Sunday, May 31, 2015

TV Quote Weekends

"If my mother keeps shrinking, this is exactly what she's gonna look like in ten years!"

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Famous Mister Ed

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course
That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mister Ed.

Go right to the source and ask the horse
He'll give you the answer that you'll endorse.
He's always on a steady course.
Talk to Mister Ed.

People yakkity-yak a streak and waste your time of day
But Mr. Ed will never speak unless he has something to say.

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And this one'll talk 'til his voice is hoarse.
You never heard of a talking horse?

Well listen to this: 

"I am Mister Ed". 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mrs. Columbo

One of the greatest television detectives ever was Frank Columbo. Played by Peter Falk, the rumpled detective seemed to be in over his head, but he always arrested the right perpetrator in the end. It was a no-brainer to try to take advantage of his popularity with a spin-off show. NBC decided to greenlight a drama based on Columbo's oft-mentioned but never seen wife- Mrs. Columbo.

Starring Kate Mulgrew as Kate Columbo (Columbo actually referred to her as "Rose Columbo" on his show, a discrepancy that is never explained) the show never features Mr. Columbo.

That could explain why the show wasn't as successful as had been hoped. NBC tried everything to make the show successful, it even tried using three different show titles:

The aforementioned Mrs. Columbo:

Then, after a divorce from Mr. Columbo, it was Kate Loves a Mystery:

And lastly, Kate the Detective:

Amazingly, the show lasted less than a full season, going through all of these name changes in just 16 episodes.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

From the Silver Screen to Your TV Screen

The television networks have always sought shortcuts to ratings success. Once they had convinced the movie studios that they could coexist, the networks began mining the movies for new television shows. One of the biggest television successes of all time- M*A*S*H- was borrowed from the big screen.

Unfortunately, that was a big exception. Most film to television transitions never quite work out. Like Gung Ho. Based on the film starring Michael Keaton and Gedde Watanabe, it starred Scott Bakula and Gedde Watanabe (who played a different character.) A relic of an era in which Americans feared the purported business prowess of Japan, it only lasted for 9 episodes on ABC.

NBC tried its luck with a television version of Melanie Griffith's Working Girl. Starring a young Sandra Bullock, the show lasted just 12 episodes. 

The Fox Network found success with the Ferris Bueller-esque Parker Lewis Can't Lose. Certainly a real spinoff called Ferris Bueller starring Charlie Schlatter and a pre-fame Jennifer Aniston would be even more successful, right? NBC thought so. Unfortunately, the show lasted just 13 episodes.

Maybe a dramatic adaptation might work better? ABC picked up a one hour adaptation of Michelle Pfeiffer's "Great White Hope" drama Dangerous Minds, only Annie Potts was the teacher who got to stare down rough ethnics. The show ended after just 17 episodes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Saturday Nights on ABC

Long before Saturday nights became a wasteland of reruns, it was a wasteland of C-List celebrities!

Both ABC's Love Boat and Fantasy Island pulled together well-known C-List faces just to throw them in ridiculous situations.

Interestingly, the descriptions found in TV Guide's advertising were typically so vague as to make it difficult to determine which episode they were tied to. 

The cancellation of Love Boat was a blow to every Hollywood has been; as crazy as the show tended to be, it was still classier than having to do a panel game show.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

TV Quote Weekends

"Well, Miss, I was in this store when two thugs entered and threatened the owner with shotguns. At that time, I drew my Magnum and killed them both. Then I bought some eggs, and some milk, and some of those little cocktail weanies."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Law & Order: UK

The crime drama Law & Order is ubiquitous on American cable networks. With hundreds and hundreds of episodes on six separate shows, any channel can air the various iterations for months without showing the same episode twice. Despite this deep catalog to draw from, the people in the U.K. sought their own version and Universal Studios decided to give them one.

In 2009, Law & Order: UK hit British television. Based on the American version and featuring scripts adapted from the original show, it became an instant hit. British audiences embraced the show, which starred one person familiar to American audiences- Jamie Bamber, who starred in the reboot of Battlestar Galactica and guested on NCIS.

The show has filmed over 50 episodes; a huge run for British television. It is apparently taking an interval but is expected to eventually return to active production.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Meet George Jetson....

The Jetsons is seen as a classic show these days that lasted 75 episodes. However, it actually got canceled after just one season on ABC in the early 1960's. It lived, mostly forgotten, until the early 1980's when it was syndicated to local stations. It quickly became a popular show that attracted attention from Hanna Barbera, who put the show back into production twenty years after the show originally left the air, an amazing feat.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

NOT Left Hanging: Sledgehammer!

Sledgehammer! was a bizarre show ahead of its time. One part Naked Gun, one part wacky procedural, it was a show that forced one to pay attention. As a result, regular viewers were few and its future was uncertain. Producers chose to go out with a bang- a big one!

In what they believed to be the show's final episode, the detectives uncover a scheme to detonate a nuclear bomb in the middle of the city. Would Sledge disarm the bomb just in time?!?

Nope. Despite his best efforts, the bomb goes off, destroying the city. Despite the suggestion on the closing title card, the producers fully expected the show to get canceled.

But strangely enough, ABC chose to renew the show. How would they write themselves out of this corner? Make it all a dream? Maybe say that the bomb didn't explode? Ignore it? Instead, they just chose to go back five years in the past-

Since we are told in the pilot that Dori Doreau and Sledge were not previously partners, this twist makes little sense. That was just what the producers intended- a ridiculous way to get out of a ridiculous situation. Sadly, the show would get canceled for real after season two.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bizarre TV Guide Ads: The Nazis Train a Giant Ape!

We're sure that this episode of Wonder Woman must have made perfect sense in context. It's probably a good guess that Wonder Woman does stop the crazy Nazi gorilla. Probably.

Monday, May 18, 2015

21 Jump Street: Beta Edition

Everyone knows that the character of Tom Hanson on the 1980's Fox drama 21 Jump Street was played by the legendary superstar- Jeff Yagher?!?

Yes, before Johnny Depp stepped into Tom's shoes, Tom was played by Jeff Yagher. Mr. Yagher's performance did not impress Fox executives, which had to be a huge insult considering that Fox aired shows like The Adventures of Beans Baxter, Mr. President and Duets. Jeff Yagher was replaced by future superstar Johnny Depp and the show became one of Fox's first huge hits. At least Mr. Yagher could say he was replaced by a future billion dollar box office draw.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

TV Quote Weekends

"I've come a long way from St. Louis- but not far enough, BB King is trying to kill me!"

Friday, May 15, 2015

1970's Bizarre Toy-O-Rama

One of the things that has always made the rest of Hollywood jealous of Walt Disney Studios is its seemingly endless revenue stream from licensed merchandise. Children of all ages love those famous Disney characters and Disney has always found ways to profit from that. It looks so easy that the other studios have often tried their hands at it, often forgetting that Disney's biggest advantage is having characters and shows that kids love.

Now kids did like Welcome Back, Kotter but did they like it enough to ask for a Mr. Kotter action figure?

"Dear Mattel- What were you thinking? Even I wouldn't buy an Epstein action figure. Sincerely, Epstein's Mother."

Probably not, though admittedly the Barbarino and Horshack action figures might have been popular. And remember that place you more than likely hate having to go to every morning, kids? Well we made a playset out of it!

"Corny Catskills one liners not included!"

Happy Days was a huge hit during its heyday and kids did love The Fonz a lot. But did any kid really want to own an Al Delvecchio figure? Sorry kid, but if this is the first gift you open on Christmas, you should probably lower your expectations for the remaining presents.

"I thought you liked that Happy Days show. Why are you crying?"

Then there are the toys that make one wonder if the studio licensing team is high on something. Did anyone honestly believe that kids would be clamoring for toys based on a show they most likely weren't allowed to watch? 20th Century Fox apparently did.

"The youth of today will love this action figure based on a cross dresser from a depressing dramedy!"

Admittedly, the M*A*S*H toys could have been intended for adults, but not many adults were collecting toys at the time. Besides, this box cover actually shows a child playing with the toy:

"Thanks for the toy, grandma! I'm going to be Hawkeye!"

If there's a more inappropriate franchise to base a toy line on, we certainly haven't seen it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Upfronts Week: Ten Rejected Pilots

10. Charlie Manson’s Angels
9. The Kathie Lee Mysteries
8. Misdemeanor, She Wrote
7. Dog the Tax Accountant
6. Everybody loves Carrot Top
5. Little Hookers, Big Bordello
4. The Shopping List
3. America’s Next Top Librarian
2. Diagnosis: Narcolepsy
1. Tepid in Cleveland

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Upfronts Week: Parade Magazine's Inside Look

The so-called 'Big Three' networks will be choosing which television shows get 'renewed' for next season. Which of your favorites are facing a future as uncertain as Charo's crazy accent? Find out here!


Matlock: This exciting mystery show is a hit with our readers, but seeing as how it has been off the air for almost twenty years and its star Andy Griffith is dead, things don't look good for its return.


Mary Tyler Moore: This show's controversial premise- a young lady living unescorted in a big city- might have caught up with it. Miss Moore's brazen hussy might get the boot.


Murder, She Wrote: Unbelievably, the greatest show in the history of television may get 'canceled' because it's core audience is not seen as being 'with it.' So get to the nearest 'super-market' and support the show's advertisers by buying their products, like Maypo, Berdahl Oil Fixative and AYDS Diet Candy.


Lawrence Welk Show: Luckily this wholesome staple of television will return, only now it will appear on the so-called 'National Educational Television.' Enjoy this delightful cavalcade of music and fun where the young ladies don't dress like common trollops.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Upfronts Week: The Pilot

This is "Upfronts Week", the week when television networks show off their new television schedules to advertisers looking to spend money on commercial time. This week can be a career maker for a young ad buyer. Since new shows have no track record to base ad rates on, the networks are often willing to sell ad time to buyers at sharply discounted rates. If the show becomes a break out hit, the ad buyer's employer will be quite pleased; they pre-purchased the ad time, so they won't have to pay the new rates for the new hit. If the show is a disaster, well, it might spell the end of the line for the buyer.

So what do the buyers base their decisions on? Pilots, of course. In a bizarre network tradition at the beginning of the year, millions of dollars are spent producing sample TV shows- "pilots"- most of which will never see the light of day. The networks claim these pilots are necessary to determine how a show might turn out as it goes from the page to the stage, but strangely enough, many shows with big name talent behind them get picked up anyway even if the pilot stinks. The network just tells everyone that the pilot wasn't great, but with a big name like "Nathan Lane," "Bette Midler" or "Heather Graham" attached, the retooled show has to be great, right? (Surprise, it often isn't.) Some excellent pilots that everyone at the network loves won't get picked up at all, regardless of quality. Lookup Heat Vision & Jack for an example.

So why do the networks still spend money on pilots? It's just the way things have always been done, so the networks keep doing it. It's why some shows have an amazing start, then quickly falter; the show's creators put lots of effort into the greatest pilot ever, but then can't translate that into a weekly show. Some legends refused to make pilots, seeing them as wasteful. Walt Disney never made one for any of his television shows. The company he founded, however, now owns a network and that network spends millions producing these pilots every year like all the other networks do. At least it helps the economy! (If any network wants to pay us to make a pilot, however, they're the greatest things ever!)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Left Hanging: "Twin Peaks"

Twin Peaks began life as a phenomenon. David Lynch had created a complex world of murder and intrigue. Unfortunately, people began criticizing the show for being too slow at revealing its secrets. The network then forced Mr. Lynch to reveal more of the show's secrets sooner than expected, which damaged his story lines. Of course, people then complained about the rushed nature of the reveals.

By the end of the show's second season, David Lynch had been burned by trying to give the network what it said it wanted. ABC had relegated the show to a time slot against both The Cosby Show and The Simpsons. Mr. Lynch chose to go out with a bang in an effort to goad ABC into renewing his show. The final scene showed FBI Agent Dale Cooper being taken over by the demonic "Bob", setting up an obvious battle between good and evil if a third season was granted. Could ABC refuse such a delightful possibility?

Obviously it could. It canceled the show, which became a bigger cult hit in death. New Line Cinema decided to give Mr. Lynch a chance to give his fans what they wanted- an opportunity to make a film that took place in the Twin Peaks world. He chose to make a prequel- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The prequel answered no questions and resolved none of the cliffhangers from the show's finale. It seemed like we would never know what happened to the denizens of Twin Peaks...

Until recently! Showtime has announced plans to bring the show back for a limited run. What will we learn about the town twenty years later? What happened to Agent Cooper? Hopes are high that the show will happen and Twin Peaks fans will no longer be left hanging.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

TV Quote Weekends

"Best sandwiches in the city. They're an acquired taste, but like wine and cheese, a good sandwich needs to be aged properly. In the olden days, a pheasant would be aged for weeks before it was suitable for consumption."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Before VHS, DVD or Blu-Ray....

Before one could walk into just about any store to buy a movie or stream it online, people were forced to either fondly recall it in their heads or wait until it aired on television. K-Mart, however, had a third option- take the magic home in an 8mm film!

As you can see below, it didn't come cheap, nor was it even the whole film. The silent black & white version, adjusted for inflation, would be about $24 in today's dollars. The silent color option would set you back $56 and the high roller color and sound edition would cost $89. All for eight minutes of "exciting scenes." Of course, you'd also need an 8mm projector to play this on. Aren't we lucky these days?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Rewind!: "Voyage of the Mimi"

In 1984, PBS aired The Voyage of the Mimi, an educational show that aimed to teach mathematics and science in an entertaining way.

Except... It didn't have the catchy music or fun jokes of Square One and despite what one might hear from nostalgic viewers, it was actually quite dull. We would challenge anyone to recount what the show was about without consulting Wikipedia or YouTube. The show is notable for featuring a young Ben Affleck.

What's going on here? Your guess is as good as ours.

A second season also featuring Ben was filmed as well, but by then, the writing was on the wall. The main viewership for the show were kids being forced to watch the show by a teacher who needed to sneak off for a quick smoke. No further seasons were produced.

A dated reminder of the world circa 1984, the show is mostly forgotten except when E! needs footage to pad out a "Before they were stars" segment or when Generation X-ers fondly look back at the show despite not remembering what it was about.

Still, it is kind of fun to recall simpler days when a grownup could be depicted smoking on a show aimed towards children. In the shot below, the grownup is smoking while apparently administering first aid. That's the type of parenting that could get you a nice stay in jail nowadays.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

TV Glossary: "Back Door Pilot"

Have you ever seen an episode of a show that seemed like it could have been a different series? Featuring "old friends" who have never been seen or spoken about before (and likely never again) these episodes could often be removed from the series without anyone noticing or caring. In the world of television, these episodes are referred to as "Back Door Pilots".

Back door pilots are typically created to gauge audience response to a spinoff. The better ones usually involve a pre-existing character who might get his or her own show. The lesser ones introduce previously unseen characters and situations to kick off a show that has little if any connection to the parent show.

An example of a pre-existing character spinoff would be Mrs. Garrett, introduced on Diff'rent Strokes and spunoff to Facts of Life. 

An example of the lesser type of spinoff, where an episode introduces a completely unknown character who has never been seen before and never seen again afterwards is Mr. Quiet, an attempt at a spinoff from The Cosby Show starring a Dawn-less Tony Orlando.

The Tony Orlando spinoff would fail miserably, never making it to episode two.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Bizarre Concepts: "The Charmings"

What if Snow White's evil stepmother made a mistake and gave her and her family too strong of a sleeping potion? And what if she put herself to sleep so that she would wake up at the same time they did to torment them? And what if they woke up in the 1980's? Far-fetched and strange? It didn't seem like it to ABC, who greenlit the show in 1987.

The Charmings debuted on ABC, featuring the titular family trying to make a go of it in 1980's America. The family tried to hide their secret while figuring out what all the newfangled devices and strange customs of modern day society were all about.

Amazingly, the show was renewed after its first season. Caitlin O'Heaney, who played Snow White during the first season was inexplicably replaced after the first season.

Ms. O'Heaney's replacement was Carol Huston:

While the first season concentrated on the family trying to get its bearings, the second season began to show them getting accustomed to the modern world. Unfortunately, ABC lost its patience with the show's lack of ratings success and this bizarre show became but a footnote in the history of bizarre TV.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Left Hanging: "Benson"

The TV show Benson was a spinoff from the parody Soap. Robert Guillaume had become a standout as a wisecracking butler and ABC was eager to get him his own show. The show Benson took place in the Governor's Mansion. Governor Gatling needed a new household manager to manage his staff, so he hires Benson DuBois who came highly recommended by the Governor's cousin Jessica Tate.

Through the run of the show, Benson made the improbable rise from glorified butler to Gatling Administration Budget Director to candidate for Governor. In its final season, Governor Gatling, faced with term limits, encourages Benson to run for Governor. He quickly begins to fear what might happen after he retires and discovers that term limits only prevent him from running again if he remains in his current party. He can run again as an independent. 

This leads to animosity as Benson and Gatling face off. With Benson on shaky ground ratings-wise, the show's producers chose to end with a cliff-hanger. After the pair rekindle their friendship, they choose to accept the election results and remain friends regardless of what happens. The episode ended with them awaiting their fate.

 Surely ABC wouldn't be willing to anger its viewers by canceling the show, leaving them without a way to know what happened, right? Not really. The show was canceled, leaving Benson viewers hanging without an answer for almost thirty years.