Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Can the Public Library Serve Those who Watch TV?

Can you identify the following people and say why they are famous? Danielle Fishel. Mindy Kaling.  Lena Dunham. Matt Groening. If you can readily identify these personalities, then you have more than a passing interest in the world of television. Can the public library help people like you?

I will hereby admit to the world that, in addition to being an avid reader, I am also an avid TV watcher. Have been all my life, from my first memories of The Blue Fairy and Romper Room. In the 60’s, I moved on to Bullwinkle, The Flintstones, and The Jetsons every Saturday morning, and to the sitcoms of the early 60’s like Leave it to Beaver and The Dick Van Dyke Show. I watched the sprawling dramas of the 70s and 80s, like Dynasty and Dallas. I laughed along with Mary Tyler Moore and Murphy Brown.

There are now a dizzying array of choices presented to me on broadcast television, cable, and services like Netflix, Hulu, and Vudu. And I not only appreciate all the choices, but enjoy an assortment of programs, necessitating a great deal of time planning and programming my DVR so I don’t miss a thing.

The question is… how can the public library serve not only my needs but the needs of all the millions of dedicated TV watchers out there? There are a number of ways, as it turns out. First, there are an increasing number of TV series available on DVD in the library. MCPL owns the DVD’s of such renowned PBS series as I Claudius and Upstairs Downstairs, along with more recent series like Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife.

From cable TV and Netflix, MCPL owns the DVDs of the recent blockbusters like The Americans, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Masters of Sex, Mad Men, Homeland, Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and Nurse Jackie. You can also find older cable series with lasting popularity, such as Entourage, True Blood, Dexter, The Wire, Six Feet Under, and The Sopranos.

From the world of broadcast TV, MCPL owns some oldies but goodies like Star Trek and Freaks and Geeks, along with more recent shows that are off the air but enjoyed wide popularity, like Arrested Development, Friday Night Lights, The Office, West Wing, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are also DVDs of shows that are still showing, like Scandal, The Good Wife, and Modern Family. And, if you are missing one of your favorite TV shows that just went off the air this or last year, you can check out The Big Bang Theory, Parks and Recreation, or How I Met Your Mother.

What else do we have for the TV watcher? How about books? These come in three categories: books that TV series are based on; books about particular TV shows; and biographies of famous television personalities.

In the first category, MCPL owns the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, which is the basis of Game of Thrones. We also own the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, which Call the Midwife is based on, the book Orange is the New Black, and the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris—the basis of the TV series True Blood. The recent PBS series Wolf Hall is based on the novels Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel, and the PBS series Grantchester is based on a series of books by James Runcie called the "Grantchester Mysteries."

The very popular Outlander TV mini-series is based on the book Outlander and its sequels, by Diana Gabaldon. The Dexter series is based on a series of books by Jeff Lindsay, starting with Darkly Dreaming Dexter. Speaking of serial killers, Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal have been turned into the Hannibal TV show on NBC. The FX series Justified is based on a short story by Elmore Leonard. The TV show Resurrection, about dead people who return from the grave, is based on a book by Jason Mott called The Returned. For teens, both the Gossip Girl (by Cecily Von Ziegesar) and Pretty Little Liars books (by Sara Shepard) have been made into TV series.

There are also many books about the making of and history behind individual TV shows, like Making Masterpiece, about the making of Masterpiece Theater and Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey. Other books about shows that are currently airing include Live from New York, about Saturday Night Live and American Idol: The Untold Story. For the watchers of Mad Men, we have the books The Real Mad Men: the Renegades of Madison Avenue and Mad Women; the Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the 60's.

For those TV watchers who are nostalgic about their favorite shows from the past, MCPL offers Inside StarTrek: The Real Story for trekkies; I Love Lucy: Celebrating 50 Years of Love and Laughter; The Moose that Roared, about the making of Rocky and Bullwinkle; Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, about the development of the Mary Tyler Moore Show; The Sopranos: The Book; Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell; Inside Inside, about the making of the celebrity interview show Inside the Actor’s Studio, and True Stories of Law and Order: the Real Crime Behind the Best Episodes of the Hit TV show.

For fans of The Simpsons, there are several books of cartoons based on these characters. For those who would like an overview of the best TV shows of the past, the library has Top of the Rock: the Rise and Fall of Must-See TV, about NBC’s shows of the 1990’s; TV Guide: 50 Years of Television; Sitcom: A History in 24 Episodes from I Love Lucy to Community; and The Columbia History of American Television. And finally, even though it has been cancelled, viewers who miss Honey Boo Boo can read about her in How to Honey Boo Boo: the Complete Guide on How to Redneckognize the Honey Boo Boo in You.

If all of this isn’t enough, avid TV watchers can also read biographies and autobiographies of some of their favorite TV personalities.  MCPL currently offers biographies/autobiographies of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey, Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, Norman Lear, Candice Bergen, Lena Dunham, Matt Groening, Barbara Walters, Ellen DeGeneres, Cloris Leachman, Rosie O'Donnell, Melissa Gilbert, Betty White, and Danielle Fishel. And, if you can identify, the shows that each of the aforementioned personalities are associated with, you are even more of an avid TV watcher than I am.

So, I will say this to TV fans who wonder if the library has anything for them: It does!

Heather W.

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