TFTP Late Night: The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers (Oct. 13, 1986)

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.


TFTP Will Be Back After These Messages: Commercials for TV Guide (1950s/1960s/1969/1980-81)

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.


TFTP Variety: "Coke Time with Eddie Fisher" (Sep. 29, 1954)

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.


TFTP Will Be Back After These Messages: Commercial Block from WBBM (Chicago) (Dec. 9, 1980)

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.


TFTP Special: TV Test Patterns (1950s/1960s)

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.