Don't Touch that Dial

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I searched all over the Internet for a picture of today's book, and couldn't find one. So I decided to put up this picture of a radio instead, because radio is the subject of today's book.

Today's book; "For those who loved it, as well as those who missed it, this book brings to life old-time radio, which was often called a "theater of the mind." It is an entertaining and important history of radio programming and its role in shaping social values and thought in America. By merging an historic overview with a study of patterns in American life, the author allows us to view radio from anthropological, historical, and sociological perspectives in order to capture its monumental impact on American culture."

Today's book started out well, got kind of boring in the middle, and then became interesting again when I got to the chapter about radio soap operas.

Radio firsts:

  • The first scheduled, non-experimental, public radio program aired on November 2, 1920 and was an evening broadcast from the Presidential election.
  • The first collegiate football game was broadcast November 25, 1920
  • The first radio drama, The Wolf, aired in October of 1922.

Weirdest titles for radio programs:

  • Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch
  • It Pays to Be Ignorant
  • Moonshine and Honeysuckle
  • The Stolen Husband

From the mid-30's until the mid-50's a program called Lux Radio Theater aired. The Lux program featured Hollywood stars re-enacting, in their entirety, popular movies such as; It Happened One Night, The Philadelphia Story, and The Thin Man. The last time I saw my Grandmother we were discussing her favorite radio programs and she said that she loved Lux Radio Theater. It boggles my mind that anyone would want to listen to a re-enactment of a movie, but I guess in the pre-VCR/DVD/DVR days, this would have been their only opportunity to "see" a movie they enjoyed again. Every time I leave the movie theater I think about how annoying it must have been to watch a movie back then, love it, and yet know that you'll never be able to own it and watch it 4,000 times.

The other thing I was amazed by was how long soap operas continued to air on the radio. On November 25, 1960 the last four remaining soap operas went off the air. Why on earth would anyone continue to listen to soap operas when you could watch them? You would miss out on so much by listening instead of watching; that look the actors get right before they go to commercial break that looks like they're either thinking really hard or they're constipated, the way that some actors get a little too into their onscreen kisses and end up looking like they're going to swallow the other persons head, the way the furniture stays the same for 20 years . . . On second thought I may have just answered my own question. Maybe radio would be preferable.

When I was reading the part of the book that discussed radio magazines (a sort of radio version of TV Guide), all I could think about was how jarring that must have been for people to only hear some one's voice first, get a mental image of them, and then see their picture and find out they look nothing like the mental image they previously had. And then the next time they listen to their favorite program the mental image they used to have would battle it out in their heads with the image of what the person really looks like. I'm trying to imagine what it would be like to enjoy an entertainment program and have no idea what the actors looked like - it's such a startling contrast to today's celebrity world were you can see pictures of celebrities at the grocery store, the gas station, while chewing, while picking their nose, while adjusting their clothes . . . The more I write this entry the more advantages I'm seeing to radio programming. It might be kind of nice to not have a mental image seared in my brain of Miley Cyrus making that stupid peace sign in every picture (how ironic that a peace sign makes me feel so irritated), or Tori Spelling without make-up, or Jessica Simpson trying to sing. Some things are best left to the imagination.