Thursday, January 26, 2023

Twentieth Century Talkers


John Cameron Swayze (1906-1995) was an American news commentator 
during the 1940s and 1950s who later became best known as a product spokesman. Born in Wichita, Kansas, Swayze initially sought to work as an actor. However, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 curtailed acting roles on Broadway and he ended up in radio by 1933.

Swayze hosted the radio program Stranger Than Fiction. In addition, he worked in sports, writing about and broadcasting football games, and took part in early experimental television broadcasts. By 1940, Swayze was working full-time doing news updates for Kansas City's KMBZ. He broadcast news items prepared by United Press Kansas City bureau overnight editor Walter Cronkite. By 1946, Swayze was hired by NBC as director of news and special events for its Western Division. Two years later, NBC produced The Camel Newsreel Theatre, a 10-minute program of daily events using newsreel film, which Swayze narrated and often scripted.

Eventually, NBC executives tired of Swayze's flamboyant delivery style, in contrast to anchorman Douglas Edwards's comparatively low-key delivery on CBS. The ouster offered him various television roles as a game show panelist and product pitchman. For twenty years beginning in 1956, Swayze became widely known as the commercial pitchman for Timex watches, subjecting Timex watches to grueling physical tests. After retrieving the watch, his authoritative delivery was perfect for the company's slogan, "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking." 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Word Origins



Many years ago there existed in Old English a verb that was the negative of will, "to desire, to be in an acceptable or purposeful frame of mind." This verb's negative was nill, "to be unwilling, not to will." It is known to have existed as early as the ninth century in Anglo-Saxon, and its use continued in good standing until about the first of the seventeenth century. Since then it has become obsolete or archaic except as it has been used specifically in conjunction with one of several expressions signifying futility. All of which implies that "such a thing will be, or will happen, regardless of the desires of the person affected." All these forms have been contracted into the single expression of willy-nilly, which, like the scene above, is futility. 

*Inspired by Charles Funk (1881–1957)

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Television Ratings: The Seventies Part 2

The top 20 Nielsen ratings (L-R) 1972-1974. There is consistent viewership for the top six shows. Norman Lear's invasion with All In The Family and Maude prove to be strong contenders. Cannon and The Bob Newhart Show increased their popularity while The Six Million Dollar Man, Happy Days and Good Times (yellow) start their series on the positive. Gunsmoke remains the only primetime western in the top 20, but the sun is setting for Here's Lucy and The Partridge Family (orange).


Thursday, January 19, 2023

Twentieth Century Talkers


Eric Sevareid (1912-1992) was an American author and CBS news journalist, one of a group of elite war correspondents who were hired by CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow and nicknamed "Murrow's Boys." Sevareid was the first to report the Fall of Paris in 1940 after the city was captured by German forces during World War II. Severeid had pointed views away from the reporting microphones, especially during his later personal commentary segments, that sometimes divided his viewers into two camps.

Blessed with an old-school vocal delivery, Sevareid's work during World War II was at the forefront of broadcasting. He was a commentator on the CBS Evening News for thirteen years, winning Emmy and Peabody Awards. Sevareid's demeanor was one of authority and trustworthiness, all brought to the airwaves with intelligence. From 1959 to 1961, Sevareid was CBS's roving European correspondent, contributing stories to CBS Reports during that time. Sevareid joined Walter Cronkite on CBS television with a commentary about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the road ahead for the new president, Lyndon Johnson. He retired from the CBS network in 1977 but continued to contribute with independent projects, even playing himself on an episode of the sitcom Taxi in 1980.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Word Origins



Toward the end of the eighteenth century it was impolite to mention the words trousers or breeches. Since it was obviously necessary at times to refer to these ubiquitous garments, various euphemistic terms were coined for the purpose, and trousers became inexpressibles, inexplicables, ineffables, or unmentionables. Later, when trousers regained their standing in polite society, it was shameful to talk about undergarments, especially women's undergarments, and these became unmentionables. By the end of the twentieth century, advertising began removing all traces of anything unmentionable.

Note: Shown above is a 1928 advertisement for the Cooper Underwear Company. Today it is better known as Jockey.

*Inspired by Charles Funk (1881–1957)

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Television Ratings: The Seventies Part 1

The top 20 Nielsen ratings (L-R) 1970-1972. Robert Young's popularity helped Marcus Welby, M.D. retain its strong viewership while Medical Center and Ironside lost viewers. Adam-12 was solid at about mid-pack. Mannix hit its stride with a big jump upward. The Doris Day Show squeaked in with a respectable showing for its second season. Rather remarkable considering Day's character changed every season, from a widow to a single, carefree career woman, ala Mary Tyler Moore's hit series. The debut of Sanford and Son proved to be a winner from its debut in January 1972.

Twentieth Century Television


Robert Hogan (1933-2021) was an American actor best known for his prolific career in American television. Viewers were never quite sure where handsome Hogan would show up next, whether in a sitcom or police drama. He was one of the most in-demand and versatile actors in Hollywood.

Hogan portrayed numerous recurring characters on many daytime soaps with over sixty appearances on the primetime soap, Peyton Place. More primetime shows were in store for Hogan throughout the 1960s on Cheyenne, Bonanza, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Hawaiian Eye, I Dream of Jeannie, Hogan's Heroes, and Twelve O'Clock High, among others. There were no lulls in the 1970s with appearances on everything from The F.B.I, Hawaii Five-O, and played Sgt. Coopersmith on The Rockford Files, a role he would revive for Richie Brockelman, P.I. Hogan fit right in for numerous sitcoms like M.A.S.H., Mork & Mindy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and many more. His agent was constantly busy as Hogan made appearances on similar shows in the 1980s. By the 1990s, his career became more centered on theater with his Broadway debut in 1989. Hogan continued his television work until 2018.