Monday, January 01, 2018

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 1, 1943
Don Novello writer, film director, producer, actor, singer, and comedian is born. 
Novello is best known for his work on NBC's Saturday Night Live, from 1977 until 1980, and then 1985 until 1986, often as the character "Father Guido Sarducci". Novello has appeared as "Sarducci" on many television shows since then, including Married... with Children, Blossom, It's Garry Shandling's Show, Unhappily Ever After and Square Pegs. 

January 3, 1993
The first episode of Star Trek - Deep Space Nine aired.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (sometimes abbreviated to DS9) is a science fiction television series set in the Star Trek universe in the Milky Way galaxy, in the years 2369–2375. In contrast to other Star Trek TV shows, it primarily takes place on a space station rather than a starship, so as not to have two series with starships in the same time period; the series ran concurrently with Star Trek: The Next Generation during its first two seasons and with Star Trek: Voyager for the remainder of its run. The starship USS Defiant was introduced in season 3, but the Deep Space Nine space station remained the show's primary setting.
The show is noted for its well-developed characters, original and complex plots, religious themes, and for starring the only black captain in any of the televised Star Trek incarnations. Rather than following the classical Star Trek focus of space exploration, the show often showcased complex and darker social themes, and in later seasons, an emphasis on many aspects of war.
DS9 premiered in 1993 and ran for seven seasons until 1999. Although rooted in Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek universe, it was the first Trek spin-off created without Roddenberry's direct involvement, although he did give the concept his blessing shortly before his death in 1991.
DS9 began while Star Trek: The Next Generation was still on the air, and there were a few cameos featuring characters from either show (such as Picard's appearance in the DS9 pilot). The station appeared in TNG during the sixth-season episode "Birthright". In addition, two Next Generation characters, Miles O'Brienand (from season 4 onwards) Worf, became regular members of DS9. The station also appeared in the first part of the Voyager pilot episode, "Caretaker".
DS9 centers on the formerly Cardassian space station Terok Nor. After the Bajorans have liberated themselves from the long and brutal Cardassian Occupation, the United Federation of Planets is invited by the Bajoran Provisional Government to administer joint control of the station, which initially orbits Bajor. The station is renamed Deep Space Nine, and a Starfleet crew is assigned to manage it. Shortly after their arrival, the Starfleet crew discovers a stable wormhole in Bajoran space leading from the Alpha Quadrant to the Gamma Quadrant, and the station is moved to a strategic position near the wormhole's entrance to safeguard it from the Cardassians. Deep Space Nine and Bajor quickly become a center for exploration, interstellar trade, political maneuvering, and open conflict. Threats come not only from Cardassians, Klingons, and Romulans from the Alpha Quadrant, but later from the Dominion, an alliance of alien species from the Gamma Quadrant that take up arms alongside the Cardassians against the Federation and its allies starting in Season 3. Deep Space Nine becomes a key military base for the Federation in the Dominion War, and is assigned the starship USS Defiant to aid in its protection.
According to co-creator Berman, he and Piller considered setting the new series on a colony planet, but they felt a space station would appeal more to viewers, and would save the money required for a land-based show's on-location shooting. They did not want the show set aboard a starship because Star Trek: The Next Generation was still in production, and in Berman’s words, it "seemed ridiculous to have two shows—two casts of characters—that were off going where no man has gone before."
While its predecessors tended to restore the status quo ante at the end of each episode, allowing out-of-order viewing, DS9 contains story arcs that span episodes and seasons. One installment often builds upon earlier ones, with several cliffhanger endings. Michael Piller considered this one of the series' best qualities, allowing repercussions of past episodes to influence future events and forcing characters to "learn that actions have consequences." This trend was especially noticeable toward the series finale, by which time the show was intentionally scripted as a serial.
Unlike Star Trek: The Next Generation, interpersonal conflicts were prominently featured in DS9. This was at the suggestion of Star Trek: The Next Generation's writers, many of whom also wrote for DS9, who felt that Roddenberry's prohibition of conflicts within the crew restricted their ability to write compelling dramatic stories. In Piller's words, "People who come from different places—honorable, noble people—will naturally have conflicts".

January 5, 1998
Sonny Bono, Congressman and former half of the singing duo Sonny and Cher, is killed in a skiing accident. 

Born in 1935, Bono rose to fame in the early 1970s as the straight man to his wife in “The Sonny and Cher Show.” As a signer and songwriter he received ten gold records during his career but his biggest hit was undoubtedly 1965’s ”I Got You Babe.” He entered the political world in 1988 when he was elected mayor of Palm Springs. He was elected to Congress in 1994 as a Republican. He was 62.

January 6, 1963
Wild Kingdom premiered on NBC.
The original Wild Kingdom grew from discussions that started in 1962 between zoologist Marlin Perkins and V. J. Skutt, the chairman and CEO of insurance company Mutual of Omaha. The company had been the sponsor of an earlier animal-related show, Zoo Parade, that Perkins had hosted from 1952 until 1957. Also intimately involved with the creation of Wild Kingdom was Zoo Parade producer Don Meier, who was credited as the series' creator. Mutual of Omaha sponsored and lent its name to the new program.
Liz and Henk Maartens, from Irene, Pretoria in South Africa won five Emmy Awards for the documentary series Wild Kingdom in 1970. One Emmy Award was for camerawork while the other Emmy Awards were for aspects of production.
Wild Kingdom was first broadcast by NBC. The half-hour show aired on Sundays starting January 6, 1963 and continued until 1971, when the program entered first-run syndication. As a prime-time syndicated program, Wild Kingdom enjoyed great popularity. Although most of the programs aired after 1971 were repeats, new shows continued to be produced until 1987. Several episodes were filmed by cameraman Roy Pinney. Perkins was the host for most of the show's history until he was forced to retire in 1985 for health reasons. He died of cancer the following year at age 81 and Jim Fowler, Perkins' long-time assistant and sidekick, became the host.
One of Wild Kingdom's film editors, Bernard Braham, A.C.E., was offered membership with the American Cinema Editors in 1979 and won a prestigious EDDIE award in Hollywood for best documentary of the year, for the episode "Desert Spring". His competition for the award was a National Geographic episode titled "Gold". He was also nominated for several other awards.
Perkins often introduced commercial spots by tying them into the subject of the show. For example, at the end of a segment about lions, he might say something like, "Just as the mother lion protects her cubs, you can protect your children with an insurance policy from Mutual of Omaha..."
The format of the show often featured Perkins narrating off-camera, describing Fowler's on-camera work with the wild animals. This was commonly parodied as Perkins saying "I'll wait here [someplace safe] while Jim [does something or other with the dangerous animal]". However, according to a 1997 interview with Fowler, Perkins never said any such thing: according to Fowler, "Johnny Carson started the jokes about me and Marlin in his monologues".
Perkins often featured pet chimpanzees in the studio: one named "W.K." (Wild Kingdom); the other named "Mr. Moke", after the Mini Moke vehicle.
Wild Kingdom increased ecological and environmental awareness in the United States. Its exciting footage brought the wilds of Africa, the Amazon River and other exotic locales into the living rooms of millions of Americans. It created an interest in commercial nature programming that was a precursor to cable television networks such as the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.
The original series has not been seen since it went off the air. (Mutual of Omaha owns the rights to the series.) However, several episodes have now been released on DVD from BCI Eclipse (under license from Mutual of Omaha). Some episodes are also available on an official YouTube channel.
The success of "Wild Kingdom" led to several other wildlife documentary series going on the air, including Animal WorldWild, Wild, World Of Animals. and Lorne Greene's New Wilderness. But many fans of wildlife documentaries still consider "Wild Kingdom" the "gold standard" against which other such shows are compared.

January 6, 1973
The animated Saturday morning TV series of shorts called Schoolhouse Rock premieres on ABC with Multiplication Rock. 

The short musical cartoons featured lessons in math, history, science, grammar, and more, with classics like "Conjunction Junction," "Interjections," and "The Preamble to the Constitution."

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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