Saturday, April 3, 2021

Easter Episodes of American TV Shows

While special episodes dedicated to Christmas and Halloween have been downright common on American television shows for much of television history, until the Naughts episodes dedicated to Easter have been relatively rare. Beyond the fact that Easter is not quite as high a profile holiday as Christmas and Halloween in the United States, there are two basic reasons for this. In the Fifties episodes of television shows dedicated to specific holidays beyond Christmas were relatively uncommon. By the Sixties and Seventies, many shows were ending their seasons in March or early April. For instance, the second season of The Monkees ended on March 25 1968. The majority of the seasons of the Seventies series The Waltons ended in March as well.  Given the earliest possible date for Easter is March 22 and the latest possible date for Easter is April 25, it's little wonder that in the Sixties and Seventies only a few shows did Easter episodes. With more pre-emptions, by the Eighties the broadcast networks would drag out the seasons of shows until early May, but for whatever reason there still weren't too many Easter episodes. In the end, they would not become relatively common until the Naughts.

While Easter episodes have been historically rare, there have been classic television shows that have done Easter episodes. Two of the earliest Easter episodes aired in 1953. On the April 4 1953 episode of The Jackie Gleason Show, in the "Honeymooners" skit "Easter Hats," the Kramdens and Nortons celebrate Easter, including colouring eggs and getting Easter hats (hence the title). The other Easter episode of 1953 was the eighth episode of Betty White's classic sitcom Life with Elizabeth. In the first sketch (or "incident," as they were called on the show) "Dyeing Easter Eggs," Elizabeth dyes eggs with the help of her husband Alvin (Del Moore), with hilarious results.

Another early Easter episode appeared on The Jack Benny Program. This should come as no surprise, as The Jack Benny Program had a history of episodes dedicated to holidays on radio, including Easter. That having been said, the April 17 1960 episode, "Easter Show," was the only Easter episode of The Jack Benny Program to appear on television. The episode featured Jack and his girlfriend of the moment Mildred (played by Barbara Nichols) walking in the Beverly Hills Easter Parade and encountering Dennis Day, his violin teacher Professor LeBlanc (played by Mel Blanc), and a photographer played by Frank Nelson (well known for his "Yeeeeeeeeesssss?" catchphrase).

It was five years later that McHale's Navy featured its only Easter episode. "Chuckie Cottontail" aired on March 23 1965. In the episode, Captain Binghamton (Joe E. Flynn), Lt. Carpenter (Bob Hastings), and Admiral Hardsey (John Zaremba) are captured by Japanese soldiers who have gotten drunk on egg nog made from stolen eggs. Adding to their embarrassment, the trio are rescued by the Easter Bunny (actually Ensign Parker, played by Tim Conway) on his way to an Easter egg hunt that McHale (Ernest Borgnine) has organized for the local children.

While many shows took a light touch when it came to Easter, the religious clay-animation series Davey and Goliath took a more serious view of the holiday. The original run of the series was from 1962 to 1965, but in 1967 there would be three, half-hour long specials, one of which was "Happy Easter." The episode featured Davey grieving his Grandmother Hansen, who had died, and learning the importance of Easter as a religious holiday. 

As bizarre as it might sound, there was even an Easter episode of Bonanza. Easter fell early during the show's eleventh season and that season ran well into April. The result was the Easter episode, "Caution, Easter Bunny Crossing." In "Caution, Easter Bunny Crossing," Hoss (Dan Blocker) finds himself wrangled into playing the Easter Bunny for a Quaker woman (Allyn Ann McLerie) in charge of an orphanage. At the same time, he finds himself contending with a bumbling gang of stage coach robbers. "Caution, Easter Bunny Crossing" was one of the show's many comedy episodes.

While The Waltons generally ended its seasons in March, in its first season one episode was held back until April 19 1973, as it was an Easter episode. The two hour episode "An Easter Story" unfolded from February, when Olivia (Miss Michael Learned) contracted polio, to Easter, at which time she recovered. In 1997 one of several reunion movies for The Waltons was set at Easter, A Walton Easter.

M*A*S*H had one Easter story during its run, although, oddly enough, it aired on December 31 1974 rather than a time closer to the holiday. In "Private Charles Lamb," the 4077th is invited to an Easter dinner held by a Greek unit. Animal lover Radar (Gary Burghoff) must then find a way to save the main course, a cute little lamb. 

