My world of 16mm TV shows and welcome to it

Thanks to artist in the family Katie Brioux for the logo, above

Welcome to TV on Film, a website that grew out of a 16mm film collection. As friends and readers of TV Feeds My Family may know, I’ve been collecting 16mm films for years. Sixteen millimeter is those large reels that, way back in the dark days of the last century, were shown to students in schools. Some boomers may remember this as “nap time.”
Much of my collection now comprises of of TV shows, episodes which were originally shipped to TV stations across North America on film. Up until the mid- to late ’70s, this was the conventional way of distributing TV episodes to network affiliates.
Among the titles in my collection are The Dick Van Dyke Show (45 episodes from 1961-’66), The Mary Tyler Moore Show, I Love Lucy, The Adventures of Superman, Batman, The Bob Newhart Show, The Honeymooners, I Dream of Jeanie, Bewitched, Leave it to Beaver, The Odd Couple, Green Acres, My Three Sons, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and even one fairly pink episode of the terrible ’60s effort It’s About Time. I also have a black and white network print of You Bet Your Life from the ’50s (complete with a commercial featuring Chico and Harpo) as well as old episodes of Walter Cronkite’s late ’60s science series The 21st Century.

I’ve  also  obtained several reels of animated shows more or less aimed at kids, including Rocky & Bullwinkle as well as the Hanna Barbera gems The Flintstones, Jonny Quest, Valley of the Dinosaurs and Top Cat.
Many of these series can be tracked down today on DVD box setrs or classic TV stations and some can be streamed in their entirety on services such as Hulu. Clips can also be viewed on YouTube.
Still, I prefer to watch them the way Kodak and Bell & Howell intended them to be seen–projected, on a big screen.
Some of the shows in my collection are “syndication prints,” cut down versions shipped after the series had finished its network run. I’ve got some Dick Van Dyke Show daytime versions, for example. Often, one or two minutes of the show has been snipped out to make room for the extra commercials allowed in the years after the series’ original run.
The network prints are the most valued, as they often come with little “extras,” such as classic commercials (sometimes featuring cast members), public service announcements and network logos.
I also have a dozen or so network “Fall Preview” reels, half hour time capsules featuring clips from the new shows networks hoped viewers would embrace each season. These range from a 1960 black and white reel NBC sent to affiliates as a sampler and not meant to air to ABC’s “Still the One” half hour from 1977 promoting everything from The Love Boat to a long forgotten series called Operation Petticoat.
Sharing these films is what this site is all about. Postings will feature video clips from some of the rarer goodies. Check here, as well, for announcements about live screenings, with the first coming up very soon.
While it has been fun and surprising to collect these films over the years, 16mm film collecting is a finite hobby. Each year, more films rot, turn “red” (a degenerative process where the colour on the film stock fades over time) or sprocket holes shrink or grow brittle. So much of TV’s early heritage has been lost, especially in Canada, where old TV prints are hard to find. I’ve got an early ’60s, black and white episode of the CBC series Telescope featuring Rich Little and a few other Canadian goodies and not much else.
Much of what was shot live or on early, two-inch videotape is also gone, taped over or junked for shelf space. Hundreds of episodes of Tiny Talent Time, for example, a kids showcase out of Hamilton’s CHCH, are gone. Not one episode exists of one of my favourites when I was five, CTV’s Kiddo the Clown.
TV on Film, it is hoped, will carry news of discoveries of “lost” films still lurking in attics and basements, perhaps stored there by actors, technicians or network folks who are collectors like myself. I’m hoping, too, that networks and stations will join in on efforts to create a nation-wide data and preservation base for Canadian television’s forgotten past. Who knows? Images found here may even inspire new showrunners in creating–and hopefully taking better care of preserving–television’s future.
So welcome to TV on Film, and, as the saying goes, stay tuned.

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