Friday, November 03, 2006

Hallmark Channel Moves M*A*S*H*, Removes The Waltons; Book Review of Happier Days: Paramount Television's Classic Sitcoms 1974-1984

Effective November 27, The Hallmark Channel will be moving M*A*S*H's 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET/PT slot to 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. ET/PT. Why? Because they are preparing the new slot because by January they can only air the show between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., because TV Land has rights in a shared window deal. TV Land will have rights from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. ET/PT. So, Hallmark will air M*A*S*H from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and will continue to air it early evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET/PT. The Waltons was previously airing back-to-back at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and now will be off the schedule. They still have rights until April, I think, so it could return. Replacing M*A*S*H at 11 p.m. will be Hallmark Movies. Click here to view the changes and to discuss it.

Happier Days: Paramount Television's Classic Sitcoms 1974-1974

Happier Days: Paramount Television's Classic Sitcoms 1974-1984 (Billboard Books, $16.95)

It was the best of times, it was--well, the best of times! In the decade between 1974 and 1984, the Paramount lot was a cauldron of creativity, talent, and innovation. Marley Brant, brings her influence and years of access together in HAPPIER DAYS: Paramount Television’s Classic Sitcoms 1974-1984 (Billboard Books; $16.95; October 2006), a behind-the-scenes look at Happy Days, Taxi, Cheers and more than a dozen other television series produced there during a decade of madcap inspiration and accomplishment.

In the interim between the debut of "Happy Days" and the final episode of "Cheers," many of the entertainment industry's biggest stars, best writers, most skilled directors and most successful producers were discovered or their already established talents nurtured, lifelong friendships and renowned professional alliances were created, and the landscape of the television sitcom was definitely altered. The talent was tremendous: Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, Martin Short, Michael J. Fox, Henry Winkler, Penny Marshall, Andy Kaufman, Donna Pescow, Danny De Vito - actors who would become superstars, many appearing in their first starring roles.

Through a series of intimate and revealing interviews, her own firsthand knowledge and exhaustive research, former Paramount television publicist Marley Brant takes us behind the scenes of these legendary shows for an up-close and personal look at the talented people who brought them to life. Brant examines the personal and professional roots of the creative talent, the evolution of the shows, the intricate relationships among cast members, and the creation of some of the most popular episodes, as well as taping sessions, guest stars, and where the actors and crew are today. Packed full of insider information, anecdotes, cast lists, biographical facts and little-known or previously unpublished stories, Happier Days is the definitive chronicle of some of the most creative sitcoms of all time.

282 pages ~ 6 x 9 ~ 0-8230-8933-9

About the Author
Marley Brant is the author of seven books, many of which have been the featured research for television programs that have aired on A&E, The History Channel, VH1, TBS, and CMT. Brant has held many positions in the entertainment industry, including biographical writer, publicist, artist development executive, and music and television producer. Employed in the publicity office of Paramount Television in the late seventies and early eighties, she worked closely with the cast and crews of Paramount’s premier television productions.

My Review: As a big fan of many Paramount sitcoms, I was excited to learn about this new book. I was born in 1974, so these are the shows I grew up watching. The book is divided into 14 chapters, with various other sections included such as Acknowledgments, Introduction, Afterword, The Legacy, Timeline, Selected Credits, Sources, and Index. There are 24 black & white photos of the cast and crew scattered throughout the pages. The book focuses on 9 sitcoms:

Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, Taxi, Angie, The Bad News Bears, Bosom Buddies, Family Ties, and Cheers

There are lesser sections and mentions of the following short-lived shows:

Paper Moon, When Things Were Rotten, The Cop and the Kid, Blansky's Beauties, Busting Loose, Mulligan's Stew, Who's Watching the Kids, Brothers and Sisters,
Struck by Lightning, Working Stiffs, The Associates, Goodtime Girls, Here's Boomer, Best in the West, Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, Laverne & Shirley in the Army, and Joanie Loves Chachi

Recent interviews were conducted with Director Jim Burrows, Randall Carver, Pam Dawber, Corey Feldman, Michael Gross, Clint Howard, Donna Pescow, Misty Rowe, Suzi Quatro, and Director Howard Storm.

Chapter 1 - Before A Live Audience - This section gives some details on the tapings of Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, and Taxi. The tapings were often anything but predictable. What an experience it must have been to see an episode being taped.

Chapter 2 - Three Creative Forces Explode - Garry Marshall, Michael Eisner, and Barry Diller are profiled and details are given on how they got started in the business.

Chapter 3 - Love in the Happy Days - This section focuses primarily on the first season of Happy Days. It details how the pilot aired as an episode of Love, American Style. Casting and biographical information is given for Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Tom Bosley, Marion Ross, Anson Williams, Donny Most, Erin Moran, Gavan O'Herlihy, Randolph Roberts, Pat Morita, and various crew members.

Chapter 4 - Hello, Blue Skies - Seasons 2-11 of Happy Days are detailed. Al Molinaro, Suzi Quatro, Misty Rowe, Scott Baio, Beatrice Cohen, and Roz Kelly are profiled. Various topics covered include the guest stars, catchphrases, and the softball team. Misty Rowe (Wendy the Carhop) and Suzi Quatro (Leather Tuscadero) are interviewed.

Chapter 5 - Making Their Dreams Come True - Happy Days spin-off Laverne & Shirley is the focus here. Casting and biographical information is given for Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams, Eddie Mekka, Phil Foster, Betty Garrett, David L. Lander and Michael McKean. The fighting between Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams is detailed.

Chapter 6 - Triumph and Tribulation - More information is given on Laverne & Shirley.
Cindy Williams was often unhappy with the writers of the show, and once filed a lawsuit against the producers. There were some funny behind-the-scenes stories on the competetiveness between Penny and Cindy.

Chapter 7 - Mork Calling Paramount - Garry Marshall's son, Scott, wanted to see a show with a space alien, so that is where the idea for Mork & Mindy came from. Interestingly, Robin Williams wasn't originally supposed to play Mork and another actor played Mindy's father. Robin Williams, Pam Dawber, and the other cast members are profiled. Many interesting factoids are given, and the interviews with Pam Dawber and Director Howard Storm added a lot to this section.

Chapter 8 - Nanu Nanu Means Success - Seasons 2-4 of Mork & Mindy are detailed. Robert Donner, Jay Thomas, Gina Hecht, Jim Stahl, and Jonathan Winters are profiled. Guest star Corey Feldman is interviewed. A lot of the changes for the second season are discussed. As they always say, you never mess with or move a hit show. Moving Grey's Anatomy to Thursdays seems to have worked alright for ABC, though.

Chapter 9 - Hey, Taxi! - The development and first season of Taxi are discussed in great detail. I wasn't very familiar with Taxi before reading this section, so a lot of this information was knew to me. Profiles and the casting information is given for Juddd Hitrsh, Danny DeVito, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, Jeff Conaway, Randall Carver, and Andy Kaufman. There is some fascinating information on Andy Kaufman's contract and other casting details. Randall Carver is interviewed.

Chapter 10 - A New Kind of Family - Seasons 2-5 of Taxi are discussed. Rhea Perlman and Carol Kane bios are given. A lof of behind-the-scenes details are given on Jeff Conaway's problems and Andy Kauffman's wrestling career. The move from ABC to NBC is also detailed.

Chapter 11 - Different Worlds - The short-lived series, Angie, gets its own section. Donna Pescow, Robert Hays, Doris Roberts, John Randolph, and Debralee Scott are profiled. Due to some time slot changes, the show lasted only 36 episodes. Donna Pescow is interviewed.

Chapter 12 - Bears, Associates, and Cross-Dressers - This section covers The Bad News Bears, The Associates, Bosom Buddies, and several other short-lived sitcoms.
Jack Warden, Corey Feldman, and the rest of The Bad News Bears cast are profiled. Corey Feldman is interviewed and shares his experiences on working on the show. Wilfrid Hyde-White, Martin Short, Joe Regalbuto, Alley Mills, and Shelley Smith from The Associates are profiled. Despite running only 9 episodes, this show received a number of award nominations. Biographical information for Goodtime Girls actors Georgia Engel, Annie Potts, Lorna Patterson, Camille Rittenhouse, and Adrian Zmed is given. Finally, there is some information on Bosom Buddies. Tom Hanks, Peter Scolari, Wendie Jo Sperber, Donna Dixon, Telma Hopkins, Holland Taylor, and Lucille Benson are profiled. Interestingly, Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari were not the producer's first choices to play Kip and Henry.

Chapter 13 - A New Family in Town - Family Ties (finally coming to DVD!) is the focus here. Creator Gary David Goldberg, Michael J. Fox, Meredith Baxter, Justine Bateman, Tina Yothers, Marc Price, Scott Valentine, Tray Pollan, Brian Bonsall, and Courteney Cox are profiled. There is some interesting information on who else was considered for the roles of Steven and Alex P. Keaton. Michael Gross is interviewed.

Chapter 14 - Cheers to You - The bar where everybody knows your name is discussed in detail. Ted Danson, Shelley Long, John Ratzenberger, Nicholas Colosanto, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, Bebe Neuwirth, and Kirstie Alley are profiled. Many topics are discussed including the death of Nicholas Colosanto, adding Woody Harrelson to the cast, and Shelley Long's departure and Kirstie Alley's arrival. Director Jim Burrows is interviewed.

The Legacy - This section gives some information on where the cast members from Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Taxi, Mork & Mindy, Angie, The Bad News Bears, Bosom Buddies, Family Ties, and Cheers are now. There is also some information on the behind the camera people including James L. Brooks, James Burrows, Michael Eisner, Gary David Goldberg, and Garry Marshall.

Timeline - A listing of the Paramount shows mentioned in the book with their first and last episode dates.

Selected Credits - Cast, Producers, Directors, Writers, and Casting information for Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Taxi, Mork & Mindy, Angie, The Associates, Bosom Buddies, Family Ties, and Cheers.

Sources - The various books, interviews, and internet sites used for research information. It was a thrill to see 5 of my own sitcom sites listed!

Index - A handy index of the actors, shows, episodes, and other details mentioned in the book.

Final Comments: This book is as entertaining as the shows covered in it. Five of the sitcoms featured in this book (Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, Family Ties, and Cheers) are among my all-time favorites. I've read quite a bit information on these shows over the years, but this book provided even more new details to me. It was fascinating to see how some of the episode storylines came about and who else was considered for some of the roles. The interviews with the various cast and crew members added a lot of depth and insight into the shows. I would have loved to see even more interviews to provide behind the scenes details, especially from the Happy Days cast. This book is well organized and researched (I especially liked how the did you know? type facts were inserted), and I highly recommend it to any fans of the sitcoms covered in it.

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller
(4.5/5 stars)

To purchase the Book, click below and help support

Related links:
Happy Days Online
Mork & Mindy Onine
Family Ties Online
Cheers Central
Sitcoms Online - Angie
Sitcoms Online - Bosom Buddies
Sitcoms Online - Blansky's Beauties
Sitcoms Online - Joanie Loves Chachi

Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Monday, March 19

Kevin Can Wait - "Delivery Guy" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Vanessa convinces Kevin to go on a TV talk show with the “baby boy” he helped deliver years ago as a cop, but her plan to promote Monkey Fist backfires when Kevin runs into his arch-nemesis, Frank Munson (Ricardo Chavira), at the appearance. Michael Yo returns as Tom, a morning show host.

Man with a Plan - "March Madness" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Adam and Andi lose footage of an intimate moment they accidentally recorded, they have to track it down before anyone can see it.

Superior Donuts - "The Chicago Way" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Randy, who just passed the detective’s exam, is asked by her former supervisor, Ted (guest star Christopher McDonald), to talk to a female rookie who has filed a sexual harassment complaint against him. Also, Arthur’s usual arrangement with a city health inspector to ignore violations in the shop goes awry when a new by-the-book inspector shows up.

Living Biblically - "Thou Shalt Not Steal" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Chip infuriates his colleagues when he decides to follow the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Steal” and begins returning office supplies he stole.

American Dad - "" (TBS, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Stan deals with childhood issues of abandonment, which affects his performance at work; Klaus builds a website based on Smith family fails.

Complete TV Listings

Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of March 19)

Monday, March 19

  • Drew Barrymore (Santa Clarita Diet) - Watch Drew on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Adam DeVine (Workaholics/Modern Family) - Adam appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) - Kumail is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jenny Slate (Married/Parks and Recreation/Bob's Burgers) - Jenny visits The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) - Josh stops by Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Burt Reynolds (Evening Shade) - Burt appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Krysten Ritter (Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23) - Krysten chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Allison Janney (Mom/Mr. Sunshine) - Allison is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Zach Woods (Silicon Valley/Playing House/The Office) - Zach drops by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Billy Ray Cyrus (Still The King) - Billy Ray appears on a repeat of Harry, so check your local listings.
  • The Cast of You Me Her - Greg Pohler, Rachel Blanchard and Priscilla Faia are guests on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly/Love & Money/Love, Sidney) - Swoosie talks about The Dangerous Book for Boys on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Nia Long (Uncle Buck/The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) - Nia talks about Roxanne Roxanne on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Jay Pharoah (White Famous) - Jay talks about Unsane on the BUILD Series at 1pm.