Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Paley Center in NYC

One of the most interesting things I did in NYC a couple of weeks ago was spend a couple of hours in the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Radio and Television). The name change is apt, as this is not really a museum in the usual sense. There is only very modest exhibit space and not a very good store either.

Instead, the museum offers two things: first, a set of five screening rooms showing various old television shows (including commercials in at least some cases) and documentaries about old television shows. The price of admission lets you do these all day long. I watched an episode of Get Smart, which was great fun. I had forgotten (or not noticed in my youth) how attractive Barbara Feldon is and how much she fawns all over Maxwell Smart. The commercials - mostly for cars and household products, were at least as fun as the show itself.

The other thing on offer is access to the center's library of old radio and television shows. Your admission buys you an hour of viewing or listening. I watched the pilot for the Paul Lynde Show. I always liked Paul Lynde growing up and have vague memories of watching the show when it was originally aired. If I had more time, I would have watched an episode of Delta House, which I had completely forgotten about. It was the short-lived TV version of Animal House which included some of the less-famous actors from the movie.

When I was there on a Sunday afternoon there were more helpers - one on every one of the five floors plus more to deal with the library requests and still more at the entrance - than visitors. Most seemed likely to be students in media studies or some such at NYU.

The thing that strikes me about the Paley Center is that, in a decade or so, presumably the center's entire library will be available for listening or viewing on-line. That will be fun indeed.