Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Henry, not Louis, is the star of this cookout!

Picture a bucolic family scene--music, laughter, and of course food.

Now picture Great Uncle Henry pulling his "Dagwood Bumstead" routine for the umpteenth time, building a sandwich way bigger than he can hope to get in his yap, let alone ingest, to predictable "comic" results:

I mean, do we really need this guy to waste some tasty-looking vittles just so he can feign an attempt to eat a Dagwood sandwich?

Then again, he IS hearing words of encouragement: "Pile it on, Henry!"

Actually, the more I watch this...

the more I think about this...

Yes, I change my mind.  This guy is COOL.  Maybe he can't get the full Dagwood going, but I admire the effort, and I kind of want to do this myself.

Monday, June 29, 2020

National Camera Day reminds us of Candid Camera

On this National Camera Day, I am thking about a TV series that has had multiple incarnations and always seems to to have a revival in the works yet is nowhere near the pop culture phenomenon it was in the BOTNS era; Candid Camera.

One of the forerunners of reality shows like America's Funniest Home Videos and countless others, Camera began as a series of film shorts before heading to TV in 1948! Since then, the show has aired in broadcast syndication, network TV, and cable in a variety of formats and time slots. Creator Allen Funt's son Peter keeps the brand alive, and the company's official YouTube channel is active and runs classic clips on a regular basis.

It's not the same as it was in the 1970s and 1980s, though, when the catchphrase, "Smile! You're on Candid Camera!" was ubiquitous as a way to indicate an embarrassing situation or humorous reveal. Has the concept been genericized by years of imitative hidden-camera projects? I think there is still room today for the old-school incarnations. Some of the old pranks are only too relevant today:

It's easy to envision old episodes or highlight packages showing up on, say, Amazon Prime Video at random one day. For now, it's good that Peter Funt is still out there promoting Candid Camera.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Top Ten #74

1) Mabel King: The other day, I was doing a crossword puzzle with my esteemed girlfriend and Friend of the Show when we saw King was the answer to a What's Happening! clue! That is more than enough reason to top this list.

2) Boba Fett: The star of the Star Wars Holiday Special made headlines last week when a rare action figure hit eBay with an asking price of $225,000!  For that kind of money, I could get all the cool TV Funkos and Megos I want...but if listeners want to take up a collection, we'd be happy to get Boba for the BOTNS studios.

3) Free to Be You and Me: Marlo Thomas' classic 1973 special was subject of a Stars in the House tribute Friday.

4) Cher: A new Time-Life DVD set showcasing her TV career came out this week, and I won't complain about the price because these things are expensive to produce, and...and...well, frankly I'd love to get screeners if you're out there, T-L.

5) Mel Brooks: Happy birthday to the comic legend and creator of When Things Were Rotten!

6) Sam and Diane: Kudos to The Av Club's Vikram Murthi for this thoughtful exploration of one of TV's most notable couples. Even if you don't agree with everything in here, it's a great read.

7) Danielle Brisebois: Happy birthday to the former Stephanie Mills on All in the Family--not to be confused with Stephanie Mills on Solid Gold:

8) Mr. Roarke: Guess which humble podcaster just got this bsdboy for his desk:

9) Lester Crystal: R.I.P. to the man instrumental in the creation of The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour. I believe legend has it that PBS told him. "Hey, we want something like that Roger Mudd thing--only sex it up."

10) Jake's Way: On this date in 1980, CBS aired this unsold pilot starring Robert Fuller (Laramie, Emergency) as a Texas sheriff.  Hey, Disney controls this. I'm sure we can expect to see this on Disney Plus soon given the company's commitment to preserving and exhibiting its vast television archive:

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Inside the Guide #2: This Day in TV History: A failed pilot and--hey, where's Christie Love? (6/27/75 part 1)

This week in June 1975 was full of repeats, but the networks sprinkled in some pilots, one-offs, and "serious programming."  This night 45 years ago is a good example.

June 27, 1975 saw movie night on CBS: Captain Nemo and the Underwater City and Shaft. Mind you, this is not one of the made-for-TV Shaft (JOHN Shaft!) movies, but it is the original, and can you imagine how much butchering occurred to get it into a 90-minute time slot? And forget about the violence and nudity!

NBC kicked off with a Sanford and Son repeat--one of the Grady episodes produced during one of Redd Foxx's contract disputes. Following Grady and Sanford's Son: reruns of Chico and the Man, Rockford Files, and Police Woman.

