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Estimate: $ 6,000 - $ 9,000
CHARLES ADDAMS. The dark side of "Little Annie." Watercolor, ink, and gouache on Whatman board. 540x437 mm; 21 1/4x17 1/4 inches. Signed in image, lower left and inscribed, signed, and dated in upper right. Cover art for Show: The Magazine of the Arts, April 1962. Some slight watercolor streaking at lower left of image into margin.
an excellent, large-scale watercolor illustration by addams about the network television power plays of the 1960s, inscribed to the CBS television network president and programming director: "for james aubrey, the man who runs the machine. charles addams, 1962."
Drawn in his sinister but humorous way, the scene depicts a test audience seated in a dungeon, forced to watch a horror scene (of an octopus attacking a woman) while a bare-chested and blindfolded guard bearing a whip holds command. The "participants" are holding "like and "dislike" buttons that are wire-fed through a floor pipe leading to four network executives below, gleefully tracking the ratings on the quickly flowing feed-out charts.
The feature story it depicts is "CBS: The Network and the Mind Machine," by Martin Mayer, which describes the intense atmosphere of the big 3 television networks vying for top ratings. The article focuses on James Aubrey, the young, ambitious head of CBS who, with corporate president Frank Stanton, spearheaded the changes to come. To evaluate the popularity of primetime shows (the real money makers), their tool of choice was a test audience called "Little Annie," a name for their version of the "Program Analyzer" developed at Columbia University in the 1950s. To procure subjects for a Little Annie session, a cheery hostess would lead visitors (usually studio tour takers) to a screening room, serve refreshments, and supply them with two control buttons to depress to reflect their approval or disapproval of what they were viewing. Their reactions were immediately registered on a graph chart; at the end of the viewing, a questionnaire and a short interview (usually administered by a psychologist) were given to each participant. The resulting data was used to generate hits like "Have Gun, Will Travel."The article ultimately questions whether this increasingly dehumanizing means of statistics gathering will make the leaders of CBS servants of the "machine" or can they remain responsible individuals?
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