I don't track this kind of thing but This Day in History informs me that today marks 26 years since Garfield and Friends debuted on CBS. One of the happiest professional experiences of my life was to serve as writer, voice director and co-producer of that series.
Odd thing about that "co-producer" title: I didn't ask for it. I never even asked to be credited as voice director or for the songs I wrote so I wasn't. But after the first time the show was nominated for an Emmy, one of the executive producers, Lee Mendelsohn, suddenly realized that if it won for Best Animated Series, I would not be receiving one of those nifty statues.
The rules were changed a year or two later to include someone who'd written more than a certain percentage of the episodes. I don't recall the number but I was then writing all of them so I obviously would have qualified there. Before that change was instituted, Lee — who literally has more Emmys than toes — decided it would be wrong for him to get one for Garfield and Friends if I didn't. (He needn't have worried. Though nominated a couple of times, it never won.)
Designating me a co-producer meant I'd be included so they made me co-producer. My actual duties did not change nor did my compensation. But I got a lot of messages congratulating me on my promotion…which shows you how meaningless some credits in television can sometimes be.
We did seven or eight seasons of the show, depending on how you figure. It aired over seven seasons but according to CBS and my contract, we did eight. They just made the show an hour its second year and aired Season Two and Season Three at the same time.
Writing it was a lot of fun because after the first few episodes, I was just left alone to write whatever I wanted and to hire the voice actors I wanted. It was so much fun to go in and work with the core cast: Gregg Berger, Thom Huge, Frank Welker, Julie Payne, Howard Morris and, of course, Lorenzo Music in the role of Garfield. I miss those sessions and some of those people. Some, I can't miss because they're still around to repeat their roles on The Garfield Show, the new series starring the lasagna-loving feline.
One of these days, I'll get around to writing more about this series. I'll tell you every problem and crisis we had and you'll think, "That's all?" Because it really was a joy — one that came into my life after a series of experiences in animation that were not and which had left me thinking I'd give it up and find something else to write. I'm glad I didn't.
I just made a wrong turn on my harddisk while looking for something and I found a file called "Rodney Lines." I have no memory of how or where this came from but it seems to be lines from Rodney Dangerfield's act. Here's what was in it…
- I come from a stupid family. During the Civil War, my great uncle fought for the West!
- My father was stupid. He worked in a bank and they caught him stealing pens.
- When I was born, the doctor came out to the waiting room and said to my father, "I'm sorry. We did everything we could but he pulled through."
- My mother never breast fed me. She told me that she only liked me as a friend.
- My father carries around the picture of the kid who came with his wallet.
- When I played in the sandbox, the cat kept covering me up.
- I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.
- Some dog I got. We call him Egypt because he leaves a pyramid in every room.
- What a dog I got. His favorite bone is in my arm!
- I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent back a piece of my finger to my father. He said he wanted more proof!
- Once when I was lost, I saw a policeman and asked him to help me find my parents. I said to him, "Do you think we'll ever find them?" He said, "I don't know, kid. There are so many places they can hide."
- I remember I was so depressed, I was going to jump out a window on the tenth floor so they sent a priest up to talk to me. He said, "On your mark…"
- I had a lot of pimples, too. One day I fell asleep in a library. I woke up and a blind man was reading my face.
- Last week, my tie caught on fire. Some guy tried to put it out with an axe!
- A girl phoned me and said, "Come on over! There's nobody home." So I went over. Nobody was home!
- I was making love to this girl and she started crying. I said, "Are you going to hate yourself in the morning?" She said, "No, I hate myself now."
- During sex, my wife always wants to talk to me. Just the other night she called me from a hotel.
- One day as I came home early from work, I saw a guy jogging naked. I said to the guy, "Hey, buddy! What are you doing that for?" He said, "Because you came home early."
- I went to look for a used car. I found my wife's dress in the back seat!
- I went to see my doctor. I told him, "Every morning when I get up and look in the mirror, I feel like throwing up. What's wrong with me?" He said, "I don't know but your eyesight is perfect."
- I remember when I swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. He told me to have a few drinks and get some rest.
- I told my doctor I think my wife has V.D. He gave himself a shot of penicillin.
- My psychiatrist told me I'm going crazy. I told him, "If you don't mind, I'd like to get a second opinion. He said, 'All right, you're ugly, too!'"
- Last week I saw my psychiatrist. I told him, “Doc, I keep thinking I’m a dog.” He told me to get off the couch.
- Last night my wife met me at the front door. She was wearing a sexy negligee. The only trouble was, she was coming home.
- I asked my old man if I could go ice skating on the lake. He told me, “Wait 'til it gets warmer.”
- I met the surgeon general. He offered me a cigarette.
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I'm working on a number of those long essays I put up here about my family and/or early career…but none of them are ready to post yet and pressing deadlines await. So up goes a soup can to tell you that posting will be light here today. I'll be back but I'm not going to sit here and feel guilty about neglecting the blog for paying work.
Why is it that when it's beastly cold, I can always turn on my TV and hear someone on some political-type show say, "Well, so much for the myth of Global Warming," as if the whole premise of Global Warming wasn't that it would cause extreme temperatures in both directions? But when it's blistering hot — I think this is hottest September 16 on record in Los Angeles — I somehow never hear those people saying, "Well, maybe there's something to it after all."
Ah, but just wait until it's cold again…
I used to mock and defame candy corn on this site. I stopped about the time I lost my sweet tooth and gave up all candy. After that, there didn't seem to be any point in singling out candy corn.
In the interest of equal time for past libel, I thought I should link to this article that Jim Kosmicki wrote me about. It covers some of the past and new alleged glories of candy corn. I still don't like the stuff…but then I don't like any candy anymore.
Your obedient blogger is about three discs into watching the DVD collections of Harry O, the 1974-1976 detective series starring David Janssen. There were a lot of these private eye shows on at the time and I thought this was one of the best, at least based on the episodes I managed to catch. Back in the pre-VCR days, it wasn't that easy to follow your favorite show…and after it went off ABC, the 44 episodes didn't get a lot of rerunning. So I'm seeing episodes I've never seen before.
It was a very smart show that rarely went for clichés or sensationalism…and on the rare occasions when it did, the gruff calm of Mr. Janssen made it all feel fresh. He was really, really good.
The series went through some format changes. The first half of Season One was set and shot in San Diego and there's some wonderful scenery. (Episode #10, "Material Witness," starts with a gangland killing outside the El Cortez Hotel where many of the early Comic-Cons were held.) Then it moved to Santa Monica and brought in Anthony Zerbe as Harry's police foil. He was real good, not that his predecessor, Henry Darrow, wasn't.
It is said that the ratings on Harry O, while never great, could have warranted a third season but that ABC needed to find a place on the schedule for Charlie's Angels. I'm not sure that's so. (Harry O aired Thursday nights at 10. Charlie's Angels aired Wednesday nights at 10 its first season. Farrah Fawcett-Majors was a regular on Harry O its second season.) But the contrast between the two shows said something about the direction in which television was going at the time.
You can order the two seasons of Harry O on DVD here and here. They're those "made to order" discs with no extras and there are a few video glitches here and there but they're very watchable. Season One costs fifty cents more than Season Two, I guess because it also includes the pilot. If you're only going to buy one, I remember Season Two as being better than Season One.
I'll write another, probably longer post about the series once I get through them all. I'm not going to rush because this is not the kind of show you can marathon and besides, I'm enjoying this and in no hurry for it to end.
My pal Steve Stoliar sent me this. It's a link to a 1968 interview with the great caricature artist, Al Hirschfeld.
In 1992, I had the pleasure/honor of spending an afternoon with Mr. Hirschfeld. He was drawing me, complete with NINAs in my hair, but it only took him a few minutes to do some rough sketches. (I noticed that as he drew me, he never looked at his sketch pad and I realized why that was. Mr. Hirschfeld was a theatrical cartoonist. He sat in theaters and drew what he saw on stage. When you draw in the dark, you have to get used to not looking at what you're drawing.)
