Previewing A Year in TV Guide

Late last month I announced my upcoming A Year in TV Guide project, which kicks off this Friday with an examination of the 1964 Fall Preview issue. Every Friday I’ll be taking a look at the TV Guide issue published exactly 50 years earlier. My intent is not simply to list what was on television each week. It’s to follow the course of the 1964-1965 television season as written about in the pages of TV Guide: the articles, the reviews, the news, the advertisements and yes, the listings and the close-ups.

When I started thinking about this project last year I didn’t pick 1964-1965 at random or simply because 2014-2015 marks the 50th anniversary of that season. That’s just a happy coincidence. I chose that season only because I happen to have nearly every issue of TV Guide published between August 1964 and August 1965, courtesy of a relative who can no longer remember exactly why he decided to collect those particular issues (I’m just glad he did and even happier he held on to them for so long). Because I want to kick things off with the 1964 Fall Preview issue and end with the 1965 Fall Preview issue, I’ll need to acquire nine issues, two of which have already been purchased.

Over the years I’ve been able to make good use of this TV Guide collection, using them to research my articles on The Baileys of Balboa, My Living Doll, 90 Bristol Court and Slattery’s People. I reviewed two of them in 2010 back when Bookshelf was a weekly blog feature and I was running low on tie-in novels.

Still, I always wanted to do something more substantial with the collection. Being able to refer to the issues occasionally was great but otherwise they were just sitting in boxes on a shelf. At one point I imagined an even more exhaustive analysis of the 1964-1965 season involving detailed night-by-night network schedules, weekly Nielsen reports, lists of programs and episodes available on DVD as well as those believed to be missing, and more. That was too ambitious to seriously consider.

What exactly will A Year in TV Guide entail? Well, it won’t be a weekly review of old TV Guide issues or a weekly look at what was on television five decades ago. Mitchell Hadley is doing great work in that arena over at It’s About TV every week, exploring TV Guide issues from the 1950s through the 1980s. What was on television will certainly be discussed, but my hope is to really get a sense of what was going on in the world of television beyond the listings, be it election coverage, talk about sports, or worries about ratings and cable. You can bet if TV Guide thought it was important enough to write about, tens of millions of readers did too, or at least they were aware of it.

I’m still not sure whether I’ll have a standard format each week, i.e. a rundown of the articles followed by the review(s) and then the advertisements, etc. It may take a few weeks to get a feel for exactly what I want this project to be. I do know I want there to be a local aspect, which for the most part involve Western New England because that’s the edition I have access to. Leafing through the first few issues leads me to believe it might not be as easy to pick out local programming as I had hoped, however. We’ll see how that goes. I will definitely be listing all of the TV Guide Close-Ups each week, to see what the magazine felt was worth highlighting. Somewhere in one of the issues, TV Guide was careful to declare that the Close-ups were not paid for by the networks but were independent chosen.

I’m exciting about this project and I hope it proves popular with readers as well. So be sure to check back on Friday for a look at the 1964 Fall Preview issue of TV Guide and the start of a year-long journey through A Year in TV Guide.


2 Comments

  • Andrew says:

    Greetings from Australia! I’m looking forward to reading your TV Guide recaps. And I’ve only just recently discovered It’s About TV’s recaps too. All very interesting!

  • Mitchell H. says:

    Thanks for the shout-out! And that was an excellent opening issue review – for me, having read through a lot of TV Guides, knowing what’s in them and how they read – your recap really gives the flavor of the issue, and of the time. You’re quite right – if TV Guide thought it was worth writing about, a lot of people felt it was worth reading.

    It also gives us a real insight into what, in fact, the editors and publisher really felt was important – what they want to spotlight, the programs and genres they want to promote, etc.

    I’m looking forward to some of the issues that we both write about – to see what each of us thinks is important, and what the other passed on. And you’re so lucky to have almost a complete set for that season – something that I haven’t come close to yet!

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