Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day! NBC's 29th Season- 1965-1966

NBC's 29th season on television would be huge. Not only would the majority of its programming finally switch over to color, but it would premiere one of the television shows that was so legendarily bad, it would take a spot as one of the worst shows ever made. Here are the new shows that debuted on NBC that Fall:

Run For Your Life starred Ben Gazzara as a man who had a short time to live. He decides to squeeze the rest of his life into the short time he has left. The show lasted three seasons and Ben Gazzara would go on to become better known as the villain from Road House.

The absolute biggest failure of the season was My Mother, the Car which starred Jerry Van Dyke as the man whose mother became reincarnated as a car. It is generally regarded as one of the worst television shows ever made.

The Dean Martin Show was one of the longest lasting shows that was added to NBC's schedule that year. The variety show would remain on the schedule until 1974.

Please Don't Eat the Daisies was an adaptation of the book and the movie. The show turned few heads and ran just two short seasons; its biggest claim to fame being that it featured a young Bonnie Franklin.

The classic I Spy premiered in 1965. The groundbreaking show which featured one of the first multi-cultural casts.

The comedy classics Get Smart and I Dream of Jeannie both received their starts this season on NBC. I Dream of Jeannie's season would be notable as one of the rare black and white broadcasts on NBC. The show would turn to color the very next year.

The longest running show that premiered that season was Days of our Lives, a soap opera that continues to this very day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Oscar Week: Rob Lowe and the Tackiest Oscars Ever!

It was the tackiest Oscar show ever. Produced by schlockmeister Alan Carr who showed a propensity for tackiness by producing Can't Stop the Music, the show set the bar low with its opening number, a lavish musical set featuring a bizarre faux Snow White who wore red ruby slippers for some reason and cavorted with a tone deaf Rob Lowe.

Why anyone thought this tacky presentation was a good idea is anyone's guess. They even sing a bizarre version of Proud Mary, except with all new lyrics:

Now you made it big in the movies

Came to Hollywood, learned to play the game

You became a star, Miss Animated Mama 

Earned yourself a place in the Walk of Fame

Klieg lights keep on burnin'

Cameras keep on turnin', 

Rollin', rollin', Keep the cameras rollin'!

This tacky, tuneless segment raised the ire of Hollywood. The Walt Disney Company, Julie Andrews and many others criticized the entire production. Allan Carr would never be allowed near the Academy Awards telecast again.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Are You Being Served- AGAIN?!?

The BBC has announced that it is rebooting several of its classic comedies, including Are You Being Served? Most of the major cast has been set, but how do they match up with the originals?

Mr. Grainger

Captain Peacock

Mrs. Slocombe

Mr. Humphries

Miss Brahms

Mr. Harman

Mr. Lucas and Young Mr. Grace will be represented by two new characters- Mr. Coleman will be the junior and Young Mr. Grace will be represented by his grandson.

Young Mr. Grace and Grandson

The Old Junior and the New Junior Salesperson

The new show will supposedly take place in 1988. Young Mr. Grace's grandson takes over the store and wants to modernize things, bringing the store into the 1980's. Will he succeed? The BBC plans to film one episode with the new cast and pick up the show if it succeeds.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Oscar Week: An Unfortunate Shortcoming

In 1974, Academy Awards security was tight. "Streaking" was popular with the youth of the day and many people assumed that someone would try to run naked onstage. The producers even wrote a joke if the occasion came up. It did and David Niven was the "lucky" person who got to use it- 

"Isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?"

Oscar Week: The Awards Will Be Televised...

The first Academy Awards ceremony that was broadcast on television was in 1953 on NBC. Hollywood had originally been reluctant to team up with television, which was still seen as an enemy, but when NBC offered cash to broadcast what was essentially a three hour commercial for film, the Academy decided to go for it.

It was a success and soon the Academy found its award show to be a hot commodity. NBC would air the broadcast until 1960, when ABC won the bidding war to broadcast it. In 1970, NBC took over again, airing the broadcast until 1976. At that point, ABC won control of the telecast and has aired it ever since.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Who Was... Fess Parker?

In the mid 1950's, Fess Parker's career appeared to be going nowhere. Stuck in B-Films, he was beginning to enter a crossroads- if his career wasn't going to take off the way he'd hoped, he would have to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. What happened next was beyond his wildest dreams.

Fess caught the eye of the man who would change his life forever- Walt Disney. Mr. Disney thought Fess would be perfect to play the role of Davy Crockett. Little did Fess know that the role would vault him from near obscurity to one of the most famous faces of the 1950's. Davy Crockett was everywhere- movies, TV, music, even DISNEYLAND. It was a one in a million opportunity and it catapulted Mr. Parker into a world of fame and wealth. The boys of America wanted to grow up to be just like him and he became the first big television celebrity.

Rather than fritter away his newfound wealth, Mr. Parker proved to be a great investor. He soon found himself owning a winery, resorts and hotels. Fess didn't need to act anymore and practically retired after his second big hit- Daniel Boone, left the airwaves.

Eager to follow in the footsteps of the man who started it all for him, Fess looked north for a new opportunity; he wanted to build a Frontier theme park and purchased several hundred acres in Santa Clara, California for a possible theme park. Fess hired the same man who did the initial feasibility studies for DISNEYLAND to assess the opportunities in Santa Clara. The opportunities were good, but Fess had a hard time convincing his business partners to actually build the park. J.W. Marriott, who had seen the success of DISNEYLAND had dreams of his own; he wanted to build three parks, one of which would be on the west coast. Since Mr. Parker had already gotten much of the footwork completed, the Marriott Corporation entered into an agreement to buy the land from Fess Parker. Marriott's Great America opened in 1976, just in time to celebrate America's centennial. Mr. Parker's dream came true, only for someone else.

