Fact-Checking Inside Star Trek: The Real Story

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Harvey, Jun 7, 2013.

  1. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    To paraphrase Trek, I have considered it. But I know very little about publishing, am busy at my day job, and (unfortunately) feel like Cushman has somewhat cornered the market with his crummy books. Perhaps one day. Happy to converse more via PM.

    If you look at the numbers, it also demonstrates how strong Star Trek's youth following was, since the audience with the highest TVQ numbers was 6-11 years old. The series may have been designed as an adult drama, but it really took off with kids.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. M

    M Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That's a great piece you've written there! I'm glad someone is taking an honest, more scientific look at the available ratings data. And it's good that someone is contesting the views expressed in Cushman's book(s).

    I, too, would love for you to consider making this research a book. I for one would buy something like that in a heartbeat.

    Something I found interesting:
    Do you know how much it would actually cost to get those ratings information from Nielsen? Would it be possible to crowdsource the money for something like that? I would love to have a complete overview of how the show fared in terms of the ratings and I'd be willing to even pay for something like that.
     
  3. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    I just sent an email to the generic "contact us" page at Nielsen. We'll see what they say. If that doesn't work, I may go the "friend of a friend of a friend" route at work.

    All I really know about the cost is what Cushman has said in interviews -- that just getting the thirty market ratings set him back a bit -- but we'll see. I suppose it's wise to take what he says with a grain of salt, but everything I've read about Nielsen has suggested that they're not cheap.

    Speaking of which, yikes, he's getting a Saturn Award for his These Are The Voyages books, which their site calls "one of the great achievements of 2013/2014 in literature." :lol: :sigh:
     
  4. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Great article. Cushman's theories have never made sense to me, as I was watching the show during first run and keeping track of its progress and visibility. I don't know what he's basing his information on, but it isn't like any history I remember.
     
  5. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Low standards for scholarship and writing. I'd love those books to be great, but from what I've read he muddles factual sourced info with opinion and speculation far too liberally for it to be considered a definitive work.
    He's basing it on wishful thinking, apparently. He wants it to be true, ergo...
     
  6. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    It's THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE again, folks. What is it, 'when the legend reads better than the truth, print the legend?'

    They're printing the legend, and now they're honoring the legend-propagator.

    That's got to be up there with giving the VFX oscar to BABE instead of APOLLO 13 ... no, it's worse because this is more than just a matter of bad taste. It's bad journalism.

    Hope they have a protest outside.
     
  7. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    What legend? The accepted "legend" is that the ratings we're crummy and that's what everyone accepted for decades.
     
  8. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    He means Cushman is peddling a legend (a new one) and it's being eagerly embraced by fandom because it reads better, even though it's demonstrably incorrect.
     
  9. SpHeRe31459

    SpHeRe31459 Captain Captain

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    Outstanding work (as usual), thank you for your research. I say let Kushman have his 15 mins of fame and then publish your own much better researched book down the road a bit :-)
     
  10. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I know what he's saying, but what Cushman is saying isn't a new legend. It's what he thinks is true and anyone is free to dispute him. It certainly hasn't become legend.

    If nothing else Cushman has raised questions that it wasn't as straightforward as everyone has accepted for years.
     
  11. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    Selective use of facts, mixed with speculation, can be a spur to great journalistic investigative endeavours -- especially when the facts becomes more in dispute the digger you deep, as is the case with some legit research by those wrongly ID'd as conspiracy theorists.

    In this case, however, it is just a lot of crap, as HARVEY clearly demonstrates. By virtue of seeing print and seeing so much praise, this is WELL on its way to becoming the accepted legend passing for truth, like all those remarks indicating TUC's klingon blood color was done to avoid an R-rating, when it was strictly a plot and artistic call, just because Rick Berman was quoted as saying it was so.

    As the squadroom boss in 48HRS says, "just cause you say it with conviction, it don't mean shit to me!" (esp coming from somebody who had no influence on that particular production.)
     
  12. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I wonder how much different these books are to others of this type? Star Trek is under such scrutiny by fans and scholars alike that every new piece of evidence at this point is heavily gone over and discussed. But what if these books were about Bonanza or The Dick Van Dyke Show? Would they be universally accepted as fact? Or would we have fans going through the archives to confirm because something doesn’t seem right? Are those other books as rife with errors that people just accept? Trek fandom is a lot more exacting the thorough, I think. A book on The Time Tunnel came out, using many of the same research tools. Fans of that series just loved it. An interesting comparison, if nothing else.

