Posts in Category: Broadcast History

Ultra Rare! Cronkite Goodby To Huntley, & Huntley – Brinkley Finale

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Ultra Rare! Cronkite Goodby To Huntley, & Huntley – Brinkley Finale

That I know of, this old demo tape from long time Miami news man Bob Mayer is the best, and one of the only captures of Walter Cronkite’s farewell to Chet Huntley, which even includes an unheard of insert from Huntley. AND, immediately following the CBS News credit roll, is the final few minutes of ‘The Huntley – Brinkley Report’. All in good quality color.

This all happened July 31, 1970, fourteen years after their start on NBC on October 29, 1956. For those of you that know Bob Mayer and spent time in South Florida like me ( twenty years), the rest of the reel will be a kick for you too. Enjoy and share!

http://youtu.be/P7_fE2zpSIQ?t=11m44sWUFT-TV Newscast from May, 1969 – Apollo 10 Astronauts readying for July Moon Launch; July 31st, 1970 – Walter Cronkite says goodbye to Chet Huntley on CBS; …
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Spoiler Alert…They Weren’t Really In Casablanca, OR Outside!

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Spoiler Alert…They Weren’t Really In Casablanca, OR Outside!

Just for fun, here’s a shot of the final scene of ‘Casablanca’ filmed around August 2, 1942. The whole picture was shot on the Warner back lot except for the sequence showing Major Strasser’s arrival, which was filmed at Van Nuys Airport, and a few short clips of stock footage views of Paris.

This scene on the “runway” was purposefully over fogged to hide the deficiencies in the cardboard mock up of a Lockheed Electra which had very short extras around it to help cheat the proportionality. Speaking of cheating, Bogart was two inches shorter than Bergman, so…like in this scene, he stood on blocks and sat on pillows to hide the difference.


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June 19, 1946…The debut of the RCA TK30s…

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June 19, 1946…”He Can Run, But He Can’t Hide!” -Joe Lewis

The debut of the RCA TK30 Image Orthicon camera was live in half of the nation and on kinescope for the rest, so this better be good! And it was! This was trial by fire.

RCA worked so fast to get six TK30s to NBC in New York for the Lewis-Conn rematch at Yankee Stadium, the art department didn’t even have time to cut and paste photos of the cameras in their pre fight ads that ran in May of 1946.

In the photos on the right and left, you see the first TK30s ever used anywhere…even on a local NBC NY show. The introduction date was officially set for October of ’46, but the Lewis-Conn rematch was such a big deal that production was moved up to get at least a few in service for the fight. NBC covered the fight on radio and television on the full network. This was television’s first ever coverage of a World Heavyweight Championship bout.

In the RCA ad in the center we see the immediate predecessor to the TK line of Image Orthicon cameras. These are RCA Orthicon cameras…better than Iconoscopes, but still not half the quality of the IO cameras.

Here’s a little history on this Lewis-Conn rematch…one long delayed by WWII. In 1942, Conn beat Tony Zale and had an exhibition with Louis. World War II was at one of its most important moments, however, and both Conn and Louis were called to serve in the Army. Conn went to war and was away from the ring until 1946.

By then, the public was clamoring for a rematch between him and the still world Heavyweight champion Louis. This happened, and on June 19, 1946, Conn returned into the ring, straight into a world Heavyweight championship bout. Before that fight, it was suggested to Louis that Conn might outpoint him because of his hand and foot speed. In a line that would be long-remembered, Louis replied: “He can run, but he can’t hide.” The fight, at Yankee Stadium, was the first televised world Heavyweight championship bout ever, and 146,000 people watched it on TV, also setting a record for the most seen world Heavyweight bout in history. Most people who saw it agreed that both Conn and Louis’ abilities had eroded with their time spent serving in the armed forces, but Louis was able to retain the crown by a knockout in round eight.

Reports on the television coverage were glowing too! These cameras had delivered the clearest, sharpest pictures ever and with four lenses on the turret, were able to offer a never before available range of shots per camera with 24 views of the action.




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This Rare Color Photo Reveals More Than You Know!

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This Rare Color Photo Reveals More Than You Know!

There are two other photos like this, but this is the only color version. Each description of these similar images eludes to a “studio tour”, and show 1930 era visitors being shot by an RCA field camera and seeing themselves in a monitor. These photos had baffled me till about a month ago when I made a magnificent find!

I always knew this was not inside NBC Studio 3H, but that was the only working NBC television facility from 1935, till 8G came along in 1948. So, where was this “studio”? At the 1939 World’s Fair!

Just before I left for New York, I was digging through some books on television given to me by Robert Forman some time back. There were several Xeroxed copies of interesting magazine articles, but one that I had somehow overlooked jumped out at me.

It is the second only known copy of “America’s First Television Tour”…the 30 page booklet created by RCA/NBC for visitors to the RCA Pavillion at the 1939 World’s Fair. As far as I know, no one had ever written about the studio and live camera inside the RCA Pavillion.

We knew that you could see yourself on TV there, but photos of people being “televised” are mostly all outside where there is plenty of light. It turns out that there was an elaborate studio display inside the pavilion, and possibly included the old “Felix The Cat” mechanical camera from the early 30s.

The book and the find were exciting enough, but low and behold, there was yet another surprise! Included in the bound pages were two letters at the end. One letter was from Mr. Foreman, which accompanied the original booklet, to the Museum Of Broadcasting in New York where it is now included in their archives.

The other letter was a reply and thank you for the donation dated April 28th, 1988. The letter was signed by our friend Ron Simon who was the Television Curator at the Museum Of Broadcasting, which is now The Paley Center For Media. I met with Ron April 30th…almost exactly 26 years after he sent the letter. I took him a copy and we both had a good laugh at the serendipity of the whole thing. Although it would make a huge post (in more than one way), I will try to get a copy of this rare piece of broadcast history online soon.

