Monday, January 13, 2014

This Week in Television History: January 2014 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.
January 15, 1974
The first episode of Happy Days airs. 
A minor character, super-cool biker Arthur "the Fonz" Fonzarelli, soon came to be the show's central character. The immensely popular series was the most highly rated comedy in the 1976-77 TV season and stayed in the Top 20 most highly rated shows for seven of its 10 seasons.

It launched several spin-offs, including Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy.

January 16, 1949
KNBC Channel 4 in Los Angeles first went on the air with the call letters KNBH (NBC Hollywood).  

Broadcasting from the NBC Radio City Studios on Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood (The location is now a Chase Bank).

The station debuted with three hours and forty minutes of programming, which followed a fifteen-minute test pattern-and-music session. The programming included an eighteen-minute newsreel, a Review of 1948, LA’s first variety show called On the Show, and station’s first live program The Pickard Family, featuring Dad and Mom Pickard and their four children singing familiar American songs. By October 1949, KNBH had extended its operating schedule from five to seven days a week, with approximately twenty-six hours of television programming each week.

In 1954 the station changed its call letters to KRCA-TV for NBC's then-parent company, RCA (the Radio Corporation of America).

In November 1962 the station relocated to the network's color broadcast studio facility in "Beautiful Downtown Burbank" known then as NBC Color City. With the move the call letters were changed again to KNBC. NBC took the KNBC identity from its San Francisco radio station (which then became KNBR).

NBC Studio in Burbank became home to Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (Where announcer Gary Owens first coined the term “Beautiful downtown Burbank)". It was also the home to Sanford and Son, Chico and the Man, the daytime drama Days of Our Lives, countless game shows and most notably since 1972 The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and later Jay Leno. 

On October 11, 2007, NBC-Universal announced that it would sell its Burbank studios and construct a new, all-digital facility near the Universal Studios lot. This is in an effort to merge all of NBC-Universal's West Coast operations into one area. When Conan O'Brien took over The Tonight Show he shot in Universal’s Sound Stage 1 (The former home to The Jack Benny Program).

And now for the news.

Tom Brokaw, Bryant Gumbel, Pat Sajak, Tom Snyder and Nick Clooney (George’s dad) worked at KNBC news early in their careers.

On a personal note: As someone who grew up in Southern California there were many local news stories that later received national or even international attention. I can also say that Channel 4 was making news while they were covering the news. 

May 17th 1974 Channel 4 and other local TV stations covered a house in Compton that had been commandeered by the Symbionese Liberation Army, the revolutionary group that three months earlier had kidnapped 19-year-old Patricia Hearst (The granddaughter of the legendary newspaper baron). This was the first time I ever remember channel surfing because the event was being covered LIVE (not “Film at 11). Viewers got to see events play out as they happened. Shortly after 5 p.m. Los Angeles police, sheriffs and FBI agents closed in on the house. The house caught fire and 6 bodies were later recovered. Patty Hearst was not there.

In the summer of 1987 during an afternoon newscast, a gun-wielding mental patient took consumer reporter David Horowitz and the rest of the Channel 4 news team hostage while they were live on the air. The gunman was the son of a former Channel 4 News contributor and an invited guest of one of the news team members. As soon as the gunman appeared on camera the station stopped broadcasting the news, but as far as the gunman knew they were ON THE AIR. Viewers would later see tape of Horowitz calmly reading the gunman's statement on camera with a gun pointed at him. After Horowitz finished reading the statement the gunman surrendered his toy gun and was arrested. This event led Horowitz (whose long running syndicated series, Fight Back! originated from Channel 4) to start a successful campaign to ban "look-alike" toy guns in several states, including California and New York.

Later that year on October 1st 1987 viewers watched anchorman Kent Shocknek and weatherman Christopher Nance dive under their news desk during an after shock from the Whittier Narrows earthquake. Kent Shocknek would never live down this event and forever be known as Kent “After-Shocknek”. It should also be noted that Kent Shocknek was later honored by the Red Cross and by a few cities for demonstrating how to behave during an earthquake.

On April 30th 1992, the second day of the Los Angeles Riots, KNBC News was covering the historic event nonstop. But that evening the station decided to suspend it’s around the clock riot coverage to air the series finale of The Cosby Show giving viewers a brief Mental Sorbet. Following the broadcast Bill Cosby went on the air and asked Angelinos to pray for peace.

January 17, 1949
The Goldbergs debuts as television's first situation comedy. 

The show, which evolved from a nearly 20-year-old popular radio program of the same name, followed the adventures of a middle-class Jewish family in the Bronx. Gertrude Berg played gossipy housewife Molly Goldberg, and Philip Loeb played her husband, Jake, who worked in the clothing business. They had two teenagers, Sammy and Rosalie.
In each episode, the family would face another typical middle-class problem--and Molly enjoyed trying to help the neighbors in her apartment complex solve their problems, too. Later, when the fictitious family moved from the Bronx to suburban Haverville, the cast was joined by philosophical Uncle David, Sammy's fiancee (who later became his wife), her mother, and new neighbors. In 1952, Loeb was blacklisted for alleged Communist sympathies.
The show's sponsor, General Foods, dropped the series, and the show moved to NBC-without Loeb, though Berg had fought to keep him aboard. Loeb declared under oath he had never been a member of the Communist Party, and the charges were never proved, but his career was destroyed. He died in 1955 after taking a fatal overdose of sleeping pills in a hotel room. The show ran until 1954.

January 17, 1994
The Northridge earthquake at 04:31 Pacific Standard Time in Reseda, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, lasting for about 10–20 seconds. 

The earthquake had a "strong" moment magnitude (Mw) of 6.7, but the ground acceleration was one of the highest ever instrumentally recorded in an urban area in North America, measuring 1.8g (16.7 m/s2) with strong ground motion felt as far away as Las Vegas, Nevada, about 220 miles (360 km) from the epicenter. The peak ground velocity in this earthquake at the Rinaldi Receiving station was 183 cm/s (6.59 km/h or 4.09 mph), the fastest peak ground velocity ever recorded. In addition, two 6.0 Mw aftershocks occurred. The first about 1 minute after the initial event and the second approximately 11 hours later, the strongest of several thousand aftershocks in all. The death toll came to a total of 57 people, and there were over 8,700 injured. In addition, the earthquake caused an estimated $20 billion in damage, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history.
Television, movie, and music productions affected
The earthquake disrupted production of movies and TV shows filming in the area at the time. The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Profit and Loss" was being filmed at the time and actors Armin Shimerman and Edward Wiley left the Paramount Pictures lot in full Ferengi and Cardassian makeup respectively. The season five episode of Seinfeld entitled "The Pie" was due to begin shooting on the day of the earthquake before stage sets were damaged. CBS's The Price is Right which shoots live in the CBS Television Center, had minor set damage. NBC's The Tonight Show, hosted by Jay Leno, took place in the NBC Studios in Burbank, close to the epicenter of the quake. Also, ABC's General Hospital, which shoots in Los Angeles, was heavily affected by the Northridge earthquake. The set, which is at ABC Television Center, suffered major damage including partial structural collapse and water damage.
All of the earthquake sequences in the Wes Craven film New Nightmare were filmed a month prior to the Northridge quake. The real quake struck only weeks before filming was completed. Subsequently, a team was sent out to film footage of the quake damaged areas of the city. The cast and crew had initially thought that the scenes that were filmed before the real quake struck were a bit overdone, but when viewed after the real quake hit, they were horrified by the realism of it.
Michael Jackson had been due to begin recording of his new album HIStory on the day of the earthquake, but Jackson's entourage moved recording to New York City. They returned to the studio in Los Angeles some six months later.
Some archives of film and entertainment programming were also affected. For example, the original 35 mm master films for the 1960s sitcom My Living Doll were destroyed in the earthquake. The earthquake knocked Los Angeles' radio and television stations off the air. However, they later came back on the air for earthquake coverage.
NBC affiliate KNBC was the first television station to go off the air while reporters and anchors Kent Shocknek, Colleen Williams and Chuck Henry were producing special reports throughout the morning. Other stations KTLA, KCAL, KCBS and KABC were also knocked off the air. Afterward, anchors and reporters Stan Chambers and Hal Fishman of KTLA, Laura Diaz and Harold Greene of KABC, John Beard of KTTV, and Tritia Toyota of KCBS were doing coverage throughout the morning.
Radio stations such as KFI, KFWB and KNX were on the air during the main tremor, causing severe static on the airwaves. KROQ-FM's Kevin and Bean morning show asked those people tuned in to stay out of their homes. KLOS Morning Duo Mark & Brian's morning show was also affected. The duo spoke to Los Angeles area residents about their situation.
FM radio stations such as KRTH, KIIS-FM, KOST-FM and KCBS-FM were bringing special reports on the earthquake when morning show host Robert W. Morgan, Rick Dees and Charlie Tuna were calling Los Angeles residents and others from its sister stations to bring their belongings to the station and advising people not to drink water.

January 18, 1974
Six Million Dollar Man debuts. 

The popularity of the Six Million Dollar Man, starring Lee Majors as Steve Austin, the world's first bionic man, inspires a superhero trend in the late 1970s, which spawns shows like Wonder Woman in 1976 and The Incredible Hulk in 1978. In 1975 two-part episode entitled The Bionic Woman introduced the character of Jaime Sommers, a professional tennis player who rekindled an old romance with Austin, only to experience a parachuting accident that resulted in her being given bionic parts similar to Austin. Ultimately, however, her bionics failed and she died. The character was very popular, however, and the following season she was revived (having been cryogenically frozen) and was given her own spin-off series, The Bionic Woman, which lasted until 1978 when both it and The Six Million Dollar Man were simultaneously cancelled.

Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers returned in three subsequent made-for-television movies:
The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1987), Bionic Showdown (1989) — which featured
Sandra Bullock in an early role as a new bionic woman; and Bionic Ever After? (1994) in which Austin and Sommers finally marry. Majors reprised the role of Steve Austin in all three productions, which also featured Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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