Friday, February 14, 2020


The Friday Hall of Famers entry for this week falls on Valentine’s Day in Black History Month.  So we’re using the forum to send a Valentine to Tracee Ellis Ross’ character of Rainbow Johnson who first appeared in the sitcom ‘Black-ish’.  But this isn’t a tribute just to Tracee Ellis Ross, because the character is played at an earlier age by Arica Himmel. (Recastaways due to aging are automatically accepted.)

So let’s salute our latest member of the TVXOHOF….


"If I'm not black,
can someone please tell my hair
and my ass?"

From Wikipedia:

‘Black-ish’ follows an upper middle class African-American family led by Andre 'Dre' Johnson (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross). The show revolves around the family's lives, as they juggle several personal and sociopolitical issues.

The show also features the characters Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi), Andre Johnson, Jr. (Marcus Scribner), Jack Johnson (Miles Brown), and Diane Johnson (Marsai Martin).

In 2014, Ross was cast in the ABC comedy series ‘Black-ish’, opposite Anthony Anderson.  She plays the female lead role of Dr. Rainbow Johnson. The series debuted with generally positive reviews from critics. Ross received three NAACP Image Awards and received nominations for two Critics' Choice Television Awards, three Primetime Emmy Awards and two Screen Actors Guild Awards for her performance in the series.

Ross's 2016 nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series was the first for an African-American woman in that category in 30 years.

From the ‘Black-ish’ wiki:
Rainbow Johnson is an anesthesiologist, the bi-racial wife of Dre Johnson and mother of Zoey, Junior, Diane, Jack and DeVonte Johnson. She is kind, funny, selfless and nice - usually, the person to put Dre and his craziness in his place.

She was raised by an interracial hippie couple.

Her surname was already Johnson before she and Dre were married.

She speaks Spanish.

She and her siblings have very unusual names - Johan and Santamonica.

She went to Brown University in Rhode Island.

Bow is terrified of birds.

Bow has met Rick Fox.


October 29, 1976 (age 43)

Alicia Johnson (mother)
Paul Johnson (father, deceased)
Johan Johnson (brother)
Santamonica Johnson (sister)
Andre Johnson (husband)
Zoey Johnson (daughter)
Andre Johnson, Jr. (son)
Jack Johnson (son)
Diane Johnson (daughter)
Devonte Johnson (son)
Earl Johnson (father-in-law)
Ruby Johnson (mother-in-law)
Rhonda Johnson (sister-in-law)
Sharon Johnson (sister-in-law by marriage via Rhonda)
June Bug (cousin-in-law)
Kyra (cousin-in-law)


Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish)
Arica Himmel (Mixed-ish)

Here are the roles that have qualified “Bow” for membership in the Television Crossover Hall of Fame.

Mixed-ish  (ABC)
14 episodes

From the IMDb:
Follows Bow's parents, Paul and Alicia, who are forced to move from a hippie commune to the suburbs to better provide for their family after the dissolution of their cult.

Black-ish (ABC)
133 episodes [so far]

From the IMDb:
A family man struggles to gain a sense of cultural identity while raising his kids in a predominantly white, upper-middle-class neighborhood.

And to make the third requirement fulfilled, it only needed one episode....

Grown-ish (Freeform)

From the IMDb:
A spinoff of ABC's "Black-ish," Zoey Johnson is off to college and must live outside the nest, dealing with drugs, sex, and relationships along the way.

- Cashin' Out (2018)

From the IMDb:
Zoey faces a difficult decision that may change her future after she gets put on the spot on national television.  
(And guess who sees her daughter on TV at that moment?)

Welcome to the Hall, Dr. Johnson.

And happy Valentine's Day….  

Image result for "Rainbow Johnson""

Monday, February 10, 2020


From the New York Daily News:
Veteran actor and comedian Orson Bean, a familiar face on TV and in movies since the 1950s, was struck by two cars and killed in Los Angeles Friday night. He was 91.

The “Being John Malkovich” actor was crossing a street in a Venice neighborhood when he was clipped by a vehicle and fell to the ground. Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Brian Wending said Bean was then stuck by a second driver, this time fatally.

It just doesn’t seem fair.  Apart from the few bad guy roles he played (and the only one which comes to mind is a serial bomber who was executed in an episode of ‘Diagnosis Murder’), Orson Bean always exuded a genial spirit in his roles.  Even his ‘Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman’ role of Loren Bray, owner of the general store, may have been described as “comically crotchety” by Wikipedia, but they also call him “fatherly”.

It just seems to me that if you are as vital as Orson Bean was – and he had just concluded a run in the play “Bad Habits” with his wife Alley Mills – and you’ve reached the age of 91, then you shouldn’t have to be taken out of this life in such a cruel and horrible manner.  (Nothing long and lingering either, but unfortunately that’s Life.)  As my friend Maggie Bilder Cooke remarked, Orson Bean just seemed to be the guy who could go on forever.

Mr. Bean is one of the first of my TV heroes, right up there with Captain Kangaroo, Hap Richards (of his eponymous, Connecticut-based children’s show), and Cubby O’Brien of ‘The Mickey Mouse Show’, whom I had convinced myself that he was a cousin.

For Mr. Bean, his elevation to hero status was due to his participation as a panelist on ‘To Tell The Truth’.  And that ties in with my memories of my home life at the time.

Until I was eight years old, we lived in a second floor apartment.  At that time there were just the five of us – Mom and Dad and my next two oldest brothers.  (It wouldn’t be until we had been living in our house for a few years before my youngest brother and sister came along.)

Dad held a series of jobs – gas station attendant, milkman – with an eye to becoming a full-time letter carrier.  (He was a sub for a number of years before he got his own route.)  Mom was a nurse working at the hospital in town on second shift, so by the late afternoon, they switched places in watching the kids and going to work.

Dad took the easy way out when it came time to fixing us dinner – hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, that sort of thing.  Once we moved into the house, he upped the fare by cooking French toast or baking pre-packaged pot pies.  But there was a trade-off – once in the house, we definitely had to eat dinner in the kitchen.

Back in the apartment, we’d be seated on the floor in the den, the TV room, where Dad would bring us our dinner.  And along with that, he’d give us slips of paper and pencils so that we could play along in the two games of ‘To Tell The Truth’.

From Wikipedia:
‘To Tell the Truth’ is an American television panel game show in which four celebrity panelists are presented with three contestants (the "team of challengers", each an individual or pair) and must identify which is the "central character" whose unusual occupation or experience has been read out by the show's moderator/host. When the panelists question the contestants, the two "impostors" may lie whereas the "central character" must tell the truth.

When the panelists revealed their guesses as to whom they believed to be the “central character”, they would write the numeric designation on the card – one, two, or three.  And we would do the same at home.

But Orson Bean would put his own spin on his answers.  He would surround his answer with doodles usually related somehow with the subject matter of that person’s life.  And I thought that was so cool.  It made me want to be Orson Bean.  But as a six-eight year old, my doodles were shite.

Still, anytime I knew Orson Bean was going to be in some TV show, I made sure I would check out at least one episode (if it was a regular role like Loren Bray, or a recurring role like he had in ‘Desparate Housewives’.)

Among those which stand out in my memories are his voice work as both Bilbo and Frodo in two Rankin-Bass animated adaptations of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord Of The Rings", an episode of ‘Modern Family’, that aforementioned ‘Diagnosis Murder’ and as a memory replacement for a character who was only slightly older than the storyteller in the first “Slapsgiving” episode ‘How I Met Your Mother’.  In the movies, for me his standouts were in “Being John Malcovich”, "InnerSpace", and “Anatomy of a Murder”.  And eventually I have to check out “The Equalizer Part Two”, which is currently showing on Starz.

There was also a TV movie he did back in the 70s when ABC was trying to compete with NBC and Johnny Carson at least in the Friday late night slot.  There were specials usually, but also there was “The Spy Who Returned From The Dead” in which Orson Bean and Tammy Grimes played a married couple who were also spies.  I’d love to find a copy of that.

But the one role for which he will be guaranteed video immortality was as James B.W. Bevis in the “Mr. Bevis” episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’.  It was about an oddball misfit in society whose life was upended by the intervention of his guardian angel, J. Hardy Hempstead.

Here's the opening narration by Rod Serling:

“In the parlance of the twentieth century, this is an oddball. His name is James B. W. Bevis, and his tastes lean toward stuffed animals, zither music, professional football, Charles Dickens, moose heads, carnivals, dogs, children, and young ladies. Mr. Bevis is accident prone, a little vague, a little discombobulated, with a life that possesses all the security of a floating crap game. But this can be said of our Mr. Bevis: without him, without his warmth, without his kindness, the world would be a considerably poorer place, albeit perhaps a little saner...Should it not be obvious by now, James B. W. Bevis is a fixture in his own private, optimistic, hopeful little world, a world which has long ceased being surprised by him. James B. W. Bevis, on whom Dame Fortune will shortly turn her back, but not before she gives him a paste in the mouth. Mr. James B. W. Bevis, just one block away from The Twilight Zone.”

Of the actors from that time period, there are only a few who come to mind who might have been good for that role – Dick Van Dyke, Wally Cox, maybe even Morey AmsIterdam.  But Orson Bean nailed it because it felt tailor-made for him. (And it's always been a behind-the-scenes fantasy for me to think that Mr. Bevis was an inspiration for Matt Smith's Eleventh Incarnation of the Doctor.)

I have another memory about Orson Bean, the one time I saw him in person.  And as usual, I don’t come off very well in this….

When I used to live in Manhattan on the Upper West Side, I went to the Symphony Space to see a mime performance.  As I used to do, even though I lived just around the corner, I got there way too early and so I was waiting outside for two of my friends – Ken and the late, great puppeteer/actor Brad Williams.

As I stood out there, I noticed that Orson Bean was also waiting for friends before going inside.  He was pacing back and forth at the curb but I couldn’t bring myself to go over and tell him how much I enjoyed his work; I’m just not that kind of guy.

I kept staring at him though and I noticed that he had a slight tic – a very small jerk of the head, barely noticeable.  When Ken finally showed up, I pointed it out to him.  And we both continued to stare.

Eventually we went inside and took our seats.  Ken didn’t notice, but Mr. Bean and his party occupied the seats behind us.  And then Brad showed up to join us just before the show was about to start.

So there we were, I was in the middle between them.  And in those last seconds before the show started, Ken leaned past me and said to Brad: “We saw Orson Bean outside!”  There was a pause, and then he added, “AND HE’S GOT A TWITCH!”

Mr. Bean and his party got up and moved to other seats.

Perhaps the most embarrassing encounter I ever had with a celebrity.

I’m going to miss Orson Bean, even with many of his performances readily available out there with DVDs, YouTube, syndicated reruns, streaming services. It’s just not the same as knowing that he is still out there among us.

Where was J. Hardy Hempstead when he was needed the most?

Thank you, Orson Bean.  Not just for all of your performances, but for being the anchor to my favorite memory of being with my Dad….

And sorry about the twitch bit.