“Incredible Inman’s Pop Culture Potluck” deals with movie and TV history. To make a suggestion about a subject or topic, please visit our Incredible Inman page on Facebook.

Music: Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Additional music: bensound.com

Opening voice work: Marianne Zickuhr


Episode 44: Life According to “Hey, Arnold!”

My daughter Nora joins me to talk about what was probably her (and my) favorite Nickelodeon animated series when she was a kid — “Hey, Arnold!” We talk about the show’s philosophy of diversity as strength and review some memorable episodes, including “The Stoop Kid,” “The Pigeon Man,” “Ghost Bride” and “Helga on the Couch,” detailing the life of’ Arnold’s truest love/fiercest enemy, Helga Pataki.

Episode 43: It’s the “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” Halloween Special!

My daughter Nora joins me to talk about her favorite episodes of the spooky Nickelodeon series from the 1990s — a show that helped trigger her lifelong love of scary movies. We talk about episodes involving everything from a kid trapped in a dollhouse to a haunted movie theatre to a kid who kills the school bully to Zeebo the clown. Join us — IF YOU DARE!


Episode 42: Elvis Presley — Year One

Elvis Presley wasn’t born in 1956, but his career was. He began the year barely known outside the south, but under the management of Col. Tom Parker he spent the year making his mark on TV variety shows hosted by Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan; and his recordings for RCA, beginning with “Heartbreak Hotel,” dominated the pop charts. By the end of the year he was arguably the best-known entertainer in America, with broader fame still to come.


Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, by Peter Guralnick

Elvis ’56

“Presley’s Explosive Show Ignites San Diego Riot,” Variety, April 11, 1956

“Elvis Presley Hits Gold Platter Circle,” Variety, April 11, 1956



Episode 41: When Louis Met Dolly

When Louis Armstrong first saw the sheet music for “Hello, Dolly,” he was in low spirits. It was just 11 days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Armstrong was in a career lull. He also didn’t think much of the song. But he recorded it like the pro he was, and while he was off playing other gigs, it displaced the Beatles as America’s top pop song. It also helped Armstrong transition from a jazz pro into a pop-music idol.


Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, by Terry Teachout

What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years, by Ricky Riccardi



Episode 40: The World Accordion to Lawrence Welk

The rise of Lawrence Welk and of rock and roll happened at roughly the same time — maybe in reaction to each other. Welk’s band played classic white-bread tunes — waltzes, foxtrots and polkas — and were television favorites for an amazing three decades. Reruns of the show still air on PBS stations across the country. We look at Welk’s popularity, despite his awkward stage presence, and the musical “family” he featured on his show, including the Lennon Sisters.


Episode 39: What We Watched — Cartoons and Kids’ Shows

I’m joined once again by my brother Steve for a trip down memory lane to recall our TV memories from the 1960s and ’70s, specifically Saturday morning shows like “Casper the Friendly Ghost” and “The Banana Splits Hour,” with side trips involving everything from “Schoolhouse Rock” to “The Eighth Man.”


Episode 38: Orson Welles’s Radio Days

In 1934, Orson Welles came to Broadway in a production of “Romeo and Juliet” and within a year he was putting his mellifluous voice to use by doing a lot of radio work, including as part of the stock company, imitating famous newsmakers, on “The March of Time.” While producing and directing shows on Broadway, he was also making a name for himself as the title character on “The Shadow” and, later, scaring America to death with “War of the Worlds.” Today we consider Welles’s work as a rising star on the radio, leading to an offer from Hollywood.


Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News, by A. Brad Schwartz

Orson Welles on the Air: Packaging Welles, orsonwelles.indiana.edu

“This Ageless Soul,” Russell Maloney, The New Yorker, October 1, 1938

Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles, by David Thomson

The Mercury Theatre on the Air, mercurytheatre.info


Episode 37: A Short, Unhappy “Life with Lucy”

One of the most anticipated shows of the 1986-87 season was “Life with Lucy,” Lucille Ball’s return to weekly TV after 12 years. Ball’s plan was to get the band back together by turning to the writers and cast members she’d worked with for decades in a show loaded with slapstick comedy and physical pratfalls. But Ball was 75 and her co-star, Gale Gordon, was 80 — and, like them, the formula that had worked so well for Ball for years was showing its age.


I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball, by Lee Tannen

“Lucy, Coming to Life,” Tom Shales, The Washington Post, September 19, 1986

TV Party! Television’s Untold Tales, by Billy Ingram

What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, by David Hoftstede


Episode 36: Raymond Burr’s Secrets and Lies

When Raymond Burr died in 1993, he was eulogized around the world as the star of “Perry Mason” and “Ironside.” But the obituaries were notable for what they didn’t say as much as for what they did say. None of them mentioned that Burr was gay — he had been closeted all his life. And most of them mentioned commonly-accepted facts about Burr — that he was twice widowed, that he lost a son to leukemia and that he fought in World War II. None of that was true.


Hiding in Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr, by Michael Seth Starr



Episode 35: Variations on a Theme Song (1966 Edition)

In the immortal tradition of cave people banging on rocks and skulls and strolling troubadours of the Middle Ages, there is also the TV theme song. We take a look at the state of the theme in 1966, which featured songs with one-word lyrics (“Batman”) and pop hits (“Secret Agent”) as well as songs that did a lot of heavy lifting to explain the often-outlandish concept of the show (“My Mother the Car,” “It’s About Time”). We also feature a quick salute to one of the masters of the sitcom theme song who was well represented in 1966 — composer Vic Mizzy.


Episode 34: Silverman’s Travels

If you were watching American network TV in the 1970s and early 1980s, what you were watching had probably been touched by Fred Silverman. Over a 20-year period, Silverman had an unprecedented run as chief programmer of all three networks — CBS, ABC and NBC. His successful programming choices led to his reputation as “the man with the golden gut,” but his downfall came when he had to program against his strongest adversary — himself.


“The Crapshoot for Half a Billion,” Tommy Thompson, Life, September 10, 1971

“TV’s Man for All Networks,” Lawrence Van Gelder, The New York Times, January 21, 1978

“NBC’s Super Freddie Misses the Train,” Jack Egan, New York, May 14, 1979

“A Troubled Season for NBC Chief Fred Silverman,” Arthur Unger, The Christian Science Monitor, December 17, 1980

“Fred Silverman,” Rip Rense, emmys.com

“The Fall and Rise of Fred Silverman,” Geraldine Fabrikant, The New York Times, June 5, 1989


Episode 33: What We Laughed At

My brother Steve and I sit down and talk about the comedians we enjoyed as kids, mostly on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” like Jackie Vernon, Myron Cohen and Henny Youngman. We also talk about discovering “new” comics like Richard Pryor and George Carlin and more contemporary comics such as Brian Regan and Mike Birbiglia.


Episode 32: Sid Caesar and His Demons

Sid Caesar is one of the comic giants of 1950s TV, but he was also plagued by anxiety, depression, guilt and an explosive temper. In the early 1980s he came to my hometown of Louisville to perform at a dinner theatre, and I reviewed the show. I didn’t know it then, but he was in the midst of a battle to escape his addiction to booze and pills and conquer his deep-seated demons.


Where Have I Been? An Autobiography, by Sid Caesar with Bill Davidson

“Sid Caesar’s Finest Sketch,” David Margolick, The New Yorker, February 14, 2014


Episode 31: The Miracle of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” wasn’t intentionally created to be timeless, but because of its simplicity and sincerity, timeless it is. Miraculously, it avoids every cliche associated with children’s animation and is a perfect blending of music, words and images that clearly conveys one man’s vision and philosophy — Charles Schulz, who drew “Peanuts” from 1950 until his death in 2000.


Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography, by David Michaelis

A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles Schulz, by Stephen J. Lind

“How ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ Almost Wasn’t,” Jennings Brown, ny.com, November 16, 2016

“The ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ Special Was the Flop That Wasn’t,” Carrie Hagen, smithsonian.com, December 9, 2015


Episode 30: Sonny and Cher’s Long, Strange TV Trip

The career odyssey of Sonny and Cher began in a recording studio, led to an abortive attempt at movies and finally to TV, where their comedy-variety show was one of the most popular of the 1970s. At the same time, it shaped Cher as a showbiz and fashion icon and led to the breakup of their marriage in front of all America, and then their reconciliation — on the tube, at least.


Television Variety Shows, by David Inman

“The Beat Goes On … Again,” Dick Adler, TV Guide, March 18, 1972

“The Party’s Over: Sonny and Cher’s Last Show Was Taped in an Atmosphere of Desperate Optimism,” Rowland Barber, TV Guide, June 1, 1974

“Cher … Without Sonny,” Rowland Barber, TV Guide, April 12, 1975

“The Life and Loves of Sonny and Cher,” Rowland Barber, TV Guide, June 5, 1976


Episode 29: Seven and a Half Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About “The Dick Van Dyke Show”

It’s been over 50 years since “The Dick Van Dyke Show” ended its run, but the show has really never left the airwaves — its blend of sophisticated and slapstick humor set a sitcom standard that has rarely been matched. What else is there to say? We attempt a few things, including which cast member almost left the show, which actress was almost cast as Laura Petrie and what episode caused the most controversy for creator Carl Reiner.


The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book, by Vince Waldron

My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Buisness: A Memoir, by Dick Van Dyke

“Dick Van Dyke: ‘Supernormal’ Comedian,” Richard Gehman, TV Guide, December 8, 1962

” ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’: They’ve Got No Kick Coming,” TV Guide, March 27, 1965

“Rehearsing a ‘Dick Van Dyke Show,’ ” Leslie Raddatz, TV Guide, February 26, 1966



Episode 28: The Marlon Brando-Wally Cox Connection

One man was one of the most iconoclastic and controversial actors of the 20th century — the other was the voice of Underdog on a Saturday morning cartoon show. But once they met on an Illinois schoolyard, nine-year-olds Marlon Brando and Wally Cox became lifelong friends — and even lovers, according to some accounts. We look at each man’s career and their private, intense connection — one that endured even after Cox’s death in 1973.


Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me, by Marlon Brando and Robert Lindsey

Brando Unzipped, by Darwin Porter

My Life as a Small Boy, by Wally Cox

Brando’s Smile: His Life, Thought and Work, by Susan L. Mizruchi

“When the Wild One Met the Mild One,” Robert W. Welkos, The Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2004

“Wally Cox, TV’s Mister Peepers, Dies at 48,” The New York Times, February 16, 1973


Episode 27: What We Saw at the Movies

Once again, David Inman and his brother Steve toddle down memory lane and reminisce about movies they saw as kids in the 1960s and ’70s. Included are looks at the drive-in cheeseball classic “Eegah,” “The Sound of Music,” “How the West Was Won,” “Mary Poppins,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “Blazing Saddles” and many others. There are also stories abut David’s first R-rated movie and how Steve dealt with an upset stomach while watching “Patton.”


Episode 26: A Very Short History of TV Shows with Very Short Histories

What can you say about a TV show that dies after just one episode? We can think of a few things. Here’s a look at some of the most notorious examples, including a show that forced Jackie Gleason to apologize to America, a “Laugh-In” ripoff that was cancelled midway through its only episode and a sitcom about the home life of the Hitlers. Here are their stories — their pathetic stories of massive, embarrassing failure.


The Worst TV Shows Ever, by Bart Andrews

” ‘Co-Ed Fever’ Expires,” The Bonham (TX) Daily Favorite, February 11, 1979

“Steve’s Reason Why Not,” Lisa de Moraes, The Washington Post, January 22, 2006


Episode 25: The 1960s — What We Listened To

David Inman and his brother Steve reminisce about the music they grew up listening to, from Duke Ellington to Sarah Vaughn to the Monkees to Allen Sherman’s 1963 megahit “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.” With special appearances by Jackson Browne and Louis Armstrong.


Episode 24: The Hopalong Cassidy Magical Marketing Machine

In 1948, William Boyd made a large bet on television, and on demographics. He had an idea that the first wave of the baby boomers — kids born to newly affluent parents — would be a large and untapped audience for the 66 “Hopalong Cassidy” movie westerns he’d starred in, so he bought the rights and sold them to TV stations that were starved for programming. He also made deals with dozens of consumer goods companies to market authorized Hopalong Cassidy merchandise, from wallpaper to cookies to roller skates with spurs on them. America’s kids snapped them up, and Boyd made millions.


” ‘Hasbeen’ Hoppy Gallops Thataway on TV Spurs to $200,000,000 Industry,” Mike Kaplan, Variety, May 24, 1950

“Hopalong Hits the Jackpot,” Oliver Jensen, Life, June 12, 1950

“Wild-West Fever: Will It Sell for You?,” Sponsor, September 11, 1950

“Keep Your Bill Boyds Straight,” immortalephemera.com

“Maxwell House Coffee Time with George Burns and Gracie Allen: George the Cowboy,” May 5, 1949


Episode 23: The Unsinkable Betty White

At age 96, Betty Marion White Ludden has had the longest television career in history. She made her TV debut in 1939 and in the late 1940s she co-hosted a local Los Angeles series that ran five hours each day. When the Emmy Awards added the “Best Actress” category in 1951, she was one of the nominees, and exactly sixty years later, in 2011, she was a nominee once again. In between she’s won eight Emmy awards, three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild awards, a Grammy Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She’s the oldest person ever to host “Saturday Night Live” and in two years she will begin her tenth decade in show business. She is, in short, unsinkable.


Here We Go Again: My Life in Television, 1949-1995, by Betty White


Episode 22: The Stormy Success of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour”

In early 1967, folksinging comedians Tom and Dick Smothers kicked off their own variety show on CBS. Their competition was stiff — NBC’s “Bonanza,” the one show that CBS could never seem to dislodge from its top-10 spot in the ratings. But the brothers beat “Bonanza” with a combination of topical comedy and musical guests like the Turtles, Buffalo Springfield and the Who. The only problem was that the show’s anti-war humor and social satire often ran afoul of CBS censors — and even prompted protests from the White House, leading to a series of conflicts between the Smothers Brothers and Big Brother.


Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” by David Bianculli

“Smothered: The Censorship Struggles of ‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour’ “

“The Smothers Brothers Redux: A Bittersweet Reunion at CBS,” Andy Meisler, The New York Times, January 31, 1988


Episode 21: Liz and Dick and Lucy and the Ring

In 1969, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were arguably the world’s most famous married couple, and they became even more well known when Burton bought his wife a 69-carat diamond ring that cost over a million dollars. At a Hollywood party, their paths crossed with Lucille Ball and an unlikely idea emerged — within weeks the Burtons were taping an episode of “Here’s Lucy” as themselves, with the ring as a special guest star. This is the story of a very large diamond, two very popular movie stars and one of America’s favorite comic actresses — and how they all came together to make TV history.


” ‘All I Could See Was Elizabeth and That Rock’: What Happened When Taylor and Burton Were Filmed for Next Week’s Lucy Show,” James Bacon, TV Guide, September 5, 1970

“The Taylor Burton Diamond,” worthy.com

Loving Lucy: An Illustrated Tribute to Lucille Ball, by Bart Andrews

Elizabeth Taylor: A Private Life for Public Consumption, by Ellis Cashmore

The Richard Burton Diaries, edited by Chris Williams


Episode 20: Fade to Blacklist, Part 2

In our last episode, we looked at the East Coast blacklist triggered by “Red Channels” — which listed the “Communistic activities” of supposed radicals — and the lives that were ruined by it. In this episode we look at the pushback — the positive results of people standing up to a small number of self-appointed vigilantes, and what happened when networks and sponsors stood strong against threats to shows such as “I’ve Got a Secret” and “I Love Lucy.” We also look at one man who finally had enough and took the blacklist creators and enforcers to court.


Fear on Trial, by John Henry Faulk

Desilu: The Story of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, by Coyne Steven Sanders

Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball, by Stefan Kanter

The Image Empire: A History of Broadcasting in the United States, Volume III, by Erik Barnouw

Invasion of the Mind Snatchers: Television’s Conquest of America in the Fifties, by Eric Burns


Episode 19: Fade to Blacklist, Part 1

In the summer of 1950, a booklet called “Red Channels” shook up the East Coast media structure — radio and TV networks as well as advertising agencies. “Red Channels” listed the “subversive” activities of over 150 writers, directors and performers, from Orson Welles to Lena Horne. If you were named in the book, you were guilty until proven innocent and you ran the serious risk of being unemployable on radio or TV. The blacklist triggered by “Red Channels” lasted for much of the 1950s, seriously affecting and even ruining the lives of innocent people. In the first of two parts, we look at how the blacklist began and how it was abetted by cowardly TV and radio producers and advertisers.


A History of Broadcasting in the United States: 2. The Golden Web, 1933-1953, by Erik Barnouw

The Image Empire: A History of Broadcasting in the United States, Volume III, by Erik Barnouw

“15 Entertainers Who Were Labeled Communist in the Red Channels List,” Eliza Berman, time.com, June 22, 2015

“Gypsy, Scott and Wicker in Red Denials,” Billboard, September 23, 1950

“Blacklist Still Snarls AM-TV,” Variety, September 13, 1950

“Ireene Wicker Hammer Dies, 86; Storyteller to Millions of Children,” Nan Robertson, The New York Times, November 18, 1987

Red Scare: Memories of the American Inquisition, by Griffin Fariello

Unfriendly Witnesses: Gender, Theatre and Film in the McCarthy Era, by Milly S. Barranger

With Amusement for All: A History of American Popular Culture Since 1830, by LeRoy Ashby

Invasion of the Mind Snatchers: Television’s Conquest of America in the Fifties, by Eric Burns


Episode 18: The Rise and Fall of “Moonlighting”

When the Directors Guild of America announced its award nominations in 1986, history was made. For the very first time, one TV show was nominated for best direction in a comedy and best direction in a drama — “Moonlighting.” The combination detective series-screwball comedy thrived on romantic tension for three seasons in the mid-1980s — until the lead characters finally got together and the show’s creators weren’t quite sure what to do next.


“Cybill Shepherd’s Comeback: Duelling for Dollars,” Bill Davidson, TV Guide, December 7, 1985

“Behind the Turmoil on ‘Moonlighting’: Cybill Won’t Be Tamed,” Michael Leahy, TV Guide, May 30, 1987

“The Madcap Behind ‘Moonlighting,’ “ Joy Horowitz, The New York Times Magazine, March 30, 1986

” ‘Moonlighting’ Makes Light of 15 Emmy Losses: Mom Goes to Her Reward But TV Show Didn’t,” Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1986

“Writer of ‘Moonlighting’ Cast in a Different Glow,” Steve Daley, The Chicago Tribune, March 11, 1986

“Glenn Gordon Caron Discusses Working with Cybill Shepherd on ‘Moonlighting,’ “ emmytvlegends.org

“Glenn Gordon Caron Discusses the Tone of ‘Moonlighting,’ “ emmytvlegends.org


Episode 17: The 1960s — How We Played

David Inman and his brother Steve take another trip down memory lane to recall the toys they played with as kids, from G.I. Joes fully equipped for nuclear war to electric football games, which were basically vibrating pieces of sheet metal. There are also special guest appearances by Hot Wheels, Mr. Kelly’s Car Wash, Major Matt Mason and Zero M spy toys.


