Thursday, April 30, 2015

Interview With Victor Kahn, Author of Walking Distance

1.       What is your new book about? I focus on individual episodes of eleven shows that have long been my favorites, analyzing them from the perspective of the playwright I am and trying to point out how and why they work. I also recall the actual experience of viewing these and many other programs, all the while drawing on an embarrassingly extensive backlog of information I’ve acquired about the creative personnel involved.

2.       What inspired you to write it? I’ve been watching television all of my life and ruminating about these shows for decades. This book represents my sharing ideas that have been percolating inside me for as long as I can remember.

3.       What was rewarding and challenging about the writing process? For me the greatest challenge in writing is always capturing the proper tone, so I manage to say exactly what I want as effectively as possible. The great reward of this project was revisiting these programs and finally putting into print thoughts that have been with me since I was young.

4.       How do you compare TV today with the fare of fifty years ago? The chief distinction, of course, is license. For today’s artists, especially those in cable TV, nothing is outside their realm. All aspects of life may be dramatized and with no boundaries. Artists in the ‘50s and ‘60s, on the other hand, worked within severe parameters of content and style. Yet the best of their creations remain as compelling today as they were fifty or sixty years ago. In sum, no matter how many options artists today have, the core of a successful show remains the same: characters and plot that inspire audiences to care.

5.       What are your all-time favorites? Why? My favorites are the ones I discuss here. I begin with “Walking Distance,” the best episode of what I believe is the most influential series of all time, The Twilight Zone. Each of the following chapters includes discussion of two shows that are in some way related: two military farces, The Phil Silvers Show (“Bilko”), and McHale’s Navy; two creations by Roy Huggins about quintessential loners, Maverick and The Fugitive; two of the most popular comedies of the 60s, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Andy Griffith Show; two spy spoofs, The Avengers and Get Smart (which feature two of my favorite women characters); and two comedies that often verge on drama, The Honeymooners and All in the Family. I don’t insist that programs are the best of their time, although some surely are. They just matter the most to me.

6.       Where do you see book publishing heading?  I can’t claim to have more than minimal expertise in the business of publishing. All I can say is that I relish the feel of a book in my hand, and I hope I never lose the opportunity to experience that sensation.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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