Saturday, September 18, 2021

This Week in TV History Columbo at 50

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Norm Macdonald

It's a very odd thing with Hollywood, where you do stand-up, you're good at it, then they go, 'How would you like to be a horrible actor?' Then you say, 'All right, that sounds good. I'll do that.'
-Norm MacDonald

Norman Gene Macdonald

October 17, 1959 – September 14, 2021

Norm Macdonald died from cancer in Los Angeles on September 14, 2021, at age 61. He had been diagnosed with the disease nine years prior. He had shared his diagnosis with a few trusted friends, but had not publicly disclosed it.

Macdonald's first performances in comedy were at stand-up clubs in Ottawa, regularly appearing on amateur nights at Yuk Yuk's in 1985. Following an appearance at the 1986 Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, he was heralded by the Montreal Gazette as, "One of this country's hottest comics."[15] By 1990, he would perform as a contestant on Star Search. He was hired as a writer for the Roseanne television sitcom for the 1992–93 season before quitting to join Saturday Night Live.

Macdonald joined the cast of NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL) television program in 1993, where he performed impressions of Larry KingBurt ReynoldsDavid LettermanQuentin TarantinoCharles Kuralt, and Bob Dole, among others. The following year during the show's twentieth season, Macdonald anchored the segment "Weekend Update". Current "Weekend Update" anchor and writer Colin Jost named Macdonald as a primary influence on Jost's own work behind the "Update" desk, explaining that Macdonald's tone was one that he grew up with in high school.

Macdonald's version of "Weekend Update" often included references to prison rape, crack whores, and the Germans' love of Baywatch star David Hasselhoff. He would occasionally deliver a piece of news, then take out his personal compact tape recorder and leave a "note to self" relevant to what he just discussed. He commonly used Frank Stallone as a non-sequitur punchline.[19]

Macdonald repeatedly ridiculed public figures such as Bob DoleMarion BarryBill ClintonMichael Jackson, and O. J. Simpson. Throughout Simpson's murder trial, Macdonald constantly pilloried the retired American football star, with the premise Simpson was guilty of the brutal slaying of his ex-wife and her friend. On October 7, 1995, the first SNL episode after Simpson's acquittal on the 3rd, Macdonald opened Saturday Night's 'Weekend Update' by saying, "Well, it's finally official; murder is legal in the state of California."

After the announcement that Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley planned to divorce, Macdonald joked about their irreconcilable differences on 'Weekend Update.' "According to friends, the two were never a good match. She's more of a stay-at-home type, and he's more of a homosexual pedophile." He followed this up a few episodes later with a report about the singer's collapse and hospitalization. Referring to a report of how Jackson had decorated his hospital room with giant photographs of Shirley Temple, Norm stated, "In case viewers are confused, we'd like to remind you that Michael Jackson is in fact a homosexual pedophile."

In early 1998, Don Ohlmeyer, president of NBC's West Coast division, had Macdonald removed as "Weekend Update" anchor, citing a decline in ratings and a drop-off in quality. Macdonald was replaced by Colin Quinn at the "Weekend Update" desk beginning on the January 10, 1998, episode.

Macdonald and others believed that the true reason for his dismissal was his series of O. J. Simpson jokes during and after the trial, frequently calling him a murderer; Ohlmeyer was a good friend of Simpson and supported him during the proceedings.

Good Night Norm

Stay Tuned
Tony Figueroa

Monday, September 13, 2021

This Week in Television History: September 2021 PART II

October 14, 1971

John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared on The Dick Cavett Show on ABC to promote Lennon's new LP and film ("Imagine"), Yoko's book, two films and a fine arts show. 

September 13, 1976

The Muppet Show Premiered 

Jim Henson's felt creations had two pilots in the preview two years, but it was not until '76 that the series took off. Many notable MeTV faces played host on the madcap variety show, from Jim Nabors on episode two to Florence Henderson on episode nine. Oh, and Lynda Carter had an awesome appearance, too. Check out nine MeTV stars who hosted The Muppet Show.

