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Book Review: Obsessed with TV: Test Your Knowledge of Every Channel by David Hofstede

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As many of the columns I've written would indicate, I'm moderately obsessed with television.  Oh no, not in a "Hi, my name is Josh and I'm a TV-aholic" sort of way, much more in a "I don't have a problem turning off the TV… really" kind of way.  You see, I could turn the TV off anytime I wanted to, I just don't want to.  Plus, it doesn't impact my life in any sort of a negative way, I've actually managed to build a career out of my obsession.  To be a sommelier one has to be somewhat obsessed with wine, but that doesn't mean that a sommelier is an alcoholic. 

In fact, I might argue that I'm not quite obsessed enough with television, that I haven't spent quite enough time watching and studying and learning and spending every waking minute with television.  How have I come to that conclusion?  I find myself unable to score higher than 75% in David Hofstede's Obsessed with TV: Test Your Knowledge of Every Channel book/game.

Part of an ever-expanding Obsessed with line from Chronicle Books, Obsessed with TV is a book which contains 2,500 television-based trivia questions and a little screen in the lower right corner which allows players to select a multiple choice answer.  The game allows for one or two players and can either choose a question randomly or allow the user to select a question.  Players are asked everything from the relatively easy "Which actor provided the voice of KITT, the talking car on Knight Rider?" to things far, far more difficult.  At least, they were far more difficult for me.  The questions tend to require very specific knowledge of television shows, things one either knows or they don't.  While some answers can be worked out by process of elimination, the vast majority don't lend themselves to SAT-style test-taking skills.

For those whose television knowledge is limited to specific genres or categories, the book is divided into sections (though the random questions that get chosen come from all).  Chapters exist on comedies, dramas, reality TV and game shows, action, sci-fi and fantasy, kids' shows, music and variety, TV icons, awards, and a general "anything goes" category.

While the book is certainly just that, a "book," it is certainly not readable in a straightforward manner, the book is essentially only the trivia game.  Most pages do contain extended paragraphs on the history of television, and while they're interesting, they always feed into a question.

On the whole, for those of us obsessed with television — in a totally healthy and completely safe way — Obsessed with TV not only brings back great memories of shows gone by, but serves to illustrate just how much of our lives have been wisely spent sitting in front of the tube.  It represents a vindication, an acknowledgment that all those hours consuming the offerings the set put before us were not in vain, that knowing the name of the dolphin on Seaquest DSV has enriched our lives (if only momentarily).

With approximately eight to 10 questions on a page (or 16 to 20 on two facing paces) and 2,500 questions in total, a lot of back and forth page-flipping does occur when answering questions in Random Question mode. That does dampen one's enthusiasm for playing the game, particularly when it feels as though one has to keep skipping from the front of the book to the back only to find themselves at the same front page again two questions later.  While a larger size book or smaller font might also hamper one's enjoyment of the game, it does seem as though perhaps random trivia challenges that stayed within a single chapter might be warranted. 

Maybe such an enhancement will find it's way into a Next Generation version of the book. After all, one has to imagine that more than 2,500 questions could easily be written on the history of television.  For now, however, anyone remotely infatuated with television will find it easy to spend hours with Obsessed with TV – there aren't even any commercial breaks to ruin the experience.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.