Review: ‘The Revolution Was Televised’ by Alan Sepinwall

by Kim on February 4, 2013 · 16 comments

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Title: The Revolution was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever
Author: Alan Sepinwall
Genre: Nonfiction
Year: 2012
Publisher: Self-Published (Touchstone — February 26, 2013)
Acquired: Bought
Rating: ★★★★½

Why I Read It: My favorite pop culture critic, Linda Holmes, and a trusted book blogger, Florinda (The 3R’s Blog) both recommended it.

Summary: A mob boss in therapy. An experimental, violent prison unit. The death of an American city, as seen through a complex police investigation. A lawless frontier town trying to talk its way into the United States. A corrupt cop who rules his precinct like a warlord. The survivors of a plane crash trying to make sense of their disturbing new island home. A high school girl by day, monster fighter by night. A spy who never sleeps. A space odyssey inspired by 9/11. An embattled high school football coach. A polished ad exec with a secret. A chemistry teacher turned drug lord.

These are the subjects of 12 shows that started a revolution in TV drama: The SopranosOzThe WireDeadwoodThe ShieldLostBuffy the Vampire Slayer24Battlestar GalacticaFriday Night LightsMad MenBreaking Bad. (Source)

Review: If you need an example of how individual recommendations sell books, the way I came to read The Revolution Was Televised is a perfect example. Sometime last November, my favorite pop culture critic, Linda Holmes, tweeted about how great this book was. I looked it up on Barnes & Noble, saw the topic and price, and bought it immediately. Last month, a trusted book blogger, Florinda (The 3R’s Blog) posted a review and recommended I start it right away. So I did. 

What makes this interesting, I think, is that The Revolution Was Televised is a self-published book, and I have serious reservations about self-published stories. But in addition to good recommendations, The Revolution Was Televised has the ingredients I think are necessary for a successful self-published book. The author, Alan Sepinwall, is a TV critic for HitFix and has built a strong audience for his pop culture writing through his blog, What’s Alan Watching? The book, a collection of essays about some of the great dramatic television shows of the last decade plus, takes the best of his blog writing and adds to it, offering a new product for regular readers and the general public.

And, because of his public profile, Sepinwall was able to garner the kinds of high-profile, positive reviews that a book without big buck marketing needs, notably a big review from Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times.

Originally, Sepinwall shopped a version of the book around to several publishers (including Touchstone, which recently decided to acquire the book), but got a string of rejections. So, he decided to publish it himself. The book has been a big success and, just recently, was picked up by a major publisher.

The book is, quite often, very “inside baseball” — a lot of talk of producers and writers and network executives who went from Show A to Show B, rejected Show C, and then met up again on Show D to make it a success. I’m not great with names, especially when they jump between chapters as many of these did, but feeling a little bit confused on those small details never got in my way of enjoying the majority of what Sepinwall was doing.

The book is strongest, in my opinion, when Sepinwall is just celebrating television. The book is full of smart analysis of great seasons and great episodes, but also isn’t hesitant to say that the fifth season of The Wire was polarizing or that The Sopranos struggled in the middle of its run. And often it’s not so much about what the shows were doing individually as much as it is about how these shows and their creators, as a collective, built a strong home for dramatic storytelling on television.

Unfortunately (perhaps), it also added a number of shows to my already overflowing Netflix queue. Although I think Oz might be too violent for me, I’m really curious to give others like Buffy the Vampire SlayerBattlerstar Galactica, and The Sopranos a try at some point. I only became an avid tv drama watcher near the end of this run of shows, so I have some cultural catching up to do.

If you are a reader who also loves television and believe that it’s worth the time to write seriously about our favorite television shows, The Revolution Was Televised will be right in your wheelhouse. It’s available as an ebook now and should be out in paperback this month. I highly recommend grabbing a copy.

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

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