Friday, December 21, 2018

Encore Podcast: Big Stars + Small Screen = Tiny Audiences

The big TV story in the fall of 1971 was that movie stars were coming to the tube, including James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Shirley MacLaine, Glenn Ford, Anthony Quinn, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis, among others. Many of them turned to TV because movie roles were growing scarce, and for lucrative paychecks. But the vehicles they chose were garden variety TV — family sitcoms and cop shows — and viewers tuned out. We look at the highest-profile failures — “The Jimmy Stewart Show,” Shirley MacLaine’s “Shirley’s World” and Henry Fonda’s “The Smith Family.”


Friday, December 14, 2018

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

Friday, December 7, 2018

Sonny and Cher's Long, Strange TV Trip



The career odyssey of Sonny and Cher began in a recording studio, led to an abortive attempt at movies and finally to TV, where their comedy-variety show was one of the most popular of the 1970s. At the same time, it shaped Cher as a showbiz and fashion icon and led to the breakup of their marriage in front of all America, and then their reconciliation -- on the tube, at least.


Sources:

Television Variety Shows, by David Inman

"The Beat Goes On ... Again," Dick Adler, TV Guide, March 18, 1972

"The Party's Over: Sonny and Cher's Last Show Was Taped in an Atmosphere of Desperate Optimism," Rowland Barber, TV Guide, June 1, 1974

"Cher ... Without Sonny," Rowland Barber, TV Guide, April 12, 1975

"The Life and Loves of Sonny and Cher," Rowland Barber, TV Guide, June 5, 1976

Friday, November 30, 2018

Encore podcast: "The Hopalong Cassidy Magical Marketing Machine"


In 1948, William Boyd made a large bet on television, and on demographics. He had an idea that the first wave of the baby boomers — kids born to newly affluent parents — would be a large and untapped audience for the 66 “Hopalong Cassidy” movie westerns he’d starred in, so he bought the rights and sold them to TV stations that were starved for programming. He also made deals with dozens of consumer goods companies to market authorized Hopalong Cassidy merchandise, from wallpaper to cookies to roller skates with spurs on them. America’s kids snapped them up, and Boyd made millions.
Sources:
“Hopalong Hits the Jackpot,” Oliver Jensen, Life, June 12, 1950
“Wild-West Fever: Will It Sell for You?,” Sponsor, September 11, 1950
“Maxwell House Coffee Time with George Burns and Gracie Allen: George the Cowboy,” May 5, 1949

Friday, November 23, 2018

Seven and a Half Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About "The Dick Van Dyke Show"



It's been over 50 years since "The Dick Van Dyke Show" ended its run, but the show has really never left the airwaves -- its blend of sophisticated and slapstick humor set a sitcom standard that has rarely been matched. What else is there to say? We attempt a few things, including which cast member almost left the show, which actress was almost cast as Laura Petrie and what episode caused the most controversy for creator Carl Reiner.

Sources:

The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book, by Vince Waldron

My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Buisness: A Memoir, by Dick Van Dyke

"Dick Van Dyke: 'Supernormal' Comedian," Richard Gehman, TV Guide, December 8, 1962

" 'The Dick Van Dyke Show': They've Got No Kick Coming," TV Guide, March 27, 1965

"Rehearsing a 'Dick Van Dyke Show,' " Leslie Raddatz, TV Guide, February 26, 1966

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Marlon Brando-Wally Cox Connection

 
One man was one of the most iconoclastic and controversial actors of the 20th century -- the other was the voice of Underdog on a Saturday morning cartoon show. But once they met on an Illinois schoolyard, nine-year-olds Marlon Brando and Wally Cox became lifelong friends -- and even lovers, according to some accounts. We look at each man's career and their private, intense connection -- one that endured even after Cox's death in 1973.

Sources:

Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me, by Marlon Brando and Robert Lindsey

Brando Unzipped, by Darwin Porter

My Life as a Small Boy, by Wally Cox

Brando's Smile: His Life, Thought and Work, by Susan L. Mizruchi

"When the Wild One Met the Mild One," Robert W. Welkos, The Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2004

"Wally Cox, TV's Mister Peepers, Dies at 48," The New York Times, February 16, 1973

Friday, October 19, 2018

Encore Podcast: "Liz and Dick and Lucy and the Ring"



In 1969, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were arguably the world's most famous married couple, and they became even more well known when Burton bought his wife a 69-carat diamond ring that cost over a million dollars. At a Hollywood party, their paths crossed with Lucille Ball and an unlikely idea emerged -- within weeks the Burtons were taping an episode of "Here's Lucy" as themselves, with the ring as a special guest star. This is the story of a very large diamond, two very popular movie stars and one of America's favorite comic actresses -- and how they all came together to make TV history.

Sources:

" 'All I Could See Was Elizabeth and That Rock': What Happened When Taylor and Burton Were Filmed for Next Week's Lucy Show," James Bacon, TV Guide, September 5, 1970

"The Taylor Burton Diamond," worthy.com

Loving Lucy: An Illustrated Tribute to Lucille Ball, by Bart Andrews

Elizabeth Taylor: A Private Life for Public Consumption, by Ellis Cashmore

The Richard Burton Diaries, edited by Chris Williams 

Friday, October 12, 2018

New Podcast Alert! "What We Saw at the Movies"



Once again, my brother Steve and I toddle down memory lane and reminisce about movies we saw as kids in the 1960s and '70s. Included are looks at the drive-in cheeseball classic "Eegah," "The Sound of Music," "How the West Was Won," "Mary Poppins," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "Blazing Saddles" and many others. There are also stories abut David's first R-rated movie and how Steve dealt with an upset stomach while watching "Patton."

Friday, October 5, 2018

Encore podcast: "The Stormy Success of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour' "

In early 1967, folksinging comedians Tom and Dick Smothers kicked off their own variety show on CBS. Their competition was stiff -- NBC's "Bonanza," the one show that CBS could never seem to dislodge from its top-10 spot in the ratings. But the brothers beat "Bonanza" with a combination of topical comedy and musical guests like the Turtles, Buffalo Springfield and the Who. The only problem was that the show's anti-war humor and social satire often ran afoul of CBS censors -- and even prompted protests from the White House, leading to a series of conflicts between the Smothers Brothers and Big Brother.

Sources:

Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," by David Bianculli

"Smothered: The Censorship Struggles of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour' "

"The Smothers Brothers Redux: A Bittersweet Reunion at CBS," Andy Meisler, The New York Times, January 31, 1988

Friday, September 21, 2018

Encore podcast: The 1960s -- What We Watched


David Inman and his brother Steve remember what it was like in the dark days when many cities only had three TV stations, and the shows they would watch, from “Batman” to “Lost in Space” to “Davey and Goliath.” They also discuss their fears (the Joker on “Batman,” the monsters on “Lost in Space”) and the shows that were off limits at their house (Hint: Both shows featured actors named Jack).

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. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Hopalong Cassidy Magical Marketing Machine



In 1948, William Boyd made a large bet on television, and on demographics. He had an idea that the first wave of the baby boomers — kids born to newly affluent parents — would be a large and untapped audience for the 66 “Hopalong Cassidy” movie westerns he’d starred in, so he bought the rights and sold them to TV stations that were starved for programming. He also made deals with dozens of consumer goods companies to market authorized Hopalong Cassidy merchandise, from wallpaper to cookies to roller skates with spurs on them. America’s kids snapped them up, and Boyd made millions.
Sources:
“Hopalong Hits the Jackpot,” Oliver Jensen, Life, June 12, 1950
“Wild-West Fever: Will It Sell for You?,” Sponsor, September 11, 1950
“Maxwell House Coffee Time with George Burns and Gracie Allen: George the Cowboy,” May 5, 1949 

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Unsinkable Betty White


At age 96, Betty Marion White Ludden has had the longest television career in history. She made her TV debut in 1939 and in the late 1940s she co-hosted a local Los Angeles series that ran five hours each day. When the Emmy Awards added the "Best Actress" category in 1951, she was one of the nominees, and exactly sixty years later, in 2011, she was a nominee once again. In between she's won eight Emmy awards, three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild awards, a Grammy Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She's the oldest person ever to host "Saturday Night Live" and in two years she will begin her tenth decade in show business. She is, in short, unsinkable.

Sources:

Here We Go Again: My Life in Television, 1949-1995, by Betty White

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Stormy Success of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour"



In early 1967, folksinging comedians Tom and Dick Smothers kicked off their own variety show on CBS. Their competition was stiff -- NBC's "Bonanza," the one show that CBS could never seem to dislodge from its top-10 spot in the ratings. But the brothers beat "Bonanza" with a combination of topical comedy and musical guests like the Turtles, Buffalo Springfield and the Who. The only problem was that the show's anti-war humor and social satire often ran afoul of CBS censors -- and even prompted protests from the White House, leading to a series of conflicts between the Smothers Brothers and Big Brother.

Sources:

Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," by David Bianculli

"Smothered: The Censorship Struggles of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour' "

"The Smothers Brothers Redux: A Bittersweet Reunion at CBS," Andy Meisler, The New York Times, January 31, 1988

Friday, May 11, 2018

Liz and Dick and Lucy and the Ring



In 1969, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were arguably the world's most famous married couple, and they became even more well known when Burton bought his wife a 69-carat diamond ring that cost over a million dollars. At a Hollywood party, their paths crossed with Lucille Ball and an unlikely idea emerged -- within weeks the Burtons were taping an episode of "Here's Lucy" as themselves, with the ring as a special guest star. This is the story of a very large diamond, two very popular movie stars and one of America's favorite comic actresses -- and how they all came together to make TV history.

Sources:

" 'All I Could See Was Elizabeth and That Rock': What Happened When Taylor and Burton Were Filmed for Next Week's Lucy Show," James Bacon, TV Guide, September 5, 1970

"The Taylor Burton Diamond," worthy.com

Loving Lucy: An Illustrated Tribute to Lucille Ball, by Bart Andrews

Elizabeth Taylor: A Private Life for Public Consumption, by Ellis Cashmore

The Richard Burton Diaries, edited by Chris Williams 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fade to Blacklist: Part 2



In our last episode, we looked at the East Coast blacklist triggered by "Red Channels" -- which listed the "Communistic activities" of supposed radicals -- and the lives that were ruined by it. In this episode we look at the pushback -- the positive results of people standing up to a small number of self-appointed vigilantes, and what happened when networks and sponsors stood strong against threats to shows such as "I've Got a Secret" and "I Love Lucy." We also look at one man who finally had enough and took the blacklist creators and enforcers to court.

Sources:

Fear on Trial, by John Henry Faulk

Desilu: The Story of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, by Coyne Steven Sanders

Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball, by Stefan Kanfer

The Image Empire: A History of Broadcasting in the United States, Volume III, by Erik Barnouw

Friday, April 13, 2018

Fade to Blacklist: Part 1



In the summer of 1950, a booklet called "Red Channels" shook up the East Coast media structure -- radio and TV networks as well as advertising agencies. "Red Channels" listed the "subversive" activities of over 150 writers, directors and performers, from Orson Welles to Lena Horne. If you were named in the book, you were guilty until proven innocent and you ran the serious risk of being unemployable on radio or TV. The blacklist triggered by "Red Channels" lasted for much of the 1950s, seriously affecting and even ruining the lives of innocent people. In the first of two parts, we look at how the blacklist began and how it was abetted by cowardly TV and radio producers and advertisers.


Sources:

A History of Broadcasting in the United States: 2. The Golden Web, 1933-1953, by Erik Barnouw

The Image Empire: A History of Broadcasting in the United States, Volume III, by Erik Barnouw

"15 Entertainers Who Were Labeled Communist in the Red Channels List," Eliza Berman, time.com, June 22, 2015

"Gypsy, Scott and Wicker in Red Denials," Billboard, September 23, 1950

"Blacklist Still Snarls AM-TV," Variety, September 13, 1950

"Ireene Wicker Hammer Dies, 86; Storyteller to Millions of Children," Nan Robertson, The New York Times, November 18, 1987

Red Scare: Memories of the American Inquisition, by Griffin Fariello

Unfriendly Witnesses: Gender, Theatre and Film in the McCarthy Era, by Milly S. Barranger

With Amusement for All: A History of American Popular Culture Since 1830, by LeRoy Ashby

Invasion of the Mind Snatchers: Television's Conquest of America in the Fifties, by Eric Burns

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Rise and Fall of "Moonlighting"



When the Directors Guild of America announced its award nominations in 1986, history was made. For the very first time, one TV show was nominated for best direction in a comedy and best direction in a drama -- "Moonlighting." The combination detective series-screwball comedy thrived on romantic tension for three seasons in the mid-1980s -- until the lead characters finally got together and the show's creators weren't quite sure what to do next.

Sources:

"Cybill Shepherd's Comeback: Duelling for Dollars," Bill Davidson, TV Guide, December 7, 1985


"Behind the Turmoil on 'Moonlighting': Cybill Won't Be Tamed," Michael Leahy, TV Guide, May 30, 1987


"The Madcap Behind 'Moonlighting,' " Joy Horowitz, The New York Times Magazine, March 30, 1986

" 'Moonlighting' Makes Light of 15 Emmy Losses: Mom Goes to Her Reward But TV Show Didn't," Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1986

"Writer of 'Moonlighting' Cast in a Different Glow," Steve Daley, The Chicago Tribune, March 11, 1986

"Glenn Gordon Caron Discusses Working with Cybill Shepherd on 'Moonlighting,' " emmytvlegends.org

"Glenn Gordon Caron Discusses the Tone of 'Moonlighting,' " emmytvlegends.org

Friday, March 16, 2018

The 1960s: How We Played


David Inman and his brother Steve take another trip down memory lane to recall the toys they played with as kids, from G.I. Joes fully equipped for nuclear war to electric football games, which were basically vibrating pieces of sheet metal. There are also special guest appearances by Hot Wheels, Mr. Kelly's Car Wash, Major Matt Mason and Zero M spy toys.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The 1960s: What We Watched

This week on the podcast, David Inman and his brother Steve remember what it was like in the dark days when many cities only had three TV stations, and the shows they would watch, from "Batman" to "Lost in Space" to "Davey and Goliath." They also discuss their fears (the Joker on "Batman," the monsters on "Lost in Space") and the shows that were off limits at their house (Hint: Both shows featured actors named Jack).
 

Friday, March 2, 2018

"The Andy Griffith Show" and How It Grew


“The Andy Griffith Show” is Griffith’s best work — certainly his most personal. It was never out of TV’s Top 10 programs for its entire eight-season run, and it inspired a spinoff series, a TV movies and several reunion specials. Fifty years after it left the air, the reruns continue. Griffith never won an Emmy Award, but he was the guiding creative force behind the show, building it into a situation comedy with heart as well as humor — and shaping the relationship between himself and Don Knotts, as deputy Barney Fife, to reflect the relationship between two friends in one of his favorite radio shows, the comic serial “Lum and Abner.”
Sources:
"Andy Griffith: Cornball with the Steel-Trap Mind," Lee Edson, TV Guide, January 28 and February 4, 1961
" 'The Andy Griffith Show' Has H.A.Q. (High Acceptability Quotient)," TV Guide, May 11, 1963
"The Wondrous Andy Griffith TV Machine," Richard Warren Lewis, TV Guide, July 13 and July 20, 1968
The Andy Griffith Show, by Richard Kelly
The Andy Griffith Show Book, by Ken Beck and Jim Clark
"Richard Linke, Andy Griffith's Talent Manager, Dies at 98," Sam Roberts, The New York Times, June 20, 2016 


Friday, February 23, 2018

James Cagney's Final Act(ing)



After a thirty-year Hollywood career, James Cagney made what he thought would be his final film in 1961 -- a comedy directed by Billy Wilder called "One Two Three." Cagney then retired, spending his time between two farms he owned -- one on Martha's Vineyard and one in upstate New York. But Cagney got tired of being retired, and in 1980 his friend, director Milos Forman, talked Cagney into taking a small but significant role in Forman's film adaptation of the bestselling novel "Ragtime." Further encouraged by his family and lifelong friend Pat O'Brien, Cagney went on to play the lead role in a 1984 TV movie called "Terrible Joe Moran." By that point Cagney had been weakened by several strokes and was in a wheelchair, but he powered through, inspired by O'Brien's words of encouragement: "Do it, Cagney. It's medicine."
Sources:

"Cagney, 82, Is Embarrassed Anew at Being a 'Star'," Chris Chase, The New York Times, November 17, 1981

"Peter Gallagher," theavclub.com, June 14, 2011

"Ragtime," milosforman.com

"Ragtime," TCM.com

"TV Review: 'Terrible Joe Moran' Starring James Cagney," John J. O'Connor, The New York Times, March 27, 1984

"Faraway Fella: 'Cagney,' a Biography by John McCabe," David Thomson, The Los Angeles Times, January 4, 1998

Art Carney: A Biography, by Michael Seth Starr

Cagney, by John McCabe

"Cagney Felt at Home in Dutchess," Larry Hughes, Poughkeepsie Journal, June 18, 2015

"James Cagney: Looking Backward," Timothy White, Rolling Stone, February 18, 1982

"James Cagney's Condition Provokes Controversy," Sylvia Lawler, The Morning Call, March 25, 1984

Director Joseph Sargent on James Cagney, emmytvlegends.org

"Profile in Courage: Nobody Ever Said Cagney Wasn't a Fighter," Rod Townley, TV Guide, March 24, 1984



Friday, February 16, 2018

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, February 9, 2018

1952: The 60-Second Election



In 1952, Republican Dwight Eisenhower squared off against Democrat Adlai Stevenson in the presidential election. Eisenhower, who had been commander of allied forces in Europe during World War II, was enormously popular but not much of a public speaker. So a combination of talents from America’s largest advertising agencies, including the man upon whom the “Mad Men” character Don Draper was roughly based, convinced Eisenhower and his advisers that the best way to reach American voters was the same way they received selling propositions about what soap to use, what car to drive, what cigarette to smoke — by a TV commercial. Eisenhower reluctantly agreed — and political campaigns were changed forever.
Sources:
“Political Advertising,” adage.com, September 15, 2003
“Eisenhower, an Unlikely Pioneer of TV Ads,” Michael Beschloss, The New York Times, October 30, 2015
“8 of Adlai Stevenson’s Awful 1952 TV Campaign Ads,” Chris Higgins, mentalfloss.com, February 20, 2012

Friday, February 2, 2018

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,” The Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2005