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When I was growing up, there were many entertaining television shows, which have become classics over the years and are still available on many channels.
Since I am not a cable TV subscriber, those programs are sometimes hard to find, but I recently came across a channel -- MeTV -- which I can pull in with my small fan-type antenna and view many of the classics. It is a WOIO offshoot in the Cleveland area at Channel 19.2.
Since the first of the year, two regulars on shows the channel carries have passed away -- Mike Connors, who played the lead character in the show "Mannix" and Barbara Hale, who was attorney Perry Mason's secretary Della Street on "Perry Mason."
They passed away the same day -- Jan. 26.
I remember watching "Perry Mason" episodes in the black-and-white TV days. The show ran from 1957 to 1966. Raymond Burr played Mason, who defended many innocent victims charged with crimes.
Burr died in 1993. After "Perry Mason," he played another wily attorney in the 1967 to 1975 courtroom drama "Ironside." I was a big fan of both shows.
"Mannix" ran for the same seasons as "Ironside." Connors played detective Joe Mannix, one of many savvy detectives who have graced TV screens over the years.
I watched original episodes of "Mannix," but it wasn't one of my favorite shows.
MeTV has brought back many other classic shows. On one cold, snowy night last week, I tuned in to watch "Perry Mason" and "Mannix" episodes, plus "The Twilight Zone" and "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour."
The latter two also were shows I watched in my younger years.
"The Twilight Zone" episode starred Jackie Cooper, whose acting career began in his childhood. He died in 2011 at age 88. In the episode, he played a ventriloquist whose dummy talked him into committing several burglaries, for which he eventually was caught.
The Hitchcock episode starred Gig Young and a young Robert Redford as brothers who were professional gamblers that tried to hide their "under the table" activities from their relatives.
Young, by the way, committed suicide in 1978 after allegedly killing his fifth wife. One of his wives was actress Elizabeth Montgomery of "Bewitched" TV fame.
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was an English film director and producer, at times referred to as "The Master of Suspense." He pioneered many elements of the suspense and psychological thriller genres.
"Psycho," "The Birds" and "Vertigo" were three of his most famous movies. Remember the Bates Motel from "Psycho?"
On "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," Hitchcock would introduce the episode in the most stodgy, dead-pan manner, but with a hint of humor.
Rod Serling wrote and produced "The Twilight Zone" science-fiction anthology series for CBS Television from 1959 to 1964. The shows usually ended with a macabre or unexpected twist. The original series contained 156 episodes, and a movie and short-lived revivals of the series followed over the next 40 years.
The famous introduction Serling gave at the beginning of each episode changed for each season. One of the renditions went like this: "You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone."
Some of the other classic shows MeTV carries are: "Abbott and Costello," "The Andy Griffith Show," "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Car 54 Where Are You?" "Columbo," "Leave It to Beaver," "I Love Lucy," "Hogan's Heroes," "Matlock" and "Get Smart."
Among the western TV classics that air are "Bonanza," "Gunsmoke," "The Big Valley" and "The Rifleman."
Talk about classics!
To this day, who doesn't love the likes of Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Ron Howard, Chuck Connors, Lucille Ball, Don Adams, Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Buddy Ebsen, James Arness, Fred Gwynne and Barbara Stanwyck?
Most of those actors are gone now. However, Ron Howard, who starred as Opie Taylor in "The Andy Griffith Show," Richie Cunningham in "Happy Days" and Steve Bolander in "American Graffiti," among others, has become a very successful movie director.
For many Sunday nights from 1959 to 1973, my dad and I settled in to watch "Bonanza." We'd even tune it in when at my grandparents' farmhouse after a leisurely Sunday out in the country.
It was a sad day when I learned of the death of Dan Blocker, who played the gentle giant Hoss Cartwright. He died at age 43 just before the last season of the show was to start.
Of course, David Canary, who played farmhand Candy for several years, grew up in Massillon. There's a street named after him not far from downtown, and I have a photo in my archives to prove it!
Some other actors I mentioned above went on to star in other TV series, including Landon in "Little House on the Prairie" with former pro gridder Merlin Olsen, Gwynne in "The Munsters" and Ebsen in "Barnaby Jones."
Many of you might remember Johnny Crawford, who played Lucas McCain's son Mark in "The Rifleman."
He became a popular teenage singing idol. In fact, I recall buying his 45 record "Cindy's Birthday," which peaked at No. 8 on the charts in 1962. Other hits of his were "Rumors" (No. 12 in 1962), "Your Nose is Gonna Grow" (No. 14 in 1962) and "Proud" (No. 29 in 1963).
A couple of my other favorite actors who starred in classic TV shows were Peter Falk, who played the rumpled police detective "Columbo," and Darren McGavin, who played a reporter in "Kolchak: The Night Stalker."
"Columbo" became part of an anthology series titled "The NBC Mystery Movie," along with "McCloud" (Dennis Weaver), "McMillan & Wife" (Rock Hudson and Susan St. James) and "Banacek" (George Peppard).
Every era of television has its great shows. The ones I mentioned were some of best from the 1960s and 1970s.
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