View My Stats

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Golden Age Of Television. 2.

The fifties, as exciting a time as it was for television, was NOT it's Golden Age.
It was just too flawed.
Although he started in the late forties, the fifties essentially turned Milton Berle into Mister Television.
For far too long.
Early on, it was simply a matter of "Look! He's moving!"
This graduated into "Look! He's moving! In a dress!.
Berle was mostly less than funny.
Combine this with his hammy mawkishness, and it was clear that he was not an asset to the Golden Age Legacy.

There were some great game shows in the fifties, like "What's My Line?", where the panelists dressed up in tuxedos, and the women wore evening gowns.
Except maybe when Berle showed up in a dress.

Or "I've Got A Secret", slightly less formal, but far more fun and more charming, primarily because of it's host, Garry Moore.

But then came the Quiz Show Scandals, which almost put a permanent end to all Quiz Shows.
A truly ugly time.

The fifties gave us Pinky Lee.

The fifties gave us fuzzy black-and-white pictures on the TV screens.

The fifties gave us Fuzzy Knight (Remember "Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion"?)
The fifties gave us "Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion"

The fifties introduced the concept of "Least objectionable programming"
And that decision usually fell to the head of the household.
Because most of us only had one set.
It brought us together, but not necessarily in a good way.

The fifties gave us Bert Parks.

The fifties gave us "My Llttle Margie".

But worse than anything, the fifties gave us the Blacklist.
It was pervasive, and certainly lowered the standards of what we were able to see, aside from ruining careers and lives.

So I think I've made the case for why the fifties was NOT the Golden Age of Televison.

But I believe that there has been one, and I'll make the case for it next time.


My new book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", ones that were culled from the blog and are no longer there, along with a surprise bonus, is available for purchase.
Please e-mail me at for more info.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Golden Age Of Television.

The Fifties.
Also known as "The Fabulous Fifties".
What a time it was!
At least in terms of television.
Oh, I know that TV technichally got started in the late forties, but it really took it's shape,or at least the shape that it had, in the fifties.

We got to see a lot of wonderful things.
Sid Caesar, a true artist and genius, supported by the greatest writing staff for sketch comedy ever.
Jackie Gleason---It wasn't just "The Honeymooners".
He brought his entire repertoire of characters to his variety show.
My favorite was Reggie Van Gleason.
Gleason was another true artist.

Speaking of true artists, Ernie Kovacs was the great innovator.
Steve Allen brought his free-wheeling approach, where he brought some of the best comedy sketch players to his variety show.

Ed Sullivan's main gift was that he brought families together in an America where most families only had one TV set.
If you didn't like the guy spinning the plates, or the juggling unicyclist, just wait a few minutes and there'd be Myron Cohen.
And there'd always be something for "You youngsters out there".

There was Jack Paar.
I maintain that there has never been a talk show host as interesting as Paar.
By sheer force of his personality.
He was an absolutely compelling figure.

Ther were great dramatic anthologies.
Each week, there were the equivalent of at least three new plays on TV.
And they were each an event.
When the theme music swelled for "Playhouse 90", it was spine-tingling.

The common denominator to all this was that it was all LIVE.
As it was happening, you were seeing it.
This meant anything could happen, and often did.
When things went wrong, that was often part of the fun.

That element is for the most part gone, except for sporting events, and talking head news shows.

Aside from live, there was also the incomparable "Sergeant Bilko" and "I Love Lucy".

So it was quite a time.

But I'm here to tell you that the fifties was NOT the Golden Age
of Television.

And next time, I'll be here to tell you why not.


My new book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", ones that were culled from the blog and are no longer there, along with a surprise bonus, is available for purchase.
Please e-mail me at for more info.


Saturday, August 20, 2011


Progress has a way of becoming the great equalizer.
I mentioned a while back about how I used to be the world's foremost authority on death.
When famous people died, how they died, where they died, etc.
I used to impress a lot of people with this bit of morbidity.
No longer.
The Internet has rendered this talent useless.
It's leveled the playing field.
Anyone can push a button on his or her computer and have access to everything that has been rolling around my head for lo these many years.

However, progress has now turned things back in my direction.
Up until recently, I considered myself the worst driver who was ever issued a license.
Actually, my late mother was THE worst driver who was ever issued a license.
I just followed in her footsteps.
We combined the same two major flaws in our driving ability:
An inability to control the vehicle (even more incredible in my mother's case, in that she passed her road test on a stick-shift), and absolutely no sense of direction.

Then, this new invention came out. The GPS.
Ours is called a Garmin.
It allows you to never get lost.
Just by pushing a few buttons.
Yes, you have to listen to an automaton lady give you directions, but I consider that a small price to pay for the thorough humiliation that I used to go through by admitting to strangers that I was lost.

I've heard some men bemoan the Garmin as another threat to their manhood.
As if there is some pride to being able to never get lost, and not have to rely on some female voice to guide you along.
As if there is some sort of triumph in being able to get yourself unlost all by yourself.
Without any help.
At least in my case.
Any time I used to get behind the wheel, it was always even money that I would get lost.
And I'd have to rely on another device, my cell phone, to rely on another female's voice, my wife's, to guide me to where I was going.
It's nothing that I've ever attached manhood to.
If I did, I'd be too ashamed to leave the house, much less get behind the wheel.
So I am no more than half the worst driver in the world that I used to be.
Maybe I'm still the worst, but none of it can be blamed on my sense of direction.
I wonder how much this would have improved my mother's status.
Probably not much.
She had her own peccadillos that I had never before witnessed or emulated.
Upon entering a freeway from an off ramp, she would invariably come to a full stop before going onto the highway.
She would never just proceed with caution.
If that had occurred on her road test, I'm sure she'd never have passed.

But in my case, I feel the playing field leveling under me all the time.


My new book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", ones that were culled from the blog and are no longer there, along with a surprise bonus, is available for purchase.
Please e-mail me at for more info.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Aviary Addiction.

Fellow members, my name is Mark Rothman, and I am an addict.
Not to any drug.
Or anything alcoholic.
Or an abusive lifestyle.
Well, perhaps it contains elements of all three.
It is a game.
And there is no athletic benefit to it as there is to Wii Boxing.
Just a game.
A very simple game.
Called Angry Birds.
I while away far too many idle moments of my life playing Angry Birds.
Making those moments even more idle.

Angry Birds is a game that has been embraced by the youth of America.
And as far as I know, the world.
This makes it one of the few things I have in common with the youth of America.
And as far as I know, the world.

Angry Birds is compelling.
I play it on my IPhone.
For the uninformed, what you do is you hurl birds of various sizes and degrees of dexterity with a slingshot towards stationary pigs of various sizes and no dexterity.
When the Angry Bird lands on the pig, or on the piece of construction that lands on the pig firmly enough, the pig is destroyed.
When all of the pigs are destroyed in the same round, you proceed to the next level.
The birds all make very angry sounds, and the pigs all make laughing grunts.
I really don't want to hear the very angry sounds, or the laughing grunts.
This is because it is annoying, and it tips my wife off to the fact that I'm wasting my time playing Angry Birds.
So I turn off the sound.
As the birds are on my side, I never get angry at the birds.
Only the pigs.

You're playing this game in the hope that you get to see pigs die.
Growing up in a semi-kosher home, this is virtually a natural rooting interest.
Each level is a sort of clever geometric puzzle, where you try to figure out how to obliterate all of the pigs with the few birds you have.

The frustration is when you try and try and can't obliterate the pigs.
The fun is when you do, and go on to the next challenge.
You always want to get to the next challenge.
Many times it is easy.
Some times it seems near impossible.

When I had my Blackberry, my addiction was Brickbreaker.
That was a pretty good game.
The main order of business there was to try to beat your personal high score.
But it wasn't really all that creative.
Nor did it make all those angry noises and laughing grunts.

Technology has improved since then.

A free app was offered on my IPhone for Angry Birds, and I downloaded it.
After a length of time during which I became thoroughly addicted, and went through all the levels, I was offered the pay version.

See? That's how they get you.
Just like a Coke dealer.
I had to shell out 99 cents for the upgrade.
I bit the bullet and shelled it out.
I went through all of those levels.

Then I was offered "Angry Birds Rio".
Another 99 cents.

I see more on the horizon.

Eventually, it's going to break me.


My new book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", ones that were culled from the blog and are no longer there, along with a surprise bonus, is available for purchase.
Please e-mail me at for more info.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wii Are Now Amused.

So I tried the Wii Sports in my basement.
They all sucked.
My only hope for salvation was the Boxing.
It looked promising.
For one thing, you actually had to move around.
You actually had to throw punches, just like a boxer.
Exercise was beginning to take place.
Your opponents threw punches back at you, and here's the beauty part, if a punch landed on you, it didn't hurt.
That was always my fear in participating in REAL boxing.
That you could get hurt.
Here, you could get knocked down, you could get knocked out.
And it didn't hurt.
Actually, after a while, it DID start to hurt.
In my knees.
In my ankles.
Places where I've had surgery.
Or arthritis.

And this was caused by all the moving around.
I was almost ready to give it all up when my wife, a person much smarter than me, suggested that maybe I should wear an Ace Bandage on the sore parts.
Whattya know? I did that, and it stopped hurting.
Is it a matter of her being a genius, or me being an idiot?

I started by fighting easy opponents.
There are no options about how you start.
These opponents virtually never throw a punch at you if you are at all aggressive.
I felt like Joe Louis and his "Bum-of-the Month Club"
If you keep winning during the early stages, the opponents get tougher and tougher, to the point where it really gets competitive, and you can just as easily lose and get knocked out as win and knock out your opponent.

A word about the opponents: The graphics are not very sophisticated.
Even though the atmosphere and sound effects are great, the opponents tend to look like kewpie dolls.
They could do a better job there.
You choose a character for yourself.
Male or female.
And you take on all comers.
This presents a minor moral dilemma:
You occasionally face kewpie dolls who are women.
Even though they are kewpie dolls,I was raised to never hit a woman.

However, it also allowed me to act out some fantasies.
There are several women in my past whom I would have liked to have beaten up, but my sense of decorum wouldn't have allowed it.
But it's a great way to let out past aggressions.

You also take on opponents who are wearing eyeglasses.
I don't know what schmendrick thought of this, but it also flies in the face of my upbringing.
You never hit a man wearing glasses.
At least they haven't provided an opponent who is a woman and wears glasses.
That would be a double-whammy.

In any case, I invariably build up a major sweat when I participate in the Boxing.
It is great competition, and great exercise.
I particpate in Wii Boxing all the time.
And has made the purchase of Wii Sports well worth it.

Wii, Wii, Monsieur.


My new book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", ones that were culled from the blog and are no longer there, along with a surprise bonus, is available for purchase.
Please e-mail me at for more info.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wii Are (For The Most Part) Not Amused.

My wife has continually been on me to get more exercise.
She is an exponent of this.
Even as I am writing now, she is downstairs in the basement, walking her daily mile on the treadmill.
To no avail, she has been encouraging me to do the same.
Or to at least take an occasional walk around the block.
My attitude about this is the same as it has always been-------
How do you keep score?
How do you win?
It's not that I'm so competitive.
It's just that I need something to make it not boring.
I admit to being one of the most sedentary people I know, but I'm not against the concept of exercise if it can only be made to be INTERESTING.

My wife recently attempted to rise to the challenge.
She purchased, and brought home, something called Wii Sports.
What it is, is simulated sports that you play with remote control devices that you hold in your hands while the sporting events appear magically on your TV screen, once you've hooked up the equipment.
I guess that eliminates some of the magic.

Apparently, this is something that is very popular with kids.
You'd think they would be more likely to engage in the real sports outdoors, or at least outside of their homes.
Because they are young enough to actually do well at these sports in real life.

So I opened the Wii Sports box, tried hooking up the equipment, and after several hours of it confounding me, was able to install it correctly.
I was actually eager for Wii Sports to actually provide me with some interesting exercise.
I was hoping for the best.
Because I consider myself too old to actually participate in most of the sports provided for real.
And I was never that good an athlete to begin with.

I looked at the menu of sports offered by Wii.
They consisted of Tennis, Golf, Baseball, Bowling, and Boxing.
I tried them one at a time.

1) Tennis---I figured that this would be a good one because Tennis always involved a lot of movement to cover the court.
I always used to build up a pretty good sweat playing tennis. It was a game that I used to actually be competitive with good players.
But this was doubles.
You weren't required to move much around the court.
And you weren't required to do much with your arm except make little baby swings.
It was very disappointing to say the least.

2) Golf---I was never very good at golf. But in this version, no matter how bad you were in real life, it was very difficult,if not impossible to hit a bad shot.
I've never hit a 240 yard drive in my life.
I never played a round of golf where I didn't top the ball at least half the time.
I never played a round of golf where my putts always went into the hole once they hit the green.
Here all those things happened consistently.
It was surreal golf, and of course, provided me with very little exercise.

3) Baseball----You only had control of the pitcher and the batter, which meant there was no strategy, very little arm movement and virtually no interest in continuing.

4) Bowling----There might have been some skill involved here, but there is not much exercise involved in REAL bowling.
A game that can be played while you are eating pizza.
It also involved very little exercise.

So that's four out of four disappointments.

My only hope left, before we were going to return the entire unit back to Best Buy, was if the Boxing was spectacular.
It certainly had a lot to live up to.
I was not optimistic.

What happened with the Boxing will be discussed next time.


My new book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", ones that were culled from the blog and are no longer there, along with a surprise bonus, is available for purchase.
Please e-mail me at for more info.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Half-Pink House.

For much of the time that I worked at Paramount Studios, I had an office that overlooked Gower Street.
Gower Street was usually featured in stock footage of the entrance of RKO Studios in the thirties and forties,with cars to match.
RKO went out of business, and my office, which used to be part of RKO, was now part of Paramount.
I don't know what you'd have seen if the cameras were turned around and you'd have seen the other side of Gower Street in the thirties and forties.
But if you'd looked out of my window in the seventies, what you'd have seen was a very seedy, slum-like neighborhood, populated primarily by Mexicans.
I'm not attempting to be racist here.
I'm just reporting the facts.
You didn't want my office because of the view.
It was a nice, roomy office, but the view was not one of the selling features.
I always tried to avoid driving down Gower Street to go to work.
I usually took Vine Street directly to Melrose Avenue, which at the time was also pretty seedy, but didn't seem as inherently dangerous as
Gower Street.
I did this because I was deathly afraid of finding myself stranded on Gower Steet trying to fix a flat tire.
This was NOT a safe neighborhood.
Even though it was right next to a major movie studio.
I tried very hard to ignore my exterior surroundings as much as possible.
Many days, you'd find me with the window shades pulled down.

But one day, something rather extraordinary happened.
I pulled up the window shades, and noticed that one half, (the left half, from my point of view) of a two-family house was painted bright pink.
I don't mean just pink.
Shocking pink.
The kind of pink you might associate with Pink Elephants.
Or the Pink Panther.
Or Pepto Bismol, but much more intensely bright.
The other half was gray.

This caused interesting things to enter my imagination:
The first, of course, being "Why is anyone doing this?"
The second being, "Why only half the house?"

You'd think that discussions between the two owners would have led to some negotiations and perhaps arguments as to whether this was a good idea.
And some settlement would have been reached to avoid this eyesore.
But maybe the two parties hated each other.
To quote the late, great Fats Waller, "One never knows, do one."

Now, I've never considered myself any kind of architechtural aesthete, but even I knew that this was an atrocity.

Literally two months went by.
I'd look out my window and see a half-pink two family house.
The other half remained gray.
And the owner of the gray half had to have been worried about the loss of property value of his home, being planted directly next to the pink half.
Not that the house could have been worth that much to begin with.

I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Would the owner of the pink half revert back to gray?
Or would the owner of the gray half bite the bullet and go pink?

A month after this, I opened the window shade to my office one morning, and the matter was resolved.
The two-family house was now entirely pink, in the exact same shade as the other half.
The concession was made.
Or perhaps the owner of the gray half found the pink starting to grow on him.
We'll never know.

In any case, it was Peace in Our Time, but the house now looked twice as atrocious.


My new book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", ones that were culled from the blog and are no longer there, along with a surprise bonus, is available for purchase.
Please e-mail me at for more info.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Nanny Needs Her Louis.

That's really all I can say.
Somebody decided to give Fran Drescher another TV series.
It's called "Happily Divorced" and it's on TV Land right after
"Hot In Cleveland", which I watch regularly.
Which doesn't help matters.
I can't stand Fran Drescher. So sue me.
It's not that she can't act. She can.
It's not that she doesn't have really good comedy chops. She does.
It's simply that voice.
And that laugh.
I can't get past either of them.
It's chalk on a blackboard.
It always has been.

I really thought that if anyone was going to be typecast after "The Nanny", it would be her.
Once it had left the airwaves, I had often thought "What the hell is she going to do with the rest of her life?"
I never figured "Another TV series".

And I was actually torn about watching it, at least once.
Rita Moreno was cast as a regular, playing her mother.
I love Rita Moreno.
I did a pilot with her once.
It was a joyous experience.
Mainly because of her. What a pro!

So I was, as Jimmy Durante would put it, "on the horns of a dilemmia".
One the one hand, Rita Moreno. On the other, Fran Drescher.
I Tivoed the first episode.
I started watching it.
Rita Moreno wasn't in the first five minutes.
Fran Drescher was.
So I never got to see Rita Moreno.
Five minutes was all I could take.

And I never went back.
And unfortunately, during "Hot In Cleveland", they do incessant promos for "Happily Divorced".
So I have to make sure that I Tivo "Hot In Cleveland" and only watch it that way and make sure that I'm quick on the fast forward trigger-finger.

Maybe she's a lovely person. I don't know.
I've never met her.
Maybe this is a harsh way to judge a stranger, but it's the only way at my disposal.

When "The Nanny" was in production, my friend Rick, whom I met when he enrolled in one of my writing classes, and has since become an outstanding writer, worked as a mechanic at LAX, working on the Lear Jets usually inhabited by celebrities.
Fran Drescher boarded one of his aircraft, about to fly off to somewhere.
One of Rick's other responsibilities was to help load the luggage into the baggage compartment.
Just as the plane was fully loaded, Fran Drescher's male assistant, described by Rick as overtly gay (he was probably a little more disparaging than that), went over to Rick and announced "The Nanny needs her Louis".
The assistant was referring to her Louis Vuitton travel bag.

Rick knew that this bag was one of the first things that was loaded on to the plane.
He sized up the situation, looked the assistant in the eye, and said
"Go tell the Nanny what she can do with her Louis!"

Imagining the look on her face when her assistant told her whatever he told her is my only pleasant memory of Fran Drescher.


For those of you in the Tri-State Area, I'm doing a reading and signing of my book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", on Tuesday, August 2nd, at the
Huntington Book Revue, Huntington Long Island, at 7pm.
I look forward to seeing anyone who wants to see me.



Blog Archive

About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."