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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.

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Timeless TV


May 2007 Archives

R.I.P.: Charles Nelson Reilly

May 30, 2007 5:51 PM

There used to be what you called television “personalities”—folks who never were big stars or associated with a particular role, but who nonetheless frequented the airwaves, forever popping up on talk shows or game shows or in character parts. Charles Nelson Reilly was one of those people.

Like many such personalities (Peggy Cass, Kitty Carlisle, Paul Lynde and Orson Bean are others), Reilly rose to showbiz prominence on the Broadway stage, where he came to the attention of the New York-based television producers. But Reilly had that little extra bit of oomph, a unique, fun quality that set him apart and made you want to see more of him.

While he could play persnickety and fastidious character roles beautifully and mug it up with the best of the comic actors, it was when Reilly’s own bright wit was allowed to shine, as it did on talk and game shows, that he was in his element.

Although he had scores of guest appearances and regular roles on “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” and “Lidsville,” he is best known for his appearances on the ’70s revival of “The Match Game,” where he was allowed to sparkle, as he does in this clip.

A Tony Award-winning actor, a Tony-nominated director and a drama teacher to boot, he mastered several disciplines. But there’s no denying that he was one singular sensation.

GSN will honor Reilly Saturday, June 2, with a marathon of "Match Game" episodes from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET. GSN's original documentary "The Real Match Game Story: Behind the Blank" airs immediately afterward from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. And on Sunday night (really Monday a.m.), June 3, GSN will air episodes of "What's My Line?" from 1964 and "I've Got A Secret" from 1972 on which Reilly appeared, at 3 a.m. and 3:30 AM ET, respectively.

Wunnerful? Wunnerful?

May 15, 2007 7:25 PM

I stumbled across “The Lawrence Welk Show” on PBS Saturday evening. All I can say is: WTF?!

How can that sickeningly sweet relic still pull an audience?

Who, besides the cast or their descendants, could be watching? I mean, willingly? Pod people?

When ABC dropped the show in 1971, its only viewers were ancient even then. Now, 36 years later, who could possibly be alive that enjoys it? I thought it was amazing enough that it lasted in syndication until 1982.

What is the appeal of this outdated curio with an acute case of cloying wholesomeness? Bland music and pedestrian dance numbers? Can anyone out there enlighten me?

'Family' Matters

May 7, 2007 5:58 PM

It’s been years since I’ve thought about “Family,” the 1976-80 ABC drama, but come to think of it, it was a damn good show—certainly one worth revisiting.

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Executive produced by Aaron Spelling, Leonard Goldberg and Mike Nichols, “Family” was an intelligently scripted, beautifully performed show about the lives of an upper-middle-class family who lived in one of those big, stately homes in Pasadena. The late James Broderick (father of Matthew) was the patriarch Doug, a lawyer, and Sada Thompson played his reserved spouse Kate, a serious housewife who sought to expand her horizons through continuing education. The series examined intra-familiar relationships and addressed many real-life issues (some for the first time on TV) including alcoholism, adoption, marital infidelity, homosexuality, breast cancer and first menstruation.

There were three kids: eldest daughter Nancy, a single mom (played mainly by Meredith Baxter; role-originator Elayne Heilveil left after the first four episodes); sensitive middle child Willie (Gary Frank) and tomboy Buddy (a star-making role for Kristy McNichol).
The show garnered multiple Emmy nominations during its run, with Thompson, Frank and McNichol (twice) taking home the statuette.

Many say “Family” jumped the shark when Quinn Cummings joined the cast mid-run as 11-year-old adopted daughter Annie, in kind of the same lame way Ernie joined “My Three Sons” and Cousin Oliver joined “The Brady Bunch.” Lesson learned: No matter how badly a ratings boost is needed, it’s never a good idea to tack on a faux sibling.

Bringing Classic TV to Internet Radio

May 1, 2007 7:53 PM

My old pal Stuart Shostak, who has been a classic TV programming dealer for years, has started a Internet radio site, Shokus Radio, all about classic TV.

Stu calls it “TV on the radio for baby boomers,” with live call-in talk shows featuring TV celebrities, live interactive game shows for cash and prizes and music shows spotlighting TV theme songs, big band, rock and even a hip hop show produced by kids for kids.

Stu has presented such personalities as child star Dwayne Hickman, character actor Pat Harrington, game show host Jack Narz, radio actress and character voice Janet Waldo and others.

He’ll be doing a live broadcast May 2 at 4 p.m. PT with Disneyland expert Dave O’Neal, who has produced documentaries on retired Disneyland rides such as the Carousel of Progress, Rocket to the Moon and Monsanto's Ride Into Innerspace. He also has an extensive library of Disney theme park audio tracks.

Check it out.