Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Programming: Set Your DVR. To 1954.

Legendary TV Guide's programming schedule for Christmas week, 1954. The cover features the equally-legendary Nelson Family, Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky. Notice the wonderfully Fifties commercial art on the back cover. Those holiday candles are beautifully rendered. I also find it very interesting that the TV Guide didn't sell a back page ad for this issue!  The third legend in this equation, publishing mogul Walter Annenberg, was the Editor of the 'Guide during this time, and I suspect he had something to do with this issue's lack of crass commercialism this week.

A front-of-the-book interior page of this issue shows the column, TV Teletype on the left, imaginatively presented in a typewriter font, and printed on yellow, like certain carbon copy paper. Among the items mentioned was one on how a few Congressional wives were offended by Red Skelton's recent routine at a luncheon in D.C., Eddie Fisher and his then-fiancée Debbie Reynolds receiving an award in Washington, and a short "heads up" of one of my favorite singers of all time, Peggy Lee, who would be appearing in a Disney movie called "Academy Awards." I was fortunate to see her perform twice, and she was a classic right up to the end. There is also an item about Hume Cronyn and his wife Jessica Tandy, whom I saw perform in The Gin Game, at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre in 1977. I also saw the married couple several times on the commuter train I was taking daily into New York, and even sat across from them once at New York's famed Russian Tea Room. They were a lovely couple, very down-to-earth, and two of the finest actors this world has seen. A humorous article begins on the right page on how the Mertzes "got that way" referring to the famous neighbors from I Love Lucy.

This spread is an illustrated poem entitled, "Television Brings Your Way Christmas Presents Every Day." It mentions virtually every early TV show and actor and famous personality, surrounded by cute caricatures of those performers. Fifties commercial art is one of my favorite periods for this decorative medium.

Another color spread, towards the back of the book, features a puff piece on a then radio and TV star, Lyn Osborn, of Space Patrol fame. He played a role known as Cadet Happy, and I have to admit I've never heard of the show or Mr. Osborn. He was 28 years old at the time of this article, and he is portrayed as quite a humble fellow, apparently preferring to "play with an electric train than attend a Hollywood party." After playing this role for 4 1/2 years, he said he was open to other roles, but no villains, "Nothing that might hurt Space Patrol." Unfortunately, this young actor died just four years after this piece, in 1958, from complications from brain surgery. On the right-hand page, Father Knows Best is featured, and continues on to another spread, in black-and-white, describing the trials and tribulations of filming a family TV show.

A typical black-and-white listings page for this period, although the programming for this Saturday Christmas morning, wasn't typical of a "normal" Saturday. Interestingly, Christmas also falls on a Saturday this year, 56 years later. Saturday morning shows listed include Roy Rogers, Rin Tin Tin, Captain Midnight, Space Patrol, Renfrew of the Mounted, the Lone Ranger and Happy Felton's Knothole Gang, a show aimed at teaching youngsters the finer points of baseball, featuring a former Vaudville performer.

• It wouldn't be "artandcolour" if I didn't mention the complete lack of diversity apparent in this 56 year old TV guide. Yes, there is Desi Arnaz representing the Hispanic community I suppose, but he was clearly more representative of the Hollywood "Star." Not a single African-American appears in an ad, or in any editorial photo. 1954 was, of course, the year that Brown vs The Board of Ed was decided in the Supreme Court, establishing once and for all that separate schools for blacks and whites was unconstitutional, a landmark decision in this country's fight for equality. Emmett Till would be celebrating his last Christmas the year this TV Guide was published, perhaps watching the very shows listed here until the 14 year old was murdered in August of 1955. Just about a year after this TV Guide was published, Rosa Parks of Birmingham would refuse to give up her bus seat for a white person.

• For a lengthy listing of events that occurred in 1954, click here.

A Holiday Wish from Casey/artandcolour:
For all the gains this country has made in the last 56 years, and we have seen the continuing fight for equality play out in just the past few weeks with the repeal of DADT, in this holiday season, let's not forget just how far we have to go. There is unspeakable poverty in this country, there are unspeakable racial divides to this day, anti-gay rhetoric heard on TV and in streets, there is still anti-Semitism to be found in this country. There are established hate groups like the Family Research Council and NOM that are still given "equal time" on TV airwaves. They're allowed to spew their hate and filth as if they were a legitimate partner in this country's political discourse, instead of the purveyors of lies, stereotypes and junk science that they are. We all need to speak up and fight for the rights of every single person in this country, every single day. Laws like Arizona's "Papers Please" legislation must be struck down. We are all human beings, we all have the right to live our lives and care for those in our lives in peace, and that doesn't mean whether or not you have your citizenship in order. Your neighbor is your neighbor is your neighbor. None of us gets out of this world alive, we are all here only for the blink of an eye, no one, not one single person, is any better, or worse, than any other. In the larger picture of life, IDs don't matter one whit. Discrimination is wrong on every level and that includes every single human being on this Earth (and in low orbit around the Earth, a shout out to the Space Station crew!).

Have a great Christmas if that's what you celebrate. Enjoy time with your family and loved ones, or by yourself like I do, regardless if this is a special weekend or not. I'll be cooking a turkey, my favorite protein, working on book production, writing my blog, maybe even working on art—in other words, the same as every day, which is just the way I like it. 

Feliz Navidad and Good Will Towards Everyone.


  1. Back at you, Casey... sounds a perfect day. Enjoy. Save some turkey for sandwiches to go with the champagne... ;)

  2. OH BIG PS................we got our snow this morning. Now I'm going out and leave some foot prints.

  3. I THINK we might get our first real snow Sunday night. I hope not, but it's inevitable it will get here sooner or later.



  5. you're entirely welcome it's been quite fun for me too.

  6. Hey Casey,

    Happy Holidays or perhaps have a good long weekend.
    I just saw Tron Legacy, which was graphically spectacular with an amazing sound track, but that should be the highlight of my long weekend. I'll be here just chilling out by myself as usual.

  7. Hey Woody!
    I just saw Black Swan which was AMAZING. Everyone calls it "dark" which I suppose it is, but I saw it more as how it feels to be a true artist and striving for perfection. It's one for the ages...
    Have a great weekend. I think we bloggers will be doing what we do!

  8. Glad you liked Black Swan Casey - I thought it was terrific. I work in the performing arts and worked for Houston Ballet in the late 90s. The neuroses and pressures that ballet dancers deal with every day is unbelievably stressful - I'm surprised there aren't more stories of a dancer losing it like Portman's character does.

    They give up everything for a career that usually ends in their 30s - college education and preparing for a nondance career - because they love what they do so much. It's very odd in a way, but also admirable in that they sacrifice so much for their art.

    Merry Christmas to all - love your blog more every day.

    P.S. Andy Williams and Claudine Longet send their holiday wishes too!

  9. Thanks, Brian. This blog is becoming the voice I never realized I had in me, never realized I wanted to have.

    I think the story of Black Swan is the story of all driven creative people. I recognized so much of the professional jealousy and "succeed at all odds" mentality I remember from working at Women's Wear Daily. Cut throat doesn't even begin to describe the atmosphere in the art and editorial departments there, and I know it was the same at any number of top-shelf businesses in the city.

  10. Thanks for your holiday message. I couldn't agree more and your eloquence is always amazing. You speak about the white bread nature of the TV Guide -- that seemed just normal to those of us growing up in suburban New Jersey in the fifties. We never thought twice about it.

    I've spent Christmas alone and enjoyed it very much. I also certainly enjoy spending it as I do now. And enjoyed spending it with family when there was more family around.

    To everyone who visits here, I hope you enjoy your holiday observance, whatever it may be!

    Paul, NYC

  11. Well spoken my friend.
    Merry Christmas, Casey!