Posts in Category: Broadcast History

October 1950…FCC Approves CBS Color System, RCA Goes To Court

October 1950…FCC Approves CBS Color System, RCA Goes To Court

At the link below is the October 14, 1950 Billboard Magazine, which is a fantastic walk down memory lane, but notice the two stories at that bottom of page 3. This is where the color feud between CBS and NBC/RCA started. It was one of many feuds between the two.

This is one of 4 retro-fitted RCA TK30 black and white cameras CBS used in their Field Sequential color process. Notice the spinning color wheel behind the lens turret. -Bobby Ellerbee


October 9, 1986…’The Late Show With Joan Rivers’ Debuts On Fox

October 9, 1986…’The Late Show With Joan Rivers’ Debuts On Fox

Here is the rare video of that first show with David Lee Roth, Pee Wee Herman, Elton John and Cher. In the story, some surprises I had never known about till now. Read on!

We all know that the Fox announcement of the show caught Johnny Carson by surprise and caused him never to speak with Joan again, BUT…as you will see, Rivers had some pretty good reasons for playing her cards close to her chest.

Rivers had been Carson’s permanent guest host since 1983, and as 1986 neared, some executives at NBC thought it was possible that Johnny Carson would retire after reaching his 25th anniversary on October 1, 1987, as it was such a logical cut-off point. In the spring of 1986, a confidential memo went out to top NBC executives listing about 10 possible replacements in the event of Carson’s retirement. Rivers was shocked to see that she was not on the list.

In an article she wrote for People Magazine, Rivers said that NBC offered her only a one year contract in 1985 as permanent guest host while Carson’s contract had been renewed for two years, which signaled to her that her future was uncertain as her previous one year contracts had run the same length as Carson’s. In addition, Rivers noted numerous snubs from NBC executives over the years, such as not being invited to the annual Carson party until recently, and taking the fall for a controversial joke that management approved during rehearsal.

Rivers had received higher-paying offers from other networks in prior years but declined them out of her loyalty to Carson, but in 1986 as NBC was unwilling to give assurances on her future and negotiations were fruitless, this was the impetus for Rivers to seriously consider the Fox offer.

Fox was looking for a host for a late-night talk show for the network’s launch in October 1986 and offered Rivers the job at a salary higher than what NBC was paying. She accepted, and Carson was blindsided by the news when he saw the press conference on television.

Carson was furious and said that he felt betrayed by Rivers – not because she dared to compete with him, but because she was not honest with him beforehand about her intentions and did not ask him for advice and his blessing.

For her part, Rivers was adamant that her problem was with NBC and not with Carson, who was like a father figure to her. She stated that she didn’t want to tell Carson before the announcement was made because she was afraid Fox would cancel the deal if word leaked out. She had previously been ordered by Carson’s producers and lawyers not to go to him with her problems, as they kept Carson completely insulated since he was a major source of NBC profits. Carson had been completely unaware of Rivers’ problems with NBC.
-Bobby Ellerbee Part 1 Part 2

Here is the part 1 of the premiere of “The Late Show with Joan Rivers”, as broadcast on October 9, 1986. Joining Joan are guests David Lee Roth, Pee Wee Herm…


How Football Officials Knew When To Call A “TV TIME OUT”

How Football Officials Know When To Call A “TV TIME OUT”

How NFL TV Timeouts Were Handled Early On…

Back in the 50s and 60s, televised pro football had what were called “hat men” on the sidelines. They were connected by headphone to the director and here, from the Washington Evening Star, is an October 8, 1963 article on what their job was. Thanks to Maureen Carney for the image. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


Covering College Football…ABC Sports, October 4, 1975

Covering College Football…ABC Sports, October 4, 1975

With the season in full swing, it’s time to replay this best ever look at how 60 men brought 30 million viewers these great games every Saturday. “Second’s To Play” is presented here in two 15 minute segments with the links below.

This is the most extensive look you’ll ever get of how ABC Sports crews covered the games in this era. Norelco PC 70s are in use, and our friend Don “Peaches” Langford is on the sidelines with the 49 pound Norelco PCP 90 hand held. Enjoy and SHARE! -Bobby Ellerbee Part 1 Part 2


October 8, 1948…NBC’s WNBQ TV In Chicago Signs On

October 8, 1948…NBC’s WNBQ TV In Chicago Signs On

Thanks to long time WMAQ staff member Edward Dabrowsky, and a few others, here are some great shots from times gone by.

The station signed on October 8, 1948, as WNBQ, the last of Chicago’s four commercial VHF stations to launch. WNBQ is also the third of the five original NBC owned-and-operated stations to begin operations, after New York City and Washington and before Cleveland and Los Angeles. Eight years later, it became the first station in the world to broadcast all of its programs in color.

Though NBC had long owned WMAQ radio, it did not change the TV station’s call letters to WMAQ-TV until August 31, 1964.

