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Film production and Television Network – History

In This Lisson We Discuss Film production and Television Network-History

Desilu as a model for sitcom production

-early/mid 50s
-used telefilm
-three camera set-up
-filmed in front of a live audience
-filmed like a stage play, in continuity

Desilu as model for financing sitcom production

-deficit financing
-independent production company absorbs production costs
-sponsors (now usually more than one) will not pay for production, but rather for commercial time
-profit comes in residuals: international distribution, syndication and merch

Changes in Hollywood

-demographic shifts – baby boomer families, more suburban
-increased production costs
-rise of independent production

1948 Paramount Decree

Broke up monopolistic studios – production/distribution/exhibition

Pat Weaver THT plan

Today, Home, Tonight
-first today show 1952
-first tonight show 1954

Payola Scandal

-late 50s
-record companies paid stations to play their records

Mutual Radio Network

-late 50s
-took $750,000 from the president of the DR in exchange for favorable coverage

FCC scandal

-late 50s
-commissioner resigned after it was revealed he accepted bribes for station licenses

Quiz Show Scandals

-quiz shows were rigged
-triggered the explosion of pent-up discontents with TV amongst many american people

Impact of quiz show scandals

-amendment to the 1934 communication act that makes practice of rigging game shows illegal
-networks want greater control over programming content: leads to the rise of magazine style advertising
-increase in amount of documentaries on the air and amount of network news – way to combat being accused of deceitful practices, showing they are a fact based organization


-continuing characters
-character as center of production


-new characters and changing plots
-writer as center of production

Live Anthology Dramas

-peak mid 50s
-immediacy of theatrical performance
-theatrical qualities of cinema
-theater TV
-sometimes stars of broadway or hollywood but more often solid working actors
-realism – camerawork – close ups, following actors, performace – natural, slow, little melodrama
-excitement of production

Cause for decline of live anthology dramas

-end of 1950s
-increased production of telefilms
-changes within dramatic anthology programs- made the shows shorter and influence of the sponsors
-increased censorship of tv writers by sponsors

Vast Wasteland speech

-Newton Minow, FCC chairman
-claimed that TV was basically not good, advocated for programming in the public interest

US color TV timeline

-late 1920s: experimental/innovation period
-late 1940s: regulatory debates/study
-1953: NTSC color standard approved by FCC
-1954: NBC starts regular broadcasting
-1965: all networks convert to color

NBC only network broadcasting in color

-starting in 1954
-only network through the 50s because it benefitted the sale of RCA sets
-peacock logo was made at this time to brand themselves as color network

Color Wars

-CBS and RCA labs were both developing color systems in the 40s
-The FCC would only approve one as standard
-FCC approved CBS system in 1951, but CBS pulled out of manufacturing sets later that year, citing the Korean War (but really they just didn’t have the manufacturing capabilities that RCA did)
-eventually RCA is approved in 1953

Why is color a problem?

-expensive to produce color programs
-technology is complicated
-color can be distorted (especially bad for advertisers)
-involves expensive conversion process for stations/network
-monochrome sets were still in process of dissemination when color was proposed

Color TV in 1950s

-RCA manufacturing sets and using NBC to promote
-other networks are reluctant to help out RCA by presenting their programs in color
-So NBC is the only one using color during this decade- others don’t convert until mid 60s
-NBC uses color strategically – spectaculars

Classic network system

-oligopoly-three networks
-networks owned part or all of their programs (daytime and primetime)
-tightly controlled distribution – network feed dominates affiliate schedule
-networks purchased more and more stations (o&os)
-multiple sponsorship led to more creative control by networks
-network in charge of scheduling (no involvement by sponsor)

Pat Weaver

-NBC pres mid to late 50s
-operation frontal lobes
-enlightenment through exposure
-spent a lot of money

Bob and Bob show

-Robert Kintner and Robert Sarnoff
-replaced weaver
-more economical
-“schedule of meat and potatoes”
-early to mid 60s

Bill and Mary six pack

-audience networks were trying to reach in 60s
-basic audience who were not very educated, wealthy or politically active – watched a lot of TV

Rural comedies

-late 60s
-mostly CBS
-beverly hillbillies, green acres

War sitcoms

-mid 60s-70s
-MASH, Hogan’s Heroes
-dealing with vietnam war of the present with shows about wars of the past

Fantastic Family Sitcoms

-Addams family, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie
-makes these abnormal families seem very relatable in spite of their difference – social commentary
-challenged suburban ideal
-parodied familiar narrative conventions


-rose after quiz show scandals and vast wasteland speech
-“harvest of shame” 1960
-many assassinations happened during 60s (JFK, MLK)

Shifts in 1970s programming

-violence in news and docs effects programming
-a cry from audiences for ‘relevance’
-networks try to get in touch with youth culture
-broader ethnic mix
-increased permissiveness in language
-focus on “liberated woman”

Rowan & Martin’s Laugh in

-variety, politically relevant sketches but didn’t confront it too outwardly

Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

-weren’t afraid to speak out politically, often got flack for this from CBS and sponsors

Norman Lear Shows

-All in the family (CBS, 71-79)
– Spinoffs: Maude, The Jeffersons, Good Times
-Socially relevant sitcoms
-appeal to quality audience as well as mass
-overtly address social/political issues of the day
-characters divided along generational lines

MTM Shows

-The Mary Tyler Moore Show(CBS, 1970-77)
-Spinoffs: Rhoda, Phyllis, Lou Grant
-liberal in a midwestern, square type of way – not pushing any buttons
– literate liberal sitcom
-gentle humor
-set in idealized “square” midwestern cities

Good Times

-norman lear
-voice of the left in a very scripted way
-younger generation voice of reason for older generation
-inner city chicago

Politics of Authenticity

There’s no one representation of a minority, but because there are so few representations, each one carries enormous weight


-Primetime Access Rule
-FCC action that required affiliates to schedule at least one hour of prime time for non-network programming
-made sure networks weren’t completely dominating television


-prohibited network investment/profits from:
–syndication past first-run exhibition
–creation of their own in-house syndication arms

FCC ruling on ownership

-FCC rules to prohibit common control of more than a single AM, FM, or TV station in the same market

Family Time/hour

-ruling that there must be an hour during primetime for family-friendly programming

Classic network system


The public interest

o Radio was expected to serve public
o Did the opposite- advertising based profit and private ownership of stations
o You cannot have a commercial yet public service
o “the public interest” was just a ploy by advertisers and broadcasters to get as much money as possible
o populist: public interest is defined simply as “what the public is interested in”

The mass culture debates

o Mass culture began to represent social trends with overtones of faceless, threatening mobs overwhelming individualism and self-control
o High and low culture: lowbrow shows vs opera
o Women became the “mass” in “mass culture” -rise of soap operas feminized tv
o Radio was seen as an trivialization of US culture
• Undermined personal creative expression in favor of mass mentality
• Attractive to lower classes and women
• Ignored values of traditional authority
• Catered to emotion
• Mindless
• Should be used for social good
• Active citizen→passive consumer
o Conservatives and left-wing critics distrusted new mass culture of radio

Irna Phillips

o The mother of soap operas
o Her soaps were progressive, but directed at white. Middle-class audience
o Changed the way TV is written
o The “new woman”
o Big push towards feminism, Used these ideas on soap opera
o Show owner and runner
o She originated the first successful daytime serial specifically for women, she created the longest-running show in US broadcasting (Guiding Light)
o She was a schoolteacher turned entrepreneurial woman
o Painted Dreams focused on a “new woman” and her struggle to find a place in the world
o Produced all her own shows, had many top-rated shows
o Most of her shows focused on women

Orson Welles

o War of the Worlds – changed radio, one of the most famous radio programs of all time
o “too realistic” coverage of invasion by martian aircraft
o people fled their homes in hysteria
o showed what radio could in midst of incoming war (WWI)
o Ban on fake news
o Sensation with drama adaptation genre

J. Walter Thompson

o First advertising firm in NY
o Leading charge in sponsors medium
o Orchestrated relationships between advertisers and networks
o Integrated advertising was engineered by his company
• Pitch for the product
• Sponsors of shows
• Spearheaded day time and night time programming that began to mark radio and still marks network TV
• Night time radio was like a “night on the town”
• Minimized ads at night

Mary Margaret McBride

o Talk show host
o “First Oprah”
o Highest paid journalist in America at one point
o Went to radio after great depression
o Dealt with topics that female audiences were very interested in- like product reviews for household items
o Seen as extremely crass, naïve, trivial
o Booked her own sponsors, booked her own guests

Father Charles Coughlin

o Catholic priest from royal oak, Michigan
o Anti-Semitic and hate-filled sermons won him a large following during the great depression
o Father was controversial
o Isolationist and anti-Semitic
o Effectiveness of radio to stir the masses—he showed this
o How it could sway popular opinion
o Radio was restricted after him -used to be that you could just buy airtime, now only 2 big religions could be on air (for free)
o FRC included religious programming as public service
o “Fairness Doctrine”- no longer could you have one speaker providing one viewpoint on the air
• Had to have opposing viewpoint by discussion or panel
o Closing of the dollar loophole
• He was buying himself onto stations because he was making money off his popularity
o He is very significant

Edwin Howard Armstrong

o Creater of FM radio
o Introduced superheterodyne receiver
o David Sarnoff fought bitterly with Armstrong over taking up potential favorable TV frequencies for a new radio competitor, because RCA had a great investment in TV, and Armstrong had refused to cut RCA in on FM development

David Sarnoff

o RCA Chairman→ later became NBC
o Made radio more accessible to audience
o Made radio a culture industry

Lee de Forest

o Father of Radio
o Inventor and con man
o Stole ideas from Reginald Fessenden
o First radio
o Popularized broadcasting and ham radio

Reginald Fessenden

o Voice over radio
o Canadian inventor
o Contributed to development of wireless tech
o Put out first true broadcast: concert of holiday music

Guglielmo Marconi

o Invented Wireless
o Able to send Morse code across the Atlantic
o His company (British Marconi Company) owned all the parts necessary for radio emission

Philo T Farnsworth

o Electronic TV
o Sarnoff drove him to suicide