Saturday, March 23, 2019

ER "Night Shift"

(This post is part of the 5th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts)

Dedicated to the memory of my dearest Vanessa Marquez.

On September 19 2019 the TV show ER turns 25. While the show would eventually degenerate into a medical soap opera, when the show debuted it was positively revolutionary. Unlike previous medical dramas, ER featured a good deal of medical jargon with little to no explanation. The series could also be rather graphic for TV shows at the time, going further in portraying surgeries than even M*A*S*H had. The show was also unusually fast-paced, with the doctors going from case to case. It also included multiple sub-plots per episode. In fact, in his review of ER in The Hollywood Reporter, Miles Beller commented that the show's debut episode ("24 Hours") could be "...at times confused and confusing."

It was the fact that ER presented a more realistic view of medical procedures in the emergency room of a big city hospital that originally drew me to the show. In fact, at least for its first few seasons, ER remains one of my favourite shows to this day. It is then difficult for me to say what my favourite episode of the show actually is. While I love "Chicago Heat" and "Blizzard" (both from the first season), in the end I think my favourite might well be the third season's "Night Shift". "Night Shift" finds nearly all of the major characters working the overnight hours at County General Hospital. Perhaps because Chicago is experiencing a bit of a cold snap, not to mention snow, the hospital has little in the way of patients, giving the staff little to do. As a result, "Night Shift" isn't quite as fast moving as some episodes of ER.

Laura Innes as Dr. Weaver and Vanessa Marquez as Nurse
Wendy Goldman
Like most episodes of ER, "Night Shift" involves multiple subplots, and it is because of one of the subplots that it is possibly my favourite episode of the show. Quite simply, there is one humorous subplot featuring my three favourite characters on the show. Chief resident Dr. Kerry Weaver (played by Laura Innes) is conducting a study on the effects of individuals who work the night shift, assisted by my all time favourite ER character, Nurse Wendy Goldman (played by Vanessa Marquez--I guess it probably surprises no one that Wendy would be my favourite). After asking Lydia (played by Ellen Crawford), as well as the staff at large, Dr. Weaver and Nurse Wendy finally find someone willing to take part in the study in the form of physician assistant Jeanie Boulet (Gloria Reuben).  To this end Dr. Weaver has Jeanie ride a stationary bike, as well as run around outside (followed by Dr. Weaver and Wendy in a golf cart). Jeanie finally draws the line at getting inside a glass booth that will test her lung capacity. Quite simply, Jeanie is claustrophobic. With Jeanie out of the study, Dr. Weaver then makes Wendy get inside the booth.

This particular subplot does not necessarily reveal anything about Dr. Weaver, Nurse Wendy, or Jeanie, nor does it necessarily add anything to the characters. That having been said, it is a fun subplot that adds humour to an episode that at other times can be very serious. I also have to say that it is enjoyable seeing the usually calm and sweet natured Jeanie get a bit flustered (I can't blame her, I would be as well). Of course, I am going to enjoy any subplot in which Nurse Wendy is heavily involved.

In another humorous, if brief subplot, Dr. John Carter (played by Noah Wylie) and Dr. Maggie Doyle (played by Jorja Fox) have to search another wing of the hospital for a patient having a heart attack. After finding a toilet that is overflowing in one of the wing's restrooms, Dr. Carter and Dr. Doyle finally find the patient, only to watch as a custodian trained in CPR saves the patient's life. In turn, Dr. Carter directs the custodians to the toilet, which they had apparently had difficulty finding.

Of course, "Night Shift" is not all fun and games and the episode features some very serious subplots (and at least two of them I would even describe as "grim"). Among the few patients in the emergency room is a woman named Shelly (played by Ann Hearn), who Dr. Mark Greene (played by Anthony Edwards) believes to have meningitis. Unfortunately Shelly won't allow them to give her a shot of antibiotics, let alone perform the spinal tap that would be necessary to determine if she does indeed have meningitis. Dr. Greene believes that she is not competent enough to refuse treatment, but one of the hospital's attorneys informs him that he cannot proceed without a psychiatric consult. While the ER is slow, however, it would seem County General's psychiatric department must be busy, as they send down an intern instead of a full-fledged psychiatrist. The intern determines Shelly to be competent, so Mark demands to see someone higher up in the psychiatric department. After Shelly leaves the hospital to go outside, Dr. Greene retrieves her and they forcibly give her a spinal tap, having grown tired of waiting for the psych department to send someone down. As it turns out, she does have a serious case of meningitis.

This subplot interests me not simply because it gives us a look at hospital politics, but because it does delve into the subject of psychology which has always fascinated me (it was my minor in college). Indeed, even before the spinal tap was performed, determining that she did indeed have meningitis, I was convinced that Shelly was not mentally competent (I would suggest to the psych intern that he find another speciality....).

Another rather grim subplot involves runaway Charlie Chiemingo (played by Kirsten Dunst), who had attached herself to County General paediatrician Dr. Doug Ross (played by George Clooney) several episodes before "Night Shift". Charlie shows up at the ER and asks Dr. Ross for $100 to pay off a pimp who is trying to pressure her into a life of prostitution. Dr. Ross is convinced she is lying and sends her on her way, which hardly makes Charlie happy. Sadly, Charlie later arrives at the hospital, covered in bruises and blood, making it all too clear that she has been assaulted.

As grim as the subplot involving Charlie might seem, it was not the grimmest subplot in the episode. That involves Dr. Dennis Gant, a surgical intern and friend of Dr. Carter. Dr. Gant feels that Dr. Benton (played by Eriq La Salle) is being too hard on him, while at the same time he is depressed over his breakup with his girlfriend Monique. When Dr. Gant fails to carry out some assignments given to him by Dr. Benton, Dr. Benton yells at him in the cafeteria in front of everyone. This leads Dr. Gant to complain to Dr. Anspaugh (played by John Aylward), the Chief of Staff, about Dr. Benton's treatment of him. Unfortunately for Dr. Gant, when Dr. Anspaugh discusses his complaint with Dr. Benton and Dr. Carter, he determines that Dr. Gant simply needs to develop a thicker skin. I won't reveal how this subplot ends, but suffice it to say it is one of the more shocking endings in the early history of ER.

As hard as it might be to believe, these are not the only subplots in "Night Shift". Carol is informed that she has to fire two nurses in order to keep the emergency room within its budget. Dr. Benton wants to continue in paediatric surgery even after paediatrician  Dr. Keaton (played by Glenne Headly) refuses to recommend him for paediatric surgery rotation (why Dr. Benton thought he would be good with kids remains a mystery to me to this day...). Meanwhile, Dr. Keaton is preparing to depart for Pakistan.

Sadly, "Night Shift" would be one of the last episodes, if not the last episode, in which Nurse Wendy Goldman played a major role (she only appears in a few more episodes). On the set of ER Vanessa Marquez was subjected to both sexual harassment and ethnic slurs. When she complained about her treatment on the show, she was fired. Not only was Vanessa treated unfairly, but it was an unwise move on the producers' part. Quite simply, Nurse Wendy was one of the more popular characters on the show, so much so that I consider her departure to be one of the first factors in the decline of a show that had once been one of the best on television. I know quite a few people who stopped watching ER after Nurse Wendy was no longer on the show.

Indeed, the third season would be the last great season of ER. It was during that season that Sherry Stringfield, who played Dr. Susan Lewis, departed the show. The seasons immediately following the third season would see even more departures of both primary and secondary characters. At the same time there was a decline in the quality of writing on the show. The sort of humorous subplots found in the first three seasons would begin disappearing in the fourth season. At the same time the show began focusing less on medicine and more on the personal lives of the doctors and nurses. While there were still great episodes in the fourth and fifth seasons of ER, they were far fewer than in the first three seasons. Eventually ER would cease being the revolutionary, fairly realistic medical drama it had been and become a rather standard medical soap opera that was only a little better than Grey's Anatomy.

As I said earlier, I cannot say with absolute certainty that "Night Shift" is my all-time favourite ER episode, but it certainly ranks among them. It is an episode that blends everything I love about ER: humour, hospital politics, drama, and the interpersonal relationships of the staff. Given the third season was the last truly great season of ER, "Night Shift" is also a bit of a last hurrah for the show. And it is not every episode in which I get to see my three favourite characters in a subplot together (in fact, I think "Night Shift" might be the only one).

Friday, March 22, 2019

The 5th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon


The 5th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon has arrived! This year we have a great line up, with entries covering several decades worth of classic television.

For those of you who are participating in the blogathon, I ask that you link to this page. I will be updating this page with links to the various blog posts that are part of this blogathon throughout the weekend. If you want a graphic for your post, I have several on the announcement page here.

