Tag Archives: CBS

AND PARTY EVERY DAY

1 Apr

48 years ago, on Monday, April 1, 1963 the children’s show Birthday House premiered locally in New York on WNBC-TV.  It was a kid’s show, broadcast each morning that was really just a big birthday party. Basically, real children, from the audience, celebrated their birthdays on the air in the “birthday house.” But it was hosts Paul Tripp and his wife, Ruth Enders Tripp, who made the show.

A cherished possession I have saved for 45 years; an “autographed” photo of Paul Tripp from “Birthday House.”

The Tripps were originally educators. (It was their work with children that first got them noticed by TV producers). So while they played games with the kids in the studio, and us at home, they were actually teaching us. Who knew? I sure didn’t at the time.

Tripp and his wife had previously hosted a CBS morning show for kids called, “On The Carousel” from 1954 to 1959.

Whenever I think of “Birthday House” or see a clip from the show, it makes me think of my wonderful mother… and I like that.

Birthday House” was broadcast until September of 1967.

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BIRTHDAY #100

20 Feb

100 years ago today, on Monday, February 20, 1911 children’s TV host Paul Tripp was born in New York City.

Of course, Tripp was much more than simply a “children’s TV host.” He was also an actor, author, musician, and educator.

A cherished possession I have saved for 45 years; an “autographed” photo of Paul Tripp from “Birthday House.”

It was Paul Tripp’s work with children that got him and his wife, Ruth Enders Tripp, noticed by TV producers. That eventually landed Tripp a job as “Mr. I Magination” on CBS, Sunday nights from 1949 until 1952.

Tripp and his wife Ruth then hosted a CBS morning show for kids called, “On The Carousel” from 1954 to 1959. During that time Paul Tripp also hosted a summer series for CBS on Sunday nights in 1955 called, “It’s Magic.”

But I best remember Paul Tripp as the host of “Birthday House” on WNBC in New York, from 1963 to 1967. It was a kid’s show, broadcast each morning that was really just one big birthday party.

For others Tripp may be best remembered as the author and creator of “Tubby the Tuba,” a children’s song from the 1940s.

Paul Tripp died in his native New York City on August 29, 2002 at the age of 91. Today I honor the 100th anniversary of his birth simply because he gave me joy when I was a child, and I’m certain he made millions of other children happy as well.

Interestingly, while watching a clip of “Birthday House” this week it made me think of my late mother.

Thank you Paul… and Happy Birthday.

DY-NO-MITE!

8 Feb

37 years ago tonight, on Friday, February 8, 1974 “Good Times,” a spin-off from “Maude” premiered on CBS.

The show starred Esther Rolle as Florida Evans, the role she had been playing on “Maude.” But while “Maude” was set in the New York City suburbs, “Good Times” took place in a Chicago housing project. The original premise of the series was to follow the trials and tribulations of a loving family that was struggling to make ends meet. But, as so often happens in television, one character stood out and, when fans responded, that character was given a larger presence in the show.

Jimmie Walker photo sent to fans in the 1970s.

The character was 17-year old J.J. (for James Junior), the Evans’ family’s oldest son… and the actor portraying him was 26-year old standup comedian Jimmie Walker. So although the cast was headed by experienced actors Esther Rolle and John Amos, it was Walker who stole the show. And a lot of that had to do with dynamite. I mean, “DY-NO-MITE!

The word “DY-NO-MITE!” became a huge catchphrase across America as Jimmie Walker’s popularity surged, as did the ratings for “Good Times.” In its first full season (1974-1975) “Good Times” received its highest ratings and was ranked as the #7 show in the country, ahead of even “Maude.”

Good Times” also starred Bern Nadette Stanis as daughter Thelma and Ralph Carter as Michael, the family’s youngest child. Interestingly, his character “Michael Evans” was given the same name as one of the show’s creators; actor, writer Mike Evans, best known for playing Lionel Jefferson on “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons.”

After 6 seasons (really 5 ½) and many cast changes, audiences had seen enough. The good times ended for “Good Times” in August 1979.

By the way… coincidentally, Jimmie Walker opens tomorrow night (Wednesday, February 9th) at The Comedy Zone in Port Charlotte, Florida. Why not catch the show and wish him a Happy Anniversary for “Good Times.” He’ll be performing through Saturday night. Don’t forget to tip your waitresses.

FAMILIAR FRIENDLY FACE

6 Feb

72 years ago today, on Monday, February 6, 1939 actor Mike Farrell was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota. But Farrell grew up in Hollywood and graduated from Hollywood High School. It’s also where he would make his mark in television.

After serving in the U.S. Marines he began his acting career in soap operas like “Days of Our Lives.” While he was a working actor, and a recognizable face to many, it wasn’t until he joined the cast of CBS‘s M*A*S*H in 1975 that Mike Farrell became a household name.

Mike Farrell autograph signed in the lobby of 30 Rock on January 8, 1977.

Farrell portrayed Captain B.J. Hunnicut, a character added to M*A*S*H when actor Wayne Rogers (and his Trapper John) didn’t return for the show’s 4th season. Farrell (and Hunnicut) stayed with the series for the rest of its run; eight more seasons.

His next series was “Providence,” a mid-season replacement that premiered on NBC in January 1999. Farrell played veterinarian Jim Hansen, the father of main character Sydney Hansen. The show ran for just 5 seasons (4 really).

Mike Farrell has been married to actress Shelley Fabares for more than 26 years… and today he turns 72. Happy Birthday Mike.

SONUVAGUN

3 Feb

93 years ago today, on Sunday, February 3, 1918 Joseph Gottlieb was born in The Bronx, New York… but after growing up poor in South Philadelphia, he eventually became comedian Joey Bishop.

Perhaps best-known as a member of Frank Sinatra’s “Rat Pack” Bishop was first and foremost a nightclub comedian. After paying his dues in many cities he started making appearances on that new thing called television. 

Still photo, taken off my television in the 1970s, of Joey Bishop guest-hosting” The Tonight Show”

Joey Bishop could be seen on talk shows, game shows, variety shows and by the 1960s he was a fixture on television. He starred in one sitcom called “The Joey Bishop Show” from 1961 to 1965 on NBC and then CBS, but he then had another program, also called “The Joey Bishop Show.”

Joey Bishop is one of the many stars who took on Johnny Carson in the late night wars. From April 1967 to December 1969 his talk show, “The Joey Bishop Show” ran on ABC with Regis Philbin as his sidekick, and Johnny Mann as musical director. The show aired directly opposite Carson and never picked up steam, lasting just 2 ½ years.

Both before and after he competed against Johnny Carson he served as Johnny’s guest-host on “The Tonight Show” many times. In fact, by some accounts he guest-hosted more than 175 times (which some say is the record for any non-regular guest-host).

 Bishop also starred in many films, including the original “Ocean’s Eleven” with his “Rat Pack” pals.

He died in Oct 2007 at age 89… but on this date in TV history, February 3, 1918, Joey Bishop was born.

Thanks for the laughs you sonuvagun.

A TRUE NEWSMAN

3 Feb

71 years ago today, on Saturday, February 3, 1940 TV journalist Jim Hartz was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Hartz is best known for his work on NBC’s “Today Show” and then on PBS. But Jim Hartz started his career, in his hometown of Tulsa, in 1962 as a reporter for CBS affiliate KOTV. Hartz anchored the station’s “Sun Up” program, which was perhaps good training for the early morning hours of “Today.

Autographed photo of Jim Hartz from the 1970s.

Within two years Jim Hartz was named news director at KOTV, but he left a short time later for the big time in New York City. Hartz joined WNBC in 1964 where he remained a news anchor for ten years.

In April 1974 Hartz was picked to replace Frank McGee as co-host of “The Today Show” on the NBC network. He co-hosted with Barbara Walters, but when she left in 1976 to co-anchor “ABC Evening News” with Harry Reasoner, NBC replaced them both with Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley.

 Jim Hartz spent the next three years as an anchor at NBC’s WRC in Washington, DC before moving on to public television. On PBS Jim Hartz hosted shows like “Over Easy,” “Innovation” and “Asia Now.”

Hartz earned five Emmy Awards and two Ace Awards for excellence in cable television. He has also been inducted into the University of Tulsa Communication Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.

Jim Hartz turns 71 today, February 3, 2011.

THE HEIR APPARENT

1 Feb

29 years ago tonight, on Monday, February 1, 1982 Late Night with David Letterman premiered on NBC

Late Night with David Letterman: The Book was edited by Merrill Markoe, then Dave’s longtime girlfriend. It was published by Villard Books in 1985.

David Letterman, a former weatherman from Indianapolis, had moved to Los Angeles in 1975 to try his hand at the big time. In just seven years he had succeeded in a major way. Of course, like most comedians of his era Letterman’s real goal was to host “The Tonight Show.” But “Late Night” seemed like a huge step toward eventually reaching that goal.

TV audiences might have remembered Dave’s last TV show, a morning show on NBC called “The David Letterman Show.” It was clear that NBC executives were impressed with his talent and wanted to find a spot to expose it. However, Dave’s sense of humor just didn’t seem to fit with daytime audiences and the show, though critically acclaimed lasted just 4 months.

The Letterman Wit by Bill Adler, who I interviewed about Letterman in 1994.

I personally had predicted greatness for Letterman years earlier. In November 1978 my family went to New Hampshire to celebrate my Grandmother’s 75th birthday during the week of Thanksgiving. While there I watched “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and saw a new standup comedian making his first appearance on the show… his name? David Letterman.

At the time, there was the usual speculation about who might replace Johnny Carson if he left “The Tonight Show.” All the entertainers mentioned as potential successors had their strong points and their drawbacks. When I saw David Letterman that night I saw several characteristics that made me think that someday he might be the one.

(Let me say that I am not ALWAYS a great judge of talent. In 1987, while scouting standup comedians for a video I was producing, I passed on Drew Carey.)

Late Night T-shirt given to me for my 30th birthday – a gift from Jim Murphy, now Senior Executive Producer of “Good Morning America.”

First, he was Midwestern. In the late 1970s network executives still liked white bread hosts from middle America – no one too ethnic. Letterman also looked good in a jacket and tie. Comedian David Brenner, who was considered a potential replacement for Carson, always wore an open collar, which was popularat the time.

The third and most basic requirement Letterman exuded was talent. The man killed in his first appearance. In fact, I still recall one of his bits from that night. He asked if anyone had seen last night’s episode of “The Waltons.” Letterman explained that in the episode, the family had saved up enough money to “get that thing removed from John-Boy’s cheek.”

The “Late Night with David Letterman” Book of Top Ten Lists was published by Pocket Books in 1990.

Succeeding Johnny Carson was years away, but the “king of late night” did take an obvious liking to the new kid and Letterman became a frequent guest on “Tonight.” He also became a frequent guest host. Once NBC signed him to a development deal they tried to find the right place for him. The morning timeslot hadn’t worked out, so they had an idea.

The Tomorrow Show” hosted by Tom Snyder had been following Carson’s show for eight years. Over the previous year NBC had tinkered with the show until it was an unrecognizable mess. The network decided to cancel “Tomorrow” and put David Letterman in that timeslot. What they actually did was to give Johnny Carson control of the one-hour following his “Tonight Show” and that’s why “Late Night with David Letterman” was produced by “Carson Productions.”

Johnny Carson with “his favorite,” David Letterman, on the cover of Rolling Stone’s “Comedy Issue” November 3, 1988.

Most readers of this blog know the rest. “Late Night” became a huge hit and Letterman became a huge star. And while he didn’t ascend to host “The Tonight Show,” we all know he was Carson’s choice for the job. And that, I think, is a nice consolation prize.

Late Night with David Letterman” broadcast more than 1800 new episodes and ran until June 25, 1993. That’s when Dave left NBC and brought his show to CBS to compete against new “Tonight” host Jay Leno.

Esquire Magazine, May 2000 – Cover Story: The Fall & Rise of Dave.

So “Late Night with David Letterman” lives on. Only now it’s called “Late Show with David Letterman.” Dave’s CBS show premiered on August 30, 1993 and continues today after more than 3500 episodes.

David Letterman is right when he says there will never be another Johnny Carson. But I think the closest we’ll ever come is the true heir apparent, David Letterman himself.

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