Monday, April 22, 2019
This Week in Television History: April 2019 PART IV
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.
April 23, 1939
Lee Majors is born Harvey Lee Yeary.
Film and voice actor, best known for his roles as Heath Barkley in the TV series The Big Valley (1965–69), as Colonel Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man (1973–78) and as Colt Seavers in The Fall Guy (1981–86).
In the late 1980s and 1990s, he reprised the role of Steve Austin in a number of TV movies, and appeared in a number of supporting, recurring and cameo roles in feature films and TV series, and lent his voice to a number of animated TV series andvideo games.
April 23, 1989
NBC aired the pilot episode of Baywatch.
Baywatch premiered on NBC in 1989, but was cancelled after only one season, when it placed 73rd out of 103 shows in the seasonal ratings, and also because the studio, GTG, went out of business. Due to high production costs, GTG was unable to finance the series any further.
Feeling the series still had potential, David Hasselhoff, one of the principal actors, along with creators and executive producers Michael Berk, Douglas Schwartz, and Gregory J. Bonann, revived it for the first-run syndication market in 1991. Hasselhoff was given the title of executive producer for his work on bringing the show back. The series was hugely successful, especially internationally.
April 26, 1989
Lucille Ball dies at age 78.
During her career, she and husband Desi Arnaz transformed TV, creating the first long running hit sitcom.
Ball was born in 1911 near Jamestown, New York, to an electrician and a concert pianist. Her father died when Ball was two. By age 15, Ball had decided to become an actress and attended drama school. However, the shy, skinny teenager received little encouragement and was rejected at least four times from Broadway chorus lines, although she eventually joined one in 1926. In 1933, she was hired as the Chesterfield cigarette girl and was featured in all the company's advertisements. Attracting attention with her Chesterfield ads, she finally began playing bit parts in Hollywood movies in 1933. By the late 1930s, the starlet had graduated to comic supporting roles. In 1940, she met Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz while shooting Too Many Girls. The couple married the following year.
Ball continued to land movie roles that didn't fully showcase her talent. Frustrated, she turned to radio and starred as a ditzy wife in My Favorite Husband from 1948 to 1951. CBS decided to launch the popular series on the relatively new medium of TV. Lucy insisted Desi be cast as her husband in the TV version, though the network executives said no one would believe the couple were married. Desi and Lucy performed before live audiences and filmed a pilot, convincing network executives that audiences responded well to their act, and CBS cast Desi for the show.
I Love Lucy became one of the most popular TV sitcoms in history, ranking in the top three shows for six years and turning the couple's production company, Desilu, into a multimillion-dollar business. Ball became president of the company in 1960, after she and Desi divorced. She also starred in several other "Lucy" shows, including The Lucy Show, which debuted in 1962 and ran for six seasons, and Here's Lucy, in which she starred with her two children until the show was cancelled in 1974. A later show, Life with Lucy, featuring Lucy as a grandmother, was cancelled after only eight episodes. Ball worked little in the last years of her life. She died of congestive heart failure following open-heart surgery earlier in the month.
April 29, 1944
Last "Our Gang" film released. Dancing Romeo, the last "Our Gang" film, is released on this day in 1944.
The first film, featuring a band of mischievous youngsters, was produced in 1922 by Hal Roach. Roach produced the short films until 1938, when he sold the rights to MGM. In all, more than 100 Our Gang films were made. Later, they were shown as TV comedies under the name "The Little Rascals."
To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".