Monday, May 7, 2012

George Lindsey: 1928-2012

Good morning all...breaking news fills the blog entry this morning about the death of George Lindsey, better known to millions of television viewers as Goober Pyle from The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry RFD, and Hee-Haw. He appeared on Griffith's comedy from 1964 to 1968 and expanded the role in Mayberry RFD during 1968 through 1971...sometimes appearing in what I call civilian clothes, rather than his more familiar work uniform. As many die-hard fans of The Andy Griffith Show and all things Mayberry already know, Lindsey was brought in to fill the eventual void that would be left when Jim Nabors' character, Gomer Pyle, would join the Marines. According to trivia, Goober's last name wasn't going to be Pyle but when the writers and those behind the scenes dreamed up the concept of sending Gomer to the Marines and into a new series it was then determined that Goober would be written in with the last name of Pyle and introduced as Gomer's cousin. 

I guess the news of George Lindsey's death broke late last night or quietly yesterday evening but the news outlets have just started running with it in over-drive within the last 30 minutes. Admittedly, I wasn't watching much news programming on Sunday. I was watching various baseball games on and off and then I watched Hee-Haw last night at 8pm. George, of course, was on there. He did a few jokes in the Kornfield and delivered a couple of one-liners at other moments in the show, reacting to Junior Samples' bloopers, and did a "Pffft! You Was Gone!" routine with Archie Campbell. 

In the link below you will be able to watch a video and read an article on George Lindsey. The video was put together and narrated by Nashville entertainment critic, Jimmy Carter, who tweeted a link to it on Twitter at 9:31pm Sunday night... 

WSMV George Lindsey Tribute

A couple of on-line memorials have erroneously given 1935 as his birth year but he was born in 1928.

I've known of George Lindsey, I can say, my whole life...well, except for the first 5 years of it. My introduction to his career came with Hee-Haw. Those who've read my various blog entries about Hee-Haw will perhaps know that I was introduced to this show through my grandparent's who watched it every  weekend. On this show, especially in the '80s, Lindsey was billed in the opening credits as George 'Goober' Lindsey. At that point in time I was unaware of The Andy Griffith Show and Lindsey's connection to it. As a child of the '80s I was introduced to the career of George Lindsey via his appearances on Hee-Haw and, just as ironic, I first heard of Don Knotts via his hysterical appearances on Three's Company as landlord, Mr. Furley. Once I got older and found The Andy Griffith Show on the TBS station I then started to see the characters that my grandparent's and parent's often talked about and made reference to in conversations. On Hee-Haw, Lindsey's contributions evolved through the years. At first he made sporadic, surprise cameo appearances delivering one-liners...not credited in the opening cast.

Later on he began making even more appearances...mostly reacting to the bloopers and the various ways Junior Samples could mess up on-camera. Then Lindsey began appearing in the Kornfield, trading jokes with any number of regulars...coming off as a he'd been a cast-member since day 1. That's how well he and his character fit into the series.

In his earlier appearances on Hee-Haw he didn't wear the famed Goober cap or mechanic suit...he wore the traditional bib overalls, usually with some sort of over-sized tie or something unusual. He was inserted into the opening credits in the following season, 1973-1974. Wearing large ties, big hats, wigs, and other costumes became a tradition for Lindsey on this program. Pie throwing wasn't common but sometimes it wouldn't be out of the question for Lindsey to play the straight-man, not tipping off the other person about what was going to happen, and then ~SPLAT!!~ a pie in the face...all caught on camera and aired for the country to see. As the program went on, Lindsey's involvement solidified. He appeared in various sketches throughout the '70s. Eventually he became the focal point of his own sketch which took place, you guessed it, at a gas station. In quite a few of these sketches he was joined by an uncredited Jack Burns who'd play the part of a city slicker/con-man always trying to pull one over on Goober but it would always backfire with Goober coming out on top by having more smarts and common sense. In 1978 Lindsey starred in a program called Goober and the Trucker's Paradise. Ray Stevens performed the theme song. I have never seen this program but only one episode was may not even exist on tape anymore.

Also on Hee-Haw, Lulu's Truck Stop became a frequent setting for George Lindsey's comedic antics, too. He'd usually play a fussy customer or one who was in such a hurry that he'd literally cram his mouth with food and dash off. In the ever popular sketch referred to as Minnie's School House, Lindsey was often playing the part of either the sarcastic student, always with a quick one-liner to throw back at Minnie, or the class dunce. Junior Samples played that character most of the time prior to his death in 1983. Minnie and Grandpa Jones once had a sketch that was set in a kitchen and later they were both placed in a sketch that took place in a post office. Lindsey appeared frequently as the mail man who usually began a sketch with pride but would always have that pride diminished when Grandpa or Minnie would tell him that he delivered the wrong letter to someone else by mistake or forgot to deliver an urgent package somewhere, etc. etc. It was always a cute sketch involving the three of them.

At the start of Hee-Haw in 1969 there had always been a segment known as "Pffft! You Was Gone!" where, typically, Archie Campbell would sing a short, comedic tale and then elbow Gordie Tapp, who'd have his back to the camera, and he'd turn around and sing the chorus of the song with Archie...climaxing with a Bronx cheer in one another's face. As the 1980's dawned, Lindsey found himself performing in this sketch with a lot of regularity. The sketch had been so popular for years and the guest stars wanted to take part in it and so usually Gordie, Archie, and George would take turns with a different guest and perform the routine. Sometimes 3 or 4 of these routines appeared in one episode...featuring a guest star paired up with either Archie, Gordie, or George.

In a 1980 episode, George Lindsey performed the routine with Ray Stevens. After Archie Campbell's death in 1987, Lindsey remained a permanent fixture of this off with Gordie Tapp...through the end of the series in 1992.

Upon the end of Hee-Haw, Lindsey would go on to appear in the Opryland stage-show revival called Hee-Haw Live! and then release Goober in a Nut-Shell, a book that was so popular, primarily in the southern half of the country, that it necessitated three printings. Lindsey had a cameo role in a Ray Stevens direct-to-home video movie, Get Serious!, in 1995. In the film, Lindsey plays the part of the leader of a local Shriner organization who presents Ray with a yellow dune buggy, which goes on to benefit Ray a great deal as the story unfolds. Lindsey participated in the Get Serious! night on the TNN program, Music City Tonight, in the fall of 1995 and spoke about his experiences on the set. Later in the show, Lindsey appears as Coy when Ray performs a live version of "Shriner's Convention". A year later, 1996, Lindsey won the Minnie Pearl Award for his charitable and humanitarian contributions.

A glance at various on-line sites will show that George Lindsey appeared on various television programs over the decades...everything from drama to his more well-known comedic appearances. In 1982 Lindsey appeared on the Conway Twitty on the Mississippi television special and did a stand-up routine. For many years he hosted a golf tournament in Montgomery, Alabama for charity and was one of the people responsible for a film festival down there which was officially billed as The George Lindsey UNA Film Festival and you can read about it here.

George Lindsey performs "Mountain Dew" on one of his early Hee-Haw appearances right here. For those who want to see the Salute to the Kornfield program, which lasts for 6 hours altogether, you can buy a copy of it here. The show features George Lindsey among the MANY guests and it was taped about a year ago. The program aired on RFD-TV for the first time in January of this year so it's still less than half a year old as far as a television special is concerned. A lot of footage that didn't make it to the airwaves is on the DVD's. In the link you'll also be able to watch the brief commercial for the project. 

George Lindsey


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bob Newhart in Bob...Now On DVD...

I thought I'd pass along some news. I am not subscribed to any DVD release alerts by Amazon or other on-line stores and so whenever I come with news about upcoming DVD releases or I write about recently released DVD's it's basically due to my visiting on-line stores and finding the information on my own. This is why I'm nearly a month late in reporting the availability of Bob Newhart's Bob sitcom from 1992. In my opinion this series deserved much better and the fact that it's gained something of a cult following proves my point. There aren't too many series, whether it's comedy or drama, that airs just 30 episodes in it's original network run, September 1992 through December 1993, and get a DVD release 19 years later but that's exactly what has happened. The DVD features 33 episodes...adding 3 episodes that didn't air following it's cancellation two days after Christmas. Those 3 episodes later aired during a TV Land marathon in 1997. You can purchase the DVD, which was released on April 3, 2012, in a link at the bottom of this blog entry.

The show centered around Newhart as an artist named Bob McKay who had worked on a comic book in the '50s titled Mad Dog. After the comic book scandal came and went, McKay was forced to go into a different profession: greeting cards! At the start of the series, Mad Dog is being revived as a comic book again with the clashing of the minds soon at play: Bob wants the character to remain loyal to it's origins while hot-shot newcomer to the field, Harlan, wants the character to be a blood-thirsty vigilante and feature sexual overtones throughout the story-lines. Bob's wife is Kaye McKay and their grown daughter is named Trisha. The other supporting characters in the earliest of episodes were the previously mentioned Harlan, as well as the senior artist named Iris, the errand boy Albie, and inker, Chad. In one of the episodes, a spoof of a Comic Book Convention's awards ceremony featured Bob Kane, co-creator of Batman. Real-life comic book artists Jack Kirby, Jim Lee, and Sergio Aragones also had cameo appearances. To everyone's surprise, Mad Dog won an award, and Bob McKay greeted the audience with a brief "thank you" and walked off the stage. He was trying to point out that attempting to thank everyone will eventually create animosity as it's almost inevitable that somebody gets left out. Bob lectured his co-workers at the ceremony table that a simple "thank you" is implied to everyone...but given the delivery of the acceptance speech(?) Bob came off egotistical rather than generous. It was a hilarious episode...and there was a very funny pay-off ending as well that I won't spoil for those who hadn't seen the episode...but let's just say Bob learned his lesson.     

The playing around of the time-slot by CBS is what did the show in. The show would've had a much better chance of succeeding in a more desirable time-slot. Friday nights at any point during the late '80s through the mid '90s for both CBS and NBC was brutal as far as ratings go...the viewing habits for much of America at that point in time was on ABC which featured Family Matters and Step by Step on Friday nights amongst many other programs as time went by.

It took those shows leaving the air for other networks to really make any serious high ratings attempts on Friday night.

CBS moved Bob from Friday night to Monday night by the spring of 1993...and according to on-line sites the ratings of the show improved somewhat but then in the fall of 1993 CBS moved the show back to Friday nights...then they moved it back to Monday, one last time, before ending the show in December 1993.

I don't blame the show's concept or it's writers or anyone else connected to the show for the poor performance in the ratings. All anyone has to look at is the scheduling factor. If these episodes were to have aired on a Monday, preferably at 8:30pm, or a Tuesday night...or even a Wednesday or would've had a chance. Friday nights were owned, ratings wise, by ABC's sitcoms while Saturday nights were owned by NBC and their Florida-based sitcoms.

Placing Bob on either of those two nights, in 1992, was a recipe for disaster in my opinion. I have the TV Guide issue where Bob appears on the cover in a Superman-like pose and the article about the show obviously mentions the time-slot. When I saw that it would air on Friday night...even back then at age 15 I rolled my eyes because I felt that it would be ignored by the masses who were either not home on Friday night or were watching ABC's massively popular T.G.I.F. programs.

I remember when CBS yanked Murder, She Wrote from it's long held Sunday night time-slot and placed it on Thursday night in the fall of 1995...up against NBC's Friends. Landsbury's program was canceled by season's end. So, yeah, time-slots make a huge difference in ratings success and failure. If I were cynical enough I'd suspect that CBS deliberately moved Murder, She Wrote from Sunday to Thursday to, I think, justify it's predetermined cancellation (using the ratings as a scapegoat) .

The same could be said for Bob...perhaps the management at CBS at the time didn't want the program to succeed because of demographics!? Bob's follow-up, George and Leo, also on CBS, was a funny sitcom, too, that had potential but was placed against Monday Night Football (when that show still aired on ABC).  Some may read this and go "what kind of network plots the demise of their own programs?". I happen to think that it goes on quite often...perhaps a show that's green lit by a network attracts the wrong audience or maybe the demographics aren't exactly what the advertiser covets...and in spite of critical praise and positive build-up the program is put through a series of time-slot changes...effectively resulting in the program never finding any sizable audience and, yes, you guessed it...the ax falls on the series.

Unfortunate time-slots for Bob as well as George and Leo hurt their potential, for sure, but luckily Bob is available on DVD for millions of people to discover and enjoy just as we enjoyed it the first time around 20 years ago! Here's the link to Bob Newhart in Bob...

Amazon's Bob page

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Animator/Director Robert McKimson: 1910-1977

As I scour the internet and blogosphere I'm pleased to see quite a few blogs dealing with Robert McKimson's impact on the Warner Brothers cartoons as an animator and a director. I came across this particular article, written by an author named Michael Mallory, titled The Case for Robert McKimson from a web-site entitled Animation Magazine. That article, and several others at other sites, can give you in-depth and statistical data about Robert McKimson as well as a listing of the cartoons he directed for Warner Brothers. My blog entry is not as in-depth but rather enthusiastic. As I've often pointed out I'm a professional enthusiast...vastly different from a critic. 

As many of you may know, I am nowhere near an expert on all things Looney Tunes...other than being a big fan of the cartoons...but through the joys of watching the cartoons, you, as a viewer, become aware of who the directors were and who some of the writers and animators were and of course who Mel Blanc was, etc. etc. It's all there on the opening credits. Those who are much more in detail about the behind-the-scenes goings on at Warner Brothers during their Golden Period are certainly aware of the various units that were employed at the studio. The unit consisted of writers, animators, layout artists, background painters, and of course the director. Several directors came and went...of those that came and went were Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, Norm McCabe, Ben Hardaway, Cal Dalton, and Bob Clampett. The core line-up of directors from the mid '40s onward were: Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, and Robert McKimson. Along the way, for a short period of time, Art Davis directed a series of cartoons for the studio but ultimately went back into animation when the studio started cutting back the number of units. There was considerable unit hopping, as I call it, that took place in the '30s and especially the '40s. When a director would leave, their unit would either be dismantled altogether or be absorbed by another director still with the studio...sometimes a director would hand pick animators or layout artists from a former director's unit and incorporate them into their own unit. Robert McKimson, after years of being content as an animator, found himself being a director after the departure of Frank Tashlin in 1944.

As a fan of the classic Looney Tunes shorts I have an equal appreciation for the directors that came and went and those that stayed for the long haul. McKimson was there from the beginning to the end. For years now there have been many, many attempts by admirers and fans of individual directors at the studio to marginalize the work of other directors. Fan wars, or whatever one chooses to call it, does a disservice, I think, to the overall legacy of the Looney Tunes. For a fan, to single out a director and say that particular director's cartoons are better than anyone else at the studio is the same time it creates division and really serves no purpose beyond chest-pounding and brow-beating.

I'm a tad bit different when it comes to such things. There is something amusing, whimsical, funny, humorous, and outright hysterical about many of the cartoons from the various Warner Brothers directors. A person's individual taste is subjective, obviously, but it shouldn't be so subjective that it becomes blinding to anyone else's work. Friz Freleng created his share of masterpieces as did Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Norm McCabe, Chuck Jones, and Robert McKimson. Now, of course, some of the lesser-known directors didn't have the luxury of longevity with the studio and so they hadn't obtained the sort of celebrity status that the more tenured directors achieved...that's just a isn't a case of their work not being important or any good.

Robert McKimson's work as a director was covered in the Six Volume DVD series, Looney Tunes: Golden Collection. However, if you look up the volumes and do a cartoon by cartoon check list by their director, you'll notice that McKimson's work is seriously under represented in comparison to Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones. Sprinkled throughout the DVD's are cartoons from Norm McCabe, Harman-Ising, Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton, Art Davis, and of course Tex Avery and Bob Clampett. It would take until Volume Five before Bob Clampett got a disc of his own...but McKimson, nor Tex Avery, got a disc of their own during the entire Six Volume series. The Golden Collection series is wonderful, don't get me wrong, but for a certain animator turned director (McKimson) who was at the directorial helm from 1944 through the close of the studio in 1969...for his work to not have a more significant role in the Golden Collection series is a bit of a let down. Fear not, though...on Volume Five of the series there's an extra found on Disc 2 called Drawn To Life: The Art of Robert McKimson. Although a full disc of his cartoons would've been even better, it nonetheless is a wonderful treat to see McKimson's son and peers reflect on the animator turned director who passed away decades before cartoons became celebrated and praised. Robert McKimson passed away on September 29, 1977...ironically, McKimson died while dining with Friz Freleng and David DePatie.

McKimson had become a director of several cartoon shorts for the DePatie-Freleng studio including The Inspector and Pink Panther. McKimson passing away in 1977 coupled with his peers' material getting the lion's share of reruns on Saturday morning television throughout the '70s, '80s, '90s, and into the 2000's didn't help matters.

McKimson's biggest characters/creations for Warner Brothers were Foghorn Leghorn, Speedy Gonzales, Sylvester Jr., and Hippety Hopper (the kangaroo that Sylvester always mistakes for a giant mouse). He also created the Tasmanian Devil. Henery Hawk, the confused pint-sized chicken hawk who rarely knows what a chicken actually looks like in each of his appearances, was created by Chuck Jones...but McKimson borrowed the character and Henery became synonymous with the Foghorn series thereafter. Speedy, on the other hand, was used for one cartoon in the classic era by McKimson. The character was re-designed by Friz Freleng's unit and became one of Freleng's often-used characters. Much in the same way Chuck's Henery Hawk became closely associated with McKimson's cartoons, McKimson's Speedy Gonzales creation became closely associated with Friz Freleng. Later, McKimson resumed directing Speedy cartoons...using Daffy Duck as the villain...and retaining the re-design of Speedy.

Somebody should write a book about Robert McKimson and his two brothers-in-art, Tom and Charles...

Well...wait, I say, wait a minute there, son...someone has...

Robert McKimson, Jr. has authored a book that is said to be released this coming July!

The title is "I Say...I Say...Son!", lifted from the catch-phrase of one of McKimson's creations, the southern rooster Foghorn Leghorn. It'll tell the story of Robert, Tom, and Charles McKimson. Those interested, and I certainly hope you are, can read about it in this link... 


The Amazon Pre-Order link can be found Here.

It states that July 1, 2012 is when the book will be released. During the pre-order it's being sold for a little more than $30.00. The regular price will be $45.00. I'll definitely be keeping my eye on this book in the days/weeks to come as I ultimately put in a pre-order for it, too. It's going to be, in my opinion, one of those books that ultimately will go out of print quickly and later become available for an outrageous asking price on eBay, for example.