US TV shows not broadcast in the UK


flag image

Dana Carvey This sketch comedy starring the former Saturday Night Live cast member had a short run for a number of reasons. But it's still fondly remembered by fans who loved its quirky humour. It also proved to be a launchpad for a number of performers, including Steve Carell (The Office); Louis C.K. (Louie), and Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report). It was also a showcase for writer Robert Smigel's TV Funhouse cartoons, which were later showcased on SNL. Carvey had turned down the chance to replace David Letterman on NBC's Late Night show in 1993, but after several comedy films that were never developed, he decided to return to television. Carvey bypassed his old network and turned down an offer from CBS to sign up with ABC. Carvey and Smigel teamed up to produce the series, and hired a number of Second City comedy performers, including Carell and Colbert. (Carvey later admitted he was less hands-on than he should have been, because he was commuting between his family in Connecticut and New York City, where the show was taped). Both Carvey and Smigel wanted to be as different from Saturday Night Live as possible, with short pieces rather than long skits. (It did allow Smigel to present his short cartoons, including The Ambiguously Gay Duo, about a pair of crime-fighters named Ace and Gary, whose actions and dialogue led everyone to wonder if the two were a same-sex couple). The first episode of The Dana Carvey Show made headlines for its opening sketch, with Carvey as then-President Bill Clinton, showing his "compassion" by having several puppies and kittens suckle from his multiple fake nipples! But Carvey did some of his most-popular characters from SNL, including the Church Lady, along with parodies of current events, commercials and the media.

But ABC, wanting a strong lead-in to its police drama NYPD Blue, scheduled the series on Tuesday nights-before "Blue" but following the family-friendly sitcom Home Improvement. Viewers who had been watching the antics of Tim Allen and his fictional family were thrust into a different world. Not everyone liked it, however, as the ratings began falling off after the premiere episode, leading to the show's end after just seven airings. Most of the episodes had a single major sponsor, a throwback to the days when advertisers purchased an entire programme. In Carvey's case, Pepsi was the show's sponsor and each episode was titled for one of the company's products-The Mug Root Bear Dana Carvey Show and The Taco Bell Dana Carvey Show, for instance-with a cast of performers singing the praises of the product before introducing the star. Another unique twist was the studio, billed as coming "from the ABC Broadcast Center in New York." The inside joke: Dana Carvey was actually taped at CBS' studios on West 57th Street! In a 2009 interview for The AV Club, Robert Smigel noted "Bottom line, the network was the wrong fit, wrong timeslot. Cable obviously would have been-we would have been given credit for what was good instead of attacked for what wasn't." Time has been kind to Carvey and Smigel, however: The Dana Carvey Show can now be seen on DVD and the Internet. They earned a bit of respect after all.


flag image

Danny Thomas Show Danny Thomas began his career as a comic and singer, but became famous as a television dad. His two situation comedies - Make Room For Daddy and The Danny Thomas Show - ran for a total of eleven years, and made the Lebanese entertainer successful in both acting and television production. One reason is that Thomas convincingly played a blustering, hot-tempered husband and father whose love of his family was never in doubt. Viewers warmed to Thomas' character and his co-stars, and the series holds up well even today. Thomas became a success on nightclubs and on radio in various programmes such as The Bickersons, Baby Snooks and The Big Show. In films, he starred in the 1952 remake of The Jazz Singer and co-starred with Doris Day in I'll See You In My Dreams. Thomas found initial television fame as one of the rotating co- hosts of NBC's big-budget variety series The Colgate Comedy Hour. In 1953, Thomas signed with ABC, which had just merged with the United Paramount Theater chain. Noting the success of CBS' I Love Lucy, he hired Desilu Studios to film his new show with multiple cameras before a live studio audience-just like 'Lucy'. Working with actor turned producer Sheldon Leonard, the two came up with a family sitcom based on Thomas' real life: When Thomas went on the road he left the raising of his children to real-life wife Rose Marie. But when the comic returned home it was time for another adjustment where dad was the boss. Thomas played nightclub entertainer Danny Williams, who was gone for days or weeks at a time from his wife, Margaret (Jean Hagen - who was best-known for her role as squeaky voiced Lina Lamont in the classic musical Singin' In The Rain), daughter Terry, and smart-aleck youngster Rusty. Louise Beavers-one of the few African-Americans to appear in a regular television role at the time-was the Williams' maid Louise. The show's humour came from Danny's interaction with his kids: They would scheme to pull one over on dad, but inevitably, Danny found out and blew his top. Yet at the end, his anger disappeared and forgave his children. The warm moments of Make Room For Daddy were a highlight of the series, along with Thomas' believable performance and sharp one-liners. Critics loved the series, and it even won an Emmy award in 1954. But because of ABC's weak distribution back in television's early days Make Room For Daddy was not the blockbuster hit the network had hoped for.

After three seasons, Jean Hagen was dissatisfied with her role and left the series altogether. Rather than immediately replacing Hagen, Thomas and his production team simply wrote Margaret Williams out of the show as having died-possibly a first for an American sitcom. The show also received a new title: The Danny Thomas Show. Unfortunately, the series ranked 125th in the ratings despite relatively weak competition, thanks to ABC's affiliate problems. The network and Thomas agreed to part ways, and for the fall of 1957, CBS picked up the series to replace the departing I Love Lucy on Monday nights. With a strong time slot and CBS' powerful affiliate lineup (195 stations versus just 83 for its last season on ABC), The Danny Thomas Show blasted into the top five and remained in the top-20 for the remainder of its run.

