Mar 3, 2003  •  Post A Comment

When I was 13 years old growing up in Syracuse, N.Y., I had the TV Guide memorized. As snow fell during the long winter months, there was little else I wanted to do but curl up and get lost in the tube. It was a window on a world that otherwise existed only in my dreams. I could tell you what was on any time of the day or night, including the station, airtime and usually the stars of the show. I had it down cold.
Both channels.
That was a particularly big year for television in my hometown because a third station finally came on the air, offering the entire ABC lineup for the first time. That was a big deal to me. While ABC might have been third in ratings and national coverage at the time behind CBS and NBC, it carried many of the youth-oriented shows popular at the time, such as “American Bandstand,” “Maverick” and “Ozzie and Harriet.”
Since then the world of television has changed in numerous ways. For the past three decades, as a working journalist in New York, Miami, Berkeley, Detroit and Los Angeles, I have been an eyewitness to many of those changes. I wrote about the coming of satellite distribution, which dramatically lowered the cost of program delivery, made possible the global expansion of cable TV and revolutionized news coverage. I learned about pay TV from Frank Biondi and Michael Fuchs long before “The Sopranos” ruled. I interviewed John Hendricks when Discovery was a single network.
I was at the Western Cable Show in Anaheim when Ted Turner was selling his idea for a new cable news network, and was on hand when NATPE became a worldwide marketplace. I chronicled the birth of the Fox Network for a book, and watched the coming of The WB and UPN.
I have lived long enough to see the coming of the Internet, satellite TV, laser discs and DVDs. I’ve observed once-impoverished cable channels become programming powerhouses, and dozens of companies consolidate into a handful of giant conglomerates.
I no longer have the TV Guide memorized. I now have to squint to read all the listings jammed on the pages. There are dozens of channels offering an amazing choice of programs.
It is those shows, and the people on them and behind them, that will be the subject of this column. I will seek out those who I believe deserve special mention, poke those who need a wake-up call, raise questions that need answers and, where possible, take you along as I make my rounds in today’s dynamic TV industry.
The new name of this publication, TelevisionWeek, carries a mandate to cover the most important things in the TV biz each week. This column will attempt to bring added value by shedding light on people and things that might not otherwise fit our format. I believe that American TV today, in all of its forms, represents the most exciting and popular attraction in the global marketplace. So watch this space to meet people in and around TV, hear what I hear around town, share my insights and be subjected to an occasional rant about what we can do to improve our industry and our lives.
I may no longer have the TV grid memorized, but I am watching as never before.