Monday, August 22, 2011

Remembering The Television Special...With A special Nod To The Judy Garland Show!

A television special is a television program which interrupts or temporarily replaces programming normally scheduled for a given time slot. Sometimes, however, the term is given to a telecast of a theatrical film, such as The Wizard of Oz or The Ten Commandments, which is not part of a regular series of such anthology series as NBC Saturday Night at the Movies (1961–1978).

The term originally applied especially to major dramatized presentations of an hour or two which were broadcast during times normally occupied by episodes of one or more weekly television series, thus replacing the series for a week. In the 1960s, multi-part specials, over several days in a week, or on the same day for several weeks, evolved from this format, though these were more commonly called miniseries. The term "TV special" formerly applied more to dramas presented live or on videotape (such as Peter Pan ) than to filmed presentations especially made for television, which were (and still are) designated as made-for-TV movies.

Happy Monday!
I have a dream. I want to revive the Television Special format. I grew up on variety shows and television specials. I've written about it many times. Those specials were what made me desire to go into "show business". THAT was the world I wanted to be a part of...still do...and I think I can make it work! Who wants to take a chance on me? I just need a venue...I'll go from there. In the meantime, let's celebrate our favorite variety shows/specials! These shows celebrated STARS! It was about the TALENT! Not only the talent you saw on stage, but the directors, writers, costumers, orchestrators, musicians, etc. Very few special effects...if any! I defy any of today's "stars" to try and do this. Just stand there and sing a song without jerky acrobatic moves that take the focus away from the voice.

My absolute favorites were those that did Variety Show Specials: Barbra Streisand, Doris Day, Shirley MacLaine,Mitzi Gaynor, Liza Minnelli, The Judy Garland Show, and of course, Carol Channing!
Or seeing Peggy Lee or Jim Bailey or Jim Bailey as Peggy Lee on someone else's variety show! God, do I miss those days. Do we have anyone today who could make it work on sheer talent alone?

Who, with 17 films to her credit, became one of the top singing & dancing motion picture stars of all time? Who conquered television with 9 show-stopping spectaculars garnering 17 Emmy® nominations and blockbuster ratings? Whose dazzling triple-threat talents made her arguably the top female nightclub and concert attraction of the era? The answer to all these questions is simply Miss Mitzi Gaynor.

See Mitzi Live at The Orleans in Las Vegas! Click HERE for details!

Let's go back...
My Name Is Barbra is a 1965 television special and the first for up and coming star Barbra Streisand. This television special was released in conjunction with Streisand's fifth studio album My Name Is Barbra. The special was highly successfully winning many awards and a contract was signed for another four specials.
The special was split into three acts.

She followed this up with COLOR ME BARBRA.

Then there was A HAPPENING IN CENTRAL PARK in 1967. I still fantasize about what it must have been like to be there that night! Still a big WOW!

The Carol Channing Specials are a highly entertaining collection of TV variety programs showcasing 60s comedy and pop music footage of the multi-talented hostess alongside a cross section of prestigious television and Broadway performers.

Remember the first time you saw Liza With A Z? I do!

Liza with a ‘Z’. A Concert for Television is a 1972 concert film, made for television and starring Liza Minnelli.
The film was produced by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse. As well as producing, Fosse also directed and choreographed the concert, and Ebb wrote and arranged the music with his song-writing partner John Kander. All four had previously worked on the successful film adaptation of Cabaret earlier in the same year. According to Minnelli, it was "the first filmed concert on television". Singer sponsored the production, although the producers did their best to keep any of the sponsors from seeing the rehearsals for fear of them pulling out due to Minnelli's short skirts!

It aired in September 1972. I was 11 years old and the next day, my cousin, Donna, and I could not stop singing "LIZA WITH A "Z" and RING THEN BELLS. Years later, I found myself singing to Liza Minnelli on her birthday when she was doing THE RINK on Broadway!

LIZA WITH A “Z” is the most vivid documentary of a live-Broadway performance ever filmed.

Bob Fosse’s concept was to film Liza’s live stage performance for television and thereby combine the three mediums into a new documentary form.

So all the excitement of that evening was captured by eight 16mm cameras and later married to an extraordinary track designed by Phil Ramone. Every detail was brilliantly engineered, and the result was a musical milestone in television.

LIZA WITH A “Z” originally aired in 1972 as a 16mm print with mono sound. After just three airdates, the negative was retired to the vaults and removed only occasionally to strike a new print for Liza. But during the mid-1980s, the negative was inadvertently misplaced and disappeared without a trace. After several years of searching, many feared that it had been destroyed.

And here are Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera on The Dinah Shore Shore! No special effects. Just TALENT!

And here is Liza with Mikhail Baryshnikov! Remember this special? Taken from the TV Show "Baryshnikov on Broadway - with Liza Minnelli" from 1980 (Directed by Dwight Hemion). I had just moved to New York and boy, was I glad to be here.

And from another television special, Baryshnikov dances Sinatra, choreography by Twyla Tharp

Then there was WHAT'S MY LINE, which brought these great stars LIVE into our living rooms week after week. Here is the amazing Judy Holiday in her last television appearance. We lost her way too soon!

And Maurice Chevalier!

The Judy Garland Show was an American musical variety television series that aired on CBS on Sunday nights during the 1963-1964 television season. Despite a sometimes stormy relationship with Judy Garland, CBS had found success with several television specials featuring the star. Garland, who for years had been reluctant to commit to a weekly series, saw the show as her best chance to pull herself out of severe financial difficulties.

Production difficulties beset the series almost from the beginning.
The series had three different producers in the course of its 26 episodes and went through a number of other key personnel changes. With the change in producers also came changes to the show's format, which started as comedy/variety but switched to an almost purely concert format.

While Garland herself was popular with critics, the initial variety format and her co-star, Jerry Van Dyke, were not.

The show competed with Bonanza, then the fourth most popular program on television,and consistently performed poorly in the ratings.
Although fans rallied in an attempt to save the show, CBS cancelled it after a single season. When the news of the cancellation was made public, Garland insisted that her six remaining shows to be taped would be in the concert format which had always been her strong point as an entertainer. The first of these shows aired on Sunday night, February 9, 1964 and lasted until the final episode, March 29, 1964. As a result, the show's ratings improved a little, but according to CBS President James Aubrey, Jr., viewership for the series was not rising fast enough and he flatly refused to give the show a last minute second season renewal.

Garland's history with CBS prior to the series was a checkered one.
She had previously headlined several specials for the network. The first was the inaugural episode of the Ford Star Jubilee which aired in 1955.
The special, the first full-scale color telecast on CBS, was a ratings triumph, garnering a 34.8 Neilsen rating.

This success led to Garland's signing a three-year, $300,000 contract with the network. Only a single special aired, a live General Electric Theater episode in 1956, before the pact was terminated.
The relationship between CBS and Garland and her then-husband and manager, Sid Luft, dissolved in acrimony in 1957 after they and agent Freddie Fields were unable to come to terms with the network over the format of her next special.

Garland filed a USD $1.4 million lawsuit against CBS for libel and breach of contract (CBS filed a couterclaim) that was not settled until 1961, when Garland and CBS each agreed to drop their claims and negotiations began for a new round of Garland specials for the network.

The first of two specials under this new relationship aired in February 1962 and was entitled The Judy Garland Show. This special, guest starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, was nominated for four Emmy awards.
Garland signed the deal for the weekly series in December 1962.
Garland's final special was the awkwardly-titled Judy Garland and Her Guests Phil Silvers and Robert Goulet, presented in March 1963.

Alternately promoted as a preview and a pilot for Garland's upcoming regular series,this special too was nominated for an Emmy.

Judy Garland's four-year contract for the series called for 26 weekly shows, for which Garland's corporation, Kingsrow Enterprises, would be paid $140,000 per episode. Of that Garland was guaranteed between $25,000 and $30,000 per show.

Kingsrow Enterprises would also retain ownership of the tapes, allowing Garland to sell the series into syndication.
Although Garland had said as early as 1955 that she would never do a weekly television series,
in the early 1960s she was in a financially precarious situation. Garland was several hundred thousand dollars in debt to the Internal Revenue Service, having failed to pay taxes in 1951 and 1952,and the financial failure of the film A Star is Born meant that her share of any profits from that film would be eaten up immediately.

A successful run on television would secure Garland's financial future.

To read more, Go to WIKIPEDIA, A Main Source of this blog!

Thank you for joining me on these nostalgic journeys! Remember, every five days, I'm going to answer a question on video that YOU send to me. You can ask me ANYTHING and I will answer your question on video within my blog. Send your questions to Next question will be answered on Thursday!

Thank you, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli,Mitzi Gaynor, and others! I love you and I know that somewhere right now someone is watching you entertain as you all did in your heyday!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE day for ALL!


Become A Facebook friend of mine!
Follow me on Twitter
If you've seen one of my appearances/shows, add your thoughts to my guestbook at

Tomorrow's blog will be celebrating Lee Roy Reams! Tune in!!


And help us get Carol Channing the 2011 Kennedy Center Honor!
Contact me for details!

Richard Skipper,

1 comment:

  1. What memories this brings back. I, too, am a big lover of the television specials. Like the first showing of The Wizard of Oz, they were a special event that the whole family looked forward to.