US TV shows not broadcast in the UK
A.D. (ANNO DOMINI) (1985)
The early years of Christianity and the decline of the Caesers with an international and all-star cast that included Anthony Andrews, James Mason, Denis Quilley, Ava Gardner, Jack Warden and Ian McShane among many others. Not well received by the critics. Variety summed it up - "Tries to ignite: it goes phfftt."
Veterans of the Korean war live it up in a ritzy resort and give protection to a criminal lawyer. Failed series that surprisingly starred James Coburn and Telly Savalas.
ACCIDENTAL FAMILY (1967)
Jerry Van Dyke (brother of Dick) starred as a widowed Californian comedian who turns to farming in order to bring up his son.
ACCORDING TO JIM (2001)
This family comedy about a lumpy breadwinner married to a hot-looking wife became a surprise hit in ABC's long tradition of domestic sitcoms. But According to Jim was no Roseanne or Home Improvement in terms of quality. Jim Belushi (brother of the late comic John) played Jim, a macho contractor; his understanding and loving wife was Cheryl, played by Courtney Thorne-Smith, veteran of Melrose Place and Ally McBeal. The couple had three young children--Ruby (Taylor Atelian), Gracie (Billi Bruno) and Kyle (Conner Rayburn), and they all lived together in a Chicago home. (The surname of Jim and his family was never disclosed.) Also in the cast was Andy (Larry Joe Campbell), Jim's brother-in-law and business partner. Cheryl also had an insecure, man-hunting sister named Dana (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) . The show's premise essentially came down to Jim getting into a jam (usually over some "battle of the sexes" issue), with Cheryl forgiving him by the end of the episode. It was all fill-in-the-blank comedy, but it struck a cord with enough viewers to make "Jim" a moderate success (even coming close to beating NBC's more sophisticated "Frasier" in head-to-head competition). But the critical barbs continued. "Entertainment Weekly" wrote in its Fall 2003 TV preview: "And our award for Most Justifiably Paranoid Executive Producer goes to Suzanne Bukinik, who's convinced we're going to mock Jim Belushi's family sitcom, just because we have done it every year before." Belushi had the last laugh: According to Jim ran for eight seasons until it was finally put to rest in 2009-the same year ABC introduced Modern Family, a far funnier and fresher take on domestic life. Which must account as a victory of sorts.
ACE CRAWFORD PRIVATE EYE (1983)
Adventures of an inept detective starring Tim Conway as a private investigator who, in spite of his bumbling ineptitude, always came out on top. Each episode ended with Crawford walking along a wharf, vanishing into the fog and then audibly falling into the water. One critic remarked: "Get Smart it isn't"...the viewers agreed and in spite of 13 episdoes being made only 5 were broadcast before CBS withdrew Crawford's license.
ACTION IN THE AFTERNOON (1953)
Action in the Afternoon was television's first live outdoor Western, originating in the wide open spaces of suburban Philadelphia and telecast five afternoons a week. While other 'live' Western shows were seen on US TV they all relied on pre-recorded action sequences and filmed inserts. Action in the Afternoon did away with these although there were occasions when actors needed more time to get from one set to another. In cases like this the star of the show, Jack Valentine would fill in with a song accompanied by the Tommy Ferguson Trio. The fictional setting for the series was Huberle, Montana - this came from an ad-lib by the programmes creator Charles Vanda during his pitch for the series to the executives at CBS, Hubbell Robinson and Harry Omerle. Produced on the back lot of WCAU-TV, Channel 10, then owned by the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin newspaper, the area had a natural creek running through the property. The interior shots were done in the studios and exterior shots outside on the back lot, which was also the parking lot for the station's employees where mock-ups of different western buildings were built. Since it was on a low budget, there was only three to five buildings; the saloon, the newspaper (The Huberle Record) and the sheriff's office/jail. A totem pole concealed a telephone pole. Alongside Jack Valentine was Mary Elaine Watts as Red Cotten, the sassy belle of the saloon and Barry Cassell as the shady Ace Bancroft. The narrator was Blake Ritter. Also featured were Sam Kressen as Sheriff Sam Mitchell and Jean Corbett as the lawman's wife, Amy. Corbett, during the year that Action in the Afternoon was on the air, also portrayed Aunt Molly on a WCAU-TV cookery show, Home Highlights. (Laurence Marcus)
THE ADAMS CHRONICLES (1976)
Multi Emmy award winning PBS series aired in 1976 to commemorate the American Bicentennial, telling how succeeding generations of the Adams political family influenced American history. The story covered a period of 150 years (1750 - 1900) with the most prominent member of the family, John Adams (George Grizzard), signer of the Declaration, accomplished diplomat and the 2nd President, being seen as the most influential of all. His son John Quincy Adams (acclaimed Secretary of State, the 6th President, and prominent abolitionist) was played by Mark Winkworth. The series traces their lives from John Adams early years as a colonial Boston attorney to the rise in prominence of Brookes Adams in the fields of political and social philosophy. (Laurence Marcus)
ADAM'S RIB (1973)
Unsuccessful attempt to transfer the 1949 Spencer Tracy / Audrey Hepburn movie about domestic and professional tensions between a husband and wife who work as opposing lawyers on a legal case. In this updated version Adam Bonner (Ken Howard) is a young assistant DA while his wife, Amanda Bonner (Blythe Danner), is a junior partner in a law firm. Their jobs often put them in conflict within the courtroom and, by extension, at home due to Amanda's crusade for women's rights. (Laurence Marcus)
THE ADVENTURES OF KIT CARSON (1951)
One of the most popular early chidren's Western series on US television, The Adventures of Kit Carson bore very little resemblance nor was it based on any historical research into the man whose name gave the series its title. Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson was an American frontiersman and Indian agent who left home in rural Missouri at the age of 16 and became a mountain man and trapper in the West. Carson explored the west to California, and north through the Rocky Mountains. He lived among and married into the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes, was hired by John C. Fremont as a guide, and him through much of California, Oregon and the Great Basin area. Carson later served in the Mexican War, guiding American forces under Stephen Kearney in California from New Mexico, and again during the U.S. Civil War. He achieved national fame through Fremont's accounts of his expeditions and became the hero of many dime novels. Roaming the West seeking to help those in need on his horse named Apache, he was played in the series by Hollywood leading man Bill Williams. His Mexican sidekick, El Toro, was played by Brooklyn born Don Diamond. Williams played Carson for 104 episodes between 1951 and 1955 prompting him to say at the end of it "I never want to see or hear of Kit Carson again." (Laurence Marcus)
THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET (1952)
Sitcom starring the "perfect American family." Click Here for review
US sitcom taking place immediately following the end of the Korean War and chronicling the adventures of three characters from the original M*A*S*H series. Click Here for review
ALL AMERICAN GIRL (1995)
Korean-American Margaret Cho was one of many stand-up comics in the 1990's to earn a shot as a situation comedy star. Cho played Margaret Kim, a young woman who lived with her traditional Korean-American family; the setting was apparently San Francisco. She worked in the beauty counter of a department store, and her independent ways about dating, finding a new career and living her own life clashed with her mother and father (Jodi Long and Clyde Kusatusu), who wanted Margaret to settle down with a good Korean man and become a wife and mother. Older brother Stewart (B.D. Wong, who would later go on to co-star on "Law & Order: SVU") was engaged and studying to be a doctor; younger brother Eric (J. B. Quon) looked up to her. Maddie Corman and Judy Gold played her co-workers Ruthie and Gloria. Amy Hill was Grandma, who was generally supportive of Margaret's goals. Cho later wrote in her book "I'm The One That I Want," about her brief experience as a sitcom star. ABC executives thought she was a bit overweight; she went on a starvation diet but by the time the show's pilot was taped, she suffered from kidney problems. Cho was also criticized for being either "too Asian" or "not Asian enough;" producers hired a coach so she could become "more Asian." And the series was blasted by critics for its broad comedy and stereotypical depictions of Koreans and gays. Despite several format changes, the show was cancelled after one season. Cho used her experience on All-American Girl as comic fodder, with her book and a one-woman show that won acclaim. She continues to perform on stage, and in TV and film roles.
Amen was one of the few US sitcoms centering on religion. It was also star Sherman Hemsley's second major TV hit-though his Deacon Ernest Frye had much in common with Hemsley's best-known role as pushy, arrogant George Jefferson. The show centered on the First Community Church of Philadelphia, which had a mostly African-American congregation. For years, Deacon Frye (who was also an attorney) had run the church after taking it over from his father. But his deal-making and aggressive manner was put to the test with the arrival of a new, younger pastor, the Reverend Reuben Gregory. (He was played by Clifton Davis, who was himself a minister in real life. During Amen's run, Davis was assistant pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Loma Linda, California). The comedy centered largely on the differences between the Deacon and the younger Reverend. For the most part, the Deacon's half-baked ideas caused trouble for the church until Gregory stepped forward to clean up the mess. At home, the Deacon had to deal with his child-like adult daughter Thelma (Anna Marie Horsford), a 30-year-old woman who was awkward in social events but had a crush on Reverend Gregory. (The two eventually dated and married.)
Other characters included church members Casietta and Amelia Hetebrink (Barbara Montgomery and Roz Ryan). Also in the cast was elderly church board member Rolly Forbes (Jester Hairston), whose sage advice was something Deacon Frye usually ignored to his peril. Hairston, who was in his 80's when the show began, had been a regular on the 1950's television version of Amos 'N Andy and was the singing voice for Sidney Poitier in the film Lilies of the Field; he died in January 2000.
The sitcom's final season had Deacon Frye become a judge as well; in the last episode, Frye put on a telethon to save the financially-troubled church as Thelma gave birth to his first grandchild (when the Deacon imitated the legendary soul singer James Brown, his screams provided the counterpart to Thelma's cries as she went into labour). Not surprisingly, Amen had a gospel theme (Shine On Me), written by Andre Crouch and performed by Vanessa Bell Armstrong and the Christ Memorial COGIC Choir of Pacoima, California. A rather predictable but likeable comedy, Amen's success was largely due to its placement on NBC's Saturday night schedule (it followed the top-ten Golden Girls for at least part of its run) and the fact it was produced by the company owned by Tonight Show host Johnny Carson. If it didn't satire religion the way some British comedies such as Father Ted managed to do, Amen took its own gentle jabs at the church and still managed to keep a sense of humour in the process.
The longest-running music programme in US television history, American Bandstand began in 1952 as a local show on Philadelphia TV station WFIL. Radio disk jockey Bob Horn oversaw kids from Philly schools dancing to the music hits of the day, while a singer or group performed a song or two. Bandstand quickly became a local hit. But Horn was fired from the show in 1956 amid allegations of drunk driving and sexual misconduct with a young girl. Dick Clark, a radio and TV personality at WFIL, was chosen to replace Horn on "Bandstand" (he had already been a substitute when Horn went on vacation). On August 5th, 1957, the ABC network--which had virtually no daytime programming--decided to air Bandstand live around the country from Philadelphia, for 90 minutes every weekday. The very first song aired on the national programme was Jerry Lee Lewis' Whole Lotta Shakin Goin' On. American Bandstand (as it was renamed) soon became daytime's top-rated programme as millions of kids across the US rushed home after school to check out the latest dances, which dance couples were going steady (or breaking up), and which acts would lip-sync their latest hits.
Dick Clark, who was just 26 years old at the time, proved to be the perfect host for the new era of rock and roll. He was conservative in dress and manner (as were the students who appeared on the show every day; nice dresses required for the girls; suits and ties for the boys). Clark was more like an older brother to teens than a parent; Mom and Dad were reassured by Clark's non- threatening persona (even if they didn't like the music he played). American Bandstand soon became the stop for such major acts as Jerry Lee, and became a showcase for new talent, including Frankie Avalon, Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, Fabian and others. (Two of the biggest hitmakers during the late 50's never appeared on "Bandstand"--Elvis Presley didn't need the show; Rick Nelson was already a TV presence on his family's sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.) Another popular feature was Rate A Record, with teens giving the latest 45 RPM song a score ranging from 35 to 98. (Not that the teens were always perceptive. In 1963, Clark played a song that was a hit in Europe but was going nowhere in the US at the time. Without exception, the Rate A Record panel gave mediocre scores to She Loves You by The Beatles). As "Bandstand" became popular, Clark started buying record companies and obtaining partial copyrights to over a hundred songs; many of the songs were played on "Bandstand" and Clark's prime-time weekly music showcase The Dick Clark Beechnut Show. The practice was not illegal at the time; critics of rock and roll claimed the producers of rock were paying to get their songs on the air, pushing out so-called "good music." When the "payola" scandal hit in late 1959, Clark denied playing records for money. ABC ordered Clark to sell off his interests in the record firms and songs if he wanted to stay on the network. That's what he did. Still, he was summoned to appear before a Congressional committee investigating payola; the questioning left him a bit shaken, but no wrongdoing was uncovered and his career was not affected.
By the early 1960's, the music industry was changing. Philadelphia was no longer the centre of the pop music universe; fresh new sounds were coming from New York's Brill Building (thanks to producers such as Phil Spector and such songwriters as Carole King and Neil Sedaka). New and serious artists such as Bob Dylan were becoming a force. On the West Coast, The Beach Boys and "surf music" were gaining a foothold. By 1964, The Beatles and the British Invasion began dominating the US charts. After ABC moved "Bandstand" from weekdays to Saturdays, turning it into a weekly hour-long show, Clark moved "Bandstand" from Philadelphia to Hollywood. He remained a constant during the eras of acid rock in the late 60's; the early 1970's and soft rock; disco and punk in the late 70's; and New Wave in the early 1980's. But the ratings declined, and "Bandstand" was no longer the barometer of teenage taste as it had been in the late 1950's and early 1960's. In 1987, ABC finally cancelled American Bandstand after Clark refused to cut the hour-long show by 30-minutes. He then took the show into syndication, where local stations aired it for about a year and a half. 1989 brought "Bandstand" back to network television--in this case, cable's USA Network. Clark still produced the show, but 26-year old David Hirsch became the show's new host. The USA version lasted only a year, and its cancellation marked the end of what could only be described as an American institution. American Bandstand made the youthful looking Clark a household name (and earned him the unofficial nickname of "The World's Oldest Living Teenager"). Clark also ran a very successful production company, creating the annual American Music Awards and producing various other awards programmes. He also had success with TV Bloopers & Practical Jokes and the various Bloopers and Television's Greatest Commercials specials that began airing in the 1980's; Clark's production firm also came up with such game shows such as Greed and The Chamber. In 1993, Clark's contributions to American popular music were recognized when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
AMERICAN DREAMS (2002)
This unique drama explored life and events in the early and mid-1960's through the eyes of a
fictional Philadelphia family. The Pryors were devoted Catholics; father Jack (Tom Verica) owned
a television and radio store and wife Helen (Gail O'Grady) was a stay-at-home mom. Their oldest
son JJ (Will Estes), was a high school football player; youngest daughter Patty (Sarah Ramos), an
intelligent but sometimes annoying child; and young son Will (Ethan Dampf) suffered from polio, a
source of guilt for Jack and Helen, who refused to let him have the newly-developed Salk vaccine
that could have prevented his illness. The show's central figure was the Pryor's second-oldest
child, 15-year-old Meg (Brittany Snow), a typical teen who hung around with her best friend
Roxanne Bojarski (Vanessa Lengies), who always seemed to get into trouble. Also in the show's
core cast were Henry Walker (Jonathan Adams), a black employee in Jack's store; his son Sam (Arlen
Escarpeta) and JJ's girlfriend Beth Mason (Rachel Boston).
When the show began, the time was November 1963-and both Meg and Roxanne were picked to dance on the popular series American Bandstand, which was based in Philadelphia during that period. ("Bandstand" host Dick Clark was one of the producers of American Dreams.) The setting-featuring black-and-white clips from the original show airing on studio monitors--allowed a number of contemporary stars to portray musical acts of the period , such as Usher playing soul singer Marvin Gaye; Duncan Shiek appearing as Bobby Darin and Ashanti as Dionne Warwick. Viewers watched as the Pryors went through major changes-some personal, some related to the issues of the day such as civil rights, the Vietnam war, the generation gap between young and old, women's liberation and the new sexual freedom. The characters were well-rounded and the show's writing was a cut or two above average, even though critics questioned its accuracy on historic and cultural events during the show's time line (1963 to 1966).
