New/Old Faces

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other other agency, organization, employer or company. 

While there hasn’t been much action on the fields this summer, it has actually been a pretty busy last 6-8 weeks in terms of the amount of turnover for some pretty big head coaching and athletic director positions in the Lehigh Valley.

The area said goodbye to three head coaches, each with incredible longevity at their respective schools:

Mike Grasso at Bethlehem Catholic – 45 years

Doug Snyder at Allen HS – 24 years

Chad Landis at Liberty HS – 20 years (12 as a head coach, 8 more as an assistant)

All three were on our RCN SportsTalk show this spring (each one had their own show) and told stories of their careers, their programs’ highlights, lessons learned and the many student-athletes their teachings impacted. (RCN customers can see these exclusive interviews for free through RCN On Demand).

Likewise, over the last month, we’ve also talked to a number of new head coaches and athletic directors – some with some pretty big shoes to fill (their stories also were told on SportsTalk to hear them in their own words).

One person who I did want to focus on today was the new Hurricanes Boys Basketball Head Coach, Nigel Long.

Nigel was a great student and basketball player at Freedom High School. After one year playing college ball outside of the area, he transferred back to the Valley to have a very successful playing career at Muhlenberg College.

Since then he has been a great AAU head coach, an assistant coach at Bethlehem Catholic and a mentor to a lot of young people in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Nigel was on a Freedom team that wasn’t the tallest team, nor a squad with what the basketball experts would call a top-tier, talent-laden team “on paper.” However, his Patriots squads always battled hard and made for competitive games, even when being the underdog.  I believed his teams installed a work ethic that continued after Nigel’s graduation – one that culminated in his school’s first District XI championship in decades, this past winter.

I made a point of mentioning on our sports program that I believe Long may be the most significant hiring, in a summer in which so many great names and qualified basketball individuals were given new positions.  This includes Long’s mentor, Darnell Braswell, who takes over the William Allen basketball program.  The former Canary great  — another local product who had an outstanding playing career locally — took over the Allen head coaching position just a few days after Long was approved by the Bethlehem Area School District School Board to take over at Liberty.

The Hurricanes are no doubt a team in transition as they lost one of the most underrated and best all-around players to graduation.  Long will be responsible for cultivating a new leader after the departure of Will Harper, who played varsity basketball for his entire four-year career.

Likewise, Liberty has a number of freshmen and sophomores who will be responsible for stepping up their games and keeping the program playing at a high level.

Furthermore, I’ve heard from insiders in the Bethlehem community that there’s a number of very talented 7th and 8th graders coming into the program this year and Nigel will be responsible for implementing his hard-working and aggressive, defense-driven style of play that he was so well-known for during his playing days.

It should also be noted that with the hiring of Long, Braswell and Dieruff High School’s Marlon Randall, the Lehigh Valley tripled the number of African-American head basketball coaches within a 10-day span.  As far as I can remember, this number had never been more than one at any given time during the same calendar year.

Each of these head coaches discussed the cultural significance of this fact and other ways their hiring will positively impact their respective communities. I enjoyed my conversations with each of these men on our most recent shows.  I am very much looking forward to working with them and hope I have the opportunities to announce their games this winter.

Thanks to all of our local coaches and administrators for being on our show and best of luck on the new chapter in your careers!

Kidding Ourselves?

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

The dominoes are slowly falling on playing college football this fall.  In March, if you recall, once college basketball was canceled and March Madness would not be held, the entire sports world – professional, college, and high school – all called it quits for the rest of the professional and academic year.  It was rightfully determined that it was just not safe to play.

Have things really changed since then?  Sure there were signs that we just might be starting to win the battle as New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were beginning to emerge from the horrible numbers they were experiencing in the first few months.  We all believed everything could get better.

But have things really gotten better?  In states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, and Georgia we have seen examples of what can happen when we try so very hard to get back to a semblance of normalcy.  It does not work.  And what about the warnings that a second wave is imminent?  The current circumstances are still part of Wave One!

Playing sports, particularly football, this fall just does not seem to be right.  Everyone agrees that a reduced schedule, a late start, and a plethora of restrictions need to be in place in order to have a chance for competition to occur.

But, this is football.  This is 22 players on the field with or without masks, without social distancing, barking out signals, sweating profusely, and creating contact on every play.

In other words, this is everything we are currently being told NOT to do!

Already, there have been setbacks.  The Ivy League will play football in the spring.  The Big Ten will drop all of their independent games and may very well move their schedule to the spring.  The Centennial Conference, which includes local colleges, Moravian and Muhlenberg, has already determined it will not play football or any other sport in the fall.  I am sure that those conferences that are holding out hope that there will be a season realize deep down that is probably not going to happen.

So what will high school sports do?  The PIAA is rather adamant that they want to play.  I am just as adamant that I want them to play.  But at the risk of what – the health and well-being of the young people they oversee.  High school administrators do not have the luxury of postponing the fall season to the spring.  Many, many high school athletes play a variety of sports in a given year, not just football.  If there are no games this fall, there will be no games this year.  High schools followed colleges when it came to canceling their spring sports.  I suspect they will follow colleges again this fall.

No one wants to see the return of athletic competition more than I do.  Not only is it responsible for my vocation; it is also because of the love I have for sports.  I hate the fact that a senior would not get the opportunity to play a final season.  I hate the fact that parents would not revel in the trials and successes of their children.  I also hate the fact that the victims of this awful virus had nothing to do with the cause.

Sports did not cause the virus, but we do know what spreads the virus.  Sadly, athletic competition could easily do that.  If we do not believe that, then we are kidding ourselves.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The Washington Redskins are in the midst of a marketing nightmare. Anytime a company wants to change their logo or nickname, it usually takes a couple of years to get that accomplished.  New graphics, new clothing, new signage, etc. are all part of creating a new identity.  Time is one thing, I suspect, the Washington franchise does not have.  To keep their sponsors, they are almost forced to get rid of their nickname ASAP.  That is not an easy task.
  1. No team was more distraught this past week than the Philadelphia Eagles. DeSean Jackson’s anti-Semitic remarks created a “shot heard ‘round the world”.  His words were appalling and the response was immediate.  I did find it somewhat comforting that some were willing to educate Jackson about his comments.  If, indeed, they were said out of ignorance, then educating him is essential.  He was punished by the team.  Will the public forgive him?
  1. The Patriot League this week announced that there will be no fall sports. As you know, Lafayette and Lehigh have the distinction of being college football’s most-played rivalry. This year would be the 156th time they would meet. Will it happen at all?
  1. Due to quarantine regulations in Canada, Toronto Blue Jays players must not leave their hotel during their home games for the rest of the summer. If they do, they would face substantial fines and up to six months in jail.  I expect many players will balk at this.
  1. The Phillies will officially open their season on July 24 against the Marlins. Next up will be the Yankees at home for two games and then on to play at Yankee Stadium on July 29.  The first pitch cannot come soon enough!

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Ozzie and Harriet” Origins

The views expressed in this blog arethose of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances. 

When one talks about the show that’s the typical, quintessential 1950s “TV family,” you need to look no further than “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” program.

But do you know how this television show came to fruition?

Ozzie Nelson was an orchestra leader who sometimes teamed with Harriet (born Peggy Lou Snyder) for events before both were asked to appear at the same time on a national radio show called “The Baker’s Broadcast” in the early 1930s.  One of the initial hosts of the show was Robert Ripley (remember “Ripley’s ‘Believe It or Not?’ “)

Ozzie and Harriet married in 1935 and decided, as opposed to continuing to work independently, they would see more of each other by working the same gigs.

Featured appearances on some of the top radio programs in the 1940s included “The Red Skelton Show,” “The Fred Allen Show” and “Suspense,” which led to their own radio vehicle.

When Skeleton was drafted in 1944, Ozzie was left to create his own family situation comedy on Red’s program, giving him valuable experience he would need a couple years later to develop his own television show.

The Ozzie and Harriet radio program actually switched networks, from CBS to NBC and finally to ABC, who was significantly behind the other two networks in the Hooper ratings that were used at that time. In the late 1940s, all three networks started looking at existing radio shows that could successfully make the transition to television.  Because ABC was desperate to hold on to their talent and not lose them to the other two networks, they pretty much offered the Nelsons carte blanche when it came to creating their own television program.

First of all, Ozzie and Harriet never had to produce a pilot episode for ABC. Instead, the couple’s successful movie, “Here Comes the Nelsons,” was used to convince the network that America would fall in love with this real-life family.

Also, before a single episode aired, Ozzie convinced ABC to guarantee them a 10-year contract.  This meant that regardless of whether or not the series would ever be canceled, the entire family would still get paid for a decade–a virtually unheard of television contract concession, even to this day.

The contract actually turned out to be a godsend for the network and not as much for the Nelsons as the show became an instant hit and easily surpassed the 10-year contract, making it the first weekly prime-time scripted television program ever to last for more than a decade.

In all, the series would go on for a record-setting 14-year sojourn on television alone.

We’ll have more on this program’s legacy coming up in a future blog post.

In the meantime, you can visit with the Nelsons yourself.  “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” airs weekly on Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. on RCN-TV.

Plus…we’re hosting an “Ozzie and Harriet” mini-marathon this Monday evening starting at 9 pm on RCN-TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Hoops ’20 (Round 1)

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

Normally by this time every year, I have annually made my way out to at least a few dozen of the summer basketball league games and to two or three (or more) different tournaments that feature teams from the RCN coverage areas in Lehigh Valley, the Delaware Valley and even teams from the Washington, DC area.

Obviously, those plans have been put on hold, with a number of spring and summer tournaments canceling their usual events.

In speaking to several of the local summer basketball organizers, there remains some optimism that, while the full slate of “summer league” games will not be played, there could be some events over the next two months to give the kids a little bit of outdoor basketball activities in late July or August.

Thinking of these games made me look through my computer and discover there were quite a bit of “new” pictures that I took at last year’s summer games that never saw the light of day because of space and never made it to our website.

As fate would have it, I’d like to present a whole batch of these never-before-seen summer basketball pictures as we reflect on last year’s outdoor basketball action.  I will continue to be in contact with summer basketball league organizers over the next several weeks.  I very much hope that I will be able to pass along some positive news soon for summer hoops fans on “SportsTalk” and here at “The Shop.”

In the meantime, we look back on the action from last year…

Keep checking back to the “SportsTalk Shop” for the latest news – positive or negative – regarding summer basketball, or any other local sports, returning to action in the RCN viewing areas this year.

 

 

 

Reflection #1

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

BEHIND THE MIC:

It has come to this.  After months of sitting down to write a sports blog and having virtually no sports to write about, I have hit what you might call a virtual writer’s block.  There is little to write about.  The evidence is that even the local papers have reduced their sports sections to an average of 4-5 pages.  The stories remain basically the same everyday and can be summed up in one question, “Will they play or won’t they?”

So, I have decided to reflect back, when necessary, on some of my stories over the last 50 years of broadcasting.  I hopefully can still entertain you when there just doesn’t seem to be anything current to write about.  This week, I thought I would begin with the sport that was the most challenging over the years – soccer!

In 1975, I received a summer-time call from Twin-County General Manager, Don Berner.  He wanted to know if I could do play-by-play for soccer.  My mind immediately thought that this had to be a local tournament with kids, since it was not soccer season.  High schools played in the fall.  Being a teacher, I had the summer months off and I was always looking for some extra money.  I said, “Yes”.

Truth be told, I had never seen a soccer match.  I mean I knew that the object was to put the ball in the goal, but beyond that – nothing else.  But, these must be kids.  How hard could it be?

Mr. Berner then went on to say that Twin-County Cable had just signed a contract with the Philadelphia Atoms of the North American Soccer League and we were going to do the rest of their home games at Veterans Stadium, the home, at the time, of the Phillies.  He gave me a date:  two days later and a time to report to the stadium.  I hung up the phone and began to panic.  How was I going to broadcast a game being played at the highest level in this country, not knowing rules, positions, strategies, etc.?

The teacher in me kicked in.  I would learn by reading.  I went to my high school’s library and took out the three books they had on soccer.  I was actually teaching speed reading at the time and had no problem reading the three books in record time.  I took notes and, when I was finished, I felt comfortable that I had a basic understanding of the rules and the responsibilities of the positions on the “pitch” (I learned that was the word for “field” in soccer).  Using that term, I thought, would impress a listener right away.

Two days later, I gathered my notes, jumped in my car, and headed to Veterans Stadium.  I had my own parking space, was ushered into the stadium, and was escorted to the press room.  There, I found a nice Italian buffet awaiting and was joined by other members of the media.  I could get used to this and I liked the way things were going.

My color analyst was a British man who worked with my wife and said he knew soccer.  His name was Donald Hawksworth, which, in itself, gave him credibility.  He was from Europe and had an accent.  And I had no choice but to trust him.  Everything seemed to be going well.

At 7:00, we were taken to the broadcasting booth.  We had leather recliners, sat on the mid-field line, and had a perfect view of the action.  I was handed a press kit with the starting lineups.  I looked at the positions and they were ALL different (except for goalie) than the positions I had memorized.  The books I read were very old and the position names had all changed.  I was back to square one and kick-off was less than 15 minutes away.  I did not know the positions and I certainly did not know their responsibilities.  But, there was no turning back.

We did the game.  It’s all a blur today, but I got through it.  Hawkworth’s British accent did not hurt – he sounded very credible and he did know the game.  I’m sure I sounded like an idiot who did not know the game, but I knew enough to let the Brit do most of the analysis.  I tried not to get in the way.

This was a big moment for our company – a sports contract with a Philadelphia pro team.  The owner of the company, Bark Lee Yee, sat in the production truck the whole time and at the end of the broadcast he said in my ear that I did a good job.

It was quite apparent at that moment that he did not know soccer either.

No sport has caused me more television distress than soccer and I have more painful stories to tell, but let’s hope we can get back to real sports and I do not have to drag them out.  You probably hope the same thing.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The NFL has decided to drop two of the four scheduled preseason games. The players union would like them to drop them all.  This is a decision that I care absolutely nothing about.  I do not like any preseason game.  Next year, there will be three preseason games (down one) and 17 regular season games (up one).
  1. The Ivy League looks like they will be playing their football in the spring. Lafayette has already canceled their first two college football games.  Nothing on the horizon looks promising for any games in the fall.  The landscape changes every day and not for the better.
  1. A computer science college professor estimates that 50% of college football players could contract the coronavirus if the 2020 season is played. That would mean another 7,500 cases and a projection of 3-7 deaths.
  1. The five greatest Lehigh Valley Girls team was announced this week. The members are Laura Newhard (Northampton), Debbie Christman (Emmaus), Jackie Adamshick (Central Catholic), Nicole Levandusky (Palmerton), and Michelle Marciniak (Central Catholic).  Just like the boys’ team, I think the fans got them exactly right.  Wow – what a team!!
  1. Now that it appears the Washington Redskins will change their team nickname, how many other colleges, high schools, and pro teams will be forced to do the same? I played for the Wilson Warriors, but being called a Warrior was a good thing, right?  I am not sure.

 

HS All-Stars 2020 (Round 2)

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

A few weeks back here at “The Shop,” we started to bring you all the All-Stars for the past sports season involving teams in the RCN-TV viewing area.

We continue to honor those student-athletes this week. We’ll start in the DMV area by taking a look at those recognized for high school basketball.

First, here’s the DC State Athletic League releasing their girls and boys list, followed by teams identified by “Major Moves” spotlighting players from Virginia.

Next, here are the scholar-athlete award winners for District 11 for this past school year:

2A Scholar Athlete Winner
Harrison Bernhard- Northwestern Lehigh HS

3A Scholar Athlete Winner
Kenny Herrmann- Bethlehem Catholic HS

2A Essay Winner
Andrew Cerniglia- Notre Dame Green Pond HS

3A Essay Winner
Caden Wright- Emmaus HS

Here are the wrestling student-athlete award winners from each school in both the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and the Colonial League:

2019-20 DXI WCA Scholar Athlete Information

And last but not least, the EPC girls and boys Sportsmanship Award Winners for the 2019-20 school year:

Avery Francis (Stroudsburg)
&
Sheamus McConnell (Pocono Mountain West)

Remember to keep checking back here at “The Shop” for more recognition of our local high school student-athletes’ achievements throughout the year and congratulations to this year’s honorees!

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Victory At Sea

The views expressed in this blog arethose of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances. 

For the many people who will be staying home for this year’s Fourth of July or for people who have RCN’s TiVo and DVR products, a tremendous way to spend the holiday would be to watch the documentary series marathon, “Victory at Sea” (followed by an encore performance of the 2019 Allentown Fireworks Spectacular).

This Emmy-Award Winning, limited-run series on NBC recounts historic battles and key moments in the United States victory over the Axis powers in World War II.

The idea for the show came from United States Navy Lieutenant Commander Harry Salomon.  While working on writing a historical review of World War II, Solomon uncovered millions of feet of actual newsreel footage, covering the wars’ darkest moments and the Allied Forces’s greatest victories.

After leaving the Navy in 1948 Solomon and fellow Harvard grad Robert Sarnoff, who was the son of NBC President David Sarnoff, approached the network about making a documentary series based on this footage.

The series was green-lighted by NBC for a whopping $500,000 budget (one of the largest of the time period) and was an instant hit.

The scenes were accompanied by legendary songwriter / composer Richard Rodgers, who was coming off several huge Broadway hits and is one of just two people ever to win an Emmy, a Tony, a Grammy, an Academy Award and a Pulitzer prize.

Excerpts from this soundtrack have been used for many movies, television shows and special events ever since.

After its network run, the footage was re-edited again with a brand new narration and was released as a self-contained hour and a half long featured film.  A few years later, NBC re-edited the footage a third time for a television movie showing. Its success had also included a successful spin-off show called, “Project Twenty.”

See the best moments of the “Victory at Sea” saga as part of a special Independence Day marathon on RCN-TV, followed by the Allentown Fireworks Show.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

 

 

Too Much to Watch?

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Maybe (and it’s a big maybe) a plethora of professional sports will return very shortly.  There certainly can be an argument made that it is foolhardy to come back when it appears the virus is also making a comeback.

But, for arguments sake, let’s assume that the current return of sports will come off as planned. A sports fan will find him or herself moving from four months of virtually nothing to watch except reruns of past games to figuring out what sport(s) deserve his utmost attention. All major sport organizations – MLB, NBA, WNBA, NHL, NFL, MLS, and NWSL are scheduled to come back in the next few months.

Here are the plans:

MLB – Baseball teams will start play July 23 and 24. Teams will play a 60-game schedule and there will be some significant rule changes for the season. There will be a designated hitter used by all teams. Extra innings will start with a runner on second base. Any position player can pitch and a pitcher must face at least three batters, if necessary, in a given half inning. Teams will play against their division rivals 40 times and their regional rivals 20 times. The NL East will play the AL East in the regional rivalry games.

NBA – The National Basketball association will resume on July 30. Twenty-two teams will participate for the eight spots in the run to the playoffs. All games will be played near Orlando at the Disney World athletic complex. Florida virus numbers have soared in the past ten days. Eighty-eight games will be played in 16 days to determine playoff seeding.

NHL – The National Hockey League is set to skate back on July 30. Twenty-four teams will vie for the Stanley Cup. Sixteen teams will play eight best-of-5 series and the top four teams in each conference will play a round-robin to determine seeds. With that said, some contractual issues came up again this week that might make players reconsider their willingness to compete.

WNBA – The Women’s National Basketball Association will begin play in July in Florida. The teams will play a 22-game schedule followed by the playoffs. All games will be played in Florida.

MLS and NWSL – Men’s soccer will resume with a tournament beginning in Florida on July 8 and the women will start this weekend.

NFL – Games in the National Football League kick off on September 10. But, each day more cases are reported and there has been an upsurge of late approaching the numbers which were seen back in April.

Since almost everything is televised somewhere these days, will there be too much to watch or will owners and players realize in the next month that the risk is too great to play at all? Schedules are made and ready to be implemented. Will the players risk their health for their paychecks? The next few weeks are critical for owners, athletes, and fans. Lately, the news is not good.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. The Phillies did not benefit from the revised MLB schedule. Only the Marlins and the Baltimore Orioles look like “patsies” on their schedule. The Nationals, Braves, Mets, Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox could all be better than
the Phils.

2. Baseball, by the way, will be played in the home ball parks and may allow fans depending on the particular state guidelines in place at the time. Some stadiums will have fans; some will not. Unfair advantage? Wait and see.

3. The 76ers had the best home record of any NBA team before the shutdown.  They were an amazing 27-2. However, they were 10-24 on the road. This is the second worse road record of the 22 teams competing in the playoffs. The rest of their games this year will be played in Florida. The 76ers need to figure out how to win on the road.

4. Baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer will all have playoffs when the NFL is beginning and this is the time when we might see the surge in infections that some expect will occur when a second wave hits us. The outlook remains precarious at best.

5. At least there is golf. I have gotten used to watching without fans and still enjoying the competition. The PGA has had three terrific weekends and without the presence of Tiger. But, seven of their players were forced to
withdraw this past week in order to self quarantine. And golf allows for social distancing.

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “The Lucy Show” Legacy

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Last week here at the Classic Video Showplace, we took a look at the origins and beginning of “The Lucy Show,” the first series starring Lucille Ball after her record-setting role in her nine-year run as Lucy Ricardo with real-life husband, Desi Arnaz.

(The cast of “The Lucy Show” through the first three seasons)

Like her initial TV series, “The Lucy Show” was well-received by critics and fans alike and quickly became a top 20 staple in the Nielsen television ratings.

By the end of the show’s first season on the air, Arnaz, tired of the business aspect of the entertainment industry, asked Ball to buy him out as co-president of the show’s production company, Desilu.

Lucille took full control of the show’s direction from season two onward, and later named her new husband, Gary Morton, as co-executive producer.

After its first three, rather smooth years on television, this series was in for a rocky, yet equally successful run during the rest of its years on TV.

During the summer hiatus between the series’ third and fourth seasons (back when television seasons actually lasted nearly an entire year), Vance decided to step away from the project (more on that in a moment.)

Vance was initially replaced by Ann Southern (who then left because she demanded, but was denied, sharing top-billing with Lucy).  Joan Blondell, who was also a friend of Ball’s, was then brought in as her sidekick.  Despite the friendship, Lucille realized the on-camera chemistry was not working between the two and quickly replaced her with Mary Jane Croft, appearing in a different role than she had performed earlier in the series.  (Croft also played several characters on the original show, including the role of Lucy’s neighbor during “I Love Lucy’s” sixth season – the last of the 30-minute editions of this program.)

Vance’s departure from the show evolved from a continuing rift between her and Ball–one that started over miscommunication between both actors’ agents, studio executives and the show’s producers.  Vance would later return to appear on the show on a part-time basis and, eventually, the long-standing friendship between the two was renewed.

An argument between Ball and her longtime “Lucy” writing staff (two of which had worked with Lucy since her radio show, “My Favorite Husband”, in the 1940s) led to their dismissal. Lucille’s on-camera children were also fired from the show (despite Candy Moore becoming a very popular teen idol at that time) and the setting for the program shifted to a new location, with no mention of her children again for the rest of the show’s run.

One of the reasons for the show’s move to California: to make it more realistic when special guest stars would happen to cross paths with Lucy in her adventures.

Ball made another shrewd business decision as executive producer:  despite less than 5% of Americans having color television sets in 1963, she insisted on filming the episodes in color, pointing out they could make more money in syndication with colorized episodes.  Even so, CBS rejected that idea and continued to broadcast these shows in black-and-white for two more seasons, even though they were filmed in color.

Also, unlike most shows that were being produced in the early 1960s, “The Lucy Show” was filmed in front of a live audience (with a laugh track added only for jokes that did not get a good response).  The studio audience became a staple for many sitcoms in the decade that followed.

While Ball rarely ad-libbed lines during this production, there were several episodes in which mishaps occurred during filming that made it to the final cut.

One example included Lucy getting trapped in a shower filled with rapidly rising water, and Vance, without breaking character, was left to improv and create lines in order to buy time for Ball to recover from her unintentional misadventure. The scene, with a mistake and all, made it to the final version of the episode.

Another famous experience included fellow legendary comedians Bob Hope and Jack Benny trying to outdo each other with one liners while the cameras continue to roll without interruption.  While the live audience never seemed to catch on to these unexpected lines and occurrences, it’s fun to go back and watch an episode like this to see how these talented actors responded when things went off script.

The show itself was never canceled. Instead, Ball, tired of running the large Desilu Productions, sold the company to Paramount, and with it the rights to this incarnation of her show. The very next year she formed a new, smaller production unit (with herself as the creative head) and launched the equally popular “Here’s Lucy” sitcom, which ran for six additional seasons. 

You can see “The Lucy Show,” every Wednesday morning at 11am on RCN-TV.

To see the full listing of classic programming on RCN, check out the weekly listings here on our website. 

 

 

SportsTalk’s Top 10 — Part 2

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other other agency, organization, employer or company.

As part of the 15-year anniversary of the RCN SportsTalk program we are celebrating this month, I started compiling a list of the top 10 shows that come to mind when looking back at the show’s history (see our previous blog for entries #1-#5).

Here are entries #6-#10, in no particular order:

6) Joe Craig, Gary Laubach & Dick Tracy – the pilot show

You never forget your first show…although, it seemed if you blinked, this one was over in a flashAlthough a lot has evolved since that first program, one of the first — and biggest — changes since the first few shows was that the program was only 30 minutes long back then.  With these three legendary sports personalities on for just a half hour, this program seemed to end shortly after we started.  Subsequent weeks revealed that, because of the outstanding talent we have as guests each week, the show had to expand to a 60-minute format, which we have continued to this day. Unlike most television shows now-a-days that are reducing their shows’ length to try to improve their pacing to meet people’s shortening attention spans, I’m proud to say that when our hour is up, guests and viewers alike always say, “Hey, I wish we had another hour to talk more.” 

7) Olympian Joetta Clark Diggs

I’m cheating here as we have been honored to have this international star on a few times over the years. She has discussed everything from her time in the Olympics to raising her daughter, Talitha, to topical social issues, to her story with her dad’s career, on which the movie “Lean On Me” was based. If I find out in advance that Keith Groller will not be with us and we’re discussing a topic I know she feels strongly about, she’s the first person I call to see if she’s available to fill in as a co-host.  Joetta is always a joy to speak with about all of her areas of expertise.

8) The Lumberjack Show at the Fair

SportsTalk Executive Producer Rick Geho has had some very good suggestions for me and the show over the years. One idea that I didn’t think was so great at the time involved one of our shows from the Allentown Fair. We were sharing the Farmerama Stage with a gentleman from Minnesota who performed a lumberjack show and Rick suggested that we have him on as a guest.

A lumberjack show…really?

But not only did this gentleman produce some wonderful stories and made for an entertaining show, but he bid me — live on the air — to participate in some of his show activities.  This included me throwing an axe over my head to try to hit a target 40 feet away.  Without any practice, I hit the target – a feat Mr. Craig and our RCN crew members still say to this day was one of the most shocking things they’ve seen in their careers (I tried to think of that as a compliment from them, but I’m not so sure).

9) The Dick Tracy “surprise” tribute show

This is actually the first show that came to mind when I sat down to do this … and will probably be one of the greatest SportsTalk episodes that I will ever be a part of. Coach Tracy was a mentor to me – I looked up to him as a kid watching Whitehall HS basketball games, he was my journalism and yearbook teacher as a high school student and a colleague and the most helpful person to me when I started announcing games in the Lehigh Valley as a radio announcer. Then later I had the honor to announce games with him for RCN-TV. When Coach “retired” from broadcasting I remembered a conversation from years earlier in which I asked him: if there was one day in which he could relive any of the great experiences in his life, what would it be?  His response was that he would actually enjoy a couple hours sitting around with his state championship Zephyr basketball team and just shoot the breeze with them.  I contacted everyone on that team along with some other special people in Dick’s life who came in and surprised him live on the air. Coach HATED tributes and the fact that we were able to bring his entire team back and keep this a secret from him while pulling off a successful show on LIVE TV is truly one of the most amazing accomplishments I will ever have achieved as producer of this program.

10) ???

Now I’m really taking an easy way out. Probably even if I had the rundown of all of our shows in front of me I couldn’t name a final entry in this list.  I’ve been blessed to have so many wonderful people volunteer their time to come in and share their stories and opinions with us. I’d like to think every show is a little unique from the previous ones so I am just going to keep the spot open for now and call it a tie between practically every other show we’ve done.

Thanks to all for the memories!!!