Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Supreme Achievement

When it comes to television accomplishments, there was "Gunsmoke," and there was the rest.

Last week marked the 45th anniversary of the airing of the last original episode.  20 years on the air.  635 episodes.  Yes, 635!  Back in the day, series filmed 39 original episodes, and went in to reruns for 13 summer weeks.

It was classic drama every week-- good versus evil.  Matt Dillon would ride in at the end and save the day.  It was formula television, but it was just so watchable.

It was the favorite show of CBS chairman William Paley and his wife, and that helped keep the show on the air.  It didn't need much help.  It was frequently among the most popular shows on the network.

"Gunsmoke" remains the longest lasting prime time live action scripted series in American history.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Politically Incorrect

The recent passing of a former radio co-worker started me thinking about the old days, and how some innocent behavior back then would really land you in hot water today.

It started well before my tine at WARM, and it was a big part of my 80's era.  I don't recall the exact name of the tourist promotion agency that sponsored it, but every winter morning, a woman would call the station with that day's ski report.  We would record it and broadcast a couple of times in the morning.  WARM didn't name her.  She referred to herself, on the air as the "Pocono Snow Bunny."  Looking back, it was sexist.  At the time, no one said a word.  It was harmless, and a pretty good marketing tool.  People might not have remembered every word of the ski report, but they knew it was delivered by the "Pocono Snow Bunny."

If you tried that today, there would be picketing at the studio.

Jumping ahead, I'm a huge fan of the 90's sitcom "NewsRadio."  97 episodes, and most were clever and wickedly funny.  Having said that, the Jon Lovitz episodes were beyond awful.

The show was more about the office personnel interactions rather than the business of radio, and the vast majority of things that happened in that office would land you a trip to the Human Resources department today.  It's almost like "NewsRadio" is a training film on how NOT to act in the workplace.

Back then, funny.  Now, serious.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Classic Andy's Angles: Baltimore

Not much time for anything new this week, so we dig in to the archives for this shot of Baltimore.

It was my 90's "go to" spot when I had a few days off.  It was far without being too far, inexpensive, plenty to do, an easy trip, and I'd visit Harrisburg friends either to or from.

I believe the shot was taken from the observatory of the World Trade Center on the Inner Harbor.  The shot looks north, and that's the tail end of the Jones Falls Expressway at the center.

Sorry it's so grey.  It was one of those humid Baltimore mornings.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Andy's Angles: About the Cover

I haven't been chasing many trains lately.  I could be wrong, but I haven't seen many CN engines around since it sold its local track.  So, when I saw this one in Taylor recently, I had to jump out of my car and take a few pictures.

This isn't a particularly remarkable shot, but I do like how the dark red looks against the night sky.

Friday, April 3, 2020

They Did It

They said they were going to do it, and Tuesday, the National Football League made it official.  Expanded playoffs.  14 teams will now make it in to the post season, and that's nearly half of the league.

NBC and CBS each get an additional game.  The league gets more money.  More teams and players have a shot at the Super Bowl.  Fans will be happy.

I'm in the minority here by saying this is simply an awful idea.

It renders most of the regular season insignificant, much like the NBA and NHL did years ago.  The NFL playoffs were special because it was hard to get there.

Not any more.

The new system could see an 8-8 team make the post season, and that is simply wrong.

It's been said many times:  follow the money.

Thursday, April 2, 2020


My camera phone was out in the car when I saw it, but this is what I discovered during a recent trip to a drug store-- new wiffle bats and balls.

Getting a new set was always one of the joys of late winter/early spring.  I loved those after school backyard games-- still a chill in the air.  The yard was too muddy to play in, but we did it anyway.

After a few games, the bats would flatten out and eventually split.  The balls wound up with electrical tape wrapped around them to heal the cracks.  Eventually, you'd have to get new ones, and it was no big deal.  The balls and bats did't cost much and they provided hours of fun.  It was a wise investment.

The store display appeared to be full.  I hope the joy of wiffle ball isn't lost on the current crop of kids.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Under Appreciated

At a time like this, I am reminded of what the great film critics Siskel & Ebert had to say about James Bond, action,  and adventure films.  "If you have a good villain, you have a good movie."

 As I have said here before, that also applies to television.

For seven years, David Schramm played Roy Biggins, and was the villain on "Wings."   Roy owned "AeroMass," the rival airline to "Sandpiper Air."  He was crude, and rude and obnoxious, occasionally showing a human side.  Schramm made the most of every line, every scene.  He was a great villain.

