Here’s one of the best early TV show you’ve never seen. Most of the episodes were underwhelming, and look schlocky, talky, slow, and predictable to modern eyes. If you’d been a kid in the 50s, though, the show would have been KEEN because it was about rockets and stuff and outer space sometimes, but this – well, I don’t know where this one came from.

Hard to tell, but one of the actors is Rod Steiger – and according to the credits, the people playing the stage crew (director, producer, engineer, and so on) where the actual crew for the show.


32 Responses to Early TV: nicely done

  1. Nick Fury says:

    OK Lileks……though the Merry Marvel Marching Society is gone, one other 1960s relic is the fact that Kreisler also made the stainless steel watchband for the Mercury Astronauts’ Accutron Astronaut (tuning fork) wristwatch, whose accuracy was only exceeded by those pesky Swiss quartz movements invented a bit later… the Accutron was used in early US satellites and 1960s military aircraft because of its state-of-the-art (up until then) accuracy….

    ..check out old Life Mags for photos of the Right Stuff Guys wearing their Kreislers……. ’nuff said!

  2. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – for those of you who don’t allow imbedded content…

  3. s. mcgreal says:

    Allright, allright, I slogged through it. Drowsed for a moment, came back while the ‘stage manager’ (guy with glasses) perused the phone book. Foggily I thought, ‘What’s all this panicked hubbub backstage on the Steve Allen Show?’

  4. s. mcgreal says:

    A dollar to anyone who finds the typo in the previous post.

  5. Shep says:

    Dang. This episode is fascinating. Unless I’m not giving the early television industry enough credit for sophistication, it must have seemed pretty damned cutting edge at the time.

  6. s. mcgreal says:

    On second thought, I committed no typo. I’m going back to sleep.

  7. Paul says:

    That “Tales of Tomorrow” opening is a real defribulator shock to the memory. My dad made lots of home movies (16mm, still remarkably sharp). I remember once he got out the screen – a white sheet hanging from the mantle, of course – and the big projector he borrowed from work, and put on the first of his new reels.

    And it opened with that “Tales of Tomorrow” intro! My brother and I were leaning forward, transfixed – what cool thing were we about to see? And the next scene was, of course, of us playing with the puppies in the back yard or one of our birthday parties. Dad had filmed it off the TV and spliced it onto the opening of a family reel. Talk about cutting edge for the mid-50s. Thanks, James, for the memory recollection.

  8. jamcool says:

    Noticed the last persson in the closing credits, Arthur Rankin Jr….as in Rankin-Bass ?

  9. I talked about this episode in April of last year. Glad to see other people discovering it.

    I love how the opening commercial morphs from “Cigarette?” to “What a cool box!” to “Oh yeah, there was originally jewelry in the box.”

  10. PersonFromPorlock says:

    s. mcgreal:
    March 29, 2010 at 12:13 am

    On second thought, I committed no typo. I’m going back to sleep.

    No, but you did use “allright” (twice!) where the permissible forms are “all right” or “alright.” Be sure, your sins will find you out. ;^)

  11. Cory says:

    s. mcgreal -technically, the guy didn’t peruse the phone book.He glanced at it quickly.

  12. Thomas McDonald says:

    Frank De Felitta became a horror novelist in the 1980s: he wrote Audry Rose and some others books to cash in on the success of Stephen King. What I didn’t know is that he also made “Dark Night of the Scarecrow,” a creepy made-for-TV movie.

  13. Jennifer says:

    That was fun. I thought it was amusing that the direction to everyone was obviously: “Follow that guy with the glasses–no matter where he goes.” To the phone book! To the phone! To the other phone!

  14. swschrad says:

    it’s wonderful to find old Kinescopes and see how things were done when TV broadcasting was being invented on the fly. I will have to look at that tonight when I get home. see, we make broadband at work, but we have to keep it all for the customers.

    and I don’t really have time, it’s end of month, busy.

    the reason you have crew credited as “crew” is pretty simple. it was a massive invesment in time and dollars and money to put two cameras on the floor, massive. most of them were sorta-stable, meaning in an hour show, the shader would have to touch ‘em up during commercials. there were always lit alignment cards along the edges of a studio.

    others were not terribly stable. the first camera that Fargo channel 4 had was a DuMont portable. they used that thing into the 70s on sports remotes. and once during every remote, the picture would plain go away. they never, ever found out why, despite several complete teardowns.

    but one kick on the camera control box in the same place would always restore the picture.

    that was the best picture they had in the truck, bar none. but every state tournament they had, and they broadcast ‘em all, you had to go to card (or later when they had the second camera, the wide shot,) there would be a blank raster momentarily until they cut off that DuMont.

    TV was like that until the TC-41s and the Norelco 70s came out.

  15. Pat says:

    I may be wrong, but I think that was John Cameron Swasey doing the Kreisler commercial about halfway through the program. Must have been before he signed on with Timex (takes a licking & keeps on ticking).

  16. Maharincess says:

    s. mcgreal: The single quote mark in front of ‘stage manager’ is facing the wrong way.

  17. Maharincess says:

    Eeek — so is mine! What happened?

  18. Baby M says:

    Talk about messing with the “fourth wall”….

  19. The actress that Rod Steiger kept trying to calm down ate so much scenery during that half-hour I’m surprised there was any stage LEFT to manage. Woman needed an animal tranquilizer. Or three.

  20. mpcdsp says:

    The embossing on the lid of the Kreisler box is crooked.
    Pick, pick, picky.

  21. Pieter says:

    Rod Steiger was great. You certainly see the future ‘Jud Fry” in that performance. What a wonderful training ground early T.V. was for actors.

  22. browniejr says:

    @mpcdsp: What do you want for $13.50, including the jewelry? This was back in the day when “Made in Japan” = cheap. It is interesting that the company would allow something so crooked to be used. Were the TV screens 4″ in diameter back then, so you couldn’t see it?

  23. nightfly says:

    You too can have a tie band and cufflinks whose design was inspired by the armor of the Crusuades – for only $12.50!

    I repeat – inspired by the armor of the Crusades.

    Wow. That is the most fantastic thing I have heard all year.

  24. swschrad says:

    @borwniejr: no, those monitors were 10FP4 tubes, round.. squared up, the picture would be about 7-1/2 to 8 inches diagonal.

    how does he know, they ask?

    that was the picture tube for the RCA “reference” chassis in the early 50s, which many other manufacturers either licensed or had RCA make the chassis for them. check some of the tube stuff websites where folks showcase their old refurbished sets. same CRT used in camera control consoles of the era, I spend a lot of hours at shading as a kid watching the network.

    those were modified home receivers, the cabinet is distinctive. common in the earliest days of TV, there was usually only one or two large monitors showing on-air in the control room.

    that is a classic 52/53 standard studio design; the network guys gave those plans along with their startup and engineering package to TV stations just getting licensed and being built. your typical announce booth would be between the master control glass window and the door out the studio. there would likely be a TWX circuit teletypewriter for the network to post real-time schedule changes.

  25. swschrad says:

    here, for instance, is that reference chassis

    the case is slightly different in the teleplay, that’s basically a model year difference. the same website guy has a DuMont console he redid that is basically the same TV. this RCA set was the tutorial to TV circuits in the RC-4 tube manual. if you could find the parts, you can build one from those schematics. repairmen taught themselves out of the tube manuals.

    those old CRT screens are massively rare. if you find one of those old round-tube b&w sets with a tube still under vacuum, it’s worth bucks to collectors because of the scarcity of tubes. there were a few guys who rebuilt them, a few years ago, and apparently they’re all gone now.

  26. Lord Mountararat says:

    What, no credit for Prokofiev for the title music (Romeo & Juliet)? Or Sibelius for the music in the Lost Planet scene (The Oceanides)? Even though I’m pretty sure both composers were still living at the time.

  27. browniejr says:

    @swschrad- Kewl! It’s nice to know that there is someone out there with the answer, rather than trying to base it on my memories of old “Happy Days” episodes. (I remember once Mr. C bought a filter to make their new TV show colors- of course it didn’t work…)

  28. Jennifer says:

    @mpcdsp “embossing?” I think not! Listen again..that’s “hand-tooled leather” on that box (done by drunken artistes, apparently).

  29. swschrad says:

    left an idiot’s footprint above, if you want to mark down my Mistake Of The Month. 10BP4 and 10FP4 CRTs were functionally the same. outfits often changed one feature on a tube, or varied the pinout, to have their very own tube numbers.

    with the CRTs above, the major difference was one manufacturer’s line needed external “ion traps”, a curved magnet clipped on the tube neck just ahead of the ion gun.. the other guy’s didn’t. yes, there was a patent involved.

    by the time you got into color TV, the same function was performed by “purity magnets” molded into position on the magnetic beam-pointing yoke. there were on little screw drives for adjustment. all the CRT guns had the ion-diffusion trap internal, but the purity magnets corrected the beam landings inside the center of the right color’s dot, so “my eyes are firehouse red, my skin is lizard green, and your future is a dismal blue.”

  30. zefal says:

    My great aunt had a drain board kitchen sink like that. It always gave me a depressed, creepy feeling for some reason.

  31. Not sure this constitutes a spoiler, but regarding the scene around 8:30 where the studio engineer is explaining completely absurd theory of where the two drunks and a broad signal is emanating from and Fake Walt Disney needs more understanding, so a stagehand walks up behind them and helpfully places two chairs so that the engineer can put his leg up so as to add authority to his absolute nonsensical explanation. Oh, that we all had a stagehand at the ready with a chair so we could put our leg up, rest our elbow on it just so, assume the posture of cocky science, and convince people that it’s all about the ionosphere.

  32. sema4 says:

    But why is nobody commenting on the amazingly awful interaction between the drunk husband and the wife.. so rough and full of barely suppressed violence . Mind you, the lover is not much better , I positively winced at that first embrace , must have mashed her bosoms to her backbone………

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