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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Dallas – The Complete Eleventh Season

With each new “Dallas” release, I expect the show to finally start sucking, and this was the first set where it seemed like that might actually be the case. Picking up (as soaps are wont to do) where we left off, Pam has been burnt to a crisp in a fiery explosion, because Victoria Principal wanted off the show. But Pam lives – bandaged up and looking an awful lot like Karloff’s Mummy, inert in a hospital bed. Why not just kill her, fer chrissakes? Apparently, after the dream season fiasco, the producers were simply not going to kill off a major player for good, and the first third of the season revolves around this nonsense. Will she live or won’t she? What will she look like beneath the bandages? Will Bobby ever let little Christopher see his mummy again? Is it possible Victoria isn’t gone after all? The first ten or so episodes of the thirty presented here are some of the silliest “Dallas” I’ve ever seen. (Even the producers seem to think it’s all a joke – one of the episodes is actually titled “Mummy’s Revenge.”)

Alongside the Pam drama, the show also presents a lengthy plotline involving Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) meeting an old drunk named Dandy (Bert Remsen) who reminds him of his father, Digger. This tediously goes on and on and on, until it reaches a logical conclusion, which in turn leads to a scene between Barnes and Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) that’s one of the most pivotal, moving scenes in the entire series. No, it doesn’t justify hours of watching Cliff hanging with an old drunk, but it does make some sense of it all. It’s somewhere around this point that the season gets back on track and turns into some pretty decent “Dallas.”

Also at the end of Season 10, J.R. (Larry Hagman) lost Ewing Oil completely, thanks to the government and Jeremy Wendell (William Smithers), the head of Westar. He spends all of Season 11 deviously plotting to get it back, and it’s a major highlight to watch this unfold, one sleazy step at a time. There doesn’t seem to be anything J.R. won’t do, or anyone he won’t trample, in order to get his daddy’s company back. As is usually the case, J.R.’s antics keep the series centered, regardless of how numbing some of the proceedings may be. At the same time, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) is busy furthering her lingerie company with the help of high-powered business consultant Nicholas Pearce (Jack Scalia). For the first half of the season, Pearce is one of the most grating, annoying characters ever seen on this series…and then he suddenly becomes hugely likable, with a pretty damn interesting backstory as well. It’s one of the coolest “Dallas” flip-flops I’ve ever experienced.

In other news, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) finds potential love – not once but twice – after losing Pam, as well as going after something J.R. covets dearly. Clayton (Howard Keel) falls in love with a painting, and Bel Geddes gets to play a ridiculous drunk scene that must be seen to be believed. Ray (Steve Kanaly) and Jenna (Priscilla Presley) finally tie the knot, which leads to endless problems for the couple, including Charlie (Shalane McCall) acting up at school and messing around with a boy – but not just any boy. No, the object of Charlie’s teenage lust in no less than Brad Pitt! He’s got maybe one scene in each of four episodes, and has very little to do, but nevertheless it’s freakin’ Brad Pitt, some 20 years before he became an Inglourious Basterd.

And just in case anyone might think the show is becoming less and less “Dallas” with each passing season, in the penultimate episode, “Things Ain’t Goin’ So Good at Southfork Again,” Lucy (Charlene Tilton) returns to the fold after a three season absence. And she is lookin’ mighty fine.

Click to buy “Dallas: The Complete Eleventh Season”

  

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