He was one of those secondary characters, often overlooked and always under appreciated.

David Schramm died Saturday.  He was 73.

Mr. Schramm, thank you for the laughs.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Jerry Heller

Let me tell you about my first and only radio news director, Jerry Heller.

Jerry might have been the most frugal man I ever worked for.

When our WARM 590 newsroom black and white tiny television finally died, Jerry went shopping for another B&W model.  It didn't work.  They stopped making them.  WARM was forced to go color.

When our news cars needed replacing, Jerry sought out the least expensive model on the market.  I went nuts when Jerry told me what he had in mind.  I wasn't getting in one of those shoe box sized cars.  We compromised and got a slightly better model.  Vinyl seats.  No air conditioning.  I will never forget them.

That stuff is amusing, but minor.

Jerry was perhaps the most kind and patient manager I ever worked for.  We had a few knock down, drag out exchanges during my 10.5 years at WARM.  He should have fired me at least a half a dozen times.  He never did, and I will always be grateful.

I took an unusual path in to the WARM newsroom.  I was the weekend overnight guy, playing the religion and public affairs shows, starting while I was a sophomore at Marywood.  I was on the air at Marywood, and for some unknown reason, WARM's afternoon DJ, the great Tim Karlson,  took an interest in me.  Tim had me read news copy on tape and critiqued it.  When he felt I was ready, Tim played the tapes for Jerry, and I started getting sent out on news assignments, with the occasional anchor shift.

As I have noted before, I took a heavy course load my first two years at college, plus I took classes every summer.  It meant I had a lot of free time toward the end of my college days, allowing me to take on additional assignments at WARM.

When I anchored at night, Jerry occasionally used some of my copy the next morning.  I would go over the scripts the next day, observing the changes Jerry made, and learning how to be a better writer.  There were also little tips and tricks along the way-- allowing me to be smarter, faster and more efficient.

Jerry had a great news anchor style-- smooth, steady, dependable.  He was the solid and reliable voice you wanted coming out of your radio every morning.

I've gone in to it here before.  There was some tension between Jerry and myself when I left for WYOU in September of 1991.  We bumped in to each other a couple of times before he retired.  Cordial.  Professional.  Nothing special.

I should note that Jerry left WARM a few years after I did.  I wasn't there at the time, and I don't know exactly how things played out, but I will say Jerry deserved better from the company.  Jerry moved on to work on public affairs broadcasts for WVIA TV, and produced some great stuff.  He knew Tropical Storm Agness as well as anyone.

Fast forward several years.

Jerry was diagnosed with Parkinson's and was involved in a severe crash early in 2019.  He was in the intensive care unit of a Scranton hospital.  A former coworker told me about it and suggested I stop by the hospital for a few minutes to say hello.

I hesitated, not sure of the reception I'd receive, if I would be welcome.

Jerry could not have been more kind.  It hurt to see my old boss stuck in bed, suffering from Parkinson's, suffering even more from injuries caused by the crash.  We had a nice talk about  the old days, and the current times.  The familiar voice was weak, but it was still there.

I thanked Jerry for all he did for me, adding that I could not have accomplished anything without his foundation.  Typical Jerry.  He said I would have been okay, even if we had not crossed paths.  Jerry was wrong.

Jerry Heller died yesterday.

I like to think I carry a little bit of every person I ever worked with when I stand in front of a camera or behind a microphone.  Yes, a little bit of many, many people-- and a lot of Jerry Heller.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Media Monday

Just a couple of minor items today...

Season four of "Brockmire" befan on IFC earlier this month, and I thought the first two episodes of the final season were awful.  Long story short:  Brockmire is now commissioner of baseball and it's set in 2030.  However, some things happened at the end of the second episode.  That, plus the "coming attractions" has me sticking around for a while.  I was just about ready to give up.  It's too bad, because the first three seasons were brilliant.

Peyton Manning has turned down a Monday Night Football job offer from ESPN.  For the life of me, I can't figure out why the Worldwide Leader has such trouble attracting prime talent to the MNF booth.  I won't argue that the NFL puts some of its worst games on Monday night, but it's still prime time television and a league showcase.

There has been talk ESPN will share the games with co-owned ABC, and that's not a bad thing.  MNF could use some more eyeballs.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Andy's Angles: Church View

Today, it's an average shot of a really nice church.  It's St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Archbald.

I wish the weather was better when I took this shot.  We haven't had abundant sunshine recently, especially on days when I have a little free time.