Monday, August 30, 2010

This week in Television History: August 2010 Part V

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 We are also on Share-a-Vision Radio ( 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.

September 3, 1991
Director Frank Capra (You Can’t Take It With You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life) dies at the age of 94 at his home in La Quinta, California.

Capra was born in Sicily, on May 18, 1897, and as a young boy sailed to America in steerage with his family, who settled in Los Angeles. After graduating from the California Institute of Technology and serving in the U.S. Army, Capra worked his way up through the movie industry; he had his first big success as a director with 1933’s Lady for a Day, which received a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. The following year, Capra helmed the comedy It Happened One Night, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The film took home Oscars in five categories: Best Director, Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor and Actress. Capra won a second Best Director Oscar for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), which starred Gary Cooper as a man who inherits a large fortune and wants to use it to help Depression-era families. Capra received a third Best Director Oscar for You Can’t Take It With You (1938), a movie about an eccentric family that starred James Stewart, Jean Arthur and Lionel Barrymore and was based on the Pulitzer prize-winning play of the same name by Moss Hart and George Kaufman.
In 1940, Capra took home a fourth Best Director Oscar for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), which featured Stewart as an incorruptible U.S. senator.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Capra joined the Army again and during his time in the service made several well-received propaganda films, including Prelude to War (1943), which earned an Academy Award for Best Documentary. Capra went on to co-write and direct 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life, perhaps his best-known work. The film again starred Stewart, this time as George Bailey, a small-town man who is saved from suicide by a guardian angel. Although the film was considered a box-office disappointment when it was first released, it garnered five Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture, and eventually gained widespread appeal when it was broadcast annually on TV around Christmastime, starting in the 1970s.
Capra’s final film was Pocketful of Miracles (1961), a remake of Lady for a Day starring Bette Davis as a street vendor who needs to remake herself into a society dame in order not to disappoint her daughter.

September 4, 1967
Gilligan's Island, The classic TV comedy about seven people stranded on a deserted island, airs its last episode. The show starred:Bob Denver as Gilligan, the bumbling, dimwitted, accident-prone crewman of the S.S. Minnow.

None of the show's episodes ever specified Gilligan's full name, nor clearly indicated whether "Gilligan" was the character's first name or his last. On the DVD collection, series creator Sherwood Schwartz states that he preferred the full name of "Willie Gilligan" for the character. On Rescue from Gilligan's Island, the writers artfully dodge the recitation of Gilligan's full name, when the other names are announced. Alan Hale, Jr. as Jonas Grumby, the "Skipper". A longtime actor in B-westerns and the lookalike son of Alan Hale, Sr., a legendary movie character actor, Hale so loved his role that, long after the show went off the air, he would still appear in character in his Los Angeles restaurant, Alan Hale's Lobster Barrel. Although the Skipper was a father figure to Gilligan, Hale was only 14 years older than Denver. It is alluded in one episode that Gilligan pushed the Skipper out of the way of a loose depth-charge when they were both serving in the United States Navy. Jim Backus as Thurston Howell, III, the condescending millionaire. Backus was already a well-known actor when he took the part. He was perhaps best known as the voice of the cartoon character Mr. Magoo. He reused some of the voice inflections and mannerisms of Magoo in the role. He was well known for his ad-libs on the set.Natalie Schafer as Eunice "Lovey" Wentworth Howell, Thurston's wife. Schafer had it written into her contract that there were to be no close-ups of her, perhaps due to her advanced age. Schafer was 63 when the pilot was shot although, reportedly, no one on the set or in the cast knew her real age, and she refused to divulge that information. Originally, she only accepted the role because the pilot was filmed on location in Hawaii. She looked at the job as nothing more than a free vacation, as she was convinced that a show this silly would "never go". Tina Louise as Ginger Grant, the movie star. When regular shooting began, Louise clashed with the producers, because she believed that she was to be the main focus of the show (despite its title). Her character was originally written as a sarcastic and sharp-tongued temptress, but Louise argued that this was too extreme and refused to play it as written. A compromise was reached; Louise agreed to play her as a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball. The evening gowns and hair style used were designed to re-create the look of Myrna Loy.

Louise continued to clash with producers and was the only cast member who refused to return for any of the TV movies that followed the series' cancellation, and the fourth season, which was later canceled to make room for Gunsmoke, saying that the role had destroyed her career as a serious actress. However, she did appear in a reunion of the cast on a late night TV talk show in 1988 and on an episode of Roseanne in 1995. In the first season, Ginger often wore gowns that looked as if they were tailored from S.S. Minnow tarps or similar ersatz cloth (some had the name of the vessel stenciled on them). Later on, she wore regular evening gowns with high heels, though it was never explained why she brought so many changes of clothing on a "three-hour tour". Russell Johnson as Roy Hinkley (The Professor). Incongruously, "the Professor" was in fact a high school science teacher, not a university professor. In the first episode, the radio announcer described him as a research scientist and well-known Scoutmaster. Johnson stated that he had some difficulty remembering his more technically-oriented lines. Dawn Wells as Mary Ann Summers. Wells was a former Miss Nevada when she auditioned for the role. Her competition included Raquel Welch and Pat Priest. She wrote The Gilligans Island Cookbook and starred as Lovey Howell in the musical stage adaption of the show.Although the show ran for only three years, it aired in reruns for decades. The characters were resurrected in three TV movies.

September 4, 2002:
Kelly Clarkson wins first American Idol.

In a live television broadcast from Hollywood’s Kodak Theater. Clarkson came out on top in the amateur singing contest over 23-year-old runner-up Justin Guarini after millions of viewers cast their votes for her by phone. She was awarded a recording contract and went on to sell millions of albums and establish a successful music career. (Clarkson and Guarnini also co-starred in the 2003 box-office bomb From Justin to Kelly, which was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for that year’s worst film but lost to the Jennifer Lopez-Ben Affleck vehicle Gigli.) Starting with its first season, American Idol became one of the most popular TV programs in U.S. history and spawned a slew of talent-competition shows.
American Idol was based on a British TV show called Pop Idol, which was developed by the English-born entertainment executive Simon Fuller and debuted in the U.K. in 2001. The Idol concept was shopped around in the United States and reportedly rejected by several TV networks before Fox picked it up. The American Idol premiere, which aired on June 11, 2002, was co-hosted by Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman (who was dropped from the program after Season One) and starred a trio of judge--the acerbic British music executive Simon Cowell, the singer-choreographer Paul Abdul and the musician-producer Randy Jackson. The show followed the judges as they selected contestants, who were required to be teens or young adults, from open auditions around the United States. Contestants who made the cut were flown to Hollywood, where they were eventually narrowed to 10 finalists, who performed live on television and were critiqued by the judges. Home viewers phoned in their votes for their favorite performers and each week the contestant who received the lowest number of votes was eliminated from the competition.

September 5, 1929
George Robert "Bob" Newhart,
stand-up comedian and actor who is best known for playing psychologist Dr. Robert "Bob" Hartley on the popular 1970s sitcom The Bob Newhart Show and as innkeeper Dick Loudon on the popular 1980s sitcom Newhart was born.

He also appeared in film roles such as Major Major in Catch-22, and Papa Elf in Elf. He provided the voice of Bernard in the Walt Disney animated films The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under.

September 5, 2005
Katie Couric makes network anchor debut on the CBS Evening News.

Couric, who served as co-anchor of The Today Show from 1991 to 2006, replaced Dan Rather, who anchored CBS Evening News from 1981 until his retirement on March 9, 2005, in the aftermath of a controversial story about the military record of President George W. Bush. (Bob Schieffer served as interim anchor between Rather’s departure and Couric’s debut.) Barbara Walters was the first woman to co-anchor the network evening news, when she was paired up with Harry Reasoner on the ABC Evening News from 1976 to 1978.
Couric was born on January 7, 1957, in Arlington, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1979. That same year, she began her career in journalism as a desk assistant at ABC News in Washington, D.C. During the 1980s, she was a TV reporter in Miami and Washington, eventually becoming a Pentagon correspondent for NBC. On April 5, 1991, Couric became the permanent co-host, alongside Bryant Gumbel, of The Today Show, where she was known for her perky on-air personality as well as her hard-hitting interview style with politicians and other newsmakers. On April 5, 2006, after months of speculation in the media, Couric announced she would leave Today. That same day, CBS officially confirmed that Couric would become the anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News. Her salary of $15 million per year--which made her TV’s highest-paid news anchor--reportedly remained the same. Couric said farewell to Today Show viewers on May 31, 2006. Meredith Vieira, a former co-host of Walters’ daytime chat fest The View, replaced Couric on Today starting in September 2006.

Couric’s heavily hyped September 5, 2005, debut on The CBS Evening News attracted large numbers of viewers, but the show’s ratings later dropped below those of competitors NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson. Some critics charged that Couric didn’t have the hard-news experience and gravitas of her CBS predecessors Rather and Walter Cronkite.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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