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December 2010
 Thursday, December 30, 2010 Join Discussion  (40 Comments)
Best Movie Scene About Radio and Television

It's been many years since I've seen it, but I was reminded the other day of a haunting scene in the 1990 Barry Levinson film "Avalon" that depicts the mid-century societal radio-to-TV shift better than just about anything.

As I remember it, a scene with a crowded sidewalk of Baltimore shoppers (the family in the film owns an appliance store) features a busy audio montage of iconic radio bits from the late 1940s Golden Age (Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, etc.). The camera slowly pans from the sidewalk to the appliance store window, where early TV personalities (Milton Berle, Lucille Ball) are visible on several screens. The radio sound fades out as the TV sound fades in. It's short, simple and poetic.

I've looked for this sequence on YouTube but have so far come up empty. If you find it someplace, please share a link via the Comment function below.

Broadcast media also features prominently in several other scenes in the film. On my list for 2011 is getting ahold of the DVD and listening to the "Director Commentary" track to see what further insight I can glean from the man who also directed "Good Morning, Vietnam." Stay tuned!

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Wednesday, December 22, 2010 Join Discussion  (4 Comments)
A Thrilling Voice of Yesteryear Silenced: Fred Foy Dies

Legendary announcer Fred Foy has died at his Woburn, MA home at the age of 89. More details are available from a piece posted earlier today on the Boston Globe website.

Foy is best known for his association with The Lone Ranger on radio and later television ("Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear!"), but he also announced for Dick Cavett and a number of commercial advertisers (and later for the syndicated program When Radio Was).

It's a fair bet that Cavett will likely publish some kind of entertaining remembrance in his New York Times blog in the weeks ahead.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Saturday, December 18, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Late Night Ratings Analysis

There's been surprisingly little written lately about the ratings race between Leno, Letterman and the new Conan show on TBS. Given the ups and downs of the soap opera that played out earlier this year, you'd think there would be more interest, but maybe fatigue has set in.

Meanwhile, a cogent piece from TV By The Numbers posted on December 16 lays out a fairly clear viewership comparison between the three programs, and between this year and last.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Thursday, December 16, 2010 Join Discussion  (7 Comments)
Blake Edwards' Career Spanned Radio, TV and Film

Once again, a writer better known for some other medium, but whose career began in radio, has passed away.

Blake Edwards, who is best remembered as a film director, died December 16 at age 88.

But Edwards' first writing efforts resulted in the original Richard Diamond, Private Detective series for radio in the 1940s. Edwards then created Peter Gunn for television in the late 1950s before a long career writing and directing films.

The New York Times obituary for Mr. Edwards is available here.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Wednesday, December 15, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Surviving Audio from Lost TV Programs

The journal of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) in its FALL 2010 issue has a fascinating article about "television recordists," the amateur enthusiasts who, as early as the 1940s, modified TV sets and made reel-to-reel tape recordings of TV audio.

Author Phil Gries, of an organization called Archival Television Audio, Inc., identifies himself as one of these dedicated folks whose efforts resulted in pre-VCR preservation of the only known recordings (albeit audio only) of countless American television programs for which no other recordings exist.

Gries estimates that he has about 15,000 hours of material from 1946-1979 (he began making his own tapes as a 15-year old in 1958, and has since purchased and traded for additional tapes). Many samples are available to stream here.

I'll admit to having made a few similar recordings myself in the late 1970s (of the Gilligan's Island rescue TV movies and at least one annual broadcast of It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown). They're mainly of interest now for the local commercials contained within.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Tuesday, December 07, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Chuck Lorre Profile in The New Yorker

Chuck Lorre, the prolific producer of America's top two sitcoms (Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory) as well as this season's mildly controversial Mike & Molly, is profiled in the December 6 issue of The New Yorker (subscription required for full access).

It's great to see The New Yorker directing some its thoughtful editorial focus to network television, if only in a personality-driven piece like this. I confess, I'm not that interested in Lorre's brick patio or blue-gray running shoes.

To the author's credit (Tom Bissell), also included is an evocative sketch of the behind-the-scenes goings on and in-progress rewrites during a Hollywood soundstage sitcom taping.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Friday, December 03, 2010 Join Discussion  (5 Comments)
Local Kids' Shows and Special Holiday Programming

The era of local TV programs for kids is long since past, but the Internet and the rise of civic TV stations has meant a renaissance of sorts for some of the vintage films and videotapes that survive.

In Seattle, the local civic cable TV station is this month airing a 90-minute holiday special I produced a few years ago with J.P. Patches and Stan Boreson. Patches, played by Chris Wedes, was on KIRO-TV from 1958 to 1981; Boreson was on KING-TV from 1955 to 1968.

Complete online video of The JP Patches and Stan Boreson Holiday Special is available here; cable viewers in Seattle can watch the program several times in December per this broadcast schedule.

Along with newly-recorded segments with Wedes and Boreson from 2006, the real highlights of the show are vintage holiday material from Patches' program from the 1970s, and a Stan Boreson reunion program originally produced for KING-TV in 1980 by Steve Wilson.

If you know of other examples of local kids' programming now accessible via the Internet or airing on civic TV, please share links and other information by commenting on this post.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Wednesday, December 01, 2010 Join Discussion  (50 Comments)
Vintage CBS News Footage of D.B. Cooper Skyjacking

Footage from at least one Pacific Northwest TV station (KIRO in Seattle) is included in this D.B. Cooper segment from the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite from November 25, 1971.

This report by Bill Kurtis came one day after Cooper hijacked a Seattle-bound jetliner by claiming to have a bomb; collected money and parachutes in Seattle and released the passengers; then had the crew take off again and headed south. Somewhere in southwest Washington, it's thought, the hijacker jumped from the jet and was never seen again.

While conspiracy theories about Cooper's true identity and ultimate fate have flourished in the past 39 years (and while Cooper has become something of a folk hero), it's illuminating to go back and see what it looked and sounded like on TV at the time when the guy was just an escaped criminal.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

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