The real problem with campaign ads today, Kurt Andersen thinks, isn’t that they’re mean, or contain fuzzy numbers. It’s that they’re boring. Why? In the 1950s, when the first campaign commercials hit TV, they were created by the top advertising talent of Madison Avenue — starting with 1952’s catchy jingle for Dwight Eisenhower. In 1968, an ad famously belly-laughed at Spiro Agnew as a candidate for vice president. "The same people that would do great commercials for products and services would also do political commercials," advertising veteran Bob Gardner tells Kurt. “But this ended a few decades ago. The political priesthood took over and they decided that Madison Avenue did not know how to do political ads, that political ads were a breed apart, and that was not the same thing as selling soap and toothpaste."
Next, Mark Helprin has been a scholar, soldier, farmer, commentator, and a speechwriter (unpaid, he insists) for Bob Dole. He’s best known, though, as a writer of great fiction, and his 1983 Winter’s Tale is widely regarded as a classic.
Then, Steampunk — a term that once referred to a few science-fiction authors — has become one of today’s most influential design styles. From a handful of hobbyists encasing their iPads in Victorian brass fittings or inventing mock Old West ray guns, steampunk has become a Simpsons punchline (“I just hope we put in enough steampunk,” worries Homer, “whatever that is”).
Next, there’s a generation of younger musicians who grew up with rock, pop, and punk, but studied classical composition and love the diversity of sounds it offers. Shara Worden is one of this new movement's brightest upcoming stars. Worden trained as an opera singer, but classic American pop has been just as strong an influence. "I grew up listening to a lot of soul music and there are strings and horns all over those Motown records,” she tells Kurt Andersen.
And finally, recently, Kurt Andersen looked back at MTV’s Golden Age with Craig Marks, author of I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution. We asked for your favorite videos from that late, lamented pre-Jersey Shore era. [Broadcast Date: October 6, 2012]