From the Small Screen to the Silver Screen

In its November 4, 2013 issue, New York magazine released its second annual assessment of “Hollywood’s 100 Most Valuable Stars”.  Their ranking took into account such variables as box office, likability, and Oscar wins and nominations.  Mentions on Twitter counted, too.

From one to one hundred. Photo by: Mark Morgan

From one to one hundred. Photo by: Mark Morgan

Surprise!  Robert Downey Jr. was number one, again, as Iron Man 3 smashed records at the 2013 box office.  Ok, if we’re going by the numbers determined by a formula.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock, and Brad Pitt follow on the list. No surprise there, considering such movies as Django, Silver Linings Playbook, The Heat and Gravity, and World War Z, respectively.

However, it was Will Smith at number 6 who caught my eye.  His stated goal was to become “the biggest movie star in the world,” and that he probably was – at some point in time. Smith began making movies while his sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996) was still on the air.  Blockbusters came next.

That got me thinking. What other actors have made the transition from television to the movies and are considered “valuable” in 2013? There are many of them still going strong, per New York.

Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies), Johnny Depp (21 Jump Street, not to be confused wtih the 2012 comedy starring Jonah Hill), and Jennifer Aniston (Friends) are in the top sixteen.

If we consider SNL cast members, there’s Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell, both of whom have had quite fruitful movie careers, as well as Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig, who write as well as perform.

Freaks and Greeks was a jumping off point for James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel, although the series was cancelled after twelve episodes.  We loved Mila Kunis in That ’70s Show, Jennifer Garner in Alias, Steve Carrell in The Office, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Third Rock from the Sun, and we love them today.

Justin Timberlake appeared on The New Mickey Mouse Club.  I think that counts.

Do you remember Rawhide? That goes back a while. It was a Western in black and white, no less.  Well, Clint Eastwood is still around, still valuable. So, too, is Bruce Willis, having a huge career playing the fast-talking wiseguy from Moonlighting.

I’m sure I missed some.  I’m not as up on television, as I used to be. But ask me about Mad Men or The Good Wife.  Go ahead, ask me.  As for Jon Hamm and Julianne Margulies, I think their stars are golden in any medium.  And that’s worth something.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


To see New York’s “Hollywood’s 100 Most Valuable Stars,” visit:


Na-Nu Na-Nu, Robin Williams

I just stumbled upon, literally, a two-month old story concerning Robin Williams possibly returning to television after thirty years in a David Kelley sitcom.  Williams is to portray an advertising executive working alongside his daughter.

I guess I’m not as up on things, as I think I am.

Oh, Hollywood. Photo by: Susan Marg

I think it’s a great idea.  I grew up on sitcoms, and I adore Robin Williams. I must confess, however, that I was not a Mork and Mindy fan.  I had other things going on when the program launched in 1978, but I was certainly aware of the zany, improvisational comedian who came out of nowhere to take his show to number three in the ratings.

The series was a spin-off from Happy Days, although the original program took place in the fifties and the later in the seventies.  (Go figure.) Williams got the role as a man on a mission from Ork when he sat on his head after producer Garry Marshall asked him to take a seat.  Marshall later commented that he was the only alien to audition for the role.

During filming, Robin was always “on,” so the writers created gaps in the script where he could do his thing.  Is this what David Kelley had in mind when he began working with Williams?

Kelley was a writer and editor and eventually the executive producer on L.A. Law, one of the best, in my humble opinion, legal dramas of all time. His career has included the hits Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Public, and Boston Legal.

There’s no doubt Kelly has a way with words and a quirky point of view.  He writes and creates as quickly as Williams jokes and clowns.  It could be interesting.

It’s said that what goes around comes around. Or the more things change… I might even start watching sitcoms again.  But don’t think I’m going to put shoulder pads in my shirts.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


Who Do You Trust?

Before becoming the King of Late Night, Johnny Carson was the emcee of the daytime game show Who Do You Trust?  Partway through its run from 1957 to 1962 Ed McMahon replaced the announcer.  Yes, Johnny and Ed were together for a long time.

Johnny Carson: How we miss you. Photo by: Alan Light

Amazingly, Johnny had already perfected his shtick for which he was so popular for decades.  In his opening monologue and, yes, he had an opening monologue, he told jokes and imparted observations, relaxed and casual, as if he had been in front of a studio audience his whole life.

One day after explaining he had gotten a haircut earlier, and that was why he was twitching and jerking, he noted, “Something just occurred to me.  When one barber gets a haircut by another barber, who does the talking?”  Ed got a big chuckle from that.

Johnny also liked spending time with the contestants.  One guest, a firefighter describing a blaze at a bra factory, asked him, “And you know what the smell was, Johnny? Burnt rubber.”  Without losing a beat, our favorite host replied, “Sort of a falsie alarm?”  Ed liked that one, too.

Like Groucho Marx on You Bet Your Life, Carson seemed to prefer interviewing the participants than quizzing them.   On many occasions he’d ask his guests to demonstrate their unique talents or hobbies, always serving as their guinea pig in good cheer.  This resulted in his being chased off the stage by a saber-brandishing fencing instructor, diving into a tank of water in full scuba gear, and crashing into a wall driving a miniature racecar.

First airing on CBS, the program was originally called Do You Trust Your Wife?   When it moved to another station, ABC  changed the title, but the concept was the same.  Three couples participated on each episode.  When it was time to compete, the husband was given a category and asked to decide whether he or his wife would answer the question.

Watching YouTube clips, the husband usually took it upon himself to answer the question, not trusting his wife, or does it only seem that way?

At least on The Newlywed Game that premiered in 1966, the husband and wife took turns responding to questions about each other.  This led to many arguments over incorrect answers and even some divorces, which is probably why the show was so popular.  Was the prize of their choosing – washers and dryers, bedroom sets, dining room table and chairs, home entertainment systems, you name it – really worth it?

But this begs the question, who do you trust?

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


I Love Lucy. Who Doesn’t?

All dressed up. Photo by: elena-lu

I Love Lucy premiered on CBS on October 15, 1951.

The first four episodes put it in the top ten shows on the air.  In three months it was overshadowing Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts with its variety acts, then the most popular series on television.

By its second season, thirty-four million regulars viewers regularly tuned in to watch the madcap Lucy Ricardo, her husband Ricky, the fiery Cuban bandleader, and their neighbors the Mertzes go about their everyday lives that by the end of the day were turned inside out and upside down.

It was part of the pleasure that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz who played Lucy and Ricky were married to each other.

Looking back, if you love Lucy, not only the television character, but also the woman behind the comic persona, you have to admire Desi.

Without a doubt it was Ball’s innate comic genius that made her character Lucy as enduring as Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp. Yet, it was Desi who gave her the support and encouragement for her to shine.

And it was Desi whose business sense created their television empire.

They formed Desilu Productions in 1950 to prove that the public would accept them as husband and wife.  Within a few short years, the company expanded to include a studio, and it bought RKO Pictures, bringing the total number of sound stages in its domain to thirty-three, more than either MGM or Twentieth Century-Fox in the same period, with over two thousand people on their payroll.

Meanwhile the couple had been starring in an average of thirty episodes for each of the first six seasons of I Love Lucy.  It was a labor of love, but they were drowning in work.

To keep their heads above water, they changed the format to one hour, reduced the number of episodes, and renamed the program The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.  It lasted another three seasons.

It must be love. Photo by: elena-lu

Life preservers only work if one holds on.  Desi couldn’t.  His schedule was jam-packed with meetings, phone calls, paperwork, and rehearsals.  He had always been a drinker, and he began drinking more.  He enjoyed the Del Mar racetrack, making it a second home, and he took pleasure in the company of women.  When he was arrested for driving drunk in a well-known Los Angeles red-light district, it was only a matter of time before the couple broke up.

As unhappy as Lucy was, however, she wouldn’t let go.  She tried to rescue their relationship, insisting on family vacations, consulting with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, doing whatever she thought might make a difference, but nothing changed.

The day after filming the very last episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour in 1960, she filed for divorce, charging her husband with extreme cruelty and subjecting her to grievous mental suffering.

Their divorce was a bombshell.  Despite gossip columnists hinting at it for months, their fans believed that Lucy and Desi could work out their problems.  Hadn’t they been doing so for years right in front of their very eyes?

Despite the harsh accusations and angry words, Lucy and Desi remained friends.  And sixty years later we continue to watch, to laugh, to love.

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved