Monday, January 11, 2016

This Week in Television History: January 2016 PART II


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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.
January 12, 1966
Batman aired it’s first episode. 
Based on the DC comic book character of the same name, which stars Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, two crime-fighting heroes who defend Gotham City. It aired on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) network for two and a half seasons from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968. Despite its short run, a total of 120 episodes were produced based on having two weekly installments for most of its tenure.
In the early 1960s, Ed Graham Productions optioned the TV rights to the comic strip Batman, and planned a straightforward juvenile adventure show, much like Adventures of Superman and The Lone Ranger, for CBS on Saturday mornings.Mike Henry was set to star as Batman. Reportedly, D.C. Comics commissioned publicity photos of Henry in a Batman costume. Around this same time, the Playboy Club in Chicago was screening the Batman serials (1943's Batman and 1949's Batman and Robin on Saturday nights. It became very popular, as the hip party goers would cheer and applaud the Dynamic Duo, and boo and hiss at the villains. East coast ABC executive Yale Udoff, a Batman fan in childhood, attended one of these parties at the Playboy Club and was impressed with the reaction the serials were getting. He contacted ABC executives Harve Bennett and Edgar J. Scherick, who were already considering developing a TV series based on a comic strip action hero, to suggest a prime time Batman series in the hip and fun style of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. When negotiations between CBS and Graham stalled, DC quickly re-obtained rights and made the deal with ABC, who farmed the rights out to 20th Century Fox to produce the series.
In turn, 20th Century Fox handed the project to William Dozier and his Greenway Productions. ABC and Fox were expecting a hip and fun—yet still serious—adventure show. However, Dozier, who loathed comic books, concluded the only way to make the show work was to do it as a pop art camp comedy. Originally, espionage novelist Eric Ambler was to write the motion picture that would launch the TV series, but he dropped out after learning of Dozier's camp comedy approach. By the time, ABC had pushed up the debut date to January 1966, thus foregoing the movie until the summer hiatus, Lorenzo Semple, Jr. had signed on as head script writer. He wrote the pilot script, and generally kept his scripts more on the side of pop art adventure. Stanley Ralph Ross, Stanford Sherman, and Charles Hoffman were script writers who generally leaned more toward camp comedy, and in Ross' case, sometimes outright slapstick and satire. Instead of producing a one-hour show, Dozier and Semple decided to have the show air twice a week in half-hour installments with a cliffhanger connecting the two episodes, echoing the old movie serials. Eventually, two sets of screen tests were filmed, one with Adam West and Burt Ward, the other with Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell, with West and Ward winning the roles.
The typical story began with a villain (often one of a short list of recurring villains) committing a crime, such as stealing a fabulous gem or taking over Gotham City. This was followed by a scene inside Commissioner Gordon's office where he and Chief O'Hara would deduce exactly which villain they were dealing with. Commissioner Gordon would press a button on the Batphone, a bright red telephone located on a pedestal in his office. The scene then cut to stately Wayne Manor where Alfred the butler would answer the Batphone, which sat like a normal everyday telephone on the desk in Bruce Wayne's study. Frequently, Wayne and his ward, Dick Grayson, would be found talking with Dick's Aunt Harriet, who was completely unaware of Bruce and Dick's identities as Batman & Robin, respectively. Alfred would discreetly interrupt so they could excuse themselves and go to the Batphone. Upon learning which criminal he would face this time, Bruce would push a button concealed within a bust of Shakespeare that stood on his desk causing a bookcase to slide back and revealing two poles. "To the Batpoles!" Wayne would exclaim, at which he and Grayson would slide down to the Batcave, activating an unseen mechanism on the way that dressed them as their alter egos. The title sequence often began at this point.
Similar in style and content to the 1940s serials, they would arrive in the Batcave in full costume and jump into the Batmobile, Batman in the driver's seat. Robin would say, "Atomic batteries to power...turbines to speed." Batman would respond, "Roger, ready to move out." And the two would race off out of the cave at high speed. As the Batmobile approached the mouth of the cave, actually a tunnel entrance in Los Angeles's Bronson Canyon, a hinged barrier dropped down to allow the car to exit onto the road. Scenes from the Dynamic Duo sliding down the batpoles in the Batcave, to the arrival at Commissioner Gordon's building via the Batmobile (while the episode credits are shown), are reused footage that is used in nearly all part 1 and single episodes.
