Wednesday 20 May 2020

Good News and Good Night

In 1956, he was a newscaster doubling as a disc jockey at WROW in upstate New York telling the local newspaper’s music column that Nanette Fabray’s "How Soon" and Mark Fredericks's "Mystic Midnight" were real comers on the charts. In 1976, he was still a newscaster—likely the best-known fake newscaster on television.

He was Ted Knight.

If Knight was known for anything prior to being cast as anchorman Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, it was for providing narration and other voices on cartoons for Lou Scheimer’s Filmation. Even then, he was a struggling actor. And Moore once admitted that Knight was not what the pilot story called for—a younger, possible love interest was what was in mind—but he was hired anyway and there were no regrets.

Knight told United Press columnist Vernon Scott in 1977 he was unhappy on the show because some episodes were centred on other characters and he had little to do. It made him neurotic; it would appear Knight was a little insecure. That certainly wouldn’t have been helped when he got his own show after MTM finished its run. It lasted six episodes; he played the owner of an escort service. Critics sliced it apart.

Scott interviewed Knight a number of times over his career. First up is a column from July 1971 and the second from February 1973. Knight was only 62 when he died on August 26, 1986.

Preparation pays for 'newscaster' on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'
HOLLYWOOD (UPI)—Ted Knight devoted years of his life to preparation for his role as the pompous little newscaster on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Knight humorously recounts a succession of radio and television jobs on local channels in New England.
He was Uncle Ted, Farmer Ted, Windy Knight, Milkman Ted and other cornball characters in and around Albany, Troy and Schenectady, N.Y. It was minor league work, but he came across a dozen prototypes of super-ego Ted Baxter.
Off-screen Ted Knight has little in common with his video character.
Knight moved to Southern California in 1957. For the past 14 years he has done voice-over commercials, cartoon voices and played small roles in motion pictures along with appearances on television.
His current job is the big time.
HE HAS BEEN married to his wife Dorothy, who also is a native of Connecticut, for 23 years. They are the parents of Ted Jr., 17; Elyse, 11; and Eric, 8. In turn, the children are the masters of a trio of Siamese cats: My Guy, Chopstick and San.
All live in a Spanish style home in the San Fernando Valley. They are a bit crowded with growing children in a three-bedroom house. But there is a spacious yard and a large swimming pool.
In most respects the Knights are a typical suburban family, as far removed from the bright lights of Hollywood's social activities as if they'd never left New England.
Their closest friends are other members of the series.
Four days a week Ted drives to CBS Studio Center to rehearse the show. On Friday nights the episodes are taped before a live audience.
Otherwise Ted makes it home in time to have dinner with his family, a luxury enjoyed by few television series regulars.
On long summer evenings Ted often enjoys a game of basketball with his sons.
Ted Knight has probably one of the most unusual avocations among the film colony's performers—collecting ventriloqual memorabilia.
A sometimes ventriloquist, Ted entertains neighborhood children with his talent. He has an expensive figure —"never called dummy" —named Duncan. He is a smart alec child who tops Ted with quips and various conversational gambits.
Knight is surprisingly adept. He learned the art over the years on those small television stations and now collects books, magazines and other information relating to ventriloquism.
HE HAS NO PLANS for becoming a professional ventriloquist.
Ted once was a golfer but the combination of smog and slow play on Los Angeles links have made a beach enthusiast of him.
Currently Dorothy and Ted are house-hunting in Santa Monica. They want a home closer to the ocean and the cooler climate.
Almost the only time Ted can be seen wearing a necktie is on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." At home and at small parties he invariably wears sports clothes. "When you move west," he says, "one of the benefits is throwing away your neckties."

Ted Knight Anchors TV Series' Laughs
HOLLYWOOD (UPI) — The man who play's the biggest horse's neck on television doesn't care much for this distinction but as Ted Baxter on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" he has become a certified celebrity.
Ted Knight sighed deeply: "It used to bother me playing a national dummy on television. But I've got enough confidence to overcome that now."
He even has enough self-confidence to live down his real name, which happens to be Tadeusz Wladziu Konopka.
On the weekly CBS comedy series, Knight is the ultimate fat-headed, egotistical, inept newscast anchorman audiences would happily strangle.
The portrait of Ted Baxter resembles Knight in physical characteristics only. At least the actor hopes that is the extent of it.
"I didn't believe people could have as much pomposity, vanity and bigotry as Ted Baxter," said his alter ego. "When you think about it I'm the only one in the series who doesn't play a hero."
There was a touch of regret in Knopka's voice. But he brightened when reminded he also gets the biggest laughs on the show.
"Ted Baxter is the butt of all the jokes," he continued. "They all bounce off him. But it's been rewarding where the public is concerned. Viewers all love Ted and sense his innocence and vulnerability.
"He's escaped into a bubble of unreality. And a lot of people in this country would like to find a bubble like that.
"The character may be somewhat exaggerated. But I've bumped into people with an ego almost as big as his."
To break the monotony of rehearsals, directors on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" often ask Knight to stay in the Ted Baxter character between rehearsal scenes. The rest of the cast picked up on the inside joke and were loosing zingers at Knight-Baxter as they do in the script.
"I started getting paranoid about it," Knight, ne Konopka, reflected. "They began laughing at me when I was trying to be serious. The first two years it was touchand go whether I was a Jekyll and Hyde character. Now Ted Baxter has become a classic. An original."
Last year Knight played television's biggest dunderhead with such authority he was nominated for an Emmy Award.
Why, one asks, is a dumbell, kept on in his anchorman post Knight answers: "Comedic license is all that keeps him on the job." Knight's role has been beefed up the past season to wring as many laughs as possible from Ted Baxter, whose only, virtue is his love for his mother.
There is an almost Laurel-Hardy relationship between the characters of Ted Baxter and Lou Grant, the beady-eyed boss of the show's news operation. Most of the comedy is played off the two of them.
"Lou and Ted are funny guys," Knight said. "Ed Asner and I work well together. The important thing is that it works. And so does the show."


  1. Ted was all over the place in the 1960s. It wasn't hard to pick out his voice in " Superman/Aquaman ", " Superfriends ", " Halls of Justice " and many others. Most of us remember his early camera shot as the police officer who opens the asylum door so a blanket can be given to "Norman/ Mrs. Bates " in " Psycho ". Thanks to METV, he is frequently seen on " The Twilight Zone ( The Lonely )" and one of my favorite episodes of " The Invaders "( Valley Of The Shadow ). I had heard that the original inspirartion for the Ted Baxter persona, was Jack Cassidy's character in " He and She ". He left us way too early, and is missed.

  2. He was a busy, busy man before TMTMS for sure.
    Ted Knight is my absolute favorite tv guy. Loved TMTMS for all of the incredible writing, cast, etc... but Ted got me hook, line and sinker the first time I saw him as Ted Baxter at all of 9 years old, lol. Been a lifelong fan of his ever since.