Monday, August 07, 2017

"Oh wow! It's in COLOR!"

This is one of those posts that my older readers will probably appreciate more than you Millennials. Although it might be interesting to see whether it’s something you can relate to. Don’t feel bad if it isn’t.

Back in the ‘50s and early ‘60s practically everybody owned black-and-white TV’s. There were a few isolated cases of folks who owned early color TV’s but that’s like people today owning home IMAX theatres. They were always distant cousins you’d see maybe once every five years. And the color was always weird – purple faces, green horses – or maybe I just had an early acid trip.

By the mid ‘60s more viewers were splurging on color television, the quality of the picture was improving considerably, and more shows started broadcasting in color.

When your family finally got its first color TV it was a revelation. The whole family would gather and gasp in amazement at variety shows where wholesome choral groups would prance around in colorful sweaters holding colorful balloons. Or we’d watch THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY and marvel at otters playing in the bright wilderness.

Today, with HD and Blu-Ray and new systems that are a step-up from even those, we’ve become totally blasé. The Rose Parade where you can count the pedals – yawn. Football games where blades of grass are defined – “the Dallas Cowboys again? Christ. What else is on?”

Hey, don’t feel bad. I do it too. Time and technology have moved on.

But recently I received the box set of THE FUGITIVE. This was a dramatic series from the ‘60s that was quite popular at the time. Its finale was the most watched TV show ever (until the MASH finale). For me it’s fun because it was shot in Los Angeles and I get to see lots of locations I sort of remember as a kid. And you see amazing guest stars like Robert Duvall pop up every other week.

So my wife and I have been binging on THE FUGITIVE. Happily, a lot of episodes still hold up.

The series went four seasons. The first three were in black-and-white, and then for its final season it converted to color.

For the past several weeks we’ve been watching the black-and-white episodes and recently we began season four. And it was just like in the ‘60s. We both were so excited watching the first few episodes. “Oh wow! It’s in COLOR! Look at how pretty those Indian blankets are! Hey, the credits are now in yellow!”

The great fun was having that experience again – the excitement of seeing something for the first time. And it was an added treat because the experience was totally unexpected.

It’s getting harder and harder to have that feeling today. Innovations are arriving at a dizzying speed. Technical miracles we now just take for granted. That’s all great but… part of me really does miss the “oh wow” factor. Even if the colors were still just a little off.

67 comments :

roadgeek said...

On the other hand, "The Fugitive" lost something by switching to color, namely that noirish quality found in the black/white episodes. The series was supposed to have a nightmarish quality about it, and it lost that quality in Season 4, which my wife and I are also watching.

Here's some trivia: the 1966-67 prime time schedule was the first to have every series broadcast in color. "Star Trek" premiered that year, as well.

Johnny Walker said...

It's all relative. Sometimes I wonder about the masses of entertainment that already exists and that now, thanks to technology, is available at a moment's notice. Entertainment that once excited people just as much as a new season of Game of Thrones or a new Star Wars film. They were a BIG deal, so why do we take it for granted now?

I think it's too easy to say it's aged badly because a lot of it hasn't. Or that it's not "new", because if you haven't seen it, it IS new to you.

So why does it feel like something's missing?

Personally I think it's because it's lacking a personal connection. Why am I considering delving into Game of Thrones now, and not I, Claudius? Because my friends are all watching GoT. Because there's news articles about GoT. Current shows make us feel connected to other people, even if they're bad.

If I do take the time to watch an old show, it'll nearly always be because I have nostalgia associated with it, or because someone I like is connected to it (either by recommendation or through actual involvement in production).

If there was some way to feel connected to other people (or at least to something bigger) through watching old shows, I think we'd do it more.

Man, that felt it was going to be more interesting when I started typing! Sorry :)

Jim S said...

Ken,

This brings up memories. My family was what is now called an early adopter. We got a color television when I was four. (That made watching Batman that much more an enriching experience). I still remember the set. It was one of those console TVs that was so big that it had its own center of gravity. These were pieces of furniture that dominated a room. My brother and I used the box the TV came in to build a fort.

Anyway, a couple of years later a neighbor who had children my brother and I played. I remember the day they got their TV. I also remember how disappointed the kids were to learn that shows they watched like the Munsters and The Adams Family were in black and white.

YEKIMI said...

