Julia Child Shows Fred Rogers How to Make a Quick & Delicious Pasta Dish (1974)

Julia Child and Fred Rogers were titans of public television, celebrated for their natural warmth, the ease with which they delivered important lessons to home viewers, and, for a certain sector of the viewing public, how readily their personalities lent themself to parody.

Child’s cooking program, The French Chef, debuted in 1963, and Roger’s much beloved children’s show, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, followed five years later.

Rogers occasionally invited accomplished celebrities to join him for segments wherein they demonstrated their particular talents:

With our guest’s help, I have been able to show a wide diversity of self-expression, the extraordinary range of human potential. I want children and their families to know that there are many constructive ways to express who they are and how they feel. 

In 1974, Child paid a call to the neighborhood bakery presided over by “Chef” Don Brockett  (whose later credits included a cameo as a “Friendly Psychopath” in Silence of the Lambs…)

The easy-to-prepare pasta dish she teaches Rogers – and, by extension, his “television friend” – to make takes a surprisingly optimistic view of the average pre-school palate.


Red sauce gets a hard pass, in favor of a more sophisticated blend of flavors stemming from tuna, black olives, and pimentos.

Brockett provides an assist with both the cooking and, more importantly, the child safety rules that aren’t always front and center with this celebrity guest.

Child, who had no offspring, comes off as a high-spirited, loosey-goosey, fun aunt, encouraging child viewers to toss the cooked spaghetti “fairly high” after adding butter and oil “because it’s dramatic” and talking as if they’ll be hitting the supermarket solo, a flattering notion to any tot whose refrain is “I do it mySELF!”

She wisely reframes tasks assigned to bigger, more experienced hand – boiling water, knife work – as less exciting than “the fancy business at the end”, and makes it stick by suggesting that the kids “order the grown ups to do what you want done,” a verb choice the ever-respectful Rogers likely would have avoided.

As with The French Chef, her off-the-cuff remarks are a major source of delight.

Watching his guest wipe a wooden cutting board with olive oil, Rogers observes that some of his friends “could do this very well,” to which she replies:

It’s also good for your hands ‘coz it keeps ‘em nice and soft, so rub any excess into your hands.

She shares a bit of stage set scuttlebutt regarding a letter from “some woman” who complained that the off-camera wastebasket made it appear that Child was discarding peels and stems onto the floor.

She said, “Do you think this is a nice way to show young people how to cook, to throw things on the floor!?” And I said, “Well, I have a self cleaning floor! …The self cleaning is me.”

(Rogers appears both amused and relieved when the ultimate punchline steers things back to the realm of good manners and personal responsibility.)

Transferring the slippery pre-cooked noodles from pot to serving bowl, Child reminisces about a wonderful old movie in which someone – “Charlie Chaplin or was it, I guess it was, uh, it wasn’t Mickey Rooney, maybe it was…” – eats spaghetti through a funnel.

If only the Internet had existed in 1974 so intrigued parents could have Googled their way to the Noodle Break at the Bull Pup Cafe sequence from 1918’s The Cook, starring Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Buster Keaton!

The funnel is but one of many inspired silent spaghetti gags in this surefire don’t-try-this-at-home kid-pleaser.

We learn that Child named her dish Spaghetti Marco Polo in a nod to a widely circulated theory that pasta originated in China and was introduced to Italy by the explorer, a bit of lore food writer Tori Avey of The History Kitchen finds difficult to swallow:

A common belief about pasta is that it was brought to Italy from China by Marco Polo during the 13th century. In his book, The Travels of Marco Polo, there is a passage that briefly mentions his introduction to a plant that produced flour (possibly a breadfruit tree). The Chinese used this plant to create a meal similar to barley flour. The barley-like meal Polo mentioned was used to make several pasta-like dishes, including one described as lagana (lasagna). Since Polo’s original text no longer exists, the book relies heavily on retellings by various authors and experts. This, combined with the fact that pasta was already gaining popularity in other areas of Italy during the 13th-century, makes it very unlikely that Marco Polo was the first to introduce pasta to Italy.

Ah well.

We’re glad Child went with the China theory as it provides an excuse to eat spaghetti with chopsticks.

Nothing is more day-making than seeing Julia Child pop a small bundle of spaghetti directly into Fred Rogers’ mouth from the tips of her chopsticks…though after using the same implements to feed some to Chef Brockett too, she realizes that this wasn’t the best lesson in food hygiene.

In 2021, this sort of boo-boo would result in an automatic reshoot.

In the wilder, woolier 70s, a more pressing concern, at least as far as public television was concerned, was expanding little Americans’ worldview, in part by showing them how to get a commanding grip on their chopsticks. It’s never too late to learn.

Bon appétit!

JULIA CHILD’S SPAGHETTI MARCO POLO

There are a number of variations online, but this recipe, from Food.com, hews closely to Child’s original, while providing measurements for her eyeballed amounts.

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS 

1 lb spaghetti 

2 tablespoons butter 

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1 teaspoon salt black pepper 

1 6-ounce can tuna packed in oil, flaked, undrained 

2 tablespoons pimiento, diced or 2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, sliced into strips 

2 tablespoons green onions with tops, sliced 

2 tablespoons black olives, sliced 

2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped

1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded 

2 tablespoons fresh parsley or 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions. 

Drain pasta and return to pot, stirring in butter, olive oil, and salt and pepper. 

Toss with remaining ingredients and serve, garnished with parsley or cilantro.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Kate Bush Enjoys a (Long-Overdue) Revival, Sparked by Season 4 of Stranger Things

There’s never been a bad time for a Kate Bush revival. Those who lived through the 1980s may always associate her biggest songs with their memories. Fans who only know the 80s by way of Netflix know it by proxy and don’t suffer from nostalgia. But whatever Kate’s big, reverb-soaked drums, big Fairlight synths, big hair, and enormous vocals evoke for audiences now, one thing is certain: Kate Bush’s music is timeless.

Rebecca Nicholson sums up the sentiment in a Guardian post on the renaissance Bush is now enjoying, thanks to the use of her 1985 hit, “Running Up That Hill (Deal With God)” in the new season of Netflix hit series, Stranger Things: “If any song can steel itself against over familiarity, it’s ‘Running Up That Hill.’ Whether it is for the first time or the 500th time, you still hear it now and think, what the hell was that? And then you play it again.”


Not to spoil, but the love of a perfect pop song after innumerable repetitions plays a significant role in the plot of Stranger Things‘ Season 4, just one of the winking critical touches in the show’s use of 80s culture as commentary on the present. (If you haven’t seen the show yet, maybe skip the clip below.) Can we find the same comforts in our disposable pop culture, the show seems to ask? Maybe we need musical guidance from an icon like Kate Bush now more than ever.

When the show’s producers approached Bush about using the song, she displayed her usual reticence. Since her breakout debut single, “Wuthering Heights” and the resulting album and tour, she has shunned the press and stage, preferring to communicate with videos and taking several years off, only to return onstage recently after 35 years, to the delight of stalwart fans worldwide. Now, since Stranger Things’ new release, “a new generation is tapping ‘who is Kate Bush?’ into the search bar,” Nicholson writes.

The song is already back in the UK top 10 (where it hit no. 3 originally), and it should “at least give its original chart peak a run for its money” in the US, where it only reached no. 30, Billboard comments. For those who need an introduction, the Trash Theory video at the top, “Running Up That Hill: How Kate Bush Became the Queen of Alt-Pop,” will get you caught up on one of the most brilliant — and underrated, in the US — pop stars of the past forty years.

Despite showing her usual caution, however, when the show’s producers sent Bush a script and an explanation of how “Running Up That Hill” would be used, she revealed that she was already a fan of the show and agreed to the song’s licensing, something the 63-year-old singer almost never does. Then, she made a rare public statement on her website:

  You might’ve heard that the first part of the fantastic, gripping new series of  ‘Stranger Things’  has recently been released on Netflix. It features the song, ‘Running Up That Hill’  which is being given a whole new lease of life by the young fans who love the show – I love it too! Because of this, Running Up That Hill is charting around the world and has entered the UK chart at No. 8. It’s all really exciting! Thanks very much to everyone who has supported the song.
    I wait with bated breath for the rest of the series in July.  
         Best wishes,
            Kate

