From September 9, 1975 to May 17, 1979, millions tuned in every week to watch Welcome Back, Kotter. This sitcom centered on Gabe Kotter as he taught a group of diverse students. The problem? These kids, known as “the Sweathogs,” definitely didn’t take it easy on their teacher.
Viewers remember that Gabe Kotter was no bachelor — he was married to Julie Kotter. Though the fictional couple was as close as could be, in real life, the two actors couldn’t stand each other. Gabe Kaplan’s and Marcia Strassman’s contemptuous relationship created a tension-filled set for the case and crew. Die-hard Kotter fans are split on who was right and who was wrong.
How miserable was Marcia? Though she broke a wrist while roller skating with Cher and suffered a massive motorcycle wreck six months later, Marcia was more upset to find out that Welcome Back, Kotter was renewed for another season.
Marcia says that playing Julie Kotter was awful because she had to work alongside Gabe on a daily basis. “Gabe runs hot and cold, one day your best friend, the next day not speaking. Even blatant hostility would be easier to deal with,” she said.
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Strassman didn’t stop there. “It has always been hard to act with him, especially in intimate scenes. I hate the series. I pray every day for a cancellation. If this is what success means maybe I should get married and have babies,” Marcia said. The tea is scalding.
Marcia also blames the show for getting in the way of her movie career and tried to privately break her contract for more than 18 months. When that failed, she took to publicly tearing Gabe apart.
These comments only fueled the rage that was building between Gabe and Marcia and radiating to the rest of the cast. The show’s softball team even broke up because of it — the horror! Even the Sweathogs got in on it.
Two of the hogs, John Travolta and Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs, tried to stay out of the fray. John admitted that he still goes to the movies with Gabe and gets dinner with Marcia. And Lawrence-Hilton continues to hang out with Gabe, but now avoids Marcia.
Meanwhile, Robert Hegyes and Ron Palillo sided with Gabe and Marcia, respectively. Robert sums up the situation like this: “This show is filled with people with high energy levels and capabilities, but when we shovel coal on the creative fire, we sometimes end up shooting on each other too.”
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Gabe, as the show’s creator, was extremely invested in his creation. “Kotter is not a show. It is my life. Kotter is the make-believe teacher I wanted to have in Brooklyn,” Gabe said. That level of devotion inevitably led to conflict.
“When I’m working I’m not expressive or open. I can’t do the Hollywood ‘sweetie, baby’ trip. I’m quiet and therefore not ego-satisfying for some people,” Gabe said. To translate this ’70s lingo: because he’s quiet on-set, some people interpreted that as anger.
When Marcia heard this comment, she was not pleased. “Men can be temperamental on a show and they’re only temperamental, but if you’re the only woman and you express your displeasure, you’re a b****,” Marcia said.
She was also angry that she only played the supportive wife to Mr. Kotter. Gabe claimed that he wanted to give Mrs. Kotter more depth and even pitched this in story meetings. For some reason, he never told her about this.
Ron, Marcia’s closest friend on set, defended her. “Sometimes her honesty can smart, but she’s often right. Some people think she’s negative…” Ron said. Because Marcia had such a long career in acting, she quickly learned to speak up for herself.
As a teenager she auditioned for plays because she absolutely detested going to school. Her first big break came as Liza Minnelli’s replacement in Off-Broadway’s Best Foot Forward. Marcia was only 15 years old when she landed the role.
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Gabe had a harder time fitting into the business. He felt uncomfortable around his Hollywood peers and preferred to date and hang out with people outside of the business. The major conflict between Marcia and Gabe was likely seeped in personality difference.
“I had the feeling Marcia thought of me as a square, compared to most of her friends, but I always thought there was mutual respect. Obviously, I was wrong,” Gabe said. That is pretty sad.
Gabe continued to have poor luck after his public feud with Marcia. One of Kotter’s producers fired almost twenty of Gabe’s friends and replaced them with Carol Burnett’s producing/writing team.
The influx of new writers made Kotter’s influence on the show greatly diminished. Ron was please about this: “Going to the studio last year gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. But this year it is a joy.” You can’t please everyone.
