Friday, March 27, 2009

Irving R. Levine

Mr.Levine was a presence at NBC since 1950 when he began covering the Korean War until his retirement in 1995. After joining NBC, he covered assignments from Korea, Moscow and Vietnam to Algeria, Poland and South Africa. As NBC correspondent in the Soviet Union, he did a half-hour program in 1955 giving a tourist's eye view of Moscow, showing Cold War-era Americans that the Communist capital had "an amusement park not unlike Coney Island (and) another park in which old men played chess and mothers relaxed with their children," The New York Times reported. He explored similar themes in his 1959 book, "Main Street, U.S.S.R."

In 1965, while in Rome, he interviewed the great film director Federico Fellini.

Always known for his dry, delivery and trademark bow ties, he had become the NBC's full-time economics correspondent in 1971 and in the last five years on the job also did weekly commentaries on CNBC. He also appeared more than 100 times "Meet the Press".

In a humorous 2001 essay in The New York Times, Levine welcomed the return of the middle initial as epitomized by then-new President George W. Bush.
He recalled that producers trying to shorten a television news story of his "finally suggested I drop the R in my sign-off, Irving R. Levine. I held my ground."
"`No,' I said, 'I'd rather drop the B in NBC.'"

Good Night Mr. Levine.
You will be missed especially in this economy.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Your Mental Sorbet: Sammy Davis Jr. and Peggy Lipton - "Little Green Apples"

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

This is from The Hollywood Palace in 1968

Special thanks to my Story Salon friend Kate McHugh who sent me this link after she got that song stuck in my head.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Monday, March 23, 2009

This week in Television History: The Start of Something Big

Listen to me talk about this week's This week in Television History @ TV CONFIDENTIAL Mar. 24 edition: Hour 1 with guests Tony Figueroa and David Krell

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.

March 23, 1940
Truth or Consequences originally aired on NBC radio with its creator, Ralph Edwards, as the Host. A decade later it moved to television on CBS. Contestants on the show were asked trick questions which they almost always failed to answer correctly. If they answered incorrectly, or failed to come up with any answer in a short time, Beulah the Buzzer went off. The host then told them that since they had failed to tell the truth, they would have to pay the consequences. Consequences consisted of elaborate stunts, some done in the studio and others done outside, some completed on that week's episode and others taking a week or more and requiring the contestant to return when the stunt was completed. Some of the stunts were funny, but more often they were also embarrassing, and occasionally they were sentimental like the reunion with a long-lost relative or a relative/spouse returning from military duty overseas, particularly Vietnam. Sometimes, if that military person was based in California, his or her spouse or parents were flown in for that reunion.

The spa city of "Hot Springs" in Sierra County, New Mexico took the name Truth or Consequences in1950, when host Ralph Edwards announced that he would do the program from the first town that renamed itself after the show. Ralph Edwards came to the town during the first weekend of May for the next fifty years.

The original TV version of this series, with Edwards as host, lasted only a single season. When in returned three years later on NBC, Jack Bailey was the host, later replaced by Steve Dunne. NBC aired a daytime version of the show from 1956 to 1965, first with Jack Bailey again as host, succeeded by Bob Barker. Barker remained with the show through the rest of the daytime run and on into the original syndicated run from 1966 to 1974. During Barker's run as host, "Barker's Box" was played. Barker's Box was a box with four drawers in it. A contestant able to pick the drawer with money in it won a bonus prize. Bob Hilton hosted a short-lived syndicated revival from 1977 to1978 and in the fall of 1987, comic Larry Anderson became the host of another short-lived version.

March 21, 1980
J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), the character millions loved to hate on TV’s popular nighttime drama Dallas, was shot. The shooting made the season finale, titled A House Divided, one of television’s most famous cliffhangers and left America wondering "Who shot J.R.?" Dallas fans waited for the next eight months to have that question answered because the season premiere of Dallas was delayed due to a Screen Actors Guild strike. That summer, the question "Who Shot J.R.?" entered the national lexicon. Fan’s wore T-shirts printed with "Who Shot J.R.?" and "I Shot J.R.". A session of the Turkish parliament was suspended to allow legislators a chance to get home in time to view the Dallas episode. Betting parlors worldwide took bets as to which one of the 10 or so principal characters had actually pulled the trigger. J.R. had many enemies and audiences were hard-pressed to guess who was responsible for the shooting.

The person who pulled the trigger was revealed to be J.R.’s sister in law/mistress Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby) in the "Who Done It?" episode which aired on November 21, 1980. It was, at the time, the highest rated television episode in US history. It had a Nielsen rating of 53.3 and a 76% share, and it was estimated that 83,000,000 people watched the episode.

The previous record for a TV episode, not counting the final installment of the miniseries Roots, had been the 1967 finale for The Fugitive. "Who Shot J.R.?" now sits second on the list, being beaten in 1983 by the final episode of M*A*S*H but still remains the highest rated non-finale episode of a TV series.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

PS: March 21, 1983
The last episode of the long-running TV series Little House on the Prairie aired. The series, based on the children's book by Laura Ingalls Wilder, premiered in 1974. The show was one of television's 25 most highly rated shows for seven of its nine seasons. When series star and executive producer Michael Landon decided to leave the show in 1982, the show's title changed to Little House: A New Beginning and focused on character Laura Ingalls Wilder (Melissa Gilbert) and her family. The show lasted only one more season. Three made-for-television movie sequels followed: Little House: Look Back to Yesterday (1983), Little House: Bless All the Dear Children (1983), and Little House: The Last Farewell (1984).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Your Mental Sorbet: Stephen Colbert Says "Twat" On The Today Show.

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

Dear Stephen,

A gentleman does not twat and tell.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This week in Television History: A Mixed Bag

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.

I had Sherman set the WABAC machine all over the space time continum for this week’s instllment.

First we go back to March 9th 1959. The International Toy Fair in New York premiered Barbie. That event was followed by 50 years of Barbie comercials during Saturday morning cartoons. This is the first Barbie commercial that aired during The Mickey Mouse Club.

Happy 50th birthday, Barbie!

Then we go to March 10th 1965 Neil Simon’s play The Odd Couple debuted on Broadway. Felix Ungar was played by Art Carney and Oscar Madison was played by Walter Matthau (Matthau was later replaced with Jack Klugman). The show, directed by Mike Nichols, ran for 966 performances and won several Tony Awards, including Best Play. The play was followed by a successful film (Jack Lemmon as Felix and Walter Matthau as Oscar) and television series (Tony Randall as Felix and Jack Klugman as Oscar).

Then we go to March 10th 1989 when the new Fox network primered the reality series COPS. The show that follows police officers, constables, and sheriff's deputies during patrols and other police activities. The show came out right after the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike and the new network needed material. An unscripted show that did not require writers would be ideal for FOX.

The show covered COPS in 140 different cities in the United States, and also filmed in Hong Kong, London, and the former Soviet Union.
2,044 arrests have been made on COPS.
The oldest person arrested was 90 years old (for battery)
The youngest person arrested was 7 years old (for a bike theft)
Roughly 120 hours of footage goes into one broadcast segment.
Finally we go back to March 9th 1976 when ABC premiered Family, a weekly prime-time drama about a Pasadena California suburban family. The show was created by novelist and screenwriter Jay Presson Allen, directed by film director Mark Rydell, and produced by film director Mike Nichols, as well as television moguls Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg.

The show featured James Broderick and Sada Thompson as Doug and Kate Lawrence. Doug was an independent lawyer, and Kate was a housewife. They had three children: Nancy (portrayed by Elayne Heilveil in the original mini-series and later by Meredith Baxter Birney), Willie (Gary Frank), Letitia, nicknamed "Buddy" (Kristy McNichol) and the family later adopted a girl named Annie Cooper (Quinn Cummings). The show attempted to depict the "average" family, warts and all. Storylines were very topical, and the show was one of the first to feature shows to be termed as "very special episodes." In the first episode, Nancy, who was pregnant with her second child, walked in on her husband Jeff (John Rubinstein) making love to one of her friends. Other topical storylines included Kate having to deal with the possibility that she had breast cancer. In the later seasons, there were instances in which Buddy had to decide whether or not to have sex (She always chose to wait, most notably in an episode with guest star/teen idol Leif Garrett). One episode featured guest-star Henry Fonda as a visiting elderly relative who was beginning to experience senility.

During its five seasons Family received fourteen Emmy Award nominations, three of them for Outstanding Drama Series. The show won four awards all in acting categories: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Sada Thompson in 1977), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Kristy McNichol in 1976 and 1978) and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Gary Frank in 1976).

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa