Monday, January 02, 2017

This Week in Television History: January 2017 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.


January 2, 1962
Folk group The Weavers are banned by NBC after refusing to sign a loyalty oath. 

The Weavers, one of the most significant popular-music groups of the postwar era, saw their career nearly destroyed during the Red Scare of the early 1950s. Even with anti-communist fervor in decline by the early 1960s, the Weavers' leftist politics were used against them as late as January 2, 1962, when the group's appearance on The Jack Paar Show was cancelled over their refusal to sign an oath of political loyalty.
The importance of the Weavers to the folk revival of the late 1950s cannot be overstated. Without the group that Pete Seeger founded with Lee Hays in Greenwich Village in 1948, there would likely be no Bob Dylan, not to mention no Kingston Trio or Peter, Paul and Mary. The Weavers helped spark a tremendous resurgence in interest in American folk traditions and folk songs when they burst onto the popular scene with "Goodnight Irene," a #1 record for 13 weeks in the summer and fall of 1950. The Weavers sold millions of copies of innocent, beautiful and utterly apolitical records like "Midnight Special" and "On Top of Old Smoky" that year.
And then it came to light that members of the group had openly embraced the pacifism, internationalism and pro-labor sympathies of the Communist Party during the 1930s. When word of their political past spread, the backlash was swift. The Weavers' planned television show was canceled, the group was placed under FBI surveillance and Seeger and Hays were called to testify before Joseph McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee. The Weavers lost their recording contract with Decca in 1951, and by 1953, unable to book most concert venues and banned from appearing on television and radio, they disbanded.
The Weavers enjoyed a significant comeback in the late 1950s, but the group never shook its right-wing antagonists. On the afternoon of January 2, 1962, in advance of a scheduled appearance on The Jack Paar Show, the Weavers were told by NBC officials that their appearance would be canceled if they would not sign a statement disavowing the Communist party. Every member of the Weavers refused to sign.


January 3, 1932
Dabney Wharton Coleman is born. He is best known for his abrasive characters and his usually present mustache

Back on September 16, 1963, Coleman appeared in the series premiere of an ABC medical drama about psychiatry, Breaking Point with Paul Richards and Eduard Franz. He also was seen on two other medical dramas of that period, Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare.
Coleman was so in demand as a TV guest star that he did multiple episodes of popular series: The Fugitive (four), That Girl (nine), The Outer Limits (three), Barnaby Jones (five), Twilve O'Clock High (two) and The F.B.I. (nine), by way of example. Having played a detective in a 1973 episode of Columbo, Coleman 18 years later returned to that series in a leading role as a murderer.
He appeared as Mayor Merle Jeeter in the original Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976) and its spinoff of the following year, Fernwood 2 Night.

Many remember the actor for his starring roles in two TV cult classics, Buffalo Bill and The Slap Maxwell Story. Each of these series asked audiences to embrace Coleman's own charisma and comic timing as compensation for his character's lack of character, whether he be a conceited television host or a self-obsessed sportswriter.
In 1991, Coleman played public interest attorney William John Cox in the Turner Network Television dramatization of the "Holocaust Denial Case, Never Forget.
More recent television characters have a well-timed, dry wit, which seem to come to Coleman naturally. He played a more sympathetic one than usual in The Guardian and guest-starred on a 2009 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, more than 40 years since the actor's earliest work on TV.
In 1999, Coleman voice-acted in a number of episodes of the Disney Channel series Recess, playing a character named Principal Prickly.

January 3, 1952
Dragnet debuts, launching a long legacy of realistic police drama on TV. Dragnet, which began as a popular radio program in 1949, boosted the popularity of the series format on TV.
Until Dragnet's TV debut, variety shows and comedy hours had dominated prime time programming. Most television drama appeared on hour-long anthology shows like Kraft Television Theater, featuring unrelated stories and different casts every week. In fact, Dragnet itself first appeared on TV as a drama on an anthology show called Chesterfield Sound-Off Time in December 1951.
The brainchild of actor-director Jack Webb--who starred as Sgt. Joe Friday--Dragnet was one of the first series to be filmed in Hollywood, not New York. Webb narrated the shows in a deadpan, documentary style, turning "just the facts, ma'am" into a national catchphrase. Barton Yarborough, a cast member in the radio series, played Friday's sidekick Sgt. Ben Romero on TV but died of a heart attack shortly after the first telecast. Over the years, Friday had three different sidekick characters, played by Barney Phillips, Herb Ellis, Ben Alexander, and Harry Morgan.
Episodes were based on real cases from the Los Angeles Police Department, and each half-hour segment concluded with the capture of the perpetrator, followed by a short update on what happened at the suspect's trial. The show inspired two hit records in 1953, one based on the show's familar "dum-de-dum-dum" theme music. The other was a novelty song called "St. George and the Dragonet," which spoofed the show's opening monologue.
During Dragnet's first year, the show ran every other Thursday, then ran weekly until it ended in the fall of 1959. The show was resurrected in 1967 under the name Dragnet '67 a nd ran for another two years, dropping its emphasis on high-intensity crime to focus on citizens in distress and community service. In 1987, Dragnet was revived again, as a spoof, in a feature film starring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks. The TV show reappeared two years later as a syndicated series, airing in the 1989-90 season in New York and Los Angeles only, then nationally syndicated the following season.

January 3, 1997
Bryant Gumbel co-hosted his final Today show on NBC-TV

January 4, 1982
Bryant Gumbel moved from NBC Sports to the anchor desk where he joined Jane Pauley as co-host of the "Today" show on NBC.


January 7, 1982
FAME made it’s debut on NBC. 

The show is based on the 1980 motion picture of the same name. Using a mixture of drama and music, it followed the lives of the students and faculty at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts. Although fictional, it was based heavily on the actual Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York. Most interior scenes were filmed in Hollywood, California. In all seasons except the 3rd, the show filmed several exterior scenes on location in New York City.

The popularity of the series, particularly in the UK, led to several hit records and live concert tours by the cast. Despite its success, very few of the actors maintained high-profile careers after the series was cancelled. A number of the cast members were seen again briefly in Bring Back...Fame, a reunion special made for UK television in 2008.

January 8, 1912
José Ferrer is born José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón. 

Puerto Rican actor, as well as a theater and film director. He was the first Hispanic actor to win an Academy Award. Ferrer was born in the Santurce district of San Juan, Puerto Rico, the son of Maria Providencia Cintron and Rafael Ferrer, an attorney and writer. He studied in the Swiss boarding school Institut Le Rosey. 

In 1933, he graduated from Princeton University, where he wrote a senior thesis "French Naturalism and Pardo Bazán"; he was also a member of the Princeton Triangle Club.

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

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Tony Figueroa
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