Interlude: The Now Explosion

For all we know, the good people at Horror Incorporated may have been planning a knockout Halloween show for the evening of Saturday, October 31, 1970. That would have been cool. But we’ll never find out.

The show vanished from the schedule for 13 weeks beginning on October 17, replaced by a high-concept syndicated program called The Now Explosion.

This show was the brainchild of producer Bob Whitney, who imagined a sort of top 40 radio station on your TV. An unseen dj would introduce the latest chart-toppers from the Rolling Stones, CCR, Edwin Starr, The Fifth Dimension, etc, accompanied by images designed to enhance the audio track.

What sort of images? Dancers wearing groovy outfits of various types were popular. Bands were sometimes recorded lip-synching their hits, and on some occasions dancers were photographed outside of the studio. You can see a 30-minute sampling of The Now Explosion’s video efforts here. But I should warn you: the segment built around The Fifth Dimension’s Up, Up and Away may cause migraine headaches, hypertension, suicidal thoughts or death.

Four decades on the video techniques look fairly laughable — you could easily do better with your laptop at home today — but in terms of raw technology this was the best 1970 could offer. But that only partially excuses The Now Explosion’s shortcomings. The producers were clearly trying to find a way to mesh the images with the audio, to make the two belong to each other, but they were never able to figure out how. They had little time to experiment, and very little money.

The mammoth video tape machines, state-of-the-art Grass Valley Series 1400 production switcher and 2-inch video tape were all quite expensive, and in spite of its chintzy look The Now Explosion had a financial burn rate that doomed it from the start. The show hung on as long as it could, moving its operation from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale after its first flight of 13 episodes, and closing up shop at the conclusion of the second.

The Now Explosion’s web site lauds the show for being the forerunner to MTV. But in fact, that honor belongs to Michael Nesmith, who essentially invented the modern music video for his late-70s Nickelodean show PopClips. MTV was built directly upon the foundation that PopClips had laid . Show ’em how it’s done, Mike:

Perhaps the kindest thing we can say about The Now Explosion is that it didn’t outstay its welcome. Horror Incorporated was back on the schedule by January 16.

So let’s reconvene in 1971, at the usual place. See you there, gentle reader.

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