Sunday, March 5, 2006

MUSEUM PIECE

For the second time in three weeks, I went to the Museum of Television & Radio. When it gets to be this time of the year, I find I go more often as my yearly membership comes close to renewal time.

This trip I wanted to check out certain shows in connection to Don Knotts and Darren McGavin. Not just because they recently passed away, but because these have been shows I've always had on my "must check out" list.

As a member, I can choose four shows for one session, so I figured to split it evenly between both subjects. But I was less successful with Don Knotts. I wanted to see the premiere episode of 'The New Andy Griffith Show' in which Andy played Andy Sawyer, the new mayor of Greenwood, North Carolina.

But in that first episode, Goober and Emmett show up from Mayberry and they act like they've always known Andy Sawyer. And then Don Knotts shows up as an unnamed character, but by the way he's dressed and the way he talks and the fact that he calls Andy "Ange", you know it has to be Barney Fife!

Unfortunately, they didn't have that episode, so I watched a different one from that show just to get the feel of it. It was homespun, gentle humor, in a way a clone of the old 'Andy Griffith Show' (but with a wife and two kids). What dragged it down was co-star Anne Morgan Guilbert.

Don't get me wrong - I like her a lot in everything else I've seen her do. But her character was written as being so worn-down and depressing, I half expected her to fit in better in the rowboat of "An American Tragedy"!

Also in the guest cast of "TJ In The Strawberry Business" were Malcolm Atterbury as the town miser type, and a very young Willie Ames as the friend of Andy's son.

I'll have to find out if I can recommend that they track down that pilot episode. I think it's a more interesting episode for the collection with some televisual historical value!


I also came across an episode of 'Dobie Gillis' in which Don Knotts guest-starred as the father of Dobie's girl-friend. His wife was played by my second favorite TV character actress, Kathleen Freeman. (Ruth McDevitt holds first place in my heart!) And his daughter was played by Denise Alexander of 'General Hospital' fame. (She played Dr. Leslie Webber once upon a time.)

In "Rock-A-Bye Dobie", Knotts played Edmund Metzger, the curator of the County Museum, as though it was a run-up to his role as Mr. Limpet. He even had the same kind of glasses. Mr. Metzger was a meek milquetoast until he'd suddenly go into a paroxysm of nervous shock - usually right after his wife splashed water in his face.

As for McGavin, I picked out one of his starring roles and one of his many guest appearances. First up was 'The Outsider', a private eye loner role created by Roy Huggins who created 'Maverick' and who would go on to rework the private eye genre to better success with 'The Rockford Files'.

I never saw 'The Outsider' when I was growing up. Checking its schedule for its one year on the air, 1968, I see it played on Wednesday nights at 10 pm. For a 13 year old kid, I was probably already trundled off to bed, but even if I had stayed up, I'd have probably chosen to watch Jonathan Winters' show.

What surprised me most was that it was an NBC show. Everything about it had the feel of an ABC program. This episode was titled "As Cold As Ashes" with Keye Luke as the guest star. It had an interesting blend of real world history with Toobworld which I'll write up soon.

The other show was an episode of 'The Bold Ones - The Lawyers' which I've wanted to see ever since first reading about it in TV Guide back in the early 1970s. In "The Invasion Of Kevin Ireland", McGavin played an executive who lost his job; wasn't too worried about getting back into the game at some other corporation; but then found it impossible to get employment anywhere save finally as a trucker. He lost his cars, lost his home, even lost his wife to divorce, and it turned out that his problems stemmed from a report on him by an investigative firm that was full of factual errors.

I already knew how it was going to end, but the impact was not lessened by that. It was a pretty powerful performance by McGavin.

(Thanks to Richard Holbrooke of the Museum for helping me get to see that episode. It's available only upon request by a member of the MT&R and he put it through under his name since I had already closed out my checklist on the computer. But it was also filed wrong - McGavin's character is named "Ireland" in the title, but the computer had it as "Iveland". I forgot to remind them to fix that.....)

When I was there on the Sixteenth, I saw three shows with no particular agenda in mind. First up was 'Carson's Cellar' from Thanksgiving time, 1953 starring Johnny Carson. His guest was Jack Bailey of 'Queen For A Day'. It was the most cheapjack set you could imagine and the script was pretty slapdash in its idea of humor, but you could see the energy radiating from Carson.

Then there was episode 5 of "Lorna Doone" on 'Once Upon A Classic' (hosted by Bill Bixby). I chose this out of sequence episode from 1976 because Patrick Troughton, my favorite of the time-traveling Doctors, was in the cast as Councillor Doone. He was practically unrecognizable in the grizzled, bushy beard he sported.

I also watched the first episode of 'Coronet Blue' again. This was in error, as I wanted to see something new from this show, (I must have clicked when I should have scrolled!), but "A Time To Be Born" was still enjoyable. There's a great crossover reference to another one of Herbert Brodkin's productions, 'The Nurses', in the use of Alden Hospital, and Frank Converse did a great job with this character.

I just wish there had been a way to wrap this mystery series up so that we could have found out exactly what was the meaning behind the phrase "Coronet Blue". I think it still could be done as part of an episode in some other TV series, using clips from the old show to accentuate what transpires in the present.

I wrote about this idea back in my old website "The Tubeworld Dynamic", but it got dashed with cold water by Tod Goldberg. But I think he's wrong; I think it could still work, especially with the use of clips intercut into the modern update of the story. This type of thing worked once before with an episode of 'Murder, She Wrote' which continued the story from an old film noir.

One thing that struck me while watching it this time around was that there is some kind of similarity in features between the young Frank Converse and Mark Valley, formerly of 'Keen Eddie' and now in 'Boston Legal'. And that got me thinking that unless the character has already been on 'BL', maybe Converse should play the father of Brad Chase.

And it's just wild enough of an idea for a show like 'Boston Legal' that maybe Brad's father turns out be Mark Alden of 'Coronet Blue'!

I realize now that I never did get around to writing up my experience while in California of visiting the Los Angeles site for the Museum of Television and Radio.

What I saw:
'Maverick' - "The Quick And The Dead" which featured Maverick's encounter with Doc Holliday.

'Doctor Who' - "Attack Of The Cybermen" (episode one). This had a nice reference back to the very first 'Doctor Who' story, "An Unearthly Child", as the Sixth Doctor and Peri landed in I.M. Foreman's junkyard. It also tied in to a Fifth Doctor adventure, "Revenge Of The Daleks" with an appearance by the character of Lytton.

And then I watched the pilot episode of 'The Green Hornet', as the guest star was Lloyd Bochner who had passed away just before my trip West.

As for the museum itself, I prefer the NYC version. The computers have been updated (It may have since been updated at the LA branch as well.), and the room in which you can watch at the consoles is more private and has darker lighting so that you can focus on your choices better.

Plus I prefer elevators to long, rising slopes to walk up!

BCnU!
Tele-Toby

2 comments:

Ivan G. said...

It's odd--I watched the movie Strange Bargain only after seeing the Murder, She Wrote episode ("Strangest of Bargains"). I thought the Murder outing was clearly superior to the actual film.

I do like your Coronet Blue idea, by the way...Tod Goldberg (whoever he is) be damned.

Toby said...

Thanks for that, Ivan!

I'm sure Tod's a pretty cool guy, but from what little I've read of him in his brother Lee's blog, he does come on pretty strong with his opinions.

At the time, I was suggesting that 'Coronet Blue' be wrapped up in 'Diagnosis Murder'; it seemed 'DM' was best geared to do that sort of thing.