Monday, September 30, 2013

This Week in Television History: October 2013 PART I

Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL:

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.

October 1, 1958
Kraft Television Theater broadcasts its last episode.  

Patterns was the first major breakthrough of Rod Serling when the live television drama received critical acclaim as the January 12, 1955 installment of the anthology series Kraft Television Theatre.
The influential show had first appeared in 1947. Kraft had discovered the value of entertainment sponsorship back in 1933, when it launched the radio program Kraft Music Hall specifically to introduce Miracle Whip. The product took off and so did Kraft's media ventures. Kraft Television Theater featured televised comedies and dramas starring a different cast every week. The series' first production cost only $3,000, but by 1958 the network paid at least $100,000 per production. Jack Lemmon, James Dean, Grace Kelly, Anthony Perkins, and Paul Newman were among the stars that appeared on the program.

October 2, 1928
George Robert Phillips "Spanky" McFarland was born. 

Most famous for his appearances in the Our Gang series of short-subject comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. The Our Gang shorts were later popular after being syndicated to television as The Little Rascals. In 1952, at age 24, McFarland joined the U.S. Air Force. Upon his return to civilian life, indelibly typecast in the public's mind as "Spanky" from Our Gang, he found himself unable to find work in show business. 

He took less glamorous jobs, including work at a soft drink plant, a hamburger stand, popsicle factory, selling wine, operating a restaurant and night club, and selling appliances, electronics and furniture. In the late 1950s, when the Our Gang comedies were sweeping the nation on TV, McFarland hosted an afternoon children's show, "Spanky's Clubhouse," on KOTV television in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The show included a studio audience and appearances by other celebrities such as James Arness, and it ran Little Rascals shorts.
Spanky loaned his name and celebrity to help raise money for charities, primarily by participating in golf tournaments. Spanky also had his own namesake charity golf classic for 16 years, held in Marion, Indiana.
McFarland continued to do personal appearances and cameo roles in films and television, including an appearance on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.

His final television performance was in 1993 in an introductory vignette at the beginning of the Cheers episode "Woody Gets An Election".
McFarland died suddenly of a heart attack on June 30, 1993, at age 64. His remains were cremated shortly thereafter. In January 1994, “Spanky” joined fellow alumnus Jackie Cooper to become one of only two Our Gang members to receive a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa