Posts Tagged ‘Michael Eisner’

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.

2012 TV Hall of Fame Gala: A Night of Glamour and Giggles

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

As the social media guru for the Archive of American Television, I was honored to attend last night’s 21st Annual Television Hall of Fame Gala at the Beverly Hills Hotel on behalf of the Archive. As a television history scholar and a huge fan of pretty much all things TV, I was blown away by the sheer amount of talent present in the ballroom. Honorees from the beginning of television, to those running today’s top programs were in attendance, bringing some of the best in the business together under one roof for a truly memorable evening.

Performers Vivian Vance and Bill Frawley, executive Michael Eisner, show creator/producer Chuck Lorre, executive producers Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray, host Mario Kreutzberger (aka Don Francisco), and lighting director Bill Klages became the newest inductees into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame. Honoree Sherman Hemsley was unable to attend the ceremony and will be inducted at a later date.

Some highlights of the evening:

* Being on the red carpet and seeing “Caroline Appleby” herself walk by, the still-glamorous Doris Singleton, on-hand to honor I Love Lucy co-star, Vivian Vance.

* Honoree Jonathan Murray sharing the secret of his success: “I surround myself with strong women.” He spoke lovingly about production partner and fellow inductee, Mary-Ellis Bunim, who passed away in 2004 and was inducted posthumously at last night’s ceremony. Bunim’s daughter, Juliana, accepted the honor on behalf of her mother.

* Lighting designer Bill Klages’ stories of shows on which he’s worked and performers whom he’s lit – Milton Berle always wanted to be able to see the audience, Dick Clark often thinks the audience is too bright, Marlo Thomas told him in his lighting she looks beautiful, and Barbra Streisand once simply said to him, “this is the worst lighting ever.”

* Univision President Cesar Conde presenting to Mario Kreutzberger: “Kreutzberger is the first Hispanic since Desi Arnaz to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

* Barry and Stan Livingston of My Three Sons telling tales of co-star William Frawley: it used to be Stan’s job to get Frawley back to the studio and keep him awake after Frawley enjoyed several cocktails at lunch.

* Warner Brothers Executive Peter Roth imparting the knowledge that Chuck Lorre has created/co-created six hit sitcoms, the most since Norman Lear and Garry Marshall.

* Marshall himself welcoming friend Michael Eisner into the Hall of Fame, joking that he wouldn’t be where he is today without two people: God, and Michael Eisner, and sometimes it’s easy to mistake one for the other.

* Being in a room with host Jon Cryer. As a child of the ’80s, Cryer will always be “Duckie” from Pretty in Pink to me, and to anyone from my generation. He’s fantastic as “Alan Harper” on Two and a Half Men, but I secretly hoped he would channel “Duckie” and suddenly break out into Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” at any moment.

Thanks to last night’s program, I now know that Chuck Lorre is “a giggler” according to the cast members of his shows, and they consider Lorre’s laugh to be the gold star they hope to receive after shooting a scene; Happy Days‘ “Fonz” was originally going to have the last name Masciarelli (Garry Marshall’s real last name) and be shortened to “Mash”, but since M*A*S*H was on the air at the time and two TV Mashes might be confusing, the name was changed to Fonzarelli; and the script for Pretty Woman was originally called 3000. The things you learn at the TV Hall of Fame ceremony. I may be out of grad school now, but hearing television and film tidbits from the masters themselves is a pretty great continuing education course.

Emmys.com has footage of last night’s event – check out the red carpet arrivals:

And watch the presenter tributes and inductee acceptance speeches to see what your favorite moments of the evening are. My advice: keep an eye out for a special message from James Burrows for a particularly great line that got a lengthy laugh. With all the comedy talent present last night, don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing as if you’re watching your favorite TV shows: a lot of the people responsible for them were in the room, doing what they do best – bringing smiles to hundreds of faces.

- by Adrienne Faillace

2012 Television Academy Hall of Fame

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Two and a Half Men star and Emmy winner Jon Cryer will host tonight’s 21st Annual Television Hall of Fame Gala at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Performers Vivian Vance and Bill Frawley, executive Michael Eisner, show creator-producer Chuck Lorre, executive producers Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray, host Mario Kreutzberger (aka Don Francisco), and lighting director Bill Klages will become the newest inductees into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame.

Presenters at tonight’s ceremony include: Gail Berman presenting to Mary-Ellis Bunim & Jonathan Murray, Garry Marshall presenting to Michael Eisner, Sofia Vergara presenting to Mario Kreutzberger, Walter Miller presenting to Bill Klages, Peter Roth presenting to Chuck Lorre, Doris Singleton presenting to Vivian Vance, and Barry & Stan Livingston presenting to William Frawley. Mary-Ellis Bunim, Vivian Vance and William Frawley will be inducted posthumously.

The Archive of American Television has conducted interviews with several of the new honorees, and with many of their colleagues. Below enjoy selections from Archive interviews with or touting this year’s Hall of Fame inductees:

Congratulations to all of the honorees!

More from our Featured Story on the 21st Annual Hall of Fame Inductees.

TV Academy Announces 21st Annual Hall of Fame Inductees

Monday, November 28th, 2011

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Hall of Fame Committee has selected performers Vivian Vance and Bill Frawley, executive Michael Eisner, show creator-producer Chuck Lorre, executive producers Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray, actor Sherman Hemsley, host Mario Kreutzberger (aka Don Francisco), and lighting director Bill Klages as the newest inductees into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame. The group will be honored at the 21st Annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony held at The Beverly Hills Hotel on March 1st, 2012.

“The group of inductees for this year’s Hall of Fame has had a remarkable impact in all areas of the television industry, from performers and hosts to producers and executives,” said Mark Itkin, chair of the Hall of Fame selection committee. “It is a tremendous privilege to chair this committee and be able to honor this group with the recognition that they so greatly deserve.”

The Archive of American Television has conducted interviews with several of the new honorees, and with many of their colleagues. Below enjoy selections from Archive interviews with or touting this year’s Hall of Fame inductees:

I Love Lucy actress Doris Singleton and director William Asher on Vivian Vance and William Frawley:

Michael Eisner on how television has changed and where it’s headed:

Melissa McCarthy on how Chuck Lorre fought for her to play “Molly” on Mike and Molly:

Tom Freston on the creation of Bunim/Murray’s The Real World:

Sherman Hemsley on developing his famous character, “George Jefferson:”

Mario Kreutzberger aka Don Francisco on hosting Sabado Gigante:

Bill Klages on directing the lighting for JFK’s inaugural gala:

More from our Featured Story on the 21st Annual Hall of Fame Inductees.