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Member Reviews

I really enjoy the Object Lessons series, and the subject of this one, television, is near and dear to my heart. Recommended for people who like  shorter but thought-provoking longform essays and/or are interested in the history of television and media.
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With its brief but informative and beautifully designed installments, Object Lessons has grown to become one of my favorite nonfiction series. Each 25 000-words-or-less part of this series on different aspects of contemporary culture manages both to introduce a specific subject to the non-specialized reader, and to also give a specific perspective to it for the specialized ones. This makes each new book an invaluable read for pretty much everyone interested in the topic. The same can be said about Susan Bordo's brief study of television.
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I received this book from NetGalley for review.

A mixture of memoir, simple academic analysis and political essay, Bordo is not always at her best, but her reflections are passionate and fun to read. A lot of this was familiar ground for me, but still enjoyable - and if there were a few moments when I rolled my eyes a tiny bit, there were lots more that seemed relatable, perceptive or simply fun. I think it will be very interesting for Bordo's readers in academia, to see that less academic side of her, and for someone with interest in TV, there's a few very good essays in there, too.

(I enjoyed seeing this even through the lens of it being Bordo's viewing list, oddly similar to mine.)
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Another worthy addition to the wonderful Object Lessons series, this time an overview of the history, significance and influence of television. I don’t think it breaks new ground particularly but it’s interesting and informative, and shows how television has shaped us as viewers and shaped the world we live in. That world is American here and it would have been nice to bring in the rest of the world on occasion, not least because a large part of the book is about particular American TV programmes that I haven’t seen and have no interest in. But all the books in this series are personal takes on the given subject, and that’s what this one is too. A worthwhile read, for sure.
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With information and current events accessible via the internet, some younger people don't know what it was like to wait for the news to come on to find out what was happening in the world.  The author did a brilliant job of capturing the essence of TV and why it matters.   It is such an ordinary object, but has had such an impact in entertaining and informing decades of people all over the world.  This book did it justice!
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TV by Susan Bordo is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-February.

Television is described as a ritual, an influence, and a reality-damping, repeater mirror for every household. It's also a retrospective that reaches as far back to the early 50s and speaks of its ability to reach into the experiences of variety shows, breaking news, and politics, the influence of body image and fashion through its lead characters and their particular proclivities and scandalous themes.
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I have now read enough Object Lesson books to not expect a thorough dissection of the subject at hand, these are 25,000 word books, you can't cover everything even if you wanted to. So TV sits there, saying "hey buddy - let me tell you all about the most significant invention of the 20th Century..." Bordo gets that out of the way quickly, and whilst there is probably an equally fascinating book about TV's as physical objects, this isn't about that. Its about programs, programming, television culture and in particular how we got from there (no TV), to Donald Trump. This is a viscerally personal journey, Bordo has grown up with television, happily shares some of her own personal challenges and ties them to television (sport and the Mickey Mouse Club get seriously unloaded on here) and the not in anyway hot take that TV created Trump is properly paraded.

The frankness of the opening here was what I needed. This is American network TV, and then a touch of the cable explosion. It is news, it is soaps, it is prime time dramas. To be fair I think you could probably prove pretty much any argument if you just cherry pick from various TV shows, there is a such a wide smorgasbord to pick from. But lets have a look at what Mary Tyler Moore is saying compared to Murphy Brown compared to Ally McBeal. Lets actual look at Donald Trump on the Apprentice, we might be surprised how nice, supportive and apologetic he is about firing people on camera (a point that has rarely been made in the last four years). But lets not talk about sport on TV rather than what it means to the author, the Proustian smell of stale beer and cigarettes. 

There is a nice bit int he Acknowledgements where  Bordo explains that this initially came out of a very different pitch about Plato's Cave. And you can see echoes of that book in here, as this book isn't really about TV, its about an aspect, and effect of TV. But shifting the format has also allowed it to be looser, more personal and whilst there is extremely sound embedded scholarship in here, it plays nicely of the raw anecdotales. It pushes at the Object Lesson form (one which has been bent significantly out of shape already), to make its point, and it is strange to read now, post-Trump, to see how the ire in the words still hold. I suppose the fire is out but the embers can recatch any time. 

But I'd still quite like the book of Physical Televisions.
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In TV, cultural critic Susan Bordo reflects on key moments in the history of news broadcasting and prime time entertainment. Born in 1947 (the same year as my parents), she remembers the beginnings of "the box" when families would gather around the black-and-white screen, eagerly awaiting weekly episodes of their favourite shows (when we weren't spoilt for choice). 

Bordo takes a quick journey over the history of TV and rather than going through the history of TV programming, which, as she says, would be an encyclopaedic project, she settles for moments that produced a significant societal change, almost as points of no return. She reflects on the McCarthy hearings and the huge role television played in raising national consciousness about racism. 

"Fun" fact: did you know that when a journalist at NBC dared to cover a young girl being harassed by racists when attending her secondary school in 1957, it earned NBC the title of "Nigger Broadcasting System"? Cringe. 

Inevitably, Bordo details the emergence of our first reality TV president with cynical clarity. 

For fans of popular culture and entertainment, there's a section on popular shows, such as Mad Men, Killing Eve, the Sopranos etc., analysing what each of these has brought to the table. 

There's a good deal of intersectionality in the book, mostly race and feminism, where Bordo finds threads of feminist strides in unlikely places. A big focus is given on Hillary's descent, to large extent, caused by newscasters. 

One of my favourite discussions in the book were about the evolution of "pseudo events", fake news, and the rise of historical fiction and dramas that are creative and entertaining, but as Bordo argues, "makes it difficult to teach the ancient art of distinguishing reality from illusion, fact from fiction". She quotes Steven Stark: "the goal [of media] is to package reality as well as Hollywood packages fiction". 

I also enjoyed the chapter on 'misused' language by journalists, broadcasters and politicians, such as "deconstruct" borrowed from philosophy altering its original meaning and a barrage of meaningless words that are plastic and can be deceptively used (one example of this being "the establishment"). 

TV is a quick and engaging read, packed with information albeit easily digestible. It's out on 11th March. 

Thanks to the publisher and @netgalley for my advanced digital copy.
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I enjoy this series of Object Lessons books because you're never too sure what you're going to get.

This short book is nominally about television, but actually it's more of an American political memoir and worrying about the rise of populism in general and Trump in particular.  There are lots of references to old US tv shows and commercials, most of which cultural references I didn't get unless a) the show had been exported to the UK and b) I had watched any of it.

A recommended read for fans of US politics, particularly if you're a Democrat.

Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for honest feedback.
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Yet another worthy item from the Object Lessons series. This time it is written mainly as a memoir of a life spent in front of a television, with personal recollections of the pivotal moments in recent American history – as seen on TV. This is intertwined with sharp, piercing sociological analysis and reviews of a few tv shows and series. All of this is full of irony and humor, so it makes a really great read. 

I loved the chapters devoted to the changes in news definition and the lowering of ethical standards of journalists. I was also delighted to find very interesting remarks about some of my favorite series, like 'The Sopranos' and 'The Good Fight'.      

Thanks to the publisher, Bloomsbury Academic, and NetGalley for the advance copy of this book.
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Another terrific book in this series.I could relate to so many moments in this story  when her family got their first vivid and suddenly your the most popular people  on the block,Really enjoyed reading this book about tv and the authors generation of tv shows.-#netgalley#tv
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As a millennial, I've seen the internet replace the telephone, the CD, the newspaper. Now, the rise of online streaming platforms are beginning to eclipse the TV and cinema as cultural objects and spaces. I really think we need more books like TV by Susan Bordo. We need a good discussion about how TV has shaped our cultural worldviews, while it is still relevant... before the TV has become obsolete! Technology is evolving faster than we can understand it, and we'll grow by understanding exactly what it is we're doing when looking at the screen.

I've read some fantastic essays on television and media, such as E Unibus Pluram by David Foster Wallace and The Medium Is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan. The problem is, they're all too academic to be enjoyable or accessible to common TV viewers, the very people that would benefit from reading it! TV by Susan Bordo is a great overview of the main cultural events that TV has helped shape. This book is a brilliant historical overview of 'US culture seen through TV'.

From the introduction I felt this was a 4* book, but it turned into a 3* book, because I found as the book progressed it focused less on TV and more on TV culture. Readers might be misled by how the product is marketed — an 'Object series' on TV sounds like an extensive, informative overview of the TV as a physical object. However, a large part of this book focus on how TV has informed feminism and politics in the USA. Some readers, especially non-American readers, might find this too focused in these fields. While the entire book is an enjoyable, easy read with a relatable author, I feel the later chapters could have been made more concise and less personal to allow room for discussions in other areas, to make the book a more balanced view of the as 'TV' as an object. I think that some readers might take slight issue with the author's views on feminism and racism in the USA, which in itself suggests that maybe 'TV as object' started to take a backseat halfway through the book! A more balanced overview might have treated the subject with the neutrality with which it seemed to be marketed (cover, title and introduction).

I instead wished there was more on the TV as an object — here are some examples. For instance, I was hoping for a discussion on the technological and design development of the TV as an object for consumers — how it moved from flat-screen, to LCD, to HD, to Bluray, to 4K. From having a TV stand, to being on a desk, to being wallmounted, to projected... I was interested in how 3D cinema, and now the rise of home VR technology, was replacing the cinema or the 'big screen'. I wanted to know more about online-streaming platforms, or how the internet news differs from the TV news and the physical newspaper. I wanted to know more about TV vs. 'Youtube on phone or tablet'. I wanted to know about fake news on TV vs. fake news on Facebook/reddit. I wanted to know about how the rise of deep fake technology threatens the public trust of visual media. I wanted to know about how TV adverts differed from printed or internet adverts.

The above are all points the author, given their speciality and interests, might not have considered. But I think these topics are of emerging interest to younger and more global audiences than the role of TV on US culture — I think some readers might be expecting more of this. The book did at points seem too much hinged on the narratives of TV shows or other authors, but the author has a likeable personality and I would've rather heard their opinion on these new technologies than past histories! The real wisdom in this book is that Susan Bardo is by her own terms elderly and by her qualifications highly knowledgeable in media, so it would've been great to hear her views on 'the future of TV as technology'rather than views on the present US election (which most people have heard enough about everywhere else). More of the future, less of the past (or citations from previous books or lectures). Also, I would say the internet has a considerable role in many of the cultural angles raised here (i.e. views about the election), and it would've been great if more was said about the difference between online media and TV media, even if it was about the US election. For example, Twitter's censorship of Trump, for example, seems like a noteworthy event given his presence on the news... although I wonder whether this book was written before that actually happened...

So yes, 3* because it's a good, enjoyable and accessible for TV fans in the USA. But no higher from me, as I think it is too sparse in focus — it reads like a great conversation about TV, it seems to go on tangents away from what it promises on the cover and the introduction. The focus moves too heavily from TV as cultural object to US TV culture, and so I feel some readers will be left looking for a deeper discussion on the TV itself.

Additional comments to editor:
-Typo in Mad Men section: change "Christina Henricks" to "Christina Hendricks"

-Maybe censor offensive words? I imagine the author and publisher have views on this, but I feel censoring offensive words (many of which are quotations) might increase the appeal of the book without taking anything away from the message.
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TV by Susan Bordo is another insightful volume in the Object Lessons series. Bordo covers both a brief history of programming and a critique of what that programming has wrought, namely a horrible President* and a divided nation with the delusional half led by the orange menace. And it was through TV that a failed (multiple times) businessman was able to rebuild his image and convince a large number (but never a majority) of the population that a misogynistic, racist, sexual predator was a gift from their God.

Bordo traces the shows and even the commercials to some extent (since they blended seamlessly for some time) from early news and broadcast shows to news as entertainment (or propaganda in the case of Faux News) and more nuanced broadcast and cable/streaming shows. Using televisions most disgusting product, Trump, as the endpoint allows her to show the subtle steps along the way that brought us to this abomination.

If you're old enough to remember many of the shows and events she mentions, which I am, this is also an eye-opening trip down memory lane, albeit one that serves as more than mere nostalgia. No doubt some will be put off by Bordo making such a clear case for the catastrophe that has been the Trump administration being largely brought about and sustained by television. And unlike some who are thee imbecilic, television and ratings are indeed how Trump measured his success, Twitter was a tool he used to help toward that end. The asinine tweets are what made the news and created the controversies that got him unlimited television time free of charge. But thee delusional is, well, not very discerning, much like Trump himself. But loves to think he is clever.

Like most of the volumes in this series, I highly recommend this one. Each one is different, some more or less personal, some more or less analytical. That is what makes the series fun, each volume isn't simply a cookie-cutter brief about the given object but one writer's way into and through that object.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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This was definitely not what I was expecting, but it was excellent nonetheless—even if I wasn’t familiar with all the shows the author mentioned.
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This was rather tricky to rate. It is a little all over the place. Firstly the title is misleading: it is somewhat about TV, but mainly about other things. A slim volume like this seems to be trying to give us the history of feminism, racism and the move to the political right. In the middle of this Susan Bordo describes individual episodes of some television series. 

Meanwhile, it is never overtly mentioned that this is a book about American television. The rest of the world just does not exist.

I'd like to read other things by Susan Bordo, since I think she has a lot to say - too much for this book which was, as the young people say "random".
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Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.  It started out promising and had a great premise, but it just fell flat for me.  However, it would be great for someone who really wants an in-depth look.
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Being a fan of inanimate objects and literature, I usually enjoy stories told about and/or from the perspective of the former. So I was really excited when Bloomsbury Academic  first began publishing this series, but time after time the books I sampled disappointed.  But TV, how can you go wrong with TV? I’m a huge fan.
     To be fair, an increasingly selective fan with age seasoned discriminating tastes, who has no need for cable and laments the pandering popular options that tend to range from reality tv to cooking shows to true crime. But still…TV is excellent, if only to watch the select few cleverer shows and movies on. The author of this book watches more tv than I do, by far, and a lot of it, maybe most of it, isn’t for me, but that’s neither here nor there, because this book really isn’t about tv. 
     Mainly, this is a book about the dumbing down of the nation with TV used as a tool to shape the way people perceive the world and receive the news. This is a book about how we went from laughtracked sitcoms to reality tv to a reality tv shaped leader of the free world. It’s way more political of a book than you might expect and, though it covers the gamut of cultural things ushered in and shaped by the television, from representation to gender roles and more, the main theme remains the 2016 election, the dynamics, the mechanism, the media manipulation and all the things that made it possible. Because once people accept the fact that they live in a democracy where popular vote doesn’t win elections because of an antiquated electoral institution and once you accept the fact that strikingly large percentage of the population would absolutely choose incompetence and demagoguery over experience and integrity based on preexisting biases and immoral marketing…well, that’s it, really, isn’t it. People go right back to the idiot box that shaped them and listen to more…alternative facts. 
    But it all began with news stations wanting to deliver more than facts, craving a more dedicated audience for 24/7 coverage, they’ve taken to creative embellishments and narrative constructs traditionally reserved for fiction. And then it snowballed from there into doing more and more for attention’s sake, going farther and farther and…there you have it. An age where truth has become ludicrously, laughably, dangerously subjective. And a country that’s paying for it. And oddly not enough people are outraged. Not nearly enough.
     The author is, properly, outraged. It’s kind of nice, actually, to have an intelligent person with a well educated critical mind dissect the situation and present it this way. In this book. Which is only really kinda sorta about tv. 
    It stands to mention that the author is a self described second wave feminist with staunch democratic ideology, so this obviously won’t be to everyone’s taste. But then again, unlike the generic pablum on tv aimed to appease the plebs (who’ll probably be all too happy to dismiss this as some coastal elite liberal propaganda), this book is actually meant for the discriminating, critically thinking elements of the society. It’s clever, appropriately angry and educational, like a good lecture that isn’t afraid to show some emotion. It reads quickly and might leave you ever so slightly smarter, which is always excellent. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
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Hmmm…  I've long since seen too many of the books in this series become insufferably navel-gazing (the navel a glaring omission from the franchise, of course), so I kind of knew what to expect when this book declared it would be a personal trawl through TV, paralleling three concerns – what the author was watching at certain times, what everyone else was watching (and thinking courtesy of, and being told to behave like) when they were watching TV, and, er, the Trump election and presidency.  My initial "hmmm…" stems from the fact the book does suitably cover all three bases – there is scorn at Trump's behaviour, from him grandstanding his own racism at election rallies to barging across riotous roads to stand with a Bible and pretend he and it were the saviour of the entire country; there is the author's revisiting of what she might have been watching as a youth, whether it be political broadcasts or some soapy narrative permanently intertwined with the demands of the sponsors; and there is some very good media studies discussion of how certain cable TV series have approached feminism recently, and how the medium of TV news is turning its output more and more from the definition of news and more and more towards its agenda.  But this rash of diverse subjects didn't really make me feel this was a book with a coherent argument.

For this Object Lessons series, the tendency is to begin with a solid object, a bookshelf, a phone box, a snake (!) and give us something that more or less covers the remit of providing-a-book-about-something-we'd-never-expect-to-find-ourselves-reading-a-book-about.  This generally covers some of that, although as the book admits as an opener, we might have expected a book about the actual television as in the equipment in our homes, and not the content portrayed on them.  And no, it certainly doesn't try to cover the full gamut of televised product.  Nor really does it engage with the post-TV world; it declares Trump always had an eye to his ratings, when to my eye he lived and acted as President solely on Tw*tter, and this being the second defiantly post-George Floyd book in this series I've read today, ignores the fact that that footage was intended to circulate online, never through a fuddy-duddy old medium.  But for all those caveats, this will appeal to many academically-minded people wishing to look at what the author has to say about the more fraudulent, unrealistic and problematic worlds of the TV medium.  It's not as flowingly readable and approachable as the general browser might wish, mind.
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