Posts Tagged ‘ABC.’

 

One More Thing: Arnold Stang And Top Cat

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

top cat cast.jpgWe live in amazing times. Arnold Stang dies (well, that’s not amazing) and I immediately go on a treasure hunt via the net to relive some of his work I enjoyed as a child.

Youtube is loaded with Top Cat cartoons. I chose Sergeant Top Cat (Part 1).

If this urge should come to you, don’t do it. Please. Let your memories remain memories. Don’t refresh them. Top Cat is not as good as I remembered!

This wasn’t a Saturday morning kiddie show. Top Cat ran in prime time on ABC, then mired deep in third place among the three networks.

I smiled right away because I recognized most of the voices. Of course Arnold Stang starred as Top Cat. Maurice Gosfield, who was Doberman on Sergeant Bilko played the same role here. Marvin Kaplan was also on as part of TC’s gang.

Marvin Kaplan is a guy whose name you won’t recognize but who’s been in dozens of TV shows and movies, always playing the same whiny, chubby, socially awkward guy. Trust me–to see him is to know him.

This cartoon was violent. Shots were fired indiscriminately. Bullets flew everywhere. The idea of suicide was used as the punchline to a joke! And the theme said Top Cat was the “indisputable leader of the gang.”

You’ve got to judge it by its era. Those things weren’t unusual at all in cartoons. It was a less enlightened time. It was still jarring to see today.

Top Cat was a prime time comedy with a laugh track! Isn’t a laugh track used to convince the home audience a studio audience was laughing as they saw the characters perform live? Hello? That worked? This was a cartoon! Were we that naive?

As with many made-for-TV cartoons Top Cat was minimally drawn with few ‘moving parts’ in any given frame. All colors were solid–no shading.

What really surprised and depressed me was the writing. It was horrendous. There was neither fun nor spark. The dialog and plotlne were insipid. This episode was so bad it’s tough to even describe!

Back in the 60s I though this was pretty good. Yeah, I was a pre-teenager when Top Cat premiered… still. I thought my taste was better than this.

On The Occasion Of His Departure: My One John Stossel Story

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

John Stossel is leaving ABC. From TVNewser (who claim to have broken the story)

John Stossel, the longtime ABC News correspondent and co-anchor of “20/20,” is leaving ABC to join Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. TVNewser has learned Stossel will host a weekly, one-hour program for the 2-year-old business channel. He’s expected to signed a multi-year deal with Fox which will include regular appearances on Fox News Channel during daytime and primetime. He’ll also host four, hour-long specials on Fox News, much like the business/consumer specials he’d hosted for years on ABC.

john-stossel.jpgI have one John Stossel story. This was a long time ago and I was filling in on Good Morning America in New York. TV-2, their studio at the time, was squeezed into an old building on the West Side. You’d never know there was anything going on there if not for the double parked town cars most days.

I was heading from the studio back toward my (actually Spencer Christian’s) dressing room. As I rounded the corner there was John Stossel.

He was a big deal to me. There were lots of ‘names’ from the network and other boldface types who passed through TV-2 but there was something special about Stossel.

“Hi John, I’m Geoff Fox and I’m filling in on the weather this week,” was about what I said. I extended my hand.

Nothing. He gave me the look you give a dog who’s soiled the carpet and then he turned away.

Good grief. I was crushed.

In my few dozen trips through GMA it was the only time I ever met anyone who was less than gracious. It still stings.

His departure will be a loss for ABC which in turn means a loss for my station–I regret that. On a personal level, good riddance.

I Owe A Lot To Jack Reilly

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Jack Reilly passed away today. I can’t begin to tell you how much I owe him.

From TVNewser:

Jack Reilly, the former Good Morning America executive producer and later vice president of news at CNBC, passed away this morning at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York at the age of 84.

Reilly was VP and managing editor of CNBC from 1994 to 1998. Before that, he was the executive producer of ABC’s Good Morning America from 1986 to 1994. Reilly transformed GMA, a faltering #2 show, into the nation’s top-rated morning show – a position the show held for more than five years.

reilly_jack.jpgThe time was the mid-90s and I was working here in New Haven. One afternoon our news director Liz Crane (now Liz Gray) asked me if I’d like to do the weather on Good Morning America/Sunday. “This Week with David Brinkley” was interviewing someone at Yale, had already asked for our satellite truck and then as an afterthought asked if we would also supply a weatherman.

