Direct to Your TV: NYU’s “University Broadcast Lab” (1969 -1983)



In accordance with the 50th Anniversary of NYU Tisch School of the Arts my colleague and I are researching the history of the School. We’re primarily focusing on locating and preserving audio-visual materials that record early faculty and students’ contributions. So far we’ve made some pretty exciting discoveries!

One portion of the School’s history that is proving particularly intriguing pertains to a series of programs made for a long-term project entitled “University Broadcast Lab.”

Between 1969-81 an extremely productive collaboration existed between the non-commercial, local station WNYC-TV and a 26-week color television course taught by Professors Richard Goggin and Irving Falk. For a number of months a year WNYC-TV would broadcast twice-weekly on Channel 31 the original and imaginative output made by students of this class. The first episode to air was entitled “Feiffer and Friends,” written and featuring -then student – Billy Crystal.

To exemplify the scope, innovation, and ambition of these television programs I’ve included below a random sampling of titles along with their descriptions:

  • Chase Newhart’s Beat the Draft (taping date: Jan 14 1970, air date: 10:30 pm, Jan 25 1970). This satiric program is a take-off on the game show format  – the winner gets a deferment, the loser is drafted to fight in Vietnam.
  • Bob Ackerman and Don Brockway’s Inside Television (air date: Feb 22 1971). This comedy-satire takes the viewer on a tour of the inside of his television set where he will learn about the work of dedicated people (called “Nurns”) who make their homes inside electronic devices. The Nurns explain the gadgets inside the TV set and give their opinions on some of the shows viewers watch.
  • Sheva Farkas’s We the People (air date: Mar 15 1971). An original drama about the confusion of ideas and the lack of ability to either compromise or listen to opposite points of view, the program revolves around the issues of racism, radicalism and the war in Vietnam.
  • Electa Brown and John Homs’s What? Your Favorite Subject is Math – The Village Charrette (May 24 1971). Miss Brown interviews Patricia Flynn, Chairman of the Greenwich Village Charrette Steering Committee and Charles Patrick Bell, a 7-year-old first grader at P.S. 3 in the Village.

A sub-series of UBL called Cinemantics aired sporadically within each season. In the Cinemantics programs young filmmakers from NYU’s film program would screen their movies and discuss them in the studio with NYU Professor Nick Tanis. In one episode a young Oliver Stone talks about his short film The Madman of Martinique. In another episode Edward T. Summer (March 13 1972) presents his movie Item 72-D: The Adventures of Spa and Fon, a film that revolves around the kidnapping of a 1950s tough guy from Earth by Spa and Fon, two extraterrestrial creatures. Revived and placed back on Earth in the year 2020 AD a world of peace Item 72-D proceeds to corrupt everyone in sight until Spa and Fon make an unexpected intervention.

Given UBL’s vibrancy, and the formative influence it had on students of NYU’s Film and TV Institute, I’m really hoping to track down recordings of UBL so that they can be preserved and celebrated.

The search continues…



Comments Off on Direct to Your TV: NYU’s “University Broadcast Lab” (1969 -1983)

Filed under Blog

Comments are closed.