Monday, February 09, 2015

This Week in Television History: February 2015 PART II

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.

February 9, 2010
The Jay Leno Show aired for the last time in primetime.
The show aired at 10 p.m. from September 14, 2009, to February 9, 2010, on NBC, after Leno's initial retirement from hosting The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In January 2010, NBC announced that due to affiliate concerns about its effect on their newscasts, The Jay Leno Show would be shortened to 30 minutes and moved from primetime to 11:35 p.m., the timeslot that had been occupied by The Tonight Show for nearly 60 years.
The Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien released a public statement saying that he would not participate in moving Tonight to 12:05 a.m., asserting that it would damage the highly respected franchise. Despite much support for O'Brien from both the public and media professionals alike NBC maintained its plan to move Leno to 11:35. On January 21, 2010, NBC reached a $45 million settlement with O'Brien in order to end his contract. Leno ended on February 9, 2010, after being on the air for only four months, with Entertainment Weekly calling the program television's "Biggest Bomb of All Time." Leno resumed his duties as host of Tonight on March 1, 2010, which lasted until 2014.

February 10, 1930
Robert Wagner is born. 
A veteran of many films in the 1950s and '60s, Wagner gained prominence in three American television series that spanned three decades: It Takes a Thief (1968–70), Switch (1975–78), and Hart to Hart (1979–84). In movies, Wagner is known for his role as Number Two in the Austin Powers films (1997, 1999, 2002). He also had a recurring role as Teddy Leopold on the TV sitcom Two and a Half Men.
Wagner's autobiography, Pieces of My Heart: A Life, written with author Scott Eyman, was published on September 23, 2008.
Wagner was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Hazel Alvera (née Boe), a telephone operator, and Robert John Wagner, a traveling salesman who worked for the Ford Motor Company. His paternal grandparents were born in Germany.[1][2] Wagner made his film debut in The Happy Years (1950). He was signed by agent Henry Willson and put under contract with 20th Century-Fox, where he gained attention with a small but showy part as a shellshocked soldier in With a Song in My Heart (1952). This led to star roles in a series of films including Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953) and Prince Valiant (1954), and White Feather (1955, with Debra Paget and Jeffrey Hunter), A Kiss Before Dying (1956, a rare villainous role) and Between Heaven and Hell (1956).
Wagner appeared with veteran actor Clifton Webb in Stars and Stripes Forever (1952) and Titanic (1953). Wagner starred opposite Steve McQueen in The War Lover (1962). Roles soon followed in The Condemned of Altona and The Pink Panther.
In 1967, Wagner signed with Universal Studios. In 1968, Lew Wasserman convinced Wagner to make his television series debut in It Takes a Thief. While the success of The Pink Panther and Harper began Wagner's comeback, the successful two and a half seasons of his first TV series completed it. In this series, he acted with Fred Astaire, who played his father. Wagner was a long-time friend of Astaire's, having gone to school with Astaire's eldest son, Peter. Wagner was suggested to play James Bond after On Her Majesty's Secret Service was released.
In 1972, he produced and cast himself opposite Bette Davis in the television movie Madame Sin, which was released in foreign markets as a feature film. and was a regular in the BBC/Universal World War II prisoner-of-war drama Colditz until its end in 1974. He reunited with McQueen, along with Paul Newman and Faye Dunaway, in the disaster film The Towering Inferno released in the same year.
By the mid-1970s, Wagner's television career was at its peak with the television series Switch opposite Eddie Albert, after re-signing a contract with Universal Studios in 1974. Before Switch, Albert was a childhood hero of Wagner's, after he watched the movie Brother Rat along with a few others. The friendship started in the early 1960s, where he also co-starred in a couple of Albert's movies. After the series' end, the two remained friends until Albert's death on May 26, 2005. Wagner spoke at his funeral, and gave a testimonial about his longtime friendship with him.
In part payment for starring together in the Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg production of the TV movie The Affair, Wagner and Natalie Wood were given a share in three TV series that the producers were developing for ABC. Only one reached the screen, the very successful TV series Charlie's Angels, for which Wagner and Wood had a 50% share, though Wagner was to spend many years in court arguing with Spelling and Goldberg over what was defined as profit.
Wagner and Wood acted with Laurence Olivier in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (as part of Olivier's UK television series Laurence Olivier Presents). Wood also made a small cameo appearance in the pilot episode of Wagner's own television series, Hart to Hart.
