Could you explain the meaning of the sentence in bold? Does it use an idiom?

Sesame Street is...with lapses, the most intelligent and important program in television. That is not anything much yet. Renata Adler, The New Yorker, 1972

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    It might help if you could provide a few of the surrounding sentences. – Barrie England Nov 11 '11 at 14:15
  • Some more context would certainly help, but essentially it can be generically paraphrased as something along the lines of What we are talking about is not yet very important [but will probably become more important in future]. – FumbleFingers Nov 11 '11 at 14:16
  • ...where the inclusion of the word much simply implies that the matter under discussion has at least some importance already - just not very much. – FumbleFingers Nov 11 '11 at 14:18
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    @FumbleFingers: Thanks to OP for the context. I agree, but it's still not clear to me what Renata Adler meant. – Barrie England Nov 11 '11 at 14:22

Basically, Adler is denigrating the quality of television shows in general. She's implying that the only reason Sesame Street is the best is because all the other shows are lousy. It's like saying "I'm the richest person in the room" because I have a dollar and nobody else has more than a quarter; it is technically true that I am the richest person, but my so-called riches are "not anything much yet", that is, they are nothing in comparison to what is normally considered rich.

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    Then it is, perhaps, like 'And that isn't saying much.' – Barrie England Nov 11 '11 at 17:23

It is equivalent to saying

'This is nothing important for now.'

The phrase 'not anything much' means nothing important/impressive (source).

  • I think in some ways nothing important for now is in fact the opposite of not anything much yet, in that the former is effectively being dismissive, while the latter implies that alert observers may already spot the importance of something not yet generally recognised. – FumbleFingers Nov 11 '11 at 17:06
  • Good point - I guess that this feeling comes from parsing not anything much yet which has a certain mental not yet echo attached to it. Otherwise, purely semantically, both yet and for now indicate the possibility of the opposite. – Unreason Nov 11 '11 at 18:04
  • I suppose it's the connotations of "not for now" as opposed to "not yet", where the former is normally intended to focus attention on what is relevant now. The latter is more likely to be used when keeping the focus on whatever is being spoken of, whilst pointing out that its true importance will only become manifest later. – FumbleFingers Nov 11 '11 at 18:27

It literally means the object being referred to has not reached a stage where it is substantial. No idiom is involved.

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