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  • 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, Star Trek, 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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  • feedwordpress 08:01:15 on 2016/08/01 Permalink
    Tags: Buggles, , , , , musueum, , television, , Video Killed the Radio Star   

    “History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake”*… 

     

    In the wake of the conventions of the last two weeks, and the Fourth Estate’s first draft of history, we might pause to ponder the task facing more traditional historians.  Consider, for example, “How Do Smithsonian Curators Decide What to Collect at the Political Conventions?

    * James Joyce, Ulysses

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    As we revel in the falling balloons, we might recall that it was on this date in 1981, with the words “Ladies and Gentlemen, rock and roll,” that MTV premiered.  The first video featured on the new cable channel was The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”  Indeed.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:33 on 2015/11/17 Permalink
    Tags: Apollo Theater, , , , , parody, , Samuel Beckett, television,   

    “What is that unforgettable line?”*… 

     

    email readers click here for video

    Samuel Beckett: avant-garde dramatist, brooding Nobel Prize winner, poet, and…gritty television detective?

    Sadly, no, but he had the makings of a great one, at least as cut together by playwright Danny Thompson, cofounder of Chicago’s Theater Oobleck.

    Some twenty five years after Beckett’s death, Thompson—whose credits include the Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett as Found in a Dustbin in Paris in an Envelope (Partially Burned) Labeled: Never to Be Performed. Never. Ever. Ever! Or I’ll Sue! I’ll Sue From the Grave!!!repurposed Rosa Veim and Daniel Schmid’s footage of the moody genius wandering around 1969 Berlin into the opening credits of a nonexistent, 70s era Quinn Martin police procedural.

    The title sequence hits all the right period notes, from the jazzy graphics to the presentation of its supporting cast: Andre the Giant, Jean Paul Sartre, and Jean “Huggy Bear” Cocteau. (Did you know that Beckett drove a young Andre the Giant to school in real life?)

    Thompson ups the verisimilitude by copping Pat Williams’ theme for The Streets of San Francisco and naming the imaginary pilot episode after a collection of Beckett’s short stories

    More background– and other (real) 70s title sequences for reference, at “Watch the Opening Credits of an Imaginary 70s Cop Show Starring Samuel Beckett.”

    * Samuel Beckett

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    As we wait for you-know-whom, we might recall that it was on this date in 1983 that the Apollo Theater in Harlem was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  Built in 1913-14 as Hurtig & Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater, and designed by George Keister in the neo-Classical style, the Apollo fell on hard times in the 20s and limped along until, under new management in the 30s, it became a mecca of the Swing Era.  It featured musical acts including Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Webb, and Count Basie, dance acts such as Bill Robinson and the Nicholas Brothers.  And though the theater concentrated on showcasing African-American acts, it also presented such white performers as Harry James, Woody Herman and Charlie Barnet during the swing era, and, later, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz and Buddy Rich, who was a particular favorite of the Apollo crowd.

    The Apollo’s “Amateur Night,” a Monday-night talent contest launched many storied careers, from Ella Fitzgerald and Thelma Carpenter to Jimi Hendrix (who won in 1964).  Others whose careers were hatched or given an early boost at the Apollo include Billie Holiday, Pearl Bailey, Sammy Davis Jr., James Brown & The Famous Flames, King Curtis, Diana Ross &The Supremes, Parliament-Funkadelic, Wilson Pickett, The Miracles, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Rush Brown, Stephanie Mills, Dionne Warwick, Bobby Short, The Jackson 5, Patti LaBelle, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Mariah Carey, The Isley Brothers, Lauryn Hill, Sarah Vaughan, Jazmine Sullivan, Ne-Yo, and Machine Gun Kelly.

    Restored 10 years ago, the venue draws an estimated 1.3 million visitors a year.

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