Marcia continued to clamor against the struggling show, until its end in 1979. Her theory? “Nobody from the show came down on me yet. What could they say? Except the one thing I’ve always wanted to hear: ‘You’re fired.’”
Though the show has been off the air for more than 40 years, it’s still remembered fondly by fans, even with all of the drama emanating from behind the scenes. Audiences can still enjoy the show.
In 2014, Marcia passed away from breast cancer, after fighting it for seven long years. She was 66. Though Gabe and Marcia had their differences over the years, he still honored her with an obituary in Time magazine. She also had the honor of featuring in another TV classic.
Millions of people fell in love with the characters on M*A*S*H, the long-running television show about a team of surgeons during the Korean War. But, just because people tuned in every week didn’t mean they knew the backstory to everything.
It all started with a surgeon named H. Richard Hornberger who collaborated with writer W.C. Heinz to publish M*A*S*H: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. Hornberger used the alias Richard Hooker to write about his real-life Korean War experiences.
The book was popular enough to attract the attention of film director Robert Altman, who used it to make a fictional film about an Army medical unit. However, readers loved it so much they wanted more.
So, a couple years after the movie hit theaters, CBS picked up a television series that would end up running 11 long seasons. The leading man of the whole operation would eventually win several Emmys for the show.
That man was Alan Alda. He played Hawkeye Pierce, a fictional version of Dr. Hornberger. He was a perfect choice for the role, but not just because he was a great actor with a solid resume.
He actually served in the Army Reserves for six months, so he brought with him real-life experience to the set. So much experience, in fact, that at one point Alda got a chance to do more than just act.
Alda was so talented he was offered the opportunity to co-write 13 episodes and direct 31 of them. Alda became the first actor ever to win Emmys for writing, directing, and acting in the same ceremony.
Alda beat out actor McLean Stevenson (left) for the role of Hawkeye. Comedian Robert Klein (right) interestingly turned down a role, which likely he regretted based on M*A*S*H’s popularity. Of course, the show wouldn’t exist without a talented screenwriter.
Larry Gelbart was a Hollywood veteran when he adapted Robert Altman’s movie. Unbelievably, the guy wrote the pilot in two days and received $25,000 for his quick work! What grew from there was a show that touched on delicate topics.
One controversial aspect centered on a cross-dressing character named Klinger who was originally supposed to be gay. At the time, this was a taboo subject among the military, but M*A*S*H braved the waters. There was one episode CBS even rejected.
An episode where soldiers used freezing temperatures to purposely get themselves sick was apparently based on an actual tactic during the Korean War. CBS deemed it unpatriotic and pulled the plug.
At the time the show premiered, every 30-minute sitcom had a laugh track, but M*A*S*H creators fought the studio and eventually had the laughs removed during surgical scenes. Writers also had a way of pushing back against the actors.
Actors, unfortunately, can sometimes get picky about the material they’re given. To combat complaints, writers would add in uncomfortable scenes, and it worked. But actors weren’t the only ones who ever complained about the show.
When audiences watched the episode where the character Henry Blake died in a helicopter crash, major backlash ensued. M*A*S*H received over 1,000 letters from angered viewers. But that didn’t stop the M*A*S*H machine.
Not only did M*A*S*H keep going strong, but it also worked as a stepping stone for so many famous faces we know today, such as Andrew Dice Clay, John Ritter, Rita Wilson, and even Laurence Fishburne.
The show garnered so much attention over its 11-season run it set a record during the series finale. On the night of February 28, 1983, a whopping 75 percent of people watching television watched the episode.
After M*A*S*H, there were three spinoffs that never managed to live up to their parent show. Trapper John, M.D. ran for seven years, AfterMASH only managed two seasons, and W*A*L*T*E*R only aired its pilot.
One iconic item from the show even remained in mysterious circulation for 30 years. Radar’s plush bear turned up at an auction in 2005, when a collector bought it and returned it to the actor. Still, that didn’t compare to what a construction worker came across.
He actually dug up a time capsule the cast buried in an episode, and then Alda told the worker he could keep it! This wasn’t the craziest case of TV shows intersecting with history, however.
Do you remember General Burkhalter’s stylish Mercedes-Benz W31 from Hogan’s Heroes? Well, that smooth ride was an authentic German military vehicle from 1934. Only a few dozen of the three-axled vehicles were ever produced! And that wasn’t the only oddity on set.
Despite being a fan favorite, Sergeant Schultz missed several episodes in season three. That wasn’t the plan, either. Actor John Banner arrived drunk on set one day and stumbled into some very real razor wire. Looks like he “knew nothing” about safety!
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Colonel Klink torments both his underlings and prisoners with atrocious violin playing, but actor Werner Klemperer was no slouch. The son of a famed composer, he worked as a concert violinist and Broadway singer in real life.
Like Werner, Bob Crane was a talented musician, except he had more chances to show off his chops. Besides playing the drums in a couple episodes, Bob famously played the percussion in the sitcom’s theme song.
British born comedian Richard Dawson initially auditioned for the lead role of Robert Hogan, except he couldn’t pull of a convincing American accent at the time. He overcame that disappointment by landing the part of Newkirk. Years later, he became the original host of Family Feud.
Robert Clary had plenty of tragic real-life experience when playing prisoner-of-war Corporal LeBeau. The French performer was a Holocaust survivor himself, as the Nazis sent his family to Buchenwald when he was in his teens.
How does a TV show find its tagline? In the middle of an interview with Bob Crane, comedian Stan Freberg quipped, “If you liked World War II, you’ll love ‘Hogan’s Heroes!'” He never meant it seriously, but network executives actually ran with the idea!
From the onset of the series, the writers decided every episode would take place in the winter. This decision required actors to wear heavy coats and fake shiver, sometimes in ninety degree heat. And the snow? That was actually salt.
Greg Kinnear portrayed Bob Crane in 2002’s Auto Focus, a film about the actor’s messy and bizarre personal life. During the scenes where Kinnear is supposedly filming Hogan’s Heroes, he actually wore the same jacket that Crane sported.
Surprisingly, four main actors who played Nazi soldiers — Werner Klemperer, Howard Caine, Leon Askin, and John Banner — were Jewish. Werner, for one, only agreed to take on the project as long as the Germans never succeeded in any plot line.
After the show wrapped, producers learned it was cheaper to rent out the set than to demolish it. Sharp-eyed viewers noticed that Stalag 13 also appears in an episode of Mission Impossible and the 1975 film Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS.
Though he is now iconic as the titular lead of Hogan’s Heroes, Bob Crane got his showbiz break as a radio host and disc jockey. He wowed listeners with spot-on impressions, plus he interviewed big stars of the day, including Marilyn Monroe and Ronald Reagan.
Sigrid Valdis replaced Cynthia Lynn as Klink’s secretary after the first season for less than professional reasons. Bob Crane insisted Sigrid get the part after they started dating. The two actors did later tie the knot in 1970.
Fed up with the egos of his castmates, Ivan Dixon quit the show after season five. The writers chose not to recast Sergeant Kinchloe. Instead, they invented the new character of Sergeant Baker and never mentioned “Kinch” again.
Leonid Kinskey, best known as Sascha in Casablanca, appeared as a Russian prisoner in the pilot of Hogan’s Heroes. Surprisingly, he turned down the chance to stay with the series, explaining he “was uncomfortable playing let’s-pretend with people in Nazi garb.”
Hogan’s Heroes received twelve Emmy nominations throughout its run, but it only went home with two awards. Both were Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series wins by Werner Klemperer.
Hogan’s Heroes Wiki
Before airing the sitcom in Germany, the dubbed episodes included small rewrites to tone down violence and negativity. Instead of mentioning the bombing of a German munitions factory, for example, the line was changed to the destruction of a toilet paper factory.
Many fans assumed that Hogan’s Heroes was a take on Stalag 17, a 1953 comedy-drama set in a POW camp. The sitcom writers insisted that the large number of similarities, which included a character named Sergeant Schultz, were pure coincidence.
Because of its wartime setting, Hogan’s Heroes cancellation wasn’t technically part of the “rural purge” — networks’ elimination of country-themed shows in the early 1970s. But like those shows, it mainly attracted the less valuable older demographic. Hence, it too got the axe.
Actor Max Baer Jr. remembered the rural purge vividly; it brought his career to a grinding halt. He only had a handful of later credits to his name but still had excited fans running up to him all the time. Everybody wanted to hear about his days on The Beverly Hillbillies.