American Dreams was never a front-line hit, but managed to run for three seasons. Still, the nostalgia hook and the credible characters helped the show gain a loyal if modest audience by US broadcast standards..
It's rare when modern technology makes a television series format possible. But that's what happened with the camcorder and its ability to make anyone feel like Steven Spielberg. The all-in-one video camera and recorder was responsible for one of ABC's longest running hits, a show that remains on the air to this day. America's Funniest Home Videos owes a debt of thanks to the late Alan Funt's venerable Candid Camera, which caught people "in the act of being themselves". But in the case of AFHV, Funt and his production crew was replaced with Middle America and its fascination with gadgets. Until the 1980's, families that wanted moving records of their lives had to turn to home film cameras from Kodak and its competitors. The advent of the "Instamatic" cartridge format in the 1960's eliminated the need to thread a camera by hand, but you still needed a projector to show the film. Processing the film was relatively expensive compared with still pictures. And only a few camera makers allowed you to record dialogue along with the picture; those systems cost more to buy and edit compared with silent flicks. The advent of the home video cassette recorder in the mid-1970's paved the way for a portable version. Early home systems required you to buy a camera (generally black and white) and hook it up to the home VCR, which limited your range considerably. Then came the two-piece "docking" system, allowing you to cart a heavy but battery operated VCR with your camera to shoot videos outdoors. In the early 1980's, television newsrooms were being revolutionized by Electronic News Gathering (ENG). A one-piece camera and recorder allowed crews to shoot news and interviews instantly and play them back quickly, without the need to wait until film was processed and edited. (That delay led to the now-quaint catchphrase "Film at 11".) Sony-which dominated the ENG field-came out with the first camcorder for home use in 1985; others soon followed. Early models used the relatively bulky Beta or VHS format; they eventually gave way to eight millimetre tape formats, along with a smaller version of VHS called VHS-C (you had to use an adapter to play it on your home machine). But falling prices, good colour picture quality, cheap videotape and sound capability quickly made camcorders a hot item, and sent the old movie camera and projector to many an attic. (Today, the advent of recordable video discs and chipped memory cards have made videotape virtually obsolete).
In 1983, NBC aired a special featuring home videos, with Family Ties star Michael J. Fox and Angie Dickinson co-hosting. The ratings were low, but then, relatively few people had home video equipment; it was simply ahead of its time. By the late 1980's, Japan's Tokyo Broadcasting began airing a popular variety show called Fun With Ken and Kato Chan. It featured a segment that aired funny home videos from viewers. American television producer Vin Di Bona bought the rights to the video segment for the U.S. and convinced ABC into giving the format a try. Airing as a special in November 1989, Di Bona aired segments of various home videos (pets gone wild; humans hit with balls in the lower extremities; babies making messes-you get the idea). All the videos were "sweetened" with dialogue, sound effects and music as a live studio audience chose the best of the bunch to win a $10,000 prize. The special won high ratings and ABC quickly launched a half-hour series. America's Funniest Home Videos made its debut on Sunday night, January 14th, 1990, replacing a short-lived sitcom called Free Spirit. With Bob Saget, the star of the popular ABC family comedy Full House as host-plus a catchy theme song and flashy production values-America's Funniest Home Videos became the perfect family show for television's most watched night. Within a few weeks, it reached the top ten; by March, it was television's highest-rated series despite strong competition from CBS' venerable Angela Lansbury mystery hour Murder, She Wrote. Saget also benefitted from the show's success; the stand-up comic and sitcom star became the first individual since CBS' Arthur Godfrey to appear in two high-rated series in prime time every week. By the fall of 1990, AFHV was joined on the ABC Sunday schedule by another Di Bona show America's Funniest People. Co-hosted by yet another Full House cast member (in this case, Dave Coulier, joined by Arleen Sorkin), AFP was a more direct copy of Candid Camera as producers staged stunts on unsuspecting people; others were invited to show off their unusual "talents". During the 1991-92 season, both shows were among ABC's highest-rated series. But as with so many fad programmes, the initial interest waned; by the fall of 1993, both series were moved an hour earlier to Sundays at 7:00. "Funniest People" lost its audience and was gone by the end of the season.
AFHV was a cheap show to produce, which made it easy for the network to plug in whenever a new series failed in another time slot. Saget left as host in 1997; the team of Daisy Fuentes and John Fugelsang took over from 1998 through August 1999, when ABC cancelled the series. But in the summer of 2001, ABC brought the show back, this time with former morning show personality Tom Bergeron doing the hosting honours. With some minor tweaks in the format, AFHV did well enough to continue on the ABC schedule; it has since returned to its old Sunday at 7:00 PM timeslot. At the show's peak, viewers sent in about two thousand videos every day. Screeners make sure the contents are suitable for broadcast viewing (slapstick and animal antics are fine; extreme violence, vulgar situations and actual physical injury are not). If the clip is approved, the sender must sign a release allowing its broadcast. Producers then tweak the picture quality if necessary; add music or sound effects; and the hosts then records wisecracking voice-overs written by a team of writers. A live studio audience then views the resulting videos; producers gauge reaction and weed out the less-funny clips. The best of the bunch become part of a future AFHV episode. It's a lot of work, but relatively cheap compared to a 30 minute sitcom-one reason ABC keeps the show on the schedule; the fact it draws younger viewers and adults also allows the network to charge more for advertising on "Home Videos" than many higher-rated series. Critics may not like the show all that much, but America's Funniest Home Videos is truly a democratic programme in the best sense of the word-shot by average people and judged by their peers. As the theme song goes, "America, America, this is you!"
I Love Lucy co-creator Jess Oppenheimer came up with this sitcom about American architect John Smith (Marshall Thompson) and his new bride Angel-that is, Angelique (Annie Farge), a French woman who had just moved to America. She was pretty, strong-willed and new to the ways of the USA; her earnest attempts to fit into suburban Los Angeles culture was the basis for the comedy-much as Cuban-born Ricky's mangling of the English language generated laughs on Lucy. Doris Singleton and Don Keefer played neighbours and friends Susie and George, whose bitter banter toward each other was not unlike Lucy's Fred and Ethel Mertz. In its review of the series, Time magazine accurately noted although the assembly line may soon run the ignorant-immigrant theme into the ground...Farge triumphantly resists being merely Lucille Ball with a French accent. She is easily the brightest newcomer to situation comedy-small, pert, winsome, and somehow giving the impression of being attractively feathered. But up against ABC's new family comedy My Three Sons and NBC's Bachelor Father, not enough viewers gave Angel a chance and CBS gave up after just one season. Thompson went on to star in the adventure series Daktari and appeared in other TV and film roles until his death in 1992. The French-born Farge made guest appearances on several other series before she apparently retired from show business in the mid-1960's.
Donna Pescow, who gained fame as John Travolta's girlfriend in Saturday Night Fever, starred in this opposites attract sitcom. Pescow was Angie Falco, a blue-collar gal working as a waitress in a Philadelphia coffee shop. She began dating customer Bradley Benson (Robert Hays), whom she thought was a struggling student. Far from it: Bradley was a successful paediatrician from one of the city's wealthiest families. Angie's side of the family included her divorced mom Theresa (Doris Roberts), and younger sister Marie (Debralee Scott). Brad had his stuffy father Randall (John Randolph) and his overbearing sister Joyce (Sharon Spelman) to contend with. But Angie and Brad had support from Joyce's daughter Hilary (Tammy Lauren). Naturally, the differences in cash and social class became comic fodder, helping Angie to become an instant hit as a mid-season replacement following Mork & Mindy on Thursday nights. It ended its first season as the fifth most-popular series on television, giving ABC a clean sweep of the top five that year, with Laverne & Shirley in first place, Three's Company second, and Mork and Mindy tied for third with its parent Happy Days. In Season Two, Angie and Theresa ran their own beauty parlour, and Brad and Angie tried to settle in as newlyweds. The sharp comedy that marked the first season was softened-and not for the better; combined with a time slot change, ratings fell drastically and the series was cancelled. Angie's theme song, Different Worlds, was performed over the opening credits by singer Maureen McGovern and became a top-20 hit in 1979. Pescow moved on to other television roles; Hays became known for his work in the 1980 film comedy Airplane! and its sequel; and Doris Roberts would win Emmys playing another meddling mom-Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond.
