Monday, December 23, 2013

The Highest Rated Half Hour Sitcom Episode of all Time!

The Beverly Hillbillies scored the highest numbers for a television program ever on January 15, 1964 - that record stood for some time. (The finale of M*A*S*H beat it with a 60 share but that episode was not a half hour.)

With an almost 43 share this episode ranks as the 44th highest rated broadcast ever. 'The Giant Jackrabbit' will forever on television be the highest rated 30 minute sitcom of all time - due to the fact that folks only had three choices back in the day, the audience is too dispersed across the dial today.

No, it's not your imagination, the theme song is not the original. That's Sharon Tate you'll see as the pretty girl from Beverly Caterers. A very funny episode. What I liked about the first 3 seasons - it was the residents of Beverly Hills that bore the brunt of the satire. When the focus shifted to making fun of the hillbillies the show got too silly.

1986 Saturday Morning Shows

Saturday morning shows 1987Networks were programming for a younger audience than a decade before; as a result, the Saturday shows were getting annoyingly cute by the mid-eighties.

Saturday mornings were in turmoil in 1986, ratings were falling. This was the first Saturday morning lineup in over fifteen years without Scooby Doo. Scooby, Bugs and the SuperFriends ate up 2 1/2 hours on ABC in 1985, but by the fall of 1986 all but Bugs were gone and he was busted to a half-hour.

While NBC took the road of least resistance (lots reruns of established shows), CBS and ABC took big gambles in 1986 in an attempt to lure a new audience. It wasn't long before Scooby and the DC heroes returned. In terms of ratings, CBS won the year handily thanks to Pee Wee Herman - but the real hit cartoons were playing on weekdays after school - Jem, Transformers, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony among many others.

Here are some highlights - go here for the complete Saturday 1986 schedule for all 3 networks.

Teen Wolf - Based on the hit movie starring Michael J. Fox, first of three years on Saturday mornings.

Galaxy High - Outer space style fun revolving around two exchange students from Earth who attend a high school on the asteroid Flutor made up of kids from every planet. I swear I don't make this stuff up; it ran for two years.

The Real Ghostbusters - Based on the hit movie. Four guys search for ghosts with Slimer, their pet glob of green goo. Just as in the cartoon version of Teen Wolf, no attempt was made to have the animated characters look like their big screen counterparts. This show was so popular it began running on weekday afternoons

Lazer Tag Academy - A time traveling teen girl from 3010 lands in the present to stop the villain Draxon Drear from changing history. She teamed with her ancestors, Tom, Nicky, and Beth who are uniquely able to use Lazer Tag guns to travel through time and manipulate objects. There were 13 episodes filmed by Ruby Spears Animation.

Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling! - Last year of two, reruns from the previous year. No, the Hulkster didn't take the time to voice his animated clone, it was Brad Garrett who did the honors. The other famous WWF wrestlers featured in this series were also voiced by others - including The Iron Sheik, Andre the Giant and Rowdy Roddy Piper. 

It's Punky Brewster - Punky was prime time kiddie fodder that translated well into cartoon format. Year two of four. Soleil Moon-Frye provided the voice of Punky; in fact, all of the original cast was on hand, as well as the obligatory added animal cohort with magical powers - in this case a gopher-like thing named Glomer.

The complete Saturday 1986 schedule for all 3 networks.

How I Saved Jesus

Jesus Stations of the Cross Diorama sculptureThere are countless stories of wayward souls saved by Jesus Christ. But did I ever tell you the story of how I returned the favor?

Well, actually it was cinematographer Phillip Dann that rescued this magnificent depiction of one of the Stations of the Cross. There were originally 13 of these detailed diorama sculptures, beautifully but dramatically depicting the suffering of Christ.

It's made of painted plaster sculpted against a solid wood backing, it must weigh 60 pounds. If I were to guess I would say this would date back to the 1930s.

Sadly, only three of the Stations survived. It seems an old church by the coast was modernizing and renovating they felt the dioramas were too old fashioned - so they just chucked them into a construction dumpster where they were decimated, reduced to rubble. Can you imagine?!? Phillip pulled the three less severely damaged sculptures out of their ignominious resting place and they were used briefly in the film I performed in in 2011, Lake of Fire.

(Here's a scene from that movie.)

It was the last day of filming and I was asked if I could take one of the sculptures home since they had no place to live. Of course I said no. I mean, this thing is huge and would tend to dominate a room. This will twist your room's Fung shui into total turmoil!

But after a moment of reflection I realized I couldn't let something so unique and symbolic end up on Storage Wars. Or worse, in some Frat House turned into a beer bong.

Fortunately I found a nice spot on my Time Tunnel hallway and there it sits.

Jesus Stations of the Cross Diorama sculptures 1930?

Stations of the Cross Diorama sculptures 1930?

I figure my ticket to Heaven is hardly guaranteed so I need to hedge my bets any way I can. Although it might not help if the big guy is looking down when I adorn the statue with a more modern touch, an anarchy metal pin.

Praise Him 'till they raise Him! Hallelujah!

The Unknown Comic's Autobiography

'Journey Through the Unknown' is the new autobiography of Murray Langston, long time TV second banana who hit superstar status in the mid-1970s with his alter ego, The Unknown Comic. In this fast paced breezy read, Langston regales the reader with tales about the top stars of the last fifty years, it's fascinating.

In the 1970s Murray Langston (along with his oft-times partners Ted Zeigler, Peter Cullen, and Freeman King) was ubiquitous on my favorite TV shows, those produced by Allan Blye, Chris Bearde and Bob Einstein starting with The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in 1971. That series in particular, along with The Gong Show a few years later, solidified my love for this oddball comic.

As a supporting player for Sonny & Cher he was ringside for the circus surrounding the couple of the decade who made more tabloid headlines than they did money. If you've waited for an insider on the show to share his experiences here it is. Murray Langston creates an image of Cher that's both sympathetic and cold hearted bitch. Sonny Bono comes across a great deal less sympathetic.

(Not the best clip to showcase his talents but Murray Langston can be seen in the yellow hat and scarf.)

You have to recognize the genius that was The Unknown Comic, pure bullshittery but everyone was in on the joke so it worked brilliantly. Murray Langston is an honest-to-God showbiz legend that found a way to use the fuel from the daytime ratings brushfire that was The Gong Show to catapult himself into the 1970s zeitgeist, becoming an icon of the polyester decade. 'The Wizard of Whoopie' had a best-selling poster like Farrah Fawcett. He headlined Vegas.

'Journey Through the Unknown' never gets bogged down in the author's ego, a common trap for celeb books; Langston is willing to lay bare his life warts and all. My only regret concerning this massive 450+ page book filled with photos and stories about hundreds of stars like Jerry Lewis, Steve Martin, Karen Black, Ruth Buzzi, Ted Knight, Bobby Vinton, Goldie Hawn, and Lucie Arnaz... I just wish there were more. It's an exuberant life well lived and a story well told, highly recommended.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Lucy Desi 1959 Christmas Day Special

Lucy Desi Christmas Special!
I Love Lucy Christmas Show

One of the last television shows Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz did together was a Christmas special that has never been re-broadcast. That's a real shame, it was a star-studded spectacular that any Lucy fan would find appealing.

On Christmas Day, 1959, The Desilu Playhouse (1958-1960) presented a special Holiday broadcast starring the whole I Love Lucy gang, in addition to the Desilu Players and numerous stars of other popular Desilu productions like George Murphy, Spring Byington, Lassie, Danny Thomas, Hugh O'Brien and Ann Sothern. Even Hollywood hag Hedda Hopper made an appearance!

Desilu PlayhouseThe wrap-around plot had Hollywood gossip queen Hedda Hopper interviewing Lucy and Desi about the Desilu Players and the show they recently staged. This led to flashbacks of Lucy (who was directing the stage show) creating chaos backstage between the musical numbers.

