Marvin Kitman, who lived longer as a television critic than most of the programs he amusingly criticized, and who as a satirist and amateur historian took a bold, albeit late, account of George Washington. Audited Revolutionary War Expenditure Account, died Thursday at the Actors Fund Home in Englewood. , NJ He was 93.
His son, Jamie Kitman, said the cause was cancer.
Mr. Kittman joined the left-wing but anti-Soviet magazine The New Leader as a TV critic in 1967, after the magazine’s editors agreed that he could reveal in his first column that he had never seen regular television. saw.
He began writing a syndicated column for the Long Island daily newspaper Newsday on December 7, 1969 – “a day that will live in infamy,” he said, “as far as the TV industry is concerned.”
In 35 years he produced 5,786 columns, championing such phenomenal shows as “All in the Family,” “Seinfeld” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” while mercilessly bashing others. He labeled the 1980 debut of “Saturday Night Live”‘s sixth season “offensive and cheesy” and wrote about “Kentucky Woman”, a 1983 TV movie starring former “Charlie’s Angels” star Cheryl Ladd The “Cheryl Ladd as a Coal” minor was a very poignant television experience. It inspired me to convert to nuclear power.”
In 1982, Mr. Kitman was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. His last column was published on April 1, 2005. (“Newsday gave me a try,” he wrote, “and after 35 years we decided it wasn’t working.”)
He also wrote many books. Most notable was perhaps “George Washington’s Expense Account” (1970), for which he was listed as Washington’s co-author under the name Marvin Kitman, Pfc. (Retd.)
A non-fiction work and not satire, it included a facsimile of Washington’s ledger showing military outlays for Madeira’s affairs for personal use and his army’s repeated, if sometimes strategic, retreats was listed.
An article about the book in the New York Times said that Mr. Kitman’s interpretation was “the line that divides truth from ridicule”—not unlike Washington himself, who “sometimes staunchly struggles with this point.” whether a certain expenditure was public or private” and “generally settles the matter in its own favour.”
Historian Robin W. Winks, writing in The Times Book Review, declared that the book was a means of his revenge for Washington’s famous cherry tree. As evidence of Mr. Kitman’s prodigious research on Washington’s incontinence, he cites a mention that the general’s weight had increased by 28 pounds during the war, which lasted more than seven years.
Washington generously declined the $6,000 annual salary offered by Congress (equivalent to about $1.7 million in today’s dollars over eight years). Instead, Mr. Kitman wrote, the commander-in-chief sought reimbursement of $480,000 (about $17 million today) in expenses.
Mr. Kitman also wrote about Washington in “The Making of the President 1789” (1989), which exposed the political machinations behind Washington’s nonpartisan election – and coincidentally, with the unorthodox spelling of its title, that satirized the writing style of the era.
His first book was “The Number One Best Seller: The True Adventures of Marvin Kitman”, published in 1966. His last book “Gullible’s Travels: A Comical History of the Trump Era” was published in 2020.
One of the more surprising works of the liberal Mr. Kittman was “The Man Who Won’t Shut Up: The Rise of Bill O’Reilly” (2007), which Jacob Heilbrun, reviewing for The Times, called Mr. “a mash note”. Said. O’Reilly said Mr. Kitman saw the staunchly conservative culture warrior as “a potent (and welcome) antidote to the sin the television industry has served for decades”.
Still, Mr. Heilbrun wrote, the book ultimately revealed that Mr. O’Reilly’s work was less about conservative ideas, but rather “to vent his growing personal displeasure at becoming the very thing he wanted to hate.” was: a celebrity.”
Publishers Weekly wrote that “it is hard to imagine a better researched or less biased work on such a divisive figure as O’Reilly.”
Mr. Kittman himself was no stranger to the political arena. He ran for president in the 1964 New Hampshire Republican primary under the banner “I’d rather be president than write.”
When his delegate was reported to have received 638 votes in the primary, which was more than half the number of votes polled by perennial candidate Harold Stassen, Mr. Kittman demanded a recount. “There has been some kind of fraud in getting so much money,” he complained.
If his 1964 mock campaign had actually been successful, he would have been defeated by the Democratic incumbent, President Lyndon B. Johnson, whose press secretary was Bill Moyers – who had recruited Kitman as Newsday’s publisher in 1969.
“I hired Marvin because we needed his wit, without which a media critic is a warrior without a sword,” Mr. Moyers said in an email.
“In the early days of television – the ’50s and ’60s – they thought the surest way to inspire television to fulfill its cultural and creative potential was through satire,” Mr. Moyers said. . “How could the big moguls living in their luxurious counting houses atop Manhattan not read the man who wrote ‘pure drivel drives out normal drivel on the TV screen’?”
Marvin Kitman was born on November 24, 1929, in Pittsburgh to Jewish immigrants from Russia. His family moved to New York in the 1930s. His father, Myer, was an inspector and clerk for Western Union. His mother, Rose (Kaufmann) Kittman, worked in a glider factory in Brooklyn during World War II.
“Some parents send their children to Switzerland to make ends meet,” Mr. Kittman often said. “Mine brought me to Brooklyn.”
After graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School, he enrolled at the City College of New York. His parents expected him to become a draftsman but he discovered a facility for writing when he worked on the student newspaper. He graduated in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in English.
In 1951, Mr. Kitman married Caroline Sibushnik, who later became a photographer. In addition to his son, he is survived by his daughters, Suzy Kitman and AJ Knight, and three grandchildren.
After enlisting in the Army, Mr. Kitman worked from 1953 to 1955 as a sports writer at the base newspaper at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He then moved to Leonia, NJ, where he worked as a freelance writer, writing a column. Horse racing tout sheet and consumer advocacy articles for the underground humor magazine The Realist.
He was a founding editor of the satirical magazine Monocle with Victor Navasky and a staff writer for The Saturday Evening Post.
He later appeared on TV as a critic for WPIX and WNEW (now WNYW) in New York. After working in this medium, he is not as disillusioned with broadcast television as he was when writing about it. His experience helping to create and write a short-lived CBS sitcom called “Ball Four” with former major league pitcher Jim Bouton (who also starred as a fictionalized version of himself) and sportswriter Vic Ziegels based on Mr. Special was downright disappointing. , Bouton’s book of the same name.
“It was constant rewriting at night, how tired everyone always was,” he recalled of the Bergen County, NJ records in 2013, and the input from officials—they knew only the alphabet about the writing.
He continued to write for The Huffington Post and started his blog in 2013. www.marvinkitman.com, in which he commented, like Marshall McLuhan, on the anthropological impact of television. He wrote, “Our kidney was replaced.” “We had to go to the bathroom frequently, like during commercial breaks.”
Resorting to his habitual modesty, Mr. Kitman, tongue firmly in cheek, asserts his authenticity as a constructive critic rather than a perpetual critic.
“For thirty-five years the commercial networks have been told they are headed for an iceberg, which is why today they have no choice but to join everyone else streaming on hand-held devices, including cable, Netflix, and electric toothbrushes. There is no danger. (Have you ever tried watching TV on it?),” he wrote in 2013.
He added, “The dinosaurs are dancing as fast as they can in the La Brea Tar Pits in LA and they don’t need my help anymore.”