Monday, October 14, 2013

This Week in Television History: October 2013 PART III

Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL:

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.

October 15, 1943
Penny Marshall was born Carole Penny Marshall in The Bronx, New York City.  
She is the sister of  TV producer Garry Marshall. Her father was of Italian descent andchanged his last name from "Marsciarelli" to "Marshall" before Penny was born. She moved to Los Angeles to join her older brother Garry Marshall, a writer whose credits at the time included TV's The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966).
One of her first jobs was for a TV commercial for a beautifying shampoo. She was hired to play a girl with stringy, unattractive hair, and Farrah Fawcett was hired to play a girl with thick, bouncy hair. As the crew was lighting the set, Marshall's stand-in wore a placard that read "Homely Girl" and Fawcett's stand-in wore a placard that said "Pretty Girl". Farrah Fawcett, sensing Marshall's insecurity about her looks, crossed out "Homely" on the Marshall stand-in placard and wrote "Plain".

Marshall first gained prominence as a television actress with a recurring guest role of Myrna Turner on The Odd Couple (1971–1975), and made two guest star appearances on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as Paula Kovacks, Mary's neighbor in her new apartment building.

In 1974, her brother Garry Marshall was the creator and part-time writer for the hit TV series Happy Days with Ron Howard and Henry Winkler. For an episode that aired November 11, 1975 titled "A Date with Fonzie", he hired Marshall and actress Cindy Williams to play dates for Howard's and Winkler's characters, LaVerne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney, a pair of wise-cracking brewery workers. The pair were a hit with the studio audience and Garry Marshall co-created and starred them in a hit spin-off, Laverne and Shirley (1976–1983). The characters of Laverne and Shirley also appeared in five more episodes of Happy Days. In 1983, while still filming Laverne and Shirley, she guest-starred on another popular sitcom, Taxi, in a cameo appearance as herself. In the Taxi episode "Louie Moves Uptown", Marshall is turned down for residency in a new high-rise condo in New York City. The Laverne and Shirley episode "Lost in Spacesuits" is referenced in the scene.

Because male actors such as co-star Ron Howard and husband Rob Reiner later became directors, and at the encouragement of her brother, Marshall became interested in directing. She directed two episodes of Laverne and Shirley and other TV assignments. She soon moved on to theatrical films, her first film being Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986) starring Whoopi Goldberg. Marshall has directed several successful feature films since the mid-1980s, including 1988's Big starring Tom Hanks (the first film directed by a woman to gross over US$100 million), Awakenings (1990) starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, and A League of Their Own (1992) with Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell. She has also lent her voice to Ms. Botz, the evil nanny, on the first produced episode of The Simpsons, and played a cameo role as herself in HBO's series Entourage.

October 18, 1988
Roseanne debuts on ABC. 

The show was considered groundbreaking for its realistic portrayal of a working-class family and the issues they faced. Barr’s portrayal of the loud, abrasive, overweight Roseanne Conner was a sharp contrast to the stereotypical TV housewife in the mold of Leave It to Beaver’s June Cleaver and The Brady Bunch’s Carol Brady. The show was an instant ratings hit, airing for nine seasons, collecting numerous awards and turning Barr into a big star.
Roseanne was set in the fictional town of Langford, Illinois, where the wisecracking Conner lives with her husband Dan (played by John Goodman), daughters Becky (alternately Lecy Goranson and Sarah Chalke) and Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and son D.J. (Michael Fishman). Roseanne’s younger sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) is also a prominent member of the family. The show featured a large cast of supporting characters, which over the years included a young George Clooney (as Roseanne’s boss Booker Brooks of Wellman Plastics), Estelle Parsons (as Roseanne and Jackie’s mother), Shelley Winters, Martin Mull and Sandra Bernhard, among others.

Roseanne Barr was born on November 3, 1952, and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. She began doing stand-up comedy at clubs in Denver and used her experiences as a wife and mother of three children as fodder for her routines. She became known for using the term “domestic goddess” to refer to a housewife. By the mid-1980s, Barr had risen to national fame, and in 1988 her self-titled TV show debuted on ABC.

During her years on TV, the outspoken Barr became a tabloid target, and her family, personal appearance and romantic relationships were all heavily scrutinized. Barr was married to her second husband, the actor Tom Arnold, from 1990 to 1994. From 1995 to 2002, she was married to Ben Thomas, who worked as her security guard. In June 1990, Barr stirred up controversy when she performed a screeching, off-key version of the “Star Spangled Banner” at a Major League baseball game in San Diego. After her song, she spit and grabbed her crotch in what she said was a humorous imitation of baseball players. She was heavily criticized for the incident, which was later parodied on multiple occasions, including by Barr herself.

The final original episode of Roseanne aired on May 20, 1997. Barr went on to host her own talk show, from 1998 to 2000, and has subsequently been involved in a variety of film and television projects.

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

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