What to Watch: Go "Behind the Camera" On Tubi with Some TV Classics

By Behind the Scenes in Hollywood Archives
Cover image for  article: What to Watch: Go "Behind the Camera" On Tubi with Some TV Classics

Somewhere back in the 2000s the "Behind the Camera" made-for-TV movie became a hot trend. Some of the more notable offerings centered on Charlie's Angels, Mork & Mindy and Diff'rent Strokes, and as a television lover, I attempted to catch all of them to see what might have actually happened when the cameras weren't rolling. Still, it seems there were a few even I missed back in the day, and if you missed them, too, Tubi is providing the chance to watch them now by streaming many of these gems for free (along with a host of other entertaining classic TV documentaries). Here are a few that are sure to enlighten and entertain.

The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy

Being a casual viewer of the original Mork & Mindy, this one just wasn't high on my radar when it premiered, although the show's contributions to pop culture ("Nanu, Nanu") always were. Chris Diamantopoulos gives an Emmy Award-worthy performance as Williams, perfectly encapsulating the comedian's frenetic demeanor -- something I doubt many actors could do so effectively. It explores the complexities of Williams' meteoric rise to fame, along with ABC's over-involvement in re-tooling an already hit series (which ultimately also led to its demise) and recreates a few forgotten pop culture moments in history for which the show should be remembered.

One case in point: ABC thought the series was too wholesome and tried to "make the show sexier." In the 11th and 12th episodes of season two (Mork vs. the Necrotons), ABC believed that reigning sex-bomb Raquel Welch would be perfect to inject some sex appeal, furnishing the star with a two-part guest appearance. While her portrayal of Captain Nirvana (leader of a nubile alien race named the Necrotons; resplendent with sidekicks Karma and Sutra) is amusing, the stunt casting ultimately backfired. Williams himself would later admit he thought those episodes contributed to viewer loss.

The series' third season gave viewers one of the most meta moments in television history, along with an informative glimpse as to who the man behind Mork really was. To highlight some real-life personal issues Williams was dealing with (according to the biopic), he convinces series creator Garry Marshall to introduce America to "the real Robin Williams." Having Mindy (Pam Dawber) interview him for a local newspaper would be the best way to do it. Mork meets Robin Williams uses Mork's uncanny likeness to the superstar to gain access to Williams' dressing room. The result is an insightful exploration of Williams the person that is both touching and enlightening -- as is Mork's weekly closing monologue to his superior Orson, which in retrospect is an extremely poignant piece of television. Comparing Mork's experience with fame to that of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and other legendary performers who died way before their time, Williams is also baring his soul before the camera.

Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Diff'rent Strokes

Another television juggernaut of the 1980s was NBC's Diff'rent Strokes. The Norman Lear-created family friendly comedy received a behind-the-scenes exploration in 2006 via Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Diff'rent Strokes. Strokes began in 1978, running for 189 episodes over nine years on two different networks. It starred Conrad Bain (Maude), Charlotte Rae, Todd Bridges and Dana Plato, but scene-stealing youngster Gary Coleman emerged as the star. Onscreen, it was all smiles, laughs, and "What you talkin' 'bout, Willis?" However, life's realities were very different off-screen for the younger cast members. Those trials and tribulations have been well documented and include arrests, court cases due to mismanagement and the health issues that plagued Coleman for years, all detailed in the biopic.

But what sets this project apart from some others is the participation of Coleman and Bridges and their on-camera confessionals. Their involvement gives the movie a stamp of approval, leading one to believe what you're watching isn't all artistic license and hearsay. It also provides fascinating insights into the inner workings of network programming. Sadly, Plato passed away in 1999 from a suspected overdose. Coleman would pass away just four years after this biopic (2010) after suffering complications from a fall at home.

Behind the Camera: Charlie's Angels

Told through the eyes of Jay Bernstein (Wallace Langham), then manager/publicist to Farrah Fawcett, this dramatization explores the first season of the classic '70s private eye show Charlie's Angels (Fawcett's only as a series regular) and its stars' meteoric rise to fame. Tricia Helfer (Fawcett), Lauren Stamile (Kate Jackson) and Christine Chambers (Jaclyn Smith) all give respectable portrayals of the Angels, as do Bill Dow (Bosley/David Doyle) and Dan Castellaneta, who became Hollywood's go-to when one of these projects needed an actor to portray series creator Aaron Spelling.

While this one does take some artistic license with a few facts, it's still a fun ride. Full marks should be awarded to the film's art department, set decorators and wardrobe team for their attention to detail in recreating some of the ladies' most iconic photoshoots and looks. The recreation of a 1976 Television Critics Association press conference (pictured at top) is also worth mentioning. Fun fact: Helfer fought hard to land the part of Fawcett in this project (her first after completing work on the Battlestar Galactica re-boot) and kept the recreation of the Angles' famous Time magazine cover created for the film. It hung in her home office, and as she once told me, "How often do you get to be on the cover of Time magazine?"

In September of this year, the beloved original series celebrates its 47th anniversary. It inspired three big screen adaptations, along with a television reboot by ABC in 2011. And while it remains a classic, it's fun to revisit how it "might" have all begun.

Click the social buttons to share this story with colleagues and friends.
The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.org/MyersBizNet.

Copyright ©2024 MediaVillage, Inc. All rights reserved. By using this site you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.