Monday, September 14, 2009

This week in Television History: September 2009 PART II

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.

Isaac Sidney "Sid" Caesar was born. The comic actor and writer known best as the star of the 1950s television series Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour. Caesar began his television career when he made an appearance on Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater. In early 1949, Sid and Max met with Pat Weaver, vice president of television at NBC (and father of Sigourney Weaver), which led to Caesar's appearance in his first series The Admiral Broadway Revue with Imogene Coca. The Friday show, simultaneously broadcast on NBC and the DuMont network (in order for the show to be carried on the only TV station then operating in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania- DuMont's WDTV- the sponsor had to agree to a simulcast) was an immediate success, but its sponsor, Admiral, an appliance company, could not keep up with the demand for its new television sets, so the show was cancelled after 26 weeks on account of its runaway success. According to Sid, an Admiral executive later told him the company had the choice of building a new factory, or continuing their sponsorship of the Revue for another season.

On February 23, 1950, Caesar appeared in the first episode of Your Show of Shows, a Saturday night 90-minute variety program produced by Max Liebman. The show launched Caesar into instant stardom and was a mix of scripted and improvised comedy, movie, and television satires, Caesar's inimitable double-talk monologues, top musical guests, and large production numbers. The impressive guest list included: Jackie Cooper, Robert Preston, Rex Harrison, Eddie Albert, Michael Redgrave, Basil Rathbone, Charlton Heston, Geraldine Page, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Pearl Bailey, Fred Allen, Benny Goodman, Lena Horne and many other big stars of the time. It was also responsible for bringing together one of the best comedy teams in television history: Sid, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, and Imogene Coca. Many prominent writers, denizens of the famed Writer's Room, also got their start creating the show's madcap sketches, including Lucille Kallen, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Michael Stewart, Mel Tolkin, and Larry Gelbart. Sid Caesar won his first Emmy in 1952. In 1951 and 1952, he was voted the United States' Best Comedian by Motion Picture Daily's TV poll. The show ended after 160 episodes on June 5, 1954. Just a few months later, Sid Caesar returned with Caesar's Hour, a one-hour sketch/variety show with Morris, Reiner, a young Bea Arthur, and much of the seasoned crew. Nanette Fabray replaced Imogene Coca who left to star in her own short-lived series. Ultimate creative and technical control was now totally in Caesar's hands. The show moved to the larger Century Theater, which allowed longer, more sophisticated productions and the weekly budget doubled to $125,000. The premier on September 27, 1954 featured Gina Lollobrigida.
Contemporary movies, foreign movies, theater, television shows and even opera all became targets of satire by the writing team, whose frenetic and competitive spirit produced some of the best comedy in television history. Often the publicity generated by the sketches boosted the box office of the original productions. Some notable sketches included: From Here to Obscurity (From Here to Eternity), Aggravation Boulevard (Sunset Boulevard), Hat Basterson (Bat Masterson), and No West For the Wicked (Stagecoach). Even silent movies were parodied, which showed off the impressive pantomime skills of the entire ensemble. They also performed some recurring sketches. The Hickenloopers were television's first bickering couple, predating The Honeymooners. As "The Professor", Caesar was the daffy expert who bluffed his way through his interviews with earnest roving reporter Carl Reiner. In its various incarnations, "The Professor" could be Gut von Fraidykat (mountain-climbing expert), Ludwig von Spacebrain (space expert), or Ludwig von Henpecked (marriage expert). Later, "The Professor" evolved into Mel Brooks' famous "The Two Thousand Year Old Man". The most prominent recurring sketch on the show was "The Commuters", featuring Caesar, Reiner and Morris involved with everyday working and suburban life situations.
Caesar's Hour was followed by Sid Caesar Invites You, briefly reuniting Caesar and Coca in 1958, and in 1963 with several As Caesar Sees It specials, which evolved into the 1963-'64 Sid Caesar Show, which alternated with Edie Adams in Here's Edie. Caesar also teamed up with Edie Adams in the Broadway show Little Me, a successful Neil Simon play, with choreography by Bob Fosse and music by Cy Coleman in which Sid played eight parts with 32 costume changes. Caesar and Edie Adams played a husband and wife drawn into a mad race to find buried money in the mega-movie-comedy It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

September 8, 1966
Star Trek premieres. Although Star Trek ran for only three years and never placed better than No. 52 in the ratings, Gene Roddenberry's series became a cult classic and spawned four television series and ten movies.
The first Star Trek spin-off was a Saturday morning cartoon, The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, which ran from 1973 to 1975 (original cast members supplied the voices). The TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired in 1987 and was set in the 24th century, starring the crew of the new, larger U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D, captained by Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart). This series became the highest-rated syndicated drama on television and ran until 1994.
Another spin-off, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, premiered in 1992, featuring a 24th-century crew that lived in a space station rather than a starship. Star Trek: Voyager, which debuted in 1995 and ran until 2001, was the first to feature a female captain, Kathryn Janeway (played by Kate Mulgrew). In this series, the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager is stranded more than 70,000 light years from Federation space and is trying to find its way home. The final spin-off to air on TV was Enterprise, which premiered in the United States on September 26, 2001. The final two episodes of that show aired in May 2005.

