Monday, October 19, 2009

This week in Television History: October PART III

Listen to me 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 thru 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.

October 13, 1959
Olive Marie Osmond is born. Actress, singer, doll designer, and a member of the show business family, The Osmonds. Although she was never part of her family's singing group, she gained success as a solo country music artist in the 1970s and 1980s. Her best known song is a cover of the country pop ballad "Paper Roses."

In 1976, she and her singer brother Donny Osmond began hosting the TV variety show Donny & Marie. Marie Osmond had a recurring role on Ripley's Believe It or Not for two seasons (1985-86), replacing Holly Palance. Where she introduced segments based on the travels and discoveries of oddity-hunter Robert Leroy Ripley.
In 1978, Marie and Donny released their film Goin' Coconuts,, which was not a financial success. The following year, Marie starred in a sitcom pilot titled Marie. which did not make the new season schedule and in 1980 she had her own variety show on NBC, also titled Marie, which only ran for half a season.
The singer played her mother, Olive, in the TV movie Side By Side: The True Story Of The Osmond Family. She also starred in the TV movie I Married Wyatt Earp.
She returned to television first in the short-lived 1995 ABC sitcom Maybe This Time and then with brother Donny in 1998 to co-host Donny And Marie, a talk/entertainment show that lasted two seasons.
She appeared as herself in the 2001 TV movie Inside The Osmonds, which showed how the brothers' egos, their father's fiscal mismanagement, and the family's quest to build a multimedia empire led to their downfall. The film was produced by her younger brother, Jimmy Osmond.

October 13, 1974
Television talk show legend Ed Sullivan dies.

Born in New York, Sullivan became a newspaper reporter and later a gossip columnist. He hosted his own radio show starting in 1942 and gained national fame as host of Toast of the Town, later named simply The Ed Sullivan Show, which ran for more than two decades.

October 15, 1943
Penny Marshall was born Carole Penny Marshall in The Bronx, New York City. She is the sister of actor/director/TV producer Garry Marshall. Her father was of Italian descent andchanged his last name from "Marsciarelli" to "Marshall" before Penny was born. She moved to Los Angeles to join her older brother Garry Marshall, a writer whose credits at the time included TV's The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966).
One of her first jobs was for a TV commercial for a beautifying shampoo. She was hired to play a girl with stringy, unattractive hair, and Farrah Fawcett was hired to play a girl with thick, bouncy hair. As the crew was lighting the set, Marshall's stand-in wore a placard that read "Homely Girl" and Fawcett's stand-in wore a placard that said "Pretty Girl". Farrah Fawcett, sensing Marshall's insecurity about her looks, crossed out "Homely" on the Marshall stand-in placard and wrote "Plain".
Marshall first gained prominence as a television actress with a recurring guest role of Myrna Turner on The Odd Couple (1971–1975), and made two guest star appearances on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as Paula Kovacks, Mary's neighbor in her new apartment building.
In 1974, her brother Garry Marshall was the creator and part-time writer for the hit TV series Happy Days with Ron Howard and Henry Winkler. For an episode that aired November 11, 1975 titled A Date with Fonzie, he hired Marshall and actress Cindy Williams to play dates for Howard's and Winkler's characters, LaVerne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney, a pair of wise-cracking brewery workers. The pair were a hit with the studio audience and Garry Marshall co-created and starred them in a hit spin-off, Laverne and Shirley (1976–1983).

The characters of Laverne and Shirley also appeared in five more episodes of Happy Days. In 1983, while still filming Laverne and Shirley, she guest-starred on another popular sitcom, Taxi, in a cameo appearance as herself. In the Taxi episode Louie Moves Uptown, Marshall is turned down for residency in a new high-rise condo in New York City. The Laverne and Shirley episode "Lost in Spacesuits" is referenced in the scene.
Because male actors such as co-star Ron Howard and husband Rob Reiner later became directors, and at the encouragement of her brother, Marshall became interested in directing. She directed two episodes of Laverne and Shirley and other TV assignments. She soon moved on to theatrical films, her first film being Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986) starring Whoopi Goldberg. Marshall has directed several successful feature films since the mid-1980s, including 1988's Big starring Tom Hanks (the first film directed by a woman to gross over US$100 million), Awakenings (1990) starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, and A League of Their Own (1992) with Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell. She has also lent her voice to Ms. Botz, the evil nanny, on the first produced episode of The Simpsons, and played a cameo role as herself in HBO's series Entourage.

October 15, 1951
TV's first long-running sitcom hit, I Love Lucy, debuts .
Ball starred as a ditzy wife on the radio show 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 said 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.

At the time, most television shows were broadcast live from New York City, and a low-quality 35mm or 16mm kinescope print was made of the show to broadcast it in other time zones. Because Ball was pregnant, she and Arnaz insisted on filming the show in Hollywood. The duo, along with co-creator Jess Oppenheimer, then decided to shoot the show on 35 mm film in front of a studio audience, with three cameras, a technique now standard for most present-day sitcoms. The result was a much sharper image than other shows of the time, and the audience reactions were far more authentic than the "canned laughter" used on most filmed sitcoms of the time. The technique was not completely new — another CBS comedy series, Amos 'n' Andy, which debuted four months earlier, was already being filmed at Hal Roach Studios with three 35mm cameras to save time and money. Hal Roach Studios was also used for filming at least two other TV comedies as early as 1950, both airing on ABC, namely Stu Erwin's The Trouble with Father, and the TV version of Beulah; the original 1949/50 Jackie Gleason TV version of The Life of Riley on NBC was also done on film, not live. There were also some dramatic TV shows pre-dating I Love Lucy which were also filmed, not live. But I Love Lucy was the first show to use this film technique in front of a studio audience.
Arnaz persuaded Karl Freund, an Academy Award -winning cinematographer of such films as Metropolis (1927), Dracula (1931), and The Good Earth (1937), as well as director of The Mummy (1932), to be the series' cinematographer.
Scenes were often performed in sequence, as a play would be, which was unusual for comedies at that time. Retakes were rare and dialogue mistakes were often played off for the sake of continuity.
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 following open-heart surgery in 1989.

October 16, 1946
Suzanne Somers is born Suzanne Marie Mahoney. The actress, author and businesswoman is best known for her roles on Three's Company and Step by Step.

Somers later became the author of a series of best-selling self-help books, including Ageless: The Naked Truth About Bioidentical Hormones (2006), a book about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She has also released two autobiographies, four diet books, and a book of poetry entitled "Touch Me" (1980). She currently features items of her design on the Home Shopping Network. During the 1980s, Somers became a Las Vegas entertainer. She was the spokeswoman for the Thighmaster, a piece of exercise equipment that is squeezed between one's thighs. Thighmaster was one of the first products responsible for launching the infomercial concept. During this period of her career, she also performed for U.S. servicemen overseas.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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