Friday, January 2, 2009

This concludes our broadcast day

If there’s anyone in the blogosphere that’s more obsessed with television than Toby O’Brien over at Inner Toob…I haven’t the slightest idea who that might be. This is not necessary a bad thing, because to close out 2008, he has a list of the notables and not-so-notables that “rang down the curtain and joined the choir invisible,” as John Cleese once observed in a famous Python sketch. The list is here, and while a goodly number of the deceased did receive their due here at TDOY there were some who did not—for various reasons, but chiefly a) because I had no idea that they were no longer with us or b) I had heard of their passing and read so many tributes on other blogs (notable examples: Harvey Korman, Dick Martin) that I felt the observance had been adequately addressed. Nevertheless, I was surprised to hear about a few of these that jumped out at me:

Eddy Arnold – If I previously acknowledged the passing of “The Tennessee Plowboy” and have just forgotten about it, then it’s time to up the ol’ gingko biloba dosage. But I’m pretty sure the first time I heard about it was reading the blurb at Toby’s. What can one say—the man was one of the most popular singers in the history of country music, contributing classics like Bouquet of Roses, I Wanna Play House With You, I Really Don’t Want to Know, The Cattle Call, Make the World Go Away, I Want to Go With You, The Last Word in Lonesome is Me, Turn the World Around and so many others. When I first got into radio back in 1979, Arnold was still charting big records; including a toe-tapping ditty called Let’s Get It While the Gettin’s Good. (Note: According to Wikipedia, the day of Arnold’s passing was May 8, 2008—the day I was in the process of moving to Athens, which might explain why I missed it.)

Henry Beckman – I caught Beckman in The Satan Bug (1965) last night on TCM; he made a number of appearances in feature films but I’ll always remember him for his small-screen work because…well, holy cats, he appeared in so many TV series (as a regular and guest star) the list is the length of a football field. He was Commander Richards in the 1950s TV version of Flash Gordon, Mulligan on I’m Dickens…He’s Fenster, Colonel Harrigan on McHale’s Navy and George Anderson on Peyton Place…not to mention guest spots on classic series like The Untouchables, Route 66, The Fugitive, Perry Mason and The Wild Wild West. But in rerun heaven, he’ll be remembered as Captain Roland Francis Clancy, the besotted sea captain who brought 100 women to Seattle, Washington in 1870 as prospective brides for the loggers working for Jason Bolt (Robert Brown) and his brothers Joshua (David Soul) and Jeremy (Bobby Sherman) in the western-adventure series Here Come the Brides.

Many of the people on Toby’s list were British performers—Kathy Staff, the unforgettable Nora Batty of Last of the Summer Wine; Hugh Lloyd (who co-starred with Terry Scott in the hit 60s sitcom Hugh and I) and Elizabeth Spriggs (Watching, Shine On, Harvey Moon)—so it’s often easy to overlook them but when great American character actors—Julius Carrey (The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Murphy Brown) and Jeff MacKay (Magnum, P.I., Tales of the Gold Monkey…anybody remember MacKay from an old Saturday morning series, Dr. Shrinker?)—cash in, obviously I haven’t been paying attention.

So to all these fine performers—and all the ones I overlooked—R.I.P. Our television sets and movie screens will be lonely without you.

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