Monday, July 7, 2014


On the afternoon of July 23, 1962 the World shrunk in a matter of minutes, as Telstar, the first global communications satellite in human history, connected the USA and Europe for an inter-continental, cultural exchange, of sorts.
It was a LIVE program that started with video of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower, followed by coverage of a Phillies-Cubs Game in Chicago and a greeting from President Kennedy in Washington DC.
While Telstar orbited the Earth every 90 minutes, it could only maintain a useable signal between the American Uplink in Andover, Maine and the UK receive site in Goonhilly Downs for a 20 minute interval.

Later that same day , the first ,Trans-Atlantic phone call, made via Satellite, was placed. Telstar was only in service for about six months, until it's transistors failed in February of 1963.

But, it only needed 20 minutes to change the course of history. Here is a link to NBC News coverage of this seismic shift in communications technology that brought the continents closer together without their moving an inch!!!:)

Saturday, June 14, 2014


To many American's, the fall of 1960 was the threshold of the future . Voters were just weeks from electing a young and vibrant President, the country was committed to beating the Soviet Union into Orbit , while many people were worried that the Cold War could turn Hot with the press of a button.
We all wanted to win the Race for Space, but nobody wanted to win the Race for Extinction.

The Kennedy years were kinetic. The change it fostered was a threat to those who found comfort in the status quo.

Prime time, network television was the nation's primary source for benign ,escapist entertainment.

In 1960, TV's undisputed King of Comedy was comedian, singer, actor, hoofer, philanthropist, real estate mogul, Bob Hope, and he never disappointed his audience or his sponsor.

Nobody would accuse him of delivering scathing satire, but he reflected the country's penchant for poking holes in the inflated egos of  Politicians, Movie Stars and whomever occupied the Kremlin.

He was the Comic In Chief who would entertain America's military wherever in the world  they served.

Bob Hope was beloved for that commitment, alone.

Here, from the 20th Century Vision You Tube Channel is a 1960 outing of  THE BOB HOPE BUICK SHOW, in LIVING MONOCHROME.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Talk to a college student ( and I do every day, since I teach at a university ) and you get the sense that they think the whole world ( not just television shows ) was in Black and White, before they were born.

Yeah, they radiate a sense of  entitlement.

Baby Boomers ( like me ) know better.

The world was in Black and White until the day in 1966 when a relative  or friends parents bought a  COLOR TV.

Okay, maybe we have that entitlement thing going , too.

But in the Fall of 1954, the mighty CBS Television Network was still  green with envy and red with embarrassment, almost a year after the F.C.C rejected  the CBS mechanical system for non-compatible COLOR TELEVISION, and selected the RCA electronic system of LIVING COLOR TV as the national, broadcast standard.

CBS founder William Paley was livid that his professional rival David Sarnoff won the battle for COLOR TV, but wanted to know if tinted television could make for a greener bottom line.

CBS spent the next  three years producing COLOR episodes of B&W shows on the Tiffany Network's primetime and daytime schedule.

One of the most popular CBS series was THE BURNS AND ALLEN SHOW, featuring one of  America's favorite comedy couples.

The only installment of their show to be produced in COLOR aired just once on October 4, 1954.

By 1958, Paley decided to cast the world into shades of gray and shut down COLOR production.

He was tired of losing face, if not audience, to Sarnoff.

CBS would, when confronted with a FULL COLOR schedule on NBC, finally committed  to COLOR in the Fall of 1966.

Here, from the VINTAGE COMEDY VAULT You Tube Site, is only episode of  THE BURNS AND ALLEN SHOW to be produced and aired, as announcer Harry Von Zell says under credits,"in full color on color television receivers and in compatible black & white on regular black & white receivers."


Friday, April 25, 2014


When ABC-TV was viewed as less than a network, in the 1960's, the then third-placed web had but one glittering, crowning jewel on its prime time schedule.

Amid an ocean of  winsome sitcoms, urbane spies, world weary cops and wholesome cowboys.

