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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Fred and Phyllis

Both Fred Willard and Phyllis George died last week.

Some thoughts...

Willard appeared on my radar in the late 70's, playing the Ed McMahon type sidekick on "Fernwood 2Night" and then "America 2Night."  There are some episodes floating around on YouTube.  Long story short, the shows were take offs on a low rent talk show.  Martin Mull played Barth Gimble, the sleazy host.  Willard's character, Jerry Hubbard was constantly befuddled, and he was too nice for Gimble's antics.

Willard played a lot of those befuddled characters over the years.  Unlike others who have made a career of it, Will Ferrell for example, Willard always did it with warmth and charm, and occasionally some cleverly disguised wit.

Fred Willard was 86.

I do not remember Phyllis George winning the Miss America pageant, but I vividly recall her CBS "NFL Today" days.  That show was a game changer.  Before the "NFL Today" came along, pre game shows were dull and sleepy affairs, comprised mostly of highlights from the previous week's games.    CBS turned the format on its head, putting on a newsy affair, looking ahead rather than behind.

The "NFL Today" fired on all cylinders.  The great Brent Musberger did the NFL news and held it all together.  Irv Cross was the x's and o's guy, providing the nuts and bolts.  George did the interviews and features.-- and they did it all in a half hour.  The early days of the FOX pre game show came close, but nothing matched the "NFL Today."  It became even more of a "must watch" when Jimmy the Greek came on board to predict games.  The NFL wouldn't let him talk about point spreads, but you knew how The Greek felt if he said "little" or "big" check mark next to the teams he favored.

Others have written eloquently on how George broke barriers for women.  She did her job and paved the way for others to follow.

Phyllis George spent a disastrous eight months on the "CBS Morning News."  She was OK.  I think the problems were more of a production issue and CBS really didn't know what it wanted to do in the morning.  There was some hard news success with Diane Sawyer and Bill Kurtis.  Sawyer left for "60 Minutes," and some CBS genius thought it was a good idea to go soft.  How did that work out for you?

Phyllis George died from a blood disorder.  She was only 70 years old.