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January 27, 2011 12:00 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend articles/books/etc. which talk about broadcast media and American suburbia in the 1970s and 1980s.

As part of a family history project, I've been jotting down reminiscences from my formative years growing up in the Midwestern suburbs in the late 1970s/very early 1980s. Since I grew up to be a musician/writer with a particular interest in sound and nostalgia, I've been soaking in the grainy, tube-warmed, digital-primitive aesthetic of television and radio in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

(This classic post captures the sort of thing I'm referring to; also cf.)

For further inspiration, I'd like to know what's been written about the experience of transmission media in rural or suburban communities in the days of UHF, community television, highly localized and/or pre-cable programming. I would accept everything from academic communications/media studies to evocative autobiographical sketches from the same era. This might include things like:

- Studies of local vs. national programming in suburban markets;
- Overviews of late 1970s/early 1980s television production technology;
- The history of public access television in non-urban areas;
- Articles written by preservationists of material from this era;
- Studies of TV advertising and cultural messages in the 1970s/1980s;
- The blooming of the VHS/Betamax era and home video recording.

A fairly wide net, I know, but I'm sure this has been handled in a variety of ways by cultural critics, broadcast historians, and others of that ilk. So, what should I read? (And aside from scouring YouTube and Vimeo for fabulously decayed VHS rips, are there any solid documentaries on the topic?)
posted by mykescipark to Media & Arts (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, written in 1978. Depending on your perspective it will seem either incredibly antiquated and preachy, or downright visionary. Either way, a compelling read. Lots of studies cited.
posted by hermitosis at 7:24 AM on January 27, 2011

I'm not sure if this really fits your criteria but the AV Club has done a couple of overviews of popular television from the 1970s and 1980s as part of their "Primer" series of articles:

Primer: 1980s Sitcoms
Primer: 70s Sitcoms

Also, this deals with individual episodes but I'm quite fond of Noel Murray's "A Very Special Episode" series which explores a particular episode from a TV series and its reflection of and impact on the culture of its time:

A Very Special Episode

Actually, poking around the AV Club archives might be a good idea in general. The writers (generally) have a very broad knowledge of not only current popular & off beat culture but also a fairly impressive grasp of the film and TV "foundations" from earlier eras.

Hope this helps!
posted by moxiequz at 10:23 AM on January 27, 2011

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