Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

‘That’s that Jackie Gleason thing, huh?’ (Joe Franklin, 1926-2015)

January 25, 2015
A stupendous! Colossal! Life. Big! Big big big!

A Stupendous! Colossal! Life. Big! Big big big!

Last night (Saturday, Jan. 24), when I shared the New York Times and New York Daily News obituaries of the great Joe Franklin on the Book of Faces, some of the comments I got included the standard “I didn’t know he was still alive!” variety. Well, the man was a month and a half shy of 89, and, let’s face it, he was born old. And he gave up The Joe Franklin Show, his record-length talk show of 42 years, two decades ago already. Yes, that long ago. So excuse those who didn’t realize he’d been whistling past the graveyard all these years. And now he’s another great New York institution that’s disappeared.

If you didn’t grow up in the Tri-State Area, or see Billy Crystal’s impersonations during his lone year on Saturday Night Live, Joe was the King of Television, the King of the Talk Show, the King of Late-Night and King of Nostalgia. He pretty much gave us the talk-show format as we know it when he started on the tube in 1951 — sitting behind a desk and chatting with a couch full of guests. He also gave us the concept of nostalgia as we came to know it — regaling viewers and guests with stories of performers such as Sophie Tucker and Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson on his many travels down Memory Lane.

And along the way, he interviewed an estimated 300,000 people. A handful were bona fide legends, such as Debbie Reynolds, Tony Curtis, Joe Louis and his idol, Bing Crosby; some others were up-and-comers who caught a huge break early on from Joe and his show, such as Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby and Bette Midler; some were regular guests who could be called upon in a pinch, such as Joe’s longtime producer and trivia quizmaster, Richie Orenstein, or Morris Katz, the world’s fastest painter, who created works in a minute or less using a palette knife and toilet paper. As a rock and pop music fan, there were other great names along the way, such as Tiny Tim (another quasi-regular), The J. Geils Band (who made a paint-splashed mess of his studio one Friday night my senior year of college) and The Ramones.

But most of his guests were everyday people who would fall into the categories of never-weres, never-gonna-bes and wannabes. And from time to time, they shared the couch with the greats. Thus, the show sometimes ran toward the mundane, or even the surreal. But the democracy of the panel of guests was one of the most endearing qualities of Joe’s show. For even a few minutes, anyone could be a star. And Joe was perhaps the most accessible TV host of all time — his number was in the Manhattan White Pages.

And that leads to my personal experience with Joe Franklin, and how he could launch something Big! Big! Big! with the exposure from his show.

Let’s just say that without Joe, fans of The Honeymooners would never have seen the “Lost Episodes.” read on …



Channeling Mike Douglas’ ghost (what I really want to do for a career)

December 13, 2012
I wouldn't wear a suit or sing "The Men in My Little Girl's Life," but I think I could cover most of the rest of the bases,

I wouldn’t wear a suit or sing “The Men in My Little Girl’s Life,” but I think I could cover most of the rest of the bases,

Time to cast myself out to the universe at large again. Maybe this time, finally, I won’t be shot down.

As I write this, It’s been nearly four months since I moved home to Connecticut. And, as was the case in California, I have absolutely no job prospects. I’ve just been told for the 350somethingth time, after dangling in the wind for two months (and for the second time this fall), that I’m not worth hiring and I don’t deserve to make a living, don’t deserve to be here. And being jobless and worthless at Christmas — and told by my family not to worry about buying gifts for them — absolutely, unequivocally sucks. And, after three and a half years of this humiliation, it’s beyond embarrassing.

So, not knowing what’s gonna happen — and feeling more and more useless and worthless and desperate as the days stretch on — what’s left of the positive side of me sits here, trying to plot out what the hell to do with my life.

And there’s been one thing that’s been kicking around for a while that seems to make more sense than most. From the outside, it seems outlandish. But I’m just the woman to pull it off.

I’m talking about a talk show. Yes, this TG is serious about taking her talents to TV.

But not just any talk show. I’m talking about the type of talk show I used to watch in my Wonder Years. A show the likes of which hasn’t been seen on the small screen since 1980 — when, in one of the biggest bonehead moves in the history of television, the host was unceremoniously dumped from the show in favor of … drumroll, please … John Davidson.

I’m talking a show inspired by Mike Douglas.

And again, l’m just the one to do it. And if you know someone who works in television and knows how to make this work, well, step right up!


Yabba-dabba-gee-I-must-be-getting-old! (‘The Flintstones’ turn 50)

September 30, 2010

You know, I don’t feel old …

But I just ran across Google’s home page, and instead of the usual logo, I got the above. And it hit me — could today be the 50th anniversary of “The Flintstones”?

And of course, being such a slave to logic, I clicked on the cartoon.

Yep — it was a half-century ago tonight that ABC aired the first episode of TV’s first prime-time cartoon comedy.

And now you know what the reaction’s gonna be, on a grander scale, in January 2040, when “Simpsons” fans say the same thing … (And can you imagine “The Simpsons” intro — at least before network TV chopped openings to pieces — without the classic “Flintstones” intro? Or even “Family Guy”?)


Betty White made me do it!

May 10, 2010

Betty White with Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Tina Fey -- an all-star cast, a "Saturday Night Live" for the ages.

I had a date with an 88 1/2-year-old woman Saturday night. And I loved it.

Actually, it was a group date, it was a blind date (obviously — she couldn’t see me, thank God), it was totally unplanned, and the woman took me to a place I haven’t been in a long time (ooooooh, captain!).

It wasn’t part of my plans, but for the first time in the 31 years since I’ve been out of high school, I watched an entire episode of “Saturday Night Live.” And enjoyed the hell out of it. And I have Betty White to blame.