Friday, November 17, 2017

Ackerman Anniversary

Ever noticed how many fondly remembered 60s sitcoms sport the credit line, "Executive Producer, Harry Ackerman"? Born 105 years ago, Mr. Ackerman's successful career hit its peak when he served as Vice-President of Production for Screen Gems, the TV subsidiary of Columbia Pictures. During that fertile period, Screen Gems boasted a multitude of hit shows, including Bewitched, Hazel, The Flying Nun, and Bachelor Father. 

Not every Ackerman show rang the ratings bell -- in Lost Laughs of 50s and 60s Television, I covered two that never saw a second season -- Grindl, starring Imogene Coca, and the romantic comedy Love on a Rooftop. But, overall, his batting average was one most other producers would envy. Off-screen, he raised a family during his long marriage to actress Elinor Donahue.

Though he passed away in 1991, Mr. Ackerman left behind an impressive body of work that pays tribute to his taste, intellect, creativity, and tenacity. And whenever you find yourself reading this, you can be pretty sure that, somewhere in the world, a Harry Ackerman show is making someone laugh.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Music to Remember ... and Remember ...

You know how it is when you get a piece of music stuck in your head? For more than a week now, the seemingly unlikely object of my brain's affection has been the theme from the 1970s sitcom The Tony Randall Show, as composed and conducted by Patrick Williams.

Even TV buffs may not remember much about this relatively short-lived series from the prolific folks at MTM. But something about Williams' lovely, graceful music seems to have taken up short-term residence in my mind. If you don't mind risking the same, have a listen in this YouTube clip.

As I learned from a little quick-and-dirty Googling, Dr. Williams (the possessor of at least two honorary doctorates) has racked up multiple Emmy and Grammy awards in a career spanning several decades. His multitudinous accomplishments are fully documented at his official website. That made me feel a little better about my predicament. Turns out my brain has better taste in music than I gave it credit for.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Hi, Gale!

I'm delighted to unveil the beautiful cover art for my seventh book, Gale Storm: A Biography and Career Record, due out in early 2018. It's already available for pre-order at Barnes & Noble, and should be up on other sites shortly.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed researching and writing Gale's story.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: Ludden's Life

As I mentioned awhile back, I greatly enjoyed Adam Nedeff's well-done biography of Match Game star Gene Rayburn. So I'm delighted that the author has now given another top MC his turn in the spotlight with It's More Than 'Password'! The Life (and Wife) of Allen Ludden (BearManor Media).

I was interested to learn from Nedeff's thoroughly researched account that Ludden, who hosted multiple versions of Password over a twenty-year period, didn't necessarily intend to have a career as an on-camera performer. He embraced the opportunity in part to manage the substantial medical bills of his first wife Margaret, who died of cancer at a young age. His second wife, as most readers will already know, was Betty White. Since she also became a fixture on TV game shows, it's fitting that the author gives her quite a bit of space here as well. Nedeff's account of widower Ludden's successful campaign to win White's hand is interesting, and offers details beyond what she recorded in her own books.

Nedeff's book is an absorbing account of Ludden's life and career that also serves as a history of one of TV's smartest and most enduring game shows.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Price Break

Martha Raye: Film and Television Clown is now available at a new, lower price of $29.95. But you still get all the stories, all the films, all the photos ... all the husbands!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Farewell, Anne

RIP to the beautifully talented Anne Jeffreys, who passed away yesterday at the age of 94. In the 1970s, she became one of my first TV crushes when I discovered reruns of her 1950s sitcom Topper. Some three decades later, it was my pleasure to devote a chapter to her life and career in The Women Who Made Television Funny.

She lived a long and rich life, but I am still saddened by her passing.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mason at 60

"The Case of the Restless Redhead" introduced TV viewers to Perry Mason in 1957. Pictured (l.-r.) are Barbara Hale (Della), Raymond Burr (Perry), and Whitney Blake as his redheaded client.
Perry Mason, the classic TV courtroom drama, is looking awfully good at the age of sixty. Although readers had been thrilling to the escapades of Erle Stanley Gardner's fictional lawyer for more than 20 years, it was on September 21, 1957 that the weekly series made its bow. For the next nine years, Perry Mason would be a staple of CBS' prime time schedule, and star Raymond Burr -- previously better known for his movie bad guys -- became most fans' definitive portrayer of the lawyer-hero. Burr even reprised the role for a series of popular made-for-TV movies (starting with 1985's Perry Mason Returns), and the release of the complete series on DVD makes it possible for fans old and new to continue savoring the show's intricate plots and fine performances.

Many happy returns, Mr. Mason and company!