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Verne Gay

Here's, briefly, who I am: I've been with Newsday since 1989, and have written about virtually every show, personality, development, controversy, and network over those years. Most of this has been sheer joy. Some of it has been sheer torture. And all of it, for better or worse, adds up to one thing: I know a lot more about the wonderful business of television entertainment than even I care to admit.

'Saturday Night Live's' Don Pardo dead at 96: What he meant to TV

"Saturday Night Live" announcer Don Pardo on Sept.

(Credit: AP, NBC / Al Levine )

Don Pardo, whose voice graced NBC's air for 70 years and one network institution, "Saturday Night Live," for nearly 40, died Monday at his home in Tucson. He was 96.

That voice -- a sturdy, redoubtable baritone that seemed to resonate to the rafters of "SNL's" longtime home, Studio 8H -- was among the most recognized in broadcasting history. New Yorkers heard it -- frequently -- on WNBC/4 for years on the "Live at Five" newscast. The rest of the nation became familiar with Pardo's distinct delivery from game shows ("The Price Is Right"), commercials, and even the rare movie ("Radio Days") or series ("The Simpsons") much later in his career, when Pardo effectively became synonymous with how most people assumed the classic TV presenter should sound.

Pardo's voice was magic: Slightly singsong, it was both in on the joke and part of the joke -- that old-time broadcaster's delivery in service to a new-time comedy/TV franchise that was designed in part to send up the conventions of the medium from which it sprang.

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He most centrally occupied a cherished place in the history of one franchise in particular: "Saturday Night Live."

Pardo, who joined at the show's launch in 1975, was seldom seen -- a disembodied presence whose words floated out of the darkness and across the country every Saturday night. (His booth was located in the spot where Arturo Toscanni had once conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra.) He didn't actually say "Live from New York!" -- that was left, of course, to whoever closed the opening segment -- but his ritual was just as valuable: A rundown of cast members, repertory players, guest hosts, musical guests and other in-show announcements including "Weekend Update."

To have one's name announced by Pardo on "SNL" was to have been consecrated in some sort of cosmic comic firmament -- or as former cast member Amy Poehler said in a statement posted on The Tuesday, "My whole life changed once Don Pardo said my name."

By all accounts a modest, self-effacing man in an immodest business, Pardo survived nonetheless in grand style, literally phoning it in. During the last few years following his retirement, he would record the intros at his Arizona home. He had a rare lifetime contract, and continued working for NBC and "SNL" well past his official retirement in 2004.

Born Dominick George Pardo in 1918 in Westfield, Massachusetts, Pardo began his career at Providence radio station WJAR in 1942, and joined NBC in 1944. He never left. He read news dispatches on the radio from the front lines during World War II and after the war was announcer for the "The Arthur Murray Party," "Colgate Comedy Hour" and "Your Show of Shows."

In 1954, he was brought in to announce "Winner Takes All," beginning a long run in game shows -- "The Price is Right" (1956-63) and briefly the original "Jeopardy!" (1964-75), hosted by Art Fleming. He also announced the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to NBC listeners in 1963.

In 2010, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame.

Pardo, whose wife, Kay, died in 1995, is survived by five children.

With AP

David Letterman's tribute to Robin Williams - a keeper

Robin Williams in Santa Monica, Calif. on June

(Credit: AP / Reed Saxon)

David Letterman and Robin Williams go way back, as fans of both know so well, and it was with genuine anticipation that I awaited Dave's tribute (the show was dark last night). He did not disappoint: It was warm and genuine and interesting and foremost brought to mind something that a few obits overlooked last week: Some of Williams' classic work was right here at “Late Show,” and at “Late Night” and “Tonight” as well. Dave didn't tear up — he's not a teary guy — but watching this you certainly knew that a major loss, indeed tragedy, just took place in his life too. A wonderful tribute, well worth watching.(If you are coming to this post via, click on the headline to see the clip.)

Cranston, Paul, Louis-Dreyfus star in Emmy promo for Audi (and it's good)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is known for her work on

(Credit: AP / Invision / Richard Shotwell)

Well, well, wellll...what have we here? Another sophisticated viral marketing stunt designed to get TV writers to post said stunt, thereby extending free impressions to the embedded sponsor who doubtless likes free impressions more than paid ones? Clever....verrrrry clever. This one stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who I think was just named greatest comic TV actress in history by some guy at Newsday) are all here, and...they're all good. What else? Check it out. These seven minutes of your lunch hour will not be wasted and you may be moved to run out and buy an Audi or at the very least watch the Emmys next Monday. (If you are coming to this post via, click on the headline to see the clip.)



Robin Williams TV appreciation, from 'Mork & Mindy' to 'The Crazy Ones'

Actor Robin Williams on the set of "Mork

(Credit: AP / ABC)

Mork materialized after "Happy Days" had literally jumped the shark -- or the Fonz had at least -- when the idea of an alien life form kidnapping Richie Cunningham, even in a dream, became just another way to keep an ABC franchise either fresh or alive.

Mork -- or Robin Williams -- was instantly popular, and of course it occurred to ABC that it could go either one of two ways here: Add a real...

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Khloé Kardashian, Scott Disick on season finale of 'Royal Pains'

"Kourtney and Khloé Take The Hamptons" launches Sept. 14 on E! -- the fifth such "Keeping up with the Kardashians" spinoff -- so no one should be surprised at an opportunistic Kardashian sighting (or two) over next few weeks. There was a big one Thursday: At Dockers Waterside Marina and Restaurant, on Dune Road in East Quogue, where Khloé Kardashian (and Scott Disick) arrived to shoot a cameo in the Sept. 2 season finale of "Royal Pains."

The cameo was a bit of a surprise, but only a bit: Self-promotion is what the Kardashians do so well, after all, and there's a series to launch. Plus, "Pains" works hard to secure cameos of major Long Island-based celebrities. (Alas, the most major of them, Billy Joel, has resisted the show's entreaties for years.)

USA Network yesterday said of Disick's and Kardashian's scene: "Playing themselves, the two pop culture icons are having dinner at a local hot spot when they are recognized and Hank's (Mark Feuerstein) girlfriend Charlotte (recurring guest star Gillian Alexy) asks Evan (Paulo Costanzo) to make an introduction."

"Pains" is shot entirely on Long Island, although not exclusively in the Hamptons -- and in fact most of the show's scenes originate from points west, including favorite location Oheka Castle in Huntington (as well as Sands Point Preserve and Old Westbury Gardens, also classic Gold Coast locales). "Kourtney and Khloé Take The Hamptons" will revolve around the opening of a DASH boutique on Jobs Lane in Southampton. Disick has long been romantically linked to Kourtney Kardashian. The couple have two children and are expecting their third.

HBO, 'True Detective' creator rebuke plagiarism charge, but ...

Woody Harrelson, left, and Matthew McConaughey in HBO's

(Credit: HBO / Jim Bridges)

Without question, "True Detective" creator Nic Pizzolatto is living the dream — but into every dream, I suppose, a little rain must fall ... like the online charge a few days ago that he may have lifted the words of  novelist Thomas Ligotti to surfeit those bleak Nietzsche-esque musings of one Rust Cohle, whose portrayer, Matthew McConaughey, is a lead-pipe cinch to win the Emmy for best actor...

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Jimmy Van Heusen doc to air on Ch. 13 Saturday

The legendary singer Frank Sinatra was born in

(Credit: AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Jimmy van Who? If one has to ask who "Jimmy Van Heusen" was, then one may as well go ahead and ask who Frank Sinatra was, or Bing Crosby: He was one of the major contributors to the great American songbook and wrote much of the soundtrack for Sinatra's career after the 1940's. Also: His "High Hopes" became JFK's presidential campaign song. "Jimmy Van Heusen: Swingin' with Frank and Bing" airs Saturday...

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British version of 'The X Factor' to air in the U.S.

American music entertainment cable channel AXS TV will

(Credit: AP)

"The X Factor" -- which bombed on Fox, but has certainly not bombed in the United Kingdom, where it remains something of a hit -- has returned!

Or has sort of returned.

Mark Cuban's AXS TV has agreed to air the new season of the British version, or per the press release earlier today, "...beginning Sunday, August 31. AXS TV is the official U.S. broadcast home for the upcoming eleventh season, featuring the much-anticipated return of Cowell to the judging panel."

 And no: AXS is not on Optimum, but it is on DirecTV, Dish and AT&T U-verse...

 Now that we've settled that...a clip? Sure, why not. Here's Dan Rather in "The Big Interview" talking to the One the Only the Simon, for an edition that'll air Aug. 25 at 8...


Fox withdraws bid for Time Warner

Rupert Murdoch, left, CEO of 21st-Century Fox, announced

The biggest television and media company the world has ever seen, or quite possibly ever will see is not to be, at least not yet: 21st Century Fox has withdrawn its spectacular bid for Time Warner. 

Here's the statement from 21st Century Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch, who clearly coveted the cash-and-prestige machine HBO in this deal:

“We viewed a combination with Time Warner as a unique opportunity to bring together two great companies, each with celebrated content and brands. Our proposal had significant strategic merit and compelling financial rationale and our approach had always been friendly.

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"However, Time Warner management and its board refused to engage with us to explore an offer which was highly compelling. Additionally, the reaction in our share price since our proposal was made undervalues our stock and makes the transaction unattractive to Fox shareholders. These factors, coupled with our commitment to be both disciplined in our approach to the combination and focused on delivering value for the Fox shareholders, has led us to withdraw our offer."

The withdrawal is a bit of a surprise, even if the Justice Department would have had a lot of explaining to do by allowing such a merger to proceed -- creating a media combination that would fully control a quarter of the motion picture industry (if not more) and a vast collection of TV assets and suppliers whose products reach every man, woman and child in the United States.

The original bid in June -- not made public until July -- was classic Murdoch: Aggressive, fast and absolutely unexpected -- even apparently by Time Warner, which is now effectively in play, even without the Fox offer in hand.

Stephen Colbert does a Nixon 'retrospectacular'

Richard Nixon in HBO's "Nixon by Nixon: In

(Credit: HBO)

Stephen Colbert went from "in character" to "in retro character" on last night's "The Colbert Report," which is probably not as easy as it sounds. The unusual episode - which either lamented or celebrated Richard Nixon's resignation forty years ago this week (hard exactly to say) - was recast as sort of a what-the-Colbert-Report-would-look-like all those years ago, when hosts smoked and smoked on the air... (Ah yes, Mister Tom Synder...) It was a very informative episode, while Pat Buchanan and John Dean had plenty to say about their former boss. Colbert's an excellent interviewer, gives them their say and asks the right questions. He would have been a good TV host circa 1974. No question about that (just give up the smokes...)

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