Monday, November 02, 2015

This Week in Television History: November 2015 PART I

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.

November 2, 1985
Miami Vice soundtrack begins an 11-week run at #1
Almost from its beginnings, television showed a remarkable ability to influence the pop charts, and not only by giving exposure to popular musical artists on programs like American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show. Many television programs also launched legitimate pop hits in the form of their theme songs—songs like "The Peter Gunn Theme," "Welcome Back" and "Theme from S.W.A.T." But prior to 1985, no television program had ever launched a smash-hit, movie-style soundtrack album. The first one to do so was NBC's Miami Vice, a show that not only altered the landscapes of television and fashion, but also sent the soundtrack album of the same name to the top of the Billboard 200 on this day in 1985—a spot it would hold for the next 11 weeks
The genesis of Miami Vice is the stuff of television legend. It came about in the form of a memo from NBC head of programming Brandon Tartikoff in which he documented one of his brainstorms simply as "MTV Cops." Inspired by MTV's growing influence on the music industry, Tartikoff reasoned that a slickly produced, visually arresting cop show could become to television essentially what Duran Duran was to music. Under the creative guidance of producer Michael Mann, Tartikoff's vision took shape in 1984, when it debuted on NBC's fall schedule.
Scheduled opposite the ratings juggernaut Falcon Crest on Friday nights at 10 pm, Miami Vice struggled in its first season but catapulted into the Nielson Top 10 in the autumn of 1985. Simultaneous with the television show's rise to popularity, its instrumental theme song, by Czech composer Jan Hammer, was climbing the Billboard pop singles chart. The popularity of that single, in turn, drove sales of the soundtrack album Miami Vice, which featured not only Jan Hammer's theme song and other examples of his incidental soundtrack music, but also several original songs written expressly for the show's fall season, including "Smuggler's Blues" and "You Belong To The City" by Glenn Frey. The album also featured previously released songs that had been featured prominently in the program's signature musical montages—songs such as Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight" and Tina Turner's "Better Be Good To Me."
In demonstrating how five scenes' worth of difficult expository dialogue could easily be replaced with a 90-second visual montage set to mood-appropriate pop music, Miami Vice made a significant creative impact on the future of American television. In demonstrating how much additional revenue a television show could generate by releasing soundtrack albums of pre-existing popular music, it had a significant business impact as well.

November 4, 1950
Marjorie Armstrong “Markie” Post is born. 
Best known for her roles as bail bondswoman Terri Michaels in The Fall Guy on ABC from 1982 to 1985, as public defender Christine Sullivan on the NBC sitcom Night Court from 1985 to 1992, and as Georgie Anne Lahti Hartman on the CBS sitcom Hearts Afirefrom 1992 to 1995.

November 7, 1965
Poppin' Fresh, more widely known as the Pillsbury Doughboy, is an advertising icon and mascot of the Pillsbury Company, appearing in many of their commercials. Many commercials from 1965 until 2004 (returned in 2009 to 2011 and 2013 in a Geico Commercial) conclude with a human finger poking the Doughboy's stomach. The Doughboy responds when his stomach is poked by giggling (Hoo-Hoo!, or earlier on, a slight giggle "hee hee").

November 7, 1975
Wonder Woman first aired.

Based on the DC Comics comic book superheroine of the same name. Starring Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman/Diana Princeand Lyle Waggoner as Steve Trevor Sr. & Jr., the show originally aired from 1975 to 1979.
The show had its origins in a November 1975 American television movie entitled The New, Original Wonder Woman starring Carter. It followed a 1974 TV movie entitled Wonder Woman starring blond actress Cathy Lee Crosby, who neither resembled the super-hero character nor exhibited any apparent super-human powers. (John D. F. Black wrote and produced the 1974 TV movie.) 

In this second movie, set during World War II and produced by Douglas S. Cramer and Wilford Lloyd "W.L." Baumes, who were working from a script by Stanley Ralph Ross, Carter as Wonder Woman matched the original comic book character. Its success led the ABC television network to order two more one-hour episodes which aired in April 1976. That success led ABC to order an additional 11 episodes which the network aired weekly (for the most part) during the first half of the 1976–77 television season. The episodes ran on Wednesday nights between October 1976 and February 1977.
Wonder Woman achieved solid ratings on ABC during its first season, but the network was reluctant to renew the series for another season. Wonder Woman was a period piece, and as such, it was more expensive to produce than a series set in the present day. Also, ABC thought that the 1940s setting limited possible storylines, with the major villains being Nazis. ABC did not renew the series, so Jerry Lieder, then-president of Warner Bros. Television, went to CBS with the notion of shifting the series to the present-day 1970s, which would cost less to produce and allow for more creative storylines. Unlike 20th Century Fox Television's Batman, the series was produced without having a theatrical feature film in the middle of its production. In addition, none of the villains had recurring appearances. CBS agreed and picked up the show in 1977, and it continued for another two seasons.

November 8, 1920
Esther Rolle was born in Pompano Beach, Florida. She was the tenth of 18 children (children who included siblings and fellow actresses Estelle Evans and Rosanna Carter). 
Rolle is best known for her television role as Florida Evans, the character she played on two 1970s sitcoms. The character was introduced as Maude Findlay's housekeeper on Maude, and was spun off in the show's second season into Good Times, a show about Florida's family. Rolle was nominated in 1975 for the Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy Golden Globe Award for her role in Good Times. Rolle was 19 years older than the actor (John Amos) who played her husband James Evans. The James Evans character was only added after Esther Rolle fought hard for a father figure and husband to be added to the show. Rolle had fought for the father character on the show, more relevant themes and scripts and was unhappy when the success of Jimmie Walker's character, J.J. Evans, took the show in what she thought was a frivolous direction. John Amos agreed with Rolle about Walker's character and was fired from the show after the third season ended. Later on, in a stand-off with Good Times producer Norman Lear, Rolle also quit when her contract ended. Although the show continued without her for the fifth season, she returned for the show's final season. In 1979 she won an Emmy for her role in Summer of My German Soldier, a made-for-television movie.
Among her guest star roles was one on The Incredible Hulk in an episode entitled "Behind the Wheel" where she played a taxicab business owner. In the 1990s, Rolle was a surprise guest on RuPaul's VH-1 talk show. Her Maude co-star Bea Arthur was the guest, and Rolle was brought out to surprise Arthur. The two had not seen each other in years, Arthur said, and embraced warmly. Rolle also appeared in a series of psychic hotline TV commercials in the 1990s. "Tell them Esther sent you," was her trademark line.
Rolle died on November 17, 1998 in Culver City, California, from complications of diabetes, nine days after her 78th birthday. Her body was flown back to her hometown ofPompano Beach, Florida. A devout Methodist, Rolle requested that her funeral be held at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The family requested that any flower donations be sent to such organizations as the African American Chapter of the American Diabetes Association, The Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida, The Black Academy of Arts and Letters in Dallas, Texas, The Jenesse Center in Los Angeles, and Marcus Garvey Elementary and Junior High School in Los Angeles.

November 8, 1965
Days of our Lives first aired on November 8, 1965. The series was created by husband-and-wife team Ted Corday and Betty Corday along with Irna Phillips in 1964, and many of the first stories were written by William J. Bell. The original title sequence voiced by MacDonald Carey is still used to this day. The series expanded from 30 minutes to a full hour on April 21, 1975. The co-creator and original executive producer, Ted Corday, was only at the helm for eight months before dying of cancer in 1966. His widow, Betty, was named executive producer upon his death. She continued in that role, with the help of H. Wesley Kenney and Al Rabin as supervising producers, before she semi-retired in 1985. When Mrs. Corday semi-retired in 1985, and later died in 1987, her son, Ken, became executive producer and took over the full-time, day-to-day running of the show, a title he still holds today.
When Days of our Lives debuted the cast consisted of seven main characters (Tom Horton, Alice Horton, Mickey Horton, Marie Horton, Julie Olson, Tony Merritt, and Craig Merritt). The series first focused on its core family, the Hortons. Several other families have been added to the cast, and many of them still appear on the show. Frances Reid the matriarch of the series' Horton family remained with the show from its inception to her death on February 3, 2010.
The Cordays and Bell combined the "hospital soap" idea with the tradition of centering a series on a family, by making the show about a family of doctors, including one who worked in a mental hospital. Storylines in the show follow the lives of middle and upper-class professionals in Salem, a middle-America town, with the usual threads of love, marriage, divorce, and family life, plus the medical storylines and character studies of individuals with psychological problems. Former executive producer Al Rabin took pride in the characters' passion, saying that the characters were not shy about "sharing what's in their gut." Critics originally praised the show for its non-reliance on nostalgia and its portrayal of "real American contemporary families." By the 1970s, critics deemed Days to be the most daring daytime drama, leading the way in using themes other shows of the period would not dare touch, such as artificial insemination and interracial romance. The January 12, 1976 cover of Time magazine featured Days of our Lives' Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes, the first daytime actors to ever appear on its cover. The Hayeses themselves were a couple whose onscreen and real-life romance (they met on the series in 1970 and married in 1974) was widely covered by both the soap opera magazines and the mainstream press.
One of the longest-running storylines involved the rape of Mickey Horton's wife Laura by Mickey's brother Bill. Laura confides in her father-in-law Dr. Tom, and the two agree that her husband Mickey should never know. The secret, involving the true parentage of Michael Horton (a product of the rape) and Mickey's subsequent health issues as a result of the revelation, spanned episodes from 1968 to 1975. The storyline was the first to bring the show to prominence, and put it near the top of the Nielsen daytime ratings. Another love triangle, between lounge singer Doug Williams, Tom and Alice's daughter Addie, and Addie's own daughter, Julie, proved to be very popular around the same time. The storyline culminated in the death of Addie in 1974 and the marriage of Doug and Julie in 1976.

In the 1980s, the Brady and DiMera families were introduced, and their rivalry quickly cemented their places as core families in Salem beside the Hortons. Around the same time, with the help of head writers Sheri Anderson, Thom Racina, and Leah Laiman, action/adventure storylines and supercouples such as Bo and Hope, Shane and Kimberly, and Patch and Kayla reinvigorated the show, previously focused primarily on the domestic troubles of the Hortons.

November 8, 2010
Conan premiered on TBS.
Describing itself as a traditional late-night talk show, Conan draws its comedy from recent news stories, political figures and prominent celebrities, as well as aspects of the show itself. The show typically opens with a monologue from Conan O'Brien relating to recent headlines and frequently features exchanges with his sidekick, Andy Richter, and members of the audience. The next segment is devoted to a celebrity interview, with guests ranging from actors and musicians to media personalities and political figures. The show then closes with either a musical or comedy performance.
On TBS, Conan airs Monday through Thursday beginning at 11:00 p.m. eastern time. Comedian and actor Andy Richter continues his role as sidekick to O'Brien, and as the show's announcer. Conan's long-time house band continues with the host under the new moniker Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band, with Max Weinberg being replaced as bandleader by guitarist Jimmy Vivino and as drummer by regular substitute James Wormworth, both of whom regularly substituted for Weinberg during his brief departures.

On May 14, 2014, TBS renewed the show through 2018.

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


 

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Tony Figueroa
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