Posts Tagged ‘ABC’

Ellen Comes Out: “The Puppy Episode” Aired 15 Years Ago

Monday, April 30th, 2012

TV Land ranked it as the only television episode to garner a 10/10 in historical significance, and it came in at #21 on their list of Top 100 Sitcom Episodes of All Time. TV Guide listed it at #35 of The 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time. “The Puppy Episode” of Ellen, in which lead character “Ellen Morgan,” played by Ellen DeGeneres, comes out as a lesbian, first aired on April 30, 1997 on ABC. It was the first network TV sitcom to have an openly gay lead character.

Prior to Ellen, broadcast television had dabbled in storylines about homosexuality. The 1972 ABC Movie of the Week “That Certain Summer” focused on the relationship between partners “Doug Salter” (Hal Holbrook) and “Gary McClain” (Martin Sheen) and was the first television movie to bring a homosexual relationship to the forefront. Billy Crystal’s “Jodie Dallas” on the 1977 series Soap was openly gay, yet a supporting character. 1981’s Love, Sidney featured Tony Randall playing “Sidney Shorr,” a gay man living with friend Laurie and her daughter, but the series avoided mention of “Sidney’s” personal life and largely only hinted at his sexual orientation. With “The Puppy Episode,” “Ellen Morgan” became the first broadcast, prime-time, sitcom character to openly discuss her homosexuality, and also have it woven into subsequent storylines in the show.

There was quite a build-up in the weeks leading up to the hour-long episode, which coincided with DeGeneres’ real-life revelation about her own sexuality. Oprah Winfrey guest-starred as “Ellen’s” therapist, Laura Dern as “Ellen’s” crush Susan, and Steven Eckholdt as “Ellen’s” college buddy, Richard. Here’s the pivotal scene of the episode:

“The Puppy Episode” aired in Season 4 and took some effort to get on the air. In the summer of 1996, DeGeneres told Disney Executive Dean Valentine that she wanted her character to come out:

According to Disney Exec Michael Eisner, he, too had a conversation with DeGeneres, and shares his take on the episode and remainder of the series:

Valentine explains the production process on “The Puppy Episode”once the decision was made to have “Ellen Morgan” come out:

Ellen lasted for one more season after “The Puppy Episode” aired, ending in 1998. Since Ellen, several network shows have featured gay and lesbian leads and/or continuing romantic storylines with gay characters: Will & Grace, Brothers & Sisters, Desperate Housewives, Pretty Little Liars, Glee … and cable has seen The L Word and now LOGO network which features LGBT programming.

Though Ellen left the air over a decade ago, DeGeneres began hosting talk-show Ellen: The Ellen Degeneres Show in 2003, which is syndicated nationally and still going strong. Sometimes Oprah appears as a guest on that show, too.

“What’s up, Doc?” Saturday Mornings with Bugs Began 50 Years Ago

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

Somewhere in your memory there’s likely an image of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck donning hats and canes, singing “This is It.” That was the intro to The Bugs Bunny Show, which debuted on Saturday mornings on April 7, 1962 and became the longest, continuously-running morning children’s program in network TV history.

The Bugs Bunny Show actually premiered in primetime 2 years earlier, on October 11, 1960, and ran through September 25, 1962 on ABC ’s Tuesday nights from 7:30-8:00pm. (1960 was a big year for primetime cartoons -The Filnstones premiered that same season.) The program was developed for television after ABC President Ollie Treyz learned that WGN Chicago enjoyed ratings success by airing Bugs Bunny cartoons in primetime. ABC promptly purchased all Warner Brothers theatrical cartoons that had not yet been released for TV and packaged them into a half-hour program with new introductions and transitions by the Warner Brothers characters. While still airing in primetime, an A.M. version began airing on ABC on April 7, 1962 – the program generations of children would come to equate with Saturday mornings.

The shorts within the show were never intended to solely appeal to kids. The Warner Brothers cartoons were created for theatrical release as entertainment before the main film began, not as sketches for a children’s television program. Kids and adults have been loving them for decades now.

The Saturday morning show employed several names over the years (The Bugs Bunny Show, The Bugs Bunny-Roadrunner Show, The Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes Comedy Hour, The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show) and ran on ABC from 1962-68 (on Sunday mornings during the final year), on CBS from 1968-73, back on ABC from 1973-75, again on CBS from 1975-85, and once more on ABC from 1985-2000. Mel Blanc did all of the original voices, and Archive interviewee Chuck Jones animated and created several of the legendary Warner Brothers characters.

Chuck Jones on creating Bugs Bunny:

And on putting together shorts for The Bugs Bunny Show:

Bugs got an afternoon show on the WB from 1996-98 (Bugs ‘n’ Daffy), but is no longer a part of the Saturday morning cartoon block on network television. Cartoon Network now owns the rights to the Looney Toons/Merrie Melodies library and Bugs and friends can still be seen there.

That’s all, Folks!

Watch animator Chuck Jones’ full interview and visit our Bugs Bunny Show page for more info.

- by Adrienne Faillace

Lessons in Lighting Design from Imero Fiorentino

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Even if you haven’t heard of Imero Fiorentino, chances are you’re familiar with his work. He was the lighting designer on may of ABC’s earliest programs, including U.S. Steel Hour, Omnibus, Paul Whiteman’s Goodyear Revue, and Tales of Tomorrow. He lit the scene for Telstar I’s first live transatlantic transmission on July 10, 1962, and he designed the lighting for the World Showcase Pavilions at Disney’s Epcot Center.

Perhaps the most famous broadcasts with which Fiorentino was involved: he lit the second, third and fourth Kennedy-Nixon debates after Nixon looked so undesirable in the first debate:

Learn more about the craft of lighting design by watching Imero Fiorentino’s full interview.