Every Baby Boomer remembers Mister Ed, the talking horse who caused trouble for his owner Wilbur Post. But Ed was actually a rip-off, a cheap TV imitation!
Before Ed ever opened his mouth there was Francis the Talking Mule!
Frances was created by U.S. Army Captain David Stern III. He was in charge of an Army newspaper during WWII. Bored by a lack of news one afternoon, Stern wrote four pages of fanciful dialogue between a U.S. solider and a stubborn Army mule. Intrigued, he expanded the idea into a series of short stories that were subsequently published by Esquire magazine. Stern wrote the stories in the first person and adopted as a pen name, Peter Stirling, the 2nd lieutenant who Francis befriended in the stories.
by Allen B. Ury
There are two kinds of TV series. I'm not talking about "drama" vs. "comedy." Or "prestige" vs. "popular." Or even "good" vs. "crap." I'm talking about "Teflon" vs. "sticky."
Teflon series are those you watch -- and may even enjoy -- but their impact slides away like eggs off a greased skillet. Some Teflon series are highly rated. Some Teflon series even win prestigious awards. But in the end, Teflon series tend to fade into obscurity like some exotic avian species, what minor fossils they leave behind to be carefully picked over, studied and debated by small cadres of dedicated media historians, but otherwise forgotten by later generations.
And then there are "sticky" series. Sticky -- in the modern marketing vernacular -- refers to ideas or concepts that not only tap into the current cultural zeitgeist, but have true staying power. Many "sticky" TV series are low-rated. Some last only a few seasons. They may even be critical pariahs. But, even in cancellation, they refuse to go away. They become part of us. Part of our cultural DNA. And thus part of our shared memories. (As well as topics for endless Internet click-bait articles.)
The Baby Boomer era for popular culture -- roughly 1950-1975 -- was rife with both Teflon and sticky TV series. This was the era that critics called both "TV's Golden Age" and "a vast wasteland." It produced series that, at the time, won critical plaudits but which today are all but forgotten. (This is particularly true of 1950s era dramatic anthology series like Playhouse 90 and Studio One, prestige programs that were broadcast live and thus never syndicated.) It also produced shows that were critically reviled yet are still held warmly in the hearts of aging Boomers (e.g. My Favorite Martian, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, Hogan's Heroes, etc.)
Here’s my list of the Top 10 TV Shows for Baby Boomers. Presented in chronological order, the list represents what I believe are the "stickiest" shows from this 25-year period. Like all lists, it's woefully incomplete and probably not reflective of everyone's tastes. But I suspect you'll find several of your favorites in this collection. And some wonderful memories as well.
What do you give the Three Stooges fan who has everything?
How about a trip to the Stoogeum!
The world’s first and largest museum dedicated to Larry, More, Curly (and sometimes Shemp) is located in Amber, Pennsylvania. This is no “garage museum” at somebody’s home. This is a 3-story building that houses close to 100,000 pieces of Stooges memorabilia including costumes and props from the Stooges classic shorts and feature films.
It’s more fun that a poke in the eye! Nyuck! Nyuck! Nyuck!
But plan ahead. The Stoogeum is only open on Thursdays and it will be closed all of February for renovations.
Think there are some bad reality TV shows on the air now?
Back in the summer of 1950, Toni Home Permanents (remember those?) actually sponsored a 15-minute prime time show that featured twins with the audience having to guess which one had had her hair styled professionally and which had used Toni’s home hair care products. In other words.
The only reason anyone should remember this show is its host – a young guy named Jack Lemmon!
Ah, how soon we forget!
Gambit was an A-list caper film that starred Michael Caine as the thief and Shirley MacLaine as his initially unwitting accomplice.
Caine is out to steal a priceless statue from the world’s richest man (Herbet Lom). MacLaine bears an uncanny resemblance to Lom’s dead wife, whom he adored. (Hey, if she looked like Shirley Maclaine, what’s not to adore?)
The film’s main gimmick is that we first see the caper play out flawlessly. In the film’s first of several twists, we then find out what we’ve been seeing is merely the way Caine has described his plan to his partner, an art forger (John Abbott).
It’s a Wonderful Life turns 73 this month. Here are 10 things you probably never knew about this holiday classic:
- It’s probably the only movie ever based on a Christmas card.
When author Philip Van Doren Stern couldn’t sell his short story “The Greatest Gift” to any publisher, he had 200 copies printed up as a 21-page Christmas Card and sent them to his friends. A copy fell into the hands of the head of RKO Studios. He liked it and bought the film rights for $10,000.
- Cary Grant was supposed to play George Bailey.
When RKO couldn’t turn the story into a proper script for Cary, they sold the rights to Frank Capra. It was Capra who wanted Jimmy Stewart for the lead.
What was the first made-for-TV animated holiday special? Oh, alright. The title of this post sort of gives it away.
Yes, before Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, before A Charlie Brown Christmas, there was Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol!
Magoo had made the jump from theatrical cartoons to his own TV series in 1960. The success of that show convinced UPA (owners of the character) to make a 60-minute adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic.
First broadcast on NBC in 1962 with the sponsorship of the Timex watch people, the special took on an unusual “show-within-a-show concept.” Magoo was a great actor, returning to his theatrical roots by appearing on Broadway as Ebenezer Scrooge in a musical version of the famous tale.
In television’s early days, the hands-down, most popular, can’t miss genre was Westerns. Especially when it came to kids’ programs.
One of the many lies that TV peddled so easily in those more innocent days was that the American West was somehow virtually unchanged from its post-Civil War heyday. Sure, there might be telephones and here and there a jeep to help with the ranching, but people still preferred to ride horses and settled their disputes with a good ol’ six-shooter.
One Western that bucked that trend was Sky King, who not only didn’t ride a horse; he didn’t even ride in a car. No sir. Sky King help keep law and order along that still untamed frontier in an airplane! Not just any airplane – but in the legendary Songbird!
Right off, how fortunate was it that his parents thought to name him Schuyler (a.k.a. “Sky”) and that his last name was King? I mean, talk about wacky coincidences!
Pam and Jerry North were a very happily married couple who kept tripping over dead bodies. Jerry was a publisher of mystery novels (natch) and his slightly off-kilter wife was usually the one who solved the cases they kept stumbling across.
Mr. & Mrs. North had a long, successful career in books, stage and the radio. Unfortunately, the TV version wasn’t all that successful, running only two seasons. But thanks to reruns, it is remembered by many Baby Boomers.
Local TV Horror Hosts – most of us had ‘em.
In New York and northern Jersey, it was Zacherley (aka John Zacherle). In L.A., it was Vampira. Milwaukee had Dr. Cadaverino and Tampa had Dr. Paul Bearer. They were the “creatures” who brought us monster movies, good and bad, usually on the weekend and ideally late at night.
For Halloween, here’s a look at some of the men and women who brought us Monster-Horror-Shock-Chiller-Nightmare-Theater!
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