The Senator who saved Gunsmoke

West and Gordon

…………..  and the one who tamed The Wild, Wild West. On Tuesday evening we were searching for a viewing alternative to Obama’s State of the Union address. Lo, and behold we discovered a great choice on PBS, of all places. Seems that the network has a series on The Pioneers of Television. Tuesday’s  episode dealt with television westerns and was a real treat to watch. Westerns were a viewing staple in my childhood and as it turned out in my wife’s as well.

The show was composed of interviews with many actors who appeared in  the shows, clips from the shows themselves and wonderful historical trivia that delighted me no end. Where to begin? Guess that an explanation of the title would be apropos.

During the 1966-67  season CBS noted that Gunsmoke was showing its age and the program that had been s0  dominant was slipping. After all, 12 seasons should be enough, right? Not necessarily. The outcry was significant and even reached to the U S Senate where Robert Byrd expressed his displeasure. Now, that may or may not have had any impact, but  at the least it allows me to think  just  a little more positively of the late senator. Shucks, he liked Matt Dillon, just as I did.

On the opposite side lies another senator who brought about the demise of what remains as one of favorite tv shows ever,The Wild, Wild West. Who was the offending senator and why did he go after Messrs West and Gordon?  The senator was Rhode island Democrat John Pastore. In his place as head of the Senate subcommittee on telecommunications, he held hearings on the effect of tv violence, particularly on children. The Surgeon General testified at these hearings as well. Shortly after the hearings CBS issued a mandate  to all its shows to tone down the violnce.When The Wild, Wild West did not satisfactorily do so, it was summarily;y cancelled in  early 1969. ( No, I was not scarred by the violence.)

There were a number of other enjoyable things  from the PBS show. I was struck by how many actors  talked about the biggest stars with such fondness. Acotrs such as James Arness( who got his role courtesy of John Wayne) Barbara Stanwyck and James Garner were lauded for their kindness and how they set such  a positive tone behind the scenes.

There were some priceless interviews with actors now deceased  such as Arness and his brother Peter Graves. My #1 was the Robert Conrad interview of course. I learned from him and the shows narrator what a genuine tough guy he was, even suffering a concussion when a stunt when awry. Then there was Ross Martin, his running mate,an erudite man who spoke 5 languages and added such finesse to the show.

The show revived some wonderful memories of my teen years and has created a wish to do some dvd shopping. Think the wife may have liked Bonanza better though.


January 27, 2011 Posted by | Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

NCIS – The Cartoon?

It’s less than 3 weeks till the beginning of season 8 for Gibbs and company. Seems like  a good time for some random thoughts. Many folks were quite fond of Kate Todd, played by Sasha Alexander and were sad to see her go, as was I. But Cote de Pablo has done agood job at filling that place and bringing some very different elements to the fore. Just in case you  had not noticed, Ms Alexander has resurfaced as the costar of a new series, along with Angie Harmon, called Rizzoli and Isles. Admittedly, I am not exactly sure which actress plays which role since I have not watched the program.

I did read an interview with Ms Alexander talking about her former series and her new one. She liked NCIS  although she inexplicably compared it to a cartoon. Didn’t get that comparison though. She added that she was looking forward to her new series since it had te chance to be an “edgier” show since it was non cable.

Anyway, a few wishes that I have for NCIS, as the new season approaches. If anyone is listening, get rid of M Allison Hart. I cannot express what an irritating character she has become. If Shane Brennan is looking fora new Gibbs love interest, Col. Hollis Mann would be better and I did not care for her either. Not sure if my next wish is remotely possible, but, Director Vance needs something in the way of, shall we say, humanity. He doesn’t have to be touchy-feely but he too is grating. Having said that, maybe he is what the writers want.

On a lighter note, a bit more insight into Tony and Abbey outside the office. We have seen where all  the other guys live and it seems time for  a peek inside the domestic side of these two, much as was  done with JAG.

Anticipating the premiere and what loose endss will be tied up and which will be unraveled.

September 1, 2010 Posted by | Television | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The NCIS Guessing Game

Old Shane Brennan and the guys at NCIS are really stirring the pot this time. As they barrel downhill towards the end of season 7, they have  achieved a remarkable feat of confusing just about everybody about not just the outcome of this season, but the fallout  beyond. Almost like a tv nuclear explosion in terms  of who will be affected. Except we are really unsure as to who that  will be.

This is unlike Kate’s or  even Jenny’s death which were not set up as much this scenario has been. Some  cast members have even said that the groundwork for this finale began as far back as December episodes. Pauley Perrette has said that all the cast members do not know how the season will end. But Michael Weatherly, who has been making the rounds of various talk shows, said that someone will not survive the finale. He added that the final 30 seconds will be  a shocker.

Being a die-hard fan, I had to speculate. One knows that Harmon, McCallum and Carroll(aka Leon Vance) are under contract for season 8. They will survive the ending in some manner. Who could the team or show  best survive without? I actually gave this  some thought and sounded out another fan or two. My theory would have McGee as the most likely departure although I could get no agreement from ny fellow fans.

Suffice to say, that their” back to the future”  tactic of dredging up  the worst time in Gibbs’ life makes for good television and great hype. Doesn’t do much for that Gibbs/Abby father daughter relationship does it?

Makes you wonder who is responsible for that particular cold case  surfacing? Any guesses?

May 12, 2010 Posted by | Television | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Hypocrite seemed  a bit lacking for today’s subject, so pardon my coining of  a  new term. Good ole D avid Letterman, former king of late night, Sarah Palin  obsessor, Mark Sanford critiquer(although I can understand that) among other things. Seems  that Dave has been a busy boy of late. He just married his long time girlfriend, Regina Lasko, this year. She is also the mom of his child.

Seems that monogamy has not agreed with Dave. News reports surfacing yesterday and today have him admitting to liaisons with several staff members (must have been difficult to tell the boss no) over the years. His admission followed news of an attempted extortion  plot by an Emmy  CBS producer, Robert Halderman, or so it is alleged.

So many questions.  Would Letterman have fessed up without the plot? Should he have fessed up at all? Will CBS fire him( that on is a joke) ? Will Sarah Palin have her own Top 10 Letterman list?

And, just for fun, should CBS fire him, what would he do? I have an idea. Maybe he and Jimmy Carter could be the first two residents of the Home for People Who Have Outlasted Their Stay in the Public Eye. So many choices there. But the pedagogical Mr Carter, reverting back to his habit of lecturing others as to where they are wrong and he isn’t, gets the nod. He told CNN that he did not say Obama protesters were racist. In fact, he said go back and read it yourself. If you do, he did.

Wonder what the feminists will have to say about this situation? Clue, nada.

October 2, 2009 Posted by | Television | , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Season #7

Hate to be the one at whom that gun is pointed

Hate to be the one at whom that gun is pointed

Not to early to prepare. NCIS begins the new season next Tuesday, the 22nd. From what I read and seen, it should be a doozy premiere. Shane Brennan has been dropping some interesting hints about what might be forthcoming. As you watch”Aliyah” tonight again, keep  the image of Ziva in the back of your mind. Supposed to be very significant.

Maybe we will even have  a Ziva  and DiNozzo  thing develop. Can’t afford to miss an episode!

A DiNozzo in its natural state

A DiNozzo in its natural state

Can always hope that Leon gets promoted to Homeland Security.

September 15, 2009 Posted by | Television | , , , | Leave a comment

The “O” Team

I had a really difficult time coming up with a suitable title, but I think I hit the jackpot with the one shown. How else to describe what could be the most powerful group of media personalities ever(? ) to have  a common background. Not that there is anything common about this group. There are television shows ,( the Oprah herself, Dr Phil,Rachel Ray and the newest Dr Mehmet Oz) , magazines(The Oprah and Rachel Ray) and the list goes on.

Yep and you thought I meant another  name beginning with O. Shame  on   you, although they do have Chicago in common. The width and depth of this media empire is staggering in its success and influence. But, just to cover the bases, allow me to list the names:

  1. Oprah Winfrey
  2. Bob Greene- fitness guru
  3. Dr Phil McGraw
  4. Rachel Ray
  5. Dr Mehmet Oz
  6. The Doctors- a Dr Phil spin off

Arguably, this is the most successful group of  spin-offs ever. That would be the case even if you only counted the tv shows. But, of course, there are the magazines and books etc that ratchet up the success factor.

More numbers? Oh, alright. Oprah made $275 million last year from tv and Dr Phil made around $80 million. She led the media list and he was in the top 15. Magazine sales show The Oprah magazine with 2.4 million copies sold in 2008, ranking#27 and  Everyday With Rachel Ray at 1.8 million copies, ranking#48.

Harpo  Films produces award winning and highly rated shows for television and theatres. Oprah’s Book Club of course does wonders for those authors whose books she endorses. But, by doing so, she is also promoting reading itself, which is  a great by-product.

And, there is OWN, a great acronym. It stands for the Oprah Winfrey Network. Although struggling to get going, launch date pushed to mid 2010, its pedigree suggests  it will do well.

With all these things going for her is it any wonder that Ms Winfrey wasn’t interested in my proposed cabinet position as Secretary of Flash and Dash. It would have been a step down, for sure. But, in looking at that list again, Keith Olbermann still looks good as Secretary of Ranting and Raving since the job is still unfilled.(See post of 11/15/2008)

September 7, 2009 Posted by | Media, Television | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Little People Who Are Not

Filed under studies that are almost too unbelievable to be believed is a new one  about overweight children. This study discovered that 18% of 4 year old are youngsters are  obese. Not just overweight, mind you,  but obese. Those who conducted the study were just stunned by their findings. The thing about this study that probably most surprised me was that no one  particular company or industry was singled out for blame. Just wait though. If this study gets any traction, doubtless  the  evil fast food restaurants will be held accountable.

Here is something else to chew on however( pun intended, of course). Maybe the school lunch menus are not as bad as they are accused of being. If lots of little people are obese  before they get into the education machine, of whom should we be asking questions? The parents you say, why it cant be their fault. Must be television providing the means  for the great ogre of advertising that makes us do things we would never, ever do of our own volition. Feel better? Anything wrong with you, just blame the commercials. You’e welcome.

April 6, 2009 Posted by | Culture, Television | , , , | Leave a comment

Only In Obamaville

Yes, folks only here in our sorta still great country could we talk about these things in the same post. Jay Leno, President Obama, Russia and Iran. There is unfortunately an obvious and growing connection between items three and four in our list. One slight aside concerning Russia, however. There are reports about the possibility of  Russian bombers being based in Cuba and Venezuela. That Hugo Chavez is such a kidder, isn’t he?

Anyway, back to our original train of thought. The White House has confirmed that the president will be appearing on  Jay Leno on Thursday of this week, one day after Keith Olbermann( no comment needed) shows up.It is being billed as the first presidential appearance on a talk show since the election. Now, correct me where I’m wrong since I only see excerpts  of the show due to its late hour and my ” old” age. There are usually entertainers; comedians, singers, actors  etc along with a comedy monologue. Now one must ask, why would the President of the United States choose to appear in such a format?

I don’t know for certain but I have a few ideas. The President has been trying to talk down Iran, so to speak, from proceeding along its merry, nuclear pathway. He even resorted to sending a letter to Russia, asking them to intervene on our behalf. Response from Moscow, Nyet, nyet and double nyet. Or as we might put it, you have got to be kidding. So, here is political genius at work. Obama goes on Leno and pitches his plan to the Iranians( you know that Iranian President  Ahmadinejad  watches Leno) with the able assistance of the jut-jawed humorist. Brilliant, the Iranians will probably call in during the show, eager to agree.hey, this makes at least as much sense as offering to give up American military bases in central Europe if Russia would help( yes he did do that) mediate.

And for icing on the proverbial yellow cake, there are foreign policy “experts”  and journalists who wouldn’t worry too much about Iran getting the bomb.

Shalom, my friends, shalom.

March 16, 2009 Posted by | International politics, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


1957 Tar Heels and Coach McGuire

1957 Tar Heels and Coach McGuire

Unknown to me, there is actually a company by  the above name. My article  will not deal with them but rather  with an interesting concept in sports television that began in 1957. As Heels fans know, that was a  glorious year  for the basketball guys. Led by Lennie Rosenbluth and Coach Frank McGuire, Carolina went 32-0, winning the first NCAA championship for the program (no, I didn’t forget the undefeated champs of 1924) by beating Kansas in a fabulous three overtime thriller.

As might be expected, interest in the 1957 team grew dramatically as the victories piled up. Woolen Gym(built in 1937) held about 5000 people and was packed to the  rafters game after game. As the Duke game approached on February 9, interest was intensifying. UNC President William Friday and advertising executive Billy Carmichael came up with a unique plan to televise the game, but nothing like that which exists today. Working in tandem with WUNC public television, the plan they devised was ingenious.

There were obstacles to televising sports in those days, from the teams  and from radio stations among others. What would happen to ticket sales, would anyone even  care to go if they could see a  game for  free? The plan called for televising the game as it happened, no play-by-play, no commercials etc. You watched it as a fan who wa sathere and listened to the radio if you so chose. Voila! It worked. As  a youngster, I remember it well and for  me, it was as if I were  there. For all I knew, it might be as close as I would ever get to a game in person. It was great. Many times since then , I have turned down the television  and listened to Woody Durham and his predecessor, Bill( The Mouth of the South) Currie.

Woolen is still there, next to Carmichael which would  succeed  it in 1965. The  Smith Center would  arrive on the scene  in 1986. I was privileged to watch a game or two in Carmichael and it was great indeed. I can only imagine how it was in Woolen Gym  and its predecessor, The Tin Can which dates back to the 1920’s.

Broadvision, we salute you and those innovators who made it happen. For Carolina fans and others, you launched us on a magical journey.

March 15, 2009 Posted by | Sports, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark Harmon(aka Leroy Jethro Gibbs)

Time for  some  fun with NCIS, one of  America’s most watched shows, in spite of American Idol. Current Nielsen numbers show that NCIS  ranks sixth even though it doesn’t do all that great in the coveted 18-49 age bracket. Scuttlebutt has it that there will be a new series spun off as well, just like NCIS got its beginnings from JAG( my second favorite show).

Obviously, NCIS gets its mojo from Mark Harmon as Jethro Gibbs, retired Marine gunney, who is tougher than shoe leather but resonates well with children and backs his team with a sort tough love a parent could envy.

Many people know of Harmon’s previous roles on stage and screen, particularly one as Ted Bundy. His earlier years might not be as familiar. I came across an interesting article in an old North Carolina football program from September, 1973. Harmon was interviewed along with his dad, Tom, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1940. At the time of the interview, the elder Harmon did play by play for his son’s  UCLA team. Alert NCIS viewers might remember Kate Todd wearing a USC jersey in one episode,alas; not Mark’s old number.

Even from this picture, you can the future Jethro. “On it boss” or maybe “This one’s on me , boss.”

Leroy Jethro Gibbs With Hair

Leroy Jethro Gibbs With Hair


March 14, 2009 Posted by | Sports, Television | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment