US TV shows not broadcast in the UK


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Dana Carvey This sketch comedy starring the former Saturday Night Live cast member had a short run for a number of reasons. But it's still fondly remembered by fans who loved its quirky humour. It also proved to be a launchpad for a number of performers, including Steve Carell (The Office); Louis C.K. (Louie), and Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report). It was also a showcase for writer Robert Smigel's TV Funhouse cartoons, which were later showcased on SNL. Carvey had turned down the chance to replace David Letterman on NBC's Late Night show in 1993, but after several comedy films that were never developed, he decided to return to television. Carvey bypassed his old network and turned down an offer from CBS to sign up with ABC. Carvey and Smigel teamed up to produce the series, and hired a number of Second City comedy performers, including Carell and Colbert. (Carvey later admitted he was less hands-on than he should have been, because he was commuting between his family in Connecticut and New York City, where the show was taped). Both Carvey and Smigel wanted to be as different from Saturday Night Live as possible, with short pieces rather than long skits. (It did allow Smigel to present his short cartoons, including The Ambiguously Gay Duo, about a pair of crime-fighters named Ace and Gary, whose actions and dialogue led everyone to wonder if the two were a same-sex couple). The first episode of The Dana Carvey Show made headlines for its opening sketch, with Carvey as then-President Bill Clinton, showing his "compassion" by having several puppies and kittens suckle from his multiple fake nipples! But Carvey did some of his most-popular characters from SNL, including the Church Lady, along with parodies of current events, commercials and the media.

But ABC, wanting a strong lead-in to its police drama NYPD Blue, scheduled the series on Tuesday nights-before "Blue" but following the family-friendly sitcom Home Improvement. Viewers who had been watching the antics of Tim Allen and his fictional family were thrust into a different world. Not everyone liked it, however, as the ratings began falling off after the premiere episode, leading to the show's end after just seven airings. Most of the episodes had a single major sponsor, a throwback to the days when advertisers purchased an entire programme. In Carvey's case, Pepsi was the show's sponsor and each episode was titled for one of the company's products-The Mug Root Bear Dana Carvey Show and The Taco Bell Dana Carvey Show, for instance-with a cast of performers singing the praises of the product before introducing the star. Another unique twist was the studio, billed as coming "from the ABC Broadcast Center in New York." The inside joke: Dana Carvey was actually taped at CBS' studios on West 57th Street! In a 2009 interview for The AV Club, Robert Smigel noted "Bottom line, the network was the wrong fit, wrong timeslot. Cable obviously would have been-we would have been given credit for what was good instead of attacked for what wasn't." Time has been kind to Carvey and Smigel, however: The Dana Carvey Show can now be seen on DVD and the Internet. They earned a bit of respect after all.


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Danny Thomas Show Danny Thomas began his career as a comic and singer, but became famous as a television dad. His two situation comedies - Make Room For Daddy and The Danny Thomas Show - ran for a total of eleven years, and made the Lebanese entertainer successful in both acting and television production. One reason is that Thomas convincingly played a blustering, hot-tempered husband and father whose love of his family was never in doubt. Viewers warmed to Thomas' character and his co-stars, and the series holds up well even today. Thomas became a success on nightclubs and on radio in various programmes such as The Bickersons, Baby Snooks and The Big Show. In films, he starred in the 1952 remake of The Jazz Singer and co-starred with Doris Day in I'll See You In My Dreams. Thomas found initial television fame as one of the rotating co-hosts of NBC's big-budget variety series The Colgate Comedy Hour. In 1953, Thomas signed with ABC, which had just merged with the United Paramount Theater chain. Noting the success of CBS' I Love Lucy, he hired Desilu Studios to film his new show with multiple cameras before a live studio audience-just like 'Lucy'. Working with actor turned producer Sheldon Leonard, the two came up with a family sitcom based on Thomas' real life: When Thomas went on the road he left the raising of his children to real-life wife Rose Marie. But when the comic returned home it was time for another adjustment where dad was the boss. Thomas played nightclub entertainer Danny Williams, who was gone for days or weeks at a time from his wife, Margaret (Jean Hagen - who was best-known for her role as squeaky voiced Lina Lamont in the classic musical Singin' In The Rain), daughter Terry, and smart-aleck youngster Rusty. Louise Beavers-one of the few African-Americans to appear in a regular television role at the time-was the Williams' maid Louise. The show's humour came from Danny's interaction with his kids: They would scheme to pull one over on dad, but inevitably, Danny found out and blew his top. Yet at the end, his anger disappeared and forgave his children. The warm moments of Make Room For Daddy were a highlight of the series, along with Thomas' believable performance and sharp one-liners. Critics loved the series, and it even won an Emmy award in 1954. But because of ABC's weak distribution back in television's early days Make Room For Daddy was not the blockbuster hit the network had hoped for.

After three seasons, Jean Hagen was dissatisfied with her role and left the series altogether. Rather than immediately replacing Hagen, Thomas and his production team simply wrote Margaret Williams out of the show as having died-possibly a first for an American sitcom. The show also received a new title: The Danny Thomas Show. Unfortunately, the series ranked 125th in the ratings despite relatively weak competition, thanks to ABC's affiliate problems. The network and Thomas agreed to part ways, and for the fall of 1957, CBS picked up the series to replace the departing I Love Lucy on Monday nights. With a strong time slot and CBS' powerful affiliate lineup (195 stations versus just 83 for its last season on ABC), The Danny Thomas Show blasted into the top five and remained in the top-20 for the remainder of its run.

During the CBS years, the sitcom was sponsored by General Foods' Post Cereals division. General Foods found through research that a number of viewers in rural parts of the country didn't like the city slicker. The company urged Thomas and Leonard to come up with a new series that would attract folks who lived in the country. In a February 1960 episode, Danny and his family took a road trip and found himself detained in the small town of Mayberry, North Carolina by the sheriff, winningly played by Southern comic and actor Andy Griffith. The episode's success led to The Andy Griffith Show. The adventures of Andy Taylor and the town of Mayberry lasted for eight high-rated seasons, and was especially popular with rural viewers-just as General Foods had hoped. Thomas became a popular guest star on many variety shows and sitcoms until his death on February 6th, 1991, at the age of 72. In addition to his rich legacy as a performer and producer, Thomas was a generous philanthropist, thanks to his work founding and raising money for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, which has treated thousands of kids with cancer and other diseases at no cost to the parents. He also left an entertainment legacy thanks to his children-actress Marlo Thomas, former actress Terre Thomas, and son Tony Thomas, who became a very successful producer himself with such comedy series as The Golden Girls, Empty Nest, Blossom and Nurses.


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Dark Shadows "My name is Victoria Winters. My journey is beginning - a journey that I hope will open the doors of life to me, and link my past with my future. A journey that will bring me to a strange and dark place - to the edge of the sea high atop Widow's Hill - a house called Collinwood. A world I've never known, with people I've never met. People who tonight are still only shadows in my mind, and who will soon fill the days and nights of my tomorrows."

It began as a genuine dream. A dream experienced by veteran produced/director, Dan Curtis. A dream in which he saw a young woman, (later to be consolidated as the character named, Victoria Winters) taking a train journey which would ultimately find her arriving at the door of a fog wreathed shadowy and forbidding gothic manor house. What began as a simple, yet strikingly vivid dream was destined to be translated by Curtis and collaborator, Art Wallace, into a televisual reality, which would swiftly evolve from its humble beginnings to become one of the most phenomenal success stories in the long history of popular US daytime television. A success story entitled...Dark Shadows. Using his original dream idea as the basic springboard for the series format, Curtis brought aboard the talented and vastly experienced scriptwriter Art Wallace to help flesh out the basic premise and serve as the series head writer. For inspiration, Wallace turned to one of his own previous works, a teleplay entitled The House. Wallace's House script dealt with the story of a secretive, reclusive woman whose husband had been missing for many years. For the purposes of the embryonic series' scenario Wallace's recluse became the rich, matriarchal character of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, (veteran Hollywood movie star Joan Bennett), and her luxurious home was transformed into the haunted, cursed manor house of Curtis' dream, a house named Collinwood. Initially, Curtis envisioned the series as a straight gothic romance in the style of Daphne Du Murier's classic novel Rebecca. And indeed, for its opening months the series centred around orphan Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke during 1966-1968) arrival at the small fishing port of Collinstown, situated somewhere on the coast of Maine, to take up the post of governess to Elizabeth's young nephew David, while still ignorant of her true past. Early reaction to the new show was decidedly lukewarm audience-wise. So much so in fact, that within the first few months of being on the air Curtis was faced with the very real prospect of the show's outright cancellation. It was at this crucial point that a throwaway suggestion was made which would herald the beginning of Dark Shadows massive upsurge in popularity, as Dan Curtis explained: "My teenaged kids said to me, 'Dad, what the show needs is a ghost.' At that time I knew that the writing was on the wall for us anyway, so I said 'what the hell! We've got nothing to lose, the ghost is in.'"

The introduction into the storyline in quick succession of first one ghost, then another, followed almost immediately by a mythical Phoenix creature, proved to be the unique angle which set the series apart from anything else being produced in otherwise staid and unimaginative daytime drama field. The series began to swiftly gain a loyal, hardcore audience. Realising that tapping into the previously unexplored area of the supernatural was the road for the series to take, Curtis (Wallace had by now ceased to be story consultant) made the decision to introduce a character which, arguably, embodied the most potent appeal of the dark Parthenon of the denizens of the horror genre, a vampire. With the arrival of the tortured, broodingly romantic antihero character of vampire Barnabas Collins (wonderfully played by the charismatic Canadian Shakespearean character actor, Jonathan Frid), the series became quite literally, a sensation. In keeping with the traditional daytime soaps of the time, Dark Shadows was videotaped live on small sets in ABC's New York studios, and over the course of its run, the series would embrace storylines which involved all manner of supernatural events and creatures as well as time travel, alternate worlds and the reworking of the basic plots borrowed liberally from the great classics of horror literature. Under the watchful eye of Curtis, the show quickly developed an in-house repertory company of seasoned and assured actors who, despite the occasional fluffed line caused by the pressure of too little rehearsal time, rose to the challenge of playing multiple roles with a conviction and professionalism that enhanced even the most unlikely of scenarios. Such was the popularity of the show that in 1970 the first motion picture spin-off, House of Dark Shadows, was released followed in 1971 by the inferior sequel, Night of Dark Shadows. The series also spawned a vast array of merchandise, which continues to this day, including novels, comic books, video compilations and model kits. The series was resurrected in 1975 and aired in syndication on various local TV stations and PBS across the US until 1990 when the US Sci-Fi Channel purchased exclusive rights to broadcast the show, followed quickly by the European version of the channel, which afforded UK viewers their first exposure to what had until then been an often mentioned, but unseen series, while 1991 saw Curtis revive the show briefly for the NBC network running from January 13th to March 22nd 1991, in an expensive, but ill fated remake featuring an all new cast.

Imaginative, unique and ground-breaking in its daring and successful use of horror motifs in the then otherwise conservative US television field, Dark Shadows even to this day commands an affection and respect from its legions of fans which is perhaps second only in terms of popularity to that given to the mighty Star Trek franchise. The series delivered excellent entertainment throughout the latter half of the nineteen-sixties, over three decades later, that entertainment value has remained resolutely undiminished. In July 2007, Warner Bros. acquired the film rights for the gothic soap opera from the estate of Dan Curtis and in 2012 a feature film by US film producer Tim Burton, famed for his dark, quirky-themed movies as well as numerous box-office blockbusters was released, starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins. (Stephen R. Hulse)


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TV Show Image One of Betty White's earliest sitcom efforts. She starred as newlywed Vicki Angel; her husband was insurance agent Gus (Bill Williams). The pair would get their friends and neighbours into various comic situations, all of which were resolved by the show's end. Natalle Masters and Roy Engle played neighbours Wilma and George Clemson; Richard Reeves was friend Murph; and Jimmy Boyd appeared occasionally as the Angels' nephew Wheeler. Chrysler Corporation was the show's sponsor (future game show host Tom Kennedy did the commercials for the Plymouth line), but low ratings meant no more dates with the Angels; the show ended its run in January 1958. The following month, White filled the time slot for Chrysler with a short-lived comedy variety series which ran through April.


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Dean Martin When the comic team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis broke up for good in 1956 after nearly ten years of success in nightclubs, television and film, most believed Lewis would be the star attraction, while Martin would fade into obscurity. At first, that seemed to be the case, as Jerry Lewis went from one triumph to another in the late 50's and early 60's with various film projects such as The Errand Boy and Cinderfella. By contrast, Dean Martin's first post-breakup film, a slight comedy called 10,000 Bedrooms, nearly destroyed his career. But Martin's fortunes changed with his well-received role in the 1958 Marlon Brando drama The Young Lions, leading to other film roles and a series of successful television appearances. His Las Vegas shows with buddies Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior in Las Vegas-the famed "Rat Pack", was the stuff of legend. By 1965, NBC, which was heavily into musical variety as part of its lineup-expressed interest in a show built around the laid-back Italian crooner. Martin wanted no part of it; to ensure its rejection, he demanded a large amount of money, wanted all the rerun rights, and said he would work just one day a week for rehearsals and tapings! Much to his surprise, NBC said yes to all his demands. Martin admitted the network "should have thrown (his demands) in my face, but they agreed to it all. So what the hell, I had to show up!"

With veteran producer Greg Garrison at the helm The Dean Martin Show - in living colour, complete with the requisite NBC peacock - made its debut on September 16th, 1965. Pianist Ken Lane was his only regular, the series was initially just Dean hosting and singing, while big-name acts filled the hour. After a strong start, viewers turned away, possibly disappointed because there was not enough Dean. Garrison brought in musical director Lee Hale to help revise the format. Hale complied by paring down the number of guests and making Dean more comfortable with the show. Though he would only do a dress rehearsal before the final taping Sunday nights, Hale and Garrison's teaming of just the right guest stars and songs or skits allowed the crooner to relax more; his persona of a boozing, womanizing playboy was just right for the swinging 1960's. The ever-present "drink" in Dean's hand on the show was usually apple juice. To those who thought Martin was on the sauce when the cameras rolled, he had this response: "How could a drunk get up at six o'clock in the morning, play nine holes of golf and then spend the rest of the day working on a show he's never even seen before, with music cues, tricky arrangements and all the rest of it?". Viewers liked the relaxed, spontaneous Dean. And they responded; ratings started to go up. By its second season, The Dean Martin Show landed in television's top 20 and remained a top ten attraction for the rest of the decade. For the fall of 1973, NBC moved Dean Martin from Thursday to Friday nights and its format changed. So did the title: The Dean Martin Comedy Hour put the emphasis on skits, sprinkled with a "country music" segment and a new feature that "roasted" celebrities with famous names providing the zingers. The roasts were so popular, NBC decided to scrap the weekly Martin series and launch The Dean Martin Roasts as occasional specials starting in 1974. Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball and then California Governor Ronald Reagan were the good natured subjects of these "tributes", with many of them taking place at the old MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. The specials ran on the network through 1984, while Martin continued to act and record. But friends say Martin never recovered emotionally from the tragic 1987 death of his actor son Dean Paul in a plane crash. Dean took part in a concert reunion tour with fellow "Rat Packers" Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior the following year, but pulled out in 1989 due to ill health. By the early 1990's, he was living a quiet retirement; he died of acute respiratory failure on Christmas Day, 1995. Dean Martin was one of the last of a breed, with success in just about any field of entertainment you could name. He was the swinging uncle who was always the life of the party, and asked for little in return. The Dean Martin Show - which is available on DVD - was pure, unadulterated Dean. Just the way his fans liked him.


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TV Show Image The old mother-in-law joke was turned upside down in this sitcom, which began on radio in 1952 and made the move to television two years later. Veteran character actress Spring Byington played Lily Ruskin, a vital widow always looking for a suitable man; she was based on creator Parke Levy's own mother-in-law. Lilly got along well with her son Matt Henshaw (Dean Miller) and her daughter-in-law Ruth (Francis Rafferty). Her best friend was outspoken Hilda Croker (Verna Feldon); Lily and Hilda would get into a number of unusual situations. Also on hand was Lily's next-door-neighbour Pete Porter (Harry Morgan), who didn't like HIS own mother-in-law, and complained often about his never-seen wife Gladys. Because it was jointly produced by Desilu and CBS, December Bride won the coveted time slot behind I Love Lucy on Monday nights, and became a solid top-ten series. It ran for five seasons, but the character of Pete Porter was popular enough to launch a separate series. Pete & Gladys starred Morgan with Cara Williams as Gladys, a scatterbrained but earnest woman. Verna Feldon and Francis Rafferty were occasional regulars on the show, which ran from 1960 through 1962. Morgan would later go on to television fame as Officer Bill Gannon on Dragnet (1967-70) and Colonel Sherman Potter in M*A*S*H.


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Show Image US Western series starring Henry Fonda. He wasn't the deputy - he was the Marshal, Simon Fry, who each week would assign his deputy, Clay McCord (actor Allen Case) to whatever task was required such as going undercover to learn the plans of a gang of outlaws, trekking into Apache territory on a peace mission or protecting a citizen from a hired gunman. As such it was Case rather than Fonda who was the real star of the show and of the 75 episodes made 54-year old Fonda only featured in half-a-dozen stories, the rest of the time he appeared at the beginning to send McCord on his task and at the end to congratulate him on a job well done! The series was inspired by the 1957 movie Tin Star starring Fonda and Anthony Perkins in which Fonda played a veteran marshal-turned-bounty hunter who decides to help a young and inexperienced deputy protect himself from the criminal elements in town. The series is notable for giving a TV debut to a young Robert Redford. Allen Case went on to co-star in the 1965 western series The Legend of Jesse James as outlaw Frank James. Sadly, he died of a heart attack at the age of 52. The series was created by Norman Lear, who would go on to develop some of the biggest TV comedy hits of the 1970s, like All in the Family, Sanford and Son and Maude. (Laurence Marcus)


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DEsigning Women There are words to describe this opinionated workplace comedy of the 1980's and early 1990's: Sweet, sassy, sexy, and unabashedly feminist. Despite a rocky start and near cancellation; not to mention a much-publicized feud surrounding one of its stars, Designing Women became a hit in part because of the talent of its original ensemble cast. Although Designing Women had some elements in common with NBC's smash hit The Golden Girls (which premiered the year before), the two shows were quite different. For one thing, the "Women", who ran an interior design firm in Atlanta, Georgia, were younger and more outspoken about the outside world. Also, most of "Women's" action was set in the workplace, while the lives of the "Girls" revolved around their suburban Miami, Florida home. "Sugarbaker and Associates" was a successful interior design firm in the Atlanta area. Julia Sugarbaker was a widow, the business' founder and probably the sharpest of the four ladies. She was also the most opinionated of the group. Not so her younger sister Suzanne, a former beauty queen whose life centered on her ex-husbands, dating rich men and spending money. Also working for the firm was Mary Jo Shively, a divorced mom whose ex-husband often didn't pay his child support, leaving her to use her considerable decorating talents to support herself and her two children. Last but not least was the receptionist and office manager Charlene Frazier, a single gal who loved the tabloids and always seemed to date the wrong men. The fifth and unofficial "Woman" of the show was actually a man. African-American deliveryman Anthony Bouvier was originally meant to be an occasional character, as an ex-con wrongly imprisoned for a crime he didn't do. Actor Meshach Taylor's performances impressed the cast and crew so much that Anthony became a regular character during the show's first season.

By its second season, Designing Women began dealing with topics not usually handled on situation comedies of the period; prostitution, AIDS, pornography, domestic violence - and managed to do it with both intelligence and laughter. By 1990, Designing Women and the show it followed on Monday nights, Murphy Brown, became a potent top-ten anchor for CBS. But there were major problems brewing behind the scenes. By this time, Delta Burke was suffering from panic attacks, which made her afraid to attend the episode filmings; she eventually found help through therapy and medication. But she also gained a noticeable amount of weight, and the producers wanted her to diet. The behind-the-scenes fights between Burke, series creator Linda Bloodworth and producer Harry Thomason became tabloid fodder. By the end of the 1990-91 season, Delta Burke was let go from the ensemble cast. And hers was not the only departure. Jean Smart decided to leave the show to spend more time with her family. So the sixth season of Designing Women saw major changes and the show began losing viewers. Bloodworth-Thomason, who wrote most of the scripts in the show's first several seasons, had stepped back from the production. She and husband Thomason were creating other series for CBS, including Evening Shade and Hearts Afire; a new producer and staff of writers were now responsible for Designing Women. Plus, the couple also kept busy in the political field as media consultants for their friend, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton-who became president of the United States in 1992. In an effort to boost ratings, CBS moved Designing Women to Friday nights; it didn't work. An hour-long season finale with the principal characters each imagining herself as "Gone With The Wind's" Scarlett O'Hara" became the series' swan song in May 1993. By early 1995, the Thomasons had made up with Delta Burke-and the trio decided to co-produce what became a spin-off of Designing Women. Burke brought her Suzanne Sugarbaker character to the new political comedy, Women of the House. But Women of the House was nowhere near as popular as Designing Women; it was cancelled after a flap over an episode that dealt with the brutal treatment of some women in the film industry. CBS had cut a graphic one-minute piece depicting the violence; Bloodworth-Thomason denounced the network's decision, sealing the show's fate. The entire Women of the House episode (along with several unaired shows) later aired on the women's cable network Lifetime. It also became home to reruns of Designing Women, which grew into one of Lifetime's most popular offerings. So popular that on July 28th, 2003, the original cast of "Women" and Bloodworth-Thomason reassembled for a 90-minute reunion special on Lifetime, featuring clips from much-loved episodes and frank talk.

Some critics denounced Designing Women as a show with a political agenda. But politics aside, Designing Women was a very funny series (in its first five seasons) with one of the best ensemble casts ever in a US comedy. As one guest character correctly pointed out, "We ain't what we should be, we ain't what we're gonna be, but at least we ain't what we were."


Show Image Dinah Shore was one of the few women who headlined her own variety series on American television in the 1950's. And for good reason. She was beautiful, had a distinctive vocal style, was always generous to her many guests, and like her TV contemporary Perry Como, her relaxed presence made for pleasant viewing. It's no wonder when she sang her sponsor's jingle, "See The U.S.A. In Your Chevrolet," even die-hard Ford owners couldn't help but join her. Dinah Shore had long been a familiar singer and actress to Americans; she easily made the transition to the new medium. Starting in November 1951, Shore starred in a 15-minute live show that aired before NBC's Camel News Caravan on Tuesday and Thursday nights. She sang a few songs, had an occasional guest star and featured such vocal acts as The Notables and The Skylarks. The Dinah Shore Show was loved by critics; Jack Gould of The New York Times noted Shore "was the picture of naturalness and conducted her show with a disarming combination of authority and humility." By the fall of 1956, Dinah's 15-minute show was reduced to just Thursday evenings-not because she was cancelled by the network. NBC gave Shore an entire hour in prime time, now known as The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, every Friday night. After one season, the 15-minute show was dropped for good, and the "Chevy Show" moved to Sundays, where she held her own against the Western craze of the period. Shore remained the charming hostess, with the longer format giving her more of a showcase for her songs and interactions with a long list of guest stars. Dinah continued to sing the praises of her car maker sponsor (sometimes in elaborate filmed musical numbers), and ended each show by giving the audience a great big kiss-MUAH!. Chevrolet's long relationship with Dinah Shore ended in the fall of 1961, when her series moved back to Fridays (alternating every other week with the prestigious Bell Telephone Hour). In the fall of 1962, the series-now known as The Dinah Shore Show-alternated with The DuPont Show Of The Week on Sundays. Shore herself won four Emmy awards for her television work, but her series ended its run on May 12th, 1963. She went on to host a number of specials, then became a staple of daytime television with musical/variety/interview programmes such as Dinah! and Dinah's Place. And remained the attractive, talented and gracious woman she always was-right up to her death from ovarian cancer in February 1994.


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The Donna Reed Show A family-oriented situation comedy in the mould of Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show had a long and successful eight-year run. It was not funnier than other shows (though it wasn't bad for its genre) nor was it a radical departure from the norm (though it had its own twists). The main reason people watched was Donna Reed, the Academy Award-winning actress who was one of the few women of the late 1950's to have behind-the-scenes control of her own television series. And though she came off as "goody two-shoes" on the screen, she was anything but passive in real life.

Donna Belle Mullenger was born January 27th, 1921 on an Iowa farm. As she grew up, her beauty helped her win various pageants in the area. After graduation from high school, she went to Los Angeles to study acting. It was during that time an MGM talent scout spotted the young woman and signed to a contract. Now billed as Donna Reed, she appeared in a number of the studio's films. In 1946 she co-starred with James Stewart in what would become her best-known screen role as Mary Hatch Bailey in the Frank Capra holiday classic It's A Wonderful Life. After that part Reed's roles were mostly of the good-girl, wholesome type. She tried to break that stereotype, playing the prostitute Alma Burke in the film From Here To Eternity. But despite winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, the part did not lead to more serious or showy roles. Her husband, Tony Owen, urged her to consider television. As a result, the pair formed Todon Productions and sold their series to Screen Gems (the television studio arm of Columbia Pictures). The Donna Reed Show premiered September 24th, 1958 on ABC. It was in the mould Donna wanted: herself as Donna Stone, mother and housewife in the fictional town of Hilldale. Husband Alex (Carl Betz) was a doctor who made house calls, usually leaving Donna to handle the trials and tribulations of their two children, son Jeff (Paul Petersen) and teenage daughter Mary (Shelley Fabares). Not unlike many comedies, there were misunderstandings and minor crisis, but all was well before the final commercial for the show's sponsors, Campbell Soup and health care giant Johnson & Johnson. The situations were reasonable if a bit exaggerated; as Reed put it at the time, "We've worked very hard to put together a believable family and a realistic picture of family life...I'm fed up to here with stories about kooky, amoral or sick women." Donna Stone was anything but kooky, amoral or sick. She was the mom every child wanted and the wife every man wanted to marry. In 1963, Fabares left the show and the Stones adopt a young orphan named Trisha (Patty Petersen, younger sister of Paul) and have the mandatory next-door neighbours, fellow Doctor David Kelsey (a pre-Hogan's Heroes Bob Crane) and wife Midge (Ann McCrea). But through it all was Donna Reed who, according to the Donna Reed Foundation For The Performing Arts website ( noted, was the "uncredited producer and director of the show, studying and mastering lighting and cinematography-roles rarely handled by women at that time."

By this time Donna Reed became increasingly tired of her television role; she threatened to quit several times but was always soothed by more money and a reduced workload. Her threat to quit was real when she called it quits in 1966 after eight years and 275 episodes. (She never won an Emmy for her Donna Stone role, even though she was nominated four times.) Not long after "Donna Reed" went into syndicated reruns, the woman who played the perfect homemaker and wife divorced husband Tony Oden; became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War and was chairperson of an organization called "Another Mother For Peace." And it turned out Donna Reed was a feminist, denouncing the "two-dimensional, stereotyped woman" she played, and despised what she called the "male mentalities that control TV programming." But she never achieved the success of The Donna Reed Show again; the actress appeared in several made-for-television films after the show's run. Her last major role was on the prime time drama Dallas, where she replaced Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie. After only one season, Reed was fired and Bel Geddes returned to the role. Reed was so angry she sued Lorimar, the company that produced Dallas, for breach of contract. She won her battle with the Dallas folks (a seven-figure settlement), but the 64-year old actress lost her battle with pancreatic cancer on January 14th, 1986. Years later, the picture of Donna Reed/Donna Stone remains that of the perfect housewife and mom. In a 2001 episode of the mother-daughter saga Gilmore Girls, Rory's boyfriend Dean angered her when he admitted he liked the idea of a Donna Stone-like girlfriend after watching the reruns:
Dean: (about Donna Reed) She seems happy.
Lorelai: She's medicated.
Rory: And acting from a script.
Lorelai: Written by a man.
Rory: Well said, Sister Suffragette.
Even today, The Donna Reed Show can divide the most modern of television women.


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Doogie Howser cast In America, "Doogie" has become shorthand for someone who is considered to be too young to handle responsibility. That's a rather unfair slap to the television "dramedy" (comedy-drama) where the term originated. Doogie Howser, MD seems to be implausible on the surface; a teenager who's a licensed doctor - but there is quite a bit of reality in the situation, and it was helped by the show's two famed creators; Steven Bochco and David E. Kelley. But credit must also be given to young actor Neil Patrick Harris, who turned Doogie into a flesh and blood character stuck in that space between adulthood and youth. Bochco and Kelley created Doogie Howser" as part of Bochco's multi-series deal with ABC. Doogie (Douglas) Howser was a gifted child who finished high school in nine weeks, graduated from Princeton University at age 10 and became the youngest practicing physician in the U.S. by the age of 14. His biography was summed up in the opening credits, complete with a synthesizer music theme by Mike Post. And yes, there was a real-life Doogie Howser - sort of. His name was Howard Zucker, and he became a doctor at the relatively young age of 22. Zucker reportedly had a cousin who worked as an ABC programmer. Bochco has also said the show was inspired in part by his father, who was a violin protègè. When the series premiered in September 1989, Doogie was 16 years old and practiced medicine at Los Angeles' Eastman Medical Center. He lived with his parents Katherine (Belinda Montgomery) and his father, Dr. David Howser (played by James B. Sikking, who also portrayed gun-ho SWAT Lieutenant Howard Hunter on Hill Street Blues). Yet while Doogie had adult responsibilities, physically and emotionally he was a teenager - too smart for his age group yet too young for some adults to take seriously. And as with most teens, Doogie experienced the ups and downs of love and adolescent lust. Each episode concluded with Doogie typing the lessons he had learned in that episode into his computer diary. Done on an early IBM PC clone, Doogie's "journal" was an early example of blogging (before the Internet, no less!)

Doogie Howser, MD was a moderate hit but ran for just four seasons; Bochco later said he was unable to write a series finale because ABC abruptly cancelled the series. If he had the chance, Bochco would have created a storyline where Doogie becomes disillusioned about being a doctor and switched careers to become a writer. As it was, the final episode was shown to American audiences March 24th, 1993. Harris took on various roles in television, stage and film after "Doogie;" he parodied his television persona in the 1994 movie comedy Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle (aka Harold and Kumar Get The Munchies) by playing himself as a drug addict who steals the main characters' car! In 1999 Harris returned to television with the short-lived NBC comedy Stark Raving Mad and later guest-starred on Will & Grace as the head of a group for "former" homosexuals. But in 2005, he came back to TV with a very funny performance as womanizing Barney Stinson on the CBS ensemble comedy How I Met Your Mother. In 2006, a Canadian website reported that Harris was having a relationship with a fellow actor. A day later, Harris confirmed to People magazine that he was a "very content gay man living my life to the fullest." Yes, "Doogie" remains a negative shorthand in US pop culture. What should not be forgotten is that Doogie Howser was a few steps above the typical TV portrayal of a teenager, and was a well-produced series with its heart in the right place.


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Doris Day In the early 1960's Doris Day was one of the nation's top film stars with a string of successful light comedies to her credit (Pillow Talk; Lover Come Back; The Thrill of It All and others). The singer and actress was never a big fan of television, but ironically, it was her five year run on her self-titled sitcom that made Doris Day more successful than ever before. Day was also one of the few successful film actresses who made a smooth transition to television. But the irony of The Doris Day Show is that its format would change season to season; the show's final episodes were a far cry from the original premise. 1968 was a watershed year for the woman who starred in such notable films as Love Me or Leave Me and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Her soft romantic comedies, which usually had the attractive Miss Day portray a virginal single woman, had fallen out of favour in the increasingly sexual film climate of the late 1960's. Even more tragic for Day was the death of her third husband and business manager, Marty Melcher. Not long after his death, Day discovered he had mismanaged her finances by investing her money with a crooked attorney, leaving her nearly broke. Before his death, Melcher signed with CBS to create a new situation comedy starring his wife. To his credit, it was a tremendous deal: Day would be under contract with CBS for five seasons, but she would keep all the show's rerun rights and the show's negatives, plus the right to produce movies for the network. The Doris Day deal came in part because CBS' top female comic, Lucille Ball, kept making more expensive demands every season-including deals for new series from her production company. Since Lucy was still a top-ten draw, CBS accepted her demands, but apparently felt Doris Day could step in if Lucy decided to bolt the network. Day was never a big fan of the medium and wanted no part of it, but it was her adopted son Terry Melcher who encouraged his mother to do the show. If it ran several years, Melcher pointed out Day's debts would be wiped out and she would be financially secure. With few other options, Day agreed to move forward, and Terry served as executive producer of The Doris Day Show.

The show's first season (which began September 24th, 1968) set the actress up as Doris Martin, a widowed mother of two young sons Billy and Toby (Phillip Brown and Todd Starke) who moves in with her father Buck (Denver Pyle) on his farm in Mill Valley, California-not far from San Francisco. Character actor James Hampton played the bumbling farmhand Leroy B. Simpson and Naomi Stevens was the farm's housekeeper Juanita. Also in the cast was Lord Nelson as the family sheepdog Nelson; Lord Nelson also appeared with Doris in the 1960 film Please Don't Eat The Daisies. Day's light comedy touch made for pleasant if predictable entertainment. Still, the show was well produced (crew members who worked on Day's previous films were hired for her TV show as well). While not a blockbuster in its first season, it was the 30th most popular series on television, and was renewed for a second year. Season two saw major format changes. Doris Martin began a new career as a secretary for the San Francisco based magazine "Today's World", commuting from the Mill Valley farm to the city by the bay. Hampton and Stevens were gone from the cast. McLean Stevenson played editor Mike Nicholson, Doris' boss; veteran Rose Marie was her workplace buddy Myrna Gibbons; and Paul Smith was assistant editor Ron Harvey. The changes seemed to work; helped by a shift to CBS' strong Monday lineup, The Doris Day Show became the 10th most popular show of the season. The third season saw the loss of both the farm and series regular Denver Pyle as Doris and the boys moved to San Francisco, living above an Italian restaurant run by Angie and Louie Palucci (Kaye Ballard and Bernie Kopell). Doris also started showing talent as a writer; she began covering stories for "Today's World" during the season. All the changes may have helped Doris Day survive on the schedule, as CBS began clearing out its rural-based shows in favour of more "relevant" programmes. Season Four, which began in the fall of 1971, saw The Doris Day Show undergo its most radical format change to date. Doris Martin was now a swinging single with no kids or dog (the boys and the sheepdog apparently went back to help their grandfather on the farm); she became a full-time reporter - Stevenson, Marie and Smith were gone; so were Ballard and Kopell. Doris' new boss was hard-driving Cy Bennett (John Dehner); his secretary was Jackie Parker (Jackie Joseph). Billy De Wolfe played the irritating Willard Jarvis, who buys Doris' apartment building.

The changes were obviously meant to make The Doris Day Show more in tune with CBS' increasingly urban-themed comedies - especially The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which became a critical and ratings success the year before. Unfortunately, Day and the new cast were not blessed with the same producers and writers that lifted Mary Tyler Moore into classic sitcom status. But the show was pleasant light entertainment as always. Doris did find romance during the fourth and fifth seasons as she first dated Dr Peter Lawrence (Peter Lawford); then after they broke up, she met and fell in love with the magazine's foreign correspondent Jonathan Rusk (Patrick O'Neal); Doris and Jonathan began making wedding plans before the show's final original episode aired on March 5th, 1973. By this time, Doris Day was a committed advocate of animal rights and was ready to leave the Hollywood lifestyle behind her. CBS wanted a sixth season, but Doris was contracted to do only five years. By the final season, she had become the show's executive producer, and simply told CBS "I have done everything I can with the series". The Doris Day Show gave the entertainer the financial security she had hoped for; she also sued the lawyer who cheated her late husband and won the fight. She eventually moved to Carmel, California where she continues to live a private (and by all accounts happy) life. If The Doris Day Show looks innocent and overly optimistic in today's more cynical world, it should be noted that it was a comedy tailored to the talents and personality of its star. Groundbreaking it wasn't (except for the format shifts) but Doris Day was the reason many of us didn't mind spend time with her every week.


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Show Image A social drama of the Kennedy era, it starred future Oscar-winning actor George C. Scott as Neil Brock, a social worker for a private organization based in the slums of New York City. His secretary and assistant was Jane Foster, played by Cicely Tyson, who became one of the few African-American women to have a regular series role up to that time. Elizabeth Wilson was Frieda Hechlinger, the head of Community Welfare Service. Each week, the series explored controversial social issues in the poorer and neglected areas of New York. Its best-known episode, "Who Do You Kill," featured James Earl Jones and Diana Sands as a black couple whose baby was bitten by a rat in their tenement apartment; the child died, sending the couple spiraling into despair. Another episode, "No Hiding Place," dealt with a black couple moving into an all-white suburb; realtors tried to get "panicked" white residents to sell their homes at a loss. The practice, known as "block busting," was common before federal housing laws took effect.
East Side/West Side had fine writing and strong performances from Scott, the core cast and the show's guest stars. But the stories proved to be limited because Brock-as a private social worker-could help victims only so much. Also, the issues presented on the show-abortion, prejudice, and drug abuse-did not lend themselves to a neat, tidy resolution as television drama of the era demanded. The situation wasn't helped by meddling from CBS network president James Aubrey, a champion of light, fluffy programmes. At one point, he told East Side/West Side producer David Susskind he wanted the cast "out of Harlem and I want them on Park Avenue." Susskind thought the demand was silly-who would need social justice in one of New York's more affluent areas? But under Aubrey's orders, changes were made. In the middle of the season, Brock went to work for Congressman Charles Hanson (Linden Chiles) as an advisor on social issues, but fought with public relations advisor Mike Miller (John McMartin), who worried about the congressman's image with voters. Wilson and Tyson disappeared from the cast; and a pre-Get Smart Barbara Feldon became Brock's girlfriend. Susskind later admitted, "A gloomy atmosphere for commercial messages, an integrated cast, and a smaller Southern station lineup, all of these things coming together spelled doom for the show. I'm sorry television wasn't mature enough to absorb it and like it and live with it." Not even in John Kennedy's New Frontier.


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Show Image In the early days of television, America often "raided" radio for its best material to transfer it from the microphone to the camera. In a number of cases this proved a winning formula. One of the most popular radio shows of all time was Fibber McGee and Molly. Fibber was so called because of his tendency not so much to lie, but to exaggerate greatly. Most of the times he'd come up with harebrained schemes (like digging an oil well in the back yard) only to come back down to Earth with a bump. Fortunately for him his adoring wife Molly was always there to catch him and soften the fall. The radio series had a number of running gags such as Fibber's inability to tell a joke which was often followed by Molly's reprimand "T'ain't funny, McGee!" The line found its way into popular culture during the 1940s. The most enduring gag was The Closet - Fibber's closet was often opened to a loud cacophonous clatter of bric-a-brac as it rained down over his head. "I gotta get that closet cleaned out one of these days" was the observation once the racket subsided. "Fibber McGee's closet" became another popular catchphrase - this one synonymous with household clutter. Real-life married couple Jim and Marian Jordan played the leads but when it came to making the TV show NBC decided to re-cast. With younger actors Bob Sweeney and Cathy Lewis in the roles the series was launched on September 15, 1959. Very few of the actors in the TV series had had any part in the radio version. Fibber McGee and Molly, the TV version, completely failed to hit it off with the American public. Even the closet joke was not as funny when you saw it as when you heard it. With the TV series seemingly unable to recreate the flavour and humour of the original radio version Fibber McGee and Molly failed to limp on for an entire season and was cancelled by mid January 1960.


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Show Image After playing the scruffy sidekick to numerous Western heroes including Randolph Scott, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and John Wayne, Gabby Hayes was rewarded with his own television series in 1950. Hayes, who looked every inch the typical cowboy was in fact born in New York and didn't even learn to ride a horse until he was in his forties and later admitted he hadn't even been a particular fan of the genre. Nonetheless he became a popular performer and consistently appeared among the ten favourite actors in polls taken of movie-goers of the period. He was closely associated with what eventually became clichéd Western phrases such as "yer durn tootin", "dadgumit", and "young whippersnapper." In 1974, Mel Brooks paid homage to Hayes by creating a lookalike character (played by Claude Ennis Starrett) named Gabby Johnson in the Western spoof Blazing Saddles. Hayes retired from the movies in the late 1940s and hosted The Gabby Hayes Show on television, although he did not appear as a participating character. Instead, Hayes introduced the show telling tales of the Old West, illustrating his dissertations with film clips from various cowboy movies. The first series, which ran from 1950 - 1954, was shown on NBC and had a running time of just fifteen minutes. The second series (1956) on ABC was a half-hour broadcast on Saturday mornings. When the second series finally ended George 'Gabby' Hayes retired from showbiz. He passed away the following year. (Laurence Marcus)


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Show Image After thirteen years as a singing cowboy on radio and the movies, Autry, largely due to the success of Hopalong Cassidy, started turning out weekly television adventures by the wagonload. Discovered by film producer Nat Levine in 1934, Orvon Grover Autry made his film debut for Mascot Pictures Corp. in In Old Santa Fe. Autry went on to make 44 B-movie Western films up to 1940, all in which he played under his own name, riding his trusty stallion, Champion. His television films began broadcasting in 1947 but original made-for-television episodes didn't appear until July 1950. These ran until 1956. Autry's role changed almost weekly from rancher, to ranch hand, to sheriff, to border agent. Pat Buttram supplied comic relief as Autry's sidekick, Pat - later to become familiar to the next generation of television viewers as Mr Haney on Green Acres. Alan Hale, Jr. - aka The Skipper from Gilligan's Island - played a bad guy in several episodes but he also played Gene's sidekick, Tiny, in two episodes of Season 1. Autry's horse won fame in his own right - getting a TV series; The Adventures of Champion from 1955 to 1956. Timeless Media Group has released the first four seasons of fully restored and uncut episodes on DVD in Region 1. (Laurence Marcus)

HANK (1965)

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Show Image This sitcom starred Dick Kallman as Hank Dearborn, a teenager who was left to care for his younger sister Tina (Katie Sweet) after their parents were killed in a car accident. To earn a living, Hank decided to take classes at fictional Western University. Of course, having no money, Hank resorted to "auditing" courses-finding out who didn't show up and posing as that person through elaborate means (which would be considered identity theft today). Dr. Lewis Royal (Howard St. John) was the registrar at Western, who was on the hunt for the young man auditing classes-not realizing the culprit, Hank, was dating his daughter Doris (Linda Foster). Moreover, the college's track coach spots Hank racing to class, and invited him to join the track team. Every week, Hank was forced to stay a step ahead of Dr. Royal and social workers who could take Tina away to foster care. Hank had a small but loyal following-too small for NBC, which cancelled the series after one season. But in an unusual move, the network allowed "Hank's" producers to tie up loose ends in the series finale: Hank was finally caught posing as an absent student, but because he did so well on a recent exam, Western University offered Hank a full scholarship. The final scene had Tina remarking "There goes my brother-the registered student." "Hank's" theme song lyrics were written by none other than Johnny Mercer! Dick Kallman was one of a number of promising performers hand-picked by Lucille Ball for her "Desilu Workshop," a project motivated in part to keep her mind off her upcoming divorce from Desi Arnaz. The young actors were featured in a Christmas special on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse in 1959. Kallman went on to a moderately successful music and stage career before he was murdered inside his New York City apartment in 1980.


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Show Image This was considered a family sitcom-if you stretched the definition of "family" to include two humans and their three chimpanzees. Jack Weston was real estate agent Walter Hathaway; Peggy Cass his wife Elinore-who was the booker to their trio of chimps Candy, Charlie and Enoch. Elinore treated the chimps as real children, which always worried Walter (did she care more about the chimps than him?). Watching TV authors Harry Castleman and Walter Podrazik called The Hathaways "possibly the worst series ever to air on network TV...utterly worthlessness." Ratings were so low, ABC found only one sponsor-cereal and pet food maker Ralston Purina-willing to even sponsor half the series. Fortunately for all involved, it was cancelled after just one season. Candy, Charlie and Enoch were real performers, billed as the Marquis Chimps. They were a popular act, appearing in commercials, and on Jack Benny and Ed Sullivan's programmes-certainly more dignified settings than The Hathaways could offer.

HAZEL (1965)

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Show Image Based on Ted Key's long running cartoon strip published in the Saturday Evening Post, Hazel starred Shirley Booth as the titular housemaid to the Baxter family who ran the family home far more efficiently than George Baxter (Don DeFore) ran his office, where he was a highly successful corporation lawyer for the firm of Butterworth, Hatch, Noll and Baxter. Hazel had a nose for everyone else's business, although ultimately this proved to be to everyone's advantage. George's wife, Dorothy (Whitney Blake) was more likely to be found shopping than housekeeping and it was Hazel's organisational skills that kept the Baxter household running smoothly. In 1965 the show moved networks so George and Dorothy were 'transferred' to the Middle East on assignment leaving Hazel and their son, Harold (Bobby Buntrock) to move in with George's brother's family. Steve Baxter (Ray Fulmer) was insistent that Hazel would not take over his home. She did!

HE AND SHE (1967)

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Show Image Real life husband and wife Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss starred in this domestic/workplace comedy that was slightly ahead of its time. Benjamin played Dick Hollister, a successful New York cartoonist who created the superhero character "Jetman," which was turned into a television show. Veteran actor Jack Cassidy played Oscar North, who portrayed "Jetman" on the fictional series. Dick's wife, Paula (Prentiss) was an off-centre social worker whose problems also became Dick's. Kenneth Mars was the couple's fireman friend Harry Zarakardos, and Hamilton Camp played the building's superintendent Andrew Hummel. But despite critical raves and a time slot following Green Acres, He And She was never the hit it deserved to be. One of its producers, Allan Burns, was later part of the Mary Tyler Moore Show team. Ironically, Cassidy turned down the part of that show's pompous newscaster Ted Baxter, saying it was too similar to his He And She role. CBS aired reruns of the series during the summer of 1970.


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TV Show Image This above-average high school sitcom starred Howard Hessman (who gained fame as Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP In Cincinnati) as Charlie Moore, an out-of-work actor who became a substitute history teacher at Manhattan's Millard Filmore High School. One of his classes included members of the school's Individualized Honors Program. They were a group with above-average intelligence, but they weren't so great with social skills. The IHP class included nerdy Arvid Engen (Dan Frischman); overweight and blustery Dennis Blunden (Dan Schneider); conservative Yuppie Alan Pinkard (Tony O'Dell); spoiled rich girl Darlene Merriman (Robin Givens); grounded Sarah Nevins (Kimberly Russell); overachiever Maria Borges (Leslie Bega); Indian exchange student Jawaharlal Choudhury (Jory Husain); artist Simone Foster (Khrystyne Haje); 11-year-old student Janice Lazarotto (Tannis Vallely); and greaser Eric Mardian (Brian Robbins), who was intelligent despite his dislike for anything academic. It was up to Charlie to give the IHP students street smarts, along with book smarts-much to the dismay of blustery principal Doctor Harold Samuels (William G. Shilling) and the admiration of his assistant Bernadette Meara (Jeanetta Arnette). Head Of The Class became the first modern American entertainment series to film an entire episode in the Soviet Union (Charlie and the IHP class went to Moscow to face their Russian counterparts in an academic tournament). The show also featured the cast doing mini-musicals; once each season, the students would perform such productions as Hair and Little Shop Of Horrors. During the show's run, Givens became a media sensation, thanks to her marriage to controversial boxer Mike Tyson. There was gradual turnover among the students; several left before the show's demise and a few new IHP members were added, including problem student T.J. Jones (Rain Pryor). Hessman also decided to leave the series after four seasons; his replacement was Scottish-born comic Billy Connolly as Billy MacGregor, who was more of a stand-up comic compared to the droll educator Charlie Moore was. The series ended its five-season run with the remaining IHP students graduating from Filmore High, which was waiting to be demolished. Dan Schneider (who played Dennis Blunden) went on to produce and write a string of successful teen sitcoms on the Nickelodeon cable channel, including iCarly; The Amanda Show and Zoey 101. The New York Times later called Schneider the Norman Lear of children's television. Co-star Brian Robbins also worked with Schneider, and later produced such network series as Smallville and One Tree Hill.


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Show Image Real life husband and wife Jack Lemmon and Cynthia Stone co-starred in a twice-a-week 'live broadcasted' domestic comedy. Each episode only lasted 15 minutes and featured the misadventures of newlyweds Pete and Betsy Bell. Unlike other domestic sitcoms it was the husband who was responsible for much of the mayhem with his tendency to jump headlong and headstrong into a problem before realising the possible consequences. It was his wife, an ex-secretary turned homemaker, who would get Pete out of trouble. He was an assistant buyer in a New York department store and they lived together in a two-room apartment. The series had a short run, September to December 1952. Lemmon and Stone divorced in 1956. She only enjoyed a brief career in television whilst Jack Lemmon went on to a hugely successful movie career. Their son, Chris Lemmon, is a successful author. (Laurence Marcus)


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TV Show Image This old-fashioned variety hour was ABC's answer to CBS' long-running Ed Sullivan Show. Unlike Sullivan, there was no permanent host; a guest star assumed the hosting duties every week and introduced a variety of acts from singers and dancers, to acrobats and stand-up comics. The Hollywood Palace was born from the failed rubble of The Jerry Lewis Show. The comic's expensive and live two hour series was quickly panned by critics and shunned by audiences. After ABC bought out Lewis' contract at the end of 1963, it was still stuck with the old El Capitan Theater in Hollywood that was home base for Lewis' show. Network executives decided to use the theater for an hour-long variety show. Bing Crosby was the first star who agreed to host; he would assume the duty 31 times during the "Palace's" run. Other guest hosts included such names as Milton Berle, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Jimmy Durante and even stars of ABC series such as Elizabeth Montgomery of Bewitched. The Hollywood Palace was structured much like the live vaudeville shows that were popular in the early years of the 20th century even down to having an attractive woman come out and present a card that introduced the next act to audiences. One of the early "card girls" was a shapely actress named Raquel Welch. The Hollywood Palace also introduced some popular musical acts to viewers. The Rolling Stones, for instance, made their first American appearance on "Palace;" when they were featured in a June 1964 telecast, guest host Dean Martin mocked them on the air. Martin's comments were deleted when the "Palace" episode was later repeated. But there was no mocking the Jackson 5 (fronted by a young and obviously talented Michael Jackson) when they made their national TV debut on "Palace" in October 1969. As was the case with many ABC programmes of the period, The Hollywood Palace aired in black and white; it would not broadcast in colour until the fall of 1965. (Sullivan's show also switched to tint around the same time.) Crosby hosted the last installment of The Hollywood Palace; the February 7th, 1970 "clip episode" featured the best moments from the show's run. One year later, CBS would give the axe to Ed Sullivan after 23 years anchoring Sunday nights. The demise of both vaudeville-style variety shows marked the end of an era in American television.


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Hopalong Cassidy As originally created by author Clarence E. Mulford, Bill 'Hopalong' Cassidy, the star of twenty-eight pulp fiction novels, was a rude, hard-living, tough-talking, wrangler of the old Wild West who got his nickname after being shot in the leg. On screen he was an entirely different character. Reserved and well spoken, with a fine sense of fair play who did not smoke, drink or swear and who always let the bad guy start the fight. The drink of his choice was the nonalcoholic sarsaparilla. In 1935, actor William Boyd was offered the supporting role of Red Connors in the movie Hop-Along Cassidy, but boldly asked for the title role which he was given. The film series eventually ended in 1947 after 66 films, with Boyd producing the last 12. Anticipating television's rise, Boyd had the prescience of mind to purchase the rights to the Hopalong Cassidy character, books and films. They didn't come cheap-but his $350,000 investment was paid back handsomely. In 1949, he released the low-budget films to television, and the first network Western television series became a sensation almost immediately. The following year alone, Boyd earned an estimated $800,000 from the telecasts, merchandise and endorsements. More than 100 companies sold Hopalong Cassidy products, including children's dinnerware, pillows, roller skates, soap, wristwatches, and jackknives. Hopalong Cassidy was also featured on the first child's lunchbox to bear a commercial image. The success of the show and tie-ins inspired several juvenile TV Westerns, including The Gene Autry Show and The Roy Rogers Show. With all the movies finally released to television original made-for-TV episodes were filmed from 1952 to 1954. Hoppy was still owner of the Bar 20 Ranch and his sidekick, Red Connors, was the perfect foil for Cassidy, who, unlike most cowboys heroes, dressed all in black and, with snow-white hair, cut quite a figure atop his horse Topper. On June 7, 2011, Timeless Media Group released Hopalong Cassidy: The Complete Television Series on DVD in Region 1. The 6-disc set features all 52 episodes of the series restored and remastered.(Laurence Marcus)


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Show Image This sitcom proved that illegal marriage was a bad idea for a TV series-but it was partially redeemed by a strange final episode that wrapped up the loose ties. Peter Farrell (Daniel Hugh-Kelly), a Los Angeles architect and single dad, was in danger of losing his El Salvadorian housekeeper Dora Calderon (Elizabeth Pena) to the federal immigration folks for her illegal status. Peter's bright idea: Marry Dora, allowing her to stay in the States and care for his children Kate and Will (played by Juliette Lewis and Jason Horst respectively). Of course, it was pointed out to the producers and the network that marriages under false pretences violated federal law. So on the premiere episode of I Married Dora, ABC announced that fact, and told viewers "You should not try this in your own home." The series found its humour in Peter and Dora hiding their marital status, while resisting the inevitable attraction to each other. In early 1988, ABC put the show out of its misery, but not without a final episode: Peter received a lucrative two-year job in Bahrain, and prepared to leave without Dora and the kids, even though Dora begged him to stay. Peter got onto the plane-and soon got off again. "It's been cancelled," Peter told Dora. "The flight?" asked Dora. "No," replied Peter, "our series!" The camera quickly pulled back, as the cast and crew waved so long to the few viewers who stuck with I Married Dora. It was the least they could do.

I'LL FLY AWAY (1991)

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TV Show Image A period drama set in the late 1950's and early 1960's, it centred on the lives of a Southern district attorney and his African-American housekeeper during the Civil Rights movement. Sam Waterston played Forrest Bedford, a widower in the town of Bryland (state unknown) who hired Lilly Harper (Regina Taylor), to care for him and his children Nate and Francine (played by Jeremy London and Ashlee Levich respectively). Both Forrest and Lilly become more and more involved in the black community's struggle for equal rights-Forrest as a prosecutor; Lilly as an activist. I'll Fly Away was loved by critics but was never a mainstream hit, and the network pulled the series after two seasons. In an unusual move, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) funded a two-hour movie called I'll Fly Away: Then and Now, which wrapped up the storylines left unresolved. It aired several months after the final series episode aired on NBC. PBS also aired each of the original episodes. Sam Waterston went on to co-star as prosecutor Sam McCoy on Law & Order, while Regina Taylor became a regular on The Unit and continues to act in films and on stage. The show's title came from a 1929 Christian hymn written by Albert E. Brumley.


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TV Show Image I'm Dickens...He's Fenster followed the comic exploits of two construction workers and bosom buddies (played by John Astin and Marty Ingels). After producing thirty-two side-splittingly hilarious episodes, and despite critics' raves in The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter and Time Magazine, the show was prematurely cancelled in its first season. By the time its final ratings came in, showing it having beaten Sing Along with Mitch and Route 66 for its time slot, it was too late to reassemble the cast, who had moved on to other projects. The successful and beloved show had become a casualty of timid programming and unlucky timing. Although short-lived, I'm Dickens...He's Fenster featured an extraordinary roster of guest stars, many of whom made their television debuts on the show including: Yvonne Craig ("Batgirl" from Batman), Harvey Korman (The Carol Burnett Show), Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H), Peter Lupus (Mission: Impossible), Lee Meriwether (Batman, The Time Tunnel), Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist), Edy Williams (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), and Jim Nabors (The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle USMC). The series also featured such directing talent as Arthur Hiller (Love Story, The In-Laws), Jay Sandrich (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls) , Norman Abbott, (The Munsters), Claudio Guzman (I Dream of Jeannie) and writers Mel Tolkin (Your Show of Shows, All in the Family), Don Hinkley (The Steve Allen Show, The Muppet Show) and Jay Sommers (Green Acres, Ozzie & Harriet). In addition to being creator, writer, director and producer on I'm Dickens...He's Fenster, Leonard Stern's remarkable career included writing for the Abbott and Costello and Ma and Pa Kettle movies, and the classic TV shows The Honeymooners, The Phil Silvers Show and The Steve Allen Show. From 1965-1970, Stern was executive producer, writer and director on the classic spy spoof Get Smart (starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon). He also created, produced and directed the TV series He & She (co-starring Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss) and McMillan & Wife (starring Rock Hudson and Susan St. James). He also co-created the immensely popular series of children's game books, Mad Libs. In 2012 to commemorate the series 50th anniversary a 3 disc DVD set featuring over 10 hours of content never before released on DVD or VHS was made available by Lightyear Entertainment and can be purchased through Amazon.Com in the USA and Canada. This is not currently available in the UK. (Review courtesy of Lightyear Entertainment)


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TV Show Image An hour-long comedy-drama now considered a cult classic, it told the story of four young men who lived on a houseboat. Wes Macauely (Glenn Corbett) was a pre-law college student who cared for his younger brother Howie (Mike Burns) after their parents were killed in a car wreck. Wes' fellow college buddy, Tom-Tom DeWitt (Ted Bessell)--who came from a wealthy family--lived with the group; by the second episode, Tom-Tom's friend Vern Hodges (Randy Boone) joined the gang on the houseboat they shared (called "The Elephant") in the fictional college town of Cordetta. Wes was easily the most settled of the four; he worked at a gas station and had a fiancé, Irene Hoff (Jan Norris). The stories revolved around the personalities of the four young men-Wes' struggles to make ends meet; Tom-Tom's obsession with the fast life (and fast girls); Howie's coming-of-age; and Vern's free-spirit nature and talent with a guitar. It's A Man's World was ahead of its time in dealing with the differences between adults and youth, premarital sex, and the rise of feminism. While a minor cult favourite among college students, it could not succeed against ABC's entrenched Cheyenne or CBS' game show staples To Tell The Truth and I've Got A Secret. Despite letters urging NBC to stay with the show, the network yanked the series in late January 1963. All four of the young stars would go on to roles in other television series; one of the show's writers, Earl Hammer, would later find fame as creator of the now-iconic family drama The Waltons.