The Broadcast Goes On

11-Nov-07 5:49 PM by
Filed under Potpourri; Comments Off on The Broadcast Goes On

[Editor's note: After seeing Jack Benny in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, I did an online search and found The Jack Benny Show Podcast (link opens in iTunes). I asked a Showbits reader and historian what he thought of this rebroadcast of the 1932 radio show; his response follows.]

I am also a fan of Jack Benny and am still slowly listening through the entire run of shows that are available. I'm up to the fall of 1950, and the last show on radio was the May 22, 1955 show, before he went entirely to television. Most of them are fun to listen to, and I've certainly become a fan of the show.

The first shows are very different from the formula that he settled upon by the early 1940s, and which he continued until the end of the radio series. Also, the quality of the early shows leaves a LOT to be desired. I didn't try downloading the first podcast to see if this guy cleaned the episodes up at all, but some of them are almost unlistenable they are so bad. Not surprising, however, when you consider that what episodes we have prior to 1939 or 1940 were all recorded on home aluminum disk recorders, rather than on something better quality. Broadcasting companies didn't even feel that recording programs was of any value until the mid-1940s, and it wasn't until the late 1940s that any programs said that they were "transcribed" (recorded); almost everything on the radio was live, and any recordings that existed were done from a radio receiver.

Jack's early shows are reminiscent of the talk show format, where he did some topical humor, almost a monologue like Carson or Leno or Letterman might do today, with some skit thrown in later, and a musical number or two from the ever-present house band. With time he added cast members: Mary Livingston, his wife, was one of the first, then Don Wilson the announcer, then the band leader Phil Harris (later Bob Crosby, Bing's brother), and a tenor to sing a number during the show (first Kenny Baker and then Dennis Day). Rochester, whose real name (Eddie Anderson) was never used on the program as far as I know, came on playing bit parts in the late 1930s, and was so popular that he was added as a regular cast member and even got billing at the start of the show by the early 1940s.

As for the copyright: Apparently, due to changes in the copyright law in the mid 1970s, unless specific actions were taken to copyright a radio program, almost none of them fall under any protection today. Consequently, even shows as late as the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, which aired during the 1970s, are considered today to be in the public domain. As a result, there are thousands of radio programs out there that can be downloaded either for free or for a nominal fee, depending on the host from which they can be downloaded. There are some serious collectors and preservationists out there who offer programs that have been digitized from very good early generation recordings and have also been cleaned up; these are, of course, more expensive (as usual, you get what you pay for).

Some of the best programs I have listened to in the old time radio (OTR) realm are the dramas Escape and Suspense, which did mystery or adventure dramatizations of written short stories of the day. Also some early radio sci-fi like Dimension X and X Minus One have done radio versions of stories by Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov.

Shaken, Not Stirred

06-Jan-07 5:00 PM by
Filed under Potpourri; 1 comment.

With the exception of pop-ups, the Internet affords you more control over your exposure to advertising than standard television does.

Has there ever existed a better example of why you would choose to watch a commercial than this series: Will It Blend?

If you've ever wanted to see an iPod, whole oysters, a golf club, or an entire turkey dinner blended into a delicious smoothie, this site is for you. I imagine the final product may not be wholly safe for consumption (gotta watch those bone shards), but regardless, the product's efficiency cannot be overstated.

However, I encourage you to not let your daily need to blend light bulbs, hockey pucks, and Big Macs persuade you into making this doubtless worthwhile investment. The reasonable $400 price tag, does not, unfortunately, include any potential blending materials. I suggest waiting until a more popular "all-in-one" bundle is available.

Call for Podcasts

16-Dec-06 1:50 PM by
Filed under Potpourri; 1 comment.

This morning, I accepted the role of Tom, Dick, or Harry (I don't know which) in a production of Kiss Me, Kate, being performed this March by the Weston Friendly Society. Since Weston is about 48 minutes east-northeast of my current whereabouts, and rehearsals are three times a week for almost three months, I'm going to be on the road quite a bit.

Having been connived into purchasing an iPod last year, I've not taken full advantage of its podcasting capabilities. I've tried several subscriptions on a variety of subjects, but have limited myself to a few about the Apple II or video games. Are there any good ones out there that cover the film industry with news and reviews (but not so much gossip)? I realize there's a whole category for them in the iTunes Music Store — but where to begin? With your recommendations, of course. Please share!