Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Serious Business: Murder, He Did

The first murderer put away by Jessica Fletcher was “Preston Giles,” who ran the publishing house that printed Ms. Fletcher’s first book. Played by actor Arthur Hill, the character was the only “murderer” who would return to the show and then get subsequently murdered.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Happy Days: “Capitol Critters”

The massive success of The Simpsons caused the other networks to begin green lighting animated television shows that, in retrospect, seem ridiculous. One such show was the notorious Capitol Critters, which was greenlit by ABC. The show would feature a mismatched gang of rodents and vermin who lived under the United States Capitol building. (Isn’t that hilarious?!?) The show had a curious pedigree- it was produced by the high-end producer Steven Bochco in association with the low-rent Hanna Barbera.

Despite the obvious folly of this ridiculous show, Hanna Barbera seemingly thought highly of the show’s potential and was able to sell both Burger King and Kenner Toys on the show’s prospects.

Not surprisingly, the show was quickly canceled by ABC, who didn’t even air all of the 13 produced episodes. The merchandise had barely hit store shelves when the axe fell on the show.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Temporary Layoffs News: Pearson Canceled

According to TVLine.com, Suits spinoff Pearson has been canceled after one season. The show, which focused on Gina Torres’ Suits character Jessica Pearson reportedly received half the viewership of Suits, which ended its run this summer. For the full story, click here:

Halloween Week

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Temporary Layoffs News: Green Lantern Returns

Eight years after Green Lantern underperformed at the box office, HBO Max is resurrecting him on the small screen. Will DC TV’s Magic man Greg Berlanti strike gold with a distressed property? Only time will tell.

Halloween Week

Sunday, October 27, 2019

NEW FEATURE: Temporary Layoffs News!

Beginning tomorrow evening, we’ll highlight one TV related news article EVERY evening! This will be in addition to our regular morning feature. Check back each evening after 6PM PDT (9PM EDT) beginning tomorrow!

Fake Hallmark Channel Movies

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Deep Dive Rewind: Charlie Brown, Part Four

Prior to the Peanuts specials, television animation was seen as being cheap and disposable. Walt Disney wouldn’t even touch it and what did air was mostly repackaged theatrical cartoons. Charles Shultz didn’t want to make cheap specials that wouldn’t be remembered thirty minutes after they aired. He was looking to create something special that would outlive him. While Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison were most likely delighted that the special would have legs, they probably hadn’t expected that the specials would still be watched and enjoyed 50 years later.

Much of the credit for that goes to the team that was assembled to produce the show. Bill Melendez, who produced the animation and Vince Guaraldi who produced the score had the same high standards that Charles Schulz championed. They wouldn’t talk down to kids or assume that quality didn’t matter because the specials were “just for kids”.

It was this attention to detail and quality that made these specials live long past the expiration date of other less ambitious productions from the same time period.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Deep Dive Rewind: Charlie Brown, Part Three

Unlike other cartoonists who often just collect paychecks when their creations are adapted for television, Charles Schulz took an active role in the Peanuts specials. He wrote the script, inserting some of the more iconic scenes into the special. He also handpicked Bill Melendez, who had become a trusted friend, to produce the animation. The partnership had earned them an Emmy for A Charlie Brown Christmas and they had high hopes for the Halloween special.

While still somewhat of a ratings success, the followup to A Charlie Brown Christmas- Charlie Brown’s All-Stars- was seen as a lesser effort. Schulz wanted their Halloween outing to dazzle.

Oddly enough, despite CBS’ original admonition that A Charlie Brown Christmas was too religious, Charles Schulz decided to go with a suspiciously religious seeming storyline. Linus is depicted as believing in a mysterious figure who never actually shows up. Despite everyone’s doubts, Linus fervently believes in the Great Pumpkin. The audience is taught that one can have faith in something that they can’t see or hear.

Despite the seemingly obvious religious overtones, Charles Schulz insisted that he didn’t intend for the Great Pumpkin to be considered a metaphor for God. He saw the Great Pumpkin as being a Halloween version of Santa Claus, though he wasn’t too upset if people believed that the Great Pumpkin was a stand in for God.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Deep Dive Rewind: Charlie Brown, Part Two

To understand why Charles Schulz was willing to incorporate such blatant advertising into his specials, we must look back at how American television was funded in its early years.

 In the beginning, most programming was presented by one sponsor. This was a holdover from radio, which used the same method for financing programming. On these shows, advertising was directly inserted into the shows. For example, Texaco’s Star Theater might feature a song or skit extolling Texaco’s virtues. The line between program and advertisement was therefore extremely blurred. Even more concerning to creators was that the sponsors had a ton of control over show content. A representative for the sponsor would sit in on every meeting with full veto control.

By the mid-1960’s, however, this method of sponsorship had lost favor with both the television networks and the advertisers. The networks could gain more freedom over their own production slates by selling 30 & 60 second slots to multiple advertisers who were removed from the production process completely. Advertisers enjoyed the freedom to spread their advertising dollars around instead of putting all of it in one basket. Some advertisers still liked the old method, however, so a hybrid was formed. That was the method used for the Peanuts specials.

This hybrid sponsorship typically had one or two “named” sponsors, in this case, Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison. In addition to getting featured in the opening title sequence as part of the animation, the brands would be featured in all CBS advertising in the run up to the airing. Additionally, there would be a handful of traditional slots divvied up among the two sponsors. The remaining inventory could be sold by CBS, who could pocket the proceeds as their share of the program’s profits. CBS was restricted from selling ads to Pepsi or Hostess Snack Cakes, But could otherwise sell the slots as it wished. It was a win for everyone involved.

At first, CBS had viewed a Peanuts special as being too risky and expensive. With builtin sponsorship, the network became more comfortable with airing the programming. If Charles Schulz hadn’t already brought along Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison, he might have never been able to produce the show at all. That he was able to produce such high quality programming without too much commercialism creeping into the content was cause for celebration.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Deep Dive Rewind: Charlie Brown, Part One

The origins of the Peanuts on television began in 1959 with the production of a series of animated commercials for the Ford Motor Company. The commercials were produced by Bill Melendez, whose work attracted the attention of Charles Schulz. Schulz and Melendez became fast friends, so when Schulz was approached by Coca-Cola to create a series of specials he instantly chose Bill to produce them. 

Good, grief- it’s a Ford!

Charles Schulz, center. Bill Melendez, right.

The first special produced would become an instant classic- A Charlie Brown Christmas. The special was initially seen as being too religious by the network, but audiences embraced it. The irony behind the production was that it was sponsored by Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison snack cakes yet had a strong anti-consumerism message. A second special was commissioned- Charlie Brown’s All-Stars- that didn’t do as well as the first one. It performed good enough to warrant a third special, one tied to an up and coming holiday- Halloween.

Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison quickly signed off on the production. Halloween was a good fit for their family brands and they doubtless hoped that tying themselves to it might get their products served at Halloween parties. Bill Melendez was the only one Charles Schulz trusted with his creations and everyone involved hoped that he could create another evergreen classic like A Charlie Brown Christmas.