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Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
RIP the great Jerry Stiller
ALSO: HBO static origins. AND: Whatever happened to movie hosts?
Comedian Jerry Stiller has died at the age of 92 of natural causes. The news was broken by his son, Ben Stiller, on Twitter:
Many of us knew him best from his appearances on Seinfeld where Stiller played George Costanza’s father Frank. It’s surprising to note that he only appeared in the show 26 times - his character had such a presence that it seemed like more. Following the cancellation of Seinfeld he was a regular cast member in the sitcom King of Queens where he appeared in 154 of its 206 episode run.
Prior to Seinfeld, Stiller had appeared in a number of movies (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Hairspray) and TV shows (Murder She Wrote, The Equalizer, The Love Boat), but he was best known as one half of comedy duo Stiller and Meara with wife Anne Meara.
In 1999 Jerry Stiller was the subject of the NY Friars Club Roast. The entire televised show lives on thanks to YouTube:
CBS All Access drama that I am positive you have never heard of Tell Me a Story won’t be returning to CBSAA for a third season. But the first two will air on sister TV network The CW. Also plugging schedule holes on The CW will be the first and only season of DC Universe show Swamp Thing.
But it’s not just reheated failed streaming shows being aired on The CW. It also acquired UK comedy Dead Pixels and Canadian drama Coroner.
In a sense, this is actually the future of linear channel TV in the US. As the focus (and budgets) go towards acquiring eyeballs on streaming products, the still financially viable advertising-driven linear channels will be used for second and third window screenings.
Nothing pains me more than to share something hosted by Josh Gad (he’s the worst), but this episode of his YouTube series has him talking via Zoom to the cast of Back To The Future. And who doesn’t want to see that?
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the HBO static intro used on all of its shows. In today’s TV watching where the battle is for HDMI 1 and not for a specific channel, TV static is beyond anachronistic at this point. Part of me is wondering if WarnerMedia might use the launch of HBO Max as an opportunity to revamp the HBO ident.
There was an article on Playboy.com back in 2015 that took a look at the origins of the HBO static. That article has since been removed from the site, but it lives on thanks to the Wayback Machine. The article included this interesting quote on its origins:
Bruce Richmond, the senior executive vice president of production at HBO, was integral in the creation of the static intro logo back in the early 1990s. “We had a bunch of pitches on storyboard before we started any of the production,“ he told Playboy.com. "Everybody kind of gravitated towards this idea of a TV turning on, and out of this static comes this resolved HBO logo that lifts itself out of normal television series.”
Working with that kernel of an idea, Richmond recalled the moment it all came together. “We spent about a week creating the static and doing all the layering of the type and making sure that it resolved. After that we went into sound design. It got more exciting once we got into sound design. When we started working on that kind of nice bass-y hum that comes out of the static, there was this moment when five or six people in a room, who had been up for two days working on it, we all said, “Oh, that’s it.‘”
I watch very few movies on TV anymore - there’s something about the experience that doesn’t feel particularly special or engaging. But when I think back to watching movies on TV that felt like an event, my memories go back to seeing hosts introduce a movie. In Australia the obvious go-to was Bill Collins intro’s, but for me the host I always think of was SBS’ Des Mangan who used to introduce all sorts of weird and offbeat movies. Honestly, I think my interest in weirdo movies and TV began with discovering film through his intro’s.
Movie intro’s are mostly gone from Australian TV, if not completely. But there are some channels in the US that do them. Classic movie channel TCM is still doing them, establishing a strong identity through their on-air talent. But horror streamer Shudder now does them as well. When HBO Max launches, it will make available a lot of these intro’s from TCM.
Indiewire has an article on this today. Here’s TCM General Manager Pola Changnon:
“There’s something in our DNA that says you need to watch a movie with other people. It’s a social thing. If you watch a movie on your phone, on your laptop, by yourself and it’s a great movie what happens when it’s over? You feel extremely lonely.” It’s the equivalent of sitting with a good friend and watching a movie. “You want to feel connected, even if it’s just sitting in your living room watching.”
An interesting phenomenon recently has been seeing the spike of people in the US tweeting along with movies on Shudder through its hosted The Last Drive-In show. In a digital world, people are creating community around movies through these hosted blocks.