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The Retro Report: Kinescopes From Neverland, Gone Too Soon, A Wonderful Credit Sequence & More!

The Governor & JJ and My World and Welcome To It are two classic TV sitcoms that aired only a season or two, were never given a fair shake at their networks (and should have at least lasted five years each – or more!).

In the early years of television, what were known as “specials” were weekly events.  But once in a while, one came along for which the term “special” couldn’t quite describe them. “Spectacular” might have been more appropriate. The Ford 50th Anniversary Show in 1953 and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella in 1958 are two examples.

According to Rob Ray, a member of the Board of Directors for the Classic TV Preservation Society, one of the brightest and most fondly remembered of these “spectaculars” was the 1955 TV adaptation of the 1954-55 Broadway production of Peter Pan, starring Mary Martin (mother to I Dream of Jeannie star Larry Hagman), Cyril Ritchard, a young Kathy Nolan (who later starred on The Real McCoys on CBS, among countless other shows), and the rest of the original Broadway cast.

Befitting its illustrious status, it was broadcast live and in color at a time when few viewers had color sets.

Ray explains:

“Since videotape had not yet come into use by the networks, the beautiful live color immediacy would be lost in any repeat viewing, as the only surviving record of the performance would be on a black and white filmed kinescope – made from photographing a television monitor. 

So when the public clamored to see it again, the Broadway cast reassembled less than a year later (with a few minor cast changes here and there) the following year for an encore performance…again live, in color, in what would be considered the definitive performance of this classic show.  And once again, all that survived was a black and white kinescope, albeit of better quality due to the slightly more polished production the second time around. 

 Finally, when color videotape became available a few years later, in 1960 Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard and a few others from the Broadway cast [the younger performers had outgrown their roles by then] stepped in front of the cameras yet again to record the show for posterity…this time in full color.  That color version has circulated over the years on VHS tape, laserdisc and sporadic network airings.  But the 1955 and 1956 airings…the only ones choreographed by Broadway legend Jerome Robbins…where everyone is younger, fresher and closer to what was seen on Broadway, have been hidden from view.”

Until now, that is.

Video Artists International has collected both earlier kinescope versions and released them on DVD and Blu-ray.  The color version which had been more widely available in years past remains absent here but the rarity of these original performances makes this release a television treasure. More fascinating details about the productions and how to order copies can be found here: Peter Pan: Collector’s EditionThe DVD only contains the 1955 telecast and the Blu-ray includes both the 1955 and 1956 performances.

TV soap opera legend, actress, singer, and author Gloria Loring will sign and discuss her book, Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous: Reflections on Daytime Dramas and Divine Intervention this “Throwback Thursday” at the Burbank Barnes & Noble.

Loring, formerly married to classic TV star Alan Thicke (both of whom are parents to pop-superstar Robin Thicke) will also sign copies of her various music CDs, one selection from which she will perform. Festivities begin at 7 PM. As with all the “Throwback Thursday” events at the Burbank Barnes & Noble, it’s a classic TV night not to be missed.

The opening credit sequence to the first ABC season of The All-New Original Wonder Woman, or the third CBS season of The New Adventures of Wonder Woman? You pick.

Peace to lovers of all things classic.

Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato has worked for Bravo, Syfy, A&E, E!, TLC, NBCUniversal, Sony and Warner Bros. He’s also the Founder of the Classic TV Preservation Society, and the author of several critically-acclaimed pop-culture books, all available from Barnes & Noble
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. 78sRandy

    September 16, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    An excellent article. Kudos to Rob and Herbie!

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