The best books on television history

Who am I?

Kimberly Potts is a TV and pop culture journalist and author who believes television is not only the ultimate entertainment medium, but is also the ultimate cultural common denominator. She has written for The New York TimesEntertainment Weekly, VultureThe Hollywood ReporterTV GuideThe Los Angeles Times, Yahoo, Variety, People.comUS Weekly, E! Online, Thrillist,, AOL,, and The Wrap. Kimberly also co-hosts the Pop Literacy and #Authoring podcasts, and is a member of the Television Critics Association, Critics Choice Association, Authors Guild, and American Society of Journalist and Authors.

I wrote...

The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking about Today

By Kimberly Potts,

Book cover of The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking about Today

What is my book about?

In The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch, TV and pop culture writer Kimberly Potts draws upon her deep knowledge of and appreciation for The Brady Bunch and television and pop culture history to provide an industry insider narrative of the series. With fresh interviews, The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch will examine the show's lasting effects on its audience and take readers behind-the-scenes and into the lives of our most beloved characters, all to document why The Brady Bunch was one of the most groundbreaking shows of its time--and why it remains to this day, unforgettable.

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The books I picked & why


By David E. Fisher, Marshall Jon Fisher,

Book cover of Tube

Why did I love this book?

Most of those curious about the history of television have heard of the boy who invented it: Philo Farnsworth. He was just 14 years old when he conceived the idea that led to the first televised image less than a decade later. Farnsworth died penniless and unwell despite a life spent devoted to what became one of the most influential inventions of his lifetime and ours. That journey is a large part of the story the Tube authors unfold, but there are several additional key players who factor into the medium’s early years, and that, along with what will feel like some prescient thoughts about the current state of the television industry, make for an insightful, delightful read in this 1996 tome.

By David E. Fisher, Marshall Jon Fisher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tube as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Traces the progress of the diverse group of iconoclasts including an Idaho farm boy, an eccentric Scotsman, and two Russian Americans from the laboratory prototypes that drew public laughter to the vicious courtroom battles for control of what would become an enormous market power. With devilish character sketches, compelling stories, and scientific explanations that are easy to follow, the Fishers capture the brilliance, vision, and frustration behind the invention of television. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

Book cover of Horizontal Hold: The Making and Breaking of a Network Television Pilot

Why did I love this book?

Remember E.O.B., the drama about political speechwriters starring Mary Beth Hurt? Or the speechwriter series called Word of Mouth and starring Gladys Knight? Or the other one, The War Room, starring Brad Hall? Actually, no one saw any of them, because they were all versions of the same failed TV pilot, from St. Elsewhere producers Bruce Paltrow and Tom Fontana. And the story of the series’ saga to not making it to primetime covers more than a year, and highlights all the network, casting, technical, and general TV industry drama that can impact the TV pilot process, a process the networks still use to fill their schedules every year.

By Daniel Paisner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Horizontal Hold as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Absurdly funny, trenchant, and provocative, this outside-looking-in account of the stillbirth of one particular television series is a must read for every serious and not-so-serious television viewer.

Book cover of Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television

Why did I love this book?

Film historian and professor Bogle does a deep dive on the history of Black characters and series on television, from the early days of the medium and stereotyped portrayals on series like Amos ‘n’ Andy through groundbreaking ‘70s shows like Sanford & Son and The Jeffersons, ‘80s juggernaut The Cosby Show, and the sitcoms of UPN and The WB in the mid-1990s. Bogle shares his opinions throughout the compelling chronicle, and does not suffer foolish performances or material gladly, making this a must read for any TV fan seeking a truly comprehensive account of TV history.

By Donald Bogle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Primetime Blues as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Analyzing four decades of African Americans in television, the author traces the history of black characters and themes, covering Amos 'n' Andy, The Mod Squad, Sanford and Son, Good Times, The Cosby Show, L.A. Law, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Martin, and other groundbreaking shows.

Book cover of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention

Why did I love this book?

Netflix began in earnest the more recent and continuing evolution of the TV industry, and in this book Netflix co-founder and current co-CEO Hastings shares how the company went from losing $57 million in one year to producing Oscar-winning films, as well as the unique philosophies that have led to hundreds of millions of subscribers. Who would have predicted when we first started receiving those little red envelopes of DVDs in the mail that we’d soon be watching TV without actual TVs? We can only wonder what they’ll think of next.   

By Reed Hastings, Erin Meyer,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked No Rules Rules as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hard work is irrelevant. Be radically honest. Adequate performance gets a generous severance. And never, ever try to please your boss.

These are some of the ground rules if you work at Netflix. They are part of a unique cultural experiment that explains how the company has transformed itself at lightning speed from a DVD mail order service into a streaming superpower - with 125 million fervent subscribers and a market capitalisation bigger than Disney.

Finally Reed Hastings, Netflix Chairman and CEO, is sharing the secrets that have revolutionised the entertainment and tech industries. With INSEAD business school professor Erin…

Book cover of 1001 TV Shows You Must Watch Before You Die

Why did I love this book?

The most important aspect of television history is, of course, the shows. And though there have been hundreds, at least, more series that will need to be added to the book since it was published in 2015, it is a gorgeously designed collection of viewing suggestions. And like any great guidebook, it’s also just a fun way for any TV fan to revisit the best series of the past, arranged by decades, and including American and international programming.

By Paul Condon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 1001 TV Shows You Must Watch Before You Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The most groundbreaking and important must-see shows from the 1950s to today’s golden age of television. This latest addition to the best-selling and highly acclaimed 1001 series showcases the best programs produced for television from its inception to the bumper crop of great shows being produced in today’s era of original cable programming and digital streaming. 
Offering a critical evaluation of the most important and groundbreaking TV programs ever created, this book tracks television’s evolution through decades of social, cultural, and stylistic change. Included are shows that broke new ground, influenced the future, and left a lasting mark, ranging from…

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Interested in television, management, and African Americans?

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