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August 16, 2018 11:04 pm  #1

Friday Flashback: Firsts & Lasts Part 2

 Last week, we explored some of the ‘firsts’ and ‘lasts’ of television. This week, we conclude with a look at a Monkee in a real circus, the unexpected place the world first saw Harry Shearer, Mark Hamill smokes as a “Doobie,” and the remote control is how old? Plus don’t miss the final item about a show that might have starred a certain current occupant of the White House.
Some Familiar Names Make Their 1st TV Appearances
In 1966, the world got its first look at the Monkees and a short-lived TV phenomenon was born. Among the stars: a talented singer named Micky (no “e”) Dolenz. But it turns out audiences had seen him before. Back in the 50s, he was the titular star of an ABC show called “Circus Boy,” in which he played exactly that. It ran for two years and as far we know, did not involve “Mickey Braddock” carrying any kind of tune. Although a few elephants did carry him.

Paul Shaffer gained fame as the bandleader who backed David Letterman for decades on his late night show. But it wasn’t the first time audiences had seen him – as an actor! The Thunder Bay-born musician starred in a very short lived CBS TV summer show called “A Year At The Top.” It also starred another Mickey – this one named Rooney – and centered on a deal with the devil leaving two schlubs as musical superstars.

Turns out it wasn’t quite a Year At The Top. The thing ran for only seven short episodes.
Say the name Harry Shearer and you probably think of the Simpsons. He’d been on other shows, of course, but never one this early. Here’s a look at what I believe is his first ever public exposure back on the Donald O’Connor Show. The year? 1955! Guess he made it.

As for Mickey Rooney’s son Timmy, well, he’s still waiting for his big break.
Star Trek Debuts And Warps Into Reruns
Star Trek has become a TV and movie institution, giving way to multiple spinoffs and becoming a cultural touchstone. But no one knew that back in 1966, when it made its low rated debut on NBC’s Friday night line-up. Ever wonder what the TV Guide fall preview had to say about this unusual sci-fi show? It wasn’t exactly high praise.

Despite a letter writing campaign to the network (which I participated in as a kid and which worked to get us an extra season) NBC cancelled Gene Roddenberry’s “Wagon Train in Space” in 1969. Here’s a look at the last original episode that aired on the network.
It’s hard to remember how big one of the sequels, “The Next Generation” was. But it was such a huge hit that when it, too, finally signed off in syndication, City TV actually rented out the SkyDome to show the last ever episode of Capt. Picard and his crew.

Don’t Get Up, I’ll Change The Channel From Here
Here’s a trivia question: when did they first start marketing the TV remote control? If you said the 70s or 80s, you’d be way off. Turns out, the gadget that increased our laziness was first marketed to the public way back in 1950! Here’s an ad for the long cabled gizmo from 1953. It didn’t do much more than turn the set on or off, but for those who went for it, it was the ultimate in luxury.
Zenith, which made the first real remote, also sold a pair of TV headphones back then, too. They didn’t catch on quite as well.

WKRP Signs On
It’s an icon for many on this board, arguably the best TV show about radio ever made. Here’s how it was described in the 1978 Fall Preview issue of TV Guide, before anyone knew what was coming.

Gone In A “Flash”  
It’s a big hit on the CW. “The Flash” helped spearhead the DC Comics revolution on TV. But not everybody remembers that they tried it before – and it wasn’t exactly a success. Here’s a preview of the original Flash that aired on CBS in 1990. Trivia buffs know that the star of that incarnation – John Wesley Shipp – was brought back as Barry Allen’s father in the new series, a nice little nod to what came before.
The CBS series didn’t exactly speed to the top of the ratings and by the end of the season, it was gone in a Flash.

Someone Gave Mark Hamill A “Doobie”
A long time ago, in a network galaxy far, far away, Luke Skywalker was given a Doobie. And it was the first time anyone ever saw him. Doobie was the name of the young boy he played in a long lost 1974 TV show called “The Texas Wheelers,” about a shiftless father trying to raise his family. Three years later, Hamill was cast in “Star Wars” and everything changed.
I’m guessing most people never saw it on ABC. But I always watched it and it was a terrific show that didn’t last the year. (It used the John Prine song “Illegal Smile” about smoking pot as its theme song, which in itself was incredible for the early 70s.)

But Hamill wasn’t the only newcomer in the bunch to make a name for himself. This show also introduced the world to Gary Busey – although whether that was a good thing, you’ll have to decide.

Nixon-Kennedy Debate
Despite the fact that political debates are now the new normal, Sept. 26, 1960 was the first televised debate between two American Presidential candidates. Experts have long noted that Nixon won if you heard it on the radio, but Kennedy was declared the victor for those watching on TV. It was a seminal moment in TV history, and proved just how important that medium would become forever after in the race for public office.


There Goes Johnny, Here Comes Jay
After an amazing run of almost 30 years on The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson gave a final retrospective last show on May 22, 1992. There were no guests, no sketches and no long goodbyes. Carson’s final sign off came as he sat on a stool in front of that famous multi-coloured curtain. “I wish you a very heart-felt goodnight,” were his final words.

That famous last was followed by another famous first. After a bizarre battle between David Letterman and Jay Leno for control of the storied late night franchise, the winner took over. Here’s a look at Leno’s first week of guests, starting on May 25th.

Who Is This ‘Steve’ Spielberg Guy, Anyway?
Everybody starts somewhere. In the case of one Steven Spielberg, it was as a rookie TV director. Here’s a very early 1972 profile on one of the world’s most famous directors at a time when he wasn’t exactly a household name.

TV Guide Calls It -30- In Canada
The final exhibit in this Friday Flashback seems only fitting, since many examples on display here were taken from old TV Guides. The publication came here in 1953, and was virtually the same as its U.S. counterpart until 1977, when Telemedia – which also owned CJCL and other radio stations – bought it for Canada.
They came out with an altered and Canadian-centered edition, effectively taking all the good stuff out and replacing it with recipes, lifestyle stories and other non-TV related items – and at a much higher price! Sales fell, subscription fees rose, the Internet came and on November 25, 2006, with yet another new owner at the helm, TV Guide announced it would stop printing the iconic magazine in this country for good.
Instead, it was going to the Internet fulltime, marking the end of a 61-year tradition in my house – and many others. Here’s a look at that last edition.

And one thing more. In that final print copy of TV Guide in Nov. 2006, there was a curious little item about – and yes, this was serious – a proposal for a Donald Trump cartoon series. (Despite the fact that Showtime in the U.S. has teamed up with Stephen Colbert for “Our Cartoon President,” this one was long before anyone thought Trump would be where he is now.)  
I’ll leave it to you to decide if the original idea hasn’t already come to pass.


August 17, 2018 6:20 am  #2

Re: Friday Flashback: Firsts & Lasts Part 2

Chuck99 wrote:

Jay Leno was a recent guest on the Marc Maron WTF podcast.  He believes that the fact that he had been a regular guest host of the Tonight Show for five years plus the inability of Dave to get along with The Suits at NBC led the execs to pick him over Letterman as the successor to Johnny Carson. 


Here is Dave's take on it...  excerpt from an interview with Oprah Winfrey...