That Wacky Redhead

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Brainbin, Nov 18, 2011.

  1. Lizzie_Harrison Well-Known Member

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    A specific other? Intriguing...
    Sadly, I lost the remote war.

    Of course for Blue Peter, in addition to the elephant, there's the "lovely pair of knockers" clip.
    Male presenter narrating a clip of a church door:"What a lovely pair of knockers"
    (cut to his fellow presenter's chest).

    Remember this is a children's programme aimed at 5-14 year-olds!
     
  2. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    I don't mean there would be no slowing. Even allowing for a *WW3 in the '90s iSTTL (so to speak;)), & allowing for a persistent "time of troubles", a setback as large as what's presumed is very unlikely.

    What most people don't appreciate is just how fast things are changing. More has changed in the last 50yr than in more than 100 before that. More will change in he next 25 than in 100 before that. More will change in 10yr after that than in 100. And I know that sounds impossible, but that is where the trend lines are pointing. That being true, even a slowing will only "move the curve" & slow the "slant", not change its general direction. So 100yr of explosive change, even at (only:rolleyes:) the pace of the first 50yr of the 20th Century, means we'd hardly recognize the society even 100yr out.
     
  3. Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

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    It's no surprise when you think about it. Star Wars revolutionized the concept of merchandising as an alternate source of revenue from media properties. (ITTL, Star Trek does that instead.) It's very much consistent with Lucas the businessman as we know him today, to exploit the first great "toyetic" movie characters (the ball was already rolling in that arena in television, thanks to more than a few Saturday Morning Cartoons). Who knows how much this might have influenced... Jar-Jar? :eek:

    How tactful ;) In the interests of full disclosure: I am not a Star Wars fan, despite its impact on popular culture (my field of interest) being incalculable, and in many ways greater than that of Star Trek. I didn't watch the original trilogy until I was 14, so he never... "re-interpreted" my childhood with the Special Editions (the first - and only - versions that I've actually seen), nor the Prequel Trilogy (which I've carefully avoided). My "intimate" knowledge of Star Wars is largely second-hand as a result. I certainly know far more about it than I do about Doctor Who (up to and including its expanded universe - I understand that "Mara Jade" is, or rather was, a big deal?), but believe me, I have plenty of reason to be delighted that my POD is early enough to fashion whatever George Lucas is able to create after American Graffiti in my own image :cool:

    What I always loved about that show was how "the computers" were treated as isolated and separate from every other system on the ship, even though everything was largely automated. A classic example of WWII veterans letting their own experiences blind them to the realities of technological progress.

    (And, of course, when they did explore computerized automation in "The Ultimate Computer", M-5 was evil and Kirk had to talk it to death.)

    Comm-badge? :confused: The communicators were flip-phone walkie-talkie devices. You must be thinking of some other show that will never exist ;)

    Seeing that I am Canadian (as are you, Mr. Stereotypical Snowbird), I have absolutely no interest in any of the myriad colonial or revolutionary landmarks in Boston, and if I ever found myself in that no doubt fine city, Cheers is literally the only thing there that would be of any interest to me, so of course I'm going! :D

    (For those of you who are unaware, the bar in Cheers was modeled after a real-life bar called the Bull and Finch, which was also used for establishing shots - and occasionally even on-location outdoor shots with cast members. It renamed itself Cheers several years after the show ended, and has since opened up a second location, whose interior is modeled more closely after the set on the show.)

    (Also, I apologize to any Bostonian readers - but you really should have expected me to value your city only by its prominence in popular culture :p)

    Well, since that's a near-unanimous opinion (anyone care to defend Robin Curtis as the superior Saavik?), we'll just say you've seen the light ;)

    I have a real knack for taking what others might call procrastination and making something constructive out of it - even if only for trivial purposes :D

    Well, I guess that obliges me to bring the character back, then :)

    I am familiar with this series, actually. Roger Ebert has praised it profusely as an example of the greatness of film as a medium. Of course, it's actually an example of the greatness of television as a medium, but we can't expect him to recognize that, can we? We should be thankful that he isn't refusing to recognize television as art :p

    I had a feeling that I would be creating a monster with this crossover, and I'm glad to see that I was right!

    I agree with this. The Eugenics Wars alone would surely be catastrophic. And remember that "whole populations were being bombed out of existence", and "Earth was on the verge of a dark ages". The OTL dark ages (using the classical definitions) lasted for centuries. It is ironic that Star Trek, that beacon of optimism for the future of humanity, explicitly predicts that we will go to brink of destroying our civilization before making what is by all appearances a remarkable recovery. (Again, context might help to explain that: plenty of economies did make astonishing recoveries in the wake of World War II, including, most notably, Japan.)

    Not so wounded as we were led to believe... so much the better :cool:

    That settles it. Baltimore sounds like the optimal Liverpool stand-in. And it also gives that city a major sitcom ITTL, which it so sadly lacks IOTL.

    As it happens, you have since been dethroned: someone else is one year your junior. But you're still the youngest female! (And the oldest, for that matter.)

    That's too bad :( Maybe some other time. Not like the show is going anywhere.

    Ah yes, the proud British tradition of Getting Crap Past the Radar. Whatever would we do without it?
     
  4. NCW8 Just Chilling

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    My father would be pleased - The Time Meddler was his favourite episode. It's actually a subversion of one of the show's own Tropes. At that time, they used to more or less alternate between science fictional stories and pure historical ones (basically historical drama with the Doctor and his companions added, but no bug-eyed monsters). The Time Meddler appeared to be an example of the latter (set in 1066), until the Doctor enters a church and finds that the sound of chanting monks is coming from a gramophone.

    :D

    In one of their pantomimes, I remember them using the line "Once a King, always a King, but once a Knight is enough!"

    For that, you should really see Rainbow. OK, I should say that, although those are the genuine presenters of Rainbow, this isn't actually a genuine episode. Apparently it was made as part of a tape given to staff of Thames tv as a Christmas present.

    Cheers,
    Nigel.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012
  5. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    I don't really disagree, but didn't the Lone Ranger & Superman do much the same in the '50s? I agree, "Star Wars" raised the bar, & the profits, enormously, but...
    :cool: For your consideration, tho: a POD where boy racer George Lucas is killed in a street racing accident.:eek: (Reading his WP bio, it suggests he nearly was...)
    IDK about that. Even in the '60s, the total interconnectedness & dependence on automation we'd take as given would not have been near so widespread. Even something like SAGE was cutting edge top secret stuff.
    What was worse was the flat denial of reality, which persisted through the spinoffs. Humans can always do things better.:rolleyes: (Like a computer couldn't have done what Picard did to get the damn ship out of the "flytrap".:rolleyes:) Even though actually flying an aircraft at even high Mach requires computers...& at multiples of light speed....:rolleyes: Which makes Data especially problematic: do computers become smarter just because they look like us?:rolleyes::confused::rolleyes:
    I must have been thinking of one of the really awful novels ripping off Gene's ideas.:eek:
    Actually, I want to see the House that Ruth Drove Into Despair.:p (Y'know, the one that had a wall named for the LSR car.:p)
    Don't count on that lasting.;)
    By putting it that way, didn't he just do that?:confused:
    Actually, it didn't. The "dark ages" really weren't as dark as they're commonly made out. (Just don't ask me to source it...:eek:) Yes, some major civilizations fell or ran into trouble, but it's not as if all Europe went back to living in caves.:rolleyes:
    Humanity has a way of doing that: not actually responding til our asses are on the line.:eek::rolleyes: I see no reason for that to change any time soon (or ever:rolleyes:).

    Neither do I believe we're likely to achieve Gene's vision, tho I'm of the unshakeable opinion expansion into space would save humanity from itself & provide more opportunities for more freedom for more people than we can even imagine now.:cool::cool::cool: Turning us into peaceful residents of "Mr Roddenberry's Neighborhood"? Not a chance.:rolleyes: Genetics will get in the way. We've always bred some people better at making, some better at defending, & some better at stealing. We've always bred some people more inclined to spreading their genes around than being monogamous. That's the nature of the beast.

    Cultural evolution IMO can't overcome that. Can we eliminate war? Yes. That is a cultural phenom. Can we eliminate jealousy & murder? No, not without serious tampering with biology, of the kind Gene seemed expressly opposed to (given "Space Seed")...tho he did seem to be endorsing some draconian *psychotherapy.:eek: (Then again, in the '60s, lobotomy:eek::mad: & ECT:eek: were standard practise.)
     
  6. Lizzie_Harrison Well-Known Member

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    Seriously? :D
    I suspected but wasn't sure.

    Hope the next update is flowing! Anything we can discuss to help your creative juices flow?
     
  7. Orville_third Banned

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    Piedmont Socialist Republic
    There are a lot of Christmas tapes floating around from various places. Some are fortunately on YouTube.
    Here's a cute clip from the set of the Doctor Who episode "The Armageddon Factor".
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaUCrHnT13c&feature=related
    Here's Michael Aspel, a BBC technician, and a surprise guest, along with some technobabble, followed by weather reports going wrong, a tabloid parody (including a LOT of Who-related bits...including a Dalek trying to seduce a videotape machine...)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1WWuFrO06E&feature=relmfu
    Here's a nice intro scene from the Christmas tape (LOTS of language):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cx9GWGCJv_8

    I've seen bits from various other Christmas tapes at various times, including a British Forces Broadcast Service one- with some Muppets.
     
  8. Thande Toujours Phrais

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    Actually you're in a somewhat similar boat to me. I never saw any of the Star Wars films until 1997, and the first one I saw was the special edition of Episode IV, which I have always found underwhelming because I saw every eighties ripoff of it (e.g. Battle Beyond the Stars) first and therefore the original always seems very 'generic' to me. I decided Star Wars wasn't for me, but then I got into the EU material because I wanted more ideas and influences for my interest in starship design, and from that I eventually watched Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi on VHS and found them to be far superior films. I generally find that the Star Wars EU, especially nowadays now that many of the inconsistencies have been patched over, is rather dissonantly much, much better and more interesting than almost any part of the actual films put on the screen, especially if you include the prequels.
    The early novel "Final Frontier", which has Kirk's dad as the hero, further illustrates this point: the Enterprise is said to be the first ship to be equipped with a 'library computer' which basically seems to amount to 'Wikipedia'. I think the idea of the computers being separate is understandable given the technology of the period in which the show was made. They were still in the 'a computer is a big thing in the room you go to when you need some calculations doing' stage. Remember it was pre-Apollo programme, which I think was largely responsible for inculcating the idea that 'a computer can be something small that's responsible for effectively actually piloting your ship' into the imagination of sci-fi writers. I remember being surprised when reading up on how nuclear missiles in this period (e.g. the Cuban Missile Crisis) worked and finding that they basically had no electronic components at all as we would understand them, it was entirely based on gyroscopes.

    The idea of the evil computers (and androids) is also very much emblematic of its time: again it's because a computer was considered a mysterious black box in a room that nobody really understood, and was not something everyone encountered on a daily basis like nowadays. So it's the technological equivalent of summoning a Faustian demon or genie, if you like: the potential for great power, but the sense that your lack of knowledge of it will lead to you paying a heavy price. The same is true of the idea of being mind-controlled by your TV that was a typical Twilight Zone type plot from a few years earlier: it works because TVs were still new, rare and mysterious. The modern equivalent is perhaps the idea that the Large Hadron Collider can do basically anything from ending the world to reversing time to opening portals to dimensions filled with evil invaders to whatever: few people have actually seen it or know how it works, so you can fill in the gaps with whatever you most fear. Nanotechnology, too: as a chemist who works in a related field, it never ceases to irritate me that most people's first thought is of tiny little robots turning everyone into grey goo.
     
  9. NCW8 Just Chilling

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    I guess that I was just the right age to appreciate Star Wars when it first came out (before it became episode 4). It was quite a phenomenon - there was even an extended radio series of it broadcast on BBC Radio 1 - the pop music channel that didn't normally broadcast drama.

    It's easy to overlook now, but it actually wasn't a particularly high budget film. The studio scenes were filmed at Elstree (which made it easy for some of the characters to appear on the Muppets) rather than Hollywood. It also wasn't expected to be a great success. I remember an interview with Alec Guiness where he said that friends had called him foolish for accepting a percentage of the gross rather than a fixed fee.

    It's the only film I've seen in the cinema that had an advert for instant mash potato shown before it. The advert started with a parody of the now well-known Star Wars Opening Crawl describing a war taking place in a far off galaxy and ending with a line something like "but away from the fighting, people carried on living their lives". It then cut to the Smash advert at 02:45 in this clip.

    Cheers,
    Nigel
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012
  10. Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

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    I apologize for overlooking this question earlier. The show looks very much like a product of its time, and though I suppose environmentalism would be in general more successful ITTL (thanks to Moonshot Lunacy), I still suspect that it would rise and fall in periodic waves, just as IOTL. Therefore, it wouldn't continue for very much longer.

    Groan-worthy puns. Sounds like my kind of people!

    Wow :eek: That even made Are You Being Served? look subtle!

    Let's just say that after Star Wars, no studio ever allowed anyone to keep control of any aspect of their IP. But beforehand, Lucas managed to convince them to do so.

    I was referring facetiously to an incident a few years ago, when Ebert declared that video games could never be true art (in other words, the exact same thing that stuffy theatre or literary critics no doubt said about motion pictures a century before). His argument was that they could not be art because they were "interactive", that each consumer would therefore have an individual, subjective experience with them (because that never happens with non-interactive media :rolleyes:). The key element of this declaration, and what drove many people against him, was his utter refusal to actually try playing a video game. He knew, because he said so (and he is far too stubborn to ever go back on his word). Some time later, he eventually conceded that - even though he was still right about the issue, no matter what anyone else said - he would agree to disagree.

    Hence the qualifier "using the classical definitions" :)

    As far as I know, yes, ma'am :D

    It should be along tomorrow. You've all given me plenty of inspiration to get it written already, but you're more than welcome to discuss anything I've mentioned in my updates so far. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. If you have any guesses as to what might happen, feel free to record them for posterity :)

    Expanding on your point about how Star Wars has been genericized by parodies and ripoffs, it's interesting to compare it with Star Trek, which is (of course) also the subject of these. But Star Wars parodies (which, per the law of First Installment Wins, are overwhelmingly of the original film) are largely plot-driven, whereas Star Trek parodies (per the same law, overwhelmingly of the original series) focus much more on character quirks and interactions. How many Star Trek parodies have you seen where the plot is throwaway nonsense about the most generic elements (Klingons, energy clouds, evil robots or computers)? Whereas Star Wars parodies generally hit every action beat from the movie, like clockwork. Speaking from personal experience (as I did not start watching Star Trek until I was well-aware of all the parodied elements), it doesn't diminish your appreciation of the actual series. Kirk is a lot more subtle and dignified than parodies would have him (except maybe in the Turd Season), the character interaction is much more nuanced and clever, etc., etc. But Star Wars is exactly as all the parodies have it. We as a popular culture know that plot down cold. Perhaps part of the reason you valued Empire and Jedi more is because we know less about them through Pop Cultural Osmosis. I mean, obviously we know some things, but definitely not as much as with the original film.

    That's fair, and I would accept that answer wholeheartedly if it weren't for an episode like "The Ultimate Computer", in which M-5 controls the ship exactly as computers control things in the modern day (all systems routed through a central, automated mainframe), so surely it must have occurred to somebody that it was a possibility. (The episode was apparently meant as an allegory of how computerization was resulting in the loss of jobs - so that was already happening by the late 1960s).

    But this is definitely something I can understand. The potential evils of modern technology. The television example tickles me because it often seems that the harshest criticism of television as a medium is produced within the television industry itself! (Though movies - their main competition in this era - weren't far behind, as we may soon discover.)

    Indeed, one might argue that you were a little too old (you were about the same age that I was when Episode I came out, actually, and I definitely felt too old - that movie produced without question the most overly saturated merchandising blitz within my living memory). But then again we're looking at two different situations: the "timeless" and "universal" appeal of Star Wars vs. the "kiddy" Phantom Menace. And another contrast: with Star Wars the blitz came after; with The Phantom Menace, it came before.

    Sir Alec may have hated the end result, but it kept him living in luxury for the rest of his long life. He, too, was a canny businessman, no question.

    Mashed potatoes in a bag? Frightening. And them laughing at that woman cooking real food at the end... how distasteful :p
     
  11. NCW8 Just Chilling

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    OK, I was 13, but it was a more innocent time. Teenagers weren't pressured into being quite so cynical about everything as they are now. Or maybe I was just a slow developer.

    You're certainly right about the merchandising blitz coming along later. According to this BBC trivia page:

    That certainly matches my memory that most of the Star Wars related toys arrived in the shops well after I'd seen the film.

    Edit: I don't remember them selling the empty boxes though, so maybe that was just in the US. You could have fun if Star Trek had done the same thing: "Here you are, son, a Romulan Bird-of-Prey. Hey look ! Its Cloaking device is working !"

    I didn't get the impression that he hated the result - at least not after the first film. He might have changed his mind after the later films were released.

    Edit: I don't know whether Star Wars originated the concept of doing a "Making of" show, but the Making of Star Wars was the first one I remember seeing. It was hosted by C3P0 and R2D2 and I think it was broadcast by the BBC.

    Cheers,
    Nigel.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2012
  12. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    Noted.
    Again, noted. It needed saying, tho. Most people don't realize.
    Notice, tho: M-5 was an entirely new design (so the earlier M-4 couldn't do it). It was evil (so, naturally, it wants to take over everything...:rolleyes:). And it didn't work... And we're back to "humans are better at everything". (Which was thematic to the OTL spinoffs, did you notice? We, this backward species from the galactic boondocks, were the founding member of the Federation...:rolleyes: Tho I did like Quark's remark how Ferengi never had slavery...:cool:)
     
  13. Thande Toujours Phrais

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    Yeah, Doomwatch may be iconic but it doesn't fit how this TL has culturally avoided the Sinister Seventies, so it wouldn't be successful.
    As noted above, this is actually a joke episode they made for circulating around the BBC; the regular show wasn't anything like that.


    That's an interesting point. It's true that most Star Wars parodies focus on the original film. It's interesting to look up parodies made soon after the film's release, such as MAD Magazine's parody or the Two Ronnies sketch--which is much like the Star Trek one of theirs I showed to you earlier. As you say, though, Star Trek stock parodies now tend to focus on a few key points that often are barely visible in the actual show itself, it's almost parodies just referencing earlier parodies by this point. I mean, from the parodies you'd never guess that in the original Star Trek the Klingons only appeared in (IIRC) four episodes...

    BTW, I have heard that the radio play version of Star Wars mentioned by NCW8 is actually much better and more 'adult' or 'realistic' in tone than the actual film...it's a bit hard to describe, but apparently you feel more like you're actually in the Death Star and it's a real place with Imperial soldiers going about their daily lives, that sort of thing.


    This has been pointed out by comedians repeatedly here...though the fact that the advert became so memetic showed that it clearly worked. (I suppose you could say it's related to how every bit of science fiction from at least the 1890s to the 1960s imagined that in the future we would be eating food in pill form, and not always for overpopulation and limited farming space reasons or whatever, sometimes just implying that people would voluntarily switch to doing this :confused: )
    But that's what Star Trek is about: it's humanism. Again, somewhat of its time, and Dune, written around the same time uses some similar themes. Nowadays you get some science fiction which favours the supercilious 'oh computers are so much better than people' approach (e.g. Schlock Mercenary) and it never fails to make me want Kirk to come on and logic-bomb the AIs up the backside as the opening shot of a Butlerian Jihad. :rolleyes:
     
  14. Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

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    Lonely At The Top (1975-76)

    February 27, 1976

    It was early evening at Desilu Productions, and a time to kick back and relax. Active production on their roster of programming had been completed for another season, and would not resume until May, marking the beginning of their “summer vacation”, such as it was. Other branches of the studio, however, including the Post-Production house, would remain in business, but none of these were under the purview of Robert H. Justman, Vice-President of Production.

    “All the filming done on yet another season,” he said, as he ate dinner with his two immediate superiors, Lucille Ball and Herbert F. Solow, in the Desilu commissary.

    “It’ll be a lot quieter around here with all the actors, technicians, camera crews, and pyrotechnics guys gone,” said Ball. “That’s really good work, though, Bobby. How many years has it been now?”

    “Five,” he and Solow replied in unison.

    “Five years,” she repeated. “That’s a pretty decent chunk of time in our line of work.”

    “It sure is,” he said. “And I’ve been meaning to talk to the two of you about that.”

    Ball and Solow exchanged knowing glances.

    “Working here has been a great opportunity for me, and I’m really proud to have helped Desilu reach such great heights these last few years; but this line of work, overseeing and underwriting… it’s not my passion. I miss being the driving force behind a show, working in the belly of the beast. I really think I should be going back to that.”

    “Well, I can’t say I’m surprised,” Ball finally said, after the news had taken some time to sink in with both of his dining companions. “You’ve been a valuable asset to our team, Bobby, but you’ve gotta do what you wanna do. And you can’t let putting off a decision like that tear you apart. Look at me, I was juggling acting in my own sitcom and running this studio at the same time for a few years there… it’s a good thing I was younger then, because looking back, it was just crazy.”

    “Crazy isn’t a strong enough word for it,” Solow chimed in.

    “Well then, what would you call it, Herbie?” Ball replied, laughing. “Loony? Screwy? Zany? Because it was all of those things, and so much more.”

    Solow laughed too, before turning to Justman. “I know you’ve been itching to get back into active production, Bob. We’re going to miss you helping us hold down the fort, but you have to do what you love. That’s what we’re both doing, and you deserve the same.”

    “Well, of course I’ll stay until you find a suitable replacement for the position,” Justman assured them. “And I still intend to oversee the production of the I Love Lucy special. I know better than to turn down the chance to be a part of history.”

    “Says the man who produced Star Trek for five years,” Ball retorted. “Trust me, Bobby, you’re already in the history books at this studio. I swear that show still brings in more money than I Love Lucy ever did. Y
    ’know, maybe sometime, we oughta do something about that…”

    “One big idea at a time, Lucy,” Solow said, gently. “First we need to find Bob’s replacement. And he might have chosen the best possible time to quit on us, because I’ve heard about somebody promising who might be willing to take the job with the right amount of coaxing…”

    ---

    In many respects, it was a quiet season for Desilu Productions – their ambitious plans for an I Love Lucy 25th Anniversary Special (which had been green-lit by CBS, and would even air on the actual anniversary date of October 15, 1976) had largely precluded the opportunity to scout for and develop pilots, so the studio had only four shows remaining on the air in the 1975-76 season; in a triumph of quality over quantity, all four cleared the Top 30, with two – Rock Around the Clock and The Muppet Show, both on ABC – reaching the Top 10. Indeed, in a singular triumph for the studio, Rock Around the Clock reached #1 overall for the season [1], dethroning Sanford and Son, and serving as one of the crowning achievements of the retro nostalgia trend: the most popular show on the air in 1975 was one that took place in 1955, cementing in the popular imagination the idea that nostalgia was in fact relative, not absolute, and always projected two decades behind whatever vantage point was chosen.

    But when it came to crowning achievements and retro nostalgia, another rousing success was none other than the King of Rock-and-Roll himself, Elvis Presley. Ever since what had become known as his Comeback Special in late 1968, his career had been moving from strength to strength. The personal image of Elvis as a family man, with his young wife Priscilla, and their two children – daughter Lisa Marie, and son Jesse Garon [2] – contrasted delightfully with his increasingly sexualized stage persona and song choices. Elvis, like Desilu, had staked his claim on quality over quantity. He had parted ways with his longtime manager Colonel Tom Parker in 1973, and under new manager Tom Hulett, he was performing international tours for the first time in his career; travelling to Europe, Australia, South America, Japan, and (controversially) Saudi-Arabia, whose oil sheiks had apparently made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. [3] He also accepted an offer to appear as the male lead in a remake of A Star Is Born, opposite Barbra Streisand, embarking on the “serious” acting career he had always craved. And then there was television, the medium that had revitalized his career (and, fittingly, had helped to launch it back in the 1950s). His two children, both of whom adored Sesame Street, no doubt played a part in his decision to appear on the show in 1974, performing “Promised Land”, and making the acquaintance of Jim Henson and Frank Oz in the process (both Lisa Marie and Jesse could be seen on the sidelines watching their father perform in the episode).

    It was as a result of this appearance that Elvis and Desilu came together, when Henson and Oz invited the King to appear on The Muppet Show in its second season. Hulett wasn’t sure what to make of the offer; it was the kind of “silly” gig that Col. Parker would have signed his client up to in a jiffy, which was already enough to give him pause – but at the same time, it was (improbably enough) now the highest-rated variety show on television, and it was even catching on with foreign audiences; much to the pleasure of Desilu, who were happy to have another licence to print money. As Elvis was now touring worldwide, the appeal of being seen on television worldwide was obvious. The King thus consented to appear, and performed three songs: “Burning Love” (with Miss Piggy), “Teddy Bear” (with Fozzie Bear), and “Jailhouse Rock” (with most of the Muppet repertory). The decision to perform two of his standards, balanced by only one recent hit, was justified by the popular revival of his 1950s-era music; indeed, it would begin to see regular airplay on Rock Around the Clock as soon as it became feasible to do so (as the series moved into 1956, the year of “Heartbreak Hotel”). Needless to say, this provided a further financial boon to the King’s career, as well as his popularity, and his television appearances certainly didn’t hurt on that score. The Elvis Presley episode of The Muppet Show, the highest-rated in its history, aired on February 22, 1976. Any lingering reticence on the part of actors or singers to appear on the program vanished overnight.

    The influence of retro nostalgia even percolated into shows with modern settings. A classic example of the needs of network executives conflicting with the pitches made by writers was the curious case of Welcome Back, Kotter, which was based on the youth of its star and co-creator, Gabe Kaplan. During its development, MGM had re-released its seminal rebellious youth film Blackboard Jungle, which had performed very well at the box office – well enough to convince executives at NBC (who were already feeling the heat from having cancelled The Bill Cosby Show, which was also about a “hip, young” educator) to tailor Kotter to fit that paradigm. [4] The group of remedial students whose destinies Kotter would shepherd would be led by a young, black “ringleader” similar to Sidney Poitier’s character in The Blackboard Jungle. Eventually chosen after an exhaustive talent search was 21-year-old Denzel Washington, who idolized Poitier. [5] The two actors were similar in a number of ways – both were poised, passionate, and classically handsome – though Washington was capable of surprising deviousness as well, which producers eagerly utilized to their advantage. As seemed to be an emerging theme among inter-generational series in the era, the show revolved around both lead characters attempting to improve each other, and – at the same time – improve themselves.

    The cop show genre, though relatively inauspicious in comparison to the
    “important” shows of the era, proved insidious. The big new show in the genre for that season was the more buddy comedy-influenced Starsky & Hutch – which, oddly enough, heavily bucked the retro nostalgia trend and instead focused on trying its best to follow modern-day fashions and styles as slavishly as possible – which, naturally, dated it very quickly. The cop shows also finally found themselves with a distaff counterpart in Police Woman, which acquired a fan in very high places – none other than Gerald R. Ford, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who made sure to get all House business over and done with early enough on Friday nights to get home in time to watch the show. Whatever his motivations, his wife Betty, for her part, seemed to take it all in good humour. [6] Meanwhile, Norman Lear and his Tandem Productions continued to insist on hard-hitting, modern, relevant programming; even though escapism was rapidly triumphing over realism, and there was fear that he would oversaturate the market for such, all by himself. Nonetheless, One Day At A Time, which tackled single-motherhood, premiered in this season, and continued the Tandem hot streak by finishing within the Top 30, as all of their other shows did, with the notable exception of Maude. [7] Thus ended the supremacy of Norman Lear, who (with his characteristic self-righteousness) spoke openly against the newly-enthroned Desilu, whose two most popular shows were (in his words) a throwback and a trifle. When his sour-grapes critique was met with strong backlash within the industry, he backpedaled and claimed that he admired the progressiveness of the Desilu roster as a whole, but the damage was done. His partnership with Bud Yorkin – the creative core of Tandem – would dissolve before the end of the year. [8]

    Those Were the Days was unquestionably suffering from the imposition of the Family Viewing Hour, which had forced it to move to 9:00 on a different night, and consequently saw it falling out of the Top 10. The cast did their best to take this in stride, even recording a spoof version of their theme song in which they lampooned the envelope-pushing changes to television programming in the last few years; contrasting it pointedly against the more “wholesome” shows still on the air. [9] Meanwhile, Paramount Television chose a relatively safe, conservative means of expansion, spinning off the character of Phyllis Lindstrom (played by Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman) from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, as they had done for Rhoda the year before. Technically, this tied the studio (who now had four shows on the air, The Odd Couple having been cancelled at the end of the previous season) with Desilu in terms of Top 30 success, with four shows apiece; but on average, the Desilu shows ranked higher. Certainly, this rivalry appealed to the trade papers, who never failed to note that the two studios were located right next-door to each other; the rather obscure bit of trivia that Charles Bluhdorn had once offered to buy Desilu resurfaced at this time, fueling speculation as to what this hypothetical “super-Paramount” might have looked like (though some dismissed this as a pointless exercise).

    A landmark innovation of television presentation was achieved during this season, when the mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man debuted. Although it had definite precursors, such as QB VII from the previous season, as well as transatlantic counterparts (known in the UK as
    “serials”, and having aired there since the 1950s), Rich Man, Poor Man was the first that caught the attention of executives and programmers, as it had done spectacularly well in the only metric that “mattered” – the ratings. It had finished at #2 overall for the entire season, behind only Rock Around the Clock, and ahead of Sanford and Son. It capped a remarkable renaissance for the Alphabet Network, which now had five Top 10 shows, as many as the other two networks combined; though all three had tied with ten shows in the Top 30. [10] ABC also had only the second #1 series in their history, following the one-year blip of Marcus Welby, M.D.; and Rock Around the Clock would prove to have a great deal more staying power. However, and despite their arguable first-place status, they were not without their blunders: two key figures from the sports division of the network, producer Roone Arledge and commentator Howard Cosell, put their talents to use in an altogether disastrous project called Saturday Night Live. Neither of these two accomplished gentlemen had any experience in the comedy/variety format of this new series, and it showed. Though it was cancelled, they were soon able to dust themselves off, and get back into an arena where they could really shine.

    At the Emmy Awards that year, all three major series repeated their wins in their respective categories: Mary Tyler Moore for Comedy, Police Story for Drama, and The Muppet Show for Variety. Indeed, there was a great deal of repetition in many of the major categories: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Milton Berle in Chico and the Man; Valerie Harper in Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Rhoda (beating out both of her former co-stars, Mary Tyler Moore and Cloris Leachman, for their respective shows); and, controversially, Ted Knight in Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, when the buzz had revolved around hot newcomer Denzel Washington for his breakthrough performance in Welcome Back, Kotter. It was theorized that he had split the “tough guy” vote with Micky Dolenz for Rock Around the Clock, allowing Knight to come up the middle in his very different, and far more broad, performance as news anchor Ted Baxter in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. On the other hand, Elvis Presley won his very first Emmy for his performance in The Muppet Show. The smash Rich Man, Poor Man won the Emmy for Outstanding Limited Series, against minimal opposition. [11]

    And at the end of the day (quite literally), NBC was doing well enough to play hardball with Johnny Carson, host of The Tonight Show, when his contract was due for renegotiation in 1975. Carson had wanted to end the “Best of Carson” compilations that were airing on the network during late nights on weekends, so that they could instead be aired during weekday late nights, which would then allow him to take those days off. [12] NBC flatly refused; not only would that necessitate the creation of a late-night weekend variety program in place of those reruns, but it would have them competing against Dick Cavett on ABC and Merv Griffin on CBS with them as well. [13] Though Carson was beating the two of them quite handily, they were still holding their own, especially with niche audiences (Cavett attracted a more highbrow, intellectual crowd; Griffin was warm and genial in contrast to Carson’s more smarmy, detached persona). Eventually, a compromise was reached: in addition to a hefty raise, Carson was granted syndication and distribution rights of The Tonight Show through his production company, and was guaranteed at least one night per week off in his contract. [14] That day quickly became established as Monday (leading to one of his most famous catchphrases, I don’t work on Mondays”), and a small, rotating group of guest hosts would soon becomes fixtures on those nights. Within the late-night business, Monday acquired the nickname “Merv-day” or “Mon-Dick”, as Tonight Show viewers were much more likely to watch one of the other two hosts on that night. It was certainly a far more eventful night than Saturday


    ---

    [1] All in the Family finished at #1 for the fifth (and final) consecutive season IOTL. Sanford and Son ranked at #7, and Happy Days ranked at #11.

    [2] Elvis had just one child IOTL. The Mini-Boom has he and Priscilla say – you guessed it – “let’s have one more”, and their son is named for his stillborn uncle.

    [3] The King held onto the Colonel until his death in 1977 IOTL; however, there were many opportunities for that partnership to fracture from about 1973 on. ITTL, since Elvis is still married to Priscilla, she bolsters his inner resolve and an arrangement is made in which Col. Parker is put out to pasture (his silence arranged through a mutual agreement, as the new manager was smart enough to dig up dirt on his predecessor’s citizenship status and military service); since the Colonel was the primary roadblock against international touring and the movie gig IOTL, these are both able to happen ITTL, allowing Elvis to become one of the first past-his-prime musicians to sustain himself through international tours (many others would follow, as they did IOTL), which also keeps his name in the paper (and allows him to be billed over La Streisand in A Star is Born).

    [4] IOTL, ABC aired the show; NBC buys it up instead, because it fits their
    “image” (think Sanford and Chico) better. The success of the Blackboard Jungle re-release ITTL convinces executives to rip it off, and among the pitches they’ve been given, the Gabe Kaplan sitcom fits best. In effect, he’s having his own show ripped out from under him.

    [5] The casting of the
    “Sweathog” student characters was more ensemble-oriented IOTL, though John Travolta (who was not cast ITTL) quickly emerged as the breakout star.

    [6] Ford was just as big a fan of Police Woman during his OTL Presidency – he once rescheduled a press conference so that he wouldn’t miss an episode.

    [7] Yes, every Tandem show finished in the Top 30 IOTL, including Maude at #4 (it helped that All In The Family was its lead-in).

    [8] Lear and Yorkin ended their partnership at around the same time IOTL, due to what appears to have been “creative differences”.

    [9] The OTL cast members did the exact same thing, creating a spoof “theme song” which was never aired; you can find a fan-edited “intro” based on it right here.

    [10] IOTL, ABC had five shows in the Top 10 and thirteen in the Top 30, putting them at a virtual draw with CBS, which had four shows in the Top 10 and fourteen in the Top 30. This left NBC with only one show (Sanford and Son) in the Top 10 and a mere three in the Top 30 (one of which, Police Woman, was at #30 exactly). Thus, ITTL, NBC is doing much better (despite still technically being in third place overall). This means that they are far less motivated to protect their few hits (because they have more of them), and they are also less desperate and therefore less likely to take chances on wild gambles, as they did at about this time IOTL.

    [11] IOTL, the award for Outstanding Variety Series went to
    NBC’s Saturday Night, with Chevy Chase winning (instead of Elvis) for the same program. Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series went to Jack Albertson, playing the analogous role to Berle; Lead Actress went to Mary Tyler Moore. Outstanding Limited Series was awarded to Upstairs, Downstairs as part of Masterpiece Theatre; as that analogous program is a continuing comedy series, it was not nominated ITTL, allowing Rich Man, Poor Man to win instead.

    [12] IOTL, NBC accepted this arrangement (in desperation, as Carson had threatened to walk to one of the other two networks if his demands went unmet, and the network had very few other hits in this era), resulting in network executive Dick Ebersol deciding to recruit Canadian writer-producer Lorne Michaels to develop an avant-garde comedy/variety program called NBC
    ’s Saturday Night, renamed Saturday Night Live in 1977. That program will never exist ITTL.

    [13] By this point IOTL, both Cavett and Griffin were largely disaffiliated with those respective networks; however, since NBC is spending more resources on other departments, this gives them an edge to remain just competitive enough to solidify their presence on the late-night lineup alongside Carson.

    [14] Most of these contractual arrangements were agreed upon in 1980 IOTL; however, Carson has to concede two key perks: his show still airs regular episodes five days a week (even if he is present for only four of them) and he is still on for ninety minutes as opposed to one hour.

    ---

    One of the quieter overview updates so far, but I like to think that what I
    ve given with one hand, I’ve now taken away with the other. I’ve said it before and now I’ll say it again: television is a zero-sum industry. And yes, as always, I’m laying the groundwork for future updates – indeed, in the very near future in some cases!
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2012
  15. vultan Defying Gravity

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2008
    Location:
    Somewhere Only We Know
    Loved the dialogue bit at the beginning. Could that be... foreshadowing?:cool:

    Yay for Elvis (assumably) fixing up his life here! Him meeting the Muppets seems epic!:D

    Overall, Desilu seems to be in an extremely cozy position. This can only be good for television as a medium.
     
  16. Orville_third Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2009
    Location:
    Piedmont Socialist Republic
    I know Star Trek was the first show to have a "making of" book. I even have a copy or two of it! Steven Whitfield's "The Making of Star Trek".
     
  17. Falkenburg CMII

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2011
    Location:
    Lurking
    Damn I want to see that episode of The Muppets!

    Even by Elvis' standards he's going to have made an incredible amount of money touring internationally.
    And he even gets to do some serious acting as well. :cool:

    I'm sure Justman's future plans (and his eventual replacement) will be just as delightfully intriguing but I can't get past the image of Elvis' duet with Piggy. :D

    Bravo, Brainbin.

    Falkenburg
     
  18. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2009
    Location:
    Charlie Townsend's guest house
    That's not humanism, that's technophobia. It's the green nonsense "technology is evil".:rolleyes: I'm not going to say all technology is good in all its uses. Frex, autopilots & autothrottles in the A320 have caused at least one crash I know of.:eek: Nor is the skyscraper an unvarnished benefit to humanity. Nor, I'd say, is the computer.

    However...the machines that free us to do more things in the same amount of time are good for everybody. Do I anticipate a day when we'll be so productive we'll be compelled to buy stuff? No. (There've been at least two SF stories I know of on this theme...written in the '50s.:eek:) Do I think we can, & should, be making machines that will make our lives easier, more comfortable, safer...? Yes--& that, I suggest, is humanist.

    "STTOS" made the same mistake the gun control loons do: blaming the tool instead of the user.
    I never noticed. I always thought of Dune as a real warning about mistreating the environment, Silent Spring for SF buffs. (And I'll bet more people have read Dune.;))

    As for the latest update, I've got that on the PVR.;) I'll watch it now.
     
  19. NCW8 Just Chilling

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2011
    Location:
    Baselland
    Me too !

    His appearance in London (presumably at the Wembly Arena) is going to be the sell-out gig of the year. I wonder if he'll appear on British tv while he's over. Parkinson or Top of the Pops maybe.

    Cheers,
    Nigel.
     
  20. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2009
    Location:
    Charlie Townsend's guest house
    As usual, nice work, BB.
    Maybe you know better than me, but somehow, I just don't believe that.;)
    *ahem*:p
    Nice touch.:cool: D'you suppose, tho, butterflies might've changed Lisa Marie's name, too?
    From which I take it "The Godfather" is as popular as OTL... (And TV writers who think viewers have the memory of a goldfish will have CIA hitmen quoting Don Corleone...:rolleyes::mad:)
    :cool:
    :cool: I would never have thought of him.
    :confused: I would have called it a straight cop show, or what today'd be a dramedy. (This view does explain that awful movie, tho.:rolleyes:) Have you seen "Hush" (the pilot)? Not a comedy at all...

    And it didn't seem to help the ratings OTL.:confused:
    Tell me you left Valerie alone.:eek: Needless to say, she was the sole reason I ever watched this.:cool::cool: (If you sent Phillips to rehab before casting was done, so much the better.:rolleyes::p)
    Didn't it get changed to 75m before this? Because people were skipping the first 15min to watch local news, or something? Or did the show get pushed back on the schedule?
    Cue ominous music...:p

    Thanks a bunch for the Carson stuff, BTW. I take it, tho, he's still virtually keeping NBC afloat all by his lonesome?
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2012