Tuesday, March 31, 2009

TV Guide collection...modest...but impressive...

Photobucket I have a somewhat modest collection of TV Guide. The issues you see in the above picture are sitting up in my grandparent's attic. I especially like the way the pages have aged...it gives them that "old" look. I ran out of place to store them in my bedroom over there and so I boxed and sacked up a lot of them and put them up in the attic. I have issues that date back to the mid 1970's and some from the 1980's that I bought on-line at auction sites and some i've bought at flea markets off-line but the bulk of my modest collection starts up in 1991...from that point forward I have just about every issue up through 2005/2006...14 to 15 years worth of TV Guide. I wish I had more older issues, though...but I'm happy with what older issues I do have from the '70s and '80s.


The above issue is from June 1992, seventeen years ago. The dog was a cast-member of the TV show, Empty Nest, which was in it's fourth season at the time. The dog's stage name was Dreyfuss. I have a lot of issues that are not in the attic and are kept on a shelf in my bedroom at my grandparent's house...those issues are ones that I bought on-line...quite a few from the late 1970's on through the mid 1980's.

I have plenty of famed issues featuring the cast-members of Dallas and Dynasty. I'll snap some pictures with my digital camera the next time I'm over there browsing through my collection. These pictures were taken with my cell-phone...so they're not as sharp. I'm still a collector, but I'm not that much of a buyer anymore...

One of the reasons that I stopped buying them is that they changed appearance and they gone from a small compact magazine to a big and bulky magazine. There's just nothing eye catching, either, about modern TV Guide. Another reason for this slow-down in TV Guide purchasing from me came about in 2006...I stopped buying it because I didn't need to. The modern television set comes equipped with features where you can look at a program guide on your TV with just a push of a button on your remote control. Another factor that caused me to stop buying TV Guide were those multiple cover issues. Each week, it seemed, there were campaigns from the magazine asking consumers to buy 3 or 4 of the same issue as part of a "collector's set". At first I went along with the idea but it became more and more ordinary...what with every other week or so having a multiple cover set being issued. It was fun in the beginning, for me at least, but then they over-did it with too many collector's series issues...reaping the rewards from collector's who'd buy the entire set of issue's...I, for one, wasn't a collector in that sense and so it always bothered me whenever an issue of the magazine was being called a collector's edition long before it earned that distinction over the course of time...what I mean is...

A lot of the reason why so many TV Guide's from the '50's and '60s and even '70s are typically the most sought is because there wasn't a mentality back then that someday in the future there will be people willing to pay $5.00 and more for an issue of TV Guide from the '50s and '60s...some issues going for over $20.00. So, because of the rarity of those issues when people would just throw their TV Guide away when the week was over, is why they are typically sold for a higher price because of the limited availability and this, in my opinion, is why those issues have earned the right to be called collector's items over the course of time. If suddenly an issue of TV Guide from 1986 became highly sought after it would match or beat the asking price of an issue from the 1960's based upon demand.

This all of the sudden sensation is why a 1990 TV Guide shouldn't be dismissed as worthless because you never know when an issue or a celebrity is going to create some sort of nostalgic sensation and boost the price of something you may have in your collection. You never know if a TV program from the 1990's will garner nostalgic feelings but yet if you have 1990's era TV Guide's you'll have some issues worth something to someone at some point.

The novelty, hobby, or fad, whichever adjective one chooses to describe it, of collecting TV Guide reached the mainstream when an episode of Seinfeld addressed the little-known hobby of collecting TV Guide.

I feel the episode is what raised awareness to the idea that TV Guide's have some value depending on who's on the cover, the issue date, the area of the country it was published, the overall condition, etc. On the Seinfeld program the hobby was satirized but it created an awareness. A lot of people who collected TV Guide or knew of people who collected TV Guide were validated and their "strange little hobby", as it was perhaps described by family and friends of a TV Guide collector, was the focal point of an episode of one of television's popular programs.

A lot of collector's came out of the woodwork and sellers in the flea market business began to covet TV Guides and raise or base their prices on what a collector would pay. Today you can find large quantities of TV Guide for sale on-line...some issues going back to the 1950's and 1960's...so somewhere out there people were collecting even back then...but the bulk of the collector's usually have more of a generational collection to start off with, like myself. I have way more issues from the 1990's simply because that is when I began to collect them. If this were 1982 and someone were to have collected the magazine since the 1970's then they would have way more issues from the previous decade...common sense, of course.

Then, soon after, I feel the magazine started to take advantage of this "collector's" aspect and they started issuing those multiple covers. Star Trek was among the TV shows that got the multiple cover treatment. Multiple cover means there were three or four different covers for sale of the same issue...for example, on the news stands there would sit three issues of TV Guide for the week with three different cast-members from the show gracing an individual cover.

Each cover would have a numerical "collector's edition" seal. This sort of gimmick capitalized on the hobby and exploited it. I was never a hard-core collector so I never bought three of the same issues just for the three different covers. I would often pick which TV Guide cover appealed to me the most. Whenever there happened to be a multiple issue week of Star Trek I'd choose the cover I liked...instead of grabbing up each one in a set.

Click the below picture for an example of the collector's series concept...


This time, the multiple cover featured the movie Lord of the Rings and as you can see on the top right of each issue it states "Collect All Four Lord of the Rings Hologram Covers This Week". What this means is, you'd be buying the same issue with the only difference being who appears on the cover. It worked, though, because the devout collector's bought the set...and TV Guide was pushing close to $2.00 an issue by then.

So, anyway, as I mentioned earlier, I'm still a collector. I'm always on the look-out for vintage issues of the magazine but I don't buy the modern-day version because of it's changes in appearance.


I forgot to take note of the issue date on the above issue. It was among the collection and I grabbed it up for a quick picture. I believe it was one of the multiple covers of TV Guide featuring a different cast-member of The Wizard of Oz and I chose the one with the Scarecrow.

I completely understand why collector's buy the multiple covers...it's because at some point they'll have value, especially when you have all participating issues in a set.

