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Today we learn of the deaths of two classic TV sidekicks named Tom:
Tom Poston, who goes back to the Golden Era but is best remembered from Newhart, at 85, and Tommy Newsom, Johnny Carson’s backup bandleader and comedy foil from the heyday of the The Tonight Show, who made it to 78.
(Tom Poston’s run as a comic bumbler began with The Steve Allen Show in 1959, after Allen plucked him from the Broadway stage to join an ensemble of eccentrics (including Don Knotts, Louis Nye and Gordon Hathaway) with whom he’d conduct “man in the street” interviews. Poston’s character was so unnerved by the television cameras that he couldn’t remember who he was. He won an Emmy playing “The Man Who Can’t Remember His Name.” He went on to shows like Newhart and Mork & Mindy, and late in life married Suzanne Pleshette.
(Tommy Newsom was a sax player and regular substitute for Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen and earned the tongue-in-cheek nickname “Mr. Excitement” because his plain wardrobe and unassuming demeanor offered a stark contrast to the flamboyant Doc. Johnny Carson said Newsom was so dull he “wants to come back as a plant, so somebody will talk to him” and “was the only person to reach puberty and senility at the same time.”
(Tom–oh, sorry– he’s not dead yet…)