When As the World Turns ends on CBS in September it will be replaced by a clone of The View. Remember Dick Clark's attempt with an all male cast? That didn't last long. CBS's talker will star Sharon Osbourne, Sara Gilbert (Roseanne), Holly Robinson Peete (Celebrity Apprentice), Broadway star Marissa Jaret Winokur, Leah Remini (The King of Queens), and Julie Chen (The Early Show).
This lady claims she saves a few bucks by bargaining her cable and cell phone bills down.
Leo DiCaprio bailed and won't work with Mel Gibson on the avowed racist's next movie after all. Time to dust off that Lethal Weapon 5 script, Mel. Co-starring your new, white partner played by Billy Baldwin.
Friday, July 30, 2010 - 8:00am
OUR COURSENING SOCIETY THANKS TO TV - PART ONE
There's no better peek into that era than the syndicated game show Love Connection, a cheeky program that purposely went after the lamest possible contestants to pair up for crass, kiss-and-tell dates.
I can say that because I actually auditioned for this show as a lark in the mid-'80s. A friend of mine in LA wanted to get on a game show so I went with her and we tried out for a bunch of shows all in one day - Joker's Wild, Card Sharks, Jeopardy, one I can't remember but they wanted me to come back - and Love Connection. Would you believe it, they gave us exams for each show and the one for Joker's Wild was the most difficult - but the questions on that show were the dumbest, celebrity trivia type. Weird, the SAT test was easier.
It was clear to me from the start that Love Connection was looking for people to make fools of themselves, they were especially fond of out of work (or never worked) actors, the bilge water of LA's entertainment industry. In the era before reality TV humiliating people on the air was still a fairly new concept. Sure, games as far back as You Bet Your Life, Candid Camera and Truth or Consequences were after contestants that could make the home audience laugh, but they weren't looking for someone to publicly self-immolate or viciously attack someone else.
Love Connection changed that. They got away with it largely because host Chuck Woolery was such a affable, congenial guy, he could gently coax the contestants back to sanity. Or to battle, whichever was needed. He was frequently at a loss for words, genuinely I suspect, at some of the heated verbal exchanges even though he was / is one of the fastest wits in the game show biz. Here's a pretty good example, start this clip in the middle for the battle royale.
After Love Connection it was just a hop, skip and a jump to Cheaters.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - 10:19am
ABC 1970 FALL PREVIEW
Undoubtedly one of the seminal years in TV history, the 1970 fall schedule was packed with shows most people would recognize today - The Carol Burnett Show, Bonanza, Gunsmoke Laugh-In, Flip Wilson Show, Mary Tyler Moore Show, Dean Martin Show - I could go on and on. I honestly think the big 3 networks could swap out what they're offering for this fall with what they broadcast 40 years ago and there would be few complaints.
ABC was the come-from-behind kid, the also-ran network. If it hadn't been for Batman, Lawrence Welk and Bewitched in the 1960s the network might not have lived to see the day when they crowded the top 10 with hits like Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley by the mid-1970s.
1970 was the year of the young people (TV was always a few years behind); ABC had purposely gone after a younger demographic instead of the biggest possible numbers for years - but now the other networks were catching wise to this strategic move and skewing younger themselves.
ABC always had the best fall jingles, adaptable to any genre or tempo, in 1970 they reached out those at home with a direct message - "Let's Get Together, We've Got A Lot To Share." And share they did, with an aggressive slate of bold new shows that failed to get renewed - all but three, but they became massive hits. Hey, that was better than the other networks managed that season.
This 30 minute fall preview was broadcast before the new shows debuted and contained clips from the network's new offering.
The Young Lawyers - Law and order procedural shows had been a mainstay on TV from the beginning, the courtroom makes a nice set. But those shows - Perry Mason, Judd For The Defense, The Defenders - were all centered around mature gentlemen. ABC's idea to inject young, idealistic lawyers and relevant themes failed to generate much excitement; no one likes the TV set to get too preachy.