We talked that day about the then-recent Rodney King riots in L.A., about Broadway and the way it's changed, about George S. Kaufman and certain Marx Brothers, about his favorite actor to draw (Zero Mostel), about once-great restaurants that had deteriorated and many other topics. Here's Mr. Hirschfeld talking about (mostly) different things…
eBay has long been a place where original comic art is sold, some of it even real. Yes, some of what's offered there is counterfeit and I'm often amazed at how bad some of the forgeries are. I haven't searched there today for "Charles Schulz drawing" but that usually yields a few that are almost certainly real plus a few that a blind aborigine could identify as forgeries. There was a forgery up there one time that was signed "Schultz"…and I believe that like many a fake drawing, its authenticity was confirmed by some agency that sounded like they knew what they were doing.
At present, sellers seem be offering an unusually high number of "Jack Kirby drawings" that Jack had nothing to do with. It's shocking to think that there might be someone who loves Jack's work enough to pay megabucks for a sketch…but can't tell that the sketch is not only a tracing but a really bad tracing.
I refuse to get involved in authenticating drawings, especially when requested to view a small scan instead of the original piece. There's no upside for me in doing that and too many people want to kill the messenger when told that the drawing they purchased — with money that might otherwise have put braces on their kids' teeth — is not what it was made out to be. But use some common sense, people. Go to eBay and if you can't spot some obvious fakes, maybe you're not qualified to be sure that the one you want to purchase is real.
I really like those guys in yesterday's video link singing a cappella tunes. Here's two of them undergoing musical mitosis to sing four-part harmony on the song that frog sings in the cartoon about the frog that sings. You may not know the whole tune but here it is…
It may not look it from the quantity of posting but I'm spending a lot of time on this blog this weekend. It's mostly of a "tech" nature, some of it maintenance and some of it relating to our recent change of hosting companies. Until I'm done, you may notice graphics missing here and there around the site and maybe a missing page or two. All will be well soon…I hope.
There are a lot of articles on the 'net at the moment suggesting that Mitt Romney might well be the Republican nominee in 2016. I don't believe any of the predictions about '16 have much validity at this moment but this one strikes me as especially wrong.
Here's why I don't think Mitt has a chance. He lost by a pretty wide margin last time. A lot of us think it isn't so much that he lost but that a majority of Americans rejected the Republican platform and the G.O.P. approach to government. Republicans, naturally, don't see it that way. They think the platform and approach were just fine…or at least, a lot better than what the Other Side was offering.
So how do they explain that big loss? Easy: Right message, wrong messenger. They believe Conservatism couldn't have failed, Mitt must have. And he's not going to change very much. I mean, if Mitt was a bad candidate in 2012, he's going to be just as bad a candidate in 2016. Romney can't get the nomination if a substantial part of the G.O.P. believes that he gave them four more years of Obama by being a crummy candidate who couldn't even beat someone as obviously flawed and failed as Barack Obama.
Somewhere on the 'net — I'd link to it if I could find it again — I once saw a chart that listed who the front-runners were for the two parties' presidential nominations were, two years before the conventions. If you left incumbents out of the mix, it turned out to be largely a list of people who at one point looked like they'd probably get the nomination…but didn't. (Remember when Newt anounced he had it sewed up? And that was months, not years before it was final.) So no matter who the polls suggest has the inside track — or even a lock on it — as of this week, I don't think you can say with any real confidence who'll be the nominee.
But you can sure name some people who won't be. I won't be on either ticket. You won't be on either ticket. Justin Bieber won't be on either ticket. Donald Sterling won't be. SpongeBob SquarePants won't be.
And Mitt won't be. All the chatter that he's a possibility is just people who have to write about something writing about something. As reporter Jack Germond once said and as I often quote, "The trouble with reporting is that we're not paid to say 'I don't know' even when we don't know." But I know that Mitt will not be the candidate. SpongeBob has a better chance.
I've had millions of (well, actually, no) requests to hear The Beatles' "When I'm 64" performed "barbershop" style. Okay, in answer to many (actually, no) requests, here it is…