Sunday, July 24, 2016

Forgotten TV: The Governor & JJ (1969)

In 1969, Talent Associates was, for all intents & purposes, putting all of their eggs in one basket. That is to say, their product was almost exclusively on CBS, with Get Smart moving over from NBC for its final season. The Good Guys returned for a 2nd (and final) season, and the two were now joined by a brand new entry from creators Leonard Stern & Arne Sultan, The Governor & JJ.

Film star Dan Dailey top-lined as the head of an unnamed state in the Midwest. A widower, he has his daughter (Julie Sommars) as his de-facto "first lady". To my knowledge, this was the first show to focus on the home life of a governor. A decade later, ABC spun Benson off from Soap, and that turned out to be an even bigger success.

Thus, it can be said that Governor was ahead of its time. In year 2, ratings slid so far so quickly, such that CBS pulled the plug just before Christmas.

I have no memory of seeing any episodes, so there won't be a rating. Let's serve up a sample open/close.

Dan Dailey would give series television one more try a few years later with another short-lived series, Faraday & Company, this one for NBC. Julie Sommars, after a few guest roles in the intervening years, later resurfaced for a time on Matlock.

A Modern Classic (?): MadTV (1995)

It was Fox's answer to Saturday Night Live, except that it was pre-recorded and produced in Hollywood. MadTV was spun from the pages of the legendary---and still running---humor magazine, Mad, but with a cast that created new characters that have become just as memorable to fans of the series.

Like SNL, Mad's ensemble had quite a bit of turnover over the course of 14 seasons (1995-2009), but also introduced viewers to a number of performers who would go on to bigger things, including Nicole Sullivan (later of The King of Queens), Alex Borstein (Family Guy), Phil LaMarr, Will Sasso, Artie Lange (Game Over, The Howard Stern Radio Show), and the team of Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele, who just wrapped their Comedy Central series a few months back. Sasso and Sullivan are returning for the revival of the series, launching Tuesday on CW for 8 weeks. A 20th anniversary special, broadcast in January, got enough of a rating to warrant a revival.

Let's take a look at a sketch involving one of MadTV's most popular characters, Miss Swan (Borstein):

MadTV becomes the 2nd comedy series revived by CW that had aired on another network, with Whose Line is it Anyway? being the other. Coincidentally, the two will be coupled on Tuesdays to mark time until the fall season begins in October (CW historically starts later than the other networks).

Rating: B.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Classic TV: People Are Funny (1954)

People Are Funny began as a radio show in 1942, originally emceed by Art Baker and produced by John Guedel. Less than a year into the run, Baker was replaced by Art Linkletter, who would go on to achieve iconic status with the show, continuing as Funny transitioned to television in 1954.

The video version lasted for six years, and was the subject of a Looney Tunes satire, "People Are Bunny", in 1959. The stunts weren't quite as wild or bizarre as on, say for example, Truth or Consequences, but rather a little more sophisticated and simple. Some of the games played on the show would be picked up by other producers. See if you can figure out which ones as we scope this sample episode, courtesy of Internet Archive.

In 1984, the show was revived as a spring replacement, hosted by actor-comedian Flip Wilson, but didn't survive the summer.

Rating: A.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Videos of Summer: Sunny Afternoon (1966)

Fittingly, the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon" was released as a single in June 1966, and a month later topped the charts in Ireland and their native England, but peaked at #14 here in the US. Go figure, right? Right.

Classic (?) TV: Amos 'n' Andy (1951)

Freeman Gosden & Charles Correll's legendary radio show, Amos 'n' Andy, transitioned to television in 1951 on CBS with an all-African American cast. This version lasted just 2 years, while the radio series, which launched in 1928 as a regional entry in Chicago, ran under different formats for 32 years.

The actors cast for the television series were instructed by the producers to try to replicate the vocal patterns created by Gosden & Correll. Come to think of it, Tim Moore (Kingfish) may have pulled off a perfect mimic of Correll's characterization.

As you'll see, this comes across as a typical sitcom of the period, though I'd imagine some of Gosden & Correll's original scripts were modified and/or adapted for television. Take for example "Andy Gets Married".

In 2012, a Houston-based online network began airing the series, so there's a chance that, say for example, Aspire could pick up Amos 'n' Andy to reintroduce it to a national audience.

No rating.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Advertising for Dummies: Chunkamania? (1986)

Here's a commerical that I can honestly say I never saw before today.

The then-World Wrestling Federation was landing merchandising endorsements for a number of their wrestlers in the 80's. You had King Kong Bundy doing print ads for Commodore computers. I think there was a commercial with Tony Randall and George Steele for the same product. Paul Orndorff, who we'll see in the following video shilled solo for Absorbine, Jr. (do they still make that stuff?). Hulk Hogan, of course, was shilling his own brand of vitamins, which, for all we know might've come from the folks at Miles Laboratories, since they might as well have been rejected Flintstones vitamins...!

Here, Orndorff and Roddy Piper duke it out over the best way to eat Campbell's Chunky Soup. Jesse Ventura is the commentator.

Forgotten TV: Knockout (1977)

Since the 50's, at the very least, television executives have figured out that comedians make the best game show hosts. From Jan Murray (Dollar A Second, Treasure Hunt) and Groucho Marx (You Bet Your Life) to Steve Harvey (Family Feud) and Wayne Brady (Let's Make a Deal), comedians have parlayed their stage presence and ability to connect with audiences into landing game show host gigs. Some have worked, such as the four mentioned above. Others, not so much.

One such example came in the fall of 1977. Ralph Edwards had been forced to move Name That Tune into syndication after two failed network runs. However, he sold another game to NBC that played off a familiar trope from Sesame Street, which I'll explain shortly. He hired actor-comic Arte Johnson (ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In), who otherwise was working on the animated Laugh-In spin-off, The Nitwits, for the network when not appearing on The Gong Show, to host Knockout, which was also the first, and perhaps only, show that Jay Stewart, long associated with Monty Hall's production company, announced for Edwards.

That Sesame Street trope I referenced? Johnson would have four items appear on a video screen, and contestants had to figure out which one didn't fit with the others, which in turn would lead to a specific topic. Johnson's experiences as a panelist on Gong, Hollywood Squares, and CBS' Match Game had kept him in the public eye after Laugh-In had ended, and he looked so natural as MC. Unfortunately, he ran up against a brick wall in the form of a pair of Goodson-Todman games on the other networks, namely, Family Feud and The Price is Right, which ultimately led to Knockout getting knocked out after nearly six full months.

Let's scope a sample episode, which is the only one available, as it happens.

Rating: B.