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

June 2008 Archives

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.

A Far-Off ‘Time’

June 3, 2008 4:16 PM

Sherwood Schwartz will long be remembered for creating “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Brady Bunch,” but not so much for coming up with “It’s About Time.”

Just what is “It’s About Time,” you ask? Possibly the worst TV show of all time, is all.

The series was about two astronauts who, during a space mission, break the time barrier and wind up stranded in the prehistoric era, smack in the middle of a tribe of cavemen. Caveman no talk English good and sound much like Indian, source of much laughing. But topical wisecracks, endless fish-out-of-water jokes and an over-eager laugh track do not a funny sitcom make.

Midseason the writers flipped the story arc and brought the astronauts back to modern times, four of the cave folks in tow. But even more fish-out-of-water humor didn’t salvage the show.

“It’s About Time” ran only one season, 1966-67, Sunday evenings on CBS. While Schwartz’s island castaways and brood of Bradys had certain charms (however limited), these characters seemed hollow and many of the lines they spouted were just plain annoying. Have a sample (a big thanks to Neil):