Theme Song For An Old Show
By Jeffrey Lewis
(Other Press, Hardcover, 9781590512333, 160pp.)
Publication Date: April 17, 2007
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A deeply felt homage to classic television from the author of Meritocracy and The Conference of the Birds.
One of the most beloved programs in the history of television, the cop show Northie, has fallen into a ratings slump. Will it be cannibalized by unscrupulous studio executives for one last burst of high scores? Or will it be allowed to conclude its run in dignity?
These are the questions faced by the protagonist Louie, now a television producer, in this third volume of Jeffrey Lewis's "Meritocracy Quartet." Zacky Kurtz, the "King of Television," who is obsessed by the possibility of being the first producer to get "bare ass" on network television, drives the plot toward a conclusion that is as passionate an indictment of our mass culture's coarsening as American literature has recently produced.
Yet Theme Song for an Old Show is about more than dirty business on television. It is an elegiac tribute to the medium, and to the kind of show of which Louie was a proud part, and to Louie’s father, a television producer of an earlier, more naïve era.
PRAISE FOR JEFFREY LEWIS'S MERITOCRACY: A LOVE STORY: "A hauntingly beautiful love story...loaded with powerful characters...written by a writer with consummate skill."
– The Portland Press-Herald
"A sheen of nostalgia glazes this tribute to privileged college kids in the 1960s...a paean to lost youth and hopes."
– Publishers Weekly
"Jeffrey Lewis's wonderful novel Meritocracy [has] historical perspective and reach...A tragic story about what could have been and what wasn't."
– The Jerusalem Post
Jeffrey Lewis won two Emmys and many other honors as a writer and producer of Hill Street Blues. His "Meritocracy Quartet" is intended to chart the progress of a generation. The first book of the quartet Meritocracy: A Love Story, won both the Independent Publishers Book Award for General Fiction and the ForeWord Book of the Year Silver Award for Fiction. He lives in Los Angeles and Castine, Maine.
Bangor Daily News, Margery Y. Irvine
"Theme Song for an Old Show is a theme song for the oldest show of all — discovering what, besides mortality, we share with all humans, and also what makes us individual. Jeffrey Lewis has written a novel the very form and structure of which helps us to see life’s journey."
[T]he TV-biz ruminations make up the best passages here, as when Louie deconstructs the idea that procedurals like Northie relied for their force and novelty upon superior "realism." His dealings with fellow producer Zacky Kurtz, a man obsessed with getting "bare ass" on American television, is consistently entertaining, too.
This is the third book in Lewis's "Meritocracy Quartet," which looks at the generation that came of age in the Sixties; the first two titles covered the 1960s and 1970s. A lawyer-turned-television writer (he worked on the 1980s police drama Hill Street Blues), Lewis is really tracing his own life through a barely visible scrim of fiction. And yet the author is up to more than fictionalized memoir. His opening chapter, in which his marvelous ear for idiomatic speech is revealed as much through narration as in dialog, hints at the concepts he will explore: the vagaries of love, the odd consorting of dignity and temptation, and, yes, the fragility of creation and existence. Narrator Louie moves to Los Angeles in 1980, where his father had gone years before upon deserting the family for another woman and for TV production. Louie has success writing for a cop show called Northie, meets the woman who becomes his wife, and reckons with a TV producer with very particular ambitions. That fine ear of Lewis's (with the occasional mawkish exception) makes his prose style the book's strength. This volume, as well as the earlier ones, deserves general readership. Ultimately, public libraries should have the entire quartet in their collections.