Anyhow, without further ado, here are the blog posts!

Realweegiemidget Reviews: Moonlighting (1985-89), Season 2 Episode 4, "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice"

Caftan Woman: The 5th Annual Favourite TV Episode Blogathon: Gunsmoke, "The Guitar" (1956)

The Stop Button: "Young Couples Only" (1955, Richard Irving) 

Various Ramblings of a Nostalgic Italian: Some Favorite TV Episodes… 

Hamlette's Soliloquy: "A Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" -- My Favorite Maverick Episode 

John V's Eclectic Avenue: "The Bellero Shield": The Outer Limits Mixes Aliens, Shakespeare & Noir 

The Midnite Drive-In: The Cat Gets the Cheese

Coffee, Classics & Craziness: The Fugitive episode review: "Nightmare at Northoak"

Crítica Retrô: "Fred Flintstone faz um filme"/"Fred Flintstone Makes a Movie"

A Shroud of Thoughts: ER "Night Shift"

A Scunner Darkly: The Buccaneers – Ep 3 'Captain Dan Tempest' (Ralph Smart)

Moon in Gemini: "A Little Song, a Little Dance, a Little Seltzer Down Your Pants"

Pale Writer: Viva la Sharpe: Sharpe's Revenge

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Late Great Richard Erdman

"Richard Erdman" may not be a name most movie and television viewers would recognise, but they would certainly recognise his face. In a career that spanned over seventy years, Richard Erdman appeared in such films as Cry Danger (1951), Stalag 17 (1953), and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970). He appeared frequently on television, as a regular on such shows as Where's Raymond?, The Tab Hunter Show, and Community and a guest star on such shows as The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, The Wild Wild West, and Quincy M.E. On top of all of this, he was a voice actor on numerous animated shows. Richard Erdman died on March 16 2019 at the age of 93.

Richard Erdman was born on June 1 1925 in Enid, Oklahoma. He grew up in Colorado Springs. It was a stage director who told Mr. Erdman that he thought he could succeed in movies. He and his mother then moved to California where he enrolled at Hollywood High. It was not long before he caught the attention of Warner Bros., who signed him.

Richard Erdman made his film debut in an uncredited role as a Western Union messenger in the film Mr. Skeffington (1944). He appeared in uncredited roles in such films as Janie (1944), The Very Thought of You (1944), and Hollywood Canteen (1944) before appearing in his first credited role in the film Objective, Burma! (1945). He played Private Nebraska Hooper. In the late Forties he appeared in such films as Danger Signal (1945), Janie Gets Married (1946), Wild Harvest (1947), Easy Living  (1949), The Men (1950), and The Admiral Was a Lady (1950).

In the Fifties Mr. Erdman made his television debut in an episode of Your Jeweller's Showcase in 1952. He was a regular on the sitcom Where's Raymond? (the "Raymond" of the title was legendary star Ray Bolger) and The Tab Hunter Show. He guest starred on such shows as The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Medic, Science Fiction Theatre, The Ford Television Theatre, Matinee Theatre, Panic!, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, December Bride, Perry Mason, Make Room for Daddy, and Aloca Theatre. He appeared in such films as Cry Danger (1951), You're in the Navy Now (1951), The Wild Blue Yonder (1951), The Blue Gardenia (1953), Stalag 17 (1953), Anything Goes (1956), The Power and the Prize (1956), and Saddle the Wind (1958).

In the Sixties Richard Erdman was a regular on the drama Saints and Sinners. He made what may be his best known guest appearance on a TV show, playing the boorish McNulty in the classic Twilight Zone episode "A Kind of Stopwatch". He also made multiple guest appearances on Perry Mason. He also guest starred on the shows Mister Ed, The Bill Dana Show, Petticoat Junction, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Green Acres, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mr. Terrific, Gomer Pyler: USMC, Premiere, The Name of the Game, Hogan's Heroes, Mayberry R.F.D., I Dream of Jeannie, The Wild Wild West, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Here's Lucy. He appeared in the films Marines, Let's Go (1961), The Brass Bottle (1964), Namu, the Killer Whale (1966), Rascal (1969), and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970).

In the Seventies Richard Erdman guest starred on such shows as That Girl; Love, American Style; Police Story; Kate McShane; The Six Million Dollar Man; The Bionic Woman; Alice; Time Express; The Amazing Spider-Man, From Here to Eternity, and One Day at a Time. He appeared in the movies The Brothers O'Toole and Mr. Majestyk.

In the Eighties Mr. Erdman provided voices for such animated series as Space Stars, The Dukes, Galtar and the Golden Lance, Popeye and Son, The Flintstone Kids, and The Further Adventures of SuperTed. He guest starred on such shows as Lou Grant; Quincy M.E.; Too Close for Comfort; Legmen; Small Wonder; Remington Steele; Johnny Quest; Cheers; Wildfire; She's the Sheriff; It's a Living; Jesse; Murder, She Wrote; Wings; and Out of This World. He appeared in the movies Trancers (1984), Tomboy (1985), Stewardess School (1986), and Valet Girls (1987).

In the Nineties Richard Erdman was a regular voice actor on the animated series The Pirates of Dark Water. He was a guest voice on Batman: The Animated Series and Capitol Critters. He guest starred on such shows as The New Adam-12, Picket Fences, Hudson Street; Beverly Hills 90210, and Felicity. He provided a voice for the feature film The Pagemaster (1994) and The Learning Curve (1999).

In the Naughts Richard Erdman began playing Leonard on the sitcom Community, continuing to play the role into the Teens. He guest starred on the shows Boomtown, Judging Amy, The Bernie Mac Show, and Joan of Arcadia. He appeared in the mini-series Weird Loners. His last appearance on screen was in the sitcom Dr. Ken (starring fellow Community alum Ken Jeong. Fittingly enough, in the episode Richard Erdman played himself.

Arguably, Richard Erdman was one of the greatest characters actors of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. While many character actors are typecast in one sort of role, Mr. Erdman could play a wide variety of roles. That having been said, he had a particular gift for playing comedy and for playing quirky characters. In the classic film noir Cry Danger he played Delong, a heavy drinking, former Marine with a very dark sense of humour. In "A Kind of Stopwatch" on The Twilight Zone he played McNulty, a boorish man who was too full of himself who finds himself in possession of a very special kind of watch. Of course, he may be most familiar to younger viewers as Leonard on Community, the elderly yet still laid-back, occasionally rash business major with a gift for pranks and wisecracks.

Of course, Richard Erdman was perfectly capable of playing serious characters in dramas. In Stalag 17 he played barracks chief Sgt. "Hoffy" Hoffman. While Hoffy has a sense of humour, it is clear that he takes his position in the prisoner of war camp very seriously. In the Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Absent Artist" he played tax accountant Charles "Monty"  Montrose, one of the many suspects in the episode. In the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! he played Colonel Edward F. French. Richard Erdman certainly had a gift for comedy and playing quirky characters, but such was his talent that he could play serious characters in dramas as well.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Late Great Dick Dale

Dick Dale, the undisputed King of Surf Guitar, died on March 16 2019 at the age of 81. Before his death he had been treated for heart failure and kidney failure.

Dick Dale was born Richard Anthony Monsour on May 4 1937 in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was of Lebanese descent and his mother of Polish-Belarusian descent. As a result he was exposed to the folk music of both ethnic groups as a child. Growing up he enjoyed swing music, and one of his earliest musical influences was drummer Gene Krupa. He taught himself to play ukulele. His uncle taught him to play the tarabaki. He bought a guitar from a friend for $8 and then learned to play it. In 1954 the family moved to Southern California. It was there that he took up surfing.

It was a country music DJ who gave him the name "Dick Dale", who felt it was a good name for a country musician. He played in local talent shows, and recorded a demo song, "Ooh-Whee Marie," for the California based Del-Fi label. It was in the late Fifties that Dick Dale invented surf rock. He played regularly at the the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, California. This would lead to gigs at other local spots. It was in 1961 that his first single, "Let's Go Trippin", was released in 1961. It reached no. 60 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Several more singles followed in the wake of "Let's Go Trippin", including "Misirlou", "King of the Surf Guitar", "The Wedge", and others. Dick Dale's first album, Surfer's Choice,was released in 1962. It was followed by King of the Surf Guitar in 1963, Checked Flag in 1963, Mr. Eliminator in 1964, and Summer Surf. Dick Dale appeared in the "Beach Party" movies Beach Party (1963) and Muscle Beach Party (1964), as well as the movie A Swingin' Affair (1963).

While surf music was very popular in the United States for a time, it was overtaken by the British Invasion in 1964. Dick Dale's popularity declined and in 1965 and he was actually dropped by his label, Capitol. He continued to perform locally, but in 1966 he developed colorectal cancer. While he survived the disease, he was forced to retire from music for a time. In the coming years he pursued other interests than music, including caring for endangered animals and studying martial arts.

It was in 1986 that Dick Dale attempted a comeback. He recorded a benefit single for the University of California-Irvine Medical Centre's burn unit and in 1987 he appeared in the movie Back to the Beach. He appeared on the movie's soundtrack album as well. He appeared in the movie The Treasure (1990). In 1991 he made a guest appearance on funk metal Psychefunkapus's album Skin. It was a gig in the Bay Area that won him a contract with Hightone Records.

It was in 1993 that his first album in thirty years, Tribal Thunder, was released. It was followed by Unknown Territory in 1994.  That same year his version of "Misirlou" made an appearance in Quentin Tarantino's movie Pulp Fiction. In the next few years he released the albums Calling Up Spirits (1996) and Spacial Disorientation (2001).

Except for perhaps Link Wray, Dick Dale was arguably the most influential guitarist in the history of rock music. He incorporated Eastern European and Middle Eastern melodies in his music, an innovation in rock music. He often used reverb, a rarity in rock music of the late Fifties and early Sixties. The speed with which he played guitar would not be matched for decades. Dick Dale played an important role in making rock music louder. In order to be heard over audiences, he worked with Leo Fender to develop amplifiers that would make guitars louder without sacrificing sound quality. Indeed, it was his work with Leo Fender that led to the development of the first 100-watt guitar amplifier. Dick Dale was the inventor of surf rock, but his oeuvre would have a lasting impact on other sub-genres of rock music. Both power pop and heavy metal might not have come into existence without both Dick Dale's guitar style and his work in creating more powerful amplifiers. Dick Dale was a man of incredible talent, talent so great that it would have a lasting impact on rock music and would lead to the creation of entirely new sub-genres.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

My Picks for the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival

Today Turner Classic Movies came out with the schedule for the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival. I won't be going this year, but I thought that I would share my picks for each day. I must point out that I did not pay attention to the venues, so I don't know that it would be possible for me to see all of my picks. I did take into account when the movies were scheduled, which means I would miss some films I would love to see simply because they are scheduled against other films I want to see. I did not take into account certain events I would love to attend, such as the esteemed Kevin Brownlow receiving the Robert Osborne Award.

Anyhow, here are my picks day by day.

April 11

I have to say that the evening of April 11 is one of those days in which I am a bit unhappy with the schedule. Quite simply, the way that the schedule is set up, I cannot possibly see every movie I would want to. I would love to see When Harry Met Sally (1989), which starts at 6:30 (of course, given how I react to romantic movies the past six and a half months, I would probably cry through the whole film...). I would also love to see Dark Passage (1947), which also starts at 6:30. At 6:45 there is Gentlemen Prefers Blondes (1953).  Obviously I could not see all of these movies as they are roughly at the same time. Amazingly enough, even though each one of these films numbers among my favourites, they are not among my picks for the TCM Classic Film Festival. My pick that evening is Ocean's 11 (1960), one of my all time favourite movies. It starts at 7:00, which puts it into conflict with all of the movies I just named. Of course, this means I could not see The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), which starts at 9:30. I have already given a name to the schedule for April 11: the Schedule form Hell.


April 12

Okay, I don't know if I would be awake at 9:00 AM, but I would have to see The Postman Rings Twice (1946), which numbers among my top five film noirs. At noon I would go see my all time favourite Disney movie, Sleeping Beauty (1959). At 2:00 PM I would  go watch Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). That night I would go see Do the Right Thing (1989) at 9:00. Amazingly enough, there are no conflicts for me on April 12. In fact, in the late afternoon there really isn't that much I would like to see on the big screen (to be frank, even in a theatre I think The Sound of Music would put me to sleep).


April 13

I would love to see From Here to Eternity (1953) at 9:00 AM, but that would mean I would not be able to see When Worlds Collide (1951) at 9:15 AM. At 11:45 AM my pick is Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949). At 3:15 PM I would watch A Raisin in the Sun (1961). At 6:00 PM I would go see Wuthering Heights (1939). That night brings a bit of a conflict for me. I would like to see The Bad Seed (1956) at 8:00 PM or Escape from New York (1981) at 9:45 PM. The problem is that if I went to either of them I would not be able to see the movie I would absolutely have to see at the Festival.  That would be Star Wars (1977), which is not only one of my favourite movies of all time, but was the favourite movie of the most important person in my life. It is at 9:30 PM.

