Friday, December 30, 2011

Brady Bunch Guest Stars


The Brady Bunch ran for five seasons, from 1969 until 1974 on ABC.  During its run, the series featured many celebrity guest stars.  Here are descriptions of some of the most notable guest appearances on the show.

* Desi Arnaz, Jr., the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, appeared on The Brady Bunch during his teen heartthrob days.  In a Season One episode titled "The Possible Dream," Marcia Brady (Maureen McCormick) meets Desi after writing about him in her diary.  The episode aired on February 27, 1970.  Oh yes, we must not forget Marcia's heartfelt declaration after receiving her first kiss from Desi Jr.  "I'll never wash this cheek again!" she says dreamily.

Desi Jr. kisses Marcia

* Former football star Joe Namath guest-starred on a Season Five episode entitled "Mail Order Hero."  In that episode, which aired on September 21, 1973, Broadway Joe visits Bobby Brady (Mike Lookinland) because he mistakenly believes that Bobby is suffering from a terminal illness.

* In a Season Three episode, Davy Jones of the Monkees performs the song "Girl" at a music studio, visits the Brady home and promises to escort Marcia to her school dance.  The episode, titled "Getting Davy Jones," aired December 10, 1971.  Trivia note: Marcia Wallace, who portrayed Carol on The Bob Newhart Show, played the role of Marcia Brady's teacher in his episode.

Davy Jones on The Brady Bunch

To watch Davy Jones as he sings "Girl" on The Brady Bunch, click on the link below.

* Marion Ross, the actress who later became famous as Marion Cunningham, the mother on Happy Days, played the part of Dr. Porter, a doctor who treats the Brady girls' measles in a Season One episode.  "Is There a Doctor in the House?" aired on December 26. 1969.

Marion Ross as Dr. Porter

* Hawaiian singer Don Ho appeared in the first of a three-part Season Four opener called"Hawaii Bound."  "Hawaii Bound was filmed on location in Hawaii and the first segment aired on September 22, 1972.  In Part One, Ho serenades the two youngest Brady children, Bobby and Cindy (Susan Olsen).  By the way, Don Ho passed away in Waikiki on April 14, 2007 of heart failure.  He was 76 years old.

To watch "Hawaii Bound," click on the link below.

* The late horror actor Vincent Price appeared in two of the three segments of the Hawaii episode.  He played the role of the dastardly Professor Hubert Whitehead in "Pass the Tabu" (Part Two) and "The Tiki Caves" (Part Three).  Whitehead holds the Brady boys hostage until they are rescued by their parents, Mike (Robert Reed) and Carol (Florence Henderson).

Vincent Price, a lifelong smoker, died of lung cancer and emphysema on October 25, 1993.  He was 82 years old.

* Comic actress Imogene Coca is best remembered for her role opposite Sid Caesar in the 1950s variety series Your Show of Shows. In 1972, she played the Brady girls' eccentric Aunt Jenny in a Season Three episode entitled "Jan's Aunt Jenny."  In this episode, Jan Brady (Eve Plumb) sees a photograph of Aunt Jenny and fears that she will grow up to resemble her aunt.  FYI: Imogene Coca died in Westport, Connecticut on June 2, 2001 at the age of 92.

Imogene Coca as Aunt Jenny with Eve Plumb.

- Joanne

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bing Crosby and David Bowie: Their duet on Bing's last Christmas special

Eighty-something crooner Tony Bennett has made a habit of recording duets with much younger artists such as Lady Gaga and the late Amy Winehouse.  Intergenerational duets, however, are nothing new.

Bing Crosby was 74 years old in September of 1977 when he and his family and singer Rosemary Clooney embarked on a concert tour of England.  The tour included two weeks at the famed London Palladium.  While in England, Crosby recorded his final album, Seasons, and his last television appearance, a Christmas special.

The special was called Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas and Bing's guest star was 27-year-old British rock star David Bowie.  The two singers recorded a duet of "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Peace on Earth" for the show.  They taped the segment in London on September 11, 1977.

The original plan had been for Bowie to sing "The Little Drummer Boy" along with Bing.  David, however, did not feel comfortable with the song and his voice did not adapt well to it.  Composer/lyricists Buz Cohan, Larry Grossman and Ian Frasier quickly whipped up "Peace on Earth" which suited Bowie's voice much better.  Bing and Bowie met the morning of the taping, rehearsed for an hour and finished their duet in only three takes.

Crosby and Bowie made an unlikely pair.  They were men of different generations and different lifestyles.  The flamboyant Bowie, known for wearing makeup on stage, appeared much more conservative on Bing's special.  There was nary a hint of his androgynous persona because he was scrubbed clean of his usual mascara and fingernail polish.  For the TV special, Crosby wore a comfortable cardigan and the usually outlandish Bowie was almost unrecognizable with his neatly-combed hair and royal blue blazer.

Bing had no idea of who David Bowie really was.  If he had been better informed, it is almost certain that the collaboration wouldn't have taken place.  In an interview four days after the filming of the Christmas special, Bing described Bowie as "a clean cut kid and a real fine asset to the show.  He sings well, has a great voice and reads lines well.  He could be a good actor if he wanted."  Crosby, of course, was unaware that David Bowie had already starred in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth.

If Bing were so uninformed about David Bowie, how then did the pairing of this proverbial odd couple happen?  What brought about their collaboration?  Bing, it seems, wanted a young star to appear on his Christmas special and someone mentioned the name of David Bowie.  Although Bing had never heard of David, his children certainly had. An invitation was sent to Bowie and he accepted enthusiastically.  Surprisingly, he was a fan of Bing's.

After his tour of England was completed, Bing Crosby flew to Spain on his own.  His intention was to do some hunting and golfing there.  On the evening of October 14, 1977, however, Crosby, who had a heart condition, collapsed after playing 18 holes of golf near Madrid.  He died of a massive heart attack.

Bing's final Christmas special aired on November 30, 1977, just weeks after his death and his duet with David Bowie generated a great deal of public interest.  It became a perennial music video, best-selling single and a CD-ROM.

In the June 5, 1999 issue of TV Guide, the Crosby-Bowie performance was selected as one of the 25 best television moments of the 20th century and their duet turned out to be a great Christmas song.  Yet, if Bing had known more about David Bowie and his underground lifestyle, it probably wouldn't have come about. 

To watch a video clip of David Bowie on Bing Crosby's Merrie Old Christmas, click on the link below.

- Joanne

Friday, December 2, 2011

More televison pets: From Jed Clampett's dog to Mr. Ed

On April 25, 2011, I wrote about well known pets on television shows.  I profiled such TV pet luminaries as Fred the Cockatoo on Baretta and Arnold the Pig on Green Acres.  At the end of my posting, I said there would be future postings about television pets on TV Banter.  As promised, here is some more about TV animals.

Ann B. Davis (Alice on The Brady Bunch) and Tiger

On The Brady Bunch, the Brady family had a pet dog named Tiger.  In real life, the original Tiger died after being run over by a florist's truck.  It happened during the filming of an episode of the series titled "Katchoo."  In that 1969 episode, the Bradys fear that daughter Jan (Eve Plumb) is allergic to the family dog.

The Clampetts and Duke

Remember how Elly May Clampett loved her critters on The Beverly Hillbillies?  There was, however, one critter who was more associated with Elly's father, Jed.  It was Jed's sleepy hound dog, Duke. 

Duke, a blood hound, was Jed Clampett's hunting dog.  When the Ozark hillbilly family moved to Beverly Hills after striking oil, Duke became increasingly lazy.  The canine just sat around the mansion all day.  Jed, who bemoaned Duke's behaviour, once remarked, "There's a dog who could trail a butterfly through a rain storm.  Now he couldn't smell cabbage cooking."

Duke was portrayed by canine actor Stretch who had appeared in the military comedy No Time for Sergeants with Andy Griffith.  When Stretch reached the age of 13, he was replaced on The Beverly Hillbillies by a younger bloodhound.

Honey West (Anne Francis) with Bruce

In the 1965-66 detective series Honey West, starring the late Anne Francis, Honey had a pet ocelot named Bruce.  According to Ronald L. Smith in his book Sweethearts of 60s TV, "The powerful thirty-pound animal pelted Anne around with his paws, leaving her black and blue.  When he chomped on her hand and drew blood, she had to have a tetanus shot."

Various South American ocelots played the role of Bruce.  Animal trainer Ralph Helfer, who supplied the wild cats, is quoted in The Encyclopedia of TV Pets as saying, "Anne Francis was a sweetheart, one of the few who that didn't mind if the ocelot scratched her a little bit when it jumped on her lap."  Helfer described the late actress as "a real animal lover."

Ted and Button the Chimp

How can we forget a pet monkey on a television series?  Back in 1972, the late Ted Bessell of That Girl fame starred in his own short-lived sitcom.  It was called Me and the Chimp and Bessell portrayed a dentist named Mike Reynolds.  Reynolds lived with his wife Liz, their children, Scott and Kitty, and a trouble making chimp named Buttons. 

Unfortunately for Ted Bessell, Me and the Chimp was a complete flop.  Critics panned it savagely to the point where Ted was forced to turn to directing in order to find work.  He died on October 6, 1996 of an aortic aneurysm.  At the time of his passing, he was 61 years old.

Alan Young and Connie Hines with Mr. Ed

The popular sitcom Mr. Ed (1961-1966) featured a talking equine.  Mr. Ed was a horse who only spoke to his owner, good-natured architect Wilbur Post (played by Alan Young).  Connie Hines had the role of Wilbur's wife, Carol Post. 
Ed was portrayed by a palomino named Bamboo Harvester.  The gelding was foaled in California in 1949 and trained by Les Hilton, a protege of Will Rogers.  In 1968, two years after the cancellation of Mr. Ed, Bamboo's health began to decline.  He suffered from a variety of ailments and was euthanized in 1970 at the age of 20.

You might wonder who provided Mr. Ed's deep voice.  It was cowboy star Allen Lane.  Lane, who was never credited during the run of the series, died of cancer in 1973.  He was 64.

As for Alan Young, he is now 92 years old.  His television wife, Connie Hines, passed away on December 18, 2009 at the age of 78.

- Joanne

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Eric Braeden: The man who portrays Victor Newman

Last Saturday afternoon, I spent some time at the National Women's Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.  Eric Braeden , better known as Victor Newman, the ruthless business tycoon on The Young and the Restless, made an appearance before an enthusiastic crowd of females.  The actor has a great many fans in Toronto as his show is hugely popular here.

At the age of 70, Eric is an imposing figure who seems to have a preference for dressing in black T-shirts.  He answered questions amiably, but remained fairly tight-lipped and revealed very little information about what will happen on The Young and the Restless.  He praised Y&R castmates Doug Davidson (Paul Williams) and Jeanne Cooper (Katherine Chancellor) for their sense of humour.  He also discussed how demanding it is to be a regular on a daytime soap, including the hard work and long hours required.

Eric Braeden was born in Bredenbeck, Germany (near Kiel) on April 3, 1941.  His birth name was Hans Jorg Gudegast.  He grew up in poverty and his father died when he was 12 years old.  Sports were his saving grace and he excelled at athletics.   During the cold German winters, he played hockey on frozen ponds.  He also played soccer and handball during his early youth.

Due to the brain concussions he suffered as a child, Eric was forced to give up contact sports.  So he took up track and field instead and won the German Youth Championship in 1958.  Today he is an ardent tennis fan and a very good player.

In 1959, Eric immigrated to the United States in search of the American Dream.  His goals were to seek adventure and to study economics and politics.  After a brief stay in New York, he moved on to Galveston, Texas where his cousin helped him to find a job as a translator.  Then he travelled to Montana where he worked as a cowhand on a ranch.

Eric Braeden eventually won a partial track scholarship to Montana State University (now the University of Montana) in Missoula.  While a college student, he and a friend made a film called The Riverbusters about the first men to take a boat from the source of the Salmon River and back.  In an attempt to find a distributor for the film, Eric went to Los Angeles.  While in L.A., he discovered that his rugged looks and his accented English provided him with opportunities as an actor.

Eric began appearing on television in 1961.  Due to his German accent, he was typecast in Nazi roles.   In 1963 and 1964, he appeared as a German soldier in several episodes of the World War II drama, Combat!.  He also co-starred as Luftwaffe Major Bentz in yet another war drama, 12 O'Clock High. The episode, titled "Day of Reckoning," aired on March 28, 1966.  During this time, Eric was still credited as Hans Gudegast.

From 1966 until 1968, Eric Braeden played the role of the German captain, Hans Dietrich, on Rat Patrol Rat Patrol was set in North Africa during World War II and the series followed the exploits of a 4-man team of Allied commandos who were part of a long-range desert group.

During the 1970s, Braeden had guest roles in such television series as Gunsmoke (1971, 1974), McCloud (1973), Kojak (1977) , The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1977) and The Six Million Dollar Man (1978).  On The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode, titled "The Critic," Eric portrayed a pompous media critic named Karl Heller.  Heller was hired to provoke controversy on the 6 o'clock news and began lashing out at the people of Minneapolis.

In 1980, Eric was cast as the villainous Victor Newman on The Young and the Restless.  During his early days on the show, he had a dark handlebar moustache and dressed in Western attire with stetsons and cowboy boots.  Braeden was originally hired for a temporary run, but he became so popular that his contract was extended.  He was the villain the fans loved to hate. 

Yet Victor Newman is not a one-dimensional villain.  He has many sides to him.  Braeden likes that aspect of his character.  He told the crowd at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre that one of his favourite storylines on the show was the appearance of Victor's mother, Cora Miller, 30 years after leaving her son at an orphanage. 

Unlike the much-married Victor Newman, Eric Braeden has been married to the same woman, Dale Russell Gudegast, since 1966.  Their son, Christian Gudegast, is a writer and director.  Of his time on The Young and the Restless, Eric told the Vancouver publication Good News Weekly earlier this year that he was "very grateful to be employed for the last 31 years on the show."  He said, "It has mostly been a very good experience and I've been surrounded by very good actors."

Here are some photos of Eric Braeden at the National Women's Show here in Toronto.

- Joanne

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jean Stapleton: Legendary Television Star

There's nothing like humour to burst what seems to be an enormous problem.  Humour reduces it to nothing and wipes it out.  That's what humour does.  That was a great part of that show in terms of every issue, but especially bigotry.  And you know you make fun of something, it reduces it to nothing."

- Jean Stapleton on the humour of All in the Family
From her November 28, 2000 interview for the Archive of American Television

At night, I've been watching old episodes of All in the Family on the Deja View channel.  This has caused me to think about the actors on the show, particularly Jean Stapleton.  Yes, Edith Bunker, The Dingbat herself.

Stapleton's television husband, Carroll O'Connor, who portrayed the bigoted Archie Bunker, died of a heart attack in Los Angeles on June 21, 2001.  Jean is 88 years old now and hasn't been active in show business for years.  Although an accomplished actress of the stage and screen, she has made her greatest impact in the role of Archie's dim-witted but kindly and devoted wife.

Jean Stapleton was born Jeanne Murray in New York City on January 19, 1923, the daughter of Joseph E. Murray, a billboard advertising salesman.  Her mother, Marie Stapleton Murray, was a singer.

In real life, Jean is nothing like Edith Bunker.  Well-educated and intelligent, Jean attended Hunter College on Manhattan's Upper East Side.  It was while attending Hunter College that she began her theatrical career by performing as a member of the Robert Shaw Chorale.

Jean made her professional stage debut in the summer of 1941 at the Greenwood Playhouse in Peaks, Maine.  She made her first New York stage appearance in 1948 in The Corn is Green and by the mid-1950s she was appearing in Broadway musicals such as Damn Yankees! and Bells are Ringing

Jean's began her illustrious television career in 1951 with an appearance as an unnamed woman on an episode of Starlight Theatre titled "The Come-back."  Her next appearance was in "The Storm," a 1952 segment of Robert Montgomery PresentsIn 1954 Jean had a recurring role on a short-lived daytime soap opera called Woman with a Past.  She played a secretary named Gwen. 

On October 26, 1957, Jean Stapleton married William H. Putch, a theatre director and producer.  They raised two children, a son named John and a daughter, Pamela, who both pursued show business careers.  John Putch is an actor/writer/director and Pamela Putch is also an actor. 

Jean's early work in television included roles in The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, Dr. Kildare, Dennis the Menace and Naked City.  In 1955, she appeared in an episode of the Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse called "A Business Proposition."  She played Nurse Whitney in a 1961 episode of Dr. Kildare titled "The Patient."  In 1962, she portrayed Mrs. Flora Davis, Mr. Wilson's housekeeper on Dennis the Menace.  Between 1961 and 1963, Jean appeared three times on the police drama Naked City.

On an episode of the courtroom drama series The Defenders which aired on December 1, 1962, Jean co-starred with future TV husband Carroll O'Connor.  Both were unknown at the time and Jean's character was asked to identify a murderer while on the witness stand.  The actor playing the murderer was O'Connor.

Before her iconic role on All in the Family, Jean Stapleton had guest spots on Route 66 (as Mrs Snider on a 1963 episode called "93 Percent in Smiling"), My Three Sons (as Molly Dubar in a 1964 episode called "The People's House " and on The Patty Duke Show as Mrs. Pollack in 1965's "The Raffle."

Television producer Norman Lear remembered Jean's performance in Damn Yankees! and cast her in the part of Edith Justice in a 1968 pilot for a new sitcom titled Justice for All.  Carroll O'Connor played her husband, Archie Justice.  In 1969 there was a second pilot, Those Were the Days.

CBS eventually picked up the series and called it All in the Family.  The family's last name was changed from Justice to Bunker and Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner joined the show as the Bunkers' daughter Gloria and her husband.  Archie and Edith's son-in-law no longer had an Irish background but a Polish one.  His name was changed from Richard "Dickie" (no last name given) to Mike Stivic.

All in the Family aired from 1971 until 1979 and was truly one of the most remarkable series in the history of American television.  This groundbreaking series was not afraid of tackling the issues of the day straight on.  It dealt with a plethora of social, political, religious and racial issues.  Given its sensitive subject matter, it was bound to be controversial, especially when the liberal Mike and the conservative Archie locked heads.

In all the turmoil, Edith Bunker was the voice of reason.  Edith was not a bright woman, but she was compassionate and nonjudgmental.  She had a certain intuitive wisdom.  She understood Archie and loved him inspite of his flaws.  During the course of the show, she underwent many traumas.  She endured menopause.  She was almost raped and she had phlebitis.

As the 1977-78 season began, changes were in the air for All in the Family.  Archie left his job as a dock foreman in order to pursue his dream of owning his own business.  Together with Harry the bartender, he purchased Kelsey's Bar from its ailing proprietor and renamed it Archie's Place.

At the end of the 1977-78 season, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers announced that they were leaving the show for other pursuits.  Thus, on the season finale, Mike, Gloria and their son Joey headed for California where Mike was to take a teaching position. 

After the departure of Reiner and Struthers, the show changed radically.  Most of the action shifted away from the Bunker home to Archie's bar. In the fall of 1979, the title of the series was changed to Archie Bunker's Place.  Edith's appearances became less frequent.

In 1980, Jean Stapleton left her role as the beloved Edith Bunker.  She felt that the role had reached its potential and that it was time for her to move on. Norman Lear was not thrilled at the prospect of Edith's death.  When Jean reminded him that Edith was only a fictional character, Lear replied, "I don't see it that way."  Nevertheless, on the very first episode of the second season of Archie Bunker's Place, it was revealed that Edith had died after suffering a stroke.

After leavng behind her Edith Bunker character, Jean took on the role of Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1982 television movie Eleanor: First Lady of the World.  For her performance in the role of the former First Lady, Jean received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Special.

On November 23, 1983, William H. Putch died suddenly of a heart attack while directing his wife in The Showoff in Syracuse, New York.  He was 60 years old at the time of his death.

In 1990-91, Jean starred with Whoppi Goldberg in the short-lived sitcom Bagdad Cafe.  Jean and Whoopi played a sort of female "Odd Couple," two women with vastly different personalities.  Whoopi portrayed Brenda, the owner and operator of a diner named Bagdad Cafe located in the middle of the Mojave desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.  Jean's role was that of Jasmine Zweibel who went to work for Brenda and took up residence in the motel.  Jasmine was Felix Unger type, neat and structured while Brenda was sloppy and disorganized.  Unfortunately, the series only lasted for 15 episodes.

During the 1990s, Jean Stapleton continued making guest appearances on television comedies.  She was nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Aunt Vivian in a 1994 episode of Grace Under Fire called "The Road to Paris, Texas."  In a 1996 episode of Everybody Loves Raymond entitled "I Wish I Were Gus," she played the role of Ray Barone's Aunt Alda, his mother's estranged sister.  In 1996, she also guest-starred in an episode of Murphy Brown in which she portrayed Miles' grandmother, Nana Silverberg. 

Jean Stapleton has not appeared in a television role since 2001 when she portrayed Irene Silverman in the TV movie Like Mother Like Son: The Strange Story of Sante and Kenny KimesAs of 2008, she was living in retirement in Manhattan.


* Jean is not related to the late actress Maureen Stapleton. Maureen Stapleton died in 2006.

* Jean's cousin is former musical theatre actress Betty Jane Watson.   Her uncle, Joseph E. Deming, was a vaudevillian and her brother, Jack Stapleton, was a stage actor. 

* Jean turned down the role of Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote.  The part went to Angela Lansbury instead.

To watch the highlights of Jean Stapleton's November 28, 2000 interview for the Archive of American Television, click on the link below.

EDITOR'S UPDATE (April 4, 2013): Jean Stapleton turned 90 years old on January 19, 2013.

EDITOR'S UPDATE (June 2, 2013):  Jean Stapleton died of natural causes on Friday, May 31, 2013 at the age of 90.  Her son, John Putch, informed the Associated Press that she passed away at her home in New York City. R.I.P. Jean.

- Joanne

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Television Quiz


Halloween is upon us and it's time and there has been a tradition of Halloween-themed television specials and episodes of your favourite shows.  Test your knowledge with this not-so-spooky ten-question quiz.

1.  In the celebrated 1966 Halloween special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Linus goes to the mail box to send his annual letter to the Great Pumpkin.  He can not reach the mail box and his sister, Lucy, refuses to assist him.  How does Linus manage to open the mail box?

A.  He uses a step ladder.

B.  He walks on stilts

C.  He uses his blanket to open the box.

D.  He opens it with a broom stick.

E.  Charlie Brown hoists him up.

2.  In an episode of The Cosby Show, Vanessa Huxtable (Tempestt Bledsoe) hosts a Halloween party. Her mother, Clair Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad), dresses up as a well-known celebrity.  Name the celebrity.

A.  Oprah Winphrey

B.  Aretha Franklin

C.  Whoopi Goldberg

D.  Tina Turner

E.  Queen Latifah

3.  In a 2005 Halloween episode of The Office, Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) is ordered to downsize. While everyone at the office celebrates Halloween, Michael agonizes about whom to fire.  However, he still manages to wear a costume in the episode and dresses up as . . .

A.  Ebenezer Scrooge

B.  Pirate

C.  Wizard

D.  Robin Hood

E.  Two-headed Michael

4.  The long-running sitcom Home Improvement, starring Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson as Tim and Jill Taylor, is known for its Halloween episodes.  One of those episodes, "A Night to Dismember," revolves around youngest son Mark Taylor's (Taran Smith) attempt to do what?

A.  Make a horror film

B.  Win a prize for the best Halloween contest at a party

C.  Collect the most Halloween candy

D.  Imitate Dracula

E.  Knock on the door of a haunted house

5.  Not surprisingly, Bewitched always provided some good Halloween-themed entertainment.  The show's 1966 Halloween episode centres on a weird Halloween party that Endora (Agnes Moorhead) holds at the home of her daughter Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) and son-in-law Darrin Stephens.  What legendary athlete just happens to show up at the party?

A.  Arnold Palmer

B.  Willie Mays

C.  Micky Mantle

D.  Wilt Chamberlain

E.  Jack Nicklaus

6.  In another Halloween episode of Bewitched, something happens after Samantha reads a Halloween book to her daughter Tabitha.  What happens?

A.  Samantha disappears and becomes a character in the book.

B.  Tabitha's voice begins to sound like the voice of a scary old ghoul in the book.

C. Tabitha brings to life three spooks from the book. 

D.  Darrin becomes a ghost and only witches can see him.

E.  Tabitha is unhappy when Darrin takes the book away and she casts a spell on her father, turning him into a pumpkin.

7.  In the animated special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, poor Charlie Brown keeps receiving something other then candy when he goes trick-or- treating with his friends.  What does he keep getting?

A.  Coal

B.  Crumbled cookies

C.  Carrots and celery

D.  Acorns

E.  Rocks

8. Who played a hilarious version of Dracula in the 1979 Halloween special The Halloween That Almost Wasn't (This is your bonus question so give yourself an extra points if you answer it correctly)?

A.  Judd Hirsch

B.  Vincent Price

C.  Bela Lugosi

D.  Paul Lynde

E.  Ed Asner

9.  What was the title of the Dr. Seuss animated Halloween special?

A.  How the Grinch Stole Halloween

B.  Halloween is Grinch Night

C.  Halloween in Whoville

D.  The Scary Old Grinch

E.  The Spooks of Whoville

10.  What Hollywood actor appeared on a 2001 Halloween episode of Friends?

A.  George Clooney

B.  Robert Downey Jr.

C.  Sean Penn

D.  Johnny Depp

E.  Tom Cruise


1.  C

Linus uses his trusty security blanket to open the mail box and throws in his letter to the Great Pumpkin.

2.  D

Clair Huxtable dresses as Tina Turner at her daughter Vanessa's Halloween party in an episode of The Cosby Show entitled "Halloween" (Season 2, Episode 6).  She wears a miniskirt and sparkly top. The episode aired on October 31, 1985. 

3.  E

In the Halloween episode of The Office which aired on October 18, 2005, Michael, played by Steve Carrell, dresses up as a two-headed Michael.

4.  A

In the episode of Home Improvement which aired October 28, 1997 (Season 7, Episode 5), Mark informs his parents that he is in a film class and that he intends to make a horror movie.

5.  B

The Bewitched Halloween episode, "Twitch or Treat," aired on October 27, 1966.  Willie Mays made a brief cameo appearance as himself in that episode.

To watch "Twitch or Treat," click on the link below.

6.  C

In the Bewitched Halloween episode, "The Safe and Sane Halloween," Tabitha materializes three spooks from the pages of her book.  The spooks follow Samantha and Tabitha for an evening of trick-or-treating.  This episode aired on October 26, 1967.

7.  E

While his friends receive various Halloween treats during trick-or-treating, Charlie Brown gets a rock from every house he visits. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz said that when the show first aired, fans worldwide sent in candy "just for Charlie Brown."

8.  A

Judd Hirsch played Dracula in The Halloween That Almost Wasn't, a story in which Dracula hears rumours that Halloween may cease. He orders all the other monsters to become more scary or leave his castle.

9.  The 1977 Dr. Seuss Halloween special was titled Halloween is Grinch Night.  In this special, the evil Grinch comes down the mountain to terrify the Whos of Whoville when the "sour-sweet wind" blows.

To listen to the song "Grinch is gonna get you" from Halloween is
Grinch Night, click on the link below.

10.  C.

Sean Penn was a guest star on a Halloween episode of Friends that aired on November 1, 2001.  In the episode, Monica (Courtney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) hold a costume party and Penn plays a character named Eric.

