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Syndicated shows, when cutting started?


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#1 of 45 smithb

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Posted March 05 2009 - 02:27 PM

So I've read in reviews about some of the TV shows being released on DVD from cut up syndicated releases. I've experienced it personally with the "Little House in the Prairie" sets. Its quite obvious where the commericals were by the abrupt cuts before and after the break. The transitions should be much smoother.

I started wondering why this hadn't been as obvious to me in the past if this is a standard procedure when show's go to syndication. Although it makes some sense why it might be done from the perspective of creating more commercial slots.

Thinking back, I haven't watched much as far as broadcast TV for the last few years. During the '90s I probably watched a fair amount of reruns on TBS/TNT regarding the Law and Orders series and a few other shows (Home Improvement and Cosby when my father-in-law is in town, he loves those shoes) but I do not recall anything obvious as far as cuts. Since I did not see the original broadcasts I cannot be sure.

During the '80s I probably watched a fair amount of reruns like MASH, Happy Days, and other similar shows. Some of these I had also seen the original broadcasts and I don't recall ever seeing obvious edits.

I thought maybe I just didn't know enough back then about it so I didn't look for it. Recently, I picked up the first season of Andy Griffith which has been stated to not be made from cut up syndicated material. I thought it would be interesting to see material that hasn't been seen since the original broadcasts. I'm pretty familar with this show from watching it in the mid '70s through the mid '80s.

After seeing the first four episodes, there is nothing new that I hadn't seen when watched in syndication. Which is fine since I had forgotten how good this show was. Even though I pretty much know what evey episode is about, I'd either forgotten how funny it was or I'm enjoying it even more now that I'm older.

So the question is, when did they start cutting up or speeding up syndicated shows? How rampant was? Was it certain networks and not others (e.g., local stations more then large cable channels)?

To tell the truth, Little House on the Prairie is the only one I can ever think of where I saw this done.

#2 of 45 Jeff*H

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Posted March 05 2009 - 04:55 PM

I think local stations were cutting up syndicated 16mm prints of shows as far back as the 70s and the 80s. I recall watching washed out 16mm prints of STAR TREK on a local station in 1977-78 and seeing unusual film jumps, cuts and splices in the shows, and lots of ads. I have tapes from WOR of HAWAII FIVE-0 from around 1984 that were 16mm and have since verified there were a lot of cuts made. Not to mention WTBS was chopping up shows like Gilligan, Ozzie and Harriet, and Addams Family around 1980, and a local station was chopping parts out of the Lone Ranger.

I think it's a practice that's been in place ever since local stations and cable stations realized they could sell a LOT more advertising by removing bits and pieces here and there, and I'm sure the station managers figured nobody would notice back in the pre-VCR/DVD era.

Thanks to DVD, I've seen many scenes from these shows and others that I have never ever seen before, scenes chopped from syndication and restored on DVD.
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#3 of 45 smithb

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Posted March 05 2009 - 10:14 PM

So it sounds like it was a local station call as to whether to cut or not. Then some local stations may have been more active about it then others. All my TV watching was done in the Washington DC area growing up (late '60s through the '70s) and then Charlotte, NC during college and a few years later before returning to the DC area in the late '80s.

I honestly do not recall seeing this kind of hatchet job on the syndicated shows I was watching and where I was watching.

#4 of 45 Regulus

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Posted March 05 2009 - 10:58 PM

As long as I can remember, the Commercial Breaks for syndicated shows have been longer than on the Networks. Back in the "Pre VCR/DVD Era" as Jeff*H so puts it if an Hour-Long show ran for 50 Minutes on Network TV it would probably run 48 Minutes when it became Syndicated. Nowadays the amount of Commercials a viewer has to contend with has grown to absurd levels. A couple of weeks ago I was on a certain Cable Network's Website (One where many of the posters WHINE about their currant Programming!) and a Spokesperson actually stated "It is becoming harder and harder to air older shows(with significantly longer airtimes than currant broadcast standards). In another thread, where I asked why won't a network cut back the number of commercials and, according to "Supply and demand" Raise their Advertising Rates accordingly knowing that having fewer Commercial breaks will increase the number of viewers that same Spokwsperson actually gave this response:
"There are a certain number of minutes in each half-hour and hour that are set aside for network, local spots and promotions. The numbers are pretty much the same across all networks. Advertisers pay based on these numbers and (Get This!) CONSIDER IT A DILUTION OF THEIR ADVERTISMENTS IF THESE NUMBERS ARE STRAYED UPON BY A NETWORK OR CABLE/SATELLITE PROVIDER!"

In other words if a Network says instead of stuffing 20-26 minutes of Commercials per hour in our shows we will only show 12-15 minutes of Ads per hour the Advertisers will REFUSE to put their ads on that network!

Thank Heaven for the Shows we get on DVD! IMO Although I'd like to see pristine Copies of Every Show that comes out on DVD, if the Syndicated version is the only one available so be it, it's better than nothing at all!
(BTW I do have all episodes of Little House on the Prairie as well as the first three (That's all they put out) of Highway to Heaven, which I heard was also a "Syndie Version". Sigh. Of course if you don't like that you can always watch "regular' TV!Posted Image

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#5 of 45 smithb

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Posted March 06 2009 - 12:25 AM

We are getting ready to start season six of "Little House..." so it obviously hasn't changed my viewing habits or pushed me back to regular TV. Maybe I am being naive about this and like I say I just don't recall seeing the same with other shows. Maybe, they just did a really bad job of it on "Little House...". Maybe I'm not prone to issues when shows are sped up and so I did not notice.

That is why I was kind of curious when the practice started because most of my syndicated rerun watching happened on local stations pre '80s. In the '90s it was some what limited to just shows like "Muder She Wrote" and "Law in Order's". For this century I just started to get back in to old TV shows via NetFlix and DVD purchases. So maybe I just missed the worst offenses.

#6 of 45 BobO'Link

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Posted March 06 2009 - 01:52 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by smithb
So I've read in reviews about some of the TV shows being released on DVD from cut up syndicated releases. I've experienced it personally with the "Little House in the Prairie" sets. Its quite obvious where the commericals were by the abrupt cuts before and after the break. The transitions should be much smoother...
Just because a program "cuts" to black instead of a "fade" for commercial insertion is no indication that what you have is the syndicated release. That's an "editorial" decision made on the part of the producers of a program. While during the era of "Little House" it was more common to fade out for a commercial not every program did this. But a advertised run time of 1080 minutes for 23 episodes implies these are syndicated versions as that makes the average episode length right at 47 minutes. Considering when it originaly aired it should run 50-52 minutes/ep.

As far as when the cutting started? With local TV it started, as others have said, when stations found they could cut bits and pieces here and there to make more room for commercials. I worked in local TV in the 70's and 80's and one of my early jobs was to do just that. A program would come in on a reel of film, we would "time" it for length and to find the current locations of commercial breaks. If the program plus planned commercial breaks ran longer than the allotted time we would cut bits and pieces to make it fit. Because we used very simple film editing stations you could not hear what was being said and had to make a call based on what you saw in the "action". Some of these "cuts" were horrific for this reason. Attempts would be made to put the excised footage back before the film was sent on, but this typically caused minor frame drops, jumps, etc. After a few stations did this a film would be literally hacked to bits. Once syndicators started to deliver programming via video tape and satellite, stations pushed for the edits to be made at the syndicator level as editing a tape for length took longer than with film. This also allowed syndicators to promise a guaranteed amount of local commercial time with each program. For the financial office, it is a win/win even though the consumer gets shafted. Time compression was seen as a way to deliver the entire program without editing but it has its' own problems. I would rather watch an edited program than a time compressed one, but find neither acceptable for a DVD release.

Some programs in the 80's and 90's started taking this practice into account when produced and would include bits that could easily be removed for syndication without affecting the overall product. Typically this would be a throwaway bit before the opening credits would roll, the opening itself (frequently a minute or longer for just this reason), short scenes with only supporting cast, expositional dialog not affecting the outcome, and/or a "closer" bit just before end credits. Essential? Probably not, but I think most of us would like to watch a program the way it originally aired, at the same length, with original music, etc.

While I *do* own a few programs that have had syndicated prints used, music removed, etc., I don't like it. However, depending on the program I'll live with it to have a copy I can watch when *I* want to watch *without* commercial interruption. In many of these cases what I have on DVD is exactly the same as what I would watch on cable without commercials. Does that justify what's been done? Not really, but at least I'm not bombarded with a 5 minute commercial break every 4 minutes.

#7 of 45 Regulus

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Posted March 06 2009 - 02:26 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by BobO'Link



While I *do* own a few programs that have had syndicated prints used, music removed, etc., I don't like it. However, depending on the program I'll live with it to have a copy I can watch when *I* want to watch *without* commercial interruption. In many of these cases what I have on DVD is exactly the same as what I would watch on cable without commercials. Does that justify what's been done? Not really, but at least I'm not bombarded with a 5 minute commercial break every 4 minutes.

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#8 of 45 Rob_Ray

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Posted March 06 2009 - 03:00 AM

Before primetime became overwhelmed with commercials within the last couple of decades, daytime television always had more commercials than primetime because the revenue from daytime helped support the more prestigious and higher-priced programming in primetime. Thus cutting for syndication has been going on from the very first time a prime-time program was rerun in the daytime and was standard practice by the sixties, if not earlier.

I remember watching "I Love Lucy" in Houston which began syndication on Channel 39 in early '67 as I recall. They routinely lopped at least two to three minutes from each episode. Lucy aired in two acts with breaks at the opening, mid-point and before the credits. One airing would lop off several minutes from the opening of act one and the next airing after a nine-month cycling would lop off several minutes from the beginning of act two. If you were a regular fan, you ultimately saw the complete episode over time, but each viewing was extremely frustrating, for you were apt to return from the commercials with characters in mid-sentence.

On the extremely rare occasions when a show would move to a new time slot, for the first two or three days episodes would air complete, as apparently the ad time had not yet been sold.

This policy continued until the advent of videotape, when the cuts were made by the syndicator. This was a mixed blessing, for although each viewing was cut far more judiciously for a better quality presentation, those cuts were gone forever, never to be seen again until the home video releases.

#9 of 45 smithb

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Posted March 06 2009 - 03:33 AM

Thanks all for the informative responses.

Many of the shows I watched in the late 60's to early 70's I wouldn't have known a difference unless it was a very bad edit since I did not see them in prime time (e.g., I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, My Three Sons, Andy Griffith, Dennis the Menace, I Dream of Jeannie, and so on). I guess I didn't notice very many bad edits back then, nor did I know what was going on. I also wasn't sure if it was something that started in the late 70's or 80's when editing would be more easily accomplished. But I see that wasn't the case now.

Obviously, I would like to see the shows as intended and I guess checking play time is one of the easiest methods to do this.

I had heard that many times beginnings and endings were cut (bumpers?) since many shows used this as prologues and epilogues that were not necessary to understanding the story.

When watching the uncut Andy Griffiths I was looking for anything new. But at least as far as the beginnings and ending go, they are the same as I've seen in syndication many times. Quite possibly there were minor tweaks made farther in the episodes themselves that were removed for syndication that would take watching them side to side to identify.

The last time I watched Andy was in the early 80's in Charlotte, NC, maybe its considered sacriliege to mess with Andy down there. Posted Image

In the end it was just curiosity on my part. I have over 10 shows on my rotation right now that date between the late 50's to early 60's. It is great nostalgia to watch these again, and in many cases discovering shows brand new to me.

#10 of 45 Tim Tucker

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Posted March 06 2009 - 03:49 AM

I think the first thing that went in Andy Griffith was the epilogues before the closing credits. I'm going through the series myself, and that footage is what jumps out at me as being restored.
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#11 of 45 DeWilson

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Posted March 06 2009 - 04:48 AM

1984-1986 is when the 'butchering' began as syndicators replaced the old 16mm prints with Video transfers.

#12 of 45 Rob_Ray

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Posted March 06 2009 - 05:27 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DeWilson
1984-1986 is when the 'butchering' began as syndicators replaced the old 16mm prints with Video transfers.

As I indicated before, the butchering began long before 1984. When 16mm prints were replaced by video transfers, the "butchering" became much more sophisticated and professional. Again, in the case of "I Love Lucy", the syndicators would drop a line here and a line there and do quick fades at scene changes to minimize the damage.

When individual stations ran 16mm prints, the cuts were extremely arbitrary. Imagine watching "Lucy Does a TV Commercial" and coming back from two-minute commercial break to hear Lucy already in the midst of her "Vitameatavegimen" routine. Very annoying.

#13 of 45 smithb

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Posted March 06 2009 - 06:13 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Tucker
I think the first thing that went in Andy Griffith was the epilogues before the closing credits. I'm going through the series myself, and that footage is what jumps out at me as being restored.

That could be...and it was what I had heard and was looking forward to. However, at least for the first four episodes, I have seen all the epilogues before in syndication, so they were nothing new to me. So Andy seemed to avoid the slice and dice treatment where and when I watched it back in the early to mid 80's.

It doesn't really matter though because I am really enjoying it very much anyways, even without anything new.

#14 of 45 Jefferson

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Posted March 06 2009 - 06:36 AM

I grew up in the 1970's, and used to love comparing the same rerun on two different stations...for example....WGN in Chicago and WTCG (later TBS) from Atlanta, would edit different moments out, but if you saw both, you had a pretty good idea of the complete episode.

When VCRs came about, I would record the same episode on two different stations and cobble them together until they were fairly complete.
I did this with LUCY, GREEN ACRES, LOST IN SPACE, BEWITCHED and others.

#15 of 45 Michael Rogers

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Posted March 06 2009 - 09:55 AM

In the 1970's, most of the time, it would be up to the station if they wanted to cut scenes from an uncut 16mm print. For example, I have recordings of Star Trek in the 1970's from my local channel 10 and they left the show virtually intact. At the same time, WPIX was running Trek and chopping it to pieces.

But some have said that in the case Of The Brady Bunch, the show was edited for syndication from the beginning (and the cut footage misplaced), even though it was on film. This is why there are quality jumps on The Brady Bunch DVD sets because the scenes were recovered but not in good shape in some cases.

And then, there is Here's Lucy. They included a promo meant for potential syndicators. It had to be from the mid 70's. The promo advertised that instead of film the show would be available on broadcast video transfered from 35mm. They also advertised that they would be preedited to allow for 6 minutes of commercials.

By the mid 80's, most old shows came on broadcast video transfers, pre-edited.

#16 of 45 Brian Himes

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Posted March 06 2009 - 10:23 AM

I remember when MASH first went into syndication on my local ABC channel. The show aired in the 30 minute slot just before the 6:00 evening news and every night I watched it while having dinner. This was in late 1979. So, after about six months or so, the show would cycle back to the first episode. After about two years or so I began to notice certain bits missing that had been there when I first saw the episode. One of the more noticiable cuts was the entire original opening from the very first episode. That was shown the first two or three times the episode aired but eventually vanished. Never to be seen again until the DVD came out. It wasn't only that part that got cut. When you watch certain shows regularly, and having seen those episodes two or three times in a year, you begin to notice certain things missing.

Over the years, I knew of certain scenes missing from Charlies Angels that I recalled seeing when the show first aired.

I'd guess syndicated cutting has been going on since probably the 60s. I wasn't aware of it until the late 70s with MASH and Charlies Angels.

#17 of 45 Cowboy

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Posted March 06 2009 - 11:43 AM

I taped Cannon off Nick at Nite's Tv Land years ago and they all are
uncut running around 50 minutes each episode.Tv Land used to play
all the classic shows,some of which never made it to dvd.

#18 of 45 MatthewA

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Posted March 06 2009 - 04:13 PM

I didn't notice this practice until The Simpsons went into syndication in 1994. Because I had the foresight to tape it regularly from day one and watch and re-watch the episodes, it was painfully obvious to me. Now I refuse to watch any cut or time compressed reruns, which means I don't watch any reruns on TV anymore.

I asked this question here two years ago and got some interesting answers:

http://www.hometheat....lways-cut.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Rogers
But some have said that in the case Of The Brady Bunch, the show was edited for syndication from the beginning (and the cut footage misplaced), even though it was on film. This is why there are quality jumps on The Brady Bunch DVD sets because the scenes were recovered but not in good shape in some cases.

I doubt this theory. The first season doesn't seem to have the quality fluctuation problem as badly as the four subsequent seasons. It's possible that they could have been restored given enough time and money, but due to the quick release schedule there was no time. In the past thread some people claim that they saw The Brady Bunch uncut on local stations in the original 1970s syndication run. Likewise, other Paramount shows don't have these picture quality fluctuations.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob_Ray
This policy continued until the advent of videotape, when the cuts were made by the syndicator. This was a mixed blessing, for although each viewing was cut far more judiciously for a better quality presentation, those cuts were gone forever, never to be seen again until the home video releases.

I've seen some horrible cuts of videotaped sitcoms and of filmed shows in their recent telecine transfers. I'm talking about a joke cut, but not the audience laughter. That bad.

Could a station even get an uncut version of a show from a distributor if they asked? I know CBS/Paramount offers some shows uncut (some of them because they never bothered to cut them in the first place), including the shows remastered for HD.

Enough is enough, Disney. No more evasions or excuses. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray along with the uncut version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray. I will not support anything your company produces until then.


#19 of 45 Michael Rogers

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Posted March 06 2009 - 05:17 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MatthewA
I didn't notice this practice until The Simpsons went into syndication in 1994. Because I had the foresight to tape it regularly from day one and watch and re-watch the episodes, it was painfully obvious to me. Now I refuse to watch any cut or time compressed reruns, which means I don't watch any reruns on TV anymore.

I asked this question here two years ago and got some interesting answers:

http://www.hometheat....lways-cut.html



I doubt this theory. The first season doesn't seem to have the quality fluctuation problem as badly as the four subsequent seasons. It's possible that they could have been restored given enough time and money, but due to the quick release schedule there was no time. In the past thread some people claim that they saw The Brady Bunch uncut on local stations in the original 1970s syndication run. Likewise, other Paramount shows don't have these picture quality fluctuations.


I thought it was odd too. But during the time the Brady Bunch sets were being released this supposition would always be mentioned in threads like this one:

http://www.hometheat....ch-edited.html

and this one

http://www.hometheat....transfers.html

I started to have an awareness of TV shows being edited in the 1980's when I watched Star Trek, Honeymooners, Andy Griffith, etc a lot.

It's funny some have talked in this and the other thread about WPIX showing Trek uncut in the 1970's because by the time of the 80's it was cut to pieces. Honeymooners was too, until the Honeymooners fan club (called R.A.L.P.H.) lobbied to get them shown uncut.

So WPIX was the place to see The Honeymooners. But other channels would cut them.

You comments about sloppy editing made me remember seeing an episode on our local channel called "A Matter Of Record" where Alice leaves Ralph because he was yelling at her mother. Ralph tried to get her back by recording an apology on a record recorder. The first try he blows up just thinking about the mother in law, the second try is the charm. Well, Norton sends the first try and Alice comes back and tells him she is leaving for good and leaves. And that is the last scene on my local channel. Alice leaving Ralph.

Of course, the uncut episode ends with Norton having her hear the intended record and she forgives Ralph and comes home. Only she has to leave again because Ralph has caught the Measles from Norton who caught it from the kids he plays stickball with.

I couldn't believe someone would so sloppily cut a show in a way that effectively changes the ending but I saw it for myself.

#20 of 45 DeWilson

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Posted March 06 2009 - 06:31 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob_Ray
As I indicated before, the butchering began long before 1984. When 16mm prints were replaced by video transfers, the "butchering" became much more sophisticated and professional. Again, in the case of "I Love Lucy", the syndicators would drop a line here and a line there and do quick fades at scene changes to minimize the damage.

When individual stations ran 16mm prints, the cuts were extremely arbitrary. Imagine watching "Lucy Does a TV Commercial" and coming back from two-minute commercial break to hear Lucy already in the midst of her "Vitameatavegimen" routine. Very annoying.

Ok, then I mean OFFICAL butchering Posted Image


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