Larry Zieminski's Reviews > Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV

Top of the Rock by Warren Littlefield
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's review
Apr 21, 12

Read from April 19 to 21, 2012

This book felt like it was written just for me. I used to watch entirely too many hours of TV, especially back in the 90s. Must See TV on NBC was a staple in my house. I was hooked on Friends, Seinfeld, and ER. So for me, this book hit exactly the right spot.

The book is a history of NBC’s hit shows, particularly in the Warren Littlefield (the former NBC president of entertainment) era. What this means is that shows like Cheers, The Cosby Show, Friends, Seinfeld, Will & Grace, and ER (among others) are discussed in great detail. I found myself stopping every chapter and searching out episodes of the various shows on Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime. Some of the shows are available for streaming as I write this, which made me very happy.

The format of the book is a series of accounts of the projects, by the people who actually took part (the writers, directors, actors, and NBC suits). It is laid out like a conversation, with the person who is “talking” at the head of each paragraph. It seems like an ongoing conversation, with some people appearing to respond to whatever the previous person talked about. I don’t know how the interviews were done (I’m assuming each person was interviewed separately, over a long period), but it feels like the conversation is happening in real time. The closest comparison I can make is to a “talking heads” documentary, where everyone involved is discussing their part of the event. I really enjoyed this style.

There isn’t a whole lot of settling scores here. There are a few people who come off poorly (and it is telling that their voice isn’t heard in the book), but for the most part this is a fond, positive look back at the last era of big event sitcom television, before it became more lucrative for networks to focus on reality television shows.
So who is this book for? I believe anyone who enjoys getting the behind the scenes look at the big NBC shows from the 90s will enjoy this book. If you’ve ever watched a documentary on the production of a show or read a book on how shows came to be made, then you should find a lot to enjoy here.

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Reading Progress

04/19/2012 page 60
18.0% "I'd be reading faster, but I keep stopping to add the TV shows they talk about to my Netflix and Hulu Plus Queues!"
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