Monday, December 13, 2010

This week in Television History: December 2010 PART II

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.

December 13, 1925
Dick Van Dyke born in West Plains, Missouri.

Van Dyke, who was raised in Danville, Illinois, served in the military during World War II and in the 1950s took various acting jobs and hosted a series of TV game shows. In 1960, he starred on Broadway in Bye Bye Birdie, a role which earned him a Tony Award. The following year, he signed on to play comedy writer Rob Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. The show was the brainchild of the writer-director-producer Carl Reiner, who reportedly based the sitcom on his own experiences working as a comedy writer for Sid Caesar. The Dick Van Dyke Show featured a strong ensemble cast that included Mary Tyler Moore as Rob’s wife Laura, Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie as Rob’s colleagues Buddy and Sally and Larry Matthews as the Petries’ son, Ritchie. In the show’s opening credits, Van Dyke was famously seen tripping over an ottoman in the family’s home in New Rochelle, New York, where, in keeping with the conservative broadcasting standards of the time, Rob and Laura Petrie slept in separate beds. After The Dick Van Dyke Show went off the air in 1966, Mary Tyler Moore starred in her own successful TV sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which originally aired from 1970 to 1977.
In addition to his TV success in the 1960s, Van Dyke appeared in a string of movies, including the 1963 big-screen adaptation of Bye Bye Birdie, which co-starred Ann-Margret and Janet Leigh. The following year, he appeared as the charming chimney sweep Bert in Walt Disney’s movie musical Mary Poppins, which featured Julie Andrews, in her feature film debut, as the umbrella-toting super nanny. The film, now a beloved cinematic classic, earned 13 Academy Award nominations and took home five Oscars, including Best Actress for Andrews. Though Van Dyke received positive reviews for his singing and dancing, critics skewered him for his bad English accent. In 1968, Van Dyke had another hit movie musical with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in which he plays the eccentric inventor Caratacus Potts, who develops a magic car. The film’s screenplay was co-written by Roald Dahl, the best-selling author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
From 1971 to 1974, Van Dyke starred in The New Dick Van Dyke Show, playing a Phoenix TV talk show host. The actor, who in the 1970s went public with his struggle with alcoholism, was featured in a series of made-for-TV movies and did guest appearances on various TV shows before he was cast in another successful series, the medical crime drama Diagnosis Murder. The show, which originally aired from 1993 to 2001, also featured Van Dyke’s son Barry Van Dyke.
After half a century in show business, Van Dyke continues to act. Among his recent movie credits are Curious George (2006) and Night at the Museum (2007).

December 14, 1969
Frosty the Snowman first aired on
December 14, 1969 on CBS.

The show, based on thepopular song of the same title, was produced for television by Rankin/Bass and featured the voices of comedians Jimmy Durante as narrator and Jackie Vernon as the title character. This special marked the first use of traditional cel animation for Rankin/Bass. Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass wanted to give the show and its characters the look of a Christmas card, so Paul Coker, Jr., a greeting card and MAD Magazine artist, was hired to do the character and background drawings. The actual animation work was done in Japan, by Osamu Tezuka's studio, Mushi Production. Rankin/Bass veteran writer Romeo Muller adapted and expanded the story for television as he had done with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1964.

December 14, 1999
1984 Howard Cosell retires from Monday Night Football.

In 1970, ABC executive producer for sports Roone Arledge hired Cosell to be a commentator for Monday Night Football, the first time in 15 years that American football was broadcast weekly in prime time. Cosell was accompanied most of the time by ex-football players Frank Gifford and "Dandy" Don Meredith.
Cosell was openly contemptuous of ex-athletes appointed to prominent sportscasting roles solely on account of their playing fame. He regularly clashed on-air with Meredith, whose laid-back style was in sharp contrast to Cosell's.
The Cosell-Meredith-Gifford dynamic helped make Monday Night Football a success; it frequently was the number one rated program in the Nielsen ratings. Cosell's inimitable style distinguished Monday Night Football from previous sports programming, and ushered in an era of more colorful broadcasters and 24/7 TV sports coverage.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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