It has been some time since the Television Crossover Hall of Fame has conducted a Monday Memorial TVXOHOF Tribute. To be honest, I’d rather not ever have one again. But that’s not the way of the world.
And after such a hiatus, we have now two memorial tributes to cover. (The other will be presented next week so that both TV characters get their proper due.)
This week we remember….
From the Guardian:
The American comedy actor Fred Willard, who has died aged 86, never took top billing on screen, but he found his niche as a scene-stealer in the mockumentaries of Christopher Guest, among others, usually playing characters invested with authority who prove to be inept, clueless or simply unintentionally funny.
In 1968, Willard married Mary Lovell, a playwright, who died in 2018. He is survived by their daughter, Hope.
• Frederick Charles Willard, actor, born 18 September 1933; died 15 May 2020
[Fred] Willard achieved wider fame in 1977 and '78 as Martin Mull's sidekick and announcer Jerry Hubbard on the ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ spinoffs ‘Fernwood 2 Night’, ‘Forever Fernwood’, and ‘America 2-Night’, which parodied the nighttime talk shows of the day.
Like ‘Mary Hartman’, ‘Fernwood 2 Night’ was set in the fictional small town of Fernwood, Ohio. The show satirized real talk shows as well as the sort of fare one might expect from locally produced, small-town, midwestern American television programming. Well-known actors usually appeared playing characters or a contrivance had to be written for the celebrity to appear as themselves. (In one episode, Tom Waits's tour bus happened to break down in Fernwood.)
After one season of ‘Fernwood’, the producers revamped the show for 1978 as ‘America 2-Night’. In this second version, Barth and Jerry's show moved from Fernwood to Southern California (specifically, the fictional city of "Alta Coma, the unfinished furniture capital of the world!") and was broadcast nationally on the fictional UBS network (presumably a reference to the film Network), whose slogan was "We put U before the BS". The change to a Southern California setting made it more plausible for real-life celebrities to appear on the program as themselves.
In 2001, Mull and Willard reprised their roles in a stage appearance and retrospective at the US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado.
Reruns of ‘Fernwood/America 2-Night’ were broadcast on Nick at Nite from 1990 to 1993 and TV Land in 2002 as part of their "TV Land Kitschen" block, also hosted by Mull and Willard.
(O’Bservation: If I’m not mistaken, they appeared in character.)
Here are the TV series in which Jerry Hubbard provided some off-kilter whimsy to the World of the Toob:
Welcome to the Hall, Jerry! You’ll find other talk show sidekicks here to pal around with… like Regis Philbin and Ed McMahon