Monday, December 27, 2010

This week in Television History: December 2010 PART IV

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 30, 1940
TV director James Burrows born in Los Angeles.

Raised in New York City, Burrows graduated from Oberlin College and received a master’s degree in theater from Yale University. During the 1970s, he directed episodes of such popular sitcoms as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show and Laverne & Shirley. From 1978 to 1982, Burrows was the principal director of Taxi, a sitcom about New York City cab drivers featuring an ensemble cast that included Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, Marilu Henner, Jeff Conaway, Andy Kaufman and Christopher Lloyd. Burrows and the former Taxi writers Glen Charles and Les Charles went on to develop a show called Cheers, which centers around a group of employees and regular patrons at a Boston-based watering hole. Cheers, which premiered on September 30, 1982, on NBC, starred Ted Danson as Sam Malone, a former professional baseball player and ladies man who runs the bar. The Cheers cast also included Woody Harrelson, John Ratzenberger, George Wendt, Rhea Perlman, Kirstie Alley and Kelsey Grammer (as snooty psychiatrist Frasier Crane). Though Cheers was almost cancelled due to poor first-season ratings, it eventually became a massive hit with audiences and was nominated for more than 100 Emmy Awards, winning 28. The final episode of Cheers, which aired on May 20, 1993, attracted over 80 million viewers, making it one of the top-rated finales in TV history.
Burrows went on to direct multiple episodes of the hit Cheers spinoff Frasier, which starred Kelsey Grammer and originally aired from 1993 to 2004. Burrows also lent his Midas touch to the long-running sitcom Friends by helming the pilot as well as more than a dozen other episodes. Friends, which originally aired from 1994 to 2004 and co-starred Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc, was another huge ratings success. During the 1990s, Burrows also directed pilots for such shows as Wings, Caroline in the City, NewsRadio, 3rd Rock from the Sun and Dharma & Greg.
In 1998, Burrows became an executive producer of Will & Grace and reportedly directed every episode of the sitcom, which originally aired through May 18, 2006. The show starred Debra Messing as Grace, an interior designer, and Eric McCormack as Grace’s best friend Will, a gay attorney. Sean Hayes played Will and Grace’s flamboyant friend Jack, while Megan Mullaly co-starred as Grace’s wealthy, pill-popping assistant Karen. The wildly popular Will & Grace was the first network sitcom to feature homosexual main characters. More recently, Burrows has directed such shows as the short-lived Back to You (2007-2008) with Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton.

December 30th 1971
Pete Duel was killed by a gunshot which the police determined to be self inflicted, either by accident or suicide.

In the early hours of December 31, 1971, Duel apparently shot himself, after drinking heavily that evening. At the time, his girlfriend, Dianne Ray, was in the house but not in the same room, and did not witness what happened. In October 1970 he had been the driver in a car wreck in which another person was injured, and was facing legal problems; an astrologer had then told him that 1972 was going to be a difficult year for him. After his death, his role in Alias Smith and Jones was taken over by Roger Davis (previously, the series' narrator), but the sudden loss proved too great and fans were slow to accept the dissimilar-looking Davis. The series was cancelled in 1973.
A memorial service was held on January 2nd 1972 at the Self Realization Fellowship Shrine, a place suggested by his friend and manager, John Napier. His family and many of his friends were there, though Ben Murphy was too upsetto attend. Pete Duel was buried, after a private service, in his hometown of Penfield, New York.
Why and exactly how the fatal shooting occurred, no one can say. The press have speculated in dozens of articles. None of that speculation can ease the loss of the talented young man.

December 30, 1985
Rick Nelson is killed in a plane crash.

Nelson got his start by starring in his parents' TV series, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
Nelson was born in 1940 to famous parents: His father, Ozzie Nelson, was a bandleader, and his mother, Harriet, was a singer and actress. When Ricky was four years old, his parents launched their radio series, playing themselves, with actors playing their young sons. Five years later, Ricky and his older brother, David, suggested that they, like their parents, play themselves on the series. In 1952, the series moved to TV.
Nelson attended Hollywood High School and showed little interest in music until his girlfriend raved to him about Elvis. He boasted that he was about to cut a record himself. His father let him cut a demo with his orchestra; Nelson claimed he chose to cover Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'" because it relied heavily on the two guitar chords Nelson knew how to play.
When Nelson played the song on the TV series, he became an overnight sensation. His first album, released in November 1957, topped the Billboard charts, and Nelson became one of the best-selling male singers of the 1950s, with 53 Hot 100 hits, 17 in the Top 10. Nelson later changed his name from Ricky to Rick. He also appeared in several movies, including Rio Bravo with John Wayne and Dean Martin in 1959 and The Wackiest Ship in the Army in 1960.
After Ozzie and Harriet went off the air in 1966, Nelson's music career fizzled until he discovered the emerging style of country rock. On two albums, he covered country material and scored a few hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Although he would never be a superstar again, he continued touring aggressively, performing more than 200 nights a year. He put together a new band in 1985 and signed a new record deal, but on December 31, en route to a concert in Texas, he died in a plane crash at age 45. The last song he performed live was a cover of "Rave On" by Buddy Holly, who also died in a plane crash.

January 1, 1943
Don Novello writer,
film director, producer, actor, singer, and comedian is born.

Novello is best known for his work on NBC's Saturday Night Live, from 1977 until 1980, and then 1985 until 1986, often as the character "Father Guido Sarducci". Novello has appeared as "Sarducci" on many television shows since then, including Married... with Children, Blossom, It's Garry Shandling's Show, Unhappily Ever After and Square Pegs.

January 2, 1990
Alan Hale Jr., the Skipper on Gilligan's Island, dies of cancer at age 68.

Hale was born in Los Angeles, California. His father was character actor Alan Hale, Sr. and his mother was Gretchen Hartman (1897–1979), a silent film actress. His father (whom his son greatly resembled), had an extremely successful career in movies both as a leading man in silent films and as a supporting actor in sound movies, appearing in many Errol Flynn films, acting in 235 movies altogether, and playing Little John in Robin Hood films three times over a 28-year span, beginning with the silent Douglas Fairbanks version. While his father was adapting to sound films, Hale, Jr. began his career while still a baby.
During the Second World War, Hale, Jr. enlisted in the United States Coast Guard.
After the death of his father in 1950, Alan stopped using "Junior".
Hale's first important roles were as a member of Gene Autry's recurring cast of players. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, he frequently appeared in Autry movies and The Gene Autry Show on TV. He also starred in television series, such as 1952–53's Biff Baker U.S.A.. He guest starred in the NBC western anthology Frontier. He later appeared in the classic syndicated western series Wanted Dead or Alive opposite Steve McQueen in episode No. 5 as Shawnee Bill, and played the titular lead in the television series Casey Jones (32 black and white episodes of 25 minutes from 1957 to 1958). In 1961, he appeared in Audie Murphy's short-lived NBC western detective series, Whispering Smith, as the witness to a murder. In 1962, Hale also appeared on The Andy Griffith Show as Jeff Pruitt, a rough, back-woods bachelor who comes to Mayberry to find a bride. In the episode, he refers to Barney Fife more than once as "little buddy," a nickname he would later use in his most famous and beloved role, that of the Skipper on Gilligan's Island, which ran from 1964 to 1967. He appeared in an episode of CBS's The New Phil Silvers Show in the 1963–1964 season.
Hale's work was not confined to comedies. In 1958, he guest starred on NBC's adventure series Northwest Passage, co-starring Buddy Ebsen. In 1962, he guest starred in an episode of ABC's crime drama Target: The Corruptors! with Stephen McNally. He starred with Bob Denver (Hale's Gilligan co-star) in The Good Guys (1968–70). He appeared in three episodes of ABC's Fantasy Island in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
During his career, he was noted for his supporting character roles in such movies as Up Periscope with James Garner, The Fifth Musketeer, The Lady Takes a Flyer, stock car racing film Thunder in Carolina, The Giant Spider Invasion, Hang 'Em High with Clint Eastwood, and The West Point Story with James Cagney as well as The Gunfighter with Gregory Peck.
The Skipper on Gilligan's Island (1964–1967) proved to be the most prominent role for Hale, as the show continued to be popular for later generations of viewers due to syndicated re-runs. The popularity of the show typecast its actors, making it difficult for them to successfully pursue diversified acting opportunities. They received no substantial residual payments for their roles, and the difficulty in finding roles often created financial hardship and resentment. However, Hale often said he did not mind being so closely identified with the Skipper. He co-owned a restaurant in the West Hollywood area (Alan Hale's Lobster Barrel) and would often greet customers in his "Skipper" hat.
During the weekends of 1974 to 1977, a new generation enjoyed the cartoon version of The New Adventures of Gilligan and by 1978, they brought back the original crew for a TV movie named Rescue From Gilligan's Island. Hale also portrayed the Skipper in two more TV reunion movies in 1979 and 1981, and participated in numerous reunions with the cast throughout the 1980s. His final appearances as the Skipper were on a 1988 episode of the sitcom ALF, and for several 1989 clips promoting Gilligan's Island reruns on TBS (TV network), both alongside his old friend Bob Denver. He also made a cameo appearance with Denver in the film Back to the Beach.
Hale was known for his great love of children. When he was dying of cancer, he learned there was a sick child in the same hospital who loved the Gilligan's Island show. He went to see the boy and said "The Skipper's here, son, everything is going to be all right." The child, having noticed all the weight Hale had lost due to cancer, inquired about it. Hale made up a story on the spot about how there was a new version of the show in the works, and he was going to play Gilligan.
A resident of Hollywood, California in the final years, Hale died of thyroid cancer at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Los Angeles January 2, 1990 (aged 68). He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at sea.

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

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Tony Figueroa
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