Friday, August 14, 2020

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.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Who Shot J.R.? The Plot Heard Round the World

On this podcast, we review the hottest TV story during the summer of 1980, and how it introduced the season-ending cliffhanger to series TV. Also: "Funkytown."

Friday, July 17, 2020

"Lou Grant" Meets Old Hollywood

My favorite episode of "Lou Grant" is this one: "Hollywood," which first aired in early 1980, written by Michele Gallery.

The guest cast alone would make any old movie fan perk up:

As city editor of the Los Angeles Tribune, Lou (Edward Asner) leads his reporters (Robert Walden, Linda Kelsey, Daryl Anderson) in an investigation of a long-unsolved Hollywood murder. The guest stars each have a scene or two, except for Foch, as the reclusive owner of the restaurant where the murder occurred. Foch was Emmy-nominated for her performance; composer Patrick Williams won an Emmy for the episode's haunting theme. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Encore Podcast: Elvis Presley -- Year One

Encore Podcast: Elvis Presley wasn't born in 1956, but his career was. He began the year barely known outside the south, but under the management of Col. Tom Parker he spent the year making his mark on TV variety shows hosted by Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan; and his recordings for RCA, beginning with "Heartbreak Hotel," dominated the pop charts. By the end of the year he was arguably the best-known entertainer in America, with broader fame still to come.

Monday, April 6, 2020

New Podcast: Life According to "Hey, Arnold!"

My daughter Nora joins me to talk about what was probably her (and my) favorite Nickelodeon animated series when she was a kid -- "Hey, Arnold!" We talk about the show's philosophy of diversity as strength and review some memorable episodes, including "The Stoop Kid," "The Pigeon Man," "Ghost Bride" and "Helga on the Couch," detailing the life of' Arnold's truest love/fiercest enemy, Helga Pataki.

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.

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."