There were 7 regular cast members of that deathless TV classic Gilligan’s Island; yet during the first season, the show’s catchy theme song only mentioned 5 by name. The Professor and Mary Ann were just lumped together as “the rest.”
When the show was renewed for a second season, Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells asked that their characters’ names be included in the song. At first, the network flatly refused, claiming re-recording the song would be too expensive. Then suddenly, they changed their minds and had the song revised.
The show’s star, Bob Denver, had gone to the network and said if the song wasn’t changed, he wanted his name removed from the opening credits. The network panicked and gave in.
The rest of the cast did not find out what Denver had done until 20 years after the show went off the air!
Before the Thunderbirds were GO… before David Hasselhoff got behind the wheel of KITT… there was Supercar, the first of the Supermarionation series produced by Gerry Anderson!
Supercar was a bit of a misnomer because the vehicle had no wheels and spent more time flying like a plane or diving underwater like a submarine than it ever did cruising down the highways like a car.
The main character on the show was Supercar’s pilot, Mike Mercury, but the car itself was supposedly the creation of Professor Popkiss and Dr. Beaker who helped guide the vehicle from their headquarters in Nevada. Actually, the car was a way that Anderson could avoid having to have his puppets walk – which never looked very convincing.
In the first episode, Supercar rescues a young boy named Jimmy Gibson. Jimmy has a pet monkey named Mitch (because why not?). They are then invited to live at Supercar headquarters and take part in the adventures. A young boy living alone in the dessert with 3 grown men apparently raised few eyebrows at Child & Family Services back in the day.
Hazel was a very popular sit-com that ran for 5 seasons (4 in full color), producing 154 shows, that was also quite popular in syndication.
The show was based on a popular one panel cartoon drawn by Ted Key that ran in The Saturday Evening Post magazine. Hazel was a no-nonsense live-in maid that basically ran her household and also functioned as mother and father to her employer’s son.
In making the move to television, producers scored a real coup when they signed Academy Award-winning actress Shirley Booth for the title role. Her employers, the Baxters, were played by Don DeFore (who spent many seasons as Ozzie & Harriet’s neighbor Thorny) and Whitney Blake (who would go on to co-create the sitcom One Day at a Time). Whitney Blake was actually married to a guy named Baxter for several years before she was cast in Hazel. She’s the mother of actress Meredith Baxter. Bobby Buntrock rounded out the cast as the Baxters’ son, Harold.
Three Coins in the Fountain is solid proof of how easily entertained we were in the 1950’s. This piece of cinematic junk food was actually nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in the year of its release. Sadly, watching it today, one can’t help but notice that the background scenery is the most interesting part of the movie!
Made when Cinemascope was the newest gimmick studios were employing to lure people away from their newly beloved TV sets, Three Coins involves the extremely thin story of three American working girls searching for husbands in Rome, with a brief side trip to Venice.
Jean Peters, Maggie McNamara and Dorothy McGuire play the ladies in question – designed to represent young, very young and dangerously approaching middle age. They all work as secretaries – Peters and McNamara for a make-believe U.S. Government agency, “The United States Distribution Agency,” and McGuire for expatriate American author Clifton Webb (playing a far less venomous version of his character from Laura).
All of us who grew up in the 60’s watched Hogan’s Heroes, the show that demonstrated just how hilarious life could be in a Nazi POW camp. The show ran for 6 seasons on CBS and then for decades more in syndication (even reaching German viewers in the early 90s’).
Here are a few things about the show that you may not know:
Even though she was the daughter of established screen actor Robert Montgomery, Elizabeth Montgomery had to work her way up the ladder of success in Hollywood the way many of her contemporary actresses did.
That meant posing for cheesecake photos while waiting for her big break. In this shot, we see the future Samantha Stevens creating magic by wiggling something other than her nose!
Anyone who knows TV history knows that Seinfeld pulled one of the biggest con jobs in American broadcasting history with their claim that they were “A show about nothing.” Every single episode had a main plot and secondary plot (A and B plots in TV jargon) – just like every episode of every sit-com on the air at the time.
The REAL “show about nothing?” Well, that was unquestionably The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Never has the word “adventure” been so misused!
A Summer Place (1959)
Want to see how much times have changed? Drag this one-time blockbuster from 1959 out of mothballs and give a spin!
There’s a reason A Summer Place is best-remembered for its musical theme and not for its plot or acting. The subject matter is sex… middle-age sex and teen-age sex. And like most films from that time period, it wants to give you all the dirty details with a heaping dose of hypocritical moralizing.
Those of us of a certain age can remember when TV didn't broadcast 24 hours a day. After the Blue Angels had gone screaming across the sky as "The Star-Spangled Banner" played in the background, most stations put up what was known as a "test pattern." The stations kept broadcasting these cards until they resumed programming the next morning. They were also displayed when networks or local stations lost their transmission signal from remote locations. These were cards designed to help technicians calibrate broadcasting equipment as well as home TV sets.
When color came to dominate television, the test pattern was replaced by color bars, although even those are no longer needed to tune contemporary broadcasting equipment or flat screen TVs.
The most famous test pattern was one of the first - developed by RCA in 1939. It's known as "the Indian head" test pattern because of its inclusion of a Native American in full headdress.
For a time, NBC (owned by RCA) created an additional test pattern, featuring the network's biggest star:
In the late 1960’s Establishment Hollywood was near panic. All of the old rules about making and marketing movies seemed to be going out the window.
While long-time stars like Gregory Peck and Bob Hope were no longer packing ‘em in, young upstarts like Mike Nichols (The Graduate) and Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde) were turning out blockbusters that their studios frankly thought should be playing the low rent drive-in circuit.
So in 1969, what did Hollywood think was a “can’t-miss” idea? Take a Broadway musical from 1951(!) and cast Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin(!!) as the singing leads!
The result is a spectacular mess of a film, Paint Your Wagon.
In November, 1956, NBC became the first network to build a variety show around a black headliner when they debuted The Nat “King” Cole Show.
Nat "King" Cole was already an extremely popular singer, with 17 Top 10 hits. His show was well-received an attracted big name talent like Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald as guests. Yet, by December of 1957 the show was gone!
It wasn’t lack of ratings. Nat “King” Cole competed well. The problem was advertising. The New York agencies were afraid to place their sponsors on a show headlined by an African-American. They feared negative reaction to their clients’ products in the South. The show was only able to attract sponsors at the local level, like Reingold Beer in the New York area.
For a short time, Cole and his guests all agreed to work for AFTRA scale, the equivalent of minimum wage for TV performers. But after a year, Cole became disillusioned and quit, telling reporters, “Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.”
NBC kept trying, bringing Bill Cosby in to co-star in the hit spy series Ispy beginning in 1965. Three years later they would launch Julia, a sit-com that starred Diahann Carroll.
But it wasn’t until 1970 that the network was finally able to create a variety show starring a black entertainer that could attract national sponsors. That was The Flip Wilson Show.
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