Our family never had a color TV until 1970.....thanks to my grandpa croaking and leaving some money to my mom. Good, old Zenith brand which replaced our old B/W set that was so old that it had to have a UHF tuner box added on to it when UHF started becoming all the rage. [For the youngsters out there, think cable TV convertor or analog to digital convertor box added to your set if you still had an analog TV when they switched to digital broadcast.]

Wendy M. Grossman said...

We got our first color TV sometime like 1965/6. Until then, I never knew parts of THE WIZARD OF OZ were in color.

And yet...I found that for preference I went and watched the old black and white TV in the basement. Because: when you watched B&W TV you watched TV. When people watched color TV they watched the *color*. Every minute or two someone would be up fiddling with the settings. I didn't really watch color TV until the 1970s.

wg

sanford said...

I liked Harry O is well. I thought it was pretty good. Like the Fugitive it is interesting to look at who appeared in that show. Farrah Fawcett was part of the cast near the end and was in 8 shows.

dan o'shannon said...

When Batman came along, I was still watching black and white. But I remember a kid down the street having Batman trading cards, and my eyes popping out at the color. And of course, I remember getting our first color TV, so we can see all the multi-colored clothing that was worn by all those white people on tv.

Kirk said...

All throughout the 1970s my family had a black-and-white TV, perhaps the only family on the block that still had one. One odd thing about that. Shows made in color look different in black-and-white than shows made in black-and-white. Seriously. There's a kind of darker tone or something to Gilligan's Island's first season than the ones that followed. And even on The Wizard of Oz, things kind of brighten up when Dorothy arrives in Kansas.

Sean MacDonald said...

I remember as a kid in the 70's, we still only had a black and white TV. It was very disappointing (even though it was all I ever knew) because a show like, say the Brady Bunch, would announce that the show was in color... but we could only see it in black and white. So, I'd play a mental game of trying to guess what color certain things were.

normadesmond said...

Do you ever think about how small the screens were on our televisions & how far away we sat from them?

Brian O. said...

Last month MeTV aired the one and only color PERRY MASON episode. Because Victor Buono guested I almost kept flipping thinking it was another episode of BATMAN.

William said...

They tried (with much experience) to sell the same experience of progress in the late eighties, where all the fancy shows would write "in stereo where available" during the intro.

DonBoy said...

I remember the watershed moment, late in the 1970s, when TV Guide switched from labeling the color programs with a "C" to labeling the remaining black-and-white programs with "BW".

Family story: when my sister first went to a baseball game -- this would be 1965 or so -- she came out of the tunnel and saw the field and gasped, "It's in COLOR!" (She's a network TV news producer now.)

benson said...

Funny this should be today's topic. Just yesterday morning, we were flipping channels and ran across the Joey Bishop sitcom on Antenna TV. There were some familiar faces so I went to imdb and among the things I found out was the Bishop show ran first on NBC and started in B/W (with a few exceptions) and then went to all color along with the rest of the NBC shows. After it was cancelled and picked up by CBS, it went back to B/W.

I can imagine that was quite the come down for both the cast/staff and for the viewers.

Craig Gustafson said...

JLTV (Jewish Life Television) gave me some Oh Wow moments. They're running "The Dinah Shore Chevy Show" and "The Danny Kaye Show," many of which are in color. "The Dinah Shore Chevy Show" was the first color variety show. Seeing a really young Dick Van Dyke or Mary Tyler Moore in color on what looks like a live broadcast shouldn't be amazing, but it kind of is. Or Dinah, with her then controversial cleavage. Or the Wiere Brothers. The Wiere Brothers!!!

The other notable thing is that until the early 70s, color shows were in COLOR!!! "Batman," "Laugh-In", even the "Dean Martin Show." Color was eye-popping.

cd1515 said...

Friday question; since they're so big in sports, why is there not a TV Hall of Fame, or a Movies Hall of Fame?
Or do they exist and I'm not aware of them?

Peter said...

When I saw the title of this post, I thought you were gonna say you filmed your ten minute play on video for those of us who couldn't make the festival.

I've never seen the TV show but I love the Harrison Ford movie. Sadly, the way things are with Hollywood, I expect a remake any day now. And it'll probably be a stoner comedy with Seth Rogen as a stoner who's wrongly accused of killing his wife while high and he's pursued by a US marshal played by Jonah Hill.

Mike Barer said...

Well said and so true! I remember Grandma Esther Barer had the first color TV in the family and also the first touch tone telephone.
With shows like Bewitched, you could tell the old shows from the new by whether it was color or black and white.
A little more recent, do you remember the controversy when Ted Turner started colorizing classic pictures?

Buttermilk Sky said...

Whatever became of the colorization craze? Did it lose momentum when Ted Turner retired? I remember when this was so polarizing, there were actually Congressional hearings, and people like Woody Allen testified in defense of the black and white classic films. Pro-colorizers insisted that young viewers would never watch black and white movies, which may be true, while purists laughed at goofs like giving Sinatra brown eyes in "Miracle of the Bells." Today the process is much more sophisticated but mostly applied to things like World War I documentaries on The Hitlery Channel. Apparently I can watch a high-definition version of "He Who Gets Slapped" (1924) on Turner Classic Movies, or I could if I had HDTV, so maybe that's the current fad.

Victor Velasco said...

Some random b&w to color memory bits...walking in my neighborhood, looking' around, nothing much happening and then, coming upon an open living room window and stopping in my tracks to watch a REAL color tv...a kid visiting someone and telling the rest of us about how cool the color was on "Hazel" while the rest of us listened with real interest...my sister's friend who told her how cute Little Joe looked in his 'gray and olive green'...also, for a time around 65-66, when you went to certain movie theaters, ABC placed :30 promos for their new shows ("Batman", "Blue Light"). My family finally got a color set [set! strange to say now] just in time for the start of "All In the Family"

McTom said...

Why was yellow the default color for credits for so many years, anyway?
I assume there was a technical reason, unless it was just an accepted "standard" because one show did it, and the rest just followed suit. Anyone know?

VP81955 said...

Actually, Mike, the first film to be colorized was the 1937 Hal Roach comedy "Topper," with Cary Grant, Constance Bennett (Connie's Marion Kerby was one sexy ghost) and Roland Young as Cosmo Topper. Roach, then in his 90s and still active in the business at the time, pioneered colorization before Ted Turner got his hands on the palette. (Turner colorized relatively few films in his library; more importantly, he preserved and restored all the MGM, Warners and RKO titles he owned, leading to the later birth of TNT -- at its start, a classic movie channel, albeit with commercials -- and the later Turner Classic Movies so many of us know and love. That's what Ted should best be known for where classic film is concerned.)

As for my family, we acquired our first color set in November 1967, and recall the first program we viewed was the New York Giants at Chicago Bears (when the Bears still shared Wrigley Field with baseball's Cubs). And as a boy of 12 just entering puberty, it was heaven to see Barbara Eden, Elizabeth Montgomery, Julie Newmar (when she wasn't in a catsuit) and later Goldie Hawn in colorful mini-dresses, showing off their magnificent legs.

Brian said...

I recently had an experience like that. Only 4 months ago my cable company switched to all digital cable so we had to get converters for every TV. Great picture! Then I discovered that there are HD channels present on there. Wow again!






Stoney said...

Here's a question I've been waiting 50 years to ask someone. Did 1960's era color TV sets really emit radiation? My parents got that in their heads when we got our first color set and so we had to be at least ten feet from the screen.

Anyone else have the experience of getting a color set and then hooking up to a local cable system that screwed the color all up?

Peter said...

Funniest colour related story I've heard is an anecdote Tim Burton told about the making of Ed Wood at a Q&A I attended years ago. He had insisted on making it in black and white, which the studio finally agreed to, but during an early phone call in which they were trying to persuade him to shoot in colour, Burton said he told the studio executive as a joke that if the movie bombed, he'd colorize it for video. And he said the executive took him seriously.

The other funny aspect of the anecdote is that the executive was in the middle of another call at the same time about putting an ad for Last Action Hero on the side of a space shuttle. Telling the story, Burton said "Who were they gonna advertise it to, aliens?"

Anonymous said...

Alfred Hitchcock Marathon this weekend on Decades (the hour versions).
The number of great stars and wonderful acting each week was amazing.
Every show had at least two or three great actors or actresses.
And some wonderful performances by unexpected people like George Lindsey (Goober) who it turns out was an excellent actor.

Nothing remotely comparable today.

J Lee said...

Networks had been dabbing a toe in the color broadcasting all the way back to the early 1950s -- the 1953 Christmas episode of "Dragnet" on NBC was t he first-ever color broadcast, and while NBC pushed color programming more than anyone because RCA wanted to sell more color TV sets, even CBS did a few color shows in the 50s, before almost completely going back to B&W until finally throwing in the monochrome towel in the mid-60s (the color negative to that "Dragnet" episode hasn't turned up, nor has the color episode of "The Jack Benny Program" CBS ran two years later that featured a very young Harry Shearer. But copies are on line of a 1954 episode of "Burns and Allen" than was shot in color -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90EHgPZiP90 )

thirteen said...

We had a neighbor, Mrs. Kelly, who'd won a 21" color TV on the Bill Cullen Price Is Right. Must have been around 1963. The set had a round picture tube. Rectangular color picture tubes were a big selling point when they came along a few years later.

We got our first color TV from Sears in October 1966. It was a very big deal for us.

It's been a long time since I've seen something on TV and thought, "This was in color?!?"

Mark P. said...

In the 1960's, we had black & white TV at home and, once every couple weeks, went out to see a movie in color. It was like moving back and forth between Kansas and Oz. I remember visiting some relatives in Miami Beach. Aside from having a cool house on an artificial island with strings of outdoor lights everywhere, they had color TV! We watched Sing Along With Mitch. And it was apparently on tape, just like the evening news, but in color. I was surprised that the industry had invested in color videotape technology at a time when almost nobody in the home audience had color TV.

Donald Benson said...

Disney famously shot many of his early TV shows in color. Perhaps he was anticipating color tv, but he was definitely anticipating theatrical use (in case this TV thing blew over?). The Davy Crockett episodes were edited into movies, and audiences lined up to see the already-broadcast material on the big screen in color. Later, episodes of the hit TV show Zorro were likewise sent into the world as a movie. But that show was shot in B&W, so there wasn't the same buzz.

In time, many two- or three-part Disney shows were designed to be released abroad as movies, allowing for higher budgets and location shooting (Hans Brinker, Dr. Syn Alias the Scarecrow, The Horse Without a Head, Escapade in Florence).

Disney certainly wasn't alone. The Man From UNCLE yielded a series of B flicks. Since color was less of a novelty by then they added some "racier" footage, mainly implications that Napoleon Solo had just slept over with a girl (more than NBC would allow in the day).

Donald Benson said...

In those pre-cable days, bad reception could negate the appeal of color TV. We lived in a semi-rural area and it was a big deal when all three networks came in. My parents also held out to around 1970.

When I moved into a condo with $13/month cable, I found myself watching a lot of old Looney Tunes (local stations were still running them). I had a Sears brand color set, a sturdy little model. It was a "portable", weighing something like 80 pounds and having a lunch box handle on top.

Greg Ehrbar said...

At the same time black-and-white was transitioning to color, most records were being sold in both stereo and mono versions. Over the years, whenever I finally heard the stereo version of a pop song (especially one I grew up hearing over tinny transistor radios or loudspeakers), or hearing the stereo edition of a favorite album I had only heard in mono for years, it was like seeing that color season of The Fugitive.

On some rare occasions, the stereo mix was inferior to the mono mix and I went back to the one I liked earlier, but for the most part, the stereo version was a revelation -- almost like hearing it for the first time, with nuances and instruments that were buried in the single channel before.

Gary Theroux said...

ABC intended to end "THe Fugitive" the way many serialized story series had -- without resolving the key issue. Quinn Martin had other ideas. Without support from ABC, he went ahead and shot at his own expense the two-part "Fugitive" finale. He even had to go on his own to sell the commercial avials to advertisers. The result, of course, was landmark television -- which proved deeply satisfying to the series' loyal viewers plus many additional curiosity seekers. Quinn was elated by the finale's ratings and felt assured that "Fugitive" reruns would then be an easy sell to independent stations. But it wasn't. Due to the color mania sparked by all three networks' switch to all color in 1966, TV stations began dumping reruns of B&W series and movies -- preferring to run anything in color, no matter how inferior it might have been to available B&W programming. And with three-quarters of "The Fugitive" episodes in B&W, that weakened its pppeal in the rerun market. Worse, it was an hour-long dramatic series -- at a time when most reruns in syndication were half-hour sitcoms. Finally, and most ironically, the move to resolve the series' premise in the final episode took away from the tension which formed the backbone of "The Fugitive." That's why "The Fugitive" died as a syndicated offering. Fortunately today the Decades cable channel periodically revives "The Fugitive," giving us a chance to once again relish in the first-rate television series it was. BTW, before "The Fugitive" debuted. all the music cues heard throughout the series' four year run were recorded -- and then seamlessly worked in through careful timing of the footage in each scene.

