Tubesday

5th May
2009
written by Jeff

MoonlightSince it is my birthday week, I picked a show from the last ten years that I enjoyed for this week’s Tubesday. In this case, a canceled show.

Sure, I could have gone with The Office, 30 Rock, The Daily Show or some other show I watched…and still watch…but the spirit of Tubesday for me is in shows that no longer exist and so I give you Moonlight.

What’s not to like about vampires? They hang out at night, live forever and have sex like rabbits. Sure, sunlight screws them up and they have to live off of blood, but it could be worse. Moonlight was like Underworld if it were written by Mickey Spillane.

Alex O’Loughlin plays Mick St. John, a vampire/private dick who got turned by Shannyn Sossamon’s character back when the dames had gams and everything was filmed in black and white. In present day, he plays a blood sucking do-gooder, who actually protects humans from vampires and crazy humans alike.

Unknown to her, Beth Turner (Sophia Myles), an investigative reporter at a TMZ-like tabloid news website, has been watched over by St. John since he rescued her from Coraline (Sossamon) and a burning house when she was a child.

Mick’s long time vampire friend Josef (Jason Dohring) helps Mick, but doesn’t get his love of humans. Josef is wealthy and more predatory, like your standard vampire cliche, only a little more Dana Carvey-esque in this case.

The show only managed one season before it got canned by CBS, which was a shame considering the underground popularity of the show and the great on-screen chemistry of the two hot leading characters (do a search for the shower scene for more info). Fortunately, the show concluded with the two of them finally hooking up despite their human-vampire shortcomings.

Mostly, I think this show was a victim of its rough time slot on Friday nights.

Where are they now?

Aussie actor Alex O’Loughlin is still under contract for five more years with CBS (I guess they had high expectations for the show), but that hasn’t stopped him from working on upcoming films like Whiteout with fellow vampire, Kate Beckinsale, or dating model/”singer”/”actress” Holly Valance.

Sophia Myles, ironically, played a vampire in Underworld and in a tv version of Dracula. Her pale, blonde, hotness is sort of built for it. She also starred in Art School Confidential and Tristan + Isolde. She is working on a couple upcoming films including one in Germany. Myles is not just hot, she’s smart having been accepted to Cambridge to study philosophy.

Jason Dohring got his start in the critically acclaimed series Veronica Mars. He is working on a couple of upcoming projects for tv and film. Interestingly, he has two pairs of younger twin siblings – one set of brothers and one set of sisters.

Shannyn Sossamon has had starring roles in A Knight’s Tale and 40 Days and 40 Nights and has had roles in The Holiday and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang among others. She is set to star in an upcoming film and is rumored to be part of a new tv project as well.

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28th April
2009
written by Jeff

Every Tuesday I write about the television shows I watched growing up and I watched a LOT of tv. Ask my retinas.

It should be noted that this particular Tubesday is a special one in honor of Bea Arthur who passed away over the weekend.

MaudeTo me, there are three sitcoms that are the gold standard for live action American comedy television: I Love Lucy, All in the Family and Seinfeld. In the case of All in the Family, it spun off several successful shows including The Jeffersons and today’s selection, Maude.

The character of Maude was the cousin of Edith Bunker and played by the awesome Bea Arthur. The show, written by All in Family‘s creator Norman Lear, ran on CBS for six seasons and included some very memorable television and hilarious comedy, particularly when Archie Bunker made a visit.

The show centered around Arthur’s domineering, ultra-liberal character, her fourth husband, Walter (Bill Macy), and her buxom daughter, Carol (Adrienne Barbeau), all living under one roof in a New York suburb.

Like All in the Family, Maude touched on some controversial topics including liberal politics, race relations and abortion with Maude playing the foil to All in the Family‘s Archie Bunker, the polar opposite of Arthur’s character.

The topic of abortion, in particular, played a pivotal role in the series when in one episode, Maude was confronted by an unexpected pregnancy and decided to have an abortion two months prior to legalization of Roe v. Wade. Abortion was legal in New York state, but not in many places around the country where affiliates refused to air the extremely controversial episode (see video below).

In addition to Bunker, Maude would often get into clashes with her conservative neighbor played by Conrad Bain, who would go on to star in Diff’rent Strokes. Bain’s character’s wife was played by Rue McClanahan, with whom Arthur would later star in Golden Girls.

Another popular bit character was Florida (Esther Rolle), the maid, who Maude would often point to as an example of her liberalism, much to the annoyance of Florida. Florida’s role was so popular that her character was given her own show, the wildly popular Good Times, which was created by and based on the life of Mike Evans, the actor who portrayed Lionel Jefferson on The Jeffersons.

The show ended abruptly during its final season when, after a re-vamp of the show where Maude and Walter moved to Washington, D.C., Arthur called it quits.

Like all good sitcoms in the 70’s, it’s main character had a catch phrase, “God will get you for that, Walter,” which was, of course, DY-NO-MITE!

Where are they now?

Bea Arthur found tv stardom again on the hit series, Golden Girls, in the 1980’s – a rare accomplishment. She won two Emmy awards, one for each of her two hit shows and was a long-time animal rights activist, often campaigning for PETA. In a stroke of pure kitsch, she “starred” in the often discussed but rarely seen Star Wars Christmas Special even singing a number on the show. Arthur died last weekend, just three weeks shy of her 87th birthday.

Maude marked the high point of Bill Macy’s fame in a long career as a character actor, but it did not stop him from performing relentlessly on tv and in film, appearing as recently as two years ago in the short-lived sitcom Back to You and in 2006 in the popular romantic comedy, The Holiday. Interestingly, he and his co-star, Bea Arthur, were born just five days apart from one another.

Adrienne Barbeau has had a very productive career since Maude went off the air appearing in films like Cannonball Run, Back to School and The Swamp Thing and tv shows like The Drew Carey Show. The busty actress is probably better known to most people who were around at the time for her famous poster, which became the cover of her autobiography, even though she was a very successful theater actor.

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21st April
2009
written by Jeff

Every Tuesday I write about the television shows I watched growing up and I watched a LOT of tv. Ask my retinas.

WKRP in CincinnatiTo this day, I still believe this line is the greatest response one liner in the history of television. That line comes from WKRP in Cincinnati, the hilarious CBS sitcom that ran from 1978 to 1982 and centered around the staff of an FM radio station.

The ensemble cast that spawned the careers of Howard Hessman and Loni Anderson was perfectly suited to their characters and the show was extremely funny, but I think I remember it fondly because my dad worked in radio when I was a kid and this station is very much like what I remember visiting as a child.

While the show only ran four seasons, it delivered numerous memorable plot lines and even some controversial subject matter including the trampling of fans at a Who concert, censorship of songs due to content and the bombing of a radio transmission tower. But, mostly it was a damn funny show.

Whether it was the stoned antics of Dr. Johnny Fever, the lecherous passes Herb Tarlic made at Jennifer Marlowe, the overstated seriousness of “serious newsman” Les Nessman or the simple innocence of Arthur Carlson, there was always something that generated at least a laugh or two for me – most especially the now famous Thanksgiving Day “Turkeys Away” episode (see below).

Central to the show was the music which, unfortunately, has not been preserved with DVD releases due to serious licensing issues. It’s a shame because it’s hard to imagine Les trying on his toupee without “Hot Blooded” playing in the background. What is even worse is that you can’t even see re-runs with the music in them because the licenses for the taped broadcasts expired about ten years after the show aired. As a result, the music on the DVD’s is generic substitutes with even dubbed in lines to replace the original titles.

I guess that means I’ll just have to remember them fondly without the support of modern technology.

There was an attempted comeback series called The New WKRP that, appropriately, failed in the early 90’s.

Where are they now?

Gordon Jump had a long career in show business from recurring roles on Soap and The Partridge Family to a stint on Growing Pains and the role as the Maytag Repairman in commercials, Jump managed a long string of acting roles mainly on tv. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 71.

Howard Hessman is probably the most successful of the WKRP crew with his Dr. Johnny Fever character the most memorable of the series as well. He starred in the sitcom Head of the Class and had a recurring role in another 80’s-era sitcom, One Day at a Time. He has had bit roles in a ton of films and television shows. Prior to WKRP, he had a long career working as a comedic actor and currently has two films in production.

Gary Sandy had the sweetest wings of hair this side of Shaun Cassidy. His Andy Travis character was the biggest of his career though he did appear in numerous television shows and even had a small roll in the film The Insider with Al Pacino. In 2001, he returned to the world of soap operas where he got his start appearing in several episodes of The Young and the Restless. Most of his work since has been in musical theater.

Besides eventually becoming Mrs. Burt Reynolds, Loni Anderson carved out a niche for herself in a number of soap opera style made for tv movies some built from her own production company. Her Emmy-nominated role as Jennifer Marlowe is by far her most famous, however.

Tim Reid‘s very cool Venus Flytrap character was his most well known, but certainly did not keep him from slowing down in Hollywood. Besides numerous roles on tv shows like Simon & Simon, Sister Sister and That 70’s Show, Reid has worked as a producer, writer and director, mostly for television.

Richard Sanders made Les Nessman his bitch. I cannot imagine a more perfect casting for the sadly inept newsman. While Sanders hasn’t done a lot of work in front of the camera since WKRP, he has done voiceover work including television and video games.

Frank Bonner played the perfect sleazy sales guy with matching white shoes and belt in Herb Tarlic. After WKRP, Bonner worked in numerous guest starring roles eventually settling into the directors chair working on series like City Guys and Hessman’s Head of the Class.

Say what you want about Loni Anderson, Jan Smithers‘ Baily Quarters character was hotter. Period. Unfortunately, her post-WKRP career wasn’t so hot. She worked a handful of guest starring roles on television and ultimately left acting. She is probably best known as the ex-wife of film star James Brolin. Sadly, after the death of her father, Smithers ended up in the hospital when she was struck by a truck after her car broke down – she was naked at the time of the accident.

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7th April
2009
written by Jeff

Every Tuesday I write about the television shows I watched growing up and I watched a LOT of tv. Ask my retinas.

AliceTelevision sitcoms have long been known for catch phrases and running gags. From “Pow! Right in the kisser!” to “NORM!” sitcoms have kept us repeating nonsense phrases for decades.

One of the most famous catch phrases in tv history was from the show “Alice,” which aired on CBS from 1976 to 1985. The sassy, truck stop waitress Flo spun, “Kiss my grits” into a career and, ultimately, her own show. But, she was just one of the wacky characters on this comedy set in a diner outside Phoenix.

“Alice” was based on the flim Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and centered around Alice Hyatt (Linda Lavin), a widow who sets out to move to Los Angeles from New Jersey after the death of her husband. On her way, her car breaks down outside Phoenix and she and her son, Tommy (Philip McKeon), reluctantly settle in the area and Alice takes a job at Mel’s Diner on the outskirts of town.

There, she works with surly owner and short-order cook Mel Sharples (Vik Tayback), ditsy waitress Vera Louise Gorman (Beth Howland) and the aforementioned Florence Jean “Flo” Castleberry (Polly Holliday).

The show revolves around the diner and its odd regular customers. Besides it’s regulars, the show attracted a number of notable actors including Robert Picardo, Desi Arnaz, Florence Henderson, Jay Leno, Jerry Reed, Debbie Reynolds and Jerry Stiller.

Polly Holliday left the show in 1980 when CBS gave her a spinoff, “Flo” that only lasted two seasons. When Flo left Mel’s Diner, she was supposedly headed for her hometown of Houston, when she was sidetracked in Ft. Worth and opened a road house.

Holliday was replaced by Diane Ladd, who played the character of Flo in the film. After one season, Ladd was replaced by the third southern wise cracker, Celia Weston as Jolene Hunnicutt, who, despite not being nearly as well known, was on the show as long as Holliday.

I remember “Alice” as part of a Sunday night line-up of sitcoms for several years on CBS that seemed almost unbeatable. It included “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” “Alice” and “One Day at a Time.” Add to the fact that Disney was on before all that and my Sunday nights were pretty well set as a kid.

Where are they now?

While she may be best known for her role in this show, Linda Lavin has been an actor on both stage and screen since the 1960’s. She has been nominated for numerous awards for her stage work on Broadway and she won a Tony Award in 1987. She most recently appeared in a re-occurring role on The OC in 2005.

Vik Tayback was best known for his role as Mel Sharples, but he too had a long career in show business dating back to the late 1950’s including appearances on “Gunsmoke,” “Get Smart,” “Star Trek,” “Mission: Impossible” and “Bewitched” among many others. Tayback also played the role of Mel on in the flim. He passed away suddenly of a heart attack in 1990.

Philip McKeon‘s sister, Nancy, played Jo on “The Facts of Life” at the same time Philip was playing Tommy on “Alice.” Since “Alice,” McKeon has had very few acting roles and, like his sister, appears to have left public life.

Beth Howland worked early in her career as the Salem Cigarette Girl in commercials for the cigarette company. She later worked on broadway and in film before eventually landing the role on “Alice,” the biggest of her career. She worked only sparingly after the show went off the air and is currently married to actor Charles Kimbrough, best known for his role as Jim Dial on “Murphy Brown.”

Polly Holliday, like the other cast members of “Alice,” has worked in show biz for a long time. While best known as Flo, she has had appeared in numerous films including one of my all-time favorites All the President’s Men, Mrs. Doubtfire, Gremlins and, most recently, The Heartbreak Kid. She was nominated for an Emmy four times and a Golden Globe four times for her Flo character and picked up a Golden Globe win on two other occasions for the same role. She was also nominated for a Tony award.

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31st March
2009
written by Jeff

Every Tuesday I write about the television shows I watched growing up and I watched a LOT of tv. Ask my retinas.

The Facts of LifeYou take the good. You take the bad. You take them both and then, what do you have? The facts of life, silly! It seems only fitting that since I wrote about “Diff’rent Strokes” last week that I should give coverage to its main spinoff, “The Facts of Life,” this week.

When Charlotte Rae left “Diff’rent Strokes” after only a season-and-a-half, it was to take over as the house mother for a prestigious all-girls school and the result was a hit show on NBC that ran for nine seasons from 1979 through 1988.

The show centered around Rae’s Edna Garrett character and the girls she was charged with caring for. Think a high school sorority house with fewer keggers and a lot less nudity.

“The Facts of Life” was an ensemble cast that had a lot of members and spawned the careers of Molly Ringwald and George Clooney. There was an early guest appearance from a very young Helen Hunt as well. But, by season two, the show had found its life around the four characters that would take it the distance.

The show concept was based on the idea that Kimberly, the daughter from “Diff’rent Strokes,” was a student at a fancy schmancy girls school and needed Ms. Garrett to help them with a play. After doing a good job and helping a student with some personal problems, she was invited to stay on. After a first season with what seemed like a bazillion characters, the show was re-tooled and became the show most people remember.

The four main characters – rich, bratty Blair Warner (Lisa Whelchel), tough biker chick Jo Polniaczek (Nancy McKeon), chubby, funny writer Natalie Green (Mindy Cohn) and silly roller skater Dorothy “Tootie” Ramsey (Kim Fields).

As disappointing as it was to many an adolescent boy, this show was not about hot, mostly naked girls having pillow fights and learning about love though the very first episode did confront the topic of lesbianism, just not in a fun way. Like its parent show, “The Facts of Life” was a “lessons” show covering controversial issues including sex, drugs, alcohol and eating disorders among other things.

The show included a few controversies off camera as some of the girls gained weight and were placed on restricted diets while Mindy Cohn revealed that she was encouraged to remain chubby for her character. I guess we see where the eating disorder episode came from.

The show sustained its success over a number of years but began to slowly fade as the girls got older and finally cratered after the departure of Ms. Garrett when she married a man who was in Africa helping with the Peace Corps (of course!). She was replaced by Garrett’s sister, Beverly Ann Stickle played by the wonderful Cloris Leachman, but that was no help and the show folded soon after.

Where are they now?

Charlotte Rae was a well-known stage actor before her move to the small screen. She has had re-occurring roles in “Sesame Street,” “Diff’rent Strokes,” and “ER.” Most recently, she had a fling with Adam Sandler’s character in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Rae will turn 83 in April.

Lisa Whelchel got her start as a Mouseketeer, but took a decidedly different path from fellow mouser Britney Spears. Whelchel, a devout and very conservative Christian, nixed an episode where her character Blair had sex, recorded a Christian pop album in 1984 that won a Grammy (yeah, she has a GRAMMY!) and left acting soon after “The Facts of Life” to focus on having a family. She has written several books on Christian motherhood and is a staunch advocate for home schooling.

Nancy McKeon, sister to Philip, who co-starred in another popular 80’s sitcom, “Alice,” is best known for her role as Jo on “The Facts of Life,” but she has continued to act since the show ended appearing in numerous made-for-tv movies and short-run shows. She declined to appear on the FOL reunion show and currently lives in Austin with her husband and two children having retired from acting and public life.

Mindy Cohn left Eastlake for some minor tv appearances before landing a job doing voiceover work for the show “What’s New Scooby Do?” The work garnered her a daytime Emmy award. She got a degree in sociology from Loyola Marymount in the mid-90’s and is a member of the board of directors for weSPARK, a cancer survivors organization. She has complained that none of the actors from FOL receive royalties from DVD sales or re-runs of the show.

Kim Fields put down her roller skates, but managed a fairly successful post-FOL career. She starred alongside Queen Latifa in the sitcom “Living Single” and has even had a career as a rapper. She currently performs under the name Blondielocks. In 2007, she had her first child with her finace.

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