This is the twenty-second 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: The actress who played Judy on Family Matters went into adult films.
Family Matters was a spin-off from the ABC sitcom Perfect Strangers.
In the 1987-88 season of Perfect Strangers, the main characters got a job working at a newspaper where Jo Marie Payton played Harriette Winslow, the elevator operator.
That same season, Hariette’s husband, Carl (played by Reginald VelJohnson) made his first appearance.
The couple appeared sporadically over the next season and a half, and in 1989, Hariette and Carl were given their own sitcom, Family Matters, which starred them and their three children, Eddie, Laura and Judy, as well as Carl’s mother, Estelle, and Hariette’s younger sister, Rachel (and her son, Richie).
However, that might have been what the show was INTENDED to be about, but very soon into the series it became apparent that that would not be what the show would be about. You see, in an early episode, we meet the nerdy next door neighbor, Steve Urkel, played by Jaleel White, and soon, the over-the-top comedic stylings of White as Urkel would become THE spotlight of the program.
In many ways, it was similar to how Fonzie took over the spotlight of Happy Days. But in this instance, there was no Ron Howard to keep Urkel from taking over completely.
And just how the character of Richie Cunningham’s older brother Chuck was written out of Happy Days when Fonzie made him superfluous (as Fonzie would be where Richie would go for advice), so, too, did some of the characters on Family Matters become a bit superfluous.
One of these characters was Jaimee Foxworth’s Judy Winslow, the youngest child of Carl and Harriette.
As the show became centered around Urkel, Eddie found his role as Urkel’s friend, Laura was Urkel’s love interest and Carl and Harriette served as surrogate parents. That really left Judy with little to do.
However, the show kept her around for four seasons, and they very well might have kept her for even more, but towards the end of the fourth season, Foxworth’s mother began pushing for Foxworth to have more involvement in the program. The producers responded by dropping her from the show without Judy ever being officially written out – she was just never mentioned again.
Foxworth found it difficult finding acting work after she was finished on the show, and her difficulties increased when a judge allowed her family to use her trust fund to keep themselves from bankruptcy.
Now in her early 20s, Foxworth also developed a bit of a problem with substance abuse. Searching for work got her into modeling and modeling eventually led her to the world of adult entertainment, and she spent a couple of years in the early 2000s as the adult film actress “Crave.”
She stopped doing these films and also eventually sobered up and is once again pursuing a career in acting (and singing, apparently).
Here she is now…
She just had her first child a little while back.
Honestly, I bring her up mostly to establish how the idea of a former sitcom child actor doing adult films is not completely absurd on its face, to set up the next legend…
TV LEGEND: The actor who played Eddie Haskel went into adult films (alternatively, the actor who played Eddie Haskel changed his name to John Holmes and started doing adult films)
The TV series Leave it to Beaver was a charming sitcom that ran for six seasons in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
It featured the Cleavers, a husband and wife (Ward and June) and their two sons, Wally and Theodore, who is better known by his nickname “Beaver.”
Overall, it was a cute show, if predictable at times. However, one character stood out, the supporting character Eddie Haskell, played by teen actor Ken Osmond.
Eddie was practically an archetype in and of himself – he was a total wise guy who put on a choir boy routine whenever he was around parents, a regular wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Anyhow, a persistent rumor over the years was that Osmond, who was not seen much after the shoe ended, began working in adult films.
An alternative rumor was that not only did he go into adult films, but that he took the stage name “John Holmes.” John Holmes was a very famous adult film star of the 1970s (and 1980s, to a certain extent). People tend to love those “Did you know that ‘famous controversial person X’ was really child actor Y?” things.
In any event, in this case, there actually was something more to go on than just “Hey, I haven’t seen the guy who played Eddie Haskell in awhile, I bet he’s doing XXXXX films!”
At one point in his career, Holmes (born John Estes) was billed under the name “Eddie Haskell.”
Presumably it was because he did bear a passing resemblance to Osmond (I don’t see it myself, honestly).
In any event, Osmond actually sued the distributors of the films, but he failed to force them to change the name, as it was ruled as “satire.”
However, he DID succeed in keeping them from using the name “Eddie Haskell” in the promotion of the film. For instance, at a theater in Los Angeles, there was a sign outside promoting one of Holmes’ films as starring “TV’s Eddie Haskell.”
The court order to remove the sign was actually enforced by…Ken Osmond!
You see, after he got out of acting, Osmond became a police officer and worked for the Los Angeles Police Department for 18 years (he eventually left on disability after being shot three times while in pursuit of a suspect – his bulletproof vest and belt buckle saved his life). So he was able to be the officer who went to enforce the court order.
But so yeah, Osmond was never in adult films.
TV LEGEND: 60 Minutes gained its famous time slot due to an FCC regulation.
STATUS: Basically True
The world of television today is so vastly different from the world of television forty years ago that it is practically like comparing Gone With the Wind to a picture at a nickelodeon.
