Monday, May 05, 2014

This Week in Television History: May 2014 PART I

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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.



May 6, 1959
Raymond Burr wins the Best Actor in a Dramatic Series Emmy for Perry Mason, in which he plays a crime-solving attorney. 
The popular show, which debuted in 1957, ran for nine years. Derived from mystery novels by Earl Stanley Gardner, the character of Perry Mason had made his radio debut in 1943 and the show continued until 1955. The sleuthing Perry Mason character was revived in a series of TV movies from 1985 to 1993.

May 6, 1984
Spinal Tap stages a "comeback" at CBGB's in New York City

Almost 20 years and who knows how many drummers into their unique career in rock, the surviving members of one of England's loudest bands had reached yet another low point in the spring of 1984. Only two years removed from a disastrous 1982 world tour that not only failed to turn the album Smell The Glove into a comeback hit, but also led to the group's breakup, Spinal Tap now had to suffer the indignity of seeing the Marty DiBergi-helmed behind-the-scenes film of that tour gain widespread theatrical release. Would the numerous embarrassments catalogued in the hard-hitting rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap provoke public sympathy for and renewed interest in the band that Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins and Derek Smalls began back in 1964 as The Originals? Or would the group behind such familiar classic-rock hits as "Give Me Some Money" and "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" be consigned once and for all to obscurity? In this atmosphere of uncertainty, Spinal Tap elected to go back to their roots, kicking off a tour of small American rock clubs with an appearance at New York City's legendary CBGB's on May 6, 1984.
Of course, almost none of the above is true, strictly speaking. A group calling itself Spinal Tap did play CBGB's on this day in 1984, but that group was the fictitious invention of director Rob Reiner and the comic actors Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer—St. Hubbins, Tufnel and Smalls, respectively. Reiner's directorial debut was the aforementioned This Is Spinal Tap, a film that launched the mockumentary mini-genre as well as a thousand catchphrases, from "These go to 11" to "None more black." It was during the film's first week of release that McKean, Guest, Shearer and one of their many doomed drummers played their gig at CBGB's, which one attendee recalls as drawing "every professional musician in the city of New York."
This live appearance by Spinal Tap was the first, but certainly not the last step in an ongoing effort by the McKean et al. to blur the line between fiction and reality. In the years since their live debut, numerous bootleg recordings and early television appearances have "surfaced," and one full-length album—1992's Break Like The Wind—has been released. At last report, Nigel Tufnel was working on a pony farm, David St. Hubbins was producing hip-hop records out of a former colonic clinic and Derek Smalls was in rehab for an Internet addiction. But do not be surprised if one day you encounter a salesman resembling Christopher Guest on a visit to a hat shop, or if next year's lineup of Broadway openings includes the long-awaited St. Hubbins rock opera, Saucy Jack

May 6, 2004
Final episode of Friends airs on NBC
At 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times on this day in 2004, that familiar theme song (“I’ll Be There For You” by the Rembrandts) announces the beginning of the end, as an estimated 51.1 million people tune in for the final original episode of NBC’s long-running comedy series Friends.
Created and executive-produced (with Kevin S. Bright) by Marta Kauffman and David Crane, Friends debuted 10 years and 236 episodes earlier, on September 22, 1994. Shot at the Warner Brothers studios in Burbank, California, the show was set in New York City’s Greenwich Village, where six friends struggled with the ups-and-downs of young adult life in the big city--albeit while living in an impossibly large, cushy apartment, apparently without the burden of having to spend much time working actual jobs. Almost from the beginning of its decade-long run, Friends was a cultural phenomenon, winning six Emmy Awards (including one for Outstanding Comedy Series), sparking hairstyle trends (“the Rachel”), spawning catch phrases (“How you doin?”) and turning its six principal cast members into household names.
Preceded by a maelstrom of hype and publicity, the hour-long Friends finale drew approximately two-thirds of the audience garnered by the finales of two other long-running sitcoms, Cheers (80.4 million) in 1993 and Seinfeld (76.2 million) in 1998, according to a Fox News report. The most-watched TV series finale ever, M*A*S*H, was viewed by some 105 million people when it aired in 1983.  According to the New York Times, NBC charged advertisers an average of $2 million for every 30 seconds of ad time during the finale--a record amount for a sitcom and only $300,000 less than what CBS charged during that year’s Super Bowl.
In the finale, the long-running on-and-off relationship between Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), which over the years included a drunken Las Vegas wedding and a baby, Emma, born in 2002, ended as most of the show’s fans hoped: They got back together, presumably for good. Meanwhile, Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Monica (Courtney Cox-Arquette) had become suburbanites and parents of twins, Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) was married, and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) was headed off to L.A. to pursue his acting career. (A spin-off sitcom, Joey, followed LeBlanc’s character to Hollywood; the show failed to attract a significant audience, and was canceled in 2006.)
Throughout the show’s run, its six stars maintained a famously unified front, ensuring that no one of them emerged as a dominating force onscreen and even negotiating their salaries together. In the spring of 2000, each member of the cast signed a two-year, $40 million contract that netted them each a staggering $1 million per episode. Broadcast in some 100 countries, Friends continues to earn good ratings for its syndicated rerun episodes.


May 8, 1984
Soviets announce boycott of 1984 Olympics
Claiming that its athletes will not be safe from protests and possible physical attacks, the Soviet Union announces that it will not compete in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Despite the Soviet statement, it was obvious that the boycott was a response to the decision of the United States to boycott the 1980 games that were held in Moscow.
Just months before the 1984 Olympic games were to begin in Los Angeles, the Soviet government issued a statement claiming, "It is known from the very first days of preparations for the present Olympics the American administration has sought to set course at using the Games for its political aims. Chauvinistic sentiments and anti-Soviet hysteria are being whipped up in this country." Russian officials went on to claim that protests against the Soviet athletes were likely to break out in Los Angeles and that they doubted whether American officials would try to contain such outbursts. The administration of President Ronald Reagan responded to these charges by declaring that the Soviet boycott was "a blatant political decision for which there was no real justification."
In the days following the Soviet announcement, 13 other communist nations issued similar statements and refused to attend the games. The Soviets, who had been stung by the U.S. refusal to attend the 1980 games in Moscow because of the Russian intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, were turning the tables by boycotting the 1984 games in America. The diplomatic impact of the action was quite small. The impact on the games themselves, however, was immense. Without competition from the Soviet Union, East Germany, and other communist nations, the United States swept to an Olympic record of 83 gold medals.

May 8, 1984
"Well, what can I say? Both of our children are married now and they’re starting out to build lives of their own. And I guess when you reach a milestone like this you have to have to reflect back on, on what you’ve done and, and what you’ve accomplished. Marion and I have not climbed Mount Everest or written a great American novel. But we’ve had the joy of raising two wonderful kids, and watching them and their friends grow up into loving adults. And now, we’re gonna have the pleasure of watching them pass that love on to their children. And I guess no man or woman could ask for anything more. So thank you all for being, part of our family… To Happy Days."




May 7, 1999

A jury ruled that The Jenny Jones Show and Warner Bros. were liable in the shooting death of Scott Amedure. He was killed by another guest on the show. The jury's award was $25 million. 



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





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Tony Figueroa
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