Friday, September 14, 2018

Encore podcast: "The Keefe Brasselle Story, or Godfather Knows Best"



Keefe Brasselle's show business career includes a few movies, some TV work, probable arson, extortion, kickbacks, assault with a deadly weapon and lots of threats of bodily harm. His unholy alliance with a CBS executive led to the executive's downfall, and his repeated boasting about his mafia connections, along with his lack of any real talent, made him a bitter has-been reduced to writing and acting in a 1970s drive-in quickie. In this episode we examine Brasselle's career and his unsavory associations. 

Friday, August 31, 2018

Encore podcast: The Variety Show Skirmishes of 1963


In the fall of 1963, the big TV news was that three bonafide movie stars were going to host weekly variety shows — Judy Garland, Jerry Lewis and Danny Kaye. By the end of the season, only one of them would still be on the air — the other flamed out spectacularly and the third, after being wrecked by network interference, started again from scratch and found itself in its outstanding final episodes. Along the way, there were ego clashes, blown-out budgets, behind-the-scenes drama, creative upheaval, flat-out sexism and a final gesture of defiance centered around the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Sources:
Rainbow’s End: The Judy Garland Show, by Coyne Steven Sanders
Television Variety Shows, by David Inman
“Over the Rainbow, and Then Some!,” James Kaplan, Vanity Fair, May 2011
“The Danny Kaye Show,” Encyclopedia of Television, Museum of Broadcast Communications
JFK’s Final Days: November 19, 1963, Presidential History Geeks
“The Great Garland Gamble,” Dwight Whitney, TV Guide, October 19, 1963
“Judy Garland and the Show That Failed,” Vernon Scott, TV Guide, May 2, 1964
“Danny Kaye: Satisfied with Perfection,” Richard de Roos, TV Guide, February 1, 1964
“The Seven Faces of Danny Kaye,” Dwight Whitney, TV Guide, January 9, 1965
” ‘The Danny Kaye Show’ Is Not Returning in 1967 After 4 Seasons,” Richard K. Doan, TV Guide, December 17, 1966
“How Jerry Lewis Got What He Wanted,” Richard Gehman, TV Guide, June 15, 1963
“What Happened to Jerry Lewis,” Richard Gehman, TV Guide, December 14, 1963

Friday, August 24, 2018

Encore podcast: In Godfrey We Trust

In the late 1940s and early '50s the biggest moneymaker on CBS radio and television was Arthur Godfrey -- at one point he reportedly brought in 12 percent of the network's income. He had an unpretentious style of communicating with his audience, and a smooth manner of selling products that sponsors loved. But in 1953, at the height of his popularity, Godfrey suffered a huge, self-inflicted blow to his stature when he fired one of his regulars, known as "the little Godfreys," live on the air. The incident haunted the rest of his career.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Encore podcast: The Jack Benny-Johnny Carson Connection


In 1949, Jack Benny took advantage of new capital gains laws and moved his popular program from NBC to CBS, an immense boost to that network in ratings and prestige. At about the same time, a senior at the University of Nebraska named Johnny Carson was putting together his thesis, “How to Write Comedy for Radio,” a tape-recorded presentation filled with examples of Jack Benny’s work. Carson couldn’t have known it at the time, but within a few years Benny would become one of Carson’s biggest boosters – they formed a kind of mutual admiration society that would last until Benny’s death in 1974. Benny had been one of America’s dominant comedy voices during the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s – and by utilizing tricks he’d learned from Benny, Carson, as host of “The Tonight Show” for thirty years, would become one of America’s dominant comedy voices during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
Sources:
Johnny Carson, by Henry Bushkin
“Red Skelton Butts Scenery, Sprains Neck,” Rome (GA) News-Tribune, August 18, 1954
“Comics’ Comics,” TV Guide, January 15, 1955
“Johnny Carson: Young Man with a Grin,” TV Guide, September 3, 1955
“Johnny Carson Defined Late-Night TV,”  Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2005

Friday, July 20, 2018

A Very Short History of TV Shows with Very Short Histories



What can you say about a TV show that dies after just one episode? We can think of a few things. Here’s a look at some of the most notorious examples, including a show that forced Jackie Gleason to apologize to America, a “Laugh-In” ripoff that was cancelled midway through its only episode and a sitcom about the home life of the Hitlers. Here are their stories — their pathetic stories of massive, embarrassing failure.
Sources:
The Worst TV Shows Ever, by Bart Andrews
” ‘Co-Ed Fever’ Expires,” The Bonham (TX) Daily Favorite, February 11, 1979
“Steve’s Reason Why Not,” Lisa de Moraes, The Washington Post, January 22, 2006

Friday, July 13, 2018

Encore podcast: "The Rise and Fall of 'Dragnet'



In the summer of 1949, “Dragnet” premiered on NBC radio. It was a show that sounded like no other thanks to creator-star Jack Webb’s obsession with authenticity. “Dragnet” then moved to TV and ran for most of the 1950s. Its theme song and opening disclaimer — “The story you are about to see is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent” — became part of pop culture history. During the turbulent late 1960s, “Dragnet” was revived, and it hadn’t changed — but the world had, and authority was something to be questioned rather than celebrated. We look at the influence of “Dragnet” and Webb’s evolution into an outspoken advocate of police officers.
Sources:
“Jack Webb, TV’s Most Misunderstood Man,” TV Guide, March 23, 1957
“Jack Webb Returns to the Good Old Days,” Richard Warren Lewis, TV Guide, October 19, 1968

Friday, July 6, 2018

The 1960s: What We Listened To



New podcast alert: David and his brother Steve and reminisce about the music we grew up listening to, from Duke Ellington to Sarah Vaughn to the Monkees to Allen Sherman's 1963 megahit "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah." With special appearances by Jackson Browne, Louis Armstrong and the Guess Who.