Monday, February 27, 2006

The rule of three.

As a Child of Television I am saddened to see so many people who came into our homes week after week leave us. I seem to be writing more and more eulogies lately. I love writing about what the departed meant to me or even tell a personal story if I had a chance to meet them. I also feel the need to write these eulogies because the entertainment news shows would rather cover a celebrity break up than honor the life of someone who made a contribution to the entertainment industry (CHILD OF TELEVISION: My Entertainment Shows RANT).

Last Saturday afternoon I heard about Don Knotts passing. That evening I wrote about what Mr. Knotts meant to me (CHILD OF TELEVISION: Don Knotts). Yesterday (Sunday) I heard the news of Darren McGavin's passing. To the younger generation he was the father AKA "the Old Man" in the movie A Christmas Story but to classic TV fans he was Mike Hammer, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and starred in Riverboat, Crime Photographer and The Outsider. He even did a Disney movie with Don Knotts called No Deposit, No Return. When I was trying to figure out what to say about Mr. McGavin, I'd talk to friends who were fans of his and I kept hearing everyone say, "Who's the third going to be?" I don't joke about the fact that celebrities tend to die in groups of three. Back in 1987 I was with a comedy improv group. We were talking and joking about John Huston and Lee Marvin dying one day after the other. Someone asked, "Who's the third going to be?" and a ditsy blond said, "I hear Lorne Greene is not doing well". The next day Lorne Greene died. I'm normally not a superstitious person, but I don't like to tempt fate. I also don't believe in coincidence. There must be a reason for why celebrities die in groups of three and I believe that we will learn that reason in the next life.

Today I learned that number three, Dennis Weaver, died. To me he will always be McCloud but he also starred in Gunsmoke, Gentle Ben, Kentucky Jones, Emerald Point N.A.S., Stone and Buck James. Mr. Weaver was the Honorary Mayor of Universal City, CA at the same time Don Knotts was the Honorary Sheriff. Mr. Weaver also served as the President of The Screen Actor's Guild from 1973-1975, and the president of Love Is Feeding Everyone, which fed 150,000 needy people a week in Los Angeles County. He founded the Institute of Ecolonomics, which sought solutions to economic and environmental problems.

If you have to know why celebrities die in groups of three, Ask Jeeves (Why do celebrities die in groups of three? - Search). I'm sure someone out there is trying tie together the fact that all three actors’ first names began with the letter "D". Instead of connecting the dots after they died, I would rather look at what they contributed in life, and say good night gentlemen and thanks.

Instead of my usual quote I'd like to share this image that I have my head. Barney Fife guarding the Pearly Gates. While he tells McCloud that his horse can come in Kolchak sneaks through to get his story.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

PS: I believe that there are horses in heaven. You can now go back to connecting the dots.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Don Knotts

When I heard the news of Don Knotts’ passing, I thought what can be said about this man that has not been said already or will be said in the days ahead. Many people consider Barney Fife to be the greatest comedic character in the history of television. Prior to playing Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show Mr. Knotts played the nervous Mr. Morrison on The Steve Allen Show. Mr. Morrison’s initials were related to his occupation. For example K.B. Morrison’s job was to place the pins in hand grenades. When asked what the initials stood for, Mr. Morrison replied, "Kaa Boom!" Steve Allen would ask Mr. Morrison if he was nervous and always got the quick one word reply, "No!!!" In 1979, Mr. Knotts joined the cast of Three's Company as the new landlord Ralph Furley. I even remember seeing Mr. Knotts pulling pranks with Allen Funt on Candid Camera but Don Knotts will always be remembered best as Barney Fife.

Why do we love Barney? There are many great comedic characters on TV, but many of these comedic characters went to a farcical extreme. Some even dropped I.Q. points for the sake of a joke. Andy Griffith felt that the integrity of Mayberry’s citizens was more important than a punch line. I think there is a lot of Barney in all of us. We may strive to be like Andy Taylor, act like Andy Taylor and may even fool ourselves into thinking that we are Andy Taylor. But we are really are Barney Fife full of good intentions but with a bullet in our pocket. The same integrity of the Barney character allowed Don Knotts to play the serious moments as well.

I only met Don Knotts once. It was at a local art store where he was having a picture framed. This was on same day that Return to Mayberry was to air. Everyone in the store had to approach Mr. Knotts to tell him how much he or she loves his work and that they would be watching the Mayberry Reunion that night. I’m sure he was in a hurry but he took the time to thank everyone for his or her kind words.

Good Night Mr. Knotts, see you at the fishing hole.

To quote Barney Fife & Andy Taylor
Barney Fife: The last big buy was my mom's and dad's anniversary present.
Andy Taylor: What'd ya get 'em?
Barney Fife: A septic tank.
Andy Taylor: For their anniversary?
Barney Fife: They're awful hard to buy for. Besides, it was something they could use. They were really thrilled. It had two tons of concrete in it. All steel reinforced.
Andy Taylor: You're a fine son, Barn.
Barney Fife: I try.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Monday, February 20, 2006

OLYMPIC FEVER, I’m immune.

I’m sorry but I could really care less about the Winter Olympics this year. I’m sure that NBC is doing a great job covering the games. I just don’t care. I am not holding an Olympic boycott because those of you who know me know that I’m not big on boycotts. This has nothing to do with my patriotism. I tend to root for the home team. I don’t believe that politics and sports should mix besides that’s not what the Olympics are about. I first of all am not a big sports fan to begin with. When I do watch a sporting event it’s involves me actually going to the event. When I travel throughout the U.S. I love going to the local ballparks, order a beer, hot dog and peanuts and sing Take me out to the Ball Game. You might find it hard to believe that this CHILD OF TELEVISION does not watch sports on TV, but it’s true. I see the two things as being separate. TV is something you watch and sports are something you go to play (I was always put in right field) or watch from the stands. If I was in Torino you bet I would try to catch as many events as possible and root for team USA.

In past years I have said the same thing about the Winter Olympics then get addicted to an event. The last time it was the luge, but this year Matt Lauer and Al Roker’s doubles luge exhibition on the Today show ruined that event for me. As soon as I cleanse that Jungle Fever on Brokeback Mountain homo-erotic image from my brain the Today show will replay the clip and with Americas First Family playing in the background. Thank you guys. First I have to look at everyone’s colon now this. At least I can say that I have found the cure for Olympic fever.

To quote Al Roker on the sled, "That’s not the handle!"

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A quick note to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Dear Vice President Dick Cheney

On behalf of Comedians, Humorists, Satirists, Cartoonists and their fans...


The last time comedians had this much fun with a VP it was over a spelling error.

To quote Jon Stewart, "Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a man during a quail hunt ... making 78-year-old Harry Whittington the first person shot by a sitting veep since Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, of course, (was) shot in a duel with Aaron Burr over issues of honor, integrity and political maneuvering. Whittington? Mistaken for a bird."

To quote David Letterman, "Good news, ladies and gentlemen, we have finally located weapons of mass destruction: It's Dick Cheney."

To quote Jay Leno, "Cheney's defense is that he was aiming at a quail when he shot the guy. Which means that Cheney now has the worst aim of anyone in the White House since Bill Clinton."

To quote Craig Ferguson, "You can understand why this lawyer fellow let his guard down, because if you're out hunting with a politician, you think, 'If I'm going to get it, it's going to be in the back.'"

To quote Jimmy Kimmel, "But all kidding aside, and in fairness to Dick Cheney, every five years he has to shed innocent blood or he violates his deal with the devil."

To quote, Garrett Morris, "I'm gonna get me a shotgun and kill all the whities I see, I'm gonna get me a shotgun and kill all the whities I see. When I kill all the whities I see, then whitey he won't bother me, I'm gonna get me a shotgun and kill all the whities I see".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Handwritten Theatre Three: "What's your opinion of memory?" (Click PODCAST)

Handwritten Theatre is a series of brief dramatic pieces originally composed in a Small Black Notebook with a Fountain Pen by Joseph Dougherty.

"What's your opinion of memory?"
Performed by Donna Allen Figueroa and Tony Figueroa. The original engineering for the project was done by Lance Anderson.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A quick note to Lorne Michaels RE: Dick Cheney Shooting.

In regards to the recient news item about the vice-presidnt shooting a hunting companion (Politics - ). I am expecting an incredabily funny sketch from your writers and cast. Something comparable to The Claudine Longet Ski Invitational.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Friday, February 10, 2006

Franklin Cover

Actor Franklin Cover who was best known for his role as Tom Willis on The Jeffersons, died of pneumonia Sunday. He was 77.

