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Friday, 1 September, 2006

Early in the 1990s, television commenced producing its product on film, even though for most purposes this was more expensive than the standard video tape which was absolutely common. It seems peculiar, even a mere fifteen years or so out that commercials and dramatic programs were once regularly produced on mere video. When this trend started in the middle seventies, the logic was that video tape was cheap, readily recycled and was all of the image one could transmit through television. By the nineties, the writing was on the wall implying an eventual replacement of the National Television Standards Committee system which has been North America and most of Asia’s form of television, formally established in 1946 with the color “overlaid standard” in 1952. The nature of the evolution of technology dictated the next thing, whatever it would be, was overdue.

However, no one knew what the new standard would be. Only one inevitably compatible technology existed. Film. By 1995 everything produced in most of the world which under any circumstances which may be redistributed in any form sometime in the future was produced on 35mm film. The conversion to Advanced Television Systems Committee format or HDTV has proceeded since then with the assumption that this standard will suffice, and is more readily edited with cheap and plentiful digital equipment. However, millennia of material exists on film to support the new standard.

One of the core functions of television distribution in the ATSC era will be, and for all points and purposes is, the scanning of filmed material for distribution in the new format with greater detail, and potentially enhanced audio, than actually transmitted before. What I had not considered was the possibility of enhancing the visual part of the media, as I presumed this would not be required under any circumstances.

My question was; which classic television series would be the first to arrive with enhancements and greater detail? The show must originally have been produced on film, had a major presence in syndication for … well, several years, and an existing fan base. The show gets an additional boost if it features production elements which could be enhanced for modern home video systems. My candidates:

  • I Love Lucy the essential and, at least in its ultimate form, the original situation comedy.
  • The Andy Griffith Show/Andy of Mayberry, which evolved the form with much more sophisticated production and established the “down home” era at CBS.
  • Beverly Hillbillies, a allegory of the internal war of all Americans between the embracing of tradition and the embracing of modernity at the cost of one’s essence.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show, which established suburbia as a plausible setting and featured the original show-business figure who lead a authentically mundane life.
  • The Flintstones, both the original animated sitcom, the show which “made” ABC and characters which remain relevant even today.
  • Get Smart
  • , wacky spy spoof set in the mythology of the American 1960s

  • Gilligan’s Island
  • which won’t go away no matter what we do

  • Hawai’i Five-O
  • solid, influential cop show

  • Hogan’s Heroes the inexplicable sitcom set at a WWII prisoner-of-war camp
  • The Honeymooners which was broadcast live, but the “classic thrity-nine” were produced with a process through which each studio television camera captured the image through a running 16mm film camera. I do not know if the original stock exists.
  • Leave It To Beaver the first sitcom which did not move at the speed of plot, very sophisticated dramatically for its time and introduced studio techniques even before Griffith.
  • M*A*S*H which was the first fully dramatic and comedic program. Only ran in the United States with a laugh track.
  • Magnum P.I. what happens when an executive says: “He’s a private detective, lives on an estate in Hawai’i and drives a flashy car. Everything else is up to you.”
  • Mission: Impossible
  • Perry Mason
  • These hold up remarkably well.

  • the 1966-1969 Star Trek
  • which for sheer, obsessive fan involvement has no equal.

    Of these, the shows which could be enhanced readily, thus pushing disc sales, include: Get Smart, Hogan’s Heroes, M*A*S*H, Mission: Impossible and Star Trek. This is the short list.

    I was about to cheat here and claim that I’ve been thinking about this for a while, which I have but haven’t come up with anything, The following project has been proceeding only since July! This project is a desperate attempt for an entertainment company to revive a multi-billion dollar science-fiction franchise which is widely perceived to be dead in the water. So dead in fact, they are letting non-science-fiction people monkey around with it. The very strategy which made the franchise in the first place.

    Ladies and gentiles, the first classic television series to be adapted for High Definition television. Paramount’s Star Trek Remastered. Premiering in “first-run syndication” the weekend of September 16th. This was not even leaked to the entertainment press until last week. Stations are signed up, and it’s on the schedule, but the guys who did the really swell and respectful Star Trek: Enhanced which you can see on YouTube, are not involved.

    KNVA in Austin will be carrying the show but the schedule for that week is not yet available to me.

    On a related note, KNVA will be carrying the CW network starting the 18th, and carrying Fox’s MyNetworkTV as a, and when was the last time you heard this term, secondary affiliation. KNVA plans to run MNT’s two hours of programming after CW’s two hours in order to make a four-hour prime time schedule. Not too bad for an LMA’d station. Of course, MyNetwork has two english-language telenovelas which Fox was going to pass on until UPN’s dissolution created many stations with no prime time programming.

    Which begs the question: Will we see a new push for first-run syndication such as in the early 90’s or will, like several abandoned WB and UPN affiliates, stations simply sign off? I’m thinking the latter. TV is the AM radio of our age. Unless someone devises something only television can or will do before the 2009, the technology will be abandoned.

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