Monday, March 28, 2011

Lessons From the Mountain by Mary McDonough

Mary McDonough. Lessons From the Mountain. New York: Kensington Books, 2011.

The author, who had the role of Erin on “The Waltons” for its entire nine seasons, states the cast were all close. She was 10 years old when the show began. She later was Mrs. Wilhoite on “The New Adventures of Old Christine”. It was costar Blair Underwood who convicted her to write this book.

As a girl, McDonough wanted to be a dancer. She studied dance, practiced hard, and learned how to dedicate herself towards her goals. She begged her mother to let her go to auditions. Her first auditor was for a TV special “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story”. She received several callbacks and then won the role of Erin. She did not realize when she did her first reading with the rest of the cast that she had the role. The special had a 39 share.

McDonough was going to audition for “The Exorcist”. Her Catholic mother refused to let her audition when she read the book. Today, she is friends with Linda Blair, who got the part.

McDonough’s role as Erin continued when CBS decided to turn the TV special into a series “The Waltons”. She, with as many as 14 textbooks, attended studio school while also filming the series.

McDonough enjoyed filming. She enjoyed seeing the propos and the costumers, so as the actor in a bear suit. She learned a valuable lesson of not eating antique props. She learned to focus on her acting and not to look at the camera.

The author was scared when she to cry.

Costar Will Geer had been blacklisted in the 1950s. Geer taught McDonough to appreciate working on the show. Being on the show was something she’ll cherish.

Costar Ellen Corby taught her to visualize. This helped her acting.

McDonough went on a cruise with costar Judy Norton. She was surprised that people became upset when they learned they were on “The Waltons” and they hadn’t told them. She and Judy Norton never thought they were obligated to tell people that.

The author, at age 10, leared from her 6 year old costar Kami Cotler where babies come from. Cotler had already read a book on the subject and knew the facts.

A wardrobe woman asked McDonough if she had gained weight. This caused her to become worried about weight and to try several diets.

McDonough had good comedic timing. The writers began writing funny scenes for her.

McDonough took Drama as an elective course. Although she was in a TV series, the acting exercises were new to her. She felt insecure acting in front of the class. She came to overcome her fear of failing when acting.

After “The Waltons” was cancelled, McDonough had numerous guest appearances. NBC did three Walton’s Movies of the Week. She had a role on the soap operate “One Life to Live”.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Knight Rider Companion by Nick Nugent

Nick Nugent. The Knight Rider Companion. Los Angeles: Will Garris Publishing, 2008.

“Knight Rider” was created by Glen Larson, who had it is disputed had one remaining project for Universal after Universal allowed Larson to develop shows at 20th Century Fox. He created “Knight Rider” for Universal. The show featured a talking robotic car.

“Knight Rider” faced challenges. It’s Executive Producer had a heart attack and died while working. A new Executive Producer, Robert Foster, admits he wasn’t thrilled with the project and had to be asked three times before agreeing to take the position only through the first season. Working on the show made Foster desire to continue working n it. Ratings improved and the show lasted four years.

Tom Greene, a writer for the show, learned that Foster was very involved with the show. Foster provided him with 27 pages of notes to his first story idea. Greene notes the NBC TV network made more notes on “Knight Rider” than on any other show of which Greene is aware.

Among the NBC memos was concern that the male character and the car’s relationship had homosexual undertones. The bond between the driver and the care was key to the show’s success, according to Greene. He found it amusing that worried executives read more into that bond. In reply, the writers did write in some subtle gay references.

David Hasselhoff, the lead actor, felt so good about his audition that he was convinced he would get the role of Michael Knight. He immersed himself in the role.

William Daniels, the car’s voice, recorded his lines in a recording studio separately from the rest of the cast. He only saw David Hasselhoff at the Christmas parties. He did not take credit for the role because he wanted the car to have its own identity without a human attached to it. He also didn’t want people to connect his voice to his work on another TV series he was doing “St. Elsewhere”.

Robert Foster did not like the acting of Patricia McPherson. She claims Foster wanted his girlfriend in the role and then another actress. She was not asked back for the second season. Strong fan support brought her back in season three.

McPherson was replaced by Rebecca Holden as the car mechanic. She wanted to remain on the show yet she followed management’s advice to do other work and left at the end of the second season.

The show initially had three cars, one hero car and two stunt cars. The use of the cars was limited due to fear of ruining one. Eventually, Pontiac sold damaged cars to the show. The show had 18 cars. Polyurethane shells were placed over car frames to reduce denting. A driver viewing was drilled through the grills so it could be driven with the appearance of there being no driver. A $10,000 ramp allowed pushing air to increase the jump of a car while turbo boosting. A car was thus able to jump 140 feet at times where other car jumps were 90 feet or less.

Jack Gill, who did stunts, created a special harness with bungee cords that allowed him to make jumps while the cords prevent back injuries. Back injuries happened to other stunt people making similar jumps. Jack Gill has a titanium plate in his neck from all the whiplash from spine compressions from all his jumps.

12 cars were ruined by flooding when parking in a garage three floors before the street.

An underwater motorized platform allowed the appearance of a car floating on water.

Title music on TV shows usually lasts 30 seconds to one minute. The idea is that hearing the familiar music lets listeners realize a TV show they recognize and like is airing. The time of this music has changed in recent years. A theme has to be 15 seconds or less to be considered for an Emmy award.

Don Peake, the composer, would view an episode and write the background music in one week. The next morning (which was on Fridays) he would conduct an orchestra of 25 to 40 people. The music was recorded mono with no overdubs.