It was during the same season, although closer to the actual holiday, that the Easter episode of Happy Days aired. In "Three on a Porch," Richie (Ron Howard), Potsie (Anson Williams), and Ralph (Don Most) decide to masquerade as foreign businessmen at a lake resort in order to pick up college girls.

It would be several years later that the sitcom Alice would feature its Easter episode On the episode, "Here Comes Alice Cottontail," Alice's son Tommy wants to go with friends to Mexico for Easter break. When Alice (Linda Lavin) refuses to let him do so, he moves in with Alice's boss Mel (Vic Tayback). Alice bets Mel that he will kick Tommy out while Mel is certain that Alice will be snooping on her son. As it turns out, Alice does. What is more, she dresses in a rabbit costume to do so (it is Easter, after all).

While Easter episodes would remain infrequent in the Eighties and the Nineties, they appear to have become more common in the Naughts and Teens. Such recent shows as The Drew Carey Show, Everybody Loves Raymond, South Park, and Superstore have all featured episodes dedicated to the holiday. With the television seasons having changed over the years and the advent of streaming (where the traditional television season doesn't exist), it seems possible that they will continue to be relatively common when compared to the past.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

TCM's 31 Days of Oscar 2021

Those of you familiar with me know that 31 Days of Oscar on Turner Classic Movies may well be my least favourite time of year on the channel. Historically I have had two basic problems with 31 Days of Oscar. The first is that it pre-empts TCM's usual programming for four weeks. That means throughout 31 Days of Oscar, there is no Noir Alley, no Silent Sunday Nights, no TCM Underground. Now I could live with that (I don't seem to have the same problem with Summer Under the Stars), except for my second reason. Quite simply, more than at any other of time of year, it is sometimes the case that TCM shows fewer of my favourite movies. There have been years where I have watched far fewer movies on Turner Classic Movies during 31 Days of Oscar than any other time of year.

Fortunately, this year doesn't seem to be the case, as they are airing more of my favourites during 31 Days of Oscar. Quite simply, this is one of the best line-ups they have had for 31 Days of Oscar in a few years. This 31 Days of Oscar does differ from earlier blocks of 31 Days of Oscar in that this time they are airing the movies in alphabetical order.  Anyway, following are my choices of what you really don't want to miss during this year's 31 Days of Oscar. I want to stress that for the sake of brevity I didn't include every single one of my favourites. I love The Philadelphia Story, but given how often TCM shows it I am convinced there is no one who hasn't seen it yet! All times are Central.

Thursday, April 1
7:00 AM The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
1:15 AM Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Friday, April 2
11:00 PM The Awful Truth (1937)
3:00 AM The Birds (1963)

Saturday, April 3
5:00 AM Blithe Spirit (1945)
1:00 PM Bullitt (1968)
3:15 PM Caged (1950)

Sunday, April 4
1:15 PM The Defiant Ones (1958)

Monday, April 5
11:00 PM The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)
12:45 AM Flower Drum Song (1961)

Tuesday, April 6
6:45 AM Forbidden Planet (1956)
1:00 PM 42nd Street (1933)
7:00 PM The 400 Blows (1959)

Wednesday, April 7
2:30 AM The Great Race (1965)
7:00 PM The Guns of Navarone (1961)

Friday, April 9
11:00 AM A Hard Day's Night (1964)
1:00 PM Harvey (1950)

Saturday, April 10
9:00 PM The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
1:00 AM I Married a Witch (1942)

Sunday, April 11
9:30 PM In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Monday, April 12
7:30 AM It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)
9:30 AM It Happened One Night (1934)
4:15 PM It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

Tuesday, April 13
5:00 AM Kiss Me Kate (1953)

Wednesday, April 14
7:00 PM The Lady Eve (1941)
9:00 PM The Ladykillers (1955)

Thursday, April 15
11:00 AM The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972)
7:00 PM Lilies of the Field (1963)

Friday, April 16
9:00 AM Lover Come Back (1961)
5:00 PM The Maltese Falcon (1941)
11:30 PM The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Saturday, April 17
7:30 AM Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

9:00 PM Mister Roberts (1955)

