July 04, 2005

BOOKS: Kissing Bill O'Reilly, Roasting Miss Piggy, Ken Tucker (2005)

100 Things to Love and Hate About TV is the subtitle, and that's precisely what we get, in alternating Love/Hate mini-essays of a page or two. The pairings are sometimes logical (love C-SPAN; hate Sunday morning news shows), but mostly random (love Freaks & Geeks; hate The Price Is Right).

The book is among the most sloppily edited I've ever seen from a major publisher (St. Martin's). A piece on ABC's "TGIF" sitcoms says "The shows to which I refer above..." when no shows have been referred to; a piece on Andy Rooney lists Jack Kilpatrick as a participant in the Point/Counterpoint segment which preceded Rooney's on 60 Minutes (it should be James Kilpatrick). Similar errors of fact and clumsy editing are scattered throughout the book.

As for the actual content, Tucker's "Love" pieces aren't nearly as interesting as his "Hate" pieces; that's not terribly surprising, since it's much easier to write an entertaining rant than to write entertaining praise. Tucker's also more willing to present himself as an iconoclast, making brave choices, in his "Hate" pieces, where he goes after ostensibly dangerous targets like Star Trek, Six Feet Under, and The West Wing (though with the critical backlash all of those shows have gone through, none of them are particularly brave "hate" targets). There's nothing remotely controversial in his "Love" pieces -- Paul Lynde, Jack Benny, Buffalo Bill. (Well, OK, maybe admitting a fondness for Welcome Back, Kotter is a bit weird.)

There's no theme to the book, and no coherent aesthetic philosophy that I can find. What it feels like more than anything else, really, is a collection of blog entries written on whatever TV topic happened to cross Tucker's mind at any given moment.

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