Classic TV: The 50s : live TV goofs

live TV goofs

There was normal everyday stuff: people looking at the wrong camera, lights and mikes not being turned on. Then there are famous ones I've heard about:

Captain Video desperately fighting the villain while, in the background, a stage hand is sweeping up. (Sid Caesar made fun of this by playing a stage hand sweeping between the actors and the camera.)

Jackie Gleason said "and away we go" and slipped and broke his leg.

Dagmar plopped more on the desk than the audience expected. (Costume Malfunction)

There's a story about Bob Hope holding something with both hands and asking the Blonde to reach into his pocket to get his car keys. She tried and said "this feels crazy" and Bob said "+++++++++++".

All things considered, it didn't happen too often. Nothing to compare with Uncle Don on the radio saying "there, that oughta hold the little ********s 'til next week".

Re: live TV goofs

Ed Begley (Sr.) once told the story of how he played the villain in a live production. At the climax, he is fighting the hero on a construction site. They near the edge. He picks up a wrench and swings. The hero ducks and the force of the swing sends Mr. Begley falling 90 stories to his death. Of course, the set was only 6 feet high, and they placed 3 feet of mattresses, so he only falls 3 feet. Everything went perfectly during rehearsals. Broadcast night he hit the mattresses and bounced back into camera range.

But throughout it all, my motto was "Dignity! Always dignity!".

Re: live TV goofs

Ernie Kovacs had the opposite problem. He was playing Mr. Wizard doing simple science tricks for a rotten kid. He wanted to show that, by putting a lit candle in a milk bottle and putting an egg at the neck of the bottle, a vacuum would be created and the egg sucked into the bottle. Five times during rehearsals, it didn't work, so they had dialog with the kid sneering at Mr. Wizard. Showtime, and they put the candle in the bottle and the egg at the neck, and SHOOM! the egg got sucked right into the bottle. Ernie and the kid just gaped.

Re: live TV goofs

I heard of an incident on early Australian TV series At Seven on 7 (1956), where Howard Craven was interviewing a cartoonist who drew a comic strip. The cartoonist draw a picture, and the interviewer commented that he saw the character every day in the comic strip. The cartoonist replied that the character never appeared on any comic strip, that the character was one he just made up.

Oops.

But the biggest goof happened in the 1970s, the Graham Kennedy "crow call" incident...

The Johnny O'Keefe Show doll...wind it up and it makes a comeback

Re: live TV goofs

Your Craven interviewer reminds me of a Steve Allen remark, which I can vouch for because I have the tape. Steve came out at the beginning of the show and asked the audience "How many of you saw our show last week?" The audience applauded and Steve said "Good. We weren't on last week."

Re: live TV goofs

I remember John Cameron Swayze, a nationally known newsman at the time, advertising Timex watches on The Steve Allen Show.

He strapped a Timex on the propeller of a boat motor and started the motor to show the watch would keep on ticking. The watch watch was promptly thrown off the propeller and sank to the bottom of the glass tank. He just laughed and told the audience, "You'll have to believe me, the watch is still running." Maybe used the Timex advertising phrase at the time: "Takes a licking and keeps on ticking."

Re: live TV goofs

In the Broadway show Mary, Mary, the estranged couple are fondly remembering the early days of their marriage, and particularly one night when they sat up 'til all hours watching movies on TV. The commercials were done live, and the announcer was apparently up past his bedtime. He took a deep drag on the sponsor's cigarette, exhaled slowly and said "Man, that's real coffee."

Re: live TV goofs

I bought 2 Timex watches and they kept on ticking, for a little while. Later I bought an Accutron and it 'took a drumming and kept on humming'.

Re: live TV goofs

I worked for a local TV/Radio combination that was owned by ABC. In the early days, they had "staff announcers," who had glorious voices, and read commercial tags, ID the station, did the "please stand by ... due to circumstances beyond our control" messages, and did the sign-off after "Sermonette." Mostly, they weren't seen. But, occasionally, they performed live commercials.

One of the old-timers told me of a beer commercial that he did live every weekday, on a given show. The client was very particular about the label of the bottle facing the camera at all times, and the precision with which the beer was to be opened, and poured into the glass.

Of course it had to happen, at some point ...

Things were hectic, one day. The "floor manager" had forgotten to place the bottle just-so, on the set table - it was a union rule that HE had to do it. Larry started the commercial, looking directly into the camera for his intro, looked down to see no bottle. Another staff member grabbed one and threw it to him. He caught it, opened it ... and there was beer everywhere.

He said that the client was either out of town, or had a sense of humor, after all -- he didn't cancel.







Re: live TV goofs

Zoo Parade, with Marlin Perkins, was the live predecessor of Wild Kingdom. Every Sunday afternoon, Marlin was at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago showing off one of the animals. One show, a half dozen keepers came onstage grasping a 20' python. As Marlin explained something, the snake suddenly crapped all over the hand of the keeper holding it at that spot. While Marlin kept a straight face, all the zoo keepers (but one) were biting their lips trying to stifle explosions of merriment.

Re: live TV goofs

Not 1950s, and not live, but I was watching a 1965 episode of the Australian version of "Bandstand" earlier today, and something really weird happened. You see, this episode was shot on a concert stage, and the stage included a platform that extended out into the audience (sorta like a fashion show catwalk). A singer, Little Millie, was singing a song on the platform, when a teenager reached out and touched Millie's feet. For the rest of the song, other people in the audience began reaching out to touch Millie's feet. This kept happening again and again. At one point, a man even grabbed at those feet, nearly causing Millie to trip.

What is so great about Little Millie's feet?



The Johnny O'Keefe Show doll...wind it up and it makes a comeback

Re: live TV goofs

WPIX, channel 11 in NYC had a jack of all trades announcer named Jack McCarthy. One of his annual assignments was to prowl around 5th Avenue near St. Patrick's Cathedral on Easter Sunday morning and interview interesting looking Easter paraders. One year it rained, rained buckets, and nobody was out except one old lady who had a hobby of making fancy decorated Easter eggs. She had brought a basket full. I suppose the eggs were very nice, but the TV screen was small and the broadcast in B&W. McCarthy had nothing else to do but hold an umbrella over the woman while, for half an hour, she explained every egg in loving detail. The episode was only slightly more interesting than another of WPIX's rainy day features, a scene of rain falling on the infield tarp at the Polo Grounds. The director apparently had no short film he could cut away to, and he didn't want to take the chance of starting to run one of the station's vast collection of 1930 cowboy movies and then having the rain stop and the game resume.

Re: live TV goofs

Me again. I just remembered a clip on youtube, but I can't find it now. An Oscar Levant show live from LA. The commercial was read by an announcer sitting a few feet away from the host but covered by a different camera. I think it was for a used car lot. When the commercial was finished, they cut back to Oscar who made a remark, and the commercial reader thought to add his own witticism. Oscar was furious and reamed out the announcer for not knowing his place.

Re: live TV goofs

Not from 1950's but I remember a couple from 1970's here in Australia.
Midday movie during week Barbie Rogers the host talking about the movie and hoping everybody enjoys, as camera fades to the movie, can plainly hear Miss Rogers "And if you don't I'll rip your bloody tits off".
The other was more of a joke but was on early Saturday morning childrens show Hey Hey Its Saturday, What's the difference between light and hard? Can always go to bed with the light on!!!

Re: live TV goofs

Johnny Carson frequently told the story of the character played by actor Tristam Coffin was shot and killed in a live production. Before the camera switched to the next scene, Mr. Coffin stood up and walked off.

But throughout it all, my motto was "Dignity! Always dignity!".
Top