Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Living TV History

Sometime next month, PBS is going to air a special on Betty White, who is celebrating her eightieth year in entertainment.

Betty White has been an amazement to me.  She spans the entire history of television.

Do you know that she was on the very first television test ever sent out?  I don't remember where I heard that, but years ago.  She was working in radio in a place where they were also working with television and needed to film an experiment to send across the street and so Betty White was the person they filmed.  This was in 1939.  Betty White has been in television for longer than I have been alive.  And she keeps going.

It will exhaust you just reading through her Wikipedia page.

In the 1950s, she hosted a daily five and a half hour Today Show type show that ran six days a week.  Can you imagine any of the current talk show hosts today who could handle five and a half hours six days a week?  She did it for four years.

In addition to that, in 1952, she began filming her own show, Life with Elizabeth.  She was the first woman to have full creative control in front of and behind the camera.  Life with Elizabeth ran for three years...and I remember watching it.  It kind of set the tone for pretty much every family sitcom ever since.  I Love Lucy without Lucille Ball's zaniness.

She also did guest spots and commercials in the 1950s, just to make sure she didn't get bored!

In the 1960s she discovered game shows and appeared on most of them, most often on Password.  She enjoyed the show so much, she married the host, Allen Ludden, to whom she stayed married for 20 years, until his death from stomach cancer

In the 1970s. after a couple of guest appearances on The Mary Tyler Moore show, she was cast as a regular, the sex-starved Sue Ann Nivens with the public persona of a sugar sweet Martha Stewart type.  In casting the role, the creators  wanted a "Betty White type" an were pleased to get Betty White herself.

During this time she had done a 19 year run as the hostess and commentator for the Tournament of Roses parade, but NBC dropped her, and CBS picked her up for a 10 year run as hostess and commentator for the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The Golden Girls started in 1985 and was a huge hit for the four women playing the friends sharing a house (though apparently things were not all that friendly between White and Bea Arthur).  The show ran for seven years.

In the 1990s, she did mostly guest appearances, racking up awards along the way and then in 2006 she made 22 appearances on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful and had a recurring role in Boston Legal  from 2005 to 2008

In 2007 she began doing commercials for Pet Meds and one might have thought she was going to relax on her laurels and enjoy her old age, but no.  She decided to host Saturday Night Live, at age 88, the oldest person to host the show.

In 2010 she took on the role of Elka Ostrovsky on TV Land's Hot in Cleveland, the landlady in the house, a role that was supposed to be only a one-time thing, but ended up being a regular role.
In 2011 a Betty White calendar was published, and White started her own line of clothing to raise money for animal causes.  She may be best known in these days for work for and devotion to animals and animal causes.

From 2012 to 2014, White hosted and executive produced Betty White's Off Their Rockers, in which senior citizens play practical jokes on the younger generation.

In 2012, she received her first Grammy, for a recording of her best seller "If You Ask Me."

This list of her awards is long including a daytime Emmy, the Grammy, 5 Primetime Emmys and SAG awards.  And if you click on the list you get this:

She has written seven books and recorded two audio books.

The "references" section of her Wikipedia page contains 88 entries.

And still she goes on and on and on like the energizer bunny. She is just 3 years younger than my mother and just reading about her life is exhausting.

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