Back on this after my convalesce.
This weeks show is about the TV show Whats My Line? & the image of Colonel Sanders’ flowing backward in time.
Full Show Notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2021/07/24/2127-dont-call-it-a-comeback/
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Don’t Call It a Comeback
Hello everyone, I’m back. Apologies for the unplanned and unprecedented break. I had Covid.
It sucked. It’s not an experience I’d like to repeat. But I’m feeling a bit better now, so I’m back on this bullshit. There is no such thing as creativity, only consistency.
Thanks to everyone who messaged and DM’d me well wishes whilst I was sick. They were very kind and much appreciated.
Speaking of well wishes, It’s my birthday tomorrow. As has become the tradition. I would welcome listeners to rate and review this show on itunes. If you’re watching the new video version on Youtube. Well, hit that subscribe button and smash the like button. You know what to do.
My birthday is also as good a reason as any to visit www.thejaymo.net/support. Did you know that supporting 301 monthly at 5 pounds is less than the cost of buying me a pint every month down at my local pub?
Anyways, if that’s all too much of a bother, please do just share the show with others. Words of mouth are still the best kind of words.
With all that out the way I must admit, I had some trepidation going into writing the script for today’s show. Brain fog is real and I’ve been struggling to string even a sentence together.
Whilst I was sick I didn’t really do anything at all. The first 5 days at least are ca complete blur. I know I’ve played a shit load of Borderlands 2 on Nintendo switch but don’t remember any of it at all.
One thing I do remember spending hours and hours in bed on afternoon watching the panel game show Whats my line?
The show ran on the CBS Television Network from 1950 to 1967. There’s loads of full episodes on Youtube. And if you run out, you can go spelunking in various archives online for more.
What my line? In my estimation, is a perfect show. Nailing the TV panel show format out the gate the first time around. Watching it 70 years on from their date of recording you can still sense its influence on panel shows today.
If you aren’t familiar with the show I’ll let wikipedia summarise the shows set up:
What’s My Line? was a guessing game in which the four panelists attempted to determine the occupation (i.e., “line [of work]”) of a guest. In the case of the famous mystery guest each week, the panel sought to determine the identity of the celebrity. Panelists were required to probe by asking only yes-no questions. A typical episode featured two standard rounds (sometimes a third, and very rarely a rushed fourth) plus one mystery guest round. On the occasions on which there were two mystery guests, the first would usually appear as the first contestant.
Mystery guests also attempt to conceal their identities with disguised voices. Much to the amusement of the studio audience.
Long time listeners of 301 will know that I love old timey radio. One of the things that interests me is that they are broadcasts from another world. What’s my line?’s inclusion of a celebrity guest every episode results in a kaleidoscopic cultural time capsule of the 1950’s.
Celebrities on the show included: Salvador Dali, Alfred Hitchcock, Walt Disney, Ronald Regan and even an old man who witnessed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
And bafflingly (to me anyway), a very young Bob Monkhouse appeared as a regular panelist in the late 50’s.
But anyways, the episode that totally blew me away was recorded in the December 1963. And features Colonel Sanders as a punter – not as a celebrity – which is in itself interesting. Yes, THE Colonel Sanders of what was at the time the Southern Fried Chicken company.
He comes out in his white suite and string tie and writes his name on the chalkboard. Then sits down to begin the game. To anyone watching in 2021 he is of course instantly recognisable.
Whilst watching the show unfold, it’s astonishing that there was once an America where people did not know who Colonel Sanders was. The past really is a foreign country. The man’s likeness is engraved on all our sub-consciousness from a lifetime of exposure to corporate advertising. Seeing the living breathing Sanders is like seeing a brand come to life.
This is not to say that he doesn’t have ‘something about him’. The pannelest Arlene Francis stares at him for a long time at the beginning of the round. And says “Colonel I don’t know you what do, but you look to beautiful to work”
In that moment, I belive the intensity and ubiquity of Sanders’ image – from the hyper capitalist future we live in now – is flowing back in time to the 1960’s.
Arline Francis is somehow picking up on his future aura. In 2021 Colonel Sanders has been dead for 40 years. But his image is very much alive.
The excellent podcast from No Country had a series of episodes recently on “The Cult of Celebrity ”.
In it they were discussing aura, and the effect of a musician receiving the adulation of so many people at a concert. Or eyeballs if you are a movie star.
It makes me wonder about people like Colonel Sanders. Wikipedia tells me that he deliberately cultivated his image and turned himself into a brand.
So with brands now personifying themselves as people. Can you actually imbue a ‘person’ with the semiotic power of a brand?
Just look at the power of the crown.
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the audio due to time constraints.