Erik Barnouw, Emeritus Professor of Dramatic Arts at Columbia University, is the author of the critically hailed A History of Broadcasting in the United States, a trilogy on which the present history, homage and critique of the boob tube is based. It is an encyclopedic work which charts the development of the medium which monitored the entire postwar era from the days when it was only a gleam in David Sarnoff's eye. FCC licensing, programming from Kukla, Fran and Ollie to Gunsmoke to All In the Family, the news coverage which created the ""pseudo-event"" but also showed us Khrushchev pounding his shoe, Neil Armstrong walking on the moon and the shambles that was the '68 Democratic Convention--nothing is left out of Barnouw's crisp, sophisticated narrative. In the words of Paddy Chayevsky who launched Marry into America's living rooms, TV brought ""the marvelous world of the ordinary"" to screen entertainment; in the words of Spiro Agnew it unleashed those ""nattering nabobs of negativism,"" the news commentators, on right-thinking, patriotic Americans. However, Barnouw finds those same commentators, with some rare and courageous exceptions, guilty of reporting on the bathing beauties at Atlantic City more fully than on the bombing of Hanoi. The exceptions include Edward R. Murrow whose battles with Red Channels Barnouw revives with spirited anger. The last chapter of the book is almost wholly devoted to that least photogenic of presidents whose rise and fall from Checkers to the last envoi in the Oval Office was so eloquently recorded by the electronic eye. A definitive work--with no dead air between the high spots.