A chat with Ted Lange…? You got it!

On Sunday, April 25th, TV Land will be airing its annual celebration of classic television known as the TV Land Awards. Our man Bob Westal was walking the red carpet for us, star-spotting and chatting with the occasional celebrity passerby, but as I’m ensconced here in Virginia, I have to make do with phoners. It was hardly settling, however, to have the opportunity to chat with an iconic figure of ’70s and ’80 s television like Ted Lange. Although he’s arguably best known for his role as bartender Isaac Washington on “The Love Boat,” it’s far from the only item on his resume, so I made sure to brush up on his list of credits on IMDb before getting on the phone with him. This proved to be a wise move, as it resulted in stories of a Shakespearean production and tales of working on “Wattstax,” “Friday Foster,” “Record City,” “Mr. T and Tina,” and, yes, “That’s My Mama,” too. But, of course, there was still plenty of “Love Boat” banter as well, since it was that very show which led Lange to attend the TV Land Awards and reunite with his former crewmates…sorry, I meant castmates.

Come aboard as we set sail for…

Ted Lange: Hi, Will!

Bullz-Eye: Hey, Ted, how’s it going?

TL: Good! How are you doing?

BE: I’m doing well. It’s a pleasure to talk with you.

TL: What city are you in?

BE: I’m in Norfolk, Virginia. Where are you? Somewhere on the east coast, I guess, given how early it is.

TL:West coast, actually!

BE: Wow, then it’s really, really early there. Are you in California?

TL: Yessir. Los Angeles, California, city of the angels! (Laughs)

BE: Well, one of our writers here at Bullz-Eye was actually at the TV Land Awards the other night…

TL: Oh, really?

BE: He did the red carpet thing, and then he headed into the bloggers’ room, so he wasn’t in there with the action, per se, but he said it was a good time.

TL: It was a good time. It was a lot of fun.

BE: So was the entire cast there for the reunion?

TL: Well, Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing) had a back operation – he hurt himself, hurt a couple of his discs – so he wasn’t able to be there. We really missed him, because, you know, he’s the anchor of the show as the captain. So I called him up and talked to him to see how he was doing, and he was a little weak, but he was recuperating well. But everybody else was there, and they all brought their kids. Fred Grandy (Gopher) brought his daughter, I brought my son…it was a lot of fun.

BE: I was talking to Bob, our man who was there, and he was quite pleased that he’d gotten to talk to Bernie Kopell (Doc) on the carpet. So do you guys keep in touch aside from these occasional public reunions?

TL: Oh, yeah, absolutely. We’re friends. The great thing about the show was that we made friendships, you know? We were acting buddies and everything, but off-camera…I mean, I learned how to play tennis on Bernie’s tennis court. I wasn’t really into tennis ‘til I met Bernie. He’s been a good pal, and Fred I see all the time whenever I’m out on the east coast, and Tewes…we’re all friends, and that was the wonderful ancillary benefit of the show: that we made some really lasting friendships.

BE: So how did you first come onto “The Love Boat”? Obviously, you were pretty well established on television already, thanks to “That’s My Mama.”

TL: Yeah, actually, I did two series. I did “That’s My Mama,” and I did another series called “Mr. T and Tina,” with Pat Morita. The network was aware of me, and they had done a pilot and…they had used the guy who played the postman on “That’s My Mama,” Teddy Wilson, on the first “Love Boat” pilot, and they didn’t like the chemistry of the crew, so when they did the second pilot, they kind of threw everybody out that wasn’t working and brought in some new guys…and they stuck with the “That’s My Mama” cast by bringing me in to play the bartender. (Laughs) So I was very fortunate!

BE: Had you worked with Aaron Spelling before “Love Boat”?

TL: No, I hadn’t, actually. Jimmy Komack was the producer of “Mr. T and Tina,” and he sat me down and said, “You’re going to go work for Aaron Spelling, so let me just tell you that he’s really a great guy.” And, of course, he was correct.

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Bad news, everyone: “Futurama” may have its voices recast

Variety is reporting that the money talks between Fox and the voice actors of “Futurama” – Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche and Tress MacNeille – have broken down. As a result, rumors have already begun to run rampant that, when the show returns for its 26 new episodes on Comedy Central in 2010, it will be with new actors providing the voices of Fry, Bender, Leela, and the gang.

Per the article on Variety.com

The studio announced last month that it would produce 26 new episodes of “Futurama,” and that Comedy Central was on board to begin airing the new episodes in mid-2010. As part of the announcement, the show’s producers said stars including West, Sagal and DiMaggio had all signed on to return.

Turns out that wasn’t true.

The stars had all expressed interest in returning. But with the budget for “Futurama” dramatically slashed, the salary offers came in well below what the thesps were asking. As a result, 20th has put out a casting call to find replacement voice actors for the show.

Maybe I’m wrong about this (though I certainly hope I’m not), but I think this is going to blow over pretty quickly, and that either the actors will get the money they want or will at least find a middle ground with Fox that makes both parties happy enough to move forward. I mean, think about it: this is a show that has lived, died, and begun to live again as a result of its diehard fans. Do you really think they’re going to accept new people voicing their favorite characters while the original actors still walk the earth and retain the power of speech?

Not bloody likely.

In closing, allow me to present one of my all-time favorite “Futurama” scenes…one which I still quote to this day (“A what what?”)…in German.

UPDATE: Mark Evanier feels the same way I do, and he has a hell of a lot more experience in the field to back it up than I do.

  

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Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder

“Futurama” goes out with a bang on “Into the Wild Green Yonder,” their fourth and supposedly final full-length movie. As Leo Wong begins construction on a galaxy-wide miniature golf course that will require the destruction of a dwarf star, Leela joins a group of eco-terrorists to stop him, while Fry inherits mind-reading abilities that enable him to battle the Dark Ones as they plot the star’s destruction. It’s a typical, gleefully labyrinthine “Futurama” story, but for the first time in these DVD movies, they’re more focused on having fun than being overly clever (compared to, say, “Bender’s Big Score,” where the writing staff was just showing off). They also have a great time setting up the apparent deaths of several characters, and gave the fans a happy, though open-ended, finale. Bravo, gentlemen. Oh, and the smooth crooner that sings the opening number? That would be Seth McFarlane. Yes, that Seth McFarlane.

Click to buy “Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder”

  

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Bullz-Eye’s All-Time Favorite TV Punching Bags

In nature, the weaker members of a species are often ostracized so they cannot reproduce and dilute the gene pool. Lions, for example, do not keep an omega male around to be the butt of the joke for the rest of the pride, like we humans tend to do. And while that makes sense in a Darwinian way, our way is a lot more fun. It may be cruel, but imagine how boring life would be if we lived in a world without the human equivalent of a punching bag. Admit it: you all know someone who fills this role in your life, and you relish it. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.

The world of television has a near-inverse proportion of punching bags as there are in nature, and this makes sense; it is much easier – and fun – for the writing staff to designate one character as the target for random acts of misfortune and malice, though not necessarily in that order. If you ever wondered why every show features at least one character that the other characters would likely never associate with in real life, now you know.

So bring us your sad, your weak, your insecure; your clueless, your obnoxious, your desperate, your slow-witted, and we will celebrate them for their inherent loserness. Get your boxing gloves on as we present to you Bullz-Eye’s all time favorite TV punching bags.

  

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