Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rest in Peace, Edward Herrmann

Edward Herrmann, well known movie and television actor has passed away at age 71. Perhaps best known recently from his role on the WB show Gilmore Girls, Mr. Herrmann had an extensive television and film resume. Often cast as the stuffy, east coast snobbish type, Mr. Herrmann guest starred in hundreds of television shows through the years and lent his voice to countless historical documentaries.

His most frequent role was as U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a part he played in two television movies and in the original film version of Annie. 

Mr. Herrmann leaves behind a wife, three children and legions of fans.

Rest in Peace, Christine Cavanaugh

Christine Cavanaugh has passed away at age 51. You may not recognize her name or face, but you've probably heard her voice.

While Ms. Cavanaugh did a ton of guest starring roles throughout the 90's, she is best known for her voice-over work, both in the movies and on television. Her resume is a who's who of 1990's cartoons, including Ahh, Real Monsters!, Dexter's Laboratory and Disney's Darkwing Duck among so many others. Ms. Cavanaugh also voiced Babe the Talking Pig on the big screen.

It was her voice-over work for Rugrats that has endeared her to millions and cemented her legacy. As the voice of scaredy cat Chuckie Finster, Ms. Cavanaugh brought to life a fully dimensional character who leapt out of our televisions and into our hearts. While we may have lost a talented voice, we can rest assured that her work will live on in perpetuity.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Went to a bartender...

The beloved sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati is probably best remembered for its catchy theme song. Sure, it was hilarious as well, but even people who have never seen the show probably know the words to the theme song.

But what about the infamous closing song? Even people who have heard the song thousands of times have a hard time deciphering it. Most people seem to agree that the first line is "Went to a Bartender" but what follows is anyone's guess. Even stranger- the song was produced exclusively for the show; unintelligible lyrics and all.

The backstory to the song's creation is actually quite amusing in itself. CBS, which aired the show in the United States, asked for music of some kind to go over the ending credits. An innocent sounding request. However, at the time the network had an announcer speak over the end credits of each show, reminding viewers to stay tuned for more CBS programming. CBS was asking the show to produce music that would not actually be heard. The show's producers who were pranksters at heart, decided to throw together something that would be indecipherable because it wouldn't matter if anyone understood the lyrics to a song that wouldn't be audible during the show's network run anyway. It wasn't until the show aired in syndication that the bizarre song was actually heard. The show's fans have been trying figure out the lyrics ever since.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Bartless Episode

On The Simpsons, only one main family member has not been in every episode. Unbelievably, it is Bart Simpson!

As hard as it is to believe, even little Maggie, referred to by Homer as "the forgotten Simpson" has been in more episodes than Bart. In fact, Homer, Marge, Lisa and Maggie have been in every episode, but not Bart.

Even stranger, Bart isn't even mentioned or referred to in the episode he doesn't appear in- season twenty's Four Great Women and a Manicure, an episode which tells the stories of, well, four great women. As Bart might have said years ago- Aye Caramba!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

"Well, you'll be living in a van down by the river when you're living in a van down by the river!"

-Matt Foley on Saturday Night Live

Saturday, December 27, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

"I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!"

-Saturday Night Live

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bizarre TV Guide Ads: "Roller-Disco Pajama Party"

Where should we start with this one?

The network apparently thought that viewers interested in watching a special with Playboy Playmates would also be interested in seeing performances by The Village People and Wayland Flowers and "Madame". It's like someone took the late 1970's, put them in a blender and this was the result.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"It's A Wonderful Life" and "Road House"

Every Christmas, millions of people watch the timeless classic It's A Wonderful Life. Millions more stumble upon a similar classic while drunkenly flipping through cable channels- the immortal film Road House. Two movies that share much in common. Wait, what?

Yes, it's true. There are startling similarities between the Jasper, Missouri of Road House and the hell hole of Pottersville, the alternate universe in It's A Wonderful Life. Most people forget what life in Bedford Falls would have been like if George Bailey had never been born.

