What’s Going On? Nothing. Then It Must Be Seinfeld.

August 13 is International Left Handers Day. Looking at classic television shows, there are plenty of famous left handers to celebrate including Pierce Brosnan from Remington Steel, Lisa Kudrow from Friends, Sarah Jessica Parker from Square Pegs, Goldie Hawn from Laugh In, Bruce Willis from Moonlighting, Mary Kate Olsen from Full House, Drew Carey from The Drew Carey Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Tim Allen from Home Improvement and Last Man Standing, and Ed O’Neill from Married . . . with Children and Modern Family.

Any of these actors would be worth writing a blog on, but today we are going to concentrate on a show that featured two left handers: Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander. Seinfeld celebrated the continuing misadventures of neurotic New York City stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his equally neurotic New York City friends.

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This show, always defined as being about nothing, was on for nine years, producing 173 episodes. The show featured one of the most unique concepts for a sitcom.  Like Burns and Allen, Jerry Seinfeld stars as himself, a comedian. He and three of his closest friends live in New York City and we get to listen in to their conversations, adventures, and boring daily chores. Each of the main characters has his or her own quirky traits.

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Debuting in 1989, the show was created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. The characters were based on people they knew. Jerry’s best friend was George Costanza (Jason Alexander). His ex-girlfriend and now close friend Elaine Benes (Julia Louis Dreyfus) was often stopping by his apartment to discuss life. Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards), known as “Kramer,” lived across the hall from Jerry.

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Jerry is usually the calm in the storm in the group, handing out advice and being the voice of reason. He is a germaphobe and a neat freak. He always has a box or two of cereal on top of his refrigerator and we often see him eating it. He also loves the Mets. Jerry was an Abbot and Costello fan in real life and if you watch the show closely, you will see many references to the show and the actors.

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George has been Jerry’s friend since high school. He has a lot of poor traits including being cheap, a liar, and often petty. He often uses an alias, Art Vandelay, as part of his elaborate lies. However, he is loyal to Jerry.  Other actors considered for the role were Danny DeVito, Nathan Lane, David Alan Grier, Kevin Dunn, and Brad Hall.

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Elaine is trying to find Mr. Right but has to date a lot of Mr. Wrongs to get there. She is sometimes to honest for her own good. She has several jobs during the course of the series. Dreyfus beat out Rosie O’Donnell, Patricia Heaton, Mariska Hargitay, Jessica Lundy, Amy Yasbeck, and Megan Mullally for the role.

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Kramer is his wacky neighbor. He wears vintage clothes and is a bit naïve, but intelligent and caring.  As Kramer (Michael Richards) became more popular, his entrance applause grew so prolonged, that the cast complained it was ruining the pacing of their scenes. Directors subsequently asked the audience not to applaud so much when Kramer entered.

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Another recurring character on the show is Newman played by Wayne Knight. Newman lives in the same apartment building as Jerry. He’s a mailman. He bonds with Kramer but doesn’t like Jerry at all.

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Many episodes are based on real life experiences of Seinfeld and David.  Characters and plots from past shows are often referenced or expanded on. Like real life friends who have inside jokes, several themes reappear. Plots are often everyday activities. In one show, Jerry, George, and Elaine spend the episode waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant.

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Like Friends, it truly was an ensemble cast. While the audience loved Kramer, each of the characters was equally important. In a May 14, 2018 Variety story, authored by Scott Huver, who was reflecting on the popularity of the show, Jason was discussing the last episode. His quote sums up how crucial they all were: “And he (Jerry) said this really beautiful thing. He said, ‘For the rest of our lives when anybody thinks of one of us, they will think of the four of us, and I can’t think of any people that I would rather have that be true of.’ And as we all began to weep over the fact that Jerry had said that, that’s when they started calling our names and we had to go out and pretend that everything’s just hunky dory.”

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Unlike many other shows, Seinfeld was slow to gain a fan following. In season four, they finally it the top 30.  However, the show ranked number one for its entire final year.

Jerry Seinfeld received five Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, but never won. The show was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series from 1992-1998 but only won the Emmy in 1993.

