December 29, 1989: Jane Pauley Leaves The Today Show

On this day in 1989, Jane Pauley announced that she was leaving The Today Show. The departure marked the end of an era for the number-one morning show in America.

Jane PauleyOn this day in 1989, Jane Pauley announced that she was leaving The Today Show. The departure marked the end of an era for the number-one morning show in America.

Pauley hosted the show with Tom Brokaw from 1976 to 1981. He then left to be the anchor of the NBC Nightly News and was replaced by Bryant Gumbel. She decided to leave the show to pursue a primetime news opportunity and in June of 1990, Real Life with Jane Pauley debuted and ran for 15 months. She then served as co-anchor of Dateline, which became NBC’s first successful news magazine show.

Deborah Norville, who did not appeal to Today Show viewers, replaced Pauley. In the spring of 1991, she was removed for the much more popular Katie Couric.

December 18, 1946: Steven Spielberg Born

On this day in 1946, Steven Spielberg was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is arguably the most influential filmmaker of all time.

Steven SpielbergOn this day in 1946, Steven Spielberg was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is arguably the most influential filmmaker of all time.

While he has made numerous classics as a director, he has been a producer on a variety of films ranging from “Poltergeist” to the “Back to the Future” trilogy to the Coen brothers remake of “True Grit.”  While his influence varies with each one, it can still be seen.

A good portion of the films that Spielberg has directed is now quintessential American cinema, but there are a few gems that have been forgotten. Here a few worth revisiting.

  • Duel (1971): This TV movie in which a business commuter (Dennis Weaver) is terrorized by a crazed trucker was the first to show Spielberg’s talent and is as frightening today as it was 40 years ago.
  • The Sugerland Express (1974): His feature film debut is the only time he ever made a lovers-on-the-run picture. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984): This entry in the series is best remembered for its darkness and violence. That’s a true shame, considering that it’s second only to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
  • Always (1989):A Guy Named Joe” is retold about firefighters out west. This film is forgotten, but is funny and heartbreaking all at once.
  • Munich (2005): The story of the Black September aftermath was an Academy Award Best Picture nominee. Considering that Spielberg’s best movie since “Schindler’s List” lost to “Crash,” it’s safe to say that it didn’t get the appreciation it deserved.

December 13, 1975: Saturday Night Live Uses Delay on Richard Pryor

On this day in 1975, Richard Pryor hosted Saturday Night Live (SNL) under a five-second broadcast delay. This is the first time SNL used a delay on one of its hosts to prevent profanity from making the airwaves.

Richard PryorOn this day in 1975, Richard Pryor hosted Saturday Night Live (SNL) under a five-second broadcast delay. This is the first time SNL used a delay on one of its hosts to prevent profanity from making the airwaves.

The show had launched in October, and was already the edgiest on television. For its seventh episode, SNL pushed the boundaries further by bringing on Pryor. The comedy pioneer had a walked away from early success as a clean comic and had become the hilarious, raw and profane comic that earned him applause mixed with controversy. NBC was not comfortable giving him a microphone one live television and the delay was used.

Everything worked out fine. Pryor told a clean version of his hilarious bit about drinking and taking LSD. The show also featured the now-classic racist word association skit with Pryor and Chevy Chase.

Since then, SNL has tape-delayed only two other hosts, Sam Kinison in 1986 and Andrew Dice Clay in 1990.

December 7, 1963: Instant Replay Debuts in Televised Sports

On this day in 1963, video instant replay was used for the first time in CBS’ telecast of the Army-Navy game. While the start was bumpy, it revolutionized the way games were broadcast.

Army-Navy 1963On this day in 1963, video instant replay was used for the first time in CBS’ telecast of the Army-Navy game. While the start was bumpy, it revolutionized the way games were broadcast.

Showing plays again had begun in sports telecasts as early as 1955, but because of technological constraints, the plays would be re-run several minutes after they happened. For the Army-Navy game, CBS Sports Director Tony Vena had invented a system to replay instantly. Because of technical difficulties, it was only used once, showing Army’s Rollie Stichweh’s touchdown at full speed. Broadcaster Lindsey Nelson assured viewers that Army did not score again. Navy won the game 21-15.

Since then, instant replay has become vital to any broadcast. It’s hard to imagine life without it.

