Saturday, November 1, 2008

R.I.P. Studs Terkel…and King of the Hill

My father handed me a book he was reading one time entitled The Good War and suggested that with my interest in nostalgia I take the time to read it. I did, and I’ve never regretted it—the book was written by Studs Terkel: Pulitzer-prize winning author, activist, radio performer, TV/movie actor, jazz critic and survivor of the 1950s blacklist. We are indeed fortunate to have his books around to read again and again: Hard Times, Working, etc. But unfortunately, we no longer have Studs—for he passed away this week at the age of 96.

Terkel’s performance in John Sayles’ Eight Men Out (1988) as sports reporter “Hughie” Fullerton (alongside director Sayles’ turn as Ring Lardner) is one of many reasons why Eight Men Out remains my favorite film about baseball. And of course, I was slightly familiar with Studs’ 1950 TV show, Studs’ Place. What I did not know is that Terkel also plied his trade playing gangsters on many old-time radio soap operas, as well as appearances on WMAQ’s landmark dramatic series, Destination Freedom. (Sadly, none of Studs’ “gangster work” appears to have survived.)

The only other news that came close to producing the same amount of sorrow is a report that Fox is canceling one of the best (and smartest) sitcoms of all time, the animated King of the Hill. I know we’ll always have reruns, but I never cease to be amazed at how such a fantastic series can bite the dust and yet drek like American Dad and The Simpsons remain on the air.

R.I.P., Studs and King…you’ll both be missed.

Update: The indefatigable John Nichols at The Nation has written a nice send-off for Studs which can be read here.

Updated Update: OTR's most famous curmudgeon, Charlie Summers, has a November 21, 1948 broadcast entitled "The Rhyme of the Ancient Dodger" from Destination Freedom available on podcast here. Studs plays the part of Sammy, the Runyonesque titled character.

1 comment:

comicsnstories said...

I retain my status as a Simpsons fan, but agree with you completely that there's something wrong when American Dad gets renewed and we miss out on new episodes of King of the Hill, which is probably one of the five best written shows since Andy Griffith.