The Month in Home Media: November 2016

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.

Support Television Obscurities by purchasing items through Amazon.com using the links on this page.

November 2016 was relatively quiet. Star Trek: The Animated Series (NBC, 1973-1974) came out on Blu-ray while Sam Benedict (NBC, 1962-1963) was released on DVD. There were also several new releases from Alpha Video. Also, Netflix added recent syndicated drama The Pinkertons.

DVD/Blu-ray Releases

Support Television Obscurities

Star Trek: The Animated Series (TV Series, Paramount, Blu-ray)
Technically, this NBC series ran for two seasons from 1973 to 1974 so it’s not a true one season wonder. It’s Star Trek, so it’s obviously not obscure either. The entire original cast, except for Walter Koenig, returned for this Saturday morning cartoon. A DVD release came out in 2006. The series was also included in a special 50th anniversary Star Trek Blu-ray collection in September. You can read reviews at TrekCore, TrekMovie, and Blu-ray.com.

Sam Benedict: The Complete Series (TV Series, Warner Archive, DVD)
This legal drama ran on NBC for 28 episodes during the 1962-1963 season. It starred Edmond O’Brien, Richard Rust, and Joan Tompkins. Guest stars included Claude Rains, Inger Stevens, Diana Hyland, Yvonne Craig, Vera Mills, and Howard Duff. NOTE: This is a manufacture-on-demand release.

Finally, Alpha Video released several new manufacture-on-demand titles last month: The Adventures of Fu Manchu Volume 3, Passport to Danger Volume 4, Dateline Europe Volume 4, and Overseas Adventure Volume 3.

DVD/Blu-ray News

As I reported earlier this month, The Young Lawyers (ABC, 1970-1971) is coming to DVD but no release date has been announced yet.

Likewise, Best of the West (ABC, 1981-1982) is coming to DVD but there’s no release date yet (TVShowsOnDVD.com).

Streaming

Netlix added The Pinkertons, a detective drama that aired in first-run syndication during the 2014-2015 season.

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

60th Anniversary of 1st Broadcast Use of Videotape

The first broadcast use of videotape took place 60 years ago today. At 6:15PM ET on Friday, November 30th, 1956, CBS recorded the live East Coast broadcast of Douglas Edwards and the News. The network used a black-and-white Ampex videotape recorder located at its Television City facility in Hollywood. CBS then played back the quarter-hour news program three hours later for stations on the West Coast. Specifically, KNXT in Los Angeles fed the program to nine stations of the Columbia Television Pacific Network (CTPN).

Ampex unveiled its 2-inch quadruplex videotape recorder in April 1956. CBS was the first network to place orders for machines and thus the first to receive any. It considered its use of videotape for Douglas Edwards and the News a technical test and made no public announcement prior to the initial November 30th broadcast.

How Did It Look?

Here’s how to Broadcasting*Telecasting described the videotape broadcasts of Douglas Edwards and the News in its December 10th, 1956 issue:

West coast television engineers watching the Doug Edwards tapes last week noted on Monday that about five minutes of the program was marked by fine white lines due to “tape dropout,” but that the condition was less noticeable Tuesday and almost eliminated on the Wednesday show. These fine white tracings were noted by a non-technical observer on the secret test Nov. 30 for the first minute of the program but otherwise the picture quality was far superior to normal film kinescope and to other observes appeared to be as natural as a live local origination on that particular receiver.

Last week’s “tape-casts” were described by engineers to have the quality of the best 35 mm film programs now turned out by top Hollywood producers for network use and in addition had advantages over 35 mm film quality. They explained the contrast range of the tape is far superior to film and very much like tv [sic] in that the tape reproduces well the full range from black through the greys to white without the bloom and flare often found in even the finer films.

In other words, the videotaped episodes looked pretty good!

Where Are The Tapes?

The earliest surviving videotape is a recording of “The Edsel Show,” a CBS special broadcast October 13th, 1957. What happened to the videotape(s) used to record Douglas Edwards and the News six decades ago? They were likely reused until they wore out, then tossed. Remember, videotape was in its infancy in 1956. The recorders were huge, complicated, expensive machines. Reels of videotape were large and costly, too.

It’s unlikely anyone at CBS considered saving the historic November 30th videotape for posterity. If any of these tapes are found, it will probably be very difficult to recover the programs–but hopefully not impossible.

References:

Adams, Val. “TV-Radio News and Notes: Tape.” New York Times. 9 Dec. 1956: 159.
“Closed Circuit.” Broadcasting*Telecasting. 3 Dec. 1956: 5.
“NBC Acts to Expedite Delivery of Ampex Video Tape Recorders.” Broadcasting*Telecasting. 10 Dec. 1956: 96.

New Spotlight: The Second Hundred Years

This month’s Spotlight shines on The Second Hundred Years, an ABC sitcom that ran for 26 episodes during the 1967-1968 season. Monte Markham played two roles in the series: prospector Luke Carpenter, frozen in a glacier in 1900 and later thawed out in 1967, as well as Luke’s grandson Ken. The two looked identical but acted nothing alike. Arthur O’Connell co-starred as Luke’s son and Ken’s father. Each week, the three found themselves caught up in some wacky adventure.

Still from the opening credits to The Second Hundred Years

Still from the opening credits to The Second Hundred Years.

From the reviews I’ve found, most critics weren’t fond of the series. A few were, like George Gent of The New York Times. Initial ratings were relatively high but soon sank as viewers apparently tired of the gimmick. Many episodes involved Luke either being mistaken for or purposefully impersonating Ken.

Screen Gems produced the series for ABC. Harry Ackerman served as executive producer. Repeats aired on USA Network from 1986 to 1988. The series was also part of a Screen Gems syndicated package called “The Magic Show” during the 1980s.


Did you watch The Second Hundred Years when it originally aired in the 1960s? Did you see it on USA Network in the 1980s? Hit the comments with your thoughts.

TV Guide Close-Up: Salute to Television’s 25th Anniversary

Here’s a TV Guide Close-Up from September 1972 promoting “Salute to Television’s 25th Anniversary” on ABC:

Scanned black and white TV Guide Close-Up for Salute to Television’s 25th Anniversary
TV Guide Close-Up for Salute to Television’s 25th Anniversary – Copyright 1972 Triangle Publications, Inc.

For the purposes of “Salute to Television’s 25th Anniversary,” ABC determined the birth of television occurred in 1947. Not having seen the special, I can’t say if an exact date was specified. The Close-Up claims the special featured clips from over 400 shows. I wonder how many of those clips were from 1947…

Although the Close-Up doesn’t say it, Zenith sponsored the special. It’s full title is apparently “Zenith Presents A Salute to Television’s 25th Anniversary.”

This particular Close-Up is from the Western New England Edition of TV Guide. Channel 5 was WCVB-TV in Boston, MA; Channel 8 was WTNH-TV in New Haven, CT; and Channel 40 was WHYN-TV in Springfield, MA.

Image Credit:
TV Guide, September 9th, 1972 (Vol. 20, No. 37), Western New England Edition, A-28.

TV Guide Close-Up: Gemini 4 Space Flight Guide

Here’s a TV Guide Close-Up from May 1965 promoting coverage of the Gemini 4 (or Gemini IV) space flight on all three networks:

Scanned black and white TV Guide Close-Up for the Gemini 4 space flight
TV Guide Close-Up for the Gemini 4 space flight – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

The networks started their coverage of the Gemini 4 space flight two days before launch. Or at least NBC did, airing an hour-long preview on Tuesday, June 1st. All three networks aired previews the following day. Coverage of the launch began at 7AM on Thursday, June 3rd and continued the following day.

Gemini 4 was the Gemini program’s second manned mission. James A. McDivitt and Edward H. White II circled the Earth more than 60 times over the course of four days. White also carried out the first American space walk.

This particular Close-Up is from the Western New England Edition of TV Guide. Channel 7 was WNAC-TV in Boston, MA (ABC); Channel 20 was WATR-TV in Waterbury, CT (ABC); Channel 40 was WHYN-TV in Springfield, MA (ABC); Channel 8 was WNHC-TV in New Haven, CT (ABC); Channel 3 was WTIC-TV in Hartford, CT (CBS); Channel 5 was WHDH-TV in Boston, MA (CBS); Channel 4 was WBZ-TV in Boston, MA (NBC); Channel 22 was WWLP in Springfield, MA (NBC); Channel 30 was WHNB-TV in West Hartford, CT (NBC); Channel 32 was WRLP in Northfield, MA (NBC); and Channel 79 was WHNB-TV in Waterbury, CT (NBC).

Image Credit:
TV Guide, May 29, 1965 (Vol. 13, No. 22), Western New England Edition, A-51.

CBS to Air Colorized I Love Lucy and Dick Van Dyke Show Specials

Next month, you’ll be able to watch episodes of both I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show in color. For the fourth year in a row, CBS will air an hour-long I Love Lucy special featuring two colorized episodes. A similiar special features two colorized episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

The Dick Van Dyke Show thus becomes the third classic sitcom CBS has dusted off and colorized for the benefit of modern audiences. The network started its color craze in December 2013 with I Love Lucy. The Andy Griffith Show got the color treatment in December 2015.

I Love Lucy Christmas Special

This year’s “I Love Lucy Christmas Special” airs Friday, December 2nd from 8-9PM ET. It features “The Christmas Episode” (aka “The I Love Lucy Christmas Show”) from December 1956 and the newly-colorized “Lucy Gets in Pictures” from February 1955.

Here’s a look at the various I Love Lucy color specials CBS has aired since 2013:

December 2013
“The Christmas Episode”
“Lucy’s Italian Movie”

December 2014
“The Christmas Episode”
“Job Switching”

May 2015
“L.A. At Last!”
“Lucy and Superman”

December 2015
“The Christmas Episode”
“Lucy Does a TV Commercial”

May 2016
“Lucy Visits Grauman’s”
“Lucy and John Wayne”

“The Christmas Episode” and “Lucy’s Italian Movie” were released on DVD in November 2013 alongside a third episode (“Lucy Goes to Scotland”) colorized in 2007 for the I Love Lucy complete series DVD box set.

An official press release for the “I Love Lucy Christmas Special” can be found here.

The Dick Van Dyke Show – Now In Living Color!

CBS will air “The Dick Van Dyke Show – Now in Living Color!” on Sunday, December 11th from 8-9PM ET. The special includes two episodes of the classic sitcom: “That’s My Boy?” from September 1963 and “Coast to Coast Big Mouth” from September 1965.

As has been the case with all the CBS colorized specials, the two episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show will air “seamlessly” with one set of opening credits at the start and one set of closing credits at the end. Carl Reiner, creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show, is one of the executive producers of the new special.

An official press release for “The Dick Van Dyke Show – Now In Living Color!” can be found here.

A Word About Colorized TV

I watched the very first colorized I Love Lucy special back in 2013. I suppose I felt like I was supporting classic TV. That said, I’m not a big fan of colorizing TV shows and movies. Obviously, CBS sees value in continuing to colorize episodes of various sitcoms from the 1950s and 1960s or else it wouldn’t keep doing it.

If these specials raise awareness of classic TV among younger viewers, I guess it’s worth it. I’m not sure it does. It helps that every one of the colorized episodes has been released on DVD in their original black-and-white format.


Hit the comments with your thoughts. Do you enjoy these color specials? Are you horrified at the prospect of The Dick Van Dyke Show being colorized? Will you be watching the special on December 11th? What other shows do you wish CBS would colorize?

Tales of Lost TV: Vaughn Meader on The Joey Bishop Show (1963)

Tales of Lost TV is a monthly column in which I examine a particular TV program either known or believed to be lost forever. The amount of lost TV is truly staggering–aside from a handful of exceptions everything broadcast prior to 1948 no longer exists. That doesn’t mean it all has to be forgotten.

In last month’s inaugural Tales of Lost TV column I wrote about a TV program from 1944 called “Folksay” that’s lost because no recordings were made (although photographs exist). Today I’m writing about an episode of The Joey Bishop Show believed to be lost because it was destroyed.

Vaughn Meader

For a brief time in the early 1960s, Vaughn Meader was a very famous man, thanks to the skilled impersonation of President John F. Kennedy. In October 1962, Meader and others recorded a comedy album titled The First Family spoofing the Kennedy clan. The album sold millions of copies following its November 1962 release and went on to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1963.

Meader was suddenly in demand and television soon came calling. He made appearances on The Jack Paar Program and What’s My Line? in December 1962, the prime time To Tell the Truth in January 1963, and The Andy Williams Show in March 1963.



A second album, The First Family – Volume 2 followed in May 1963. It was nowhere near as popular as the first. Before long, Meader grew tired of being known only for his Kennedy impersonation. He spoke to the Associated Press in November 1963 about his frustration:

I’ve seen too many acts in show business get a big play because of a single specialty and then fade as the novelty wears off. It’s not as though I can do only one thing. I’ve had other aspects to my career, starting in the country and western field, then working as a piano comedian and as a standup comic. I’m not ungrateful for “The First Family.” It accomplished overnight what would have taken me four or five more years in terms of public acceptance. But I just want to show that I can do something else.” [1]

Only a day or two after newspapers published the Associated Press article about Meader, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

The Death of a President

President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas on Friday, November 22nd, 1963. The networks quickly cut to special reports. For the next four days, TV covered nothing but the national tragedy. Regular programming didn’t return until after Kennedy’s funeral on Monday, November 25th.

A few days after Kennedy’s funeral, Vaughn Meader announced through his manager he would never again impersonate President Kennedy [2].The First Family and The First Family – Volume 2 were pulled from some stores. The company that produced the albums declared “No new records of either album will be produced again under any circumstances” [3].

Once regular programming resumed, the networks carefully looked for anything that could be considered inappropriate in light of President Kennedy’s death. ABC cut him out of the November 30th episode of Hootennany. CBS postponed Meader’s stint as guest panelist on its daytime game show To Tell the Truth, scheduled to start on Monday, December 16th [4].

(Meader later appeared in the March 7th, 1964 episode of Hootenanny. It’s unclear whether he actually taped any episodes of To Tell the Truth. According to a January 1964 article in The New York Times, he was scheduled to appear on To Tell the Truth at some point during the week of February 3rd [5].)

NBC also cut a segment featuring Meader from “The Best on Record: The Grammy Awards Show” [6]. It was supposed to air on Sunday, November 24th. Instead, NBC broadcast the special–minus Meader–on Sunday, December 8th.

Meader and The Joey Bishop Show

NBC knew right away what it had to do with an episode of The Joey Bishop Show guest starring Vaughn Meader. He taped his episode on November 15th and the network had planned to broadcast it at some point in February 1964 [7]. The plot involved Joey, who in the sitcom had his own variety show, confusing Vaughn Meader with the real President Kennedy. During the episode, Meader sang a few folk song parodies drawn from his nightclub act.

“The tape has been erased,” reported The New York Times on December 1st [8]. According to the Associated Press, the show’s producers “scrapped” the episode, which prior to taping Meader claimed would be his last time impersonating President Kennedy [9].

The episode (which may have been titled “Joey Goes To Washington”) also featured guest stars Andy Williams, Danny Thomas, and Milton Frome.

November 18th, 2016 Update: A search of the United States Copyright Office reveals no entry for this episode.

Postscript

Vaughn Meader’s career never recovered. A new comedy album came out in 1964, titled Vaughn Meader – Have Some Nuts!!!, but it didn’t sell well (he actually recorded it in November 1963). He continued performing in nightclubs for a while with a reworked act removing all Kennedy material but his connection to the late president was too great.

Meader died in October 2004 at the age of 68.

Works Cited:

1 Thomas, Bob. “Vaughn Meader Attempting to Destroy Image as JFK.” Reading Eagle [Reading, PA]. Associated Press. 22 Nov. 1963: 24.
2 “Meader to End His Imitations of Kennedy.” Hartford Courant. Associated Press. 28 Nov. 1963: 3.
3 “Meader is Dropping Kennedy Imitation.” New York Times. 30 Nov. 1963: 17.
4 Ibid.
5 Wilson, John S. “Vaughn Meader Goes Back to Work.” New York Times. 7 Jan. 1964:
6] Adams, Val. “N.B.C. Postpones Bay of Pigs Show.” New York Times. 3 Dec. 1963: 66.
7 Adams, Val. “News of TV and Radio: Good Taste.” New York Times. 1 Dec. 1963: X15.
8 Ibid.
9 Lowry, Cynthia. “Yvonne DeCarlo to Guest Star on Virginian; DeMille Show Good.” Jamestown Post-Journal [Jamestown, NY]. Associated Press. 3 Dec. 1963: 16.


Hit the comments with your thoughts. If anyone has more information about Vaughn Meader’s episode of The Joey Bishop Show, please let me know. There must be a copy of the script somewhere.

TV Guide Close-Up: ABC Stage 67 (Dare I Weep, Dare I Mourn)

Here’s a TV Guide Close-Up from September 1966 promoting ABC Stage 67 on ABC:

Scanned black and white TV Guide Close-Up for ABC Stage 67
TV Guide Close-Up for ABC Stage 67 – Copyright 1966 Triangle Publications, Inc.

“Dare I Weep, Dare I Mourn” was the second episode of ABC Stage 67, ABC’s low-rated but acclaimed anthology series from the 1966-1967 season. The episode aired on Wednesday, September 21st, 1966 from 10-11PM ET (or 9-10PM for those in the Central time zone).

Based on an original story by John Le Carre (who wrote The Spy Who Came in from the Cold), the episode starred James Mason, Hugh Griffith, and Jill Bennett.

This particular Close-Up is from the Iowa Edition of TV Guide. Channel 3 was KTVO in Ottumwa, IA; Channel 5 was WOIA-TV in Des Moines-Ames, IA; Channel 8 was WQAD-TV in Moline, IL; and Channel 9 was KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Image Credit:
TV Guide, September 17th, 1966 (Vol. 14, No. 38), Iowa Edition, Page A-93.