Friday, February 4, 2011

Retro TV Friday

Last week Bobby posted an article on the 25th anniversary of the Challenger space shuttle disaster, and following the links from the YouTube clip included in the piece opened up a treasure-trove of network television coverage of the manned space program. Most fascinating for me was a look at the care with which the networks introduced their space coverage. It was an Event, with a capital E, and it's something that seems to me to be missing from television today.

Let's start with a little hippiness - NBC's intro to its coverage of the Apollo 16 flight in 1972. The graphics are pure 70s all the way, and yet far more elaborate than any introduction you're likely to see on one of today's newscasts.

This link leads you to CBS's opening for its coverage of the flights of Apollo 9, 10 and 11. As perhaps befitts what was once known as the "Tiffany Network," the CBS style is perhaps more ponderous, more portentious, with Cronkite in full "Voice of God" mode* But there's no denying the power in "the epic journey of Apollo 11." These men were explorers, voyagers, about to embark on a mission never before done. With the advantage of retrospect, we forget that the success of the first moon landing was by no means assured. And was this perhaps the last time one heard reference to "astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins" before they ceased being men and became icons instead?

*I defy anyone to watch Dave Thomas' impressions of Cronkite on SCTV and then listen to the real Cronkite while keeping a straight face. Think especially Bowling for Dollars.

Finally, for something really low-tech, try out NBC's coverage of the Liberty Bell 7 launch, as Gus Grissom becomes the second American in space. Actually, it's a little more like our "Breaking News" intros, don't you think?

Drama in abundance, though, and I wonder what, if anything, will make us feel this way again?
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