Monday, September 19, 2016

This Week in Television History: September 2016 PART III

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 21, 2001
America: A Tribute to Heroes was shown on 35 separate broadcast and cable networks simultaneously. 

The telethon raised $150 million in pledges to benefit families of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. The pledges were made from September 21 through September 24, 2001. 

September 22, 1986
The TV show ALF debuted on NBC.
 ALF is an American science fiction sitcom that aired on NBC from September 22, 1986 to March 24, 1990. It was the first television series to be presented in Dolby Surround.
The title character is Gordon Shumway, a friendly extraterrestrial nicknamed ALF (an acronym for Alien Life Form), who crash lands in the garage of the suburban middle-class Tanner family. The series stars Max Wrightas father Willie Tanner, Anne Schedeen as mother Kate Tanner, and Andrea Elson and Benji Gregory as their children, Lynn and Brian Tanner. ALF was performed by puppeteer/creator Paul Fusco.
Produced by Alien Productions, ALF originally ran for four seasons and produced 99 episodes, including three one-hour episodes that were divided into two parts for syndication totaling 102 episodes.

September 23, 1951
The first transcontinental telecast was received on the west coast. The show Crusade for Freedom was broadcast by CBS-TV from New York. 

September 23, 1956
Mickey Dolenz began his television career in NBC's Circus Boy series.

He later became a member of the Monkees

September 23, 1961
Weekly TV movie program Saturday Night at the Movies debuts on NBC, starting with the 1953 film How to Marry a Millionaire. 

The program was the first major network initiative to broadcast recent movies on the air. Although movies from the 1930s and '40s had appeared on TV, the networks had resisted showing more recent films. Until the 1960s, a fierce rivalry existed between the television and movie industries, and neither wanted to promote the other. However, with the success of Saturday Night at the Movies, relatively recent films became a staple of TV programming.

September 23, 1976
The first season of Black Sheep Squadron began on NBC under the name Baa Baa Black Sheep

Baa Baa Black Sheep (later syndicated as Black Sheep Squadron) is a period military television series that aired on NBC from 1976 until 1978. Its premise was based on the experiences of United States Marine Corpsaviator Greg Boyington and his World War II "Black Sheep Squadron". The series was created and produced byStephen J. Cannell. The opening credits read: "In World War II, Marine Corps Major Greg 'Pappy' Boyington commanded a squadron of fighter pilots. They were a collection of misfits and screwballs who became the terrors of the South Pacific. They were known as the Black Sheep."

September 24, 1936
Muppet creator Jim Henson is born in Greenville, Mississippi.
Henson joined a puppet club in high school and used his skills to land a job at a local TV station between high school and college. His homemade puppets delighted audiences, and during his freshman year at the University of Maryland the TV station gave him his own five minute show, called Sam and Friends. The show ran twice a day, just before popular news show the Huntley-Brinkley Report and again before the Tonight Show with Steve Allen. Henson's program ran for eight years and won a local Emmy in 1958.
In 1955, Henson took an old green coat of his mother's, attached two halves of a ping-pong ball for eyes, and created a lizard-like character named Kermit, who later evolved into Kermit the Frog. Other familiar characters took shape on Sam and Friends, as Henson's Muppets multiplied. In 1957, Henson made the first of more than 300 TV commercials for Wilkins Coffee. In 1963 Rowlf the Dog became a regular on variety program The Jimmy Dean Show, which ran until 1966.
Henson showed an interest in filmmaking in the mid 1960s, making a short film called Timepiece in 1965, which was nominated for an Oscar. A few years later, he met Joan Ganz Cooney, a TV producer heading up a study of children and television at a seminar for educators in Boston. Ganz was formulating an idea for a kids' TV program she called The Preschool Educational Television Show, and she quickly persuaded Henson and his Muppets to join her. The show, with its new, snappier title, Sesame Street, was launched in 1969, and generations of children fell in love with Big Bird, Kermit the Frog, Ernie and Bert, Oscar the Grouch, Grover, Cookie Monster, and many other Henson creations.
After seven years of children's television, Henson wanted to explore more sophisticated possibilities for his Muppets. He shopped around an idea for a variety show starring Kermit, but none of the networks were interested. Undeterred, Henson created The Muppet Show as a syndicated series, which became the world's most watched TV show, with 235 million viewers in more than 100 countries. The program ran from 1976 to 1981 and won three Emmys. Meanwhile, the Muppets launched a movie career in 1979 with The Muppet Movie, followed by The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984).
Other, less familiar Henson creatures appeared in The Dark Crystal (1982) and Labyrinth (1986) with David Bowie, as well as in two cable TV series, Fraggle Rock and The Ghost of Faffner Hall. His Saturday morning cartoon, Jim Henson's Muppet Babies, was launched in 1984 and won four Emmys. Henson died of pneumonia in 1990.

September 24, 1961
The Bullwinkle Show premiered in prime time on NBC-TV. 

The show was originally on ABC in the afternoon as "Rocky and His Friends." 

September 24, 1966
"Last Train to Clarksville" gives the made-for-TV Monkees a real-life pop hit

When producers Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson conceived a situation comedy called The Monkees in 1965, they hoped to create a ratings success by blurring the line between pop music and television. Instead, they succeeded in obliterating that line entirely when the pop group that began as a wholly fictional creation went on to rival, however briefly, the success of its real-life inspiration, the Beatles. On this day in 1966, the made-for-television Monkees knocked down the fourth wall decisively when their first single, "Last Train To Clarksville" entered the Billboard Top 40.
"Last Train To Clarksville" was written by the team that was also responsible for the theme song of The Monkees, songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Though Boyce and Hart had been working together in Los Angeles for several years before being asked to write and record the soundtrack for Schneider and Rafelson's A Hard Day's Night-inspired pilot, their biggest success to date had been in writing minor hits for Chubby Checker and Paul Revere and the Raiders and in being commissioned to write the theme song for Days Of Our Lives. Their association with The Monkees would end up launching Boyce and Hart on a moderately successful career as performers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. By far their best-known hits, however, were the ones they wrote for the Monkees, including "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" and "Last Train To Clarksville."
Just as producers Schneider and Rafelson had reached out to a pair of industry professionals to create the music for the pilot episode of The Monkees, they engaged numerous others to create the other memorable songs in the Monkees' catalog. Under the musical direction of Don Kirshner, The Monkees featured hits by some of the era's greatest songwriters, including Neil Diamond, who wrote "I'm A Believer" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" (both 1967) and the great husband-and-wife team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, who wrote "Daydream Believer" (1967). Numerous other Monkees songs were written by such songwriting luminaries as Cynthia Mann and Barry Weill, Harry Nilsson and Carole Bayer Sager and Neil Sedaka.
By the time their third album was released, the real-life Monkees—Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork—had taken over creative control of their musical output, including taking on much of the songwriting. Although they would release seven more studio albums, none would contain hits as successful or memorable as the one that gave the group its breakthrough on September 24, 1966.
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To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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