Sunday 31 December 2023

With This Post

We conclude our broadcast for now. Thanks for reading.

Those Big Red Letters

Ask a radio fan the product that Jack Benny sponsored, the answer you’ll likely get is Jell-O.

Sorry, F.E. Boone and Speedy Riggs.

In fact, a case could be made that it was the most popular sponsor connection of all time. Witness this video snippet, and how Don Wilson gets prolonged applause when he launches into one of his most famous commercial lines. More than 30 years after last plugging the “six delicious flavors” on radio, he doesn’t need a script to name them. In order. I’m a little disappointed he didn’t tell us to “Look for the big red letters on the box.” (General Foods engaged in as much overly-repetitious sloganeering as George Washington Hill did for Lucky Strikes).

What Jack Benny did for Jell-O (and, perhaps, vice-versa) was part of a feature story on the wobbly gelatin in the December 1950 edition of Modern Packaging (there seems to have been a magazine for everything at one time). Here’s most of the portion which mentions Benny, who was not being sponsored by the company at the time.

General Foods participated in one of the first [radio] advertising campaigns when it joined with the Borden Co. and others in 1928 in sponsoring the Radio Household Institute. By 1933 Jell-O had its own program—the Wizard of Oz series, for which it paid NBC a modest $51,214. Then came Jack Benny.
The association of Jell-O with Jack Benny was one of the most famous in radio-advertising history and, along with progressive packaging and merchandising policies, is considered by trade observers to have been perhaps the greatest factor in recent years in building Jell-O sales to their present staggering total.
Jell-O sponsored the Benny program for 10 years, from 1934 to 1944. In literally millions of American homes, over hundreds of Sunday evenings, listeners settled back with a smile of anticipation at the familiar greeting “Jell-O again! This is Jack Benny,” and they stayed to chuckle over Don Wilson’s exuberant banter about the “six delicious flavors,” and the quartet’s merry jingle ending with a crescendo “J-E-L-L-O!”
The charm of the Jack Benny touch is hard to define, but it has kept him at or near the top in listener ratings for close to 20 years and made him the star salesman of the air waves. As between Jack Benny and Jell-O, it is a question who did most for whom. Jack was certainly instrumental in keeping Jell-O the best-selling gelatin dessert during the period of its toughest competition and, on the other hand, the General Foods people were instrumental in developing the good-humored, easy-to-take, tuneful touch on commercials, which has since become recognized as the Jack Benny style. Benny and Jell-O were linked in the public mind as a pleasant experience, a happy time. When Benny finally shifted to another sponsor in the fall of 1944, people were heard to say that it didn’t seem quite right; they missed that familiar “Jell-O, again” greeting.
It was an amicable parting when Benny and Jell-O went their separate ways. There was no official explanation and the advertising trade has been able to adduce only two logical reasons for the break: (1) that Benny and his large cast were becoming excessively expensive at a time when most advertisers were turning to the popular and inexpensive quiz shows and (2) that after 10 years of Benny it seemed to General Foods that a change to other media might be equally or even more effective.
According to the New York Times, General Foods in 1940 was devoting more than three-quarters of its Jell-O advertising appropriation to Benny, paying him about $630,000—in addition to the network cost—for 35 half-hour appearances. When Benny signed for his eighth year with Jell-O, in the spring of 1941, Newsweek estimated that he had an audience of 40, 000,000 listeners. But in the seasons starting in 1941, ’42 and ’43—which also coincided with the start of World War II—Benny’s listener rating dropped from 1st to 5th or 6th and this may have had something to do with General Foods’ decision to change.

There are several bits of information the article omits. Show biz trade publications in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s reveal General Foods tried to get Jack off Jell-O and onto another of its many products, but Jack refused. Finally, the wartime sugar shortage, coupled with the expense of mounting the show, resulted in General Foods plugging Grape Nuts Flakes for the start of the 1942-43 season. The switch made economic sense, but it hurt the show in my opinion.