April 14

Sunday morning I would see Mad Love (1935) at 9:15. That afternoon I would see The Shawhank Redemption (1994) at 12:45  PM. My last film of the schedule would be Gone with the Wind (1939), which starts at 4:30 PM.

Over all I have to say that I am impressed by this year's TCM Classic Film Festival. My only complaint is that I wish they would have taken some of the movies they are showing on April 11 and moved them to some other time. The late afternoon of April 12 would have been a perfect time for Dark Passage, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, or The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Of course, given the fact that I would want to visit with my many friends, I might be thankful for a slow period during the festival!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The 100th Birthday of Nat King Cole

Before The Beatles, before Elvis Presley, there was Nat King Cole. Both with the King Cole Trio and as a solo artist he would be phenomenally successful. From 1942 to 1964 he would have scores of hit singles, many of which would reach no. 1 on the various Billboard charts. As a solo artist he had 14 number one hit singles in Britain alone. So successful was Nat King Cole that the Capitol Records Building, completed in 1956, is still known as "the House That Nat Built." Few other performers ever saw the success that Nat King Cole had. He was born 100 years ago today, March 17 1919, in Montgomery, Alabama.

Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Coles. Like his brothers, Eddie, Ike, and Freddie, he took to music while young. His mother taught him to play organ. When he was 12 he began learning how to play the piano formally. With his brother Eddie, who was a bassist, he formed Eddie Cole's Swingsters. Eddie Cole's Swingsters recorded two singles for Decca in 1936. He played in a revival of the musical Shuffle Along. Afterwards Nat King Cole led a big band and then formed the King Cole Swingsters with bassist Wesley Prince and guitarist Oscar Moore. They soon changed their name to the King Cole Trio. In 1940 they recorded the single "Sweet Lorraine". In 1941 the King Cole Trio recorded "That Ain't Right" for Decca, which would prove to be their first big hit. It went to number one on the Billboard R&B chart.

The King Cole Trio proved very successful. They appeared frequently on radio, with several guest appearances on Kraft Music Hall (starring Bing Crosby) in particular. In 1946 they had their own 15 minute radio show, King Cole Trio Time. They appeared in the feature films Stars on Parade (1944), Swing in the Saddle (1944), Killer Diller (1948), and Make Believe Ballroom (1949), as well as several short subjects. In 1947 Nat King Cole recorded "Nature Boy" with an orchestra, and the single was credited to "King Cole". The song hit number one on the Billboard singles chart. With various departures from the King Cole Trio and some success as a solo artist, starting in 1949 singles were being credited as "Nat King Cole & the Trio". Starting in 1950, the singles credited to "Nat King Cole". It was in the spring of 1951 that it was announced that the King Cole Trio had been dissolved.

If anything, Nat King Cole became even more successful as a solo artist. Indeed, even in years when he did not have a number one record (such as 1953, 1954, and 1955), his singles still did so well that he would still rank in the top ten most successful music artists for the year.

With such success, it should come as no surprise that Nat King Cole would make the move to television. In 1956 Nat King Cole signed a contract with CBS to host a show of his own. Unfortunately plans for a show starring Nat King Cole never moved forward at CBS. It was later in the year that Nat King Cole signed a contract with NBC. This time around a show did emerge. The Nat King Cole Show debuted as a 15 minute programme on Monday night, November 5 1956 at 7:30 Eastern/6:30 Central.

While The Nat King Cole Show was definitely a major milestone for black performers on television, contrary to popular belief, it was not the first variety show to be hosted by a black person. In 1950 singer Hazel Scott hosted the short-lived Hazel Scott Show on the ill-fated Dumont Television Network. In 1952 singer Billy Daniels hosted the short lived Billy Daniels Show on ABC. Since Hazel Scott was from Trinidad, Billy Daniels was then the first African American to host a variety show. That having been said, The Nat King Cole Show was the first time that a variety show was hosted by an African American with the success of Nat King Cole. In fact, Nat King Cole was more successful than many of the white singers who hosted variety shows.

Despite Nat King Cole's phenomenal success as a recording artist, The Nat King Cole Show would prove to be ill-fated. NBC had agreed to finance the show in the hope that a national sponsor would pick it up. Sadly NBC found had problems finding national sponsors for the show. Many advertisers were afraid of the reaction that the South might have if a company sponsored a show hosted by a black man. Someone representing the cosmetics company Max Factor even insisted that an African American could not sell lipstick for them. Carter Products (who manufactured  Carter's Little Liver Pills and Arrid deodorant) bought time on The Nat King Cole Show from time to time, but it was not enough to support the show. To help support the show NBC sought out local sponsors, so that Coca-Cola sponsored the show in Houston, Rheingold Beer sponsored the show in New York City, and so on.

 Amazingly enough given Nat King Cole's success as a musical artist, The Nat King Cole Show also suffered from low ratings. In an attempt to improve the ratings, NBC revamped the show in July 1957, expanding it to half an hour and giving it a bigger budget. In an effort to save the show, Nat King Cole's fellow performers worked for industry scale or even nothing at all. Such big names as earl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Frankie Laine, Peggy Lee, Eartha Kitt, and Mel Tormé all appeared on the show.

Unfortunately, none of this was enough to attract a national sponsor for The Nat King Cole Show or dramatically improve the ratings. Unwilling to give up on the show entirely, NBC offered to move The Nat King Cole Show to 7:30 PM  Eastern/6:30 PM Central on Saturdays. Nat King Cole declined the network's offer of a new time slot and decided to end the show.  The Nat King Cole Show ended its run on December 17 1957. Nat King Cole credited with NBC, from David Sarnoff on down, with having supported the show from the beginning right through to the very end. He blamed the show's failure on sponsors and advertising agencies afraid of supporting a show hosted by an African American.

While The Nat King Cole Show proved to be ill fated, he continued to guest star on such programmes as The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Perry Como Show, The Garry Moore Show, and yet others. He also had a career in movies. Having already appeared in films as a vocalist, Nat King Cole appeared in the role of Danny Rice in the film Istanbul (1957). He was one of the leads in the film China Gate (1957). He played the lead role of W. C. Handy in the biopic St. Louis Blues (1958). He played a supporting role in Night of the Quarter Moon (1960). Nat King Cole's last appearance in a feature film would be in the Western comedy Cat Ballou in 1965. He played the Sunrise Kid, who with Sam the Shade (played by Stubby Kaye) serve as a bit of a Greek chorus in the film. Sadly, Nat King Cole died only four months before Cat Ballou was released.

It was in 1964 that Nat King Cole, who had been a heavy smoker his entire life, was diagnosed with lung cancer. His condition worsened and it was clear that his illness was terminal, although the press at the time gave no real indication of how serious his cancer was. It was on February 15 1965, the day after his 45th birthday, that Nat King Cole died.

Nat King Cole would leave behind an incredible legacy. With the King Cole Trio he would prove to have a lasting influence on jazz, particularly with regards to jazz piano. The trio itself would provide the template for many small jazz ensembles to come, consisting of piano, guitar, and bass. Much of the King Cole Trio's work would even have a lasting impact on rock and roll. Such singles as "Straighten Up and Fly Right" can easily be considered forerunners of rock and roll.

To a degree Nat King Cole was a controversial figure. African American activists were not happy that he performed before segregated audiences. As a popular black artist, he also attracted the ire of racists and was even attacked on stage in Birmingham, Alabama by white men. Eventually Nat King Cole agreed to boycott venues that practised segregation. While Nat King Cole had played before segregated audience, he also contributed money to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and sued hotels that refused to serve him. He later played an important role in the planning of the the March on Washington in 1963.

As a solo artist Nat King Cole shifted from being a jazz pianist to a crooner, but he would still have enormous success and an incredible impact on music. Indeed, he ranks alongside the most successful crooners of all time, including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin. As a singer Nat King Cole was gifted with a rich baritone and perfect pitch. This is all the more remarkable given that, as a vocalist, he had no formal training.  Nat King Cole would have a lasting influence on future vocalists, including Sam Cooke, Al Jarreau, Johnny Mathis, and yet others. Both as part of the King Cole Trio and as a solo artist, Nat King Cole played a pivotal role as one of the earliest black music artists to gain popularity with white audiences.

To this day Nat King Cole remains one of the most popular vocalists of all time. Compilation albums of his songs have been released right up to this very day, and episodes of The Nat King Cole Show are available on DVD. Few other music artists would ever see the success of Nat King Cole. He remains not only one of the most successful performers of the 20th Century, but perhaps of all time.