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Posts Tagged ‘television

“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


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).



Written by LW

September 13, 2016 at 1:01 am

“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


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.


Written by LW

August 1, 2016 at 1:01 am

“What is that unforgettable line?”*…


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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


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.



Written by LW

November 17, 2015 at 1:01 am

“TELEPHONE n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance”*…


Christian Marclay’s “Telephones” (1995), a 7 1/2-minute compilation of brief Hollywood film clips that creates a narrative of its own. These linked-together snippets of scenes involve innumerable well-known actors such as Cary Grant, Tippi Hedren, Ray Milland, Humphrey Bogart and Meg Ryan, who dial, pick up the receiver, converse, react, say good-bye and hang up. In doing so, they express a multitude of emotions–surprise, desire, anger, disbelief, excitement, boredom–ultimately leaving the impression that they are all part of one big conversation. The piece moves easily back and forth in time, as well as between color and black-and-white, aided by Marclay’s whimsical notions of continuity…

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More on “Telephones” here; and on Marclay, here.

And as a bonus, this from burgerfiction.com:

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* Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary


As we check caller ID, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that Charles F. Jenkins was the first to use city telephone lines to transmit a facsimile photo from 1519 Connecticut Ave in Washington, D.C. to the U.S. Navy Radio Station NOF at Anacostia– a demonstration for representatives of U.S.Navy and the Post Office Dept.  (Earlier in the year, on June 11, a photograph had been sent by radio across the Atlantic from Rome to Bar Harbor, Maine.)

Jenkins is better remembered as a pioneer of early cinema and one of the inventors of television– he racked up over 400 patents, mostly in those fields– and as the recipient of the first commercial television license.



Written by LW

October 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

“If you want to use television to teach somebody, you must first teach them how to use television”*…


One day in the mid-1970s, my mother received an offer she couldn’t refuse. She’d been contacted at random by a now-defunct television rating service (not Nielsen, which still records the nation’s tastes): Would our household like to participate in a socially important project?

Justice and fairness were my mother’s favorite concepts; freebies, her ultimate weakness. That meant yes, we did want to participate. The rating service promised that our viewing habits would help shape the national television landscape. Presuming our superiority was a habit my mother had long indulged, and she believed we could lead the way for the nation—by providing an example of responsible viewership and even saving some underdog programs with our attention. Having married an underdog, and being in the process of mothering several, she decided that covert boosterism of one show or another within our general viewing patterns would provide moral satisfaction and a sound contribution.

But her motives were not entirely noble…

You’ll laugh; you’ll cry…  but mostly you’ll laugh: How to be the top-rated television-viewing family in America– “Our Imaginary Brother Only Watches PBS.”

* Umberto Eco


As we game the ratings, we might recall that it was on this date in 1954 that The Miss America Pageant was televised for the first time.  The winner, Lee Meriwether, went, immediately after passing on her tiara, to The Today Show (as a “Today Girl”).  She subsequently appeared on TV series ranging from Leave It To Beaver and Dr. Kildare to The Fugitive and Barnaby Jones.  She also appeared in a number of films, probably most notably as the replacement for Julie Newmar as “Catwoman” in the 1966 Batman movie spun off of the successful TV series of the time.

Trading one tiara for another…



Written by LW

September 11, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Animation is not the art of drawings that move but the art of movements that are drawn”*…


Via Io9, news of your correspondent’s alma mater, Colossal Pictures

We don’t know just how long MTV has been releasing old Liquid TV shorts on their website, but what we do know is that this news is pure, uncut awesome. After years of watching crummy youtubes of the most f-ed up cartoons and shorts ever made, MTV has finally decided to release all the contents of Liquid Television online. Which means, all the Psycho-Grams and Winter Steele episodes you want!

So many wonderful things came from this late night animation and puppet variety show: Æon Flux, Beavis and Butt-Head, heaps of They Might Be Giants music videos, and more. It was just solid crazy-person programming…

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Hours of fun at Liquid Television.

* Norman McLaren


As we color outside the lines, we might recall that it was on this date in 1929 that Walt Disney released El Terrible Toreador, the second cartoon (following the epic The Skeleton Dance) in the Silly Symphony series (which, unlike Disney’s other consistently character-themed series, like Mickey Mouse, had no continuing characters; rather they were whimsical accompaniments to pieces of music– in the case of El Terrible Toreador, a snatch of Carmen).

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Written by LW

September 7, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Once a culture becomes entirely advertising friendly, it ceases to be a culture at all”*…


Local commercials — those gems of advertising offering sincere pledges of service and strange visuals seemingly inspired by bath salts — didn’t disappoint this year. These ads find a special place in culture and memory with catchy songs, dated graphics and grainy film. So without further ado, revel in the cheesy glory of summer 2015’s bad local ads. If you’re lucky, you might run into one of these local celebrities at the grocery store (or the dog park).

Talking dogs, bombastic lawyers, and more– from Ad Age, “The Best of 2015’s Bad Local Ads (So Far).”

* Mark Crispin Miller


As we reach for the remote, we might send archetypal birthday greetings to Carl Gustav Jung; he was born on this date in 1875.  A psychiatrist and psychotherapist, he founded the practice of Analytic Psychotherapy. His concepts of the archetype, the collective unconscious, the complex, and extraversion and introversion were widely influential in psychology, but also in philosophy, anthropology, archaeology, literature, and religious studies… and might give readers who viewed the spots at the link above reason for introspection.



Written by LW

July 26, 2015 at 1:01 am

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