Speaking of serendipity, this photo was sent to me a few months back by our friend Jodie Peeler who teaches journalism at Newberry College. She’ll be here at my house around noon today to see my camera collection. Small World? You Bet!


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History’s Most Infamous Game Show Footage…’Twenty One’

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History’s Most Infamous Game Show Footage…’Twenty One’

This show was done live from NBC Studio 6B, Wednesday night, November 19, 1956. This was the fourth and final round of play on ‘Twenty One’ between Charles Van Doren and Herb Stempel. The other three were tie games…21 to 21.

The video is Qed to the point where MC Jack Barry asks Stemple the famous “Marty” question. This is the whole episode and is very interesting to watch in full. Anyone who is a fan of the movie “Quiz Show” will certainly appreciate seeing the real thing.

For the younger crowd, this was ground zero of the quiz show scandals that hit television in 1958. At this link is a very good PBS ‘American Experience’ write up of the details.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/quizshow/peopleevents/pande01.html

Notice in the video that the headsets for both have different ear cups on each set. These headphones were modified by NBC engineers, with one side allowing them to hear the questions from Jack Barry, and that only. The other side allows them to hear the other contestant when they get to face off at the end of the game.

On March 11, 1957, Van Doren was finally upset by Vivienne Nearing, a lawyer whose husband Van Doren had previously beaten. Enjoy and share!

http://youtu.be/hMkL4LKb8AU?t=10m13sHere is the episode of twenty one with herb stemple and Charles Van Doren, Twenty One was part of the game show scandal. Thais show was the basis of the film…
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Network Television’s First, Live, Country Music Show

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Network Television’s First, Live, Country Music Show

From July 5, 1953 – September 13, 1953, the Dumont Network broadcast the ‘Old American Barn Dance’ live from 10:30 till 11 on Sunday nights. This was a summer replacement show done from Chicago.

In 1949, ABC had been the first with country music on television with the ‘ABC Barn Dance’, but that was shot on film in Chicago at the WLS radio show ‘National Barn Dance’. Now you wouldn’t necessarily think of Chicago as the home of country music, but truth be told…that was ground zero!

Before there was ‘The Grand Old Opry’, or even it’s predecessor, ‘The WSM Barn Dance’ in 1925, WLS in Chicago had ‘The National Barn Dance’ show which started in 1924. WLS, whose call letters stand for “World’s Largest Store” was owned by Sears and was a 50,000 watt, clear channel powerhouse that covered a good part of the midwest and eastern US. I used to listen to WLS every night here in Atlanta in the late ’60s.

WBAP in Dallas actually had the first live country show TV show in 1948, but their ‘Saturday Night Barn Dance’ was local and very popular.

In Nashville, WSM hired long-time announcer and program director George D. “Judge” Hay, from the ‘National Barn Dance’ program at WLS in Chicago, who was also named the most popular radio announcer in America. Hay launched the ‘WSM Barn Dance’ with 77-year-old fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson on November 28, 1925, which is celebrated as the birth date of the ‘Grand Ole Opry’.

On December 10, 1927 the phrase “Grand Ole Opry” was first uttered on-air.

That night ‘Barn Dance’ followed the NBC Red Network’s Music Appreciation Hour, a program of classical music and selections from Grand Opera presented by classical conductor Walter Damrosch. That night, Damrosch remarked that “there is no place in the classics for realism,”

In response, Opry presenter George Hay said: “Friends, the program which just came to a close was devoted to the classics. Doctor Damrosch told us that there is no place in the classics for realism. However, from here on out for the next three hours, we will present nothing but realism. It will be down to earth for the ‘earthy’.”

Hay then introduced DeFord Bailey, the man he had dubbed the “Harmonica Wizard”, saying:

“For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on, we will present the ‘Grand Ole Opry’.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNM_lVNNx5s&list=PLkcjBnooz6qktKtF-iEmBQJN5M_oJakQP&index=2

A Country Music show from 1953. Featuring in order; Bill Bailey, Kay Brewer, The Saddle Pals, Nancy Lee, Kenny Roberts, Homer & Jethro, Doc Hopkins, The Cand…
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Inside NBC Studio 8H Video

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Inside NBC Studio 8H…

Here’s a little over a minute of video shot during the set up session for Rihanna’s band in December of 2009. This is usually done Thursday mornings with load in and sound check done by 1 o’clock and and a run through of the songs done around 2 when camera blocking begins. You can see the schedules in today’s next post.

After the song run throughs, the guest host comes in and the promos with the host and band are shot usually in a 30 to 45 minute window. After promos, sketch rehearsal and camera blocking begins and lasts till around 8 or 9.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gne3CUBxuN0

A peek into SNL rehearsals with Rihanna’s Band, Madhouse. Ashleigh Haney gives a tour of the SNL studio!
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Repost: My Night At SNL…Two Weeks Ago, May 3, 2014

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Repost: My Night At SNL…Two Weeks Ago, May 3, 2014

Tonight is the end of Season 39 at ‘Saturday Night Live’. Two weeks ago today, I was fortunate enough to be there…live and in person. I’m reposting my report from the next morning…

LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT!

Last night, I was an eyewitness to live television entertainment’s only living legacy…’Saturday Night Live’.

I sat on the front row of the floor seats. Looking at the stage, I was on the left side in the corner seat…only three seats on the front row and to my left was the other half of the 8H floor space…the perfect place to see everything.

I’m going into some detail this morning, but believe me…there will me much more on this! Before I go anywhere though, I must first thank the SNL crew for their incredible hospitality, especially John Pinto and Phil Pernice.

These are the pros that do the work: On Camera 1, our friend John Pinto. This is the Chapman Electra crane camera and his long time driver is Phil Pernice, with Louis Delli Paoli and Robert Mancari handling the boom arm duties.

On Camera 2, Paul Cangialisoi. On Camera 3, Len Weshlel. On Camera 4, Carl Eckert. On Camera 5, our old friend Eric Eisenstein. These are pedestal cameras, but when a portable is needed, one of them will handle that.

I know you will want to join me in wishing Barry Frisher a speedy recovery and return. Barry is a long time crew member and is usually on Camera 4, but the until he returns, another long time SNL cameraman, Carl Ecker, has returned from retirement to fill in.

These are two more men that need to be acknowledged…Ed Ruotolo and Pete Phrane. In a way, these two are “the last of the Mohicans”. Ed and Pete are the only two sound boom operators in live network television!

Knowing what I know now, we really have to thank Lorne Michaels too for keeping the show true to the way it would have been done when live entertainment television was in it’s heyday. Max Liebman and Lorne have a lot in common and it seems that Mr. Michaels goes the extra mile to acknowledge that in a way.

Liebman produced NBC’s first ninety minute Saturday night hit… ‘Your Show Of Shows’ with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. That show was done the same way, with ped cameras, a studio crane, two sound booms and a live audience.

To his credit, Michaels has taken this a step further. Like last night, I and forty or so others get to sit in the floor seats each week. This adds intimacy to the presentation, but also a few more degrees of difficulty.

Sketches take place everywhere, on both ends of the studio and in the middle too which means four ped cameras, the Chapman and two sound booms have to move there, set up and be ready three minutes after the last sketch. But remember…there’s scenery too and lots of it! Sage hands are constantly in motion setting up the next scene and striking the last and some of the set pieces are quite large and elaborate, but everything has to move at the same time while staying quiet and out of each others way. This is a huge 3D chess game that is beyond fascinating to watch. On top of all this is the Q card team which has to be in place with the cards over the lens of the correct camera and are all in synch in three or four different places at once.

There are kings, and then there are Kings of Kings. The crews at ‘Saturday Night Live’ are Kings of Kings, and then some! In each one of them, from the floor to the control room to the dressing rooms and beyond, both talent and technical…all of them are living legacies. The art of live variety show production, in all of the world, has only one true home; NBC Studio 8H!

With all due respect to all the other live network crews, especially the brilliant New York video artists behind the cameras at Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman and Seth Meyers, you are also Kings of Kings, but you have to admit that SNL is in a class by itself as the format and conditions are very different from any other show. It’s apples and oranges. There will be more on all these great crews later this week.

Now…to the dance. There is a magical coordination and flow of choreography that goes largely unseen that is absolutely stunning to watch in person. The great shots you see on screen are the product of the dance, but the dance itself is a true sight to behold!

One level of this dance is exclusive to SNL. All live shows have floor traffic but SNL has overhead traffic too, and lots of it! Here, we have Louis and Robert swinging John Pinto’s camera over head AND two sound booms! It was very interesting in Friday’s camera blocking rehearsal to hear a discussion of boom shadows. This is one of the elements exclusive to SNL that the pros there have to deal with, and they do it well.

Another part of this “level one” dance is the move…the migration of men and machines from one end of 8H to the other, or somewhere in between. There are utility men and women with each camera to handle the cable which is absolutely necessary, and when they move, it’s done with care, calm and efficiency and is a thing of beauty to behold in itself.

The second level of the dance is most pronounced during the musical guest performances. Frankly, I can not begin to express the art of this dance any more than I can describe the art of this kid in the clip dancing to “Happy” on SNL a few weeks back. He has the music “in him” and it is joyous to watch him turn it loose! It’s not overdone…just tasty and cool! You can see it in him through out the clip. This is qued to his part. Take a look.
http://youtu.be/qFHzmDZcL34?t=1m44s

What does this have to do with the SNL camera crew? Every one of them “have the music in them” and express it visually with a ballet of moves that will bring tears to your eyes should you be lucky enough to see it done. All four ped cameramen are peding up and peding down, trucking left and right, in and out, back and forth…all constantly in fluid motion. They trade places with each other on the in and outs and in the center, Pinto and company is booming up and down, and over the heads of the others the whole time. This is true art and these are video artist at work!

Speaking of art…watching Phil, Louis and Robert handle the Chapman Electra is a thrill! World wide, this is the only true studio crane in operation in live television. Everything else that flies is a jib, and with all due respect to the jib operators…there is no comparison. The Electra boom is in perfect balance on the up and down and should Louis and Robert turn loose of the boom arm, it will not move and is rock steady. Seeing Phil back the whole thing into the tunnel under the seats is a sight to behold.

In closing, my sincere thanks to everyone at SNL that have made me feel so welcome this week. I am deeply touched and truly honored to have been able to see all of you, and be a witness to the extraordinary work you do.

8H IS the home of the Kings of Kings! Thank you all for continuing the legacy of live television at it’s best! Bobby Ellerbee

Below left the makeup room. Center is the show in progress and on the right, the Q card area under the seats.




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‘Saturday Night Live’ Run Sheets…Dress, Air And Map

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‘Saturday Night Live’ Run Sheets…Dress, Air And Map

With tonight bringing SNL Season 39 to a close, we’re celebrating with all today’s posts focusing on this great American treasure and the world’s only remaining live, variety style network show.

We’ve all heard the stories about the sketches that are cut between the dress rehearsal and live air at ‘Saturday Night Live’, and here you’ll see the real thing. Below is the pink dress rehearsal rundown and the green air rundown sheets from the April 12th show with guest host Seth Rogen.

As you see, sketches get cut and this affects the shows run time and the best place to make adjustments is in the length of ‘Weekend Update’. The dress rehearsal typically runs from 8 till 10 and is a half hour longer than the air version. The best audience received sketches tend to make the cut, but not always as the clock has a say in this too.

In a way, ‘Weekend Update’ is a shock absorber in the context of time. It is typically written long and if only one or two sketches are cut, most of the adjustment can be made in whittling down the Update script between dress and air. When you see long Updates, you can bet three or more sketches were cut.

This is an oversimplification as there are many moving parts to the show and sketches can be edited or extended between dress and air, and even while the show is live. On show nights, between about 8:15 and 12:45, the writers and Q card areas are absolutely the busiest places on earth.

On the right is a set map of this show. I think (at least for Season 39) this is the regular placement of the set locations showing us there are nine stage areas in 8H in addition to the Homebase area. Only Homebase, stage 2 and 3A are actual raised stages with all others being on the studio floor. On this week, we see a tenth area marked ‘Mob Bar’ in front of 4B.

Notice the homebase stage is shown with the “tongue” sticking out. The tongue is a retractable platform that hides under the house band’s stage and is about ten feet long and electrically operated. The tongue is out for the show’s open and close with the guest host monologue and goodby, and stowed for most of the show, except for ‘Weekend Update’ which is done on the tongue.

I’ve heard that Jay Leno like the tongue so much when he guest hosted that he had one built into his ‘Tonight’ show set soon after.
Congratulations to the cast, crew, writers and staff at SNL! Long live ‘Saturday Night Live’! More to come.




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Rockefeller Center’s Rooftop Gardens are a Hidden Urban Treasure

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The Rooftop Gardens At Rockefeller Center…Rare Gems

This is an excellent piece on the gardens with lots of photos but the 30 Rock garden is not mentioned or shown here. Fortunately, much of that can be seen in today’s first post of the SNL promos for tonight’s season finale.

http://inhabitat.com/nyc/the-rockefeller-centers-rooftop-gardens-are-a-hidden-urban-treasure/

Rockefeller Center’s Rooftop Gardens are a Hidden Urban Treasure

Green before it was the norm, the Rockefeller Center buildings boast a handful of rooftop gardens, rarely accessible to the general public.
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SNL Promos…The 30 Rock Rooftop Garden

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SNL Promos…The 30 Rock Rooftop Garden

There are several rooftop gardens in Rockefeller Center, but I think this location is actually on top of the 11 story studio building at 30 Rock, and may even be directly over Studio 8H.

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/snl-promo-andy-samberg/2781867Andy Samberg returns to host an all-new Saturday Night Live with musical guest St. Vincent on May 17, 2014.
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Classic!

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Classic!


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Just For Fun…One Of Television’s First “Mishaps”

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Just For Fun…One Of Television’s First “Mishaps”

In the late 1930s, when TV was just a baby, there were bloopers and blunders everywhere because it was all new, but this little gem is a bit different! It’s a story I was told on my recent visit to NY and happened in NBC’s studio 3H around 1939.

Sets were pretty flimsy back then but with such low resolution and few viewers, that was OK. The scene being done was between two actors and required one man to go to a wall safe, retrieve a pistol and shoot the other man. The safe’s cover was a piece of cardboard attached to a flat with a hole in it and behind the flat was a stage hand with a blank pistol.

Things had not gone well in rehearsal as the “shooter” had an ego and was being a bit difficult. Human nature being what it is led to an interesting scene in the live broadcast. When the “shooter” went to the wall safe, it opened just fine. Then, the actor stuck his hand in for the gun, but was handed a peeled banana. He quickly tried to hand it back to the stage hand, but instead, four stage hands behind the wall all shook his hand with vigor.

After having his hand in the “safe” for nearly a minute, they finally handed him the gun. The actor immediately shot four times into the hole in the wall and then turned the gun on his fellow actor and pumped the final two shots into him.

I’m sure the audience didn’t know what the hell was going on, especially with all the laughter coming from behind the cameras and the wall. Enjoy and share!


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Yet More Classic Letterman…13 Cameras In The Studio

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Yet More Classic Letterman…13 Cameras In The Studio

If you look closely, you’ll notice there are actually three different kinds of RCA TK47s on the set. The TK47 with multi core cable was introduced in 1978 and we see some of that cable along with triax cable that came with the TK47B in 1982. Like the photo from yesterday that showed the TK47 with extra controls on the rear, we surely have a couple of TK47EP, or Enhanced Performance models here too which debuted at the NAB in 1980. Enjoy and share!

http://youtu.be/Yr0sel58sug?t=1m51s Tonight is camera night! 13 cameras in the studio instead of the usual 4.
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The Durland Riding Club…Now Home To ABC New York

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The Durland Riding Club…Now Home To ABC New York

As you can read on the photo captions, the Durland Riding Club with it’s academy and stables was built on the site now occupied by ABC in 1901. The building had a front on both 66th and 67th Street, just west of Central Park.

These photos are somewhere in the TV 1 and 2 building I think. The photo on the right is duplicated as I clipped part of the caption in both. A lot of people have looked for these rare Durland photos, including me, but this is the only place I have ever seen them. Enjoy and share!




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Barbara Walters… The Stormy Arrival In 1976 And Her Smooth Departure Tomorrow …

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Barbara Walters…
The Stormy Arrival In 1976 And Her Smooth Departure Tomorrow

On Monday, the ABC News building was re named “The Barbara Walters Building” and these photos are in the lobby of 47 West 66 Street. The ABC News building is among several buildings that make up the ABC complex along 66th Street, between Columbus Ave. and Central Park West, which is also known as Peter Jennings Way, named for the longtime ‘World News Tonight’ anchor who passed away in 2005.

The renaming caps Walters’ 53-year career in broadcast journalism, and honors her as the first woman to anchor a network morning show. She was also the first woman to anchor an evening newscast. Can you believe she helped create ‘The View’ 18 years ago. She’ll formally retire on the show tomorrow.

When Walters came over from NBC’s ‘Today’ show, she was a co anchor of the evening news with Harry Reasoner. That did not sit well with a lot of people and Reasoner was one of them. Here’s the story.

For five years, most of them with Howard K. Smith at his side, Harry Reasoner sat in his anchor chair at ABC handing down good news and bad with the self assurance of Mount Rushmore. But on April 20, 1976, Rushmore registered a 6.0 on the Richter scale when ABC wooed Barbara Walters away from NBC’s ‘Today’ and signed her as an anchor with a record $1-million-a-year contract.

That fall, as she took her seat next to Reasoner (Howard K. Smith had already assumed the role of commentator), she became the first woman ever to deliver the evening news from the main desk. Rushmore was rattled.

Although Reasoner publicly maintained that he didn’t mind Walters ”as a person and as a woman,” he privately voiced his displeasure with her to the ABC brass. The network boosted his salary from $200,000 to $500,000 — the same amount Walters was receiving for her anchor duties (the other $500,000 was for her work on specials). But the tensions wouldn’t go away. ”You know, Harry,” she quipped in one especially embarrassing exchange, ”Kissinger didn’t do too badly as a sex symbol in Washington.” Her counterpart just glared: ”Well, you would know more about that than I would.”

If Reasoner was tough on her, the rest of the media were downright rude — and more than a little sexist. Larry Flynt offered her another million if she would pose nude for Hustler. TIME, sniffing at the tour she gave of her own apartment on her first prime-time special, labeled the 45-year-old journalist 1976’s ”Most Appalling Argument for Feminism.” And Gilda Radner made ”Baba Wawa’s” mild speech impediment a joke on Saturday Night Live.

After two years of low ratings, Reasoner and Walters both left their desks in 1978 and the broadcast changed to a multianchor format. But by then Walters had proved herself more than just a million-dollar baby. She had deftly moderated the final Ford-Carter debate in 1976 and had scored a coup by interviewing Fidel Castro the following year. And in the Barbara Walters Specials she and ABC found a show that continues to be a huge ratings winner. For the specials and her weekly duties on the highly rated 20/20, Walters received an annual salary somewhere around Dan Rather’s — about $3 million.

Although Walters is leaving the day to day part behind, ABC says she’ll will remain an executive producer with ‘The View’ and will make special ABC News appearances as events warrant.




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Inside ‘CBS Sunday Morning’

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Inside ‘CBS Sunday Morning’

This has always been one of my favorite shows. There is a line in a Lionel Richie song that says it all…”easy like a Sunday morning”, and that’s just the way it feels. Actually, that’s the foundation it was built on; to be like the magazine section of the Sunday paper, taken in at a leisurely pace with your morning coffee.

The show has been on since January 29, 1979 and that’s proof that the ‘Sunday Morning’ formula works. The program was created by Robert Northshield and it’s original host Charles Kuralt. The current host of the show is Charles Osgood, who took over duties from Kuralt upon his retirement on April 3, 1994, and has since surpassed Kuralt’s tenure as host. Both are perfect hosts.

This set is located directly across from something we saw here yesterday, the ‘Inside Edition’ greenscreen set in Studio 45 at the CBS Broadcast Center, which is a just over 3000 square feet. When ’60 Minutes’ first began, it shared space with ‘Captain Kangaroo’ and I think it was in this studio.

I’ve always wondered about the show’s trumpet theme. I had always thought the opening was played on a coronet which is smaller than a regular trumpet, but it’s actually played on a piccolo trumpet, which is smaller than a cornet.

The show’s theme is the trumpet fanfare “Abblasen”, attributed to Gottfried Reiche. A recording of the piece on a baroque trumpet by Don Smithers was used as the show’s theme for many years, until producers decided to replace the vinyl recording with a digital of a piccolo trumpet by former ‘Tonight Show’ musical director Doc Severinsen. The current version is played by Wynton Marsalis. I can hear it now, can you?




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Did You Ever Wonder Why Early TV Sets Used A Mirror?

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Did You Ever Wonder Why Early TV Sets Used A Mirror?

Me too, but now I know. As odd as it seems now, the mirror was actually not a bad solution to a big problem.

The first cathode ray tubes for home receivers were actually quite long and a chassis for it would have stuck out from the wall about three feet. Getting people to by a TV set in the late 30s was hard enough…there was very little to see and they were quite expensive, but if it had been so cumbersome an item of furniture, the job would have been even harder.

The answer at RCA and GE was to stand the tube up in a cabinet about the size of a floor model radio of the time. This helped with the integration of a set into living rooms, but required the viewers to stand up too. This was quickly remedied by adding the flip top mirror which could reflect the small eight inch image to seated viewers. Pass the popcorn please.



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NBC Chimes History, Part 2

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NBC Chimes History, Part 2

Here is a page from Broadcasting Magazine’s February, 1950 edition announcing the NBC Chime sound to be the first ever “service mark” to be protected by a US patent.

The article goes on to cover a bit of the history of the chimes, including the 1938 electronic version built for NBC by Richard H. Ranger. As you can see, the “Rangertone” electronic chimes operate much like an old fashioned music box.

For harmonic purposes, each note has seven tuned reeds or metal tines that are picked by the seven teeth on the roller. There are twenty one total teeth on the roller and twenty one tines which generate the famous G – E – C tones with a push of a button. There is much more on the mechanical version and history of the chimes at the link below.
http://www.nbcchimes.info/nbcmech.php




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The NBC Chimes: Part 1

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The NBC Chimes: Part 1…My Original NBC Chime Set

In the photos below, you see one of the original sets of NBC chimes purchased by NBC from the Lesch Silver Co. of Manhattan. It is a Degan Dinner Chime, model 400 which in 1927 had a suggested retail price of $9.00 each. NBC’s total purchase at Lesch was $48.50 which bought them either four or five sets of the chimes.

