Monday, October 31, 2011

This Week in Television History: November 2011 Part I

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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.

Nov 2, 1966

Friends star David Schwimmer born in Astoria, Queens, New York.  
Schwimmer was raised in Southern California and attended Beverly Hills High School. He graduated from Northwestern University and went on to co-found the Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago. In addition to stage work, Schwimmer’s early acting credits include guest roles on TV shows such as The Wonder Years, L.A. Law and NYPD Blue. The dark-haired actor’s big break came when he was cast in Friends, a half-hour comedy about the careers and love lives of six young adults living in New York City. Schwimmer played Ross Geller, a neurotic paleontologist and the older brother of the obsessive-compulsive Monica Geller (Courteney Cox Arquette). One of the show’s key storylines involved Ross’s on-again, off-again romantic relationship with Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston), Monica’s high school friend and current roommate who, for a time early in the series, worked as a waitress at Central Perk, a coffee shop that served as a gathering spot for the six friends.

Friends, which debuted on September 22, 1994, on NBC, became a massive hit and a pop-culture icon, propelling Schwimmer and the five other main cast members--Aniston, Cox Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry--to Hollywood stardom. The show inspired fashion and hairstyle trends (notably Aniston’s layered cut, known as “The Rachel”), as well as such catchphrases as “How you doin’?” and “We were on a break.” After 10 seasons, the final episode of Friends aired on May 6, 2004; more than 50 million viewers reportedly tuned in, one of the all-time largest audiences for a TV finale. (By comparison, the most-watched last episode in TV history, the l983 finale of M*A*S*H, drew some 106 million viewers, while the last episode of Seinfeld, in 1998, was seen by over 76 million people.)

In addition to his work on Friends, Schwimmer has appeared in such movies as

The Pallbearer (1996), with Gwyneth Paltrow; Six Days Seven Nights (1998), with Harrison Ford and Anne Heche; Picking Up the Pieces (2000) with Woody Allen and Kiefer Sutherland; and HBO’s critically acclaimed World War II miniseries Band of Brothers (2001). Schwimmer played the title role in the 2005 film Duane Hopwood and voiced the character of Melman the Giraffe in the animated feature Madagascar (2005).

November 3, 1956

The Wizard of Oz is broadcast on television for the first time.  
Some 45 million people tuned in to CBS to see the movie, which was broadcast on Ford Star Jubilee. Judy Garland's 10-year-old daughter, Liza Minnelli, introduced the program.

November 5, 1911

Leonard Slye, later known as Roy Rogers, is born in Cincinnati, Ohio.  
Rogers first came to Hollywood in the 1920s as a migrant fruit picker. In the early 1930s, he joined a singing group called Uncle Tom Murray's Hollywood Hillbillies, which first sang on the radio in 1931. Rogers went on to sing with other similar groups, including the Sons of the Pioneers, which recorded hits like "Tumbling Tumbleweeds." The Sons of the Pioneers group was recruited for low-budget western films, and Rogers was soon playing bit parts for Republic Pictures, the same studio where cowboy star Gene Autry worked. When Autry quit over a dispute with the studio in 1937, Rogers gained more exposure. Starring with his trick horse, Trigger, and his frequent co-star Dale Evans, Rogers soon became one of the Top 10 moneymakers in Hollywood.

Rogers also followed Autry into the radio medium, launching The Roy Rogers Show in 1944. The show, a mix of music and drama, always closed with the song "Happy Trails," which became known as Rogers' theme song.

After Rogers' wife died in 1946, he married co-star Dale Evans. His radio program ran until 1955. In 1951, a TV version of the program debuted and ran until 1957. Rogers became one of the wealthiest men in Hollywood by diversifying his money: His empire included a TV production studio, real estate, cattle, horses, a rodeo show, and a restaurant chain. Roy Rogers died in 1998.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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