Beyond Our Control

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Beyond Our Control
Beyond Our Control arrow.jpg
BOC arrow designed by David Blodgett in 1968
Created by Dave Williams
Starring 350+ high school students
Country of origin  United States
No. of episodes 247 (13 per year)
Production
Location(s) South Bend, Indiana
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) WJA-TV
Release
Original network WNDU-TV
Original release 1967 – 1986
External links
Website

Beyond Our Control was an American youth-produced television series that aired on local NBC affiliate WNDU-TV in South Bend, Indiana for 19 seasons from 1967 to 1986. Usually televised from late-January to mid-May of each year, the program was produced by WJA-TV, a company that was part of the local Junior Achievement program, designed to give high school students business and work experience. WNDU-TV, owned and operated by the University of Notre Dame, was the local sponsor.[1]

Approximately 30 Michiana (Indiana and Michigan) high school students were selected by audition each year as company members. In 19 seasons, over 350 teenagers participated.

As described by Jim Grey on Down the Road: "It was a TV show about TV, and there wasn’t a thing about the medium it didn’t lampoon and skewer. It was a sketch comedy before sketch comedies were cool – running an incredible 19 seasons starting in 1967, it beat "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and Saturday Night Live to the air. It won awards; it got national press; it launched careers. But unless you lived in or near South Bend, Indiana, you never saw Beyond Our Control."[2]

Promoted as "a very nice TV show," BOC sported its own distinctive style of parody, music, and experimental film. Footage from Beyond Our Control still exists today, and can be seen on You Tube and occasionally on public access television in the Michiana region.

Screenwriter Chris Webb, a student participant and adult writing adviser, wrote, "I think the thing that makes BOC really work is that it is done by high school kids, and the audience can tell that it was, and the show never hid the truth. So as an audience watches it, there is an inherent suspense as to whether the kids are going to pull off a scene. Sometimes they do, and then don't - occasionally within the same scene. Comedy relies on tension, and that suspense, that tension, can make the show very very funny. But even when it doesn't work, the show is still fascinating to watch. All because of the high school element."

The series[edit]

Each season consisted of twelve 30-minute shows and an hour-long special. Segments were mostly comedy, though earlier shows often included music performances. By 1974, the show was almost exclusively satirical comedy bits, with interstitial channel switching interspersed between segments.

For a majority of seasons, the opening featured a kinestasis of hundreds of magazine and album covers from the current year over "Mickey's Son and Daughter" from Gorilla (Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band album).

The closing theme song was "Remember (Christmas)" from the album Son of Schmilsson by Harry Nilsson and featured clips from familiar older TV shows.

Awards[edit]

In February 1974, the National Association of Television Program Executives named Beyond Our Control the nation's best locally-produced variety show. NATFE's citation described the series as "outstanding variety programming actually produced by students in South Bend, that provided a new and entertaining insight into the status of contemporary American culture as mirrored by the television Industry Itself." [3] [4]

In 1976, Beyond Our Control won the Chicago International Film Festival's "Gold Hugo" award for best television program in its category, competing against professional series and specials produced by major networks and local stations throughout the country. [5]

A Gabriel Award from the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals followed in 1977, recognizing Beyond Our Control as a top youth-oriented local television program in markets ranking smaller than number 25. The Gabriel Awards honor broadcast work that creatively treats issues concerning human values.[6]

In 1977, the program captured one of thirty Broadcast Media Awards presented by the staff and students of San Francisco University.

Beyond Our Control also earned five awards from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge for excellence in the field of Economics Education. [7]

Most recently, in August 2017 at a BOC 50th Reunion[8], The City of South Bend issued a proclamation signed by Mayor Pete Buttigieg in honor of Beyond Our Control.

History[edit]

According to BOC creator Dave Williams, "In 1961, the first student company took to the air with a 13-week series of half-hour shows. The students sold stock to raise operating capital, leased studio facilities from WNDU-TV, created a program format, and sold commercial advertising within the show to finance the venture. Pronounced a success, the company - known as WJA-TV - continued, largely concentrating on the production of relatively simple game shows, including local versions of charades, quiz games, and the like." [9]

In about 1966, Williams had an idea that WJA-TV could be something more, and in 1967, WJA-TV became Beyond Our Control. In the next ten years, Williams continued to develop the framework for the show so that students would be trained, and then freed to participate in all aspects of television production.

Production[edit]

Writers Meetings: The show was written by high school students under the guidance of Dave Williams, who took student ideas and generated a script. Writers meetings in the mid-70s were held three evenings a week. Typed scripts were handed to company members at Wednesday night Junior Achievement meetings, at which time students had the opportunity to audition for parts or be assigned to technical positions. Actors were responsible for coming up with their own costumes and make-up.

Hands-on All-Student Production: In the early years, an adult directed the show, but by 1974, the production was entirely student-directed. Students would receive studio training, and "qualify" to run camera, audio, and studio switcher. Students ran all technical posts, including directing, floor directing, projection, and VT. Students recorded and edited the shows. Students designed and built all sets and props.

