Tag Archive | 1964

March 30, 1964

What is the date Jeopardy Premiered?

If I mention the names Don Pardo and Art Fleming, what’s the first thing you think of?

For anyone born after about 1975, it’s unlikely those names mean a thing to you. But if I add in the name Alex Trebek , nearly 100 percent of people will immediately say “Jeopardy!”

Art Fleming, the original host

Long before Trebek became the host, the first two were the memorable announcer and host, respectively, of Jeopardy which premiered as a daytime TV program on March 30, 1964.

The 1960’s was the golden age of TV game shows. Jeopardy joined seven other game shows already on the air that year including Let’s Make A Deal and The Price Is Right. Only Let’s Make A Deal has run continuously on TV longer, edging out Jeopardy by 3 months.

The show got its start thanks to iconic TV producer Merv Griffin. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In a 1963 Associated Press profile released shortly before the original Jeopardy! series premiered, Merv Griffin offered the following account of how he created the quiz show:

My wife Julann just came up with the idea one day when we were in a plane bringing us back to New York City from Duluth. I was mulling over game show ideas, when she noted that there had not been a successful ‘question and answer’ game on the air since the quiz show scandals. Why not do a switch, and give the answers to the contestant and let them come up with the question? She fired a couple of answers to me: ‘5,280’—and the question of course was ‘How many feet in a mile?’. Another was ’79 Wistful Vista’; that was Fibber and Mollie McGee’s address. I loved the idea, went straight to NBC with the idea, and they bought it without even looking at a pilot show.

Griffin’s first conception of the game used a board comprising ten categories with ten clues each, but after finding that this board could not easily be shown on camera, he reduced it to two rounds of thirty clues each, with five clues in each of six categories.] He originally intended requiring grammatically correct phrasing (e.g., only accepting ‘Who is …’ for a person), but after finding that grammatical correction slowed the game down, he decided to accept any correct response that was in question form. Griffin discarded his initial title of What’s the Question? when skeptical network executive Ed Vane rejected his original concept of the game, claiming, ‘It doesn’t have enough jeopardies.’

Announcer Don Pardo whose recognizable voice graced the airwaves for decades

The format of giving contestants the answers and requiring the questions had previously been used by the Gil Fates-hosted program CBS Television Quiz, which aired from July 1941 until May 1942.”

Of course the references in the above article highlight just how long ago Jeopardy got its start, especially the citation of Fibber McGee. But I digress.

I’m pretty sure I’ve watched Jeopardy pretty much since its beginnings. Now mind you, as a kid the only time I saw the program would have been during summer vacation or being home sick from school. Holding down the 11:30 a.m. spot on NBC made Jeopardy required TV for the ill child. Once lunch was over (soup and saltine crackers, no doubt) and the boring old news came on, it was time to sleep.

The other reason I know Jeopardy occupied my brain is that I still have the Fifth Edition Jeopardy Board Game which I’m pretty sure was either a birthday or Christmas present, likely around 1967.

Imagine a completely old school sort of game. The answer board cover is made from white indestructium.* There are white one inch square removable plastic tabs that cover the answers for each Jeopardy round. You know its old because the dollar amounts (printed in blue on the tabs) are $10, $20, $30, $40, and $50 for regular and double those numbers (in red) for the second round. Oh, and did I mention how they kept the answers ‘secret?’ By use of the always cool, see through red plastic used in kid’s decoder kits of the 1960’s.

My 1960 something game… the blue clicker is missing but everything else is there.

But the best part was by far the ‘buzzers’ used by the players when they knew the right question. In this case, however, ‘buzzer’ is a misnomer because the devices were frog style clickers in red, blue, yellow, and green. After a few games of vigorous use those clickers no longer clicked; our alternative was for the contestants to make a buzzing noise with their mouths which, you might imagine, led to some hilarity.

My friends and I loved the game. It’s actually in amazing shape considering the use it had. Or maybe I’m misremembering all the use and, perhaps, it was just me who was the complete trivia nerd. The game, after spending decades tucked away in my parents’ house, came back to me in the fall of 2019.

