Posts in Category: Broadcast History

‘The Now Explosion’…26 Weeks That Changed Music-Television

‘The Now Explosion’…26 Weeks That Changed Music-Television

On Saturday, March 14, 1970, music shows on television changed forever when ‘The Now Explosion’ debuted on Atlanta’s WATL. Till then, all there was were teen dance shows like ‘American Bandstand’ and artist appearances on variety shows. ‘Now Explosion’ was created to trun weekend television into a Top 40 radio station.

The show was created by Bob Whitney, who I spoke with yesterday. Bob had started in broadcasting as a disc jockey, but by the late 60s, was GM of Philadelphia UHF television station owned by Daniel Overmyer. The idea of a video type radio show had been in Bob’s head for a couple of years. UHF stations had notoriously low viewership and a weekend music show like this could attract the younger demo and, fill vast swaths of weekend programing time with an idea youth market advertisers should flock too.
At the link, you’ll see photos of the pilot being shot at WFAA in Dallas October 18-20, 1969. In early 1970, Bob moved from the US Communications UHF station in Philadelphia to it’s sister UHF station in Atlanta and production started for the March debut.

One element that made ‘Now Explosion’ so different was the production values. The show came about right in the thick of the psychedelic era and this influence was not lost on the production crews and staff. There was a lot of multi camera zooms, pans and fades and advance uses of video feedback. Below is one of the shows most popular music tracks, and their first to feature the video feedback technique.

The video feedback effect was achieved by, in this case, shooting a dancer in the studio with one camera, then shooting a monitor shot of the image and mixing the two. The original video and the newly captured pictures from the monitor were combined with a video switcher to create an “infinity” effect as same video repeated itself in a seemingly endless visual loop.

The special effects used in ‘The Now Explosion’ were crude, but state of the art for the early 1970s era. Remember, video tape editing was still quite complex and expensive, so most of these tape sessions were done on the fly with no rehearsals, and only an idea of how they wanted the video to look.

Most performers were young amateurs recruited from the Atlanta audience, with many found at Piedmont Park and on “the strip” which ran from 10th to 14th Street along Peachtree Street.

Many appeared with home-grown costumes – often after midnight when station facilities became available. Concert lighting was also used which included the liquid looking electronic collages popular in the day. Collage operators were able to produce complex lighting effects with projectors that were not possible using the video technology of the day.
I remember watching this show and my favorite video is at the link above. It’s “The Long And Winding Road” and as you see, represents another aspect of the show’s productions…story videos shot on film. Bob Rector shot this and many like it as he was the main film story man. Occasionally, artists would submit video of themselves from other shows, but ‘Now Explosion’ producers would all ways jazz them up with some new effects.

The show ran for 13 weeks on Atlanta’s WATL, where it aired 28 hours each weekend. Programs were bicycled to stations on 2 inch videotape and played back for extended periods from one to six hours. WPIX-TV in New York played five hours of ‘The Now Explosion’ surrounding telecasts of New York Yankees baseball games in 1970. Stations in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Sacramento and Boston had also picked up the show.

After 13 weeks at WATL, Ted Turner contracted to carry the program for a television station he had recently acquired, WTCG-TV. WATL closed down shortly afterward. The move had also shifted production of ‘The Now Explosion’ to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where Whitney established a new home production base. Program segments were produced at Miami Teleproductions and 2 inch video editing was undertaken at Videotape Associates in Ft. Lauderdale (now VTA of Atlanta).

After 26 weeks in syndication in early 1971, Whitney cancelled the show when the high costs of production and distribution outpaced the commercial revenue.

The first video disc jockeys were in fact, my old friend “Skinny” Bobby Harper and Bob Todd in Atlanta. When the show moved to Ft. Lauderdale, my other old friend Rick Shaw took over.

There is much more to see and experience and here are some links. The main web page:
The FB page:

Thanks to Bob Whitley and ‘The Now Explosion’ staff and crew for being ahead of their time! It would be eleven more years before anyone even said MTV out loud. By the way, the ‘Now Explosion’ FB page is looking for former crew and dancers on the show.


12 Very Interesting Minutes Of Early TV Facilities

12 Very Interesting Minutes….GI’s And The Jobs Of The Future

This is basically, the only grand tour of television as it existed in America in June of 1945. This very rare presentation takes us inside GE’s WRGB in Schenectady, NY., NBC’s first mobile unit and into the CBS television studios at Grand Central Station.

In order to prepare millions of men in uniform for a return to civilian life, the military made films like this to show to the troops.
Victory in Europe came May 8, 1945, but the war with Japan did not end until August 15, 1945, so when this film on new occupational opportunities in television was shown, the military was still near full strength as there was still a lot of sorting out to do after the end of hostilities. This was shown in camps of all branches of the services and if you listen to the CBS head of production, you can appreciate the huge numbers of new hires that will be needed to produce the expanded peacetime television schedules anticipated.

more at Shows mid-1940s production of TV shows by New York NBC station WNBT (now WNBC) using RCA gear, and Includes an intervi…


WOW! Inside NBC Studio 3H AND…Inside The RCA A500 Camera!

WOW! Inside NBC Studio 3H AND…Inside The RCA A500 Camera!

Although some of this footage is familiar, NEW scenes from 1:15 to 1:40 show the camera top up with the engineer adjusting the Iconoscope tube, the camera’s focus handle and a look into the ground glass viewfinder! I’ve never seen these new scenes.

We also get a good look into the studio AND, the 3H control room in action. This too may seem familiar, but there are some new scenes in those portions too. This video should start at the 1:00 mark and is only 4 minutes but is very illuminating.

Thanks to Brook Whatley for sending what I hope is the first of several new finds in the Pathe’ UK film library just added to youtube. (See yesterday’s story on the 85,000 new videos.) read: “UNCLE SAM’S TELEVISION”. United States of America. Long item showing the development of American television. People gather around a television …


Heartwarming In So Many Ways…HUGE SURPRISE ENDING!

Heartwarming In So Many Ways…HUGE SURPRISE ENDING! Must See!

This is a three minute clip of Bill Cosby hosting a special tribute to Art Linkletter that aired on CBS on February 6, 1995. ‘Art Linkletter’s House Party’ was on CBS radio and television for 25 years. Interviewing kid was one of Art’s specialties and joys, but as we all know “kids say the darndest things”! And they DID!

Video with Bill Crosby of a show


A Brief History Of Portable Color Cameras

A Brief History Of Portable Color Cameras

You would think RCA lead the way in this area, but they were more focused on studio color cameras in the late 60s as the TK42/43 project had gone badly and Norelco was eating their lunch. Now, this is not to say that there were not some RCA/NBC experimental color portables in use, but they were not production models…just testers.

That I know of, ABC had the first color portables and this video clip shows the camera on the sidelines of the USC-UCLA game on November 11, 1967. There were two backpack versions…one contained a small video tape recorder and no live capacity, but the one shown here is the “Scrambler” pack which is a control and microwave box. In the photo below is our friend Don ‘Peaches’ Langford with the BC 100 and was one of the first to use this camera.

Second on the scene with portable color was Ikegami. In 1972, the HL 33 (Handy Looky) debuted. The HL 33 also had a large back pack, but did lead the way in Electronic News Gathering and is generally considered the first ENG camera.

Although bringing up the rear, it was RCA that finally did away with the backpacks, which brought great joy to the camera crews. The RCA TKP 45 (see earlier post for introductory video) debuted in 1974 as a camera only unit which cabled directly to the truck. It was more of a production color camera than and ENG but could handle the task.

Finally in 1976, RCA rolled out what would become the top of the line and most used ENG camera ever, the TK76. In the last part of the TKP 45 video, we see the 1975 engineering model of the TK76. Here is the full story on that 1975 RCA ENG camera that never had a name, as told by our friend Lytle Hoover. Enjoy and share!

Ignore the annoying bugs; here’s a quick clip of Ampex’s portable Ampex BC-100 camera in action, at the November 11, 1967 UCLA-USC game–which I had thought …


RARE VIDEO! RCA TKP 45 Color Portable Camera Introduction

RARE VIDEO! RCA TKP 45 Color Portable Camera Introduction

Our thanks to James Murphy Tinsley for finding this great RCA clip from 1974. Not only do we see the intro of their new portable color production camera, but near the end, we see a prototype of the famous RCA TK76 ENG camera. It looks nothing like the finished product.

In today’s next post, we’ll get into the history of portable color.

See the New Ultra Modern, Ultra Portable RCA Cameras!


ABC Debuts ‘The Joey Bishop Show’, April 17, 1967

47 Years Ago…ABC Debuts ‘The Joey Bishop Show’

On April 17, 1967, Joey Bishop and his sidekick Regis Philbin went head to head with Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon on NBC, and in some markets, Merv Griffin’s syndicated Group W show. (Merv’s CBS late night show did not come along till ’69.)

As a member of the “Rat Pack”, Bishop was a hot property, but even at the top of his game, ‘Tonight’ was too big hurdle and the show ended on December 26, 1969 with Bishop leaving after his monologue, declaring that this was the last show. Philbin was left to finish the final episode. The time slot was filled by ‘The Dick Cavett Show’.

The only episodes that topped ‘Tonight’ in the ratings was when Regis walked off the show, and returned a few days later. Philbin’s reason for leaving was the bashing he took from critics and ABC executives, but years later, Philbin revealed that the “walk off” was actually a stunt Bishop had come up with.

The show was done with GE PE 350 color cameras from The Vine Street Theater. According to our friend Randy West, who reminded me of this event, Bishop and Philbin would walk around the neighborhood for inspiration on monologue bits. As seen in the video, it seems they also did a bit of shopping as in this clip of the show’s open, they are both sporting new Nehru jackets.

The opening minutes of a Bishop show episode that features Sammy Davis as the central guest. Here Joey and sidekick Reege talk about their new Nehru jackets …


1953 Charlie Douglass “Laff Box” Discovered

Laugh Tracks: Ultra Rare Black Box Found!

This is an amazing find! From ‘Antiques Roadshow’ here is the video of the Charlie Douglas ‘Laff Box’, built in 1953, which was discovered among the items sold in a storage locker sale!

Back in the 50s and 60s, Charlie Douglas was ‘The Man’ for laugh tracks in Los Angeles and traveled with his top secret black box to sweeten the tracks on many famous shows.

He would wheel his black box of pre-recorded laughs into the post audio room, plug in to the mixing console, and proceed to treat the soundtrack with everything from chuckles to knee-slapping fits, to applause.

Understandably, Charlie and his son Bobby were very protective of the technology and the library of carefully categorized audience reactions inside that black box. Now remember, this was before cart machines, but when the close up comes, you’ll see the loops rotating and I think this technology was called the Mckinzie tape loop system. Thanks to Mark Sudock for the clip. Enjoy and Share!

Watch now: Antiques Roadshow | Appraisal: 1953 Charlie Douglass “Laff Box” | PBS Video

Appraisal: 1953 Charlie Douglass “Laff Box”, from San Diego Hour 2


Varotal Mark III Field Lens…The Grandaddy Of Remote Zooms

Varotal Mark III Field Lens…The Grandaddy Of Remote Zooms

At 30 pounds, this is quite a big boy and took a bit of lead weighing on the pan handle to help balance this. I think the lever on the side of the lens is the back focus. Having never seen one of these in action, I think the rear handle is a “two in one” demand. I suspect the small silver knob is the focus demand and the arm it’s mounted on is the zoom demand that the operator would push to zoom in or pull to zoom out on this 10 X 1 lens.

With course gearing, you wouldn’t have to move the zoom bar much to go from full out to full in. I suspect these came to the market around 1953. Unfortunately, no one knows much about these and the only on I know of that survives is in the care of our friend Chuck Pharis. Have any of you worked with these?


Network Television’s First Evening News Anchor…Douglas Edwards

Network Television’s First Evening News Anchor…Douglas Edwards

This is thought to be the earliest known photo of Douglas Edwards telecasting the news, shortly after the May 3, 1948 debut of ‘CBS Television News’.

Edwards joined CBS Radio in 1942, eventually becoming anchor for the regular evening newscast ‘The World Today’ as well as ‘World News Today’ on Sunday afternoons. He came to CBS after stints as a newscaster and announcer at WSB in Atlanta, Georgia and WXYZ in Detroit, Michigan.

CBS began broadcasting news shows on Saturday nights, expanding to two nights a week in 1947. These reports were delivered by CBS radio news men, who were not interested in this “television stuff” and loathed having to do it. Edwards had a couple of turns at it, and kind of enjoyed it and let his interest be known.

On May 3, 1948, Douglas Edwards began anchoring ‘CBS Television News’, a regular 15-minute nightly newscast. It aired every weeknight at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time, and was the first regularly scheduled, network television news program to use an anchor.

On February 16, 1948, NBC had begun airing ‘NBC Television Newsreel’, and later ‘Camel Newsreel Theatre’ as a 10-minute program that featured Pathe’ newsreels. John Cameron Swayze provided voice-over for the series. ‘The Camel News Caravan’ was an expanded version of the ‘Camel Newsreel Theatre’ feature Swayze on-camera.

On CBS, the week’s news stories were recapped on a Sunday night program titled ‘Newsweek in Review’. The name was later shortened to ‘The Week in Review’ and the show was moved to Saturdays. In 1950, the name of the nightly newscast was changed to ‘Douglas Edwards With the News’, and the following year, it became the first news program to be broadcast on both coasts, thanks to a new coaxial cable connection, prompting Edwards to use the greeting “Good evening everyone, coast to coast.”

It is not clear whether both Douglas and Swayze did a live second broadcast for the west coast. By 1947, Kinescopes had begun to be used and there are stories that report the show was done live again with added west coast content, and reports that say it was kine delayed, but one thing is clear…November 30, 1956, Edwards’ program became the first to use the new technology of videotape to time delay the broadcast.

The CBS program competed against NBC’s ‘Camel News Caravan’ that was launched in 1949 with John Cameron Swayze. NBC’s news took the lead, but by the mid 50s, CBS and Edwards were in the lead. In September 1955, ‘Douglas Edwards With The News’ was moved to 6:45 p.m. ET.

On October 29, 1956, Swayze was replaced by Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC’s ‘Huntley-Brinkley Report’ and this helped CBS ratings as it took a while for Chet and David to gain traction.
By the early ’60, NBC’s news ratings were a good bit higher and a decision was make to make a switch at CBS.

Walter Cronkite became anchor on April 16, 1962. On September 2, 1963, ‘The CBS Evening News’ became network television’s first half-hour weeknight news broadcast, lengthened from its original 15 minutes, and telecast at 6:30 p.m. ET. NBC quickly followed suit and ‘The Huntley-Brinkley Report’ expanded to 30 minutes exactly a week later on September 9, 1963.

‘The CBS Evening News’ was broadcast in color for one evening on August 19, 1965, and made the switch permanently on January 31, 1966.


Early Video Tape Delay + The 7 Forbidden Words…

Early Video Tape Delay + The 7 Forbidden Words…

When certain “blue humor”comedians and “colorful personalities” were on live network shows, producers would sometime hedge their bets with a 6 second tape delay and this is how they did it.

Until sometime in the mid 1960s, this is the way you got a 6 second delay for live television events. As shown here, you would have recorded on the left machine, threaded the tape over a few homemade spindles and play it back on the machine on the right for air. In case of a blooper, the director cut to live action before the image got over to the playback head and pray there are no more till you can get to a station break and re sync.

George Carlin’s famous ‘7 Dirty Words’ sketch was first performed in concert May 27, 1972 for his “Class Clown” album. A few years ago, Carlin discussed this in an interview for the Emmy TV Legends bio series. The 4 minute XXX rated clip is below. The famous list is at 2:57, but even though not of the faint of heart, Carlin’s perspective as a true wordsmith, and context is fantastic as always.

At ‘Saturday Night Live’, some of these words have always had a way of just popping into a live show…especially the F word and here’s a brief F’ing history of those “special” moments.

During a sketch in 1980, Paul Shaffer said “f****n'” instead of “floggin'”; in 1981, Charles Rocket, said “I’d like to know who the f**k did it” during a “Who Shot JR?” parody and on the same night Prince sang the lyric “Fightin’ war is such a f****n’ bore”; in 1990, singer Morris Day of The Time said “Where the f**k did this chicken come from?” and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith sang “feedin’ that f****n’ monkey on my back” during their performances.

In 1994, Michael Stipe of R.E.M. sang “Don’t f**k with me” and Adam Horovitz of Beastie Boys sang “So won’t you f****n’ listen” in their performances. In 1997, Norm MacDonald accidentally said, “What the f**k was that?” after flubbing a line during “Weekend Update”. James Hetfield of Metallica sang “F**k ’em man, white knuckle tight” during their performance in 1997. In 2009, Jenny Slate accidentally said, “You know what, you stood up for yourself and I f**king love you for that.”


May 8, 1945, Victory In Europe Day

May 8, 1945, Victory In Europe

To celebrate the defeat of Germany, and it’s Axis ally Italy, WNBT broadcast hours of live news coverage and celebrations on the end of World War II in Europe with remotes from around New York City. Here, we see an RCA Orthicon camera atop the marquee of the Astor Hotel in panning the happy crowd below.

Although a step up from the Iconoscope cameras, the first Orthicon cameras still had the ground glass, optical viewfinders and the right hand pan handle was the focus demand, which would carry over into the TK40s and 41s. The focus demand on the body of the camera’s right side did not come along until the Image Orthicon RCA TK30 and TK10 which had a four lens turret and five inch electronic viewfinders. Interestingly, some of the fist TK40 prototypes had the side mounted focus control, but TK40 operators liked the dual handles and right grip focus demand better with a camera that size.

Many of our international friends still have their cameras set up with the focus demand on the right and zoom on the left. In the US, our cameras are mostly set up with zoom demand on the right and focus on the left. This shift came about with the introduction of the cable drive Varatol zoom lenses from Rank Taylor Hobson. With the back focus correctly set, cameramen could get more dynamics with the zoom demand and that was more easily done with the right hand with minimal help from the cable driven focus demand, so that assignment went to the left hand.


Two Mothers Of Invention…Steve Allen And Frank Zappa!

Two Mothers Of Invention…Steve Allen And Frank Zappa!

You may have thought the story of Frank Zappa, “playing a bicycle” on Steve Allen’s show was just an old wives tale. Not so! Here it is!

If you remember, Allen had gone with NBC in 1953 to do a local late show on WNBT and in ’54, began the ‘Tonight’ show, but in ’56 also took on the Sunday night ‘Steve Allen Show’. That ran till ’60 and wrapped up, with the last year or so, coming from NBC Burbank.

From 1962-1965, Allen re-created the Tonight Show madness on a new late-night ‘Steve Allen Show’ syndicated by Westinghouse TV. The show, taped in Hollywood at “The Steve Allen Playhouse”, which was just the television show’s name for the venue, which was really the Vine Street Theater. Notice the slate at the front of the show…it was a Glenn – Armistead production done with the truck I’ll post below in the comment section.

The show was marked by the same wild, unpredictable stunts, such as ‘Man In The Street’ and comedy skits that often extended down the street to a supermarket known as the Hollywood Ranch Market. He also presented Southern California eccentrics including health food advocate Gypsy Boots, quirky physics professor Dr. Julius Sumner Miller and comic Prof. Irwin Corey.

During one episode, Allen placed a telephone call to the home of Johnny Carson, posing as a ratings company interviewer, asking Carson if the television was on, and what program he was watching. Carson did not immediately realize the caller was Allen.

One notable program, which Westinghouse refused to distribute, featured Lenny Bruce during the time the comic was repeatedly being arrested on obscenity charges. Enjoy and share.

Frank promotes his new record How’s Your Bird & The Worlds Greatest Sinner movie and then plays a bicycle with Steve. Fun for all.


The Vinten Merlin

The Vinten Merlin

Like in the ‘Tonight’ story just posted, I occasionally mention the Vinten Merlin. In case you have never seen one, here you go. This one is on the ‘Today’ set in 1A, but as I understand it, all of NBC’s large studios in New York have one. Beautifully compact and extremely versatile with only one operator needed, these pedestal mounted jib arms became available in the early 90’s but for some reason, did not catch on. I think Vinten quit making them in the early 2000s, so when you see one in person, take a good look because they are rare birds. Thanks to Dennis Degan for the photo.


50 Years Of Unseen Late Night History!

Eyes Of A Generation EXCLUSIVE! Unseen Late Night History!

Thanks To Glenn Mack for making this available to us just in time for a Sunday morning look back at the start of late night television. This great 9 minute clip, hosted by Conan O’Brien shows us many rare scenes, including NBC’s Pat Weaver who was the father of this all. At around 6:20, we get to see some of the rare video of Jack Paar’s departure and return to ‘Tonight’ and much more, including interview footage of Jerry Lester, who hosted ‘Broadway Open House’ and some rare footage of Steve Allan’s local WNBT show, along with his first night as ‘Tonight’ host. And…there are Johnny Carson’s first minutes too. Enjoy and SHARE!

NBC 50 Years of Late night clip


Live From New York, It’s Saturday Night!

Live From New York, It’s Saturday Night!

With yesterday’s posts of the great time compressed video and the camera crew listing, I felt the need to take another peek into NBC’s legendary Studio 8H.

On the left is our friend Eric Eisenstein, who in addition to being an SNL cameraman, is also a sports director. In the center is one of the most important fixtures on the floor…the stage managers podium. On the right is one of SNL’s most vital areas…Q card central where all the scripts and the many changes are written up.

By now, we are used to the cast reading their lines from Q cards, but if you wonder why the do it, instead of memorizing their lines, like in the movies or other TV shows, let’s take a look at the most daunting production schedule in television. By the way, Bob Hope was one of the first major stars to use Q cards, starting with his first special Easter Sunday, 1950.

Production on an SNL episode will normally start on a Monday with a free-form pitch meeting in Lorne Michaels office between the cast, writers and producers including the guest host. The host is invited to pitch ideas too. Although some sketch writing may occur on Monday, the bulk of the work revolves around pitching ideas.

Tuesday is the only day dedicated purely to writing the scripts, a process which can extend through the night into the following Wednesday. Writing may not begin until 8pm on the Tuesday evening. At 5pm on Wednesday, the sketches are read during a round-table meeting in the writers room, attended by the writers and producers present during the pitch meeting, and technical experts like set designers and makeup artists.

There are usually forty or fifty people at this meeting where thirty of forty sketch ideas are read-through, lasting three hours or more.

After completion of the read-through, Michaels, the head writer, the guest host, and some of the show producers will move to Michaels’ office to decide the layout of the show and decide which of the sketches will be developed for air. Once complete, the writers and cast are allowed into Michaels’ office to view the show breakdown and learn whether or not their sketch has survived. A this point, the scenery builders are making lists too.

Sketches may be rewritten starting the same day, but will certainly commence on Thursday, as will blocking rehearsals. Work focuses on developing and rewriting the remaining sketches, and if a sketch is still scheduled beyond Thursday, it is rehearsed on Friday and Saturday.

On Saturdays at 8pm, there is a dress rehearsal before a live audience, which is taped, just in case. That dress will always run long as several optional sketches are included and the audience reaction will help determine which of the extra sketches will go to air or be shelved.

After the dress rehearsal, Michaels will review the show lineup to ensure it meets a 90-minute length, and sketches that have made it to this point, may have to be tweaked (shortened or lengthened) a little to make the final sketches fit. At this point, writers and Q card central is in overdrive revising scripts and Q cards.

As you can see, this often results in less than two days of rehearsal for the eight to twelve sketches that have made it to the stage that then may appear on the live broadcast. The guest host’s opening monologue is given lower priority and can be written as late as Saturday afternoon.

Now you know why Q cards are a necessary evil. With so many changes, such spit second timing and the volume of text for the actors to deliver, it just has to be this way. Oh…and did I mention that this is all done LIVE in front of a national television audience?

The only other way to do this is with an earpiece for each actor. When I do on camera commercials, I prerecord the script and have it played back into a small earpiece. Without reading a prompter, all I have to do is repeat my own delivery by saying what I’ve already recorded with the same inflexions and emphasis. I’ve also done this with a producer reading the script into my ear.

Below is a link to last night’s ‘Steak House’ sketch. Enjoy and share.
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‘Today’…The Transition From Studio 8G to 3B, June 1990

‘Today’…The Transition From Studio 8G to 3B, June 1990

This is a great clip and shows the last minutes in 8G and the first minutes in 3B. Although Bryant Gumble say’s, in a slip if the tongue, his goodby to 8H, he meant to say 8G. Due to the demands of SNL production, a daily show could never be done in 8H.

Their last day in 8G was Friday, June 9, 1990. The next day, the show debuted from studio 3B. Prior to the 8G location, ‘Today’ had come from studio 3K where it began to be broadcast in color after moving “inside” form it’s former street side locations in the RCA Exhibition Hall and later, the Florida Showcase studio.

This is quite an interesting clip and shows Deborah Norville, Gumbel and Willard Scott taking a close look at the new digs. The cameras look to be Ikegami HK 322s perhaps. Enjoy and share!

During the northern hemisphere summer of 1990 the bright, chic living room style NBC Today set, in use since 1985, was dismantled and partly re-assembled ups…


The Men Behind The Cameras…’Saturday Night Live’

The Men Behind The Cameras…’Saturday Night Live’

This is a list of SLN’s main cameramen…those that are and were members of the regular crew, who worked the show for over two years. The list is a lot longer if you add in those that only worked the show occasionally, but this is the backbone crew.

This information is from the IMBD data base which is notorious for errors, and my apologies for any, but it’s a good start and I’ve made a few modification based on my own knowledge of the show.

In the coming days, I hope to show more of these men at work on the SNL set, but for now, we see bottom left, NBC veteran cameraman Al Camoin on the crane with guest, Francis Ford Coppola. Al was the crane cameraman on the ‘Perry Como Show’ at the Zeigfeld when college student Jan Kasoff would come to watch and later become an NBC cameraman…Jan is in the middle shot.

John Pinto was working at ABC in 1975 when he was recruited for SNL by NBC. When Al Camoin retired, John took over the world’s best job…the crane camera position on television’s only remaining live comedy/variety show.

Jan Kasoff…camera operator (1976-2002)

Johnny Pinto…camera operator (1975-2014)

Al Camoin…camera operator (1975-1986)

Robert Reese…camera operator (1983-1996)

Michael Bennett…camera operator (1982-2005)

Vince Di Pietro…camera operator (1977-1981)

Tom De Zendorf…camera operator (1977-1980)

Joe De Bonis…camera operator (1983-2013)

Steve Jambeck…(1984-1990)

Maury Verschoore…camera operator (1975-1983)

Paul Cangialosi…crane camera crew (2001-2014)

Philip J. Martinez…Steadicam operator (2010-2013)

Peter Basil…camera operator (1978-1979)

Carl Eckett…camera operator (1995-2014)

William Vaccaro…video crew (1989-1990)

Bruce Shapiro…camera operator (1982-1990)

Stephen Gonzalez…camera operator (1977-1978)

Don Mulvaney…camera operator (1978-1980)

Richard B. Fox… camera operator (1999-2012)

Eric Eisenstein… camera operator (2004-2014)

Ian Woolston-Smith…Steadicam (2004-2012)

Barry Frisher…camera operator (2001-2014)

Brian Phraner…camera operator (2001-2006)

Louis Delli Paoli…camera crane crew (2012-2014)

Phil Pernice…camera crane crew (2012-2014)

Len Wechsler…camera operator (2012-2014)

Parris Mayhew…Steadicam (2010-2012)

Bob Mancari…camera crane crew (2012-2014)


SNL Backstage: Studio 8H Time-Lapse

Brand New! SNL Time Lapse…90 Minutes Of Show In 2 Minutes

This is from last week’s show with host Anna Kendrick and musical guest, Pharrell Williams who’s great song “Happy” was posted here on Sunday. I think when the studio is dark, they are playing back the pre taped ‘Dongs All Over The World’ sketch.

If you are like me, you’ll watch this several time just to take it all in, but it is FASCINATING! Enjoy and Share!

SNL Backstage: Studio 8H Time-Lapse

Watch “SNL Backstage: Studio 8H Time-Lapse” from the hit NBC Comedy, Saturday Night Live.


One Of The Best Jonathan Winters Bits Ever

Just For Fun…One Of The Best Jonathan Winters Bits Ever

When Jack Paar left the ‘Tonight’ show in the summer of 1962, he took a few months off, but returned to NBC in primetime with a weekly Friday night show. ‘The Jack Paar Show’ debuted on September 20, 1962, about three weeks before Carson’s ‘Tonight’ debut. For the next three years, he owned the 10-11 ratings but ended the show in September of 1965. One of his favorite guests, on both shows, was Jonathan Winters. On this 1964 appearance, Paar told the audience to just watch what would happen when he gave Winters a simple stick as a prop. The rest is comedy history!

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


NBC Brooklyn, Not The Only Vitagraph Studio To Go Television!

NBC Brooklyn, Not The Only Vitagraph Studio To Go Television!

In the photo below, I think we are seeing a 1956 broadcast of ‘The Lawrence Welk Show’, which made its national debut on July 2, 1955. It was initially produced at the Hollywood Palladium, but moved to the ABC studios at Prospect and Talmadge shortly afterwards. For 23 of its 27 years on the air, the show would originate there.

The property we know as the ABC Television Center at 4151 Prospect Avenue was built by Vitagraph nine years after their Brooklyn location was finished in 1906. This studio was built in 1915 and in 1927 was sold to Warner Brothers who used the new Vitagraph sound process both here and in Brooklyn while shooting ‘The Jazz Singer’.

In 1948, the property was sold to the newly formed American Broadcasting Company, and the film lot was transitioned into the new world of television as the ABC Television Center. ABC proceeded to place their new Los Angeles television station, KECA-TV (now KABC-TV) in the newly purchased lot a year later.

Construction on the studio lot to bring it to its current form took place in 1957. ABC still uses the Prospect facility as a network retransmission center for its programming. Many memorable television shows, including those produced for ABC, other networks or syndication, have been produced in the studios.

‘American Bandstand’ started recording there in 1964 (moving from Philadelphia). ABC’s longest running program, ‘General Hospital’, now in its fifty first year on the air, has been taped at this location since the mid-1980s after relocating from the Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood. Many other classic television shows were also produced there including ‘The Lawrence Welk Show’, ‘Barney Miller’, ‘Fridays’, ‘Mr. Belvedere’, ‘Welcome Back Kotter’, ‘Benson’, and ‘Soap’. Barney Miller, Benson and Soap were also shot at Sunset Gower Studios.

The lot was renamed The Prospect Studios in 2002 and underwent a major renovation to position its facilities for the future and new technical innovation.


Video Tape’s Unintended Consequences…Agony & Ecstasy

Video Tape’s Unintended Consequences…Agony & Ecstasy

This is a story you have never heard. It is about the advantages and headaches caused by the introduction of video tape. We’ll start on the hard part…The Agony.

When video tape use began to really take off with network use in 1957, it caused what was then referred to as “time shifting”. This is when a show that had been produced live daily, was suddenly able to tape several episodes the same day…usually a weeks worth.

With the advent of video tape, all three networks reduced their production staffs by up to 40%. Cameramen, lighting men, stagehands and engineers were let go in droves because the “time shift” had eliminated the need to setup and strike every set, every day. Another difficulty was editing the tape, which for many years, was a major production in itself.

The Ecstasy part is obvious…instant high quality replay, but…in 1957, there was another phenomenon to deal with which was why the networks pushed to hard to get video tape in place by then.

It seems that in the mid ’50s, Daylight Savings Time had become a big issue and several states were bucking the national standard for some reason. Some of these problems were brought on by lawsuits from drive-in theater owners and some were “states rights” issues. Among the rebellious states were Tennessee, Wisconsin, Indiana, Arizona and Minnesota.

A lot of this was in court, but the networks wanted to be able to tape delay programs in these five states if need be. A three hour delay for Kinescope playback of New York shows from Los Angeles was OK, because in that period of time you could get a pretty good, fully processed kine. But, with one hour delays, you had to do a hot kine with below average results.


April 11, 1956…Ampex Debuts Video Tape At NAB

April 11, 1956…58 Years Ago, Ampex Debuts Video Tape At NAB

Next Monday will mark the 48th anniversary of the introduction of the Ampex VR 1000…a day that truly changed television! Here it the story of that day and the hectic months at Ampex that followed this blockbuster announcement.

On April 11, 1956, Ampex engineers Phil Gundy and Charlie Ginsburg introduced one of two existing video recorder prototypes to the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters (NARTB) Convention in Chicago, later renamed the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). The second prototype had its introductory demonstration simultaneously in Redwood City.

What was unforgettable about the 1956 introduction was the event that occurred the day before the opening of the convention in Chicago; the April 10th CBS annual meeting for television personnel, held at the same convention center.

This was to be a “state of the company” presentation by Bill Lodge who was head of television affairs at CBS. The meeting was to be held in a small auditorium that was about 100 feet deep and maybe 70 feet wide. Three television monitors were spaced along each side, so that all in the audience could see and hear Lodge as he spoke at the podium. There was a curtain behind him as he stood at the podium. CBS personnel and affiliates began to stream in and take their seats – maybe 200 in total. Little did they know what Bill Lodge and Ampex had in store for them!

Earlier that morning, Charlie Ginsburg and Charlie Anderson had set up their Ampex videotape recorder behind the curtain so it would not be seen by the audience – at least at first. Fred Pfost arrived a short time later. Together, they checked out the system, and it was working perfectly; they were ready! Pfost started the recording as Lodge made his introductory remarks, continued with his presentation of what CBS had accomplished in the current year, and described his plans for the coming year. He mentioned a rumor that many had heard – that Ampex was working on a videotape recorder – and said that he had visited Ampex and was impressed with their development project, and had given them a small contract to help finance their development efforts.

Then, Bill Lodge opened the session to questions and answers. That was the signal for Fred Pfost to rewind the tape. When Bill received the signal that the tape was ready to play, he concluded his presentation with much applause. That was Fred’s cue to press play: when the audience saw the replay on the same monitors as the original presentation, they went wild with shouting, screaming, and whistling. When the curtains were opened to show the Ampex videotape recorder, some stood on their chairs to get a glimpse of it. These television people realized that what they were seeing for the first time was a recorder that would greatly simplify production of video programs and also be an excellent answer for recording delayed television broadcasts.

What Ampex had just done for the television industry is the same thing it had done for both the radio and audio-recording industries some seven or eight years earlier. This was truly a revolutionary moment for television. Fred Pfost has said that every time he tells the story of this event, it brings tears to his eyes. He still feels it is one of the most exciting moments of his life. When the Convention opened the following day, everyone had heard about the introduction of the Ampex videotape recorder at the CBS meeting, and Phil Gundy announced that 11 presidents of the major television networks from around the world were standing in line to see the recorder – and learn how soon they could purchase it.
In less than a week, he received orders for 45 Model VR-1000 recorders at $45,000 each. Phil also received a contract from CBS for modified prototypes (similar to the one shown at the Convention) with the proviso that the network get them soon as possible. These required custom engineering, and cost considerably more.

With the introductions over, Ampex now had to redesign the prototypes for production, tool them, produce them and ship them all by April, 1957 in order to meet the beginning of daylight saving time that year. John Leslie headed an overlay team that bridged application engineering, product engineering, manufacturing engineering, manufacturing and quality assurance. Ampex shipped the VR-1000 recorders on schedule.

CBS Television City got the first five and NBC Burbank got the next three. The deliveries were made the same month NBC Brooklyn II, Burbank Color City Studio 4 and, the all color, Ziegfeld Theater went into service.

Below left is one of the many packed demonstration meetings held during the convention. In the center, the first VR 1000 ready to ship. On the right, the November 30, 1956 first-ever, nationwide tape-delayed broadcast. CBS replayed ‘Douglas Edwards With The News’ from CBS Television City for the Mountain and Pacific time zones.


Stephen Colbert to Replace David Letterman


Stephen Colbert to Replace David Letterman

The CBS Television Network today announced that Stephen Colbert, the host, writer and executive producer of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning “The Colbert Report,” will succeed David Letterman as …


When Jack Paar Walked OUT, Here’s Where He Walked IN…

When Jack Paar Walked OUT, Here’s Where He Walked IN…

Notice the photo in the window of Jack Paar. Hurley’s was where Jack Paar went the night of February 11, 1960…the night he walked off the ‘Tonight’ when a network censor edited out one of his jokes from the previous night’s taped broadcast. Paar wasn’t really hiding, but didn’t want to be inside NBC or talk to the people calling him on the special NBC phone on the bar.

I think this picture was taken between February 11 and March 7, 1960 when Paar returned to the show. Thanks to Glenn Mack for this amazing photo which also happens to be the first and only photo of the original Hurley’s Bar that we know of.

On October 15, 1975, Hurley’s closing, after 70 plus years was covered on NBC’s ‘Tomorrow With Tom Snyder’. Below is the NBC description of that episode.

“This show marks the end of Hurley’s, a local bar on 49th Street in NYC frequented by NBC personalities and employees, which is closing after 70 years. This also begins the third year for the tomorrow show. Tom talks with Steve Allen about the changes that have taken place in New York. He feels a lot of the bad mouthing about the city is done by new yorkers. Then Dave Garroway, Jack Lescoulie and Frank Blair talk about the old days. They started with today on January 14 1952. Blair explains that he got up so early for the show by the time he got to Hurley’s it was his lunch time. Therefore he had a drink and furthered his reputation in that area. Comedians Bob & Ray and Ben Grauer talk with Tom about the days of radio and their transition to television. Kenny Delmar, Don Pardo, Bill Wendell and Lanny Ross tell stories of their careers. Hurleys was known as studio 1H or Hurley’s beach. There was an NBC phone on the bar where employees could be reached.”


What David Letterman Did That Will Never Be Done Again

It’s True…Timing Is Everything, Especially In Television

Here’s an interesting read from “Variety” that gives us a close up view of some of the business behind show business deals.

What David Letterman Did That Will Never Be Done Again

David Letterman’s sign-off from CBS’ “Late Show” next year will not only mark the end of an era in latenight, it will bring the curtain down on one of the most unique and lucrative deals ever craft…


Yet Another Magic Moment! The Photo AND The Video

Yet Another Magic Moment! The Photo AND The Video
In the NBC 5H story, just before this, I mention ‘Wide, Wide World With Dave Garroway’. This show debuted almost two years after 5H went into service, but below is a photo from 5H taken of the WWW debut broadcast on Sunday, October 16, 1955.

At the link above is the opening of that debut show…a 90 minute weekly documentary series. Garroway and the live spots are coming from 8G, but 73 cameras spread across the country are feeding into 5H where the show is switched from. At the 4 minute mark is the great GM live spot delivered from behind a crane mounted TK30.

‘Wide, Wide World’ was telecast live on NBC late Sunday afternoons. Conceived by network head Pat Weaver, and hosted by Dave Garroway, Wide Wide World was introduced on the ‘Producers’ Showcase’ series on June 27, 1955. The premiere episode, featuring entertainment from the US, Canada and Mexico, was the first international North American telecast in the history of the medium.

It returned in the fall as a regular Sunday series, telecast from October 16, 1955 to June 8, 1958. The program was sponsored by General Motors and Barry Wood was the executive producer. Thanks to Joel Spector for this great, rare photo!

By the way…some of the remotes WWW did were some of the hardest EVER! If you thought putting a live network camera on a moving streetcar in San Francisco in 1955 was hard, wait till you read this next part!

Here are the logistics involved in setting up a live remote at Arkansas’ Claypool Reservoir where George Purvis, head of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, put 300,000 ducks on NBC:

There were many hurdles. Initially Purvis dealt with how to hide TV cameras, crews, control trucks and the necessary workmen and equipment and how to get electricity and telephone lines two miles (3 km) to the woods.

“To start with, the only way to get to the spot selected was over two miles of muddy woods roads where only tractors had gone before,” Purvis recalls. “The cameras would be two miles from the nearest power line or telephone. This meant using power generators placed far enough back in the woods so as not to disturb the wary ducks. Six telephone circuits were needed to send the audio part of the program to New York.

Even after stringing two miles of wire, there was just one circuit from Claypool’s Reservoir to Jonesboro, 20 miles away. So a radio loop was installed at the barn to cover the 20-mile (32 km) gap.

Camouflaged blinds were built for television cameras and operators, one of which was 40 feet up a hickory tree. An additional blind was built for the remote control truck.

The video would go from the camera to the control truck via the cable, then to an 80-foot (24 m) relay tower 1,000 feet (300 m) back in the woods, then 35 miles (56 km) to another relay tower, then 40 miles (64 km) to a third tower before being sent to Memphis. There it was transmitted 1,200 miles (1,900 km) to New York where the audio and video were combined to be broadcast live. With the electronics in place, the only thing left was to make sure that at an exact prearranged time there would be ducks in front of the cameras — over a quarter-of-a-million of them!


NBC Television’s First Assignable Control Room, 5H

NBC Television’s First “Ingest” Center…Studio 5H

In video production, ingest is a relatively new term which simply means to bring a new program or it’s elements into a studio or facility. In December of 1953, NBC completed Studio 5H to do just that. It was a control room into which breaking news stories and remote broadcast could be fed, and switched directly to air or to another studio’s control room.

Of course fully produced programs that came in from Los Angeles, Washington and Chicago , or other originating cities went right into Master Control, and 5H was not at all in competition with that function. Having a dedicated control room capable of handling multiple live feeds was a huge help in producing shows like ‘Wide, Wide World with Dave Garroway’ which always had several live remote feeds from across the nation.

5H did not have a studio for productions, but it did have a small room that could either do audio only narration or, on camera narration. It’s most remembered as NBC’s flash news studio and in the clip, you can see the very first moments of NBC’s Kennedy assassination coverage coming from 5H. There appears to be two cameras in 5H for this, but usually, there was only one and it was always on, as this was the “always hot” studio.

This facility also had control of it’s own telecine equipment and could insert film and slides. Starting in the 70s, I think WNBC used this studio for it’s five minute overnight local newscasts. Below is the story of it’s start in the January 1954 issue of “Radio News”.


Another Magic Moment! The Photo AND The Video To Match!

Another Magic Moment! The Photo AND The Video To Match!

Just before the video clip, which will start at 6:44, there is a classic live Ajax commercial, complete with the “bubba buma bum bum” lyric many of us still remember. This beautiful color photo was taken during rehearsal of ‘The Photographer’ sketch on the March 23, 1952 ‘Colgate Comedy Hour’. It was live from NBC’s Radio City West studios at Sunset and Vine in Hollywood. Dean is a fashion photog and Jerry is an inept window washer.

The video will start at the top of this sketch which is in the first third of the one hour show. You can see the intro and billboard of guests (which includes Jerry’s father Danny Lewis) with just a few mouse clicks. This is from Season 2, Episode 30.
This clip is from part three and starts at the top of a short sketch were Jerry sings the praises of the crew, but goes berserk on them at the first technical mistake. Enjoy and share!


‘The Comedian’…This ‘Playhouse 90’, Inside CBS Television City

‘The Comedian’…Remembering Mickey Rooney

This ‘Playhouse 90’ is a must see for several reasons. First, it’s Mickey Rooney at his best, second…there are RCA TK11s everywhere as this is a “show within a show”. It was directed by one of live television’s best…John Frankenheimer, on February 14, 1957.

This originated from Television City and starts Mel Torme, Kim Hunter, Edmond O’Brien. Adapted for television by Rod Serling, this the story a vaudeville comedian who now has his own TV show…a ruthless egomaniac who demands instant obedience from his staff and heaps abuse on those in lesser positions. Enjoy and share!

Mickey Rooney plays hated TV clown Sammy Hogarth in a ‘ Playhouse 90” drama..Teleplay by Rod Serling.


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