) by Berkeley City College professor Charles Wollenberg is a rich chronicle of the people, trends and events that connected the city of Berkeley to much larger themes in history: from the native builders of shellmounds to the blue-collar residents of Ocean View, the rise of the University of California, the World War II shipyards and today’s demographics and politics. 

Berkeley: A City in History is published by UC Press. For more information, visit www.ucpress.edu.

Ed Robertson
www.edrobertson.com

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