ABC led at 8:00 with an "encore presentation" of Kolchak and then the episode of the Odd Couple where Felix uses Oscar's pic for an ad campaign without his permission.  You know, I love The Odd Couple, but it's somehow easy for me to forget that the show was on as late as June 1975.  Its final season ended in March, and it was playing out the string in repeats here.  Also of note: This episode was written by David Duclon, who later helped give us BOTNS hits like Punky Brewster and Silver Spoons. Guest John Byner appears in the clip below.

ABC's Friday night lineup was unstable all season, and on this night it was Failed Pilot Theatre:

Abe Burrows, who wrote the book for the classic Broadway musical, spearheaded this adaptation.  Wikipedia lists it as a "comedy special," but as you see in this vintage listing, it was considered a possible start to a new series.  That seems a lot more likely than the creator of the play turning his baby into a 30-minute package for TV!

Incidentally, I love the language TV Guide used back in the day: "This program is the pilot for a possible series, but it is not on the networks' fall schedules."  In other words, don't get attached to it, readers!

ABC ended the night with some public affairs/prestige-type programming.  That's right: BORRR-RRRING!

No, I am sorry for making light of a program that explored a serious subject.  ABC didn't have much else going on Friday at 10:00, so it decided to air an educational/informative show for the public good.  These kinds of serious, well-intentioned news shows just don't turn up on the networks anymore.

Note a young Peter Jennings is the correspondent here.  Jennings was then anchoring ABC's pre-Good Morning America effort and would become the chief foreign correspondent for ABC News months later. He wouldn't become anchor of World News Tonight for another three years, when ABC tried a multi-anchor format with Jennings, Frank Reynolds, and Max Robinson from different locations.

I like the bit at the end about pre-empting Get Christie Love.  Talk about an abrupt change! Imagine tuning in for that series and getting a sobering look at food shortages, global hunger, and agro-economic policy.

It's so much fun to take a deep dive into this one night of TV that we'll present another look next week, but we will go into late night in 1975!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

This Day in TV History: A mini-mystery proves the fallibility of online TV listings?

Don'cha hate it when archival online TV listings are inaccurate or unclear?

Until the day when there is a single reliable day-by-day TV listings database, we have to cobble together airdates and what-aired-this-days through a variety of sources. One recent find was bothering me:  An Andy Rooney original special appearing in the listings in an original TV Guide for June 24, 1975.

According to the Guide, 45 years ago today, on a night dominated by reruns, CBS premiered Mr. Rooney Goes to Dinner, a humorous look at the pastime of dining out from "Andrew Rooney. " Note that this "close up" does not mention 60 Minutes.  Well, that's because he didn't join that show until 1978. He had been producing TV specials for CBS for several years at this point.

 However, researching the special yielded conflicting info.  The IMDB page says the show premiered April 20, 1976.  The 6/25/74 grid at Ultimate 70s does list the special, but it says it's a repeat. TV Tango is blank for prime time on that night! Wikipedia dates the special as 1978, though from context it appears to be a typo for 1976.

So I wondered, when did this air? Could THE GUIDE be wrong?  Well, my guess is that the Guide showed us what was scheduled that night, but not necessarily what aired, which points out an issue with old magazines as sources.  As for online sources, I think they are drawing from contemporary listings sources like TV Guide and may be subject to the same potential limitations. The spotlight from the time, though, does not have that standard "(Repeat)" designation.

Maybe the show was pre-empted and didn't air until April 1976?  Ah, I looked up what else happened on the date, and here the story takes a sad turn.  On June 24, 1975, the nation witnessed the largest number of casualties in a passenger aircraft disaster to that point when 113 died after Eastern Airlines Flight 66 crashed just before hitting the runway.  I don't know if coverage pre-empted the Rooney show on CBS, but on a summer night, it doesn't seem outlandish to think they might have gone with breaking news instead of the regular non-essential programming.

Below is some coverage from the local NBC station featuring Tom Snyder:

I still don't know the whole story behind Mr. Rooney Goes to Dinner, but my theory is that the special got bumped due to coverage of the horrible tragedy but then aired the next year.  Perhaps it's considered a repeat on Ultimate 70s due to the confusion over the original airdate, or maybe it did actually run in some markets.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Top Ten #73

1) DVP: Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there, and a special salute to one of our favorite TV padres, Tom Bradford.

2) Tony Gwynn: Speaking of Padres, here's a rare look--Ok, glimpse--at the late Hall of Famer.

3) Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross: Would you believe that the Keatons were born on the same exact day in the same year (1947)? Would you?

Actually, I don't believe it, and I read it.  It's just too fantastical to comprehend.

4) The Ed Sullivan Show: The classic show is digging into its vaults to upload clips from its archives.  Yes, we'd prefer full episodes to clips, but who are we to complain about free Temptations performances?