Setting aside the sometimes ridiculous ad copy Don Wilson was forced to read, the double plural in the product has always bothered my ears, and telling people to “Eat a better breakfast, do a better job” is, frankly, insulting. Listeners likely thought they were already working hard, especially if they were involved in the war effort. And, to be honest, Jell-O is a lot more fun than some dried flakes. Jell-O provided one of the biggest laughs ever at the end of the Benny show on Dec. 13, 1936 when Andy Devine screwed up the name of the product on the West Coast (second) show. Even the KFI announcer is laughing.

Shows from bases aimed mainly at the military and not listeners, cast changes (eg. adding insurance salesman Herman Peabody and Minerva Pious with her “I’m not talking to you!” catchphrase), Jack’s month-long absence due to serious pneumonia, Dennis Day’s departure, all of that certainly didn’t help maintain ratings, especially with newer talent like Bob Hope and Red Skelton coming along. In June 1944, General Foods got out of the Benny business until years later on television.

The relationship between the Benny show and Jell-O could be odd at times. Some grocery stores didn’t advertise Jell-O in newspapers. They advertised “Jack Benny Jell-O.” General Foods, as you may know, also advertised in newspapers with some excruciatingly bad-looking “comics” with Jack and Mary plugging the stuff. And my understanding is Jack never ate Jell-O.

The people who appeared on Jack’s show, when making their own personal appearances, were connected with Jell-O in newspaper ads. I don’t think it was contractual, because Don Bestor wasn’t employed by General Foods when the ad below came out, and Dick Hotcha Gardner was only on Jack’s show when it was sponsored by Canada Dry.

Saturday 30 December 2023

Paul Fennell

Animated television commercials were still popular with ad agencies and clients as 1960 drew to an end. Small production houses continued to make them on both coasts and in a number of other cities, including Albuquerque.

Below are some far-too-low resolution frames taken from the pages of Television Age for November and December 1960.

A bit of a key if you haven’t caught these compilations before—

Ray Fatava was a former animator for Gene Deitch at Terrytoons. Elektra was fronted by Abe Liss, ex-UPA animator. Ray Patin was an ex-Disney and Warners animator; his art director was John Dunn. Lars Colonius had been a Disney man, who later made the favourite fallout paranoia film Duck and Cover. Film Fair was run by Gus Jekel. Playhouse Pictures was owned by Ade Woolery with Bill Melendez as one of his top creative people. Animation Inc. was led by Earl Klein, who was a layout artist for Chuck Jones in the war years. Fred Crippen was the president of Pantomime. Pelican was the company started by ex-MGM animator Jack Zander. And Joe Oriolo was in charge of the Felix the Cat TV cartoons made at Paramount and distributed by Trans-Lux. In what looks like a promo frame below, Felix is doing a send-up of Ed Murrow's Person to Person TV show, complete with lit cigarette and ashtray.

A number of studios aren’t represented in the frames above, including Quartet Films (Art Babbitt, Arnold Gillespie, Stan Walsh and Les Goldman), Grantray-Lawrence (Ray Patterson, Grant Simmons), Cascade Pictures (Tex Avery and Bill Mason), Herb Klynn’s Format Films (gearing up to produce The Alvin Show) and Paul Kim and Lew Gifford out of New York.

One other name missing from the list is Paul J. Fennell, who seems to have wound down his studio on North La Cienega Blvd. and accepted a job as a director at Hanna-Barbera before being hired four months later in July 1959 as an associated producer by Larry Harmon Productions, makers of Bozo the Clown TV cartoons and sub-contracted to make some of the Popeye cartoons for Al Brodax of King Features, as well as Dick Tracy and Mr. Magoo TV shorts for UPA. An ad in Billboard in its Dec. 16, 1957 issue marks the studio’s 12th anniversary with a list of clients, including Campbell Soups, Kellogg, Philco and U.S. Rubber, makers of Keds running shoes. The company animated Kedso the Clown. The studio’s art director was Ed Benedict before he went to MGM.

But Fennell went back long before that and was one of the veterans who stuck around animation for decades. Chuck Jones says his first job at Leon Schlesinger’s studio in 1933 was assisting Fennell, who had been hired from Disney to animate when Schlesinger parted with producers Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising earlier in the year.

Fennell was born November 9, 1909 in Grafton, Nebraska. The 1930 Census reports he was a private at the U.S. Naval Air Station near San Diego. In April the following year, his career took a large turn as he was hired at Walt Disney. After his stint at Schlesinger, he was employed by Harman and Ising on their MGM cartoons; Bill Hanna said he was the uncredited co-director of To Spring. Hugh and Rudy were bounced in 1937; by December that year, Fennell was hired at Ub Iwerks’ newly refinanced Animated Cartoons, Inc., which was renamed Cartoon Films, Ltd. Through some set of circumstances, Iwerks returned to Disney and Fennell took over the operations, making animated commercials for movie theatres and the Gran’ Pop Monkey cartoons originally intended for British cinemas. Among his animation staff were Rudy Zamora, Don Williams, Tom McKimson and Ed Benedict.

We’ll allow the Los Angeles Tidings, a Catholic newspaper, of October 1, 1954 to fill us in about Fennell’s biography and his post-war studio.

Inside TV Commercials
When those little figures in the cartoon commercials dance across your TV screen, do you flip to another channel while Junior howls: “I want to see the funnies?"
Or do they "get" you as they must be getting millions of others?
These little creatures of crayon are big business in TV today. Yet few persons realize the time, effort, and hard cash that go into the making of each single, one-minute cartoon.
According to Paul J. Fennell, one-time Disney animator, who now operates his own studies at 404 La Cienega Blvd., it takes staff of about 20 talented artists, technicians and ideas experts from 10 days to two weeks to turn out a commercial cartoon you'll see on your TV set in one minute flat.
At the Fennell studio, equipment and processes are just the same as at the vast Disney plant. The scale is smaller, but the objective is the same. And Paul Fennell is quick to point out that the inspiration behind the commercial cartoon had its source in the fertile land of Walt Disney.
Told It to the Marines.
Back in 1931, Fennell, "always able to draw a little," joined the Disney staff. He was there 3 1/2 years. He worked too for Schlesinger’s cartoon department at Warners and for Paramount in New York, where he drew some of the early caricatures of Popeye.
Paul Fennell himself was a marine. He joined them first when only 19 and got into that Nicaragua jaunt. His second hitch, during World War II, found him at the photo-science labs operated by the Navy where, directly under late Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, he organized a team to "draw pictures of battles: not to fight them."
Every naval engagement had to be filmed to instruct personnel and inform strategists. This couldn't be done during actual battles, so it had to be reconstructed by Fennell and others. They used "doodles" for ships, and in cartoon form tested the deployment of US and enemy warships.
When Paul Fennell, by this time a lieutenant colonel, left the service in 1945, he'd had a lot of additional experience. Friends offered to put up the cash to enable him to "start on his own." Shaking a bit, he agreed. For one thing, his wife Lucille—a convert, by the way—already had presented him three of the four children they now have. They had the family—it's now two of each—but, as yet, no home.
The firm now is debt-free, and the Fennells have a fine home out in the San Fernando Valley parish of St Francis de Sales. Prayer, faith and enterprise have been rewarded.
Precision Amazing.
The Fennell studio, humming like a hive, turns out such familiar animated cartoon characters as the Campbell Soup Kids; the tumble-haired boy with a Cheerio muscle in his arm; Snap, Krackle and Pop, the Rice Krispy trio; and several other of the little folks you let into you home for a minute, now and again.
Everything is done with precise sketches and suitable forms of animation. You would be amazed how many different drawings have to be made.
Even a one-minute cartoon often meant drawing and coloring 1,000 different, consecutive pictures. The backgrounds, all drawn separately, change from 20 to a hundred times—which multiplies the chores.
Success Speaks Well.
There's more to it, however, than just drawing. These cartoon creatures—whether used in commercials or theatrical films—begin to live, to take on personality. Then, like real mortals, they begin also to reflect examples, good or bad.
Paul Fennell, a life-long Catholic, makes sure that what they say, sing or do is always morally decent.
He speaks more of "keeping them in good taste,” but says “they're comical and amusing only when they’re clean.”
And his success proves that at least some of the more important TV sponsors are thinking along the same healthy lines.

