Stempel's (cinema, Los Angeles City Coll.) subtitle is no idle boast: He tries to provide the first comprehensive view of TV from the writer's perspective. Because much of the early history of the medium is becoming harder to research as its pioneers age and die, this largely chronological book is stronger in its later chapters. The author provides lengthy stories on the making of China Beach (1988-91), Hill Street Blues (1981-87), and thirtysomething (1987-91); would that he could have done the same for the live dramatic anthologies of the 1950s. Stempel covers not only prime-time comedy and drama, but variety and documentary shows; one notable omission: soap operas. Stronger for its anecdotal material than its analytical content, this volume is a worthy attempt to cover a subject much in need of further research.-- Thomas Wiener, formerly with ``American Film''