Posted to YouTube by user 'RetroWinnipeg'
In memory of the late, great Joan Rivers, who died last week at the age of 81, we have a segment from her infamous FOX late-night talk show which ran for several months in 1986-87. Rivers had served as "permanent" guest host for Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show" for a few years prior and had appeared many times on that show going back to the mid-1960s when she launched her career on the strength of Carson's stamp of approval. As she transitioned to beginning her own talk show on FOX in the fall of 1986, she and Carson had a very public break with one another from which their relationship never recovered.
This clip of the "The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers" is from Monday, October 13, 1986, only the second week of the show. It begins with the top of the show and Rivers' monologue, during which she brings out her teenage daughter Melissa, in what may have been one of the duo's very first appearances onscreen together (they would go on, of course, to make many more with their red carpet hosting gigs and "Fashion Police" series). After a commercial break, Rivers continues with a comic bit revolving around the day's Columbus Day sales and phoning local department stores to try and get merchandise delivered to the show's studio before the end of the hour-long taping. After another commercial break, Rivers brings out the show's first guest, actress Angela Lansbury.
This clip is a bit peculiar in that it is not from American television, but rather from the "Late Show"'s airing on Canadian television; this is why the station ID at the very beginning of the clip as well as all the commercials are Canadian.
Posted to YouTube by user 'tapthatt2012' (first & third clips) and 'Diamond Pleshaw' (second clip)
TV Guide was once the most popular magazine in America. As a testament to just how central television was to American culture through the late-1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, TV Guide magazine had the highest circulation of any magazine in the country. This, of course, was an era before onscreen interactive program guides or availability of TV schedules via the Internet (not to mention before such things as DVRs and video-on-demand). Apart from daily or weekly listings in newspapers, if people wanted to have a schedule of TV programming, they had to rely on TV Guide.
These TV Guide commercials span this period of the late-1950s through the 1970s. We begin (in the first clip) with a one-minute spot from the early-1960s that extolls the virtues of TV Guide and gives some visual examples of the subjects covered in that era. Then, a series of shorter spots shows actor Michael Ansara from "Broken Arrow" in circa 1957, the stars of "Naked City" from circa 1960, and writer-director of "Noah's Ark" (and "Dragnet") Jack Webb from circa 1956.
In the succeeding clips are some additional TV Guide ads from 1969 and the early-1980s. First, a 1969 ad featuring Glen Campbell, who had one of the biggest shows that year with his "Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour", a huge variety show hit. Finally, a couple of ten-second ads from 1980 and 1981, the first highlighting the new Fall 1980 TV season, the second the Ronald Reagan presidential inauguration.
Posted to Internet Archive's Classic TV Collection
Eddie Fisher is a name that not many people today would recognize, but he was a major A-list celeb in the 1950s; he was as famous for his wives as he was for his singing--he was one of Elizabeth Taylor's husbands after having been married to Debbie Reynolds (with whom he was the parent of "Star Wars" star Carrie Fisher). This post features a complete episode of Fisher's show "Coke Time".
"Coke Time" was Fisher's main star vehicle for a good chunk of the 1950s, running from 1953 to 1957 on NBC. Each episode of the twice-weekly series (as in the one featured here) had Fisher simply singing three or four songs, with few frills and little staging, punctuated with a commercial or two for Coca-Cola. "Coke Time" is a good example of a program that had the sponsor's name in the name of the show, which was, of course, very common in the late-1940s and 1950s.
The show is also a good example of a program type that would disappear by the end of the 1950s but which was fairly widespread at the time: the 15-minute-long musical variety show, a program type in which Perry Como and Dinah Shore were likewise featured at different times in the '50s. The quarter-hour show was used for genres other than music (such as news and interview shows), but the combination of genre and length was an easy one to fill with a a handful of songs and call it a show.
Posted to YouTube by user 'The "New" Fun & Games Channel'
Here's a mostly unremarkable block of commercials from Chicago's CBS affiliate WBBM from December 1980 (unremarkable is OK, though, as that's what the vast bulk of commercials have been since the beginning of commercial television!). The highlights are: a rather peculiar commercial (the first one in the block) for Santa Fe Industries featuring a grizzled prospector and a businesswoman who has (literally) helicoptered in to speak with him; a rather charming commercial for Mattel's Electronic Gin game, interesting in that it is a good example of the handheld electronic game craze that was nearing its peak at this time; and a rather intriguing commercial for Chicago Sting indoor soccer team that features legendary Cubs announcer Harry Caray. Also found here are a local WBBM promo for "The Rockford Files", an Olympus camera ad featuring actress Cheryl Tiegs, and two different commercials for local Chicago department store McDade's.
The block ends with an announcement that the CBS Late Movie would start after a special broadcast. That special broadcast was a news special about the murder of Beatle John Lennon, which had occurred the previous day, on Dec. 8, 1980.
Posted to YouTube by user 'MSTS1'
For today's Labor Day holiday, we've got a post that will give the normal old TV clips the day off. This is not a TV program clip per se, but it is a type of TV content from the past that was very prevalent in TV's early days and has completely disappeared now: the TV test pattern.
Test patterns were used by television engineers to make sure that the transmitted and televised image being broadcast was adequate from a technical standpoint. This is why these test patterns have the patterns of lines of different thicknesses and lengths, the concentric circles, the areas of different gradations of shading--so that engineers could tweak settings and make adjustments prior to a station signing on for the broadcast day.
The test patterns featured here are reproduced from versions found in print books, but since they were a stationary element they are more or less as viewers would have seen them on the air. Test patterns would have appeared for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours before the station actually signed on with programming (which in the early days of TV may not be until mid-morning, midday, or even in the earliest days early-evening). Most test patterns had call letters or some other identifying mark for the station, as can be seen in most of the test patterns featured in this clip; these are all from varying periods in the 1950s and 1960s.
Posted to YouTube by user 'phxlefty'
A few weeks ago, TFTP featured its first post of a clip from a cable TV network (some promos from Showtime); here we have another clip of early cable TV--the legendary early MTV. MTV Music Television was one of the proto-cable networks that helped establish cable television as a medium after it launched in August of 1981. Early MTV, of course, featured mainly music videos, with a number of different kinds of segments as interstitials between the videos.
This extended (25 minute) clip is of those interstitial elements (the music videos themselves have been excised). Included in the clip are: VJ (video jockey) segments with original MTV VJ Mark Goodman; promotion of concert dates by The Police and Black Sabbath (and a taped intro to a Police concert by VJ Martha Quinn); classic MTV network IDs with the shifting-colors MTV logo and the iconic spaceman; promotion of the network's "Friday Night Music Fights", in which two music videos were pitted against one another; a spot for one of the network's famous giveaway promotions (here for Neil Young's pink Cadillac); and a "World Premiere" video announcement for Bob Dylan's latest music video.
The clip includes several commercials as well, and there is no mistaking the channel's adolescent target demographic based on the commercials featured here: compilation record albums, the Atari video game system, Panasonic boom boxes, and Compound W wart remover (!).
TFTP Will Be Back After These Messages: TVs from the Past -- Early Television Set commercials (1950/1954)
Posted to YouTube by user 'MattTheSaiyan'
In watching old TV commercials, it's always interesting to see what the sellers of products thought buyers were interested in, interests that then became the selling points in the ads themselves. Based on these two commercials for television sets, one from 1950 and the other from 1954, potential TV set buyers were really worried about how well a TV set could show close-ups.
The first ad, for a 1950 Westinghouse TV, has something called an "electronic magnifier" that you could somehow overlay on the screen to take a TV image and magnify it. The fact that they don't actually show this feature in operation and that the images they show of wrestlers are clearly not authentic images off of a TV screen should have made potential buyers of this set a little wary. The peculiar shape of the screen on this set is a good example of just how different early TV sets were from the ones that viewers became used to just a few years later.
The second TV set ad is from 1954, and by this time apparently there were already some people who were ready to replace their first TV set with an upgraded model. So the RCA television set being advertised is shown to have a much better ability to show close-ups than earlier TVs with smaller screens. A 21" inch set was a large screen in those days, and you can see why compared to the older 10" set! The price comparison between the 1950 set and the 1954 set in these ads is interesting, too, and shows the way in which technology improves and becomes cheaper at the same time; the 1950 Westinghouse model has a retail price of $259.95, while the much bigger and better 1954 RCA set is only $199.95.
Posted to Internet Archive
Ernie Kovacs was one of the great geniuses of early television comedy. He had a relatively brief but wide-ranging career--as a talk-show host, game-show panelist and host, morning-show host, and comedian--before dying prematurely in a car accident in 1962. This clip is a complete episode of a very short-lived Kovacs series called "Kovacs on the Corner", which was on NBC on weekday mornings for just three months in early-1952.
"Kovacs on the Corner" featured Kovacs in a slightly more laid-back style than that for which he is best known. Kovacs' pioneered a style of visual comedy on television that was not seen before or much since, utilizing sight gags, technical tricks unique to TV, and absurdism to create comedy. Here, in "Kovacs on the Corner", he is much more subtle and situational in his comedy. The "corner" of the title is a city neighborhood corner that comprises the show's sole set and on which Kovacs--assisted by singer and future wife Edie Adams--encounters different characters of the type one might meet on a street corner (policemen, street sweepers). Several musical numbers are featured, showing the easy facility with which early TV comedy shows crossed over into musical variety and back again.
Kovacs does show glimpses of his legendary humor here. A segment called "Swap Time" in which two ordinary people swap odd items (a torn bowler hat for an eight-pound block of ice) offers Kovacs the opportunity for some clever ad-libbing. An advertisement spoof in which Kovacs and Adams pitch "food" (holding a brown sack with the word "food" written on it) is a trenchant critique of TV commercials that foreshadows his later comedy. Although this episode is not typical of Kovacs' later comedy, it is both a good peek into his early career and a good example of a particular type of early musical/comedy variety show.
Posted to YouTube by user 'NantoVision1'
In this first TFTP Kids post, we have a pair of segments of "The Adventures of Letterman" from the legendary 1970s PBS kids show "The Electric Company." "The Electric Company" was the 1971 follow-up show from the Children's Television Workshop, after CTW--and the fledgling PBS's--smash success with "Sesame Street" which premiered in 1969. This second CTW program was focused on alphabet and phonics skills in youngsters (as opposed to the more broad-based concerns of "Sesame Street"). Although the two shows shared many characteristics (much animation, recurring segments, an ensemble of actors, an emphasis on teaching basic skills), "Electric Company" was less precious, more ironic and wry, and way more wacky in its comedy and perspective.
"The Adventures of Letterman" debuted on "The Electric Company" at the beginning of the show's second season (in Fall 1972) and was featured until the original run of the show ended in 1977. Letterman, a parodic superhero (and one that would not have been mistaken for David Letterman, whose fame was yet to come in the early- to mid-1970s), saved the day from the malicious spelling changes wrought by the Spell Binder (the villain which was, for today's tastes, a little too much of a parody of an Arab figure). Like many of the segments in CTW's shows, this one featured a cast of celebrities: Joan Rivers as the narrator, Gene Wilder as Letterman, and Zero Mostel as Spell Binder.
The two segments here are "Hands Full", which appeared on the Feb. 28, 1973, episode of "Electric Company"; and "Small Talk", which appeared on the Apr. 6, 1976, episode.
Posted to YouTube by user '80sCommercialVault'
This is another block of commercials, this time from ABC on Saturday mornings, November 7 and 14, 1981. There's a lot of great stuff here, including some toy commercials (Nerf basketball, Tonka trucks, couple Barbie products), junk food (Reese's peanut butter cups, SpaghettiO's, Burger King), public service announcements (including one starring Brooke Shields and another starring Ed Asner), and the piece-de-resistance, Underoos. There are also several bumpers (the brief, usually 5-second, bits leading into and out of the commercial breaks for Saturday morning shows) and the complete end credits for an episode of "Thundarr the Barbarian.
Posted to YouTube by user 'The Museum of Classic Chicago Television'
Here at TFTP we work in public television, and we just finished the latest pledge drive, so here's a set of vintage public TV pledge breaks from 1979. These are from Chicago's WTTW Channel 11 and they feature as the on-air personalities Cherie Mason and Paul Brian. Compared to today's pledge breaks, which can often be a little staid and stuffy, Mason and Brian are refreshingly loose and improvisational in their banter and pitching. Other elements are likewise offbeat and clever, such as a brief filmed segment in the first pledge break (featuring a pre-fame and pre-"Cheers" Shelley Long).