Among Fennell’s other projects were illustrating the children’s book “The Bear Facts” by Polly Cuthbertson (1947), a award-winning, 18-minute short for Penn Mutual Life Insurance named A Century of Security (also 1947) and a ten-minute film for the National Tuberculosis Association called You Can Help (1948). The company even registered the music for a jingle for Schmidt’s Ale (1951).

Larry Harmon’s studio fizzled out in the early 1960s, as did many of the commercial operations; Harmon’s Laurel and Hardy series was finally produced at Hanna-Barbera. Friz Freleng brought in Fennell and put him “in charge of cartoon blurbs” (Daily Variety, Feb. 9, 1966) but I don’t believe he was credited with any cartoons at DePatie-Freleng. He then was hired for a decade-long run at Filmation.

In 1984, he was among the honourees by the Screen Cartoonists Guild for a half century in animation. He died January 18, 1990.

We leave Mr. Fennell now to post some ads from the year-end edition of Television Age for 1960.

Friday 29 December 2023

Shootin' Match

The Western cliché of one-upsmanship gets trotted out for a parody in Tex Avery’s Drag-a-long Droopy.

The bad guy is dead shot. To prove it, he tosses a nickel into the air. Droopy responds in kind, with a bit of a different result.

Did you notice something about the shooting? The wolf is big so he can pull the trigger on his rifle with ease. But Droopy is so small, he shakes when firing.

Ray Patterson joins Bob Bentley, Mike Lah, Grant Simmons and Walt Clinton in animating this, my favourite Droopy cartoon.

Thursday 28 December 2023

Who Needs Rehearsal?

Bill Cullen is still my favourite game show host.

And my favourite show he hosted was “The Price is Right.”

It was a great show for the viewer. They could smile at some of the more outrageous prizes that Goodson-Todman staffers dug up. They could make their own price guesses. They could watch in suspense as each contestant cogitated their bid. And, occasionally, Bill came up with an unexpected witty or hokey ad-lib. He was, to me, the most genuine game show emcee on TV.

Delving through old newspapers, it’s a little astounding how much was written about the show in the popular press, and was written about Cullen. But The Price is Right, and he, were that popular (even The Flintstones parodied both). Here are a couple for you Cullen fans. The first is one of a number by the Associated Press’ Cynthia Lowry. This was published March 26, 1961.

