What is it?
Lasswell, Mark. TV Guide: Fifty Years of Television. New York: Crown Publishers, 2002.
Why should M*A*S*H fans care?
In the first 50 years of television history, M*A*S*H came right in the middle and lasted for 11 years. The series spanned part of two decades and survived societal changes to go out on top. This book provides great context as to what else was on television when M*A*S*H originally aired.
As a M*A*S*H fan, what part(s) should I read?
Really, you could read all of it, but M*A*S*H is only discussed on pages 195 – 197. The show is mentioned off and on throughout, but the primary series highlights are limited to three pages.
TV Guide was king in the first 50 years of television history, and this book is a great overview of the shows that made up that early era. Reading this book 20 years later, it is interesting how much “television” has been changed by streaming series, and this book highlights the golden age of television, an age in which M*A*S*H was extremely important.
In 2002, TV Guide celebrated the 50th anniversary of television by offering a retrospective book exploring the shows that made up those first 50 years. This book is now 20 years old, and it is hard to believe how different television is. The addition of cable networks and streaming services can be overwhelming to audiences, but in the early days of television, there were only three major networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), so it was easier to determine what you were going to watch. That first 50 years defined television and M*A*S*H came right in the middle of that 50 year span. This book celebrates the shows and television events that changed history.
Looking at the table of contents for the book, you see how it is organized. Weekend programming is discussed such as Saturday morning cartoons, a favorite of mine as a kid. Daytime television is also covered with its iconic talk shows and soap operas. Late night talk shows are also discussed, but the bread and butter of this book is evening, so called “primetime,” television. That is when all of the iconic shows aired including I Love Lucy, All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Cheers, Roseanne, Seinfeld, and hundreds more. In the days before internet, TV Guide had all the information about what was going to be on television and it often featured actor profiles, behind the scenes information, and scoops about popular shows.
So what does all of this have to with M*A*S*H? Quite a bit actually! M*A*S*H was part of what we might now call “the golden age of television.” And this book talks about M*A*S*H, features a few of the iconic M*A*S*H TV Guide covers, and reprints a 1983 article about what made M*A*S*H special. That article was originally published in TV Guide to celebrate the series’ iconic finale. So while M*A*S*H may only take up three pages of this book, the book offers so much more. It offers context. Airing from 1972 to 1983, M*A*S*H shared the airwaves with other important and iconic television series. I like having this book in my collection because it highlights the shows M*A*S*H aired along side and competed with.
Today, the concept of a TV Guide seems foreign. The television networks are just a tiny fraction of the entertainment vying for our attention. But in the first 50 years of television, as highlighted by TV Guide in this book, audiences had fewer choices but the networks and shows didn’t fight any less for their attention. TV Guide has plenty of nice things to say about M*A*S*H, and I agree with all of it! It is the other shows from M*A*S*H‘s era that I enjoy reading about. What else was a M*A*S*H viewer in 1975 watching? What else would you have watched in 1978? This book might answer those questions and many more! Used copies of TV Guide: Fifty Years of Television are available online. As are used copies of TV Guide magazine featuring M*A*S*H on the cover. I highly recommend collecting both!