5) Al Molinaro: Me-TV spotlighted the great Al Molinaro with a look at his first on-screen appearance, a Green Acres guest spot that it also aired this week. Click this link for more.

6) Bernie Kopell: Happy birthday to the undisputed sexiest man on the Pacific Princess, Adam Bricker himself.  And he was a DOCTOR, too! What a catch!

7) Mariette Hartley: Happy birthday to a star in her own right and one of the best podners James Garner ever had.

8) Michael Keaton: The beloved star of Working Stiffs finally returns to series TV with the just-announced Dopesick on Hulu.

9) Pat Boone: How in the world did this classic not become part of the national fabric?

10) Coach: Antenna TV is celebrating the holiday with a Father's Day marathon because...wait, Coach was a dad? Was he supposed to be that tall blond dumb guy's father?

Saturday, June 20, 2020

This Day in TV History: The Ray Stevens Show premieres on CBS

50 years ago today, a summer replacement series for The Andy Williams Show debuted on NBC. That series was The Ray Stevens Show--or at least, it would become that.  Its original title was the much less elegant Andy Williams Presents The Ray Stevens Show.  The official Ray Stevens YouTube account is nice enough to have posted the first segment from that episode!

I like that title, and in fact I wish every spinoff was named in similar fashion.  Andy Griffith Presents Gomer PyleCheers Presents Frasier. All in the Family Presents The Jeffersons.

And of course we would all have enjoyed Hill Street Blues Presents Beverly Hills Buntz.

There was precedent for that kind of thing.  That very night, ABC broadcast another episode of Jimmy Durante Presents the Lennon Sisters.  It still sounds goofy!

As for the Stevens show, it lasted till August but didn't return after the summer of 1970. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Promo Theatre: Buck Rogers, "Space Vampire"

Here's a short but impactful promo that was not online when we made our Buck Rogers playlist for our podcast covering memorable episode Space Vampire. Check out Erin Gray in this one!

The episode originally aired in January of 1980, but NBC reran it on this date 40 years ago!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

This Day in TV History: Ethel Is an Elephant

When I read the synopsis for this half-hour pilot that aired June 18, 1980, I assumed it was an animated special.  A guy walking home from work sees an abandoned, injured elephant and takes her home.

This is indeed live action! Directed by John Astin, the show follows the travails of photographer Eugene Henderson (Todd Susman) as he tries to hide his new friend from Eddie Barth's landlord.

The clip below is taken from an ABC special on unsold pilots:

Tom Shales reviewed this in the Post when it premiered on CBS. Do you think he liked it? 

He's surprisingly not angry about it, but my favorite line is:
Anyone vaguely familiar with the history of situation comedy knows there had to be such a program eventually.

"Hey, Philo, what do you think people are gonna DO with this thing?"
"Well, eventually they'll use it to broadcast a recurring scenario involving an elephant and the man who hides her from his landlord."

"You mean they haven't done that already???"

People was much more elephantish in its Picks and Pans review, stating:
Despite its precious name, this failed pilot isn’t a turkey. A smartly written bit of Aesopian whimsy, it stars Todd Susman as a New York photographer who removes a nail from the foot of an abandoned baby elephant, then gets adopted by the pet and tries to disguise her as a sofa.

Anyone remember this bit of Aesopian whimsy? And how did John Astin get involved?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Movies and groceries: I miss the late eighties

Courtesy of the great uploader of Canadian material bmuz, here is a glimpse of video rentals in 1989. Remember when everyone sold videos?  Forget video stores, the REAL place to get your hands on Top Gun was the local convenience store or supermarket!  And we're not talking a kiosk, but an actual section within the store:

So many stores devoted so much space to video rentals!

"Plus you can even get your groceries while you're here."

I love that in this clip, you don't even see groceries.  In fact it looks to me like this is just an actual video store. This "video department" is bigger than many grocery stores around today.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Schoolhouse Rock is on Disney Plus, but something is missing...

The true Schoolhouse Rock experience includes this beginning:

It's cool that the shorts are on Disney Plus, and I know we can't turn the block to 1980-whatever, but it just isn't the same without that intro!

Monday, June 15, 2020

This Day in TV History: Hee Haw premieres June 15, 1969

On this day in 1969, CBS gave the world the enduring classic Hee HawWe covered the show on the podcast, but let's take some more time to consider the program today on its 51st anniversary.

The show was purged from the network but lasted forever in syndication and is still fondly remembered, showing up in places like RFD-TV and, of course in the gift shops of Cracker Barrells everywhere.  We give it a special SAAA-LUTE!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Top Ten #72

1) Pierce Brosnan: The Remington Steele is the cover subject of America's #1 periodical: Parade.  Is it just me or would Marilyn Vos Savant make a good Bond villain?

2) Schoolhouse Rock: I know it's been a rough year and academics have been disrupted everywhere, but, kids, now that the essentials are online in the form of these shorts on Disney Plus, there is no excuse for not being educated.

3) John Ritter: This Me-TV article explores Ritter's recurring role on The Waltons. He showed up on the episode we discussed a few seasons ago.

4) Strawberry Shortcake: National Strawberry Shortcake Day celebrates the food, but there's also this:

5) Marla Gibbs: Happy birthday to one of the finest practitioners of service with sass.

6) Skag:  We featured the series yesterday on the site, but I have to admit I just like saying SKAG.

7) K-Tel: I don['t want to hear about Now That's What I Call Music or anything from the last 30 years. The recognized leader in compilations will always be K-Tel.

8) Michael Sloan: The creator of The Equalizer and prolific TV writer/producer was on Ed Robertson's TV Confidential radio show recently. He didn't threaten to blow Robertson away, but I bet he would have if pushed.

9) Burl Ives: Happy birthday to the unofficial Voice of Christmas.

10) Mr. Wrestling II: R.I.P. to the former mainstay of several different big territories back in the day in the grand sport of...jai alai. No, I'm kidding, but how cool would it be if Mr. Jai Alai was a wrestling star and vice versa?

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Promo Theatre: The EPIC debut of Skag!

I complain when a new TV series starts with a 75-minute episode.  Well, it's a good thing I wasn't watching the 1980 premiere of NBC's Skag, which someone thought merited a THREE-HOUR presentation!

I don't know if NBC was really excited about the Karl Malden show or just thought, let's get rid of this in as few chunks of possible, but that's a while lot of Skag.  It's not The Winds of Skag.  It's not Lonesome Skag. It's not Skag: The Final Battle. It's just Skag.

The gritty depiction of a Pittsburgh steelworker and his family didn't last very long, though it received good reviews. Piper Laurie told Shock Cinema, "I guess people didn't want to watch a series about the difficulties in a blue-collar family. That, I think, could have been a very fine series had it continued.  It was a quality show."

If you were ever going to get America to watch a series about Pittsburgh steelworkers, it would have been January 1980, when the City of Champions ruled baseball and football! It wasn't meant to be, though.  Maybe Skag should have featured Willie Stargell and Terry Bradshaw.

Maybe that pilot just scared off everyone. I mean, I might watch a series about the difficulties in a blue-collar family, but maybe only for an hour at a time.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Happy birthday, Marv Albert!

The longtime voice of the NBA is not only a revered sportscaster, but he is also a valued alumnus of Late Night with David Letterman! Happy birthday, Marvelous Marv!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

This Day in TV History: The Facts of Life "Dope" airs plus Reb Brown!

On June 11, 1980, The Facts of Life talked about dope--and we don't mean the Biggest Dope category in the Battys.  No, Sue Ann (one of the crew who departed after the first season) succumbs to the peer pressure brought on her by a clique of in-crowders and smokes some pot.  Hilarity ensues, with Sue Ann's book report coming out as gibberish.

Also in this episode, Tootie and Natalie buy bongs and bring them back to the dorm with cheerful grins. And did I mention one of the in-crowders is a young Helen Hunt?

Dope is the 13th episode of Facts and just about the only new episode broadcast network viewers had on that Wednesday night.  NBC had Real People, Diff'rent Strokes, and Quincy reruns surrounding it.  ABC led off with a new episode of Family (wrapping up its run with a 13-episode fifth season), then showed repeats of Charlie's Angels and Vega$.

CBS ran an encore presentation of BOTNS favorite Captain America! The week before, it was part 1 of the original TV movie, and tonight was the second half.  Following that was Getting Married, a 1978 TV movie with Richard Thomas, Mark Harmon, Bess Armstrong, Vic Tayback, Audra Lindley, Van Johnson, Richard Deacon, and more! Publicity photo below from Amazon:

Bess Armstrong Mark Harmon- Getting Married 1978 CBS TV press ...

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

This Day in TV History: Tales from the Crypt premieres on HBO

The horror anthology was never one of my favorites, but it's important to remember that HBO original series didn't start with Sex and the City!  Here is a great vintage promo hyping the first season:

The show ran all the way till 1996 and has been syndicated around the world--it even spawned a spinoff Saturday morning cartoon--but you won't find it on HBO Go/HBO Now even though the entire series was released on DVD in the 2000s and again in a complete box set in 2017.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Happy Birthday, Donald Duck!

