Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Carol Burnett Show

In the 1960's, Carol Burnett was a hot commodity and as a result, she was eagerly signed by CBS to a ten year contract. Ms. Burnett, as part of the contract, was required to do two guest starring roles per year on CBS shows. Additionally, she could force CBS to create a variety show for her in the first five years of the contract.

Literally days before the conclusion of the five year option, Carol decided to pull the trigger and asked CBS for her variety show. The network balked and tried to talk her into doing a sitcom. She insisted on the contractually agreed upon variety show and CBS reluctantly agreed. Despite CBS' reluctance, the show went on to run 11 seasons and became a classic television show.

The First Ronald McDonald

The character of Ronald McDonald has been putting smiles on kids faces for decades, but did you know that the very first Ronald McDonald would later become very famous? Here's how he looked way back when:

That side-splitting clown was none other than ex-Today Show weatherman Willard Scott, who actually created the character for McDonald's. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

You Might Remember Him From Such Films As....

Dial M for Murderousness 

The Electric Gigolo 

The Erotic Adventures of Hercules 

Give My Remains to Broadway 

Gladys the Groovy Mule

Good-Time Slim, Uncle Doobie, and the Great 'Frisco Freak-Out' 

The Greatest Story Ever Hulaed

Here Comes the Coast Guard

Crazy Concepts- Manimal

In 1983, NBC introduced Manimal, a show that featured a man who could change into any animal he wished. Crippled by fake looking effects, a ridiculous concept and airing on the third place network, Manimal didn't last long and was canceled after just a few months.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

“Push her down son.”

-Homer Simpson, commanding Bart to push down Marge so that the family can get out of doing chores.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

“Wow. That guy makes Speedy Gonzalez look like Regular Gonzalez.”

-Phillip J. Fry from Futurama

Friday, September 26, 2014

Famous Relatives

Dateline NBC's comically ghoulish murder correspondent Keith Morrison:

Is the stepfather of former Friends star Matthew Perry:

GLOW: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

Imagine you own various enterprises that include a Las Vegas casino and a cosmetics company. How could you promote them both at the same time? If you're Meshulam Riklis, you start up a league of eccentric women wrestlers. Originally conceived as an infomercial for the Riviera Casino and Faberge Hair Care products, G.L.O.W - the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling- hit late night airwaves, often airing after Saturday Night Live. Many people, most of them nursing the beginnings of hangovers, happened upon the show with its garish costumes, lively skits and crazy story lines. The show soon took on a life of its own.

Despite beginning life as a loss leading advertisement, GLOW soon became a hit on its own. "Mount Fuji", "Ninotchka" and "California Doll" became recognizable and would get mobbed at personal appearances. Mr. Riklis soon found these gorgeous ladies were huge money makers. It looked like these ladies would be wrestling for years to come, but their biggest foe was actually Mr. Riklis' wife, Pia Zadora. Ms. Zadora was threatened by these gorgeous wrestlers and gave her husband an ultimatum; them or me. Mr. Riklis cancelled the show during their offseason, which meant that the cast was sadly unable to say goodbye.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

You Might Remember Him From Such Films As....

The Boatjacking of Supership '79 ...

... Calling All Quakers ...

... The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel ...

... Cry Yuma ...

... David versus Super Goliath

Same Show, Different Character: Ted McGinley

Ted McGinley is known for his role as Jefferson D'Arcy, Marcy Rhodes' second husband on Married... With Children but he originally appeared on the show as a different character....

He played Peggy's husband in an alternate world where Al Bundy never existed. Despite the fact that everyone was better off without him, Al chooses to return to the land of the living. After all, he figures that if they made his life miserable, why shouldn't he make theirs a living hell?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Murder They Wrote

In 1980, Angela Lansbury starred as Agatha Christie's snooping sleuth Miss Marple. The movie was only a modest success, but it sparked CBS into thinking a weekly series starring Ms. Lansbury as Miss Marple might be a good idea.

However, negotiations with Agatha Christie's estate proved difficult and the costs prohibitive. Failure? Not really. Make the leading character a mystery writer, change her name to Jessica Fletcher and move her from the U.K. to Cabot Cove, Maine. Voila! CBS had a hit show without the costly licensing fees. Murder, She Wrote ran for twelve seasons.

The Famous Mr. Ed

Mr. Ed was quite an amazing horse. He also had an amazing television show. Even more amazing? It was the first and one of the only television shows that went from first run syndication to network TV. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mrs. Olson for Folgers Coffee

Persons of a certain age might remember an era before every town had four Starbucks that many people brewed their own coffee at home. And chances are the coffee they brewed was Folgers Coffee, which was endorsed by the matronly "Mrs. Olson".

Played by the veteran actress Virginia Christine, Mrs. Olson never turned down an opportunity to recommend Folgers Coffee to anyone. From 1965 until 1986, she appeared in over 100 commercials, becoming a pop culture icon. In fact, she was so well known that her home town still honors her to this day with a water tower painted to look like a teakettle. (Either that or there really isn't much going on in Stanton, Iowa.)

Virginia Christine passed away in 1996, having been retired from show business for many years.

John Randolph as Frank Costanza

When we finally see George Costanza's father on Seinfeld in the fourth season episode The Handicapped Spot, he's.... different.

Played by veteran actor John Randolph, Frank Costanza was cantankerous, but not quite the sort of person we'd expect would produce George Costanza. He was eventually recast with Jerry Stiller. Now that's the Frank Costanza of our imaginations!

John Randolph's scenes were reshot with Jerry Stiller for syndication. Both episodes are included on the show's DVD, though the one with John Randolph is included as the default version with the Jerry Stiller version included as a special feature.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Original Wonder Woman

The original Wonder Woman pilot film starred Cathy Lee Crosby and featured a strikingly different costume. For the next attempt, Linda Carter was cast in the role and history was made. The second film was a huge success and led to the classic weekly series that everyone knows and loves.

In Search Of....

In Search Of.... was a 1976-1982 documentary show hosted by Leonard Nimoy. Each week featured a different "mystery" such as the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the construction of Florida's Coral Castle, etc. While many of the topics covered were scientific, a few were pretty out there, focusing on paranormal activity or conspiracies.

Recently, the episodes were fully restored and released on DVD.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

“There's something about flying a kite at night that's so unwholesome.”

-Marge Simpson

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

CBS and Pacific Ocean Park

After ABC successfully invested in DISNEYLAND, the other television networks were eager to get in on this new theme park business. The first to try its luck at a theme park was CBS. Choosing an ocean pier that had been  rejected by Walt Disney years earlier, CBS partnered with the Santa Anita Company to build Pacific Ocean Park.

The park was initially successful and CBS was thrilled. However, the reasons why Disney had originally rejected the location became apparent. Getting to the park became a chore due to construction in the area. Hemmed in by the ocean on one side, P.O.P was vulnerable to the slightest traffic snarls. Also, being on the beach attracted a rougher crowd to the park. Soon CBS saw its investment go up in smoke. P.O.P would close for good; what wasn't demolished would end up being reclaimed by the sea.

The Golden Switcheroo

It was a rarity- a television show that hit it big from the beginning. Everything about it seemed perfect, but it might not have turned out that way. Believe it or not, but these Girls didn't originally tryout for the roles that made them famous. Rue McClanahan originally thought she could be Rose Nyland. Betty White considered the role of Blanche Devereaux. And Bea Arthur? She originally wanted the role of Sophia Petrillo. Luckily they changed their minds and television history was made.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The First TV Guide

The very first issue of TV Guide featured Desi Arnaz, Jr. whose birth inspired the first major broadcast event on television.

Favorite TV Bars: Moe's Tavern

Moe's Tavern has been described as "dank", "depressing"and smelling of "tinkle". Moe himself can sometimes be gruff and prone to violence. The clientele are rowdy, degenerate lushes. And yet, there's something special about the place. Sure, one might end up with a shotgun pointed at him and the fancier liquor is just painted on the wall behind the bar, but spend enough time at Moe's Tavern and you'll soon feel like part of the family. A dysfunctional, angry family, but a family nonetheless.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Brady Bunch Variety Hour

Yes, this happened. There was a Brady Bunch Variety Show and it displayed all the class and taste of any tacky 1970's variety show of the time. All of the Bradys (except for Jan) returned for the tacky cavalcade of polyester, bell bottoms and cheesy dances.

Yes, everyone was on board- everyone but Jan and show creator Sherwood Schwartz, who claims that neither ABC nor Paramount Television asked him for permission. He chose not to stand in the way, however, because he knew that the "Brady Kids" desperately needed the money.

Super Bowl I

The very first "AFL/NFL Championship Game", later called the Super Bowl, actually aired on two separate television networks. Since CBS had the rights to show the NFL and NBC had the rights to the AFL, they decided to air competing telecasts. Not much footage exists of the original game since neither network saw the importance of preserving it.

While the NFL's Green Bay Packers won the game, the AFL's network- NBC, won the ratings war, easily beating CBS.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Perry Mason and the Future Superstar

Future superstar Robert Redford made a very early appearance on Perry Mason in The Case of the Treacherous Toupee. He was not the wearer of the 'treacherous toupee' nor was he the murderer.

A Voice for Moe

The original voice for Moe the Bartender and Mr. Burns on The Simpsons was Chris Latta. Mr. Latta is probably best known as the guy who starts the first bar fight we see in the Patrick Swayze film Road House and as one of Al Bundy's 'NO MA'AM' friends. He passed away far too young and his Simpsons roles were taken by Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lost is Found

The very first episode of I Love Lucy was originally produced just to sell CBS on the show and wasn't ever meant to be aired. As a result, the normally careful Desi Arnaz (who was the first person in television to record his show on film, thus inventing the possibility of 'reruns') lost track of this treasure and it remained lost, presumably forever.

That is, it remained lost for 38 years until 1989. The Paley Center had been looking for a copy of the episode since the 1970's, but neither Lucille Ball nor Desi Arnaz had one. CBS had even lost track of it. In 1989, after hearing about the lost video, the widow of Pepito Perez remembered that he had been given a copy of the episode as a gift for appearing in it. She searched her house and found the copy under the bed, where it had presumably been for decades. CBS bought the copy, restored it and aired it the following year to a record audience. If Mr. Perez (shown below with Lucy in a scene from the episode) hadn't thought to save the film, it might have been lost forever.

Theodore J. Flicker (1930-2014)

Theodore J. Flicker was a television legend, working as a writer on classic shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, Night Gallery and I Dream of Jeannie.

His biggest success, however, was co-creating Barney Miller, the classic police comedy that ran on ABC from 1974 - 1982.

Mr. Flicker passed away last week at the age of 84.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

"What kind of person can I be, where his own mother wants him dead?"

-Tony Soprano

Saturday, September 13, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

"You know, Rerun, if I were Gladys Knight, I'd fire those three guys and hire you as one huge pip."

-Raj from What's Happening

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ricki Lake in The Middle

When The Middle originally came to life, the character of Frankie Heck was played by Ricki Lake. In fact, the entire cast was played by different actors except for Brick, who was still played by Atticus Shaffer. By the time the show made it to production, of course, Patricia Heaton had the role of  Frankie Heck. In an interesting twist, Charlie McDermott, who plays Axel on the show, had been originally rejected from the first Ricki Lake pilot for the same character. (Who was named Elvis back then.)

Saved By The Peacock Network

Does this cast look familiar?

Most of them probably do. There's Zack Morris, Lisa Turtle, Screech, Mr. Belding and Miss Bliss?!?!? Is this a bizarro version of Saved By The Bell?

No, it's Good Morning, Miss Bliss, a starring vehicle for grown up Disney Legend Hayley Mills as the titular "Miss Bliss". This version of the show lasted one season on The Disney Channel. When The Disney Channel canceled the show, NBC picked it up and retooled it. Hayley Mills was out. Tiffany Amber Thiessen and Elizabeth Berkley were in. And 1990's TV history was made.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Oops! Ozzie's Folly

Ozzie Nelson May have been a great father, but he wasn't a very good record keeper. He actually neglected to renew the copyrights for the episodes of his classic sitcom. The episodes of the show from 1952-1963 are now in the public domain. The copyrights for Ricky Nelson's music, however, remain intact so anyone airing unofficial public domain episodes must edit those sequences out.

Paramount Television Service

In the late 1970's, Paramount Television was riding high. After buying Lucille Ball's Desilu Productions, the studio was producing a steady batch of television hits, but they were all for outside television networks. Studio staff thought that the time was right to try forming a network again. Enter PTS: Paramount Television Service.

PTS planned to use its biggest gun to launch the network- Star Trek II which would reunite the cast of the original series. In the years following its cancellation, Star Trek had become a cult hit. With the success of Star Wars, Paramount thought a network with Star Trek would be a slam dunk.

But then the higher ups got cold feet. PTS would never see the light of day and Star Trek II became Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Maybe the third attempt at a network would be successful?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Amazing Producers: Dolly Parton

When people think of Dolly Parton, they think of her singing, down home country charm and enormous.... heart. But few know that she also has a successful production company.

So, what types of shows has she produced? Country music programming? Variety shows? Believe it or not, Dolly Parton's Sandollar Productions was responsible for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

Ms. Parton's other successful business enterprises include the Dollywood theme park and a chain of musical theaters. Her amazing versatility is best summed up with a quote from Dolly herself:

“I’m not going to limit myself just because people won’t accept the fact that I can do something else.”

-Dolly Parton

Amazing Producers: Lucille Ball

When people think of Lucille Ball, they typically think of insane chocolate wrapping, wacky grape stomping and harebrained schemes.

In reality, however, Ms. Ball was a shrewd businesswoman who took over as the head of Desilu Productions when her ex-husband's drinking made him a poor choice to run a production company. As the only woman in Hollywood running a large organization like Desilu, Lucy showed that she wasn't "Lucy". 

That's why it might come as a shock to know that Star Trek was one of the shows she greenlit and produced through Desilu.

Yes, if it weren't for Lucille Ball, the world might have never known about the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, and Star Trek would have never become a multi-billion dollar franchise.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Paramount Television Network

Believe it or not, but UPN, the United Paramount Network, that premiered in 1995 was actually the third time Paramount Pictures attempted to start up a television network. The very first attempt was the Paramount Television Network, which started life in 1948. 

Using the extremely popular KTLA as a flagship station, Paramount planned to produce programming in Hollywood and distribute it out to its affiliates throughout the country. (At the time, most networks produced their television programming in New York.) Paramount hoped to capitalize on its film library to make an attractive package for its various affiliate stations. 

Anti-trust lawsuits, legal problems with the DuMont Network and a poor slate of affiliates doomed the effort, however, and Paramount gave up its network dreams in 1956. Its biggest hit, The Lawrence Welk Show, moved on to ABC and the shortlived network became mostly forgotten. Ironically, Paramount's theater chain, spunoff as part of its anti-trust settlement, would eventually become the business entity that formed ABC.

Who Was Dora Hall?

Curious viewers in the 1970's, looking for anything to watch one Saturday evening, might have happened on a strange program. Brought to them by the Solo Cup Corporation, Once Upon a Tour, starred Frank Sinatra, Jr, Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier, Rich Little, Phil Harris and "introduced" Dora Hall. Dora Hall?!?!

Why were these random performers thrown together? And who was Dora Hall? Dora Hall, better known as Dorothy Hulseman was the wife of Leo Hulseman, owner & CEO of the Solo Cup Corporation. Is it beginning to make sense now? Mrs. Hulseman had been a cabaret singer in the 1920's when she met Leo Hulseman. They married and she gave up her career to become a wife, mother and grandmother. Having deferred her dreams for forty years, the sixty something dynamo finally decided to do something about them. Using the fortune they had built from their disposable cup company, Leo Hulseman started up his own record companies and "Dora Hall" was born.

But how would he get his beloved wife's records distributed? Regular record companies were skeptical and assumed nobody would buy records performed by an elderly grandmother. So Leo decided to do it all himself, making Dora Hall's records freebies, available to Solo Cup customers. Larger items had the records packaged with them. Smaller, cheaper items had proofs of purchase that could be mailed in exchange for a record of "Top Chart Hits!" While the Hulsemans certainly believed that people would like these albums, they didn't really promote Dora Hall as being the singer, at least not on the packaging or mailers. People didn't realize they were getting songs sung by a sixty-plus year old grandmother until they opened the package.

Her first broadcast special was originally offered to the networks as a fully sponsored special that would run during prime time. None of the networks accepted it, so Leo self-syndicated the special, offering local stations an hour of programming they were being paid to air. (Filled with commercials for Solo Cup products.) Based on the previously mentioned lineup of "celebrities", Dora Hall was pretty much surrounded by performers who were mainly interested in getting a paycheck.

So while some have mocked Ms. Hall for her vanity albums and fake record labels, she's actually a fairly decent singer. Would she have been a recording star without the backing of Solo Cup? Probably not, but she would have given a wonderful show at the local senior center. And besides, who can mock a seemingly nice lady whose husband was merely letting her pursue the dream she deferred for him? Rather than a story about a vain woman and her clueless husband, the whole thing is actually kind of sweet.

Ms. Hulseman/Hall passed away in 1988 at the age of 88.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The FOX Network's First Show

The very first show aired on the new FOX TV Network was The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers. After an initial period of huge ratings, viewers tuned the show out and Fox affiliates began dropping the show from their lineups. Ms. Rivers eventually quit hosting the show which was continued with a revolving cast of guest hosts which included Arsenio Hall. After FOX had established a prime time schedule of sorts, the show was put out of its misery and finally canceled.

Hidden Sharon

When producer Martin Ransohoff "discovered" Sharon Tate, he wanted to hide her until he was ready to have her make her feature film debut. So he hid her in plain sight by putting her in wigs in roles on his various television shows. Here's Miss Tate playing Janet Trego on Beverly Hillbillies:

Here she is playing an unnamed operator on Mr. Ed:

Miss Tate would "hide out" this way until she began making movies like Fearless Vampire Killers, The Wrecking Crew and Valley of the Dolls.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

"Oh, this is the biggest one I ever had. You hear that Elizabeth? I'm coming to join you honey!"

-Fred Sanford

Saturday, September 6, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

"You should never have told me horses sleep standing up, it gave me a mental block."

-Mr. Ed

Friday, September 5, 2014

Name That Tune: The Jeffersons

Does the person singing the theme song for The Jeffersons sound familiar?

She should. That's Ja'net Dubois, otherwise known as Willonia from Good Times, the sitcom whose theme song gave us our name.

Rejected.... By Everyone.

When it was originally being shopped around, American Idol was rejected by all four major American television networks. In fact, it only got picked up by Fox because Rupert Murdoch's daughter had seen the British version and urged her father to pick up the show. 

Mr. Murdoch allegedly had to push his staff to do something with the show after he purchased it because they were extremely unenthusiastic about it. That's why the first season aired during the summer- so that the network could quickly drop the show if it failed.