WMAQ-TV originated several programs for the NBC television network from its studios in the Merchandise Mart during the 1950s, including Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, featuring Burr Tillstrom and Fran Allison; Garroway at Large, starring Dave Garroway; and “Studs’ Place,” hosted by Studs Terkel. Television critics referred to the broadcasts – often low-budget with few celebrity guests but a good deal of inventiveness – as examples of the “Chicago School of Television.”

WMAQ-TV gained fame for its newscasts during the 1960s, anchored by Floyd Kalber, John Palmer, Jim Ruddle, and Jorie Luelof. Though its role as a program provider to NBC diminished in the 1960s, WMAQ-TV gathered and distributed more than 200 feeds per month of news footage from overseas and the central United States to NBC News.


Memory Lane…Debut Ads For Some Of TV’s Most Memorable Shows

Memory Lane…Debut Ads For Some Of TV’s Most Memorable Shows

Thanks to Maureen Carney, here are some classic newspaper ads for the debuts of some shows that went on to make history. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee


October 7, 1960…Second Kennedy-Nixon Debate, NBC Washington

October 7, 1960…Second Kennedy-Nixon Debate, NBC Washington

These are newly found photos of the second debate between Senator Kennedy and Vice President Nixon at NBC’s WRC-TV.

As you will see in the video, linked below, the moderator was NBC’s Frank McGee, and panel of questioners included Edward Morgan from ABC, Paul Niven from CBS, Alvin Spivak from UPI, and Hal Levy from Newsday. All four debates were simulcast live on all three networks’ radio and television stations.

The first debate was at WBBM in Chicago and hosted by CBS on September 26. The third was hosted by ABC with Kennedy at WABC in New York and Nixon at KABC in Los Angeles on October 13. On October 21, the fourth and final debate was hosted by ABC in New York. -Bobby Ellerbee


October 5, 1969…”Monty Python’s Flying Circus” Debuts On BBC

October 5, 1969…”Monty Python’s Flying Circus” Debuts On BBC

How did one of the most beloved comedy shows of all time come to be? After hearing how the pitch went, it’s hard to believe that the show ever came to be…but it did! At 4 minutes into this fun trip down memory lane, John Cleese tells the story. SPAM! -Bobby Ellerbee

Living legend John Cleese stops by to talk about his book “So, Anyway,” how he and his fellow Pythons pitched their show, and why fish are funny.


October 5, 1947…First Live Television Speech From The White House

October 5, 1947…First Live Television Speech From The White House

On this day in 1947, President Harry Truman became the first president to broadcast a speech live from the White House. The subject was food conservation, and Truman asked Americans to cut back on their use of grain in order to help starving Europeans. At the time, Europe was still recovering from World War II and suffering major shortages.

Although the majority of Americans did not see this live, because not many had a TV set, his speech signaled the start of a powerful and complex relationship between the White House and a medium that would have an enormous impact on the American presidency, from how candidates campaigned for the office to how presidents communicated with their constituents. Each of Truman’s subsequent White House speeches, including his 1949 inauguration address, was televised. In 1948, Truman was the first presidential candidate to broadcast a paid political ad.

Below, NBC’s WRC is shown providing TV pool coverage of the speech with CBS’s WTOP handling the radio pool. In those early pool days, coverage alternated between CBS and NBC, and both used unmarked cameras and microphones for these occasions. -Bobby Ellerbee


65 Years Ago Today…”The Honeymooners” Debut & Rare Images

65 Years Ago Today…”The Honeymooners” Debut & Rare Images

With Jackie Gleason as host of Dumont’s “Cavalcade Of Stars”, the first Honeymooners sketch was done, and the rest is history! The highlights of that early history is in my original article below. -Bobby Ellerbee

October 5, 1951…’The Honeymooners’ Debut…Ultra Rare Pix & Video

Before we get to some of the early history of ‘The Honeymooners’, let’s take a look at these very rare pictures and video. In the first photo, we see Jackie Gleason with Art Carney in a screenshot from the very first sketch done on this day in 1951. At that time, there was only Ralph and Alice, who was originally played by Pert Kelton. Carney played a policeman that Ralph had hit with a bag of flour he tossed out the apartment window in an argument with Alice.

The second photo shows the first time we see Norton’s wife Trixie who was originally played by Elaine Stritch, but only for one episode. In Stritch’s portrayal, Trixie’s character was a burlesque dancer, but Gleason changed his mind and made her a more believable housewife and brought in Joyce Randolph for that part. We’ll see her first appearance in the video.

In the video linked above, we see ‘The Honeymooners’ seventh ever appearance in a sketch called “The Ring Salesman” which aired on December 7, 1951. Alice is played by Pert Kelton and this is Joyce Randolph’s debut as Norton’s wife Trixie. This is the only the second time Trixie has appeared, but the first time, Elaine Stritch was in that role.

Now, to the origins of ‘The Honeymooners’. In July of 1950, Jackie Gleason took over as host of Dumont’s ‘Cavalcade Of Stars’. The original hosts were Jack Carter and then Jerry Lester with Morey Amsterdam filling in occasionally. By the middle of ’51 Gleason and his writing staff developed an idea for a sketch based on the popular radio show ‘The Bickersons’.

Gleason wanted a realistic portrayal of life for a poor husband and wife living in Brooklyn. The couple would fight almost constantly, but ultimately show their love for each other. After rejecting titles like The Beast, The Lovers, and The Couple Next Door, Gleason and his staff settled on ‘The Honeymooners’ for the name of the new sketch.

The debut sketch on October 5, 1951 was six-minutes and the tone of these early sketches was much darker than the later series, with Ralph exhibiting extreme bitterness and frustration with his marriage to an equally bitter and argumentative middle-aged woman. By the way, Kelton was nine years older than Gleason.

Due in part to the success of these sketches, ‘Cavalcade of Stars’ became a huge success for DuMont. It increased its audience share from nine to 25 percent. Gleason’s contract with DuMont expired in the summer of 1952, and the financially struggling network was unable to re-sign him. That’s when he moved to CBS and ‘The Jackie Gleason Show’ debuted September 20, 1952 from CBS Studio 50, now known as The Ed Sullivan Theater. The rest as they say is history! Enjoy and SHARE! -Bobby Ellerbee


October 4, 1976…Barbara Walters Co Anchors ABC Evening News

October 4, 1976…Barbara Walters Co Anchors ABC Evening News

40 years ago today, Walters became the first female anchor for a US network evening news program. On her move from NBC’s “Today” show, she was teamed with ABC anchorman Harry Reasoner and the sparks immediately started to fly!

This short clip goes directly to the heart of the conflict and includes footage from that first night. Morbid curiosity was the main reason most viewers tuned in, and after the first week, the ratings bump went away as the dysfunction on screen continued. -Bobby Ellerbee Walters interviews with Harry Smith and reveals her early ambitions of becoming an actress.


October 4, 1957…”Leave it to Beaver” Debuts On CBS

October 4, 1957…”Leave it to Beaver” Debuts On CBS

First, let me mention something VERY RARE at the start of this video. About 15 seconds in, in the MSNBC “Time And Again” intro, you will see an NBC network ID that I have only seen once before…it’s an RCA TK60 black and white camera in a motion much like that of the NBC color production logo with the TK41. This is similar to the ABC ID that was a slide of a TK60 in silhouette.

Now, with that out of the way, this the first of an eight part “Leave It To Beaver” retrospective hosted by Jane Pauley. All the other parts are on Youtube and this is quite good. The “Eddie Haskell” parts will surprise you. Enjoy and Share! -Bobby Ellerbee….more to come


October 4, 1975…The Missed Debut Date For “Saturday Night”

October 4, 1975…The Missed Debut Date For “Saturday Night”

As it turns out, “The Not Ready For Prime Time Players” were not even ready for late night television! Really! Here’s the story…

NBC’s new 90 minute, live comedy show “NBC Saturday Night” was scheduled to debut at 11:30 on October 4, 1975. The plane truth is, they just could not get the show ready in time for a number of reasons, with timing and blocking among the biggest hurdles to overcome.

Although Tom Snyder’s “Tomorrow” show was a one hour, Monday – Friday production, NBC called on him at the last minute to do special 90 minute Saturday show to cover the SNL hole in their schedule.

Fortunately, Jerry Lewis was in town and agreed to do the show. For the first 85 minutes, he was the single guest. The last five minutes were reserved for the introduction of the SNL cast and it’s producer Lorne Michaels.

In this clip, you will see the first ever network appearance of the original cast of “NBC Saturday Night”. The debut show was one week later, on October 11, with George Carlin as host. Enjoy and SHARE! -Bobby Ellerbee the first show had aired, a bunch of nobodies went on the Tomorrow Show to talk about this weird little show they were starting up – SNL.


October 4, 1956….”Playhouse 90″ Debuts On CBS

October 4, 1956….”Playhouse 90″ Debuts On CBS

This is how television’s most distinguished anthology series started. Although the weekly 90 minute series only ran for four years, it is still held as the gold standard for live television drama.

Jack Palance is the host of this debut show, but the next week, he would star in “Requiem For A Heavyweight” which won Emmys for Best Director (Ralph Nelson) and Best Teleplay (Rod Serling) as well as a Peabody Award.

This debut broadcast was done from Studio 31 at CBS Television City and was directed by the renown John Frankenheimer. The script written by Rod Serling was an adaptation of the book by Pat Frank. To relieve the pressure of producing four 90 minute live shows a month, every third week a filmed episode was aired.
In the comments section,

I have included a page of this first script that was used by John Frankenheimer. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

Director: John Frankenheimer ***** Stars: Charlton Heston, Vincent Price ,Richard Joy — Playhouse 90 is an American television anthology series that aired …


October 3, 1952…Television City Debuts 1 Day Before NBC Burbank

October 3, 1952…Television City Debuts 1 Day Before NBC Burbank

Both networks were working hard to finish their new west coast production facilities in the fall of 1952. When NBC announced in late September they had moved up their first broadcast date to October 4, a mad rush to finish CBS Studio 31 at Television City went into high gear, and on October 3, CBS broadcast “My Friend Irma” from there live. They were thrilled to beat NBC…even by one day.

In the photo, Studio 31 with the “Irma” set. In the foreground, the producers desk with the new master lighting console just behind it. Also shown here are tickets from what would be a wild weekend for TV audiences in Hollywood! -Bobby Ellerbee


October 3, 1961…”The Dick Van Dyke Show” Debuts On CBS

October 3, 1961…”The Dick Van Dyke Show” Debuts On CBS

If you compare photos of this show’s sets and layout to “I Love Lucy” stage photos, you’ll see that they are strikingly similar. Even today, filmed sitcoms adhere closely to this layout and 3 camera arrangement. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee


October 3, 1960…”The Andy Griffith Show” Debuts On CBS

October 3, 1960…”The Andy Griffith Show” Debuts On CBS

This is a very rare shot of the opening sequence being filmed in Los Angles. Go ahead…whistle the theme song…I know you know it. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee


October 3, 1955…”Captain Kangaroo” & “Mickey Mouse Club” Debut

October 3, 1955…”Captain Kangaroo” & “Mickey Mouse Club” Debut

What a great day for kids! One new morning show and one new afternoon show!

At the link above is the whole story of “The Mickey Mouse Club”…a 50 minute video, full of history and the story of how it came to be for ABC and Disney.

At CBS, Bob Keeshan (who started as an NBC page, but later became the original Clarabell on “Howdy Doody”), kicked off a show that would run almost 29 years. By the way, the “Captain Kangaroo” theme song, which we all know by heart, was actually a stock music track from Chappell Music called “Puffin Billy”, which was used from ’55 till ’74.

Below, a shot in from the early years in CBS Studio 54 at Leiderkranz Hall. 53 and 54 were the two smaller upstairs studios there at 111 East 58th Street, and were equipped with Dumont cameras. 55 and 56 were the two larger studios downstairs where the soap operas were done with RCA cameras.

Seen with the Captain is the show’s puppeteer Cosmo Allegretti, who animated Mr. Moose, Bunny Rabbit, Grandfather Clock, Dancing Bear, and more. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


Broadcast Legend Vin Scully’s Farewell Message

Broadcast Legend Vin Scully’s Farewell Message…

Yesterday, after 67 years behind the mic for the Dodger’s, it was time for the final game. Happy Trails Vin, and THANK YOU from baseball fans and broadcasters everywhere! -Bobby Ellerbee

“And now, all I can do is tell you what I wish for you.”


October 2, 1953…”Person To Person” Debuts With Technical Marvels

October 2, 1953…”Person To Person” Debuts With Technical Marvels
At the link above is some of the best of “Person To Person” with Edward R. Murrow in New York, and guests live, from all across the country.

By 1953, television had been using it’s new, two year old ability to reach from coast-to-coast in a number of unique ways, but none were more unique than the challenges this show brought.

It took a lot of planning and a three camera crew at each remote location to do this show, and many times, there were two guests on each show, from different locations. All live!

In Los Angeles, our friend George Sunga, was the Television City production manager, and had the responsibility of working out all the west coast interviews. Needless to say, it was quite a task, but that is something the viewing audience never noticed, as newsmakers from all over the US appeared seamlessly on screen with Mr. Murrow…usually. It would be interesting to hear some of the stories from these crews about the times is wasn’t so “seamless”.

More on the photos! Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee


The Kennedy-Nixon Debate Innovations

Soon after the passing of CBS great Don Hewitt, I got a note from my friend Steve Dichter with an interesting question and a photo, shown below. It’s a video capture from a 60 Minutes montage of Hewitt’s early work and introduces innovation number four, but first…innovations one, two and three.


Don Hewitt was the producer of the first of four Kennedy-Nixon debates that were broadcast nationwide on radio and television in 1960. He’s seen below with both men just before air at the WBBM-TV studios in Chicago. Although he “officially” produced only the first debate, I do think he consulted on the following three. But even if he didn’t, one of his creations was there for all four events.

CBS hosted the first debate in Chicago, NBC the second in New York, and ABC the third and fourth rounds. In debate three, Kennedy was in New York and Nixon in Los Angeles. Now that would account for innovations one and two, as this was the first time presidential candidates had debated on television, and the first-ever bi-coastal debate with split screens and more. Below is a photo of Kennedy at the WABC-TV studios in New York during the third debate. Nixon was at KABC-TV in Los Angeles.


Innovation number three came in the fourth and final debate. It can be seen in the photo below. Can you spot it?


The final debate came from ABC in New York. In the photo above from that night, notice that the mic booms have two microphones. Now there was an instant backup in case there was an audio problem. This is thought to be the first use of dual mics on booms.


And now for the big finish…innovation number four. Above, you can see a back shot of Kennedy and Nixon in Chicago. Notice the large boxes on top of the TK11s. So far, we haven’t seen whatever those are in action. Below, the question is answered.

Now we can clearly see that’s a countdown clock that shows one-minute, 30-second and 10-second warnings to the candidates that their time is expiring. This was Don Hewitt’s innovation. These timers, or duplicates, were used in all four of these televised debates. If you look closely at the images above, you can see them in every studio. That’s innovation number four, but before we leave, two more photos deserve a look.


