In Television, David Thomson whom Michael Ondaatje has called the best writer on film in our time turns his attention to the ubiquitous small screen and delivers a history of its revolutionary transformation. In just a few years, this immobile piece of living room furniture in front of which viewers had to sit at appointed times in order to watch a finite number of channels has morphed into a glowing cloud of screens that supply near-endless content as and when we want it.
Thomson notes that if you wanted to play everything that has been on all the channels of American television all the hours of every day, that playing would take 5,000 years, give or take a century or so. The stuff is growing at a demented pace, as if the wasteland, which was once a lofty put-down of television, is actually a rampant jungle. So instead of a strict chronology, Thomson has built 21 thematically organized chapters in which he turns his provocatively insightful and observant gaze to the 65-year-long television era.
Television surveys a Boschian landscape, illuminated by that singular glow and peopled by everyone from Lucille Ball to Dennis Potter to Don Draper. It is a rip-roaring, unexpected, and perhaps most of all, deeply thought-provoking history of the medium that has defined us.