Steven H. Scheuer, Television Historian

Jan. 9, 1926- June 1, 2014
Steven H. Scheuer, Jan. 9, 1926- June 1, 2014

Steven Harry Scheuer, who pioneered the previewing of television programs in newspaper columns and books and helped create the academic field of ­tele­vision history, died on June 1 in New York City of congestive heart failure. He was 88.

 Mr. Scheuer was one of the first to see a need for previews of upcoming programs. As an associate director on CBS broadcasts like “Theater One” and “The Fred Waring Show,” he observed that people were often disappointed to have missed programs because they did not know about them. In the early 1950s he founded “TV Key,” a daily column of advance listings and recommendations, which was distributed by the King Features Syndicate. At its peak, the column appeared in 300 newspapers.

Mr. Scheuer had a second home in East Hampton for decades. He became an enthusiastic supporter and occasional on-air host for LTV, the East Hampton Town public access channel. “His interviews with local people are some of the most valuable we have,” said Genie Chipps Henderson, LTV’s archivist. “He drew out people in the arts, like the sculptor Ibram Lassaw, and in media, like Elmer Lauer, the head of ABC News, and Marvin Kitman, the TV critic for Newsday. He really understood the idea of public access TV as a resource for people in the communities where they live.”

In 1958, Mr. Scheuer compiled the book “Movies on TV,” which he updated in 17 editions over three decades. His other books were “The Movie Book” (1974), “Who’s Who in Television and Cable” (1983), “Box Office Champions: The Biggest Movie Blockbusters of All Time” (1984), “The Complete Guide to Videocassette Movies” (1987), and, with Alida Brill, his wife, “The Pocket Guide to Collecting Movies on DVD” (2003).

From 1969 to 1995, Mr. Scheuer hosted and co-produced the television program “All About TV,” which aired on WNYC-TV in New York City. He invited leading TV journalists to the program to discuss everything from news to sports, cable to broadcast, performers to performances.

In 2002, he co-produced a 13-part historical series, “Television in America: An Autobiography,” which concentrated on public affairs and included interviews with Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, Andy Rooney, Ted Koppel, Ken Burns, Gore Vidal, and Joan Ganz Cooney, among many others. “He was a wise scribe for the industry,” said Alvin Perlmutter, the producer of more than 100 PBS specials who now directs the Independent Production Fund.

Mr. Scheuer was also a philanthropist. He took part in efforts to preserve the city of Venice, playing a significant role in restoring the Scuola Grande Tedesca synagogue in the ghetto there and an ancient Hebrew cemetery on the Lido. He also helped preserve the memory of Jewish children deported from France between 1942 and 1944. A Scheuer family foundation was the principal contributor to the 1996 publication in English of “French Children of the Holocaust: A Memorial” by Serge Klarsfeld, a book of more than 2,500 photos of the young deportees, nearly all of whom were murdered at Auschwitz.

Steven Harry Scheuer was born on Jan. 9, 1926, in Manhattan to Simon H. and Helen Rose Scheuer. He graduated from the Fieldston School and Yale, where he was a varsity swimmer. As a member of the staff of The Yale Daily News, he wrote what apparently was the first review of Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” when the play was on a pre-Broadway tryout in New Haven.

Although he was pleased to be known as a TV maven, and used that description in his email address, he also helped teach friends’ children to swim or play squash and racquetball. He was adept too at starting lively dinner conversations, on topics ranging from cabaret entertainers (he was a fan) to books and politics.

A memorial service is to be held in the fall. Mr. Scheuer is survived by his wife, Ms. Brill; his former wife, Nikki Scheuer, and by two children and two stepchildren, Evan Scheuer of Southampton, Abigail Scheuer of Manhattan, Marc Lubin of Washington, D.C., and Eve Lubin of Ocala, Fla. He leaves three grandchildren and a sister, Amy Cohen of Larchmont, N.Y.

The family has suggested memorial donations to Yale University, Office of Development, Contribution Processing, P.O. Box 2038, New Haven, Conn. 06521. During his lifetime Mr. Scheuer donated some 5,000 television scripts, dating from about 1953 to 1963, to Yale.