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The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946–Present

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946–Present
First edition
AuthorTim Brooks
Earle Marsh
Original titleThe Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows 1946–Present
CountryUnited States
SubjectBroadcast programming
PublisherBallantine Books
Publication date
Media typePrint
AwardsNational Book Award (1980)

The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–Present is a trade paperback reference work by the American television historians Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, first published by Ballantine Books in 1979.


The 1979 book publication was by Tim Brooks at NBC, who was then head of that network's research, and Earle Marsh of CBS, who was a manager there of special research projects,[1] and it was the book's first edition.[citation needed] According to Aaron Barnhart (as told to him by author Tim Brooks), the original volume "almost didn't get printed... because publishers were worried 'that it was too big.'" (with its 3,000 shows covered).[1] Between the 6th and 9th editions, Brooks and Marsh expanded an already "hefty" paperback from 5,000 to 6,500 shows covered ("adding about [a] half an inch to the spine").[1] According to Barnhart, "no listing has ever been deleted or edited for space in the 30-year history of [T]he Complete Directory".[1]

The title of later editions[clarification needed] include the words "and cable".[citation needed] The ninth edition came out in 2007; in it, co-author Tim Brooks stated that the ninth edition may be the last one released of the book.[1]

Awards and recognition

The 1979 publication won a 1980 U.S. National Book Award, then known as the "American Book Awards",[1] in the category of General Reference Books—Paperback,[2] as the work was published direct to paperback.[citation needed][a] (This is why the tag, "American Book Award Winner!", appears on the book cover beginning with the second edition.[1])

Critical reception

As television reporter and critic Aaron Barnhart notes, Brooks and Marsh's work appeared alongside existing references by the acclaimed Erik Barnouw (Tube of Plenty) and by TV writer Les Brown of The New York Times (Encyclopedia of Television); despite these, The Complete Directory was "immediately hailed as the best of the bunch, more comprehensive and a more enjoyable read". Barnhart's praise is uniformly high, referring to it as "one of the seven wonders of show business", and noting that the comprehensive nature of the work is "a testament to the vision of [the] two men who [took] great pride in handcrafting American TV's greatest single reference guide, online or offline".[1]


According to the authors, the book is an attempt to list all commercially broadcast network series ever shown in the evening or nighttime hours (defined as 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time or later) in the United States (i.e., prime time and the two hours preceding it).[citation needed] It also lists programs which were widely syndicated in the U.S., and, effective with the sixth edition in 1995, cable television series if, at the time they were aired, the cable network carrying them was available in at least 50% of U.S. homes.[citation needed]

Other criteria for inclusion from the original design of the book are:[verification needed]

Thus, specials and miniseries presented on consecutive nights are excluded, with an exception being made for the seminal miniseries Roots,[citation needed] and miniseries like North and South, Book II, which was originally presented in a nightly format but then subsequently rerun on a weekly basis.[citation needed]

The book includes other features such as season-by-season schedule charts from 1946 to 2006, a list of top thirty Nielsen rated programs from October 1950 to May 2007, a list of Emmy Award winners season-by-season, and trivia quiz games.[3][page needed] The eighth edition was published in 2003,[4][full citation needed] followed by the ninth edition on 18 October 2007.[3][page needed] The ninth edition in 2007 also includes individual listings for cable networks themselves.[3][page needed]

Also included is "The Top 100 Series of All Time" (an updated ranking of the authors' first-ever ranking of the most popular TV shows from the book TV's Greatest Hits, published in 1985),[citation needed] a ranking that in the 9th edition includes data through the 2006–2007 season.[3][page needed] The ranking is based on points for their audience-size ranks per season, and the number of seasons the shows were aired—thus, crediting series for their popularity and longevity.[citation needed] Some series that that had remained on the air between editions had moved up on the list; 60 Minutes, which ranked #9 on the 1985 list,[citation needed] has since risen to #1 by virtue of its continued popularity.[3]: 1702 


  1. ^ As Barnhart notes, "the National Book Awards were defunded [in 1979] by the consortium of big publishing houses that had sponsored the competition since 1950... too many small, obscure titles were winning for their liking. So the... Association of American Publisher[s] started up a replacement, the American Book Awards. They were called the ABAs until 1987, when a private foundation took over and renamed it the National Book Awards" (see Barnhart, 2007). Hence, an original ABA award appears in the listing of the National Book Awards (see NBF Staff, 2023). In their awards premier in 1980, the ABAs introduced many new categories, including for general reference paperback, the category that The Complete Directory won; in that year, the awarding agency presented dual awards for hardcover and paperback books in many categories (see NBF Staff, 2023). As Barnhart notes, this would be "the first and only time a prize would be given" in the general reference paperback category (see Barnhart, 2007).


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Barnhart, Aaron (October 25, 2007). "'Complete Directory': The Set-Top Book". TV Barn. Archived from the original (blog) on May 28, 2008. Retrieved August 16, 2023 – via
  2. ^ NBF Staff (August 2023). "1980 Winners: General Reference Books—Paperback" (award winner database listings). New York, NY: National Book Foundation. Retrieved August 16, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earl (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946–Present (9th ed.). New York, NY: Ballantine Books (PRH-Bertelsmann). ISBN 9780345497734.
  4. ^ ISBN 0345455428.[full citation needed]

Further reading

This page was last edited on 2 April 2024, at 16:12
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