November 28, 1997: “Beavis and Butt-Head” Say Goodbye

On this day in 1997, MTV broadcast the final episode of Beavis and Butthead. The show about two dumb, metal head teenagers was one of the most popular cartoons of the 1990s.

Beavis and Butt-Head TitlecardOn this day in 1997, MTV broadcast the final episode of “Beavis and Butt-Head.” The show about two dumb, metal head teenagers was one of the most popular cartoons of the 1990s.

The show actually ran from 1993 to 1997, with a feature film being made during that time. MTV revived it a few years ago, but it never reached the popularity it had in the 1990s and the network cancelled it again.

The show has always been blasted for its sophomoric, low-brow humor. In reality, it was very witty. Below is one of my all-time favorite episodes.

November 24, 1963: Jack Ruby Kills Lee Harvey Oswald

On this day in 1963, Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald inside the Dallas Police Headquarters. It was the first time a killing was ever captured on live television.

Lee Harvey Oswald Being Shot by Jack RubyOn this day in 1963, Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald inside the Dallas Police Headquarters. It was the first time a killing was ever captured on live television.

Of all of the moments in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the killing of Oswald is the most bizarre. As he was being escorted through the police headquarters shortly before 11:30 am to a car that would take him to the Dallas County Jail, Ruby emerged from the crowd and shot him. Oswald was rushed to Parkland Hospital, where he died less than two hours later.

We will never know Ruby’s true reasons for murdering Oswald. He was convicted and sentenced, but died of a pulmonary embolism in 1967 (also at Parkland Hospital).

The footage of the broadcast of Oswald’s murder is still as unbelievable today as it was in 1963.

November 6, 2001: “24” Premieres

On this day in 2001, “24” premiered on Fox. The serial action thriller set in real time starring Kiefer Sutherland produced countless thrills during its eight-season run.

24 PosterOn this day in 2001, “24” premiered on Fox. The serial action thriller set in real time starring Kiefer Sutherland produced countless thrills during its eight-season run.

[MAJOR SPOILER ALERTS]

The show centered around eight terrible days over time in the life of government agent Jack Bauer (Sutherland). During them, he killed countless terrorists, had to fake his own death and was taken prisoner by the Chinese government. And of course, his wife was murdered. The final episode ended with Jack being a fugitive on the run.

Fortunately, Fox has announced that it will bring closure to the series with a 13-hour event in June of 2014, called “24: Live Another Day.” It has the lofty task in concluding a series that produced numerous shockers over its eight seasons.  Here are my top ten.

10. The Wrath of the First Daughter (Season 7): When the First Daughter (Sprague Grayden) learns that a defense contractor (Jon Voight) is responsible for the murder of her brother, she takes severe action. Yet neither he nor we saw the car bomb coming.

9. Tony Saves the Day (Season 4): Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), disgraced at the end of season three, returns in the seventh hour to save an under fire Jack. When you saw that it was him dropping henchmen, you stood up and cheered.

8. George Mason Goes Down in Flames (Season 2): After suffering from radiation poison, slimy bureaucrat George Mason (Xander Berkley) relieves Jack of the duty of crashing a plane with a nuclear bomb in the desert. Many shady characters did good deeds throughout this series, but this scene was the best of them.

7. The Assassinations (Season 5): The first hour of the fifth season started with a punch in the gut as beloved characters David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) and Michelle Dessler (Reiko Aylesworth) are murdered. The shocking moment kicked off the best season of the series.

6. The Bomb Actually Goes Off (Season 6): The misfire of a sixth season kicked off with a nuclear bomb actually going off in Los Angeles. The look on Jack’s face as he saw the flash was priceless.

5. It was a Recording (Season 8): Jack is racing to save a president of a Middle Eastern nation who is going to be executed over streamed video online. It seems like Jack has arrived just in time, until he realizes the video being streamed is a recording and the president is already dead.

4. Jack Takes a Freighter to China (Season 5): After coming out of hiding to save L.A. and expose a corrupt president (Gregory Itzin), Jack is kidnapped by the Chinese government and taken to prison. As you watched the Chinese freighter drift off as season five ended, you couldn’t wait for season six.

3. The Airliner Explodes (Season 1): In the first episode, you see a photographer on a plane and think he is on his way to assassinate David Palmer. However, it is actually the lady he joined the Mile-High Club with that is the villain. When she parachutes out of the plane before it explodes, you know you are in for a hell of a ride.

2. Jack is Human (Season 3): The first two seasons ended with shocking moments of violence, but the third gave us the most surprising ending of the series. After losing people he loved, shooting his boss, arresting friends and nearly killing his future son-in-law to contain a virus, Jack gets into his car… and cries. It was the most realistic moment of this over-the-top show.

1. Teri Dies (Season 1): The tone for the series was set when Jack returned to headquarters to find that his wife, Teri (Leslie Hope), had been murdered.  This tragic ending put fans on notice that anything could happen.

October 30, 1949: Leon Rippy Born

On this day in 1949, Leon Rippy was born in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He has become one of the more recognizable character actors working today.

Leon RippyOn this day in 1949, Leon Rippy was born in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He has become one of the more recognizable character actors working today.

Rippy has acted in more than 60 movies and television shows and more than 70 plays. He has not had his career-defining role, and here’s hoping a television show creator with HBO, FX or AMC will give him that opportunity. In the meantime, here are some of his most memorable performances.

  • Chiefs (1983): In his acting debut, Rippy has no trouble being convincing as a Southern Klansman in this CBS miniseries based on the Stuart Woods’ novel.
  • Young Guns II (1990): “Best $1.80 I’ve ever spent.”
  • Kuffs (1991): It’s hard to make a villain disgustingly foul, but Rippy seems to do it with ease.
  • Beyond the Law (1993): In this underrated B-movie, an FBI agent (Charlie Sheen) infiltrates a biker gang with the guidance of an old pro played by Rippy.
  • Saving Grace (2007): The Lord works in mysterious ways and in this series, he answers the title character’s (Holly Hunter) prayers in the form of a scruffy Rippy.

September 30, 1991: The Charlie Rose Show Airs

On this day in 1991, “The Charlie Rose Show” first aired. In an age where viewers are forced to navigate through the partisan rhetoric of the likes of Keith Olberman, Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly, and Chris Matthews for insight, Charlie Rose remains a breath of fresh air in his time-slot.

Charlie RoseOn this day in 1991, “The Charlie Rose Show” first aired. In an age where viewers are forced to navigate through the partisan rhetoric of the likes of Keith Olberman, Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly, and Chris Matthews for insight, Charlie Rose remains a breath of fresh air in his time-slot.

Never mind his diverse collection of A-list interviews and his wide range of knowledge, civility is Rose’s greatest asset. Rarely is a guest given less than ten minutes for conversation and no matter the topic, Rose’s demeanor with his interviewees mirrors two old friends engaging in a lively discussion. It is why CBS’ morning show took a gamble in making him its main anchor.

Hundreds of these interviews used to be available at CharlieRose.com in their entirety. Each one could be called a gem, and it is a shame that the website is no longer including any interviews before 2011. Nevertheless, Rose’s show remains one of the few shows where you can listen to someone speak on their own terms and form your own opinion. There aren’t enough shows like that anymore.

September 23, 1968: Mayberry R.F.D. Premieres

On this day in 1968, “Mayberry R.F.D.” premiered on CBS. This spinoff to “The Andy Griffith Show” remains one of the more successful in television history.

Mayberry R.F.D.On this day in 1968, “Mayberry R.F.D.” premiered on CBS. This spinoff to “The Andy Griffith Show” remains one of the more successful in television history.

The first show started with the wedding of Andy and Helen (Aneta Corseaut), with Barney (Don Knotts) serving as the bumbling best man in one of the series’ funniest moments. From there, Andy and Helen moved to Raleigh and the series focused on town council chair Sam Jones (Ken Berry) and his son Mike (Buddy Foster), with regulars Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier), Goober Pyle (George Lindsey) and Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) remaining.

Mayberry R.F.D.” finished number four in the Nielsen ratings in each of its first two seasons. In the third season, Bavier left the show and it finished number 15, enough for renewal for a fourth season. However, CBS decided to pursue a more urban image and cancelled all of its rural-themed shows, including “Mayberry, R.F.D,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres” and “Hee Haw.” The decision was questionable and few other shows have ever been cancelled with ratings that high.

NOTE: R.F.D. stands for Rural Free Delivery, which describes the postal service’s early efforts to deliver mail to rural areas.