Monday, August 31, 2009

This week in Television History: August 2009 Part V

Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL with Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte next week. We broadcast LIVE every other Monday at 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Shokus Internet Radio.
The program will then be repeated Tuesday through Sunday at the same time (10pm ET, 7pm PT) on Shokus Radio for the next two weeks, and then will be posted on line at our archives page at
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.

August 25, 1931
Regis Francis Xavier Philbin is born.

Media personality and occasional actor, known for fronting various talk and game shows. Appearing on television since the late 1950s. Philbin holds the Guinness World Record for the most time spent in front of a television camera. His trademarks include his excited manner, his New York Bronx accent, his wit, and irreverent ad-libs. He is most widely known for Live with Regis and Kelly, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Million Dollar Password, and for hosting the first season of America's Got Talent.

August 27, 1964
Comedian Gracie Allen, best known for her years of comic collaboration with husband George Burns, died.
Burns and Allen started performing a successful vaudeville act in the early 1920s and married in 1926. In 1932, they first appeared on the popular radio program The Guy Lombardo Show. Audiences loved Allen's gentle, ditzy character, and CBS launched a half-hour show, The Adventures of Gracie, in 1934. Renamed
The Burns and Allen Show in 1936, the radio show ran until 1950, achieving Top 10 ratings almost continually.

The pair launched a TV series that ran from 1950 to 1958, and they appeared in more than a dozen movies during their 35-year career together in what became one of the most successful and beloved comedy acts in history. Allen retired after a mild heart attack in 1958. After her death, Burns visited her grave once a month while continuing to work in TV, theater, nightclubs, and movies. He wrote many books, including Gracie: A Love Story, a tribute to his wife. Burns died in 1996 at the age of 100.

August 29, 1958
The King of Pop Michael Jackson is born in Gary, Indiana. Jackson began performing with his four brothers in the pop group the Jackson 5 when he was a child. The group scored its first No. 1 single in 1969, with "I Want You Back." By age 11, Jackson was appearing on TV, and by age 14 he had released his first solo album. A Jackson 5 TV cartoon series appeared in the early '70s, and in 1976 the Jackson family, including sister Janet Jackson, launched a TV variety show called The Jacksons that ran for one season. Throughout the 70s, media attention focused on Michael, who piped vocals in his high voice for "ABC," "I'll Be There," and many other Top 20 hits.
Jackson released several solo albums in the '70s, but his great breakthrough came in 1979 with Off the Wall. He became the first solo artist to score four Top 10 hits from one album, including "She's Out of My Life" and "Rock with You." His next album, Thriller (1983), became the biggest selling album up to that time, selling some 45 million copies around the world. This time, he scored seven Top 10 singles, and the album won eight Grammies. Although his next album, Bad (1987), sold only about half as many copies as Thriller, it was still a tremendous best-seller. In 1991, Jackson signed an unprecedented $65 million record deal with Sony. That year, he released Dangerous.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jackson developed a reputation as an eccentric recluse. He moved to a 2,700-acre ranch called Neverland, which he outfitted with wild animals and a Ferris wheel. He underwent a facelift and nose job and was rumored to have lightened his skin through chemical treatment, though he claimed his increasing pallor was due to a skin disease. In 1993, scandal broke when Jackson was publicly accused of child molestation and underwent investigation. The case settled out of court. In 1994, Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley; the couple later divorced. Jackson married Deborah Rowe in 1996, and the couple had two sons, Prince and Paris, before divorcing in 1999.
On June 13, 2005, Jackson was acquitted of sexual molestation of a young boy, Gavin Arvizo, in criminal court.
Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, in Los Angeles, California, just weeks before a planned concert tour billed as his "comeback." He was 50 years old.

August 31, 1957
Children's show Kukla, Fran and Ollie airs its last episode on prime-time network TV. The show featured beloved puppets Kukla, Ollie (a dragon), and others.
Burr Tillstrom was the creator and only puppeteer on the show. Actress Fran Allison was the host. The show began as a local Chicago program and moved to NBC in 1948. It was one of the two most important series made in Chicago, along with Garroway at Large, during the city's brief period as an important production center for network programs in the late 1940s. After its network cancellation, PBS revived the series from 1969 to 1971.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Friday, August 28, 2009

Your Mental Sorbet: The Making of a McDonalds Commercial 1973

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

Behind the scenes with Ronald McDonald, the Hamburgler, and Mayor McCheese as a series of commercials are created. Also interviews with director Howard Morris.

You can watch the full video and learn more about the filmmakers here:

I want to give special thanks to my friends Peter and Richard who both sent me this clip.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

TV Confidential Archives: Aug. 10, 2009

First hour
Author, journalist and educator Michael Davis joins Ed, Frankie and guest co-host Tony Figueroa in the first hour. Michael's book, Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street, marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark children's television series.

Second hour
Then in the second hour, Emmy-winning writer, director and producer Joseph Dougherty (thirtysomething, Saving Grace) joins the guys for a conversation about new media, the current state of network television and other topics.

Monday, August 24, 2009

This week in Television History: August 2009 Part IV

Listen to me Tonight on TV CONFIDENTIAL with Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte Broadcast LIVE every other Monday at 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Shokus Internet Radio. The program will then be repeated Tuesday through Sunday at the same time (10pm ET, 7pm PT) on Shokus Radio for the next two weeks, and then will be posted on line at our archives page at

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.

August 18, 1977
Comedian Grouch Marx died. Marx was born in New York in 1890. His mother encouraged him and his brothers Chico, Harpo, and Gummo (Later Zeppo) to enter show business at an early age. They worked the vaudeville circuit, then moved to Broadway in the early 1920s, writing their own musical comedies. One of their Broadway comedies, Cocoanuts, became their first film, in 1929. After the brothers stopped making films, Groucho continued to have a successful performing career. He hosted a popular radio quiz show called You Bet Your Life from 1947 to 1956, which became a TV show and ran until 1961.

Groucho was still performing late in life: At the age of 82, he gave a one-man show at Carnegie Hall.

August 19, 1981
Charlie's Angels aired its final episode. The detective series featured crime-solving beauties instructed by a mysterious voice on a speaker phone known only as Charlie. Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith, and Farrah Fawcett played the original Angels. Fawcett's blown-dry, feathered hair launched a national fad, and the actress left the show after a year to pursue a career in movies. Subsequent Angels included Cheryl Ladd, Shelley Hack, and Tanya Roberts. In 2000, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu played the Angels in a movie version of the show.

August 19, 1921
TV producer Gene Roddenberry, best known as the creator of Star Trek, is born in El Paso, Texas. His family moved to Los Angeles when Roddenberry was a toddler, and his father became a police officer. Roddenberry also studied criminal justice at Los Angeles City College but became a pilot instead through the Civilian Pilot Training Program. During World War II, Roddenberry flew bombing missions in the South Pacific with the U.S. Army Air Corps. Shot down during a raid, he survived and won a medal. A second crash, when he was working as a Pan Am pilot after the war, killed 14 people and convinced Roddenberry to give up flying. Instead, Roddenberry became a police officer like his father. But before long, he discovered that living the police life paid less than writing about it for TV, so he began writing scripts for Dragnet and other police TV dramas. In 1963, he produced a short-lived NBC show, The Lieutenant, about life in the U.S. Marines.

A lifelong science-fiction fan, Roddenberry wanted to try his hand making a sci-fi TV program. He convinced superstar Lucille Ball to fund a pilot. Although the first pilot was rejected, a second take was picked up, and Star Trek premiered in 1966. Although the show ran for only three years and never placed better than No. 52 in the ratings, Roddenberry's sci-fi series became a cult classic and spawned four television series and nine movies.

Roddenberry died on October 24, 1991, and was one of the first people to be "buried" in space.

August 22, 1958
TV series Life of Riley airs its last episode. Launched as a radio series in the 1940s, the show moved to TV in 1949, starring young comedian Jackie Gleason in his first TV role, as bullheaded family man Chester Riley. The radio version ran until 1951, starring actor William Bendix as Riley. In 1953, Bendix replaced Gleason in the Riley role on TV and stayed with the show until it was cancelled in 1958.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bob Hope and The Laugh Makers: Next on TV CONFIDENTIAL

Television writer Bob Mills will be our guest on the next edition of TV CONFIDENTIAL, premiering Monday, August 24 at 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Shokus Internet Radio, with a rebroadcast Tuesday, August 25, 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Share-a-Vision Radio, Bob Mills was a comedy writer for Bob Hope during the last 20 years of Hope’s illustrious career. His new book, The Laugh Makers: A Be hind the Scenes Tribute to Bob Hope’s Incredible Gag Writers, takes readers on a side-splitting journey to a bygone era of television variety shows and slapstick sketch comedy. Bob’s book is not only filled with backstage stories and rare, previously unpublished photographs, including behind-the-scenes photos of Hope’s historic trip to China in 1979 (Hope and company were the first U.S. television crew ever allowed in China), but provides a candid portrait of Hope that sheds light on his incredible longevity. If you love Bob Hope, this is a show you won’t want to miss. Bob Mills will join us during our second hour (11pm ET, 8pm PT); we hope you’ll join us, too.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Your Mental Sorbet: Barney Frank's Town Hall Snaps on The Daily Show

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

Jon Stewart covers Barney Frank confronting a Nazi name-calling protester at a health care reform town hall meeting.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barney Frank's Town Hall Snaps
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Don Hewitt

Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes, died of pancreatic cancer.

Hewitt started working at the photo agency Acme Telepictures. Soon he received a lucrative offer at the CBS television network, which was seeking someone who had "picture experience" to help with production of televsion broadcast. Hewitt started at its news division, CBS News, in 1948 and served as producer-director of the network's evening-news broadcast with Douglas Edwards for fourteen years. He was also the first director of the landmark documentary news program See It Now, coproduced by host Edward R. Murrow and Fred W. Friendly that started in 1952.

Hewitt was the director of the 1960 U.S. Presidential-candidate debates—the first-ever televised presidential-candidate debates—between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. He later became executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. He then launched the eight-time Emmy Award-winning show 60 Minutes.

Hewitt stepped aside as executive producer in 2004 at age 81. He is an eight-time Emmy Award winner. He is the author of Tell Me a Story: Fifty Years and 60 Minutes in Television, in which he chronicles his life as a newsman. He is also the author of the book Minute by Minute, a look at the history of 60 Minutes. On April 3, 2008, Hewitt was honored with Washington State University's Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Broadcast Journalism.

This Sunday, Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. ET/PT: 60 Minutes will devote its entire hour to Hewitt. The 60 Minutes correspondents are working on individual segments that will tell the story of the legendary newsman's life, lasting contributions to the television news industry and especially their favorite stories about their boss and his times at 60 Minutes.
To quote Don Hewitt, "Confrontation is not a dirty word. Sometimes it's the best kind of journalism as long you don't confront people just for the sake of a confrontation".
Good Night Mr. Hewitt. I will see you every Sunday.
Stay Tuned
Tony Figueroa

Monday, August 17, 2009

This week in Television History: August 2009 Part III

Listen to me next week on TV CONFIDENTIAL with Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte Broadcast LIVE every other Monday at 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Shokus Internet Radio. The program will then be repeated Tuesday through Sunday at the same time (10pm ET, 7pm PT) on Shokus Radio for the next two weeks, and then will be posted on line at our archives page at
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.

August 11, 1921
Alex Haley
, author of Roots (1976), was born in Ithaca, New York. After 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, Haley retired and wrote books, including The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965). In 1976, he published his best-known work, Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The blend of fact and fiction, drawn largely from stories recited by Haley's grandmother, chronicles seven generations of Haley's family history, from the enslavement of his ancestors to his own quest to trace his family tree.

Roots became a TV miniseries in 1977. The eight-part series was aired on consecutive nights and became the most watched dramatic show in TV history. Some 130 million people-nearly half the country's population at the time--watched the final episode of the series. Haley died on Feb. 10, 1992.

August 11, 1933
Jerry Lamon Falwell Sr. The evangelical Christian pastor, televangelist, and a conservative commentator was born. He was the founding pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church, a megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginia. He founded Lynchburg Christian Academy (now Liberty Christian Academy) in 1967, Liberty University in 1971, and cofounded the Moral Majority in 1979.

August 13, 1899
Alfred Hitchcock is born the son of a London poultry dealer and fruit importer. He became a highly influential director of suspense films in the 1940s and 1950s, known for sneaking his own cameo appearance into every film.
Hitchcock entered show business as a designer of title cards for silent films made by the newly formed London branch of Hollywood's Famous Players-Lasky (later, Paramount Pictures). He worked closely with screenwriters, who occasionally allowed him to direct a scene that didn't include actors. He became an assistant director and was promoted to director in 1925. He married film editor and script girl Alma Reville the following year and she helped him write a variety of screenplays.
Hitchcock continued to direct English suspense films, including The 39 Steps, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The Lady Vanishes, but he moved to Hollywood in 1939 to take advantage of American filmmaking technology. His first American movie, Rebecca, won the 1940 Oscar for Best Picture and landed Hitchcock a Best Director nomination.
During the 1950s, he started to experiment creatively and produced some of the most popular films of his career, including Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo, and Rear Window. He became renowned for his psychologically complicated thrillers. In a Hitchcock movie, nothing on screen happened by accident: He carefully chose each camera angle and sound effect. He maintained strict creative control over his films.

Hitchcock also hosted two anthology mystery series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, from 1955 to 1962, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, from 1962 to 1965. After his theme music, based on Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette," played, he would offer an eerie, "Good eeevening." Each episode appeared to end with evil triumphing over good, but after the final commercial Hitchcock would explain in his distinctive British accent how happenstance or a bizarre mistake had overpowered the villain.
Hitchcock won the Irving Thalberg Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1967 and the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award in 1979. The following year, he was knighted, even though he had long since become a United States citizen. He died in 1980, but that wasn't the end of his career. A color revival of his show was introduced in 1985. Although the revival featured all new episodes, each was preceded by one of Hitchcock's introductions from earlier shows, processed into color.

August 14, 1945
Steve Martin The comedian, actor, and writer Steve Martin is born in Waco, Texas.
The son of a real estate executive, Martin moved to Garden Grove, California, as a child, where he worked at Disneyland during his teens. At Disneyland, he entertained crowds with magic tricks and later with banjo music and comedy. He eventually studied theater arts at UCLA and broke into show business as a comedy writer. In 1969, he won an Emmy for his writing on the hit comedy show The Smothers Brothers and later wrote and appeared on other comedy-variety shows, including The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.
Meanwhile, Martin began performing his own comedy at nightclubs and on records. He was soon guest-hosting The Tonight Show and appearing on Saturday Night Live, notably in the role of the "wild and crazy guy."

Martin made his film debut in 1977 in The Absent-Minded Waiter, which he wrote. After playing small but entertaining roles in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) and The Muppet Movie (1979), he starred in his first big hit, The Jerk (1979). He appeared in numerous comedies in the 1980s, including All of Me (1984), Three Amigos (1986), and Roxanne (1987), a modern adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, for which he won the Writer's Guild Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Martin is also a leading art collector, a playwright, and an author. His play Picasso at the Lapin Agile ran in Los Angeles and New York in the 1990s. His novella Shopgirl, published in 2000, became a bestseller, and he frequently contributes to The New Yorker.

August 15, 1923
Rose Marie Actress and Comedian who also had a successful singing career as Baby Rose Marie was born. A veteran of vaudeville, Rose Marie's career includes film, theater and television. Her most famous acting role came as television comedy writer Sally Rogers on CBS's classic sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show. She later portrayed Myrna Gibbons on CBS's classic sitcom The Doris Day Show and she was also a frequent panelist on the game show Hollywood Squares.

August 15, 1912
Julia Child was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams.

Chef, author and television personality, who introduced French cuisine and cooking techniques to the American mainstream, through her many cookbooks and television programs. Her most famous works are the 1961 cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and the television series The French Chef, which premiered in 1963 and showcased her sui generis persona.

August 16, 1977
Elvis Presley the King of Rock n' Roll is found dead at Graceland, his mansion in Memphis. While congestive heart failure was cited as the official cause of death, drug abuse was suspected as a contributing factor.
Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, on Jan. 8, 1935, and moved with his family to Memphis, Tennessee, as a teenager. He worked as a movie theater usher and a truck driver while learning the guitar.
In 1954, he paid $4 to record two songs at a recording studio for his mother's birthday. The office assistant was so impressed that she brought a copy of the recording to studio executive Sam Phillips, who asked Presley to audition for him. Presley started the audition with country-and-western standards, but when he felt Phillips' interest wane, he belted out a rhythm-and-blues song called "That's All Right." Impressed, Phillips recorded the song, and a week later it became No. 4 on the country-and-western charts in Memphis.
That summer, Phillips brought Presley together with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, both country-and-western artists, and one of their songs was played on a Memphis radio station. The audience went wild, and Presley gave his first radio interview. He made his one and only appearance at the Grand Ole Opry on September 25 and soon began appearing regularly on the radio. He made his television debut on a Memphis show in March 1955 and that September scored his first No. 1 country record: a rendition of Junior Parker's "Mystery Train."
RCA purchased Presley's contract from Sun Records for an unprecedented $35,000, plus a $5,000 advance for Presley, which he used to buy a pink Cadillac for his mother. He made his first records in Nashville in 1956, including "I Got a Woman," "Heartbreak Hotel," and "I Was the One."
On January 28, 1956, television audiences met Presley on the Dorsey Brothers' Stage Show. He performed on several variety shows before he began filming his first movie, Love Me Tender, which took just three days to earn back the $1 million it cost to make. All his singles released that year went gold. Parents, preachers, and other performers denounced the seductive hip gyrations that made teen girls swoon; on his last appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, cameras showed him only from the waist up.

In 1967, Presley married Priscilla Beaulieu, who had moved into Presley's family home, Graceland, as a teenager six years earlier. The couple divorced in 1973. As his popularity continued to skyrocket, the King of Rock and Roll turned to drugs. He gave his final live performance on June 25, 1977. Six weeks later, on August 16, 1977, his girlfriend found him dead in a bathroom at Graceland. He was buried at Graceland and his estate was passed on to his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. Nine years after his death, he was one of the first 10 people inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He had earned 94 gold singles and more than 40 gold LPs.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Friday, August 14, 2009

Your Mental Sorbet: "The Jack Benny program" with his guest Johnny Carson (1955).

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

Jack Gives Johnny Carson Advice

The Jack Benny Program with his guest Johnny Carson. Originally aired on Nov. 20, 1955 (Seven years prior to Johnny taking over The Tonight Show.

Things have come full circle. Jack Benny's Show shot in Universal Studios' Soundstage # 1. Universal Studios' Soundstage # 1 is the current home to The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

TV Confidential Archives: July 27, 2009

July 27, 2009
First hour
Second hour
Former CBS and NBC programming executive Mike Dann joins Ed and Frankie in the first hour for a lively discussion about his career in television, as well as the current state of the medium. Mike's memoirs, As I Saw It: The Inside Story of the Golden Age of Television, traces the first 25 years of network TV, from the birth of the first full network schedule through the creation of such staples as The Today Show and The Tonight Show, to the rise and fall of such prime time giants as Tom and Dick Smothers.

Monday, August 10, 2009

This week in Television History: August 2009 Part II

Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL with Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte Tonight. We broadcast LIVE every other Monday at 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Shokus Internet Radio.

The program will then be repeated Tuesday through Sunday at the same time (10pm ET, 7pm PT) on Shokus Radio for the next two weeks, and then will be posted on line at our archives page at

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.

August 5, 1956
Maureen Denise McCormick was born. Actress, reality show participant, and recording artist. She is best known as a child actor who played Marcia Brady in the television series The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974.

August 6, 1911
Lucille Ball was born. She became one of America's most beloved comic actresses, is born near Jamestown, New York. Her father, an electrician, died when Ball was two. By age 15, Ball had decided to attend drama school and become an actress. However, the shy, skinny teenager received little encouragement and was rejected at least four times from Broadway chorus lines before finally becoming a chorus girl in 1926. In 1933, she was hired as the Chesterfield cigarette girl and was featured in all the company's advertisements. Attracting attention with her Chesterfield ads, she finally began playing bit parts in Hollywood movies in 1933. By the late 1930s, the starlet had graduated to comic supporting roles. In 1940, she met Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz while shooting Too Many Girls. The couple married the following year.
Ball continued to land movie roles that didn't fully showcase her talent. Frustrated, she turned to radio and starred as a ditzy wife in My Favorite Husband from 1948 to 1951. CBS decided to launch the popular series on the relatively new medium of TV. Lucy insisted Desi be cast as her husband in the TV version, though the network executives argued that no one would believe the couple were married. Desi and Lucy performed before live audiences and filmed a pilot, convincing network executives that audiences responded well to their act, and CBS cast Desi for the show.

I Love Lucy became one of the most popular TV situation comedies in history, ranking in the top three shows for six years and turning the couple's production company, Desilu, into a multimillion-dollar business. Ball became president of the company in 1960, after she and Desi divorced. She also starred in several other "Lucy" shows, including The Lucy Show, which debuted in 1962 and ran for six seasons, and Here's Lucy, in which she starred with her two children until the show was cancelled in 1974. A later show, Life with Lucy, featuring Lucy as a grandmother, was cancelled after only eight episodes. Ball worked little in the last years of her life. She died of congestive heart failure in 1989, at the age of 78.

August 7, 1948
Stanley Victor Freberg author, recording artist, animation voice actor, comedian, radio personality, puppeteer, and advertising creative director was born. His first jobs (at age eighteen) involved supplying voices for Warner Brothers cartoons, usually in support of Mel Blanc and always without credit. Soon though, Freberg was being heard on radio shows and on early television. He and V.O. actor Daws Butler worked puppets and supplied the vocals on Bob Clampett's Time for Beany, the first kids' show to attract an adult audience.
In 1950, he launched a long association with Capitol Records, recording silly and satirical material. The sales and critical reaction stunned the Capitol execs so they let him keep on doing pretty much anything he wanted, even when it meant attacking their own industry. His recordings all had two outstanding qualities. One is that they were funny. The other is that they were produced with high production values, first-rate music (usually supplied by arranger-conductor Billy May) and a fine supporting cast that included Butler, June Foray and Peter Leeds, along with the hundreds of voices that came out of Freberg himself. Even if you didn't get the satire — and some folks didn't, especially when Freberg records were released overseas — the material was always fun to listen to.
Freberg starred in two network radio shows, both of which also featured his frequent partner, Butler. The 1954 That's Rich was a fairly standard situation comedy but the 1957 Stan Freberg Show was a glorious (if short-lived) festival of satire and comedy. It made him, by his definition, "the last network radio comedian in America." A nice way to end an era.
When The Stan Freberg Show ended after 15 weeks, Freberg found a new outlet for his humor in advertising, with award-winning campaigns for Sunsweet Prunes, Jeno's Pizza Rolls, Chun King Chow Mein, Pittsburgh Paints and many other clients. He didn't exactly invent the funny commercial but he quickly became its master, and rival ad agencies scrambled to emulate his lead. And of course, he continued to release records, including the album many believe to be the greatest comedy record of all time. Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, The Early Years.

August 10, 1948
TV classic Candid Camera, produced and hosted by Alan Funt, debuted.

Watch more AOL Television videos on AOL Video

Funt had originally created the concept for radio, debuting Candid Microphone in 1947. When it premiered as a television show, the program kept the name Candid Microphone until its second season. Both the radio and TV versions featured unsuspecting people captured in their natural, bemused responses to comic setups. Candid Camera ran on network television from 1948 to 1950, again in 1953, and once again from 1960 to 1967. In 1989, Alan's son Peter became his father's co-host in a series of Candid Camera specials. In 1991, CBS tried to revive the show with Dom DeLuise and Eva LaRue as co-hosts, but with no success.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sesame Street, thirtysomething and More: This Week on TV CONFIDENTIAL

Author Michael Davis and Emmy-winning writer/producer Joseph Dougherty will be our special guests on the next edition of TV CONFIDENTIAL, premiering Monday, August 10 at 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Shokus Internet Radio, with a rebroadcast Tuesday, August 11, 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Share-a-Vision Radio,

Michael Davis is the author of Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street, a compelling and often comical account of the creation and history of the long-running landmark children’s television series Sesame Street. Michael’s book traces the evolution of the show from its inspiration in the civil rights movement through its many ups and downs, from President Nixon’s attempt to cut off its funding through the meteoric rise of Elmo. Street Gang tells the story of Sesame Street through the many personalities who helped shape it, including series co-creator and Children’s Television Workshop co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney, music composer Joe Raposo, actors and puppeteers Frank Oz (“Cookie Monster,” “Grover,” “Bert”), Kevin Clash (“Elmo”) and Caroll Spinney (“Oscar the Grouch,” “Big Bird”), and Muppets founder, headmaster and ringleader Jim Henson. Michael Davis will be joining us by phone beginning at 10:05pm ET, 7:05pm PT.

Then in our second hour, our guest will be Emmy Award-winning writer, director and producer Joseph Dougherty, whose many credits in television include the groundbreaking ABC-TV series thirtysomething, the acclaimed TNT series Saving Grace starring Holly Hunter, and several full-length motion pictures for HBO. Joseph Dougherty will be with us in the studio beginning at 11:05pm ET, 8:05pm PT.

If you want to be part of our conversation, if you grew up watching Sesame Street, if you remember watching thirtysomething or continue to enjoy Saving Grace, we invite you to join us for our live broadcast this Monday, August 10, at 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Shokus Internet Radio.
Phone number is (888) 746-5875 (or 888 SHOKUS-5).
If you have questions or comments you’d like to send in advance, our email address is

Ed RobertsonCo-Host, TV CONFIDENTIAL
Mon-Sun 10pm ET, 7pm PT Shokus Internet Radio Every other Tuesday at 10pm ET, 7pm PTShare-a-Vision Radio, KSAV.org
Also available as a podcast via iTunes and FeedBurner

Friday, August 07, 2009

Your Mental Sorbet: Sesame Street - Mahna Mahna

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

Sesame Street - Mahna Mahna
"Mahna Mahna," originally titled "Mah-Na Mah-Na," was written by composer Piero Umiliani for an Italian documentary about life in Sweden, titled Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso (Sweden, Heaven and Hell). It is a nonsense song that achieved widespread fame as a classic Muppet sketch.
Although it was first performed in a Henson production on Sesame Street by Bip Bippadotta and two Anything Muppet girls, the most well-known Muppet rendition of the song debuted on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969, where it was performed by Mahna Mahna and his back-up singers, the Snowths. This version of the skit was restaged many times on a number of variety shows before being featured as the opening number in the premiere episode of The Muppet Show.
Regardless of who is performing the number, the structure of the song remains the same: a central character attempts to conform to the structure of the song but falls into improvisational scat passages whenever possible. Although the back-up singers make an attempt to bring order back to the number, their effort is ultimately futile.
The number became popular enough that it was spoofed by the Muppets themselves in a sketch on Muppets Tonight, in which Kermit the Frog complained to his psychiatrist that the Snowths would appear every time he said the homonym "phenomena."
Rumors have circulated, based on a leaked script of the upcoming The Greatest Muppet Movie of All Time!!!, that the film will end with a montage of Muppets and celebrities performing the classic number.

Mahna Mahna Lyrics
Mahna mahna
(ba dee bedebe)
mahna mahna
(ba debe dee)
mahna mahna
(ba dee bedebe badebe badebe dee dee de-de de-de-de)
mah mama na mahna mah namwomp mwomp ma mo mo mana mo
mahna mahna
(ba dee bedebe)
mahna mahna
(ba debe dee)
Mahna Mahna!
(ba dee bedebe bedebe badebe debe de-de de-de-de)
(long pause) ...mahna mahna?

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Tony Figueroa

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tony Figueroa VERTICAL HUMOR 07.31.09

Vertical Humor

A Stand-Up Comedy Show at the Coffee Fix in Studio City, CA held on the last Friday of the month. VH is produced by Shari Becker and Dan Farren.

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Tony Figueroa

Monday, August 03, 2009

This week in Television History: August 2009 Part I

Listen to me Next Week on TV CONFIDENTIAL with Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte Broadcast LIVE every other Monday at 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Shokus Internet Radio. The program will then be repeated Tuesday through Sunday at the same time (10pm ET, 7pm PT) on Shokus Radio for the next two weeks, and then will be posted on line at our archives page at
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.

August 1, 1971
The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour
debuts. The popular variety show, featuring music, comedy routines and sarcastic banter between vertically challenged Sonny and his statuesque wife, Cher.
Sonny and Cher had been singing and performing comedy in nightclubs for more than a decade. They released several hit records in the 1960s, most notably "I Got You, Babe," before launching their show. The series rated well and showcased future comedy stars, including Teri Garr and Steve Martin.
Despite the show's popularity, the couple suffered marital problems and announced in the spring of 1974 that they were divorcing and would cancel the show. After divorcing in 1975, both Sonny and Cher tried and failed to launch solo comedy-variety shows. They revived their show together briefly in 1976 and 1977. Cher went on to a successful film career, winning the Best Actress Oscar for Moonstruck (1987). Bono later became a politician, serving as mayor of Palm Springs and a U.S. congressman.

August 2, 1924
John Carroll O'Connor was born. Actor, producer, and director whose television career spanned four decades. Known at first for playing the role of Major General Colt in the 1970 cult movie, Kelly's Heroes, he later found fame as the bigoted workingman Archie Bunker, the main character in the 1970s CBS television sitcoms All in the Family (1971 to 1979) and Archie Bunker's Place (1979 to 1983).

O'Connor later starred in the 1980s NBC television crime drama In the Heat of the Night, where he played the role of Sheriff William (Bill) Gillespie. At the end of his career in the late 1990s, he played the father of Jamie Stemple Buchman (Helen Hunt) on Mad About You.

August 3, 1940
Actor Martin Sheen is born Ramon Estevez in Dayton, Ohio. The son of a Spanish immigrant, Sheen was the seventh of 10 children. He moved to New York after high school and began pursuing an acting career while working as a janitor, car washer, and messenger. After several successful Broadway roles, he appeared in his first film, The Incident, in 1967. His film and TV career has included numerous political roles, most recently as fictional U.S. president Josiah Bartlett on the popular TV show The West Wing. Previously, he played Robert Kennedy in the TV movie The Missiles of October (1974), John F. Kennedy in the miniseries Kennedy (1983), and the White House chief of staff in The American President (1995). Sheen is the father of film stars Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen.

August 3, 1941
Martha Helen Stewart
(née Kostyra) was born. Business magnate, television host, author and magazine publisher. As founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, she has gained success through a variety of business ventures, encompassing publishing, broadcasting, and merchandising.

Stewart's syndicated talk show, Martha, is broadcast throughout the world, she has written numerous bestselling books, and she is the publisher of Martha Stewart Living magazine.

In 2001, Stewart was named the third most powerful woman in America by Ladies Home Journal. In 2004, she was convicted of lying to investigators about a stock sale and served five months in prison. Stewart began a strong comeback campaign in 2005, with her company returning to profitability in 2006.

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

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Tony Figueroa

Sunday, August 02, 2009

TV CONFIDENTIAL: Archives for July 13, 2009

TV CONFIDENTIAL: Archives and summaries of previous broadcasts
July 13, 2009 Show
First hour
In the first hour, Ed and and Frankie welcome Tony Figueroa and David Krell as they revisit some of the top stories in television from the first half of 2009.

Comedian, author and motivational speaker Tom Dreesen joins Ed and Frankie in the second hour as TV Confidential launches its second season from its new broadcast home in the studios of Shokus Internet Radio. Tom discusses his book, Tim & Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White, his partnership with Tim Reid in the early 1970s, his breakthrough appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and his long association with Frank Sinatra.

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Tony Figueroa
PS: I'm in both hours