Thursday, January 26, 2017

In Memoriam

I try to avoid blog entries any time someone famous dies, but a few recent passings deserve mention...

The first is Eugene Cernan.  He was the last man to walk on the moon, and the way things look, he will be the last to walk on the moon in my lifetime.  He is only of only a dozen to do it.  Growing up when I did, astronauts were heroes.  We were all glued to the TV when Walter Cronkite would anchor another space launch.  It was great stuff, fascinating, and dramatic.

ABC News used Eugene Cernan as the "go to" guy during shuttle missions, and Good Morning America employed him as a science correspondent back in the Charlie Gibson days.  TV wasn't his thing.  Cernan was dry and not very exciting, but he got the point across.  A good anchor, in this case Frank Reynolds and Charlie Gibson, can make a decent analyst great, and Reynolds and Gibson had the ability to ask the right questions.

Eugene Cernan was 82.

Again, if you grew up when I did, you knew Dick Gautier.  He was Hymie the Robot on Get Smart.  I was surprised to learn that Gautier appeared in only six episodes.   Hymie was a memorable character, and the fact that he made an impact was proof of Gautier's skills, as well as the writers.

Gautier has a long resume.  I was raised on 60's and 70's game shows.  He was a familiar face.  Always funny.  He added to the games without going too far.

Dick Gautier was 85.

And then, there is Miguel Ferrer.  Cancer took his life at the young age of 61.  I'm assuming most people know him from NCIS.  I'm not a crime show guy, so I am unfamiliar with his work there.  I first saw Ferrer in the 1998 NBC sitcom Lateline.  It was a take off on Nightline.  Al Franken was the correspondent.  Robert Foxworth was the anchor.  A young and leggy Megyn Price was a producer, and Ferrer was executive producer Victor Karp.  They only made 17 episodes.  I have them on DVD.  The show was uneven, but occasionally very funny.  If you get a chance to stumble across an episode, give it a look.

And finally, Mary Tyler Moore.  I was too young to get a lot of the Dick Van Dyke show humor, and to this day, the series is not among my favorites.  On the other hand, there was the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Mary was funny.  The people around here were funnier, and that's what made the show work.  The was the rock. Others were in her orbit.  It's tough to be funny.  It's even more difficult to be the straight person.

If you look carefully, it was the formula in other sitcoms produced by the company Moore and her then-husband, Grant Tinker, formed.  Bob Newhart was the straight man.  The people in his psychology group provided a lot of the laughs.  Newhart's other sitcom worked the same way.  Gary Sandy got top billing on WKRP in Cincinnati.  Johnny Fever, Art Carlson, Venus Flytrap and Les Nessman got the laughs.

I was flipping around between CNN, MSNBC and FOX News Channel yesterday afternoon.  I must have heard the Mary Tyler Moore show theme a dozen times, and a teared up on every occasion.

I have to close with one final story.  I was working with someone recently who was having an absolutely awful day.  I won't mention her name, but to cheer us both up, I began singing the MTM theme.  We both got a good laugh out of it,.  It made the morning pass quickly, and it broke a lot of tension.

Mary Tyler Moore was a giant.  She was 80.