Monday, March 30, 2009


Charles Wilson, GM CEO and US Secretary of Defense

On this day, when the United States government is working to overhaul and bailout a storied American company that was once the engine which propelled our economy, it is good to reflect on the images of the General Motors we used to know.

GM was a proud and powerful brand 51 years ago. It was a Templar for American engineering supremacy and design acumen, the world over.

Here is a bombastic and boisterous, 1958 commercial that aired on NBC-TV and was used to introduce the latest models of GM's five, primary car lines, while celebrating the global conglomerate's 50th anniversary. Enjoy!!!!!

As a bonus, here is a promotional film produced for GM in 1956 to publicize the company's annual, GENERAL MOTORS FUTURAMA traveling show, at which new automobiles , buses, locomotives and home consumer products were introduced. The vivid , exuberant (and very dated) film promises a gracious and carefree future that GM may not survive to fulfil. Enjoy!!!!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009


There was a time in America when test patterns ( like this one, above ) filled hours of every broadcast day and when television was so new a consumer technology and so expensive a family investment that a whole class of service professionals rapidly grew in communities across the USA, just to support the magic box in the middle of the living room.

The television repair person was technically trained, and often certified by a manufacturer, to maintain home receivers. When called to action by a plaintive client ,the technician would fix the pesky problems that the owner couldn't solve with a twist of the four or five control knobs that were arrayed just below, or along the side of, the massive 19 inch,viewing screen.

With the demand for support overwhelming the number of repair shops in most areas, the television technician quickly emerged as a captain of commerce in any city or town where TV antennas sprouted skyward from the rooftops.

Below is an RCA television commercial celebrating TV repair professionals for their talent,commitment and endless hours of research designed to make sure video viewers could see Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan and Roller Derby in all of their grainy, black and white glory.

The subject of this spot looks like he's working on a cold fusion project at Livermore Labs. Behind it is a commercial for an RCA spring sale. The pricing is astonishing, even by contemporary standards. Enjoy!!!!

Friday, March 27, 2009



It was a simple phrase that was geographically, grammatically and journalistically correct. In form and structure, it conformed with the template for television reporters to identify themselves at the end of a field report.

Yet, it was ,somehow, distinctive. And , to me, sort of funny.

In the 1960's, I watched a balding man in a bow tie deliver that parting affirmation hundreds of times when I was a rare, adolescent viewer of THE HUNTLEY-BRINLEY REPORT, TODAY,countless network special reports and dozens of NBC News documentary programs.

As an American, religious mongrel ( Roman Catholic Mother and Jewish Father, GOD Rest Their Souls ) the comic irony of a seemingly,semetic someone named Levine reporting from the ecclesiastic epicenter of the Holy See always evoked a chuckle in me.

Tonight,on the way to dinner, my Blackberry vibrated as a friend sent that long-lost phrase from television's past... and my own youth ... to me as a message on Facebook.

Sadly, one line below was a link to Irving R.Levine's obituary. He died today,after a long battle with prostate cancer at age 86.

In the late 1980's, we would occasionally joke about Levine's lock-out from Vatican City in the newsroom at Philadelphia's WCAU-TV. Even as a middle-aged, Television News Director, a fleeting reference to the words ,"IRVING R.LEVINE, NBC NEWS, THE VATICAN..." brought a smile to my face.

But, for the record, there was nothing funny about his reporting. Levine was a serious newsperson who tackled stories of consequence and delivered them with eleoquence.

Levine earned his journalistic gravitas the old fashioned way. A protean combination of meticulous research,expressive writing, ethical reporting, and an unequivocal devotion to the facts shaped his stories and his reputation.

He distinguished himself for 45 years as an NBC News correspondent, with insightful reporting from a dazzling and eclectic array of global datelines. Starting with the network in 1950, Levine took NBC television viewers to the front-lines at the height of the Korean War and to the back streets of Moscow at the depths of the cold War.Levine was the first American television reporter to be stationed in the former Soviet Union. From Russia , he brought the curious Amercian audience textured stories of the arduous,onerous lives of sacrifice and scarcity that the Soviet people lived under communist rule.

In 1971, after years of reporting overseas, Levine came stateside and was assigned to become NBC's first economic correspondent.In an era before sophisticated, computer graphic systems were available to help visualize the intricate concepts on which he had to report, Levine provided linear context so viewers could make sense of daily developments in the economy.

Levine retired from NBC News in 1995 to join Lynn College as dean of the college of international communication.

The lessons of his journalistic career and his professional integrity should be taught in classrooms and newsrooms for years to come.

Below is a clip from tonight's NBC NIGHTLY NEWS WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS remembering the manifold contributions and lasting impact of Irving R. Levine on the news division he helped shape. Enjoy!!!!!

Below is a clip from NBC News featuring an extended interview that Tom Brokaw conducted with Levine on the occasion of his retirement from the peacock network in 1995. Enjoy!!!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


In 1955, CBS television wanted to bring adult stories about the rugged, daring men and women who settled and built the American West to Prime Time television. The airwaves were home to every kind of traditional cowboy from Roy Rogers to Gene Autry. They tracked down the bad guys, sang a song and rode into the sunset on a mighty steed. Children loved these homespun heroes. But programmers at the Tiffany Network felt it was time to produce a western drama that parents could enjoy.

They turned to their colleagues at CBS Radio and adapted the long-running hit GUNSMOKE as a television pilot film. They tested and rejected, the leading man from the radio series , William Conrad. Yes, the same one who went on to success as TV's most corpulent cop for hire , Frank Cannon. He had the presence, but the not the physique to play Marshall Matt Dillon on television.

Next,the network turned to the most accomplished and bankable western star in film history, John Wayne.His reputation was a portrait in celluloid and sagebrush.Duke Wayne was America's consummate cowboy.CBS thought he could bring new viewers to the Prime Time prairie.

He was at the pinnacle of a storied film career, and respectfully declined.But the Duke saw potential in GUNSMOKE and similarly, saw promise in a young colleague , who co-starred with him in a film called Big Jim McLean.

The Duke told CBS executives that he knew the right actor for the role of Matt Dillon. John Wayne may just be the most successful matchmaker in television history. While young James Arness needed some convincing from Wayne to accept the role of Dodge City's heroic and headstrong Marshall Dillon, GUNSMOKE ran for 20 years on CBS-TV and to this day in syndication around the world.

As a favor to CBS, Wayne introduced the debut episode of GUNSMOKE on September 10, 1955. That clip is posted below Enjoy!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


In the mid-1960's, Prime time Television was busily exposing secret agents. There was no real risk to national security since the super-spies who were forced from the shadows of clandestine service to the bright glare of TV lights were fictional favorites.There was no secret about the country's fascination with the classified capers of elegant, espionage agents.

Inspired by the cinematic adventures of master-spy James Bond,and with a title character created by Bond author, Sir Ian Flemming, NBC-TV and MGM Studios launched THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. in September of 1964. The satiric series, which debuted in black & white, then transitioned to LIVING COLOR in its second season, ran until January of 1968.

It all began with a pilot film called SOLO, starring Robert Vaughn in the lead role of urbane, espionage and enforcement agent, Napoleon Solo.

The color pilot set the premise that the talented Mr. Solo, his partner in covert ops, Illya Kuryakin, a Russian agent played by David McCallum, and an unsuspecting, civilian damsel of the week, who would be conscribed to save the day, join to fight off the forces of global evil in a high-buff, high voltage hour of fast-paced adventure . Veteran character actor, Leo G. Carroll played the professorial, station chief of U.N.C.L.E.'s sprawling but stealthy, New York headquarters.

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. proved to be a stylish, ironic, tongue-in-cheek spoof that developed a global, viewing audience and which still has a cult following.

Producer Sam Rolfe envisioned U.N.C.L.E., the united network command for law and enforcement, as a non-governmental , global security agency. Rolfe wanted to show cooperation across political and geographic lines in the battle between personal freedom and human oppression. At the height of the cold war , THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., featured an American and Russian espionage team working together in pursuit of world security and global order.

The premise of the show had proven to be a bit complex for some viewers, so the clip posted below shows an expositional, prologue that was created and added to the start of early episodes, introducing the lead characters and explaining U.N.C.L.E., as a law enforcement agency.Enjoy!!!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009


In 1966, Barbra Streisand was a Superstar ascendant, on a global scale . A striking,vibrant multi-talented performer, she evidenced a natural, ethnic beauty that set her apart from the demur, austere, aquiline beauties upon whom spotlights usually focused in nightclubs, theaters, and television studios.
After starting her career as an opening act on the nightclub circuit,Streisand electrified Broadway with her exuberant performance as comedienne Fanny Brice in the hit musical, FUNNY GIRL, winning a 1964 TONY Award for Best Actress in a Musical.She went on to star in the 1968, film version of FUNNY GIRL and won an OSCAR for recreating her Broadway portrait of Brice.

On April 28,1965,Streisand starred in her first television special for CBS-TV, MY NAME IS BARBRA , which was shot at the CBS Broadcast Center and on location at NYC's Bergdorf-Goodman store, in black and white.This program was honored with multiple EMMY awards.Here are clips, clearly demonstrating the sheer force of her voice and her formidable, stage presence, from that first special. Enjoy!!!!!

That special was followed on March 30, 1966 by COLOR ME BARBRA, shot at CBS in NYC and on location at the venerable,Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This was one of the Tiffany Network's , first major adventures in tinted TV, shot on location. CBS-TV sent brand new, Phillips-Norelco color cameras to shoot the Philadelphia elements of the show. Two of three cameras promptly failed. The end result is still a visually sumptuous treat, thanks to the tenacity of the production team.

Both shows were directed with a stylish, sophisticated touch by the legendary Dwight Hemion, who also directed FRANK SINATRA: A MAN & HIS MUSIC. Hemion's work reflected an elegance and elan that is missing in contemporary, musical television.

