1964: ‘The Addams Family’ Moves Into the Neighborhood
Cartoonist Charles Addams created a series of single-paneled cartoons featuring his creation of The Addams Family for The New Yorker magazine beginning in 1938. The cartoons proved to be so popular that a TV series was soon developed. This odd family was wealthy with a love for the macabre and were never really aware that they were different from others in the neighborhood. The family consisted of father Gomez (John Astin), mother Morticia (Carolyn Jones), daughter Wednesday (Lisa Loring), son Pugsley (Ken Weatherwax), Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan) and Grandmama (Blossom Rock) along with their butler Lurch (Ted Cassidy). The comedy which debuted on this day in 1964 was often confused with the similarly themed (but altogether different) The Munsters. Since the show went off the air in 1966, the show’s popularity never really died. Since that time, Hanna-Barbera has created two different cartoon series based on the show, the feature film The Addams Family was released in 1991, Addams Family Values in 1993, a direct-to-video movie in 1998 and a brand new full-length animated film by MGM was released in 2019.
1964: Jonny Goes on a Quest
Created and designed by comic book artist Doug Wildey, Jonny Quest was inspired by radio serials. As a Hanna-Barbera production, it featured more a more realistic art form and a more serious tone overall. The main cast featured 11-year-old Jonny Quest, his scientific father Dr. Benton C. Quest, his adopted brother Hadji Singh, special agent Roger T. “Race” Bannon and Bandit, Jonny’s bulldog. Jonny Quest debuted on prime time in 1964 on ABC. Though a ratings hit, the show was expensive to produce and was cancelled after just one season. It was shown on Saturday mornings on CBS from 1967 to 1970. In the mid 1980’s, 13 new episodes were produced and were shown along with the originals as part of the syndicated The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. In 1993, USA Network presented the feature-length movie Johnny’s Golden Quest and in 1997, the show got a makeover as The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest with Jonny and Hadji (and their friend Jessie) as older teenagers and aired on Cartoon Network, TBS and TNT. A live action feature film of the show has been in the works since the 1990s but nothing has materialized as of yet.
1978: WKRP in Cincinnati Hits the Airwaves
The office sitcom centered on the staff of a little radio station known as WKRP (in Cincinnati) premiered on this day on CBS on this day in 1978. Created by Hugh Wilson, WKRP was actually inspired by Wilson’s days working for the advertising sales department of radio station WQXI in Atlanta, Georgia. Many of the characters and even some of the stunts (including the infamous turkey drop Thanksgiving episode) were based on real people and events. The cast included Gary Sandy, Howard Hesseman, Gordon Jump, Loni Anderson, Tim Reid, Jan Smithers, Richard Sanders and Frank Bonner. During it’s four-year run, WKRP received 10 Emmy Award nominations but only won one for videotape editing. When the show went into syndication, it was almost more popular than its first run. Because of this, a new version of the show, The New WKRP in Cincinnati ran in syndication from 1991 to 1993 starring Jump, Sanders and Bonner who all reprised their roles. Hesseman, Reid and Anderson also appeared a few times as guest stars.
1965: This Jeannie is Out of the Bottle
In 1964, Bewitched was the #2 TV show. Wanting a similar piece of the pie, NBC offered I Dream of Jeannie the following year which ironically was produced by Screen Gems who also produced Bewitched. Jeannie was inspired by the movie The Brass Bottle which also starred Barbara Eden, but as a mortal (Burl Ives played the genie!) Creator Sidney Sheldon didn’t want a blond to play the role of Jeannie since Elizabeth Montgomery (from Bewitched) was a blond, but nobody read the role as he intended except for Eden. Sheldon wanted the first season to be filmed in color, but NBC didn’t want to pay for the extra expense as they didn’t have much hope that the show would last very long. Though never a ratings winner, the show stayed on the air for five years.
1965: Time to ‘Get Smart’
It was on this day in 1965 that the hit spy comedy TV series, Get Smart premiered on NBC. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the series starred Don Adams as an inept spy Agent 86 who was aided by the much smarter Agent 99 (played by Barbara Feldon) who always gave the credit of their success to Max. The two were under the leadership of “Chief” played by Edward Platt and were always at tasking stopping the evil organization, KAOS. It is said that Brooks and Henry were asked to create a show based on two of the most popular things in the entertainment world at the time: James Bond and Inspector Clouseau. The show ran for five years (with the fifth airing on CBS) and won seven Emmy Awards including Outstanding Comedy Series (1968 and 1969) and Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Comedy (Don Adams in 1967, 1968 and 1969) along with two Golden Globes. Despite its success, it wasn’t a huge ratings winner as it only broke into the top 30 TV shows twice. Years later, Adams reprised the role (sans Agent 99) for the theatrical movie, The Nude Bomb in 1980. ABC aired the made-for-TV movie, Get Smart, Again! (with Feldon) In 1989. In 1995, the show became a revival series on FOX that starred Adams, Feldon and Andy Dick as their son, Zack, but the fun didn’t last long. In 2008, Get Smart was re-imagined with a new theatrical release that starred Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. A sequel was planned but never materialized. Some say that they “missed it by that much.”
1982: An Angel Named Gary
The sitcom Diff’rent Strokes made child actor Gary Coleman a huge star from 1978-1986. In 1982, he starred in the live action film, The Kid with the Broken Halo for NBC. In it, he played an apprentice angel sent from heaven to help people in need. That same year, Hanna-Barbera created an animated version of the story called The Gary Coleman Show (that wasn’t as big of a hit) which premiered on this day in 1982 and ran through December 11, 1982.
- 1917: June Foray (voice actress)
- 1920: Jack Warden (actor)
- 1933: Fred Willard (actor)
- 1940: Frankie Avalon (actor)
- 1964: Holly Robinson Peete (actress)
- 1970: Aisha Tyler (actress)
- 1971: Lance Armstrong (cyclist)
- 1971: Jada Pinkett Smith (actress)
- 1973: James Marsden (actor)
- 1981: Jennifer Tisdale (actress)
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.