During the CBS years, the sitcom was sponsored by General Foods' Post Cereals division. General Foods found through research that a number of viewers in rural parts of the country didn't like the city slicker. The company urged Thomas and Leonard to come up with a new series that would attract folks who lived in the country. In a February 1960 episode, Danny and his family took a road trip and found himself detained in the small town of Mayberry, North Carolina by the sheriff, winningly played by Southern comic and actor Andy Griffith. The episode's success led to The Andy Griffith Show. The adventures of Andy Taylor and the town of Mayberry lasted for eight high-rated seasons, and was especially popular with rural viewers-just as General Foods had hoped. Thomas became a popular guest star on many variety shows and sitcoms until his death on February 6th, 1991, at the age of 72. In addition to his rich legacy as a performer and producer, Thomas was a generous philanthropist, thanks to his work founding and raising money for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, which has treated thousands of kids with cancer and other diseases at no cost to the parents. He also left an entertainment legacy thanks to his children-actress Marlo Thomas, former actress Terre Thomas, and son Tony Thomas, who became a very successful producer himself with such comedy series as The Golden Girls, Empty Nest, Blossom and Nurses.


flag image

Dark Shadows "My name is Victoria Winters. My journey is beginning - a journey that I hope will open the doors of life to me, and link my past with my future. A journey that will bring me to a strange and dark place - to the edge of the sea high atop Widow's Hill - a house called Collinwood. A world I've never known, with people I've never met. People who tonight are still only shadows in my mind, and who will soon fill the days and nights of my tomorrows."

It began as a genuine dream. A dream experienced by veteran produced/director, Dan Curtis. A dream in which he saw a young woman, (later to be consolidated as the character named, Victoria Winters) taking a train journey which would ultimately find her arriving at the door of a fog wreathed shadowy and forbidding gothic manor house. What began as a simple, yet strikingly vivid dream was destined to be translated by Curtis and collaborator, Art Wallace, into a televisual reality, which would swiftly evolve from its humble beginnings to become one of the most phenomenal success stories in the long history of popular US daytime television. A success story entitled...Dark Shadows. Using his original dream idea as the basic springboard for the series format, Curtis brought aboard the talented and vastly experienced scriptwriter Art Wallace to help flesh out the basic premise and serve as the series head writer. For inspiration, Wallace turned to one of his own previous works, a teleplay entitled The House. Wallace's House script dealt with the story of a secretive, reclusive woman whose husband had been missing for many years. For the purposes of the embryonic series' scenario Wallace's recluse became the rich, matriarchal character of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, (veteran Hollywood movie star Joan Bennett), and her luxurious home was transformed into the haunted, cursed manor house of Curtis' dream, a house named Collinwood. Initially, Curtis envisioned the series as a straight gothic romance in the style of Daphne Du Murier's classic novel Rebecca. And indeed, for its opening months the series centred around orphan Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke during 1966-1968) arrival at the small fishing port of Collinstown, situated somewhere on the coast of Maine, to take up the post of governess to Elizabeth's young nephew David, while still ignorant of her true past. Early reaction to the new show was decidedly lukewarm audience-wise. So much so in fact, that within the first few months of being on the air Curtis was faced with the very real prospect of the show's outright cancellation. It was at this crucial point that a throwaway suggestion was made which would herald the beginning of Dark Shadows massive upsurge in popularity, as Dan Curtis explained: "My teenaged kids said to me, 'Dad, what the show needs is a ghost.' At that time I knew that the writing was on the wall for us anyway, so I said 'what the hell! We've got nothing to lose, the ghost is in.'"

The introduction into the storyline in quick succession of first one ghost, then another, followed almost immediately by a mythical Phoenix creature, proved to be the unique angle which set the series apart from anything else being produced in otherwise staid and unimaginative daytime drama field. The series began to swiftly gain a loyal, hardcore audience. Realising that tapping into the previously unexplored area of the supernatural was the road for the series to take, Curtis (Wallace had by now ceased to be story consultant) made the decision to introduce a character which, arguably, embodied the most potent appeal of the dark Parthenon of the denizens of the horror genre, a vampire. With the arrival of the tortured, broodingly romantic antihero character of vampire Barnabas Collins (wonderfully played by the charismatic Canadian Shakespearean character actor, Jonathan Frid), the series became quite literally, a sensation. In keeping with the traditional daytime soaps of the time, Dark Shadows was videotaped live on small sets in ABC's New York studios, and over the course of its run, the series would embrace storylines which involved all manner of supernatural events and creatures as well as time travel, alternate worlds and the reworking of the basic plots borrowed liberally from the great classics of horror literature. Under the watchful eye of Curtis, the show quickly developed an in-house repertory company of seasoned and assured actors who, despite the occasional fluffed line caused by the pressure of too little rehearsal time, rose to the challenge of playing multiple roles with a conviction and professionalism that enhanced even the most unlikely of scenarios. Such was the popularity of the show that in 1970 the first motion picture spin-off, House of Dark Shadows, was released followed in 1971 by the inferior sequel, Night of Dark Shadows. The series also spawned a vast array of merchandise, which continues to this day, including novels, comic books, video compilations and model kits. The series was resurrected in 1975 and aired in syndication on various local TV stations and PBS across the US until 1990 when the US Sci-Fi Channel purchased exclusive rights to broadcast the show, followed quickly by the European version of the channel, which afforded UK viewers their first exposure to what had until then been an often mentioned, but unseen series, while 1991 saw Curtis revive the show briefly for the NBC network running from January 13th to March 22nd 1991, in an expensive, but ill fated remake featuring an all new cast.

Imaginative, unique and ground-breaking in its daring and successful use of horror motifs in the then otherwise conservative US television field, Dark Shadows even to this day commands an affection and respect from its legions of fans which is perhaps second only in terms of popularity to that given to the mighty Star Trek franchise. The series delivered excellent entertainment throughout the latter half of the nineteen-sixties, over three decades later, that entertainment value has remained resolutely undiminished. In July 2007, Warner Bros. acquired the film rights for the gothic soap opera from the estate of Dan Curtis and in 2012 a feature film by US film producer Tim Burton, famed for his dark, quirky-themed movies as well as numerous box- office blockbusters was released, starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins. (Stephen R. Hulse)


TV show image

TV Show Image One of Betty White's earliest sitcom efforts. She starred as newlywed Vicki Angel; her husband was insurance agent Gus (Bill Williams). The pair would get their friends and neighbours into various comic situations, all of which were resolved by the show's end. Natalle Masters and Roy Engle played neighbours Wilma and George Clemson; Richard Reeves was friend Murph; and Jimmy Boyd appeared occasionally as the Angels' nephew Wheeler. Chrysler Corporation was the show's sponsor (future game show host Tom Kennedy did the commercials for the Plymouth line), but low ratings meant no more dates with the Angels; the show ended its run in January 1958. The following month, White filled the time slot for Chrysler with a short-lived comedy variety series which ran through April.


flag image

Dean Martin When the comic team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis broke up for good in 1956 after nearly ten years of success in nightclubs, television and film, most believed Lewis would be the star attraction, while Martin would fade into obscurity. At first, that seemed to be the case, as Jerry Lewis went from one triumph to another in the late 50's and early 60's with various film projects such as The Errand Boy and Cinderfella. By contrast, Dean Martin's first post- breakup film, a slight comedy called 10,000 Bedrooms, nearly destroyed his career. But Martin's fortunes changed with his well-received role in the 1958 Marlon Brando drama The Young Lions, leading to other film roles and a series of successful television appearances. His Las Vegas shows with buddies Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior in Las Vegas-the famed "Rat Pack", was the stuff of legend. By 1965, NBC, which was heavily into musical variety as part of its lineup-expressed interest in a show built around the laid-back Italian crooner. Martin wanted no part of it; to ensure its rejection, he demanded a large amount of money, wanted all the rerun rights, and said he would work just one day a week for rehearsals and tapings! Much to his surprise, NBC said yes to all his demands. Martin admitted the network "should have thrown (his demands) in my face, but they agreed to it all. So what the hell, I had to show up!"

With veteran producer Greg Garrison at the helm The Dean Martin Show - in living colour, complete with the requisite NBC peacock - made its debut on September 16th, 1965. Pianist Ken Lane was his only regular, the series was initially just Dean hosting and singing, while big-name acts filled the hour. After a strong start, viewers turned away, possibly disappointed because there was not enough Dean. Garrison brought in musical director Lee Hale to help revise the format. Hale complied by paring down the number of guests and making Dean more comfortable with the show. Though he would only do a dress rehearsal before the final taping Sunday nights, Hale and Garrison's teaming of just the right guest stars and songs or skits allowed the crooner to relax more; his persona of a boozing, womanizing playboy was just right for the swinging 1960's. The ever-present "drink" in Dean's hand on the show was usually apple juice. To those who thought Martin was on the sauce when the cameras rolled, he had this response: "How could a drunk get up at six o'clock in the morning, play nine holes of golf and then spend the rest of the day working on a show he's never even seen before, with music cues, tricky arrangements and all the rest of it?". Viewers liked the relaxed, spontaneous Dean. And they responded; ratings started to go up. By its second season, The Dean Martin Show landed in television's top 20 and remained a top ten attraction for the rest of the decade. For the fall of 1973, NBC moved Dean Martin from Thursday to Friday nights and its format changed. So did the title: The Dean Martin Comedy Hour put the emphasis on skits, sprinkled with a "country music" segment and a new feature that "roasted" celebrities with famous names providing the zingers. The roasts were so popular, NBC decided to scrap the weekly Martin series and launch The Dean Martin Roasts as occasional specials starting in 1974. Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball and then California Governor Ronald Reagan were the good natured subjects of these "tributes", with many of them taking place at the old MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. The specials ran on the network through 1984, while Martin continued to act and record. But friends say Martin never recovered emotionally from the tragic 1987 death of his actor son Dean Paul in a plane crash. Dean took part in a concert reunion tour with fellow "Rat Packers" Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior the following year, but pulled out in 1989 due to ill health. By the early 1990's, he was living a quiet retirement; he died of acute respiratory failure on Christmas Day, 1995. Dean Martin was one of the last of a breed, with success in just about any field of entertainment you could name. He was the swinging uncle who was always the life of the party, and asked for little in return. The Dean Martin Show - which is available on DVD - was pure, unadulterated Dean. Just the way his fans liked him.


TV show image

TV Show Image The old mother-in-law joke was turned upside down in this sitcom, which began on radio in 1952 and made the move to television two years later. Veteran character actress Spring Byington played Lily Ruskin, a vital widow always looking for a suitable man; she was based on creator Parke Levy's own mother-in-law. Lilly got along well with her son Matt Henshaw (Dean Miller) and her daughter-in-law Ruth (Francis Rafferty). Her best friend was outspoken Hilda Croker (Verna Feldon); Lily and Hilda would get into a number of unusual situations. Also on hand was Lily's next-door-neighbour Pete Porter (Harry Morgan), who didn't like HIS own mother-in-law, and complained often about his never-seen wife Gladys. Because it was jointly produced by Desilu and CBS, December Bride won the coveted time slot behind I Love Lucy on Monday nights, and became a solid top-ten series. It ran for five seasons, but the character of Pete Porter was popular enough to launch a separate series. Pete & Gladys starred Morgan with Cara Williams as Gladys, a scatterbrained but earnest woman. Verna Feldon and Francis Rafferty were occasional regulars on the show, which ran from 1960 through 1962. Morgan would later go on to television fame as Officer Bill Gannon on Dragnet (1967-70) and Colonel Sherman Potter in M*A*S*H.


TV show image

Show Image US Western series starring Henry Fonda. He wasn't the deputy - he was the Marshal, Simon Fry, who each week would assign his deputy, Clay McCord (actor Allen Case) to whatever task was required such as going undercover to learn the plans of a gang of outlaws, trekking into Apache territory on a peace mission or protecting a citizen from a hired gunman. As such it was Case rather than Fonda who was the real star of the show and of the 75 episodes made 54-year old Fonda only featured in half-a-dozen stories, the rest of the time he appeared at the beginning to send McCord on his task and at the end to congratulate him on a job well done! The series was inspired by the 1957 movie Tin Star starring Fonda and Anthony Perkins in which Fonda played a veteran marshal- turned-bounty hunter who decides to help a young and inexperienced deputy protect himself from the criminal elements in town. The series is notable for giving a TV debut to a young Robert Redford. Allen Case went on to co-star in the 1965 western series The Legend of Jesse James as outlaw Frank James. Sadly, he died of a heart attack at the age of 52. The series was created by Norman Lear, who would go on to develop some of the biggest TV comedy hits of the 1970s, like All in the Family, Sanford and Son and Maude. (Laurence Marcus)


flag image

DEsigning Women There are words to describe this opinionated workplace comedy of the 1980's and early 1990's: Sweet, sassy, sexy, and unabashedly feminist. Despite a rocky start and near cancellation; not to mention a much-publicized feud surrounding one of its stars, Designing Women became a hit in part because of the talent of its original ensemble cast. Although Designing Women had some elements in common with NBC's smash hit The Golden Girls (which premiered the year before), the two shows were quite different. For one thing, the "Women", who ran an interior design firm in Atlanta, Georgia, were younger and more outspoken about the outside world. Also, most of "Women's" action was set in the workplace, while the lives of the "Girls" revolved around their suburban Miami, Florida home. "Sugarbaker and Associates" was a successful interior design firm in the Atlanta area. Julia Sugarbaker was a widow, the business' founder and probably the sharpest of the four ladies. She was also the most opinionated of the group. Not so her younger sister Suzanne, a former beauty queen whose life centered on her ex-husbands, dating rich men and spending money. Also working for the firm was Mary Jo Shively, a divorced mom whose ex-husband often didn't pay his child support, leaving her to use her considerable decorating talents to support herself and her two children. Last but not least was the receptionist and office manager Charlene Frazier, a single gal who loved the tabloids and always seemed to date the wrong men. The fifth and unofficial "Woman" of the show was actually a man. African-American deliveryman Anthony Bouvier was originally meant to be an occasional character, as an ex-con wrongly imprisoned for a crime he didn't do. Actor Meshach Taylor's performances impressed the cast and crew so much that Anthony became a regular character during the show's first season.

By its second season, Designing Women began dealing with topics not usually handled on situation comedies of the period; prostitution, AIDS, pornography, domestic violence - and managed to do it with both intelligence and laughter. By 1990, Designing Women and the show it followed on Monday nights, Murphy Brown, became a potent top-ten anchor for CBS. But there were major problems brewing behind the scenes. By this time, Delta Burke was suffering from panic attacks, which made her afraid to attend the episode filmings; she eventually found help through therapy and medication. But she also gained a noticeable amount of weight, and the producers wanted her to diet. The behind-the-scenes fights between Burke, series creator Linda Bloodworth and producer Harry Thomason became tabloid fodder. By the end of the 1990-91 season, Delta Burke was let go from the ensemble cast. And hers was not the only departure. Jean Smart decided to leave the show to spend more time with her family. So the sixth season of Designing Women saw major changes and the show began losing viewers. Bloodworth-Thomason, who wrote most of the scripts in the show's first several seasons, had stepped back from the production. She and husband Thomason were creating other series for CBS, including Evening Shade and Hearts Afire; a new producer and staff of writers were now responsible for Designing Women. Plus, the couple also kept busy in the political field as media consultants for their friend, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton-who became president of the United States in 1992. In an effort to boost ratings, CBS moved Designing Women to Friday nights; it didn't work. An hour-long season finale with the principal characters each imagining herself as "Gone With The Wind's" Scarlett O'Hara" became the series' swan song in May 1993. By early 1995, the Thomasons had made up with Delta Burke-and the trio decided to co-produce what became a spin-off of Designing Women. Burke brought her Suzanne Sugarbaker character to the new political comedy, Women of the House. But Women of the House was nowhere near as popular as Designing Women; it was cancelled after a flap over an episode that dealt with the brutal treatment of some women in the film industry. CBS had cut a graphic one-minute piece depicting the violence; Bloodworth- Thomason denounced the network's decision, sealing the show's fate. The entire Women of the House episode (along with several unaired shows) later aired on the women's cable network Lifetime. It also became home to reruns of Designing Women, which grew into one of Lifetime's most popular offerings. So popular that on July 28th, 2003, the original cast of "Women" and Bloodworth-Thomason reassembled for a 90-minute reunion special on Lifetime, featuring clips from much-loved episodes and frank talk.

Some critics denounced Designing Women as a show with a political agenda. But politics aside, Designing Women was a very funny series (in its first five seasons) with one of the best ensemble casts ever in a US comedy. As one guest character correctly pointed out, "We ain't what we should be, we ain't what we're gonna be, but at least we ain't what we were."


Show Image Dinah Shore was one of the few women who headlined her own variety series on American television in the 1950's. And for good reason. She was beautiful, had a distinctive vocal style, was always generous to her many guests, and like her TV contemporary Perry Como, her relaxed presence made for pleasant viewing. It's no wonder when she sang her sponsor's jingle, "See The U.S.A. In Your Chevrolet," even die-hard Ford owners couldn't help but join her. Dinah Shore had long been a familiar singer and actress to Americans; she easily made the transition to the new medium. Starting in November 1951, Shore starred in a 15-minute live show that aired before NBC's Camel News Caravan on Tuesday and Thursday nights. She sang a few songs, had an occasional guest star and featured such vocal acts as The Notables and The Skylarks. The Dinah Shore Show was loved by critics; Jack Gould of The New York Times noted Shore "was the picture of naturalness and conducted her show with a disarming combination of authority and humility." By the fall of 1956, Dinah's 15-minute show was reduced to just Thursday evenings-not because she was cancelled by the network. NBC gave Shore an entire hour in prime time, now known as The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, every Friday night. After one season, the 15-minute show was dropped for good, and the "Chevy Show" moved to Sundays, where she held her own against the Western craze of the period. Shore remained the charming hostess, with the longer format giving her more of a showcase for her songs and interactions with a long list of guest stars. Dinah continued to sing the praises of her car maker sponsor (sometimes in elaborate filmed musical numbers), and ended each show by giving the audience a great big kiss-MUAH!. Chevrolet's long relationship with Dinah Shore ended in the fall of 1961, when her series moved back to Fridays (alternating every other week with the prestigious Bell Telephone Hour). In the fall of 1962, the series-now known as The Dinah Shore Show-alternated with The DuPont Show Of The Week on Sundays. Shore herself won four Emmy awards for her television work, but her series ended its run on May 12th, 1963. She went on to host a number of specials, then became a staple of daytime television with musical/variety/interview programmes such as Dinah! and Dinah's Place. And remained the attractive, talented and gracious woman she always was-right up to her death from ovarian cancer in February 1994.


flag image

The Donna Reed Show A family-oriented situation comedy in the mould of Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show had a long and successful eight-year run. It was not funnier than other shows (though it wasn't bad for its genre) nor was it a radical departure from the norm (though it had its own twists). The main reason people watched was Donna Reed, the Academy Award- winning actress who was one of the few women of the late 1950's to have behind-the-scenes control of her own television series. And though she came off as "goody two-shoes" on the screen, she was anything but passive in real life.

Donna Belle Mullenger was born January 27th, 1921 on an Iowa farm. As she grew up, her beauty helped her win various pageants in the area. After graduation from high school, she went to Los Angeles to study acting. It was during that time an MGM talent scout spotted the young woman and signed to a contract. Now billed as Donna Reed, she appeared in a number of the studio's films. In 1946 she co-starred with James Stewart in what would become her best-known screen role as Mary Hatch Bailey in the Frank Capra holiday classic It's A Wonderful Life. After that part Reed's roles were mostly of the good-girl, wholesome type. She tried to break that stereotype, playing the prostitute Alma Burke in the film From Here To Eternity. But despite winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, the part did not lead to more serious or showy roles. Her husband, Tony Owen, urged her to consider television. As a result, the pair formed Todon Productions and sold their series to Screen Gems (the television studio arm of Columbia Pictures). The Donna Reed Show premiered September 24th, 1958 on ABC. It was in the mould Donna wanted: herself as Donna Stone, mother and housewife in the fictional town of Hilldale. Husband Alex (Carl Betz) was a doctor who made house calls, usually leaving Donna to handle the trials and tribulations of their two children, son Jeff (Paul Petersen) and teenage daughter Mary (Shelley Fabares). Not unlike many comedies, there were misunderstandings and minor crisis, but all was well before the final commercial for the show's sponsors, Campbell Soup and health care giant Johnson & Johnson. The situations were reasonable if a bit exaggerated; as Reed put it at the time, "We've worked very hard to put together a believable family and a realistic picture of family life...I'm fed up to here with stories about kooky, amoral or sick women." Donna Stone was anything but kooky, amoral or sick. She was the mom every child wanted and the wife every man wanted to marry. In 1963, Fabares left the show and the Stones adopt a young orphan named Trisha (Patty Petersen, younger sister of Paul) and have the mandatory next-door neighbours, fellow Doctor David Kelsey (a pre-Hogan's Heroes Bob Crane) and wife Midge (Ann McCrea). But through it all was Donna Reed who, according to the Donna Reed Foundation For The Performing Arts website ( noted, was the "uncredited producer and director of the show, studying and mastering lighting and cinematography-roles rarely handled by women at that time."

By this time Donna Reed became increasingly tired of her television role; she threatened to quit several times but was always soothed by more money and a reduced workload. Her threat to quit was real when she called it quits in 1966 after eight years and 275 episodes. (She never won an Emmy for her Donna Stone role, even though she was nominated four times.) Not long after "Donna Reed" went into syndicated reruns, the woman who played the perfect homemaker and wife divorced husband Tony Oden; became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War and was chairperson of an organization called "Another Mother For Peace." And it turned out Donna Reed was a feminist, denouncing the "two-dimensional, stereotyped woman" she played, and despised what she called the "male mentalities that control TV programming." But she never achieved the success of The Donna Reed Show again; the actress appeared in several made-for-television films after the show's run. Her last major role was on the prime time drama Dallas, where she replaced Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie. After only one season, Reed was fired and Bel Geddes returned to the role. Reed was so angry she sued Lorimar, the company that produced Dallas, for breach of contract. She won her battle with the Dallas folks (a seven-figure settlement), but the 64 -year old actress lost her battle with pancreatic cancer on January 14th, 1986. Years later, the picture of Donna Reed/Donna Stone remains that of the perfect housewife and mom. In a 2001 episode of the mother-daughter saga Gilmore Girls, Rory's boyfriend Dean angered her when he admitted he liked the idea of a Donna Stone-like girlfriend after watching the reruns:
Dean: (about Donna Reed) She seems happy.
Lorelai: She's medicated.
Rory: And acting from a script.
Lorelai: Written by a man.
Rory: Well said, Sister Suffragette.
Even today, The Donna Reed Show can divide the most modern of television women.


flag image

Doogie Howser cast In America, "Doogie" has become shorthand for someone who is considered to be too young to handle responsibility. That's a rather unfair slap to the television "dramedy" (comedy-drama) where the term originated. Doogie Howser, MD seems to be implausible on the surface; a teenager who's a licensed doctor - but there is quite a bit of reality in the situation, and it was helped by the show's two famed creators; Steven Bochco and David E. Kelley. But credit must also be given to young actor Neil Patrick Harris, who turned Doogie into a flesh and blood character stuck in that space between adulthood and youth. Bochco and Kelley created Doogie Howser" as part of Bochco's multi-series deal with ABC. Doogie (Douglas) Howser was a gifted child who finished high school in nine weeks, graduated from Princeton University at age 10 and became the youngest practicing physician in the U.S. by the age of 14. His biography was summed up in the opening credits, complete with a synthesizer music theme by Mike Post. And yes, there was a real-life Doogie Howser - sort of. His name was Howard Zucker, and he became a doctor at the relatively young age of 22. Zucker reportedly had a cousin who worked as an ABC programmer. Bochco has also said the show was inspired in part by his father, who was a violin protègè. When the series premiered in September 1989, Doogie was 16 years old and practiced medicine at Los Angeles' Eastman Medical Center. He lived with his parents Katherine (Belinda Montgomery) and his father, Dr. David Howser (played by James B. Sikking, who also portrayed gun-ho SWAT Lieutenant Howard Hunter on Hill Street Blues). Yet while Doogie had adult responsibilities, physically and emotionally he was a teenager - too smart for his age group yet too young for some adults to take seriously. And as with most teens, Doogie experienced the ups and downs of love and adolescent lust. Each episode concluded with Doogie typing the lessons he had learned in that episode into his computer diary. Done on an early IBM PC clone, Doogie's "journal" was an early example of blogging (before the Internet, no less!)

Doogie Howser, MD was a moderate hit but ran for just four seasons; Bochco later said he was unable to write a series finale because ABC abruptly cancelled the series. If he had the chance, Bochco would have created a storyline where Doogie becomes disillusioned about being a doctor and switched careers to become a writer. As it was, the final episode was shown to American audiences March 24th, 1993. Harris took on various roles in television, stage and film after "Doogie;" he parodied his television persona in the 1994 movie comedy Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle (aka Harold and Kumar Get The Munchies) by playing himself as a drug addict who steals the main characters' car! In 1999 Harris returned to television with the short- lived NBC comedy Stark Raving Mad and later guest-starred on Will & Grace as the head of a group for "former" homosexuals. But in 2005, he came back to TV with a very funny performance as womanizing Barney Stinson on the CBS ensemble comedy How I Met Your Mother. In 2006, a Canadian website reported that Harris was having a relationship with a fellow actor. A day later, Harris confirmed to People magazine that he was a "very content gay man living my life to the fullest." Yes, "Doogie" remains a negative shorthand in US pop culture. What should not be forgotten is that Doogie Howser was a few steps above the typical TV portrayal of a teenager, and was a well-produced series with its heart in the right place.


flag image

Doris Day In the early 1960's Doris Day was one of the nation's top film stars with a string of successful light comedies to her credit (Pillow Talk; Lover Come Back; The Thrill of It All and others). The singer and actress was never a big fan of television, but ironically, it was her five year run on her self-titled sitcom that made Doris Day more successful than ever before. Day was also one of the few successful film actresses who made a smooth transition to television. But the irony of The Doris Day Show is that its format would change season to season; the show's final episodes were a far cry from the original premise. 1968 was a watershed year for the woman who starred in such notable films as Love Me or Leave Me and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Her soft romantic comedies, which usually had the attractive Miss Day portray a virginal single woman, had fallen out of favour in the increasingly sexual film climate of the late 1960's. Even more tragic for Day was the death of her third husband and business manager, Marty Melcher. Not long after his death, Day discovered he had mismanaged her finances by investing her money with a crooked attorney, leaving her nearly broke. Before his death, Melcher signed with CBS to create a new situation comedy starring his wife. To his credit, it was a tremendous deal: Day would be under contract with CBS for five seasons, but she would keep all the show's rerun rights and the show's negatives, plus the right to produce movies for the network. The Doris Day deal came in part because CBS' top female comic, Lucille Ball, kept making more expensive demands every season-including deals for new series from her production company. Since Lucy was still a top-ten draw, CBS accepted her demands, but apparently felt Doris Day could step in if Lucy decided to bolt the network. Day was never a big fan of the medium and wanted no part of it, but it was her adopted son Terry Melcher who encouraged his mother to do the show. If it ran several years, Melcher pointed out Day's debts would be wiped out and she would be financially secure. With few other options, Day agreed to move forward, and Terry served as executive producer of The Doris Day Show.

The show's first season (which began September 24th, 1968) set the actress up as Doris Martin, a widowed mother of two young sons Billy and Toby (Phillip Brown and Todd Starke) who moves in with her father Buck (Denver Pyle) on his farm in Mill Valley, California-not far from San Francisco. Character actor James Hampton played the bumbling farmhand Leroy B. Simpson and Naomi Stevens was the farm's housekeeper Juanita. Also in the cast was Lord Nelson as the family sheepdog Nelson; Lord Nelson also appeared with Doris in the 1960 film Please Don't Eat The Daisies. Day's light comedy touch made for pleasant if predictable entertainment. Still, the show was well produced (crew members who worked on Day's previous films were hired for her TV show as well). While not a blockbuster in its first season, it was the 30th most popular series on television, and was renewed for a second year. Season two saw major format changes. Doris Martin began a new career as a secretary for the San Francisco based magazine "Today's World", commuting from the Mill Valley farm to the city by the bay. Hampton and Stevens were gone from the cast. McLean Stevenson played editor Mike Nicholson, Doris' boss; veteran Rose Marie was her workplace buddy Myrna Gibbons; and Paul Smith was assistant editor Ron Harvey. The changes seemed to work; helped by a shift to CBS' strong Monday lineup, The Doris Day Show became the 10th most popular show of the season. The third season saw the loss of both the farm and series regular Denver Pyle as Doris and the boys moved to San Francisco, living above an Italian restaurant run by Angie and Louie Palucci (Kaye Ballard and Bernie Kopell). Doris also started showing talent as a writer; she began covering stories for "Today's World" during the season. All the changes may have helped Doris Day survive on the schedule, as CBS began clearing out its rural-based shows in favour of more "relevant" programmes. Season Four, which began in the fall of 1971, saw The Doris Day Show undergo its most radical format change to date. Doris Martin was now a swinging single with no kids or dog (the boys and the sheepdog apparently went back to help their grandfather on the farm); she became a full-time reporter - Stevenson, Marie and Smith were gone; so were Ballard and Kopell. Doris' new boss was hard-driving Cy Bennett (John Dehner); his secretary was Jackie Parker (Jackie Joseph). Billy De Wolfe played the irritating Willard Jarvis, who buys Doris' apartment building.

The changes were obviously meant to make The Doris Day Show more in tune with CBS' increasingly urban-themed comedies - especially The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which became a critical and ratings success the year before. Unfortunately, Day and the new cast were not blessed with the same producers and writers that lifted Mary Tyler Moore into classic sitcom status. But the show was pleasant light entertainment as always. Doris did find romance during the fourth and fifth seasons as she first dated Dr Peter Lawrence (Peter Lawford); then after they broke up, she met and fell in love with the magazine's foreign correspondent Jonathan Rusk (Patrick O'Neal); Doris and Jonathan began making wedding plans before the show's final original episode aired on March 5th, 1973. By this time, Doris Day was a committed advocate of animal rights and was ready to leave the Hollywood lifestyle behind her. CBS wanted a sixth season, but Doris was contracted to do only five years. By the final season, she had become the show's executive producer, and simply told CBS "I have done everything I can with the series". The Doris Day Show gave the entertainer the financial security she had hoped for; she also sued the lawyer who cheated her late husband and won the fight. She eventually moved to Carmel, California where she continues to live a private (and by all accounts happy) life. If The Doris Day Show looks innocent and overly optimistic in today's more cynical world, it should be noted that it was a comedy tailored to the talents and personality of its star. Groundbreaking it wasn't (except for the format shifts) but Doris Day was the reason many of us didn't mind spend time with her every week.


TV show image

Show Image A social drama of the Kennedy era, it starred future Oscar-winning actor George C. Scott as Neil Brock, a social worker for a private organization based in the slums of New York City. His secretary and assistant was Jane Foster, played by Cicely Tyson, who became one of the few African-American women to have a regular series role up to that time. Elizabeth Wilson was Frieda Hechlinger, the head of Community Welfare Service. Each week, the series explored controversial social issues in the poorer and neglected areas of New York. Its best-known episode, "Who Do You Kill," featured James Earl Jones and Diana Sands as a black couple whose baby was bitten by a rat in their tenement apartment; the child died, sending the couple spiraling into despair. Another episode, "No Hiding Place," dealt with a black couple moving into an all-white suburb; realtors tried to get "panicked" white residents to sell their homes at a loss. The practice, known as "block busting," was common before federal housing laws took effect.
East Side/West Side had fine writing and strong performances from Scott, the core cast and the show's guest stars. But the stories proved to be limited because Brock-as a private social worker-could help victims only so much. Also, the issues presented on the show-abortion, prejudice, and drug abuse-did not lend themselves to a neat, tidy resolution as television drama of the era demanded. The situation wasn't helped by meddling from CBS network president James Aubrey, a champion of light, fluffy programmes. At one point, he told East Side/West Side producer David Susskind he wanted the cast "out of Harlem and I want them on Park Avenue." Susskind thought the demand was silly-who would need social justice in one of New York's more affluent areas? But under Aubrey's orders, changes were made. In the middle of the season, Brock went to work for Congressman Charles Hanson (Linden Chiles) as an advisor on social issues, but fought with public relations advisor Mike Miller (John McMartin), who worried about the congressman's image with voters. Wilson and Tyson disappeared from the cast; and a pre-Get Smart Barbara Feldon became Brock's girlfriend. Susskind later admitted, "A gloomy atmosphere for commercial messages, an integrated cast, and a smaller Southern station lineup, all of these things coming together spelled doom for the show. I'm sorry television wasn't mature enough to absorb it and like it and live with it." Not even in John Kennedy's New Frontier.


flag image

Ed Sullivan In this multi-channel DVD world, it is hard to imagine that one television show could satisfy every member of the family. But The Ed Sullivan Show did just that. Every Sunday night from CBS' Studio 50 in New York City, the famed newspaper columnist sought the best talent, gave a stilted introduction to each act, and (for the most part) got out of the way. Sullivan offered a little something for everybody: Opera for the upper crust, circus acts for the kids, comics, singers, dancers, and even poetry readings, all packed into a 60 minute show. Sullivan could be temperamental; anyone who crossed him faced career disaster, and he was roundly criticized for his deadpan delivery. But CBS hired him because he knew the talent that audiences wanted. And Sullivan delivered. His was not the first show to have Elvis Presley as a guest, but "The King's" three appearances on Sullivan in 1956 and 1957 are still considered television classics. Even more so was Sullivan's decision to sign four mop-top lads from Liverpool, England to perform. Most Americans had never heard of the group, but when The Beatles made their US debut on Sullivan in February 1964, the country was more than ready for a British Invasion and drew the highest rating ever for an American entertainment show at the time. Again, another example of Sullivan's uncanny pulse on the nation's entertainment tastes. (In fact, the February 9th, 1964 appearance of The Beatles on Sullivan ranks as the "Greatest Moment In Rock" by "Entertainment Weekly" magazine, and inspired the 1978 movie 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand').

The son of a New York City customs inspector, Ed Sullivan was born on September 28th, 1901. He became a sportswriter, then moved to entertainment when he joined the New York Daily News as a Broadway columnist in 1932. His talent for spotting hot new performers became well known. It was at a promotional "Harvest Moon Ball" in 1947 that he was approached by a CBS executive with an offer to host a new variety show. The Toast Of The Town (as it was first called) made its premiere on June 20th, 1948. The first show's talent budget was only $375. Two hundred of those dollars went to a young comedy team that Sullivan thought had potential - Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Other acts on that first show included Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein the Second, along with concert pianist Eugene List. That diversity became the hallmark of "Toast," and won it a large and loyal audience. Sullivan's popularity was such that the show was renamed The Ed Sullivan Show in 1955. In the hit musical 'Bye Bye Birdie,' an all-American family is in ecstasy when they learn the news: "We're going to be on...Ed Sullivan!" In 1967, the CBS studio where the show was taped was renamed "The Ed Sullivan Theater." (It underwent a major renovation in 1993, and is now home base to another CBS institution - The Late Show With David Letterman). Many major stars made their American television debuts on Sullivan, as well as The Beatles and Martin & Lewis there was also Bob Hope, Lena Horne, Dinah Shore, Walt Disney, and Eddie Fisher. Sullivan also featured African-American artists as well as Horne such as Sammy Davis Junior, Ella Fitzgerald and Pearl Bailey-something few television series in the 1950's would do. But there was another side to Sullivan: He held a grudge and those who crossed him did so at their own risk. Comic Jackie Mason learned that lesson when he gave Sullivan "the bird" while on the air. Mason was banned from the show (the two eventually made up and Mason returned to the Sullivan family). Sullivan got into a feud with Tonight Show host Jack Paar over talent fees. In 1967, Sullivan had lyric disputes with two major rock acts. The Rolling Stones were asked to change the title of their hit song "Let's Spend The Night Together" to "Let's Spend Some Time Together". Mick Jagger and the boys agreed. But that same year, Jim Morrison and his band The Doors were asked by Sullivan's director to modify their hit "Light My Fire" by not using the line "Girl we couldn't get much higher," for fear the word "higher" would sound like a reference to drugs. Morrison sang the song in its original version, with no changes. The Doors never performed on The Ed Sullivan Show again. Sullivan made his own share of bloopers on the air. One night, he gave this pitch for the fight against tuberculosis: "Good night and help stamp out TV". He once forgot the name of the group The Supremes, and introduced them as "the girls." And after a 1965 Christmas show performance by singer Sergio Franchi, Sullivan told his audience "Let's hear it for the Lord's Prayer!" When British comedy duo Morecambe and Wise appeared on the show he introduced them as Morrie, Combie and Wise and a famous blunder also helped get comic Joan Rivers on the show. Sullivan was told to plug the guest for the following week's show, singer Johnny Rivers. Instead, Sullivan said "Next week, Joan Rivers." (She showed up).

Fondly remembered by Sullivan fans was the puppet Topo Gigio (pictured), a puppet Italian mouse who talked to the host and ended each appearance asking Sullivan "Kissa-me good night Eddie." (Maria Prego created Topo, who made over 50 appearances on the show). Another favourite was Senor Wences, the ventriloquist with his puppet in a box Pedro ("S'OK? S'awright!") and hand puppet Johnny. Senor Wences died in 1999 at the age of 103. By 1971, the show was no longer in television's top 20, and its audience was mostly older people with less buying power than viewers of its direct competitor on ABC, The FBI. New CBS executives, who wanted to attract younger viewers, cleaned out virtually all of the network's oldest shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan was so upset and angry he refused to do a final show. Sullivan did come back to CBS for several TV specials and a 25th anniversary show in 1973. One year later, the man known as "Old Stone Face" died of cancer. Today, there is an Ed Sullivan revival of sorts in the US, as DVDs of his show's best moments continue to sell - a reminder of a simpler time when a family could gather together and enjoy high-quality entertainment before the working week began. The Ed Sullivan Show was one of a kind and it is unlikely to be duplicated in today's television universe.