Director:Steven J. Boettcher Genres:Television, Documentary Sub-Genres:Television, Documentary Studio:Pbs Paramount Format:DVD - Black and White,Color,Widescreen DVD Release Date: 11/08/2005 Original Release Date: 01/01/2005 Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2005 Release Year: 2005 Run Time: 1hr 0min Screens: Black and White,Color,Widescreen Number of Discs: 1 SwapaDVD Credits: 1 Total Copies: 0 Members Wishing: 4 MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated) Languages:English
"I'd only seen a bit of this PBS special when it was rerun and had always been curious about it. I'd been informed that it would be worth my time, so when I saw it available on Amazon-and @ an inexpensive price besides-I went for it. As the other reviews detail, this is a basic(VERY basic) overview of a few of the vaudevillians that started the TV medium-Milton Berle, Red Skelton, Jack Benny, and Bob Hope. It also touches(barely) on George Burns & Gracie Allen and their sitcom. All were part of the radio medium, as well, which is discussed about as much as television in this documentary, already pushing its main subject to the side a bit. Others who primarily came from film included Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz(all, again, barely touched on here). Oddly, Gleason is, for some unexplainable reason, relegated here to just mention of "The Honeymooners" and not his popular variety show that not only played longer on TV but had actually introduced the other show(??!!-apparently, the producers didn't do their homework-!!???) Interviews with these heavyweight powerhouses of the early years sadly only primarily include Berle and Skelton, with a few statements from Hope. Sid Caesar, who is one of the few to have actually made it exclusively through the TV medium, is also interviewed(although very little, too). Oddly, this quickie documentary focuses most of its attention @ the vaudeville circuit, as if it really wants to be more about that subject, and much less on television-again sharing time here with radio, making it all the more evident of how the producers really didn't know what they were doing. Others from the early years of TV who are interviewed include Buddy Ebsen-who talks about his brother/sister act from VAUDEVILLE, Sammy Davis Jr-who talks about the post-VAUDEVILLE circuit, Donald O'Connor-who seems to be more of a VAUDEVILLE historian here than anything else, Rose Marie-who talks about being a child of VAUDEVILLE, and Steve Allen-who discusses his VAUDEVILLE mother and others from the medium. As you can probably tell from all this, "Pioneers of Prime Time" is somewhat of a misleading title. "Vaudeo: From Vaudeville to TV" would have been a more realistic one. Although admittedly mine is not a great title, it would have however complimented this quickie production. The bonus special features on the DVD are the "extended" interviews, which are extremely non-illuminating and worthless, as well, except for the Skelton one, where he tells some pretty good early vaudeville stories(again, from THAT medium). However, if you're a completist on early TV-as I am-you may find some of the bits and pieces interwoven throughout somewhat interesting. For instance, the early clips of Sammy Davis, Buddy Ebsen, Bob Hope, and Donald O'Connor are from early TV programs(one can tell its kinescope-but these bits are but fleeting, again, I warn). Also, there is a decent amount of Berle from the archives, one with guests Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis. There are a couple quick moments from "The Red Skelton Show", and from "Your Show of Shows", also, with Caesar, Carl Reiner, Imogene Coca, and Howard Morris(very brief, though, I mind you). Now, if its vaudeville you're interested in-which I am, admittedly-most all of this and much, much more is entailed in the mammoth documentary "Vaudeville"(with most of the clips I mentioned above just repeated). This is also available here on video/DVD from Amazon-and that is well worth your dollar, so if you go for this, I'm not really sure if there is ANYTHING of any worth on "Pioneers..." that isn't also on that video. If you have interests in vintage TV, though, there was a broadcast, "NYTV"(New York television), that may be available. It was shown in two parts and is very interesting, documenting the medium's home base in New York. It's chock full of information from all areas of the medium-news, variety, comedy, music, sports-you name it and it mentions it. Also, one that I believe was a straight-to-video title was "Legends of Comedy", which was available on VHS last I checked. Although it focuses on classic comics from film, radio, and TV, there is, ironically, more info here on those who came from the radio and TV mediums than what can be found in this "Pioneers..." documentary."
Fascinating Television Documentary of TV's Forerunners...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 11/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The television documentary Pioneers of Primetime informs the audience about emergence of primetime broadcasting and its founders. These pioneers were characters such as Steve Allen, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Sammy Davis Jr., Buddy Ebsen, Bob Hope, Rose Marie, Donald O'Connor, and Red Skelton who helped shape what television is today.
The 1930s was the decade of the radio, as it had a large number of celebrities performing audio theatrical plays and comedies. However, the radio began to fade out of its stardom when the television seized its grip of the American population through shows such as Red Skelton Revue, Love Lucy, and The Milton Berle Show. These shows spread the word of the television, as these new TV stars awakened the curiosity within millions of Americans. Their performances, simply put, vastly increased the television sales, as countless people had the desire to experience these shows.
With the increasing attention for television, the new market demanded more talent, which they drew from the radio programs and vaudeville shows. These groundbreakers in network televisions were threading on never before explored territory, as they simply brought their talents and skills to the television world. They prepared in the same manner while their audience grew from what possible on stage. In addition, the ability to have moving images together with the sound pushed radio aside while ever-growing dedicated viewers sat down in front of their small televisions with TV dinners.
It was a time before Teleprompters and taped programming. These were the days when TV comedians and stars were under the gun of live television during each and every episode. Careful and rigorous rehearsals helped provide the TV audience with the best possible entertainment during television's toddler stage. It was a time when the pioneers were new to the TV phenomenon while they laid down the grunt work for the coming generations such as Seinfeld, Cheers, and Hill Street Blues. This made-for-TV documentary offers a truly astonishing view of the early days of television, and its impact on the contemporary TV culture."
HeyJudy | East Hampton, NY USA | 11/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The only problem with PIONEERS OF PRIMETIME is that it's too short. As difficult as it must have been for the producers to have chosen from thousands of hours of tape, it still remains a pity that this documentary couldn't have been two hours instead of one.
I am too young to remember most of the performers featured here, but seeing these highlights of the moments that made them famous was just like listening to the older generation of my own family reminiscing about their favorites.
As such, PIONEERS OF PRIMETIME is both an education and an evocative depiction of an earlier era.
This feature makes the point that only five or six performers crossed successfully from vaudeville in the earliest decades of the 20th century, through the "radio days" and on to television, which they created as much as they succeeded in as stars.
Bob Hope, Burns & Allen, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Red Skelton and one or two others make up this small group.
Several other stars were involved primarily in the "Golden Days" of television, such as Lucy & Desi and Sid Caesar.
So many viewers will find PIONEERS OF PRIMETIME to be fascinating viewing: those with an interest in the formation of the medium of television, those who enjoy comedy, those who would like to relive the early days of the 20th century. For anyone who falls into these categories, this video should not be missed.
A Great Slice of History
Jeffry J. Schanbacher | Fresno, CA USA | 03/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I wish every kid would see videos like this so they would know where the comedy of today comes from and why, in many ways, the talent is not what it once was. I find it sad that nearly all of the people in this video have since passed on, but what a great way to remember them. I would have paid extra if they had included an hour or 2 of the actual interviews with the stars. As good as the edited documentary is, the source material must have been a lot of fun as well.
Buy it, watch it with your kids and discuss what TV and Radio (Vaudeville) comedy meant to people during the Depression and WWII."
Good, But Could Have Been Better
Tom Loren | Beverly Hills, CA | 11/22/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Pioneers of Primetime has great production value, but is to short. The subject should really have been covered as a documentary not as an hour long show on the subject. The interviews with the Old Time stars where great, but should have dug deeper into this marvelous time in show business history. Though uncredited, I know the tremendous amount of work Steve Z did to bring this show about. Chin up! And as Red Skelton would say "May God bless!""