Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Grady : The First Sanford & Son Spin-Off

There were two 1970s spin-offs of NBC's hugely popular 'Sanford & Son' (1972-1977) the first of which was 'Grady'.

The character of Grady was introduced on 'Sanford & Son' during season three, he basically replaced Bubba (Don 'Bubba' Bexley) as Fred Sanford's Ethel Mertz. After the 18th episode of the third season Grady replaced Fred himself when Redd Foxx boycotted the series in a dispute over money and other issues.

Unfortunately for Foxx 'Sanford & Son' earned its highest ratings while Whitman Mayo was mouthing his lines. It was a natural for NBC to order a spin-off of their biggest hit and who better than Grady, at least from their standpoint, to anchor the series.

A pilot was incorporated into a bonus 25th episode to finish out 'Sanford & Son's fourth season, one of the rare, unfunny shows of the period. In it, Grady moves from Watts to upscale Westwood to live with his daughter, her husband and their two kids.

'Grady' was readied as a 1975 mid-season replacement, the first production from Bud Yorkin after his split with Norman Lear. A theme song that was close to the iconic Quincy Jones 'Sanford' theme was composed, titles were created using the same font that 'Sanford' used, and the guys who wrote and produced many of the best early 'Sanford' storylines penned the opening script.

What went wrong? A lousy timeslot for one thing - against 'The Waltons' and 'Barney Miller' - and a bland supporting cast, with the exception of Haywood Nelson as Grady's nephew.

Grady was never a well developed character anyway, just a utilitarian player with no remarkable qualities, so this sitcom lasted just a few weeks. Mayo's last episode of 'Sanford & Son' would be the first of the fifth season; after his show flopped Grady was nowhere to be seen until 'The Sanford Arms' debuted, the show that replaced 'Sanford & Son' when Redd Foxx left the production for good in 1977. 'Sanford Arms' also tanked and was gone in a few weeks.

Grady also appeared on two episodes of 'Sanford' in 1981. (Haywood Nelson moved over to 'What's Happening!!' in 1976 from the same producers as 'Grady'.)

 Whitman Mayo was a regular on two short-lived series - 'Hell Town' in 1985 and 'The Van Dyke Show' in 1988 but he was a guest star on dozens more.

In early 1996 Conan O'Brien instigated a national search to find Whitman Mayo and featured the actor on his show after weeks of build up. Coincidentally, Whitman Mayo died in 2001 at Grady Memorial Hospital in the city of Atlanta where he taught drama.

Did you know: Redd Foxx' real last name was Sanford.

More Classic TV Fun at TVparty!!

The Doris Day Show : She Didn't Want To Do It!

What a strange history this sitcom had - five years on the air (1968-1973) and four major format changes.

The show never should have happened. Admittedly "not a career minded person," Doris had no desire to do a TV show, in fact she was openly hostile to the idea. She'd been knocking out hit films and hot-selling record albums at a furious pace for two decades and felt she deserved a break from the business, maybe even retire altogether.

She was therefore surprised to discover after her husband's unexpected death that she was nearly broke and he had signed her - against her expressed wishes and without informing her - to star in a sitcom for CBS. To her shock and horror, filming was set to begin in just a few weeks.

"Oh, you know, I cried, but a series keeps one so busy," Doris told TV Guide in 1969, "I didn't really have time to be unhappy. And my son helped me a great deal, and still does, and I have a lot of good people around me."

Shows like Mayberry RFD and Green Acres were topping the ratings when this series debuted hence the 'country girl' approach.

From country girl to successful, sophisticated  big city gal. By '73 the country shows were gone so this season 5 opening might remind you a bit of The Mary Tyler Moore Show which was in the Top Ten on CBS at the time.

Read more about The Doris Day Show at TVparty!

Most Risque Answers from The Hollywood Squares

As a school kid summer not only meant swimming and hanging out it also opened up a world of television not available when your daylight hours are taken up with the three Rs. The Hollywood Squares on NBC was one of my summer faves.

It was a seventies thing - where genial host Peter Marshall and 9 stars brought laughs to America each morning at noon throughout the 1970s, leaving the air as the decade ended in 1980.

Center Square Paul Lynde was joined over the years by regulars Charley Weaver, Rose Marie, Wally Cox, George Gobel and John Davidson - guest-stars on the big Tic-Tac-Toe board included literally hundreds of television and movie stars, both the great and near-great.

In 1974, Paul Lynde was voted the funniest man in America in a nationwide poll. It was largely for his snappy answers on The Hollywood Squares. Everyone believed that Lynde came up with these pithy comments off the cuff when in fact most of the quips from the stars were scripted - celebrities were free to use the provided joke answers or come up with their own if they wished.

All the old folks in the seventies loved Paul Lynde, but I doubt if anyone could have told you why. Here are some of the most risque answers from The Hollywood Squares:

Whirlybirds : 1950s / '60s Syndicated TV Show

Whirlybirds is one of those TV shows I remember fondly - even though I only got to see it once a year as a kid. Our local station didn't carry this syndicated adventure program but a television station at the beach where we vacationed as a family did.

Whirlybirds aired from 1957 well into the 1960s,  a syndicated program with a huge juvenile audience. 111 episodes were filmed between 1956 and 1959 and reruns continued to be popular for many years afterward. I saw it in the mid-1960s. The ability to film a TV show in the sky was a new development in the mid-1950s, adding to the overall excitement for early tube watchers.

The half-hour adventures centered around Chuck Martin (Tobey) and Pete (P.T.) Moore (Hill), owners of 'Whirlybirds, Inc', and their faithful secretary Janet Culver (Sandra Spence).  Janet left after the first season and was replaced by Helen Carter (Nancy Hale) so I guess she wasn't so faithful after all.

Often the boys would be called in to help the police locate an escaped prisoner or save some stranded fool who wandered into the middle of nowhere. This would inevitably lead to one of the guys dangling at the end of a rope at some point in the episode - when they didn't just outright jump out of the helicopter. Don't try this at home!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Why I No Longer Believe We Went to the Moon

Watching 'Dark Side of the Moon' and other documentaries I have to admit I came away convinced, we did not go to the moon, it couldn't have happened and we couldn't do it today with existing technology. You can watch the film for yourself (on Netflix Streaming) or ignore it, either way. But it got me thinking about my area of expertise, television.

Have you ever seen a TV camera from 1969? They're big, heavy, bulky things that couldn't even transmit a signal to the engineer's booth just a few feet away. They required big, thick cables to get the signal from the studio floor to the director. How could the astronauts beam a signal back to Earth? It took a massive tower to broadcast a TV signal for a single county alone.

More on the Moon images: