20180120

TRENDS

In the 1984-85 season, 'Dynasty' finished with a 25.0% households ratings in front of 'Dallas' (24.7) to become the No. 1 program on television in the US. Of its success, Aaron Spelling made known, "You know, it's so hard to predict the success of a show and what they will be like all over the world or here in America. It's a gigantic guessing game. We've been lucky in being able to predict where the next trend is going. 

"But it is really mostly luck. I think on a show like 'Dynasty' if you're lucky to get a Joan Collins who has universal appeal and blend her with American actors and actresses I think you have a good chance of getting a worldwide market. But the great game that we've all played in television is will it work or will it not? Will the audience accept it or will they not? Let just hope our luck hold out." 

To help explain the game, Diane Mermigas of 'The Herald' (in Chicago) reported in 1977, "Network television plays the numbers game – generally referred to as ratings. The weekly and monthly numbers for which television bosses hold their breath determines the fate of a program, the trends of television to come and the amount of commercial air time sponsors will buy. The numbers profile various television viewers and reflect what they like and don't like. Ratings are the only solid indication the networks have of knowing what works and what doesn't work."

TV research director Ann Levine elaborated, "In judging any program, you must take into consideration the ratings it has received each week, the shows it has been running against and the specific audience it has been attracting. It's important to understand who watches television and what they watch. Ratings determine the life or death of a television show and determine what the future trends will be. We have to have broad appeal with most of our shows and prime time is when we have the broadest audience. So it’s important to especially keep track of the shows in that time period."

Ann Levine also explained to Diane Mermigas as reported, "Ratings act as a measurement for people working in every facet of the television industry. They give the station's sales force the leverage needed to sell commercial air time. Sponsors are attracted to programs with high ratings and realize they must pay the price for the advertising privilege during popular shows. Ratings can mean good news and bad news; they can show slumps and highs. 

"The ratings indicate to the station news director the types of people tuning into the daily news broadcasts and what viewers would like to seek in in-depth and feature news reports. Ratings dictate the kinds of second run, talk show programming and movies that weekday afternoon audiences want to see. Ratings also are important tools of any station's promotions department that attempts to sell its programming to the press. 

"But, most importantly to viewers, network bosses review the figures, week after week, and decide whether or not to foster a show or kill it, try it in a new time slot on a new day or produce a spinoff from it. The ratings number usually is more important than the share because it is used as the basis for network air time prices ... Television programming is a gamble any way you look at it, but the ratings information that is the foundation for decisions is more sophisticated and enlightening than ever before." 

By the end of the 1984-85 season, Brandon Tartikoff remarked, "Viewers were looking for more shows with characters who feel like everyday people. People were satiated by glitz and glamor and were looking for shows that were identifiable and had strong emotional connections." Hence the trend was toward realism. Harvey Shephard of CBS added, "'Cosby' will spawn more reality-based comedies." Associated Press noted at the time, "The serial dramas remained the most successful program format. General dramas, such as 'Highway To Heaven' and 'Murder, She Wrote' improved their performance this season, while action-adventure shows, which made up nearly one-third of the network schedule, declined." 

Growing up, Jana Wendt shared, "Television has a very important place in my life because I learnt to speak English watching television. I couldn't utter a word in English or maybe two before I went to school and the only way I learnt to speak English was by watching things like 'The Cisco Kid', and I think, oh, 'Johnny Ringo' which was a cowboy show, 'The Munsters', things like that. Now they're much damned programs sometimes and they're called cheap and nasty television sometimes but they did teach at least one little kid to speak English."

In the Australian Bicentennial year, 1988, Jana Wendt, in her first year as host of 'A Current Affair', was said to be the most successful woman on Australian television. Jane Cadzow reported the program had won its 6.30pm time slot nationally for all the 36 weeks of ratings (comprised 9 months of viewer surveys using the diary system ratings). Two of those surveys ranked 'A Current Affair' the highest-rating program on the land (No. 1).

Jana Wendt, reporter Claire Miller observed at the time, "Now, as the presenter of Australia's top rating current affairs program, her gender hardly turns a hair." Jana made the observation, "There is no doubt, you know, in the time that I've been in television – whatever it is, 10, 12 years or something – there has been a marked change. We are looked upon less as zombies or freaks now and more as just part of the furniture, as we should be, on the same level as men. That's not to say that there still aren't those little prejudices around somewhere, but they are diminished by comparison to what they were 10 years ago (in 1979)."

At the time, one viewer wrote to the newspaper, "This person – I don't know if it was a male or a female, there was no indication of that – said 'I was watching television the other night and Jana Wendt was on it and she was talking about something interesting. I was captivated. I didn't care whether she was a bloke or a woman.'" Jana made the point, "That to me is the greatest compliment you can get, when there is no more attention to gender at all and just to quality … The fact is that there are a lot of women on television and that I think testifies to the fact that we are growing up about women. You know, we are accepting them more readily and we are accepting them for what they are. We are not trying so hard to mould them into something that we hope they should be, a barrel girl or a barbie doll or something."

Switching from '60 Minutes' to 'A Current Affair', Jana stated, "It has taken a bit of adjustment as far as the schedule goes. It is obviously very different to what I was doing. It is an all day long, every day job and that came as a bit of a shock. Every day is like juggling a circus act, you know. Every day is like that but that is the nature of daily public affairs and that is both the joy of it and sometimes the pain of it all. Strangely enough, people who make news don't wait for us to slot them in for interviews. They just go ahead and make news at any time of the day or night so you have to ride with it. You have to be prepared to ride with it but it's good fun."

At one time, Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen declared, "I would make a very good Jana Wendt-type of person. I have always said I would like to be an interviewer. I would make a super Jana Wendt, because I would not let them slip off so often. I have seen many, many interviews – well, not many because I am mainly busy – but I have seen a lot. We do them together. I love it and she is a pretty sharp miss. I enjoy it, just sort of crossing swords backwards and forwards in front of all the executives and what not."

20180119

DALLAS

At its peak, 'Dallas' was "an international sensation." In the United States, 'Dallas' was the highest-rated entertainment series on television, attracting "massive audience spans geography, social status and income." By 1981, some 35 American companies and 15 British companies were licensed to sell 'Dallas' accessories such as posters, T-shirts, buttons, beer, puzzles, games, bumper stickers, watches, joke books, calendars. 

At the Maryland Institute, College of Art in July 1989 to accept an award, creator David Jacobs spoke to the 'Dallas Morning News', "'Dallas' was the first true worldwide television mega-hit. I haven't the faintest idea why it was such a phenomenon, but I was certainly glad to be along for the ride. If the truth be told, I don't think 'Dallas' was ever very good drama. Yet it obviously was the right show for a specific time and captured the imaginations of a great many Americans and people everywhere. Why? I've never found out." 

Linda Gray concurred, "It could be a much better show than it is. I don't think anyone in the cast is being used to their potential. But I'm happy to be involved because it's been a great vehicle for me. They've let me take the part and run with it." John Homlish, a teacher, spoke to Associated Press, "The Ewing family is a kind of mirror of that retreat into privacy. The Ewings have all the problems of society – alcohol, infertility, etc. And they handle all their problems within the family. Characters on soap operas tend to handle their problems in a very whiny sort of way. In 'Dallas', they just say, 'Dammit, you're an alcoholic and we're going to handle it.' Then they go at it. Nobody ever looks shocked, they just handle it. They're a tough old crowd." 

Speaking to the 'Pittsburgh Post-Gazette', Patrick Duffy theorized, "'Dallas' is not a show of foreign intrigue. It could take place for the next 50 years within the state of Texas. People want to see the family sit down at the dinner table, smiling, and know that everyone really wants to rip each other's guts out. Of all the soaps on the air, 'Dallas' is the only one that operates with a great sense of humor." 