One striking thing about the names of the programs above the ranks of phone volunteers in the background is how many of the shows are still on the air 35 years later. "Masterpiece Theatre", "NOVA", "Sesame Street"--these are public TV mainstays even today (and some of them, such as "Sesame Street", had already been on the air for a decade in 1979). Public television in the U.S. television system is a unique creature that remains dependent on viewers becoming members (or to use the terminology here, "subscribers") in order to survive. Here we see a relatively early example of the ways in which public television sought to acquire those memberships.
Here's a news clip from San Francisco's ABC affiliate KGO-TV from February 8, 1965. Black-and-white video (as opposed to film) clips from the '60s are always interesting because they give us a great glimpse of what TV actually looked like in terms of its visual texture in this period. Watch closely and you can see the switchovers between video sources as the image shifts between newscaster Bob Dunn in the studio and videotaped/filmed story segments (look for the horizontal rolling interference).
The content here is especially interesting, as it includes a lot of reporting and updates on the evolving situation in Vietnam, a conflict that was very much still escalating and still entering the American conscience and consciousness in early-1965. Other reports concern the space program and racial integration (the latter reported from Atlanta by a young Peter Jennings, later the longtime ABC Nightly News anchor). The local commercial for a car dealership that appears midway through is fascinating as well, as it shows the relative simplicity and primitiveness of local ad spots in this period. A straight-ahead pitch delivered by a salesman who is simply sitting at a desk in the studio, followed by a slide with the business name and address, the spot seems ridiculously simple-minded to us now (even for a local commercial).
Posted to YouTube by user 'Johnny Carson'
Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" is a TFTP favorite (as is Carson's pre-"Tonight Show" career), so here is our first post from "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson". This September 1970 clip features Mel Brooks doing an impression of an Indian ichthyologist (which is a scientist who studies fish, in case you didn't know). Brooks was known for his characters using a wide variety of different kinds of accents, although this one is not one of his better ones.
More interesting is the overall ambiance and look of the "Tonight Show" in this era. This is from the pre-1972 New York period of Carson's "Tonight Show"--before the show moved to LA and a period for which surviving episodes and clips are rare compared to later years--so it's a nice glimpse of the show's early years. The multi-hued background and orange chairs set the tone for what was at the time still the early years of color television. This clip is from the official YouTube account for Johnny Carson's estate, which has posted quite a few more clips and many full episodes of "The Tonight Show".
Posted to Internet Archive by user 'Emperor'
Ed Wynn was one of the early variety show comedians on television, and his show was the capper to a long career as a stage comedian (about 47 years long, as he explains in this episode). Wynn was a comedian of a type we don't see anymore: clownish in the best possible sense, with a Borscht-Belt-y broad comedic sense (he was Jewish with a birth name of Isaiah Edwin Leopold, his stage name derived from his middle name), and with a highly developed eye for visual touches (as he keeps reminding us in this episode, as he tells Victor Moore, that to be on TV you have to have a crazy costume).
Wynn was also a great link between the much older vaudeville traditions and the newly emerging (at this time) televisual traditions. His tutelage of the even older Moore on how to break into television (which features some incisive barbs about sponsors) includes a comment to Moore about to be on TV all you have to do is decide whether or not you want to be a "cowboy, puppet, or wrestler", showing a perceptive understanding of late-1940s television and its prevalent genres. This episode of Wynn's show features a series of comic and musical segments linked by Wynn's schooling of guest star Moore and including a couple of singing performances by the Merry Macs.
"The Ed Wynn Show" is a great example of early TV comedy: strongly vaudeville-based, a little rough at the edges, attempting to take advantage of the visual properties of TV while remaining largely verbal in nature due to its roots in radio.
This minute-long NBC promo highlights the network's fall 1967 weekday programming. These, of course, were the now long-lost days when networks programmed this time period themselves (rather than allowing affiliates to run syndicated fare, as happens now), and for the most part the networks filled the mornings with game shows and occasional light variety.
Featured in this promo are "Snap Judgment" with host Ed McMahon (in this period working the morning and late-night shifts for NBC); "Concentration" with host Hugh Downs (ballyhooed as the network's longest running game show); "The Pat Boone Show," a rather obscure and presumably short-lived variety half-hour starring the pop singer; "The Hollywood Squares," the long-running (and oft-revived) celebrity-centered game show that was near the beginning of its TV life; "Jeopardy" (in its original Art Fleming-hosted incarnation); and "Eye Guess," another fairly obscure show, one of the many game shows hosted by Bill Cullen.
This promo is a delight to watch, partially because its difficult to imagine any network running such a clip now (at least without intended irony). Multiple images--some stylized drawings, some stylized photos of the hosts of the various shows--cascade in kaleidoscopic fashion across a 3x3 grid of squares that resembles the playing board for the aforementioned "Hollywood Squares." Accompanying the images is an appropriately jaunty and lighthearted musical score that would be right at home in any of the shows from NBC's fall 1967 morning schedule.
Posted to YouTube by user 'The "New" Fun & Games Channel'
At least as important as any programs or program forms to the history of television, commercials are one of the medium's most venerable types of content. Because of this, TFTP will regularly feature blocks of commercials and individual commercials from various historical periods. We kick off this feature by posting this 22-minute block of commercials from a March 1978 broadcast of an NBA game between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks.
Many commercials are featured here, including for Lowenbrau beer, Hertz rental cars, several different models of Chevrolet autos, two different commercials each for Miller High Life and Miller Lite beers, and ads for other vehicles such as Volkswagen Dasher and Honda motorcycles. Also in this block are CBS network promos for its sports coverage of NBA basketball and U.S. National Indoor Tennis, for Challenge of the Sexes, for the TV movie "The Last of the Good Guys", for the Diana Ross movie "Mahogany", and for a curious documentary called "The Body Human: The Red River" about the human bloodstream.
So far on TFTP we've featured strictly network television material from the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) or their affiliates. But television in the past now includes nearly forty years of history for cable networks as well, so here is our first post from a cable channel--the Showtime pay-TV network. HBO (Home Box Office) was the first pay-TV channel, launching nationally in 1975, but Showtime was not far behind and was established as HBO's main rival (which it remains today) by the end of the 1970s.
This is a block of Showtime promos from 1983, and it includes promos for: (1) "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1981) with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange; (2) a double feature of "Divorce: Kids in the Middle" and "Shoot the Moon" (1982) with Diane Keaton and Albert Finney; (3) "Chariots of Fire", the Oscar-winner from 1981; (4) "Cat People" (1982) with Malcolm McDowell and Nastassia Kinski; and (5) the opening bumper for an interstital called Showtime Take 5, which appears to have been some sort of music video segment, based on the images shown.
Posted to Internet Archive by user 'Emperor'
Buster Keaton was, of course, one of the greatest silent film comedians, rivaled by only Charlie Chaplin in popularity and artistry. Lesser known is Keaton's television career, which started soon after the launch of commercial TV and included many TV commercials and a few different regular series. This program, "The Buster Keaton Show", was the first of his forays into weekly TV, and it ran for awhile in 1950 on Los Angeles' KTTV (at a time when the national networks were not yet completely built out, especially to the west coast, and when local stations, especially in large cities like L.A., produced much of their own prime-time programming). It was a short-running series, and this is reputed to be the only episode that survived.
Typical Keaton slapstick is featured here, although of course not up to the quality of his classic silent films. The storyline (such as it is) involves Buster training in a gym for an insurance physical, a premise that is really just an excuse for him to get himself into instances of physical comedy related to exercise (e.g., a rowing machine, boxing ring, exercise clubs, stretching, etc.). Although perhaps of a somewhat different quality considering that it involves Buster Keaton, this episode is not a bad example of the kind of sketch comedy that would be prevalent throughout the 1950s.
Posted on YouTube by user 'MattTheSaiyan'
This fascinating NBC promo gives a glimpse of how networks promoted their programs in the late-1950s. Likely because of the difficulty at the time of editing together film and videotape clips (the latter was a brand new technology in 1957)--and the fact that many shows were still broadcast live, and thus would have no clip footage to edit into a promo--the promos were mainly still images with an announcer's voiceover. There is no way of knowing for sure, but it's possible that the voiceover may have been done live as the promo was airing, although it's equally likely that it was prerecorded (since this promo seems to have survived with soundtrack intact).
