Monday, October 15, 2012

Writing assignment #7: 1. Pick a week from 1955-1980 in TV Guide (on microfilm). Describe that issue (articles, ads, what region it serves) and take note of several specials or featured programming in that issue, usually broken out from the listings as a sidebar. 2. Find a review of (or article about) one of those special programs in Variety and summarize.  (250-350 words; 4-5 secondary sources).


  1. The cover of the Jan. 1-8, 1972 TV Guide Washington-Baltimore edition features “Remember 1971?” in big boldface type, teasing to a multi-page lead story inside looking back at the biggest television moments of the previous year. The whole edition was filled with New Year’s celebration specials and reminiscent articles and advertisements looking back at the year they just left behind.
    One thing was especially noticeable, though not surprising in the least, was the prevalence of cigarette advertisements. It seemed like every three or four pages there was another one. In fact, of the first four ads in the magazine, three were for cigarette companies: Lucky, True and Marlboro. Other ads included Kraft, McDonald’s, Vicks and other brands that are still around today.
    One interesting article I came across explained that Japan was going to begin airing Sesame Street for the first time, and in English, but with subtitles. Other than the aforementioned, the edition was largely comprised of TV listing pages. Something I noted was the way the movies were listed. Next to each movie title was a genre, whether it be Western, Comedy, Science Fiction or Cartoon. I remember having a TV listing growing up, but I don’t remember the movies being accompanied by a genre designation.
    One eye-catching broadcast promotion for that week was a showing of Ivanhoe, a movie that was first made in 1952. The way this full-page ad stood out, I was under the impression (until doing further research) that this must have been a TV premiere of the movie, or something bigger than just a showing of it. There was a mini-series of the same title that ran in 1958-9, but it was just 39 episodes. Another series ran in 1982 and yet again in 1997.
    Variety magazine published a rave review of the movie. “Ivanhoe is a great romantic adventure, mounted extravagantly, crammed with action, and emerges as a spectacular feast,” it begins. The movie was nominated for Best Picture, Scoring of a Dramatic Movie and Color Cinematography. It starred Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Fontaine.
    Famed Hollywood screenwriter Marguerite Roberts helped adapt the screenplay from the original 19th century book by Sir Walter Scott. Unfortunately, during the Red Scare, she pleaded her Fifth Amendment rights and refused to testify for the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951 and her name was omitted from the credits.

    TV Guide microfilm

  2. Looking at the Baltimore 1959 TV Guide, I saw several ads for television, movies and products, but virtually no articles. The ads included cigarette ads for Oasis and Marlboro—“where there’s a man there’s a Marlboro” (TV Guide) and several products aimed at the household—easy prep “Pennsylvania Dutch Bottle Bol pasta squares and Breyers ice cream for examples. The ads are obviously aimed at household consumers and time-anchored in their support of cigarettes and numerous stylized photos of cast members for various programs. I found it funny that there was a review decrying the latest vampire program on the basis that the story was becoming common—times have really changed.
    I looked at a TV movie title “The Geisha Boy” in particular—it had comedy legend Jerry Lewis in it and was advertised with a large picture of the film. Variety had mixed feelings on the film, saying “Like most of the Jerry Lewis/Frank Tashlin collaborations, The Geisha Boy is highlighted by several eye-popping sight-gag sequences,” but criticizing the heavy-handed use of pathos between characters. The film covers a failed magician (Lewis) accused of kidnapping after the son of a Japanese dignitary secretly follows him to the US after Lewis’ character amuses him with tricks in Japan, creating an international incident.
    The film was remembered for comedic actor Jerry Lewis, as a transitional piece into his solo career—he had just broke with long-time partner, Dean Martin, a shock to the 1950s entertainment world. Lewis turned to collaborator and mentor Frank Tashlin to help him bridge the gap; Tashlin wrote the film and was recognized as a comedy legend in the 50s himself. Considering the subject matter, modern reviews have found the racial and ethnic material relatively non-offensive with the exception of a few comments directed towards the “submissive Asian girl” stereotype.
    TV Guide, September 1958 Microfilm
    Varity Magazine, August 1958-December 58 Microfilm

  3. I'm more interested in the 40's and 50's when it comes to entertainment, just because of what a different time it was in the world. What I found in TV guide was almost what I had expected. Simply a rundown of some shows and a brief synopsis of each one (I was looking at 1958). I found a few recognizable names, a Walt Disney movie, Person to Person. I was not able to find reviews of any of these programs in Variety, in fact, the only interesting thing I found in that magazine was an advertisement for alcohol, and a "where are they now" article featuring some TV actors. As such I did a little more research about those three programs.

    "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" was a departure from what we traditionally know Disney for. It was a live action film about the Battle of Lexington. Typically we know Disney for fictional cartoons, however he had an entire series of live action films that dealt with some of the famous events of the Revolutionary War, such as Paul Reveres ride.

