Who Could Forget Jack Benny's Face?

Everyone, apparently.

In this General Electric Theater episodeThe Face Is Familiar, Jack is instantly forgotten by everyone he meets, making him an ideal candidate for bag man on a bank robbery.

Most people won’t have the patience for this – being stuck in the hospital for a week, one’s criteria tend to drop – but I was stunned to see that the half-hour episode was directed by Frank Tashlin, he of the frenetic Warner Cartoons and Jerry Lewis features.

I love Jack Benny, but this would have worked if they could have convinced Jerry to star.

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Sundays With Snyder No. 39

May 16, 1990: the generous and ecologically aware Eddie Albert, promoting “Return To Green Acres,” an abridged interview from the collection of Bryan Olson.

Eddie talks about early radio, his own radio debut in 1920, the original Honeymooners show from 1934, his career on Broadway (and an embarrassing on-stage moment which really tickles Tom)… as well as what it was like to return to Hooterville for a reunion show with Eva Gabor.

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“Lie To Me” Viewers Can’t Escape Verizon Ad

I’m a DVR-user. A time-shifter.

I didn’t start watching “Lie To Me” this evening until the show was half-over. That way, I could fast-forward through the commercials.

One of the commercials tonight was for Verizon. But Verizon tricked me into watching it. Probably a lot of other DVR viewers were tricked as well. Continue reading ““Lie To Me” Viewers Can’t Escape Verizon Ad” » →

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Sundays With Snyder No. 35 - Adam West

Michael  Keaton as Batman? You’ve got to be kidding! The guy who played “Mr. Mom”?

There is only one Batman, and his name is Adam West. Adam had a real career going before he decided to do a commercial hawking Nestle’s Quik. Cast as an ersatz James Bond, West was spotted by the folks at Warner Brothers and cast as TV’s Caped Crusader. For his voice, if you ask us. After all, when your face is hidden behind a mask, you’re essentially doing radio. And Adam West had the voice to pull it off.

Adam is in NYC, Tom is in L.A., and it’s tough to tell much. Is Adam West playing it straight? Does Tom like Adam?

You be the judge.

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Sundays With Snyder No. 32

This one’s all about the OJ trial.

Vincent Bugliosi is so smart… so right… and so outraged… that he can’t get the words out fast enough or emphatically enough.

The recording of this Tom Snyder interview – from television – does not speed up as it progresses. It is Bugliosi that spits the words out faster and faster; Bugliosi whose voice gets higher and higher in pitch.

It’s catching – Tom’s delivery sometimes speeds up to match Vincent’s… or perhaps just to get a word in edge-ways. But if all this had gone on much longer, only dogs would be able to hear the discussion.

I believe Bugliosi is correct in his contentions, but his contentiousness switch seems to be locked in the “on” position.

He remains an outraged man. The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder was published in 2008.

Another recording from Bryan Olson’s collection.

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Sundays With Snyder - Number 9

August 25, 1992: Tom takes a live feed from a newsman awaiting Hurricane Andrew (“Will New Orleans come away clean from this?”), interviews political pundit Eleanor Clift and actress Dana Delaney.

We’re in the beginning of the Bush/Clinton campaign, post conventions, which Tom covers with Eleanor. (The more things change…)

Dana Delaney is, in a word, delightful.

(Photo: 1968)


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The Mouseketeers (And A Mooseketeer) on Tom Snyder's Tomorrow Show, 1975

The original Mickey Mouse Club presented five new hour-long episodes each week during the 1955-’56 and 1956-’57 TV seasons.

In ‘57-’58, the show started slipping away, cut to five half-hour programs per week.

In ‘58-’59, the lights were still on in Mickey’s Clubhouse, but nobody was home.

Production had shut down, and Disney resorted to re-cut half-hour reruns. The loyal viewers who remained to watch the repeats had the unusual opportunity to relive a portion of their childhood while they were still children.

By the Autumn of 1959, these kids had no idea what to do with themselves at 5 p.m. on weekdays. It was in that forlorn condition that they entered the sixties, mere months later, which might just explain the entire decade.

After three years of clublessness, reruns of the show again became available through local syndication, and MMC ran in this manner for another three years, from 1962 through 1965.

If you were eight when the show had premiered, you were a teenager by the second go-round, and distinctly embarrassed if not appalled by how much you used to love this juvenile entertainment. It was left to a new group of eight-year-olds to pick up Mickey’s fallen banner.

As the Mickey Mouse Club returned to the air in September of 1962, the Beatles went into the studio with their new drummer, Ringo Starr, to record six tracks. By the time the MMC “went dark” again, the Beatles had played Shea Stadium and received their MBE’s.

The show then made a strong bid for obscurity, remaining “dark” for ten long years. Depending on my math skills – and the month of our fictional eight-year-old’s birthday – the kid is now 28.

Not old – but not feeling so young, either. “The Sixties” really began in ‘63 or ‘64 (the Kennedy assassination or The Beatles, take your pick) and really ended in ‘74 or ‘75 (Watergate or the draft, your pick once again). This third time around elicited acute nostalgia from the original audience, now fueled by memories of what, in retrospect, seemed a far simpler time. Some of them were watching as the Club reconvened on January 20th, 1975, when the second series of reruns began.

That same evening, The Tomorrow Show With Tom Snyder videotaped an episode featuring original Mouseketeers Darlene Gillespie, Sharon Baird, Lonnie Burr, Cubby O’Brien, Tommy Cole, and Cheryl Holdridge (who died earlier this month at 64). For the many original viewers who were now allowed to stay up late and watch people smoke, the hour-long Tomorrow Show was the electronic equivalent of a grade-school reunion. And, especially for those who were watching their first rerun, it must have been something of a shock.

You see, each morning, you get up, you look in the mirror, and, barring misfortune, you see almost exactly the same face you saw yesterday and will see tomorrow. You never see yourself age. You only come to realize how old you are obliquely, by encountering some other face you haven’t seen in a long while. At that point, logic kicks in: I don’t feel older, but if that person is older, then I must be older.

If it weren’t for those damn Mouseketeers, and those damn memories of winter days when the fading sunlight in our TV rooms imperceptibly accomplished a cross-dissolve with the blue glow from our black and white sets, we could have stayed young forever.

As always, I suggest a visit to The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show fan site.
Why? Because I like you.

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Remember, On Television, We Can't Hear You Smile

Those of you who have attended the taping or filming of a television show have been part of an “audience warm-up” before the show begins. No one questions the necessity for these “warm-ups,” since we’ve recently seen how pathetic things can get when an actor comes on without being preceded by a warm-up artiste.

David Letterman’s “warm-up man,” Eddie Brill, at left, performs the difficult task of warming up an audience truly in need of warming up… since The Ed Sullivan Theater is cooled to 50 degrees by two 120-ton Multistack Modular chillers by the time the audience is seated. Things warm up a bit when the stage lighting comes on, but the temperature at a Letterman taping never exceeds 60 degrees.

Warm-ups seek to build a base of excitement and enthusiasm by convincing the audience that they are, in a very real sense, performers on the program. In the words of the great Hank Kingsley, “… the better you are, the better Larry is.” This is exciting, isn’t it?

Blogger Connie Wilson wrote an interesting piece about Letterman’s pre-warm-up warm-up, delivered to her group as they waited to enter the theater:

“I’m going to say a punch line and I want you to laugh. The punch line is ‘Donald Trump’s hair.’” We all bellowed like idiots on cue. He said to try again, only louder this time…

…The young man continued, “Now, if Dave makes a joke, I want you to think, ‘Oh, boy, this is hilarious!’ Laugh in the theater; think about it on the way home. …We want you to really give back raw enthusiasm… Dave feeds on your energy…”

The better you are, the better Larry is.

What made me start thinking about audience warm-ups was the viewing of a great sketch by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

Most episodes of the team’s TV series Not Only… But Also are missing, believed “wiped” by the BBC. This sketch somehow survived, but for some reason did not make it into The Best Of What’s Left Of Not Only But Also. It’s interesting because the casting is counterintuitive – usually Peter Cook is the strong, take-charge character, but here, Dudley’s in charge… as both stage manager and warm-up man.

And, like all of their work, it’s very, very funny.

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