Bill Cullen's Secret: He Never Rehearses
EDITOR'S NOTE—Bill Cullen, master of ceremonies on “The Price Is Right," is convinced he'd make a terrible contestant. He isn't told beforehand what the prices really are but tries to guess the values as the game goes along. And says the MC, his price is always wrong.
TV-Radio Writer
NEW YORK (AP)—In the clock-watching world of television and radio, busy Bill Cullen lives by a timetable as precise as a railroad schedule. As a result he has more leisure than most of us.
A slight, boyish-looking man with a ready grin and easy manner, Cullen six day work-week is as carefully planned as an architect's blueprint.
"It has to be," remarked the 41-year-old master of ceremonies, disc jockey and panelist, "if I'm going to get around to all bases. Actually, the way I've got it worked out, it's a breeze: The secret is that I never rehearse anything."
Cullen is either facing a television camera or a radio microphone for a total of 25 ½ hours a week. On Wednesdays, his work day spans 14 hours, three shows and two networks. Every weekday he is on camera and mike at least 4½ hours. He loves every minute of it.
Cullen is the master of ceremonies of NBC's popular and successful game show, "The Price Is Right," televised live every weekday at 11 a.m. and Wednesday nights at 8:30. (EST.)
He is also a regular panel member of “I’ve Got a Secret” on CBS—also Wednesday night, at 9:30—a seat he has held since the program's third show nine years ago.
Finally, he is the star of a live, daily four hour radio show on WNBC, which from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. broadcasts music, news, weather and light hearted chatter that helps get a large segment of New York millions off to a working day. It is also on from 8 to 10 on Saturday mornings.
The first one up at the Cullen home, however, is his wife Anne, a former actress he married six years ago. "She gets up at 4:45 and makes coffee for me," he said. "And she brews coffee, she doesn't make instant. Then she wakes me up at 5. After I've gone, she goes back to bed.”
Cullen drives to the radio studio. He has a private taxi, a regulation two-tone cab and a driver named Teddy (“I think it would look wrong if a fellow like me drove around in a big, black limousine.”) He never plans the radio show ahead, and upon arriving is merely supplied with a sheet containing the names of the musical pieces to be played and notations of the time there are breaks for news and commercials.
"It's easy—I just say anything that comes into my head," he said. "In fact, I spend my time during the musical pieces working on a crossword puzzle."
When the radio stint is over at 10, Cullen rides up to the theater on Broadway from which “The Price is Right” is televised.
“This show requires lots of rehearsal,” Cullen said, “because of all the articles that are shown. And the m.c. has to know exactly what he's doing. If you're in the wrong spot—on a turntable, for instance, when a car is being shown you're apt to be tossed on your face."
Cullen never attends the rehearsal. His stand-in is an actor named Jim Holland who has worked with Cullen for five years, and goes through his paces for him. Then he jots down, in a shorthand Cullen understands, all the directions: where Cullen is to stand, when the commercials come, and if a "bonus" is to be awarded a prize-winner, what it consists of. The directions are printed on two small cards, which Cullen keeps in his left side pocket and unobtrusively consults from time to time.
Procedures are the same on the Wednesday night show, except that Cullen has only half an hour between the end of "Price" and the start of "I've Got a Secret" in another part of town. Teddy drives him to the other theater. "That," he confessed, "is the easiest job on television. Absolutely no preparation at all. There's nothing to do but get there."

Lowry had other tidbits about Cullen sprinkled in her columns throughout the year. One was on May 11, 1961 where she revealed Cullen was on holidays and someone loaded the wrong video tape of the Wednesday night show onto the network (earlier in the year, Arlene Francis filled in for three weeks). She also included a blurb of Cullen commenting that the strangest prize he ever gave away was 400 shares of CBS stock. The show was on NBC then.

Cullen had planned to get busier that year. He was signed to replace Arthur Godfrey on Candid Camera for the fall season, but soon was un-signed. It turns out Price had a headache pill-pusher as one of its sponsors. Candid Camera did, too. A different one. Sorry, Bill, no conflicts allowed.

The Price is Right moved from NBC to ABC in 1963 (announcer Don Pardo stayed with the Living Color network) and bowed off the air in 1965. Of course, it returned in the ‘70s. The host was now required to get up and move. It would have been a strain on Cullen’s legs and he didn’t return. No matter. He seems to have hosted endless numbers of game shows and continued to work until the mid-1980s. Lung cancer claimed him in 1990.

Tom Smothers

The death of Tommy Smothers shows how little things have changed in America in the last 55 years.

Those of us of a certain age will remember when CBS fired the brothers in 1969 in a classic right vs. left battle. The battle continues today, perhaps just as acrimoniously.

The brothers started out very innocently. The San Francisco Examiner reported on April 25, 1959 they were due to make their folk-singing debut at the Purple Onion, whose owner called them “another Kingston Trio.” Yes, there were three of them. Brother Bob was part of the act.

At the end of the year, there was talk of Tom going on a solo career and Bob and Dick getting out of show biz. But the San Francisco press reported on offers from Vegas and Seattle and television in Los Angeles, so the act continued, with Bob leaving some time in 1960. One of the events Tom and Dick took part at Golden Gate Park in September that year was the “I Am an American Day” ceremonies, with one paper calling their act “wholesome.” How opinions would change by the end of the decade.

