Revisit “Flip-On,” the Revolutionary TV Present That Obtained Canceled Proper within the Center of Its First Episode (1969)


It could offer you pause, at the least for those who’re previous a sure age, to contemplate the disappearance of the phrase computerized. Like moveable, it has fallen out of use as a result of sheer commonness of the idea to which it refers: in an age once we all carry moveable computer systems in our pockets, neither portability nor computerization are any longer notable in themselves. However there was a time when to name one thing computerized lent it a futuristic, even attractive air. Again in 1969, just some months earlier than the US’ decisive victory within the Area Race, ABC aired “the First Computerized TV Present,” a half-hour sketch-comedy sequence known as Flip-On. Or fairly, it could’ve been a sequence, had it lasted previous its first broadcast.

Flip-On was created by Ed Pleasant and George Schlatter, the producers of Rowan & Martin’s Chortle-In on NBC. With that sketch comedy present having rapidly grow to be a significant cultural phenomenon, Pleasant and Schlatter used their new mission to purify and vastly intensify its idea: the sketches grew to become shorter, a few of them lasting mere seconds; the fabric grew to become extra topical and risqué; the humor grew to become extra absurd, at instances verging on nonsensical.

However Flip-On‘s most hanging break from conference was the elimination of the position of the host, changing them with a formidable-looking pc console that was ostensibly producing the present based on the directions of its nameless programmers.

Although its central pc was a fiction, Flip-On actually did use know-how in methods by no means earlier than seen or heard on tv. As an alternative of amusing observe, it was saturated with the novel sounds of the Moog synthesizer (whose capabilities had been popularly demonstrated the earlier yr by Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach). As an alternative of correct units, its troupe carried out in opposition to the form of white void later related to Hole commercials; usually, that area would separate into comic-strip panels proper onscreen. Its dance sequences even made use of an early motion-capture system. Alas, none of those improvements saved the present from being pulled off the air simply fifteen minutes into its debut by Cleveland’s WEWS. That decisive rejection set off a cascade, and several other stations on the west coast subsequently elected to not broadcast it in any respect.

Schlatter stays a defender of Flip-On, blaming its rejection on a vindictive fan of the present whose time slot it took, the declining prime-time rural cleaning soap opera Peyton Place. Now that each the first and never-aired second episodes have surfaced on Youtube, you may watch and choose them for your self, assuming you may deal with a frenzied disjointedness that makes TikTok movies really feel stately by comparability. The objects of those often-absurd salvos  — campus protests, anti-communism, “the brand new math,” nuclear annihilation, the tablet, Richard Nixon — could also be dated, however at this historic distance, we will higher admire what Ernie Smith at Tedium calls a “sharp commentary on an more and more direct and impersonal tradition.” And if we additionally take Flip-On as an announcement on the character of leisure generated by synthetic intelligence, we will credit score it with a sure prescience as properly.

by way of Boing Boing

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Primarily based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His tasks embody the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the e-book The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The Metropolis in Cinema. Comply with him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.


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