New Spotlight: Sierra

This month’s spotlight features NBC’s short-lived 1974 adventure series Sierra, from Jack Webb’s Mark VIII Limited. It was the first cancellation of the 1974-1975 season, after just four episodes had aired. The network was kind enough to allow all 11 produced episodes to air — as well as the original pilot telefilm, in an unusual scheduling move — before replacing it with The Mac Davis Show.

The series starred James G. Richardson and Ernest Thompson as Rangers Tim Cassidy and Matt Harper, who worked for the United States National Park Service and were charged with protecting the fictional Sierra National Park. The series was actually filmed at Yosemite National Park.

Critics were pretty brutal in their reviews of the series and ratings were brutal, too. One episode featured a crossover with Emergency!, another Jack Webb series. I don’t believe the series was ever syndicated in the United States but was aired internationally (in Germany, for example).

Read the full spotlight here.

Review: Telecast Magazine (Volume 1, Number 1)

Bookshelf is a monthly column examining printed matter relating to television. While I love watching TV, I also love reading about it, from tie-in novels to TV Guides, from vintage television magazines to old newspaper articles. Bookshelf is published on the second Thursday of each month.

Telecast (Volume 1, Number 1)
First Published November 1949
Published by G & E Publishing Co., Inc.
64 Pages

I’ve been interested in Telecast magazine for years, ever since I bought a copy of the very first issue on eBay. The magazine billed itself as “The National Television Picture Magazine” and was first published in November 1949. I don’t know how long it stayed in print but at least five issues were published, perhaps more. I also have a copy of the third issue from January 1950.

Telecast was published monthly by G & E Publishing Co., Inc. out of New York. The cover price was 25 cents and a year’s subscription cost $2.50. Earl S. Peed served as editor; Charlotte Winter as art director; Judy Shepard as assistant editor; Meryl Kay Parker as associate editor; Irwin Rosten as contributing editor; and William Martin advertising manager.

Front cover to Telecast Magazine Volume 1, Number 1
Front cover to Telecast Magazine Volume 1, Number 1 – Copyright 1949 G & E Publishing Co., Inc.

The table of contents reveals a mixture of stories, features and departments. Several of the stories and features were written by those in the industry, including Irwin Rosten, Candy Jones, Bob Cooke and Kyle MacDonnell. Despite being the first issue, there is a letters to the editor page filled with well wishes from television’s top talent: Fibber McGee & Molly, Kate Smith, Tex and Jinx McCrary, Morey Amsterdam, Ben Grauer and Sammy Kaye, among others.

There is also a letter from the editor to readers of the new magazine:

a letter to our readers

Along with more than 2,000,000 other people who own television sets today, we think TV is just about the most important thing that’s happening in America right now. We think it’s so important, in fact, that a national magazine devoted exclusively to the new entertainment medium is needed. With the first issue of Telecast we are offering you that magazine.

Television is still a youngster, but it’s the fastest-growing youngster in the country. Experts have predicted that within a few years television will be one of the 10 biggest industries in America. We think that’s one of the safest predictions anyone could make.

This first issue is, frankly, an experiment, just as television itself is still something of an experiment in its programming and presentation. We’ll need our readers’ help to do that, so please write and let us know what you think of Telecast’s first try.

the editors

Among the stories included in the issue are a look at the families of comedians Olsen and Johnson as seen on NBC’s Fireball Fun for All; a profile of John Cameron Swayze; the future of color television; and a fascinating examination of DuMont flagship WABD’s pioneering daytime schedule, said to be the first in the country to offer programming from 7AM to 11PM when it was introduced on November 1st, 1948.

The features range from a profile of 13-year-old actor Johnny Stewart to an overview of football on television to a short history of television in Philadelphia.

Love That Commercial, Telecast Magazine Volume 1, Number 1
Love That Commercial, Telecast Magazine Volume 1, Number 1 – Copyright 1949 G & E Publishing Co., Inc.
DuMont Daytime Pioneer, Telecast Magazine Volume 1, Number 1
DuMont Daytime Pioneer, Telecast Magazine Volume 1, Number 1 – Copyright 1949 G & E Publishing Co., Inc.

In addition to the letters to the editor page, the regular departments include Telecast news, an editorial, a peek at new shows (The Ed Wynn Show, ‘Lil Abner, Martin Kane, Private Eye and Front Row Center) and television fashions — six dresses appropriate for all manner of television viewing opportunities.

