Posts in Category: Broadcast History

Here’s Where The Weekend ‘NBC Nightly News’ Comes From

This is where Lester Holt anchors the weekend edition of NBC’s ‘Nightly News’ show. This is Media Room 1, which is one of four small studios inside Studio 6E, otherwise known as the Global Media Center.

The control room for all four is right next door. This was the main news desk used by Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams in 3C from 1998 till 2008. In ’08, a new set and desk was built in 3B where the weeknight show is done now. The control room for 3B is under the ‘Today’ studio in the basement of Studio 1A, across 49th Street.

Below you see the single robotic camera in the studio on the left and just to the left of the camera is a production desk with the prompter controls. That’s me at the desk and on the right, a shot of me in the monitors in front of the desk. Notice the virtual set on the wall monitor. Enjoy and share.



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Judy Garland…March 5, 1967, ‘What’s My Line’


Judy Garland…March 5, 1967, ‘What’s My Line’

At the end, Judy mentions “Valley Of The Dolls” which puts this show and Jack Paar’s visit with her about the same time, as that was mentioned in the Paar audio posted yesterday.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIiCtk9NW_k

The great Judy Garland on What’s My Line (March 5, 1967) Enjoy! 🙂

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A Parade Of 50 Years Of CBS Stars!


Just Amazing! A Parade Of 50 Years Of CBS Stars! Part 2

It is extremely rare to see the founder and chairman of CBS on television, but here is William S. Paley along with Walter Cronkite closing the week’s festivities with about a hundred of America’s best known faces. The long pan of stars at the end is really something to see! Enjoy and share!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Xw3KdQpcwA

From April 1, 1978, here are the last 10 minutes of the week-long special “CBS: On The Air: A Celebration of 50 Years.” This clip includes comments by CBS’ f…

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More “SUPER” Rarities…

More “SUPER” Rarities…

So many people liked yesterday’s post, I thought we’d look deeper.

‘The Adventures Of Superman’ ran from 1952-58 and was a syndicated show sponsored by Kellogg’s. The show’s first two seasons (episodes 1–52, 26 titles per season) were filmed in black-and-white; seasons three through six (episodes 53–104, 13 titles per season) were filmed in color but originally telecast in black and white in first-run syndication. Television viewers would not see Superman in color until the series was re released in 1965.

Below left, we see a scene being shot in Clark Kent’s office at The Daily Planet. In the center is star George Reeves atop a short ladder that he used to jump off of when making a “flying” entrance. On the left is Reeves in rehearsal, without the cape, practicing a take off on the springboard and landing on the pad.

Occasionally, Superman would take off without the springboard and a running start. In those sequences, that start in a flat footed crouch, wires were used. Reeves would perform the move and make a leap, but then a stunt double was brought in with his wire harness to repeat the move which was shot from a different angle to hide the face.



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Judy Garland…Jack Paar’s Storytelling At It’s Best


Judy Garland…Jack Paar’s Storytelling At It’s Best

Aside from Television City, the other part of our Memorial Day Weekend special features include the great, Judy Garland.

This is a very rare audio recording made by Jack Paar about a day he spent with Judy in Hollywood. Paar is a legendary storyteller and this is the best example of that ability, I have ever heard.

I found this last week and have wrestled with it ever since. Although Jack’s story and his touch are beautifully told and as gentle as possible, some sad truths about Mrs. Garland come to light here. I’ve wondered whether to post this or not, but given the quality of the tale, have decided to go ahead with the following notes.

First, Bless Her Heart! Judy Garland is without a doubt one of the most talented people in the entire history of entertainment which dates back to the Greek tragedies of 534 BC. Ironically, her life mirrored the joy and pain of those ancient productions almost to a tee.

I have been around fame and famous people most of my life and I can tell you that it comes with a heavy price. For most of her life, she was not just a star, but a superstar and that comes with an unbelievable burden and a lot of insecurity. I think the only thing that was ever real to her was her children, as certainly everything else was surreal in the best and worst of ways.