Kevin in Virginia said...

It's always amazed me that while the first color tv's did not become available until 1953, the syndicated tv show "The Cisco Kid" was filmed in color. The show premiered way back in 1950, ran until 1956, and all 156 episodes were filmed in color, and it wasn't even a network show! The syndicated series was also the first television show to have actors of hispanic heritage as the leads. Finally, the two actors (Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo) were already 46 and 70 years old when the show began. The show was a trailblazer in more ways than one.

thevidiot said...

The first color show I saw was a sitcom called "Camp Runamok." I was astonished to see that the credits st the end were yellow! I had never thought they could be anything but gray or white.

thevidiot said...

Robert Duvall often played the evil German Captain that Sergeant Saunders & his squad were up against on "Combat." also playing a Nazi was Ted Knight.

Stephen Robinson said...

I loved THE FUGITIVE when A&E showed it weekdays almost 30 (!) years ago. I think the final season's intro led to my answering the roll call in high school with "Now in color!"

Eric said...

The "colorization" craze ended because it became clear that, once the novelty value had passed, people who weren't inclined to watch old black-and-white movies were little more inclined to do so just because they'd had a coat of digital color applied to them. People who did like to watch old movies tended to prefer to see them as originally filmed.

Colorization is still around, though. CBS has had great success in the last few years trotting out colorized LUCY, DICK VAN DYKE and ANDY GRIFFITH episodes. It's interesting, though, Antenna TV runs BEWITCHED in the afternoons, and my daughter has watched it some this summer. The first two seasons of that show were colorized some years ago, but Antenna TV has chosen to run those episodes in black-and-white.

We didn't get a color TV until the early 1970s. 1973 or '74, if I recall correctly. My dad had bought a new set around 1964 and wasn't going to spend money on a new one just because of color. We were going to wait until that '64 set finally went to that great TV graveyard in the sky. I remember my sister going to friends' houses to see things like THE WIZARD OF OZ, Rodgers and Hammerstein's CINDERELLA, and the Mary Martin PETER PAN because she wanted to see them in color, "like everybody else in the world does," she would complain to my dad.

It always surprised me that more producers in the 1950s and early '60s didn't film in color, just as insurance for the future. A few shows did, but not many. Most shows stuck to black-and-white until to the last possible minute. Sherwood Schwartz recalled, when GILLIGAN'S ISLAND went into production in 1964, discussing with CBS filming the show in color even though it would air in black-and-white, thinking that being all-color would increase the show's salability if it made it into syndication. The response from CBS was that color would increase the show's production budget and they didn't want to have to pay for it until they absolutely had to. When THE LUCY SHOW began filming in color at the beginning of its second season, even though the show would air in black-and-white until its fourth season, Desilu had to pay for the increase in costs out of its own pocket. CBS refused to do it.

RF Burns said...

Stoney: It is apparently true that early color TV sets (made before 1970) had high voltage power supplies that would emit small amounts of X-rays. There are aprocryphal stories of cats sleeping on top of TV sets that later developed cancers, although it is not clear that it was related to X-ray exposure.

Regardless, probably not a bad idea to keep a reasonable distance from the set in those days.

My early memories of color-TV included a visit to Grandmother's house in the mid-60s, when she still had a B&W set. Some retailer must have been selling a gag "color TV adapter kit", which was a piece of transparent plastic with bands of various colors molded into it. One of my uncles got one and stuck it on the picture tube, and I remember everybody making a big deal about Grandma's "color TV".

Al in PDX said...

I'll always remember my first look at color TV ... with the family at the Seattle World's Fair. Caught the final inning of the 1962 World Series. As a 7-year-old Yankee fan, I loved it, even if the baselines appeared to be a weird shade of purple.

James said...

I loved this is a kid only slightly more than I do now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIxGyrQz_e8 (Original NBC peacock)

Andy Rose said...

The big reason that CBS was late to the color party is that they were developing a different system for transmitting color that was incompatible with the NBC/RCA system. Both were put up for consideration by the FCC at the same time, and the RCA system eventually won out.
The first commercially produced color studio camera was the RCA TK-40, and CBS was annoyed that they had to buy cameras from the competitor who had just beaten them in an expensive fight. So they pried off all of the RCA ornaments from the cameras they bought and repainted them. As soon as reasonable alternatives were available from other countries, CBS bought them instead (Marconi cameras from England and Norelco cameras from the Netherlands).