This was a big deal to me and I told EVERYONE I knew to watch. Truth is, this kind of affiliate hit was nice but inconsequential to the network. You do it. Your friends and family see you. Life goes on.

The first hit followed an interview with tennis great Tracy Austin. She had just gotten married. While Dana King (I love Dana King) conducted the interview from New York Tracy stayed at home in a room full of wedding gifts.

Dana finished the interview and briefly introduced me. This was my chance to play it straight–just do the weather. I didn’t.

“Dana, if you talk to Tracy again, would you ask if she got the Corning Ware we sent?”

After the weather ended our sat truck operator ran out of the truck. “The producer wants to speak to you.”

Oh s**t. I was in trouble. I could feel it. On the other end of the line was Jack Reilly.

“We all laughed in the control room,” he said. “Would you like to come to New York and do some fill-in for us?” he asked.

OMFG!

I continued to be GMA’s go-to guy working weeks at-a-time until one winter’s day Spencer Christian got stranded on the West Coast. A lower level producer called and asked me to fill-in. I felt committed to do the day in Connecticut–a big weather day.

That was it for me. The GMA calls stopped. I have second guessed myself a million times on that call.

I aggressively pursued trying to get back in their good graces–but it didn’t happen. A few years ago I gave up.

I liked working at the network. What made it better was parachuting in while keeping this job. It was a very cool place to work–seriously big time with loads of people and pressure to perform.

Jack Reilly made that happen. It didn’t matter to him I was working in New Haven. He saw me. He laughed. He followed his gut.

Later on he was squeezed out at ABC. The show was never quite the same after that. Whether the Today Show passed GMA while Jack was there or after I can’t remember.

Jack Reilly is a lot of what TV was and no longer is. He will be missed. My condolences to his family and friends. Thanks Jack.

My 25th Anniversary At The TV Station

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

I remember driving back to meet Helaine after seeing Mike Sechrist in the spring of 1984. “I didn’t get it,” I told her. “They want someone older.”

I’d seen Mike hoping to fill his weather opening in New Haven. It wasn’t destined to be. But, surprise, I did get it–the weather job at WTNH.

I began May 21, 1984. Thursday was my 25th anniversary.

I can’t remember what kind of day it was when I started, but I do know I sat with Al Terzi, Gerri Harris and Bob Picozzi in front of a blank blue wall. We had no real set. All the backgrounds and frames were inserted using chromakey.

I did my first tease before my first weathercast saying a few words and ending with, “Well, how am I doing so far?” It was a line I’d first used on my first day in radio–probably stolen from someone much more clever. Gerri looked at me as if I’d just parachuted in from Mars.

In my 25 years she was one of two anchors who obviously ‘didn’t get me.’ Al, on the other hand, laughed at every joke I told–funny or not. What Al did was like comedy kindling and it helped establish me.

I have survived four general managers (with a fifth soon-to-be hired), ten news directors and scores of producers. I have outlived all the other on-air people at Channel 8 that day in 1984. Considering I’d bounced around radio for 11 years before getting to Connecticut that’s quite a feat.

I don’t know how it came about… these 25 years. It’s nothing you aim for. I seem to remember thinking of WTNH as a good stepping stone, not a final resting place. And yet I stayed.

For a while I filled in for ABC on Good Morning America. Maybe I thought the network would come calling–but they didn’t. So I stayed and stayed and stayed.

I built a very good life first for Helaine and then Stefanie. My parents moved to the area and then moved away. We set down roots. I tried to give back, especially with charity work.

You don’t go to work on day one hoping to stay 25 years. I certainly didn’t. It’s all one day at-a-time and then, all of a sudden, those days begin to add up. Prospective employers look at people who change jobs a lot as having baggage. Once you’ve stayed too long you’re looked at the same way.

There will never be another Geoff Fox in Connecticut. Sure, there will be more talented people. There might even be people who will stay longer–though that seems doubtful. But no one will ever be seen by audiences as large as we had in the 80s and 90s. That tonnage is gone. It’s affect is cumulative over the years.

I have a great job. I enjoy coming to work nearly every day. Even after 25 years no one will ever accuse me of phoning it in. I am a well defined personality and though lots of people like me, there’s also a sizable contingent who don’t.