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Jerry Seinfeld turned down an offer from NBC that would have made him one hundred ten million dollars for a tenth season of the show.  There was talk this past year about a Seinfeld revival. After watching Will and Grace’s revival, I’m not sure that’s a good idea. Rarely do revivals live up to their predecessor’s quality.

The finale was viewed by 76 million people. Many fans found the show offensive. The entire group of friends are taken to jail for violating the Good Samaritan law in Massachusetts. They watch an overweight man being robbed and instead of getting help, they mock him.

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None of the friends did the right thing, but perhaps Seinfeld and Alexander can be excused since they were left-handed. Finales are tough especially for a much-beloved show and this one did not do the show justice. In my opinion, it deserved a more creative going away party.

When You Care Enough to Watch the Very Best

Hallmark has been in the entertainment business for quite some time.  Their greeting card lines began a little over a hundred years ago. In 1932, Hallmark signed its first licensing agreement with one of the 20th century’s most recognizable names – Walt Disney.

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In 1951, NBC approached Hallmark about sponsoring an opera created for television. Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti debuted on Christmas Eve. Hall wanted to thank everyone who purchased Hallmark cards. The show became the first program in the Hallmark Hall of Fame series. In 1953, Hamlet was the first Shakespeare play to air on television. These Hall of Fame productions have won more than 80 Emmys.

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During the late 1980s, the Vision Interfaith Satellite Network (VISN) and the American Christian Television Systems (ACTS) shared a channel to present religious programming.  In 1993, it became the Faith and Values Channel, adding secular programming including exercise and food shows. The network once again changed its name in 1996 when it became the Odyssey Network.  Crown Media and Jim Henson Co. bought majority stakes in the channel in 1998. At that time, the channel aired about four hours of religious shows with the rest of the schedule being made up of classic sitcoms, family shows, and children’s programming. Crown Media bought Henson’s shares in 2000.

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In 2001, the network took on its current name, The Hallmark Channel, and began showing family-oriented sitcoms, dramas and movies. Its slogan was “Where Great Stories Come to Life. 2008 introduced new branding with a new logo and a slogan “Make Yourself at Home” which continued until 2012. At that time, it debuted a “The Heart of TV” slogan which continues today.

The channel currently shows classic television sitcoms, such as The Middle, Golden Girls, Home Improvement, Last Man Standing, I Love Lucy, Fraiser, and Cheers. New television series are produced including Good Witch, When Calls the Heart, and Chesapeake Shores. There is a daily two-hour lifestyle show called Home and Family which features decorating, crafts, recipes, and guest stars, Hall of Fame specials, many which were originally shown on CBS.  The largest part of the schedule is reserved for made-for-tv movies, typically romances, produced by the network.

From late October till January 1, Countdown to Christmas airs inspirational movies.  Countdown to Valentine’s Day features more romance movies. The network often shows movies themed for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Halloween during the year as well.

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Many critics make fun of these movies saying they all have the same romance theme and are predictable.  That doesn’t bother me. I can tell you how Frosty the Snowman, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Elf end as well but that doesn’t take away from the tradition of watching them every year. Most of my favorite Christmas songs are ones I heard as a young child, but I still love them.

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In this era of unbelievable politics and bad news around every corner, people are finding a refuge on the Hallmark Channel, and it’s not just older women. These are shows an entire family can watch including parents, grandparents, and young children. The network avoids sex, violence, and polarizing topics. The LA Times reported that in a time when almost every network saw declines in their ratings, the Hallmark Channel increased from 539,000 viewers a day in 2013 to 875,000 a day in 2017. The Hallmark Channel debuted a second channel called Movies and Mysteries and it grew from 259,000 in 2013 per day to 595,000 per day in 2017. While the median age of viewers was 58.6, the Washington Post did a story on the channel in August and cited research that showed women 18-49 was the fastest growing audience for the Hallmark Channel followed by men. More people in the Midwest and the South watch the channel, which is not too surprising. Ad revenue has increased 70% for the network compared to a year ago.

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The network is so popular that they have created a third channel which began October 1 called Hallmark Drama.

