Just Another Day at The Office

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It’s National Paper Clip Day, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate that than to remember The Office.

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Before The Office was developed, we had series about an office, but not about the office.  The Dick Van Dyke Show was set in the writers’ office in parts of many episodes, but the cast’s personal lives were also a large part of the show. Barney Miller was set in the office, but that show was more about the crime in New York. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was set in the television station, but that was also more about the employees’ relationships away from the office. For many years, The Office only concentrated on work relationships.

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Based on a BBC sitcom, The Office was a mockmentary about office workers—their egos, their inappropriate behavior, their boredom, their bizarre situations, and the way they eventually became a family.  In the first season, I think the show was more about a mediocre paper company with mediocre employees that had a mediocre amount of happiness in their lives, but as the show continued, the characters became more three-dimensional and likable, despite their quirks.

Ironically, the exterior shot of the building used in the show is in Scranton, across from a bar called “The Office.” I’m not sure how enthused the city of Scranton was when the show first began, but they developed an affection for the show, and the Chamber has a page dedicated to Dunder Mifflin. Many real businesses were mentioned on the show.

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One of the surprising things was that a show with such a huge cast kept viewers interested in the entire crew.  Each character was real and unique. Although characters joined and departed the cast throughout the nine seasons, 17 characters were in at least 55% of the episodes, and 7 characters were on every episode of the series. All of the cast has had successful and busy careers since The Office ended. Let’s look at the major characters.

stanley hudson

Stanley Hudson (Leslie David Baker) Stanley is a sales man who can be a bit grumpy. He is a hard worker but underappreciated. In the finale, divorced, he retires and moves to the Everglades where he carves birds. Since the show ended he’s been in 8 tv series and 4 movies.

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Kevin Malone (Brian Baumgartner) Kevin, an accountant, gambles and will place bets on items and events ranging from the NCAA basketball tournament to how much candy is at the receptionist’s desk. He is in a band, is a Philadelphia Eagles fan, likes naval history, bowling, and cooking. He leaves to manage a bar and eventually becomes a co-owner. He’s been very busy since the show ended with 17 tv series, 3 movies and a movie in production in his credits.

angela martin

Angela Martin (Angela Kinsey) Angela is a corporate accountant for Dunder Mifflin. She is rigid and often unnecessarily callous to coworkers like Phyllis and Pam. She claims to be a good Christian woman but often contradicts herself through micromanaging and being extremely judgmental of others. She loves photos of babies dressed like adults. At the finale, Angela is marrying Dwight. Martin has been in 16 tv series since 2013 many of them with recurring roles, 6 movies and has 3 movies in production.

phyllis vance

Phyllis Vance (Phyllis Smith) Married to Bob Vance, Phyllis is a saleswoman for Dunder Mifflin. She is quiet and friendly and loves gossip.  Michael often refers to her as “old” yet they graduated in the same class. In the finale, she moved to St. Louis to knit.  She has appeared in 3 movies, including Inside Out which she did the voice of Sadness.

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Meredith Palmer (Kate Flannery) She was described as both an accountant and office buyer for supplies. Admittedly an alcoholic and a flasher, Meredith was one of the sadder characters. If someone is accidentally hurt at work, it typically is Meredith who had her hair set on fire, got rabies from a bat, was hit by Michael’s car, and took a football to the face. With 8 tv appearances, 9 movies and 3 movies in production, she has also kept busy.

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Creed Bratton (Creed Bratton) Creed sometimes sleeps in the office building under his desk, only has four toes on one of his feet, loves stealing things, and only recently got a fridge for the first time. He doesn’t have a great memory due to drug use, so he doesn’t really remember what his job entails and he constantly uses the wrong names on his co-workers. He faked his death but was eventually arrested. In real life, Creed Bratton was part of the Grass Roots. Like his other cast members, Bratton has been in 5 tv shows, 9 movies, and has 3 movies in production.

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Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nunez) Oscar is an openly gay accountant.  He is intelligent, efficient and rational.  With Pam and Jim, he refers to the trio as the Coalition for Reason. He left to run for the senate. With 17 tv series, including one with a regular role, 6 movies, and 2 movies in production, he has been quite busy since the show’s end.

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Ryan Howard (BJ Novak) Ryan went through various phases during the show as he comes and goes as an employee.  Michael tries to be his friend, but Ryan obviously dislikes his employees. He ran away with Kelly during Dwight’s wedding. In real life, he and Kaling dated but are just friends. He has written two books, a short story collection and a children’s book The Book with No Pictures. He has also appeared in 5 tv series and 5 movies.

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Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling) Kelly is a customer service representative.  She is a bit of a chatterbox; loves shopping and fashion, and can’t wait to get married and have kids.  She ends up with Ryan. After the show, Kaling wrote a book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?  She developed The Mindy Project, has appeared in 3 other tv series, 3 movies including Inside Out as Disgust, and has 3 movies in production.

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Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) Andy comes in as management.  He is self-centered and arrogant.  He and Angela have a relationship but that does not work out. In the finale, he is working at Cornell, his alma mater. In real life, he is in a bluegrass band The Lonesome Trio. Bernard has been in 7 tv shows, 7 movies, and has a whopping 7 movies in production.

toby flenderson

Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein) Toby is a human resources representative. He is very quiet and likes most of his colleagues.  However, he is the one person Michael can’t stand. At one point, he moves to Costa Rica, but returns to Dunder Mifflin after a zip line accident. At the end of the show, he moved to New York City to be a writer. Flenderson was one of the producers for The Office.  He has continued his career in production, but has also been in 4 tv series and is currently acting in and producing a movie in production.

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Darryl Philbin (Craig Robinson) Competent and ambitious, Darryl is the foreman of the warehouse. He is hired at Athlead, the same company Jim works for. He came back for Dwight’s wedding. In real life, he began his career as a music teacher. With 6 tv shows, 9 movies, and 5 movies in production, Philbin too has had a steady career since he was Darryl.

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Erin Hannon (Ellie Kemper) She is the new receptionist when Pam leaves. She is just nice and actually admires Michael and Dwight. In the finale, she met her biological parents. She has kept as busy as her other cast members with 12 tv appearances and 6 movies to her credit.

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Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) Dwight is essentially kind, and means well, however he is just socially inept. Everyone has a Dwight in their office. In addition to marrying Angela, he still has his beet farm and becomes the regional manager for Dunder Mifflin. Originally, he auditioned for the part of Michael Scott, but received the role of Dwight, beating out Seth Rogan. Since The Office ended, Wilson had a recurring role on Backstrom, appeared in four tv series, five movies and has five movies coming out in the next few years as well as appearances on Star Trek: Discovery.

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Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) Jim matures the most of any other character on the show.  He started out as a bit of a goof-off, became a hopeless romantic wooing Pam, and then the ideal husband.  Near the end of the show, he moved to Austin to work in a sports corporation. Since the show ended, Krasinski has been busy.  He had quite a few movies debut during the run of The Office, has appeared in four tv series, six movies and has a role in Jack Ryan, a television series debuting in 2017, as well as three movies in production.

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Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) Married to Jim with two kids, she gives up her ambitions and moves to Austin for Jim’s career. In real life, she is best friends with Angela Kinsey. Since the show ended, Fischer has appeared in 3 movies and been in 8 series, many of them as a recurring character.

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Michael Scott (Steve Carell) Michael means well but never seems to say the right thing. Even when he’s being sincere, he’s a racist and a chauvinist. He has a huge need to be liked. He’s also very lonely.  In one episode, he buys a new phone.  He can get unlimited calling for his five top friends, but he can’t come up with five friends. During the finale, he says “I feel like all my kids grew up and married each other. It’s every parent’s dream.” Even as we realize it’s a sweet sentiment, it also makes us cringe. After seven seasons, he married his true love Holly and moves to Colorado with her, one of the toughest choices he had to make. He comes back to be Dwight’s best man for his wedding. He truly cares about his employees and never loses his dream.

The Office - Season 9

The show debuted to praise from the critics, winning four Emmys during its tenure. None of the actors were well known when the show started, but Steve Carell’s role in the Forty-Year-Old Virgin propelled him to national stardom, which aided in the show’s success.

Many of the cast members were also writers on the show. When you watch reruns, notice that the actors are on their computers while other things are going on.  Each of them was hooked up to the internet, so the actors were playing games, shopping online, and doing their taxes during the show.

Many of the characters have a love/hate relationship with each other, although they end up respecting each other eventually.  Jim was known as the office prankster. When Michael tells him to hire a male stripper for Phyllis’s office bridal shower, Jim calls the Scholastic Speakers of Pennsylvania and hires Benjamin Franklin to give an informative talk.  One day, Jim finds Dwight’s wallet in the parking lot.  He tries to decide what to do with it, but Pam convinces him that the only right decision is to give it back.  He does, but Dwight can’t believe there isn’t more to the story and ends up cancelling all his credit cards. When Michael was on vacation, Jim was supposed to run the meeting.  Dwight records it so he will have it on tape. Partway through the meeting, Jim says, “Dwight, what are you doing?  You can’t take your pants off in the office. It’s making me uncomfortable.  This is sexual harassment.” When Andy is added to the cast, he is not exempt from Jim’s gags.  Jim puts Andy’s phone in the ceiling tiles and then he and Pam take turns calling the phone just to drive Andy crazy, trying to figure out where it is.

Like any family, these characters have no choice in spending so much of their time together.  The show has conflicts, joyous occasions, sad situations, and funny moments. There is a quote from the show to fit almost any life situation. Despite being stuck in a job with not a lot of advancement options, the American dream still exists.  That’s really what everyone wants – a dream.

The show created many fans who designed costumes, fan clubs, games, mugs, and Lego displays.  A blog at blog.drawbotics.com maps out versions of sitcom settings and put together one for The Office.

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Some great quotes from the series include:

Dwight: Your pencils are creating a health hazard.  I could fall and pierce an organ.

Michael: I guess the atmosphere that I’ve tried to create here is that I’m a friend first and a boss second, and probably an entertainer third.

Michael: I wouldn’t miss it for the world, but if something else came up, I would definitely not go.

Dwight: Michael says KISS – keep it simple stupid.  Hurts my feelings every time.

Michael: Please do not drink and drive because you might hit a bump and spill your drink.

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I think my favorite episode was “Business School” from season 3. In this episode, Michael goes to Ryan’s business school to do a presentation.  He wants to inspire the class, but they find him obsolete, and he leaves humiliated and feeling ignorant. At the same time, Pam has found a gallery to display her art.  However, none of her co-workers or her fiancé have any interest in her work. Both characters are feeling sad and wondering how talented they might really be. At the end of the show, Michael shows up at the gallery even though no one else is there. He is genuinely interested in Pam’s paintings and seems to have a true appreciation for her art. He buys a painting and puts it on his wall at home. With them feeling like comrades, Pam gives him a hug. That small action says a lot about their relationship, being able to count on each other.

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Pam’s quote at the end of the show sums things up perfectly. “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that the point?”

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The Butler Did It

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When we mention the word butler, we usually think of the prim and proper English gentleman, stern-faced, polishing the silver, decanting the wine, and keeping an eye on the staff.

According to the International Butler Academy, there are a few million butlers serving today. They typically take care of travel arrangements, packing, household finances, and other general duties. Salaries vary from $50,000-$150,000 per year, but most include room and board, the use of a car, a cell phone, and 4 weeks of vacation.

When we think about butlers on television, some might come to mind quickly:  Lurch on The Addams Family, Alfred from Batman, Hudson from Upstairs, Downstairs, Benson from Soap, and Mr. Caron from Downton Abby.

Today, let’s look at shows that feature a butler as one of the main characters. This was an interesting blog for me.  I had only seen 1 of these 5 shows, so I learned a lot this week.

Our Man Higgins (1962-63)

Alice and Duncan MacRoberts are looking forward to receiving an unexpected inheritance from Scotland.  You can only imagine what they were hoping for.  Instead, they received a butler, Higgins. Higgins is the proper butler who lends a hand with their adventurous children while they teach him how to relax and have fun. Sterling Holloway played Higgins.  After 34 episodes, the network gave Higgins way more than 4 weeks of vacation.

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The Good Life (1971)

In between I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas, Larry Hagman starred in this show with Donna Mills, David Wayne, Danny Goldman, and Hermione Baddeley. Albert and Jane Miller were middle class citizens, tired of their boring routines.  They got the crazy idea to find work as servants for a wealthy family. Their employer, Charles Dutton, hires them as a butler and cook, not realizing they haven’t been professionally trained.  His wife is constantly trying to find ways to get them fired.  Dutton’s son Nick discovers their true identity and thinks the whole thing is hilarious, so he never gives their secret away.  The network apparently didn’t see the humor Nick did because they cancelled the show after 13 weeks.  In the show’s defense, it was up against All in The Family which scored incredible ratings when it aired.

The Two of Us (1981-82)

Nan Gallagher (Mimi Kennedy) is a television talk show host and a single mother.  She decides to place an ad to hire a nanny and ends up with Robert Brentwood (Peter Cook), an English butler. He is able to use his many talents, including being multilingual and a gourmet cook.  The show also features Nan’s agent Cubby Royce (Oliver Clarke) and her daughter Gabrielle (Dana Hill). The show came in as a replacement in 1981 and the critics gave it high praise.  Most of them wrote about the intelligent writing and the chemistry between the cast.  Unfortunately, when it entered the schedule the next fall, the ratings fell.  After 20 episodes, the network decided to send Brentwood back to England.

 

Mr. Belvedere (1985-1990)

Based on a novel and a movie, Mr. Belvedere debuted in 1985. Christopher Hewitt plays Lynn Aloysius Belvedere, a proper English butler, who previously worked for Winston Churchill and has connections to the royal family. The Owens place an ad for someone to help watch the kids and guess who answers the ad?  Mr. Belvedere has an ulterior purpose. He is recording their experiences in his diary so he can write a novel later. George Owens, played perfectly by Bob Uecker, is a sportswriter and his wife Marsha (Ilene Graff) is a law student.  Mr. Belvedere bonds with the kids no matter how hard he tries not to: teen Kevin (Rob Stone), tweener Heather (Tracy Wells), and grade school age Wesley (Brice Beckham).

Marblehead Manor

Randolf Stonehill (Bob Fraser) is the third generation to own Marblehead Manor which is somewhere in New England. Albert Dudley (Paxton Whitehead) is the third generation to work as a butler at Marblehead Manor. Randolf is the heir to a corn oil fortune. He is married to Hillary (Linda Thorson). The staff at the manor is quite a bunch of eccentrics.  There’s Jerry (Phil Morris) the chauffeur, Dwayne (Rodney Scott Hudson) the handyman, Lupe (Dyana Ortelli) the cook and her son Elvis (Humberto Ortiz), and Rick (Michael Richards) the gardner. To add an even weirder spin, the characters often dress as other people for comic effect.

After watching a few of these episodes, you just might decide to attend the International Butler Academy. It looks like an interesting life.

 

 

Shelly Fabares: A Life Spent in the Entertainment Industry

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Michele Ann Marie (Shelly) Fabares was born in 1944 in California.  She began acting at 3 and at age 10 she appeared in her first television show. Her aunt was the actress Nanette Fabray who also began acting as a child, and then went on to musical theater.

During the 1950s, Shelly appeared in several television shows including Annie Oakley, The Loretta Young Show, and the Twilight Zone, in addition to 8 others. She was part of the cast of Annette in 1958, playing Moselle Corey.  The star of the show was Annette Funicello.  She is an orphan who grew up in the country and now lives with her wealthy aunt and uncle, not fitting into the snobby community. The show was cancelled after 19 episodes. Annette was a life-long friend of Shelly’s. They met in seventh grade, and Shelly was at her bedside when she passed away from multiple sclerosis in 2013.

Later that year she was offered the part of Mary Stone on The Donna Reed Show. The show was on the air seven years. Shelly left the show in 1963 to pursue a film career but stayed close to the cast, especially Donna Reed who was a second mother to her. Paul Petersen and Fabares both described how amazing Donna Reed and Carl Betz were during their time on the show.  Realizing how tough the industry can be for young kids, they protected them and loved them as second parents. Both Shelly and Petersen pursued their music interests on the Donna Reed Show. In 1962, she recorded “Johnny Angel” which went to number 1 on the Billboard 100.

Shelly appeared in 13 films in the 1950s and 1960s, including three with Elvis Presley—Girl Happy in 1965, Spinout in 1966, and Clambake in 1967. She also appeared on television on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Daniel Boone, Lancer, and Bracken’s World. Shelly married Lou Adler in 1964.

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Her acting career continued to skyrocket in the 1970s.  She appeared as Joy Piccolo in Brian’s Song in 1971. She appeared in 26 television shows, three of them regular series. The Brian Keith Show was on the air from 1972-74. Keith was Dr. Sean Jamison and Shelly played his daughter, Dr. Ann Jamison.  The two of them ran a free pediatric clinic in Hawaii financed by a wealthy patron. Sticking with the medical theme, she joined the cast of The Practice in 1976-77 working with Danny Thomas. She played Jenny Bedford, the daughter of Dr. Jules Bedford. At the end of the decade she tried another sitcom, Highcliff Manor, which only lasted 6 episodes. I don’t remember this sitcom, but it seems an odd one: the manor, owned by Fabares’ character, Helen Blacke, was home to the Blacke Foundation, a research institute staffed by an eclectic group of eccentric characters. It sounds a bit like Scorpion, maybe just a couple decades’ too early.

She continued working on television in the 1980s, appearing on Fantasy Island, Mork and Mindy, Matt Houston, The Love Boat, Newhart, and Murder She Wrote.  She joined the cast of One Day at a Time, playing Francine Webster between 1978-1984. She also made the movie Hot Pursuit in 1987. The description of the movie is that young Danny is following his rich girlfriend’s family to the Caribbean. But suddenly he simply must take a chemistry test and cannot go with them. After they have left, he gets a leave from his professor and takes a plane to find them. But he is not quite sure where they are, and meets smugglers, crazy captains, and murderers. Fabares’ marriage to Lou Adler legally ended in 1980, although they had been separated since 1966. In 1984, she married M*A*S*H star Mike Farrell.

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Entering her 5th decade of acting, she made her last film, Love or Money in 1990. She continued her television work appearing in A Whole New Ballgame and the Justice League.  She also had a regular gig providing the voice for Martha Kent in Superman from 1996-99. In addition to the Donna Reed Show, the show that Fabares is best known for was Coach which ran throughout most of the 90s, from 1989-1997. As Christine Armstrong, she is the girlfriend, and later, wife of Coach Hayden Fox, played by Craig T. Nelson.  The show revolves around the football team that Fox coaches.  He lives for sports while Christine is not the least interested.  This causes a bit of friction and miscommunication in their relationship.

Fabares had a long and full career.  While her career kept her busy, she had to deal with several major life situations:

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Donna Reed, her second mother, passed away in 1986 from pancreatic cancer.  Shelly adored Donna, and Donna’s final words were to make sure Shelly’s birthday gift was wrapped and delivered.

At the same time Reed was dying, Fabares’ mother was suffering from Alzheimers.

In 2000, Shelly needed a liver transplant because she had autoimmune hepatitis.

She had to deal with the death of her life-long friend Annette Funicello in 2013.

Few actors can begin acting as a child, transition into teen parts, transition into movie roles, and then continue acting as an adult in sitcom series, but she did that beautifully. Hopefully she and hubby Mike Farrell continue to enjoy a long and well-deserved retirement.

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Verrry Interrresting!

Occasionally, a show is so entrenched in the time and culture it debuts in, it becomes almost impossible to describe or understand away from its original setting. Dan Rowan and Dick Martin were nightclub comics who co-hosted a special called Laugh-In in 1967.  The name was a play on words based on the love-in’s and sit-in’s happening in the 1960s.  The special was so popular it was turned into a weekly series. I think of Laugh-In as Sesame Street for adults.  Both shows debuted in the late 60s and had a rapid-fire approach, continually moving on to the next segment so the viewer would not get bored. The show captured the counterculture movement and the lime green, turquoise, fuschia, deep orange, bright yellow, and paisley flowers kept our eyes moving as quickly as the jokes did. The show lasted six seasons.

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Regular cast members who went on to other careers included Ruth Buzzi, Gary Owens, Alan Sues, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Lily Tomlin, Richard Dawson, Jo Anne Worley, Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne, Dave Madden, and Flip Wilson.

Numerous celebrities flocked to the show.  Movie stars that were reeled in included John Wayne, Jack Benny, Peter Lawford, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Charles Nelson Reilly, Debbie Reynolds, Rock Hudson, Jack Lemmon, Edward G. Robinson, Sally Field, Orson Welles, and Rita Hayworth.  Noted musicians included Sammy Davis Jr., Dinah Shore, Johnny Cash, Perry Como, Liberace, Bing Crosby, Cher, Rosemary Clooney, and Liza Minelli. Sports stars tackled the chore including Joe Namath, Wilt Chamberlin, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Howard Cosell.  Comedians who laughed their way on the show included Rich Little, Don Rickles, Bob Hope, Bob Newhart, Paul Lynde, and Carol Burnett. Classic tv stars who accepted starring roles were Tim Conway, Carl Reiner, Steve Allen, Jim Backus, Ernest Borgnine, Eve Arden, Andy Griffith, Desi Arnaz, and Wally Cox.

The format rarely changed from week to week.  Rowan and Martin opened each show with a dialogue; Rowan acted as the straight man, and Martin took on the gullible role. Then the regular cast, along with celebrities, danced against a psychedelic background, firing off one-liners and short gags. Comedy bits, taped segments, and sketches filled in the rest of the hour and always ended with Rowan telling Martin to “Say goodnight, Dick” and Dick replying, “Goodnight Dick.”

Some of the regular features were:

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The Cocktail Party where the cast stood around spouting politically and sexually suggestive jokes.

Letters to Laugh-In where the cast read letters.

ROWAN AND MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN,  Teresa Graves, Pamela Rodgers, 1969-1970.

It’s a Mod, Mod World where go-go dancers danced in bikinis with puns and word play phrases painted on their bodies.

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The Farkel Family about a group of red-headed, freckled family members.

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The Flying Fickel Finger of Fate Award where dubious achievements were celebrated.

Laugh-In Looks as the News was comparable to the Saturday Night Live news sketches of today.

New Talent Time showing various weird skills.

Many of the regular cast members had their own skits that were repeated during the series’ run:

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Judy Carne was always tricked into saying “Sock it to Me” which then caused her to get doused with water, fall through a trap door, or endure some other indignity. Sometimes celebrities ended up being the ones to say “Sock it to me,” the most famous being Richard Nixon when he was campaigning for president.

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Arte Johnson played Tyrone, an inappropriate senior citizen who tries to seduce geriatric Ruth Buzzi as Gladys, forcing her to eventually hit him with her purse.

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Henry Gibson came on stage holding an oversized paper flower, reciting poetry.

Lily Tomlin performed skits as Ernestine, a telephone operator or Edith Ann, a young girl sitting in a rocking chair. (Personal note:  When I was in 4th grade, I performed an Ernestine and an Edith Ann skit for our talent show.  Why a 9-year-old was watching Laugh-In and the school approved the skits, I can’t say, but I remember getting a lot of compliments.  And Lily Tomlin didn’t sue me for stealing her material!)

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Alan Sues portrayed Uncle Al, a children’s show host, who was short tempered and often in bad shape from his late partying nights.

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Flip Wilson was Geraldine.

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Jo Anne Worley would say “Bor-ing” in the midst of jokes.

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Goldie Hawn as the ditzy blonde.

The series also became known for some of its catch phrases including “Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls,” “You bet your sweet bippie,” “Beautiful downtown Burbank,” “Is that a chicken joke?,” “Sock it to me,” “Here come de judge,” and “Verrrry Interesting.”

The show was one of the highest rated shows in the late 1960s. It was in the top 4 of the top 40 shows for its entire run. It won Emmy and Golden Globe awards. The Nielsen polling determined it was the most-watched show in seasons 1 and 2.

The show had its own magazine for a year.  Trading cards were sold with catch phrases and images from the show. Several records were produced capturing the humor of the time.  There was even a set of View-master reels made, as well as lunch boxes and other memorabilia.

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Laugh-In debuted fifty years ago, but still feels new and edgy. Because the show has not been syndicated in re-runs, it is hard for the current generation to imagine how very different this show was from anything else that appeared on television before it.  The closest show to capturing any of its essence since then is Saturday Night Live.  This was a time when everything was changing: civil rights, Vietnam, women’s lib, the hippie lifestyle, psychoactive drugs, anti-authoritarianism, freedom of speech and assembly, and environmental concerns, especially littering and pollution.

The Generation Gap was a real concept in the 1960s but this show might have come as close as anything else to bridge that gap. Families sat down together to watch the show. Many of the phrases still have a life of their own decades later even thought decades of kids have never seen the show.  Plan your own little sit-in when you check out a couple of the you-tube videos to get a flavor of what the series was like.

How a Cat Becomes An Angel

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Today we look at one of the most popular shows on television forty years ago: Charlie’s Angels.  The show propelled the entire cast into national superstars.  Viewing the show today might cause someone to question what the big deal was about the show, but in 1976-77, it was a new twist on contemporary crime shows.

Forty years later, the show still has maintained its spot in pop culture history, primarily due to reruns, the movie remakes from 2000 and 2003, and an updated show from 2011.

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Aaron Spelling developed the series.  Although he had a successful track record, ABC did not feel that this show had potential. The original script called for a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead.  It was titled “Alley Cats” and the three crime solvers—Alison, Catherine and Lee—apparently hung out in alleys and carried whips and chains which they used to subdue criminals.  I can certainly understand the network thinking Spelling was losing his touch.

Kate Jackson, a brunette, was hired and cast as Kelly Garrett; the characters were now renamed Kelly Garrett, Sabrina Duncan, and Jill Munroe.  Jackson felt more affinity with the Sabrina Duncan character, so the producers moved her into that role and gave her semi control of the series development.

Spelling then hired Farrah Fawcett, a blonde, based on her role in Logan’s Run, a film from 1976.

Hundreds of actresses auditioned for the role of Kelly Garrett.  Eventually the producers set aside their wish for a redhead and hired Jaclyn Smith, based on her onscreen chemistry with Jackson and Fawcett.

Jackson disliked the concept of the whips and chains aspect of the show (thank you Kate Jackson!!!), so the girls became graduates of the police academy.  The head of the agency was a wealthy man who is never seen by his detectives. The three girls excelled at the police academy where they went to school but were forced into gender-based careers of a meter maid, an office worker, and a crossing guard, so he hires them to solve crimes for him.

One day, Jackson noticed a picture of three angels in Spelling’s office, and she suggested the name Harry’s Angels. The network thought Harry’s Angels might get confused with one of their other shows, Harry O, so it then became Charlie’s Angels.

Gig Young was brought in to read for the role of Charlie, but showed up too intoxicated, so Spelling went to ask his friend, John Forsythe to take the role.

David Doyle was then hired as John Bosley, Charlie’s assistant and office manager.  Bosley is the only one of the cast who ever sees Charlie in person. I always wondered why they named him Bosley, given that David Doyle and Tom Bosley look a lot alike and this might have contributed to the confusion.

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The pilot received enormous ratings, but ABC wanted it tested again.  Still thinking that this was one of the worst concepts for a show they had ever heard, the network wanted to double check the numbers. It still scored high, so on the air it went.

Each show began with the girls surrounding the speaker phone to get the case details from Charlie.  They then went on to solve the case and ended the show back in the office getting congratulated by Charlie.

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Before Season 2, Fawcett decided she wanted to leave the show to pursue a film career.  One issue stopping her was the fact that all three stars had signed five-year contracts. After much negotiation, the network allowed her to leave, with the concession that she return for three appearances in season 3 and three appearances in season 4. Cheryl Ladd was approached to take her place but she declined the role. When asked to reconsider, she changed her mind and accepted the role of Kris Munroe, Jill’s sister.

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In season 4, Kate Jackson also left. The year before she was offered the lead role in Kramer vs Kramer.  The network would not allow her time off to do the film.  The role then went to Meryl Streep who won an Oscar. Jackson refused to come back for season 4.

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Many actresses were considered including Barbara Bach, Connie Sellaca, Shari Belafonte, and Michelle Pfeiffer. The network opted for Shelly Hack who came on board as Tiffany Wells, a Boston police graduate. In November of Season 1, more than half the available viewers were tuned in to Charlie’s Angels, but Season 4 saw a 40% decline in its audience. Hack was fired, and season 5 welcomed Tanya Roberts to the cast as Julie Rogers, a prior model and private investigator. However, the ratings continued to decline, and the show was then cancelled.

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Why the show was so successful the first two years has been hotly debated.  Was it just a case of “Jiggle TV” as it was often labeled?  Several critics at the time, commented that despite the sexy apparel of the female detectives, the characters were still intelligent women successfully working in a predominantly man’s world. (There was $20,000 allocated per episode for wardrobe, the equivalent of $90,000 today.  Most characters averaged 8 changes per show.) This was one of the first times an all-female cast appeared in a work situation typically reserved for men’s roles.  The original cast was very close and had a chemistry never matched by their replacements.  The three women continued to be friends, each enduring a battle with cancer which Fawcett lost in 2006.

So, which Angel was the most successful?

Kate Jackson. Born in Alabama in 1948, Jackson started attending The University of Mississippi, but then transferred to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. She worked as a page at Rockefeller Center and appeared in summer stock plays in Vermont.  Her first break was being cast as Daphne in Dark Shadows.  In the 1970s, she accepted the role of Jill Danko on The Rookies. That led to Spelling offering her the Charlie’s Angel job. She later went on to star in two other series, Scarecrow and Mrs. King and Baby Boom.  She appeared in 9 films, 5 series, 15 episodes of other shows, and 29 made-for-tv movies.

Farrah Fawcett. Born in Texas in 1947, Fawcett attended the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in art.  After her junior year, her parents gave their permission for her to move to California to try a modeling and acting career. She received a contract with Screen Gems and began appearing in commercials including Noxzema, Max Factor, and Beautyrest.  She began appearing on a variety of series including The Flying Nun, I Dream of Jeannie, The Partridge Family, and Marcus Welby.  She was married to Lee Majors from 1973-1982 and involved with Ryan O’Neal from 1979-1997.

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Her iconic poster was photographed in 1976.  Many cites indicate the poster company reached out to Farrah and that led to her Logan’s Run role.  However, the photographer Bruce McBloom, who was a family friend, gave his account differently. He says ABC approached all three stars of Charlie’s Angels and offered to shoot posters for each one, with the stars getting a percentage of the sales.  Smith and Jackson declined, but Fawcett agreed. She didn’t like the original shots and asked for McBloom. She was supposed to be shot in a bikini but that was not working, so McBloom asked her what else she had in her closet because they were shooting at her home. (She did her own hair and makeup). She came out in the red one-piece and they both felt it was the one.  Fawcett picked out the photos she liked best, and more than 12 million posters were sold. The suit now resides in the Smithsonian, along with Fonzie’s leather jacket and Archie Bunker’s chair.

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Farrah ended up appearing on 21 tv shows, two of which she co-starred in. (She went on to appear in Good Sports with her then-boyfriend Ryan O’Neal.) She was in 16 films, including Logan’s Run and Cannonball Run. Like her co-stars, she also made 22 made-for-tv movies.

Jaclyn Smith.  Born in 1945 in Texas, she wanted to be a ballerina. In 1973, she received national notice as a Breck Shampoo girl and accepted the Charlie’s Angel role in 1976. Before Charlie’s Angels, Smith appeared in 6 tv shows and had small roles in 3 movies.  She appeared in 9 shows after Charlie’s Angels and 4 films.  Like Jackson, she spent most of her time in made-for-tv-movies, 30 in all.

Cheryl Ladd. Born in South Dakota in 1951, Ladd worked as a carhop during high school. Her intentions were to attempt a music career, and in 1970 she was hired to sing for “Melody” on the animated series, Josie and the Pussycats. She began accepting tv roles, appearing in The Rookies, Harry O, and The Partridge Family, among others. She was considered for the role of Nancy on Family which eventually went to Meredith Baxter. She was married to David Ladd from 1973-1980, and has been married to Brian Russell since 1981.

Ladd appeared in 31 tv series, co-starring in 5 of them.  She was in 15 films and made 30 made-for-tv films.  Still working, she appears in a new film this year, Unforgettable.

Shelly Hack. Born in 1947, Hack became a model at 16 and is well known as the Revlon Charlie Perfume girl before she was the Charlie’s Angel girl. She took a bit part in Annie Hall in 1977 and was cast as an Angel in 1979. She continued to accept tv roles after Charlie’s Angels, appearing in 11 total, co-starring in two. She was in 10 films, most of them in the 1980s, and as the trend seen by her co-stars, made 12 made-for-tv movies.

In the late 1990s, Hack left acting for a political career.  She became a voting registrar and polling station supervisor in Bosnia-Herzegovina. She produced several foreign political debates and became a media consultant for pre-and post-conflict countries, primarily in Eastern Europe. She has been married to Harry Winer since 1990.

Tanya Roberts. The youngest of the Angels, Roberts was born in 1955 and dropped out of school at 15. She studied acting while earning a living as a model and Arthur Murray instructor. She briefly married but that was annulled.  In 1974, she married Barry Roberts who passed away in 2006.

After Charlie’s Angels was cancelled, she appeared in 13 other shows, co-starring in Hot Line and That Seventies Show.  She appeared in 19 movies, the most famous being A View to a Kill in 1985 and also made 4 made-for-tv movies.

John Forsythe. It’s hard to compare any of these stars to John Forsythe.  As Charlie’s Angels debuted, he was at the end of a long and full career, while his co-stars were entering the prime of their careers.   I have shared much of his career in prior blogs.  After Charlie’s Angels, he would go on to star in Dynasty from 1981-89 and in Powers That Be from 1992-3. Overall, he appeared in 48 television series, co-starring in 6. He made 23 films and 27 made-for-tv movies.

David Doyle. Born in 1929 in Nebraska, David was the third-generation family member to become a lawyer.  Wisconsin can claim him because he graduated from Prairie du Chien high school. He went to college with Johnny Carson who remained a friend.  He gave up his law career to try his hand at acting and received his first movie role in 1956. In 1956, he married his wife Rachel and she passed away due to a fall in 1968. In 1969, he married Ann and their marriage continued until his death. He made 26 films, 18 made-for-tv movies and appeared in 62 tv shows, co-starring in Charlie’s Angels and Bridget Loves Bernie, along with several animation series.  Younger viewers might remember him as the voice of Grandfather Lou Pickles in Rug Rats. He passed away in 1997 from a heart attack.

So, which Angel was the most successful?  I’ll let you make that determination, but I might lean toward the non-female cast member David Doyle  (removing John Forsythe from the equation). It’s hard to deny any of the cast members’ success when looking at the popularity of the show.