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The Lucy Show on DVD

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My memory may be muddled, however, I saw the show where Jackie Gleason broke his leg. You wrote --- On a separate occasion, Gleason broke his leg backstage during a live show and Art Carney had to come out at the end and improvise a closing.

I remember Gleason falling down on stage during a dance number and not showing up on camera after that.

I was also watching the Jimmy Durante show when Carmen Miranda had her heart attack - she was gasping at the end of a strenuous dance routine, said something like- "Oh, my heart!" - or - "I'm out of breath!" and then she walked off into the wings, collapsed and then died shortly after.

- Bill Egan

TVParty TV mis-takes and Blunders
by your new friend Billy Ingram
Mistakes as a way of life

Some screw-ups can't be easily glossed over or fixed by doing another take - at other times mistakes become an integral part of a show. That's the flimsy premise for this hastily prepared and crudely written article.

Back in the days of live television you had to move on if a mistake happened. The Honeymooners re-runs you see today were once live broadcasts, and they contain several awkward moments where the actors have to keep things moving when things don't go just right. In this clip, Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows do some improvising while 'Alice' tries to get a can open with one of those old style can-openers. Typical of the kind of minor blunders you'll find in live television shows from the Fifties. No big deal.

lucy's nose on fireRemember that famous scene where Lucy lights her putty nose on fire when she meets William Holden on the I Love Lucy show?

For years Lucy told the press that the nose wasn't supposed to ignite. In fact, a candlewick was secured in that fake nose - but Lucy still had to think fast when it actually went up in flames for the first time in rehearsal. She put it out in her coffee and got one of the biggest laughs in television history.

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The look of surprise on her face is priceless because it's real, this could have been a painful experience if she hadn't thought on her feet - Lucy saved her nose from third degree burns and got the money shot! That's a pro at work.

But what happens if catastrophe strikes, like the set won't come down and you can't do the show's elaborate closing number? Cavalcade of Stars (1951 - 1952) host Jackie Gleason is told there is just such a problem and he's got six minutes to fill at the end of the live show. He does it masterfully by doing impressions, cartwheels, his nightclub act and everybody else's act he could think of. On a separate occasion, Gleason broke his leg backstage during a live show and Arte Carne had to come out at the end and improvise a closing.

With the advent of filming (and later videotaping) television shows that came into practice in the late Fifties and Sixties, most directors, producers and stars became control freaks, never letting a mistake or a bad take make it into the final broadcast. But some variety shows had no choice but to let the mistakes become a part of the show. It adds an air of spontaneity and besides, what can you do if the performers refuse to rehearse?

TVPartyJackie Gleason never rehearsed for his variety show. He had a photographic memory, so he read the script over once, watched a rehearsal with his co-stars and his stand-in, then shot the show later that day. That meant the 'Great One' relied heavily on cue cards (large cards with the script written on it that a stage hand would hold up just out of camera range).

When Gleason would mess up, he often blamed the cue cards, as he does in this audio clip from a 1966 Jackie Gleason Show.

The Red Skelton Show ran for 19 years on CBS and another year on NBC before being canceled in 1971. Viewers could always look forward to seeing the host mess up at least once during the episode and seeing those goofs made Skelton's show more down-to-earth than the other variety shows of the Sixties. Eventually the producers took a good thing and ran it into the ground, by the end of the series' run the many 'bloopers' during the show seemed forced and obviously scripted.

The Dean Martin Show was always ripe with mistakes because, like Gleason, the star refused to rehearse ahead of time for his musical-variety hour. But Dean Martin didn't have Gleason's photographic memory, so he would run through the blocking on tape day, and read the script off the cue cards. Dean explained away the blunders by hinting that he was just drunk. Which he probably was anyway. This show that ran for 9 years on NBC starting in 1965.

On May 15, 1981 the first TV's Censored Bloopers special was broadcast on NBC with host Dick Clark. This started a flood of similar specials and a series that debuted in 1984 with Dick Clark and Ed McMahon. Since then, no doubt everybody out there in TV Party-land has seen so many of those stupid "blooper" shows you could just vomit. It's pretty bad when, these days, all they can come up with on those shows are local news gaffes and foreign commercials with naked prepubescent children running around. The series continues to resurface every couple of years with a slightly different name whenever NBC has a hole in its schedule.


Some Favorite Blunders:

There were plenty of gaffes during the making of The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour but the producers did the smart thing and left them in the final broadcast. It made for a more spontaneous show. Here is Redd Foxx with LaWanda Page in an exchange gone awry.

In this clip from The Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme Show (1958, NBC summer show) the hostess is leading a mule that starts tearing at her dress with his teeth - and ruins the guest-star's entrance. And the guest is movie star Eddie Bracken, an incredibly talented comic actor and the star of two of Preston Sturges' finest films. Rent HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO and you'll see Eddie Bracken in the lead.

In 1987, a video hacker managed to override the Chicago PBS station's broadcast of 'Dr. Who' for 90 seconds - and replace it with entertainment of his own design.


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