Exhibit / March 7, 2017
Object Name: ITC Entertainment Opening Ident
Maker and Year: Incorporated Television Company, circa 1973
Object Type: Television ident
Video Source: MSTS1/YouTube
Description: (Michael Grasso)
The thunderous strains and spinning lozenges of this ITC ident preceded all kinds of disparate television programs from the 1960s to the early ’80s—from the surreal spy tales of The Prisoner, to the pre-Star Wars sci-fi of Space: 1999, to the beloved The Muppet Show. They were all distributed internationally by Incorporated Television Company (ITC), or ITC Entertainment, as the company was known in the States. ITC was founded in 1954 by British entertainment impresario Lew Grade, who intended to provide programming for independent British broadcaster ITV, which was set up as a competitor for the BBC under 1954’s Television Act. The “triple diamond” ITC logo existed since the company’s very earliest days, but the original 1950s logo ran horizontally, in a pattern more reminiscent of wave patterns meant to evoke television broadcasting.
Lew Grade’s own career (he was knighted and made a Baron in 1969) echoes the story of British entertainment itself in the 20th century. Grade’s family fled anti-Semitic pogroms in the Russian Empire, settled in the East End of London, and worked in the clothing business. But the teenage Grade was bitten by the showbiz bug; he won a Charleston contest, became a professional dancer and, later, a theatrical agent. By the end of World War II, he’d assembled a powerful stable of clients and was a mover and shaker in the postwar British entertainment scene. With the opening up of British television to independent, non-BBC productions, Grade saw his chance. From the beginning of his career in television, Grade saw the opportunity of supplying programming to the U.S.: his first American partnership produced the hit series The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-1959).
In the 1960s, the floodgates opened. With the popularity of the James Bond films in America, Grade saw his chance to distribute authentic British spy series for an American audience hungry for Cold War espionage tales. Grade’s series Danger Man (1960-1968), The Saint (1962-1969), and The Prisoner (1967-1968) filled the weekend, night-time, and summer schedules of independent UHF stations throughout the States. Grade also gave puppeteers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson (themselves a transatlantic partnership) a shot with their famous Supermarionation series of programs: Stingray (1964-1965), Thunderbirds (1965-1966), and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-1968), among others. And, by the time Jim Henson decided to follow up his success on Sesame Street with a new variety show starring a stable of “Muppets,” Grade’s ITC was the only production company that would take it. Hence, The Muppet Show (1976-1981) was born.
As they tried to expand into motion pictures, ITC and Grade met with far less success. Grade later did work as head of distribution for Embassy Pictures, however, and thus was partially responsible for the popularity of two of the biggest cult classics of the ’80s: Blade Runner (1982) and This Is Spinal Tap (1984).
6 thoughts on “Incorporated Television Company Ident, Circa 1973”
Great writeup. The ITC logo is among the oldest company IDs I can remember, aside from the Screen Gems Production ID and perhaps a handful of others that evade my memory right now.
It’s amazing how many Gen-Xers can bond instantly over commercial jingles and broadcast company IDs and such. Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, TV really was everything. I mean…Saturday morning cartoons? I watched them religiously! I’m sure Boomers can also relate, but it really felt like in the ’80s, companies and advertisement firms really took advantage of televised media. How else can we remember all these commercials over 30-40 years later? We were constantly bombarded by them! =)
I’ve recently taken to watching a format of YouTube video that seems to be incredibly popular across multiple YouTube accounts: they will take an old VHS of two hours’ worth of television from the late 1970s or the 1980s, but take out all the actual programming, and just leave the commercials. The resulting video is anywhere between 25 and 35 minutes long.
Obviously, these are a delight, but what I’ve noticed is that while I remember the ads from my middle childhood best (between, say, 1983 and 1986 when I was between 7 and 11 years old), I remember the jingles best from the late ’70s and early ’80s, when I was far younger.
This proves to me that there’s something to be said for Sesame Street‘s approach to make educational TV more like commercials, for sure. But of course I’ve written about that elsewhere. 🙂
That’s something I can be thankful to YouTube for in a certain regard—making such trivial things readily available. 10 or so years ago, I had to scrub the net for blogs, forums and other lesser-known resources for Gen-X geek gatherings in order to find VHS or DVD collections of ’70s and ’80s commercials, which were sometimes sold in multiple volumes. Imagine the ultimate joy I experienced when these things arrived in the mail, or if I stumbled upon them in person (gasp) at a Comic-Con or something?
I know, I can go on forever about the “joy of the hunt” and how that’s completely gone in today’s world. But yeah, I’m glad people have gone out of their way to create these compilations now. Btw, I’ve seen a couple of collections out there that are actually superb in quality because the person had access to the broadcast tape archive, since he/she worked for a TV network/channel back in the day.
With the passing of Judge Wapner recently, I hopped onto YouTube to try and revisit old ’80s episodes of The People’s Court, which I watched religiously when Judge Wapner presided. Talk about an unforgettable intro, right? lol
So, right off the cuff, I was able to find someone who’d uploaded an old VHS-taped episode from the mid-’80s (I would guess ’84-’85 based on the defendant’s outfit alone, lol):
Watching this brought it all back. Suddenly I felt like the only worries in my world were if I did my Pre-Algebra homework; whether or not I was going to get plain or checkered pads for my BMX bike; and when my mom was going to send me to the store to buy milk so that I could use the leftover change to play Xevious or Marble Madness at the bowling alley’s arcade. I could smell my mom’s cooking, hear my cat and feel the ’70s shag carpet between my toes.
Now, you may have already scrolled down and read my comment on that video, but the one darned thing—of all things—that was missing was the commercial breaks. But that in itself was a sign of the times. We all tried so hard to skip the commercials when taping, so that we could have our own version of “ad-free” viewing 30-40 years ago. But now I miss those ads!
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Lots of great shows were released under the ITC banner over the years.
Lew Grade was often accused of making TV for the “Wrong” Birmingham but many of them are still enjoyable today. I’ve many memories of seeing the logo at the end of Gerry Anderson’s shows, especially in the 1990s when the BBC bought up the rights to many ITC shows to repeat in the early evenings.
The box office failure of Raise The Titanic was one of the reasons for Lew Grade to wind down his involvement.