Monday, April 24, 2017

Remembering Erin Moran of Happy Days; NBC Mid-Season Pilot Review: Great News - Premieres Tuesday (April 25)

Erin Moran

Actress Erin Moran, who was best known as Joanie Cunningham in Happy Days, has died. She died on April 22 in Corydon, Indiana. The Harrison County (Indiana) Sheriff's Department and medical examiner said in a statement that she likely succumbed to complications of Stage 4 cancer. Ms. Moran was 56.

Moran's first television starring role was as Jenny Jones in the final season (1968-1969) of the CBS adventure series Daktari. She was a seven-year-old orphan who became part of the Tracy household. The series starred Marshall Thompson, Cheryl Miller, Yale Summers (1966-1968), Hedley Mattingly, Hari Rhodes and Ross Hagen (1968-1969).

Some of her early sitcom guest appearances included The Courtship of Eddie's Father, My Three Sons and Family Affair. Her early drama guest appearances included Death Valley Days, O'Hara, U.S. Treasury, The Smith Family, Bearcats!, Gunsmoke, The F.B.I. and The Waltons.

Her first sitcom starring role was as Janie Robinson in the short-lived 1972 CBS sitcom The Don Rickles Show. She played the daughter of Don Robinson (Don Rickles) and Barbara Robinson (Louise Sorel). The series also starred Robert Hogan, Judy Cassmore, Joyce Van Patten and Barry Gordon.

Happy Days

She was cast at the age of 13 in 1974 to play Joanie Cunningham in Happy Days. Joanie was the daughter of Howard (Tom Bosley) and Marion Cunningham (Marion Ross), and the younger sister of Chuck (Gavan O'Herlihy and Randolph Roberts) and Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard). Fonzie (Henry Winkler) affectionately called her "Shortcake." She was the girlfriend and eventual wife of Charles "Chachi" Arcola (Scott Baio). The popular series ran for 11 seasons and 255 episodes from 1974-1984. It also starred Anson Williams (1974-1983), Donny Most (1974-1980), Pat Morita (1975-1976, 1982-1983), Al Molinaro (1976-1982), Lynda Goodfriend (1977-1982), Cathy Silvers (1980-1983) and Ted McGinley (1980-1984). Moran returned for the Happy Days: 30th Anniversary Reunion in 2005 on ABC.

Joanie Loves Chachi

ABC decided to spin-off Joanie and Chachi into their own series in 1982. Joanie Loves Chachi aired for two seasons (1982, 1982-1983) and 17 episodes before Moran and Baio returned to Happy Days. It starred Al Molinaro, Ellen Travolta, Art Metrano, Robert Pierce, Derrel Maury and Winifred Freedman.

Some of her later television guest appearances included Hotel, Glitter, The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, and The Bold and the Beautiful. In 2008, she appeared as a contestant on the VH1 reality series Celebrity Fit Club. She appeared on many game shows, including The Hollywood Squares, Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour, Weakest Link, Hollywood Squares, Pyramid and The Singing Bee.

She made her feature-film debut in 1968 in How Sweet It Is! with Debbie Reynolds. Some of her other film credits included 80 Steps to Jonah, Watermelon Man, Galaxy of Terror, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, Broken Promise and Not Another B Movie. Her TV movie credits included Stanley vs. The System, Lisa, Bright and Dark and 1981's Twirl with Lisa Whelchel.

Erin Moran

Ms. Moran had fallen on some hard times in recent years. We like to remember her in her happier days. She lit up our TV screens with her smile and brought us many laughs for 11 seasons as Joanie "Shortcake" Cunningham. Other cast members may have been more popular and received more acclaim, but she was a big part of the Happy Days family and the show's success. We lost her far too soon. She will be deeply missed.

Share your memories on our Happy Days message board. View photos in our galleries.

Stay with us for news on any planned tributes.





Great News

Great News - Tuesdays at 9:00PM & 9:30PM ET/PT on NBC
Premieres Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 9:00PM ET/PT


by Vincent

Great News is a new sitcom centering around Katie Wendelson, a smart, ambitious news producer at national cable news show The Breakdown. After 30 years of being a stay-at-home mom, her mom Carol decides that it's never too late to follow your dreams and lands an internship at her daughter's news show. This is Katie's worst nightmare, until she comes to realize that with her biggest cheerleader at her side, she and her mom both might just make it after all.

Cast Details:

Briga Heelan as Katie Wendelson
Andrea Martin as Carol Wendelson
John Michael Higgins as Chuck Pierce
Nicole Richie as Portia Scotch-Griffith
Adam Campbell as Greg
Horatio Sanz as Justin

Briga Heelan (Katie) is an actress known for her lead role on the TBS sitcom Ground Floor and for recurring/guest roles on shows such as Cougar Town, Happy Endings, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Love.

Andrea Martin (Carol) is an actress and comedian best known for her role on the sketch comedy series SCTV. She has also appeared in a vast amount of other movies and TV series, including My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nurse Jackie, 30 Rock and Different People, and has provided voices for shows such as Rugrats, Spongebob Squarepants and The Simpsons.

John Michael Higgins (Chuck) is an actor known for his leading role on the TV Land series Happily Divorced and as a voice actor on the animated series The Legend of Korra, and has also appeared in guest roles in TV shows over the years, including Community, Glee, Psych and The Good Wife.

Nicole Richie (Portia) is an actress and TV personality best known for her popular reality television series The Simple Life opposite Paris Hilton. She has also appeared as an actress in shows such as Chuck, The New Normal and Empire.

Adam Campbell (Greg) is an actor best known for his recurring role on the Netflix comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, as well as appearances on shows such as NCIS, Parenthood and 2 Broke Girls.

Horatio Sanz (Justin) is a comedian and actor best known as a long-running cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1998-2006. He has also appeared in various other TV series and films, including Year One, Modern Family, Love, Parks and Recreation and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Pilot Plot:

"Pilot" (Airs Tuesday, April 25 at 9:00PM ET)

Katie (Briga Heelan), a frustrated cable news producer, is horrified when her mom, Carol (Andrea Martin), gets an internship at The Breakdown. Despite Katie's best efforts, Carol is instantly beloved by the entire office, including blowhard veteran anchor Chuck (John Michael Higgins). But when Katie hits a roadblock while producing a big story, she realizes that maybe having a mom at work isn't such a bad thing.

"Bear Attack" (Airs Tuesday, April 25 at 9:30PM ET)

Katie (Briga Heelan) tries to set workplace boundaries with Carol (Andrea Martin), but when a big story about an escaped bear lands in her lap, her mom can't help but meddle. Meanwhile, Greg (Adam Campbell) tries to get Chuck (John Michael Higgins) and Portia (Nicole Richie) to do a little friendly banter at the end of the show.

Analysis:

Great News is the latest Tina Fey-produced sitcom to hit the airwaves. While Fey isn't the day-to-day showrunner on Great News as she was with 30 Rock and is with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (that goes to Tracey Wigfield, a long-time 30 Rock writer who created and executive produces the series) the show still boasts her touch and feels very much in line with those two shows in terms of humor and character writing. It's a quick, snappy series with silly, over-the-top characters and a lot of subtle punchlines mixed with broader comic setpieces. While 30 Rock's primary focus was satirizing the entertainment industry and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's mission statement is to bring light-hearted laughs to sensitive subject material, Great News seems to focus a bit more on parental relationships and generational divide, with the heart of the series being the mother/daughter relationship between Katie and Carol, mixed with some fun hijinks from the news staff to keep the show's engine and joke machine going. The Katie/Carol relationship is well-developed and surprisingly complex, and is also aided by strong performances by Heelan and Martin. Frankly, Martin's Carol is the most fascinating character on the show – she's one of those characters that's so funny and interesting that a character having a scene with her makes that character funnier and interesting, and a big part of that is in Martin's excellent performance.

The rest of the show isn't quite on that level, but it's getting there. The office/newsroom hijinks are probably the weakest aspect of the show, and they don't have the same grounding that the more familial material does. Still, everyone in the cast is committed, and there are occasional glimmers of interesting material with dynamics such as Chuck's old-time newscaster style being at odds with Portia's ultra-millennial approach, which ties in nicely to the generational differences that set the groundwork for the Katie/Carol materials. Early episodes rely a bit too much on "old-timer" and "millennial" stereotypes, but later episodes begin to find the humans underneath those archetypes, and the show is better for it. The show could also stand to define Katie a bit more than what she is to her mother and her workplace – she's great in scenes where she's bouncing off of Carol or Greg, but we don’t have much reason to root for her other than the fact that she's the protagonist. Still, Great News is on the path to figuring itself out, and given the creative team and the potential the show already has, I could certainly see this going from good to...well, great fairly soon.

Conclusion:

Great News is a very solid and reliably funny new sitcom that has already found an excellent sitcom character in Andrea Martin's Carol. The rest of the show still has some work to do to catch up to Martin's level, but there is enough promise in both the cast and the writing that it seems fair to reason that it's up to the task. With one already great characters and a few others with potential to be great, combined with writing that's already assured, confident and genuinely hilarious at times, Great News shows a lot of signs of being a potentially great comedy if it can find a bit more of a unique angle with its workplace scenes.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4.5/5
Funniness: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 9:00PM & 9:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • NBC Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Great News Photo Gallery

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