I was very surprised to find this -- not just for the sake of finding it, but I was unaware it had been done in the first place. Something nagging in the back of my mind makes it seem sort of, somewhat, kind of familiar, but I never would have sworn to it. But exists it does, and happily there's footage.
Back in 1961, there was a TV series called, Play of the Week. And one week they did Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. (As it happens, the play was just on Broadway in a limited 14-week run, starring Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart.) For this TV production it had quite an impressive cast, as well -- Zero Mostel and Burgess Meredith, in the roles of Vladimir and Estragon.
And here are three minutes of that production.
What's also fascinating to remember is that once upon a time there not only was a TV series that would put on a play each week, but other series too like Playhouse 90 and Desilu Playhouse, and others. But more than that, they wold put on such challenging work as Waiting for Godot. And with a cast like this.
And what might be most fascinating of all is that this same year, 1961, is when Newton Minow, chairman of the FCC under President Kennedy, gave his famous speech calling television a Vast Wasteland. There is some wonderful television being broadcast today, mixed among the 50-times more channels each needing to fill up their 24-hours a day each day of airtime with any content they can find, but when you see what substance was on the air 53 years ago (along with the piffle), the perspective of time makes that speech all the more noteworthy.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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