(Television History and Trivia)
THE HOLOGLOBE PRESS
Victor Edward Swanson,
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- - - T.H.A.T., Edition No. 19 - - -
In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, it was commonplace for television stations to have on staff people who were called "movie hosts." Such people would do "filler bits" between the showing of segments of movies; for example, they might make telephone calls to listeners and give listeners a chance to win prizes. There were all types of hosts; for instance, some hosts were woman who were dressed up elegantly and were surrounded by luxurious living-room sets, and some hosts were, well, "different." In the Detroit area in the late 1960s, the 1970s, and the early 1980s, many people tuned in to what I will informally call the "Sir Graves Ghastly Television Show." Sir Graves Ghastly specialized in showing horror movies, such as movies featuring actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and I particularly remember seeing Castle of Blood (also known as Danse Macabre), a movie featuring Barbara Steele, at least twice on Sir Graves Ghastly's program, which, by the way, was often seen on Saturday afternoons on WJBK-TV Channel 2 (in Detroit) (but it was seen on other days). I am unable to show a photograph of Sir Graves through this Web site, not having rights to show any photographs of Sir Graves, so I will only say that Sir Graves looked like a vampire (with a mustache and beard) and had his coffin close by.
I hope by your reading the first paragraph of this edition of T.H.A.T. that you get the feeling that the theme of this edition of T.H.A.T. is "horror." Well, the theme is "horror." I do think the theme of horror fits in well at this time of the year--the start of a new television season (the 2005-2006 season) and not necessarily the time of the year for Halloween. Be ready to be scared!
Over the years, I have thought about what things might be or must be scary to television executives, and through a bit of commentary and speculation, I thought I should pass along some of them to you through this edition of T.H.A.T. Since the late 1990s, the federal government has been forcing the owners of television stations to switch over from broadcasting in analog form to broadcasting in digital form (maybe, analog broadcasting will end in 2009), and television station owners must be horrified by all the money that they have had to spend to make it possible to broadcast only digital signals, while knowing television viewers did not really push for digital broadcasting and are more interested in getting digital television service from cable companies or direct-to-home-by-satellite companies than from television stations today and will probably be more interested in getting digital television service from cable companies or direct-to-home-by-satellite companies in the future. Executives at television stations associated with broadcast television networks must have this scary thought in mind--The broadcast networks have been "repurposing" so much product (that is, playing shows on broadcast networks and associated cable channels at nearly the same time) that viewers will continue to give up on watching television stations, since more and more each day, television stations are looking like cable channels and losing their identities, such as by offering what cable channels do not. Certainly, executives at television stations have worries that they could lose viewers because their television stations have too much repeat material--network material and syndicated material. With so much product being offered in DVD-form, such as the first season of a series that was shown on a broadcast network last season, television stations must be horrified that they will have less and less off-network material to play as syndicated material in the years to come. Since channels from many other nations, such as Germany, India, Mexico, China, Vietnam, and England, are available in the U.S., executives at television stations and the traditional broadcast networks could be shaking at the prospect that they cannot attract or will lose ethnic audiences. Since cable companies are more and more "eating up" (acquiring) recently broadcast network shows and then showing them, television stations are ending up with less and less failry new product off-network from which to choose through syndication. During this time when the television industry is trying to sell HDTV to viewers, viewers are enamored with "reality" series, which are, generally speaking, cheaply made shows that do not involve HDTV. As the broadcast networks and television stations play more and more reality shows, the stature of television stations and broadcast networks will continue to fall, and they will become more and more deemed by viewers as entities that provide cheap-looking productions, and the television stations and broadcast networks will no longer be seen as entities that set the standard for visual quality, or viewers will get in the habit of thinking television stations and broadcast networks provide cheap-looking-type programs. Viewers might reach a point where they are tired of the over-used practice of "product placements" in programs and gain an inner resentment of programs that have a lot of noticeable or blatant product placements. And because there are hundreds of channels and networks, television programmers might have the feeling they have lost control of the audience and the U.S. marketplace.
Now, that brings me to thoughts about spooky shows that have been shown on television since the 1940s.
Around 1975, All World Telefilm Sales Corporation was distributing a television series in syndication that featured such performers as Vincent Prince, Billy Van, Rais Fishka, Joe Torbay, and Professor Sumner Miller. The series was shown weekdays, which means it was a "stripped" series, and it was aimed at children. Each episode was thirty-minutes long (which includes the time taken up by commercials and such, of course). I have to admit the series was not very spooky, as a person might surmise from the title of the series. What was the title of this syndicated series? Incidentally, the series had a famous disc jockey in the cast, and the disc jockey played "records," and while a tune was being played, the television screen had some type of visual accompaniment, such as video of a dancing big guy (a monster-type guy). Who was the disc jockey in the cast?
