Tuesday, May 05, 2009

This week in Television History: Win some & Loose some

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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 1, 1931
President Herbert Hoover officially dedicates New York City's Empire State Building. Less than eight months later, a television-transmitting antenna had been erected atop the structure (The top was originally designed as a mooring mast for dirigibles). During the ensuing 36 years, television and FM radio signals have continued to be transmitted from this location. Today, 22 stations share the site.

May 3, 1991
Prime-time soap opera Dallas airs its last episode. The episode was watched by 33.3 million viewers (38% of all viewers in that time slot)
The show debuted in April of 1978, and broke ratings records in 1980 when 83.6 million viewers tuned in to find out "Who Shot J.R.?". In the final episode, titled Conundrum (An homage to It's a Wonderful Life) J.R. (Larry Hagman) is contemplating committing suicide. The drunk J.R. walks around the pool with a bourbon bottle and a loaded gun, when suddenly another person appears, a spirit named Adam (portrayed by Joel Grey), whose "boss" has been watching J.R. and likes him. Adam proceeds to take him on a journey to show him what life would have been like for other people if he had not been born. At the end of the episode Adam encourages J.R. on to kill himself. J.R. will not do it, as he does not want Adam to be sent back to heaven with his job incomplete. At this point Adam reveals that he's not an angel, but a minion of Satan. Bobby has returned home. The gun goes off while Bobby is in the hallway, and he rushes to J.R.'s room. He looks at what has gone down, gasps, "Oh, my God," and the series ends on that note with the fate of J.R. never settled (although it eventually would be five years later, in the reunion movie, Dallas: J.R. Returns.).

May 4, 1975
Moe Howard of the Three Stooges, died. Howard was born in Brooklyn in 1897. The brother of fellow Stooges Shemp and Curly. The Stooges appeared in 190 short subjects for Columbia and more than 20 feature-length films.
Curly suffered a series of strokes which led to his death on January 18, 1952.
On November 22, 1955, Shemp died of a heart attack.
Joe Besser was hired in 1956. Joe, Larry, and Moe filmed 16 shorts through December 1957. With the death of Columbia head Harry Cohn, the making of short subjects came to an end, and Howard was forced to take a job as a gofer at Columbia.

Throughout their career, Moe acted as both their main creative force and business manager. C3 Entertainment, Inc. was formed by Moe, Larry and Curly-Joe DeRita in 1959 to manage all business and merchandise transactions for the team.
Eventhough the Stooges never made any money when thier Columbia shorts were syndicated on local TV stations, the did do very well fiancially making personal aparances in the cities where thier shorts were airing. The movie The Outlaws Is Coming (1965) has a nod to television's key role in the resurgence of the Stooges' popularity, the outlaws were played by local TV hosts from across the U.S. whose shows featured the trio's old Columbia shorts.

Normandy Productions, and amassed control over the team's finances and existed until 1994 when the heirs of Larry and Curly-Joe filed a lawsuit against Moe's family, particularly his grandsons. The result gave the other heirs more profits, and placed Curly-Joe's stepsons (Robert and Earl Benjamin) in charge of the Stooge images/sales. The moniker C3 Entertainment, Inc. was reinstated and is currently the owner of all Three Stooges trademarks and merchandising. Larry's grandson Eric Lamond is a majority owner in the company as well.

May 6, 1959
Raymond Burr wins the Best Actor in a Dramatic Series Emmy for Perry Mason, in which he plays a crime-solving attorney. The popular show, which debuted in 1957, ran for nine years. Derived from mystery novels by Earl Stanley Gardner, the character of Perry Mason had made his radio debut in 1943 and the show continued until 1955. The sleuthing Perry Mason character was revived in a series of TV movies from 1985 to 1993.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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