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
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