Monday, June 06, 2016

This Week in Television History: June 2016 PART II


 

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.

June 6, 1971
The Ed Sullivan Show airs for the very last time. 
Sunday nights, 8:00 pm, CBS. Ask almost any American born in the 1950s or earlier what television program ran in that timeslot on that network, and they'll probably know the answer: The Ed Sullivan Show. For more than two decades, Sullivan's variety show was the premiere television showcase for entertainers of all stripes, including borscht-belt comedians, plate-spinning vaudeville throwbacks and, most significantly, some of the biggest and most current names in rock and roll. Twenty-three years after its 1948 premiere, The Ed Sullivan Show had its final broadcast on this day in 1971.
In its first eight years of existence, there was no such thing as rock and roll to be featured on the program originally called Toast of the Town, yet even its first broadcast made music history when Broadway composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II gave the world its first taste of the score from their upcoming musical, South Pacific. Over the years, live performances of new and current Broadway shows were featured regularly on Ed Sullivan, including Julie Andrews singing "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" from My Fair Lady and Richard Burton singing "What Do The Simple Folk Do?" from Camelot. Classical and opera performers also made frequent appearances, but of course The Ed Sullivan Show is now remembered most for providing so many iconic moments in the history of televised rock and roll.
Elvis Presley's first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, in September 1956, was actually one of his most restrained and least thrilling. It was notable, however, given Ed Sullivan's assertion earlier that year that he'd never allow "The King" on his show. By the time the Beatles rolled around, Sullivan was far more comfortable with the hysteria young Elvis had caused. In fact, it was Ed Sullivan personally witnessing Beatlemania up close at London's Heathrow airport in 1963 that led the Beatles being booked for their historic February 1964 American television debut. Through the rest of the 60s, The Ed Sullivan Show continued to host the day's biggest rock acts: The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, The Doors, The Mamas and the Papas, Janis Joplin and more.
Gladys Knight and the Pips were the musical guests on the final episode of The Ed Sullivan Show, which was cancelled shortly after its rerun broadcast on this day in 1971.

June 9, 1961
Michael J. Fox was born, in Canada. 
He first became known for his role as Alex P. Keaton on the popular sitcom Family Ties, and went on to star in such films as Back to the Future and Teen Wolf as well as the TV series Spin City. In 1999, he announced that he was battling Parkinson's Disease. He left Spin City in 2000 but later guest starred on such shows as Scrubs and Boston Legal.
Quotes
My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.
– Michael J. Fox
Actor. Born Michael Andrew Fox, on June 9, 1961, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Fox began using the middle initial 'J' (presumably smoother-sounding than 'A') professionally to distinguish himself from another acting "Michael Fox." Michael J. Fox first achieved stardom in 1982, as the acquisitive Reagan-era poster-boy Alex P. Keaton on the popular television sitcom Family Ties.

Hailing from Canada, where he grew up the youngest of five children to Bill and Phyllis Fox, Michael struggled in school and was too small - he is five feet, four inches tall - to compete in his favorite activity, ice hockey. He found an outlet in drama class, and in 1976 made his professional debut in the CBS series Leo and Me at age 15 (playing a 10-year-old). After starring in the CBS movie Letters from Frank (also filmed in Canada), Fox dropped out of high school and drove to Los Angeles with his father. There, he found work in the series Palmerstown, U.S.A. before landing the role in Family Ties, where he wooed audiences with his confident charm and impeccable comic timing for seven years.
He also had enormous success on the big screen, playing Marty McFly in Robert Zemeckis' zany romp, Back to the Future (1985). After playing comic roles in Teen Wolf and The Secret of My Success, Fox wanted to broaden his range and took some unlikely dramatic turns, playing a factory worker in Light of Day, a cocaine-snorting fact checker in Bright Lights, Big City, and earning critical acclaim for his starring role alongside Sean Penn in Brian DePalma's Vietnam saga Casualties of War.
Audiences applauded Fox's return to Back to the Future, for sequels II and III in 1989 and 1990. His pitch-perfect portrayal of a George Stephanopoulos-type character in The American President (1995) earned Fox accolades once again, but it was his ceremonious return to prime time television in the ABC sitcom Spin City, which launched in 1996, that put Fox back where he belonged - delighting audiences on a weekly basis with a schedule that allowed him more time with his family. In 1999, he contributed his trademark voice and comic flare as the title character (a little white mouse) in the film adaptation of E.B. White's Stuart Little. Fox was honored with a star on the fabled Hollywood Walk of Fame in December 2002.
In late 1999, Fox made the startling announcement that he had been battling Parkinson's disease since 1991, and had even undergone brain surgery to alleviate tremors. Despite Spin City's incredible success and a showering of Emmy and Golden Globe awards, Fox announced in early 2000 that he would leave the show, which he also executive produced, to spend time with his family, and to concentrate on raising money and awareness for Parkinson's disease - including the May 2000 launch of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Fox won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his final season on Spin City, along with the respect and support of the entire Hollywood community.

In 2004, Fox guest starred in the television comedy Scrubs as Dr. Kevin Casey, a surgeon with obsessive-compulsive disorder. In 2006, he appeared in a recurring role on the drama Boston Legal. Fox was nominated for an Emmy Award for best guest appearance. In 2009, he appeared on the dark drama, Rescue Me, and his television special Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, based on his best-selling book by the same title, aired on ABC.

Fox married the actress Tracy Pollan (who played Ellen, Alex Keaton's girlfriend, on Family Ties) in 1988. The couple has four children: son Sam, twin girls Aquinnah and Schuyler, and daughter Esmé Annabelle.

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

 


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Tony Figueroa
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