Posts Tagged ‘television’

More New TV Show Ideas

November 27, 2011

"Anything good on tonight?"

Along the line of yesterday’s foray into using old ideas for the development of new television shows, here are a few others, some with famous titles, but all with new plot lines and casts for satisfying the demand for better quality programming in 2012. Here are nine offerings that the Pecan Park Eagle has come up with on the spur of the moment:

(1) I’ve got a Secret. Politicians Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, and Jim McGreevey star in a fictional account sitcom of five guys who open up a national hamburger chain. Any similarity to situations and persons in reality is strictly coincidental.

(2) My Three Sons. Former President George Herbert Walker Bush (#41) stars with George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, and Bill Clinton (again) in a re-make of the old Fred MacMurray sitcom hit. A reincarnated Andy Rooney also stars as “Uncle Bub,” the live-in house manager and wisdom dispenser. (“Does anyone ever wonder why they call bathroom tissue ‘toilet rolls?’ When was the last time they rolled far enough when you really needed them to?”)

(3) The Invisible Man. Ron Paul stars in a nighttime soap about a candidate for president who tries to run for office with good ideas, but also as one who is rarely ever seen on TV or quoted in the media. On the rare occasions he does appear for Republican Party TV debates, Paul is never asked a question or reported as present. Case Keenum also stars as Case Paul, Ron’s son and the star quarterback for the University of Houston.

(4) The Loan Arranger. In a cute little play on words, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stars in a new reality TV pilot about a federal bureaucrat whose job it is to come up with the names of financially troubled corporations that need to be rescued with loans from the largely but mostly unemployed American taxpayers.

(5) Ozzie and Harriet. Baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith replaces the late Andy Rooney on “60 minutes” with a bit entitled “Ozzie and Harriet.” It’s a one-minute weekly closing segment in which Ozzie reads selectively from the collective works of author Harriet Beecher Stowe.

(6) What’s My Line?/Where’s My Line? Charlie Sheen stars as an actor who can’t decide between a high-paying TV sitcom job or a full-time career getting high as a cocaine snorter. (Just another fictional plot line with no basis in fact comparison to any real person now living or dead.)

(7) Two and Two Thirds Musketeers. Ashton Kutcher, John Cryer, Agnus T. Jones, and Chaz Bono star in this remade song and dance musical version of the famous French swordsmen of literary fame.

(8) Dancing with the Czars. Sviatopolik the Accursed, Yaroslav the Wise, Vladimir the Great, Hollywood’s Peter Ustinov, Baseball’s Lou “The Mad Russian”  Novikoff, Restauranteur Michael Romanoff, and former Russian Premier Vladimir Putin join the first cast of this new version of the old dance show. Eligible contestants must be former czars, Russian or Soviet Rulers, Political Assassins, or celebrities of claimed Russian heritage. Tom Bergeron returns as host. The three judges will be appointed weekly by Vladimir Putin and also accountable to him fot their choices. There will be no telephone voting. The people have no say in picking a winner under the new format. Based on the field and the new format, the pre-contest favorite in Vegas is – Vladimir Putin.

(9) Debaseball. In an effort to ameliorate resistance by the National League to the designated hitter rule, and to increase interest among television viewers, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig does away with the “DH” in its current form and then initiates a new rule that will apply to all professional leagues, including the National group. In the future, each team will have four designated hitters and no other batters. These four DH hitters will be the only hitters in the game, allowing all other players to be selected only on the basis of their pitching and defensive abilities. Even with no games played under the new Bud Selig multiple DH rule, so far, the name of the game has been changed from “Baseball” to “Debaseball.”  – If you have to ask why, you haven’t been paying attention until now.

Milton Berle: Mr. Television

November 10, 2010

Milton Berle (by Sam Berman, 1947)

When my parents bought our first television set in 1950, Houston was only into its second year with the magical new medium and we had very choices with only one station in town. KPRC-TV was it. You could either watch Channel 2 or turn the thing off and listen to the radio. And there wasn’t much interest in radio in Houston back in 1950.

On top of these limitations, we had no coaxial cable connection to the great TV media centers of New York and Los Angeles in 1950, and, of course, there were no satellites available to beam those places or the farther world into our homes back then. Everything we watched came only in shades of black and white from live local studio programming, film, and kinescope. – Kinescope was a low quality film the networks took of their television pictures whenever they broadcasted shows they wanted to syndicate to other areas.

So, the networks like NBC filmed a live program broadcast from New York right off the television pictures of it. Then they put these “kinescope” copies in the mail to places like Houston and Dallas, usually for re-broadcast at the same time the following week.

All of the preceding information is simply background to the story of what happened in Houston and all over America on Tuesday nights from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM back in 1950. In most places, it came a week late on kinescope, but we didn’t know any better quality, anyway. We were just glad to be receiving an animated picture that actually did something. We didn’t even seem to mind (for a while) that we had no other viewing choices – or that live pictures in “living color” might be more pleasing on the eye. For the time being back then, we had what we wanted, and especially so on Tuesday nights.

It was 8:00 PM Tuesday night, time for the Texaco Star Theater, starring Mr. Television, the one and only Milton Berle.

Milton Berle was one sight joke falling upon another, a lot of goofy expressions, pratfalls, cheap laughs from his favorite stunner, starting the show and doing skits in Lady Gaga-like dresses. Geez! When I think back upon it now, it’s almost embarrassing to recall what we thought was “funny” back in 1950, simply because we saw Milton Berle do it.

Berle was a master too of the “pesky fly” joke. A “pesky fly” joke is one that resembles the pattern of such a pest: Once a fly gets in the house, it won’t go away and can’t be killed. It just keeps coming back and landing with irritating regularity.

Berle’s biggest pesky fly was the “make up” joke. It began with a skit in which the characters complained about their make up. Each time they said those words, a goofy-looking dressing room helper would run on the stage yelling “Maaaaake Upppppp”  and hit the person in the face with a giant fully loaded powder puff.

The studio and home audiences roared. The joke became a pesky fly. From that point forward, you never knew when the guy with the giant powder puff was coming back to whack Berle or one his guests for having uttered the magic words, “make up.”

The show lasted from 1948 to 1956. It changed names in 1953, when Buick took over sponsorship, but that’s OK. Milton Berle was the show, not Texaco.

It all changed as all things do. When more networks, stations, and other kinds of comedy became more widely available, Milton Berle lost his grip on the title he earned as Mr. Television, but he was big in his day and he served as the reason that neighbors without TV sets piled into the houses of those who did at eight o’clock on Tuesday evenings to hear, “The Texaco Star Theater Starring Milton Berle Is On The Air!”

I’ll close with a tribute to the show’s opener. Since they long ago drilled this jingle into my brain, the least I can do is pass it on to you. I only wish I had a way to pass on the tune as well. Just imagine something strident and banal as the jingle melody..

The Texaco Star Theater always began with a chorus line of Texaco gas station attendants marching in file upon the stage and then facing the audience in a smiling single line to sing this song:

“Oh, we’re the men of Texaco
We work from Maine to Mexico
There’s nothing like this Texaco of ours!

“Our show is very powerful
We’ll wow you with an hour full
Of howls from a shower full of stars.

“We’re the merry Texaco men
Tonight we may be showmen
Tomorrow we’ll be servicing your cars!

“We wipe your pipe
We pump your gas
We jack your back
We scrub your glass

“So join the ranks of those who know
And fill your tanks with Texaco

“Fire Chief, fill up with Fire Chief, You will smile at the pile of new miles you will add

“Sky Chief, fill up with Sky Chief
You’ll find that Texaco’s the finest friend your car has ever had

“…And now, ladies and gentlemen… America’s number one television star… MILTON BERLE!…”

ADDENDUM: Thanks to Sam Quintero, here’s a link to see and hear how the Merry Texaco Men opened the show and introduced Milton Berle. Berle’s entry also confirms my Lady Gaga-like memory of his typical attire.

Early Houston TV Programs & Personalities

August 21, 2010

Bunny Orsak: Channel 13’s “Kitirik” mascot from 1954 to 1971.

Thinking for long on the subject of Houston’s early TV years brings to mind a ton of pleasant memories and so many unforgettable personalities. I’m going more for volume than explication this morning. with a look back at what’s still with me off the top of my pointed head by way of a Saturday morning notion of how each fits together by group association.

Here’s what I’ve come up with. Please feel free to add your favorites and all the others I’ve forgotten in the comment section of this column:

Local Station Caricature Figures: Kitirik of Channel 13, Milk Drop Mo, Cadet Don, Jock Mahoney.

Early Station Singers and Musicians: Howard Hartman, Marietta Marek, Don Estes, Johnny Royal, Paul Schmidt and the Tune Schmidts, Curly Fox, and Miss Texas Ruby.

Dick Gottlieb

1950s Station Announcers, News People, and Personalities: Dick Gottlieb, Lee Gordon, Bob Dundas, Bob Marek, Guy Savage, Paul Boesch, Pat Flaherty, John Wiessinger, Gus Mancuso, Lloyd Gregory, Bruce Layer, Jack Hamm (artist), Joy Mladenka, Page Thompson, and Jane Christopher.

1960s People: Carl Mann, Sid Lasher, Gene Elston, Loel Passe, Dave Ward, Dan Rather, Anita Martini, Larry Rasco, Doug Johnson, Bill Ennis, Bill Worrell, and Dan Rather.

Early Kiddie Shows: Crusader Rabbit, Mr. I. Magination, Mr. Wizard, Smilin’ Ed McConnell, Buster Brown,  Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, Howdy Doody, Mr. Rogers, Captain Midnight, Sky King, Batman, and Superman.

Arthur Godfrey, Hawking Aspirin.

Early Variety and Game Shows: The Texaco Star Theatre with Milton Berle, Arthur Godfrey Time, The Gary Moore Show, Stop the Music, Toast of the Town/Ed Sullivan, The $64,000 Question, Beat The Clock, Name That Tune, Who Do You Trust?, Twenty Grand, I’ve Got A Secret, What’s My Line?,  The Tonight Show with Steve Allen, George Gobel, The Jackie Gleason Show, and Password.

Early Sitcoms: My Little Margie, The Life of Riley, I Married Joan, Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet, Amos ‘n Andy, The Addams Family, and Mr. Peepers,

Early Westerns: Gunsmoke, Cheyenne, Paladin, Wyatt Earp, The Lone Ranger, Wagon Train, Sugarfoot, Grizzly Adams, The Rifleman, The Cisco Kid, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry.

Early Drama/Adventure/Cop Shows: Dangerous Assignment with Brian Donlevy, Boston Blackie, I Led Three Lives, One Man’s Family, Playhouse Ninety, Studio One, Dragnet, Route 66, Outer Limits, and The Twilight Zone.

Sports: Major League and Houston Buffs Baseball, plus one game of College Football every Saturday and a Red Grange telecast of the Chicago Bears or Cardinals from the NFL every Sunday – and it was all there for us on that tiny little fuzzy black and white TV screen with the visible horizontal separator lines running all across the picture, but so what? What did we know back then about the greater possibilities that lay ahead for us down the technological advancement line in years to come? Based on the “nothing” we had prior to TV, we thought we had died and gone to Heaven!

Family Famous Last TV-Related Words from Our Mom Back in 1952: “Hey, kids, why don’t we all sit down and watch ’em blow up that atomic bomb out in Nevada before you leave for school today?”

Early TV Was Like Radio with Pictures

August 20, 2010

TV Reached Houston on January 1, 1949.

It came. We saw. It conquered us all. It was the middle of the 20th century and our communication media preferences were changing fast, from radio to television, and from big movie theaters out there in the world to those little theaters that moved just for us in our own homes. What a wild world it was turning out to be.

In spite of the fuzzy, squint-sized black & white pictures that came with our first 10 inch screen TV sets, the medium rapidly addicted us all to the idea that we could actually possess in our own homes, and for our own personal use, with no one sitting in front of us to block our view, a little machine that produced moving pictures for our individual home entertainment.

At first, television broadcasters and their home audiences shared this state of mind in common: Neither really knew what they were doing. Some may argue that this truth still holds today, but if it does, it is no longer a condition we may attribute to naiveté.  If it’s still true today, it’s now due to the kind of missing creativity that spawns reality television programming over great storytelling.

Back in 1949, when TV first came to Houston, everyone labored with two wrong handles on the new medium. Broadcasters and viewers alike treated the medium as either (1) radio with pictures; or (2) the movies with a small screen.

Nobody really knew what kind of baby had landed on their doorstep – and we especially misunderstood and underestimated the potential and demand for interaction that television would produce as the medium matured. In the beginning, people just saw it as a medium for putting out pictures that other people could watch for the sake of movement alone. Old movies became popular fare at local stations and slapstick comedy, boxing, and wrestling were all big too – because they all moved rapidly into action..

The early news broadcasts were literally radio with pictures. You got to watch a man sitting behind a desk literally reading the news from the typed paper in his hand. The only movement was the reporter’s lips as he read – and the papers being placed down on the desk as each page of reading was finished.

At commercial break time, the news man might pull out a Camel cigarette from his coat pocket and light one up to show you how mild and satisfying it was before he placed it down in the ash tray to keep on smoking as he finished reading the news.

At KPRC-TV in Houston back in 1950, the news, weather, and sports  were  handled by Pat Flaherty (Thanks for the correction on Pat’s last name, Bill Bremer!), John Wiessenger, and Bruce Layer. There were no anchor women back in the day and all the broadcast faces were white. Fortunately, in spite of our many ongoing imperfections, we have grown up as a people since the middle of the last century, but we should never forget from whence we came – so we don’t ever go back. Not everything in the good old days was all that good or fair, but it was interesting.

Weatherman Wiessinger of Channel 2 always began his weather-casts with this statement: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! Let’s see what the weather’s been doing.” He would then turn over his right shoulder, and using a stick of chalk as his pointer, he would indicate on a blackboard that contained an outline of the USA where the big weather-makers were occurring. Sometimes he drew clouds so that we might have an idea of what the next norther was going to look like. Lightning bolts made for a nice storm symbol too, but the rain drops he drafted were often hard to figure. The board would then be flipped to show the State of Texas – where Wiessinger would write the high/low temps from around the area. Sometimes the temps from the previous day would have to be erased first. That discovery always seemed to irritate John.

Once again, it was radio with pictures in that news era. Even if broadcasters had a bigger image of their job, they lacked the technology to do much more than what amounted to radio with pictures.

Bruce Layer on sports was a favorite of mine. I didn’t know about it back in 1950, but Bruce Layer had broadcast the first Houston Buff game back on April 11, 1928, the season opener for the Houston Buffs in their very first official game at the then new Buff Stadium. Bruce was knowledgeable in a droning sort of way, but he liked the Buffs – and that made him alright with me.

One live program I really enjoyed each spring on Channel 2 was a weekly pre-season show called “The Hot Stove League.” Moderated by Lloyd Gregory with the help of Bruce Layer and writer Clark Nealon, The HSL was dedicated to examining the upcoming season of the Houston Buffs from about eight weeks over the time that led into the regular season. The show would feature guests like Buffs President Allen Russell and the Buffs manager and featured players as they became available.

Lloyd Gregory had been the arguably leading sports writer in Houston from the late 1920s forward, He is the guy who gave Joe Medwick his “Ducky” nickname during the latter’s 1934 season in Houston. After a female fan wrote Gregory, suggesting that Medwick should be called “Ducky” because he walks like a duck, Gregory just picked it up and put it on poor Joe and it stuck. For life.

This small slice of memory is pretty much how local programming worked here until the coaxial cable reached Houston and connected us to live broadcasting from New York on July 1, 1952. The flow of live TV into Houston via cable began to change everything, but I don’t think TV really separated itself from radio until the late 1970s, when satellite pictures and videotape enhanced the availability of fitting action pictures a thousand times over to the field of news reporting.

Just my thoughts. – Have a nice weekend, everybody!