Friday, November 21, 2008


I'm taking a break from talking about depressing current events: I want to talk about TV.

Been reading about the whole changeover of black and white television to color back in the Sixties. Here's some articles about it here and here.

I guess one of the reasons I'm interested is because we are seeing a big changeover happening now: the switchover from analog to digital and the arrival of HDTV. You see on so many shows and channels now the words "HD." You keep on seeing these ads on these American TV channels promoting the big "digital conversion" on February 17, 2009 all the time now.

Well, the last big revolution of this magnitude happened in the Sixties with the big changeover to "full-color." Of course, in the Fifties there were some shows that broadcast in color (usually on NBC) but most network TV was in black and white and most people didn't even have color TV sets.

That all changed by the mid-Sixties, when more and more color TV shows were being shown on TV. NBC was promoting itself as the "Full Color Network" and shows were promoting themselves as being "In Color". In fact the Walt Disney show of the time even had the word "color" in its title: Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color.

As far as I can tell, television's "silver age" (black and white, that is) lasted until 1966, when the changeover to color TV in prime time was completed on the three major networks and the "Color age" began. I must say, I just don't know how people were able to survive with just black-and-white TV. I can handle the occasional show in black and white, but all of them?! Man, if you want to take the life out of watching television, show it all in black and white!!

NBC apparently spurred on the move to color; its prime time lineup went pretty much all-color in 1965, and it had plenty of color programming for years before that-- shows like Bonanza and Walt Disney. CBS and ABC had few color TV shows until about 1965, when they started converting shows like Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan's Island, Lassie and My Favorite Martian to color. By 1966 all the shows in prime time were in color on every network.

1966 was a significant year because the last great all-black-and-white series of television history, The Dick Van Dyke Show, ended its run that season. Had that show come back to TV for one more season that fall, we would have seen Rob Petrie and the gang in COLOR, guaranteed. The other black-and-white shows that stayed on the air past 1966, including I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Wild Wild West, Andy Griffith and so on, all had to convert to color. The folks at Jump the Shark consider the color changeover to be a major "jump the shark" moment for a lot of TV series, though I think the changeover had to be a benefit for some of them.

I've once again dug up some stuff from the YouTube TV vaults about color TV and the whole changeover. Enjoy.

And some rare Color TV from 1958!!!:

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