TV circles buzz about NBC's live Emmy broadcast

Nationwide live broadcast recalls early TV days

The pros and cons of the TV Academy's decision to broadcast the Emmys live on the West Coast (as in, from 5pm to 8 pm) Sunday was one of the buzzy subjects folks bandied about during th annual Nominees Cocktail party at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles this week. Among folks talking about that and other TV topics was one of the organization's most emeritus of members, Thomas Sarnoff.

Unlike the stars who are by definition instantly recognizable, members of the Academy sported badges and for anyone in the TV biz, the Sarnoff name is a show-stopper. Thomas is the son of TV pioneer and NBC founder David Sarnoff and among his own claims to fame he was the first ever live star on TV. Before, in fact, almost anyone had a television set.

As he and his wife Janyce jointly recounted it, Thomas was four or five at the time when his mother snatched him out of bed and took him to the RCA studios one night. It was 1931 or 1932, they couldn't quite remember. TV was not much more than a glint in his father's eye.

Sarnoff Sr. had gathered the good and great of New York at his home that evening to unveil the first ever live signal beamed from the studio (which was, as it is now, at Rockefeller Center) to his home. At a certain agreed
moment, Sarnoff Sr. pulled a black cloth off the huge set in his home and at that same time Thomas was shot by a giant TV camera in the distant studio as he said "Hello Daddy" to the delight of Sarnoff pere and the awe of his peers.

"I mostly remember what my mother told me about the episode, but I still do remember the heat of the Klieg lights," Sarnoff said.

Asked what he thinks of television today, Sarnoff said he thought it was "incredibly rich and varied." "I don't like everything but much of it is very, very good."

For most of the 1950s when commercial television was beginning to take off, Sarnoff and his wife had six sets in their home and they were all tuned, naturally, to NBC. It's exactly what most Peacock execs hope will be the case tomorrow night nationwide when the Emmys are broadcast once again on their network.