Merry Christmas from TFTP: Television from the Past!

Posted to YouTube by user 'Greg Rempe'
Length - 1:59:47

Some TV stations back in the day would pre-empt regular programming on Christmas Day and show an image of a yule log burning in a fireplace for several hours, usually (as in this recording that aired sometime in the 1980s on New York station WPIX) with holiday music playing.

And so here at Television from the Past, we offer this yule log as season's greetings, and we would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

This Christmas Day post will be the last for a couple of weeks as TFTP goes on a holiday hiatus until the New Year. Our next post will be on Monday, January 8.


Christmas at TFTP (Sign-Off Edition): Station Sign-Off from WTTW/Chicago (Dec. 25, 1978)

Posted to YouTube by user 'The Museum of Classic Chicago Television'
Length - 4:30

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

In anticipation of Christmas Day on Monday, here's a 1978 Christmas Day station sign-off from WTTW/Chicago, "public television for Chicago" (as stated in the station voiceover). The clip begins with the last few seconds and the end credits of a Christmas concert program called "Sing We Noel". This is followed by the sweet 1970s PBS network ID with its bouncy musical cue. Then a program promo for the upcoming "New Years at Pops" program precedes a PSA with Phil Donahue for a local social services organization called Yule Connection.

Announcer Marty Robinson does the ownership/technical voiceover on a slide of a birds-eye view of the loop in downtown Chicago (the photo for which was probably taken from the top of the Sears Tower). This is followed by (and the sequence is concluded with) a national anthem film (which was not always included in public TV sign-offs) that features scenes in and around Chicago.


Christmas at TFTP (On This Day Edition): "The Dean Martin Christmas Show" from NBC (Dec. 21, 1967)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Deano Martin'
Length - 51:29

It Was 50 Years Ago Today: Dean Martin had one of the top variety shows on TV for a whole decade from the mid-1960s straight into the mid-1970s. This gave him a whole career on his own after he broke up with comedy partner Jerry Lewis in which Martin became one of America's top singers. This Christmas special, aired on this day in 1967, fifty years ago today, represents Martin at the peak of his popularity as a singer and as a television star.

Martin was also famous, of course, as a member of the 1960s "rat pack" that included his pal Frank Sinatra. This yuletide episode of Martin's show is a holiday merger of the Martin and Sinatra families, as both men include their entire, rather large, families in a program that is packed full of songs, holiday and non-holiday in nature, sung by various combinations of the members of the two families.

Included are Nancy Sinatra singing a Christmas-themed version of her 1966 hit "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'"; Nancy and Dean's daughter Gail Martin singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"; a group song by Dean and Frank along with Nancy and Gail; another group song by Dean and Frank along with Dean Jr. and Frank Jr.; a version of "Do Re Mi" (from "The Sound of Music") with Dean and Frank along with their other daughters Deana Martin and Tina Sinatra; a long medley by Dean and Frank of many of their collective hits; and another long show-closing medley of Christmas songs by different members of the combined brood that included "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays", "Let It Snow", "The Christmas Song", "White Christmas", "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", "Deck the Halls", "Joy to the World", and "Silent Night".


Christmas at TFTP (On This Day Edition): "The Bob Hope Special" from NBC (Dec. 19, 1968)

Posted to YouTube by user '20th Century Vision'
Length - 1:01:08

It Was 49 Years Ago Today: Bob Hope did dozens of specials on NBC over the course of several decades between the 1950s and the 1980s. This is one that is not so much a Christmas special as one that happened to air during the Christmas season--forty-nine years ago today on December 19, 1968.

Unlike many of Hope's specials over the years, this special consists of one long sketch, a parody of the secret agent show "Mission: Impossible". The Hope version is called "Mission: Ridiculous", and he plays a secret agent fighting an outfit called "B.R.O.A.D.S." made up of all women. (The initials were a take-off of the tendency of these spy shows to fight an enemy with similar names.) The women (played by Janet Leigh, Carol Lawrence, and Nancy Ames) have kidnapped Santa Claus for offenses (not made entirely clear) against women. Hope goes through several vignettes--including visiting the North Pole where Leigh poses as Mrs. Claus, flying on a Cuban airline with a Fidel Castro lookalike, and appearing in a Hong Kong nightclub where all of the characters are horrible Asian stereotypes (and Hope's accent is completely offensive).

A couple of musical performances are worked into this hackneyed story: one number sung by Ames in character as a spy posing as a flight attendant on the Cuban airline, and another by Glen Campbell, who is Hope's cellmate in a Cuban jail. Jerry Colonna pops up as a judge in the Cuban jail scene, while Santa--imprisoned at B.R.O.A.D.S headquarters--turns out to be Wally Cox.

The topical jokes in Hope's opening monologue seem like they would have been groaners to contemporary audiences in 1968, and they are completely impenetrable and unfunny now. Bob Hope was never on the cutting edge of comedy, not even in his 1940s heyday as a movie star, and the shoddy quality of this program shows just how sloppy he was as a comedic craftsman despite the fact he was beloved by mainstream audiences. This special is a shining example of how NBC by this point would put on the air literally anything that Hope put together.


Christmas at TFTP (Monochrome Monday Edition): "The Steve Allen Christmas Show" from ABC (Dec. 20, 1961)

Posted to YouTube by user 'RayHoffmanOnAir'
Length - 54:10

Steve Allen was a pioneering television comedian, starting in local TV in the early '50s, continuing with his stint as the first host of the "Tonight Show" from 1954-1957, and culminating with his legendary prime-time variety show on NBC from 1956-1960. This Christmas special is not from that series, but from what was known as the "'New' Steve Allen Show" that aired on ABC for less than a full season in 1961-62.

Even though this is Allen just ever so slightly past his peak, this Christmas show still wonderfully represents his comedy. The show takes place entirely at Allen's and wife Jayne Meadow's home, and it begins with them welcoming the guests and cast (including the Smothers Brothers and Tim Conway early in their careers, as well as Allen regulars Louis Nye and Bill Dana) at their door as one would for a normal social gathering. Then, Allen and Meadows give a short tour of their home, with gag stock footage providing the punchline behind each door (e.g., a closet door yields to an image of an entire warehouse of men's suits). Meadows' game--and skillful--participation in this bit reminds us how underrated she was as Allen's comedic (as well as life) partner.

Parts of the rest of the program take place on the patio around the home's swimming pool (with one synchronized swimming segment taking place IN the pool). Back inside, the Smothers Brothers do a number in the halting, comic style for which they would become known. Later, Allen's own sons perform a savvy parody of their dad's own show--labeled the "The New Steve Allen Jr. Show"--with Steve Jr. doing an impeccable impression of dad and his two younger brothers effectively lampooning the Smothers Brothers.

Steve Sr. returns dressed as Santa and welcomes several youngsters (kids of cast and crew, including Allen's youngest son) to his lap where Santa Steverino demonstrates his legendary ad-lib skills. The program ends back out by the pool with a group finale of "Silent Night".


Christmas at TFTP (Sign-Off and On This Day Editions): Station Sign-Off from WGBH/Boston (Dec. 15, 1987)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Lincoln P'
Length - 5:06

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

It Was 30 Years Ago Today: This public television sign-off from Boston station WGBH--from thirty years ago today--begins with an ID that is an adorable animation of Santa and his reindeers kicking it in a Rockettes-style danceline. Then we see a young Tom Bergeron, later of "America's Funniest Home Videos" and "Dancing with the Stars" hosting fame, making an appeal for pledges of support to the station. This is followed by several program promos, including for "Christmas at Pops", "The Kirov Ballet: Swan Lake", a broadcast of the film "It's a Wonderful Life", and "A Child's Christmas in Wales".

Next is the ownership/technical voiceover on a long series of images, starting with black-and-white behind-the-scenes images of the control rooms, studios, etc. at WGBH, before segueing to color images from some of the programs broadcast by the station. (This second group includes one image from "Zoom", a TFTP favorite.) The sequence ends with another ownership/technical voiceover on a film clip of a slow pan (possibly a time-lapse) across the Boston skyline that gradually goes from lightness to darkness, before the WGBH "2" logo diminishes in size to a pinpoint of light that then goes dark.


Christmas at TFTP: "The Andy Williams Christmas Show" from NBC (Dec. 18, 1966)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Cost Ander'
Length - 43:43

Andy Williams was a top variety show star of the 1960s, with a weekly variety show on NBC for most of the decade. This is his Christmas episode from December of 1966.

The program is a family affair, as Williams' three brothers, wife Claudine Longet (a French singer), and parents are all featured. Andy's first claim to fame was as a part of a vocal quartet with his brothers, and the Williams Brothers (clad in green from head to toe) sing a medley of Xmas songs here. The Osmond Brothers (including a very young Donny of "Donny and Marie" fame), regulars on Williams' variety show, perform a lengthy and elaborate choreographed musical number in a stylized candy factory with a red-and-white peppermint theme. And Andy performs a couple of numbers at the piano in his (soundstage set) living room.

The Christmas tunes featured here include "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" (which opens the show with Williams' and companions "riding" in an old-fashioned auto against a green-screen wintery background), "We Need a Little Christmas", "The Christmas Song" (one of the songs sung by Williams at the living room piano), "Winter Wonderland", and a show-closing "Silent Night" sung by Williams against a stained-glass backdrop.


Christmas at TFTP: "Christmas with the Lettermans" from NBC (Dec. 19, 1984)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Nezar Berryhill'
Length - 41:52

"Late Night with David Letterman" was at its peak in late-1984, in part because of the willingness to do episodes like "Christmas with the Lettermans". With no overt hint that the whole thing was a put-on (were there viewers who thought that this was really Letterman's family?), but with the sly subversive attitude that infused almost everything Letterman did (and with special title slides and a redecorated set made to resemble a ski lodge to complete the effect), "Christmas with the Lettermans" is a masterpiece of absurdist comedy.

There is very little "gag" comedy per se in this episode--just a great many ridiculous or off-kilter elements presented in a straight-faced fashion. A cast of faux family members joins Letterman--including four children (the youngest of whom is sent off for the whole episode to fetch a Christmas tree), an older brother ("Daryll Letterman"), and no less than two different wives (one of which is promised a chance to sing a Christmas song that, of course, never materializes). A song and dance troupe called the Doodletown Pipers (apparently, against all expectation, a real troupe) participates in the opening musical number.

Despite the Christmas special conceit, Letterman still manages to interview two guests, singer Pat Boone and early-period "Late Night" regular Brother Theodore. Boone gamely participates in the Christmas theme, asking Dave about his family Christmas traditions in a set-up to a comedy bit where these are explored with the faux-family. Brother Theodore (a character of humorist Theodore Gottleib) does what he always did in his Letterman guest spots: rants and raves to Letterman's evident delight.


Christmas at TFTP (Monochrome Monday Edition): "The Lawrence Welk Show" from ABC (Dec. 24, 1958)

Posted to YouTube by user 'John Smith'
Length - 59:29

TFTP's Monochrome Monday brings you a classic black & white TV program or clip every Monday morning to kick off the week....

"The Lawrence Welk Show" has been a TV mainstay for many decades--for the last thirty years on public television, during the 1970s in syndication, and from 1955-1971 (including at the time of this 1958 Christmas Eve episode) in prime-time on ABC. During the 1958-59 season, when the program aired from 7:30-8:30 pm on Wednesday nights, it was officially called "Lawrence Welk's Plymouth Show"; Plymouth branding is visible on the curtain behind the orchestra throughout the episode, and a very short Plymouth ad appears midway through.

Welk, whose big-band orchestra conducting cred went back to the 1930s, gained a reputation for presenting what was called "champagne music", or music that was insubstantial but enjoyable. Much of the music on his programs can seem impenetrable now (and certainly not enjoyable), but in his heyday of the late-1950s through the early-1970s there were few impresarios more popular.

The music in this episode, all of it Christmas themed, is much more accessible--if only because most of the songs remain familiar today. Among the Xmas tunes packed into this episode are an instrumental rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" (which opens the episode), "O Holy Night" by the Lennon Sisters (who were one of the most popular parts of Welk's "musical family"), a harp performance of "Winter Wonderland" by Betsy Mills, an instrumental "Jingle Bells" on trumpet and clarinet, "Silent Night" by a choir of Welk regulars, and a second, show-closing performance of "Jingle Bells" sung by all of the Welk show musicians and singers along with their children.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week: Station Sign-Off from KTCA/St.Paul-Minneapolis (1990)

Posted to YouTube by user 'mjanovec'
Length - 2:07

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

This 1990 sign-off from Minneapolis-St. Paul public television station KTCA (now known as TPT, for Twin Cities Public Television) begins with the tail end of the end credits (and a post-credits underwriting slide) for an episode of the British sci-fi series "Blakes 7". This is followed by a credit roll for the station itself that lists all of the station personnel, accompanied by the ownership/technical voiceover. The sequence ends with a clever transformation of the station's multi-hued star logo into standard TV color bars.


Christmas at TFTP: Christmas Commercials (c. 1980s)

Posted to YouTube by user 'The Retro Archives'
Length - 12:02

This block of 1980s-era Christmas-related commercials runs the gamut. Included here are: five different Polaroid instant camera commercials, including one with the product's longtime pitch duo James Garner and Mariette Hartley; four different Kodak Instant Camera ads, two of which feature Santa himself (one of which also contains children clad in rainbow-hued footie pajamas); two different versions of a commercial for 7-Up with that product's ridiculous red dot character; a cheery Slice lemon-lime soda ad; a Christmas cookie ad for Crisco; a Christmas card ad for Hallmark; a Christmas tree ad for Toll House cookies; a spot for a Pepsi/Nintendo sweepstakes; and ads for Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and Burger King.

In addition to all of these commercials, the block also includes some bumpers and the end credits for the classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" special and CBS program promos for the "I Love Lucy Christmas Special", "A Charlie Brown Christmas", "Frosty the Snowman", and "Twas the Night Before Christmas".


Christmas at TFTP: "Johnny Cash Christmas Special" from CBS (Dec. 6, 1976)

Posted to YouTube by user 'PeterRabbit59'
Length - 50:24

Johnny Cash was a veteran at television as well as music by the mid-1970s, having starred in his own weekly TV show for two years from 1969 to 1971. This Christmas special from 1976 is the first of a series of annual Johnny Cash Christmas specials that lasted for the remainder of the decade.

The special is divided in to two distinct parts: The first part is a series of vignettes that are almost proto-music video in nature as Cash, sometimes alone, sometimes with others (including Roy Clark and Tony Orlando), wanders his farm and homestead, stopping for musical numbers that are highly visual and edited in nature. (There are quite a few Seventies-ish shots of nature and trees.) The second part is a gathering of Cash and family members, joined by the Reverend Billy Graham and select musical guests Merle Travis and Barbara Mandrell, in the Cash "home" (obviously a set on a soundstage), where they trade off performing musical numbers of various kinds.

This Christmas special is very light on Christmas music. Cash and guests instead opt for things like a medley of Stephen Foster-composed songs by Cash, Clark, and Orlando; instrumental guitar rags performed by Travis and Mandrell; and because Tony Orlando is a guest, a performance of "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree" (because in the 1970s, any time Tony Orlando was a guest he was going to sing "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree"). The only two Christmas songs are a version of "The Christmas Song" (the "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" song) by Roy Clark and a duet between Cash and his brother Tommy on a catchy but obscure tune called "That Christmasy Feeling". The show ends with Billy Graham telling a Christmas-related story about how a child can change everything.


Christmas at TFTP (Monochrome Monday Edition): "Your Hit Parade" from NBC (Dec. 24, 1955)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Mister Stereo'
Length (total of 3 parts) - 26:05

TFTP's Monochrome Monday brings you a classic black & white TV program or clip every Monday morning to kick off the week....

"Your Hit Parade" was a mainstay on NBC radio and TV for over twenty years, providing a review of the "hit parade" of top charting songs for each week. After fifteen years on radio, the TV version premiered in 1950 (the radio edition would continue for five additional years until 1955). On both radio and TV, a revolving cast of musicians and singers recounted the week's top songs for audiences in an era before music video and on-demand music streaming.

The episode of "Your Hit Parade" featured here was aired on Christmas Eve of 1955. As every week, the episode includes renditions of the top seven songs from the previous week ("Sixteen Tons" tops the list here), but Christmas Eve warranted the addition of a few holiday tunes. "Deck the Halls" with the entire Your Hit Parade ensemble opens the episode, with a "Christmas medley" in the mix, and a full-cast performance of "O Holy Night"--on the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink--closing out the show.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week--and Signs on for December! Station Sign-Off and Sign-On from WCBS/New York (1977)

Posted to YouTube by user 'SignOffsGuy'
Length - 8:53

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...


TFTP marks the beginning of each new month with a classic station sign-on sequence to "sign-on" for the month....

This special post--coming on a 1st of the month that is also a Friday--features a unique clip that includes BOTH a sign-off sequence and a sign-on sequence. Apparently (according to the notes for this clip on its YouTube page), WCBS (the flagship affiliate for CBS) at this time signed off each morning at 5:00 am for just one hour before signing back on shortly after 6:00 am. The clip above contains both the sign-off sequence as well as the start of the subsequent sign-on sequence for the era circa 1977.

The sign-off sequence begins (after a brief closing bumper for "The Late Late Show") with a public service announcement for the Jewish Chautauqua Society consisting of poetic voiceover on images of children's drawings and footage of abandoned concentration camps. This is followed by a religious segment called "Give Us This Day" featuring a Jewish rabbi delivering an inspirational message. Next is the ownership/technical voiceover (with some slide mix-ups involving the NAB code slide), with the national anthem film (a rather prosaic one featuring images of flags and national monuments in Washington, D.C.) closing out the sign-off.

Then the sign-on sequence starts. A WCBS test pattern kicks it off, followed by a ownership and technical voiceover that starts by greeting us with "Good Morning".


TFTP Will Return After These Messages: Commercial Block from c. 1970

Posted to YouTube by user 'quadvideotape'
Length - 5:31

This block of commercials is from circa 1970--most likely not 1971 as it says in the video clip's title. The most striking commercial of the bunch, for True cigarettes, could not have aired any later than Jan. 1, 1971, as that was the last day that cigarette ads aired on American TV--starting on Jan. 2, ads for cigarettes were banned. (The last day that cigarette ads could run was pushed back by a day from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 so networks could run such ads during football bowl games telecast on New Year's Day.)

Out of the ads seen here, the cigarette ad is the most intriguing to us today, simply because we are unaccustomed to seeing TV ads for tobacco products. Other ads in this block include for the New York Times newspaper, Harry Jacobson menswear, Arco gasoline, Ragu spaghetti sauce, United Airlines ("fly the friendly skies"!), and Quasar television sets by Motorola (Raquel Welch's reference to her TV special, which aired in April 1970, also helps to date the group of ads).


TFTP On This Day: "Great Performances" (public TV) from WNET/New York (Nov. 28, 1986)

Posted to YouTube by user 'pannoni 9'
Length - 9:37

It Was 31 Years Ago Today: "Great Performances" is one of public television's most venerable programs (and there are a lot to choose from), having been on the air on PBS since 1972. Here is a set of clips from a "Great Performances" presentation of Gian Carlo Menotti's opera "Goya" from this day in 1986.

In addition to some mid-1980s "Great Performances" bumpers and logo graphics, we get to see a slew of underwriting announcements from the same era. An introductory segment from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., is hosted by actor Jose Ferrer, and an extended interpretive segment about Goya's artwork is presented by the director of the National Gallery of Art. Some program promos for WNET (the PBS member station for New York City) include "The Creative Edge", "Adam Smith's Money World", and "The Making of a Continent". "Goya" star Placido Domingo presents an offer for viewers to order the theatrical program for the opera. Finally, the "Goya" end credits are capped off by the opera's curtain call (and a couple of final underwriting credits).


TFTP's Monochrome Monday: Ernie Kovacs as Percy Dovetonsils (c. 1959)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Kovacs Corner'
Length - 2:10

TFTP's Monochrome Monday brings you a classic black & white TV program or clip every Monday morning to kick off the week....

Ernie Kovacs is a TFTP favorite (see earlier TFTP posts featuring Kovacs here and here), as his groundbreaking comedy from early television is fascinating even today. Here is a late appearance (probably in a segment from Kovacs' game show "Take a Good Look" which aired 1959-1961) of one of Kovacs' most well-known characters, Percy Dovetonsils.

Kovacs created Dovetonsils in circa 1950 for his local Philadelphia program "Three to Get Ready" (a pioneering early morning show). The character is a take-off of a type of character that appeared on a number of programs in the earliest era of TV--an effete and eccentric high-culture maven that was also a likely spoof of homosexuality in that less enlightened period. Here, Kovacs/Dovetonsils recites a short poem (Dovetonsils was usually introduced, as he is here, as a "poet laureate") that is referred to as a "clue"--most likely for the game play of the "Take a Good Look" episode it appeared in.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week: Station Sign-Off from WAFF/Huntsville-Decatur, AL (1979)

Posted to YouTube by user 'robatsea2009'
Length - 4:52

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

This sign-off from 1979 for northern Alabama station WAFF begins with a few NBC program promos: for an episode of "Little House on the Prairie" (NBC hadn't started to use the "very special episode" trope yet, but if they had, this one would've qualified), for the prime-time special for the 17th anniversary of "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson", and for NFL Football on NBC Sports.

A locally-branded bumper for "News 48" sports leads into a short religious segment called "A Seed for the Sower" coming from somewhere called the "Guido Evangelistic Association" in Georgia. The ownership/technical voiceover follows, on images from a TV master control room (WAFF's, presumably). The national anthem film closes out the sequence, with a rather spare piano rendition over stock images of monuments, military transports, and natural wilderness ("Courtesy of the Army National Guard").


Happy Thanksgiving from TFTP: Television from the Past!

Posted to YouTube by user 'Ranger232'
Length - 0:31

As we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, enjoy this Butterball turkey Thanksgiving commercial from 1985. TFTP: Television from the Past wishes everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!


TFTP's Monochrome Monday: "Love of Life" from CBS (Mar. 20, 1953)

Posted on Internet Archive's Classic TV collection by user 'Classic_TV_and_Radio_Fan'
Length - 14:26

TFTP's Monochrome Monday brings you a classic black & white TV program or clip every Monday morning to kick off the week....

The soap opera (or daytime serial) was one of the earliest genres transferred from radio to television. In the early years of television, these programs were only 15 minutes in length, as they were in radio. The plots of early soap operas were typically pretty simple, with conversation scenes in simple locations dominating individual episodes (not entirely different from how soap operas have been constructed in all the years since).

This episode of the CBS soap opera "Love of Life" (which aired from 1951 through 1980) features only three scenes, all pertaining to a runaway young boy. First, we see a detective and a school headmaster arguing about the runaway in the headmaster's office, before switching to the boy's home where his mother and a couple of other women fret about the boy's disappearance. Finally, we see the boy himself and his fellow runaway as they attempt to hitchhike by the side of the road, with (implied) unfortunate results.

At the beginning and end of this 1953 episode, we also get to see several commercials. First, a short spot for Aerowax floor wax, with a handy price comparison to other leading brands. Then there is a commercial for Chef Boy-Ar-Dee canned pasta, at a time when the actual Chef in question was still a living, breathing person. At the end of the episode are two more commercials, one for Anacin pills and one for Heet liniment.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week: Station Sign-Off from KTHI/Fargo, ND (Oct. 14, 1983)

Posted to YouTube by user 'RetroWinnipeg'
Length - 2:27

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

Here's a sign-off sequence from TFTP's backyard in Fargo, North Dakota, from station KTHI (now KVLY) in October 1983. (Here's another one from our backyard from 1989.) It leads off with the technical/ownership voiceover on a lovely slide of one of the many lakes in the region. The national anthem follows, featuring some local footage of the North Dakota Air National Guard building and fighter jets that are presumably from that same unit. Color bars close out the sign-off.


TFTP's Monochrome Monday: "Art Linkletter's House Party" from CBS (Aug. 21, 1961)

Posted to YouTube by user 'historycomestolife'
Length - 11:27

Art Linkletter is one of the towering figures of the first twenty years or so of American television. Along with a few other figures, such as Arthur Godfrey, Garry Moore, and maybe a couple of others, Linkletter was a versatile television personality who utilized his easygoing and affable manner in an array of programs in the 1950s and '60s.

"Art Linkletter's House Party" was the centerpiece of his presence on American TV for all those years. A daytime variety program on CBS from 1952 until 1969, "House Party" started out as a radio program in 1945, and Linkletter continued to host the radio version as well through most of the TV program's run (until 1967). The program was kind of a grab bag of segments, including Linkletter chatting with a guest on stage about an activity, interviewing audience members about oddities, and Linkletter's most famous feature "Kids Say the Darndest Things" in which he interviewed small children to humorous results (and which resulted in a couple of very popular books in the late-1950s/early-1960s era).

The clip above, the first ten minutes or so of a "House Party" episode from 1961, in about the middle of the show's run, has examples of the first two types of segments mentioned above. First, Linkletter converses on stage with a dentist who has spearheaded a dental mission to "primitive" Madagascar. (The conversation is groan worthy today due to its outdated perspective on the culture found there.) Then, Linkletter ventures into the audience to talk briefly with several different audience members.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week: Station Sign-Off from WHEC/Rochester, NY (Mar. 1979)

Posted to YouTube by user 'robatsea2009'
Length - 5:30

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

This station sign-off from Rochester, New York, CBS affiliate WHEC begins with several great 1979 program promos for the CBS shows "M*A*S*H", "WKRP in Cincinnati", and "Lou Grant", and also for the animated special "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe". Then an oddly-placed bumper for "The CBS Saturday Night Movies" is followed by a promo for the very obscure Brenda Vaccaro-starring program "Dear Detective". A CBS network ID precedes a few local Rochester commercials, including a droll and deadpan local commercial for a music store called House of Guitars.

Then the actual sign-off sequence begins. The ownership/technical voiceover is heard on a slide of the rainbow-striped "WHEC-TV 10" logo. The national anthem film follows, featuring some sort of a military brass band. Finally, another slide with the rainbow-striped "10" logo bids us "Good Night".


TFTP Game Shows: "Classic Concentration" from NBC (Jul. 23, 1987)

Posted to YouTube by user 'TVLubber'
Length - 28:47

The history of TV game shows can in one respect be seen as early, popular game shows being revived later in newer versions--and then revived again; and revived again; and revived again. This is clearly evident in the recent successes by ABC with the latest versions of game show chestnuts like "Match Game" (first broadcast in 1962) and "$100,000 Pyramid" (first broadcast in 1973).

"Concentration" (original run: 1958-73) was far from the first game show to be revived when "Classic Concentration" debuted in May of 1987. (In fact, there had already been one "Concentration" revival--a five-year syndicated run that came on the heels of the original's 1973 cancellation.) But it might be the game show that benefited the most from technology having advanced since its original run--rather than the clunky rotating mechanical game board pieces of the original, the show in its '87 revival featured a state-of-the-art computer screen with digital, and much more versatile, game board elements.

"Concentration" in all its versions consisted of a combination of a memory game, in which contestants had to match two tiles with prize names on them, and traditional rebus puzzles made up of picture and letter clues that formed common sayings, quotes, or axioms.

The new "Classic Concentration" was hosted by Alex Trebek, who in 1987 was already a game show icon and doing double-duty along with "Jeopardy", which he'd hosted since 1984. In the episode above, just a couple of months into the revived run (which would last until the fall of 1991), champion Sten fends off a challenge from former champion Hilary. The episode here has most of the commercial breaks intact, giving us a great glimpse of '87-era commercials for Always maxi pads, Dash detergent, Aqua Fresh toothpaste, and Doan's pills, as well as NBC network program promos for "Miami Vice" and "Crime Story" (and an end-credits voiceover by NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw).


TFTP News: News Opens from KSL/Salt Lake City (1970s/1980s)

Posted to YouTube by user 'TV News Capsule' (top), 'aussiebeachut0' (middle), 'cmsloan2002' (bottom)
Length - 0:17 (top), 0:24 (middle), 0:46 (bottom)

Above are three openings over about a 15 year period for local news at KSL-TV in Salt Lake City, Utah. KSL was at the time of these news opens (from 1975, 1983, and 1989) the area's CBS station--an affiliation it held from its inception in 1949 until switching to NBC in 1995. The clips are brief (all well under a minute in length) and constitute the opening images that would have been seen by viewers at the beginning of newscasts. As such, they are the type of thing that presents an image the station is trying to project for its viewers.

The 1975 version (top) features the signatures of the newscasters, as if they are personally vouching for the content they're about the present. In 1983 (middle), titles declaring "Medicine", "Crime", "Politics", etc., provide a brief summary, and maybe make a promise, as to the types of content viewers can expect to see. This second open also utilizes the slogan "the News Specialists", which carries over into the 1989 open. The 1989 open (bottom) has more dynamic imagery, some of it aerial, of the SLC area, as if to show that KSL has got it covered. All three opens, as would be expected from local news, highlight the newscasters about to appear in the program.


TFTP's Monochrome Monday: "Captain Video and His Video Rangers" from DuMont (1949)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Vintage Fanatic'
Length - 28:42

TFTP's Monochrome Monday brings you a classic black & white TV program or clip every Monday morning to kick off the week....

"Captain Video and His Video Rangers" was one of the first science-fiction programs to appear on television. It was also produced in the late-1940s/early-1950s period of TV when production techniques and production values were still developing. And on top of all that, it aired on the marginal DuMont network, an early fourth TV network that would be gone by the mid-1950s.

Because of all these reasons, "Captain Video" can look laughably primitive to us today. But a closer analysis shows a very interesting program that did what it could under the circumstances to present a pioneering sci-fi program for kids day in and day out for several years (from 1949 until 1955). The 1949 episode above is from relatively early in the show's run, and as a serial program, it's a little indecipherable without knowing what came before.

What happens in the episode here is that a group of emissaries, presumably representing different planets, are attending some sort of council meeting. Captain Video, who has just been in some sort of fight in the opening moments of the episode, is tasked, as an emissary in his own right, with visiting an absent representative. Included in the episode are a couple of "Video Ranger Messages" that are short homilies for the young boys viewing. Bizarrely, there are also a couple of segments in the episode that are scenes from some sort of totally unrelated western story.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week: Station Sign-Off for WFMZ/Allentown, PA (1984)

Posted to YouTube by user 'stevations'
Length - 0:36

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

This short and sweet station sign-off comes from Allentown, Pennsylvania, independent station WFMZ. At the time of this sign-off in 1984, the station had been on the air for less than a decade, launching in 1976. The only element in this particular sign-off is the technical/ownership voiceover on a slide of WFMZ's sparkly, combination six-is-nine-is-six "69" logo.


TFTP Signs-On for November: Boston Station Sign-Ons from 1987

Posted to YouTube by user 'MSTS1' (both)
Length - 2:18 (top); 3:20 (bottom)

TFTP marks the beginning of each new month with a classic station sign-on sequence to "sign-on" for the month....

To kick off November, here are two 1987 sign-ons from Boston TV stations--independent WSBK and WBZ, Boston's NBC affiliate at the time.

WSBK's sign-on features a technical/ownership voiceover followed by the national anthem sung by an a capella choir, topped off by a station ID bumper. WBZ's sign-on features a national anthem played by none other than the Future Farmers of America band! Then there are a few quick images (one of a "Morning Prayer" slide) that seem to be technical malfunctions, followed by a stretch of pastoral imagery with soothing music. In both sign-ons, the sequences are preceded by color bars and test patterns.


TFTP Special: "Vincent Price's Once Upon a Midnight Scary" from CBS (Oct. 1979)

Posted to YouTube by user 'mrprice07'
Length - 46:56

Vincent Price was, of course, legendary for being associated with spookiness and horror, based on his appearance in a number of such films in the 1950s and 1960s, including "The House of Wax" in 1954 and several films based on Poe stories in the '60s. By the end of the '70s, Price's identification with such themes had reached near-camp levels, a status that certainly informs this 1979 Halloween special that he hosted.

The program is an anthology of three separate ghost stories, one classic and two contemporary: "The Ghost Belonged to Me" by Richard Peck (from 1976), "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving (from 1820), and "The House With a Clock in Its Walls" by John Bellairs (from 1973). Price doesn't actually appear in any of the stories themselves, rather he appears in segments bookending the stories and provides a little bit of voiceover narration during them.

Price exploits his image to good effect in his segments, levitating a book off of a table, waking up inside a coffin, and holding a raven on his arm. As we celebrate Halloween tonight, the figure of Vincent Price and his spooky image helps us to appreciate the holiday.


TFTP's Monochrome Monday: "Suspense" from CBS (Oct. 11, 1949)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Suspense1949'
Length - 29:29

TFTP's Monochrome Monday brings you a classic black & white TV program or clip every Monday morning to kick off the week....

As we approach Halloween tomorrow night, here is an episode of the early, black-and-white dramatic anthology program "Suspense" from October of 1949--starring the legendary horror movie star Bela Lugosi in an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's story "The Cask of Amontillado".

Half-hour dramatic anthology programs were a dime a dozen from the late-1940s through the mid-1950s. (Here's a sampling: "Armstrong Circle Theatre", "Crime Syndicated", "Fireside Theatre", "Gruen Playhouse", "Schlitz Playhouse of Stars", "The Silver Theatre".) "Suspense", with its emphasis on suspense stories, was a little different than most.

The Poe story is here updated to a World War II and immediate postwar setting (a period that was basically contemporary in 1949). Two army officers (one played by a young Ray Walston) take the deposition of a man (Romney Brent) who tells the story of how he sealed up a romantic rival (Lugosi) in the vault with the title cask. Lugosi offers a somewhat restrained performance while still providing the flair audiences by this time (nearly twenty years after "Dracula") had come to expect. (Honestly, most of it is in the accent, probably.)

Edgar Allen Poe has been a standby for spooky stories for well over 150 years, and this adaptation of one of his greatest stories does a pretty good job of providing one on the day before Halloween.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week: Network Sign-Off from HBO (1979)

Posted to YouTube by user 'The Museum of Classic Chicago Television'
Length - 2:09

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

This week instead of a local station sign-off (the most common type), here is a network sign-off for cable pay-TV network HBO from 1979. Of course, to us now, the idea of a network like HBO signing-off for the night (and really any kind of TV station) is completely bizarre. But in the early days of cable (in 1979, HBO had only been around for about four years as a national network), programming practices were still evolving.

HBO's sign-off sequence at this time did not consist of much. Here following a promo for a Martin Mull special, it consists only of an animated segment that shows different actions that people take as they turn in for the night--turning off lights, checking on sleeping children, setting alarm clock alarms, locking doors, brushing teeth. With no voiceover of any kind, just a nice relaxing musical score, it's a pretty chill and low-key way of ending a day's programming, culminating with a final logo graphic in which the "HBO" logo (an early version of the same logo the network uses to this day) goes dark letter by letter. Then the clip cuts to color bars for about the last thirty seconds.


TFTP Cable: "Pinwheel" from Nickelodeon (early-1980s)

Posted to YouTube by user 'robatsea2009'
Length - 1:22

A few weeks back we featured a block of promos from early-1980s Nickelodeon, and this clip of the opening credits from the Nickelodeon program "Pinwheel" is from that same era. The segment is light, airy, and whimsical--setting a tone that is unrecognizable from the Nickelodeon of more recent years. "Pinwheel" is a type of program that has also long since disappeared from Nickelodeon: one with this kind of tone, with a mix of human and puppet characters, and with a setting reminiscent of "Sesame Street".

The show mainly took place in a large, Victorian-style boarding house called Pinwheel House in which the human and puppet characters interacted with one another. The program actually pre-dates Nickelodeon altogether, as it premiered in 1977 on one of the channels on Warner cable's QUBE interactive cable TV experiment. This channel, which took the name Pinwheel for awhile in honor of its flagship program, would become Nickelodeon in 1979; "Pinwheel" went along in the transition and continued to air on Nick with original episodes until 1984 and in repeats all the way until 1990.


TFTP On This Day: 1987 World Series, Game 7, Twins vs. Cardinals from ABC (Oct. 25, 1987)

Posted to YouTube by user 'MLBClassics'
Length - 2:43:24

It Was 30 Years Ago Today: Going into the 1987 season, the Minnesota Twins had never won a World Series. They'd gotten close in the mid-1960s, making it to the Series just a few years after moving to the Twin Cities from Washington, D.C., only to get defeated by the Sandy Koufax-era LA Dodgers. By this day in 1987, thirty years ago today, they were on the cusp of their first ever World Series title, having battled the St. Louis Cardinals to a deciding game 7.

Luckily for the Twins, the final game was scheduled for their home field, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The Metrodome (only five years old in 1987) was still a relative novelty as a domed multi-purpose stadium and had gained a reputation as offering the ultimate home-field advantage. Because of the acoustics of the fabric-roofed, air-pressure inflated dome, the crowd noise was deafening, and as a result the stadium had gained the nickname "the Thunderdome". In addition, during the '87 postseason, Twins fans had become known for waving their white "Homer Hankies", creating a fluttering white sea in the Metrodome stands.

The Twins fielded a team that included Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, and pitching ace Frank Viola, while the Cards countered with Willie McGee, Vince Coleman, and the legendary Ozzie Smith. St. Louis took an early 2-0 lead before the Twins tied it up by the 5th inning. Minnesota took a one-run lead in the 6th, expanding to a two-run lead in the 8th, before finishing as World Series champions for the first time.

The full game broadcast, embedded above, is from ABC with Al Michaels and former ballplayer Tim McCarver doing play-by-play duties. Looking at on-screen graphics from televised sporting events is always fascinating, especially in an era such as the 1980s (or earlier) when the score was not always displayed on screen. There are other interesting touches here, such as the "Inside Pitch" segments in which a current or former player offers some insights into various aspects of the proceedings (including one by current Twins manager Paul Molitor, then a player for the Milwaukee Brewers).


TFTP's Monochrome Monday: "Disneyland" from ABC (Apr. 9, 1958)

Posted to YouTube by user 'EPLtv'
Length - 47:33

TFTP's Monochrome Monday brings you a classic black & white TV program or clip every Monday morning to kick off the week....

The Walt Disney Company empire as we know it today was basically launched with the "Disneyland" television series that started airing on ABC in 1954. ABC (at this time not yet owned by Disney) kicked in some of the funding for the building of the Disneyland theme park in exchange for securing the highly-sought rights to broadcast a weekly series by Disney. The TV show launched a year or so before the theme park did, and both before and after the theme park's July 1955 opening (and clear through each and every version of Disney's network TV show), Disney never passed up an opportunity to promote the park.

This 1958 episode of "Disneyland" is a perfect example of this somewhat shameless practice. Basically an hour-long commercial for Disneyland the park, this episode of "Disneyland" the TV show, entitled "An Adventure in the Magic Kingdom", takes us through the theme park section by section, showing many of the attractions while a kindly narrator explains how much fun everyone is having on them. For Disneyland aficionados, it's a fantastic up-close look that gives a glimpse into a late-1950s Disneyland that still had many now-closed attractions.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week: Station Sign-Off from KLAX/Alexandria, LA (1988)

Posted to YouTube by user 'jacky9br'
Length - 4:34

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

This late-1980s sign-off sequence from Alexandria, Louisiana, station KLAX begins with a few program promos, for "Mama's Family", the local early-morning news program "Sun Up", and "The Greatest American Hero". A "Hooperman" bumper precedes the national anthem film (which has a pretty spiffy a cappella vocal arrangement). The sequence concludes with the ownership/technical voiceover on a "Good Night" slide (followed in the clip by about a minute's worth of black).


TFTP Drama: "Gunsmoke" from CBS (Sep. 10, 1955)

Posted to YouTube by user 'balsamwoods'
Length - 26:52

"Gunsmoke" was one of the most venerable dramas in television history. With its twenty-years on CBS (from 1955 to 1975), it set a record for prime-time TV longevity for a drama. For this TFTP Drama post, we present the pilot episode for this pioneering TV western, from the fall of 1955.

"Gunsmoke" premiered right at the beginning of the trend of TV westerns that by the end of the 1950s would take over television. "Gunsmoke" would sit atop the pile as TV's #1 show for four seasons between 1957 and 1961. Over the course of its run, it would expand from half-hour to an hour in length (in 1961) and switch from black and white to color (in 1966). Its cast of supporting characters would evolve, but at the core of it was always James Arness as Marshall Matt Dillon, flanked by Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty and Milburn Stone as Doc Adams.

In this pilot episode (building on a radio version of the program that had been airing since 1952), Marshall Dillon encounters an outlaw who has the fastest draw known in Texas, and who has killed a number of people (including lawmen) with impunity as a result. Dillon, although he first gets seriously wounded by the outlaw, finally manages to overcome this menace to Dodge City, the frontier town that Dillon is sworn to protect.


TFTP Flow: "ABC Sunday Night Movie" opening credits w/ commercial break from WLS/Chicago (1980)

Posted to YouTube by user 'The Museum of Classic Chicago Television'
Length - 5:57

Television "flow"  -  an unbroken sequence of various on-air elements such as program segments, news breaks, commercials, program promos, PSAs, station IDs, bumpers, and other interstitials, which can be analyzed to understand what viewers of the past experienced when watching TV.

This flow sequence is from a 1980 broadcast of the 1973 film "The Sting" starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford; the film was aired on ABC, with this particular flow coming from ABC Chicago affiliate WLS. It begins with a WLS "Eyewitness News" bumper before launching into the "ABC Sunday Night Movie" intro. This is followed by a commercial break featuring ads for Kellogg's Graham Crackos cereal, Dr. Pepper (one of the David Naughton "Be a Pepper" spots from this era), Johnson's disposable diapers, and Allstate Insurance. It closes with the opening credits and first minute or so of "The Sting".


TFTP's Monochrome Monday: "Arthur Godfrey Time" from CBS (Jan. 1958)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Panonni 9'
Length - 14:27

TFTP's Monochrome Monday brings you a classic black & white TV program or clip every Monday morning to kick off the week....

Arthur Godfrey, although an obscure figure to most people now, was a superstar of network radio and early television throughout the 1940s and 1950s. He was a folksy, informal figure (evident in this clip) who pioneered the deployment of these qualities in a broadcasting career that spanned forty years between the early-1930s and the early-1970s. At his peak in the mid-1950s he had three different TV programs--"Arthur Godfrey and Friends" (a weekly prime-time variety show), "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" (a talent-competition show), and "Arthur Godfrey Time" (a weekday morning talk show).

"Arthur Godfrey Time" started as a radio program, before beginning its eight-year run on the CBS weekday morning TV schedule between 1951 and 1959. (It ended on radio, too, airing until 1972 on CBS radio on weekday mornings.) Airing usually between about 10:30 and 11:30 am each weekday, the program ran for thirty, sixty, and ninety minutes at different times. As with many programs during this era, commercials were integrated into the program itself, which we see here with the short opening ad spot for Glamorene and with Godfrey's later demonstration of the carpet cleaning qualities of the same product.

This is the opening portion of an "Arthur Godfrey Time" episode from early (probably January) 1958, at a time when the program ran for a full hour. Guests include actress Faye Emerson, playwright/composer Meredith Willson (of "Music Man" fame), singer Tommy Hunter, and Carmen Quinn. All of the guests are seated in panel fashion in chairs on either side of Godfrey at the start of the program, and the banter and conversation (which also includes the show's band) seems familiar to us because many morning talk shows (such as "Live with Kelly & Ryan" and "The View") still use it. The conversation on this particular morning is dominated by Willson's smash Broadway hit "The Music Man" that had recently opened, in which Emerson had been a minor investor, and for which Quinn badly wanted to get tickets.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week: Station Sign-Off from WPIX/New York (1979)

Posted to YouTube by user 'tapthatt2012'
Length - 5:03

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

WPIX in New York City was for many years--from its 1948 inception into the mid-1990s--one of the most high-profile independent TV stations in the nation. (It has since been New York's affiliate for, first, The WB, then The CW.) It was also one of the first cable "superstations" when that concept took hold in the late-1970s--right around the time of this station sign-off.

Beginning with a copyright statement, the sign-off sequence continues with the technical/ownership voiceover on a slide of the station's late-1970s/early-1980s "11 Alive" logo. The national anthem film follows, in this case consisting simply of a close-up of the stars and stripes fluttering in the wind. (A couple of minutes of black are after that, which then cuts to color bars.)


TFTP Cable: Commercial/Promo Block from Nickelodeon (1983)

Posted to YouTube by user 'JustinInAtlanta'
Length - 6:13

The cable kids' channel Nickelodeon went on the air in 1979, so this commercial/promo block from 1983 is from fairly early in the network's history. It's early enough that the longtime Nick branding with its signature orange color was yet to be implemented (that didn't happen until the following year, 1984). The logo and branding seen here, with the large silver ball underlying the multi-colored "Nickelodeon" wordmark, was known as the "pinball" logo.

There are some great nuggets of vintage Nickelodeon here: The billboard for "coming up next" programs "Third Eye", "Livewire", and "Tomorrow People"; the ads for ViewMaster's line of glowsticks (who knew?), the Simon electronic game, and Stratego board game; the promos for "You Can't Do That on Television" (Nick's flagship program in the early-1980s), Leonard Nimoy-hosted "Standby...Lights! Camera! Action!", and "Reggie Jackson's World of Sports"; and the spot for the "Great Nickelodeon Sweepstakes".


TFTP Local Weather Round-Up! WBAL/Baltimore (1959), KAKE/Wichita (1974), WAGA/Atlanta (1982)

Posted by YouTube users 'EyeLikeTooWatch' (top), 'Troy Diggs' (middle), 'radioman1968' (bottom)

Here is the inaugural TFTP Local Weather Round-Up, a periodic feature in which we will round up a few clips of weathercasts from local TV stations. Typically, the Local Weather Round-Up will consist of three clips, one from the 1950s or 60s, one from the 1970s, and one from the 1980s.

Local weather reports are fascinating to watch now, due in part to the folksy charm that many of them exhibit, in part to the variety of techniques that were used over the years by different stations, and due to the way in which weathercasting technology evolved in the decades between the 1950s and 1980s.

Clip #1 above is from April 12, 1959, on station WBAL/Baltimore. The single-sponsor method of sponsorship, common in the early days of TV, is evident in this clip from the ways in which Luby's Chevrolet is integrated so closely into the weathercast, which utilizes entirely a chalkboard method of weather presentation. Clip #2 is from KAKE/Wichita in 1974. Apart from being in color, the main difference here is a slightly more sophisticated presentation of the weather, largely using a suitably seventies-ish round board with several layers that are progressively revealed (the last couple seemingly utilizing chroma-key). Use of weather radar has begun in this mid-1970s era as well. Finally, the third and final clip--from WAGA/Atlanta from April 3, 1982--is from a time when chroma-key technology has been fully embraced as the chief (although not exclusive) weathercasting technique (as it remains today). (Gotta love those rotating sections of weather map!)


TFTP's Monochrome Monday: Longines Watch Commercials (Apr. 11 & 14, 1952)

Posted to YouTube by user 'MattTheSaiyan'
Length - 1:54 (top), 1:42 (bottom)

Commercials in the 1950s were much longer than we are used to now (and have been used to for decades). Because of the prevalence of single-sponsorship in the first years of TV, a commercial break of one- to two-minutes in length, around the same length as today, would have just one commercial, rather than four or more.

Here are a couple of these lengthier commercials for Longines watches from the same week in April 1952. The two commercials provide a study in contrasts in terms of the different styles of commercials in this era. The first includes on on-camera spokesman David Ross who describes the use of Longines watches for timekeeping by a variety of different sporting associations. Most likely presented as a live commercial during a live program, it includes Ross' testimonial which is presented partially with him visible on screen and partially as voiceover as we see slides of the sporting association logos and a carousel of Longines watches.

The second commercial, which appeared in the program "Longines Chronoscope", a public affairs interview program, has no on-screen spokesman, only voiceover narration on images of another carousel of watches. (Although possibly also live, this one is more likely to have been filmed in advance, a common practice even in these earliest years.) Longines was clearly going for a prestige image with these ads--as well as with the choice of a public affairs program for which to serve as a sponsor.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week: Station Sign-Off from WKBW/Buffalo, NY (1982)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Retrontario'
Length - 4:29

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

TV stations located near the U.S./Canadian border--such as WKBW from Buffalo, New York, featured here--serve a Canadian audience as well as an American one. And so their sign-off sequences sometimes featured the Canadian national anthem, "O Canada!", in addition to "The Star-Spangled Banner". This sign-off sequence starts with a brief religious message and a statement of the Television Code, followed by the technical voiceover on a slide of WKBW's transmitter towers. The two national anthems come after that (followed in this clip, with almost a minute's worth of black).


TFTP On This Day: "Go" from NBC (Oct. 5, 1983)

Posted to YouTube by user 'excuseyou77'
Length - 21:58

It Was 34 Years Ago Today: Having premiered on Monday, Oct. 3, 1983, this episode of the game show "Go"--which aired 34 years ago today--is only the third episode of the series. Kevin O'Connell (before and after "Go" a longtime weatherman) hosted with game-show master Bob Stewart producing--and both would be out of a job by January of 1984 when the show was cancelled.

Two five-person teams (with one celebrity on each team) competed in a game that resembled the one where two people alternate in giving one-word each in a sentence meant to be a clue for guessing a word. (If this sounds a bit elaborate and incomprehensible, it is, and additional rules added on top of this may be one reason why the show only lasted four months.) In "Go", four of the team members gave clues in chain fashion while the fifth was the guesser. In essence, "Go" was a ridiculously overcomplicated (and much faster-paced) version of "Password".

The celebrities in this episode are Richard Kline, then at the height of his fame as a cast member of "Three's Company", and actress Elaine Joyce, by 1983 near the end of her remarkable decade-plus run as a go-to game-show celebrity guest (she appeared on everything from "Tattletales" and "Match Game" to "Super Password" and later versions of "What's My Line" and "I've Got a Secret").


TFTP's Monochrome Monday: Program Promos from CBS (Oct. 29, 1960)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Pannoni 9'
Length - 4:04

TFTP's Monochrome Monday brings you a classic black & white TV program or clip every Monday morning to kick off the week....

This block of black-and-white program promos is from Saturday, October 29, 1960, and includes promos for specials, regular programs, and broadcasts related to the presidential election (between Democrat John F. Kennedy and Republican Richard Nixon) that would take place about a week later.

The first promo is for CBS's election night coverage and touts the network's track record covering the past few elections dating back to 1952. This is followed by regular program promos for "Lassie", "Dennis the Menace", and "The Jack Benny Program". Another election-related promo features Walter Cronkite, who had not yet taken over as the network's evening news anchor but was already a top CBS news personality; he previews an interview program with past presidential nominee Thomas Dewey. Finally, Danny Kaye presents a comical promo for his first TV special, "An Hour with Danny Kaye", which aired the following evening on October 30.


TFTP Signs-On for October: Launch Day Sign-On from WTIC/Hartford, CT (Sep. 21, 1957)

Posted to YouTube by user 'robatsea2009'
Length - 4:37

TFTP marks the beginning of each new month with a classic station sign-on sequence to "sign-on" for the month....

Throughout the late-1940s, 1950s, and even into the 1960s, a new TV station's launch day sign-on was always a special event not just for the station but for the community in which the station was being established. Here we have the launch day sign-on for Hartford, Connecticut, station WTIC, which at its September 1957 launch was an independent station not affiliated with a network (it would become a CBS affiliate the following year).

As with most station launch sign-ons, this one seems to be taking place not in the early morning but rather in the evening, as there is reference to the broadcast of a station launch ceremony that most likely took place in prime time. After a few seconds of test pattern, the sign-on begins with the camera tilting up the WTIC transmitter tower while the opening ownership and technical voiceover is announced. This is followed by a national anthem film before cutting to the station's studio where the president of the Traveler's Broadcasting Service Group, WTIC's owner, gave a brief introductory speech, followed by a priest offering an invocation for the ceremony to follow.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week: Station Sign-Off from KABC/Los Angeles (Oct. 5, 1976)

Posted to YouTube by user 'MicroJow'
Length - 18:14

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

This more lengthy 1976 sign-off sequence from station KABC in Los Angeles includes a feature that was in many sign-off sequences: a newscast. Sometimes a sign-off newscast would be simply a re-broadcast of the station's 10 O'Clock/11 O'Clock news (or a portion of it); sometimes it would be a news update-type newscast aired live during the sign-off; often--as in the case shown here--it would be just voiceover of headlines read over still slides (a technique most likely used in cases where the station had already shut down its studio cameras for the night).

And so the first three-quarters of this sign-off sequence is reporter/announcer Len Beardsley doing such a newscast. Here it is broken up into several parts (local, national, sports, weather) with commercial breaks in between parts. These commercial breaks include ads for some local or regional LA stores (Leo's Stereo, Zodys discount store, Ohrbachs department store, Ralph's supermarkets), a couple of PSAs (for the lawyer referral service of the Yellow Pages and the Fair Housing program in the LA area), and ads for other products such as Face Quencher Make-Up by Chap Stick, Grape Nuts cereal, Audi automobiles, Crisco Oil, and General Foods International Coffee.

After the final commercial break, Beardsley does the technical/ownership voiceover on a slide of the KABC circled "7" logo, followed by the "Star-Spangled Banner" film (here with imagery of paintings depicting Revolutionary War-era scenes).


TFTP Kids: "Ray Rayner and His Friends" from WGN/Chicago (May 16, 1980)

Posted to YouTube by user 'The Museum of Classic Chicago Television'

"Ray Rayner and His Friends", despite the fact that it seems incredibly bizarre to us now, was a venerable and long-running children's program on Chicago independent station WGN. Many local stations had similar programs in the 1960s and '70s, in which a human host interacts with puppets or other anthropomorphic characters while introducing cartoon short subjects. This episode is from 1980, the final year (due to Rayner's retirement) of a run that started in 1962.

There is a certain slapdash quality to the show--from Rayner's strange coveralls (upon which he has pinned various notes, a Rayner trademark) and the laughably low-budget set, to the decidedly low-tech (even for 1980) use of a chalkboard for displaying weather info and sports scores. Rayner brings a definite improvisational feel to his performance as MC, seemingly (and probably actually) making it all up as he goes along. Kids most likely didn't care, as the Rayner segments were just interstitial to the cartoons they tuned in to see--and which also provided adults in the room with a little weather info with which to plan their day.

This episode has most of the cartoons themselves cut out (except the bulk of a 1930s-era "Flash Gordon" serial), but some of the commercials included (such as a great McDonald's ad featuring Ronald himself).


TFTP On This Day: "Night Flight" from USA (Sep. 26, 1986)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Channel 6'
Length - 33:22

It Was 31 Years Ago Today
: "Night Flight" was a long-running feature (for most of the 1980s) on the USA Network that highlighted music videos, ephemeral films, and quasi-underground culture. Typically, it would air on Friday and Saturday nights, starting at 9:00 or 10:00 pm and continuing throughout most of the overnight period on each of those weekend nights.

The flow of music videos on "Night Flight" often proceeded (especially in its earliest days) with no theme or organizing principle, much like MTV did. By the mid-1980s moment in the clip featured here, though, "Night Flight" was doing quite a few theme nights, and here we have excerpts from one of these theme nights--from 31 years ago today--that highlighted the work of music video director Zbigniew Rybczynski.

In radio aircheck style, we see only the first few and last few seconds of each music video, but between videos we get to see commentary by Rybczynski himself about his work. The snippets of videos we do see indicate that Rybczynski worked with a lot of artists that are now completely forgotten and obscure and that his videos have an avant-garde style that seems now to be not that interesting.

There are a number of examples here of the "Night Flight" logo/branding graphics in the form of bumpers and end credits. (End credits ran several times over the course of an evening's "Night Flight" block.) We also get to see a number of commercials, including for Clearasil (because pimples), Lee Press-On Nails, and direct response ads for things like silverware, watches, and Dream Away weight-loss pills.


TFTP's Monochrome Monday: "Admiral Broadway Revue" from NBC/DuMont (Feb. 4, 1949)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Sid Caesar: Your Show of Shows / Caesar's Hour / Admiral Broadway Revue'
Length: 54:06

TFTP's Monochrome Monday brings you a classic black & white TV program or clip every Monday morning to kick off the week.

The "Admiral Broadway Revue" is famous now for being the first TV show that featured Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca together, before their legendary comedic partnership on "Your Show of Shows". It so happens that the program is also a great example of the TV variety show of the late-1940s--with a mix of comedy and music presented in a "revue" style format (defined by the Google as "a light theatrical entertainment consisting of a series of short sketches, songs, and dances").

The show only aired for about six months in the first half of 1949 (January to July), in an unusual arrangement in which it aired simultaneously on NBC and on the DuMont network. The episode featured here is the second one broadcast, and it features early performances by Caesar and Coca in the types of comic roles they would frequently portray later on "Your Show of Shows" (which started the following year, in 1950). Caesar plays a Russian busker who gets into a spat with a young couple, then a professor who demonstrates several different language dialects (prefiguring one of his most well-known later schticks); Coca plays a woman scientist and a comical torch singer. (The two do not appear together in this episode; that would happen for the first time later in the run "Admiral Broadway Revue".)

Caesar and Coca are far from the whole show, though, and there are a number of song performances in this episode, as well as a closing number that includes several kinds of circus acts. Like other variety shows of this era (and in contrast to a show like Milton Berle's "Texaco Star Theater") "Admiral Broadway Revue" did not have a permanent host, instead relying simply on the succession of acts--and an announcer introducing them--to maintain the forward motion of the program.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week: Station Sign-Off from KNBC/Los Angeles (1985)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Eighties Archive'
Length - 0:26

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

This week's sign-off sequence is a (very) short and sweet one, from Los Angeles NBC affiliate KNBC. From the mid-1980s, this clip consists only of the final voiceover giving ownership and technical info over a slide of the station's stylish logo.


TFTP On This Day: "Camel News Caravan" from NBC (Sep. 19, 1952)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Ben Model'

It Was 65 Years Ago Today: "Camel News Caravan" was the first high-profile television news program. Before its Feburary 1949 debut (and in some respects for some time afterwards), TV news consisted largely of broadcasts of newsreels produced for movie theaters or very brief broadcasts (usually five-minutes long) of readings of headlines. There are some of those things in "Camel News Caravan", but it was nonetheless a pioneering news program for a few reasons--because of its longtime sponsorship by Camel cigarettes; because of its increasingly televisual presentational style; and because of its anchor, John Cameron Swayze, who became the first well-known TV newsman.

In this particular day's newscast, the lead news is the brouhaha related to then-Vice Presidential nominee Richard Nixon's allegedly improper use of campaign funds. This incident would result a few days afterwards (on Sep. 23) in the TV broadcast of Nixon's famous "Checkers speech". Other stories featured in this newscast include a new military base in Greenland, an earthquake on Wake Island in the Pacific, and the latest in women's fashions.

There's much here that looks somewhat odd to us now. Having a sponsored newscast is incredibly jarring now, especially with it being a cigarette brand like Camel. The presentational style seems a bit stilted, and it's clear that given the newsgathering practices at the time that the stories presented in this newscast aren't exactly breaking news.


TFTP's Monochrome Monday: Three Clips of Ernie Kovacs (1950s/early-1960s)

All three posted to YouTube by user 'Kovacs Corner'

Ernie Kovacs was an acknowledged pioneer of television comedy, one of the first comedians to utilize the characteristics of the medium to create visual comedy. For this week's Monochrome Monday we feature three brief clips of some of that comedy.

The first clip above (undated, but probably from sometime in the late-1950s) is very short and in it Kovacs attempts to assist those viewers who haven't yet got a color television set. (You'll have to watch it to see what that means!)

The second clip is an early example (from 1957) of what became one of Kovacs' most enduring bits--the Nairobi Trio. The Nairobi Trio is a great example of the plain old silly nature of some of Kovacs' humor; there's really nothing more to it other than three guys in gorilla masks doing rhythmic movements to music (with Kovacs as the middle gorilla).

Finally, the third and last clip, "A Kovacs Kitchen", is a fantastic example of another of Kovacs' trademarks--an elaborate and precisely-timed suite of themed visual gags that would have involved a great deal of planning, choreography, and skilled execution. Kovacs mounted quite a few of these, always taking advantage of the visual nature of the TV image to create comedy. This one, from an ABC special in 1962, must have been one of his last, as it was the same year that Kovacs died in an auto accident. Because of his premature death in the early-1960s, all of Ernie Kovacs' comedy was done in monochrome black and white.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week: Station Sign-Off from WTHR/Indianapolis (1987)

Posted to YouTube by user 'MattArchives'

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

WTHR has been Indianapolis's NBC affiliate since 1957 (until 1976 under its old call letters WLWI). Here is one of their station sign-offs from the late-1980s. No bells and whistles here--no extra segments such as religious reflections or community announcements, just a national anthem film (with a striking piano, or maybe it's organ, arrangement) and the final voiceover slide wishing us good night.


TFTP Flow: "CBS Late Movie" Intro & Commercial/Promo Break from KXJB/Fargo, ND (Sep. 1983)

Posted to YouTube by user 'robatsea2009'

Television "flow" - an unbroken sequence of various on-air elements such as program segments, news breaks, commercials, program promos, PSAs, station IDs, bumpers, and other interstitials, which can be analyzed to understand what viewers of the past experienced when watching TV.

Some time ago, TFTP featured a hometown station sign-off segment from CBS affiliate KXJB/Fargo, North Dakota. Here is a "flow" clip from the same station from September 1983. (See above for a definition of television "flow".) An intro to the CBS Late Movie is followed by several commercials, including ones for Rubbermaid microwave cookware (just becoming a thing around this time), Sears, and Kibbles n' Bits (n' Bits, n' Bits). Two program promos join the mix: for the "Barbara Mandrell Show" (Saturday nights at 10:30) and for a pre-scandalous Jimmy Swaggart's Sunday morning religious program. Finally, a PSAs for United Way and the US Dept. of Health and Human Services round out the flow sequence.


TFTP's Monochrome Monday: "Texaco Star Theater" from NBC (Spring 1949)

Posted to YouTube by user 'TheShootingstar31'

TFTP's Monochrome Monday brings you a classic black & white TV program every Monday morning to kick off the week.

This week's inaugural Monochrome Monday goes back to the beginning of commercial TV with a 1949 episode of one of the earliest TV classics, Milton Berle's "Texaco Star Theater". This was the first blockbuster TV series, the popularity of which helped to establish the very medium as a viable form of home entertainment (and gained Berle his famous moniker "Mr. Television").

This episode (from spring of 1949, less than a year into the show's run) features the customary opening and closing jingles sung by the "men of Texaco"; Berle's introductory monologue dressed as an ancient Roman; a fantastic acrobatic trio; Chinese-American movie star Keye Luke (with whom Berle engages in some unfortunate--but for the time, characteristic--stereotyped ethnic humor); a song by Ethel Merman, followed by a sketch with her and Berle as early motorists; tap dancer Teddy Hale; and a show-closing extended series of performances by several different singers and composers highlighting popular standards of the day.

It's a great specimen of the classic variety show of the early TV era--a blend of comedy and music (but also with things like acrobats and tap dancers in the mix), the single sponsor's ads worked into the program itself (as well as its title), the somewhat rough-edged feel of a live weekly TV program, and a broad and boisterous style that played well on the small screens of early television sets.


TFTP Signs-Off for the Week: Station Sign-Off from KLCS/Los Angeles (Jan. 8, 1978)

Each Friday afternoon, TFTP signs-off for the week with a classic station sign-off segment for your enjoyment and to bid farewell until Monday...

Posted to YouTube by user 'MicroJow'

This week's sign-off segment is a 1978 sign-off from Los Angeles PBS member station KLCS. This was only about five years after KLCS's launch as a service of the Los Angeles Unified School District (the call letters stand for "L"os Angeles "C"ity "S"chools). As sign-offs go it's pretty no-frills (as many things are in the public television realm)--although the voiceover slide stating "Good Night, Good Night" has a nice seventies-style vibe to it. Also, there are good examples of both a 1970s-era public TV underwriting credit and the classic 1970s PBS logo.


TFTP Game Shows: "You Don't Say" from NBC (Mar. 1967)

Posted to YouTube by user 'Million Colors of Light'

"You Don't Say" was a reasonably popular game show that had a run of several years during the 1960s (from 1963-69). Similar to "Password" only with contestants guessing names of celebrities rather than simple words, it was the first high-profile hosting gig for long-time game show host Tom Kennedy. Also similar to "Password", two two-person teams (one a celebrity, the other a "civilian") faced off against each other, with one giving clues to the other in order to solicit a correct guess. Unlike "Password", the rules seemed to be much looser on "You Don't Say", as the contestants chatter on when giving clues (in contrast to the single word clues of "Password") and utilize gestures as much as they want.

This episode, from the later years of the show's original run, in 1967, features Mel Torme and Pat Carroll as the celebrity contestants. Some original commercials are included here, such as Contac, Sunsweet Prunes, VO5, Excedrin, and Prime dog food. "You Don't Say" had a couple of revivals in the 1970s, including a 1975 ABC run also hosted by Kennedy and a 1978-79 syndicated run with Jim Perry as host.


TFTP Signs-On for September: Launch Day Sign-On for TV Land (Apr. 29, 1996)

Posted to YouTube by user 'mark loudin'

TFTP: Television from the Past returns after a long absence and signs on for the month of September with this clip of the April 29, 1996, moment of launch for Nick at Nite's TV Land cable channel. It's a fantastic compilation of bits from many different classic TV programs edited together to make it seem as if it is counting down to--and in the process celebrating--the launch of a channel dedicated to classic TV.

The network's early moniker as "Nick at Nite's" TV Land indicated the channel's origins as a spin-off of the popular Nick at Nite classic TV programming that had been airing in the evenings on the Nickelodeon kids' channel for over a decade by 1996. Nick at Nite developed the offbeat and campy sensibility that became TV Land's approach for its first several years on the air.

TV Land has to some extent moved away from its longtime focus on classic television with original programs that have lately aimed for a younger demographic. But at launch and for many years thereafter, TV Land was THE cable network dedicated to (usually in a playfully tongue-in-cheek fashion) the preservation and celebration of classic TV.

And that's why it's fitting that this clip also launches the return of TFTP!