Taking Stock of ‘Pioneers’
January 10, 2008 11:33 AM
Who else is watching PBS’ “Pioneers of Television” series? I caught the Jan. 2 opener on sitcoms and last night’s installment on late-night shows: essentially Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. I thought both were pretty well done, and especially liked the Paar stuff and the vintage color footage from Carson’s version of “Tonight.”
The sitcom segment seemed a bit on the cheap side when it came to clips, however. For example, to represent “I Love Lucy” it used a lot of kinescope footage from the 1952 CBS special “Stars in the Eye” (celebrating the opening of Television City in Hollywood) and a couple of sketches featuring Jack Benny with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz shot on the sitcom’s set. Not a bad approximation of the show’s content, but in no way a prime example of what made it so popular; there are so many (no doubt expensive to run) classic moments that should have been cited instead. Plus, one of the reasons “I Love Lucy” was a pioneering show is that it was shot on film in order to deliver the highest-quality picture possible—and the kinescopes used here looked awful.
However, the footage from “The Andy Griffith Show” pilot from “Make Room for Daddy” was a nice touch. Here’s a bit from the rather overly worshipful segment on “The Honeymooners,” apparently a sentimental favorite of the producers.
Next up: Variety shows Jan. 16, then game shows Jan 23.