Starting around 1968, Harlan Ellison wrote a column of TV criticism for the L.A. Free Press. Ellison, the prolific speculative fiction author and TV writer, railed against the mediocre prime-time offerings of the day, recounted his battles with TV producers who rewrote and botched his scripts, and took shots at the Nixon administration over Vietnam. The stuff hasn’t aged all that well, and I won’t be buying the $750 signed limited edition with the updated audio rant. The material was already dated by the time I got my 13-year-old hands on these books with their references to current events and shows that were already half-forgotten (The Mod Squad, Laugh-In, The Smothers Brothers, Julia, First Tuesday, The Name of the Game, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir). I am impressed Ellison managed to watch so much TV without benefit of a VCR or DVR. For me, the books are a sort of personal museum for the 13-year-old me who found resonance in Ellison’s boiling, foul-mouthed rage at mass culture. His take on one week’s top Nielsen’s ratings:
Six of the 10 leading items are wafer-thin, inane, excruciatingly banal situation comedies dealing with a view of American home life that simply does not exist save in the minds of polyannas and outpatients from the Menninger Foundation. .. While their world gets ripped along the dotted line, the average middle-class consumer-slaphappy American opts for escapist entertainment of the most vapid sort. …No wonder [there is] such umbrage and outrage by the masscult mind at the doings of the Revolution: they sit night in and night out sucking up fantasy that tells them even hillbilly idiots with billions living in Beverly Hills are just plain folks.