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

April 2007 Archives

Toon Tunes

April 24, 2007 6:56 PM

Everybody remembers “The Flintstones,” the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon series loosely based on “The Honeymooners” that initially ran in ABC prime time starting in the fall of 1960.

But far fewer remember Hanna-Barbera’s immediate, less celebrated follow-up: “Top Cat,” a prime-time animated series about a bunch of alley cats, loosely based on “The Phil Silvers Show.” It debuted on ABC in September 1962, a full year before the better-known “The Jetsons.”


The theme song may jog your memory.

As a matter of fact, check out the whole theme song section of Toon Tracker, a great site that has the title songs for just about every cartoon from the ’30s through the ’90s.

Goodbye, Kitty

April 18, 2007 4:19 PM

Kitty Carlisle Hart was no longer a fixture on American television when she died Tuesday at age 96. But she was around for so many years that, for some of us, it seems impossible she’s no longer here.

kitty carlisle

Kitty brought a dollop of New York sophistication and social grace into America’s living rooms every week while a regular panelist on Goodson-Todman’s “To Tell the Truth,” which ran on CBS from 1956-68 (she also appeared in the subsequent 1969-77 syndicated version).

to tell the truth

When we were kids, my sister and I used to make fun of her because, besides her appearance in the Marx Bros. film “A Night at the Opera,” no one in the fly-over states where we were ever knew what she did to deserve to be a panelist on a prime-time game show. I remember my father, who knew more than a little something about life in the big city, taking umbrage when we ridiculed her: “Kitty Carlisle is a fine, classy woman,” he rebuked. (She didn’t use her married name professionally at the time though even then she was the widow of the esteemed Broadway playwright and director Moss Hart, with whom she had lived a charmed life at the apex of the New York theatre world).

Looking back on it, Dad was right. I remember being surprised by his level of vehemence in defending her. But she was indeed charming and elegant, dignified and learned, someone to look up to. And having lived in New York City for a dozen years subsequently, I came to know more about her work for the New York Council on the Arts and to perfectly understand why she was held in such high esteem by Goodson-Todman and CBS.

Last fall, she celebrated her 96th birthday by appearing in her one-woman show in several spots around the country, looking robust and much as she did 40 years ago. Even though I wanted to catch her show, I put off seeing her; she had been around forever. Wouldn’t she always be?

Awards, Just for the Fun of It

April 15, 2007 2:27 PM

The TV Land Awards came off without a hitch last night at the Santa Monica Hangar.

First things first: The opening is an absolute gas -- far better than the recent Oscarcast's -- so if you don't see any other part of the telecast when it airs next Sunday (April 22), make sure to tune in to TV Land at 9 sharp to catch the first five minutes. All I can say is that host Kelly Ripa -- who did a smashing job, by the way -- is one helluva a good sport.

"Taxi," "Roots," "Hee Haw," "The Brady Bunch" and Lucille Ball were all honored, and you couldn't walk around the banquet tables without tripping over some blast from the past: Leslie Uggams, Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers, Kirstie Alley, Roy Clark, Jeff Conaway, Ann B. Davis and the Brady kids, and even Doris Singleton and Shirley Mitchell, the actresses who played Lucy's chums Carolyn Appleby and Marion Strong on "I Love Lucy" -- everybody turned out.

The best thing about the TV Land Awards is that since there are so few categories, the winners have time to make meaningful acceptance speeches. This was most pleasingly evident in the very touching 30th anniversary tribute to "Roots," which impacted so many lives -- and in no small measure those of the actors who were lucky enough to be cast in it.

Willie Nelson and The Judds showed up to sing in tribute to "Hee Haw," which gave them early exposure. That show was also represented by Clark, Barbi Benton, Misty Rowe and a host of "Hee Haw Honeys."

And in a nod to the present, NBC's current hit "Heroes" was presented the Future Classic award.

Another major highlight: The spoof "Ugly Betty White." If you liked the TV Land Awards' "Desperate Housewives" and "Sex and the City" spoofs a few years back, you'll love this send up. It should instantly get YouTube's Future Classic award.

Kudos to Executive Producer Michael Levitt for pulling off a tremendously entertaining show that deftly blends the old and the new.

Have a Pepsi Day

April 10, 2007 1:49 PM

Some of the greatest TV of all time is neither sitcom nor drama; rather it is the lowly TV commercial. Among the best of the best are the Pepsi-Cola spots of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Pepsi pioneered the youth-oriented, active outdoor lifestyle spots with the “Come Alive” campaign of the mid-’60s. The spots were dynamic and gave the product a high-octane, happening connotation among the younger demo that, remarkably, the brand has managed to maintain over the ensuing decades. (This particular example is a longer-than-normal commercial that combines several spots in the campaign; it must have been edited for exhibition in movie theaters or something).

But those spots, as much fun as they were, were very white-bread and not exactly reflective of what was America’s ever-increasing diversity even then. After a few years and the interim “Taste That Beats the Others Cold!” campaign came Pepsi’s zenith: the “You’ve Got a Lot to Live” spots that ran from 1969-72. Not only were they exciting to watch, they redefined the way Americans saw themselves. Simply put, they were inclusive and infectious. And no amount of puppies, kids and grandmothers could over-sweeten their appeal.

Here's one of the first, and the best:

The campaign was tweaked from 1973-75 to become “Join the Pepsi People, Feelin’ Free,” which combined the spirit of the original campaign and a cranked-up gospel feel. Those spots worked almost as well:

Following those were the “Have a Pepsi Day” spots, which ran from 1975-77 and still managed to keep the spirit of the original campaign alive. Ironically it was the next alteration, “Catch That Pepsi Spirit,” that didn’t. It was merely running on fumes. The spell was broken.

TV Land Sets Awards Show Tributes

April 5, 2007 5:29 PM

TV Land today announced plans to salute Lucille Ball, “Roots,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Taxi” and “Hee-Haw” at its fifth annual “TV Land Awards,” to be presented April 14 in Santa Monica, Calif. The ceremony will be taped for telecast on the channel the evening of April 22.

Lucy is being honored with the awards show’s first Legacy of Laughter Award, which is given to an entertainer “whose awe-inspiring work continues to serve as an inspiration and a guiding force”—not bad for someone who’s been dead 18 years.

The “Legacy of Laughter” nomenclature ties in with the seminars presented around the country by the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center , which also operates an extensive museum dedicated to the “I Love Lucy” couple in Lucy’s home town of Jamestown, N.Y. Carol Burnett will present the award to Lucie and Desi Jr., who will accept on behalf of their mother.


[Panelists at last month’s Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center “Legacy of Laughter” presentation in Boulder City, Nev., included (from left) Sebastien Gendry of Laughter Yoga; actor Sean Astin; Lucie Arnaz, who moderated; Desi Arnaz Jr.; crisis intervention counselor Jim Dunnigan; and artist Christina Carroll.]

The 1977 ABC miniseries “Roots” will get the Anniversary Award for turning 30. John Amos, Todd Bridges, LeVar Burton, Lou Gossett Jr., Cicely Tyson, Leslie Uggams and Ben Vereen are scheduled to be on hand to accept. That’s quite a crowd.

TV Land’s Pop Culture Award, presented to a show that “has crossed the line from television series to pop culture phenomenon,” will go to “The Brady Bunch,” another ABC-originated show. According to release, Alice the maid and all the Brady kids are scheduled to be there except poor sport Eve Plumb, who apparently is still struggling to shake the uptight “Jan” stigma she’s been saddled with her whole life.

“Taxi,” yet another ABC offspring, will receive the Medalllion Award for “a television series which has stood the test of time and ranks among the most memorable and celebrated shows in TV history”—something of a a stretch, dontcha think? Judd Hirsch, Tony Danza and Jeff Conaway are scheduled to accept.

Finally, the Entertainer Award for a “series that formed a bond with its devoted audience” is going to the syndicated hoe-down “Hee-Haw.” In my memory that show was acquired taste at best, sort of a hillbilly “Laugh-In,” but I suppose it did form bonds with people in auto parts stores and trailer parks all over the U.S. of A.

Through April 7, TV Land is also inviting folks to vote in a number of irreverent Viewers’ Choice Awards categories on its Web site.