ANNIE OAKLEY (1954)
Television's first Western heroine was played by Gail Davis and co-starred Brad Johnson as Deputy Sheriff Lofty Craig and Jimmy Hawkins, as Annie's brother, Tagg. Annie and Tagg lived in the town of Diablo, Arizona, with their uncle, Sheriff Luke MacTavish, who was usually away whenever trouble started. It would then be up to straight-shooting Annie and her "silent suitor" Lofty Craig to rescue law-abiding neighbours and arrest the outlaws. Annie Oakley was not a fictional character. The real Annie was born in 1860 as Phoebe Ann Moses and starred in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show as a sharpshooter; her most famous trick being able to repeatedly split a playing card, edge-on with a .22 caliber rifle, at 90 feet, and put several more holes in it before it could touch the ground. Oakley continued to set records into her sixties, and also engaged in extensive philanthropy for women's rights. In 1935, Barbara Stanwyck played Oakley in a highly fictionalized film called Annie Oakley. The 1946 Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun is very loosely based on her life. The original stage production starred Ethel Merman, who also starred in the 1966 revival. A 1950 film version starred Betty Hutton. Gail Davis - who played Oakley in the Gene Autry produced TV series was an adroit horseback rider. Davis also toured North America in Gene Autry's traveling rodeo and went on to manage a number of other celebrities. (Laurence Marcus)
APPLE'S WAY (1974)
The man who created The Waltons, Earl Hammer Junior, tried his hand with another family drama set in contemporary times. Premiering as a mid-season replacement in January 1974, Apple-s Way was the story of George Apple (Ronny Cox), a successful architect who was tired of big city life (Los Angeles, that is) and moved his family to the small rural community of Appleton, Iowa. (The town was founded by George's ancestors.) Wife Barbara (Lee McCain) took to her new surroundings just fine, but it proved to be a big adjustment for the couple's four children Paul (Vincent Van Patten), Cathy (Patti Cohoon), Patricia (Franny Michel; replaced in the second season by Kristy McNichol) and Steven (Eric Olson). Malcolm Atterbury played grandfather Aldon, who lived with the family. Every week, the Apples (especially George) became involved in various causes around the small town, which inevitably led to conflict with both townsfolk and other family members. But while the Depression-era setting of The Waltons drew millions of fans every week, the plots and resolutions of Apple's Way seemed rather hokey and synthetic-especially in the Me Decade. Viewers found it much easier to switch the channel to NBC and enjoy The Wonderful World of Disney. CBS ended the Apple's saga in January 1975.
BACHELOR FATHER (1957)
John Forsythe starred in this hybrid sitcom about a single man who became an instant father after taking in his niece. Forsythe played Bentley Gregg, a successful Beverly Hills attorney who adopted teenager Kelly (Noreen Corcoran) after her parents died in a car accident. Bentley's time was divided between raising Kelly and his career-not to mention the many beautiful women who stopped by his office. (In one episode, a girlfriend of Kelly's became smitten with the older Gregg. She was played by Linda Evans, who would later become Krystal Carrington of Dynasty-and Forsythe's on screen wife--two decades later.) Sammy Tong played Bentley's houseboy Peter Tong, who ran the household (and occasionally got into some predicament, usually over money). Bachelor Father's pilot first aired on CBS' General Electric Theater in May 1957 (with the title A New Girl in His Life). Four months later, the series made its debut on the network, alternating every other week with The Jack Benny Program on Sunday nights. In 1959, "Father" moved to NBC, where it ran until 1961. ABC then picked up the series for one more season, making Bachelor Father one of the few programs to air original episodes on all three major U.S. networks. During its final season, Kelly became engaged to Bentley's junior law partner Warren Dawson (Aron Kincaid); the series ended before the wedding could take place. A rather pleasant if predictable sitcom, "Father" was co-produced by Forsythe's production company and MCA/Universal, allowing the star to enjoy a comfortable life before Charlie's Angels and Dynasty made him a household name again.
As of this writing, no fictional series set in the world of baseball has succeeded. Not even Steven Bochco-the man behind the groundbreaking Hill Street Blues-could hit a home run by using the same formula that worked for cops and applying it to a minor-league ball team. As a result, Bay City Blues was one of the more notable flops of the 1983-84 US television season. According to a "TV Guide" article of the time, Bay City was forced upon NBC by MTM Productions, which threatened to take the baseball drama to another network if it did not renew the studio's low-rated but critically acclaimed medical series St. Elsewhere. NBC accepted the deal, and it paid off-sort of: St. Elsewhere thrived and remained on the network's schedule through 1988, but Bay City lasted less than a month.
Set in the blue-collar town of Bay City, California, the Bluebirds were a local baseball team where the newcomers learned their skills-and hoped to move on to the major leagues. It was also a team where once-great major league players went to spend their remaining years in the sport. Like Hill Street, this series looked at sex from a grown-up's perspective, and there was plenty of bed hopping besides the Sunny-Joe relationship. One of the players even had a "deep dark secret"-he was a bedwetter, possibly a first for an American series. NBC promoted the series as being "from the co-creator of Hill Street Blues", but it lacked the spark of optimism that motivated the Hill Street squad. Viewers switched over to ABC's newest hit from Aaron Spelling, the husband-wife detective series Hart To Hart. Bay City Blues was quickly pulled from the NBC lineup, despite airing just a few of its 13 episodes. Bay City Blues may have had a short life, but it did break ground in one sense. It was the first US broadcast series to show actors' bare behinds during the show's locker room scenes. The viewer will have to decide whether that "first" was a step forward for television. Or not.
At first glance, The Bernie Mac Show looks like your typical domestic comedy series with an African-American cast, headed by a stand-up comic who until the show's premiere was barely known to mainstream audiences. But after just a few months on the air, the sitcom clicked with both critics and television viewers of all races. Why? Mac himself may have known the answer. In an interview with Electronic Media, the comic noted that "what happens with a lot of players--especially minority players--is they just want to be on TV and they take anything....The Bernie Mac Show is my life. It's the truth, and I'm not ashamed of a minute, an hour or a second of my life." Mac plays himself, a successful stand-up comic who lives well with his executive wife Wanda (Kellita Smith), until the couple ends up taking care of his sister's three kids while she's in drug rehabilitation. Landing on the doorstep are smart-mouthed teenager Vanessa (Camille Winbush); eight-year old troublemaker Jordan (Jeremy Suarez) and cute-as-a-button Bryanna (Dee Dee Davis). Right from the start, Bernie Mac gave his charges the house rules: "First rule: It's my house. Don't get me wrong, this is our home. But it's my house. Second rule: In my house is all my stuff, and you are not to touch my stuff without my permission." That includes his home entertainment system with the DVD player and his collection of James Brown records. Bernie may love the kids, but not enough to pass up a weekend in Las Vegas with his friends. And he believes in good-old fashioned discipline, thinking today's kids are "too sassy, too grown, and talk back too much".
He also addresses the audience with his thoughts. It's not a new plot device; George Burns used it on his 1950's TV show with wife Gracie Allen and for a time, it became a regular feature on a number of American comedies and dramas. On "Bernie Mac", the gimmick works because he confesses his feelings, whether you like them or not ("America, you know what I'm talking about!"). The show also lacks a laugh track; soul and rap music is heavily used in the background, and there are plenty of on-screen graphics to help the plot along. Still, the humour comes from the situations and the characters. It's a traditional family sitcom with no tradition--and it works.