It was a throwback to a simpler, but perhaps more elegant, time in show business: a star-studded vaudeville revue.

Produced in modest studio that was a retro-fitted theater, ABC-TV engaged two of the brightest producers in commercial television to mount a bombastic variety show , replete with comedy, music and novelty acts that would be in league with legends like Sullivan and Caesar.

There would be rotating hosts who ran the gamut from Fred Astaire to Bing Crosby to Adam West in his Batman persona.

Bill Harbach and Nick Vanoff, both veterans of Steve Allen's landmark TONIGHT SHOW on NBC-TV, were charged shaping a show that would embody classic showbiz values ,while attracting viewers from the Baby-Boom generation,.

What they created was THE HOLLYWOOD PALACE.


Friday, March 21, 2014


Jack Benny was a master of  comic timing.

He knew how to seed and sustain a laugh.

He could turn a  pause into a punchline.

He knew when to exit...and as he proved in 1966 , he knew when to return.

America's favorite cheapskate, the comic genius who had starred in Vaudeville, Films, and who helped to define comedy on Radio,  had not done television for over a year, when
he stepped before the LIVNG COLOR cameras at NBC's sprawling Burbank,CA facility to tape THE JACK BENNY HOUR in the Fall of 1966.

The full episode posted below, from the JILL LACHENMAYER YOU TUBE site, is a prime example of the gentle, but absurd ( and sometimes, ad-libbed ) comedy that made Benny a comic Icon and a television pioneer.

His guests included comedian Phyllis Diller, singer Trini Lopez and The Smothers Brothers ( before they were controversial ).

American Motors was his sponsor and this Special pre-empted a first-run episode of STAR TREK, trading a  Starship Captain for a King of Comedy.

You'll also note that on this occasion Benny's venerable theme song, LOVE IN BLOOM, was replaced with an upbeat instrumental theme that had a swinging sixties beat.


Sunday, March 2, 2014


At NBC-TV in the late 1950's and early 1960's, nothing could have been finer than Sunday night with Dinah ...The vibrant,vivacious Dinah Shore.

If Lucille Ball was CBS's First Lady of Comedy, Dinah Shore was NBC's Queen of Musical Variety.

The Chevrolet Motorcar Division of  General Motors put the honey-voiced hostess in the driver's seat ,when it placed THE CHEVY SHOW on the NBC Prime time Schedule in 1956.

It proved to be a video showcase for Ms. Shore's manifold talents and a video showroom for Chevy's, Eisenhower-era, chrome carriages that came from Detroit, complete with Body by Fisher.

She was not the first woman to carry a weekly comedy/music series on network television.

Kate Smith and Martha Raye were there first.

Chevrolet provided her custom built theme song...SEE THE U.S.A IN YOUR CHEVROLET...but it was her inspired choice to seal every show with a  big, smooch of a kiss that became a trademark for her myriad viewers and a target for a multitude of satirists.

Director Bob Banner used THE CHEVY SHOW to experiment with some high octane video effects that were ahead of their time. The show was one of the network's first, weekly series to be produced in  RCA COMPATIBLE COLOR and ,subsequently, in LIVING COLOR ON NBC. Banner employed , early, COLOR CHROMA-KEY techniques and , often, he involved the crew and the studio technology in an attempt to enliven and enrich the staging of musical numbers and comedy sketches.

Here , from the SPIFFYKITCHEN YOU TUBE SITE, is the first block of the January 13, 1957 episode of  THE DINAH SHORE CHEVY SHOW on NBC-TV. Check out the opening number and what may be the the most unusual use of a fork-lift as a prop in early television!!!

The show was produced LIVE FROM NEW YORK and yes, the announcer is the incomparable Don Pardo.


Sunday, February 16, 2014


Sid Caesar was as close to comic royalty as America could offer in the early 1950's

At the dawn of Television, Sid Caesar was ,both,  the infant mediums king of  sophisticated comedy and  its sovereign of  social satire.

Sadly, this week, so many of us  have come to praise Caesar , and as his Family must bury him.

Sid Caesar, video visionary, comedian extraordinaire , actor, musician,writer , producer and two-time Emmy Award recipient ,passed away at age 91, in his Beverly Hills home.

His landmark  1950, NBC-TV series, YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, stands some 64 years later as a much-heralded, truly hilarious example of Television at its best and its funniest.

If , in life, a person is known by the company they keep, Caesar's stellar reputation is buttressed by a renowned writing staff , that was early television's equivalent of the Algonquin Round Table.

Among those superlative comedic scribes who worked in the service of Caesar were Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, Woody Allen and Neil Simon.

The Writer's Room, which was housed at NYC's City Center, was Sid Caesar's cauldron of comedy.

A brass plaque, placed by the  TV LAND cable network, now  commemorates the comedic combustion that erupted inside those offices.

It was where young writers forged brilliant careers and life-long loyalty to the demanding, but nurturing boss.

It was survival of the funniest.

Because funny was all that mattered.

Sid Caesar was a master of multi-lingual double talk, had the timing of an atomic  clock and could bring life to  any character written by his stellar staff.

The only persona that he was reticent to portray in public was Sid Caesar. Like many comedians, he was riddled with doubt about himself, while confident and comfortable in any other role he essayed.

His first network series... 1949's ADMIRAL BROADWAY REVIEW, seen on  DUMONT AND NBC was cancelled for being too successful. The president of Admiral Corp., Russ Sirigusa, cancelled the show at the end of its first season. He told Caesar that the show was such a hit and helped to sell so many television sets, that Admiral could not keep pace with consumer demand,. It was either expand their manufacturing plant or cancel the show. He cancelled the show.

When the incomparable Sylvester "Pat" Weaver took over NBC-TV in 1950, he envisioned a Saturday night , comedy revue with music that would air LIVE from NYC, Weaver enlisted Caesar and producer Max Liebman to create what became YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS.

Caesar and Liebman had staged the kind of  topical, energetic Revues  that Weaver hoped to bring to NBC, and they had done it to excellent reviews and solid box office.

Liebman  recruited co-stars Imogene Coco, Carl Reiner and Howard Morris.

It was a contentious , but successful partnership. Caesar guided the comedy and Liebman supervised the television production and crafted the musical elements.

YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS did smart, penetrating satire that resonated with the first generation of television viewers.

Viewers who chose to stay home on Saturday Night.

The audience was, from 1948 to 1954, comprised of early adopters who were, Eastern ( as rapidly as it grew, it took time for TV to spread across America ), educated and affluent.

You see, the first RCA television sets were monochrome receivers with a giant 12 inch screen and cost almost $300.00 in 1950.

That was the price of a used Chevy for most Americans.

Caesar helped to grow the medium, cultivate the audience , and sell a lot of  Oldsmobile's ( his primary sponsor :) .

But Sid Caesar , the person and the performer, was more about comedy and culture than  cash and commerce.

This meant that while other TV comedians were doing video vaudeville, Caesar and his legion of  writers could target popular culture and spoof everything from America's burgeoning fascination with foreign films to the cryptic poetry of the Beat Generation,  to the emerging mores of post-WWII, suburban life.

A new, LIVE show was produced 39 weeks per year. The stress on the Star led him into a spiral of alcohol and prescription drug addiction that he successfully overcame.

For all that has been written about the halcyon times when Sid Caesar ruled Saturday night  TV, he required only two things of the material that his writers provided .

It had to be smart and funny.

Those are two traits that Sid Caesar also had in common with his writing staff and his audience.

Hail. Caesar!!!

Here , from the JAMES STEEBER YOU TUBE site, is one of Sid Caesar's earliest and most hilarious  , television performances. It's from 1949's ADMIRAL BROADWAY REVIEW .

It is the exuberant  story of a Five Dollar Date, as it is recalled from 1939 and the dour version of that night on the town as it would be repeated in 1949.