To mark National Library Week, this week I am writing about some of my favorite books in my chosen topics: Monday Music, TV Tuesday, Wednesday Comics, and Film Fridays. Today being Tuesday, let's talk about some of my favorite books about television.
MASH by David Reiss
This wonderful show ended when I was in high school. At the time there were a few resource books printed to take advantage of all of the hoopla. This one is a trade paperback that was originally published in 1981. It was then revised two years later to include the last season and a half. It features biographies of all of the actors plus interviews with all of them AND profiles of their characters. Also there are episode guides for all 11 seasons. The only drawback to the book and it is minor is that all of the photographs included are in black and white. Still, as a resource on the cast and episodes it is hard to beat.
Similarly, The Complete Book of MASH came out at about the same time. Most of their photographs are in color, but the information is not as in-depth as the earlier book. Whereas MASH went chronologically and alphabetically, Complete Book of MASH is kind of all over the place. It has more in-depth episode guides, but doesn't list the writers and directors of each. So it's not a bad reference book, but although it is prettier, compared to the other MASH book it is not as good.
THE AVENGERS by Dave Rogers
When I was in college I bought my comic-books at a used bookstore a few blocks from my campus. There I found this gem, a history of one of the greatest spy series ever. This is where I found out that the show originally starred another British actor and, oh yeah, some guy named Patrick Macnee. Partly by accident and partly by serendipity, the show became a huge popular culture touch-stone.
On another trip to buy comics in college I came across this book. At first I didn't know what to make of it; it features mini-histories of many television series as you can see here: I Dream of Jeannie (?), Batman, The Avengers, Outer Limits (I think?), Superman, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone (or is it The Night Gallery?), Space: 1999, and Six Million Dollar Man. At this time there wasn't a Twilight Zone book, so episode guides of that show was worth the price of admission! Plus at the time I didn't have a Batman book, either, so that was cool to read about them. But the greatest part of this book was the Irwin Allen section: Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, The Time Tunnel, Lost In Space, and the Land Of The Giants. This was before the LOST IN SPACE movie created a mini-boom in LiS merchandise, so for years this was my go-to reference for that show. I think it was the first time I had every read that Irwin Allen's shows were not very good. I think I *knew* that already, but it's something else to actually read it on a page. Still, the depth of content mixed with the fun photos make this one of my favorites.
The Star Trek Compendium by Allan Asherman
I actually came across the ST:NG Companion by Larry Nemerek first; this was when I was still living in Japan and would buy books during trips back to the US. That would have been when the show ST:NG was still on the air. Even today, I have yet to see all of their episodes. So buying that book was a good way for me to see the "overall" picture of that series. It also helped me to realize that the Original Series version also existed. So although I did read ST:NG, I didn't read it as a reference as so much as a guide. The Star Trek Compendium on the other hand lists guest-stars, plots, and interviews that reference the 79 episodes and the movies. Although there have been an almost infinite number of Star Trek books, this one is still one of the best.
Growing Up Brady by Barry Williams
I got this book while I was still living in Japan. I can't remember if my sister or someone sent it to me, or if I found it myself. Either way, I devoured it because I grew up on The Brady Bunch. It was definitely my favorite show as a kid. I had crushes on Marsha and then Jan, and I wanted my brother to be like Peter or Bobby. It was fun to read about the back-stage stories from "Greg" himself. This was just before Robert Reed died; I had no idea that he had been gay or that he was dying. I didn't watch the more recent Brady Bunch movies because I couldn't tell if they were making fun of the show or paying it homage; either way, I'd rather just watch another episode.
When my daughter came to live in the States, The Brady Bunch was one of her favorite shows, too.
The Official Batman Bat-Book by Joel Eisner
This is another one of those books that I purchased during a trip back to the States while I was still living in Japan. I think I must have found it during the Michael Keaton BATMAN movie hype era; I don't remember. The spine is cracked and broken now from reading it too much!
The book starts off explaining how the show got started, then talks about the first season, the movie (yes, there was a BATMAN movie, in 1966) and all the cool gadgets made for it, the less-than-stellar second season, and then the third season with (sigh) Batgirl (Yvonne Craig).
I will have you know that I was not SUCH a Batman geek that I could answer ANY of the trivia questions included here. So there. And the five-plus page list of all of Robin's "Holy (fill in the blank)" seemed excessive to me, too.
Total Television by Alex McNeil
Of all of the books here, this is the most "referential." This 1250 page tome lists any and all series that ever appeared on television, from the earliest shows in 1948 to the 1995 season. So, obviously, this is nearly 20 years behind the times now (!). Wow, I blew my own mind when I wrote that. Anyway, since most of the shows I write about are from waaay before 1995, this hasn't been a problem for me yet. I can tell you that DARK SHADOWS was on from 1966-1971, for example, or that THE WONDER YEARS won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1988.
The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier by Patrick J. White
This is probably my favorite book on this list because as a kid growing up I wanted to WRITE this book. I used to keep a notebook where I would write up all of the "missions" I saw on television with an eye to combine them all into a huge collection. Congratulations to you, Patrick White, for actually doing what I dreamt about doing!
The book itself starts with how the series was created (never meant to actually sell!) and then goes into detail about all of the different spies and the cast changes behind them. and of course, there are episode guides and explanations of the tricks and devices used throughout the show. What a fun book!
Here On Gilligan's Isle by Russell Johnson & Steve Cox
This is one of the first books I bought after I moved back to the States permanently. I don't know how or why I came across it, but I'm sure that when I did find it I snatched it up. As a kid growing up there were very VERY few "Russells" out there to use as role models or heroes, so I always had a small man-crush on The Professor. Besides, you can't argue that among an island of idiots he was by-far the smartest!
After I read this book I learned that Russell Johnson had a homepage and was selling autographed photographs. I immediately wrote to him and asked for one. About a week later I received the cast photo as shown here with the autograph, "From one Russell to another! Russell Johnson." I treasure it.