Fans of the show all wait, with Kate, for its return, but not nearly as eagerly as fans of Kate Bush awaited a sign from their idol for decades, a self-made artist who defined her era by never bowing to its dictates. Now, we hope, she’s come back to stay for a while.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch Hannah Arendt’s Final Interview (1973)

Even before the election of Donald Trump, as some critics began to see the possibility of a win, talk turned to historical names of anti-fascism: George Orwell, Sinclair Lewis, and, especially, Hannah Arendt, author of The Origins of Totalitarianism, On Revolution, and Eichmann in Jerusalem, her series of articles for The New Yorker about the trial of the Nazi’s chief bureaucrat. Arendt closely observed authoritarian regimes and their aftermath, detailing the way ideology seeps in through banal political careerism.

Since 2016, her warnings have seemed all-too-prescient, especially after a coup attempt last January that has been all-but hand-waved out of political memory by the GOP and its media apparatus, while candidates who deny the legitimacy of election outcomes they don’t like increasingly get their names on ballots. The degree to which Arendt saw the political conditions of her time, and maybe ours, with clarity has less to do with foreknowledge and more with a deep knowledge of the past. Corruption, tyranny, deceit, in all their many forms, have not changed much in their essential character since the records of antiquity were set down.


“Dark times,” she wrote in the 1968 preface to her collection of essays Men in Dark Times, “are not only not new, they are no rarity in history, although,” she adds, “they were perhaps unknown in American history, which otherwise has its fair share, past and present, of crime and disaster.” Had her assessment changed a few years later, in what would be her final interview, above, in 1973 (aired on French TV in 1974)? Had dark times come for the U.S.? The Yom Kippur War had just begun, the seemingly-endless Vietnam War dragged on, and the Watergate scandal had hit its crescendo.

Still, Arendt continued to feel a certain guarded optimism about her adopted country, which, she says, is “not a nation-state” like Germany or France:

This country is united neither by heritage, nor by memory, nor by soil, nor by language, nor by origin from the same. There are no natives here. The natives were the Indians. Everyone else are citizens. And these citizens are united only by one thing and this is true: That is, you become a citizen in the United States by a simple consent to the Constitution. The constitution – that is a scrap of paper according to the French as well as the German common opinion, & you can change it. No, here it is a sacred document. It is the constant remembrance of one sacred act. And that is the act of foundation. And the foundation is to make a union out of wholly disparate ethnic minorities and religions, and (a) still have a union, and (b) do not assimilate or level down these differences. And all of this is very difficult to understand for a foreigner. It’s what a foreigner never understands.

Whether or not Americans understood themselves that way in 1973, or understand ourselves this way today, Arendt points to an ideal that makes the democratic process in the U.S. unique; when, that is, it is allowed to function as ostensibly designed, by the consent of the governed rather than the tyranny of an oligarchy. Arendt died two years later, as the war in Vietnam finally came to an inglorious end. You can watched her full televised interview — with English translations by the uploader, Philosophy Overdose — above, or find it published in the book, Hannah Arendt: The Last Interview and Other Conversations.

What would Arendt have had to say to our time of MAGA, COVID-19 and election denialism, mass political racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia? Perhaps her most succinct statement on how to recognize the dark times comes from that same 1968 preface:

I borrow the term from Brecht’s famous poem ‘To Posterity,’ which mentions the disorder and the hunger, the massacres and the slaughterers, the outrage over injustice and the despair ‘when there was only wrong and no outrage,’ the legitimate hatred that makes you ugly nevertheless, the well-founded wrath that makes the voice grow hoarse. All this was real enough as it took place in public; there was nothing secret or mysterious about it. And still, it was by no means visible to all, nor was it at all easy to perceive it; for, until the very moment when catastrophe overtook everything and everybody, it was covered up not by realities but by the highly efficient talk and double-talk of nearly all official representatives who, without interruption and in many ingenious variations, explained away unpleasant facts and justified concerns. When we think of dark times and of people living and moving in them, we have to take this camouflage, emanating from and spread by ‘the establishment’ – or ‘the system,’ as it was then called – also into account. If it is the function of the public realm to throw light on the affairs of men by providing a space of appearances in which they can show in deed and word, for better or worse, who they are and what they can do, then darkness has come when this light is extinguished by ‘credibility gaps’ and ‘invisible government,’ by speech that does not disclose what is but sweeps it under the carpet, by exhortations, moral and otherwise, that, under the pretext of upholding old truths, degrade all truth to meaningless triviality.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Hans Zimmer Was in the First-Ever Video Aired on MTV, The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star”

More than four decades after its release, The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” is usually credited with more pop-cultural importance than musical influence. Perhaps that befits the song whose video was the first-ever aired on MTV. But if you listen closely to the song itself in The Buggles’ recording (as opposed to the concurrently produced version by Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club, which also has its champions), you’ll hear an unexpected degree of both compositional and instrumental complexity. You’ll also have a sense of a fairly wide variety of inspirations, one that Buggles co-founder Trevor Horn has since described as including not just other music but literature as well.

“I’d read J. G. Ballard and had this vision of the future where record companies would have computers in the basement and manufacture artists,” said Horn in a 2018 Guardian interview. “I’d heard Kraftwerk‘s The Man-Machine and video was coming. You could feel things changing.” The Buggles, Horn and collaborator Geoff Downes employed all the technology they could marshal. And by his reckoning, “Video Killed the Radio Star” would take 26 players to re-create live. Paying proper homage to Kraftwerk requires not just using machinery, but getting at least a little Teutonic; hence, perhaps, the brief appearance of Hans Zimmer at 2:50 in the song’s video.

“‘Hey, I like this idea of combining visuals and music,” Zimmer recently recalled having thought at the time. “This is going to be where I want to go.” And so he did: today, of course, we know Zimmer as perhaps the most famous film composer alive, sought after by some of the preeminent filmmakers of our time. He and Horn would actually collaborate again in the early nineteen-nineties on the soundtrack to Barry Levinson’s Toys (whose other contributors included no less an eighties video icon than Thomas Dolby, who’d played keyboards on the Bruce Woolley “Video Killed the Radio Star”). By that time Horn had put performing behind him and turned super-producer for artists like Yes, Seal, and the Pet Shop Boys. The Buggles burnt out quickly, but one doubts that Horn or Zimmer lose much sleep over it today.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Self-Encounter: The 10-Episode TV Show That Introduced Existentialism to Americans in 1961

“Existentialism is both a philosophy and a mood,” says Hazel Barnes by way of opening the television series Self-Encounter: A Study in Existentialism. “As a mood, I think we could say that it is the mood of the twentieth century — or, at least, of those people in the twentieth century who are discontent with things as they are. It expresses the feeling that, somehow or other, all of those systems — whether they be social, psychological, or scientific — which have attempted to define and explain and determine man, have somehow missed the living individual person.”

Existentialism was on the rise in 1961, when Barnes spoke those words, and the subsequent six decades have arguably done little to assuage its discontent. By the time of Self-Encounter‘s broadcast in ’61, Barnes was already well-known in philosophical circles for her English translation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. When she took on that job, with what she later described as “three years of badly taught high school French and one yearlong course in college, and a bare minimum of background in philosophy,” she couldn’t have known that it would set her on the road to becoming the most famous popularizer of existentialism in America.


Five years after the publication of Barnes’ Sartre translation, along came the opportunity to host a ten-part series on National Public Educational Television (a predecessor of PBS) explaining Sartre’s thought as well as that of other writers like Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, and Richard Wright, between dramatizations of scenes drawn from existentialist literature. Self-Encounter was once “thought to be entirely lost, the original tapes having been reported recorded over,” writes Nick Nielsen. But after the series’ unexpected rediscovery in 2017, all of its episodes gradually made their way to the web. You can watch all ten of them straight through in the nearly five-hour video at the top of the post, or view them one-by-one at the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.

Self Encounter was produced in 1961 and first broadcast in 1962,” Nielsen writes. “I cannot help but note that Route 66 aired from 1960 to 1964, The Outer Limits aired from 1963 to 1965, Rawhide aired from 1959 to 1965, and Perry Mason aired from 1957 to 1966″ — not to mention The Twilight Zone, from 1959 to 1964. “It would be difficult to name another television milieu of comparable depth. Our mental image of this period of American history as being one of stifling conformity is belied by these dark perspectives on human nature.” And as for the social, psychological, scientific, and of course technological systems in effect today, the existentialists would surely take a dim view of their potential to liberate us from conformity — or any other aspect of the human condition.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Experience Seinfeld’s Famous “Soup Nazi” Scenes With & Without Laugh Tracks

For a twenty-first-century television fan, watching old network sitcoms can take some getting used to. Nothing about them takes more getting used to than their laugh tracks, which must strike anyone who didn’t grow up hearing them as utterly bizarre. But was it really so long ago that we took for granted — nay, expected — an eruption of pre-recorded laughter after each and every punch line? As late as the nineteen-nineties, even sitcoms well-regarded for their sophistication and subversiveness added “canned laughter” to their soundtracks. Take Seinfeld, the show famously “about nothing,” scenes from one of whose episodes you can watch without a laugh track in the video above.

The episode in question is one of Seinfeld‘s best-known: “The Soup Nazi,” originally broadcast on NBC on November 2, 1995. These scenes portray Jerry, George and Elaine’s encounters with the title figure, a harsh soup-restaurant proprietor based on Ali “Al” Yeganeh, owner of Soup Kitchen International in New York. (Unaware of the character’s real-life counterpart, actor Larry Thomas based his performance on that of Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia.)


With the laugh track cut out, the main characters’ interactions with each other reach heights of near-surreal awkwardness, to say nothing of their confrontations with the Soup Nazi and his rigid ordering rules.

The resultant tension, unbroken by the transplanted guffaws heard in the original scenes above, would become the stock in trade of later sitcoms like the improvisation-based Curb Your Enthusiasm, starring Seinfeld co-creator Larry David. But that show could only have existed under the permissiveness of a premium cable channel like HBO; on NBC, the legacy of the laugh track would be upheld for some years. After all, laugh tracks had been in use since the early nineteen-fifties, during television’s transition away from all-live broadcasting to the methods of pre-production used for practically all drama and comedy still today. Even then, live studio audiences were becoming a thing of the past — but the exploitation of television’s power to generate artificial feelings of community had only just begun.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Birth of the Blues Brothers: How Dan Aykroyd & John Belushi Started Introducing a New Generation to the Blues

What were the Blues Brothers? A comedy sketch? A parody act? A real band? A celebrity soul artist tribute? All of the above, yes. The musical-comedic duo of Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi turned a ludicrous beginning in bumble bee costumes — not dark suits, fedoras, and Ray-Bans — into a musical act that “exposed a generation to the brilliance of blues and soul legends like John Lee Hooker and Aretha Franklin,” as Darren Weale writes at Loudersound.

That’s quite an accomplishment for a couple of improv comedians on a fledgling late-night comedy show that did not seem, in its first year, like it would stick around long. It was during that anarchic period when the Killer Bees became recurring characters on the show, appearing 11 times (despite the studio note, “Cut the bees,” which Lorne Michaels pointedly ignored).


The bees were the first incarnation of the Blues Brothers, two years before their actual debut in Season 4. (See a later appearance from that season, introduced by Garrett Morris, just above).

A January 17, 1976 appearance of the bees featured “Howard Shore and his All Bee Band,” consisting of “Aykroyd on the harmonica and Belushi on vocals belting out a blues classic very much in the style of the future Elwood and ‘Joliet’ Jake Blues,” notes History.com. They had the beginnings of an act, but the look and the personas would come later, “during the hiatus between SNL seasons two and three” in 1977, while Belushi filmed Animal House in Eugene, Oregon and fell under the spell of local bluesman Curtis Salgado, future harmonica player for Robert Cray.

Salgado “sure turned John on to blues music,” says Aykroyd. “He steeped him in blues culture.” Salgado himself describes how Belushi won him over on their first meeting: “I’m packing up my harps, trying to break free, when he says, ‘I’m going to have Ray Charles on the show.'” Salgado also gave Belushi a lesson in playing it straight, even when he played the blues for laughs. When the comic performed the song “Hey Bartender” to a packed house one night, in character as Joe Cocker, his mentor gave him a post-show dressing down.

“He asks me, ‘What did you think?’”
“I say, ‘John, it’s Joe Cocker.’”
‘Yes, I do Joe on Saturday Night Live.’
“I punch his chest and say, ‘You need to do this from here [pointing at his heart] and be yourself.’ After that he didn’t mimic any more. He was himself.”

Taking the look of Jake and Elwood from Salgado, but developing the character as his swaggering self, Belushi “came back from Oregon with a lust for the blues,” his widow, Judith, recalls. “He had tapes in his pockets and went to clubs.” (See the duo play “Hey Bartender” at the Universal Amphitheater in 1978, below.)

The name was the brainchild of SNL musical director Howard Shore (who would go on to write the Lord of the Rings film scores), who happened to be present when the two conceived the characters at a bar. Their 1978 debut — made over the protests of Lorne Michaels (who didn’t get it) — made them instant stars.

Paul Shaffer spun their origin story in his introduction, “claiming that they had been discovered in 1969 by the fictional ‘Marshall Checker,” writes Mental Floss. He went on:

Today they are no longer an authentic blues act, but have managed to become a viable commercial product. So now, let’s join “Joliet” Jake and his silent brother Elwood — the Blues Brothers.

With that, the never-authentic blues act did, indeed, become a viable commercial product. “Things started to move quickly,” Weale writes. “Record executive Michael Klenfner took John and Dan to see Ahmet Ertegün at Atlantic Records. He signed the Blues Brothers up.” They were a real act, and two years later, real movie stars with the release of John Landis’ The Blues Brothers, a film that fully delivered on the duo’s comic promises, while gleefully giving the spotlight away to its huge cast of soul and blues legends

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch a Local TV Station Switch From Black & White to Color for First Time (1967)

The history of television is a murky, convoluted affair, filled with patent wars, corporate backstabbing, and stories of thwarted genius found in many such tales. The story of color TV can seem no less complicated, with patents stretching all the way back to 1904 (filed by a German inventor), decades before the magic box appeared in any living room. The first mechanical color system was designed by Scottish inventor John Logie Baird in 1928.

Attempts to broadcast color TV wouldn’t be made until the 1950s, with the first commercial broadcast made by CBS airing in 1951 on five stations. Hardly anyone could see it. When NBC broadcast the Tournament of Roses Parade in 1954, fewer than 8,500 American households owned a color TV set. By April 1961, an editorial in Television magazine argued that color “is still in the egg, and only skillful and expensive handling will get it out of the egg and on its feet.” Needless to say, the adoption of the new technology was exceedingly slow.


Ratings wars and advertising wars forced color to come of age in the mid-60s, and as a result “color TV transformed the way Americans saw the world, writes historian Susan Murray at Smithsonian, as well as the way “the world saw America.” Color television “was, in fact, often discussed by its proponents as an ideal form of American postwar consumer vision: a way of seeing the world (and all of its brightly hued goods) in a spectacular form of ‘living color.’” Color was explicitly talked up as spectacle, though sold to consumers as a truer representation of reality.

“Network executives pitched [color TV] to advertisers as a unique medium that would inspire attentiveness and emotional engagement,” writes Murray, “making [viewers] more likely to purchase advertised products, a growing myriad of consumer goods and appliances that were now available in a wider set of vibrant colors like turquoise and pink flamingo.” (Thanks, of course, to the advent of space-age polymers.) Such history provides us with more context for the puzzlement of newsman Bob Bruner in 1967 (above), introducing viewers to Iowa’s Channel 2 switch-over to color.

“I feel doubly honored to have been chosen to be the first one involved in our big change,” says Bruner after chatting with station manager Doug Grant, “because there are so many much more colorful characters around here than this report in the news.” That year, there were characters like Pink Floyd appearing for the first time on American Bandstand (see that footage colorized here), their psychedelic vibrancy muted in monochrome.

Bruner had already been upstaged nearly ten years earlier, when NBC’s WRC-TV in Washington, DC introduced its first color broadcast with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who extolls the virtues of the medium above, in the oldest surviving color videotape recording. Even so, only around 25% of American households owned a color TV in 1967. It would be another decade before every American household (or every “consumer household”) had one, and not until the mid-80s until the medium reached full saturation around the globe.

via Laughing Squid

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.