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Tag Archive: Lee Meriwether


Review by C.J. Bunce

The Virginian, Ironside, Amy Prentiss, Kolchak: The Nightstalker, and CHiPs.  For modern TV watchers and students of film and production, these series from the 1960s to 1980s won’t come to mind as the most memorable TV series to use to teach a TV production course.  But they are enough for Cy Chermak–TV executive producer, producer, story editor, and writer of those series and more–to incorporate into a step-by-step narrative providing an insider’s view of show process and studio politics in his new book The Show Runner: An Insider’s Guide to Successful TV Production. 

Nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, Chermak successfully–and sometimes not so successfully–negotiated the tiers of studio department hierarchy to create a lucrative career for himself.  In this autobiographical account he provides dozens of golden nuggets that any prospective TV writer will find insightful in understanding how an episode of television is created, from idea to final edit.  In addition to Chermak’s anecdotal lessons, he simplifies the duties and relationships of the production department from a show runner’s standpoint–a biased view, but a unique and interesting look from the top.  He uses an episode of his short-lived series Amy Prentiss–a 1974 series with Jessica Walter (Archer, PCU, Ghost in the Machine, Play Misty for Me) as the first woman chief of police in San Francisco–to take the reader on a walk-through as assistant to mentor Chermak as executive producer.

Along the way Chermak introduces us to the difficulties of ego and personality that seem to go with the territory of both studios execs and actors.  His examples include his personal interactions with Raymond Burr and Darren McGavin, who Chermak presents as particularly difficult to work with.  Chermak remains completely personable along the way, as if he’s putting his arm around the reader’s shoulder and giving the full studio tour, complete with interesting name dropping.  Chermak is quick to point out his own shortcomings and missed opportunities, like letting go by a young, yet-to-be-discovered Steven Spielberg making his way onto the studio lot as if he worked there to bump elbows with anyone who might screen his student film, Amblin.  Chermak’s first screenplay for the big screen was a movie called 4D Man, literally the first 4D movie (in addition to the 3D visuals it included physical effects, a concept taking off again at select theater chains today), featuring well-known actors Robert Lansing (Star Trek, Simon & Simon, The Equalizer), Lee Meriwether (Batman, Star Trek, Barnaby Jones), and Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker, The Streets of San Francisco).  

One of many rounds of re-write discussions for the short-lived series Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

For kids of 1970s and 1980s television, look for Chermak’s discussion of the problem of dual lead actors, as he recollects a battle of ego between CHiPs stars Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada, which ultimately spelled doom for Wilcox and Chermak, and cancellation of the entire series a year later.  “A year later” becomes a theme for Chermak.  He notes several instances of a series folding a year after he was removed as show runner of the series.

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Holy Contributing to the Delinquency of Minors, Batman!  Those fans of the late Adam West’s Batman and Burt Ward’s Robin and their classic camp TV version of the DC Comics superheroes can get a nostalgic fix of the good ol’ days in Batman: Facts and Stats from the Classic TV Show, designed by Rian Hughes with text by Y.Y. Flurch (actually Joe Desris–Y.Y. Flurch is an in-joke to the name of an author on a book in the series).  Celebrating the five decades since the Batman series premiered in 1966, Batman: Facts and Stats is a technicolor treat for your favorite Bat-fan.

Batman: Facts and Stats is not an in-depth look at the series–it’s more of a “gift book” formatted hardcover–8 inches by inches, it’s a nicely designed scrapbook full of images from the show and selected trivia.  Did you know Robin delivered more than 400 “Holy…” lines throughout the series?  From Holy Barracuda! to Holy Priceless Collection of Etruscan Snoods!  The book is populated with real-world references and in-world curiosities.  You’ll learn behind the scenes information about the Batmobile, Batcopter, and the Batcycles, and photos of many of Batman’s wonderful toys, like the years ahead of its time mobile crime computer, the inflatable duplicate Batmobile, and the Bat-phone.

Only one actor donned the suits of villainy for each of the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), the Joker (Cesar Romero), and the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), but you’ll see plenty of different Catwomen (Star Trek and The Bionic Woman’s Julie Newmar, Barnaby Jones and Mission: Impossible’s Lee Meriwether, and St. Louis Blues’ Eartha Kitt) and Mr. Freezes (Oscar winner George Sanders, director Otto Preminger, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and The Magnificent Seven’s Eli Wallach).  Like many 1960s television shows (think Lost in Space and Star Trek for starters), Batman featured a host of guest stars, with everyone from Vincent Price to Cliff Robertson, Shelly Winters to Liberace, Roddy McDowell to Zsa Zsa Gabor, and so many others.  But what five characters appeared in all 120 episodes of the series?  Batman: Facts and Stats will get you up to speed on plenty of Bat-trivia.

