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Television trivia, anyone?

By Daniel M. Kimmel / April 1, 1985



Total Television (2nd Edition), by Alex McNeil. New York: Penguin Books. 1,027 pp. $14.95 (paper). Once being a ``movie fan'' was transformed into being a ``student of film'' or even a ``cineaste,'' the serious film books started rolling off the presses.

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In recent years, the movie reference books have started to be joined with serious volumes on the motion picture's cousin medium, television.

Alex McNeil takes the 1948-49 television season as his starting point. This was the year that not only saw Milton Berle become ``Mr. Television,'' but also brought Arthur Godfrey and Ed Sullivan to TV audiences as well.

From there until mid-1984, McNeil tries to provide entries for every regular television series that aired in the US. You can find out which two ``mystery guests'' from ``What's My Line?'' went on to become president of the United States (Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter). Or perhaps you'd like to know who the guest was on the only episode of ``Turn-On'' that ever aired before it was canceled the week it premiered in 1969 (Tim Conway).

It's even fun to go through the various appendices that include lists of the top programs and prime-time schedules from 1948 onward. ``Total Television'' delivers what it promises. If you should need a one-volume reference to 36 years of television programming, you need look no further.

Daniel M. Kimmel is a Boston-based film critic.