Saturday, September 16, 2006
Of all the TV shows based on movies the most successful would have to be M*A*S*H. The movie was based on a book by Richard Hooker. The movie starred Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland as Trapper and Hawkeye. The Korean war comedy was a hit in America. With the country torn up over the current Vietnam war we need something funny to laugh at. When the show was created for TV it was produced by Larry Gelbart who had written for Duffy’s Tavern, Bob Hope, Your Show of Shows and was head writer on The Pat Boone Show as well as others. When the show started it only had one member of the movie to transition with it to television. That was Gary Burghoff who played Walter “Radar” O’Reilly for both the movie and TV series. He became one of the most popular characters on the show. The theme song from the movie, Suicide Is Painless, was also kept for the TV series.
During its first season this black comedy had a hard time finding its audience. Most networks would have canceled it after 13 weeks. CBS had faith in the show and kept it around. Its first show was broadcast on Sunday September 17, 1972. Each season brought a new night for the show until they hit the jackpot on Monday night in January of 1978. Mash was on the air for about 11 years, lasting longer then the Korean war, and most of those years it was not a hit.
With the TV show on the air more novels were published about the adventures of the Mash unit. Instead of being based in Korean they were now globetrotters with such titles as Mash Goes to Maine, Mash Goes to Morocco, Mash Goes to Hollywood, Mash Goes to Montreal, etc. Richard Hooker was only a co-author on the sequels. Some have said that he only had his name on the book and they were really written by the other co-author William E. Butterworth (W.E.B. Griffin).
Mr. Hooker was not a big fan of the show. I have read that while the TV series was always taking a stand against war Mr. Hooker believed that sometimes war is a good thing for the country. He thought that the series was the complete opposite of what his books were about.
There were many cast changes during the run of the series. It seemed with each change the show got stronger and the audience grew. TV Guide once said that it didn’t matter who left the show that the series would continue. I disagreed with that observation. If Alan Alda, who played Hawkeye, left the series would have died. Of those who left for other series, like MacLean Stevenson, Larry Linville and Wayne Rogers, only Wayne Rogers had a hit with House Calls. However, it paled in comparison to the popularity of Mash. The biggest exit from the show came when MacLean Stevenson’s character of Henry Blake was killed off. When Radar reads the dispatch that Col. Blake’s plane was shot down and there were no survivors the reaction from the other actors was real. The producers didn’t tell them of the last minute change to get that reaction from them. You can tell they are having a hard time staying in character when you see that episode. I remember one of my high school teachers telling how she cried when she saw that episode because Henry Blake reminded her of her Father. When Mr. Stevenson’s new show flopped I bet he regretted that he left the show that way. Otherwise he may have come back.
The character of Klinger was added to the cast in 1973. He was to be a man who dressed like a woman in order to get out of the Army saying that he was crazy. He stopped wearing the dresses but still kept trying to get out in crazier ways. Jamie Farr played Klinger and said that he was on the verge of giving up on acting when the producers cast him in the role. The remembered seeing him play a funny Indian on F-Troop and thought he would be right for the part. It was only supposed to be for a couple of episodes but kept him around for the rest of the series.
In 1983 the show finally aired its 251st and last episode with “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”. At that time I was sort of glad as the show was starting to repeat itself. When I watched a new episode I felt like I had seen it before. Only this time the central character was Winchester instead of Hawkeye or it might be Klinger instead of B.J. You get the idea. The series went out with a bang and became one of the most watched episodes in the history of TV.
As you can imagine from such a successful series spin-offs were attempted. There is an unsold pilot that starred Gary Burghoff called Walter. It had Radar going back home and joining the police department. Trapper John M.D. was sort of an unofficial spin-off. The main character was said to be the Trapper John from the movie. Not the Trapper from the TV series. This was the only hit spin-off from Mash. They tried one called AfterMash with Col. Potter, Klinger and Father Mulcahy all working together at a hospital but it didn’t last long. The most successful reunion of cast members came in a series of commercials for a computer company. I forget the name of the company but it had them all as office workers marveling at the new computers that just arrived. While they didn’t tell you the names of their characters they are all acting like the ones they played on Mash.
Tomorrow is the 34th anniversary of the airing of first episode of the TV series. The show has never been off the air. During the late 70’s and early 80’s you could see it 2 times a day in syndication in my area. Since it was still on the network that meant you could see it 3 times on Monday. Not bad for a show that normally would have been cancelled during its first season.
The above photo is from TV Guide.com
Friday, September 15, 2006
Over at the Fred Hembeck Show Fred gives this sad but touching reminder that in August this was the 10th year since the sudden passing of a great writer. Mark Gruenwald. Notice that I didn't say comic book writer. While that is what he was known for Mr. Gruenwald had the talent and skills for any kind of writing. He just chose to use them in the comic book format. His long run on Captain America is the best that character has ever had. In the 80's I was buying mostly Marvel comics. I was not shy of buying books by other publishers and started to wonder why I was drawn to Marvel. Then I noticed that all the books I was buying were either written or edited by Mark Gruenwald. I wasn't a Marvel fan. I as a Gruenwald fan. I started to feel I knew the man through his stories and it came as a shock when I read of his death. The comic book industry got alot darker for me after the passing of this quiet star.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Earlier I did a series on pop music stars that got their own variety show. Last night I watched Dancing with the Stars and Tom Jones was the guest singer. How could I have forgotten that this man who had a lot of hits also had his own show from February 7, 1969 to January 15, 1971 on ABC? Tom Jones is a Welsh singer who is a son of a coal miner. Tom is a former door to door salesman. He was named Thomas Jones Woodrow and later shortened it to Tom Jones. He had a lot of hits in the 60’s like It's Not Unusual, What’s New Pussycat? and She’s A Lady. He also sang the theme song to the James Bond movie Thunderball. In 1966 Tom’s popularity started to slip. His manager suggested that he change his image a little bit by wearing a tux. This helped to make him seem more mature and changed him from a pop singer to a crooner. The new image worked and Tom Jones returned to the top 40 in England and America. In the late 60’s Mr. Jones started concentrating more on his club appearances then on his recording career. During this time he also started his variety series. His show was a hit in the UK and the US. The series was filmed in London and in Hollywood allowing it for a wide range of American and British guest stars from Peter Sellers, Dusty Springfield and Herman’s Hermits to Edward G. Robinson, Tanya Tucker, Debbie Reynolds, Bob Hope and George Carlin. After the show was canceled he continued to have hits in the UK but none in America until the late 80’s. It was then when he joined with the group the Art of Noise and recorded the song Kiss that was written by Prince. In 2000 he preformed at the Millennium Celebrations in Washington. Since then he has turned up on various shows like he did last night on Dancing with the Stars. It’s not unusual for Tom Jones to show up when you least expect him.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Remember this cartoon? Diaper man led this band of heroes into battle. Ropeman, Strongman, Cuckoo Man, Tornado Man etc. made up the membership. The villian was always getting the upperhand and usually tied up the heroes with Rope Man. They would get free and finally work together to defeat the bad guy. Now at Jump the Shark a person has posted that they are making a movie based on them. Ryan Styles is to play Rope Man and Greg Poops is to play Cuckoo Man. If this is true it should be a very funny movie.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
It was 40 years ago today Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider taught the band to play. They’ve been going in and out of style but they’re guaranteed to raise a smile. So may I introduce to you Bob and Bert’s pre-fab four get no respect club band. The Monkees! Ok so I paraphrased the lyrics of a Lennon- McCartney song but the description fits. On September 12th of 1966 NBC aired the first episode of the Monkees TV series. The idea for the series came to Bob Rafelson in 1962. It was to be about the life of a struggling folk music group. It was based on a group that he had been in earlier. He couldn’t get anyone interested in his idea until The Beatles movie “A Hard Day’s Night” was released. With changing the group into a pop rock band and help from Bert Schneider he was able to sell his idea to Screen Gems, the television division of Columbia Pictures.
They placed a now famous ad calling for all “Ben Frank types” to audition for parts in their project. Ben Franks was a popular restaurant in the area where a lot of teens and 20 somethings hung out at in the evenings. Of those chosen only one saw the ad. Another was already under contract to Columbia Pictures. One was set up for a private audition by his manager and the fourth was referred to the auditions by a friend who had tried but failed his audition. They were in order Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork. So with a recently discharged from the military guitar player, a former amateur Jockey turned Broadway star, a former child star and a full time dishwasher part-time musician all signed to the show and the series was under way. It sounds like a recipe for disaster with four very different personalities trying to blend together but the show was a hit but it looked more like a TV version of "Help!" then it did "A Hard Day's Night". Rafelson said they tried at first to cast existing groups like the Lovin’ Spoonful into the roles but they found thier memebers to have almost the same personalities. TV audiences like to watch personalities that are in conflict with each other. So they decided to cast four different personalities.
