Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Week: The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror

The gold standard for Halloween specials, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horrors has been making more laughs than screams for over twenty years. From possessed Krusty dolls to racist pumpkins and everything in between, the twisted minds behind The Simpsons have been turning out Halloween brilliance every year with no sign of slowing down.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Week: Roseanne

The undisputed Queen of Halloween during the 1990's was Roseanne Barr. Her now classic sitcom never ceased to amaze or horrify during its run on ABC. From ingenious costumes to amazingly carved Pumpkins and hilariously convoluted practical jokes, Halloween on Roseanne was always a huge treat for viewers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Week: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

The granddaddy of all Halloween specials is It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Premiering in 1966, the special has become a classic, airing every year on ABC.

According to creator Charles Schultz, children felt so sorry for Charlie Brown's plight of only getting rocks instead of candy that they would mail him bags full of candy "for Charlie Brown." The show still gets huge ratings, even today.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Week: Disney's Halloween Treat

In the early 1980's, Disney had made the decision to start its own pay cable network- The Disney Channel. As a result, it began to get stingier with its approach to television. After all, they wanted people to pay up to $10 a month for their channel. Who would pay if they could get the programming elsewhere for free?

With the Disney classics and cartoons locked up tight in the Disney vaults, any Disney related programming that did get on broadcast television. was seen as a treasure. One such treasure became a Halloween tradition- Disney's Halloween Treat. Featuring spooky themed shorts, exciting clips from DISNEYLAND's Haunted Mansion and a catchy theme song, Disney's Halloween Treat certainly was one for generations of kids who grew up in the 1980's.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Week: The Addams Family

Though not specifically Halloween related, The Addams Family could nonetheless be classified as a quintessential Halloween mainstay. A totally creepy family, the Addamses were ahead of their time in that they did what they wanted and didn't care what anyone else thought. In fact, most of their adventures centered on the outside world infringing on their world. Rather than conform to society, the family always found their own way.

Today, the family is still remembered and loved. They might seem strange at first look, but they're actually more interesting and fun than so-called "normal" families. So if you happen upon their "creepy, kooky, mysterious & ooky" mansion, it's probably safe to knock on their door.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rest in Peace, Marcia Strassman

Television and movie star Marcia Strassman has passed away at the age of 66.

Ms. Strassman has starred in many projects throughout the years, but she is best known for two of her biggest- Welcome Back Kotter and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Playing the "straight man" to Gabe Kaplan in Kotter, she often spent many scenes listening to his stories about his crazy students or obscure members of his family. It is this role that earned her legendary TV status. 

She became a member of the Disney family after starring in the now classic Honey, I Shrunk the Kids opposite Rick Moranis.

Ms. Strassman will forever be remembered every time her various classic films and shows are seen by her eager fans.

TV Quote Weekends

"Cover-Alls that don't quite cover all!"

-Sideshow Bob

Friday, October 24, 2014

One & Out Week: Married to the Kellys

Married to the Kellys ran for one season as part of ABC's short lived attempt to revive its TGIF lineup with programming geared to older audiences. It starred Clueless' Breckin Meyer who was no stranger to one & out sitcoms by this time, having starred in quite a few of them.

The show concerned Breckin's character, a successful author, moving to his wife's hometown. His in-laws, interesting characters when experienced from afar, are actually eccentric and suffocating when they're living in the same city.

The show setup a second season in which Breckin's more cosmopolitan parents would have a greater presence on the show, but that would never happen.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

One & Out Week: Undeclared

Before he was hailed as a comedic genius, Judd Apatow was churning out criminally under appreciated television shows. And one of the most under appreciated of them was Undeclared.

Premiering on FOX in the tricky climate of Fall 2001, the show featured a cast of lovable freshmen, struggling to make it during their first year of dorm life. Future mega-stars Seth Rogen and Charlie Hunnam would feature in the cast as well as Amy Poehler as a stereotypically lame resident advisor.

The hilarious and sweet show started out strong, but the ratings bizarrely dropped as the season went on. FOX didn't help things by showing episodes out of order and eventually canceled the show.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

One and Out Week: Police Squad!

Fresh off of the success of their classic comedy Airplane!, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker were entertaining tons of offers for various projects. One of these projects was Police Squad!