No gold watch today, I got a plaque. I’m taking off Friday but I’ll be back Monday.

Our Lives Documented

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

We’re straightening up at home. Helaine has thrown some things out. Lots of organizing is still to come. It was VHS tape day today. Good grief we’ve got them by the dozens.

We have a VHS to DVD dub machine in the family room. I’ve only used it as a dubber a few times. It’s time to really put it to the test now!

I threw some unlabeled tapes in the machine. Helaine’s the only organized one of the three of us so they’re not hers.

Stef had recorded a few MTV shows. I came across an episode of the Osborne’s and a Rosie O’Donnell aircheck. I was represented with a TV story about the day I appeared on ABC’s “All My Children.”

There were lots of unlabeled family videos too. In one I am pushing Stef down our snowy though barely sloped driveway as she lies on a Flexible Flyer sled. She pulls the sled back to me while refering to it as “Sleddie.”

Somewhere, not found yet, there is a tape of Stef sledding on the Quinnipiac University campus. I’ll find it. This is a definite “America’s Funniest Home Videos” winner! As Stef pulls the sled to the top of the hill she falls and they both slide to the bottom. This happens three or four times–gracefully and always at the proper instant for perfect comedic timing.

We’ve also got plays from elementary school and her Bat Mitzvah. We were big with the camcorder.

Stef, your life is well documented. These can definitely be used for blackmail, so always be nice to your parents. We’ll consider this insurance.

Deep in the pile there was also a tape of Helaine and my wedding! We didn’t have the guts to watch it today. In fact Helaine has only seen parts of it and then only once. She stopped when her tears were too much to take.

As you might imagine there will be lots of dead people in this 25 year old tape, It’s possible it will be transferred to DVD sight unseen.

Photos Of The Folks I Work With

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

I brought “Clicky” to work today. For a variety of reasons it was a good day to bring a camera.

First, the ‘floor people’ were ripping out a few old walls. These were put in when we used to produce the Sally Jessy Raphael Show!

Behind the remnants of that set is a cinder block wall which was painted in a farm/computer/flag motif one summer around 20 years ago. Our general manager at the time made a deal with ABC to produce a handful of pilots for post-Nightline programming. None made it, but Joy Behar, Richard Belzer, Curtis Sliwa, Bobby Rivers and a host of others took turns trying something new in New Haven. That was a very cool summer.

Some of the people that briefly passed through that summer are surely ‘names’ now. I wish I knew which ones.

My co-workers were mostly in good spirits tonight. Few didn’t want their pictures taken. Many of those who did mugged as if they’d never seen a camera.

It was all very unusual for me since I seldom shoot people! I even used my Speedlight, mounted on top of the camera with an old alcohol bottle over it to provide some diffusion.

What’s posted is a representative sample. I took a lot of pictures. I love digital photography.

Leno To 10PM–Very Smart

Monday, December 8th, 2008
“NBC will keep Jay Leno five nights a week, but in prime time, competing not with David Letterman, but with shows like “C.S.I. Miami.” The network will announce Tuesday that Mr. Leno’s new show will appear at 10 o’clock each weeknight in a format similar to “The Tonight Show,” which he has hosted since 1993. – Bill Carter, NY Times

jay-conan.jpgThis is genius. With this one move NBC guarantees its future going forward. It’s an offensive, defensive and strategic move all at the same time.

No secret here–network television (and local television) is in sad shape. Our business model continues to deteriorate in this horrible economic climate and in the face of increased competition from the Internet. NBC and the other networks have to do something to remain viable.

Moving Jay Leno to 10:00 PM is a cost saving move. The Tonight Show, even with an enlarged budget, is light years cheaper to produce than scripted episodic television. I would guess the demographics are comparable, maybe even better than episodic fare.

Moving Jay Leno to 10:00 PM lets NBC run a program that it controls 100%. There is no one but Leno to deal with. I’d guess he’s getting a long term commitment.

Moving Jay Leno to 10:00 PM is a defensive move. With Conan O’Brien set to take the 11:35 PM slot there were rumors of Leno jumping to ABC. Obviously, that’s off the table. At this moment, NBC ‘owns’ all the established talk show talent except David Letterman–who has seen much better days.

This is bad news for the Hollywood production community. Five weekly hours of high budget TV will no longer be produced. That will throw a lot of people out-of-work.

How this move do anything but benefit NBC? Even slightly lower ratings than what’s being replaced (if that happens) still has the potential to produce higher net revenue. Whether the affiliates benefit remains to be seen. Over the past decade networks have shown less than unwavering support for their local stations.

Tweeting on Twitter, the Times Brian Stelter says, “Leno at 10 would seem somewhat DVR-proof and Web-proof — a smart move by NBC, right?”

I wonder if he’ll do the show live? He should.

Twitter Is Holding My Attention

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

I’m still up in the air about Twitter. I like it, but I’m feeling unfulfilled. Maybe I don’t know how to use it correctly. It would work a whole lot better if “twits” updated in real time and the whole thing operated outside the browser.

Here are some random “twits” I enjoyed… and the raison d’être I come back.

Kevin Rose kevinrose Just walked into the bar with this dog (see earlier vid), holy hell, 5 girls came up in 2 mins. This dog is gold!

Harry McCracken harrymccracken Just felt it! (There was a small quake in Northern California last night – Geoff)

LanceUlanoff Curse you Brett Myers!

mattcutts Duncan Riley is auctioning his original Google Chrome comic book: http://bit.ly/ebaychrome .

mattizcoop Chilling with the boy, regretting the 5:55 AM flight out of MSP, bumming out that Heart put the kibosh on use of “Barracuda” for Sarahcuda.

anamariecox Forgotten Tweet from Google bash: asked vet GOP operative what he thought of the nite’s stagecraft and he said “my eyes are still bleeding.”

Brian Heater bheater @dancosta Microsoft is to the Future as McCain is to Change. Discuss

HowardKurtz So many media folks on this plane, hope the Repubs dont launch an elite-seeking missile.

Kirk Varner kirkv Anyone want to wager that these are the last political party conventions that ABC/CBS/NBC give up any primetime for?

Mr. TV Barn tvbarn Watching the Royals play a makeup game in an almost entirely empty Kauffman Stadium; you can even hear Jose Guillen grumbling in the dugout

geofffox Mixed emotions hoping winds/rain are heavy enough to justify my forecast, light enough not to injure. Always forecast with conscience.

The world summarized in 140 characters or less!

Don LaFontaine–The Deepest Throated Guy Is Dead

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Just got this from my friend Rick:

Voiceover Master Don LaFontaine died Monday afternoon 9/1/08 at 2:10 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 68. Don’s agent, Vanessa Gilbert, tells Entertainment Tonight that he passed away following complications from Pneumothorax, the presence of air or gas in the pleural cavity, the result of a collapsed lung. The official cause of death has not yet been released.

Over the past 25 years, LaFontaine cemented his position as the “King of Voice-overs.” Aside from being the preeminent voice in the movie trailer industry…Don has also been the voice of Entertainment Tonight and The Insider, CBS, NBC ABC, Fox and UPN, in addition to TNT, TBS and the Cartoon Network. By conservative estimates, he has voiced hundreds of thousands of television and radio spots, including commercials for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford, Budweiser, McDonalds, Coke, and many other corporate sponsors. He recently parodied himself on a series of national television commercials for Geico. At last count, he has worked on nearly 5000 films, including appearances as the in-show announcer for the Screen Actors Guild and Academy Awards. Based on contracts signed, he has the distinction of being perhaps the single busiest actor in the history of SAG.

Don was an active supporter of AFTRA & SAG, giving of his time, opening his home, lending his experience & stature to the AFTRA Promo Announcers Caucus, as well as generously giving his advice & help to his fellow voice-over artists, in addition to the many causes & friends he helped over the years.

Don is survived by his wife Singer/Actress Nita Whitaker, and three children, Christine, Skye and Elyse.

Don was the deep throated guy on the GEICO commercials and the voice of nearly everything.

An earlier email from Don himself was ominous, because the condition that killed him was probably brought on by a medical error.

This required an exploratory surgery called a Media Stenoscopy, which was performed At Cedars Sinai Hospital in late November of ’07. The biopsy ultimately proved negative for any tumor, but there was a spot on the lung that still needed to be checked. Unfortunately, sometime during the operation, one of my lungs was nicked, and I developed Pneumothorax, which basically means that the lung collapsed, releasing all the air into my upper body, causing a condition called Subcutaneous Emphysema -

Which blew me up like a balloon from the ribs up to my eyebrows

My Friday Nighttime At Nightline

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

When I came to WTNH the director of our evening newscasts was a young guy named Jeff Winn¹. He had the thankless task of directing our newscasts on a chromakey set. This is much too complex to explain here except to say any mistake Jeff made was glaringly obvious to even a casual viewer. It was that obvious. Luckily, Jeff was good at what he did. Mistakes were few.

He left us and went on to bigger things. Again, too complex to explain here, plus if I thought about his career versus mine I’d openly weep. Jeff has seven Emmys, as do I. His are the much larger, heavier, impressive, national ones. Jeff won most of them directing “Real Sports” on HBO. He still does that on a monthly basis.

Jeff’s day night job is directing ABC News Nightline. Originally Ted Koppel’s nightly wrap-up of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and then a daily single subject half hour of hard news, Nightline post-Ted is flashier, lighter and more feature oriented. It’s also stronger in the ratings than it’s been in years, recently beating Letterman.

I’ve been meaning to watch Jeff direct for years but never had the chance. I went last night.

The drive to New York was speedy and without incident until the Bronx. What had been a wide open highway became a slow moving bumper-to-bumper grind. I broke free, headed down the West Side Highway and pulled into an open and totally legal parking space on Columbus Avenue directly across the street from ABC’s entrance.

Really–I found legal on-street parking in Manhattan. I’m available for autographs later.

When Nightline first went to its rotating three anchor configuration it came from a windowed studio above Times Square. Even now you can watch the traffic behind the anchor. Don’t be fooled (as I was). They moved around a year ago and now come from TV-3, the same studio as World News with Charlie Gibson. The Nightline set is, to be kind, tiny. The street traffic behind the anchor plays off a server and is shown on a rear projection TV. Is nothing real?

For much of the evening Jeff is ‘on a leash,’ even when there’s nothing to do. If a major story broke, he would direct live coverage across the full network. That is no small responsibility. ABC has standby staff just-in-case 24/7.

We took the grand tour to the control room passing through Nightline’s sparsely staffed offices. Most of the action happens here during the day. The show is anchored live, but the packages are mainly pre-produced at a more convenient hour. TV work isn’t as glamorous when you consider so much of it is “second shift.”

ABC’s New York headquarters is a confusing collection of mainly connected buildings on Manhattan’s West Side between 66th and 67th from Columbus Avenue to Central Park West. There are a few apartment buildings interspresed, but most of the block is ABC’s.

Back when I did some freelance work at the network (weather fill-ins on Good Morning America–you never call anymore–I’m crushed) I never ventured far from my studio (TV-2) lest I get lost! In some of the interconnections the floors don’t even line up!

The control room itself is very impressive with two rows of arena type seating, a few individual positions farther back and a separate audio booth. The production crew face a winged wall of large high definition flat panel monitors. Each monitor is split to show individual inputs as needed. Most are pretty standard cameras and servers, but I also saw tie-lines to Washington and Europe (feeding Arab language broadcasts back to New York last night).

Jeff sat down and with the technical director and assistant director went through the show’s scripts page-by-page making sure each input was properly marked and available. As far as I could tell only one small change was made during this run-through. A courtesy font for a photograph came positioned over the person’s face. It was moved to air in a less intrusive spot.

As 11:35 PM approached more and more people drifted in. By airtime there were around a dozen people at work. Actually, the show starts 15 seconds early as an animated countdown streams to the network. I’m hoping that’s a tradition carried over from the good old days, because by now the affiliates had better have synchronized clocks, wouldn’t you think?

One floor down Martin Bashir anchored. His only contact with the upstairs crew was electronic. I enjoyed when he read about someone being taken to the hospital and in his British English left out the article “the.” “He was taken to hospital,” was what the audience heard.

The show was flawless… at least it looked flawless to me. In many ways the production resembled a local newscast, but with longer packages, no live shots and more help. The producer even shuffled extra promo content in to help fill the show’s scheduled time.

Jeff and the team were relaxed and playful as the show aired. These are people working together every night. They know their jobs and at this level I suspect screw-ups aren’t tolerated long.

A little after midnight we were done.

¹ – Our other director was Tom O’Brien, who moved out of directing to sales and then management. He is now general manager at WNBC in New York after a long stay as GM at KXAS Dallas.