Friday, January 05, 2007

On The Elevent Day Of Christmas ...

My true love (TV) gave to me - Eleventh Day (January 5) Eleven dear dead TV folks.

Actually it was a lot more than eleven, and I had an awfully hard time boiling it down to eleven. In fact if you want to locate a complete - some might suggest obsessive - listing of everyone connected with TV who died in this year, check out the Inner Toob archives and search for "Hat Squad".

In 2006 we lost:

Dennis Weaver: Chester from Gunsmoke and Marshall Sam McCloud from the "McCloud" segments of NBC's Mystery Movie, plus the guy who was being chased by the big rig in Steven Spielberg's Duel.

Don Knotts: Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show and Ralph Furley, plus (let's admit it) The Don Knotts Show. He was also The TV Repairman in the movie Pleasantville and got his start on The Steve Allen Show.

Mike Douglas: The one-time Irish tenor hosted his eponymous afternoon talk show The Mike Douglas Show for 21 years, most of them based in Philadelphia. He and Merv Griffin set the gold standard that people like Rosie O'Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres strive to live up to.

Aaron Spelling: It is nearly impossible to list every TV show that Spelling was connected to, so here's just a sampler from each decade in which he worked in TV: Zane Grey Theater (1956-61, as a writer on 20 episodes), The Mod Squad (1968-73, Producer), Charlie's Angels (1976-81, Executive Producer), T.J. Hooker (1982-1986, Executive Producer), Melrose Place (1992-99 Executive Producer), Seventh Heaven (1996-his death, Executive Producer).

Jane Wyman Wyatt: Possibly TV's greatest mother - played Margaret Anderson on Father Knows Best and Amanda, wife of Sarek and mother of Spock on one episode of Star Trek.

Lister Sinclair: His name won't be familiar to my American readers but for longtime viewers (and listeners) of the CBC he was an institution. He was the first host of the science show The Nature of Things and was a frequent guest on shows ranging from Front Page Challenge to Wayne Shuster. Best known for his radio work, first as a plywright then as host of Ideas, he was the CBC's resident polymath. He seemed able to discourse on anything from Einstein's Theory of Relativity, to English grammar and word origins, to Disco (literally - his last work on CBC Radio was a ninety minute discourse on Disco music which made you think he was a fan when he barely considered it music).

Steve Irwin: The Crocodile Hunter left us far too young.

Ed Bradley: Who was on 60 Minutes for ages and was still the youngest one on the show until Katie Couric arrived. (Well not quite but you knew you were thinking it.)

Peter Boyle: From Everybody Loves Raymond of course but we'll also remember him from "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose."

Joe Barbera: If he'd only created Tom Jerry, that would have been enough. If he'd only created The Flintstones that too would be enough. But of course he not only created both but he did so much more.

Frank Stanton: Frank Stanton passed away on December 26, 2006 at age 98. As president of CBS from 1946 until his forced retirement in March 1973 he was in a very real way responsible for the creation of CBS Television (William S. Paley was initially focused on building the radio network rather than TV). Stanton oversaw the details, lobbied for the network before Congress, and stood up for CBS when the news division was under attack. He created much of what we know about TV today, good - the half-hour newscast came from Stanton - and bad - he actually came to the attention of CBS by creating a device to determine what people were listening too, the forerunner of the ratings box. He was even responsible for the CBS Eye. His relationship with his boss William S. Paley was by turns business-like and acrimonious but the two of them were a brilliant team. After Paley went through a series of other presidents he came to appreciate just how great he and Stanton had been together. Stanton summed up his philosophy about television in 1948: "Television, like radio should be a medium for the majority of Americans, not for any small or special groups; therefore its programming should be largely patterned for what these majority audiences like and want." And every TV executive since has been trying to accomplish that.

Correction: As Harry Heuser points out it was Jane Wyatt, not Jane Wyman who passed from the scene this past October. Jane Wyman is alive and presumably still kicking.

No comments: