TV Draft Round 10 – Pick 5 – Keith Selects – The Untouchables

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Keith at https://nostalgicitalian.com/

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We have reached the final round of the Hanspostcard TV Show Draft. I want to take a moment and thank Max from the Power Pop Blog for taking up the reigns and helping us continue this round in Hans’ absence. It truly has been a fun draft!

For my final pick, I have gone back to another classic – The Untouchables. The show ran from 1959 to 1963 and starred the great Robert Stack as Eliot Ness. It is hard to imagine anyone but Robert Stack in the role of Ness, but believe it or not, Desi Arnaz had originally offered the role to actor Van Johnson. Supposedly, he wanted double what they were offering to pay for the role, and it ultimately went to Stack.

When asked about the character some years later, Stack said, “Ness was a precursor of Dirty Harry. He was a hero, a vigilante in a time when breaking the law meant nothing because there was no law because Capone owned Chicago, he owned the police force.”

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The show was based on the book of the same name written by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley. Brian De Palma would use the book as the basis for his 1987 film of the same name.

According to Wikipedia:

The series originally focused on the efforts of a real-life squad of Prohibition agents employed by the US Department of Justice and led by Eliot Ness (Stack) that helped bring down the bootleg empire of “Scarface” Al Capone, as described in Ness’s bestselling 1957 memoir. This squad was nicknamed “The Untouchables” because of its courage and honesty; squad members could not be bribed or intimidated by the mob. Eliot Ness himself had died suddenly in May 1957, shortly before his memoir and the subsequent TV adaptation were to bring him fame beyond any he experienced in his lifetime.

The pilot for the series, a two-part episode entitled “The Untouchables,” originally aired on CBS’s Westinghouse Desilu Placyhouse (and was introduced by Desi Arnaz) on April 20 and 27, 1959. Later re-titled “The Scarface Mob”, these episodes, which featured Neville Brand as Al Capone, were the only episodes in the series to be more-or-less directly based on Ness’s memoir, and ended with the conviction and imprisonment of Capone. CBS, which had broadcast most of Desilu’s television output since 1951 beginning with I Love Lucy, was offered the new series following the success of the pilot film. It was rejected it on the advice of network vice president Hubbell Robinson. ABC agreed to air the series, and The Untouchables premiered on October 15, 1959. In the pilot movie, the mobsters generally spoke with unrealistic pseudo-Italian accents, but this idiosyncratic pronunciation was dropped when the series debuted.

The weekly series first dramatized a power struggle to establish a new boss in Capone’s absence (for the purpose of the TV series, the new boss was Frank Nitti, although this was, as usual for the series, contrary to fact). As the series continued, there developed a highly fictionalized portrayal of Ness and his crew as all-purpose, multi-agency crime fighters who went up against an array of 1930s-era gangsters and villains, including Ma Barker, Dutch Schultz, Bugs Moran, Lucky Luciano, and in one episode, Nazi agents. On many occasions during the series run, Ness would blatantly violate suspects’ Fourth Amendment rights with no legal ramifications.

The terse narration by gossip columnist Walter Winchell, in his distinctive New York accent, was a stylistic hallmark of the series, along with its ominous theme music by Nelson Riddle and its shadowy black-and-white photography, which was influenced by film noir.

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The series produced 118 episodes which ran 50 minutes each. Though the book chronicled the experiences of Ness and his team against Capone, and in reality the Untouchables disbanded soon after Capone’s conviction. The series continued after the pilot and book ended, depicting the fictitious further exploits of the Untouchables against many, often real life, criminals over a span of time ranging from 1929 to 1935.

The show came with some controversy. Italian-American groups protested over what they felt was an unfair presentation of their people as Mafia-types. “We are plagued with lawsuits after certain shows” one of the show’s producers Josef Shaftel explained, noting that the series was “heavily insured against libel.” With good reason – the first lawsuit against the show was instigated by Al Capone’s angry widow. She didn’t like the way her deceased husband was made into a running villain on the show and wanted a million dollars for unfair use of his image. (She lost.)

The FBI and J. Edgar Hoover were ticked off too. They were the ones who collared the famous names that Ness was supposedly busting each week on TV and they rightfully wanted credit for it. The second episode of the series, for example, depicted Ness and his crew involved in the capture of the Ma Barker gang, an incident in which the real-life Ness played no part. The producers agreed to insert a spoken disclaimer on future broadcasts of the episode stating that the FBI had primary responsibility for the Barker case. Even the Bureau of Prisons took offense, complaining that the show made their treatment of Al Capone look soft.

The show itself was considered one of the most violent television shows of its time. Of course, by today’s standards it’s not that bad, but it was violent enough at the time to spark protests from parents who were worried about their children seeing this violence.

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My Thoughts

This is one of those shows that I just love! Robert Stack’s delivery of almost every line as Ness is perfect. He won an Emmy in 1960 for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series for his portrayal of Ness.

Despite the fact that many of the stories are fictionalized to work the Untouchables into them, they are great! The show really was a forerunner to shows like The FBI, Crime Story, and even Hawaii 5-0. I love the film noir feel of it. Every episode plays like a good 50 minute movie.

The Lebanon Pennsylvania Daily News said of The Untouchables: “Between the hard-nosed approach, sharp dialogue, and a commendably crisp pace (something rare in dramatic TV at the time), this series is one of the few that remains fresh and vibrant. Only the monochrome presentation betrays its age. The Untouchables is one of the few Golden Age TV shows that deserves being called a classic.” It really does hold up well.

As I have mentioned before, one of the things I love about these old shows is seeing big stars (who are not quite yet stars) show up. In regular roles throughout the series you could see Raymond Bailey (Mr. Drysdale on the Beverly Hillbillies), Barbara Stanwyck, Barbara Nichols, Ed Asner (Lou Grant), Harry Morgan (Col. Potter on MASH), and Henry Silva.

The list of guest star appearances is long and amazing. They include: Jack Elam, Paul Frees, Jim Backus, Sam Jaffe, Martin Balsam, John Dehner, William Bendix, Whitt Bissell, Charles Bronson, James Caan, James Coburn, Mike Conners, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Norman Fell, Alan Hale Jr., Brian Keith, Jack Klugman, Cloris Leachman, Jack Lord, Lee Marvin, Telly Savalas, Elizabeth Montgomery, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Redford, Ricardo Montalban, Rip Torn, Jack Warden, Dick York, Cliff Robertson and so many more!

"The Untouchables"Paul Picerni, Robert Stackcirca 1961

You know, they play reruns of Law and Order on TV all the time. Many of the shows I have seen numerous times. I know what’s going to happen, yet I still watch (a lot like my previous picks – Perry Mason and Columbo). The Untouchables is a show that could very easily be rerun like a Law and Order. It is that good.

I love Walter Winchell’s narration

And I love the theme song!

It has been so much fun writing on some of my favorite shows. It’s been just as fun to read about the shows picked by other members of the TV Show Draft. I hope you have enjoyed my picks…

Thanks for reading!

TV Draft Round 8 – Pick 7 – Keith Selects – Sherlock

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Keith at https://nostalgicitalian.com/

Sherlock

We have come to the eighth round of the Hanspostcard TV Show Draft. I have already picked Columbo and Perry Mason, and for this round I have another mystery show. I’ve noticed a few of the other participants have picked some great BBC shows, so I guess it is now my turn. For this round, I pick Sherlock.

The series ran from 2010 – 2017. Series 1 aired in 2010, Series 2 in 2012, a Christmas mini-episode ran in 2013, Series 3 ran in 2014, a special “period” show aired in 2016, and Series 4 aired in 2017. What I love about this show is the modern take on a classic character. Having Sherlock Holmes solving crimes in modern day was the draw for me and it did not disappoint.

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The Premise

The show features Sherlock Holmes, who is a “consulting detective”, along with his flatmate Dr. John Watson solving crimes in a modern-day London. He helps Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade, who at first is a bit suspicious of Sherlock. Over time, however, he realized Sherlock’s intelligence and ability to help solve various crimes and considers him an asset.

Dr. Watson documents their adventures on his personal blog and Sherlock becomes a sort of celebrity. This leads to a lot of press coverage and ordinary people and the British government seeking out Sherlock for help with cases.

The show features various crimes and villains, however, a recurring feature is the battle between Holmes and his archenemy, Jim Moriarty. Many of the stories in the series have been adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books.

Who’s Responsible?

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Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss were both writers for another BBC show – Dr. Who. They were both huge fans of Sherlock Holmes. They were both no stranger to taking Victorian stories and adapting it for television. The two men spent many hours during train rides discussing creating a new series featuring Sherlock Holmes. Moffat’s wife suggested that the two begin developing the show before someone else stole the idea.

The Cast

Sherlock Holmes – Benedict Cumberbatch

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According to Moffat and Gattis, Benedict Cumberbatch was immediately the guy they wanted to play Holmes. They had seen him perform in Atonement and thought he was perfect. A producer said that he was the only one they actually saw for the role. According to one article: “The part is modelled as a charismatic secondary psychopath or “High functioning sociopath” as Sherlock self-describes, unlike Doyle’s rendering as a primary psychopath, thereby allowing more opportunity or ambiguity for traits of empathy.” Cumberbatch told the Guardian, “There’s a great charge you get from playing him, because of the volume of words in your head and the speed of thought—you really have to make your connections incredibly fast. He is one step ahead of the audience and of anyone around him with normal intellect. They can’t quite fathom where his leaps are taking him.”

Dr. John Watson – Martin Freeman

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Actor Matt Smith was originally the actor Moffat and Gattis had in mind to play Watson, but there was something about him, the chemistry with Cumberbatch, and the way he played the character that they didn’t like (They would eventually cast him in Dr. Who). Eventually, Martin Freeman won the role. Moffat says of Freeman, (he is) “the sort of opposite of Benedict in everything except the amount of talent… Martin finds a sort of poetry in the ordinary man. I love the fastidious realism of everything he does.” Freeman, when considering his character, says he is “a ‘moral compass’ for Sherlock, who does not always consider the morality and ethics of his actions.

Detective Inspector Lestrade – Rupert Graves

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According to Moffat and Gattis, many auditioned for the role, but they all seemed to have a comedic take on the role. The creators liked Graves’ approach to it and he was cast. There is some great interplay between Lestrade and Holmes throughout the series. He works for Scotland Yard.

Jim Moriarty – Andrew Scott

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Scott is fantastic as Moriarty! Moffat said, “We knew what we wanted to do with Moriarty from the very beginning. Moriarty is usually a rather dull, rather posh villain so we thought someone who was genuinely properly frightening. Someone who’s an absolute psycho.” They certainly achieved this. There were times I was genuinely freaked out by his performance! The creators never intended to have a “confrontation” scene between Holmes and Moriarty, but then they saw Scott’s audition and they knew that they HAD to!

Other Cast Members

Amanda Abbington – Mary (Morstan) Watson

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At the time of the series, Amanda Abbington was Martin Freeman’s real life partner. She was cast to play John Watson’s girlfriend/wife.

Mrs. HudsonUna Stubbs

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Mrs. Hudson is Holmes’ and Watson’s landlady. She brings a wonderful bit of comedic dialog to every interaction and scene. Interesting story – Una has known Benedict Cumberbatch since he was 4 years old and she has worked with his mother!

Molly HooperLouise Brealey

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Molly Hooper works at a morgue at a London hospital. She also has an apparent crush on Sherlock. Because of her work position and crush on him, Sherlock frequently exploits her to let him examine or perform experiments on victims’ bodies. In the first episode of the series she allows him to hit a corpse with a riding crop to see how it might bruise in post mortum.

Mycroft Holmes – Mark Gattis

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(SPOILER ALERT) When Mycroft first appears in the series, you really have no idea who he is. He is this mysterious man who tries to get Watson to spy on Sherlock for him. You only learn later on that he is Sherlock’s brother. Mycroft is even more skilled at deduction, correcting Sherlock on occasion and beating him in deduction exercises, as well as lacking enthusiasm for “legwork”. His intellect is borderline superhuman. The sibling rivalry between the two lead to some very good scenes.

Sally Donovan & Phillip Anderson – Vinette Robinson & Jonathan Aris

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Srgt. Sally Donovan often works with Lestrade on cases. She resents Sherlock’s presence at crime scenes and treats him with extreme disrespect and rudeness, cruelly calling him a “freak” to his face, and warns Watson that Sherlock is a psychopath who will one day get bored of catching killers and become one himself.

Phillip Anderson is originally a member of the Metropolitan Police’s Forensic Services. From the series opening, it is clear that Anderson and Sherlock have history of mutual dislike with Sherlock repeatedly humiliating Anderson and Anderson refusing to assist him at crime scenes.

Why I Picked It

Growing up, I had read a few of the Sherlock Holmes books. I has seen Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes in movies, and certainly heard many old time radio shows featuring Holmes and Watson. I was intrigued to see just how Sherlock would play out in modern times.

I began to watch the first episode and all it took was the first meeting of Sherlock and Watson, and I was hooked. The way Sherlock is able to tick off things about Watson after just a couple minutes was awesome. Here is that scene:

Pardon me while I sort of digress for a moment.

One of the shows I considered picking in the draft was House, M.D. starring Hugh Laurie. I had heard it said that House was based on Sherlock Holmes. House would often make brilliant deductions about the his patients, and often was able to rattle off things about people because of his keen sense of observation – just like Sherlock Holmes. When I began to watch Sherlock, I immediately noticed just how much the two were alike.

The two characters are very similar. Check out the following links:

https://screenrant.com/house-ways-similar-sherlock-holmes/

https://screenrant.com/house-show-sherlock-holmes-comparison-similarities/

Now, back to why I picked it. I love a good mystery, obviously. I was fascinated by the way Sherlock worked and how he figured things out. Sherlock is a bit different that my earlier picks of Columbo and Perry Mason. I loved watching him sort through all the things that helped get him to the final conclusion.

I love good characters. This show is full of them. There are times I laugh out loud at some of the interactions. One of my favorite exchanges between Sherlock and Lestrade happens in the first episode. Sherlock, Watson and Lestrade are in a room and Sherlock yells, “Shut up!” Lestrade answers back, “I didn’t say anything.” Sherlock adds quickly, “You were thinking. It’s annoying!”

Holmes and Watson are the perfect team. They play well off each other. The same holds true for Cumberbatch and Freeman. Their chemistry is magical. I remember seeing the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law and thinking they had good chemistry, but Cumberbatch and Freeman’s chemistry is far superior.

In between Series 3 & 4, Sherlock aired a special on New Years Day of 2016. The Abominable Bride was set in Victorian London. Set in the time of the original books, it takes Sherlock out of the modern day and places him back where we all know him from. Moffat stated that “The special is its own thing. We wouldn’t have done the story we’re doing, and the way we’re doing it, if we didn’t have this special. It’s not part of the run of three episodes. So we had this to do it … It’s kind of in its own little bubble.”

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The special won an Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie at the 2016 Primetime Emmy Awards. If you only watch one episode – I’d suggest this one.

The final episode of Sherlock aired in 2017. Steven Moffat stated that He and Mark Gattis had fifth series plotted out, but weren’t ready to fully produce it. Whether or not a new series of shows will come to fruition is still up in the air.

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When Benedict Cumberbatch was asked about whether or not Sherlock would make more episodes, he said, “I’m the worst person to ask because my slate’s pretty, pretty full at the moment, as is Martin’s and all the other key players involved. So, who knows? Maybe one day, if the script’s right. And I say ‘the script,’ maybe it could be a film rather than the series. Who knows?” 

Sherlock is a multi award winning show full of mystery, adventure, comedy, and fun. If you have never seen it, I highly recommend it.

The game is on!!

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TV Draft Round 7 – Pick 8 – Keith Selects – The Honeymooners

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Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Keith at https://nostalgicitalian.com/

For my next pick in the Hanspostcard TV Show Draft is one that is one of my all time favorites. I don’t remember when I first was introduced to this show, but I am guessing my dad had something to do with it. Early on in the draft, I chose Police Squad, which only aired 6 episodes. This show is known for its “Classic 39” – The Honeymooners.

This isn’t my first blog about the show. Some time ago, I took part in a “Favorite TV Episode” Blogathon and picked 2 of my favorite episodes to present. You can read that blog here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2019/03/22/some-favorite-tv-episodes/

When you think about 50’s TV shows, there was very little struggle involved. Think about it. I Love Lucy, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Andy Griffith Show, and Leave it to Beaver all showed families who were living in nice homes or apartments, showed no signs of financial struggles, and while there may be a misunderstanding here and there, it was mostly “bliss.” In 1955-1956, however, The Honeymooners focused on two couples from New York, who were struggling to get by.

The show focused on the lives of Ralph (Jackie Gleason) and Alice Kramden (Audrey Meadows), and Ed (Art Carney) and Trixie Norton (Joyce Randolph). One article I found on the show says this about Gleason’s Kramden character: Ralph was the get-rich-quick scheming, short-tempered, soft-hearted guy who was always striving for greatness, but never made it out of that two-room Brooklyn apartment. And that’s one of the main attractions for even the most casual of viewers: the characters are so identifiable. As Jackie himself said at the time, “Everything we did could have happened. People like the show, because we are them.”

The show began as a simple sketch on the DuMont Television Network, on the Cavalcade of Stars. The original hosts were Jack Carter and Jerry Lester, but in July of 1950 comedian Jackie Gleason took over the hosting duties. In the process, Gleason took the struggling show and turned it around to be a hit. The show, which featured comedy skits and a number of different performers each week, was broadcast live in front of a theater audience. In 1951, Jackie and his writers came up with the idea for a sketch called The Honeymooners. It was about a struggling couple living in Brooklyn who frequently fought, but in the end, there was no question that they loved each other.

Leonard Stern was a writer on both The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show. In an interview with the Archive of American Television he stated, “We started doing one sketch of The Honeymooners every five or six weeks and the response of people on the street was tremendous. So we started doing them every other week. Eventually, though, everyone, including Jackie, lost interest in the other characters in the different sketches, so we started to do them every week until the fatigue level hit its high and we’d have to take a break. I think Gleason had fun doing them, because he recognized the impact Kramden and Alice and Norton and Trixie were having on the audience. I’m not a great fan of ratings, but let me say that 53% of the total television audience was watching the show. There’s nothing like that in existence today. It was astonishing and the show itself was live. Remember, the audience of 3,000 people filled that theater. You earned your laughs. It was a resounding success and very exhilarating for all of us. It was opening night every week.”

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When Gleason left the Dupont Network and went to CBS, he hosted the Jackie Gleason Show, where the Honeymooners sketches continued. In the 1952 season, the sketches usually ran between seven and 13 minutes. In the following season, and those sketches ran for a minimum of 30 minutes, and sometimes longer. Then, in the 1954-55 season, they actually filled the entire hour of The Jackie Gleason Show and was doing so well in the ratings that it occasionally surpassed the viewership of I Love Lucy. That is almost unheard of!

In the 1955-56 season, The Jackie Gleason Show literally became The Honeymooners! It aired as a half-hour sitcom that was filmed in front of a studio audience. In total, 39 episodes were produced, and these episodes are the ones that are still being broadcast today. These 39 episodes are the ones that most people remember.

I read an article that said Jackie Gleason had actually been given a three-year contract from CBS for 78 episodes of The Honeymooners to be produced in the first two seasons. The contract also included an option for a third season of 39 more. For whatever it is worth, Gleason felt the quality of the scriptwriting couldn’t be maintained, and the show was mutually canceled by him and CBS.

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A Closer Weekly article says: What’s particularly impressive about The Honeymooners living on the way it has is the fact that back in the day, there needed to be a minimum of 100 episodes of a show available so that local stations could run it five days a week. Any less made syndication difficult, since the cycle would be repeated that much sooner. But then there was The Honeymooners, with a mere 39 episodes to offer up, yet it worked. And continues to do so.

In a 1996 appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Jackie was asked why the show ended. He told Carson, “We were running out of ideas. I liked The Honeymooners and I liked doing them, and I didn’t want to denigrate them by forcing scenes that didn’t mean anything. So I wanted to quit, but they didn’t believe me. They thought I had another job someplace, but I didn’t. I’m glad I did stop them, because what we had done was good and if we had gone any further, we might have spoiled it.”

Those “Classic 39” are classic for a reason. They are still funny. The situations that The Kramdens and the Nortons muddle through every week will make you laugh, cry, think, and smile. They still hold up today. Each one of them has memorable scenes and quotable lines.

In one episode Ralph tells his boss he is a great golfer and is immediately asked to go play around with him. Now Ralph needs to learn how to play – and fast. He finds the perfect teacher in his best friend Ed Norton. In pure Art Carney fashion, Ed reads from a book that you must “address the ball,” to which he takes the club, stands in front of the ball, looks down and says, “Hello, Ball!”

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An episode of the show was featured in the movie Back To The Future. When Marty McFly winds up in 1955, a family is watching the episode The Man From Space. Intending to win the $50 first prize at the Racoon Lodge’s costume ball, Ralph decides to create his own outfit. And what an outfit! After appropriating (among other things) a faucet, a pot, a radio tube, and the icebox door, he presents himself as the Man from Space.

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In another episode, Alice says she wants to go dancing. Ralph has Ed come over to teach him how to dance. Ralph’s outfit is hilarious (he tells Alice it is “what all us cats where! I’m hip!”). The dance (to the song The Hucklebuck) is worth the watch.

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To me, sometimes the funniest stuff can be as simple as Ralph’s face …

In another classic episode, Ralph and Norton appear on a TV commercial trying to sell their Handy Housewife Helper, a kitchen gadget that can, among other things, open cans, remove corns, and “core an apple.” In the inspired, ad-lib-laden episode, “Chef of the Future” Ralph demonstrates the wonders of the gizmo to “Chef of the Past” Norton. Rehearsal goes great, but in front of live cameras, Ralph freezes up.

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Art Carney was the perfect second banana. The play between him and Gleason is classic. In one episode Norton’s sleepwalking becomes a waking nightmare for Ralph. Ralph can’t get any sleep because he’s been asked to keep his pal from wandering off on late-night strolls around the neighborhood.

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Another classic episode takes place at the pool hall where Ralph gets into an argument with the diminutive guy named George. “My friend is even bigger than me,” he tells Ralph. “I have a friend Shirley that’s bigger than you,” Ralph counters. But then he comes eye-to-chin with George’s friend, the towering Harvey, who challenges Ralph to a fight. This prompts Norton to observe: “He’s even bigger than your friend Shirley.”

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Many of the plot lines from the classic episodes made it into the Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy novelty hit “The Honeymooners Rap.”

In the 1980’s, Jackie Gleason announced that in his vault he had found a number of Honeymooners skits from The Jackie Gleason Show that had been shot on Kinescope, which is a way of filming directly through a lens that actually focused on the screen of a video monitor. 107 of those skits were released on DVD and syndicated to television stations. These would have been shot before the “Classic 39” and two of them stand out to me.

Jackie had been a guest star on the Jack Benny Show, so Jack makes an appearance as the Kramden’s landlord. The rent is being raised and Ralph is mad. When there is a knock on the door, Ralph opens it and Jack Benny is standing there. The audience chuckles in anticipation. Ralph calls to Alice that “the Landlord’s here” and the audience erupts. Benny stands there quietly as Ralph reads him the riot act! He calls him a “penny pincher” (which plays into Benny’s “cheap” character”) and says that he pinches a penny so hard that when he is through “both heads and tails are on the same side of the coin!”

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In another lost episode, Ralph must lose weight for work. All through the episode, he is starving. Finally, he is left alone in the apartment and sitting at the kitchen table. He notices a cake pan. He lifts the lid and sees the cake. His eyes bulge and he goes nuts. As he is about to tear into the cake Alice walks in. “Everybody get back,” he yells! The brief 3 minutes of him staring at the cake before getting ready to eat it is comedy genius!

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As brilliant as Jackie Gleason was as Ralph Kramden, he never won an Emmy Award for it. Art Carney, however, won 5 Emmys for Best Supporting Actor on The Honeymooners and the Jackie Gleason Show.

The Honeymooners influenced a huge 1960s cartoon – The Flintstones. It is a blatant rip-off of the show and was a huge hit. It is said that Gleason considered suing Hanna-Barbera Productions because of the similarities, but decided that he did not want to be known as “the guy who yanked Fred Flintstone off the air”

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Water Buffalo members and Racoon members

The Honeymooners is over 65 years years old! Joyce Randolph, who played Trixie Norton is 97 years old and still going strong. I wonder if Gleason ever thought that those 39 episodes would still find an audience today and that they would still bring much laughter.

In 1990, Audrey Meadows joined Bob Costas on Later to discuss the show. You can see that footage here:

If you have never seen an episode, I encourage you to do so. The two episodes I mentioned in a previous blog are good places to start – TV or Not TV or A Matter of Record. Most are available on Youtube.

Thanks for reading!

TV Draft Round 6 – Pick 5 – Keith Selects – Get Smart

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Keith at https://nostalgicitalian.com/

It’s time for my next pick in the Hanspostcard TV Show Draft. My next pick is sort of a guilty pleasure. So many of the gags are ones you see coming a mile away, but they still crack me up. It is another one of those shows that was loaded with great guest stars and a solid cast. My next pick is Get Smart.

In the early 1960’s, America got their first look at James Bond and the secret agent/spy genre took off in full force. In 1965, Daniel Melnick, who was a partner in the production firm of Talent Associates in New York City, decided that it was time for a TV series that satirized James Bond. He approached Mel Brooks and Buck Henry to write a script about a “bungling James Bond-like hero.”

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Mel said that Talent Associates had a pool table. He and Buck met at the pool table and while playing discussed the show. Mel says, “I knew we could do this thing together because we couldn’t stop babbling about things like the Shoe Phone and the Cone of Silence. These things just rolled out of our mouths.”

Henry said they created the script for the pilot in about three months around the pool table. “We decided on a secret agent named Smart – Maxwell Smart – and gave him, as his most sterling quality, a remarkable lack of insight. Nevertheless, since he was our hero, he would always win out despite his inspired inefficiency. We also gave him a number, which all operatives must have.” The number they chose was 86, which was chosen by Melnick and derived from the slang expression “to eighty-six someone.”

The show was pitched to ABC. The pitch was pretty much exactly what the show ended up being: Max would work for the Chief, the head of the Washington-based US intelligence agency Control. He would have a beautiful and brilliant young partner known only as Agent 99. Loaded up with gadgets, they would fight against the evil agents of Kaos, an international organization seeking world domination.

Originally, Mel Brooks considered playing Smart himself. Orson Bean was also considered. ABC decided that if it aired the show, Tom Poston (best known for his work on the Steve Allen Show and Newhart) would star as Agent 86. ABC liked the pilot, but wanted to change things up. They wanted Max to have a mother and a dog on the show. Brooks hated the idea of Max coming home to his mother at the end of every show and explaining everything to her. When they told ABC “no,” they passed on the show calling it “un-American.”

They took the script to NBC. NBC had already spent all the money allotted for making pilots. Grant Tinker was contacted about the show and was told that he “had to” read the pilot. “I read it and I just loved it. It was exactly the kind of thing that makes me laugh.” He called the head of programming at NBC and convinced him to come up with the money for one more pilot. They did so one one condition – Tom Poston, who was not under contract at NBC, would be replaced by Don Adams, who was.

The Cast

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Maxwell Smart – Agent 86

You have to wonder how Max keeps his job! He is extremely clumsy and forgetful. He’s forever on the Chief’s last nerve, yet he always wins. He is a proficient marksman, skilled in hand to hand combat, and incredibly lucky. Believe it or not, he is one of the top Control agents!

Once Don Adam’s was brought in as Max, many of his routines from his stand up act were incorporated into the character. He had used his “Would you believe…” before, but it became a staple on Get Smart.

Smart: At this very moment, 25 Control agents are converging on this building.

Kaos Agent: I don’t believe it.

Smart: Would you believe 2 squad cars and a motorcycle cop?

Kaos Agent: No

Smart: How about a vicious street cleaner and a toothless police dog?

Agent 99

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Played by Barbara Feldon, whom Buck Henry says he fought for from the beginning. Despite some sources, the creators of the show and Feldon herself say that 99’s real name is never mentioned. Originally, they wanted her to be Agent 69, but Henry says, “We knew it would never get past the censors. So 99 was our little joke.”

99 is another of Control’s top agents and often works together with Max. One had to wonder what an intelligent and sensible woman like 99 sees in a goofball like Maxwell Smart!

The Chief

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For the Chief, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry wanted someone who would “personify authority and grave intensity all while delivering ludicrous information with a stern voice and fatherly demeanor.” They had seen Ed Platt in North by Northwest and Rebel Without a Cause and knew he was their Chief.

He is the head of Control. He oversees all of Control’s activities and missions. He frequently speaks to the President over a direct line. He considers 86 and 99 to be Control’s best agents and his best friends, even though Max seems to be a continuous thorn in his side.

Chief: All we know is that they threaten to wipe out the city containing our finest intellectual minds and greatest leaders!

Max: Well, at least Washington is safe.

Larabee

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Larabee (played by Robert Karvelas) is the Chief’s right hand man and assistant. In all honesty, he is even more slow-witted and incompetent than Max! Don Adams said that they used Larabee for the jokes that were “too dumb for Max.” Despite his stupidity, his unwavering dedication and extremely simple mind make him an indispensable government employee.

Hymie The Robot

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Hymie (played by Dick Gautier) was a robot originally designed by Kaos to battle against Control. However, in his first appearance on the show, Max mistakes him for a rookie Control agent and takes him under his wing. When Hymie is ordered to kill Max, Hymie shoots his creator instead. Max then reprograms him to work for Control.

Hymie often takes things literally. When told to get a grip on himself, he grabs himself. Many jokes of this type were Hymie oriented (“Kill the lights,” “Grab a waiter,” “Hop to it,” “Knock it off,” and so on.

Agent 13

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Agent 13 (David Ketchum) is forever spying from odd places. You will find him in washing machines, in mailboxes, file cabinets, lockers, fire hydrants, and other small places. He is loyal to Control, but often complains about his assignments. Though he complains, he always gets the job done intercepting messages, overhearing plans, and often coming to Max’s rescue.

From 1965-1966, Agent 44 was played by Victor French and was also confined to small spaces like Agent 13.

Professor Carlson

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Carlson (Stacy Keach Sr.) is a Control scientist and inventor. He often presents Max with gadgets that will be used on his assignment. Carlson succeeded Professor Parker who was played by Milton Selzer.

KAOS

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Maxwell Smart calls Kaos “a monstrous organization of evil dedicated to the destruction of the free world and the systematic subjugation of every man, woman, and child on this planet. Kaos Agent Omar Shurok describes it as “the international organization of evil formed in 1904 in Bucharest , designed to foment unrest and revolution throughout the world.”

Ludwig Von Seigfried

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Seigfried (played wonderfully by Bernie Kopell) is described as “the merciless, fiercely conceited, preeminent Kaos kingpin” who “considers himself vastly superior to his underlings and his adversaries.” He is also described as “undeniably sinister, shrewd, underhanded, conniving, contemptuous, haughty, scornful, and explosive. He considers all Kaos agents thick-witted, nitwits, fools, incompetents, bunglers, dummkopfs, dunderheads, and sissies, and he is easily angered by the slightest display of incompetence or silliness.”

Seigfried (on the phone with Max): Your Chief was just silenced by a pistol butt.

Max: That’s a little drastic, wasn’t it, Seigfried? Couldn’t you have just shushed him?

Seigfried: We don’t SHUSH here!

Shtarker (or Starker)

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(King Moody) He is Seigfried’s ruthless, but often inept henchman. Shtarker is the Yiddish word for a “strong-arm man” or a “tough guy.” He certainly is a towering bodyguard, but he is nothing more than a goofball.

Gadgets

Throughout the show there are many gadgets. No doubt, many of these were inspired by the James Bond series. There are too many to list here, but there are a couple that have become synonymous with the show.

Shoe Phone

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Mel Brooks is credited with coming up with the idea for the Shoe Phone. It came to him one day when every phone in his office started ringing and he took his shoe off and began speaking into it.

In 2002, the prop shoe phone was placed on display in an exhibit called “Spies: Secrets from the CIA, KGB, and Hollywood” which featured real and fake spy gear in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Cone of Silence

Buck Henry claims to have come up with this recurring gag.

Whenever something needed to be discussed that was sensitive, Max would insist on Control’s protocol of using the Cone of Silence. It was designed to keep whatever was discussed audible to whoever was in it. However, it almost never worked. Many times the people under it could not hear each other, or couldn’t understand what the other was saying. Sometimes they had to yell so loud that the people outside the Cone of Silence could hear better than the ones under it.

Catchphrases

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Get Smart contributed many catchphrases that were popular among viewers. “Would you believe…” which I already mentioned was just one of them. Others were:

  • “Missed it by that much.”
  • “Sorry about that Chief”
  • “I asked you not to tell me that”
  • “….and LOVING it!”
  • “Of course, the (such and such). Just one question. What’s the (such and such)?
  • “The old (such and such) trick”

Passwords

Sometimes a password was needed to enter Control buildings. Other times a sign and counter sign was needed.

Passwords include:

  • Ricardo Montalban hates tortillas
  • Herb Alpert takes trumpet lessons from Guy Lombardo

Signs/Countersigns include:

Sign: Camptown ladies sing this song

Countersign: Doo-dah. Doo-dah.

Sign: Camptown racetrack five miles long

Countersign: Oh Doo-dah day.

The Show

Get Smart aired for 5 seasons. The first four seasons were on NBC and when faced with cancellation, it moved to CBS for it’s fifth and final season. In the final season, the show “jumped the shark” and 86 and 99 got married and had kids, which many say is what killed the show.

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Afterward

In 1980, Don Adams starred in the theatrical film, The Nude Bomb. It lacked much of what made the show so good. Max is not working for Control, 99 is not present, and it lacked all the fun of the show.

In 1988, many of the original cast reunited for Get Smart Again, a TV movie that aired on ABC. It reunited 86, 99, Larabee, Hymie, and Agent 13. Seigfried and Shtarker return as Kaos agents. It was more true to the original series and it helped spawn a short-lived weekly series on Fox in 1995.

Why I Picked It

Today, we are bombarded with all kinds of shows on TV that try to push a political or social message. Get Smart makes me laugh. It is one of those shows that I wish didn’t have a laugh track (the only thing I hate about it). I love to watch the interaction of the characters and enjoy the guest stars. It’s one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

The theme song is one of my favorites, too! When I worked at one hospital, I used to have to walk down a long hallway and I would often find myself humming the theme! Silly, yes! Incidentally, it is interesting to note that in 2010, TV Guide ranked the opening title sequence at number 2 on its list of Top 10 credits sequences as selected by readers. It’s classic!

Thanks for reading!!

TV Draft Round 5 – Pick 2 – Keith Selects – 30 Rock

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Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Keith at https://nostalgicitalian.com/

For this round of the TV Show Draft, I figured I would jump ahead a few years to prove that I watch shows that aired after 1980! There are very few shows that actually make me laugh out loud. For this round, I want to feature one of them – 30 Rock.

The show aired on NBC from 2006-2013 and was created by Tina Fey (who also starred on the show). It was based on many of her experiences while working as a writer on Saturday Night Live (SNL). The show was actually produced by SNL’s Lorne Michaels, and the character of Jack Donaghy is said to be loosely based on Michaels.

The show was nominated for Primetime Emmy Awards every year it was on the air. It won for Outstanding Comedy series in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In 2009, the show was nominated for a whopping 22 Primetime Emmy Awards – the most in a single year for a comedy series. The Associated Press once wrote, “NBC’s Thursday night comedy blockmade up of My Name Is Earl, The Office, Scrubs, and 30 Rock – is consistently the best night of prime time viewing for any network!”

In the first episode of the series, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) is the head writer for an NBC comedy series, The Girlie Show. It stars her best friend, Jenna Marone (Jane Krakowski). When Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) enters as the new NBC Executive, he begins to revamp things at the network, including The Girlie Show. In the episode, he forces Liz to hire the very unpredictable (and sometimes crazy) Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) as the new star of the show, which will now be called TGS with Tracy Jordan.

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A typical episode would feature the rigors of writing a comedy show, the jealousy of Jenna after being forced to share stardom with Tracy, Tracy’s immature behavior, arguments between Jack and Liz, and pokes fun at NBC’s parent company (at the time) General Electric.

As with many of the shows being featured throughout the draft, 30 Rock is one of those shows that features a wonderful ensemble cast – each with their own distinct and unique personality. The blending of these personalities is just one of the many reasons why this show is so funny. Wikipedia has a wonderful description of each cast member (here are a few):

  • Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) – a “sexually frightened know-it-all” and head writer of TGS
  • Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) – the loose-cannon, crazy, and unpredictable star of TGS
  • Jenna Marone (Jane Krakowski) – original star of the Girlie Show, now co-star of TGS. She is Liz’s constantly attention-seeking, arrogant, and clueless best friend.
  • Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer) – the cheerful, obedient, Southern-born NBC page who “lives for television.”
  • Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) – the decisive, controlling, suave, and occasionally senseless network executive who constantly interferes with the on goings of TGS.

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In the 7 seasons that 30 Rock was on the air, there are thousands of laughs, ridiculous story lines, hundreds of catchphrases, and quirky characters. So what makes it such a funny show? Here are just a few reasons.

Rapid Fire Humor

Today, most comedy shows are designed for a laugh or two. Long build ups with poor payoffs which basically allows the viewer to watch without really having to pay attention. 30 Rock, however, was like watching a stand-up comic. The jokes (and insults) come at you one after another! Those lines are often delivered in a straight manor by the actor. It is reminiscent of the movie Airplane! where the actors are spouting off silly lines with a serious tone and deadpan. I feel like every time I watch an episode, I catch something I miss (just like when I watch Airplane!).

Lots and Lots of Guest Stars and Cameos

I’ve always loved to see actors appear on Saturday Night Live and do some off the wall character. Many of the guest stars on 30 Rock did just that. Some of the stars who appeared over 7 seasons include: Edie Falco, Jennifer Aniston, Selma Hayek, John Lithgow, Megan Mullally, Peter Dinklage, Steve Martin, Julianne Moore, Jon Bon Jovi, Matt Damon, James Franco, Susan Sarandon, Alan Alda, Ice-T, Richard Belzer, Michael Keaton, Paul Giamatti, and Buck Henry!

Other guest stars appeared as themselves – Buzz Aldrin, Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Al Gore, for example. Recurring characters included Chris Parnell as Dr. Leo Spaceman (pronounced “spa-che-man), Jason Sudeikis as one of Liz’s boyfriends, Dean Winters as Liz’s ex-boyfriend, Will Arnett as Devon Banks (a guy out for Jack’s job), Rip Torn as Jack’s boss and mentor, and the great Elaine Stritch as Jack’s mother.

The Running Gags and Catchprases

Tina Fey loves a good running joke and there were plenty on 30 Rock. Some of them even spilled over into use in pop culture. For example:

“Blergh” is a handy expression you can use when the network won’t let you swear on TV. It is not a coincidence that it is also the brand of furniture from Ikea that Liz Lemon buys! Google trends suggests that 30 Rock pushed the word into the mainstream after it appeared in Season 1’s 2007 episode “Cleveland.” As it often happens with slang, blergh has become so prevalent, people will probably forget where it came from.

“Deal Breaker” is not a new phrase. It has roots dating back to 1979, and it was a Harlen Coben Book title in the 90’s. However, it gained new popularity after 30 Rock used it to describe relationships. Fey’s character write a book the points out all the “deal breakers” in relationships (“He never takes off his socks? Dealbreaker!”)

“I want to go to there” is a phrase that is exclusive to 30 Rock. We even know where it came from: Tina Fey got the odd grammatical construction from her young daughter Alice, and it quickly became one of 30 Rock’s most repeated quotes.

The “EGOT.” In 2008, Tim Long wrote a piece for Vanity Fair about Philip Michael Thomas, who, Long said used to wear a gold medal that simply said “EGOT,” which stood for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony,” awards Thomas planned to win in the next five years. The following year on 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan finds a diamond EGOT necklace and sets out to join the elite ranks of such all-around winners. Tracy reached his goal in Season 5, and, thanks to 30 Rock, the EGOT has become a term used in the entertainment biz today.

“Good God” is a phrase that is often used by Jack in various situations. The 30 Rock YouTube page has a video compilation of some of his best “Good God” moments. My favorite was spoken to an ill Liz Lemon after she get’s in Jack’s face and speaks. Jack simply says, “Good God, Lemon. Your breath! When did you find time to eat a diaper you found on the beach?”

So Quotable

30 Rock is one of those shows that you really just have to watch. I find it really hard to describe WHY you should watch it other than the reasons above. Baldwin was simply hilarious on the show, as was Tina Fey. The cast works so well together and the insane situations that are presented are so ridiculous, you can’t NOT watch. There are so many little “toss ins” and “cut aways” involved. A cast member will say something – the camera cuts to a brief scene – and back to where it cut away. Those “toss in” jokes never cease to make me double over in laughter.

At the same time, the writing and deliver of the dialogue is just brilliant. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite lines:

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Jack Donaghy

“I’m not a creative type like you, with your work sneakers and left-handedness.”

“What’s wrong, Lemon? When I see you chew your nails like that, it’s either you’re very anxious, or you handled some ham earlier.”

“I only pass gas once a year, for an hour, atop a mountain in Switzerland.”

“Never go with a hippie to a second location.”

“Ambition is the willingness to kill the things you love and eat them to survive. Haven’t you ever read my throw pillow?”

“We all have ways of coping. I use sex and awesomeness.”

“The world is made by those who control their own destiny. It isn’t made by those who don’t do, it’s made by those who do do. Which is what made me the man I am. I do do.”

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“We have a show tonight. I’ve never missed a show. Not even the time I had that virus they kept saying only raccoons get.”

“Now I’m heading home for a nooner, which is what I call having pancakes for lunch.”

“Why are my arms so weak? It’s like I did that pushup last year for nothing!”

“I also have a lot of imaginary arguments with couples on House Hunters: Why can’t people look past paint color?”

“You can’t solve all your problems by shooting someone or setting a stranger on fire.”

“Fine, I’ll be okay. I got other ideas, like a microbrewery that also serves frozen yogurt. I’mma call it… Microsoft.”

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30 ROCK — “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World” Episode 711 — Pictured: (l-r) Tina Fey as Liz Lemon, Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan, Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney — (Photo by: Ali Goldstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

Tracy Jordan and Jenna Marone

Tracy:

“Here’s some advice I wish I woulda got when I was your age: Live every week like it’s Shark Week.”

“I’m not going to rehearse. I’m going to get a sandwich and then eat it on the toilet.”

“I watched Boston Legal 9 times before I realized it wasn’t a new Star Trek.”

“I’m gonna say to you what I say to all my sharks right before they die: Let’s go outside.”

“Liz Lemon, I may hug people too hard and get lost at malls, but I’m not an idiot.”

Jenna:

“We’re actors. If we didn’t exist, how would people know who to vote for?”

“Listen up, fives, a ten is speaking.”

“Your new vibe is a double edged sword, much like the one Mickey Rourke tried to kill me with.”

“Okay I’ll do it, but only for the attention.”

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Kenneth Parcell

“But comedy is just as important as drama. People need to laugh, especially in these tough times. And after all, isn’t laughter the best medicine? Except for insulin, Spironolactone, and Bupropion, which I have for you whenever you’re ready, sir.”

“There are only two things I love in this world: everybody and television.”

In Closing

In a 2018 article for Business Insider, 30 Rock was listed as one of the Top 20 shows who have won the most Emmy Awards. It had 16 wins and was nominated 103 times. To me, I’ve never really paid attention to whether or not a show was a big “award winner.” What is important is how it makes me feel. 30 Rock was a show that ALWAYS made me laugh – even the bad episodes had good stuff in them. I could always count on being in a good mood after watching it.

This is a show I wish had lasted longer than 7 seasons …

TV Draft Round 4 – Pick 3 – Keith Selects – Columbo

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. The remaining 7 rounds will be posted here. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Keith from https://nostalgicitalian.com/

TV Show Draft – Nostalgic Italian’s Round 4 Pick – Columbo

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Welcome to my fourth round pick in the Hanspostcard TV Draft. Last round I chose Perry Mason, which was the ultimate court room “whodunit!” You never knew who committed the crime until the end of the episode. I thought it appropriate to choose Columbo for this round, because it is almost the exact opposite of Perry Mason, in that you know who the killer is right from the get go. It was called a murder mystery where the murder was no mystery.

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The show pioneered the “inverted mystery” technique/format. Almost every show begins with a crime and the audience knows who the culprit is. Then enter the LAPD’s Lieutenant Columbo who spends the remainder of the show looking for clues, pestering the criminal, and eventually solving the case. The show was not a “whodunit” like Perry Mason, but rather it has been described as a “how’s he gonna catch him?”

The first season of Columbo began in September of 1971. I know that most of the shows being picked by others in the draft ran on a weekly basis. Columbo did not. Most episodes were featured as part of the NBC Mystery Movie rotation. It ran for 35 years with a total of 69 episodes.

The show was created by schoolmates Richard Levinson and William Link. The character first appeared in 1960 on The Chevy Mystery Show in an episode called “Enough Rope.” That episode was then adapted for a stage play entitled Prescription: Murder, which was then adapted for television in 1968. Columbo was played by Bert Freed in Enough Rope and by Thomas Mitchell in the stage version in 1962.

Bert Freed (L), Thomas Mitchell (R) – The Original Columbos

The writers of the show had originally wanted Lee J. Cobb to play Columbo, but he was unavailable. They next approached Bing Crosby, who turned down the role because it would take away from his time on the golf course. Peter Falk came across the script for Prescription: Murder and contacted Levinson and Link and said, “I’d kill to play that cop!”

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Peter Falk and Gene Berry

They weren’t really sure about Peter Falk, who was only 39 at the time. They envisioned the character as being older. He won the role, and he plays him as a much straighter, cleaner, and firmer Columbo in the first episode. It was a huge hit! The Columbo quirks and mannerisms that fans came to know and love would develop as he continued to play the role.

Peter Falk really threw himself into the role. He wore his own clothes. The suit was one that he had dyed brown, because he felt that looked better. He wore his own shoes. The world famous raincoat was one that he purchased in New York City while caught in a rainstorm. It cost him a mere $15. One difference between Peter and Columbo – Columbo preferred cigars, while Falk enjoyed cigarettes.

I am currently reading a fantastic book on the show written by David Koenig.

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Columbo is like no other cop. Koenig says, “There was nobody or nothing like Columbo at all before him. All the detectives were these hardboiled, emotionless, tough guys. And he was the opposite of that in every way. He hated guns and violence.” He describes the show this way, “Columbo wasn’t really a cop show. It was a drawing-room mystery done backwards with a cop as the lead. It was an anti-cop show.”

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During the first few seasons of Columbo, it really set the standard for what some refer to as “event television.” There were some fabulous guest stars who played the murderer. Those stars included Gene Berry, Jack Cassidy, William Shatner, Dick Van Dyke, Ruth Gordon, Robert Vaughn, Anne Baxter, Janet Leigh, Robert Culp, Donald Pleasence, Eddie Albert, Leonard Nimoy, Johnny Cash, and Patrick McGoohan – just to name a few!!

After the murder, when Columbo finally shows up, his genius is hidden by his often confused look. It is also hidden by the way he is dressed and by his friendly demeanor. He is looked upon as a stupid fool. The killer has no idea what a brilliant man Columbo is and they are lured into a false sense of security. The killer becomes even more arrogant and dismisses Columbo as a dope, only to be caught in the end.

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One of the things that certainly added to the character was his little idiosyncrasies like fumbling through his pockets for a piece of evidence, asking to borrow a pencil, or being distracted by something in the room in the middle of a conversation. Falk adlibbed those moments on camera while film was rolling as a way to keep the other actors off-balance. He felt that it really helped to make their confused and impatient reactions to Columbo more genuine. It really truly worked.

On the show, the murderer is often some famous person, or someone who is cultured or from high society. Either that, or some sort of successful professional (surgeon, psychologist, etc…). Paired up against Columbo, it is gold! The interactions between the two become such a marvelous part of the show and brings out Columbo’s character and cunning genius!

In those conversations Columbo is often confused. He doesn’t know anything about classical music, chess, fine wines, photography or pieces of art. One article on the show stated that his “ignorance” will often “allow him to draw in the murderer with a cunning humility that belies his understanding of human behavior and the criminal mind.”

Columbo

The last episode of Columbo aired in 2003 and was entitled “Columbo Likes the Nightlife.” Falk had planned for one final episode. It was to be called “Columbo’s Last Case” which was to begin at his retirement party. There was a lack of network interest and with his age and failing health, the episode was never to be.

Columbo remains as popular as ever. It was one of the most watched shows on streaming platforms during the pandemic. Author David Koenig says about the show, “It has stood the test of time for 50-plus years now. That character is still vibrant and alive, appealing to people. People love that central character, that basic format, the fact that it’s not political, it’s not violent, it’s not all the things television shows are today, it’s something different. And that is charm. That’s what people love about it.”

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Columbo Facts:

  • Steven Spielberg directed the first episode of Season 1 – Murder by the Book.
  • Peter Falk won 4 Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Columbo (1972, 1975, 1976, and 1990)
  • He also won a Golden Globe Award for the role.
  • Patrick McGoohan played a murderer more times than any other actor – 4 times. Jack Cassidy and Robert Culp each had 3 times, William Shatner and George Hamilton each played a killer twice.
  • Columbo’s name is never revealed – although a close up of his badge in the first season says it is ‘Frank.’ The creators of the show have stated that his first name was never known, so take that however you want to.
  • Columbo drives a 1960 Peugeot 403 convertible.
  • Columbo’s favorite food is chili and black coffee is his drink of choice.
  • In the 1972 episode entitled, “Etude in Black,” Columbo rescued a basset hound from the dog pound. The dog could be seen in many other episodes, and was as close to a sidekick/partner as Columbo ever got.
  • In 1997, the episode Murder by the Book was ranked #16 in TV Guide’s “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time” list.
  • In 1999, Lieutenant Columbo was ranked #7 on TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time.”
  • There is a bronze statue of Columbo (and his dog) in Budapest, Hungary. It was unveiled in 2017. Peter Falk is rumored to be a distant relative of the well-known Hungarian politician Miksa Falk (1828-1908).

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Columbo Statue in Budapest, Hungary

I thought I would close with little treat for you. In one of the Dean Celebrity Roasts, Frank Sinatra was the Man of the Hour. Now, these roasts were often edited down to make sure all the best stuff was shown on TV. In Lee Hale’s book, he stated that there was only one performance that was shown in its entirety – Peter Falk’s appearance during the Sinatra roast.

Falk appears from the audience – as Lt. Columbo. The entire 11 minute bit is just priceless. It is a must see. Enjoy:

TV Draft Round 3 – Pick 4 – Perry Mason

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/

Perry Mason

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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.

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Raymond Burr

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.

The Cast

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).

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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The great Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg

The Plot

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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Perry is now a judge and steps down to defend Della Street, who is accused of murder.

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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!

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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….

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TV Draft Recap Rounds 1 & 2

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! 

This is a recap of rounds one and two that were held earlier. Hope you will join us on April 11, 2022… Monday at 9am CST to kick it off. 

Round 1TV ShowWho PostedHome Site
1.Doctor WhoVichttps://cosmic-observation.com/blog-posts/
2.The Sopranos Mikehttps://musiccitymike.net
3.Bozo’s Circus Johnhttps://thesoundofonehandtyping.com 
4.Barney MillerMaxhttps://powerpop.blog
5.The WireKirkhttps://slicethelife.com/
6.Police SquadKeithhttps://nostalgicitalian.com/
7.Only Murders in the Building (OMITB)Paulahttp://paulalight.com
Round 2
1.The Odd CoupleMikehttps://musiccitymike.net
2.Cartoon TownJohnhttps://thesoundofonehandtyping.com 
3.Fawlty TowersMaxhttps://powerpop.blog
4.Rockford FilesKirkhttps://slicethelife.com/
5.Mission ImpossibleKeithhttps://nostalgicitalian.com/
6.FireflyVichttps://cosmic-observation.com/blog-posts/