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Announced at this year’s Toy Fair Funko’s new line of Batman action figures from the 1966 TV series will be making their way to stores this summer with Entertainment Earth beginning to take pre-orders now.  These figures are from Funko’s classic Kenner-style retro line, the perfect styling for the campy show.

The best in the line is this showcase set featuring the Batmobile, boxed with the Batman and Robin figures:

Pre-order the Batmobile set now here.  The line also includes Batgirl in Yvonne Craig’s purple costume (above), plus Catwoman (played in the series by Eartha Kitt, Julie Newmar, and Lee Meriwether), two Mr. Freeze versions (played in the series by George Sanders, Otto Preminger, and Eli Wallach), King Tut (played by Victor Buono), and Bookworm (Roddy McDowell).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It takes a unique brand of personality to pull together the required components to make a hit television series.  It took a bit of a showman to convince Hollywood in 1965 to produce a science fiction series aimed at kids, and before Star Trek, someone had to lay the groundwork for a series taking place in another world.  That someone was the P.T. Barnum of his day, Irwin Allen.  Classic television researcher Marc Cushman has delved into his favorite show from his youth to deliver a full picture of Allen and the first season of the hit series Lost in Space in his latest work, volume one of Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space: The Authorized Biography of a Classic Sci-Fi Series.

What do all these TV series have in common?  Lassie, Bonanza, Zorro, The Danny Thomas Show, The Twilight Zone, Leave it to Beaver, The Sound of Music, Psycho, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents/Hour?  An assemblage of hundreds of TV people in front and behind the camera came together to make an unlikely idea into a success.  At nearly 700 pages, Cushman’s book leaves no rock left unturned, interconnecting a Who’s Who of Hollywood.  He investigates oddball directors like Irwin Allen, who built up his office desk so visitors would be left to look up to him and had his own “yes man” who would repeat conversations to him as he discussed business with people, and Sobey Martin, viewed by the cast as a bad director who would fall asleep during filming, yet he was the only one who seemed to be able to get an episode filmed on time.  The production never seemed to get an episode filmed with the allotted budget.

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Just as Cushman revealed in his similarly-formatted, award-winning three volume chronicle of Star Trek (These are the Voyages, reviewed previously here at borg.com) that Lucille Ball was the mastermind producer behind Star Trek, here we see the influence of movie and TV stars Groucho Marx and Red Buttons on Irwin Allen as he pushed forward to create the first season of Lost in Space.   Where the coming new sci-fi series Star Trek would be a “Wagon Train to the stars,” Allen was orchestrating a “Swiss Family Robinson in space” an idea that would encounter its own breed of intellectual property legal issues along the way.

Cushman pulls archival interviews from the late series star Guy Williams (one of the top TV stars in the 1960s as he came off his successful run as Zorro and would portray astronaut John Robinson), everyone’s favorite TV mom June Lockhart (as pioneer female astronaut Maureen Robinson), Western and true crime TV star Mark Goddard (as scientist Don West), new starlet Marta Kristen (as John and Maureen’s eldest daughter Judy Robinson), Angela Cartwright fresh off her breakout role with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (as Penny Robinson), young Billy Mumy, the versatile child guest star of The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Fugitive, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (as Will Robinson), Bob May (as the guy in the Robot), and the last-minute addition, character actor Jonathan Harris (as the quirky villain Mr. Smith).

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Planet Comicon logo

Planet Comicon announced this weekend that advance tickets for Planet Comicon 2013 are now available for sale.  This year Planet Comicon is Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 10:00 AM – 7 PM and Sunday, April 7, 2013 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM at downtown Kansas City’s giant Bartle Hall, a switch from the show’s home at Overland Park International Trade Center from past years.  The relocation was the result of the growing numbers at the event in the past two years requiring an expansion to this larger venue.

Use the below link to purchase a single day or weekend pass.  There is no limit to the quantities you may order.

ADVANCE TICKET PURCHASE

Advance tickets will be sold until midnight on Sunday, March 17, 2013.  After that time, they will only be available for sale at the event.

Weekend passes for adults are being sold at a discounted rate of $35.00.  All other prices will be identical to on-site pricing.

Advance tickets are available for sale only through Paypal, which accepts all major credit cards and bank debits.

Advance tickets will also be made available soon through the event facility and certain area retailers, including Elite Comics, located at 11842 Quivira in Overland Park, KS.

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