Monday, September 12, 2016

This Week in Television History: September 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.

September 12, 1966
The Monkees first aired
The series follows the adventures of four young men (the Monkees) trying to make a name for themselves as rock 'n roll singers. The show introduced a number of innovative new-wave film techniques to series television and won two Emmy Awards in 1967. The program ended on Labor Day 1968 at the finish of its second season and has received a long afterlife in Saturday morning repeats (CBS and ABC) and syndication, as well as overseas broadcasts.
In the early 1960s, aspiring filmmakers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider had formed Raybert Productions and were trying to get a foot in the door in Hollywood. Inspired by the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night, the duo decided to develop a television series about a fictional rock 'n' roll group. In April, 1965, Raybert sold the series idea to Screen Gems, and by August, a pilot script titled "The Monkeys" was completed by Paul Mazursky andLarry Tucker. Rafelson has said that he had the idea for a TV series about a music group as early as 1960, but had a hard time interesting anyone in it until 1965, by which time rock and roll music was firmly entrenched in pop culture.
On September 8, 1965, trade publications Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter ran an ad seeking "Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series." As many as 400 hopefuls showed up to be considered as one of "4 insane boys." Fourteen actors from the audition pool were brought back for screen tests, and after audience research, Raybert chose their final four.
Micky Dolenz, son of screen actor George Dolenz, had prior screen experience (under the name "Mickey Braddock") as the 10-year-old star of the Circus Boy series in the 1950s. He was actively auditioning for pilots at the time and was told about the Raybert project by his agent.
Englishman Davy Jones was a former jockey who had achieved some initial success on the musical stage (appearing with the cast of Oliver! on The Ed Sullivan Show the night of the Beatles' live American debut). Already appearing in Columbia Pictures productions and recording for the Colpix record label, he had been identified in advance as a potential star for the series.
Texan Michael Nesmith, whose mother Bette Nesmith Graham had invented a correction fluid and founded the company that would become Liquid Paper, had served a brief stint in the U.S. Air Force and had also recorded for Colpix under the name "Michael Blessing." Nesmith was the only one of The Monkees who had come in based on seeing the trade magazine ad. He showed up to the audition with his laundry and impressed Rafelson and Schneider with his laid-back style and droll sense of humor. Nesmith also wore a woolen hat to keep his hair out of his eyes when he rode his motorcycle, leading to early promotional materials which nicknamed him "Wool Hat." The hat remained part of Nesmith's wardrobe, but the name was dropped after the pilot.
Peter Tork was recommended to Rafelson and Schneider by friend Stephen Stills at his own audition. Tork, a skilled multi-instrumentalist, had performed at various Greenwich Village folk clubs before moving west, where he worked as a busboy.
Rafelson and Schneider wanted the style of the series to reflect avant garde film techniques—such as improvisation, quick cuts, jump cuts, breaking the fourth wall, and free-flowing, loose narratives—then being pioneered by European film directors. Each episode would contain at least one musical "romp" which might have nothing to do with the storyline. In retrospect, these vignettes now look very much like music videos: short, self-contained films of songs in ways that echoed the Beatles' recent ventures into promotional films for their singles. They also believed strongly in the program's ability to appeal to young people, intentionally framing the kids as heroes and the adults as heavies.
Rafelson and Schneider hired novice director James Frawley to teach the four actors improvisational comedy. Each of the four was given a different personality to portray: Dolenz the funny one, Nesmith the smart and serious one, Tork the naive one, and Jones the cute one. Their characters were loosely based on their real selves, with the exception of Tork, who was actually a quiet intellectual. The character types also had much in common with the respective personalities of the Beatles, with Dolenz representing the madcap attitude of John Lennon, Nesmith affecting the deadpan seriousness of George Harrison, Tork depicting the odd-man-out quality of Ringo Starr, and Jones conveying the pin-up appeal of Paul McCartney.
A pilot episode was shot in San Diego and Los Angeles on a shoestring budget—in many scenes the Monkees wore their own clothes. Initial audience tests (which were just then being pioneered) produced very low responses.
The Monkees debuted September 12, 1966, on the NBC television network. The series was sponsored on alternate weeks by Kellogg's Cereals and Yardley of London.
To reduce noise on the set during filming, any of the four Monkees who was not needed in front of the cameras was locked into a converted meat locker. In DVD commentary, Tork noted that this had the added benefit of concealing any marijuana use that might be going on, although he admitted that he was the sole "serious 'head'" of the four of them. (In the 1980s, Tork gave up alcohol and marijuana use and has volunteered time to help people recovering from alcoholism.)
Due to the loosely scripted nature of the series, some episodes would come in too short for air. The producers decided to fill time with various "extras", including the Monkees' original screen tests and candid interviews with the group; these interviews usually lasted one minute, hence the frequent joke, "We're a minute short as usual," though the episode "Find The Monkees" featured a three-minute epilogue interview. Although the early episodes contained it, the show eventually bucked the trend of using a laugh track, which was standard practice at the time. Most of the episodes from Season 2 did not contain canned laughter, which NBC later cited as one of the reasons for cancelling the series. 

September 13, 1976
The Muppet Show Premiered 
Jim Henson's felt creations had two pilots in the preview two years, but it was not until '76 that the series took off. Many notable MeTV faces played host on the madcap variety show, from Jim Nabors on episode two to Florence Henderson on episode nine. Oh, and Lynda Carter had an awesome appearance, too. Check out nine MeTV stars who hosted The Muppet Show.

