"Maybe that's the purpose of television. You just turn it on and watch it whether you want to or not." - David Letterman
After getting his start as a DJ on Ball State's WAGO-FM, David Letterman spent most of the 1970s appearing in a lot of cheesy television, exhaustively chronicled here. Whether kayaking on the Battle of the Network Stars, appearing on an ill-fated variety show with Mary Tyler Moore, working as a panelist on The Love Experts, or hosting a game-show pilot for The Riddlers (part 1, 2, and 3), Letterman more than paid his dues. [more inside]
In honor of the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street, let's take a few moments to honor those Sesame Street humans overshadowed by their Muppet counterparts. Check out Bob (Bob McGrath) singing Danny Boy in Japanese on a 1966 broadcast of To Tell The Truth or singing a Japanese ballad. Watch Gordon (Roscoe Orman) as the big pimpin' title character in this original trailer for the film Willie Dynamite. See Maria (Sonia Manzano) as a lady trucker on B.J. & the Bear or getting menaced by Jeff Goldblum in the movie Death Wish. And Mr. Hooper (Will Lee) plays Pac-Man in an Atari commercial. Meanwhile, the Muppet stars of Sesame Street have gone some interesting evolutions as well in their career. [more inside]
In 1954, the producers of the radio show Sergeant Preston of the Yukon needed a gimmick to make sure its radio audience would watch the TV version of the show. Meanwhile, the show's sponsor, Quaker Oats, needed a follow-up to their ad campaign about how Quaker Puffed Wheat is shot out of guns. So Chicago adman, Bruce Baker (later the creator of Captain Crunch), dreamt up a wildly successful PR stunt for both Sgt. Preston of the Yukon and Quaker Oats by buying up one-inch plots of land in the Yukon (with legal assistance from future British Columbia senator George van Roggen) and giving away deeds to the land for free in copies of Quaker Oats cereal. (For a picture of the deed, click here and here) [more inside]
The Continental was a short-lived TV show that debuted in 1951 on KNBH Los Angeles and aired nationally on ABC and CBS during the 1952-1953 TV season. Sponsored by Cameo Stockings, the show featured Italian actor Renzo Cesana (who got discovered when Robert Rossellini produced a play Cesana wrote when he was 16!) purring seductively into the camera, while offering "sham-pan-ya" to an offscreen lady friend. Best known for inspiring a series of Saturday Night Live sketches starring Christopher Walken, the show inspired parodies in its own era, such as this Popeye cartoon (where Bluto tries to seduce Olive Oyl by posing as "The International"), a Jerry Lewis skit on the Colgate Comedy Hour that imagines the Continental as played by Marlon Brando, and a Pepe Le Pew cartoon where our amorous skunk attempts to seduce the feline object of his affection in The Cat's Bah. Unfortunately, Internet footage of the real show appears to be nonexistent, although you can buy some love songs recorded by the Continental off EBay.
Cutting-Edge Critique of TV or Just a Lot of Guys with No Shirt On? Exhaustive website of TV shows from the 1950s to the present with discussion of overt gay and lesbian content. Also a lot of coverage of hidden homoerotic content that could be viewed as a parody of academic interpretive overreaching. On the other hand, that didn't stop Jerry Falwell from denouncing Tinky Winky's alleged sexual orientation.