Fast Forward: Hollywood, the Japanese, and the Onslaught of the VCR

James Lardner, Author W. W. Norton & Company $18.95 (344p) ISBN 978-0-393-02389-3
Videocassette recorders are now fixtures in 40% of American households, but Lardner's lively history of the video business reminds us not only that it wasn't always that way, but also that the ubiquitous machine was very nearly detoured on its march into our homes and our hearths. There are mishaps aplenty along the way, including Sony's failed efforts to make its technically superior Beta format the industry standard, Hollywood's failed attempts to persuade Congress and the Supreme Court to cripple the technology to protect film and TV copyrights, and the American consumer-electronics industry's failed endeavors to beat the Japanese to the technological finish line. Lardner, a staff writer for the New Yorker, recounts these failures in exacting detail; under his magnifying glass, big shots from Tokyo, Hollywood and Washington look very small indeedand sometimes, deservedly, very silly. Unfortunately, the trivialities at times obscure the fundamental importance of the issues underneath. Lardner's comedy of errors offers valuable background on this critical transition in the entertainment industries, but his arch perspective fails to unite all the details into a compelling, illuminating picture. First serial to the New Yorker, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. (June 1)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1987
Release date: 05/01/1987
Mass Market Paperbound - 336 pages - 978-0-451-62626-4
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