An urgent and entertaining history of the transformative powers of women in TV.

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STEALING THE SHOW

HOW WOMEN ARE REVOLUTIONIZING TELEVISION

A veteran cultural critic examines the rise of female-centric TV and the pioneering women showrunners behind their successes.

Groundbreaking female characters and their stories have become fixtures in American TV in recent years, but their presence hasn’t always been welcome. Press (War of the Words: 20 Years of Writing on Contemporary Literature, 2001, etc.)—former TV critic at the Village Voice and entertainment editor at Salon and the Los Angeles Times—draws from decades of interviews, research, and reporting to create a vibrant behind-the-scenes look at some of the most prominent women creatives in the industry and the role they played in bringing women-focused narratives to the forefront of modern TV and culture. She devotes the first chapter to Murphy Brown and the revolutionary sitcom’s creator, Diane English, one of the first female showrunners to prove that a woman could lead a successful show. English set an important precedent for future women showrunners and their unapologetically brazen TV heroines—Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, an industry trailblazer whose portrayal of unabashedly ambitious, sexually formidable, “unlikable” women of all different races, ethnicities, sexualities, and abilities transformed the TV landscape. Rhimes’ “color blind” casting helped her build her Shondaland TV empire and effectively normalized the idea that nonwhite, nonmales can be successful on-screen, behind-the-scenes, and in real life. In the most intriguing and intimate chapter, Press examines Transparent creator Jill Soloway, whose real life served as inspiration for her award-winning show about a family who recently learned that their parent is transgender. With a keen eye and a sharp writing style, the author presents the argument that, despite the limited power of TV and the current political backlash facing women, increased representation on-screen has the potential to inspire a cultural revolution not unlike the current revival of the feminist movement. The author also profiles Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, and Jenji Kohan, among others.

An urgent and entertaining history of the transformative powers of women in TV.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3771-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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