This Week: retromedia.tv
The great fallacy of TV criticism is that all those images on the video screen are somehow importanteither as works of art or as signs of our cultural decline. But oftentimes they don't mean a thing. They're just momentary flashes of absurdity meant to grab our attention, existing only for that particular moment in time. If you were to collect these random video ghosts of television past, what would they say? Perhaps that our culture will always be a silly one. Graphic designer Edward Saturday offers the evidence at his website retromedia.tv, a repository for all the TV images we've half-way forgotten. There you can see clips of the Monkees selling Kool-Aid, prepubescent girls squealing in delight over Milton Bradley's Mystery Date, and TJ Hooker kicking ass.
TV-show intros and nearly forgotten commercials:
Honestly, they're not that important on their own. I think from the standpoint of historical preservation, the archiving of periodicals, books, newspapers, or any form of mass media (including TV shows and commercials) is important. It's important for our generation, and future generations, to have an accessible visual record of "the way we lived." Advertising and television programming are one part of that larger record.
But, can I make the claim with a straight face that the 1969 intro to the Banana Splits is important? God no. (Unless you were the guy in the Fleagle suit or wrote the theme song or something)
How did you get so interested in them?
I've always been sort of a retrophile, if that's a word. I secretly dug 1960s pop music when I was in high school and it wasn't cool. And I've always collected random mid-century stuff radios, furniture, periodicals. I look at rare TV stuff and advertising from the 50s, 60s and 70s as a sort of living, breathing window into that lost world. And that, for some reason, just fascinates me.
What do you personally get out of watching them?
I think I get the most satisfaction out of the site as a whole, rather than watching the clips, per se. I work as an art director in advertising, and have a degree in journalism and history, so the site sort of feeds all of those beasts. I like having my own little corner of the Internet; I suppose I'm a bit of a show-off.
How do you make your selections of which clips to post?
I try to share clips that are unique in some way: an obscure product, a great jingle or theme song, a rare show intro that includes a sponsor tag, a clip with some historical significance, a horribly dated spot, a funny spot (intentionally or not) or any combination of those qualities.
do you acquire the clips?
The Internet is a haven for collectors of anything, and TV clips are no exception. I personally recorded a lot of stuff in the early days of the VCR, there are collectible shows at which you can find a random tape, garage sales, eBay. Searching for a specific spot (a la Quisp) is a little tough. It's more like you find a compilation tape that happens to have Quisp on it.
What are your favorite clips?
On the site currently, the 1965 spot for Laura Scudder (Clip of the week in March 16) makes me smile every time I see it. Since I was a big sports fan growing up, the openings for Monday Night Football and the NBA on CBS still get me fired up. And it doesn't get any better than the theme song for the Electric Company. Of course, the Crying Indian PSA is still the mother of all commercials.
What kinds of reactions have you gotten to the site?
Almost universally positive. "You blew my mind" "I never thought I'd see that again" "I'm addicted." The site got mentioned in both USA Today and TV Guide, which was pretty neat and unexpected. Probably half of all responses I get are requests. It gets a little tiresome, but I try to honor a few of them here and there when I can.
What are the most requested clips to be added?
The requests are all over the place, so it's tough to say. Generally, I can say that it's obscure children's shows, and commercials that people have vague recollections of from their childhood.
What's your "holy grail" of clips that you've yet to acquire?
Boy, that's a hard one. The old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup spots ("Two great tastes that go great together") have avoided me for some reason. I'd like to get my hands on more old newscasts...I think they are fantastic time capsules.
What ads or intros of today do you think will cause nostalgia in the future?
I hope that reality shows will soon fade away and become only a figment of nostalgic thought years down the road. But something tells me they aren't going anywhere for a long time. Maybe the "early" years of reality television will one day be lovingly remembered with rose-colored glasses. (gag!)
Know of a cool pop culture website? Tell us all about it!