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spot the Reader’s Digest Condensed Book

It’s hard to believe sometimes that James Robison was in the early Eighties a big deal in religious television and that he was the face of Religious Roundtable, the group that hosted Ronald Reagan’s “I endorse you” speech in 1980.

I tune in every so often to his Life Today show just to see what he’s up to. So far as I can tell he’s mostly running a relief charity and helping people who are already marginally famous in some other field tell stories of drama in real life and occasionally sell books to Christian television viewers.

Unfortunately his ever-changing set is infested with Reader’s Digest Condensed Books [link], the bane of inexpensive television studios everywhere. In one of the more recent configurations one hovers just above and to the right of his wife Betty’s head in the Robison half of the basic two-shot.

In this episode, devoted to the heart-wrenching story of former beauty queen Natalie Nichols [link], one floats into view in the right half of the slow zoom at about 1:23. Others are visible during the opening montage, again above Betty’s head, during the shot of the two Robisons cuddling on the couch.

These books are ideal for shots like these because they’re cheap, squat, have goldleaf on the spine, and vary slightly in design from year to year. Sadly once you learn to pick them out you’ll never watch cut-rate television the same way again.

I really do wonder sometimes what the bookshelf behind the Robison’s is supposed to contribute as a design element. It seems to me to be saying “we’re wealthy enough to have extra space, and we’ve got family we’re not ashamed to have pictures of in our home, but we don’t read enough to fill our bookshelves with books.” Or something like that.

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