June 9 is the official birthday of Donald Duck according to Disney. On this date in 1934, The Wise Little Hen marked the character's screen debut.

Let's celebrate by watching this clip of Elton John singing Your Song in Donald Duck regalia in Central Park.  The concert aired on HBO.

Wait, wait, wait. We can't celebrate one of our finest screen stars without watching one of the greatest TV cartoon show theme songs ever. Let's enjoy the opening of Donald Duck Presents:

My favorite part is when Donald promises "crazy stuff!"  That's right, ANYTHING GOES when Duck presents!

Monday, June 8, 2020

This Day in TV History: Bill Conrad IS Turnover Smith!

Turnover Smith.

Say it again: Turnover Smith.

Now say it in ALL CAPS as we can all imagine William Conrad saying it: TURNABOUT SMITH!

On this day in 1980, ABC aired an hourlong pilot for a series called Turnover Smith with Conrad. Note this is not to be confused with the novel Turnover by Thone Smith. Is it a football show? A light comedy/drama about a pastry chef?  Whatever the reason for it, the name is spectacular! 

I know without even seeing a frame of footage, nor without even knowing the premise of the series, that I want to watch a television program called Turnover Smith. Let's go to Lee Goldberg's The Best TV Shows that Never Were for more info. 

Wait, it's not in here! D'oh! Tons of pilots listed, including one with Conrad as a "cop-turned-college-security-chief and part-time football coach at a Hawaii university." THAT intrigues me. I want to know about Turnover, though, so it's time to go to the definitive source: People magazine's Picks and Pans column:

William Conrad is a delightfully cranky criminologist trying to checkmate a chess-obsessed strangler. The pace of this TV movie is fast, and James Darren is fine as the calculating killer even if, from opening to end game, none of it makes much sense.

Also starring: Belinda Montgomery, Hilly Hicks, Nehemiah Persoff, james Darren, Cameron Mitchell, and Nita Talbot.

TCM's database has more info:

Criminology professor William Conrad uses scientific methods, advanced computer technology, his expertise in chess, and the leg work of several of his students to track down a crazed killer in San Francisco. Pilot to another series which Conrad (as executive producer as well as star) hoped would put him back to work regularly following the retirement of "Cannon" several years earlier, it was filmed in 1978.

His expertise in chess! Looks like ABC just burned this off (along with a Glen A. Larson cop show pilot with Doug mcClure, Nightside) on a Sunday night distinguished by the Tony Awards on CBS.  However, I'm kind of interested in seeing this! 

I'm more interested after finding this picture on ebay:

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Top Ten #71

1) Julia: Through Philo, I have access to Aspire, which used to show Room 222 and The Flip Wilson Show. I had totally forgotten about this, but the Diahann Carroll sitcom, notable for featuring a lead African-American actress in a role as a nurse (as opposed to a servant), is a charming and well-made series worth revisiting.

2) The Carol Burnett Show: Shout Factory TV! added all 11 (highly edited) seasons of the series, and Pluto TV is now running episodes, but be aware that Prime Video has the series, too, including many hour-long versions.

3) Ron Ely: Check out this Face the Music episode posted this week (thanks very much to the uploader!) and check out how well Ely straddles the line between detachment from what's going on and enjoying what he's doing.  I get the sense it's not his dream job and he thinks it's ridiculous, but he is gonna be suave and have a good time:

4) My World and Welcome to It: The 1970 Emmys on this date made this show the big comedy winner, also giving top acting honors to star William Windom.

5) Marcus Welby: On the drama side, the Emmys picked Welby and star Robert Young.

6) On Our Own: In a welcome surprise this week, Prime Video added the 1977-78 sitcom with Bess Armstrong, Lynne Greene, and Dixie Carter (both hamming and vamping it up). Made in New York, the series was produced by David Susskind's company.  Susskind helped develop Alice--since HBO Max isn't adding old series like that, how's about letting Prime have it?

7) John Chancellor and David Brinkley: The duo premiered as co-anchors on NBC Nightly News this date in 1976.  It wasn't until August, though, that they started fighting crime with their arsenal of high-tech gadgetry each night after the broadcast.

8) Dean Martin: Dino would have been 103 today, so let's have a drink in his honor. What? I made a similar joke in the column a few weeks ago? Well, what can I say. I don't like rehearsal, either.

9) The Powers of Matthew Star: Me-TV just called this one of the most interesting sci-fi shows of the Eighties, and it is biased, having just added it to its schedule, but it makes a good case in this story.

10) Peggy Pope: R.I.P. to the late actress who was best known for her role in the movie 9 to 5 but also made tons of TV appearances and had recurring roles on Alice (do you feel the momentum building?) and Soap.