September 15, 1971

Columbo first aired as a regular series

After two pilot episodes, the show originally aired on NBC from 1971 to 1978 as one of the rotating programs of The NBC Mystery Movie. Columbo then aired less regularly on ABC beginning in 1989 under the umbrella of The ABC Mystery Movie. The last episode was broadcast in 2003 as part of ABC Thursday Night at the Movies.

In almost every episode the audience sees the crime unfold at the beginning and knows the identity of the culprit, typically an affluent member of society. Once Columbo enters the story (he rarely appears in the first act), viewers watch him solve the case by sifting through the contradictions between the truth and the version presented to him by the killer(s). This style of mystery is sometimes referred to as a "howcatchem", in contrast to the traditional whodunit. In structural analysis terms, the majority of the narrative is therefore dénouement, a feature normally reserved for the very end of a story. Episodes tend to be driven by their characters, the audience observing the criminal's reactions to Columbo's increasingly intrusive presence. The explanation for the crime and its method having played out as part of the narrative, most of the stories simply end with the criminal's reaction at being found out.

When Columbo first appears in an episode, his genius is hidden by his frumpy, friendly and disarming demeanor, luring the killer into a false sense of security. In some cases, the killer's arrogance and dismissive attitude allow Columbo to manipulate his suspects into self-incrimination. While the details, and eventually the motivation(s), of the murderers' actions are shown to the viewer, Columbo's true thoughts and intentions are almost never revealed until close to the end of the episode (he occasionally begins to whistle the tune "This Old Man" as the pieces begin to fall into place). Columbo generally maintains a friendly relationship with the murderer until the end. The point at which the detective first begins to suspect the murderer is generally not revealed, although it is often fairly early on. There are two sides to Columbo's character: the disarming and unkempt detective, and the hidden genius sleuth. The genius sometimes starkly manifests itself through his eyes, as when Jack Cassidy's magician, The Great Santini, manages to escape from police handcuffs that Columbo coyly presents him during Santini's show ("Now You See Him..."). Such moments always bode bad tidings for the killer. In some instances, such as Ruth Gordon's avenging elderly mystery writer in "Try and Catch Me", Janet Leigh's terminally ill and deluded actress in "Forgotten Lady", Donald Pleasence's elegant vintner in "Any Old Port in a Storm", and Johnny Cash's enserfed singer in "Swan Song", the killer is more sympathetic than the victim.

Each case is generally concluded in a similar style, with Columbo dropping any pretense of uncertainty and sharing details of his conclusion of the killer's guilt. Following the killer's reaction, the episode generally ends with the killer confessing or quietly submitting to arrest. There are few attempts to deceive the viewer or provide a twist in the tale. One convoluted exception is "Last Salute to the Commodore", where Robert Vaughn is seen elaborately disposing of a body, but is proved later to have been covering for his alcoholic wife, whom he mistakenly thought to be the murderer. Sometimes, Columbo sets up the murderer with a trick designed to elicit a confession. An example occurs in "Dagger of the Mind", in which Columbo flips an evidentiary pearl into the victim's umbrella, bringing about incriminating activity from Richard Basehart and Honor Blackman. Oddly, the Hallmark Channel's replay of the episode (2020) edits out the revealing scene, thus completely altering the meaning of the ending of the episode.

September 15, 1986

NBC aired the pilot episode of L.A. Law.

Created by Steven Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher, it contained many of Bochco's trademark features including an ensemble cast, large number of parallel storylines, social drama, and off-the-wall humor. It reflected the social and cultural ideologies of the 1980s and early 1990s, and many of the cases featured on the show dealt with hot-topic issues such as capital punishmentabortionracismgay rightshomophobiasexual harassmentAIDS, and domestic violence. The series often also reflected social tensions between the wealthy senior lawyer protagonists and their less well-paid junior staff.

In addition to its main cast, L.A. Law was also well known for featuring then relatively unknown actors and actresses in guest starring roles, who later went on to greater success in film and television including: Don CheadleJeffrey TamborKathy BatesDavid SchwimmerJay O. SandersJames AveryGates McFadden,Bryan CranstonC.C.H. PounderKevin SpaceyRichard SchiffCarrie-Anne MossWilliam H. MacyStephen RootChristian Slater, and Lucy Liu. Several episodes of the show also included celebrities such as Vanna White,Buddy Hackett and Mamie Van Doren appearing as themselves in cameo roles.

