Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"30 Rock," "Your Hit Parade," and Studio 8-H

Other than Saturday Night Live, and news and sports programs, live television programs are today rare. On Thursday, at 8:30 p.m. (EST), the NBC show 30 Rock will be broadcasting live, from NBC’s Studio 8-H, in Rockefeller Center. 

Three of the primary stars of 30 Rock—Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, and Alec Baldwin—are very familiar with the studio, which has been the home of Saturday Night Live since the show began airing in 1975. Fey and Morgan starred on Saturday Night Live, and Baldwin has been a frequent host on the program.

Before the television era, Studio 8-H had been famous for being the radio home of conductor Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra; Toscanini’s radio broadcasts had begun on NBC in the 1930s.

Near the start of 1951, when my mother joined the cast of Your Hit Parade, the show was broadcast from New York’s Center Theatre, near Rockefeller Center; the theatre had been converted to accomodate NBC television productions. In the spring of 1952, the Hit Parade left the Center Theatre, and moved to Studio 8-H.

In 1983, while doing research for my book, I spoke with the television and film director Paul Bogart. Bogart worked in early TV (and later became one of television's most prominent directors, of both drama and comedy; in the 1970s, he won an Emmy Award for his direction of the series All In The Family)He  remembered watching the Hit Parade at Studio 8-H, when the show moved there.

The following, about Bogart, is from my book:

He did not work on the [Hit Parade]; he was, at the time, a floor manager for other shows, yet he spent time at Studio 8-H and watched the show during rehearsals....

The Hit Parade, he said, “was a wonderful show. It came out of 8‑H, the big Toscanini studio in Radio City. It was the big studio, it had the big orchestra, it had lots of dancers, it had lots of singers. It was just plain fun. There were hundreds of people running around changing costumes all the time, it was like opening night of Broadway, you know, it was all that excitement. And I loved watching it. I used to hang around there all the time . . . .It had all that nice music going on, it was such sweet entertainment, so innocent. And lovely little bits of production.”