TV BLOG - 178
TV BLOG - 160
He was also in failing health by the time television really hit and my guess is that he would have found a home as a talk show host eventually if he had lived longer.
He was a marvelous talent and I still find his radio shows among the best of golden age of radio comedy.
Sean is right - most of the old radio broadcasts are unlistenable to my ear but Fred Allen still sparks fresh.
If you haven't explored home entertainment's checkered past you've got a treat in store - and tons of marvelous entertainment to enjoy at work or lying on the beach, or driving to the mountains. Even the commercials are fun to listen to.
You can't go wrong with Jack Benny and Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy. Bob Hope was in his prime, and a few of the sitcoms like Amos 'n' Andy and The Bickersons will always have me laughing. When I was a teen I enjoyed listening to The Shadow, especially the Orson Welles episodes. Like Burn Notice? Try Johnny Dollar, another tongue-in-cheek private eye: "the man with the action-packed expense account." If you're a music-of-the-period lover those radio variety shows are a treasure trove of unforgettable performances. Like game shows? You'll find some familiar TV programs started out in radio.
The best part is - most of those broadcasts are readily available on the internet for free at otr.net and many other sites.
To start you off laughing, another of those comedy bits you have to hear before kicking off - The Bickersons starring Don Ameche and Frances Langford in 'Blanche's New Coat' (in Real Player format).
Dig this: The Friends of Old Time Radio Convention now has a page on Facebook where you can get the latest information about the 2010 event, scheduled for October 21-24, 2010 in Newark, NJ.
Saturday, May 8, 2010 - 1:50pm
LA'S SHERIFF JOHN TODAY
Today in BestofTVblog - What cancelled CBS show got picked up by the CW? And more movie sequels coming.
Friday, May 7, 2010 - 11:48am
IT'S THIS SATURDAY NIGHT
Normally when the hype machine goes into overdrive it's for some bimbo like Britney or whoever the flavor of the month is. Here's hoping Carol Burnett gets rediscovered in the same way - why hasn't Carol been asked to do Saturday Night Live - it's a natural, right? If Betty White gets the ratings I suspect she will, maybe Carol would be the perfect host for the fall premiere.
Friday, May 7, 2010 - 10:45am
JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
Here's a 1945 Fred Allen radio broadcast from the end of World War II (with a young Frank Sinatra as guest, imagining what his career will be like in 1995) that includes a prime example of the Jack Benny - Fred Allen feud that was a highpoint of both of their careers.
A lot of ink has been spilled over the decades to try to explain Fred Allen's inability to translate to the box but I'm not sure there ever was a definitive reason. He had health problems in the fifties, that was one major factor, then there's the fickle public. Who knows, if he had lived longer than 1956 maybe he might have found the right format.
He initially tried bringing his popular radio format Allen's Alley to the tube but that was a no go. Here's part of one of Allen's TV forays called Judge For Yourself, a game show that allowed the witty host to verbally spar with the contestants. It worked for Groucho but then Groucho had that unmistakable leer that made all of his quips sound like double entendres even in the rare instances when they weren't. Then again, Judge For Yourself gets bogged down by a needlessly clumsy format.
A subsequent show, Fred Allen's Sketchbook, also fizzled so Fred Allen settled into a regular slot on the game show What's My Line in 1954 where, presumably, he could have stayed for a decade or two had he not died of a heart attack two years later.
But Fred Allen got the last word on television, "You know, television is called a new medium, and I have discovered why they call it a medium — because nothing is well done." He was vociferous in his view that TV was for, "people who haven't anything to do to watch people who can't do anything." I believe he also originally quipped what I've been saying for years: "Television isn't for watching it's for appearing on." Touche.
Friday, May 7, 2010 - 9:42am
Wednesday, May 5, 2010 - 12:49pm
I'M NOT GAY BUT THE GUY WITH HIS DICK IN MY MOUTH IS
Wednesday, May 5, 2010 - 12:30pm
Today in BestofTVblog - Drunken whore sues MTV's The Real World for $5 million because she acted like a drunken whore.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010 - 10:08am
Jackie "Moms" Mabley was one of the most ingenious women ever to take the stage, she was 81 years old when she died and she used her advanced age as the lynchpin of her comedy. She dressed like the crazy, toothless lady up the street who wears her nightgown out in public.
This diminutive, seemingly harmless old lady would shuffle out from behind the curtain and tell the most outrageous bawdy stories and the audiences loved it. She was a popular guest on variety shows like The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Carol Burnett Show and the mid-day talk shows like The Merv Griffin Show. Before she was discovered by the TV audiences in the 1960s she was commanding big bucks playing the Apollo Theater and before that she toured the "chitlin' circuit." She was billed as "The Funniest Woman on Earth" and I suspect she was in her time. In this bit from her 'Live at the Apollo' album in 1969, Moms Mabley reminisces about 'The Good Old Days'
In this next bit Moms talks about raising children, this is one of the funniest monologues I've ever heard. Listen as Moms lets the comedy tension build to a rousing conclusion, she was a master of timing and pacing. I know from a recent interview with another performer that Moms Mabley was still performing in nightclubs a couple of years before her death and she starred in a pretty good movie called Amazing Grace just before she passed away. There's a comprehensive article on Moms Mabley here.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010 - 9:34am
BIG RATINGS FOR A LOCAL PRIMETIME SHOW
NBC has picked up J.J. Abrams' (LOST) new drama Undercovers for the 2010-11 season. Abrams co-wrote, produced and directed the pilot about a married couple who are re-activated as CIA agents after five years of retirement.
Today in BestofTVblog - More TV news, like Stan Lee hosting a TV show!
Tuesday, May 4, 2010 - 6:00am
Last year I conducted a bunch of interviews for an oral history I'm working on. I've got hours of stories that I can't use for the book but you might find some of this stuff interesting.
In this audio excerpt I'm talking to musicians Tim Fowlar and Jack Salley who were in their early 20s when they were out with The Roy Radin Revue, a vaudeville-like troupe that performed all over the northern east coast in the 1970s.
The Radin tour, which went out by bus two times a year over an 8 year period, would take an unlikely collection of stars, most of whom were at the butt end of their careers, and present them to the people in community theaters, VFW halls and high school auditoriums.
Donald O'Connor, Milton Berle, Sheila McCrae, Pinky Lee, John Carradine, George Jessel, Stanley Myron Handelman, Jan Murray, Jackie Vernon, Godfrey Cambridge, Joe Boatner's Ink Spots, The Drifters, and dozens of others endured the grueling travel conditions and iffy venues; it was truly Vaudeville's last gasp.
They would travel from town to town, a show a night (at least) for a period of 6 weeks with a mere 2 days off. Tim Fowlar was the musical director for most of the Radin tours and Jack Salley played guitar for a few runs around the track; both went on to successful careers in the music business.
The two guys reminisce about Frank Fontaine, he went out on a couple of Radin tours and suffered a heart attack during a 1977 run; he died the year after. The story begins with Jack Salley talking.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010 - 5:16am
COMING TO A TV NEAR YOU
For those of you in Chicago this is worth checking out, the Sue Anne episodes are the funniest: I've got some info for you about one of our broadcast events on Me-TV. Since Betty White's Saturday Night Live appearance next Saturday is so topical and she was born in the area (Oak Park), not to mention America's current 'It' girl, I wanted to make sure you knew we were having a two week celebration: Betty White Nights! We'll be airing Sue Ann Nivens episodes of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' at 7 PM beginning Monday - hosted by Melissa Forman.
Today in BestofTVblog - What Adult Swim cartoon has been turned into a stage show? And just how messed up were The Village People?
Monday, May 3, 2010 - 11:00am
CLASSIC TV COMMERCIALS
Kind of reminds one of "Ring Around the Collar!"
And then there was Madge the Manicurist who loved Palmolive liquid so much she had her customer's hands "soaking in it" for three decades or so.
Notice how much more finely crafted these commercials are as opposed to today's ads - like everything else these days, I guess.
Monday, May 3, 2010 - 9:28am
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