This is the fifteenth in a series of examinations of legends about television and the people involved in TV and whether they are true or false.
Click here to view an archive of the previous TV urban legends.
TV LEGEND: Baretta was originally intended as a continuation of a previous series.
Toma was a detective series that aired on ABC from 1973 to 1974. The show was based on the real life exploits of David Toma, a famous police detective.
The show began as a TV movie in 1973 and was picked up for a full season of 22 episodes.
It starred Tony Musante as Toma (this was during the time when seemingly every detective show outside of Streets of San Francisco had to be called by the last name of the main character – Ironside, Mannix, etc. Someone tell me the first detective TV series to do that – name the show after the last name of the main character – Castle on ABC is reviving that trend!).
The show was critically acclaimed, although the violence in the series was often questioned as whether it was excessive.
In any event, after one season of unspectacular ratings, the series was cancelled.
People at first figured ratings were the reason, which seemed odd, as the ratings weren’t THAT bad, and the show certainly had a buzz about it.
That’s when the truth came out – as it turned out, Musante had only signed on for one season! The unusual request came about as soon as the TV movie Toma was filmed – Musante refused to sign a standard “if this gets picked up for a series I’ll do five seasons” contract, and insisted on just one season of 22 episodes, at which point, if he wanted to do more, he would do 10 episodes a year from that point on.
Well, producer Roy Huggins was willing to go along with this because he figured that once the show was picked up and done for a full season, no actor would walk away from the paycheck and the acclaim, but Musante surprised everyone and did just that. So ABC canceled the series.
Fast forward to the fall of 1974, and ABC’s new slate of dramas were not doing too well, so they decided, what the heck, and announced that Toma was coming back, only the role of Toma would now be played by Robert Blake.
Blake was none too pleased with this – it was bad enough that he was hired to replace an acclaimed series, but now he was being announced in the trades as the “new” Toma? He balked and Huggins and ABC compromised, and used the name Baretta instead…
The new character of Tony Baretta eventually became a lot different than Toma, and the show, which started in early 1975 as a midseason replacement, soon became a hit (Blake went on to win an Emmy for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series).
While I haven’t seen much of Musante in the decades since he gave up Toma (although he was just recently in the film We Own the Night in 2007), I have to give the guy credit for sticking to his guns – he didn’t want to become typecast, and that surely did not happen.
TV LEGEND: Joanna Kerns and Sandra Kerns are sisters (in the alternative, they are related)
1984 was an odd year for television sitcoms in that it debuted not one, not two, but THREE “gender reversal” sitcoms, and more suprisingly, all three of them lasted for at least five seasons (although one of them did so in syndication).
Who’s The Boss? starred Tony Danza as a male housekeeper…
Charles in Charge starred Scott Baio as a male nanny…
and Growing Pains starred Alan Thicke as a father who stayed at home when his wife decided to go back to work….
Even more connections came about, though, when Charles in Charge returned (after two years off) as a syndicated series, with a new family that Charles was the nanny for…
This new connection came due to the fact that, as you can see, all three shows also starred blonde women in their early-to-mid 30s.
Even odder, still, is that two of them were named Kerns!
Joanna Kerns was the mother on Growing Pains…
while Sandra Kerns was the mother on Charles in Charge…
For years, then, people have thought that the two women (separated in age only by four years) were sisters (or somehow related).
That’s not the case.
In fact, in both of their cases, Kerns is not even their given name! Both women took the name Kerns as their MARRIED name. Sandra Kerns (born Sandra Borgsmiller) has been married to Hubie Kerns since 1975. Joanna Kerns (born Joanne DeVarona) was married to Richard Kerns from 1976 to 1984.
I wonder if their husbands were related in any way…
TV LEGEND: The first two Emmy Awards for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series went to Robert Young for Father Knows Best.
Over the years, there have been some debate when it comes time for the Emmy Awards nominations as to what category various shows belong in.
For instance, is Ugly Betty a comedy or a drama with comedic elements? Was Ally McBeal a comedy or a drama with comedic elements? Is Desperate Housewives a comedy or a drama with comedic elements? Those three shows all were nominated as comedy series – there really does not seem to be as much of the same problem on the drama side of things (although one could argue that Boston Legal would apply).
However, there certainly was a bit of an issue for the very first two Emmy Awards given out for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
The award was given to…Robert Young?!!?
Yes, Robert Young, star of Father Knows Best…
This Robert Young, portrayer of Jim Anderson, father to Princess, Bud and Kitten…
Yep, remarkably enough, it’s true – while the show was never nominated for Best Drama Series, Father Knows Best still netted Young the first two Lead Actor in a Drama Series awards (1956 and 1957), with Raymond Burr ending his streak in 1959 by winning for Perry Mason (there was no award given out in 1958).
Adding to the bizarreness, while Father Knows Best was not nominated for ANY series award in 1956 or 1957, it WAS nominated for a Best Series award from 1958-1960…Best COMEDY Series!!
I can’t even begin to imagine the thinking of the Emmys at the time – I presume that’s just where Young entered himself (or the show entered Young), but it’s still remarkable that the Emmys allowed him to be nominated and WIN the award for a show that was a fairly standard situational comedy.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org