Monday, March 30, 2009

All-New Superfriends Hour, Volume Two review

Volume Two of this DVD set is just as great as Volume One, released over a year ago. In this new collection we see the remaining episodes missing from Volume One. A random sampling of what you will get when you buy this collection are 8 episodes. The episodes originally ran an hour when broadcast on TV but minus the commercials each episode is roughly 45 to 50 minutes in length. Each episode is broken into four separate segments as well, which is why it's advertised as 32 episodes. The first segment features a team-up between two Superfriends. The second segment features the Wonder Twins on adventures revolving teenage issues/peer pressure. The third segment is the main attraction, a story involving all of the Superfriends and the Wonder Twins. The final segment teams up one of the Superfriends with a guest super-hero. Batman and Robin, since they work as a team, are considered "one" hero in the team-up's.

Batman and Robin along with Superman appear together in the episode "Man-Beast of Xra" where an evil scientist, a woman named Dr Xra, unleashes man-beasts on the city with the help of her nervous accomplice. The professor is voiced by the show's narrator, William Woodson. Xra is voiced by Jean Vanderpyl, who became popular as the voice of Wilma Flintstone.

Aquaman's primary villain, Black Manta, appears in an episode entitled "Water Beast". In the episode, though, he's only referred to as Manta but the character design is clearly based on Black Manta. Aquaman gets a lot of screen time in the PSA segments where safety and health tips are dispensed. He also appears in the magic segment's as well. The rest of the Superfriends rotate with Aquaman in those PSA segments. In one safety segment, Aquaman warns a kid about attempting to roller skate with rusty skates and suggests he have a grown-up oil them. In the episode "Frozen Peril", Aquaman and Superman go on the mission of defrosting the world after an undersea villain, Sculpin, freezes the surface. John Stephenson voices a few characters in this episode including the villain.

The Wonder Twins appear in their own segments and one of them in this collection is frank by 1970's standards...Saturday morning TV standards specifically. I speak of the segment called "Prejudice" where the Wonder Twins tackle the subject when two bikers refuse to help a stranded motorist due to the color of his skin. "Pressure Point" deals with a kid named Jerry who feels insecure and sets about to show how talented he is at motorcycling by attempting to jump a canyon.

"Mummy of Nazca" is a story of an evil scientist who uses a mummy to do his dirty work. The doctor's name is Cooroff, loosely based upon Karloff, as in Boris Karloff, the actor who appeared in the Mummy horror movie 77 years ago in 1932. Henry Corden voices Professor Cooroff. In a rare moment in this series, Superman appears as Clark Kent for a period of time in this episode as he takes the Wonder Twins to the museum. Judging by the script, they didn't know Clark Kent and Superman were the same person.

"Forbidden Power" is a story about an evil scientist who sets off to find the ultimate power...Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman stop him.

"Day of the Rats" features Batman, Robin, and Black Vulcan in Gotham City attempting to clean up the rat's that have littered the city. The rats turned evil because of a mechanism in the sewers. It's one of the few episodes where a main villain wasn't featured...just a bunch of evil rats flooding the city and terrorizing businesses. It was like the film 'The Birds' but with lots and lots of rats. By episode's end, Black Vulcan destroyed the mechanism controlling the rats and they changed back to their normal behavior.

In an episode called "Tiny World of Terror" we have a greedy scientist/inventor who doesn't get co-operation from his colleagues with one of his schemes and he gets his revenge by shrinking them...he soon shrinks the Superfriends as well and they have to over-come their height disadvantage in order to stop the scientist, named Professor Strickland. His partners who he shrunk were Professor Wong and assistant Mary. In a funny scene, the tiny Superfriends encounter all sorts of animals climaxing with Superman hopping on a giant spider and riding it like a bull. In "Tibetan Raiders", Flash guest stars and joins Superman in the Himalaya's to rescue passengers from an airplane that crashed. Flash isn't voiced by Jack Angel, so it was unusual seeing the character with a different voice.

As you can see, a lot of these stories center around an evil scientist or a professor who becomes vigilante-like and sets about to "rid the world of war" or "end all suffering". William Woodson, the show's narrator, often provided the voices for the assistant's and sometimes he was the voice of the main villain. The villains were described as being mis-guided, rather than intentionally harmful.

The methods in which the villainous doctor's carry out their hopes and dreams in the episodes, of course, cross the line into illegal activity and by episode's end they're told how wonderful their wishes and dreams are but breaking the law to achieve their wishes and dreams was still a big no-no. There were rarely any villains, with a few exceptions, that were deliberately evil.

Having said that, one of the villains that was intentionally cruel was Lion-X. He was the leader of the race of lion's that appear in the episode "Lionmen". In this episode, Lion-X uses a special ray device and while taking control of the space station, he beams the ray at Earth. They want to pull the Earth apart and look to be a success pretty much throughout the episode...with Lion-X knowing Superman's weakness: kryptonite. Wonder Woman uses a special voice changer and pretends to be Lion-X...ordering the followers to switch off the ray...the plan almost works until Gleek innocently walks across a monitor and his tail clicks on the camera switch...exposing Wonder Woman's trick.

Rima, Green Lantern, and Apache Chief also make guest appearances. Atom, the small guy with the atomic energy, guest stars in the episode "Cable Car Rescue" with Wonder Woman. The two of them have to rescue a cable car dangling in the sky. The only DVD extra is about the Wonder Twins. Five stars...the DVD is of an acquired taste. Those raised on the super-hero cartoons of today with all of that over-the-top realism will perhaps not find these cartoons entertaining because the stories are fantastical and fiction, using just a shred of reality for the plot-line and going from there...since cartoons were geared at children who weren't expected to grow up too fast back then.

The principal voice-cast include the following:

Danny Dark as Superman
Olan Soule as Batman
Casey Kasem as Robin
Shannon Farnon as Wonder Woman
Norman Alden as Aquaman
Michael Bell as Zan and Gleek
Liberty Williams as Jayna
William Woodson as the Narrator

In the Wonder Twins segments, Michael Bell and Liberty Williams voice multiple characters in addition to Zan, Jayna, and Gleek as you'll be able to tell right away. Olan Soule often played villainous henchmen in addition to voicing Batman...Casey Kasem not only voiced Robin but in later episodes he voiced the computer. Casey can be heard as various villainous characters and incidental characters in this collection. William Woodson was often heard as villains, too.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Oh, those Smurfs!!

Like them or not, The Smurfs was a mainstay on Saturday morning television as well as late afternoon syndication for a period of years. The characters were created by an artist named Peyo over-seas and the Hanna-Barbera studio adapted the characters for American audiences. Schtroumpf is the word that was used overseas and it was translated into "Smurf" for America...and it is the Americanized characters of which this blog is about. NBC was the network that aired the program.

