Monday, July 15, 2024

Dead Malls and the Devaluation of Television

 

I recently discovered a YouTube channel called Dead Malls, in which a modern-day anthropologist wanders through what remains of dozens of indoor shopping malls throughout the United States, all of which were still open but have seen better days. 

 

 

For a while I couldn’t figure out why I was fascinated by the footage he captures: the vast, deserted central spaces; rows of vacant storefronts still exhibiting vestiges of their former occupants, interspersed with the few remaining tenants trying to hold on; the expanse of empty chairs and tables in largely-abandoned food courts; the attention to detail lavished on each mall’s unique interior design features – decorative touches that indicate these were places meant to be beautiful and special – to welcome in people from all walks of life and give them an experience to be enjoyed. 

 

 

And then it hit me – what has happened to these malls has also happened to television; perhaps less so to the medium at large than to the classic TV era, when the broadcast networks comprised almost all we thought of as television in its early history.

 

Television, like shopping malls, rose to national prominence in the 1950s, and flourished for the next three decades. Both were gathering places for millions of Americans, open to all, striving to provide something attention grabbing for every taste and interest. Both also wanted to sell you something, while entertaining you in the process.

 

And both now draw visitor numbers that are a tiny fraction of what they enjoyed in their heyday. Their appeal has been dwarfed by competition, the existence of which could not have been imagined when they were launched.

 

For the malls it was Amazon and other online retailers. Once the mall’s promise of a comfortable, temperature-controlled shopping experience was appealing. But what could be more comfortable than shopping from home, day or night, in your pajamas?

 

For the networks It was cable at first, then video games, then an internet that delivered limitless entertainment options through streaming services, and you didn’t even need a television to enjoy them.

 

Two things that once held a central place in many of our lives no longer do so. When the kids needed new clothes, it was off to the mall. When teenagers needed a place to gather after school, it was off to the mall. Christmas shopping? Off to the mall.

 

 

Likewise, when you got home after a hard day’s work, it was time to relax in front of the television. Americans spent mornings with Bob Barker on The Price is Right, afternoons with their favorite daytime dramas, got their daily dose of news from reputable sources, and looked forward to their favorite comedies, cop shows and variety series at night. 

 

 

Have we lost something from the decline in popularity of shopping malls and network television? I think so. What we no longer share is the sense of community they engendered, whether actual or virtual.

 

In the malls these connections were tangible. You met people; you talked to sales clerks, who back then were less hard to find and more customer-service oriented. You commiserated with fellow shoppers about where you had to park and how much you still had to do before going home and getting dinner started. Maybe you’d never see any of them again, but in that time you understood that we’re all going through stuff together, and even those momentary connections were healthy signs of a functioning society.

 

With television in the three-network era, we were sharing the experience of watching the same classic shows with millions of viewers across all 50 states. They became pervasive sources of joy, excitement and suspense, to be discussed the next day at the office or when out to lunch with friends. I know this is true because I lived through it. Decades later I can still recall conversations with classmates in school about Fonzie’s latest display of cool, debates over who shot J.R., and admiration for how none of us had ever seen anything quite like the bizarrely fascinating pilot for Twin Peaks.  

 


 

It seems that today more than ever we are searching for common ground and shared interests, and coming up empty. Entertainment has become politicized. Sports have become politicized. Religion brings worshippers together but fewer people have any interest in it. It makes me sad. It also forces me to reflect on what other traditional social structures and institutions are gradually disappearing into a liquid modernity that has no use for such things.

 

One last thought about this – is it possible that today’s television landscape has replicated the mall model? 

 

 

Consider this: just as we used to enter a mall never having the intention of visiting every store, now someone turns on their TV with all the choices it offers, knowing he or she will never spend any time at 90% of them.

 

The channels that still draw viewers – ESPN, FOX News, Turner Classic Movies – those are the anchor tenants – Macy’s and JCPenney; then there are channels you routinely pass by but may watch once in a while  – like Hickory Farms in the mall, you’re still happy they are there and throw them enough business to keep them solvent. And then there are guide listings just taking up space, that you think could probably be better occupied by someone else. Channels like Grit, and Laff, and Pursuit, those are the Hot Dog On a Stick of cable options – who would actually want to go there?

 

I’m not sure the analogy holds up. But if that’s the model, will the television landscape become a virtual dead mall one day? Has declining viewership already put it on that path? Stay tuned. Until then, I suddenly have a powerful craving for an Orange Julius. 

 


 

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

My Journey Through 1970s TV; Tuesday Nights, 1974

 

Quick – when you think about classic 1970s television, what series comes to mind first? For many people that show will be the one that debuted this season, and remained a staple on ABC for the rest of the decade – though it looked very different at the end of its run than it did at the beginning.

 


Let’s take a look at that show – and the rest of the networks’ Tuesday night schedules in 1974 –will there be any shows that have to be added to my “missed” list?

 

Tuesday, 1974

 

ABC

Happy Days

Tuesday Movie of the Week

Marcus Welby, MD

 

Spun off from a Love, American Style segment that, to my best recollection, didn’t have audiences clamoring for more, Happy Days nonetheless became one of the decade’s signature shows, celebrating the 1950s from a 1970s perspective. 

 

 

I wonder if anyone would watch a show now that looks back at the early 2000s with nostalgic fondness. Look – rugby shirts and trucker hats!

 

If it has been a while since your last visit to Arnold’s, you may be surprised at how differently the series’ first season plays than those that followed. “Rock Around the Clock” was the opening theme, there was some guy named Chuck who claimed to be part of the Cunningham family, and the series lived fully in the time it was set, instead of just throwing out the occasional reference to Howdy Doody or Marilyn Monroe to remind viewers where they were.

 

It was also a quieter show in its first season - the series was filmed without the studio audience that in subsequent seasons would scream every time Henry Winkler entered a scene. He was there from the start but not yet “The Fonz” of legend. Winkler traded in his beige windbreaker for a black leather jacket in season 2, when the series ascended into the top five. Coincidence? 

 


 

CBS

Good Times

MASH

Hawaii Five-O

Barnaby Jones

 

Happy Days was not yet the ratings juggernaut it would become, so in 1974 at least Tuesdays belonged to CBS, with three of its four scheduled shows ranking in the top ten.

 

Good Times (#7), like Happy Days, began as an ensemble family sitcom, but became something else after one character exploded onto the popular culture, in this case J.J., as played by Jimmie Walker. Sadly, Walker never had the career second act that Henry Winkler eventually found, which is why he’s still saying ‘Dy-no-mite!” on commercials for Medicare supplement insurance.

 

 

MASH was the evening’s highest rated program at #5, and Hawaii Five-O finished at #10. If you were all in on CBS by then, you probably stuck around for Barnaby Jones as well. 

 


 

NBC

Adam-12

NBC World Premiere Movie

Police Story

 

This was the final shift for Officers Malloy and Reed on Adam-12. Seven seasons is a great run, and NBC clearly saw an audience for police shows on Tuesdays by keeping Police Story right where it was last year. 

 


 

And between the two, a movie series to replace two shows that didn’t stick from last year’s schedule – The Magician and Chase. Would it work? Whether it did or not The NBC World Premiere Movie certainly served up some interesting diversions.  

 

“Terror on the 40th Floor” was a small-screen version of The Towering Inferno, with John Forsythe and a group of Christmas party revelers getting stuck in a building with fire slowly rising from the basement. Good cheesy fun. 

 


“The Disappearance of Flight 412” with Glenn Ford is a great little UFO story that can be watched on YouTube. And if you’ve ever wanted to see Mike Brady make obscene phone calls, you’ll want to check out Robert Reed in “The Secret Night Caller.”

 

Shows Missed:

The Don Knotts Show (1970)

San Francisco International Airport (1970)

Nancy (1970)

The Headmaster (1970)

The Man and the City (1971)

Search (1972)

Assignment: Vienna (1972)

The Delphi Bureau (1972)

Jigsaw (1972)

The Little People (1972)

The Sixth Sense (1972)

Tenafly (1973)

Faraday & Company (1973)

Love Story (1973)

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

My 50 Favorite Classic TV Characters: Kate Jackson as Sabrina Duncan

 

Recently Kate Jackson made her first appearance at one of those collector’s shows where fans pay for a couple of minutes of conversation with a celebrity, and take home a photo or an autograph as a memento of the occasion. 

 

 

I heard from two people at the show who described how Jackson was not at an open table on the convention floor like the other attendees, but ensconced behind a curtain, with a representative advising fans on what they could and could not do when they entered.

 

This was not an arrangement I’d seen at any show like this that I attended, but it will not surprise anyone who has followed Jackson’s career. “Difficult” is the word most often used to assess her deportment, and at 75 she has yet to mellow with age.

 

When I co-wrote The Charlie’s Angels Casebook back in 2000, I interviewed co-stars, producers and crewmembers, and heard quite a few disparaging stories, some too inflammatory to print without risking a lawsuit. And yet, to a person, every one agreed that the series would not have been as popular or successful without Jackson’s Emmy-nominated portrayal of Sabrina Duncan. 

 

 

Talent trumps shortcomings in television. That is why, despite her reputation, Kate Jackson enjoyed a successful career in series TV, from Dark Shadows to The Rookies to Charlie’s Angels to Scarecrow & Mrs. King, and still had fans lined up decades later for a few moments of her time.

 

She wasn’t just good in these shows – she was exceptional. When she was on screen your eyes were automatically drawn to her. A standard, even clich├ęd, line of scripted dialogue came alive when she spoke it in a flinty but still melodic voice that impelled viewers to pay attention, and to believe what she was saying.

 

It’s hard to quantify why we like to watch some actors more than others, but such has always been the case with television, and Kate Jackson belongs in that elite class of the medium’s most engaging stars. She had an indefinable charisma that many of classic television’s most revered performers possessed, from David Janssen to Diana Rigg, Elizabeth Montgomery to James Garner.

 

Charlie’s Angels has been derided as exploitative jiggle TV, and lauded as a proto-feminist breakthrough in popular culture. Maybe it was both, or neither. But it was extremely popular, drawing ratings that would be beyond the imagination of any series now. In its first season it was featured on the cover of Time magazine, back when that publication only put entertainment stories on the cover when the subject had transcended its genre. 

 

 

Sabrina was, it was said at the time, the only employee at the Charles Townsend Agency who was believable as a private investigator. But while that may have been true it should not be taken as disparaging of Jackson’s costars, whose contributions were equally valuable. I’ve lost count of how many times Charlie’s Angels has been rebooted, but the only time it really worked was with Jackson, Jaclyn Smith and Farrah Fawcett (and later Cheryl Ladd). 

 

 

Which is why the show was never the same after Sabrina left.  In retrospect it’s surprising how easily it survived Farrah’s departure after just one year, given how ubiquitous she was in the culture at that time. But there was no coming back once Kate Jackson was gone. Ratings plummeted during the Shelley Hack season, and by the time Tanya Roberts arrived in season five everyone else was ready to leave.

 

To understand what made Jackson irreplaceable, one must acknowledge that not a lot of thought was put into Charlie’s Angels beyond its premise – three beautiful woman detectives. On a show like this, what actors bring to their roles is far more essential to success than it would be on a series with better scripts and more clearly defined characters.

 

No detailed backstories were provided for Charlie’s trio of investigators before they joined the police academy. Kelly was an orphan who had a rough childhood; Jill was a sunny California girl who loved fast cars; Sabrina was married once unsuccessfully. That’s about all we got. If the audience found them credible and appealing, the cast deserves all of the credit. 

 

 

When Sabrina shined, it was because Kate Jackson imbued her with qualities beyond what were provided by writers and directors. In “Target: Angels” we meet her ex-husband, a police detective (Michael Bell) and in just a short scene together we believe the history they shared and the affection that remains in their relationship. In the book I wrote how she switches effortlessly “from comic banter with her ex-husband to a touching scene with her father, to a no-nonsense detective grilling a tough mercenary.”

 

In the fan-favorite episode “Consenting Adults” she elevates a standard kidnapping scene through the power of her personality. In “Dancing in the Dark,” Sabrina goes undercover as a neurotic heiress to set herself up as bait to expose a blackmail scheme, and makes a convincing case that the show worked best when it didn’t take itself too seriously. 

 


However, in “Angel Baby,” a grim tale about baby brokers, Jackson plays it deadly serious as a cold, brittle would-be adoptive mother. Whatever tone was established by widely varying scripts, she made it work, probably better than it should have.

 

I could go on, but if you know the show you get it. Even if you were a teenage boy, as I was when the show debuted, getting the vapors from Farrah’s dazzling smile or Jaclyn Smith wearing a bikini like no one before or since, you also noticed Kate Jackson, and you liked her. 

 


And it was hard to imagine Charlie’s Angels without her. Her co-workers may not have missed her, but viewers certainly did and probably still do. Had I been at that collector's show, I'd have happily waited to get inside the curtain and tell her so.

 

 


 

 

 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Was TV’s Gidget NSFW?

 

“Oh, so you like the creepy ones.”

 

That was the response I received during a discussion about favorite episodes of the delightful short-lived sitcom Gidget, featuring Sally Field in her first starring role. 

 

 

I was surprised by that word choice as I never viewed any situation comedies from the 1960s as “creepy,” unless it was a Halloween episode, or unless Rob Petrie dreamed he lost his thumbs to an alien that looked like Danny Thomas.

 

 

I cited two episodes as favorites, both of which had one common trait – Gidget becomes infatuated with an older man. That was not the reason I liked them – I thought the stories were well told and cleverly presented. Both also had laugh-out-loud moments, as well as tender scenes between Sally Field and Don Porter as Gidget’s patient, loving father. Their relationship was always the strongest element of the series for me.

 

But just a one-sentence plot description was enough to earn a “creepy” designation from someone who does enjoy classic TV, but who is also younger and grew up in a different America than I did – one in which people are much quicker to view a situation without benefit of context in the most harmful light possible.

 

These are the episodes: You be the judge.

 

“The Great Kahuna”

All the kids at the beach are starstruck by the Kahuna, a legendary beachcomber who travels the world in search of the next big wave. Gidget is thrilled just to be the girl who brings him a Coke, but when an old flame of the Kahuna’s shows up, he pretends that he and Gidget are an item. She doesn’t buy it for a minute (“How old is this un-riped tomato?”) but it’s enough to momentarily discourage her. For helping him out of a jam he tells Gidget they are now “connected forever in the design of the gods.” 

 



After that Gidget is ready to follow him anywhere, but the Kahuna and Gidget’s father both have other ideas. And, in time, so does Gidget.

 

“I Love You, I Love You, I Think.”

Gidget meets an older guy on the beach and they start surfing together. He calls her adorable after she supplies a picnic lunch but never acknowledges that they have a relationship. “At least for the next five to six years,” he tells her. “Talk to me then and I might make you a serious proposition.”

 

With school starting next Monday, the mystery man urges Gidget to forget him, and she calls it the perfect romance – “over before it had a chance to begin.” But on Monday she walks into math class and guess who’s her teacher? And while the moment they see each other is every bit as awkward as it should be, it’s also hilarious, because of some unexpected slapstick moments and because Sally Field is a gifted actress.

 

Obviously it’s necessary to watch the episodes to judge whether anything in them is inappropriate. But let’s first acknowledge that there are dozens of episodes like this in Comfort TV shows. Writers recognized the inherent possibilities of both humor and pathos in a crush story, as well as how relatable that situation was for viewers. How many of us in our youth or teen years had a crush on a teacher? That story was told on almost every family sitcom from Father Know Best to Family Affair. It worked  outside a classroom as well: Marcia Brady fell for her dentist; Danny Partridge was in love with the family’s tour guide at King’s Island Amusement Park.

 

These Gidget episodes are no different than the rest, except in some ways I think they are better, because in both cases the objects of Gidget’s crushes are developed into real characters instead of one-note types. The Kahuna, played by Adam-12’s Martin Milner, is at a crossroads in his life. He re-evaluates his rootless existence, just as Gidget is eager to embrace the freedom his current life represents. 

 

 

Another standout quality in both episodes is how Gidget’s father handles these moments. He does not react like a hysterical, overprotective dad, but as a man who respects his daughter, and recognizes that these infatuations are not something worthy of histrionics, but understanding. This is how a mature adult and parent should act, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his composure helped viewers who were parents when they faced a similar situation. 

 

 

I can’t imagine that anyone at the time thought these shows were creepy. In both stories, as in all of the episodes of other series that leveraged this plot for 25 carefree minutes of television, there is never any suggestion of a possible romantic relationship, and even less so of a meaningless sexual encounter. No one is taken advantage of, and no one walks away feeling misled or betrayed.

 

Reasonable people understood what these shows were about, and accepted them for what they were. A crush is normal – a situation where the older, responsible adult acts inappropriately (perhaps illegally) is not. There is a difference, and it’s not complicated.

 

But we live in a time when a lot of older series that once seemed innocent have become marginalized for any number of reasons, not the least of which is a cynical reassessment of how people should interact. It mandates that families now look a certain way; it has impacted what we are allowed to find amusing; it ascribes to a different set of values to avoid offense, and in doing so offends more potential viewers than it satisfies.

 

I find all of this deeply concerning, perhaps more so since I just turned 60, and find myself reflecting about how much has changed since the first time I watched all of these shows I still love.  

 

One brief conversation, referencing a sitcom almost as old as I am, efficiently crystallized all of these troubling thoughts into a distressing observation: too many people now see evil in things that are natural – and concurrently overlook evil in what is unnatural. I don’t think that bodes well for the future. That is why when it comes to my television choices, I will continue to live happily in the past. 

 

 

Monday, June 10, 2024

My Journey Through 1970s TV; Monday Nights, 1974

 

On we go on our journey through the 1970s prime time schedules, thinking about all the hard-working folks in 1974 trudging home for what they hope will be a pleasant Monday evening of television. What options await them, and will I need to add any more shows to my “missed” list? Let’s find out.

 

Monday, 1974

 

NBC

Born Free

NBC Monday Night Movie

 

With Lotsa Luck and Diana both quick departures from the 1973 Monday lineup, NBC introduced another new series, this time one with a familiar legacy. 

 

 

The story of Joy and George Adamson and an orphaned lion cub named Elsa was first told in the 1960 book Born Free. It was then adapted into a 1966 film, which was well reviewed and well received, and may be best remembered today for its Oscar-winning theme song. Most prefer the Andy Williams version, but I’ve always been partial to the one by Matt Monro.

 



The NBC series based on the film starred two familiar TV faces, Gary Collins and Diana Muldaur, as the Adamsons, and was filmed on location in Kenya. Would this adaptation find an audience as well? Sadly, no – just 13 episodes were made plus the pilot.

 

And that’s a real shame, because this was a truly wonderful series. 

 



Collins and Muldaur are both wonderful here, the scripts contained positive lessons about nature and conservation without banging viewers over the head, and the cinematography was among the best for any series in this decade. Born Free was not just impressively shot but creatively shot, often cinematic in its beauty and composition, taking full advantage of the rugged but beautiful East Africa landscapes.

 

 


Watch “A Matter of Survival,” available on YouTube and guest starring another familiar TV face in Susan Dey, and see if you don’t agree that this was a series that deserved a better fate.

 


At least it got a DVD release, as well as occasional syndication over the decades on stations like the Disney Channel. I still wonder if Muldaur and Dey reminisced about their time in Africa when both were appearing on L.A. Law.

 

 

CBS

Gunsmoke

Maude

Rhoda

Medical Center

 

In its 20th and final season, Gunsmoke was still bringing in enough viewers to rank #28 for the season – a testament to the enduring appeal of Marshal Dillon, Miss Kitty, Doc and Festus. 

 

 

The series kicked off a solid and well-received Monday lineup, but I still think the transition from Gunsmoke to Maude seems incongruous. It’s hard to imagine the audience that visited the Long Branch Saloon every week would stick around for a trip to Tuckahoe. But apparently a lot of people did take that trip as Maude ranked at #9 for the year, followed by Rhoda at #6.

 

ABC

 

The Rookies

Monday Night Football

 

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. ABC recycled its previous Monday night schedule with great results. Now in its third season, The Rookies remained in the top 20 at #18, even after the replacement of Michael Ontkean (Officer Willie Gillis) with Bruce Fairbairn (Officer Chris Owens). 

 

 

Shows Missed:

The Don Knotts Show (1970)

San Francisco International Airport (1970)

Nancy (1970)

The Headmaster (1970)

The Man and the City (1971)

Search (1972)

Assignment: Vienna (1972)

The Delphi Bureau (1972)

Jigsaw (1972)

The Little People (1972)

The Sixth Sense (1972)

Tenafly (1973)

Faraday & Company (1973)

Love Story (1973)

 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Museum of Classic TV Paintings

 

What if there was a museum that displayed all of the paintings of classic TV characters that appeared in their respective shows? 

 

We wouldn’t need the Guggenheim for something like this – actually just one exhibit room would probably suffice – but how much fun would that be to visit? 

 

Whenever I watch a series or an episode featuring a painting of one of the stars, I think about the fact that someone actually had to take a blank canvas and create that painting. This is before the era when these things could be done with a few keystrokes on a computer. And in some cases the painting was only seen in a single episode – what became of it after that? Did the subject of the painting get to take it home? I know the answers to some of those questions but others remain a mystery – if anyone out there has more information about the ones that could not be traced, please let me know.

 

For now, here’s a sampling of what would be on the tour at the Museum of Classic TV Paintings. 

 

The Dark Shadows Wing

This is the only series for which a separate gallery may be needed. Paintings were not only prominently featured throughout the run of this groundbreaking gothic soap opera, they were integral to several storylines.

 

While many non-fans believe the series began embracing the supernatural with the introduction of vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), it actually began in the very first episodes, with the portrait of Josette du Pres (Kathryn Leigh Scott), whose ghost was active in Collinsport, Maine long before Barnabas’s arrival. His portrait was unveiled in Collinwood weeks before he showed up, claiming to be a descendant of the man in the picture. 

 

 

There was also a painting of Angelique (Lara Parker), the witch spurned by Barnabas who exacted her revenge by cursing him to become a vampire. Where are they now? Thankfully I have some inside information on this thanks to Kathryn Leigh Scott, who has been a friend for decades and, when she ran Pomegranate Press, published my Charlie’s Angels Casebook (written with Angels expert Jack Condon). 

 

 

“I believe the portrait of Jonathan is at Lyndhurst,” she told me – Lyndhurst being the New York mansion that was shown on the series as the exterior of Collinwood. Fan gatherings are still held there from time to time, so here’s a chance to see that iconic painting in person. “Lara had her portrait,” Kathryn revealed, but “the portrait of Josette has vanished (thank Heaven!)” True, it never really looked like Kathryn, but in fairness to the artist it was painted before she joined the series. 

 


 

Charlie’s Angels

Speaking of Charlie’s Angels…in “Rosemary for Remembrance,” the Angels are hired to protect an aging, Prohibition-era gangster after two attempts are made on his life. Kris moves into his opulent mansion, where she discovers from a painting that she bears a remarkable resemblance to the man’s late wife.

 

Of course, no work of art could rival the beauty of Cheryl Ladd, but this was not a bad attempt. When I was researching the book I tired to find out what happened to the portrait and asked Cheryl if she knew, but that mystery is sill unsolved. Like many props from series of that era, it probably went home with one of the crew. 

 


 

The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet

In “The Boys’ Portraits” Rick meets a beautiful young artist in the park and after a short conversation she offers to paint him (things like this never happened to me). Ozzie and Harriet are so impressed they ask her to paint David as well. Where those paintings are now is almost as big a mystery as what Ozzie did for a living – however, the show was classy enough to include the artist's name - Constance Doyle - in the closing credits. I did a quick online search but was unable to find out if she went on to any noteworthy success.

 

Dallas

A portrait of Jock Ewing (Jim Davis) on prominent display at Southfork was a source of both inspiration and intimidation for his son J.R. (Larry Hagman) over several seasons.

 



As is often the case, more than one painting was made in case something happened to the original. After the series ended one went to Davis’s widow. The best-remembered version, painted by artist Ro Kim, went to Hagman, until it was sold at an auction in 2011. The winning bid was nearly $40,000.

 

The Jimmy Stewart Show

The premise of this short-lived (but warm and pleasant) family situation comedy is that James K. Howard (James Stewart) is a teacher at Josiah Kessel College and a descendant of the man who founded it, whose portrait clearly shows a family resemblance. This is obviously the least successful series on this list, yet the painting itself is one of the largest and most detailed works created for a series. You can see it here in this promo video for the show’s DVD release.

 

Family Ties

The season two opening credits for this series show an artist’s hand painting over a drawing of the Keaton family, but that is the only time that portrait appears on the show. 

 

 

The Dukes of Hazzard

In “Heiress Daisy Duke,” a millionaire believes that Daisy (Catherine Bach) may be his long-lost granddaughter Vivian, seeing how closely she resembles Vivian’s portrait; when Boss Hogg finds out he sees a chance to make a fortune. This is the only painting on the list that I’ve actually seen in person. When I interviewed Catherine Bach at her Encino home, the painting of Catherine/Vivian was on display in the entryway. 

 


 

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

The large and imposing portrait of Captain Gregg (Edward Mulhare) became slightly less intimidating once the ghost of the man himself began making regular appearances to Carolyn Muir (Hope Lange) It’s a shame this wonderful series is not better remembered. 

 

 

Bewitched

I tend not to revisit the Dick Sargent years on this series very often, but “Mona Sammy” is a delightful episode in which, as usual, Endora puts Darrin in an impossible position. She tells the Tates that Darrin pained a portrait of Samantha that resembles the Mona Lisa. But the painting is actually of Sam’s great aunt, and was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. 

 


Regardless, Louise insists that Darrin paint her portrait, which he is able to do with some magical help from Sam – and then Endora interferes once more, with very amusing results.

 

I don’t know where the paintings shown in this episode wound up, but I do know that Mario A.C. Della Casa, known to classic TV fans as the creator of beautiful reproduction Jeannie bottles, will also supply you with a hand-painted reproduction of “Mona Sammy.” Find out more here

 

The Dick Van Dyke Show

“October Eve” was an episode about a painting with that title, but one that is never shown to viewers (though according to Dick Van Dyke, some fans swear they saw it). The story has Laura posing for a painting meant to be a surprise gift for her husband – but she gets the surprise when the artist (Carl Reiner) paints her nude. Now you know why we never got to see it.