News of the Week: Ann Guilbert, Ruined Game Shows, and the End of the Word as We Know It

RIP Ann Guilbert, Janet Waldo, and Michu Meszaros

You’ll know Ann Morgan Guilbert from her role as Millie Helper, neighbor to Rob and Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. She also played Grandma Yetta (under a lot of makeup) on The Nanny, and appeared on such shows as Seinfeld, Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Home Improvement, Cheers, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Murder, She Wrote, and many others. She recently appeared on episodes of Life in Pieces and Getting On. She appeared on stage many times, and had a critically acclaimed role in the 2007 film Please Give.

Guilbert passed away from cancer on Tuesday at the age of 87.

When you make a list of the greatest cartoon voices of all time, Janet Waldo would be near the top. She not only did the voice of Judy Jetson on the classic ’60s show The Jetsons (and its ’80s version as well), she was Josie on Josie and the Pussycats. You also heard her voice on The Flintstones, The Smurfs, Battle of the Planets, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, King of the Hill, and many other shows and movies.

Besides doing voice work, Waldo was an actress who appeared on such shows as I Love Lucy, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, and The Andy Griffith Show, as well as dozens of movies in the ’30s and ’40s.

Waldo passed away last Sunday at the age of 96.

Waldo was involved in a controversy in 1990. She recorded the voice of Judy Jetson for the big-screen Jetsons movie, but producers wanted to have someone younger and, I guess, “hipper” in the movie, so they re-recorded those scenes with pop star Tiffany. Waldo wasn’t happy about it.

Michu Meszaros played ALF on the 1980s NBC sitcom of the same name. Now, you’re probably thinking, wasn’t ALF a puppet? Ninety-nine percent of the time he was, but if a scene called for the alien lifeform to walk, that was Meszaros in the suit. He also made appearances in Big Top Peewee and other movies and TV shows.

Meszaros died at the age of 76 after being in a coma for about a week.

On Wednesday Night, My Worst Fears Were Realized

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that To Tell The Truth was coming back to television on ABC, with Anthony Anderson as host. Well, it premiered this week, and it’s approximately 70 times worse than I thought it was going to be.

While the core of the game remains — celebrities having to guess which one of three contestants is telling the truth — everything else is completely messed up. Everything is really loud, every other joke is sexual, and there’s a live band for some reason (it adds nothing). Even the questioning from the celebrities is different and nonsensical. In previous versions of the show, each person would get a certain amount of time to question the contestants, and then they’d move on to the next person. This new version is more of a free-for-all. Questions are asked randomly, with no order or logic, and sometimes questions aren’t asked at all, only comments are made. At one point, they even changed the later game by using the two imposters from the previous game in the next game because one of them had an interesting secret as well. But that only leaves two contestants to choose from, and … I really don’t get it.

It’s clear that in this modern version, the game isn’t really the important thing. It’s how many smutty jokes Anderson and the cast can get in to make the audience say “oooooooooo!” There’s also no mention of how much money the players get if they fool the panel, and do we really need Anderson’s mother there to keep score and respond to Anderson’s jokes?

In the two episodes that aired this week, there was twerking and even a male pole dancer who put on a show. Sure, it’s great to see Betty White on To Tell The Truth again (even with her usual nudge-nudge, wink-wink jokes that got old a decade ago), but I couldn’t name the other celebrities if you paid me (besides Mike Tyson, who looked like he didn’t even want to be there). I think they were reality show stars and athletes, but I couldn’t say for sure.

I’ll probably keep watching it because it’s only a short-run summer show, and I love game shows. But if it comes back next season (these episodes were actually filmed last summer), I’d want to see a complete overhaul. The original lasted for a couple of decades, so they must have been doing something right.

First Ghostbusters, Now Ocean’s Eleven

When the all-female Ghostbusters was announced, the nerd world went crazy. And by “nerd world” I mean “guys.” For some reason, the project got attacked by a certain part of the male fan base of the original movie. I guess because it’s well known that women can’t fight ghosts.

Now comes word that they’re making a sequel to the Ocean’s Eleven movies titled Ocean’s Eight (early rumors said it was going to be called Ocean’s Ocho). It won’t star George Clooney and Brad Pitt, though. This will be a sequel/spinoff that will have an all-female cast. So far the names attached to the movie are Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, and Mindy Kaling. Most of the plot is in the rumor stage at this point, and one of those rumors is that Clooney might make a cameo; Bullock’s character is his sister, who wants to steal jewelry from the Met Ball to frame the bad guys.

There probably won’t be as much of a freak-out over the all-female Ocean’s Eight cast. It’s not in the realm of geeky pop culture like Ghostbusters.

