Hey, it happened to me. Turning Points in Television, my second nonfiction book (Television Writing from the Inside Out was first) was published as a trade paperback by Citadel in 2005. It’s just what the name implies, my pick of the most important developments in the history of TV up to that time.
With one major difference: I was part of all those developments, either as a viewer, a writer, or a producer.
I thought that was pretty cool because by writing about my participation I could also write about my feelings about the various events and include inside stories – war stories mostly – that not only hadn’t been told by anyone else but couldn’t be told by anyone but me.
Unfortunately, the market for thinly disguised Larry Brody memoirs turned out to be smaller than the publisher thought. Turning Points pretty much bombed. Didn’t make back my advance, and awhile ago my editor e-mailed to tell me it was going out of print and how many copies did I want to buy before everything got pulped?
I was saddened by this development but not depressed and bought a couple of boxes, thinking I’d give them away as contest prizes and such. And if I ever think of a suitable contest for such a prize, you’ll all get a crack at them.
But for now, here’s the important thing:
Turning Points in Television has a foreword by a friend of mine named Stan Lee.
And in all likelihood, that foreword is the least-read piece of published verbiage Stan has ever written. Which is a wrong that must be righted, as Stan might say. (But more grandiloquently, of course, because he’s Stan Lee.) So to rectify that situation – and give TVWriter™ visitors and Marvel True Believers an edge over the poor, sad, ignoranti (also as Stan might say), here ya go – Stan Lee’s Lost Words on my for all practical purposes Lost Book:
TURNING POINTS IN TELEVISION
by Stan Lee
When comic books first started those of us toiling away at them had a luxury we weren’t aware of. We were operating beneath the radar. Our employers, the guys with the money, scrutinized the sales figures but pretty much left the magical process of creation alone. The good news is that my cohorts and I got to sneak Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, and a ton of other characters out to the public when no one was looking.
Television, though, hasn’t been so lucky. Although younger than comics, TV quickly grabbed a much larger audience, and has gotten more attention from commentators, critics, and pundits. After all, kids and the adults they grew up into have always had to get on their bikes or into their cars and go off to the store to buy comic books, but once you’ve plunked your money down for a TV set it’s there, staring at you and all you’ve got to do is turn it on.
In spite of all this attention, Turning Points in Television is the first time I’ve seen both TV shows and the business that creates them analyzed in terms of their contributions to contemporary culture by someone who has actually been around when all the shenanigans have been going on.
This book is up close and personal, giving all of us who read it a behind-the-scenes account of the shows and people who have influenced how millions of viewers dress and talk and work and play and buy and look at ourselves and each other, maybe even how we think. (Although I’d rather believe that in the days when Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and other talented artists and I came up with the Marvel superheroes it was divine inspiration that led the way and not Bonanza.)
Award-winning television writer and producer and bigtime viewer Larry Brody surprised me on almost every page of this book. Was I aware that Desi Arnaz, Jr. is the reason we’ve got reruns–and that he caused it before he was born? Absolutely not.
Was I in on the fact that the reason I see big city neighborhoods and people with big city problems every time I channel surf isn’t because the whole world is really like that? (I’m from New York. What do I know?)
Did I know that decisions made by a very smart man named Fred Silverman in the ‘70s are why Suzanne Summers gets to sell us all that jewelry and exercise equipment over the airwaves today? That a brilliant writer named Steven Bochco could very well be the reason that so many other terrific TV writers are out of work? And that Larry Brody loved a puppet named Howdy Doody so much that, just like the Who he also wanted to “die before I get old?”
Not only is Turning Points in Television filled with revelations, it’s also loaded with passion, and even some Deep Thought. That’s because Larry can’t help himself. He’s a passionate man, and probably every bit as smart as Fred Silverman.
Larry Brody and I first met in the early 1990s, when he was writing for one of the animated television versions of Spider-Man, and I knew he had to be a wise man after he told me what an influence my work had had on him. One thing he modestly leaves out of this book is the fact that he became responsible for another major Turning Point in TV when we worked together again in 1998. That’s when we developed and he ramrodded an animated series about my comic book character the Silver Surfer.
Before the Surfer, Saturday morning animation was all about the action. Characters grunted and groaned and said, “Hey!” and “Stop!” and “Get him!” The Silver Surfer on Fox Kids changed all that. Larry’s Surfer was articulate and thoughtful and always looking for a way to stay out of a fight. He soliloquized and philosophized and talked just the way he did in the comic, like an adult. The show became a cult classic, and the next time you watch an animated show on TV you’ll see other characters talking more than they punch, thinking, even caring once in awhile.
You’re going to like this book. Would two guys who who wrote Spidey and the Hulk and the Silver Surfer steer you wrong?
Speaking of Turning Points in Television, although Amazon.Com isn’t carrying it any longer, they do have a list of sellers who have some remainders. In case anyone wants to buy a copy. Hey, maybe I should just sell mine. Whatcha think?