Cover appeared on stage in Shakespeare's Hamlet and Henry IV, and in the Broadway productions Any Wednesday, Wild Honey and Born Yesterday. His TV credits included, The Jackie Gleason Show, All in the Family, Who's the Boss?, Will & Grace, Living Single, Mad About You and ER. Culver will be best remembered for being the white half of an interracial marriage on The Jeffersons.

Good night Mr. Cover and thank you for your contribution to TV history.
I hope that someday we can see an interracial marriage on television and it and it won’t be a big deal.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Thursday, February 09, 2006

My Entertainment Shows RANT.

Maybe I'm just getting old (I turned 41 on Monday), but I have a bone to pick with some of the Entertainment News shows. In the past I’ve complained that Captain Kangaroo's (Bob Keeshan) passing was over shadowed by the Ben and J-Lo breakup. Ten minutes of airtime was given to the Binifer breakup while less than five seconds of airtime was given to the Captain. I consider Ben & Jen a non-story. It's gossip and there are plenty of shows dedicated to covering just that all over cable. Captian Kangaroo was to children's television what Johnny Carson was to Late Night Television. I have seen many examples of people who were part of our childhood dying and barely getting a sound bite if that. It's understandable when Bob Denver died during Hurricane Katrina that the story of his passing gets backburnered. But If memory serves (Please correct me if you can prove me wrong) Pat Morita's passing was totally overshadowed by the possibility of a Jessica Simpson and Nick Lechey breakup. This is not even a non-story but a potential non-story. Yes the rumors proved to be true, but who cares. After the passing of our beloved Grandpa (Al Lewis) I taped two entertainment shows and fast-forward through them. I found that one show made no mention of Al Lewis and the other gave him about four seconds of airtime or how ever long it takes to say, "The Munsters' Grandpa Al Lewis Died this weekend". The top story was the breakup of Sheryl Crow & Lance Armstrong. It always seems that these shows dedicate ten minutes of airtime to cover a breakup and end with something like, "Representatives for the couple request that the public respects their privacy at this difficult time". Al Lewis deserves better. To a whole TV generation he was Grandpa. Not Mr. Lewis. Not Al. I don't think Grandpa Jones (Louis M. Jones from Hee Haw) or Grandpa Walton (Will Geer) came close to making the connection that Al Lewis had with his fans. At least I and many of my fellow Bloggers do our best to honor those who were welcomed into our homes over the years.

One person told me that the people who produce these shows were not even born when my beloved shows were on the air. I don't buy that line of thinking. I was not around when I love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Steve Allen’s or Jack Paar's Tonight Show were on, but I do appreciate their contribution to Television History and American Pop Culture. In other words, "I wasn't alive during WWII, but I know who won".

I realize that this rant may qualify me for a SHATNER AWARD if it was not for rule number 4 that reads,

"To avoid any conflicts of interest, neither Mr. Shatner or any SHATNER AWARD committee member shall be eligible for a SHATNER AWARD, but it is an honor just being considered".

I do want to also stress that the on camera talent on these entertainment shows are more than just pretty faces. Many of them have impressive journalistic backgrounds and are capable of asking questions more complicated than, "Who are you wearing?" Of course when I want entertainment news I tend to go to the trade papers like The Hollywood Reporter, Daily Variety and Back Stage West.

Finally, even though I am ranting about the Entertainment News I am less forgiving when real News programs emulate the Entertainment News shows. I’m tired of anchors reporting on American children testing lower then children from other countries while on the crawl below there is a BREAKING NEWS story about Angelina and Brad having a baby. Ironic isn’t it?

To quote Walter Cronkite, "Give news a little more time and don't request that they also, in their news time, entertain. We're not entertainers. We're journalists. And we need more time to do our job well."

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Forever Grandpa.

Al Lewis died at the age of 95. Even though it is natural to mourn his loss, let us not forget that this man had a full life. He was a circus performer, college basketball scout, restaurateur (Grampa's, in Greenwich Village), political candidate, author of two children's books, received a Ph.D. in child psychology from Columbia University and of course an actor.

Mr. Lewis will always be best remembered as Herman Munsters’ (Fred Gwynne) broken down, freeloading, old, father in-law Sam Dracula more affectionately known as Grandpa. Over the summer I wrote an article (The Beauty of The Munsters & The Addams Family) where I did a comparison contrast of the two shows. Of Al Lewis I said, "Al Lewis' Grandpa was and will always the most unique interpretation of the Dracula character since Bram Stoker first created him. Again I don't know where Al Lewis begins and Grandpa AKA The Count AKA Sam Dracula (I guess the guys at Ellis Island could not spell Vladimir) ends. Like Dracula he has found immortality. On April 30th he turned 95 years old."

Good Night Grandpa, I thought you would be around forever, and thanks to reruns you will.

To quote Al Lewis in an interview for The Shadow titled The Many Faces of Grandpa Munster, "The stage is yours. But find something that you absolutely love doing. And then get to love the way you do it. That's the uniqueness of all of us. That's it. Albert Einstein, one of my favorites, said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge." And if that cat say it, it's good enough for me".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Introducing the SHATNER AWARD.

On December 20th 1986, William Shatner was the guest host on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. In his opening monologue Mr. Shatner mentions that one of the most interesting aspects of the STAR TREK phenomenon has to be the conventions. The monologue dissolves into a sketch set at the16th Annual STAR TREK Convention being held in a convention room of a local Holiday Inn. The highlight of the sketch is when Mr. Shatner growing tired of the Trekker’s nerdish questions says,

"You know, before I answer any more questions there's something I wanted to say. Having received all your letters over the years, and I've spoken to many of you, and some of you have traveled... y'know... hundreds of miles to be here, I'd just like to say... GET A LIFE, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it's just a TV show! I mean, look at you, look at the way you're dressed! You've turned an enjoyable little job, that I did as a lark for a few years, into a colossal waste of time!"

I end my CHILD OF TELEVISION column with a quote. There have been more than a few articles where I have quoted Mr. Shatner in this famous SNL sketch. I use Mr. Shatner's quote whenever I felt that someone needs to be told to, "GET A LIFE!" because "IT'S JUST A TV SHOW". This memorable moment and my quoting there of has inspired me to create The SHATNER AWARD.

The first meeting of the SHATNER AWARD committee was held at the Don Knotts room of the Burbank Holiday Inn, February 1st 2006 at 7:43 P.M.:

The SHATNER AWARD committee was informed that in order to be compliant with Robert's Rules of Order they must use actual dates instead of STAR DATES.

New Business:

The SHATNER AWARD will be given to those individuals or groups who need to be told to, "GET A LIFE!" because "IT'S JUST A TV SHOW". The rules for winning a SHATNER AWARD are as follows:

1) The winners need to have had made their SHATNER worthy comment in a public forum i.e. TV, Radio, Web site, Blog, Podcast etc. Since the SHATNER worthy quote will be printed on the award itself, the SHATNER AWARD committee needs to verify the actual quote with a GOOGLE SEARCH. (Sorry we can't just give SHATNER AWARD to your uptight Aunt Betty or self-righteous brother in-law Phil.)

2) Comments made prior to February 1st 2006 will not be considered. (It will otherwise be a fulltime job giving out retroactive SHATNERs. (My apologies to The Parents Television Council and The American Family Association, but we the committee are sure that there will be many SHATNER worthy comments in your future).

3) There will be no nominees. Those who deserve a SHATNER will receive a SHATNER.

4) To avoid any conflicts of interest, neither Mr. Shatner or any SHATNER AWARD committee member shall be eligible for a SHATNER AWARD, but it is an honor just being considered.

5) SHATNER AWARD winners need not be present to win. (The SHATNER AWARD Committee would actually prefer it that way)

6) The SHATNER AWARD committee is currently entertaining nicknames for the SHATNER AWARD. (So far we have rejected "The Willy", "The SHAT" or "The Captain’s Log", but we are considering "The Kirk", "The CRANE" or "The HOOKER.")

7) The SHATNER AWARD committee promises to give the SHATNER AWARD the respect it deserves. Therefore we will not make comments like, "Last week we SHAT on Pat Robertson". This is beneath us.

8) Unlike other awards, the SHATNER AWARD committee encourages political statements with the understanding that your statement may make you eligible for another SHATNER AWARD (Limit one (1) SHATNER AWARD per statement).

9) SHATNER AWARD winners who engage in conduct unbecoming a SHATNER AWARD winner may win another SHATNER AWARD.

10) Until further notice there will be no SHATNER swag bags (Subject to change).
A motion was made to approve the SHATNER AWARD eligibility rules.

The motion passed by a vote of 13 yes, 03 no and 01 GET A LIFE.

Respectfully submitted

Tony Figueroa,
Committee Chair