Monday, August 31, 2015

Bizarre TV Ads: A Year at the Top

There's so much that makes no sense with this ad, it's hard to know where to begin. There's a pre-Letterman Paul Shaffer with Greg Evigan performing at what seems to be a cheesy bar mitzvah while Shirley Feeney and Sonny Bono menace an insane Mickey Rooney, who's probably glad to just be collecting a paycheck.

In reality, this "comedy" was pretty much dead on arrival when it premiered in August of 1977. The show aired just five episodes before getting canceled by CBS. Perhaps a more accurate title would have been A Month at the Bottom.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

TV Quote Weekends

"The last time I was down at the Shady Rest for dinner he was putting away meatballs like they were gum drops!"

Friday, August 28, 2015

Game Show Files: Brett Somers

In the 1970's, a popular type of game show was the panel show. Theoretically featuring celebrity panelists, the celebrities on these types of shows were often enlisted to help the non-celebrity contestants win money and prizes. The celebrities on these shows were often on their way up, on their way down or famous for being on these types of shows. One of the best known panel game shows was Match Game and one of the best known famous for being on the Match Game celebrities was Brett Somers.

Ms. Somers did have outside credits to her name and was known as a funny comedienne, but her primary claim to fame was Match Game, where smoking and drinking were apparently encouraged. While Brett was often lousy at coming up with answers that matched those of the contestants, she was hilariously funny on the show, often stretching the patience of the network censors with her double entendres. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Weird Batman Villains: Egghead

One of the weirdest and most brilliant villains specially created for the Batman TV show was Egghead, played by Vincent Price.

Flanked by his henchmen Benedict and Foo Yung, Egghead was fond of egg related puns and egg shaped weapons. His biggest feat was an amazing one- he figured out who Batman really was- Bruce Wayne.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Anthony Zuiker, Tram Driver

In the late 1990's, Anthony Zuiker was a tram driver working at the Mirage Hotel, making minimum wage when he got the idea of a lifetime.

He created the phenomenon that is CSI, which is ending its run after 15 years in September with a two hour movie. The spinoff CSI: Cyber returns in Spring.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

NBC's Sloganeering

NBC went through a rough patch in the early 1980's. Nothing they tried seemed to work out for them. While they awaited their Renaissance that would begin with the pickup of The Cosby Show. Until then, they tried various different slogans and logos.

One of the first 1980's slogans was "Our Pride is Showing", which suggested to viewers that perhaps things were getting better at the last place network. (Though it has a different connotation now.)

As things began to improve, NBC invited viewers to join them with "Let's All Be There."

By the late 1980's the peacock feathers were simplified down to just six, the 'N' logo behind the peacock was removed and the network became "The Place To Be".

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Simpsons Files: Gil Gunderson

Easily one of the saddest characters in Springfield (outside of Moe Syzslak) Gil Gunderson is a character who can never seem to catch a break. 

Chronically unemployed, Gil nonetheless keeps a positive attitude; he always feels like good luck is just around the corner. Modeled after Jack Lemmon's character in Glengarry Glen Ross, Gil was originally intended as a one shot character. Viewers loved him, however, and after the death of Phil Hartman, who voiced the sad sack lawyer Lionel Hutz, Springfield needed a similar character. Ol' Gil was brought in to fill the void and has become an important part of Springfield.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

TV Quote Weekends

"The bouncer is a bulldog who looks like Wilford Brimley and the password is diabeetus!"

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Famous Mister Ed

When Alan Young was offered the role of Wilbur Post in Mister Ed, producers wanted to name the program The Alan Young Show. He feared that the show would fail and didn't want his name on a canceled show. So the talking horse got top billing and Mister Ed was born.

Alan's fears of a colossal failure were unfounded; Mister Ed was a huge success. In fact, the show did something that very few shows do- it began life as a locally syndicated show and got picked up by a television network. In this case, it was CBS.

Perhaps the strangest thing about the show, however, was that they were able to entice Mae West, the bawdy pre-code actress out of retirement. Ms. West played an exaggerated version of herself in a fourth season episode entitled (obviously) Mae West Meets Mister Ed.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rest in Peace, Bud Yorkin

Bud Yorkin, who partnered with Norman Lear to produce some of the biggest sitcom hits of the 1970's, has passed away at age 89.

Mr. Yorkin began his career at NBC in the 1950's, producing variety shows, but it was his partnership with Norman Lear that would bring him his biggest success. Together they produced All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Maude, Good Times and many other shows.

He eventually left the company he founded with Mr. Lear and found success in his new venture, producing What's Happening and Carter Country. Mr. Yorkin's shows provided hours of laughs and entertainment for millions who grew up around and lived through the 1970's.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rest in Peace, Yvonne Craig

Yvonne Craig, who got her start in show business as a ballet dancer, has passed away at age 78. 

Ms. Craig would eventually transition to television, where she received guest starring roles on various classic television shows of the 1950's and 1960's like Perry Mason, Dobie Gillis and Star Trek.

It was her role as Barbara Gordon in Batman that would earn her a spot in television history. As the crime fighting Batgirl, she joined Batman and Robin in helping her clueless father fight Gotham City's infamous villains. 

With the recent release of the Batman series on DVD, Ms. Craig has been discovered by a newer generation, cementing her legacy for generations to come.

Ella Joyce on Newsradio

Television shows go through huge changes on their road to production. Most of the time, however, the show is mostly set in stone before the pilot airs. In the case of Newsradio it was decided that the eccentric Bill McNeil needed a foil in the broadcast booth, someone who was not only in competition with him, but could also put him in his place. That job fell to Catherine Duke, who would be played by Ella Joyce of Roc fame.

The change was made so suddenly that Catherine didn't have any lines in the pilot. She is just seen through the glass, possibly reporting on the news. When the show was officially picked up, the producers decided that Ella Joyce wasn't the right choice for Catherine and recast her with Khandi Alexander. Since the character is never referenced in the pilot and had no speaking lines, the episode was never reshot and Ella remains in it to this day.

Khandi and the guys.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mr. Lucas, Are You Free?

Trevor Bannister played the part of Mr. Lucas in Are You Being Served? for seven years. In 1979, he disappeared, replaced by Mike Berry, who played Mr. Spooner.

So why did Trevor leave the show? For years, production of the series was erratic. For some reason, the BBC would often renew the show at the last minute, scheduling production with little notice. Trevor didn't mind too much, since they always worked around his schedule of live performances.

However, after the seventh season, the BBC was certain that it might cancel the show. The cast was notified not to expect to return. Trevor made plans to perform in a live production, only to discover that the series was returning after all. Unlike in previous years, the BBC was not willing to work around Trevor's schedule. They dug in their heels and forced him to choose. He chose the live production and Are You Being Served? went back into production- without Mr. Lucas.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Colonel Klink's Demands

When Werner Klemperer agreed to play the bumbling Colonel Klink on CBS' Hogan's Heroes he had some very simple demands, none of which were costly or vain.

As a Jewish actor, he merely asked that his character always be portrayed as a buffoon and that he never be shown "winning" anything, be it an argument, scheme or discussion. The network was perfectly fine with the request and made sure that the incompetent Colonel Klink lost at everything he attempted.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

TV Quote Weekends

"When you married me you knew that I couldn't cook, I couldn't sew, and I couldn't keep house. All I could do was talk Hungarian and do imitations of Zsa Zsa Gabor."

Friday, August 14, 2015

Magic Pixies?

"I don't know where you magic pixies come from, but I sure do love your pixie drink!"

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Despite her difficult attitude and legendary substance abuse, Judy Garland was a hot commodity in television. CBS was constantly courting her to make a variety show for them and in 1963, Judy's money problems convinced her to finally take CBS' offer.

Originally meant to be a full fledged variety show with music and comedy skits, the show never caught on with viewers. CBS decided to tweak the format, asking Judy to lay off the booze and stop touching her guests. They also fired most of the cast (which included Jerry Van Dyke) and made her show more of a concert program.

Despite legendary performances like this one with Barbra Streisand, the pills, booze, attitude and low ratings killed Judy's show.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Soprano Switch

When show creator David Chase began casting for The Sopranos, he knew the perfect person to play Tony. Of course, that person was Steven Van Zandt.

Wait, what? Yes, David Chase originally wanted the famed musician to play Tony Soprano. The studio balked at giving such a high level role to someone who wasn't known for being an actor. So David Chase began looking elsewhere. He found James Gandolfini who earned the role of a lifetime.

Mr. Chase didn't forget Steven, however, writing the role of Silvio Dante specifically for him. It was yet another role of a lifetime.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Simpsons Files: Captain McCallister

The crazy sea captain who is often seen engaging in failed businesses on The Simpsons is named Captain McCallister.

His longest lasting enterprise is his restaurant called "The Rusty Barnacle", a business that is first shown when Homer sues it for cutting him off before he truly had all he could eat. The captain is also shown operating a business that rents out shoddy rafts. When Homer's rented raft sinks just moments after hitting the water, the Captain sadly admits that he doesn't know what he's doing. His restaurant is later depicted as being filthy and ridden with cockroaches, surprising everyone (including the captain himself) that it stays in business.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Who's The Real Mr. Ed?

In 1970, the world was saddened hearing that the famous Mr. Ed had died. In 1979, the world was saddened hearing that the famous Mr. Ed had passed away. Wait, what?

It's true- there are two dates when Mr. Ed allegedly died. The confusion stems from the studio's promotional department. The real Mr. Ed was Bamboo Harvester, a famous palomino who was used in Hollywood for movies. Sadly, Bamboo Harvester struggled with kidney and liver damage and passed away in 1970.

So the horse that died in 1979 must have been a fraud, right? Not exactly. He was used in publicity shots and personal appearances, since Bamboo Harvester was typically too busy  filming to do them. In fact, after Bamboo Harvester had passed away, the unnamed publicity horse became the official "Mr. Ed". If a local station chose to air Mr. Ed reruns during the 1970's and wanted some publicity, the studio would make the second one available. When he died in 1979, the news media latched onto him as being "Mr. Ed".

Sunday, August 9, 2015

TV Quote Weekends

"I'm here to see my money. They keep it in a special room in the back, with a trampoline. I'm gonna roll around in it for a while, maybe make it rain sort of like that scene from Indecent Proposal except no sex. MAYBE SEX!"

Friday, August 7, 2015

Redd Foxx Saves

LaWanda Page's performance in Sanford & Son as Aunt Esther has become classic TV. Who else could play the cantankerous church lady who loves to hate the boorish Fred Sanford?

NBC, however, thought someone else should. LaWanda was used to the world of standup. She struggled with the sitcom pacing required for a television comedy. NBC wanted her replaced. Redd Foxx, however, would have none of it. He had known LaWanda for years and trusted that she was the only person who could play Aunt Esther. He told NBC that if LaWanda was fired, he would leave alongside her. NBC caved in and LaWanda proved them wrong. She was the perfect Aunt Esther, remembered far and wide for the laughs she has provided to generations of television viewers.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Match Game Fame

Many celebrities participate in game shows to make some quick money while they're waiting for their careers to take off. Brian Billick, then a failed NFL player, tried to play Match Game but he was very bad at it. So bad, in fact, that the prickly Richard Dawson mocked him on the air. Mr. Billick was able to get the last laugh when he coached the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl and won in 2001.

How's that tea taste now, Newkirk? Bitter?

Famed trashy talk show host Jenny Jones also tried her luck on the show, walking away with a tidy sum.

Dumb Dora was so dumb, she permed her hair and looked like a <blank>.

Years before losing her mind, Kirstie Alley also made a run for the big bucks. She didn't win, but then again didn't fail miserably like Mr. Billick.

Sorry, Kirstie, Xenu is not a match. He'll never be a match.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Perry Mason and the Case of the Future Starfleet Lieutenant

Before he played his iconic role on the Enterprise, George Takei played a young man whose uncle was murdered on Perry Mason. He was not accused of the crime, nor did he commit it, but he served as a witness for master lawyer Perry Mason.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What Happened on What's Happening

Various salary disputes, accidents and differences rocked the beloved show What's Happening. As a result, only one actor appeared in every episode of the show- Haywood Nelson.

Hey, HEY, hey!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Whitney Blake's One Day at a Time

Whitney Blake was well-known as the mother from the classic TV show Hazel.

Lesser known is that she she was the co-creator of the 1970's classic sitcom One Day at a Time.

She based the show on her own experiences raising her family as a divorced mother. A family that included her daughter Meredith Baxter. Which brings up an interesting question- was Meredith like Barbara or Julie?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

TV Quote Weekends

"My great aunt Eureka Nessman lived in a house very like this once, all alone. She had a little parakeet and she used to let it fly free throughout the house. Then she bought another parakeet, and another, and more and more until finally there were thousands of parakeets. And the mess they made was beyond belief. Aunt Eureka had gone insane of course, living all alone in a house very much like this one."