    I like these books a lot for the detail and behind the scenes stuff from the memos and other easily confirmed tidbits. It’s distressing to see him so wrong on other things (the music stuff which is too easily checked bugs me), but for the most part, I love reading them and will snap up season 3 when it comes out.
     
  13. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    A great article, it's hard to present something so technical while keeping it readable.

    As far as Shatner's salary goes, this New York Times website biography for Robert Conrad says he got $5000 a week for the first season of Wild, Wild West (1965-66), and he had a four-year series starring run behind him (Hawaiian Eye, 1959-1963).

    I haven't been inclined to buy the Cushman book, but it is now free to borrow with Amazon Prime so I started it. I don't know how far I'll get. Fact-checking aside, I have seen Xeroxed fanzines with higher editorial standards. If it comes to be thought of as a "definitive" history of TOS, it's a sad commentary on something.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
  14. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" yet some fans seem to fall all over themselves to embrace Cushman's idea that the series was a hit despite the sketchy evidence he presents.

    As to "the legend", Cushman is creating a new one to join the ranks of long debunked tall tales like NBC not using demographics, NBC not wanting a woman first officer, Gene having to fight for an interracial crew, et cetera, which many fans repeat to this day as gospel.

    I think fans eagerly repeat such stories in part because they want them to be true, because they fit a classic and satisfying Us v. Them narrative where we the fans grok the things the muggles don't, and our heroes fought great odds to make what we love. Our tribe is special, donchaknow.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
  15. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Great article, Harvey. I look forward to any follow-up you do when you have access to more data.
     
  16. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    The Dick Vany Dyke Show and Bonanza simply don't have the passionate fan followings that Star Trek does (few shows do). If a comparable book to Cushman's These Are The Voyages came out, I doubt the interest would be there to sell nearly as many self-published books (or to raise nearly $12,000 prior to publication on Kickstarter, something Cushman did for this series, which makes you wonder where all the money went).

    I don't doubt there are other television histories out there with comparable low levels of scholarship. A PhD candidate I know once wrote a paper about The Monkees, and in the process of researching it, she discovered that every book about the series was absolute rubbish -- filled with total falsehoods, broad generalizations, etc. And these weren't self-published books she was looking at!

    Of course, this problem isn't exclusive to television histories written by fans/amateurs. Television studies is still an emerging academic field, and there's a lot of sloppiness out there that wouldn't occur if you were, let's say, an Alfred Hitchcock scholar. Enough academics have tread over that ground that they know bullshit when they see it. But television scholars are still trying to get broad recognition from their peers, not unlike film scholars forty years ago, when the field was similarly sloppy. This sort of thing will work itself out, over time, but it takes a while.
     
  17. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    Falsehoods accrete and get transmitted as fact. Fo sho.

    As to publishing a book, you have a structure already: 60s TV; ratings services then; Star Trek's slot and competition; the old myth; Cushman's new, growing myth; your thesis and support; etc. Once you have the skeleton, then comes just the writing for a year or two. ;)

    It would take a book proposal either to agents or to publishers. But you have friends in the industry here. Not enough readers interested in Trek ratings to make a trad publisher gamble on it, though, I fear. You could maybe sell it on its interest to college libraries? That's still a market.

    Otherwise you could self-publish. Unfortunately you then must become a book salesman/promoter. You coud speak at conventions if they have break-out sessions. If you do self-publish, I think I know just the people to edit and promote it: http://www.jacobsbrownmediagroup.com/ :)
     
  18. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Low levels of scholarship were all over the recent Atari E.T. Landfill circus, where almost everyone printed the legend without really doing any independent effort to verify the story. Hell, even Snopes, in their article on it, got some key facts right but mixed it up with conventional narrative stories which are demonstrably false.

    Sadly, the internet is often a sort of self-referential closed-loop, in which certain theories get disseminated ad nauseam because they make for good narrative ergo factual information has a difficult time displacing the bunk.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'd actually like to see a solidly researched and accurate history of The Monkees.
     
  20. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Commodore Commodore

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    No kidding. A lot of books have been published since the mid-80s revival, but there's so much copy+paste nonsense (ex. "They never played their instruments!"), that one is better served by sampling from more than one source.