It’s Friday, we’re excited, we’re tackling a different subject for Throwback/Flashback, which is technically not a commercial, but airs during commercial time, and is a product of the “Television Code” era of television (which was a broadcasting standard until 1983). As yesterday’s topic, One to Grow On, came after the “interstitial era,” with its beginnings rooted in September 1983, that would be considered more of a Public Service Announcement, though it does blend well with the format of the standard interstitial.
While most interstitials covered different topics of public interest, today’s interstitial covers one very exciting topic…the world of reading. Because yes, reading is very exciting when you’re me.
But before we discuss interstitials about books(!!!!!), I have a little history lesson.
Come on, you love these!
Field Communications: A Quick History
Field Communications was a broadcast media company with independent networks in San Francisco (also serving San Jose and Oakland), Boston (and Cambridge), Chicago, Detroit (and Windsor, Ontario), and Burlington, NJ (through the Philadelphia media market). They were active until 1983, when the company was dissolved following a disagreement between the Field brothers, Marshall and Fredrick (Ted), that left them unable to work together.
Three of their stations – WLVI in Boston, WFLD in Chicago, and KBHK in San Francisco, had deals in place to go to other companies by the end of 1982, but the Burlington/Philadelphia and Detroit/Windsor stations were still searching for buyers well into the following year. Eventually, Detroit’s station was sold, but Burlington/Philadelphia’s station was not, and went dark in late August 1983, and its license was surrendered to the FCC, with non-license assets being sold to another Philadelphia independent station, WPHL (“The Great Entertainer!”)
They produced several types of interstitial series (I’ll be covering another one of their interstitials next week), including today’s featured interstitials. However, unlike some of their other interstitials, this one was extremely short-lived.
I don’t think I’ve ever typed that word as many times as I have during this writing, and certainly have never spelled it correctly until now.
And this is where the books(!!!!!!) and “Hooray!” come in.
Books! Books! Books! Books!
Author’s Note: The alternative heading was silly with exclamation points, just too many to be comfortable with.
Hooray for Reading was the interstitial for the book (!!!!!) loving child, in the days before Reading Rainbow. Produced in 1979 by Field Communications and Pepperwood Productions, ten interstitials were produced, and clocking in at one minute each,featuring different children’s books (targeting the 8-11 year old audience), highlighting a moment of the story, and leaving off on a cliffhanger to get kids to read the book to find out what happens next.
The excerpt is bookended by a kid talking about an activity they like, and the book they are currently reading, and then encouraging children to check that book out at their local library.
Sounds great, right? I mean, a quick segment that basically tells kids “read this book!” accompanied by the funky theme music and a title card of the featured book.
It is educational in a sense. Plus, books!
Couldn’t let that go.
So, why was Hooray for Reading not so hooray worthy?
“They’re Just Giving It Away!”
The authors of the featured books complained that the excerpts were giving away their work for free, and since this was obviously taken seriously in the pre-internet days Hooray for Reading was abandoned after those ten stories were featured.
But in the time it did air, it covered a few then-contemporary novels:
Life on a Plastic Planet
Bad Times of Irma Braumlein
A Billion for Boris (which as I just found out, is a sequel to Freaky Friday)
Morris Brookside, A Dog
The TV Kid
Then Again, Maybe I Won’t
The Glad Man
Anna to the Infinite Power
I could only find nine of the ten titles (any completionists with good memories out there that can help me fill in the gaps?) that aired before the series was abandoned. On April 14, 1980, after the Hooray for Reading series ended, there was a 30-minute special that featured all of the dramatizations from the highlighted books in an extended format.
The series itself isn’t the easiest to find, other than written information on Fuzzy Memories.TV (check out their YouTube Channel), a nonprofit that preserves classic Chicago-area airchecks and broadcasts in painstaking detail, an aspect that makes any nostalgic geek proud. The videos are all uploaded to the site, but unfortunately, in a Flash format that makes them unwatchable.
Oddity Archive’s Ben Minnotte covered the segment in his episode on “Interstitials.” I’ve cued the video to the point (if it doesn’t work, it starts at 5:55) where he discusses Hooray for Reading, and sheds some light on the short-lived nature of the series. Obviously, we got our information from the same source, he just happens to have more videos than I’ve been able to locate!
Ben watches (and riffs) A Million for Boris.
And I was able to locate Bad Times for Irma Braumlein on YouTube:
As well as one more on RetroJunk for Then Again, Maybe I Won’t.
From what I’ve seen, I like this segment. I was one of those kids that grew up watching Reading Rainbow, which had a very similar segment within the episode, where kids actually talked about the books they’ve read. Heck, I remember the segment featuring an actual book being read by a celebrity. That gave the ending away every time, and yet, this segment was accused of giving it away for free. Entirely based on the little I’ve seen of Hooray for Reading, the segment doesn’t give anything away; rather, it shows an important moment, but stops right there. When I was a kid, this would have prompted me to read these books. I had Reading Rainbow to recommend books to me, but I knew what liked, and it wasn’t what those kids were recommending.
This was more my speed!
Though I’ll be perfectly honest, the only book I’ve heard of on this list is Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, and that’s only because I’ve read some of Judy Blume’s books. But, who didn’t?
I like the 1970s appeal of the segment, especially that introduction – bright colors, that disco-y music, those visuals…
I agree with Ben, this is EXACTLY what happens when you read too much. And I love it!
Well, we’ve had an interesting end of week here at Allison’s Written Words, haven’t we? A slightly different spin on the whole “between the TV show” content has been a nice refreshing start for 2021. I have a few more that I’ll be looking at next week, one of which I watched a few years ago, and another one that I haven’t really seen much of, but am looking forward to researching.
Yes, this is fun for me.
I’ll leave off with this: do you remember Hooray for Reading, and if it aired in your local Field Communications market? Or are you like me, no Field Communications network in your area, and just finding it on YouTube?
I ask the hard-hitting questions, because “do you like books?” sounds like something kids ask in Kindergarten.
By the way yes, I like books – I mean, books (!!!!!).
Had to do it.
Have a fantastic Flashback Friday, and a great weekend!