The pilot was filmed in November of 1965. There was a fifth member of the cast in the pilot. An actor was hired to play their manager in order to give them some parental authority. When it was screened for test audiences the pilot failed. The producers noticed that most of the poorly rated parts were the slow scenes with the manager. Also the audiences seemed to be getting the four younger band members mixed up. They edited out most of the managers scenes and added on Davy and Mike’s screen test at the beginning. They hoped this would solve any confusion and tested the pilot again. This time it became one of the best tested pilots in the history of television at that time. The show was on the air in the fall of 1966 and was a big hit. It was such a big hit that the Monkees even had an influence on Star Trek. Star Trek was not doing very well in the ratings. In order to get some of the teenage television audience Roddenberry created the character of Ensign Chekov in 1967 and hired Walter Koenig to play the part because he resembled Davy Jones. This didn’t help ratings much but it did add to the Star Trek legacy that is still felt to this day. Trouble started to come early on when the four stars had been promised to play their own music but Don Kirshner, the musical supervisor for the series, would only allow them to sing on the records but not play their own instruments. While Micky was probably happy with this as he was not a real drummer, Mike and Peter were not. The music press got hold of this. Mike got furious and spearheaded a campaign that in the end got Krishner fired and The Monkees got to produce their next album themselves. Credit has to be given to Micky Dolenz for learning to play the drums so fast in such a short period of time. He was now competing on the charts with drummers like Ringo Starr, Dennis Wilson and Keith Moon. These men had been playing the drums almost all their lives. Micky had only been playing them a few months and was expected to hold his own in that competition. I think he did pretty well.
No one had ever expected Leonard Nimoy to become a Vulcan or for Richard Chamberlain to perform surgery or for Raymond Burr to defend a client in a court of law. However, the Monkees were expected to become a real group and they did. By 1971 after many gold records, sold out concerts, Emmy awards, a movie and a television special, the Monkees were over. The show was a hit in syndication and radio stations still played their hit records. Mike Nesmith had a successful country music career, Peter Tork was teaching and Davy and Micky were trying to get their show business careers back on track. They were the two most identified with the Monkees and were severely typecast. It’s hard to escape a role you were typecast in when you and the character you played on the show have the same name. Micky did voice acting in many cartoons and even tried out for the part of Fonzie on Happy Days. Henry Winkler said that when he saw Micky Dolenz trying for the part he thought Micky would get the part instead of him. Micky himself said when he went up for roles the producers would ask him “What are you doing here? You’re a drummer.” He had to remind them he was only playing a drummer. Micky and Davy formed another group with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and released an album and did a brief tour of the U.S.A. and Japan and did a television special. Later they disbanded too.
By the 1980’s it was coming to light that just as the Beatles influenced the Monkees, the Monkees had an influence on bands that were emerging in the 80’s. The Bangles was a huge all female group at that time and have said they were influenced by the Monkees music. Micky, Davy and Peter reformed the group. Micky said that over the years people have asked what it would take to get him and the others together. For him he said it would take a huge amount of money. Usually they went away shaking their heads. This time they didn’t. With the help of MTV running the old shows the Monkees reunion tour and album was a success. They even had another hit song on the charts with “That Was Then, This Is Now.” Eventually the group members went their separate ways again. In 1996 all four members reunited for their 30th anniversary for a tour of England, a TV special and a new album called “Justus.” Fans in America were saddened when only 3 of the Monkees toured there as they had been waiting for a complete reunion for years. Bootleg copies of concerts in England have surfaced in the States but so far no complete reunion concert tour live or otherwise has happened here.
Today is the 40th anniversary of the Monkees TV show. No special concert has been announced but Rhino records has released special CD’s of their first two albums and the show is back in syndication. You can catch the four members in separate concerts from time to time. So happy 40th to the Monkees! Long may your music and TV show play.
The above photo is from TVGUIDE.com and you can go to their fan club site if you click here.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Sunday, September 10, 2006
How well do you apply God's Word to your life?
He replied, "But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice."
You should behave instead like God's very own children, adopted into his family—calling him "Father, dear Father."
An eloquent testimony
Actions speak louder than words. Our behavior is eloquent testimony to who we are and what we think. Holy thought and corrupt behavior cannot coexist. It is a lie to say follow Christ if you are disregarding his Word and ignoring him. And is it surprising and disappointing when we hear people give a clear Christian testimony and yet see that they have a questionable lifestyle? The Bible calls us all to holy living. We are to make every effort to live according to its guidelines. First, if we are truly a new creature in Christ, then God's Holy Spirit is living within us, helping us want to do what is right. Second, godly living is an example to unbelieving friends, neighbors, and co-workers that we are different. People are attracted to others who are consistently kind, gracious, and loving. When they ask what makes you different you will have a wonderful opportunity to tell them of God's love. Third, godly living is a confirmation that you are, in fact, living for God and not yourself. It is a barometer of your relationship with him. And fourth, godly living means that you are emulating Christ, who is our ultimate example of how to live.