Dr. John (1940 – 2019)

Music legend Dr. John passed away yesterday at the age of 78. Born Malcolm John Rebennack, Dr. John was a six-time Grammy winner known for his music combining blues, pop, jazz, boogie woogie and rock & roll.

The New Orleans-born musician was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2011 and his fifty-plus-year career earned him numerous fans, accolades and status as a musical icon, especially in his hometown of New Orleans.

Around here, Dr. John will always be beloved for his rendering of the CURIOUS GEORGE theme song. Of course, he was so much more than that but if you want to celebrate and remember the music of the flamboyant singer-pianist then it’s a good place to start.


Albert Finney (1936-2019)

Actor Albert Finney has passed away at the age of 82. The five time Oscar nominee died February 7 after a short illness.

The talented performer, considered one of the foremost of the postwar period, attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and later transitioned from the stage to the big screen to appear in films like Tom Jones, The Dresser, Big Fish and Erin Brockovich.

Public television viewers may recall his roles in the Masterpiece Theatre presentations Nostromo, A Rather English Marriage and My Uncle Silas.

Albert Finney was born in Salford, Greater Manchester, England on May 9, 1936. He was the recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe, Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Finney reportedly declined a Commander of the order of the British Empire in 1980 and a knighthood in 2000.

Koko Speaks No More

Koko, the western lowland gorilla best known to the public for mastering sign language, has passed away. According to the Gorilla Foundation, the 46-year-old Koko died in her sleep Tuesday morning.

Born at the San Francisco Zoo on Independence Day in 1971, Koko, originally called Hanabi-ko (Japanese for “fireworks child”), amazed and delighted caretakers, scientists, celebrities and the world at large through her ability to communicate via a modified form of American Sign Language (she was taught at an early age by Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson) and her empathy for people and animals alike.

The Gorilla Foundation said of their late charge, “Her impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world.”

The incredible gorilla has been featured in print and on TV – including several PBS shows and documentaries. KOKO: THE GORILLA WHO TALKS aired in 2016 and I recall both KOKO’S KITTEN and A CONVERSATION WITH KOKO as titles from years past.

A Brilliant Mind

He was born 300 years to the day after the death of astronomer Galileo and died on the birthday of Albert Einstein. Stephen Hawking, one of the great minds of our time, passed away yesterday. He was 76.

While it may not seem Hawking was what one might call a PBS Personality, he was certainly a presence on our airwaves over the years in documentaries and biographies. His legacy is exceptional and PBS NEWSHOUR has a very nice obituary on this amazing theoretical physicist who was arguably one of the most famous and appreciated scientists of all time.

Former NOVA SCIENCENOW host Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted: His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it’s not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure. Stephen Hawking, RIP 1942-2018.

[Note: UNC-TV will be airing the series GENIUS BY STEPHEN HAWKING starting April 17.]

Remembering Siegfried

I have just heard news of the death of Robert Hardy. Sadly, this is not current news as the beloved English actor passed away in early August. However, for whatever reason, I missed the notice. Still, I wanted to mention it because Hardy has had a long presence on UNC-TV.

Robert Hardy was born Timothy Sydney Robert Hardy in 1925 and he enjoyed a long career in theatre, film and television. The veteran performer may be best known to international audiences for his role as Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter film series but public broadcasting viewers will perhaps remember him most fondly as veterinarian Siegfried Farnon on the series All Creatures Great And Small, adapted from the books by James Herriot.

Aside from memorable guest appearances on many familiar programs (Lewis, Foyle’s War, MI-5, Inspector Morse, The Duchess of Duke Street), Hardy has also played roles on several series seen on Masterpiece including Elizabeth R (Robert Dudley), Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (Winston Churchill), Northanger Abbey (General Tilney), Middlemarch (Mr. Brooke) and Little Dorrit (Tite Barnacle [Sr]). He was also appointed a Commander of the British Empire in the 1981 Birthday Honours.

Robert Hardy died on August 3 at the age of 91.

RIP Peter Sallis (1921-2017)

It is with a heavy heart that I pass along the sad news of the death of Peter Sallis. The beloved actor will be best known to UNC-TV viewers as Cleggy on Last of The Summer Wine and to the world at large as the voice of the cheese-loving Yorkshireman Wallace in the Academy Award-winning Wallace and Gromit series. Continue reading

John Clarke (1948 – 2017)

Longtime UNC-TV viewers may recall a gem of a series called The Games which ran during the summer of 2000. The Australian import was a mockumentary about the planning committee for the Olympic Games in Sydney.

The series starred and was co-created and co-written by a man named John Clarke. I can guarantee that no matter how big a comedy fan you are, if you aren’t overly familiar with Australian television and pop culture, the name most likely doesn’t ring a bell. This is not to say the New Zealand-born Australian satirist/writer/comedian wasn’t a massive talent and much beloved in the land of the kangaroo and koala.

Check out this scene from The Games where an incredulous Clarke tries to comprehend why the 100-meter track isn’t exactly 100 meters…

John Clarke died of natural causes on Sunday while hiking in the Grampians National Park in Victoria, Australia. Since his passing, there’s been a massive outpouring of love, remembrance and appreciation from fans in his adopted land.

I just wanted to let you know in case you were a fan. If you weren’t a fan, there’s no reason you can’t (or shouldn’t) become one.