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From the John H. Mitchell Television Collection at UCLA Film & Television Archive

Shot on Videotape: Social Issue Dramas Preserved by UCLA

 ABC Theatre: “If You Give a Dance You Gotta Pay the Band”
February 23, 2020 - 7:00 pm


The introduction of videotape in the late 1950s promised television networks and local stations lower production budgets and the ability to recoup costs after shows aired by erasing tape stock for reuse. Sadly, this widely adopted practice resulted in untold number of broadcasts being lost forever, including episodes of such landmark programs as The Tonight Show. For this reason, much of the vintage TV programming that survives today on 2-inch videoreels can be considered something of a miracle.

On the positive side for videotape, lower production costs meant that ambitious, progressive works that might not get funded on film, could be brought to the small screen via tape. Presented here are two rare videotape productions from the late 1960s and early ‘70s examining social issues facing African American and Chicanx communities. Both programs serve as notable examples of the quality, inclusivity and reach that television is capable of, regardless of budget or medium of production.

—Mark Quigley, John H. Mitchell Television Archivist


Canción de la Raza (Song of the People): Show #1  (KCET, 10/14/1968)

This public service telenovella presented a stark look at life in East Los Angeles via the dramatization of the daily challenges facing a fictional Mexican American family. This debut episode concerns the Chicanx student walkouts (“blowouts”) of 1968, including incidents of police brutality (depicted via actual footage of the L.A.P.D.).

Preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive from 2-inch videotape. Use courtesy of KCETLink.

Digital video, b/w, 30 min. Director: Lamar Caselli. Screenwriter: Richard Duran, Abel Franco. Cast: Priscilla-Ann, Tina Menard, Richard Yniguez, Robert De Anda.

ABC Theatre: “If You Give a Dance You Gotta Pay the Band”  (ABC, 12/19/1972)

Airing on primetime network television near the height of the blaxploitation motion picture craze, this critically-acclaimed videotaped drama presents an alternative, realistic inner city tale examining the harrowing consequences of poverty and racism as told through the eyes of children. Starring Donna Bryan and future superstar, Laurence Fishburne.

Preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive from 2-inch videotape. Use courtesy of Parmandisam, LLC.

Digital video, color, 75 min. Director: Fred Coe. Screenwriter: Stanley L. Gray. Cast: Donna Bryan, Laurence Fishburne, Albert Hall.