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Saturday, August 10, 2013

George Burns Day On The OTN.

George Burns was born to become a genius, and a major creative force in television.
This was after many, many years of being a non-major creative force in vaudeville, movies, and radio.
Television was where George Burns really shined.
And I'm not talking about his work with Gracie on the "Burns and Allen Show".
That began in radio, where it was not at all innovative.
But on TV, it really was.
It was where he regularly broke the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience.
It was where he broke the fifth wall by watching his own show in his den, without the other characters' knowledge.
It was where he broke the sixth wall by replacing Fred Clark, as Bea Benaderet's husband, on his knees, pleading for his wife's forgiveness, with Larry Keating, placing him on HIS knees, in mid-scene, in mid-sentence.
Brilliant.
But "Burns and Allen" doesn't qualify for the OTN.
It has been rerun endlessly.
It's also a show that doesn't hold up very well upon close, continuous scrutiny.
If you watch too many episodes too frequently, you'll essentially notice that it is the same show every time.
It must have been a very difficult show for the writers.
They had to constantly come up with double-meaning straightlines for the other characters to say so that Gracie could misinterpret them.
But Gracie was a great character, and completely George's invention.
It's no surprise that Gracie was nothing like that in real life.
But George Burns had two other shows with far briefer lives that belong on the OTN.
One was "The George Burns Show", which at least creatively showed that he could commandeer a show that was at least as funny as the one he did with Gracie.
It had all of the same supporting cast: Larry Keating. Bea Benaderet, his son Ronnie, and Harry Von Zell.
All doing the same parts that they did when they had Gracie.
Harry Von Zell had been kicking around for years on radio, mostly as a straight announcer, and as Eddie Cantor's straightman on Cantor's radio show.
He wasn't even Burns's announcer or straightman on the "Burns and Allen" radio show.
Yet somehow, Burns knew that Von Zell could be a major comedic foil for him on TV.
"The George Burns Show was a pleasure to watch, and far less contrived, and far easier to write than "Burns and Allen"
It was mostly a sitcom, although he dabbled a few weeks with it becoming a variety show.
Then, he returned to it being a sitcom.
He always seemed to throw caution to the winds.
On another of his sitcoms, he was able to prove that he could turn someone else into Gracie Allen.
On "Wendy and Me", he chose Connie Stevens for the task.
She handled it with aplomb, and the result was a charming, first-rate pleasure.
He basically used the same writers on all of these shows.
He was a total auteur of TV sitcoms.
And "The George Burns Show" and "Wendy and Me" should both be on the OTN.
You probably shouldn't watch "Wendy and Me" too frequently either.

Mark Rothman, CEO of the OTN.

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******

3 comments:

  1. Jack Benny fiddles while George Burns.

    ReplyDelete
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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 macchus999@aol.com. 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."