Last holiday season, more than 85 million people watched a movie on the network during November and December. I watched several of those movies last year and enjoyed them.  There was something uplifting about settling down with some hot chocolate in front of the Christmas lights to watch an inspirational movie in December, forgetting about the news or my to-do list for a short while. The only negative I have is one the network acknowledges and is working on: they need more diversity in their characters.

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Below is a list of the 21 new holiday movies that will debut this season. New movies are shown at 7 pm Central time.

 

Saturday, Oct. 28:  Marry Me at Christmas

Saturday, November 4: Christmas Festival of Ice

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Sunday, November 5: Miss Christmas

Saturday, November 11: The Sweetest Christmas

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Sunday, November 12: Enchanted Christmas

Saturday, November 18: Coming Home for Christmas

Sunday, November 19: A Gift to Remember

Wednesday, November 22: With Love, Christmas

Thursday, November 23: The Mistletoe Inn

Friday, November 24: Finding Santa

Saturday, November 25: The Christmas Train

Sunday, November 26: Switched for Christmas

Saturday, December 2: Christmas in Evergreen

Sunday, December 3: Christmas at Holly Lodge

Saturday, December 9: Christmas Encore

Sunday, December 10: The Christmas Shop

Saturday, December 16: Father Christmas

Sunday, December 17: Christmas Connection

Saturday, December 23: Christmas Getaway

Monday, December 25: When Calls the Heart: The Christmas Wishing Tree

Saturday, December 30: A Royal New Year’s Eve

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The network has a beautiful website where you can learn more about its original programs.  It also features a store run by Amazon  Associates where you can purchase clothing, tote bags, mugs, and other items.

Coming Home for Christmas Final Photo Assets

I don’t think that it is strictly a coincidence that during these past nine months as political reports become more disturbing with behavior in the White House out of control and news cycles filled with much more bad than good news, more people are tuning in to the Hallmark Channel where they can escape for an hour or two. I am going to try to find a few more quiet holiday nights to tune in and escape myself during this Christmas season.

 

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Happy Monday.  It’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” Day. They say fences make the best neighbors, but sitcom television proves otherwise.  In honor of the day, I decided to compose my list of the top ten sitcom neighbors.

10. Wilson from Home Improvement.  We don’t see much of Wilson, literally, but we hear him talking behind the fence.  Wilson W. Wilson, played by Earl Hindman, can solve any problem Tim has. Wilson spouts a lot of philosophical advice for Tim.  He has a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies, and has traveled the world studying extinct languages and forgotten cultures.  Much of his wisdom comes from these not-well-known societies. Wilson’s face was never revealed in full; it was always covered by something, most often the fence between the homes.  He calls Tim “Neighbor” and his wife Jill “Neighborette”. One of his pieces of advice is “If you place a small value on yourself, rest assured the world will not raise your price.”

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9. Charlie from Empty Nest.  We all worry about having a neighbor like Charlie.  Empty Nest was about a pediatrician, Dr. Weston, whose wife has died and  his two daughters (Barbara and Carol) move back in with him.  Charlie, played by David Leisure, is their next-door neighbor.  He is  lazy and has no respect for women. He often barges in to borrow food. He is a kind of son to Dr. Weston, but he and Carol have a love-hate relationship.  In one episode they get together, and try to make the relationship work, but both are relieved when they realize it never will, and they can go back to bickering. Charlie really does consider the Westons his family, and there are times he shows how much he cares about them; unfortunately, it never takes long for him to go back into annoying mode.

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8. Marcus from About a Boy.  If Mr. Wilson had met Marcus, he wouldn’t have complained about Dennis.  Will Freeman (David Walton) is a single man who enjoys the single life.  He’s quite wealthy because he wrote a huge best-selling song.  Then Marcus (Benjamin Stockman) moves in next door.  Marcus wants to be best friends; he lives with his mom and rarely sees his dad. Will thinks being his friend will cramp his style until he realizes girls rate single dads favorably. Of course, after a short amount of time, Will does become Marcus’ best friend and father figure, even though Marcus can make life difficult for him at the worst times.

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7. Chuck Larrabee from Last Man Standing.  Mike and Chuck spend a lot of time trying to come up with put downs for each other, but we know it’s only because as friends, they spend more time lifting each other up. Jonathan Adams plays Chuck, a retired Marine who runs a private security business and later works full time heading security at Outdoor Man, the store Mike co-owns. Although they joke around most of the time, occasionally, they get serious and have some in-depth, soul-revealing discussions.

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6. Rhoda from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Rhoda knew instinctively how to bring out the best in Mary and encourage her to experience life more fully. Valerie Harper plays Rhoda Morgenstern who lives above Mary Richards in the Mary Tyler Moore Show. She becomes Mary’s best friend.  She has little self-esteem, and often makes fun of herself.  She is single and often tells Mary about her bad date stories.  After the fourth season, she moves to New York where she marries and gets her own series, Rhoda. Harper won four Emmys for her portrayal of Rhoda, three for the Mary Tyler Moore Show and one for Rhoda.

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5. Yosemite Sam from The New Looney Tunes. Only Bugs could handle a neighbor like Yosemite Sam. Yosemite has a quick temper, doesn’t like anyone, and insults all his neighbors.  In the New Loony Tunes, Bugs and Daffy are roommates. Porky Pig is one of their good friends.  Sometimes Bug’s girlfriend Lola or Daffy’s girlfriend Tina are part of the plot.  Yosemite admits he is a cheat, a thief, and a liar.  He has a lot of terrific one-liners.

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4. Kramer from Seinfeld.  Who wouldn’t want a wacky neighbor like Kramer to keep life more interesting. Kramer (Michael Richards) is eccentric, but kind-hearted and tries to help others.  Kramer is honest to the point of being rude at times. Kramer has the ability to talk Jerry into making choices against his better judgment.  Jerry forgives his quirks and views him almost like a brother. Most of the time, Jerry is highly entertained by the antics that Kramer gets involved with.

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3. Gladys and Abner Kravitz from Bewitched.  The residents of Morning Glory Lane might not have a lot of privacy, but no criminal could get away with anything with Gladys Kravitz on the watch. Gladys is convinced that something strange is going on at the Stephens.  However, her husband Abner is never around at the right moment to back her up. She gets frustrated because she can never prove anything is out of the ordinary. Gladys was played by Alice Pearce and Abner was played by George Tobias.

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2. Blanche Morton from Burns and Allen. No matter what else is happening, Gracie and Blanche (Bea Benaderet) are never too busy to stop and have coffee together.  They are able to discuss everything and accept each other with all their strengths and weaknesses. Blanche truly loved Gracie and accepted her with all her quirks.  Gracie livened up Blanche’s life. Blanche’s husband Harry thinks Gracie is ridiculous, so Blanche loves her all the more.

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1. Howard Borden from The Bob Newhart Show. My favorite sitcom neighbor has to be Howard Borden.  Howard (Bill Daily) definitely gives Bob and Emily a purpose in life.  He takes as much work as any child, and eventually becomes family when he marries Ellen, Bob’s sister.  Howard is often at their apartment mooching their food or borrowing something again, but we know they wouldn’t have it any other way.  On one episode, Bob and Emily are going on vacation for ten days.  Howard is beside himself. They introduce Howard to a psychologist and when they come home, Howard is responsible and competent, but boring.  When they try to talk to him, they realize he is a carbon copy of the therapist. Bob and Emily bribe him with his favorite foods and, eventually he is borrowing items, being forgetful, and coming over to eat. They are relieved to have the old Howard back.

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There are a lot of interesting neighbors in TV Land.  Make a list of your favorite.

Not Everything is Black or White

As Black History Month comes to an end, I wanted to look at the early years of television featuring African American characters.  I don’t know if young people today realize how much culture has changed in the past fifty years.  While there are a lot of negative changes that have occurred in the movie and television industry, there have been a lot of positive changes as well.

It’s hard for young adults to realize today how different things are.  When I was growing up in the sixties, married couples on television had twin beds; you could not say “pregnant” on the air; black people and white people were not friends, and certainly did not date or marry; the “jobs wanted” ads in the newspaper were divided into jobs for men and jobs for women; and if a married woman wanted to join the armed forces, her husband or father had to sign a letter giving his approval.

Sometimes we get so caught up in how far we are from the journey’s end, we forget to appreciate how far we have traveled.  Looking at the current television schedule we see a variety of shows about capable women.  While certainly racism and gender discrimination exist, most people don’t think twice about whether a lead character is a man or a woman; is black, white, or Asian; or single or married.

Just a quick review of shows on the air reveal complex, intelligent characters who are African American.  We see this in Black-ish, This Is Us, Empire, Scandal, House of Lies, Last Man Standing, and Gray’s Anatomy, just to name a few.  This was far from the reality of early television.

We often think of that era as the golden age of television, but honestly, it was the white age of television.

In 1950, two shows debuted with main characters who were black:  Amos ‘N Andy and Beulah.  A radio transplant, Amos ‘N Andy dealt mostly with Kingfish’s schemes to gain wealth, often at the expense of his friends. Beulah also got its start on radio where she was a character in Fibber McGee and Molly.    She worked for a well-to-do middle class white couple with one son.  Both of these shows were demeaning and stereotypical.  In 1953, they were both yanked from the air due to NAACP protests.

Unfortunately, it would take almost 20 years before another show would feature a black character as a star.  In 1968, Julia debuted.  Julia, played by Diahann Carroll, was a black woman with a young son Corey (Marc Copage).  Her husband is killed in Vietnam and she moves to LA to start a new life in her nursing career.  Like Tom Corbett on The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, she is raising a son; like Doris Day she is a working mother; and like Ann Marie on That Girl, she has a fabulous wardrobe.  She is hired at Astrospace Industries, an industrial-health office where she works with Dr. Chegley (Lloyd Nolan).  Her life is normal.  She goes to work, takes care of her son, and goes on a few dates, but the concept of an African American, or a woman, starring in a show as the sole breadwinner, intelligent and fashionable, was not normal for the times.  The show was on for three seasons until 1971.

Julia was a controversial show at the time, but it scored high in the ratings and became a popular series.  I think it gets a lot of unfair criticism today.  The show gets complaints because during the time of the Watts riots, sit-ins, and so much racial unrest, it portrayed Julia living a fairly normal life.  I think people forget how groundbreaking it was to have a working woman or a black character star in a show.  I think the fact that she was able to live a “normal” life gives even more credit to not bowing to stereotypes of the late sixties. It’s like criticizing someone who is just learning to walk for not running and doing handstands.  They might be small steps, but they are steps going forward. I am one of those people who actually prefer not to see too much “real life” in sitcoms.  Honestly, I watch them to escape real life.

I also wanted to mention a few other shows that were featuring black characters in their cast during the time Julia was on the air: Hogan’s Heroes, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Barney Miller.

Hogan’s Heroes had a diverse cast, including Ivan Dixon as Sgt. James Kinchloe, striving to stay one step ahead of the Nazis.  The Mary Tyler Moore Show included a quirky news staff including weatherman Gordy Howard played by John Amos.  Barney Miller centered around a police department made up of personnel who each had their own dysfunctions.  One of those members was Lt. Ron Harris played by Ron Glass.  Each of these shows quietly featured black characters.  The races of any of the characters could easily have been switched during an episode and the character would not change.  It was just real people living real lives and some of them happened to be white and some black. After these creative and well-written shows, I prefer to ignore the Norman Lear era of shows.  They may have their merits, but I couldn’t stand All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Maude, or Good TimesThe Jeffersons was tolerable, but I would not choose to watch it either. In the mid-1980s, television began to get more diverse.

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Don’t get me wrong.  Things are far from perfect in the world of television and movies, but we have made a lot of progress.  We have a lot of work to do, but just think how many choices Diahann Carroll would have today if she wanted to develop a television series. She could pick any career she wanted, including the military without anyone’s else’s approval; she could marry a white man and not sleep in twin beds; she could announce on the air she was pregnant—small steps but 5280 small steps turn into a mile. So, let’s devote one day to appreciate the hundreds of miles we have come before getting too caught up despairing about the hundred we still have to go.

A Haunting We Will Go

The leaves are full of color and falling off trees, and every Friday night brings the sound of cheering and marching bands at high school football games.  That must mean that Halloween is right around the corner.  Sadly, the real evidence that Halloween is coming is all the Christmas decorations for sale in the stores, but that’s another discussion.

Let’s look at some of the best Halloween episodes from my favorite television shows from the past fifty years.

The Brady Bunch – “Fright Night” 1972

This spooky episode aired October of 1972.  The girls wake up in the middle of the night by mysterious sounds and a ghost hovering outside their window.  When their parents investigate the mystery, and find the attic window open, they assume it was the wind making a rocking chair move.  What they don’t realize is that the boys were pulling a prank on the girls. Marcia suspects the boys, so the girls come up with a prank of their own that includes having the boys sleep in the attic. Mike and Carol put a stop to the pranks. Alice mentions that she does not scare easily, so the kids team up to put her to the test. Alice thinks a burglar is in the house, and when she sees a bust that Carol has been sculpting of Mike for an art contest, she hits it, thinking she has the thief. Carol and Mike come home in the middle of the melee, lecture the kids, and take their allowance for two weeks as a punishment.

 

Cheers – “Fairy Tales Can Come True” 1984

It’s Halloween at Cheers and the regulars come in costume.  Cliff as Ponce de Leon starts up a conversation with a woman dressed as Tinkerbell.  They dance to “Moon River” and in character, they easily charm each other.  The next day when they are supposed to meet out of costume, Cliff gets the jitters.  “Tinkerbell” finally calls to say that she is nervous for the same reasons, and she slowly comes down the stairs to meet Cliff.  They pick up where they left off, dancing to “Moon River” as themselves. The subplot has Frasier out of town so he suggests Sam and Diane go to the Boston Pops concert as friends, their first time alone together since their break-up.

 

Dick Van Dyke – “Ghost of a Chantz” 1964

After Mel mixes up reservations at a lodge, Rob, Laura, Sally, and Buddy are forced to spend a night at an allegedly haunted cabin. They were told it’s haunted by Amos Chantz, who disappeared three years before, presumed to be murdered. Dispelling the haunted theory, the four friends take the cabin only to find a fireplace that lights itself, a creaky door, a rocking chair that rocks itself, and a mysterious face in the mirror.  Everyone but Rob is abducted by hooded figures. Anyone who watched Scooby Doo probably saw the end coming.  Suddenly, the face in the mirror becomes Mel Cooley and he reveals that the group was set up for a new hidden-camera program called “Sneaky Camera.”

 

Friends – “The One with the Halloween Party” 2001

Monica and Chandler decide to host a Halloween party. Monica wants him to dress as the Velveteen Rabbit, his favorite childhood book, but all she can find is a pink rabbit, more like Harvey.  His costume doesn’t seem so bad next to Ross who is Sput-nik, a cross between a satellite and a potato. Phoebe and Monica come as Catwoman and Supergirl and get into an argument about whether Ross or Chandler would win a fight.  Ross and Chandler have an arm-wrestling match and it goes on so long that Ross asks Chandler to let him win and he does. Rachel, in the meantime, is handing out candy to children.  She bores the first group with a fashion story, and when one girl finally likes her, she gives her all the candy and is forced to give money to the rest of the trick-or-treaters.  Finally Gunther arrives with more candy. Rachel decides she might not be ready for motherhood.

 

Happy Days – “Haunted” 1974

Ralph hosts a Halloween party each year, and this year he wants to hold it at the old Simpson House, rumored to be haunted. He asks Richie to check out the house when he takes Joanie to her Junior Chipmunk meeting.  At the house, Richie thinks he sees a headless ghost in the closet.  Richie goes to the party nervously.  He comes as a skeleton, Potsie is Superman but with an “F” on his chest, Ralph is Alfred Hitchcock, Fonzie is the Lone Ranger and his date is Tonto. Potsie and Ralph set Richie up with a date which turns out to be the dressed-up dummy in the closet which scared Richie originally. The show ends with Marion and Joanie sorting candy.  One good line comes from Howard who says that their carved pumpkin looks like Aunt Bessie.

