14 August 2008

[liff] NBC News Overnight, And How You Can Tell The Current Crop Of Newsers is A Dog's Breakfast

1708.


When I was but a neat thing, I dimly remember a certain program that aired after all sensible people had gone to bed.


Nobody ever accused me of being sensible, even at that tender age. Anyway!


In 1982, NBC, in a moment of clarity and sanity, debuted a news program for insomniacs. NBC News Overnight, it was called. Though it ran merely an hour (and usually ran at about 2:00 am) it packed a lot of information in.


Moreover, it had a smart, somewhat sarcastic, extremely witty approach to the day's events. Please give us about 10 minutes of your time, and view the debut program, which aired on 6 July 1982. And please .. pay attention. I do not make this request flippantly. I'm serious about it, because this is how witty, smart and fun an American news program could have been:





(all credit must go to YouTube user LATVNews, who wins the award here. And if you caught the name "Tritia Toyota" in the promo just before the program started, here's a PDX connection; she was born here)


Like Lloyd Dobyns (who must be the most underrated news anchor in national TV history) said of the Lunar eclipse which happened to grace the inagural program, "what other progarm ever did that for you?"


Well, no other program even now, as far as I can remember.


Another thing that NBC News Overnight gave me was an enduring affection for Linda Ellerbee. Not only because she was just as witty as her opposite number, but because she formed an opinion of women I hold to this day: intelligent, well-spoken women are hot.


I still have a crush on Linda Ellerbee ca. 1982. If I met her today, I'd still be thrilled.


Sadly, the span of the program was only 367 days (though it was 5 days a week; the show ran from 6 July 82 through 3 December 1983). According to Wikipedia, the duPont Columbia Awards deemed it "possibly the best written and most intelligent news program ever", and that credit remains, in my arrogant opinion. I've been a consumer of many newsers since, ABC World News Now came close in the wit department (especially in the Aaron Brown/Lisa McCree inaugural days) but nothing has ever been as intelligent, no other program has treated its viewers as intelligent, thinking people instead of voids waiting to be filled with whether or not Britney wore her underwear today.


Like I said, NBC News Overnight was not only what broadcast news should have been, it's what news should be now. And that's why some of us bitch about why news is so very sorry today.


And if all that weren't enough, how classy can a news program be that closes with a tagline out of Vonnegut and still doesn't make you feel left out of the loop.


And So It Goes, saith Linda every night. Because of her, I read Vonnegut.


Here's some more '80s goodness. A segment where Lloyd and Linda report on such 80s landmarks as the Dow going above 2,000, and the delivery of the then-new Space Shuttle Challenger being delivered to the Cape. At least this is worth watching for the corn elevator in Iowa collapsing and being caught in the act (and too many 80s-era news nuggets to recount here):





And here's the first part of the last, or 367th, edition of the program, co-anchored by Dobyns's successor, Bill Schechner ... including lovely unemployment numbers sliding from above ten percent to almost eight percent, which pleasantly surprised Ronald Reagan – as Linda said, the news is better that it has been, and that's a fact.:





This is what broadcast news could have been ... and is not.


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17 comments:

pril said...

o i dearly miss world news tonight

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

The Peter Jennings days?

LT said...

Yo Samuel John, you've got some automatic audio coming on.

And you know what you should put in your header where it says "something about Web 2.0 should go here"? "It's not as good as Web 3.0."

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Yo Samuel John, you've got some automatic audio coming on.


Yeah, it's the Shatner video embed. LiveVideo insists on making it go automatically even if you check the box saying not to do that. Enough people have seen it that I think I can make it into a link.

And you know what you should put in your header where it says "something about Web 2.0 should go here"? "It's not as good as Web 3.0."

That's pretty good, LT. I'll work that in.

pril said...

nono.. world news this morning. the funny one with aaron brown that was on in like the mid-90s.

I suck at remembering what things are called. so, no.. not peter jennings

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Oh, yea. You are indeed thinking of World News Now. Yeah, in the beginning that program, during the Lisa and Aaron days, came as close to the witty, wry outlook that NBC News Overnight had, though intellectually I don't think Aaron Brown will ever be as deep as either Linda Ellerbee or Lloyd Dobyns on a bad day.

But yeah, that was the stuff, wasn't it. They had people mailing in videos for the coveted WNN coffee mug, they had a resident humorist and accordion player (Barry Mitchell), and it's where I got turned on to that odd fellow Ian Sholes ("gottago"). And the World News Now National Temperature Index, which they refused to say how they came to it.

I even have to say that WNN turned me on to Yanni just a little (please don't hate me for that B-) ). Yanni did the theme music and the bumper music, and yes, I know it was Yanni and all, but that stuff got under my skin and stayed there.

Y'alls excuse me ... I have to go dance the World News Polka now.

pril said...

i don't remember any of the content. I just remember that my room mate at the time would get off work at the pizza place, listen to the AM alternative station's "vote on this song" thing and then we'd watch that show and just die. Of course, we were smoking a lot of pot, too. So, beyond just funny, it was weird too. That was 93? 94?

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

That was from about 1992 to 1994 that were the Aaron Brown era.

Too bad that you don't remember too much content, then again, you were probably not a news show addict like I was (the current terrible state of news shows have gotten me over that addiction. Of course, now I'd spend 26 hours a day reading blogs if I could. Ah, well, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose)

Linda Ellerbee said...

A friend sent me the link to your blog yesterday, August 15, which was my birthday.

A bittersweet greeting card, I'd say. Sweet memories of putting together NBC News Overnight (and the happy knowledge that someone out there liked it), and bitter about the fact they made us stop doing it.

Dobyns is well, more-or-less happy, retired and living in Virginia, and, I'm proud to report, still sporting considerable attitude. Schechner just lost his job at a TV station in San Francisco. They thought he was too old. He is younger than I am and I am younger than Dobyns. But for the last 18 years, my viewers have been those who watch Nickelodeon, and to a 10-year-old, anyone over 20 is old. I was 64 yesterday. And so it goes.

Thanks for the kind words.

Linda Ellerbee

Linda Ellerbee said...

Did I mention that my daughter and her daughter live in Portland?

linda ellerbee

pril said...

hey thats pretty cool, man

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

@ pril:

That pretty much made my day. No, strike that. My year.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

@ Linda:

A friend sent me the link to your blog yesterday, August 15, which was my birthday.

A bittersweet greeting card, I'd say. Sweet memories of putting together NBC News Overnight (and the happy knowledge that someone out there liked it), and bitter about the fact they made us stop doing it.


Thank you to your friend; and thank you to you as well, for according me the honor. Just between you, me, and everyone who might read this, this is one of the things I love about the intarweb; you never know when one of your personal heroes might respond to what you've said.

If I may be forgiven a bit of hero worship, of course. I'm a fan; I won't hide from that.

I've watched a great deal of tee vee in my life, and it seems to me that the best, most watchable, and most elevating shows were ones that the crew loved putting together. It certainly showed on Overnight. Since I loved tee vee news at the time, the news shows that really clicked for me were the ones which were true labors of love. it's clear that's what you all had there.

That was sweet from my side (also the truth that you obviously didn't take your audience for dummies. You talked to us, not at us and especially not down to us).

The bitter for me as a viewer was that the nets never really have tried to carry forward the still-apparently-avant garde notion that smart sells, which you made real. I think Overnight showed that it does. The wit that still exists on World News Now shows that it can. As does Lucky Duck's output since the days of Overnight.

Dobyns is well, more-or-less happy, retired and living in Virginia, and, I'm proud to report, still sporting considerable attitude.

That's the way I remember him on Overnight and also on Weekend (the only news magazine that, as far as I know, started with riffs form the Rolling Stones). I miss that attitude. We need more of it amongst the newser class today.

chechner just lost his job at a TV station in San Francisco. They thought he was too old. He is younger than I am and I am younger than Dobyns

I followed that story via a few blogs. That was KPIX, one of the big old SF stations, if I wot correctly. Watching a station with a history like KPIX just show its more exprienced wisdom the door I find discouraging to be honest.

I hold a great amount of stock in the idea that organizations can have memory, and the memory of organizations live in people like that. KPIX may survive without talent like Bill, but I don't think they'll really be worth watching at all.

Once again, happy birthday. I still see birthdays as a celebration, though sometimes I wonder what there is to celebrate. That's just me; I'm an optimistic pessimist at heart.

But you actually gave me a gift by leaving me a comment. I'll treasure it for quite a long time.

If you can send my wishes along to Dobyns and Schechner, that's be a bonus. What little brain remains in Tee Vee news is because of what people like you did when you did it.

And I must applaud the manifest good taste that your daughter has in choosing Portland to settle in.
If they cruise blogs, they're welcome to stop on by. As are you, anytime.

pril said...

i didn't know Tritia was born in Portland, but she was one of the things always around when I was a kid. Early evening news on Channel 4 in L.A.. The Dickies wrote a song about her.

Kevin Allman said...

"Stuck in a Pagoda With Tritia Toyota"!

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Yes. The Dickies. "I'm Stuck in a Pagoda With Tricia Toyota"!.

Found it on iTunes. Review to ensue.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Yes. The Dickies. "I'm Stuck in a Pagoda With Tricia Toyota"!.

Found it on iTunes. Review to ensue.