Getting in the Mood

TV themes. Do you remember when they lasted longer than only a couple of seconds? When the sound of your favorite show put you in the mood for an episode of fun, suspense or tears? Did you know the lyrics by heart? Did you recite them or sing along? Do you still find yourself humming those songs while you cook, do laundry or are cleaning up? Do they still put you in a good mood like they used to? Bring back memories of characters once dear to you like friends or relatives?

Today, a lot of shows save up time by using trademark teasers rather than songs that last longer than a mere moment. Castle, Malibu Country, The Good Wife are some of my favorite examples. If you sneeze, you may miss the catchy intro. Sad news for anyone who suffers from hay fever or catches a cold. There are exceptions no doubt: Elementary Downton Abbey or Rizzoli & Isles. I enjoy all of these shows once in a while but the less new programs offer a catchy melody or song, the more I miss that positive trigger classic television used to lure me in. Granted, for the sake of commercials, screen time has been cut down over the years. While a Perry Mason episode still lasted an average of 50 minutes and Bewitched an entertaining 25, most shows only get 43 (or 21) minutes today. So while it was great to hum along to Family Affair or Hart to Hart in the past, it makes sense for Go On to save up time and use those theme song seconds for the storyline.

Although I know the reasons and appreciate a couple of contemporary programs for their beautiful tunes, I still miss those beautiful TV songs that used to stick with me all week. Bugs Bunny, The Mickey Mouse Club, The Flintstones. I Love Lucy, The Muppets, Bill Cosby, Growing Pains. Murder She Wrote, Family Ties, The Golden Girls. Love Boat. Cagney and LaceyScarecrow and Mrs. King. Even shows I didn’t like for anything but their catchy themes such as Family Matters or Full House. Do you still remember your favorite melodies?!

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.

 

Hotel

TV classics: Hotel

USA 1983-88, five seasons, 115 episodes, approximately 50 minutes each, ABC, color. Cast: James Brolin, Connie Sellecca, Nathan Cook, Shari Belafonte, Michael Spound, Heidi Bohay, Shea Farrell, Harry George Phillips and Anne Baxter.

Plot summary: For the hotel staff, life is busy at St. Gregory’s, for the guests, it’s pure leisure and luxury.

Review: Based on Arthur Hailey’s novel from 1965, Hotel focused on the lives and loves at St. Gregory, a fictional five star hotel located in San Francisco. Led by Anne Baxter as hotel owner Victoria Cabot, the show predominantly featured the professional and personal lives of general manager Peter McDermott (James Brolin), his assistant manager Christine Francis (Connie Sellecca) and their staff. Supported by a colorful collection of guest stars, including Gene Barry, Polly Bergen, Joan Fontaine, Beverly Garland, Leslie Nielsen, Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, Betty White, Shelley Winters, Jane Wyatt and many others, the show met the standards of Love Boat, a comedy hit also produced by Aaron Spelling on ABC at the time.

Although originally featuring Bette Davis as the head of St. Gregory who was soon replaced by Anne Baxter for health reasons, Hotel faced a lot of dramatic changes in characterization and plot. Speaking to an audience who enjoyed the mix of soap opera and celebrity appeal, the show had the perfect time slot on ABC, following an equally dramatic Dynasty. With season one available on DVD since 2009, fans of the show are invited to revisit the glamor and allure of St. Gregory’s, its sympathetic staff and matriarchal owner beautifully portrayed by Bette Davis’ 1950 on-screen nemesis Anne Baxter. A shining example of the prime time soap genre celebrated to perfection in the 1980s, the show also has the quality to appeal to those who may still be unfamiliar with the program but enjoy a cast of well-known faces and a regular dose of emotional mayhem. So for anyone who was happy about the recent comeback of Dallas on TV, this show could be the perfect treat.