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The White Shadow (TV series)

The White Shadow is an American drama television series starring Ken Howard that ran on the CBS network from November 27, 1978, to March 16, 1981, about a white former professional basketball player who takes a job coaching basketball at an impoverished urban high school with a racially mixed basketball team. Although the lead actor Howard was a blonde Caucasian, the series broke new ground as the first television ensemble drama to feature a mostly African American cast, with African American actors playing the high school principal and vice-principal, the majority of the teenage basketball players, and other supporting roles. The White Shadow also presented a more realistic view of high school than previous TV shows, and dealt with controversial subject matter such as sexually transmitted disease and gay sexual orientation among high school students.

The White Shadow
The White Shadow dvd.jpg
DVD cover
Genre Drama, basketball, school
Created by Bruce Paltrow
Written by
Directed by
Starring Ken Howard
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 54 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Bruce Paltrow
Producer(s) Mark Tinker
Running time 48 minutes
Production company(s) Company Four
MTM Enterprises
Distributor 20th Television
Release
Original network CBS
Original release November 27, 1978 (1978-11-27) – March 16, 1981 (1981-03-16)

Although The White Shadow was not a big ratings hit, it drew praise from critics and helped pave the way for later realistic dramas such as Hill Street Blues and My So-Called Life. It was the first series developed by executive producer Bruce Paltrow, who went on to create and produce the medical drama St. Elsewhere. The show also made popular TV stars of both Howard and Kevin Hooks, who portrayed high school basketball player Morris Thorpe. In the years since its cancellation, a number of journalists have praised the show and in some cases recalled being fans of the show as children or teens. In particular, sports columnist Bill Simmons has written about the show's strong influence on his life.

Contents

OverviewEdit

Ken Howard plays Ken Reeves, a white professional basketball player who retires from the Chicago Bulls of the NBA after a severe knee injury. Upon his retirement, Reeves takes a job as the head basketball coach at the fictional Carver High School, a mostly black and Hispanic urban high school in South Central Los Angeles.

Carver's principal is Coach Reeves' former Boston College classmate Jim Willis (Jason Bernard in the pilot, and Ed Bernard — no relation to Jason, but his best friend in real life[1] — for seasons 1 and 2).[2] Sybil Buchanan (Joan Pringle) is the vice principal, who was against Reeves' hiring and frequently clashes with Reeves in the areas of discipline and education. In season 3, Willis is promoted to a position with the Oakland Board of Education and Buchanan becomes principal of Carver High.[3]

The subject matter of episodes included illicit drug use, child abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, gambling, prostitution, sexual orientation, and physical and mental disabilities. However, the show often incorporated humor, such as a joke made by a character, even when dealing with serious subjects. Episodes often ended with an issue left unresolved, contrary to other TV shows where the characters' problems were resolved by the end of the episode. It has been suggested that this lack of resolution was unappealing to viewers, thus limiting the show's popularity.[citation needed]

Main castEdit

Stewart reprised the role of Warren Coolidge, from 1984–88, in the Paltrow-directed series St. Elsewhere. On episodes of St. Elsewhere, Coolidge could often be spotted wearing a Carver High School t-shirt, and he discusses how he had to give up basketball due to injury, later moving to Boston and taking a hospital orderly job at St. Eligius. Van Patten plays a character named Dean in a St. Elsewhere three episode story arc in 1985 – in the final episode for Dean, this causes some confusion for Coolidge, who calls out "Heyyy!! Salami!!" when he sees Dean on a St. Eligius elevator, to which Dean replies "You got the wrong guy, pal.", leaving Coolidge trying to plead his case with a confused "No - it's Warren." as the elevator doors close.

Hooks, Van Patten and Carter all later pursued careers as directors.

DevelopmentEdit

The concept for the show originated from Ken Howard's own experiences as a high school basketball star at Manhasset High School on Long Island. Howard was one of the few white basketball players at the school and the only white player in the starting lineup, and had been nicknamed "The White Shadow". According to Howard, there were few racial tensions at his own high school, which was also not located in a "ghetto", but the team encountered such tensions when they played elsewhere. Howard has said that the humor in The White Shadow was based on that of his former teammates, who were "really funny". After graduating high school, Howard went on to be captain of the basketball team at Amherst College.

When Howard and Bruce Paltrow pitched the idea for a show about a white coach and a racially mixed basketball team, CBS initially wanted it to be a half-hour sitcom and avoid dealing with controversial material involving sex, drugs and crime. Howard later said that he and Paltrow were "not going to turn this into Welcome Back, Kotter". They persuaded the network to make it a one-hour drama series and furthermore allow the show to address realistic, controversial subjects. They also strove for realism in the basketball scenes.

The memorable funk instrumental theme song for the show was composed by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter. Although not released on record during the show's run, it later appeared on Post's albums Television Theme Songs (1982) and NYPD Blue: The Best of Mike Post (1999).

DVD/syndicationEdit

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has released the first two seasons on DVD in Region 1.[5][6]

The program has intermittently been seen in syndication and on cable since ending its network run (including airing on ESPN Classic), and as of 2016, the show airs (intermittently) on the Heroes & Icons classic TV network.[3] Decades also aired the show as part of the Decades Binge Aug. 27-28, 2016.[7]

The White Shadow also is available to stream on Hulu.[8]

In popular cultureEdit

When aired in the 1980s in Turkey the series gained a lot of interest and the then little-known sport of basketball attracted millions of youth.[9]

Saturday Night Live did a parody skit of the show titled The Black Shadow when NBA star Bill Russell hosted the show on November 3, 1979.

In the 1996 film The Cable Guy, antagonist Chip Douglas (Jim Carrey) references the show during his basketball game, remarking, "Let's see what you got, White Shadow" to Rick (Jack Black), the friend of the movie's hero, Steven M. Kovacs (Matthew Broderick).

It was also referenced in the 1997 Seinfeld episode "The Summer of George".

In a 2016 episode of The Flash titled "Potential Energy", the character Wally West referred to main character Barry Allen as "The White Shadow", because he was a Caucasian boy adopted by an African-American family.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Kathleen Fearn-Banks, Anne Burford-Johnson. "Historical Dictionary of African American Television". p. 57. 
  2. ^ distribution-point.com. "The White Shadow". 
  3. ^ a b The White Shadow - Heroes and Icons TV.com
  4. ^ The White Shadow the complete second season, disk 3 episode 18: "Gonna Fly Now"
  5. ^ "The White Shadow DVD news: Season 1 Release Info - TVShowsOnDVD.com". TVShowsOnDVD.com. 
  6. ^ "The White Shadow DVD news: Season 2 artwork - TVShowsOnDVD.com". TVShowsOnDVD.com. 
  7. ^ "Decades schedule". Decades. 
  8. ^ "The White Shadow on Hulu". Hulu. 
  9. ^ 9 September 2010 Pete Thamel article The New York Times accessed on September 11, 2010

External linksEdit