The following clip, showcasing a concert sequence from COLOR ME BARBRA, was videotaped at the CBS Broadcast Center in Manhattan. Enjoy!!!!!

Below is a "bonus" clip of sorts, that reminds us that the idea of a shared, global culture was born with the jet age of the 1960's. It's a 1966,BBC interview in which Streisand explains her art and commitment as a performer, conducted on a Trans-Atlantic airliner. Enjoy!!!!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man.
Better than he was before. Better stronger,faster.

Opening narration from the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN

One of the most successful and bizarre science-fiction, television series of the 1970's was based, loosely, in science fact. ABC-TV's The SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN was predicated on a novel called CYBORG, written by respected aviation, journalist Martin Cadin. Like the book, the series incorporated then-current research into cyber technology and human tissue regeneration. How that factual data was applied in the fictional storyline is where the broad fantasy came to play.

THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN was produced by UNIVERSAL STUDIOS for ABC-TV, and aired from 1974-1978. It was the story of Astronaut Steve Austin, played by Lee Majors, who had achieved star status on ABC-TV's THE BIG VALLEY. Austin nearly dies in the crash of an experimental aircraft he was testing. A covert, government, espionage agency,called the Office of Scientific Intelligence, saves his life and implants high-tech, nuclear powered prosthetics to replace missing limbs, plus a miniature camera in the place of a damaged eye. In return, he became America's most effective, and most expensive ,secret agent. Before the series would end,Steve Austin would battle Russian spies, aliens and Sasquatch.

The show was a runaway hit for ABC-TV. In its third season, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, along with CHARLIE'S ANGELS,HAPPY DAYS,PLUS LAVERNE & SHIRLEY helped to propel the ABC television network to first place in the national ratings for the first time in history.

The success of this show resulted in a spin-off series called THE BIONIC WOMAN starring Lindsay Wagner, as a tennis star, who suffered a catastrophic sky diving accident. Her character, Jamie Sommers,was rescued, bionically enhanced and deployed as an O.S.I. agent.

Millions of dollars in SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN merchandise was sold and is now in demand as memorabilia. From lunchboxes to action figures, the show's youngest viewers wanted to show their loyalty to Steve Austin.

Below is a short montage of clips from THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, set to the serie's original. up-tempo, theme song, performed by 60's folk/rock icon, Dusty Springfield. ENJOY!!!!!

Sunday, March 1, 2009


In the 1960'S, an era of prime-time series about high-tech espionage and high-wire intrigue, when spies lived or died engaging their sophisticated weapons more often than their well-honed wits, Los Angeles private eye, Joe Mannix was both a rugged individualist and a welcome throwback to a simpler and grittier time.Television's most heroic, anti-hero, Mannix was a rebel who still believed in the establishment cause, if not its dehumanizing effect.

In 1967, propelled by the unqualified success of perhaps the most complex and intellectually challenging spy series of that decade, Mission: Impossible,CBS-TV , DESILU studios and Executive Producer Bruce Geller,decided it was time to explore the case files of an iconoclast detective who fought the crime that threatened the innocent and battled the bureaucracy that eroded individual identity.

The video vehicle they selected was a crime drama, created by Richard Levinson and William Link (who also devised COLUMBO ),called MANNIX, and which starred film, leading man Mike Connors as Joe Mannix. He played a two fisted private detective with a singular sense of justice and a one track mind. Mannix believed that his job was to nail the bad guys, even if it meant bending the rules with a left hook or a .38 caliber slug.

In the first season, Joe Mannix was employed by Intertect LTD.,an omni-present, global security firm, headed by Lew Wickersham. Joseph Campanella, one of 1960's television's most prolific character actors, portrayed the boss as a constrained,draconian authority figure , who reluctantly and secretly admired Mannix's lack of inhibition and conformity in crime solving. Intertect LTD. issued Mannix a specially designed Oldsmobile Tornado convervtible, replete with computer technology.Their offices were anti-septic and equipped with vast banks of 1960's cyber-systems.

It was no place for a loner like Joe Mannix.

That plot rubric lasted only one season.

By the Fall of 1968, producers had Joe take leave of Intertect ltd.,and open his own, one man investigation agency in the Paseo Verde building. Mannix lived in the back room of his office, which was managed by the lovely and loyal Peggy Fair,played by the late Gail Fisher. She was one of the first African-American actresses to achieve a co-starring role on network television.

Veteran character actors Robert Reed, Larry Linville and Ward Wood played his police contacts over the eight year, 194 episode, run of Mannix on CBS-TV.

The musical score , which featured a vibrant, jazz waltz as the show's theme song, was, like the sound track from MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE, written by Lalo Shiffrin. He was one of the most sought-after film and television composers of the 1960's and 70's.

The durable series was only recently released on DVD. For eight seasons, MANNIX was a show that never achieved the rating success of its CBS-TV AND DESILU studios sibling, MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE, but one that consistenly delivered a quality program to an appreciative audience.

Below are clips that constitute the September 16,1967 debut episode of MANNIX. Enjoy!!!!!