(Television History and Trivia)




Victor Edward Swanson,


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- - - T.H.A.T., Edition No. 18 - - -

    In the 1970s and early 1980s, I did a lot of research about made-for-TV movies, planning to make a book about made-for-TV movies, and much of the research was done at the main library for the Detroit Public Library system, which is close to Wayne State University.  For a while during that time, I thought that a movie that I knew about, The Movie Maker, which featured Rod Steiger and Robert Culp, was a made-for-TV movie, and one reason for that is I saw the 1967 movie at least once on the television station in Windsor, Ontario, and the movie, which was from Universal (a "Universal Picture"), had the feel of made-for-TV movies that Universal was putting out in the mid-1960s.  I ultimately discovered the movie was not originally broadcast as a TV-movie--it was originally an episode of a television series entitled Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater.  The episode was entitled "A Slow Fade to Black," and it was broadcast on Friday, March 27, 1964, beginning at 8:30 p.m.  Later, material was added to "A Slow Fade to Black," and the expanded production was released as The Movie Maker.  If you see The Movie Maker, you will see Rod Serling and Steven Bochco are credited as the writers, but you should know Rod Serling wrote the original material and Steven Bochco wrote the added material.  Today, I list the movie in my files as a derived TV-movie, since the basis of the movie was a television show.  If you see the movie sometime, you will see Rod Steiger plays Michael Kirsch, the head of a movie studio who is being displaced from this job by younger individuals, and you will see Michael Kirsch gives a speech in the movie that I think can sort of apply to the television industry today, though the speech is about the young people who are displacing Michael Kirsch and now controlling the production of movies.  Part of the speech goes like this: "...You don't love to make movies, and that is a shame, because you don't known what you're missing."

    Incidentally, Rod Serling wrote the line, and, later, Rod Serling would have trouble with television executives during the production of the series entitled Rod Serling's Night Gallery (from December 1970 to August 1973).

    And now, through this edition T.H.A.T., I note some of what the 2004-2005 television season might be remembered for.

    I begin with the topic of Veronica Mars, which is a television series that features such performers as Kristen Bell and Enrico Colantoni.  Veronica Mars began to be shown on UPN on Wednesday, September 22, 2004, and, then on Tuesday, September 28, 2004, it began to be aired weekly on Tuesday evenings.  Also, on September 28, 2004, people were able to see an episode of Veronica Mars on MTV, airing at 7:00 p.m.  In July 2005, the series was still being shown on UPN, and in late July, some episodes of Veronica Mars were shown on the CBS-TV network, such as on Friday, July 29, 2005.

    What you should see from the information provided in the previous paragraph is a currently running television series was given exposure on three different networks.  For now, I list this situation as a "first."  I cannot think of another incident in which a series played on three networks during the same season, but there have been incidents in which shows have played on two networks.

    In a previous edition of T.H.A.T., I reported how executives at the broadcast networks were doing a lot of preempting of programming during prime time.  Of course, maybe, it was TV Guide that was making a bunch of mistakes.  It seems unlikely to me TV Guide made a bunch of errors, though.  Certainly, in television history, the 2004-2005 prime-time season will be remembered as one of the seasons with a great number of preemptions.

    When I was younger, such as when I was growing up in the late 1960s and early  1970s, the promotions that the broadcast networks did for the new fall lineups seemed like big events.  If I remember correctly, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the networks did not start promoting the fall programs till August.  In May 2005, the broadcast networks determined their fall schedules (for the start of the 2005-2006 season), showed the schedules to advertisers, and sold commercial time to advertisers.  It was on May 31, 2005, that I first saw a promotional announcement for a show that was going to be seen at the start of the 2005-2006 season in prime time, and the promotional announcement was shown on UPN.  I am unaware when the first promotional announcement for a fall-2005 show aired and what network aired it, but that does not matter to me, since I think May 31, 2005, was already way to soon for a promotional announcement for a fall-2005 show to be shown.  The 2004-2005 season will be remembered as a season in which fall shows were promoted too early.

    Another thing that this season will be remembered for is broadcasters' showing even more clutter on the screen.  Before the start of the 2004-2005 season, we already had had network logos in the lower right-hand corner of the screen (things that are informally called "bugs"), and we already had had ratings "bugs" shown in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, and we already had had the networks showing promotional clutter in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.  Generally speaking, this summer, networks and television stations began to show the "E/I" bug, which stands for "educational/informational," and it is supposed to indicate that the show to which it is attached meets, in essence, FCC guidelines about the airing of at least a minimum amount of children's programming in a week--three hours of what might be called "FCC-kid-friendly programming."  Now, television has "E/I" clutter.

    Here are a several things that historians will probably note about the 2004-2005 season.  It was a season in which television executives relied even more on running an episode of a series more than once a single season.  Several series, one of which was The Princes of Malibu, started out on broadcast networks and ended up on cable channels, where the final episodes were shown.  And it was a season in which ABC-TV and NBC-TV somewhat regularly used off-time starts for some programs shown in prime time.

   Do you see the themes of "burnout" and "lack of showmanship" in the information that I have presented so far?

    Here, I stop my serious talk to do a little daydreaming.  In the previous edition of T.H.A.T., I set you off on a quest to answer two television-trivia questions?  It seems to me you probably did a bit of daydreaming while you were looking for the answers, and that can happen at this time of the year.  Remember: I wondered if you knew what was the name of the movie that was about Joanna Brannigan.  The movie was shown on NBC-TV for the first time on May 25, 1984 (I did not give you that information in the previous edition of T.H.A.T. so that you would have a harder time finding out the name of the movie).  The movie was called Summer Fantasy, and it was about a female lifeguard, Joanna Brannigan.  The gal who played Joanna was Julianna Phillips.  By the way, the executive producer of the movie was Frank von Zerneck, who in recent years has been involved with producing made-for-TV movies for the Lifetime cable channel, working with his long-time partner Robert Sertner.  In the movie, Danielle von Zernick, Frank's daughter, played Joanna's friend, Denise.  And that's your daydreaming break--which should be better than a commercial break.

    So where was I?

    Not everyone in the country has been able to see the programming of PAX-TV, the broadcast network that was started up on August 31, 1998, since they have not lived near a PAX-TV affiliate.  Even if you have been able to see PAX-TV, if you wanted to, you may not be aware that PAX-TV is going through a transformation.  In essence, PAX-TV is fading away and being replaced by "i" or, really, i (or Independent Television).  Officially, on July 1, 2005, PAX-TV became i; however, since July 1, 2005, the PAX-TV logo (or the PAX-TV "bug") has not disappeared completely from the screen (getting shown in non-commercial programming in the lower left-hand corner of the screen).  So, the 2004-2005 season will be remembered as the final season for PAX-TV.

    Most people in the U.S. are unable to watch programming that is put out over the air by CBC-TV, one of the television networks in Canada, so I am going to pass along "for the record" a bit about what happened this summer with CBC-TV and resulted in some unusual programming events.  On August 15, 2005, CBC-TV started a labor "lock out," blocking employees from working; CBC-TV and the Canadian Media Guild had not reached an employment contract.  I immediately noticed some changes in programming, but I will focus on only one event that took place because of the lock out.  On Saturday evening, August 20, 2005, CBC-TV aired a football game (a Canadian-type football game) between the Toronto Argonauts and the Edmonton Eskimos, and it was a most unusual broadcast, and, in fact, while watching it, I sort of felt like I was at the game.  During the entire game, there was no play-by-play given, and there was no color commentary, and there were no reports from the field.  CBC-TV broadcast video of the game, and viewers only heard an audio feed that had crowd noise and a stadium announcer, and viewers could hear some noise from the field.  I can now say that I have seen a professional football game on television that had no announcers (but had all the other noise).  In the end, Toronto beat Edmonton, and the score was 22 to 18.

    In past editions of T.H.A.T., I have passed along information about made-for-TV movies that have the same title, and, here, I must pass along another instance in which a recently aired movie had a title that had been used in the past.  On Monday, October, 27, 1986, NBC-TV broadcast the movie entitled Stranger in My Bed, and the movie was shown as a presentation of NBC Monday Night at the Movies, and, by the way, the movie was one of those "fact-based" movies, which is a movie sort of based on real incidents, and the movie was about Beverly Slater, who was an amnesiac and could not remember her family.  On Monday, August 29, 2005, Lifetime aired the movie entitled Stranger in My Bed, and this story was about a battered wife, and some of the performers in the movie were Jamie Luner, Chris Kramer, and Barbara Niven.  Since you may have seen the 2005 movie, I will not ask you a question about it, and I will only ask, "Who played Beverly Slater in the 1986 movie?"

    Now, I am finally reporting a bit of television history that I have been putting off reporting on for some time.  On Sunday, January 11, 1976, and Monday, January 12, 1976, ABC-TV aired a two-part television movie, which was officially a "mini-series," and that mini-series was entitled Eleanor and Franklin, and it was a story about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, wo was one of the presidents of the country, and Eleanor Roosevelt, who was Franklin's wife.  In this movie, which was a presentation of ABC Theatre, Edward Herrmann played Franklin, and Jane Alexander played Eleanor.  On Sunday, March 13, 1997, ABC-TV aired a movie entitled Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years, and in this ABC Theatre presentation, Edward Herrmann played Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Jane Alexander played Eleanor.  On April 30, 2005, HBO aired Warm Springs, a made-for-cable movie that was about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and, in this 2005 movie, Kenneth Branagh played Franklin, and Cynthia Nixon played Eleanor, and Jane Alexander played Sara Delano Roosevelt, who was Franklin's mother.

    On Monday, February 2, 1970, NBC-TV aired a TV-movie under the World Premiere umbrella title, and the made-for-TV movie was entitled The Movie Murderer, and I think the movie is a good example of the fun and likable made-for-TV movies of the 1960s and 1970s.  The story was written by Stanford Whitmore and Bernard Tapier, and the teleplay was put together by Stanford Whitmore, and in the movie, two investigators--Angus MacGregor and Mike Beaudine--were trying catch a man who was destroying prints of a movie (the name of which I will not give you through this edition of T.H.A.T.), and that man was known as both "Fisher" and "Owens."  The movie featured a lot of well-known character actors, such as Russell Johnson, Henry Jones, Jeff Corey, Nita Talbot, Robert Webber, Elisha Cook, Ned Glass, Woodrow Parfrey, Frank Campanella, and Milton Frome.  Arthur Kennedy played Angus MacGregor.  Who played, MacGregor's partner, Mike Beaudine?  The actor received an "introducing" credit.  Who played Fisher or Owens?  What was the name of the film (ten prints and two negatives) that Fisher or Owens was trying to destroy?  This movie was associated with Universal Studios.

Stay well!


copyright c. 2005
Date published: September 10, 2005

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