The Silent Force - This drama about undercover feds from the producer of Mannix was gone without a whimper by mid-January.
Monday Night Football - The first of 35 years in primetime and the rare hit for this or any other network in 1970. Out of studio TV cameras had just grown sophisticated enough to capture the action necessary make a major sporting event exciting on an 18 inch screen. It also helped that ABC had sportscasters who were unparalleled, legendary guys like Howard Cossell, 'Dandy' Don Meredith, and Keith Jackson on the first broadcast. Frank Gifford joined in 1971.
Mod Squad - Year three for the hippest cop show on TV. That wasn't saying much...
Movie of the Week - Made for TV movies was the big surprise hit of 1969-70, the network gambled and won big. At the same time they created a proving ground for weekly series' pilots. Here are some previews for the dramas and comedies coming in the fall of 1970. You'll notice a lot of stars in these films had a series on ABC that season. This was the year TV movies started rating in the top ten, another night of originals was added the next season.
Marcus Welby, MD - Year two; odd that a network so focused on youth would have its biggest ratings winner with a show about an old fogy doctor. The number one rated show of the season. Batman managed to be a number one show for ABC in 1966 but fizzled out quickly; Marcus Welby had a healthy 7 year run.
Courtship Of Eddie's Father - Year two for this father / son dramedy, revolutionary in that it portrayed a highly involved father, something that may not be so rare today (depending) but back in the 1960s it was a pretty radical concept. Housewives outnumbered working women in 1970 so raising kids was still seen as woman's work (wife or maid) forty years ago. Courtship made it okay to be a loving father, it helped that this was a well-written program with an engaging cast.
Make Room For Granddaddy - ABC had a good thing going with Courtship & Room 222 so they unwisely sandwiched a revival of The Danny Thomas Show between them. But Thomas' old fashioned sitcom, with old school guest stars every week, didn't sit well with youngsters hungry for something different. The genteel nature of Eddie's father stood in stark contrast to Thomas' 'yell first and ask questions later' approach to child rearing. Worst show possible for this timeslot but there was no overriding reason to revive this show in the first place, except that it had done so well for so long for the network years earlier. (Kevin Butler corrects me, Make Room For Daddy aired on ABC TV for 4 years before moving to CBS where it remained on the air another 7 seasons.)
Room 222 - Second season for this ground-breaking program that focused on a Los Angeles high school with a diverse, racially mixed student body. Room 222 was popular on TV just as busing was taking hold across the nation. One of the rare times a TV show portrayed teens as anything other than lazy, deluded or malicious. One of the greatest theme songs of all time.
Johnny Cash Show - This fall promo takes an odd approach, that Johnny is just a small town boy who left for the big city and now here he is. I guess they reckoned a lot of folks hadn't heard of the country singer when they launched this series in 1969 and that might have been true, 'A Boy Named Sue' from 1969 or 'Folsom Prison Blues' from the year before might have been most American's first exposure to the Man in Black and the reason ABC took a chance. Good thing they did, this was one of the finest musical programs in TV history even if it was cancelled after two tours.
Dan August - A detective show from Quinn Martin starring Burt Reynolds, a white guy, as a Native American gumshoe. Native rights groups saw red, no one else saw it at all.
ABC News - Trippy graphic promo for the nightly news.
Matt Lincoln - Detective shows were becoming too bland, too conventional. What to do? Give the guy some kind of of affliction (the one that started it all was Ironside, a paraplegic); Matt Lincoln was blind. Soon to come, detectives who were fat, old, black, young, lazy, befuddled, etc, etc, etc.
Bewitched - Year 6, this sitcom was running out of steam and fresh ideas. Ratings were dropping but the series would last another two years. This year should have been the last.
Barefoot in the Park - Clever sitcom version of the Neil Simon play, making this the start of a one-hour block of Simon Broadway hit adaptations. The twist here was that the cast was black.
Odd Couple - This Neil Simon comedy more closely adhered to the original than Barefoot did and fared much better with a 5 year run and stacks of Emmy Awards even though ratings were never spectacular. Whenever critics complained that ABC broadcasts a bunch of crap they could point to The Odd Couple, the program almost everyone agreed was the best television had to offer. People began to wonder, can television be art?
The Immortal - Sci-fi tinged drama about a guy with blood antibodies that gave him immortality. How did they know he'll live forever? Beats me, but that made him valuable to an older rich guy who didn't want to die and would stop at nothing to capture Ben Richard and siphon off his hemoglobin. The chase is on! A lot like The Fugitive but this one died a slow death.
The Brady Bunch - Year two for this perennial favorite.
Nanny & The Professor - Second and last good season for this charming family series, a simpatico follow up to the Bradys. For the next season ABC moved this show to anchor Monday nights, tinkered with the format to make it more like Bewitched, and it sank like a stone.
The Partridge Family - Another enormous success for ABC and everyone involved; The Partridge Family was soon cranking out top ten pop tunes that made the teenyboppers tingle and the other networks green with envy.
Love American Style - Sketch comedy and blackouts related to relationships. Year two, down from an hour to a half hour.
This Is Tom Jones - Spectacular series starring one of the most dynamic performers in pop history. Variety shows that were musically driven were not scoring with the public, at least not until Sonny & Cher came along in the summer of 1971.
Let's Make A Deal - A night for the old folks at home with game shows and Lawrence Welk.
Newlywed Game - One of my favorite shows of all time, I always found this stuff funny.
Lawrence Welk - A one-a and a two-a... boring!
The Most Deadly Game - This early Aaron Spelling drama featured an amazing cast - Ralph Bellamy, George Maharis and Yvette Mimieux - but was one of the first casualties of the season. Inger Stevens was supposed to star but she committed suicide as the production was getting underway.
The Young Rebels - A program about the freedom fighters of the American Revolution, drawing parallels to the youth movement of the 1960s. I guess.
The FBI - Cut and dry crime drama that was a big audience draw on Sunday nights. My entire family huddled around the set to watch this one every week. No blood, no guts, just moral certainty and a stark demonstration of why crime does not pay.
The ABC Sunday Night Movie - Big screen hits from years earlier, many years earlier. Movie studios were reluctant to licence their hits for the home screen but they changed their minds in the 1970s when networks starting paying big bucks for movies that could draw an audience.
This fall preview special ended with what looked like a feminine hygiene commercial with the network's musical plea for togetherness. There would be less time together next season, this was the last year the networks programmed the 7:30-8:00 slot on Monday and Wednesday-Saturday nights; the FCC gave it over to the locals to fill.
This was a winning year for ABC, one of many to follow after decades of bringing up the rear*, with 4 shows in the top 11 for 1970-71.
* Didja hear Beavis & Butthead are coming back?
Monday, July 26, 2010 - 10:12am
MTM TURNS 40
Here Mary Tyler Moore talks about shooting the pilot, which the first audience didn't like at all, neither did the test audience. This goes back to something I like to say: Nobody wants the next big thing until everybody wants it.
Saturday, July 24, 2010 - 1:17pm
BEWARE MY POWER...
Anyhow, with the Green Lantern movie being hyped, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite Green Lantern (but not Green Lantern / Green Arrow) covers during the silver age of comics.
Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson were two of my favorite artists from the DC stable. They were polar opposites but somehow penciler Kane's fluid style meshed well with inker Anderson's detailed, illustrative approach. Here's a perfect example, Anderson consistently put his all into everything he rendered.
These comics, along with Batman, Detective, Flash and Justice League, were edited by Julie Schwartz who had a unique talent for creating covers that I found intriguing as a kid. So much so I had to buy them to find out how the hero solved that weird situation. Schwartz's comics had a sci-fi influence, his heroes were generally faced with some perplexing scientific anomaly or a conundrum with a mystical bent.
There were so many spectacular GL covers during this period it's hard to single out only a few. Just look at the composition on these. Kane & Anderson teamed for some great covers and some amazing stories before Sid Greene replaced Anderson on the inks and spoiled the pages with his oppressive, gooey style.
Green Lantern was one of my favorites even though I started reading after the Kane & Anderson glory days. I was fascinated by the concept, a guy with a ring that can manifest almost anything instantly.
That's why the movie has a good shot at being good, it's a simple but effective idea.
By the time I came around to reading GL, around number 60, the title was being passed around to different second tier artists - until Gil Kane returned with a vengeance with this spectacular cover that he inked himself and a vibrant story sadly stifled by Joe Giela's stiff inks. During his absence from GL, where he wrote & drew other titles, Kane had matured into a more dynamic artist.
The very next issue sported a bold cover illustrated by Gil Kane and a cool story by the great John Broome. Teamed with inker Wally Wood, the legendary EC artist, this comic blew me away.
The few times when these two artists were paired were always amazing; Wood had a way of bringing out the best in Kane, taking his expansive layouts to new heights while leaving his own distinct, high-gloss sheen on the pages. Another great example are the 3 issues they did together the year before for a short-lived comic based on the poseable doll Captain Action.
I couldn't wait until the next issue but, sadly, Wood was gone as quickly as he came. Wood never stuck around very long after he left MAD.
Another super all-Kane cover but the insides of this issue and the next were inked by Murphy Anderson and the results were probably the best of GL's run until Dennis O'Neill and Neal Adams took over the tile with issue # 76. You can see why Kane became Marvel's number one cover artist during the 1970s.
I actually had the pleasure to interview Julie Schwartz and Murphy Anderson in the mid-1980s at a comic convention. It was a real thrill, I took a stack of Schwartz and Anderson's DC comics from the 1960s & 70s and we discussed the dynamics behind those publications. Julie Schwartz in particular enjoyed the experience, they both had a great deal to be proud of in their past work. They created a vivid world of excitement for a generation of kids that resonates today in multi-million dollar movie productions.
Friday, July 23, 2010 - 7:14am
TV NEWS & HISTORY
Everybody Loves Raymond costars Patricia Heaton and Doris Roberts will be reunited in battle on the season premiere of The Middle. Roberts will play Heaton's kid's teacher.
Chris Isaak to replace Simon Cowell on Idol? Good idea. I still won't watch but it's a good idea.
Hollywood is bracing for another strike, this time the Teamsters in charge of transportation may go up on Aug. 1. Producers are not going to budge, they say they'll hire replacements (calling all scabs). Can someone give Kyra Sedgwick a ride to the set next week? SAG and AFTRA primetime negotiations begin in two months, this could be a one-two punch the industry doesn't need right now.
Did CEO Mark Zuckerberg sign away 84% of Facebook to an individual for software development? It's looking that way, all of those potential millions upon millions of dollars for just a few thousand dollars worth of work.
Kevin S. Butler schools us on other African-American hosts of children's TV shows besides Joya Sherrill: On WGN TV 9 in Chicago Ms. Tasha Johnson became the last MC of Treetop House, WGN TV's Peabody award winning educational show. Prior to Ms. Johnson, Treetop House had white female MCs entertaining and educating the studio audience and their viewers. During Ms. Johnson's tenure she would take the kids on location and shoot in the studio as well; showing off more of the outside world and its many wonders to The Windy City's young viewers.
Mr. Scoey Mitchell was the first black host/performer to appear in the NYC viewing area on Let's Have Fun as "Fireman Frank" who would entertain and inform his viewers from within his fire station during LHF's last year on the air.
A black lady served as the host/musician and educator on PBS TV's Hodgepodge Lodge (1970-77) but I don't know her name.)
And long before he played "Gordy" on PBS TV's Sesame Street, Matt Robinson was the host/performer/producer and creator of a WCAU TV 10 Philly kid's TV news magazine titled Candy Apple News.
Thursday, July 22, 2010 - 8:34am
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