Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Video Vault #3

A couple days late, since I hoped to post my weekly video every Monday, but work is taking control of life.

Moving on - with this post we explore my life-long fascination with local TV newscasts. From the earliest time I remember caring, I was a local TV news fan. I grew up as most Philadelphians did watching the leader - KYW TV 3 (yes folks, Action News wasn't ALWAYS the news leader in Philly) ... and I remember watching Vince Leonard, Mort Crim and Jessica Savitch deliver all the news that I was probably too young to care about. Those that study media refer to that newsteam and those years on KYW as the "Camelot of television news".

As I entered high school, I was introduced to weatherman Bill Kuster, Jack Jones (Philly's first black newsman), and more throughout my formative years as a teenager in Philadelphia. KYW news had also been home to Tom Snyder, who left Philly and moved to the network to host a late-night talk show for NBC called 'Tomorrow', a show I really enjoyed watching as a teen.

I couldn't tell you who was anchoring the news over at WCAU (not many could) and WPVI, which rolled out their new "Action News" format in the early 70s was not on in my house ... funny thing: I remember various friends parents being either an Eyewitness News or an Action News household. It was quite a popular discussion of the day as both KYW and WPVI went back and forth as to who was the local news leader. However, pop culture had its way: the fact was that WPVI had a powerhouse on salary - no, not their anchorman Larry Kane - but their weatherman Jim O'Brien.

Jim O'Brien came to Philadelphia in 1970 to become a disc jockey at the #1 station in the city, WFIL-AM. In 1976 he joined the Action News team as a sports anchor. He soon became the weatherman and became a local legend with his presentation of the weather, being the only Philadelphia area weatherman to use a pointer while on the air. O'Brien woke us up with the number one radio show in the morning on WFIL and then tucked us in on the news at night. O'Brien eventually anchored the Noon newscast, the local edition of Dialing for Dollars and the weekend magazine show Primetime. Sadly, he died during a skydiving accident in September of 1983.

But because of Jim's personality - just about EVERYONE sooner or later gave up watching KYW and moved over to WPVI ... it laid the foundation that Channel 6 has built upon for the past 30 years as a news leader.

But back to KYW - they went back and forth with WPVI in the mid-70s for the #1 newscast until 1977. It was the year that KYW began its freefall from first to worst and tried everything to shake what would be the unshakable reality. I remember a series of weird newscasts from a sports reporter with a bad wig and plastic flowers in his checkered lapel (comedy sports) to introducing a slew of new anchors (it was like a revolving door down there on 5th street) including stints from Maria Shriver and Maury Povich in the early 80s. (remember People Are Talking!?)

It was like watching a car wreck and I was hooked! I never missed a newscast and I was fascinated with how they promoted the upcoming changes (that were always upcoming) ... I remember when they brought Beverly Williams back to the anchor desk with new coanchor Patrick Emory and had them both wear black turtlenecks in a major marketing campaign - featuring Bev facing away from the camera and the words "BEV'S BACK" on her back ... classy.

But the worst (or best, in my eyes) was when KYW - who pretty much had nothing to lose - decided to make the news fit society and created a disco newscast, called DIRECT CONNECTION.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the actual promotional clip for KYW-TV 3's Direct Connection ... this is what news is all about! Clams on the halfshell and roller skate, roller skate! Good Times!


Divien Ms. Jimmi said...

Oh, gawd! I remember there being a big rumor that Jim O'Brien was gay and Steve Levy was his lover.

My mother used to watch John Facenda til he went off the air.

I remeber to going to People Are Talking when Maury was hosting the show. It was something else. It was great to kill time during a boring day.

Tommy said...

That is one great promo! Visually and musically. That is seriously one hot disco track.. So good it should be on 12'' (unless it actually was, but what are the chances..)

Anonymous said...

this is better..