Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert At the Movies

RIP Roger Ebert (1942 – 2013)

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert At the Movies

Better writers than I will doubtless be weighing in shortly on the passing of legendary film critic Roger Ebert. It would probably be a waste of your (and my) time to try and add my own paltry two cents. So instead I want to remember Roger and his old partner Gene Siskel in happier days, on the set of their timeless syndicated review program At the Movies. These outtakes represent the unique bond and vicious senses of humor the two shared.

Warning: This is definitely not for the easily offended.

Procter & Gamble Daytime Soap Opera Promo Artwork (1981)

Vintage Daytime Soap Opera Promotional Artwork (1981)

I don’t even like soap operas, especially the daytime variety, but this 1981 promotional image from Procter & Gamble Productions was too cool not to share. It features six P&G soap opera title cards from the 1981-82 television season, which aired on the three major broadcast networks. They are Search for Tomorrow, Another World, Texas, The Edge of Night, As the World Turns, and Guiding Light.

Procter & Gamble Daytime Soap Opera Promo Artwork (1981)

A few of these I had never heard of, and now I know why. Texas only aired from 1980 to 1982, while The Edge of Night went off the air in 1984. Only As the World Turns and Guiding Light lasted into the 21st century.

Speaking of that last one, my buddy Jeff Giles from Popdose is working on what is sure to be a great book for GL fans, called Llanview in the Afternoon: An Oral History of One Life to Live. It’s not available for sale yet, but you can check out the Facebook page for the project to find out when it is.

Name That Tune Control Box - NBC

Cool Stuff: Name That Tune Control Box from NBC

Here’s a really cool piece of vintage TV technology I came across. It’s the control box from the NBC game show Name That Tune, which aired on the network from 1952-1954, 1974-75, and 1977. The auction for this box claims it’s from the ’50s version of the show, which I suppose is possible, except for one thing that contradicts that. See if you can guess what it is.

Name That Tune Control Box - NBC

This certainly looks simple enough to be from the 1950s, but a few things make me think it’s from the ’70s. The first is the faux wood grain DYMO label tape, which I don’t think was around in the ’50s.

But mostly, that NBC logo on the “Made by NBC Electric Shop” label looks newer. Unless this was used internally for a few decades before the public saw it, it’s most definitely from the ’70s. In fact, that trapezoid N rolled out officially on January 1, 1976.

Either way, this is way cool.

For more auction finds, click here.

Vintage 1950s RCA Color Television Camera

Check Out This Vintage 1950s RCA Color Television Camera

Vintage 1950s RCA Color Television Camera

The RCA TK-40/41 is considered to be the first color television camera. It began production in late 1953 and was produced in greater quantity in 1954. This particular camera (MI-40534) was made in 1954 and bought by WBAP (later KXAS) of Fort Worth, the first television station in Texas (debuted in 1948). Outfitted with three lenses, it is a live pick-up camera used to separate a color image into its primary red, blue, and green component images and convert them into signals required for the RCA color television system.

Beginning with The Colgate Comedy Hour on November 22, 1953 these cameras were in wide use at TV networks and affiliate studios, as well as independent TV production facilities through the 1960s. Notice the sweet CBS period logo, which actually hasn’t changed that much, and a smaller red RCA logo.

Here’s another image of the same camera, with all sorts of camera guts on display. I think I see big transistors or capacitors, or whatever they are. What do I know, I can barely operate my remote control.

Vintage 1950s RCA Color Television Camera

For more auction finds, click here.

Battle of the CHiPs TV Theme Songs!

CHiPs Emergency Medical Kit

Yesterday I posted an image on my Facebook page of an old CHiPs Emergency Medical Kit toy, and we all had fun with it. I’m not sure why a medical kit is a relevant toy for a show about motorcycle cops, but whatever.

But it got me to thinking about an age-old question. Of the two main theme songs CHiPs used over the course of its six-season run, which is the better one? I know what my answer is, but I need to know what you think. For reference, here are the choices. Both were written by John Parker, by the way.

Here’s the intro used for season 1, which is fairly close to what was used for the pilot episode as well. It was also used on occasion in later seasons.

CHiPs season-6 with 1977 theme by deadsnake

As you can hear, we’ve got a bit of a laid back mariachi thing going on here. I very much dig the trumpet solo.

Here’s the version used from season two through season six, arranged by Alan Silvestri.

CHiPs Intro & Theme Season Two by dm_50aac3e3c0987

This is the version most people probably remember, and I would classify it as Disco Funk. It moves along at a much more urgent pace, and of course there’s that bass line.

So there you are, two great choices. Voting is taking place now on the GFS Facebook page, so let your voice be heard!

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KDOC’s New Year’s Eve Show Goes Wrong in the Funniest Way Possible

KDOC First Night New Year's Eve 2013 (Macy Gray)

Macy Gray, looking and sounding dignified as usual.

(Note 1/4/13: KDOC has compounded their excellent decision-making by getting the original video pulled. As long as people keep posting replacement copies I’ll keep sharing.)

We all know that live TV is a risky proposition these days, especially on New Year’s Eve. The hosts are amped up and the crowd — usually drunk — is at best wildly unpredictable. Why, not even a respected cable new outlet like CNN is immune from things getting out of hand a little bit (thanks Kathy Griffin).

So how is it that KDOC-TV out of Los Angeles could not predict that their live New Year’s Eve broadcast featuring Jamie Kennedy, Stu Stone, Macy Gray, and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony would go completely off the rails? It was supposed to be a First Night 2013 event, meaning no alcohol, but I challenge you to find one person involved in this train wreck who wasn’t three sheets to the wind. Watch this clip for six-plus minutes of bad production, profanity, general cluelessness on the part of the hosts and performers, and of course crowd members who even Maury Povich wouldn’t touch.

Keep in mind that everything in this video was broadcast live, and that Carl’s Jr. paid for it.

So let’s recap. Jamie Kennedy should never be allowed to produce or host a television show again, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony cares not for the FCC, Macy Gray probably hasn’t had a sober moment in about 12 years, getting rid of haters is a valid New Year’s resolution, and there is no better way to ring in 2013 than by fighting. You stay classy Los Angeles!

Vintage VHS Commercial Bonanza, Part 4 (feat. Quaker Corn Bran, Cella Winery, and A&P)

Here’s the second half of the commercial break from the 1982 WABC-TV airing of Von Ryan’s Express that I started in this post.

This classic Quaker Corn Bran spot stars a very young Danny Pintauro, who you know best as Jonathan Bower, Tony Danza’s son from Who’s the Boss?

I really don’t remember seeing these Fussy Customer ads, which appeared to basically be for a group of car dealers in the New Jersey area. But I dig the quaint music and animated birds.

That’s Indiana-born James Manis as Aldo Cella, with his famous “Chill-a-Cella” catchphrase.

Oh yeah, vintage A&P with the green smocks and red jackets! It’s hard to remember now, but for many years A&P was not just the biggest supermarket chain in America, it was one of the biggest retailers period. From a high of about 16,000 locations in the ’30s, the post-bankruptcy A&P now operates just over 300.

Kayla Harrison, U.S. Judo Gold Medal Winner

Summing Up My Thoughts on the London 2012 Summer Olympics

Kayla Harrison, U.S. Judo Gold Medal Winner

Do you know who this? Thanks to NBC, probably not. She’s Kayla Harrison, America’s first-ever gold medalist in judo. But she doesn’t swim, so you probably missed it.

Over the last several days of the 2012 Summer Olympics, I was struck by the feeling I get when I visit family out of state for long trips. There’s the planning, the buildup and anticipation, and then the big day comes. I’m finally reunited for the first time in awhile, and it feels great. But then, as the days march on the newness of the experience gives way to a creeping feeling of anxiousness. By the end, even if the trip has gone well, I can’t wait to be back home and back to my daily routine.

In much the same way, I couldn’t wait for the London Games to be over even though I eagerly anticipated them for several months earlier this year. I dutifully plopped myself in front of the TV for the prime time package most nights, and even checked out several live events on the internet, but I could feel my enthusiasm flag after the second weekend. By last Wednesday or so I had had enough. I just wanted it to be over.

But in mulling things over while the quite mediocre Jesse J took a huge crap all over the closing ceremonies, I think my problem was not so much with the Olympics as with NBC’s Olympics. And to be sure, those are two totally separate things.

The Olympics are a celebration of sport and a rare opportunity for nations from all over the globe to compete and share some truly incredible experiences. NBC’s Olympics are a prepackaged entertainment extravaganza designed to stoke base patriotism and increase profit margins. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I love America as much as the next red-blooded patriot and I certainly love seeing our athletes do well. But the almost exclusive focus on American athletes and their “incredible” stories is so monotonous as to defy description.

If you used NBC’s evening coverage of the Olympics as your source of knowledge about the games, you would probably assume the following:

  • The only events of any importance involve gymnastics, swimming, and running.
  • But with the last two, only short or medium distances.
  • If there’s no chance for an American (or one or two hand-picked non-American attractions) to win a medal, that event doesn’t exist.
  • Even if an American does do well, an event doesn’t exist if it isn’t easily understood or explainable by Ryan Seacrest.

2014 Winter Olympics (Sochi, Russia) logo

I know these aren’t unique observations, but they stood out to me the most over the last several days. And since I’m ruminating, I’d like to add that there is entirely too much coverage devoted to running. There’s no reason for suffering through one qualifying heat after another –unless something outrageous occurs — at the expense of so many other sports.

All that said, I’m already getting a little antsy for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. As I get older I realize that I care much more about the Winter Olympics than the Summer Olympics anyway. For one, the events are usually much more entertaining and there aren’t so many of them. And for another, I like that the United States has their work cut out for them a little more. Makes things more interesting.

Also, you can’t discount the weather factor. February in New Jersey is usually pretty lousy, so I’m much more content to stay inside and watch TV. It also helps me deal with the post-Super Bowl doldrums.

But hey, maybe I’ll feel differently when the Rio games roll around in 2016. But I don’t see it happening. Not if NBC is running the show again.