This morning brings the bittersweet news that Tim Brooks, research maven extraordinaire and TV historian without peer, is prepping his retirement from Lifetime Television at the end of this year. If Tim had a nickel for every time someone in the biz consults his indispensable, brick-sized lifesaver, "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present," he'd be richer than Murdoch, Redstone and Diller combined. He's a lovely man who always makes time for desperate journalists in need of insight or a quote from a respected, objective source of knowledge about all things television. Tim earned his research stripes at NBC, where he befriended fellow number-cruncher and "Complete Directory" co-author Earle Marsh, and then worked for ad firm NW Ayer, and then caught the cable wave at USA Network in the 1990s before segueing to Lifetime in 2000, where he'll retire as executive veepee, research.
Whenever a new edition of his American Book Award-winning directory comes out (the ninth edition arrives this fall), it's cause for celebration among journalists who lean heavily (read: rip off mercilessly) on his pithy, spot-on characterizations of shows stretching back to the DuMont days. Gee, when did Jackie Gleason move to CBS? When did the Steve Allen show become "The Tonight Show"? (He's been generous about including important late-night data despite the book being called the "Prime Time" directory.) How many seasons did "Father Knows Best" run? How many weeks did "Pink Lady and Jeff" run? What was "My Three Sons'" time period? Thanks to Tim, we've had that kind of info at our fingertips for years.
I once asked him if he had a favorite show out of the gazillion listings in the book. Yes, he replied, having heard that question a few million times. A little NBC number that lasted two months in 1978, "Quark" (Friday 8 p.m.) starring Richard Benjamin as Adam Quark, commander of a garbage scow for the United Galaxy Sanitation Patrol. Thanks to YouTube, here's a clip.
In announcing his retirement, Brooks offered up the observation that CBS' "Survivor" has been the single-most influential show of the past 20 years.
"The 'Survivor' 'cast' was not only made up of real people but a cross section of people that all could identify with, younger, older, male, female, different races, etc. It has ignited a vast wave of 'real' (though heavily orchestrated) shows across both broadcast and cable, and dovetails with the rise of new entertainment technologies that are similarly centered on 'us' – YouTube, Myspace, DVRs, etc.," Brooks noted. "'Survivor' was not literally the first show ever to do this, but it was the smash hit that made the difference."
So true. Give this man a round of applause. He's earned it.