They’ll be there for you again, but where’s ‘Friends’?

TV Pipeline

Q: Why did “Friends” suddenly go off Netflix? – Judy Doyle, via e-mail

A: It may have seemed sudden, but it actually was in the works for a while, to give some breathing space for its streaming move to HBO Max when that new service begins this spring. It’s actually a canny move by “Friends” owners WarnerMedia, which is banking on the show’s fans missing it so much that they’ll sign right up for HBO Max to get it back.

“Friends” isn’t gone completely now, since repeats remain on TBS (also WarnerMedia-owned) and Nick at Nite. However, those showings come with commercials, and it’s not the same as choosing which episodes you want to watch when you want to watch them. Several episodes also can be found on TBS On Demand, but only a relative handful at a time … as opposed to the entire series that will be available to HBO Max subscribers, which also was the Netflix situation.

Q: Had Eddie Murphy ever hosted “Saturday Night Live” before he did that in December? – Lisa Bradley, Youngstown, Ohio

A: Though many other alums of the NBC show have returned as guest hosts, and multiple times in some cases, that was the first time Murphy had done it. Executive producer Lorne Michaels likely wouldn’t mind having him back, since the ratings for that episode noticeably spiked.

Another factor in that might have been musical guest Lizzo, the current leader among Grammy Award nominees with eight bids. However, having Murphy go back to some of his “SNL” touchstones such as Gumby and Mister Robinson was insurance that fans would be satisfied by his return … which social-media reaction indicated was the case.

Q: Is it true that Mary Tyler Moore did commercials as a character named Happy Hotpoint? – Charles Green, Grand Junction, Colo.

A: In fact, that was her first television job, using her dance skills to prance around in an elf costume and pitch Hotpoint-brand appliances. She did almost 40 of those ads over a five-day period, but the gig ended for her soon afterward when she became pregnant.

Of course, bigger things were in store for Moore. After doing some other TV roles, she was picked by Carl Reiner to play Laura Petrie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” during the first half of the 1960s, with her own “Mary Tyler Moore Show” following in the 1970s.

Q: In the movie “The Holiday,” when Jack Black is in the video store and starts singing “Mrs. Robinson” from “The Graduate,” is the man who looks over at him Dustin Hoffman? – John Barrett, via e-mail

A: It is. As seen when Freeform and Lifetime gave the 2006 romantic comedy a big workout over the recent holiday period, “Graduate” star Hoffman turns up at an appropriate moment … and his unbilled appearance happened purely by coincidence.

He happened to be going to rent a movie for real, and he went to the store where the “Holiday” crew was working. He and writer-director Nancy Meyers knew each other, and when he agreed to do a scene for the film, she wrote it on the spot. It makes for a nice little “in” joke.

Q: I recently saw Turner Classic Movies run a “McHale’s Navy” movie in tribute to the late Tim Conway. How many films from that series were there? – Martin Wade, Umatilla, Fla.

which had to be made without title star Ernest Borgnine, because he already was committed to make “The Flight of the Phoenix” at the same time. The actors had to fit the movies into their hiatus periods from the series, which were shorter because more episodes were made then.

“McHale’s Navy” had a brief big-screen rebirth in a 1997 version that starred Tom Arnold as McHale … but a different one, the son of the original, since Borgnine reprised his part in that movie.

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Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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