(Television History and Trivia)




Victor Edward Swanson,


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- - - T.H.A.T., Edition No. 13 - - -

    Let me start this edition of T.H.A.T. with some thoughts about prime-time television on the broadcast networks.

    From the 1957-1958 season through the 1961-1962 season, James Garner played the lead character in the television series entitled Maverick, which was a western.  From the 1974-1975 season through the 1979-1980 season, James Garner played the lead character in the series entitled The Rockford Files, and, later, he appeared in some TV-movies based on The Rockford Files series, such as The Rockford Files: If It Bleeds...It Leads (April 20, 1999), the final movie of the set of movies.  Last season, James Garner joined the cast of the series entitled 8 Simple Rules (once known as Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter) and he is a member of the cast this season.
    Now I talk about three actors.  From the 1961-1962 season through the 1965-1966 season, Dick Van Dyke played Rob Petrie in the television series entitled The Dick Van Dyke Show, and from the 1993-1994 season through the 2000-2001 season, Dick Van Dyke played Dr. Sloan in the series entitle Diagnosis Murder, and he played Dr. Sloan in a couple TV-movies.  From the 1960-1961 season through the 1966-1967 season, Andy Griffith played Andy Taylor in the series entitled The Andy Griffith Show, and from the 1986-1987 season through the 1994-1995 season, Andy Griffith played Ben Matlock in the series entitled Matlock, and he played the character on an episode of Diagnosis Murder on January 30, 1997.  From the 1973-1974 season through the 1983-1984 season, Tom Bosley played Howard Cunningham in the series called Happy Days, and from the 1988-1989 season through the 1990-1991 season, Tom Bosley played Father Dowling in Father Dowling Mysteries.
    I could talk about more actors, but that should be enough.

    The actors who have been talked about so far this edition of T.H.A.T. have been fortunate enough to do work as lead characters in more than one series over the years, and that is a rare occurrence.  Often actors do one series and never return to television as lead characters or they return and their new series quickly disappears; actually, many actors who do one series never end up in another series, and a few actors who do one series do end up in another series.  The reason some actors go on to do at least one more series after appearing in a series and why many actors do not are many, and that is the main focus of this edition of T.H.A.T.

    Keep in mind some thoughts.  During the history of prime-time television, the types of shows that have been popular have changed.  During the 1950 and 1960s, westerns were popular, and, in fact, the heyday of the western was in the 1950s and 1960s.  Situation comedies (or "sitcoms") have been popular in different forms over the years.  Police series have been popular for decades, though half-hour police stories have been few and far between since the 1960s and one-hour police shows have been the norm.  Medical-themed series have been popular over the decades, especially in one-hour form since the 1960s.  Since the mid-1990s, reality-type shows have become popular and have taken up slots in prime-time schedules that could be used by scripted dramas, scripted police shows, et cetera.

    That covers that.  Now, remember, when I use the term "actor" in the remainder of this document, I am referring to an actor or an actress, and when I use the term "actors," I am referring to actors or actresses.  I am saving space by using the term "actor" or the term "actors."

    Some of the reasons an actor only ends up in the lead in one series over time are:

    Actors can become typecast.  For example, the public sees that actors for years in one part, and the public finds it hard to see the actor doing any other part.  In addition, once an actor has done one part for many years, producers avoid casting the actor in parts, especially soon after the actor's series went off the air, because they cannot see the actor doing another part.

    Casting directors change over the years, and casting directors can have favorite performers, and when a certain casting director dies or retires, actors who have been closely associated with the casting director have lost some clout with producers or executives at cable channels or networks.

    Actors can get tired of working on series; for instance, if a person works 12 hours or 14 hours and 16 hours a day for six days a week for a few years in the process to make a series, the actor can become tired of doing series television.

    When actors do work for series shown in prime-time, the actors usually play themselves.  (I could argue well almost all actors play themselves.)  When an actor plays the self, it can be hard to find a series in which the person can do well playing the self again.

    Actors get old over time, and the types of parts that they can play can become fewer.

    Actors can price themselves right out of the business.  (Remember: The previous edition of T.H.A.T. had some information about above-the-line costs, and how above-the-line costs seem to be bloated in the series of today when compared with series of the past, at least in relation to the producers.)  Big-name actors can ask too much when they are being considered to perform in a series.

    Television programming chiefs and executives have their favorite performers, as all people do, and television programming chiefs and executives do not as a rule last long in their jobs, and when they leave their jobs, maybe by resigning or being fired, series under development can get scraped by the persons who take over the jobs.

    Over the years, various producers have had clout to get series made at different times, and the producers have favorite actors.  Since the 1960s, Aaron Spelling has had a lot of clout; really, his heyday was from the 1960s to the 1990s.  Glen A. Larson was popular in the 1970s and 1980s.  Since the 1980s, Steven Bochco has been a producer with a lot of clout.  And there have been others, such as Quinn Martin of the 1960s and 1970s.  When producers retire or move on to other work or stop working, actors can lose work.

    Actors can end up working on pilots that have bad production people--such as bad writers and producers--and when the pilots end up looking bad, network-television executives or cable-television executives who see the pilots see the actors in bad work, and that can cause the executives to think about the actors less in the future.

    An actor can start to work on the series, and the producer or the producers of the series can be good, and the producer or the producers can discover that the actor is difficult to work with, for whatever reasons, such as not showing up on the set on time or being drunk, and news can make the rounds to other producers that the actor is difficult to work with and can cause the other producers to avoid thinking about working with the actor in future projects.

    Health can be a problem for an actor.  For instance, an actor can become rich and then can afford to spend money on illegal drugs, and once the actor gets involved with illegal drugs, the actor's health can affect the appearance of the actor.  Also, some actors have trouble with bulimia and their appearance can be affected.

    Some people leave the acting business completely after doing work on a series.  One good example is Beverly Owen who played Marilyn Munster in the first season of The Munsters series of the 1960s; basically, she left the show during the middle of the first season of the series and did not return to working in the television industry.  And women do go on to have babies and find it more important to care of children than to act.

    Actors have a new problem to deal with today.  Since the 1950s, television executives and advertisers have used "Q" ratings to help them decide whether or not to hire certain performers.  If you look in editions of TV Guide of the 1950s and 1960s, you can see that the listings have the names of actors and the parts that they play.  Today, editions of TV Guide and other publications with television program listings do not show much about what actors are playing what parts, so viewers are having a harder time learning who actors are than they did in past decades, and if viewers have a harder time learning who actors are, actors can have a harder time doing well in "Q" ratings and can find it harder to get work than actors could in decades past.

    Only so much time is available for certain types of programs on the prime-time schedules each week, especially in this day and age of running an episode more than twice each season, and once a certain category of show (such as the "sitcom") is no longer the dominant form of show on prime-time schedules and another category of show (such the medical-investigation show) is, an actor who worked in a category of show that is no longer popular ends up not getting cast in another show.

    A network executive can get tired of looking at an given actor on prime-time television, thinking the schedule has to look "new" or "fresh" or something for the next season and thinking the actor does not make the schedule look new or fresh or whatever.

    Well, that covers only some of the reasons that an actor often ends up working as a main character on only one series during a career, and you should realize a number of reasons can keep an actor from doing a lead character in another television series.

     By the way, although an actor does not become a lead player in another series, the actor could do guest appearances on other series, perform in movies made for television or the theater, perform in stage productions, do acting work in other countries, et cetera, and the actor could do well making a living in the acting field.

    Now I can pass along some information "for the record."  In the previous edition of T.H.A.T., I mentioned that I could not pass along some "same-title" information to you, because a program had yet to air.  The program did air on The Hallmark Channel on March 12, 2005, and the name of the program, which was a made-for-TV movie, was called Thicker Than Water, and the movie featured Lindsay Wagner, Melissa Gilbert, and Brian Wimmer.  Theresa Russell and Jonathan Pryce were two of the featured performers in the movie entitled Thicker Than Water, which was shown on A&E on April 10, 1994.

    Let me look at "April 10" again.  On April 10, 1975, a program called Happy Endings was shown on the ABC-TV network.  Remember: In the previous edition of T.H.A.T., I said that Happy Endings was the umbrella title for four busted pilots.  One of the busted pilots was called A Commercial Break.  One of the main performers in that busted pilot was Lauren Bacall, who had been the wife of Humphrey Bogart, and another was Robert Preston, who had become well known for doing musicals on stage, such as The Music Man (in New York in the late 1950s).  And that covers some answers that you were supposed to come up with.

    By the way, Happy Endings was the name of a TV-movie that was shown on CBS-TV on March 1, 1982, and that movie featured John Schneider and Catherine Hicks, and Happy Endings was the name of a TV-movie that was shown on NBC-TV on December 26, 1983.

    It seems I should now give you a problem to solve through this edition of T.H.A.T., or you should be given a trivia question now.  Look at this list of individuals: Laura Adler, Michelle Allen, Jill Anthony, Brett Banner, Deborah Barylski, Sharon Bialy, Susan Bluestein, Joedna Boldin, Beth Bowling, Deedee Bradley, Heike Bradstatter, James Calleri, Mara Casey, Veronica Collins, Eric Dawson, Collin Daniel, Liz Dean, Leslee Dennis, Brennan du Fresne, Nan Dutton-Sells, Barbara Fiorentino, Risa Bramon Garcia, Lesli Gelles, Scott Genkinger, Susan Glicksman, Suzanne Goddard-Smythe, Jeff Greenberg, Brett Greenstein, Natalie Hart, Victoria Huff, Allison Jones, Lisa Miller Katz, Gayle Keller, Eileen Mack Knight, Alexis Frank Koczara, Carol Kritzer, Jason La Padura, Jennifer Lare, John Frank Levey, Stacey Levy, Tracy Lilienfield, Amy Lippens, Leslie Litt, Junie Lowry-Johnson, Rebecca Mangieri, Liz Marx, Coreen Mayrs, Elizabeth Melcher, Ken Miller, Rick Millikan, Kim Miscia, Julie Mossberg, Brian Myers, Blyth Nailling, Kelly O'Brien, Greg Orson, Lori Openden, Keri Owens, Holly Powell, Debby Romano, Vicki Rosenberg, Jami Rudofsky, Patrick J. Rush, Suzanne Ryan, Camille St. Cyr, Laura Schiff, Kevin K. Scott, Christine Smith Shevchenko, Sally Stiner, Barbie Stock, Jonathan Strauss, Monica Swann, Shaner Testa, Kamala A. Thomas, Sherry Thomas, Robert J. Ulrich, Nikke Valko, Alex Wald, April Webster, Bridgette Glover White, and G. Charles Wright.  Yes, it is a long list.  Yet, as long as the list is, you may not know any name in the list, which might help you answer a question that I have for you.  The question that I have for you is: What do the individuals have in common?  Of course, the theme is television.

    To me, it seems the question presented in the previous paragraph is simple to answer, so I now give you a hard question to solve.  Desiree Goyette provided the voice for the main character of a special that was shown on CBS-TV in 1985.  What character did she do the voice for and what was the name of the special?  The show took place in 1939, and the villain of the show was Johnny Throat.

Stay well!


copyright c. 2005
Date published: April 10, 2005
Date posted: April 13, 2005

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