Monday, June 18, 2018

This Week in Television History: June 2018 PART III

As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history,
the more that fact and legend become intertwined.
It's hard to say where the truth really lies.


June 19, 2013
James Gandolfini, TV's Tony Soprano, dies at 51
On this day in 2013, James Gandolfini, the actor best known for his role as New Jersey crime boss Tony Soprano on the TV series "The Sopranos," which debuted in 1999 and ran for six seasons, dies of a heart attack while vacationing in Rome, Italy. He was 51.
The son of working-class parents of Italian descent, Gandolfini was born on September 18, 1961, in Westwood, New Jersey, and graduated from Rutgers University in 1983. Afterward, he worked as a bartender and club manager in New York City, drove a delivery truck and studied acting. He made his film debut in 1987’s low-budget "Shock! Shock! Shock!" and went on to play supporting character roles in such movies as "True Romance" (1993), "Get Shortly" (1995) and "The Juror" (1996).
Gandolfini shot to stardom in the groundbreaking HBO drama "The Sopranos," which centered on the violent, complicated Tony Soprano. Gandolfini's portrayal of the brutal mobster, who lives in the New Jersey suburbs where he deals with ordinary family issues and sees a therapist after suffering from panic attacks, earned him three Emmy Awards for outstanding lead actor in a drama. Critics called Tony Soprano one of the greatest TV characters of all time, and by the show's final season Gandolfini was being paid a reported $1 million per episode. Additionally, "The Sopranos" was credited with paving the way for edgier TV shows and flawed leading characters such as corrupt detective Vic Mackey on "The Shield," school teacher-turned-meth dealer Walter White on "Breaking Bad" and cynical, philandering adman Don Draper on "Mad Men."
After "The Sopranos" ended in 2007, Gandolfini acted on Broadway, appeared in movies including "Zero Dark Thirty" (2012) and produced several documentaries about injured American military veterans. Following Gandolfini's June 2013 death, the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, ordered all state government buildings to fly their flags at half-staff for a day in honor of the popular Garden State native.

June 20, 1948
Toast of the Town premieres. 
Ed Sullivan's long-running variety show premieres. Although later known simply as The Ed Sullivan Show, the series debuts as Toast of the Town. Among the many performers who made their TV debuts on the show were Bob Hope, Lena Horne, the Beatles, and Walt Disney. Elvis Presley also made several high-profile performances on the show, in 1956 and 1957. The show ran until 1971.
June 22, 2008
Stand-up comedian, writer and actor George Carlin dies of heart failure at the age of 71.
Born in New York City, Carlin dropped out of high school and joined the Air Force. While stationed in Shreveport, Louisiana, he got a job as a radio disc jockey; after his discharge, he worked as a radio announcer and disc jockey in Boston and Fort Worth, Texas. Carlin and his early radio colleague, Jack Burns, formed a moderately successful stand-up comedy duo, appearing in nightclubs and on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. They soon parted ways, and Carlin made his first solo appearance on The Tonight Show in 1962. Three years later, he began a string of performances on The Merv Griffin Show and was later hired as a regular on Away We Go, 1967’s summer replacement for The Jackie Gleason Show. Carlin cemented his early career success with the release of his debut comedy album, the well-reviewed Take-Offs and Put-Downs, that same year.
During the late 1960s, Carlin had a recurring role on the sitcom That Girl, starring Marlo Thomas, and made numerous TV appearances on shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show and Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Seeking to make a leap into big-time stardom, the relatively clean-cut, conventional comic reinvented himself around 1970 as an eccentric, biting social critic and commentator. In his new incarnation, Carlin began appealing to a younger, hipper audience, particularly college students. He began dressing in a stereotypically “hippie” style, with a beard, long hair and jeans, and his new routines were punctuated by pointed jokes about religion and politics and frequent references to drugs.

Released in 1972, Carlin’s second album, FM/AM, won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording. A routine from his third hit album, Class Clown (also 1972) grew into the comic’s now-famous profanity-laced routine “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” When it was first broadcast on New York radio, a complaint led the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ban the broadcast as “indecent.” The U.S. Supreme Court later upheld the order, which remains in effect today. The routine made Carlin a hero to his fans and got him in trouble with radio brass as well as with law enforcement; he was even arrested several times, once during an appearance in Milwaukee, for violating obscenity laws.

