Monday, November 25, 2013

This Week in Television History: November 2013 PART IV

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.

The Sesame Street episode "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" aired on
Thanksgiving Day in 1983 so that the entire family could watch the show
that dealt directly with the death of character Mr. [Harold] Hooper
(actor Will Lee had died the previous year).
  Head writer Norman Stiles
and his writing staff fashioned a script following extensive research,
and the show is most remembered for the scene in which Bird Bird comes
to fully understand what is meant by his friend Mr. Hooper's death.  The
 show was aired once and never rerun and is considered a landmark in
children's television programming.  For the 1983-84 season of the show,
performer Carroll Spinney (Bird Bird) and the writers of Sesame Street were awarded the Peabody Award; the show also won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing as well.

November 26, 1938
Richard Caruthers “Rich” Little is born. 
The Canadian-American impressionist and voice actor, nicknamed “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” by voice actor Mel Blanc. Little was an usher at the Elgin Movie Theatre in Ottawa where he would perfect his voices while standing at the back of the theatre. He started his amateur acting career at Ottawa’s Little Theatre, winning his first acting award at the Eastern Ontario Drama Festival in Deep River, Ontario. He went on to become a successful disc jockey, frequently incorporating impersonations into his show. In 1963, he was asked to audition by Mel Tormé, who was producing a new variety show for Judy Garland. The audition won him the job and in 1964, Little made his American television debut on CBS‘s The Judy Garland Show, where he imitated various male celebrities, including James Mason in A Star Is Born.
In 1966 and 1967, Little appeared in ABC-TV‘s Judy Carne sitcom Love on a Rooftop as the Willises’ eccentric neighbor, Stan Parker. He appeared on That Girl in 1967 as a writer who impressed Marlo Thomas‘ character with his impersonations. He also made two memorable appearances as accident-prone Brother Paul Leonardi on The Flying Nun in 1968; it marked one his few appearances as a character actor rather than an impressionist.
Little was a frequent guest on variety and talk shows. With Johnny Carson he captured The Tonight Show host’s voice and many on-stage mannerisms (and later played Carson in the HBO TV-movie The Late Shift). One of his best known impressions is of U.S. President Richard Nixon (reprising in 1991 the role of Nixon as ideal sperm donor in Gina’s fantasies on the soap opera Santa Barbara.) During the 1970s, Little made many television appearances portraying Nixon. He was a regular guest on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts in the 1970s and was also a semi-regular on the Emmy-winning ABC-TV variety series The Julie Andrews Hourin 1972–1973. In response to his imitation of Jack Benny, the comedian sent Little an 18-carat gold money clip containing this message: “With Bob Hope doing my walk and you doing my voice, I can be a star and do nothing.” He was named “Comedy Star of the Year” by the American Guild of Variety Artists in 1974.
His best-known continuing TV series was The Kopycats, hour-long segments of The ABC Comedy Hour, first broadcast in 1972. Taped in England, these comedy-variety shows consisted entirely of celebrity impersonations, with the actors in full costume and makeup for every sketch. The cast included Little, Frank Gorshin,Marilyn MichaelsGeorge Kirby, British comedian Joe Baker, Fred TravalenaCharlie Callas and Peter Goodwright.
The Rich Little Show (1976) and The New You Asked for It (1981) were attempts to present Little in his own person, away from his gallery of characterizations. Little also appeared on a second season episode of The Muppet Show
In 1981 Little appeared in a comedy LP called The First Family Rides Again, which was the fourth and final ‘First Family’ comedy LPs originally created by Bob Booker and Earle Doud. Little starred along with Melanie Chartoff, Micheal Richards, Shelly Black, Jenilee Harrison, Earle Doud, and Vaughn Meader, making light of U.S. President Ronald Reagan‘s years in the White House.
Little has starred in various HBO specials including the 1978 one-man show, Rich Little’s Christmas Carol. He has also appeared in several movies and released nine albums. When David Niven proved too ill for his voice to be used in his appearances in Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), Little provided the overdub. (Ironically, Little provided the voice for the Pink Panther in two experimental 1965 cartoons, Sink Pink and Pink Ice, in Niven’s voice). He rendered similar assistance for the 1991 TV special Christmas at the Movies by providing an uncredited dub for actor/dancer Gene Kelly who had lost his voice.  As a native Canadian, he also lent his voice to the narration of two specials which were the forerunners for the animated series The RaccoonsThe Christmas Raccoons and The Raccoons on Ice
Little was the host for the 2007 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Although President George W. Bush was reported to have enjoyed Little’s performance, it was panned by some reviewers for “his ancient jokes and impressions of dead people (Johnny Carson, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan).” 
Little voices as a guest star in Futurama such as Futurama: Bender’s Game, playing his own celebrity head: “This is Rich Little, impersonating Howard Cosell.” Many times he plays a sports commentator.

November 29, 1948
Children's show Kukla, Fran and Ollie premieres on prime time network TV. 
The show featured beloved puppets Kukla, Ollie (a dragon), and others, with live actress Fran Allison as host. The show began as a local Chicago program before debuting on NBC. 

It was one of the two most important series made in Chicago, along with Garroway at Large, during the city's brief period as an important production center for network programs in the late 1940s. 

After its network cancellation in 1957, PBS revived the series from 1969 to 1971.

November 30, 1918
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. is born.  
Best known for his starring roles in the television series 77 Sunset Strip and The F.B.I.

He is also known as recurring character “Dandy Jim Buckley” in the seriesMaverick and as the voice behind the character Alfred Pennyworth in Batman: The Animated Series and its numerousspin-offs.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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