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  • feedwordpress 09:01:39 on 2018/11/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , Herbert E. Ives, , , Romaine Fielding, , television,   

    “I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.”*… 

     

    Romaine Fielding

    Romaine Fielding got famous making a bunch of films in nothing flat—something like 100 films in just four years, from 1912 to 1915. Some of the films were probably awful. Others were showered with critical praise. Film was a fledgling medium still trying to find its voice, still battling to evolve from novelty to art. But Romaine rose above the melodramatic din of the silent film era. He was, by some accounts, America’s first movie star and, by even more accounts, among the medium’s first true visionaries…

    Romaine had already lived a lot of life when he began making films in 1912. There were only a dozen film companies in Hollywood. The magazine that would launch our nation’s rabidity for celebrity culture, Photoplay, had just published its first issue. Romaine was 43 and on his fourth name by then: baby William Grant Blandin became Royal A. Blandin became Romanzo A. Blandin who made the leap finally to Romaine Fielding at the dawn of the 20th century.

    There are lots of reasons for adopting pseudonyms and these include shame or aspiration or fear of legal recourse or extralegal recourse or confusion about identity or certainty about identity or general restlessness and for some it is all of this plus the usual feeling of fraudulence and an overdeveloped flair for the dramatic. In 1867 Romaine was born out of wedlock in an Iowa that wouldn’t stand for it and so his first name change was the projection of others’ shame. For the rest of his life he layered on identities, ever grander, though never entirely disingenuous…

    After the success of The Toll of Fear (one of the first great psychological thrillers, made in 1913) Romaine made the cover of Motion Picture Magazine. He was voted America’s Most Popular Player by the magazine’s readers, snagging over 1.3 million of the 7 million votes cast by film buffs.

    This award was a remarkable accomplishment in the pre-Oscars era. He beat out Mary Pickford, an early cinema powerhouse and eventual cofounder of the famed United Artists studio. He beat out Bronco Billy, who had starred in The Great Train Robbery (1903), arguably the first ever Western film…

    The genuinely remarkable tale of an American original: “The Lost Apocalypse of Romaine Fielding.”

    * “Norma Desmond” (Gloria Swanson) in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard

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    As we see stars, we might spare a thought for Herbert Eugene Ives; he died on this date in 1953.  A scientist and engineer who headed the development of facsimile and television systems at AT&T in the first half of the twentieth century, he is best known for the 1938 Ives–Stilwell experiment, which provided direct confirmation of special relativity’s time dilation (though Ives himself did not accept special relativity, and argued instead for an alternative interpretation of the experimental results).

    But relevantly to this post, Ives also led AT&T’s development of video and television. His 1927 transmission–  of images of then-Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover, from Washington, DC to New York– was the first successful long distance demonstration of television. Two years later, he achieved the first successful long-distance transmission of color images.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:55 on 2018/10/29 Permalink
    Tags: advertisements, , , , , , , , television,   

    “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”*… 

     

     

    Food

    Food regularly plays a role in religious life, in forms that range from communion wine to Kahlua cheesecake…

    A sampling of 34 cloistered comestibles: “A Guide of Heavenly Cuisine.”

    * Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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    As we devour with devotion, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that the first “Got Milk?” ad premiered.  Created by the advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners for the California Milk Processor Board, it  was later licensed for use by milk processors and dairy farmers nationwide.  The campaign launched with the now-famous “Aaron Burr” television commercial, directed by Michael Bay.

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:51 on 2017/06/26 Permalink
    Tags: , Edward R. Murrow, , Max Headroom, Person to Person, television, ,   

    “Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television”*… 

     

    And sometime, good television: full episodes of the frighteningly-prophetic Max Headroom at Dailymotion.com— watch ’em while you can!

    * Woody Allen

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    As we cope with blipverts, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that the legendary Edward R. Murrow aired his 500th and final Person to Person interview (with actress Lee Remick).  The series continued for another two years with Charles Collingwood as host.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:32 on 2017/06/25 Permalink
    Tags: CBS, color TV, David Brewster, fads, , kaleidoscope, RCA, television,   

    “There’s no reason that anything should ever become obsolete”*… 

     

    One newspaper article complained of boys walking into walls while looking through kaleidoscopes; another kvetched about scope users running into cyclists on the street. (The draisienne, or “dandy horse,” a pedal-free precursor to the modern bicycle, had recently been introduced.) Large kaleidoscopes were set up on street corners, where passersby could pay a penny for a peek, and parlor scopes became themust-have accessory for the middle and upper classes…

    The extraordinary story of a the kaleidoscope, a technological fad that was, in many ways, a precursors of hot devices of today (and of their effects): “Long before iPhones, this 19th-century gadget made everyone a mobile addict.”

    * Rebecca McNutt

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    As we watch shapes shift, we might recall that it was on this date in 1951 that the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) televised the one-hour premiere of commercial color television with a program appropriately titled Premiere.

    In 1950, there were two companies vying to be the first to create color TVs — CBS and RCA. When the FCC tested the two systems, the CBS system was approved, while the RCA system failed to pass because of low picture quality.  But CBS’s technology had some pretty serious flaws:  it was very expensive, it tended to flicker, and probably most fatally, it was not compatible with the black and white TV set already in American households.  RCA continued to tweak its approach, and ultimately overtook CBS to become the standard setter for color TV in the U.S.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:17 on 2017/06/11 Permalink
    Tags: Bones, Gene Roddenberry, , Spock, , television, The Wire, , Wallace   

    “It’s morning in Baltimore, Lester. Wake up and smell the coffee”*… 

     

    WHERE’S WALLACE? THAT’S ALL I WANNA KNOW…
    WHERE THE F*CK IS WALLACE?”

    —D’ANGELO BARKSDALE

    An interactive homage to what was arguably the best television series ever: “Where’s Wallace.”

    * Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick), to Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters) in “A New Day (episode 11 of season 4), The Wire.

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    As we return to Baltimore, we might spare a thought for Jackson DeForest Kelley; he died on this date in 1999.  After a long career paying character parts, largely in Westerns, Kelley was offered the role of half-alien Spock in a proposed sci-fi series being developed by Gene Roddenberry– Star Trek– but declined.  He later reconsidered his involvement and accepted the role of Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:40 on 2017/05/31 Permalink
    Tags: cadigan, , Fred Rogers, , Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, , sweater, television,   

    “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood”*… 

     

    Back in 2011, on his blog devoted to all things Mister Rogers, neighborhoodarchive.com, Tim Lybarger recorded the color of every sweater Rogers wore in each episode between 1979 and 2001. “When I realized such a resource didn’t exist… I just felt like somebody needed to do it…might as well be me.”…

    Dive more deeply into the sartorial habits of a true American hero at “Every Color Of Cardigan Mister Rogers Wore From 1979–2001.”

    * Fred Rogers (the first line of the lyrics of his theme song for his series, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood)

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    As we agree to be his neighbor, we might recall that it was on this date in 1990 that Americans were invited into a very different kind of neighborhood: NBC premiered Seinfeld.  (In fact, the pilot– with a different title [The Seinfeld Chronicles] and a different female lead [“Claire the waitress” instead of Elaine]– was broadcast in July of 1989; but NBC didn’t pick up the series until the following year.)

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:24 on 2017/05/04 Permalink
    Tags: Agnes Nixon, Another World, , Irna Phillips, soap operas, St. Elsewhere, television, Tommy Westphall, Tommy Westphall Universe,   

    “Invisible threads are the strongest ties”*… 

     

    Tommy Westphall was an austistic child on the TV series St Elsewhere who, it was revealed in the closing moments of the final episode of that series, had dreamt the entire run of the show.

    What’s this about his Mind?

    St Elsewhere has direct connections to twelve other television series – many of them direct crossovers of character to and from the series. Others make mention of specific parts of the St Elsewhere fictional universe, placing them within the same fictional sphere.

    So?

    If St Elsewhere exists only within Tommy Westphall’s mind, then so does every other series set within the same fictional sphere…

    Explore The Tommy Westphall Universe— 419 shows (so far).  A larger version of the chart above and a full list of the constituent series are available there.

    * Friedrich Nietzsche

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    As we wonder at the wisdom of E.M. Forster’s words, we might recall that it was in this date in 1964 that Another World premiered on NBC.  Produced by Irna Phillips (who parlayed her radio experience into the first day-time soap opera on television, and who was mentor to William J. BellJames Lipton, and the great Agnes Nixon), Another World ran through 35 seasons (8,891 episodes), until June, 1999.  It was the first soap opera to talk about abortion when such subjects were taboo; the first soap opera to do a crossover (with the character of Mike Bauer from Guiding Light, another of Irna’s shows); the first to expand to one hour; the first soap to launch two spin-offs, Somerset and Texas, as well as an indirect one, Lovers and Friends (later renamed For Richer, For Poorer; and the first soap opera with a theme song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, “(You Take Me Away To) Another World” by Crystal Gayle and Gary Morris, in 1987.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:54 on 2016/12/10 Permalink
    Tags: Emily Dickinson, , , , Maid of Amherst, , television, , ,   

    “Much of the conversation in the country consisted of lines from television shows, both present and past”*… 

     

    One of the videos that stream on end at Tyler Hellard‘s PopLoser.tv.  As he explains in his newsletter, the always-illuminating Pop Loser

    A couple years ago, I briefly had a site at poploser.tv. I filled it with weird videos and movies from around the Internet, but never kept it up and eventually it lapsed (that’s the story of most of my web projects). Last week I was reminded that YouTube really is a treasure. There’s just so much… stuff. YouTube has a whole weird sub-culture (several, actually), but the site is most amazing as an archive and a look at what TV used to be, which seems less, but more, than what TV has become.

    While re-watching old episodes of Twitch City (the greatest TV show ever made), I thought about PLTV and what I wanted to do with it and decided to try again. I’m working out some bugs and trying to get the perfect mix of videos, but the new site is mostly designed just to be left on. You can go there and let it play (auto-play isn’t working on mobile yet), enjoying the ephemera of what television was in all its wonderful weirdness.

    In a [few days] I’m going to flip a switch so it’ll only show only Christmas content through the holidays…

    Couch surf down memory lane at PopLoser.tv

    * Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

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    As we lean back, we might send elegantly composed birthday greetings to Emily Dickinson, who was better known during her life as a gardener and botanist than as a poet; only 7 of her 1775 poems were published in her lifetime– which began on this date in 1830.

    The Maid of Amherst

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:59 on 2016/12/06 Permalink
    Tags: , Gimme Shelter, , Maysles, , , television,   

    “Don’t be tricked by the verisimilitude into forgetting this is fiction”*… 

     

    Stranger Things

    Thanks to obsessive online forums that pore over a production’s every anachronism , [the entertainment industry]  requires increasingly discerning and dedicated prop hunters. Nowhere is this more apparent on set than with the technology that surrounds actors. Mad Men inspired its dedicated watchers to complain that the Sterling Cooper office’s IBM Selectric typewriters were a year ahead of their time, and the numerous period-specific shows that followed have only had to be more diligent.

    Now, as television is trending toward ’80s-era creations like Stranger Things, The Americans, Halt and Catch Fire, and The Goldbergs, decorators are finding it increasingly difficult to fill their sets with gadgets that won’t cause persnickety fans to froth at the mouth. It’s a very first-world Hollywood problem, but a fascinating one. The breakneck pace of consumer technology development — the same thing that has brought us generational inside jokes and those viral “Kids React to Old Computers” videos — is trailed by landfills full of mass-produced gadgets. They are not made of metal or wood, but a beige and flimsy plastic that tends to yellow over time. As the production designer for the first two seasons of The Americans, John Mott, put it, the ’80s “were also a time where design had kind of lost its way.” As a result, gadgets from that era don’t tend to be on most collectors’ radars, even if they’re in high demand in the entertainment industry…

    It can’t just be a computer from the ’80s — it has to be THE computer from the ’80s: “How Hollywood Gets Its Old-School Tech.”

    And for more on the viewer-side energy driving this, see “The Internet Is Spoiling TV.”

    * Sha Li

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    As we aspire to accuracy, we might recall that it was on this date in 1970 that Gimme Shelter was released.  A Maysles Brothers documentary edited by Charlotte Zwerin and produced by Porter Bibb (with incidental assistance from your correspondent), it chronicled the last weeks of The Rolling Stones’ 1969 US tour, which culminated in the disastrous Altamont Free Concert.

    One of the most immediate and compelling documentaries ever committed to celluloid, it was released twelve months to the day after the era-defining tragedy that it depicted. Before directing Gimme Shelter, Albert and David Maysles had made vérité documentaries focusing on celebrities such as Marlon Brando, Orson Welles, Truman Capote and the Beatles and it was the latter experience that convinced Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones to invite the brothers and their creative collaborator Charlotte Zwerin to film the free concert they were headlining at the Altamont Speedway. The concert was attended by an enormous 300,000 people but the free love party was so large that the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang were recruited in the last minute to act as security for the event. Rather than being a West Coast version of Woodstock (which had been held earlier that summer) Altamont instead became infamous for the death of Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old African-American man, stabbed to death by the Hell’s Angels after drawing a long-barreled revolver. Amazingly, the Maysles caught the incident on film, turning Gimme Shelter into, as Amy Taubin succinctly put it, rock ‘n’ roll’s answer to the Zapruder footage of JFK’s assassination. Not only does the movie feature the fatal incident but, even more compellingly, in one scene we see a clearly affected Jagger watching the incident again as the Maysles edit the footage. A great concert film as well as a hugely important cinematic document hugely altered the trajectory of the Maysles’ career and remains, along with Don’t Look Back, one of the most important music docs ever made.

    Focus Features

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:24 on 2016/09/13 Permalink
    Tags: Emmy, Frasier, , , , , television, television set, , tv set,   

    “There’s a good deal in common between the mind’s eye and the TV screen”*… 

     

    Not your correspondent… but might have been

    It’s widely suggested these days that we’re in a “Golden Age of Television”… but hasn’t the history of the TV been one long Golden Age?

    In case of fire, 82% of 20th Century Americans surveyed in the pre-Internet era would rescue the TV set. The other 18% would stay still watching the thing and ask, ‘What fire?’ America loved the magic box…

    More glimpses of Americans and their tubes at “Found Photos: Mid-Century People Standing By Modern TVs.” Volume Two here.

    * Ursula K. LeGuin

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    As we tune in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1998 that Frasier set an Emmy record, becoming the first to take top honors for outstanding comedy series five years in a row (a record currently tied by Modern Family).  Frasier won a total of 37 Primetime Emmy Awards during its 11-year run, breaking the record long held by The Mary Tyler Moore Show (29).

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