Sunday, April 18
1:15 PM Mystery Street (1950)
9:15 Pm Network (1976)

Monday, April 19
8:00 AM Now Voyager (1942)
9:45 PM On the Town (1949)

Wednesday, April 21
7:00 PM Pillow Talk (1959)

Thursday, April 22
1:00 PM The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
10:45 PM The Public Enemy (1931)

Friday, April 23
11:15 AM Rashomon (1950)
3:00 PM Rear Window (1954)

Saturday, April 24
9:30 PM Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
1:15 AM Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
3:15 AM Shaft (1971)

Sunday, April 25
10:00 AM Ship of Fools (1965)
5:00 PM Singin' in the Rain (1953)
11:00 PM Sounder (1972)

Tuesday, April 27
3:15 PM Strangers on a Train (1951)

Wednesday, April 28
Them! (1954)
10:00 PM The Thin Man (1933)12:15 AM The Third Man (1949)

Thursday, April 29
7:00 PM The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Friday, April 30
3:30 PM The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Saturday, May 1
12:00 PM What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962)
5:00 PM White Heat (1949)
7:00 PM The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Godspeed Richard Gilliland

Richard Gilliland, who played Jonesy on The Waltons and J. D. Shackleford on Designing Women, died on March 18 2021 at the age of 71 after a brief illness.

Richard Gilliland was born on January 23 1950 in Fort Worth, Texas. He attended the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago. He portrayed Jesus in the Broadway production of Godspell. Afterwards he moved to Los Angeles. He made his television debut in the TV movie Unwed Father in 1974.

In the Seventies he played the regular role of Sgt. Steve DiMaggio on the TV series McMillan & Wife and the lead role of Lt. Nick Holden on Operation Petticoat. He guest starred on the shows The Streets of San Francisco; Medical Center; Marcus Welby, M.D.; The Blue Knight; Visions; Little Women; and Trapper John, M.D. He appeared in the movies Bug (1975), Stay Hungry (1976), and The White Buffalo (1977).

In the Eighties Mr. Gilliland appeared in the semi-regular role of Jonesy on The Waltons, played one of the leads in the short-lived sitcom Just Our Luck, appeared as J. D. Shackleford on Designing Women, and appeared in the recurring role of Jeffrey Milgrom on Thirtysomething. He guest starred on the shows Love Boat; Fantasy Island; Hotel; St. Elsewhere; Mary; Hunter; Night Court; Valerie; CBS Summer Playhouse; Heartbeat; and Christine Cromwell. He appeared in the movies Airpolane II: The Sequel (1982), Happy Hour (1986), and Escape (1990).

In the Nineties Richard Gilliland guest starred on the shows Equal Justice; Jake and the Fatman; Davis Rules; Murder, She Wrote; Winnetka Road; Under Suspicion; Matlock; Touched by An Angel; Dark Skies; Early Edition; Brooklyn South; The Practice; Party of Five; and Judging Amy. He was a guest voice on Batman: The Animated Series. He appeared in the movies Playing Dangerous 2 (1992) and Star Kid (1997).

In the Naughts he guest starred on Becker, Joan of Arcadia, Crossing Jordan, 24, The Unit, Dexter, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and Desperate Housewives. He appeared in the movies Home Room (2002) and Vampire Clan (2007). In the Teens he was a regular on Imposters. He guest starred on the TV shows Torchwood, Scandal, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Highly Evolved Human, and Criminal Minds. He appeared in the movies Parts Per Billion (2014) and Case 347 (2020).

Over the years Richard Gilliland played many affable characters, such as Jonesy on The Waltons, Lt. Holden on Operation Petticoat, and J. D. Shackleford on Designing Women. That having been said, he was capable of playing other sorts of roles. Indeed, on Matlock he played a role as far as way from Jonesy or J.D. as one could get, serial killer Jeffrey Speidel. He played the role convincingly and may well have been the only villain to appear once more  time on the show. From time to time he also played characters who were well left of centre. In the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "Rubbery Homicide" he played a man who dressed up as a female rubber doll. Richard Gilliland had a gift for playing amiable, well-adjusted characters such as Jonesy and J.D., but his talent was such that he could play characters that were as far from being amiable or well-adjusted as possible.