OFFBEAT: An important warning for readers, and a passing

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-02-20T00:00:00Z 2014-03-12T18:37:13Z OFFBEAT: An important warning for readers, and a passingBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Reader James Austgen of Munster called me and asked why I hadn't included any mention of the passing of actor Ralph Waite, best known for playing the hard-working father on the CBS series "The Waltons."

"Even if younger readers might not remember him, there are a lot of older readers who read The Times everyday and they would want to know he has passed," Austgen alerted.

First, I'd like to share a very important warning to our readership about a terrible scam that is targeting readers in our area, especially older demographics.

The reason I know about this attempt for financial gain at the expense of others, is because even my own parents have been targeted twice in recent weeks. Fortunately, they were aware of the scam and did not fall prey.

Here's how it works, starting with a telephone call from a likely unfamiliar voice.

Caller: "Hello, is this Grandma [or Grandpa]?"

Target: "Who is this?"

Caller: "This is your grandson. How are you?"

Target: "Oh, is this  [name is offered]?

Caller: "YES! This is [using name fed to him]! How are you? Did you get a lot of snow? How is the weather?"

Target: "I didn't recognize your voice."

Caller: "I have a bad cold. I'm on vacation and I had fender-bender with the rental car and I need someone's credit card info or for you to wire me some money, to cover the damage." OR "Well, I sound different because, and don't get worried, I've been in an accident. I just had stitches at the emergency room. This is just between us, don't tell anyone, not even my parents. But I need money to pay for the emergency room. I'll pay you back. "

As with my parents' experience, attempting to counter with a pinpoint question usually stumps the scam artist and causes this person to hang-up. On Wednesday, when my mom asked: "Which grandson is this?" the caller said: "Come on Grandma, don't you recognize the voice of your oldest grandson? You know, I'm the good-looking one."

Please help by alerting your friends, family and neighbors about these criminal opportunists.

Father figure

Though he had regular roles in more recent series like "Bones," "NCIS" and the daytime soap "Days of Our Lives," actor Ralph Waite, who died a week ago at age 85 at his Palm Desert, Calif. home remained best known for the role of John Walton Sr. on the CBS series "The Waltons."

Waite and "The Waltons" survived what the history of TV broadcasting dubs "the Rural Purge for Ratings." In the 1970s, all of the major networks dumped some of their most popular shows, all of which featured the popular trend of the time having rural themes, fearing these shows only appealed to older audiences, while advertisers want "young money."

"The Andy Griffith Show," "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Green Acres," "Mister Ed," "Petticoat Junction," "Lassie," "Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C." and "Hee Haw" were all cancelled by CBS (tagged as COUNTRY Broadcasting System), despite respectable ratings. NBC followed the lead, axing "The Andy Williams Show," "The Virginian" and "Wild Kingdom." ABC responded by dumping "The Lawrence Welk Show" and "The Johnny Cash Show."

When members of Congress expressed displeasure at some of the replacement shows (like "All in the Family") being less family-friendly, the backlash prompted CBS to greenlight "The Waltons" for the fall 1972 schedule, expecting it to get cancelled due to poor ratings. Instead, it ran for nine seasons, until 1981, and prompted NBC to air rival series "Little House on the Prairie" starting in 1974.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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