Valerie aka The Hogan Family

TV classics: Valerie’s Family: The Hogans

USA 1986-91, six seasons, 110 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, NBC and CBS, color. Cast: Valerie Harper, Jason Bateman, Jeremy Licht, Luis Danial Ponce, Josh Taylor, Edie McClurg, Sandy Duncan.

Plot summary: Valerie Hogan is a mother of three boys who know how to keep her on her toes, especially in the absence of her husband, an airplane pilot.

valeriecast-1Review: A couple of days ago, I read (like many of you I presume)  about Valerie Harper’s current struggle with brain cancer. Upon processing these sad news, I immediately remembered the shows I saw with her as I was growing up: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda and, predominantly, Valerie. Starting in 1986, the actress starred in the now famous family show as Valerie Hogan, a mother of three boys whose idiosyncrasies seemed to increase as soon as their pilot father (Josh Taylor) had taken off to yet another international destination. Never shy of parental advice, witty comebacks and organizing skills, Valerie managed her boys with a mix of independence and charm. She was not exactly a housewife but later worked from home in order to better meet her family’s needs. David (Jason Bateman), her oldest son, always challenged her patience while Mark and Willie (Jeremy Licht and Danny Ponce) added trouble of their own to their mother’s daily tasks and duties.

Although a family program, Valerie (as the title may suggest) originally focused on the mother of the Hogan family, her life and struggles. Within the first two seasons, however, the show slowly shifted into a more adolescent direction and had a closer look at the three teenage brothers. Simultaneously, the comedy writers adopted a more realistic tone and thus paved the way for unexpected changes that occurred in season three when the female lead was axed from her own show. As a result of revenue issues, Valerie Harper’s character was killed off in a car accident and left her screen family in a state of shock. With Michael Hogan (Josh Taylor) stepping up to take care of his children, eagerly supported by his sister (Sandy Duncan) or their quirky neighbor Mrs. Poole (Edie McClurg), the show was aptly renamed Valerie’s Family: The Hogans. While the show found a successful way to cope with the sudden loss of their named star, Valerie Harper herself sued the network and production company for breach of contract. In response to the ongoing dispute behind the scenes, the actress’ name was completely dropped from the title by the end of season three and for its remaining seasons, the program was simply called The Hogan Family.

Although slowly declining in the audience’s favor after the transition from Valerie Harper to Sandy Duncan as the female head of the family, the show also broke ground by touching topics such as safe sex and AIDS. Unfortunately, however, the Hogans did not recover from switching networks from NBC to CBS in 1990 and was thus finally canceled in 1991 without a proper series finale. Today, selected episodes are available on Youtube and in occasional reruns. A DVD release has not yet been announced but fans of the show don’t give up hope for their childhood classic to finally be made available. Even though The Hogan Family took the path of many of its peers and went downhill towards the end of its run, the show still brings back good memories of a time when family entertainment was still a pivotal part of evening programming. With its iconic theme song and wonderful cast, the series has stood the test of time with old fans and new ones alike. Enjoy the pilot here and judge for yourselves. If you liked the show as a child, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it again. Thank you, Valerie Harper, for bringing back the memories despite the sad circumstances. It’s shows like these that will keep you alive and healthy in our hearts forever.

The Dick Van Dyke Show

TV classics: The Dick Van Dyke Show

USA 1961-66, five seasons, 158 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS, black & white. Cast: Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Larry Matthews, Richard Deacon.

Plot summary: Rob is the writer of a successful TV show. At home, he is the loving husband of Laura and their son Ritchie. Together, they master the adventures and challenges of everyday life with warm hearts and a healthy sense of humor.

The-Dick-Van-Dyke-ShowReview: In 1960, Carl Reiner created a TV show based on his experiences as a writer in Hollywood. Called Head of the Family, the show featured Reiner himself in the leading role as Rob Petrie and Mr. and Mrs. North alumn Barbara Britton as his television wife. Despite the lovely casting choice for Mrs. Petrie, the show failed to meet the necessary enthusiasm to be picked up for a complete season and found its way back to Carl Reiner’s writing desk. Re-imagined and re-cast with Dick van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, the show made a comeback one year later. Named after the new leading man, The Dick Van Dyke Show found a home on CBS for its first season and was renewed for four more due to Procter & Gamble’s commercial influence on the network.

Rewarded with 15 Emmy Awards (out of 25 nominations), the show offered a look behind the scenes of a fictional variety program, The Alan Brady Show, as well as a glimpse into the Petrie household. Although using the quirks of Hollywood as a setting was nothing new by 1961, The Dick Van Dyke Show managed to find a balance between the ballyhoo of entertainment and the everyday chaos of family life. Blessed with the comedic talents of the two leading actors as well as their natural chemistry, the show was lighthearted, smart and funny. Shaped in quality and style by writer/creator Carl Reiner (who also appeared as fictional TV star Alan Brady), the show remained top notch from beginning to end and is still popular in reruns today. Available on DVD and Blu-ray, the entire series can also be revisited by old fans and new ones alike – a worthwhile endeavor for anyone who appreciates classy comedy and a wholesome but quirky style.

Remember the show or need a reminder? Watch the pilot here.

Growing Pains

TV classics: Growing Pains

USA 1985-92, seven seasons, 166 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, ABC, color. Cast: Joanna Kerns, Alan Thicke, Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, Jeremy Miller, Ashley Johnson, Leonardo DiCaprio.

Plot summary: When Maggie resumes her journalism career, it’s Jason who gets more involved with the Seaver kids and their growing pains.

Growing_PainsReview: In the 1980s, family sitcoms conquered the TV market. The Cosby Show, Family Ties or Valerie (aka The Hogan Family) – as a kid of that era, those shows are as familiar to you as your own family stories. The Huxtables, Keatons and Hogans are like relatives stirring up fond memories of a time when your biggest problems were curfews, chores and flunking physics. Growing Pains was one of those shows, popular for seven seasons with two reunion movies produced in 2000 and 2004 to add to a nostalgic retrospection of a carefree childhood in more complicated times.

Growing Pains shows the daily adventures of the Seaver household. Mother Maggie who returns to her journalism career in the very first episode, leaving the kids to husband Jason, a psychologist who’s running his practice from home. Together, they are trying to handle their growing offspring Mike, Carol and Ben. Mike is not only the oldest of the brood, he is also the biggest troublemaker. His sister Carol is the smart kid while Ben is the lippy one, each of them fighting to get the upper hand in the family but also sticking together when their pubescent mess hits the fan. As a show of its times, Growing Pains put a lot of emphasis on the children and their problems without ignoring the parents and their (sometimes troubled) world. Blessed with an outstanding cast including Joanna Kerns and Alan Thicke, the show managed what the majority of programs fails to do: it’s stayed fresh not only in the hearts and minds of die-hard fans, but also works in reruns on DVD two decades after the final episode aired on TV.

Like many good programs and things in life, however, Growing Pains also had a downside. While Kirk Cameron (Mike Seaver) explored religion and its meaning in his professional and private life, plotlines and casting choices began to create controversies the born-again Christian later blamed on his inexperience and youth at the time. His screen sister Tracey Gold (Carol Seaver) struggled with anorexia and practically missed the last season due to her deteriorating health. Fully recovered now, the actress has been outspoken about the dangers of eating disorders for girls since. Despite those struggles behind the scenes, the show remains a precious piece of 80s nostalgia still worth watching – as a trip back to your own childhood or to pass it on to a new generation. After all – As long as we got each other, We got the world spinnin right in our hands. Baby you and me, we gotta be, The luckiest dreamers who never quit dreamin’ – who could resist that theme song?!

The Jetsons

TV classics: The Jetsons

USA 1962-63 and 1985-87, three seasons, 75 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, ABC and syndication, color. Produced by Hanna-Barbera. Voice talents: George O’Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Janet Waldo, Daws Butler, Mel Blanc, Don Messick and Jean Vander Pyl.

Plot summary: In the year 2062, the Jetson family lives a normal life in Orbit City with their house-robot Rosey and George’s best friend, Astro the dog.

The JetsonsReview: In 2062, life for the Jetsons is full of conveniences: the household is organized by computers and Rosey the Robot, an outdated housekeeper model whose homey attitude and cheeky remarks fit right in with her human family. George is the soft patriarch and Jane his dutiful wife who both love to push buttons to make their lives as easy as possible. Together, they are raising their two children, fifteen-year-old Judy and little Elroy who’s already six-and-a-half. The world they live in is Utopian and futuristic, their apartment elevated above the ground. In their everyday lives, the Jetson children attend school like children from all decades while father George works with his friend RUDI, a Referential Universal Digital Indexer (aka his work computer), whose personality is as human as Rosey’s or Astro’s. Jane Jetson is primarily a housewife whose favorite pastime is shopping as well as delighting her family with new gadgets and fashion. In 75 episodes, they were supported by many recurring characters including George Jetson’s boss Mr. Spacely and an alien called Orbitty.

Produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, The Jetsons were created in color as a Flintstone family in space. Referring to contemporary trends and styles of the early 60s, the show was targeting a grownup audience in its first 24 episodes, a strategy that was changed in the mid 80s when Hanna-Barbera relaunched the program for another two seasons with decent success. Using all the original characters, the sci-fi cartoon family conquered the hearts of many children between 1985 and 87, a hey day for re-imagining TV classics from Leave it to Beaver to Perry Mason.

For anyone who grew up loving Orbit City and the funny mishaps the Jetson family had with their everyday technology, the show is now available on DVD with only the third season not yet announced for release. If you’re like me, you’ll discover your inner child again by watching this lighthearted show from a bygone time when computers did not yet dictate so much of our daily routine. For those who can’t wait to get the complete boxsets, selected episodes are also available on Youtube, including my favorite Rosey the Robot (a character so fondly based on Hazel, another fantastic 60s show and a favorite of mine only recently presented on this blog by yours truly).

Hazel

TV classics: Hazel

USA 1961-66, five seasons, 154 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, NBC and CBS, black & white and color. Based on a comic strip by Ted Key. Cast: Shirley Booth, Don DeFore, Whitney Blake, Bobby Buntrock, Maudie Prickett, Ray Fulmer, Lynn Borden, Julia Benjamin.

Plot summary: In the Baxter home, Hazel takes the reins over her boss, his darling wife and their precious offspring. But who would mind with her warmth, street smarts and delicious cooking? After all, Hazel is the kind of gem any family would love to call their own.

HazelaReview: Hazel Burke is the kind of woman families dream of: she’s caring, funny and a true original. Her food is the best in the neighborhood and her attitude ranging from cheerful to saucy, her opinion mostly unasked for but always spot on.

For five years, Shirley Booth played Hazel and bewitched the fictional Baxter family as much as her audience, first on NBC and finally on CBS. In 154 episodes, Hazel looked after little Harold (Bobby Buntrock) and his parents Missy (Whitney Blake) and Mr. B (Don DeFore). Based on a comic strip by Ted Key, the show was created as a comedy program and primarily sponsored by the Ford Motor Company (later co-sponsored by Bristol-Myers). An instant hit on NBC, the show was nominated for four Emmys and one Golden Globe, including two consecutive awards for lead actress Shirley Booth. Shot in color for the majority of its run, Hazel was moved to CBS in 1965, introducing new cast members as well as Procter & Gamble and Philip Morris as new sponsors. Despite respectable ratings, the show was not renewed for a sixth season but was frequently rerun in the 1970s through 2000s.

Available on DVD, the show is still as fresh and funny as it used to be when it first aired on Thursday nights at 9:30 pm. With its sweet storylines, Hazel is the perfect gem for anyone who enjoys a mix of tender comedy and innocent family entertainment. As one of those shows circling around a female lead, Hazel has had a lasting effect on generations of children who longed to have a live-in maid whose tongue whipped up sassy remarks as fast as her hands whipped up culinary treats.

Want a taste of Hazel, watch a sample episode here on Youtube.

Mr. Adams and Eve

TV classics: Mr. Adams and Eve

USA 1957-58, two seasons, 66 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS, black & white. Created by: Collier Young. Cast: Howard Duff and Ida Lupino.

Plot summary: Howard Adams and Eve Drake are a married couple whose life is a little more extravagant than that of the Joneses.

mradamseve-09Review: Howard and Eve are a couple of married actors. Living in Beverly Hills, they lead rather extravagant lives dominated by the quirks and corollaries of their profession. While Eve comes from a movie family background, Howard’s roots are down-to-earth and all-American. Their opposites make for an interesting mix, leading to funny moments, especially when their mothers finally meet.

Shedding light on the private lives of Hollywood actors, Mr Adams and Eve used a lot of typical situations to entertain their audience: script issues, producer problems or agent troubles to just name a few. Actor-director Ida Lupino starred as Eve Drake with her real life husband Howard Duff, a performance that earned her two Emmy Award nominations but didn’t suffice to revive the show for a third consecutive season. Created by Lupino’s second spouse, Collier Young, the show was on the air for sixty-six episodes and welcomed guest stars such as Lee Patrick (as Eve’s colorful mother), Dick Powell, David Niven, Ed Sullivan and Joan Fontaine (who, at the time, was married to the show’s creator and executive producer). Designed as a comedy, Mr. Adams and Eve offered light entertainment about the entertainment industry itself – unfortunately a concept that has rarely found an audience big enough to take a lasting interest.