September 9, 1956

Elvis Presley sang "Don't Be Cruel" and "Hound Dog" on Ed Sullivan's immensely popular show Toast of the Town. Presley scandalized audiences with his suggestive hip gyrations, and Sullivan swore he would never book the singer on his show. However, Presley's tremendous popularity and success on other shows changed Sullivan's mind. Although Elvis had appeared on a few other programs already, his appearance on Ed Sullivan's show made him a household name.

September 10, 1993
The science fiction series The X-Files premiered. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson stared. Duchovny played FBI agent Fox Mulder and Anderson played Dana Scully, a skeptical doctor. A cult hit, the show attracted an enormous following of loyal viewers. An X-Files movie was released in 1998. David Duchovny left the show in the 2001 season and was replaced by Robert Patrick, who played agent John Doggett.

Stand-up comedian and friend of TV CONFIDENTIAL Tom Dreesen was born September 11, 1942 . Dreesen grew up in Harvey, Illinois, south of Chicago. His family was one of the few white families in a largely African American community. While working as an insurance salesman in 1968, he met Tim Reid through a local Jaycee chapter, and the two teamed up to form the first biracial stand-up comedy duo in the United States.
Though their material is now considered cutting-edge for its time, the pair struggled to make a living together and split up in the mid-1970s. However, each found individual success: while Reid landed a role on WKRP in Cincinnati, Dreesen became a regular on The Tonight Show and toured as Frank Sinatra's opening act. In 1989, Dreesen released a comedy album through Flying Fish Records called That White Boy's Crazy. The album was recorded in front of an all-black audience in Harvey, Illinois. Dreesen gives generously of his time helping struggling comics devoting a great deal of time to charities and benefits. He founded a "Day for Darlene", to benefit Multiple Sclerosis research. The occasion is named for his late sister who was afflicted with the disease. An ex GI, Tom performs on military bases all over the world and recently performed for our troops on bases throughout Iraq. On May 15, 2005 he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award for his humanitarian services to his country.In 2008, Dreesen, Reid, and former Chicago Sun-Times sportswriter Ron Rapoport collaborated on the book Tim & Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White . On July 13, 2009 Mr. Dreesen joined us in the second hour as TV Confidential launched its second season from its new broadcast home in the studios of Shokus Internet Radio.

September 12, 1963
Leave It to Beaver aired its last episode. The typical 1950s wholesome family comedy presented the lives of the Cleaver family from the perspective of young Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver (Jerry Mathers). The clan included parents June (Barbara Billingsley) and Ward (Hugh Beaumont), and older brother Wally (Tony Dow). The show enjoyed much popularity in reruns and a revival in the 1980s as The New Leave It to Beaver .

In a 1983 television special, Still the Beaver returned after a twenty year absence from prime-time. Hugh Beaumont's death in 1982 was integrated into the script as a tribute to fatherhood.

September 13, 1969
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! the first in a series of Scooby-Doo cartoons premiered on CBS.

The original series, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, was created for Hanna-Barbera Productions by writers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, CBS executive Fred Silverman, and character designer Iwao Takamoto. The show centers around four kids, whom were unofficially called "Mystery Inc." whose hobby was mystery solving. The basic premise remained unchanged through the many series of the franchise: criminal activities were covered up as faux supernatural events with red herrings and clues leading up to the eventual undoing. The meddlesome kids were Fred Jones is the stocky, straight-laced member; Daphne Blake, beautiful but danger-prone red-head; Velma Dinkley, the pudgy, bespectacled brains of the outfit; Norville "Shaggy" Rogers, the pencil-thin chow hound and the star of the show, the gangly, bow-legged Great Dane Scooby-Doo.
The original voice cast featured veteran voice actor Don Messick as Scooby-Doo, Top 40 radio DJ Casey Kasem as Shaggy, actor Frank Welker as Fred, actress Nicole Jaffe as Velma, and musician Indira Stefanianna Christopherson as Daphne.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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