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October 1997, Week 1


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 1 Oct 1997 13:11:54 -0500
TEXT/PLAIN (53 lines)
        The term "prime time," signifying that portion of the broadcast
day when listenership/viewership is potentially greatest (generally the
evening hours) has been with us since the golden age of network radio.
Since virtually all program origination then was centered about Los
Angeles and New York, and since network policies at CBS and NBC's Red and
Blue strictly prohibited the use of recordings, radio shows had to be
performed live twice.  For example, if a program originating in New York
at 8 PM were sent through the lines to the West Coast for regional
broadcast as it was being performed, it would be broadcast in the Pacific
Time Zone at 5 PM, outside of prime time and missing the most potential
listeners.  A network program originating in Hollywood, if it were to be
heard at 8 PM in, say, Pittsburgh, would have to be broadcast first at 5
PM Pacific Time and then redone, live, for the "local" audience at 8 PM
Pacific.  Daylight Savings Time created insoluble dilemmas.  Network
television suffered the same problems, but, absence any ban on recorded
programming, first kinescopes, later videotape, solved these time-shift
        Since the producers of *ER* realized that that episode's
"liveness" was the promotional hook to draw audience share, they had no
choice but to restage the production twice so that the program could still
inhabit it "local" time-slot, 10 PM, and be "live," just as Jack Benny,
Edgar Bergen, Burns and Allen, and others had to do in the '30s.
        In this vein, can anyone explain why there appeared to be a time
lag between the Cubs' game the *ER* crew was viewing locally on WGN
during the East Coast feed, and the actual WGN transmission of the game I
received here in Columbus, Ohio?  The *ER* game lagged behind the actual
WGN transmission.  My suspicion is that the tape feed to the receiver on
the *ER* set was delayed via tape so that at the critical juncture where
the cast acknowledges the game, the game would be seen and not an Illinois
Lottery commercial or Budweiser ad.
                               William Lafferty
Department of Theatre Arts                           [log in to unmask]
Wright State University                           office (937) 775-4581 or 3072
Dayton, OH  45435-0001  USA                            facsimile (937) 775-3787
"The universe was once conceived almost as a vast preserve, landscaped for
heroes, plotted to provide them the appropriate adventures.  The rules were
known and respected, the adversaries honorable, the oracles articulate and
precise as the directives of a six-lane parkway.  Errors of weakness or vanity
led, with measured momentum, to the tragedy which resolved everything.  Today,
the rules are ambiguous, the adversary is concealed in aliases, the oracles
broadcast a babble of contradictions."
                                  --- Maya Deren, from her notes for *At Land*
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