Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Attraction: Museum of Television & Radio

The staff at this museum tells you as you buy your ticket that all you’ll be doing is watching TV. On a day with near-100% humidity, I can’t think of a finer cultural experience. You’re allowed to select up to 4 programs from the museum’s library, and you have 2 hours to watch them.

I was amazed by the number of people who requested episodes of FRIENDS. Isn’t this show on six times a day everywhere in the country? I had a list of programs at the ready:

- MORTON & HAYES, which I’ve written about before;
- NO SOAP RADIO, an absurd 1982 limited-run sitcom starring Bill Dana and Steve Guttenberg that struck me as hilarious;
- An episode of THE HARDY BOYS featuring the singer David Gates (‘If’).

Maybe I should explain that last one. This particular show was about a Russian woman who wanted to defect. The signal to proceed would be a song that Gates would sing at a certain point in his concert; if she heard it, she was to go to agents positioned in the crowd. If she didn’t, she was to return to her Soviet minders. Word comes down to Frank and Joe: the plan is off. They signal Gates, who starts performing a different tune. The woman, in tears, begins heading for the exit. Then the Hardys realize there’s a mole in the operation, and that if the woman goes back to the embassy she’ll be killed. They wave frantically to Gates, who in the middle of his song stops and switches to the one that means the coast is clear. To an 11-year-old, this was the height of drama, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I still get chills when I think about it. I wanted to watch the show again to see how it held up – and to eliminate the positive feelings it engendered toward David Gates.

Needless to say, the museum had none of my selections.

They did have Rosemarie’s first choice, an episode of THE DAVI D SUSSKIND SHOW about being a Jewish son featuring Mel Brooks, George Segal, David Steinberg and Dan Greenburg that she remembered as the funniest program she’d ever seen. It held up rather well. We came up with a few alternates that weren’t available, like the Oscar ceremony featuring Rob Lowe dueting with Snow White (apparently, all copies of that telecast have been destroyed, the remains placed in earth which was then salted so that nothing would ever grow there again). But we were able to fill out our card with some other goodies:

- The final TOMORROW show, with Chevy Chase and Peter Allen joining Tom Snyder;
- The Thanksgiving episode of WKRP IN CINCINNATI, which ends with Gordon Jump’s immortal line, “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly”;
- A 1981 Doug Henning magic special in which all the strings are clearly visible.

What did you expect me to request, the moon landing? I know how that ends.

The radio part of the museum is also impressive. This week’s offerings included an Orson Welles tirade against Thomas E. Dewey, an installment of BUCK ROGERS, and a Mercury Summer Theater broadcast of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS.

Miscellaneous: Outdoor Advertising

Any doubts I had about the mainstreaming of porn were banished during a trip to the TKTS booth in Times Square. The billboard promoting Jenna Jameson’s latest home video – filmed in 35MM – was as large and as prominently placed as the one plugging I, ROBOT.