Thursday, October 25, 2012

Things lost and found: NBC's Red Movie Zipper

There are a lot of things that I miss about TV, and what it used to be.  I for one HATE reality TV because it has nothing to do with reality.  Just bitch fights and marginally entertaining people and HYPE.  Oh, my God, the hype.  And there are dozens and dozens and dozens of channels that carry all sorts of programming, and none of it has anything to do with what the channel was set up to do in the first place.  When was the last time you saw a music video on MTV or VH1?  And WWF on SciFi, which is now SyFy? WTF.

There used to be a time when TV networks were all you got when you flipped on the TV, if you were lucky AND had a good antenna.   The networks brought you escapism entertainment, which is what TV should be all about.

Cable?  We didn't have no stinking cable.  We had aerials and bunny ears, damnit.   If you were really lucky, your parents spent money on an Alliance Tene-Rotor, a device that allowed you to remotely turn your antenna to get better reception using a black box on the top of your TV.  You set the dial (N, W, S, E or degree in between) and the Tene-Rotor did the rest.  And to prove it was doing it, the box let out a horrific KERR-CHUNK noise for each degree that the antenna moved.  It was as loud as someone dropping a piano out of a third story window and hitting the pavement.  Oy!  And you had to be careful that you didn't

And color TV's? Oh, Pish!

We had two large RCA cabinet TV's in our house - one in the living room (back when people actually LIVED in that room) and one in my parents bedroom.  They were in blond wood cases, and you turned the channel by getting up and rotating a big meaty gray plastic dial on the side.  For the first six years of my life the Wizard of OZ was a black and white movie, period.   We got our first color TV when I was five and it was a "portable" model that took two men to carry around.  What made it portable wasn't a handle, it was that it didn't have a piece of furniture around it and indeed sat on a cart with casters.  But IT came with UHF!  We didn't get a TV with remote controls until my mother got the color TV that she had bought for her mother when Grandma was dying of cancer.  When grandma died, we got TV with a remote control.

And we knew who people like Shelia MacCrea were.  They were people we aspired to know.  And we watched shows like Password because they challenged us to think.

And then there was that great Password theme music, too!

Today you have this Snooky business. Who wanted to know anyone named Snooky?  Snooky is what your aunt called your uncle when she wanted to have sex, and it was always done in a secretive fashion.  "C'mon on here, Snookie," was your clue to get out of there.

And then there were the movies.  Each network gave over a night to movies because it was the Reality Programming of its era. Sunday night was a big night for movies.  So were Tuesday nights.  And in rerun season, Saturday night movies came around for people too cheap to take their wives out to see a show.

Major movies eventually made it to TV in the days before HBO, Showtime and movies on demand.  And because they were cheap to make, the networks started producing their own movies - a trend that came to the forefront in the early 1970s when ABC launched its "ABC Movie of the Week" franchise.  Some were great - like Steven Spielberg's "Duel" featuring Dennis Weaver V. a truck.   Some were creepy - like the Cloris Leachman drama "Someone I Touched" where Cloris' husband gives her VD and it ends up ruining everyones life.  Others - "Gidget Gets Married" were downright terrible.  Still, I think what people remember about the Movie of the Week was it's theme - a Bert Bacharach number called "Nikki" that was more popular in the 70's than it was in the 60s when he first wrote it.

And the movies came on TV with big splashy graphics, just like at the movie theatres so you knew it was an "event", not just another program.   At commercial breaks you would get something called a "bumper", which was a brief musical video thing that reminded you to come back to the TV, as the commercials were about to end.

You can find many of these sequences on YouTube that date to the "video" recorder era.  But the earlier ones are hard to find because owning video equipment in the 1960s was an expensive hobby.

This is one of the rare introductions - the NBC Red Zipper that ran from the mid 1960s until NBC hit rock bottom in the mid 1970s.

When you hear this music SOMETHING BIG is on its way.

I don't know much about the movie, Climb Angry An Moutain other than it was one of, if not the last film that Fess Parker did.   The fanfare music was written by Ray Lewis.  My father's cousin Arnold played oboe in numerous Hollywood Orchestras from the 1940s through the 1980s and was in on this number.  Anyway, this appeared on YouTube a number of years ago, then it was removed. Now it's back on. Gotta love YouTube.

Eventually, NBC retired the zipper theme and began relying a great deal on it's successful Sunday Night Mystery Movie franchise.  Its seemed at one point they were running on almost every night.

But then cable came along and that lead to the Premium movie channels with deep pockets and eventually, with the exception of ABC showing the Sound of Music or the Ten Commandments, drove network TV out of the movie showing business by the late 1990s.

I miss these things every now and then.  Technology is a marvellous thing, but sometimes I think there are so many advances that we forget how it used to be, and we forget the things that used to be special - like a movie on network TV on a rainy night when you just wanted to stay home and relax.


  1. Sqwoosh over on that couch, Cookie.

    *heats up Jiffy Pop*

  2. i've searched [in vain] for the 60s theme of sat.nite at the movies. commercial breaks had a tippany-like drum roll. i'd lie in bed and hear it and wish i could be up.

  3. My cheap ass father refused to buy a color TV (I was so humiliated) until two months after I moved out to go to to college. I still hold a grudge.