Iconic TV Announcer Don Pardo Dies At 96

Aug 19, 2014

Fans of Saturday Night Live and the original versions of The Price is Right and Jeopardy! recognize Don Pardo's voice immediately.

They may not be able to identify his face, but his voice was famous.

Pardo died Monday in Tucson, Ariz. He was 96 years old.

An NBC spokesman confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that he died in his sleep.

Pardo began working for NBC in 1944 and stayed with the network for 60 years.

In keeping with its recent tradition of drawn-out, publicly humiliating anchor switches, NBC has finally admitted it is replacing Meet the Press host David Gregory with the network's political director, Chuck Todd, on Sept. 7.

The switch had been rumored for months, as it became increasingly obvious that the Gregory-led Meet the Press was sinking in the ratings and failing to set the news agenda in ways it did when the late Tim Russert was at the helm. Gregory took over the show in 2008 after Russert's sudden death.

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It has been a busy week in culture. There were the deaths of Lauren Bacall and Robin Williams, and the latter death brought up questions about how people behave on social media when an icon passes. Also, he who is tired of sharks is tired of death. But we might be getting tired of sharks!

Like it or not, television has the power to shape our perceptions of the world. So what do sitcoms, dramas and reality TV say about poor people?

In life and on TV, "poor" is relative. Take breakfast: For Honey Boo Boo's family, it's microwaved sausage and pancake sandwiches; for children in The Wire's Baltimore ghetto, it's a juice box and a bag of chips before school; and on Good Times, set in the Chicago projects back in the 1970s, it was a healthier choice: oatmeal.

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Can you ever make sense of a whole decade? That's what the National Geographic Channel tries to do with its three-part documentary on the '90s. So we get Bill Clinton, the building of the internet, Waco, O.J., the Oklahoma City bombing, Prozac, Starbucks, Tanya Harding, Kurt Loder, In Living Color, Rodney King and Reginald Denny, Anna Nicole Smith, the rise of SUVs and NMA, the fall of the Walkman and Tamagotchis, the Great Gretzky... This is starting to sound like a Billy Joel song.

National Geographic Channel

This hour's Scramble starts fun and gradually grows darker. We begin with David Rees, host of a television show in which he layers expertise onto simple acts like opening a door or making ice cubes. Its motto is "de-familiarizing the ubiquitous so as to increase our appreciation and wonder thereby." We can get behind that.

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Amy Goodman’s radio, TV, and Web program Democracy Now! has a wide following among people who think the mainstream media doesn’t let us hear enough voices from those who protest against powerful interests. This week, she visits the Mark Twain House and Museum to discuss her new book The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance and Hope.

This hour, we preview that event, with a conversation about the state of the news media today. We also listen back to a conversation with a Hartford-based guitarist who celebrates the music of her home country, Puerto Rico, while also exploring the classical repertoire.

Actor James Garner, whose wise-cracking but affable character made hits out of the TV shows Maverick and The Rockford Files, has died. He was 86.

Los Angeles Police confirm that Garner was found dead of natural causes at his home in Brentwood on Saturday.

The Television Critics Association is a funny animal. Its challenge, as well as its strength, is that it includes people with massively different jobs: longtime print critics (both nationally and locally oriented) who have been coming to the annual press tour for decades, reporters who cover the television industry, cultural critics whose beats extend past television, online writers who specialize in weekly criticism — this is a lot of people who quite reasonably look at television differently.

Elaine Stritch, an actress whose talent led to a substantial and long career on Broadway and in cabarets, died Thursday at age 89. She had been living in her native Birmingham, Mich., where she moved last year after spending decades in New York. Stritch's publicist says she died of natural causes; her health had been failing in recent months.

John McKinney / YouTube

State Minority Leader John McKinney's first television spot goes right after his primary opponent for governor, Tom Foley. McKinney uses (and re-uses) Foley's own words where he appears to say, "I'm not going to cut spending."

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Connecticut is fully engulfed in campaign ad season and candidates are already spending big money to get the message out to voters. What's the message? "Like me! The other guy, not so much." On our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse, Colin McEnroe guest hosts a conversation with a panel of reporters and political analysts to catch you up on the week’s news.

Cable network HBO has received 99 nominations for the 2014 Emmy Awards, running its streak as the network with the most Emmy nods to 14 years. HBO's Game of Thrones got 19 nominations, one ahead of the FX miniseries Fargo.

NPR's Neda Ulaby reports for our Newscast unit:

"HBO also got nominated for its movie The Normal Heart, for its drama True Detective and, in a surprise, for its comedy Silicon Valley.

Bruno Passigatti/iStock / Thinkstock

Have you wondered what work is like for the producer of a reality television show? Rebecca Hertz, based in Los Angeles, has worked on a number of shows, and to hear her describe it, sometimes the job is pretty harrowing.

The Evolution of Game Shows

Jun 26, 2014
Clement B. / Creative Commons

What's become of game shows in America? Since their television debut in 1938 we've seen everything from microwave ovens to million dollar payouts awarded to lucky contestants. Now, in a television culture increasingly captivated by reality T.V., we see traditional game shows being crowded out by reality competition shows at an alarming rate. What will become of the time-honored genre? Are we witnessing the end of an era or will a new generation of Trebeks and Sajaks emerge to save the day?

