Wednesday, November 28, 2007

And now a word from our 250 sponsors

I know this sounds like one of my parodies but it’s legit. There’s a new TV show that is sixty minutes of nothing but commercials. It premiered on the ION network (whatever the hell that is) last Monday night. Firebrand, the production company making this show believes that kids LOVE commercials but they just don’t like them as interruptions in shows. So the solution: an hour straight of them.

Hey, it still has to be better than watching VIVA LAUGHLIN or DR. PHIL.

The idea is to make it seem like an MTV show. They even have CJ’s who will introduce the spots.
Now this may seem like a revolutionary idea but it really isn’t.

A version of this was done in Los Angeles way back in the 50s. Lloyd Thaxton (a TV pioneer who rivaled Ernie Kovacs in inspired lunacy) got stuck with roughly the same assignment. Lloyd was kind enough to share the complete story. (I also invite you to
check out his blog. It’s better than a Way-back machine.)
In 1959, KCOP started a drawing-for-prizes contest for small businesses, i.e., dry cleaners, gas stations, mom and pop grocery stores, etc. The merchants would pay to have a box put in their place of business and KCOP would promote the contest. For this fee merchants were also promised a 15-second commercial on KCOP.

It would be a voice-over slides commercial plugging their establishment. Lots of businesse
s signed up. As staff announcer, KCOP came to me to develop a show around this contest. In order to squeeze all the commercials in a one-hour a day show, each two-minutes break would have to have at least eight 15-seconds spots.

To make this happen, they had to interrupt the one-hour program for commercials every three minutes. Are you still with me?

Because a recording usually averaged about three minutes, we decided to do a TV DJ show called "Lloyd Thaxton's Record Shop." The problem, besides reading all of those commercials another problem, was what to do during the
three minutes of SHOW TIME when the record was playing. That is when I came up with all those gimmicks of making the music visual (the beginning of music videos?), i.e., lip-synching, piano synching, finger people, animated album covers. Anything I could come up with to fill the three minutes between commercials.

I had guests on the show like Jerry Lewis and Stan Freberg but you c
ouldn't interrupt an interview every three minutes. So, I would bunch up the commercials and sometimes their would be 16 spots all in a row (four minutes of commercials. It was all live. No breaks for the host. I loved it.

Who would watch such a stupid show? A guy reading boring commercials over boring slides every three minutes and then lip-syncing a record in-between. KCOP figured no one was watching at 11 AM, so they didn't really care. But I cared.

Surprise, surprise, the show slowly started getting an audience. It grew and grew. It was a nutty show, but guest artists not only enjoyed being on the show they were getting great exposure for what they were plugging (their albums, films, and single records). After three years, I added teen-agers to the mix, threw out all those commercials and the show became, "The Lloyd Thaxton Show." The rest, as they say, is TV history.

I wish I had tapes of Lloyd Thaxton's Record Shop. There was no tape then. Three years, five days a week, 52 weeks a year LIVE and all on one camera. We would go from a serious interview to my putting my lips through an album cover and syncing a song from my guest's new album. And then I would open my three-ring binder and start reading the commercials. I'm still asking, "who would watch a show like this?"


wormme said...

Ha, great story! And Wikipedia claims that the term "music video" was coined that very year (by The Big Bopper, no less!).

Rick L. Phillips said...

Sometime ago I remember reading that one of the more popular shows in England was one that only showed commercials. I think that people really do like a well done commercial. I know I do. It is just that they have a short time span to show them so they over do it and we tire of them.

brian t said...

Well, I suppose the movie "Demolition Man" had to get something right. The most popular radio station in the future is the one playing vintage commercials...

How long before we see "CTV", a channel playing only commercials? Doesn't seem like much of a jump from QVC.

Anonymous said...

I spend my TV viewing time trying to avoid any commercials and some people want to watch a show of nothing but commercials? Wow. I use my DVR exclusively; live TV is out for me and has been for years now. Live sports? Forget it - football has been completely ruined by commercials - sometimes you get 3 and 4 breaks between plays. At least baseball usually gives you one side of the inning without a break.

I'd actually pay more for TV without any commercials but, of course, that will never happen. Heck, the NAB has even paid my DVR provider to prevent me from having the 30-second skip button They want to force me to see the ads in FF - I suppose they hope it will at least affect my buying habits a little bit. Disgusting.

Big Murr said...

The annual trip to the local art film theatre to see the "Best Commercials of the Year" is always eagerly anticipated. I've never bothered to research just who picks this creme de la creme of the international ads. They have a good eye.

As Rick says above, a well done commercial, seen sparingly, is a treat.

However, like Mortimer says above, the rest of the year commercials are an inane blight upon the living.

Anonymous said...

