Marvin Kitman, Satirist Whose Main Target Was TV, Dies at 93

Marvin Kitman has outlived most of his hilarious critiques as a television critic, a satirist and amateur historian who belatedly and audaciously audited George Washington’s Revolutionary War accounts. , died Thursday at the Actors Fund Home in Inglewood. , New Jersey He was 93 years old.

His son, Jamie Kitman, said the cause was cancer.

Kitman joined the left-wing but anti-Soviet magazine The New Leader in 1967 as a television critic, but his first reaction was that the magazine’s editors had never watched television regularly. It was after I agreed that I could reveal it in my column.

He began writing a syndicated column for the Long Island daily Newsday on December 7, 1969. “As far as the television industry is concerned, this is a day of infamy,” he said.

Over the course of 35 years, he has written 5,786 columns, defending groundbreaking shows such as “All in the Family,” “Seinfeld,” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” while advocating for others. criticized the show without mercy. He labeled his 1980 Saturday Night Live season six debut as “aggressive and vulgar,” and criticized the 1983 TV movie Kentucky Starring former Charlie’s Angels star Cheryl Ladd. About Woman, he wrote: The Minor was a very moving television experience. It made me want to switch to nuclear power. “

In 1982, Kitman was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. His last column he published on April 1, 2005 (“Newsday gave me a tryout,” he wrote, “and after 35 years he We decided it wouldn’t work”).

He also wrote several books. Perhaps the most notable is “George Washington’s Expense Statement” (1970), in which he is listed as Washington’s co-author under the name of Marvin Kitman Pfc. (return)

A work of non-fiction rather than satire, it included the case of Madeira for personal use and a reproduction of Washington’s ledger itemizing military expenditures for the often strategic but frequent marches to the rear. was included.

A New York Times article about the book said Kitman’s interpretation straddles “the line between truth and farce.” So did Washington himself, who “sometimes agonized over whether a particular expense was public or private.” He usually solved the problem in his own favour. “

Historian Robin W. Winks, writing for The Times Book Review, proclaimed that the book was a vehicle for Washington’s famous cherry tree to wield revenge. As evidence of Washington’s astonishing study of abstinence, Mr. Kitman cited the account of the general gaining 28 pounds during the war, which lasted more than seven years.

Washington generously rejected the $6,000 annual salary offered by Congress (equivalent to about $1.7 million over eight years in today’s dollars). Instead, the commander-in-chief sought reimbursement of $480,000 in expenses (about $17 million today), Kitman wrote.

Mr. Kitman also wrote about Washington in How to Make a President 1789 (1989), exposing the political intrigue behind Washington’s nonpartisan elections and, incidentally, using the unconventional spelling of its title to describe the style of the time. is satirizing.

His first book was the audaciously titled Number 1 Bestseller: The True Adventures of Marvin Kitman, published in 1966. His last book was Gulible’s Travels: A Comical History of the Trump Era, published in 2020.

One of the liberal Mr. Kitman’s more surprising works is The Man Who Will Not Silence: The Rise of Bill O’Reilly (2007), which Jacob Heilbrunn wrote in The Times, criticizing Mr. Kitman. Pronounced “mash note”. The O’Reilly noted that Kitman sees the belligerent conservative cultural warrior as “a powerful (and welcome) antidote to the dads that the television industry has offered for decades.”

Still, Heilbrunn argues that the book ultimately isn’t about O’Reilly’s work about conservative ideas, but rather “his simmering individualism to become the very celebrity he despises.” I’m showing off my grudge,” he wrote.

Publishers Weekly wrote, “It’s hard to imagine a better-researched or less-biased production about a divisive figure like O’Reilly.”

Kitman himself was no stranger to the political arena. He briefly ran for president in the 1964 New Hampshire Republican primary under the banner of “I’d rather be president than write.”

When his delegates reportedly received 638 votes in the primary, more than half of perennial candidate Harold Stassen, Kitman called for a recount. “There was some kind of fraud to get this much merchandise,” he complained.

Had the 1964 mock election actually been successful, it could have gone head-to-head with incumbent Democratic President Lyndon B. It was Bill Moyers.

“I hired Marvin because I needed his wit,” Moyers said in an email. “Without it, a media critic is a warrior without a sword.”

“In the early days of television, in the ’50s and ’60s, he saw satire as a surefire way to persuade television to realize its cultural and creative potential,” Moyers added. “Why didn’t the tycoons who live in the fancy accounting offices high above Manhattan read the man who wrote, ‘On the television screen, pure whimsy tends to outrun ordinary whimsy’? ”

Marvin Kitman was born in Pittsburgh on November 24, 1929, the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia. His family moved to New York in his 1930s. His father Meyer was a Western Union inspector and clerk. His mother, Rose (Kaufman) Kitman, worked at a glider factory in Brooklyn during World War II.

“Some parents send their kids to Switzerland to ‘finish’,” Kitman used to say. “Mine took me to Brooklyn.”

After graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School, I attended the City University of New York. His parents wanted him to become a draftsman, but he discovered his talent for writing when he worked on the production of the student newspaper. He graduated in 1953 with a BA in English.

In 1951, Kitman married future photographer Caroline Sibsnik. In addition to her son, she is also survived by daughters Susie Kitman and AJ Knight, and three grandchildren.

After being drafted into the Army, Kitman served as a sportswriter for the base newspaper in Fort Dix, New Jersey from 1953 to 1955. He then moved to Leonia, New Jersey, where he worked as a freelance writer and wrote columns for magazines. Horse racing billboards and underground he wrote consumer advocacy articles for the humor magazine The Realist.

He was the founding editor of the satirical magazine Monocle with Victor Navasky and was a staff writer for The Saturday Evening Post.

He then appeared on television as a critic for New York’s WPIX and WNEW (now WNYW). After working in the medium of television himself, he found himself as disillusioned with television broadcasting as he was when he wrote about it. Particularly disappointing is that he helped produce and write the short-lived CBS sitcom Ball Four, along with former major league pitcher Jim Bouton (starring as a fictional version of himself) and sportswriter Vic Siegel. It was an experience. Bouton’s book of the same name.

In a 2013 Bergen County, N.J. record, he recalled, “We were all tired all the time, rewriting all night long.” “And the opinion from his executives was that all they knew about writing was the alphabet.”

He continues to contribute to the Huffington Post and started his own blog in 2013 at marvin kitman.comIn it he gave a Marshall McLuhan-like account of the anthropological influence of television. “Our kidneys were changing,” he wrote. “I had to go to the bathroom more often, such as during commercial breaks.”

Kitman used his familiar humility to keep his tongue firmly against his cheek and spoke genuinely to himself as a constructive critic rather than a chronic hater.

“For 35 years, we’ve told commercial networks that we were heading towards the iceberg, and today, commercial networks are turning to cable, Netflix and streaming on mobile devices, including electric toothbrushes.” That’s why it’s not intimidating.(Have you ever watched TV?)” he wrote in 2013.

“The dinosaurs are dancing full force into LA’s La Brea Tar Pits and they don’t need my help anymore,” he added.

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