Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The World's Greatest Cliff-hanger - Who Shot JR? (1980)

In the final scene of the 1979–1980 season, the character J.R. Ewing played by Larry Hagman, was shot by a hidden assailant. The episode, titled "A House Divided", was broadcast on March 21, 1980. Viewers had to wait all summer and most of the autumn because of a Hollywood actors' strike (and Hagman's own holdout), to learn whether J. R. would survive, and which of his many enemies was responsible.
T-shirts printed with such references as "Who Shot J. R.?" and "I Shot J. R." became common over the summer, the latter eventually being seen in the first episode of British/Irish sitcom, Father Ted. Betting parlors worldwide took bets as to which one of the 10 or so principal characters had actually pulled the trigger. A session of the Turkish Parliament was suspended to allow legislators a chance to get home in time to view the Dallas episode. During the 1980 US Presidential Elections, the Republicans distributed campaign buttons that claimed "A Democrat shot J. R.", while Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter joked that he would have no problem financing his campaign if he knew who shot J. R. When Hagman was offered £100,000 during a British vacation for the identity of the shooter, he admitted that neither he nor anyone in the cast knew the answer.
Viewers had to wait an additional two months to find out the answer to the famous question, as a strike by the Screen Actors' Guild in July 1980 caused the production of most new network shows to be delayed by eight weeks. Ultimately, the person who pulled the trigger was revealed to be Kristin Shepard (played by Mary Crosby) in the "Who Done it" episode which aired on November 21, 1980. Kristin was J. R.'s scheming sister-in-law and mistress, who shot him in a fit of anger. J. R. didn't press charges, as Kristin claimed she was pregnant with his child as a result of their affair.
It was, at the time, the highest rated television episode in US history. It had a Neilsen rating of 53.3 and a 76% share, and it was estimated that 83,000,000 people watched the episode. The previous record for a TV episode, not counting the final installment of the miniseries Roots, had been the 1967 finale for The Fugitive. "Who Shot J. R.?" now sits third on the list, beaten in 1983 by M*A*S*H* and Super Bowl XL1V but still remains the highest rated non-finale episode of a TV series by a wide margin. In 2011, Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly named the episode number one of the seven most "Unforgettable Cliff-Hangers" of prime time dramatic television.
The great success of this 1980 stunt helped popularize in the US the practice of ending a television season with a cliff-hanger. The episode also inspired a novelty record by radio personality Gary Burbank which hit the Billboard Top 100 in 1980.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Bill star dies - Tributes paid to Colin Tarrant

A Star of hit cop show "The Bill" has died after being found injured at home. Colin Tarrant, 59, played Inspector Andrew Monroe in the long-running show and was popular with fans. It was reported last night Mr Tarrant had died in a suspected suicide after being discovered with knife wounds. He had been seen performing in a number of stage shows after the police drama was axed after 2,400 episodes in 2010.
Last night actors off the show united in paying their respects to Mr Tarrant and his grief-stricken family. Writing on Twitter, Jeff Stewart - the show's PC Reg Hollis, said: "Shocked by sudden news of Colin Tarrant's death. "A lovely man who was a greatly admired colleague. RIP." And Andrew Lancel, who played DI Neil Manson, said: "Very sad to hear about Colin Tarrant. A huge part of The Bill. "We never worked together but Inspector Monroe was iconic to bill fans. RIP." Their thoughts were echoed by West End theatre producer David Pugh. He added: "Colin was a lovely man, he loved the theatre, his politics and his family. "Our hearts must go out to his son Juma, his partner Sabrina and their baby son Louis."

Radio Times Presents the Third Doctor Who! (1970)

I really can not believe that it is now forty two years, but way back in January 1970 the BBC, or rather the Radio Times introduced the late, great Jon Pertwee to the world as the third incarnation of Doctor Who in the story, Spearhead from Space. Jon Pertwee turned out to be the best of all the great Doctor's incarnations. Inside there was a short introduction to the new TV season and highlights Jon Pertwee's arrival, while his inaugural episode is treated to a photograph on the listings page.
An introduction to the new TV season, from the Radio Times 3 - 9 January, 1970
The listings page for 'Spearhead from Space, from the Radio Times, the 3rd of January, 1970

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Roger Moore as Ivanhoe (1958)

Nostalgia: Remember Ivanhoe with Roger Moore ?
Long before Roger Moore found fame as Simon Templar and then James Bond the youthful actor was cast in his first television role as the dashing Knight, Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe the British television series first shown on ITV in 1958-59 a series of adventures aimed at a children's audience. It used characters drawn loosely from Sir Walter Scott's 1819 novel.

The series was set in England during the 12th century reign of King Richard the Lionheart, who had gone to fight in the crusades and failed to return. In his absence, power had been taken by his younger brother, the ambitious and wicked Prince John, who sought to strip the people of their rights and land. The dashing and heroic Knight Ivanhoe, with his father-and-son companions Gurth and Bart whom he had freed from servitude (from the evil Sir Maurice), attempted to right wrongs, secure justice, help those in need, and thwart John and his allies.