Today, few episodes of the show have survived and are scarcely available for purchase. For those of you who share my interest in classic television and the entertainment business, an untitled sample episode is currently available on Youtube. A real treat for anyone who likes to laugh the way they used to back in 1957.

The Muppet Show

TV classics: The Muppet Show

USA 1976-81, 5 seasons,  122 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS, color. Created by: Jim Henson. Cast: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Louise Gold, Steve Whitmire, Kathryn Mullen, Eren Ozker, John Lovelady

Plot summary: It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights. It’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight.

The Muppet ShowReview: Julie Andrews sang with them, Shirley Bassey annd Petula Clark. Johnny Cash appeared for a gig and Madeline Kahn. Nancy Walker joked with them and Harry Belafonte. Roger Moore paid them a visit and Liberace. The list is long and colorful: stage, TV and film stars standing in line to perform with the fluffiest gang on television, the Muppets.

Created by puppeteer Jim Henson, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and company took television by storm in the late summer of 1976. Set in the Muppet Theater, The Muppet Show is a variety program for children and adults alike. With recurring skits such as Pigs in Space, Musical Chickens or Muppet Labs, the Muppets put their famous guest stars in the middle of their chaotic show and at the heart of turmoil, fun and drama behind the scenes. As one of the central stars of the The Muppet Show, Miss Piggy is the warrantor for melodrama and jealousy fits, an epitomized Diva whose love for “Kermie” is as tempestuous as her performances. A direct opposite to his girl-friend, Kermit the Frog hosts the show with as much dignity as his colleagues permit and always finds a way to keep the ball rolling on stage. They are supported by regulars such as Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and Animal who each have trademark acts which range from telling bad jokes over doing doomed stunts to playing drums.

Who doesn’t remember their favorite scenes and characters or Statler and Waldorf’s encouraging interjections from the balcony?! With the first three seasons available on DVD, The Muppet Show can now be revisited by old fans and new ones alike. Beaker, Rawlf and Camilla the Chicken are already starting the music and lighting the lights. It’s time for The Muppet Show tonight!

Oh, Susanna

TV classics: The Gale Storm Show

USA 1956-60, 4 seasons,  143 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS and ABC, black & white. Created by: Lee Karson. Cast: Gale Storm, ZaSu Pitts, Roy Roberts and James Fairfax.

Plot summary: As a cruise director, Susanna Pomeroy sees the world and meets people from all around, including guest stars such as Pat Boone.

Gale StormReview: Two decades before Love Boat would hoist its sails to become a family favorite for almost a decade, The Gale Storm Show (aka Oh, Susanna) premiered on CBS, featuring  the popular singer/actress as cruise director Susanna Pomeroy. Traveling the world on a ship, the show’s star was supported by silent film veteran ZaSu Pitts as the title character’s best friend Elvira Nugent, as well as by recurring crew members Roy Roberts (as Captain Huxley)  and James Fairfax. Berthing in different harbors each week, Susanna and Nugie went on new adventures in exciting countries and cities, meeting interesting locals and colorful guests.

Designed as a sitcom with variety elements, Gale Storm did not only get a chance to attract her audience as an actress and comedienne, but also as the talented cover songstress she had developed into after the completion of her first television success, My Little Margie. Her trademark whistle, although used differently in both hit shows, is one of many memories her fans still associate with Gale Storm and her infectious on screen personality. Always good-natured, wholesome and amusing, Gale Storm was a wonderful entertainer who brought her fans a lot of laughter and joy when TV was still in its infancy. Today, only twenty-four episodes of The Gale Storm Show are available on DVD, an unfortunate fact that deprives old fans and new ones of the full glory and glamor of a lovely program named after its versatile leading lady.

 

Leave it to Beaver

TV classics: Leave it to Beaver

USA 1957-63, six seasons, 235 episodes, 30 minutes each, CBS / ABC, black & white. Cast: Jerry Mathers, Barbara Billingsley, Hugh Beaumont and Tony Dow.

Plot summary: If there’s trouble, trust the Beaver to get into it and fast.

leaveittobeaveronlineReview: There are a couple of TV shows that stay with us like fond memories of a better past. It doesn’t matter if everything was really better, they make us feel it was, instilling in us a sentiment of nostalgia and warmth. The word nostalgia may be misleading because it often triggers a certain aftertaste for those who dislike the word for its supposed backwardness. For me, it rather stands for a tristful feeling, a longing for something some of us remember we once had.

Leaver it to Beaver is one of those shows, sparking memories of the charm and simplicity of bygone childhood days. As the first show to look at life from a child’s perspective, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to feel that way. I may have been a girl, all dressed up in fancy dresses and patent leather shoes, but I still relate to the Beaver and the way he reacted. Watching his adventures today reminds me of my own mishaps and questions, of long summers, home-cooked family meals and playing outside.

Based on real children, their speech patterns, games and little white lies, the show was playfully realistic when it first went on the air in 1957 and remains like a time capsule, a document of a different age for children and parents alike. I wonder how children feel about this classic show today? How many still grow up as lighthearted as Beaver, with such loving parents who allow them to explore the neighborhood with their siblings or friends? Of course, Barbara Billings portrayed the epitomized mother and housewife, supported by Hugh Beaumont as an ever exerted father – no real parent can hold a candle to an image like that. But isn’t it that exact cocoon of love and goodness the show created that still resonates today? Could it be that we long for gentler answers to problems a lot of parents are still facing these days?

In thirty minute installments, Leave it to Beaver seems to have the answers to those questions, to our longing for a quieter life. With the complete six seasons available on DVD, thirty-nine episodes each, we can revisit the past at least for a little while and pass it on to the next generation.

Leave it to Beaver sample episode: season 1, episode 1

The Mickey Mouse Club

TV classics: The Mickey Mouse Club

USA 1955-59, four seasons, approximately 330 episodes, 30 to 60 minutes each, ABC, black & white. Cast: Jimmie Dodd, Roy Williams, Bob Amsberry, Tommy Cole, Annette Funicello, Sharon Baird, Bobby Burgess, Darlene Gillespie, Cubby O’Brien, Karen Pendelton, Doreen Tracey, Lonnie Burr and many others.

Plot summary: Who’s the leader of the club, that’s made for you and me? M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E! Hey! there, Hi! there, Ho! there. You’re as welcome as can be. M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E. Mickey Mouse! Mickey Mouse!

Mickey Mouse Club-1

Review: Every holiday season, I love to revisit childhood classics and today I’m rolling the drums for The Mickey Mouse Club. Do you already hear it, the catchy tune of the theme song and the lyrics you will never forget once you’ve heard them?! It’s one of those songs that stay in your head all day and paint a happy smile on your lips if you are the likes of me. If you aren’t, I’m sorry for bringing it up but in the middle of all the Christmas shopping and baking and carol singing, I got in the mood for two of my favorite cartoon characters, Minnie Mouse and Mickey.

Originally a brainchild of Walt Disney and Bill Cottrell, The Mickey Mouse Club was a variety show for children and their families created by Bill Walsh and Hal Adelquist to help finance the Disneyland theme park. Hosted by Jimmie Dodd and his Mouseketeers, the program featured weekly music, talent and comedy segments, a serial, as well as cartoons with Mickey Mouse as the regular star. Dubbed by Walt Disney himself, Mickey appeared in newly developed stories and theatrical shorts from the 1920s through 40s. His girlfriend Minnie was also featured on occasion or paid tribute to in charming acts such as “Cooking with Minnie Mouse” presented by the Mouseketeers, Jimmie and Ruth Dodd.

In general, The Mickey Mouse Club was entertainment, pure and simple. It invited children to enter Mickey’s clubhouse on a weekly basis and picked up everyday topics in their clips and serials to gently teach them how to deal with different situations. Fun, decency and common sense were major factors, as well as making the children feel part of Mickey’s family of Mouseketeers and cartoon characters.

Today, the show can be revisited on Youtube or, occasionally, in reruns on TV. Although revived in the 1970s and 90s, the original MMC has not lost any of its charm and remains one of those classic shows any of its remakes cannot hold a candle to. In the 1950 and 60s, the first Mouseketeers brought a lot of joy and laughter to an entire generation whose love for Mickey and company was passed on to their own children. With selected episodes now available as Disney Treasures on DVD, chances are high that their grandchildren will also get to enjoy the uplifting quality of this genuine program (as an incentive for those of you who are late Christmas shoppers).

For more information on the show, please have a look at this marvelous site. For the classic farewell song, click here.