Posts in Category: Broadcast History

Where The Ed Sullivan “Beatles” Cameras Finally Wound Up…

Boy, do I wish I could have one owned one of these three Marconi Mark IV cameras from WCNY-TV!


These three Mark IV cameras are very rare, and have a very interesting history.  Here are a few shots of these historic cameras in action at WCNY, a PBS affiliate in Syracuse, NY circa 1969.




Believe it or not, these are the same cameras that first showed 73 million Americans  The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show at 8 pm on February 9, 1964! And that’s just one of the thousands of legendary names whose images they captured.


Jackie Gleason also used these cameras in Studio 50, as you’ll see below. I don’t know how many Marconi cameras were used in the theater, but when RCA cameras were in use there, there were always at least five TK10s or TK11s – four on stage and one at audience level. I’m guessing there were at least four, maybe six, of the Marconis there.


These three cameras were donated to WCNY by CBS after Studio 50, also known as The Ed Sullivan Theater, was temporarily closed to prepare for color telecasting. The show moved to Television City in Hollywood for six weeks while the Norelco PC60s and new lighting were installed. The first colorcast from Studio 50 happened on my 15th birthday, Halloween night, 1965.


CBS was pretty consistent in donating its old equipment through the years. A lot of it wound up at colleges, educational stations and churches, including the Catholic Broadcast Center run by the Brooklyn archdiocese. That’s where my TD-1 pedestal was rescued from, thanks to “Cardinal” Paul Beck in Boston.

I have quite a soft spot for the Sullivan show and all things associated with it. I’d kill to have owned one of these cameras and would love to know if anyone has any idea where the WCNY Marconis wound up. I have been in contact with the station, but they have no recall. I am fortunate to have one artifact from the Ed Sullivan Theater though, and thank John Smith for giving me the backstage announce microphone he rescued during the Reeves Teletape years in the theater.


September 28, 1963…”Be My Baby” Debuts: American Bandstand

September 28, 1963…”Be My Baby” Debuts: American Bandstand

By September of ’63, Phil Specor’s “wall of sound” production of “Be My Baby” was climbing the charts, and would eventually make it to #2. On the 28th of that month, The Ronnettes performed this song on “American Bandstand” at WFIL in Philadelphia. By this time, AB was a half hour Saturday show, and the show taped in advance.

There is no video for the AB performance, but in it’s place, I have included the fantastic studio recording of the recording session in progress at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles in June of ’63.

I have started this at “Take 20” which is the first full run-through of the famous “Wrecking Crew” studio session band, with a full orchastra with them. At 9:20, we get the first vocal performance with Ronnie Spector on lead vocals, and an amazing chorus of backup singers which are listed below. This was written by Ellie Greenwich Jeff Barry and Phil Spector. The great Hal Blane is on drums and Leon Russell in on keyboards. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys was fascinated by this song, as was I, and I’m sure many of you!

Louis Blackburn – trombone
Hal Blaine – drums
Sonny Bono – backing vocals
Frank Capp – percussion
Cher – backing vocals
Al De Lory – keyboards
Steve Douglas – saxophone
Ellie Greenwich – backing vocals
Carol Kaye – bass
Darlene Love – backing vocals
Fanita James – backing vocals
Jay Migliori – saxophone
Gracia Nitzsche – backing vocals
Bill Pitman – guitar
Ray Pohlman – bass guitar
Don Randi – piano
Leon Russell – keyboards
Bobby Sheen – backing vocals
Tommy Tedesco – guitar
Nino Tempo – backing vocals

By the way, with over 4 million radio plays, this song would last over 17 years played back to back. One final thing…
At this link is a great performance of the song with enhanced audio, AND…the “tuffest” looking back up dancers ever. Remember the look? White men’s shirts on hot girls in go-go boots? Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


September 27, 1954…”Tonight” Debuts On NBC (2 Video Links)

September 27, 1954…”Tonight” Debuts On NBC (2 Video Links)

Below is a rare NBC operations log from October 4, 1954. This log is from one week after the debut, and reveals the origin of “the first 15 minutes”, which confounded both Jack Paar and Johnny Carson until January of 1967, when Carson demanded an 11:30 start time.

Notice at the bottom of the sheet, the show at 11:15, just before “Tonight” is…”The Steve Allen Show”!

Prior to the debut of “Tonight”, Allen’s local late show on WNBT, was very popular and it was thought best to ease the very large local audience into this new show with 15 minutes of monologue on local, NYC topics.

Now we know that this 15 minute lead in was actually designated “The Steve Allen Show” (just like the old WNBT show) and was not “officially” part of the “Tonight” broadcast, but this remnant was a pain to everyone but Allen, until 1967.

This very odd 15 minute opening window had allowed stations to join either at 11:15 or 11:30. Back in 1954, if there was local late news, it was a 15 minute cast at most. In the early sixties, many locals newscasts moved to 30 minutes, which was a problem for the hosts.

The problem Paar and Carson had with this “fu**ing 15 minutes” (as Carson called it) was that, when most stations joined at 11:30, the monologue was over and done! Only the guest part of the show was seen in the 11:30 markets.

Over the years, both Paar and Carson used different methods to fill the 15 minutes. Early on, both Paar and Carson started their monologues at 11:15, which may explain why there is so little video of the early Parr and Carson monologues. These 11:15 – 11:30 segments were most likely, again for the local NY audience,

Later, both opted to use their sidekicks and the band to fill that time, so they could begin the monologue at 11:30. But even then, both the studio and home audiences were left in limbo waiting for the star and his guests.

At this link is a rare 1965 “first 15 minutes” from 11:15 – 11:30 on New Year’s Eve from the Carson era, with Ed and Skitch doing the honors.

Also seen here are two debut ads from New York and Chicago. Notice that in Chicago, only the the last hour of the show as broadcast from 11-12 local time, which would have been the 12-1 hour of the NY show. At the link below is part of the first night’s monologue. -Bobby Ellerbee


September 26, 1960…America’s First Televised Presidential Debate

September 26, 1960…America’s First Televised Presidential Debate

Tonight is the big night for us in 2016, but 56 years ago today, it was a big night for America and television as the presidential candidates met for a first ever debate on TV.

On this day in 1960, John Kennedy and Richard Nixon met at Chicago’s WBBM (CBS) for the first of four debates. Here is my story on those historic meetings, including the “new” technology…much of which was created by the producer of all four those debates, the great Don Hewitt.

All four debates were simulcast live on all three networks’ radio and television networks.

On October 7, 1960, NBC Washington was the scene of the second debate as Senator Kennedy and Vice President Nixon met at NBC’s WRC-TV. 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.

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


Remembering Arnold Palmer…

Remembering Arnold Palmer…


Three Generations In Television: The Merklein Family

It’s not every day you come across a TV pioneer like Frank Merklein, or a family like Frank’s! There are two stories here. One is Frank’s incredible history in television, and we’ll get to that…but first, I want to introduce you to what could be one of TV’s only three-generation families. To make my point, let’s start with a few pictures.


Above is Frank’s father, James Merklein, in a March 1951 photo on the set of Space Cadets at ABC New York. Below we see Frank at a TK10 at NBC New York in 1952. By the way, this is on the Howdy Doody set, and the director of the show has suddenly become Frank’s dolly grip…well, at least for this shot.

missing image

But the Merklein family tree is by no means complete. Frank must have liked the old radio show I Married Joan, because in 1946 he did! Below we see a 1952 photo of Frank’s wife, Joan, on the set of The Sid Caesar Show. Joan was an actress and was hired occasionally as a “straight man” on several Comedy Hour shows.


 Their first child was Jay. Guess who’s running the Norelco in the images below? Yep…Jay Merklein, who’s still with ABC in Los Angeles handling worldwide satellite feeds. Below, Jay operates a camera on Ryan’s Hope.


In the two photos below, Frank and Joan visit with Jay and his Norelco at a PGA event near their home in Florida.


The Frank Merklein Story

Now, the really interesting part of Frank’s story. Below is a photo of Frank at my home in Georgia posing with my RCA TK41C…not an unusual pose for him, for he’s one of the original color TV cameramen.


Frank worked the first RCA TK40s at the now-famous Colonial Theater in New York, where RCA and NBC did several years of experimental broadcasts, as well as the first real color broadcasts. The Colonial events started in the fall of 1951 and continued there until around 1954. Frank also worked the TK40s in NBC’s first in-house color studio, Studio 3K at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

This is a tiny part of Frank’s history and it is really just too much to tell in detail, but I’ll hit a few more high points. Frank was in the Army with General Sarnoff’s nephew in World War II. One day Frank asked what would be a good job after the war, and Sarnoff recommended television. Frank graduated from the RCA Television School as an engineer and got a job at NBC in March 1948.

Frank worked the RCA TK10s and 30s on a lot of shows, including Howdy Doody, the Camel News Caravan with John Cameron Swayze, The Comedy Hour, Your Show of Shows, Today and many more. He later ran the color cameras on Howdy Doody, Perry Como, Kraft Music Hall, Hallmark Hall of Fame and more.

As a matter of fact, Frank was there for the January 14, 1952 debut of Today. Below you can see him in action during the program’s very first half-hour, keeping a TK30 trained on original “master communicator” Dave Garroway.


Frank also became a part of broadcast history in two other ways. About a year into the color work, Frank was appointed to the National Television Systems Committee, which had the task of coming up with a compatible standard for color broadcasting.

It was actually Frank Merklein that broke the news to Gen. David Sarnoff that the NTSC had agreed that RCA’s dot matrix system was the winning concept and would be the basis of the industry’s future. Below is part of an email from Frank to me on these subjects.

General Sarnoff was the force behind trashing the CBS mechanical wheel and to forming the color committee of all the USA manufacturers. NBC did daily shows (same every day for 2 1/2 years) from 3K and the Colonial Theater (now Lincoln Center).

When the FCC chose the NTSC system, the General was in our studio, 3K. I was on the phones with the FCC. I turned to the General and gave him a prepared message. “General Sarnoff, the FCC informs you that they have unanimously approved of the NTSC system for color.” He grinned, blew smoke from those over-sized cigars he inhaled and thanked everyone… Great memory.

If Sarnoff receives the proposed EMMY Award for Color Television in the name of the industry, I want to be the one to whom it is handed before turning it over to the Sarnoff Museum. I think I’m the only one left that was on the color committee.

Be well,

p.s. I’m glad you had heard of the famous green banana/Revlon incident in which I was involved. Stage manager Warren Philips threw a green (unripe) banana on a table for us to balance the color in our 3 TK40 cameras. Since we usually balanced our color with ripe yellow bananas, we all produced a perfect match of yellow bananas in the monitors behind us. As a result, the Revlon commercial we were setting up to tape had a bit of a hue shift. So did the color of the faces of the executives in the booth with the client when the lipstick came up blue. That was the only day we could ever hear through the glass of the control room the shouting was so loud.


A Fond Farewell To Charles Osgood…Today Is His Last Show

A Fond Farewell To Charles Osgood…Today Is His Last Show

Later this morning, Charles will bring is 22 year hosting job at “CBS Sunday Morning” to a close, with a very special edition of the show. As a tribute, I’ve laid out some of the many beautiful shots our friend Craig Wilson has shared over the last year or so, and hope you will enjoy seeing Charlie “at home” in CBS Studio 45. Happy Trails Charlie, and “We’ll see you on the radio”. -Bobby Ellerbee


September 25, 1964…Last Black & White Bob Hope Special Airs

September 25, 1964…Last Black & White Bob Hope Special Airs
At the link above is a Hope special from September 25, 1964. Although it was shot in black and white, it looks spectacular! This was done in Studio 1 at NBC Burbank, which had RCA TK41 color cameras, but they were pushed off to the side during this shoot.

Hope was the producer too, and to save money, he opted for B&W for as long has he could, but NBC finally put their foot down, and after this, he went to color.

Below are some rare photos of the TK60s in Studio 1. This camera used the new 4.5 inch Image Orthicon tube. The TK60 actually debuted in 1960 as the TK12, but had a few issues. By ’63, RCA had fixed the problems and re-released it as the TK60. By this time though, color was making great headway and broadcasters were reluctant to buy monochrome cameras, but many did.

It was an excellent camera and it’s only rival was the Marconi Mark IV which used the same tube. By the way, Milton Berle, Phyllis Diller, Dean Martin, and Jack Benny are Bob’s guests on the special which is quite good. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


The Whole Story Of Disney On Television…

The Whole Story Of Disney On Television…

On September 24, 1961, “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World Of Color” debuted on NBC. To mark the occasion, of the 55th anniversary, here is that first color broadcast, and the whole story of Disney on TV, which starts at ABC. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


Walt Disney was the first major Hollywood producer to venture into television. His anthology series has graced network TV for 50 years, save for a couple of extended hiatuses, under eight names.

Besides the consistency of quality through the years, one of its most memorable aspects have been the title sequences encompassing a memorable musical accompaniment, rapid-edit clips of all-things Disney and Tinker Bell flying around the screen.

CBS and NBC both rejected the idea of a weekly Disney program, in part because any network airing the show was asked to help finance Walt’s idea for a new kind of amusement park: a clean, family-friendly park consisting of different themed areas. ABC signed on to the idea with the hope Walt could deliver a major success for the struggling network, which could only boast of two moderate hits in the early 1950s: The Lone Ranger and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

The cost to ABC was significant: a seven year contract valued at $35 million with licensing fees for each episode at $50,000. Additionally, the network would own a 34 percent interest in the park (Disney would buy out ABC’s stake in 1961).Tying in with the soon-to-open theme park in California, Disneyland premiered on Wednesday, October 27, 1954.

As Tinker Bell flew across the screen and the award-winning song “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio as the theme, announcer Dick Wesson would briefly describe the four lands, leading up to the episode title: “Each week as you enter this timeless land, one of these many worlds will open to you. FRONTIERLAND– Tall tales and true from the legendary past. TOMMOROWLAND– Promise of things to come. ADVENTURELAND– The wonder world of nature’s own realm. FANTASYLAND– The happiest kingdom of them all.”

The first episode was called “The Disneyland Story” and in the first half-hour millions of viewers saw their first glimpse of the Disneyland theme park as well as previews of upcoming shows. The second half appropriately served as a tribute to Disney’s most famous cartoon character, Mickey Mouse. In fact, an often-used quote of Walt’s comes from this segment: “I only hope we never lose sight of one thing … that it was all started by a mouse.”

It was also in that first show that Fess Parker first performed a song that would soon climb to the top of the music charts and help make the unknown actor a star: The Ballad of Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.

Those Davy Crockett shows were the most popular episodes of that first year, if not the entire anthology’s run. Considered to be the first television miniseries, the three-part shows were made at a total cost of around $700,000– a large amount for any television show at the time. All the episodes were filmed in color, although broadcast by ABC in black and white.

Their success led the Disney Studios to edit the three episodes into a feature film for theaters in the summer of 1955. Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier grossed a then-impressive $2.5 million. However, this was rather small compared to the estimated total sales of Davy Crockett merchandise: $300 million! Nobody anticipated its success, least of whom Walt himself.

At the end of the third installment, poor Davy was killed (off-screen, of course) at The Alamo. So for the following season, two additional Crockett episodes were filmed chronicling his early exploits. A second feature re-edited from these programs was released in 1956 as Davy Crockett and the River Pirates and was also a success.

Thanks to Davy Crockett, Disney had indeed delivered a hit: Disneyland was #6 in the 1954-55 Nielsen ratings and won the Emmy for Best Variety Series. In its second year, the series would achieve its highest seasonal rating as the #4 show.

By 1958 viewers had obviously become quite familiar with the different lands and a full description was no longer deemed necessary. Although the anthology was renamed Walt Disney Presents, the series itself should have changed its name to simply “Frontierland,” as these made up the bulk of episodes for the next three seasons.

Due almost entirely to the success of Davy Crockett, ABC executives insisted on the Western emphasis. Instead of Mickey and friends, viewers were often treated to the adventures of Texas John Slaughter, Elfego Baca (with Robert Loggia), and Leslie Nielsen as Francis Marion, The Swamp Fox. There was not much Walt could do as he was bind to a seven-year contract. Once that expired in 1961 he was free to change networks if he wished. That is exactly what he did. More importantly, Walt could now do what he could never convince ABC to go along with, and that was to broadcast in full color.

The majority of the ABC episodes had been filmed in color. This hindsight would pay off beginning in the first summer of reruns on NBC. It was that network’s commitment to colorcasting that Walt found most attractive, if not marketable. With sponsorship from RCA (then owner of NBC), Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color premiered at 7:30 PM on Sunday, September 24, 1961.

With an original song by Richard and Robert Sherman, viewers with color sets were mesmerized as flashes of animated red, yellow and blue fireworks burst behind Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland. Up flew Tinker Bell and with a few waves of her wand filled the screen with more colors blending into a kaleidoscope of Disney characters as a chorus thundered, “COLOR!” This sounded much better than “MONOCHROME!” which is how most viewers that first season saw Wonderful World of Color.

Still sales of color TV’s increased dramatically over the following months and many baby boomers have fond memories of watching Uncle Walt Sunday nights in living color. Like the first episode in 1954, “An Adventure in Color/Mathmagicland” consisted of two main segments. The first half introduced the new format and a new character: Professor Ludwig Von Drake, a relative of Donald Duck.

Disney’s top duck himself took center stage for the second half in a cartoon about mathematics, first released to theaters in 1959. The Von Drake episodes could be considered some of the funniest hours in the anthology series, due in part to Paul Frees’ often-improvised dialogue as the befuddled Professor.

By the mid-1960s Wonderful World of Color had firmly established itself as a top twenty series. Walt’s segments became as anticipated as the presentations themselves. Whether it be a simple introduction, interaction with animals or the cartoon characters or hosting a show from Disneyland, his warm and friendly manner made each episode something special to watch.

During this time a number of multi-part episodes made especially for the series were filmed in Europe and released theatrically there. One notable example is the three-part 1964 miniseries “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” which was released to U.S. theaters as Dr. Syn – Alias The Scarecrow twelve years after its initial television airing and European theatrical release. Appearing in the title role was Patrick McGoohan, whom would later star in the cult TV classic, The Prisoner.

Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966. The episode broadcast the following Sunday was “Disneyland Around the Seasons” in which Walt talked about new and upcoming attractions at his beloved park (in its original telecast, a portion of Walt’s narrative was substituted by a brief tribute from Dick Van Dyke and NBC newsman Chet Huntley).

After his final introduction aired on April 2, 1967 there would be no regular host for the remainder of the anthology’s original run. The series continued as Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color for another two years. To many it was still seen as Walt’s Show even though he only turned up in a brief clip during the opening titles and in reruns of course.

The name itself was fast becoming antiquated. In 1969 the anthology became The Wonderful World of Disney. For a new theme, Disney staff composer George Bruns arranged a medley of familiar tunes: “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “Whistle While You Work” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” from Song of the South, “Davy Crockett,” and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” from Cinderella.

During the next decade the arrangement of songs in the opening medley as well as the film clips would change every few years or so to include more recent fare (even the familiar fireworks scene that started each show would change in 1972, shifting to Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World in Florida).

The overall anthology product would also change during the ’70s, although not necessarily for the better. The number of original episodes would gradually dwindle, with an increasing reliance on feature films (generally less successful movies and none of the full-length animated features) and reruns from earlier seasons.

A common criticism of the anthology was that episodes originating from Disneyland or the Walt Disney World Resort were nothing more than glorified commercials. Essentially this was true, but ultimately they became something of historical time capsule pieces. They’re fun to watch now just to see how much things have changed at the Disney parks and resorts through the years.

For a while ratings remained strong, so consistent that NBC gave The Wonderful World of Disney an automatic renewal through 1978. But in 1975 a slow decline began. Moved back to 7 PM and facing new competition from CBS’s 60 Minutes, Disney fell out of the top twenty. Further erosion occurred in early 1977 as ABC successfully launched the teen-oriented drama The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. It was also of no help that audiences were turning away from the Disney product in general, with the exception of the theme parks and merchandising.

Facing a threat of cancellation from NBC- itself having become ratings challenged following ABC’s rise to #1 in the mid 1970s- the anthology underwent a major makeover in 1979. For the first time since the 1960s, an original theme was developed. John Debney and John Klawitter composed a disco-flavored song that welcomed viewers to the new Disney’s Wonderful World.

Bridging the two parts of the theme was a program preview narrated by Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In announcer Gary Owens. Dazzling computer-generated graphics and an abundance of clips – but no fireworks or Tinker Bell – supported the feeling expressed in the lyrics that this was “the friendly old place” with “a happy new face.”

Appropriately, the closing music thanked viewers for watching. In a flashback to the original themed format, many episodes were divided into one of four categories: Fantasy Night, Adventure Night, Comedy Night and Animation Night. Beneath the flashy surface however was more of the same: few original shows, re-treads of theatrical movies, far too many repeats and even frequent preemptions. Ratings did increase slightly and that was enough to give Disney another two years on NBC before executives announced the end of the “world.”

Almost immediately, CBS came to the rescue promising a renewed commitment to original episodes and a move to Saturday nights. After a summer of extensive promotion, Walt Disney premiered on September 26, 1981 with part one of the 1969 hit The Love Bug. Ironically, this was actually a rerun having previously aired as a two-hour Disney’s Wonderful World presentation! Like the former series the opening graphics were computer-generated, this time featuring still photos and illustrations from the theme parks, films and characters. The sole theme once again was an instrumental version of “When You Wish Upon A Star.”

There was a substantial increase in original episodes that first CBS year as were the overall ratings. Some of the original shows served as pilots for proposed spin-offs; a few of which did make it to limited-run status, but no further. The second CBS year saw another increase in reruns and with that came rumors that the anthology had finally outlived its purpose and would be canceled. The series was even taken off the air for several months following a move to Tuesdays in a futile attempt to increase viewership.

On April 18, 1983 when Walt Disney Productions launched The Disney Channel, thereby focusing nearly all its television resources on the cable service. Shortly thereafter, CBS announced that Walt Disney would only be seen as an occasional special. On September 24, 1983, an important era in television history came to a quiet conclusion with “Walt Disney’s Mickey and Donald,” a compilation of classic cartoons. Or had it?

Following a management shakeup in September 1984, newly installed Chairman Michael Eisner expressed his desire to return Disney programming to network television on a regular basis. A number of individual programs came first, including The Golden Girls produced by the new Touchstone division.

The television flagship would ultimately be an anthology series. ABC had the most interest in reviving the format and amid much fanfare The Disney Sunday Movie premiered on February 2, 1986 hosted by Eisner himself. Again an instrumental version of “When You Wish Upon A Star” was used as the theme and even Tinker Bell came out of retirement to open each week’s show.

For most of its 2 1/2 year run, Sunday Movie aired in a two-hour format. To let viewers know this new series bore a direct kinship to the old, a few classic reruns were seen during the summer of 1986. Nostalgia and ratings were high initially, but both eventually wore down. The old nemesis 60 Minutes was as strong as ever and eventually pushed Sunday Movie back to one hour, then off ABC altogether.

As if history was repeating itself, NBC gladly picked up the series in 1988, re-christening it The Magical World of Disney. A “wheel” format of rotating miniseries was instituted including new Davy Crockett adventures (coincidentally, five episodes were produced– the same number as the original version), an action-adventure series called “Wild Jack” (three episodes made), a remake of “The Absent-Minded Professor” starring Harry Anderson of NBC’s hit sitcom Night Court (only two episodes made) and various special presentations.

This all soon faded back into the venerable (and vulnerable) anthology setting. In the 1989-90 season there was another attempt at miniseries programming in the form of a comedy series starring Barbara Eden called “Brand New Life” which was created by Chris Carter (yes, that Chris Carter of The X Files!). But after two lackluster years, the anthology series was again canceled with The Magical World of Disney name retained until 1996 for The Disney Channel’s weekly showcase of premiere movies and specials.

In 1996 The Walt Disney Company purchased Capital Cities/ABC Inc. for a record $19 billion, and shortly thereafter things seemed to come full-circle. In 1997, the anthology returned to Sundays as … The Wonderful World of Disney. Setting the tone for the weekly two-hour series, the opening show was the 1995 theatrical release Toy Story.

Other Disney animated and live-action blockbusters frequently turn up and there have been some outstanding original productions such as “Oliver Twist” with Richard Dryfuss, “Ruby Bridges,” the Whitney Houston-produced remake of “Cinderella,” “The Shirley Temple Story,” “Eloise at the Plaza,” “Eloise at Christmastime” (both based on the popular children’s books), remakes of “The Miracle Worker,” “Annie” and “The Music Man”; and in 2001 “The Man Behind the Myth,” a documentary about Walt’s life and work co-produced by his daughter Diane Disney Miller.

Until the fall of 2000 there was a mesmerizing (and Emmy-winning) title sequence as Tinker Bell flew across the screen to the music of “When You Wish Upon A Star” and “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. This was replaced by (in this author’s opinion) the worst opening sequence the anthology had ever produced as menacing images show people’s homes magically turning into castles.

Apparently someone or some people at ABC thought so too as a brief “Welcome to The Wonderful World of Disney” announcement is often used instead. In September of 2003, the series was moved from Sundays into yet another familiar time slot– Saturdays at 8 PM alternating with The ABC Saturday Movie of the Week. Classic episodes from the original 1954-83 run aired as part of The Disney Channel’s “Vault Disney” until that programming block was canceled in September 2002. Select episodes such as the original Davy Crockett and Disneyland-themed programs have been released in special DVD sets.

In an ever-changing and challenging environment both in fiction and in real-life, the Disney anthology series remains a haven for quality programming. It is something that has never wavered and reminds us that the world is still wonderful.To help commemorate 50 years of The Wonderful World of Disney, here is some general information of the show’s history, including some of the awards won over the decades.