The show was popular with audiences and critics, and won 15 Emmy Awards throughout its run, four of which were for Outstanding Drama Series.

September 17, 1951

Cassandra Peterson is born. 

The actress s best known for her on-screen horror hostess character Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. She gained fame on Los Angeles television station KHJ wearing a black, gothic, cleavage-enhancing gown as host of Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation. Her wickedly vampish appearance was offset by her comical character, quirky/quick-witted personality, and valley girl-type speech. 

September 17, 1966
Mission: Impossible Premiered
Interesting that Star Trek and Mission: Impossible were Desilu productions premiering so close together, and today they both continue to be major Hollywood franchises for Bad Robot Productions. The pilot is of note because the self-destructing message was delivered on a vinyl LP, not a tape. It was also the only episode to be written by creator Bruce Geller. 

September 17, 1991

The first episode of Home Improvement aired on ABC. 

The series centers on the Taylor family, which consists of Tim (Tim Allen), his wife Jill (Patricia Richardson) and their three children: the oldest child, Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), the middle child Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) and youngest child, Mark (Taran Noah Smith). The Taylors live in suburban Detroit, and have a neighbor named Wilson Wilson (Earl Hindman) who is often the go-to guy for solving the Taylors' problems.

Tim is a stereotypical American male, who loves power toolscars and sports. In particular, he is an avid fan oflocal Detroit teams. In numerous instances Tim wears LionsPistons, and Tigers clothing, and many plots revolve around the teams. He is a former salesman for the fictional Binford Tool company, and is very much a cocky, overambitious, accident-prone know-it-all. Witty but flippant, Tim jokes around a lot, even at inappropriate times, much to the dismay of his wife. However, Tim can sometimes be serious when necessary. Jill, Tim's wife, is loving and sophisticated, but not exempt from dumb moves herself. in later seasons she returns to college to study psychology. Family life is boisterous for the Taylors with the two oldest children, Brad and Randy, tormenting the much younger Mark, all while continually testing and pestering each other. Such play happened especially throughout the first three seasons, and was revisited only occasionally until Jonathan Taylor Thomas left at the beginning of the eighth season. During the show's final season, Brad and Mark became much closer due to Randy's absence.

Brad, popular and athletic, was often the moving factor, who engaged before thinking, a tendency which regularly landed him in trouble. Randy, a year younger, was the comedian of the pack, known for his quick-thinking, wisecracks, and smart mouth. He had more common sense than Brad but was not immune to trouble. Mark was somewhat of a mama's boy, though later in the series (in the seventh season) he grew into a teenage outcast who dressed in black clothing. Meanwhile, Brad became interested in cars like his father and took up soccer. Randy joined the school drama club, and later the school newspaper; in the eighth season, he left for Costa Rica.

Each episode includes Tim's own Binford-sponsored home improvement show, called Tool Time, a "meta-program," or show-within-a-show. In hosting this show, Tim is joined by his friend and mild-mannered assistant Al Borland (Richard Karn), and a "Tool Time girl" — first Lisa (Pamela Anderson) and later Heidi (Debbe Dunning) — whose main duty is to introduce the pair at the beginning of the show with the line "Does everybody know what time it is?" The Tool Time girl also assists Tim and Al during the show by bringing them tools.

Although revealed to be an excellent salesman and TV personality, Tim is spectacularly accident prone as a handyman, often causing massive disasters on and off the set, to the consternation of his co-workers and family. Many Tool Time viewers assume that the accidents on the show are done on purpose, to demonstrate the consequences of using tools improperly. Many of Tim's accidents are caused by his devices being used in an unorthodox or overpowered manner, designed to illustrate his mantra "More power!". This popular catchphrase would not be uttered after Home Improvement's seventh season, until Tim's last line in the series finale.

Tool Time was conceived as a parody of the PBS home-improvement show This Old House. Tim and Al are caricatures of the two principal cast members ofThis Old House, host Bob Vila and master carpenter Norm Abram. Al Borland has a beard and always wears plaid shirts when taping an episode, reflecting Norm Abram's appearance on This Old House. Bob Vila appeared as a guest star on several episodes of Home Improvement, while Tim Allen and Pamela Anderson both appeared on Bob Vila's show Home Again.

The Tool Time theme music, an early 1960s-style saxophone-dominated instrumental rock tune, was sometimes used as the closing theme music for Home Improvement, especially when behind the credits were running the blooper scenes that took place during the taping of a Tool Time segment.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Your Mental Sorbet: "WKRP 50th Anniversary Special"


Here is another
that we could use to momentarily forget about those
things that leave a bad taste in our mouths

This is the debut episode of "The New WKRP in Cincinnati" titled "WKRP 50th Anniversary" (also known as "How Did We Get Here?"), first broadcast in syndication on September 7, 1991. "The New WKRP in Cincinnati" aired in syndication from 1991-1993. General Manager Mr. Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump) is being interviewed by investigative reporter Bernard Rosser (Mark L. Taylor) to commemorate WKRP's 50th anniversary on the air. This clip show features many of the classic moments of the original series, and it sets up "The New WKRP in Cincinnati" series.

Image result for wash your hands gif

Stay Tuned and Wash Your Hands 

Tony Figueroa

Monday, September 06, 2021

This Week in Television History: September 2021 PART I


September 8, 1966

Star Trek premieres. 

Although Star Trek ran for only three years and never placed better than No. 52 in the ratings, Gene Roddenberry's series became a cult classic and spawned four television series and ten movies.

The first Star Trek spin-off was a Saturday morning cartoon, The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, which ran from 1973 to 1975 (original cast members supplied the voices). The TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired in 1987 and was set in the 24th century, starring the crew of the new, larger U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D, captained by Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart). This series became the highest-rated syndicated drama on television and ran until 1994.

Another spin-off, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, premiered in 1992, featuring a 24th-century crew that lived in a space station rather than a starship. Star Trek: Voyager, which debuted in 1995 and ran until 2001, was the first to feature a female captain, Kathryn Janeway (played by Kate Mulgrew). In this series, the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager is stranded more than 70,000 light years from Federation space and is trying to find its way home. The final spin-off to air on TV was Enterprise, which premiered in the United States on September 26, 2001. The final two episodes of that show aired in May 2005.

September 8, 1966

That Girl primeried. 

The sitcom ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971 and starred Marlo Thomas as the title character Ann Marie, an aspiring (but only sporadically employed) actress, who moves from her hometown of Brewster, New York to try to make it big in New York City. Ann has to take a number of offbeat "temp" jobs to support herself in between her various auditions and bit parts. Ted Bessell played her boyfriend Donald Hollinger, a writer forNewsview MagazineLew Parker and Rosemary DeCamp played Lew Marie and Helen Marie, her concerned parents. Bernie KopellRuth Buzzi and Reva Rose played Ann and Donald's friends. That Girl was developed by writers Bill Persky and Sam Denoff, who had served as head writers on The Dick Van Dyke Show (with which Thomas's father, Danny Thomas, was closely associated) earlier in the 1960s.

Each episode begins with a pre-credits teaser in which an odd incident occurs or a discussion foreshadows the episode's story. The scene almost always ends with someone exclaiming "...that girl!", just as Ann wanders into the shot or the character notices her. The words "That Girl" would appear over the freeze-frame shot of Ann. The opening credits during the first season featured Thomas, in character, strolling the streets of New York. From the second season forward, the opening shot was the view from a Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train crossing the New Jersey Meadowlands between Newark andPenn Station near Laurel Hill Park, then Thomas flying a kite in Central Park, and seeing (and exchanging winks with) her double in a store window. Lyrics were added to the theme for the final season, written by series co-creator Sam Denoff, sung by Ron Hicklin.

That Girl was one of the first sitcoms to focus on a single woman who was not a domestic or living with her parents. Some consider this show the forerunner of the highly successful Mary Tyler Moore ShowMurphy Brown, and Ally McBeal, and an early indication of the changing roles of American women in feminist-era America. Thomas's goofy charm, together with Bessell's dry wit, made That Girl a solid performer on the ABC Television Network, and while the series, in the overall ratings, never made the top thirty during its entire five-year run, the series did respectably well.

At the end of the 1969–1970 season, That Girl was still doing moderately well in the ratings; however, after four years, Thomas had grown tired of the series and wanted to move on. ABC convinced her to do one more year. In the beginning of the fifth season, Don and Ann became engaged, although they never actually married. The decision to leave the couple engaged at the end of the run was largely the idea of Thomas herself. She did not want to send a message to young women that marriage was the ultimate goal for them and she was worried that it would have defeated the somewhat feminist message of the show. 

September 8, 1986

The Oprah Winfrey Show is broadcast nationally for the first time. 

A huge success, her daytime television talk show turns Winfrey into one of the most powerful, wealthy people in show business and, arguably, the most influential woman in America.

Winfrey, who was born in rural Mississippi to a poor unwed teenage mother on January 24, 1954, began her TV career as a local news anchor in Nashville and Baltimore before moving to Chicago in 1984 to host a low-rated morning talk program. She quickly turned the show into a ratings winner, beating out a popular talk program hosted by Phil Donahue. At the urging of the Chicago-based movie critic Roger Ebert, Winfrey signed a syndication deal with King World and The Oprah Winfrey Show was broadcast nationally for the first time on September 8, 1986. It went on to become the highest-rated talk show in TV history.

Proving that talk-show host wasn’t the only role she could play, Winfrey made her big-screen debut as Sofia in director Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple(1985), based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name and co-starring Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover. The film earned Winfrey a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, although she lost the gold statue to Anjelica Huston (Prizzi’s Honor). Winfrey went on to star in and produce in 1998’s Beloved, based on Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and voice characters for 2006’s Charlotte’s Web and 2007’s Bee Movie, which co-starred and was co-written by Jerry Seinfeld. In addition to TV and film, Winfrey became a true media mogul, branching out to books and magazines, radio, musical theater and the Web. In 2008, she announced plans to launch her own network, named OWN, in 2009.

In 2008, The Oprah Winfrey Show had an estimated weekly audience of some 46 million viewers in the United States and was broadcast around the world in 134 countries. Winfrey wields enormous influence when it comes to promoting products: A recommendation on her show can turn a book, movie or just about anything else into a bestseller, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the “Oprah Effect.”

September 9, 1926

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) was created by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). 

RCA chairman of the board Owen D. Young and president James G. Harbord announced the formation of the National Broadcasting Company, Inc., to begin broadcasting upon RCA's acquisition of WEAF on November 15. "The purpose of the National Broadcasting Company will be to provide the best programs available for broadcasting in the United States. ... It is hoped that arrangements may be made so that every event of national importance may be broadcast widely throughout the United States," announced M.H. Aylesworth, the first president of NBC, in the press release. Although RCA was identified as the creator of the network, NBC was actually owned 50% by RCA, 30% by General Electric, and 20% by Westinghouse. The network officially was launched at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, November 15, 1926.


September 9, 1966

The Green Hornet Premiered.

Though it followed and crossed over with BatmanThe Green Hornet struck a much different tone than its vigilante peers. The action and plots were taken seriously, though remained a joyous thrill thanks to Kato. Though it lasted just a season, the series made Bruce Lee a household name. The debut outing, "The Silent Gun," also introduced America to the Black Beauty, which remains on of the coolest vehicles in screen history.


September 9, 1956

Elvis Presley sang "Don't Be Cruel" and "Hound Dog" on Ed Sullivan's show Toast of the Town. 

Presley scandalized audiences with his suggestive hip gyrations, and Sullivan swore he would never book the singer on his show. However, Presley's tremendous popularity and success on other shows changed Sullivan's mind. Although Elvis had appeared on a few other programs already, his appearance on Ed Sullivan's show made him a household name.

September 9, 1986

Ted Turner presented the first of his colorized films on WTBS in Atlanta, GA.

Ted Turner presented the first of his colorized films -- on his superstation WTBS in Atlanta, GA. The first Hollywood classic to get the new look was "Yankee Doodle Dandy". Some people were opposed to the colorization process, where color is added to black-and-white movies. They felt the originals should be pristine -- that any change interferes with the original creativity. 

September 11th, 2001

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa