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Book examining television comedy reprinted and re-released

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On Television and Comedy: Essays on Style, Theme, Performer, and Writer


Barry Putterman's book "On Television and Comedy: Essays on Style, Theme, Performer, and Writer" originally came out in 1995 and is currently enjoying a re-release. It is a semi-chronological study of the genre's form and function on the small screen, but the book's approach is more thematic.

Putterman's explanations of TV comedy's early development are very clear and well-written, establishing such noted historical accomplishments as "I Love Lucy," discussing the fact that much of the show's success is due to its being shot on film, like a movie, despite having a live audience. This innovation for the time resulted in the rerun and established how much television production would be done thereafter. The establishment of the family show via Ozzie and Harriet would inspire several family comedies that dealt with everything from rural life (Beverly Hillbillies), the macabre (Munsters, Addams Family), and the traditional (Leave it to Beaver) always with a comic element, be it underlying or out front.

The author's comparison-contrast to early cinematic styles of comedy is quite interesting, finding the frenetic, knockabout Sennett traditions inherent in the comedy of The Monkees, while the more refined situational approach has it s roots in the Hal Roach situation comedies of Charley Chase, et. al.

The book remains interesting and informative throughout, and the author's insights are enlightening. There are many nice photo illlustrations throughout the book, further enhancing interest. The only drawback is this 1995 book stops at a certain historical point (the final chapter discusses the GLOW female wrestling program) so there is nothing on the eventual development of reality television as comedy.

Still, the book's look at TV comedy's history and development makes it very worthwhile for media libraries and research centers as well as casual fans.