In December 2004, Mr. Parker returned to the place where it all began- DISNEYLAND- to receive a rare honor- a window in Frontierland- the land that Davy Crockett built.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Rest in Peace, Big Ang

Angela "Big Ang" Raiola, the larger than life reality star of Mob Wives has passed away at age 55.

Ms. Raiola was not originally part of the regular cast of Mob Wives but her one of a kind personality made her a fan favorite. She soon became a regular cast member, often providing the voice of reason when her fellow Mob Wives went off the deep end.

Her outlandish wardrobe and unapologetic love of plastic surgery were only part of her appeal; she was easily the most likable and relatable of all the Mob Wives. Her vibrant personality will certainly be missed.

Rest in Peace, George Gaynes

George Gaynes, who was best known for his roles in the Police Academy franchise and television's Punky Brewster has passed away at age 98.

Mr. Gaynes was born in Helsinki in 1917, though his family immigrated to the United States when he was quite young. Mr. Gaynes got his start on Broadway, acting mostly in musical comedies. He didn't make the transition to film until 1963 when he starred in PT109. Alternating between stage, screen and television, he didn't become a recognized name in show business until 1984's Police Academy, where he played the addled Commander Lassard who often found himself the butt of the cadets' jokes. That same year he found even greater success as the old codger Henry Warnimont who adopts the troublesome orphan Punky Brewster.

His other roles were in such critically acclaimed films as Tootsie and lesser efforts such as the unreleased original version of Fantastic Four.

Mr. Gaynes leaves behind his wife of over fifty years and two children. His work- and the laughs it provided- will live on in the hearts of his millions of fans around the world.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Who Was... Don DeFore?

The name Don DeFore may not seem familiar to many viewers today, but Mr. DeFore was involved in some of the most legendary television shows and creations of the 1950's and 60's. He starred as "Thorny", the snooping neighbor of the Nelsons on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

His friendship with Walt Disney led to his lucrative business in DISNEYLAND- Don DeFore's Silver Banjo Barbeque. The restaurant made its home next door to the Aunt Jemima's Pancake House in Frontierland. It eventually closed once DISNEYLAND began replacing concessionaires with company owned businesses.

Those two facts would be enough to make him a legend, but Mr. DeFore also starred as the hapless father in the classic sitcom Hazel.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

CBS Television City

CBS Television City is one of the largest television studios in Hollywood. Located next to The Grove, a shopping complex in Southern California, CBS Television City has been hosting shows since 1952.

Designed by William Pereira who also worked on the DISNEYLAND Hotel and the Transamerica Pyramid, the studio has been the home of American Idol, The Carol Burnett Show, Big Brother, All in the Family and so many more shows, too numerous to mention.

While the complex is owned by CBS, it is available for most any production, regardless of which network it appears on. One of Television City's longest running tenants is The Price is Right. Eagle-eyed tourists can often spot the show's larger prizes sitting out in the studio's gated parking lot, waiting to be won on the show's sound stage. Because of its need for live studio audiences, the studio is one of Hollywood's most visited locations outside of Universal Studios despite offering no public tours.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Network Failure

There have been three failed broadcast networks on American television. The first to fail was the DuMont Network.

DuMont actually predated ABC; in fact, ABC originally produced programming for DuMont. DuMont originally made television sets, but they were slow to move because programming was scarce.  DuMont decided to start up its own network to produce the programming they felt was needed in order to make their television sets move off store shelves. Consumers eventually did embrace television, but not DuMont's programming. Due to this and many other issues, the network eventually folded, leaving ABC, CBS and NBC.

The big three solely dominated broadcast television until 1986. 20th Century Fox had somehow arranged a scraggly group of affiliates that were hungry for programming. They decided to start up their own network, gaining an exemption from the rules that applied to the other networks. Against the odds, Fox thrived. The FCC soon relaxed rules for all networks, which threatened the studios that were not aligned with networks. This worried Warner Brothers and Paramount who started up their own networks- the WB and UPN.

Both networks had a rough start, though UPN had luckily been granted a gift from its parent studio; a new Star Trek series that proved to be a stable presence. The WB used its famed Looney Tunes characters to establish a firm hold on weekly afternoon programming. Its prime time schedule was a different story. Eventually, it became unfeasible for the two networks ro exist as separate entities. They were both shut down and combined into one network- The CW.

Friday, February 12, 2016

USA Network in the 1980's

The USA Network looked much different in the 1980's than it does today. Now known as a home of NCIS and Law & Order: SVU reruns plus some stellar original programming, the network originally ran just about anything it could get its hands on in the 80's. Lower tier syndicated sitcoms, 1970's game show reruns and rock bottom programming like Dance Party USA, an American Bandstand clone filmed in Philadelphia and sponsored by Esleep.

The overnight television programming Night Flight presented a cavalcade of B-Movies and MTV rejected music videos. Pretty much anything cheap that could conceivably be considered programming.

Despite being called "USA Network", the cable channel also found time on the schedule for various Canadian game shows. 

American audiences were none the wiser that these productions originated from Canada up until the contestants spoke about "going oot" and telling their fellow contestants how "sore-y" they were. (The consolation prizes of Kraft Dinner and poutine mix were dead giveaways as well.)

The dawn of the 1990's meant greener pastures for USA, though the network's current streak of original programming wouldn't take flight until 2000.