MediaLog SnapShot: Hefty Lawn & Leaf Bags, 1973

Hefty Lawn & Leaf Bags, 1973
Originally uploaded by Roadsidepictures.

This picture (from Flickr) of a box of Hefty bags from the 1970s encapsulates everything I love about this kind of ephemera. This kind of everyday item is something that (almost) no one would ever think of saving or even of now considering seriously as an item of interest. But I find it fascinating for a number of reasons: as an example of packaging design from its era; as a "blast from the past" (of garbage bags!); and as an interesting example of a celebrity endorsement with the Jonathan Winters photo and signature. You can find a lot of photos of items like this--grocery or consumer items from the past--and it's one of the areas I like to search for pictures of on the always-interesting Flickr.


The MediaLog MediaFix: NBC "Flow" from 1983

The concept of television "flow" is one that has gained great currency within academic television studies. Basically, flow is the idea that TV is constituted by a constant flow of images and sounds that take the form of different televisual elements (such as segments of programs, interstitial items such as promos and stations IDs, and commercials). It is this flow, much more than any programs or specific type of program, that characterizes television as a medium.

This clip is an example of televisual flow, here in a segment from NBC from August of 1983. The segment begins with the opening of "NBC News Digest," a sample of the kind of interstitial news updates that networks used to offer in the days prior to 24-hour cable news. (Featured news stories include an upcoming space shuttle launch and the military conflict in Beirut, Lebanon.) The flow also includes commercials for Airborne Express, Pepsi Free, and Burger King, a brief local news promo, and, at its very end, the opening title for an NBC movie.

(Length: 2 mins. 34 secs.; video source: YouTube)


The MediaLog MediaFix: Local Cleveland Newscast from 1977

The three clips in this MediaFix, viewed in order (top to bottom), comprise the entire late-evening local newscast from Cleveland television station WJKW for September 2, 1977. Quite apart from its news content, the newscast is a fascinating example of how local news was presented in the late-1970s, sort of the media equivalent of a prehistoric insect preserved in amber.

From the hairstyles and clothing styles of the anchors (including a female weatherperson) and the chromakey backdrop for the news set to the vertically-sliding weather charts (in a pre-computer graphics era) and use of motion picture film for some of the news reports, the program seems quaint now but serves as a valuable example of the contemporary norms of local news and of the evolution that this kind of broadcast has gone through in the thirty years since. Interesting too is the report on gas prices which expresses relief that rates are back down around the 60 cents per gallon range (!) and the newscast-ending editorial, a kind of segment that is virtually never seen anymore, especially at the local level. With commercials not included, the entire length of the newscast runs about 22-23 minutes, and it's worth the time to get a glimpse of news presentation from this past era.

(Video source: YouTube)


O'Donnell Unlikely Host for "Price is Right"

Much has been made in the last week or so about Rosie O'Donnell, newly unemployed due to her hasty exit from "The View" in May, having interest--and longtime host Bob Barker's endorsement--in being the new host for "The Price is Right." James Poniewozik, "Time" magazine's TV critic, commented on O'Donnell's prospects today on his blog "Tuned In." "USA Today" also featured a short piece in today's edition on the possibility of O'Donnell hosting "Price." The "USA Today" piece offers quotes from O'Donnell's blog in which she claims to love the game show and from Barker in which he says O'Donnell's knowledge of the show would make her a good host.

With all due respect to the recently retired Barker, I beg to disagree. O'Donnell would be a horrible host for "Price." Whatever one thinks of O'Donnell (and my sense is that most people either love her or hate her, with little middle ground--although personally I am merely ambivalent), her personality type and public persona is entirely out of place for the hosting job of "Price is Right." Any show that O'Donnell has been a regular on has been all about her: her eponymous daytime talk show was certainly so, as was her brief stint moderating "The View." On these programs, her self-centeredness was both appropriate and a strength. For several years, she reigned as the "Queen of Nice" due to the engagement and quirkiness she demonstrated on her daytime talk show. More recently (and after her exit from the closet as a lesbian), her transformed, less-nice persona--which includes an easily riled contentiousness--was on view on "The View," where her one-year stint as moderator helped to carry the show through its post-Meredith Vieira transition.

These qualities that made her a great daytime talk show host and moderator would make her a horrible daytime game show host, especially for "The Price is Right." O'Donnell would be tempted to indulge in self-centered banter and misplaced commentary while hosting "Price," which requires a fast-paced job of emceeing and a host who subordinates his or herself to the pricing games at hand. If allowed to indulge in this way, O'Donnell would wreck the show's timing, and if restrained from such indulgences, she would likely get quickly bored and testy with the gig. Her pre-existing public persona and reputation can do nothing but damage "Price"; Bob Barker became so beloved as the game show's host because his identity as such was (almost) the only thing for which audiences knew him.

Finally, I think that the producers and network for "The Price is Right" have no intention of looking at O'Donnell seriously as "Price" host, for all of the reasons I have detailed. Her flirtation with the job is just that: her flirtation, one that is going to be disregarded by those making the decision on the next "Price is Right" host. And as for Barker's endorsement, James Poniewozik of "Time" succinctly summarizes how much import that holds by reminding us that David Letterman was Johnny Carson's choice of replacement when he retired from "The Tonight Show," and most people know what happened in that case.


"On the Lot" is Off the Mark

"On the Lot," the new TV show from realitymeister Mark Burnett and Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg, is the latest attempt to translate the ambition and skills of a particular group of individuals into reality television. The result is entertaining in a rubbernecking, trainwreck sort of way, not so much as a legitimate view into the creative processes of filmmaking.

The premiere episode (which aired Tuesday night after the first night of the "American Idol" finale; the Fox network is no dummy) started with fifty aspirants for the grand prize of a $1 million development deal at Dreamworks Pictures. After an initial task in which each contestant was given a log line for which they had to develop and deliver a pitch, the field was narrowed to 36.

The episode was filled with the kind of reality TV conventions that populate all of Burnett's programs (which include "Survivor" and the now-defunct "The Apprentice"). We got "up close and personal" glimpses at select contestants, including a Texas family man with two kids for whom "On the Lot" is supposedly his "last chance" to make it in Hollywood (he apparently wasn't trying too hard before this if he lives in Texas) and an Indiana boy who is seen strolling along the railroad tracks in his hometown (something I'm sure he really does on a regular basis). We got alternating pulsatingly tense or langorously melancholy accompaniment music, depending on whether the footage being shown was meant to be tense or melancholy. We got dramatic sweeping crane shots of the contestants getting a bus tour of Hollywood and walking along a studio lot. We got contrived stand-up segments in which a contestant discussed their emotions about the proceedings or the details of the task at hand (evidently, reality show contestants just naturally speak in a fashion that effortlessly provides exposition for such matters).

Along with all of this we got ticking clocks (figuratively speaking) as contestants rushed to prepare their pitches, tearful (or, alternately, confident) confessionals from contestants, and earnest platitudes from the three judges (my favorite: film director Garry Marshall wishing, during the contestant pitches, that someone would pitch lunch). Marshall was joined in the adjudicating by fellow director Brett Ratner and Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher. Their motivations for participating in such a contrived endeavor are unclear; Marshall and Ratner perhaps owed Spielberg favors, while Fisher, unfortunately, was probably just in need of work.

Traces of Spielberg himself were conspicuously absent from the premiere of "On the Lot," which suggests any number of things: his involvement in the show begins and ends with having lent his name and prestige in exchange for fiduciary gain; he was initially involved but then bailed when it became clear that "On the Lot" was off the rails; or the producers are saving any mention or appearance of the auteur for carefully rationed moments that can by hyped as excessively as his association with the program was during the promotional run-up to the premiere.

One of the chief problems with "On the Lot" is one that has plagued other Burnett productions, especially "The Apprentice." Namely, the tasks and the dynamics of those tasks have no resemblence to how filmmaking actually works or to how these contestants might be asked to practice filmmaking were they to win the grand prize. In both "The Apprentice" and "On the Lot" the flawed formula is the same: contestants are given severely time-limited tasks in which they are forced to work with their competitors to achieve an artificial goal. In "The Apprentice," this meant that contestants butted heads with each other over power and division of labor to accomplish questionable business goals. In "On the Lot," a similar unrealistic dynamic obtains when the aspiring directors are grouped in threes and asked to complete a short film in 24 hours, all while trying to co-direct their project. This task made for some fiery footage of contestants in conflict with one another, but has no resemblence to an actual film set on which the director is also a dictator whose authority is rarely challenged even by studio executives or producers who might have grounds to do so. Also unrealistic is the overnight pitch preparation for concepts that were essentially drawn out of a hat; its hard to imagine both the circumstances under which a film director might be asked to this and also the benefit for the aspirants for having done so.

It's hardly news, though, that reality television isn't realistic. Perhaps "On the Lot" will get better as the summer weeks go by, but I'm not holding my jodphurs in hopes that it will. A few more weeks down the road the contestants will at least begin working as solo directors rather than as one-third of a director, like they did in the premiere. Hopefully it has occurred to the producers that at some point they ought to actually show the home audience some (all?) of the films that the contestants have been making. And, maybe, just maybe, Spielberg will show his face at some point during the competition--although if he's smart, he'll remain off the lot.


Pop Goes the Culture: Retro & Nostalgia

Feeling Retro -- Vintage toys, '60s & '70s TV and pop music, food & drink, novelties, and links to other retro sites are all available here if you are "feeling retro." www.feelingretro.com

Retrocrush -- An irreverant retro site with features, interviews, reviews, and photos on all variety of pop culture subjects, with a companion podcast to boot. www.retrocrush.com

The Retroist -- Video clips of old TV shows and commercials, scans of print ads and ephemera, and links to a variety of retro folderol come to us courtesy of The Retroist. www.retroist.com

Tick Tock Toys -- More than just toys, with galleries of vintage cereal boxes and food packaging, fast food ephemera, advertising art, cartoon characters, and obscure theme parks. theimaginaryworld.com


Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to Sesame Street Old School?

Recently released on DVD is Sesame Street - Old School, Vol. 1 (1969-1974), a compilation of old episodes and segments from the first five years of the venerable and historic children's TV program. Rather than marketing it to current tots, the show's producer (the former Children's Television Workshop, now called Sesame Workshop) and distributor (Sony Wonder, the children's video imprint of media giant Sony) have smartly aimed the set at the nostalgiac yearnings of Gen Xers now in their thirties or early forties. The results are a treasure trove of 1970s kidvid kitsch.

The set features one episode from each of the first five seasons of "Sesame Street"--starting with the premiere episode from fall 1969. Although some evolution in the show is evident across all the episodes featured, the biggest changes come between the premiere and the second season. The fact that Oscar the Grouch was originally orange and that Big Bird's head was originally a tiny little pebble atop his big body have become standard "Sesame Street" trivia (at least among the Gen X set that might be interested in this set). But the premiere episode also shows that later cast mainstays Luis, Maria, and David are not yet residents of Sesame Street, the show's set is laid out somewhat differently than in later years (123 Sesame Street and Hooper's Store are aligned with each other rather than being kiddy-corner--no pun intended--as they later are).

Apart from these cosmetic differences, though, the program exhibits from the beginning a remarkably developed sense of mission and consistent quality of execution. The show's mission was in fact remarkably developed in advance of the premiere episode, exemplified by one of the gems of this DVD set: the "sales" film created by CTW (and featuring "Sesame Street" creator Joan Ganz Cooney) explaining the show to public television executives and station managers. With an introduction by Cooney, the film features Muppets Kermit the Frog and Rowlf the Dog as Rowlf describes the various elements of the show to Kermit in an attempt to convince Kermit that the Muppets should appear on it. The fact that Kermit and Rowlf--two of Jim Henson's characters that predate "Sesame Street"--are the only Muppets to appear (apart from a few of what would later be called "Anything Muppets") has to mean that this sales film was made at an early enough stage that the other Muppets that would appear on "Sesame Street" (Ernie, Bert, Oscar, etc.) had not yet been created.