Above is one of the two remaining cameras used in the first historic debate at WBBM. It belongs to the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago.

Below is the other WBBM camera, on display at the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.


Below is a link to the MBC site and to a page showing some of Steve Dichter’s vintage television collection. Also included for the younger set is a little general background on the debates themselves.

The key turning point of the campaign were the four Kennedy-Nixon debates; they were the first presidential debates held on television, and thus attracted enormous publicity. Nixon insisted on campaigning until just a few hours before the first debate started; he had not completely recovered from a recent hospital stay and thus looked pale, sickly, underweight, and tired. He also refused makeup for the first debate, and as a result his beard stubble showed prominently on the era’s black-and-white TV screens.

Nixon’s poor appearance on television in the first debate is reflected by the fact that his mother called him immediately following the debate to ask if he was sick. Kennedy, by contrast, rested before the first debate and appeared tanned, confident, and relaxed during the debate. An estimated 80 million viewers watched the first debate. Most people who watched the debate on TV believed Kennedy had won while radio listeners (a smaller audience) believed Nixon had won.

After it had ended polls showed Kennedy moving from a slight deficit into a slight lead over Nixon. For the three remaining debates, Nixon regained his lost weight, wore television makeup, and appeared more forceful than his initial appearance. However, up to 20 million fewer viewers watched the three remaining debates than the first debate. Political observers at the time believed that Kennedy won the first debate, Nixon won the second and third debates, and that the fourth debate, which was seen as the strongest performance by both men, was a draw.



Today & Yesterday

That’s my friend Dennis Degan, senior video editor for NBC’s Today, when he came to visit me in Winder. He’s standing next to a camera he worked with the most, an RCA TK44B. While admiring the old ’70s-era peacock on its side, Dennis mentioned he once had a great satin jacket with that very logo, but it got lost or stolen a long time back and wished he still had it. It was the only NBC jacket he ever had.

I told him I had one and would give it to him, but only if he promised to wear it to work, and he had to send me a photo to prove it. He delivered on his promise, as seen below. By the way, the cameras are Sony 1500 HDs with the studio build-up kits.


missing image

Above is a shot of the Today set in the RCA Exhibition Hall on January 14, 1952, the morning the program first went on the air. Host (or “communicator”) Dave Garroway is standing in front of his desk welcoming viewers to a new concept in television. Below is a shot taken during the program’s first half-hour. Television pioneer – and my friend – Frank Merklein is behind the RCA TK30 to the right. NBC cameraman Howard Katzman also worked that first Today show, and all the rest, for 16 years.


Today is one of Pat Weaver’s great ideas, and like so many of them, lives on as a legacy to NBC Television’s first president. Today was the first show of its genre and it was seen live only in the Eastern and Central time zones, broadcasting three hours per morning but seen for only two hours in each time zone. Since 1958, Today is tape-delayed for the different time zones.

In 1996, NBC started feeding all four continental time zones from New York using Tektronix Profile video servers. With the final conversion of Broadcast Operations Control to high definition completed in 2009, Today is now seen in HD on network feeds live in the East and delayed for the three later time zones in the continental US.

For many years Today was a two-hour program, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. in all time zones except for Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. Virgin Islands, until NBC expanded it to three hours on October 2, 2000. A fourth hour was added on September 10, 2007.


Above is the NBC Broadcast Operations Center on the second floor of 30 Rock prior to its 2009 HD conversion. Here you see the center of the “front deck” with controls for all 40 channels of NBC’s output feeds. Channels 9 through 12 (left to center) are the four time zone outputs for NBC’s regular standard definition feeds. Text displays indicate the status of each channel. Picture monitors at the top show the outputs of each channel while the lower monitor displays a received return of the respective channel for transmission assurance. Audio bar graphs similarly indicate the status of audio for each channel.


The Today program first originated from the RCA Exhibition Hall on 49th Street in a space now occupied by the Christie’s auction house, just down the block from the current studio. The first set placed a functional newsroom in the studio, which Garroway called “the nerve center of the world.” The barrier between backstage and on-stage was virtually nonexistent. Garroway and the on-air staff often walked through the newsroom set. Glimpses of camera crew and technicians were a frequent occurrence, as were off-screen voices conversing with Garroway. Gradually, machines and personnel were placed behind the scenes to assemble the news and weather reports, and the newsroom was gone by 1955.


From that very first morning, the big storefront window attracted onlookers. But as Today gained popularity, the window went from being a curiosity to an attraction. During intervals when recorded music was played, the in-studio cameras would often turn and do slow pans of the faces outside. Often people would bring signs with a message for family and friends watching back home. Sometimes Garroway would go out and talk to some of the folks outside, as we see him above doing on a sunny morning in March 1957.

