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The TV That Time Forgot: Ozzie and Harriet

Anyone who knows TV history knows that Seinfeld pulled one of the biggest con jobs in American broadcasting history with their claim that they were “A show about nothing.” Every single episode had a main plot and secondary plot (A and B plots in TV jargon) – just like every episode of every sit-com on the air at the time.

The REAL “show about nothing?” Well, that was unquestionably The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Never has the word “adventure” been so misused!

Read more: The TV That Time Forgot: Ozzie and Harriet

Summer and Soap

A Summer Place (1959)

Want to see how much times have changed? Drag this one-time blockbuster from 1959 out of mothballs and give a spin!

There’s a reason A Summer Place is best-remembered for its musical theme and not for its plot or acting. The subject matter is sex… middle-age sex and teen-age sex. And like most films from that time period, it wants to give you all the dirty details with a heaping dose of hypocritical moralizing.

Read more: Summer and Soap

Remember When: Test Patterns

Those of us of a certain age can remember when TV didn't broadcast 24 hours a day. After the Blue Angels had gone screaming across the sky as "The Star-Spangled Banner" played in the background, most stations put up what was known as a "test pattern." The stations kept broadcasting these cards until they resumed programming the next morning. They were also displayed when networks or local stations lost their transmission signal from remote locations. These were cards designed to help technicians calibrate broadcasting equipment as well as home TV sets.

When color came to dominate television, the test pattern was replaced by color bars, although even those are no longer needed to tune contemporary broadcasting equipment or flat screen TVs.

The most famous test pattern was one of the first - developed by RCA in 1939. It's known as "the Indian head" test pattern because of its inclusion of a Native American in full headdress.

For a time, NBC (owned by RCA) created an additional test pattern, featuring the network's biggest star:

Now Playing: "Paint Your Wagon" (1969)

In the late 1960’s Establishment Hollywood was near panic. All of the old rules about making and marketing movies seemed to be going out the window.

While long-time stars like Gregory Peck and Bob Hope were no longer packing ‘em in, young upstarts like Mike Nichols (The Graduate) and Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde) were turning out blockbusters that their studios frankly thought should be playing the low rent drive-in circuit.

So in 1969, what did Hollywood think was a “can’t-miss” idea? Take a Broadway musical from 1951(!) and cast Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin(!!) as the singing leads!

The result is a spectacular mess of a film, Paint Your Wagon.

Read more: Now Playing: "Paint Your Wagon" (1969)

The TV That Time Forgot: The Nat "King" Cole Show

In November, 1956, NBC became the first network to build a variety show around a black headliner when they debuted The Nat “King” Cole Show.

Nat "King" Cole was already an extremely popular singer, with 17 Top 10 hits. His show was well-received an attracted big name talent like Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald as guests. Yet, by December of 1957 the show was gone!

Why?

It wasn’t lack of ratings. Nat “King” Cole competed well. The problem was advertising. The New York agencies were afraid to place their sponsors on a show headlined by an African-American. They feared negative reaction to their clients’ products in the South. The show was only able to attract sponsors at the local level, like Reingold Beer in the New York area.

For a short time, Cole and his guests all agreed to work for AFTRA scale, the equivalent of minimum wage for TV performers. But after a year, Cole became disillusioned and quit, telling reporters, “Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.”

NBC kept trying, bringing Bill Cosby in to co-star in the hit spy series Ispy beginning in 1965. Three years later they would launch Julia, a sit-com that starred Diahann Carroll.

But it wasn’t until 1970 that the network was finally able to create a variety show starring a black entertainer that could attract national sponsors. That was The Flip Wilson Show.

Besides Diana Ross, what other two girls made up the original Supremes?

Flo Ballard and Mary Wilson
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