Thursday, October 23, 2014

On the Shelf: Sabrina goes back in time---sort of----and other stuff

Archie Comics continues to build its teen horror line by giving Sabrina, The Teenage Witch a new solo series, not connected to the runaway smash from last year, Afterlife With Archie in any way, and, when you think about it, just as well, considering that in that book, Sabrina lost her powers and voice in the first issue, and then, according to reports, was forcibly married off to a Lovecraftian demon in issue 6.

Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa opts for a little trip back in time in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which is set in the late 50s-early to mid-60's. The reason for that is a belated 50th anniversary present for the teen witch and her fans. Sabrina made her debut in 1962, but Archie Comics didn't do a 50th anniversary trade paperback or omnibus to mark the occasion. However, Aguirre-Sacasa, also creative director for the company, reached into the archives to pull Sabrina's debut story from '62 as the backup feature. What that does is offer a sharp contrast to the dark, dreary storyline in the lead feature.

We are introduced to Sabrina's parents, and for most of us, it's a long time coming. Sabrina was the product of a warlock's forbidden marriage to a mortal woman. Howard Spellman took custody of Sabrina from his wife, Diana, and sent the missus off to a sanitarium. However, Howard didn't escape unscathed, as we see he's been turned into a tree. Sabrina is under a spell herself, left unaware of her parents' real fate, and led to believe her mother is dead. She thinks her father will return someday, but that may be a longer time coming.

One change from the classic Filmation cartoons of the 60's & 70's in effect here has to do with Sabrina's warlock cousin, Ambrose, rebooted as a British-born youth, presumably slightly older than Sabrina. Sabrina notes that Ambrose sounds like the Beatles' Ringo Starr. Give Aguirre-Sacasa credit for giving Ambrose & Sabrina both a taste for the pop sounds of the day. Unfortunately, this is offset by the fact that Harvey Kinkle, long the love of Sabrina's life in every itineration of the series, save perhaps for the current cartoons, has been rebooted as a blond jock, instead of being dark haired. I guess that's so he can't be confused with Ambrose. Aguirre-Sacasa clearly makes this an alternate reality by implying that the company's two other iconic babes, Betty Cooper & Veronica Lodge, are also junior witches, and that their teacher, Ms. Grundy, is also a high priestess. Egads, it's clear this guy lost his mind.

Robert Hack's atmospheric, moody artwork works perfectly in the right settings, but not in the high school scenes. Toward the end, we see the debut of a Golden Age character, Madame Satan, who will be fully formed in issue 2. Personally, I'd prefer Sabrina as I remember her best, from the formative years of my youth, and not in a dark, gothic setting as Aguirre-Sacasa insists on. The cover price ($3.99), a uniform change for the entire Archie line, may be a turn-off to budget conscious readers. The one plus is that Sabrina has been given telepathic powers, and we've seen her Aunt Zelda employ some shape-shifting. I'd not mind seeing Sabrina doing some of the latter myself.

Rating: C+.

Dynamite Entertainment has had a partial license on Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter, Warlord of Mars for some time, in part because Marvel had the rights to do an adaptation of the recent Disney movie adaptation. Come next month, however, that all changes, as Dynamite will launch a monthly John Carter series. Previously, they could only use the title, Warlord of Mars, just as they could only refer to their first adaptation of TV's Six Million Dollar Man as The Bionic Man before getting full rights at the end of last year. Hmmmm, maybe for their next trick, they can link up with Moonstone and get the rights to The Saint........!

We previously noted that Scooby-Doo would meet The Flintstones in issue 7 of Scooby-Doo Team-Up, due in 2 weeks. Come January, in issue 8, Mystery, Inc. will go on a time trip in the other direction to meet The Jetsons. Since today's Cartoon Network stars have their comics rights held by other publishers (IDW, Boom! Studios), having Scooby meet, say, Ben (10) Tennyson is out of the question, unless it's a collaborative effort with IDW, which has the rights to adapt the Ben 10 franchise. However, if you think that'd be wack, try this on for size. Word out of Archie Comics has the Riverdale gang meeting up with a certain movie franchise whose license is held by Dark Horse. Yep, get ready for Archie Meets Predator. You've been warned.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Musical Interlude: Don't Give Up (1986)

Peter Gabriel's 1986 CD, "So", brought home a truckload of awards, mostly for the off-the-wall video, directed by Stephen R. Johnson, for "Sledgehammer", which dominated the MTV Video Awards that year. Johnson also directed the follow-up, "Big Time", and those two videos alone netted him the plum gig of directing Pee-Wee's Playhouse that fall.

