Wednesday 31 March 2021

Faking It On a Game Show

Contestants told they had to be excited when the camera was on. Hosts who didn’t care if the contestant won or lost.

Oh, how game shows aren’t what they appear on camera.

TV Key columnist Harvey Pack interviewed the great Bill Cullen at least four times between 1960 and 1970. Let’s bring you a pair of columns with Cullen telling some tales. First up is a piece from February 23, 1963 where he talks about the fakery—no, we don’t mean telling people what that trip to Rome costs—and how networks could be cheap when they wanted to be.

$557 Raise for Talent

Right after the war, around 1946, CBS radio carried a non-sponsored afternoon quiz show called "Winner Take All." A network staff announcer used to introduce the sustaining program by saying, "Sound your buzzer . . . (BUZZER), sound your bell (BELL) . . . it's time to play 'Winner Take All.' "
The program was produced by a couple of youngsters named Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, and the $43 a week announcer was a Pittsburgh boy named Bill Cullen. Cullen has been giving away prizes for Goodson-Todman ever since.
"The job was no big deal for me," explained the affable Cullen over lunch. "It was part of my staff job and, in addition to doing that every day, I handled band remotes and the other chores networks gave their announcers.
"Funny thing, at the end of the program I had to say the program was produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, and the next day I was under orders to reverse it to Bill Todman and Mark Goodson. They were names in those days, not an institutional trademark."
Then the regular emcee of "Winner Take All" was fired and CBS brought in a parade of semi-names to run the little quiz. After a few weeks, Goodson and Todman offered young Bill a shot and he did so well that he was permanently assigned to the program.
"This, too, was no bargain," said Bill with a smile. "Now I was doing 'Winner Take All' five days a week, plus all my other tasks for the same $43 a week. The show still wasn't sponsored, but I asked someone at CBS if they could get me an extra $10 or so for the added chores. The word came back . . . no more money but we'll try and eliminate your other assignments."
Bill worked the show under this arrangement for a while and then CBS suddenly sold the program to local sponsors on a participating basis, and the $43 a week announcer was told that his next weekly paycheck would contain an increase for "talent fee."
"I opened up the envelope to see how much more I was making and there it was . . . 'pay to the order of Bill Cullen, $600.' " Wow! Bill shook his head in disbelief as he recalled that check. "I stared at it for about an hour, and then I rushed out of the building, went to a bank and had it converted into green, negotiable coupons. Know what I did then? I walked over to Fifth Avenue, entered the fanciest leather goods store in New York, bought a wallet for $80, stuffed the other $520 into the wallet, and I left that store feeling every bit a millionaire."
Thanks to one of the most winning TV personalities in the business, that wallet has never really been empty. His Goodson-Todman association continued to be a perpetual good luck charm for all parties. He currently handles "The Price Is Right" for them and is a permanent panelist on one of their original properties, "I've Got a Secret."
"For a while all I had was 'I've Got a Secret' so I accepted a coast show called 'Place the Face,' even though it required me to fly to California once a week and return. "But I didn't regret the commuting," he explained, "because I did the beach bit on the coast. Also, and this is the most important, my announcer introduced me to his sister-in-law and I married her."
After getting his share of sunshine and latching on to a lovely wife, Bill took a job on local New York radio, and the commuting was over. "I had to be at the studio at 6 a.m. so the first few years of marriage I had my bride up at 5 to make me breakfast. I stayed with it because it was quite lucrative, but once 'The Price is Right' clicked I knew I'd have to find an out and slow myself down," said Bill.
Contestants Coached
Cullen figured "The Price Is Right" would last about 13 weeks and then be dropped because, as he put it, "People will get tired of seeing the same prizes." He was wrong. The "gimmick" of bonus extras plus the other tricks that Goodson-Todman shows always seem to invent has made the game, sometimes called "What Price Greed," a TV standard.
Many viewers of the show have often wondered why a contestant who lives in the middle of the Mojave desert screams, "I'd just love that, Bill" when a prize they cannot possibly use, like a boat, appears on the turntable.
Bill explained this animated enthusiasm. "We spend a lot of money for those prizes, and it would look terrible if the contestants made a crack about not having any possible use for 'that junk.' Actually, we tell them to act delighted . . . ooh and aah . . . and jump with joy when they land a bonus. The contestants are really nice people, and very good sports."
Bill, his wife and that $80 wallet are now in Florida enjoying a three week vacation just like winners on "The Price Is Right."

Now, to a column from March 1, 1965. You think game show hosts are phoney? It’s because they are, or at least some of them, according to Mr. Cullen. I must admit I’m puzzled, but maybe I’m just different. I’ve given away stuff on the air (including cash into the four figures), and I don’t want to see someone be wrong and lose. If you’ll pardon the poor grammar, I can’t picture not hoping someone will guess all six answers and win the $10,000 Pyramid. And Cullen tells a story that must be about Jack Barry.

They Call Bill Cullen A Good Luck Charm

NEW YORK — I always seem to run into Bill Cullen just as he's about to embark on his annual winter vacation and since the affable emcee of "The Price Is Right" and panelist on “I’ve Got a Secret” always has a few comments to make on the lucrative part of the TV business where he is fast becoming the grand old man, I broke bread with him before he and his lovely wile headed south.
"People call me a good luck charm because my two current jobs, 'Secret' and 'Price' have been on the air a combined total of over twenty years," began Bill. “It comes to about 12½ for ‘Secret,’ and the balance for ‘Price.’ I like the reputation as a guy whose very presence insures success, but I've been on many a 13-week wonder and I'd mention their names but even 'I've Got a Secret.'
Cullen has been employed almost continuously by Goodson-Todman since, as a staff announcer at CBS radio, he took over the quiz-master role on their first creation, "Winner Take All." I asked him what one characteristic an announcer needs if he hopes to jump out of the confines of a “voice-over” job and join the well-paid jovial joes who happily say hello to contestants on TV's many game shows.
“Brashness is the key,” said Bill after a minute's thought. "I know a lot of the boys may appear to be humble and shy, but you can bet your bottom dollar it's an act. I've met a lot of capable announcers who've wanted to try their hand at emceeing a game show, but when we've offered them the opportunity they've backed away. And in every case it's been because they lacked the necessary brashness to face a studio audience and a group of contestants."
Part of The Act
On the old quiz shows, according to Bill, the quizmaster had to be a bit of an actor. Hal March, Cullen said, best exemplified this breed because March could sweat it out with the poor contestant who was searching for an answer and make the viewer think he was one hundred per cent on the side of the contestant. “I never did a big money quiz show,” added Bill, “and I was offered plenty of them. The reason was quite simple. I knew I wouldn't care whether a guy won or lost and I wasn’t ready to put on an act. Hal March probably did care, but it was the way he did it that made him a top quizmaster.”
Cullen recalled the classic story of a quiz emcee who was rooting against the contestant. It seems this emcee was a partner in the program and he had already received his post-scandal cancellation when he went on the air with his final show, which included a $50,000 dollar question for some carry-over contestant. Now, Cullen explained, as a partner in the show that 50 grand, if won, would come right out of our hero’s pocket which would have been great for the ratings if the show had been renewed but now represented a potential total loss.
The emcee asked the question and waited breathlessly, for the answer which was given almost immediately by the confident contestant. There was a pause while the audience waited to hear if the expert had scored and was about to be awarded the 50 big ones. Well, concluded Cullen, the answer had been incorrect and the emcee, unable to contain himself, laughed right in the poor’s man’s face while telling him he was wrong. “It was beautiful,” summarized Bill, “Those of us who understood the financial background of the situation viewed it like a Charles Addams cartoon.”
The brash Mr. Cullen tried his hand at comedy writing before hitting the mother lode with Goodson-Todman and he frankly admits he was anything but funny. “Goody kept me on and that pay-check was there every week. It was stealing and if Goody Ace were to make an issue about it today I'd return every cent to him.”

Tuesday 30 March 2021

How To Imitate Tex Avery Poorly

There are three imitations in Krazy’s Bear Tale (released January 1939). First, Krazy Kat is doing one of the world’s worst Fred Allen impressions as the cartoon narrator. Mama Bear does one line like Tizzy Lish. And the whole thing is one big impression of a Tex Avery cartoon, where the narrator and the characters interact. Tex was funny. This is laboured.

“When the three bears found their porridge was too hot, they decided to take a walk ‘til it cooled off,” says the narrator. But no, the bears keep eating. The narrator becomes emphatic: “I said...” then repeats the line. The bears stop eating. “Come on,” says the papa bear confidentially to the mama bear, “we’ve got to take a walk.” The bears walk out of the frame. “Thank you,” says the narrator. Papa Bear pokes his head back in the scene. “Thank you!” he says.

“A little girl by the name of Goldilocks came along.” Into the scene enters a Hollywood glamour puss. It’s not Garbo, Dietrich or Davis. If it were ten years earlier it might be Gloria Swanson. I haven’t a clue who it is. “Pardon me, Miss,” says the narrator as the starlet swirls around dramatically. “Aren’t you on the wrong set?” She faces the camera, looks at the bear home, then high-stomps out of the cartoon. “I thought so,” says the narrator, and goes back to his script.

Theatre manager reviews in the Motion Picture Herald:
“Very good cartoon. A story of Goldilocks and the three bears, so do not run it too close to Metro’s same cartoon.”
“Can O.K. this one. A few complained that the story varied which was what it obviously intended to do.”
“Not a rib-tickling side-splitter but plenty amusing. Good enough.”

Billy Bletcher is the Papa Bear and my guess is Danny Webb is Krazy Kat.

Allen Rose is the writer and Harry Love and Lou Lilly the animators on this. Joe De Nat has a music credit but there are whole chunks of this cartoon where is no music.

Monday 29 March 2021

You Know The Ending

Other than maybe Duck Amuck or What's Opera, Doc, the most famous ending for a Chuck Jones cartoon may be in Chow Hound (released 1951), all written by the brilliant Mike Maltese.

A violent and obsessive bulldog forces a cat and mouse to bring him food, complaining each time they forgot to bring the gravy. Eventually, the dog scams the four “owners” of the same cat out of reward money that he uses to buy a butcher shop. But karma comes calling. He swells beyond recognition from overeating and ends up on a hospital operating table.

The tormented exact their revenge. You’re a cartoon fan so you know what the cat says.

Yeah, the sweat disappeared during the closer shot, but I doubt theatre audiences noticed.

There was a knock against Maltese that he wasn’t strong on story, but he certainly is here. He sets up a running routine with a payoff at the end. You can’t structure a story much better than that.

Ken Harris, Phil Monroe, Lloyd Vaughan and Ben Washam are the credited animators, with John T. Smith playing the bulldog.

Sunday 28 March 2021

The Serious and Not-So Series Benny Interviews

Newspapers seem to love it when Jack Benny came to town. They got a performance. And I don’t mean the show he put on for the public.

In March 1971, he took his violin out of its case in Florida for a string of performances in various cities. There always seems to have been a Benny news conference upon arrival, though he would make himself available for individual interviews (sometimes while wearing his bathrobe in his hotel room). In peering at various publications around the time, Benny got lots and lots of free ink locally.

Before we get to a story about a joked-up newser, let’s give you a more serious story from the Associated Press before Jack left California for the other orange-growing state. This appeared in papers around March 8, 1971.

Benny Violin Raises $5 Million for Music

HOLLYWOOD (AP) — Jack Benny and his magic violin will appear in concert Tuesday night with the symphony orchestra of Jacksonville, Fla., boosting to more than $5 million the amount of money he has raised for serious music.
Not bad for the man who is America's most famous tightwad.
Benny starts on his sixth million Wednesday night, when he will display his virtuoso talents with the Florida Symphony of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Before leaving for the Florida concerts, Benny reflected on his career as a serious musician and fund-raiser for America's ailing symphonies.
"Funny thing about this date," he said. "My total for the symphony appearances was up to $4,870,000. Now in Jacksonville they expected to raise $60,000 and in St. Petersburg $70,000. I told the people in St. Petersburg I hoped they could get that much, because that would put me over the $5 million.
"Then the people in Jacksonville called me to say they wanted to put me over. They found a man who was willing to put up $100,000 for two tickets. Imagine! A hundred thousand for two lousy tickets!"
Benny began his career in the concert halls on Oct. 2, 1956, when he appeared with conductor Alfred Wallenstein in New York's Carnegie Hall at a benefit to save the hall from destruction.
"I did three concerts with Wallenstein—Carnegie Hall, Philadelphia and Los Angeles," said the comedian-violinist. "He was great. Since then I've played with them all.”
At first Benny appeared for various charity causes, but then former President Truman chartered his course:
"I was to play a benefit for Mr. Truman's library in Independence. Then he called me up and said, 'Jack our (Kansas City) symphony needs more help than the library does.' Ever since then I’ve played for the benefit of the orchestras."
Benny practiced eight months for his first concert, now steals the time from his other activities when he can. “I really enjoy practicing, but I don't have the time." During the concert he engages in much horseplay with the conductor and a few members of the orchestra, but his renditions of the numbers are for real.
"I like good music," Benny reflected. "I didn't realize how much I liked it until I started playing these concerts.. Before, my close friends were primarily actors and vaudevillians. Now some of my closest friends are musicians.
The Benny concerts have ranged as far as Israel and London, but most have been in the United States. He can manage only about five a year, "but I'd like to cut down on my other activities so I can do more." If you want to see Mr. Benny at something less than $50,000 a seat, he is appearing Wednesday night in an NBC Special, "Everything you wanted to know about Jack Benny—but were afraid to ask."

Now a feature story from the Tampa Tribune of March 7, 1971. The guy has a CAPS fetish when he JOKES about what Jack SAID, but if you can HANDLE that, you can get through the whole story.

Jack Benny Never Said Anything Funny . . . Much

Tribune Staff Writer
Somebody—who wasn't being unkind—once said that Jack Benny has never said ANYTHING funny in his life. He's only SAID lots of things very funny indeed. So yesterday, at a press conference at the Tampa Sheraton Motor Inn, the famous Comedian of Style, who's in Florida to perform twice with his violin and funny pauses, grimaces, gestures and emphasized inflections to raise money for symphonic orchestras here and Jacksonville, said nothing at all really funny.
Yet an assemblage of TV camera men, news reporters, orchestra representatives and PR men laughed from the first "Well . . ." to the last "you know."
"WELL . . ." he said, "I don't say I'm a good violinist ... you know Isaac Stern . . . you know Isaac Stern is a GREAT violinist, he's also a VERY good friend, and when anybody asks Isaac Stern, 'How well does Jack Benny . . . play the violin, he's got the most beautiful answer you've ever HEARD, he says, 'well ENOUGH for his PURPOSES."
Lots of laughter.
"And that's the GREATEST answer because that fits EXACTLY. Because the audiences, they APPLAUD, and they LAUGH and they CARRY ON, so that's MY purpose. And ah . . . I play WELL ENOUGH for THAT."
HE HAS played well enough, in—he guesses—over a hundred benefit concerts, four or five a year for 15 years, to have raised $4,870,000 for symphony orchestras around the country, and he will pass the $5 million mark Tuesday in Jacksonville, coming back to St. Petersburg's Bayfront Center Wednesday night to raise more and embellish the accolade bestowed on him when he was introduced to the press yesterday as "The man who's done more for symphony orchestras in America than any other single individual." He has done it, he says, more by attracting people who DON'T KNOW they love GOOD MUSIC than by raising money.
"AH . . . THERE ARE . . . a percentage, a certain per cent of people who like it, and some . . . that DON'T. But let me tell you something . . . Those . . . there are a lot of them ... who IMAGINE they don't like it . . . now, for instance . . . before I gave concerts, I DIDN'T KNOW I was going to like it, good music ... I WOULDN'T MISS A CONCERT NOW, if I can go, FOR ANYTHING ... I found out I LIKE IT, see. . . NOW, ... MY ROLE is helping the musicians, the orchestras ... by bringing in certain people who WOULDN'T GO ... I'VE KNOWN cases where the people DID come in . . . AND SUDDENLY REALIZED that they LIKE good music, and never knew that they DID."
Much laughter.
So he attracts people who like good music but don't know it, and he does it by making people laugh, but remember he doesn't say anything funny, it's the way he says it, and what he does.
FOR instance, he plays the violin seriously, he plays the violin and he makes a real effort to play well. Somebody, for example, asked what piece he finds most difficult to play, and he said,
"ALL OF THEM." (Rousing laughter.) "I haven't FOUND a number that isn't difficulty 1 pick CONCERTOES [sic], and I try to ... ah ... find the EASIEST PARTS and put them together." (Laughter) "ah, in MENDLESOHNN [sic] I play the whole first movement, in BEETHOVEN, which is VERY difficult, I try to find 15 or 20 minutes that I can PUT TOGETHER, see . . . and it turns out FINE . . . but it's DIFFICULT.
"But even to play BADLY, you have to practice, if you don't practice, you can't even play BADLY, and I LIKE practicing . . . it's a hobby of mine, but I don't get enough. You should practice at LEAST two hours a day, and I average about ... 45 minutes."
"BUT SEE, the audiences, and the MUSIC CRITICS, they go along with the gag . . . the fact that I think I'm one of the world's GREAT violinists . . . and that's the way the SHOW goes on, as if I am one of the world's great violinists 4. . . and it doesn't come OFF. And it's funny that way." But he has a problem Wednesday, when he plays with the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra in St. Petersburg, because that's the day his latest special goes on TV.
"If there's ANYTHING I hate to do, it's take a COUPLE OF THOUSAND PEOPLE away from my TV show." (Laughter.) "Because the same people that come to the CONCERT would certainly be WILLING to listen to my TV show, wouldn't they?" (Laughter.) "That's kind of SAD." (Great laughter.) "I always feel bad about that.”
THE TV show which Benny said "is EQUALLY as good as my last special . . . PERHAPS FUNNIER because it's crazier" (Laughter), will have John Wayne, and Dione [sic] Warwick, and Frank Sinatra . . . and it will be known as "What you've ALWAYS Wanted to Know About JACK BENNY . . . but Were AFRAID to Ask." (Much laughter).
So, HERE'S a question which didn't come out in the PRESS CONFERENCE but which HAS to be asked:
HOW ... you know ... do you STOP writing like Jack Benny, who NEVER says ANYTHING funny but gets SUCH TREMENDOUS laughs, since you end up . . . HOPING . . . you know . . . that what you'll write . . .
Well . . .

These stories don’t mention it, but ex-Tonight Show bandleader Skitch Henderson was the guest conductor. We’ll skip the reports on the concerts. We’ve got another tale to tell out of Florida next Sunday.

Saturday 27 March 2021

Smearing the Vienna Woods

Bugs Bunny wearing a blue bra.

Elmer Fudd with his hands down his pants.

A swan ploughing her face into her own rear end.

Where else would you find such things except in a Bob Clampett cartoon?

They certainly wouldn’t be in a Walt Disney cartoon. But they are in Clampett’s answer to Disney’s Fantasia, A Corny Concerto, released by Warner Bros. on September 25, 1943.

Clampett took two pieces of Johann Strauss’ music and animated two mini-cartoons. Musical director Carl Stalling treats the classical music fairly straight and having the full Warner Bros. orchestra behind him certainly helps set a high-class atmosphere, which juxtaposes very nicely with the un-Disney-like gags Clampett and writer Frank Tashlin came up with. That includes the travesty commentary by Clampett’s stand-in for Disney’s Deems Taylor, Elmer Fudd. The two have little in common. Suffice it to say, Wascawwy Elmer never broadcast in dulcet tones from Carnegie Hall.

The cartoon has something else I doubt is found in the Disney feature—smear animation. It looks like the smears Virgil Ross did in other cartoons for Clampett (and later Friz Freleng).

You’ll find it in the second half of the cartoon, set to the music of Strauss’ “The Blue Danube.” A vulture has absconded with a mother’s little baby swans. Mama Swan lifts a branch over the water to let them pass under it. All that appears are the baby’s shadows. Then she realises something is wrong and goes on a mad hunt.

Here’s where the mother swan has her head up her ... well, almost. Then she realises it.

Back to the hunt.

Clampett told historian Mike Barrier he was not happy with some of the timing. One of the animators—who it was he didn’t say—felt the animation should be timed closer to the accents in the music. Clampett wanted a more balletic approach (the first cartoon ends with Bugs Bunny as a ballerina).

One of the puzzling things about Virgil Ross at this time was his treatment on screen. After Eatin’ On The Cuff was released on August 22, 1942, Ross never got another screen credit in the Clampett unit. Bob McKimson and Rod Scribner alternated, though Ross was animating in the unit. He was bypassed (McKimson is credited in this cartoon). Late in life, Ross admitted that he and Clampett hadn’t gotten along. “I didn’t seem to have what he wanted most of the time,” Ross said.

It’s not clear when he left Clampett, but Ross moved over to the Freleng unit and received his first rotational animator credit on Slightly Daffy, released June 17, 1944 (ironically a remake of a Clampett short, though using Clampett’s 1930s, non-Ross unit).

Clampett also mentioned to Mike Barrier the uncredited background artist was Dick Thomas. Also uncredited is the effects animator, probably Ace Gamer.

References of the times seem to be something found in every Clampett cartoon. The vulture claps his hands like Hugh Herbert and plants a 4F sign on the eventually-heroic baby duck, signifying he is unfit for military service. A war is on, you know.

1943 was an interesting year for Clampett. His Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs and Tin Pan Alley Cats were released before this cartoon, along with Daffy’s burlesque strip act in The Wise Quacking Duck and the suicide-ending Tortoise Wins By a Hare. His next cartoon would be Falling Hare, where Bugs and a gremlin play head games with the audience, and the dog/butt-rubbing An Itch In Time.

And Clampett’s cartoons only got better.

Friday 26 March 2021

Spike Turnaround

How do in-betweens work? Here’s how Spike is turned to see his new “dog” friend in Tex Avery’s Counterfeit Cat (released 1950). He turns one way, then the other.

Mike Lah, Grant Simmons and Walt Clinton animate the story. Rich Hogan and Jack Cosgriff receive story credits.

Thursday 25 March 2021


Jewish stereotypes from New York’s garment district appear in a familiar ethnic gag in Jolly Little Elves, a 1934 Walter Lantz cartoon based on the Shoemaker and the Elves story.

Mr. Kitzel hasn’t been invented on radio yet, so we don’t get a Yiddish-sounding “Hmmm...could be!” like in cartoons a few years later. But we get a shrug and one elf marks the shoe as kosher.

The Lantz-o-pedia on-line gives the following credits that are not on the cartoon: Story and Lyrics, Walter Lantz and Victor McLeod; Artists: Manuel Moreno, Lester Kline, Fred Kopietz, Bill Mason, and La Verne Harding; Musical Score: James Dietrich. Berneice Hansell sings the doughnut song.

The cartoon was Lantz’s first in colour (not counting The King of Jazz inserts) and was nominated for an Oscar.

Wednesday 24 March 2021

What’s New is Old Again

It’s simple marketing. If people want chocolate ice cream, then companies will make chocolate ice-cream.

Radio’s a consumer product, too, so if people want game shows, then companies will make game shows.

That basic fact eluded noted radio critic John Crosby, who complained about new shows debuting in the fall sounding like shows that were already on the air.

But in his column of August 12, 1946, he rightly takes the networks to task for their spin, as they claimed entertainment shows are really public service broadcasts. Just because Superman “teaches” kids right from wrong doesn’t make it an educational show.

“Shows of Tomorrow”
Every year “Radio Daily,” a trade publication, issues a “Shows of Tomorrow” edition, a hopeful title though it rarely ever lives up to its name. This year is no exception. Some 700 radio programs are listed in the current edition and, after running through as many as possible, I am able to report that radio tomorrow is going to be pretty much like radio yesterday or, for that matter, radio ten years ago.
Most of next year’s entries are just old shows with new names. Sometimes even the names are reminiscent. Musical programs head the list with 120 entries. Next come dramatic shows with murder and family stuff dividing fairly evenly. Also listed are forty—count them—forty quiz shows and countless other give-away programs which will next year present housewives from Weehawken, Missoula and Buffalo with an impressive array of iceboxes, nylon umbrellas, and form-fitting girdles.
* * *
“Radio Daily” has also assembled statements from representatives of all four major networks to defend the depressing array. I found myself in disagreement with all but the spokesman for the Columbia Broadcasting System. Let’s take him first.
C.B.S. news coverage has long been the most complete and most imaginative on the air. Yet it’s heartening to note that Lyman Bryson, counselor on public affairs at that network, views the C.B.S. performance with a distinct lack of complacence.
“All too often,” says Mr. Bryson, “radio offers clouded, incomplete or distorted reflections of the domestic scene . . . The superficiality of our informational public service is at times astonishing . . . News reporting through the media of radio should go far beyond the news itself . . .”
This is certainly sound doctrine, but beyond that, it reveals a welcome state of mind. The C.B.S. news bureau has won so many accolades it could very well rest on its oars. Still it is dissatisfied with its own performance and will try to do better.
* * *
I should like to contrast the spirit of that statement with that of C.L. Menser, vice-president in charge of programs at the National Broadcasting Company. Among other things, Mr. Menser said that give-away shows “meet the public interest”—a nice phrase—because there is a Cinderella aspect to them which appeals to listener and participant alike.
Broadcasters, I find, are extraordinarily ingenious at explaining the success of a program after it succeeds, but not nearly so ingenious at trying out new, and possibly equally successful formulas. I have grave doubts about Mr. Menser’s statements on give-away programs. Radio, it seems to me, is just going through a phase that newspapers got out of their systems twenty years ago. Most of us remember when newspapers gave away encylopedias and Frigidaires to gain circulation. Publishers started shying away from this sort of come-on when they found out the circulation lasted only as long as the gifts. The best way to build circulation in a newspaper is to build a good newspaper. The broadcasters will discover the same thing. But not next year.
* * *
Phillips Carlin, vice-president in charge of programs at the Mutual Broadcasting System, holds a theory on public service programs almost as illuminating as Mr. Menser’s theory on give-away shows. Mr. Carlin implies, without actually saying, that a public service program is any program which interest, diverts, or enlightens the listener. In that category, he places “Superman,” “Leave It To The Girls,” “Juvenile Jury” and, of all people, Gabriel Heatter [photo, left] “who kept millions of war wives and mothers in hope—which he sold tubes and bottles.”
I agree with Mr. Carlin that “Juvenile Jury” and “Leave It To The Girls” are original and entertaining programs, but I disagree that they’re public service programs or anything near it.
I you’re still seeking a definition for public service, Mr. Carlin, you might ponder my own. A public service program is one that elevates the public taste, informs the public mind, or stirs human emotions on some issue worth being stirred about. A program that merely diverts is not in that category no matter how worthwhile as entertainment.
“Is it public service,” asks Mr. Carlin, “to cheer up old men and widows with comedy or must we ask them to keep tuned while we dramatize the life of an ant eater?”
You don’t have to dramatize the life of an ant eater, Mr. Carlin. But how about restoring the “Newsweek” program which dramatized little-known news stories? It was both instructive and entertaining, despite which it was bounced off your network several months ago.

As promised, below you can read Crosby’s remaining four columns of the week. They are about shows lost to time. On August 13th, he griped about an American programme and one brimming with flag-waving. He looked at programs aimed at helping WW2 veterans on August 14th. He wondered on August 15th about whether radio was just noise, and on August 16th he looked at continuing drama series based on real events. Click on them to make them larger.