After arriving at Commissioner Gordon's office, the initial discussion of the crime usually led to the Dynamic Duo conducting their investigation alone. During the investigation, a meeting with the villain would usually ensue, with the heroes getting involved in a fight and the villain getting away, leaving a series of unlikely clues for the Duo to investigate. Later, the Duo would face the villain again, and he or she would capture one or both of the heroes and place them in a deathtrap with a cliffhanger ending which was usually resolved in the first few minutes of the next episode.
The same pattern was repeated in the following episode until the villain was defeated in a major brawl where the action was punctuated by superimposed onomatopoeic words, as in comic book fight scenes ("POW!", "BAM!", "ZONK!", etc.). Not counting five of the Penguin's henchmen who disintegrate or get blown up in the associated Batman theatrical movie, only three criminal characters die during the series: the Riddler's moll Molly (played by Jill St. John in Episode 2) who accidentally falls into the Batcave's atomic pile, and two out-of-town gunmen who shoot at the Dynamic Duo toward the end of the "Zelda The Great/A Death Worse Than Fate" episode, but end up killing each other instead. In "Instant Freeze," Mr. Freeze freezes a butler solid and knocks him over, causing him to smash to pieces, although this is implied rather than seen, and there is a later reference suggesting the butler survived. In "Green Ice," Mr. Freeze freezes a policeman solid; it is left unclear whether he survived or not. In "The Penguin's Nest," a policeman suffers an electric shock at the hands of the Penguin's accomplices, but he apparently survived as he appeared in some later episodes. In "The Bookworm Turns," Commissioner Gordon appears to be shot and falls off a bridge to his death, but Batman deduces that this was actually an expert high diver in disguise, employed by The Bookworm as a ruse (implying that the diver survived the fall).
Robin, in particular, was especially well known for saying "Holy (insert), Batman!" whenever he encountered something startling.
The series utilized a narrator (producer William Dozier, uncredited) who parodied both the breathless narration style of the 1940s serials and Walter Winchell's narration of The Untouchables. He would end many of the cliffhanger episodes by intoning, "Tune in tomorrow — same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!"
Only two of the series' guest villains ever discovered Batman's true identity: Egghead by deductive reasoning, and King Tut on two occasions (once with a bug on the Batmobile and once by accidentally mining into The Batcave). Egghead was tricked into disbelieving his discovery, as was Tut in the episode when he bugged the Batmobile. In the episode when Tut tunnelled into the Batcave, he was hit on the head by a rock which made him forget his discovery and jarred him back into his identity as a mild-mannered Professor of Egyptology at Yale University. (He didn't even recognize Batgirl, asking her, "Why are you wearing that purple mask, lady?")
In Season 1, the dynamic duo, Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward), are super crime-fighting heroes, contending with the villains of Gotham City. It begins with the two-parter, "Hi Diddle Riddle" and "Smack in the Middle", featuring Frank Gorshin as The Riddler.
In Season 2, the show suffered from repetition of its characters and formula. In addition, critics noted that the series' delicate balance of drama and humor that the first season maintained was lost as the stories became increasingly farcical. This, combined with Lorenzo Semple Jr. contributing fewer scripts and having less of an influence on the series, caused viewers to tire of the show and for critics to complain, "If you've seen one episode of Batman, you've seen them all."
By Season 3, ratings were falling and the future of the series seemed uncertain. A promotional short featuring Yvonne Craig as Batgirl and Tim Herbert as Killer Moth was produced. The short was convincing enough to pick up Batman for another season, and introduced Batgirl as a regular on the show in an attempt to attract more female viewers. Batgirl's alter ego was Barbara Gordon, a mild-mannered librarian at the Gotham Library and Commissioner Gordon's daughter.[3] The show was reduced to once a week, with mostly self-contained episodes, although the following week's villain would be in a tag at the end of the episode, similar to a soap opera. Accordingly, the narrator's cliffhanger phrases were eliminated, but most episodes would end with him saying something to the effect of "Watch the next episode!"
Aunt Harriet was reduced to just two cameo appearances during the third season because of Madge Blake's poor health. (Aunt Harriet was also mentioned in another episode, but was not seen; her absence was explained by her being in shock upstairs.) The nature of the scripts and acting started to enter into the realm of the surrealistic. For example, the set's backgrounds became mere two-dimensional cut-outs against a stark black stage. In addition, the third season was much more topical, with references to hippies, mods, and distinctive 1960's slang, which the previous seasons avoided.
Near the end of the third season, ABC planned to cut the budget even further by eliminating Robin and Chief O'Hara, and making Batgirl Batman's full-time partner. Both Dozier and West vetoed this idea, and ABC cancelled the show. Weeks later, NBC offered to pick the show up for a fourth season and even restore it to its original twice-a-week format, if the sets were still available for use. However, NBC's offer came too late: Fox had already demolished the sets a week before. NBC had no interest in paying the $800,000 for the rebuild, so the offer was withdrawn.

January 12, 1971
The controversial situation comedy All in the Family debuts. 

Justice for All [1968][Unaired Pilot] by UnknownArchiveTV


All in the Family 01-01 - Meet the Bunkers by sleprocrut

The show, which was one of TV's top hits for much of its run, starred Carroll O'Connor as bigoted Archie Bunker; Jean Stapleton as his wife, Edith; and Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner as the couple's liberal daughter and son-in-law. The show changed the course of television by portraying the harsh realities of bigotry and racism and dealing with controversial subjects like birth control, rape, and politics. The show changed its name to Archie Bunker's Place in 1979, when the action shifted from the Bunkers' living room to the bar Archie owned.

January 12, 1981
Dynasty premieres on ABC. The oil tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) prepares to marry his former secretary, the beautiful and innocent Krystle (Linda Evans), in the three-hour television movie that kicks off the prime-time ABC soap opera Dynasty.
Over the next eight years, the Carringtons, a rich Denver oil clan, and another wealthy family, the Colbys, would form the center of the campy, glamorous universe that was Dynasty. Envisioned as bitter rivals, in the style of the Montagues and Capulets of Romeo and Juliet, the two families intermarried and plotted against each other with equal enthusiasm. At the beginning of the second season, as buzz around the show began to grow, the British actress Joan Collins entered the mix as Blake Carrington’s evil ex-wife, Alexis; her clash with the good girl Krystle became one of the central plotlines of the show. In one of the series’ more memorable moments, Alexis and Krystle had a catfight in a lily pond.
Dynasty’s elaborately melodramatic plot lines resembled those of the daytime soap operas (kidnappings, amnesia, characters returning from the dead, etc.) and its style fit perfectly with the over-the-top excesses of the 1980s. It was no wonder, as the show was produced partially by Aaron Spelling, the man behind such hit shows as The Mod Squad, Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. By the end of the 1982-83 season, Dynasty was fifth in the top-rated programs; it climbed to third place in 1983-84 and grabbed the number one spot in 1984-85. Its success spawned a short-lived spin-off, Dynasty II: The Colbys, and an entire line of licensed products such as clothing, bedding and perfume.
The over-the-top cliffhanger ending to the fourth season in May 1985 marked the beginning of the end, as the entire Carrington family gathered for a wedding in the fictional country of Moldavia. The festivities were disrupted by a terrorist attack, and while all of the main characters emerged unscathed, the show’s ratings began to drop precipitously. During its final season, 1988-89, Dynasty fell to a dismal 57th place and was unceremoniously dropped from the ABC lineup. Various plot lines were left unresolved, but disappointed fans got their long-awaited closure two years later, when ABC aired a two-part movie Dynasty: The Reunion in October 1991.

January 13, 1966
Elizabeth Montgomery’s character, Samantha, on Bewitched, had a baby. 

The baby's name was Tabitha.


January 14, 1976
Bionic Woman debuted on ABC.
The Bionic Woman is an American television series starring Lindsay Wagner that aired for three seasons between 1976 and 1978 as a spin-off from The Six Million Dollar Man. Wagner stars as tennis pro Jaime Sommers who is nearly killed in a skydivingaccident. Sommers' life is saved by Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) and Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin E. Brooks), by bionic surgical implants similar to those of The Six Million Dollar Man Steve Austin. As the result of Jaime's bionics, she has amplified hearing in her right ear, a greatly strengthened right arm, and stronger and enhanced legs which enable her to run at speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour.
The series proved highly popular worldwide, gaining high ratings in the US and particularly so in the UK (where it became the only Science fiction programme to achieve the No.1 position in the ratings during the 20th Century). The series ran for three seasons from 1976 to 1978 and was first shown on the ABC network and then the NBC network for its final season. Years after its cancelation, three spin-off TV movies were produced between 1987 and 1994. Reruns of the show aired on Sci-Fi Channel from 1997 to 2001. A remake of the series was produced in 2007.

January 15, 1981
Hill Street Blues begins run.
When the series first appeared, the police show had largely been given up for dead. Critics savaged stodgy and moralistic melodramas, and scoffed at lighter fare like Starsky and Hutch. Created by Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll, Hill Street Blues invigorated television, paving the way for more realistic and gritty fare.
Hill Street Blues was set in an anonymous northern city (the exteriors were actually filmed in Chicago) and was the first real attempt by television to portray police officers as fallible human beings. Each episode began with the 7 a.m. roll call led by Sergeant Esterhaus. He closed the roll call with his trademark refrain, "Let's be careful out there."

The series not only changed the way that Americans viewed police officers, it also revolutionized the television drama itself. The show resisted formula and introduced the ensemble cast. Whereas early cop shows like Dragnet and Adam-12 were centered around a couple of officers who always got their man by the end of the hour, the full squad house of regulars on Hill Street Blues rarely resolved cases in one episode.

Hill Street Blues was acclaimed through its entire run. When it ended in May 1987, it had set the records for most Emmys won in a single season and most nominations in one year.

January 16, 1976
Donny and Marie premieres. 

Music variety show Donny and Marie premieres, starring 18-year-old Donny Osmond and his 16-year-old sister, Marie. The show ran for only three years, but the brother and sister were reunited in 1998 with a daytime talk show.
January 17, 1966
NBC Television greenlights The Monkees. 

The inspiration came from the Beatles, the financing came from Screen Gems, the music came from Don Kirshner and the stars came from an exhaustive audition process that began with this ad in Daily Variety in September 1965:
Madness!!
Auditions
Folk & Rock Musicians-Singers
For Acting Roles in New TV Series
Running Parts for 4 Insane Boys, Age 17-21
The ad drew more than 400 young men to the offices of Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the young Hollywood producing team that would later make Easy Rider, but who for now were trying to milk the establishment rather than defy it. They spent the next four months shooting, cutting, market-testing, re-cutting and re-market-testing a comedy pilot they hoped would land them a network television deal. They got their green light on January 17, 1966, when the National Broadcasting Corporation ordered 32 episodes of The Monkees for its upcoming fall schedule.
The next eight months were a bit of a whirlwind for Rafelson and Schneider, for the team of songwriters and studio musicians assembled by Don Kirschner and, not least, for the four "insane boys" chosen to become the Monkees. Mickey Dolenz had never played a drum prior to being cast as "Mickey," and Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith had no acting experience prior to becoming "Peter" and "Mike." Davy Jones was already a triple-threat in the areas of acting, singing and being cute, but it had never been Rafelson and Schneider's intention to find such all-around professionals. "We wanted guys who could play themselves," Schneider explained to the press ahead of the NBC premiere of The Monkees in September 1966. "We didn't even look at actors, and we didn't look for experienced rock and roll groups."

The strategy, and indeed the entire grand scheme behind The Monkees, succeeded beyond all expectations. Not only did the television show find success against formidable competition in its time slot from Gilligan's Island, but the group that was a made-for-television knockoff of the Beatles soon had actual records that were outselling the Beatles themselves. Vincent Canby of the New York Times foresaw the commercial success of Rafelson and Schneider's creation the moment he witnessed the reaction of a crowd of preteen girls during a promotional appearance by the Monkees just three days before their network debut. "The Monkees' appearance yesterday afternoon at the Broadway," Canby wrote, "was just part of an elaborate campaign...to capture the teen-age imagination. The thoroughness of the campaign, as shown yesterday, might prompt renewed debate on the age-old question of free will. Do the teen-agers have a chance these days?"



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

 


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Tony Figueroa
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