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More From Morty's Mailbag

I was watching "First Business" and wondered if the anchorman "Larry Mathews" is the same Larry Mathews that played Richie Petrie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show." He looks too old, but I thought there was a law that two people on TV couldn’t have the same name. If he isn't the same Larry, do you know what the "Richie" from DVD is doing? 

First,  Larry Mathews of "First Business" is not the Larry Mathews of DVD.  Second, there is no law forbidding two people having the same name;  this is a common misunderstanding.  The SAG (Screen Actors Guild) requires that all its members have different and unique stagenames (the name used in all credits, billing, and introductions).  Almost all productions on TV,  film,  and stage are union, SAG productions.  This assures audiences that when they pay to see Bruce Willis,  they get the Bruce Willis from the “Die Hard” movies,  and not the Yakima, Washington dentist. 

Because stagenames are selected on a first come,  first serve basis,  you may not be allowed to use your real name.  This is the case with Michael J. Fox,  who had to add the middle initial to distinguish himself from Michael Fox,  a bit part actor who registered his name before Michael J. Fox was even born.  Larry Mathews of FB is not a SAG member;  should he become one,  he'll have to change his name or add an initial.  Lastly,  Larry Matthews of DVD is married, gave up his stage name (his real name is Larry Mazzeo), had worked as a stagehand and painter with IATSE (International Alliance of Theater & Stage Employees), and now works as a as a Sales Representative (and a damn good one, I'm told) for a Post Production facility in Burbank, California.
(Thanks to Daniel Zealand for updating me on Larry's status.)

Dear Morty,
I remember watching a show once back in the 80's that had a helicopter, two guys, and a genius. I think the helicopter was pink. Do you know what show I'm talking about? 

Picture it; 1983, Columbia/Raystar has a hit movie called “Blue Thunder.”  TV executives are sitting around trying to think up new ideas for the fall TV season.  CBS comes up with ”Airwolf” starring Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine (lasted three seasons on CBS and an additional season on the USA cable Network).  ABC goes to the source and unveils “Blue Thunder” starring James Farentino, Dana Carvey, Bubba Smith and Dick Butkis (lasted one season).  At NBC,  the thinktank came up with “Riptide” starring a pink Sikorsky helicopter called the “Screaming Mimi” and a speedboat called “Ebbtide.”  The series also featured Perry King as Cody Allen, Joe Penny as Nick Ryder,  and Thom Bray as Murray “Boz” Bozinsky,  the ex-army computer nerd and electronics genius.  This series lasted two and a half seasons. 

Dear Morty,
What was the name of the Wonder Twins’ unremarkable monkey sidekick? 

Dear Lori, 
“The Wonder Twins” were part of the "The All-New Super Friends Hour" (1977),  and the continuing adventures of the Justice League.  The animated Saturday morning series began with the adventures of Superman/Batman/Robin/Aquaman/Wonder Woman,  paving the way for “Wonder Dog” and “The Wonder Twins,”  Zan and Jayna, from the planet Exor.  The two possessed shape shifting powers;  Zan could become any form of water or ice, while Jayna could assume the shape of any animal.  The “unremarkable” monkey that assisted the duo was named Gleek. 

Dear Morty,
What was the first movie to be made into a TV series?

The 1949 movie, "The Life of Riley", starring William Bendix, became a TV series later that same year. It was the first big screen to small screen transformation.  William was to reprise his film role of Chester A. Riley for the series he created on radio in 1943.  When the time came for the move to TV,  William was tied up with movie commitments (he had four movies released in 1949) and the role went to Jackie Gleason (Jackie's first TV series).  The audience didn't buy Jackie as Chester A. Riley and the show was canceled.  In 1953, NBC gave "Riley" another chance,  this time with William in the role he created. 

If you disqualify "Life of Riley" because it was on radio first,  then the prize goes to "Topper,"  which debuted on CBS in 1956 with many of the same cast members as the 1937 movie. 

Dear Morty,
The networks are driving me crazy! One week my favorite shows are new, the next week they’re re-runs. When I was younger I don’t remember them running re-runs except in the summer. When I channel surf, all I see are commercials. Are there any statistics on how much TV is entertainment versus how much is commercial, and are we getting less new TV then we used to? 

Dear Sabrina, 
I haven't seen any statistics,  so I did my own research.  I timed 17 uncut half hour sitcoms from the 50's and 60's.  They averaged 25 minutes of program, including the credits.  From the 50's through the 70's,  each series averaged 31 new episodes per season.  This equals roughly 13 hours of new programming per series.  I then timed 15 episodes of new half hour sitcoms.  They averaged 21.5 minutes,  including the squashed credits. 

Networks are only buying about 22 new episodes;  this equals 8 hours of new programming per series, per year.  This is 38% less than in the 1960's.  To fill in the gap,  networks throw in mid-season re-runs.  For example:  On a Thursday night NBC might run a new episode of "Friends," a new "Single Guy," a re-run of "Seinfeld," and a new "Suddenly Susan."  It's their belief that we'll watch the re-run of "Seinfeld" since it's surrounded by new shows,  and based on the Neilson ratings,  we do. 

I can't begin to calculate the amount of advertising on now,  compared to the 60's -- there are just too many variables to take into consideration.  Before de-regulation, networks were limited in the amount of commercials per hour.  With the limits lifted,  we got shorter shows and the dreaded infomercial.  On the plus side,  most local channels did not broadcast 24 hours a day. Today they do.  Also, when you throw into the mix the mid-season replacements which increase the total amount of original programming,  it gets too difficult to calculate.  You should also be warned that watching "classic TV" does not give you back the missing six minutes per hour.  The syndicated versions of our favorite shows have been edited down to today's 22 minute half hours.  And please, let this be the last question that requires math. 

Dear Morty,
Is the Dunkin' Donuts guy the same guy that played Mr. Whipple on the Charmin commercials? 

Nope.  The Dunkin' Donuts guy is Michael Vale, a bit part actor with only two movie credits.  The first was in 1957 when he played a cab driver in "A Hat Full of Rain" with Eva Marie Saint.  His next film credit wasn’t until 1976 when he appeared in “Marathon Man” as a jewelry salesman. {Despite these meager accomplishments, he has a Bacon number of "2."} 

Mr. Whipple was played by Dick Wilson.  Dick’s credits are a little more interesting.  He worked steadily through the 60's in character roles in many popular sitcoms.  You may recognize him as the drunk guy on "Bewitched," a role he reprised on the series many times.  Also look for Dick as Capt. Fritz Gruber,  an occasional role on "Hogan's Heroes." 

The fact that I find most interesting about Dick can be found in his very early TV credits.  See if this show sounds familiar: An affable guy has a TV show where he demonstrates home remodeling, he lives next door to a guy named Wilson. "Home Improvement”?  No,  it’s "The Better Home Show,"  predating Tim Allen's show by some forty years.  The show was hosted by former radio announcer Norman Brokenshire.  "Broke" would tackle topics from "How to Build Cabinets Out of Orange Crates," to "How to Get the Bats Out of Your Belfry."  His TV neighbors Dick and wife Doreeen Wilson would come over to assist. {Despite having many more credits than Michael, Dick rates a "3" on the Bacon scale.} 

Who really played the back of Patty Duke’s head on her TV show?

Rita McLaughlin doubled for Patty & Cathy Lane, and was seen from the back while Patty Duke faced the camera as either character.  Rita was the daughter of a wardrobe mistress at United Artists. 

Dear Morty, 
Was “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” on during prime time? How long did it run?

Dear unsigned (if that is your name),
The camp soap opera parody,  was the creation of Norman Lear,  who also brought us “All in the Family.”  Norman was unable to sell the networks on MH,MH;  they all rejected it as being too controversial. Norman sold it to local stations as a syndicated series in 1976.  Most stations ran it after the 11 o’clock news, but it’s possible your local station ran it during prime time.  The series ran two years. In 1980 CBS ran episodes of MH,MH packaged together with “Barnaby Jones” and “Columbo” as part of its “Late Movie.” 

The series starred Louise Lasser, Greg Mullavey, and Dody Goodman and was the launching pad for “Fernwood 2-night.”  The Martin Mull - Fred Willard talk show satire, later called “America 2-night” was also syndicated. 

Has Wilson on “Home Improvement” ever appeared in a show where they show his face? 

Earl Hindman plays Wilson on HI,  the neighbor who’s face is always hidden (maybe next season he’ll “come out”-- of hiding).  Earl’s been in a bunch of movies beginning with: “Three Into Two Won't Go” (1969), “Who Killed Mary What's 'Er Name?” (1971), “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” (1974), “The Parallax View” (1974), and you can see him as Beau Welles in “Greased Lightning” (1977). In the ‘80’s he appeared in the cult favorite “Silverado” (1985) as J.T., in “Three Men and a Baby” (1987) as Satch,  and in the mini series "War and Remembrance" (1989) as Lt. Cmdr. Wade McCluskey .  These are just a few of his many “face” credits.  His voice turns up in commercials (KFC), and movies (“Talk Radio “) almost as much as his face. 

Dear Morty,
I was watching “Beauty and the Beast” with my daughter and I know I’ve heard the voice of the beast. Who did it and what TV shows did he do? 

Dear Stephanie, 
Almost a movie question, Robby Benson (nee Segal) is the voice of the beast and he’s done a lot of work with his voice as well as in front of and behind the camera.  Robby’s been working since the 70’s when he landed the title role in “Jory” (1972);  his performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor,  not a bad debut . Robby worked steadily through the early ‘80’s in numberous TV movies and feature films including: “Ice Castles” (1978) “The End” (1978), “Ode to Billy Joe” (1976).  Then he started having trouble landing roles he wanted.   Although in his 30’s,  Robby always looked like a teenager.  He turned his attentions to directing ("Thunder Alley" (1994), "Dream On" (1990) ) and producing (“Modern Love” (1990), “Die Laughing” (1980) ). Robby still managed to find time to act in about two dozen more movies for TV and in theatre as well as in voice overs; "Prince Valiant" (1991), and “Beauty and the Beast “ (1991). 

I saw the guy who played Cameron in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on “Spin City.” This is the first time I’ve seen him on TV. Has he done anything else or is he a one hit wonder? 

One hit wonder?  I don’t think so, Tim.   Alan Ruck, who played Ferris Bueller’s buddy Cameron Frye,  has been in a dozen TV shows including: "Muscle" (1995) as Dr. Marshall Jones, "Daddy's Girls" (1994) as Lenny , "Going Places" (1990) as Charlie Davis, “First Steps” (1985) as Dave, “Hard Knox” (1984) as Tyrone and has had guest appearances on: "The Outer Limits," "Picket Fences," "Mad About You," and "The Famous Teddy Z.”  He has also been in several motion pictures including last year’s mega-hit, “Twister.” 

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