Syndicated Television: A Book Review
There's a small reference publishing company nestled away in Jefferson, North Carolina called McFarland & Co. that we are frequently drawn to for their irresistible titles. Their books that are beautiful collectors items, and although expensive, we return to them again and again because no one else is creating books like this. Some that we have reviewed in the past on 21st Century Radio® include:
Fantastic Cinema Subject Guide: A Topical Index to 2500 Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy Films, by Bryan Senn and John Johnson
Bob Dylan: A Description, Critical Discography and Filmography, 1961-1993, by John Nogowski
Radio Sound Effects: Who Did It and How, in the Era of Live Broadcasting by Robert L. Mott
Radio Mystery and Adventure and Its Appearances in Film, Television and Other Media, by Jim Harmon
The Early Days of Radio Broadcasting, by George H. Douglas
The Saint: A Complete History in Print, Radio, Film and Television, by Burl Barer
Let's Pretend: A History of Radio's Best Love Children's Show by a Longtime Cast member, by Arthur Anderson
Handbook of Old-Time Radio: A Comprehensive Guide to Golden Age Radio Listening and Collecting, by Jon D. Swartz and Robert C. Reinehr
Gunsmoke: A Complete History: SuzAnne and Gabor Barabas
Lux Presents Hollywood: A Show-by-Show History of the Lux Radio Theatre and the Lux Video Theatre, 1934-1957, by Connie Billips and Arthur Pierce

On January 7, 1996, Bob interviewed McFarland author, Hal Erickson who has written among others: Religious Radio and TV in the United States from 1921-1991: The Programs and Personalities; Baseball In The Movies: A Comprehensive Reference; and Syndicated Television: The First Forty Years From 1947-1987.

A syndicated television program is one made exclusively for non-network play or a program originally intended for network telecast but ultimately debuting in syndication. The first syndicated television shows were also some of the very FIRST television shows in the late 1940s such as Jay Ward’s "Crusader Rabbit" (TV’s first cartoon), "The Cisco Kid" and "Public Prosecutor".

The 1980s brought about the biggest syndication boom in TV history as a result of the growing number of UHF television stations. A lot of new stations were sprouting up because many businessmen decided to get in on the ground floor of the deregulated media business. Another factor contributing to the increasing number of television shows debuting in syndication was the competition coming from cable. The competition encouraged producers to create new shows rather than just run the same old reruns. As a result, the quality of television programming has improved in the opinion of Hal Erickson. Erickson says syndicated shows are getting better every year, pointing to the fact that two of the most popular shows right now, Hercules and Zena, are both non-network shows. Neither was sold to networks, instead they are sold station by station, and they're doing very well. And Erickson thinks they are also technically far superior to syndicated programs of even just a few years ago. "Star Trek: The Next Generation" really opened the flood gates for many new shows and for the level of technical excellence expected on them.

In 1987 the FOX TV network became the first new network to rival the big three, but at the beginning they advertised themselves as a syndication service so they could skirt the rule prohibiting networks from selling their programs for syndication. This gave them a foot-hold and caused people to notice they had alternatives to the same old programming provided by the Big Three networks. "For example, they put a prime time cartoon show on when there hadn't been one since 'The Flintstones'. And 'The Simpsons' became their most popular program even rivaling the ratings of the football games.

FOX was also the first network to emphasize programming on the paranormal and unexplained, subjects that the other networks routinely avoided or ridiculed. They argued that it didn't sell and instead kept grinding out the sitcoms. FOX's adventurousness proved them wrong, however, and now paranormal programming is all the rage.

To order Hall Erickson's Syndicated Television, contact McFarland Publishing at Box 611, Jefferson, NC 28640 or call 910-246-4460.