By James Sheldon
If there's an emblematic career that showcases the entire history of television from its postwar inception to the late '80s, it must be James Sheldon's. Literally in at the creation, he started out as an NBC page during the war, but by 1948 was the director of the radio show We the People the night it became the first CBS national television broadcast. His four-decade career witnessed every technical upgrade, every format change, and the switch from ad agency-based to network-controlled production. He was part of the geographic upheaval in the mid-'50s that saw the industry move west from New York to Los Angeles. Along the way he directed sitcoms, talk shows, Westerns, and dramas for nearly every network and studio, and in every format imaginable: multi-camera and single-camera; location shooting and live simulcasts; and with and without live studio audiences. The range of his credits is dizzying: Studio One, Naked City, Route 66, The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke, The Love Boat, and M*A*S*H*. And at 90 years young, Sheldon feels no need to pull punches in assessing the people he worked with. His recollections are filled with turf wars, moody stars, difficult writers, mad producers, and even the occasional moment of blissful harmony, offering an entertaining roller coaster ride through television's early decades.
Review written by John Patterson.