Archive for the ‘Flashbacks’ Category

Rich Man, Poor Man: Sinners Reconciled

In Flashbacks on March 15, 2011 at 7:30 am

Jordache brothers Tom (Nick Nolte) and Rudy (Peter Strauss) reconciled in the final episode of “Rich Man, Poor Man.” (Screen cap)

On March 15, 1976, ABC’s Rich Man, Poor Man concluded its nine-week run with the death of ne’er-do-well boxer Tom Jordache, the role that made Nick Nolte a star.

The 12-hour Rich Man, Poor Man miniseries, based on Irwin Shaw’s 1970 best-selling novel, spanned three decades in the divergent lives of troubled Tom and his ambitious brother Rudy (Peter Strauss), who becomes a United States senator.

In the finale, with happiness finally in Tom’s grasp, he is brutally stabbed by a pair of thugs.

Before dying, Tom has a moving deathbed reconciliation with Rudy – a scene that ranked 87th on TV Guide’s 1996 list of television’s most memorable moments.

Nolte and Strauss were each nominated for Emmys; they lost to Hal Holbrook (Sandburg’s Lincoln). Read the rest of this entry »


M*A*S*H: Wartime Blues, in Black and White

In Flashbacks on February 24, 2011 at 12:00 am

Hawkeye (Alan Alda) discusses war in the “M*A*S*H” episode “The Interview” (Screen cap)

On February 24, 1976, CBS aired The Interview, the M*A*S*H episode that is presented as a black-and-white 1950s documentary about life in the 4077th.

During the show, Clete Roberts, a real-life Korean War correspondent, interviewed the M*A*S*H actors, who improvised their answers while staying in character.

The Interview, like all classics, is resonant.

When buffoonish Frank Burns (Larry Linville) declares, “Korea will become a shining policy of benign military intervention,” you hear the echo of Dick Cheney’s prediction that Iraqis would greet the United States as liberators.

Although The Interview won no awards, it’s remembered fondly; TV Guide ranked it 80th on its 1997 list of television’s greatest episodes.

The Interview also served as a precursor to Modern Family and other contemporary shows that employ the mockumentary format each week.

See for yourself: The Interview is included in the M*A*S*H Season 4 and M*A*S*H: Martinis and Medicine DVD collections.

Thirtysomething’s Kill Switch

In Flashbacks on February 12, 2011 at 12:00 am

Gary Shepard (Peter Horton) takes one last spin on his bike in “Second Look.” (Screen cap)

On February 12, 1991, ABC aired Second Look, the thirtysomething episode in which Nancy (Patricia Wettig) underwent surgery to see if she had beaten cancer.

Before the broadcast, rumors flew the critically adored show was planning to kill off a main character, so fans who tuned in were prepared for the worst.

But in a cruel twist of plot, Nancy was given a clean bill of health – right before shaggy-haired Gary (Peter Horton) died in a car wreck.

“If it seems like a sleight of hand, it’s because people often are looking at the wrong things in life,” producer Edward Zwick said the next day.

Second Look is often named thirtysomething fans’ favorite episode; it also ranked 34th on TV Guide’s 2009 list of television’s top episodes.

See for yourself: Second Look, part of the thirtysomething: The Complete Fourth and Final Season DVD collection, can be streamed at Netflix.

The Arrested Development Finale: Sea You at the Movies?

In Flashbacks on February 10, 2011 at 12:00 am

George-Michael and Michael (Michael Cera, Jason Bateman) set sail in “Development Arrested.” (Screen cap)

On February 10, 2006, Arrested Development concluded its much-loved but low-rated three-season run on Fox.

The series finale, Development Arrested, wrapped up most of the show’s storylines and made multiple allusions to its pilot, with both episodes set at a Bluth boat party.

In the finale’s epilogue, Maeby (Alia Shawkat) pitches her family’s story to Ron Howard.

“I don’t see it as a series,” he says. “Maybe a movie.”

In real life, creator Mitch Hurwitz said this week that Arrested Development’s eagerly awaited big-screen sequel could be filmed this year.

But back to Development Arrested: It ranked 32nd on TV Guide’s 2009 list of television’s greatest episodes – the third highest-rated finale on the list, after The Fugitive’s (No. 16) and Six Feet Under’s (No. 22).

See for yourself: Development Arrested can be streamed at Hulu and Netflix and purchased on DVD and through iTunes and video on demand.

Sunday Best: NBC’s Clips of the Weak

In Flashbacks on February 3, 2011 at 12:00 am

Carl Reiner, pictured in 1986, hosted NBC’s “Sunday Best,” a precursor to Hulu. (Photo by Neal Preston/Corbis)

On February 3, 1991, NBC introduced Sunday Best, a weekly exercise in instant nostalgia that served as a kind of precursor to Hulu.

Carl Reiner hosted the show, which featured clips from popular NBC and Fox shows that aired the previous week (ABC and CBS refused to participate), highlights from the previous evening’s Saturday Night Live and comedy shorts from the likes of Harry Shearer.

In other words: Sunday Best trafficked in what we now call “viral videos.”

Each edition reportedly cost about $650,000 to produce – at the time, roughly half the amount it took to make an hour-long drama.

NBC executives denied they put Sunday Best on the air simply because it was cheap, but critics weren’t convinced – and neither, apparently, were viewers.

The show – which aired opposite CBS’s powerhouse 60 Minutes – consistently finished near the bottom of the Nielsen ratings and was cancelled after just three weeks.

The One with the Prom Video: The Best of Friends?

In Flashbacks on February 1, 2011 at 12:00 am

Ross and Rachel (David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston) in “The One with the Prom Video.” (Screen cap)

On February 1, 1996, NBC aired The One with the Prom Video, the Friends episode that many fans call their all-time favorite.

In Prom Video, an old home movie shows Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) how long Ross (David Schwimmer) has loved her, prompting her to kiss him in front of their friends.

The installment aired soon after the sitcom’s star-studded Super Bowl special, which had threatened to spark a Friends backlash.

USA Today’s Robert Bianco has called Prom Video one of the show’s “most emotionally satisfying” episodes, adding that it may single-handedly be responsible “for moving Friends from good to great.”

In 2004, when NBC prepared to air Friends’ ballyhooed series finale and invited viewers to vote for their favorite episodes, Prom Video ranked first.

See for yourself: The One with the Prom Video is on DVD and Blu-ray and can be purchased through iTunes and video on demand.

The Partridge Family, Singing the Black and White Blues

In Flashbacks on January 29, 2011 at 12:00 am

Richard Pryor and Lou Gossett Jr. in “The Partridge Family” episode “Soul Club.” (Screen cap)

On January 29, 1971, ABC aired Soul Club, a Partridge Family episode that finds the lily-white clan organizing a fundraiser to save a struggling black nightclub in Detroit.

Lou Gossett Jr. and Richard Pryor guest star as the club’s owners, who are skeptical of the Partridges’ plan but are happily proven wrong when the fundraiser is a smash and the club is saved.

Soul Club, which aired 17 days after All in the Family’s debut, is an early example of television’s awakening in the 1970s, when the medium began exploring racial relations and other once-taboo topics.

In 1997, TV Guide ranked Soul Club the 78th greatest television episode of all time, declaring it “one of the best-intentioned” entries on its list.

See for yourself: A three-minute Soul Club “minisode” can be streamed at Crackle; the full episode is available on DVD and through iTunes and video on demand.

The Honeymooners: Ralph Kramden’s Forgotten River

In Flashbacks on January 28, 2011 at 12:00 am

Alice (Audrey Meadows), Ralph (Jackie Gleason) and Ed (Art Carney) in “The $99,000 Answer.” (Screen cap)

On January 28, 1956, CBS aired The $99,000 Answer, one of the best-loved episodes of The Honeymooners.

The plot: Blustery Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason), preparing to compete in the popular music category on the quiz show The $99,000 Answer, drives wife Alice (Audrey Meadows) batty by spending a week cramming at home.

Ralph is aided by piano-playing pal Ed Norton (Art Carney), who warms up for each song with a few bars of Swanee River, much to Ralph’s chagrin.

On the night of the show, Ralph has transformed himself into a pop-music expert, but he isn’t prepared for the first question: Who composed Swanee River?

“Ed Norton?” Ralph guesses.

In 1997, TV Guide ranked The $99,000 Answer sixth on its list of television’s 100 greatest episodes of all time.

See for yourself: The $99,000 Answer is part of The Honeymooners: The Classic 39 Episodes DVD set.

Infernal Youth: Donny & Marie Come to Prime Time

In Flashbacks on January 23, 2011 at 12:00 am

The Osmond siblings, seen on a 1979 edition of “Donny & Marie.” (Screen cap)

On January 23, 1976, ABC introduced Donny and Marie, the sequin-studded variety hour starring the squeaky-clean Osmond siblings.

Each week, the teenage hosts exchanged mild putdowns, sang, danced and acted in goofy skits alongside guest stars such as Farrah-Fawcett Majors, who appeared on the debut.

The show was an instant hit, making Friday nights appointment television for kids, who stuck around after Donny and Marie for TV-movies like John Travolta’s Boy in the Plastic Bubble.

“It boggles the mind to think that a boy 18 and a girl 16 can have a network show of their own. I can’t recall any other teen-agers breathing that kind of rarefied air,” critic Joseph Thesken wrote in his review.

Today, teenage TV stars – so novel in 1976 – are common on cable, where performers like Selena Gomez reign supreme.

See for yourself: The four-episode Best of Donny and Marie collection is on DVD.

Saturday Night Live: Rye by the Sword

In Flashbacks on January 17, 2011 at 12:00 am

John Belushi and Buck Henry in “Samurai Delicatessen.” (Screen cap)

On January 17, 1976, NBC aired Saturday Night Live’s 10th episode, which featured Samurai Delicatessen, the classic sketch in which guest host Buck Henry enters a deli and finds a sword-wielding John Belushi behind the counter.

Belushi, who auditioned for the show as the samurai character, played him on-air once before – in Samurai Hotel, a two-minute sketch in December 1975.

SNL impresario Lorne Michaels tapped staff writer Alan Zweibel to script Samurai Delicatessen because Zweibel had once worked in a deli.

After its success, Zweibel went on to write the many subsequent Samurai sketches.

In 1996, TV Guide ranked Samurai Delicatessen 14th on its list of television’s 100 greatest moments.

See for yourself: Samurai Delicatessen can be streamed at Hulu; the sketch is also part of Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season, 1975-1976, which is available on DVD and through iTunes, Netflix streaming and video on demand.