What scares the hell out of me is that, if you watch broadcast TV, you realize that while China is turning out engineers, we feel the need for a new kind of room air freshener every other week. Has there really been a clamor for this? Open a friggin' window.

But, annoying and repetitive as TV commercials can be, they made, free, over the air broadcast TV possible – probably one of the great democratizing forces in the second half of the last century.

I was the first in my family to even attend high school. We lived in a federal housing project. Even if VHS, DVDs and cable or DVRs with monthly subscription fees existed at that time, they would have been unaffordable. Our Admiral set was extravagance enough. Everything from the Murrow documentaries and the News with John Cameron Swayze (brought to us by Camel Cigarettes), to Kovas’ Nairobi Trio and the Paar Show gave our family entertainment, information, and occasionally what, for us, passed for sophistication. Never asking anything but our time. That was a pretty fair trade off – especially since a lot of us figured out we didn’t even have to hold up our end of the bargain

Anonymous said...

Oh. FYI, those of you on the west coast, where it’s only 6 am, may want to check out NPR’s nice Writers Winning Hearts and Minds through Youtube and the Internet” story this morning. It is sort of ironic that the AMPTP may have remained locked into the old technology of newspaper ads, because they didn’t have anybody to write PR videos for them. The reporter speculated the producers' real problem was that the writers didn’t have to have everything go through an endless chain of committees and executive sign-offs just to get something on the Net.

Also Ken, in the world of sports, Robert Cade, who invented Gatorade, died Tuesday. Do you think somebody will sneak up and pour a barrel of refreshing green liquid over the coffin as he’s lowered into the ground? Yes, you would have heard this on Leno, if Leno had writers.

Back to you, Ken.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I could have sworn that an hour of programming on ANY network or cable channel is ALL commercials already. But from this post, I get the feeling you are implying that there is still an actual show squeezed between all those commercials in an hour of TV? I guess I'll have to pay closer attention next time I tune in.

Nat G said...

The great thing about this all-commercial show: With my ReplayTV, I can watch it in zero minutes!

The Minstrel Boy said...

me 2 lloyd. that stuff was genius.

Courtney Suzanne said...

I run a local cable channel that ONLY runs advertising...all day...on a 2-3 hour loop. Commercials, real estate listings, used cars, etc. Someone must be watching, because I've been doing it for almost 4 years now.

Anonymous said...

While watching Saturday morning cartoons one day, my 6 year old daughter suddenly exclaimed; "Oh, I get it. TV shows are like a giant commercial!"

"Three years, five days a week, 52 weeks a year LIVE and all on one camera. "
Wow, now that's a workout! No wonder you can write comedy...

Anonymous said...

Anyone else see this hilarious shill job on Battlestar Galactica over the weekend--

Anonymous said...

I'm signing in as "anonymouse" so my fellow Mouse Cliguers will know it is me.

Thanks Ken for the plug of my show Lloyd Thaxton's Record Shop. Unfortunately it went off the air over 45 years ago. So, you are a little late.

Still, you be the man; my favorite blogger. To all the people who are reading this, please check out Ken's unbelievably clever blog (CLICK HERE FOR KEN'S UNBELIEVABLY CLEVER BLOG). Oh .. wait! This IS Ken's blog.

How stupid.

Lloyd Thaxton, Head Anonymouse

Anonymous said...

eh .. that Cliquers, with a "q"

Lloyd Thaxton

Anonymous said...

A format where one song is followed by endless commercials? They're still doing that! It's called "the radio."

Anonymous said...

There was a show -- KHJ or KTTV, as I recall -- gathering commercials from around the world, and airing them in a package as entertainment, Which it was, half an hour, I think, once a week.

The name of the show? "Cavalcade of Spots."

Then there was the Oscar Levant show, where several of the commercials were delivered, live, by the proprietors of the businesses. There was Eddie from Zachary All, a furrier...can't remember 'em all. Eventually, all those guys got together and had a talk show of their own.

That was the golden age of local TV!

"Yojimbo_5" said...

MTV, when it started, was 24 hours of commercials--that's what I always called those song "promo's."

I fondly rmember "The Lloyd Thaxton Show" and the foot-tapping, sign carrying hippy-doll that would open every show. They used to sell those for a time (bet Lloyd's got a garge full of 'em)

Anonymous said...

we used to have a show called "El show del Clio", where they basically showed commercials that had won awards (Clio, but also others I thin). It did have "regular commercials" inbetween.. not like an 'mtv' thing tho; the hosts wore suits and stuff, and they'd interview people from the local ad agencies about new commercials they created (basically 5 minutes of bullshit about how good their client's product was). Aparently they produce a lot of ads that go on to win big awards like the Clio here (Argentina).. it was pretty interesting (but I was like 10 at the time, so who knows)