The Complete Encyclopedia of Television Programs, 1947-1976
By Vincent Terrace
First Published 1976 in Two Volumes
Published by A. S. Barnes and Co., Inc.
Vol. 1: 450 Pages / Vol. 2: 464 Pages
Vincent Terrace has made a career out of writing encyclopedic tomes about television and radio, including titles such as Encyclopedia of Television: Series, Pilots and Specials, 1937-1973, Radios Golden Years: The Encyclopedia of Radio Programs, 1930-1960 and Sitcom Factfinder, 1948-1984: Over 9,700 Details from 168 Television Shows. According to the front flap, The Complete Encyclopedia of Television Programs, 1947-1976 was the first encyclopedia of television. It also declares that “Terrace has, through his encyclopedic knowledge of the medium and extensive research, [has] written an indispensable, fact-embedded history of television.” The back flap explains that the encyclopedia “is sure to provide a nostalgic backward glance into America’s past — the programs and the personalities that shaped more than a quarter century of television broadcasting.” And at a cost of just $29.95 for both hardcover volumes.
The encyclopedia covers roughly 3,000 programs (Volume 1 covers titles A through K and Volume 2 titles L through Z) and includes over 170 black-and-white photographs. For each program, Terrace gives the genre it falls into, a brief summary, the cast and broadcast information. Here, for example, is the entry for The Baileys of Balboa:
Comedy. Background: Bailey’s Landing, Balboa Beach, California. The story of the bickering relationship between two men: Sam Bailey, the captain of a noisy and decrepit character boat, the Island Princess, and his objecting neighbor, Cecil Wyntoon, the commodore of the high-class Balboa Yachting Club.
Sam Bailey Paul Ford
Cecil Wyntoon John Dehner
Barbara Bailey, Sam’s daughter Judy Carne
Jim Wyntoon, Cecil’s son Les Brown, Jr.
Buck Singleton, Sam’s shipmate Sterling Holloway
THE BAILEYS OF BALBOA–30 minutes–CBS–September 24, 1964 – March 29, 1965.
Summaries vary in length from a few words to several paragraphs. The summary for I Dream of Jeannie is one of the longer ones, running for seven paragraphs. The summary for Star Stage, an NBC anthology that ran from 1954-1955, is two words: Dramatic presentations. For many anthologies, as well as movie series like The ABC Movie of the Week Terrace provides a handful of examples of episodes, each complete with their own cast lists.
In terms of sheer informational value, The Complete Encyclopedia of Television Programs, 1947-1976 leaves a lot to be desired. Popular, well-known shows often (but not always) have longer summaries than more obscure programs. The summary for The Flying Nun is three paragraphs long while the summary for The New Land is one sentence. On the other hand, the summary for The New People is longer than the summary for Gilligan’s Island.
Format-wise, the two narrow columns on each page is a bit frustrating but you get used to it. There is no index of any sort but it is pretty easy to flip through either volume looking for a particular show. If this truly was the first television encyclopedia, I’m sure it was well-received by historians, academics and television fans alike. Today, however, I rarely find it useful and much prefer The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present.
A new work by Terrace, a four-volume paperback set titled Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2007, was published in 2008. I haven’t had a chance to look through it but I’d be interested to know if Terrace updated his entries for programs from The Complete Encyclopedia of Television Programs, 1947-1976. Here‘s its page at McFarland’s website.