Tag Archives: CBS

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.

TEACHER, HUMORIST, TV HOST

27 Jan

50 years ago tonight, on Saturday, January 27, 1951 “The Sam Levenson Show” premiered on CBS.

Sam Levenson emceeing an event at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, circa 1978.

Levenson was a former New York City high school Spanish teacher who took to performing in the Catskills and became a humorist and TV personality.

This 30-minute program was a mix of light comedy and discussion. Levenson’s monologues were about his life experiences and other topics that his audience could relate to. One part of “The Sam Levenson Show”brought on celebrity guests and their children, who would discuss problems they were having. Levenson presumably tried to help by making suggestions based on his years as a schoolteacher and father… and no doubt there was humor injected into the conversation.

Levenson with a group, including this writer’s parents, at the same event in Brooklyn, NY, circa 1978.

Sam Levenson was not an actor, but rather appeared on television as himself; author, humorist and former New York City schoolteacher. In addition to hosting his own programs he appeared as a guest numerous times on talk shows such as “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” “The Merv Griffin Show” and “The Mike Douglas Show.” He also frequented game shows including “To Tell The Truth” and “I’ve Got a Secret.”

Levenson was also a best-selling author. His books include In One Era & Out the Other (1973), You Don’t Have to Be in Who’s Who to Know What’s What (1979) and his autobiography, Everything But Money, published in 1966.

Sam Levenson died in 1980 at the age of 68… but 50 years ago tonight, he was on top of the world as “The Sam Levenson Show” premiered on CBS.

FAREWELL DON KIRSHNER

18 Jan

Rock impresario Don Kirshner died of heart failure yesterday, January 17, in Boca Raton, Florida. He was 76.

Although many will think of Kirshner as strictly a music legend, some forget that his reach extended to television. His best-known series was “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” which ran in syndication from 1973 to 1981 and featured performances by some of rock & roll’s top acts. Kirshner’s wooden and nasally on-camera introductions were almost as entertaining as the bands. But did you know that Kirshner was also involved with the NBC series “The Monkees”?

“The Monkees” which ran from 1966-1968 on NBC.

He served as the original Music Supervisor for “The Monkees” and was responsible for several of their early hit records. But as the show grew in popularity the four actors who played the fake band pushed for songs that were more to their own liking. Eventually Kirshner stepped aside.

Another series that Kirshner produced, with Norman Lear, was the 1977 CBS sitcom “A Year at the Top” which starred Paul Shaffer (yes, THAT Paul Shaffer) and Greg Evigan. They played a music duo who sells their souls to the son of the devil (Gabriel Dell) in exchange for “a year at the top” of the charts. The show ran for 5 weeks, but both Shaffer and Evigan would find better partners to work with. Shaffer as musical director for David Letterman since 1982, and Evigan as the straight man to a chimp named Bear on NBC’s “B.J. and the Bear” from 1979 to 1981.

Don Kirshner was a New York City native born in the Bronx on April 17, 1934.

MERV TO SAJAK TO LETTERMAN

9 Jan

22 years ago, on Monday, January 9, 1989 Pat Sajak’s self-titled late night talk show premiered on CBS. It was yet another try by the network to put a dent into Johnny Carson’s ratings.

Billboard in Los Angeles promoting "The Pat Sajak Show" circa 1989.

The Pat Sajak Show” was a traditional late night talk show with bandleader Tom Scott and announcer/sidekick Dan Miller, who Sajak had worked with on news broadcasts in Memphis in the 1970s.

Besides competition from “The King of Late Night,” Johnny Carson, Sajak also had to contend with Arsenio Hall, whose own late night talk show had debuted just six days earlier. With Carson holding on to his older, loyal audience and Hall pulling in a younger, hipper audience, there just weren’t enough viewers tuning in to Sajak.

The Pat Sajak Show” ran for only 15 months and went off the air in April 1990.

THE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH

18 Dec

54 years ago tonight, on Tuesday, December 18, 1956 the program “To Tell The Truth” premiered on CBS at 9:00pm. Hosted by Bud Collyer, the Goodson-Todman panel show ran in prime time for 11 seasons, before adding another 8 years in syndication. A daytime version also ran on CBS from 1962 until 1968.

