May 9, 2024

Many of Burt Sugarman's "Midnight Special" Performances Released on Dedicated YouTube Channel

In the era prior to the advent of music videos, the only genuine recordings (singles, albums) was often the recorded music itself (artist performances on film did not really exist, and tended to be exceptions). However, television performances on TV variety shows of the era were fairly close. Those recordings represent what we have for musical performances before music videos became routine.


Musical artists regularly guest starred on different variety programs of the day, including the legendary "The Ed Sullivan Show" which ran from 1948-71, "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" which ran from 1967-69, "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" which ran from 1969-72, "The Johnny Cash Show" which ran from 1969-71 on a different network, several incarnations of the "Sonny & Cher Show" which collectively ran from 1971-77, "Tony Orlando & Dawn Rainbow Hour" which ran from 1974-76, "The Captain and Tennille Show" which ran for one season between 1976-77, "The Jacksons" which also ran for one season between 1976-77, and of course, the legendary "Tonight Show" starring Johnny Carson which was really more than a late-night talk show. The legendary "Carol Burnett Show" focus was really more on comedy, while musical performances were a secondary program idea.


While Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Tony Orlando & Dawn and The Jacksons all got their start in music, aside from Sonny & Cher, their variety shows were not primarily focused on music. They covered the full entertainment spectrum including TV, comedy and movies as well as music. A relative late-comer to the music-themed variety show scene was "Barbara Mandrell & the Mandrell Sisters" which was co-produced by Sid and Marty Krofft who were better known for producing odd and vaguely sci-fi children's shows as "H.R. Pufnstuf" and "Land of the Lost". The "Barbara Mandrell & the Mandrell Sisters" variety show ran on NBC from 1980-82. A brief fill-in known as "Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris" ran for just a few months in 2015, but the genre proved less suitable from a ratings perspective during an era where Americans enjoyed unprecedented access to hundreds of broadcast and cable TV stations (and this happened as even more choices became available with free ad-supported streaming TV ["FAST"] platforms such as PlutoTV had just emerged). 
















But in 1972, the U.S. TV business was still dominated by a few major broadcast networks (whose origins were in radio broadcast networks of the same names in the decades before), hence producer Burt Sugarman pitched a unique program which he called "Midnight Special" as a means for NBC to capitalize on a potential audience in a late-night time-slot. Mr. Sugarman said "Our aim was to reach for the 18-33 age bracket, the young married and daters who attend concerts and movies but don't watch much television".


NBC initially rejected the idea. None of the Big Three broadcast television networks had any recurring programming on after 1:00 am ET, and common practice by most network stations was to sign-off after the final program (some local affiliate stations ran old reruns after to entice viewers and advertisers alike). Despite a lack of competition in the late night time-slot, NBC was not interested…initially. 


But the NBC rejection led Mr. Sugarman to instead buy the air time for a premiere on his own as a brokered show, and he managed to persuade Chevrolet to become the show's first sponsor. The show premiered with ratings high enough for NBC to subsequently reconsider its original denial decision, and the network ultimately bought the program.


The Burt Sugarman's Midnight Special's original time slot was on Saturdays from 1:00–2:30 AM in the Eastern and Pacific time zones (Midnight to 1:30 AM Central and Mountain). Midnight Special ran from 1972–1981. By 1981, however, cable television had become commonplace in the U.S., and with it a number of cable-only television stations, including the original iteration of MTV: Music Television which was inaugurated in 1981 (although the cable network later shifted away from music in 1992 to cheap, low-quality "reality" show programming and has since abandoned music content completely). 


One of the things which made Burt Sugarman's Midnight Special is it had musical performances from anyone who was anyone in the music industry between 1972-81. Those musical performances were recorded on film rather than video, meaning the quality of the performances has held up better than lower-quality video recordings of the same era have without digital remastering. 


Alas, due to the many thorny issues with licensing of music, many of Midnight Special musical performances were presumed out of reach. But on YouTube, Mr. Sugarman has released a surprising number of the original Midnight Special musical performances which are worth revisiting (if you saw them originally), or seeing for the first time now because they are a truly unique window into the music of that era.


I have created the following YouTube playlist for a sampling of some of the memorable music performances which aired on Burt Sugarman's Midnight Special. Have a look (and listen!), the list can be seen below, or by visiting https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLfSNYYNU6TvEjN7WNM2ktU0Ohf5o-8ZWp&si=ALt_WrVs_uTjh5zd. 


March 27, 2024

Ford Motor Company 1976 "Starter" Tape (8-Track)

Once upon a time, when you bought a brand new automobile (including cars, trucks, vans, and minivans) from GM or Ford and likely also Chrysler (which was one of the successors to American Motors Corp. best known for its Jeep line of vehicles, preceded by Nash Motors, and as of 2024, was known as Stellantis N.V. which also includes Italy's Fiat, Germany's Opel, France's Citroën and some other auto brands), it was not unusual that if you spent enough money to buy an overpriced sound system from the car manufacturer, the company might also include a "starter" tape (at first they were 8-tracks, and then later, cassette tapes) to accompany their new vehicles in order to show-off their factory audio systems.

Not everyone who bought an auto-maker's sound system received the "starter" tapes, but some did. The starter tapes consisted of licensed popular music for intended for the auto dealers to be able to showcase their sound systems during test drives, and occasionally the auto dealers left the starter tapes in the cars for the new buyers.


Today's post comes from the Internet Archive's audio archive, and it was a "starter" tape from Ford Motor Company in 1976. Apparently, the original tape was found when an heir was clearing out their grandmother's following her death in 1997. The grandmother's husband (the grandfather — had been a salesman for a local Ford, and later Chevrolet dealer until his death in the late 1980's. The Ford "starter" tape was an 8-track from 1976. The music on the tape was classic seventies music (including from stations which played oldies at the time) and a fair amount of this music might have been broadcast on local radio stations at the time.


 


The track listings are as follows:

A1 Hues Corporation*– Rock The Boat
A2 Chet Atkins– Everybody's Talkin'
A3 Harold Wheeler Consort*– Feel Like Makin' Love
A4 Floyd Cramer– Soulful Strut
A5 Doc Severinsen– Touch Me In The Morning
B1 Perry Como– For All We Know
B2 Jack Jones / Susan George– We've Only Just Begun
B3 The Brothers– Never Can Say Goodbye
B4 Ed Ames– This Guy's in Love with You
B5 Henry Mancini– I Can't Stop Lovin' You
C1 Ray McKinley Director, New Glenn Miller Orch*– In The Mood
C2 Ray McKinley Director, New Glenn Miller Orch*– String Of Pearls
C3 Laurindo Almeida– Wave
C4 Perez Prado– Mambo Jambo
C5 Joao Donato*– Samba De Orfeu
C6 Chet Atkins / Arthur Fiedler, Boston Pops*– The Last Waltz
D1 Anita Kerr Singers*– Love Will Keep Us Together
D2 Morton Gould– Guantanemera
D3 Perry Como– The Way We Were
D4 Arthur Fiedler, Boston Pops*– Les Sylphides: Waltz In G-Flat, Op. 70, No. 1
D5 Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orch*– (J. Strauss Jr.) Voices Of Spring, Op. 410

Have a listen below, or by visiting https://archive.org/details/StereoForToday19768Track 

 

July 25, 2023

Ode to The Fifth Dimension

As a kid growing up in the seventies and eighties, I was exposed to plenty of Baby Boomer music leftovers. More than a few were force-fed to us, hence I had a feeling of indifference to a lot of that music. I didn't love it, nor did I hate it. It just was. Since a lot of music evokes a feeling, or memories for sense of time and place, I was unable to share those. I was just a kid. Much of the music did not have any underlying meaning to me at the time. But with the benefit of time, I can look back at some of the music with a different perspective. And while the song meaning for a 9 year-old child is never going to be the same as it would be for someone who was, say 18 years of age, and the old songs do evoke a sense of recollection now. There are plenty of old acts I'm still indifferent to (for example, I'm not enamored with the Rolling Stones), but there are others which I remember hearing on the AM radio in our kitchen or in my mother's old car and they now bring a smile.

One late 1960's musical which had a very successful run was the group known as the 5th Dimension. The five original members (hence the name 5th) were Billy Davis Jr., Florence La Rue, Marilyn McCoo, Lamonte McLemore, and Ronald Townson. The 5th Dimension came to define a musical genre later dubbed "champagne soul", so named because it was soul music that was more relevant to a pop music audience. The Fifth Dimension was from California, and were popular for the strength of their vocal harmonies. There have been some others known for their terrific vocal harmonies. One that comes to mind was a later group from Sweden which came of age in the seventies: ABBA. In 2018, blogged about ABBA (catch my post HERE for more) about that group's more recent plans. Both couples in ABBA were married, which made them a bit unusual.

The 5th Dimension did (sort-of) have a song about a romance between two of the singers in that group (the other group members had no romantic involvements that were public) entitled "Wedding Bell Blues" released in 1969. The single "Wedding Bell Blues" resonated because at the time, 5th Dimension member Marilyn McCoo was then engaged to another member of the group, Billy Davis Jr., although the couple had not decided on an actual wedding date. "Wedding Bell Blues" was not an original work by the 5th Dimension, but a cover of a release that came out from another artist a few years earlier in 1966, although the 5th Dimension modified it slightly in that Marilyn McCoo ads to the lyrics "Will you marry me, Bill?" to their cover. The 5th Dimension's cover did better than the original, as their version of the single quickly soared to #1 on the U.S. pop singles chart, spending three weeks there in November 1969 and also made one of the group's somewhat rare appearances on the U.S. R&B singles chart, where it peaked at #23. Most of the 5th Dimension's other hits were on the pop charts.

Between 1967 and 1973, 5th dimension charted with 19 Top 40 hits on Billboard's Hot 100, two of which – "Up – Up and Away" (#7, 1967) and the 1969 #1 "Medley: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)" — won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. But because the group really hit its success in the late 1960's, their worked and their act successfully carried them into the early-to-mid-1970's where they were contemporaries of the Carpenters, Chicago and the Captain & Tennille. The group's late sixties hits continued to and they received radio airplay into the next decade, but they had a few more chart-toppers then, too, including "One Less Bell to Answer" (#2, 1970), "Never My Love" (#12, 1971), and "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" (#8, 1972).

By 1975, McCoo and Davis had left the 5th Dimension and began performing as a duo. McCoo and Davis had married on July 26, 1969, and decided it was time to leave the group to do collective and individual projects. The duo had some early success with "Your Love" and a 1977 chart-topper "You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)", which won the duo their seventh Grammy award. Both also did solo recordings during that period. Marilyn McCoo was the first artist to record the song "Saving All My Love for You" in 1978, which was later covered by Whitney Houston to considerable success (greater than McCoo's version).

In summer 1977, McCoo and Davis became the first African American married couple to host a network TV series, "The Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. Show" on CBS.

McCoo's "Solid Gold" Gig

But Marilyn McCoo went on to serve a lengthy 1980's stint (she did it from 1981–84, and again from 1986–88; other fill-in hosts of the show included Dionne Warwick, Andy Gibb, a popular syndicated DJ known as Rick Dees [1984–85], original MTV host Nina Blackwood [1986–88], and Arsenio Hall [1986–88]) as host of a syndicated TV show known as "Solid Gold". The show also featured a co-host and puppeteer named Wayland Flowers who joined the series as a secondary comedic act with his puppet "Madame". It is relevant and useful to remember that this was at a time when cable TV had not yet penetrated vast portions of the U.S., so it was pre-MTV.

"Solid Gold" usually aired on Saturday evenings, and "Solid Gold" was one of several shows at the time that focused on the popular music of any given week; others included the long-running "American Bandstand" (hosted by Dick Clark, but the show's popularity was falling by that time) and "Soul Train" which was focused mainly on music from black artists. While "Solid Gold" shared some elements with those two rival programs, such as appearances by performers, it also stood out by including something the others did not: an in-house crew of professional dancers (who became known as the Solid Gold Dancers), and were known for for their disco-inspired outfits which were often metallic with sparkling beads and were sexually risque, that performed routines professionally choreographed to the week's featured songs.

McCoo's gig as host of "Solid Gold" was evidently a lucrative one for her; she hosted the show for 4 years, left the job for 2 years to pursue other solo projects, but returned to the show until it ended in 1988. As a musical performer herself, Marilyn McCoo had a dynamic on-screen presence on the show (frequently performing covers of then-popular songs herself) and came to be closely associated with the show.

By 1988 when "Solid Gold" ended, Marilyn McCoo was age 45, and she pursued acting. She appeared in several movies, including "Grizzly Adams and the Legend of Dark Mountain" (1999), "My Mom's a Werewolf" (1989) and several television movies, often playing herself. She also appeared on stage in productions of "Anything Goes", "A...My Name is Alice", "Man of La Mancha", and the Broadway production of "Show Boat" in 1995 through 1996. McCoo appeared together with husband Billy Davis. Jr. on "The Jamie Foxx Show" as Fancy's parents, the Monroes. Beyond movies and stage, she also appeared on a number of TV shows, including "The Love Boat" (1 episode, 1978), "The Fall Guy" (which was Lee Majors', better known as the "Six Million Dollar Man" follow-up show (1 episode, 1986), soap opera "Days of Our Lives" (various episodes from 1986–1987, and again in 2020), "Punky Brewster" (1 episode, 1988), and "Night Court" (1 episode, 1990).

But the champaign soul genre wasn't the end of the 5th Dimension or Davis/McCoo. They appeared on dozens of TV talk and variety shows of that era, including "Sonny & Cher" and "Donnie & Marie" as well as the daytime talk show circuit including of that era, including the Mike Douglas Show, the Merv Griffin Show and the Dinah! Shore show. I've created the following playlist to give you some idea of their talent.

https://youtu.be/niwt47gHtmM

June 5, 2023

United Colors of Benetton: A Global Giant in the 1980's Now in Family Hands, But Has Yet to Make Its Comeback

For anyone who came of age during the 1980's, it was kind of hard to avoid a certain Italy-based fashion-brand: Benetton. Benetton was an iconic brand in the 1980's, but since then, its fortunes have fallen and the company has since struggled to regain that position. For example, back in 2000, it ranked 75th in Interbrand's ranking of the best global brands; however, by 2002, Benetton had dropped out of the list. In 2012, Benetton Group was de-listed from the stock exchange and is now a fully owned subsidiary of the Benetton family company Edizione holding.

But back in the eighties, the company had a ubiquitous and controversial ad campaign which became known as "The United Colors of Benetton" and it had retail stores in major shopping malls across the U.S. What made the Italian brand stand out were two elements.


First, Benetton's ads were considered controversial at the time, which generated a lot of word-of-mouth discussion of the brand, and that placed Benetton on the cutting edge of culture. For example, some ads featured a newborn baby with the umbilical cord still intact, or an artistic reproduction of a man dying of AIDS. Benetton's ads also embraced multiculturalism before that was even a thing.








 

 

 

 

 



Some Benetton ads featured a mixed-race lesbian family, or a nun and a priest kissing – which pushed the boundaries of the era before the internet. Remember: at the time, the U.S. and Europe remained predominantly white (in fact, higher birth rates were happening among non-white populations at the time, which meant it was inevitable that multiculturalism would eventually happen, but conservative groups turned a blind-eye to that not-so-little demographic reality).

Second was the clothing itself. 

Benetton's clothing designs had become known for their bright, bold-colored sweaters and they were also very comfortable to wear. The company had particular expertise in knitwear, the original products were fun, easy-to-wear, and distinctly Italian. There was a certain flair to them, and they were soft and touchable in an age of polyester. Dyeing garments at the last minute meant that the company could be flexible and responsive, reacting quickly to changes in demand. If red was selling well, it could quickly ramp-up production of red knitwear. Or blue, green, yellow or any other color. But most importantly, they were colorful.




Also critical to the company's success at the time was its use of sophisticated inventory control and its organization of a network of suppliers, originally located nearby in northeastern Italy. Being able to track stock and know exactly what was selling and where meant that Benetton could plan the flow of supply to stores, while designing and producing clothes consumers wanted to buy.

But those innovations were eventually copied by other retailers and were no longer so groundbreaking by the time the mid-1990's arrived. Benetton eventually closed every store it had in the U.S., which was why when the company reported plans to open a pop-up store in Los Angeles in 2019 (see https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebeccasuhrawardi/2019/10/29/wondering-what-happened-to-benetton-theyre-plotting-stateside-growth-starting-in-la/ for more), that made news. Only then Covid-19 hit and those plans were derailed.

While the company remains in private hands in 2023, its much talked-about comeback has yet to happen in spite of reports that it was working on plans for doing so. Which means none of the company's revitalization have really succeeded so far. 

But its still worth acknowledging the company's iconic status during the 1980's. It really was everywhere. When the New York Times reported (see https://www.nytimes.com/1984/09/25/business/benetton-fashion-s-maverick.html for the scan) on the company on September 25, 1984, Benetton reportedly had 180 stores in North America, including at least one in every U.S. state. Eventually, every U.S. store closed.

To watch one of Benetton's TV ads from the mid-1980's, see below or visit https://youtu.be/xwyIKkV9ZkQ.

September 6, 2022

David Cassidy: Alcoholism Results in a Tragic End for a Seventies Teen Idol

One irony of this blog is that the background is essentially a copy of the pattern of the school bus turned family/band tour bus of the fictitious musical family known as "The Partridge Family". And yet, in spite of the design similarity, I had just a single post (see it at https://hgm.sstrumello.com/2012/06/cast-reunions-partridge-family.html for details) about that iconic TV show, and it was mostly about my design choice, with little about the show itself or the characters on the show (although I subsequently added a "P.S." to that post). This post is about the second member of his family's passing a number of  years ago. I never published this blog post, but felt the time might be right to do so now. 










Actor and singer David Cassidy passed away from multiple organ failure (specifically, liver and kidney; see his obituary HERE) on November 21, 2017. At the time of his death, he was age 67. However, David's passing seemed ominously more like history repeating itself rather than a complete surprise of a former teen idol's passing. David's own father Jack Cassidy, himself a famous Tony-winning stage and TV actor, had died almost exactly 41 years earlier in a house fire which was caused when his lit cigarette ignited the sofa he had passed out on due to intoxication. David Cassidy's own life, and his eventual death, looked eerily similar to his own father's. 

"The Partridge Family" was an American musical sitcom which ran ABC based very loosely on the real-life musical family known as The Cowsills. An Amazon Prime movie about The Cowsills called "Family Band: The Cowsills Story" is worth seeing if you're interested in the topic. At the very least, some of their famous songs might be familiar. 

David Cassidy's claim to fame was as a teenaged star of "The Partridge Family", which co-starred his step-mother, Academy-Award winner Shirley Jones, who rose to fame starring in film versions of several Broadway musicals including "Oklahoma!", "Carousel", and "The Music Man". On the show, David Cassidy played her fictitious son Keith Patridge (several other actors/actresses also co-starred in the show as siblings, including actress Susan Dey as sister Laurie, Danny Bonaduce who played brother Danny, while Suzanne Crough played sister Tracy and Brian Forster played brother Chris and actor Dave Madden starred as the band's manager Reuben Kincaid). At the time, there was really no such thing as "omnimedia", and Academy Award-winning performers like Shirley Jones generally did not cross-over to the humble medium of broadcast television until they had reached the end of their careers. However, Shirley Jones broke with that tradition, saying she thought that was ridiculous.  She had already won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing a vengeful prostitute in "Elmer Gantry" in 1960. But by the early 1970's, she viewed television as a useful, respectable way to earn a living acting while raising a family. 

In an interview with the Vancouver Sun, Jones said: "The problem with Partridge—though it was great for me and gave me an opportunity to stay home and raise my kids—when my agents came to me and presented it to me, they said if you do a series and it becomes a hit show, you will be that character for the rest of your life and your film career will go into the toilet, which is what happened. But I have no regrets." 

As a result of the show, her step-son David Cassidy became a teen idol by playing the role of Keith Partridge, the son of character Shirley Partridge (played by Shirley Jones), in the hit TV show "The Partridge Family" which ran on ABC from 1970 to 1974, although reruns of the show continued running in syndication for years after the show's original run. 

Famous Father, With Family a History of Alcohol Abuse 

Actor Jack Cassidy
David Cassidy was the son of the late actor and singer Jack Cassidy, who was himself a musical performer on Broadway, winning a Tony Award in 1964 for Best Performance by a Featured Actor for his role as Steven Kodaly in the play "She Loves Me". On television, during the 1950's and 1960's, Jack Cassidy became a very frequent guest star on TV, appearing in a wide variety of TV shows, including on "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour", in "Gunsmoke", "Bewitched", "Get Smart", "That Girl", "Hawaii Five-O", "Cannon", "McCloud" and also as a guest star on various TV game shows of the day, including the "Match Game". 

David Cassidy was a son from Jack Cassidy's first marriage to actress Evelyn Ward. However, Jack Cassidy was known to have problems with alcoholism (in addition to suffering from bipolar disorder), which contributed to the failure of his multiple marriages, and ultimately, his untimely death. Jack Cassidy married Shirley Jones on August 5, 1956. Together, they had three sons, Shaun, Patrick, and Ryan. As noted, David Cassidy was actually Jack's son from his first marriage to actress Evelyn Ward, hence Shirley Jones became his stepmother. Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones split-up in 1974 following Jack Cassidy's 1973 diagnosis as manic depressive and bipolar disorder. David Cassidy's birth mother Evelyn Ward died in 2012.

Jack Cassidy died rather tragically at just age 49 in an apartment fire in 1976. The forensics showed that the fire was caused by a cigarette which he was smoking at the time which ignited a naugahyde (synthetic leather) sofa he'd passed out on due to his intoxication. He was already divorced from his second wife Shirley Jones at the time, but it's believed that he came home drunk after going out to a gay bar in West Hollywood, where he was seen by many witnesses the evening before. 

Before his own death, son David Cassidy also went on the record acknowledging his own father as bisexual, citing personal accounts and reports, both anecdotal and published, of his father's known same-sex affairs, something that neither he nor his siblings knew about until after the father's death. But in her 2013 memoir, Shirley Jones also wrote that Jack Cassidy had several same-sex affairs during her marriage to him, including a notable one with famous composer and songwriter Cole Porter. 

However, Shirley Jones went on record in her biography about how her ex-husband Jack Cassidy tried to push the limits of her sexuality and she said that, combined with his alcohol abuse, depression and bipolar disorder ultimately led to her filing for divorce. 

(see https://www.huffpost.com/entry/shirley-jones_0_n_3647862 for more)

Anyway, David Cassidy then was able to take the fame he'd gained from his TV career (he starred in nearly 100 episodes of "The Partridge Family") and turn it into fame as a pop singer in the seventies. But as time passes, aging teen idols aren't guaranteed ongoing success once the spotlight is no longer following them. David Cassidy later said that he found his sitcom role to be very stifling, and that he had issues with the tabloid fame that "surrounded" his every move.

In May 1972, perhaps in an effort to alter his public persona which was so connected to the TV character Keith Partridge, David Cassidy appeared completely nude on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in a cropped Annie Leibovitz photo; among other things, although the accompanying Rolling Stone article also mentioned that Cassidy was riding around New York in the back of a car "stoned and drunk".














His gamble paid off initially; as he did get invited on the TV talk show circuit, and even landed a few guest roles on TV. There was also brief renewed interest in his vocal talent. But his underlying drinking problem never really disappeared, even with a risky gamble to shed his puritanical public persona by posing nude in a national magazine. For the record, the image and the article from that can be viewed online at: 

https://www.rollingstone.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/rs-28432-22563_lg.jpg

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/david-cassidy-naked-lunch-box-178864/

Failed Marriages and Alcoholism Reminiscent of His Father's 

David's own first two marriages — first to actress Kay Lenz and subsequently to horse trainer Meryl Tanz — ended in divorce after only a few years each. David Cassidy had a daughter, Katie, back in 1986 with fashion model Sherry Williams, but he acknowledged "I've never had a relationship with her. I was her biological father but I didn't raise her." David Cassidy also had a son named Beau, in 1991. However, his wife divorced him shortly before his death and took sole custody of Beau, due in no small part to his alcohol abuse. 

Jack Cassidy: More Gay than Bisexual, But Was Forced Into Failed Marriages to Women During the Era of "The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name"

David's failed marriages were also eerily reminiscent of his own father Jack Cassidy's own failed marriages. However, it was important to note that David did not confront a necessity to try and behave as a heterosexual as his father did when he was coming of age and working as an actor. His son David simply inherited his problems with alcohol abuse.

In the years preceding his death, David Cassidy was relying very heavily on things like performing in low-paying dinner theaters and concert tours around the country for income. That's a tough way to earn a living, and it didn't pay very well. But more concerning was that like his father, David was definitely showing signs he was suffering from alcoholism, while his public denials proved he was not truly addressing the problem. 

For example, like many alcoholics, David Cassidy repeatedly assured family members that he was attending AA and going to rehab, and that he was no longer drinking. But there were clear clues he was lying. For example, in one notable concert performance, David Cassidy could not even remember the lyrics of a song he'd been performing for nearly 50 years, and he also fell off the stage. Not long after, he was also arrested in Florida for DUI. Those are clear signs of a drinking problem. 

Then, David Cassidy publicly announced that he was living with dementia and was retiring from all further performing (his desire to stop performing could have been to avoid another humiliating incident where he forgot lyrics during a performance, then falling off stage). He said that his mother and grandfather had also suffered from dementia at the end of their lives, and that "I was in denial, but a part of me always knew this was coming." 

But that was also completely false. He was definitely not suffering from dementia, rather he was suffering from chronic alcoholism and denial, plus his memory lapses while performing were due to his drinking, not due to dementia. 

Eventually, it finally looked as if he was finally facing his demons. In a surprisingly candid interview with an A&E producer (see the interview at https://www.aetv.com/specials/david-cassidy-the-last-session for details), David Cassidy stated that he'd just met with his doctor, and he confirmed that he had liver disease, meaning his life had "changed dramatically." Cassidy added that he had been unconscious and near death for the first few days after the incident, he said since then, he claimed his memory had returned. Cassidy also acknowledged that there was "no sign of [dementia] at this stage of [his] life," adding that "[it] was complete alcohol poisoning – and the fact is, I lied about my drinking." Cassidy said, "You know, I did it to myself, man. I did it to myself to cover up the sadness and the emptiness."

Sadly, the A&E interview would be his last. David Cassidy passed away at the age of 67, on November 21, 2017. At the time, he was awaiting a liver transplant; as his own liver was so damaged from cirrhosis, but his doctors were unable to find a suitable, eligible liver from a deceased donor before he died. 

Impressively, as I write this, David's step-mother Shirley Jones is 88 years old as of 2022, and she shows no apparent sign of illness beyond simply her age. Since 2015, however, she has been a widow. For 38 years, she was married to Marty Ingels, himself the star of dozens of TV sitcoms in the 1960's, and he was also known as a bit of a comedian, until Marty died of a heart attack. Her three other sons with David Cassidy are still alive. Their marriage seemed to work, even though they drove one another crazy from time to time.














In 2020, Shirley Jones finally opened up to the celebrity magazine Closer (see https://www.closerweekly.com/posts/shirley-jones-is-grateful-to-have-known-stepson-david-cassidy/ for detail) about David Cassidy and his passing: 

"The idea that the little boy I came to know and love as my stepson would've turned 70 [in 2020] is astonishing to me," Shirley Jones told Closer. "And I am grateful for all the wonderful times we shared together." 

While he was alive, David was equally fond of Shirley (who married his father, actor Jack Cassidy, and played his mother on "The Partridge Family"). He was quoted as saying that Shirley "taught me so much about how to deal with fame and success," he said. "She's one of the best human beings I've ever known." He also became very close with her sons with Jack (who were David's half-brothers): Shaun, Patrick and Ryan.

June 3, 2022

Creem: The Alternative Music Magazine Which Gained Readership Among the Trendy

I follow a guy on Twitter called DrPopCultureBGSU from Bowling Green, Ohio. He happens to share a TON of interesting pop culture images. The other day, he shared a picture of seventies pop music idol Andy Gibb (initially, I wrote Barry Gibb which was a mistake ... sorry!) wearing a muscle-shirt (even though he was a skinny kid who didn't really have very big muscles) with an image that struck me: Creem magazine. 



Creem magazine was an alternative to Rolling Stone magazine or Billboard back in the seventies with a somewhat provocative title that evoked porn during a period when even THAT was still pretty taboo in mainstream culture, only the magazine's music coverage was unique in that it covered hard-rock, punk, alternative and new wave music which Rolling Stone and Billboard did not dare touch until those bands had already made it to the Billboard top 40. Creem began in 1969 (the year I was born), and continued publication until 1989. Its peak was arguably during the seventies.

 




 



I was listening to groups like Blondie, The Ramones, and Martha Davis and The Motels, or if I was feeling up to something a bit harder with more guitars, Iron Maiden or Def Leppard, while Rolling Stone was covering my parents' (Baby Boomer) music like Bob Dylan and James Taylor which we kids felt was more of a sedative.

Indeed, Creem was based in Detroit which most people believe gave it an editorial edge, hence its musical coverage was different from a New York or Los Angeles-based magazine likely was. As a result, Creem was favored by many people who didn't really like or consider reading mainstream musical coverage. Creem was edgy. The magazine covers were provocative, and article headlines were irreverant.

I also grew up on a street where the litter-bugs of the world literally threw Creem and other magazines out their car windows, so as kids we got to see Creem and read it. Initially, it looked like porn, but when I actually read it, I was impressed with Creem's musical coverage because it covered bands I actually listened to on college radio stations in the seventies into the early eighties. Creem spoke to me in a way that mainstream music magazines did not. Rolling Stone was for our parents, yet Creem was listening to what I listened to.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently, Creem magazine is enjoying something of a resurgence thanks to a hit 2020 Netflix documentary called "CREEM: America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine". The trailer for that film can be seen below, or at https://youtu.be/GUcCMNRTZpI:



Perhaps as noteworthy as the documentary, the old magazine now has a newly available digital archive where the old issues can be read again online (find it at https://archive.creem.com/ to read some of Creem's old coverage).

Which brings me to the Andy Gibb Creem picture. Sure, Andy Gibb was a teen idol at the time, but he was also an image of youth, and no mainstream music magazine was focused on youth at the time, they were all aging with Baby Boomers. They were becoming Yuppies.

The revival of Creem magazine was a passion product of JJ Kramer, the son of the magazine's founder, the late Barry Kramer.  The original Creem magazine ceased publication in 1989. I was in college in the Boston area at the time. There were still other (now defunct) publications, such as Boston-based newspaper The Phoenix (and its radio station WFNX which sadly, today, is a lame country station which I would never listen to) which I read instead of Creem because it had news of bands which were coming to and/or playing around Boston at the time.

Anyway, Creem's resurgency is having it's day in the sun. From the Creem documentary website:

Capturing the messy upheaval of the '70s just as rock was re-inventing itself, the film explores Creem Magazine's humble beginnings in post-riot Detroit, follows its upward trajectory from underground paper to national powerhouse.

Then it bears witness to its imminent demise following the tragic and untimely deaths of its visionary publisher, Barry Kramer, and its most famous alum and genius clown prince, Lester Bangs, a year later.

Fifty years after publishing its first issue, "America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine" remains a seditious spirit in music and culture.

 

Be sure to catch the Netflix documentary "CREEM: America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine". It will be an interesting flashback to a time when music journalism was still in print.

August 31, 2021

Under the Covers with Sid n Susie (Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs)

In the 1990's, Gen X alternative rock artist Matthew Sweet gained fame for a song which peaked at #2 known as "Girlfriend". Matthew Sweet has some history of covering successful music ... successfully. Back in 1994, he was part of an ensemble of artists to record a track for a tribute album entitled "If I Were A Carpenter" (mentioned HERE). He sang the single "Let Me Be The One" on that successful album of covers — one which led to a temporary resurgence of Carpenters music at the time. While he continued recording original new music, his subsequent work never achieved quite the same amount of commercial success as "Girlfriend" did in 1995. Still, he had established a name for himself as a credible musician. 

Then, about 15 years ago (around the year 2006), Matthew Sweet hooked up (in more ways than one) with Bangles singer/guitarist Susanna Hoffs. The Bangles achieved commercial success of their own back in the eighties with several chart-topping singles, including: "Walk Like An Egyptian" (#1, 1986), Manic Monday (#2, 1986), "Hazy Shade Of Winter" (#2, 1988) and "Eternal Flame" (#1, 1989) to name a few.

The couple (Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs) shared professional (and personal) chemistry together at the time. The pair also achieved moderate commercial success as a musical duo on a Shout! Factory triage of albums. They had good vocal harmonies which worked pretty well together, combined with a quirky selection of music from successive decades starting with the sixties and culminating in the eighties. They nicknamed themselves as Sid n Susie (if you examine the album cover, note that "Sid n Susie" is carved in the tree of that image). However, when the couple's personal relationship ended, so did their professional collaboration.

Still, the duo's albums were named "Under The Covers" Volumes 1, 2, and 3 (the term "Covers" being an acknowledgement that the tracks are entirely covers of music originally recorded by other artists, and perhaps a tacit acknowledgement that the two were sleeping together at the time). Volume 1 was sixties music, volume 2 was seventies music and volume 3 was eighties music.
















Today, I will focus on Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs "Under The Covers" Volume 2 album from Sid n Susie. Their Volume #2 album has some pretty credible covers of the following songs originally released during the seventies. The links below are to the covers by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (aka Sid n Susie):

Shout! Factory provided the following synopsis of the album, the text of which I have provided here:

"Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs delighted rock and pop fans when they teamed up as Sid n Susie to record an album's worth of '60s classics called Under the Covers, Vol. 1. In the three years since, people have continued to ask us when Vol. 2 will come out and what it'll contain. Well, the wait is over: Under the Covers, Vol. 2 finds our heroes moving forward through rock's back pages to take on a other 'nother decade: the '70s.

From the power-pop like The Raspberries and Big Star to the soft-rock of Carly Simon and Bread, and from the classic-rock of John Lennon and Derek and the Dominos to the prog-rock of Yes, Sid n Susie offer a pretty thorough survey of the state of rock, just before the Sex Pistols."

One of the reasons I particularly like Sid n Susie's (Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs) covers of their song selection is because the duo did not really attempt to creatively re-imagine or modernize the sound of the original songs they were covering, therefore the songs sound very familiar and are differentiated mainly by the unique vocals of the singers who are covering the songs. I find covers like those to be more worthy of my listening to them than when an artist changes a song. In fact, I rather enjoyed the covers!

I won't bother with a playlist of all of the tracks on "Under The Covers" Volume 2 here. But I have created a playlist of four of the songs I rather enjoyed listening to from the album, including "You're So Vain" (originally by Carly Simon, #1 1973), "I've Seen All Good People" (originally by Yes, #40 1971), "Hello It's Me" (originally by Todd Rundgren, #5 1973) and "Maggie May" (originally by Rod Stewart, #21 1971). Try listening to the original songs by the original artists, followed by the Sid n Susie covers back-to-back and then make your assessment!

My playlist can be watched below, or by visiting https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLfSNYYNU6TvH7ZDcGLKR0LQg2NbcI0-Tw

 

August 10, 2021

"Fantasy Island" Reboot Premiers on Fox Broadcast TV Tues, Aug 10, 2021

When it comes to TV from the mid-1970's to the mid-1980's, for those who weren't yet old enough to be out tearing up the disco floors a la "Saturday Night Fever",  Saturday nights usually meant spending the evening at home watching ABC television from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM. ABC aired two of Aaron Spelling and former Screen Gems' top TV execs Leonard Goldberg's big TV hits: "The Love Boat" which ran from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM, followed by another hit known as "Fantasy Island". My recollections of those days are fond; an older cousin introduced me to the shows as a way of living out their own fantasies — sort of.

Both shows were also known as big work opportunities for many out-of-work actors, or those who simply wanted extra paid work. Both shows were similar in that they each ran for an hour time-slot, which is quite rare for non-movies or live sporting events. However, they both were quite popular. That's partially because there were only 3 broadcast TV networks plus PBS television and perhaps some independent stations which showed old re-runs from the fifties and sixties. Cable as we now know it did not exist, and streaming or on-demand content was an even more far-fetched idea.

The original "Fantasy Island" ran for seven seasons from 1978 to 1984 which is pretty impressive. As noted, the show was co-produced by the late Aaron Spelling. These days, the old show doesn't air very much on the re-run circuit (a few networks still run the show, but often very late at night, so its possible to set your DVR's) because the show originally fit into an hour time slot and the shows are simply too long to squeeze into a rerun circuit. Alternatively, it can be streamed on one (or more) of the free, ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) stations including the Roku channel, IMDB (now FreeVee), Tubi, Crackle or PlutoTV. I know I've seen it on one or more of them.

Still, the basic premise was that wealthy and/or well-connected island guests could visit the island and have one fantasy they'd always dreamed about fulfilled. But the guests' fantasies seldom turned out quite the way the guests envisioned. Usually, the fantasies taught some kind of lesson.

To be sure, the original "Fantasy Island" was revered for its cast, most notably the late Ricardo Montalbán and the late Hervé Villechaize (perhaps better known for his starring role as a villain in the 1974 James Bond film "The Man with the Golden Gun" which starred the late Roger Moore as James Bond). The actors were also known for their distinctive accents which lent some mystery to their presence on screen. Mr. Montalbán had a Spanish accent, whereas Villechaize had a distinctive French accent (even though his ethnicity was Filipino, he was raised in France, hence his French accent).

Ricardo Montalbán and Hervé Villechaize

While both series have been released on DVD, unless one borrows the discs from their public library, that's an option which is rather costly for someone merely seeking a walk down memory lane. But for those people, today, free streaming is indeed a viable option.

Of the ABC Saturday night line-up during the late seventies to mid-eighties, today, viewers have the option to watch an entire subchannel dedicated to "The Love Boat" on the free ad-supported streaming network/app known as Pluto TV https://pluto.tv/en/live-tv/the-love-boat which is owned by Viacom CBS. There, dozens of episodes of that long-running show run back-to-back all day, every day. Episodes are also available for viewing on-demand.

But reruns of "Fantasy Island" are not available on Pluto TV. The reason is because the ownership rights were not Viacom's (which owns Pluto TV). However, streaming viewers can now watch reruns of "Fantasy Island" on the rival commercial-sponsored free streaming network (which competes with Viacom's Pluto TV) known as Tubi TV https://tubitv.com/series/300006868/fantasy-island-1977-series which means if you wish to watch the two shows back-to-back as you did back in the late seventies, simply switch from Pluto TV to Tubi TV on your Roku device. Selected episodes from the first, second and third seasons of the original version of "Fantasy Island" are also available free at Hulu. 

Readers may recall that I previously blogged about "The Love Boat" — or at least the outcome of the boat itself — (see HERE) and that isn't the subject of today's post. 

But "Fantasy Island" (which I previously covered HERE) to address that after years, the series had finally made it to DVD, hence the content had therefore been digitized) warrants mention because the old show is now being rebooted and will air on Fox broadcast television.  The first episode of the rebooted "Fantasy Island" will air tonight (Tuesday, August 10, 2021) on Fox broadcast TV at 10:00 PM.

Fantasy Island 2021 Reboot

Of relevant note is that in 2018, Fox sold its entire entertainment division (which included broadcast television) to Walt Disney Corp. Disney was not at all interested in buying Fox's bogus cable "news" division. Part of the reason is those channels no longer earn money from advertising generally, but instead relies on revenues from cable carrier fees. With the acquisition of Fox Entertainment, Disney solidified itself as a true media giant (it already owns ABC), competing with the likes of Viacom CBS and NBC Universal. That effectively left Rupert Murdoch and his kids cash-rich (reportedly more than $52 billion) but are now media poor. Few Americans even care what the fossilized old Australian immigrant got from the deal. But the change in ownership brought newfound creativity and thinking to programming decisions for Fox.

Still, if I had to speculate on which of the ABC Saturday night line-up from the mid-seventies to mid-eighties would get a reboot, I didn't envision it would be  Fantasy Island". Part of the reason is because the original "Fantasy Island" was a little far-fetched. 

The original "Fantasy Island" was a fantasy drama television series which was created by Gene Levitt. As noted, it aired on ABC from 1977 to 1984. The series starred Ricardo Montalbán as the mysterious Mr. Roarke and Hervé Villechaize as his assistant, Tattoo. Guests were granted so-called "fantasies" on the island ... for a price. In other words, the guests all received whatever their lifelong fantasies were, but the fantasies that the guests envisioned seldom turned out quite the way they had expected.

There had been discussions of rebooting the old show over the years, but few materialized. In 1998, there was one ill-fated attempt to use "Fantasy Island" as the basis for a horror movie, but it bombed because it wasn't a good concept.

"Fantasy Island" Reboot Is Unique: Women Are Behind It

However, a "Fantasy Island" series reboot was greenlit on December 2020, slated for a 2021 release on Fox broadcast television. The series will be a co-production between Sony Pictures Television and Fox Entertainment. In April 2021, it was announced that Kiara Barnes and John Gabriel Rodriguez had joined the main cast of the series. That same month, it was also announced that Roselyn Sánchez had joined the cast of the series as Elena Roarke, who plays the granddaughter of the late Mr. Roarke, and as already noted, the rebooted "Fantasy Island" series is scheduled to premiere on August 10, 2021 — which is tonight!

The series, which is not necessarily anticipated to be a permanent addition, rather it serves as a fill-in during a period in which new TV content is largely absent from the airwaves other than the horrible and tired "reality" shows such as "Big Brother". The "Fantasy Island" reboot might be a compelling addition with a creative, intelligent reboot attempt. 

More than 37 years after Ricardo Montalbán finished his run as Mr. Roarke, the debonair concierge of an enigmatic, wish-fulfilling beach resort in the Pacific Ocean, "Fantasy Island" is returning once more to network television. But this time, the latest iteration arrives on Fox with women on both sides of the camera.

The "Fantasy Island" reboot was created by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain, and the new "Fantasy Island" premieres on Tuesday. It centers on Elena Roarke played by Roselyn Sánchez, who is a grandniece of Montalbán's Mr. Roarke who has left her life in New York behind to become the sophisticated steward of the island, where she sates her guests' greatest desires but teaches them that what they want isn't necessarily what they need.

The show reportedly "delves into the 'what if' questions, both big and small, that keep us awake at night," per its official logline. "Each episode will tell emotional, provocative stories about people who walk in with a desire, but end up reborn to themselves through the magical realism of Fantasy Island."

Roselyn Sánchez told the New York Times (see https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/09/arts/television/fantasy-island-returns-roselyn-sanchez.html for the article) "We did watch 'Fantasy Island' as kids and we have such strong memories of sitting in our respective houses and watching Mr. Roarke and his sidekick, Tattoo [played by Hervé Villechaize]," said Sarah Fain, who serves as a showrunner along with Craft. "But we loved the show so much that it very quickly felt like a really incredible opportunity."

In Sánchez, Elizabeth Craft said the creators had found someone who they believe has the perfect combination of "humor, warmth, compassion and natural authority." For the Puerto Rican actress, the show, which was shot on the island, offered a chance to reunite with relatives and many of the same crew members she had worked with at the start of her career.

The production also gave Puerto Rico a much-needed financial boost. "It's really important to the island, to them and to me," said Ms. Sánchez, who opted to postpone her directorial feature debut in favor of shooting the 10-episode first season of "Fantasy Island" in her homeland.

In a phone interview from Puerto Rico, Sánchez talked with the New York Times about the pressure that comes with stepping into the shoes — and iconic white suit — of Ricardo Montalbán, and Latino representation in Hollywood. But she said that the premise of the show is pretty much the same as the original. 

"It's about wish fulfillment; it's about growing as a human being; it's about making dreams come true. Guests come to the island — they have a desire, they have a dream, whatever it is — then the island helps them navigate through a journey that has magic and can fulfill them.

But the fact that the lead role is a female, that's a testament to how the showrunners wanted to do something that is a little more current. Directors, a lot of heads of departments, showrunners — they're all female, behind the camera and in front of the camera. They took some creative liberties that are going to elevate the material, especially the fact that you have minorities in charge as leads. It's keeping up with the current times."

The New York Times asked Ms. Sánchez: "In promotional videos you mentioned that you were a fan of the original. What are your most vivid memories of watching the show as a girl in Puerto Rico?"

Her response was: "We had [the original "Fantasy Island"] in Spanish here. I was born in 1973, and the show was in the '70s, so I was very young. But that moment of the Tattoo character ringing the bell and saying, "El avión, el avión" ["The plane, the plane"] is very vivid.

You have to understand that Ricardo Montalbán, for Latinos, he was like royalty. Just the fact that he was a leading man carrying his own show, and he did it so well, and it was so successful. Having the opportunity to portray pretty much that character and continue the Roarke legacy, it’s a dream, and I do recognize it's a  responsibility. But it's one that I'm embracing with all my heart, and I hope people enjoy me as much as they enjoy him."

Fox has a website for the series (for the time-being, anyway) at https://www.fox.com/fantasy-island/. Over the past few weeks, Roselyn Sánchez been on the promotional circuit for the reboot of "Fantasy Island". However, Fox television has produced a short commercial, followed by a half-hour deep dive into the reboot. You can watch those below, or on YouTube by visiting https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLfSNYYNU6TvEPe5VuJ23fimwDy92WSJCz 

 

May 10, 2021

New TV Network Called "Rewind TV" Will Target Gen X Viewers

Readers of this blog may recall that I've chronicled the emergence of new, broadcast television stations which have taken over the entertainment space of the old TV show rerun circuit once dominated by Viacom CBS's TV Land cable network (itself evolving from the evening schedule of the old Nickelodeon network, with adult programming aimed at filling airtime in the evenings when their parents were more likely to tune in to a content it branded as "Nick at Nite"). Plus, TV Land itself has evolved in recent years with more original programming, hence it no longer relies exclusively on old reruns as it once did. One new TV channel I blogged about was NBC Universal's Cozi TV which launched in January 2013 (catch my blog post about that station when it launched HERE for more). 

Antenna TV happens to be the Nexstar Media Group's multicast network that launched on January 1, 2011 and was originally begun by Tribune Broadcasting which Nextstar acquired in 2019. Antenna TV currently airs in 151 broadcast TV markets across the U.S. reaching 93% of TV households, is reportedly launching a secondary companion network focusing on series from the 1980's and early 1990's. Officially, it will be called Rewind TV, a digital subchannel offering a slate of classic television sitcom hits from the 1980's and 1990's. More info about Rewind TV can be found at www.rewindtv.com and the station will launch starting on September 1, 2021 in select markets including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The press release can be viewed at https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210426005123/en/. Whether it secures cable carriage remains to be seen; given that greedy cable companies are seeking a payout, its unclear if the network is ready or able to secure coverage from major cable networks, too.

Currently, Antenna TV is a mixture of older TV programming from the 1950's to the 1990's aimed at the Baby Boomer audience, but the new Rewind TV will be focused on somewhat newer content which might resonate with people who came of age during the 1980's. Its a very similar station which targets Generation X and older Millennials rather than Baby Boomers who recall TV content from the 1950's and 1960's. The company has licensed the rights to air shows on both channels if it chooses to do so.

Rewind TV will air several series currently found in the Antenna TV library, but the new channel has also acquired the rights to broadcast a few new sitcoms including "The Drew Carey Show" (he is now the permanent host of the TV game show "The Price Is Right"), "Suddenly Susan", "The John Larroquette Show" and "Caroline in the City" which is coming after the new network launches. "Suddenly Susan" is planned for Rewind TV in 2022. "The Drew Carey Show" and "The John Larroquette Show" are totally new to the company, and will start airing in 2022 along with "Suddenly Susan". Joining "Caroline in the City" in September 2021 on Rewind TV are some Antenna TV favorites including "227", "Becker", "Dear John", "Designing Women", "Diff'rent Strokes", "The Facts of Life", "Family Ties", "Growing Pains", "Head of the Class", "The Hogan Family", "Mork & Mindy", "Murphy Brown", "My Two Dads", "NewsRadio", "Sabrina The Teenage Witch", "Who's the Boss", and "Wings" which all will migrate over to Rewind TV starting in September 2021. Some of these series are currently not airing on Antenna TV even though the media group has licensed the shows.

Nexstar's original companion digital network, Antenna TV, will continue to air some of the more popular programming from the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's, including weeknight reruns of "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" as well as TV sitcoms such as "Three's Company", "Bewitched" and "The Jeffersons". It is unclear how the channel known as Antenna TV will evolve as more and more of the Baby Boomer population die off, or if it simply rebrands itself to accommodate younger groups. Regardless, the "antenna" brand may not resonate with younger age groups, hence the new brand of Rewind TV may be the direction we see things going. It may sound morbid to some, but the reality is that in spite of increased longevity, Baby Boomers are dying simply due to their now elderly status. According to a Baby Boomer death clock (in fact, the site maintains death clocks for all generations, not limiting itself exclusively to Baby Boomers), approximately 27% of the population born between the years of 1946 and 1964 has already passed away.

Multicast networks have emerged following the TV industry's transition to high-definition signals and the corresponding increase in digital capacity according to Deadline Hollywood. The networks, most of which are owned by local TV station groups, can be viewed over the air without a pay-TV subscription, and some reach more than 90% of U.S. households. Popular multi-casters include MeTV, Bounce, Laff, and the recently reactivated Court TV

"This year marks Antenna TV's 10-year anniversary, and it continues growing and finding new audiences," said Sean Compton, President of Nexstar Media Inc.'s Networks Division. "To complement Antenna TV's strong following with Baby Boomers, we created Rewind TV to give Gen X viewers a network dedicated to their own nostalgic comedy classics."

Of course, Rewind TV is now competing with a new crop of new internet-powered streaming services including Viacom CBS' PlutoTV, NBC Universal's Peacock, and Fox Entertainment's Tubi platforms, all of which offer free, advertiser-sponsored content. Some, such as Pluto TV, has sub-channels of their own dedicated to some of the very same shows available all day, anytime (such as "Three's Company", "Wings" and "Family Ties"). 

Still, the renewed focus on younger generations is probably long overdue. 

Many younger viewers, for example, will simply change the station if they see a black and white program airing. Although Gen Xers grew up watching old reruns of sixties TV shows, including several which ran during broadcast TV's transition from B&W to color (such as "Gilligan's Island", "I Dream of Jeannie", "Bewitched", "The Andy Griffith Show" and others), they also witnessed the colorization of such shows after-the-fact (a number by Atlanta-based media mogul Ted Turner which was considered controversial at the time), but many now prefer the newly colorized episodes to the B&W versions of the same episodes.

But Rewind TV will focus mainly on content from the eighties, hence all of it will be in color. Some series slated for Rewind TV, such as the inaugural show that starred Robin Williams known "Mork & Mindy" actually premiered in the late 1970's but is better remembered as an eighties show since it ended its run in 1982, but has been slated to air on Rewind TV rather than on Antenna TV.

In any event, Gen X TV viewers in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago will be able to tune into Rewind TV starting in September 2021, and more stations are expected to open around the country starting next year. Rewind TV can be found online at RewindTV.com.

May 1, 2021

Sequel to "The Flintstones" to be Called "Bedrock" Coming Soon

Many  recall the original Hanna-Barbera animated TV show known as "The Flintstones". One element which made "The Flintstones" so unique (at the time) was that it was the first-ever animated series to hold a prime-time slot on broadcast television. "The Flintstones" also proved to be the most financially successful and longest-running animated show on network TV for more than three decades, until "The Simpsons" which debuted in 1989 and eventually outlasted "The Flintstones". "The Flintstones" was also one of the most successful cartoons to run in syndication.

The short description of "The Flintstones" is that it was about the misadventures of two modern-day Stone Age families, the Flintstones and the Rubbles. "The Flintstones" originally ran for six seasons and over 150 episodes on ABC between 1960 and 1966. The series followed the misadventures of the titular modern Stone Age family, comprised of Fred, Wilma, Pebbles, and family pet Dino. The show also heavily featured the Flintstones’ neighbors, the Rubbles — Fred’s best friend Barney, Wilma’s best friend Betty, and their son, Bamm-Bamm.

In fact, the show had basically the same plot as several successful TV sitcoms which preceded it, including "The Honeymooners" which ran from 1955 to 1956, except that it was animated and set in the stone age. But it was about two couples, the wives were friends by virtue of them being neighbors, and the husbands both worked in working-class, blue-collar professions typical of many ordinary Americans at the time the show aired, and the couples eventually started families at the same time, too.

According to the entertainment industry news outlet Variety (see https://variety.com/2021/tv/news/flintstones-sequel-series-fox-elizabeth-banks-pebbles-1234961373/ for the original article), a sequel series to "The Flintstones" is now planned and set to begin production. Animation is officially in development at Fox with Elizabeth Banks attached to star and executive produce the new show. The project will be written and co-executive produced by Lindsay Kerns, and Max Handelman will executive produce via Ms. Banks' Brownstone Productions, with the company's Dannah Shinder co-executive producing. Warner Bros. Animation and Fox Entertainment will produce the show. Brownstone is currently under a TV overall deal at Warner Bros. The new animated series, to be titled "Bedrock," is supposedly set some 20 years after the events of the original series. Elizabeth Banks will voice an adult Pebbles Flintstone in addition to executive producing the new animated show. 

Variety reported "In the show, Fred Flintstone is on the brink of retirement and 20-something Pebbles is embarking on her own career. As the Stone Age gives way to a shiny and enlightened new Bronze Age, the residents of Bedrock will find this evolution harder than a swing from Bamm-Bamm's club."

In fact, the timing of "Bedrock" being set 20 years from the original series does take some creative license. The reason is because the final first-run episode of the original series known as "The Flintstones" aired more then 55 years ago (as of 2021), which means that Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble should have retired long ago. In fact, all of the original vocal talents of the original show passed away more than a few years ago. Perhaps the most famous of the vocal talent on "The Flintstones" was Mel Blanc, who died in 1989 (he voiced the character of Barney Rubble on "The Flintstones," although he had a long history in animation, including for the original cast of Bugs Bunny of "Looney Tunes" fame which preceded "The Flintstones"). Mr. Blanc died in 1989 and was buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The epitaph on his headstone reads "That's all, folks!" (which was the tag line of every one of his Warner Brothers cartoons) with a subheading of "Man of 1000 Voices".

While original episodes of "The Flintstones" ended more than a half-century ago, for years after the show's original run ended, there were more than a dozen spinoffs of "The Flintstones" under the production company Hanna-Barbera (14 in total), which even included one called "The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show" which ran as a first-run, Saturday morning show on CBS from 1971-1972 and followed the characters of Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm-Bamm Rubble as they faced problems growing up in the boring little town of Bedrock. No longer toddlers, the two were supposedly then teenagers in 1972 attending Bedrock High School and also getting their first jobs.

As noted, that means in theory, the lead characters of "The Flintstones" should arguably have retired years ago (presuming retirement ages generally accepted in the U.S.). But stranger and more creative things have been done in television shows.

Since the deaths of the legendary animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (Hanna died in 2001, and Barbera died in 2006), a company which remained active (at least as consultants) until 2001, although I believe the archived productions of the successful cartoon shop are currently now officially in the hands of Warner Brothers as the owners. Ms. Banks was originally in discussions to produce a new series called "Bedrock" at WB Animation in 2019, but no network for the show had been identified to carry the show at the time.

Since then, the options to get shows to audiences have expanded well beyond the original broadcast networks and cable to include a steadily-growing number of viable streaming outlets. Now, the latest news is that "Bedrock" is officially in development at Fox, not Warner Brothers, although Banks is under contract with Warner Brothers, so its officially being produced by both entertainment companies. The presence of so many new streaming outlets practically guarantees there will be some type of audience for the new show because the traditional network gatekeepers now have far less control to kill a project as the traditional broadcast and cable networks once did. That said, the underlying economics for many streaming outlets is different, which also impacts the outcome of success and the ability to produce a new show.

Variety reports that Fox Entertainment's free streaming platform Tubi https://tubitv.com/ has acquired the AVOD (the acronym for Advertising Video on Demand) rights to all six seasons of the original series "The Flintstones," which will begin streaming on the Tubi platform starting May 1, 2021. That also increases the odds that "Bedrock" could ultimately find a home on that particular streaming outlet, although the producers do have a right to shop the property around to see if they can find outlets willing to broadcast (and pay for it) it to a much wider audience. Tubi has not seen quite as much original content as rivals, but is functionally similar to the Viacom CBS Pluto TV https://pluto.tv/ streaming outlet, mainly for Fox entertainment properties and some licensed content. Among Tubi's licensed content includes Total TeleVision productions' (and that WAS the way it was written), which is currently owned by DreamWorks Classics, but was responsible for such sixties cartoons (produced on behalf of General Mills cereals) such as Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo, Klondike Kat and Commander McBragg, among others, all of which ran heavily in syndication during the seventies since TV stations needed kid-friendly content to run in the early mornings and after school). So far, Fox has not yet been able to capitalize on its Tubi platform (plus it has little name-recognition), and its possible that having a high-profile recognized entertainment property such as "The Flintstones" and a reboot called "Bedrock" could help Fox's struggling free streaming platform attract audiences. Currently, Tubi has access to some of Total Television's cartoon properties such as "Underdog," but isn't really seen as a go-to destination for most streaming viewers, whereas Pluto TV and NBC Universal's Peacock TV https://www.peacocktv.com/ have much more name-recognition ... and viewership.

As the guys in the following YouTube video rightly observe (or visit at https://youtu.be/AWqnlc99IZ4), "Bedrock" could still end up being a trainwreck, but its got some credible talent working on it, plus the basis for the show is unique enough and credible enough that it has potential to work.

The good news is we shall soon see a new animated series starring the cast of "The Flintstones" (except that new vocal talent had to be found since all of the original vocal talent have died). Its in production now. If I had to guess, I'd say the odds are good that we may see "Bedrock" on the Tubi streaming outlet unless they can find a more deep-pocketed media outlet to pick the show up.

Author P.S., July 17, 2024: TV Line reported that the animated sequel series to Hanna-Barbera's successful prime-time cartoon series from the 1960's known as "The Flintstones" which was to be called "Bedrock" is no longer in development at Fox, although Fox is reportedly open to redeveloping the project at a later date. Stephen Root and Amy Sedaris were reportedly slated to voice Fred and Wilma, with Nicole Byer as Betty, Joe Lo Truglio as Barney and Manny Jacinto as Bamm-Bamm.