Friday, September 21, 2018

Musical Interlude: Secret Agent Man (1974)

For those of you who think Devo was a product of the late 70's punk rock-new wave era, think again.

Turns out the Akron, Ohio natives had been around for a few years before 1980's "Whip It" climbed the Hot 100 chart. In 1974, the band released "Secret Agent Man", which is not an exact cover of Johnny Rivers' #3 hit from 1965-6. Instead, some new lyrics were written, and the chorus only has a cosmetic adjustment. Also, Bob Mothersbaugh, rather than brother Mark, is the singer.

"Secret Agent Man" was rerecorded and reissued five years later with a quicker beat closer to the band's now-familiar sound.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

On Stage: Catastrophe Carnivale: An Evening of Beckett Shorts (2018)

The Troy Foundry Theatre opened its 2nd season tonight with the debut of Catastrophe Carnivale: An Evening of Beckett Shorts. Beckett being legendary playwright Samuel Beckett. The production is housed in the historic Gasholder Building in South Troy, and will continue through the end of the month.

Everyone attending the show received three tickets that would admit them into three of the five tents surrounding the main stage, each tent housing a smaller Beckett play, such as Play, Catastrophe, or Act Without Words. The centerpiece was Beckett's 1958 play, Krapp's Last Tape, a 1-man production with the Dean of Capital Region theatre, John Romeo, as Krapp, a 69 year old revisiting some 30 year old audio tapes. As Krapp pauses, the other plays begin.

Catastrophe, written in 1982, focuses on the manipulation of a young man by a Director and her Assistant. The burlap hood the man wears reminds one of the early 80's Broadway sensation, The Elephant Man, which later became a feature film starring John Hurt.

Play, a 1962 piece, deals with a man, his wife, and his mistress, each in an "urn" (garbage barrels were used here), rotating in speech, speaking at a rapid fire pace, not quite unintelligible.

Act Without Words I & II were performed in separate tents. Act Without Words II is not in silence, but rather with minimal sound, perhaps because it can't be helped in this case.

The atmosphere resembled the outdoor carnivals we all grew up with in our youth. Beckett's plays were given a great deal of care, with the surreality of, say for example, Rod Serling, and the creative genius of Orson Welles mixed in. The end result is a brilliant mix that holds the viewer spellbound through the course of the evening.

Here's a trailer, for those of you wishing to see it before the end of the month:

Rating: A.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sports this 'n' that

Three days after it happened, they're still talking about a controversial call that cost the Green Bay Packers a win vs. Minnesota on Sunday. Here's the play in question:

Like, seriously?

I get that the NFL and the team owners are concerned about bottom lines, particularly protecting the investment each team has in their starting quarterbacks. Ironically, one account I read the other day points to an injury to Packer QB/State Farm pitchman Aaron Rodgers last year as the impetus for rule changes designed to further protect the health of quarterbacks.


As the above shows, Clay Matthews, Jr., Rodgers' partner in the State Farm ads last year, did what he was taught to do. Now, in 2018, it seems, the league has forgotten the very definition of what tackling the quarterback means.

You know that a certain diva in Foxborough will get the benefit of these kind of calls later in the season if the pea-brains in the league's New York office don't get their heads out of the sand and make emergency amendments. Former heads of officiating Dean Blandino and Mike Pereira, both now with Fox, declared that ref Tony Corrente's crew botched it. Minnesota ended up in a 29-29 draw with the Packers, which only muddies the waters in the NFC North.
The Mets were officially eliminated from the post-season Monday, despite beating Philadelphia. The team has already gone past the point of waving the white flag well before this, but it was just a mere formality. As you already know, the Mets will move the Triple A team back to the International League next year, to Syracuse. The Mets are the new owners of the Chiefs, so that figures to be a long term arrangement.

The Las Vegas 51's, meanwhile, will be the top farm team of the Oakland A's next season. On the other hand, the Washington Nationals, instead of keeping their Triple A team in the IL, will move it to the Pacific Coast League, as they've decided on an agreement with the Fresno Grizzlies. So now it'll be the Nationals who'll have the cross-country call-ups. You'd think they'd learn from what the Mets went through with Las Vegas.
Troy High's women's soccer team couldn't stand the prosperity of winning.

Coach Justin Haviland's club has been shut out in back-to-back games since beating Schenectady, 3-0, last Thursday. Fittingly, it was by the same score that they lost to Averill Park on Saturday and, last night, in a non-league game vs. Catholic Central, which leaves the Lady Horses 1-8 overall on the season (1-6 in the Suburban Council). The boys, meanwhile, are still looking for their first win after getting swept in a weekend road trip to Oneonta, dropping a 6-0 decision to Island Trees on Sunday.
The Troy Fighting Irish's season ended Saturday with a 30-13 loss to Syracuse, the only team in the Northeastern Football Alliance to beat the Irish this season. Troy finishes the season 9-3. Unfortunately, they've been ignored by the local press throughout the season, save for a season-opening puff piece from El Cheapo Media, which otherwise couldn't be bothered to send a reporter to cover home games. Any chance they had of adding fans for a 1st round playoff win over Auburn evaporated, as previously noted, when the Tri-City Valleycats made the NY-Penn League championship series, and subsequently beat Hudson Valley to win their 3rd league title.

What needs to be done next year is for El Cheapo and the rest of the local press to at least make an honest effort to give semi-pro football some ink. Sure, it ain't like it was in the 70's, when you had the Metro Mallers at the peak of their powers and the Troy Uncle Sams, but doing more than just a preview would be a good start.

Classic TV: The Movie Loft (1980's)

Here in the hometown, we were blessed with cable television in the 70's. (W)WOR, WPIX, & WNEW (now WNYW) in New York, & WSBK in Boston gave viewers extra programming options, so it wasn't uncommon to find the parents watching movies either before dinner or in the early evening, if there wasn't sports or any network programming that caught their fancy (i.e. Little House on The Prairie, All in The Family, etc.).

In the 80's, WSBK, at the time the broadcast home to the Boston Red Sox & Bruins, came up with a novel idea for their evening movie.

The Movie Loft aired as much as 6 nights a week, sometimes 7. Long time station announcer Dana Hersey served as host, and during commercial breaks would offer some factoids about the film and/or its stars and creative personnel, as well as some interviews, which would stretch the film's broadcast time to up to three hours if needed. Movie Loft was cancelled after Hersey left WSBK to work for, if memory serves, American Movie Classics (now simply AMC). The only pre-emptions that I can recall were for Bruins or Red Sox games during the seasons.

Thus, the Loft was a regional forerunner to the current Turner Classic Movies, whose hosts introduce each film, but unlike Hersey do not turn up mid-film, as TCM runs their films commercial free.

From 1986, here's a collection of bumpers for a Movie Loft broadcast of "Silver Streak", starring Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, & Ned Beatty.

Rating for The Movie Loft: A.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Weasel of The Week: Donald Trump, Jr.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree in the Trump family.

Donald Trump, Jr., 40, like his father, the President, has this annoying tendency to lie via Twitter to push his dad's agenda against "fake news" (i.e. CNN).

Unfortunately, this time, it was time to push back.

What this week's Weasel did was post a 10 year old picture of CNN's Anderson Cooper covering Hurricane Ike in Texas, and try to pass it off as Cooper in North Carolina this past weekend, covering Hurricane Florence, dismissing Cooper's reporting as, of course, "fake news". This time, though, Trump, Jr., also earning a Dunce Cap for his stupidity, tripped himself up, as Cooper explains in the following video from last night's AC360 broadcast:

Cooper pointed out that the cameraman on site in Texas had passed away a year ago, so it'd be impossible for him to be in North Carolina with Cooper covering Florence.

About the only smart thing Donald Trump, Jr. has done in the last 10 years was avoid getting embarrassed on national television in concert with his father, who subbed in actor Darrell Hammond (Saturday Night Live) for his son to do an Oreo commercial with NFL QB's Peyton & Eli Manning.

Maybe President Trump should leave one of his Bibles with Junior to see if he learns anything.......

Monday, September 17, 2018

A Classic Reborn (?): Gambit (1990)

In 1980, Merrill Heatter & Bob Quigley revived Gambit, but 1) moved the show to Las Vegas (where Hollywood Squares was also being taped) and 2) changed networks to NBC, to replace David Letterman's daytime talk show. Las Vegas Gambit lasted barely over a year before being cancelled.

Undaunted, and with Quigley retired after the failed Vegas experiment, Heatter decided to try Gambit again in 1990. However, there were more cosmetic changes this time around. For one, Bob Eubanks (ex-The Newlywed Game, Card Sharks, et al) stepped in for his friend, original Gambit host Wink Martindale. That was the first mistake. The second was that instead of couples playing the game, as was the case in the CBS & NBC series, this Gambit had individual contestants playing the game, but the questions were lamer than ever.

Scope the pilot.

Martindale had been brought back by Heatter three years earlier to helm the revival of High Rollers, since Alex Trebek was busy with Jeopardy!. Why Martindale wasn't brought back this time, I don't know, but I think he may have been working on another project at the time of this Gambit pilot.

Fortunately, Heatter didn't give up, but a few years ago, he decided to retire the Gambit name in selling the Gambit-inspired Catch 21 to GSN.

Rating: C.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Classic Reborn (?): You Bet Your Life (1988)

We've previously referenced the revivals of You Bet Your Life that hit the air, with Buddy Hackett and Bill Cosby. In between them, however, was an unsold pilot that NBC passed on in 1988. Oh, did they ever screw up, or what?

It'd been a couple of years since Richard Dawson had ended his first run on Family Feud, and someone figured he'd be the perfect candidate to try to bring You Bet Your Life back. As you'll see in the video, Dawson even admits he's not thrilled with his name above the show's title on the marquee.

The game play changes in the second round, as the two couples who had been out separately are brought together to play against each other, which wasn't done in the Groucho Marx or Buddy Hackett versions, and I don't think Cosby tried this angle, either.


As we all know, Dawson would eventually return to Family Feud a few years later.

Rating: A.