The first series entitled The Outer Limits was shown during the 1963-1964 and 1964-1965 seasons on the ABC-TV (in prime time, of course), and from time to time, I remember one episode of that series and I hope it comes your mind now. The episode was entitled "The Mutant," and the story took place on another planet and was about a scientist who got caught in a weird rain shower and changed form, and one thing that happened to the scientist was his eyes got really, really big, and he ended up hiding his eyes behind goggles with a dark lens. Oh, the scientist was bald and a killer. Who played the scientist in this episode of The Outer Limits?
By the way, some of the spooky series that people have seen in the past on television are The Addams Family, The Evil Touch (a syndicated program), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Ghost Story, Great Ghost Tales, Inner Sanctum, The Munsters, One Step Beyond (which was also called Alcoa Presents), Rod Serling's Night Gallery, Tales of the Unexpected, Thriller, Topper, and Twilight Zone or The Twilight Zone (which has existed as three separate series so far), and, generally speaking, the heyday of fun spooky series was in the mid-1900s, especially in the 1960s.
For a moment, I must get off the subject of horror, and answer questions that were presented in T.H.A.T. #18, the previous edition of T.H.A.T. One answer that you were to find was who played Beverly Slater in the 1986 movie entitled Stranger in My Bed. The answer is Lindsay Wagner, who played Jaime Somers in The Bionic Woman (January 1976 to September 1978). I also talked about the movie entitled The Movie Murder. I hope you were able to discover Tom Selleck, who would later play Thomas Magnum in Magnum, P.I., played Mike Beaudine in the movie (he received the "introducing" credit). In The Movie Maker, which was a 1970 movie, Warren Oates played the man known as both "Fisher" and "Owens," and the name of the film that Fisher/Owens was trying to destroy was called Winter Scape One.
Let me see if I can now get you to recall two made-for-TV movies that had "horror" as the theme.
The presentation of The CBS Friday Night Movies on February 8, 1974, was Dracula; originally, the movie had been scheduled to be shown on October 12, 1973, but the movie was preempted by a U.S. presidential address. Some of the performers in this production were Simon Ward, Nigel Davenport, Pamela Brown, Fiona Lewis, who played pretty Lucy, Penelope Horner, Murray Brown, and George Pranda. The actor who played Dracula in this movie also had played Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the movie entitled The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which had originally been shown on ABC-TV on January 7, 1968 (it would latter be shown as a two-part presentation in 1974). The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde featured such performers as Denholm Elliott, Tessie O'Shea, Torin Thatcher, Oscar Homolka, and Billie Whitelaw, who played Gwyn and received an "introducing" credit. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is sort of a "strange" made-for-TV movie, or I should say that it was an unusual made-for-TV movie, since the movie was on tape and not film. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was a A Dan Curtis Production in association with CBC-TV (Canada), and Dracula was from Dan Curtis Productions, and Dan Curtis received the "producer" credit for both movies. What actor played in both movies?
"For the record," I have to report something that happened on September 25, 2005, and had to be horrifying for two actors. On September 25, 2005, I was "catching" credits from some broadcast network television shows; I was doing what I could call "sampling," getting a rough indication about who was involved in making the shows. While two videotape machines were being used to catch credits for two shows (each on a different network), I was watching the opening credits for the series entitled Cold Case, the regulars for which, this season, are Kathryn Morris, Danny Pino, John Finn, Jeremy Ratchford, and Thom Barry. By the way, it is CBS-TV that is airing Cold Case for this season (the 2005-2006 season). After the first commercial block was shown, the episode began to run, and while the story was unfolding, "guest star"/production credits were being shown. I was seeing the name for guest stars--"..."Chuck Hittinger," "Amy Van Horne," "Kristin Richardson," "Cheryl White." Then, two names were shown on the screen, but I could not read them, and I could not read them because they were covered up by a "promotional bug" (coming out of the lower left-hand corner of the screen). It must have been a horrific moment for the two actors whose names were covered up. Imagine you are an actor, and you are at home getting ready to see your name on the opening credits of an episode of a broadcast network prime-time series, and maybe you have friends and members of your family with you, and then your name gets covered up by "promotional clutter." Aaaah!
P.S.: This post script fits in the "did-you-notice category?" The first episode of CSI: NY for the 2005-2006 season was preempted by the showing of the final episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation for the 2004-2005 season; the first episode of CSI: NY was set to air on September 21, 2005, on CBS-TV, but it did not air till September 28. The first episode of George Lopez for the 2005-2006 season was preempted by a repeat showing of the first episode of Lost for the 2005-2006 season; the first episode of George Lopez was set to run on September 28, 2005, on ABC-TV, but it was not run till October 5. (Since ABC-TV bumped George Lopez back one week, ABC-TV then had to bump the debut of Freddie back one week.)
copyright c. 2005
Date published: October 10, 2005
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