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Friday, July 21, 2006

Making a Good Reference Book Worse

So I'm looking at Tom the Dog's post about the Top Ten sitcoms, which maybe I'll do myself around Emmy time, when I noticed a little mistake Tom made about Taxi being one of the few shows that has gone from one network to another. Normally, I'd just leave him a note, but his HaloScan reply thing was hanging up when I was trying to use it.

I pull out my trusty The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh. I know there's a list in the back of the book that addresses this issue. But NO LIST. Huh? I'm not crazy (really, I'm not, I swear to Rudy). I was looking at my 8th edition (c. 2003), so I pull out my 5th edition, c. 1992, and the list is THERE. So they dropped this list? How else has the back of the book changed?

Appendix 1 Prime Time Schedules - in both volumes
Appendix 2 Emmy Award Winners - ditto
Appendix 3 Top-rated shows by season - ditto
Appendix 4 Longest-running series - ditto
Appendix 5 The Top 100 series of All Time - ditto (#1 is 60 Minutes, BTW)
Appendix 6 Prime Time series reunions - ditto
But then
Appendix 7 - Series Airing in Prime Time on More Than One Network - ONLY in the 1992 version
Appendix 8 in the older book, Prime Time Spin-Offs, is Appendix 7 in the new book
Appendix 9 in the older book, Prime Time Series Based on Movies, is Appendix 8 in the new book
Appendix 10 in the older book, Prime Time Network TV Series that Also Aired on Network Radio, is Appendix 9 in the new book
Appendix 11 in the older book, Hit Theme Songs from Series, is Appendix 10 in the new book
The new book does have Network Web Addresses as its Appendix 11. But then for Appendix 12, nine pages of "The Ph.D. Trivia Quiz"

As a reference librarian, this is the kind of thing that makes me frustrated. I'm forced to hold on to the old reference source (or at least to Xerox those pages) because the new edition of a reference source inexplicably drops a perfectly good, even unique, reference point in favor of piffle, in this case, a trivia quiz. This has happened in our business library as well. It's maddening (no, wait, I said I WASN'T crazy...)

Dear Messrs. Brooks and Marsh:

Please bring back "Series Airing in Prime Time on More Than One Network" in your Complete Directory for your next edition. It is a list not easily found. If you need more space, feel free to drop the trivia contest. Quizzes are not why people buy your book. They buy it as a reference source.

I'm guessing that perhaps you dropped the chart because you didn't know how to handle the so-called "netlets", WB and UPN, or even FOX, because they don't broadcast the three hours of prime-time programming that is associated with a "network". Of course, the early years reflected in your book, the schedules were pretty sparse, too. Perhaps, your calculations this will be easier, now that the CW has replaced the netlets. I would ask you to include the CW (and its antecedents) as well as FOX.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Roger Green
Reference Librarian and Fan of Television History

4 comments:

tomthedog said...

Well? Now you're leaving me in suspense. How many shows are there? I can think of very few during my lifetime -- Taxi, Diff'rent Strokes (maybe, I'm not sure on that one), Sister Sister, Grounded for Life, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch... I'm stumped after that. Those last four involved "netlets" -- so, before the advent of WB and UPN, there were, to my recollection, less than a handful during the past 30 or so years. Between the big three, it seems like it's almost never happened. Give me more examples from your list!

Roger Owen Green said...

OK, Tom - Hazel, My Three Sons, Get Smart, Wonder Woman, Bionic Woman. In fact, the list is SO long, it'll be my post on TUESDAY. (It also needs citations about shows that I WOULDN'T consider, so it'll be long and complicated.)

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