Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Burns and Allen and Transmedia Radio Storytelling

Like many, many early TV shows, George & Gracie were originally a radio program that was adapted to television. Many of their old radio episodes can be found on the Internet Archive, including a bizarre and fantastic one called "Gracie Runs For President."

I highly suggest listening to this for 2 reasons: 1) It continues to play with the gender roles pointed out by Modleski in this week's reading, and 2) It's a fantastic example of proto-transmedia storytelling. During the week-or-so long arc of this story, Gracie appeared on other radio programs - Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Bob Hope - to "promote" her presidential campaign. This serves as an ad for George & Gracie themselves, but also furthers the narrative of their program on other programs. Radio definitely had more interesting things happening in it than MacLuhan cared to examine.

The link is below. Enjoy!


1 comment:

  1. Anne – this is great, thanks for the link. I'm interested in your claim that Gracie's campaign served as an ad for George and Gracie themselves, because it’s both an astute observation and a way to open up a conversation about the use of advertising in their TV program. Specifically, the ways in which they gratify sponsors – like Carnation Milk – through product placement seems worth discussing. For the most part, product placement has become more subtle in modern television; or at least the characters don’t wax poetic about Frosted Flakes, or loudly claim that Dr. Pepper is nectar of the gods and an adequate substitute for baby formula. That is, unless a channel like the Onion News Network has its cake and eats it too – by apparently skewering the idea of conspicuous product placement while actually meeting the demands of Acura, the corporate sponsor. Which is all to say that I think George and Gracie may’ve been ahead of the curve when it comes to tongue-in-cheek product placement (i.e., when it comes to pleasing two audiences at once). For instance, in the clip below, the Carnation Milk product is truly shoehorned in, with the audience even laughing at George Burns’ reflexive and repeated comment that he “knows what that is” – by this point, the appearance of the milk had become such an expected part of the show that it’s become part of the comedic shtick. Along with their comedic chops, George and Gracie seem to have a knack for advertising.