Amoeblog

Happy Birthday to Night Watch - radio's first reality show

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 4, 2012 10:00pm | Post a Comment
With a few, shining exceptions (Blind Date, COPS, ElimiDate, Jersey Shore, Joe Millionaire, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Shahs of Sunset, The Bachelor, The Real World seasons 1and 2 (true stor-ay!), and maybe a couple dozen others, tops) I hate reality TV. To me most reality shows are endurance-defying and totally depressing in a consumerist dystopian way. My aversion to most reality TV is not  really out of some moral disapproval of schadenfreude nor a principled dislike of unscripted entertainment. No, I usually just find them painfully boring and unpleasant. I remember first hearing about Survivor and was rather excited by the concept, hoping for naked castaways with no common language forced to fight tooth and claw just to stay alive. Imagine my disappointment upon finding out it involved little more than people unpleasant from the get go undertaking a series of challenges for prizes in a tropical setting and talking about alliances. Yawn. The good reality shows (as determined by me) offer anthropological thrills, exposing the strange mating rituals of exotic subcultures and paint portraits of people in a way rarely seen in the stylized fictions of the day. 
One of the earliest reality programs was on the radio, Night Watch. It was preceded by the hidden camera prank TV show Candid Camera which debuted in 1948 but, though both reality shows, could scarcely be more different. Night Watch debuted on CBS on April 5th, 1954, a few years after the popularity of TV exploded, threatening film and radio's dominance. To compete with TV's popularity, film offered things not available on TV like widescreen, technicolor, married couples sharing a bed, and
  black people. Old Time Radio ultimately died out in 1962 but in its last days offered other things in short supply on TV, namely adult content, intelligence and exploitation that would never pass muster on the beloved family idiot box. Radio programmers seemed to be OK with a bit of gore and tawdriness since it all took place in the mind and because it was at least packaged as a cautionary public service rather than the exploitation which it really was. The first time I heard it was an episode involving a suicide attempt (there were several) and I was hooked.

Happy Birthday, The Life of Riley! - or - What a revoltin' development this is!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 16, 2012 12:22pm | Post a Comment
On this day, in 1944, The Life of Riley premiered on the Blue network (later known as ABC).

William Bendix at NBC

The Life of Riley began with an audition taping on July 25, 1943 after its creation by Irving Brecher. Over the course of roughly 320 episodes, it established itself as one of the most enduringly funny sitcoms on Old Time Radio. It's final episode on ABC aired on July 8, 1945. After moving to the NBC radio network, it aired again from August 8, 1945 until its final episode aired on June 29, 1951.

The main character, Chester A. Riley, was played by William Bendix. His wife, Peg, his son, Junior, and his daughter, Babs, were all played by more than one actor. Both his co-worker/neighbor, Gillis, as well as audience favorite, Digby "Digger" O'Dell (the "friendly undertaker") were both played by John Brown. At various times it was sponsored by the American Meat Institute, Teel Dentifrice, Dreft, Prell Shampoo, and Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.

Life of Riley - American Meat Institute   Life of Riley - Pabste

Happy Birthday, Gunsmoke - The Greatest Radio Western of All Time

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 26, 2011 12:24pm | Post a Comment
Gunsmoke was, without question, the greatest radio western of all. It debuted 59 years ago today, on April 26th, 1952. Having been exposed to juvenile westerns like The Lone Ranger and Red Ryder as well as the boring Gunsmoke TV series, for a long time I avoided the radio program. Besides, it was set in Kansas.
 
Then one day, I tuned in to an episode already in progress. Not knowing what it was, I didn't immediately change the station and was drawn into what sounded like a vivid, violent film noir, albeit set in 19th century Dodge City. When I realized it was Gunsmoke, I was surprised to say the least, but also hopelessly hooked.
 

Gunsmoke was created by director Norman MacDonnell and writer John Meston at the behest of CBS's programming chief, Hubell Robinson. His boss, CBS chairman William S. Paley, was a fan of another classic CBS program, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe. Robinson had suggested to the West Coast CBS Vice-President, Harry Ackerman, who had developed the Philip Marlowe series, to create a 
"Philip Marlowe of the Old West" in the 1940s.
 
In 1949, Ackerman and the famed scriptwriting duo of Mort Fine and David Friedkin created an audition script called "Mark Dillon Goes to Gouge Eye" based on one of their Michael Shayne radio scripts, "The Crooked Wheel." It starred Michael Rye as Matt Dillon. A second audition used Howard Culver, who employed a lighter approach. CBS OKed the latter but Ackerman's contract as the star of Straight Arrow (on the Mutual Network) interfered. Gunsmoke was thus shelved until three years later, when MacDonnell and Meston discovered it whilst working on their own adult-oriented western.
 

The new version cast the inimitable William Conrad as Marshal Matt Dillon, Howard McNear as Doc Charles Adams, Georgia Ellis as Kitty Russell and Parley Baer as deputy Chester Proudfoot. The writers sought to create the first realistic western, one populated by sociopaths and without untarnished heroes. Stories unflinchingly depicted rape, lynchings, murder, prostitution, scalping, massacres, theft, drug addiction and more. Justice was often not served. 

Broadway is My Beat

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 27, 2011 12:13pm | Post a Comment

Times Square New York 1949


Broadway Is My Beat
, was a dark, gritty radio drama that began airing 62 years ago today on CBS, debuting February 27, 1949. The series revolved around Times Square homicide detective Danny Clover.

NEW YORK ERA

anthony rossWhen the program debuted, it was produced in New York City. Clover was portrayed by actor Anthony Ross, a New York native and veteran of film and stage. His greatest exposure came playing the role of the Gentleman Caller in the 1944 original run of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie.

The series' theme song was an instrumental rendition of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's "Manhattan" and it was scored by Robert Stringer, a Nebraska-born composer who primarily wrote stock music for B-films, nearly always uncredited.

It featured scripts by Wisconsin-born (and later blacklisted) Peter Lyon, production by Lester Gottlieb, direction (and later production) by direction by Casey, Crime Photographer's John Dietz. Bern Bennet was the original announcer. 

Continue reading...

Bill Thompson - The Voice of Droopy Dog and Wallace Wimple...

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 8, 2010 01:45pm | Post a Comment

Bill Thompson
Today is the birthday of radio and voice actor Bill Thompson. Although he also sang for a bit with The Sinclair Weiner Minstrels, he was best known for voicing the characters Wallace Wimple and Droopy Dog.

William H. Thompson was born on July 8, 1913, in Terre Haute, Indiana to a Vaudevillian family. Bill began his career making regular appearances on Don McNeill’s variety show, The Breakfast Club, on Chicago radio in 1934.

Around 1936, he joined the cast of Fibber McGee and Molly, where he played several characters including Widdicomb Blotto (aka Horatio K. Boomer) and Nick Depopulis. In 1937 he introduced The Old Timer, whose classic statement, “That's pretty good, Johnny, but that ain't the way I heeerd it!” became a national catch phrase. In 1941, McGee’s frequent foil, Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve, left the show to star in his own sitcom, The Great Gildersleeve.

Bill Thompson on Fibber McGee & Molly

Thompson ultimately reintroduced Mr. Wimple in 1941 to fill "The Great Man’s" newly-created vacancy. Wallace Wimple was a henpecked milquetoast who lived in fear of his abusive, oft-discussed but never seen/heard wife, “Sweetie Face.” His mush-mouthed greeting, “Hello, folks,” was another big laugh-getter and inspired Tex Avery to build a character around his voice. The result was one of MGM’s most enduring cartoon characters, Droopy Dog. The jowly Droopy Dog was one of the most beloved cartoon characters of all time; he was a mild-mannered basset hound who was usually motivated by his romantic pursuit of various beautiful, vaguely disturbing anthropomorphic beauties. Given his lethargic demeanor and small stature, he was frequently exposed to bullying which would provoke hilarious displays of surprising physical strength, albeit meted out with his normal, stone-faced stoicism.

Continue reading...
BACK  <<  1  2  3  4  5  >>  NEXT