Two extremely significant moonwalks took place on television. One occurred when Neil Armstrong took his first extraterrestrial steps. The other occurred when Michael Jackson walked backwards almost magically while dancing on the Motown 25 special.
You're reminded of this fact as soon as you enter the “TV Memories” exhibit at the Hollywood Museum. Both are on a plaque that lists their picks for TV's 10 best moments, in addition to the Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and Marcia Brady saying “Oh my nose!”
Lists like that are peppered among an exhibit filled with television memorabilia from the last 60-odd years. Lucille Ball's “Vitameatvegimin” sketch plays on a loop from an old-fashioned TV set next to a display case holding costumes from the set of I Love Lucy. Behind it, a sign explains how Ball and husband Desi Arnez's desire to film in Hollywood instead of New York indirectly birthed the concept of reruns (they agreed to a salary cut in exchange for keeping the rights for future airings).
Next to the Desilu display is a tribute to Sonny & Cher, then Phyllis Diller, then Carol Burnett, and it becomes abundantly clear that this exhibit contains a strong showing of female leads. And it's not just the aforementioned ones. Loretta Young, Julie Andrews and I Dream of Jeannie, a sitcom that was carried by a female player, are all honored, along with a more modern leading lady — Pamela Anderson of Baywatch.
But no woman makes a stronger showing than Marilyn Monroe, which is a bit perplexing. Her 1954 USO performance for soldiers in Korea is iconic, as was her “Happy Birthday Mr. President” moment — both of which occurred on TV. Though considering she was more of a film star, her domination of this exhibit is bizarre.
To the exhibit's credit, though, the Monroe memorabilia is thorough. There are dozens upon dozens of photos of her, many of which were taken by famed photographer George Barris. There's even a collection of the short lived line of “Marilyn Merlots,” as well as a small collection of nude images of the actress, which were created by photographer Tom Kelley.
On the opposite side of the coin, there's a “nerd wing” of sorts containing costumes and props from The Tick, V, Babylon 5, Lost, and everyone's favorite, Battlestar Galactica.
Plus there are odds and ends — relics from shows like The Sopranos, Dynasty, Magnum PI, The Drew Carey Show, Moonlighting and a seeming outlier — Deal or No Deal.
But the takeaway from the exhibit, it seems, is that few have made more of a lasting impact on television history than mid-20th century women (and of them, the comediennes in particular). Their faces are still what many of us think of when we conjure up the truly best television memories. Still, we can only imagine the eyerolls these old broads would let fly if they found out Marilyn Monroe is still outshining them.
“TV Memories” will be on display at the Hollywood Museum through Sunday, Dec. 30.
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