Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Today in TV History: Teresa Graves

"You're under arrest, Sugar."  Baby boomers who were kids in those days can still quote her weekly line on that groundbreaking cop series.  Born on this day in history:  The late Teresa Graves.  No one talks about her today, but she was stellar on TV.  The camera loved her.  What was there not to love?
TV viewers -- especially those of us in the black community -- fell in love with Teresa Graves when she was added to the cast of NBC's extremely popular comedy sketch/variety show, LAUGH-IN.  That was in the late 1960s to early 70s.  She could sing and she had a flair for comedy.
There's Teresa Graves on the left next to future Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner and fellow LAUGH-IN cast member, Goldie Hawn.  Anybody who was anybody in show biz, past or present, wanted to do a cameo appearance on LAUGH-IN.  Even Republican presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon did a cameo comedy bit on LAUGH-IN to boost his popularity.  He won the election.  Then he resigned from office because of the Watergate scandal.

As for Teresa Graves, she made racial and gender history on ABC.  In 1974, she starred on the new series GET CHRISTIE LOVE!  Not only was she one of the first African American actresses to be the star of a prime time network drama series, she was playing an undercover cop who was the lead character.  In September 1974, NBC came out with Angie Dickinson as POLICE WOMAN.  In January 1974, GET CHRISTIE LOVE! was an ABC Movie of the Week.    It became a series in September.
That means Christie Love was on the undercover cop beat before POLICE WOMAN, thanks to the ABC Movie of the Week.  (Man, how I wish that original programming format would be revived by ABC!  It helped launch careers of new actors like Sally Field, James Caan, Billy Dee Williams, Stockard Channing and Martin Sheen plus young new directors like Steven Spielberg.)
GET CHRISTIE LOVE!, just like ABC's 1965 series HONEY WEST starring Anne Francis, was a drama/action series featuring a woman in the lead role as a non-comic book crimefighter.  Anne Francis played a hip, smart private eye who ran her own business.  The female private eye story is a TV and film genre just waiting to be tapped.  Both HONEY WEST and GET CHRISTIE LOVE! had short runs.  Each lasted just one year compared to the long run of POLICE WOMAN.  But, during their short runs, both those ABC shows were very popular with young viewers and the network should've kept the shows on longer than they did.
Another word about HONEY WEST:  Like Christie, she was cool.  Honey knew karate, she could handle a gun, she drove a convertible and she had a pet ocelot.

In the late 1980s, during my years as a VH1 daily veejay and talk show host, a buddy of mine who worked for a Hollywood studio told me that his company was eager to do movie versions of properties already known to TV audiences.  I suggested his company star Michelle Pfeiffer in a film version of HONEY WEST and write in a nice guest star role for Anne Francis.  But did Hollywood listen to me?  No.  In today's age of the TV reboot, maybe GET CHRISTIE LOVE! should get some consideration.  Here's an opening of the show.
I don't know much about the lovely and very talented Teresa Graves after the cancellation of this hour-long cop series.  I wish there had been another network TV project for the singer/actress.  Reportedly, she retired for show business in the early 1980s and concentrated on religious and social awareness issues.  Sadly, Teresa Graves was the victim of a pre-dawn house fire in Inglewood, California and died in 2002.  She was only 54.










2 comments:

  1. She actually retired for good right after GET CHRISTIE LOVE! ended its run. She immediately started missionary work as a Jehovah's Witness in 1975, reportedly spending six months in Malawi. Reportedly she was offered a role in ROOTS, but turned it down because the script called for her character to appear in bed with a minister. She married another church member and was going by the name Teresa Graves Reddick when Richard Lamparski tracked her down for an interview in the mid-80's. (I'm a big fan of hers too. )

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