- Joanne

Friday, October 14, 2011

Judy Carne: The Sock It To Me Girl's Sad Life

Judy Carne has two major claims to fame.  She was married to actor Burt Reynolds from 1963 until 1965 and she was the Sock-It-To-Me Girl on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, the influential sketch comedy television show of the late 1960s and early 1970s.  On the popular program, hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, Judy frequently wore bikinis and her body was often covered with graffiti.  With her trendy shag haircut and perky English accent, she popularized the catchphrase "Sock it to me!"

The daughter of a London fruit merchant, Judy was born Joyce Botterill on April 27, 1939 in Northhampton, Northhamptonshire, England.  Young Joyce displayed talent at an early age.  She received training at the Pitt-Draffen Academy of Dance and was accepted into the prestigious Bush-Davis Theatrical School for Girls in East Grinstead near London.  An instructor at the school began calling her "Judy," telling her that "Joyce" was not a good professional name.  The second part of Judy's stage name was taken from a character named Sarat Carn in the play Bonaventure by English playwright Charlotte Hastings.

In 1956, Judy Carne made her first television performance in a British program titled The First Day of Spring.  After building a respectable career on British TV, she was ready to seek fame and fortune in America.

Judy came to the United States in 1962, just ahead of The Beatles and the "British Invasion."  Producer Cy Howard brought her to Hollywood and cast her as Heather Finch in a new series called Fair Exchange.  While on a promotional tour for the show, she met an up-and-coming actor named Burt Reynolds. 

Judy married Reynolds on June 28, 1963.  Their marriage, however, was a disaster and they divorced acrimoniously in 1965.  Of her short-lived union with Reynolds, Judy made this comment: "Actors and actresses shouldn't be together.  Each is so involved in himself that there isn't room at the dinner table for the two of them."

Despite their failed marriage and bitter divorce, Burt was there for Judy in later years to help her overcome financial woes and drug abuse.  When he guest-hosted The Tonight Show, he invited Judy to appear with him.

Judy and Burt - wedding photo

By 1966, Judy had a leading role on an American television show, appearing in the romantic comedy Love on a Rooftop opposite the late Pete Duel.  She played the role of Julie Willis, an art student from a wealthy family, who marries David (Duel), a struggling apprentice architect.  They live in a small, walk-up apartment with a stairway leading to the roof where they enjoy a spectacular view of San Francisco.

Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In came along in 1968 and Judy became an instant celebrity on one of the hottest shows on television.  The fast-paced show was right in tune with the Swinging Sixties and it made household names of Judy and the other performers including Arte Johnson, Ruth Buzzi, Henry Gibson, Jo Anne Worley and Goldie Hawn.

On Laugh-In, Judy Carne usually found herself at the receiving end of numerous pranks such as being doused with pails of water whenever she mouthed her signature phrase, "Sock it to me!." She was a good sport and audiences like her for it but eventually she had enough of the endless pratfalls.

Judy with Goldie Hawn on Laugh-In

Judy in her Laugh-In Days

After only two years on the show, Judy decided not to renew her Laugh-In contract.  Tired of the grind, she feared being typecast and wanted to showcase her singing and dancing talents in a more serious manner.  Her decision to leave the show did not turn out particularly well.  With the notable exception of her role as Polly in a Broadway revival of The Boyfriend, Judy's post-Laugh-In career was rather lacklustre.  She appeared in a couple of mini-movies and an unsuccessful Las Vegas music act.  She also did the TV talk show circuit and guested on game shows.

Things might have worked out better for Judy if the pilot for a sitcom produced by Sheldon Leonard had been picked up in 1970.  She was poised to star as a journalist in a television series tentatively titled Poor Judy.  It never happened.

In May of 1970, 31-year-old Judy Carne married for a second time, this time to television producer Robert Bergmann, 23.  According to Time magazine, they were wed at dawn in a Unitarian ceremony in Manhattan's Cenral Park before some 100 witnesses.  Unfortunately, Judy's marriage to Bergmann proved to be even more short-lived and disastrous than her marriage to Burt Reynolds.  They divorced in 1971.

During the 1970s, Judy's career declined severely and her personal life became a hellish nightmare filled with pain, heroin addiction and degradation.  On June 16, 1978, she was involved in a near-fatal car crash along with ex-husband, Robert Bergmann. The two had been celebrating Judy's recent acquittal on charges of heroin possession. 

After stopping to eat near Bergmann's mother's cottage in New Hope, Pennsylvania, Robert was determined to drive back to his mother's house despite his inebriated state and slurred speech.  A frightened Judy pleaded with him to let her drive.  Threatening to leave her stranded, he began speeding down the narrow country road.  He lost control of the vehicle and it plunged down a steep hill. 

Bergmann was thrown from the car and escaped safely.  Judy, on the other hand, was thrust into the windshield and suffered serious injury.  She broke her neck and was laid up in a "halo" traction for  months.  After being released from the hospital, she returned to England with her parents who had come to visit her.

Judy returned to the United States in 1981 to sue Robert Bergmann for her medical expenses.  She was awarded a total of $95,000 - $45,000 for lost wages and $50,000 for pain and suffering. 

In 1985, Judy Carne's harrowing autobiography was published.  Titled Laughing on the Outside, Crying on the Inside: The Bittersweet Saga of the Sock-It-To-Me Girl, the book explicitly chronicled her descent into a life of drug addiction and debauchery.

In 1993, Judy attended the 25th anniversary of Laugh-In and appeared on a televised Laugh-In Christmas show.  Now 72 years old, Judy hasn't been in the spotlight for many years.  She resides in her hometown of Northhampshire, England and there have been unconfirmed reports that she married twice more.


* During her Laugh-In heyday, in July of 1969, Judy appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and performed "American Moon," a tribute to the Apollo 11 moon landing mission.  Sullivan, who had a penchant for mispronouncing names, introduced her as "Judy Crane."

* Pete Duel, Judy Carne's co-star on Love on a Rooftop, went on to star on his own television series, Alias Smith and Jones.  Judy guest- starred on an episode of the series.  Sadly, Pete Duel committed suicide on December 31, 1971.  He was 31 years old.

- Joanne

EDITOR'S UPDATE (September 8, 2015): Judy Carne passed away on September 3, 2015.  She died in hospital at Northampton, Northamptonshire England, the place of her birth. Her passing on September 3rd was confirmed today by a spokeswoman from Northampton General Hospital.  

Judy was 76 years old.  According to newspaper reports, she had suffered from pneumonia. Her cousin, Marnie Butcher, announced her death on Facebook with the words, "RIP Judy Carne, you're not suffering anymore."

Friday, October 7, 2011

On Reality Television, Candid Camera and Allen Funt


Yes, I know, reality shows are wildly popular.  Yes, I know that many people find them extremely entertaining.  I'm just not one of them.  It's not that I have a universal dislike for them.  Some are all right.  Others, however, are very distasteful and quite egregious.  Let's just say I'm just not that into reality television. If that takes me out of the loop, so be it!

I prefer well-written situation comedies and dramas with a good plotline and decent acting performances.  I also enjoy viewing documentaries, biographies and political satire.  Nevertheless, I recognize that reality shows are probably here to stay.  It's a matter of economics.  They are not costly to produce since they don't have to include big-name stars who demand huge salaries.

Reality shows did not start with the Survivor series.  The genre has actually been around for quite awhile.  One can even argue that it goes back to the days of radio.  After all, Alan Funt's Candid Camera began on radio as Candid Microphone on June 28, 1947.

Allen Funt brought his concept of a hidden camera reality series to television on August 10, 1948.  The first television version was also called Hidden Microphone, but the title was changed to Candid Camera in 1949 when the show moved to NBC. 

Funt was the creator, producer and host of this long-running series based on practical jokes and pranks. The premise of the show was to eavesdrop on unsuspecting people and discover how they would react to unusual or unexpected situations. Allen himself participated in many of the gags.  

The reactions of the "victims" to these unexpected situations was the source of the show's humour.  Their reactions were often quite hilarious, although often embarrassing to them.  Here is an example of one of the pranks.  A patron at a bowling alley would roll the ball, and it would return back down the chute without finger holes.  The befuddled bowler would try to figure out what was going on.  Some of Allen's other ploys consisted of talking vending machines, restaurants that served ridiculously small food portions and actors who got into bizarre predicaments and then asked passersby to come to their aid.

Some of the funniest situations on the show were not set-ups, but natural occurrences, such as as the burly police officer who seemed to perform a classical ballet while motioning to direct traffic. 

Allen's biggest coup was his foray into Moscow without the permission or knowledge of the Russian authorities.  He smuggled himself, cameramen and hidden cameras over the then-Soviet border.  Then he brazenly staged many of his favourite stunts on the streets of Moscow - and this was during the days of the Cold War!

Candid Camera was on and off the air for many years and Allen worked with four different co-hosts: Arthur Godfrey (1960 to 1961); Durward Kirby (1961-1966); Bess Myerson (1966-1967) and his son Peter Funt.  In the 1970s, Funt introduced a syndicated version of the show that included both old and new material. 

Peter Funt

CBS aired several Candid Camera specials during the 1989-90 season and Allen's son, Peter, began serving as co-host of the program.  When Allen suffered a stroke in 1993 and became incapacitated, Peter Funt took over as host.  Allen Funt died in Pebble Beach, California on September 5, 1999.  He was 84 years old.

Peter Funt, was raised in New York and worked on the set of his father's show during summers.  He made his first appearance on Candid Camera at the age of three when he posed as a shoeshine boy who charged $10 for a shine.  In 1986, Peter married Amy Suzanne Meltzer.  They have two children, Stephanie and Daniel, and they reside in central California.

In 1996, Peter Funt produced and hosted Candid Camera's 50th Anniversary special.  In 1997, Peter co-hosted the show with Suzanne Somers.  The show later moved to PAX TV where Peter was partnered with Dina Eastwood until 2004.

Editor's Update:  February 12, 2013

I have had difficulty in finding Peter Funt's exact date of birth. However, a spring 2010 article in the University of Denver Magazine states that he is 62 years old (Peter is an alumnus of the  university.  In 1967, he interviewed Martin Luther King on his DU radio show).  

A further online search, shows a Peter T. Funt, born in 1947, who is related to Amy Funt.  That's the one.  He is listed as 65 years old and currently lives in Pebble Beach, California.  

- Joanne

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In search of Jimmy McNichol

There continues to be much interest in Kristy McNichol and her brother Jimmy.  One reader told me that Jimmy (who apparently prefers to be called James) divorced his wife Renee about five years ago.  Jimmy and Renee have two children - a son named Nash and a daughter, Ellis (born 1998).

I have not been able to verify that Jimmy and Renee are divorced and none of my readers has been able to provide me with any further information on the subject yet.  If anyone out there in cyberland knows something more, please email me and TV Banter will be pleased publish your info.

Two days ago, another reader referred me to a website showing a 1998 photo of Jimmy, Renee and their then-17 month old son Nash at home.  The photo is by Anna Summa//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images.  The photo's caption describes Jimmy as a "former teen idol turned environmentalist."  To view this picture, click on the link below.

The reader also remembered reading that Jimmy now lives in Colorado.  I did a little online research and discovered that a James Vincent McNichol III, age 50, resides in Bayfield, Colorado.  Jimmy turned 50 on July 2, 2011.

At some point, McNichol moved from Southern California to Colorado.  I don't know if he is still recording music.  Back in 1996, he was recording under the name Jimmy James.  In 1999, he was still performing with a band called Wizard King and released a CD titled Echo Warrior.  He was also involved with a website focusing on eco-education called ECO TV.

Over to you, readers.  Let's have some serious banter.

- Joanne

Saturday, September 24, 2011

TV Doctors and Medical Shows Quiz


If you are a fan of medical shows, this ten-question quiz is for you.  From Dr. Kildare to Dr. Welby to Dr. House, TV Banter, has the questions for you.  Are you up to the challenge?  Take the test below and find out.

1. On Marcus Welby, M.D., what was the name of Welby's loyal Hispanic secretary-nurse? 

A. Maria Martinez

B. Consuelo Lopez

C.  Angelina Gomez

D.  Gloria Alvarez

E.  Donna Perez

2.  Which Hollywood heartthrob had a regular role on the long-running medical drama ER?

A.  Brad Pitt

B.  Ryan Reynolds

C.  Tom Cruise

D.  George Clooney

E.  Mark Wahlberg

3.  Canadian-born comic and television show host Howie Mandel played a role a the medical drama.  Name the series Howie Mandel appeared on.

A. St. Elsewhere

B.  ER

C.  Grey's Anatomy

D.  House

E.  Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

4. On Medical Center, what was the name of Chad Everett's character?

A.  Dr. Frank Peterson

B.  Dr. Jim Hannon

C.  Dr. Joe Gannon

D.  Dr. Lawrence Reilly

E.  Dr. Steven Ross

5.  In what city does Grey's Anatomy take place?

A.  New York City

B.  Los Angeles, California

C.  Boston, Massachusetts

D.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

E.  Seattle, Washington

6.  Which medical drama began with the opening words "Man, woman, birth, death, infinity!?" (This is your bonus question.  Give yourself an extra point if you answer it correctly.)

A.  Dr. Kildare

B.  Ben Casey

C.  Medical Center

D.  Marcus Welby, M.D.

E.  Doctors' Hospital 

7.  On House, Dr. Remy Hadley, played by Olivia Wilde, is better known as

A.  "Butterfingers"

B.  "Rems"

C.  "Thirteen"

D.  "Haddy"

E.  "Remmy"

8.  The opening theme song for Dr. Kildare was "Three Stars Will Shine Tonight."  Who recorded the theme song used on the show?

A.  Richard Chamberlain

B.  Andy Williams

C.  Dean Martin

D.  Frank Sinatra

E.  Nat King Cole

9.  On Grey's Anatomy, whom did Dr. Cristina Yang marry?

A.  Preston Burke

B.  Colin Marlowe

C.  Derek Shepherd

D.  Alex Karev

E.  Owen Hunt

10.  What vehicle did Dr. Steven Kiley, Welby's associate on Marcus Welby, M.D., drive?

A.  Red convertible

B.  Motorcycle

C.  Bicycle

D.  Black sedan

E.  Blue sports car


1.  B 

Consuelo Lopez was the name of Marcus Welby's loyal nurse.  Elena Verdugo portrayed Consuelo.  Born on April 20, 1926, the former 1940s "B" movie actress for Universal Studios, is now 85 years old.  The late actor/director Richard Marion, who died of a heart attack in 1999 at age 50, was her son.

2.  D

From 1994 until 1999, George Clooney played Dr. Douglas "Doug" Ross on ER. 

3.  A

Toronto-born Mandel played the role of Dr. Wayne Fiscus on St. Elsewhere.

4.  C. 

Chad Everett played the part of Dr. Joe Gannon on Medical Center.  The CBS medical drama ran from 1969 until 1976.

5.  E

Grey's Anatomy takes place in Seattle, Washington.  It chronicles the lives and loves of interns, residents and others at fictional Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital.

6.  B.

Vince Edwards (right) and Sam Jaffe

Ben Casey, starring Vince Edwards in the title role, ran on the ABC network from 1961 until 1965.  Every episode began with a hand drawing the symbols for man, woman, birth, death and infinity on a chalkboard while the voice of Sam Jaffe (who played Casey's mentor, Dr. David Zorba) pronounced the words for the symbols.  Then, after an opening scene, the show's dramatic theme song began.  To watch Part 1 of a Ben Casey episode, click on the link below.

7.  C

Dr. Remy "Thirteen" Hadley is part of Dr. Gregory House's new diagnostic team at the Princeton-Plainsboro Training Hospital in New Jersey.  The secretive character received her nickname on the episode titled "The Right Stuff" in which she is assigned the number 13 during a competition for her position.

8.  A

Richard Chamberlain, who played Dr. James Kildare, recorded "Theme From Dr. Kildare (Three Stars Will Shine Tonight)."    Chamberlain wrote the song's lyrics and it was released as a single in 1962.  To listen to him sing the Kildare theme song, click on the link below.

9.  E

Cristina Yang, played by Sandra Oh, married Owen Hunt, a former military surgeon.

10.  B

Dr. Steven Kiley, Welby's younger associate, was portrayed by James Brolin.  Kiley drove a motorcycle while Marcus Welby (Robert Young) drove a long sedan.  By the way, Dr. Welby hired Kiley to assist him with his workload after suffering a mild coronary.

- Joanne