A quick dispatch from a rabbit hole I would gladly spend my entire day down — the American Archive of Public Broadcasting website.
It appears, from my token exploration, to be a massive cache of public TV and radio programs going back to the 1950s. It’s a giant, giant pile of sobersided, thought-provoking, low-budget, often horribly dated content. Which is to say, it presses all kinds of great buttons for me.
The delights include, but are by no means limited to:
A 1977 episode of The McNeil/Lehrer Report devoted to the increasing popularity of soccer in America, including berserk claymation; great faded footage of both NASL games and youth soccer; and Shep Messing, because he was the closest thing to a handsome American-bred, American-known soccer star, so of course Shep Messing.
A 1972 debate over whether professional athletes should be allowed at the Olympics, hosted by (of all people) a remarkably young Michael Dukakis. (The Duke, at that point in time, was in private legal practice, having completed an eight-year stint in the Massachusetts House of Representatives but not yet having gotten himself elected governor of the state.)
Four episodes of the notoriously bizarre late-’60s WGBH show What’s Happening, Mr. Silver? One of them ends with a figure riding laps around the studio on a motorcycle while dancers frug to the sound of “Hold On, I’m Comin’.” Another features host Silver, his producer, and a WGBH official discussing offensive material in the previous week’s episode and discussing whether the show should continue. And a third is the previous week’s offensive episode.
A 1974 episode of a show called Woman, produced by Buffalo’s WNED, that discusses marriages in which both partners work. The participants are Bennington College president Gail Parker and her husband, Bennington College vice-president Tom Parker. (The discussion is made vastly more enjoyable if you know the backstory of the Parkers’ reign at Bennington; if you don’t, it is easily enough Googled.)
A radio announcement made in October 1961, during intermission of a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert, regarding a disastrous fire earlier that day at WGBH’s television studio in Cambridge.
Going back even further, the first FM broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio, from March 1947.
The unedited sounds of a night outdoors near Carlsbad, New Mexico, summer 1979. (If I understand correctly, there are eight of these.)
Also from 1979, audio from the annual Vermont Public Radio fundraising marathon. From the program description: “The marathon includes calls to donate from the hosts, recorded music, an interview about the synclavier, and the last half hour is a fuzzy program about food preservation.” Go ahead, try to convince me you’re doing something more interesting or worthwhile than listening to that right now.
KQED in San Francisco’s award-winning 1980 production Broken Arrow: Can A Nuclear Weapons Accident Happen Here?, which is maybe circa-1980 speculative news reporting filtered down to its purest essence.
A 1977 Missouri public radio show about numerology. This episode is about 3, which, as we all know, is the magic number.
A 1967 edition of a show called Spectrum titled “The Jet Train is Here.“
A 1976 edition of Pantechnicon, “a nightly magazine on the arts, entertainment, and new ideas,” featuring Ravi Shankar.
Numerous editions of New Jersey Nightly News from the end of the ’70s.
An audio-only recording of station IDs and technical difficulty announcements from Corvallis, Oregon, from the 1960s and ’70s — including one that notes the loss of the audio feed (an announcement that would, in theory, be completely useless; I wonder how many times they used it.)
I’d much rather watch and listen to this stuff (and dig up more like it) than write about it; I think I’ve served enough examples to indicate the sort of funk I’m finding.