The characters, the core line-up, each had distinct character traits...each one was somewhat predictable in terms of what would happen within the story. A lot of the characters interacted with one another peacefully but there were several episodes where there was anything but peace among the village. Usually at the heart of most arguments and the cause of most annoyance was Brainy Smurf. He was the brainiac of the group but often in the stories he'd use his "brains" in a condescending way...as a sort of know-it-all. This characterization allowed him to be at the receiving end of a lot of anger directed at him by others...including the usually gentle, Papa Smurf.

Papa Smurf was the leader of the group. He was never really said to be the father of every single Smurf but a lot of fans and critics seem to suggest it. Some say the "papa" name is just a word that's used to show respect for an older, wiser adult. Smurfette, for years and years the only female Smurf, was created by the wizard Gargamel in one of his schemes to capture the Smurfs.

Gargamel was an evil wizard who lived in a run-down castle/hut who was constantly hatching schemes to capture the Smurfs for his magic potions. He could never find the Smurfs hidden village on his own...but sometimes he was led into the village by accident or just in sheer luck he stumbled onto it all on his own. The running joke was that Gargamel could never find the village once he was tricked into leaving...for example, he could be five steps away from the village but he couldn't find his way back. This irritation prompted him to look at his cat, Azrael, and scream something like: "I almost had them!!! Where is the village...come on...we gotta find it!!! AZRAEL!!!!". In most episodes, as Gargamel and his cat are roaming all over the countryside in search for the Smurf village and getting farther and farther away, you can hear him throwing a fit as the camera shows the Smurfs gathered around laughing as the scene fades to black.

Clumsy Smurf was an accident prone Smurf, always at the receiving end of Brainy's wrath for being "dumb". Clumsy looked up to Brainy but would often out-smart Brainy in his own unique way by using a simple approach to handle a situation within the story which differed greatly from a complex approach from Brainy. A typical exchange would find the two of them standing on the outside of a locked door and Brainy would become the "teacher" and go on to tell Clumsy how to proceed with climbing through the window, giving him step by step instructions, quite certain that the door is locked...only for Clumsy to walk over to the door, turn the knob and say something like: "Gosh, Brainy...we don't have to climb through the window...the door's unlocked." Brainy would look into the camera and slap his forehead or roll his eyes.

Vanity Smurf is just as his name implies...vain. He carried a mirror and wore a pink flower in his hat...often commenting on the state of the plants in his mushroom. All of the Smurf's lived in mushroom houses. He'd also react to the exaggerated macho behavior of Hefty Smurf. Jokey Smurf liked to play practical jokes. Sleepy Smurf was typically dozing off all the time. Grouchy Smurf was a grouch. Farmer Smurf was the village's farmer...looking over the garden. The Smurf's had several allies...Mother Nature was their biggest. She often helped Papa Smurf and gave him advice on all sorts of situations. Johan and Peewit were also allies of the Smurfs...as the series became even more popular they added Baby Smurf and a few more female Smurfs and Grandpa Smurf...with a wooden cane and a longer beard...perhaps Papa Smurf's father!? Hogatha, Big Mouth, Scruple are just three of the secondary villains of the series...they, like Gargamel, have this shared hatred for the Smurfs.

The Smurfs ran for an incredible nine years, 1981-1990. The characters spoke English pretty much...and they had their own slang phrases as well. They'd incorporate the word "smurf" into nearly everything they said. "Have a smurfy day!" or "Holy smurfs!!" or "That's smurfy!". Another phrase "i'll be smurfed!" was often said in place of "i'll be darned". "Great Smurf!!" was used in place of "Great scott!!". There was a Smurfs comic book issued on Marvel. There was also a Smurfs cereal...very smurf-a-licious!

The ratings of the series had declined by the late 1980's but the ratings weren't abysmal by any means...but the series went out of production in 1990 simply because NBC wanted to expand their news program on Saturday morning and it ate into a lot of the air-time for animated cartoons on that network. I believe NBC was the second network to rid it's Saturday morning line-up of cartoons and replace it with news programs and live-action teen programs. I think CBS was the first and ABC was the last to rid it's line-up of wall to wall cartoons. Whatever network came first, all three of them plus the Children's Television Act, helped end Saturday morning TV as people in my age group and older remember it. Now, of course, there's a few programs aimed at children that air on Saturday morning but it's nothing like it once was...with every network airing cartoons for nearly 5 hours on Saturday mornings...that'll never happen on network TV again.

In total there were 256 episodes...and because several episodes would contain 2 separate stories, there were in reality 421 stories spread out over those 256 air-dates.

After the show ended production in 1990 it continued to air in syndication in the late afternoons for a period of years until quite a few cartoon franchises became property of Ted Turner in the early to mid 1990's. He purchased the Hanna-Barbera library and as a result all of the syndicated cartoons from that company that were in reruns on network TV suddenly departed network for cable-TV...specifically airing on his Cartoon Network, a 24 hour cable network that would air cartoons from the Hanna-Barbera library. Soon, Cartoon Network became a major cable network and as things are likely to do it started to change. The network became more about original programming instead of airing vintage cartoons. The Warner Brothers cartoons became Turner's property as well during the 1990's. Boomerang was launched to provide a network for the classic cartoons so Turner and company could use Cartoon Network for original programming. Turner owns, partially owns, or at one time owned just about everything...the Hanna-Barbera cartoon library; the Ruby-Spears cartoon library; the MGM library; the Warner Brothers cartoon library. He created the cartoon character, "Captain Planet". Turner's non-animation networks include TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, and CNN...so the 1990's were a time of severe change in the Saturday morning business...

Behind the scenes of The Smurfs the main voice artists for this series were Don Messick. He gave voice to Papa Smurf as well as Dreamy Smurf and the hisses of Azrael and other sound effects. Paul Winchell was on hand as Gargamel...using the voice he gave to Dick Dastardly. Lucille Bliss was the voice of Smurfette. June Foray voiced Jokey Smurf and Mother Nature. Alan Young was the voice of Farmer Smurf and Miner Smurf. Danny Goldman was the voice of Brainy Smurf. Frank Welker provided the voice of a lot of minor characters in addition to semi-regulars Hefty Smurf and Poet Smurf. Michael Bell voices Grouchy and Handy Smurf while William Callaway voices Painter Smurf and Clumsy Smurf. Hamilton Camp gave voice to Greedy Smurf. I believe there were something like 99 Smurfs in all...

This series utilized the talents of Alan Oppenheimer...he was on hand to voice Vanity Smurf, Father Time, and Homnibus. Jonathan Winters voiced Grandpa Smurf. I think that covers pretty much the main Smurfs that made the most frequent appearances on each episode. Johan and Peewit were voiced by Michael Bell and Frank Welker. Michael Bell voiced a lot of characters and his most popular role is Zan, half of the Wonder Twins, on the late 1970's and 1980's version of Superfriends. Search through my various blog entries to read more about Frank Welker and a lot of these voice artist's.

The series has become available on DVD. It airs on Boomerang, the vintage cartoon network. The series is still popular, or infamous, depending on your viewpoint, some 19 years after it's last first-run episode aired.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

All-New Superfriends Hour, Volume Two...and Beyond...

This DVD collection was released a few months ago, back in January 2009. I have just now gotten around to buying it...and the reason for the hold-up in purchasing the collection is because I was certain that it would become available at the local Wal*Mart store as quite a few DVD collections have...including the previous Superfriends collections...but after several weeks of checking and still no Season One, Volume Two I gave in and ordered it on-line and it arrived the other day. I watched DVD #1 and will watch the second DVD at a later date and once I do that I'll have a review written...and that brings me to my personal pointers of reviewing...

I tend to write my reviews in an enthusiastic manner...and I avoid using a lot of language that would suggest mockery toward what I review. I have genuine interest in everything I have a blog about.

First of all I feel that if you review something you have to understand it and second of all you must have some sort of respect for the audience of the material in which you're reviewing/critiquing because if you don't you won't be taken seriously. I know some people may not agree with that statement but that's how I feel. The first thing I look for when I read someone else's review is audience respect...the first hint of mockery renders a review useless to me. So, for me, I write my commentary for those who are fans of whatever I happen to spotlight...and being a fan of Superfriends I write from a fan's point of view. The fans of this series, and I am speaking of the 1970's/1980's versions, know how the animation is and they know the way the characters were depicted and the less-than-complex stories, so it is useless to point those things out over and over and so I don't. I also do not ridicule and make fun of anything I happen to like and so you'll only have serious commentary and opinion within my reviews.

I see a lot of commentary about this series all over the internet...some good, but mostly not so good. The old-school animation and storytelling techniques are looked down on today for the most part by a society that is compelled to compare everything with a modern-day mentality. This sort of thing severely cripples a lot of animated cartoons...not just the Superfriends but programs similar to it...cartoons made prior to the "oh so hip" 1990's.

There is a phrase called "Saturday morning TV" that critics like to talk negatively about. The imagery of kids in their pajamas eating their cereal for breakfast watching cartoons...oh, I should say sugary coated cereal with that yum-yum goodness which is how most people generalize cereal commercials from that era. There is a touch of sarcasm in that last sentence or two.

Anyway, those sort of images of children watching cartoons on Saturday morning...and chomping down on the various delicious flavors of Lucky Charms or Frosted Flakes cause most modern-day mom's and dad's to throw a fit and harp on sugary cereal, etc. etc. Anyone remember when Cap'n Crunch and other animated cereal mascot's became popular? A lot of the fun in watching Saturday morning cartoons was seeing the recurring commercials with the mascots. There was the previously mentioned Cap'n Crunch...plus Lucky from "Lucky Charms", and then there was the CooCoo Bird on the "Cocoa Puffs" commercials and of course there was the Trix Rabbit...and Tony the Tiger...and on and on. There are still cereal commercials on the air but nothing like that era.

But anyway, I will have a review up when I finish watching and taking notes of the Season One, Volume Two DVD collection. Judging by DVD #1, the second DVD will be just as good. I often type my reviews here and then copy and paste them on Amazon's web-site, or, I by-pass the blog and write my review at Amazon.

I have all of the DVD collections that have been released on the Superfriends but you could have guessed that without me saying so...I have another blog entry about this series for those wanting further information on the series itself.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hee-Haw: 1969-1992; Part Three

The actual 40th anniversary of this show begins in June...June 15th to be exact. It was on June 15, 1969 over CBS-TV that Hee-Haw went on the air for the first time. The show was an unexpected hit and it's initial season lasted from June 15, 1969 through September 1969. It went off the air and probably not many were thinking it would return again...but CBS ordered more episodes and these new episodes started airing in December 1969 and lasted until April 1970. The ratings were pretty high even still and the show returned in the fall of 1970 and would remain on the CBS network until July 1971. The last episode for CBS had aired in February 1971 but reruns continued through the summer months.

The show didn't go away after being dropped from CBS as we all know. It was picked up in syndication and from September 1971 through February 1991, the show aired uninterrupted, 20 straight years. After the February episode it went into it's rerun period and as I touched on in a previous entry the show didn't return in the fall...instead it returned in January 1992 and would run until May before going out of production for good. The guests on the first show of 1992 were Barbara Mandrell, Vern Gosdin, and Joe Diffie. A few weeks later Garth Brooks, Diamond Rio, and Trisha Yearwood were guests.

It's a testament to the show's popularity and longevity that virtually every country music singer made an appearance on this show...some made plenty of appearances as it was one of the few national programs spotlighting country music. Also, the various styles of country music were spotlighted front and center on this program, too. There were several episodes that celebrated country-pop artists...one in particular was an episode with Jerry Lee Lewis, another with Ray Charles. Celebrities outside of country music made appearances. There were episodes with Oral Roberts and his wife...even a few episodes with Billy Carter, brother of Jimmy Carter. There was an episode with Robin Leach who spoofed his LIFESTYLES program and went through Laverne and Ida Lee Nagger's dump. Doc Severensen made a guest appearance...so did Ed McMahon. Johnny Bench made an appearance...Sonny Shroyer, the actor who portrayed Enos on "Dukes of Hazzard", made an appearance. Jonathan Winters was a cast-member of the show in the early 1980's...often appearing in group segments...but he didn't have any skits starring himself. Gailard Sartain's style was similar to Jonathan's.

After Archie's death, Gunilla continued playing the role of the Nurse in which female cast members would show up as patients and she'd dish out advice about men or one of the younger male cast members would be a patient who'd flirt with her, that sort of thing.

