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A Biography

David Thomson

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The story of how – between 1948 and 2013 – the small screen changed us all, by one of the world’s most esteemed critics


In just a few years, what used to be an immobile piece of living room furniture, which one had to sit in front of at appointed times in order to watch sponsored programming on a finite number of channels, morphed into a glowing cloud of screens with access to a near-endless supply of content available when and how viewers want it. With this phenomenon now a common cultural theme, a writer of David Thomson's stature delivering a critical history, or biography of the six-decade television era, will be a significant event which could not be more timely. With Television, the critic and film historian, who wrote what Sight and Sound's readers called the most important film book of the last 50 years, has finally turned his unique powers of observation to the medium that has swallowed film whole.

Over 22 thematically organized chapters, Thomson brings his provocatively insightful and unique voice to the life of what was television. David Thomson surveying a Boschian landscape, illuminated by that singular glow always on and peopled by everyone from Donna Reed to Dennis Potter, will be the first complete history of the defining medium of our time.

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'This is the read (and respect) that culture s dominant force deserves.'
Sunday Times (2016 Books of the Year)

'Full of unexpected insights, it's learned and beautifully produced. It's also tremendous fun.'
Guardian (2016 Books of the Year)

'The greatest writer about the big screen has now written a defining book about the small screen.'
Geoff Dyer

'A panoramic history of television that s full of thoughtfulness, gusto and intelligence. It s also extremely entertaining. At the moment when screens are finally everywhere, David Thomson is out to decide how we salvage excellence from ubiquity.'
David Hare

'Thomson at his best (which is, bluntly, better more intriguing, more infuriating, more fun than just about any other critic).'
Sight & Sound, BFI Magazine

'Unlike almost all critics, David Thomson is unafraid to see, to read, to experience or re-experience the story television tells as true history not a reflection, but a version of what really happened in the world at large, and what may. '
Greil Marcus

'Only a mind as resourceful and clever as David Thomson's would have the courage to try to put his arms around the whole vast wasteland of our beloved, hated television and make some idiosyncratic sense of it.'
Ken Burns

'A succession of limpid, allusive brilliance.'

Evening Standard

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.7 x 17.8 cm

Extent: 416 pp

Publication date: 13 October 2016

ISBN: 9780500519165

About the Author

David Thomson is a British film critic and historian based in the USA and the author of more than 20 books. His reference works in particular – Have You Seen...?: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films and The New Biographical Dictionary of Film – have been praised as works of high literary merit and eccentricity. John Banville called him ‘the greatest living writer on the movies’.

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