Friday, January 30, 2015

Comic Book Heroes of Classic TV

Classic TV memorabilia often fetches a handsome price online these days, as Baby Boomers look back nostalgically at our childhood favorites. Did you know these 1960s prime time physicians had their own comic book series?

I didn't collect any TV-related comics, but I do remember this long-running comic, which I always thought would make a fun television sitcom:
Apparently I was just ahead of my time. After two Saturday morning cartoons based on this character, and the 1994 movie, there are now plans for a live-action adaptation. It's being made for Netflix, and is expected to debut later this year. Wonder if Cadbury, the Perfect Butler, is still on the job?

Monday, January 26, 2015

What's on the Radio?

If you're serious about studying -- or just enjoying -- Old Time Radio, this is a reference volume that belongs in your library:
Mr. Hickerson has compiled an impressive amount of information about the classic shows from the Golden Age of radio. I found his book very helpful when researching the careers of radio stars like Eve Arden and Joan Davis, and I was pleased to receive this announcement of an updated edition.

We should all be thankful for OTR lovers like Mr. Hickerson who have contributed so much to our knowledge of this historic medium.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Class Act

Happy birthday to the amazing and indefatigable Betty White, who turns 93 today.

Betty is the subject of a chapter in my book The Women Who Made Television Funny, which celebrates the pioneering female sitcom stars of the 1950s. One of the highlights of researching and writing that book was the opportunity to have a personal interview with her. She couldn't have been more gracious about looking backwards to the days of Life with Elizabeth and Date with the Angels, and shared some great anecdotes about the early days of television.

When I sent her a copy of the published book a year or so later, she responded with a handwritten thank you note. Though she claimed to be unsure whether she belonged in the company of the book's other subjects -- Lucille Ball, Ann Sothern, Gale Storm, to name a few -- I'll bet her many fans would disagree. Her current sitcom Hot in Cleveland may be coming to an end shortly, but don't rule out this lady yet. Chances are, she'll still be the busiest nonagenarian on the block. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Itt's His Birthday!

Happy 78th birthday to actor, stuntman, and circus performer Felix Silla, who may be best known for the undoubtedly hot and hairy job of playing Cousin Itt on TV's The Addams Family. His other roles include the robotic Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, as well as guest appearances in everything from Bewitched to Married with Children. A few years ago, when I was researching my book on Eve Arden, I also spotted him in the movie comedy Under the Rainbow (1981), just another role in a career that spanned more than 30 years.

Many happy returns, Mr. Silla!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Mr. and Mrs. Hennesey

The happy Henneseys: Jackie Cooper and Abby Dalton.
Rhoda Morgenstern's marriage to Joe Gerard, only a few episodes into her popular spinoff show Rhoda, is often cited as an example of the dangers of giving viewers what they want. Even CBS executive Fred Silverman, who pushed for the wedding, later admitted that the decision had been a mistake, one that hurt the show's longevity. Happily married Rhoda was much less interesting than the scrappy single woman she'd previously been, and the show petered out sooner than it otherwise might have.

Writers and producers of CBS' Hennesey, in the early 1960s, were more cautious. However, as noted in Lost Laughs of '50s and '60s Television, the wedding of Lt. 'Chick' Hennesey (played by Jackie Cooper) to his longtime girlfriend, Lt. Martha Hale (Abby Dalton), did ultimately take place, in the show's third-season finale. Star and co-producer Cooper told reporters they had received many viewer letters asking for this happy ending.

It's worth noting, though, that the wedding episode also proved to be the series finale, when CBS canceled Hennesey after a three-year run. Had Cooper's show, to use a term not then in vogue, "jumped the shark"? Was the wedding a last-ditch effort to raise the ratings of a show that was on its way out? Just to be on the safe side, if you're a popular sitcom character, the next time you attend a wedding, try not to catch that bouquet. It might be hazardous to your health.