Airing on ABC, this unique comedy featured Detective Frank Drebin and his deadpan reactions to the bizarre things that happened around him. Sadly, it never found an audience and lived for one short season. Luckily, however, Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker turned the television show into the successful Naked Gun movie franchise

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

One & Out Week: Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell

Yes, there was a different Saturday Night Live and it was on ABC. Hosted by Howard Cosell, this comedy/variety show was more akin to The Carol Burnett Show than NBC's Saturday Night Live, despite featuring Bill Murray and Christopher Guest as part of Howard's stock comedy team. It was because of this show that the more recognizable one was called NBC's Saturday Night throughout its first season, despite show producer Lorne Michaels' affinity for the Saturday Night Live name.

Howard Cosell's awkwardness in front of the camera, coupled with his producer's unfamiliarity with the variety show format doomed his show from the start. After his show was canceled, he graciously allowed Lorne to begin using the Saturday Night Live name.

Monday, October 20, 2014

One & Out Week: My Mother the Car

In a process that begins with hundreds of scripts that are winnowed down to a small group of sample pilots that actually get filmed, to the handful that get chosen to air, one would think that the television networks would have their processes down pat by now and only the strongest, best shows would make it to TV. Yet the vast majority of shows that get flashy premieres are canceled in their first year. This week we look at shows good and bad that did not get a second chance.

First up- the legendary failure My Mother the Car.

The show had a legendary premise; an attorney played by Jerry Van Dyke buys a car and discovers that it is the reincarnation of his mother and speaks only to him. His mother guides him through life and he tries to use her advice without everyone thinking he's crazy.

The show's ridiculous premise doomed it to oblivion and it lasted just one season on NBC. Many people deem it to be the worst show ever made, though they most likely have never seen it. 

The Simpsons mocked the show with the Lovematic Grampa sequence of its spinoff showcase episode. While the premise is taken from My Mother the Car the segment itself is modeled after a Garry Marshall sitcom.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

"Buzz Brighton has lost all confidence in himself. Not just as an officer; as a man!"


Saturday, October 18, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

"Well, good morning Padre, or should I say, Padress?"

-Colonel Potter

Friday, October 17, 2014

Garry Marshall Week: Angie

Donna Pescow was riding high after the success of Saturday Night Fever. Pairing her up with super producer Garry Marshall seemed like a no-brainer. So ABC greenlit Angie, a sitcom about a young lady from the wrong side of the tracks falling in love with a wealthy man. Despite being from opposite worlds, the pair quickly become engaged. Unlike the other shows featured during Garry Marshall week, Angie was a gigantic success. After the first season, it looked like Angie would have a long run as a successful television show. The show's second season even began with the highly anticipated marriage of the couple. However, the ratings quickly took a dive and never recovered. Instead of celebrating a third season, the show was canceled.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Garry Marshall Week: Who's Watching the Kids?

After the failure of Blansky's Beauties, Garry Marshall chose to retool the premise for NBC, who were desperate for a hit. (Garry's hits at ABC were mostly responsible for its ratings dominance at the time.) Garry sold NBC what was essentially Blansky's Beauties without Nancy Walker and focused on the less than glamorous side of being a Las Vegas showgirl. While the pilot special titled Legs was hugely successful, the ratings dropped precipitously and the show was quickly canceled.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rest in Peace: Elizabeth Pena

Elizabeth Pena has passed away at the young age of 55. Ms. Pena became famous after starring in the film La Bamba which was one of the first major Hollywood films with a full Latino cast. She quickly found other roles, such as that of the maid "Dora" in I Married Dora, alongside future star Juliette Lewis.

Eager to leave her maid roles behind, Ms. Pena soon took on television roles in which she played judges, detectives and eventually even criminal figures running cartels. A far cry from her previous parts.

Recently Ms. Pena has guest starred on Modern Family and even NCIS as a tough as nails detective. Suffering from an undisclosed illness, Elizabeth has passed away far too young. She will certainly be remembered as a role model for Latina actresses.

Garry Marshall Week: Blansky's Beauties

Blansky's Beauties was another Garry Marshall production. Spunoff from Happy Days, the show seemed a bit confused. Nancy Walker's character was a cousin of Tom Bosley's character and she appeared on Happy Days to setup her show. Happy Days, of course, was set in the 1950's. Blansky's Beauties, however was set in the 1970's. Amazingly, Nancy Walker's character showed up the week after her Happy Days appearance on Blansky's which was 20 years later, yet she didn't look much older. Other characters went back and forth between the shows, also without looking a day older or younger despite the 20 year time difference. Blansky's Beauties lasted for just one season.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Garry Marshall Week: Me and the Chimp

Garry Marshall's 1972 CBS series Me and the Chimp starred Ted Bessell as a father who took a space chimp into his house, treating it like a member of the family. The show lasted just one season, becoming a legendary failure. It is widely regarded as being one of the worst television shows ever made.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Garry Marshall Week: "Hey Landlord!"

Garry Marshall has been responsible for some of the biggest hits in television history; classic shows like Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. However, not every show can be a gem. This week we'll take a look at Garry's misfires.

Hey Landlord! was about a young man who inherits a New York apartment building from his uncle. Airing on NBC, it was the first show co-created and produced by Garry Marshall. Featuring a young Sally Field, the show never found an audience and lasted just one year.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

"My daughter is a surrogate mother. All of my children work!"

-Jan Hooks playing the White Trash matriarch

Saturday, October 11, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

"Yeah. Okay....: it was the eighth episode of the 88-89 season of "Knight Rider" and David had just started to grow his hair too long, you know? And I thought it needed to be cut. So, I snuck onto his set and I hid under his trailer with a pair of scissors..... but he never showed up! He knew that I was there! He needed a haircut, but he left me lying there like a fool! I hate you, David Hasselhoff! I hate you!!"

-Jan Hooks playing "Ellen" a female stalker

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Bill Cosby Shows

Bill Cosby has starred in numerous television shows that featured his name:

The Bill Cosby Show
The New Bill Cosby Show
The Cosby Show
The Cosby Mysteries

Jan Hooks: A Tribute

The world became a little less funny yesterday as one of Saturday Night Live's funniest ladies passed away far too young.

Alongside such legends as Phil Hartman and Dana Carvey, Jan dazzled SNL's fans every Saturday night. Regardless of the material she was presented with, Jan would find a way to make it funny, much like the late Phil Hartman. They often worked together, like in this sketch mocking the downfall of Jim and Tammy Fae Bakker:

And who could forget her portrayal of Kathie Lee Gifford, singing to a monkey:

Even on one off sketches she shined, like in this sketch where she plays the matriarch of a trailer park family that is hilariously trying to run a bed and breakfast out of their trailer:

Her pairing with Nora Dunn as one part of a lounge act called The Sweeney Sisters created classic, hilarious moments that are remembered even today:

Ms. Hooks may not have found a cure for a dangerous disease or solved world hunger, but she certainly made the world a happier place at least for a couple of hours every Saturday night. Thanks for the laughs, Ms. Hooks and rest in peace. We're pretty sure you're already making them laugh up there.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rest in Peace, Jan Hooks

The hilarious Jan Hooks has passed away at age 57. Miss Hooks, along with Phil Hartman, reigned over a second golden age on Saturday Night Live, never failing to make us all laugh, whether she was impersonating a famous person or playing a character of her own creation.

Thank you for the laughs, Jan and please say hello to Phil for us. Heaven just became a funnier place.


Soarin' Over Seinfeld

Guests at DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE might be surprised to see a familiar "pilot" welcoming them to Soarin' Over California- It's Patrick Warburton, known as Seinfeld's Puddy.

Carol Burnett: A Total Pro

A mild earthquake took place when Carol Burnett was live on stage with the Jackson 5ive, filming a skit for her television show. A true professional, Ms. Burnett merely ad-libbed that the shaking earth was a sign that her students (she was playing a teacher in the sketch) needed to pay attention in class and continued the sketch as if nothing had happened. The scene was aired as-is. The episode is also notable for being the very first appearance of “The Family”- Mama Harper and her wayward daughter Eunice; an instant classic that spawned the 1980′s sitcom “Mama’s Family”.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

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

Hitler Doesn't Live Here Anymore
Hydro, the Man With the Hydraulic Arms
Leper in the Backfield
Make-Out King of Montana
Meet Joe Blow
The Muppets Go Medieval
"P" is for Psycho
Preacher With a Shovel
The President's Neck is Missing
The Revenge of Abe Lincoln

Why You Almost Weren't Served

The classic BBC sitcom Are You Being Served? has made generations of viewers around the world laugh since it premiered in the early 1970s. It had a long life for a British show- 69 episodes- and is still watched around the world. It must have been obvious that the show would be a huge hit right from the very beginning, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, the show almost never aired at all.

After the original pilot was filmed, the show was initially rejected by the BBC. It’s not unusual for a show to get rejected after the pilot is filmed. In fact, the networks will often produce a ton of pilots, most of which will never see the light of day. Unfortunately for the cast and crew of Are You Being Served? it appeared that their show would be one of those casualties. Until fate intervened.

In the summer of 1972, the world was horrified when terrorists stormed the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany and took the Israeli team hostage, cruelly murdering many of the athletes. While the Olympic Committee struggled with the aftermath of the massacre, the games were suspended. This left the BBC scrambling to find anything to put on the air while the world waited for the Olympic Games to resume.

Enter the team from Grace Brothers. The BBC aired the pilot as filler programming alongside other rejected pilots under the Comedy Playhouse banner. The positive reception changed the minds of the programming staff at the BBC, who promptly ordered a full season of the show and the rest was history.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Oops! A Twin Peaks Legend is Made by Accident

The role of the fearsome “Bob”, the ghostly serial killer who was responsible for the murder of Laura Palmer, was played to perfection by the late Frank Silva, who was seemingly born to play it. Mr. Silva looked like he literally jumped out of everyone’s nightmares and onto our television sets. Obviously, he was initially chosen to play the murderous “Bob” from the beginning, right?

Actually, Mr. Silva was the set dresser for the “Twin Peaks” pilot, which meant he was responsible for setting up the furniture and props. Perhaps he got the role because producer David Lynch saw him and instantly realized he could play a frightening serial killer? Nope, it was all dumb luck. You see, in the closing scene of the pilot, Laura Palmer’s mother was supposed to be sitting in her living room alone, until she looks off to her left and screams. Everything went according to plan until someone noticed that set dresser Frank Silva had inadvertently stood in the wrong place and could be seen reflected in a mirror behind the actress’ head. A terrible mistake that might have cost a set dresser his job. 

Of course, David Lynch thought about it and saw that the scary looking Frank Silva was the perfect person to play the evil “Bob”. The scene would air as filmed, only now it foretold the appearance of pure evil, and not the mistake of a Hollywood set dresser who should have known better. And that was how television history (and nightmare fuel) was made.

Rest in Peace: Geoffrey Holder

Geoffrey Holder was born in 1930 in Trinidad and Tobago. A notable dancer, singer and performer, his deep voice made him stand out from the crowd. He used his deep voice to capture his highest profile job- as a spokesman for 7-Up.

Even today, years after the last ad aired on television, Mr. Holder is still remembered for them. As well as for his roles in the films Annie, Live & Let Die and Boomerang. Geoffrey Holder passed away at the age of 84, leaving behind his wife of almost 60 years and a son.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Embarrassing Bans: The Simpsons

Anytime someone tries to push any type of boundary, there’s always someone there to take offense and try to push back. As has been shown time and time again, however, the overreacting prudes are always proven to be the fools they always were. The Simpsons wasn’t the first piece of pop culture that was banned or criticized by reactionaries, but it is one of the more recent examples of something that was criticized by people who never watched an episode, yet eventually became something we take for granted as an American institution.

Flash back to 1989- Jack Nicholson dazzled theater goers with his interpretation of the classic American literary figure The Joker, Milli Vanilli conquered NBC’s Sister Kate before conquering the hearts of America and crude animated filler material was stretched out to fill 30 minutes of dead air on the last place television network. Yes, The Simpsons were about to take the world by storm… However, if various religious and authority types had their way, the conquering of America by this new, subversive cartoon would not have actually happened.

Of course, most of these types decided the show was no good based solely on what they imagined the show to be like. Had they actually watched it, they would have seen a family that attends church every Sunday and truly loves one another. Bart’s underachieving (despite what was on the T-Shirts) was never shown in a positive light. Out of touch politicians like then-president George Herbert Walker Bush made blanket statements that probably impressed the “get off my lawn” retired types, but really just exposed them as the out of touch fossils they were. Schools banned Bart Simpson shirts and merchandise in knee jerk reactions which no doubt made them more popular; misguided parents prohibited their kids from watching the show and there were “boycotts” threatened against stores that carried the merchandise. It all seems ridiculous now, but this was Serious Business[TM] at the time and resulted in various editorials being written and much clicking of tongues. What was to be done about this Homer Simpson? As it turned out, nothing. Once people started watching the show, they realized that it wasn’t anything like the detractors’ imaginations. It was a hilarious, sometimes heartwarming look at modern life. It just happened to be in cartoon form.

Eventually successive waves of Simpsons merchandise and promotions proved that the general public had accepted and embraced this flawed but loving family. So the show became an institution and the reactionaries went on to find new things to be offended about. I’d like to think they really are embarrassed by their ignorant complaints, but those types rarely ever feel shame. This quote from Bart to Helen Lovejoy seems oddly appropriate:

“No offense lady, but what you don’t know could fill a warehouse.”

What a cromulent observation.

Bizarre Cartoons: Rubik the Amazing Cube

What happens when a network is desperate to get ratings from the latest toy related fad, but the toy is an inanimate object? You get ABC’s short-lived Saturday Morning Television show Rubik, the Amazing Cube. The only "amazing" thing about the show is how lax the FCC was back then, because surely such an amalgam of children’s programming and crass consumerism would never be permitted these days.

So how did the show’s producers bring life to an inanimate object? They made him an alien from outer space that fell off some old man’s horse and carriage and into the lives of a generic Latino family. Little Rubik had a creepy looking head and got extra powers when he was “solved”. The slightest vibration, perfectly timed to occur at the worst possible moments would make him lose these “powers” when his colors became scrambled. If that wasn’t bizarre enough, the Latino teeny bopper musical group “Menudo” sang the theme song to the cartoon.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

“I'm not interested in your explanations, Kramer! Sure, I bet you've got a million of 'em. Maybe your mother didn't love you enough, maybe the teacher didn't call on you in school when you had your little hand raised, maybe the pervert in the park had a present in his pants, huh?”


-Lieutenant Martell on Seinfeld

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Record Breaking Detective Munch

Richard Belzer holds an almost unbeatable record; he has played the character of Detective John Munch on more  shows than any other actor. He appeared as John Munch on Homicide, Law & Order, The X Files, Law & Order: SVU, The Beat, Law & Order: Trial By Jury, Arrested Development and The Wire.

Perry Mason

Crime dramas are a fixture of network programming these days, but one of the first and best examples of this type of programming was Perry Mason. Mr. Mason was the type of lawyer everyone wanted; sly, intelligent and definitely better than the District Attorney. Perry Mason ran for 9 seasons on CBS and later in a series of TV movies on NBC. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Courthouse Square

Welcome to Courthouse Square!

Even if you've never been here in person, you've undoubtedly seen this location before. It has been featured in hundreds of movie and television productions, like Ghost Whisperer, Back to the Future, House, Leave it to Beaver, Twilight Zone and so many more. Want to see this famous location in person? Head out to Universal Studios Hollywood. Its world famous tram tour will take you right past this and other famous sights on the backlot.

BANNED: Adrien Brody

Lorne Michaels, executive producer of Saturday Night Live, keeps an unofficial list of people banned from hosting the show. Celebrities can get on the list for a variety of reasons ranging from uttering profanity to being an insufferable douchebag with the SNL staff.

One actor who has found himself on Lorne's list is Adrien Brody. Mr. Brody ran afoul of Lorne by dressing up like a Rastafarian while introducing the musical guest. This unplanned improvisation not only angered Lorne, but it made the show run long, the most grievous offense in the SNL rulebook.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Crazy Concepts: Small Wonder

The 1980's were a prime era for silly, ridiculous TV Guide advertisements and even sillier programming. And nothing was sillier or more ridiculous than Small Wonder, a show about a robotics engineer who invents a robot that looks like a little girl. Not only did she "live" in his son's closet, but she was dressed like a refugee from Little House on the Prairie and spoke in a monotone voice. Definitely nothing suspicious here, right?

For extremely flimsy reasons, the fact that she was a robot had to be kept secret, so every episode pretty much just showed the family trying to keep their "secret" from nosy neighbors and the company that the father worked for. As if the creep factor wasn't already off the charts here, the access panel to program the young lady was on her back and required unzipping her dress.

The show inexplicably lasted for 96 episodes in syndication, often airing on Saturday evenings right before real network programming. The show was apparently popular enough to inspire the creation of a Small Wonder costume as shown below:

Yes kids, it's the most frightening costume you'll see this Halloween. This 'Small Wonder' will cause huge nightmares! Sweet dreams!

The Record Breaking Bunch

What is the only prime time television franchise that has had series on all three of the major networks? The Brady Bunch!

The original Brady Bunch aired on ABC:

The Brady Brides aired on NBC:

And The Bradys Aired on CBS: