This Full House Was Never Too Crowded

As we are looking at some of our favorite television families, the series would not be coplete without the Tanners. Airing from 1987 to 1995, Full House appeared on ABC, producing 192 episodes. Jeff Franklin created the show about widower Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) who raised his three daughters: D.J. (Candace Cameron Bure), Stephanie (Jodi Sweetin), and Michelle (Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen) with the help of his brother-in-law Jesse (John Stamos) and best friend Joey (Dave Coulier). DJ’s best friend Kimmy (Andrea Barber) is also on the scene quite often. Interestingly, Coulier was friends with Saget and early in his career, he slept on Saget’s couch while he was trying to become a comedian.

The First Season Cast Members Photo: time.com

Because Saget and Coulier were already friends, the two actors went on a road trip to Las Vegas with Stamos to help them get to know each other. Since Coulier and Stamos were both single at the time, they bonded a lot. On the show, Joey and Jesse also become closer friends, seeming to have more in common with each other than with Danny.

Danny is a sports anchor, his brother-in-law is a musician, and his best friend, a comedian. They juggle schedules to get the girls where they need to go and tuck them in at night.

In season two, Danny becomes the host of a morning show, Wake Up San Francisco. His costar, Rebecca (Lori Loughlin), is young and fun and smart. However, the romance is not between her and Danny; she dates and later marries Jesse.

Saget was always first choice for Danny but because of his schedule, the pilot features John Posey in the role. Jodi Sweetin was brought in after an appearance she made on Valerie. Loughlin was hired for a six-week limited romance but never left once she started.

Photo: entertainmenttonight.com

There were a lot of famous celebrities who appeared on the show including Frankie Avalon, Scott Baio, The Beach Boys, Phyllis Diller, Annette Funicello, Kareem Abdul Jabaar, Little Richard, and Marcia Wallace. On one episode Cameron’s real brother, Kirk Cameron appeared with Chelsea Noble. They began dating and later married.

Surprisingly, the show’s writing staff was inconsistent; Franklin who also wrote for the show was the only writer to stay through eight seasons. 

Several of the characters developed catch phrases that were repeated all over the country. Jesse’s was “Have Mercy”; Joey’s was “Cut it Out”; and D.J.’s was “Oh My Lanta.” Stephanie often said “How Rude” while Michelle fittingly had two (one for each twin), with “You Got it Dude” and “You’re in Big Trouble Mister.”

Photo: pinterest.com

The theme song, “Everywhere You Look,” was co-written by Bennett Salvay and Jesse Frederick, with Frederick doing the singing.

The show was in the top thirty every year after season one. It was on Friday nights for most of its run. There was a short time during season two when it was briefly moved to Tuesdays and then aired on both Tuesdays and Fridays to try to build its audience numbers. During season five, the show moved to Tuesdays until it was canceled. Despite its being in the top 25 in 1995, the network decided to end the show. It cited increasing production costs.

Photo: pinterest.com

Fun fact, Dave Coulier made a puppet for the show, Mr. Woodchuck. He sold it to Toys R Us if you are ever looking for a gift for a big fan of the show. Another interesting item is that Ashley Olsen was right-handed while Mary Kate was left-handed, so Michelle is ambidextrous.

Unlike so many of the reboots of shows from the 80s and 90s, this show had a sequel, Fuller House, starring the same cast from 2016-2020. The show recently began appearing in Me TV’s lineup of shows.

The cast was definitely one big family on the show and they considered themselves family off the air as well. This came to light recently after the death of Bob Saget. When asked about how they were doing, Coulier commented, “We pull together as a family during moments like this. We’ve pretty much experienced everything that a real family can experience. Getting picked up, getting canceled, marriages, divorces, births, deaths. I mean, it’s pretty much what every family goes through. And we’ve stuck together through all of it.”

He also said that it “was incredible to have a group of people in our lives like this, where we know we’re going to get that instant support system. It’s pretty special.” Bure said that the cast “genuinely love each other.”

