Monday, January 11, 2010

This week in Television History: January 2010 PART II

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.

January 11, 1949
NBC links its East and Midwest TV networks, celebrating with a special ceremonial telecast. Radio network NBC had started experimenting with television broadcasts as early as 1938 and began regular service in 1939, starting with the World's Fair in New York. NBC and CBS both received commercial licenses for stations in New York City on July 1, 1941. NBC launched its first TV network in 1946 by transmitting programs from its New York station to its Philadelphia and Schenectady stations. The company didn't open its Midwest network until September of 1948. The West Coast was added in September 1951, creating the country's first coast-to-coast network.

January 12, 1971
The controversial situtuaon comedy All in the Family debuts.

The show, which was one of TV's top hits for much of its run, starred Carroll O'Connor as bigoted Archie Bunker; Jean Stapleton as his wife, Edith; and Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner as the couple's liberal daughter and son-in-law. The show changed the course of television by portraying the harsh realities of bigotry and racism and dealing with controversial subjects like birth control, rape, and politics. The show changed its name to Archie Bunker's Place in 1979, when the action shifted from the Bunkers' living room to the bar Archie owned.

January 13, 1928
Experimental Television sets are installed in three homes in Schenectady, New York. RCA and General Electric installed the sets, which displayed a 1.5-inch-square picture. However, televisions did not become common household appliances until the late 1940s.

January 14, 1952
Today premieres on NBC.

It was the brainchild of Pat Weaver, who was then vice-president of NBC. Weaver was president of the company from 1953 to 1955, during which time Today's late-night companion The Tonight Show premiered. In pre-production, the show's proposed title was The Rise and Shine Revue. Today was the first show of its genre when it signed on with original host Dave Garroway. The show blended national news headlines, in-depth interviews with newsmakers, lifestyle features, other light news and gimmicks (including the presence of the chimpanzee J. Fred Muggs as the show's mascot during the early years), and local station news updates. Today's female anchors were once called "Today girls." Other hosts over the years have included John Chancellor, Hugh Downs, Florence Henderson, Barbara Walters, Tom Brokaw, Bryant Gumbel, Jane Pauley, and Katie Couric. Current cast includes Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira, with weatherman Al Roker, news anchor Ann Curry, and correspondent Natalie Morales.

January 15, 1974
The first episode of Happy Days airs on this day in 1974, portraying the comic antics of 1950s Milwaukee high school student Richie Cunningham and his pal Potsie Webber.

A minor character, super-cool biker Arthur "the Fonz" Fonzarelli, soon came to be the show's central character. The immensely popular series was the most highly rated comedy in the 1976-77 TV season and stayed in the Top 20 most highly rated shows for seven of its 10 seasons. It launched several spin-offs, including Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy.

January 15, 1981
Hill Street Blues premieres on NBC.

The show, which ran until 1987, won Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series in 1982, 1983, and 1984. The show revolved around police officers in an unidentified city.

January 16, 1973
Long-running western series Bonanza is cancelled after 14 seasons.

The episode The Hunter was written and directed by Michael Landon.
The show, which debuted in 1959, was the first western to be televised in color. Throughout the 1960s, the show, which featured the adventures of the Cartwright family on their ranch, the Ponderosa, was one of the most highly rated programs on television. Its trademark theme song rose to No. 19 on Billboard's Top Singles chart in 1961.

January 16, 1976
Donny and Marie premieres.

Music variety show Donny and Marie premieres, starring 18-year-old Donny Osmond and his 16-year-old sister, Marie. The show ran for only three years, but the brother and sister were reunited in 1998 with a daytime talk show.

January 17, 1949
The Goldbergs debuts as television's first situation comedy.

The show ran until 1954. The show, which evolved from a nearly 20-year-old popular radio program of the same name, followed the adventures of a middle-class Jewish family in the Bronx. Gertrude Berg played gossipy housewife Molly Goldberg, and Philip Loeb played her husband, Jake, who worked in the clothing business. They had two teenagers, Sammy and Rosalie.
In each episode, the family would face another typical middle-class problem--and Molly enjoyed trying to help the neighbors in her apartment complex solve their problems, too. Later, when the fictitious family moved from the Bronx to suburban Haverville, the cast was joined by philosophical Uncle David, Sammy's fiancee (who later became his wife), her mother, and new neighbors. In 1952, Loeb was blacklisted for alleged Communist sympathies.
The show's sponsor, General Foods, dropped the series, and the show moved to NBC-without Loeb, though Berg had fought to keep him aboard. Loeb declared under oath he had never been a member of the Communist Party, and the charges were never proved, but his career was destroyed. He died in 1955 after taking a fatal overdose of sleeping pills in a hotel room.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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