Monday, April 25, 2011

Pets on Television Shows: Fred the Cockatoo, Arnold the Pig and others

There has been a variety of pets on television shows through the years.  Some of them have made a stronger impression than others.  TV Banter has selected some of the more notable ones.   In no particular order, here is a rundown of some of the most memorable television pets. 

Fred the Cockatoo with Blake

Baretta, starring Robert Blake, was a detective drama.  The series ran from 1975 until 1978 on the ABC network.  Blake played Detective Anthony “Tony” Baretta, a plainclothes cop who lived in an apartment at a decrepit hotel with Fred, his pet cockatoo.
In real life, Fred was called LaLa (or Lalah).  He was given that name because of his tendency to repeat the phrase ``La-la-la-la-la.``  LaLa  was born in Hong Kong and owned by an animal trainer named Ray Berwick.
LaLa originally spoke Chinese, but learned English quickly.  Berwick taught his bird several clever tricks including pedalling a bicycle and imitating the sound of a dog or cat.  During the 1980, the feisty cockatoo was featured in Ray Berwick’s animal show at the Universal Studio’s Tour in southern California and at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.  LaLa is now deceased, but lived until about the age of 70.

Grammer with Moose a.k.a. Eddie

Frasier was a comedy series about the life of a Seattle psychiatrist and radio talk show host named Dr. Frasier Crane (played by Kelsey Grammer).  It aired on NBC from 1993 until 2004.  Frasier’s father, Martin Crane (John Mahoney), was a retired detective from the Seattle Police Department.  Martin owned a Jack Russell terrier named Eddie. 
The part of Eddie was shared by a dog named named Moose and Moose’s son, Enzo.  Moose died in June of 2006 at the Los Angeles home of his trainer, Mathilde Halberg.  According to Halberg, Moose was 16 at the time of his death.  She described the dog as having “incredible charisma” and as a “free spirit.”  During the show’s heyday, Moose was so popular that he received more mail than any of his human counterparts.
Moose appeared in 192 episodes of Frasier from 1993 until his retirement in 2003, a year before the show ended.  His fictional owner, Martin Krane, declared that the dog’s full name was “Eddie Spaghetti” because “he has worms.”  In 1994 interview with Animal Press magazine, John Mahoney lauded the Jack Russell as a “consummate professional who works hard learning his tricks.”  A running gag on the series was Moose’s tendency to stare at Kelsey Grammer for long periods.
Here are the names of some other television dogs:
On the adventure series Hart to Hart, Jonathan and Jennifer Hart (Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers) owned a pooch named Freeway.  The Harts’ pet was named Freeway because he was a stray they had discovered wandering on the freeway.  The part of Freeway was played by a Lowchen (German for “Little Lion”) called Charlie.  Charlie originally discovered in a dog pound.

Wagner, Powers & "Freeway"
On the long-running family comedy, My Three Sons (1960-1972), the Douglas family owned a sheepdog named Tramp.  Tramp, played by Spud the Dog, was a shaggy, off-white mutt.  Spud was trained by well known breeder and animal trainer Frank Inn.

My Three Son's cast with "Tramp"


GA's Eb Dawson (Tom Lester) & Arnold

Arnold the Pig was featured on the CBS sitcom Green Acres.  Green Acres, starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor, ran from 1965 until 1971.  Arnold, an American Yorkshire, was extremely talented.  He could write his name, play the piano, and change the channels on the television (He was a fan of The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite).  Arnold was treated as a son by Fred Ziffel and his wife Doris, farmers in the small town of Hooterville.
Several different pigs filled the roll of Arnold Ziffel during Green Acres’ six-year run.  The number is uncertain, but it is estimated that there were about a dozen.  Frank Inn was their trainer.   In fact, Inn trained almost all the animals on the popular rural-based sitcoms of the era, including Petticoat Junction and The Beverly Hillbillies.  Frank, who passed away in 2002, requested that the ashes of Arnold the Pig and Higgins, who played “Dog” on Petticoat Junction be buried with him.
There is an urban myth that the cast and crew of Green Acres feasted on Arnold at the show’s farewell party.  This is simply not true.  Frank Inn stated that none of the animals was eaten.  According to Inn, they were all allowed to live out their natural lives on a farm.  Feel better now, animal lovers?
Note:  There will be future postings about television animals in TV Banter.  
- Joanne

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bobby Sherman: Teen Idol and Television Star

Bobby Sherman was one of the most popular teen idols of the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Although he was recognized as a singer, Bobby did not really achieve stardom until he appeared in the popular television show Here Come the Brides.  With the immediate success of Brides and the television exposure it provided, Sherman’s career skyrocketed.  He became a highly popular recording artist and a teen idol.  With his shaggy hair and megawatt smile, he appeared on the cover of gossip and teen magazines such as Tiger Beat, 16 and Fave. 

"Peace, love and Bobby Sherman" was a trendy expression during Bobby's heyday.  “Bobby Sherman Chokers” became a fad and the heartthrob's grinning face adorned poster and lunch boxes everywhere.  His photograph could even be found on the back of Honeycomb cereal boxes.  It was part of a promotion by which fans who bought the cereal received free cut-out Bobby Sherman mini-albums.

Here Come the Brides was a comedy/adventure series.  It ran from 1968 until 1970 on the ABC network.  The series was set in the Seattle of the 1870s and chronicled the lives of logging camp operator Jason Bolt (Robert Brown) and his family.  Bobby Sherman played the role of Jeremy Bolt, Jason’s younger brother.  David Soul, of Starsky and Hutch fame, portrayed Jason’s other younger brother, Joshua Bolt.
The Bolts were in jeopardy of losing their timberland at Bridal Veil Mountain.  Their logging crew was threatening to revolt due to a lack of women in Seattle.  To solve the problem, Jason devised a scheme by which he sailed to New Bedford, Massachusetts and persuaded 100 prospective brides to return to the frontier with him.  If any of the 100 women left before the duration of a year, Jason would have to forfeit his land to a rival saw-mill operator from whom he had borrowed money to finance the scheme.

Bobby with David Soul and Robert Brown in Brides

After appearing on a March 1971 episode of The Partridge Family entitled “A Knight in Shining Armor,” Bobby Sherman was given his own spin off series on ABC.  It was a sitcom called Getting Together.  Bobby played Bobby Conway, a songwriter struggling to succeed in the music business.  Unfortunately for Sherman, Getting Together faced formidable competition from All in the Family on Saturday nights.  It didn’t really have a chance and was cancelled after only 14 episodes. 
Robert Cabot “Bobby” Sherman, Jr. was born in Santa Monica, California on July 22, 1943.  He and his older sister Darlene grew up in Van Nuys, California. Bobby’s interest in music began when he took trumpet lessons as a child.  He attended Birmingham High School in Van Nuys where he was a member of a dance band.  In 1964, he had an opportunity to sing with his old band at a Hollywood party and performed so well that he found himself an agent and eventually a role on Shindig as a house singer.  Shindig was a prime time rock ‘n roll show.  It ran from 1964 until 1966.  A fast-paced program, it featured popular musical performers singing their most recent hits, and glossy dance production numbers. 
During his time on Shindig, Bobby Sherman made several recordings, but was unable to come up with that elusive big hit.  In 1967, he appeared on an episode of The Monkees entitled “Monkees at the Movies.”  Bobby played the role of Frankie Catalina, a pompous surfer.  In the episode, he performed a song called “New Girl in School.”  The song was co-written by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Jan Berry of Jan and Dean.
Bobby’s vocal career had been stagnating until he won the role of the shy, stammering Jeremy Bolt on Here Come the Brides.  While Brides was on the air, he had a string of well-produced pop hits such as “Little Woman,” “La La La (If I Had You),” and “Julie Do Ya Love Me.”  By 1972, however, the hits had stopped coming and Sheman’s career went into a tailspin.
To view a video of Bobby Sherman singing "Julie Do Ya Love Me," click on the link below.

With his show business career on the decline, Bobby’s life took a different direction.  After appearing in a 1974 episode of the Jack Webb television series Emergency!, he developed an acute interest in emergency medical services.  It became his passion.  He moved away from the public spotlight and became an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).  He volunteered with the Los Angeles Police Department, assisting paramedics and giving instruction in first aid.  In the 1990s, he officially became a technical reserve officer with the L.A. police.  Sherman also founded the Bobby Sherman Volunteer EMT Foundation, a non-profit organization that coordinates medical services at community and charity events in southern California.
In 1986, Bobby became a regular cast member of the cable TV sitcom Sanchez of Bel Air.  He portrayed Frankie Rondell, a former teen idol living off the royalties of his one big hit.  The series focused on the lives of a Latino family who had achieved success in the fashion industry.  Bobby’s character was their next-door-neighbour.
 Bobby performed in concert as part of the “Teen Idol Tour” of 1998.  He was joined by Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits and Davy Jones of The Monkees.  Fellow Monkee Mickey Dolenz replaced Jones on the 1999 tour.  Sherman’s last solo performance took place in Lincoln, Rhode Island on August 25, 2001.
Bobby Sherman is now 67 years old.  He married Patti Carnel in 1971.  The couple had two sons, Christopher and Tyler, and divorced in 1979.  Christopher (born 1972) and Tyler(born 1974) have children of their own, making Bobby a grandfather. 

Patti Carnel later married David Soul, Bobby Sherman's co-star on Here Come the Brides.  Carnel was Soul's third wife and in October of 1982 he was arrested for assaulting her.  The story broke three days later and it made ugly headlines.  Soul was ordered by a judge to attend psychotherapy sessions and to undergo alcoholism counselling.

Bobby runs his Volunteer EMT Foundation along with Brigitte Poublon.  According to the foundation's website, Poublon came to the United States as a political refugee from Jakarta, Indonesia in the 1960s and settled in Los Angeles.  After graduating from high school, she procured her real estate licence and was employed as a real estate developer with Norton Development Inc. and Homestead Group.  A self-made millionaire, she retired from the real estate business in 1996.  She devotes herself to philanthropy and is the President of Bobby Sherman’s EMT foundation.

Brigitte Poublon

Bobby Sherman co-wrote his autobiography, Still Remembering You, with Dena Hill.  It was published in 1996.  To promote the book, Bobby appeared on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and A.M. L.A.    

- Joanne

Monday, April 4, 2011

My Mother the Car: One of the Worst Shows or Cult Classic?

Everybody knows in the second life
We all come back sooner or later
As anything from a pussycat
To a man eating alligator
Well you all may think my story
Is more fiction than it’s fact
But believe it or not my mother dear
Decided she’d come back

As a car . . .
She's my very own guiding star
A 1928 Porter, that’s my mother dear
‘Cause she helps me through everything I do
And I’m so glad she’s near

My mother the car
My mother the car

- My Mother the Car theme song,
Lyrics by Paul Hampton

To watch a video of the opening and closing themes of My Mother the Car, click on the link below.

Prime television has seen its share of quirky shows.  There has been a TV comedy about a man who talks to a horse (Mr. Ed).  There has also been a series about a nun who uses her starched white cornette to soar through the air (The Flying Nun).  The strangest premise for a show in TV history, however, may have been a show about a talking automobile.  It was not just any car.  Oh no, it was a 1928 Porter.  The car’s voice was not just any voice either.  It was the voice of the car owner’s deceased mother. 
My Mother the Car was a short-lived series which aired from 1965 until 1966 on the NBC network. Only thirty episodes of the show were ever produced. Jerry Van Dyke played the hapless Dave Crabtree, a small-town lawyer with two children (Cindy and Randy).  Crabtree’s wife, Barbara, was played by Maggie Pierce.  On a visit to a used-car lot to purchase an inexpensive second-hand car, Dave is inexplicably drawn to an antique 1928 Porter.  When he takes the wheel, the car speaks to him and informs him that it is the reincarnation of his departed mother, Gladys Crabtree.  Although discouraged by family and friends, Dave buys the car because he doesn’t want to lose “Mother.”  It turns out that Dave is the only who can communicate with the car and hear what it has to say.

1928 Poter

In one of her most offbeat roles, Ann Sothern, who died in 2001, provided the voice for the talking car.  Sothern had been a big star for many years when My Mother the Car appeared on television.  She played private secretary Susan McNamera on Private Secretary from 1953 to 1957.  From 1958 until 1961, she starred in her owned titled series, The Ann Sothern Show, in which portrayed Katy O’Connor, the assistant manager of an upscale New York hotel.
My Mother the Car had a resident villain.  He was Dave Crabtree's nemesis, Captain Bernard Mancini.  Mancini was an antique car collector who coveted Dave’s Porter and was always attempting to procure it from him.  The role of Mancini was played by Avery Schreiber who died in 2002.
Jerry Van Dyke was originally offered the part of Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island.  When he turned it down in favour of the starring role in My Mother the Car, Bob Denver was given the part instead.  Both shows were rather silly, but for some reason, Gilligan’s Island became a huge hit.  It ran from 1964 until 1967.  My Mother the Car, on the other hand, was ridiculed and panned savagely by critics and viewers.  It was cancelled after one season. 

In 2002, TV Guide named My Mother the Car the second worst program of all time (The Jerry Springer Show won top honours).  Nevertheless, My Mother the Car has not been forgotten and has become a veritable cult classic.   Some have even argued that the show was ahead of its time and was unable to exploit the youth market.

I can’t help but wonder how Jerry Van Dyke feels about his decision to forgo Gilligan’s Island.  He may have become as famous as his older brother, Dick.  Well, at least he went on to play the role of assistant coach Luther Van Dam on the hit sitcom Coach. That’s not too shabby.
It’s interesting to note that the creators of My Mother the Car, Allan Burns and Chris Hayward, also collaborated on Get Smart, The Munsters and Rocky and Bullwinkle.  In the 1970s, Burns went on to become the co-creator of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Chris Hayward died of cancer in 2006 at the age of 81.

The Crabtree Family

Just in case you were wondering, the 1928 Porter’s California licence plate number was PZR 317.
- Joanne