The Duck Factory

How many of you remember the TV show “The Duck Factory”?

A young unknown actor, Jim Carrey, played a young unknown animator who gets a job at the studio run by his hero Buddy Winkler. He arrives on the day of Buddy’s funeral, and has to step in and help keep the studio in business. Here is the description from TV.com

“The Duck Factory was set in a small, run-down Hollywood studio peopled by the loony crew who produced a TV cartoon show called Dippy Duck. The newest employee was Skip Tarkenton, an eager, young cartoonist fresh from the

Midwest and bursting with excitement at his first professional job. His wide-eyed innocence contrasted sharply with the cynicism of his co-workers: Brooks, the fatherly artist full of doubts about his own brilliance; Andrea, the sarcastic, man-hungry film editor; Marty, the two-bit gag writer; Roland, the only black storyboard artist in the business; and Wally, the voice-over narrator who had a repertoire of so many cartoon voices that he had long since forgotten his own voice. …the place was virtually leaderless when Skip arrived, so the whole crew turned to the reluctant newcomer to save Dippy Duck–which was constantly on the brink of cancellation by the network. This brought the enmity of Aggie, the pushy, penny-pinching business manager who thought she should be in charge, but also the appreciation of [Sheree], the sexy, young bimbo…who was…now the studio’s owner.” (Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present)

Two veterans of 1960’s cartoons came together to create this mix of live action and animation, which featured a then-unknown Jim Carrey in a now-unthinkable straight-man’s role. Not to mention veteran voice actor Don Messick doing what he did best. Despite the presence of a laugh track, The Duck Factory was one of the very few MTM comedies to not be filmed/taped in front of a studio audience — which probably doomed its chances right there, as the days of successful single-camera sitcoms were over by 1984. NBC and Brandon Tartikoff did give the ahead-of-its-time show a plum time slot — between Cheers and Hill Street Blues (the latter of which it would cross over with) — but did little to promote it. (Perhaps they had already used up all their yearly promotional dollars on The New Show.) Then Tartikoff ran several episodes out of order, and cancelled it after just a few weeks on the air, like pretty much everything else he put on that season. That summer, the show was nominated for two Emmys — and won them both.

Wipeout concept art


My 9 year old and I love watching the ABC competition show called Wipeout. Contestants race through a series of giant obstacles getting swung, smacked and bounced about, usually falling into the water or something else wet and gooey.  If you are like me, and enjoy watching bodies flying about in crazy positions, you would probably like the show.  That photo above is unusually beautiful given what happens to most players.  Anyway, I looked for some videos to post, and found this interesting slideshow of concept art for the courses, which change quite often.  The scale of the obstacles to the human figure makes them appear to have been devised by some diabolical engineer in the employ of satan, creating methods to torment poor souls.

http://abc.go.com/shows/wipeout/stunt-sketches

The return of Captain Kangaroo

I wonder how many of you ever watched Captain Kangaroo.  Bob Keshan was the original Clarabelle the Clown on the Howdy Doody show before becoming Captain Kangaroo on the CBS network.  The children’s show ran from 1955 to 1982.

I used to watch the Captain Kangaroo show as a kid.  Mr. Green Jeans, Mr. Moose, Bunny Rabbit all gave me fond memories.   The program included cartoons. I particularly liked the Terrytoons Tom Terrific created by Gene Deitch, it featured Tom and Manfred the Wonder Dog. Here is a sample.

I’m posting this because Captain Kangaroo is coming back.

Pat Cashin has acquired the rights to the Captain Kangaroo name, and is assembling a new program.  This quote is from the new website:

The show was conceived and the title character played by Bob Keeshan, who based the show on “the warm relationship between grandparents and children.”

In 2011 the trademark was acquired by The Cashin Comedy Co. and the character is undergoing an update to appeal to contemporary  family audiences but will maintain a very firm foundation in Bob Keeshan’s gentle approach to laughter and learning.

Our production team includes: David Burd (Nickelodeon, MTV), Craig and Olga Marin (Flexitoons, Shining Times Station), Michael Karp (Nickelodeon’s Pinwheel), John Manigrasso (Showtime Networks) and Sandy Weber (Nickelodeon’s Jack’s Big Music Show, Disney Channel’s Bunnytown). The Cashin Comedy Co.’s Pat Cashin will portray the famous Captain.

Cartoons will also have a place in the new show, judging by the Captain Kangaroo Blog.

I look forward to this, and wish Pat all the best.

Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In

How many of you remember Laugh In?

It was a comedy variety show that fell somewhere between Ernie Kovacs and Saturday Night Live.

They created many memorable characters and taglines. The hosts were Dan Rowan and Dick Martin.

Soupy Sales meets Krusty the Clown

I am currently reading Soupy Sez the autobiography of Soupy Sales.  Soupy was another television pioneer who had a local “kids” show.  I put “kids”  in quotations because it also became popular with adults.  I’m sure he was at least a partial inspiration for Pee-Wee Herman.

The book is light reading, entertaining and informative about early TV production.  He described sharing a dressing room with performer from another show, who happened to be a clown.  The similarities with the Simpson’s clown character is unmistakable.

I had my own dressing room, but I shared the bathroom and shower with a guy who did a clown show there in the morning…  He had just finished taping when I would come in.  I’d talk with him while he took a shower, and it was fascinating to watch.  It was like seeing a Sherman Williams paint sign come to life.  Clowns wear something like eight different colors of makeup, and while he took a shower the colors would just stream down his body.  I found that fascinating, and one day he asked me what the big attraction was.  “Well” I said, “it’s the idea that you spend all that time putting on the make up and then you get in the shower and the colors all run down your drain.  Your character runs down the drain.”

“Yeah” he said, “but the difference is the people know me as the clown.  When I take off this makeup I can go to a bar, pick up a girl, and I can get drunk and nobody knows it’s me!  But if you do it, they know it’s you.”

“Yeah” I replied “but when you go in for a raise, they say ‘nuts to you.  We’ll pick somebody else up.’  Do you think Ronald McDonald gets a raise? They say ‘nuts to you.  Bring in another guy.’

Well the guy hadn’t ever thought about that and it blew him away.  He was never the same because he was always afraid that if he asked for something they were going to get rid of him.  And you know what, eventually they did.”

I like that story all by itself, but I have some follow up thoughts.  Tomorrow I’ll explain how Soupy missed an important concept. For that click HERE

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