Advertisements in this first issue include U.S. savings bonds, Lord Abbott imported briar pipes, Chatmoor Garment Company, Joggins Inc., Adam J. Young Jr. Radio & Television Consultants, Package Shows Inc., Simplex movie projectors and Silent Night perfume.

On the very last page there is a subscription order form followed by an appeal to potential subscribers on the inner back cover:

tells the television story from every angle

As the first national television magazine, Telecast will be your means of getting an inside look at a great new medium and industry. Telecast will cover all phases of television we think will interest you–behind the scenes problems, previews of forthcoming events, technical phases and improvements. We’ll tell the personal stories of all the people who bring television into your home–entertainers, directors, producers, cameramen and film packagers. Telecast is directed toward every city, every family in each city, and every member of the family. Telecast is written for you whatever your age and wherever you live. We hop you like it and

rush your subscription in now

If anyone has information on how long Telecast magazine stayed in print, please contact me or hit the comments.

87th Anniversary of 1st Long Distance Television Transmission

Today marks the 87th anniversary of the first demonstration of long distance television transmission (and broadcast) in the United States, carried out by the Bell Laboratories of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. Crude images were transmitted over a telephone line from Washington, D.C. to New York City and later broadcast over the air from AT&T’s studio in Whippany, NJ.

Included in the first portion of the demonstration was a speech by Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, who was in Washington. The demonstration was filmed and a short one-minute overview can be found at the History of AT&T and Television website. A higher quality version is available at the Facebook page of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

Do note that although the film includes scenes of Hoover’s face on a small screen, it isn’t actual footage of the (very small) screen of the experimental television set. But it gives a pretty good idea what viewers would have seen.

I haven’t written much about television in the 1920s and 1930s here at Television Obscurities. Not due to a lack of interest. Quite the opposite. I am absolutely fascinated by the all-but-forgotten experimental early years of television. I just haven’t had the time. But it’s on the increasingly long list of topics I’d like to cover.

Kyle MacDonnell Article Delayed

Due to a variety of circumstances (including but not limited to coming down with the flu a few weeks ago) I’ve had to delay publishing my article on early television star Kyle MacDonnell, which was intended to appear last month. I’ve been researching MacDonnell for more than six years and have in that time collected a huge amount of material that I’m still sifting through.

I’m also working on creating a list of every broadcast MacDonnell appeared on, including the shows she hosted (Girl About Town, For Your Pleasure, etc.) and those she appeared on as a guest (Cavalcade of Stars and others). I thought I had completed several of these years ago but it turns out I only finished one for Girl About Town.

The plan is now to publish the article on Kyle MacDonnell at the end of the month and then stick to the quarterly scheduled I announced back in January.

First National TV Guide Published 61 Years Ago Today

This is an updated version of a post originally published on April 3rd, 2012.

61 years ago today the very first issue of the national TV Guide — as opposed to a local or regional television guide — was published. It may have hit newsstands a few days earlier than April 3rd, 1953, however. On the cover was the newborn son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, proclaimed on the cover to be “Lucy’s $50,000,000 Baby.”

Here’s how publisher Walter H. Annenberg explained the genesis and purpose of the new magazine in a letter printed on the inner front cover:

As We See It

This is your new TV Guide.

It brings a new concept to magazine publishing just as television has brought a new concept of mass communication to America.

Up to now, many magazines have been distributed throughout the United States, while others, devoted to material of local interest, have been circulated in limited areas only.

Television’s growing importance in our daily lives brought a need for accurate and complete station schedules printed in convenient form. In nearly every city served by television, this need was soon filled by weekly magazines which in essence were theater programs–programs for the millions of home theaters created by television.

Because television signals carry for comparatively few miles, the magazines were purely local affairs that circulated only in the area served by one city’s stations. Thus TV Digest served the viewers of Philadelphia, TV Forecast served Chicago, TV Guide served New York.

Now, under the name TV Guide, these publications will become national as well as local. They will continue and, in fact, expand their local listing pages and their news columns. In addition, the new TV Guide offers readers throughout the Nation news, features, and columns by staffs of writers in the television capitals. As a national, as well as local magazine, TV Guide will make use of the most modern printing facilities, bringing readers four-color pages–as a prelude to the day when television itself will be in color.

What can you expect of the new TV Guide? Just this: your magazine is dedicated to serving constructively the television viewers of America. By serving the viewers, and increasing their enjoyment of the medium, we will be serving the entire television industry.

-Walter H. Annenberg

Volume 1, Issue 1 featured complete television listings for the week of April 3-9. Included in the issue were four articles:

  • Lucy’s $50,000,000 Baby
  • TV’s Last Minute Men (And Women)
  • Stars Tell ‘What TV Has Taught Me’
  • In The Cast: Joan Alexander

There were also reviews for Robert Montgomery Presents and Time to Smile, a picture story on Walter Winchell, a profile on Herb Shriner and more. The issue cost 15 cents. A three-year subscription cost $11, a two-year subscription $8 and a one-year subscription just $5.

On the back cover was an advertisement touting the benefits of subscribing:

It’s so nice to have a GUIDE around the house!

It’s so convenient. A subscription to TV GUIDE means it’s always there when you want it. It means you’ll see all the best shows because you’ll know, days in advance, when and where they’ll be on. When TV GUIDE comes regularly, once a week, it means you get to know the television personalities, how TV works behind the scenes, what new shows are being planned, what new stars are rising. A subscription to TV GUIDE–the most complete, most interesting, most informative TV magazine–means you’ll get the utmost pleasure from your television set, every week and every day of the year.

It isn’t hard to have a GUIDE around the house. It’s really very easy. Use the coupon you’ll find inside to order your subscription, at the low subscription rates. Send it in today. Your subscription will start immediately.

To really enjoy TV, read TV GUIDE.

When it launched, the national TV Guide had a circulation of 1.5 million in ten cities. How many still survive? Who knows. Copies pop up on eBay fairly often and sell for several hundred dollars, depending on condition. Some feature shipping labels, suggesting that subscribers to the magazine’s precursors might have been given the opportunity to subscribe to the new magazine without missing a week’s worth of listings. I wonder if anyone who subscribed to the very first issue is still receiving TV Guide today.

At its peak, TV Guide reached close to 20 million readers each week. According to a February article, it currently has a circulation of just over two million. I wouldn’t be surprised if the magazine folded by the end of the decade.

March 2014: The Month in Home Media

The Month in Home Media is a monthly column highlighting short-lived or rare television series, specials, miniseries or made-for-TV movies released on DVD or Blu-ray during the previous month, as well as recent additions to streaming services like Warner Archive Instant. The releases discussed in this column are encoded for Region 1 use in the United States and Canada. The Month in Home Media is published on the first Thursday of each month.

I’m making some minor changes to how these columns are presented each month. Rather than list DVD/Blu-ray releases by date, from now on I’ll just be lumping them all together.

March 2014 was a pretty quiet month overall. There weren’t any streaming additions that I’m aware of, nor were there any full series sets released on DVD or Blu-ray. Warner Archive did release the pilot telefilm to ABC’s The Delphi Bureau as well as a made-for-TV movie starring Andy Griffith that didn’t lead to a weekly series. Plus, two more volumes in The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson “Vault Series” were released. See below for details.

DVD/Blu-ray Releases

The Delphi Bureau: The Merchant of Death Assignment (TV Movie, Warner Archive, DVD)
Originally broadcast in March 1972 on ABC, this telefilm served as the pilot for the short-lived series aired as part of the network’s wheel series The Men, which ran during the 1972-1973 season. Laurence Luckinbill starred as Glenn Garth Gregory, a man with a photographic memory who worked as a spy for the president of the United States. Manufacture-on-demand release.

The Girl in the Empty Grave (TV Movie, Warner Archive, DVD)
Andy Griffith starred in two made-for-TV movies during the 1977-1978 season as Abel Marsh, a small town police chief. There was talk of a weekly series but none materialized. This was the first, broadcast in September 1977 on NBC. In it, Abel investigates the mysterious reappearance of a young woman who supposedly died months ago and the equally mysterious deaths of her parents. Warner Archive released the second telefilm, Deadly Game (broadcast in December 1977) back in 2009.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series – Volume 4 (TV Episodes, Carson Entertainment Group, DVD)
Includes two complete episodes from 1976, with original commercials. The March 2nd, 1976 episode featured guests Charlton Heston and Michael Landon, as well as Billy Crystal. The March 3rd, 1976 episode featured guests Orson Welles, John Byner and Susan Clark. Plus, a bonus clip from the March 23rd, 1976 episode.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series – Volume 5 (TV Episodes, Carson Entertainment Group, DVD)
Includes two complete episodes from 1976, with original commercials. The March 4th, 1976 episode featured guests Robert Blake, Don Rickles, Bob Hope and Desi Arnaz (and Carson performing “Rhinestone Cowboy”). The March 5th, 1976 episode featured Bing Crosby, Ray Bolger and Marvin Hamlisch. Plus, a bonus clip from the March 23rd, 1976 episode.

DVD/Blu-ray News

The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams is getting a complete series set from Timeless Media Group on May 6th. No word yet on whether there will be any new bonus features (

William Shatner’s post-Star Trek series Barbary Coast will be released on DVD June 3rd by Acorn Media. The ABC spy series co-starred Doug McClure and ran for 13 episodes during the 1975-1976 season. The 4-disc set will hopefully include the pilot movie originally aired in May 1975 (

Timeless Media Group will release The Chisholms – The Complete Series on DVD on June 13th. Presumably, the 3-disc set will include both the 4-part miniseries from 1979 and the 13-episode series from 1980. Both aired on CBS and starred Robert Preston as the patriarch of a family making their way westward during the mid-1800s (

The CBS sci-fi/action series Now and Again, which ran for 22 episodes during the 1999-2000 season, may be coming to DVD on July 22nd. No official announcement has been made but an Amazon listing has been created, which suggests is the real deal (


There were no additions to any streaming services during March.

Hit the comments with any news about upcoming DVD/Blu-ray releases or additions to streaming services.

A Look at the Peabody Awards Collection

Winners of the 73rd Annual Peabody Awards were announced this morning (a complete list can be found here). Some of the winners were announced live on television for the very first time during today’s broadcast of CBS This Morning. Also featured was a short history of the Peabody Awards and a quick peek at the Peabody Awards Collection itself.

From approximately 0:48 to 1:02 you can see some of the 90,000 items in the collection, including 2″ videotapes and 16mm kinescopes. See below:

The Peabody Awards Collection can be searched online here.

Pioneers of Television Returns April 15th

Pioneers of Television returns to PBS later this month with four new episodes that based on the descriptions won’t have much to do with the true pioneers of television. That’s par for the course for this series, which has always focused more on well-known, popular television shows like I Love Lucy, Star Trek and Bonanza. This time around, it looks like many of the shows being discussed are from the 1980s and 1990s. Hardly what I’d called pioneering.

Here are descriptions and air dates for the new episodes:

“Standup to Sitcom”
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 8PM ET

This star-packed premiere episode features fresh interviews with Jerry Seinfeld, Roseanne Barr, Tim Allen, Ray Romano and Bob Newhart. The program reveals how America’s top standup comics made the transition from the comedy stage to the sitcom form. It includes dozens of clips from Seinfeld, Home Improvement, Everybody Loves Raymond, Roseanne and more.

“Doctors and Nurses”
Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 at 8PM ET

From George Clooney on ER to Richard Chamberlain on Dr. Kildare, television’s long love affair with doctors and nurses shows no signs of letting up. Noah Wyle, Anthony Edwards, Gloria Reuben and Eriq LaSalle open up about the secrets of ER; Howie Mandel, Ed Begley, Jr. and Christina Pickles revisit St. Elsewhere. The episode features the final interview with Chad Everett of Medical Center before his death in 2012.

“Breaking Barriers”
Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 at 8PM ET

This episode traces the story of people of color on American television — including the mid-1960s breakthroughs of African Americans Diahann Carroll (Julia) and Bill Cosby (I Spy). Latino landmarks range from I Love Lucy with Desi Arnaz to Miami Vice with Edward James Olmos. Also featured are Asian Americans such as George Takei (Star Trek), who details the childhood years he spent in a Japanese-American internment camp.

“Acting Funny”
Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 8PM ET

This episode peeks behind the curtain to reveal the techniques of America’s favorite comedic actors. The program features the manic improvisational style of Robin Williams and his comic predecessor, Jonathan Winters. Their style is a fascinating contrast to Tina Fey, who explains her measured, highly prepared approach. The episode also highlights the all-time #1 Emmy Award winner for comedy acting: Cloris Leachman.

The official website for Pioneers of Television can be found here but it hasn’t been updated yet with information on Season Four.

I’ll probably watch Season Four but won’t be reviewing it here at the Television Obscurities blog.