When Edward R. Murrow's See It Now premiered in 1951, both he and the viewers were impressed by television's ability to show, for the first time ever, live pictures of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans simultaneously. Seeing both oceans, even if it were only on television, was something that many people could only hope to experience in real life.
|One of the best-known travelogue shows of the 1960s|
*Or "Registered Expositions," if you want to really get technical about it.
One of the last iconic fairs, at least in this country, was the 1964-65 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. There seems something so "modern" about it - not just the times, but the architecture, such as the Unisphere, that fair's version of the Trylon and Perisphere. There's also the idea that the wondrously exotic world of the Fair, which up until now had been something one could see only at the Fair itself, was now available to anyone. The jet age, the age of Pam-American and TWA, meant that world travel wasn't just for the select few, but now was available to a broader section of Americans.
In 1964, NBC's Edwin Newman hosted "A World's Fair Diary," a documentary on that fair, that shows how it was both progressive and innocent. I like the idea that a lumberjack competition could be considered exotic, just as much as the wonders of the Orient. Again, it's a glimpse at a time that offered a glimpse into a world few people had seen - but, as the song of the time said, "It's a small world."
There was, in those days, something awesome and inspiring about a World's Fair, as anyone who's seen the pictures of the "World of Tomorrow" can attest. Among the major attractions of the 1964-65 Fair were da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Michelangelo's Pietà. By contrast, the plan for Minnesota's Expo 2023 is to "feature a variety of local and international exhibits and activities that showcase local health care initiatives and innovation." Which sounds
What? Oh, excuse me - I must have nodded off there. I guess the excitement was just too much for me.
There's no doubt that television, which did so much to bring the world into our living rooms, also took some of that mystery away - after all, it's hard to imagine what a world's fair can offer that you can't get in HD. It may also be why television (and movies) resort to so many car chases, explosions, and overall loudness - you can't sell a story anymore simply on an exotic location. Ah well, television giveth, and it taketh away.
In the meantime, it can also preserve memories of the past; that special on the New York World's Fair is complete on YouTube in six parts. Part 1 is above; here are the links to Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.