Friday, July 22, 2016

Garry Marshall: TV Heydays

Garry Marshall had amazed the television industry with his monster hit Happy Days. ABC was eager to give Garry free reign to develop more hits. Garry would create another huge hit, only this time it would be something he would share with his sister. Laverne & Shirley would feature Garry's sister Penny as Laverne, a streetwise young lady whose best friend Shirley was a bright eyed innocent. The show was a monster success. ABC was becoming a force to be reckoned with due to the Marshalls.


The show eclipsed even Happy Days, rocketing to number one and spawning an entire album of songs sung by the two girls. (Though oddly not the chart topping theme song sung by Cindy Grecco.) Garry would make his biggest discovery for the next monster hit in his empire.

With Star Wars becoming a big hit, Garry pondered making a space themed show. His son's love of the action figures cemented his thinking. He decided to try a fanciful episode of Happy Days where an alien visits Milwaukee and the Cunninghams. Garry would search for an actor who could play a manic alien and he found him in Robin Williams, an up and coming comedian. The network was unsure about this show, but after a now legendary evening of filming, their doubts disappeared.


Robin Williams dazzled those present with his manic performance. The live studio audience went crazy, giving him a standing ovation at the end. Everyone there was certain they had seen a star being born- Robin Williams. ABC quickly picked up the new program Mork & Mindy, in which the alien Mork would move in with a young, single woman. Would the show be as successful as everyone believed it would be? It would.


The show was a monster success- there were toys, coloring books, lunch boxes and more. People loved Mork and the show became an even bigger hit. Garry Marshall had truly conquered television in a way even he had never dreamed of.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Garry Marshall: The Happy Days

Garry Marshall would soon prove that one could strike gold more than once, but it didn't seem like it at first. In 1971, Garry was looking for a new project he could work on. He came up with an idea for a family show set in the 1950's. He guessed that the show would sell well in syndication because  since it was set in the past to begin with, it would never look dated. He produced a pilot called New Family in Town which starred Harold Gould as the father, Marion Ross as the mother and Ron Howard as their son. ABC rejected the pilot.


Nowadays, that's typically the end of the road. But at the time, the big three networks would repackage failed pilots in anthology series. In this case, Garry's show would air as part of Love American Style, which was essentially ABC's pilot graveyard with some other one-off scripts rotated in, often featuring hasbeens.

As the 1970's wore on, however, the pilot would prove to be ahead of its time. A 1950's craze hit the United States and young director George Lucas sought to take advantage by making a nostalgic film inspired by his teen years- American Graffiti. Ron Howard desperately wanted a role in the film and suggested that George Lucas view that pilot from 1971. He requested a copy from the network, which had forgotten aboutit When Ron was cast and the film was a huge success it became a priority project for ABC, who gave Garry the go ahead to do whatever he needed to get this project going. Ron Howard, Marion Ross and Anson Williams from the original pilot would sign on to the new show. Tom Bosley would become the new patriarch and a little known actor who Garry was certain could be a bigger star- Henry Winkler- would get the recurring role of "Fonzie" the street tough with a heart of gold.


The stars were aligned this time. Garry's rejected pilot had become the biggest hit of the 1970's. Happy Days indeed!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Garry Marshall: The Early Days

Garry Marshall started his career in show business by writing jokes for Joey Bishop. He soon found a staff position on the Tonight Show with Jack Parr. When Jack passed the hosting job to Johnny Carson, Garry moved out west to Hollywood, teaming up with Jerry Belson to become a writing team. Together, they wrote for such classic programs as The Dick Van Dyke Show, Danny Thomas and The Lucy Show. 

A young Garry cavorting with Marlo Thomas

NBC soon rewarded the team with their first sitcom- Hey Landlord! a sitcom about a brownstone filled with eccentric tenants. It lasted just one season, but it led to the pair's first breakout hit- their adaptation of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple for ABC. Starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, the show became an instant classic. Many would consider themselves lucky to be a part of one classic project. For Garry, however, it was just the beginning.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Rest in Peace, Garry Marshall


Hollywood legend Garry Marshall, creator of many of the biggest sitcom hits of the 1970's and 1980's has passed away at age 81. Temporary Layoffs will suspend its regular schedule this week to honor Garry Marshall and his immeasurable contributions to television. 

Lost at ABC


Monday, July 18, 2016

The Nashville Network

In the early 1980's, a gold rush was in effect on cable TV. Companies were claiming their piece of the cable dial, becoming the kids network, the music network, etc. one early contender was The Nashville Network, which aimed to be more than just a country MTV. Years before MTV diversified its programming, The Nashville Network was airing talk shows, sitcoms and other non-video programming. Operating out of Nashville, the channel sought to promote its Nashville based properties- the Grand Old Opry, the Opryland theme park and its other Nashville properties.


By the late 1990's, the cable channel had been sold and its new owners felt that its audience was too old. They decided to embrace younger country acts and make a run as a younger hipper network- TNN.


The newly rebooted channel bombed and it became The National Network, a general programming channel. Seen as being too generic, it eventually became Spike TV, a channel geared towards young men.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

"The Simpsons" Episode #2: "Bart the Genius" 7G02

"I Will Not Waste Chalk"

And so it began- the first regular season episode of The Simpsons- Bart the Genius. Airing on January 14, 1990 it was actually the second produced episode. After the first episode fell flat, it was put on the shelf and this one put in its place. It started the show's original trend of showcasing Bart each week.


In this episode, Bart's class must take an IQ test. Bart blows it off, choosing to replace his paper with Martin Prince's test. After Bart gets caught defacing school property, Homer and Marge are summoned to the school where they are surprised to learn that Bart is extremely gifted. He is removed from his regular class and sent to a gifted school where he soon finds himself in over his head. After an unfortunate explosion caused by Bart's lack of chemistry knowledge, he confesses to the counselor. Soon all returned back to normal.


While this was a weaker episode than the Christmas special, it was good enough for Fox. As were the ratings. The series was successfully launched.

Monday, July 11, 2016

"The Simpsons" Episode #1: "Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire" 7G08


Before The Simpsons aired its first episode, it already had problems. Television industry analysts predicted that it would fail because animation wouldn't work in prime time. The show had also missed its Fall premiere date after its original first episode- Some Enchanted Evening, was rejected by Fox due to poor animation quality. With its premiere pushed off to January of 1990, Fox was beginning to believe that the analysts were right.

Luckily for Fox, it had a great opportunity to recapture momentum after the bad press. The show's Christmas episode was shown to executives who quickly breathed a sigh of relief; it was deemed to be the best episode of the entire first batch. Despite originally scheduled to be the last of the first batch of episodes to air, Fox decided to air it first- on December 17, 1989. It proved to be a successful decision.

In this episode, we are introduced to the family in the process of celebrating Christmas. At work, Homer discovers that the power plant is cutting out Christmas bonuses. He expresses his relief that they still have their secret Christmas money stash. Meanwhile, Marge takes the kids to the mall where Bart tricks a tattoo parlor into giving him one. Marge is then forced to spend the secret Christmas money stash getting the half finished tattoo removed by laser. She expresses relief that they still have Homer's bonus.

When Homer realizes that they have neither a bonus nor the money stash, he panics, but chooses to not tell Marge or the kids. At first, he tries to stretch his budget at the dollar store, but he realizes that isn't going to work. Barney tells him that he can make money as Santa Claus. Unfortunately, he doesn't make enough money after taxes, suit rental, etc to afford Christmas. He takes Bart and his cash to the dog track, where he hopes to hit it big. He loses all of his money betting on a dog named "Santa's Little Helper" who then gets booted out from the dog track for losing. Homer and Bart take the dog home and Marge assumes that the dog is their family gift.


After the episode aired, Fox could finally breathe a sigh of relief. The show had been a huge success, though it would still face some skeptics. Would viewers return in January once regular episodes started airing? Only time would tell.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Rest in Peace, Noel Neill

Noel Neill, an actress from Hollywood's golden age best known for her role as Lois Lane in the 1950's television series Superman has passed away at age 95.


Ms. Neill had played Lois Lane in the Superman serials on the big screen but was not originally considered for the role on the television series. Fate intervened after a lengthy pre-production period precluded the original actress from taking the role as Lois. Ms. Neill was then approached and she willingly accepted the role that would come to define her- the spunky reporter Lois Lane who, along with the rest of Metropolis, couldn't seem to grasp that mild mannered Clark Kent was really Superman.

Typecast as Lois Lane, Neill found it difficult to continue her acting career, instead taking a behind the scenes production job at United Artists and retiring from being on camera. She came out of retirement to work on various Superman projects, the last being 1996's Superman Returns.