Entries Tagged as 'tv'

so, about dave….

 David Letterman announces his retirement Photo copyright Associated Press

David Letterman announces his retirement
Photo copyright Associated Press

As a broadcasting nut (mostly because of my personal and professional addiction) I have been fortunate enough to hear and see some amazing things on television. Each makes you feel something whether it was the horrible OSCAR telecast with Rob Lowe and Snow White, the Challenger Disaster which I watched live in my dorm room as it happened or even the final shows of countless TV programs that I used to watch.

Many of us watched the last Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (and Jay Leno – twice- and Conan O’Brien- also twice). Not so much for today’s generation but for mine, Late Night television has been something special (even when it was bad).

But Johnny- as great as the show was- was not of my generation. I caught that train somewhere in the late 70s when it was already established but still in its 90 minute format.

But then came this fellow that Carson mentored, David Letterman. I remember first seeing Dave on something like Don Kirschner’s Rock Concerts as a stand- up comedian. I didn’t think he was particularly funny.

Then somehow Letterman ended up with a morning show on NBC. I caught that for a while and just thought the whole episode was awkward, although towards the end some of the bits were funny because clearly they didn’t care any more.

But Carson decided he wanted Letterman as part of the new 12:30 am slot. Given lots of rules that would differentiate it from The Tonight Show, Late Night with David Letterman debuted and television was not quite the same after that.

It was unique mostly because Late Night had to twist the talk show format to suit Carson. It was a wise move for Carson and ultimately for Late Night. Dave and his writers came into their own in a time slot where really nobody cared much about what you did as long as it didn’t mess with Johnny.

Elevator races, top 10 lists, viewer mail, Velcro suits and Larry Bud Melman soon became television staples. What today’s generation of late night viewers take as standard operating procedure was, at the time, an inventive and modern twist on what Steve Allen and a few others had done in television’s infancy. But Dave made it ours.

I was standing in my kitchen one Friday evening in the 80’s and The Tonight Show had ended another program. In a cold open, for the next show on NBC, we see a shot of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia in his dressing room with a guitar trying to play a song but not getting it. In walks David Letterman who reaches over, adjusts Jerry’s fingers on the guitar. After which Jerry proceeds to start strumming “Proud Mary”.

It was hysterical. I was hooked. I had MY Johnny.

Through college my roommates and I always watched Dave. The NBC debacle between Dave and Jay was high drama for me (for no good reason except my peculiar fascination with the situation) and I was so pleased when Dave got the CBS deal.

I have been to a taping of the original Arsenio Hall show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien and even a rehearsal of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. But I never made it to the Ed Sullivan Theatre. I guess watching on the TV (and avoiding the cow herding aspects of being in a long studio audience waiting line) was good enough for me.

These final shows have been terrific mostly because Dave seems so relaxed that he’s almost like the old “Late Night” Dave. If you haven’t been watching them, you’re missing some great TV.

So far, this clip with George Clooney and Tom Waits with Dave (after Clooney handcuffed himself to Dave – hilarious because Dave was so uncomfortable – which makes him so funny) is my favorite for everyone’s great reactions and spontaneity. Watch this…

None the less, I’m watching these final shows with the kind of sadness I should reserve for people I know – and in spite of the TV relationship, I do not know any of these folks. But I’m sad for them and me none the less. It’s the kind of end of high school “we will never pass this way again” thing we’ve all been through.

I will be sadder than when I watched Johnny’s last show because Dave was my guy and he’s leaving. It may be time, but you never want to say goodbye even when you know you should.

So Dave, you’ll never read this, but thanks. You are a broadcaster’s broadcaster and an excellent entertainer in your own right.

Thanks for sharing your talents.

Good night!

3 reasons why this such a good tv commercial

It’s hard for a TV commercial to get my attention, hold my attention and make me remember it. That’s because I’ve not only seen so many commercials but I’ve also been a part of so many commercial productions that I think I’m a little jaundiced about spots.

So the other day while just changing channels, I came across this Bayer Aspirin commercial having never seen it before. It totally drew me in and got my attention and I’ll tell you why I think it worked so well.

You innocently watch a guy at a sporting event, enjoying himself. Some paramedics come towards him, which confuses him because he has no medical issues. But as they tell him, he soon will. WHAT?! That’s a great commercial hook. Bam! 7 seconds!

Make no mistake, it’s not the voice-over that impresses in this spot, it’s the actors. Our protagonist not only delivers his set-up line well but his facial expression after he’s told he’s about to have a heart attack is spectacular, it’s real and it’s honest. But let us not ignore the great simple performance of the paramedic who firmly but calmly informs her soon to be patient that he’s going to have a heart attack.

From the establishing shot to paramedics entry and conversation shots, it all flows really nicely and innocently until the viewer is as smacked awake as the protagonist when the heart attack line is delivered. The editing is simple because there seems to be nothing especially dramatic unfolding. Until it does.

Maybe you saw the ad and it didn’t grab you like it grabbed me but it was so impactful to me as the viewer I wanted to share it with you. There enough NOT so impressive spots out there that I think we should celebrate the really good ones.

What do you think about this spot? Great? Or did it seem like just another TV spot?

who is this man and how did he help my broadcasting career?

Buffalo broadcasting legend Clip Smith

Buffalo broadcasting legend Clip Smith

Buffalo, New York has had a lot of amazing radio and television stars share our local airwaves since the early 1920’s when radio began here. Certainly people like Buffalo Bob Smith, Foster Brooks and Tim Russert are among some of the many notables.

Like in all television markets, there were also many notable local celebrities in Buffalo whose fame never progressed to a national level but who were immediately recognizable to a regional television audience.

If you lived in Buffalo during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s – there were 3 main TV stations but for news most everybody watched only one, Channel 7. WKBW-TV, then and now an ABC affiliate, was the leader without question at that time (times have changed). They were led by a weekday anchor team that stayed together 25+ years. I knew the anchor team a little bit but I didn’t work with them; there was somebody else I got to work with at Channel 7 when I was briefly there.

In the summer of 1983, after my freshman year of college at the University of Dayton, I returned to Buffalo to begin a weekend internship at WKBW with the station’s weekend sports anchor and utility player – Clip Smith, the Clipper.

My mom got me the internship.

See, that spring my Mom and Dad were in Buffalo at a charity dinner and somehow my Mom sat next to Clip Smith. She naturally told Clip the TV guy about her son (me) studying broadcasting at the University of Dayton while he worked in radio there. And Clip immediately offered a chance at an internship at Circle 7 (named thusly because of their famous logo). So all summer long I recorded and watched games (remember the USFL…unfortunately I do), went out on news stories and watched newscasts and actually live broadcasts get put together in a way I never could have otherwise.

It was a tremendous experience, working with a variety of people but none better than Clip. Aside from the overwhelming feeling of trying to stay out of the way and not do the wrong thing, the thing I remember most about Clip (besides his humor – some of which included the corniest jokes in the world that he’d share on air) was his ability to improvise a sportscast. He would write and intro sentence and and outro sentence to help the director cue tapes and packages but all the rest was improvised. And it sounded smooth as silk.

His voice was amazing. I remember years before college hearing a voice (I didn’t know it was Clip) doing the top of the hour ID at Channel 7 and he sounded powerful yet friendly — it was amazing and I can STILL hear it in my head “You’re watching Channel 7, WKBW-TV…Buffalo”. Simple. Deep. Perfect.

You can hear Clip’s great announcing voice here in this recorded station sign off of WKBW-TV from 1981

After I left Channel 7 and went back to WVUD I lost touch with Clip. I caught up with him one time at someplace I can’t now remember just to reintroduce myself, say hi and say thank you. He said he remembered me. Later still, we worked together on Buffalo Blizzard Soccer broadcasts when I was the Assistant General Manager there.

He died tragically in 2004, I was sad to learn. In 2006, Clip was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame and I attended the ceremony. Afterwards, I made a point to speak with his wife who, understandably, was very emotional. But I wanted her to know how much her husband’s kindness impacted my life and what a good guy he really was.

She knew. We all did.

the thanksgiving tradition continues


It has been said: “For those who understand, no answer is necessary. For those who do not understand, no answer will suffice.”

Every year I still enjoy this wonderful piece of TV and I hope you do too. Please share this post with your social media voice-over friends!

Happy Thanksgiving!

bill and conjunction junction are 40!

You know how people reach certain age milestones and they are shocked or happy or depressed (sometimes all at once)?

Well when I realized that School House Rock turned 40 this year, I was stunned and pleased and sad (see, I can’t do anything right).

It occurred to me that my life in media may have been a bit of a pre-ordained thing:

* Born on the night the Beatles were first on the Ed Sullivan Show (a pretty major day in entertainment history)

* In kindergarten at the inception of Sesame Street (and yes we watched it in class); it was the same year I took my first tour of a radio station and was smitten/bitten by the radio bug

* At the prime learning age of 7 years old when School House Rock was rolled out

See…destiny. Oh yeah, it also reminded me that I is old.

This one is my favorite:

why casting matters

It struck me when I watched this commercial how critical excellent casting was to the success of the message and the comedy.

I suppose I should try and make some bigger point here but, um, really that’s all I had to say on the matter. The spot was well cast.