Friday, March 12, 2010

If you thought the Jay Leno Show was a bomb

In 1961 CBS premiered a prime time game show called YOU'RE IN THE PICTURE starring Jackie Gleason. It was not well received. The show next week was unprecedented. Host Jackie Gleason just sat in a chair and... well, you'll have to see for yourself.


Jackie Gleason : "You're in the Picture"
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44 comments:

Jonathan said...

And the question I have is: what did they do the NEXT week? (Though I think I know the answer).

What a great lesson the indeterminacy of show business, the mysterious momentum of bad ideas, and the entertainment power of a truly funny person just talking.

AND, above all else, I love how he is able to skewer the show and sell the sponsor's cigarettes without missing a beat.

A. Buck Short said...

Thank you.

Tom K Mason said...

I need an L&M cigarette and I need one now!

wv: Usebegi - the Grand Fenwick of the former Soviet Union

Great Big Radio Guy said...

Jonathan...

Gleason did a couple of weeks essentially doing what he did in that video with invited guests - just chatting and having a great time. It was actually well-received - except by the sponsor who complained that it wasn't the show they were paying for. The show went away quietly, quite possible for the better.

Rodney said...

Or it could have been Tracy Morgan improvising for five hours-now there's a show-maybe reading the phone book in the process (see last night's episode of 30 Rock)

Chris Shelley said...

That's good coffee.

Crazy, I could listen to him ramble for hours. He sure has charisma.

D. McEwan said...

"Great Big Radio Guy said...
Gleason did a couple of weeks essentially doing what he did in that video with invited guests - just chatting and having a great time. It was actually well-received - except by the sponsor who complained that it wasn't the show they were paying for. The show went away quietly,"


And what a shame. Listening to Jackie engage in real conversations with interesting people, back when talk shows were conversations, not just movie or TV plugs, would have been great entertainment. Gleason was one of a kind.

I've always rueefully regretted that I was just too young to have stayed up late enough for Jack Paar, or to have enjoyed him if I had stayed up late enough. I know I'd enjoy those shows now, and I always loved Gleason.

-bee said...

Dayum - thank you, that was awesome.

Hope Jerry Seinfeld sees it and takes notes.

Philip said...

Have to admit that all I knew Jackie Gleason from previously was the Smokey And The Bandit movies...

Talk about charisma and comic timing.

Mike Leffel said...

Thank you for posting this!

sean hall said...

I was born in 1955, which makes me very much old enough to remember The (original) Great One in his prime but probably not old enough to remember that show. Everything was different then, except for the tobacco companies are still making billions. There will never be another Jackie Gleason. Rags to riches. When he spoke, networks trembled, same as they did with Godfrey, Berle, Hope and Dino. It was a different time.

A_Homer said...

When he spoke, networks trembled, same as they did with Godfrey, Berle, Maybe at first, but Berle, like Sid Caesar and many others, was rewarded for his pioneering television career by being shown the door just as soon as he wasn't fashionable and couldn't deliver. Gleason was just a bit more modern, as he could work in movies as an actor rather than comedian only ("The Hustler" mostly comes to mind) but he had a tough time of it too. I would hate his role in "Smokey" to be his legacy.

The film clip is great, television like all corporates should just learn that people would gladly watch the 30 min special apology from a star for a bad show, more than the bad show. It was a good representation of alot of his patented "bits" embedded in his conversation for punctuation (the cup and saucer with "coffee", the anticipation of the lighter and cigarette in hand finally being used, the aside-muttering some obscenity, and so on..) and he knew when to pull them out and keep the thing going. As he always said, he wasn't a comedian with jokes, but an actor who could do comedy.

Anonymous said...

More proof that Jackie Gleason was indeed, "The Great One".

Vermonter17032 said...

Wow, what an interesting piece of television history. Can you imagine anything so honest being put on TV today?!

Nancy said...

That was great! Hearing his voice reminded me of how much I loved watching The Jackie Gleason Show on Saturday nights with my parents.

Bob K said...

I was born in 1954 and remember both the first and second weeks of the show - I was only 7 or so and thought it was pretty funny (apparently I was the only one) and I was looking forward to seeing it again - imagine my surprise when it was just Gleason sitting in a chair!

Thanks for posting this - I hadn't seen it since the broadcast!

Ref said...

I was also born in '55, so I missed his early years when he earned his sobriquet. I've read stuff and seen clips like this, though, that demonstrate what an utterly hilarious man he could be. I've also read that he could be nasty when crossed, but that even that would soon break down into humor and that his ego was leavened by plenty of self-deprecation.

Unfortunately, modern ways don't favor the genuine bon vivant.

Anonymous said...

Performers were so classy then. And God help me, there's something elegant and old school about smoking without guilt.

unkystan said...

What a difference to shows being cancelled now. They would just disappear and CSI or Law and Order would just show up. I'd heard about the Gleason apology but never saw it. Thanks for posting. I wonder if there is any film of "You're in the Picture" just to see if it is actually as terrible as talked about.

Janice said...

Absolutely classic.

And I agree with bee - Jerry Seinfeld should follow suit.

Aron said...

This website has a lot of great information, including a 20 second clip of the original show:
http://tvparty.com/picture.html

wv: Harbers - where you throw your anchers

Ty said...

I thought this was much funnier than the Honeymooners clip from earlier. Much more surprising.

Michael said...

The thing about Gleason was that he hated scripts. CBS once tried to force him to give the network more advance notice of what would be on his variety show, and it wasn't until the DAY of the show that he dictated a script, and it went something like this: "I'll come out and do a monologue for five minutes. Carney and I will do The Poor Soul for about five minutes," etc. A lot of people today couldn't ad-lib their way out of a paper bag.

