Monday, March 06, 2017

This Week in Television History: March 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.

March 6, 1942 (1942-03-06)

Ben Murphy is born in Jonesboro, Arkansas

He is known for his role in the ABC television series Alias Smith and Jones, co-starring as Kid Curry, first with Pete Duel and later with Roger Davis.

Though born in Arkansas, Murphy grew up in Hinsdale, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. An alumnus of Benet Academy in Lisle, Illinois, he attended eight different colleges before deciding to pursue an acting career.

Murphy appeared in a supporting role in The Name of the Game, a series featuring a rotating leading cast including Tony Franciosa, Gene Barry, and Robert Stack. From 1971 to 1973, he starred in Alias Smith and Jones with Pete Duel (1971–1972) and Roger Davis (1972–1973). After Alias Smith and Jones, Murphy joined Lorne Greene in the 1973 ABC crime drama Griff. He played detective S. Michael "Mike" Murdock, assistant to Greene's character, Wade "Griff" Griffin, a Los Angeles retired police officer turned private eye. The series had some notable guest stars but folded after thirteen weeks.

In 1985, he co-starred as Department store heir, Paul Berrenger, on the short-lived drama, Berrenger's. His character was at odds with his former wife, Gloria (Andrea Marcovicci) and his own father, Simon (Sam Wanamaker) due to his romance with executive, Shane Bradley (Yvette Mimieux).
Murphy starred in in his own series Gemini Man, in which he played a character who could become invisible through the use of a watch. However, the show did not run beyond a single season. Murphy has since appeared in guest-starring parts, including having been a murder suspect in CBS's Cold Case.43

March 6, 1947
Hour Glass, the first regularly scheduled network variety hour, airs its last episode. The most ambitious television program to date, Hour Glass helped prove that television could provide high-quality entertainment as well as novelty programming.

Although commercial television had existed since 1941, World War II temporarily halted the growth of the medium. When Hour Glass premiered in 1946 on NBC, the network consisted of only three stations, in New York, Philadelphia, and Schenectady, and only a few thousand people owned television sets.
Hour Glass was the first hour-long entertainment series produced for network television, and it was hailed as the most ambitious production of its time. The series, well funded by sponsor Standard Brands, featured elaborate sets and respected performers like Peggy Lee and ventriloquist Edgar Bergen--previous television efforts had usually featured second-rate vaudeville performers. At first, the sponsor's live commercials ran between two and four minutes but were later shortened. The show was the first to feature a regular weekly host--Helen Parrish, who was succeeded by Eddie Mayehoff.
Hour Glass raised interest in regularly scheduled entertainment programming, and several other network series began to follow suit in 1946. However, it was more than a year after Hour Glass went off the air before another company agreed to sponsor a big-budget variety show. That show was Texaco Star Theater, featuring host Milton Berle. The show launched the "vaudeo" era in television history, where variety shows featuring successful vaudeville acts made TV stars out of performers like Eddie Cantor, Ed Sullivan, Bob Hope, and Abbott and Costello.

March 6, 1947
Rob Reiner born in New York City.
Reiner was the son of Carl Reiner, then a regular on Sid Caesar’s famous television comedy program Your Show of Shows and its follow-up, Caesar’s Hour, where he had worked with such talented comedy writers as Mel Brooks, Neil Simon and Woody Allen. When Rob was 12, his family moved to Los Angeles, and he began his own acting career as a teenager, appearing in community theater productions and episodes of the TV program Alfred Hitchcock Presents… before co-founding The Session, an improvisational comedy troupe. On the big screen, Reiner debuted in Enter Laughing (1967), directed by his father from a script based on his autobiographical novel.
The younger Reiner’s big career break came in 1971, when he began appearing on the hit TV sitcom All in the Family. Reiner won two Emmy Awards (1974 and 1978) for his portrayal of Michael “Meathead” Stivic, the liberal, hippieish son-in-law of Carroll O’Connor’s stubbornly bigoted Archie Bunker. 

Also in 1971, Reiner married the comedic actress Penny Marshall; the couple appeared together in recurring guest spots on The Odd Couple, produced by Penny’s brother Garry Marshall, and in a TV movie, More Than Friends (1978), which they co-wrote. Marshall and Reiner divorced in 1979.
In 1984, Reiner launched his career as a film director with the cult hit This is Spinal Tap, a satirical “mockumentary” about a fictitious rock band. Though his follow-up effort, The Sure Thing (1985), made little noise at the box office, Reiner scored massive hits with his next two pictures: 1986’s Stand By Me, a coming-of-age tale based on a Stephen King story, and 1987’s The Princess Bride, a hilarious take on the romantic fairy tale-fantasy genre. With his reputation in Hollywood now well established, Reiner co-founded his own production company, Castle Rock Entertainment, in 1987. (It was named for a town in one of King’s novel.) Castle Rock’s first feature was Reiner’s most successful film to date, the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally… (1989).
With Castle Rock, Reiner also directed the acclaimed hits Misery (1990) and A Few Good Men (1992), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. His next few films varied between hits (1995’s The American President) and misses (1994’s North, 1996’s Ghosts of Mississippi and 1999’s The Story of Us). After several years without releasing a film--during which he increasingly immersed himself in political activism in California, on behalf of such causes as early childhood development and environmental efforts--Reiner came back with two relative disappointments, Alex and Emma (2003) and Rumor Has It (2005). In 2007, he directed Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in The Bucket List.
In addition to directing and producing, Reiner maintained an acting career over the years, appearing in supporting roles in such films as Postcards from the Edge (1990), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Bullets Over Broadway (1994), Primary Colors (1998) and The Majestic (2001). He also appeared in some of his own movies, including The Story of Us and Alex and Emma.

Reiner and his second wife, Michele, married in 1989; they have three children.

March 10, 1997
Buffy the Vampire Slayer first airs
Buffy's creator, Joss Whedon, developed the series from an original script he had written for the big screen a number of years earlier. The 1992 movie, starring Kristy Swanson and directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui, had disappointed Whedon by turning his edgy story with its powerful female heroine into too much of a silly comedy. When he was approached about creating a television series based on his original script, Whedon jumped at the chance. For the TV series, he went with the concept of "high school as a horror movie" and re-created his darker version of Buffy. The result was a blend of drama, romance, comedy, action and horror unique on network television. Whedon served as an executive producer throughout the show's run and was heavily involved in its writing; he also directed a number of episodes.
Sarah Michelle Gellar, a Daytime Emmy Award winner for her work on the soap opera All My Children, took on the lead role of Buffy Summers, the perky cheerleader who is also her generation's Chosen One, the only person on Earth with the power to defeat vampires. In the Buffy universe, Sunnydale High School in Sunnydale, California, sits atop a "Hellmouth," an entrance point for evil demons, and Buffy's constant battling of undead ghouls served as a supernatural allegory for surviving the real-life challenges of high school and adolescence.
Though ratings peaked during the second and third seasons, the show was consistently well reviewed by critics throughout its six-and-a-half-year run. As one of the edgiest offerings amid a growing WB line-up that included Dawson's Creek, 7th Heaven and Felicity, Buffy's success helped establish the network as a staple among teenage and young adult TV viewers. After 2001, Buffy moved to the WB's competitor, United Paramount Network (UPN). Gellar decided not to renew her contract after the seventh season, and the show aired its final episode in May 2003.
With Buffy Summers hailed by fans and critics as a feminist hero, Gellar made the transition to the big screen with roles in films such as Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cruel Intentions and Scooby Doo.  Other breakout stars of the show were Alyson Hannigan, later known for the American Pie movies and the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother, and Seth Green, who left the show after less than three seasons to pursue big-screen stardom, appearing in the Austin Powers movie franchise. A Buffy spin-off on the WB, Angel, starred David Boreanaz. Though the show didn't spark the same amount of frenzied enthusiasm as Buffy, it attracted a small but devoted fan base.
After the demise of Angel in 2004, rumors swirled about future TV spin-offs, movie adaptations and even an animated Buffy series. In the meantime, DVD sales and Whedon-produced comic book series have kept Slayer-mania alive.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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