In any event, one thing that really worried the government during the late 1960s was that the three major networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, basically dominated the production of new television programs, because they controlled most of the time in which new programs would be aired.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was worried that this consolidation of power over the creation of programs would curtail the development of new and diverse programming, as the fear was that if just these three networks were developing new shows, they would soon become homogenized. And their specific hope was that the affiliates would develop new shows designed to discuss news and politics on a local level.
So in 1970 (with it coming into effect for the 1971-72 TV season), the FCC introduced the Prime Time Access Rule, where the networks had to give back a half hour Monday through Saturday and an hour on Sunday during “prime time” to the Top 50 affiliates (which was basically every affiliate at the time) for their own use.
At the time, “Prime Time” was defined as 7:30 PM to 11:00 PM Eastern Monday through Friday and 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM on Sunday. The Brady Bunch, for instance, aired at 7:30 PM in 1970.
So the FCC steps in and says, “Okay, affiliates, you can now have the full 7:00 PM hour to develop your own programming, and hopefully you’ll make it intelligent stuff!”
That was all well and good but, well, you see most affiliates really did not WANT to develop their own programming. Making high brow television every day of the week cost a lot (well, more than what they wanted to spend) and the ratings were not very good. So instead, the affiliates turned to syndication. Hee Haw and Lawrence Welk had recently been canceled by the networks, and both shows went into first-run syndication, so a number of networks aired them, most of them on the very same nights and times that they originally aired! So with a mixture of syndicated programming and occasionally their own local news, the affiliates began to be quite happy with their newly found hour.
The networks HATED it, though, and fought it legally for years. Eventually they got an answer, although it was not one they liked. In 1975, it was decreed that the Monday through Saturday “loss” was permanent, but that the networks could have the 7pm hour back on Sundays, but only for family programming or news programming. Both ABC and NBC quickly moved established family programming to that time slot (ABC’s Wide World of Disney and NBC’s Swiss Family Robinson). CBS, though, ended up going a different direction.
You see, in the late 1960s, the belief was that there was no place for news programming on prime time. In the 1970/71 season, in the seven days of prime time programming on the three networks, there was precisely ONE hour of regular news programming, a 10pm time slot on Tuesday nights where CBS would air news specials. You see, the other networks would occasionally air news specials, but the only reason they ever did would be to work as sort of ads for their Evening News. CBS was basically the same. Only in 1968, they had another news program to work with, producer Don Hewitt’s brainchild, 60 Minutes.
60 Minutes was designed by Hewitt around two hosts/commentators, Mike Wallace and Harry Reasoner, doing short pieces on various topics – with the idea that if you focused on the individual in a news story, you could get a better grasp of the situation, and that’s what they did. Their approach got a lot of critical acclaim, but like every other news program in prime time, it got terrible ratings as it aired bi-weekly in the Tuesday time slot at 10 PM.
It basically bummed around the schedule for the next three years, never getting a regular time slot, until the Prime Time Access Rule happened. With CBS now missing out on the 7 PM hour, it decided to take the un-regulated 6 PM hour on Sunday night (an hour that was only available to networks if they would use it for news programming) and air 60 Minutes there. The ratings weren’t good, but at least it was cheap. The problem for 60 Minutes was that CBS’ Sunday football games would always go past 6 PM, so 60 Minutes was actually pulled from the air during football season! Occasionally, during football season, CBS would find a spot for 60 Minutes at various days, to fill in for a re-run show, etc. But for a number of years, that’s what CBS did.
That is, until the aforementioned 1975 change to the rule. You see, there were two things going on for CBS that affected their approach to the newly “acquired” 7 PM hour on Sunday. First off, the affiliates were irritated that, unlike ABC and NBC, they could not just shift the programming that the affiliates had at 7 PM on Sunday before the change just down an hour to 6 PM on CBS, because CBS was airing 60 Minutes there. Secondly, CBS did not have a ready made family program to put into the 7 PM time slot like ABC and NBC did.
Instead, CBS actually introduced a new show, a family drama called Three for the Road, starring Alex Rocco. 40 of the top 50 affiliates turned CBS down, choosing to keep the 7 PM hour for theirselves.
In November of 1975, Three for the Road was cancelled.
It was at that point that a CBS executive named Oscar Katz came up with one of the biggest decisions in TV history. Why not, he suggested, just move 60 Minutes up an hour into the 7 PM time slot? It would make the affiliates happy to get the 6 PM time slot and it would take 60 Minutes (for the most part) out of the football schedule so it could air year round. Yes, the ratings would not be good, but with the only other option being OTHER news programming (or family programming CBS did not have), what else could they do?
They agreed with Katz, and 60 Minutes took over the 7 PM hour on Sunday nights. This month, 60 Minutes returns for its THIRTY-FOURTH season in that time slot, so I think it is safe to say that the decision worked.
And they never would have gotten the chance had it not been for the Prime Time Access Rule.
The Access Rule, by the way, was finally abolished in 1996, but that time, affiliates would rather die than to give up the 7 PM hour on weekdays.
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