Everybody Remembers Floyd the Barber…and if You Don’t, You Should!

by Doug Snauffer

In October 3, 1960, TV viewers were introduced to the fictional small-town of Mayberry, North Carolina—home to an oddball assortment of lovable characters on a new CBS comedy, The Andy Griffith Show.  The pleasant hamlet quickly became as definitive a depiction of rural America as Norman Rockwell’s classic Saturday Evening Post cover illustrations.

There were few lawbreakers in Mayberry.  In one episode, the town was even recognized as the most crime-free community in the country.  Andy never even carried a gun, and Barney kept his one and only bullet in his shirt pocket.

Don Knotts (standing) and Andy Griffith in The Andy Griffith Show, circa 1960.

Over the years, a flurry of local citizens was seen on a recurring basis.  More often than not, they were presented as country bumpkins, but rarely were the portrayals offensive.  

Over the years, a flurry of local citizens was seen on a recurring basis.  More often than not, they were presented as country bumpkins, but rarely were the portrayals offensive.

The most prominent of these characters was hyperactive town barber Floyd Lawson, played by character-actor Howard McNear.  The men of Mayberry would gather at Floyd’s Barber Shop to play checkers and share a few laughs while waiting for their haircuts.  Floyd was endearingly quirky and perfectly suited for the leisurely pace of life in Mayberry.  His biggest ambition was to someday add a second barber chair to his small shop.

By the fall of 1962—thanks primarily to exposure from the Griffith show—56-year-old Howard McNear’s career was on an upswing.  He had landed

Howard McNear (left) and Elvis Presley in Fun in Acapulco.

featured roles in a number of high-profile films: Fun in Acapulco starring Elvis Presley; Irma la Douce with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine; and The Wheeler Dealers, a romantic pairing of James Garner and Lee Remick.  On TV, as The Andy Griffith Show rolled into its third season, McNear was receiving increased screen-time.

Two episodes in particular focused the spotlight squarely on McNear.

In “Floyd, the Gay Deceiver,” (Nov. 26, 1962) Floyd wound up in a bind when a wealthy widow (Doris Fowling) whom he’d been corresponding with decided to pay him a visit.  He’d misled her into believing he was a wealthy philanthropist, and couldn’t face her with the truth.  He turned to Andy—typically the voice of reason—who instead went to extreme lengths to help Floyd continue the charade.

That episode was followed by “Convicts at Large” (Dec. 10, 1962), in which Barney and Floyd’s big fishing weekend was interrupted by three escaped convicts—three very rowdy, female convicts (Jane Dulo, Jean Carson, Reta Shaw)—who took the men hostage.  It was a physically demanding episode for McNear—featuring dance sequences which had to be choreographed, rehearsed, and blocked for the cameras.  Yet throughout the production, he remained as lively and animated as ever.

“Convicts at Large” is widely considered the most popular Floyd-centric episode of the Griffith show.  Unfortunately, it very nearly became his final appearance as well.  In December 1962, McNear suffered a massive stroke which left him severely impaired.  It affected his left shoulder, most of his left arm, and both of his legs.  He was fortunate to have survived, but it appeared his acting career was over.

Reta Shaw (standing, left) and Jane Dulo keeping an eye on Howard McNear in the episode “Convicts at Large.”

Losing Howard McNear was a huge blow to the series.  He was sorely missed by his fellow actors on set, and the series’ writers were thrown into a quandary over how to deal with the creative void left by McNear’s sudden absence.

Ultimately, their solution was to add another character to the rolls.  On Christmas Eve 1962, Jim Nabors made his debut as naive young gas station attendant Gomer Pyle.  Gomer pumped gas, washed windows, and checked under hoods for customers of Wally’s Service Station.  He was a hometown boy who loved comic books, monster movies, and cherry sodas.

Gomer became an immediate hit with viewers and was soon moonlighting as a reserve deputy, thus allowing him to interact more closely with Andy and Barney.

Now most TV producers would be exceedingly protective of a character as popular as Gomer Pyle, but not Andy Griffith.  He thought so highly of Jim Nabors’ talent that he was reluctant to hold the young man back.  It was Griffith who so generously pulled the strings with CBS to get Nabors his own spin-off series.

Don Knotts, Andy Griffith, and Jim Nabors on the set of The Andy Griffith Show. They made the show a hit; the show made them stars.

In the final episode of the 1963-64 season, Gomer enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and shipped off to basic training.  In the fall, his cousin Goober (George Lindsey) took over his duties at the service station.  Goober had been mentioned periodically but had made only one on-screen appearance.

With Nabors gone, concerns arose once again over how to best handle the departure of a primary supporting player.  Then one afternoon in the production offices, Griffith, writer-producer Aaron Ruben, associate producer Richard O. Linke, and a couple of writers were trying to fix a problematic script, when Ruben uttered, “Boy, do I wish we had Howard.”

Suddenly, Andy Griffith was hit by an epiphany. Why someone like Howard McNear when they could have the genuine article?  Griffith quickly picked up the phone and called McNear’s wife Helen to inquire about her husband’s condition.  Helen loved the idea of Howard returning to the program.  She explained that Howard had been making progress in his recovery, but that he’d grown depressed at being so inactive after having lived such an industrious life.

Producer Sheldon Leonard (right) working with Andy Griffin (left), Don Knotts (2nd left) and the rest of the cast during rehearsal of The Andy Griffith Show. (Photo by Allan Grant/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Helen said she’d speak to Howard to see how he felt about the idea and then get back to Griffith.  When the phone rang about an hour later, it was McNear himself.  He sounded well, and seemed thrilled at the prospect of playing Floyd again.  He was forthright, however, in regards to his limitations, but his old-friend Andy Griffith assured him that if he felt ready to return, that together ”they’d work it out.”

And together they did.  Due to his paralysis, McNear couldn’t walk.  When a script required him to stand, a special device was employed to support his weight.  To conceal the rigging from view, McNear would then be positioned, for example, behind Floyd’s barber chair.  A majority of the time, however, scripts were written and staged with Floyd in sitting positions—a favorite location being the bench in front of the barber shop.  It sometimes appeared a bit odd, but the important thing was that they made it work, and Floyd the Barber was once again a part of the Mayberry community.

A year later, in the spring of 1965, Don Knotts announced he was leaving The Andy Griffith Show to pursue a feature film deal with Universal Studios.  It was a tremendous career opportunity for Don, but his departure was a major blow to the series.

Although Griffith had made a name for himself in such films as A Friend in the Crowd (1957) and No Time for Sergeants (1958), he had left the comedy in his TV show to Knotts.  Now Griffith was a straight-man without a comedic sidekick, and the supporting players—Ronny Howard, Frances Bavier, George Lindsey, and Howard McNear—were more vital to the program than ever before.

Still, due to his fragile health,  McNear’s workload was kept relatively light throughout most of the sixth season.  A new character was added that season, Floyd’s nephew Warren Ferguson (played by actor-writer Jack Burns), who became Andy’s new deputy.  The idea had been to team Warren and Goober for laughs, and have them play against Griffith’s straight-man.  But Burns never caught on with viewers and Warren was fazed out by the end of the season.  Another tactic was to bring back several of the programs most popular recurring players, like the Darling family (featuring patriarch Denver Pyle), rock-throwing nuisance Ernest T. Bass (Howard Morris), and nomadic Brit Malcolm Merriweather (Bernard Fox).

In the fall of 1966, at the outset of the seventh season, another new character was introduced to viewers.  This time it wasn’t a deputy.  The producers had evidently learned their lesson about trying to replace Don Knotts’ Barney Fife.  Instead, county clerk Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) was added to the series.

McNear had become alarmingly frail and was having trouble remembering his lines.  He often became frustrated at the situation, and had fallen into a deep depression.

In September 1967, The Andy Griffith Show returned for it’s eighth and final season, but town barber Floyd Lawson was nowhere to be found.  Floyd’s shop on Main Street was also gone.  In its place stood Emmett’s Fix-It Shop.  The transition, however, was never explained on-screen—not on the Griffith show anyway.

But later that season in an episode of Gomer Pyle, USMC  (“Gomer Goes Home,” Jan. 5, 1968), Floyd’s disappearance was finally explained.  On leave from the Marines, Gomer returned to Mayberry only to learn that all his friends were away on a fishing trip.  While there, he noticed Emmett’s shop and inquired about Floyd; a passer-by explained that Floyd had retired and was living with his daughter in Mount Pilot, and Emmett had bought him out.

The Andy Griffith Show finished its eighth season as the top-rated program on television, an outstanding achievement.  Yet Andy Griffith had decided he was ready to move on, and what better time than with the show being number one.  Obviously, CBS wasn’t happy with his choice to end the series, and neither were the 27.6 million viewers who’d remained loyal to the program over the previous eight years. 


Doug Snauffer is TVWriter™ Contributing Editor.  His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel. He’s also the writer of several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television. Learn more about Doug HERE.

Check Doug out on IMDB.

Cinemark Classic Film Series: ‘Rebel Without a Cause’

by Doug Snauffer

Director Nicholas Ray’s classic ode to embittered, alienated teens, Rebel Without a Cause, was back in theaters last week as part of ‘Cinemark’s Winter Classic Series 2017.’

The weekly showcase of Hollywood’s most distinguished and time-honored films is sponsored by Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events, and often includes commentary reels featuring TCM TV-hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz.

Rebel Without a Cause first hit theater screens on October 29, 1955, and became a sensation, raking in $4.5 million against its $1.5 million budget.  The film’s success was overshadowed, of course, by James Dean’s death in a road accident just a month before the movie’s release.

(top-to-bottom) Natalie Wood, James Dean, and Sal Mineo get cozy.

Rebel was only Dean’s second film.  He’d made his big-screen debut just six-months earlier opposite Julie Harris in director Elia Kazan’s East of Eden, then signed on for George Stevens’ Giant with Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor.  Production was delayed, however, due to Taylor’s pregnancy, allowing time for Warner Bros. to cast Dean as the lead in Rebel.  It proved to be the defining performance of the young man’s life and career—both of which were cut tragically short.

Despite the wild success of Rebel Without a Cause, Dean—unlike his co-stars Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood—failed to receive Oscar recognition.  Mineo was nominated as best supporting actor and Wood for best supporting actress.  Neither walked away with a win—but Dean was overlooked entirely.

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I viewed Rebel Without a Cause on January 22, 2017, the first time I’d experienced it on a movie screen, and had mixed reactions to James Dean’s performance.  There’s no denying that Dean had screen presence.  But I tended to view his “method” acting style as more of an oddity.

“You’re tearing me apart!” James Dean delivers his signature line.

A prime example occurs early in the movie after Dean’s character, Jim Stark, is arrested and his parents (portrayed by Jim Backus and Ann Doran) are summoned to the police station.  There they spend as much time arguing with each other as they do admonishing their son, leading Dean to deliver his signature line, “You’re tearing me apart!”

But his “method” delivery, in my opinion, was all artifice, an overly theatrical tribute to Brando and other proponents of that particular acting approach. Dean’s facial expressions and animated hand gestures took away from his performance rather than enhanced it, making it seem forced instead of realistic.

Critic Bosley Crowther, in his New York Times review of East of Eden on March 10, 1955, commented of Dean’s performance:

“He scuffs his feet, he whirls, he pouts, he sputters, he leans against walls, he rolls his eyes, he swallows his words, he ambles slack-kneed—all like Marlon Brando used to do. Never have we seen a performer so clearly follow another’s style. Mr. Kazan should be spanked for permitting him to do such a sophomoric thing. Whatever there might be of reasonable torment in this youngster is buried beneath the clumsy display.”

Of course, after his death James Dean quickly became larger-than-life, and his acting style now defines the legend.  In evaluating Rebel Without a Cause, I doubt it would’ve become the breakthrough hit it did without him.  But whether Dean had the chops to sustain a long-term acting career we’ll never know.

(left-to-right) Corey Allen, James Dean, and Natalie Wood revving up for a “chicky race.”

Rebel wasn’t the only film about teen angst to hit theater screens that year.  Director Richard Brooks’ Blackboard Jungle beat Rebel into cinemas by seven months, bowing on March 25, 1955.  It played from an adult perspective, that of a dedicated teacher, Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford), hired to teach at a rough, inner-city high school.  Vic Morrow, also a disciple of method acting, played a tough gang leader, and Sidney Poitier a young black student with the ability to succeed.

Blackboard Jungle was also a box-office hit; shot on a budget of $1.1 million, it earned $5.2 million in domestic ticket sales.  It benefitted from a hit song, “Rock Around the Clock,” by Bill Haley and His Comets.  (The song had actually been released the previous year but hadn’t caught on.  After playing over the opening titles of Blackboard Jungle, however, it raced to the top of the charts and remained at #1 for eight-weeks.)

Both movies were made in an attempt to focus attention on the soaring rates of juvenile delinquency in the early 1950s—or to capitalize on it perhaps.  Rebel even took it a step further.  Director Nicholas Ray, scriptwriter Stewart Stern, and co-stars James Dean and Sal Mineo made a deliberate effort to portray Mineo’s character, Plato, as being gay.

For instance, when Plato opens his locker at the beginning of the film, there’s a pinup of Alan Ladd inside where one might have expected a female centerfold.  Then when he gets his first look at Jim, Plato is unquestionably swept away in a wave of wanton desires.

Natalie Wood tries to talk Sal Mineo out of making bad choices.

The Motion Picture Production Code at the time (http://productioncode.dhwritings.comwould not have permitted Plato to have been openly homosexual.  To do so in 1955 would most likely have resulted in the film being banned, and could have ruined the careers of those involved.  Even Mineo’s covert take was a risky move.

Blackboard Jungle courted controversy as well; Ford’s Mr. Dadier had to come to terms with his own bigoted feelings towards his black students, while another violent scene depicted the attempted rape of a teacher.

After the movie ended, I glanced around the theater and noticed that, of the 100 or so people who attended the screening of Rebel Without a Cause, a majority were middle-aged.  It would be nice if Cinemark could get younger moviegoers into these classic films, even if it meant handing out free passes in advance to teens who show up for other movies.

Upcoming titles for Cinemark’s 2017 classic film series include An Affair to Remember (60th Anniversary Event), All About Eve, North by Northwest, The Graduate (50th Anniversary Screening), Smokey and the Bandit (can you believe it’s been 40 years!), The Godfather, Some Like It Hot, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Bonnie and Clyde (another 50th anniversary), The Princess Bride, Casablanca, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

For more details, visit https://www.cinemark.com/theatres/.


Doug Snauffer is an Ohio-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel and includes several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television. Check him out on IMDB.

‘Longmire’ Proves Hard to Kill

by Doug Snauffer

As the TV landscape continues to diversify, it’s nice to know there’s still room for an old-fashioned show like Longmire — even though it’s survival has included a number of last-minute reprieves.

Based on the novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson, Longmire is best described as a modern-day Western. It’s protagonist, Sheriff Walt Longmire (Australian actor Robert Taylor), upholds the law in Absaroka County, Wyoming. Walt is a widower who lives in a small secluded cabin on the edge of the Big Horn Mountains.

When he’s not on the job, he spends his free-time drinking Rainier beer and pining over his recently deceased wife. When he’s on the job, Walt Longmire is a force to be reckoned with. He’s a large man who — as far as Western lawmen go — is reminiscent of Gunsmoke‘s Matt Dillon (Although at 6’7″, James Arness had 5 inches on Taylor.). Walt is capable, strong-willed, dedicated, and has proven to be hard to kill — even by short-sighted TV executives.

Robert Taylor stars as Sheriff Walt Longmire in the Netflix original series Longmire.

Longmire debuted on A&E in June of 2012, and continued to play as a summer series the following two seasons. It was A&E’s highest-rated scripted program, pulling in an average of 3.7 million viewers each week during it’s third season.

Then in August of 2014, just as it’s third season was coming to a close, A&E shocked Longmire devotees by cancelling the show. They explained that despite it’s impressive numbers, “the series found its largest audience amidst a specialized demographic.” In other words, 3.7 million people may have been watching Longmire, but they were the wrong 3.7 million people. They were over the age of 34.

They proved to be a surly lot, however. Fans rallied back in one of the most comprehensive protests ever geared towards the cancellation of a TV series. Meanwhile, Longmire‘s production company, Warner Horizon Television, began looking for a new home for their show.

Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry Standing Bear, best friend and confidant to Sheriff Walt Longmire.

They sent proposals out to all the major players, but from the start they were eyeing either Amazon or Netflix. Their efforts were soon rewarded. Just a scant three months after A&E’s surprise cancellation, Netflix picked Longmire up for a fourth season, which premiered in the fall of 2015.

A fifth round of episodes in the fall of 2016 received a warm welcome by fans, who binge-watched the season in large numbers. Rumors had begun to circulate over the summer that these would be the final batch of episodes, but once again the program persevered, and the streaming service officially announced a six go-round of Longmire was in the works for 2017.

(Left to right) Adam Bartley, Katee Sackhoff, and Robert Taylor take a knee in Longmire.

Walt’s posse includes sassy deputy Victoria ‘Vic’ Moretti (Katee Sackhoff), who harbors romantic feelings towards her boss, deputy Jim ‘Ferg’ Ferguson (Adam Bartley), a dedicated officer often inapt in his duties, Walt’s daughter Cady (Cassidy Freeman), an attorney who is every bit as pertinent as her dad, and Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), owner of the Red Pony bar and Walt’s best friend and confidant.

Absaroka County is also home to a Cheyenne Indian reservation, where local businessman and resident villain Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez) has just opened a gambling casino that Walt fears is a front for illegal activity. Malachi Strand (Graham Greene) is Chief of Security for the casino, and Mathias (Zahn McClarnon) is head of the tribal police.

Robert Taylor (left) and A Martinez (right) in a scene from Netflix’s original series Longmire.

Rounding out the Longmire universe is Ruby (Louanne Stephens), Walt’s office manager and dispatcher, Travis Murphy (Derek Phillips), a naïve, near-do-well deputy-wannabe who has somehow managed to steal Victoria’s affections, and Dr. Donna Sue Monaghan (Ally Walker), a psychiatrist introduced in season 4 who has awakened feelings of passion in Walt for the first time since the death of his wife.

Longmire is a far cry from most TV crime procedurals. It’s filmed largely on outdoor locations at a deliberately slow place, and the scripts rely heavily on character development. It consists of 10-episode seasons (with the exception of it’s second year, which contained 13). But the writing is above par and the story arcs (typically one major thread per season) are intriguing and satisfying.

The characters are all multidimensional and exhibit self-destructive behavior. They’re as much a threat to themselves as any of the contemporary outlaws they go up against. Walt has a need to do things his own way, whether he’s acting within the bounds of the law or not — and his deputies tend to take their leads from him.

Longmire (Netflix). Walt’s best friend, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), is taken into custody by Mathias (Zahn McClarnon), head of the Cheyenne tribal police.

I do have one problem with the series, however. With Walt, Vic, and Ferg so wrapped up in their cases, I have to wonder who is handling other police business. Don’t they ever write speeding tickets?

Production on Longmire is set to resume in March, and the new season should begin streaming this fall. But word has already begun to float that these next 10 episodes will be — yeah, that’s right — the series’ last. We’ll see what Walt Longmire has to say about that.


TVWriter™ Contributing Editor Douglas Snauffer is an Ohio-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel and includes several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television. Learn more about him HERE

Retro Review: ‘The Girl With Something Extra’

by Doug Snauffer

Like many other independent channels, Get TV kicked off the New Year by revising its programming lineup. One change in particular was the addition of an obscure sitcom from the early 1970s entitled The Girl With Something Extra (NBC, 1973-74).

Most people will have no memory of this short-lived domestic sitcom. It ran for just a single season of 22 episodes before being cancelled unceremoniously by NBC and relegated to deep storage.

Those who do recall the program most likely remember it as a starring vehicle for acclaimed actress Sally Field. She was just 26-years-old when she began work on The Girl With Something Extra, yet she was already a seasoned veteran, having starred in two previous comedies, Gidget and The Flying Nun.

Her third effort cast her opposite the multi-talented John Davidson, an accomplished singer and actor who’d also hosted his own talk show in 1969, as newlyweds Sally and John Burton, who face an unusual dilemma—she has ESP and can read the minds of those around her, including his.

Sally Field and John Davidson in their 1973-74 sitcom The Girl With Something Extra.

Early on, John argues that the situation isn’t fair because it puts him at a disadvantage—she can lie but he can’t. Not about anything diabolical of course, just the little white lies that can save another persons feelings. In an early episode, John—while kissing Sally—has a vision of his celebrity-teen-crush Annette Funicello in a bikini. Sally picks up on it and is furious.

Sally later explains that when she was a young girl her best friend went off to camp for the summer, and when she returned Sally immediately sensed that she was no longer as important to the girl as she’d once been. That all her life she’d been able to read people’s true feelings about her, personal thoughts that most people really wouldn’t want to know. John was then able to realize that both he and Sally were at a disadvantage, but if they both really truly loved each other it was something they’d be able to overcome.

Field was very good in the role. She has that strong screen presence that kept the networks interested in working with her, and eventually launched her into feature films. Davidson is good too, and together he and Field made an attractive couple. They have chemistry together, particularly in their dramatic scenes. Those are the moments in which both leads really shine and when the series is at it’s best.

The real problem with The Girl With Something Extra was in the writing. It’s the type of program that in the 1980s would be branded a “dramedy,” a genre and term that quickly became extinct. The writers didn’t seem to know which direction they wanted the show to go in—was it a comedy or drama, an old-fashioned comedy or an attempt to explore the trials and tribulations of a modern marriage in the liberal ’70s.

Sally Field’s character had ESP and could read minds. I’m thinking John Davidson was one lucky guy.

The series did have the benefit of a strong supporting cast. Jack Sheldon played John’s brother Jerry, and Zohar Lampert was Sally’s best friend, Anne. Henry Jones and William Windom, two of television’s best and most recognized character-actors, had recurring roles as Owen Metcalf and Stuart Kline, the senior partners at Jack’s law firm.

It all sounded like a recipe for success—or might have a decade earlier.

MeTV has scheduled The Girl With Something Extra weekday mornings at 7:20 a.m. following Nanny and the Professor (ABC, 1970-71) and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (ABC/NBC, 1968-70). Appropriate company; Both of its lead-ins were shows about couples in which one partner had supernatural abilities.*

Other programs that The Girl With Something Extra can be favorably compared with include Bewitched (ABC, 1964-72), I Dream of Jeannie (NBC, 1965-70), My Living Doll (CBS, 1964-65), and My Brother the Angel (CBS, 1965-66). These shows all debuted in the 1960s when such fantasy concepts were in vogue with TV viewers.

By the early 1970s, though, the television landscape had begun to change. CBS ditched their rural sitcoms in favor of more sophisticated comedies like All In the Family (CBS, 1971-79) and Maude (CBS, 1972-78). NBC placed The Girl With Something Extra on Friday evenings at 8:30 following its established hit Sanford and Son (NBC, 1972-77).

Sanford and Son co-stars Redd Foxx (left) and Demond Wilson (right) were a hit, but their lead-in couldn’t save The Girl With Something Extra.

The scheduling choice seems to indicate that NBC had very high expectations for The Girl With Something Extra.  At the time in 1973, Sanford and Son was the #2 rated program on TV, making the time-slot following it choice prime-time real estate.

Unfortunately, the two shows simply weren’t compatible.  Sanford and Son was a gritty sitcom with an all-black cast that was fueled by race-inspired humor.  The Girl With Something Extra was an old-fashioned, fantasy-tinged sitcom about a young, upwardly-mobile, upper-middle class white couple who lived in a loft they couldn’t possibly afford. (Say that three-times fast.) NBC obviously gave it the post-Sanford and Son birth in the hope it would retain the large audience enjoyed by its lead-in. But that simply wasn’t the case. Viewers of Sanford and Son tuned out in droves at the bottom of the hour.

By midseason, the network realized its error and in January, in an effort to salvage the program, moved it from 8:30 to 9:00 (in the process cancelling the freshman sitcom Needles & Pins, which had been occupying the time slot). The move, however, failed to improve the shows performance, and The Girl With Something Extra was cancelled in March of 1974.

Sally Field of course moved on to success in both television and feature films, earning accolades for her roles in the TV miniseries Sybil (1976) and feature films like Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Norma Rae (1979), while John Davidson continued to pursue both his singing and acting careers. He again hosted his own talk show (NBC, 1976; syndicated, 1980-82) and in 1986 became emcee of The New Hollywood Squares (syndicated, 1986-89).

Only angels have wings, but that didn’t stop Sister Bertrille (Sally Field) from taking flight in The Flying Nun.

Fields’ earlier efforts, Gidget and The Flying Nun have both played in syndication, but The Girl With Something Extra has been buried since it went off the air in 1974. Now, thanks to retro-TV networks like Get TV, viewers have an opportunity to see it again, along with many other obscure and mostly forgotten programs like it.

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* The nature of Nanny’s incredible intuition was never explained, and she and Professor Everett maintained a platonic relationship, yet had the series continued I suspect romance might have blossomed. And Carolyn Muir and the late Captain Daniel Gregg also maintained a chaste association, but there was an undeniable attraction between the two. It always confused me that the Captain could be seen and heard when he wanted to be, and could interact with the living. So why didn’t he simply do so and claim to be one of his own descendants, and marry Carolyn? Perhaps he would have, but like Nanny and the Professor, the run of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was cut far too short.


TVWriter™ Contributing Editor Douglas Snauffer is an Ohio-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel and includes several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television. Learn more about him HERE

‘Super Sci-Fi Saturday Nights’

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by Doug Snauffer

There’s an abundance of science fiction and fantasy on TV these days, and you can find it just about anywhere. The Syfy Channel, for example, produces its own line of original series’ like Aftermath, Incorporated and Channel Zero. Of course, such programming is their stock-in-trade.

However, even the major broadcast networks are churning out their share of similar content, with such titles as ABC’s Agents of Shield, NBC’s Timeless, and Fox’s Gotham. The CW in particular has jumped on the comic book craze currently dominating big-screen box offices. They became home for the displaced Supergirl after she proved incompatible with CBS’ older-skewing demographic last season. At the CW she now keeps regular company with Blade, Arrow, and the Legends of Tomorrow.

I enjoy many of these shows myself, but none of them possess that special magic like the programs I grew up with. The special effects weren’t always that special, the scripts were far from groundbreaking, and the science was far more fiction than fact.

But sci-fi fans of that era, the Baby Boomers, (aka, the first TV Generation) possessed something that today’s younger viewers don’t — a greater ability to suspend disbelief. And each subsequent generation since — the Gen-Xers, Gen Y-ers, and Millennials — have demanded more plausibility in their science fiction.

That’s to be expected of course; with time comes change, and change is inevitable. But personally, I still favor those programs from the 1960s and ‘70s. When it comes to TV, I’m a Gen-Xer at heart. So rather than Syfy, I get my weekly fix of otherworldly adventure from MeTV.

Their Super Sci-Fi Saturday Nights is a twelve-hour marathon of classic titles guaranteed to invoke feelings of excitement and nostalgia in anyone who grew up with their head in the stars.

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Ross Martin (left) and Robert Conrad (taking his best shot) in The Wild Wild West.

The reminiscing begins each Saturday evening at 6:00 p.m. with The Wild Wild West (CBS, 1965-69), a program which looked to cash-in on the ‘secret agent’ craze of the 1960s (Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Avengers, James Bond) by placing a pair of Secret Service agents in the Old West. The series, which featured Robert Conrad and Ross Martin, is well-remembered for its elaborately staged fight sequences.

At 7:00 p.m. comes The Incredible Hulk (CBS, 1977-82) with Bill Bixby as cursed scientist Dr. David Banner, who when angered transforms into a huge, raging green beast (played by Lou Ferrigno). This show still holds up as the best-ever screen adaptation of the Marvel comic-book character.

Then at 8:00 p.m. a D.C. Comics superhero takes center-stage with Wonder Woman (ABC/CBS, 1976-79). Several attempts have been made in recent years to bring the Amazonian demigoddess to both TV and movie screens, but at present Lynda Carter’s portrayal is still considered the definitive Wonder Woman. Despite being produced during the Feminist Movement, the show relied heavily on Carter’s ability to jiggle and bounce her way through most episodes.

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Lynda Carter as that ’70s All-American girl, Wonder Woman.

Next up, at 9:00 p.m., comes classic Star Trek (NBC, 1966-69). If Gunsmoke was an “adult Western,” then Star Trek was the sci-fi equivalent. Compared to other genre programs of the era, Trek could be considered exceptionally literate. The show was set aboard a 23rd century starship, the Enterprise, as it explored the farthest regions of space seeking to make first contact with alien races.

Star Trek laid the groundwork for an empire. As of 2016, there have been five spin-off series (with number six in the works) and thirteen feature films. But nothing beats these 79 episodes from the shows original run on NBC.

From 10:00 p.m. to midnight, MeTV revisits another programming concept made popular back in the 1960s — the late-night horror TV host. The honors here belong to Emmy-winning Chicago TV personality Rich Koz, who dons a black cape and top-hat and assumes the identity of his alter-ego, Svengoolie.

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Rich Koz in the guise of MeTV horror-movie host Svengoolie.

Koz has a predilection for the old Universal movie monsters — Dracula, the Werewolf, the Frankenstein monster, the Mummy, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. All films which likewise appeal to the same audiences who adore classic ‘60s TV.

Then, at the midnight hour, comes a double-dose of the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder (Adam West and Burt Ward) , with two episodes of Batman (ABC, 1966-68), typically the first and concluding segments of a two-part story.

Unlike those series’ mentioned above, Batman was enacted very theatrically (the third season even did away with physical walls, opting instead for infinity backgrounds), and directed with a very particular and surreal style in mind. It was intentionally campy.

If you accept it on those terms, it’s an enjoyable program. If you choose to view it as a serious attempt at breathing life into the Dark Knight character, as director Tim Burton did with his 1989 feature film, you’ll be sorely disappointed. And that would be a shame, because Batman is a pleasant and enjoyable diversion, especially the fight scenes.

It would’ve been nice, however, if the producers of Batman had put as much effort into choreographing their brawls as the producers of The Wild Wild West had. They were often staged very skillfully, while at other times it seemed as if they were improvised on the spot.

Rehearsals didn’t necessarily guarantee success though. Actors Don ‘Red’ Barry and Robert Conrad were both badly injured performing stunts for The Wild Wild West:

The following four hours are then dedicated to a sub-marathon of programs from legendary producer Irwin Allen.

Leading off is Land of the Giants (CBS, 1968-70), a visually challenging series to film about the crew of a futuristic, commercial shuttle flight that breaks through a dimensional barrier and winds up in a world populated by giants.

At the time, Land of the Giants was the most expensive series ever produced for television at a cost of $250,000 per episode. Due to the cost, CBS demanded a reduction in the budget for Lost in Space, which had originally been renewed for a fourth season. Allen balked at the proposed cuts, and when CBS announced their fall 1968 schedule, Lost in Space was absent. Gary Conway, Don Marshall, and Deanna Lund star.

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Irwin Allen’s The Time Tunnel.

The giants are followed at 2:00 a.m. by The Time Tunnel (ABC, 1966-67), which at one season was the shortest-lived of Allen’s programs. When the government threatens to shutter his incredibly expensive time travel program, scientist Tony Newman (James Darren) leaps into his ‘time tunnel’ to prove its viability, and ends up on-board the Titanic. His friend and partner on the project, Doug Phillips (Robert Colbert), follows him, and the two become lost in time.

At 3:00 a.m. comes Lost in Space (CBS, 1965-68), the most popular of Allen’s shows, which follows the adventures of the first family sent to colonize deep space. Just before launch an enemy agent sabotages the mission, but is unable to get off the vessel before liftoff. He, the Robinsons, and their pilot escape near calamity, but the Jupiter 2 is thrown hopelessly off-course and the party must all work together for survival in the wilderness of space. Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Billy Mumy, and Jonathan Harris star.

The Irwin Allen theme comes to a close with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (ABC, 1964-68), the first and longest-running of the producer’s 1960s sci-fi superfecta. The series is based on Allen’s own 1961 feature film of the same title starring Walter Pidgeon, Joan Fontaine, and Peter Lorre. It’s set aboard a technologically advanced submarine, the Seaview, as it patrols the world’s oceans in the then-future of the 1970s! Richard Basehart and David Hedison star in the TV version.

MeTV’s 12-hour marathon finally wraps up from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m. with Planet of the Apes (CBS, 1974), a short-lived spinoff from the popular movie series. Ron Harper and James Naughton star as two astronauts who are thrust forward to the year 3085, a time when the Earth is ruled by intelligent simians. Roddy McDowall, who had appeared in four of the five feature films, also stars as Galen, a sympathetic chimp who befriends the astronauts. Together these three go on-the-run as fugitives from the gorillas, who maintain dominance, as the men search for a possible way back to their own time.

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Roddy McDowall, James Naughton, and Ron Harper in Planet of the Apes.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that twelve-hour science-fiction marathons are not everyone’s idea of an enjoyable evening, beginning with those who have lives. But even so, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can always pick and chose your preferences and DVR them for later viewing. I love them all, and being a writer have no life, so for me it’s a perfect way to spend a Saturday night.

And while few of these programs are likely to appeal to those under age 35 — in mass numbers anyway — middle-aged viewers who grew up during those eras are likely be swept back to childhood, and racing home from school to catch the latest adventures of their sci-fi heroes.


Douglas Snauffer is an Ohio-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel and includes several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television.

‘Designated Survivor’ a hit for ABC

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by Doug Snauffer

ABC’s new political thriller Designated Survivor looked like one of the more intriguing new shows coming to TV this season.  The network promised a compelling series that would tap into our fears regarding terrorism and examine what we as a country look for and need in a leader.

Personally I’m also a fan of Kiefer Sutherland and was happy to see him back on TV.  The concept behind Designated Survivor plays out like the type of scenario that counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer worked to foil each season on 24.  It’s as if we’re getting a look at what might have occurred if Jack hadn’t been so good at his job.

Of course, Jack Bauer would have made a much better president than Sutherland’s character in Designated Survivor.  Here he plays Tom Kirkland, a low-level politician who inherits the office of President after a bomb explodes during the State of the Union Address, effectively wiping out the nation’s political hierarchy.

Tom had been appointed the ‘designated survivor’ and was sequestered away by the Secret Service, watching on TV as the horrific events played out.  He was then whisked away to the White House and unceremoniously sworn in as the new President of the United States, the most powerful man on the planet.

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‘Designated Survivor’ Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) is sworn in as president of the United States after a bomb wipes out the entire political hierarchy.

Now, I’m not sure how a designated survivor is actually chosen, but if this TV series is any indication, it’s not done very logically.  Tom doesn’t come across as being forceful or overly capable.  He was a bespectacled paper-pusher whom the Secret Service had designated “Glasses.”  And evidently he wasn’t very good at that, seeing that the President was about to fire him.

Perhaps someone owed Tom a favor.  It does present the show with the opportunity to follow an underdog as he rises to a challenge.  In this case, Tom Kirkman has to hold the country together and track down those responsible for the bombing, while continuing to project a strong image both at home and abroad.

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Acting U.S.President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) cleaned up and dressed for success.

Tom’s wife Alex (Natascha McElhone) is an attorney, a strong woman who seems to have more faith in her husband than he has in himself.  It’s still to be seen how she’ll perform in the role of First Lady.  I see her as a combination of Jackie Kennedy and Hillary Clinton.

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Alex Kirkman (Natascha McElhone) watches as her husband Tom (Kiefer Sutherland) is sworn in as Acting U.S. President.

The show failed, however, with the character of Leo Kirkman (Tanner Buchanan), Tom and Alex’s rebellious 16-year-old son.  After the bombing, the Secret Service began sesrching for Leo and found him selling drugs in a local nightclub.  (I don’t understand the need for network dramas to continually go the dysfunctional family route.)  Then there’s younger daughter Penny (Mckenna Grace), who appears more stable.  Of course she still hasn’t realized the seriousness of all that’s happened.

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The First Children, Leo (Tanner Buchanan) and Penny Kirkman (McKenna Grace).

Tom is frequently challenged by General Harris Cochrane (Kevin McNally), who has no confidence in his new commander in chief.  The General’s apprehension at answering to Tom is perfectly understandable, so it wasn’t necessary to write the character as a loud, war-crazed, one-dimensional stereotype.

The rest of the staff is often just as cliched:  Seth Wright (Kal Penn) is the new presidential speechwriter, initially a skeptic, but now one of Tom’s closest confidants; Chief of Staff Aaron Shore (Adan Canto) is working behind Tom’s back to have him ousted from office; and FBI agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) is leading the investigation into the bombing.   

In the second episode, it turned out the Republicans had chosen a designated survivor of their own, Congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen).  She’s certainly knowledgeable, but has no legal claim to the office.  At their first sit-down, Kimble seemed to fully support Tom’s presidency, but in time, and with the backing of those opposed to President Kirkman, she may very likely become a powerful rival.

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The ‘Designated Survivors,’ Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) and Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen).

Designated Survivor has a lot going for it – a timely premise, a talented and appealing cast, and a network that truly believes in it.  ABC was so high on creator David Guggenheim’s pilot script that they ordered Designated Survivor straight to series last January.  After the first two episodes aired to impressive ratings this fall (Wednesdays, 10:00 p.m.), ABC quickly increased their episode order from 13 to a full-season of 22.

With the events of 9/11 still so vivid in the minds of most Americans, Designated Survivor has the ability to touch viewers on a very personal level.  The images of Capitol Hill in ruins instantly brings back images of the decimated Twin Towers.

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President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) inspects Ground Zero.

Designated Survivor holds too much promise to wind up being saddled with storylines from daytime TV.  If it were airing on HBO, Showtime, or even A&E, the bar would be much higher.  We’ve come to expect much edgier fare from those providers while the broadcast networks remain unwilling to break free of their cookie-cutter approach to series TV.

Designated Survivor has tough competition in its timeslot against CBS’ Code Black and NBC’s Chicago, P.D.  But thus far, it’s holding its own.  After four weeks, its averaging 7 million viewers.  So perhaps Tom Kirkman will give Jack Bauer a run for his money in the hero department yet.

Although… (Possible Spoiler)….

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Just look at those shifty eyes.

I’ve got a suspicion that Tom Kirkman is behind the whole thing.  A man with obvious ambitions – no matter how unlikely – of being a leader who never made it past being a lower-level cabinet member.  Then he learns the President is planning to dismiss him, to steal away even that small segment of his dream.  Yeah, it has to be Kirkman.  Just has to be.

‘Timeless’ Shoulda Been Better

Time Travelers Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, and Malcolm Barrett of NBC's Timeless.

Time-travelers Malcolm Barrett, Abigail Spencer, and Matt Lanter of NBC’s Timeless.

by Doug Snauffer

I really expected more from NBC’s Timeless.  I’ve always been a big fan of time-travel stories, and so apparently is Timeless co-creator Eric Kripke (Supernatural, Revolution).  He revealed in a recent interview that inspiration for his latest creation can be traced back to such programs as Voyagers! (NBC, 1982-83) and Quantum Leap (NBC, 1989-93).  That was enough to sell me.

Until, that is, I viewed the pilot for Timeless (NBC, Mondays, 10 pm).  

The first episode played like a two-hour movie that had been hastily edited in half.  Just seven minutes into the premiere episode, three strangers had already been assembled, introduced to a secret time-travel project, given the run-down on their first assignment, attired in appropriate 1930s apparel, and strapped into the giant eyeball-shaped contraption that would carry them back to 1937 to the sight of the Hindenburg disaster.

Whatever happened to character development?  To those two-hour pilots where we got to know the people we were being asked to care about and root for?  (I’d even settle for a 90-minute movie of the week.)

The time travelers of NBC's Timeless arrive in 1937.

The time travelers of NBC’s Timeless arrive in 1937.

The team consists of history professor Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer, Oz, The Great and Powerful), military-man Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter, Ultimate Spider-Man), and mysterious “coder” Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett, Hurt Locker).  

We’re also briefly introduced to the creator of the project, Anthony Bruhl (Matt Frewer, Orphan Black);  he’s the kind of cliched, eccentric scientist we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in these types of productions.  But we learn nothing about the man and only basic exposition about his time-travel project.

TIMELESS -- "Pilot" -- Pictured: (l-r) Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin, Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan -- (Photo by: Joe Lederer/NBC)

The heroes of NBC’s Timeless.

The key bit of info is this: Characters can only travel back to years before their own births, and the team can only visit a time period once.  This way they don’t risk the chance of running into themselves.  An earlier traveler did just that, and only part of him returned to the present.

I have a feeling this also excuses the producers from dealing with such issues as 9/11 or the nightclub shooting in Orlando last June.

The concept behind Timeless is pretty basic:  the team has to track a stolen time-ship through bygone days and prevent the thief, Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic, ER,  Extant), from changing history for his own diabolical purposes.  

An interesting idea, but hardly original.  It’s been used often in both films and TV:  from director Nicholas Meyer’s 1979 sci-fi feature Time After Time, which had H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) pursuing Jack the Ripper (David Warner) through time, from Victorian London to 1979 San Francisco, to TV series like Voyagers! (rogue Voyager Drake), Quantum Leap (the Evil Leaper, Alia), and even the regrettable Galactica 1980 (renegade Commander Xavier).

Goran Visnjic as Garcia Flynn, the villain of NBC's Timeless.

Goran Visnjic as Garcia Flynn, the villain of NBC’s Timeless.

The team has to be careful not to change history themselves while preventing the villains from doing so.  But I think we can expect history to take quite a beating all the same.  Each time the team returns to the present, they have to face the ramifications of their actions in the past.

On this first trip, when Lucy got back home, she found that her mother, who had been gravely ill, was now in great health.  Her joy was short-lived, however, when she discovered that her younger sister no longer existed.

At the end of the premiere, Flynn has a brief discussion with Lucy.  He asks whether she’s aware of why she was chosen for the project.  He’s also in possession of a journal written by Lucy’s future self.

This raises some interesting questions.  How are Flynn and Lucy connected in the future?  And with so little information provided about the time travel project, can we really be sure who the good guys and bad guys really are?

Flynn confronts Lucy as the Hindenburg burns in the distance.

Flynn confronts Lucy as the Hindenburg burns in the distance.

Timeless isn’t a bad show.  But it’s also not a good one.  

The program faces a myriad of problems.  For one, it needs a little humor.  This isn’t a medical show, it’s not set in an ER or a court room.  It’s science fiction and fantasy.  It should be solid but entertaining and fun, too.  Kripke and co-creator Shawn Ryan (The Shield) are capable of better.


Douglas Snauffer is an Ohio-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel and includes several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television. Check him out on IMDB.