Saturday, April 30, 2022

Z: Zoom

 ZONKS! I can't believe it! We have now reached...

#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

Once again, I had to choose something I never saw, even though I was in the target age range for the particular show. This is not the first time I mentioned this on my blog, however. 

Years before Zoom was a virtual meeting app that became dominant as a result of the pandemic shutdown, Zoom was a series for children on PBS. Originally it aired from 1972 to 1978, and was remade in 1999. When the shutdown began and people began using the app for schoolwork and meetings with co-workers, memes on Facebook came up about the series from the 1970s. I looked up the Zoom series as a result. 

Zoom presented children with recipes, plays, jokes, games, songs, movies, science experiments and informal chats suggested by viewers. There were no adults on screen, and the cast of children (identified only by their first names) would change every six months. Zoom was one of many PBS series produced by affiliate WGBH in Boston.

The intros to both versions of the show, as well as a full episode from Season 2 are below (click to see more here):


Well, that's it for A to Z 2022. Hope you have enjoyed my posts. A Reflections post is coming on Monday. 

Friday, April 29, 2022

Y: Your Big Break


#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

I have not bothered watching shows like American Idol and The Voice. But before those shows, there was this one that was syndicated from 1999 to 2001, which I watched quite regularly. This was also well after Star Search, which I recall watching sometimes, even if it wasn't my favorite. Your Big Break was on my local NBC affiliate on Saturday nights.

The show's gimmick was that the contestants were "Performing as" different music stars. Thus they are look-alikes and/or sound-alikes. Before performing, each contestant's life story was presented, ending with the host proclaiming, "This is your big break!" The first host was Christopher Reid (Kid of Kid n' Play) and the second  was Alfonso Ribeiro (formerly of Silver Spoons and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air). 

I selected a few sample clips below, to give readers the idea (those not already familiar with the show), from what I could find on Youtube:

Thursday, April 28, 2022

X: Executive Suite


#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

Once again, I had to search for something I never saw as I was too little to have seen it. Since it was an hour-long show, I likely would not have been allowed to watch it, given my age at the time. Also, I had to cheat a little, since, as everyone knows, X is such a tricky letter. And no one's forgotten about The X-Files, right? Like the previously mentioned Quark, this show was mentioned recently after the passing of one of its cast members. Executive Suite was one of three short-lived series in the 1970s starring the late Mitchell Ryan (Dharma and Greg, Lethal Weapon). 

The series was on CBS in 1976-77, and was adapted from a 1954 movie of the same name that starred William Holden. It was an hour-long prime-time soap set at the Cardway Corporation in Los Angeles. Don Walling (Ryan) was the company president, and Howell Rutledge (Stephen Elliott) was the vice president and Walling's chief rival. The struggle between the two was the main plot. The remaining cast included family members of the two lead characters and other employees and board members of Cardway. It's a rather large cast, so click above to see the rest. The title makes it sound less like an hourlong drama and more like a work-place comedy.  

It was not surprising that I did not find any clips, but I did not find the opening theme either. The best I could find were these promos:

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

W: Who's Watching the Kids?


#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

Believe it or not, the letter W was a hard one for this challenge. So I had to dig a little and perhaps mention something I never saw (but have read about in books on TV) or just barely saw. I then remembered seeing reruns of this short-lived sitcom from 1978 on TV Land in 1997. At that time, the still-new cable station was playing old shows that did not last long, and I happened to catch a few episodes of this one. Most likely I did not watch it the first time it was on, at least not that I can remember:) It only ran for three months in the fall of 1978. I'm not sure how many episodes I saw on TV Land, as only nine aired before the series was cancelled in December of 1978.

The show was created by Garry Marshall, and was a reworking of an earlier series, Blansky's Beauties starring Nancy Walker. Both shows were about Las Vegas showgirls, and shared some of the same cast members. Who's Watching the Kids?, however, emphasized the younger siblings of two showgirls. Showgirls Stacy Turner (Caren Kaye) and Angie Vitola (Lynda Goodfriend, later to play Lori Beth on Happy Days) shared an apartment, and both had younger siblings living with them: Stacy's sister Melissa (Tammy Lauren) and Angie's brother Frankie (Scott Baio, already known as Chachi on Happy Days). Also on hand were the girls' landlady Mitzi Logan (Marcia Lewis), Larry Parnell (Larry Breeding), a weather reporter next door who was assigned the task of watching the kids, and Bert Gunkel (Jim Belushi), Larry's cameraman, who also helped Larry keep an eye on Melissa and Frankie. Kids aired on NBC even though Blansky's Beauties had been on ABC.

Larry Breeding later starred on another short-lived series, The Last Resort. In 1982, he filmed a sitcom pilot called It's Not Easy, with Gerald McRaney. The new show was to begin that fall, pending the fate of McRaney's previous series, Simon and Simon. When that show was renewed at the last minute, It's Not Easy was put on hold until replacement for McRaney could be found. Breeding then died in a car accident in September 1982. His final appearance had been earlier that year on an episode of Laverne and Shirley. And for the record, It's Not Easy finally made it to the air in the fall of 1983 (with Ken Howard and Bert Convy replacing McRaney and Breeding, respectively), but was quickly cancelled. Its competition included Cheers on NBC and wait for it---Simon and Simon on CBS.

The series intro is below. Caren Kaye does not appear, as according the comments on this video, she was let go after a few episodes due to retooling. I have not been able to find the intro with her in it. Read the comments for more. It's a lot to explain here, and I can't seem to find anything on this on IMDb or Wikipedia, which you think would have explained this! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

V: Veronica's Closet


#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

I have actually talked about this show on my blog before. At that time, I had a flashback to this show, then found episodes on Daily Motion which have since been removed. Only a few people I know seem to remember this, one of the many work-place sitcoms that surfaced in the 1990s. This one ran from 1997 to 2000, and during its first year, was shown in the Thursday slot after Seinfeld (in its final season). But over next two seasons, the time slot was changed several times and in June of 2000 it was cancelled, leaving four episodes unaired. USA Network then reran the show, showing the previously unseen episodes in December of 2000. 

Four years after Cheers left the air, Kirstie Alley returned to TV as Veronica "Ronnie" Chase, recently divorced owner of a lingerie company called Veronica's Closet (a take-off on real-life lingerie company Victoria's Secret). Her staff included Perry Rollins (Dan Cortese, former MTV personality), the dimwitted publicist and a former underwear model; Leo Michaels (Daryl "Chill" Mitchell, formerly of The John Laroquette Show, and currently on Fear of the Walking Dead), the harried market manager; Josh Blair (Wallace Langham, formerly of The Larry Sanders Show and later of CSI), her assistant, who continually denied that he was gay, finally coming out in the last season; and Olive Massery (Kathy Najimy, from Hocus Pocus and the Sister Act movies, and King of the Hill), the Chief Financial Officer. Seen during the first season was Robert Prosky as Ronnie's father Pat, who was also her chauffeur (he was written out without explanation). Ron Silver came on board the second season as Alec Bilson, who now owned the company with Ronnie, but his character was not popular with viewers. As such, Silver was dropped from the cast with the explanation that Alec had died from falling into a volcano. It was then revealed that before he died, he'd gotten married to June (Lorri Bagley), a regular on the final season. June got a share of the company from Alec until she was bought out by Olive. 

As I said, the episodes I'd once found on Daily Motion are no longer available, and can't seem to find any full episodes on Youtube either, though the opening theme for all three seasons and a few clips are available. 

Monday, April 25, 2022

U: Unhappily Ever After

#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

This was one of the four sitcoms that launched the now-defunct WB Network in early 1995, along with The Parent 'Hood, The Wayans Bros., and Muscle. All but Muscle returned for WB's first full season, each lasting until 1999. The WB closed in 2006, as did rival network UPN, the two merging into the CW.

Unhappily Ever After was basically the opposite of Married...With Children, the show that had helped launch the Fox network just eight years earlier. The focus was on the Molloy family of Los Angeles: alcoholic patriarch Jack (Geoff Pierson), a cynical and chronically depressed used-car salesman; Jennie (Stephanie Hodge) his irritable ex-wife (who was killed off in the final season), and their children Ryan (Kevin Connelly), Tiffany (Nikki Cox) and Ross (Justin Berfield, pre-Malcolm in the Middle). Bobcat Goldthwait was the voice of Jack's stuffed rabbit, Mr. Floppy, to whom only Jack could talk. Joyce Van Patten played Jennie's mother Maureen for the first two seasons. Gradually Tiffany became the focus of the show once her mother was killed off. 

In my area, there was no WB station for most of the time that network was around. Really hard to explain this in full, but one might seem to guess that I never saw this. Yes and no. At home, no, but when I left for college in fall of 1995 I saw maybe a few episodes over the two years I was on campus (we got cable hooked up in our housing). I can't remember a specific episode, but I do remember the opening theme song, Ray Charles's "Hit the Road, Jack," used beginning in the second season (watch below). Episodes can be found here on Youtube.  

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Bonus: Forgotten Cartoons Based on Prime Time Shows

Everyone remembers watching cartoons on Saturday while eating cereal in their pajamas. Since I didn't include any cartoon shows in my regular posts, I chose to post on some here. Specifically, cartoons that were based on prime-time TV shows. There are far too many to list in one post, so I will list a few that have stuck in my mind. More can be found in this link. Also, some prime-time series were made into animated specials (some can be found here).

Fonz and the Happy Days Gang: The gang from Happy Days (minus Potsie) went on time-traveling adventures, trying to get back to Milwaukee in 1957. Going them were Cupcake, a "future chick," and a dog, Mr. Cool. The intro, narrated by Wolfman Jack, is below:

Laverne and Shirley: The famous duo joined the army in this animated version of the hit series. Their immediate superior was Sgt. Squealy Pig, voiced by Ron Palillo (formerly of Welcome Back, Kotter):

The Fonz's and Laverne and Shirley's respective shows joined forces in 1982, welcoming another cartoon segment based on a hit show. Months after Mork and Mindy left the air, its characters were brought to animated Saturday morning TV:

And one that wasn't actually based on a series, but rather on the star of a popular prime-time show, The Gary Coleman Show. The cartoon was based on a made-for-TV movie starring the Diff'rent Strokes cast member, The Kid with the Broken Halo.  Coleman's character, Andy LeBeau, was dispatched to help a child in need and resolve his problem by his supervisor and fellow angel, Angelica. The antagonist in each episode was Hornswoggle, who tried to mess up Andy's plans. Andy's friends (who didn't know he's really an angel) included Tina and her brother Spence, Bartholomew and Lydia.

Another celebrity who was popular in the 1980s, Mr. T of The A-Team, also had a Saturday-morning cartoon based on him. 

Bonus: Total Television Book

One thing that inspired my theme this year was having owned several editions of this book:

The edition pictured was the last update of the book. The info contained only goes up to the fall of 1995, after the launchings of the now-defunct networks UPN and WB. A book that hasn't ben updated in more than 25 years. But it's easy to see why. With all the streaming services as well as the networks and cable stations carrying original series, it would make for a heavy, super-long book, bigger probably than an unabridged dictionary. And please, let's not get too argumentative--we have the Internet so....

My copy of the above edition is so wrong it's fallen apart. Nevertheless, I still glance it, and despite it being terribly outdated, I did use it to find ideas for my blog posts. Only two shows I included in my posts (both coming up this week, as the A to Z winds down) came out after the last edition of this book. 

While recently glancing through my worn copy of the book, I came across listings for TV shows I don't actually remember:

FTV (Syndicated; 1985) A show that parodied music videos hosted by former Eagles member Don Felder? How did I miss this? It must not have been shown on any station in my area. Sounds like something that might have gotten dumped to the afternoon TV wasteland on Saturday or Sunday, subject to preemption by sports and breaking news stories.  Here is a clip I then found on YouTube.

You Write the Songs (Syndicated; 1986). A contest for amateur song writers, with Ben Vereen as host. Again, I don't remember this being on any local stations. A clip on Youtube. Also, Zoobilee Zoo, which Vereen also hosted that same year. The series intro is here.

Again, I don't seem to remember these, and I'm old enough to have seen them. I can't even recall hearing about them! But given my age at the time, I might not have been interested in these shows, as most were aimed at younger kids. Something tells me I had better things to watch then. 

And this one I don't recall seeing or even hearing about: Getting In Touch, hosted by psychiatrist David Viscott, syndicated in 1987. Though I'm pretty sure I would not have wanted to watch this! And I'm now surprised my local NBC station didn't snag this to air in the off-network hours, but I guess they had better syndicated stuff to show at those times, like Oprah Winfrey and Wheel of Fortune.

Now you can see there are things on TV *I* don't recollect!

Saturday, April 23, 2022

T: Throb


#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

Another post-Soap role for Diana Canova, in which she played a divorcee working at a record company with mostly younger employees. Both Paul Walker and Jane Leeves had early roles on the show. Walker, however, only appeared on the first season. Throb aired in syndication from 1986 to 1988. I watched this whenever I could, as I was never sure when to find it on. 

Sandy Beatty (Canova) was the divorced mom of the series, and her son Jeremy was first played by Walker, then by Sean de Vertich, who'd had appeared in Season One as  friend of Jeremy's. Sandy's boss was Zach Armstrong (Jonathan Prince, formerly of a short-lived series, Mr. Merlin), and her coworkers were Prudence "Blue" Bartlett (Leeves) and business manager Phil Gaines (Richard Cummings, Jr.). Sandy's best friend was Meredith, a teacher who lived nearby. She was played by Maryedith Burrell, formerly of Fridays, and later of the previously mentioned Parenthood from 1990, and the Tom Arnold comedy The Jackie Thomas Show

I was disappointed that Jeremy got replaced. The new guy just didn't compare. Though Paul Walker did go onto a successful film career before his untimely death (RIP). And of course Jane Leaves went on to play Daphne on Frasier.

Friday, April 22, 2022

S: Sisters


#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

Though it had a six-season run and was rerun on Lifetime for a few years, this NBC drama from the mid-90s isn't widely seen today. It performed surprising well on Saturday nights at 10PM. It was notable in that several soon-to-be famous stars made appearances. Ashley Judd and Paul Rudd had recurring roles, and Kirsten Dunst appeared in two episodes. And it was another pre-ER role for George Clooney. 

This was one of my must-watch shows. I'd always wanted to have a sister and I kind of felt like I did as result of watching this show.

The title characters were four adult sisters and their everyday lives and challenges. The girls, whose late father had wanted boys, were thus given boyish nicknames. Alexandra (Swoosie Kurtz, of the previously mentioned Love, Sidney), the oldest was called Alex, Theodora (Sela Ward), the second sister was known as Teddy, Georgiana (Patricia Kalember, formerly of ABC's thirtysomething) became Georgie, and the youngest, Francesca (Julianne Phillips) was known as Frankie. Their widowed mother Beatrice Reed (Elizabeth Hoffman) was an alcoholic who later remarried and died at the end of the series. Husbands included Georgie's John Whitsig (Garrett M. Brown) and Mitch Margolis (Ed Marinaro, formerly of Hill Street Blues), originally married to Teddy and later to Frankie (they too, ended up divorcing). Children were Alex's daughter's Reed Halsey Philby (played by three different actresses over the series run, the second of whom was Ashley Judd), Teddy and Mitch's daughter Cat (Heather McAdam) Georgie's sons Trevor (Ryan Francis) and Evan (Dustin Berkowitz). While married to Mitch, Frankie, unable to carry a baby, asked Georgie to be a surrogate mother. Georgie gave birth to Frankie's son, Thomas George. Later on in the series another sister was discovered, the result of their late father's affair years earlier. The newly discovered half-sister was Dr. Charlotte Bennett (played first by Jo Anderson, then by Sheila Kelley--former of L.A. Law). In keeping with the boyish-naming theme, she became known as Charlie. When Julianne Phillips left the series in the spring of 1995, it was explained Frankie had gone to Japan to market a kids' toy (She would return for the series finale, however). Charlie thus became a regular for the final season (1995-96). As for other characters who came and went, there is such long list to put here! Click above to read everything you need to know.

A gimmick of the show had the characters interacting with their younger selves, played by younger performers. Usually it was just the sisters themselves who has this, but other characters did the same on occasion. (Dunst was seen twice as Cat's younger self, Kitten). A sample is in the clip below, from the pilot episode: 

Originally each episode opened with the title characters hanging out in a  steam room, but was changed beginning in season three (this video does not allow playback on other sites). The pilot episode, when aired on NBC, cut out the steam room opening due to a line (something I dare not mention!), though the scene did get shown on Lifetime.

Some clips from the show:

Not to be confused with Sister, Sister [ABC (1994-95), WB (1995-99)], about twins separated at birth and adopted by different families. After a chance encounter at a shopping mall, they force their very different adoptive parents to move in together so that the twins can get to know each other--sort of The Parent Trap crossed with The Odd Couple.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

R: Real People


#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

Reality TV seemed to have taken off in the 1990s and 2000s with shows such as MTV's The Real WorldSurvivor, as well as the current slew of such shows. But the genre existed well before then, and one example is this series that ran on NBC from 1979 to 1984. Before Youtube and the Internet, and even before America's Funniest Home Videos, this was how "real people" (non-celebrities, the focus of this show) became stars for a day.

Produced by George Schlatter, who had produced Laugh-In in the 1960s, Real People was introduced in the spring of 1979, and was then renewed for the following season. Along with the pre-taped segments of people with unusual occupations or hobbies, the series also featured a segment showing funny pictures or newspaper errors sent in by viewers, kind of like Jay Leno's "Headlines" segment on The Tonight ShowThose whose items were featured on the air were then sent a Real People T-shirt (the items could not be returned to the sender, however). The success of the show (at a time when NBC was third place in the ratings) led to imitator shows, such as CBS's That's My Linewith Bob Barker (I never saw that one) and ABC's long-running That's Incredible!  (I saw that one several times). Real People also had two spinoffs, Speak Up, America and Real Kids, neither of which were as popular as the original. The show was syndicated in half-hour segments as More Real People

The various hosts of this series included Sarah Purcell, John Barbour, Skip Stephenson, Bill Rafferty, Byron Allen, and Peter Billingsley. Billingsley is best known as Messy Marvin in a series of commercials for Hershey's Chocolate Syrup and as the star of the perennial holiday-movie favorite A Christmas Story.

Real People aired on Wednesday nights as a lead-in to The Facts of Life, one of the shows I always watched as a child. This seems to the the only reason I ever watched Real People at all. These days, I could not even begin to watch any sort of reality TV. I basically tuned away from MTV once shows like The Real World started taking over. I did not even take to time to watch the Holderness Family on The Amazing Race recently, and I love watching their videos!

Below is a video highlighting the series. There is a Youtube channel is devoted to the series. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Q: Quark


#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

For this tricky letter, I had to go with something I had never seen, only heard of.  Some time ago, a link to a list of Forgotten Science Fiction shows from the 1970s from MeTV came up on my Facebook newsfeed and one that was included was Quark. The show was also mentioned recently when one of its stars passed away. It was created by Buck Henry, who'd created Get Smart, a spoof of spy shows, a decade earlier. Henry tried to do the same for science-fiction with this one, but Quark only lasted a few weeks in 1978. The pilot aired in May of 1977.

The setting was the United Galaxy Sanitation Patrol Cruiser, an interstellar garbage scow operating out of United Galaxies Space Station Perma One in the year 2226. The cast included Richard Benjamin as the title character, Adam Quark, a commander put on garbage duty on the ship, cloned twins named Betty (real-life twins Cyb and Patricia Barnstable), a transgendered engineer  known as Gene/Jean (Timothy Thomerson), officer Ficus Pandorata (Richard Kelton, who died seven months after the series was cancelled), and Otto Bob Palindrome (Conrad Janis, who passed away in March), who is charge of Perma One. Janis went on to play Mindy's father Fred on Mork and Mindy, which premiered the following season and ran for four years. It took several months for a successful sci-fi comedy to reach the air, and more then a decade before Mel Brooks scored a sci-fi spoof with the film Spaceballs.

This is not something I likely would have watched at the time. There are episodes on Youtube, but I don't know if I ever will watch them. I can only take so much science fiction. I've been watching Land of the Giants on Youtube and that is a lot to take in. Below is the series intro, with a very disco-like instrumental theme:

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

P: Parenthood (1990 Series)


#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

A year after Ron Howard's hit film Parenthood hit the cinemas, a TV adaptation was made. Like the previously mentioned Ferris Bueller TV show, Parenthood debuted on NBC in August of 1990 and was cancelled just before Christmas, with one leftover episode airing late the following summer.  The now-defunct cable network Trio named Parenthood as part of their Brilliant But Cancelled series in 2005 (the episode below was recorded from that series).

Unlike the later Parenthood TV series, the 1990 one carried over most the same characters from the film, except the brother Larry (Tom Hulce's role in the movie) and his son. Two of the kids from the movie reprised their roles on TV, and one of the TV children was played by an actor who'd played Steve Martin's character as a youngster in the film. The cast of the series is so large I can't mention them all here, but there are few of note. Thora Birch, Leonardo DiCaprio, and David Arquette all had early roles on this series, with Arquette taking on the Keanu Reeves part from the movie, and DiCaprio standing in for Joaquin Phoenix. Other notable cast members included former St. Elsewhere star Ed Begley Jr., in the Steve Martin film role, and MTV personality Ken Ober (Remote Control) taking on the Rick Moranis part. Click the link above to see a side-by-side table of the TV cast and the movie cast.

Not to be confused with The Parent 'Hood, one of the first sitcoms to air on the now-defunct WB network.

Monday, April 18, 2022

O: One of the Boys


#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

I have some recollection of watching this comedy, a midseason replacement series on NBC in 1982. TV Guide ranked it among the "50 Worst Shows of All Time" in 2002. This didn't last long, but it did bring Mickey Rooney and Scatman Crothers back to TV for a while, and introduced three soon-to-be big stars: Dana Carvey, Nathan Lane, and Meg Ryan. Carvey would join the cast of Saturday Night Live  four years after this series, staying with the popular sketch-comedy show until 1993. Carvey recalled working with Rooney on One of the Boys on David Letterman. Lane would become a big star on both film and stage, and Ryan would have several hit movies, including When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle.

Senior citizens Oliver Nugent (Rooney) and Bernard Solomon (Crothers) decide to leave their retirement home and move in with Oliver's college-age grandson  Adam Shields (Carvey) and his roommate Jonathan Burns (Lane), both students at Sheffield University. Jane (Ryan), a recurring character, was a college classmate of Adam and Jonathan. Rounding out the cast was Francine Beers as Mrs. Green, the boys' landlady.

A full episode is at Youtube as well as some clips of Carvey's and Lane's characters:

One of the Boys was also the name of another completely different short-lived NBC sitcom in 1989. I never saw this one, as far as I can recall.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Happy Easter & Some Easter Fun

Wishing everyone a Happy Easter (and what ever other holiday you celebrate). And want to share some funny stuff:

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Halfway Through A to Z

#AtoZChallenge 2022 banner

Wow, the month is already half-over, meaning Blogging A to Z is halfway done. 

Thank you for all the views and comments so far. 

Some of the blogs I have been visiting:

Doses of Wild YAM

Martha Reynolds Writes

The Versesmith

Lisa's Gardening Adventure

Teleporting Weena

Backsies is What There Is not

Tasha's Thinkings

Dena's Ramblings

Panorama of the Mountains

Tossing It Out

And I get to others as well. There are just a lot of them

It's been fun so far and I look forward to seeing the rest of the A to Z. Only two weeks left now. 

N: The New Gidget


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The famous surfer girl played by several actresses on screen and by Sally Field on TV in the 1960s returned to the screen one last time in this syndicated sitcom that ran from 1986 to 1988. It outlasted the the original series by a year. A pilot movie, "Gidget's Summer Reunion" had aired just a year earlier.

In this series, Frances "Gidget" Lawrence was now in her 20s and married to Jeff "Moondoggie" Griffin. Caryn Richman (later to play Greg's wife in the Brady Bunch sequel The Bradys) played Gidget, who now ran a travel agency, and Dean Butler (who'd previously played Almanzo Wilder on Little House on the Prairie) was Jeff, a city planner in Santa Monica. William Schallert (best known as Patty Duke's TV dad) was Gidget's father Russ Lawrence. Anne, Gidget's sister, and her husband John were overseas; as such their teenage daughter Danielle "Dani" Collins (Sydney Penny, future soap opera actress, and mostly recently on Pretty Little Liars) stayed with her aunt and uncle. Dani was similar to how her aunt had been as a teen, as Dani and her friend Gail Baker (Lili Haydn, who played Jenny, the daughter on Mrs. Columbo, and is also a professional violinist) were always getting into trouble. Gail was much like Gidget's childhood friend Larue (played occasionally by Jill Jacobson). In the TV movie, Gidget's niece had been named Kim. 

I really loved watching this one. It was a guilty pleasure for me. One thing, though, I didn't really like the Gail character (she was bit annoying) and I would get annoyed if Russ was not in an episode but Gail was. She was only a recurring cast member. I was surprised she wasn't promoted to the opening credits for the second season. I wondered, when Gail was tagging along with the Griffins on vacations, who was paying for her tickets? We never saw her parents. And something that never occurred to me until I read something on this blog: No appearances by Sally Field. I guess she was too busy with her film career at the time. It would be years before Field returned to series TV. 

The theme song remained the same for both seasons, but new graphics were added for the second year. Going with the show's surfing theme, one episode featured an appearance by '60s surf-rock stars and Jan and Dean, and another episode was a tribute to Gilligan's Island, with Gilligan cast members Alan Hale and Bob Denver.

Friday, April 15, 2022

M: Marblehead Manor


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In 1987, NBC attempted to create a block of programming to lead into their 8-11 pm (ET) evening block, five sitcoms on five different nights. This was known as "Prime Time Begins at 7:30", or "Checkerboard Sitcoms." Stations not affiliated with NBC were able to acquire these shows as well. Three of the shows, including Marblehead Manor, were cancelled after one season along with the experiment itself. The two shows that survived, She's the Sheriff (with Suzanne Somers) and Out of this World (starring Donna Pescow of the previously mentioned Angie), moved to weekend syndication, with Sheriff lasting until 1989, and World until 1991. The other two shows in the block were a revival of an NBC comedy from 1983 called We Got It Made, and a TV adaptation of the hit play You Can't Take It With You. A compilation of each show's intros can be seen here. In my area, Marblehead Manor was carried by my local NBC station, but on Saturday nights, since the said station carried Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy on weeknights in the 7PM hour. I watched this one several times.

The series revolved around Marblehead Manor, the estate of corn-oil heir Randolph Stonehill (Bob Fraser) and his wife Hillary (Linda Thorson, Diana Rigg's replacement on The Avengers--the 1960s adventure series, not those Avengers!). The staff included the butler Albert Dudley (Paxton Whitehead, later the British neighbor on Mad About You), the maid Lupe (Dyana Ortelli) and her son Elvis (Humberto Ortiz, Ortelli's real-life son), handyman Dwayne (Rodney Scott Hudson). But the two most famous cast members to come out this little-remembered show were Michael Richards (formerly of the sketch-comedy series Fridays) as Rick, the klutzy gardener, and Phil Morris as Jerry the chauffeur (Dwayne's brother). Richards, of course, played Kramer on Seinfeld three years later, and Morris appeared in several episodes as lawyer Jackie Chiles. Prior to playing Chiles, Morris had starred in the Mission Impossible reboot of 1988-90, playing the son of the character his real-life father Greg Morris had played on the original series from 1966 to 1973. 

From what I remember of watching this series, it seemed reminiscent of British comedies set in manors, though it was set in the US. Below is the show's intro, plus some episodes discovered on Youtube (more can be found here):

Thursday, April 14, 2022

L: Love, Sidney


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This was almost one of the first series to have a gay lead character. Almost, in that in the made-for-TV movie pilot, the character had in fact been openly gay, but that fact was never mentioned when the series premiered. His sexual orientation was hinted at in some episodes, however, such as when the building super's wife tried to win his affections and in the show's final episode. The producers were afraid that a show with an openly gay lead would not get many sponsors. After Love, Sidney ended its two-year run in 1983, its network NBC screened the previously mentioned Brothers pilot, but turned that one down over concern on how to accurately portray a homosexual. It would be more than a decade until NBC debuted the gay-led Will and Grace. 

Tony Randall (in his final TV series, after The Odd Couple and The Tony Randall Show) played the main character Sidney Shorr, an ad designer who shared his apartment with single mother and actress Laurie Morgan (Swoosie Kurtz; Lorna Patterson had played the role in the TV movie, but was already starring on the TV adaptation of Private Benjamin) and her daughter Patti (Kaleena Kiff, later to play Wally's daughter in the Leave It to Beaver sequel, The New Leave It to Beaver). Laurie starred on a fictional soap opera, As Thus We Are. Barbara Byrne was also seen as Mrs. Gaffney, the wife of the building super, and Chip Zien was Jason Stoller, an ad agency director for whom Sidney designed ads.

The three main stars sang the theme song for the first season, but in season two, a new version by Gladys Knight and her brother Bubba (one of the Pips) was used. 

I watched this one regularly, and vaguely remember a few episodes, such as one where Patti sets fire to the apartment. As I recall, the show's time slot was shifted once or twice during the second season, though I do know it was on Mondays just before it was cancelled. It has not been rerun as far as I have seen. 

On a side note, an episode of Gimme a Break! was titled "Love, Kidney," a  reference to this series title. Both shows debuted in 1981, with Gimme a Break! lasting until 1987.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

K: Kids Incorporated


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Decades before the cast members of Glee broke out into song several times per episode, there was this show that used that same gimmick. Originally a syndicated series from 1984 to 1986, Kids Incorporated moved to the Disney Channel, lasting into the mid-1990s.

Among those who got their start on the show were Stacy Ferguson, today known as Fergie from the Black-Eyed Peas, and pop star Martika, billed in the first season under her real name Marta Marerro. One of the later seasons introduced Jennifer Love Hewitt, then billed as Love Hewitt. Mario Lopez also appeared as a background dancer. 

I only saw this when it was in syndication. The Disney Channel was still a pay-cable channel at the time. I remember getting free previews of Disney and other pay-cable channels. I would tape movies from these free previews like crazy! I don't remember seeing Kids Inc., however during any of the Disney free previews.

Below is the first-season intro, a compilation of each years' intro and some clips of members performing hit songs. Search youtube for more clips.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

J: Just the Ten of Us


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This was a spinoff from Growing Pains, focusing on Coach Graham Lubbock (Bill Kirchenbauer) moving to California after losing his job at the Long Island high school the Seaver kids attended. He then became coach at St. Augustine's, an all-boy Catholic school that his daughters were allowed to attend. The show began as a two-part backdoor pilot on Growing Pains in the spring of 1988, then was given a four-week trial run. It then lasted two more full seasons.

The Lubbock family was Catholic, with seven kids already and another on the way. 
The rest of the family was his wife Elizabeth (Deborah Harmon) and their children Marie (Heather Langenkamp, from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies), twins Cindy (Jamie Luner) and Wendy (Brooke Theiss), Constance (Jo Ann Willette), Graham Jr "J.R" (Matt Shakman), Sherry (Heidi Zeigler), toddler Harvey, and baby Melissa. Frank Bonner (in between his gigs WKRP in Cincinnati and the The New WKRP) was the school's headmaster Father Hargis and Dennis Haysbert (today  the spokesvoice for Allstate Insurance) was Lubbock's assistant coach for the first full season (1988-89). Evan Arnold was also seen as St. Augustine student Gavin Doosler, and Maxine Elliott as Sister Ethel. The four oldest girls later formed a singing group The Lubbock Babes, and gradually became the focus of the series

This one of the shows I watched on Fridays on ABC. I glad to see someone else named Jamie (series star Jamie Luner) as so few other people ever shared my name (I was surrounded by mainly Jennifers, Karens, Lisas, and Michelles). Even better when I learned she and I are the same age! 

Below is the theme song. I also found some full episodes on Youtube (click here).

Monday, April 11, 2022

I: I'm a Big Girl Now


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After leaving Soap in 1980, Diana Canova starred on this series, from the same team as Soap and its spinoff Benson: producers Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas (son of TV legend Danny Thomas, who also starred on this series) and creator Susan Harris. This was later the team behind The Golden Girls. The show's start was delayed by an actors's strike during the 1980-81 season, premiering at the end of October 1980, on Friday nights following Benson, as noted in this promo from ABC:

Divorced mom Diana Cassidy (Canova) and her father, dentist Benjamin Douglas (Thomas) were the central characters. After his wife ran off with his partner, Dr. Douglas moved in with Diana and her daughter Becky (Rori King). Michael Durrell (who later played Donna's father on Beverly Hills 90210) was Benjamin's son and Diana's brother, Walter. Diana's boss was Edie McKendrick (Sheree North), and her coworkers were Neal Stryker (Martin Short, before SCTV and Saturday Night Live) and Karen Hawks (Deborah Baltzell). Originally, they were employed at a think tank, but in the last episodes, were working at a newspaper. Baltzell died in October 1981, several months after the show as cancelled, at the age of 25. King, who left acting to become a psychologist, died in 2015 at age 44. RIP.

I seem to recall a line from one episode that became a private joke in my family. It would be hard to explain now. I would've liked to see a clip from the show, but none could be found on Youtube. Not much seems to be found about the show on Youtube besides the promo above and the series intro/theme song (sung by Canova):

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Recent Book Hauls

I just got the sad word that the used bookstore in nearby Gilroy, CA has lost its lease and will have to vacate soon (I'm not sure when). I was last at the store on the last Sunday in March, and had no idea until I saw something about this on Facebook earlier this past week. The cat from the bookstore now needs to find a new home. This was so sad. I loved going to this store! And the cat was so sweet! 

On what will probably the last time I ever got to visit the store (again, I don't know exactly when they are closing), I went looking for one of the books on this list. This is one of the prompts this year on this challenge. I wrote down the titles upon first glancing at the list, since it's a click list (and I didn't want to have click through it more than once). A lot of the books on the list I have already read, and others are hard to find, including Dune (still haven't found any used copies of that one). And there  are some books listed that I have never heard of. I ended up finding and buying this book from the list (I also got Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat and The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton that some day).

And our county  library's monthly book sale returned yesterday after a winter break. I was amazed how much stuff I found at this one! More than I would have expected. 
  • No Wind of Blame--Georgette Heyer
  • Stories by Katherine Mansfield
  • Strange Tales From a Chinese Studio--Pu Songling
  • The Pilgrim's Progress--John Bunyan
  • The Odd Women--George Gissing
  • Smoke and Mirrors--K.D. Halbrook
  • The Education of Margot Sanchez--Lilliam Rivera
  • Memoirs of A Teenage Amnesiac--Gabrielle Zevin
I could not believe how many I found! Mostly stuff I have never heard of!

Saturday, April 9, 2022

H: Harper Valley PTA


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Written by country music legend Tom T. Hall, the song "Harper Valley PTA" became a country crossover hit for Jeannie C. Riley, hitting #1 on both the country and pop charts. It was the first song by a woman singer to achieve that distinction,  something that did not happen again until 1981, when Dolly Parton topped both said charts with "9 to 5."

In 1978, the song became a movie, starring Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie). When the movie aired on NBC in 1980, the network was impressed with the ratings and ordered a series based on the movie. It was originally going to be an hour long, but was shortened to 30 minutes, just before its premiere. Due to an actors's strike that delayed the start of most of the 1980-81 season, Harper Valley PTA did not make it to the air until January 1981. 

Eden reprised her film role as  Stella Johnson who served on the school's PTA (Parent-Teacher Association), battling against the evil PTA head Flora Simpson-Reilly (Anne Francine), her snobby daughter Wanda Reilly Taylor (Bridget Hanley) and Wanda's husband, lawyer Bobby Taylor (Rod McCary). Rounding out the cast were Jenn Thompson as Dee, Stella's daughter, Suzi Dean as the Taylors' daughter Scarlett, Fannie Flagg as Stella's friend Cassie, a beautician, and George Gobel as Otis Harper, the town's mayor, a descendant of the town's namesake family. Several recurring cast members appeared during the first-half season as other members of the PTA. The show was produced by Sherwood Schwartz, producer of Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch. Claudio Guzman, who'd directed episodes of Jeannie, also directed some from this series as well. 

Though the PTA had been integral to the song and movie, this aspect was dropped as the show entered a second season under the new title Harper Valley, with Mills Watson coming on board as Stella's uncle, Winslow Homer "Buster" Smith. Watson was fresh off an earlier series,  The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. Originally airing on Friday nights, Harper Valley moved to Thursday for Season Two, only to get bumped to Saturday. Without the PTA, the series was just another generic sitcom.

I can't seem remember any of the second-season episodes, but  a few from the spring 1981 tryout have stuck in my mind. In one, Stella learned Flora was tampering with Stella's mail, so Stella wrote herself a fake letter from an imaginary Middle Eastern princess who will be visiting Harper Valley. This was an homage to I Dream of Jeannie.

The original song was used for the first season intro, and was reworked for the second season: