Thursday, January 24, 2013

Not Quite TV Guide

1983, first edition, from Prince Paperbacks
Gerald Sussman, with many people helping on everything from modeling to the crossword
Not Quite TV Guide: Local, Network, Regional, Cable, Wire, Cord, and String Listings
Original price $3.95, purchase price unknown
Worn paperback

Still funny parody of a once indispensible magazine, this captures the beginning of the era of, as Bruce Springsteen put it in 1992, "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)."  A string of shows are named "_____ & Marie", Latin film star Pedro Fumar ("smoking Peter") is ubiquitious, and early reality cable shows like Cooking for Cannibals and T-Man and Juggs find niche markets.  My favorite piece is "Reader's Poll: What Should We Do with the Jeffersons?", or more specifically, responses to the question "What in heaven's name can we do to George and Louise to get them off the air once and for all?"  Isabel Sanford had been playing Louise since '71, Sherman Hemsley was George since '73, on All in the Family, and their spin-off series had definitely jumped the shark by '83.  (I saw an episode taping around that time, and the cast seemed weary, although Sanford was very nice in answering one of my questions that baffled the warm-up guy.)  The answers in the poll are incredibly ridiculous, and hostile though they are on the surface, like the "reader who suggested that they should get into one of their typical stupid fights and go at each other with kitchen knives," there's definitely an underlying affection to this book, aimed more at the TV addict than the TV-hater.

And indeed, back when I was a 15-year-old TV addict, I owned a copy of this book, although I lost it around the time I lost How to Regain Your Virginity.  While it was still in my possession, I shared it with my future ex-husband, who a few years ago bought me a replacement copy.  And, yes, I didn't get all the sex jokes in this book either originally.  I also didn't get all the literary references.

My vote for most ironic entry goes not to any of the mentions of Princess Di, but to the blurb on Rocky XIII.  Rocky is now 60 and still boxing, unlike the Rocky of the real last movie (Rocky Balboa, 2006), who's in his late 50s and retired from boxing.  Still, the sequelitis already deserved to be parodied in '83.

I was such a TV addict, I used to collect TV Guide, so I can say with some authority that Sussman and company have captured the look and feel of the magazine, down to the little ovals with "END" in them at the finish of longer articles.  The crossword is based entirely on advertising, a nice jab, and there are some ad parodies throughout, such as the Sears Child-Cleaning Service.  Sometimes the artwork is too cartoonish, and sometimes the humor is a bit offensive, but overall this is much better than you'd expect.

Sussman was an advertising copywriter as well as editor-in-chief of National Lampoon.  He wrote six other humor books, and died only six years after this one came out.

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