The genesis of the show came during Paul Henning’s road trip through the South in 1959. The TV writer grew up in Missouri and camped in the Ozarks, and he realized these memories could make for a hilarious program.
That idea evolved into a culture clash. What if a bunch of bumpkins struck (liquid) gold and entered high society? Paul immediately devised hundreds of misadventures along that theme, though he’d need the right talent for the show to work.
Veteran performer Buddy Ebsen previously portrayed a kind-hearted Southerner in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, so Paul figured he’d be perfect as Jed Clampett. Buddy signed on once Paul promised that Jed wouldn’t be an ignorant hick character — though someone else would be.
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The onscreen fool was Max Baer Jr. himself, who played Jed’s nephew Jethro. Irene Ryan as Granny, Donna Douglas as Elly May, Raymond Bailey as the greedy Milburn Drysdale, and Nancy Kulp as his secretary Miss Jane rounded out the cast.
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With all the players in place, the series still needed the proper look. Henning always envisioned the family zipping about in an overloaded, beat-up truck. He happened to find the perfect vehicle in a 1921 Oldsmobile, rotting away in a junkyard.
Paul’s script originally had the Clampett family and their cavalcade of critters moving to New York. However, CBS soon informed the producers that Big Apple production costs were too steep. They had to find a completely new setting, and fast.
Fortunately, Los Angeles offered lower costs, not to mention better weather. The show’s producers were amazed to learn that the Kirkeby mansion in Bel Air would let them film there for just $500 per day! Still, one piece was missing.
Any 1960s sitcom needed a catchy theme song, so CBS turned to bluegrass stars Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. The duo composed “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” which would soon become a hit single. With that, The Beverly Hillbillies was rearing to go.
Initial response was puzzling. Critics despised the show, calling it lowbrow and stupid. But most TV viewers fell in love with it right away. It reached #1 in the ratings after just three weeks on air, and one tragedy actually grew its fanbase.
The United States was in mourning following the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. Americans needed a distraction amid this tragedy, and The Beverly Hillbillies was the perfect cure. The eight episodes that aired in the aftermath broke audience records.
Building in popularity, the sitcom attracted some interesting guest stars. Western icon John Wayne even agreed to make a cameo appearance! In typical cowboy fashion, the only payment he demanded was a fifth of bourbon.
Trendy ’60s actress Sharon Tate had a recurring role as a secretary named Janet Trego. Most viewers didn’t recognize the famous blonde, as she sported a brown wig! Of course, the main attraction was the Clampett clan.
Audiences’ love for these characters spilled into merchandising, and a best-selling book called Granny’s Hillbilly Cookbook swept through stores. It was a symptom of full-fledged country-mania.
In fact, a number of other rural-themed shows popped up on CBS. Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, and Mayberry R.F.D. all found enthusiastic audiences, despite the fact that most TV viewers didn’t live in the country.
However, network exec Fred Silverman didn’t like that these shows weren’t attracting a younger, hipper demographic. So he did something about it. He initiated “The Rural Purge” in 1965, in which all these shows — including The Beverly Hillbillies — got the axe.
That marked the end of the original Clampett saga, aside from a couple half-baked TV reunions. A film remake did later premiere in 1993, and it was true to the original by pulling in lots of fans while nauseating critics.
The sitcom represented a career high for most of the cast, though they didn’t stay on good terms afterward. When Nancy Kulp ran as a Democrat for a Pennsylvania congressional seat in 1984, Buddy Ebsen campaigned for her opponent.
Donna Douglas threw a fit in 2011 when Mattel released a limited-edition Barbie in her likeness. Rather than enter a lawsuit battle, the two parties settled outside of court. Donna made headlines one more time years later.
She died in 2015, leaving Max as the last remaining main cast member. Fans still treat him like a demigod, though The Beverly Hillbillies wasn’t the first TV Western. It drew from earlier successes like Bonanza, which had quite the history of its own.
Unlike other shows that put one big-name star above the rest, Bonanza treated all its main cast members as equals. It even rotated their names in the opening credits so that no single actor would consistently get top billing.
Actor Pernell Roberts got fed up with the show, as he thought they played it too safe. After the sixth season, when Adam Cartwright left for good, Pernell struggled to find work. In 1979, however, he landed the titular role in Trapper John, M.D.
Wild west gunslingers carry revolvers, not phasers, but that didn’t stop most of the Star Trek cast from appearing on Bonanza. They didn’t stop by the Western for charity, either. Surprisingly, guest stars usually received higher pay than the main cast.
Fan favorite Dan Blocker died unexpectedly toward the end of the show’s run. Few other programs ever dealt with the death of a lead actor, but Bonanza took it in stride. They rewrote their scripts to include Dan’s character Hoss also passing away offscreen.
Bonanza almost didn’t last. Early on, Perry Mason routinely trounced it in that time slot. As the first network Western filmed in color, however, it got a huge boost when viewers started buying color TVs and turning away from old shows in black and white.
Women in the Cartwright family tended not to fare too well. Most love interests met an untimely end or left town, including all three of Ben Cartwright’s wives. Writers made this choice because movie cowboys usually remained unmarried.
Believe it or not, producers conceived the catchy Bonanza theme song before they even figured out the show’s plot or cast! A non-instrumental version became a big hit in the 1960s. Various artists covered it, including the Man in Black himself: Johnny Cash.
In 1963, Dan Blocker capitalized on the show’s popularity and opened a restaurant. Bonanza Steakhouses — later renamed Ponderosa Steakhouses — began to pop up all over the country. Dozens of locations still operate around the U.S. — and the Middle East!
In the early 1970s, M*A*S*H producers were considering Dan Blocker for a lead role. It never came to pass, but he would have been perfect based on his real-life experience! Dan actually saw action in the Korean War and received a Purple Heart for his service.
Bonanza tackled quite a few social issues from a progressive standpoint, but they still leaned on stereotypes for the Cartwright’s Chinese cook Hop Sing. On top of that, NBC did not pay actor Victor Sen Yung much, so he had to release a series of Hop Sing cookbooks to make ends meet.
Ben Cartwright is one of the top TV dads of all time, and yet actor Lorne Greene wasn’t even old enough to have three grown sons! He was only 44 at the start of the show — just 13 years older than the man playing his eldest son, Pernell Roberts.
Dan Blocker was as big in real life as on the small screen as Hoss Cartwright. At 14 pounds, he broke records as the largest baby ever born in Bowie County, Texas. Dan also reached a height of six feet by the time he was 12 years old!
After a series of rejected scripts, star Michael Landon got approval to write a few episodes of Bonanza. Years later, he took those forgotten scripts and turned them into plots for Little House on the Prairie, in which he also co-starred.
While all of Bonanza’s cast members dabbled in music, Lorne Greene scored a number one hit! His spoken-word ballad “Ringo” topped the charts in 1964, though some confused record buyers thought it had something to do with Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. In reality, the song was about an outlaw.
The young Michael Landon was cast for his good looks, though he didn’t exactly have the stature of a rugged rancher. His cowboy boots had four-inch lifts built in so his larger co-stars wouldn’t dwarf him.
Aside from Hop Sing, the show’s most beloved recurring character might just be Sheriff Roy Coffee. The Virginia City lawman appeared in 98 episodes and often lent the Cartwrights a hand in sticky situations.
Historically speaking, a big inspiration for the Ponderosa Ranch was the Comstock Lode. This huge vein of silver brought about an explosion of commerce and settlement in Nevada in the 1860s. Also, the word bonanza comes from a Spanish term for a discovery of rich minerals.
King One Eye
Creator David Dortort’s idea for the show also borrowed quite a bit from the legend of King Arthur. He saw patriarch Ben Cartwright as a Western version of Arthur, and his sons as the loyal Knights of the Round Table.
The character Candy Canary was popular with fans but mysteriously vanished from the show after 1970, only to reappear years later for the show’s final season. What happened? Actor David Canary was holding out for a higher salary and wouldn’t work until producers gave in.
With the exception of Michael Landon, all of the show’s stars wore hairpieces at some point in the series. Lorne Greene’s toupee even fell off during one scene where he had to dive into a lake. He put it back on underwater before any of the crew would notice.