Over the years, however, Jeopardy continued to be a part of my life. In the 1980’s, after dinner, the hubby and I would often watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. The hubby seemed to know every Jeopardy answer and had it out before my brain had time to process. In fact, I often thought that the hubby should try out for Jeopardy.

His rapid trivia skills were passed down to the next generation as our daughter also loves Jeopardy and is really good at it. In fact, both her former roommate and fiancé (now her hubby) got to the point of not wanting to even watch Jeopardy with her because she seemed to know every answer and, like her father, was very fast.

After she moved in the spring of 2020 and no longer had cable TV, she mostly quit watching. Some of the joy of the show, no doubt, was lost with the passing of Alex Trebek. She did admit that a couple of the ‘tryout’ hosts were pretty good.

Alex Trebek

“I need my Jeopardy host to be pretty dry in their delivery,” she told me.

I think any Jeopardy fan hopes that a worthy replacement will be found for Trebek ; one who will assure that the 57 year tradition that is Jeopardy will continue for years and generations to come.

Now, for those who want to play, here’s the final Jeopardy answer for today’s Tuesday Newsday: 22. Be sure to post your answer in the comments section below!

* Indestructium is a word coined by the hubby to describe any linoleum or plastic manufactured in the 20th century which is basically impossible to damage or destroy.

The Infallible Wikipedia links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeopardy!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_longest-running_American_television_series

With A Twitch of the Nose

September 17, 2019

Bewitched title captureFrom the moment this TV show premiered, on September 17, 1964, a spell was cast over the American public and everyone fell in love with a beautiful witch named Samantha.

Bewitched was an instant hit, drawing everyone in to its crazy premise:

What if a witch were to fall in love with a mortal and give up her magical world to become a modern day housewife?

Samantha Darren EldoraOf course that’s not quite how it worked out. Week after week we were given a glimpse into the life and marriage of Darren and Samantha Stevens who, with interference from her mother Endora and a wide cast of other relatives, seemed to stir up trouble for poor Darren. Add to that mix the nosy neighbor, Gladys Kravitz, and Darren’s demanding boss, Larry Tate, and you had the recipe for a sitcom which aired for the next eight years.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The witches and their male counterparts, warlocks, are very long-lived; while Samantha appears to be a young woman, many episodes suggest she is actually hundreds of years old. To keep their society secret, witches avoid showing their powers in front of mortals other than Darrin. Nevertheless, the effects of their spells – and Samantha’s attempts to hide their supernatural origin from mortals – drive the plot of most episodes. Witches and warlocks usually use physical gestures along with their incantations. To perform magic, Samantha often twitches her nose to create a spell. Special visual effects are accompanied by music to highlight such an action.”

The combination of great script writers coupled with outstanding casting was, no doubt, key to the series success. Elizabeth Montgomery, as Samantha, is frequently seen using her nose to make the dishes wash themselves, clean up a mess, or handle some mundane chore. Darren was frustrated each week at his wife’s use of magic to handle life.

Personally, as a child, I very badly wanted to live in that world. My bedroom was ALWAYS a disaster of toys, books, and games, with never enough space to store them. If, of course, I was inclined to be tidy, which I was not.

My sister, who is 21 months older, forbade me from stepping foot onto her side of the room during those years. An invisible line was drawn between our matching twin beds and across that boundary I dared not venture. Oh to have Samantha’s nose which I could just twitch and get everything cleaned up in an instant! Then I might have been allowed across the magic threshold.

gladys kravitzBut my favorite character on the show had to have been the ever vigilant neighbor Gladys. The woman epitomized the term busy body and was often seen skulking around the Steven’s house. She would climb into the shrubbery and peer through windows, certain that all sorts of strange things were going on inside. Of course she was right but she never succeeded in convincing her disinterested husband, Abner, or the occasional law enforcement officer she would call, of the shenanigans which took place.

