By Steve Vertlieb: On June 11, 1982, America and the world received the joyous gift of one of the screen’s most beloved fantasy film classics and, during that memorable Summer, a young aspiring television film critic reviewed a new film from director Steven Spielberg called E.T.
I was being groomed at the time to be a weekly entertainment and film critic for WTAF TV29 (then an affiliate of Taft Broadcasting). The segments would have aired on Friday mornings, as part of the station’s daily, hour long “Newsprobe” news and information series. The TV station was subsequently purchased by Fox Television, and changed its call letters to the current WTXF TV.
While considered a noble “pilot” effort by everyone concerned, the idea was ultimately abandoned, and this fledgling television film critic found his on air career in shambles, except for some sporadic “guest” appearances in museums, universities, and on competing tv stations.
Here, however, and in celebration of a beloved film’s first release, is a portion of that original television review from forty years ago …
I was taken completely by surprise and delight by this enchanting holiday gift from NBC Universal that premiered Thanksgiving morning, 2019, during NBC’s telecast of the annual Macy’s holiday parade.
Sure, you can argue that it’s a crass commercialization of Steven Spielberg’s beloved 1982 children’s classic fantasy but … you know what … it’s a beautiful, sweet, and loving sequel featuring Henry Thomas reprising his original role as Elliott, fully realized special effects, and John Williams’ gorgeous original motion picture score.
If this doesn’t fill your eyes with tears of happiness, nothing ever will again. What a joyous Thanksgiving surprise, gift, and treat for “children” of all ages. Celebrating Steven Spielberg’s beloved fantasy classic which premiered forty years ago on June 11, 1982.
And I’d probably have been watching it, as “WTAF Channel 29” was one of my go-to stations when living in Cherry Hill, NJ, site of the recent arrest of one Buddy Holly,. aka Gary Busey.
Yes, the era of 4 “regular” channels and 3 (sometimes 4) UHF channels serving the Philadelphia suburbs – 3, 6, 10 (ABC, CBS, NBS, not necessarily in that order) and 12 NET, then PBS and 17, 29, 48 (and sometimes 54?) were the UHFers, 17 featuring Wee Willie Webber, and now we learn, 29 featuring Mr. Vertlieb.