Monday, April 01, 2013

This Week in Television History: April 2013 PART I


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April 1, 1963
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.
Soap operas General Hospital and The Doctors premiere. The ABC television network airs the premiere episode of General Hospital, the daytime drama that will become the network’s most enduring soap opera and the longest-running serial program produced in Hollywood. 
On the same day, rival network NBC debuts its own medical-themed soap opera, The Doctors.
By setting their new shows in a hospital, both networks were attempting to capitalize on the popularity of prime-time medical dramas such as Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey. Set in the fictional upstate New York town of Port Charles, General Hospital focused on the lives of the doctors, nurses and patients of the town’s General Hospital, including Dr. Steve Hardy (John Beradino) and Nurse Audrey March (Rachel Ames). The central character of The Doctors was Dr. Matthew Powers (James Pritchett), chief of staff of Hope Memorial Hospital, located in the fictional New England town of Madison.
In contrast to General Hospital, The Doctors first ran as an anthology series, with each episode focusing on a single plotline. It later ran as a weekly serial and became a full-fledged daily soap in March 1964. For most of its run, the show was largely sponsored by the Colgate-Palmolive Company, makers of Fab detergent, Palmolive dish liquid and Irish Spring soap, among many other products. The tagline of The Doctors, announced at the beginning of each episode, was “a daytime drama series dedicated to the brotherhood of healing.” The Doctors won numerous Emmy Awards, including Best Daytime Drama in 1972 and 1974, Best Actress for Elizabeth Hubbard (who played Dr. Althea Davis) in 1974 and Best Actor for Pritchett in 1978. Some of the notable actors that have appeared on The Doctors include Ellen Burstyn, Alec Baldwin, Kathleen Turner and Armand Assante. With ratings declining steadily after 1975, The Doctors was canceled in 1982, just months before its 30th anniversary.
For its part, General Hospital has remained on the air for more than four decades, making it ABC’s longest-running soap opera. Though falling ratings in the late 1970s threatened the show’s existence, it turned things around and become a hit with younger audiences in the early 1980s. Some of its more popular ongoing storylines involved the “super couple” Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) and Laura Webber (Genie Francis), whose 1981 wedding was the most-watched event in daytime television history. In June 2008, the show won a record-breaking 10th Emmy Award for Best Daytime Drama.



April 5, 2008
Charlton Heston dies at the age of 84.
 
Born on October 4, 1923, and raised in the Midwest, Heston caught the acting bug in high school; he later attended Northwestern University. He landed his first major role in a 1947 production of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra on Broadway, and three years later made his film debut in Dark City. Impressed with the young actor’s screen presence, the legendary director Cecil B. DeMille cast Heston as the manager of a circus in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). Four years later, DeMille gave Heston the role that would make him famous--that of the biblical hero Moses in The Ten Commandments.
With his leading-man status confirmed, Heston went on to star in other notable films for Hollywood’s best directors. In 1958, he played a Mexican narcotics detective in Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil, appearing opposite Welles himself. Another biblical epic, Ben-Hur (1959), directed by William Wyler, won a then-record 11 Academy Awards (a mark that was later tied by Titanic in 1998 and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2004). Heston took home an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of a rebellious young aristocrat in ancient Judea.
In all, Heston would appear in some 100 movies on the big and small screens over the course of his lengthy career. He played the title character in the Spanish medieval epic El Cid (1961), opposite Sophia Loren, and was panned by critics for his turn as Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965). He portrayed Mark Antony in both Julius Caesar (1970) and Antony and Cleopatra (1973); he also directed the latter film. Heston also made forays into the Western genre (1968’s Willy Penny), science fiction (the 1968 hit The Planet of the Apes and its 1970 sequel, 1971’s Omega Man and 1973’s Soylent Green), and highbrow literary adaptations (1972’s The Call of the Wild and 1973’s The Three Musketeers). His later work for cable television included A Man for All Seasons (1988) and The Avenging Angel (1995).
Long active in political and social causes, Heston publicly supported the civil rights movement and participated in the historic march on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963. In 1966, Heston succeeded his friend and fellow actor Ronald Reagan as president of the Screen Actors Guild, a post he would hold until 1971. He also served as chairman of the American Film Institute from 1973 to 1983. After Reagan won the U.S. presidency in 1980, he appointed Heston as the co-chairman of a task force on arts and humanities. In this role, Heston defended National Endowment for the Arts and proved to be an effective speaker and public figure.
According to his obituary in The New York Times, Heston switched his political affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 1987, after the Democrats blocked the Supreme Court appointment of Robert Bork, a conservative whom Heston supported. Over the next decade, Heston began increasingly to speak out about what he saw as a decline of morality in American popular culture and entertainment. In 1996, he campaigned on behalf of various Republican candidates. He began focusing specifically on the opposition to gun control. After being elected vice president of the NRA in 1997, he became president the following year.
Heston parlayed his rugged onscreen persona into a forceful role at the head of the NRA’s campaign against what it saw as the federal government’s attempts to encroach on the constitutional right to bear arms. In 2000, he made a memorable speech at the NRA’s annual convention, bringing his audience to their feet with the rousing claim that gun-control advocates would have to pry his gun “from my cold, dead hands!” Meanwhile, Heston continued acting through the 1990s, making one of his final film appearances (uncredited) in Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes


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






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Tony Figueroa
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