SIGN OFF: The Last Days of Television by Edwin Diamond

SIGN OFF: The Last Days of Television

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Following after The Tin Kazoo (1975) and Good News, Bad News (1978), and also derived in part from Diamond's work with the MIT News Study Group: 20 punchy essays on media treatment of politics and other American institutions in the last, ""prime years"" of over-the-air TV--before the cable era. Two theme pieces describe ""Disco News"" and ""Hypes, Newsbreaks, Teases, Grabbers"" with authority and acumen: ""For a cynical viewer to say that the [homosexual] prom story was hyped for the sake of ratings . . . is to miss the real cause for cynicism: the disco news producers really think it's good television."" Diamond, however, is not one to decry the effects of TV on American youth (the reserach is suspect--and remember the radio scare? the comic-book to-do?) or on the US electorate (nonvoting is generational--and multi-causational). Getting down to ""Cases,"" in Part II, Diamond dissects ""God's television"" (""Rich, visual pleasure""; ""Christian success driving away Satan's worry""); TV and sex (with pre-teens bumping jeans, ""where will it all end?""); ageism and icons (re the selection of anchors); the (laggard) image of the workingman--from The Life of Riley to Skag; Arabs and Israelis (whatever it does, TV can't win); the hostage crisis (a lengthy, careful review) and the hostage-return/Reagan-""renewal"" (""Was it a great victory we were celebrating? Or, was it a wound we were covering over?); the right to privacy vis-à-vis the public right to know (on Teddy and Nelson); the media myths of the media (""decent, honorable"" Leu Grant; Halberstam's ""pop-eyed"" The Powers That Be). Part III, ""Illusions of Power,"" debunks the notion of a press-created ""perceptual environment,"" or PR-elected candidates--from Carter to Reagan. Maybe there was some truth in The Selling of the Candidate in '68, says Diamond, but in post-Vietnam, post-Watergate '81, ""fewer and fewer people were buying advertising messages"" (and media-lit ""meteor campaigns""--like Bush's--quickly fizzled out) ""Futures,"" the last section, brings scrutiny of Ted Turner's Cable News Network (""technology is of little use if there's nothing to say"") and, most futuristically, ""the active, independent viewer"" and ""the developing video culture."" The single best stop for an up-to-date sighting.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1982
Publisher: MIT Press