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PCR #98 (Vol. 3, No. 6) This edition is for the week of February 4--10, 2002.
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Prime Time and Syndicated Television Shows about, or filmed in, Florida

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Most prime time and nationally syndicated television shows have revolved around taking place in either New York City or Los Angeles. There were notable exceptions such as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", set in Minneapolis, "WKRP in Cincinnati", and "Newhart" which was set at an inn in Vermont. Florida has been featured in some prime time and nationally syndicated television shows, and we're going to take a look at some of them. If there are any that you can think of that I've overlooked, please send us an e-mail here at NCPCR.

Florida TV series in the 1960's
The Sixties undoubtedly had the largest proportion of television series set in Florida. The major emphasis was Florida's natural fauna and flora as seen in s shows such as "Flipper", "Gentle Ben" and "Everglades".

The glitz and glamour of Miami Beach came shining through in the private eye series "Surfside Six" and in the live production of "The Jackie Gleason Show". Lastly, America's space race was the subject of comedy in the NBC show "I Dream of Jeannie". So sit back, relax, and let's go back into time when Disney World was a rumor and alligator wrestling at the Florida roadside attraction was still the biggest tourist draw.

From the same folks that brought us "77 Sunset Strip", "Bourbon Street Beat" and "Hawaiian Eye", Warner Brothers, came this South Florida detective show. Set in the Surfside community of Miami Beach, three detectives, Ken Madison (played by "Green Hornet" star Van Williams), Dave Thorne (played by Lee Patterson) and Sandy Winfield II (played by the late actor Troy Donahue) operated their headquarters off of a houseboat docked at the intracoastal waterway. Ironically, this same houseboat would play a role in a real life crime drama some 37 years later. On July 15, 1997, world famous clothing designer Gianni Versace was murdered in his Miami Beach home. Versace's assailant, Andrew Cunanan, would shortly thereafter commit suicide on this same houseboat. The series featured 60-minute episodes, with a total of 74 episodes running on the ABC network from October 3, 1960 to June 24, 1962. The series was filmed on location. The theme music was an enjoyable but badly anglicized attempt at salsa music ("Surfside Six (repeat three times) in Miami Beach.. cha cha cha (repeat three times).cha!). Notable Episodes and Actors: "Surfside Six"was not lacking in notable guest stars which included Claude Aikens ("B.J. and the Bear"), Lon Chaney Jr. (several classic "Frankenstein" and "Mummy" movies), Elisha Cook Jr. ("House on Haunted Hill"), Bruce Dern ("Black Sunday"), Chad Everett ("Medical Center"), Dennis Hopper ("Easy Rider"), Ellen McRae (Burstyn), Gerald Mohr, and Mary Tyler Moore ("Dick Van Dyke Show"). Notable episode names include "Bride and Seek", "Thieve's Among Honor", "Black Orange Blossom", "Vengence is Bitter", "Spinout at Sebring", "An Overdose of Justice", "Daphne, Girl Detective", "Affair at Hotel Delight", "Prescription for Panic", "A Slight Case of Chivalry", "Vendetta Arms", "Love Song for a Dead Redhead", and "House on Boca Key". For more information, check out http://www.thrilingdetective.com/surfside.html

"Everglades" was a syndicated television show about a wildlife officer named Lincoln Vail, played by actor Ron Hayes, who in his airboat, chased after criminals in the Everglades. Gordon Cosell played his superior officer, Chief Anderson. "Everglades" was shot on location, had a total of 38 episodes at 30 minutes each, and ran from October 9, 1961 to June 26, 1962. The intro scene with Hayes speeding through the Glades in his airboat with large thunderheads over the horizon was exhilarating, and beautiful even in black and white. Notable Episodes and Actors: Guest stars included Victor Buono ("King Tut" on the "Batman" TV series), Burt Reynolds (of "Smokey and the Bandit" fame), Dawn Wells ("Mary Ann" on "Gilligan's Island"), Jack Cassidy, and Luke Halpin ("Sandy Ricks" on "Flipper"). Notable episode names would have to include "Greed of the Glades", "Flight at Boca Chico", "Young Osceola", "Curtains for Kocomo" and "Killer in Calico". For more information, check out http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Stage/2950/epg/Everglades.htm

"They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning---no one you seeeeee.....is smarter than he" was the first stanza to the theme for this Ivan Tors production set in the fictitious Florida nature preserve known as "Coral Key Park". Based on a movie of the same name, "Flipper" was the story of a park ranger and his two young sons. The ranger, "Porter Ricks", was played by veteran actor Brian Kelly. The ranger's sons were "Sandy" , played by Luke Halpin, and "Bud", played by Tommy Norden. "Flipper", played by a bottle nosed dolphin actually known as "Suzy", was a highly intelligent creature that sensed when the boys were in trouble, or led Ranger Ricks to the bad guys as they attempted to poach Florida's marine life. It was, in a sense, a finned version of the legendary collie, "Lassie". "Flipper" was filmed on location in Florida. To this native Florida boy, the adventures of the Ricks family constituted one of my favorite Florida fantasies-to live and work on the subtropical waters, having a dolphin as your friend and protectorate. Other regulars on the series included Andy Devine as "Hap Corman", and Ulla Stromstedt as Ulla Norstrand. This was a show that the entire family of all ages could watch and enjoy together. It debuted on September 19, 1964, on the NBC network, with its last network broadcast on September 2, 1967. A great site on this and other great shows of the 60's can be found at http://www.yesterdayland.com/popopedia/shows/primetime/pt1017.php

I Dream of Jeannie"I DREAM OF JEANNIE"
"I Dream of Jeannie" was the story of astronaut "Tony Nelson" played by actor Larry Hagman, who would later play "J.R. Ewing" in the CBS prime time soap opera, "Dallas". Nelson had to parachute to safety in an arborted space mission ending up on a deserted island. While there he found a genie's bottle, opened it, and out came "Jeannie", a voluptuous, scantily clad 2,000-year-old genie played by actress Barbara Eden. "Jeannie" swore her full devotion to Nelson for freeing her from there the comedy high jinks started. Wondering about the sanity of Tony Nelson after his claim that he had rescued a true genie, he was assigned an Air Force psychiatrist, "Dr. Bellows", played by Haydon Rorke. Nelson, who was first an Air Force Captain then a Major had one fellow officer who knew the truth about "Jeannie"- "Roger Healey", played by Bill Daily. He was originally a Captain, then promoted to Major. "I Dream of Jeannie" was almost entire shot on studio locations in California, and embarrassingly for the Floridian, often showed the mountains surrounding Los Angeles in the background of Tony Nelson's house although the show was set in a fictitious Florida coastal community adjacent to the Cape Kennedy Space Center! "I Dream of Jeannie" ran on NBC from September 18, 1965 to September 1, 1970.

"And awaaaaay we go!" None other than Jackie Gleason himself uttered these famous words at the beginning of each episode. This one-hour variety show which featured the legendary boxer, musician and actor Jackie Gleason was seen on Saturday evenings on the CBS network from 1966 to 1971. It was filmed in Miami Beach and featured many routines borrowed from earlier Gleason television and movies offerings such as singer Frank Fontaine ("Crazy Guggenheim"), and a revamped version of "The Honeymooners" which debuted in 1952 on the Dumont Network. In this updated version, Gleason still played bus driver "Ralph Krameden", Art Carney still played sewer worker "Ralph Norton", but Sheila McRae played "Alice Kramden" and Jane Keene played "Trixie Norton". The show also featured the Sammy Spear Orchestra, which did a wonderful rendition of Gleason's big band tune "Melancholy Serenade" at the end of each show, the June Taylor Dancers, and was announced by Johnny Olson. At the end of each show, Gleason would exclaim, "The Miami Beach audience is the greatest audience in the world!" My T.R.E.E. Inc. Vice President, Bob Scheible, who was born and grew up in Miami Springs, used to go with his family to several Gleason shows and confided in me that Johnny Olson used to run up and down the aisles like a chicken with its head cut off to force audience participation.

The last show of the sixties that featured and was filmed in Florida was Ivan Tors' "Gentle Ben". Tors, who had also produced "Flipper", "Sea Hunt", and the "Aquanauts" moved from the coast into the heart of the Everglades in this story about a boy and his bear, named "Ben". The boy, "Mark Wedloe", was played by Clint Howard, real life brother of child actor Ron Howard ("Opie" on the "Andy Griffith Show", "Richie Cunningham" on "Happy Days", and film producer of great movies such as "Apollo Thirteen"). His father "Tom Wedloe" played by "McCloud" actor Dennis Weaver, was a wildlife officer, and actress Beth Brickell played his mother "Ellen Wedloe". Lastly, there was the backwoodsman friend of the Wedloes, "Henry Boomhauer", played by Clint and Ron Howard's real life father, Rance Howard. "Ben" a gentle natured 650 pound Black Bear, which is indigenous to the Glades, was played by Bruno, and trained by famous animal trainer Monty Cox. The show ran from September 10, 1967 until August 31 1969 on the CBS network. This series was also shot on location in Florida, and would be one the last prime time series to be shot on location in the Sunshine State until "Miami Vice" in 1984.

Other than what remnants of "I Dream of Jeannie" and "The Jackie Gleason Show" made it into 1970 and 1971, the Seventies were a scant decade for prime time productions in or about Florida. The closest was "The Dukes of Hazzard" which debuted in February 1979 having its first two episodes filmed in Georgia. The remainder of episodes was filmed in California, but the implication was that the setting was "somewhere in the American Southeast". The 1960's were Florida's "Golden Age" for prime time, but fortunately the 1980's would become our "Silver Age" with the release of "Miami Vice" in 1984, and the "Golden Girls" in 1985. We'll look at those shows next week, as well as "Second Noah" and "Maximum Bob" from the 1990's, here in Nolan Canova's Pop Culture Review.

I would like to take this opportunity to let our readers know how much Nolan and I value your comments, talents, and contributions. For all of our readers, we recommend that you check out some of the websites that some of these readers are masters of:
Mike Clark (e-mail MECNOW@Yahoo.Com) for his masterpiece website about the Bay area's former CBS affiliate ratings colossus of the 50's through the 80's, WTVT "Big 13" http://people.we.mediaone.net/mec50/index.html From the Tiki Gardener (e-mail strngcrgonyc@earthlink.net) comes one of the coolest Florida websites these eyes have laid their gaze upon-Tiki Gardens, http://www.exotic-tiki-gardens.com
And, of course, to our dedicated followers of the late Fright Show host on Channel 44, Dr. Paul Bearer. Keep the e-mails and websites a-comin'!

NEXT WEEK: Part 2 of Florida-based television!

"La Floridiana" is ©2002 by William Moriaty. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2002 by Nolan B. Canova. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova