PBS Pioneers of Television

My professor assigned us to watch an episode of PBS’s “Pioneers of Television” series. He then told us to write a blog post about it. I decided to watch the funny ladies episode because in the description it talks about “I Love Lucy”, which is one of my all time favorite shows. PBS Pioneers of Television

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Carol Burnett

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Carol was raised in Hollywood by her Grandmother. She had always dreamed of being famous. In the video she talks about how she used to climb the Hollywood sign when she was younger. She states that the O’s were her favorite. She would climb them and say, “Hollywood I’ll beat you yet!” She later moved to New York in her early twenty’s where she started auditioning for Broadway. She talks about how it was down to her and another woman for a part, and the other woman got it. In the video she says that she said to herself, “It was her time. It wasn’t my time. It was her time to get that job. My time will come”. She finally got discovered when she sang her song “John Foster Dulles”.

Joan Rivers

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Rivers says “By the time I was three years old and could put thoughts together, that was it” and it is all thanks to a movie theater in Brooklyn. She fought her way into amateur plays with the hopes to make it on the big screen one day. When she learned about a comic that was making $6 a night, she was intrigued, so she went to see him. In the video she states, “I can do that. It’s stupid. That’s nothing. I can do that, and that’s how it started. Little did I know”.  She moved to Chicago where she  built her comic repertoire, honing the skills that would make her a television star.

Mary Tyler Moore

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Moore’s plans for stardom began in a dance studio. In Hollywood, her dreams faced a huge obstacle. “I was a chorus  dancer. I wanted to be a star dancer, but they weren’t making that many musicals anymore,” Moore states in the video. She had a combination that was rare in Hollywood; she was both beautiful and vulnerable, which made her the ideal fresh- faced girl next door. She got small acting jobs very easily, but they did not bring fame. She had considered leaving show business, even going as far as taking a test to find other jobs she would be good at. The results said she would be best-suited for a job as a model or a member of the armed forces. When she heard Carl Reiner was casting for a new sitcom, she did not even want to try out, even when his staff called her. She did not think she had a chance with the more-experienced actresses auditioning. She was eventually convinced to audition for the role by one of her friends. Mary Tyler Moore was cast in the ‘Dick Van Dyke Show’.

Marla Gibbs

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Gibbs was told, “Well what makes you think you can do it. You’re not beautiful. You’re not young. Young girls are having a hard time”. She said, “Someone’s got to be the aunt. Someone’s got to be the mother. Why not me?”. Marla finally landed a small role in a single episode of ‘The Jefferson’s’. The way she delivered her one big line changed her career. She said her line the way her grandmother or aunt would say it. That got her a regular staring role on ‘The Jefferson’s’. She eventually became the first African American woman to have creative control over her own sitcom, ‘227’.

Lucille Ball

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Ball had come to television with more comedy experience than any woman before or since. She was nearly forty when ‘I Love Lucy’ premiered. She had nearly two decades of comedic roles on her resume. Lucille Ball was formally trained in the precise art of physical comedy during her early days at MGM. She rejected the idea that for a woman to be funny, she would have to make herself unattractive. In 1950, Lucy wanted her husband, Desi Arnaz, closer to home, so in 1951 ‘I Love Lucy’ was born.

Betty White

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Betty White had her own show, ‘Life With Elizabeth’. White’s career actually began in television in the 1940s. Her first job was a local show in Los Angeles. The show was on six days a week, five and a half hours a day, and there was no script. Betty was also one of the first women to produce a national television show. In the video she states, ” I am the luckiest old broad on two feet, to get chances to do that, and I treasure them”.

Phyllis Diller

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Phyllis Diller was perhaps the best known female standup comedian of the era. She starred in both a sitcom and a variety show, but both ended up failing because neither reflected her unique comic persona.

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