Kennedy Center Honors on TV June 6!

Dick, Minori, Joan, Garth, Debbie

Kennedy Center Honors 2020Usually, the Kennedy Center Honors take place in early December. They are then edited and broadcast between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It’s one of our family traditions.

But because of COVID, the ceremonies were postponed, and I lost track of the event. My wife said she recorded CBS This Morning this past week because Dick Van Dyke was on. Even though I knew Dick was one of the honorees, since I didn’t watch the news segment, I didn’t make the connection.

It wasn’t until I saw this interview of DVD by Al Roker that I decided to see, “When is the KCH airing anyway?”

It’s June 6, 8 pm EDT on CBS! Per the New York Times: “The ceremony, usually held and televised in December, was moved to May, and split over several days. Then the organizers and producers began stitching together a mixture of recorded at-home tributes and in-person performances across the center…

“If the Kennedy Center Honors had to be stripped of much of its glamour this month to accommodate rapidly changing coronavirus health guidelines, the subdued ceremony offered a chance for the honorees to help usher in the reopening of the nation’s cultural institutions after a grueling year for the arts.”

The honorees

Debbie Allen: I first knew her from the TV musical-drama Fame (1982-1987). She played dance teacher Lydia Grant – great first name, that – and choreographed much of the program.

She produced more than half of the episodes for The Cosby Show spinoff A Different World (1988-1993).

Since 2011, I’ve watched her in her recurring role as Dr. Catherine Avery on Grey’s Anatomy, for which she is also an executive producer/director.

Joan Baez: Someone who was a HUGE part of my growing up, as I noted here when she turned 70. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. The website notes: “Joan Baez breathed new life into folk music in the 1960s, powering rock music’s turn toward social and political consciousness.

“Baez’s unwavering dedication to activism shows that volume isn’t the only way to be loud—and totally rock and roll.” As Joan said in December 2016: “As part of the folk music boom, which contributed to and influenced the rock revolution of the sixties, I am proud that some of the songs I sang made their way into the rock lexicon.”

Garth Brooks: He is a MASSIVELY successful artist, ostensibly country but with crossover appeal. He has nine albums that have sold over 10 million copies each. “According to the RIAA, he is the best-selling solo albums artist in the United States with 156 million domestic units sold, ahead of Elvis Presley, and is second only to the Beatles in total album sales overall.”

He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011, and the Country Music Hall of Fame the following year. Out of curiosity, I bought a box set of a half dozen of his studios; it was under $25. While I didn’t love them all, there were some solid songs I enjoyed.

Not a fiddle

Midori: Sometimes, there’s a KCH awardee I know much less well than the others. In this case, it’s this concert violinist. From her website: “Midori is a visionary artist, activist, and educator who explores and builds connections between music and the human experience and breaks with traditional boundaries which makes her one of the most outstanding violinists of our time.

“As a leading concert violinist for over 35 years, Midori regularly transfixes audiences around the world, bringing together graceful precision and intimate expression.”

Dick Van Dyke: Him I know about. I’ve written about his seminal TV show, which I own on DVD, so I know more than bupkis about the series.

I never saw Mary Poppins until late 2011.

He appeared in the late Carl Reiner’s documentary If You’re Not In the Obit, Eat Breakfast in 2019.

I had forgotten this about the early career of Walter Cronkite: he had a “tenure as a morning show newsreader having dialogues with a lion puppet and Dick Van Dyke.”

January rambling: quotidian stupidity

How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually

The Impact of Climate Change on Language Loss

NBC’s Meet the Press devotes the entire show to climate change with no time for deniers

Saving American Democracy

Are powerful women likable?

A double diagnosis — cancer while poor

NOW I AM

Chronic lying and self-contempt

Why He Reigns as King Cyrus

He Is the Damn Emergency; Post-Speech

The wall speech v. the prediction; it is not about the wall

He Was Never Vetted

Celibacy isn’t the cause of the church sex-abuse crisis; the priesthood is

Comic book artist Batton Lash, October 29, 1953 – January 12, 2019

Former Yankees Starter, Pitching Coach Mel Stottlemyre Dies at 77 – I was there at the Stadium when they retired his number

Broadway legend Carol Channing dies at 97

Bob Einstein, R.I.P.

Arthur answers my questions about blogging stuff and gay conversion therapy and current gay issues and his parents

The Crimson Permanent Assurance (Monty Python’s)

Everyday smartness is definitely no match for quotidian stupidity

On books, and joy, and hoarding, and having too many books…

I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon

After 30 years, Elisa Streeter has retired from WTEN-TV 10 in Albany

Every The Dick Van Dyke Show Episode, Ranked

Review time! with ‘Planet of the Apes Visionaries’

Lady Cop: A 70s Comic that Tried (and Failed)

Disgusting Food Museum opens

What is Glitter?

Cookie Monster in the UK, interview by Melissa Nathoo and Cookie Monster visits the Ellen show

Now I Know: The Dog With Strings Attached and Meet Kelly, The Really Smart Dolphin and The Avengers Burial Ground and Why You Can’t Make a Phone Call with a Calculator and How to Beat Traffic in Moscow

11 foot 8 bridge

When teens discover jazz
Archie Comics

2018/2019

In review

The Story that Really Mattered

Bringing out the dead

fillyjonk’s year

The Worst Political Predictions

35 years ago, Isaac Asimov was asked to predict the world of 2019

Dave Barry: What made 2018 so awful? A month-by-month look at the most outrageous highlights

MUSIC

Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have – But I Have It – Lana Del Rey, and other songs

K-Chuck Radio: Sail on, Captain… (Daryl Dragon)

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Fanfare For The Common Man (complete)

Winter Melody – Donna Summer

Getting Better – MonaLisa Twins

All Along The Watchtower – Playing For Change

Loving You Today – Amy Barlow

Downtown – Saw Doctors with Petula Clark

Lawyers, Guns and Money – Warren Zevon

Don’t Turn Away – Hollie Sue

Some People, from the Broadway show Gypsy, performed by several big stars

Safety Dance – Men Without Hats

Overture to Johann Strauss’s operetta The Gypsy Baron – Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

22 Musicals In 12 Minutes w/ Lin Manuel Miranda, Emily Blunt, and James Corden

Year Of The Cat – Al Stewart

Nature Boy: Eden Ahbez and Annie Haslam and Sun Ra

Coverville: 1246: Cover Stories for Marilyn Manson and Foo Fighters and 1247: Cover Stories for Susanna Hoffs and Sade

Dawn over the Land – Night Breeze

I Just Want to Be a Star – Nunsense

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life – Sonny Vande Putte

Meow Mix – cats at a rave

Baby Shark went viral and hit the Billboard Hot 100

How one designer created the “look” of jazz

The End of Owning Music: How CDs and Downloads Died

Review time! with ‘Crossroad Blues’

September rambling #2: Land of Confusion

Ex-Beatle Lands No. 1 Album for First Time in 36 Years

Your shadowThe republic for which it stands

The NRA’s Catch-22 for Black Men Shot by Police

US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Demands Taxpayer Money For Religious Schools

The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans Living Paycheck to Paycheck

10 Years After: The Post-Recovery Economy

Stephen Colbert Made DJT’s Hurricane Response Into A Children’s Book

Sexual assault survivors tell ‘why I didn’t report’

Stop Making Victims of Sexual Assault into Martyrs for Virginity

We Need to Rethink Our Ideas About Aging

The Plot to Subvert an Election – Unraveling the Russia Story So Far

China is building a digital dictatorship to exert control over its 1.4 billion citizens. For some, ‘social credit’ will bring privileges — for others, punishment

John Oliver: Facebook’s global expansion has been linked to political turmoil overseas, so maybe their ads should focus less on how they “connect the world” and more on why connecting people isn’t always the best idea.

Doug Ford Cancelled Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot Experiment Because It Was Working

How Golf Digest helped free a golf-course artist imprisoned 27 years for a murder he didn’t commit

Arizona’s Gosar family asks voters NOT to re-elect their brother to Congress

Noor Inayat Khan, one of the bravest women of World War II

RIP Thad Mumford, MASH writer and former Yankees batboy

R.I.P. Norm Breyfogle, 1960-2018, Batman artist

Chevy Chase can’t change

The 2018 Winners of the Ig(R) Nobel Prize

You Can’t See ‘Round Corners: The Vietnam War as a rare TV miniseries

Two People with Paralysis Walk Again Using an Implanted Device

In Saratoga Springs, NY! This Enormous Warehouse Of Used Books In New York Will Be Your New Favorite Destination

Interview with Dick Van Dyke at 2017 Salt Lake City Comic-Con (30 min)

What’s coming to Broadway in the coming months

Premiere night of The Minor League Mecca, the Albany Patroons documentary

The million-dollar brownstone that no one owned​

Bruef slide show on the history of the Horn & Hardart Automats

Now I Know: Why the Big Bad Wolf Wouldn’t be a Good Baseball Player and Why You Shouldn’t Pass Gas Near a West Virginia Police Office and When Flying First Class Isn’t Good Enough and How Long It Takes to Find a Needle in a Haystack

The history of cookies as explained by the world’s foremost authority on the subject

Would-be robber loses trousers

MUSIC

Fugue on “Donald Trump is a wanker” based on Seven-Man Army – White Stripes. Plus So You Want to Write a Fugue? – Glenn Gould

René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War – Paul Simon (Live from Copenhagen); Feeling Lost with Paul Simon One Last Time

Land of Confusion – Hidden Citizens

Africa -Weezer (starring Weird Al Yankovic)

Estancia, by a composer named Alberto Ginastera

Good Times – Pheobe Snow

Ravel Left Hand Piano Concerto played by Yuja Wang

Overture to The Jolly Robbers -von Suppé

Bonehemian Rhapsody – 28-Trombone Collaboration! (from ITF 2018!)

Gangsta’s Paradise – Jain

Marry An Ugly Woman – Rafael de Leon (Roaring Lion)

Weekend Diversion: Coldplay

How big was Helen Shapiro? The Beatles opened for her in 1963

Paul McCartney: Lands No. 1 Album for First Time in 36 Years and Answers the Web’s Most Searched Questions and Talks to Howard Stern and at the Kennedy Center Honors (2012)

Jefferson Airplane Co-Founder Marty Balin Dead at 76

V is for The Dick Van Dyke Show

The Dick Van Dyke Show was a critical success but hardly a ratings bonanza, mired in 80th place.


According to Vince Waldron’s book (pictured), which I read this past summer (I recommend it), when asked to play the part of comedy writer Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show in 1961, longtime actress Rose Marie asked “What’s a Dick Van Dyke?” The 35-year-old actor had been a pantomimist, radio DJ, and local talk show host. He was even the anchor of the CBS Morning Show, but like many before and after him, that program was a failure, even with Walter Cronkite as his newsreader.

Whatever real success he had had up to that point was on Broadway in Bye Bye Birdie. Producer Sheldon Leonard caught the show and signed Van Dyke. Impressively, and fortunately for him, the actor was also a partner in the show’s production company, named Calvada for creator Carl Reiner, Leonard, Van Dyke, and financial backer Danny Thomas.

Carl Reiner, after he left working with TV skit show legend Sid Caesar in the mid-1950s, was offered a number of sitcoms; he said most were terrible. His wife Estelle said, “Why don’t you write something yourself?” So he did. Not satisfied with writing one script, he penned 13 as a bible for the show. He then starred in a pilot called Head of the Family, about a head comedy writer named Rob Petrie, a pair of co-workers and his wife and son, which failed to be picked up by the networks. Reiner thought his work was in vain until Leonard suggested that the big problem with the pilot was…the star.

The show was recast with Van Dyke, Rose Marie, and her suggestion of jokester Morey Amsterdam as writer Buddy Sorell. For his wife, that “girl with three names,” as Danny Thomas referred to Mary Tyler Moore was cast, after Thomas had rejected her for his own show, primarily over her too-perfect nose. Van Dyke was skeptical; she was a decade younger than he was and he wasn’t sure the audience would accept them as a couple.

The show was a critical success but hardly a ratings bonanza, mired in 80th place. I’ve read that the show survived due to the persuasive nature of producer Sheldon Leonard with potential sponsors, or that the wife of CBS honcho William Paley really liked the show. Maybe both were true. Also, fans seemed to find the show in the summer reruns.

In any case, the cast was surprised to be picked up for a second go-around. Between seasons, Van Dyke squeezed in making the film version of Bye Bye Birdie.

By the fourth episode of the second season, The Dick Van Dyke Show had made it to ninth place, in part because of a new time slot, right after the phenomenon that was The Beverly Hillbillies. That second season also had a new opening sequence replacing the photo montage. Rob Petrie comes into the living room and trips over an ottoman, deftly dances around it, or rarely, gets around it but stumbles; this opening became as legendary as the TV theme by Earle Hagan; here’s Dick Van Dyke and the Vantasticks singing the theme a couple of years ago.

Despite changing writers (which would include Garry Marshall, later of Happy Days fame) and directors, the show ran five successful seasons, the perfect blend of work and home life. It is one of only two complete series I own on DVD, the other being The Twilight Zone. Interestingly each show has someone from Binghamton, TZ host/creator Rod Serling, of course; and Richard Deacon, who played put-upon brother-in-law of Alan Brady/producer of his TV show, Mel Cooley. Reiner himself would have the occasional role of Brady.

Notable episodes in season 2 included the one I remember the best, What’s In A Middle Name, when young Ritchie Petrie (Larry Mathews) discovers why his middle name is Rosebud; and It May Look Like a Walnut, which involves Laura body surfing on a wave of walnuts, discussed in In Praise Of Laura Petrie’s… capri pants. Walnut was ranked at #8 on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. After that season, Van Dyke costarred in the movie Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews.

One of the funniest episodes of the whole series was “That’s My Boy?”, the season opener for season three; the full script appears in the book The Dick Van Dyke Show: Anatomy of a Classic by Weissman and Sanders (1983). Also, read what Ken Levine wrote about the episode 100 Terrible Hours.

Hope you can watch all the shows here. I’m in the midst of rewatching them at home, but I’ve only gotten through the first six episodes of Season 1 plus Head of the Family.

Dick Van Dyke went on to do other television (notably Diagnosis: Murder, with his son Barry) and movies, but the Dick Van Dyke Show is certainly a highlight in his long career, in which he has received a Tony, a Grammy, and five Emmys. He will receive the Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award on January 27, 2013. Van Dyke is the artist of the cast drawing above, which appears in the DVDS DVD set.

ABC Wednesday – Round 11

Who starred with whom, and where?

The IMDB has an advanced search function.

There is this list of the five best television series of all time, compiled by ABC News and People Magazine, and conveniently broadcast on ABC in the past couple of weeks. Interestingly, all were comedies, none of them were broadcast on ABC, and the latter four would probably be canceled quickly these days because the early ratings were not particularly good. The list included:
I LOVE LUCY (CBS)
SEINFELD (NBC)
MASH (CBS)
ALL IN THE FAMILY (CBS)
CHEERS (NBC)

I read about it on Ken Levine’s blog. He (pictured) mentioned this because he was a writer for two of the shows, MASH and Cheers, which I suppose I’d consider for my list as well. I’d also pick Lucy, if only because it was seminal in the development of the TV rerun. All in the Family, which I did enjoy at the time, did not age well, though. And Seinfeld I liked for a few seasons, but grew tired of it, about the time the character Susan died from licking an envelope. There are plenty of dramatic shows (Twilight Zone, Hill Street Blues, among others) I’d put on the list, but if I were limiting it just to comedies, certainly the Dick Van Dyke Show would be on the roster.

What was most interesting to me, though, is that someone asked Levine: “Other than you and David [Isaacs, Levine’s writing partner], is there anyone else associated with 2 or more of the top 5? Probably not. You are in a very special group.” Levine named some writers. He also noted that “George Wendt and Shelley Long [of Cheers] both did guest stints on MASH.” In the comments section, a guy noted that the IMDB has an advanced search function – go to Collaborations and Overlaps – so that one can discover, e.g., that there are 16 people with credits on both The Dick Van Dyke Show and MASH, starting with Jamie Farr and Bernard Fox. Or that five people were affiliated with both the Van Dyke program and Cheers, including Ann Morgan Guilbert and Sheldon Leonard.

One can also put in Dick Van Dyke and Ted Danson to discover that Van Dyke appeared on Danson’s show Becker, as Becker’s father, and Danson was a guest on Van Dyke’s Diagnosis: Murder, as himself, both in 1999. I will definitely make more use of this feature.
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Ken Levine’s thoughts on the GQ CHEERS article.