Friday, July 24, 2009

The button-down mind( and rapidly cancelled variety show ) of comic genius Bob Newhart - Rare clips from Newhart's NBC-TV series - Circa 1962

Bob Newhart was hosting the 1962 EMMY AWARDS when his NBC-TV comedy/variety series, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, won the Television Academy's coveted award for "Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Humor."

It was total validation for his observational, character driven style of television comedy.Some said he was too young, too cerebral and too subtle to register on the small screen.If Gleason and Berle went for belly laughs, Newhart's humor targeted your frontal lobes.

Bob Newhart had the unique ability to make you laugh and think.

A quiet and quirky accountant who looked at life in an ironic way, Newhart began writing and recording funny routines with a partner to preserve his sanity. The pair had some success selling their comedic bits to radio stations, but ultimately went their separate ways.

The Chicago native began to work as a solo act in nightclubs and honed his imaginative and inspired routines. They included a harried portrait of a besieged driving instructor, a craven, Madison Avenue advertising man, pitching his devious campaign strategy to candidate Abe Lincoln, and a bureaucratic security guard trying to determine how to handle King Kong climbing up the Empire State Building.

Unlike the most successful nightclub performers of the day, Newhart didn't do jokes about his domineering Mother-in-Law, those crazy teenagers or flavor-free airline food. He crafted hip snapshots of aberrant human behavior which had hilarious consequences for his appreciative audience.

Newhart's career exploded after Warner Bros. Records released his first comedy album in 1960.Entitled THE BUTTON-DOWN MIND OF BOB NEWHART , the vinyl LP won the recording academy's Grammy for "Album of The Year," beating out popular and bankable musical artists.

In doing that,he opened the door for comedians like Bill Cosby, George Carlin and Flip Wilson to do mainstream,long-form monologues on records.

The witty and wry social observations on the bands of his album propelled Bob Newhart into stardom
But television was a challenge for a young performer who lacked the confidence to carry a network show and lacked the confidence of the network that carried the show.While critical reviews were excellent, ratings and revenues were low.

On Emmy night, 1962, Newhart received a message from NBC programming executives and it was not a congratulatory telegram.

It was a cancellation notice.

The competition was formidable for the BOB NEWHART SHOW. The NBC-TV series aired on Wednesday nights at 10pm, opposite ABC-TV'S THE NAKED CITY, a gritty,police drama and CBS-TV's respected dramatic anthology,THE U.S. STEEL HOUR.Even with NBC-TV's powerhouse lead-in of THE PERRY COMO SHOW , the audience wasn't ready to accept young Bob Newhart as a variety host.

THE BOB NEWHART SHOW lasted only one season.

CBS-TV soon hired him to star with Carol Burnett and Dom DeLuise in The Entertainers, a weekly comic revue with music. The material wasn't written in Newhart's bright and bemused voice.

It tanked , quickly.

While devastated, Newhart's personal tenacity and professional work ethic carried him forward into a decade of success in Las Vegas showrooms, New York nightspots and as a frequent guest on such series as The Tonight Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace.He had small parts in films and recorded more albums.

The 1970's saw Bob Newhart welcomed into the MTM Productions family, where he achieved Television Icon status with his hit sitcom,The Bob Newhart Show,that aired on CBS-TV.

Below are two rare excerpts from two episodes of THE "FIRST" BOB NEWHART SHOW. Enjoy!!!!!

Monday, July 20, 2009


It is a bittersweet confluence of events we observe , tonight:

The 40th anniversary of humanity's most daring adventure, American astronauts setting foot on Earth's only true, natural satellite, the Moon and the recent loss of the peerless journalist who shared with us the unprecedented story of mankind's first Lunar expedition, the late CBS News anchor/reporter, Walter Cronkite.

There is little left to say and yet, so much to consider.

NBC News reports that 40 percent of Americans living ,today, were born after Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin set foot on the Moon's surface, as their colleague Michael Collins kept watch from lunar orbit,in the Apollo 11 command Module.It begs the question of lasting relevance to much of the populace.

Then , as now, there was acerbic and protracted debate in a country divided by politics, economics and social stratification over the most appropriate use of the vast resources devoted to the manned exploration of space.Some lauded it as the best investment in the future of our species, while others countered that overwhelming needs, here on Earth, far outweighed our desire to visit the stars.That conversation has been renewed and , I suspect, will intensify as we end the Space Shuttle program and launch Project Orion, which will return human beings to the Lunar surface, and use it as a weigh station for a planned Mars landing.

The race for space, as it was known in the 1950's and 1960's did create hero's for a country that had grown wearily cynical, as we watched wars, both hot and cold,plus political assassinations,destroy young lives and rob so many Americans of their optimism.

John Glenn, Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong, and other brave explorers who travelled into space, became role models for young people around a globe that had become so politically and painfully divided.

But, for this night, I think we should leave the partisan debate aside, and take a few moments to look skyward. We should rekindle our human wanderlust. We need to celebrate a supreme moment, in not just the American adventure, but in that instant of resounding achievement that will live on, as long as human beings endure and as long as they chose to recall and venerate history.

And, we should also take a moment to recall that amid the "noise" of a low-resolution (382 scan lines per second), monochrome, video signal and the crackle of headset audio that was traveling from a grey powdery rock in the sky to our homes on the Big Blue Marble ( as one astronaut described Earth as viewed from space), television made it possible for us to share in the history and the hope of space exploration.It was a galvanizing moment for six hundred million people around the world who watched in astonishment and amazement.They watched on television.

There are no encomiums to be handed-out in that last statement.Just a reminder that television plays a role in uniting people, in helping us understand the greatest events of our time, and in holding-up a high-buff prism up our society, so we see the true colors of humanity.Sometimes we even bring the Moon and the stars into sharp focus.

So, tonight, if you were alive on July 20, 1969, and old enough to recall those electrifying events, I recommend you share your memories with someone who is too young to have been a witness to the history that occurred ,on that warm Sunday night.

Tell them where you were and what you saw on television.

Tell them how the wildly expressive journalist, Walter Cronkite, was speechless as men walked on the Moon for the first time. Then show them clip below, to prove it:)Enjoy!!!!

Friday, July 17, 2009


From 1962 until 1981, Walter Cronkite was the voice and face of history in the making.He reported our destiny on deadline.The myriad stories he brought us challenged our thoughts, touched our hearts, and changed our lives.

For almost two decades, millions of Americans waited dinner for THE CBS EVENING NEWS with Walter Cronkite, and he was always a welcome guest.

The Missouri native was truly the first person in television to be called an "anchorman." Video visionary and protean producer, Don Hewitt, coined the phrase to describe the role Cronkite would play in CBS NEWS coverage of the 1952 political conventions.Today in Sweden, anchorman are called "Cronkiters."

Walter Cronkite was acclaimed, in a 1972, public opinion poll, as America's most trusted person,overtaking the presidents and power brokers on whom he reported.

Through the years, the manifold events of any particular news day were not fully validated until this journalistic icon, declared , in his trademark tag line to the CBS EVENING NEWS with Walter Cronkite,"That's the way it is!"

Walter Cronkite passed away in his New York home at the age of 92,this evening, after battling a long and complicated, degenerative disease.

This consummate newsman was the voice of verity who broke the news of a young president gunned down in Dallas, and of a tormented Chief Executive who stepped down in Washington DC. He give insight to a war we could not win in the steaming jungles of Southeast Asia,and was all but speechless when Americans were victorious in the race to land human beings on the powdery,barren surface of the Moon.

As a print reporter ,Walter Cronkite covered World War II in Europe, and came home to explain the Korean War on WTOP TV , the CBS-TV affiliate in Washington DC. There, he hosted primitive news shows about the conflict, where troop movements were depicted on a chalk board. Walter Cronkite could ad-lib accurately and confidently, without the benefit of teleprompter (not yet invented) or script.

In 1950, the legendary Edward R. Murrow recruited him as a CBS NEWS correspondent.I think we all know how that turned out.

In my humble opinion, Walter Cronkite was simply the platinum standard for journalists.

He was an indefatigable advocate for the First Amendment. His work ethic was impeccable and it's true that the former United Press International, wire service reporter was also demanding of colleagues. Cronkite's fealty to fact and commitment to context gave him professional credibility and personal gravitas. Walter Cronkite's formal, yet approachable, Mid-Western demeanor and sonorous voice,made him a trusted presence.

The irony that Walter Cronkite's death would come as we commemorate one of the greatest events in history and one of his favorite stories , the 40th anniversary of man landing on the Moon,is not lost on any of us.

Here is how his professional home since the Truman administration, CBS NEWS, announced his passing, this evening:

Watch CBS Videos Online

It is best, in my estimation , to offer the final word to Walter Cronkite himself. He explained so many complex events, explored so many intricate issues, profiled so many extraordinary people, that it seems only fair to allow him to offer the accounting of his own time among us.

Here, with his well honed sense of journalistic skepticism , voluble good humor and affable atttitude in tact,Walter Cronkite has the story of his lifetime. Enjoy!!!

Watch CBS Videos Online

R.I.P. Walter Cronkite 1916-2009.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


For as long as human beings have stood on Terra Firma and looked wondrously to the heavens, people have dreamed of spaceflight.

A voyage to the stars is a daring, engaging, enduring dream that has captivated artists , writers, scientists and citizens. How could we voyage among the stars and what secrets about ourselves would be revealed if we could simply get there and safely return?

Through the ages, we have lived the lives of cosmic travelers ,vicariously, through the visionary literature of Jules Verne , Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke. We have revelled in the vivid images of transit to the planets crafted by Georges Melle, George Pal, Stanley Kubrick and Gene Roddenbery.

But, on July 16, 1969, in the torrid heat of the morning sun,along the sandy shores of Cape Canaveral, Florida, mankind's scientific reach came into thunderous alignment with the grasp of human imagination.

At the direction of a martyred President and after a decade of acrid, aggressive, truly mortal, competition between the United States and the now defunct Soviet Union, the American adventure would now embrace man's first steps to the stars.

NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, spent years working diligently toward this moment when a ballistic behemoth, the Saturn V rocket, would blast men well beyond Earth's gravitational pull.

On that Summer day, the Apollo 11 spacecraft , atop that Saturn V booster, carried three NASA astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins, aloft into space and into history.

Their Destination : The Moon.

The events of that day, and the week that followed, are now indelibly etched into the minds and hearts of all who were old enough to understand the significance of what was unfolding before their very eyes. Millions of those eyes were focused on the RCA Color console in the living room, the big Magnavox set in the local bar or the GE portable in the backyard. Most who have personal recollection of the FLIGHT OF APOLLO 11,first hand,saw it all happen on television.

Some folks heard the countdown and lift-off on portable,transistor radios they carried to the beach Others listened to it blaring from the chrome encased,AM/FM receiver in the dash board of the family Plymouth or Pontiac on the local expressway.

No cable news channels existed. The primitive precursor to the Internet was restricted to military computers for the exchange of secretive defense data.Only birds communicated by tweets.

Over the next few days , we will recall how television put the world on the launchpad, in the command module and 238,700 miles away on the dusty, barren,surface of the Moon, when American astronauts came , as the plaque on the base of their lunar landing module said, in Peace for All Mankind.

In this clip, legendary CBS NEWS anchorman and spaceflight aficionado, Walter Cronkite, set the scene for American viewers from Cape Canaveral.But first, there was a word from Kellogg's of Battle Creek.:) Enjoy!!!!!

Here,Dan Rather introduces excerpts of CBS NEWS coverage of the Apollo 11 launch, which were, of course, anchored by Walter Cronkite. Enjoy!!!!

Walter Cronkite looks back at the ardor and adventure , importance and impact of the Apollo 11 mission , in this recent clip from CBS News. Enjoy!!!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


In early 1978, CBS television and radio marked an extraordinary milepost in American media,it's 50th anniversary of continuous broadcasting.

To celebrate , Tiffany Network programmers commissioned an All-Star, anniversary event that featured dozens of the CBS stars from past and present television shows. It aired as seven nights worth of elegant, glossy, musical-comedy specials , and featured rare archival components.

The anniversary event was called CBS ON THE AIR: A CELEBRATION OF 50 YEARS

Every major CBS luminary from Mary Tyler Moore to Alan Alda ,Lucille Ball to Lassie, and George Burns to Walter Cronkite were center stage. Only Jackie Gleason, one of CBS-TV's first major attractions, refused to appear. Some published accounts indicate that he wanted to host the event and wanted a larger fee than CBS patriarch Bill Paley was willing to pay.

As important milestones were observed for competing networks ,ABC and NBC , other world class, star studded, revues would be produced. But CBS ON THE AIR: A CELEBRATION OF 50 YEARS was unique in premise, grand in scale and impressive in scope.

It was a crystalline reflection of William Paley's urbane manner and sophisticated vision for the network he launched and shepherded half a century earlier.Produced at the sprawling,Television City in Hollywood, by video impresario Alexander H. Cohen and variety show veteran, Lee Miller, written by Radio legend Norman Corwin and long-time, Tony Awards scribe, Hildy Parks, the mini-series was directed by Clark Jones.

The impressive production was framed with a Broadway-style score written by the likes of Jerry Herman,Julie Styne and Sammy Cahn.The main theme for CBS's anniversary was the work of the legendary Leonard Bernstein.

Below are the clips which offer a prism into the high-gloss, high-budget event.First is the series open with a parade of stars.Enjoy!!!!!

Next is the open to the Monday night episode, focusing on Comedy, over the years.Enjoy!!!!!

Finally, here is the closing credit sequence, with an impressive "money shot" for the last image of the series.Enjoy!!!!!

Friday, July 3, 2009


In the mid-1950's the suburban exodus was in full force. Across America,families were moving from aging cities to newly minted suburban housing developments.Some were attracted by the lure of affordable,modern homes, convenient commerce at shopping malls and gleaming new schools.Others moved as businesses migrated to sprawling industrial parks and executive complexes.

The Ford Motor Company saw a trend emerging among the tract homes: the need to become a two car family.

In the more traditional, gender roles of Eisenhower-Era America, Dad would pull out of the driveway and head to the office in another suburb or back in the city. Mom was left to take up her lonely command post in the kitchen.After dispatching the children to school, this domestic diva was consigned to revel in the technological joys of new time-saving tools like her electric coffee pot, automatic dishwasher and in-sink, garbage disposal.

Unlike the old neighborhood,now, stores and shops were well beyond walking distance for Mom. Not to mention the need to pick up the kids from extracurricular activities that finished after the school bus had already completed its daily route.Car pooling was created because it would be years before public transit routinely traveled suburban roads.

So, Ford targeted Dad and Mom as potential customers for a new line of modestly priced Victoria sedans and coupes or Ranchwagon station wagons. The spot, posted below, presents an actress in the plaintiff role of a suburban spouse who is all but stranded in split-level, solitary confinement when Dad goes to work.

That is until Ford had a better idea: THE TWO FORD FAMILY.

How do you qualify? Just buy a new Ford. Enjoy!!!!!