Thursday, May 31, 2012

Top 10 Favorite Columbo Killers

Patrick McGoohan

Jack Cassidy

Robert Culp

Laurence Harvey


Oskar Werner 

Dick Van Dyke

Fisher Stevens

Billy Connelly

William Shatner

Johnny Cash

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

Good Morning America

I discovered morning shows when I had to be up early to go to school in the seventies and the kids shows that were on that early were, for the most part, far too young for me by that point. My first favorite was AM AMERICA with Bill Beutel and Stephanie Edwards in 1975. That one didn't last very long, however and was retooled by ABC to become GOOD MORNING AMERICA, a sort of happy news alternative to the by-then staid and journalistic TODAY SHOW over on NBC. 

Seen below is most of the early cast of GOOD MORNING AMERICA as it began its slow climb toward dethroning TODAY. L-R front row: David Hartman, Rona Barrett, Erma Bombeck, Nancy Dussault. Back row: John Lindsay, Geraldo Rivera, unknown, Jack Anderson

The odd choice for hosting this two hour daily mix of news, features and commentary was gangly actor David Hartman, star of TV's THE BOLD ONES and LUCAS TANNER and in Disney's big-screen THE ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD. To this day, I can't imagine what led to that decision but, perhaps against all odds, it worked. Hartman was personable, inquisitive and turned out t be a pretty good journalist as well. 

His initial co-host was Nancy Dussault, yet another thespian without any previous experience of this sort. She would be better served as Ted Knight's wife on TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT after leaving GMA.

Nancy was replaced by Sandy Hill. Sandy and David, if I recall, had a bit of a feud behind the scenes. She was a real reporter and ended up making a good host as well. 

Steve Bell was, for many years, the anchorman at the studio news desk for the twice hourly updates of headlines. 

Geraldo Rivera, long before becoming a punchline and a Fox News shill, was at the time the hot, long-haired young turk with a reputation for emotional and risky reporting and for getting things done.

For entertainment news, GMA turned to Rona Barrett, the successor to the classic gossip columnists of old. Her reports appeared twice a day and she also contributed more substantial entertainment stories from time to time.

Controversial old-style, muckracking reporter Jack Anderson appeared frequently, often offering his reports without naming names. In time, he seemed to become a bit of a paranoid conspiracy-theorist but truth to tell, there were periods when "they" really were after him!

Rounding out the early cast was domestic humorist Erma Bombeck, a columnist and author well-known for her insightful, urban folksy anecdotes.

Later on, the cast would be joined by film critic Joel Siegel who would end up outlasting all of the other original cast members. In an odd coincidence, my wife met Mr. Siegel on the GMA set in 2001 and I myself met him when he came through my Airport store not long before his death a few years later.
Joan Lunden replaced Sandy Hill and meshed perfectly with Hartman, the two becoming the definitive hosts of GOOD MORNING AMERICA in spite of more rumors of backstage issues. She would last many seasons.

David Hartman eventually moved on and there have been many sitting in his seat over the years since. When I think of GOOD MORNING AMERICA, however, I still think of it as "David Hartman's show" with all of those others just sitting in for him. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Saint

I have vague memories of watching THE SAINT in its original run in the early sixties but mainly I enjoyed it in Saturday afternoon reruns in the late sixties and early seventies. I remember thinking it fairly dull at times but I was captivated by the easy British charm of Roger Moore as Simon Templar, the saint. 

It wasn't until the 1990's, by which time I had seen and enjoyed the original movies of THE SAINT with George Sanders, et al., that I actually realized WHY Simon Templar is called the saint in the first place. It's his initials! Who knew?

Like the original books, written by Leslie Charteris, and the earlier movies, the series is intentionally vague on exactly who Templar is. Clearly he's a good guy, an adventurer who travels around letting trouble find him. He is believed to be a thief by some, a detective by others and yet we're never really shown who the character, who dresses well and enjoys the finer things in life, actually is. He seems to have no visible means of support.

Star Roger Moore had toplined THE ALASKANS in the late fifties on American TV and was even briefly one of the Mavericks on the hit western, MAVERICK! He returned to the UK to offer up his droll, laconic performance as Templar. 

Peopled with a succession of first class British guest stars, there really were no regulars on the series other than Moore. 


The series was popular enough to inspire many tie-ins including a couple of two part episodes released as feature films. 

Moore went from here to another UK series entitled THE PERSUADERS with American actor Tony Curtis but eventually he was tapped to replace Sean Connery as Bond (a role he is said to have earlier turned down) which made him a superstar of the seventies and eighties, eventually leading to a knighthood.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

He & She

Count me among those who consider HE& SHE to be THE great forgotten and unknown sitcom from the sixties. As a kid I loved it because the main character was a cartoonist. As an adult I devour the rare episodes wherever and whenever I can find them and I love it all the more. 

The behind the scenes folks at 1967's HE & SHE were largely the folks who ended up at MTM in the next decade and this series looks for all the world like a template for an MTM sitcom. 

Sexy Paula Prentiss was originally sought by the networks for a regular series but she insisted her husband co-star alongside her. Luckily her husband happened to be the extremely talented actor Dick Benjamin.

Not that it mattered because this guy, Broadway actor Jack Cassidy, stole the show with his hammy characterization of Oscar North, the actor who played Dick's superhero, Jetman, on TV.

Cassidy's character was vain, narcissistic, egotistical, supercilious and oblivious. The concept was later used for Ted Baxter on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. Jack Cassidy would turn up in one episode as Ted's brother. 


There were a couple of other regulars including Kenneth Mars as the firefighter who lived in the apartment across the way. Mars appeared soon afterwards in Mel Brooks' THE PRODUCERS and started on a long, successful career as a big screen character actor.

(Hamid) Hamilton Camp was hilarious as the diminutive handyman of the building. Camp was always a welcome character actor but was also an important figure in sixties folk music.

Paula had had a successful career for a number of years prior to HE & SHE and it would continue on afterwards. Benjamin bounced into a series of major film roles in films such as PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, GOODBYE COLUMBUS and WESTWORLD before lighting on TV again in the sci-fi cult classic. QUARK.

HE & SHE was canceled after a single season but went on to win awards. The show was given a second chance in a brief revival a couple of years later before being cast into oblivion. Fans--myself included--continue to impatiently await an eventual DVD release.