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Television: Remembering the greatness of ‘Big Daddy’ and Michael K. Williams

In countless conversations with Big Daddy Graham, there was never a single moment that wasn’t animated and enjoyable.And the moments were many.

Sharing a gift of gab, one topic would fold into another, double back again to bring up a point missed, and then move on to something else. As with anything involving Big Daddy, they were punctuated with lots of laughs and lots of heart.

Oddly, these talks were only occasionally accidental, the difference being when I bumped into Big Daddy at the theater. More often, they were arranged as interviews or because Big Daddy had something he wanted to tell me. That’s why the length of our calls and the spiraling nature of the conversation were always a pleasant surprise. We’d arrange to talk about something specific and go on to discuss everything from sports and politics to cabbages and kings.

I don’t think my experience with Big Daddy was much different from anyone else’s. You can’t spend more than 20 years doing overnight at a talk radio station without having something to say, and Big Daddy had plenty.

He also knew how to engage with a wide variety of callers, some the usual WIP fans who wanted to comment on the local sports teams, some people who just wanted to spend some time in the middle of the night talking to someone. Big Daddy was great, and generous, with all of them.

His broadcasting career followed a parallel and continuing career as a stand-up comic. The reputation and fan base Big Daddy accrued led to him being booked as a guest on local shows and landing a spot on a morning radio show.

Mornings were not to be his meter, unless you think of midnight-5 a.m. as the morning.

For 20 years, Big Daddy Graham presided over a unique program in Philadelphia radio. It was on WIP (94.1 FM) so sports was the basis for a lot of talk. Like Big Daddy on the telephone or in a theater lobby, a simple hello could go anywhere.

There lay the gift of the congenial, beloved entertainer who died Wednesday of heart failure at his Mullica Hills, N.J. home. He was age 68.Big Daddy Graham, born Edward Gudonis, could talk about anything and do it engagingly for however long a topic lasted.

Big Daddy kept himself versed in lot of things. Of course, he followed sports, but his interests went beyond that. Over many years of talking to Big Daddy, I can’t think of much that came up that he knew nothing about.

This made him a natural for radio.

It also made him the popular comic who played most of the clubs in the Philadelphia area and who took his act to Atlantic City and elsewhere.

Graham’s comedy was observational. He liked commenting on the everyday and often wrote songs about common situations. One of them, “Let’s Call in Sick” was played on hundreds of radio stations throughout the United States. Its recording was bought by tens and thousands. On WIP, it was a Monday-morning staple.

Like most comics, Big Daddy could turn serious or blend his brand of humor with the real. He published a book, “Last Call” about his relationship with his father. He also appeared in a play version that was presented at Delaware County’s Media Theatre.

Entertaining was his life, and he worked hard at it until he was paralyzed after rupturing a blood vessel in 2019. His fatal heart failure relates to that event.

In recent years, Big Daddy appeared on bills with another local comedian who has done well on radio, Joe Conklin.

In most of the years I’ve writing about entertainment, and that more that 50, including 38 at this newspaper, Big Daddy Graham was seen, heard, and talked to on a regular basis.

He will be missed not only for his talent and his ability to sustain a varied program for years, but for his company.

raham is survived by his wife, Deborah Garvey, and two daughters, Keely and Ava, the latter of whom I met after a theater event. Ava worked with her father on his WIP show.

Micheal K. Williams was a talent that will be missed

Any viewer of “The Wire,” one of the first shows that established cable as a rival to traditional network television, knows why characters gathered on a Baltimore street corner became tense and scattered as quickly as they could when someone muttered the words, “Omar’s coming.”

Omar was a ruthless drug dealer played with incredible intensity by Michael K. Williams.

Actor Michael K. Williams poses for a portrait at the Beverly Hilton during the 2016 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour, Saturday, July 30, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Williams, who played the beloved character Omar Little on “The Wire,” has died. New York City police say Williams was found dead Monday, Sept. 6, 2021, at his apartment in Brooklyn. He was 54. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Williams, who earlier in his career was known as Michael Kenneth Williams, died last Monday at age 54, was an actor of remarkable skill. He has several memorable performances to his credit, but his portrayal of Omar gained him his first attention and cemented the style that made him an actor who earned your full attention every time he appeared on the screen.

Few actors can muster his ability to seem totally natural in the situations his characters found themselves while managing to be so real and so thorough, he dominated the screen with every scene, every nuance.

There was a reason fear struck the hearts of seasoned criminals when Omar’s approach was noted. Williams made him the toughest, most lethal character on the block while keeping him the most interesting.

Omar was one of several characters Williams would bring to life with his individual brand of dramatic honesty and sincerity. In addition to “The Wire,” he will be recognized for his work as Chalky White on “Boardwalk Empire” and appearance on several primetime series.In spite of his wonderful work on both “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire,” none of William’s five Emmy nominations, including one for which he is currently contending, is for playing Omar or Chalky.

Until this year’s nomination for playing Montrose Freeman, a complex character whose past and vivid dreams about them affect his unacknowledged relations with his son, on HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” he received nominations for single roles in movies or limited series, including for Netflix’s “When They See Us” and HBO’s “The Night Of…”

The field for this year’s Emmys, Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, is a tough one, but a posthumous win is not impossible.The 2021 Emmys will be handed out Sept. 19. The ceremony begins at 8 p.m. on CBS (Channel 3).

Getting into quizzes and talent

FILE – JoJo Siwa arrives at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards on March 23, 2019, In Los Angeles. Siwa will compete as part of the first same-sex pairing on “Dancing With the Stars” for the show’s upcoming 30th season. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Quiz shows and talent contests are the guilty pleasure on my television viewing schedule.

I look forward to next week’s premieres of “The Voice,” “Dancing with the Stars,” and “Survivor,” whose times slot cause a conundrum because I want to watch them all as they air and will have to choose only one. (Anyone who knows me knows “The Voice” will win, and I’ll watch the others On Demand. The arrival of Ariana Grande as a judge has nothing to do with that decision.)

As I wait for the next round of competitions to begin, I’ll be looking at this week’s finals for “America’s Got Talent.” Several promising acts were eliminated last week. One judge, Simon Cowell, was so disconcerted by which performers were voted off, he said the show should consider a wildcard slot by which an act can be saved.

Sixteen acts will compete for a $1 million prize and a contract for a Las Vegas engagement. I am rooting for singer Brooke Simpson, but I think the top honor will go to aerialist Aidan Bryant. I would not complain if comedian Gina Brillon, magician Dustin Tavella, or the Northwell Health Nurse Choir, composed of 18 nurses who were on the frontline of COVID treatment, is named the overall winner.

In a competition that just ended, a team from Columbia University triumphed over a well-matched group from the University of Southern California to win the top prize of $125,000 scholarships from “The Capital One College Bowl.”

The entire “College Bowl” season was exciting, but this final match, with participants the audience got to know after seeing them three previous times, was particularly heady. Also, Peyton Manning and his brother, Cooper Manning, prove to be entertaining hosts for the show.One surprise during a visual question was no one from USC recognized a picture of Clayton Moore from “The Lone Ranger.” I guess some icons don’t last through the generations they way I expect they would. Both teams avoided a Shakespeare category.

“Dancing with the Stars” announced its competitors. I’m not sure how starry they are. A lot of them come from reality television. Maybe I’m wrong or snobby, but they don’t excite me.

Amanda Kloots from “The Talk” is a Broadway performer of note. (By odd incidence, I sat next to her parents during a show she was doing and knew her late husband, Nick Cordero, to whom Amanda is dedicating her stint on “Dancing.”)

Others that I regard as stars of sorts are Brian Austin Green, Martin Kove from “Cobra Kai,” and Melanie C. (full name Melanie Chisolm), Sporty Spice from “The Spice Girls.” Also competing are Matt James, Mike Mizanin, Jimmie Allen, Cody Rigsby, Iman Shumpert (Athletes tend to do well.), JoJo Siwa, who will be partnered with a woman, Suni Lee, Kenya Moore, Olivia Jade, Melora Hardin, and Christine Chiu.

Of course, my favorite of all television quiz shows is “Jeopardy!” Tonight marks the single appearance of now-fired producer Mike Richards as host. Tomorrow, Mayim Bialik begins her stint as the host of “Jeopardy!”

“Wheel of Fortune” also begins a new season that boasts a couple of changes. One is the “Final Spin,” usually made by host Pat Sajak when the bell rings to announce time is getting short. Starting tonight, the contestant whose turn it is will spin instead of Sajak.

Neal Zoren’s television column appears every Monday.


Source: Berkshire mont

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