Leonard Katzman observed, "There are college kids – 18, 19 years old – who can't remember a time before 'Dallas'." In 1986, 'Dallas' made the headlines on all tabloids with the resurrection of Bobby Ewing. As reported, "Not since the glorious summer of 'Who Shot J.R.?' in 1980 which has created worldwide attention, has 'Dallas' been all the rage at supermarket checkout counters." 

The resurrection of Bobby Ewing according to Patrick Duffy "is either going to be a huge stretch for the audience or they are going to say, 'Ha, ha, you must be kidding.' I heard one rumor, which scares me to death, that me being in the shower was the dream." Leonard Katzman offered at the time, "I'm not quite sure if anything will ever be quite as big as 'Who Shot J.R.?' but I do believe the return of Patrick will cause a tremendous amount of discussion and interest. As for the ratings, I don't think anybody's going to beat 'Cosby', but I think this (the dream season resolution) will get us a huge tune-in. After that, it's up to us to give people the 'Dallas' they had come to know and love and keep them there. We expect this to have an impact similar to 'Who Shot J.R.?'" 

On 'Dallas', Linda Gray played Sue Ellen Ewing. Speaking to the press in 1981, Linda Gray shared her story. Born in 1940, "I went to a Catholic all-girls school across the street from MGM. There was nothing to do after school, so we'd go to the studio and collect autographs. It was hard for me because I was the ugliest kid one could ever imagine. I was 5 feet 7 inches in 6th grade, which is gigantic. 

"I had a beanpole figure consisting of long, black, stringy hair, big eyes and buck teeth which made it difficult for me to close my mouth. I was tormented all through school. I was a wreck of a person. When I went to dances I had to wear ballet shoes – even then I was looking down on all the boys. Then I started eating a lot in high school and became fat. Soon I had braces on my teeth and a faceful of acne. 

"My parents became worried because I was so shy, always sweating and afraid to look men in the eyes. Somehow my body formed into the frame of a young woman and, unbelievably, I became 'homecoming queen' during my senior year. The first day I was in college I discovered my French professor staring at my legs during roll call. I remember smiling to myself and thinking, 'Aha, this is a little different from stern-faced nuns bearing hard-hitting rulers.' At that point men became an important part of my life." 

At age 18 in 1958, Linda Gray became aware of "strange guys coming after me. From my experiences with men, I've found there is a certain vibe you put out. I have a lot of confidence and self-esteem. I don't enclose myself. I'm very open and very vulnerable. Some women can walk into a room and you know exactly what they want. Men then manoeuvre to get what they want from those women. I have a nice way of saying no without offending anybody. 

"I don't put men down unless they're offensive. A lady does not have to tolerate discourtesy just because a man isn't a gentleman. When I grew up, young ladies were not encouraged to speak their minds. My parents thought an actress was one step below being a hooker. One day I realized I was one of society's puppets. I had spent my entire youth trying to be perfect in everybody's eyes, always attempting to do what society thought was right." 

In 1962, Linda Gray, then 21, married Ed Thrasher. In the years following, "I was super mum and super wife. Inside I was dying. One night I told my husband my life wasn't fulfilling. I was not doing anything creative. He suggested I pursue an acting career once the children were in college. That made me furious." It was understood Linda Gray started drinking, "I wasn't happy about it but it was a release. I had to do something and I didn't know what. My psychiatrist said it was like pouring water into a cup that was already over-flowing. I developed hypoglycaemia. When I started going to therapy, I was truly a wreck." 

Linda Gray spent a year with a woman therapist before she joined group therapy. Linda Gray continued, "Ed joined my group sessions. At first he thought he was going to be my savior. He thought the only reason he needed to attend was to save his wife from going overboard. It turned out he was responsible for a lot of my problems. We really worked very hard as a couple to pull it all together. Ed had to realize I needed freedom to pursue my career. 

"When he wanted us to move to a ranch far from Hollywood, I was very upset. Even though I fought the move at every opportunity, he knew how important it was for me to have a retreat. We designed and built our own house. I had a hard time seeing the plans on paper as my future home. I was still in therapy at the time. I'd come and see painters painting the walls a color I didn't like I'd go into a fit and dismiss the painters while Ed and I had a fight, I felt totally uncreative. At this point my life could have been the screenplay for 'Diary Of A Mad Housewife'." 

Linda Gray said the group therapy provided answers to some of her questions. In 1983, Linda Gray, then 43 and Ed Thrasher shocked "even cynical Hollywood" when they announced their marriage was coming to an end. Speaking to the press at the time, Linda Gray expressed, "I was the only 21-year-old virgin married that year. I was my own worst enemy then. Nobody told me I couldn't be an actress and a wife, but it was a tough transition for me to make. I had been a model and I did commercials and I had two children. 

"I used to be superwoman – a wife, mommy, housewife and dogwasher, and I thought that was terrific. Then I thought there's more – a lot more. I realized it was time to take care of me. I was in my early 30s before I became an actress. You're supposed to be finished at that age (in those days), not starting. All the women I admire – Georgia O’Keeffe, Katharine Hepburn – never let anyone dictate their lifestyle. I hope I can pass that on, too, so women won't say I'm 30, I'm 35, I can’t do this. 

"I was born practically next door to the MGM studios and I always wanted to act. But my parents were strict Catholics and were strongly opposed to the idea. They did all they could to discourage me from joining what they thought was an evil profession. I'm learning that unless I take care of myself I am no good to anybody. You have to be very strong in your marriage – and I was. 

"Strong enough to know that two people were not going to grow at the same level all the time. One may grow faster than the other at one time and then the reverse. People are no longer accepting the dictates of society, but are following their own feelings. I'd advise any married woman to fulfil whatever she believes to be her destiny." In 1982 hairstylist José Eber had chosen for Linda Gray a "carefree, short style."

'Dallas' was regarded a TV trailblazer. On television, 'Dallas' began a revolution which saw sex on TV. The depiction of lust, passion and adultery, Audrey Landers remarked, "Most of the risque matetial is more hinted at than shown and I love it because it makes it more of a challenge. You have to make it sexy without showing too much. A touch of mystery always makes the sexy scenes appear even more so, and that's what 'Dallas' is best at. They lead you right up to the moment, they paint the scene and they let your imagination fill in the rest. But it doesn't take too much to know what is going on." 

One 'Dallas' insider made the point, "The times are changing, and there is no question that 'Dallas' has been responsible fo the new wave of raunchy shows. 'Dallas' has always been the sexual vanguard and there is no way the producers are going to be content to just keep pace with the other soaps." At the time, a 'Dallas' spokesman insisted, "Looking to the future I am only going to say there are moments of implicit sex in some scripts and scenes of implicit sex in others." 

Audrey Landers continued, "My scene with J.R. is very sweet and sexy. It was fun to do. I definitely think sex is a big attraction for 'Dallas' viewers, but it's not done cheaply. Everyone loves 'Dallas' because it is bigger than life, so the sexual escapades have to be bigger too." It was reported Ed Thrasher initially felt awkward watching Linda Gray on-screen performing love scenes. 

Linda Gray recounted, "The first time we were sitting on a couch and Ed saw me kissing somebody on screen, he didn't like it one bit. But to me doing a love scene on screen is very unromantic, because there are umpteen crew members watching you, hoping that you'll finish quickly so they can go home. I told Ed that he shouldn't be jealous. Anyway, he is a photographer and takes pictures of nudes, which doesn't upset me. If we don't trust each other, we shouldn't be married. Fortunately, I believe Ed and I now have a firm idea of what makes us happy." 

Leigh McCloskey described one scene with Charlene Tilton, "I was supposed to be studying hard and engrossed in my books, when all of a sudden I look up and there she is in her birthday suit. The camera shows her dropping her clothes to the floor and then turning to face me. I had to keep my eyes riveted to hers, otherwise we would have been in trouble with the censors. The scene was a lot of fun to do even though there were about 80 guys on the set wolf-whistling. Sexy scenes might look passionate but they are not like real life, not like the passion you have for your husband or wife or lover. In fact, I sometimes super-impose the face of my wife because it adds great reality to the scene."

20180115

MURDER, SHE WROTE

Over 10 billion viewers (mostly the over 50 crowd) watched 'Murder, She Wrote' during the 12 seasons the show originally went on air (1984-1996). "I made up my mind when I was 58 that I better think seriously about getting into television. This was going to be my annuity," Angela Lansbury admitted. Between 1985 and 1994, 'Murder, She Wrote' was the highest-rated drama on television. 

"People my age and older say thank you for depicting a woman of our generation in a way that is up, that is forward-looking, that is not age-conscious, but simply has her take her place in life with all of the sense of responsibility and fun and energy that she can muster," Angela added. In its last season (1995-96), CBS moved 'Murder, She Wrote' from Sunday after '60 Minutes' to Thursday against 'Friends' because "ad rates for the hour were about a third less than its Sunday night competitor 'Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman'." 

Of the success of 'Murder, She Wrote', Peter S. Fischer elaborated, "I think there are a lot of reasons. One of them is that America loves Angela Lansbury. The Sunday time slot has a lot to do with it. We get a lot of our audience from '60 Minutes'. Theoretically, the people who watch '60 Minutes' are the kind who watch mysteries. They don't normally watch TV. It's a show about an older woman. There's no action, no sex. Our audience has learned to stay on to solve the puzzle. They were intimidated at first but they have learned that all the clues are in plain sight. Many of our audience sit around the living room and try to outguess each other." 

In 1984 Jessica Fletcher, a one-time substitute teacher had just published her first mystery novel as well as solved her first case. By 1988, "her world has opened up tremendously." Angela Lansbury told Associated Press, "The big change is that she has become very successful as a writer. She has become a celebrity. She has become more urbane and sophisticated, although she has not lost that small-town feeling. She has become a champion of middle-aged women and women struggling to maintain their position in life, even though they're alone." 

Angela Lansbury maintained, "It doesn't represent in any way a stretch, as we call it, to play Jessica Fletcher but to play Jessica, a role that has such enormous, universal appeal – that was an accomplishment I never expected in my entire life. I thought 'Murder, She Wrote' would last maybe a year or two, and that would have been fine. But it seems to have become an institution." 

Angela believed 'Murder, She Wrote' was popular because "it says that problems can be solved, mysteries can be unravelled. That life's anarchy can be straightened out. To make an episode work, you have to have an interesting yarn and present the audience with a set of clues and with suspects, showing how they might or might not be suspicious. I really don't want Jessica just walking through these scripts. I don't want her to be a question-and-answer machine. 

"You have to introduce elements putting her in danger. I want a little challenge for me. I know there are women who are my age, some widows, some who have never married, who relish the fact that I'm there with this character, who really love the fact that Jessica gets out there and messes in with life. I think it's wonderful to be able to represent that, even to the smallest degree, on television." 

The role of Jessica Fletcher was first offered to Jean Stapleton who decided to turn down the part. Speaking to the 'Los Angeles Times' in 1985, Angela Lansbury confessed she "didn't honestly expect the show to take off in the amazing way that it has ... On the one hand, I love the success and am enjoying that tremendously. On the other, I resist this takeover that it represents of my life … You're caught in a trap – that's what I'm not sure about. It's awfully hard to walk away from success, isn't it? 

"I liked what I visualized her to be when I read the script. There was something about her quality that I felt I could adapt myself to very easily, and very comfortably, and hopefully she could be an attractive person even though I was playing a middle-aged widow. I felt she was courageous and full of excitement and energy about life and people. This attracted me to her because that's my feeling about life and people. I don't have any feeling of being any age, and my enthusiasm for living and the prospect for the future never diminishes." 

Peter S. Fischer came up with the idea of Jessica Fletcher being younger than Miss Marple. Angela Lansbury continued, "He played up the fact that physically, Jessica was a very active woman – she rode bicycle, she jogged, she looked after herself. She did not drive a car. I don't quite know why. As it turned out, it was a very good thing she didn't because it precludes, in a sense, the need for car chases. 

"We have enough of them – there are enough shows that do very, very exciting car chases. Otherwise, we'd all end up in the underground garages of Los Angeles along with everybody else. We're not 'Hill Street Blues' or 'Miami (Vice)', we're not any of those things. We're simply mystery stories concerning the mystery of murder. It's unraveling, gathering all the clues and personalities involved in murder." 

In the 1986-87 TV season, CBS came up with the idea of a crossover between 'Magnum, p.i.' and 'Murder, She Wrote'. Michael Eisenberg of CBS told 'Newsday', "'Magnum' has more viewers who are male, teens and children, while 55% of 'Murder, She Wrote's' audience is women. This could bring more women to 'Magnum'. If this works, you'll see more such crossovers." 

Robert Swanson of 'Murder, She Wrote' and Jay Huguely of 'Magnum, p.i.' "worked very closely together. Obviously, the tough part for Jay Huguely was to put together the first part, the 'Magnum' episode, so it looked like a 'Magnum' and, at the same time, to bring in Angela as Jessica so that she looked good. I had the easier job. I had to make sure with the 'Murder' episode that we had four or five characters, as always one of whom would turn out to be the murderer, while doing justice to Tom Selleck as Magnum." 

Jay Huguely mentioned, "All along, adjustments were being made to suit the two lead characters. 'Magnum' is pretty much straight action-adventure regularly, with a big climax. In this case, because of Jessica Fletcher, our show had to be somewhat more complex and cerebral even with all the action." 'Newsday' reported, "When their scripts were finished, Swanson and Huguely found they still had more to do. Since the shows won't be sold together when they're sold into syndication as reruns, each hour episode had to be complete in and of itself." B. Donald Grant of CBS told 'Knight-Ridder Newspapers', "The key to these things is to create a certain amount of linkage between these shows in the minds of the viewers." 

The creators of 'Murder, She Wrote' previously created 'Columbo'. Peter S. Fischer insisted, "Ms. Lansbury has every bit as much brainpower as Peter Falk had in 'Columbo' but 'Murder, She Wrote' is an 'open' mystery, a genuine whodunit. On 'Columbo', the viewer always knew the identity of the killer at the very beginning of the show. In 'Murder, She Wrote', everybody's in the dark and we all play our own guessing games along with Ms. Lansbury as the story unravels."

Of Jessica Fletcher being the lead character, Peter S. Fischer informed, "It was really accidental. We (Richard Levinson, William Link and Peter S. Fischer) had no intention of coming up with a female character, but we had no problem with it, either. After a number of meetings with CBS, the network suggested Ms. Lansbury. Our only worry was that she might not want to move from New York to Los Angeles. But she was enthusiastic. 

"So we now (in 1984) have a perfect marriage of character and concept. It all sort of fell together. I think it's important to note that Ms. Lansbury, as Jessica Fletcher, is our only regular cast member. It's all on her shoulders, unlike the old 'Police Woman' series where Angie Dickinson always had Earl Holliman around to pull her oysters out of the fire. With Ms. Lansbury, it's all her; she solves the crime by herself." 

Speaking to 'The Times' in November 1984, Angela Lansbury enthused, "It's always nice to do something that's good – and then to have it turn out to be popular is a real bonus. We're enormously encouraged by the ratings, and I'm personally thrilled, as you can see. It's a program in which a woman plays a responsible role and is a responsible, nice kind of person. And let's be honest – my character, Jessica Fletcher, is a woman of a certain age who's allowed to flourish, and that is kind of a first. I'm extremely proud of that. 

