For me every year, one of the joys of Cinefest is the chance to add to my collection of 16mm films. Lately I’ve been focusing on trying to acquire film prints of TV shows. Back before digital, DVD or even video tape, networks used to ship 16mm prints to affiliate stations across America. For CBS, NBC or ABC in the ’60s and ’70s, that meant shipping a large reel of film to over 200 affiliate stations across the United States for broadcast. This went on once-a-week, every single episode. Prints were also shipped to stations and networks in Canada.
Of those 200+ prints a week, most have disappeared over the years, shipped back to the originating networks, sent off to landfill sites or simply thrown out. Some were later chopped up into nighttime and daytime syndication prints (generally two minutes shorter to allow for more commercials) with network tags, commercials and IDs spliced out.
A handful of episodes from hundreds of TV series from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s survive and are prized by collectors. I’m always on the lookout for pints of old episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show. One of the main dealers at Cinefest over the years has been the Whayne brothers of St. Louis, and I was able to buy a few Van Dykes this trip to Syracuse off of Lacy Whayne, Jr.
One was a pristine CBS network print of a first season episode titled, “Buddy, Can You Spare a Job?” The episode was directed by James Komack, the future producer who went on to create The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Welcome Back Kotter and Chico and the Man. The print was complete with the original network sponsor tag–a short bit after the main titled showing Van Dyke tipping a box of Cheer laundry detergent–plus three network commercials for Camay soap and Crest toothpaste printed right into the episode. A tube of Crest appears in the bottom corner of the end titles instead of the usual portrait of Van Dyke shown on all the syndication prints. Van Dyke also does a voice over the end credits, telling viewers the show will be moved to Wednesday night the next week. (The Van Dyke Show struggled that first season and was tested in a couple of timeslots.) The episode ends, there is a public service ad for March of Dimes and then the old Eye-opening CBS logo.
This October marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Van Dyke, still spry at 85, has an autobiography (My Lucky Life In and Out of Show business) coming out in May. I’m hoping to host an exhibition of some of my Dick Van Dyke Show episodes on film (I’ve got over 50 now) later this year; check back here at TVFMF for updates.

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