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January 20, 1984 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-01-20
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Not Quite the TV Guide
By Gerald Sussman
Crown Publishers/Prince Paperbacks
64 p.p., $3.95
By Larry Dean
J 0 NE SURE-FIRE method for
interesting an audience in what
you're writing about is to involve them
in the goings-on. Well, who am I to
dispute a time-proven trick of jour-
nalistic tyranny? So here goes...: Who
was the lucky celeb to find herself
immortalized on the cover of the first-
ever TV Guide magazine? You have
three minutes to dwell on it, or the
newspaper-world time thereof (about
as long as it takes me to grab a Nehi
creme soda from the fridge).
OK? Had enough? Time's up! And the
answer is... (Casio fake drumroll,
please)... Lucille Ball! Yup, when TV
Guide started aiding and abetting the
plague-like spread of boob-tube
fascination, the beguiling redhead's
show, I Love Lucy, was an affirmative
smasheroo, igniting millions of
television living-rooms the country
over with a deep blue radioactive glow
on a weekly basis. So who better to
adorn the initial issue than comedian-
ne-extraordinaire Ball, then queen to
the pre-Neilson rating honchos?
Since Lucy faded into semi-obscurity,
occasional Match Game appearances,
a slew of revamped Lucy shows.(most
with cohort-for-life Vivian Vance, and
some with saving grace Gale Gordon as
Mr. Mooney, the braggart boss), and
reruns of the old series, TV has un-.
dergone its changes while keeping the
quality level high all along: from Leave
It To Beaver, to Griff, to The Dukes of
Hazzard, there's no denying its
Right along with TV grew its nanny,
TV Guide, chronicling the ups 'n' downs
of America's #1 zombie sweepstakes.
It's there every week when you find
yourself stationed in the grocery line,
staring out like an accusation from
racks and racks of National Enquirers,
Globes, Stars, and other lurid gossip
rags. It gets hard to resist picking up
People when the lady in front of you has
a cart piled high with enough groceries
to last through six day afters, and that
desire for satiation sometimes tran-
smits itself to your hand, ultimately
reaching out for Self-Help Diet Books,
Astrology monthlies, and all the other
check-out counter library favorites.
Those books are the cherry on top of the
sundae, the final exclamation of relief
after a few hard hours of shopping
and mostly, they're a total waste of
TV Guide, on the other hand, serves a
more definite purpose - to enlighten
you on television programs for the
coming seven days. Over 40 million
wallowers in TV propoganda buy it per-
week, and, after its usefulness is
fulfilled, it hits the Hefties, never to be
So what better magazine to parody
than TV Guide? A resounding chorus of
"None!" answers that query. Prince
Paperbacks, a new subsidiary of Crown

Publishers, has taken the task upon
themselves, and with the help of scribe
Gerald Sussman, will fund the
unleashing of Not Quite TV Guide on
an unsuspecting world-at-large.
Sussman is the former editor-in-chief
of National Lampoon, and author of The
Official Sex Manual, The Up Yourself
Book, and The Over-Extension Univer-
sity Bulletin. With credits like those,
one would assume that Not Quite TV
Guide is Pulitzer Prize material, but,
alas, not quite. It does have its fair
share of laugh (just like its imitatee, in
and of itself), but overall, the humor is
juvenile and predictable.
Stylistically, Not Quite TV Guide is
true to its source. The lay-outs, typeset-
ting, artwork, ads and etcetera all
evoke that ever-rising nausea that TV
Guide and other rags of its ilk
propagate. There's cigarette spreads
"Barlady," instead of Barclay,
showing a man getting a drink spilled
on him - tee-hee!, camera ads, cheesy
black and white service ads, the usual
hype for upcoming specials and syn-
dicated programming, food, tampons,
and even a crossword puzzle that
Kudos, then, to art directors David
Kaestle and Leslie Engel, who, between
them, share credits from National
Lampoon and other related efforts,
such as Miss Piggy's Guide To Life, the
Playboy parody, Not the Bible, and the
surprisingly-accurate Off the Wall
Street Journal.
But the realmeat of any parody must
lie between the lines, and Sussman's
jokes just" aren't good enough to keep
the diaphragm vibrating. Some of his
TV listings are peculiar or bizarre, but
most are strictly standard comedic
fare. On a single page, he can go from
something truly weird (like this movie
listing: "Vampire Dogs. " (1980)
Standard fare, but dogs wear black
capes. Rory Calhoun, Nancy Kwan.
(4 hrs.)) to something truly bland (a
show called Orthodonture For Infan-
ts). Ironically, this is the nature of the
real TV Guide, and any work of such
detail as Sussman's parody is bound to
have its dips in quality - plus some
jokes are going to go over some
peoples' heads anyway (again like the
real thing).
From Not Quite TV Guide's time of
conception to completion there was the
relatively short span of three months.
Not very long to organize and instigate
the creation of a book, but nonetheless,
those are the dates, according to the
promotional material that accom-
panied the book.
Sussman explains in the promotional
stuff that the swiftness in finishing his
brainchild was due to the fact that once
he got going, "the one-liners just kept
coming." That may be true, but like
any barrage of one-liners, tedium
grows after so much of the same thing,
and the laugh-potential recedes into
blackness like a dot fading off a TV
National Lampoon included a pull-out
TV Guide parody of their own in a par-
ticularly hilarious issue of a few years
back, precluding Sussman's work by
quite a length of time. That, as I recall,
was extremely funny, and succeeded on
almost all levels; whereas Sussman's
book is hit and miss. This tells me two
things: one, that Not Quite TV Guide is
not quite an original concept, and two,
that whereas National Lampoon had a
whole staff at their disposal to toss

TV Guide parody: Satirical laughs, but not overly hardy ones

around ideas, Sussman just had himself
and two designers to handle the whole
That might indicate some degree of
spreading oneself too thin with Not
Quite TV Guide. Most great comedy is
written with at least two writers
collaborating together so that the jokes
don't get stale, or too one-dimensional;

in the case of this book, the funny stuff
just isn't enough to account for all the
filler. While I don't think it's a total
wash-out, I suggest, for some real belly
achers, that you check out the so-called
"real thing" for insight into our
culture's dimestore philosophy and
deevolution proselytization for TV ad-

Fabulous drinks - 2 for i
from II am til 7 pm.

What a setting. You'll prob-
ably like to stay for dinner.

3150 S. Boardwalk (near Briarwood)
Ann Arbor " Phone 668-1545



12 Weekend/January 20, 1984

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