His third successful series was Hart to Hart, which co-starred Stefanie Powers. Before those roles, Wagner also made guest appearances in the pilot episode of The Streets of San Francisco. He would later be nominated for an Emmy Award for Best TV Actor for his performance in It Takes a Thief and for four Golden Globe awards for his role as Jonathan Hart in Hart to Hart.
Wagner's film career received a revival after his role in the Austin Powers series of spy spoofs starring Mike Myers. Wagner played Dr. Evil's henchman Number 2 in all three films: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) and Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).
He also became the host of Fox Movie Channel's Hour of Stars, featuring original television episodes of The 20th Century-Fox Hour (1955), a series which Wagner had appeared on in his early days with the studio.
In 2005, Wagner became the television spokesman for the Senior Lending Network, a reverse mortgage lender and in 2010 began as a spokesman for the Guardian First Funding Group, also a reverse mortgage lender. As of June 2011, Guardian First Funding was acquired by Urban Financial Group, who continue to use Mr. Wagner as their spokesperson.
In 2007, Wagner had a role in the BBC/AMC series Hustle. In season four's premiere, Wagner played a crooked Texan being taken for half a million dollars. As Wagner is considered "a suave icon of American caper television, including It Takes a Thief and Hart to Hart", Robert Glenister (Hustle's fixer, Ash Morgan) commented that "to have one of the icons of that period involved is a great bonus for all of us".
Wagner also played the pivotal role of President James Garfield in the comedy/horror film Netherbeast Incorporated (2007). The role was written with Wagner in mind. He had a recurring role of a rich suitor to the main characters' mother on the sitcom Two and a Half Men. His most recent appearances on the show were in May 2008.
Wagner's radio and television career was recognized by the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters on January 30, 2009, when they presented him with their Art Gilmore Career Achievement Award.
Wagner has guest-starred as Tony's father, Anthony DiNozzo Sr., in three episodes of NCIS: "Flesh and Blood" (2010), "Broken Arrow" (2010), and "Sins of the Father" (2011).
Wagner was set to star as Charlie in the 2011 reboot of Charlie's Angels, but due to scheduling conflicts, had to exit the project.
In his memoirs, Wagner claims to have had affairs with Yvonne de Carlo, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Anita Ekberg, Shirley Ann Field and Joan Collins. He had a four-year romantic relationship with Barbara Stanwyck after they acted together in the movie Titanic (1953). Because of the age difference – he was 22, she was 45 – they kept the affair secret to avoid damage to their careers.
At 27, Wagner became involved with teenage actress Natalie Wood and married her on December 28, 1957. The couple soon became involved in financial troubles.[citation needed] At Fox, Wagner's career was slowly being overtaken by actors such as Marlon Brando and Paul Newman. Wagner and Wood separated in September 1961 and divorced on April 27, 1962. Wagner, with his career stalled because of a lack of studio support, broke his studio contract with 20th Century Fox and moved to Europe in search of better film roles.
While in Europe he met an old friend, actress Marion Marshall. In the spring of 1963, after a brief courtship, Wagner, Marshall, and her two children from her marriage to Stanley Donen moved back to America. Wagner and Marshall married on July 22, 1963, in the Bronx Courthouse. Soon after, they had a daughter, Katie Wagner (born May 11, 1964). The two were together for nearly nine years before they separated in late 1970. They were divorced on April 26, 1971. Wagner then had a relationship with Tina Sinatra in 1971.
Wagner kept in contact with Natalie Wood, whose short-lived marriage to Richard Gregson ended in early 1972. Wagner remarried her on July 16, 1972. Their only child, Courtney Wagner, was born on March 9, 1974. On November 29, 1981, Natalie Wood drowned near their yacht Splendour while it was moored near Catalina Island; also on board were Wagner and Christopher Walken, who was co-starring with her in the motion picture Brainstorm. Wagner subsequently became the legal guardian of Wood's daughter Natasha Gregson. He is estranged from Natalie Wood's sister Lana Wood, who claims Wagner refused to let her see her nieces after Natalie Wood's death. In November 2011, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reopened its investigation into Wood's death. Wagner is not considered a suspect.
In early 1982, Wagner began a relationship with actress Jill St. John, who coincidentally was a childhood acquaintance of Natalie Wood and Wagner's Hart to Hart co-star Stefanie Powers, as well as starring alongside Natalie's sister Lana Wood in Diamonds Are Forever. The couple had first met years earlier on a film set when St. John was a teenager. After an eight-year courtship, they were married on May 26, 1990. On September 21, 2006, he became a first time grandfather when his daughter, Katie, gave birth to a son, Riley Wagner-Lewis.

February 10, 1960
Jack Paar told the following joke.
"An English lady, while visiting Switzerland, was looking for a room, and she asked the schoolmaster if he could recommend any to her. He took her to see several rooms, and when everything was settled, the lady returned to her home to make the final preparations to move. When she arrived home, the thought suddenly occurred to her that she had not seen a "W.C." around the place. So she immediately wrote a note to the schoolmaster asking him if there were a "W.C." around. The schoolmaster was a very poor student of English, so he asked the parish priest if he could help in the matter. Together they tired to discover the meaning of the letters "W.C.," and the only solution they could find for the letters was letters was a Wayside Chapel. The schoolmaster then wrote to the English lady the following note:
Dear Madam:
I take great pleasure in informing you that the W.C. is situated nine miles from the house you occupy, in the center of a beautiful grove of pine trees surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 229 people and it is open on Sunday and Thursday only. As there are a great number of people and they are expected during the summer months, I would suggest that you come early: although there is plenty of standing room as a rule. You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good number of people bring their lunch and make a day of it. While others who can afford to go by car arrive just in time. I would especially recommend that your ladyship go on Thursday when there is a musical accompaniment. It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the W.C. and it was there that she met her husband. I can remember the rush there was for seats. There were ten people to a seat ordinarily occupied by one. It was wonderful to see the expression on their faces. The newest attraction is a bell donated by a wealthy resident of the district. It rings every time a person enters. A bazaar is to be held to provide plush seats for all the people, since they feel it is a long felt need. My wife is rather delicate, so she can't attend regularly. I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you if you wish, where you will be seen by all. For the children, there is a special time and place so that they will not disturb the elders. Hoping to have been of service to you, I remain,
The Schoolmaster."

The "Water Closet" joke involved a Enlish woman writing to a vacation resort in Switzerland and asking about the availability of a "W.C." the initials for "Water Closet" or bathroom, but the gentleman who received the letter was a schoolmaster who had a very lmitid English vocabulary, so he asked the parish priest if he could help in the matter. Together they tired to discover the meaning of the letters "W.C.," and the only solution they could find for the letters was letters was a Wayside Chapel. The full text of the joke contains multiple double entendres like, “It is capable of holding 229 people and it is open on Sunday and Thursday only”. This is mild by today's standards, but too much for the network to bear in 1960.
The NBC censors thought the joke was dirty and cut it from the February 10th, 1960 broadcast and replaced that section of the show with news coverage. All of this was done without consulting Paar.
When Paar discovered that his four-minute story had been cut, he retaliated by walking off in the of the February 11th show during the opening monologue saying, "I've been up thirty hours without an ounce of sleep wrestling with my conscience all day. I've made a decision about what I'm going to do. I'm leaving THE TONIGHT SHOW. There must be a better way to make a living than this, a way of entertaining people without being constantly involved in some form of controversy. I love NBC, and they've been wonderful to me. But they let me down."
Paar walked offstage, leaving his announcer Hugh Downs to finish the show for him.

Paar returned to the show on March 7th, looked right into the camera and said, "As I was saying before I was interrupted. When I walked off, I said there must be a better way of making a living. Well I've looked and there isn't. Be it ever so humble, there is no place like Radio City. Leaving the show was a childish and perhaps emotional thing. I have been guilty of such action in the past and will perhaps be again. I'm totally unable to hide what I feel. It is not an asset in show business. But I shall do the best I can to amuse and entertain you and let other people speak freely, as I have in the past."

February 11, 1980
In Concert is the 19th episode of the second season of the television series WKRP in Cincinnati
The concept for the episode was described as "admirably ambitious" by William Beamon, writing in the Evening Independent before he had viewed the episode. The radio station promotes a concert by The Who, and employees prepare to attend the concert.  Station employees are overcome with guilt after a stampede for seats by attending fans results in some fans dying. They discuss the tragic events the next morning. The plot is based on the events of The Who concert disaster in Cincinnati of December 3, 1979 during the band's U.S. tour. Of the 18,348 tickets sold for the concert, 14,770 were for unassigned seats known as festival seating, obtained on a first-come, first-served basis.  City officials had objected to the use of festival seating at the facility as early as October 1976.
Attendees arrived as much as six hours before the start of the concert to attempt to garner the best available seats, and a crowd had gathered by 3:00 p.m. ET. An hour before the start of the concert, "thousands were tightly packed around the entrance doors", and by 7:20 p.m. ET the crowd consisted of 8,000 people. Some members of the crowd rushed the gates on the plaza level on the west side of the Coliseum, crushing those at the front. The incident resulted in the death of 11 individuals by compressive asphyxia and injuries to 23. In a press conference after the concert, police lieutenant Dale Menkhaus stated that too few gate doors had been opened, and witnesses stated only one door had been opened at the main gate. Menkahus stated that the doors had been purposely kept closed because The Who had arrived late for a sound check. An emergency room supervisor stated that the victims had sustained "multiple contusions and hemorrhages".
The facility and its executives had received lawful orders from the city's fire chief as early as 1976 concerning event actions, such as "locking and barring of exit doors during performances, overcrowded conditions and the blocking of aisles". Executives were later charged for failure to comply with those lawful orders.
Security for a concert by The Who in Buffalo, New York the next night was doubled, and the band dedicated it to the victims. Two concerts scheduled at Riverfront Coliseum were postponed: that by Blue Öyster Cult on December 14, and that by Aerosmith on December 21.
On December 27, 1979, the Cincinnati municipal council enacted bylaws banning festival seating as a result of this event. The council and theGovernment of Ohio also passed laws involving crowd control. The cities of Indianapolis and Louisville prepared ordinances to ban festival seating.

February 12, 1915
Lorne Greene was born Lyon Himan Green (February 12, 1915 – September 11, 1987). 
The Canadian actor and musician was best know for television roles as Ben Cartwright on the western Bonanza, and Commander Adama in the science fiction television series Battlestar Galactica and Galactica 1980. He also worked on the Canadian televisionnature documentary series Lorne Greene's New Wilderness, and in television commercials.

February 15, 1960
"Danny Meets Andy Griffith" was telecast on The Danny Thomas Show. 

In the episode, Griffith played fictional Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, North Carolina, who arrests Thomas for running a stop sign. Future players in The Andy Griffith Show, Frances Bavier and Ron Howard, appeared in the episode as townspeople, Henrietta Perkins, and Sheriff Taylor's son, Opie. 

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

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Tony Figueroa
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