    "Person to Person" was a live show hosted by Edward Murrow, in which he intervied celebrites about upcoming books, movies, etc. It was really one of the first examples of an E! news type program, just with more class. The thing that struck me about it was that the show used multiple cameras to achieve all of it's shots, much more than a standard 3 point shoot, and that makes it well ahead of the time.

    The last show that I saw was a comedy staring Jackie Gleason. He was known as "The Great One" for his many roles and versatility, but his most iconic show had to be the Honeymooners. It was the precursor to almost every sitcom today, especially shows like King of Queens and Family guy. A somewhat overweight working husband with a wife that they are always getting into fights with. To the moon Alice!

    Overall the experience of working with microfilm was something that was really interesting. I was shocked at how much information the library had stored in its archives, and the simplicity of the whole thing was really cool.

  4. When I did the Microfilm assignment I received a copy in the New York City Metro area in 1977. While I was struggling to use the machine and finding some of the things hard to read, I did find some very interesting things. An advertisement that jumped out to me right away was a full page saying that they had all the live coverage for Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. That would probably be something that we would see in a TV guide ad today and was striking to me how fast we have moved in television after it was only beginning to make its way into American homes in the 1950s. Another ad that I found very interesting was the amount of tobacco ads I saw. One ad was displaying the risks of cigarettes and basically saying don’t do it while another one “Pall Mall” had three different kinds of tobacco products and the ad read, “Decisions…decisions… Make your decision.” I’m actually more surprised that there were negative ads about cigarettes back during this time because my parents who lived through that generation told me that smoking was the cool thing to do (even though they never did it) and there wasn’t as many people telling you the effects of your health. One ad for a TV show that found was “The Jacksons” in what was about to their second season, “Good things come in fives, Last summer’s hottest new show is back. Hotter than ever!” It was coming on CBS at 8:30 so I’d imagine they were expecting this show to bring in a lot of ratings. The show only lasted two years though so I’d imagine it didn’t live up to their goals. It did well in the summer and was brought back as a mid season replacement for a show but it only lasted a few weeks.

  5. My experience with microfilm has become a bit infamous, but I after trying again with the help of a librarian, I was able to appreciate what microfilm can offer. When I arrived at Mckelden last Friday, I chose to look at a TV guide and the corresponding Variety magazine from February to May, 1976. I picked this because February and May are ratings periods for the networks, so I figured that they would have their best programing on display.

    I went over to the microfilm machine and with a bit of help from a librarian I was able to starting looking at the reel. I noticed a problem immediately though-everything was so hard to read! It was all very small and I was not able to zoom in and see what the text was actually saying, I could only really make out the article titles.

    One of the first “close up’s” I saw featured Snoopy and was called “Happy Anniversary Charlie Brown.” I was very interested in reading about it but it was nearly impossible. I did some research and found out that it was a special documentary celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Peanuts Comic Strip. As a child the Peanuts was one of my favorite shows, so I was nostalgic and excited when I saw that in the TV Guide.

    The next “Close up” I saw was for a bicentennial salute to John Wayne. I actually like western movies and there is no more iconic western actor then John Wayne. I really wanted to read what it said, but unfortunately the print was way too small so I couldn’t make out any of it.

    I then looked at Variety Magazine and unfortunately was greeted by the same problems. I couldn’t make out any of the words especially against the black backdrop and could definitely not find a corresponding article.

    I had no idea how people did any work with microfilm until I was allowed to do it in class at the broadcasting archives on Thursday. Here a librarian helped me use a digital machine, which helped tremendously. I was still not really able to read the texts, but it was much easier and it definitely made me more comfortable with the microfilm. Overall I am glad I did the project because it only helps my research ability and taught me to give some things a second chance.

  6. The microfilm assignment was definitely an experience. I chose the last week of December/first week of January 1972. The “close up” story that I chose to highlight and find in Variety was the Sugar Bowl of 1972. It was airing on channels 7 and 11 at 9PM on New Year’s Eve.

    According to Variety, this was an unusual occurrence. ABCTV and the New Orleans Mid-Winter Sports Association signed a 3 year contract to keep the Sugar Bowl airing. At the same time, ABC decided to start airing the bowl game on New Year’s Eve 1972. It would be the first time the Sugar Bowl would not be playing on January 1st or in case of Sundays January 2nd. The author of the short article suggests that this is a way for ABC to get a jump on the competition as well as take some of the pressure off from the “all day all night” jam packed bowl game schedule. This is from the April 26, 1972 addition, page 42 in the Radio-Television section.

    According to, the Cotton, Orange, and Rose Bowls all aired on New Year’s Day. The Sugar Bowl was the only bowl game to air on New Year’s Eve that year, although a handful of others aired earlier in December. That gave ABC a huge programming advantage. It didn’t have to compete with the 3 other games on New Year’s Day.

    Interesting things that I noticed about Variety, were that there were lots of legal stories about which radio/TV stations were doing. Who was making what contracts (no surprise I saw ABC and Sugar Bowl come up). There were stories about which stations were winning awards, which were switching to “cinematic” format, and who had resigned from where. This was mixed with reviews of shows as well. Advertisements I noticed in this magazine were mostly for film distributors, I saw ads for several recognizable companies including Cinema 5, ITC, United Artists and Viacom all looking to distribute their tapes. It was definitely a magazine for the person planning the station’s content, it could also have been for media moguls.

    From the About Us section on the Variety website: “Since 1905, the most influential leaders in the industry have turned to Variety for timely, credible and straight forward news and analysis - information vital to their professions.” It would fit my immediate impression that this magazine was for the media professional, not necessarily the average American reader. Clearly it still focuses on providing that information to the media professionals of today.

    One interesting advertisement that I saw in TV Guide was the marketing of Seagram’s 7, targeted towards men most likely who would be “watching the game” with a cold glass of Seagram’s 7 in hand. There were many bowl games on New Year’s Day so I can imagine that it would entice a man to sit down with his favorite drink and take in the all the football that would be on TV. It may also suggest that men were frequent readers of the magazine, it was not an advertisement aimed at women for men. It was meant for men.

    This version of TV guide was designed for the Baltimore/Washington markets. It said so right on the microfilm box. If you look at USA Today Magazine’s marketing regions, you will find that the United States is divided in 8 major regional markets. DC/Baltimore falls into the Mid-Atlantic region along with New York. However, we can assume that TV Guide’s approach to marketing and television audiences had to be much more specific than that because programming was specific to smaller segments of the population. For instance, the same shows that were airing in New York may not have been airing at the same time or on the same channel in DC. Therefore, the advertisements of the TV Guide could afford to be specific although I didn't quite notice any specifically local ads that stuck out.

    Microfilm, Variety April 26, 1972 and TV Guide week January 1-7, 1973.

  7. For the microfilm assignment I picked the week of January 22, 1979. The region this TV Guide was designated for was the New York metro area. To begin, I must say that Microfilm is one of the most annoying things ever. I struggled to complete the assignment, mostly due to the trouble with the Microfilm.

    One of the first advertisements I noticed when going through the pages was a page with the headline "Murder in Music City" which immediately caught my attention. It was airing at 9 PM on Tuesday and featured Sonny Bono as a Nashville detective. The show ended up being a total flop.

    Another thing I found interesting was the smoking advertisements. Surprisingly, I was an anti-smoking ad that said, "You will stop smoking on Feb. 22. Calmly." I was surprised by it initially because I had the thought that smoking advertisements were mainstream and popular while the anti-smoking advertisements were much more rare.

    Lastly, I was very intrigued by an advertisement designed for those looking for a haircut or hair treatment from Cleveland Hair Clinics. Even more bizarre, this 1979 TV Guide had an advertisement for medical hair transplants. It even says its the only way to cure baldness... economically, naturally and permanently! I gave a good laugh at this one because even still today baldness is an issue among many men. But for a 1979 TV Guide issue to say they had a solution to hair loss really surprised me.

    TV Guide microfilm

  8. For the micro-film assignment I picked the week of January 20-24, 1962. This edition of TV Guide specialized on the Washington- Baltimore regions. The cover of the guide sported the various article titles like, “Meet Mitch Miller’s remarkable new rising star”. Other articles included “up to date, how the networks have designed news shows for the nation’s youth.”, “Edna shriver, star of talking horse show Mr. Ed.” and “Chuck connors is back on target.” Of the ads interspersed throughout the book, the ad that caught my attention was by the Bell telephone company extolling the interpersonal relationship affirming benefits of the telephone.
    Some of the features include, a Bing Cosby Golf extravaganza and an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play called Focus.
    One program that really caught my attention was entitled “English for Americans”. It was a local program which aired everyday Sunday morning. And as a any fan of my fair lady will tell you. it’s seldom that the English/Americans try to t. Could it be that this small program aired on Sunday morning was an attempt to help integrate the immigrants and educate the general populace. I know that English for American didn’t have, but it remarkable to see. It also begged the question, why is there not a program like that one today?
    The program I picked aired at 9 am TV NBC II and it was called “Five Finger’s starring James Mason. I made a mistake with the and it instead of picking a recurring feature I chose a movie to tv adaptation. TV Guide touted it as a “breathtaking story”. But when I looked up the review in Variety magazine a staff writer described the film as, “A good, if somewhat overlong, cloak-and-dagger thriller”. Also, I’m not what variety magazine meant when it said, Screenplay is based on the novel Operation Cicero, written by L.C. Moyzisch, Nazi agent in the espionage dealings with 'Cicero', the fabulous spy. “The fabulous spy” seems a bit disconnected with how WWII went down.
    I remember once in class we talked about how it was a big deal when the tv would air a movie that was less than 15 years old, and, so I was surprised to see this movie show up on tv. So while I did go a bit outside of the parameters of the prompt, it was a fruitful experience in learning about broadcasting practices (or rather re-broadcasting practices), in addition to learning of the preferences of 1961 audiences.

    2. Tv Guide, DC-MD edition. January 20-24, 1962, text source
    4. Dr. Stephen Hofer. TV Guide: Celebrating an Icon, book source