I love television. Like, really love it. Television is what brought me in Pajiba’s direction (and so ultimately to this Cannonball). Ever since I watched the British Office in its entirety, three times, in one week, in 2005, I basically made television my hobby and never looked back.
So, if you love television, and you read about it constantly like I do, you will certainly enjoy this. It’s basically a history of modern television, starting with Oz. Alan Sepinwall interviews the producers and writers between twelve of the most ground breaking shows in recent memory (The Sopranos, Oz, The Wire, Deadwood, The Shield, Lost, Buffy, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men or Breaking Bad).
For me, the most important thing about this book is that Sepinwall acknowledges that television didn’t begin with the Sopranos. Even modern television didn’t begin with the Sopranos (that honor goes to Oz, the “farm team” for the Sopranos and the Wire). Sepinwall dedicates a chapter to the television programming that came before these shows that changed the way stories were told and pushed the boundaries of what you could show on television – Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere (the original “are you kidding me with this ending?!” series), the X-Files.
And he doesn’t let up with the reminders of how earlier television informed what we see today. He connects everything back to older shows – plot lines, certain story arcs, what shows the creators of the “modern” shows trained on, their mentors, shows they cite for inspiration. Even though this book is about the (probably aptly named) television revolution, I love how he doesn’t pretend that television didn’t exist before the Sopranos. Because it did, and much of it was very, very good.
A sample of things I learned while reading:
- HBO was choosing between picking the Sopranos up to pilot and a show from the creator of My So Called Life about a female business executive. Would the following shows have been a series of female driven vehicles if that show had won the race?
- The Shield pioneered the concept of the a season long, big name guest star when Glenn Close arrived in season 4.
- Bryan Singer was originally tasked with helming Battlestar Galactica, but the story line hit uncomfortably close to 9/11 so they shut down pre-production in 2001. Singer was out because he was committed to the second X-Men, and Ron Moore came on board. Sliding doors!