Episode 16: The 1960s — What We Watched

David Inman and his brother Steve remember what it was like in the dark days when many cities only had three TV stations, and the shows they would watch, from “Batman” to “Lost in Space” to “Davey and Goliath.” They also discuss their fears (the Joker on “Batman,” the monsters on “Lost in Space”) and the shows that were off limits at their house (Hint: Both shows featured actors named Jack).


Episode 15: “The Andy Griffith Show” and How It Grew

“The Andy Griffith Show” is Griffith’s best work — certainly his most personal. It was never out of TV’s Top 10 programs for its entire eight-season run, and it inspired a spinoff series, a TV movies and several reunion specials. Fifty years after it left the air, the reruns continue. Griffith never won an Emmy Award, but he was the guiding creative force behind the show, building it into a situation comedy with heart as well as humor — and shaping the relationship between himself and Don Knotts, as deputy Barney Fife, to reflect the relationship between two friends in one of his favorite radio shows, the comic serial “Lum and Abner.”


“Andy Griffith: Cornball with the Steel-Trap Mind,” Lee Edson, TV Guide, January 28 and February 4, 1961

” ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Has H.A.Q. (High Acceptability Quotient),” TV Guide, May 11, 1963

“The Wondrous Andy Griffith TV Machine,” Richard Warren Lewis, TV Guide, July 13 and July 20, 1968

The Andy Griffith Show, by Richard Kelly

The Andy Griffith Show Book, by Ken Beck and Jim Clark

“Richard Linke, Andy Griffith’s Talent Manager, Dies at 98,” Sam Roberts, The New York Times, June 20, 2016 


Episode 14: James Cagney’s Final Act(ing)

After a thirty-year Hollywood career, James Cagney made what he thought would be his final film in 1961 — a comedy directed by Billy Wilder called “One Two Three.” Cagney then retired, spending his time between two farms he owned — one on Martha’s Vineyard and one in upstate New York. But Cagney got tired of being retired, and in 1980 his friend, director Milos Forman, talked Cagney into taking a small but significant role in Forman’s film adaptation of the bestselling novel “Ragtime.” Further encouraged by his family and lifelong friend Pat O’Brien, Cagney went on to play the lead role in a 1984 TV movie called “Terrible Joe Moran.” By that point Cagney had been weakened by several strokes and was in a wheelchair, but he powered through, inspired by O’Brien’s words of encouragement: “Do it, Cagney. It’s medicine.”


“Cagney, 82, Is Embarrassed Anew at Being a ‘Star’,” Chris Chase, The New York Times, November 17, 1981

“Peter Gallagher,” theavclub.com, June 14, 2011

“Ragtime,” milosforman.com

“Ragtime,” TCM.com

“TV Review: ‘Terrible Joe Moran’ Starring James Cagney,” John J. O’Connor, The New York Times, March 27, 1984

“Faraway Fella: ‘Cagney,’ a Biography by John McCabe,” David Thomson, The Los Angeles Times, January 4, 1998

Art Carney: A Biography, by Michael Seth Starr

Cagney, by John McCabe

“Cagney Felt at Home in Dutchess,” Larry Hughes, Poughkeepsie Journal, June 18, 2015

“James Cagney: Looking Backward,” Timothy White, Rolling Stone, February 18, 1982

“James Cagney’s Condition Provokes Controversy,” Sylvia Lawler, The Morning Call, March 25, 1984

Director Joseph Sargent on James Cagney, emmytvlegends.org

“Profile in Courage: Nobody Ever Said Cagney Wasn’t a Fighter,” Rod Townley, TV Guide, March 24, 1984


Episode 13: The Variety Show Skirmishes of 1963

In the fall of 1963, the big TV news was that three bonafide movie stars were going to host weekly variety shows — Judy Garland, Jerry Lewis and Danny Kaye. By the end of the season, only one of them would still be on the air — the other flamed out spectacularly and the third, after being wrecked by network interference, started again from scratch and found itself in its outstanding final episodes. Along the way, there were ego clashes, blown-out budgets, behind-the-scenes drama, creative upheaval, flat-out sexism and a final gesture of defiance centered around the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.


Rainbow’s End: The Judy Garland Show, by Coyne Steven Sanders

Television Variety Shows, by David Inman

“Over the Rainbow, and Then Some!,” James Kaplan, Vanity Fair, May 2011

” ‘The Jerry Lewis Show’ Was a $40M Flop, Despite Its Star,” Verne Gay, Newsday, August 21, 2017

“The Danny Kaye Show,” TCM.com

King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis, by Shawn Levy

“The Danny Kaye Show,” Encyclopedia of Television, Museum of Broadcast Communications

JFK’s Final Days: November 19, 1963, Presidential History Geeks

The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy, by Kliph Nesteroff

“The Great Garland Gamble,” Dwight Whitney, TV Guide, October 19, 1963

“Judy Garland and the Show That Failed,” Vernon Scott, TV Guide, May 2, 1964

“Danny Kaye: Satisfied with Perfection,” Richard de Roos, TV Guide, February 1, 1964

“The Seven Faces of Danny Kaye,” Dwight Whitney, TV Guide, January 9, 1965

” ‘The Danny Kaye Show’ Is Not Returning in 1967 After 4 Seasons,” Richard K. Doan, TV Guide, December 17, 1966

“How Jerry Lewis Got What He Wanted,” Richard Gehman, TV Guide, June 15, 1963

“What Happened to Jerry Lewis,” Richard Gehman, TV Guide, December 14, 1963


Episode 12: 1952 — The Sixty-Second Election

In 1952, Republican Dwight Eisenhower squared off against Democrat Adlai Stevenson in the presidential election. Eisenhower, who had been commander of allied forces in Europe during World War II, was enormously popular but not much of a public speaker. So a combination of talents from America’s largest advertising agencies, including the man upon whom the “Mad Men” character Don Draper was roughly based, convinced Eisenhower and his advisers that the best way to reach American voters was the same way they received selling propositions about what soap to use, what car to drive, what cigarette to smoke — by a TV commercial. Eisenhower reluctantly agreed — and political campaigns were changed forever.


The Spot: The Rise of Political Advertising on Television, by Edwin Diamond and Stephen Bates

“This Is How Presidential Campaign Ads First Got on TV,” time.com, August 30, 2016

“Political Advertising,” adage.com, September 15, 2003

“Eisenhower, an Unlikely Pioneer of TV Ads,” Michael Beschloss, The New York Times, October 30, 2015

“8 of Adlai Stevenson’s Awful 1952 TV Campaign Ads,” Chris Higgins, mentalfloss.com, February 20, 2012

Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television, by Erik Barnouw


Episode 11: The Jack Benny-Johnny Carson Connection

In 1949, Jack Benny took advantage of new capital gains laws and moved his popular program from NBC to CBS, an immense boost to that network in ratings and prestige. At about the same time, a senior at the University of Nebraska named Johnny Carson was putting together his thesis, “How to Write Comedy for Radio,” a tape-recorded presentation filled with examples of Jack Benny’s work. Carson couldn’t have known it at the time, but within a few years Benny would become one of Carson’s biggest boosters – they formed a kind of mutual admiration society that would last until Benny’s death in 1974. Benny had been one of America’s dominant comedy voices during the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s – and by utilizing tricks he’d learned from Benny, Carson, as host of “The Tonight Show” for thirty years, would become one of America’s dominant comedy voices during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.


Johnny Carson, by Henry Bushkin

King of the Night: The Life of Johnny Carson, by Laurence Leamer

“Red Skelton Butts Scenery, Sprains Neck,” Rome (GA) News-Tribune, August 18, 1954

“Comics’ Comics,” TV Guide, January 15, 1955

“Johnny Carson: Young Man with a Grin,” TV Guide, September 3, 1955

“Johnny Carson Defined Late-Night TV,”  Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2005

“How Jack Benny and Harry Conn Stumbled onto the Formula for Situation Comedy,” Humanities, Summer 2017


Episode 10: The Quiz Show Scandals — “Twenty-One”

We end our two-part look at the quiz show scandals with the most infamous example of all — the NBC program “Twenty-One.” Contestants on the show were deliberately given answers to questions, directed to lose games and were even coached on how, for maximum dramatic effect, to hesitate when answering a question. The show’s most popular contestant, Charles Van Doren, was celebrated for his intellect and humility and rewarded with a job on NBC-TV. But he ended up revealing his role in the hoax during a dramatic congressional hearing, and his reputation was forever tarnished.


The Box: A Oral History of Television, 1920-61, by Jeff Kisseloff

Prime Time and Misdemeanors: Investigating the 1950s TV Quiz Scandal — A D.A.’s Account, by Joseph Stone and Tim Yohn

TV Game Shows, by Maxine Fabe

Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties, by Richard Goodwin

“The Answer Men: ‘Quiz Show’ Evokes Haunting Memories for Three Figures from the ’50s TV Scandal,” People, October 3, 1994

“To Be ‘Twenty-One’ Again,” The Hollywood Reporter, October 6, 1994

“The American Experience: The Quiz Show Scandal,” aired on PBS January 6, 1992

“Television: Fun and Games,” aired on PBS in 1988


Episode 9: The Quiz Show Scandals — “The $64,000 Question”

During the summer of 1955, a new TV show kept people in front of their sets on hot Tuesday nights. “The $64,000 Question” was a big-money quiz show that made its contestants instant celebrities and the show even displaced “I Love Lucy” as the nation’s top TV program. What nobody realized at the time was that the show was planned, paced and cast like a drama, and a contestant’s success depended not on the questions he or she answered correctly, but on a sponsor who would drop you when you ceased to be useful.


The Box: A Oral History of Television, 1920-61, by Jeff Kisseloff

Prime Time and Misdemeanors: Investigating the 1950s TV Quiz Scandal — A D.A.’s Account, by Joseph Stone and Tim Yohn

TV Game Shows, by Maxine Fabe

Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties, by Richard Goodwin

Fire and Ice: The Story of Charles Revson, the Man Who Built the Revlon Empire, by Andrew Tobias

Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television, by Erik Barnouw

“The Cop and the $64,000 Question,” TV Guide, July 9, 1955

“A Summer Show Hits the Jackpot: $64,000 Prize, Carefully Picked Contestants Keep Nation Glued to Its Television Sets,” TV Guide, August 20, 1955

“Come and Get It: TV Giveaway Shows Lure Viewers with Bigger and Bigger Jackpots,” TV Guide, December 31, 1955

“The Quiz Show Scandals: An Editorial,” TV Guide, October 24, 1959

“Letters,” TV Guide, November 21, 1959


Episode 8: In Godfrey We Trust

In the late 1940s and early ’50s the biggest moneymaker on CBS radio and television was Arthur Godfrey — at one point he reportedly brought in 12 percent of the network’s income. He had an unpretentious style of communicating with his audience, and a smooth manner of selling products that sponsors loved. But in 1953, at the height of his popularity, Godfrey suffered a huge, self-inflicted blow to his stature when he fired one of his regulars, known as “the little Godfreys,” live on the air. The incident haunted the rest of his career.


Arthur Godfrey: The Adventures of an American Broadcaster, by Arthur J. Singer

On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio, by John Dunning

“How Ah Ya, How Ah Ya?,” Jim Ramsburg’s Gold Time Radio

What Women Watched: Daytime Television in the 1950s, by Marsha F. Cassidy

“A. Godfrey: A Man for a Long, Long Season,” Dick Cavett, The New York Times, June 25, 2010

“Arthur Godfrey an Unlikely American Idol,” All Things Considered, January 2, 2008

“Arthur Godfrey’s Operation,” TV Guide, May 8, 1953

“Why Godfrey Fired LaRosa and Bleyer,” Bob Stahl, TV Guide, November 6, 1953


Episode 7: The Rise and Fall of “Dragnet”

In the summer of 1949, “Dragnet” premiered on NBC radio. It was a show that sounded like no other thanks to creator-star Jack Webb’s obsession with authenticity. “Dragnet” then moved to TV and ran for most of the 1950s. Its theme song and opening disclaimer — “The story you are about to see is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent” — became part of pop culture history. During the turbulent late 1960s, “Dragnet” was revived, and it hadn’t changed — but the world had, and authority was something to be questioned rather than celebrated. We look at the influence of “Dragnet” and Webb’s evolution into an outspoken advocate of police officers.


“Webb’s Days Before Friday,” Jim Ramsburg’s Gold Time Radio

My Name’s Friday: The Unauthorized But True Story of Dragnet and the Films of Jack Webb, by Michael J. Hayde

Icons of Mystery and Crime Detection: From Sleuths to Superheroes, by Mitzi M. Brunsdale

“Jack Webb, TV’s Most Misunderstood Man,” TV Guide, March 23, 1957

“Jack Webb Returns to the Good Old Days,” Richard Warren Lewis, TV Guide, October 19, 1968


Episode 6: When Maude Findlay Had an Abortion

In the fall of 1972, the first spinoff from “All in the Family” premiered. It was “Maude,” with Beatrice Arthur as Edith Bunker’s liberal cousin. And right out of the gate, “Maude” took on controversial topics like psychotherapy, black militancy and modern morality. Then on November 14, in the ninth episode of the series, Maude found out she was pregnant at age 47. She considered her options, including abortion, which at the time was legal in New York state, where the show was set. (The U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t legalize abortion nationwide until 1973.) Maude’s decision to get an abortion would go largely unnoticed during the episode’s original run, but when summer reruns came along the show received a firestorm of criticism, driving the idea of abortion — and even the mention of the word itself — off of network television for the next fifteen years.


“Maude’s Abortion Fades Into History,” Lewis Beale, The Chicago Tribune, November 13, 1992

” ‘We Ran Out of Controversy’: Bea Arthur Says Farewell to ‘Maude,’ “ Kirk Honeycutt, The New York Times, April 16, 1978

“Classic Hollywood: Bea Arthur Took ‘Maude’ Out of ‘Family’s’ Shadow,” Susan King, Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2015

“The 11 Most Honest Portrayals of Abortion on TV,” Kate Halliwell, IndieWire, June 28, 2016

” ‘Maude’s’ Bea Arthur,” Guy Flatley, TV Guide, November 18, 1972

” ‘We Regret “Maude” Will Not Be Seen Tonight,’ ” David Nicholas, TV Guide, March 3, 1973

“The Doan Report: Russians Charge ‘Sesame Street’ Is Imperialist Plot (column includes news item about “Maude” pre-emptions),” Richard Doan, TV Guide, September 1, 1973


Episode 5: Ed Sullivan, American Gatekeeper

In 1948, Ed Sullivan began hosting a weekly variety series on CBS-TV. His background as a newspaper columnist served him well — he had an unerring instinct for what people wanted to see, and he used his unique power to become an influential American gatekeeper for most of the 1950s and ’60s. We take a look a Sullivan’s influence, including “blessing” Elvis Presley and the Beatles by praising them on the air and reassuring anxious parents of teenagers. We also review his feuds with the likes of Steve Allen, Jackie Mason and Buddy Holly.