In fact, when I encounter a nosy person, I will refer to them as Gladys. In a loving way, of course, but the name does sum up such a person which members of my generation instantly recognize.

No doubt, when the show went off the air in 1972, it was with a whimper. The original Darren had left in 1969 due to complications from a severe back injury 10 years earlier which made working impossible. The original Gladys died in 1966 as had Samantha’s confused Aunt Clara. These hits to the cast affected the show profoundly. In many ways, in retrospect, it was almost as if a spell had been placed on the show. Elizabeth Montgomery died in 1995 at the age of 64 from colon cancer. Dick York succumbed at age 63 from emphysema. Agnes Moorehead, who played Endora, was stricken with uterine cancer which took her life in 1974 at age 74.

Bewitched lives on in syndication and, subsequently, on DVD and the internet. Although there was a movie made based on the characters, and proposals for a new TV series, no remake will ever be able to replicate and achieve the success of the original. Magic often only happens once.

For more about Bewitched:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bewitched

 

Practically Perfect In Every Way

Mary Poppins

August 27, 2019

mary-poppins_poster_goldposter_com_3Unlike most of the musical films of the previous decades, this one was aimed at children. It introduced new words into our collective vocabulary and catapulted its two stars into the stratosphere. Children everywhere wanted a nanny just like Mary Poppins and her chimney sweep friend Bert.

Mary Poppins hit the silver screen on August 27, 1964, and soon everyone was exclaiming Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and singing Chim-Chim-Cheree.

The movie was based on a children’s book by P.L. Travers. It was the song writing brothers of Robert and Richard Sherman who created over 30 songs for the movie. Of those, 14 made the final cut.

It was, however, the superb casting, particularly of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, which provided the magic needed for the story.  Andrews, who was a Broadway actress at the time, transitioned to film and would, the next year, define the iconic Maria Von Trapp in the Sound of Music.

Between the incredible casting, the musical score, and the script, it proved a recipe for success. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“It received a total of 13 Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture – a record for any film released by Walt Disney Studios – and won five: Best Actress for Andrews, Best Film Editing, Best Original Music Score, Best Visual Effects, and Best Original Song for ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’. In 2013, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’. Mary Poppins is considered Walt Disney’s crowning live-action achievement, and is the only one of his films which earned a Best Picture nomination during his lifetime.”

For a seven year old, getting to go to a theater and see a movie was a big deal. Especially when it was the very FIRST movie that seven year old had ever seen in a theater.

I have a distinct memory of being dropped off at the Capitol Theater in Yakima along with my older siblings to watch the movie. I doubt my then 15 year old brother was thrilled at being the designated baby sitter for the event. Of course that mattered not to me. I was enthralled from the moment Mary Poppins, umbrella unfurled and carpet bag in hand, floated down to the Banks house.

In the days, weeks, and months which followed, I strove to be Mary Poppins. If I was outside playing it was with an umbrella in hand, running down the street wishing to be lifted from the ground so that I could float away to magical places. Alas, despite some pretty strong winds at times, my Mary Poppins dreams went unfulfilled although I did manage to get airborne quite often.

Mary arrives at Banks houseAfter I had children of my own I made it one of my missions to expose them to the cultural phenomenon of Musicals. Although they enjoyed Mary Poppins I do not believe it impacted them quite the same way.

On a trip to Disneyland when my daughter was near the magical age of seven, we were on Main Street early one morning. Across the plaza I spied Mary Poppins. Determined to get her autograph for the daughter’s book, we hurried over.

The daughter proffered the souvenir and asked ‘Mary’ if she would sign it. A nanny’s eye landed on my daughter, said good morning, then proceeded – in character – to instruct the child to stand up straight, feet together, toes turned slightly out, with the admonishment of “spit spot.” Although my daughter was slightly flummoxed by the encounter, I was enchanted.

The whole nanny thing, I decided, might still be a good idea for seven year old children although I don’t think it’s a great idea for those same children to take flying leaps into the air in an effort to fly.

 No article is complete without a link to the Infallible Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Poppins_(film)