Swashbuckling adventures for a younger audience, such as The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel, The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, were a mainstay of television programming in Britain in the mid-1950s. In December 1956, Columbia Pictures signed up Roger Moore, then working with limited success in Hollywood, to play the title role in an intended series for transmission in both America and the UK. The series was a co-production between Columbia subsidiary Screen Gems and British producer Sydney Box.
The budget was far more lavish than that of the Robin Hood series running at the time and filming started in early 1957, mostly at the ABC Studios at Elstree Studios and on location around Buckinghamshire in England, but with some shooting also taking place in California. The series premiered on ITV in January 1958, while filming continued to complete all 39 episodes through to June 1958. Although a pilot episode was filmed in colour, the series was shot in black and white. The executive producer was Peter Rogers, who shortly afterwards began producing the Carry On films. Guest stars on the series included Christopher Lee and John Schlesinger. Other supporting actors included Jon Pertwee, Paul Eddington, Leonard Sachs, Kenneth Cope and Adrienne Corri.
Moore insisted on undertaking much of the stunt work himself, resulting in several injuries including three cracked ribs from a fight scene and being knocked unconscious when a battleaxe hit his helmeted skull. Moore later commented: "I felt a complete Charlie riding around in all that armour and damned stupid plumed helmet. I felt like a medieval fireman."
The series finished when Roger Moore returned to Hollywood after Warner Brothers offered him a movie role in The Miracle.
Each episode started with the title song:
"Ivanhoe, Ivanhoe
Side by side we’re proud to ride with Ivanhoe
At his call we spring to help him ride along
The song we sing is free and joyous song
Ivanhoe, Ivanhoe
Far and wide throughout the countryside they know
There’s freedom on his banner
Justice in his sword
He rides against the manor
Where tyranny is lord
Rich and poor
Together we go
Forward with Ivanhoe
With I-van-hoe."
Each episode ends with the following song:
"Ivanhoe, Ivanhoe
To adventure, bold adventure watch him go
There's no power on earth can stop what he's begun
With Bart and Gurth, he'll fight 'till he has won
Ivanhoe, Ivanhoe
He's a friend who will defend the people's foe
He'll strike with speed like lightning bold and brave and game
In justice he is fighting to win the fairest dame.
Shout a cheer, adventure is here
Riding with Ivanhoe
With I-van-hoe."

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Stacy Keach as Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer

Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, with Stacy Keach in the title role, was the classic television series that originally aired on CBS from January 28, 1984 to January 12, 1985. The series was 24 sixty minute episodes. The show follows the adventures of Mike Hammer, the fictitious private detective created by crime novelist Mickey Spillane, as he hunts down criminals on the mean streets of New York. While firmly situated in the 1980s, the tone of the show also incorporated elements of classic film noir detective films, such as The Maltese Falcon. For example, each show featured the protagonist's narrative voice-over and, much like the archetypal hard boiled detectives of years gone by, Hammer would rarely be seen without his wrinkled suit, fedora and trench coat. While his get-up made a particularly awkward fashion statement for the time, the juxtaposition of old and new was a central theme in the show. Indeed, Keach's Mike Hammer left the viewer with the impression that this detective had been somehow transported from a 1940s film set to 1980s New York City. The show's theme song "Harlem Nocturne" by Earle Hagen, a jazz tune featuring a deeply melancholy saxophone, set a gritty tone for each episode. The song proved to be one of the most popular elements of the program.

In contrast to the charming male leads in other popular detective shows of the day (e.g.,Remington Steele, Thomas Magnum), Mike Hammer was unapologetically masculine with little concern for political correctness. A prominent feature of most episodes was the inclusion of a number of female characters (known in casting sessions "Hammer-ettes") who would exchange a double entendre or two with Hammer while wearing very low tops and push-up bras emphasizing their ample cleavage. Hammer would regularly wind up in bed with the highly-sexualized female characters in the show, who would never fail to melt once they had fixed their eyes upon the brawny detective. The show's writers latched on to this element of clashing eras and often used it a comic relief in the show. Examples of this include Hammer's love for cigarettes being at odds with the growing social disdain for smoking and the detective's humorous inability to comprehend the youth trends of the decade.

Like its 1950s predecessor, Keach's Mike Hammer never shied away from violence. Whether it was with his fists or his trusty gun, "Betsy," a Colt Model 1911A1 .45 ACP semiautomatic pistol, which was always tucked neatly inside a leather shoulder holster worn under his suit jacket, Hammer would never fail to stop a criminal dead in his tracks. Mickey Spillane insisted that Stacy Keach carry the .45 caliber pistol in the show because that was the weapon Mike Hammer carried in all of Spillane's "Mike Hammer" mystery novels. Unlike most detective shows of the decade, the bad guys onMickey Spillane's Mike Hammer were usually killed by the protagonist by the time the closing credits rolled.
Prior to the show's debut, Keach starred as Mike Hammer in two made-for-TV movies Murder Me, Murder You (April 9, 1983) and More than Murder (January 26, 1984). Like the syndicated series, these two-hour movies were executed under the guidance of acclaimed Executive Producer Jay Bernstein.
Other actors who played prominent roles in Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer include Don Stroud as Captain Pat Chambers, Lindsay Bloom as Hammer's secretary Velda, Kent Williams as Assistant District Attorney Lawrence D. Barrington, Danny Goldman as "Ozzie the Answer", and Donna Denton as "The Face"—a beautiful and mysterious woman who Hammer would see briefly in each episode but would then vanish before he had a chance to meet her.
Production of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer was interrupted near the end of the season when Keach was arrested in England for smuggling1¼ ounces of cocaine. He was in the country filming Mistral's Daughter, a television mini series based on a novel by Judith Krantz. Keach found himself sentenced to nine months in Reading Prison but he was released after six months with time off for good behaviour.
A year later, Stacy Keach returned to his role as Hammer in the made-for-TV movie The Return of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, which aired on April 18, 1986. Thanks to the positive reception of the movie and the tenacity of Jay Bernstein, a new Mike Hammer series, The New mike Hammer, went to air on CBS on September 27, 1986. In the new series, several recurring characters were absent and elements previously criticized as sexist were significantly downplayed—although the violence was not. The show was cancelled after one season with the final episode airing on May 21, 1989.
Keach's version of Hammer was revived with 26 more syndicated episodes produced in 1997–1998 under the title Mike Hammer, Private Eye. The revived version failed to establish wide distribution or much of an audience and was cancelled after one season.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Bernie Hamilton (1928 - 2008)

Bernie Hamilton (June 12, 1928 – December 30, 2008) American Actor was born in East Los Angeles and attended Oakland Technical High School, where he first became interested in acting. In films from 1950, he laboured in bit roles for years before getting noticed in the film One Potato, Two Potato (1964), the story of an inter-racial marriage. He is best remembered for his role as the brusque, no-nonsense Captain Dobey in the classic 1970s police series Starsky and Hutch.
Bernie Hamilton was the brother of jazz drummer Chico Hamilton. Hamilton was also an impresario; since the late 1960s he had run a nightclub/art gallery called Citadel d’Haiti on Sunset Boulevard. Hamilton also produced Rhythm and Blues Gospel music recordings on his own record label called Chocolate Snowman. One of his releases featured himself, it was entitled Captain Dobey Sings the Blues.
Fred Williamson, the action star of two movies that Hamilton appeared in during the '70s -- the crime dramas "Hammer" and "Bucktown" -- has called Hamilton "an extraordinary actor." "He's a very versatile actor and never really got the recognition he deserved for his work," Williamson, who played Capt. Dobey in the 2004 movie version of "Starsky and Hutch," told the Oakland Tribune at the time.
Raoul Hamilton said his father's "authoritative" police captain performance hit close to home. "It was an extension of who he was as a real person," he said. "He was a self-made man. He comes from a family of five brothers and one sister from the east side of Los Angeles; they came from humble beginnings."
He phased out of acting after "Starsky and Hutch" and spent the next 20 years in the music business producing R&B and gospel records. Hamilton also sang, and one of the albums he produced was called "Capt. Dobey Sings the Blues." His record label was called Chocolate Snowman. And in the early '80s, his son said, he created a children's doll called the Chocolate Snowman that was manufactured in South Korea and sold at Toys "R" Us. In addition to his son, Bernie was survived by his daughter, Candy Hazarika Hamilton; his brothers Chico and Don; and two grandchildren.

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Death of Elvis Presley - August 16th 1977

