Monday, January 18, 2010

This week in Television History: January 2010 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.

January 18, 1948
Original Amateur Hour debuts

One of TV's first talent shows was a spin-off of a popular radio show, Major Bowes' Amateur Hour, the program where Frank Sinatra was discovered in 1937.

The show, which aired for 12 years, was one of the few programs to be aired by all four early TV networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and the ill-fated DuMont network) at different times. Seven-year-old Gladys Knight and 18-year-old Pat Boone were both grand prize winners on the show.

January 18, 1974
The Six Million Dollar Man debuts.
The show was based on the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin, and during pre-production, that was the proposed title of the series. The popularity of The Six Million Dollar Man, starring Lee Majors as Steve Austin, the world's first bionic man, inspires a superhero trend in the late 1970s, which spawns shows like Wonder Woman in 1976 and The Incredible Hulk in 1978.

In 1975 two-part episode entitled The Bionic Woman introduced the character of Jaime Sommers, a professional tennis player who rekindled an old romance with Austin, only to experience a parachuting accident that resulted in her being given bionic parts similar to Austin. Ultimately, however, her bionics failed and she died. The character was very popular, however, and the following season she was revived (having been cryogenically frozen) and was given her own spin-off series, The Bionic Woman, which lasted until 1978 when both it and The Six Million Dollar Man were simultaneously cancelled.

Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers returned in three subsequent made-for-television movies:
The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1987), Bionic Showdown (1989) — which featured Sandra Bullock in an early role as a new bionic woman; and Bionic Ever After? (1994) in which Austin and Sommers finally marry. Majors reprised the role of Steve Austin in all three productions, which also featured Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks.

January 19, 1953
Lucy gives birth to Little Ricky
Episode #56, Lucy Goes to the Hospital, of hit 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy airs for the first time.

The episode, in which Lucy Ricardo, played by Lucille Ball, gives birth to a son, was one of the most popular in television history. The ground-breaking episode was one of the first American television programs to deal with the issue of pregnancy, a taboo subject in conservative 1950s America, when even married couples were not shown on television sharing the same bed. Forty-four million viewers, a full 72 percent of all U.S. homes with a television, tuned in; only 29 million viewers had watched President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s televised inauguration the previous night.

January 19, 1955
Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes the first president to hold news conferences to be filmed by TV and newsreels.
On this day in 1955, Eisenhower gave a 33-minute conference in the treaty room at the State Department, recorded by NBC and shared with CBS, ABC, and the DuMont Network.

January 21, 1959
Carl Switzer, better known as Alfalfa from the Our Gang comedies, is shot and killed in a brawl.

Switzer, who became a hunting guide and bartender in Northern California after his acting career fizzled, was shot after an argument over a $50 debt. Authorities ruled the shooting "justifiable homicide."

January 22, 1947
The first television station west of the Mississippi River goes on the air.
The station was KTLA-TV in Hollywood. The station began broadcasting at 8:30 p.m. from a converted garage. When the first Emmy Awards were handed out two years later, KTLA swept the awards for its original programming.

January 22, 1972
Emergency, produced by Dragnet star and producer Jack Webb, premieres, featuring the same semidocumentary style popularized by Webb's earlier police drama.
Emergency was based on the paramedic program that started in Los Angeles, California in 1969. Senator Alan Cranston actually praised the show for informing the public about the value of funding such programs!The show focused on the adventures of paramedics Roy DeSoto and Johnny Gage. The show, which ran from 1972 to 1977, foreshadowed later hits like E.R., with its interwoven comic and serious subplots.

Julie London was married to fellow Emergency cast member Bobby Troup. In an earlier marriage, London was married to Jack Webb. Bobby Troup was a bandleader before becoming an actor.

January 23, 1977
The miniseries Roots debuts on ABC.

The show traced four generations of an African-American family based on the family of author Alex Haley. Running for eight consecutive days, the miniseries became the single most watched program in American history, drawing about 100 million viewers.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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