More popular than ever as a countercultural hero, Carlin was asked to be the first guest host of a new sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live, in 1975. Two years later, he starred in the first of what would be 14 comedy specials on the cable television station HBO (the last one aired in March 2008). Carlin had a certain degree of success on the big screen as well, including a supporting role in Outrageous Fortune (1987), a memorable appearance in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) and a fine supporting turn in the drama The Prince of Tides (1991). More recently, he played a Roman Catholic cardinal in Kevin Smith’s satirical comedy Dogma (1999).

Though a 1994 Fox sitcom, The George Carlin Show, lasted only one season, Carlin continued to perform his HBO specials and his live comedy gigs into the early 21st century. He also wrote best-selling books based on his comedy routines, including Brain Droppings (1997), Napalm & Silly Putty (2001) and When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (2004). According to his obituary in the New York Times, Carlin gave his last live comedy show in Las Vegas just weeks before his death.
To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".


Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Friday, June 15, 2018

Your Mental Sorbet: The Best TV Dads Through the Decades


Here is another "Mental Sorbet
that we could use to momentarily forget about those
things that leave a bad taste in our mouths
http://amzn.to/iyoSuO -- In honor of Father's Day and BroBible's "My Dad is a Bro" book, here's a mashup of memorable TV dads through the decades. Go pick up "My Dad is a Bro" at your local bookstore or order it off of Amazon.com! http://amzn.to/iyoSuO

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Monday, June 11, 2018

This Week in Television History: June 2018 PART II

As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history,
the more that fact and legend become intertwined.
It's hard to say where the truth really lies.


June 13, 2008
Tim Russert Dies at Age 58
Timothy John "Tim" Russert (May 7, 1950 – June 13, 2008) was an American television journalist and lawyer who appeared for more than 16 years as the longest-serving moderator of NBC's Meet the Press. He was a senior vice president at NBC News, Washington bureau chief and also hosted an eponymous CNBC/MSNBC weekend interview program. He was a frequent correspondent and guest on NBC's The Today Show and Hardball. Russert covered several presidential elections, and he presented the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey on the NBC Nightly News during the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Time magazine included Russert in its list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2008. Russert was posthumously revealed as a 30-year source for syndicated columnist Robert Novak.
Shortly after 1:30 pm on June 13, 2008, Russert collapsed at the offices of WRC-TV, which houses the Washington, D.C. bureau of NBC News where he was chief. He was recording voiceovers for the Sunday edition of Meet the Press. According to Brian Williams, during his speech at the Kennedy Center on June 13, Russert's last words were, "What's happening?" spoken as a greeting to NBC Washington bureau editing supervisor Candace Harrington as he passed her in the hallway. He then walked down the hallway to record voiceovers in the soundproof booth and collapsed. A co-worker began CPR on him. The District of Columbia Fire and Rescue service received a call from NBC at 1:40 pm, and dispatched an EMS unit which arrived at 1:44 pm. Paramedics attempted to defibrillate Russert's heart three times, but he did not respond. Russert was then transported to Sibley Memorial Hospital, arriving at 2:23 pm, where he was pronounced dead. He was 58 years old.
In accordance with American journalistic tradition, the public announcement of Russert's death was withheld by both the wire services and his network's competitors, until Russert's family had been notified. Retired NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw then delivered, live on NBC, CNBC and MSNBC, the news of his death. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was on assignment in Afghanistan and could not anchor the special report. Russert had just returned from a family vacation in Rome, Italy, where he had celebrated his son's graduation from Boston College. While his wife and son remained in Rome, Russert had returned to prepare for his Sunday television show.
Russert's longtime friend and physician, Dr. Michael Newman, said that his asymptomatic coronary artery disease had been controlled with medication and exercise, and that he had performed well on a stress test in late April. An autopsy performed on the day of his death determined that his history of coronary artery disease led to a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and ventricular fibrillation with the immediate cause being an occlusive coronary thrombosis in the left anterior descending artery resulting from a ruptured cholesterol plaque, called a "widow maker".

Russert is buried at Rock Creek Cemetery, next to the historic Soldiers' Home, in Washington's Petworth neighborhood. The Newseum in Washington, D.C., has a re-creation of Russert's office.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".


Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Friday, June 08, 2018

Your Mental Sorbet: Anthony Bourdain goes to Puerto Rico

Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one's life.
Anthony Michael Bourdain
(June 25, 1956 – June 8, 2018)
CNN confirmed Bourdain's death on Friday and said the cause of death was suicide. Bourdain was in France working on an upcoming episode of his award-winning CNN series, "Parts Unknown." His close friend Eric Ripert, the French chef, found Bourdain unresponsive in his hotel room Friday morning.