As 1981 production manager Heidi Moser recalled, "We had an amazing amount of creative freedom. I remember kids 'experimenting' with the studio switcher in ways the adults never considered. 'What happens if I do this?' We frequently pushed technology to the limit."

During the summer months, students shot and edited 16mm film using a Bolex camera. Film and animation would later be edited by student editors and sound dubbed in the studio. Students sold advertising time, and often produced commercials for local advertisers.[10]

Technology: In the 1968 season, Beyond Our Control was black and white. Thereafter, programs were videotaped in color. Until 1982, the majority of the program was produced in the WNDU-TV studios and recorded on 2" videotape. Some bits were shot on 16mm film, cut and spliced, sound dubbed, and transferred to videotape. As news technology changed, film was no longer developed in house, and news crews used mini-cams. From 1983-1986, after WNDU moved into a new studio off-campus, Beyond Our Control was videotaped on location with minicams on 3/4" tape.

Company Members[edit]

Company members who went on to greater fame include Larry Karaszewski (Emmy Award winning screenwriter and producer The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story), Daniel Waters (screenwriter, Heathers), David Simkins (screenwriter, Adventures in Babysitting), Diane Werts (film critic, creator of "For Better or Werts"), Dean Norris (SAG Award winning actor, Breaking Bad), Traci Paige Johnson (animator, creator of Blue's Clues), Phil Frank (journalist, videographer, and documentary producer [1]), Chris Webb (screenwriter, Toy Story 2), Katharine Eliska Kimbriel (fantasy novelist, Night Calls [11]) and Corrie Wynns (journalist for WMAQ radio, AP Radio Network and Sheridan Broadcasting Network).

An adviser from 1975 to 1977, Donald P. Borchers became a film producer, notable for the 1984 and 2009 versions of Children of the Corn.

Alumni of Beyond Our Control are still rescuing and archiving material from the show. For more information, see beyondourcontrol.org

Dave Williams[edit]

Dave Williams, was born in June 1940 in South Bend, IN. He graduated from Central High School in 1958 and attended Indiana University South Bend. He joined the WNDU Stations as a production assistant in 1960 and was appointed Promotion Manager in 1964.

At age 26, he conceived the idea of Beyond Our Control as a satirical look at the world of television, and, under the auspices of Junior Achievement, produced the program for ten years.

Under Williams' guidance, the show received national acclaim with articles in many newspapers and magazines, including an extensive spread in TV Guide.

Williams died at age 37 during brain surgery. [12] After his death, the show would continue as he conceived it for another decade.

In a letter[13] to his "kids" shortly before his surgery, which was distributed after his death, Dave wrote: "Some of you may find it ironic that a 37-year-old man who neither drinks nor smokes nor drugs, and who frequently preaches that life is great if you smile a lot and make others happy, suddenly discovers that he harbors something in his brain that doesn't belong there. So do I." Then he shared a little bit of his philosophy of life: "I think it all has to do with working hard and smiling a lot and listening more than you talk and concentrating your effort in one area... "

He wrote: "So, remember me, please, at my best. Filming, or lecturing, or joking with you, ...but most of all, laughing. It was the thing we did best and the thing I was always proudest of."

Dave Williams left a legacy of laughter, creativity, and a hard work ethic that continues to this day in the people he touched through Beyond Our Control.

References[edit]

  1. ^ TV Guide: One Vice President Resigned Because He Was Failing Algebra, June 9–15, 1973.
  2. ^ Grey, Jim. "Vintage TV: Beyond Our Control". Down the Road. Retrieved December 5, 2012. 
  3. ^ Michiana Magazine, The South Bend Tribune: Youngsters Produce Top-Rated Variety Television Show, August 25, 1974, Cover Story, Pages 6-9
  4. ^ WNDU Television / News Release: "Beyond Our Control" Readies Premiere January 7, 1975
  5. ^ South Bend Tribune: Beyond Our Control wins Grand Prix in Festival, January 1977.
  6. ^ South Bend Tribune: Catholic broadcast group honors Beyond Our Control, November 30, 1977
  7. ^ WNDU Television / News Release, August 29, 1977.
  8. ^ South Bend Tribune: http://www.southbendtribune.com/entertainment/inthebend/entertainmentnews/years-later-reunion-planned-for-beyond-our-control-participants/article_42086d54-6a0f-11e7-b998-37e6622c88ec.html, Jul 16, 2017
  9. ^ Williams, Dave (1975). "Beyond Our Control". Bolex Magazine. 
  10. ^ Kodak "Telek" Magazine: Student-made show a 'laugher', March, 1976 Pages 9-12
  11. ^ https://www.fantasticfiction.com/k/katharine-eliska-kimbriel/
  12. ^ WNDU Television / News Release, August 29, 1977.
  13. ^ Dave Williams' Letter, August 1977

External links[edit]

Beyond Our Control on IMDb