They cut their first album for Mercury, live at the Purple Onion, that month. It was released in 1961, when Tom and Dick began to get national exposure. Here’s a story from the Associated Press in July that year:

Smothers Brothers Find Success
By Harry Jupiter
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — When the spotlight falls on the high domed, balding head of Thomas Bolyn Smothers III, his eyes take on a frightened look and he licks his lips nervously.
Haltingly, apologetically, like a man who walked into the ladies' room without looking at the sign, he begins describing the song he would like to sing.
The young man at his side-nudges his arm and Tom Smothers says:
"Excuse me, this is my brother, Dickie Smothers, who sings along with me. I mean we sing together. I mean, aw heck.”
And then the Smothers Brothers, one of the hottest acts in show business today, are off and singing.
Theirs is a spectacular success story. A little over two years ago Tom and Dickie Smothers were students at San Jose State college, 50 miles south of San Francisco. They were practicing for the spring registration dance at the college when they were invited to sing at a beer joint in San Jose. "We got two bucks apiece a night," recalls Dickie. "We got a lot of beer, too," adds Tom, deadpan with a sigh of recollection.
Neither drinks much. Tom, 24, and Dickie, 22, are neat and slender. And they don't need free drinks, either. They now get something like $2000 a week.
The Brothers Smothers are back at the Purple Onion, the little showplace where they got their big break two years ago.
Dandy folk singers, fine musicians, devastating satirists, they have been hitting the plush spots around the land and enjoying every minute.
No bones about they'd love to keep going indefinitely. "If the bubble bursts," says Dickie, "I think I might like to be a teacher. That's what I was studying at San Jose State. But Tommy has never wanted anything but show business."
Tom nods. "If we should break up the act eventually, I'd like to do a single. I'd like to be an actor, especially a character actor."
It appears they're a long way from breaking up this act.
Reaction to the young men has been tremendous and they're appreciative. The brothers, cleancut, immaculately groomed, reflect their late father, a career Army man who was a major when he died in a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines in 1945 after the Bataan death march. The boys, a younger sister and their mother were evacuated from Manila when World War II began.
Tom and Dick received presidential appointments to West Point, but despite family sentiment they never seriously considered going to the military academy.
Tom, who only stutters when he wants to, is a mimic who has been acting all his life. Dickie, dark haired and mammoth eared, is near sighted and has difficulty hearing with his right ear.
Both are sound musicians and, for the most part, they are self trained. When Tom decided he wanted to learn to play the guitar, he bought a guitar and an instruction book.
When Dickie was told two years ago that the act needed a bass fiddle, they went out and bought a second-hand bass—and an instruction book.
They love to sing and they ad lib constantly. Their forte, though, is their sly, deadpan dismemberment of intellectual folk singing shredding the current trend toward spending more time explaining the song than singing the song. Tom adds a note of historical reverence to his halting stammer when he recounts the history of the "annual camel races which are held in Uruguay each year on the third of June."
"One hump camels," interjects Dickie. "Make sure you tell 'em they're one-hump camels."
"Oh, yes, I almost forgot," says Tom. "That was my brother, Dickie Smothers, who knew you would want to know that these are one-hump camels we're singing about."
Then they embark on their song on the one-hump camel races in Uruguay—but it turns out to be an Israeli hora, an ancient Hebrew tune called "Tiena, Tiena." Sometimes they catch each other fibbing amidst the ad libbing.
Introducing a song that encompasses the legendary men who pushed the flat boats along the old Mississippi, Tom flips his guitar and holds it with the flat side up.
"This is how those of boats looked," he explains.
Brother Dickie peeks over Tom's shoulder, points to the neck and inquires: "What's that?"
Tom reddens, pauses, says:
“Uh, that's, uh, that's the rudder."
Then he smiles benignly at the audience.
Dickie, however, isn't convinced. "They don't put rudders on the front," he insists.
Tom is stuck this time. Finally he turns to the audience again and says: "I lied."
In his lengthy introduction to "Jezebel," Tom goes into indignant description of the name "that is synonymous with evil, the name that means a bad woman wherever it is spoken, the name that suggests an evil, bad, awful girl. And that name . . . that name . . .”
Dickie whispers in Tom's ear and Tom is reassured.
"The name of that bad, evil, nasty girl," he says, "as everyone knows, is Mary Lou Johnson.

Taking a shot at the quirks of folk singers is one thing. Taking on the establishment, including police brutality, and the continued war in Vietnam under both Johnson and Nixon, is something else. But that’s what Tom Smothers wanted his variety show to do when it signed on in 1967. CBS disagreed, and began censoring entire sketches and cancelling guest artists. The network caved to the “America-Love-It-Or-Leave-It” crowd which saw nothing wrong with uniformed officers bashing demonstrators wanting peace and speaking out against racism and sexism.

Even today, the idea of using the off switch for programming one doesn’t like isn’t good enough for some. The programming must be annihilated. Their attitude is political satire is bad—unless it’s making fun of the politicians someone disagrees with.

A whole chapter of the book “CBS: Reflections in a Bloodshot Eye” was devoted to the ousting of the Smothers Brothers in 1969. It goes into detail about what led to the firing on April 4, 1969. It really was a huge deal; newspaper editorial and entertainment columns were full of opinions.

Smothers Says Show Censored
NEW YORK, April 7 (UPI) — Tom Smothers accused CBS today of "censorship with all its ramifications" in canceling the weekly television show he does with his brother.
At a news conference the Smothers brothers, Tom and Dick, said no decisions have been made yet to sue the network for dropping the show although, they said, the CBS action amounted to an "unfounded breach" of the 26-week contract they signed March 14 for next season.
The brothers said they had received an offer from Canadian Television network if no American network would have them.
Flattered by Offer.
"I'm very flattered by the offer," said Tom, but he added they had made no decision whether to accept the offer.
The brothers said they have not received offers from either of the other two major American networks and did not expect any immediately because of possible court action on their part.
“Need Divergent Views”
"I think in America it is necessary that unpopular opinions and divergent views be shown on television," Tom said, pointing out that "even network executives say the airwaves belong to the people."
The Canadian network broadcast an uncut, unedited version last night of the show.
Tommy Smothers said the reaction of Canadian viewers had been good, that nothing was objectionable contrary to CBS' opinion that comedian David Steinberg's "sermonette" routine was in poor taste.
Watching his program from a Toronto hotel suite, Smothers said he could not understand "what on earth is offensive" about a skit by Steinberg about an imaginary conversation between Solomon and Jonah.
Earlier, Canadian Television President Murray Chercover, whose stations carried the uncut show, said, "I have an irrevocable contract for this year and next for the Smothers show and options for any future ones."
Chercover added that no matter what the CBS-Smothers entanglements may be, Canadian TV is prepared to "film the entire show in Toronto."

One of the reasons CBS president Bob Wood gave for not airing the show was the sermonette. Yet the sketch had been taken out after a preview of the show for network executives on the West Coast.

Tom did a lot of talking after CBS told him to leave. He and Dick appeared on the Today show the following Tuesday. On April 18th, they appeared before newspaper editors, reading a seven-page speech denouncing television’s attempts to keep the viewpoints of younger people off the tube, decrying network censorship and the war in Vietnam.

The brothers never did move to CTV. They put together a special for NBC that ran next to noted Vietnam war supporter Bob Hope. But it can be argued that their career had already peaked, though they continued to be signed for new series and made guest appearances.

If Tom Smothers will be remembered, it will be for his fight to open television to more liberal viewpoints clad as satire. There are people today who beak off that entertainers (eg. late night hosts) are “too political.” Those entertainers carry on, whether one considers their material appropriate. For that, they owe some thanks to Tom Smothers.

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Throw Up Your Hands

“Drop that duck!” Elmer Fudd orders the one-shot fox in What Makes Daffy Duck?

“Throw up your hands!” he shouts. So the fox does. Except his “gloves” come off, twirl in the air and slip back on his paws.

Art Davis made some fine Daffy Duck cartoons and this is my favourite of his, Don Williams, Bill Melendez, Emery Hawkins and Basil Davidovich animate, with the story credited to Bill Scott and Lloyd Turner.