TV has changed a bit in the past 70 years

In the first episode of I Love Lucy, somebody said “Why don’t we have a cigarette?” The result looked like this:

image host.

They took the cigarettes out of a wooden box and never identified the brand, so the show wasn’t cashing in on a product placement. It was just a general pro-smoking message! Worse yet, Lucille Ball was obviously very pregnant (in real life) while she puffed away. She wore robes and aprons to hide it because her character was not pregnant, but it was painfully obvious whenever her contour could be seen. (Note how in the scene above she was in a very odd outfit for wandering around the apartment.)

Later in the episode, there was an obvious product placement. Fred and Ricky each drank a bottle of Ruppert beer on camera, and when they set the bottles down, the labels were conveniently turned toward the camera and in focus.

11 thoughts on “TV has changed a bit in the past 70 years

  1. They were probably Philip Morris cigarettes. They were among the first sponsors of I Love Lucy, and originally when the credits ran an image of a pack of Philip Morris cigarettes appeared on the screen. It wasn’t until later, when the show went into syndication, that the cigarette pack was replaced with the familiar “satin heart” image for the credits. Lucy and Ricky were also featured in print ads for Philip Morris cigarettes. As for Ruppert beer, the brewery (in New York City) closed in 1965.

    1. Although there had been belief I guess for a number of years prior that cigarettes were harmful, it wasn’t until 1964 that the U.S Surgeon General issued the seminal report linking cigarettes to lung cancer (and probably heart disease.)

      Before television, cigarettes were sponsors of radio programs. Richard Diamond, Private Detective (played by Dick Powell who sang a song at the end of every episode) was sponsored by Camel Cigarettes for several years and their ads touted the lack of throat irritation from smoking unfiltered camels and that more doctors were smoking their brand than any others: “How mild can a cigarette be? Take the Camel’s 30 day test and you’ll see.”

      1. I remember reading an anecdote (in the sadly defunct American Heritage magazine) about a doctor in the early 20th century, who called his medical students in to observe an autopsy of someone who died of lung cancer. Take a good look, he told them, because this disease is so rare you’ll probably never see another case of it. Then cigarettes became popular.

  2. In the late 1980s or so, P.J O’Rourke smoked while being interviewed by Bob Costas on Later. I suspect that O’Rourke was just trying to demonstrate his ‘freedom’ in that snarky and juvenile way of his.

    Of course, in the 1970s, Tom Snyder constantly smoked on the Tomorrow Show, but I don’t believe he did when he returned with his program that followed Letterman’s show. (Late Night with David Letterman had previously replaced the Tomorrow Show on NBC.)

    “Fire up a colortini, sit back, relax, and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air.”

  3. A few years ago I decided to binge old The Twilight Zone episodes. Rod Serling smokes in some of them, and then pitches the cigarette company. Blew me away.

    Being too young to have seen The Flintstones originally in prime time, it also blew me away to see them in a cigarette commercial. In my mind it’s a kid’s show.

    1. If I remember right, Johnny Carson would occasionally fire one up on the Tonight show, and guests like Dino would freely puff away.

      1. Watching OTA tv means a lot of vintage shows are available. Perry Mason and Paul Drake lit up frequently, and I remember the actor who played Hamilton Burger doing warning PSA’s as he was dying of cancer. Carson and guests puffed away. Heck, even ol’ Sheriff Andy would light up, which he called his biggest regret of doing the show.

      2. There was a very funny incident related to the wooden cigarette box that Johnny kept on his desk. Don Rickles was guest hosting the Tonight Show and accidently broke the box. When Johnny returned he noticed the box was broken. While taping that night’s episode, he asked what happened and was told Rickels broke it. At the time, Rickles was starring in the NBC sitcom C.P.O. Sharkey. That show just happened to tape in the studio right next to the Tonight Show. He grabbed the box and with a camera following him marched straight on to the Sharkey set and started chewing Rickles out. It was so funny, they used to play it every year as part of their anniversary show (The Tonight Show, not C.P.O. Sharkey). If I recall correctly, they played it just before the Ed Ames tomahawk toss to the groin.

      1. I was picturing a William Burroughs voice, but you can’t go wrong with Stewie. I started watching Family Guy because “Simpsons ended and I’m already sitting here” was a powerful draw. I stopped when I realized I was mostly just waiting for the next Stewie bit.

Comments are closed.