After a complaint from Philco that staging Today in a streetfront studio provided RCA an unfair advantage in marketing its products, Today moved out of the Exhibition Hall, broadcasting its first program from Studio 3K in the RCA Building on July 7, 1958. Soon after, most portions of Today began to be videotaped the prior afternoon, with the only live segments being Frank Blair’s news updates. Although this arrangement allowed more flexibility in scheduling guests, who were no longer tied to Today‘s early hours, the change was mainly an accommodation for Dave Garroway, who was facing exhaustion and health issues. This practice continued until Garroway left Today in July 1961.

On July 9, 1962, Today began broadcasting from the Florida Showcase, a glassed-in storefront at 61 West 49th Street at the ground level of 30 Rock, leased by the Florida tourism board. The program would originate from the storefront in the morning, then cameras and sets would be stowed before the storefront opened for regular business.


This arrangement lasted until September 13, 1965, when Today moved back inside the NBC studios. Not only did the move back to a regular studio simplify matters, but it allowed Today to go all-color. NBC couldn’t justify allocating four huge and expensive color cameras to the Florida Showcase.

For the next twenty years, the show occupied a series of studios on the third, sixth, and eighth floors of 30 Rock, notably Studio 3K in the 1970s, Studio 8G (adjacent to Studio 8H, home to Saturday Night Live) in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and finally Studio 3K from 1983 to 1994. Today moved to the current street side studio (Studio 1A) on June 13, 1994, just east of the former RCA Exhibition Hall, providing a link to the show’s 1950s origins. In this 2014 shot, note the temporary barricades that are set up each morning for the fans who gather outside.


In 2006, Studio 1A underwent a major renovation to prepare for high-definition broadcasting. While a new set was readied that summer, the program originated from a temporary outdoor studio in Rockefeller Plaza. It was the same set NBC used at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, in 2006 at Torino, and it would be re-used for Beijing in 2008.


Here’s Today‘s “Summer Stage.” While Studio 1A was being completely refurbished for HD in the summer of 2006, Today was produced from this outdoor stage on Rockefeller Plaza in front of the GE Building.

On September 13, 2006, Today moved into its brand new set. The new studio is divided into five different parts on the lower level. It includes the interview area, the couch area, the news desk, the performance/interview/extra space area, and home base, which is where the anchors start the show. A gigantic Panasonic 103-inch plasma monitor is often used for graphic display backgrounds in the Satellite studio upstairs on the same level as the kitchen set.

The blue background window treatments (or shades) seen in the opening of the show in home base move up and down to allow a view of the outside from the home base. The screen is used for many things, but the main use for it is to prevent TV viewers from seeing early morning darkness outside when their own (later delayed) time zone may be in full daylight. Another reason for raising the screen is to shield TV viewers from outside visitors holding distracting signs during serious show segments.

Below are seven photos showing two different Today set dressings and all the major “areas” like the news desk, conversation sofas and performance area for bands or kitchen segments. All the cameras are SONY HD models, mostly 1500-model ENG/EFP size cameras in the buildup sleds and hard-bodied HD 1000s in the final two shots. Take a look at that cool jib camera mounted on a Vinten Fulmar ped. To get a real education on the new Sony cameras and systems, please see the Conan section of the Tonight Show History.

Studio 1A is located across the street from the GE Building at 10 Rockefeller Plaza. Shown here is the "Production" area, set up for a live performance. In the background is the "Homebase" area of the set, while to the right is the "Interview" area.

Over time some minor changes were made to the set, including the elimination of the “news desk” in 2013 in favor of a larger anchor desk with room for all four anchors. On August 16, the program left Studio 1A while it underwent a month-long renovation. The newest set configuration has a “home base” platform that can spin 360 degrees, new decor in the “sofa area” set, and the “Orange Room” area for social media.

One byproduct of the 2013 set renovation is an attraction for tourists. When the new “Shop at NBC Studio” opened inside 30 Rock in 2015, the anchor desk that had briefly served on Today became part of the store’s attractions. Visitors can sit at the desk for a photo opportunity.


Today anchors started out as “Communicators.” Creator Pat Weaver envisioned a person whose responsibilities would go beyond the bounds of traditional sit-down news anchors and wanted well rounded, curious and authoritative hosts. Although the “Communicator” nomenclature has since dropped out of favor, the job remains largely the same. The principal anchors/hosts of the show have included:

  • Dave Garroway (1952-1961)
  • John Chancellor (1961-1962)
  • Hugh Downs (1962-1966)
  • Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters (1966-1971)
  • Barbara Walters and Frank McGee (1971-1974)
  • Barbara Walters and Jim Hartz (1974-1976)
  • Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley (1976-1982)
  • Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumbel (1982-1989)
  • Bryant Gumbel and Deborah Norville (1990-1991)
  • Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric (1991-1997)
  • Katie Couric and Matt Lauer (1997-2006)
  • Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira (2006-2011)
  • Matt Lauer and Ann Curry (2011-2012)
  • Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie (2012-present)

October 1, 1955…”The Honeymooners” Debuts, Setting The Record Straight…

October 1, 1955…”The Honeymooners” Debuts On CBS

Setting The Record Straight On “The Honeymooners”

Below is a great shot of the cast and writers going over a script at Jackie Gleason’s office.

Today is the anniversary of The Classic 39 “Honeymooners” episodes done on film for the 1955-56 season on CBS. but the younger generation may not know, those characters were not new.

Actually, “The Honeymooners” live sketches began October 5, 1951 on Dumont’s “Cavalcade Of Stars” which Gleason began hosting in June of that year. That first sketch was six minutes long, but often, on that one hour show, they went as long as 45 minutes. These sketches continued into the late 60s.

When Gleason moved to CBS in the fall of 1951, they called Studio 50 (Ed Sullivan Theater) home, and the sketches continued on the new “Jackie Gleason Show”. It was the top show for CBS, but after a few years, Jackie needed a break from the grind of a live one hour show every week, so they decided to do a season of Honeymooners on film, which was done at Dumont’s Adelphi Theater a few blocks away.

About a third of the way through the 39 episode, Gleason began to rethink this half hour film idea. To him, 30 minutes was often not enough time to develop the story, and Perry Como’s one hour show on NBC was tough competition for a half hour show. The last show aired on September 22, 1956, and one week later, the live one hour “Jackie Gleason Show” came back to blockbuster ratings for another year, with the Honeymooners sketches included. And Away We Go! -Bobby Ellerbee


October 1, 1962…The Johnny Carson “Tonight” Theme Debuted

October 1, 1962…The Johnny Carson “Tonight” Theme Debuted

How Johnny Carson’s ‘Tonight’ Show Theme Song Came About…
Today, October 1, 1962, Carson took over as host and that night was the first time this song was played…at least on television. It was written by Paul Anka and here is the backstory on a song we all know now as “Johnny’s Theme”

First though, a note. In today’s earlier post that let you hear the first 3 minutes of Groucho Marx introducing Carson on his debut, the band did not play this at the 11:15 start, but at the 11:30 start (when most stations joined the network for the show), it was played.

In 1958, Anka wrote an instrumental for Salvatore “Tutti” Camarata’s band. The band’s name was Tutti’s Trumpets. Paul named the song “Toot Sweet”. Tutti was actually the head of Walt Disney Records and started the legendary Sunset Sound Recorders studio the same year this was released and this was one of the first sessions ever recorded there.

After a lyric was added in 1959 “Toot Sweet” was re-named “It’s Really Love”, and under that title was recorded by Annette Funicello on her LP, “Annette Sings”. There is a link to the recording below.

In 1962, when Johnny Carson took over the NBC “Tonight Show”,
he commissioned Anka for a new theme song, via his company
called Management Agency & Music Publishing, Inc.

Anka suggested re-using this old tune and the project was technically a deal under a “work for hire” contract. Carson knew all about royalties and wanted to be listed as an author so, being a drummer, he said he would think of something to put at the beginning of Anka’s tune to “help author it.” That something turned out to be a little drum break before the band joins in. So for 6 – 7 years there was that one-bar drum break at the beginning of the theme. Eventually that little break was shortened even further to just one and a half beats.

So, on September 12, 1962, less than a month before his debut Johnny became an “author” of his theme for copyright purposes, and got not only a piece of the publishing royalties, but a composer’s share of royalties as well.

The co authoring offer must have been worth it to Paul Anka who once said he got $200 in royalties every time the show aired. Over the course of Johnny’s 30 year run, that would give Carson and Anka about $1,664,000 apiece. Not bad for an old tune that was re-cycled twice. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee “Toot Sweet” “It’s Really Love”

The Walt Disney company’s record label Buena Vista boasted both Mouseketeer singing star Annette Funicello and veteran composer-arranger Tutti Camarata, who …


October 1, 1962…Johnny Carson Takes Over “Tonight” (2 Parts)

October 1, 1962…Johnny Carson Takes Over “Tonight” (2 Parts)

At the clip link above is the audio of the first 3 minutes of the debut show with Groucho Marx introducing Johnny. The video has been lost but below, we have the next best thing…rare pictures from that night!

Groucho, among a long list of other comedians, had guest hosted the show in the few months between Paar’s retirement and the expiration of Carson’s “no compete” contract with ABC. The guests that night in NBC’s Studio 6B were Joan Crawford, Mel Brooks, Tony Bennett and Rudy Vallee.

NBC’s Rare Gift To Carson On The 10th Anniversay Show

Here is a clip you have probably never seen. This is from the 10th Anniversary show on October 1, 1972 with guests Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, George Burns, Jack Benny and Dinah Shore. You will be surprised by the unique token of appreciation. -Bobby Ellerbee


September 30, 1939…First Televised Football Game Broadcast By NBC

September 30, 1939…First Televised Football Game Broadcast By NBC

All the details are below in my previous post on this occasion. Hope your teams win this weekend! -Bobby Ellerbee

College Football Starts This Week…Here’s The First TV Game

The first ever telecast of a football game was done from Triborough Stadium in Randall’s Island NY, on Saturday, September 30, 1939 by NBC. This was the season opener between Fordham University and Waynseburg College.

Two cameras were used, the one shown above on the sidelines for closeups, and another in the press box for broader perspectives. Although there were probably less than 500 sets in the area then, viewers within 50 miles of NBC’s Manhattan transmitter could follow the action from home.