Aereo, the company that lets subscribers watch TV stations' video that it routes onto the Internet, violates U.S. copyright law, the Supreme Court has ruled. The court's 6-3 decision reverses a lower court ruling on what has been a hotly contested issue.

UConn Libraries MAGIC/flickr creative commons

New Jersey has Jersey Shore, and now Connecticut's coast has its own controversial reality TV series in the works.

For weeks, rumors have circulated around the village of Stony Creek about a "top-secret" project on Belden Island, one of the 300 islands that make up the rocky grouping known commonly as The Thimbles off the coast of Stony Creek.

Texas Politics To Be Lone Star Of New HBO Series

Jun 16, 2014

Between Rick Perry, Ted Cruz and Wendy Davis, Texas politicians in recent years have lived up to their state's reputation for producing larger-than-life characters.

That makes the Texas political scene a natural for the Hollywood treatment.

HBO has given God Save Texas, a drama about the state's often raucous political culture, the green light for development. It's set to unfold at the Texas statehouse, a perennial flashpoint for national debates about issues ranging from abortion to gun rights to the size and role of government.

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David Steinberg, Martin Short, Mort Sahl, Rick Moranis, Lorne Michaels, Jim Carrey, John Candy, Kids in the Hall, Samantha Bee, Jason Jones, Howie Mandel, Rich Little, Norm Macdonald, Katherine O'Hara, Russell Peters, Leslie Nielsen - They are all Canadians.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Richard Klein and Jerry Adler are veteran actors and directors on stage, television, and film. You might know Klein as Dallas on Three's Company, and Adler as "Hesh" on The Sopranos. On this show, they'll visit the WNPR studios to tell their stories, and reminisce with Colin about his years as Ed the Handyman on Charles In Charge.

That's not true, Colin wasn't in Charles In Charge, but we'll explore the nuances of theater acting, the history of their time on television, and get a sneak peek at their latest work together, "The Sunshine Boys" at the Jorgensen Theater at UConn.

Bruce Berrien / Creative Commons

Earlier this month, the National Climate Assessment was released, and the results are less than stellar. The report says, “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.” The release of the climate assessment report prompted both of our local talk shows to tackle climate change last week, from very different perspectives.

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On any given day, it's pretty easy to find all the ways in which modern media has substituted politicization for truth and/or serious reflection. Today, you could take the so-called Santa Barbara killing spree by Elliot Rodger. After the usual first round of back and forth sniping about the availability of weapons.

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Can the culture of one nation ever understand that of another? Critics say Fox's newest reality show in which 12 witless contestants believe their in a fight to the near death for the attention of England's Prince Harry. "I Wanna Marry Harry" is said to represent a new low in reality television.

Louis C.K. is now commonly acknowledged as one of the greatest comics of his generation. His celebrated FX series, Louie, started its fourth season a couple weeks ago, after a 19-month hiatus.

Louis C.K. created, writes, directs and stars in the series as a standup comic named Louie, who, like Louis C.K., is the divorced father of two young girls and shares custody with their mother. Last year, Louis C.K. also had prominent roles in two films: Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine and David O. Russell's American Hustle.

For those of us who have spent time arguing for increased ethnic and cultural diversity on television, the last seven days have felt like a fantasy fever dream.

This week, the big broadcast networks announced their schedules for the 2014-15 TV season during the industry's "upfront" presentations to advertisers. And there are 10 new series featuring non-white characters and/or show creators – numbers we haven't seen since the days when everybody was trying to clone The Cosby Show.

Rodrigo Carvalho / Flickr Creative Commons

We start today's show with Eric Deggans, NPR's first full-time TV critic. Eric and I have talked before about the issue of diversity in late night comedy programming and lo and behold, the very intriguing Larry Wilmore has been given his own show. So, we talk about that but Eric's main focus right now is a kind of television agrarian ritual, the unveiling of this year's crop of network shows, most of them to be harvested in the fall. A short description if you've been missing Matthew Perry, Patricia Arquette, Scott Bakula, Tea Leone and Katherine McPhee, just watch CBS.

It's not often the gods of TV hand you almost exactly what you ask for.

So it's time to praise Comedy Central for trying something different in late night, handing Stephen Colbert's time slot to the guy who plays The Daily Show's "senior black correspondent," Larry Wilmore.

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You may have forgotten Monica Lewinsky, but she has not forgotten you. She's back with a Vanity Fair interview that re-ignites the whole debate about her.

Let's get one thing straight right away: Fox's new version of 24 references all sorts of newfangled ideas about politics, espionage and terrorism — from the use of drones to kill America's enemies to efforts by hackers in the Edward Snowden mold to expose governments' illegal acts.

But the heart of Fox's slimmed-down 24: Live Another Day is the same as it's always been: a principled, misunderstood Jack Bauer letting no rule book, villain or clueless bureaucrat stop him from doing what must be done for the greater good.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

A couple of weeks ago, I was sick with the April flu, lying in bed in a New York apartment, and trying to distract myself by watching one of the film adaptations of "Nicholas Nickleby". I found myself repeatedly moved to tears, especially when anything good or kind happened. Okay, part of this was that I felt a little vulnerable, and may have over identified with poor tubercular Smike. But another part, I'm convinced, was the excitement generated by pure moral language, which you don't encounter so much in modern culture.