February 2, 2018

Around the dial

Before we begin, a couple of personal notes: one professional, and one a request I'm relaying from a reader.

The professional note is that I'm confirmed on the schedule for this September's Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland. The Convention runs September 16-18, and right now I'm scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on the first day:

I think it's going to be a very cool presentation, even though I'm not absolutely sure yet as to what I'm going to say. Hopefully I'll also have copies of my in-progress book The Electronic Mirror, in which I argue that classic television can help us learn - as the presentation says - who we were then (as a society), who we are today, and everything in-between. The focus on this continues to evolve as well, so I'm probably as interested as you are in finding out what the finished product looks like. At any rate, if you've got vacation time coming, or if you're in a position to make the trip to Maryland in September, I hope you'll consider it; I met some of you out there last year (looking at you, Jack, Jodie, and Carol), and I'd like to run into even more of you this year! (Note that if you're looking at their website, it's an odd mix right now of new information for this year and carry-over information from last year, so keep checking back.)

And now the request: last week, I got an email from Melissa Thomas at the Franklin Township Library in Somerset, New Jersey. The library has a patron looking for some specific articles from TV Guides of the 1980s. I was able to help her out with one of them, but there are several that we're still looking for. I'm going to publish the list below in hopes that one (or more) of you happen to have these issues in your collection and would be willing to scan the articles in question and send them to me.

  • TV Guide: Linda Lavin Only Laughs When It Hurts 10/23/1976
  • TV Guide: One Heart of Gold, Coming Up 4/8/1978 
  • TV Guide: Features article on Beth Howland 5/12/1979 
  • TV Guide: No Longer Tied to Vera's Apron Strings 5/12/1979 
  • TV Guide: Relates to "Alice" Linda Lavin, Diane Ladd, and cast on front cover 4/19/1980 
  • TV Guide: Polly Holliday got where she is by being. . .Brazen and Brainy by Bill Davidson 11/8/1980 
  • TV Guide: Features article on Polly Holliday 11/15/1980 
  • TV Guide: Features an article on Celia Wesson of Alice 11/14/1981
  • TV Guide: 100 Pounds Heavier. . .16 Inches Taller. . .Yes, Philip McKeon has Grown Up on Alice by Kenneth Turan 12/22/1984

Speaking for Melissa, we'd be grateful for any assistance that any of you out there can provide.

And now, elsewhere in classic television land. . .

At The Twilight Zone Vortex, Jordan shares the essential TZ/Serling books that should be on your bookshelf. It's a long but impressive list - even adding two or three of these volumes to your library should be an enriching experience.

Ah, "Miss Paisley's Cat" - that's this week's episode in Jack's Hitchcock Project over at bare-bones e-zine. I loved this episode, although I was sorry to see the cat get it. I also think I would have preferred the original ending, rather than the one that the requirements of the times demanded.

I'm not sure how many people remember Hawkins, James Stewart's 1973-74 series, in which he plays a shrewd down-home lawyer. As Rick points out at Classic Film and TV Café, the series bears more than a passing resemblance to Matlock, especially since Andy Griffith was first choice for the role.

I really like David's title for this piece at Comfort TV - "When Bad Things Happen to Good TV Shows." How true is that? I can't think of a single TV series that I watch where there hasn't been at least one bad episode - well, perhaps The Grand Tour hasn't had any bad episodes, but some are better than others...

At The Lucky Strike Papers, Andrew links to an article in the New York Times Magazine about Rodney Dangerfield. Sometimes when I'm working out, I'll find a clip of Dangerfield on The Tonight Show or somewhere else, and laugh out loud. He's one of those guys that you don't really want to like, but find yourself enjoying immensely, if that makes any sense.

The Land of Whatever has a nice short piece on East Side/West Side, the grim drama on social work in New York City, which appeared on CBS in 1963-64. It starred George C. Scott, perhaps the only star out there intense enough to stand up to the intensity of the series, which ought to be on DVD but isn't.

And at Garroway at Large, Jodie answers a question that demonstrates how hard it is to follow a smash act: whatever happened to Kokomo Jr., the replacement chimp for the famous J. Fred Muggs, such a memorable part of the original Today cast. It's a charming story!

If all this doesn't satisfy you, come on back tomorrow, and we'll do another TV Guide. TV  


  1. Thanks, Mitchell! I agree with you about the ending and the poor cat.

  2. About Hawkins:

    I read Rick's post at the Cafe, and he doesn't say that Andy Griffith was "first choice" for the part.
    What he says is that "some sources say" that he was.
    "Some sources" can mean almost anything, from your two drunk buddies arguing in a bar, up to and including "the always reliable Wikipedia", and anything else in between.
    What I remember from 1973 is that CBS was all puffed up about getting Jimmy Stewart to do a TV-movie called "Hawkins On Murder" - with no indication that a series was even being thought about (and no mention whatever of Andy Griffith).
    James Stewart was a Major Get for CBS in any form; when they somehow talked him into a "limited series" (the term of the time), that was the headline of that particular fall announcement season.
    Between 1973 and 1986, Andy Griffith did perhaps half-a-dozen pilots, several of which became short-lived series (but that's another story - several of them, as a matter of fact).
    Frankly, the idea that Jimmy Stewart would be a second choice to Andy Griffith at any time ... unlikely at best.

    In '73, Jimmy Stewart played a Southern lawyer in Hawkins.
    In '86, Andy Griffith played a Southern lawyer in Matlock.
    You know what that's called?

    (... and maybe we all ought to start reading these things a bit more closely ...)

    1. Mike, one of the sources was Donald Dewey's 1996 biography JAMES STEWART. He states that Andy Griffith was "the original choice for the role of Billy Jim Hawkins."

    2. I gave my reply to Rick on his own blog.
      I'd call it a standoff; no touche.
      So there too.

  3. Mitchell, I have three of the TV Guides that Melissa Thomas needed. I am going to email the to you soon. Check your email for them.


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