Full of neon and wanton women, Pottersville is supposed to be a frightening place. There's divey bars full of trashy, loose dames:

Wild, boisterous fights:

Shady establishments filled with sultry harlots catering to perverts:

Run by a tyrant interested only in money:

Sound familiar, Road House fans? The Jasper, MO of Road House would give Pottersville a run for its money.  There are sleazy dives:

Trashy, loose women:

Sultry women catering to perverts:

And wild, boisterous fights:

All in a town run by a greedy tyrant:


Both Dalton from Road House and George Bailey even have frumpy, frigid women to deal with:

But while they may have had similar experiences, they resolve their problems in strikingly different ways....

George Bailey discovers that life is beautiful and merely chooses to reverse his wish that he was never born, thus relegating "Pottersville" to non-existence:

Dalton from Road House cleans up Jasper by kicking ass and taking names:

So while many folks will celebrate the holidays with the traditional, heartwarming story of one man's importance to his family and friends, maybe it's time to have a Patrick Swayze Christmas this year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Charlie Brown Christmas brought to you by Dolly Madison

For kids of a certain age, the spinning CBS Special Presentation logo often signaled the start of something, well, special.

CBS used this iconic animation to alert its viewers that the regularly scheduled programming was being pre-empted for something special, which more often than not meant a cartoon of some kind. One such cartoon was A Charlie Brown Christmas which is often held up as a sweet cartoon extolling the virtues of not being materialistic during the holiday season and celebrating Christmas for its real reason for existence- to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. 

A noble sentiment, to be sure. However, this "Christmas Classic" had an ulterior motive for coming into your house each holiday season. This ulterior motive? To sell Dolly Madison Brand Snack Cakes!

Both Dolly Madison snack cakes and Coca-Cola were early sponsors of the yearly Christmas special. The company's sponsorship of this special was meant to produce a "high-profit" Fall for the stores selling Dolly Madison's sugary treats.

The characters even graced the boxes and wrappers of Dolly Madison's snacks, ensuring that their message of "Charlie Brown loves Dolly Madison" was presented to consumers right on the delicious product itself.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hallmark Christmas Films: "Debbie Macomber's Trading Christmas"

The final Hallmark Christmas movie we'll look at this year is Debbie Macomber's Trading Christmas. We don't know who Debbie Macomber is, or why she merited getting her name on the title of this film, but that won't stop us from guessing what this film was all about!

Debbie Macomber must have been sitting in her house with her cats and year-round Christmas decorations when she noticed that the young people these days really like that Wife Swap show and those reality shows. So she downed a glass of her special egg-nog and came up with an idea where Corky from Murphy Brown and that one guy from that show about a bowling alley were involved in a wife swap of some kind, except they trade 'Christmases' instead of spouses. Isn't that clever? Of course, in the end, they all discover the true meaning of Christmas, blah, blah, blah. It really doesn't matter how these films end, actually. See you next year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

"Christmas is not the time for regrets, that's what anniversaries are for."

-Al Bundy

Saturday, December 20, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

"A fat woman came into the shoe store today and wanted a pair of shoes to wear to a Christmas party. I told her to stand on her hands, put a star on her butt, and go as the world's largest, ugliest Christmas tree. Then she has the nerve to get mad at me because she's fat."

-Al Bundy

Friday, December 19, 2014

Bizarre TV Guide Ads: "CHiPs"

It's hard to tell which is the most bizarre thing about this advertisement...

...that NBC apparently put this ad together believing that it would attract viewers...

... that someone believed making a show about policemen "going roller disco" would be an audience draw...

... that NBC believed mentioning Larry Linville, Ed McMahon, Ruth Buzzi, Nancy Kulp and Brett Somers would generate interest among the public...

... or that NBC was apparently "Proud as a Peacock" that it had produced this cheesy relic of the late 70's.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Repeat Customer: Joanna Lumley

Before she was Absolutely Fabulous, Joanna Lumley was a repeat customer at Grace Brothers. Her first appearance was as the sexy "His and Hers" representative who gets chased away by the staff:

A year later she appeared as a German customer who just wanted to buy some Harris tweed:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

25 Years of The Simpsons!

On 12/17/1989, television history was made when FOX aired Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire, the first episode broadcast of The Simpsons. It was a mega-hit, though dismissed by some as a crude fad that would quickly flame out. After the initial hype wore off, however, viewers settled in for an amazing 25-year run.

Homer would become a giant slayer, taking down NBC's flagship program at the time- The Cosby Show. The show itself has become an American institution; in fact it is hard to imagine that there may be a time when it is no longer in production. The show still seems to be going strong- when FXX aired a Simpsons marathon earlier this year, it went from 97th place to 1st place literally overnight.

So we wish a Happy Birthday to our favorite family. Enjoy that cake, Homer! You deserve it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


When "Uncle Miltie" decided to guest star on Saturday Night Live it was seen as an opportunity for a showbiz veteran to work with the showbiz stars of tomorrow. Rather than produce a comedy classic, however, the show became a living nightmare.

Mr. Berle didn't understand SNL's brand of comedy and tried to inject his creaky slapstick into the show. When this was rejected by producer Lorne Michaels, Mr. Berle ignored him and often changed things on the fly, upsetting the balance and trust a cast must have to go on live. Mr. Berle was never asked back and went on Lorne's list of banned hosts.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hallmark Christmas Films: The Nine Lives of Christmas

This week's Hallmark Christmas film marks the rock bottom point for one of its stars. Remember Brandon Routh? Not long ago, he was literally Superman, starring in a $300 Million blockbuster film. Regardless of how one views these derivative Christmas films churned out by a greeting card company, everyone would have to admit that starring in these quick cheapies meant to be viewed by cat ladies unironically wearing tawdry Christmas sweaters is a huge drop from playing Superman. Underneath that smile, Mr. Routh certainly must agree.

So the plot of this one based on just this picture? Okay, it looks like possibly Mr. Routh is playing a Firefighter whose main job is getting cats out of trees. Perhaps he gets too close to a cat under the mistletoe and it gives him a big kiss, which promptly transforms it into the lovely lady shown below. Teaching her about the human world endears her to him, but she has a bad habit of transforming back into a cat at the most inopportune times. On the ninth day of Christmas, however, she quickly turns into a lady forever, sweeping him off of his feet and down the aisle!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

“If you elect Thomas Jefferson, here’s what you’re gonna get. Murder. All the time. Everybody’s gonna be murdering each other. Incest. Your wives will lose their virtue, having sex with a lot of dudes willy-nilly.”

-John Adams on Drunk History

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

30 Rock Switcharoo

When NBC announced to much fanfare that it was picking up a sitcom created by Tina Fey, her good friend Rachel Dratch was attached to the project as the insecure Jenna DeCarlo who would get pushed aside on the fictional show within a show by Tracy Jordan, a character played by Tracy Morgan. NBC, however, didn't like Rachel Dratch's character and made Tina Fey recast her with Jane Krakowski. The original pilot episode was completely scrapped and reshot and Ms. Dratch was relegated to various guest starring roles on the sitcom.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Ringbanger

Many people have claimed that Leslie Nielsen's first comedic role was the bumbling Doctor Rumack in the comedy classic Airplane! However, he actually played a comedic role seven years before- in the first season of M*A*S*H.

Leslie played the reckless Colonel Brighton, referred to as the ringbanger by Hawkeye due to his habit of impatiently banging his ring on the arm of a chair. Mr. Nielsen's character recklessly sacrifices the troops under his command for minimal gains, a situation that the guys try to rectify by getting the Colonel sent back to the states. Through an elaborate scheme that nearly backfires, the guys accomplish just that. We never see this "ringbanger" again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

NOT Filmed Before A Live Studio Audience

After being filmed before a live studio audience for eight seasons, All in the Family chose to forgo the audience for its ninth and final season.

The show's creator Norman Lear, however, didn't want to resort to a laugh track for the final season. The phoniness of canned laughter was what made him choose to buck Hollywood conventions and go with a live audience to begin with. How would he get real reactions without a live audience?

The answer was found on another Norman Lear program- One Day at a Time. All in the Family would borrow their live audience by showing a videotape of a previously filmed All in the Family episode to an audience that had just watched a live One Day at a Time filming. Their reactions were recorded and added to the All in the Family episode in post-production.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rest in Peace, Ken Weatherwax

Ken Weatherwax, known to millions of his fans as Pugsley, the devilish son of Gomez and Morticia Addams, has passed away at age 59.

Mr. Weatherwax wasn't able to find much work in Hollywood after The Addams Family went off the air, but his memorable role in a television classic has kept his face on television screens for decades.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hallmark Christmas: Hats Off To Christmas

Continuing our look at Hallmark Christmas films, let's guess the storyline for this one- Hats Off to Christmas!

Oh no, this guy looks like a first class Christmas grinch! Look at him, frowning with his arms crossed at Christmas! "Bah Humbug!" he seems to be saying.

All is not lost, however! That smiling young lady looks like she is up to the task of showing this grumpy big business type the true meaning of Christmas. He certainly won't find it in those spreadsheets and business memos he carries around!

Something tells us that this plucky young woman will not only make him see the error of his ways, but that it'll be 'Rings on for Marriage!' soon enough!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

“Dear Friend, or Relative, or Business Associate. Merry Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or Solstice, or Voodoo Day.

Boy, what a year it’s been – me, with my acting, and, you doing whatever it is that you do. Thanks for the Christmas card, it was very beautiful, or humorous. I enjoyed the photo of your kid, or kids. Boy, he, or she, or they are really getting big. Have you seen our mutual friend, if we have one? Can you believe what he or she is up to? Boy, some people! Has your son, or daughter, or sister, or brother, or husband, or wife still have that drug problem? All you can do is trust in God, or, if you prefer, voodoo.

How is Granny, or Nana, or Mimi, or Yaya? So so? Hey, how about the professional sports team that we both root for? They should fire, or rehire that manager of theirs. He’s a character!

Well, gotta go. By the way, sorry about throwing up on your carpet that time, or times. I hope you receive many presents from Santa, or Hanukkah Guy, or the Voodoo Man . . . and that the coming year is as good as, or better than, or nothing like the last year.”

-Alec Baldwin’s All Purpose Holiday Message from SNL

Saturday, December 6, 2014

TV Quote Weekends

“Even I’m hoping it’s not porn.”

-Moe, the bartender from The Simpsons, after Patty and Selma share their home movies with Springfield.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The World of Sid & Marty Krofft Theme Park

Known for their psychedelic television shows and tacky variety hours, Sid and Marty Krofft were definitely products of their time. In their heyday of the 1970's, this powerhouse team produced hours of bizarre kid's programming. It was inevitable that they would spread out their empire to the theme park realm.

Enter Atlanta's gleaming Omni Center. Eager to bring tourists and their dollars into the city, Atlanta was trying to make things happen downtown. The Omni Center, a complex featuring a hotel, adjacent meeting spaces and an arena was providing attractive incentives to bring a theme park to town. It seemed like a deal too good to pass up for Sid and Marty Krofft, who quickly signed up to build the world's first indoor theme park.

Featuring live shows, animatronic characters and rides, the park opened in 1976 to great fanfare. Taking advantage of their television show, the Kroffts regularly featured the park.

Unfortunately, the area around the park was still dicey. Lower than expected crowds meant that the entirety of the park could be seen and experienced in a short amount of time. Since the park priced itself like a traditional theme park it was seen by many as a ripoff compared to nearby Six Flags over Georgia. Unable to shake its bad reputation, the park closed forever just six months after it opened. A flurry of lawsuits ensued between the Kroffts, the investors and the city of Georgia. After all of the lawsuits were settled, the theme park was gutted and sold off piece by piece to collectors and other theme parks.

The shell of the building, however, remained standing. In 1985 it was purchased by Ted Turner who saw it as an ideal location for his fledging cable network. The building was then renamed CNN Center and is still their world headquarters.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Kate Bradley's Changing Daughters

The show Petticoat Junction never had a stable cast. With the exception of Lisa Henning's character Betty Jo Bradley, the show had multiple actresses playing Bobbi Jo and Billie Jo Bradley. (Ms. Henning's job security was probably a result of her father being one of the show's producers.) However, the very first person cast as Billie Jo never actually made it to air.

The first Billie Jo was the lovely Sharon Tate, shown below in a publicity shot taken before the show premiered. (That's her on the far right, along with, from left to right- Pat Woodell, Bea Benaderet and Linda Henning.) Despite Ms. Tate's beauty, co-producer Martin Ransohoff thought she lacked confidence and recast the role with Jeannine Riley. Ms. Tate later appeared on Beverly Hillbillies, which was Petticoat Junction's parent show.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

TV Cliches: "When I Retire..."

Whenever anyone in a television show or movie is close to retirement and is shown talking about his or her plans:

He or she is as good as dead:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dirty Dancing: The TV Series

CBS once produced a television show based on a hugely successful film with McLean Stevenson as one of the leads. In this case, it wasn't M*A*S*H, but Dirty Dancing. In 1987, the film version of Dirty Dancing shocked industry experts by becoming a phenomenon. Catapulting Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey to superstardom, the film broke box office records and sold millions of copies of its soundtrack. For a time it was impossible to avoid hearing the movie's theme song (I've Had) The Time of My Life at least once a day. CBS felt it was a no-brainer to green light a series based on this massive hit.

Unlike the last time McLean Stevenson starred in a television adaption of a feature film, however, this series found few fans. Starring Melora Hardin and Patrick Cassidy as Baby and Johnny, the television show was greeted with low ratings and ridicule. It ended after just eleven episodes, proving that perhaps the secret of the film's success was due to its stars and not its premise.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Hallmark Christmas: Christmas at Cartwright's

The Hallmark Channel is the king of Christmas programming. From early November until the end of December, the network bombards viewers with a never ending slate of formulaic films starring actors and actresses whose careers have seen better days. These films all have similar plots in which career minded adults must be reminded about family and Christmas, a divorcee returns home to his or her hometown and finds love, etc. etc.

Despite having similar storylines, the movies must fill some sort of void; quite possibly they provide something to watch that is sure to not embarrass anyone who might drop by- background television for wrapping gifts or finding something for grandma to watch so she stops asking why one hasn't gotten married and settled down yet. We'll look at a few of these movies over the next month, trying to guess their plot lines from their awkward publicity shots.

Today's film is Christmas at Cartwright's. Below we see an eager woman holding a Santa Claus costume while a smiling businessman stares at us. We bet she's some kind of free spirit who must teach this stodgy looking executive that Christmas spirit isn't found in a bank vault or sales ledger- it's found in the hearts of everyone! 

Perhaps she wants him to wear this suit to an important party and he seems to be warming to it- but a misunderstanding of some kind makes him choose not to show up, disappointing the kids at first... But this spark plug of a gal is not willing to give up on him just yet- and she tells him off right then and there!

Just when the kids start to give up, the man shows up, having had a change of heart! He not only becomes the best Santa Claus ever, he writes a huge check to a charity! And gives every kid an amazing gift! And proposes marriage to this plucky woman who put him in his place! We fade out to the sounds of a holiday classic sung by Harry Connick Jr., confident that this couple will be forever married and always keep the magic of Christmas in their hearts.