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18 October 2005

The Magazine Files, Part 1: Farewell to the Real TV Guide

I was in love with TV Guide from the start, but the first magazine “I remember liking that liked me back,” as Rhoda Morgenstern would say, was Jack and Jill. I saw very few of these as a kid because we didn’t have a lot of money, but I had the odd issue of J&J and also a couple of Humpty Dumpty that I treasured and read until tattered. There were certain J&J issues that had Lassie articles in them, but I never was lucky enough to get one.

TV Guide came into our house once or twice yearly. When we cleaned out the basement for my father to fix it up, we found a 1961 Fall Preview in a pile of newspapers that I had long-ago scribbled on in black crayon. It’s now in my small collection: small because Mom knew I’d keep every one of the darn things and forbade me to do so. Even when I subscribed I had to promise her not to keep all the issues.

Of course TVG was “a better place” back then. There were not only listings and a little gossip and some picture-stories, but solid reviews and thoughtful profiles of actors and hit series and even serious pieces about the effects of television on children, on politics, on newsmaking, etc. I still have their all-news issue that followed television’s coverage of President Kennedy’s assassination. But then Walter Annenberg aimed for a serious product in general. TVG only got really frivolous at Christmas-time, when folk song artist Allen Sherman wrote an annual tongue-in-cheek poem placing all the network series in rhyme (42 years later I can still recall “Let the kindly candle kindle with warm and mellow thoughts of Grindl...").

Well, all hail Annenberg, for TVG has finally gone down with a whimper: the magazine became bad enough when media bimbo-guy Rupert Murdoch took it over and filled it full of upcoming movie trash, big print, and fashion elements, but now it’s magazine-sized and the listings are gone. Hellooooo! What good is a guide to TV without listings?

A moment of silence for what was once a great magazine...

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