Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL with Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte Broadcast LIVE every other Monday at 9pm ET, 6pm PT (immediately following STU'S SHOW) on Shokus Internet Radio. The program will then be repeated Tuesday thru Sunday at the same time (9pm ET, 6pm PT)on Shokus Radio for the next two weeks, and then will be posted on line at our archives page at TVConfidential.net. We are also on Share-a-Vision Radio (KSAV.org) Friday at 7pm PT and ET, either before or after the DUSTY RECORDS show, depending on where you live.
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.
June 28, 1975
Rod Serling dies at age 50 after open-heart surgery. Born in 1924 in Syracuse, New York, Serling became one of early television's most successful writers, best known for the anthology series The Twilight Zone, which he created, wrote, and hosted.
In 1959, CBS aired the first episode of The Twilight Zone. Serling fought hard for creative control, hiring writers he respected (such as Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont) and launched himself into weekly television. He stated in an interview that the science fiction format would not be controversial and would escape censorship unlike the earlier Playhouse 90. In reality the show gave him the opportunity to communicate social messages in a more veiled context.
Serling drew on his own experiences for many episodes, with frequent stories about boxing, military life and aircraft pilots, which integrated his firsthand knowledge. The series also incorporated Serling's progressive social views on racial relations and the like, which were somewhat veiled by the science fiction and fantasy elements of the shows. Occasionally, however, Serling could be quite blunt, as in the episode "I Am The Night — Color Me Black", where racism and hatred causes a dark cloud to form in the American South before eventually spreading elsewhere. Serling was also progressive on matters of gender, with many stories featuring quick-thinking, resilient women, although he also wrote stories featuring shrewish, nagging wives.
The show lasted five seasons (four using a half-hour format, with one half-season using an hour-long format), winning awards and critical acclaim for Serling and his staff. While having a loyal fan base, the program never had huge ratings and was twice canceled, only to be revived. After five years and 156 episodes, 92 of them written by Serling himself, he wearied of the show. In 1964, he decided to let the third cancellation be final.
Serling sold his rights to the series to CBS. His wife later claimed that he did this partly because he believed the studio would never recoup the cost of the show, which frequently went over budget.
In 1969, NBC aired a Serling-penned pilot for a new series, Night Gallery. Set in a dimly lit museum which was open after hours, the pilot film featured Serling (as on-camera host) playing the part of curator introducing three tales of the macabre, unveiling canvases that would appear in the subsequent story segments (its brief first season rotated as one spoke of a four-series programming wheel titled Four in One), focused more on gothic horror and the occult than did The Twilight Zone. Serling, no longer wanting the burden of an executive position, sidestepped an offer to retain creative control of content—a decision he would come to regret. Although discontented with some of producer Jack Laird's script and creative choices, Serling maintained a stream of creative submissions and ultimately wrote over a third of the series' scripts. By season three however, Serling began to see many of his script contributions rejected. With his complaints ignored, the disgruntled host dismissed the show as "Mannix in a cemetery". Night Gallery lasted until 1973.
Subsequent to The Twilight Zone, Serling moved onto cinema screens and continued to write for television. In 1964, he scripted Carol for Another Christmas, a television adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It was telecast only once, December 28, 1964, on ABC. On May 25, 1962, Serling guest starred in the episode "The Celebrity" of the CBS sitcom Ichabod and Me with Robert Sterling and George Chandler.
He wrote a number of screenplays with a political focus, including Seven Days in May (1964) about an attempted military coup against the President of the United States; Planet of the Apes (1968); and The Man (1972) about the first African American President.
July 1, 1952
Daniel Edward "Dan" Aykroyd, the Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning Canadian-American comedian, actor, screenwriter, musician, winemaker and ufologist is born.
He was an original cast member of Saturday Night Live, an originator of The Blues Brothers (with John Belushi) and Ghostbusters and has had a long career as a film actor and screenwriter.
July 2, 1947
Lawrence "Larry" Gene David the American actor, writer, comedian, producer, and film director is born. David is the co-creator and producer of two successful television comedies, Seinfeld (1989-1998) and Curb Your Enthusiasm (1999-present).
In 1989, he teamed up with Jerry Seinfeld to co-create the television series Seinfeld, where he also acted as head writer and executive producer. David's work won him a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1993. In 1999, he created the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, a mostly improvised sitcom in which he stars as a fictionalized version of himself.
Formerly a standup comedian, David went into television comedy, writing and starring in ABC's Fridays, as well as writing briefly for Saturday Night Live.
July 2, 1955
The long-running musical-variety program The Lawrence Welk Show debuts on ABC.
Welk, a bandleader from North Dakota known for light dance music, had launched his own show in 1951 on KTLA in Los Angeles. The show remained a network hit for some 16 years, then became a syndicated series. Welk retired in 1982 and died in 1992.
July 3, 1950
TV game show Pantomime Quiz Show debuts as a network series on CBS.
The program, a variation of charades, ran for 13 years, although it changed networks several times. The show began as a local program in Los Angeles in 1947. In 1949, the show was one of TV's first programs to win an Emmy, first awarded by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences that year.
Jul 4, 1927
Playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon born in the Bronx section of New York City.
In one of his earliest jobs, in the 1950s, Simon wrote for Sid Caesar’s live comedy television program Your Show of Shows, alongside other future greats such as Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. As Simon went on to write for the stage and big screen, humor would continue to play a major role in his work. Simon’s first Broadway play, Come Blow Your Horn, opened in 1961. He went on to write over 30 plays, including Barefoot in the Park (1963), The Odd Couple (1965), The Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1969), The Sunshine Boys (1972), Chapter Two (1977), the autobiographical trilogy of Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), Biloxi Blues (1985) and Broadway Bound (1986), Lost in Yonkers (1991) and The Goodbye Girl (1993).
Simon wrote the screenplay for many of his stage productions that were adapted for the big screen. In 1967, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda starred in a cinematic version of Barefoot in the Park, about a young newlywed couple in Manhattan. Redford had also appeared in the original Broadway cast. In 1968, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau starred in a film version of The Odd Couple, about the mismatched roommates Felix Ungar, a neurotic neat freak, and Oscar Madison, a slob. Matthau also played Oscar Madison in the original Broadway production. The Odd Couple later became a popular TV sitcom that aired from 1970 to 1975 and starred Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. In 1998, Lemmon and Matthau reunited for The Odd Couple II. (The pair appeared in a number of comedic films together, starting with 1966’s The Fortune Cookie and including 1993’s Grumpy Old Men and its 1995 sequel.)
Simon has received four Academy Award nominations for Best Screenplay: for The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys (1975), which starred Matthau and George Burns, The Goodbye Girl (1977), which starred Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason (whom Simon was married to from 1973 to 1981) and California Suite (1978), which featured Jane Fonda, Alan Alda, Michael Caine and Richard Pryor.
To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".