Television Variety Shows, by David Inman

“The End of ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ ” N. Ashby, TV Guide, September 4, 1971

“An Interview with Monica Lewis — Part Two,” Classic Television Showbiz

The Box: A Oral History of Television, 1920-61, by Jeff Kisseloff

“The God of Sunday Night: Reconsidering ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ “ Nick Tosches, Vanity Fair, July 1997


Episode 4: Big Stars + Small Screen = Tiny Audiences

The big TV story in the fall of 1971 was that movie stars were coming to the tube, including James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Shirley MacLaine, Glenn Ford, Anthony Quinn, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis, among others. Many of them turned to TV because movie roles were growing scarce, and for lucrative paychecks. But the vehicles they chose were garden variety TV — family sitcoms and cop shows — and viewers tuned out. We look at the highest-profile failures — “The Jimmy Stewart Show,” Shirley MacLaine’s “Shirley’s World” and Henry Fonda’s “The Smith Family.”


“MacLaine Talks About ‘Shirley’s World’: ‘I Knew It Wouldn’t Work’,” Norma Lee Browning, The Chicago Tribune, November 15, 1971

Review: “The Smith Family,” Cleveland Amory, TV Guide, March 20, 1971

“Henry Fonda Returns to TV,” Arnold Hano, TV Guide, May 8, 1971

“Ron Howard Has News About ‘Arrested Development’ Season 5, But He’s Not Talking,” Vanity Fair, April 2017

Review: “The Jimmy Stewart Show,” Cleveland Amory, TV Guide, October 23, 1971

“The Doan Report: NBC Is Not Boasting About Its Standing in the Early Ratings,” TV Guide, October 23, 1971

Jimmy Stewart: A Biography, by Marc Eliot

Jimmy Stewart: The Truth Behind the Legend, by Michael Munn

James Stewart, by Donald Dewey

“Why Jimmy Stewart Is in TV,” Bill Davidson, TV Guide, October 2, 1971

“Pre-Mortems,” Cleveland Amory, TV Guide, December 25, 1971

You Can Get There From Here, by Shirley MacLaine


Episode 3: The Keefe Brasselle Story, or Godfather Knows Best

Keefe Brasselle’s show business career includes a few movies, some TV work, probable arson, extortion, kickbacks, assault with a deadly weapon and lots of threats of bodily harm. His unholy alliance with a CBS executive led to the executive’s downfall, and his repeated boasting about his mafia connections, along with his lack of any real talent, made him a bitter has-been reduced to writing and acting in a 1970s drive-in quicky. In this episode we examine Brasselle’s career and his unsavory associations.


The Box: A Oral History of Television, 1920-61, by Jeff Kisseloff

“Keefe Brasselle: The Last Story,” Jim Trombetta, The (Elyria, Ohio) Chronicle Telegram, December 13-16, 1981


Episode 2: A Short History of Ridiculous Sponsor Interference

For almost as long as there has been broadcasting, there has been commercial sponsorship. But from the 1930s through the 1960s sponsors had an unusual amount of power because, through advertising agencies, they owned entire blocks of time on the program schedule and produced their own shows. In this episode we look at a few examples of sponsor power run amok, resulting in complications that were sometimes dangerous, sometimes just silly. Along the way we will sample clips from “The Jack Benny Program,” “The Flintstones,” “I Love Lucy,” “Playhouse 90,” “The $64,000 Question” and “30 Rock,” among others.


On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio, by John Dunning

The “I Love Lucy” Book, by Bart Andrews

While America Watches: Televising the Holocaust, by Jeffrey Shandler

Prime Time and Misdemeanors: Investigating the 1950s TV Quiz Scandal — A D.A.’s Account, by Joseph Stone and Tim Yohn

TV Game Shows, by Maxine Fabe


Episode 1: “Who Shot J.R.?”: The Plot Heard Round the World

As “Game of Thrones” ends its season with the traditional cliffhanger, it follows in the tradition of a family saga that started it all — “Dallas.” Like “Game of Thrones,” “Dallas” told stories in a season-long arc, and J.R. Ewing was arguably the precursor of anti-heroes like Don Draper, Tony Soprano or Tywin Lannister. And “Dallas” had the mac daddy of all season-ending cliffhangers: “Who Shot J.R.?,” which swept the world during the summer of 1980. In this podcast we look at the similarities between “Dallas” and “Game of Thrones” as well as that fateful summer.


“How I Kept J.R. Alive,” Larry Hagman, TV Guide, November 15, 1980

“The ‘Dallas’ Shot That Was Heard Round the World,” Richard Corliss, Los Angeles Times, November 23, 1990

“When J.R. Was Shot, the Cliffhanger Was Born,” Andy Meisler, The New York Times, May 7, 1995


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