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.

Friday, September 27, 2019

New Podcast: Elvis Presley -- Year One



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.

Sources:

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, by Peter Guralnick

Elvis '56


"Presley's Explosive Show Ignites San Diego Riot," Variety, April 11, 1956


"Elvis Presley Hits Gold Platter Circle," Variety, April 11, 1956


Friday, September 13, 2019

New Podcast: When Louis Met Dolly

When Louis Armstrong first saw the sheet music for "Hello, Dolly," he was in low spirits. It was just 11 days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Armstrong was in a career lull. He also didn't think much of the song. But he recorded it like the pro he was, and while he was off playing other gigs, it displaced the Beatles as America's top pop song. It also helped Armstrong transition from a jazz pro into a pop-music idol.

Sources:

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, by Terry Teachout

What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, by Ricky Riccardi

Friday, September 6, 2019

Encore podcast: What We Saw at the Movies



Encore podcast: 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, August 30, 2019

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,” The Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2005

Friday, August 23, 2019

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.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The World Accordion to Lawrence Welk



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.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Encore Podcast: When Maude Findlay Had an Abortion



In the fall of 1972, the first spinoff from "All in the Family" premiered. It was "Maude," with Beatrice Arthur as Edith Bunker's liberal cousin. And right out of the gate, "Maude" took on controversial topics like psychotherapy, black militancy and modern morality. Then on November 14, in the ninth episode of the series, Maude found out she was pregnant at age 47. She considered her options, including abortion, which at the time was legal in New York state, where the show was set. (The U.S. Supreme Court wouldn't legalize abortion nationwide until 1973.) Maude's decision to get an abortion would go largely unnoticed during the episode's original run, but when summer reruns came along the show received a firestorm of criticism, driving the idea of abortion -- and even the mention of the word itself -- off of network television for the next fifteen years.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Encore Podcast: Sid Caesar and His Demons


Sid Caesar is one of the comic giants of 1950s TV, but he was also plagued by anxiety, depression, guilt and an explosive temper. In the early 1980s he came to my hometown of Louisville to perform at a dinner theatre, and I reviewed the show. I didn't know it then, but he was in the midst of a battle to escape his addiction to booze and pills and conquer his deep-seated demons.

Sources:
Where Have I Been? An Autobiography, by Sid Caesar with Bill Davidson
"Sid Caesar's Finest Sketch," David Margolick, The New Yorker, February 14, 2014

Friday, July 12, 2019

What We Watched: Cartoons and Kids' Shows



I'm joined once again by my brother Steve for a trip down memory lane to recall our TV memories from the 1960s and '70s, specifically Saturday morning shows like "Casper the Friendly Ghost" and "The Banana Splits Hour," with side trips involving everything from "Schoolhouse Rock" to "The Eighth Man."

Friday, July 5, 2019

Encore Podcast: 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, June 28, 2019

Encore Podcast: 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, June 21, 2019

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, June 14, 2019

Encore Podcast: 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, June 7, 2019

New podcast: A Short, Unhappy "Life with Lucy"

One of the most anticipated shows of the 1986-87 season was "Life with Lucy," Lucille Ball's return to weekly TV after 12 years. Ball's plan was to get the band back together by turning to the writers and cast members she'd worked with for decades in a show loaded with slapstick comedy and physical pratfalls. But Ball was 75 and her co-star, Gale Gordon, was 80 -- and, like them, the formula that had worked so well for Ball for years was showing its age.

Sources:

I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball, by Lee Tannen

"Lucy, Coming to Life," Tom Shales, The Washington Post, September 19, 1986

TV Party! Television's Untold Tales, by Billy Ingram

What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, by David Hoftstede

Friday, May 31, 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, May 3, 2019

Encore podcast: "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, April 26, 2019

Encore podcast: A Short History of Ridiculous Sponsor Interference




For almost as long as there has been broadcasting, there has been commercial sponsorship. But from the 1930s through the 1960s, sponsors had an unusual amount of power because, through advertising agencies, they owned entire blocks of time on the program schedule and produced their own shows. In this episode we look at a few examples of sponsor power run amok, resulting in complications that were sometimes dangerous, sometimes just silly. Along the way we will sample clips from “The Jack Benny Program,” “The Flintstones,” “I Love Lucy,” “Playhouse 90,” “The $64,000 Question” and “30 Rock,” among others.

Friday, April 19, 2019

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.


Sources:

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr, by Michael Seth Starr

Friday, April 5, 2019

Encore podcast: Ed Sullivan, American Gatekeeper

In 1948, Ed Sullivan began hosting a weekly variety series on CBS-TV. His background as a newspaper columnist served him well — he had an unerring instinct for what people wanted to see, and he used his unique power to become an influential American gatekeeper for most of the 1950s and ’60s. We take a look a Sullivan’s influence, including “blessing” Elvis Presley and the Beatles by praising them on the air and reassuring anxious parents of teenagers. We also review his feuds with the likes of Steve Allen, Jackie Mason and Buddy Holly.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Encore podcast: 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 22, 2019

Encore podcast: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, March 15, 2019

Encore podcast: 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, March 8, 2019

Encore podcast: 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, March 1, 2019

Variations on a Theme Song (1966 Edition)

In the immortal tradition of cave people banging on rocks and skulls and strolling troubadours of the Middle Ages, there is also the TV theme song. We take a look at the state of the theme in 1966, which featured songs with one-word lyrics ("Batman") and pop hits ("Secret Agent") as well as songs that did a lot of heavy lifting to explain the often-outlandish concept of the show ("My Mother the Car," "It's About Time"). We also feature a quick salute to one of the masters of the sitcom theme song who was well represented in 1966 -- composer Vic Mizzy.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Encore podcast: 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.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Silverman's Travels



If you were watching American network TV in the 1970s and early 1980s, what you were watching had probably been touched by Fred Silverman. Over a 20-year period, Silverman had an unprecedented run as chief programmer of all three networks -- CBS, ABC and NBC. His successful programming choices led to his reputation as "the man with the golden gut," but his downfall came when he had to program against his strongest adversary -- himself.

Sources:

"The Crapshoot for Half a Billion," Tommy Thompson, Life, September 10, 1971

"TV's Man for All Networks," Lawrence Van Gelder, The New York Times, January 21, 1978

"NBC's Super Freddie Misses the Train," Jack Egan, New York, May 14, 1979

"A Troubled Season for NBC Chief Fred Silverman," Arthur Unger, The Christian Science Monitor, December 17, 1980

"Fred Silverman," Rip Rense, emmys.com

"The Fall and Rise of Fred Silverman," Geraldine Fabrikant, The New York Times, June 5, 1989

Saturday, February 2, 2019

What We Laughed At

My brother Steve and I sit down and talk about the comedians we enjoyed as kids, mostly on "The Ed Sullivan Show," like Jackie Vernon, Myron Cohen and Henny Youngman. We also talk about discovering "new" comics like Richard Pryor and George Carlin and more contemporary comics such as Brian Regan and Mike Birbiglia.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Sid Caesar and His Demons



Sid Caesar is one of the comic giants of 1950s TV, but he was also plagued by anxiety, depression, guilt and an explosive temper. In the early 1980s he came to my hometown of Louisville to perform at a dinner theatre, and I reviewed the show. I didn't know it then, but he was in the midst of a battle to escape his addiction to booze and pills and conquer his deep-seated demons.


Sources:

Where Have I Been? An Autobiography, by Sid Caesar with Bill Davidson

"Sid Caesar's Finest Sketch," David Margolick, The New Yorker, February 14, 2014