Posts Tagged ‘television’

After reading that Joseph Campanella died at the age of 93 recently, I realized that I had absolutely seen him in various television programs for nearly 50 years. You might not have known his name, but he was definitely, “Oh, THAT guy.”

The list of his TV credits is massive. I’m only going to mention programs I actually watched.

Before I knew who he was, I saw him on such shows as Route 66 (1962-1963), where he played two different characters, and The Fugitive (1964-1967), where he played four separate folks in three years, including in the momentous penultimate episode.

In fact, he portrayed multiple characters in series a lot: The Virginian; Night Gallery; Marcus Welby, M.D.; Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law; The F.B.I.; Gunsmoke; Ironside; Medical Center; Quincy M.E.; and Murder, She Wrote.

In the first season of Mannix (1967-1968), the private detective (Mike Connors) worked for Lew Wickersham (Campenella) at Intertect, before Mannix went off on his own. Campanella was nominated for a Primetime Emmy as Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama in 1968, but did not win.

The Bold Ones: The Lawyers (1969-1972) was a rotating series. Walter Nichols (Burl Ives), an experienced lawyer, served as a mentor to two attorney brothers (Campanella, James Farentino). I watched all the law shows in those days.

On One Day at a Time (1976-1982), Campenella appeared eight times as Ed Cooper, the ex-husband of Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) and father to Julie (Mackenzie Phillips) and Barbara (Valerie Bertinelli). In his first episode, Ann is “excited about her new job until she learns” that Ed is getting remarried. In his last, Ed is present for Barbara’s wedding.

He was in three episodes of Beauty and the Beast (1988-1990) as Dr. Peter Alcott.

I started watching the soap opera Days of Our Lives in 1990. Joseph Campenella was in his second run (1987-1988, 1990-1992) as the villain Harper Deveraux. In 1989, he was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, but lost.

He was the voice of Dr. Curt Connors / Lizard in the animated Spider-Man (1994-1997) series.

Having been a lawyer in so many series, he was appropriately cast five times as Judge Joseph Camp in The Practice (1998-2001).

Finally, in terms of my viewing, Campanella played Joe in 11 of the 36 episodes of the 2000-2001 series That’s Life with Heather Dubrow, Ellen Burstyn, Kevin Dillon and Paul Sorvino, a program no one I know ever saw, other than my wife.

And I didn’t mention the wealth of his one-shot appearances, or shows I never viewed, such as The Bold and the Beautiful or The Colbys.

Joseph Campanella was always a solid performer, and was the backdrop of most of my television viewing life.

It occurred to me that I haven’t seen The Last Jedi, the 8th (VIIIth?) Star Wars film or Rogue One, which, I gather, fits between III and IV? But it wasn’t a specific disdain for VII, The Force Awakens, but rather a meh attitude.

Whereas I pretty much hated the first prequel, The Phantom Menace, for reasons besides Jar Jar. So I never saw II or III, possibly to my eternal detriment, I am told. Whatever.

As someone who used to collect comic books for about a quarter of a century, I know a little about the completist mentality. When I bought Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (1972) and forward, I had to pick up the Amazing Spider-Man #123, which featured the character.

The I discovered AS-M #122 was still on the newsstand – the death of Gwen Stacy! – and I eventually started getting all the Spider-Man books: Spectacular Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up, even Marvel Tales, which reprinted early AS-M issues.

Then Todd McFarlane started doing Spider-Man (1990), a comic fanboy’s dream. I hated it. I bought three or four issues, decided that whoever was under the mask was NOT the Peter Parker I cared about, and dropped it.

When I picked up Sub-Mariner #50 (also 1972), not only did I get the new issues, including The Defenders, I got all the back issues, including, as it turns out Tales to Astonish #70-101, and Iron Man and Sun-Mariner #1, and only.

(Hey, it’s Free Comic Book Day tomorrow! Yes, I’ll go.)

I tend to be lyal that way about TV shows. I watched a show called The Closer (2005-2012), and when it evolved into Major Crimes (2012-2018), I stayed with until the end.

Grey’s Anatomy is now the darling of the binge-watchers. I’ve just viewed it every week since 2005. It has jumped the shark twice (thrice?) but has managed to right the ship, with recent interesting story lines involving immigration and #MeToo without being (too) preachy.

But it’s difficult for me to start watching a new series. There’s a LOT of TV out there, and, I am told, a great deal of it is excellent. I’m like Ado Annie from the musical Oklahoma; it’s All Er Nuthin’.

As I get older, recognizing a finite amount of time, nuthin’ seems to be winning.

Liz Bishop, near the lower right, in front of the CBS 6 logo

When I was growing up, occasionally there would be an editorial produced by the general manager of a television station to discuss a vital issue of the day, such as whether to build a new bridge.

The words he said – it was virtually always a he – came from that local broadcaster, someone who lived in your community, not NYC or LA or DC, and had greater potential for trust and accountability. The editorial was well labeled and set apart in the local news broadcast, usually at the very end.

The Federal Communications Commission was very concerned about any one company having too much dominance in any local marketplace or nationally, and it had strict limits on radio and television station acquisition.

That was then. In August 2017, The Guardian ran a story This is Sinclair, ‘the most dangerous US company you’ve never heard of’. Michael Copps, the George W Bush-appointed former chairman of the FCC, said those words.

So did John Oliver, host of HBO’s weekly satirical show Last Week Tonight, when he introduced an 18-minute segment on Sinclair in July 2017, as he noted the dreadful “must carry” requirement the company has been imposing on its 173 local news stations across the country to “parrot right-wing propaganda” and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

The current regime’s FCC has aided Sinclair’s expansion. Jared Kushner, son-in-law-in-chief, said back in December 2016, “We struck deal with Sinclair for straighter coverage.”

Now, the broadcast group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media is in the spotlight. If this unprecedented-in-size agreement is approved, it will have control of local TV stations reaching 72% of the country, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the nation’s three largest media markets. “The FCC chair Ajit Pai — who single-highhandedly has sought to kill Net Neutrality — is under investigation by the FCC’s inspector general for greasing the wheels for Sinclair.

What has caught the nation’s attention recently is this viral video put together by Deadspin “showing news anchors all over the country forced by Sinclair to parrot the same canned scripts attacking their own profession.”

It was heartbreaking to see Liz Bishop, the longtime anchor of WRGB, Channel 6 in Schenectady, NY, one of the oldest stations in the country, on the Deadspin video. It appears that their contracts make it too expensive to quit. It is difficult for staff to fight their overlords.

What to do? Write to the FCC and members of Congress, opposing the Sinclair/Tribune merger. Write to your local Sinclair stations and let them and their advertisers know that you are boycotting both as long as the “must-carry” material appears on their news broadcasts. Lessee, what else?

One of the first fictional gay characters on US television was Jodie Dallas on the sitcom Soap, played by Billy Crystal from 1977 to 1981. The character’s development was limited by the folks in Standards and Practices, i.e., the censors, at ABC-TV. It WAS a very different time.

Billy spent the 1984-1985 season on Saturday Night, along with Christopher Guest and Martin Short. He did impressions based on actor Fernando Lamas and sports announcer Howard Cosell. He also did a wicked take on Muhammad Ali, which I saw him do with Ali present, probably on a special for the Champ’s 50th birthday special in 1992.

He appeared in movies that I saw such as Spinal Tap (1984) and The Princess Bride (1987) before his breakthrough role in When Harry Met Sally… (1989), featuring one of the most famous scenes in cinema history.

After he starred in City Slickers (1991), Crystal made his pitch as a legitimate artiste in the seriocomedy Mr. Saturday Night (1992), which he directed and co-wrote. It was an an uneven film, but it generated a Best Supporting Actor nod for David Paymer.

By this time, he was firm established in the mind of the public, performing in Comic Relief several times with Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams and playing Robert DeNiro’s shrink in Analyze This (1999).

Crystal also made game show appearances on The Hollywood Squares and The $20,000 Pyramid. “To this day, he holds the Pyramid franchise’s record for getting his contestant partner to the top of the pyramid in winner’s circle in the fastest time: 26 seconds.”

He hosted the Academy Awards nine times, beginning in 1990, when I thought he was quite funny, and most recently in 2012, when it was generally agreed that he was not.

Connecting with his well-established love of baseball, Crystal directed the made-for-TV movie 61* (2001), about Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle pursuing Babe Ruth’s season home run record. This earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special. I learned that he attended Marshall University in Huntington, WV on a baseball scholarship, but never had a chance to play because the program was suspended during his first year.

He did quite a bit of voiceover work, including in Monsters Inc. (2001) and Monsters University (2013).

From watching the Tonys each year, I recall that “Crystal won the 2005 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event for 700 Sundays, a two-act, one-man play, which he conceived and wrote about his parents and his childhood growing up on Long Island.”

I always figured that if I ever met Billy Crystal, I’d get along talking to my fellow Pisces about baseball.

One of those mundane questions I’ve long wondered about, but never bothered to look up, is why virtually all the radio and television stations in the US start with either the letter W or K.

From Primer Magazine: “In 1912, several countries attended a conference centered on the subject of ‘International Radiotelegraphs.’ One of the biggest things to come out of this gathering was the assignment of certain letters to certain countries, to identify their radio signals – America was given W, K, N, and A (fun fact: Canada got ‘C’ and Mexico got ‘X’).”

But why those particular letters in the US has seemingly been lost. (A for America?)

“While N and A were chosen for American military radio stations, W and K were designated specifically for commercial use. Stations were allowed to choose the letters that followed the K or the W, and the combination was allowed to be three or four letters in length.”

Initially, the K stations were to the east and the W stations were to the west. Thus one can find early radio stations such as KDKA out of Pittsburgh, PA, established in 1920. By 1926, the Federal Communications Commission codified the idea of having four letters, but stations with three didn’t need to change.

From Early Radio History:

“The original K/W boundary ran north from the Texas-New Mexico border, so at first stations along the Gulf of Mexico and northward were assigned W calls. It was only in late January, 1923 that the K/W boundary was shifted east to the current boundary of the Mississippi River. With this change, K’s were assigned to most new stations west of the Mississippi; however, existing W stations located west of the Mississippi were allowed to keep their now non-standard calls.”

This page has more information on the topic than most mortals would want to know, such as the K/W exceptions and other trivia. For instance, some break the rules by owner requests -examples: WACO in Waco, Texas; WMT (Waterloo [Iowa] Morning Tribune). The page was compiled on 1 January 2017, so it’s quite recent.

For ABC Wednesday

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