While the United States is a rather large country, local flavor and customs vary greatly depending on where you go. Of course, I don’t mean literally, but if you want to take Culinary as an example of our cultural differences than you need not look any further than unique tastes in different areas from fish tacos out west, to the original cheese steak in Philadelphia, or BBQ in the South West. Despite these differences the American culture is often tied together by major news events, various pop culture icons, sporting events, and of course our affinity for popular television programs.
That said, I’ve been thinking a lot lately that it is interesting how American TV re-invents itself, and how there are shades of the late 1950s hit American Bandstand in Fox’s ever popular American Idol series. Obviously, these two shows are quite different from each other but there are some commonalities that manage to engage audiences, shape popular music, and embed themselves into the greater cultural patchwork.
Fifty years ago, when American Bandstand premiered on the National stage, after being a local Television show in Philadelphia on WFIL-TV, it was Dick Clark and his interviews of teenagers on the show that set the tone for popular music of the day, which translated to what aired on American Radio. In 1957, Bandstand even held a contest and awarded the title of “favorite female vocalist,” to Patti Page after a nationwide poll. While the polls today have shifted to include new technologies such as toll-free numbers with hundreds of automated receivers, text messaging, and the web; the underlying idea of the public choosing its favorite vocalist is very much the same concept. (Wikipedia, American Bandstand)
With that in mind, perhaps, most reminiscent of Bandstand is Idol’s ability to also shape the popular music landscape. It’s hard today to turn on a radio station, on either terrestrial or satellite, without hearing the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Bo Bice, Taylor Hicks, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken or a myriad of other successful acts to come from the television show. Despite all of the new avenues for music to develop and be distributed today, it is interesting just how many of the artists evolving in the same old fashion way; before our eyes on national television where we can get up close and personal, we can gain a glimpse into their personalities, and hear their unique sounds.
While we spend a lot of time focusing on new technologies at The MediaBackpage, it is interesting to take a step back sometimes and observe these types of programs, events, and the underlying power of television to create a shared cultural experience coast-to-coast. Now, the question is what’s next, The Love Boat?