Imagine a Facebook Without Words

There’s one of those weird rumors spreading around the web. This one says Facebook wants to eventually get rid of words and text and go all video. It’s such a ridiculous concept that no one is taking it seriously.

Oh, wait, it’s not a rumor at all. It comes from Facebook itself.

At a tech conference earlier this week in London, Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s operations chief in Europe/Africa/The Middle East, said that in five years, not only will Facebook be mostly mobile, “it will probably be all video.” She also added that “the best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video.” This will come as a big surprise to the people who have been writing for the past several centuries.

Yes, this idea really is as horrifying as it sounds. But don’t worry, writers! Mendelsohn says that words won’t go away completely because “you’ll have to write for the video.” In the future, the only writing that will exist will be captions.

This lines up with what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said in the past, which makes me glad I haven’t gone back to Facebook. You’d think that Zuckerberg would want to put more emphasis on words. After all, this is the guy who discovered books last year.

Imagine a World Without the Period

If words are going away, is the period next?

If I wrote this column without periods, you’d probably be a little confused, a little irritated, and maybe even reach for the Advil at some point. But it might be the wave of the future. David Crystal, a language expert, says that the period is slowly being phased out in communication, especially among millennials. It’s happening in texting, on social media, and in instant messages. Those forms are for speed and getting your point across, not proper sentence structure, I guess. Sometimes I wonder if social media and texting went away tomorrow, would younger people know how to communicate? Soon, all job interviews and romantic interludes will be held on SnapChat.

Think I’m overreacting? Crystal says that not only is the period passé, it might actually be taken as confrontational or sarcastic if you use it. The example he uses is “fine.” If someone answers a text or e-mail with “Fine” (without a period) or “Fine!”, then that’s okay. But if you answer “Fine.” (with a period), people will think you’re annoyed. I’m not making this up. (Personally, I think if someone answers with an exclamation point — “Fine!” — then that would be a sign that they’re annoyed.)

Some people don’t see this as that much of a deal, including Dante Ramos at The Boston Globe, but I beg to differ. Sure, I don’t see the period — or any punctuation — going away permanently. We may use them less in places like social media and texting, but in the places they are needed, they will always be used. But I think it’s a slippery slope. We don’t want to start getting rid of punctuation or certain words or grammar traditions and simply shrug our shoulders.

I do see some people not using periods or proper grammar even in e-mails. I have a relative who sends me e-mails once in a while, and not only does she rarely use periods, she also doesn’t capitalize words, space words correctly, or spell things correctly, often using a mixture of misspelled words and abbreviations. It’s like trying to figure out a code or a text version of Rubik’s Cube.

To Boldly Spend Where No Man Has Spent Before

Is there money in the future depicted in Star Trek? I don’t recall seeing any, but if there is, then maybe we can use these $200 Star Trek insignia gold coins that the Royal Canadian Mint has created. Yup, they’re legal in Canada, though only 1,500 of them were made and they’re already gone — for more than six times their face value. (You can get some other Star Trek collectible coins for the show’s 50th anniversary there, too.)

And no, I don’t understand why the coins are worth $200.

It’s National Candy Month

I’m going to just assume — and I apologize if I’m wrong about this — that you don’t want to make candy from scratch. It’s not easy, and there are so many delicious things you can just buy. And I don’t mean the typical candy you’d find at the supermarket. I’m talking about retro candy that you can buy online from places like Groovy Candies, Retro Candy Online, and Old Time Candy. Yup, you can actually buy the candy you ate as a kid in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s (though I’m still waiting for the Marathon Bar to come back).

And if you want to talk about National Candy Month on Twitter, you can probably guess that the hashtag is #NationalCandyMonth.

If you’re on Facebook, well, don’t use any words at all. Just upload a video of yourself stuffing your face.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

Father’s Day (June 19)

Here are the letters humorist J.P. McEvoy wrote to his son in his “Father Meets Son” column in The Saturday Evening Post during the 1930s.

Lou Gehrig born (June 19, 1903)

The baseball great’s real first name was Henry, and his ALS diagnosis was released to the public on his birthday in 1939.

Audie Murphy born (June 20, 1924)

The World War II hero’s official site has a ton of information, including The Saturday Evening Post’s account of his return home in 1945.

Jaws released (June 20, 1975)

CNN rounds up 21 things you might not know about the classic movie, including what famous line was ad-libbed.

Great Seal of the United States adopted by Congress (June 20, 1782)

The history of the U.S. seal, which appears on many official documents, is really fascinating.

Three civil rights workers killed in Mississippi (June 21, 1964)

Saturday Evening Post Archive Director Jeff Nilsson writes about the three men who became “victims of politics.”

Jack Dempsey born (June 24, 1895)

The boxer was also known as The Manassa Mauler because he was born in the Mormon village of Manassa, Colorado.