A Biography

  1. David Thomson
  • ISBN 9780500519165
  • 24.70 x 17.80 cm
  • Hardback
  • 416pp
  • With 92 illustrations in colour and black and white
  • First published 2016

A rip-roaring, unexpected, and perhaps most of all, deeply thought-provoking history of the medium that has defined us

‘The greatest writer about the big screen has now written a defining book about the small screen’ – Geoff Dyer
‘Full of unexpected insights, it’s learned and beautifully produced. It’s also tremendous fun’– David Hare's books of the year in the Guardian
‘A succession of limpid, allusive brilliance’– Prospect
'A fluent, sage-like commentary *****’ – Mail on Sunday
'Thomson at his best (which is, bluntly, better – more intriguing, more infuriating, more fun – than just about any other critic)’– Sight & Sound, the BFI Magazine


‘A panoramic history of television that’s full of thoughtfulness, gusto and intelligence. It’s also extremely entertaining. At the moment when screens are finally everywhere, David Thomson is out to decide how we salvage excellence from ubiquity’– David Hare

In Television, David Thomson – whom Michael Ondaatje has called ‘the best writer on film in our time’ – turns his attention to the ubiquitous small screen and delivers a history of its revolutionary transformation. In just a few years, this piece of living room furniture – in front of which viewers had to sit at appointed times in order to watch a finite number of channels – has morphed into a glowing cloud of screens that supply near-endless content as and when we want it.

Thomson notes that ‘if you wanted to play everything that has been on all the channels of American television all the hours of every day, that playing would take 5,000 years, give or take a century or so. The stuff is growing at
a demented pace, as if the “wasteland”, which was once a lofty put-down of television, is actually a rampant jungle.’ So instead of a strict chronology, Thomson has built 21 thematically organized chapters in which he turns his provocatively insightful and observant gaze to the television era.

Television surveys a Boschian landscape, illuminated by that singular glow and peopled by everyone from Lucille Ball to Dennis Potter to Don Draper.

David Thomson is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the Guardian and more. He is the author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film and Moments that Made the Movies, also published by Thames & Hudson.