Lucy/Desi Xmas SpecialThis Desilu Christmas special was produced and (essentially) directed by Lucille Ball herself. This is the only Desilu production I can think of that features the I Love Lucy cast members playing "themselves."

The juxtaposition of the 'real' Lucy with the Lucy character is slightly confusing and, though Vivian Vance is referred to as "Vivian" here, her personality is basically Ethel's with more attitude.

Desi Arnaz photo If you ever get the opportunity to watch this hour-long special, look for the scene where William Frawley (as himself?) tries to pick up one of the young girls in the show. How's this for a come-on: "Miss Lovell, do you feel about older men the way I feel about younger women?"

This is the next to last appearance of the four I Love Lucy cast members together, Lucy and Desi filed for divorce just a few months after this special was filmed. The couple only appeared together in one more Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Show; they never again performed together.

Christmas Show : LucyDesilu Playhouse logo / Christmas episodeThe Desilu Players was a pet project of Lucille Ball's, who hand-picked each of the versatile performers as her protégés - they were appearing in a stage revue that she produced in LA around the time of this broadcast. The musical comedy numbers from that show ended up in the Christmas special's final edit.

One of those musical numbers ('I'm Only Happy When I'm Singin' the Blues') featured some wild art direction and garnered excellent revues for the sterling performances by Carole Cook and Dick Kallman as singing/dancing coffeehouse beatniks.

Desilu Playhouse
Carole Cook was a life-long friend of Lucy's; a Broadway star she appeared several times on The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy. Dick Kallman starred in the fondly remembered TV series Hank in 1965. He also embarked on a promising Broadway career before being tragically murdered in his New York apartment in 1980.

Lucy Desi Christmas Show : Desilu Playhouse Also in the Desilu Playhouse cast: Majel Barrett (Nurse Chappell on Star Trek another Desilu show) and Robert Osborne (the Classic Movie Channel host and erstwhile writer for the Hollywood Reporter)

More Netflix Suggestions

Always looking for something to watch on DVD or Netflix streaming? Here are some suggestions, many you prolly already know.

American Horror Story - Season One
House of Cards - Brilliant and pleasant to watch.
Damages - Best TV drama ever? Gets my vote.
Dallas - The original series is a hoot start with Season 2.
Fawlty Towers - Funniest comedy ever? Yep.
The Tudors / Leverage (First 3 seasons) / Rescue Me / The Riches / Justified / The Job


End of Watch - Fast!
Girl 27 - Hushed up studio rape cases in 1940s Hollywood, heartbreaking!
Hatfields & McCoys - Nicely done drama!
Loose Change 9/11 - Boy were we fooled!
Zeitgeist the Movie - Along the same lines as above.
Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - Best John Wayne movie? There are many I like better but this one's solid. Other great John Wayne films: The Searchers (Martin Scorcese watches this every year, it's near perfect), Hondo, Stagecoach, and on the lighter side War Wagon, Sons of Katie Elder, El Dorado.
Seal Team Six - Great action pic with strong script.
Rampart - Gritty cop movie.
The Final Countdown - Love this 80s time travel film.
Slap Shot - 1970s classic on ice.
Breakdown - Car breaks down, wife goes missing. Chilling.

You're Gonna Miss Me / Carol Channing Larger than Life / Bad Day at Black Rock / The Guy That Was in That thing / The Apostle /

Redd Foxx's Hilariously Dirty Standup Act

"We were poor. If I wasn't a boy, 
I wouldn't have had nothing to play with." 
- Redd Foxx

Redd Foxx was an extremely popular Vegas headliner who started on the Chitlin' Circuit and worked his way up to the big showrooms at the largest casinos on the Strip. Redd used to do his standup act at 2:30 in the morning in Las Vegas.

Watch Redd Foxx from the Merv Griffin Show in the mid-sixties. Redd had a very dirty act, this was his cleaned up material for TV.

Here's Redd's standup routine:

Redd Foxx's funeral was held in the city he loved, Las Vegas and he is buried at Palm Valley View Memorial Park. It is rumored that his ghost haunts his former home.