Sunday, November 5, 2006


That isn't actually a mis-spelling. I coined a new word to identify those people who have expanded the TV Universe through their writing, direction, artwork, etc. They are the Powers That Be.

"Creataur" has a mythic feel to it. And I just didn't want to use "Creator" with a Capital C, of course.

Being the oldest in my family, I didn't want to risk the curse of the firstborn.....

These three men represent all of those artistic traits - a writer, an artist, and a producer. May each of them rest in peace....

(from the New York Times)

Ed Benedict, a legendary animator who put life, love and laughter in TV cartoon characters like Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble and Yogi Bear, has died at the age of 94.

Benedict died in his sleep on Aug. 28 in Auburn in Northern California, his longtime friend and fellow animator David K. Sheldon confirmed Tuesday.

"He was quite an interesting fellow, that's for sure," Sheldon said. "He was the main character designer for all the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw."

Benedict, who worked at MGM, Universal and other studios on short, theatrical cartoons, joined Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera soon after the pair launched their groundbreaking Hanna-Barbera TV animation studio in the late 1950s. Among his many designs for them were the characters for their first series, 1957's "The Ruff & Reddy Show."

For "The Flintstones," the story of a "modern Stone Age family," Benedict not only designed the hapless cavemen Fred and Barney, but also their long-suffering wives, Wilma and Betty, and the show's clever array of Stone Age houses and gadgets, including the characters' foot-powered cars.

"The Flintstones," one of the first cartoon series created for adults as well as children, debuted in 1960 and was an immediate hit. Forty-six years later, Fred and Barney remain squarely in the public consciousness as pitchmen for various products, including Flintstones' vitamins.

"It would not be an exaggeration to say that a large part of H-B's success in TV animation is owed to Benedict's incredibly appealing and fun character designs," cartoon historian Jerry Beck wrote in a tribute posted on the Web site

And you gotta figure.... he must have been taunted as a kid as "Eggs Benedict".....

(from the New York Times)

Herbert B. Leonard, a film and television producer who left an indelible mark on American popular culture with television series including “Route 66” and “Naked City,” died at his daughter’s home in Hollywood. He was 84.

One of his early television producing projects was “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” which ran from 1954 to 1959. A hit with children, it made a western star and a pet of a German shepherd character originally featured in movies after World War I.

“Naked City,” adapted from the 1948 movie “The Naked City,” was shown from 1958 to 1963 and marked a sharp departure from his children’s western. The episodes, which followed two fictional New York City detectives, were shot on location throughout New York City, something that was rarely done for television in the 1960’s, and its stark urban realism sometimes approached that of cinéma vérité.

“Route 66,” which began in 1960, followed two men in a Chevrolet Corvette along what might have been America’s most famous highway. Each week, until the series ended in 1964, they encountered a different town and a different story. It was also shot on location, in about 25 states. A romance of the road that emphasized a sense of rootlessness, it stood out from many of the dramas and situation comedies that were its contemporaries.

Ron Simon, a curator at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York City, said Mr. Leonard was one of the first to show that television did not have to be live and in the studio or shot on a Hollywood back lot.

“He was shooting America as it looked, especially ‘Route 66,’ ” he said. “It became a great symbol of America on the move.”

(from the London Times)

In 1953 the BBC television drama department was faced with an unexpected gap in the schedule and at short notice commissioned Nigel Kneale, a young staff writer, to fill the gap. He came up with The Quatermass Experiment, a science-fiction thriller of power and originality that kept a large proportion of the viewing population gripped for six weeks.

Kneale had been with the BBC for a year or so, mainly working on adaptations of plays and novels. But The Quatermass Experiment was his own creation, and television had not shown anything like it before. In contrast to American science fiction, which then rarely rose above the level of children’s comics, Kneale was writing for an adult audience.

As in much of his subsequent work in science fiction and the supernatural, Kneale drew on contemporary anxieties to fashion bold, compelling and often prescient stories. Underlying The Quatermass Experiment were fears about the nuclear bomb and the Soviet-American space race, as the rocket scientist Professor Bernard Quatermass, confronts the survivor of an aborted space mission who returns to Earth and changes into a vegetable monster.

From The Quatermass Experiment [he] moved to another nightmare vision of the future, which drew on contemporary angst about totalitarianism, George Orwell’s 1984. Sombre and chilling, most memorably in the sequence where Peter Cushing as the hero, Winston Smith, is terrorised by rats, it was the BBC’s most controversial drama production to that date.

[Kneale] worked on two more Quatermass serials. Prefaced by a warning that it was “not for children or those of a nervous disposition”, Quatermass II (1955) again reflected Cold War paranoia, as a secret government chemical research station turns out to be an acclimatisation centre for an alien race that is trying to infiltrate the minds of the population. The challenge for Quatermass is to destroy the asteroid where the aliens are based.

In Quatermass and the Pit (1959) Kneale married science fiction with the supernatural. An ancient alien spaceship discovered beneath the streets of London is followed by Quatermass’s discovery that ghosts, demons and other phenomena can be traced back to a Martian invasion of Earth millions of years before.

It was probably the most satisfying of the Quatermass stories. Kneale’s script suggested that behind the apparently irrational there were real dangers, and the technology, too, had become more polished.

[H]is main outlet was television, which he continued to serve with intelligence and imagination.

By the end of the 1950s he, as much as any writer, had demonstrated the creative possibilities of television drama and he continued to produce challenging work, much of which, thanks to BBC regulations of the time to wipe and reuse tapes, has not survived. One of the lost plays was The Road (1963), which began as a ghost story set in an 18th-century village but ended in the future with people taking flight from a nuclear war.

His next important work was The Year of the Sex Olympics (1968), transmitted in the BBC’s Wednesday Play strand, which again combined contemporary concerns with a nightmare vision of the future by imagining a world in which appetites for sex and food are dulled by television. The screen experience becomes a substitute for the real thing. Saturated by pornography, people lose their urge to procreate and the population declines. The world food shortage is solved by showing non-stop images of gluttony which dull the appetite. The play contained scenes of violence and love-making which were explicit for the time and sparked a deluge of complaints.

In 1975, Kneale decided to move to ITV. There he wrote Beasts, a series of six dramas with the common theme of a fear of animals, and had a play about the slave trade dropped, before reviving the aborted Quatermass. With John Mills as the now elderly scientist, and the Stonehenge ban overcome with a stone circle built in polystyrene, Kneale portrayed a dystopian future where society had broken down, urban guerrillas were on the rampage and crowds of hippies, called Planet People, were being harvested by an alien force.

In 1981 Kneale combined science fiction with situation comedy in Kinvig, in which an electrical repairman is transported to the planet Mercury. He later adapted Susan Hill’s ghost story A Woman in Black and, in a return to the BBC, Kingsley Amis’s comic novel Stanley and the Women in which John Thaw departed from type to play the eponymous hero.

During the 1990s, by now well into his seventies, Kneale contributed episodes to Sharpe, the adventures of an English soldier fighting Napoleon, and Thaw’s legal series, Kavanagh QC. Kneale was much admired by American practitioners of horror and the supernatural, including Stephen King and the film director John Carpenter. He was asked, but declined, to write for the American television series The X-Files, which addressed themes of paranoia similar to those which he had explored 40 years earlier.


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