Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mr. Reaper is back in business

My friend Jaime Weinman referred to the last spate of show business passings as “the war on celebrities,” and with the recent deaths of Edward Woodward, Paul Wendkos and David Lloyd it would appear that Death is not planning on taking a holiday soon.

Ken Ober, the host of the popular MTV game show Remote Control, has left us at the age of 52, expiring of yet-unknown causes. As a kid, Ober worshipped at the altar of such legendary game show M.C.’s as Bob Barker and Bob Eubanks, and achieved his goal of joining their fraternity in 1987 as the emcee of Control—a quiz program in which contestants were challenged on their knowledge of television, music and other pop culture effluvia. The series was also responsible for launching the careers of Colin Quinn and Adam Sandler (so you know Kenny’s going to be doing a stretch in Purgatory for that alone) and paved the way for other series appearances including Camp MTV, Smush and a revival of the old chestnut Make Me Laugh, which was on Comedy Central in 1997. He also enjoyed great success as a producer of comedy shows like Mind of Mencia and the Julia Louis-Dreyfus sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine.

Classic Images’ resident book reviewer Laura Wagner posted a notice on Facebook that actor Dennis Cole also shuffled off this mortal coil Sunday at the age of 69. I’ve spotted one or two obituaries about Cole that apparently play up the fact that he was married to actress Jaclyn Smith from 1978-81 (admittedly, I, too, have joked about this in the past) but that sort of does a disservice to an individual who was a popular fixture on TV shows like Bracken’s World, Bearcats! and the daytime drama The Young and the Restless. He also appeared in numerous shows as a guest performer, including Medical Center, Police Story, Charlie’s Angels (I think that’s a gimme), The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. (Again, I mean no disrespect—but sometimes it seemed like he was on Island every week.)

But his best known television showcase was as the rookie Detective Jim Briggs on the ABC-TV crime drama Felony Squad, which had a respectable run from 1966 to 1969. A few years back, I had the opportunity to purchase some episodes of Squad from a reputable bootlegger (I am, of course, kidding about this part) and while I wanted the series because I’m both a fan of OTR veterans Howard Duff and Ben Alexander, I have to admit that Cole held his own among these two imposing performers. (This is why I cut back on the “Mr. Jaclyn Smith” jokes.)

R.I.P, Messrs. Ober and Cole. You will be sorely missed.

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1 comment:

M. Bouffant said...

The huge cohort of celebs & entertainers that amused & distracted "our" generation is at the age where it's shrinking, & rapidly.

(Not that "our" generation has much longer to go either.)

Cheerfully yours, etc.