Monday, October 28, 2013

This Week in Television History: October 2013 PART V


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 28, 1950
Popular radio personality Jack Benny moves to television with The Jack Benny Program. The TV version of the show ran for the next 15 years.
Jack Benny was born Benjamin Kubelsky in 1894. His father, a Lithuanian immigrant, ran a saloon in Waukegan, Illinois, near Chicago. Benny began playing violin at age six and continued through high school. He began touring on the vaudeville circuit in 1917. In 1918, he joined the navy and was assigned to entertain the troops with his music but soon discovered a flair for comedy as well. After World War I, Benny returned to vaudeville as a comedian and became a top act in the 1920s. In 1927, he married an actress named Sadye Marks; the couple stayed together until Benny's death in 1974.
Benny's success in vaudeville soon won him attention from Hollywood, where he made his film debut in Hollywood Revue of 1929. Over the years, he won larger roles, notably in Charley's Aunt (1941) and To Be or Not to Be (1942). Movies were only a sideline for Benny, though, who found his natural medium in radio in 1932.
In March 1932, then-newspaper columnist Ed Sullivan, dabbling in radio, asked Benny to do an on-air interview. Benny reluctantly agreed. His comedy, though, was so successful that Benny was offered his own show almost immediately, which debuted just a few months later. At first a mostly musical show with a few minutes of Benny's comedy during interludes, the show evolved to become mostly comedy, incorporating well-developed skits and regular characters. In many of these skits, Benny portrayed himself as a vain egomaniac and notorious pinchpenny who refused to replace his (very noisy) antique car and who kept his money in a closely guarded vault. His regulars included his wife, whose character, Mary Livingstone, deflated Benny's ego at every opportunity; Mel Blanc, who used his famous voice to play Benny's noisy car, his exasperated French violin teacher, and other characters; and Eddie Andersen, one of radio's first African American stars, who played Benny's long-suffering valet, Rochester Van Jones. The program ran until 1955.
In the 1950s, Benny began experimenting with television, making specials in 1950, 1951, and 1952. Starting in 1952, The Jack Benny Show aired regularly, at first once every four weeks, then every other week, then finally every week from 1960 to 1965. Benny was as big a hit on TV as on the radio. Despite the stingy skinflint image he cultivated on the air, Benny was known for his generosity and modesty in real life. He died of cancer in Beverly Hills in 1974.


October 29, 1948
Kate Jackson was born. 


Perhaps best known for her role as Sabrina Duncan in the popular 1970s television series Charlie's Angels. Jackson is a three-time Emmy Award nominee in the Best Actress category, has been nominated for several Golden Globe Awards, and has won the titles of Favorite Television Actress in the UK, and Favorite Television Star in Germany—several times—for her work in the television series Scarecrow and Mrs. King. She co-produced that series through her production company, Shoot the Moon Enterprises Ltd., with Warner Brothers Television. Jackson has starred in a number of theatrical and TV films, and played the lead role on the short-lived television adaptation of the film Baby Boom.  

November 3, 1933
Ken Berry is born.  
Sitcom actor, dancer and singer. Berry has had success in multiple television shows, one being with his friend and mentor, Andy Griffith. Berry starred in the successful comedies F Troop, The Andy Griffith Show spin-off Mayberry R.F.D., and The Carol Burnett Show spin-off Mama's Family. He also appeared on Broadway in The Billy Barnes Revue, has headlined as George M. Cohan in the musical George M! and provided comic relief for the medical drama Dr. Kildare, with Richard Chamberlain in the 1960s. 



November 3, 1978 - The first episode of Different Strokes was aired on NBC.


The series stars Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges as Arnold and Willis Jackson, two African American boys from Harlem who are taken in by a rich white Park Avenue businessman named Phillip Drummond (Conrad Bain) and his daughter Kimberly (Dana Plato), for whom their deceased mother previously worked. During the first season and first half of the second season, Charlotte Rae also starred as the Drummonds' housekeeper, Mrs. Garrett (who ultimately spun-off into her own successful show, The Facts of Life).
The series made stars out of child actors Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges, and Dana Plato, and became known for the "very special episodes" in which serious issues such as racism, illegal drug use, and child sexual abuse were dramatically explored. The lives of these stars were later plagued by legal troubles and drug addiction, as the stardom and success they achieved while on the show eluded them after the series was cancelled, with both Plato and Coleman having early deaths.


November 3, 1993 - The first episode of The Nanny was aired by CBS.

Fran Drescher starred as Fran Fine, a Jewish Queens native who becomes the nanny of three children from the New York/British high society.
Created and executive produced by Drescher and her then-husband Peter Marc Jacobson, The Nanny took much of its inspiration from Drescher's personal life growing up in Queens, involving names and characteristics based on her relatives and friends. The show earned a Rose d'Or and one Emmy Award, out of a total of thirteen nominations, and Drescher was twice nominated for a Golden Globe and an Emmy. The sitcom has also spawned several foreign adaptations, loosely inspired by the original scripts.


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

Stay Tuned



Tony Figueroa
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