Hee-Haw: 1969-1992.

Hee-Haw: 1969-1992; Part Two

Hee-Haw had a lot of merchandising during it's early years. There were lunch boxes and comic books and a magazine. The show also became popular for some of the women cast-members, known collectively as the Hee-Haw Honey's. Through all of my years watching the show and knowing of the show I can say that there was never anything blatantly off-color or dirty when it came to the Hee-Haw Honey aspect...there was and there's always been a critical disdain for the show as a whole because of it becoming a hit. Country music itself was never really considered mainstream to begin with...and here you had a TV program reaching millions of people each week not only spotlighting country music, but also bluegrass and gospel in addition to the corny jokes...there were a lot of people angry that the show was a success.

And so, male viewers no doubt appreciated seeing the women on the show...there was a look to a Hee-Haw Honey...each of them wore usually the same style of clothing: short shorts and tight t-shirts. This was several years before Dukes of Hazzard came along so they weren't called 'Daisy Dukes' at the time...but you get the idea. Gunilla Hutton, Misty Rowe, Lisa Todd, Linda Thompson, Jeannine Riley, and Marianne Rogers were the more notable of the Hee-Haw Honey's although just about all of the women were put under the Honey umbrella. The women who were not considered a "Honey" were Roni Stoneman, Minnie Pearl, and Lulu Roman...these women were mostly cast as eccentric or bizarre characters and not known or thought of as eye candy...whereas with Minnie, she played the role she'd been playing at the Opry for years as the older woman trying to find a companion.

Barbi Benton was on the program in the early to mid 1970's. She is more widely known for her Playboy-related appearances instead of being a Hee-Haw Honey given her connection to Hugh Hefner. She was Hefner's girlfriend for eight years...Barbi left Hee-Haw in 1976, the same year she and Hefner broke up...and she continued to appear in various TV programs throughout the 1970's and 1980's.

As for Linda Thompson, she was once a part of Elvis Presley's inner circle...she was his girlfriend during his later years. You can look her images up on-line and see a lot of pictures of her taken at Graceland.

She was married to Bruce Jenner in the early '80s and in the episodes of the show in the early 1980's she's referred to as Linda Thompson-Jenner and she was also married to David Foster, having married him in 1991, but she separated from him in 2005. Linda was on the show from 1976 through 1992.

Linda's recurring skit involved playing the daughter of Kenny Price. The routine often started showing a haystack and you'd hear a lazy harmonica playing and Linda would sigh "Paw..." and Kenny, usually raking hay, would turn and say something like "yes, daughter" and she'd go on to him about her problems with her boyfriend, known as Billy Bob. By the end of the routine she'd slip out some sort of secret and go "oops" to which Kenny would storm off huffing and puffing saying things like "i'm gonna kill him!".

Linda, as well as other Honey's, were often seen in a routine known just as "the Haystack" where the camera would show the shot of a haystack and then drop down to show one of the Honey's and usually Jim or Jon Hager...sometimes Buck Owens...acting as a boyfriend to one of the Honey's of the show.

Irlene Mandrell was one of the Hee-Haw Honey's as well. On the show she typically played the Kornfield Kounty telephone operator. She could also be seen in the All-Jug band and for a short period of time she was one of the women in the exercise skit where a few women would be shown exercising and telling jokes back and forth. Irlene was on the show from 1984 to 1992.

The Hee-Haw Honey's were spun off into their own program, titled obviously "The Hee-Haw Honeys". In this series several of the show's cast played character's with the last name of Honey. Kathie Lee Gifford, not a part of the Hee-Haw show, was cast in this series. She played Kathie Honey. Gailord Sartain was on the show as Willie Billy Honey. Kenny Price and Lulu Roman were like the parental figures. The show ran for one season.

Lulu was one of the big parts of the show. In addition to her being in The Culhanes skit she was also in the All-Jug band plus she was often one of the gossipers in the Rumors skit. Her signature skit was "Lulu's Truckstop" where she played a sassy waitress and Gailard Sartain played the cook/romantic interest, Orville. The food served there was awful...in one scene in a later episode Dub Taylor complained that just being in the place was giving him indigestion before having eaten anything.

Another aspect of this series were the animated animals that often popped up on screen. In addition to the animated donkey which appeared at the start and close of every episode you also had various farm animals that would comment on the jokes being told. A duck or a pig would hold up signs reacting to the joke...much like the coyote in the Road Runner cartoons. They often used a cow or a donkey as commercial bumpers, too. A goat was often seen chewing up the show's title only for him to hiccup and the title would be shown in reverse and then he'd look at the camera and go "Hee-Haw will be right ba-a-a-a-c-c-c-k!". If the show ran bloopers, for example, they'd show a cow holding up a sign reading "they're milking this joke". Bloopers often happened as part of the cornfield segment when people would pop up and start to talk but mess up their lines...in Junior's case he couldn't pronounce a lot of big words and so they'd tape him trying to say all kinds of words and insert it into the show. In one example, Grandpa Jones broke a string on his banjo while taping a performance. On any other show this scene would never have made it on the air...but on Hee-Haw not only was the blooper shown, but the camera taped Grandpa fumbling with the banjo and arguing with it as he put a new string on it.

When Reverend Grady Nutt was a cast-member, he'd tell stories inside Archie Campbell's barbershop set. After his skit was through, typically you'd see the scene cut to an animated donkey holding up a sign that read "Let us Bray". Of course, a lot of acts got the dancing pig treatment. if a song was a sing-a-long or if one of the show's own cast-members were performing a song, it wasn't uncommon to see a row of dancing pigs come dancing along the screen kicking their legs. This happened during a Hank Williams, Jr song...another instance was when Kenny Price was singing "Crawdad Hole".

In addition to the Hee-Haw gospel quartet, the show also featured the Million Dollar Band. This segment would become a fan-favorite as well...it included Roy Clark, Chet Atkins, Johnny Gimble, Floyd Cramer, Boots Randolph, Jethro Burns, and Danny Davis. Charlie McCoy, the show's musical director and a harmonica player, was often featured in music pieces like this, as well, where only music was played, no singing.

The Hee-Haw Salute was one of the recurring routines that would appear twice or three times during a show. Roy Clark or Buck Owens during the early episodes would mention a city or town in America and salute it...sometimes this was done for comedy and they would spotlight a town with a population of 28 or something. The routine would go something like this:

Hee-Haw salutes Dusty Trail, Texas; population 58

Then the camera would pan to the cornfield where everyone would in unison holler "SALUTE!" but in rural speech it would sound like "SA-LOOT!". Not all of the salute's would be comical...some towns were major cities with thousands and thousands of people. Also, personalities from local TV stations that aired Hee-Haw would stop by for a visit and the local town was saluted in that segment.

The great cast shake up of 1986 was when the show let go a lot of their cast-members except a handful. Buck Owens was not among those being let go but he wanted out of the show and so when the 1986 season opened up, there was no Buck Owens as co-host. Instead, the show began a policy of guest co-hosts each week with Roy Clark. The guest co-host or co-hosts depending on if it were a duo, would fill-in during Buck Owens' routines...the sing-a-long's and musical numbers that had become fan favorites. This guest co-host policy remained until the end of the 1989-1990 season. Afterward, Roy hosted the show by himself, 1990-1992.

Changes were made throughout 1986-1988 and a lot of it had to do with the deaths of two long-running cast-members: Kenny Price and Archie Campbell. The two of them passed away in 1987...so that was two more losses, in addition to the others who were let go in 1986, in addition to Buck leaving the cast. The show continued on just as before...largely due to the fact that a lot of recurring skit's and routines were being inserted into the show with more frequency...with the Hee-Haw Salute, for example, airing up to four times throughout one episode...Roy's quick "Empty Arms Hotel" skit would sometimes air three times during the hour...but then there were some new skits popping up every so often, too. Kenny Price passed away between production cycles and so he continued to be featured as a cast-member into 1988 with material he taped before his death.

The cast members let go in 1986 were Don Harron, Lisa Todd, The Hager Twins, and without Buck Owens as a co-host his back-up group, The Buckaroos, left the show in 1986 as well. Jackie Phelps passed away and so he of course was no longer featured on the show from 1986 onward. Jackie had been featured as the bartender in the "Hee-Haw Honky Tonk" skit plus in the early years he was a comedy partner of Jimmy Riddle, the two of them billed on the show as Riddle and Phelps.

Critics and historians like to say that Hee-Haw was losing their audience during 1990-1991 in a way that suggests viewers were tuning the show out but I say the show never lost it's audience voluntarily...I believe the show lost affiliate stations, and that would drive audience numbers down because less people were seeing the show than before. Here where I live the local stations stopped airing the show in 1991...so I never got to see the last season. I know some area's stopped carrying the show in 1990 and some in 1989...so with stations dropping the program it's no wonder ratings started to suffer...but I don't believe audiences were turning the show off themselves as critics would have you believe.

The producers of the show, amidst station loss and the stunning sales hikes of country music in the early 1990's with it's rock/pop overtones, had no choice but to revamp the program because for the first time in the show's history it's rural imagery and purposely cornball approach was seen as more hurtful than helpful by a whole host of "new country" singers popping up during this time period refusing to appear on the show because of it's "look" and potentially harmful effect an appearance could have on their career. About the show's look: an episode from 1991 could easily be shown back-to-back with a show from 1981...the look and formula of the show was that consistent year after year.

Several new additions came to the show during the 1989-1990 season and in 1990, Phil Campbell joined the show. After the 1990-1991 season wrapped up, word was sent that everyone except a few were going to be dropped from the show. Those who were dropped from the show were many: Roni Stoneman, Marianne Rogers, Cathy Baker, Dub Taylor, Mike Snider, Jeff Smith, Vicki Byrd, Misty Rowe, Terry Sanders, Minnie Pearl. Dub Taylor came aboard in 1985 while Jeff Smith came along in 1984 and Mike Snider joined the show in 1987. Vicki Byrd had joined the show in 1989 playing the quirky, confused type. Minnie Pearl had been a part of the show since 1971...Roni Stoneman was another long-time cast member let go as were Gunilla Hutton, Misty Rowe, and Marianne Rogers. Williams and Ree, a comedy duo who gained their popularity on The Nashville Network, was a part of the show during 1989-1991. Terry Sanders was often seen in Minnie's "Grinders Switch Gazette" skit playing an office boy...his tenure on the show was 1989-1991 as well. The last episode of the old Hee-Haw as fans refer to it was in July 1991.

You may be asking...with so many cast members let go at the end of the 1991 season, who was left? There were a few people left standing plus they brought in newcomers...

Roy Clark remained as the show's host. Grandpa Jones, Gordie Tapp, Lulu Roman, George Lindsay, Irlene Mandrell, Linda Thompson, Gailard Sartain, Charlie McCoy, and Phil Campbell all returned in 1992.

The new additions were unknowns pretty much. Gary Mule Deer, one of the new cast-members, gained some fame as a stand-up comedian. There was also a pair of women known as The Norris Twins...and some others...but they never aired the program in wide distribution so I can't make a decision either way since I'd never seen any of the 1992 episodes...but with the cornfield gone and other parts of the show that were fan favorites eliminated, I don't believe the program should have kept the name of Hee-Haw since the very name of the show suggested country life, cornfields, donkeys, haystacks, etc etc.

The 1992 episodes, which began airing in January 1992, were not aired here but from what I read, the episodes angered the viewers who didn't want to see these changes and wanted the "old Hee-Haw" back. Sam Lovullo recounts this period in time and the entire show from start to finish in his book, Life in the Kornfield.

After these 1992 episodes aired and were repeated, the show went out of production for good...re-runs of the show returned in the fall of 1992 under the name of "Hee-Haw Silver". These special episodes were designed to commemorate the program's 25th season on the air.

There were 52 episodes of this Silver series...each hosted by Roy Clark and featuring Cathy Baker aired during the 1992-1993 television season. Afterward, the show became an on-again/off-again show for TNN and later, CMT. On TNN they aired reruns on a frequent basis: Saturday nights at 10pm following "The Statler Brothers Show". Ultimately, though, the reruns were taken off the air and shifted to CMT...and it's here that the show aired infrequently. Time Life got into the act around this time...they had begun promoting a VHS home video called Hee-Haw Laffs during the show's rerun life on TNN. An Opryland production called Hee-Haw Live had been a success during this same time period. The VHS compilation arrived in 1996...the show continued to pop-up in reruns on TNN and later, CMT, through 1998 when it appeared to have aired for a final time...but fast-forward a decade to 2008...

By this time the show had become a sales success on Time Life through a series of DVD's...and RFD-TV took notice of the audience that the show continued to pull in. One of the unique things about Hee-Haw today is a lot of the fans of the show are young people who had often heard about the show from their parents or grandparents and checked the show out for themselves through the DVD's and various clips that appear on video hosting sites. No doubt the dated look appeals to nostalgia buffs; and, the personalities who starred on the show and the guests have some historical value among country music circles. Some of this latter-day praise is for it's simplicity as compared to the complex and complicated forms of entertainment on TV now...others simply find the show fascinating to watch...remember, the under 30 crowd of today were barely into their teens when the show was leaving the air...so there's not a nostalgia feel for the show from that age-group. I first saw the show when I was 5 or 6...it was the early 1980's. I grew up with this show in the background...every Saturday was Hee-Haw at 7pm.

The program is currently airing in reruns on the RFD-TV channel. The air-time is 8pm Sunday nights and it repeats at 10am Monday mornings. There have been a series of DVD's released by Time Life of the program as I made mention of...so for those who want to have some of the episodes in your personal collection you should seek the DVD's out until RFD-TV becomes more available.

Hee-Haw: 1969-1992.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hee-Haw: 1969-1992

Hee-Haw was one of my favorite television programs and it had a long, successful run before ending production in 1992. The program is rather polarizing because you can have millions of people praising the show and then you could have just as many wondering why the show was a success. This sort of fever-pitch for or against runs rampant today as it did when the program was on the air. Hee-Haw came along in 1969 as a replacement show. CBS-TV replaced The Smothers Brothers Show with Hee-Haw and right from the start there was a reaction, both pro and con. The series did so well that it became a weekly series. The production cycle of the show was rather unique...it would tape all of it's content in bits and pieces and the editing department would piece the shows together. The music numbers for the season were all taped in one taping session...the comedy skits were all performed in one session..and so forth. It took usually two months in the summer to record material for a season's worth of shows...and then in the fall everyone returned to tape material for the following season, that's how well-oiled the show's production unit was, but when the sessions were completed the editors would piece together one episode at a time.

As you can see from that early cast-member shot, Roy Clark and Buck Owens were the co-hosts. The rest of the people were cast-members ranging from comics to members of back-up groups on the show. It was a country version of Laugh-In with a high emphasis on cornball humor and rural situations...but unlike Laugh-In, Hee-Haw would feature two or three guest stars each episode performing country music. As the show became an enormous hit, a typical episode would have at least 5 guests and even guest stars from other TV shows that stopped by...people who had nothing to do with country music dropped in from time to time.

The series gained a loyal audience during the 1969-1970 seasons but trouble was brewing behind the scenes at CBS. They wanted their network to be a place for youthful programs...entertainment that had a topical feel almost. CBS was at the time the home to a lot of country and rural programs that pulled in monster ratings but the age group that the shows were pulling in were not what CBS or mainstream advertisers were wanting. After the 1970-1971 season, CBS made the decision to rid it's line-up of all of the country shows currently in production: Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry RFD, and Hee-Haw are the stand-out programs. On another network, Lawrence Welk's long-running TV series came to an end in 1971 for much of the same demographic reasons the country shows faced. Red Skelton, a long time fixture on TV since 1951, saw his series come to an end in 1971 as well.

Skelton would continue appearing on TV and do personal appearances for decades after his show ended. Lawrence Welk and his company went into first-run syndication as did Hee-Haw. The decision had been made to continue the show off-network...with local affiliates airing the program usually in it's same time-slot, Saturday night at 7pm, Eastern Time, 6pm in Nashville. Viewers, of course, had no idea that the show was not on the network anymore...for them, the show was airing just as before.

Lawrence Welk's show often ran in competition with Hee-Haw and in some places they aired back-to-back...from one extreme musical taste to the next. A lot of cast in the early days on CBS were not on hand when the show moved into first-run syndication...the show hit it's core line-up fairly early and with the additions of a few more key players the cast would remain intact for the next 10 years or so. Among the most celebrated of the Hee-Haw cast were the following cast-members:

1. Archie Campbell: He was credited with being one of the show's main writers, typically writing the material for himself and others in the skits in which he was the star. Archie was also noted as a painter plus he was a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He died in 1987, working on Hee-Haw from 1969 right up through 1987. Archie starred in several skits with "Doc Campbell" being one of the most popular due to it co-starring Gunilla Hutton as Nurse Goodbody. There was also a long running skit with him as a barber and another one with him as a judge...in addition to this, Archie often introduced the serious segment at the end of the show, the Hee-Haw gospel quartet.

2. Junior Samples: This cast-member became notorious for bloopers and reading his cue-cards wrong because he couldn't pronounce a lot of the words that the writers would purposely have on the cue cards. Dick Clark once commented that Hee-Haw's deliberate airing of bloopers was years ahead of the blooper craze of the late 1970's when it seemed every network aired their own blooper specials. There was a time when he stopped messing up his lines because he genuinely wanted to be taken seriously...according to the show's producer, Sam Lovullo, once Junior saw episodes of the show with a serious display of himself he went back to messing up his lines because it was funnier. His long running skit involved him playing a car salesman, often with Misty Rowe as his assistant. He was also in the Culhanes skit as well. Junior passed away in 1983.

3. Gordie Tapp: This comedian came down from Canada, as did the show's creators, John Aylesworth and Frank Peppiatt. Gordie was like Archie when it came to writing. Gordie wrote pretty much his own material...his most popular contribution to the show was a domestic skit featuring a married couple who lived in a dump. The Naggers were exactly that...they both nagged at each other. Gordie played long-suffering husband, Laverne, who looked like he hadn't had a bath in weeks while Roni Stoneman played the wife, Ida Lee, who wore rags in her hair and was typically threatening to hit her husband with a rolling pin or an iron. Aside from this, Gordie was also in the skit that took place in a general store, often cast opposite Gailord Sartain. Also, Gordie was popular as the southern Colonel...whose spoiled daughter was played on the show by Marianne Rogers.

4. Grandpa Jones: This cast-member, like Archie Campbell, had a long career on radio and records and was also a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Grandpa, played by Louis Jones, was in his 20's when he started playing the Grandpa character. He often told the story of how a man in radio gave him the name of Grandpa because his voice during his early years sounded much older. So, Louis started dressing up as an old man with tiny reading glasses, a fake mustache, and older-style clothes...years later he joked that he doesn't need any make-up to play the part now. Grandpa Jones was a part of the Hee-Haw gospel quartet and he played in the Culhanes skit. He was often seen in the barbershop and was one of the drunks in the Moonshiner's skit. He was also in the "Gloom, Despair, and Agony" sing-a-long's as well. His most popular skit in which he was the star was the "What's For Supper?" routine where he'd be asked what's for supper and he'd recite something in rhyme. Often he'd be greeted with a YUM-YUM but on occasion if he didn't have much to offer, the response would be YUCK! Grandpa is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was on the show from the start until the end. He passed away in 1998 at the age of 84.

5. Don Harron: This cast-member came down from Canada and isn't remembered much by his actual name...but mention the character he played on Hee-Haw and you will no doubt get smiles. Don played newscaster Charlie Farqheson...who wore a beat-up grey sweater and flat cap...tiny reading glasses...and a four day beard. He'd deliver the news from KORN which was set inside a chicken coop...with bright orange egg crates decorating the place. His routine was to make commentary about a local news item and then he'd start to ramble and garble a lot of his phrases. A lot of the times he'd deliver "on-air" assessments of the news he was covering and say things that were so far off the wall that you could hear actual stage-hands laughing...sometimes he'd come really close to breaking up but he'd compose himself and continue on reading the nonsense. He'd end each "broadcast" by running his finger across his neck, sign language for "cut!". Don has hosted interview shows in Canada, as himself, in addition to appearing as his Hee-Haw character. He is still active to this day.

In addition to those five there was also the presence of Minnie Pearl. She came to the show in 1970 and remained with the program until 1991. George Lindsey, ironically, became a cast-member in 1972. The reason it's ironic is because he was a cast-member of "Mayberry RFD", a show that was canceled in 1971 by CBS. George continued playing his Goober Pyle role and eventually had a skit created for him that was set in a car repair shop. George Lindsey was with the show until the end. Kenny Price came aboard in 1976 and he would remain with the show until his death in 1987.

At the time of Hee-Haw's biggest years, there were other country programs on TV as well. These programs were in syndication and aired on the weekends. Porter Wagoner's TV show was never in competition with Hee-Haw, but it was one of the biggest country music shows on the air during Hee-Haw's life-span.


Another program that ran quite long was "Pop! Goes the Country" which Ralph Emery hosted for six years, before Tom T Hall took over during the show's last years. Ralph was at the helm from 1974-1980 and Tom T remained until 1982. Yet, another show that was very popular was "Nashville On the Road" which starred Jim Ed Brown and Jerry Clower. A lot of these syndicated country music shows were riding on the fame Hee-Haw had created with first-run syndication...by-passing the major networks. I'll pick up with part two of my Hee-Haw essay in a later blog entry.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Paul Harvey: 1918-2009

The radio commentator who spoke directly to the American public and all points around the world via Armed Forces radio died on February 28th at the age of 90. Paul Harvey could be heard on over a thousand radio stations, the often quoted total being no fewer than 1,200 domestically. I elected to write my little Paul Harvey remembrance/salute here in my animation blog because Paul could be very animated in his delivery of a line or a word in his sentences...and his pauses and speech pattern all added to the legend. His speaking voice has often been parodied and imitated here in the Midwest by local comedians.

The career of Paul Harvey goes back to his teenage years...where he'd build radio sets for himself...and this love of radio caused him to seek a career in broadcasting. He got his start on radio, locally, in the 1930's and became affiliated with network radio in the 1940's. His national exposure began in 1951 when he joined the ABC Radio network, a company for which he remained with for the rest of his storied career. From the beginning of his radio talks he often gave his comments about the news of the day and mostly all of these opinions and comments were of a conservative nature...broadcasting for the most part from in and around the Chicago AM radio market his biggest core audience was heavily midwestern...at one point his radio commentaries spawned television commentaries...loosely based on his radio program.

In one of the more unique aspects of Paul Harvey's career is that he rarely granted interviews and when he did appear on television he was pretty much what you might expect to "see" if you could watch him work at the radio studio's...a man in a suit and tie, looking debonair almost, sitting at a desk reading the news into a microphone. His venture into television isn't nearly as memorable as his radio work simply because not many television markets carried Paul's minute and a half commentary feature. I was one of the fortunate ones who lived, and still live, in Southern Ohio and we had the Dayton, Ohio market as part of our television package. Each weekday around 12:20pm on WHIO-TV Paul Harvey would appear sitting or standing delivering a commentary...often with an atlas behind him since his news features spanned the globe.

The You Tube clip above spotlights a 1985 commentary from Paul...who at the time was 67. The clip comes from a local news channel elsewhere in the country, not from Ohio. The pictures above the video is an obituary, of sorts, actually a newspaper tribute/memorial article and along with that is a picture of an issue of Saturday Evening Post from 2003. I have both of those articles in my possession. I bought that magazine when it was "hot off the presses" six years ago specifically because Paul was on the cover. I also, at one time, had a copy of the book "For What It's Worth" from the early 1990's, which was a collection of comedic and strange items straight from the Paul Harvey noon news reports. In his career he delivered an early morning "News and Comment" feature which typically ran close to ten minutes and then during the noon time, "Paul Harvey News" would air, and this was an expanded edition of the morning news cast and ran 15 minutes on most days. This noon report featured more in-detailed news items and commentary. Aside from those two daily radio features you also had "The Rest of the Story", which actually began in the mid 1970's, I believe 1976...this feature was syndicated as well and ran 5 days a week like his news and comment segments.

Unlike his news reports/commentaries, this "Rest of the Story" was purely designed for story-telling/entertainment in which Paul would deliver a story about someone who ends up to be revealed as a famous singer, actor, politician, or some other kind of celebrity. The hook was Paul delivering obscure anecdotes and little known information that was gathered and put together, usually by his son, Paul Harvey Jr., and by stories end he reveals who he's been talking about throughout the story...ending each broadcast with "...and now you know...the REST of the story...".

It would take days to list and research the awards that Paul has won during his 60 plus years in radio news and so I won't. His broadcasts will be missed by the millions who would "stand by" for his program. In a bit of irony, the classic country radio station that I listen to was set to start broadcasting Paul Harvey's news program package starting this coming Monday...and he's passed away before such an event could take place.