TelevisionWeek Executive Editor Tom Gilbert joins our roster of bloggers with this forum all about classic television, where anything from "Leave It to Beaver" to "Malcolm in the Middle" is fair game for discussion. Reunion specials, DVD releases of classic shows, vintage commercials -- anything that's ever been telecast is the hot topic here.


Timeless TV

Rickles to Receive TV Land Legend Award

March 31, 2009 1:14 PM

Fresh off his Emmy win in September, Don Rickles will be honored with the TV Land Awards' 2009 Legend Award, which is presented to "an entertainer or a television show that has stood the test of time and ranks among the most memorable and celebrated in television and movie history."

Besides "CPO Sharkey," "Mr. Warmth" has done tons of television in his lengthy career.

Some of Rickles' best work was on the old "Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts" of the 1970s. Here he lets loose on future President Ronald Reagan, then governor of California.

The seventh annual TV Land Awards ceremony will be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and tapes on Sunday, April 19, at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, Calif., for airing on TV Land Sunday, April 26, at 9 p.m.

Legend Awards previously have been presented to “The Carol Burnett Show,” “Cheers,” Garry Marshall, “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

Other honorees this year include Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Legacy of Laughter Award), “Married … With Children” (Innovator Award), “M*A*S*H” (Impact Award), “Home Improvement” (Fan Favorite Award), “Magnum, P.I.” (Hero Award), “Two and a Half Men” (Future Classic Award) and “Knots Landing” (30th Anniversary Award).

Finally: ‘Designing Women’ on DVD

March 19, 2009 2:26 PM

Designing Women

“Designing Women: The Complete First Season DVD” is due out May 26 from Shout Factory. Yay!

The four-DVD box set will include all 21 first-season episodes, plus, as a bonus, the 2003 “'Designing Women': A Reunion” featuring series stars Delta Burke, Dixie Carter, Annie Potts, Jean Smart and the show's creator, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason.

“DW”—now 23 years old, believe it or not-—was a great series (well, it started out so anyway), with finely honed characters getting off some exceptionally well-written lines.

Here’s a clip from the first-season episode “Monette,” when the women come to realize they’ve been engaged to decorate a house of ill repute:

TV Land Awards Tapes April 19

February 18, 2009 12:54 PM

The seventh annual TV Land Awards will be taped April 19 at a new venue, Universal Studios' Gibson Amphitheatre, for telecast on April 26 at 9 p.m.

In the past years, the ceremony—always winningly (and cleverly) presented—was taped at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica.
Kelly Ripa

One wonders if the new venue will be as hospitable to the high-wire acts that have characterized the ceremony's spectacular past opening numbers. (Remember Kelly Ripa dropping in as "The Flying Nun's" Sister Bertrille in 2007 and the assorted classic TV stars who descended from the rafters last year?)

More details about this year's ceremony are yet to come. The awards show is again being executive produced by Michael Levitt ("Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List," "Billboard Music Awards," "Scream Awards") and directed by Jeff Margolis, a veteran of the Oscars, American Music Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards telecasts. Greg Sills (“VH1 Rock Honors,” “The Teen Choice Awards,” “Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards”) is supervising producer and Sal Maniaci and Larry Jones are executive producers for TV Land.

'Studio One' Set: Drama, Drama, Drama

November 26, 2008 10:19 AM

Priceless Dept.: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation's Archive of American Television has brought out a six-disc DVD anthology of the 1950s "Studio One" dramas—and it's a stunner.

The classic CBS series, if you're not familiar with it, presented a different live drama each week from 1948-58 (and was known as "Westinghouse Presents Studio One" during its run). As were several other live drama anthologies of the time, it was a proving ground for a number of future movie stars, among them Jack Lemmon, Eva Marie Saint, Sal Mineo, Lee Remick and Leslie Nielsen, to name just a few.

There are 17 dramas in the collection, which ranges chronologically from "The Medium" in 1948 to "The Arena" in 1956 and includes the famously rediscovered 1954 "Twelve Angry Men" production that inspired the 1957 motion picture and was for years feared lost.

For the most part, it's rich and fascinating stuff, well-chosen material that's intelligently scripted (imagine that!) and beautifully performed.

Who knew recordings of so many of the original live performances survived? Sure, they're kinescopes (copies filmed off of TV monitors during the broadcast) and are of varying degrees of visual quality, but these dramas nonetheless make a great collection to own, even in the high-def era. And the Betty Furness appliance commercials included with them are a quaint bonus.

Edie Adams: The Woman With the Cigar

October 17, 2008 10:50 AM

adams-edie.jpgEdie Adams was never a big, big TV star—nor a big, big any other kind of star—but it ultimately turned out that she was best-known for her work on the tube, not only as the sidekick of husband Ernie Kovacs, but as the pitchwoman for Muriel cigars in the 1960s.

True stardom always seemed to evade Edie, who died at age 81 Wednesday of cancer and pneumonia, even though she was possessed of the magic combination that would seem to guarantee mega-success: overt sexuality, innate intelligence and immense likability.

After triumphs on Broadway in "Wonderful Town" and "Little Abner" (for which she won a Tony Award) and a regular role on her husband's TV show in the '50s, she pretty much settled in as part of a team, Kovacs' better half. Then, after the comedian's tragic death in 1962 in a freak auto accident, her career went through a surge—supporting roles in several big movies and her own Emmy-nominated ABC variety series (one season). After that, it sort of died down to a slow simmer, and Edie went on to become one of those comforting familiar faces always popping up on TV. Who could have guessed that the Muriel cigar commercials would be her most enduring vehicle?

Here's a treat: Edie times 3 in this Muriel spot from 1965:

Dancing With the Bona Fide Star

August 1, 2008 3:15 PM

Here's a little razzmatazz for you: Dynamic dancer-singer Mitzi Gaynor is on the comeback trail—via DVD, that is. And at 76, she can definitely show the “Dancing With the Stars” crowd a thing or two about fancy footwork.

Mitzi Gaynor

Gaynor, who rose to movie stardom in the ’50s in films such as “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “The Joker Is Wild” and, most famously, as Nellie Forbush in “South Pacific,” went on to conquer TV in the ’60s and ’70s with a series of lavishly produced, Emmy-winning variety specials. Those specials are the source from which this new DVD release, which hits shelves Nov. 18, has been culled.

Titled “Mitzi Gaynor—Razzle Dazzle! The Special Years,” it showcases Gaynor performing at her peak (and in some pretty wild costumes). It also features new interviews with the star and with costume designer Bob Mackie, among many of her other associates. A truncated version is headed to PBS this fall as well.

Mitzi DVD

While prodigious songbirds Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand fronted their own 1960s specials basically by concertizing, Gaynor was the only female performer of that era who could carry an entire series of specials well into the ’70s on the strength of her glamour, dynamism and dancing talent alone. People of a certain age still talk about her show-stopping appearance on the 39th Academy Awards telecast in 1967, performing the Oscar-nominated song “Georgy Girl,” which no doubt led to her first special in 1968.

See for yourself; here’s a trailer for the DVD. (Oh yeah, and be sure to check out the male dancers’ togs!)

Talk About Yer Product Placement

July 17, 2008 4:30 PM

"Find a wheel and it goes round, round, round!" Corny though it may be, I absolutely love this musical segment from a 1959 "The Lawrence Welk Show"—for a million reasons, including the unabashed wholesomeness of the Lennon Sisters. And, of course, the now-vanished Pacific Ocean Park. And isn't it utterly fabulous how it transmogrifies into the longest Dodge commercial ever, lyrics and all? If you're going to hit 'em over the head, at least entertain 'em.

You Get a Lot to Like

July 3, 2008 5:56 PM

I stumbled across this old (circa 1960) Marlboro cigarette commercial starring Julie London online the other day.

Dayum, that’s good stuff! Sex on wheels. Can you imagine anyone—producer or singer—taking the time and care to sell a product so artfully today? No wonder the Marlboro brand became firmly entrenched as a man’s cigarette. Talk about your propaganda. To hell with the health risks. When it comes to purveying evil, this is as good as anything Leni Riefenstahl ever did. I wonder how many teenage boys started smoking after seeing that?

Dody: The Goodman on ‘Mary Hartman’

June 23, 2008 3:00 PM

DodyThere goes another one: Dody Goodman died Sunday at age 93.

I am too young to remember Dody on Jack Paar’s incarnation of “The Tonight Show" (thank God I’m still too young for something), so to me she will always be Louise Lasser’s daffy mother, Martha Shumway, on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” (And, as for so many others, the ditzy school secretary in the 1978 movie “Grease” and its sequel.)

Created by Norman Lear, “Mary Hartman”—set in the fictitious small Midwestern town of Fernwood—isn’t mentioned much anymore, but it was great fun at the time, if a bit too ambitious (a five-night-a-week soap opera spoof designed for late night—grueling for the cast and crew as well as the viewer).

Dody was in good company on the show—the cast, which bordered on bizarre, also included Phillip Bruns (as her husband, George) Victor Killian (as her father, who was also the local flasher), Debralee Scott (as her other daughter, Cathy, who once accidently left her illegitimate baby in the clothes dryer at the laundromat). Others were Greg Mullavy (as Mary’s husband, Tom) and Graham Jarvis (as Loretta’s husband, Charlie). Notably, Doris Roberts guested for a stint as faith-healing evangelist Dorelda Doremus.Mary Hartman

Mary Kay Place famously started out as an assistant to Lear, who cast her as country-Western singer Loretta Haggers, Mary’s next-door neighbor and best friend, a role in which she became a sensation. (Poor Loretta stunningly committed career suicide during her big break, an appearance on Dinah Shore’s talk show, when she talked about all the nice Jewish people she met in L.A., then commented, “I can’t believe they’re the same people who killed our Lord.”)

Here’s a promo for the series, which ran from 1976-77 (it became “Forever Fernwood” after Lasser departed):

TV Land Does It Again

June 9, 2008 3:29 PM

TV Land’s annual awards show is consistently the best such presentation on TV—the Oscars and Emmys could stand to take serious notes. It’s clever and funny and very imaginative, even if it’s not super-relevant. But the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously is a big part of the fun.

Last night’s edition—which will air on the network Sunday, June 15, at 9 p.m.—was no exception. The multitalented Vanessa Williams, always a class act, proved a spot-on choice as host: She’s like a studio-groomed star from another era, self-possessed, poised and utterly professional.

Putting on her Broadway musical-comedy hat, she belted out the spectacular opening number, “I’m Flying” from “Peter Pan,” which unfolded as an array of vintage TV stars—Barry Williams, Bernie Kopell, Jerry Mathers, Jimmie “J.J.” Walker, Dawn Wells, Alison Arngrim, Ron Palilo and William Katt—descended from the rafters on wires, while Gary Coleman flew above the stage.
TV Land Awards
Other highlights included a hilarious spoof of “TMZ” (Could any show be riper for parody?) and a joyous performance of the 1983 hit “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie, who, as part of the show’s expansion to honor motion pictures and pop music as well as TV programs, was honored with the Icon Award.

Also receiving trophies were Jonathan Winters (amusingly introduced by Robin Williams), Mike Myers, Garry Marshall and the casts of “The Office,” “The Golden Girls” and “Roseanne.”

The show, taped at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif., was directed by Jeff Margolis. Michael Levitt and TV Land’s Sal Maniaci and Larry Jones were executive producers and Greg Sills was supervising producer.