God Bless You Judy! Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D31747Wy2YY

DISCLAIMER: Although we believe that Jack Paar was sincere in his intentions, he is factually off base on several points, and sensationalizes others. The gen…

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Ultra Rare! RCA TK40 Prototype Color Camera…November 1952

Ultra Rare! RCA TK40 Prototype Color Camera…November 1952

Since posting this a year or so ago, new details on the first use of this camera have surfaced. As you remember, a few months back, I published the first and only timeline history of the NBC New York Studios. While doing that research, a tiny blurb in Broadcasting Magazine’s November 17, 1952 issue unlocked the mystery of just when the RCA TK40s were first used. It was November 8, 1952 and the occasion was a special broadcast of ‘Your Show Of Shows’ from The Colonial Theater.

‘Your Show Of Shows’ was usually done at The International Theater on Columbus Circle, but on that Saturday night, it came from The Colonial. The show was not broadcast in color as the FCC had not approved the Dot Sequential process yet, nor had they approved a special test permit, but it was a good test of the new cameras to show how sharp their monochrome output was to the many affiliates interested in how color broadcasts would look on black and white receivers. RCA and NBC engineers saw it in color on a closed circuit feed to 30 Rock and Princeton NJ.

The photo shows one of the prototypes and the engineers who were mostly responsible for it’s development and those names are in the caption. It’s interesting to note that the camera is painted RCA’s famous umber gray and on the side rear, we see a focus knob and not the now familiar panhandle focus.

Most of the “famous” color broadcasts from The Colonial came in late 1953 and early ’54. The cameras needed a year or so of field testing before they were ready for that and monitors and control equipment was still being tested and developed in NBC Studio 3H and in Princeton.

The TK40s did not go into production till March of ’54 and by then, several changes were made based on experience gained at The Colonial. The first change was the camera’s color from umber to silver that better reflected heat. That lesson was learned at a summer remote.

The second change was the position of the focus demand that moved from the side knob to the pan handle. The camera was too big for one handed operation and the cameramen also like the old Iconoscope style demand better.

The third change was the pan head. The Colonial cameras were originally mounted on the old friction type pan heads, but they were too small in two ways. First, their support plate put too much weight on the belly of the camera which needed more distribution. Second, they could “get away” from you on a steep tilt. The answer was the Houston Fearless cradle head. A prototype was made for two of the four cameras and it worked great. When the TK40 went into production, it was supplied with the cradle head and at the same time, the smaller cradle for black and white cameras became available. Enjoy and share.

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‘Superman’…Rarities From Radio & Television

‘Superman’…Rarities From Radio & Television

At the link is Superman’s first broadcast appearance…February 14, 1940 with Bud Collyer as the voice of the man of steel. The show originated from WOR Radio in New York, and was the second episode of the series.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcOW56uvYhw

Below, is Superman’s “flying pan” which was used by George Reeves in ‘The Adventures Of Superman’, that many of us grew up watching. After a few falls from wire suspension, on which was fairly serious, the pan was developed for Reeves to lay in and tilting and rolling was controlled by a long lever.

On the left, you can see it under his suit. In the center is a drawing of the device in use and on the right is that actual pan which is now in the Superman Museum in, wait for it…Metropolis, Illinois. Enjoy and Share!



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NBC Director Max Schindler’s Day….November 22, 1963

NBC Director Max Schindler’s Day….November 22, 1963

At the link is our friend Max Schindler’s account of the arrival of President Kennedy and President Johnson from Dallas. He was the director sent to cover the arrival for NBC in Washington, and as it turns out, for CBS and ABC too, as his truck was the only one that had been linked to AT&T lines.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6hM-uCHIWBM

In the first eight or so minutes, Max describes the incredible drama of the day and the many unknowns at they went to air. He helped direct the funeral a few days later and speaks of that as well as the MLK “I Have A Dream” speech which he covered.

Schindler later started a two decade long association with ‘Meet The Press’ in 1965 and directed the show for over 20 years. As a director, he was very highly regarded at the time, and, in the 70s, he was the coverage director when other important events, such as the Watergate, the Iran hostage crisis and the Pope’s visits to the United States occurred.

