Patti Smith had the last session, to promote her biographical movie on POV called Patti Smith: Dream of Life. It was fascinating, as she was pretty open with the reporters about why she let filmmaker Steven Sebring into her life for eleven years, what she likes to watch on YouTube (Maria Callas for one) and all sorts of fun stuff. But I had to leave to interview another legend, Norman Lear, who was there with producer Mark Johnson to promote the documentary Playing For Change: Peace Through Music.
When we were done with the interview, Lear, Johnson, the publicists and I were about to walk our separate ways when we heard music coming from the ballroom. When we open it, we see Patti Smith playing her guitar for the critics, in the middle of her second song. So imagine me and Norman Lear, standing there, listening to Patti Smith.
On June 9, Sony will release The Norman Lear Collection, a 19-disc set that will include the first seasons of the shows that Norman Lear did over the years, including All in the Family, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, Maude, One Day At A Time, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and Good Times. The set will include lots of bonus material, including new interviews with people like Rob Reiner and Jimmie Walker, along with the two unseen pilots for All in the Family, Those Were The Days and And Justice For All (in the original pilot, the Bunkers' last name was actually Justice).
One of them is All in the Family, which airs at 8 a.m. on TV Land, the network with its rack of sour tasting reality shows and shrinking share of old sitcoms and serials that is in danger of becoming the new MTV.
A week ago, one of the show's -- and all of television history's greatest -- gems found its way to my "Now Playing List." That famous episode where Sammy Davis Jr. makes the trek to 704 Hauser Street and gives Archie a big wet one on the cheek. I had not seen this show since I was a kid, back in the 80s when All in the Family reruns flooded my television, but this most recent viewing unveiled an interesting factoid that almost went unnoticed.
I have to say that this is as how that I would watch. Wrestling was very different in the 1970's than from today, made up of regional promotions rather than the single national promotion you see today (thanks to Vince McMahon for ending that). This show is a character-driven drama about a pro-wrestling family running a promotion in New York City. I wonder if they'll get any classic wrestlers making an appearance?
Having worked behind-the-scenes in a pro-wrestling promotion once upon a time, I think this premise has a lot of potential. It certainly has the correct name behind it who understands the culture of the time. With that and the fact that HBO is its home, I think we may have a winner on our hands.
This week, I got a question from Jonathan Myers that reads...
"There was a short lived television show in the late 60's or early 70's - sitcom - where the characters dressed in dog outfits. Part of me thinks it was related to Rob Reiner? Any idea what show this is?"
Well, after scouring my memory and doing a little research, I was able to dig up some info on an unsold pilot called McGurk.
Now, I intend on using every one of Carlin's "dirty words" after the jump so consider yourself warned. Be prepared to wash your computer's mouth out with soap. It may look like a saint, but it swears like sailor.
Lady Godiva was a freedom rider
She didn't care if the whole world looked
Joan of Arc with the Lord to guide her
She was a sister who really cooked
If you've never seen the groundbreaking 70s sitcom Maude, then you missed the theme song. It was cowritten by Dave Grusin! (It also has the line "Isadora was the first bra burner, ain't you glad she showed up? And when this country was falling apart, Betsy Ross got it all sewed up!" That's excellent.).
Yes, Maude is coming to DVD.
You'll remember Evans from his role as Lionel Jefferson on All In The Family and the spinoff show The Jeffersons. He died of throat cancer last week in California.
Besides his role as Lionel, Evans also appeared in The Streets of San Francisco, Rich Man, Poor Man, Love, American Style, Match Game, and Walker, Texas Ranger. He was also one of the creators and writers of the sitcom Good Times.
I had forgotten this, but he was actually replaced as Lionel Jefferson on The Jeffersons for four years, in the late 70s. He was replaced by Damon Evans, then returned to the show for the last couple of years.
How did a Washington-based advocacy group get so connected to the Left Coast? One of the organization's founders is none other than Norman Lear, the man who created The Jeffersons, Good Times, Maude and All in the Family.
Modern TV, according to Newsweek, has lost its edge. "The most popular shows are still crime procedurals (CSI) or soaps (Grey's Anatomy) - slick and sexy, but not about much. The reality shows American Idol and Dancing with the Stars are so retro, they're practically The Lawrence Welk Show. When The Unit or 24 does dare to focus on something like the war on terror, their take is uncritically gung-ho - no network today would risk satire on the level of M*A*S*H."
The journey to get a television show from concept to eventual broadcast is a harrowing one. You have an idea, you prepare a spec summary for the network; they review the proposal and ask for a script. You (with help from others, most likely) prepare a script to send back to the network; they review the script and ask for a filmed pilot. You blow a big was of cash to create that pilot. Through a miracle of God the show gets picked up by the network.
At this point you're probably thinking Emmy and a juicy syndication package. Everything is going your way. Well, actually, no. You see, there's one more stop on the road to getting your show onto the big picture box. One stop that producers dread, but need to make in order to ensure some sort of chance to have their show stay on the air longer than two weeks. It's the small theater with people off of the street; pencils in their hands, a survey sheet nearby. I am talking about the neighborhood market research panel.
In this case, ASI Entertainment, Hollywood's oldest and most frequently-used audience testing location. Established back in 1966, ASI gages the reaction of regular folks for any number of television pilots that make it to the precipice of network pickup. From those reactions producers of those pilots make determinations on whether or not anything should be changed or if it is good to go for broadcast.
He is now homeless and living in a shelter in Los Angeles.
Part of it is because of a bad crack addiction he had (he's clean now), but a lot of it was because of a series of strokes he had, plus a lawsuit he filed against Norman Lear, Bud Yorkin, CBS, and ABC for stealing his ideas for Good Times, What's Happening, and other projects (he got a million dollar settlement, years ago).
This is also, as Lee Goldberg says, a cautionary tale about the world of self-publishing. Monte spent thousands of his own money to publish and market a book, but no one was interested in it.
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