Wednesday, January 20, 2016

It's Cavett vs. Carson Once Again

First it was Johnny Carson returning to late night TV at the beginning of this year on Antenna TV. Now it will be Dick Cavett airing on the Decades channel. They will both air at 11:00 pm eastern, going head-to-head just like they did between 1968 and 1974. During that period, Carson was on NBC and Cavett was on ABC, with both shows originating from New York City.

In 1966, Ed Sullivan announced stand-up comedian Dick Cavett as "A young collegian from Yale". He had worked as a comedy writer for Tonight Show hosts Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. He also was a writer for the short-lived Jerry Lewis variety show in the 1960s. Writing for others was paying the bills, but Cavett wanted to try to be a late night host where he could perform his own jokes for a nationwide audience.

Cavett has hosted many shows in various time slots for various networks including ABC, CBS, PBS, USA, CNBC and TCM. These rebroadcasts will span the array of Cavett shows that aired between 1968 and 1996. He is a cerebral guy who is good friends with Woody Allen. The two of them share a similar comedic style. You could say that Dick Cavett is a "thinking person's" host.

The show begins airing on Decades on February 1. People already need to choose between Fallon, Kimmel and Colbert, and soon we will be able to add Carson and Cavett to the options. Find the Decades affiliate in your area here.

* Some information from and!dick-cavett/cs11

Friday, January 08, 2016

Johnny Carson Returns to Late Night

The past couple of years, we have witnessed many changes in the late night TV landscape. David Letterman, Jay Leno and Craig Ferguson stepped down after many years as television mainstays. Stephen Colbert, James Corden and Jimmy Fallon stepped into new roles.

On January 1st, the Antenna TV network started airing episodes of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The program airs 7 nights per week. Monday through Friday are the 60 minute episodes made between 1980 and 1992. On Saturday and Sunday, the 90 minute shows will air, which were produced previous to 1980. Tune in weeknights at 11:00 pm eastern and 10:00 pm eastern on weekends. Johnny's show aired on NBC from 1962-1992. Most of the shows made for the first 10 years were not archived. It was the practice back then to record over shows once they aired.

It is truly a pleasure to see these classic shows on TV again. It is obvious that so much of what we see on late night TV today was influenced by Carson. Younger generations will get exposed to the genius of this show. It is staggering to think about the groundbreaking comedians who got their big break with Johnny. A good appearance on the show would send struggling careers into the stratosphere.

Johnny's success can be traced to a couple of factors. Unlike many of today's hosts, he really listened to his guests. He was not glued to his notes, obsessing about his next question. Also, he wanted his guests to shine. He did not need to hog the spotlight and get all of the laughs for himself. He knew that if he had top-notch guests, it was good for the show. Between the celebrities, the skits by "The Mighty Carson Art Players", the outstanding big band jazz NBC Orchestra and the personalities of Johnny, Ed and Doc, this show was something special.

Those who enjoyed the show can check out the Facebook Johnny Carson Fan Club here.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Woody Allen's Musical

In 1996, Woody Allen released his film called Everyone Says I Love You. It is his only musical that he has made to date. The actors were not told that it was a musical until after signing their contracts. The title comes from a song in the 1932 film by the Marx Brothers called Horse Feathers. Woody is a fan of Groucho and his brothers, and there are references to them multiple times in the film. At one point there is a party where the guests wear Groucho eyebrows and mustaches and carry fake cigars.

The cast is truly star-studded. For this film, Woody Allen signed Alan Alda, Goldie Hawn, Drew Barrymore, Edward Norton, Julia Roberts and more. Many actors want to work with Allen due to his long career as a master writer/director and actor. He is admired by many for his work and creative vision. The total budget for the film was just $20 million, peanuts by Hollywood standards. The cast must have worked for a lower salary than they are accostomed to with this modest budget. One young star in the film was a 15 year old Natalie Portman. At this point, this was just her fifth film. She had already worked with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino in Heat. The same year that Everyone Says I Love You was released, her film Beautiful Girls hit theatres. That was another impressive cast, starring the likes of Matt Dillon, Timothy Hutton, Rosie O'Donnell, Uma Thurman and Michael Rappaport.

There is a reason that this movie felt like an old school Fred Astaire style musical from the golden days of Hollywood. Many of the songs date from the Depression era, if not earlier. A few of them include these.

Just You, Just Me-1929
Everyone Says I Love You-1932
My Baby Just Cares for Me-1930
I'm Through with Love-1931
Cuddle Up a Little Closer-1908

Music has always played a key role in Allen's work. Many of his films have a classic jazz soundtrack. For his film Manhattan, the music of George Gershwin was featured extensively. He used Rhapsody in Blue for his opening credit sequence which featured black and white scenes of Manhattan, wrapping up with an unforgettable fireworks scene. Everyone Says I Love You is filled with gorgeous songs. Some are toe-tappers and some are slow and thoughtful, but it is masterful the way they are intertwined within the storyline. The movie features singing and dancing scenes, and all actors performed their own singing with the exception of one, Drew Barrymore.

The story is peppered with scenes of melancholy and mirth. It is a family story, about upper class New Yorkers who struggle with relationships. Woody Allen's character falls for Julia Roberts' character. Drew Barrymore has ups and downs in her romantic life. Some scenes in the film were shot overseas, in Paris and Venice. This was a departure for Allen since it was his first film in over 20 years to be shot outside New York. But, in his future work, Allen would shoot many films in Europe.

Woody Allen's personal life has been tabloid fodder for years. I certainly do not endorse the choices he has made. He is an odd fellow but a brilliant artist nonetheless. This film is one of his best, up there with Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters and more. It is a light, feel good movie with songs that you will find yourself humming. Check it out, especially if you enjoy musicals.

* Some information from

Monday, September 07, 2015

Show Biz Wiz Quiz!

It's quiz time. Find the answers to these questions by looking at my last 10 blog entries.

1. What jazz vocalist/trumpet player hails from British Columbia, Canada and is receiving rave reviews for her work?

2. Which "Rat Pack" member started performing in Vaudeville theatres in 1929 performing with his father and uncle?

3. Who is the comedy legend that filled in for Johnny Carson 87 times as guest host of the NBC Tonight Show?

4. Between 1946 and 1956, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis performed regularly at what legendary New York City nightclub?

5. What groundbreaking situation comedy set the record for the highest Nielsen rating (67.3) in 1952-53?

6. Which late night TV host retired in May, after 33 years hosting his own show?

7. Who is the Canadian actor who has starred in the TV shows Family Ties and Spin City?

8. Which multi-talented Hollywood performer wrote 2 books about his life, called "Why Me" and "Yes I Can"?

9. What Harvard-educated actor starred in the films The World According to Garp, Terms of Endearment and Footloose?

10. Canadian entertainers Martin Short and Paul Shaffer met in the 1970s while working on a Toronto production of which musical?


1. Bria Skonberg

2. Sammy Davis Jr.

3. Bob Newhart

4. The Copacabana

5. I Love Lucy

6. David Letterman

7. Michael J. Fox

8. Sammy Davis Jr.

9. John Lithgow

10. Godspell

How did you do? Leave a comment below. Also, feel free to let me know about what topics you would like to see covered on this blog.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Bob Newhart: The Master of Dry, Subtle Humor

Comedy legend Bob Newhart just turned 86 years old. There are very few showbiz personalities of his generation that are still around. Some that come to mind are Jerry Lewis and Don Rickles. For over 50 years, Newhart has been a beloved star of television, film and standup comedy. He has always had a calm demeanor, and he delivers his jokes with a quiet subtlety. He is not an over-the-top wacky goofball comic like Jerry Lewis or Martin Short. He can say a lot with just a few words and a deadpan expression on his face. In this way he is similar to one of his idols, Jack Benny. He is known as a clean comedian who does not find it necessary to resort to using profanity. He has released 10 comedy albums. Some may not be surprised that before hitting it big in comedy, he worked as an accountant. He has the analytical, serious personality of one who would work well with numbers.

One odd fact is that he starred in 3 different TV shows that bore his name. Okay, technically 4 shows, but the details on the first show, from 1961-62, are sketchy. IMDB says that he appeared in 8 episodes. But, there are writing credits for 15-18 episodes. The premiere of each show after that was 10 years apart.

In 1972 he launched The Bob Newhart Show (142 episodes). He played a Chicago psychologist named Bob Hartley. The subject matter made for fertile comedy material, focusing on his odd patients and their psychological struggles. This show was a big break for co-stars Suzanne Pleshette and Marcia Wallace.

In 1982 he starred in Newhart (184 episodes). He played the owner of an Inn in Vermont named Dick Louden. His co-stars included Mary Frann, Peter Scolari (who did Bosom Buddies with Tom Hanks) and Tom Poston. Some may recall the quirky trio of Larry, Daryl and Daryl.

In 1992 he starred in Bob (33 episodes), where he played Bob McKay, a cartoonist. This was the shortest lived of his TV shows that bore his name. Various celebrities appeared on the show such as Betty White, Tom Poston, Lisa Kudrow and Steven Wright.

He was a favorite guest of Johnny Carson on his NBC Tonight Show. Newhart was Johnny's frequent guest host, filling in for Johnny a staggering 87 times. After Jack Paar left the show in 1962, Newhart was considered as his replacement, but the job went to Carson. Groucho Marx and Jackie Gleason were also in the running to host the iconic late night show.

In the 1960s Newhart appeared on shows hosted by some of entertainment's biggest stars. He appeared on shows hosted by Judy Garland, The Smothers Brothers, Andy Williams, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason. He appeared on Dean Martin's show 24 times.

In more recent years he has appeared on a variety of TV shows including The Simpsons, Murphy Brown, Saturday Night Live, ER, NCIS, The Big Bang Theory and Hot in Cleveland.

Newhart has been married to his wife Ginny since 1963, and they have four children.

* Some information from