Bingeing on Benny

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Bingeing on Benny

By Joe Natale

Binge-viewing is the soup du jour in the entertainment industry with people consuming episodes of their favorite programs in a single setting.

Netflix streams episodes of popular programs like “House of Cards” and “Arrested Development,” allow viewers to gorge on episodes, one right after another, instead of waiting a week for the next installment.

Forbes Magazine recently reported that 88 percent of the people said they want to watch more than one episode of their favorite shows at a time.

The demographic group driving this insatiable appetite for content is the Millennials, who are accessing Netflix, Amazon, Comcast and YouTube on their tablets and smart phones, although burning up your phone’s battery life to binge on AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is not advisable. You’ll need a fully charged phone to make a 911 call during the Zombie Apocalypse.

My wife and I have been bingeing on an entertainment program that pre-dates solid state circuitry. While data mining on the Internet Archive (archive.org) we stumbled upon 143 episodes of the Jack Benny radio shows, produced during the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

These programs aren’t going to draw viewers away from “Mad Men,” but the foundation for episodic television programming and sitcoms evolved from these half-hour radio shows, whose humor and word play has worn well over the years.

Besides the alleged violin virtuoso Benny, the ensemble featured band leader Phil Harris; Benny’s sarcastic wife, Mary Livingston; Eddie “Rochester” Anderson as Jack’s wily housekeeper, valet, chauffeur and other duties as assigned; tenor Dennis Day; rasping B-Western movie actor Andy Devine;  announcer Don Wilson; and Mel Blanc, the coughing, choking, sputtering engine of Benny’s 1916 Maxwell touring car, who also voiced Bugs Bunny in the Looney Tune cartoons.

Some things old are new again, as product placement was just as prominent during the Golden Age of Radio as they are now in television and movies. Jello and Lucky Strike cigarettes were incorporated in the plot lines of every episode.

I suppose carrying on about 20th century non-visual medium in the 21st century is just me showing my age: 39.

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Joe Natale is a freelance writer from Springfield.

By |July 19th, 2013|Categories: Humor, Past Features|Tags: , , |0 Comments

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