Mike Barer said...

It looks like a bigger bomb than "Saturday Night Live With Howard Cosell".

Tom Quigley said...

I remember seeing both the first and second shows... Never thought I'd see this clip again, though... It' smazing that someone had the foresight to save it, since it's one of the great moments in television history, and there was no one like Jackie Gleason... I imagine that the liquor must have been flowing pretty freely at that meeting in his agent's office the day they gave it the go-ahead... BTW, one sports trivia note: When Jackie says he was supposed to be out of town watching Palmer make that 12, I believe he's referring to the 12 that Palmer made on one hole at the 1961 Los Angeles Open which back in those days was held at Rancho Park Municipal Golf Course right across the street from the Fox studios... There's a plaque on the tee of the hole where he did it...

Great Big Radio Guy said...

"You're In The Picture, Episode 2" is definitely one of TV's best moments. It's tough finding the entire thing on the web, and you really should see it in its entirety to appreciate Gleason's genius.

If you're in NYC or L.A., hit the Museum of Broadcasting or whatever they call it now and see it in their library. If you have time, try to sit through the trainwreck that was episode 1.

Horrible premise, no payoff and embarrassingly low-tech. Gleason made a huge mistake, and his admission saved his career.

It'll be an experience that really shines the spotlight on how it truly is possible to underestimate the viewing public's intelligence - and how you can use TV's power to correct it.

Phillip Morris said...

What I find very interesting is to watch Gleason sit in front of his television audience, promote cigarettes and chain smoke. Then to have it ultimately be the cause of his death.

Jason Wentworth said...

He had plenty of company. Garry Moore's ever-present Winstons on "I've Got a Secret" come to mind.

Kirk Jusko said...

Love the way Gleason says "bomb".

Steve B. said...

There's only one person today on TV that I could imagine looking at the camera and talking extemporaneously like that while still amusing the audience. David Letterman.

David Bassin said...

If you notice, he never really smokes those cigarettes. The smoke stays in his mouth and he exhales almost immediately. Maybe he really hated the taste of L&Ms?

tommy said...

concept of the program seems alot like the green screen on Whose Line Is It Anyway where they guess the scene.

Anyway, its all about to be repaeted with "Minute To Win It" on NBC. It will get about a minute on air. Beat The Clock was too innocent and I cant see it for this century.

grantruby said...

I noticed the same thing, David. He wasn't smoking those L&Ms at all!

Damon Rutherford said...

"There's only one person today on TV that I could imagine looking at the camera and talking extemporaneously like that while still amusing the audience. David Letterman."

I think Conan O'Brien, Craig Ferguson, and Jon Stewart could also do it.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

Anyone else have trouble getting the video to play? I remember a discussion of this show and Gleason's save from Jim Bacon's bio of Gleason, and when I looked on youtube to see if they had a clip that would play better for me, and they don't. But I'm right now playing a clip of Gleason's only appearance on Carson, and they're talking about that first episode. Carson was one of the celebs on "you're in the picture". Don't know if they play that much of the first clip.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyhQQhIys9Q

Michael said...

So the whole second show was just a live apology for the first show?

Anonymous said...

this reminds me so much of letterman. obviously gleason came first, but you can really see where dave got his demeanor from.

if you most a clip of a brick wall we can see where leno got his.

DwWashburn said...

Most everything I have ever seen of Gleason except for the "classic 39" has been clips. It's amazing to me how well he could relate to the audience (his speech here is very warm, friendly and watchable) and apparently what an utter a**hole he could be to the people that worked for him.

Also I had never seen Gleason do a commercial announcement until I saw this clip. For a man who didn't like to rehearse, he sure was smooth all the way through that sales pitch. I wonder if that was really an L&M he was smoking?

gih said...

That's nice. Thanks for sharing with that to everybody.

Ted Frank said...

By the way, that joke about the Portugese cruise ship that got a big laugh must be a reference to the now-forgotten Santa Maria hijacking. Funny how 50-year-old topical humor doesn't quite carry.

Really something to see the cigarette ad.

TMoss said...

I was born in the late 1979, so I caught up with the great ones on Nick at Nite and DVD.

Though I didn't see any of this first-run, I have a great appreciation for what went on in television before I was born.

It is a shame that this type of honesty would never fly on television these days. It's an even greater shame what passed for talent these days.

It's a shame that so much is crammed into 22 minutes that you can't even relax and watch what transpires.

Thanks for digging this up to remind us. I had heard about this but never saw it first hand.

Lisa said...

Will Seinfeld be anywhere near as brave, candid, or funny?

Trinity Moses said...

All of you praising Gleason for his candor should bear in mind that this was a deliberate effort on his part to force CBS to cancel a show he did not want to do, and put in its place the talk show he really wanted. The monologue he delivers here is not the one he had promised the network and the sponsors; that one would have apologized, yes, but would have concluded with a promise that all involved would work hard to make the show better, and that the new improved version would be on the next week.

Chris Tucker said...

I was about ten years old when I saw "You're In The Picture".

In an era of stupid game shows, this stood out in absolute brain hurting stupidity.

The premise was the diverse celebrities stuck their faces through holes in the picture and then, in some fashion I mercifully forget, maybe some manner of Q&A, they had to deduce what the picture they were in looked like.

Yes, it WAS even stupider than it sounds.

Gleason was one of the rare ones that could do the perfect extemporaneous improvisation for hours, if need be. A 30 minute gig, he wouldn't even break a sweat.