Cancelled after one episode -- a look back at very short-lived television shows

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 7, 2015 05:02pm | Post a Comment

CRT Graveyard

While there have been at least six or seven quality television programs, the telecommunication device has for seventy years or so more often been derided for the lack of quality programming. Whereas US forces regularly play awful music to tortured captives, no one with even the tiniest remaining shred of humanity would force even the worst villain to watch Access Hollywood or Extra so how bad, then, must a show be to be cancelled after a single episode?

Of course, television is valued by network executives less for its artistic quality than its ability to sell advertising space, which is why we have Big Brother. What then would result in the plug being pulled after just once episode? Let's have a look.


FUN AND FORTUNE (6 June, 1949)

Fun and Fortune was a game show hosted for its only episode by Jack Lescoulie. The object of the show was for contestants to identify a mystery item concealed by a curtain after being given four clues. It certainly sounds no better or worse than most game shows that came before. Perhaps ABC execs, then in their second year of television broadcasting, were merely hoping that something better would come along in its wake. 

WHO'S WHOSE (25 June, 1951)

CBS had been around since 1927 and were, as such, veterans of mindless entertainment by the time of Who's Whose, in which celebrity panelists attempted to correctly pair the three married male contestants with their three female counterparts. It was aired as a replacement for The Goldbergs, which CBS had cancelled after the series' creator, Gertrude Berg, refused to fire actor Philip Loeb after he was blacklisted. The Goldbergs, which had debuted on NBC in 1929, returned to their old home whereas Who's Whose was never to return. 

YOU'RE IN THE PICTURE (20 January, 1961)

You're in the Picture was game show hosted by Jackie Gleason who, after a disastrous first episode, returned a week later in the same time slot to apologize. He then proceeded to revive The Jackie Gleason Show in its place.

TURN-ON (5 February, 1969)

Turn-On was ABC's attempt at cashing in on the popularity of NBC's program, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.
Apparently it Turn-On was too much, and at least one network switched programming after the first commercial break and whereas others in later time zones didn't air it at all. ABC dropped it after the first episode. 

THE MELTING POT (June 11, 1975)

The Goon Show's Spike Milligan wrote and starred as Mr. Van Gogh, a Pakistani immigrant living illegally in London. Spike Milligan had earlier been involved in a series with a similar premise, Curry & Chips, which had aired in 1996. However, after the first episode of The Melting Pot aired on BBC1, the remaining five were unaired. 

CO-ED FEVER (4 February, 1979) 

Co-Ed Fever was CBS's attempt to ride on the coattails of National Lampoon's Animal House, which had played in cinemas the previous year. They weren't alone, ABC had Delta House and NBC Brothers and Sisters, neither of which are fondly remembered but both of which lasted more than an episode. Five episodes of Co-Ed Fever were filmed but only the debut aired in the US. Audiences in Vancouver weren't as lucky, and they were all broadcast on BCTV.

HEIL HONEY I'M HOME!  (30 September, 1990) 

In 1990, Galaxy aired a Heil Honey I'm Home!, a spoof of classic American sitcoms depicting Adolf Hitler and Evan Braun living next door to a Jewish couple. Although it sounds a bit like something Trey Parker and Matt Stone would've made (or Mel Brooks), it didn't do well with viewers.

SOUTH OF SUNSET (27 October, 1993)

Glenn Frey of soft rock band The Eagles starred as an insufferable private dick in this series, which only lasted one episodes (although the remaining five that had been filmed later aired on VH1). 

PUBLIC MORALS (30 October, 1996)

Producer Steven Bochco worked on hits like Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Doogie Howser, M.D., and NYPD Blue. He also is remembered for Cop Rock. Less-remembered and shorter lived than even that flop cop musical was Public Morals. Thirteen episodes were filmed, one aired (in markets where affiliates didn't refuse to broadcast it).

LAWLESS (22 March, 1997)

FOX got into the cancelled-after-one-episode game with Lawless, in which American football player Brian Bosworth played a private investigator. Bosworth had, six years earlier, memorably played a cop who played by his own rules in Stone Cold.

KENNY AND THE CHIMP (4 September, 1998)

Kenny and the Chimp
(also known as Chimp -N- Pox) was an animated Hanna-Barbera series created by Tom Warburton. Production was cancelled after the the airing of the first episode, "Diseasy Does It."

DOT COMEDY (8 December, 2000)

ABC entered the information age -- or at least attempted to -- with Dot Comedy, a horribly-named series of funny stuff culled from the internet and hosted by the Sklar Brothers. It proved so unfunny that it was cancelled after a single episode and yet eight years later basically spawned the career of Daniel Tosh


Animal Planet attempted to unleash an animal-themed stand-up comedy show, Comedians Unleashed, hosted by Richard Jeni in 2002. The first episode starred comedian Rick D'Elia and his wooly soul patch. The series was euthanized almost immediately after it was born. 

WHO'S YOUR DADDY? (3 January, 2005)

Fox debuted Who's Your Daddy?, a reality show in which an adopted woman tries to find her father. After adoption rights groups protested it was actually cancelled before the first episode aired, which was then broadcast as a special rather than a series premiere. 

THE WILL (8 January, 2005)

Less than a week after the cancellation of Fox's Who's Your Daddy?, CBS's even tackier series, The Will, followed the hijinks involved involved in participants attempting to be named the beneficiary of a will. Although dead on arrival and cancelled immediately, it did air in its entirety in New Zealand (and later on Fox Reality Channel). 

EMILY'S REASONS WHY NOT (9 January, 2006)

ABC's Emily's Reasons Why Not, starring Heather Graham as a young woman unlucky in love, was cancelled the day after it aired. The claim was later made that ABC had committed to the show (hoping that it would be Sex & the City-style hit) without the benefit of a pilot being screened to executives. 


Korgoth of Barbaria
was an Adult Swim series parodying post-apocalyptic sword and sandals shows like Thundarr the Barbarian, Blackstar, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and Galtar and the Golden Lance. After the pilot episode aired, it was announced that the series had been picked up to debut on 18 June. However, no further episodes followed, evidence suggests partly because of production costs. 

THE RICH LIST (1 November, 2006)

The British producers of Dog Eat Dog and The Weakest Link adapted an ITV series, The Rich List, for the US. The promo advertised it as the "most anticipated game show of the year." Does anyone anticipate game shows? Maybe not. Two days after The Rich List's debut and following low ratings it was cancelled. A version of the series was later revived and adapted as The Money List, but unaired episodes of The Rich List remain unaired.

THE DEBBIE KING SHOW (5 March, 2007)

After hosting Quizmania, Debbie King hosted The Debbie King Show on ITV Play. The debut aired for two-and-a-half hours before it was axed.

QUARTERLIFE (26 February, 2008)

NBC's Quarterlife was an adaptation of a web series about "a group of twenty-something artists who are coming of age in the digital generation" that debuted on MySpace. It was cancelled after its first episode and the remaining five episodes were a month later aired back-to-back on Bravo.


Secret Talents of the Stars, as its name suggests, was a CBS reality talent show in which stars like Danny BonaduceMarla MaplesJoshua Morrow, and others attempted to demonstrate their hidden talents. The show, live and previously recorded, required an hour to showcase its secret talents but after one episode, the show was cancelled and to this day most of the participants' talents remain secret.


Midlands Mumblecore
reality series The Osbournes aired for three seasons. Four years after the end of The Osbournes, Fox unloaded Osbournes Reloaded. It was a departure from the "reality" format that had made Ozzy's family members inescapable "television personalities" but no one was having it and after it's loud, obnoxious, and strangely captivating debut, the remaining five episodes were shelved.

FORD NATION (18 November, 2013)

After Toronto mayor Rob Ford became one of the world's most famous mayors, he and his brother Doug agreed that the next step was to star in a weekly television series. Sadly, the world was deprived of more Ford magic, reportedly because of production costs.

BREAKING BOSTON (March 13, 2014)

-loving hip house hitmaker Marky Mark produced Breaking Boston, a reality show concerning four women attempting to "break" Boston. The A&E series didn't break a second episode, however, but the rest were aired on Hulu's website.


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A look at Crime Correspondent

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 8, 2014 10:48am | Post a Comment

The overwhelming success of Dragnet -- surely the greatest police procedural on radio -- predictably led to the creation of several similar programs. Dragnet's network, NBC, offered several more twists on the genre. Perhaps the best was Tales of the Texas Rangers which sounds as if it might be a juvenile western but was actually an excellent Texas-set police (or Ranger) procedural. Confession, was a fascinating and too-short-lived criminal procedural that dramatized true crimes from the perspectives of the convicted. 


NBC's network CBS somewhat successfully countered with The Line Up (a procedural set in New York City), 21st Precinct (another New York procedural), and the absolutely fascinating Night Watch -- one of the first unscripted "reality" shows in which a police recorder rode with Culver City PD to the scenes of actual crimes. Someone recently told me about another CBS crime drama of which I hadn't heard, Crime Correspondent. I was intrigued.

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A look at the Lyon's Eye -- Jeff Regan, Investigator

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 18, 2014 04:12pm | Post a Comment

Jeff Regan, Investigator is a fine, hardboiled detective/radio noir series from the 1940s. Today it's perhaps best-remembered as Jack Webb's last role before Dragnet. After his departure, it continued with Frank Graham filling Webb's formidable (gum)shoes until his untimely death. 


Jeff Regan, Investigator debuted on CBS with the title Joe Canto, Private Eye on 10 July, 1948 with Barton Yarborough starring as Canto. The first episode, "Doctor, Lawyer and Indian Chief" was rerun a week after its initial airing with the new title of Jeff Regan, Private Eye. During its short run it would variously be referred to in print as Jeff Regan, Jeff Regan Det., and Jeff Regan Detective in addition to its proper title. Webb took over the role of Regan in the second episode, "The Prodigal Daughter" after which Yarborough continued to occasionally appear as Canto. 

Webb and his roommate/creative partner, Richard L. Breen, had made names for themselves on the west coast and within radio circles with Pat Novak...for Hire (1946) produced by San Francisco's KGO. After quitting that show and relocating to Los Angeles, the two created its near clone, Johnny Madero, Pier 23 (1947) which aired nationally, on the Mutual Network. However, Johnny Madero was a summer replacement series and did not continue after its short season. After freelancing for a spell, Webb was approached by CBS about creating a new series, which led to the creation of Jeff Regan.

Jeff Regan was, like Pat Novak and Johnny Madero, a detective (or a "private eye, gumshoe, peeper, seamus, whatever you want to call it.") His nickname, "the Lyon's Eye" referred to his association with Anthony J. Lyon (played by Wilms Herbert), president of the Los Angeles-based International Detective Bureau (for whom Canto was a fellow operator). As with Jeff Regan's contemporary, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, and later, Dragnet, the series took full advantage of its Los Angeles's varied cultural and geographic terrain to give it a specific sense of space which lesser detective dramas lacked. Despite their lofty name, the IDB was a small agency with a single office located on Olive Street in what's now the Jewelry District. Regan's residence was a rental on Taft Avenue in what's now known as Franklin Village.

Other cast members include Laurette Fillbrandt as Lyon's secretary, Melody and guest stars included Bernice Barrett, Berry Kroeger, Betty Lou Gerson, Carol Matthews, Charles McGraw, Charles Seel, Clayton Post, Dave Henderson, David Ellis, Dickie Chambers, Ed Begley, Edgar Barrier, Eve McVeagh, Gloria Blondell, Grace Leonard, Hans Conried, Harry Lang, Herb Butterfield, Herb Ellis, Herb Vigran, Jack Kruschen, Jack Petruzzi, Jeff Chandler, John Hoyt, June Martel, Ken Christy, Lawrence Dobkin, Leo ClearyLou Krugman, Lurene Tuttle, Marlo Dwyer, Marvin Miller, Mary Lansing, Pat McGeehan, Paul Dubov, Paul Frees, Sidney Miller, Theodore Von Eltz, Tim Rogers, Wally Maher, William Conrad, and Yvonne Peattie.

The show initially featured a stereotypical organ underscore, performed by Del Castillo. Later it given an orchestrated musical score by Dick Aurandt. The show's announcers were Bob Stevenson and Bob Lemond. Scripts were written by E. Jack Neuman. It was produced and directed by Gordon T. Hughes and Sterling Tracy.

At the end of 1948, Jack Webb left Jeff Regan, Investigator and briefly returned to a revived Pat Novak . . . for Hire (then moved to ABC). In the meantime he worked on his next and best-known project, Dragnet. Of the 24 episodes of Jeff Regan, Investigator which starred Webb, 23 are currently in circulation. Although seemingly less celebrated than his other series, it has the snappy writing and staccato delivery of Webb's best work and holds up well against better known detective series like the aforementioned Philip Marlowe and The Adventures of Sam Spade

In October, 1949, CBS relaunched the show with a new cast, featuring Frank "Man of a Thousand Voices" Graham in the role of Regan, Frank Nelson as Anthony J. Lyon, and Jim Backus portraying various roles. New scripts continued to be written by Neuman and Adrian Gendot before they were replaced by Gilbert Thomas, William Fifield, and William Froug. The new line-up debuted on 5 October, 1949 with the episode, "The Burned Out Immigrant." The quality and popularity continued to be high but the series ended abruptly ended when Graham commit suicide on 2 September, 1950 -- apparently over distress concerning his feelings for a Disney animator, Mildred Rossi. He was just 35. Of the 47 episodes in which Graham starred, only 14 are known to exist today.

Webb, of course, went on to star as Joe Friday on Dragnet, an excellent series which he and Yarborough (as Friday's sidekick as Sgt. Ben Romero) took to television in 1951. On 4 July, 1951, Webb simultaneously launched his labor of love, Pete Kelly's Blues. Yarborough died suddenly from a cerebral blood clot on 19 December, 1951. 

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Suspense - Radio's outstanding theater of thrills

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 23, 2014 01:36pm | Post a Comment

Lurene Tuttle (left) and Rosalind Russell in "The Sisters" (9 December, 1948)

On 17 June, 1942, the anthology Suspense debuted on CBS Radio. The long-running series, which anticipated television programs like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone, concluded in 1962, an occasion now usually cited as signalling the end of radio's Golden Age.

The formula of Suspense was similar to that of another excellent anthology of the day, The Whistler. In most episodes a crime occurs shortly after the program begins. Suspense is heightened as the drama unfolds. In the end justice prevails and the program concludes. Suspense succeeds where lesser anthologies often failed through good production, usually-taut writing, and the presence of some of the biggest names in Hollywood including giants like Bela Lugosi, Cary Grant, Charles Laughton, Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Joan CrawfordJohn Garfield, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Lena Horne, Marlene Dietrich, Orson Welles, Paul Muni, Peter Lorre, among others -- who were often cast against type (especially in the case of actors mostly thought of as comedians like Jack BennyLucille Ball, and Red Skelton). 

Joan Crawford in "The Ten Years" (2 June, 1949)


The audition episode was an adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock's 1926 silent film, The Lodger, and was also directed by Hitchcock. It aired on a 22 July, 1940 episode of the program, Forecast and was Hitchcock's American radio directorial debut.


The first episode was called "The Burning Court." The programs were initially hosted by the mysterious, omniscient "Man in Black" (voiced by Joseph Kearns or Ted Osborne). In its early years, Suspense episodes almost always were in the mystery/thriller vein although there were occasional forays into fantasy, horror, and science-fiction. It bounced around the schedule five times before the end of 1943, when it moved to Thursday. 


One of the best-remembered episodes from Suspense's first season was "The Hitchhiker," which aired on 2 September, 1942, and starred Orson Welles as a cross-country motorist haunted by a mysterious hitchhiker who continues to appear at every turn. It was later adapted into a 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone and seems to have directly or indirectly inspired the 1962 film Carnival of Souls.


One of my favorite aspects of listening to old time radio dramas are the advertisements, especially when they're promoting a product that no longer exists. If anyone in the 21st Century knows of Roma Wines they're almost certainly a fan of Suspense and have tasted their delicious sauterne. CBS sustained Suspense until Roma Wines became the program's sponsor in 1943. 

Roma was a Fresno-based winemaker and boasted in their ads that they were "America’s largest selling wine” (during an era when Americans drank FAR more liquor and beer) and that Roma was “Made in California for enjoyment throughout the world.” They seem to have been absorbed into a larger company in the 1970s.

Agnes Moorehead in Sorry, Wrong Number
Agnes Moorehead starring in several versions of "Sorry, Wrong Number"

Perhaps even more popular than "The Hitchhiker" was an episode which first aired on 25 May, 1943, titled "Sorry, Wrong Number." It starred Agnes Moorehead as an hysterical, bedridden woman who accidentally overhears a murder plot on the phone but is unable to convince the police to take action and grows more and more unhinged as the plot twist unfolds. In fact, it was so popular that it was restaged seven more times, each time starring Moorehead, and adapted into two films of the same name -- one in 1948 and starring Barbara Stanwyck and the other in 1989 and starring Loni Anderson


Apparently encouraged by Suspense's success and mistakingly equating length with quality (as many filmmakers do today), half hour program was stretched to an hour in January 1948. The Man in Black was done away with and replaced with actor, House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) cooperator, and that year's Oscar host, Robert Montgomery. The bloated version ran until May, when it was thankfully trimmed back to fighting fitness.


Following its return to the 30 minute format, spark plug manufacturer Autolite began sponsoring the show in July 1948 and continued to do so until June 1954. Beginning in 1949, Autolite also began sponsoring a live broadcast television version of Suspense for CBS although, like most radio programs adapted for television, it was inferior to the original. It ended with Autolite's sponsorship in 1954, although it was briefly revived in 1962. It was also during Autolite's sponsorship that two attempts were made to cash in on the success of Suspense by producing two short-run magazines of the same name, one in 1946 and '47 and the other in 1951 and '52. 


Actor/producer/director Elliott "Mr. Radio" Lewis and his wife Cathy assumed the co-producers' roles on Suspense from 1950 until 1956. Elliott Lewis also directed the program from 1951 until 1954. From 1952 until 1954 he was also producing,  writing, directing, and performing in his own production, the excellent but sadly short-lived Crime Classics. Although the Lewis years are fondly remembered by today's fans of Suspense, it was during the 1952-1953 season that the series' popularity began to decline as audiences increasingly turned away from radio to television.


After Autolite ended their sponsorship of Suspense in 1954, CBS and various sponsors (like Alpine CigarettesParliament Cigarettes, and Pepsi-Cola), sustained the program and it once again began bouncing around various nights of the week. Lewis left his role as producer in 1956 and was succeeded by Antony Ellis, William N. Robson and others. As the networks increasingly shifted their efforts to television, budgets were cut and to cut costs, episodes were adapted from other anthologies like Escape (1947-1954) and The Mysterious Traveler (1943-1952). 

After the departure of the Lewises, most of the big Hollywood actors stopped coming around -- although loyal listeners could still count on regular appearances from radio stalwarts like Agnes Moorehead, Frank Lovejoy, Joseph Cotten, Parley BaerRaymond BurrVincent Price, and William Conrad at least until the end of 1959. 


Suspense was actually first cancelled in 1960, following the November airing of an episode titled "Home Is Where You Find It." It was revived the following June with  "Call Me At Half-Past." What proved to be the final episode, "Devil Stone," aired on the same day as the final episode of another long-running series, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, 30 September, 1962. The program had debuted shortly after the US had entered World War II. By its end, the country was ramping up for an invasion of Vietnam

946 episodes of Suspense were produced in its twenty year run and roughly 900 are known to still exist. All known surviving episodes have been compiled and released on compact discs (quality varies greatly), which are filed in the Spoken Word section at Amoeba. Episodes are also available for streaming or download on the Internet Archive. My favorite way to hear them is by tuning into Radio AM 1710 Antioch, a the best listener-supported online Old Time Radio station which, whenever possible, airs old radio drama episodes on the same date as it originally aired. 

Episodes of the television series have been released on several DVD box sets from Infinity Entertainment Group


Writers: E. Jack Neuman, George Wells, Hugh Pentecost, J. Donald Wilson, Jack Johnstone (often as Jonathan Bundy),  James Poe, John Dickson Carr, John R. Forrest, John Shaw, Joseph CochranLarry Roman, Louis Pelletier, Lucille Fletcher, Mel Dinelli, Peter FernandezRobert CorcoranRobert L. Richards, Robert Tallman, Ronald DawsonSigmund Miller, and Walter Newman, amongst others

Directors: Anthony Ellis, Anton M. Leader, Bruno Zirato, Jr., Charles Vanda, Elliott Lewis, Fred Hendrickson, John Dietz, Jr., Norman MacDonnell, Robert Lewis Shayon, Ted Bliss, and William N. Robson

Producers: Bruno Zirato, Jr., Cathy Lewis, Elliott Lewis, Norman MacDonnell, William N. Robson, and William Spier.

Music: Bernard Herrmann, Alexander Semmler, Lucien Morawek, and Wilbur Hatch

Announcers: Berry Kroeger, George Walsh, Joseph KearnsLarry ThorPaul Frees, and William Johnstone


The Rural Upsurge -- A Brief History of Country Cool and Uncool

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 2, 2014 02:20pm | Post a Comment

Arthur Rackham illustration for The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

Since the US's founding, Americans have steadily moved from the countryside to the city but the story of our pop culture has always been the product of a dialogue between the two worlds, with urban and rural fashions coming and going. While being country might not be cool again, it does seem that American television's landscape is once again overwhelmingly rural in character -- a world populated by catfish scammers, catfish hand-fishers, Sasquatch hunters, morbidly obese Mennonite mafioso, bootlegging bigamist Baptist beauty contestants, and other cryptozoological specimens. 43 years ago the television landscape was similarly dominated by rural caricatures when, at the end of March, the so-called "Rural Purge" resulted in a deliberate shift away from rural-themed shows to those set in cities.


Americans have long generally migrated to the cities and their environs, including the suburbs, and today the percentage of America's population who live in the country is at an all time low -- about 16%. However, it wasn't until the 1910s that America's urban population overtook its rural. 

In the 1930s and 1940s, American pop culture had perhaps approached its highest degree of urbanity. The Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Rogers & Hart, and other Tin Pan Alley sophisticates all wrote witty, popular songs. The best films coming out of Hollywood were usually either artfully-constructed Film Noir or clever Screwball Comedies. Behind closed doors, however, the domestic entertainment scene was less cultivated. The most popular radio programs were Vaudeville-descended variety shows, juvenile Westerns, and sitcoms whose formula has changed surprisingly little over the decades that followed. As television increasingly entered the picture, more laughs and thrills were mined from hillbillies and cowboys.


Hillbillies had by then long served as popular comic fodder in the funny pages. Barney Google (later Barney Google and Snuffy Smith) debuted in 1919 and is still running in the 21st Century, although there's no proof that anyone still reads it. Li'l Abner (1934-1977) spawned more than a dozen films and cartoon series. On the radio NBC's Lum and Abner (1931-1954), set in Waters, Arkansas, spawned seven films. 

The cinema was safe for rural types too. The popular film Sergeant York (1941) was based on the true story of the most decorated soldier of World War I, who happened to be a hillbilly. Ma and Pa Kettle (1947) depicted a farming couple from Washington and spawned a nine-film franchise. Not that all country folks were depicted as bumpkins. Gone With the Wind (1939) -- still the most popular film of all time -- offered another popular country fantasy, that of the antebellum Deep South

The term "hillbilly music" was first coined in 1925 but it was in the 1940s that national radio really opened up to rural music, embracing BluegrassBlues, CajunCountry, FolkWestern, and other forms of rural music -- partly in response to the 1942–44 musicians' strike staged by the American Federation of Musicians.


In 1946, The Delmore Brothers had a hit with "Hillbilly Boogie" and that same year, Harry Choates ignited a bonafide Cajun craze with his hit recording of "Jole Blon" -- a the first non-English language national hit (the "Sukiyaki" or "Gangnam Style" of its day). 

The popular American music of the 1950s and '60s -- Doo-Wop, Cool Jazz, Frat RockHard Bop, PopRhythm & BluesRock 'n' Roll, Surf -- as well as the bands of the British Invasion -- all had little of the country in them. Even Hillbilly music -- by then more often referred to as Country (thanks in part to the efforts of Ernest Tubb to get it some respect) -- attempted to citify thanks in large part to the slick production of Chet Atkins which characterized the Nashville Sound

Mainstream country (as opposed to Honky-Tonk) musicians (or at least their promoters) seemed almost ashamed of being country and as country grew even less, well, Country, they coined the ironic portmanteau of "Countrypolitan" to describe performers like Charlie RichCharley PrideLynn AndersonTammy Wynette, and Glen Campbell (who was based in Hollywood, not Nashville) who owed more to Easy Listening than Country and often sounded more like Liberace than Lefty Frizzell.

On television, the hillbilly and his country cousins still ruled the roost. Programs like The Red Skelton Show (1953-1971), The Lawrence Welk Show (1955-1982), The Real McCoys (1957-1963), The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968), The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971), Petticoat Junction (1963-1970), Green Acres (1965-1971), Mayberry R.F.D. (1968-1971), The Jim Nabors Hour (1969-1971), and song-and-skit shows like The Johnny Cash Show (1969-1971), Hee Haw (1969-1992), and The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour (1969-1972), and others all traded in cornpone humor and cornball country stereotypes... and all were quite popular. 

At the same time as television milked laughs from rural sitcoms, the folk revival that had begun in the 1940s peaked in the mid-1960s and gave birth to citified, electrified Folk-Rock bands like The Byrds, The Leaves, and The Lovin' Spoonful and, occasionally, in the case of The Dillards and Gene Clark, folks with roots in the countryside. Before long performers like The Byrds, Gene Clark, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and The Stone Poneys were creating Country Rock that, whilst rooted in rock, revealed a more obvious debt to traditional Country than contemporaneous Countrypolitan

Results of ACNielsen company research changed the way network executives looked at ratings. The audiences of many of their (especially CBS's) most popular shows were undeniably large -- but they turned out to be largely comprised of old folks -- the sort of people advertisers have little use for. In order to woo young, urban folks with disposable income, CBS executive Fred Silverman decided to axe much of the network's roster or, in the words of Green Acres' Pat Buttram, they “canceled every show that had a tree.”

The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, The Jim Nabors Hour, and Mayberry R.F.D. were all felled by the end of March, 1971. Hee Haw too was put on the chopping block but survived for another twenty years after moving to syndication. The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour rode out the season, ending its run on 13 June, 1972. At ABC, The Johnny Cash Show last aired on 31 March, 1971 and The Lawrence Welk Show also survived by moving to syndication (where it remained until the sun set on it in 1982). At NBC, The Red Skelton Show (only acquired from CBS in 1970) was cancelled in 1971.

At CBS, the spring cleaning made room for urban shows like All in the Family, The Bob Newhart Show, CannonM*A*S*HThe Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Streets of San Francisco. In 1972 the Surgeon General found that television had grown, in part to to the urban surge, increasingly violent and Congress held hearings to determine what action to take. In 1975, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) created a new policy, The Family Viewing Hour, which charged each network with the responsibility to air family-friendly programing during the first hour of prime time.

CBS, happy with their new following supposedly stuck the throwback rural-themed series, The Waltons, against NBC's The Flip Wilson Show and ABC's The Mod Squad with the hope that it would quickly fizzle and prove to critics of their new direction that audiences no longer wanted to see gentle, family-oriented series like that. To their surprise and possible dismay, The Waltons was a hit and aired until 1981. In 1974, it was followed by a similar series, Little House on the Prairie.  The Family Viewing Hour policy was overturned in the courts in 1977. 

Both The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie were set safely in the sepia-toned Good Ol' Days. No doubt in part due to the ugliness of the Deep South's apparently endemic racism exposed during the Civil Rights Era, a darker image of the country -- at least the Deep South -- began to take prevail. Films like In the Heat of the Night (1967), Easy Rider (1969), Deliverance (1972), Southern Comfort (1981), and others fixed in stone (or celluloid, at least) the image of country folks as mostly murderous, inbred, crew-cut, tribal subhumans equally hostile to city slickers, the college boys, Papists, fruits, Jews, longhairs, and Lefties alike. 


As the decade wore on, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Grizzly (1976), and The Hills Have Eyes (1977), suggested that anyone not from the country would do their best to fly over it or at least stick to the interstate. 

Despite their shoddy treatment by the East and West Coast establishments -- and the fact that earlier roots rockers from said coasts like Bob DylanCanned Heat, and Creedence Clearwater Revival and the like had had about as much apparent connection to the boondocks as the minstrels of the 1840s had to black American culture, by the early 1970s redneck rockers were following in their coastal counterparts footsteps. The Allman BrothersBlack Oak ArkansasLynyrd Skynyrd, The Marshall Tucker BandMolly HatchetOzark Mountain Daredevils, and ZZ Top were among the many long-haired Southern Rock bands that sprouted in a countryside that had just a few years earlier been characterized as a place hostile to that sort of music. Perhaps they appreciated the sentiments of songs like Tompall Glaser & The Glaser Brothers's “Streets of Baltimore,” Gladys Knight & the Pips' “Midnight Train to Georgia,” Glen Campbell's "Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.),” and Jerry Jeff Walker's “L.A. Freeway."

The large scale phenomenon of whites abandoning the inner city for the suburbs began in the 1950s but was truly under way in the 1970s. In 1971, as a result of Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, the US Supreme Court ordered desegregation busing, which is often pointed to as a reason that many more whites to abandoned even more urban areas. "Urban" became widely-used, coded shorthand for "black" in a country obsessed with race but wary of discussing it openly. In 1974, DJ Frankie "The Chief Rocker" Crocker coined the term "Urban Contemporary" when he was appointed as program director of New York City's WBLS, to describe the station's format, which focused on black music forms -- which in the mid-1970s meant primarily Disco and R & B.

Although the metonymic association of race to population density had ridiculously little to do with reality (for example, most black majority counties are rural and Southern (ie The Black Beltand whites continued to move to non-rural suburbs) at least, in a sense, it allowed blacks to enter the pop cultural dichotomy whereas Asians, Latinos, and Native Americans remained marginalized until around 2004, when the presence of urban Latinos at least was acknowledged by marketers who coined the portmanteau "Hurban" -- a linguistically awkward combination of "Hispanic" and "urban."

Despite "urban's" then-increasing equation with black Americans, in the late 1970s the lines between rural and urban blurred. Country Rock grew increasingly slicker, smoother, and softer the supple hands of acts like The Eagles. By second half of the '70s, Country, Soft Rock, Pop, and even Soul seem to have met somewhere in the middle. Case in point, in 1980, Lionel Richie (of The Commodores) provided his synth-soaked ballad "Lady" for Kenny Rogers (of First Edition) and -- although I love it -- I can't point to anything musically in it that's at all country nor in Lionel Richie, what's R & B. 

A less scary, feather-haired, post-disco, sequin-and-satin-friendly, Pontiac-driving image of the country jake and his daisy duke-wearing female counterpart arose alongside chart hits by the likes of AlabamaAnne Murray, Crystal Gayle, The Oak Ridge Boys, Olivia Newton-John, &c. Even this era of county acceptance couldn't rally behind Hee Haw Honeys, however.

On B. J. and the Bear, the joys of CB radios, long-haul trucking, and chimpanzee companionship were celebrated, if not widely adopted. Also debuting in 1979, The Dukes of Hazzard assured us that, despite being fugitives from the law and driving a car emblazoned with the Confederate battle flag, the Duke brothers were "just some good ol' boys, never meaning no harm." The vibe of the scene was embodied by Florida-raised Burt Reynolds and his mustache.

A few years ealier, a tradition of Southern Regionals/Hixsploitation (e.g. Country Cuzzins (1970), Midnite Plowboy (1971), Preacherman (1971), Gator Bait (1974), Hot Summer in Barefoot County (1974), The Moonrunners (1975), Redneck Miller (1976), Polk County Pot Plane (1977) flourished in Southern drive-ins.

By the late '70s, however, Hollywood was following their lead with bigger budget, nationally-released films like Smokey & the Bandit (1977), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), and Urban Cowboy (1980). 

The Country Pop scene of the late 1970s/early 1980s quickly gave way to one of the more urban, future-oriented eras. Electro, Freestyle, House, Synthpop, Techno, all arose in the wake of newly popular (and decidedly urban -- apologies to Crucial Conflict) Rap music. Even in the sticks people adopted nylon jackets and parachute pants and played futuristic 8-bit video games. For preppies, looking country meant wearing LL Bean. The country was Cousin Eddie whereas the city was Clark W. Griswold. Young people could think of nowhere better to congregate than inside large shopping malls.

Although Dallas and The Fall Guy remained popular on television for several years, they and films like Rhinestone (1984) seemed to belong to a different era, a time when a peanut farmer from Georgia had been the leader of the free world. During Reagan's watch, the emblematic television shows were Airwolf, Automan, Cagney & Lacey, Cheers, The Cosby Show, Dynasty, Family Ties, Hill Street Blues, Magnum P.I., Manimal, Miami Vice, Moonlighting, Street Hawk, &c. I barely remember a series that was marketed as the country version of The A-Team (the theme song included a lyric like "Love's a magical wheel that makes the world go 'round") but no one remembers what I'm talking about, which is probably an indication of its lack of success and just how banished to the margins the country was during the '80s. 


At the end of the decade, however, Roseanne (1988) appeared on television and offered a humorous if sometimes painfully realistic rural alternative to its less-groundbreaking and less-remembered peers like Dear John, Empty Nest, Murphy Brown or nostalgia-exhibitions like China Beach and The Wonder Years. Roseanne's success opened the door for Grace Under Fire (1993), The Jeff Foxworthy Show (1995), and King of the Hill (1997) and possibly, the return of Country Pop (aka Hat Country).  Grungers, Gangstas and New Jack Swingers all had to make room on the pop charts for the likes of Garth BrooksShania Twain, Tim McGraw, Dixie Chicks, and Billy Ray Cyrus and his mullet.

With the notable exception of Arrested Development, before the rise of The Dirty South (coined by Atlanta's Goodie Mob in 1995), Rap was pretty firmly associated with the country's major metropolises. In the 1990s and 2000s, the music industry turned away from the east and west coast and turned to more rural states like Florida (Khia, Trick Daddy, Trina), Georgia (Lil' Jon, OutKast, Ying Yang Twins, YoungBloodZ), Louisiana (Juvenile, Lil' Wayne, Master P, Mystikal), Missouri (Chingy, J-Kwon, NellyMass 187), Tennessee (Eightball & MJGProject Pat, Three 6 Mafia), Texas (Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Slim Thug, UGK), and Virginia (Clipse, Missy Elliott, The Neptunes, Timbaland). Ultimately, a commercialized and less-regionally identifiable Dirty South sound arose -- a sound that still predominates weddings and bar mitzvahs in the country and city alike. 

No doubt informed by the rise of the Dirty South, white trash stereotypes were appropriated and reconstituted into a rural-urban blend by the likes of Kid Rock and Bubba Sparxxx. Hick-Hoppers Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy seemingly emerged prepackaged from within the Nashville machine. Modern-day-minstrels like Larry the Cable Guy (played by Nebraskan Daniel Whitney) and New Haven, Connecticut's George W. Bush rose to prominence never breaking character as dumb Southerners. The unfunny (with the exception of Ron White) folks of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour attempted to offer themselves as the white, rural alternative to the more successful, black (and therefore, although not fairly, “urban”) comedians of The Original Kings of Comedy.

America's film and music industries, faced (especially in the latter's case) with possible oblivion have increasingly played it safe in recent years, eschewing regionalism for the generic, placeless, formulaic and safe. With the exception of a few smaller films like Nebraska, Osage County, and Winter's Bone, the big screen doesn't seem especially dominated by anything but franchises, re-boots, prequels, sequels, and requels. 

From the little that I've gatherd, the mainstream music scene is dominated by tween-targeted “whoa-whoa-whoa” jingle-ready pretindie and epileptic, throbbing Disney dance music -- although Taylor Swift and her ilk is not-exactly-sure-what's-country-about-this country pop stars like Shania Twain and Kenny Rogers before her.

White southern rapper Yelawolf might incorporate country imagery into his  lyrics, videos and costume but the music doesn't have any apparent Country influence. The same doesn't apply for the country-rap hybrid Rebelcore scene, although performers like Bandits, Big Smo, Bottleneck, Cap Bailey, Charlie Farley, Cypress Spring, Jawga Boyz, Justin Gee, Mikel Knight, Moccasin Creek, Redneck Social Club, Redneck Souljers, Sarah Ross, and Twang & Round aren't exactly household names. The charts are occasionally regrettably troubled by calculated but inevitably awkward country-and-rap collaborations like the accidentally funny "Accidental Racist" by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J or the surprisingly not-unlistenable "Over and Over" from Nelly featuring Tim McGraw

Television, however, is another story. Most of the urban-fare could take place anywhere. The The New Girl, though set in the Eastside-adjacent Arts District, is seemingly Latino-less by design. Portlandia, though the funniest show on TV, could almost as easily be relocated to certain corners of Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco -- or basically any city other than almost exclusively dudebro Phoenix). The current crop of rural fare, on the other hand, is specifically (if cartoonishly as ever) rural with a capital "r"... like an atrocity exhibition/freak show apparently meant to confirm the unnecessity of ever leaving the city. There are rural-themed scripted dramas, like Justified, True Detective, and The Walking Deadbut the real site of the real rural upsurge is on“reality” shows like Alaskan Women Looking for Love, American Bible Challenge, American Hoggers, Amish Mafia, Appalachian Outlaws, Bayou Billionaires, Bring ItCall of the Wildman, Clash of the Ozarks, Deep South Supernatural, Duck Dynasty, Gator Boys, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Hillbilly Blood, Hillbilly Handfishin', Legends of the OzarksLizard Lick Towing, Moonshiners, Mountain Men, My Big Fat Redneck Wedding, My Five Wives, Party Down South, Prospectors, Redneck Island, Redneck Rehab, Rocket City Rednecks, Snake Salvation, Snake Wranglers, Southern Charm, Southern Fried Homicide, Swamp Murders, Swamp People, Swamp'd, and Yukon Men.
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