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TV Jargon (TV Industry Terminology)

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Tabloid Television - Also known as "Trash TV," tabloid television highlights stories on lurid crimes, sex and celebrities. Once described by veteran producer Don Hewitt as "one big porno shop," the trend toward tabloid television began in force during the 1990s when stations filled their air time with lower cost programming featuring high profile stories on murderers (accused "preppie-murderer" Robert Chambers), and sex scandals (Michael Jackson, The Kennedy Family. O.J. Simpson, Monica Lewinsky). Newsweek magazine lamented in their 1988 article "Trash TV" that "the tabloid virus, previously confined to the fringes of syndication, is gradually infecting prime-time network programming." Investigative reporter Geraldo Rivera helped plant the seeds for tabloid TV in the 1970s with a tearful expose of the Willowbrook State School for the mentally retarded and his in-the-face interview with Charles Manson where he said "You're a mass-murderin' dog, Charlie." And controversial talk shows like HOT SEAT/SYN/1981 starring Wally George and THE MORTON DOWNEY, JR. SHOW/SYN/1988-89 added insult to injury by effectively using combative verbal righteousness to incite his audience to hoot and holler as each attacked his specially picked guests (the KKK, Neo-Nazi's, Phone-Sex Operators) who were guaranteed to get ratings and his rowdy fans hot and bothered. But it was FOX's CURRENT AFFAIR (begun locally in New York City in 1988) originally hosted by Maurie Povich that helped define the beginnings of what was to be called Tabloid TV. With the genie out of the bottle, the likes of Paramount's HARD COPY and King-World's INSIDE EDITION soon littered the airwaves. Since then it's not considered unusual to tune into a nightly menu of stories that included a celebrity murder, sex abuse or torture. Another variation on tabloid television were the many reality-based programs such as AMERICA'S MOST WANTED, UNSOLVED MYSTERIES, MISSING/REWARD, RESCUE 911 and COPS that featured if possible the actual participants in events focusing on crime and police investigations and offering the viewing audience a chance to get involved in the cases, even to the point of earning reward money for information leading to an arrest.

Talk Shows - This simple program format of placing an interviewer and a guest in front of a camera has been popular on both local and national level since television first began. Conversation on talk shows can range from political interviews with candidates and elected officials, to celebrities and other notable names in the news to such bizarre topics as "Exotic Dancers Quarrel," "Mate Swappers," "Women Who Stick With Their Cheating Men," and "Overweight People's Fashion Blunders." The following are a list of the some of the more popular talk shows to have grace the tube over the last fifty years. THE DAVID FROST SHOW/SYN/1969-72; THE DAVID SUSSKIND SHOW/SYN/1958-87; DINAH!/SYN/1974-80 and DINAH'S PLACE/NBC/1970-74 with Dinah Shore; DONAHUE/SYN/1970-96 with Phil Donahue; FACE THE NATION/CBS/1954-61 & 1963+; FIRING LINE/SYN/1966-71/PBS/1971+ with William F. Buckley, Jr.; GERALDO/SYN/1987+ with Geraldo Rivera; GIRL TALK/SYN/1962-70 with Virginia Graham; JENNY JONES/SYN/1991+; JERRY SPRINGER/SYN/1992+; THE JOHN DAVIDSON SHOW/SYN/1980-82; MEET THE PRESS/NBC/1947+; THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW/NBC/CBS/SYN/1962-1986; THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW/SYN/1987+; PERSON TO PERSON/CBS/1953-61 with Edward R. Murrow; THE ROSIE O'DONNELL SHOW/SYN/1996+ and SALLY JESSY RAPHAEL/SYN/1985+. See also "Tabloid Television" and BROADCAST FIRSTS - "Talk Shows (Late Night)

TelePrompTer - A rolling version of a cue card (a.k.a. "Idiot Card") mounted near the front of a television camera and used by newscasters, reporters, actors and the like to read their lines from a screen off-camera. Developed by Irving Kahn, and Hubert J. Schlafly (from an idea from actor Fred Barton), the TelePrompTer was first used in 1952 at a political convention and has been used widely throughout the industry ever since. In the days before the TelePrompTer, cue cards (large signs held off-screen containing words written in very large letters for easy reading) were used to instruct TV performers of their lines on a show. On the classic quiz show YOU BET YOUR LIFE/NBC/SYN/1950-61, host Groucho Marx was often seen glancing skyward during a pause in the conversation or in between jokes. Actually he was looking at cue cards that were projected onto a small television screen located just above Groucho's head (the show was fully scripted despite the seemingly free form ad-libs). Both late night talk show hosts Johnny Carson from THE TONIGHT SHOW/NBC/1962-92 and David Letterman from LATE NIGHT/NBC/1982-93 and later on the LATE SHOW/CBS/1993+ made a habit of drawing attention to their cue card jokes. The first performer on TV to use cue cards was comedian Ed Wynn on THE ED WYNN SHOW/CBS/1949-50. He learned to use cue cards while in Vaudeville when he placed them in the orchestra pit to help him recall the words to his monologues. However, the first person in the entertainment industry credited with using cue cards was stage actor John Barrymore who used them during his performances in the thirties.

Telethon - A lengthy event aired on television that usually solicits money or support for a particular cause. The most notable is the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon (first aired in 1966) that annually relies on the generosity of the America public to financially support research that will cure muscular dystrophy. The term telethon is derived from the words "television" and "marathon." See also - BROADCAST FIRSTS - "Telethons"

"The great thing about television is that if something important happens anywhere in the world, day or night, you can always change the channel."
--Reverend Jim, Taxi

Television - Combination of the Greek root "Tele" meaning "far" and the Latin root "Video" meaning to "see." One of the earliest appearances of the word "television" appeared in August 25, 1900 in a report from the International Congress of Electrician's meeting in Paris. Over its illustrious career, television has been praised as one of mankind's greatest inventions while others have condemned it as the Plug-in-Drug, Boob Tube, Glass Teat, and the Idiot Box. Television has influenced the way we perceive the world and occasionally the way our parents talked to us. For example: "If you sit to close to the TV you'll go BLIND!", "No TV until your homework's done!", and "You and that Damn TV, I'm gonna blow it up!" And speaking of blowing up, televisions injure more than 25,000 persons a year by either blowing up or catching fire according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Despite it drawbacks and critics, television's conquest of America has been swift. In 1950, a mere 9 percent of America's homes owned TV sets but just four years later the proportion leaped to 54 percent. By 1960 there were more than 45 million sets. By the end of 1986 at least 500 of America's 1243 TV stations were broadcasting in stereophonic sound According to a survey by Television Digest, the average American home in the 1990s will have will have at least three television sets influenced by the increased use of videocassette recorders and home computers. By 1995 more than 85% of all homes had at least one VCR and owners spent more than one-quarter of their time watching videotapes. According to The Wall Street Journal more TVs mean less Encephalitis. Medical investigators in California discovered in a spring 1985 study that counties with the most television sets have the lowest rates of encephalitis. Researchers suspect that viewers who spent more time inside watching television were thus staying away from possible sites of infection on the outside. A sketch of the television history follows. Scottish inventor, John Logie Baird (died 1946) developed the first TV system for full scale use. He demonstrated a mechanically scanned TV system which showed objects in outline in 1924, recognizable faces in 1925. On June 13, 1925 television was born. In 1928 he successfully transmitted a TV signal from England to America. In 1927, E.F.W. Alexanderson from General Electric demonstrated the first home TV set in Schenectady, New York. The first TV transmission by the NBC network occurred on October 30, 1931 on an experimental station in New York City. In 1940, the first "network" broadcast linked New York City with Schenectady. On February 12, 1946, Washington, D.C. was linked by coaxial-cable to the East coast television network when General Dwight D. Eisenhower was shown laying a wreath at the site of the Lincoln Memorial. On November 13, 1947, the city of Boston was linked to the East coast television network, despite the fact that it had no television stations on the air at the time. On January 11, 1949, New York City and Chicago were first linked by television. The first program transmitted eastward from Chicago was the police drama STAND BY FOR CRIME/ABC/1949. THE ED WYNN SHOW was the first regular show to originate from Hollywood, carried live on the West coast and kinescoped for rebroadcast from New York to the CBS Eastern and Mid-western networks. Normally in those days the programs were broadcast from New York City and kinescoped for the West Coast. The first regular coast-to-coast telecast aired September 4, 1951 with President Truman's address at the opening of the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference in San Francisco. It was broadcast on all four networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, DuMont). On March 25, 1954, the first commercial RCA color television receivers came off the company's production line at their plant in Bloomington, Indiana. The first compatible color television sets, built by the Admiral corporation went on sale for the paltry sum of $1,175. The first coast-to-coast color telecast was broadcast by WNBT-TV on November 3, 1953 from the Colonial Theater in New York City. Starring Nanette Fabray, the program was sent via Bell Telephone Company lines to a 14-inch receiver located at Burbank, California. On June 26, 1953 Howdy Doody became NBC's first program to be televised in color during regular broadcast hours (The experimental telecast lasted only one day). In February 1954, the show aired for a full week in color. NBC's COLGATE COMEDY HOUR included the first network color telecast on November 22, 1953 as an experimental test of RCA's new compatible color system. The first stereo television broadcast occurred from 11:30 P.M. through Midnight on December 28, 1972. It included four short plays "Two's Better Than One," "Boxes Are You There?," "What A Life" and "The Yin And Yang Of It" were transmitted from stations WNEW-TV and WNET-TV in New York City. Half of the show was transmitted in stereo from Channel 5 with host Bob Elliot and the other half with the aid of his comedy partner Ray Goulding who was the joint host at Channel 13. In 1972 sales of color T.V. sets surpassed those of black & white with numbers of color sets in the country exceeding 60 million sets by the 1980s.

Television (Quotations) - The following is a list of quotations defining or giving opinions on television:

  • "Television is a triumph of equipment over people, and the minds that control it are so small that you could put them in a gnat's navel with room left over for two caraway seeds and an agent's heart." and "Medicine men used to come to my town when I was a boy. They'd come rattling down the street in a wagon and pull up in a front of the courthouse steps. Then they'd lower the tailboard and a funny fellow would step out and crack a few jokes. But as soon as the crowd of gaping yokels had gathered, the wit would launch into his sales pitch for Mother Bloater's elixir. Television is a tailboard lowered into the living room." --Fred Allen
  • "Watching television is a private act, an act that we perform by ourselves and with ourselves. What it resembles most, I think, is masturbation." -- Michael Arlen
  • "Television is not the truth. Television is a goddamn amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers and football players. We're in the boredom-killing business." -- Paddy Chayefsky
  • "Television is the greatest single power in the hands of mortal man."-- LeRoy Collins
  • "Well, I'd say its pretty good, considering its for nothing."-- Bing Crosby
  • "It is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remains lonesome."-- T.S. Eliot
  • "Television is more interesting than people. If it were not, we should have people standing in the corners of our rooms." -- Alan Coren
  • "Television is a gift of God, and God will hold those who utilize his divine instrument accountable to him." -- Philo T. Farnsworth, television pioneer
  • "Television enables you to be entertained in your home by people you wouldn't have in your home." -- David Frost
  • "Television is like the American toaster, you push the button and the same thing pops up everytime." -- Alfred Hitchcock
  • "All I know about television is that I want to get into it as soon as possible-before Milton Berle uses up all my jokes." -- Bob Hope
  • "Television is the greatest single achievement in communication that anybody or any area of the world has ever known." -- Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, 1961
  • "Television is now recognized everywhere as a vehicle for education and information, a force to arouse and unify developing nations, and a symbol of national status and prestige that soars above the home-grown airline." -- Robert E. Kintner
  • "Television is the literature of the illiterate, the culture of the lowbrow, the wealth of the poor, the privilege of the underprivileged, and the exclusive club of the excluded masses."-- Lee Loevinger
  •  "If the television craze continues with the present level of programs, we are delivered to have a nation of morons."-- Daniel Marsh
  • "I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book."-- Groucho Marx
  • "I invite you to sit down in front of your television set...and stay there without a magazine, newspaper, or book to distract you-and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland. You will see a procession of games shows, violence, audience participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters...and, endlessly commercials..."-- Newton N. Minnow, FCC Chairman, May 9, 1961
  • "Television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us."-- Edward R. Murrow, 1958
  • "When I was young, we didn't have MTV; we had to take drugs and go to concerts."-- Steven Pearl
  • "We are human and given a chance, we still might create an art form of television."-- Gilbert Seldes
  • "Television is cotton candy for the eyes."-- Aaron Spelling
  • "Television is the educator and the communicator, the informer, the thing that can inspire and enrich man as he makes his greatest transition from what he is today into the first genuine adult human being."-- Sylvester L. Weaver
  • "I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts."-- Orson Welles
  • "Television is chewing gum for the eyes."-- Frank Lloyd Wright See also "Live Television"

Three-Dimensional (3-D) Television - In the early 1950s, ABC was granted permission by the Federal Communications Commission to explore the feasibility of 3-D TV. On April 29, 1953 the network ran a trial live broadcast of the series SPACE PATROL in Los Angeles at the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters 31st Annual gathering. The ABC affiliate station KECA-TV aired the show but it appeared as only a blur unless viewers had a pair of special Polaroid lenses. Three-Dimensional television attempts to give the same depth of viewing as the human eye.

Trendex See "Rating Services"


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