Walt Disney (October 27, 1954 to April 2, 1967)
Michael Eisner (February 2, 1986 to September 9, 1990– he continues to appear on an occasional basis in the current version)
Dick Wesson (1954-1979)
Dick Tufeld (Alternate Announcer, 1977-1979)
Gary Owens (1979-1981)
Mark Elliot (1981-1983)
Broadcast History
Disneyland (ABC)
October 27, 1954-September 3, 1958: Wednesday, 7:30 PM-8:30 PM
Walt Disney Presents (ABC)
September 12, 1958-September 25, 1959: Friday, 8:00 PM-9:00 PM
October 2, 1959-September 23, 1960: Friday, 7:30 PM-8:30 PM
September 25, 1960-September 17, 1961: Sunday, 6:30 PM-7:30 PM
Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (NBC)
September 24, 1961-September 7, 1969: Sunday, 7:30 PM-8:30 PM
The Wonderful World of Disney (NBC)
September 14, 1969-August 31, 1975: Sunday, 7:30 PM-8:30 PM
September 14, 1975-October 19, 1975: Sunday, 7:00PM-8:00PM
October 26, 1975-December 7, 1975: Sunday, 7:00PM-9:00PM
December 21, 1975-September 4, 1977: Sunday, 7:00PM-8:00PM
September 11, 1977-October 23, 1977: Sunday, 7:00 PM-9:00 PM
October 30, 1977-September 2, 1979: Sunday, 7:00 PM-8:00 PM
Disney’s Wonderful World (NBC)
September 9, 1979-September 13, 1981: Sunday, 7:00PM-8:00PM
Walt Disney (CBS)
September 26, 1981-January 1, 1983: Saturday, 8:00 PM-9:00 PM
January 4, 1983-February 15, 1983: Tuesday, 8:00 PM-9:00 PM
July 9, 1983-September 24, 1983: Saturday, 8:00 PM-9:00 PM
(two irregularly scheduled airings on Tuesday, May 3, 1983 and Saturday, May 21, 1983)
The Disney Sunday Movie (ABC)
February 2, 1986-September 6, 1987: Sunday, 7:00 PM-9:00 PM
September 13, 1987-September 11, 1988: Sunday, 7:00 PM-8:00 PM
The Magical World of Disney (NBC)
October 9, 1988-July 2, 1989: Sunday, 7:00 PM-8:00 PM
July 9, 1989-July 23, 1989: Sunday, 8:00 PM-9:00 PM
August 6, 1989-February 25, 1990: Sunday, 7:00 PM-8:00 PM
March 4, 1990-April 15, 1990: Sunday, 7:00 PM-9:00 PM
April 22, 1990-May 6, 1990: Sunday, 7:00 PM-8:00 PM
May 27, 1990-July 22, 1990: Sunday, 7:00 PM-9:00 PM
August 5, 1990-September 9, 1990: Sunday, 7:00 PM-8:00 PM
The Wonderful World of Disney (ABC)
September 28, 1997- August 31, 2003: Sunday, 7:00PM-9:00PM
September 27, 2003-Present: Saturday, 8:00PM-10:00PM
Emmy Awards and Special Honors
-Best Variety Series: Disneyland
-Best Individual Show: “Operation Undersea,” Disneyland
-Best Television Film Editing: “Operation Undersea,” Disneyland
-Best Producer of Filmed Series: Walt Disney, Disneyland
-Best Action or Adventure Series: “Davy Crockett” on Disneyland
TV Guide Award for Best Dramatic Program of the Year:
“The Prince and the Pauper,” Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color
-Outstanding Program Achievements in the Field of Children’s Programming: Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color
-Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction or Set Design:Carroll Clark and Marvin Davis for Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color
Special Classification of Outstanding Program Achievement:
The Wonderful World of Disney
Special Certificate of Honor:
“Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life,” Disney’s Wonderful World
Outstanding Children’s Program:
“A Mother’s Courage: The Mary Thomas Story,” The Magical World of Disney
-Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program:
Randy Ser, Edward L. Rubin, Julie Kaye Fanton for
“Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” The Wonderful World of Disney
-Main Title Design: The Wonderful World of Disney
April 7, 2003:
The Wonderful World of Disney was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. This was a prestigious honor for television’s longest-running prime time series. Past recipients have included programs such as All in the Family and M*A*S*H, as well as individuals Carol Burnett, Ted Koppel and others.



September 23, 1962…”The Jetsons” Debuts As First Color For ABC

September 23, 1962…”The Jetsons” Debuts As First Color For ABC

This video clip is quite good, as Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera reminisce about the show.

Here’s a little known fact…although this was ABC’s first color broadcast, the network’s facilities did not include any color equipment anywhere, and only a few of their affiliates could broadcast color. So, how did “The Jetsons” run in color on ABC?

Each week, ABC took a 35 and 16MM copy (master and safety) to NBC Burbank on Sunday afternoons. NBC would rack both and play them simultaneously (in case the 35MM film broke) down two AT&T lines to ABC New York for the east coast broadcast. They would do the same later each Sunday when they fed the signal to ABC Hollywood.

“The Flintstones” was produced in color and preceded this show by two years, but those first couple of years were broadcast in black and white. When “The Jetsons” debuted in color, the next week the Bedrock bunch made their color debut too, which also included NBC Burbank.

ABC’s first color ability came in late 1964 when they installed an RCA color film chain in New York. The network’s first live color ability came the next year when The Hollywood Palace got 4 RCA TK41s. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

A short documentary featuring the history of the Jetsons with rare commentary clips from Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. This documentary is from the excellent J…


September 23, 1961…”NBC Saturday Night At The Movies” Debuts

September 23, 1961…”NBC Saturday Night At The Movies” Debuts

“How To Marry A Millionare” was the first movie to air, and with this debut, came a new problem…how to show widescreen movies on TV! Thus was born, Pan and Scan.

Since many of these “new to TV” films were in formats like CinemaScope (including Millionaire), up to 45% of the film frame was not able to be seen on the 4:3 TV screens, so a Pan and Scan method was used, as there was not letterboxing back then.

My question is, who did this? Did the studios provide edited versions to NBC, or did NBC do this “one the fly” with a movable telecine camera during the broadcast? Below is the technique, but this doesn’t answer the question.

During the Pan and Scan process, an editor selects the parts of the original filmed composition that seem to be the focus of the shot and makes sure that these are copied (i.e. “scanned”). When the important action shifts to a new position in the frame, the operator moves the scanner to follow it, creating the effect of a “pan” shot. In a scene in which the focus does not gradually shift from one horizontal position to another—such as actors at each extreme engaging in rapid conversation with each other—the editor may choose to “cut” from one to the other rather than rapidly panning back and forth.

I would think that the studios would provide pan/scan versions, because this required a lot of effort and editing expertise, but I don’t know…how about you? I know we have a lot of great technicians from both TV and film here, so please enlighten us.

By the way, “How To Marry A Millionaire” (1953) was the first film shown on “NBC Saturday Night at the Movies”, which ran until 1978. This was the first television program to exclusively broadcast relatively recent theatrical films on US network television. Until the early ’70s, movie studios held film from television for about 7 or 8 years, and some, like “Ben Hur” were held out for 12 years. In the mid 70s, the hold out period got to about 3 or 4 years.

The idea proved so successful that NBC soon followed it up with another series with the identical format, “Monday Night at the Movies”, and it wasn’t long before the format was taken up by both CBS and ABC.

The first made for TV movies sprang from this place!

With the demand for movies increasing during the 1960s, made-for-television films would soon be created by NBC, along with some help from now-sister company Universal. The first, was “See How They Run”, directed by David Lowell Rich and starring John Forsythe and Senta Berger. It first aired on October 7, 1964 and ushered in a series of other TV-movies over the years, aired on NBC under the title “NBC World Premiere Movie”. -Bobby Ellerbee


A Tour Of The Ellerbee Camera Collection……

A Tour Of The Eyes Of A Generation Camera Museum…

Ellerbee Camera Collection…An Exclusive New Tour Video

Here is a tour of my museum quality collection of television cameras. This is the 16 that I have on display in the house, but there are 85 more in the garage and we get a glimpse of those at the end. Enjoy and Share! -Bobby Ellerbee


September 21, 1963…”The Jerry Lewis Show” Debuts On ABC

September 21, 1963…”The Jerry Lewis Show” Debuts On ABC

This is a strange tale, but you’ll love the video of Jerry riding the crane and singing.

You would have thought that one of the worlds top comedians would have been a natural hit, but the show only ran 13 weeks. ABC originally had high hopes for Lewis’ live, two-hour Saturday night variety series. They signed the comedian to a 5-year contract for a reported $35 million. The network also purchased the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles and re-christened it The Jerry Lewis Theater, after spending over a million dollars to renovate and equip it with 4, RCA TK60 black and white cameras, and a new control room.

“The Jerry Lewis Show” premiered on September 21, 1963, but by Thanksgiving, it was apparent that the show was a failure. In a scramble for a mid season replacement, ABC hired Nick Vanoff to produce a new show. Vanoff, in turn, hired William O. Harbach to help him develop the series. They hurriedly came up with the concept of “The Hollywood Palace”.

The final “Jerry Lewis Show” aired on December 21, 1963, and The Hollywood Palace premiered on January 4, 1964. The Palace took over the first hour of Lewis’ old time slot. The second hour was given to the local affiliates for their own local and syndicated programming. The old El Capitan Theater was once again re-named, this time as “The Hollywood Palace.”

The video will start a segment from the Lewis show where he climbs aboard the crane to sing “Birth Of The Blues”. This is a rare clip, so enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee


September 21, 1948…Berle Becomes “Texaco Star Theater” Host

September 21, 1948…Berle Becomes “Texaco Star Theater” Host

This is an ultra rare photo of NBC’s newly converted Studio 6B, where “Texaco Start Theater” is about to go on the air. Berle hosted the debut show June 8, 1948, but over the summer, Henny Youngman, Morey Amsterdam, George Price, Jack Carter and Peter Donald rotated as host, before Berle “won the competition,”. He was made permanent host on September 21, and over the next three years, he, and this show were the biggest thing in television! Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


September 21’s Moments In TV History…Many Major TV Debuts

September 21’s Moments In TV History…Many Major TV Debuts

1948 – Milton Berle debuted as the permanent host of “The Texaco Star Theater” on NBC.

1957 – The first episode of “Perry Mason” aired on CBS.

1968 – The television show “Adam-12” debuted on NBC.

1970 – “NFL Monday Night Football” made its debut on ABC-TV. The game was between the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets. The Browns won 31-21.

1972 – ABC-TV debuted “In Concert.” Alice Cooper appeared in the first episode.

1993 – The first episode of “NYPD Blue” aired on ABC.

1998 – The first episode of “Will & Grace” aired on NBC.

1999 – HBO’s live music show, “Reverb,” debuted with performances by Alanis Morissette and Ever


September 20, 1962…”The Jack Paar Show” Debuts On NBC

September 20, 1962…”The Jack Paar Show” Debuts On NBC

When Jack Paar left the ‘Tonight’ show in the summer of 1962, he took a few months off, but returned to NBC in primetime with a weekly Friday night show.

Jack’s new show debuted on September 20, 1962, about two weeks before Carson’s “Tonight” debut. For the next three years, he owned the 10-11 ratings but ended the show in September of 1965. One of his favorite guests, on both shows, was Jonathan Winters. On this 1964 appearance, Paar told the audience to just watch what would happen when he gave Winters a simple stick as a prop. The rest is comedy history! Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee

just a stick…. and woooooo there he goes…..


September 20, 1952…”The Jackie Gleason Show” Debuts On CBS

September 20, 1952…”The Jackie Gleason Show” Debuts On CBS

In July of 1950, Jackie Gleason took over as host of Dumont’s “Cavalcade Of Stars”. The original hosts had been Jack Carter, then Jerry Lester, who was followed by Morey Amsterdam.

By the middle of ’51, Gleason and his writing staff developed an idea for a sketch based on the popular radio show “The Bickersons”.
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 only two characters were Ralph Kramden and his wife, Alice, who was originally played by Pert Kelton, who in real life was nine years older than Gleason.

Due in part to the success of these sketches, “Cavalcade of Stars” became a huge success for DuMont, as the audience size quadrupled. Gleason’s contract with DuMont expired in the summer of 1952, and the financially struggling network was unable to re-sign him.

On September 20, 1952, “The Jackie Gleason Show” debuted from CBS Studio 50, or what is now known as The Ed Sullivan Theater. Although CBS was very generous with Gleason, they could not accommodate his wishes to bring Pert along to the new show.

Kelton’s husband had been labeled a communist and, by association, she too had wound up on the dreaded “Black List”. A new Alice had to be found, and Audrey Meadows went for an audition. Gleason had seen her as “Linda Lovely”, on “The Bob And Ray” show, and thought she was good, but too glamorous. Meadows heard about this and a few days later auditioned again under another name but this time, with no makeup and a dressed down look. The rest, as they say, is history.
At the link above, is Meadows as “Linda Lovely” in 1951.

In the photo below, we see Gleason in rehearsal of the opening with The June Taylor Dancers. The cameraman in the foreground is the legendary Pat McBride. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


September 19, 1970…”The Mary Tyler Moore Show” Debuts

September 19, 1970…”The Mary Tyler Moore Show” Debuts
At the link above, Mary Tyler Moore discusses the problems with the pilot, and there were many…it was the lowest scoring pilot ever tested at CBS.

Below is the first episode, the one that aired 46 years ago today, but when you watch it, the story just doesn’t seem dated does it? This is the episode that sets up everything and where she meets “Lou Grant” in the famous “you’ve got spunk” scene. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

See her full interview at


September 19, 1952…This Was The News Of The Day On NBC

September 19, 1952…This Was The News Of The Day On NBC

Here is a 64 year old time capsule…a look at the news on this day in 1952. This is the full 15 minute broadcast of “The Camel News Caravan” live from Studio C of NBC’s Uptown Studios at 105 East 106th Street. A location NBC leased from Pathe, as they worked closely on film processing and kinescope production.

This live feed of John Cameron Swayze in Studio C, plus film inserts from Studio F at Uptown was sent to Master Control at 30 Rock via coaxial cable, and there, modern technology allowed live reports from Los Angeles, Washington and Chicago to be inserted. Since the coast to coast television linkage had only become possible the year before, this was still novel and quite impressive to viewers.

As you watch, you’ll notice that not much has changed! The democrats and republicans are butting heads over Nixon, and there are even a couple of fluff pieces here on fashion and portable swimming pools. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee

kinescope of a live network news broadcast. News items include Richard Nixon, Charlie Chaplin (at 13:14), fashion, missiles and more, plus original commercia…


September 19, 1960…The “Tonight” Show Goes Color

September 19, 1960…The “Tonight” Show Goes Color

The “Tonight” Show is a creation of the late Pat Weaver, and has been on the air since 1954. It is the longest currently-running regularly scheduled entertainment program in the United States, and the third longest-running show on NBC, after “Meet the Press” and “Today”.

When the show began it was broadcast live from The Hudson Theater, with Steve Allen as the host. Paar took over in ’57 and while still at The Hudson, on January 12, 1959, the show began to be videotaped for broadcast later the same day.

The first week of January 1960, the show was moved to NBC Studio 6B at 30 Rock in preparation for the switch to color, which came on September 19, 1960 during Jack Paar’s tenure as host.

NBC’s “Broadway Open House”, which began in 1950, first demonstrated the potential for late-night network programming. The format for The “Tonight” Show can be traced to a 40 minute late night local show on WNBT New York, which was hosted by Allen. That show started in 1953. Network president Pat Weaver saw it, liked Allen, and made a deal. Beginning in September 1954, it was renamed “Tonight” and shown on the full NBC network. -Bobby Ellerbee


September 18, 1927…The CBS Radio Network Debuted

September 18, 1927…The CBS Radio Network Debuted

July 25, 1964…CBS Radio Bids Farewell To 485 Madison Avenue

On September 18, 1927, the CBS Radio Network, with 18 affiliates went on the air from their studios in The Steinway Building near Carnegie Hall on West 57th Street.

Exactly two years later, CBS Radio moved into the new 485 Madison Avenue building on September 18, 1929.

On July 25, 1964, the last broadcast from the heart of CBS Radio News…Studio 9, was a hosted by Steve Rowan, and the next day, Rowan was the first to broadcast from the new CBS Broadcast Center. At this link is the 2 page CBS press release.

That last show from 485 Madison, “Farewell To Studio 9” was historic in every way, and included clips from the many world shaping newscasts, and the most iconic newscasters this country
has known, including Edward R. Murrow, and many more that you can hear at this link to that last show.

Some Interesting History: When 485 Madison Avenue was first built, CBS occupied only the upper floors. As need grew, CBS expanded throughout the building. Originally, there were six studios.

Studios 1, 2, and 6 were on the 22nd floor. Studio 1 was reached by a staircase as its floor was higher in order to accommodate the higher ceilings of Studios 3 and 5 which were directly underneath.
Studios 3, 5, and 4 were located on the 21st floor. Master Control and the upper part of Studio 1 occupied the 23rd floor.

Studios 1 to 6 were remodeled in the mid 30s reflecting acoustic enhancements unknown when first built. Suspended light fixtures became recessed, sound insulation, wooden panels, and rubberized flooring were among the improvements. Also in the mid 30s, Studios 7 and 8 were constructed on the 3rd floor of 485 Madison Avenue.

Studio 9, which was the news studio and the news department were located on the 17th floor. CBS also had radio studios at 49 East 52nd Street, just around the corner from 485 Madison.

CBS television studios were also in the process of moving to the Broadcast Center including 41 through 44 at Grand Central. Studios 53 to 56 at Liederkrantz Hall, 111 East 58th Street were also moving to the Broadcast Center. The corporate offices later moved from 485 to Black Rock which opened in 1965 at 51 West 52nd Street. Happy Birthday to the CBS Broadcast Center! -Bobby Ellerbee


September 18, 1965…”I Dream Of Jeannie” Debuts On NBC

September 18, 1965…”I Dream Of Jeannie” Debuts On NBC
Did you know that Barbara Eden had to climb an 8 foot ladder to get into “her bottle”? It never won an Emmy, or ranked in the Top 30 shows, but many loved the show…especially Barbara’s cleavage. The link above will take you to a story that tells the real tales of how a “second bottle” affected the show…the bottle Larry Hagman drank from. -Bobby Ellerbee


September 17, 1960…Roone Arledge Changes College Football Forever

September 17, 1960…Roone Arledge Changes College Football Forever

56 years ago today, The Georgia Bulldogs, lead by quarterback Fran Tarkenton, traveled to Legion Field in Birmingham to take on Coach Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide. At 2:45 that afternoon, college football on television changed forever, as ABC broadcast the game.

That is where the ideas of a young Roone Arledge got put to the test. He had a different theory on how the game should be presented on TV, and was going to give fans something different.

With intimacy that was unprecedented, Arledge displayed the calm concentration of Bear Bryant on the sidelines before and important call, the youthful elation of Georgia QB Fran Tarkenton after scrambling for a first down, and the anguish of a Bulldog fan with a UGA pennant.

Several months before ABC began broadcasting NCAA college football games, Arledge sent his boss Ed Scherick a remarkable memo, filled with television production concepts which sports broadcasts have adhered to since. Previously, network sporting broadcasts had consisted of simple set-ups and focused on the game itself. The genius of Arledge in this memo was not that he offered another way to broadcast the game to the sports fan. The genius was to recognize television had to take the sports fan to the game.

In addition, Arledge realized that the broadcasts needed to attract and hold the attention of women viewers. At age 29, on September 17, 1960 he put his vision into reality with ABC’s first NCAA college football broadcast, and Roone’s future was on the line…along with the $6 Million ABC had spent for the rights to the season.

He had picked the right game and it was broadcast nation wide. He knew Bear Bryant was out to avenge the previous year’s humiliating season opener loss to UGA, and would draw a lot of interest. Roone had Curt Gowdy and Paul Christman in the booth, and he had told them both to “emphasize the the developing story of the game, the contrast of the Bryant team and the individual ability of Tarkenton”.

Arledge told the cameramen to focus on personalities driving the game, and the activity in the stands and on the sidelines as well…especially the cheerleaders. He wanted impact shots that showed “all the excitement, wonder, jubilation and despair that makes this America’s Number One sports spectacle”.

As a UGA grad, I’m sorry to report that Bama beat us that day. Enjoy, share and Go Dawgs! -Bobby Ellerbee


September 16, 1949…ABC’s KECA TV In Los Angeles Signs On

September 16, 1949…ABC’s KECA TV In Los Angeles Signs On

On May 7, 1949, Billboard revealed that ABC would spend $2.5 million to convert the old Vitagraph/Warner East Annex in Hollywood into The Prospect Studios, and construct a transmitter on Mount Wilson in anticipation of the launch of KECA-TV, which went on the air on September 16, 1949. In 1954, the call letters were changed to KABC.

When ABC began television operations on April 19, 1948, it had what CBS, Dumont and NBC did not have…5 major market, Owned and Operated stations. Well, almost…but they did have construction permits from the FCC, and over the next 13 months, they all came to air.

On April 19, 1948, the ABC Television Network began its broadcasts on its first primary affiliate, WFIL-TV in Philadelphia. In August 1948, the network’s flagship owned-and-operated station, WJZ-TV in New York City, began its broadcasts.

WENR-TV in Chicago launched on September 17, 1948, while WXYZ-TV in Detroit went on the air October 9, 1948. KGO-TV in San Francisco went on the air May 5, 1949. Happy Birthday KABC! -Bobby Ellerbee


September 16, 1965…”The Dean Martin Show” Debuts On NBC

September 16, 1965…”The Dean Martin Show” Debuts On NBC

This video goes to the heart of why the show was such a big success. It was as spontanious as a taped, network variety show could be, thanks to the unique relationship that Dean and director Greg Garrison had.

The great open secret of The Dean Martin Show was that Dean barely showed up for work. He did for its first season, but the program wasn’t working, and Dean was unhappy with how hard he was working. That was when Greg Garrison, who’d been hired as director only, came up with an idea. To make the show more spontaneous, and to keep Dino interested in doing it at all, he would arrange the schedule so Martin only had to come in one day a week, and not even for the entire day. Rehearsals were done with a stand-in, and everything that didn’t involve Dean was taped when he was nowhere on the premises. There were people who appeared on The Dean Martin Show without ever meeting Dean.

On tape day, Dean would come in, watch a run-through with the stand-in, then go out and replicate the stand-in’s actions. Everything was configured for maximum speed. Dean almost always wore a tuxedo, thereby minimizing costume changes and making it possible for any segment to be edited into any other show. The lines were all on cue cards and the songs, which were performed live, were all tunes that Dean already knew. If something went wrong, Garrison would usually not start over. He’d work some kind of paste-up edit, often inserting a freeze-frame in a manner that made other TV directors wince. Once in a while during a musical number, Dean wouldn’t be able to hear the orchestra and if you watch, you can see him rubbing his ear to signal Garrison to have the audio cranked up a notch. Anyone else would have restarted or edited…but Garrison promised his star he’d be done by 10 PM, and did whatever was necessary to make that happen.

In this particular segment, you’ll see everything you just read demonstrated, but given how this ends, this is one of the few times taping had to stop for a few minutes. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee

with Anna Moffo and Lloyd Bridges and Dean rips his pants LOL


Great Interview…Director, Don Roy King, “Saturday Night Live”

Great Interview…Director, Don Roy King, “Saturday Night Live”

In case you missed this link in the comments section of the SNL story earlier this week, here is a rare treat. In this half hour interview, Don Roy King gives us an incredibly detailed and interesting description of how the show is done, the weekly schedule, and the things that would reduce mere mortals to tears and panic in directing television’s only live 90 minute comedy sketch show.

With the best, and most experienced crews, actors and support staff in live television, they pull it off without a hitch, week after week and year after year, but as you will see…it’s not easy. They just make it look that way! Thanks to Andy Rose for the clip. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee


September 15, 1938…NBC Debuts TV’s First Live Remote Show

September 15, 1938…NBC Debuts TV’s First Live Remote Show

On December 12, 1937, the world’s first electronic television remote units were delivered by RCA to NBC in New York City. The dual vehicle system, consisting two, 26 foot buses included one for production and one for transmission. The production bus provided two portable single-lens Iconoscope cameras and the support equipment. The transmission bus contained the 177 MHz transmitter with a 50 foot antenna which could relay a remote pickup to the Empire State Building from as far away as 25 miles.

The units were field tested for about six months before being returned to RCA’s Camden plant for modifications in the synchronizing equipment. Another modification was the installation of an coaxial feed out the transmitter truck, which allowed them to shoot at 30 Rock’s sunken ice skating rink.

The trucks came back in late August, and on September 15, 1938, W2XBS broadcast the first “Man On The Street” episode, by interviewing passers-by in Rockefeller Plaza (via the new coax). It is thought that the “Man On The Street” interviews were done once a week on W2XBS, up until the 1939 World’s Fair opened in New York.

In 1935, a “man on the street” show called “Vox Pop” came to NBC’s Blue radio network and is thought to be the inspiration for the W2XBS remotes. Although there were still very few sets in use, the 15 minute show was a good work out for the crews and trucks.

By the time the 1939 World’s Fair came to town, NBC had a lot of experience with the units and used them heavily at the Fair.There is more on the photos, so click though, enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


Getting You Ready For…”SNL” Season 42 Debut, October 1

Getting You Ready For…”SNL” Season 42 Debut, October 1

A little further down are links to 3 great time lapse videos that show you how “active” Studio 8H is during each episode of “Saturday Night Live”, but we will start with a rare look at a stage map for the show.

If you have wondered how Studio 8H is arranged for the hive of action that happens in 90 minutes, here is the answer. Of course, the written in sketches change from week to week, but the stage areas stay the same.

To acclimate you, the south wall is to the left (49th Street) and the north wall to the right (50th Street). The wall where homebase is, is the west wall on the 6th Avenue side. At the bottom is the area where the bleachers are, but they wrap around on the north and south wall sides too.

At the bottom, you see the opening between stages 5 and 4C…this is the tunnel under the bleachers that leads to the page desk area and the dressing rooms. As you’ll see in one of the videos, this is a very busy area at showtime too. By the way, stage 2 is where the musical guests always perform, with the SNL house band at homebase. Where you see the “Three Dog Night, Control Audio” written in, that is the retractable tongue where the opening monologue is done, as well as “Weekend Update”.

Notice that some sketches are stacked in front of others, and that scenery is “pealed off” as the show progresses. Having seen this done live, you would be amazed at how many stage hands are setting and striking scenes during the show. It is ballet at it’s best!

Here are the 3 video links of the time lapsed action in Studio 8H… home of the best of the best in live television. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee 2 years ago 7 years ago Page Area


September 13, 1947…The RCA Kinescope Machine Debuts

September 13, 1947…The RCA Kinescope Machine Debuts

In association with Dumont, Kodak and RCA announced the developed a special film camera to shoot directly off a TV screen. This was the first “time shifting” technology to come to television. Nine years later, video tape would become the second.

Officially titled, the “Eastman Kodak Television Recording Camera”, a Kinescope recorder was basically a special 16mm film camera mounted in a large box aimed at a high quality monochrome video monitor. All things considered the Kinescope made high quality, and respectable TV recordings.

The Kinescope was quite the clever device. It’s film camera ran at a speed of 24 fps. Because the TV image repeated at 60 fields interlaced (30 fps) the film had to move intermittently between video frames and then be rock steady during exposure.

The pull-down period for the film frame was during the vertical interval of less than 2 mili seconds, which was something no mechanical contraption could do at the time.

Together, Dumont, RCA and Eastman Kodak found various ways around the problem by creating a novel shutter system that used an extra six frames of the 30 frame video signal to move the film. This action integrated the video half-images into what seemed like smooth 24 fps film pictures.

Of course, the kines were played back on air using film chains running at 24 fps, so the conversion to film was complete and seamless. Until videotape recorders made their debut, the Kinescope was the only way to transmit delayed television programs that were produced live.

For much more on the history of kinescope recording, go to this link. -Bobby Ellerbee


September 13, 1953…Marilyn Monroe’s First Network TV Appearance

September 13, 1953…Marilyn Monroe’s First Television Appearance

In the Comment section below, you’ll see the gift Jack Benny gave Marilyn for appearing on his show. She was reluctant and didn’t really want to do it because on live television, to many things could go wrong, but the “gift” helped, as did the studio executives who saw this as a great promo for her new movie “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds” which went into general release in August of ’53.

This was the first show of Benny’s fourth season and having lost thirty percent of his audience in the third season, he was anxious to step up the guest star power. It worked and the ratings zoomed.  -Bobby Ellerbee

On September 13, 1953 The Jack Benny Show episode with Marilyn Monroe aired on CBS. I really enjoy this episode! Marilyn is such a sweetheart and did a great…


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