Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010 TV Marathons; Blog Book Review: Lost Laughs of '50s and '60s Television

Happy Memorial Day! As we pay tribute to our troops, let's have some fun as well watching the tube on this day off! If you're not going outside, then there are plenty of TV options for you on this day! Are you headed to the shore or would you rather watch Jersey Shore (good god we hope not!)? Looking for DIY hints for your newest summer project? Then get out the beach towel, pull up a lawn chair and check out TV movies, specials and marathons for Memorial Day Weekend 2010!
Among the marathons today are the marathons we have previously mentioned, such as Bewitched and Sanford & Son on TV Land and The Tracy Morgan Show on TV One. Festivities begin on TV Land at 8am, while TV One starts their sitcom fun at 12 noon. BET has a marathon of The Game starting at 10am through 11pm.
Other marathons include Star Trek: The Next Generation marathon on BBC America, Criminal Minds marathon on ION, Cops on G4, American Gladiators on MTV2, The Unit marathon on Sleuth, Law & Order marathon on TNT, NCIS marathon on USA Network, and TeenNick's marathons of Zoey 101 and Drake & Josh.
For the full times of these marathons and much more marathons we didn't cover (like Band of Brothers on Spike and Hoarders on A&E), check out the full list from our pals at TV Tango!

Next up we have a special book review for you on this holiday! See skees53's Blog Book Review of Lost Laughs of '50s and '60s Television:

Lost Laughs of '50s and '60s Television

Lost Laughs of '50s and '60s Television (McFarland Publishers, $35.00) is David C. Tucker's look at thirty different sitcoms of the first two decades on television that have, for whatever reason, become "lost." And when they say lost, they really do mean lost. We all remember some of the biggest hits of those decades, such as I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, Leave it to Beaver, Bewitched, The Andy Griffith Show, and many others. But does anybody truly remember, for example Hennesey or Pete and Gladys, or for that matter, even heard of them? Tucker gives us all of the details of thirty sitcoms that shaped and molded the genre, then completely disappeared, mostly to never be seen again.

The book begins with a brief introduction by Tucker where he admits, for the most part, there is a reason that we don't hear much about these series. Simply put, many of the series were awful, but at the same time, fun to watch for that very reason. Some of the series were good series, but couldn't really go on due to financial or artistic differences of the cast and crew. Tucker doesn't claim that these sitcoms deserve more attention than the more popular series of the dawn of television, but rather presents the thirty chapters of this book to give some attention to those series that have come and gone, only to be buried deep in the archives (or in some cases, destroyed).

The book dedicates approximately five to ten pages to each of the sitcoms covered in the book, with each chapter beginning with cast and crew details as well as network and time slot information for the series. He then proceeds to give a few lines of dialog from the actual series itself, after which he goes into a detailed synopsis and critique (although he doesn't try to necessarily form an opinion) of each and every series that is covered in the book. The series that the book covers include the following:

* Angel - This series was supposed to be the answer to the recently ended series I Love Lucy, except in this series, the wife was the foreign one with the accent (French, to be specific) and the husband was the American born half. The series focuses on Angie (Annie Farge) trying to adapt to life in America.
* The Bill Dana Show - Bill Dana plays a Mexican immigrant trying to adjust to life in America (clearly, series like this were a big theme at the time).
* The Governor and J.J. - Late '60s sitcom about the private and public life of a governor and his daughter.
* The Great Gildersleeve - A series about a man raising his niece and her young brother who is always seeking romance, but can't seem to get a wife.
* Grindl - Anthology-style sitcom starring Imogene Coco, a maid and housekeeper who takes different jobs every week, and ends up in different circumstances.
* Happy - Early '60s sitcom that brings viewers inside the head of a baby who can seemingly talk (although the world around him doesn't hear him talk, think of the movie Look Who's Talking.
Hennesey - Early '60s sitcom that showed both the funny and serious world of the Navy.
* Hey, Jeannie! / The Jeannie Carson Show - Musical comedy that tells the story of a young woman arriving to America from Scotland.
* How to Marry a Millionaire - Based upon the film of the same title, three women are going through any means necessary to find the man of their dreams, specifically a rich one. Barbara Eden is one of the golddiggers (for the lack of a better word) of this series.
* Ichabod and Me - A Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher written series that, in the style of Newhart or the '80s film Funny Farm, takes a big city newspaper writer and his five-year-old son to a small New Hampshire town.
* I'm Dickens... He's Fenster - Duo played by John Astin and Marty Ingels perform slapstick-style comedy in this series where they work in the construction business.
* It's a Great Life - Francis Bavier plays a widow who rents a room in her home to two young men who have just returned home from the Army.
* It's About Time - Sherwood Schwartz sitcom about two astronauts who made a bad turn and ended up back in the days of cavemen, leading to confusion and chaos, much like his earlier series, Gilligan's Island.
* The Jim Backus Show: Hot Off the Wire - Series about a two-bit newspaper wire staff that will do almost anything to stay ahead of the game.
* Love on a Rooftop - A series from Screen Gems, produced by Harry Ackerman, about a young couple that finds love, despite her wealthy background and his poor background.
* Margie - A sitcom in the vein of Happy Days or The Wonder Years that goes back in time, to the 1920s to be specific, to tell the story of a 17-year-old girl growing up.
* McKeever and the Colonel - This series was The Phil Silvers Show meets Dennis the Menace, as it tells the story of three mischievous adolescents in military school.
* Meet Mr. McNutley / The Ray Milland Show - A simple sitcom about a college professor and his wife, created by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher.
* The Mickey Rooney Show: Hey Mulligan - Before 30 Rock's Kenneth the Page, there was the IBC studio's page, Mickey, who is just as clumsy as the similar character on 30 Rock.
* Mr. Adams and Eve - Ida Lupino and Howard Duff, husband and wife in real-life, play a husband and wife who play a husband in the movies.
* Mr. Terrific - An ordinary man is recruited by the government to take a pill that gives him extraordinary strenth.
* Mrs. G. Goes to College / The Gertrude Berg Show - Series where Gertrude Berg plays a woman in her 60s going to college for the first time.
* My Hero - A real-estate salesman who can never seem to make his quotas manages to keep his job because he saved his boss' life a few years ago--his hero.
* O.K. Crackerby! - An Oklahoma billionaire and his family strive to make it into high society by any means necessary.
* Occasional Wife - A man and woman create a phony backstory and pretend to live a married life to go further in their own lives.
* The People's Choice - A sitcom about a man who travels the country for his job and has a talking dog (voiced by Mary Jane Croft).
* Pete and Gladys - Harry Morgan and Cara Williams star in this spinoff of December Bride.
* Peter Loves Mary - A married couple from the entertainment business in New York City settle down in a small Connecticut town.
* The Tom Ewell Show - A sitcom about a suffering father in a female world with his wife and three daughters.
* Wendy and Me - An attempt by George Burns (he also stars in the series) to recreate a sitcom similar to Burns and Allen after his wife Gracie Allen retired from the previous series.

These are very rare series, as I myself had only heard of less than five of them. Tucker provides interesting insight into each series, complete with quotes from episodes and still photographs from each of the series. He gives details of specific episodes, behind-the-scenes information, audience reception, impact on future television, and more in his insights. The series peaked my interest in many series, although given the "lost" nature of each of these series, it is unlikely that I will ever be able to see most of them (although an episode of Mrs. G. Goes to College did show up on Shout! Factory's release of The Goldbergs).

Everything in the book is carefully sourced, with a complete bibliography in the back of the book. There is also an index in the back of the book to help you find anything that you may be looking for, and an appendix with a chronological listing of the series (the chapters are presented in alphabetical order by the series titles).

Fans of sitcoms of the golden age would want to read this book. Never before has anybody compiled so many details about these truly lost series, and the book is a very interesting read. Of course, I'm sure that there are more than just thirty series that Tucker could have written about, and he also hints in the introduction that a future book may come along some day about lost sitcoms beyond the decades covered here. I would love to read such a book, and hope that he (or somebody) writes a book of that nature in the future.

Reviewed by skees53
(4/5 stars)

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Amazon.com


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Friday, August 22

Last Man Standing - "Hard-ass Teacher" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Eve has decided she wants to go to college at West Point. In order to do so she needs to get straight A’s, which might be a problem considering her geometry teacher, Mr. Hardin, is called “Hard-ass” Hardin for a reason. In turn, Eve asks Mike and Vanessa for their approval to switch teachers to an easier class -- a move Vanessa approves of but one that Mike sees as just the easy way out.

Last Man Standing - "April, Come She Will" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Vanessa’s mooching sister April comes to visit, Mike suspects it’s because she needs money. Sure enough, April explains that she’s decided to have a baby but doesn’t have the funds for a donor egg. While Vanessa and Mike aren’t on board, Mandy comes up with a solution. Meanwhile at Outdoor Man, Mike tries pulling a prank on Chuck Larabee that gives him some new perspective.

Jessie - "Coffee Talk" (Disney Channel, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Jessie scores two VIP wristbands to Emma and Zuri's dream concert and the girls compete for the extra spot; Bertram is obsessed with his new talking coffee maker.

Dog with a Blog - "Karl Finds Out Stan's Secret" (Disney Channel, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Stan's secret talent is revealed to the family's neighbor, Karl; he doesn't find out about the blog, the moon walking or the driving, though.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of August 18) (All times ET unless noted)

Friday, August 22

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep/The New Adventures of Old Christine/Seinfeld) - Catch Julia on a repeat of The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Damon Wayans, Jr. (New Girl/Happy Endings) and Jake Johnson (New Girl) - Watch the stars of Let's Be Cops on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Max Greenfield (New Girl/Modern Men) - Max appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Hank Azaria (The Simpsons/Free Agents) - Hank is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Mary Lynn Rajskub (How to Be a Gentleman) - Tune in to see Mary on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Allison Janney (Mom/Mr. Sunshine) - Allison is a guest on a repeat of Tavis Smiley on PBS, so check your local listings.
  • Whitney Cummings (Whitney) - Whitney is part of the guest panel on a repeat of Chelsea Lately on E! at 11pm.
  • Brandy (The Game/Moesha) - Brandy appears on a repeat of The Arsenio Hall Show, so check your local listings.
  • Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory/Blossom) - Tune in to see Mayim on a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
  • Jason Biggs (Mad Love/Drexell's Class) - Jason is a guest on a repeat of The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Cedric the Entertainer (The Soul Man/The Steve Harvey Show) - Learn how Cedric is killing his cholesterol on a repeat of The Dr. Oz Show, so check your local listings.
  • Valerie Bertinelli (Hot in Cleveland/One Day at a Time) - Valerie joins the Chew Crew on a repeat of ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.