A splitting headache on New Year's morning is more or less traditional. This year, TV viewers in three cities had the opportunity to develop another one on the morning after the morning after.
Delayed to Monday, Jan. 2, because New Year's Day fell on a Sunday, the 100th annual Tournament of Roses Parade from Pasadena was televised for the first time in 3-D on Fox stations in L.A., San Diego and Washington, D.C. The 3-D process is a new compatible system, which means that if you didn't have special 3-D glasses you saw a normal TV picture.And if you had picked up the glasses at some participating supermarket, you got to see the parade in a new, convincingly dimensional way. Unfortunately you may have also developed a walloping headache, plus dizziness and perhaps even a touch of stomach trouble. The glasses could make you go ga-ga in the wrong way.
Uncomfortable glasses have always been a problem with 3-D since the early '50s, when Hollywood used the process on selected features as one way of luring Americans away from their new TV sets. In those days, one lens of the cardboard glasses was red and the other green. Wearing them for 90 minutes could be a real chore.
Of course it was the only way to enjoy tacky movies like "Bwana Devil" and "Fort Ti" to their fullest.
The glasses for Fox Television's 3-D parade were worse. One lens was clear; the other was dark grey. This seemed to induce more wooziness and strain than the old kind. And then there's the added thrill of cardboard stems poking into the backs of your ears.
But no pain, no gain. Truth is, the 3-D pictures were pretty good. The effect worked best on close shots rather than those taken with a long lens from above or way ahead of the floats. Marching bands looked great, especially from the sideline camera at street level, when the band members closest to the camera stood out in sharp relief.
Now the chance to see a giant pink hippopotamus or a killer whale made of dyed seaweed in 3-D should be enough all by itself. But those who saw the Fox broadcast also got to see America's sweetheart in 3-D. No not Shirley Temple; she was grand marshal and indeed still looks cute. This was America's new sweetheart, Mary Hart, co-host of "Entertainment Tonight."
Bundled up against the brutal California chill, Mary sat in the anchor booth and was her usual delightful self, bubblingly happy with everybody and everything. Some people don't like the fact that she smiles all the time. What do they want - Raisa Gorbachev? Smiles come as naturally to Mary Hart as frowns do to a critic. And yes, her smile is even more infectious in 3-D than it is in crummy old 2-D.
Hart co-anchored with L.A. broadcast personality Bill Welsh who, as was noted at least 42 times, had been at the mike for 42 parades. That's a lot of chrysanthemums. Nationally, most viewers see the parade on NBC, but in L.A., it's available on five English-speaking stations and one Spanish channel.
Only the Fox station had it in 3-D, however. "Boy, look at this next one; it's making me dizzy to watch," Hart said as an airplane float waddled down Colorado Blvd. In 3-D, all the floats made one dizzy. Mary thoughtfully advised viewers to remove the glasses now and then, a very good idea. Taking them off was like having the dentist stop drilling.
The 3-D TV picture is not as dramatically stereoscopic as the old 3-D movies were.
Last season, viewers of ABC's "Moonlighting" were supposed to see a segment of that show in 3-D, but the writers' strike and other problems forced it to be canceled. Now there are plans for the half-time show at this year's Super Bowl to be aired in 3-D, with 3-D Coca-Cola commercials as well.
Someday soon, who knows but that the California Raisins may strut right into your living room, as if they were really there and even as if they really existed. Isn't this what all of us are longing to see?
Oh yes, it will mean trudging off to the supermarket or some other store to buy the glasses ahead of time. And it will mean considerable viewing discomfort - pains about the eyes, nose, ears and throughout the head. But progress requires sacrifice. Three-dimensional television is one small step for man, one giant migraine for mankind.