CHANGING CHANNELS: America in TV Guide by Glenn C. & David I. Grossvogel Altschuler


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Two academicians tune in to TV Guide and assess how well everyone's favorite boobtube digest, which boasts the highest circulation in publishing history (about 20 million copies sold weekly), has tuned in to America. Grossvogel (Comparative Literature/Cornell) has done this sort of highbrow/popculture analysis before, in Dear Ann Landers (1987); here, he teams with Altschuler (American Studies/Cornell). The profs work well together. Their premise is obvious--that TV Guide mirrors the changing values of its readership--but it's fascinating nonetheless to see how the magazine's 40-year history perfectly conforms to that of the nation. Born in the Eisenhower/Father Knows Best years, TVGuide began with sanitized puff pieces on the stars (no divorce, alcohol, or sex). In the 60's and 70's, it grew self-consciously cynical, skewering celebrities with tough profiles by Dick Gehman and Edith Efron. The 1988 purchase by Rupert Murdoch turned back the clock, and now TVGuide offers a sexed-up version of its 50's cream-puff diet. Along with this history, the authors track the magazine's record on three social issues: feminism, civil rights, and treatment of the news. Despite founder Walter H. Annenberg's reputation as an archconservative, Grossvogel and Altschuler find TV Guide to be ""complex, occasionally confused, and even self-contradictory"" in its political positions. By dishing up celebrity gossip on a scholarly platter, this deserves the guilty-pleasure-of-the-month award. One of the better highbrow studies of pop Americana.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
ISBN: 025201779X
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois Press