Monday, December 25, 2023

A Flintstones Christmas--1961-1979 (inc.)

I didn't get them all and for some reason, Blogger isn't letting me get them in the right order but they're all still great. But.. since by definition, the Flintstones exist B.C., what they heck are they celebrating, anyway?



Sunday, December 17, 2023

Stan Freberg's Chun King Chow Mein Hour-1962

THE CHUN KING CHOW MEIN HOUR was an ingenious--if casually racist--1962 television special written by and starring satirist supreme Stan Freberg. The bespectacled Freberg famously transitioned from a radio and record comedian to the king of comedy in advertising. Among his biggest clients was Jeno Palucci, who created Jeno's Pizza Rolls but was better known for his line of Chinese foods--of all things--marketed under the Chun King name.

This TV special was, for all intents and purposes, an hour long commercial for Chun King, something you can't get away with anymore these days. All credit to Stan for utilizing the medium of television in ways only Ernie Kovacs had done before this.

The show, with Donna Freberg as associate producer, boasted of no guest stars and yet featured a comic cameo by Frank Sinatra--the man who had introduced Stan to Donna in the first place.

Also present were such familiar voices and faces as Sterling Holloway (Winnie the Pooh), June Foray (Rocky the Flying Squirrel), Peter Leeds, Paul Frees, Jessie White, Naomi Brossart, Howard McNear, Arte Johnson, and big Mike Mazurki. Stan's puppet pal from the Moon, Orville, is, of course, also present, as is a precocious little Asian girl named Ginny Tiu.

The show's unique production design was by award winning designer Saul Bass, his first work for television.  

There are odd musical numbers, lots of "intellectual humor," an animated sequence based on a cut from one of Freberg's LPs, no opening credits, and closing credits read aloud.

If one has an open mind and can accept the way humor has changed in 60 years, it's hilarious, satirically pointed, endlessly clever, and drolly played by all involved, as seen on the YouTube post that recently went up. 

BUT...just like these articles, and Chun King's other advertising, nearly everything about the show plays off of cultural stereotypes that, while widely accepted when I was growing up, were no less offensive then than they are recognized to be now.

Stan Freberg, though, was a comedic marketing genius!


Sunday, December 10, 2023

RERUN--The Ghost of Christmas Past-1980



Christmas week, 33 years ago, in 1980. I was not only still addicted to television but earlier in that year I had purchased my first Betamax machine! Let’s take a look at what I probably watched on prime time TV that week!

Saturday, December 20th, 1980

CBS-New Christmas-themed episodes of WKRP IN CINCINNATI and THE TIM CONWAY SHOW

The TV series version of FREEBIE & THE BEAN was on CBS and a football game on NBC but, as I recall, I opted for a new episode of THE LOVE BOAT on ABC reuniting singer Jack Jones (best known for that show’s theme) and his father Allan Jones (best known for the Marx Brothers movie, A NIGHT AT THE OPERA).

10:00-11:00 PM
With a choice between CBS’s SECRETS OF MIDLAND HEIGHTS (a show I don’t even remember) and ABC’s FANTASY ISLAND with Toni Tennille, I think I opted for the latest chapter of the mini-series, TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY with Sir Alec Guinness on PBS.

Sunday, December 21st, 1980

ABC-A YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS—It was a rerun but I was a sucker for holiday specials then so I went with this. And besides, PBS was only offering an hour of a women’s bowling championship.

8:00-9:00 PM

I most likely skipped CBS’s ARCHIE BUNKER’S PLACE and ONE DAY AT A TIME (my favorite show 3 years earlier), ABC’s CHARLIE’S ANGELS rerun and NBC’s CHIPS (which I never watched) and PBS’s COSMOS in favor of an hour of ED SULLIVAN SHOW clips on the local independent UHF channel. 


A Kate Mulgrew TV movie and a Robert Conrad TV movie canceled each other out and I settled for ALICE on CBS, followed by THE JEFFERSONS and TRAPPER JOHN, MD.

Monday, December 22nd, 1980


I never watched NBC’s LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE (especially not, as in this case, a 3 hour rerun!) or ABC’s THAT’S INCREDIBLE which means I most likely watched CBS’s forgotten sitcom duo of FLO and LADIES’ MAN. If I’d had any sense I would have watched John Carradine as Dick Cavett’s guest on PBS!


I believe I skipped CBS’s reruns of M*A*S*H and HOUSE CALLS as well as the local station’s Fu Manchu flick with Christopher Lee, all so I could watch SHE LOVES ME on PBS, the musical version of THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER starring TV’s POLDARK, Robin Ellis, with Gemma Craven. It’s been a favorite ever since.


If I’m right about the above, that also eliminated my watching a rerun of LOU GRANT, possibly my favorite show at that time.

Tuesday, December 23rd, 1980


Four Christmas specials vied for my attention—Greer Garson narrating LITTLE DRUMMER BOY, the animated THE BEAR THAT SLEPT THROUGH CHRISTMAS, a holiday concert from the Cleveland Orchestra and a rerun of John Denver’s now-classic Christmas special with the Muppets. I chose that one. Denver’s specials during the late seventies/early eighties were almost uniformly great!


More Yuletide joy from NBC with Mac Davis’s Christmas special (guest-starring Mills Watson, Linda Gray and Melissa Manchester). Meanwhile, ABC stuck to its guns with reruns of THREE’S COMPANY (wearing out its welcome by this point) and TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT. CBS reran Jean Stapleton’s post ALL IN THE FAMILY TV movie, AUNT MARY about a lady baseball coach but I had seen it the first time. PBS, though, was running the conclusion of Dr. Jonathan Miller’s utterly fascinating THE BODY IN QUESTION, which is where I went.


A HART TO HART rerun on ABC or a new episode of THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW with Bob and Ray?  Hmmm...Knowing myself as I was, I’m sure I went for HART TO HART but I’m kicking myself now!

Wednesday, December 24th, 1980


After watching and taping Jimmy Stewart in the Mormon Church’s lovely syndicated special MR. KRUEGER’S CHRISTMAS at 7:30, 8 PM brought a choice between ABC’s 2 hour EIGHT IS ENOUGH rerun, CBS’s FAT ALBERT and NUTCRACKER specials and NBC’s REAL PEOPLE. I probably went for the EIGHT IS ENOUGH, leaving me to also skip DIFF’RENT STROKES and THE FACTS OF LIFE in the next hour as well.


There was a David Copperfield magic special on. I never missed those so I skipped QUINCY and VEGAS that night.

Christmas, 1980


THE WALTONS was new on CBS that night, opposite the perennial SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN on ABC and something I don’t recall seeing called GAMES PEPLE PLAY with Bryant Gumbel and Johnny Bench on NBC. I wasn’t watching THE WALTONS regularly anymore but I may have gone with that, having seen the Christmas special so many times already. 


Henry Winkler’s disappointing AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL from a year earlier was on ABC again. A new episode of MAGNUM PI—which I liked but never followed regularly—was on CBS. I’m thinking I opted for Dick Clark’s non-holiday musical special on NBC with Frankie and Annette and, of all people, Vaughn Meader! Thus, I also skipped the never-liked KNOT’S LANDING at 10 as well.

Friday, December 26, 1980


The day after Christmas saw a new episode of THE INCREDIBLE HULK on CBS opposite a new episode of MARIE (sans Donny by this point) on NBC guest-starring Andy Williams. BENSON and Danny Thomas’s I’M A BIG GIRL NOW with Diana Canova were on ABC. Thinking I went with the green guy. 

9:00-1100 PM

Pretty sure I’d seen FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE several times by that point already so I would have thought I’d have skipped that rerunning on ABC. I hated CBS’s DUKES OF HAZZARD with a passion, though. NBC had something that sounds totally alien to me—Betsy Palmer in a comedy-drama series entitled NUMBER 96. (???) Never heard of it. A quick check of IMDB shows it to be a rather tame and very short-lived US adaptation of a mega-popular but controversial Australian soap. Add to that yet another episode of THE SECRETS OF MIDLAND HEIGHTS and I probably went with 007 after all.

 And that was my prime-time week, Christmas, 1980!