Monday, November 18, 2013

This Week in Television History: November 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.

November 18, 1953
Kevin Nealon is born.  

Actor and comedian, best known as a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1986 to 1995, acting in several of the Happy Madison films, for playing Doug Wilson on the Showtime series Weeds, and providing the voice of the title character, Glenn Martin, on Glenn Martin, DDS.

November 18, 1978 
Mass suicide at Jonestown

November 19, 1933
Larry King is born Lawrence Leibel Harvey Zeiger in Brooklyn, New York City, New York.   
His parents were an Austrian immigrant Edward Jonaton Zeiger, a restaurant owner and defense plant worker, and his wife Jennie (Gitlitz), a garment worker, who emigrated from Belarus. Both parents were Orthodox Jews.
He began as a local Florida journalist and radio interviewer in the 1950s and 1960s and became prominent as an all-night national radio broadcaster starting in 1978. From 1985 to 2010, he hosted the nightly interview television program Larry King Live on CNN. He currently hosts Larry King Now on Hulu and RT America Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings. He also hosts "Politicking with Larry King", a weekly political talk show Thursday evenings on RT America. His work has been recognized with awards including two Peabodys and ten Cable ACE Awards.
Nov. 19, 1978- Jonestown Airstrip Shootings

November 20, 1943
Veronica Hamel is born, in Philadelphia.   
She began a fashion modeling career after being discovered by Eileen Ford. In her first film role, she played a model in 1971's Klute, followed by roles in the disaster films Beyond the Poseidon Adventure and When Time Ran Out.
She was the model in the last cigarette commercial televised in the U.S. (for Virginia Slims, aired at 11:59 p.m. on New Year's Day 1971 on The Tonight Show). Hamel had been a model in print ads not just for Slims, but also for Pall Mall Gold cigarettes.
Hamel started appearing in TV series in 1975. She was considered for the role of Kelly Garrett on Charlie's Angels, but reportedly declined the role. Producer Aaron Spelling cast Jaclyn Smith instead.
Hamel is probably best remembered for playing Joyce Davenport, the hard-driving public defender and love interest of police captain Frank Furillo, on the long-running TV series Hill Street Blues from 1981 to 1987. She was a five-time Emmy nominee for that role.
Alan Alda's 1988 film A New Life cast Hamel in a leading role as his doctor and love interest. She was cast as Elizabeth, the wife of Charles Grodin's character in the movie Taking Care of Business in 1990. She was named on Us magazine's "Best Dressed" list for 1983. Hamel portrayed Lily Munster in the 1995 Halloween telefilm Here Come the Munsters in which Yvonne De Carlo had a cameo.
In 2002, she also appeared on Hill Street Blues creator Steven Bochco's legal drama Philly. In recent years, Hamel had a recurring role in the NBC television series Third Watch and appeared as Margo Shephard, Jack's mother, in the ABC series Lost.

November 24, 1978
David Letterman makes his first guest appearance on The Tonight Show. 
Letterman became a favorite on the show, serving as guest host more than 50 times. By 1982, Letterman had his own late-night comedy talk show, Late Night with David Letterman, which ran until 1993. When NBC chose Jay Leno instead of Letterman to become the replacement when host Johnny Carson retired, Letterman changed networks and launched Late Show on rival network CBS.

November 24, 1983
Sesame Street Episode 1839, now known to children and fans as "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" airs. 

When actor Will Lee died in 1982, it left the producers of Sesame Street with the question of how to deal with the loss of Mr. Hooper, a beloved character who had been on the show since the first episode. Dulcy Singer, executive producer at the time, said that "if we left it unsaid, kids would notice." One way out was to avoid the issue of death entirely. Producers toyed with the idea of telling viewers that the character had gone away. Caroll Spinney said that "we didn't know what to do. [We] thought perhaps he could just retire, move to Florida or something, but then the producers thought that the best thing to do would be to actually deal with death." After much discussion and research, the producers decided to have the character of Mr. Hooper pass away as well, and use the episode to teach its young viewers about death as a natural part of life and that it is okay to grieve and feel sad when a loved one passes away.
After consulting with numerous child psychologists, Norman Stiles, the head writer for the show, prepared a script designed to deal with the issue of death on Sesame Street. The cause of death was not discussed on the show, nor is the process of growing old. Valeria Lovelace, director of research at the show's production company, the Children's Television Workshop, said "We were advised to take the direct approach... Children don't understand words like 'passing away.'" The show took an honest and direct approach. Show producer Fran Kaufman said that the goal was to avoid "sugar-frosting" the message. 
That message, according to the producers, was "[Mr. Hooper] died, he won't be coming back, and we are all going to miss him...Another message of the segment was that children have to understand that they will continue to be cared for." 
In the episode, Big Bird thinks that Mr. Hooper will return later, but is told about the irreversibility of death. Although being reminded of already being told Mr. Hooper died, Big Bird, like many kids, shows his initial inability to comprehend this concept. But Big Bird's concern soon switches to his own needs. "He's gotta come back," Big Bird exclaimed, "Who's going to take care of the store? Who's gonna make me birdseed milkshakes and tell me stories?" The other adults reassure him that everything will be okay and he will be taken care of. Big Bird gets frustrated by these comments exclaiming "but it won't be the same". Bob addresses Big Bird's concern head-on saying "You're right, Big Bird. It'll never be the same without him. But you know something? We can all be very happy that we had a chance to be with him and to know him and to love him a lot, when he was here." 
The farewell episode aired November 24, 1983 (Thanksgiving Day). Loretta Long noted, in an interview on The Tavis Smiley Show, "We were very careful to do it over the Thanksgiving holiday, where there would be a lot of adults in the house to help the children." 
The filming of the scene was very emotional for the cast and crew, whom had worked closely with Will Lee for 14 years. Genuine tears were present in almost all on set. "We barely got through that show," said Bob McGrath in a 2006 interview. "Any emotions you saw were real. We tried to do a pickup and we got about a minute into it and we all fell apart emotionally. It crossed over not only from PBS, but all of the networks. They all felt it was such an important show that they took the time to highlight it."
Mr. Hooper's death received a lot of press and drew many viewers. Reports stated that the episode was used to stimulate discussion of death in many homes. Valeria Lovelace commented, "It was a relief to us all that the segment worked as we hoped it would. It was really scary beforehand; we didn't know for sure how it was going to turn out." The episode was soon selected by the Daytime Emmys as being one of the 10 most influential moments in daytime television. 
Aside from receiving critical acclaim, the episode garnered success with its target viewers. Loretta Long explained, "People come up to us and say, 'Thank you. Now we can explain what happened to grandma, what happened to grandpa.'" 

The episode was later adapted into the book, "I'll Miss You, Mr. Hooper" by episode writer Norman Stiles. The full, uncut version of this episode is available for viewing as part of the collection at The Museum of Television and Radio. The scene with the adults explaining Mr. Hooper's death was released on the DVD Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days, while Sesame Street Unpaved included a script for the scene, and portions of this scene have appeared in Sesame Street: 20 and Still Counting, Sesame Street's All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Streets Forever, Sesame Street Unpaved, A&E Biography: Sesame Street, and The Street We Live On.

“The best episode we ever did was Mr. Hooper's death. Those were real tears. Will was the sweetest man”. -- Caroll Spinney

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

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Tony Figueroa
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