"Of course, I have to admit that this movement toward 'real women' on TV owes a lot to 'Cagney & Lacey'. That show opened the doors for us. And I also have to pay tribute to Angie Dickinson and her 'Police Woman' series. But those women – Cagney and Lacey and Angie Dickinson – are younger women than me. I feel this is the year (1984) when the older woman is getting to make her mark, and that is exciting for me." Harvey Shephard of CBS noted, "There are so many working women today (in 1984). They are working in a world that used to be dominated by men. They have their own ambitions. They're striving for success, and they can identify with the women in these programs (such as 'Cagney & Lacey' and 'Kate & Allie')."

20180114

THE GOLDEN GIRLS

All situation comedies had a bible - a synopsis of everything that had happened on the series so new writers did not have to watch past episodes to know the full story. However the 'Los Angeles Times' learnt, "There is no master plan of what will happen in the future." In 1984, CBS struck gold with the drama series, 'Murder, She Wrote' on Sunday night. As reported, "It's a simple demographic fact: The American population is getting older – and TV is learning to follow that trend." 

In 1985, Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas met with Brandon Tartikoff to discuss an idea for a new series about the adventures of a young female attorney. However Brandon Tartikoff suggested, "We (NBC) don't like your idea. But we'll give you one. Take some women around 60. Society has written them off, has said they're over the hill. We want them to be feisty as hell and having a great time." 

The result was the TV sitcom, 'The Golden Girls', about four over 50 women sharing a house in Miami Beach - 3 widowed (Rose Nylund, Blanche Devereaux, Sophia Petrillo) and one divorced (Dorothy Zbornak). 'Knight-Ridder News Service' reported, "Although there are millions of Americans over 50 alive today (in 1985), this age group is not fashionable in TV Land. The prime target audience for TV advertisers is the age bracket from 18 to 49." 

Then 62 and driving a Toyota Tercel, Estelle Getty observed, "Older people between 50 and 80 are big purchasers. They buy cars, groceries, toothpaste, aspirin – everything. It’s silly for sponsors to think that once you get past 50, you're no longer useful to them." Harvey Shephard of CBS made the point, "We've always felt that the target audience for our programs should be 30 to 60. That's the age group with the largest disposable income. All you have to do is study the census reports to verify that. How can anybody actually believe that people 18 to 24 have more purchasing power than people 50 to 54? It's a joke." 

'Knight-Ridder' continued, "NBC already draws more children, teenagers and young adults than any other network, so something for seniors might nicely diversify its audience mix. If you’re angling for seniors, Saturday night seems the right night to fish because so many Hollywood movies that wind up on television were originally targeted at the basic theater ticket-buying audience, predominately aged 25 and younger, it seems wise to offer TV viewers who are twice that age something different." 

Director Terry Hughes noted, "On Saturday night, we're doing it on our own – not by leapfrogging 'Cosby'." Paul Schulman bought $165 million worth of television advertising a year for clients told 'The New York Times', "… 'The Golden Girls' will do extremely well with younger people. It's a mistake to think that younger people won't watch just because the show deals with older women. Who's home on Saturday night? An awful lot of people who used to be big 'Love Boat' fans and who will eat 'Golden Girls' up." 

Associated Press reported, "In the 1980s, network TV on Saturday night has become a losing proposition, losing viewers to pay-cable movies, video cassette rentals and the networks’ own inept programming. Saturday hasn't been funny since Mary Tyler Moore left Minneapolis and Bob Newhart surrendered his couch." Brandon Tartikoff insisted, "'Golden Girls' defies all the demographic rules of television." 

Then 64 and driving a Cadillac Seville, Betty White pointed out, "We get half our mail from kids! Toddlers come up to me in the market, tug on my skirt and say, 'Woze! Woze!' They can't pronounce Rose, but they know who I am." Paul Junger Witt informed, "We have an audience from kids on up. All the research we see indicates a real across-the-board appeal among all ages. Also, let's keep in mind that 55 or 60 is no longer an age that's so distant to people my age. Fifty-five just isn't considered old anymore – and it makes economic sense for the networks to recognize that fact." 

Speaking to 'New York Daily News', Betty White added, "It shocks me how we cross over into all demographic groups. I don't think I really knew that we had a hit until I saw the first script. Still, I prayed a lot." Warren Littlefield of NBC maintained, "We knew the show would be breaking one of the basic television rules. But all of our best shows scared us a bit. We propelled 'Golden Girls' because we knew there would be nothing like it on the air. And in the last year or two (from 1984) what has worked on television is what's different." 

Speaking to 'The Honolulu Advertiser', Betty White believed, "I'm sure it started out, as NBC-TV conceived it, as a show aimed towards the older generation. But kids on the street yell to me, 'Golden Girls', 'Golden Girls' and we're sort of cult figures among the teenagers. I don't know why, but it's just plain wonderful." Then 60 and driving a silver Audi, Beatrice Arthur told 'News America Syndicate', "I feel the success of 'The Golden Girls' has nothing to do with our age group. I mean, if the show's good, everybody's gonna watch it. When I was approached to do this show, I didn't even think of the fact that all four of us are older ladies. All I knew is that it was a great script that really excited me." 

Speaking to the 'Chicago Tribune', Paul Junger Witt made known, "We approached the series, not with trepidation, but with thought and a great deal of study. We asked a number of mature people whom we knew about certain elements of their lives. We incorporated some of those philosophies into the show. The reaction from mature audiences (over 55), has been remarkably enthusiastic. 

"They felt at last they were represented on TV. We get a tremendous amount of mail from young people. We like doing a show that we know works 'across-the-board' - a show that kids can enjoy, as well as their parents and grandparents. Many families write us they watch together. It's a huge success in England. And it's done very well elsewhere." 

Then 51 and driving a yellow Mercedes, Rue McClanahan told 'The Index Journal' the series was a hit because "the team work is wonderful on every level. We have one of the most wonderful creative machines in town, from writing to directing ... and, yes, acting." Bea Arthur mentioned, "It's full of surprises. We have not been formularized. And the series doesn't revolve around one person as 'Maude' did. There are four stories to be told and we are four such distinct types." 

Betty White concurred, "The are no egos, there's no dissension. We're all given equal treatment. If someone gets the main story, the others are always involved in a subplot. Actually, it’s more fun when you're not driving the plot. You can be sillier." The premiere episode attracted 25% households ratings (of the 85.9 million TV homes at the time) and 43% audience share (over 21.5 million viewers). 

Betty White made the comment at the time, "In all the 100 years I've been in this business, I've never seen this kind of pre-hype. Well, at least they can't miss the fact we're on. We will not go down by default." Then 44, Susan Harris told the press, "I had to write 'Golden Girls'. I've never gotten excited about a network idea before, but this was compelling. I could write grown-ups. Television is always several steps behind life.

"It's kind of pathetic that this show is television's baby steps. I hadn't wanted to do any more television but that (Brandon Tartikoff's suggestion) appealed to me. I like writing about older people. They have more to say. They've led rich lives. That's really how it ('The Golden Girls') started. After that I came up with the concept and the characters. We got the stars we wanted. The contrast between the four women breeds the conflict. We had to make them quite different or you'd end up with 30 minutes of 'nice'. 

"Dorothy comes from Queens. She's the most outspoken, the sharpest, the strongest character. She's a survivor. Rose is not quite in the world. She's been protected all her life, so there’s a bit of the ingenue about her. She's an innocent ... Blanche is a throwback to the Old South. She's antebellum. She's Scarlett O’Hara. She thinks she's hot stuff, but she's growing older and is having a tough time. Sophia is an Italian mother who spent a lot of time in New York. She's a tough cookie. We gave her a small stroke that wiped out her brain censor so she could say what everyone else would like to say but doesn’t." 

In its 7th season (1991-92), NBC moved 'The Golden Girls' to a new, earlier time slot on Saturdays and scheduled its spin-off 'Empty Nest' in its previous time slot. The ratings for 'The Golden Girls' started to fall "immediately after the time switch". In the 1992-93 season, CBS renamed 'The Golden Girls', 'The Golden Palace'. Estelle Getty remarked, "I guess that in this business you learn to shift your allegiances very quickly – with agents, with networks, with the powers-that-be." 

Tony Thomas told the 'Los Angeles Times' roughly 25% of the budget of 'The Golden Girls' went to hiring writers, "A good comedy requires a lot of teamwork, a lot of people sitting in a room working together. A good team is rare, but it's not extremely rare. It's like winning the NBA title." The 5 key writers on 'The Golden Girls' were all in their 30s: Terry and Speer Grossman; Barry Fanaro; Mort Nathan and Winifred Hervey. 

Dean Valentine of NBC stated, "The secret of TV half-hour comedy shows is the revisions (rewriting). What they start out with is 75% (outline, first draft, second draft) away from what they end up with (complete script)." Terry Grossman elaborated, "One of the most important things that exists with this group (of writers) is that the bottom line is making the show as good as possible. It's still very difficult when your script is read for the first time and the material doesn't work. It hurts for a moment. But there's no time to take it personally. It didn’t work. And the clock is ticking. You better keep moving and get it right." 

Betty White shared, "With comedy, you really have to go slowly – syllable by syllable. If you put in an extra word, or you take one out, the rhythm is off. You've got to dot every 'I', and use every comma. It's that precise." Terry Grossman continued, "Early in the first season we were throwing out whole scenes. Now (by 1988) we know what works for each lady and what she does best. That's the advantage of being in the third year of the show (1987-88). The disadvantage is that stories are harder to come by."

Each episode comprised "the idea, the act break and the resolution. Usually there's an 'A' story and a 'B' story going. It's the natural structure. Good writers should be able to write for men, women, old or young. We all draw on other people in our lives – parents, grandparents. Part of the reason for the show's popularity is that these are very vital people. 

"The very same story you've seen 100 times on every sitcom takes on new light with characters in this age group. That makes life easier for us. Also, these four actresses are sensational. To have the entire cast be able to give such high-caliber performances means you don't have to adjust your material. You write the material, and they deliver. If they can't make it work, there's something wrong with the material." 

Estelle Getty acknowledged, "As actors, we do what's handed to us, but to be able to do something that's up your alley is icing on the cake." There were two tapings of 'The Golden Girls' before a live audience at Renmar Studios. Before the first taping, there would be two rehearsals (draft one rewrite then draft two) and one dress rehearsal. Rue McClanahan recalled, "Sometimes, I have 7 or 8 costume changes on a single show (each episode) ... I get so much mail from people wanting to know where they can buy the clothes I wear on 'The Golden Girls'." A completed script usually had 50 pages. 

It was understood "every fourth week during the season, the show shuts down, giving the actors and crew a rest and allowing the writers to catch up." Betty White enthused, "...Television has been my mainstay. I think television and I started out together. I love the fact that you’re able to work one-on-one with the audience. I mean, you’re invited into the living room of the viewers. You’re never talking to more than two or three people at a time. You’re really reaching out there, and communicating with selected individuals." 

In the episode ‘Letter to Gorbachev' (first went on air in October 1987) Barry Fanaro disclosed, "It was one of 20 or 30 story notions kicked around." Mort Nathan expressed, "Most of them didn't work. But this one sound amusing. Because Rose is a childlike character, we wondered what would happen if she wrote a letter to Gorbachev about world peace. We started fleshing it out, but we couldn't think of a second act. We went round and round, and finally six weeks later we came up with a way to make the story work."

Terry Grossman reiterated, "It's really a team effort." Of writing jokes, Terry Grossman revealed, "They're only hard to write when you've got one that isn't working. A joke in the middle of a scene can be weak, but the 'out joke' - a snappy one-liner that ends the scene on a laugh – has to be strong." Speer Grossman voiced, "To keep quality, you like as many writers as you can afford. This year (1987-88 season), we have six 'entities' (writing teams) - four sets of partners and two individuals. And we also use a few freelance scripts each season (outside scripts submitted through agents). We may decide a scene needs a new opening. There will be a long moment of silence. Then someone will ask if anybody’s eaten at some new restaurant. In the course of conversation, somebody will say, 'Wait a minute, I have an idea.'"

20180109

TELEVISION

Mike Willesee reportedly had a "bitter battle" with Frank Packer over "editorial freedom" which saw him stood down from 'A Current Affair' at the end of 1973. It was understood Frank's son Clyde hired Willesee in November 1971 because "he knew how to make current affairs appeal to commercial television viewers." Mike Willesee elaborated in 1992, "Say we didn't have a story tonight (for 'A Current Affair'). Give me an hour and I can give you a story without leaving this room." 

He also made the point, "Current affairs shows tend to report on an event that's already happened, and they follow it up whether it's middle-of-the-road 'A Current Affair' or downmarket 'Inside Edition'. But in 'Street Stories' we have to be there when it happens – it's living camera stuff and there's not a lot of that around. It was extremely difficult. In fact, it started to get me down for a while. 

"I have never had to throw out so much material (as I have) here (on 'Street Stories'), compared to any other program I've done. We all had to be re-trained. It's a matter of being tough with ideas. In the early days we would sit around and someone would have a great idea but there were high-risk probabilities that can be overcome in ordinary current affairs in post-production. But here (on 'Street Stories') we have to get it right when it happens." 

An old title 'A Current Affair' of a new show was relaunched in January 1988 (the year of Australia's Bicentenary) with Jana Wendt as host. "After all those years on '60 Minutes', it's hard to think of a position in the business that isn't second best," Jana Wendt described hosting the national 5-nights-a-week, 30 minutes program which followed the news. 

Debi Enker reported at the time, "The cornerstone of Nine’s domination in 1989 was the consistent ratings heights achieved by the nightly news and 'A Current Affair', which regularly rated well into the magical 30s ... Achieving equally stratospheric ratings heights on a consistent basis, 'A Current Affair', with Jana Wendt at the helm, on one extraordinary occasion ascended to a ratings share of 40 (report to do with Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Sir Leslie Thiess). 'Four Corners' produces similar stuff with regularity and never gets within a bull's roar of a 40." Jana Wendt recognised, "I do think there is a factor X, an intangible, that makes some people work on television."

Some 20 years after he last hosted the program, Mike Willesee returned as full-time host of 'A Current Affair' in 1993. It was noted Mike Willesee and Mike Munroe were job-sharing the 6.30pm time slot. Gerald Stone stated at the time, "… I think the competition between 'Real Life' and 'A Current Affair' will be a case of the young lion (Stan Grant) versus the old lion." 

Without Jana Wendt, 'A Current Affair' did not hold the audiences the program had previously attracted. Malcolm Stewart of Total Media explained programs such as 'A Current Affair' and '60 Minutes' were the "tie-breaker" which made a difference in the advertising share equation. One source told 'Fairfax Media', "There is something like a holy writ that says news will always plateau unless you get a current affairs show at 6.30pm. Otherwise, you're playing footy with half a side."

News presenter Juanita Phillips observed, "News and current affairs have gone so magaziney, really predictable. They have been going too much into the magazine-style format. 'A Current Affair', 'Real Life' and 'Hinch' too, to a certain extent. By the end of last year (1993) you could pretty well guess what they were going to cover. They went for the hidden cameras and less for the serious political interviews. I can't remember the last time I saw a really incisive political interview. I like the Sydney ABC News. I really like the way it is written, quite commercial ... I think 'The 7.30 Report' is a bit heavy on state politics."

In 1994, with Jana Wendt decided to return to '60 Minutes', Ray Martin took over as host of 'A Current Affair'. Speaking to Peter Wilmoth in 1996, Ray Martin remarked, "I don't run the television industry, I just go out and do a job for the last 30 years of my life (since 1965) … At the end of the day I don't apologise for this program ('A Current Affair'), whether I'm involved with it, or Jana, or the Mikes, it's a quality program and occasionally we screw up, like newspapers screw up.

"Having lived in America for 10 years (1969-1978), having travelled the world for '60 Minutes', I think this program ('A Current Affair') would rate up against any program the BBC puts on, certainly anything the Americans put on. If people watch 'aCA' or '7.30' every night with their two different styles … then I think they're fairly well served in background to the news and current affairs stories that aren't shallow, aren’t exploitative, that are fair, quality journalism, which is probably why we get so many newspaper journalists who want a job. I don't mind being popular … I think Walter Cronkite was pretty popular. He was also pretty credible … I've had no shortage of offers from the ABC over the last 17 years I've been at channel Nine (1979-1996). The last one was 18 months ago (in 1995) for a very senior current affairs program."

Jeff McMullen replaced Ray Martin on '60 Minutes' made the comment at the time, " … '60 Minutes' talks in a television language, a language that even kids can understand. '60 Minutes' is such a successful program while too much of the ABC is invisible. On 'Four Corners' I was doing 6 or 7 documentaries a year. At '60 Minutes' it is almost every week. It means you can cover a lot more.

"You can have all the time in the world to make the film but unless you can get someone to watch it, it loses its impact. That is the strong argument for a watchable format. There is a little bit of joy in '60 Minutes', an awful lot of television making tends to be pretty soulless. It's one conflict to another. The format for a lot of documentaries is built on confrontation and yet not all the world turns that way."

Ray Martin maintained, "I think journalism is an honourable profession. I find myself defending journalists. I know so many to be basically ethical people. I am always stunned when I find it disagreeable. I'm not fitted to do much more than what I do. I'll be reporting, one way or another. Sport, religion, features. Something with adjectives. I'm not going to be an executive in television or radio. My abilities lie in reporting. In general, when people write on my side of the business (TV), I think the Americans write better. I think the American reporters on '60 Minutes' probably write better than us. But I have no doubt that our camera work and editing is better."

In discussing the 1985 film 'Acceptable Levels', Jana Wendt pointed out, "I suppose there are two things on '60 Minutes'. There's an ideal which happens in my case about 80% of the time. The ideal is that I have involvement with the story from the moment we start filming, or well before that, because I research my part in a story, and I follow through my involvement to the editing room.

"I regularly sit through to what we call a rough-cut, and I try to see it through to a fine cut. The way '60 Minutes' works is that we have somebody like our executive producer, Gerald Stone, to come in and view the so-called rough-cut. So editorial control goes to whoever is supervising the editing. To me personally, that is not as satisfactory, not nearly as satisfactory, as when I am able to see the editing."

"If it was my money and not Kerry Packer’s I’d be doing 20 (night-time) specials and nothing else and that's what I'd ideally like to do, purely for my energy and my sanity," Ray Martin spoke to 'Fairfax Media' in 1992. "I would have liked to see Jana with more popular people ('On Assignment') than Rupert Murdoch and Meryl Streep. The ordinary person doesn't care about Rupert Murdoch or Meryl Streep. They'd much rather see Jana with Kevin Costner. That's purely my opinion.

"It's probably my working-class background which makes me reject the word 'star'. I've got a Merc but Kerry Packer owns it. There are a lot of people who have nice houses and cars, but aren't stars. I go to the supermarket and shop … I'm clearly well-known. But I'd be offended if the people I worked with called me a star. I was with George Negus when we opposed the channel at '60 Minutes' when they wanted to fly the 'stars' first class and the crew economy. So we went and flew with the crew. In the end we travelled mostly business."

Jana Wendt believed, "I think probably stratospheric ratings and that (quality journalism) are possibly mutually exclusive. Look, nothing is easy, so if you're going to tell a complicated story it's going to take a bit of effort from the audience and not everyone is prepared to sit down and invest a lot of time all the time. Television viewers have to make a decision whether to 'veg-out' or become engaged in something which might become complicated.

"There are two things going on – while the standards of a certain type of program are spiraling down into entertainment values, there is growing audience for things to be smarter and people are hungrier for real information. To me that says they regard the first as entertainment, and accept it as that and don't take it too seriously except as entertainment, but they feel as though they're being ill-served unless other real information provided."

"All I can do is sport (such as Olympic Games), information, news or current affairs," Ray Martin made known. "I've said this to the 'Current Affair' people when I was last filling in (in 1991) and I've said it at '60 Minutes' – old hard-nosed male journos often don’t have enough women working with them who are tapped in to what ordinary people like.

"In the real world, I think that’s what people are interested in (light stories) and I think the danger with serious current affairs programs, especially where blokes are involved, is that you think the big stories are important. Maybe that's part of having a program ('The Midday Show') that's 60% women. It may just be the feminist movement; it may just be the fact there's been an education process for all blokes. If you live in that world that journos don't live in, there are 17 million people out there (population at the time) who actually enjoy their children and enjoy life. OK, they're getting it fairly hard at the moment but nevertheless, it's not all doom and gloom. There's really a lot of joy out there.

"It seems magazines and the media these days (in 1992) are short attention spans. You can see the changes in current affairs even – see it being faster with no time for longer stories. It doesn't have to be slick and superficial but it can be. I think women's magazines are in danger of becoming up-market glossy versions of 'Truth' in dealing with gossip and rumour.

"There's a fascination right now with fantasy, escapism and romance – look at the success of 'Getaway' (travel show), 'Sex' (with Sophie Lee), Elle, the Paul Hogan special (rated 30 plus). If I'd been doing the specials 5 or 10 years ago (around 1982) – apart from the fact I've grown up – I think I would have wanted to do some hard political story. I wouldn't do it now (in 1992). I don't think they (the audience) want two hours of hard story."

In an interview with Anthony Dennis, producer Peter Wynne declared, "I think Ray's getting better at what he does. The last year (1992) has been meteoric for Ray. His star is not just in the ascendancy, it's rocketing. He is a guy who might have been pigeon-holed, but now the network recognises his diversity … They call Jana Wendt the 'Perfumed Steamroller'. She has skills in a couple of areas. But what's transforming Ray is that he can pretty much do anything. I'd say he'd have to be the hottest property in Australian television (in the mid '90s)."

In the interview with James Murray in 1985, Jana Wendt mentioned, "There are situations where I suppose the fact that I'm a woman has helped me to get, I think, surprisingly frank interviews from people. That often comes from men who are unwilling to accept that women can be quite rough in an interview … When you ask me questions about is it an advantage or disadvantage to be a woman, I would find the more pertinent question to be: is it a disadvantage to be young? 

"I find age (28 at the time) to be the greatest, single hindrance to doing things the way you might want to do them and not sex at all. In my case I found that when I joined the ('60 Minutes') program (at age 25). These days (in 1985) it happens to a much lesser degree but if there are barriers to be broken, as far as I am concerned they are age barriers not sex barriers. Sure there are Neanderthal men out there who have some very strange Neanderthal views that women are inferior beings but I don't preoccupy myself thinking about that too much."

Jana Wendt also told 'Fairfax Media', "I've always been a person who acts on impulse and I have never pushed my way through to doing jobs for the sake of pushing. I've done things because I've enjoyed doing them. So when this delight with the job ceases, I will cease doing it and do something else ... If you're born into the world as a woman you become packaged with advantages and disadvantages and certain things that will always be there. It becomes a professional, biological fumble. You make your way as best you can. Some days you're proud of what you've achieved and other days you say to yourself: 'Boy, I really mucked up today.'"

20180105

JUST OUR LUCK

The Lorimar Production of 'Just Our Luck' in cooperation with Lawrence Gordon Production first went on air in the 1983-84 TV season. T.K. Carter played a black genie, Shabu, who had lived inside a green bottle for 3000 years. "I think 'Dr. Detroit' (as Dan Aykroyd's on-screen chauffeur) was a turning point for me. As an actor, it always feels good to be recognized for what you're doing," T.K. Carter confessed. Of 'Just Our Luck', T.K. Carter maintained, "I see Shabu as the first black superhero."

Richard Gilliland read for the part of Keith Barrow - the San Diego TV weatherman waiting "to be an anchorman some day" - at the last minute. Co-executive producer Chuck Gordon stressed, "What is important is that the key character represent Everyman. When you conceptualize these shows you try to get someone the audience can identify with. We won't be dwelling on Barrow as a weatherman as much as that Keith is simply a guy from Wisconsin who is the son of a cheese inspector."

Keith bought the dusty bottle from a sidewalk vendor and brought back to his apartment in Venice, California. His cat then accidentally broke the old bottle and released the genie who had no contact with the outside world for 200 years. Shabu told Keith, "I am Shabu, your genie. I must serve you for 2000 years or until your death, whichever comes first." 

ABC commissioned 13 episodes including the pilot, which were filmed single-camera style with a laugh track. Up against 'The A-Team', 'Just Our Luck' averaged 12.7% households ratings and 20% audience share (compared to 'The A-Team' 24.0% households ratings and 35% audience share). Speaking to 'Akron Beacon Journal', T.K. Carter remarked, "They're (the network) telling us they have faith in the show. 'The A-Team' is just a powerhouse. On a national level they're getting us. I hope they give it a chance, because all I know is that the people out there like it." 

On reflection, Richard Gilliland reasoned, "People enjoy cute, they appreciate funny, but they remember weird … This is what television is all about." As reported, "Countering charges that Shabu is a poor role model for blacks, he will no longer call Keith 'master'." Speaking to Associated Press, Richard Gilliland hinted, "I think the two characters will have a dual dependency. In the future Keith will become more magical and Shabu will become more mortal. Figuratively, Shabu is the master. I want to get rid of him, but I can't. I'm stuck with him." 

As Pamela Douglas of the 'Courier-Post' understood, there were no black writers on 'Just Our Luck' until Calvin Kelly, the chairman of the Committee of Black Writers of the Writers Guild of America and Willis Edward, the president of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood NAACP wrote to Lawrence Gordon. Jane Ellison, a white woman, who was associate executive director of the 7000-member Writers Guild explained, "As a consumer I have to question what the producers are presenting. What are they giving people except their own narrow fantasies of what black people are like? No black writers were sincerely solicited until the guild and the NAACP raised a commotion."

It was noted in previous times, Shabu had served Napoleon, King Arthur, and Cleopatra. "Yeah, he's hip and people like that," T.K. Carter observed. "He's the one doing the magic, and that's never been done with a black actor before. It's a switch-up. But he's a nice guy. He's not mean. He's the kind of guy you'd like to have over for dinner." Alcohol was said would cause Shabu to lose control of his powers and senses. "Hey, I'm going to be one black guy that's got the edge. I'm not even allergic to kryptonite ... (But) I mean, after 3000 years in a bottle, man, I need a date!" 

Richard Gilliland continued, "There are obvious comparisons to 'I Dream of Jeannie'. People will think this is an obvious remake but there are many differences. We've both got the genie, but that's where it ends. Actually, I think what it may ultimately become is 'The Odd Couple' with magic. Still, its success won't depend on the magic. It will depend on how people like the two of us." 

Speaking to 'The Arizona Daily Star', Richard Gilliland noted Keith did not ask Shabu for wealth and fame because of "his belief in America, in the American way, in wanting to earn a living for himself, and in not wanting to make his life that easy because he wants to grow on his own and experience life. Ultimately the two characters should converge somewhat. Keith will trust his own charisma and his own spiritual magic more, while Shabu will become more human, more mortal. So ultimately you will have more of an 'Odd Couple' relationship, with two people who are from different worlds balancing each other … We're two guys who are opposites. I'm from Wisconsin and he’s from a bottle." 

T.K. Carter started performing at the age of 11. He spoke to 'Longview Morning Journal', "My godmother told me that I used to stand in front of the TV set watching 'Popeye, the Sailor' and I would insist on becoming part of the animated act. In fact, I loved all the programs on television. One of my favorite shows was 'The Addams Family'. Oddly enough, John Astin who starred in the series, directed the pilot of 'Just Our Luck', plus several other episodes of the show. 

"I knew where every major studio was and made a point of dropping around whenever I could. One time I stood in front of Paramount Studios in a phone booth near the main gate for more than an hour waiting to be discovered. While working on the rides (at Disneyland), 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and the 'Haunted Mansion', I got a chance to perform in front of people from all countries. I didn't need words to communicate. They understood my expressions, mannerisms and body movement." 

Speaking to 'Gannett News Service', T.K. Carter made the comment, "I loved all the jobs that involved people. I would always make 'em laugh. Pretty soon, I thought, 'I've got something here.'" It was after that T.K. Carter decided to pursue a career in acting, "I sent an agent this huge photo album I'd kept over the years. It was a real mess. I didn't hear from him so I called and said, 'If you're not going to use my picture please send it back.' The agent told me he was trying to reach me. Needless to say, I wasted no time getting to his office." During auditions, "I had 'em on the floor. After that, I was sure I had the job. But I kept waitin' and not hearin' anything. I chewed my fingernails down to the bone." 

Of stardom, T.K. Carter offered, "I think they (his family) knew it would happen but they didn't know when. You know, trying to become a star is like saying, 'Bye, Mom. I'm going to the moon. I'll be right back.' I've always considered myself an actor who does comedy well. Both the acting and the comedy came natural to me. You just roll with it. You don't question it.

"You just can't work with people like Goldie Hawn or directors like John Carpenter and Walter Hill and not have it rub off on you. They all help you to improve. When I worked with Walter Hill (on 'Southern Comfort'), he taught me how to be subtle as an actor. John Carpenter taught me how to be terrified. When we shot 'The Thing', it took an hour to get to the location. I never felt so cold in all my life."

T.K. Carter who had also worked at the Safeway Supermarket was 26 in 1983. At the time, T.K. Carter enthused, "It's refreshing to do both acting and comedy but I feel more comfortable on stage. That's me saying what I want to say. My dream is do feature films like Sidney Poitier used to do and headline in Las Vegas. I'd also love to work with Blake Edwards. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, so you know, I'm an L.A. kind of guy. People always think all blacks grew up in the ghetto but I come from a middle-class neighborhood. We had minibikes, a pool table."

Speaking to the 'Los Angeles Times', T.K. Carter stated in comedy, "I'm going for class not that angry stuff. It's all a matter of where your roots are. I idolize Richard Pryor, but I wasn't raised the ... the way he was, so I don't have that built-in bitterness. That's why he was so cool. He said stuff that everyone else felt but was too afraid to let out. But look at my face – you'll never see any bitterness. If I'm wronged, I'll go behind a door and hide it. I won't show any bitterness out here.

"Shabu can do anything and, in a sense, that's how I am. I can be driving down the street in my car and I'll see a guy walking along, a business executive, and I will break into an imitation of him. I also do impressions on the phone. I once tricked a girlfriend into thinking it was Bill Cosby calling her for a date. I made it clear that I won't do that jive routine, acting like some cat in a black El Dorado drinking a Kool-Aid daiquiri with a hat as a big as a house. I'm into being hip, and there's a difference. When Shabu pops out of the bottle, he's wearing a Bill Blass raw-silk suit. I mean, move over, Billy Dee Williams. You're not going to see me wearing a lot of jewelry and stuff. If I wanted that, I'd ask Mr. T to lend me a few chains."

In acting, T.K. Carter made the point, "It's much easier for a black comic actor to get parts, because you're making people laugh. It's a lot harder if you're carrying a heavy message." Of Shabu being a servant, "I don't look at it that way. Shabu doesn't have a master because he doesn't believe in masters. This isn't going to be anything like 'I Dream of Jeannie'. I really feel like I'm the first black superhero to be on TV. When I was a little kid, every time I opened a book I saw a white Captain America, a white Batman and Robin. I think I'm going to be a positive black character, a real role model." 

20171231

JANA WENDT

Jana Wendt had been described as the "peripatetic daughter of Australian current affairs". In 1999, Jana "completed the grand slam of Australian television – appearing on all 5 national networks (channels Ten, Nine, Seven, ABC and SBS) over the past 20 years (1979-1999)." The 'Witness' program in 1996 heralded the return of Jana Wendt, then 40, to the forefront of Australian journalism. It was the most talked-about program at the beginning of that year.

However Jana had stated, "I'm happy when I'm working in TV on the road, doing stories. But I don't love television per se. The actual medium itself doesn't hold a fascination for me. I'd rather read a novel. I'm not so fascinated by TV that I need to be there … I don't have a driving ambition to be on television. I'm not wedded to it." In her last year on the Australian '60 Minutes' program, Jana argued the program had become a "tabloid, sensationlist and trivial" program "with no commitment to giving stories their proper priority."

Journalist Paul Lyneham recounted in 1997, "Interestingly, one of the final offers Nine made to Jana Wendt was that she should host 'Nightline' and she saw that as the bimbo role and said 'I'll do the interviews.' The ABC said yes to (Kerry) O’Brien (conducting all the political interviews) but channel Nine said no to Jana which, given the perceptions of the two places, you might have expected it to be the other way around … Unlike the ABC, they (Nine) look after their stars."

Commentator Terry Lane conceded, "There are very few current affairs television interviews that have stuck in my memory, but I do remember an interview Jana Wendt did with Sitiveni Rabuka soon after his military coup in Fiji. Her questioning was persistent, polite and informed. She would be an admirable and welcome presenter for the '7.30 Report' or 'Lateline' ... She could be an adornment to the ABC."

Jana Wendt explained, "Just sitting there and hosting … doesn't give you the adrenalin rush. It's not that the be-all and end-all of life is my adrenalin rush, but if you want to get excited about a job, it helps. I enjoy the dynamic of studio interviews. It's an interesting thing that happens to people, whether they are via satellite or sitting next to you, their adrenalin starts pumping faster and they seem to lift their game. They feel as though they have to present their case in the most potent, the most persuasive manner."

Paul Lyneham continued, "I think Jana fronting 'Nightline' would have given it probably 5 (ratings) points for free, straight up. If I'd been (then network manager) David Leckie or (then news director) Peter Meakin, there'd have been a lot of imperative in my heart to think that would be something you'd do at all cost. The bottom line was they wanted the political interviews and the political analyses done by their political correspondent out of Canberra.

"In the end, whether Jana liked it or not, Jana didn't like it, they stuck to their guns and I have got a fair bit of respect for them for that. Not just because I was one of those personally involved with it, but it said to me that they first and foremost believe that you fuel these things on substance before style. I'm not saying for a second that Jana's not a person of considerable journalistic substance. But I don't believe that you could or should try and do coverage of Canberra out of Sydney.

"And it was a curious and ironic situation that we had virtually a repeat of an earlier episode in a different context. And on this occasion, it was the Nine network that actually, in my opinion, hung in on the real cuttting edge of day-to-day hard-nosed journalistic judgment that said, you do Canberra out of Canberra, because that's the way it's done, otherwise what is the press gallery for? Otherwise, why are all these pollies (politicians), covering this beat for, if you think it can be done by somebody in a studio in Sydney. And it can't in the end, over time it can't."

Producer Peter Manning observed, "The presenter idea is more of a commercial television thing. 'Four Corners' has a reputation that is much bigger than its presenter – unlike 'Witness' – so it can get away without having one." Anthony McClellan added, "The deal with Jana was discussed and signed within 7 days, I think. She would have been told (she was) going to be a linchpin of the ('Witness') program, that's just logic. You don't hire a person like Jana to put her in the cupboard."

General Motors Holden became a major sponsor of 'Witness'. The program received an annual budget of $12 million from the network. Some 70 people were working on 'Witness' the first year using state-of-the-art cameras. Following the top-rated series 'Blue Heelers', 'Witness with Jana Wendt' won its time slot 16 out of the 32 times the program went on air.

The first program attracted a national audience of 1,401,500 viewers (31.0% network share). Fashion designer Robert Burton watched the first 'Witness' program told 'Fairfax Media' Jana looked "pretty daggy. Her hair wasn't done, like, in any way. It was like she'd made it so she could go on television looking like anything." Of 'Witness', Peter Manning pointed out, "The program did more in 1996 than '60 Minutes' would ever do. Sure, it had some light stories, but it was never meant to be 'Sunday' or 'Four Corners'. It was always meant to be a commercial current affairs program."

On reflection, Jana told 'Fairfax Media', "I think the way we deliver information is important and I think it's important we debate the differences between information and entertainment and fluff. It seemed to me that what went on at 'Witness' last year (1996) crystallised this debate. It crystallised the pressures that can come when ideals slam into commercial constraints … Peter and I, I believe, began our experience at channel Seven with shared ideals … It's never pleasant to have your ideals … dismantled before you." 

Commercial television, was said, needed viewers. Some of 'Witness' stories saw the program fell into single-digit ratings. Peter Manning maintained, "At the outset, we promised to be reactive to the major news events of the moment. We determined to do the difficult stories, and we also said we would run stories at their proper length. The problem in terms of quality is that Jana wanted Mahler, I wanted Mozart and the network would have been happy with Beethoven."

Jana Wendt acknowledged, "It is true at times we have had our disagreements about the direction for the program ... There were creative tensions about our goals, how those goals translated into practice." Alan Bateman, Seven Sydney managing director, revealed, "The egos and the tensions in current affairs units are quite extraordinary. The levels change from day to day depending on the success of the program itself and the stories within the program." Peter Manning continued, "Now (in 1997), I think this whole thing is a tragedy of Greek proportions. Jana is an excellent presenter and interviewer … Some stories can be difficult. Finance stories, for instance, and political stories. We want to do the big, difficult stories not done on current affairs."

One insider told 'Fairfax Media', "The 'Witness' demographic was particularly difficult to achieve. We have to not only keep the traditional Seven audience, which is used to 'Today Tonight', the C-Ds, to get the popular, personality-driven stories, but also bring in the A-B demographic, the '60 Minutes', 'Sunday' and 'Four Corners' audience. So economics drive the slightly schizoid nature of the program. Jana and (producer) Gareth Harvey kept saying we ought to just be 'Sunday' but that would have meant we would have the A-B demographic, but we would have lost half our audience and would have been a noble failure."

Then network managing director Gary Rice offered, "You put Jana Wendt into an environment with almost any executive producer and range of other people whose egos are, shall we say, to be kind about it, fairly substantial, and you will inevitably have some tension. Jana has got some fairly high standards and she has views that have caused her and Peter to, shall we say, not agree from time to time."

In July 1996, 'Witness' was broadcast from Atlanta featuring stories to do with the summer Olympics. Paul Barry interviewed Juan Antonio Samaranch. But it was in August 1997 that marked 'Witness' turning point with the Stuart Diver interview and the story on the Thredbo landslide which attracted the highest ratings. Some 2,061,200 viewers were counted watching.

Peter Meakin noted, "Their story selection is more commercial now." However "I have never seen a program which loses so much audience over an hour. It's partly to do with the 9.30 time slot, but they also need to aim for more consistency. They are still doing two sorts of program – the big Paul Barry investigations and these little thumbnail sketches where you don't see the reporter. Paul Barry is a talented reporter. It's a pity he's such a Pom (with the English accent), but I don't think Australians find that a turn-off. He's a professional reporter blessed with striking good looks."

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