McLuhan Studies : Issue 5

Home Page

Previous Article

Next Article

Table of Contents

Author Index

Title Index


The New York Times.

NBC Film on McLuhan Reviewed

NBC Film on McLuhan—Reviewed

NBC Film on McLuhan—Reviewed


During a Sunday afternoon in 1967 (March 19), NBC aired their film that was supposed to epitomize Marshall McLuhan, "This is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Massage."

The film was produced by Ernest Pintoff, well known at the time for his film work and such shorts as "The Critic." The New York Times listings for that date called it "An Experiment in TV." The New York Times reviewed the film the day after it was broadcast. In recent years, it has been made available as a 16mm print. It can still be found in many university libraries.

Philip Marchand reports (accurately) in his biography that McLuhan detested the film.

Here is the review from The New York Times.




NY Times. Monday, March 20, 1967 (page 63)


Jazzy Splicing Evokes Canadian's Massage


Ernest Pintoff and Guy Fraumeni, the producers of yesterday afternoon's

"Experiment in Television," very neatly solved one of society's more perplexing problems. They found a way to explain Marshall McLuhan.

Their imaginative approach was to fashion a program for the National

Broadcasting Corporation that took the author of Understanding Media:

The Extensions of Man on his own terms. They conceded the obsolscence of

extended use of the spoken and printed word and packaged the essence of

McLuhanism as if it were a Beatle movie, an installment of the Monkees or

television's first 50-minute commercial.

The device was not only informative, evocative and occasionally amusing but extremely fair to Mr. McLuhan as well. As a self-acknowledged explorer of ideas who does not bother to explain them, the Canadian oracle of the electronic age proved altogether at home in a format that had its beginnings on Madison Avenue and not in the University of Toronto.

By recourse to fast cutting and editing of TV and movie clips, pop art, animated visuals, newspaper headlines and other image orthicon happening, the program furnished an environment in which Mr. McLuhan was able to flourish.

There was never time for Mr. McLuhan to go beyond his brisk epigrams, which have so much in common with the design of TV commercials. He was on and off the screen in no time, leaving the viewer either instantly stimulated, puzzled or benumbed, and borrowed directly from the basic credo of Young & Rubicam—If you make your point once, it may get better if you make it twice.

Indeed, the critic of the mod medium has seldom seen so much of it; Mr. Pintoff and Mr. Fraument are delightfully sly operatives. Somehow, the

lecturer, author, and panelist himself became completely representative of

the era he was analyzing. He was teasing the viewer with provocative

thoughts that were instantly swallowed up in a visual melange. The effect

was like the average TV newcast: a bulletin gains impact if left standing


Yet the tape reprise of McLuhan's views on hot and cold wars, on the future as seen through the past, teenage clothes and job automation, among

innumerable other matters, were not without interest, for all their growing

familiarity. And the accompanying narrative, read by Edward Burns, helped in the flashes of substance. The ending was particularly tidy: Has overexposure in the television age already cut short the McLuhan influence?


Check out the CIOS/McLuhan Website!

Return to top of page