Seldes, Gilbert. The Public Arts. New Brunswick, N.J., U.S.A.: Transaction, 1994.
"Popular Culture can be both democratic and distinguished." - (Lynn Boyd Hinds, Reviewed work(s): The Lively Arts: Gilbert Seldes and the Transformation of Cultural Criticism by Michael Kammen Pennsylvania History Vol. 64, No. 1, Regional Perspectives On Early American History (Winter 1997), pp. 133-134)
Seldes's short, sweet chapters are best touched on one at a time:
Introduction: Arthur Asa Berger credits Seldes as one of the first scholars to take popular culture seriously. He also summarizes the two paradigms of cultural studies in Stuart Hall's aptly named "Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms." 1. Culturalism-does not see the economic system as fundamental but rather defines culture as encompassing "both the meanings and values which arise amongst distinctive social groups and classes" based on conditions and relationships, as well as the "lived traditions and practices through which those 'understandings' are expressed..." 2. Structuralism - Out of anthropologists like Claude Levi-Strauss, de Saussure, semioticians, and linguistics. Culture is read as a text with structures people were generally unaware of but which nonetheless shape their behavior.
1. The Revolution: Loosing defining the start of the revolution as late summer 1929 when Americans chose to listen to Amos n Andy for free on the radio. Thus public arts began to control and direct the actions and behavior of the people consuming it.
2. The Lovely Art: Movement: The lovely art is film. Movement was its first quality that amazed people.
3. The Lovely Art: Sound: writing ascends in importance, dialogue becomes critical.
4. The Lovely Art: Magic: He is primarily talking about the importance of animation, particularly Disney, in dazzling the audience.
5. The Lovely Art: Space: Larger movie theaters, 3D experimentation try to enhance the space within which the audience experiences a film.
6. The Useful Art: Radio. Differs from film in the way it can be a constant source of communication: information and/or entertainment.
7. Sounds and Echoes: Audience has a different, more intimate relationship with radio characters than the distant awe they feel towards move stars. For example, they have shown a propensity to respond to radio characters in writing. Also notes that both radio and TV suffer from the human instinct to appeal to a broader public through a lowering of artistic standards.
8. Personality Business: The struggle artists go through to remain true to their vision in the midst of a business that has numerous gatekeepers undermining their efforts based on preconceived notions of economic gain.
9. The Threshold of Entertainment: Case studies of panel shows (talk and game) that succeed and fail.
10. The Anatomy of Misery: The audience identifies with the contestant in game shows like $64,000 question, in victory and defeat.
11. Domestic Manners in the 49th State: People on TV (AK, HI not in yet!) Notes the different type of programming in daytime compared to night (prime-time programming/sitcoms)
12. "What a Work is Man!": Murrow as the pinnacle of host, delving both into the news AND into the life of famous guests (Person to Person).
13. The Incomparable Bing: Raves about Bing Crosby's success in radio and TV, which does not translate to film because of his more laid back personal style. (See Ch. 7)
14. The Prevalence of Comedy: Emphasizes the personality of the star comedian as the carrier of a very prevalent genre. "Comedy is the axis around which broadcasting revolves." (133)
15. The Good-Bad Berle: "Uncle Miltie" a.k.a. "Mr. Television" pushed the envelope of his popular show too far from rowdy to bawdy. He managed to dial it back and more or less regain his position at the top of the pack.
16. Ave, Vale, and Wait: Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, succeeding in sketch comedy.
17. Mr Benny: Jack - the professional comedic host
18. The Gleason Case: Jackie - the mass-appeal comedian. Broad experience and talents, but not a particular genius.
19. "Me and the Camera and the Folks...": Jimmy Durante - the most lovable comedic host.
20. "What'll we do for Laughs, Celeste?": Begins with a question (173) "Does the prevalence of comedy prevent us from having as much of other entertainment as we might be getting?" Yup. More potential for art and information than just comedy.
21. "The 52-Minute Hour": The ongoing decline of dramatic works, and the threat of Hollywood taking over production. (See: Boddy - Fifties Television)
22. The Consequences of Time: The importance of scheduling in TV
23. Blessed Necessity: The disconnect between the criticisms of the critics and the fulfillment of public need by TV networks who put on shows that the public does indeed watch. This is a prelude to the final section, which attempts to offer guidance for the future of TV
24. The Stiuations of Edward R. Murrow: Discussion of Murrow's role in McCarthyism, which is praises as important and good but cautions against the precedent of directly attacking someone without equal time.
25. A Primer of Problems: Notes economist Harold A. Innis's observation that "whenever you have a far-reaching change in the means of communication, a social change of equal consequence must occur." (230)
26. Rights and Duties I: Freedom of the Air: Balancing the right to broadcast with the duty to broadcast.
27. Rights and Duties II: The Right to Persuade: Editorials are OK.
28. Rights and Duties III: The Limitations of Freedom: Cautions against aggressive censorship of crime and violence.
29. Problems of Power I: The Politics of Color: The wranglings between NBC and CBS over when to mandate a change to color TV.
30. Problems of Power II: The Ultra-Highs: Balancing anti-monopoly efforts with the need for TV signals to reach certain places.
31. Problems of Power III: Programs for Pay: The dangers of charging the public for TV.
32. Problems of Power IV: The Educational Nexus: Should there be separate channels for educational programs.
33. A New Approach: Broadcasters must be open to public opinion, and be open with the public.
34. The Trinity of the Arts: Older forms of arts are all imports. Popular arts are American-made.
35. The Public Arts: The cultural institutions belong to its inhabitants.