Forest Hills Cemetery in Memphis, Tenn., Aug. 19, 1977.
Elvis Presley died at Graceland on August 16, 1977. He was 42 years old.
Through the early morning of the 16th Elvis took care of last minute tour details and relaxed with family and staff. He was to fly to Portland, Maine that night and do a show there on the 17th, then continue the scheduled tour.
Elvis retired to his master suite at Graceland around 7:00 AM to rest for his evening flight. By late morning, Elvis Presley had died of heart failure.
In a matter of hours the shock registered around the world.
Paramedics were called, but they failed to revive Elvis, and he was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital where further attempts to resuscitate him failed. He was pronounced dead by his physician, Dr. George Nichopolous, who listed the official cause of death as erratic heartbeat, or cardiac arrhythmia.
As the news of Elvis' death spread across the country, radio stations immediately began to play his records. Some stations quickly organized tributes to Elvis while others simply played his music at the request of listeners, many of whom were in a state of shock over his sudden death.
Some people called their favorite radio stations just because they wanted to tell someone their stories about the first time they'd heard Elvis sing or to talk about how much his talent and his music meant to them.
Photos: Elvis Presley August 16, 1977
In the same way that many people remember exactly where they were when they heard President John F. Kennedy had been killed, most of Elvis' fans remember where they were the day Elvis died. Mick Fleetwood, of rock group Fleetwood Mac, recalls, 'The news came over like a ton of bricks. I was driving back from the mountains, and I had the radio on. They were playing an Elvis medley, and I thought, 'Great' --- And then they came back with the news'.
The staff of television newsrooms considered Elvis' death a late-breaking story. There was not enough time for TV reporters who had been sent to Memphis to file stories for the evening news. Executives had to decide quickly what film footage they could use from their files and where to place the story in relation to the other news of the day. NBC-TV not only rewrote their news lineup to lead off with the story of Elvis' death, but the network also made immediate plans to delay The Tonight Show and put together a late-night news documentary. David Brinkley, a national news anchor for NBC at the time, opened his broadcast with three minutes devoted to Elvis' sudden death. ABC-TV also decided to lead with the Presley story.
When they learned that NBC would be doing a late-night news special about the significance of Elvis Presley to American music, ABC announced that they would also air a half-hour documentary.
CBS did not follow suit, however. The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, featuring the most respected man in broadcasting at that time, had led the news program ratings for more than a decade. CBS executives chose not to open the evening broadcast with the Presley story. Arbitron's records indicate that when millions of viewers realized this they immediately switched the channel to another network.
Photos: Elvis Presley August 16, 1977
Photos: Elvis Presley August 16, 1977
Photos: Elvis Presley August 16, 1977
The CBS decision not to lead with Elvis' death gave the CBS Evening News its lowest ratings in years. (For the record, Roger Mudd was substituting for Walter Cronkite that evening.) CBS devoted only 70 seconds to its story on Elvis, placing it after a lengthy segment on the Panama Canal. The producer for that evening's news was vehemently opposed to leading off with Elvis' death, in spite of other members of the CBS programming staff suggesting it repeatedly. Interviewed later, the producer agreed that he was out of sync with the national consciousness. Two days later, CBS tried to save face by putting together a documentary on Elvis.
Even though Elvis never performed in Europe, countries from all over the world sent reporters to Memphis. The press coverage in foreign newspapers and on European television was almost as extensive as the reporting in the United States. Everywhere in the world, people lamented the loss of an irreplaceable entertainer.
Within one hour after Elvis' death, fans began to gather in front of Graceland.
Arleen Miller, of Nebraska, breaks into a sob outside Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion in Memphis
Numerous celebrities attended Elvis' funeral, including Caroline Kennedy, country music guitarist Chet Atkins, performers Ann-Margret and George Hamilton, and television evangelist Rex Humbard, who was one of the speakers during the service. Comedian Jackie Kahane, who had opened many of Elvis' concert performances, delivered his eulogy, and a local minister also spoke. Gospel performers sang, including Jake Hess, J.D. Sumner, James Blackwood, and their vocal groups, as well as singer Kathy Westmoreland. The casket was carried to Forest Hill Cemetery in a long motor cortege of all-white automobiles.
Later, when someone threatened to steal Elvis' remains, his casket was moved to the Meditation Garden behind Graceland. Gladys's body was also moved to the Meditation Garden in 1977; Vernon Presley died and was buried there in 1979; and Minnie Mae Presley was laid to rest beside the rest of her family in 1980.
Vernon Presley, Elvis Presley's father, places a rose on his son's grave Nov. 24, 1977, as newspeople were permitted inside the grounds at Graceland in Memphis, Tenn., for the first time since Elvis' funeral.
Vernon Presley, Elvis Presley's father, places a rose on his son's grave Nov. 24, 1977, as newspeople were permitted inside the grounds at Graceland in Memphis, Tenn., for the first time since Elvis' funeral.

Here comes Bod! (1975)

Bod was a BBC children's television programme first shown in 1975, with thirteen episodes, based on four original Bod books by Joanna and Michael Cole. It was an animated cartoon series narrated by John Le Measurier & Maggie Henderson with music by the multi-talented Derek Griffiths and produced by David Yates. The four books were published in 1966 in the United Kingdom and later in the United States and France. They were: Bod's AppleBod's PresentBod's Dream andBod and the Cherry Tree. The French version of Bod's Apple was called La Pomme de Gus.

Before the animated series was commissioned, the four books had been read on another BBC children's programme — Playschool. In 1974, thirteen five-minute episodes were created for transmission on the BBC as part of the Watch with Mother series, and were also sold to Australia's ABC channel. Soon thereafter, it was shown in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Poland and Israel. In the United States, Bod aired on Nickelodeon as a segment on the Pinwheel program.
The character of Bod is a boy who lives in a town with Aunt Flo, PC Copper, Frank the Postman and Farmer Barleymow. Each of the characters have their own theme music performed by Griffiths which is heard when they appear. Regular features are animal identification and Bod Snap.
There is also another set of characters who appear in each episode called Alberto Frog and his Amazing Animal Band. This section featured short extracts from famous pieces of classical music as part of the story, and always ended with Alberto choosing a different flavour of milkshake as his reward for solving a problem, and was narrated by Maggie Henderson.
Bod has appeared in Channel 4's 100 Greatest Kids TV Shows and 100 Greatest Cartoons, and the creators of Homestar Runner. have cited it as one of their inspirations. Bod continues to be very popular in Northern Ireland
 Bod's Way: The Meaning Of Life courtesy of Contender Books
All thirteen Bod episodes are available on DVD.
The Alberto Frog segments were produced separately by the BBC and were originally shown alongside the Bod episodes; only five out of thirteen of these segments survive in the BBC archives, following a decision in the early 1990s to wipe a large amount of videotaped 1970s children's programmes but all these are present on the Bod DVD

Jack Lord (1920 - 1998)

John Joseph Patrick Ryan (December 30, 1920 – January 21, 1998), best known by his stage name Jack Lord, was an American television, film, and Broadway actor. He was known for his starring role as Steve McGarrett in the classic American television series Hawaii Five O from 1968 to 1980. Lord appeared in feature films earlier in his career, among them Man of the West (1958). He was the first actor to play recurring character Felix Leiter, in Dr. No, the first James Bond movie. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Lord was the son of Irish-American parents. His father, William Lawrence Ryan, was a steamship company executive. He grew up in Morris Park (now known as Richmond Hill), Queens, New York.
Young Lord developed his equestrian skills on his mother's fruit farm in the Hudson River Valley. He started spending summers at sea, and from the deck of cargo ships, painted and sketched the landscapes he encountered—Africa, the Mediterranean and China. He was educated at St. Benedict Labre Joseph School, John Adams High School, in Ozone Park, New York, and the United States Merchant Marine Academy, then located at Fort Trumbull in New London, Conneticut, graduating as an Ensign with a Third Mates License. He attended New York University on a football scholarship, and earned a degree in Fine Arts.
He spent the first year of World War II with the U.S. Army's Corps of Engineers, building bridges in Persia. He returned to the Merchant Marine as an Able Seaman
before enrolling in the deck officer course at Fort Trumbull. While making maritime training films, he took to the idea of acting.

Lord received training from Sanford Meisner at the Neighbourhood Playhouse. He worked first as a car salesman for Horgan Ford, then later as a Cadillac salesman in New York to fund his studies. Later he studied at the Actors Studio
His Broadway debut was as Slim Murphy in Horton Foote's The Traveling Lady with Kim Stanley. The show ran for 30 performances, October 27, 1954 through November 20, 1954. Lord won the Theatre World Award for his performance. Lord was then cast as Brick in a replacement for Ben Gazzara in the 1955–1956 production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. He had been in The Little Hut (his first play), The Illegitimist, and The Savage.
His first commercial film role was in the 1949 film The Red Menace aka Project X, an anti-Communist production. He was associate producer in his 1950 film Cry Murder. In 1957, Lord starred in Williamsburgh: The Story of a Patriot which has run daily at Colonial Williamsburg since then. In 1958, Lord co-starred as Buck Walden in God's Little Acre, the film adaptation of Erskine Caldwells1933 novel.
Lord was the first actor to play the character Felix Leiter in the James Bond film series, introduced in the first Bond film, Dr. No. According to screenwriter Richard Maibaum, Lord demanded co-star billing, a bigger role and more money to reprise the role in Goldfinger, which resulted in director Guy Hamilton casting the role to an older actor to make Leiter more of an American "M".
In 1962, Lord starred as series namesake Stoney Burke, a rodeo cowboy from Mission Rodge, South Dakota. The basis for the series was real-life champion rodeo rider Casey Tibbs. The series featured Warren Oates and Bruce Dern in recurring supporting roles. Lord credited Gary Cooper as his on-screen role model, and the inspiration for his characterization of Stoney Burke.
Lord was considered for Eliot Ness in The Untouchables before Robert Stack won the role. In 1965 he guest-starred as Colonel 'Pres' Gallagher in second season episode 5, "Big Brother" of 12 O'Clock High (TV Series). Other television guest appearances include Appointment with Adventure, Bonanza, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.., The Reporter starring Harry Guardino, The Fugitive, The Invaders, Rawhide, Ironside, and The F.BI. Lord appeared on the first episode of Have Gun Will Travel, Lord appeared with Susan Strasberg in the film The Name of the Game is Kill.
According to William Shatner in 1966, Gene Roddenberry offered Lord the role of Captain Kirk on Star Trek, to replace Jeffrey Hunter whose wife was making too many demands. Lord asked for 50 percent ownership of the show, so Roddenberry offered the role to Shatner

Jack Lord starred for twelve seasons on Hawaii Five-O as Detective Steve McGarrett, appointed by the governor to head the state police criminal department in Honolulu, HI. The opening sequence includes a shot of Lord standing on a penthouse balcony of The llakia hotel. Chin Ho Kelly, the name of the police detective played by Kam Fong was a tip-of-the-hat to Ilikai developer Chinn Ho. Lord's catchphrase, "Book 'em, Danno!", became a part of pop culture. He was instrumental in the casting of native Hawaiians, instead of mainland actors. Lord insisted his character drive Ford vehicles; McGarrett drove a 1967 Mercury Park Lane the pilot, a 1968 Park Lane from 1968–1974, and a 1974 Mercury Marquis for the remainder of the series (this very car was shown in the 2010 remake, Lord was a perfectionist. When series creator Leonard Freeman died in 1974, the show's ownership was shared among Lord, CBS, and Freeman's estate, with a contract that made Lord executive producer and gave him complete control over content. He was a hands-on partner who paid attention to minute details,and was known for battles with network executives.
Hawaii Five-O
After his series ended in 1980, Lord kept a low profile, rarely making public appearances. His final TV appearance was that same year in a failed pilot for CBS called M Station: Hawaii which he also directed. Lord suffered from Alzheimers in his last years. He died of congestive heart failure at his home in Honolulu, Hawaii on January 21, 1998, at the age of 77, leaving an estate of $40 million. He was a philanthropist and the entire estate went to Hawaiian charities upon his wife Marie's death in 2005.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Wacky Races (1968-1969)

I don't know about you guys, but I love Wacky Races, the animated television series produced by Hana - Barbera. The series features 11 different cars racing against each other in various road rallies throughout North America, with each driver hoping to win the title of the "World's Wackiest Racer." Wacky Races ran on CBS from September 14, 1968, to January 4, 1969. Seventeen episodes were produced, with each episode featuring two different races.
The cartoon had an unusually large number of regular characters, with twenty-three people and animals spread among the 11 race cars, plus the unseen (and never identified) race announcer. Reruns of the series currently air several times a day on Cartoon Network's classic animation network Boomerang.
One of the unused plans for the series was that the races would be part of a live-action quiz show made by Merrill Heater and Bob Quigley Productions in which contestants would bet on which Wacky Racer would cross the finish line first. Although the game show concept was eventually scrapped, the series still retained a Hanna-Barbera/Heatter-Quigley dual production credit.
It is one of the few Heatter-Quigley series not currently owned by successor company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio where the Hanna-Barbera team got its start with Puss get the Boot. In 1988, a made-for-TV movie, Around the World with the Wacky Racers, was planned as part of Hanna-Barbera's Superstars 10 series of TV movies, but it never got past the concept stage.

Dick Dastardly and Muttley:

The antagonists of the series, in a purple, rocket-powered car with an abundance of concealed weapons and the ability to fly. Dastardly (voiced by Paul Winchell, in a manner that Winchell would use several years later to portray the Smurfs' nemesis Gargamel) is an archetypal mustache-twirling villain; Muttley (voiced by Don Messick) is his wheezily snickering, anthropomorphic dog henchman. Dastardly concocts plans and traps in order to maintain a lead, but most of his plans backfire, causing him to finish in last place.
Because of this, Dastardly has never won a Wacky Race or even officially finished in the top three. In fact, he has only crossed the line five times: thrice in last place, once in fifth place (beating the Surplus Special) and even once in first place (but in the replay was "disqualified for stretching a point"). He is often foiled by the finishing line itself, where he makes a sprint at the end to gain the lead but whilst sneering and looking behind him at the other competitors fails to notice that parts protruding from the mean machine (often sails or rockets) are too big to get under the finish banner and he subsequently crashes into it. Dick Dastardly and Muttley would also appear in Fender Bender 500, racing against characters like Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw. In this series they were actually able to pull off a win.
The Mean Machine appears to have been by far the fastest vehicle, providing Dastardly with a theoretically unbeatable advantage. But in every episode, after blazing far ahead of the others, Dastardly would stop to set up various booby traps for the other racers and this would eventually cost him the race. It never seems to occur to him to race fairly even though he would presumably triumph every time.

The Slag Brothers in the Bouldermobile 1:

Rock and Gravel Slag (voiced by Daws Butler and Don Messick) are Cavemen driving a wheeled boulder. The Slag Brothers sometimes reconstruct their car from scratch just by using their clubs on any large boulder that is available. The Slag Brothers can summon up a Pterandon to help them. They accelerate by hitting the car (or at times, each other) with their clubs. Often they directly attack other drivers with their clubs and various rock attacks. If the whole Wacky Races series had been scored according to the Grand Prix point scoring of the period the Slag Brothers would have been the champions. The Slag Brothers' character design was re-used for Captain Caveman!

The Gruesome Twosome in the Creepy Coupe 2:
Big Gruesome (a lurching, huge humanoid character voiced by Daws Butler) and Little Gruesome (a purple-skinned vampire voiced by Don Messick) are monsters driving a hearse-like car with a belfry which houses a dragon, ghosts, serpents, and other horror-themed characters as well as storm clouds. The Gruesomes can summon these creatures to either help them along in the race or fend off other drivers. The Gruesome Twosome are often prone to foul play and use their range of creatures to scare off or sabotage the other competitors. Little Gruesome acts as the brains of the duo while Big Gruesome acts as the muscle.

Professor Pat Pending in the Convert-a-Car 3:

A scientist (voiced by Don Messick) in a boat-shaped plane like car which can change into just about anything that moves, from mundane vehicles (such as a motorcycle) to outlandish ones (such as a giant bowling ball). He often uses his car's multitude of gadgets to help out the other drivers if they all get caught in the same trap. His alternative name is a pun on the phrase "Patent Pending". Most of his gadgets seem to be defensive as opposed to Dastardly's offensive devices.

The Red Max in the Crimson Haybailer 4:

An air ace (voiced by Daws Butler) whose name is a combination of the Red Baron and the Blue Max, in a car/plane hybrid that is capable of limited flight, usually just enough to leapfrog over racers or obstacles in its path. The Haybailer has a mounted machine gun which is used sporadically. The machine gun can fire bullets, pepper, and other substances. The Haybailer's transformation from plane to car seems to have significantly weakened its flying ability, and Max often has to bail out when the Haybailer breaks down.

Penelope Pitstop in the Compact Pussycat 5:

Penelope Pitstop (voiced by Janet Waldo) is the lone female among the Wacky Racers. She is a Southern Belle who drives the Compact Pussycat, a fancy pink car fitted out with all manner of girlie beauty supplies—effectively, a beauty parlour on wheels. Penelope often takes time during the race to maintain her appearance, which causes the other racers to lose ground when her gadgets malfunction. The other male racers are very chivalrous towards her, and rarely attack her car, sometimes even allowing her to pass them. Turbo Terrific driver Peter Perfect is particularly fond of her, frequently calling her "Pretty Penny." Penelope also had her own cartoon, The Perils of Penelpoe Pitstop, which featured the Ant Hill Mob.

Sergeant Blast and Private Meekly in the Army Surplus Special 6:

Two soldiers, one a sergeant (voiced by Daws Butler) and the other a private (voiced by Paul Winchell), racing in an armytank/jeep hybrid with a small steamroller‘s wheel attached to the front. The Army Surplus Special makes use of its tank facilities while racing, including its cannon, which can spin around to face forward or back, and the hatch, where Sergeant Blast rides. The Surplus Special is equipped with a supply of land mines and back-mounted thrusters. The Surplus Special fires its gun backwards to propel itself forwards for extra speed. As their names suggest, Private Meekly is very meek and merely follows orders without question, while Sergeant Blast "blasts" orders in a stereotypical drill-sergeant voice.

The Ant Hill Mob in the Bulletproof Bomb 7:

The Bulletproof Bomb (occasionally referred to as the "Roaring 20s") is a 1920s sedan, driven by a group of 7 pint-sized gangsters (a play on the Seven Dwarfs): leader Clyde (voiced by Paul Winchell), Ring-A-Ding (voiced by Don Messick), and five others. Clyde is a parody of Edward G. Robinson's character in the film Little Caeser and of the male half of Bonnie & Clyde. Their usual method of improving the speed of their car is "Getaway Power", which is achieved by extending their feet through the floor of the car and running, in a reference to The Flintstones. On occasion the Ant Hill Mob would use their tommy guns against the other racers.
The Ant Hill Mob re-appeared in the spin-off series The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, with Clyde in a silver outfit and his wingmen, with new names, wearing blue outfits and riding in a living car, Chugga-Boom. The Mob were the protagonists in this series, along with Penelope herself, and were constantly rushing to her rescue.

Luke and Blubber Bear in the Arkansas Chuggabug 8:

Luke (voiced by John Stephenson) is a Hillbilly who tends to drive steering with his feet while half-asleep; Blubber (also voiced by Stephenson) is his timid pet bear, clad in a scarf and early aviator's helmet with goggles. The Chuggabug is constructed of wood and is powered by a coal-fired pot-bellied stove in the rear of the vehicle. The stove can be prone to exploding, usually if another competitor blocks the exhaust. Luke tends to use low-tech means of improving the performance of his car. He pours various liquors into the stove for a quick speed boost (but the stove would often explode afterward). He has also been shown using various balloons and gum type traps.

Peter Perfect in the Turbo Terrific 9:

A gentleman driver (voiced by Daws Butler) driving a dragster. The Turbo Terrific, despite its name and Peter's adulation, is highly unreliable; it often falls to pieces in the middle of a race, usually after Peter praises it for how well it is doing. Peter Perfect has a crush on Penelope "Pretty Penny" Pitstop, who often returns his affections. The Turbo Terrific seems to be able to sprout an additional four rear wheels, giving eight wheels in total, for extra speed.

Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth in the Buzzwagon 10:

Rufus Ruffcut (voiced by Daws Butler) is a tough, muscle-bound lumberjack, while Sawtooth (voiced by Don Messick) is his anthropomorphic pet beaver. The Buzzwagon is a wagon made of logs, with buzzsaws for wheels, hence its name. The buzzsaws gave the car the ability to cut through almost anything, destroying the object in the process.

Every episode is introduced and commented on by an unseen Narrator (Dave Wilcock), who often communicates with the racers as they drive. The racers respond by speaking to the audience, breaking the Fourth Wall. Dick Dastardly has oddly nicknamed the Narrator 'Boopsie,' used as a female character's nickname in Doonesbury shortly thereafter.

The other characters seem to get on with each other, they are often seen (especially Pat Pending and usually Peter Perfect and Penelope Pitstop) helping each other out of traps set by Dastardly. They also at times use "dirty tricks" on each other (Army Surplus shooting other cars or Gruesome Twosome using their Dragon). Some of these tricks are as bad as Dastardly's, but they seem to get away with them.

Penelope Pitstop and the Ant Hill Mob were spun off into another cartoon series in 1969 titled The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. Also in 1969, Dick Dastardly and Muttley were given a spin-off series titled Dastardly & Mutley in their Flying machines. The series is sometimes mistakenly known as Stop The Pigeon, after the show's working title and theme song. Both series ran for two seasons.

The basic ideas behind Wacky Races and some of the characters were used again by Hanna-Barbera in later years:
  • The new character of Mumbly (star of the 1976 The Mumbly Cartoon Show) bears a strong resemblance to Muttley.
  • The new character of Captain Caveman (star of the 1977 Captain Caveman & The Teenagels series) bears a strong resemblance to the Slag Brothers.
  • In 1977, Mumbly (who, in contrast to his role as a detective on his solo series, is now depicted as a villain) and Dread Baron (who strongly resembles Dick Dastardly) became the leaders of the Really Rottens team on the Laff-A-Lympics cartoon, which featured three teams of Hanna-Barbera characters (including Mumbly's villainous "Really Rottens" team, Yogi Bear's "Yogi Yahooeys" team that consisted of many of his friends from Yogi's Gang, and Scooby Doo's "Scooby Doobies" team that included many of the crime-solving characters from that era, including Captain Caveman) competing in races and competitions around the world. However, in the Latin American version ofLaff-A-Lympics, the Dread Baron and Mumbly were credited as Dick Dastardly and Muttley.
  • The 1978 series Yogi's Space Race featured Hanna-Barbera stalwarts such as Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, and others racing against each other throughout outer space while fending off a tall, thin villain (Phantom Phink) and his snickering dog (Sinister Sludge).
  • Dick Dastardly and Muttley returned in the 1985 series Yogi's Treasure Hunt as they competed in a treasure hunt against Yogi Bear and many of his prior "Yogi Yahooeys" teammates. Instead of driving the Mean Machine, Dastardly piloted a submarine called The SS Dirty Tricks and a World War 1 biplane in this series.
  • Dread Baron and Mumbly (once again replacing Dick Dastardly and Muttley) return to antagonize Yogi and many of his "Yogi Yahooeys" teammates in the 1987 film Yogi Bear & the Magical Flight of the Spruce Goose.
  • The 1990 syndicated series Wake, Rattle & Roll featured a segment called Fender Bender 500. It featured Dick Dastardly and Muttley (and a revamped "Mean Machine" that is renamed "Dirty Truckster") racing against Yogi Bear, Winsome Witch, Quick Draw McGraw, and other Hanna-Barbera stars.
  • In 1991, teenage versions of Dick Dastardly and Muttley appeared on the Yo Yogi! series with Yogi Bear, Boo-Boo Bear, Cindy Bear, Snagglepuss, and Huckleberry Hound.
  • In 2006, the pilot for a spin-off series titled Wacky Races Forever was produced for Cartoon Network. The series depicted the sons and daughters of the original racers competing against each other, including Parker and Piper Perfect, the children of now married Penelope Pitstop and Peter Perfect. Other characters included Dick Dastardly and Muttley (working for Mr. Viceroy), the Slag Brothers, Professor Pat Pending, and a teenage version of the Gruesome Twosome. This series was not picked up by Cartoon Network.