I love that comic and wonder what the hell Lindsay Lohan was doing at the event Saturday? That was really stupid on the White House's part. I won't join in Rosie O'Donnell's attacks on the young woman but I will note that her very public problems should have precluded her being near a president.
"TV: Factual distortions only 'honor' lying" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
Live TV for sitcoms ended (and ended quickly) because of syndication -- specifically because of the money to be made in syndication. Once it ended, that was really it for decades.
It was NBC that brought it back to sitcoms or, rather, that carried the program that did. This is a story of someone with strong comic timing and great skill. However, it's a woman so you know that means it's a story that's rarely told. We warned you throughout the 00s that the sitcom wasn't dead and that this nonsense had been paraded before in the first half of the 80s. At that point, there were few sitcoms on TV and few that got any kind of an audience. One that did was Gimmie A Break! which starred Tony and Emmy Award winner Nell Carter.
NBC suits realized she was a star when she was stuck in a supporting role on the network's The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. She managed to shine in that and went on to shine, from 1981 to 1987, as Nell Harper on Gimmie a Break! -- earning Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Nell's story is not any different from most women in sitcoms. Like Roseanne and Cybil and so many others, everybody 'knew' better than the actress playing the lead. Coleman Mitchell and Geoffrey Neigher 'knew' what was funny. Often what they found 'funny,' Nell found sexist and racist. She did not appreciate being given lines to make Nell Harper come off dumb or unintelligent. She refused to say those lines. She also didn't understand why Nell was the only Black character in the whole town. This was among the reasons the actress started using cocaine heavily. She fought and resisted efforts to play women, and especially African-American women, as stupid. She was right and she won in the end but don't for a minute think that it was easy for her.
Telma Hopkins would join the cast (after Mitchell and Nigher were gone) as Addy Wilson. And from her first episode, where Addy and Nell clashed and then made up, it was obvious that Nell Carter and Telma Hopkins had that rare form of chemistry that Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance first brought to a large TV audience. In one episode, Nell is upset that Addy's going to Hawaii without her.
Nell: Look, I really want you to go to Hawaii. And I want you to have a good time. I want you to enjoy that beautiful room that we picked out together. You know, the one with that beautiful view of the ocean. I want you to have that view so you can get a good look at that tidal wave that I'm hoping will hit that hotel, knocking a palm tree against the door, trapping you in just before that volcano erupts blowing hot lava all over your open-toed shoes.
That's from "Cat Story" (written by Tom Biener, Mort Lachman, Ron Landry and Sy Rosen) which aired February 23, 1985 and which was the first live broadcast of a sitcom in decades. Nell knew the move would attract attention to the show, she was proud of the work everyone was doing and glad that the changes she wanted had been incorporated into the show. The show was on a winning streak (one that would continue through the end of season five) and she'd been doing interviews non-stop for months. NBC was iffy on the prospect of a live show. What if something went wrong, what if someone forgot a line, what if someone froze, what if, what if, what if.
Nell pointed out that she was a Broadway actress, she was used to live audiences and she'd just, the year before, put together a cabaret act that went over well. She didn't see anyone having problems -- certainly not Telma who was use to live audiences from her time in Tony Orlando & Dawn and Dolph Sweet was not only a Broadway veteran, he'd also done live television. NBC needed to 'think about' the proposal. Three months later, they were tentatively for it, but they wanted a simple show in terms of production. The scenes of "Cat Story" all take place in either the Kanisky kitchen or living room.
It was a funny episode, it was a strong episode, it drew new attention to the show and, more importantly, let more people know that 'look at the funny talking Black maid' wasn't what Gimmie A Break! was about.
It was a triumph.
Nothing about 30 Rock on Thursday could qualify as a triumph.
This is a great piece and does such a service. No one else reviewing 30 Rock's live episode brought up Nell Carter's show, let alone told you about her problems with the producers.
This is such a great article because Ava and C.I. tell the stories no one else will tell.
Nell and Telma Hopkins did make a great comedy team and how great that two women (Ava and C.I.) took the time to honor and remind America about two other women (Nell and Telma).
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):