Monday, August 01, 2016

This Week in Television History: August 2016 PART I


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.

August 1, 1971
The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour debuts. The popular variety show, featuring music, comedy routines and sarcastic banter between vertically challenged Sonny and his statuesque wife, Cher.
Sonny and Cher had been singing and performing comedy in nightclubs for more than a decade. They released several hit records in the 1960s, most notably "I Got You, Babe," before launching their show. The series rated well and showcased future comedy stars, including Teri Garr and Steve Martin. 

Despite the show's popularity, the couple suffered marital problems and announced in the spring of 1974 that they were divorcing and would cancel the show. After divorcing in 1975, both Sonny and Cher tried and failed to launch solo comedy-variety shows. They revived their show together briefly in 1976 and 1977. Cher went on to a successful film career, winning the Best Actress Oscar for Moonstruck (1987). Bono later became a politician, serving as mayor of Palm Springs and a U.S. congressman.

August 1, 1981
MTV launches. MTV: Music Television goes on the air for the first time ever, with the words (spoken by one of MTV’s creators, John Lack): “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first music video to air on the new cable television channel, which initially was available only to households in parts of New Jersey. MTV went on to revolutionize the music industry and become an influential source of pop culture and entertainment in the United States and other parts of the world, including Europe, Asia and Latin America, which all have MTV-branded channels.
In MTV’s early days, its programming consisted of basic music videos that were introduced by VJs (video jockeys) and provided for free by record companies. As the record industry recognized MTV’s value as a promotional vehicle, money was invested in making creative, cutting-edge videos. Some directors, including Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Three Kings) and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), worked on music videos before segueing into feature films. In the 1980s, MTV was instrumental in promoting the careers of performers such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince and Duran Duran, whose videos played in heavy rotation.

By the late 1980s, MTV started airing non-video programming, geared toward teenagers and young adults. Its popular reality series The Real World launched in 1992 and was followed by such highly rated shows as The Osbournes, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, Laguna Beach, My Super Sweet 16 and The Hills. MTV also debuted animated series including Beavis and Butthead and Celebrity Deathmatch, as well as documentaries, news, game shows and public service campaigns on topics ranging from voting rights to safe sex. MTV developed a reputation for pushing cultural boundaries and taste; the airing of Madonna’s 1989 “Like a Prayer” video is just one famous example. In 1984, the channel launched the MTV Music Video Awards, which were followed in 1992 by the MTV Movie Awards. Today, MTV’s music-video programming is largely confined to one show, Total Request Live.

August 3, 1941
Martha Helen Stewart (née Kostyra) was born. 

Business magnate, television host, author and magazine publisher. As founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, she has gained success through a variety of business ventures, encompassing publishing, broadcasting, and merchandising. Stewart's syndicated talk show, Martha, is broadcast throughout the world, she has written numerous bestselling books, and she is the publisher of Martha Stewart Living magazine.

In 2001, Stewart was named the third most powerful woman in America by Ladies Home Journal. In 2004, she was convicted of lying to investigators about a stock sale and served five months in prison. Stewart began a strong comeback campaign in 2005, with her company returning to profitability in 2006.

August 5, 1956
Maureen Denise McCormick was born. 

Actress, reality show participant, and recording artist. She is best known as a child actor who played Marcia Brady in the television series The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974.


August 6, 1911
Lucille Ball was born. 

She became one of America's most beloved comic actresses, is born near Jamestown, New York. Her father, an electrician, died when Ball was two. By age 15, Ball had decided to attend drama school and become an actress. However, the shy, skinny teenager received little encouragement and was rejected at least four times from Broadway chorus lines before finally becoming a chorus girl in 1926. In 1933, she was hired as the Chesterfield cigarette girl and was featured in all the company's advertisements. Attracting attention with her Chesterfield ads, she finally began playing bit parts in Hollywood movies in 1933. By the late 1930s, the starlet had graduated to comic supporting roles. In 1940, she met Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz while shooting Too Many Girls. The couple married the following year.

Ball continued to land movie roles that didn't fully showcase her talent. Frustrated, she turned to radio and starred as a ditzy wife in My Favorite Husband from 1948 to 1951. CBS decided to launch the popular series on the relatively new medium of TV. Lucy insisted Desi be cast as her husband in the TV version, though the network executives argued that no one would believe the couple were married. Desi and Lucy performed before live audiences and filmed a pilot, convincing network executives that audiences responded well to their act, and CBS cast Desi for the show.

I Love Lucy became one of the most popular TV situation comedies in history, ranking in the top three shows for six years and turning the couple's production company, Desilu, into a multimillion-dollar business. Ball became president of the company in 1960, after she and Desi divorced. She also starred in several other "Lucy" shows, including The Lucy Show, which debuted in 1962 and ran for six seasons, and Here's Lucy, in which she starred with her two children until the show was cancelled in 1974. A later show, Life with Lucy, featuring Lucy as a grandmother, was cancelled after only eight episodes. Ball worked little in the last years of her life. She died of congestive heart failure in 1989, at the age of 78.
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To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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