Also appearing in the sales film are a couple of the filmed segments that would become "Sesame Street"'s bread and butter. These were the little segments (many of them animated) that featured different numbers and letters of the alphabet. In addition to the sales film, a few dozen of these segments are also included on the set's special features, with several from each of the first five seasons. (Three of these are featured in the video links below.) The mix of live "street" segments (with a mix of human actors and Muppets), Muppet "vignettes" (usually without human actors and not on the main street set), animated and live-action filmed segments, and special segments featuring celebrity guest stars was established with the very first episode and remained virtually unchanged for the show's first few decades. Many of the filmed segments and even many of the Muppet vignettes (things like Kermit's "News Flash" bits and the Guy Smiley game show parodies) were reused repeatedly, almost ad nauseum. Several of the segments featured in the last couple of years of this set (originally shown when I was 2 or 3 years old) I remember seeing when I was a "Sesame Street" regular in the late-1970s and early-1980s.

Whether driven to Sesame Street - Old School, Vol. 1 (1969-1974)by an interest in TV history or simply by nostalgiac impulses, the DVD set should offer something of interest.

The Ladybugs' Picnic

My Martian Cutie

Martians & Telephone

(Image source: Amazon; video source: YouTube)


The OscarLog: Observations on the 79th Academy Awards

Last night was the 79th Academy Awards, in which Hollywood goes ga-ga over itself and the rest of us watch curiously as if witnessing a train wreck. This year's awards reached, I think, a new high in terms of indulgence, cluelessness, and uselessness. From the best picture winner and the hosting to the interminable length and utterly pointless non-awards segments, the Oscars were a spectacle, just not the good kind.

Let me begin with the hosting: Now, Ellen Degeneres has built (and rebuilt) her reputation by being inoffensive, harmless, and utterly safe for general consumption. In most of her endeavors--her current daytime talk show, her other hosting duties (namely, the Emmys), and her ad appearances for American Express--these qualities have served her well and formed the foundation of her success. They are her persona as an entertainer.

As an Oscar host, though, Ellen's otherwise endearing qualities were the formula for a totally bland and boring performance. A good 21st Century Oscar host serves as a counterpoint to the proceedings by providing sharp repartee, bold barbs, and a puncturing levity that deflates the pompousness, self-importance, and endless indulgence that have become inherent to the Academy Awards. A good 21st Century Oscar host acts as a slightly unpredictable and unhinged figure against the ground of overly saccharine and plodding indulgence that characterizes modern Oscar ceremonies.

Degeneres simply didn't fulfill these functions. She was unremarkable and overly accommodating. Rather than make gentle but prickly fun of the personages assembled, she pandered to them and seemed over eager to allow the self-importance and pompousness that prevails. Her interstitial segments suffered from a lack of ingenuity and an oversupply of nicety. Recent hosts such as Chris Rock (two years ago) and Jon Stewart (last year) who didn't seem so great at the time seem like skilled Oscar MCs compared to Degeneres. And don't get me started on how she pales in comparison to venerables like Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, and Steve Martin.

It's difficult for any Oscar host to grapple with the twin problems of excessive length and excessively uninteresting program segements. I am annually amazed at how the producers and network for the Oscars are unable either to keep the ceremony's length under control or to at least predict it accurately. It ought to be a simple matter for the producers to calculate how long the ceremony is going to last based on the lengths of the rehearsed performance segments, the award presentations and speeches, and the allotted commercial breaks. Add up these times, and you've got the length of the program. Last night's show started at 7:30 (CST) and ended at approximately 11:15. It was scheduled to end at 10:30. Presumably, the producers and network know that there's no way the show is going to be done at 10:30, so why pretend that it will?

The only unscripted element in the entire Oscarcast is the acceptance speeches, and the Academy seems hellbent on limiting their time so that the next pointless performance segment can be squeezed in. As far as I'm concerned, let the award winners speak their mind and their heart, and eliminate prescripted segments if necessary. I'm not saying let winners ramble forever, just let them get those last few heartfelt thank yous out in what might be the only such opportunity of their careers. Not just for the "stars" either; many of the most interesting acceptance speeches end up being the ones by people no one has ever heard of.

By the time the broadcast gets to the Best Picture award, it has been going on so long, and everyone watching--at home and in the Kodak Theatre--just wants the damn thing to end so badly, that the final and most important award runs the risk of being anticlimactic. Usually, the identity of the winner and the resultant festivity and speech is engaging enough that it provides a final boost to the proceedings--whether the Best Pic winner is the anointed favorite (as it is most of the time) or a surprise winner (like "Crash" last year).

This year, the awarding of Best Picture to "The Departed" was truly an anticlimax and a show-capping disappointment. Out of a weak field, "The Departed" was a choice that almost no one was excited about. The lack of excitement within the theatre was palpable. The fact that there was a sole producer onstage when normally there are a good half-dozen made it seem even more pathetic. I don't understand why the Academy doesn't allow everyone connected with the Best Picture winner to congregate onstage, as the TV academy does with its best drama and comedy winners. To deny Martin Scorsese, shown just offstage in the wing after having won Best Director, the chance to at least stand in honor of his film was a travesty. Imagine the boost in energy if Scorsese, Nicholson, Wahlberg, Di Caprio, and any others connected with the film (such as Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker) had been allowed to join in on stage. Instead, we got a fittingly uninteresting anticlimax to what was the worst Oscar telecast in recent memory.


The MediaLog DVR: Premiere Edition

A sampling of current items from the MediaLog's Digital Video Recorder...

USFL Football: San Antonio @ Houston (1984) from ESPN Classic--For anyone interested in classic sports either for the sporting content (e.g. vintage sports aficionados) or (like the MediaLog) for their historical value as vintage TV broadcasts, ESPN Classic is a treasure trove. This item is an old ESPN broadcast of the short-lived but highly-hyped United States Football League (USFL) that challenged the NFL with summer football in the mid-1980s. The USFL managed to get a lot of attention for a year or two due to its off-season schedule (which avoided direct competition with the NFL and attracted pigskin-starved football fans) and its signing of a few high profile players (most notably Herschel Walker and Jim Kelly, featured in this game as a member of the Houston Gamblers).

Pro football games are actually somewhat rare on ESPN Classic; the bulk of the events shown are college football games, old bowling tournaments, and vintage boxing matches (many old Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali fights were recently featured in commemoration of Ali's 65th birthday). The chief reason for this is that the network is part of the ESPN/Disney sports juggernaut and its most ready source of programming is the archives of ESPN itself and (the now defunct) ABC Sports, the latter of which had college football, bowling, and boxing as its mainstays for years. (Check listings for broadcasts of various events at various times.)

To Tell the Truth (1970 episode) from GSN--Although GSN's overnight classic game show block has shrunk in recent months (it used to be on for an hour every night, now it's only on for an hour early Monday morning), it is still a valuable source for broadcasts of vintage game shows. The first half-hour of each block is dedicated to "What's My Line?" and has recently featured episodes from circa 1965, near the end of the show's original CBS run hosted by John Daly. The second half-hour is a grab bag that has in the past several weeks featured additional episodes of "WML" (mostly from the 1968-75 syndicated run), old episodes of "I've Got a Secret," and "To Tell the Truth" episodes such as this one.

Among game show buffs, the early years of the "TTTT"'s syndicated run (from which this episode is drawn) are famous for its psychedelically-decorated set (the color purple and large swirls dominate). Although Garry Moore was the host of this incarnation, in this episode Bill Cullen (normally a panelist) fills in, and taking his place on the panel is Mark Goodson, half of legendary game show production company and "TTTT" producer Goodson-Todman. Contestants include a female tennis player who wears frilly lace tennis skirts and a man with an overweight wife who founded an association for the advancement of fat people. (Early Monday mornings at 2:00 am CST.)

Late Show with David Letterman (2/1/2007) from CBS--Not everything on the MediaLog's DVR is vintage. This recent episode marked Letterman's 25th anniversary on late night television. The featured guest was Bill Murray, who was Dave's first guest both on the original "Late Night" on NBC in February 1982 and on "Late Show" when it premiered in August 1993. Apart from Murray's presence in a tuxedo and bearing champagne, Letterman chose to recognize the milestone in a low-key fashion with an otherwise typical show. CBS could (naturally) not resist hyping the benchmark a little more, airing 25th anniversary promos for a few days in advance. Letterman recently re-upped with the network through 2010, which will not only ensure that he will remain on late-night TV past Jay Leno's departure in '09 (thank God!), but will at that point be only two years shy of Johnny Carson's record of 30 years. It will be interesting to see whether or not Dave decides to call it quits before breaking Carson's record or whether he will keep going and become the all-time leader in late-night longevity. (Weeknights at 10:35 pm CST.)

Inside the Actors Studio with guest Barbara Walters (2005) from Bravo--The MediaLog is a big fan of the James Lipton lovefests that explore an actor's career from (as host Lipton says) "the beginning" all the way to the latest film or TV appearance they are plugging. On some occasions, as with this rerun interview with newswoman Walters, Lipton inexplicably has as a guest someone with no connection whatsoever to acting (Elton John and Jay Leno are others to fall into this category); one senses that in these cases the guests are there simply because Lipton has a yen for them. Despite the program's affiliation with the Actors Studio drama school, though, there's no reason that Lipton's format can't work with entertainment celebrities of any stripe, as in fact it does here with Walters. Lipton has honed a trademark interviewing style (parodied so hilariously by Will Ferrell) that includes detailed examination of a guest's personal history, exhaustive research (the guests are often flabbergasted at the information Lipton has ferreted out), excerpts from the artist's work, and the closing questionnaire that among other things elicits the guest's favorite curse word. Lipton also has yens for tattoos, mimicry, and dancing, and he always goads a guest to display any of the three that apply. (Check listings for times; reruns usually air several times a week with a new episode appearing every two weeks or so.)

Upcoming programs to be recorded on the MediaLog DVR...

McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)--A Robert Altman masterpiece starring Warren Beatty as a revisionist gunslinger in a Pacific Northwest frontier town. (INHD; 11:00 pm CST, Tuesday 2/20.)

Medium (latest episode)--Compelling drama of a "psychic soccer mom" played by Patricia Arquette is the MediaLog's favorite current show to watch with the Mrs. (NBC; 9:00 pm CST, Wednesday, 2/21.)

Star Trek: Beyond the Frontier--Special commemorating last year's 40th anniversary of the landmark "Trek" franchise, hosted by Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, in a repeat airing, in case you Trekkies missed its first airing. (History Channel; 11:00 pm CST, Saturday, 2/24.)


MediaLog SnapShot: Kellogg's Company Postcard

Kellogg's Company w/ Characters Postcard
Originally uploaded by Neato Coolville.

This interesting Kellogg's postcard features a photo of the cereal maker's corporate headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, in addition to several of the cartoon characters that graced Kellogg's cereal boxes at the time (which is not given but would seem to be in the 1960s based on the look of the building, the card, and the characters). Featured are both original Kellogg's characters like Tony the Tiger (looking much different than the most well-known iterations of Tony) and one of the Rice Krispies pixies, as well as licensed Hanna-Barbara characters Yogi the Bear and Huckleberry Hound.

Implicit in the card are a number of cultural currents: corporate culture of the kind that Kellogg's represented in the 1960s, the rising (and soon dominant) consumerism that such companies promoted and fostered, the kind of partnerships between consumer product (especially food) companies and media producers represented by the Kellogg's/Hanna-Barbara teaming implied here, and the popularity of characters from both of these sources, TV animation and cereal marketing and advertising.


The MediaLog MediaFix: "Captain Kangaroo"

"Captain Kangaroo" was one of the longest-running and most beloved children's television programs in history. It was a mainstay on CBS weekday mornings from the mid-1950s until the early-1980s. Captain Kangaroo (Bob Keeshan) was an avuncular, kindly, and gentle host second only to Fred Rogers. "Captain Kangaroo," although similar in some ways to Rogers' "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," had its own distinctive flavor, one that included a supporting cast of colorful human and puppet characters (such as Mr. Green Jeans, Slim Goodbody, Mr. Moose, and Bunny Rabbit), instructive yet entertaining features such as Goodbody's health lessons and Bill Cosby's "Picture Pages," and a light atmosphere that encouraged whimsy and playfulness while maintaining (as Rogers' show did) a spine of educational value.

My description of "Captain Kangaroo" is based on my own recollections as a viewer of the show in its last several years in the late-1970s and early-1980s. The show by that time had evolved considerably from what it was in its early years, as the below excerpts from different periods of its run demonstrate. I remember well watching the program as a child and having my parents tell me how they too had watched it when they were young, in the mid- to late-1950s. Even then, I felt a sense of wonder at the fact that my parents, when they were my age, had watched the same program that I enjoyed so much.

The following four clips span the history of "Captain Kangaroo" and provide a glimpse both of the changes in the show over three decades and of the kinds of characteristics that entertained several generations of children.

"Captain Kangaroo" opening from 1962

In the early years, Captain Kangaroo (from what I've been able to tell) was a little more rough-edged and less charming than he was later on, and he spent his time in what he called the "treasure house." (As far as I know and remember, this term was not used in the later years of the program.) This clip features the opening title and music and shows the Captain arriving at the treasure house on a Saturday morning, at a time when the show aired on Saturdays in addition to weekdays.

"Captain Kangaroo" opening from 1968

From several years later, this opening is in the form of a nautical skit performed by Captain Kangaroo and (I think) Mr. Green Jeans. The opening title is the same style as in the 1962 clip, but now the program is (obviously) in color. A bonus here is the slate at the beginning of the clip, indicating that it came not from the episode as broadcast but from (probably) a production tape from either the production company or the network.

"Captain Kangaroo" opening from 1976

Now this is the animated opening to "Captain Kangaroo" that I remember from my childhood. Although I don't remember this part, I think the variety of personalities saying good morning to the Captain that introduces the opening was a regular part of the show by this point, with different clips used from day to day.

"Captain Kangaroo" segment featuring Mr. Moose

This clip from the later years of "Captain Kangaroo" (from probably the late-1970s) shows the Captain and the surroundings (now called the "Captain's Place") that I remember. Featured here also is Mr. Moose, one of the show's two main puppets (at least by this time). The other main puppet, Bunny Rabbit (who is referred to here but not seen), had an ongoing gag with the Captain in which the bunny would attempt to trick the Captain into giving him some carrots, which factors into the "punchline" for the segment.

When "Captain Kangaroo" premiered in 1955, "Howdy Doody" was still one of the top children's programs (and had provided Keeshan with his first big TV job, as the original Clarabell the Clown); by the time the Captain went off the air (in 1984, having appeared in a truncated version called "Wake Up with the Captain" for its last couple of years), it was the last regular daily network children's program.

As far as I've been able to determine, there has yet to be any DVD release of "Captain Kangaroo" in any form. Several old VHS releases of "Captain Kangaroo" material (such as one entitled "Captain Kangaroo: Fairy Tales and Funny Stories") compile excerpts around different themes, but these do not include full episodes of the show. A revival of "Captain Kangaroo" (with a different actor--John McDonough--playing the Captain!) aired for a short time in the late-1990s, and Bob Keeshan passed away in 2004.