The telecast was relayed from the field by ultra short wave radio to the main transmitter of Station W2XBS via the world’s first mobile unit which we see below. This is a two bus unit with one fitted for transmission only and the other outfitted for camera and audio control.

Next Saturday is the Georgia-Clemson battle here in Athens. I’ll be there! Go Dawgs! Enjoy and share! – Bobby Ellerbee


September 30, 1960…”The Flintstones” Debuts On ABC + Demo Video

September 30, 1960…”The Flintstones” Debuts On ABC + Demo Video

There is much more in my original story below, with the very first animation demo of the show. The X marks and long black lines on the film are grease pencil marks for portions that were later used in on of the first episodes to air. Yabba Dabba Doo! -Bobby Ellerbee

Meet The Flintsones! Studio Shots & Original Demo Footage

Although it’s only 1:34 seconds long, this is the first ever animation of the show, and was done in the winter of 1959 as a demo. Originally, the series was going to be called ‘The Flagstones’, but there was some kind of copyright problem so the name was changed just before the show went to air on ABC on September 30, 1960.

Notice the voice of Betty isn’t Bea Benaderet, but rather June Foray (who was the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel, among her many works). The voice of Fred is not Alan Reed, but Daws Butler who was the voice of Yogi Bear as well as Huckleberry Hound. Daws also did the demo voice of Barney, who was voiced by Mel Blanc in the regular series.

The voice of Wilma is done by Jean Vander Pyl and she was the only actor from the pilot to continue in the series. In 1960, ABC did not have color telecine equipment in Los Angeles, so the show was broadcast in black and white, until ‘The Jetsons’ came along in 1962. Starting then, the film for both shows was taken to NBC Burbank and fed to ABC for broadcast, and these were the first color shows on ABC.

The show left the air April 1, 1966 and for 30+ years, was the most successful animated network show ever. When ‘The Simpsons’ came along, this series moved to second place.

There is more detail on the photos, so click through, enjoy and share! Yabba Dabba Doo! -Bobby Ellerbee


September 30, 1951…First West To East Series Debuts On NBC+ Rare Color Film….

September 30, 1951…First West To East Series Debuts On NBC

+ Rare Color Film…5 “Colgate Comedy Hour” Stars At El Capitan

65 years ago today, NBC’s “Colgate Comedy Hour” became the first regularly scheduled program to originate on the west coast, to be broadcast to the entire network. Only 26 days before this, the first ever coast to coast television broadcast had occurred, when President Truman addressed The Japanese Peace Conference in San Francisco.

This was the second hit season of this Sunday night blockbuster (opposite Ed Sullivan, on CBS) and the New York host, Eddie Cantor was flown out to host this occasion. Soon, Abbott & Costello and Martin & Lewis would become the regular Hollywood hosts.

At the link, you will see Eddie Cantor, Bud Abbott & Lou Costello and Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis arriving at NBC’s El Capitan Theater in Hollywood in 1953.

This is a short, but sweet color home movie shot on the south side of the theater, as they arrive for rehearsal. Because the hosts rotated on a weekly basis, it would be rare for all of them to be there at the same time, but I looks like that may have been the case, and this is most likely from the 100th episode celebration on March 22, 1953.

If the building looks familiar, in ’63, ABC took over the lease and called this, The Hollywood Palace. The El Capitan is at 1735 North Vine Street, just a couple of blocks north of where NBC’s Radio City West was located, and was NBC’s first “spill-over” location for television once AT&T linked the coast with the rest of the country in 1951.

On April 1, 1951 the El Capitan Theatre was leased to NBC for fifteen years at a cost of $30,500 per year. On Sunday, September 30, 1951, “The Colgate Comedy Hour” became NBC’s first regularly scheduled west-to-east television broadcast, and it came from The El Capitan, on a bi-weekly basis, with the other weeks done in New York. Thanks to our friend Rick Scheckman for sharing this clip. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee


Celebrating 25 years of “Charlie Rose”

September 30, 1991…”Charlie Rose” Debuts On PBS

Celebrating 25 years of “Charlie Rose”

On Sept. 30, 1991, the first broadcast of “Charlie Rose” aired on PBS in New York. To salute this milestone and celebrate all of his engaging conversations, we asked actor Bradley Cooper, Rose’s friend and someone the journalist has interviewed frequently, to share the show’s rich history.


September 29, 1951…Two College Football Television Firsts

September 29, 1951…Two College Football Television Firsts

Did you know CBS and NBC made television history the same day? On September 29, 1951 NBC gave us the first live sporting event broadcast coast-to-coast, a college football game between Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Later the same day, CBS broadcast the first college football game in color, between the University of California and the University of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia. CBS was using their Field Sequential System. There were only a precious few sets able to receive the color signal, and the game was broadcast only in a few test markets.

At the link is an article from the Chicago Tribune on the CBS color scheme and it’s practical short comings (upper left) and just under the article is a map of the new AT&T coast to coast television network routes. You may like the ads too! -Bobby Ellerbee


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