Friday, December 13, 2019

Encore Podcast: The Quiz Show Scandals -- "The $64,000 Question"



During the summer of 1955, a new TV show kept people in front of their sets on hot Tuesday nights. “The $64,000 Question” was a big-money quiz show that made its contestants instant celebrities and the show even displaced “I Love Lucy” as the nation’s top TV program. What nobody realized at the time was that the show was planned, paced and cast like a drama, and a contestant’s success depended not on the questions he or she answered correctly, but on a sponsor who would drop you when you ceased to be useful.


Sources:
TV Game Shows, by Maxine Fabe
“The Cop and the $64,000 Question,” TV Guide, July 9, 1955
“A Summer Show Hits the Jackpot: $64,000 Prize, Carefully Picked Contestants Keep Nation Glued to Its Television Sets,” TV Guide, August 20, 1955
“Come and Get It: TV Giveaway Shows Lure Viewers with Bigger and Bigger Jackpots,” TV Guide, December 31, 1955
“The Quiz Show Scandals: An Editorial,” TV Guide, October 24, 1959
“Letters,” TV Guide, November 21, 1959

Friday, December 6, 2019

Encore Podcast: The World Accordion to Lawrence Welk



Encore Podcast: The rise of Lawrence Welk and of rock and roll happened at roughly the same time -- maybe in reaction to each other. Welk's band played classic white-bread tunes -- waltzes, foxtrots and polkas -- and were television favorites for an amazing three decades. Reruns of the show still air on PBS stations across the country. We look at Welk's popularity, despite his awkward stage presence, and the musical "family" he featured on his show, including the Lennon Sisters, and his band's odd efforts to play 1970s pop songs like "One Toke Over the Line."

Friday, November 29, 2019

Encore Podcast: The Miracle of "A Charlie Brown Christmas"



"A Charlie Brown Christmas" wasn't intentionally created to be timeless, but because of its simplicity and sincerity, timeless it is. Miraculously, it avoids every cliche associated with children's animation and is a perfect blending of music, words and images that clearly conveys one man's vision and philosophy -- Charles Schulz, who drew "Peanuts" from 1950 until his death in 2000.

Sources:

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography, by David Michaelis

A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles Schulz, by Stephen J. Lind

"How 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' Almost Wasn't," Jennings Brown, ny.com, November 16, 2016

"The 'Charlie Brown Christmas' Special Was the Flop That Wasn't," Carrie Hagen, smithsonian.com, December 9, 2015

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Encore Podcast: Orson Welles's Radio Days



In 1934, Orson Welles came to Broadway in a production of "Romeo and Juliet" and within a year he was putting his mellifluous voice to use by doing a lot of radio work, including as part of the stock company, imitating famous newsmakers, on "The March of Time." While producing and directing shows on Broadway, he was also making a name for himself as the title character on "The Shadow" and, later, scaring America to death with "War of the Worlds." Today we consider Welles's work as a rising star on the radio, leading to an offer from Hollywood.

Sources:

Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News, by A. Brad Schwartz

Orson Welles on the Air: Packaging Welles, orsonwelles.indiana.edu

"This Ageless Soul," Russell Maloney, The New Yorker, October 1, 1938

Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles, by David Thomson

The Mercury Theatre on the Air, mercurytheatre.info

Friday, October 18, 2019

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, October 11, 2019

New Podcast: It's the "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" Holiday Special!



My daughter Nora joins me to talk about her favorite episodes of the spooky Nickelodeon series from the 1990s -- a show that helped trigger her lifelong love of scary movies. We talk about episodes involving everything from a kid trapped in a dollhouse to a haunted movie theatre to a kid who kills the school bully to Zeebo the clown. Join us -- IF YOU DARE!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Encore Podcast: Raymond Burr's Secrets and Lies



When Raymond Burr died in 1993, he was eulogized around the world as the star of "Perry Mason" and "Ironside." But the obituaries were notable for what they didn't say as much as for what they did say. None of them mentioned that Burr was gay -- he had been closeted all his life. And most of them mentioned commonly-accepted facts about Burr -- that he was twice widowed, that he lost a son to leukemia and that he fought in World War II. None of that was true, but it was part of the complicated biography Burr had built for himself.