January 27th, 2011

Beatles Icon

Review: Sunday's With Sullivan

Sunday's With Sullivan: How the Ed Sullivan Show brought Elvis, the Beatles, and Culture to America." by Bernie Ilson (Taylor Trade Publishing)

As a Beatles writer and historian I was very familiar with the name of Ed Sullivan and have read numerous stories of how the Fab Four ended up appearing on his show and the impact of that appearance. But growing up in the UK I never actually saw the show itself (except through modern DVD releases) and had no first hand experience of its impact on the entertainment landscape. I was hoping that this book would provide me with more information and understanding of the show itself and its somewhat enigmatic host. Unfortunately that was not the case.

The book is derived from the author's PhD thesis, and at times reads like that, with lengthy interview extracts that should have been edited to make them more pertinent to the story being told. And perhaps that's where the main problem with the book lies, author Bernie Ilson may have been Ed Sullivan's top public relations guru, but, based on this book, he is not a natural story teller. The narrative is very disjointed and makes sudden jumps without explanation. In fact big chunks of the story are missing. Most of the book's interest hinges on Ilson's own personal anecdotes of encounters with various guests and celebrities rather than any explanation or real examination of the show's growth and ultimate demise as the networks and advertisers shifted towards a younger target demographic ( a point raised and discussed by a TV network executive in one of the tacked on interviews rather than by the author himself in the main body of the text.)

By the end of the book I didn't really know much more about Sullivan himself that I hadn't gleaned from other sources. I would have expected a more in depth examination of his drives and methodology from someone who worked alongside him for so long. The one part of Sullivan's aims for the show that does get a spotlight in the book is his aim to bring what he termed 'culture' (classical music, ballet and opera) into the living rooms of America. Unfortunately this aspect is repeated over and over again almost relentlessly. The repeating of facts and concepts about the show is constant throughout, almost as if each chapter had been written to be read independently.

In the introduction the author cites that the book was the result of over a dozen years of research, it's therefore surprising that the main narrative is only 112 pages, with the rest of the book being filled with insights and observations from various interview subjects.

In short I found the book to be somewhat disappointing and superficial; but maybe my expectations were too high.
AJP Toon

The Weekly Haul - 1/26/11 - What comics I picked up this week and why.

After a week on the road, it was time to once again visit the fine folks at Austin Books to see what comics style goodies would attract my attention:

Action Comics #897 (DC) - Lex Luthor and The Joker written by Paul Cornell - excellent. Things are really building up towards the milestone issue #900.
Age of X: Alpha #1 (Marvel) - Things are so confusing in the various X-Men book these days that I get lost - so I thought I'd give this latest "alternate reality" version a spin.
Amazing Spider-Man #652 (Marvel) - Spider-man hasn't been this much fun in a long time. Dan Slott is hitting all the right notes with this "Big Time" story arc.
Astonishing Thor #2 (Marvel) - The art in the launch issue was breathtaking, but the story didn't amount to much - this is the books second chance to see if it can captivate me with the story as much as it did with the visuals.
Avengers Academy #8 (Marvel) - I'm late to the party with this book, but catching up fast. This is easily the best Avengers title at the moment, with some interesting new characters in the mix.
Captain America #614 (Marvel) - Must admit my interest in this book is starting to drift again, not sure if I'll be picking it up for much longer.
Detective Comics #873 (DC) - really enjoying the fact that this book is returning Batman to his roots as a detective as well as a superhero.
Doctor Who #1 (IDW) - my pal Tony Lee continues his excellent run on Doctor WHo with the first issue to feature the 11th Doctor. Looking forward to seeing where he takes this new cast.
New York Five #1 (DC/Vertigo) - I enjoyed Brain Wood's original New York Four graphic novel published under DC's now defunct Minx line back in 2008. This sequel looks just as promising and it will be interesting to see how it plays out as sequential issues rather than as a self-contained complete story.
Star Wars: Darth Vader & The Lost Command #1 (Dark Horse) - Don't normally pick up the Star Wars books, but something about this one caught my interest.
Superman: Sole Survivor #1 (DC) - A 100 page done in one stand lone Superman story? - I'll give that a go.