Monday, September 07, 2015

This Week in Television History: September 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.
September 7, 1950
Radio game show Truth or Consequences comes to television. 
The show required erring quiz show contestants to perform outrageous stunts as the consequence for wrong answers. As we mentioned in an earlier episode (This week in Television History: The Start of Something Big) the radio version of the show ran from 1940 to 1956. The TV version of the series launched on CBS in 1950, but the network dropped the show after only one season. In 1954, NBC revived the game show, running it in prime time until 1958. Meanwhile, the network also created a daytime version of the show, hosted by Bob Barker, which ran from 1956 to 1965. NBC dropped the show altogether in 1965, but it continued as a syndicated series until 1974, with Barker staying on as host.

September 7, 1950
Julie Kavner, voice of Marge Simpson, is born. 

Best known as the voice of Marge Simpson on The Simpsons, the longest-running animated show in TV history, is born in Los Angeles. Before taking on the role of the famously blue-haired housewife, Kavner played Brenda Morgenstern on Rhoda, a spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show that originally aired from 1974 to 1978. In 1978, Kavner won an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal of Brenda, the younger sister of the show’s lead character, played by Valerie Harper. She won another Emmy in 1992, for Outstanding Voice-over Performance, for an episode of The Simpsons. On the big screen, Kavner has been a frequent performer in the films of the writer-director Woody Allen, including Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Radio Days (1987) and Shadows and Fog (1992). Among her other film credits are Awakenings (1990) and Judy Berlin (1999).
The Simpsons began as a series of animated shorts created by cartoonist Matt Groening (who reportedly based some of the main characters on members of his family) that aired on The Tracey Ullman Show starting in 1987. On December 17, 1989, The Simpsons debuted as primetime program on Fox with a Christmas special titled “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.”
Set in the fictional town of Springfield, The Simpsons skewers American culture and society with its chronicles of a middle-class family comprised of the buffoonish husband and father Homer Simpson, a safety inspector at a nuclear power plant; his well-meaning, sometimes gullible wife Marge; and their troublemaker son Bart, precocious daughter Lisa and baby Maggie. The Simpsons is known for its sharp writing (Conan O’Brien used to write for the show before he became a late-night TV host) and features a large cast of supporting characters, including Homer’s boss and nemesis, Mr. Burns; the Simpsons’ neighbor Ned Flanders, a devout Christian; and Krusty the Clown. In addition to providing the voice of Marge Simpson, Julie Kavner also voices the characters Patty and Selma, Marge’s chain-smoking twin sisters. A long list of celebrities, including Kelsey Grammer, Larry King, Sting, Hugh Hefner, Ringo Starr, J.K. Rowling, Tony Blair, Stephen Hawking, 50 Cent and Mel Gibson have made guest appearances on the show as themselves or fictional characters.
The Simpsons has been an enormous commercial and critical hit--in 1999, Time dubbed it the greatest TV show of the 20th century--and images of the yellow-skinned Simpson characters have appeared on everything from T-shirts to video games. As a pop phenomenon, the show paved the way for other popular animated comedies, including Beavis and Butt-head and South Park, and has been a source of popular catchphrases,
including Homer’s “D’oh!” which was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2001. A big-screen version of the show, The Simpsons Movie, debuted July 27, 2007, and was a box-office hit.

September 9, 1975
The first episode of "Welcome Back, Kotter" aired on ABC. 

The show starred stand-up comic/actor Gabriel 'Gabe' W. Kaplan as the title character, Gabe Kotter, a wisecracking teacher who returns to his alma mater high school, the fictional James Buchanan High in Brooklyn, New York, to teach an often unruly group of remedial loafers self-labeled as the "Sweathogs." (The nickname reflected the fact that the remedial classes were held on the very top floor of the high school.) The school was based on New Utrecht High School, which was used in the opening credits, and also the high school that Kaplan attended. The school's principal was perpetually absent, while the uptight vice principal, Michael Woodman (John Sylvester White), dismissed the Sweathogs as worthless hoodlums and only expected Kotter to attempt to contain them until they inevitably dropped out.
Kotter had attended the same remedial classes when he was a student at Buchanan, and was a founding member of the Sweathogs. Recognizing that he was his students' last chance to learn enough to survive beyond high school, he soon befriended them as they grew to recognize and appreciate his faith in their potential. His devotion to the class was such that his students often visited his Bensonhurst apartment, sometime via window, to the chagrin of his wife, Julie (Marcia Strassman).
Many of the characters of Welcome Back, Kotter were based on people from Kaplan's teen years as a remedial school student in Brooklyn. As a stand-up comic, one of Kaplan's routines was "Holes and Mellow Rolls", in which he talked in depth about his former classmates. The names of characters in Holes and Mellow Rolls: "Vinnie Barbarino" was inspired by Eddie Lecarri and Ray Barbarino, from Miami, FL; "Freddie 'Boom Boom' Washington" was inspired by Freddie "Furdy" Peyton; "Juan Epstein" was partially inspired by Epstein "The Animal"; and "Arnold Horseshit" was changed to "Arnold Horshack" for network television.

September 13, 1990
The drama series Law & Order premieres on NBC. 

The first half of the hour-long program, which is set in New York City, focuses on the police as they investigate a crime--often inspired by real-life news stories--while the second part of the show centers on the prosecution of those accused of that crime. Each episode opens with a narrator stating: “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”
Law & Order’s cast has changed continually throughout its run. Among the best-known characters are Homicide Detective Lennie Brisco, who was played by Jerry Orbach from 1994 to his death in 2004; Lt. Anita Van Buren, played by S. Epatha Merkerson since 1993; District Attorney Jack McCoy, portrayed by Sam Waterson since 1993; Detective Mike Logan, played by Chris Noth from 1990 to 1995 (he later reprised the character for the spin-off Law & Order: Criminal Intent); Detective Rey Curtis, played by Benjamin Bratt from 1995 to 1999; and Detective Ed Green, played by Jesse Martin from 1999 to 2008. The actresses Jill Hennessey, Carey Lowell and Angie Harmon each did a stint on Law & Order as assistant district attorneys. Fred Thompson, who was a U.S. Senator from Tennessee from 1994 to 2002, portrayed District Attorney Arthur Branch from 2002 to 2007. In 2008, Thompson launched an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. president. Law & Order has also featured a long list of guest appearances by famous actors, including Julia Roberts (Bratt’s then-girlfriend), Samuel L. Jackson, Chevy Chase and Edie Falco.
On September 20, 1999, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, starring Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni as a pair of New York City detectives who investigate sex-related crimes, premiered on NBC. Law & Order: Criminal Intent followed in 2001. Law & Order: Trial by Jury debuted in 2005 and lasted for one season. The Law & Order franchise was created by Dick Wolf, who was born in 1946 and began his television career as a writer for such shows as Miami Vice.

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



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Tony Figueroa
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