Monday, May 30, 2005

This Is Supposed To Happen In Threes. (Click Podcast)

"I do not do hundreds of impressions. My entire repertoire of impressions numbers less than 50. I never set out to do an impression of a person. However, when something a star does suddenly sparks my imagination, I find myself doing an impression of him -- first for my amusement, later for my repertoire."
Frank Gorshin

There is some unwritten rule that says that celebrities die in threes, but last week (prior to the death of Eddie Albert) we lost four incredible voice talents.

Frank Gorshin died on May 17th in Burbank, California of lung cancer, emphysema and pneumonia. Most people knew Mr. Gorshin for his Emmy-nominated roles as the Riddler on the "Batman" TV series, and as Commissioner Bele in the very powerful "STAR TREK" episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" (he was the alien who had one side of his face painted black and the other side painted white). Mr. Gorshin was also a very talented impressionist, headlining in Las Vegas. He recently used his talents to play George Burns (with only a little makeup and no prosthetics) on Broadway in the one-man show "Say Goodnight Gracie". He has also voiced many animated characters including Deano Rat in "Firedog", Hugo Strange in "The Batman", Daffy Duck in "Superior Duck", and Yosemite Sam in "From Hare to Eternity".

Henry Corden died may 19th in Los Angeles, California of emphysema.
Mr. Corden took over as the voice of Fred Flintstone when the original voice, Alan Reed, died in 1977 (Reed had had the role since the show first aired in 1960). Mr. Corden began voice acting in the 1960's doing parts in Hanna-Barbera shows like "Jonny Quest," "Josie and the Pussycats" and "The New Tom & Jerry Show." He also played characters in "Challenge of the GoBots", "Mister T", "The All-New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show" "Here Comes Garfield", "The Smurfs", "Fangface and Fangpuss", "Heathcliff", "Thundarr the Barbarian", "The Challenge of the Super Friends", "Dynomutt, Dog Wonder", "Return to the Planet of the Apes", "These Are the Days", "Yogi's Gang", "The Harlem Globetrotters", "The Banana Splits Adventure Hour", "The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show", and "The Jetsons". He can most recently be heard on cereal commercials as Fred Flintstone yelling "Barney, my Pebbles!"

Howard Morris died on May 21st in Los Angeles, California of a heart ailment. Mr. Morris is best remembered for playing Ernest T. Bass on "The Andy Griffith Show". Before that he was part of a comedy sketch group including Carl Reiner and Imogene Coca and did several TV variety shows, including "Admiral Broadway Review," "Your Show of Shows" and "Caesar's Hour." After his work on "The Andy Griffith Show" (as an actor and director), Mr. Morris was a regular voice in "Hanna-Barbera" cartoons from the 60's until present day where he voiced many characters such as Atom Ant in "The Atom Ant Show". He would also voice Beetle Bailey and General Halftrack in "Beetle Bailey and His Friends," and Jughead Jones and Big Moose Mason in "The Archie Show". In 1972, he directed some McDonaldland commercials and was the voice of the Hamburglar. Mr. Morris was also the voice of the Qantas koala.

Thurl Ravenscroft died May 22nd in Fullerton, California of prostate cancer. In 1952, Mr. Ravenscroft's voice appeared in the first Frosted Flakes commercial as Tony the Tiger. Mr. Ravenscroft also did voices for Disney Animated Classics like "Cinderella", "The Jungle Book," "Mary Poppins", "Alice in Wonderland", "Lady and the Tramp". He sang "You're a Mean One, Mister Grinch" in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". Mr. Ravenscroft lent his voice to characters on several rides and attractions at Disneyland, including the Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, the Enchanted Tiki Room, the Mark Twain River Boat, Buff - the buffalo head in the Country Bear Jamboree, the Disneyland Railroad, It's a Small World, and the Haunted Mansion.

Even though I say goodnight to you gentlemen, your voices will live on forever.

To paraphrase Tony the Tiger, "They’re Great".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Saturday, May 28, 2005

It's not everyone who can play straight man to an entire town.

Eddie Albert bought the farm at the age of 99.

Good Night Eddie and enjoy the fresh air.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Not a Black and White Issue. (Click PODCAST)

If I were to ask what was the first TV program to show a mixed marriage, I'm sure that most people would say "The Jeffersons". True the show did feature an interracial couple (Tom and Helen Willis), but you’d be wrong.

Lucy & Ricky Ricardo (I Love Lucy) had a mixed marriage. Although they joked about their cultural differences, their racial diversity was never made an issue. The bigger issue at the time was CBS having concerns that America would not accept an "All American Girl" married to a Cuban bandleader, regardless of the fact that Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz had been married in real life for 13 years.

"The Munsters" (Fred Gwynne & Yvonne De Carlo) were a mixed marriage of a vampire (descended from nobility) and the Frankenstein monster. Because the characters were monsters, their diversity was never made an issue either. Nor was it made an issue that they were the first married couple on TV to sleep in the same bed.

Samantha & Darrin Stephens were the first mixed married couple on a show (Bewitched) to actually discuss their differences. The show featured a witch (Elizabeth Montgomery) who married a mortal (Dick York & Dick Sargent). Underneath the mother in law jokes, nosey neighbors and special effects, serious issues like prejudice, negative stereotypes and tolerance were covered. How many times did we see Endora (Agnes Moorehead) tell Samantha that she disapproved of her daughter marring a mortal, what mortals did to them in the early days of Salem, or how mortals depict witches with hooked noses and warts. If you did not know that I was talking about TV witches, you might think that I was talking about one of a number of disenfranchised minorities.

If you think that I am connecting the dots incorrectly like some conspiracy theorist, I would encourage you to do a Google search and type in "Bewitched" and "Mixed Marriage", see what you find. I also want to point out that when Bewitched first premiered in 1964 it was not without controversy. Some stations refused to carry the show under pressure from religious groups that did not like the idea of a fine red blooded American male marrying a witch, a witch seen in a positive light, or an attractive witch (a problem that also pledged "Glinda the Good"). After Dick Sergeant joined the cast there was a concern that the public might find out that he was gay, even though no one was concerned about Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde).

I do hope that the new "Bewitched" movie (Opening June 24th) explores some of the themes that I mentioned. Also look for my friend and fellow storyteller (Check out STORY SALON) Clay Bravo, as the waitress in a scene with Nicole Kidman and Michael Caine

While writing this I found a new Bewitched controversy. The cable network TV Land has a program where they erect statues to commemorate and salute icons and images of classic television called TV Landmarks. Past honorees have included ''The Honeymooners" (Ralph Kramden at the New York bus terminal), ''The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (Mary Richards in Minneapolis), ''The Andy Griffith Show" (Andy and Opie Taylor in Raleigh, N.C.) and ''The Bob Newhart show'' (Bob Hartley in Chicago). TV Land commissioned a Samantha Stephens statue to be erected in Salem Mass. Salemites claim that the statue trivializes the memory of the legal murders committed during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. In the end The City of Salem accepted TV Land’s offer of the statue, and it will stand near the church where people were accused of being witches and the site of the courthouse where they were condemned.

I’m sure if Samantha Stephens were here her only response would be, "Well?".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Thursday, May 19, 2005

School House Rocked. (Click PODCAST)

The other day my wife Donna wanted to send some DVDs to her nephews (ages four and six). She thought that the Schoolhouse Rock series would be good gift. Donna called her sister and asked if she thought the boys might like a Schoolhouse Rock DVD. Donna's sister did not know what she was talking about. Donna said, "You know Conjunction Junction what’s your function?" How could someone who was a child living in the United States between the years 1973 and 1985 not know about School House Rock.

My friend Zadra and her band "The Willies" sing a cover of "Interjections!". Governmental and lobbyist groups requested cassettes of "I'm Just A Bill" to learn how a bill becomes a law. I started thinking about how many times Schoolhouse Rock helped me out in school and beyond because by now I couldn't get "Conjunction Junction" out of my head.

First there was "Multiplication Rock". My favorite was "Three Is A Magic Number". Those football players were very helpful in teaching me to multiply by 3. Sadly I found out that player # 30 died of brain cancer caused by steroid use.

"Grammar Rock" was helpful in teaching me that "A Noun Is A Person, Place Or Thing", although I got distracted from the intended lesson when I saw a white Chubby Checker in the cartoon. "Interjections" was made more fun when we realized that profanity counted as an interjection. We would sing a dirtier version of the song on the playground.

"America Rock" came out during the time of the Bicentennial and the timing could not be more perfect, in school we were given the assignment of memorizing the Preamble to the Constitution. We proudly told our teacher that we already knew it thanks to America Rock’s "The Preamble". My high school civics teacher skipped over how a bill becomes a law because we were all familiar with "I’m Just A Bill". That song still plays in my head when I'm watching our real lawmaker on one of the cable news channels. Of course the lawmakers aren’t as dimensional or lifelike as the cartoon characters.

I wish "Science Rock" had done a song about the atom. That would been a big help in my high school science class.

I was very fortunate. Sesame Street first aired when I was four years old. Schoolhouse Rock first aired when I was in elementary school. It's sad that I know more people who buy the Schoolhouse Rock DVD for themselves in the name of nostalgia than people who buy the Schoolhouse Rock DVD for their kids in the name of education. These songs have stood the test of time. I would hope that if there is no place for Schoolhouse Rock on broadcast TV then there would be a place on a cable channel like Nickelodeon or N O G G I N.

To quote the girl at the end of Interjections, "DARN! That's the end!"

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Boldly going, going, gone. (Click PODCAST)

I’m stunned. It's hard to believe that with the cancellation of "STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE", for the first time in18 years there will not be a STAR TREK series on the air. I have spent an abnormal amount of time engaged in water cooler talk as to why the latest STAR TREK spin-off failed to last more than 4 seasons. I do consider myself a TREK fan but I am hesitant to use terms like Trekkie or Trekker. I see STAR TREK the same way I see religion. It can be a great source of comfort, it should be used in moderation and I don't want to associate with or be associated with its followers. These devoted fans by the way recently raised over 15 million dollars to keep this fifth TREK series on the air, forcing them to delay moving out of their parent’s basements for at least... Well I guess they had the disposable income anyway. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are Trekkies or Trekkers. Go rent the documentary TREKKIES and you will know what I am talking about.

What Gene Roddenberry pitched, as "Wagon Train to the Stars" became much more than what WilliamShatner described on SNL as, "...just a TV show!" Roddenberry managed to address the problems of the day that would not have been addressed otherwise on TV, by using outer space as its backdrop. The show inspired many to reach for the stars by studying science. People of color and women seeing Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) on the Enterprise bridge saw a future that included them. The show inspired new technology and it's packaging. Imagine what your cell phone or home computer would look like without STAR TREK as inspiration. Gene Rodenbery's vision also showed us a future where people of all races worked and played together (including TV's first interracial kiss Plato's Stepchildren).

I know that I'm making this sound bigger than just the cancellation of a TV show. I liked Enterprise and was not bothered by the multiple episode story lines. I still saw Gene Roddenberry's original intentions realized in this latest STAR TREK franchise. I liked that Captain Jonathan Archer’s (Scott Bakula ) Enterprise and crew was less sophisticated than Captain Kirk's or Picard's. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter if you are battling an unknown alien threat or debating the moral implications of interfering with the development of an alien species, as long as the show is well written and well acted, that’s all that matters.

One of the great things about Trek is that you can never run out of story ideas. All you have to do is look at today's newsmakers, paint them green and stick them on another planet.

Fear not Trekkies or Trekkers. Even though we are saying goodbye to Captain Archer’s Enterprise, the franchise will live long and prosper. There is now talk about an 11th STAR TREK feature scheduled for release in 2007. I look forward to it, just don’t expect to see me at the first screening and I definitely wont be in uniform because to quote Groucho Marx, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Monday, May 09, 2005

Welcome to my “CHILD OF TELEVISION” Podcast (Click PODCAST).

Click the above link to hear my new “CHILD OF TELEVISION” Podcast*.

Now you have 2 ways to Stay Tuned.

Tony Figueroa

*Podcasting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Podcasting is a way of publishing sound files to the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed and receive new audio files automatically. Podcasting is distinct from other types of audio content delivery because it uses the
RSS protocol. This technique has enabled many producers to create self-published, syndicated radio shows.
Users subscribe to podcasts using "podcatching" software (also called "aggregator" software) which periodically checks for and downloads new content. It can then sync the content to the user's portable music player, hence the
portmanteau of Apple's "iPod" and "broadcasting". Podcasting does not require an iPod, however; any digital audio player or computer with the appropriate software can play podcasts.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Married to a Child of Television. (Click PODCAST)

When my wife and I were dating, it would not be unusual to make a "date" out of a "Gilligan’s Island" marathon, but back then we were young and broke. The longer we’re married, the more our tastes in television grow apart. For example, I enjoy watching the news, but she finds it too depressing. In the time we’ve been together, we went from, "I’ll watch whatever you want to watch, honey", to her actually heckling the stuff I like to watch.

When I have insomnia, I sometimes turn on those after hour’s movies on cable, you know, the ones showing the works of that notable thespian Shannon Tweed. Now, in all fairness, Ms. Tweed puts out - a good product. Personally, I prefer the earlier work she did with Mark Singer as opposed to her later work with Andrew Stephens. Since all these movies all have to have these obligatory gratuitous nude scenes which I think really slows down the plot, my wife always feels the need to point out the silicone, "Fake! Those are fake. Those are so fake." Like I care. "They don't move they just stay there. Why is she in the shower again?"

One of the shows my wife likes that I don’t care for is "A Baby’s Story" on The Learning Channel (TLC). It’s a reality show that covers the final weeks before birth. When that comes on, my wife gets the nesting urge and I have to leave the room. It’s not the bloody parts that get me, I’ll watch a heart bypass on "The Operation" while eating rigatoni in marinara sauce. But I can’t watch the touchy feely stuff where the husbands are all nice and sweet, rubbing the wife’s feet and doing all that stuff that makes the rest of us look bad. It’s not fair to us because that guy on TV is whipped, I mean, wiped out. His resistance is broken and, HELLO he’s on TV. Of course he’s gonna be good. Usually after my wife watches "A Baby’s Story" on TLC, she gets what I call baby fever. Then whenever we walk by a Baby Gap, which doesn't sell baby clothes, just miniture adult clothes, she gets all, Oh, "that’s so cute, it’s so little". Then we see a cute baby in the stroller sleeping, emphasis on the word, sleeping. Then she goes, "I want one". Finally, the baby fever breaks when we are either at the movies or on an airplane. Now it makes sense why the airlines charge $5.00 for the headsets to see the in-flight movie. That’s the same price of a ticket for a matinee movie. Which we all know is the screaming babies’ natural habitat. Once the crying concerto starts, she goes, "That’s it. I want my tubes tied".

A Child of Television can only marry another Child of Television and even though our taste grow apart, sometimes it’s still fun to make a date out of a "Gilligan’s Island" marathon.

Instead of a quote I’ll just say, "Happy 12th Anniversary to my beautiful wife Donna".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

P.S. No TV Tonight.