Monday, January 18, 2021

The third time was the charm

 Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady had already suffered the indignity of losing twice to the same divisional opponent this season, his first in the NFC. He didn't want it to happen three times.

Sunday, Brady was on his favorite stage, in the postseason, on national television, determined to make sure he didn't lose to New Orleans for the third time. The adjustments that coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles made after the Saints had swept Tampa in the regular season paid off handsomely. Drew Brees may have played his last game in New Orleans, if not forever, limited to 135 yards passing with 1 TD and, most tellingly, 3 interceptions.

Brady's goal, obviously, is to prove he could win another Super Bowl without his former coach in New England, Bill Belichick. As of this morning, he's halfway there. Leonard Fournette and the defense made sure of that as the Buccaneers advanced to the NFC title game with a 30-20 win over the Saints. Brady, like Aaron Rodgers on Saturday, ran for a score. His 4th quarter TD put the game away with about 4 1/2 minutes left.

While the Patriots are contemplating what might've been, and Belichick turned down a Congressional Medal of Freedom from President Trump, who was handing out medals just because he could, Brady had problems adjusting to the NFC early on. In the days in between beating the Washington Deviants and the Saints, Brady reportedly was open to returning to Tampa Bay next season.

However, should Tampa Bay fall in the frozen tundra in Green Bay, then Brady will be hearing the same questions that Brees is hearing now. Will he retire?

The highlights come from the NFL's YouTube channel:

After 15 seasons in New Orleans, Brees, who started his career with the then-San Diego Chargers after being drafted out of Purdue University, has been talking about retirement. He's just a year younger than Brady, having just turned 42 on Friday. If he does, New Orleans does have Taysom Hill, who performed admirably in Brees' absence earlier this season, and Jameis Winston, who found new life in N'awlins after leaving Tampa as a free agent. It was Winston who put the Saints in the end zone in the 2nd quarter on a trick play with Hill unavailable due to injury. Still, coach Sean Payton & Saints management may consider drafting another QB to be safe.
Less than 24 hours after the Buffalo Bills had literally knocked Lamar Jackson out of the playoffs, Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes found himself on the sidelines with a concussion, and Chad Henne, the former Dolphins & Jaguars QB, given a chance on the big stage for a change, made sure the defending champions would return to the AFC championship game.

Facing 3rd & 14 late in the 4th quarter, Henne ran for 13 yards. Then, on 4th & 1, Henne threw a 2 yard pass to Tyreek Hill to lock down the Cleveland Browns. One kneel-down later, the Chiefs had secured a 22-17 win.

Mahomes is in the concussion protocol, and has to go through five stages in order to be cleared to play next Sunday vs. Buffalo. If he's not ready by Saturday, 24 hours before game time, it may be Henne, who, like Tom Brady, played his college ball at Michigan, who would have to face the Bills.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Origin of a Classic: The New, Original Wonder Woman (1975)

 A year and a half after an ABC Movie of The Week tried to adapt then-current comics, Wonder Woman was given another chance.

"The New, Original Wonder Woman" (italics mine) proved to the network that the 3rd time was the charm. The first attempt being a campy sitcom pilot from William Dozier in 1967, and that, too, was set in the then-present.

This time, the setting is World War II. A Nazi pilot (Kenneth Mars, ex-He & She) is plotting to bomb a Navy yard in New York and steal some important papers. He sends a 2nd pilot (Eric Braeden, The Young & The Restless, ex-The Rat Patrol (as Hans Gudegast)) on a mission, only to be intercepted by Major Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner, ex-The Carol Burnett Show). The resulting collision leads, to, well, I think you know the rest.

Stanley Ralph Ross' story adapts the long told story about how Diana (Lynda Carter) made her way to "Man's World", a deception to get around a dictum from her mother, Hippolyta (Cloris Leachman, Phyllis), who wanted her daughter to remain on Paradise Island.

Ross also takes a good natured poke at the story of Marvel's Spider-Man by having Diana hook up with a talent agent (Red Buttons) after foiling a bank robbery. Ah, but what if she knew about the agent's duplicitous nature?

The following clip addresses said bank robbery:

The supporting cast also includes Stella Stevens and Henry Gibson ("Nashville", ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In). The campy approach, using comic book captions, a gimmick also used on Spidey Super Stories when it aired on The Electric Company, and in more recent times by Eminem ("Without Me") and the recent CW series, iZombie, may be a big reason why it took so long for Hollywood to finally take Wonder Woman seriously.

Rating: B.

Caught in the stampede

 Depending on what happens today between defending champion Kansas City and upstart Cleveland, the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC could still run through Buffalo.

The Bills eliminated Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, 17-3, Saturday night, knocking Jackson out of the game in the process. His counterpart, Josh Allen, wasn't as spectacular as he was a week earlier against Indianapolis, but then, he didn't have to be. Buffalo's defense sprang to life to save the night.

In the 3rd quarter, already down 10-3, Jackson drove the Ravens into scoring position, but an ill advised pass into the end zone was intercepted by Taron Johnson, who ran the distance, 101 yards, tying a postseason record held by George Teague, to ice the game.

At the end of the quarter, a bad snap had Jackson retreating all the way toward his own end zone. His pass fell incomplete, but Jackson was called for intentional grounding. Worse, he laid prone in the end zone, and was removed from the game with a concussion.

Rookie Tyler Hundley, activated from the practice squad earlier in the day, took over at quarterback to start the 4th quarter, and came across looking like a Jackson clone. However, he couldn't get the Ravens into the end zone, and the 6,800 fans in Bills Stadium began celebrating.

You'd have to go back to 1995 for the last time the Bills had gotten this deep into the playoffs, but the question now is, where do they play next week in the AFC title game?

Cleveland can help answer that question if they upset the Chiefs today. The Browns can't be too happy with the disrespect shown by the oddsmakers, who have Kansas City as a 10 point favorite, this despite Cleveland having beaten Pittsburgh the last two weeks, dropping a combined 72 points on the Steeler defense in those two games.
Meanwhile, in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers shredded the top ranked defense in the league, and even ran in for a score, as the Packers dismissed the Los Angeles Rams, 32-18. The Packers now await the winner of tonight's game between Tampa Bay & New Orleans, safe in knowing they'll host the NFC title game one week from tonight.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

YouTube Theatre: The Castaways on Gilligan's Island (1979)

 The ratings for "Rescue From Gilligan's Island" (italics mine) were such that NBC, starved for hits to begin with, commissioned a sequel from creator-executive producer Sherwood Schwartz. While "Rescue" was independently produced through Schwartz's Redwood Productions, it seemed apparent he couldn't do it alone a 2nd time, so he hitched Redwood's wagon to Universal for "The Castaways on Gilligan's Island", which premiered in May 1979.

This is actually 2 films in 1. The first half repeats the rescue effort from the first film. After discovering a lost plane on the island (which wasn't there in the series), the gang try to return home on their own, but the plane breaks down while attempting to retrieve Gilligan (Bob Denver). They're soon rescued by the Navy, and brought back to the mainland.

However, Thurston Howell III (Jim Backus) decides to build a resort on the island as a tribute to the time spent there.

That sets up the second half, intended as a pilot for an anthology series in the vein of Aaron Spelling's Love Boat over on ABC. Publicly, Howell owns the resort, though his wife, Lovey (Natalie Schaefer) and the rest of the gang are "silent partners". Tom Bosley (Happy Days) and Marcia Wallace (ex-The Bob Newhart Show) are among the guests.

Years after the movie series ended, Russell Johnson (Professor Roy Hinkley) revealed that a little known band, the Eligibles, re-recorded "The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle", which was originally recorded by the Wellingtons for season 1, for seasons 2-3 of the series and the movies. Ronnie Scribner, who had been making the rounds of guest shots (i.e. Fantasy Island), would turn up six months later in the miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's Salem's Lot.

Alas, this would be the last call for Judith Baldwin as Ginger. When the cast reconvened for "The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island" two years later, Baldwin was replaced by Constance Forslund. Don't ask.

No rating. Just a public service.

Friday, January 15, 2021

NFL Divisional Playoff preview

The NFL playoffs have reached the divisional round. Four quality matchups over two days.


Baltimore @ Buffalo (Saturday, NBC): There was a headline earlier this week that said that Ravens QB Lamar Jackson was worried about a weekend snowstorm in Buffalo. Please. Last I checked, the storm warning the National Weather Service is advertising is for Essex County and in Vermont. I don't think Essex County is near Buffalo.

That said, Jackson & his counterpart, Buffalo's Josh Allen, will air it out. They will run. This will be a track meet, quarterbacks included. This will be a fun game to watch.

Buffalo gets receiver Cole Beasley back, which will be a plus. This will be tight. For once, the oddsmakers got it right.

The pick: Buffalo.

Cleveland @ Kansas City (Sunday, CBS): To show how stupid those same oddsmakers are, they installed the defending Super Bowl champs as a 10 point home favorite, ignoring the fact that the Browns dropped 72 points on Pittsburgh the last two weeks.

Speaking of stupid, that brings us to ESPN bloviator Stephen A. Smith. On today's episode of First Take, Smith got taken to school by Max Kellerman and Ryan Clark. And, oh, by the way, Clark used to play for the Steelers. The last time Smith threw a football was probably in gym class. A lifetime ago.

Once again, when it comes to football, Smith is dumber than a bag of hammers.

The Browns are hot right now. "Screamin' A." thinks the Chiefs have learned from their comeback wins last post-season, en route to the Super Bowl. Maybe they have, but the Browns are motivated to prove they're not a doormat anymore. They will hang with the Chiefs up until the 4th quarter.

Pick: Kansas City. By a field goal.


Los Angeles @ Green Bay (Saturday, Fox): Had this game been played a decade ago, ESPN's Chris Berman would dust off his John Fascenda impersonation to discuss the legendary "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers proved his critics wrong. They wrote him off too soon, and he puts up impressive numbers. Jared Goff gets his starting job back at QB for the Rams after John Wolford went down with a concussion last week. This will make great theatre.

Pick: Green Bay.

Tampa Bay @ New Orleans (Sunday, Fox): Round 3 between 40-somethings Drew Brees (who turns 42 today) and Tom Brady. Brees & the Saints swept the regular season series, and they're back where they started the season, in New Orleans. Up until this season, a Brady-led team had never been swept by a divisional opponent. Could the 3rd time be the charm? Brady's sole remaining motivation is to show he can win the big one away from the umbrella of his former coach, Bill Belichick, who'll be watching at home. Brady's had the last laugh this season on Belichick, and I think he finally gets one on Brees, too. That would set up the NFC title game as something Berman often referred to when the Bucs & Packers were in the same division back in the day. The Bay of Pigs.

Pick: Tampa Bay.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Of Recent Vintage: The Chase (2013)

 We had this up before, but the previous video we used was taken down by YouTube, so we're trying again.

A year after it had bowed in England, The Chase made its American debut on Game Show Network, with actress Brooke Burns (ex-Dog Eat Dog) as host, and Mark Labbett, aka "The Beast", as the Chaser. Four "seasons" of varying length, a final total of 51 episodes, aired over a 2 year period (2013-15). To his credit, Labbett brought a very intimidating presence to the show.

It's a standard quiz game, but there is the daunting challenge of trying to save whatever money has been banked from being captured by the chaser. The Road Runner would have a better chance of winning, more often than not.

As would normally be the case with GSN, expenses, more than ratings, led to cancellation. The series returned with weekday reruns several months back.

In this sample clip, future Jeopardy! champ James Holzhauer tries his luck:

Fox had put in the first bid for the series, with another Jeopardy! champion, Brad Rutter, as a chaser, joining Labbett. However, Fox ultimately passed. Their loss became GSN's gain for a while.

As you know, The Chase has returned, this time on ABC, with Rutter & Holzhauer as chasers along with Ken Jennings. It appears the trio will alternate, as this allows Jennings to also act as guest host on Jeopardy! for the duration. Nine episodes have been ordered, with Sara Haines (The View) as host. Two episodes have aired and are available On Demand on cable, and on ABC's website. The season is set to end, presumably, barring pre-emptions, on March 4.

Rating for the GSN Chase: None. We didn't see enough of the show.

On The Air: Jeopardy! carries on

 How do you succeed a legend?

The late Alex Trebek had to address that question when he was hired to host Jeopardy! when the series was revived as a nightly syndicated entry in 1984, picking up the baton from Art Fleming, who was the original host, and later returned for a cameo in a "Weird" Al Yankovic video for "I Lost on Jeopardy!", along with announcer Don Pardo.

Alex passed away in November, and Sony now had to deal with the question. Their solution, at least for now, was to have a series of guest hosts until a permanent successor was hired.

Ken Jennings, arguably the greatest champion in the series' nearly 60 year history, is the first guest host, while also rotating with fellow champions James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter on another Sony series, ABC's reboot of The Chase. Jennings is on board for 6 weeks, or, through the month of February. Let's take a look at his first episode as host, courtesy of Game Show Collector:

After Jennings wraps his run, Sony has the following on tap to follow:

Journalist and talk show host Katie Couric.
Green Bay Packers QB & State Farm pitchman Aaron Rodgers.
Bill Whittaker (60 Minutes).
Actress, author, and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik (Call Me Kat, ex-The Big Bang Theory, Blossom).
Mike Richards (Jeopardy! executive producer, ex-The Pyramid).

I suspect Holzhauer and Rutter could also get turns after The Chase wraps its season, as would Will Ferrell, who impersonated Trebek on Saturday Night Live, and let's not forget to consider Eugene Levy (ex-SCTV, currently on Schitt's Creek), who also did a mimic of Trebek as Alex Trebel for any game show skits SCTV did.