Mario Cuomo; Ed Hermann

mario.cuomoI voted for Mario M. Cuomo, the son of Italian immigrants who became three-term governor of New York, more often than any political candidate. As the New York Times article announcing his New Year’s Day death at the age of 82 noted: “He commanded the attention of the country with a compelling public presence [and] a forceful defense of liberalism.”

He was the Democratic party’s official nominee for lieutenant governor in 1974 but lost in a primary to Mary Anne Krupsak. I happened to have been living in New York City when he ran for mayor in 1977, and he lost again, this time to Ed Koch, who I did not much like.

Cuomo was elected lieutenant governor in 1978, and when Hugh Carey chose not to run for governor in 1982, Cuomo found himself in another primary with Ed Koch.

The mayor seemed to be destined to win until he said disparaging things about upstate New York. Cuomo won the gubernatorial primary and the general election.

Mario Cuomo became a national figure when he made the keynote address at the 1984 Democratic National Convention. “They asked only for a chance to work and to make the world better for their children, and they — they asked to be protected in those moments when they would not be able to protect themselves. This nation and this nation’s government did that for them.” Links to his 1984 and 1992 convention speeches can be found HERE.

I most appreciated his unpopular position against the death penalty, “which he blocked as governor in New York for 12 years, as a ‘stain on our conscience… The death penalty is wrong because it lowers us all,’ he wrote in The Daily News. ‘It is a surrender to the worst that is in us. (It) has never elevated a society, never brought back a life, never inspired anything but hate.'”

He was reelected governor in 1986 and 1990, then got the nickname “Hamlet on the Hudson” when he considered running for President in 1992. He opted against doing so, which was fine by me; Presidential politics were rough, even then.

I was sad, however, that he decided to decline a possible appointment to the US Supreme Court in 1993 by President Clinton. His contemplative style would have been great on the bench.

Moreover, a successful run for a fourth term as governor seemed less than promising to me, and sure enough, he was defeated in the general election in November 1994 by obscure state legislator George Pataki. Interesting that Cuomo died 20 years almost to the day that he ended his term as governor.

He was the father of five, including the current governor, Andrew, who was inaugurated earlier on New Years Day; and Chris, a reporter with CNN. He had been married to his wife Matilda (née Raffa) since 1954.
Edward Hermann did the patrician man better than almost anyone. He was best known as the well-to-do father and grandfather on Gilmore Girls. He played Franklin Roosevelt several times, and I think I saw them all, including in the 1982 movie Annie. I also saw him in the movies The Paper Chase, The Great Gatsby, Reds, Nixon, and others.

Besides being the voiceover guy for programs on the History Channel, he was on several TV shows I watched, including Beacon Hill, The Practice, Grey’s Anatomy, The Good Wife, and especially the haughty priest in flashbacks on St. Elsewhere, and the arrogant surgeon in an episode of MASH.

Ed Hermann died on December 31, 2014, at the age of 71 from brain cancer.
I found this list from 2009 of the top 100 rated TV shows in the US. There are lots of final episodes of series, Super Bowl football games, the miniseries Roots, the first broadcast of Gone With the Wind, special episodes (how shot JR on Dallas, Beatles on Ed Sullivan). And sprinkled on the list are thirteen regular-season episodes of the Beverly Hillbillies, which was the #1 show on American TV in 1962-63, and 1963-64. I watched it, but, hey, I was 10 or so. (Only a handful of shows since 2009 have entered the list, mostly Super Bowls.)

Noting the passing of Donna Douglas, who played goddess of the cee-ment pond, Elly May Clampett, on the program, at the age of 81 or 82.

H is for Paul Henning and the Hooterville Trilogy

To understand just how popular The Beverly Hillbillies were in the US, look at a list of the top rated show episodes of all time.

A man named Paul Henning was the creator or co-creator of a number of TV shows. For this piece, I’m going to concentrate on what has been dubbed the Hooterville Trilogy, all appearing on CBS-TV in the 1960s.

The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971) starred Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett. If you’ve heard the theme song, written by Henning and performed by bluegrass artists Flatt and Scruggs, with Jerry Scoggins on vocals, you know the whole story. Poor mountain man finds oil on his property and moves his family to southern California, where they are in a series of “fish-out-of-water” situations. The show also starred Irene Ryan as his mother-in-law, usually referred to as Granny; Donna Douglas as his daughter Elly Mae; Max Baer, Jr., son of the boxer, as his nephew Jethro, and occasionally as Jethro’s sister, Jethrine. Also featured, the conflicted banker, Mr. Drysdale (Raymond Bailey) – he liked their money in his bank, but not always their antics; and Drysdale’s put-upon assistant, Jane Hathaway (Nancy Culp). There was an occasional appearance by Jethro’s mom, Pearl Bodine, played by Bea Benaderet, who was the original voice of Betty Rubble on The Flintstones.

To understand just how popular The Beverly Hillbillies were in the US, look at a list of the top rated show episodes of all time. Over 20 are Super Bowls; eight are from miniseries (six Roots and two The Thorn Birds); three are series finales (The Fugitive, MAS*H, Cheers); 11 are special/rare/highly anticipated events (the Beatles on Ed Sullivan; Olympic figure skating with Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding; the “Who shot J.R.” episode of Dallas, e.g.) The highest-rated “regular” TV shows on this list: some episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies from 1964.

The network wanted more, so Henning created Petticoat Junction (1963-1970), featuring Bea Benaderet, the proprietor of the Shady Rest Hotel, on the train line, just outside the town of Hooterville. The widow Kate Bradley had three pretty daughters, Betty Jo (redhead), Bobbie Jo (brunette), and Billie Jo (blonde), who we see in the opening, skinnydipping (presumably) in a large railroad water tank. Here’s the season 1 and season 3 theme song, written by Henning and Curt Massey, and sung by Massey. Billie Jo was played by three different actresses over the years, the longest by Meredith MacRae, daughter of singers Gordon and Sheila MacRae. Bobbie Jo was played by two actresses, the latter, Lori Saunders. Betty Jo was played by only one actress, Linda Kaye, who was the voice of Jethrine on the Beverly Hillbillies; not incidentally, she was Paul Henning’s daughter. Maybe that’s why, even though she was the youngest, she was the one to win the heart of handsome pilot Steve (Mike Minor).

When Bea Benadaret died in 1968 from lung cancer, a new character, Dr. Janet Craig, was created, requiring a change in the theme lyrics: “Here’s our lady MD, she’s as pretty as can be”. She was played by June Lockhart (pictured with the latter Jo’s), who had played mom to Timmy and Lassie, and on Lost in Space. Uncle Joe (Edgar Buchanan), who’s “a movin’ kinda slow” was the only actor to appear on every episode.

A direct spinoff of Petticoat Junction was Green Acres (1965-1971). CBS offered Henning yet another half-hour on the schedule, but he didn’t have the time, so he suggested his buddy Jay Sommers create the series. A New York City lawyer, Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert), decides to ditch city life for the country, much to the chagrin of his fashionable wife Lisa (Eva Gabor); it’s all there in the theme song, written by Vic Mizzy, and sung by the stars themselves. Interestingly, Lisa seemed to fare better than Oliver in encounters with the wacky locals. The shopkeeper Sam Drucker, played by the late Frank Cady, was a regular on Petticoat Junction, and even appeared on the Beverly Hillbillies, but who was a pivotal player on Green Acres. Despite decent ratings, Green Acres was canceled due to the infamous “rural purge” decision by CBS.

The head of the Federal Communications Commission, Newton Minow, had indicated back in 1961 that television was a “vast wasteland” of violence and frivolity, and to the latter category, these shows were often guilty. Yet, much of my misspent youth was spent watching these programs.

ABC Wednesday – Round 11

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