I Like to Watch

I Like to Watch

Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution

Random House, 2019 more...

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


New Yorker television critic Emily Nussbaum offers observations gleaned from decades of lively, detailed TV reviews. Until the 1990s, many critics saw TV as a stepchild of movies, but better shows brought more respect and more diversity. Now modern programs offer rule-breaking scripts and images. Nussbaum begins with “big picture” observations before offering TV show reviews from the 1990s until recently. Technology, Nussbaum notes, changed TV viewing and invented binge watching. Today, television offers viewers more choices than ever, including programs of cinematic quality that rivals movies and layered scripts reminiscent of novels.

From the 1950s to the 1990s, many Americans criticized television as a low-quality form of entertainment.

Nussbaum begins with a critical history. Starting in the 1950s, she notes that many critics derided television programming as “junk” unworthy of the serious criticism that movies and books inspire. In the late 1990s, she explains, the structure of most TV shows was the same as in the 1950s – with episodes airing weekly at set times, interrupted by commercials. As a teenager, “I memorized Monty Python sketches,” the author writes. “But I also regarded TV the way Americans had been taught to, since the 1950s. Television was junk.”

Nussbaum cites as a crucial influence the New Yorker writer George W.S. Trow, who derided television in his essay “Within the Context of No-Context” – initially published by The New Yorker in 1980. Trow regarded TV as malevolent mass medium because it determined the value of a program based on the number of viewers it attracts, conflating popularity with quality. 

About the Author

Emily Nussbaum, a writer for The New Yorker since 2011, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism and the 2014 National Magazine Award for Columns and Commentary.

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