TFTP Will Be Back After These Messages: Commercial Block from CBS (Mar. 5, 1978)

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.


TFTP Promos: Showtime promos 1983

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.


TFTP Comedy: "The Buster Keaton Show" (1950)

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.


TFTP Promos: NBC Network Promo (Jul. 19, 1957)

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!


TFTP Flow: WDAZ News Update w/ promos (1985)

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.


TFTP Variety: "The Hollywood Palace" w/ host Adam West (Oct. 8, 1966)

"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.


TFTP Special: Sign-Off on WTVJ (Miami) (1980)

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!


TFTP Special: ABC Coverage of "Liberty Weekend" -- July 4, 1986

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!