I first watched this 1938 movie in the 90s and I still watch it from time to time. Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur had great chemistry on screen. The following year they would be in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”…another great movie. Capra wanted Jean Arthur in It’s a Wonderful Life but she was committed to a Broadway show.
This movie is about a rich man named Tony Kirby (Jimmy Stewart) who is working reluctantly for his ruthless banker dad. He falls in love with his stenographer Alice (Jean Arthur). The father doesn’t really care but his mother is outraged that he would love someone beneath him. This part of the story you have seen before but it’s when the great Lionel Barrymore who plays Alice’s grandfather Martin Vanderhof enters… the movie gets going.
Martin and his family do exactly what they want, his daughter Penny received a typewriter in the mail by mistake and thinks she is a novelist, Alice’s sister dances every time music is played and a basement full of unemployed older gentlemen who like to invent things…especially firecrackers… It’s a crazy household but they live life and are not bothered by a thing.
This is the opposite of the Kirby family who is uptight, overwhelmed, and disgusted by this family…except Tony of course.
The movie is full of off-the-wall humor and Alice’s family is great. Anyone that comes to the house wants to stay…and sometimes does. The grandfather goes out and finds one person (Mr. Poppins) who invents things but works at a terrible job and Martin invites him to live at the house with his family to be…”a lily of the field” and quit his dreadful job.
Here are some quotes from the meeting
Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: How would you like to come over to our house and work on your gadgets?
Poppins: Your house? Well I don’t know, thank you.
Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: Oh go on, you’ll love it. Everybody at over at our place does just what he wants to do.
Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: Mmm-hmmmm.
Poppins: That must be wonderful. But how would I live?
Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: The same way we do.
Poppins: The same way? Well, who takes care of you?
Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: The same One that takes care of the lilies of the field, Mr. Poppins, except that we toil a little, spin a little, have a barrel of fun. If you want to, come on over and become a lily too.
This is a screwball comedy and a good one. Lionel Barrymore is magnificent in this. Just a few years later he would play mean Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.
This movie was directed by Frank Capra. Some critics in his day called him “Capra-corn” because of the optimism he showed for the everyday man. I think he was a great director. This is one of his best movies.
It’s a very good movie…any movie with Jimmy Stewart can’t be bad. The comedy holds up today. After the movie, you will want to be a lily of the field.
This movie is based off a play written by the great George Kauffman and Moss Hart.
I grew up watching these two elder character actors. I did a post on Burt Mustin earlier but I always liked Merie Earle also. I’m going to cover both in this one. If you are a child of the 60s, 70s, and 80s you probably know these two. I first remembered Merie on the Waltons as a character named Maude but she was on a lot of things.
To my immense disappointment…Burt and Merie never appeared together on screen from what I can find. They were in some of the same tv programs but not the same episode.
Merie Earl was one of the cutest older ladies I’ve ever seen. She didn’t start acting till she was 77 years young. She was born Goldie Merie Ireland on May 13, 1889. She grew up in Columbus Ohio. She got married in 1909 and moved to New York because of her husband’s job as an engineer.
After her husband retired they moved to California to be near their daughter. Her husband Lawrence Nathan Earls passed away in 1954. Marie was later discovered by an agent while performing in a play at a Methodist church. In 1967 she started to do print ads for Polaroid. In 1967 she took the jump to motion pictures. Her first film role was in Fitzwilly starring Dick Van Dyke.
She went on to perform on television and TV movies in the 60s, 70s, and yes into the 80s! She was on tv shows such as Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, All In The Family, Alice, Whiz Kids, etc. Merie worked until she passed away in 1984 at the age of 95. What an incredible woman…Burt Mustin had more credits but he was a bit younger than Merie. She had no formal training and she said she was sometimes snubbed in auditions.
Merie Earle on going to auditions: “They’re old-timers in show business, so they just kind of snort and recite all their Broadway credits and film credits and things like that, that doesn’t bother me, though, and sometimes I even beat them out for the parts. But if I don’t, that doesn’t bother me too much either. It doesn’t take much money for me to live, anyway.”
On her acting style… “Oh dear, I guess I don’t have any acting style, All I try to do is just to be myself.”
What a life Burt Mustin lived. He didn’t start acting until he was 67 and he appeared in over 150 film and television productions. I first remembered him as Gus in Leave it to Beaver, Judd in The Andy Griffith Show, Bonanza, The Monkees, Gomer Pyle…the list is too long. He was also at the first World Series in 1903 to root on his hometown team, The Pittsburgh Pirates playing against the Boston Red Sox.
Burt was born on February 8, 1884, in Pittsburgh. After graduating from the Pennsylvania Military College in 1903 with a degree in engineering, Mustin became a car salesman. It was a rather new profession. He also worked for the Better Business Bureau, Mustin dabbled in amateur acting and singing. He belonged to the Barbershop Harmony Society and popped up in productions by the Pittsburgh Opera.
Mustin and his wife eventually retired to Arizona. In Tucson, the retiree took in a role in a local production of the play Detective Story. William Wyler — who would go on to direct Ben-Hur, Roman Holiday and Funny Girl — happened to catch the show and offered Mustin a role in his screen adaptation of Detective Story.
Thus, Burt Mustin made his screen debut at the age of 67 in 1951 and acted until he died in 1977 at the age of 92.
Below is Burt… on the Johnny Carson show talking about being at the first World Series.
Tomorrow morning we will kick off our last TV draft round! We have 8 more TV Shows coming…we all want to thank you… the readers who have made this possible and a fun experience.
I also want to thank the bloggers who have reviewed all of these shows and we have covered every decade from the 1950s until now. Below are the picks that began in January and will end on July 3.
Thank you… Paula, Lisa, Dave, John, Keith, Mike, Liam, Vic, Hanspostcard (who started it), and Kirk for all of the reviews below.
I wanted to do a more modern show other than Life On Mars…and this would qualify as it…kinda. It has been on the air since 1975… a whopping 47 years. It’s been on life support at times but has always pulled through. It’s an institution at this point. There is not enough room on a post to go over every cast. Everyone has their favorites some were extremely funny and some were extremely bad (1980 – 1981 cast) and they all make up the history of this show.
I’m going to concentrate on the original cast and how the show became SNL. Most of you have favorite different casts…usually, the one you grew up with.
Even if you don’t like this show or what it’s become…it was a cultural landmark and no one can deny that. It changed television forever. The show started because Johnny Carson wanted more time off. NBC had been airing reruns of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show on the weekends to fill space in their lineup. This allowed them to double-dip on profits from Carson’s outrageously popular show without spending another dime on production costs. He told NBC he would only be making four shows a week, which meant that best-of Carson shows that had been airing on Saturday nights would now need to be moved to a weeknight.
NBC executive Herbert Schlosser sought to create a new show with an old format…a variety show to fill the slot on Saturday Night. He picked Lorne Michaels, a Canadian writer who only had a handful of credits to be the producer. Michaels started a show that was far different than Schlosser imagined but to his credit… Schlosser was behind it and pushed for it to be on the air. The first two shows were experiments but by the third show, they found the format they would keep to this day. The funny thing is…Johnny Carson never liked the show.
Lorne Michaels made the show to appeal to baby boomers with a touch of Avant-Garde and “guerrilla-style comedy.” It was a game-changer much like All In The Family was to sitcoms. Late-night was never again a wasteland. This show helped open the doors for David Letterman and other shows to follow it.
It started out as “Saturday Night.” The Saturday Night Live title belonged to ABC for a show hosted by Howard Cosell who was out of his league. After Cosell’s show was cancelled, ABC let Saturday Night have the “Live” part.
Who was the best cast through the years? This is a question that is debated over and over again. People argue and usually pick the cast they grew up with. I grew up in the Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo era. Personally, I always thought the original cast was the best era of the show. Yes, I thought the Murphy and Piscopo casts were very funny along with later casts that had Dana Carvey, Michael Myers, Chris Farley, Chris Rock, and many others that followed. The first five seasons had something extra that others would not and could not have. It had an underground feel that vanished after it became a pure comedy show. They had a massive amount of talent in that first class.
John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Chevy Chase (though I liked his replacement better…Bill Murray), Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, and my favorite overlooked cast member Laraine Newman. They were the perfect cast for that time.
Why do I like the original cast the most? They tried new things and went out on a limb. Some of the skits succeeded some fell flat but they were different from anything on TV at that time…and also at this time. That cast pushed the envelope and made the network executives worry. The host each week was usually under the radar actors, writers, comedians musicians, and sometimes athletes. The musical guests were mostly rarely seen performers that weren’t on tv…prime time or otherwise. Frank Zappa, Leon Redbone, The Kinks, Patti Smith, Ry Cooder, Kinky Friedman, and others. You would have more popular musicians like Paul Simon but the show gave you a great variety.
No way would Michaels ever dream of that now…he usually gets whoever is the most popular to draw in ratings. He can no longer do what he did in the 70s because of that. He also used the complete ensemble. It was not Eddie Murphy, Joe Piscopo, and everyone else of the early eighties. It was about building an unknown cast and all of them having a shot…not a star-driven show that gave all the best bits to the big names. He made sure the entire cast had a lead in skits and parody commercials. Dick Ebersol who followed Lorne Micheals, was famous for getting stars in the cast and the show revolving around them.
A lot of the skits are now famous… Ackroyd’s Bassomatic, the Samurai, the uncomfortable but funny Word Association with Richard Pryor, The Killer Bees, The Mr. Bill Show, Weekend Update, Roseanne Rosannadanna, Land Shark, Bag of Glass, The Wild and Crazy Guys, the Coneheads, The Lounge Singer, Mr. Mike, The Blues Brothers and many more.
The writers for the show were not in the variety show comedy vein..they were not in the current SNL vein either. The style was more aggressive, especially with Michael O’Donoghue. He was a comedy trailblazer with National Lampoon and added black humor to SNL. Other writers were Franken and Davis, Rosie Shuster, Alan Zweibel, Marilyn Miller, Anne Beatts, Herb Sargent, Tom Schiller, and also Ackroyd and Chase.
The original group also did some serious skits along with comedy and trips into the bizarre (See the ultra-dark “Mr. Mike”). …It separated the original from any other cast.
I like the feel of the underground the first five years had but you can only be that for so long…popularity takes over. Those first 5 years (the first four were great…the fifth very good) set the foundation that holds to this day…just without the daring and danger.
Ann Beatts was one of the original writers who saw the popularity of the show rise beyond anything she ever imagined. She knew the risk-taking traits in the show would have to end because of it. “You can only be avant-garde for so long until you become garde.”
By the 5th season (1979-1980), it was a circus grown out of proportion. The cast by that time were usually bigger stars than the guest hosts. Everyone left after that season along with Lorne Michaels. The show went on without him until 1985 when he rejoined. It was never the same again. Sometimes it was funny and sometimes not but it was never the same experimental show it was at the start.
What other show would introduce “Acapulco Gold” and “Orange Sunshine” to a national television audience?
The Bassomatic…something you cannot explain with words.
Dudley Moore is probably best known in America as Arthur and Peter Cook is not known much at all which is a shame.
This is one of my favorite comedies. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were always a great team and in this movie, they work very well together. It’s the old story of selling your soul to the Devil for wishes…but as always the wishes are not exactly what the wisher has in mind.
Dudley Moore plays Stanley Moon who is a shy and pathetic figure who pines for a waitress (Eleanor Bron) who works at Wimpy’s Burger and is employed as a cook. Peter Cook is the devil… He is perfect for this part. He is a hilarious devil and at times likable but does the most annoying things like tearing the last page out of mysteries, scratching LPs, and just petty things to aggravate people.
The movie is very British and very funny. The chemistry is great between Moore and Cook and by this time they had been together for a while. There was a version of this movie released in 2000 but it is not as smart and subtle as this one. This is an offbeat quirky film.
This film also features Raquel Welch appropriately as Lust. She is only in it for a few minutes but she plays Lust to the hilt. The film had no name at first and in an interview, Peter Cook said he wanted to name the movie “Raquel Welch”…when asked why he wanted to name it after the actress when it wasn’t about her he said because the Marquee would read “Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in Raquel Welch”… The producers didn’t like that.
Eleanor Bron plays Margaret the waitress and the object of Stanley’s desire…she was also in HELP! with The Beatles.
Check this film out if you can. Personally, I think it beats the remake by a mile.
If you want to hear something else by them…check out Peter and Dudley as Derek and Clive.
Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. The remaining 8 rounds will be posted here. We will have 64 different TV Shows by 8 different writers. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Keith from https://nostalgicitalian.com/
My choice for the third round draft pick is Hollywood’s first weekly one-hour series that was filmed for television – Perry Mason. The show ran for 9 seasons (September 1957 – May 1966) and starred Raymond Burr in the title role.
The character of Perry Mason was well known before he was ever on TV. The attorney was the star of novels and stories written by a lawyer-turned-author Erle Stanley Gardner. There were some movies made by Warner Brothers and also a radio series based starring the character, by Gardner hated them! As a matter of fact, he refused to license the character of Perry mason for any more adaptations. (Interestingly, the radio series continues and evolved into the famous soap opera The Edge of Night.)
Gardner’s agent married actress Gail Patrick and she was the one who talked him into adapting the novels into a TV series. He made it clear that he wanted a lot of control over the show and how it was presented. He also had a hand in helping pick the cast. Many of the stories he wrote were turned into episodes for the series.
It is hard to imagine anyone other than Raymond Burr as Perry Mason. However, among the actors in the running were Mike Conners, Richard Egan, William Holden, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., William Hopper, and Fred MacMurray. Raymond Burr actually auditioned for the role of Hamilton Burger, the DA. Gail Patrick remembered his performance from the 1951 film “A Place in the Sun” and told him he was perfect for the role.
At the time, Burr was about 60 pounds overweight, so he went on a crash diet and tested for the role again with about 50 other actors. Erle Stanley Gardner saw him and reportedly said, “THAT is Perry Mason!” Burr continued to lose weight as the series continued. He stated, “I just don’t have time to eat.”
Syndicated columnist Erskine Johnson wrote, “Every six days Burr stars in what almost amounts to a full-length feature movie. He’s in 98% of all the scenes.” Burr stated, “I had no life outside of Perry Mason. And that went on 24 hours a day, sox days a week. I never went home at night. I lived on the lot. I got up at 3 o’clock every single morning to learn my lines for that day, and sometimes I hadn’t finished until 9 o’clock. I had a kitchen, bedroom, office space, sitting room – al of that – on every lot I ever worked on.”
Burr won three Primetime Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Perry Mason (1959, 1960, and 1961).
Raymond Burr IS Perry Mason
Other major players in the cast included Barbara Hale as Perry’s secretary, Della Street. Hale had done some feature films, but wanted to avoid going away for long periods of time to shoot them because she had a rather young family. According to Gail Patrick, it was Hale who called her to inquire about the role of Della.
Perry and Della (Barbara Hale)
William Hopper, as I mentioned before, auditioned for the role of Perry Mason (I believe you can find some of the audition tapes on YouTube). After not getting the role of Mason and auditioning for Private Detective Paul Drake, he walked in the room and said, “You hate my mother!” His mother was Hedda Hopper, the famous gossip columnist. Patrick said he was the perfect Paul Drake, so he got the role.
William Hopper as Paul Drake with Burr’s Mason
For the role of District Attorney Hamilton Burger, Patrick knew exactly who she wanted. She had seen William Tallman in The Hitch-Hiker and knew he was perfect for the role. She said, “He never disappointed.” In an interview he was asked how he felt about his character losing to Perry Mason every week. His response is perfect. He stated, “Burger doesn’t lose. How can a district attorney lose when he fails to convict an innocent person?” When Burr was asked by a fan why he won every case, he told her, “But madam, you only see the cases I try on Saturday!”
William Tallman – Hamilton Burger
Another one of Perry’s foils was Police Lt. Arthur Tragg. Ray Collins’ voice was known to so many listeners of the Mercury Theater on radio. He had also been in movies and other TV shows. Patrick joked saying, “We overlooked the fact that on an actual police force, he would probably be long retired.” He was 68 years old when the show debuted on CBS. The playful interaction between Tragg and Mason are priceless.
The great Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg
The basic formula for each episode was the same. The first part of the show introduced the viewer to a client who is hiring Perry Mason for some legal work or is introduced to him in some way. We then see the murder victim and other “suspects” introduced. The victim is murdered and Perry’s client is wrongfully accused of the crime. The remainder of the episode focuses on Burger and Tragg gathering evidence to convict the said “murderer”, Perry, Drake and Della take up their own investigation to prove their client is innocent.
The second half of the show would shift to the courtroom where Perry and Hamilton would duke it out in the preliminary hearing. In the novels, Perry likes to clear the client before they are bound over for trial, so this was worked into the show. They happen, but jury trials are rarely seen on the show.
The show would often culminate with Mason recalling a witness and questioning them until they cracked and admitted committing the murder OR causing someone else in the courtroom to admit that THEY committed the murder. The show would then wrap with a scene in Perry’s office or the courtroom where details would be presented on what led Perry to discover the real killer.
The formula worked for 9 seasons and eventually 30 TV made for TV movies.
Episodes of Interest
Throughout the run of the series, there were some very unique episodes. In the entire run of the series, Perry tackles an astounding 271 cases, and wins almost all of them! He actually lost thre cases (that we know of). In The Case of the Witless Witness, he loses a non-murder case. In The Case of the Terrified Typist, his client is found guilty of murder, but he is eventually able to clear her name. Finally, in The Case of the Deadly Verdict his client is found guilty of murder and is actually sentenced to death in the gas chamber! Perry, of course, is able to save the day before the execution is scheduled to take place.
A fun episode to watch is The Case of the Dead Ringer. Raymond Burr plays a dual role in this episode playing a man named “Grimes.” It’s fun to watch Burr question Burr as two different characters!
In season 6, Burr had some episodes where is appeared briefly, but guest actors filled in for Perry. Among those actors were Bette Davis, Michael Rennie, Hugh O’Brian, and Walter Pidgeon. Two years later, Burr was hospitalized for jaw surgery and Mike Conners and Barry Sullivan filled in for him.
How about the three that never set foot in a courtroom? Those were The Case of the Baited Hook, The Case of the Velvet Claws, and The Case of the Careless Kitten.
One of the most interesting shows was the one – and only – show that was shot in color. In the 9th season, CBS was hoping that the show would shoot a 10th season. Many shows were being shot in color by this time and they wanted to see what the show would look like. The Case of the Twice-Told Twist aired – in color – on February 27, 1966.
A must see episode is the series finale, The Case of the Final Fade-Out. First of all, it features cameos by all of the Perry Mason Crew in various roles. Second, it features the creator of the character, Erle Stanley Gardner, as the judge, and the murderer is … spoiler alert … a young Dick Clark!
Before They Were Famous
Many soon-to-be stars appeared on Perry Mason. I guess that is another reason why I love watching it. You never know who will pop up. Some examples: Barbara Eden, Cloris Leachman, Lee Meriwether, Pat Priest, Yvonne Craig, James Coburn, Angie Dickenson, George Kennedy, Diane Ladd, Frankie Laine, Ryan O’Neal, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Claude Akins, Richard Anderson, Barbara Bain, James Best, Whit Bissell, Frank Cady, Bert Convey, Richard Deacon, Norman Fell, Alan Hale Jr., Harvey Korman, Gavin MacLeod, Allan Melvin, Leonard Nimoy, Denver Pyle, Marion Ross, Adam West, and MORE!
The Theme Song
Let’s be honest, the Perry Mason Theme Song is one of the most recognizable in all of television. The task of writing the theme went to composer Fred Steiner. He set out to write a song that would convey two of Perry’s prime characteristics – sophistication and toughness. The piece he wrote was called “Park Avenue Beat.”
Here is Fred discussing how he came up with the theme:
Here is the theme from the first season:
As much as I love the original version, I have to admit that when Perry Mason returned to TV in the two hour movies, I loved the version used for these films better. They just sound more full and better produced to me. So here it is:
I may as well touch briefly on the TV movies. In December of 1985, Perry Mason Returns aired on NBC.
Perry is now a judge and steps down to defend Della Street, who is accused of murder.
William Hopper died in 1970, so William Katt (Barbara Hale’s son) was called in to play Paul Drake Jr. The movies followed the same formula as the TV show. Burr and Hale had aged, but their on screen chemistry hadn’t changed at all. Burr was fantastic in this of course, he proves that Della is innocent! The successful reception and ratings of the reunion show led to 29 more Perry Mason Movies (Burr starred in 26 of them before passing away in 1993).
I never tire of watching Perry Mason. Despite being a bit dated, I think it still holds up today. HBO has created a “pre” Perry Mason show supposedly showing how he became the famous lawyer. I have no desire to watch it. To me, there is one and only Perry Mason!
FUN FACT: Raymond Burr started playing the character in 1957 and played him until his death in 1993. He played Perry Mason for a whopping 36 years!
So if you ever find yourself accused of murder … there is only one lawyer to call….
This movie is a B movie all of the way…and it plays up that fact… It was released in 1990 and if you are wanting to watch something that spoofs the 1970s… This movie is for you. You will also learn the word tetrahydrozoline.
This movie stars David Cassidy, Lief Garrett, Carl and Rob Reiner, and Olivia d’Abo… Citizen Kane, it is NOT. It’s a fun film about the future where all is gray and they lost every record because of a magnetic storm including the US Constitution.
Adam-11 (David Cassidy) has built a time machine because he wants to go to a beach…beaches don’t exist anymore in the future. The government wants him to use the time machine to go into the past to 1776 and get a copy of the US Constitution so they can rebuild their society with it. To make it work he needs a chemical that’s rare in the future… tetrahydrozoline (the main ingredient to a very popular item in the ’70s… Visine).
The government agrees to give him some tetrahydrozoline but sends two more travelers Chanel-6 (d’Abo ), Heinz 57 (Geoff Hoyle) with Adam-11 to retrieve the document…but instead of going back to 1776 the time machine malfunctions and goes to 1976.
Devo makes an appearance as the “Ministry of Knowledge”…
It’s a corny movie but they have the 70s down in many parts of the movie. After meeting up with two teenage stoners (The group Redd Kross) they look for the constitution but lose the tetrahydrozoline. If you are looking for a second Gone with the Wind…don’t watch this but it’s funny and silly enough to entertain you.
You have to know a little about the 70s to get some of the jokes…Like David Cassidy’s character looking around a garage in 1976 asking “am I going to be stuck here forever?” while looking at a Partridge Family lunch box.
If you are bored, try this one. The trailer is below the complete movie is below that.
This is my second selection in the first round of the SlicetheLife TV Draft. And my choice is Fawlty Towers.
A great BBC sitcom…some have rated it as the best BBC sitcom ever.
The series is quick, well written and well-acted. The show was made in the mid and late seventies after John Cleese left the Monty Python TV series. I watched it when our PBS station carried it in the 80s.
There is not a bad episode of Fawlty Towers. John Cleese and his wife Connie Booth wrote all of the episodes. The scripts are solid and there is some physical comedy blended in with Sachs and Cleese. Cleese and Booth spent two-and-a-half weeks working out each plot before they wrote a single line of dialogue, generally spending the time most sitcom writers used for a whole series on a single episode.
There was a four-year gap between season one and two. That was because Cleese and Booth had divorced. They still wrote the second season together. The first season aired in 1975 and the second season in 1979.
Fawlty Towers centered around Basil… a rude, class-conscious hotel owner with a domineering wife Sybil a commonsense maid Polly, a Spanish waiter Manuel who could not understand English and took Basil’s abuse, and a retired senile military officer Major Gowen.
Cleese and Booth were inspired by the manager of a real Torquay hotel, Gleneagles, where they had stayed while filming Monty Python. They found the manager, Donald Sinclair, to be entertainingly rude. There were only 12 episodes made…two seasons with six episodes each. Instead of milking it dry they stopped at 12 because Cleese and Booth didn’t think they could write anymore up to the standards they set.
My favorite episode is the 6th episode of the 1st season called The Germans. The episode is a classic.
Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) – Basil seems to spend most of his life alternating between fawning over any guest who he perceives as being worthy of his attention, and then trying to berate them when they didn’t quite have the social standing, he first thought they had. Basil’s trouble is that he thinks his hotel is a higher-class establishment than it really is. The real thorn in his life is his wife Sybil. For all of his bluster, Basil can quickly be brought into line with a curt “Basil!” or two from Sybil. Basil never could stand up to his evidently better half.
Sybil Fawlty (Prunella Scales) – She spends her time keeping a tight rein on her husband Basil. She never misses an opportunity to close off an avenue of pleasure for Basil, such as betting on the horses. She can be domineering and controlling but with Basil you can’t blame her.
Polly Sherman (Connie Booth) – She probably has more common sense than anyone in the hotel. She struggles to calm down Basil, placate Sybil, and to instruct Manuel.
Manuel (Andrew Sachs) – Poor Manuel takes Basil’s abuse constantly. He was the waiter, bell-boy, porter, and all around do anything guy. Basil hired him with the intention of teaching him English because he’s cheap, but due to Basil’s only rudimentary grasp of Spanish it goes wrong.
Major Gowen (Ballard Berkeley)- A very forgetful retired Major who is a constant guest at the hotel.
Miss Gatsby and Miss Tibbs (Gilly Flower and Renee Roberts,) – They are two sweet natured spinsters who have taken a fancy to Basil, feeling that they need to take care of him.
This is my first selection in the first round of the SlicetheLife TV Draft. And the envelope says……..Barney Miller.
I’ve watched Barney Miller at least 7 times through. Why is it my favorite show? It would be the writing, the acting, and that glorious dirty set that only got dirtier as the show went along. Another reason would be the continuity of the show. My pet peeve with shows is when you would meet someone’s “Uncle Joe” as his only uncle…and a season or two later…the same person never had an uncle. That is lazy writing and research…Barney Miller doesn’t have that. The show ran from 1975 to 1982 for 171 episodes.
You will see the same actor play different criminals (great 70s-character actors and actresses) but the storyline is set. Barney Miller was a comedy but also would dip in drama at times. Whatever was going on…the characters stayed true. It doesn’t hurt that the show had one of the best…if not the best theme songs. Dig that bass!
Many real life detectives were asked about the most realistic police show on television. Barney Miller was picked because they showed the drudgery parts like the paperwork involved that is a part of every policeman’s day. I’ve read where some officers today still say it is accurate in that way.
The guests on the show every week were usually the criminals they captured. They never had serial killers or anything like that (save for one episode when they were switched to homicide for that one show) …usually just people who caused a disturbance. You had every known petty criminal in the world on that show. Pickpocket, prostitute, madams, thieves, white-collar crime, and etc.
The jail cell in Barney Miller encapsulated the seventies and its times. The show could be topical about New York in the seventies. One episode has the squad listening to an actual speech given by President Ford only a few weeks before the show aired, in which he refused to bail out a near-bankrupt New York City while still committing aid to essential services like the police.
The show was ahead of its time. Barney Miller had diversity in the cast and guests. The diversity wasn’t there just to have diversity…it fit the story…it was never forced.
Danny Arnold created this show. He also wrote and produced some of Bewitched, That Girl, McHales Navy, and more.
Hal Liden has mentioned that they would film until 2-3 in the morning with script changes at the last minute. That was normal, not the exception. They had a studio audience at first but soon dropped that partly because of the script changes. The show never went down in quality. It was never a big ratings show because frankly, it was written well with subtle humor that it wasn’t as accessible as other shows.
If you haven’t given Barney Miller a chance…it’s worth one.
I’m going to list the characters in this show because it is such a character-driven show.
The characters are:
Barney Miller (Hal Linden) The man that leads with common sense and wisdom over his squad of quirky detectives and officers. Hal Linden has said that his character could not get as crazy as the other ones because the audience had to identify with him and have someone to compare the others to.
Det. Stan Wojciehowicz..”Wojo”(Max Gail) – An ex-Marine who fought in Vietnam who is sometimes naive and childlike but really looks to Barney as a mentor. Wojo is not always tolerant of people with different views than him but is a good detective but highly emotional.
Det.Ron Harris (Ron Glass) – A well-dressed man who lives beyond his means at times. He wants the finer things in life and can be a little snobbish at times but he is a good guy. As the show continued, he was trying to establish a writing career and he wrote the best-selling book called “Blood on the Badge” that sometimes disrupted the station but he would stay loyal to Barney even through their differences.
Sgt. Nick Yemana (Jack Soo) – A Japanese Detective that always had an answer, loved gambling and he would call his bookie often… and he made the coffee for the office…and supposedly the worse coffee ever…To me, he was one of the funniest characters on the show. Actor Jack Soo passed away while the show was in its 5th season in January of 1979. During that season the cast did a tribute show speaking as themselves and showed clips of Jack.
Sgt. Arthur Dietrich (Steve Landesberg) – A one-of-a-kind character and my favorite on the show. Dietrich was a know it all…not in the usual way. He really knew about every statistic on any subject that came up. He was an intellectual but also could have fun with it. One of the funniest and deadpan characters I’ve ever seen on television. He never lost his cool in any situation.
Sgt Philip Fish (Abe Vigoda) – The senior member of the crew who was played by Abe Vigoda always looked older than he was at the time. It was a running joke about him having hemorrhoids, needing to go to the bathroom, being old, and delivering many marriage jokes. He would leave the show for a spinoff “Fish” officially in the 4th season. He would come back and make guest star appearances. He was the break-out star of the show.
Sgt. Chano Amenguale (Gregory Sierra) – He was Puerto Rican and would be very talkative and emotional. Whenever he was really upset, he would start speaking Spanish loudly. I really liked Sierra’s character, but he left after the second season.
Officer Carl Levitt (Ron Carey) – Levitt was a short overachiever and kept hounding Barney for a promotion. He would not be too subtle to Barney about his hard-working habits. The rest of the station would pick on him but all of them respected his hard work. He would fill in when a Detective was out. He finally got promoted at the end of the show’s run.
Deputy Inspector Frank Luger (James Gregory) – A totally old school superior who would drop by “the old one two” to talk with Barney. Luger never even tried to keep up with the times. He would tell Barney of the good old days…sometimes to Barney’s annoyance. Overall Luger was a great character who was brilliantly played by James Gregory.
Elizabeth Miller (Barbara Barrie) She was Barney’s wife who always wanted him to quit the force because she worried about his safety. She was on regularly at first but the show started to concentrate on the station rather than their home. She was involved in a story later on in the series when Elizabeth and Barney separated for a while…they eventually got back together.
Det. Janice Wentworth (Linda Lavin) She was a detective in the squad room who had a romantic interest in Wojo. Prone to excitement trying to prove herself in a room full of men. The writing for her character was great…it was realistic and always suited Lavin’s character. The character would have stayed on the show but Linda Lavin got her own show…Alice.
Ben Scanlon(George Murdock) – Scanlon worked in Internal Affairs and was the one bad guy in the show. He would try to find trouble when he visited…always wanted to find some wrongdoing to bring down the 12th Precinct because they had a perfect record.
I’ve searched on youtube for some different scenes…most of what they have is the “best of” each character. The good news is… youtube has many full episodes. I’m including the full episode of one the best….It’s called Hash. I’m also including the super theme song…again you gotta love that bass!
Tim Taylor (Tim Allen), Jill Taylor (Patricia Richardson), Al Borland (Richard Karn), Wilson W. Wilson (Earl Hindman), Randy Taylor (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), Mark Taylor (Taran Noah Smith), Brad Taylor (Zachery Ty Bryan), and Heidi Keppert (Debbe Dunning), and Lisa (Pamela Anderson)
This show is not deep nor did it change television like All In The Family or Seinfeld…but it was fun. A lot of fun with Tim, Jill, Al, Wilson, and the kids. Before I started working in IT I had different jobs. When this show was on I was a supervisor in a woodworking shop. Needless to say this was very popular with everyone there. The show ran from 1991 – 1999 with 204 episodes. To my surprise Home Improvement beat Seinfeld in ratings for a few years.
The shows followed a formula…someone, usually Tim, would do something stupid or say the wrong thing. An argument would ensue and then they would go to their neighbor Wilson and he would give them a quote or a story that would go over Tim’s head. The problem would more or less be solved after that.
The formula was an open secret and the writers would often poke fun at it and themselves.
Tim is what some people would call a modern Neanderthal but he had a heart and learned…but not always too well. More power, more power and Tim would blow something up. He was the host of “Tool Time” a fictional cable show about home improvement and tools. Tim would then get into trouble by adding power to the simplest thing (lawn mower which ran at 60 mph, dish washer with a motor that cranked, a vacuum cleaner that sucked up the drapes) and ended up electrocuting himself, gluing himself to a board, falling through a port a potty, and etc.
If Tool Time would have been a real show…I would have watched just to see what trouble Tim would get into next.
Jill was the typical “straight man” character to her goofy husband. She often gave advice to her boys about girls that exemplified how gentlemen should act. She had a sophistication that was totally opposite of her husband. The more she pushed theater and ballet the more Tim would push a Monster truck rally. She was my favorite 90s sitcom mom hands down. She grounded the show and to me was the most important member. She kept it real and believable.
Tim’s ever suffering Tool Time partner was Al Borland who actually had knowledge and knew what he was doing. A bonafide unhip square but a lovable one, who only wanted the best for everyone. He had a much softer side than Tim and talked about his feelings which horrified Tim. He always wore flannel and Tim always made jokes about that and Al’s very large mother. Al was extremely popular with the fictional viewers of Tool Time.
Wilson was a peculiar neighbor with very odd habits but was a wise one. The poor guy couldn’t go outside without solving the Taylor’s problems…even the kids came to him for advice. The show played on the gimmick of only showing Wilson from his nose up…or they covered his face entirely if he wasn’t in front of the fence.
There were two tool time girls… Heidi and Lisa
All in all I still enjoy watching the show. It still makes me laugh and the show highlighted the problems most couples have…it was Disney so you will not see them face too many serious topics …just everyday problems that we all have…minus some guy blowing things up.
This is one of the first movies I ever rented. It was one of the few left on a shelf at the video store…remember those? I had never heard of it but it was a good comedy.
This little movie from the early 80s gets forgotten but it a very good comedy. Ron Howard directed this movie about straight-laced morgue attendant Chuck Lumley (Henry Winkler) who gets a wonderfully crazy co-worker Bill Blazejowski (Michael Keaton in his breakout role) who talks Chuck into running a brothel out of the morgue…Chuck and Bill become unlikely pimps (or Love Brokers) after a group of call girl’s pimp gets killed by being dropped out of a window. Chuck falls for one of the prostitutes who is his neighbor named Belinda (Shelley Long).
Henry Winkler plays a character far removed from his Happy Day’s character…the cool Fonz. Henry is very good in this movie and is perfect as the straight man for Michael Keaton.
Micheal Keaton is great in this movie. His timing is perfect and foreshadows some of his comedies such as Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice.
Shelley Long had reservations about playing a call girl but decided to do it…Long, Winkler, and Keaton worked really well together. This was released a few months before she starred in Cheers.
Something to watch for…Kevin Costner makes one of his first big-screen appearance in a nonspeaking role in this movie.
Chuck Lumley: As we sit here and idly chat, there are woman, female human beings, rolling around in strange beds with strange men, and we are making money from that.
Bill Blazejowski: Is this a great country, or what?
If you get a chance to watch this movie…give it a chance. It even has a 80s music montage.
Another part of childhood is gone today. Valerie Harper passed away at 80. I always loved the show Rhoda and nothing screamed the seventies like that show did. Rhoda was a strong female lead character and Valerie Harper played her wonderfully.
Before the hype of the Dallas’s Who Shot Jr episode that aired in1974, was the Rhoda getting married 2 part episode. Many people tuned in…That episode was the highest-rated television episode of the 1970s until Roots came along in 1977. More than 53 million Americans tuned in to watch.
When WKRP show came on I knew it was different than any show before it. The show had a great cast and every character had their own unique personality. The show started when Andy Travis came in as a program director and change the stale station to Rock and Roll…the writers wisely made it an ensemble show.
The two women on the show were smart and beautiful…Bailey Quarters and Jennifer Marlowe….played by Jan Smithers and Loni Anderson respectively.
Jan was born Karin Jan Smithers, on July 3, 1949. She grew up in Woodland Hills, California.
Jan was in high school when one of her friends asked her to go for surfing. At the beach, while she was watching her friend surf, she was approached by two men who carried cameras. They told Jan about their search for a Californian girl for one of their articles. She agreed, and that changed her life forever.
Jan was featured on the cover of the March 21, 1966 edition ‘Newsweek. An article in the magazine, titled ‘The Teen-Agers: A Newsweek Survey of What They’re Really Like, profiled Jan and six more teenagers. Jan was the only one of all the teenagers featured in the article who became a famous personality later. The article pushed her modeling career, and her mother helped break into Hollywood.
Jan got her breakthrough role of ‘Bailey Quarters’ in the ‘CBS’ sitcom ‘WKRP in Cincinnati.’ She continued her role for 86 episodes, from 1978 to1982.
Anissa was on the popular family comedy called Family Affair. Everyone knew her as Buffy and her TV brother (Johnny Whitaker) as Jody. I watched the show in the early seventies. I watched in syndication and I grew up with Buffy and Jody. It seemed unreal in 1976 when I heard on the news that Anissa Jones had died at the age of 18.
At eight years old, Anissa was cast as Buffy on Family Affair, which aired from 1966 until 1971. Just a year before she started on Family Affair, her parents had gone through a terrible divorce with a long and bitter custody battle for her and her little brother. Sadly, her father died shortly after he was awarded custody in 1973.
She did appear in an Elvis movie “The Trouble With Girls” in 1969. Family Affair was the last thing she did besides a Dick Cavett appearance.
She was known to be a caring person as a kid up until she died. Earl Graham was the janitor on the set of the show Family Affair. When he passed away during the third year of the show, the cast and crew attended his funeral. By the following Monday, everyone was ready to get back to work. To Anissa, it seemed like everyone was acting like Earl had never existed at all. Anissa went to her mother and asked if she could take an ad out in Variety saying good-bye to her good friend. The ad cost Anissa $400.00. Anissa’s Mom said that was one of her proudest moments as a mother
She was up for the Regan MacNeilpart in The Exorcist but the director was fearful that people would think “Buffy” had been possessed. Her friends and family said she was relieved when she was turned down because she wanted to be with her friends in school. She was also invited to try out for “Easy” Steensma in Taxi Driver but turned it down. She was very intelligent but fell into the wrong crowd.
In 1975 she started to skip school and take drugs and ended up in a juvenile hall for a bit. She eventually dropped out of high school working at restaurants until she was 18 in 1976 and she gained control of 180,000 dollars she got from Family Affair. She fell into the drug culture
On August 28, 1976, Anissa died of a drug overdose. It was ruled an accidental with cocaine, PCP, Seconal, and Quaaludes found in her system. She was at a party with friends. The coroner would call it one of the most massive overdoses he’d ever seen.
I’m not saying that these actors and actresses never acted in anything else but they ended up trapped in the role that ended up defining them good or bad. This list could have been much longer.
Bob Denver – Gilligan – I just picked Bob because he was the star of the show but a point could be argued that the entire cast of this show was eternally typecast. Bob Denver also played Maynard Krebs (which I loved) on The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis but Gilligan wins out.
Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker – After he auditioned for the title role in 1983 movie Amadeus the director dismissed the idea saying “I don’t want Luke Skywalker in this film.” He has broken a little out of the image by doing voiceovers like the Joker in Batman animated cartoons.
Carrie Fischer – Princess Leia – Harrison Ford was able to break out more successfully than his other two co-stars in Star Wars. Carrie Fischer acted in a lot of movies but could never shake Princess Leia…she is forever frozen in time in the minds of teenage nerds at the time and now.
Christopher Reeve – Superman – He is said to have stated that he spent his career trying to “escape the cape.”… When I think of Superman…I do think of Christopher Reeve’s version
George Reeves – Superman – See Above
Barbara Eden – Jeannie – She appeared in many TV movies but nothing topped beautiful Jeannie. Larry Hagman did manage to escape his character in I Dream of Jeannie into another…J.R. Ewing.
Elizabeth Montgomery – Samantha – Everyone’s favorite witch. Like Eden she did many TV movies…a lot of them really good but is known for Samantha.
Don Adams – Maxwell Smart -Adams also provided the voices for the animated series Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales and Inspector Gadget but was
Anthony Perkins – Is Norman Bates and there is no arguing that.
Robert Englund – Freddie Kruger – and I don’t believe he minds at all.
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