Robert Forman said...

Ken,
All of those wows made me recall the old RCA color tv commercial ("Wow, I've got color TV"). It's on YouTube:
https://youtu.be/qtnsHJCex3s

Jon H said...

TV GUIDE began designating B&W rather than color programs nationwide with the issue of 8/26/72. The magazine included an "As We See It" editorial in the same issue to mark the occasion.

We didn't have a color set in my house until December 1979, and that was a spare set that my grandmother had used. My grandparents (both sets) had color tv long before then, but then they didn't have automatic dishwashers like ours. We even had our first microwave oven 3 months before our first color tv.

My grandfather believed the x-ray argument, I think, since he asked me once if I wanted to kill my [future] children by sitting too close to the tv.

NBC's 1965-66 primetime schedule was almost entirely in color, with only I DREAM OF JEANNIE & CONVOY in B&W. CONVOY tried to showcase the WWII Navy in the same way as COMBAT had for the Army and 12 O'CLOCK HIGH had for the Air Force. NBC cancelled it in 13 weeks and replaced it with THE SAMMY DAVIS, JR. SHOW, another flop, but it was in color at least, unlike CONVOY.

ScottyB said...

On the other hand, there's where 'The Andy Griffith Show' made the transition from B&W to color. It was hideous. Like I've told my kids (who are barely around 20), it was like seeing something in color from communist East Germany. See, it wasn't the color itself. It was the stark difference between B&W and color. The sets seemed colder, cheaper-looking. There was no shading, no nuance, no warmth you got with B&W -- which is probably the same thing some people noticed when they stopped making B&W movies practically overnight. There were guys working for the studios who were masters at lighting specifically for B&W who understood that kinda shit; that the limitations to B&W were the same things that gave it life, made it breathe, made it just as important as the actors themselves. In color, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis became even more frightful -- even more one-dimensional -- because there wasn't a need for the director (or whoever) to work wonders with shading and lighting and nuance and mood. Or to put it in modern-day terms that Milennials might understand, it's the difference between the sound of the same album released on CD (digital) and vinyl (analog). People who don't give a shit about the nuance of sound will probably never notice the difference, but it's there; and even there, once the difference gets pointed out, you'll notice it forever. But still, that NBC peacock in the "The following program is brought to you in living color by NBC" program intros was pretty fuckin' trippy' in the '60s and early '70s (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIxGyrQz_e8).

ScottyB said...

'It's A Wonderful Life' Ted Turner/TBS colorized or its original B&W form. Pretty much all anyone needs to know.

ScottyB said...

Ken: Oh gaaaawd -- can you even imagine 'The Naked City' or 'Route 66' in color? Aaaaaackkkk!! (For those who'd say 'Route 66' in color would've made their Corvette look even cooler because they thought it was red, George Maharis allegedly said the car was actually light blue in the first season and fawn beige in seasons afterward. So neener-neeners to that debate.)

ScottyB said...

Ken: OK, my comment about 'The Naked City' made me recall posts of yours where you've mentioned writers with the magical ability to churn out pages like they're shitting water at a resort in Mexico. Guys like Stephen J. Cannell, Aaron Sorkin, and Neil Simon come to mind right off. Perhaps totally forgotten guys like the totally-awesome Sterling Silliphant from the days of TV yore might be fodder for a post someday.(Rod Serling was a writing machine too, but everyone knows who he is.) Maybe even guys cut from the same cloth when it came to TV theme songs, since you posted about that a few weeks back, and really, who gave much thought to their craft or those guys themselves even in their heyday? Food for thought for ya.

ScottyB said...

Ken: I hate you and your damn blog. It's the only goddamn time I ever get an earworm that keeps saying "Efrem Zimbalist Junior" over and over because things from the '60s start domino'ing. Damn you to hell.

ScottyB said...

Still, color had a point even in its smallest moments, tho. Oh, the drama. Sigh:

B&W (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnOYyBGWux4) vs. Color (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3kC--yRGY8).

Jim said...

All CRTs emit X-Rays, it's just the way the technology works. So to protect you the manufacturers stuck a big heavy piece of leaded glass in front of the tube which absorbed pretty much all of them. That sheet of glass also added a fair bit to the weight of old TVs, and had the added bonus of protecting the fragile tube from any hard objects that might accidentally be thrown against it. And since modern TVs don't have that health risk, the manufacturers have taken away that protective layer, making modern TVs much more fragile beasts.

Barry Traylor said...

My wife and I had a really nice console tv when we were first married in the mid 1950's and we did not want to buy a color tv set as there was not much on to make it worthwhile. I fell in love with Star Trek when it came on in 1965 and did not see it in color until it was off the air. I went to a Science Fiction Convention in 1969 and when I saw what I had been missing I bought a color set the next week. But I still love the old B&W films that they show on TCM. I had a co-worker that would not watch anything if it was not in color. I told him he was missing a lot of great films.

LouOCNY said...

The black and white audience IS out there - there is a YouTube channel for the old What's My Line? series - they have just about all 757 existing episodes of the show, which are all black and white shows on fairly decrepit kinescopes. Would you believe in the six years the channel has been up, it now has over... 25 MILLION hits?? Yes, that's 25 followed by six zeros. https://www.youtube.com/user/WhatsMyLineCBS/about

That's beyond amazing....the guy whose channel it is, thought he was doing pretty good when he thought had 2.5 million hits, then he realized it was the 25 million..

Oh - the episode with the single largest number of hits? The September 20, 1959 episode where Groucho was a member of the panel - that has well over 800,000 views.



Gary West said...

It's the same thing with radio. Around the same time as more access to color-TV - we also had that same kind of thing with FM vs. AM. What a difference. Not only was it clearer - but - stereo. And, an FM simulcast of say - an AM morning DJ show - that was bizarre! It sounded like you were in the studio.

As far as color-TV - you can thank RCA-NBC. NBC never let-up on color-TV broadcasts through the last half of the 1950's and into the 1960's. In 1961, NBC-TV did a "color day" whereby many prime-time programs were in color for that day only. For the first time. WOW! It was so popular - they did a color week the next year. All this to sell RCA color TV's. It didn't hurt when Zenith entered the color-TV market in 1961.

McAlvie said...

I, too, remember our first color tv set. Most shows were still filmed in black and white, but, yes, Wild Kingdom and the Wonderful World of Disney were pretty dazzling. And as I recall, Batman was one of the first all color shows, and they went to town with it. Today Robin would be toned down to the point where the actual bird looks flashy by comparison. Back then it was RED and GREEN and YELLOW, as in your face as possible. But viewers wanted that experience then because, hey, COLOR TV.

However, I think that some shows that went from B&W to color suffered a bit. Say this for B&W, when done well it was great for setting an atmosphere. This is why many photographers and even some film makers still opt for black and white film, I think. Anyway, when they made the switch, a subtle something was lost. I wonder now if our brains found b&w more compelling, if maybe color was too active and distracting.

I still enjoy watching old black and white movies. I think they were more artful and nuanced, perhaps because filmmakers couldn't rely on razzle dazzle. It makes sense that a story told in shades and shadows would require more real talent and attention to detail.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Kirk: I think that's because when people were shooting black and white they chose things that would look good in grey tones. When they shot for color, they had to choose things where the colors looked good. There's a real difference, and I think it was part of the reason colorized films all looked so bad.

wg

Hawkeye Honeycutt said...

The Ted Turner craze of colorization in the late 1980's was halted somewhat when there were protests by the creative community and Congress passed the National Film Preservation Act in 1988.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Film_Preservation_Act

My 2 cents is that films such as musicals, comedies, westerns should be colorized. Dramas or period pieces maybe some Horror films (12 Angry Men, Grapes of Wrath,Dracula) are probably best left as B/W.

The argument that colorization is hijacking the producers/Directors vision is somewhat true. Most films were shot in B/W for financial reasons.

I say colorize "Roman Holiday" Audrey Hepburn in B/W is a crime!

Donald Benson said...

Trivium from the extras on "Movie Movie": The first half, a mock 30s programmer about boxing, is in B&W -- but the studio insisted it also be shot in color, and the television showings used the color version. The cameraman managed to light scenes for both color and B&W, but it took a lot longer and he was eventually fired by the studio (over director's objections) for taking that time.

Donald Benson said...

Also: At some point Disney coiorized the B&W "Zorro" TV series for syndication. Later that version was offered as a series of DVDs at the Disney Movie Club. It was actually done pretty well. They pulled the colorized DVDs when the complete series was released as a Walt Disney Treasures limited edition, in the original B&W. Now both versions are out of print. Forgot what the moral was here.

Jon said...

Sometimes black and white was, if not an artistic or financial choice, then a practical one. Billy Wilder shot SOME LIKE IT HOT in black and white, over Marilyn Monroe's objections, because in color tests the make-up Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis wore in their drag scenes looked much too heavy and too obvious. It was more believable and convincing in black and white. Monroe was only concerned that her fans would be disappointed, believing they expected to see in glorious Technicolor.

Greg Ehrbar said...

A few more notes:

• Hanna-Barbera also filmed all of their cartoons in color knowing that they would be of more value when color came into play, though their show bumpers and commercials (including the infamous Flinstones Winston cigarette ad) were filmed in black and white.

• H-B also animated the BEWITCHED titles. The black and white cels were literally painted in grey tones for the non-color seasons, then completely repainted and refilmed when the show transitioned. (I don't know if that was the case with DePatie-Freleng's I DREAM OF JEANNIE titles. Who doesn't miss animated titles? Only Pixar and a few other filmmakers seem to get how great they are, though there are a few on cable and streaming shows like FEUD and THE PATH.)

• Sid and Marty Krofft Saturday morning shows (and most H-B shows of the '70s) usually never provided episodes in which the premise were resolved. They way, they could rerun in continuous succesion, with the pilot serving as a recap of sorts. THE FUGITIVE's issue in syndication surely was noticed by other producers.

• When I was a kid, there were many high-level, deadly serious meeting at my house when I begged for a WINKY DINK AND YOU Super Magic TV kit. My mom was worried about X-rays and ruining my eyes from sitting too close to the big faux wood console set. I used Saran Wrap on the TV until I could get the Super Magic TV Kit. The Saran Wrap and Cayolas actually worked better, but I was nevertheless committed to use the Official Equipment and was stuck with their pink Magic Screen and their oily crayons--but I didn't care because it was so Super and truly Magic.

M.B. Los Angeles said...

Andy, I'm so glad you brought up the competing color systems. I was going to bring it up, but you beat me to it.

M.B. Los Angeles said...

My parents had one of the afore mentioned round screened, RCA color T.V.'s. My nextdoor neighbor was a huge Fugitive fan. She practically begged my mom to come over and watch the finally on our T.V. because she only had a black and white T.V. In your play, The Fugitive, (very good, by the way) I kept waiting for an O.J. Simpson reference because they were After all, both looking for "the REAL killers."

Chris A. Bolton said...

Mentioning that THE FUGITIVE and MASH finales were the all-time ratings champs makes me curious about how these ratings were determined. My understanding of the old Nielsen system was that certain households (usually families) were given a journal in which to record all the shows they watched. The numbers guys took this data and did their statistical magic (I'm not a math guy; it really does look like sorcery to me) and came up with the number of households that would be watching based on this statistical sample.

But there's a guy in the White House right now who can tell you statistical samples are wildly flawed. (Just ask the woman who was about 88% sure she was gonna be in that Oval Office instead.)

I wonder if the reason even the most successful modern shows have such comparatively low ratings isn't just because fewer people are watching network shows (although they most certainly are), but because the viewing data is more accurate than it used to be. With digital data, networks can actually SEE how many people are watching or downloading a show, instead of having to guesstimate. Who knows, maybe that accuracy would cut the actual viewership of the MASH finale by a few million.

Is this a Friday Question? Or just a random musing into the ether..?

tocque said...

We got our first color set when I was in junior high, which fact never fails to amaze young folks. And only three channels, plus a couple more UHF if we were lucky that day. I recall how the family thought something was wrong with it during the first part of Wizard Of Oz (an annual event, broadcast yearly I think in March) but then when the color part started we all breathed a sigh of relief.

cadavra said...

Re Marilyn in SOME LIKE IT HOT: She actually had it in her contracts that her movies would be in color. Wilder patiently explained the problem to her; she eventually agreed and signed the waiver. Ironically, John Huston had to go through the same process for what would be her last film, THE MISFITS.

IMHO, the show that suffered the most from the transition was DARK SHADOWS. In B&W, the Gothic atmosphere was palpable. In color, that was all drained away; even worse, the cheapness of the sets became blatantly obvious.

James Van Hise said...

The final episode of The Fugitive was one of the worst written TV shows I'd ever seen. He's chasing the one armed man in an amusement park and the killer decides the best place to escape was to climb a tower which left him no place to go. The result was inevitable.