Friday, April 28, 2017
*NBC's slogan at the time was indeed "Let's All be There!" NBC was also "The Place to Be" in the early 1990s.
*What was the approximate age of the characters? Hard to find definitive proof, though I read in two places that Dorothy said Rose was 55 in one episode. These are the ages of the actresses when the show debuted:
Bea Arthur 63
Betty White 63
Estelle Getty 61
Rue McClanahan 51
*Check here next week for another BOTNS Investigative Report on the story behind the rise and fall of gay houseboy Coco.
*Herb Edelman, AKA Stan Zbornac, had a long and prolific career in character parts, though he died way too young at 62. He was Murray the cop in the original fiLm version of The Odd Couple and co-starred in the sitcom The Good Guys with a post-Gilligan Bob Denver.
*Golden Girls spinoff Empty Nest ran a staggering 7 seasons and 170 episodes on NBC!
*Burt Reynolds needs no introduction nor summary of his legendary career, but in case you forgot about Cop and a Half, it was a 1993 comedy flop directed by Henry Winkler and teaming His Burtness with a precocious 8-year-old. Oh, and Burt's character hates kids, of course. And they work together to solve a crime--not just a crime, mind you, but a murder.
*Jerry Reed was a country star and actor and also the creator of the theme for Burt's smash hit Smokey and the Bandit.
*The Golden Girls' house apparently had 4 bedrooms. Sophia moved in and shared a bed with her daughter Dorothy when a guest came over (well, not counting the "guests" that Blanche brought home). SOURCE: An episode I watched after we taped this episode.
*We have been unable to verify the existence of any Golden Girls conventions, but we dd discover there is a well-regarded podcast, one we did not know about before taping our episode: http://www.outonthelanai.com/
*Golden Palace attempted to keep the show going without Bea(trice) Arthur (who did appear in several episodes). The other 3 gals opened a hotel, moved to CBS (well, the show did) and flopped, though not as badly as did Cop and a Half.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Tickets to the world premiere and after party for Mr. Burt Reynolds' latest movie land the Golden Girls in exactly the wrong place--jail...for prostitution. Will they get out in time to meet Burt and the rest of the Burt Pack? Will Rose ever get over losing Butter Queen? Will Burt lead a game of Win, Lose, or Draw? It all depends on the kindness of Sophia! Uh-oh.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
This is a remarkable clip. Watch this footage of Jane Pauley interviewing Billingsley on Today the next day following the explosion:
Billingsley is so poised that you almost don't question the tastefulness of interviewing a kid--even a seasoned pro used to being on camera--about one of the most traumatic events of the decade--one he saw in person, no less. But I do. I don't really think it was a great idea, but full credit to Billingsley for pulling this off.
Notice how at the end he deflects an opportunity to puff up his own role in the YAP, staying "on message" and emphasizing the larger aspects of his role and avoiding seeming at all immodest. It's kind of a thankless spot for Jane Pauley, too, but I think the segment ends up being as tasteful as it could have been, all things considered.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
Friday, April 21, 2017
*George Schlatter told the Archive of Academy Television that the series came about when his agent told him Fred Silverman was looking for a show with...real people. Schlatter liked the title Real People and the concept, and it started as a pair of specials, was expanded to 6, and then scored big in summer reruns and became NBC's big hit.
*In the same interview, Schlatter talks about the serious stories the show did, many of which were later adapted into feature films, and takes credit for George Foreman's comeback!
*Silverman called the show the forerunner of shows like A Current Affair and Inside Edition. He also claimed the show became number one, though it never was number one for an entire season.
*Imitator That's Incredible! aired on ABC 1980-1984. Also like Real People, it was later chopped into 30-minute versions for syndicated reruns. It was created by Alan Landsburg Productions, which of course also gave us In Search Of...
*PM Magazine was a syndicated light newsmagazine show airing weekday evenings. Local hosts and segments customized the show, but many features were shared among various stations.
*The Real People spinoff Speak Up America started as specials, then lasted only a few months as a regular Friday night series. Similarly, Real Kids (1981) flopped, and it apparently doesn't even have an IMDB entry.
*Here is the L.A. Times article about the Sarah Purcell "flu shot" incident we discuss on the podcast.
*Byron Allen was 22 when this episode premiered.
*Barbara Billingsley of Leave It to Beaver fame was married to Peter Billingsley's mother's cousin Glenn, but the two are not related by blood.
*America's Funniest Videos is still on ABC!
*Dale Lowdermilk, founder of Not Safe, is apparently still around. As recently as Fall 2016, he wrote a sarcastic letter to The New York Post suggesting that mayors in "liberal cities" should ban pressure cookers, knives, and garbage cans to create safe spaces in responses to terrorist attacks.
*Post updated to reflect acrurate relationship of Barbara and Peter Billingsley. - ed.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
This week, we talk about early reality show Real People, featuring hosts Sarah Purcell, Skip Stephenson, Byron Allen, Bill Rafferty, and Peter Billingsley plus a whole bunch of real people. Topics in the the show include arm wrestling, rodeos, and guppies. Topics in the podcast include Byron Allen's interviewing skills, a live "mishap" in Sarah Purcell's later career, and the show's attitude towards Peter Billingsley. We also confirm whether or not Rick and Mike are, in fact, real people.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
What I would most like to see again from those days, though, is a commercial I remember running, oh, roughly ALL THE TIME. It was an extended spot soliciting subscriptions for William F. Buckley's right-wing mag National Review. I remember Buckley posh-ing his way through a sophisticated pitch for the ideas and intellectual debate offered by his publication. At some point, though, who should show up but Thomas J. Magnum himself--that is, Tom Selleck! That's right, Selleck was the token TV conservative years before anyone had heard of Kelsey Grammer of Patricia Heaton.
Selleck took a different route, emphasizing not the magazine's cogent analysis of free-market economics, but rather its humor. He assured the viewers it wasn't some stuffy, boring collection of thought pieces by eggheads. "It's a very funny magazine," I remember him saying.
That's what I remember. I can't find the actual ad. How can something that aired millions of times (give or take a few dozen) in the 1980s be unavailable on the Internet. Despite having access to the vast Cultureshark media collection, our own BOTNS crack research team, and a reliable bookmark for YouTube, I can't track down this elusive ad.
Does anyone have the spot or memories of it? Until we find this memorable commercial, here's an old one with Chuck Heston. It isn't the same, but it will have to do for today.
Monday, April 17, 2017
*The Magnum Mania episode description includes information on some in-show discrepancies about their generational designations, concluding that Pine plays Thomas Sullivan Magnum III and Selleck plays Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV. This episode implies a senior-junior relationship, but the series finale reveals that Magnum's grandfather and great grandfather also carried the name Thomas Sullivan Magnum. "Home From the Sea" also establishes Magnum's birth year as 1945, although other episodes contradict that.Let's get the bad news out of the way first. Selleck and Pine don't appear in any scenes together (unless you count disembodied voice-over). With these two powerhouses, however, this doesn't diminish the episode, and their performances still create a real, indelible connection between the two characters.
"Home From the Sea" originally aired September 29, 1983, as the season four premiere and squarely in the peak era for Magnum. It lands at number six on Magnum Mania's Top 40 List (seven season four episodes make this list, which technically has 46 episodes). It also marks the first in a series of three episodes set on July 4, all featuring Magnum in some kind of peril partly because, as we learn here, he prefers to spend the Fourth by himself, understandable given what this episode reveals but a little unwise given the predicaments this leads to.
The episode begins with Magnum on the ocean on his surf ski, his voice-over explaining his desire to spend the holiday alone. While he takes a breather, a speed boat whips past him, its wake capsizing him, and the waves carrying his surf ski away. Magnum gives them a peace of his mind, but of course, they still don't notice him.
It doesn't take long for him to explain the potentially dire circumstances. Though only three miles offshore, an easy swim for him, he could get caught in the Moloka'i Express, a fast current between the islands of O'ahu and Moloka'i that could send him all the way to Alaska! He swims in the direction he thinks his surf ski drifted, but the audience sees he's made a bad choice.
We cut away from Magnum to check in on Higgins, T.C., and Rick. Higgins wants to whip some Yankee butt in an annual polo competition. T.C. is taking his little league team to a minor league baseball game (and forcing them to sing the "cornball" "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"). Rick has taken a yacht trip with a beautiful if unsophisticated young woman in a bikini. During their scenes, they all have vague premonitions that Magnum's in some kind of danger, and T.C. even remembers a Fourth of July when he dropped Magnum and a surfboard in the ocean.
Magnum treads water, and here we get to the meat--and the Pine--of the episode as we flash back to a beach near San Diego in 1950. A five-year-old Magnum treads water, trying to beat his own record, his dad timing and encouraging him, pushing him to work harder but with the right balance of enthusiasm and discipline, never making his son feel bad and making him feel great about his accomplishments.
Back onshore, we see Magnum's mom, and these three make a picture-perfect family, but we learn that isn't quite the case. The elder Magnum, a Navy pilot, has to ship out to Korea soon, but he promises a watch identical to his if lil' Magnum can reach a new goal by the time he returns--treading water for one hour.
This memory gives present-day Magnum the strength to continue to tread water and fight his fatigue and fear. That fear only grows when a shark begins circling him.
In another flashback, we see the Magnum family at night on the beach. Lil' Magnum worries about monsters, but Dad gives him some advice, telling him that if he names the monsters they won't seem as scary. They name the monster Herman and yell at him to go away. In the present, Magnum does the same with the shark...and it works!
Donald Bellisario's script and Pine's performance (along with child actor R.J. Williams and Susan Blanchard as Katherine Magnum) create a believable but perfect father figure. He's a good-looking military man who encourages his son in athletic endeavors, but unlike many men of his generation, he doesn't dismiss or even discourage his son's feelings. Instead, he offers patient advice on how to overcome them. In an unspoken way, he also seems to be preparing Magnum in case he doesn't return from Korea.
In fact, he doesn't return alive. In a scene that cuts between the present and Magnum trying to continue to tread water until the sunrise and a flashback. In the past, Katherine counts down as young Magnum approaches the one-hour mark. Back in the present, T.C. and Higgins approach via helicopter (along with Rick who had unwittingly passed Magnum in the night, they've figured out the situation). Magnum's mom continues to count down. Behind her a Navy car pulls to a stop, and a man in uniform. Young Magnum nears his record. Higgins leaps from the helicopter with a life preserver, but Magnum can't stop. He needs to do it "for dad." The Naval officer stands behind Katherine. We don't hear the news, but we don't have to. In the present Magnum beats the record allows Higgins to take hold of him as he shouts, "I did it, Dad!"
Then we get our final flashback, the elder Magnum's military funeral. It happens on July 4, 1951, and we now know why Magnum prefers to spend the holiday alone.
Pine, Williams, and Blanchard carry much of the episode, but not surprisingly, the regular cast does stellar work, as well. Selleck spends the entire episode in the water and has to play varying degrees of desperation, delusion, grief, hope. The others play both their concern for their friend and light comedy. Higgins gets fed up with Yanks and, as usual, remains oblivious to the romantic advances of his friend Agatha. He also tells a pretty great story.* T.C. has to deal the kids on his team, and Rick tries to play lady's man, even while questioning his date's taste in wine. We also learn a great deal about Magnum and some of the sources of both his haunted nature and his tenacious attitude. A top episode for certain and highly recommended.
*[A premonition] happened to me once before, you know, in Pakistan just after the War, Teddy Fabishaw and I. He was a young lieutenant then, good officer, but he had this uncontrollable desire to worship lizards. Cost him his commission when he was caught with Colonel Meacham's daughter and an iguana behind the regimental stables, committing what can only be described as the most abhorrent act of perversion known to man or reptile.
Friday, April 14, 2017
*Magnum was a big hit on Thursdays and peaked at #4 for the year in its third season, but it plummeted into the 40s by 1985, an apparent victim of NBC's Cosby train.
*The Higgins/Robin connection--are they actually the same person?--remains a mystery, but according to the fascinating and extensive timeline on Magnum Mania, Higgins took over Robin Masters' estate in 1972.
*Hawaii Five-O, from which Magnum obtained some sets and even some crew members, aired on CBS from 1968 to 1980, a whopping 12 seasons.
*The Emmy history of the show is as follows: Tom Selleck won Best Actor once (1984), John Hillerman won Best Supporting Actor once (1987), but both were nominated from 1984-1987, with Selleck also nominated in 1982 and 1983. The series was nominated for Best Drama in each of its first 3 seasons.
*Selleck's great performances as Lance White on The Rockford Files can be found in "White on White and Nearly Perfect" (season 5) and "Nice Guys Finish Dead" (Season 6).
*Much to my surprise, Tom Selleck never won People's Sexiest Man Alive honor. If only it had started sooner than 1985, he might have locked down a few. Sure, it's tough to argue a young Mel Gibson in 1985, but Selleck lost to Mark Harmon and Harry Hamlin the next few years.
*Erin Gray's Digger Doyle character was reportedly considered for a possible spinoff, but much to the chagrin of the hosts of this podcast, it never happened.
*Sharon Stone guested on the show in the two-part season 5 opener "Echoes of the Mind."
*Dana Delany appeared in the season 7 opener "L.A." and then returned later that season in "Out of Sync."
*Hillerman played half-brothers of Higgins in 3 different episodes--illegitimate siblings named Paddy. Elmo, and Don Luis.
*Matt Houston (1982-1985, ABC) was indeed a rich Texan who, for some reason, worked as a P.I. despite being loaded with oil money. Let us know if you'd like to see us cover this series in a future podcast!
*Our crack research team was unable to locate the picture of Selleck and Lionel Richie that Mike mentions, but we can confirm that both 1980s icons entered the Mustache Hall of Fame in the class of 2015.
*Remember to check out our YouTube channel for a Magnum-centric playlist with promos, vintage ads, and other surprises!
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Quintessential eighties private investigator Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) might have met his match in J. Digger Doyle (TV's Erin Gray), but what kind of match--romantic, professional, nefarious, or all three? He also has to protect Robin Masters (voice of Orson Welles), navigate his prickly relationship with Higgins (Jonathan Hillerman), and negotiate with pals T.C. (Roger Mosley) and Rick (Larry Manetti). All in a day's work for a man and his 'stache!
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
BOTNS Special Investigation: Was Redd Foxx really going to play Jethro Simpson on "Diff'rent Strokes"?
According to Black and Blue: The Redd Foxx Story by Michael Seth Starr, this story is...TRUE! Yes, as effective as Mayo is in his guest shot on the two-part 'The Adoption," he stepped in at the last minute only after Foxx bailed.
Foxx became a sensation on NBC as Fred Sanford, but after numerous contract disputes (and sometimes missing episodes that would then be built around Mayo's Grady character), he jumped to ABC to lead a variety show (It was the 1970s, after all). When that tanked, another pilot failed, and ABC severed ties with him, Redd was having problems with the IRS--as in, he had a problem paying his taxes, and the IRS had a problem with that--he was looking for cash.
Starr writes that NBC "extended an olive branch" to its former star by offering him the role of Jethro Simpson. Foxx agreed, and NBC brass actually discussed making the character a regular or at least a recurring role if the episode turned out well. Only one problem: Foxx didn't bother to show up, calling in sick, and Mayo got the call.
Can you imagine Foxx and Gary Coleman as regular co-stars? I can, and I kind of like it.
Starr continues that later, Redd passed Todd Bridges at the studio and saw he was holding a motorcycle helmet the Strokes producers had given him for Christmas. When Foxx discovered that they only gave him the helmet--no motorcycle--he was "pissed," as Starr succinctly describes, and returned after a week "pushing a gas-powered three-wheeled motorbike" and telling Bridges, "I bought you something."
Was Foxx in one of those cantankerous/generous moods? What if he had run into Conrad Bain in the studio hallway that day? I picture Foxx coming into the studio a week later with a horse to go along with a new polo mallet Bain was carrying. "Hey, Connie, I bought you something."
Monday, April 10, 2017
Because we'll go to great lengths for our listeners, I decided to watch a couple Sam episodes and see if that feeling held up. I will say I don't blame Cooksey for any faults I found then or now. He was just a kid who, it seems, fell into an acting career while pursuing a music career (more on that at the end of the post). Besides, he had to live in the shadow of Coleman's obvious charisma and talent. I picked two episodes from season 7 (1984-85), Cooksey's first full season (he and Carter also appeared in parts of season 6).
First up, "Arnold Saves the Squirrel" (January 12, 1985). Sam attends a taping of local kids show Sandy the Squirrel, where Sandy (played by living legend Chuck McCann), announces to the kids in the nut gallery that the station has canceled the show. Sam takes it especially hard (as does housekeeper Pearl, who has a thing for Sandy), and things get worse when they learn his mom has been offered Sandy's timeslot for her aerobics show, a big move from cable (oddly, Drummond says he's glad because he won't have to stick an antenna out the window to watch her show now. You'd think a tycoon would understand how cable works). Even a Van Halen t-shirt-wearing Arnold can't console the moppet.
In a strange meta moment, Drummond suggests Sam start a write-in campaign. After all it worked real-world show Cagney & Lacey (this really happened, but the show aired on different network--CBS--than Diff'rent Strokes). Drummond gladly admits that he wrote in because "that Cagney is a real knockout!" Arnold and Sam bring a petition signed by eleven people to the studio, but the smarmy station manager laughs it off and says they need 10,000 signatures!
Despondent, they write as many letters under as many names as they can--well, Arnold and Willis do. Sam just licks the envelopes. They know they can't make impossible numbers, and Drummond doesn't approve of phony letters, so they're about to give up when Arnold has a brilliant idea. He enlists Sam's Cub Scout pack to help recruit Scouts from all over New York. During Sandy's last episode, Arnold storms the stage, and the Scouts dump all their letters on the floor. Sandy gets his job back (with a raise), Sam's mom loses her opportunity (but doesn't care 'cause her baby's happy), and Pearl confesses her feelings to a surprised and delighted Sandy.
In this episode, Arnold still gets plenty of jokes, and they feel in character--a kid who likes to crack wise--just not as unique. He seems like a mature kid in a slightly small body (at this point Coleman was around 17, playing 15), but he no longer has the incongruity of his size versus his maturity/wit. Meanwhile, Sam never has the uniqueness because he just seems like a little kid (Cooksey was around 10, so he he might be playing young, too). Sam gets a few kid comedy lines, but mostly, he plays the "emotional" points, and, dare I say it, that kind of works. It allows the show to have a story that might appeal to little kids--losing a favorite show--and Arnold and the family to come to the rescue while Sam learns something. Nothing brilliant but nothing offensive. Well, maybe the show trying to put over Sam's "puppy dog eyes."
"A Camping We Will Go" (February 23, 1985) centers more on Sam and his relationship with his two dads--Drummond (or Mr. D as Sam calls him, harkening back to the early days of the show) and biological dad Wes, a country singer played by legendary
Being rich and a sitcom character, Drummond goes all out and buys all the ridiculous camping gear he can find (electric socks, a solar-powered stock analyzer, an already-inflated raft, freeze-dried fettucine alfredo). At the last minute, Wes shows up unannounced and ends up going on the camping trip with them. An expert camper, he just brings a big, hollow pole filled with everything he needs, and he says he's never slept in a tent. He and the boys go off to fish while Drummond sets up his tent. A skunk wanders in and sprays him, and he dashes for the lake, spoiling it for fishing. They also have to bury his tent and sleeping bag.
The next day, Wes and Arnold set off to fish again, while Drummond and Sam go to collect more firewood (the wise Wes' idea to give them some bonding time). They get lost (Sam's fault, but Drummond doesn't know what he's doing either) and huddle for warmth. Sam confesses that he hates camping and reveals a penchant for stocks. Wes and Arnold eventually find them, Drummond blames himself for everything (teaching Sam the importance of lying), and Sam makes believe that he's a great camper, pleasing Wes (See? Lesson learned!).
I like this episode a little more mainly because Conrad Bain gets to cut loose a little. Plus, Hoyt Axton brings a lot of charm to the screen (and looks a like a giant alongside Coleman and Cooksey). We also get to hear tiny Cooksey sing in a big country voice. Again, Sam doesn't get tasked with a whole lot of comedy. Instead, he (and Bain and Axton) holds down the emotional turf while others cover the comedy--Drummond's ineptness, Arnold's wise cracks. They could have done more with Arnold getting Drummond into this unfortunate incident, really gone the Laurel and Hardy route with it, and they could have done more with the Drummond-Wes conflict, but they only had 25 minutes. They did give us this enduring image.
Conclusion. Sam doesn't usurp Arnold's importance on the show, but he doesn't bring anything special to it either and perhaps underscores its sentimentality. If you want to watch classic Diff'rent Strokes, go for those early seasons, but if you wind up watching episodes from the Sam years, it probably won't ruin your day or anything, especially if you're a little kid (our main demographic of course).
Cooksey's acting career continued, including a role in T2 and a lot of voice-over work (Tiny Toons' Yosemite Sam-like character Montana Max). Plus, he fronted early nineties glam metal teen band Bad4Good. Enjoy!
Friday, April 7, 2017
*According to an interesting Mental Floss article, NBC wanted to cast Gary Coleman in something and chose Diff'rent Strokes when a Little Rascals pilot fell through. The article also mentions Coleman's contract disputes, something we didn't really explore on the show.
*Speaking of Little Rascals, Matthew "Stymie" Beard does appear in this episode. He was in the Little Rascals until the mid 30s, when he was replaced by Buckwheat. Beard suffered through drug addiction before getting clean in the 1960s and then re-entering acting with parts such as a recurring role in Good Times before guesting in "The Adoption."
*Alan Thicke does indeed sing the theme song, but it's more evident in some versions than in others. Check our YouTube playlist for this episode for more!
*Actor Walter Stocker was the "generic voice-over guy" who narrated this episode. He has a name, guys! He has a name!
*Todd Bridges did date Janet Jackson "back in the day," but he later told Oprah that he kept his distance from her as a girlfriend because he she was so nice that he didn't want to hurt her.
*Wikipedia says Willis' catchphrase is "Say what?" The BOTNS research team (I'm leaving out the word "crack" in this case out of respect) is unable to verify this.
*The BOTNS research team DID confirm that Redd Foxx was originally slated for the role Whitman Mayo assumed in this episode. Check the blog next week for the results of our special investigation.
*Mayo, best known as "Grady" in Sanford and Son, was 48 years old when this episode aired.
*A note on the Drummonds' apartment: A poster on the Sitcoms Online message boards says that in a later episode, Willis moves into Kimberly's bedroom when Kimberly "studies abroad" (i.e. is kicked off the show). That doesn't really clear up the bathroom situation, though, does it?
*Kimberly's trip to Eastland, which served as the backdoor pilot for The Facts of Life, is at the end of season 1, "The Girls School."
*A partial list of Gary Coleman's TV movies (he also appeared in several theatrical films during the series' run):
The Kid from Left Field (1979)
The Kid with the Broken Halo (1982)
The Kid with the 200 I.Q. (1983)
The Fantastic World of D.C. Collins (1984)
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Season two begins with a look at a special two-part Diff'rent Strokes. The time has arrived for Mr. Drummond to officially adopt Arnold and Willis, but a con man played by the great Whitman Mayo (Sanford and Son's Grady) has different ideas. What will happen, how does Mrs. Garrett feel about all of this, and--more importantly--what's the bathroom situation in the Drummond household?!
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Saturday, April 1, 2017
and, yeah, he was just in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. For a guy who wrote a book called I Am Not Spock, he sure didn't run from the franchise, and I think we are all glad he did not. But, man, it seems a little disrespectful to get the guy to shill for your product in semi-Spock mode:
First of all, the outfit makes me...uncomfortable. Second, you have to love the concept: Put Leonard in some kind of vaguely futuristic ensemble, make it look like there are stars behind him, and, VOILA--space!
I wonder if Nimoy is thinking, "I don't need this stuff. I have all these bad-ass, non-revealing suits I wear on a little show called In Search Of, and I'm doing just fine hosting that." You know what, though? It's possible that he didn't know they would add that cheesy transporter effect at the end. In fact, though I'd feel bad that they did that to him, I kind of hope that is what happened.
Or at least, I DID hope that until I did some research and found that Leonard had been doing this before. Check out this 1979 spot:
Say it ain't so, Leonard Nimoy!