Monday, May 15, 2017

This Week in Television History: May 2017 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.


May 19, 1992
Vice President Dan Quayle criticized the Murphy Brown character for "ignoring the importance of fathers by birthing a child alone".
 
In the show's 1991–1992 season, Murphy became pregnant. When her baby's father (ex-husband and current underground radical Jake Lowenstein) expressed his unwillingness to give up his own lifestyle to be a parent, Murphy chose to have the child and raise it alone. Another major fiction-reality blending came at Murphy's baby shower: the invited guests were journalists Katie Couric, Joan Lunden, Paula Zahn, Mary Alice Williams and Faith Daniels, who treated the fictional Murphy and Corky as friends and peers.
At the point where she was about to give birth, she had stated that "several people do not want me to have the baby. Pat Robertson; Phyllis Schlafly; half of Utah!" Right after giving birth to her son, Avery, Murphy sang the song "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin. This storyline made the show a subject of political controversy during the 1992 American presidential campaign. On May 19, 1992, then Vice President Dan Quayle spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. During his speech, he criticized the Murphy Brown character for "ignoring the importance of fathers by birthing a child alone".
Quayle's remarks caused a public discussion on family values, culminating in the 1992–93 season premiere, "You Say Potatoe, I Say Potato", where the television characters reacted to Quayle's comments and produced a special episode of FYI showcasing and celebrating the diversity of the modern American family. Because Quayle's actual speech made little reference to Murphy Brown's fictional nature (other than the use of the word character), the show was able to use actual footage from his speech to make it appear that, within the fictional world of the show, Quayle was referring to Murphy Brown personally, rather than to the fictional character. At the end, Brown helps organize a special edition of FYI focusing on different kinds of families then arranges a retaliatory prank in which a truckload of potatoes is dumped in front of Quayle's residence, while a disc jockey commenting on the incident notes the Vice President should be glad people were not making fun of him for misspelling "fertilizer", (On June 15, 1992, at a spelling bee in Trenton, New Jersey, Quayle had erroneously corrected an elementary school student's spelling of "potato" to "potatoe".) When Candice Bergen won another Emmy that year, she thanked Dan Quayle. The feud was cited by E! as #81 on its list of "101 Reasons the '90s Ruled."
In 2002, Bergen said in an interview that she personally agreed with much of Quayle's speech, calling it "a perfectly intelligent speech about fathers not being dispensable" and adding that "nobody agreed with that more than I did."
Quayle would eventually display a sense of humor about the incident—after the controversy died down, he appeared for an interview on an independent Los Angeles TV station and for his final question was asked what his favorite TV show was. He responded with "Murphy Brown—Not!" The station would later use the clip of Quayle's response to promote its showing of Murphy Brown re-runs in syndication.

May 20, 2007
The Simpsons airs 400th episode. 

The Simpsons was created by Matt Groenig, whose comic strip Life Is Hell caught the attention of the Hollywood producer James L. Brooks. Brooks enlisted Groenig to create a cartoon short that would run during the Fox sketch comedy series The Tracey Ullmann Show. Two of the show’s regulars, Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner, provided the voices for Homer and Marge Simpson, while Nancy Cartwright (who had originally auditioned for the role of their daughter, Lisa) landed the role of their troublemaking adolescent son, Bart. Lisa (voiced by Yeardley Smith) rounded out the speaking parts for the dysfunctional Simpson family, who made their debut on The Tracey Ullmann Show in April 1987. Brooks later convinced Barry Diller, Fox’s then-chief executive, to turn the shorts into a half-hour weekly series, to be developed by Brooks, Groenig and Sam Simon. The Simpsons debuted on Fox in December 1989 with a special Christmas episode, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.”
The first animated prime-time sitcom since The Flinstones in the 1960s, The Simpsons burst onto the scene during a period when most of the successful comedy series on television were family-friendly offerings such as The Cosby Show, Full House, Growing Pains and Family Matters. Offbeat and dysfunctional, The Simpsons offered a far different view of family life. Critics raved about the show and its edgy, pop-culture savvy humor from the beginning, and it became a huge ratings hit.
In 2005, The Simpsons became the longest-running sitcom ever, passing The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which ran for 14 seasons (1952-66). Over the years, the series racked up no fewer than 23 Emmy Awards, and was named by TIME magazine as the best show of all time in 1999 and as No. 1 on Entertainment Weekly’s list of New Classic TV Shows in 2008. Its incredible success paved the way for other adult-oriented animated series, notably Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill, The Family Guy and South Park.

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

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa
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