Schindler’s work in television has influenced many to-be directors through his six decade work as a director, producer, and cameraman.


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December 21, 1958…’Dancing: A Man’s Game’ With Gene Kelly

December 21, 1958…’Dancing: A Man’s Game’ With Gene Kelly

NBC’s great ‘Omnibus’ program, which I remember well, was a wide ranging show that on one Sunday afternoon included a half hour segment conceived, written and narrated by Gene Kelly.

Assisted by the top names in sport, like Mickey Mantle, Sugar Ray Robinson and Johnny Unitas, Kelly sets out to demonstrate the rhythm and coordination required of great athletes. He also traces the history of modern American dance, and sets out to prove that dancing is, not the property of women but that, rightfully, it’s “a man’s game.”

The show was done at NBC Brooklyn and the cameraman in the black and white photo is Don Mulvaney (who by the way was also the main crane cameraman on Perry Como and the original crane cameraman on ‘Saturday Night Live’). The color photo is from another scene in the show.

At the clip is one of the only known pieces of the kinescope of the show. Enjoy and share!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rd70iqK_bsU


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Quite Rare: Barbara Walters…The Lucy Interview, 1977


Quite Rare: Barbara Walters…The Lucy Interview, 1977

This is the only known full presentation of Walters’ famous interview with Lucille Ball. Unfortunately, there are not many surviving interviews with Lucy, and none as in depth or as deep as this one. This is Barbara at her best! Enjoy and share.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQR5BzN4EKg

Along with having Dolly Pardon, Henry Winkler, and Stacy Weitzerman as guests for her 1977 Special, Barbara Walters also sits down with Lucy and Gary Morton….

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‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’…Full Pilot Episode


‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’…Full Pilot Episode

First, the link to part two is at the bottom of this post, and at this link is the Emmy Legends article of how this all came to be, complete with video interviews from Carl Reiner, Sheldon Leonard, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. http://www.emmytvlegends.org/blog/?p=3849

This is part of the text from the Emmy Legends story on the pilot show called ‘Head Of The Family’ that starred Carl Reiner as Rob Petrie. Read on…

Back in the summer of 1958, Carl Reiner, already an established writer and supporting actor on Sid Caesar’s ‘Your Show of Shows’, sought to create a sitcom in which he would star. He followed the adage of “write what you know” and created thirteen scripts of ‘Head of the Family’, a largely autobiographical series centered around Rob Petrie, head writer of “The Alan Sturdy Show.” Rob was married to Laura, they had a six-year-old son, Ritchie, and Buddy and Sally were Rob’s cohorts in the writers’ room. Sound familiar?

Reiner’s agent, Harry Kalcheim, shopped the Head of the Family pilot script around, and actor Peter Lawford wanted to front the money to shoot the pilot. Once Reiner sent a script to Lawford’s father-in-law and supplier of the cash, Joseph P. Kennedy, Reiner was given the green light.

The pilot was shot in December of 1958 in New York, with Reiner starring as Rob, Barbara Britton as Laura, Gary Morgan as Ritchie, Sylvia Miles as Sally, and Morty Gunty as Buddy. And then … nothing. The pilot failed to sell for the Fall 1959 season, and for the next year, Reiner thought the project was dead. But Kalcheim refused to abandon the show. He presented the pilot episode to another client of his, producer Sheldon Leonard.

Already a successful creator/producer of The Andy Griffith Show, and producer of The Danny Thomas Show, Leonard recognized genius in Head of the Family, but identified one major flaw: Reiner completely miscast himself as Rob Petrie. It’s difficult to see how Reiner could be wrong for a role that he based on himself, but Reiner was a natural sketch performer, not a sitcom actor.

The rest of this fascinating story is at the link above. It, and the video interviews are must see for fans of the show and it’s great legacy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ll22fkwOhH4 Part 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvdzwsTj9_4 Part 2

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


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!

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…

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!

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’


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


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


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

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

‘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

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


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!

Classic!

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

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


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

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 …

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’

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?

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

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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