Unused ticket for "To Tell The Truth" from November 5, 1974.

For the first 8 seasons in syndication, the show’s host was Garry Moore, even if they didn’t know how to spell his first name on the tickets (above). When Moore got ill he was replaced by Joe Garagiola for one final season. In my opinion, these three versions of the show are the only ones that really matter.

Another unused ticket for "To Tell The Truth" from November 5, 1974. (After all, they were free.)

To Tell The Truth” brought three people before a celebrity panel, all claiming to be the same person – someone who had done something interesting or unique. Two of them were “imposters” but the third was the real person. The panel tried to determine which “contestant” was the actual subject by asking the guests questions. Once the celebrities had voted the host would say, “Will the real ______ please stand up.” Those words became a national catch phrase throughout the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, and they’re still vividly remembered by most Americans over the age of 45.

< ONE DAY AT A TIME

16 Dec

35 years ago tonight, on Tuesday, December 16, 1975 “One Day at a Time,” the newest sit-com from Norman Lear, premiered on CBS. The show starred Bonnie Franklin as newly divorced Mom, Ann Romano, and Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli as her teenage daughters Julie and Barbara. Richard Masur played Ann’s boyfriend David and the building super, Schneider, was played by the show’s best-known cast member Pat Harrington Jr.

Original cast of "One Day at a Time" - 1975

 The next morning I sent a letter to the show hoping to get Norman Lear’s attention by writing the show’s first fan letter. I had previously read how Lear was touched by a letter from an early viewer of “All in the Family.” However, there was really nothing about “One Day at a Time” that even remotely reflected my life or experiences.

Form letter from Norman Lear, dated January 8, 1976.

 Norman Lear did send a letter though. It was a form letter thanking me for my interest in “One Day at a Time.” But at 15 years old, getting any letter from the most prolific comedy producer of the 1970s felt great.

One Day at a Time” ran for nine seasons on CBS. It is one of the first, and perhaps only shows I can recall that was set in Indianapolis.  It was never a blockbuster hit, but Schneider became an iconic character of the 70s, and the show did introduce us to Valerie Bertinelli.

RHODA HAS LEFT THE BUILDING

9 Dec

32 years ago tonight, on Saturday, December 9, 1978, the sit-com “Rhoda” aired the final episode of its primetime, network run.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show” spun off 3 shows in the 1970s: “Lou Grant,” “Phyllis,” and of course, “Rhoda,” all on CBS.

Autographed photo of Valerie Harper sent to fans of “Rhoda” in 1975.

 As portrayed by Valerie Harper, the character of Rhoda Morgenstern became a fan favorite on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” so it was no surprise when producers gave the character her own series. The 1970s were, after all, a decade of spin-offs.

Rhoda” is famous for its wedding episode, where the character took the New York City subway to her own wedding while wearing her gown. But I best remember two of the jokes from the opening sequence of “Rhoda.” (You remember when TV shows had theme songs, right?)

Cast photo sent to fans of “Rhoda” in 1975.

 Rhoda explains, “I was born in New York… in December… 1941.” Then concedes she always felt responsible for World War II. How great is that line as a way to reveal something about the character? Although most people tuning in would have known Rhoda from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” this was a terrific way to introduce new viewers to the kind of misplaced guilt felt by Miss Rhoda Morgenstern.

The other memorable laugh line was when Rhoda says she grew up in New York, but moved to Minneapolis where it’s cold and she figured she’d “keep better.”

The envelope that contained the photos shown above is postmarked November 26, 1975.

Don’t you love how they put Valerie Harper’s name above the studio address on the envelope? It’s as if they want to make it look like she sent it from home.

Rhoda” ran on CBS for four seasons. It premiered in September 1974 on Monday nights at 9:30pm (ET) and remained on Mondays until January 1977. It moved to Sunday nights before ending its run with a 3 month stay on Saturdays.

%d bloggers like this: