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!