The original Disney-produced TV series Zorro (starring Guy Williams) ran from 1957-59, but a decade after its debut on ABC it still had life in reruns. This ad for the show ran in 1967 and shows us that it was airing on WKYT-TV (channel 27) out of Lexington, Kentucky. The station started out as a CBS affiliate, switched to ABC in 1958, and moved back to CBS in 1968.
Science fiction props, artifacts, and ephemera are very easy to find on auction sites although they can often be expensive to obtain. And one of the great sources of cool stuff is Star Trek. So today I have a set of behind-the-scenes photographs taken on the set of Star Trek in 1966.
Most of these pictures feature Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, although we also get appearances from Capt. Kirk and Mr. Sulu. Based on some of the props seen in these shots, I’m guessing at least some of them were taken during the filming of “The Galileo Seven,” which aired in January 1967. Look for the pictures of Spock with the giant spear and Yeoman Mears (Phyllis Douglas) fending off one of the ape-like creatures of Taurus II.
In the 1950s there were two genres that ruled the TV and radio airwaves — space adventures and westerns. One of the most popular space-themed shows was Space Patrol, which aired on ABC from 1950 through 1955. Kids not only loved Space Patrol and the adventures of Commander-in-Chief Buzz Corry (Ed Kemmer) and his crew, they wanted to be like them too.
And so we come to this charming little nugget from television’s golden age, as Commander Corry tells kids how they can make their very own Desert Crash Helmet from household parts.
Notice the part where he holds up a picture featuring an article in the August 1953 issue of Woman’s Day that tells you which parts to use.
That looks pretty nifty, huh? I bet you’d like to see what that looks like in color, right? Well here you go!
(via Flickr user pcarsola)
Man, they just don’t things like this for kids anymore do they?
But wait! In that very same issue of Woman’s Day is another set of instructions; this one for a pair of Captain Video emergency helmets.
(via Flickr user pcarsola)
Personally I think the Captain Video helmets are cooler.
I’ve been clean for several years, but at one time I was a hardcore Weather Channel junkie. From the late ’80s through about the mid-1990s, I watched the Weather Channel more in one week than I watched most other channels in a year. And so it makes me just a little bit sad to see what has become of my once-favorite TV destination. Instead of the sober, lo-tech and slightly geeky take on weather that the network used to specialize, we now have a cesspool of lame reality programming and ugly public disputes with cable providers.
But it was not always so. When it was launched in May 1982, the Weather Channel had one mission and one mission only — to broadcast the weather. Sounds so simple, how could it possibly work? Because the internet is so awesome, we have footage from TWC’s first day on the air. (Head to the 15:10 mark to witness cutting-edge TV weather graphic production.)
Warning: Severe weather/Weather Channel geekery to follow. This is one of those things you either get or just shake your head over.
My love affair with the Weather Channel began some time in the late 1980s, judging by the dates on the clips and images shown on the outstanding TWC Classics website. Although I already was keenly interested in weather and meteorology from about the age of 7, that turned into a straight up obsession thanks to TWC. During the summer especially — when I was home from school — I kept it on almost all the time, even if it was just background noise.
Not only was I genuinely interested in the weather content, I just found everything about the station so… soothing. I’ve recently read a description of old-school TWC as “TV valium” and I agree with that, in the best way possible.
For several years I felt like I had a connection with the station’s on-camera meteorologists, whose names and faces I still recall easily and with some fondness. In no particular order, some of them were…
The lovely Jill Brown…
Jim Cantore (with hair!)…
Jeanetta Jones and her rockin’ hair…
and the king of hurricanes, John Hope (seen here with Charlie Welsh).
But I didn’t watch just for the on-air personalities, no sir. TWC also ran charming little segments on how to fix up and improve things around your home. One that sticks in my memory years later is this one with Marny Stanier, who explains why you should run your ceiling fan all year long.
And here’s Marny shilling for Kraft cheese. Yummy!
Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of TWC for me was the music. The network got somewhat of a bad reputation as a clearinghouse for bad smooth jazz and cheesy canned jingles — usually included as part of their local forecasts that I watched thousands of times — but that’s unfair. If they gave me absolutely nothing else, the Weather Channel was responsible for introducing me to one of my favorite all-time songs — “Last Train Home” by the Pat Metheny Group — in one of their Travel Forecast segments.
During the late 1990s, as I flamed out of my college meteorology program and my passion for weather died down, so too did my interest in the Weather Channel. Not helping things was how the network got slicker and slicker over the years, and began to stray further from its core mission. The death knell for me and many other fans was when the channel was acquired by NBC in 2008. To watch the station now is to see it bear precious little resemblance to the charming, calming signpost it represented on the dial 20+ years ago.
Luckily, we longtime fans are not without anything to remember the good days by. Sites like TWC Classics or YouTube’s wxretro, hookecho80, and theweatherchazz channels have hours upon hours of great footage from the days when the Weather Channel aimed to inform and educate rather than entertain and titillate.
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In which we journey into the distant entertainment past, through the magic of old radio shows preserved on vinyl…
The sun set on the Golden Age of Radio roughly two decades before I was even born. By the 1970s, the warm glow of the living room radio dial had long been washed out in a cathode ray bath. I’m not going to lie and say that I feel I missed out on a special time in American entertainment — I’m more of a classic TV man — I have to admit there is something compelling about what is now known as Old-Time Radio.
So, inspired by a recent 75th anniversary broadcast of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, I decided to blow the dust off a radio time machine I’ve had for years — my six-record collection called Jack Benny Presents the Treasury of Golden Memories of Radio. It was issued in 1969 on the Longines Symphonette Recording Symphony label.
Over the course of twelve vinyl sides, Benny narrates the listener through some of radio’s biggest performers and moments. The first side, which I’m presenting today, kicks off with a violin solo and series introduction from the man himself. It then spends its remaining time highlighting some of the best comedy old time radio had to offer.
The first clip we hear is from Fibber McGee & Molly, specifically the timeless sound effect gag of Fibber’s hall closet spilling its crammed contents all over the place. The idea behind running this first is to acquaint — or reacquaint depending on your age — the notion that radio relied on the listener’s imagination for its potency. The implication, of course, was that it wasn’t as lazy as TV tended to be.
Up next is a clip of Benny and his wife, Mary Livingstone, cracking wise on Bing Crosby’s Philco Radio Time show. My research indicates that this show was broadcast on March 26, 1947. Philco Radio Time debuted in October ’46 and ran for almost three years and just over 100 episodes.
The comedy continues with a choice segment from the legendary George Burns and Gracie Allen. I don’t really get the references in this bit — I had never heard of Charles Boyer — and personally I find the Crosby segment to be funnier, but it’s still a gas to hear the pair at work.
After a brief memorial mention of the recently deceased Eddie Cantor, the remainder of side 1 is a bit from the Amos ‘n’ Andy, that most popular and controversial show. Putting the issue of period racism aside for a moment, the jokes come easy and land well. I think this and the Philco Radio Time segment were the two strongest on this side, which is no easy feat considering how much more quickly comedy ages as opposed to drama.
In Part 2, we’ll sample daytime radio (aka the Soaps) and a host of vintage commercials. You know I’m always down for classic ads, so it should be a treat!
It’s a well-worn cliche by this point, but “the more things change, the more they stay the same” is just so appropriate for what I’m sharing with you today. It’s an article called “Program Monotony — Top 40 Menace to Industry, Says D.J.,” and it’s from the October 27, 1958 issue of Billboard magazine (known then as The Billboard). Click on the article for a larger version if you want to read the whole thing.
In the piece, a popular DJ based out of Hartford, CT named George “Hound Dog” Lorenz laments the rise of the Top 40 radio format, with its lack of variety and its potential to harm record sales and squash new artists.
One of his first complaints was probably valid then — I wouldn’t know — and is certainly valid now. “A lot of the stations are programming 24 hours a day with no more than 50 records. Maybe that’s okay, but when it’s the same records every day for a week and they change only 10 or so a week, then it begins to get pretty monotonous,” he said.
I can get on board with that. But until the rise of the iPod and ready access to your own music library, there was a good reason the limited-playlist format was used — it was profitable. I can see why it would suck as a DJ, but it made business sense.
Now, finally, after decades of dominance we’re seeing a major shift in listening habits. I don’t have hard numbers on ratings or anything like that, but I can confidently assert that Top 40 radio certainly no longer has the cultural importance it once did.
Elsewhere, Lorenz basically says that the Top 40 chart game was rigged, and based mostly on the personal preferences of program directors or deejays. He also claimed that record sales are hurt because of the Top 40 format when he said, “I find out from one dealer that he hasn’t sold 20 copies of [a Top 10 record]. Why? He tells me, ‘Do you think any kid is going to buy what he can hear on the radio till it’s coming out of his ears?'”
Sound like a familiar debate now? Just replace “Top 40” with “YouTube” or “streaming music services.”
Lorenz moves on to assert that new recording artists no longer stand a chance of getting wider exposure because they can’t break through the monolithic, hit-heavy playlists of radio. I understand where he’s coming from, but was it really any different in the early ’50s or late ’40s? It stands to reason that new performers in any field — pop music, radio, books — are going to have the odds stacked against them because relying on proven winners is more profitable. I’ll call this one a wash.
Finally, Lorenz makes his boldest claim: “I can tell you that the Top 40 stations, to say the least, aren’t helping [the singles market] any. I repeat, they’re helping to kill it for everybody. Elvis Presley’s “King Creole” EP has appeared on very few of those fancy lists. Yet it has sold close to a million. If anything kills Presley, it’ll probably be the charts.”
For the record, the King Creole soundtrack LP peaked at #2 in the U.S. and #4 in the U.K. There were two EPs of the same name in 1958 and they both hit #1. Although he stopped being white hot he still scored Top 10 singles all the way through 1970.
Sometimes I know that a post I’m putting together is destined to get 20 views if I’m lucky. But I have to follow my muse wherever she may lead me, and today she leads me to TV newsrooms across the country.
I can’t say exactly why, but I find these old advertisements for network TV news programs to be just so… quaint? Charming? I don’t quite know how to put it. I just love how much these ads convey what it must have been like to watch the news back in the day — not slick in the least. Just a bunch of square white men (and sometimes white women) reading the day’s events.
And now the news of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s…