A few years back, I was able to purchase this set of Degan Dinner Chimes from Mr. Harold Chasen, who was then 88 years old. Harold told me that he was given this set of chimes when he retired after 40 years of service with NBC Radio.

His much younger boss had found them in his new office years earlier and had only recently stumbled across them the week before Harold retired and gave them to him as a going away present. Harold was quite surprised and suspected that his boss didn’t really know what he had, but was happy to now be in possession of these historic chimes.

Mr. Chasen was also a drummer and had played on a lot of RCA recordings, and after NBC, had a music store or two in Virginia. He investigated further and had come to the conclusion these were most likely from the Red Network studios as the Red and Blue networks had separate work and engineering offices for accounting purposes.

Harold had started with NBC radio as an engineer in 1933 and his first few months were spent at NBC’s original home at 711 Madison Avenue. In late 1933, NBC and RCA moved to their new building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

NBC’s radio history begins in July of 1926, when RCA took over WEAF as the flagship for the Broadcasting Company Of America, a name that was soon changed to the National Broadcasting Company.

The purchase price was $1 million. The first broadcast of the National Broadcasting Company originated from the Waldorf Astoria on November 15, 1926 with a show that lasted from 8PM till midnight.

WEAF was owned by RCA, but with the creation of NBC, bought WJZ radio as NBC’s first station and shortly after, RCA put WEAF under NBC’s control and thus was born the Red and Blue Networks.

WEAF was the key station of the Red Network, and “sister” station WJZ, was the flagship of the Blue Network, which went into operation 6 weeks later. The colors were derived from the ink colors used to trace the network routes on AT&T system maps.

In late 1927, WEAF and WJZ moved to 711 5th Ave. Both the Red and Blue key stations had two studios each and a large auditorium studio was shared by both.

In those early days, at the end of a programs, the NBC announcer would read the call letters of all the NBC stations carrying the program. As the network added more stations this became impractical and would cause some confusion among the affiliates as to the conclusion of network programming and when the station break should occur on the hour and half-hour.

Some sort of coordinating signal was needed to signal the affiliates for these breaks and allow each affiliate to identify. Three men at NBC were given the task of finding a solution to the problem and coming up with such a coordinating signal. These men were; Oscar (O.B.) Hanson, from NBC engineering, Earnest LaPrada, an NBC orchestra leader, and Phillips Carlin, an NBC announcer.

During the years 1927 and 1928 these men experimented with a seven note sequence of chimes, G-C-G-E-G-C-E, which proved too complicated for the announcers to consistently strike in the correct order. Sometime later they came up with the three note G-E-C combination. These three notes were first broadcast on NBC November 29, 1929 and were struck at 59 minutes 30 seconds, and 29 minutes 30 seconds past the hour.

Was it this set of chimes that first struck the now famous NBC audio logo? We’ll never know, but will always wonder. On the right is an NBC announcer in the 711 Madison Avenue studios with a set of Degan Dinner Chimes preparing to strike the three most famous notes in the world.

Tomorrow and the next day, more on the NBC chimes with actual 1950 NBC press releases on the adoption of the sound as the first registered audible service mark, and the electrification of the chimes. Enjoy and share! Bobby Ellerbee




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The Poor Bastards Never Had A Chance…The NABET Strike, 1987

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The Poor Bastards Never Had A Chance…The NABET Strike, 1987

As we know, Dave loves to play with the staff and crew, but when the technicians strike rolled around, management had to step in and Letterman pulled all the stops to “play” with them. This should start at the intro to ‘Dave’s Record Collection’ which sets up the piece of Letterman roaming the halls of NBC. Enjoy and share!

http://youtu.be/djY2URkhQX0?t=45sDave gets fed up with all the technical problems during the technicians strikes and decides to take a break and get a cup of coffee.
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You Mean There’s No SET??? Inside, ‘Inside Edition’

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You Mean There’s No SET??? Inside, ‘Inside Edition’

Last week, inside CBS Studio 45, I was stunned to learn that this green screen area is where Deborah Norville hosts ‘Inside Edition’.

Don’t freak out, but this is not the only show done this way and the list of others is growing. In the photos below you see the before and after. The mannequin is a camera test stand in for Deborah, and each day, video checks are done to adjust the chromakey settings so that the effect does not “tear” when the virtual set is added into the mix.

Although the show is videotaped for later playback, this is all done in real time. A key point of a virtual set like this is that the real camera can move in 3D space, while the image of the virtual camera is being rendered in real-time from the same perspective.

That means the virtual scene has to instantly adapt to and mirror the camera’s output including zoom, pan, angle, traveling, etc. This is what differentiates a virtual set from the traditional technique of chromakey.

Integration of camera tracking is done with either optical or mechanical measurements to create a live stream of data describing the exact perspective of the camera. In this case, the tracking is measured digitally by capturing the information generated by the robotic pan heads.

The 3D virtual software used on ‘Inside Edition’ is made by the granddaddy of chromakey innovation, Ultimatte, who’s been on the cutting edge of chromakey hardware and software since 1976. Enjoy and share!




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A Recipe for Analog to Digital Video Transfer: Baking

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The Race Against Time And The Ultimate Dropout…

Our friend Richard Wirth has a new article on how preservationists are reviving videotapes…at least long enough to play them through into a digital format. It is literally a “sticky business”, but thankfully there are people making the effort. Here’s a look at how they are making the old tape stock playable again.

http://provideocoalition.com/pvcexclusive/story/a-recipe-for-analog-to-digital-video-transfer-baking

A Recipe for Analog to Digital Video Transfer: Baking

We had a project come to us recently that required the transfer of ¾ inch videotape to digital files. To those for whom analog videotapes have become a mysterious relic akin to Egyptian hieroglyphs, let it be known that much of our cultural heritage still exists only on this medium.
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’60 Minutes’…The Man Behind “The Look”, Arthur Bloom

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’60 Minutes’…The Man Behind “The Look”, Arthur Bloom

Shown below are photos of the door to the ’60 Minutes’ Studio 33, including a memorial plaque to Arthur Bloom, a major innovator of television graphics.

Arthur Bloom was the award-winning CBS News television director responsible for the distinctive on-screen look of 60 Minutes since its debut. He led the modernization of on-screen graphics at CBS News, and died in 2006, but his legacy lives on.

He was one of the last remaining original 60 Minutes founders still working for the program. Bloom also played a role in helping to train Dan Rather to succeed Walter Cronkite in the CBS News anchor chair in 1981.

Bloom spent his entire 45-year career at CBS and used his keen eye and a symphonic vision of camera work to become one of the medium’s best directors of live political event coverage. His outstanding talent was recognized with the first Lifetime Achievement Award in News Direction from the Directors Guild of America (DGA) in 1995. The same organization had honored him twice before, once for news direction of CBS News coverage of the 1976 Democratic and Republican conventions and, before that, in 1973 for his work on 60 Minutes.

Most of Bloom’s time was devoted to 60 Minutes; he helped to create and then honed the consistent, classy look of the broadcast. Each week he worked in Studio 33 in the CBS Broadcast Center monitoring the program’s studio production and directing the 60 Minutes correspondents as they taped introductions and tags for their reports. He influenced some of the broadcast’s most basic elements, starting with its famous ticking stopwatch.

The first stopwatch was Bloom’s own. The timepiece symbol began as part of 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt’s idea for “60 minutes of reality” and came to life when Bloom filmed his own Minerva stopwatch. The concept worked well enough to be used at the beginning of the broadcast’s third edition on Oct. 22, 1968.

Soon it was shown between segments, eventually becoming the iconic logo recognized by generations. Bloom updated the logo, but only in barely noticeable ways at intervals of several years. His modernizing touches included the use of slimmer typography and the addition of subtle shading and texture to the logo’s background. He oversaw the stopwatch’s transition from a filmed image to a computer-generated one.

“Artie had an eye for what worked visually and what didn’t – he was invaluable to me,” said Hewitt. “I depended on him to make the broadcast as visually appealing as it turned out to be. He was at my side every step of the way.”

Bloom also helped Hewitt execute the graphic concept for 60 Minutes as a magazine for television, deciding on a mock-up of a magazine page to put behind the correspondent to begin each of the broadcast’s segments. Now also computer-generated, the magazine concept has essentially remained the same.

Bloom also directed and helped launch the program’s off-shoot edition, 60 Minutes II, which was broadcast from 1999 to 2005.

Every four years from 1974 to 1990, Bloom was called on to direct live political coverage, something he embraced with energy and competitiveness.

Network television political event coverage in the 1970s and ’80s reached new heights in its scope and the use of new technology. It became a three-network race to cover the events in the most dynamic way, with Bloom leading the CBS News charge with demands for more cameras and better graphics. The feisty Bloom fought hard and could be very persuading. He got an extra camera for the Republican Convention in 1984 almost by force.

A fun-loving jokester (and slightly built) he jumped from a table onto the back of the 6-foot-5-inch director of technical operations, yelling, “I want that camera!”

Bloom also ushered in new and colorful ways to punctuate the coverage with engaging animation enhanced by the computer that greatly modernized CBS News graphics capabilities. Innovative animation included red, white and blue exploding firecrackers and galloping donkeys and elephants used as “bumpers,” the visuals used between coverage and commercials. Bloom became so well known for these that CBS News staffers had bumper stickers made reading “Bloom’s Bumpers.”

Bloom’s biggest talent was bringing an event to life on the small screen through the lenses of cameras by instinctively and immediately choosing the images that worked from the many camera angles on monitors in front of him. He could orchestrate the images to convey even the subtle sights and sounds of an event.

First, he would lay his “orchestra” out, positioning cameras and selecting their operators based on the individuals’ talents. Once the event began, colleagues marveled at Bloom’s split-second decisions on which cameras to cue, watching him deftly direct up to 17, each strategically placed by him to play a pre-ordained role. Like all live event television control rooms, CBS News’ was chaotic, but as boisterous as Bloom could be, he was in control at all times. As a joke, he once stopped directing, turned his back on the monitor wall and pretended to become disinterested, drawing panicky stares from colleagues.

CBS News political events coverage directed by Bloom includes the Democratic and Republican conventions and the primaries from 1976 to 1988, the 1976 Ford-Carter and the 1984 Reagan-Mondale presidential debates, and all the election nights from 1974 to 1990. He occasionally directed coverage for special news events, such as the return of hijacked TWA Flight 847 (1985) and the Geneva Summit (1985), and “CBS News Special Report: A Celebration of Liberty” in 1986. He also directed documentaries, such as: “JFK: 1000 Days and 10 Years” (1973); “Vietnam: A War That is Finished” (1975); “CBS Reports: Energy: The Fear, The Facts, The Future” (1977); and “Nuclear Arms Debate” (1983).

Bloom saw the transformation of onscreen network reporters into highly compensated television stars beginning in the late 1970s, but never became star struck. So respected was his candor with on-air talent and his talent for television, that Bloom was asked to train rising star Dan Rather, whom he directed on 60 Minutes, to take over for Walter Cronkite in the anchor chair. Bloom coached Rather by taping him reading Cronkite’s script from the night before and then critiquing the read with him.

In another special mission, he served from 1990 to 1992 as special assistant to the president for program production, working with the entire CBS News production staff to assure the quality of its broadcasts.

Bloom joined CBS in the mailroom as a messenger in 1960 at the age of 18. He moved to the News division as a clerk and soon became a member of the DGA, receiving his first directorial assignments at the age of 21. From 1962 to 1965, he served as an associate director and director at WCBS-TV, the CBS Owned station in New York. In 1966, Bloom was named an associate director for CBS News and, in 1968, was named a director/producer when he was asked to direct the launch of 60 Minutes.

The above article is courtesy of CBS News.com.
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-founder-arthur-bloom-dies-29-01-2006/



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’60 Minutes’ And The Green Screens At CBS

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’60 Minutes’ And The Green Screens At CBS

As a followup to the photos of the current set, I thought it would be fun to take a look back. On the left is one of the original set chairs from ’60 Minutes’ on display in the lobby of the CBS Broadcast Center.

It is very likely one of the same chairs seen in Glenn Mack’s 1973 photo of the old set which shared space with ‘Captain Kangaroo’ in what I think was Studio 46 or 47. ’60 Minutes’ has always used the chroma key effect on the story set ups with each reporter. Moving from the blue to the green backgrounds may have started on the ‘CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite’ around 1970.

Below left is Dan Rather delivering the weekend news on Sunday, March 4, 1973 with a green screen map. I think this is Cronkite’s desk, but an not sure. More on Walter’s desk in the next post! You’ll see where it was and what’s there now.




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’60 Minutes’…On The Set

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’60 Minutes’…On The Set

With so much green screen around, it was a nice surprise to find the ’60 Minutes’ set dressed in blue. When CBS started buying Norelco PC60s by the dozens in 1965, a medium blue was the prefered chroma key background then, but by around 1970 green began to take over as wardrobes have more blue than green accents, making it easier dress the talent.

CBS was one of the first to move to the medium green backdrop, but there will be more on this in the next post. This is almost indigo, and as you can see, there is a mat on the floor to prevent scuffs to the set and keep the effect pristine.

There are two cameras on this set; one a ped camera and the other is mounted on a small jib. On the right is a shot of the prompter control area. Most of the main CBS Broadcast Center studios are huge, but this is a small, intimate space…just big enough for the cameras to have some depth and be able to move around.




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The Special Effects Lesson…More Classic Letterman

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The Special Effects Lesson…More Classic Letterman

On March 17, 1983, Dave takes a walk down the hall to NBC’s Studio 6A control room for a demonstration of some of the video effects the show uses. Director Hal Gurnee is there along with Emmy winning TD Terry Rohnke. This was episode 24 of season 2. Enjoy and share!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWzQXCNjz78

Dave takes us into the control room to demonstrate some special effects. Also seen are director Hal Gurnee and technical director Terry Rohnke.
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Up, Up And Away At The Player’s Championship… Our friend John “Bo” Boeddecker…

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Up, Up And Away At The Player’s Championship…

Our friend John “Bo” Boeddecker was in the catbird seat again yesterday, 100 feet above the course in Ponte Vedra, Florida. Here are a few shots of John and his rig, and below at the link, a great 7 minute video on how NBC Sports covers the Players. Enjoy and thanks to Kevin Vahey for the reminder.

http://www.golfchannel.com/media/tech-talk-behind-scenes-gc-and-nbc/




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‘SNL’ Surprise…The Real Baba Wawa On Weekend Update!

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‘SNL’ Surprise…The Real Baba Wawa On Weekend Update!

Congratulations to Barbara Walters on a brilliant 50 + year career in television, and god bless her for her sense of humor that has served her well since Gilda Radner began “doing” her in 1976.

#i” target=”_blank”>http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/weekend-update-barbara-walters/2781213 #iAhead of Barbara Walters’ retirement on May 16, Weekend Update pays tribute to the television journalist by compiling clips of her being impersonated on the show – until the real Walters stops by to defend herself and reveals the secrets to her success.
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‘Tic Tac Dough’…NBC Studio 6B

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‘Tic Tac Dough’…NBC Studio 6B

Below is host Jay Jackson with contestants on the primetime version of the show that ran from September ’57 till September ’58. The daytime version came from the Ziegfeld Theater. At the link is a clip from the show with Jackson as host, just before the Quiz Show scandals hit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nB6NmrgY48s&index=2&list=PL350DBC9C4C7F64B7

Tic-Tac-Dough had a long, checkered history. Produced and originally hosted by Jack Barry, it debuted on NBC daytime on July 30, 1956. Barry was busy with his company’s prime-time hit ‘Twenty One’, and he eventually handed hosting chores off to Gene Rayburn. Announcing Legend Bill Wendell was the announcer and when Rayburn moved on in 1958, Wendell took over as host, continuing until this run of the show did its final broadcast on October 23, 1959. A prime-time version, hosted by Jay Jackson and later by Win Elliot, ran from September 12, 1957 until December 29, 1958.

What killed ‘Tic Tac Dough’ was the news that Barry and his line producer, Dan Enright, were rigging their shows. Most of the outrage was over their other prime-time series, ‘Twenty-One’, but there was plenty of evidence that the outcome of many a game of ‘Tic Tac Dough’ was prearranged. In particular, a ‘Tic Tac Dough’ contestant named Kirsten Falke was subpoenaed by a government investigation and she admitted that one of the show’s producers, Howard Felsher, coached her on how to win and gave her answers in advance. The prime-time version was yanked off the air but NBC attempted to keep the daytime version around for a time, swearing that it had been cleaned up and was now on the level. It may have been but audiences stopped watching.

How did one play ‘Tic Tac Dough’? Simple. Two contestants competed, one designated as “X” and one designated as “O,” just as in tic-tac-toe. Each of the nine boxes on a tic-tac-toe grid had a category assigned to it and a player could “win” that box by correctly answering a question in that category. Get three in a row and you win. Thanks to David Schwartz for the photo.


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