Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Most Incredible Five Days in Television History

Assuming they get past their squabbling, construction should soon be getting underway at the World Trade Center site.. And wouldn’t this be a good time to shift the focus on this horrible tragedy away from the date - September 11th - and more to the event itself?

The stigma of the date is starting to be felt by little pishers entering kindergarten this fall… kids who were actually born on September 11th 2001...not to mention other little kiddies who also try to celebrate their birthdays on that day. They will have to spend their lives knowing what was going on as they as they entered this fine fine world. The same goes for people who were born on December 7, 1941... Even though it is a day that “will live in infamy”, we now refer to it not by date… but as Pearl Harbor Day.. After 12-7-41, the focus was more on the event than on the date… and kids back then who were born on 12-7 had to also deal with the coincidence. One such person born on the 1st anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day… Peter Tomarken went on to a career of game show stardom.. hosting Press Your Luck which ranked number 7 on my recent list of the Top 14 Game Shows Ever. Tomarken’s life sadly came to an end Monday when he died in a plane crash while on a Roberto Clemente-esque charity mission.

I recently purchased the September 11, 1965 issue of TV Guide. I used to collect TV Guides until last October, but I stopped when they made the foolish decision to discontinue the regional listings in favor of the current national glossy format. However, even though I don’t collect them anymore I still buy certain back issues on eBay… specifically those from certain landmark dates.. This particular issue covers the day I was born,…. couldn’t get much more landmark than that!

You cant imagine how tough it was to get that issue… since the September 11th issue happened to be a Fall Preview Issue… (Are we getting more comfortable now with using September 11th in that context folks?) I knew Hogan’s Heroes premiered the day I was born.. But as I read through the Fall Preview… which back then was vastly less detailed and shorter than the Fall Previews as we know it today. It was also an innocent time for TV in the pre cable era where people weren’t downloading shows on their video ipods, or watching the NCAA tournament on their pc’s at work since CBS so kindly offers it for free! And yes folks.. I did pick the Wisconsin-Milwaukee victory!

This issue also led me to a realization. You really have to salute the TV programmers who put together an ass kicking lineup for Fall 1965. Take a look at this incredible list of landmark shows that premiered in what I call the most amazing 5 days in television history….

The fun started on September 13th with the premiere of 3 new shows: The night actually kicked off with the season premiere of Rawhide… which is only notable for me because it shares a name with my favorite now defunct bar that used to be in Nyack.

MY MOTHER THE CAR - How original can you get? Barry Van Dyke starred in this much maligned show about a guy who buys a car that is inhabited by the ghost of his dead mother. It was a concept from way out there.. But people still make jokes about it to this day!

PLEASE DON’T EAT THE DAISIES - The show was based on the famous Jean Kerr book which was later made into a movie with Doris Day.

F TROOP - Arguably the most popular of the 9-13 premieres.. Larry Storch, Ken Berry and Forrest Tucker starred in this much repeated sitcom about the wacky Fort Courage.. Hey did Dan Rather serve there?

September 14th marked the premiere of 5 classics even more famous than the shows that premiered the day before…

LOST IN SPACE - Danger Will Robinson… Crush Kill Destroy… what else can you say? The premiere was the episode where Dr. Smith snuck on the space ship… and of course it was the show that gave us the futuristic much imitated Robot! The show was produced by disaster movie maven Irwin Allen and was about the first family to colonize in outer space.

GIDGET - Sally Field was in it.. And she’s a surfer…What more can you ask for?

GREEN ACRES - Ok.. Lets all sing along.. Green Acres is the place to be… Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor starred as NY City muckety mucks who decide to give it all up to move to a farm in Hooterville.. The show was spun off from Petticoat Junction.. Can you imagine a show nowadays taking place in… Hooterville? It would probably be a reality show where Hooters girls would be judged by Simon Cowell wisenheimers.

BIG VALLEY - If you weren’t watching Oliver the Pig over on CBS, ABC was kicking off Big Valley… The show featured the Barkley family and the premiere episode had a Maury Povich-esque twist where a gentleman arrives claiming to be the son of the late family patriarch Tom Barkley. Oy vey.. And what a cast.. Barbara Stanwyck! Lee Majors! And wait till you see what a cutie pie Linda Evans was back in 1965! I’d show you the pic, but my scanner is on the fritz… thank you HP…. And here is a knee slapper from this yuksters at the TV Guide Fall Preview department.. “There seems to be everything in the Big Valley but a jolly green Giant” Yo ho ho!

I SPY - The Jackie Robinson of sitcoms.. Bill Cosby and Robert Culp costarred as the dynamic duo of undercover agents… and also marked the first sitcom with the first black man as the lead. The show was filmed all over the world and was produced by Sheldon Leonard who as readers of this blog now know,… was a cousin of Trophy Wife..

Thursday… in the pre- Must See TV… this premiere sure as heck deserved to be billed that way…

THE DEAN MARTIN SHOW - The showbiz legend had one heckuva premiere with an outrageous guest list… Jack Jones, Steve Allen, Danny Thomas, Eddie Fisher, Jan and Dean, Diahann Carroll, Bob Newhart, Joey Heatherton, The Krofft Puppets.. (then called the Marionettes) and… the Chairman of the Board… Frank Sinatra… Gosh.. Who did they get on the second show?

Friday… Sheldon Leonard welcomed a new cousin by marriage although it would be 2004 before we would finally be related.. And what a night.. Not only in the maternity ward at Mt. Sinai.. But also in television land.. No wonder the nurses weren’t paying attention to me.. There were too many awesome premieres…

HOGAN’S HEROES - For one thing, it helped make game show legend Richard Dawson famous in the USA, and actually got some yuks out of the premise of a POW camp... That gave new meaning to the term.. The inmates running the asylum! Bob Crane was the star… although his x rated hijinks that were shown in Auto Focus built his legacy for a new generation… Bob Clary was also on the show.. He was actually a Holocaust survivor…

HONEY WEST - Anne Francis starred as a James Bond-esque private eye.. Her lipstick was actually a radio transmitter. That uniqueness lasted a full day till another show hit the airwaves that featured a lot of other outrageous gadgets.

THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS SHOW - Not the variety show but actually a sitcom where Tom is Dick’s long lost brother who is now an angel! The boys weren’t too famous then.. But maybe this show helped launch their careers… not to mention the uncomfortable precedent of CBS showing weird supernatural shows on Friday nights such as the wacky insane Ghost Whisperer show with Jennifer Love Hewitt that currently inhabits that timeslot. Maybe in retrospect this show was not that legendary after all.

THE WILD WILD WEST A show I loved as a kid.. It was a tongue in cheek western about a guy named Jim West. Each time it went to commercial, they froze the final pre commercial shot and then zipped it to a corner of the screen. The next time they went to commercial, the shot was again frozen and moved to the next corner until the show was over and all the frozen shots were onscreen and basically recapped the whole episode. The term is technically called a wipe… and it actually was quite a cool idea. I also didn’t realize until I got the TV Guide that Wild Wild West came to this earth the same day that I did!

Saturday… Would you believe that would you believe used to be asked without a Don Adams accent? That all ended on 9-18-65

GET SMART - What a legend! GSN just ran a week of Match Game episodes with Don Adams, and you could see him cringe in pain as each of the panelists continuously did their Maxwell Smart impressions. Here is how TV Guide describes it…

“One episode co-authored by Mel Brooks involves a dwarf called Mr. Big, a NY Mets doubleheader, a plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty , a diabolical weapon called Dante’s Inthermo and a scow full of rubber garbage. Some of the plots on the other hand are preposterous”.

That show also started my habit of singing the tune loudly at automatic sliding doors. I am now banned by the doormen at many finer apartment buildings!

I DREAM OF JEANNIE - While Sharon Stone goes around bragging about how much skin she will show in Basic Instinct 2... Barbara Eden pushed the envelope with this legendary show by showing her belly button. Eden is about 20 years older than Sharon Stone and still holds her own quite well, thank you very much. The show is about an astronaut played by Larry Hagman who finds a bottle.. opens it.. And out pops Jeannie. Bill Daily from the Bob Newhart show was also one of the stars. This was not one of my favorites by the way, but is still a classic.

Sunday… Would you believe there was something to watch on Sunday in the Pre-Simpsons, Pre-60 Minutes era??

THE FBI - A Quinn Martin Production! Remember that announcer from Barnaby Jones? Efrem Zimbalist Jr. starred as Lew Erskine.. who also has a personal life that just complicates his working life and adds intriguing plot lines to the final of the week‘s premieres. Sort of like The Sopranos for Good Guys. Speaking of which.. I finally saw an episode last week… so big deal.. Tony gets shot by the old dancing guy from the Great Adventure commercials.

Wow.. What a week… 15 awesome shows… a Smothers Brothers flop… and it all appeared in the September 11th 1965 Fall Preview! I think TV execs have been drained of their creative juices since I doubt we will ever see a week with so many fantastic premieres!


Agent Pump said...

I can certainly relate to this post, Nate. My mother was born in Brooklyn on Dec. 5, 1941. Interestingly, neither she nor my grandparents ever had anything of landmark significance to tell me about the circumstances of her birth and the world events, except that it was a rough time for everyone to go through. Same thing for a childhood friend of mine, whose mother was coincidentically born two days later, on 12/07/41. His momma and grandmomma never seemed interested in discussing it. But it stuck with me, and gave me, at a relatively young age, a dramatic sense of the importance of dates, and the perspective of time, and relating to the world in ironic context, and thinking about what's happening simultaneously in the cycle of life; as one person dies in one part of the world, another person is born somewhere else.

But right now, I'm overwhelmed by the recent cosmic discovery that within a trillionth of a trillionth of one second, the universe expanded from the size of a marble to what we now know it to be (and likewise, I suppose, what we DON'T know it to be). I mean, holy mackerel! You can't help but wonder what was going on in downtown Newark at that precise moment.

And P.S., "Get Smart" is, to this day, still in my top three favorite televison shows of all time. It doesn't get better than the bumbling antics of KAOS vs. CONTROL, and such brilliant, innovative technology as the shoe phone, and my own personal favorite, "the Cones of Silence"!

Over and out....

Nate said...

Interestngly enough, my mother was born on 12-1-41 and as a kid I used to tease her and tell her that the attack taking place a week after her birth was no coincidence!

I spent a lot of time being sent to my room and re-reading old TV Guides!

Agent Pump said...

P.P.S., there's nothing particularly notable about my own birthday, except that I share it with the eminent Lawrence Tureaud. And according to public records, we're the same exact height! I bet for a million bucks you couldn't tell us apart.

Nate said...

Everybody else is watching the NCAA Tournament on CBS at work today.... except for Agent Pump... who writes shtick on my comments page!!

I'm honored!

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