Saget, Stamos, and Coulier truly watched the girls grow up and transition from their kids to their friends. It is these relationships that give the show the special heart-warming atmosphere that surrounds most of the scenes. There are the arguments, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings that all families experience, but there is also unconditional love both on and off the set. We would all be better off if we had a “Full House.”

Last Season’s Cast Photo: tvinsider.com

Home Improvement: It’s Just a Name; No Improvement Needed Here

Here we are in week 2 in our blog series looking at some of our favorite families. Last week we were in Long Island with the Seavers. Today we are traveling east to Detroit to spend some time with The Tool Man and his family.

Photo: usweekly.com

Home Improvement was on ABC from 1991 through 1999; this was the era my older boys grew up in, and I think they have some fond memories of watching this show. They weren’t alone, because it was one of the most-watched shows of the decade. It stayed in the top ten the entire time.

Matt Williams, Carmen Finestra, and David McFadzean created the series. A lot of writers worked on the show. Richardson talked about the writer’s room where all the writers were men and she did the scripts at first without saying anything, because she didn’t want to rock the boat. She said eventually she would tell them a woman would not say that and defended her position more often.

It was based on the stand-up comedy of Tim Allen. Tim Taylor (Tim Allen) is married to Jill (Patricia Richardson) and they have three boys: Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), and Mark (Taran Noah Smith). They live in Detroit where Tim has a television show for Binford Tool Co.; he was previously one of their salesman.

Photo: pinterest.com

The cast is rounded out with their neighbor Wilson (Earl Hindman) who doles out advice to Tim, but whom we never see more than part of his face. Al Borland (Richard Karn) is Tim’s assistant on the show. During the run of the show there were several Tool Time girls including Pamela Anderson and Debbe Dunning. The show was a parody of This Old House, a home-improvement show on PBS for years.

Originally the show was titled Hammer Time. The first pilot starred Frances Fisher playing Jill Taylor. The studio audience did not view her as a comedic actress, so she was recast. Al was a harder part to cast. John Bedford Lloyd auditioned for the roles of Tim’s assistant and neighbor Wilson. He got the part of Wilson but dropped out when he learned his face would not be seen on tv. That’s when Hindman took over. Stephen Tobolowsky was then offered the role of Al, named Glen at the time. He was occupied with a project at the time, so Karn was hired, and Al was created.

Photo: wikifandom.com

In a June 6, 2017, episode of thehomeimpodcast.com, Karn was interviewed. He was asked what one of his favorite Al moments was on the show. He talked about a scene when Tim invited him over to play poker. He had asked about a theme and then showed up in a 10-gallon hat as a cowboy. He said Tim opened the door, and Karn would raise his hat and hit the light. Every time that happened, Tim cracked up. Karn said he could not stop himself from laughing.

Jill has her hands full living with four males, and I can certainly relate. Tim is a bit stubborn, accident prone, spends lots of time with his cars, and often acts like one of the kids. Allen was from Detroit himself and one of his quirks on the show was wearing Michigan sports apparel.

Photo: amazon.com

There were a lot of guest stars on the show during its nine seasons: race car drivers Johnny Rutherford, Robby Gordon, Mario and Michael Andretti, and Al Unser; golfer Payne Stewart; Denver quarterback John Elway; boxer Evander Holyfield; NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox; basketball player Grant Hill’ singers The Beach Boys and The Manhattan Transfer’ comedians Drew Carey and Rodney Dangerfield; ex-President Jimmy Carter; talk show host Oprah Winfrey; and actors Jack Nicholson, Dan Aykroyd, and Marlon Brando.

Home Improvement was still in the top ten after its eighth season. Richardson was offered $25 million for a ninth season, and Taylor was offered $50 million, but they both declined.

The theme song was “Iron John’s Rock.” It was composed by Dan Foliart. In addition to the music, it included Allen’s grunting that became a catch phrase of a sort and several power tools in the background.

When Allen got his second series, Last Man Standing, Karn, Richardson, and Taylor Thomas guest-starred on the show. Also, many of the tools he used on this show were Binford tools.

Photo: people.com

This was one of those much-loved shows. In a time before DVR, families sat down to watch television together when their favorite shows were on. The shows were relatable to all family members. It was well written, and the stories had the right amount of humor and heart-warming moments. When a series stays in the top ten for almost a decade and the stars turn down huge piles of money to end the show, you know the quality is still there. Like The Dick Van Dyke Show, this show ended on a high note, and I’m so happy we did not have to go through the “they should have ended it a year or two before” stage. Thanks to the entire cast for being a team player and bringing an amazing show for a decade.

Mr. Hospitality: Mike Douglas Hosted 30,000 Guests

For the month of July we are taking a look at some of the innovative talk shows of the past. With only three channels to choose from in the sixties, almost everyone tuned into The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.  However, talk shows were also popular during the day.

The Mike Douglas Show began in Cleveland, Ohio in 1961. It had light banter with guests and featured musical performers daily, although more serious interviews were also conducted from time to time.  In 1963, the show was expanded to Pittsburgh, Boston, Baltimore, and San Francisco.

In 1965, the show moved to Philadelphia and went into national syndication that same year. One final move was made in 1978 when it relocated to Hollywood. For 1980, Douglas handed the show over to John Davidson to host. It went through some changes and replaced about one-third of the staff, but the ratings continued to plummet and it was officially cancelled in November of 1981 with more than 6000 shows and 30,000 guests.

Douglas was born in Chicago in 1925 and became a teenage singer, entertaining on the radio and in supper clubs. He sang a lot of big band numbers and became the staff singer at WKY in Oklahoma City before joining the Navy in WWII. He had two hits in the fifties, “Old Lamplighter” and “Ole Buttermilk Sky,” but his career was not going anywhere, so he decided to turn to television.

Photo: eyesofageneration.com

Douglas had a different celebrity co-host every week, and they interviewed a variety of entertainers. The show was very popular and had high ratings.  Douglas had a fun personality .  In 1976, Match Game received higher ratings, so Douglas made an unscheduled appearance on the game show to congratulate Gene Rayburn on having the number 1 daytime show on the air.

Photo: muppetwikifandom.com

I could literally fill pages with the guest stars and musical performers who appeared on the show. Some of the more interesting ones included two-year-old Tiger Woods who showed off his golf swing for Bob Hope and James Stewart.

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Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope and a very young Tiger Woods Photo: pinterest.com

A Who’s Who listing of guests also included Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, George Burns, Sid Caesar, Angela Davis, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Alfred Hitchcock, Malcom X, Mother Teresa, the Muppets, Ralph Nader, Richard Nixon, Vincent Price, and John Wayne.

The “Supreme” music guests Photo: pinterest.com

A variety of musical genres were represented with performers including ABBA, The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, James Brown, Ray Charles, Cher, Sam Cooke, Electric Light Orchestra, Marvin Gaye, Genesis, The Jacksons, Jefferson Airplane, Elton John, John Lennon with Yoko Ono, The Mills Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Sly and the Family Stone, The Supremes, and Frank Zappa.

With Gene Simmons and Cher Photo: vintage.com

Critics also liked the show. It received its first Emmy in 1967 and would go on to win four more.

Tom Kelly, who co-authored with Douglas on his memoir, revealed why he thought Mike was so successful: “One big key to his great success was he had his ego in check. He always let the guest have the limelight. He was a fine performer. He could sing, he could do comedy, he did it all, but he always gave the guest the spotlight.”

Photo: wikipedia.com

I can remember my mother watching Mike Douglas most days while I played with my toys.  Here we are sixty years later and afternoon talk shows like Ellen DeGeneres and Kelly Clarkson are still going strong thanks to pioneers like Mike Douglas who showed us the classy way to be a host.

Uncle Martin Was Everyone’s Favorite Martian

From Fall of 1963 to Spring of 1966, you could watch My Favorite Martian on television every week; I’m sure he was your favorite Martian too.

Photo: uncleodie’s.com

John L. Greene created the plot and developed the characters for the show produced by Jack Chertok. The plot was that a 450-year-old extraterrestrial anthropologist, who was not small and green, collides with an air force plane. A young reporter, Tim O’Hara (Bill Bixby) is returning home after an interview at Edwards Air Force Base and sees the crash. Tim takes the Martian (Ray Walston) home and refers to him as Uncle Martin, although his real name is Exigius 12 1/2. Tim agrees to protect his identity while he repairs his spaceship.

Photo: neatorama.com

Besides being an anthropologist, Uncle Martin is an inventor, which sometimes causes headaches for Tim. A time machine sends him and Martin to other times and brings Leonard da Vinci and Jesse James back to the present. A molecular separator allows Martin to take apart the molecules of one object and rearrange them into something else like a squirrel to a human. Another product lets Martin save memories in a pill form to relearn later.

In addition to his inventions, Martin has some unusual powers. He is telepathic and can read and influence minds; he can levitate objects with his index finger, communicate with animals, both freeze or speed up objects or people, and can raise two antennae to become invisible. Raising the antennae was done with a transistor under his collar.

Luckily Tim’s landlady, Lorelei Brown (Pamela Britton), is a bit scatterbrained. She and Uncle Martin have a bit of a romance but it never gets serious since Martin knows he must leave the planet.

Photo: youtube.com

The network didn’t like Chertok’s scripts, so they hired Sherwood Schwartz (later known as the creator behind Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch) to doctor the plots.

The theme music was composed by George Greeley and performed by Paul Tanner, a former member of Glenn Miller’s band. Tanner used an electro-theremin which could later be heard on The Beach Boys’ hit “Good Vibrations.”

The first two seasons were filmed in black and white with the third being shot in color.

Photo: uncleodies.com

Season one found My Favorite Martian ranked tenth overall. This was a surprise to me because it was up against The World of Disney. By the end of the second season, it was down to 24th but was renewed for a third year. Ratings declined significantly in the third season; often mentioned was the redundant storylines. If kids were still watching Disney, adults might have split their viewership. In it second season, this show was on at the same time as Wagon Train and in its last season it was up against Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

For only being on the air three years, the show had a lot of after lives. Saturday morning cartoons were all over the place during this decade. One of the cartoons to debut in 1973 was My Favorite Martians featuring Martin; his nephew Andromeda, or Andy; Tim; Mrs. Brown; and her boyfriend Detective Brennan. The animation series relied on scripts that had been written for a potential fourth season but never used.

In 1999, the show also came to the big screen starring Christopher Lloyd as Martin and Jeff Daniels as Tim. Walston has an appearance as another Martian trapped on Earth, although a lot of the ET characteristics had changed from the original concepts.

Gold Key Comics developed a comic book series around the show and published nine issues between 1963 and 1966.

The series debuted during the time that merchandising was beginning to increase greatly. This show resulted in a board game, a magic set, a paint-by-numbers kit, a spaceship model kit, and a beanie hat.

One fun fact I learned was that the spaceship prop used in the series was bought by magician David Copperfield for $100,000 in 2018.

Although My Favorite Martian will not go down as one of the best sitcoms in the golden age of television, it was important as one of the first sci-fi television shows. Most fans cite their special effects as pretty impressive for the time.

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The first two seasons were filmed at Desilu and the great Sheldon Leonard directed the pilot. It would have been interesting to see the progression of the show if he had stayed on the payroll. He seemed to have an intuition for developing realistic and likable characters. Ray Walston later regretted taking the role of Uncle Martin.  He said he did it for the money but felt it typecast him for many years. However, he did say that he enjoyed working with Bixby, and they became life-long friends.

Let’s end with one of their conversations that show how this series turned comedy upside down.

Tim: I thought you could give my article on ESP a special slant.

Martin causes Tim to stand at an angle through telepathy.

Photo: blogspot.com

If you want a special slant on early sci-fi, give this one a try, but save yourself some grief and leave season three in the box.