September 15, 1986
NBC aired the pilot episode of L.A. Law.
Created by Steven Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher, it contained many of Bochco's trademark features including an ensemble cast, large number of parallel storylines, social drama, and off-the-wall humor. It reflected the social and cultural ideologies of the 1980s and early 1990s, and many of the cases featured on the show dealt with hot-topic issues such as capital punishmentabortionracismgay rightshomophobiasexual harassmentAIDS, and domestic violence. The series often also reflected social tensions between the wealthy senior lawyer protagonists and their less well-paid junior staff.
In addition to its main cast, L.A. Law was also well known for featuring then relatively unknown actors and actresses in guest starring roles, who later went on to greater success in film and television including: Don CheadleJeffrey TamborKathy BatesDavid SchwimmerJay O. SandersJames AveryGates McFadden,Bryan CranstonC.C.H. PounderKevin SpaceyRichard SchiffCarrie-Anne MossWilliam H. MacyStephen RootChristian Slater, and Lucy Liu. Several episodes of the show also included celebrities such as Vanna White,Buddy Hackett and Mamie Van Doren appearing as themselves in cameo roles.
The show was popular with audiences and critics, and won 15 Emmy Awards throughout its run, four of which were for Outstanding Drama Series.

September 17, 1951
Cassandra Peterson is born. 

The actress s best known for her on-screen horror hostess character Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. She gained fame on Los Angeles television station KHJ wearing a black, gothic, cleavage-enhancing gown as host of Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation. Her wickedly vampish appearance was offset by her comical character, quirky/quick-witted personality, and valley girl-type speech.

 September 17, 1966 
Mission: Impossible Premiered: 
Interesting that Star Trek and Mission: Impossible were Desilu productions premiering so close together, and today they both continue to be major Hollywood franchises for Bad Robot Productions. The pilot is of note because the self-destructing message was delivered on a vinyl LP, not a tape. It was also the only episode to be written by creator Bruce Geller. 

September 17, 1991
The first episode of "Home Improvement" aired on ABC. 
The series centers on the Taylor family, which consists of Tim (Tim Allen), his wife Jill (Patricia Richardson) and their three children: the oldest child, Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), the middle child Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) and youngest child, Mark (Taran Noah Smith). The Taylors live in suburban Detroit, and have a neighbor named Wilson Wilson (Earl Hindman) who is often the go-to guy for solving the Taylors' problems.
Tim is a stereotypical American male, who loves power toolscars and sports. In particular, he is an avid fan oflocal Detroit teams. In numerous instances Tim wears LionsPistons, and Tigers clothing, and many plots revolve around the teams. He is a former salesman for the fictional Binford Tool company, and is very much a cocky, overambitious, accident-prone know-it-all. Witty but flippant, Tim jokes around a lot, even at inappropriate times, much to the dismay of his wife. However, Tim can sometimes be serious when necessary. Jill, Tim's wife, is loving and sophisticated, but not exempt from dumb moves herself. in later seasons she returns to college to study psychology. Family life is boisterous for the Taylors with the two oldest children, Brad and Randy, tormenting the much younger Mark, all while continually testing and pestering each other. Such play happened especially throughout the first three seasons, and was revisited only occasionally until Jonathan Taylor Thomas left at the beginning of the eighth season. During the show's final season, Brad and Mark became much closer due to Randy's absence.
Brad, popular and athletic, was often the moving factor, who engaged before thinking, a tendency which regularly landed him in trouble. Randy, a year younger, was the comedian of the pack, known for his quick-thinking, wisecracks, and smart mouth. He had more common sense than Brad but was not immune to trouble. Mark was somewhat of a mama's boy, though later in the series (in the seventh season) he grew into a teenage outcast who dressed in black clothing. Meanwhile, Brad became interested in cars like his father and took up soccer. Randy joined the school drama club, and later the school newspaper; in the eighth season, he left for Costa Rica.
Each episode includes Tim's own Binford-sponsored home improvement show, called Tool Time, a "meta-program," or show-within-a-show. In hosting this show, Tim is joined by his friend and mild-mannered assistant Al Borland (Richard Karn), and a "Tool Time girl" — first Lisa (Pamela Anderson) and later Heidi (Debbe Dunning) — whose main duty is to introduce the pair at the beginning of the show with the line "Does everybody know what time it is?" The Tool Time girl also assists Tim and Al during the show by bringing them tools.
Although revealed to be an excellent salesman and TV personality, Tim is spectacularly accident prone as a handyman, often causing massive disasters on and off the set, to the consternation of his co-workers and family. Many Tool Time viewers assume that the accidents on the show are done on purpose, to demonstrate the consequences of using tools improperly. Many of Tim's accidents are caused by his devices being used in an unorthodox or overpowered manner, designed to illustrate his mantra "More power!". This popular catchphrase would not be uttered after Home Improvement's seventh season, until Tim's last line in the series finale.
Tool Time was conceived as a parody of the PBS home-improvement show This Old House. Tim and Al are caricatures of the two principal cast members of This Old House, host Bob Vila and master carpenter Norm Abram. Al Borland has a beard and always wears plaid shirts when taping an episode, reflecting Norm Abram's appearance on This Old House. Bob Vila appeared as a guest star on several episodes of Home Improvement, while Tim Allen and Pamela Anderson both appeared on Bob Vila's show Home Again.
The Tool Time theme music, an early 1960s-style saxophone-dominated instrumental rock tune, was sometimes used as the closing theme music for Home Improvement, especially when behind the credits were running the blooper scenes that took place during the taping of a Tool Time segment.

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Tony Figueroa
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