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Smoke and Mirrors: Violence, Television, and Other American Cultures

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9781565844438: Smoke and Mirrors: Violence, Television, and Other American Cultures
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Instead of making a scapegoat of television as the cause of crime on the streets of the USA, stupidity in its schools, and spectacle rather than substance in its government, this challenge to conventional ideas about television sees inside the box an echo chamber and a feedback loop; a medium neither wholly innocent of, nor entirely responsible for, the disorder it brings to people's homes.

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You can't find a smarter, more savvy, and learned couch potato than John Leonard, the literary editor of The Nation and television critic for New York magazine and CBS Sunday Morning. In the pages of Smoke and Mirrors he accomplishes something close to the unthinkable: he creates a convincing case for the merits of our collective viewing habits through thoughtful essays on what television tells us about ourselves. At times Leonard's knowledge of television programming can be overwhelming, as he clicks through the history of long-canceled programs with a frightening intimacy. In contrast to real T.V., Leonard always offers up something worth tuning into. He treats our tired, media-saturated eyes to such topics as what detective programs reveal about out confidence in the individual, how our sense of national coherence has fractured into multitudinous channels of individual identity, and what talk shows express about the need for a collective legitimation. Leonard's arguments might not always sway the reader, but unlike the boob tube, he rarely disappoints.

From the Back Cover:

Smoke and Mirrors is a passionate, richly nuanced work that shows television as a circus, a wishing well, and a cure for loneliness. Ranging from Ed Sullivan to cyberspace, from kid shows to cable, and from the cheap thrills of "action adventure" to the solemn boredom of PBS pledge week, Leonard argues for a whole new way of thinking about television. For Leonard, the situation comedy is a socializing agency, the talk show is a legitimating agency, the made-for-television movie is the last redoubt of social conscience, and television criticism itself is the last refuge of time-serving thugs and postmodernists. Instead of scapegoating television as the cause of crime in our streets, stupidity in our schools, and spectacle rather than substance in our government, Leonard sees something else inside the box: an echo chamber and a feedback loop, a medium neither wholly innocent of nor entirely responsible for the frantic disorder it brings into our homes.

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9781565842267: Smoke and Mirrors

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Publisher: The New Press, 1997
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