Channel surf through decades of local TV

Mary Pom ClaiborneNorth Knoxville

See Todd Howell and Alan Williams early in their TV careers. Or revisit some of the iconic ads from the ’70s. And of course, you’ll catch a snippet or two of Dolly. We’re promoting an hour of vintage television on the big screen. Join us at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 20, at Central Cinema (1205 N. Central Street) for “Broadcastaways: Odds and Ends from Three Decades of East Tennessee Television” presented by the Knox County Public Library’s Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (TAMIS).

This free program will include advertisements, news segments, public interest stories and more, all of which aired on Knoxville-market television between the 1970s and the 1990s. Throw vignettes of beloved on-air personalities into the mix with old-school fashions and fads of yesteryear, and you have the perfect formula for a throwback to an earlier generation of TV. Here is a sample.

Rather than focus on specific programs or timeframes, Broadcastaways simulates the channel surfing experience, jumping freely across diverse vintage segments and even back and forth through time. The selected material demonstrates the ephemeral quality of most late-20th century television, in which entertainment, news, advertising and public service segments were all optimized for a general audience and a high-turnover schedule across a limited number of channels. Under these conditions, these otherwise different segments have a strong sense of resourcefulness in common, as the producers make the most of their budgets, talent and creativity in their attempt to connect with viewers.

The hour of material in this program is only a fraction of the television content in TAMIS’ collections, and each segment has been transferred from a vintage analog source. The means of the original production, the state of technology at the time, and the condition of the surviving artifacts all shape the range of looks and textures that will appear in this presentation. TAMIS staff selected segments that would represent different decades, networks and programming types, as well as television’s willingness to offer a platform to all kinds of people and all kinds of topics. As with all vintage media, viewers will find a fascinating (and occasionally hilarious) mixture of striking differences and immediate similarities with contemporary life.

Broadcastaways is a continuation of TAMIS’ monthly screening series at Central Cinema. These screenings are free and usually suitable for a general audience. People can learn more about TAMIS and upcoming programs at or by searching for “Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound” on Facebook.

TAMIS would love to hear from anyone who has old home movies or other legacy media made in East Tennessee. Folks who donate artifacts to TAMIS receive complimentary copies of whatever digital transfers TAMIS creates of their donations. Please call 865-215-8856 to discuss donations or transfers.

Mary Pom Claiborne is assistant director for marketing, communications and development, Knox County Public Library


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