Monday, April 27, 2009

The Legend of Evie Everheart

Performed byDonna Allen-Figueroa
Written by Donna Allen-Figueroa & Tony Figueroa
In association with
Story Salon
Friday May 8th 2009
Coffee Fix12508 Moorpark St
Across from Studio City Library, Studio City

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bea Arthur

Beatrice Arthur died of cancer at her Los Angeles home with her family at her side, family. She was 86. Arthur was born Bernice Frankel in New York City in 1922. At 12 she had grown to full height, and she dreamed of being a petite blond movie star like June Allyson. There was one advantage of being tall and deep-voiced: She was chosen for the male roles in school plays.
Bernice — she hated the name and adopted her mother's nickname of Bea — overcame shyness about her size by winning over her classmates with wisecracks. She was elected the wittiest girl in her class. After two years at a junior college in Virginia, she earned a degree as a medical lab technician, but she "loathed" doing lab work at a hospital. Acting held more appeal, and she enrolled in a drama course at the New School of Social Research in New York City. To support herself, she sang in a night spot that required her to push drinks on customers.

Arthur first appeared on TV in the landmark comedy series All in the Family as Edith Bunker's outspoken, liberal cousin, Maude Finley. She proved a perfect foil for blue-collar bigot Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), and their blistering exchanges were so entertaining that producer Norman Lear fashioned Arthur's own series. Maude scored with television viewers immediately on its CBS debut in September 1972, and Arthur won an Emmy Award for the role in 1977.
The comedy flowed from Maude's efforts to cast off the traditional restraints that women faced, but the series often had a serious base. Her husband Walter (Bill Macy) became an alcoholic, and she underwent an abortion, which drew a torrent of viewer protests. Maude became a standard bearer for the growing feminist movement in America.

Golden Girls (1985-1992) was another groundbreaking comedy, finding surprising success.
The series concerned three retirees — Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan — and the mother of Arthur's character, Estelle Getty, who lived together in a Miami apartment. The interplay among the four women and their relations with men fueled the comedy, and the show amassed a big audience and 10 Emmys, including two as best comedy series and individual awards for each of the stars.

In 2008, when Arthur was inducted in the TV Academy Hall of Fame, Arthur pointed to the role as the highlight of her long career.

Beatrice Arthur - Archive of American Television Interview

To quote Bea Arthur, "I was already 50 years old. I had done so much off-Broadway, on Broadway, but they said, `Who is that girl? Let's give her her own series".

Good Night Bea

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Friday, April 24, 2009

Your Mental Sorbet: Stephen Colbert's parody of the NOM "Gathering Storm" ad

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

Stephen Colbert offered up a hysterical parody of the NOM - Gathering Storm ad.

I'm sure Miss California didn't get the joke.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This week in Television History: Milestones & Pop Culture.

Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL with Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte
Broadcast LIVE every other Tuesday at 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Share-a-Vision Radio,

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 set the Wayback machine to the end of April and found many Television Historical Milestones & Moments in TV Pop Culture.

Television Historical Milestones

April 19, 1938
The National Broadcasting Company launched experimental television broadcasts from the Empire State Building. These experiments aired only five hours a week to very few TV households.

Almost two years to the day prior.

April 24, 1936
A group of firemen responding to an alarm in Camden, New Jersey, is televised. It was the first time an unplanned event was broadcast on television, anticipating the development of live TV news coverage. Fortunately, the event would not inspire anyone to create reality programming.

April 30, 1939
NBC began regular U.S. television broadcasts, with a telecast of President Franklin D. Roosevelt opening the New York World's Fair. Programs were transmitted from the NBC mobile camera trucks to the main transmitter, which was connected to an aerial atop the Empire State Building.
Ten days prior to the Roosevelt speech, David Sarnoff, President of RCA (The Radio Corporation of America and NBC's original parent company) made a dedication speech for the opening of the RCA Pavilion at the New York World's Fair. Staging this event prior to the World's Fair opening ceremonies ensured that RCA would capture its share of the newspaper headlines. The ceremony was televised, and watched by several hundred viewers on TV receivers inside the RCA Pavilion at the fairgrounds, as well as on receivers installed on the 62nd floor of Radio City in Manhattan. Back then, the programs included operas, cartoons, cooking demonstrations, travelogues, fashion shows, and skaters at Rockefeller Center along with numerous live telecasts relayed from within the fair itself.

Moments in TV Pop Culture

April 30, 1992

The final episode of the The Cosby Show aired.
YouTube - Cosby Show Final Moments of Last Episode
The sitcom debuted in 1984 at a time when the sitcom was declared to be dead. Comedian Bill Cosby starred in the nation's top-rated program for four of its eight years and always ranked in the top 20 shows.
The show focused on the Huxtable family, an upper-middle class African-American family living in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, New York. The patriarch was Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, an obstetrician. The matriarch was attorney Clair Huxtable. Despite its comedic tone, the show sometimes involved serious subjects, such as son Theo's experiences dealing with dyslexia, inspired by Cosby's child Ennis, who was also dyslexic.
Although the cast and characters were predominantly African-American, the program was unusual in that issues of race were rarely mentioned when compared to other situation comedies of the time, such as The Jeffersons. However, The Cosby Show had African-American themes, such as civil rights marches, and it frequently promoted African-American and African culture represented by artists and musicians such as Jacob Lawrence, Miles Davis, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Miriam Makeba.
On April 30th 1992, the second day of the Los Angeles Riots, KNBC (NBC's Los Angeles affiliate) was covering the historic event nonstop. But that evening the station decided to suspend it’s around the clock riot coverage to air the series finale of The Cosby Show giving viewers a brief Mental Sorbet. Following the broadcast Bill Cosby went on the air and asked Angelinos to pray for peace.

April 30, 1997
In The Puppy Episode of the ABC sitcom Ellen, the character of Ellen Morgan (played by Ellen DeGeneres) announces that she is gay.

The widely publicized episode featured cameos by Oprah Winfrey, k.d. lang, Demi Moore, Billy Bob Thornton, and Dwight Yoakam. An estimated 42 million viewers watched the special hour-long program. Ellen DeGeneres herself had come out earlier that year on The Oprah Winfrey Show and in TIME. Ellen is often credited to be the first primetime sitcom to feature a gay leading character but there was a sitcom titled Love, Sidney (1981 until 1983) staring the late Tony Randall. The first openly gay regular character on a sitcom was Soap's (1977) Jodie Dallas, played by Billy Crystal.
In the spring of 1994, Ellen DeGeneres was cast in a series called These Friends of Mine, but in the fall of 1994, she took center stage and the program was retiled Ellen. The program finished in the top 20 shows for the 1994-1995 season.
The outing ignited a storm of controversy, prompting ABC to place a parental advisory at the beginning of each episode.
Despite her success, and the enormous audience drawn by the coming-out episode, ABC cancelled the series at the end of the 1998 season. Although the network pointed to dwindling ratings, Ellen DeGeneres contended that the network buckled under pressure from conservative groups and stopped promoting the show after the controversial episode.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Friday, April 17, 2009

Never Judge a Show by its Pilot: Parks and Recreation

WARNING: This article could make a good drinking game if you take a shot every time you read The Office. Please read responsibly.
First impressions:
NBC is setting the bar very high as they promote their new sitcom Parks and Recreation by saying, “From Emmy Award-winning executive producers Greg Daniels (NBC's "The Office," "King of the Hill") and Michael Schur (NBC's "The Office," "Saturday Night Live") comes a new mockumentary that looks at the exciting world of local government.” In the past when I have seen creative people try to do something new or different and the network's selling point of the creative people's new show is those creative people's past successes it did not always do the new show any favors by setting false expectations (Never Judge a Show by its Pilot: THE CLASS). Resume style promotion only impresses Hollywood insiders. Fortunately, the Sneak Previews give me the impression that this new show will do for local government what The Office did for Middle Management/Corporate America. Why can't they just say that? Now more than ever there are many institutions that deserve to be mocked.

FYI: A religious or financial institution would fit nicely in this mockumentary format. Call me...

Unfortunately, after hearing about this show for the last several months (It was originally described as an untitled spin-off of The Office starring Amy Poehler. Then it was not a spin-off of The Office), one has to question if this show is ready for prime time or only half-baked. In fairness to all parties concerned, Amy Poehler's pregnancy did delay the show's production by a few months.

Amy Poehler is funny and has a proven track record on Saturday Night Live, Upright Citizens Brigade, and her movie Baby Mama. She will deliver the laughs no matter what project is thrown her way. I have every confidence that she can carry a show it just has to be the right show. This now begs the question, will people want to watch an Amy Poehler weekly TV show where she only plays one character?

I watched the pilot:
Amy Poehler plays Leslie Knope a mid-level bureaucrat in the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Indiana who aspires to be high-level bureaucrat. Like on The Office, the familiar documentary cameras follow Leslie throughout her workday. Leslie and the other characters also speak directly to the camera. Leslie is assisted by her colleague, Tom Haverford played by Aziz Ansari. I thought the Leslie-Tom dynamic is similar to that of Michael & Jim on The Office only Tom has a lower moral threshold and uses his government job for personal gain. Where Leslie aspires to be the the first woman president, Tom aspieres to be another Governor Blagojevich.

The episode opens with Leslie holding a town hall meeting, where she meets a local nurse Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) whose boyfriend (Chris Pratt) fell into a pit on an abandoned construction site and broke his legs. Leslie is inspired to turn the site into a community park. Leslie's boss, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), is anti-government and would rather see the parks department run by a corporation like Chuck E. Cheese. Leslie's savior is city planner Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider) who has been in public service for fifteen years and was burned out after his first two months on the job. Leslie has a special place in Mark's heart because Mark sees that Leslie really believes in the cause where everybody else is either burned out or cynical... They also slept together. Mark calls in a favor from Ron to let Leslie have her park project. Rounding out the cast is Aubrey Plaza who plays the apathetic college intern April Ludgate.

Now we met the characters and we know their agendas. I can see the "Building a Park" story-line carrying the show from now to the fall season and possibly beyond. When you add how people feel about civil service workers, this show might take off.

I still see this show as a spin-off of The Office. Even though we do not see any of Dunder Mifflin employees, the always present but never seen or heard documentary film camera is for all practicable purposes a character and an obvious link between the two shows. Things look optimistic for this new show but as you know, I never judge a show by its pilot.

I saw the following episode:

We meet Leslie's unsupportive mother (Played by Pamela Reed) who is high up in the school board. Leslie and her team canvas the neighborhood to get support on the park project. The city manager has federal funding, wants to fast track Leslie’s project, and attends the next night’s town hall meeting that turns out to be a disaster. I had a few laughs through out the episode (Especially the Easter egg hunt where Tom forgot to hide the eggs). The funniest part is the sense that the show is more plugged into our own political reality more than anybody wants to admit. I can see people watch the show and ask, "What real event inspired this episode?" I do not see a public servant in the future approach Amy Poehler and saying, "I became a bureaucrat because of you.” Then again...

To quote Leslie Knope, “This is where the rubber of government meets the road of actual human beings.”

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Your Mental Sorbet: The Fonz Jumps The Shark

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

This now iconic episode of Happy Days (Hollywood: Part 3), first broadcast on September 20, 1977. Fonzie (Henry Winkler), wearing his trademark leather jacket, jumps over a penned-in shark while water skiing.

Jumping the shark is a colloquialism coined by Jon Hein and used by TV critics and fans to denote that point in a TV show or movie series' history where the plot veers off into absurd story lines or out-of-the-ordinary characterizations, particularly for a show with falling ratings apparently becoming more desperate to draw viewers in. In the process of undergoing these changes, the TV or movie series loses its original appeal. Shows that have "jumped the shark" are typically deemed to have passed their peak.

Gary Marshall tirelessly reminds us that Happy Days went on for a number of years after the original shark jump, misunderstanding a phrase that judges suckyness, not success.

Its not everyday you get to meet your childhood hero.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Friday, April 10, 2009

Your Mental Sorbet: Ray Charles and Jackie Mason SIng the Blues on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

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

Ray Charles and Jackie Mason on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: Season 3.

Why does it have to take two geniuses meeting to convey the simple message that we are all in this together?