THE BING CROSBY SHOW (1964)
By 1964, beloved entertainer Bing Crosby was doing quite well as a television producer with shows such as Ben Casey (and later Hogan's Heroes) under his belt. It made perfect sense for him to produce AND star in his own weekly family sitcom. The Bing Crosby Show was actually a pretty good comedy that couldn't last against strong competition. Crosby played Bing Collins, a former singer who decided to leave show business behind and settle down with wife Ellie (Beverly Garland) and daughters Janice and Joyce (Carol Faylen and Diane Sherry - pictured). But domestic life didn't go according to plan: Ellie wanted to get into show business; Janice was a boy-crazy teen; and Joyce was a ten-year-old brainiac. Frank McHugh played live-in handyman Willie Walters. Of course, Bing sang a song in nearly every episode (he also warbled the theme song and the tune that accompanied the closing credits). And the laid-back Crosby and co-star Garland had good chemistry; one humorous episode had Bing and Ellie trying to recapture the romance Ellie thought was gone from their marriage. But The Bing Crosby Show lasted just one season, thanks to strong competition from CBS' sitcom Many Happy Returns (which also lasted just one year) and the second half of NBC's popular Andy Williams Show. Crosby continued to be a frequent guest on television and film (and a commercial spokesman for Minute Maid orange juice) until his untimely death in 1977.
After exhausting Bob Newhart and Newhart, the comic logically decided to just use his first name as the title of his third CBS series. This time, he was Bob McKay, a cartoonist who created a comic super hero named Mad-Dog in the 1950's. But the comic disappeared after members of Congress decided the character could corrupt young minds. Bob then became an artist for greeting cards and years later, a corporate conglomerate purchased the rights to Mad-Dog, making him a vigilante out for blood-something that didn't suit Bob. His home life was filled with conflict as well, thanks to wife Kaye (Carlene Watkins) his woefully-pathetic single daughter Trisha (Cynthia Stevenson), roommate Kathy (Lisa Kudrow), fellow cartoonist Chad (Timothy Fall), who had a crush on Trisha, and Kathy's parents Patty and Jerry (Dorothy Lyman and former 'Newhart' co-star Tom Poston). But instead of Monday nights, CBS sent Bob to do battle on Fridays, where it languished with low ratings. A mid-season shift to Mondays sent ratings higher and earned Bob a second season. At the end of the first season, the conglomerate that owned Mad-Dog was sold to a billionaire who hated comics and fired the entire staff (Bob included). For the second season, most of the supporting cast was gone. Betty White became the owner of Schmitt Greetings, where Bob becomes president. Her son Pete (Jere Burns) was upset because he expected to take over the family business. Megan Cavanagh played the company bookkeeper Chris, while Whitey (Eric Allan Kramer) was a fellow employee who worshiped Bob. Unfortunately, CBS returned Bob to its Friday night lineup, where its ratings again suffered. A last-minute switch to Mondays came too late, and Bob was taken off the air on December 27th, 1993. One reason for the show's eventual failure was that the Bob McKay character was more outspoken and somewhat bitter than either chartacters (Bob Hartley or Dick Loudon) in Newhart's previous series', something critics may have liked but audiences weren't able to accept. That also proved to be the case with Newhart's fourth and final situation comedy effort for CBS.
THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW (aka LOVE THAT BOB) (1955)
This 1950's comedy starred a bachelor who pursued nearly every beautiful woman who posed for his camera. But it was all good clean fun, though in those rather repressed times, the humor was considered a bit risque. Bob Cummings played Bob Collins, an Air Force reserve officer who ran a successful photography studio. Veteran sitcom actress Rosemary DeCamp was his sister Margaret McDonald, who tried but failed to get him married to a "respectable" woman. She wanted Bob to set an example for her adolescent son Chuck (Dwayne Hickman) who, not surprisingly, wanted to be like Uncle Bob and get all the girls. At the studio, Bob had an efficient secretary named Charmaine "Schultzy" Schultz (brilliantly played by Ann B. Davis), who pined for Bob even as he dated one woman after another. Another woman competed for Bob's affections scholarly bird watcher Pamela Livingston (Nancy Kulp). Neither Schultzy nor Pamela was glamorous enough for Bob. But they were far more intelligent than most of his attractive but vapid conquests. The Bob Cummings Show (also known as Love That Bob) was created by Paul Hemming, a writer who would later develop such rural sitcoms as The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres for CBS. The show itself was produced by Henning, Cummings and George Burns' McCadden Productions. It premiered in January 1955 on NBC as one of television's first mid season replacement series. CBS then picked up "Bob Cummings" for two seasons, before NBC took back the show and aired it until 1959. After the series ended, Dwayne Hickman starred in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (and later became a CBS television executive). Davis, who won two Emmy awards for her role as Schulzy, went on to her best-known role as Alice Nelson, The Brady Bunch's wisecracking maid. And Henning would tap Kulp to play no-nonsense bank secretary Jane Hathaway on Beverly Hillbillies. Bob Cummings was a film actor before moving to television in the early 1950's with the sitcom My Hero. He won an Emmy for the live 1954 production of Twelve Angry Men on CBS' Studio One. Cummings appeared in several other films, along with an installment of The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Comedy Hour and the short-lived sitcoms The New Bob Cummings Show and My Living Doll. He died at the age of 80 in 1990.
Bob Newhart is a most unlikely comic. His deadpan humour, stammer and slow, controlled reaction was not in-your-face funny. But as it turned out, it proved to be just right for the former accountant turned stand-up comedian. And for five decades, it served him well on records, in nightclubs, film, and the small screen. Today, Bob Newhart is an American comedy icon. And his varied television career, with four sitcoms to date, prove it. Bob Newhart was born in Oak Park, Illinois on September 5th, 1929. After serving the US Army he became an accountant. Later, Newhart claimed to have been an unemployment office clerk but quit when he learned he could get about the same amount a week if he filed for benefits. In 1958, Newhart found a job as an advertising copywriter for the Chicago producer Fred A. Niles. He and a co-worker would keep themselves entertained by recording their long telephone conversations and sending the tapes to Chicago area radio stations. It was during that time that Newhart came up with what became his comedy trademark-reacting to telephone conversations as the straight man. A disk jockey later introduced Newhart to an executive at the newly created record arm of Warner Brothers, who signed him to the label. Newhart's first album, The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart, hit the top of the charts against Elvis Presley and other recording artists; he won a Grammy as best new artist. In 1961, NBC signed Newhart to host a half-hour variety series with his stand-up act and weekly guests. Critics loved the programme, But NBC cancelled The Bob Newhart Show after just one season. Newhart went back to stand-up, records and roles in film. He also guest starred on a number of television programmes, including co-hosting with Carol Burnett a short-lived CBS variety show called The Entertainers. It would be another eight years before Newhart would try a television series again.
In 1971, writers David Davis and Lorenzo Music, who were enjoying success on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, approached Newhart and asked him if he would consider doing a situation comedy. Newhart agreed, with stipulations-the main one being that he would be married, but the couple would be childless. In return, Newhart was placed in a sophisticated comedy based on character and situations, not on cheap laughs. As Davis put it, "We were selling class and charm and wit." Newhart played Dr. Robert Harley, a Chicago psychologist who lived in a modern high-rise with his schoolteacher wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette). Their neighbour was airline pilot Howard Borden, a somewhat inept person played by Bill Daley (who also co-starred in the 1960's comedy I Dream Of Jeannie). At the office, Bob shared space on the office floor with orthodontist Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz); their receptionist was the joking Carol Kester-Bondurant (Marcia Wallace). One of Bob's best-loved patients was mild-mannered former Marine Emil Peterson (John Fielder); probably the best known is the troubled, mean-spirited Elliot Carlin (played to perfection by character actor Jack Riley). The show made good use of Newhart's patented comedy style, including his pauses, stutters and one-sided phone calls. Newhart and Pleshette had a wonderful chemistry that spilled over into their large bedroom and king-sized bed (you could believe the pair were romantic-and loved it). Lorenzo Music (who later gained on-screen fame as Carlton the doorman on Rhoda, wrote the the shows instrumental theme, 'Home to Emily'. The Bob Newhart Show's breezy style was a perfect fit with the show it followed on Saturday nights, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and was a CBS staple (a regular in television's top 25) until 1978, when Newhart decided to end his series. It never won a major Emmy award, but it's still considered one of the best sitcoms of all time in the USA. Time magazine named it one of the 100 best series of all time, while TV Guide ranked it 44th out of its 50 most influential or entertaining shows in American pop culture.
This sitcom helped launch the careers of its two stars. Graphic artist Kip Wilson (Tom Hanks) and writer Henry Desmond (Peter Scolari) were roommates working for the same advertising agency who needed a cheap place to live after their apartment building was demolished. Co-worker Amy Cassidy (Wendy Jo Sperber) told them about the Susan B. Anthony Hotel. Problem was, it was restricted to women only. But Kip and Henry-lured by the low rent and the idea of being around beautiful ladies all the time - decide to dress up in female attire and pose as Buffy and Hildegarde to get a room at the Susan B. Anthony; Kip and Henry also appeared at the hotel, pretending to be Buffy and Hildegarde's brothers. While Amy knew of the ruse, Kip and Henry had to hide their real sexual identities from the hotel's manager, Lily Sinclair (Lucille Benson) and fellow residents Isabelle Hammond (Telma Hopkins) and beautiful model Sonny Lumet (Donna Dixon). At the advertising agency, Henry and Kip were managed by boss Ruth Dunbar (Holland Taylor), who always took credit for their work. Bosom Buddies was actually funniest when Hanks and Scolari were not in drag; audiences could then enjoy the easy banter and comic chemistry between the two men. When the show returned for its second season, the first order of business was having Kip and Henry come out to the girls (by this time, Isabelle became the hotel's new manager, replacing Lily). The two guys (and Amy) also left the agency to start their own ad firm called Sixty Seconds Street (with Ruth as a silent partner). But the ratings failed to budge, and ABC cancelled Bosom Buddies. NBC aired repeats of the series during the summer of 1984 - no doubt because by that time, its two stars were doing quite well. Tom Hanks appeared in the film hits Splash and Bachelor Party, on his way to becoming a very successful Oscar-winning actor and producer. Peter Scolari became a part of the Newhart cast playing shallow uber-Yuppie Michael Harris, and continued to appear in other films and television series.
BRACKEN'S WORLD (1969)
A weekly drama about the lives and loves of people at a major Hollywood movie studio. John Bracken was the head of Century Studios (he was only heard by intercom or over the phone during the first season and was voiced by Warren Stevens). Eleanor Parker played Bracken's executive secretary Sylvia Caldwell. She relayed her boss' orders and dealt with the various people on the Century payroll, including producer-writer Kevin Grant (Peter Haskell); stuntman Davey Evans (Dennis Cole); studio talent school chief Laura Deane (Elizabeth Allen), and a bevy of beauties and hunks waiting for their one big chance at stardom. The ensemble cast dealt with the pressures of Hollywood-drugs, sex, alcohol, underhanded ethics and so forth. When it returned for its second season, John Bracken was finally seen and heard in the form of veteran actor Leslie Nielsen; Stevens, Parker and Cole were out of the picture. But the new version was no more successful than the first, and was pulled off the air in December 1970. By that time, many of the major film studios were experiencing financial problems due to changing tastes in cinema-so in a way, the demise of Bracken's World was a metaphor for Hollywood's troubles during that era.
BRAVE EAGLE (1957)
Made by Roy Rogers Productions and filmed (mostly) on Rogers' own 130 acre ranch in Chatsworth, California, Brave Eagle was a departure from the standard Western series in so much as it featured an American Indian as the good guy. Keith Larsen, who was of Norwegian descent, starred as the central character, a young Cheyenne chief faced with the prospect of the white settlers expansion into the American Southwest during the middle of the 19th century. Brave Eagle also had to deal with other Indian tribes, the ever present prospect of war and matters of the heart. His love interest was Morning Star (played by Kim Winona) an attractive young Indian girl. The half- breed Smokey Joe (Bert Wheeler) was the wise old dog who would tell tribal tales and impart his wisdom. Keena, his foster son was played by an actor billed as Keena Nomkeena, although his real name was Anthony Earl Numkena, a full-blooded Indian of Hopi and Klamath descent. Brave Eagle rode a stallion named White Cloud. Set in the Black Mountain region of Wyoming, Brave Eagle (sometimes billed as Brave Eagle: Chief of the Cheyennes) ran for just one season. (Laurence Marcus)
This Steven Bochco police drama combined elements of his previous hits, Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue. Like "Hill Street," the action was set in a police station; and not unlike "NYPD" it had a gritty look and feel. And it added something new to the Bochco formula: a high amount of violence. In fact, the series pilot was the first broadcast television episode to be rated TV-MA (for mature audiences) under the then-new content rating system. Little wonder: In the first ten minutes a gunman went on a shooting rampage killing police officers and bystanders until he was captured and later died. It turned out that the boyfriend of Officer Anne-Marie Kersey (Yancy Butler) was gunned down; when the suspect was finally secured in the station house, Kersey kicked him-and the gunman died of internal injuries, leading to an investigation by the much despised Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB). Because the suspect was black, there was an outcry of racism. In the end, no one was punished. Otherwise, it was business as usual for the 74th Precinct in New York's Brooklyn area. There was Sergeant Francis "Frank" Donovan (Jon Tenney), who gave out the morning duties to the beat cops (and was an informant for IAB, who reported to Lieutenant Stan Jonas , played by veteran Bochco player James B. Sikking). Street cop Jimmy Doyle (Dylan Walsh) had a younger brother Terry (Patrick McGaw) who left the police academy in disgrace but later foiled an Irish gang's bank robbery plan and joined the vice unit. Kersey, whose attack on the gunman continued to haunt her, had a short-lived affair with Donovan. Jimmy Doyle's partner was Phil Roussakoff (Michael DeLuise, from NYPD Blue), who was more likely to use force or belligerence than reason to get out of a jam. He briefly dated Jimmy and Terry's sister Kathleen (A.J. Langer). Another cop, Jack Lowery (Titus Welliver) was facing his own personal problems, including his selfish wife Yvonne; she eventually died. Lowery than took up with his partner, Nona Valentine (Klea Scott), which didn't sit well with her former boyfriend, Officer Clement Johnson (Richard T. Jones). And there was rookie cop Hector Villaneuva (Adam Rodriguez), who was mentored by the more experienced officers. Keeping the team together was desk sergeant Richard Santoro (Gary Basaraba), whose long years on the force led him to provide good, sound advice.
On paper, Brooklyn South had all the makings of another Bochco hit. But early episodes were rocky, with too many characters and a lack of focus. By mid season, the spotlight was placed on fewer characters, and the stories became more cohesive, bringing "South" close to the quality of Bochco's best dramas. But in direct competition with ABC's Monday Night Football and NBC's news magazine Dateline, it ranked 73rd among all shows on the broadcast networks. Co-creator David Milch (who was also the heart and soul of NYPD Blue) explained the situation to the "New York Daily News": "NYPD Blue's crucifixion for a year (due to its language and sexual content) before it got on the air was, in fact, a kind of blessing. It gave me an extra year to conceive the show. So, what took us two-and-a-half years with 'NYPD Blue,' we tried to accomplish with 'Brooklyn South' in six weeks. And some of that shows." But time was not on the show's side; CBS canceled Brooklyn South after its first and only season. In fact, the 1997-98 season was not a good one for Bochco. Another of his CBS series, the maligned comedy Public Morals, was pulled after one episode. And his final drama under his old contract with ABC, Total Security, was also cancelled. In retrospect, Brooklyn South was certainly most deserving of a second chance.
Dick Jones appeared as a gunslinging orphan who was adopted by kindly judge Ben Wiley (Harry Cheshire). Bill and his kid-sister, Calamity (Nancy Gilbert), live with Judge Wiley in fictitious Wileyville, Texas, where young Bill eventually becomes the marshal. A number of desparadoes passed through Wileyville including Billy the Kid, Johnny Ringo and The Sundance Kid, while Bill Jr. also joined forces with the likes of Marshal Wyatt Earp and the infamnous Doc Holliday. The series featured a number of guest stars during its season-and-a-half run including Slim Pickens, Denver Pyle and Lee Van Cleef. The star of the series, Dick Jones, was already famous-although initially for his voice rather than his face: He was the voice of Pinocchio in the 1940 Walt Disney movie. Born in Texas on 25 February 1927, Jones was a local hero by the age of four being billed as the "World's youngest Trick Rider and Trick Roper", appearing in rodeo shows owned by Western star Hoot Gibson, who convinced Jones' parents that the youngster could make it in Hollywood. He wasn't wrong - and by 1934 Jones was appearing in a number or low-budget movies and as a bit player in several of Hal Roach's Our Gang (Little Rascals) shorts. In 1939 he appeared with Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and the following year was hired by Disney to supply the voice Pinocchio in the animated feature film. In the Second World War Jones served in the US Army before carving out a career for himself in numerous television shows. Throughout the 1950s he regularly turned up on TV Westerns before landing the part of Dick West, sidekick to The Range Rider, a 1951 series made by Gene Autry's company Flying A Productions. In 1964, Buffalo Bill Jr. appeared on ABC's Saturday morning schedule. Dick Jones died at his home on July 7, 2014 (aged 87) from natural causes. (Laurence Marcus)
In the big-screen version of Charlie's Angel's a character settles into his seat in the first class cabin of an airplane whilst a screen in front of him plays a movie version of the popular US TV series T.J. Hooker. "Not another movie of an old TV show!" remarks the character. It's a tongue in cheek comment for sure but therein lies an acknowledgement that Hollywood was at that time enjoying something of a love affair with US television as it plundered the vaults of 1970's kitsch adventure series. With the big box-office success of Charlie's Angels there soon followed a clutch of big screen versions of The A Team, Get Smart, The Dukes of Hazzard and Starsky and Hutch, to name but a few. Several years later Hollyowood is still churning out the occasional classic, as well as the not-so-classic TV series as in the case of 21 Jump Street. It seems as though any time is as good a time as any to look back into television's formative years when the tables were very much turned, and it was the small screen that borrowed from its larger rival.
In the US Warner Bros was one of the first of the big studios to embrace the new medium of television. Approached by ABC the giant WB Company gave permission for the screening of its theatrical film releases. Warner's however were keen to broaden their horizons further and it was TV production that they were interested in. And so, in 1955, a seminal series was created in which the company drew from three of its successful movies and presented adaptations and serialisations of them on a rotating basis, taking each of the stories beyond their closing theatrical credits under the umbrella title of Warner Bros. Presents. The three movies from which inspiration was drawn were Kings Row, Cheyenne and a movie that would one day be regarded as the finest Hollywood has ever produced...Casablanca. Based on the 1942 movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca the series debuted on 27th September 1955 at 7.30pm. Taking up the story after Bogart's character, Rick, an American expatriate who owns a North African bar had seen Ilsa, the true love of his life-but now married to another, take off from a fog-shrouded aerodrome, viewers were reintroduced to the main characters of the movie version. Rick himself was renamed Rick Jason and his bar was called the Club American; a bistro that attracted both intrigue and beautiful women. Despite his gruff exterior and outward indifference to the plight of others, Rick worked tirelessly to undermine the activities of the occupying Nazis. Captain Renaud (originally Renault) was the unsympathetic police captain, Ferari -a black marketer, Sasha -a bartender, and Sam -the incomparable piano player. Charles McGraw, a one-time RKO star who had starred in The Narrow Margin, played Rick, and the supporting cast were most notable for their close associations with the original movie. French actor Marcel Dalio was promoted from a croupier at Rick's Place to Police Captain Renaud, whilst Dan Seymour had lived with the tag "the young Sidney Greenstreet" before actually filling the big man's shoes for this version, and Clarence Muse finally got to play Sam after auditioning for the part but losing out to Dooley Wilson in 1942. The series also featured a guest appearance by Anita Ekberg as an unnamed woman who many assumed to be Ilsa Laszlo. However, only 8 50-minute stories were made before the series was cancelled (it faired better than Kings Row, although Cheyenne ran for eight years).
This was one of three appearances on the small screen for Casablanca. In 1953 it had been made as a one-hour dramatisation on The Phillip Morris Program although Warner's would not allow any recordings (kinescopes in those days) to be saved, and in 1983 producer David Wolper cast Starsky and Hutch star David Soul as Rick Blaine (the characters name in the movie), in an attempt to revive the format for NBC. The show folded after three episodes. By borrowing from its own blockbuster movies Warner Bros efforts were greeted with mixed success in 1955. However, the company went on to produce dozens of hit programmes within a short space of time and eventually became one of the most important producers of TV series'. You could say it was the start of a beautiful friendship. (Laurence Marcus)
CHARLES IN CHARGE (1987)
Scott Baio became a TV heartthrob on both Happy Days and its spin-off series Joanie Loves Chachi. He was able to grow up a bit on this pleasant if predictable sitcom. Baio starred as Charles (his last name was never revealed), a 19-year-old student at New Jersey's Copeland College who also worked as a live-in babysitter for the Pembroke family. In exchange for room and board, plus some spending money, Charles cared for the three Pembroke children, pre-teen Lila (April Lerman), sarcastic 12-year-old Douglas (Jonathan Ward), and youngest son Jason (Michael Pearlman). Julie Cobb and James Widdoes played busy parents Jill and Stan; Charles' best friend was somewhat dense and girl-crazy Buddy Lembeck (Willie Ames); Jennifer Runyon played co-ed Gwendolyn Pierce, whom Charles had a crush on. CBS cancelled the series after one low-rated season-but nearly two years later, Charles In Charge returned with new episodes for local stations eager for fresh sitcoms. When the syndicated version began in January 1987, the Pembrokes had moved to Seattle and sold their home to a new family-the Powells. Grandfather Walter Powell, (James T. Callahan) was a retired Navy Man and headed the household. Sandra Kerns played his daughter-in-law Ellen (her husband was a Navy commander stationed in the South Seas). She had three children-daughters Jamie and Sarah (Nicole Eggert and Josie Davis) and son Adam (Alexander Polinsky). Only Baio and Ames carried over from the CBS version: Charles was still caretaker and college student; while Buddy was as girl-crazy as ever. During the syndicated run, Ellen Travolta (sister of John) played Charles' mother Lillian (again, no last name), who owned a pizza parlour and meddled in Charles' life. The series ended in late 1990 with Charles being accepted to Princeton University. The show's catchy theme song (Charles in charge of our days and our nights...I want Charles in charge of me!) was written by David Kurtz, Michael Jacobs and Al Burton, and performed by Shandi Sinnamon.
Chico and the Man was one of the "new wave" realism situation comedies of the 1970's, featuring a truly talented newcomer who held his own with an Oscar and Tony award-winning actor. But it was also a cautionary tale of the excesses of fame. The merits of the show have long been overshadowed by the suicide of its young star, Freddie Prinze. But there was no question about his abilities. Produced by James Komack, "Chico" was created for Prinze, a Puerto Rican-Hungarian comic who wasn't even 21 when he was spotted by Komack during a successful 1973 appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Set in the Mexican-American barrios of East Los Angeles, Prinze played Chico Rodriguez, a Chicano street kid who approached the owner of a run-down gas station and garage for a job. The owner was cantankerous and lonely widower Ed Brown, played by the great actor Jack Albertson. Brown didn't like anyone, often drank, and certainly had no use for Chico. But the enterprising young man managed to break Ed's shell and the two began an almost father-son relationship, with each realizing he needed the other. The chemistry between newcomer Prinze and veteran Albertson overcame rather broad jokes and mediocre scripts (and a loud but live studio audience). Not since Desi Arnaz on I Love Lucy had American TV viewers embraced a Latino lead character with such fervor. "Chico" soon landed in the top five in the ratings. But Hispanic groups quickly began protests over the show; its use of ethnic slurs (in the pilot episode, Brown tells Chico to leave and "take your flies with you"); Prinze's own mixed ethnic background and a lack of other Hispanic characters on the show. They picketed NBC's Burbank, California headquarters demanding changes in the show. Producers addressed one of their complaints by having Chico tell people he was half Mexican, half Puerto Rican (with a touch of Hungarian mixed in for good measure). The complaints subsided.
Behind the scenes, things were not going well for Prinze. Despite having a successful series, playing the casinos of Las Vegas for $25 thousand a show, and being considered a rising star, the 20-year old comic was beginning to experience personal problems by the end of "Chico's" first season in 1975. Friends say Prinze began turning to drugs to handle the pressures of fame; he had met Katherine Elaine Cochran that year and married her. But the union lasted just 15 months, and she eventually left Prinze, taking their infant son Freddie Junior with them. Rumours of his drug use increased. It all came to a head on January 28th, 1977, during "Chico's" third season. That night, after frantic calls to his estranged wife, his psychiatrist and others, Freddie Prinze fatally shot himself in the head as his business manager watched in horror. A suicide note left by the 22-year old read: "I can't take any more. It's all my fault. There is no one to blame but me." Immediately, speculation centered over the future of Chico and the Man without its star. The show was set to be cancelled, but the producers and NBC decided to keep it going for the remainder of the season. Ed and the other regular characters explained that Chico went to visit his father in Mexico and the focus shifted to stories featuring the ensemble cast. The solution was to give Ed a new "Chico"-but this time in the form of 12-year old actor Gabriel Melgar, who played Raul Garcia. Singer-entertainer Charo also came on board as Raul's" aunt from Spain after Ed adopted the youngster. But the ghost of Freddie Prinze was too strong for the revamped Chico and the Man to work, despite some nice moments between Albertson and Melgar. On one of those final season episodes, Ed told Raul that Chico had died (though he didn't give a reason). It put closure on the series, which limped to its conclusion on July 21st, 1978. Today, Chico and the Man is seldom seen in reruns, but Freddie Prinze's son, Freddie Junior, has carved a successful acting career for himself in both films and television. The legacy of his father, however, remains strong-both for his talent and the dark, dangerous side of TV success.
THE CISCO KID (1950)
The Cisco Kid has the distinction of being the first television series to be filmed in colour, although few viewers were able to enjoy it in this format until the 1960s. The series starred Duncan Renaldo as Cisco, Leo Carillo as Pancho, and Diablo as the Kid's horse. Cisco was created by US short story writer O. Henry in 1907 as a particularly vicious outlaw and it was only when the character was adapted for radio in 1942 that he was depicted as a Robin Hood figure who assisted the downtrodden against corrupt officialdom. From then on television and films have presented the Kid as a heroic Mexican caballero. The TV series began production in 1949, and was filmed by ZIV Productions at the Ray Corrigan Ranch in Simi Valley in Ventura County, California. Renaldo, a native of Spain, and Carrillo, a native of Los Angeles, were the first regular Hispanic television stars, beating Desi Arnaz of I Love Lucy fame by almost a year. When the series began, Renaldo was already 46 years of age but he still had the edge on his sidekick who was 70. The Cisco Kid was nominated in 1953 for an Emmy Award for children's programming. By 1955 it was the most popular filmed television series among American children. Because the 156 episodes were filmed in colour, the series was in demand until the 1970s. (Laurence Marcus)
Barry Kemp, who created Newhart, scored again with this football-based sitcom. Craig T. Nelson starred as Hayden Fox, the coach of the fictional Minnesota State University team (known as the "Screaming Eagles"). His assistant coaches were pleasant but clueless Luther Van Dam (Jerry Van Dyke) and Michael "Dauber" Dybinski (Bill Fagerbakke), a perennial college student. Luther's girlfriend (and later wife) was television news anchor Christine Armstrong, played by veteran sitcom actress Shelley Fabares (The Donna Reed Show and others). Fox tried to mold his team into a winning force while juggling a social life and raising his daughter Kelly (Clare Carey), who eventually married a mime, Stewart Rosebrock (Kris Kamm); the pair eventually divorced. In 1995, Hayden left Minnesota State to coach the Orlando Breakers, a professional expansion football team owned by millionaire Doris Sherman (Katherine Helmond), who butted heads with Fox more than once. The final season had Hayden turn down other coaching offers to help Christine build her TV career in Minnesota. Known as a dramatic actor before Coach began, Nelson proved to be a fine comic and won an Emmy for his Hayden Fox role. (The series also proved to be the most successful of Jerry Van Dyke's sometimes-checkered career.) A mainstay of ABC's comedy lineup in the early and mid-1990's, Coach spent most of its run in television's top 20. Touchdown!
Beginning in September 1950, The Colgate Comedy Hour was NBC's first successful rival to The Ed Sullivan Show, which it ran directly opposite on Sunday nights. Although the show did not enjoy the longevity of Sullivan's, it showcased the talent of many top established stars and gave just as many first timers an opportunity to appear before a large television audience. The 60-minute spectacular also boasted a number of 'television firsts' of its own. Broadcast from the International Theatre in New York the show was originally to have four hosts, Eddie Cantor, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (as a double act) and Fred Allen, all of who would front the show on a rotating basis. However, by December Allen was dropped and replaced by 'special' guest hosts the likes of Jimmy Durante, Abbott and Costello (who actually made their television debut on the show), Phil Silvers, Donald O'Connor, Bob Hope and Spike Jones. In September 1951 it became the first commercial series to be broadcast from Hollywood when it switched to the El Capitan Theatre (although it was still broadcast from New York on occasions). Then on November 22nd 1953, as an experimental test for RCA it became the first network telecast to be transmitted in colour. By this time Colgate had decided to vary the shows format with occasional 'book' musicals, such as 'Anything Goes' starring Ethel Merman and Frank Sinatra. In 1954 the show took to the road with broadcasts from different parts of the United States, including Pebble Beach; California, Miami, Las Vegas and even from on board a US naval vessel. By the summer of 1955 Colgate had signed an agreement with Paramount Pictures, which enabled them to feature trailers from upcoming movies and also bring on stage the stars of those productions. At this time the name of the series was altered to The Colgate Variety Hour, although it was to be a short lived change. The show was now costing far too much to produce, and so on December 25th of that year it was broadcast for the last time. At the height of its popularity The Colgate Comedy Hour bridged the gap between the rapidly fading golden days of vaudeville and burlesque -and the emerging golden age of US television. The stars that graced its various stages are today some of the most fondly remembered in entertainment history. And although we may never see their likes again, they left behind a lasting legacy that contributed to the progress of television that is an essential part of television's history. (Laurence Marcus)
The worst dramatic series ever? From the man who brought US television some of its best? Many critics believe Steven Bochco's effort to combine police drama and musical numbers was unforgivable. Others thought it was a noble but failed effort. "TV Guide" ranked it eighth among its "50 Worst Shows Ever"; topping the list were The Jerry Springer Show and the 1960's sitcom My Mother The Car. Cop Rock actually began when it was suggested that Bochco turn his ground-breaking Hill Street Blues into a Broadway musical. Bochco rejected the idea, but began thinking that maybe a marriage of police drama and music could work. He was also influenced by the work of the late Dennis Potter, especially his now-classic The Singing Detective. Cop Rock, which was created by Bochco and William Finklestein, was a gritty police drama in the Hill Street tradition, this time set in the toughest neighbourhoods of Los Angeles. Every few minutes, the action stopped for a musical number. In the pilot episode, gang members turned on the cops who arrested them, rapping "On these streets, WE got the power!". The mayor and her staff sang about the glories of bribery, while a judge and a jury convicted a criminal gospel-style, with the refrain "He's guilty". And of course, there was the poor upscale yuppie whose BMW was taken away after he was arrested for buying cocaine. In a lament to his lost four-wheeled love, he sang "I want my Beemer back!" Some of the original songs were written by the legendary singer-songwriter Randy Newman; a stable of songwriters penned most of the other tunes. (Newman did write and sing the show's title theme, "Under the Gun").
In the fall of 1990, there seemed to be a hunger for a different type of television show, as the success of The Simpsons, America's Funniest Home Videos and the cult hit Twin Peaks seemed to indicate. There was no question that Cop Rock was a different breed of show. But at $1.8 million an episode (the most expensive television series up to that time), ABC needed it to become a quick and solid success. It wasn't. Viewers stayed away despite heavy promotion for the series. With a guaranteed 13-week commitment, ABC urged Bochco to drop the musical numbers and turn the show into a conventional police drama. Bochco refused. Cop Rock was history. Maybe it failed because critics expected more from Bochco (who would recover with the success of NYPD Blue). Or maybe audiences were not ready for music with their drama. Still, it was a noble but failed experiment. Later in the decade, an episode of the medical drama Chicago Hope featured the regular cast breaking out in song. And in November 2001, executive producer Josh Whedon penned a musical episode of his series Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Entitled "Once More With Feeling", it blended a number of musical genres into an involving episode performed by the regular cast. Critics cheered the effort. Which was more than they did with Cop Rock.