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Pioneers of television

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Mark Suszko
Pioneers of television
on Jan 20, 2011 at 8:55:51 pm

The PBS series started this week in my area with Pioneers of Science Fiction. Great show, very nice historic re-creations of period locations and occurrences. Two things that I took notice of:

1: they couldn't afford the actual Trek theme music, but they did a scandalously close-sounding sound-alike version that many casual viewers might not even have noticed.

2: I didn't know that among the actors considered before Shatner was Jack Lord who went on to Hawaii Five-O, and Lloyd Bridges (?!?!?!)

I am bending my mind, trying to imagine either of those two men as James T. Kirk.


Though in the way Lord acted on and later ran the H5-0 show after Leonard Freeman died, it was very similar to Shatner's hammy dominance and minimization of the ensemble cast, though maybe not as physical as Shatner.


The PBS show covered Rod Serling pretty well, but also gave a great amount of attention and affection for Irwin Allen and his Prodigious Plethora of Productions, to coin a "Dr. Smithism". Lost In Space, Time Tunnel, Voyage to The Bottom Of The Sea, Land of the Giants... he was like a TV version of Roger Corman.

I had a love/hate relationship as a pre-teen and teen viewer of Allen's shows. I was hungry for ANY S.F. stories, and goofy as these were, they had colorful and interesting sets, props, effects, and settings for the stories... even if the plots and acting were weak, and the budgets laughable.


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Tim Wilson
Re: Pioneers of television
on Jan 21, 2011 at 7:12:58 pm

[Mark Suszko] "2: I didn't know that among the actors considered before Shatner was Jack Lord who went on to Hawaii Five-O, and Lloyd Bridges (?!?!?!)"

Check out this internal memo from Paramount on casting for ST:TNG: Yaphet Kotto for Picard, Wesley Snipes for Geordi, "Denise Crosby appears to be the only choice for Troi at this time", on and on. Pretty cool.

And a fantastic letter to his agent from Gene Roddenberry after NBC threatened to spike his first pilot...which they eventually did. Very powerful stuff about the refusal to compromise artistic vision.

My favorite early TV *programming* pioneer was Pat Weaver, Sigourney's dad. He came up with shows including Today and Tonight (with original...and maybe still my favorite...host Steve Allen), and originated the 4 sitcoms and a drama model for prime time.

He also created the idea of networks owning shows then selling commercial space, rather than having ad agencies own the shows and buy time for the whole thing. Pat's thinking was that there was more money to be made from selling time to lots of sponsors in every episode.

Overall, the guy whose influence is most easily still felt in the SHAPE of things, and well worth looking into more deeply.


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