This is for NBC's Saturday night line-up in mid-1957, which consisted of the "Julius LaRosa Show" (LaRosa, of course, had famously been fired on the air by Arthur Godfrey in 1953), "George Sanders Mystery Theatre" (an anthology program hosted by movie character actor George Sanders that lasted a single season of 13 episodes), and "Encore Theatre", yet another anthology drama that at this time consisted of repeated episodes of the anthology program "Ford Television Theatre".
The anthology drama was a TV genre common in the 1950s, as common as sitcoms and police procedurals are today, and that has pretty much completely disappeared now. They featured new stories with a different cast every week and had no ongoing cast members or dramatic premise, with each week being a new mini-play of sorts; some had ongoing hosts, like George Sanders here, but others merely had a sponsor's identity or a generic title (like "Encore Theatre" here) to provide continuity. Eventually, we'll get around to posting some episodes from anthology dramas of the 1950s here on TFTP!
This is a flow clip with a news update from 1985 that hits close to home for TFTP; the station, WDAZ (Grand Forks, ND), is right in our backyard. The clip begins with an ABC network promo for "David Hartman: The Future is Now", an ABC News special about space travel featuring then-host of "Good Morning America" David Hartman (you can read more about it here). The news update follows, with Kathryn Bursch reading the news. This news update is in a form commonly found over the years: simply an anchor or newsreader in a head shot looking into the camera with no graphics, no B-roll footage, and no other accoutrements, reading news for 30 seconds.
The update is followed by the beginning of an ad spot--I think for the sponsor mentioned at the beginning of the news update--but then abruptly cuts to the end of an ad spot for Kingsford charcoal, followed by a network promo for "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure." This is likely due to one of the major reasons that flow clips like this have survived for us to watch them now: This was probably the transition point in the video tape recording of two programs, one of which had the WDAZ news update after the end of the program being recorded, the next program which started with the Kingsford ad and promo before the beginning of the program.
"The Hollywood Palace" was one of the last big-time all-purpose TV variety shows. Pretty much pure vaudeville, the show featured a succession of unrelated acts (singers, comedians, acrobatic acts, sketches) and a different celebrity guest host each week. It ran from 1964-1970 on ABC, for most of its run on Saturday evenings, and was staged in the ABC Palace Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood (before that, and now again, known as the El Capitan Theater, and now the home of ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live).
This complete episode of "The Hollywood Palace" is from Fall 1966 and features Batman's Adam West as host. Late-1966 was the peak of "Batman's" popularity as a fad show and this is exploited in West's opening number. Other guests include Joey Heatherton (probably also at her peak of popularity at about this time), Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Ray Charles and the Raylettes, a pre-beard and pre-counterculture George Carlin, ventriloquist Fred Roby, and stunt performer Danny Sailor (who climbs and does stunts atop a large pole outside the theater).
This appears to be from a master tape of the episode, which is why the timecode appears throughout in the upper right corner. There are also commercials included, with a couple of half-minutes of dead air where the local affiliate would plug in local commercials. Commercials include: Dutch Masters cigars, Efferdent denture cleaner, Diet Delight canned fruit, Pall Mall cigarettes, Philips Milk of Magnesia laxative, Bayer aspirin, Chiffon margarine, and Tareyton cigarettes.
The very first TFTP post a few weeks ago was a TV station sign-on used at the beginning of the broadcast day. Here is its counterpart, a sign-off, the segment of programming at the very end of the broadcast day--from when stations used to actually sign off and go off the air overnight. Many sign-offs included a brief news update (this one does not) and they almost universally featured a brief film or tape segment of the U.S. national anthem (as this one does). This sign-off from 1980 also includes a few program promos (including for a CBS TV broadcast of the movie "Rocky") and a couple of public service announcements (PSAs), which stations often loaded into this late-night period. It's from station WTVJ in Miami, Florida's first TV station (launching in 1949), which at this time was on Channel 4 and was a CBS affiliate but has since switched to Channel 6 and NBC.
TFTP Will Be Back After This Message: UNIVAC Computer commercial from "What's My Line?" (Feb. 5, 1956)
The first post for TFTP a couple of weeks ago was the debut episode of the panel game show "What's My Line?". This first commercial to appear on TFTP is one from the run of "What's My Line?", which for a number of years had as a sponsor Remington Rand, maker of UNIVAC computers. This 1956 commercial for UNIVAC is fascinating for several reasons: it is lengthy (much longer than we've become used to in recent years); it has an explanatory quality that was once common in commercials as late as the 1980s; it features John Charles Daly, WML's host, providing an introduction to it in the program, also once a common practice that has long since (mostly) disappeared; and it provides a really interesting glimpse at 1950s era computers!
For the 4th of July holiday, here's a clip of about 9 minutes in length of the "Liberty Weekend" festivities in New York City on the weekend of July 4, 1986. The weekend centered on the re-dedication of the Statue of Liberty on its centennial and recent refurbishment. This clip shows mainly shots of the harbor with the statue and many boats that were part of the festivities. ABC anchor Peter Jennings appears as well. Included are several commercials from Van Heusen shirts, Prudential-Bache securities, Kibbles n' Bits dog food, K-Mart, Chrysler autos, Lazer Tag (!), and Philadelphia Cream Cheese.
Happy 4th of July from Television from the Past!
One of the fascinating (at least to this blogger) forms of television that will be featured on a regular basis here on TFTP is what I am labelling "flow" clips. "Flow" is a concept from academic television studies in which the content of TV is analyzed not as specific programs or episodes of shows but as a "flow" of material that is neverending and which consists of a variety of different kinds of material: the segments of a TV program, yes, but also program promos, commercials (of course), station and network IDs, public service announcements, news updates (or "newsbreaks"), and a plethora of other, usually short bits that are sometimes referred to as "interstitials" (because they come in between the programs or program segments).
This inaugural "flow" clip is from CBS in September 1980 and centers on a newsbreak that, among other things, discusses the latest projections for the 1980 presidential election. (Carter was ahead!) Commercials include Ragu Pizza Quick, Hush Puppies shoes, Lysol, and Mars candy bars, followed by a couple of program promos (including one for the "Tim Conway Show"). This kind of a flow clip is a great "time capsule" of the time it's from, as we get a look at the consumer products, network TV programming, network promotional strategies, and (when a newsbreak is present) current events of the period. These flow clips will be a regular feature here on Television from the Past!
This 3-minute promo highlights the ABC programs on Friday nights for Fall 1970; featured are "The Brady Bunch," "Nanny and the Professor," "The Partridge Family," "That Girl," "Love, American Style," and "This is Tom Jones." "Brady Bunch" and "Partridge Family" are well-known, "That Girl" a little less so. "Nanny and the Professor" ran for about two years, from January 1970 to December 1971. "Love, American Style" was an anthology program featuring humorous stories about love--it's biggest claim to fame being that it featured as a 1972 episode the pilot for "Happy Days" (entitled "Love and the Happy Day").
As TFTP's inaugural post, here is the debut episode of the venerable and legendary CBS panel game show "What's My Line?" Airing on Sunday, February 2, 1950, this was the first of what would be 17 years of live episodes that anchored the last half-hour of CBS's Sunday-night prime-time schedule through all of the 1950s and most of the 1960s ("WML" would go on to air for another 8 years, until 1975, in syndication).
"What's My Line?", for those unfamiliar with it, was one of the earliest "panel" game shows, a sub genre that dominated TV game shows through the 1950s and much of the 1960s. Four celebrity panelists asked yes or no questions designed to give them clues for guessing a contestant's occupation (or "line"). The final contestant was the "mystery guest", a celebrity that the panelists would likely recognize on sight thus requiring them to wear blindfolds (and the mystery guests to use often humorous fake voices).
We see in this episode host John Charles Daly (who would host for "WML"'s entire 17-year run) and longtime panelist Dorothy Kilgallen (who stopped appearing only upon her death in 1965). Yet to appear at this point were the other longtime panelists Bennett Cerf and Arlene Francis, although both would soon join Daly and Kilgallen in guessing the lines of hundreds of contestants for the better part of two decades.