Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekend Videos – Inspiration Is Where You Find It

I have mostly restored my computer after reinstalling Vista (twice – I made a mistake in naming my primary account the first time I reinstalled and my files didn't go to the right place when I restored the back-up) but that doesn't explain why I'm posting this late Sunday-early Monday. No, for that you have to blame lack of inspiration. My first intention was to take inspiration from the song Video Killed The Radio Star; an examination of radio performers whose careers transitioned from what we now refer to as Old Time Radio, and a few who didn't (Fred Allen being the biggest name of all) but quite frankly it just didn't feel right. Next up was the idea of looking at the four Warner Brothers detective shows that debuted at the end of the 1950s – 77 Sunset Strip, Bourbon Street Beat, Hawaiian Eye, and Surfside 6 – inspired by the news that one of the shows likely to be picked up next season is Law & Order LA, because of course law enforcement and prosecution in Los Angeles is so different from law enforcement and prosecution in New York. The idea was of course that this idea of putting basically the same show on with different locations is hardly original with Law & Order or even CSI. The problem was that there is a depressing lack of YouTube clips from most of the shows. There was only a short clip from 77 Sunset Strip that was shown here earlier, three clips from Surfside 6 that features none of the cast members, and a few seconds from Bourbon Street Beat in a compilation of 1959 TV show themes. The only thing that is available in relative abundance is clips from Hawaiian Eye. So that wasn't going to work out.

For a while I thought that I wasn't going to be able to do a video post but then, on Sunday afternoon I came upon this post from Mark Evanier. It references another post from The Mad Blog about an illustration that legendary comic book artist and illustrator Jack Davis had done for NBC to promote their1965 TV season in TV Guide. The work in question was a five part extravaganza (at least) pieced together by the person who posted the image (I have to say that it was badly put together, not only missing the Sunday night shows but also pushing some of the pages together so that it was bard if not impossible to read some of the entries, but that's not the point here). So the obvious answer to my problem was to find material related to the 1965 TV season... like one or more of those network preview shows that the networks always aired at the start of the season. Unfortunately none of those seems to exist. What does exist is the longer than normal for YouTube clip shown here, a preview of NBC's new entertainment shows done for NBC employees and advertising clients, hosted by Don Adams in character as Maxwell Smart. The show is rather funny, in spite of the laugh track, but you can see why it wouldn't be particularly attractive to as a way to introduce the new shows to the general public. It certainly wasn't shot on the best film stock available.

Adams makes a big deal of the fifteen new shows on NBC the most new shows on the network, as Adams puts it, since 1588. I'm not sure that this is something that they really ought to be bragging about since it's indicative of a major problem the season before. And I believe that this would be an accurate assessment. On most nights only one program from the previous season survived from the 1964-65 season. Still the 1965-66 season on NBC would be a turning point of sorts. While most of the shows that Adams enthused about would be gone by the end of the season, there were some stand-outs like Get Smart, The Dean Martin Show, I Dream Of Jeannie, and Run For Your Life. Other shows had long service in reruns. Laredo ran for a long time on the Lonestar cable channel in Canada practically from the beginning of the channel until after most of the other western content was abandoned and the station became Movietime. Even the most monumental failure was memorable, if not necessarily for the right reasons. My Mother the Car is generally regarded as one of the worst shows ever to air... but it ran a full season. In fact the only show that NBC started the 1965 season with that didn't last for a full season was the World War II naval adventure Convoy; it was the last NBC series shot in Black & White (to take advantage of World War II archival footage) and a number of network affiliates refused to air the show.

I have distinct memories of a number of these shows, including some of the more obscure shows that didn't necessarily show up often in syndication. Wackiest Ship In The Army, based on the movie of the same name was a show that I have vague memories of. Although it is generally regarded as a comedy, I remember it as having more than a little bit of a dramatic/adventure edge to it. Certainly it wasn't a "typical" service comedy. Please Don't Eat The Daisies is another show that I have vaguer memories of. I remember it as having been a fairly conventional domestic comedy in a sea of comedies that were filled with gimmicks, like girls who appeared in a puff of smoke. It was pleasant but I can't really say that I remember too much about it beyond the very large dog and the house. On the other hand I do remember Hank, the show about a teenager who was forced to try to support his younger sister through a series of – very – odd jobs but was still determined to get a higher education even if he wasn't registered (or paying) for college classes. For some reason I remember Hank airing as a summer series, but maybe that was how my local station chose to run the show. Whatever the truth was I remember the lengths to which Hank would go to attend classes. There was a warmth to the show as well.

I can't say that I've seen examples of most of the new NBC shows of 1965. I don't recall ever having seen an episode of Run For Your Life despite the fact that the show ran for three seasons. It is as much a mystery to me as the short-lived Convoy or Camp Runamuck. Of course I'm not sure that I've really missed anything by not seeing the TV version of Mister Roberts or The John Forsythe Show (particularly given the way that the show changed at mid-season from a comedy about a career officer inheriting a girls school, to a cut rate spy comedy). On the other hand a somewhat older version of me would have probably appreciated Juliet Prowse, so maybe not seeing Mona McClusky was a bit of a loss.

Anyway here's Don Adams with NBC's 1965 programs.

Update: Here is a much better version of the original Jack Davis artwork that inspire this, complete with the missing Sunday shows.


Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Here in the States, Ted Turner created a station dubbed Turner South--which he used to telecast many of the Atlanta Braves games and force the cable companies to carry in order to appease their customers. As such, it became a repository for some of the TV properties still owned by M-G-M, and I remember seeing quite a few reruns of Please Don't Eat the Daisies as a result. It's a passable if innocuously bland time-killer, with more red-headed kids than you can shake a stick at--and the house was pretty amazing, too.

Anonymous said...

That was great - thanks - now I know how old I was when I watched "My Mother the Car". It's a surreal experience - seeing these things after 40 years.