CNN just announced it will remember “our friend and colleague Anthony Bourdain this weekend by sharing his talent and stories. Rest in peace, .”

Here is another 
"Mental Sorbet
that we could use to momentarily forget about those
things that leave a bad taste in our mouths




Good Night Mr. Bourdain and thanks for showing off my island. 


Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Monday, June 04, 2018

This Week in Television History: June 2018 PART I

As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history,
the more that fact and legend become intertwined.
It's hard to say where the truth really lies.


June 6, 1998
Sex and the City premieres on HBO. 
On this day in 1998, the cable network HBO airs the pilot episode of Sex and the City, a new comedy series chronicling the lives and loves of four single women living in New York City.
The show’s creator, Darren Star, was best known at the time for producing the long-running Fox TV series Beverly Hills, 90210, and its spin-off, Melrose Place. For Sex and the City, Star switched coasts, loosely adapting a book by the same name by Candace Bushnell, compiled from a number of her columns for The New York Observer. In the pilot, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), who authors a similar newspaper column for the fictional New York City Star, and her three friends--Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon)--discuss the issue of whether women are capable of having sex like men. Carrie also has an embarrassing first run-in with Mr. Big (Chris Noth), with whom she will begin a tumultuous relationship that will last the length of the series.
Sex and the City didn’t really break out with fans until the second season, when the format of the show changed a bit: Carrie stopped addressing the camera directly, and simply provided a voice-over narration, and the man-on-the-street-type testimonials by different characters were largely omitted. The main premise--that each episode provides fodder for one of Carrie’s columns, each of which features a different question about sex, love and relationships--remained constant throughout the show, as did the unusually frank discussion and portrayal of sex that became the show’s hallmark.
At the Emmy Awards, Sex and the City was nominated in the category of Outstanding Comedy Series in each of its six seasons; it won the award in 2001. In 2004, Parker collected an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, while Cynthia Nixon triumphed in the supporting category. To win, Nixon beat out co-stars Davis and Cattrall, who had been nominated in five out of the six seasons of the show’s run. Cattrall and Parker both took home Golden Globe Awards for their performances as well, and the show received three Globes for Best TV Series - Musical or Comedy.

As soon as the series wrapped up in 2004, buzz began about a possible big-screen adaptation. Though the project stalled due to questions over money and Cattrall’s reported reluctance to sign on to the project, the plans finally came to fruition in late May 2008, when Sex and the City: The Movie was released to mixed reviews but great box-office success, including a $55.7 million opening weekend haul. As with the series, Parker served as an executive producer for the movie, which was written and directed by Michael Patrick King.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".


Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Monday, May 28, 2018

This Week in Television History: May 2018 PART V

As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history,
the more that fact and legend become intertwined.
It's hard to say where the truth really lies.


May 28, 1998
Comic Phil Hartman killed by wife Brynn, in a murder-suicide. 

He was 49. Born on September 24, 1948, in Ontario, Canada, Hartman was raised in Connecticut and Southern California, and later became an American citizen. Early on, he found work designing record album covers (he created the official logo for the rock band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) but made the leap to acting in 1975 when he joined the L.A. improvisational acting group, the Groundlings. With his fellow Groundlings alum, Paul Reubens, Hartman wrote the screenplay for the successful comedy Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985). Along with Reubens, Hartman had helped create the zany man-child character of Pee Wee Herman, though Reubens received most of the credit. From 1986 to 1990, Hartman portrayed Kap’n Karl on the Saturday morning children’s TV series Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.
Also in 1986, Hartman earned a spot on the long-running NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. In his eight years on the show, Hartman became known for his spot-on impersonations of a variety of celebrities, notably President Bill Clinton. He also made frequent guest appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In 1989, Hartman shared an Emmy Award for his writing contributions to Saturday Night Live. He went on to set a record for the most appearances (153) as one of the show’s regulars.

Hartman joined the cast of the TV sitcom NewsRadio in 1995. He played the egotistical anchorman of an AM radio news station in New York City through four seasons of the show’s five-year run. The ensemble cast also included Dave Foley, Maura Tierney and Andy Dick. Hartman also notably provided the voices for a number of characters, including the has-been actor Troy McClure and the incompetent lawyer Lionel Hurtz, on the acclaimed animated series The Simpsons. In addition to his TV work as an actor and pitchman (for MCI, McDonald’s and Cheetos, among others), Hartman appeared on the big screen in Blind Date (1987), Jingle All the Way (1996) and Small Soldiers, released after his death.

Off-screen, Hartman was popular among his Hollywood colleagues and known for being completely different from some of the more unlikable characters he had portrayed. The murder-suicide, which shocked fans and friends alike, occurred early on the morning of May 28, 1998, at the couple’s home in the Los Angeles suburb of Encino. According to news reports, Brynn, Hartman’s third wife (two previous marriages ended in divorce) had a history of drug and alcohol problems. The couple had two children.


May 29, 2003
Bob Hope celebrates 100th birthday
Some 35 U.S. states declare it to be Bob Hope Day on this day in 2003, when the iconic comedic actor and entertainer turns 100 years old.
In a public ceremony held in Hollywood, city officials renamed the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Avenue--famous for its historic buildings and as a central point on the Hollywood Walk of Fame--Bob Hope Square. Several 1940s-era U.S. planes flew overhead as part of an air show honoring Hope’s longtime role as an entertainer of U.S. armed forces all over the world. Hope, who was then suffering from failing eyesight and hearing and had not been seen in public for three years, was too ill to attend the public ceremonies. Three of his children attended the naming ceremony, along with some of his younger show-business colleagues, including Mickey Rooney.
One of the leading talents on the vaudeville scene by the 1930s, the London-born, American-raised Hope met his future wife (of nearly seven decades), the nightclub singer Dolores Reade, while he was performing on Broadway in the musical Roberta. They married in 1934, and four years later Hope launched his own radio program, The Bob Hope Show, which would run for the next 18 years. One of the country’s most popular comics, Hope had a successful film career largely thanks to the series of seven “Road” movies he made with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, including Road to Singapore (1940), Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (1946) and Road to Rio (1947).
In 1941, after America’s entrance into World War II, Hope began performing for U.S. troops abroad; he would play shows for more than a million American servicemen by 1953. Some 65 million people watched him perform for troops in Vietnam on Christmas Eve in 1966, in his largest broadcast. Hope also became a legend for his countless TV specials, which he would perform over the course of some five decades. He hosted the Academy Awards ceremony a total of 18 times, more than any other Oscars host.
Dubbed “Mr. Entertainment” and the “King of Comedy,” Hope died on July 27, 2003, less than two months after his 100th birthday celebration. He was survived by Dolores, their four adopted children--Linda, Anthony, Nora and Kelly--and four grandchildren.

May 30, 1908
Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and countless other Warner Bros. cartoon characters, was born in San Francisco. 

His parents, who ran a women's clothing business, moved with their son to Portland, Oregon, when Blanc was a child. Blanc began performing as a musician and singer on local radio programs in Portland before he was 20. In the late 1920s, he and his wife, Estelle, created a daily radio show called "Cobwebs and Nuts," which became a hit. Blanc made many other radio appearances and became a regular on Jack Benny's hit radio show, providing the sounds of Benny's ancient car (The Maxwell) and playing several other characters.
In 1937, Blanc made his debut with Warner Bros., providing the voice for a drunken bull in a short cartoon called "Picador Porky." Another actor provided the pig's voice, but Blanc later replaced him. In 1940, Bugs Bunny debuted in a short called "A Wild Hare." Blanc said he wanted the rabbit to sound tough and streetwise, so he created a comic combination of Bronx and Brooklyn accents. Other characters Blanc created for Warner Bros. included the Road Runner, Sylvester, and Tweety Bird. He performed in some 850 cartoons for Warner Bros. during his 50-year career. For other studios, he provided the voices of Barney Rubble and Dino the dinosaur in The Flintstones, Mr. Spacely for The Jetsons, and Woody Woodpecker's laugh.
In his 1988 autobiography, That's Not All Folks, Blanc described a nearly fatal traffic accident that left him in a coma. Unable to rouse him by using his real name, a doctor finally said, "How are you, Bugs Bunny?" and Mel replied, in Bugs' voice, "Ehh, just fine, doc. How are you?"
Blanc continued to provide voices until the late 1980s, most memorably voicing Daffy Duck dueling with Donald Duck in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988). After Mel Blanc died of complications from heart disease, his son Noel, trained by his father, provided the voices for the characters the elder Blanc had helped bring to life.

May 31, 2013
Jean Stapleton died, surrounded by family and friends in New York City, of natural causes. 
She was 90 and is survived by her two children, John, a TV director, and Pamela, a TV producer.
Norman Lear said, "No one gave more profound 'how to be a human being' lessons than Jean Stapleton." Fellow US sitcom actress Roseanne Barr said that Stapleton's range was "unbelievable, deep and majestic." Co-star and BAFTA- and Oscar-nominated director and producer Rob Reiner said, "Working with her was one of the greatest experiences of my life." Sally Struthers said, "Jean lived so in the present. She was a Christian Scientist who didn't say or think a negative thing ... She was just a walking, living angel".


The marquee lights on Broadway were dimmed for one minute on June 5, 2013 at 8 p.m. EDT to honor the memory of Stapleton.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".


Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Friday, May 25, 2018

Your Mental Sorbet: Chicago Improv - SNL

Here is another "Mental Sorbet
that we could use to momentarily forget about those
things that leave a bad taste in our mouths
Dick Wolf's latest series takes an unflinching look at Chicago's improv scene and its members (Tina Fey, Alex Moffat, Melissa VillaseƱor, Mikey Day, Luke Null, Chris Redd).

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Monday, May 21, 2018

This Week in Television History: May 2018 PART IV

As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history,
the more that fact and legend become intertwined.
It's hard to say where the truth really lies.


May 23, 1933
Joan Collins is born. Joan Collins, a classically trained actress who will become best known for her role on the 1980s prime-time soap opera Dynasty, is born in London, England.
The daughter of a theatrical booking agent, Collins made her theater debut at the age of nine, in a production of The Dollhouse by Henrik Ibsen. As a teenager, she studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and appeared in nine British films. She headed to Hollywood at the age of 22, and landed sultry roles in several popular films, including Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955). She continued making films in the United States and the United Kingdom through the 1960s, but her career languished in the 1970s, and she was reduced to starring in horror flicks like Fear in the Night (1972). She also starred in two films based on best-selling novels by her younger sister Jackie Collins, The Stud (1978) and The Bitch (1979).
In 1981, Collins landed the plum role of Alexis Carrington (later Colby) in the prime-time soap opera Dynasty, which ran for eight years. Her portrayal of the vindictive ex-wife of the oil tycoon Blake Carrington--and the bitter rival of his current wife and former secretary, the beautiful blonde Krystle (played by Linda Evans)--rejuvenated Collins’ career, as buzz for the show began to grow and the Alexis-Krystle clash became one of its central plotlines. In one of Dynasty’s most memorable scenes, Alexis and Krystle come to blows in a lily pond; in another, Krystle dumps a bowl of mud on Alexis after she overhears her gossiping about her at a spa. After several years of declining ratings, ABC dropped Dynasty from its lineup in 1989.  In 1997, Collins reprised the role of Alexis on Aaron Spelling’s Pacific Palisades. She later joined former cast mates in two reunion specials, most recently Caviar and Catfights: The Dynasty Reunion (2006).
By the late 1980s, Collins followed in her sister Jackie’s footsteps and published her first novel, which she sold to Simon and Schuster for a rumored $3 million. Despite critical pans, the book, Prime Time, became a bestseller when it debuted in 1988. Two years later, Random House offered Collins $4 million in a two-book deal, paying a $1.3 million advance, with the rest due on delivery of the manuscripts. When Collins turned in the first of the two manuscripts in 1991, the publishing house claimed the manuscript was unacceptable and sued for the return of the advance. In 1996, the court ruled in favor of Collins and demanded that Random House pay her an additional $1 million for the work she turned in. Her zest for writing was apparently unquenched by the battle--she published the beauty book My Secrets in 1994, followed by Second Act in 1996 and a sequel My Secrets, My Friends’ Secrets, in 1999.

In addition to her writing career, Collins has continued to act, appearing in films such as Kenneth Branagh’s In the Bleak Midwinter (1995) and The Flinstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000), and television series (Will & Grace, Footballers’ Wives) in the United States and the United Kingdom. Since 2002, Collins has been married to her fifth husband, Percy Gibson, who is more than three decades her junior.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".


Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Friday, May 18, 2018

Your Mental Sorbet: My Dinosaur Is a Service Animal (with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard!)



Here is another "Mental Sorbet
that we could use to momentarily forget about those
things that leave a bad taste in our mouths
Just because it’s a Velociraptor with knives for teeth doesn’t mean it’s not my best friend.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa