Great Moments In Television History #29: Barney Pops On National TV


Twenty-five years ago today, a horrified nation watched as Barney The Dinosaur fell victim to high winds and a street light.  It was a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that will never be forgotten.

Previous Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial
  10. First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy
  11. Elvis Sings With Sinatra
  12. NBC Airs Their First Football Game
  13. The A-Team Premieres
  14. The Birth of Dr. Johnny Fever
  15. The Second NFL Pro Bowl Is Broadcast
  16. Maude Flanders Gets Hit By A T-Shirt Cannon
  17. Charles Rocket Nearly Ends SNL
  18. Frank Sinatra Wins An Oscar
  19. CHiPs Skates With The Stars
  20. Eisenhower In Color
  21. The Origin of Spider-Man
  22. Steve Martin’s Saturday Night Live Holiday Wish List
  23. Barnabas Collins Is Freed From His Coffin
  24. Siskel and Ebert Recommend Horror Films
  25. Vincent Price Meets The Muppets
  26. Siskel and Ebert Discuss Horror
  27. The Final Scene of Dark Shadows
  28. The WKRP Turkey Drop

Great Moments in Television History #28: The WKRP Turkey Drop


On October 30, 1978, WKRP in Cincinnati changed Thanksgiving forever.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Previous Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial
  10. First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy
  11. Elvis Sings With Sinatra
  12. NBC Airs Their First Football Game
  13. The A-Team Premieres
  14. The Birth of Dr. Johnny Fever
  15. The Second NFL Pro Bowl Is Broadcast
  16. Maude Flanders Gets Hit By A T-Shirt Cannon
  17. Charles Rocket Nearly Ends SNL
  18. Frank Sinatra Wins An Oscar
  19. CHiPs Skates With The Stars
  20. Eisenhower In Color
  21. The Origin of Spider-Man
  22. Steve Martin’s Saturday Night Live Holiday Wish List
  23. Barnabas Collins Is Freed From His Coffin
  24. Siskel and Ebert Recommend Horror Films
  25. Vincent Price Meets The Muppets
  26. Siskel and Ebert Discuss Horror
  27. The Final Scene of Dark Shadows

Great Moments In Television History #27: The Final Scene of Dark Shadows


After five years of enthralling audiences with the story of Barnabas Collins and his family, Dark Shadows came to an end on April 2nd, 1971.  By this point, the show itself had tried to return to its gothic roots by setting its latest storyline in 1841.  During the show’s final episodes, Jonathan Frid played not Barnabas but instead, Bramwell Collins.  Unfortunately, this didn’t help the show’s once strong ratings and ABC abruptly canceled Dark Shadows in 1971.

When the show ended, it did so in typical tongue-in-cheek fashion.  With Bramwell and his love, Catharine Harridge, preparing to leave Collinsport, news suddenly came that there had been a vampire attack!

Or was it?

Previous Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial
  10. First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy
  11. Elvis Sings With Sinatra
  12. NBC Airs Their First Football Game
  13. The A-Team Premieres
  14. The Birth of Dr. Johnny Fever
  15. The Second NFL Pro Bowl Is Broadcast
  16. Maude Flanders Gets Hit By A T-Shirt Cannon
  17. Charles Rocket Nearly Ends SNL
  18. Frank Sinatra Wins An Oscar
  19. CHiPs Skates With The Stars
  20. Eisenhower In Color
  21. The Origin of Spider-Man
  22. Steve Martin’s Saturday Night Live Holiday Wish List
  23. Barnabas Collins Is Freed From His Coffin
  24. Siskel and Ebert Recommend Horror Films
  25. Vincent Price Meets The Muppets
  26. Siskel and Ebert Discuss Horror

Great Moments In Television History #26: Siskel & Ebert Discuss Horror


This may not actually be a great moment in television history but it is an important one because it framed not only how horror films were discussed by many critics but it also is a big reason why many horror fans were not fans of this iconic duo.  Despite Roger Ebert being one of the only critics to defend Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left when it was initially released, both he and Gene Siskel had a reputation for being anti-Horror.  That reputation is largely due to a 1980 episode of Sneak Previews, in which they condemned what they called the “Women in Danger” horror films.

This originally aired on September 18th, 1980.

In Siskel & Ebert’s defense, they’re problem is more with slasher films than horror films.  Do you agree with them?  Siskel & Ebert criticized the way that audiences reacted to the films but is that the fault of the films or of the audience?  Is it really fair to compare films like Don’t Answer The Phone and I Spit On Your Grave to films like Friday the 13th or When A Stranger Calls?  It’s interesting to note that they defend Halloween as being an exception to the trend but Halloween was also a film that popularized showing scenes from the POV of the killer.

For a counter-point to this episode, check out a later episode in which Gene and Roger recommended horror films that they felt had been overlooked.

Previous Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial
  10. First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy
  11. Elvis Sings With Sinatra
  12. NBC Airs Their First Football Game
  13. The A-Team Premieres
  14. The Birth of Dr. Johnny Fever
  15. The Second NFL Pro Bowl Is Broadcast
  16. Maude Flanders Gets Hit By A T-Shirt Cannon
  17. Charles Rocket Nearly Ends SNL
  18. Frank Sinatra Wins An Oscar
  19. CHiPs Skates With The Stars
  20. Eisenhower In Color
  21. The Origin of Spider-Man
  22. Steve Martin’s Saturday Night Live Holiday Wish List
  23. Barnabas Collins Is Freed From His Coffin
  24. Siskel and Ebert Recommend Horror Films
  25. Vincent Price Meets The Muppets

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The First Power (dir by Robert Reskinoff)


In this 1990 horror film, Lou Diamond Phillips plays Russell Logan, a Los Angeles police detective who specializes in capturing and sometimes killing serial killers.  (“So far,” a news reporter breathlessly tells us, “Detective Logan has captured or killed three serial killers!”)  His latest triumph is the capture of Patrick Channing (Jeff Kober), also known as the Pentagram Killer because he carves a pentagram on his victims.

Logan captures Channing thanks to a tip from a psychic named Tess (Tracy Griffith).  Tess specifically made Logan promise her that he wouldn’t push for Channing to get the death penalty.  However, after Logan captures him, he goes back on his word and Channing is sentenced to die in the gas chamber.  To be honest, I wasn’t aware that detectives had the power to decide whether or not to go for the death penalty when it comes to prosecuting murder cases.  As far as I’ve known, that’s always been the job of the district attorney’s office.  Maybe they do things differently out in California….

Anyway, Channing smiles when he’s sentenced to death and then he smiles again when he’s executed.  Logan shrugs all of that off but suddenly, the pentagram murders start up again.  The murderer is killing people in the exact same way that Channing did and he also appears to be targeting the people who were involved in Channing’s capture.  Meanwhile, Tess is running around angry because she specifically told Logan not to allow Channing to be executed.

Hmmmm …. have you figured out what’s going on, yet?

Of course you have!  That’s because you’ve seen a horror movie before.  From the minute that Channing was sentenced to die, you probably knew that Channing would eventually come back from the dead and start murdering people all over again.  It turns out that, by executing Channing, the state of California has granted him the first power, i.e. resurrection.  By committing more murders, Channing is hoping to unlock all of the other powers.  Those powers include the power to appear and disappear at will, possess other people, jump off of roof tops, and mockingly laugh at anyone who tries to stop him.

Apparently, Detective Logan is not a fan of horror movies because it takes him a while to figure all of this out.  (We should keep in mind that he’s a cop so his job is to be skeptical of claims of people returning from the dead.)  But once he starts hearing Channing’s disembodied voice and getting attacked by possessed priests and homeless women, he really has no other option but to accept the truth and work with Tess to try to end Channing’s reign of terror.

The First Power is one of those horror films that’s extremely predictable but effective nonetheless.  Lou Diamond Phillips manages to maintain a straight face, regardless of how outlandish this film gets and Jeff Kober seems to be having a blast as the flamboyantly evil Patrick Channing.  Channing jumps off of rooftops and through windows with a graceful aplomb and the film actually has some fun with the idea of Channing skipping from body to body.  The First Power is often dumb but always entertaining.

Great Moments In Television History #25: Vincent Price Meets The Muppets


In 1977, during the 16th episode of The Muppet Show, Kermit The Frog got a chance to interview Vincent Price and show off his vampire moves.  Later, no worse for wear, Vincent joined with the Muppets to sing a song.

I’m surprised that this episode was aired on January 16th, 1977 and not during October.

Here is the scene that lives forever in meme form:

Previous Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial
  10. First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy
  11. Elvis Sings With Sinatra
  12. NBC Airs Their First Football Game
  13. The A-Team Premieres
  14. The Birth of Dr. Johnny Fever
  15. The Second NFL Pro Bowl Is Broadcast
  16. Maude Flanders Gets Hit By A T-Shirt Cannon
  17. Charles Rocket Nearly Ends SNL
  18. Frank Sinatra Wins An Oscar
  19. CHiPs Skates With The Stars
  20. Eisenhower In Color
  21. The Origin of Spider-Man
  22. Steve Martin’s Saturday Night Live Holiday Wish List
  23. Barnabas Collins Is Freed From His Coffin
  24. Siskel and Ebert Recommend Horror Films

Great Moments In Television History #24: Siskel and Ebert Recommend Horror Films


Film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were not usually thought of as being fans of the horror genre, with Gene going so far as to tell his viewers to write to Betsy Palmer to tell her how upset they were over her appearing in Friday the 13th.

Despite this, in 1988, Siskel and Ebert devoted an entire episode of their show to recommending horror films that they felt were overlooked when first released.  And I have to say, they actually mentioned some good ones.

From 1988, Siskel and Ebert discuss “hidden horrors:”

Previous Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial
  10. First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy
  11. Elvis Sings With Sinatra
  12. NBC Airs Their First Football Game
  13. The A-Team Premieres
  14. The Birth of Dr. Johnny Fever
  15. The Second NFL Pro Bowl Is Broadcast
  16. Maude Flanders Gets Hit By A T-Shirt Cannon
  17. Charles Rocket Nearly Ends SNL
  18. Frank Sinatra Wins An Oscar
  19. CHiPs Skates With The Stars
  20. Eisenhower In Color
  21. The Origin of Spider-Man
  22. Steve Martin’s Saturday Night Live Holiday Wish List
  23. Barnabas Collins Is Freed From His Coffin

Great Moments In Television History #23: Barnabas Collins Is Freed From His Coffin


The year was 1967 and, in Collinsport, Maine, a petty criminal named Willie Loomis was about to make television history.  Convinced that a fortune in jewelry was hidden in the Collins family’s mausoleum, Willie broke in and opened a coffin that, strangely, was covered in chains.  Willie expected to find a fortune.  Instead, he found Barnabas Collins, a 200 year-old vampire who transformed Willie into his servant and proceeded to spend the next five years masquerading as a cousin from Britain while searching for both a cure to his condition and for the reincarnation of the love of his life, Josette.

Played by stage actor Jonathan Frid, Barnabas Collins made his first appearance on the April 18th, 1967 episode of Dark Shadows.  Though Barnabas was originally only meant to be a temporary addition to the show’s roster of characters, Frid proved to be popular with viewers, like my mother who not only watched the show when it first aired but also when reruns were broadcast in syndication many years later.  The show soon came to center on the ruthless vampire.

In fact, Frid and Barnabas became some identified with the show that many are still shocked to learn that Dark Shadows had run for a full year before Barnabas was introduced as a character.  When the show airs in syndication, it usually starts with Willie (played by John Karlen) opening Barnabas’s coffin and not with the earlier episodes in which the show’s nominal lead character, Victoria Winters, first arrived at Collinwood and met the members of the family.

Many future horror directors and writers have stated that their interest in the genre began with watching Jonathan Frid on Dark Shadows.  And it all began with that one great moment when Willie Loomis opened the coffin and set Barnabas free.

Previous Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial
  10. First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy
  11. Elvis Sings With Sinatra
  12. NBC Airs Their First Football Game
  13. The A-Team Premieres
  14. The Birth of Dr. Johnny Fever
  15. The Second NFL Pro Bowl Is Broadcast
  16. Maude Flanders Gets Hit By A T-Shirt Cannon
  17. Charles Rocket Nearly Ends SNL
  18. Frank Sinatra Wins An Oscar
  19. CHiPs Skates With The Stars
  20. Eisenhower In Color
  21. The Origin of Spider-Man
  22. Steve Martin’s Saturday Night Live Holiday Wish List

Great Moments In Television History #22: Steve Martin’s Saturday Night Live Holiday Wish


As Lisa already posted, today is Steve Martin’s birthday.  

I think everyone who loves comedy has a favorite Steve Martin moment.  A lot of people would cite his performance of King Tut on Saturday Night Live or maybe one of the many skits where he played a wild and crazy guy with Dan Aykroyd.  Other remember him as The Jerk or playing Cyrano in Roxanne.  I’ve always liked his performance in Bowfinger, in which both he and Eddie Murphy were in top form.

However, if I had to pick my favorite Steve Martin moment, it would be his holiday wish from SNL‘s Christmas ’86 episode.  Even though it’s rare that anyone has anything nice to say about Saturday Night Live’s 1986 season, Steve Martin’s Holiday Wish is such a classic that it’s been included in almost every SNL holiday special since it originally aired.  Is it too early to share a Christmas wish list?  Not when Steve Martin is the one doing the wishing and it’s a great moment in television history!

Previous Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial
  10. First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy
  11. Elvis Sings With Sinatra
  12. NBC Airs Their First Football Game
  13. The A-Team Premieres
  14. The Birth of Dr. Johnny Fever
  15. The Second NFL Pro Bowl Is Broadcast
  16. Maude Flanders Gets Hit By A T-Shirt Cannon
  17. Charles Rocket Nearly Ends SNL
  18. Frank Sinatra Wins An Oscar
  19. CHiPs Skates With The Stars
  20. Eisenhower In Color
  21. The Origin of Spider-Man