 

Home Improvement – “The Haunting of Taylor House” 1992

This show is made up of a lot of small, funny moments. On “Tool Time”, Tim carves a pumpkin and instead of a small knife, uses power, always a disaster. At home, Tim turns the basement into the Catacombs of Terror, his version of a haunted house. Tim dresses as a woman, Jill as a carrot, Brad as Raggedy Andy, and Mark as his father.  Brad’s girlfriend, dressed as a biker chick, brings another guy to the party because she thinks Brad was insensitive. Tim makes it his mission to scare the poor boy as often as possible.

 

M*A*S*H – “Trick or Treatment” 1982

Halloween night 1953 finds the gang of the 4077th at a party at Rosie’s with Hawkeye as Superman, B.J. as a clown, Margaret as a geisha girl, Col Potter as a cowboy, and Klinger as Al Capone. Winchester, who doesn’t care for Halloween, is on surgical duty. Two marines need treatment, one for getting a pool ball stuck in his mouth and one who tried to punch an electrical fan at the party.  Party plans are put on hold when wounded arrive.  One man appears to be dead and has a toe tag.  However, Father Mulcahy realizes he is alive before the grave registrars take him away.  Like most M*A*S*H episodes, this one as some laugh-out-loud moments with bittersweet realizations of life in the trenches.

 

Mr. Belvedere – “Halloween” 1986

The subplot is that George, the always funny Bob Uecker, is about to join the Happy Guys of Pittsburgh on Halloween night, but George and Marsha discover the club has a dark side. Heather comes into the kitchen with a sexy French maid costume that her parents forbid her to wear to the school party.  When they leave the house, she puts it on anyway.  When she comes home and her parents are in the living room, she is wearing a suit of armor.  She tells them she disobeyed them and the senior guys gave her so much attention that she traded costumes.  Before we learn whom she traded with, her brother Kevin enters the house telling her she owes him as he is dressed as a French maid. Out of character, Mr. Belvedere goes wild toilet papering a house while taking Wesley trick or treating.

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Modern Family – “Halloween” 2010

Claire has decided to go all out completing a haunted house.  Phil, after learning their neighbors just divorced, worries that he needs to be more spontaneous to keep their marriage healthy.  His attempts all fail. Mitchell is happy to learn he can wear a costume to work, but after wearing Spiderman, quickly pulls a suit on over it when employees say only losers wear costumes. Gloria is mad at Manny and Jay making fun of her accent. When the haunted house starts, nothing goes right.  Alex is a bad actor as a prisoner, Cam keeps talking about his traumatic Halloween story, Jay can’t get the timing for the special effects, and Gloria has adopted an “English” voice. When trick or treaters are not scared, Claire walks out. Phil goes to talk to her and realizes their marriage is fine.  She was consumed by the haunted house because other family members have taken over Christmas and Thanksgiving which she used to host, and all she has left is Halloween. By the time they get back inside, the rest of the family has fixed the problems with the haunted house.

 

Newhart – Take Me to Your Loudon” 1987

George wants to dress up for the holiday, so he talks Dick and Joanna into having a party. George shows up as the Cowardly Lion, Dick as the Tin Man, Joanna as Vampira, Stephanie as a Princess, and Michael as a Canadian Mountie. This episode featured a take on Orson Wells narration of “The War of the Worlds”. Michael replays the radio episode, thinking everyone knows what it is, but many of the town residents believe they are being invaded. The town thinks Bob is the alien infiltrator.  He tries to explain it’s an old radio gag. When Darryl, Darryl and Larry show up and hear what everyone thinks, Larry says even he wouldn’t fall for that.

 

Ozzie and Harriet – “Halloween Party” 1953

Ozzie is not in the Halloween spirit.  His neighbor Thorny reminds him about all the fun holidays they’ve had in the past.  The boys decide that the problem is nobody plans anything so they take over preparations for the party. Ricky shows up in a skeleton costume because it makes him look thin and people feel sorry for him and give him more cake and ice cream at the school Halloween party. Ozzie comes to the party as a devil and Thorny is a Scotsman. Their wives let the guys know they just forgot two minor details: a location for the party and food!

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Yes Dear – “Halloween” 2001

On Halloween night, Greg has to wear a hot dog costume because that’s what Sam picked for him when he and his mom went to look for costumes.  Sam is a kitten and Kim a genie. Sam is scared by a neighbor.  When she says she’ll get candy, it’s the cue for her son to jump out of the bushes as a Wolfman. Sam begins crying, and his parents decide to get revenge on the family. They do the polite thing and write a letter.  They hide to watch the family’s reaction, only to see the couple laugh hysterically.  They decide to get eggs, toilet paper, and shaving cream instead.  Unfortunately, they had grabbed hard-boiled eggs, and they break a window.  To avoid being caught, they hide in the family’s car in the backseat. As they’re hiding, the mother hops in the car to drive to Las Vegas.

One thing I learned from reviewing these episodes, is that writers have a hard time coming up with creative Halloween titles; hence the title “Halloween” for one-fourth of these shows and the unimaginative “Halloween Party” and “Haunted” for two other episodes. If you want to celebrate Halloween by watching some of these fun shows, you’ll have to invest in DVDs.  Antenna TV is showing the Addams Family all day on Halloween and a variety of episodes on Sunday.  The only episode from this blog they have scheduled is Mr. Belvedere. Me TV will show “Trick or Treatment” from M*A*S*H on Sunday night.  On Halloween they are running their normal schedule but including Halloween episodes when available, so you can see the Brady Bunch’s “Fright Night.”

Before leaving Halloween episodes I do have to give a big shout-out to Last Man Standing for their Halloween show this year.  In order to get the family to abandon having Halloween parties, Mike talks everyone into dressing as each other, realizing that this will cause numerous hard feelings and no one will want a party in the future.  The party starts out that way but then the family has to tell Vanessa she was fired due to expenses and as they all gather around to make her feel better, she is so happy that she declares they will have a party every Halloween.  The impersonations they cast does of each other and the detailed costumes are worth watching the show for.

Next week on Halloween, we’ll take a closer look at the Halloween episodes of Bewitched.

I’m Not Sorry

I have a confession.  When I’m alone on a Friday night and nobody is watching me, I’m watching That Girl, My Three Sons, or The Dick Van Dyke Show.  It could even be Petticoat Junction, M*A*S*H, Bachelor Father, or Burns and Allen.  I’ve been a classic sitcom closet watcher for decades.  And, as long as I’m putting everything on the table, I admit most nights I’ll choose a Doris Day movie over Kathryn Hepburn, as much as I enjoy and appreciate Hepburn movies.

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I’m not apologizing for his behavior any longer. I realized I’m defending this habit to people even as they’re looking up the next episode of Parking Wars or Celebrity Plastic Surgeons of Beverly Hills.

These characters have been part of my life longer than anyone but my siblings, and sorry family, you don’t make me laugh as much as they do.

So, why do many of us have this connection with characters we’ve gotten to know on screens?  That’s what this blog will explore.  Sure, some of it is nostalgia.  When I watch a Partridge Family episode, I’m 9 again, sitting in a living room next to Patti Thomas and Connie Rougeux.  I enjoy being with that kid; she keeps me young.  I know it’s more than nostalgia, though, because I feel the same way about the cast of the Big Bang Theory, the Baxter family on Last Man Standing, and Rizzoli and Isles.  Just like certain people in our personal lives, there are characters that are fun to be around, and I never get tired of watching them.  All in the Family has a nostalgia feel for sure, but I’d rather go to the dentist than watch a season of episodes with the Bunkers–nothing personal Dr. Machgan.

Your favorites might not be my favorites. I’d love to know what your go-to shows are.   Maybe you would love to take a trip on the Enterprise, or spend a week at the Ponderosa, or solve a mystery with McMillan and Wife.  If you have a penchant for characters you first met in the TV guide, then come along on the journey to re-visit these old friends.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to one of my all-time favorite TV stars.  Bob Newhart celebrates his birthday today—Happy Birthday Bob!

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See you next week, and open those curtains next time you spend an evening watching Antenna TV.