Stay Tuned and Shalom

Tony Figueroa

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

This week in Television History: The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour canceled

You can hear me discuss This week in TelevisionHistory on the TV CONFIDENTIAL with Ed Robertson andFrankie Montiforte Podcast at or go to TV CONFIDENTIAL Apr. 7 edition, Hour 1: ER, Life on Mars and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

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.

Before I get to this weeks historical installment I want to first acknowledge one of many historical milestones that led to what we now call Television. Please note that my above disclaimer rings especially true.

April 7, 1927
The first simultaneous telecast of image and sound takes place on April 7th 1927. Then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover read a speech in Washington, D.C., that was transmitted to the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York City. The New York audience saw and heard a tiny televised image of Hoover that was less than 3 square inches.

April 4, 1969
The CBS Television Network fired The Smothers Brothers because the brothers failed to submit an episode of the The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour to network executives before its broadcast.

The network claimed the second to last show of the season was turned in late, and claimed that their tardiness constituted a breach of contract justifying their dropping of the series. The network ultimately refused to run the episode anyway because they said it "would be considered irreverent and offensive by a large segment of our audience". That episode is on the Smothers Brothers: The Best of Season 3 DVD.

The variety show was well known for its censorship battles with the network. The network executives often objected to the brothers' selection of controversial, outspoken, left wing, and antiwar guests, including:
Pete Seeger, who had been invited to appear on the Smothers' second season premiere to sing his anti-war song, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.” Seeger would later appear on the show and sang that song.
Harry Belafonte was scheduled to do a calypso song called "Don't Stop the Carnival" with images from the riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention behind him. The Song was cut and the time was sold to the Nixon campaign but can now be seen on the season 3 DVD.
Joan Baez wanted to dedicate a song to her draft-resisting husband who was about to go to prison for his stance. The dedication to her husband made the air but the reason for the dedication did not.
Dr. Benjamin Spock, noted baby doctor and anti-war activist, was prevented from appearing as a guest of the show because, according to the network, he was a "convicted felon."

Under the category of irreverent and offensive, we have:
David Steinberg’s satirical sermonettes caused controversy for being sacrilegious. His second sermonette was in the episode that never aired.
Leigh French created the recurring hippie character, Goldie O'Keefe, whose parody of afternoon advice shows for housewives, "Share a Little Tea with Goldie," was actually one long celebration of mind-altering drugs. (Tea" was a counter culture code word for marijuana, but the CBS censors seemed to be unaware of the connection). Goldie would open her sketches with, "Hi(gh)– and glad of it!"
Elaine May wrote a skit about censorship that featured Tom and Elaine who playing motion picture censors trying to find a more acceptable substitution for unacceptable dialogue. The skit ended up being censored.

Tom and Dick Smothers assembled the old Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour gang in February 1988 for a 20th reunion special on CBS. Now the network wanted the brothers and company to be edgy and controversial but no one associated with the show was interested. After all when the establishment tells you something is cool... It's no longer cool.

In 1968 when it came time to submit the names of the writers for Emmy considerations, Tom refused to include his name for fear that he had become too controversial and it would hurt the show’s chances of winning. The show won the Emmy for outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy Variety that year.

Almost 40 Years later
(Sunday, September 21st 2008) during the live television broadcast of the 60th Annual Emmy Awards (YouTube - Steve Martin Tommy Smothers Emmy 2008), Tom Smothers received an Emmy acknowledging his contributions as a writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Steve Martin, who was one of the Emmy winning writers on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, presented Tom with a commemorative Emmy acknowledging his role in the writing of a variety show. Television Academy Honors Tom Smothers With Commemorative Emmy

In October of this year the book "Dangerously Funny: the Uncensored History of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" by David Bianculli will be published by Touchstone. Visit their website:

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

Tony Figueroa
PS: I wrote this article on the Smothers Brothers back on July 28th 2005 O Brothers, Where Art Thou?

Friday, April 03, 2009

Your Mental Sorbet: Sonny and Cher singing "I got you Babe" on Letteman

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

Sonny and Cher performed this one last time when they appeared on Late Night with David Letterman in 1987.

It's always important when we look back to remember the positive.

Good Night Tess.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa