Friday, January 30, 2015

Ann Jillian, Happy Birthday This Week! Born January 29, 1950!

One of the sunniest faces on TV and movie screens throughout her entire performing career has been that of actress Ann Jillian whose birthday we celebrate today.  These days she concentrates on a successful career as an in-demand motivational speaker, using her always interesting and sometimes challenge-filled life to share her message of hope and inspiration.  Starting out as a multi-talented child actress then graduating to a long career as an adult, Ann especially established herself as a popular presence on America's television screens.  Her natural warmth and vivacious personality made her an audience favorite in a very special niche -- she was an All-American sex symbol without a trace of smuttiness.

The naturally gifted singer and actress wasted no time in breaking into show business; a move at age six from her Massachusetts birthplace to show biz mecca Los Angeles quickly resulted in small TV appearances and soon a nice juicy role in Walt Disney's big screen 1961 musical Babes in Toyland.  A year later she landed the important role of Baby June in the lavish Mervyn LeRoy-directed screen version of the Broadway musical hit Gypsy, starring Natalie Wood in the title role and Rosalind Russell as Mama Rose.  Two years ago Ann gave a terrific interview to Jeremy Kinser of about her experience working on the film; click here to read it.  Here is a musical number from the film between Natalie Wood and Ann Jillian:

As a child and young teen Ann was a frequent guest on major TV series like Ben Casey, My Three Sons, Hazel and on an episode of Twilight Zone where she played the title role of "The Mute" -- you can watch the entire episode right here, right now!  (For a cute anecdote from a former classmate of hers, check out comedy writer Ken Levine and his post "My short-lived fling with Ann Jillian", here.)

Ann continued her TV career with guest roles and voice-over work as she entered her late teens, too tall to play a kid anymore.  After reassessing her skill set -- acting, singing, comedy -- she continued her stage work and also toured with nightclub headliners.  An invitation to study with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera honed her musical skills, and soon she was ready to take on Broadway.  In 1979 she won a co-starring role opposite Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller in the smash stage hit Sugar Babies, an affectionate homage to burlesque and vaudeville.  You can browse through the original Sugar Babies Playbill program -- fascinating stuff!  Click here. For a really interesting and personal account of her life around this time, check out this article from People magazine, click here.

After her success in Sugar Babies and a marriage it was time for Ann to return to Hollywood.  She did a few series like The Love Boat and in 1980 joined the cast of the new ABC sitcom It's a Living about a group of waitresses who work at a posh Los Angeles restaurant.  Performers union strikes in Hollywood wreaked havoc on many shows debuting that season including It's a Living, but the series managed to return for a retooled 2nd season as Making a Living..  Ann Jillian was a stand-out in her role as the vivacious Cassie, acting alongside (variously) Susan Sullivan, Marian Mercer and Louise Lasser.  It's a Living was cancelled after its 2nd season but ended up being a surprise hit a year or so later when it was revived by a successful syndication run (spearheaded by leading independent station KTLA in Los Angeles) leading to new once-a-week first-run production beginning in 1985.  (More on that period in Ann's life a bit later.)

In 1980 she participated in several of the popular Battle of the Network Stars series of specials where actors and actresses appearing on the three major networks got together for staged competitions.  It was a crazy concept and incredibly popular with audiences.  Here is a Howard Cosell-narrated profile of Ann from one of the special:

And here Ann gets dunked in the Baseball Toss by actress Erin Gray:

But she gets her chance to get some payback on James Sikking:

Ann shows her prowess with a kayak paddle in this competition:

(There are lots more great Battle of the Network Stars clips on YouTube and if you look around the net the episodes are available on DVD, too.)

In 1982 Ann received good notices and an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of legendary classic screen star Mae West in the TV movie of the same name.  (The nostalgia boom was still going on in a big way and TV was chock full of retro-Hollywood biographies.  Check out this terrific post on Clements Valorie's wonderful entertainment-oriented blog for a great overview of the slew of TV movies that resulted, click here, You may get an AdFly page shift and warning but just hit your back button and go back to the post.  It's worth it.  Way back in 2007 I wrote three posts on TCM's Movie Morlocks blog on the subject, here, here and here.)

You can watch the whole movie (albeit in several parts) on YouTube, click here.

After a couple more TV movies (including Girls of the White Orchid, click here to watch) and a role in the 1983 big screen comedy Mr. Mom starring Michael Keaton, Ann was given her own situation comedy on NBC for the fall of 1983.  Jennifer Slept Here --  a famous actress who's passed away returns to haunt the family who lives in her old house -- only lasted thirteen episodes but audiences definitely liked Jillian no matter what she was in.

In November of 1983 She appeared on the series Salute! to duet with singer Andy Gibb:

In 1983 Ann had a major role in the epic seven-hour miniseries Ellis Island about turn-of-the-20th-Century immigration to America, complete with all-star cast.

In 1984 she found time to host the Miss Hawaiian Tropic International pageant and give us a knockout song:

In 1985 Ann appeared as the Red Queen in an all-star over-the-top Irwin Allen-produced TV musical version of Alice in Wonderland.  The cast has to be seen to be believed -- please click here for a complete list of big-name participants and take some time to explore the excellent What a Wonderful Dream Alice in Wonderland website and especially its section on this epic TV special.

It was during the production of Alice in Wonderland that Ann's life was shaken by a serious medical emergency.  She was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer and immediately underwent a double mastectomy.  This August 1985 article from People is a riveting first-person account of that ordeal and well worth your time.  Definitely click here to read it.  Two weeks after the operation she was back on the set of Alice in Wonderland with the blessing of producer Irwin Allen.  Ann Jillian is a trouper.

1985 brought the unexpected but welcome revitalization of It's a Living in the wake of the popular syndication run of the network episodes.  Independent stations were feeling their oats and rising in strength against network affiliates, resulting in a increased opportunities for unprecedented first-run production.  Proven properties were less of a gamble -- even a network cast-off often had more cachet than an original (The New Leave It to BeaverWhat's Happening Now, anyone?) -- so It's a Living was able to reemerge as a hot property.  Ann Jillian rose to top-billing for the new season but left the show after a year to concentrate on her health though it continued for a total of six seasons.

In 1988 Ann's own life story and specifically her cancer journey were brought to life in the TV movie The Ann Jillian Story co-starring Tony LoBianco as her husband Andy.  For more information check out this detailed article from The New York Times, click here.

Ann won a Golden Globe for her work in the movie:

In 1989 Ann gave another try to having her own sitcom, this time the simply titled Ann Jillian where she played a recent widow who moves to a small town to put her life together again.

The show only lasted half a season but Ann continued to be incredibly busy starring in a selection of TV movies -- she made more than two dozen of them during her years as a major TV personality.  Ann Jillian certainly belongs in that select group of actresses who wear the title "TV Movie Queens" -- ladies like Elizabeth Montgomery and Jane Seymour to name a couple -- who made that once extremely popular movie genre a backbone of TV programming.  (Of course Lifetime now specializes in the form for a new generation of viewers.)

The most exciting Ann Jillian production of the early 1990s was the birth of her son, a later-in-life, post-cancer happy event that also changed her life and added motherhood to her impressive resume.  People magazine had a nice article about the impending birth, click here to read.

Though her last TV acting role was on a Walker, Texas Ranger episode in 2000, Ann Jillian hasn't stopped being in front of the public and sharing her spirit and talent.  As we mentioned at the outset of this article, Ann is a much sought-after speaker who shares her life story and message of strength with audiences all over the country.  Music is very much a part of her appearances as this show business veteran continues to give it all she's got to entertain and inspire those around her.

For more information on her current projects we highly recommend visiting her official website by clicking here.

Ann Jillian has worked hard her whole life to excel as a human being and as a performer.  Her natural charm and talent have been a gift to us all.

Happy Birthday to the delightful Ann Jillian!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Yikes! PBS & "NOVA" Take on Sinkholes -- Our Money is on the Sinkholes!

Inquiring minds obsessed with land, sea and air craziness will want to tune in tonight to the always fascinating PBS series NOVA for the newest episode entitled "Sinkholes -- Buried Alive".  Yowzah!  It doesn't get much better for creepy unexpected chills than contemplating sinkholes, those real-life utterly scary out-of-the-blue earth collapses that are known to swallow up roads, houses, vehicles and people -- and it's a one-way journey.  You can fall in but mostly you don't get a chance to get out, , one of the reasons why sinkholes are so awesomely weird.  And sometimes hilariously funny, as we saw in 2013's movie This Is The End where one of the signs of the end of the world was a giant sinkhole appearing in James Franco's front yard (see below) and engulfing various celebrities including Michael Cera.  One of their explanations was the "Sinkhole de Mayo" phenomenon, but sinkholes actually appear anywere, anytime.

I'm a long-time fan and follower of sinkholes, especially so now that I live in Florida where they are a common geological feature, popping, down all over the state making disappear citizens, trees, lakes and tourist resorts on a regular basis.  Floridians might like to check out the whole collection of Florida Sinkhole Maps, available by clicking here.

When I lived in Atlanta and worked at Turner in midtown there was a famous 1993 sinkhole that opened up just behind a hotel next to us, sadly killing two people who worked there.  Perhaps more properly designated an earth collapse than a true sinkhole, it was precipitated by a huge rainfall which undermined the infrastructure.  Read a couple of accounts of it -- click here and click here, and click here to see a photo of it.

Bottom line is sinkholes can happen just about anywhere, not caring whether your neighborhood is tony or redneck, sinkholes will take 'em all down...which at least is one sign that democracy is still alive in America.

Tonight's NOVA episode promises to be terrific, as are all their episodes no matter what the topic. NOVA has been doing for decades what cable channels Science, Discovery and History seem to get all the credit for these days. (At least National Geographic has been in the documentary business a long time.  TV aficionados deep down know -- even if the general public doesn't -- that PBS essentially invented all the various program genres that now occupy myriad separate channels -- cooking, science, reality, exercise -- right?)

Here's a preview of tonight's program:

Check out the website for NOVA and "Sinkholes -- Buried Alive" by clicking here.  There's an interview with the filmmaker from The New Orleans Advocate which gives background on the episode's production.  New Orleans was justifiably proud of being included in the program because of their famous Bayou Corne sinkhole from a couple of years ago; click here to access.

For further investigation into the sinkhole subject, I can recommend some terrific websites and photo galleries.  The Weather Channel had a good episode of their recent Science of the Earth series all about sinkholes, unfortunately not available that I can find except for a transcript -- click here -- and their promo for it:

There's an entire documentary about a astounding Chinese sinkhole on YouTube; I recommend watching it there because there's a nice write-up about it.  Click here to access.

The slightly crazy website Countdown to Zero-Time has a good sinkhole posting, click here.

The Telegraph in the UK has this nice photo gallery of sinkholes, click here.

The People and Places blog has a really good assortment of photos, click here.

Assortment of photos on the ABC News site available by clicking here.

Wikipedia covers sinkholes -- click here for its good overview.

Absolutely the best repository of sinkhole-related photos and information is created by Ben Wilkins.  Highly recommended for all your sinkhole needs and available by clicking here.

For all about the science behind sinkholes, we recommend the USGS website which has a "The Science of Sinkholes" page available by clicking here and a good basic educational page online, click here.

Don't miss NOVA "Sinkholes -- Buried Alive" tonight on at 9pm your local PBS station!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Happy 92nd Birthday Today to the Lovely & Talented Anne Jeffreys!

Veteran TV actress -- no, better make that TV, Movie and Stage actress -- the classy and beautiful Anne Jeffreys celebrates her 92nd birthday today.  She was born on January 26, 1923 in  North Carolina.  From her early days as a teenage model in New York to her illustrious musical stage career including frequent forays into grand opera, Anne captivated audiences with her graceful versatility.  Her stage career brought her to Hollywood in the early 1940s where she was signed by RKO Studios and starred in a long list of movie role for them.  Soon she added the burgeoning medium of TV to her resume and began her long and successful status as one of television's most popular leading ladies.  Anne Jeffreys epitomizes the kind of talented professional that's a rare thing today.

Always glamorous on the red carpet when she frequently still takes in theater or other special events in Hollywood, Anne Jeffreys has always had an air of intelligent sophistication about her.  This quality was never better captured than in her starring role in the TV situation comedy Topper which began in 1953.  One of early TV's popular skeins, Topper featured Anne appearing opposite her real-life husband, the equally sophisticated and suavely handsome actor Robert Sterling, as they played George and Marion Kerby, fun-loving ghosts with plenty of partying left in them.  The Jeffreys-Sterling match was a romance born of the profession; both were starring in plays at neighboring Broadway theaters when they met and fell in love.  Topper also featured veteran actor Leo G. Carroll as Cosmo Topper, the very proper gentleman who was haunted by the Kerbys, with Lee Patrick as his wife Henrietta who couldn't see the ghosts, leading to much merriment.

Here is the pilot episode of Topper:

Here's another episode, one of several which are available on YouTube -- no official DVD release has been made yet of the series:

Topper lasted two seasons for a total of 78 half-hour episodes.  Those of us who've been watching TV for a long time remember it as a favorite in syndication for many years.   After the end of Topper, Anne continued her busy stage and TV career; she and Robert teamed up again in 1958 for a go at another sitcom, this one entitled Love That Jill which debuted in January 1958 but only lasted for thirteen episodes.

In addition to all her guest-starring roles on many of the most successful TV series of the past fifty years, Anne also co-starred in recurring roles on several shows, including Falcon Crest, Finder of Lost Loves, The Delphi Bureau, General Hospital and Baywatch.

Here are a few Anne Jeffreys appearances to enjoy -- first, the opening credits for her 1984 series Finder of Lost Loves:

Anne and Robert were the mystery stars on What's My Line? in 1957:

Anne played a saloon singer in this Bonanza episode which also starred a young Wayne Newton:

Anne made a guest appearance on the show Hotel, here is a brief clip:

For a look at some of her interesting earlier movie roles -- let's start with this trailer for her 1945 film Dillinger starring the uniquely intense actor Lawrence Tierney:

How about Anne as Tess Trueheart in 1945's Dick Tracy, Detective?

How about a clip from her silly but scary movie Zombies on Broadway from 1945?

How about another Tess Trueheart portrayal in 1946's Dick Tracy vs. Cueball?

Anne singing a number from 1945's Sing Your Way Home:

Anne in a rare "soundie" jukebox video from 1941:

Anne and Frank Sinatra from 1944's Step Lively:

Be sure to check out YouTube for a slew of Anne Jeffreys appearances at various events around Hollywood, such as these:

Anne Jeffreys has been a widow since her beloved husband Robert passed away in May of 2006, but her continued joie de vivre is testament to the love they shared.  She is truly one of Hollywood's Great Ladies.

We wish her a very Happy Birthday today!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Remembering Bill Bixby, Born Jan. 22, 1934

He would have turned 81 last Thursday.

One of TV's most beloved and familiar faces was actor/director Bill Bixby whose long TV career as a personable star of several popular series made him an audience and industry favorite for decades.  Bill passed away from cancer on November 21, 1993 at the age of 59, and the loss of this talented TV veteran has been keenly felt ever since. (Interestingly, his death followed by two years that of equally beloved TV icon Michael Landon who also died of cancer well before his time at age 55.)

His was a career based primarily in television from beginning to end.  Blessed with All-American good looks and a likable demeanor, Bixby became a popular guest star on many early 1960s series including The Joey Bishop Show, Dr, Kildare, and this 1962 episode from The Andy Griffith Show:

Bill Bixby moved between drama and comedy with ease, a skill that eventually brought him one of the starring roles on the CBS sitcom My Favorite Martian which debuted in 1963.  Co-starring with veteran actor Ray Walston for the three year run of the show, Bixby played reporter Tim O'Hara whose close encounter with a Martian visitor he passed off as his "Uncle Martin" made for 107 episodes of well-regarded classic TV comedy.

After the end of My Favorite Martian Bill Bixby turned to the big screen to co-star in a pair of Elvis Presley movies and continued to make guest starring roles on series TV.  You'll enjoy this groovy 1968 clip from The Dating Game where Bill and Richard Dawson were contestants:

 In 1969 he landed the starring role of Tom Corbett in the ABC TV adaptation of the 1963 Glenn Ford movie comedy The Courtship of Eddie's Father; Ron Howard played his son Eddie in the film.  For the TV version seven year old child actor Brandon Cruz was tapped to play Bixby's son and Academy Award-winning Asian actress Miyoshi Umeki played their housekeeper Mrs. Livingston .  Their genuine onscreen chemistry between all three of them immediately captured the hearts of viewers and the show lasted three seasons for a total of 73 episodes.  Adding to the warm & fuzzies was the charming theme song by composer Harry Nilsson.

Each episode of The Courtship of Eddie's Father began with a heart-to-heart talk between Eddie and Tom which led into the opening credits.  Here are a few different versions:

You will also enjoy this clip from 1989 from The Arsenio Hall Show when guest Bill Bixby had a surprise visitor:

After the 1973 cancellation of The Courtship of Eddie's Father Bixby returned to more guest roles in popular series and along the way gave a much-lauded performance in the racy 1973 PBS adaptation of Bruce Jay Friedman's darkly absurd play Steambath. 

Bixby, as always constantly working in guest roles and TV Movies, again landed a series lead as he took the title role in NBC's The Magician which debuted in the fall of 1973.  He played a rich playboy whose hobbies were sleuthing and magic, both interests leading him into a season's worth of adventure and intrigue. Stylish and sophisticated, The Magician didn't have the staying power NBC was looking for but audiences responded warmly to Bixby's finesse with legerdemain -- a real interest of his -- and the series is far from forgotten.

After The Magician Bixby once again continued to be a sought-after TV face, including an Emmy-nominated supporting role in the groundbreaking miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man in 1976.

1977 brought him the title role of Dr. David Banner in the TV adaptation of comic book character The Incredible Hulk; actually he shared the role with bodybuilder actor Lou Ferrigno who played the post-transformation Hulk. The show lasted five seasons and a total of 83 episodes, ending its CBS run in 1982.  The continuing popularity of the show with fans and in syndication spurred rival network NBC to reunite Bixby and Ferrigno for three follow-up movies seven years after the series cancellation.  We highly recommend visiting the terrific website The Incredible Hulk TV Series Page created by Mark Rathwell for extensive information and valuable insight; click here.  Episodes are also available for viewing on NBC's website, click here.

Here's a trailer for one episode that clearly used footage from the TV Movie Duel:

And here is a documentary on the making of the still popular series:

In 1981 Bixby was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for his hosting duties on the PBS show Once Once a Time.

Post-The Incredible Hulk, in 1983 Bill Bixby starred opposite actress Mariette Hartley in the situation comedy Goodnight, Beantown where they played Boston TV news anchors. The series started as an April '83 five episode run, returned in the fall for an additional 13 episodes and left the air in January of 1984.  Bixby and Hartley and CBS had been banking on the actors' proven personal acting chemistry to propel Goodnight, Beantown to success; Hartley had won a Best Actress Emmy Award in 1979 for her work in the two-part The Incredible Hulk episode "Married" where she was an ailing research doctor who falls in love with and marries David Banner.  No such luck, alas, this time around.  Check out the wonderful Goodnight, Beantown analysis on the Friday@8 Central website written by Tim Rose; click here to read it.

We need to also remember Bill Bixby's extensive TV directing career, beginning when he directed several episodes of The Courtship of Eddie's Father.  He proved to be as talented in back of the camera as in front of it and continued to helm episodes in both comedy and drama including Mannix, Charlie's Angels, Mr. Merlin, Sledgehammer and many others.  At the end of his life he was busy directing episodes of the series Blossom.

Bixby made a commercial for Tandy computers back in 1986, too:

Though no more series leads were to come his way after Goodnight, Beantown, Bill Bixby continued making many guest acting appearances and as mentioned above was simultaneously involved in his successful TV directing career. His cancer diagnosis came in 1991 and ultimately led to his death on November 21, 1993.

We highly recommend taking a good look at his extensive IMDb credits, click here -- he was as prolific as he was versatile.  In terms of a great biography, you won't find a better one than this one from Mark Rathwell's above mentioned The Incredible Hulk TV Series Page -- click here to read it. The Find a Death website has an excellent page on Bill Bixby and also much info on Miyoshi Umeki -- click here to access.  You can click here to read The New York Times obituary on Bill Bixby.  The Los Angeles Times obituary is available by clicking here.  Great Britain's The Independent reported Bixby's death, click here to read.

Of course Wikipedia gives a nice overview of Bixby's life and career, click here.  For a nice article on the continuing influence on Bill Bixby on his many fans, you should read this article from The American Spectator website by Aaron Goldstein, click here.  Here's another tribute article, click here. Also highly recommended is the extensive Bill Bixby website created by JH Harison containing information on his life and career plus great quotes and other background material, access by clicking here. There is also an active The Incredible Hulk discussion board available by clicking here.

Bill Bixby, January 22, 1934 - November 21, 1993.  One of TV's greatest, always remembered.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Whitney" TV Movie Debuts Tonight on Lifetime

We're all for celebrity biopics; sometimes they're good, sometimes they're bad, sometimes they're actually insightful but usually they're at least interesting.  We're betting on Lifetime's Whitney to give us interesting and maybe more.  Premiering tonight Saturday at 8pm with an encore at midnight and also airing at 8pm and 11pm tomorrow, Sunday, Whitney tells the story of the immensely successful singer-actress Whitney Houston who unexpectedly passed away not quite three years ago.

Directed by actress Angela Bassett -- American Horror Story, What's Love Got to Do With It, ER, to name just a few of her memorable performances -- Whitney stars actress-model Yaya DaCosta in the title role, with Arlen Escarpeta as her controversial spouse Bobby Brown.  Notwithstanding all the carping that naturally goes on when a movie like this about a famous person hits the air, let's remember that this is the Lifetime network, not HBO, and we can't expect -- nor does the usual Lifetime audience even want -- a no-holds-barred expose full of drugs and the rest of the ugly stuff that evidently did go on in Houston's too-short life.  Let's go along with Bassett's declaration that this is a "tribute" -- click here to read more about it -- and take it on those terms.  You'll remember that Lifetime had a previous collaboration with the Houston family on the reality series The Houstons: On Our Own which focused on Whitney's daughter and her mother in the aftermath of Whitney's untimely death.  Houston's family has not been enthusiastic about this new TV movie, however; click here to read more about that situation.

You might like to read a few early reviews of Whitney -- click on the links -- such as this one from Variety, The New York Times' review is here, the Fast Company website has a review and an interview with Angela Basset available here, and here's a long and interesting article from, click here to read it.

This also might be a time to check out some of the real thing, namely Whitney Houston in a few of her TV appearances.  In 2009 she sat down for a long interview with Oprah Winfrey:

Earlier in her career, in 2002, Whitney did a one-on-one with Diane Sawyer;

Even earlier, the pop star answered questions from Barbara Walters, in this interview from 1993:

The Official Whitney Houston website is here, click to access.

Her fans' devotion has never wavered.  As an example, take a look at this long and loving fan-produced tribute video to her:

You'll also want to remember Whitney in her role as the Fairy Godmother opposite Brandy as Cinderella in the 1997 TV production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, as she sings the inspirational ditty "Impossible" -- it's pretty sweet, and so is the little featurette:

The TV movie Whitney premieres on Lifetime tonight at 8pm.  Click here for the movie's official website.

DaCosta & Escarpeta as Whitney & Bobby

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, the Man who Kept Nichelle Nichols on "Star Trek"!

Though the national Martin Luther King, Jr. Day isn't until this coming Monday, today is the celebrated civil rights crusader's actual birthday.  The Nobel Peace Prize winner was born on January 15, 1929, and today would have been his 86th birthday.  One of our favorite stories about this important leader is the one that has entered into TV legend, namely how he persuaded actress Nichelle Nichols to stay in her role of Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek.

Nichelle was and is a broadly talented actress-singer-dancer who had been considering accepting an offer to return to Broadway.  Star Trek had just completed its first season on-air and though Nichols loved playing Lt. Uhura she was also tempted by the opportunity to do NYC theater again.  She was close to announcing her decision to leave the series to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry when she attended an NAACP fundraiser.  (I haven't read any specific date for the event, though the first season of Star Trek was over -- whether that means TV season airing-wise or filming-wise I am not sure.  Once source says it was in Fall of 1967.)

What happened at that fundraiser and most importantly who Nichelle Nichols met at that event changed Star Trek history.  There are numerous accounts of the momentous occasion around, all telling of the time that a devoted Star Trek fan who also just happened to be the most important human rights campaigner in the U.S. was able to persuade an ambitious actress that she was already in the most perfect place imaginable.  Here is one version with footage of Gene Roddenberry and Nichelle:

Here's Nichelle telling it again at the Pioneer Women of Television in 2011:

Rather than paraphrase the story, we're going to link to several of the wonderful stories about the Martin Luther King, Jr. meets Nichelle Nichols moment in time.  Here is a short version on the PBS Pioneers of Television website, click here; The Wall Street Journal did a story, click here; NPR did a segment on their Tell Me More show, click here: Nichelle did an interview with awesome astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on Dr. King's influence on her, click here:  SpinOff Online did a great article, click here; and here's Forbes' version of the story, click here:

Each time one hears the story it's an inspiration and affirmation that Star Trek is truly one of the most important television series ever, for a plethora of reasons that continue to be revealed as the years go by.  The lasting impact of especially those original 79 episodes will continue forever.

We celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the time he helped Nichelle Nichols understand her place in history.  May the spirit of Star Trek live on!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy Birthday to All-Around Funnyman Larry Storch!

We'd like to wish a very Happy 92nd to veteran funnyman Larry Storch, probably best remembered for his hilarious co-starring role as Corporal Agarn on the classic western-set sitcom (a pretty rare genre!) F Troop which ran for two years beginning in 1965.  His stint on the show is just a small example of the versatile and still actively performing Storch's repertoire.  His childhood in NYC started the ball rolling as the natural-born mimic began effortlessly imitating the various accents he heard in his polyglot neighborhood.  This uncanny ability plus his undeniable comic flair set him firmly on the road to becoming a stand-up comic during the late years of the Depression.

After a stint in the Navy during WWII, Storch established himself as a versatile comedic performer on stage, in radio, on recordingsin movies and especially on TV in a plethora of appearances including a huge body of work doing animation voices.  Even a quick glance at his credits on IMDb reveals Storch's contributions to be vast and impressive -- click here to take a look!

We'll celebrate with some highlights from his TV work.  Enjoy! First up, how about Larry in an early 1960s appearance on Car 54, Where Are You? with Fred Gwynne and Joe E. Ross:

Here is the first season black and white F Troop theme; the 2nd season color version sans lyrics can be watched by clicking here.

Here he is in a 1965 segment of the variety show Hollywood Palace; he's introduced here by Janet Leigh:

And here's a wonderful hour-long interview with Larry Storch by comedian Gilbert Gottfried onhis The Amazing Colossal Podcast from just a couple of months ago:

Click here for a terrific post on the Tralfaz: Cartoons & Tralfazian Stuff blog all about Larry Storch's enduring friendship with actor Tony Curtis which began when they served on the same submarine during WWII.  Also terrific is this account (click here) of Storch's stint as Mayor for a Day of Fort Lee, New Jersey, last June. and this one of his appearance at L.A.'s The Comedy Store in September.  Be sure to become friends with him on Facebook, too -- click here.  You will also enjoy this interview with him on the Classic Television Showbiz blog, click here to access.

What a trouper!  He's a hard-working and incredibly talented show business veteran with the kind of energy we all dream of having.  What an inspiration!

Happy Birthday, Larry Storch, and many more!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Current Geico Camel TV Ad -- Funny or Not?

Happy New Year, TV Fans!  The Flaming Nose TV Blog will keep up a more robust schedule this year -- fingers crossed -- and we're going to start 2015 with a possibly curmudgeonly but justifiable complaint about the newest GEICO insurance company TV spot featuring a pair of camels being harassed by zoo patrons.

The tone has definitely changed from the original ad featuring Caleb the friendly, gregarious and loquacious camel strolling through an office alerting coworkers to Hump Day.

The general public instantly responded to the genial camel and the ad became a viral favorite.  Good enough -- fun commercial, worth a smile, and the ad creators made the audience fall for and empathize with the agreeable camel who was so excited about Wednesday and wanted to share his enthusiasm.

GEICO went on to feature Caleb in an ad especially designed for movie theaters:

Caleb also co-starred with former football great Terry Bradshaw in several bits for the 2014 Super Bowl:

GEICO's newest Caleb spot, currently running, takes a very different approach.  No longer is Caleb the Camel the star or even the center of attention of the spot.  Caleb isn't even there, just two other camels at a zoo who find themselves the objects of incessant verbal bullying by zoo visitors who can't resist yelling lines from the previous commercials at them.  Funny, right?  And is the tagline supposed to be funny, too?

Really?  It's what's camels are supposed to do, take verbal abuse from morons?  I thought that as a nation we're supposed to be so into stopping bullying behavior in all walks of life.  This spot is a complete celebration of bullying as a pastime, and it's even more unpleasant as it has not only a theme of acceptance of bullying but also a tinge of it's okay to abuse animals, too, because they're supposed to take it.  It's what they do, right?  We can treat animals -- even ones in TV commercials -- any way we want, because that's what they're here for.

What's the logical follow-up to the behavior in this spot, anyway?  The zoo patrons get annoyed because they don't get a response from the camels and start throwing rocks at them or something?  Certainly in real life zoo visitors can't be trusted not to harass the animals.  The Nashville Zoo, for example, explicitly instructs visitors to "Respect the Animals:  Do not make loud sounds, bang on windows, throw objects into exhibits, harass or tease the animals.  Anyone found doing any of the above will be asked to leave the Zoo."  Zoo officials in India complain about rude and rowdy patrons; click here for the story.  People who work in zoos deal with incredibly crass and stupid patrons all the time; click here for an article.  And in London, visitors attending special nighttime zoo fundraising events have behaved disgustingly towards the animals; click here for the article.

The GEICO spot is totally out of line.  The only genuinely funny ending to this ad would be if both camels looked at each other and asked each other "Do we dare?," nod, and then deliver a famous camel spit at the loudest most loutish man in the group of onlookers.  Let the camels defend themselves.

Sure, it's just an ad, but it's indicative of the way that examples of abusive behavior towards animals are considered hilarious by some portion of the population and therefore fit to be used as humor in entertainment and now to sell cheap insurance.

Media coverage of the new ad has been uniformly positive, as seen from this article from Adweek (click here) and this one from Inquisitr (click here).  Sorry. We beg to disagree.

There's a nasty taste to these newest GEICO ads.

GEICO, you missed the boat on this one.

Just Minding Their Own Business


Bullying the Camels