Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog.
If those words sound familiar to you, then you probably spent as much time watching TV as I did during the 1970s and 1980s. Watching TV back then was different than it was today. First of all, not every TV had a remote. That’s right kids, you had to get up and change the channel. First, you had to decide if it was worth it.
The fact that you had to get up out of your chair, turn the knob, and potentially adjust the antenna meant that more people simply watched one channel all night. This made scheduling a lot more important than it is now.
Studio logos ruled
In the 1990s, NBC and others rolled out what they called “seamless” programming. This eliminated or minimized a lot of the opening and closing credits of a show so that you had less time to turn the channel. Before that, studios often showed elaborate animated logos at the beginning or end of each show. These became familiar to TV watchers, and helped build brand loyalty for companies like Stephen J. Cannell, whose production company was known for action TV programs.
These short studio openers, like the ones you see on movies today, often featured cutting-edge animation. Of course those words meant something different back then. In the 1970s and early 1980s it meant a lot of rotoscoping and some very primitive motion camera work. Still, I remember what it took to do a lot of those things and it was incredibly difficult. When you got it right, though, the results were memorable.
Take a look at this collection of studio “bumpers” from the 1970s and 1980s:
About the quality
Of course, when you’re looking at stuff from the 1970s and 1980s, you’re at the mercy of people who found old VHS tapes and digitized them. I am sure that most of these studios have actual film of these things. Most of the time, this stuff was produced on 35mm film and duplicated down to video tape or 16mm film for distribution. That means you could be looking at them in high definition if you wanted. I for one would love to see something like that. These are the sights and sounds of my childhood.
Of course it would take someone like the Museum of Television and Radio to do something like this and deal with the copyright issues, but I think it would be time well spent.