However, Gabriel turned to fellow Brits Kevin Godley & Lor Creme (10CC) for his next video. "Don't Give Up" is a duet with Kate Bush that has the two locked in a nearly romantic embrace for the entire clip:

Awwwwwwwww, don't they make a cute couple?

2014 World Series preview

And, so, it's down to two.

The San Francisco Giants are seeking their 3rd World Series title in 5 years. It's too easy to ascribe the term dynasty to describe Bruce Bochy's tenure in San Francisco, considering that he had previously managed in San Diego, where he played most of his career. However, he is looking more and more like he will follow Joe Torre, who won 4 titles, and reached the World Series 6 tiimes in an 8 year stretch (1996-2003), into the Hall of Fame.

Giants ace Madison Bumgarner will start Game 1 on 5 days rest, having pitched in the clinching game of the NLCS vs. St. Louis. The bad news for Bumgarner is that he won't be able to bat, since the game is in Kansas City, and AL rules apply. James Shields opposes Bumgarner, wrapping up his 2nd season with the Kansas City Royals, who have been, for all intents and purposes, the story of the postseason.

The last time the Royals were in the World Series, they won it all in 1985 behind George Brett & Bret Saberhagen, who likely will get to throw out the first pitch tonight and/or tomorrow. This year's team is a collection of role players, much like the Giants, but for people like Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon, this is their coming out party. The Royals have been on the cusp the last couple of years before breaking through this season. They dispatched the AL's top two seeds, Los Angeles and Baltimore, to get here. San Francisco went through Washington and St. Louis, resulting in a very fresh matchup in the Fall Classic.

One note to consider: In 1985, before the Royals won the World Series, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute won the NCAA hockey title. This past spring, another school from my home district, Union College, won the NCAA hockey tournament. A portent of things to come? Maybe, but then there's also that whole even-numbered year thing with the Giants. 2010, 2012, 2014. There will not be a sweep this time. Instead, the Series will go 7 before San Francisco raises the trophy again.

Of course, I could be wrong, and I have for most of the postseason already........

Monday, October 20, 2014

Classic TV: Dark Shadows (1966)

Johnny Depp and the idiots that turned this classic soap into a movie got it wrong. Oh, did they ever!

Dark Shadows was not your ordinary daytime soap opera. Not by a long shot. They didn't even try this on radio back in the day, although radio was a haven for horror as well.

I will admit that I never watched the original series. How could I? I was a toddler when it started, and in school when it ended. Anyway, Dan Curtis' seminal drama spans three centuries, from the 18th to the 20th. Ultimately, it centers on Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), who was converted into a vampire in the late 18th century, and is resurrected in the 20th century.

What I do know of the show was that it spawned a pair of TV-movies and a comic book series, published by Gold Key, that continued long after the series had ended. I read a couple of those books, and found them to be entertaining. Frid's portrayal of Barnabas as a, well, reluctant vampire might well have been the inspiration for Marvel developing a "living vampire", Morbius, about a year after the series ended. At least Morbius is still around, and if Marvel thinks of it, they may do a movie about him soon enough.

Some years later, Curtis revived Shadows, this time as a primetime series, but for NBC, instead of its original home, ABC, with Ben Cross as Barnabas. We'll discuss that another time, but for now, let's pay a call on the newly undead Barnabas..........

I didn't see Depp's attempt at crossing the Collins family with the Addams Family, though it's my understanding that it failed miserably, like that lame "Lone Ranger" reboot Depp big-footed last year. We'll use what I read in the comics, and what I saw in the above video as a template, and give Dark Shadows a B+.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What Might've Been: Blacke's Magic (1986)

In the winter of 1986, NBC decided to try an old concept, with a twist.

Blacke's Magic was a different kind of crime drama, starring two actors accustomed to playing cops in Hal Linden (ex-Barney Miller) and Harry Morgan (ex-Dragnet, M*A*S*H, etc.). Linden was retired magician Alexander Blacke, who, albeit reluctantly, moved into a new career as a detective specializing in bizarre murders. Morgan was Leonard Blacke, Alexander's dad, a career con artist. Mark Shera (ex-Barnaby Jones, S.W.A.T.) was their police contact.

Blacke's Magic came from the brilliant minds of legendary writer-producers Richard Levinson & William Link (Mannix, Columbo), and producer Peter Fischer, at the time a relatively new name in television. The trio would find greater success with another series they sold to Universal, Murder, She Wrote, for CBS. So, the question becomes one of why Blacke failed as a mid-season replacement. Well, for one thing, as memory serves, the show aired on Wednesday nights, serving as a lead-in to St. Elsewhere. Plus, it combined elements of two series from the 70's. On one hand, there was Bill Bixby's 1972 series, The Magician. Alexander Blacke might've sounded too close to Bixby's Anthony Blake. On the other, there was The Feather & Father Gang, with Stefanie Powers & Harold Gould, which in turn was a sort-of reboot of The Rogues from the 60's. Like Gould, Morgan was playing a con artist whose offspring was on the right side of the law. Given the resumes of Morgan and Linden, this should've been gold. However, it'd been 4 years since M*A*S*H ended, giving way to AfterM*A*S*H, and 3 since Barney Miller ended, and both series were thriving in syndication. Viewers were still identifying the actors with their earlier roles.

Following is the open. I think the music may have been recycled somewhat for Murder, She Wrote, or, at the very least, the two series had the same musical director.

This was, in fact, comfort food during the winter. Too bad it wasn't renewed, because it certainly deserved to.

Rating: A-.

Musical Interlude: Boy From New York City (1981)

The Manhattan Transfer are currently on tour, marking the group's 45th anniversary, but also marking the passing of the lone founding member who was still with the group at the time of his passing. Tim Hauser passed away on Thursday at 72.

1981's "Boy From New York City", off "Mecca For Moderns", was the group's 1st top 10 hit, peaking at #7. Two years earlier, their tribute to Rod Serling's seminal Twilight Zone had reached the top 20, but went no further. The following clip of "Boy" comes from Fridays, and introduced by Larry David, impersonating Howard Cosell, as they're transitioning out of a skit parodying Monday Night Football:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What Might've Been: Marie (1980)

We have often discussed how network suits have this habit of bringing back older stars, giving them new shows, and plugging them into familiar time slots in the hopes that viewers will be drawn back to those stars. It doesn't always work.

One such example involves Marie Osmond. A year and a half after Donny & Marie had ended its run on ABC, Marie returned, this time with a solo series, back on Friday nights, but this time on NBC, which was starving for a hit primetime series that wasn't Little House on the Prairie at the time. Unfortunately, Marie couldn't carry the load by herself, and the show was cancelled after about a year. It would also be the last series produced by the Osmond family's production company.

Oh, sure, Donny would drop by from time to time, and brothers Jay & Alan served as co-executive producers, but the viewers had moved on. Back then, Fridays belonged to CBS, which had taken over the night after Donny & Marie ended. The problem was that the show was on the wrong network. Had the Osmonds stayed at ABC, and Marie aired on another night, like, say, Saturday, things might've been different. A few short years later, Marie began her musical comeback on the country charts, scoring a #1 hit with "Meet Me in Montana", a duet with Dan Seals, who had been "England Dan", as in England Dan & John Ford Coley, in the 70's.

Following is a sample episode with guest star Andy Gibb, who'd later co-host Solid Gold:

These days, Marie is doing ads for Nutri-Systems, and periodically fills in on CBS' The Talk, after her self-titled Hallmark Channel talk show ended its run a year ago.

Rating: B.