May 19, 2017

Around the dial

As is usually the case, we have a great assortment of pieces on classic television this week; some dealing with specific shows, others looking at the cultural implications thereof. They're all worth looking at, so let's get started.

A pair of interesting pieces from Terry Teachout, both of which hearken back to a time which both he and I are well-familiar. First, the deceptively-titled "In Praise of Drabness" looks back at the original Dragnet, why it was so revolutionary back then, and why it still holds up today. In "Putting Regional Theater on Television," he laments the absence of drama on television, and wonders if regional theaters could band together and tape various productions for TV, gaining more exposure for the legitimate theater. A very good idea, and it reminds me once again that this is what public broadcasting was supposed to do, before it sold out to the bottom line of ratings and became just another network.

Another Twilight Zone best-of list, this one from Phantom Empires, who's chosen some of the more thoughtful, meditative episodes as well as over-the-top classics. I always enjoy reading lists like these (compiled by people who know what they're writing about, as opposed to some of those lists), comparing them to choices I might make myself. And there is something about TZ that keeps people coming back to it all the time, isn't there?

The Land of Whatever offers something new: a pilot for a 1962 drama called Emergency Hospital. You might recognize it more by the name it eventually adopted, and under which it continues to this day: General Hospital. Looks a bit different from the finished product, or so I've been told.

Television's New Frontier: the 1960s takes an in-depth look at a series I've seen a few times, but just hasn't impressed me: Henry Fonda's western The Deputy, co-starring Allen Case (who was the title character and actually appeared more in the series than Fonda). The article makes the case that I probably should pay more attention to this series than I have, but I don't know if that's going to be enough to sway me. Maybe it would be different if I watched it from the beginning. Anyone else out there have an opinion?

A week or two ago, on one of the compilation videos posted at FredFlix, we saw a glimpse of a very young Annette Funicello, which reminded me of the great warmth and affection that people had for her right up to the time of her death, and how even today people feel a fondness toward her that quite surpasses most stars of that era. At Comfort TV, David reflects on his own affection for her, and why she seemed to strike that chord in so many people.

My lasting memory of Powers Boothe came during the 1980 Emmy Awards. The Screen Actors Guild was on strike at the time, and Boothe, the only actor to cross the picket lines, was one of the only winners to actually claim his award. When his name was announced, for his portrayal of the cult leader Jim Jones in Guyana Tragedy, everyone simply took it for granted that this would be yet another no-show, and it took a moment to register that this towering figure climbing the steps to the stage was, in fact, Boothe in person. It may not sound like much now, but it was actually quite a dramatic moment. Powers Boothe died this week at the age of 68; you can read about his career at Those Were the Days.

As befits a website called Television Obscurities, this week a look at Bill Dana's variety-talk show The Las Vegas Show, the one and only program ever aired on the ill-fated United Network, which lasted all of one month.

I don't want to overload you, so that should keep you until tomorrow. Stay tuned! TV  


  1. The great thing about The Twilight Zone is that it's so broad and deep; 50 people could have entirely differents lists (though there is a lot of agreement room for the top 25 or so). Ive done a few lists, and it's pretty fun!

    Thanks for the mention!

    1. Thanks for the piece, Clayton! You're right - there's always going to be something about that series that attracts someone for an entirely different reason that another episode attracts an entirely different person, and yet all the episodes come from essentially the same place.


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