Clifford Thompson at Threepenny Review:
The book, which my older brother had brought along, was Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh’s The Complete Directory to Prime-Time TV Shows,1946–Present. Here were articles, ranging from a paragraph to a page or two, about every evening television show I had ever watched—and baby, I had watched a lot of them—plus many, many more I hadn’t seen or even heard of. Here were Gilligan’s Island, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Good Times, and all the other programs I had actively viewed or had on in the background while I did my homework or played with my toys. Here were the sources of those flickering blue images (these were the last days of black-and-white TV) that infused the atmosphere of our little semi-detached brick house like dust mites, like the air itself. The articles recounted the shows’ premises, described the characters, and, in many cases, gave critical analyses. Reading the analyses was like looking down from a helicopter at the street where I’d lived my whole life, seeing utterly familiar things from a brand-new angle. In the entry about Sanford and Son, the sitcom about a cantankerous, ailing, sixty-five-year-old junk dealer and his resentful, complaining thirty-year-old son and caretaker, I read that the son, Lamont—I am quoting all this from memory—“would never have left the old man.” No, come to think of it, I guess he wouldn’t have! “Although it was never thrown out at the audience,” I read about the warm, attractive, single main character of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary “could spend the night with a man she wasn’t in love with.” I had never thought to put it that way, but yes, that was probably right!