Sunday, August 31, 2014

What Might've Been: The Late Show (Starring Joan Rivers)(1986)

Talk shows like Today & The Tonight Show helped put NBC on the map back in television's infancy. Rupert Murdoch, the owner of 20th Century Fox, decided he wanted to follow that path in launching his network.

In October 1986, the Fox network debuted with The Late Show, which made an immediate splash by hiring away comedienne Joan Rivers from Tonight, where she'd been Johnny Carson's designated fill-in. Unfortunately, that decision severed the personal & professional relationships between Rivers & Carson, and the aftermath would also prove costly for both Rivers and her new employers.

For example, an Omaha, Nebraska station refused to carry the show out of loyalty to Carson, who started his television career in the area in the 50's. Regional loyalty isn't as much a problem as the overwhelming national loyalty of millions of viewers, who chose to stick with Carson. After early success, ratings, predictably, began to decline. Rivers clashed with executives behind the scenes, and was sacked after 7 months in May 1987.

That led to a parade of fill-ins, ranging from fellow comedy icon Mel Brooks to original MTV VJ Martha Quinn, less than a year removed from being removed from the then-music channel. As a comic, as she would demonstrate again on Evening at the Improv later that year, Quinn was no Brooks, Rivers, or Carson. Not even close. By the end of the summer, the network thought they had their man in Arsenio Hall, but Hall left after 13 weeks due to movie commitments ("Coming to America", with Eddie Murphy). In due course, the show was finally cancelled, only to be brought back in 1988 with another unknown comic, Ross Shafer, taking over. Shafer's tenure was marked with cast reunions of Gilligan's Island & Batman, but otherwise it was unspectacular.

Rivers & Hall had the benefit of having 70's 1-hit wonder Clint Holmes ("Playground in My Mind") as announcer, and Mark Hudson (yes, one of the Hudson Brothers) as musical director. Holmes was not brought back when the series resumed under Shafer, as I believe Holmes had moved on to Broadway by then, mostly as a playwright.

Here's a sample from the series premiere with Joan Rivers:

With Rivers now in a medically induced coma, according to recent reports, following some heart issues, maybe now might be a good time to remember her at the peak of her powers.

Rating: C.

NFL 2014 preview, part 2

Let's move North, shall we?

NFC North: The four teams in the division used to be, of course, in the Central, which ESPN's Chris Berman used to lovingly refer to as the "Norris Division", after one of the former divisions in the NHL. Calling it the Norris today would still be appropriate.

Chicago lost one of their best defensive players in Julius Peppers (Green Bay), and let backup QB Jordan Palmer (Buffalo) walk a week ago. So who gets to back up injury-prone Jay Cutler now? Mr. Magoo? Mr. Miyagi? Hong Kong Phooey? Who cares. Tight end Martellus Bennett, in his 2nd year after coming over from the Giants, was suspended for detrimental conduct or whatever, which won't help Cutler and the offense.

Having Peppers in Green Bay is a good thing for the Packers, since B. J. Raji was injured a couple of weeks back. What will ensure the Pack and QB Aaron Rodgers going deep into the playoffs is Rodgers not making any more stupid ads for State Farm. Instead, he could team with Tim Tebow and do an instructional DVD available at churches for the kids. Minnesota drafted QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisvile), and will have him sit behind Matt Cassel to start the season. Good move, but what happened to Christian Ponder? I'll skip the obvious puns and suggest that this wasn't such a good idea.

That leaves us with Detroit, which needs to figure out how to keep Subway pitchman Ndamakong Suh out of the NFL's doghouse. If he stays focused and doesn't draw too many penalties, he could finally be among the league's elite on defense. Offensively, Matthew Stafford and the Lions could stand some consistency in order to stay in the playoff hunt all the way into Christmas. Not much has changed.

Projected order of finish:

1. Green Bay

2. Detroit

3. Chicago

4. Minnesota

AFC North: Cincinnati has won 3 straight division titles, coinciding with the Bengals drafting QB Andy Dalton & receiver A. J. Green 3 years ago. However, winning a 4th straight title won't be so easily accomplished. The running game took a hit Saturday when Benjarvus Green-Ellis, who came over from New England last year, was cut. One step up and two steps back, as Springsteen once said.

Cleveland did the smart thing and named Brian Hoyer the starting QB over Johnny Manziel. Manziel is the new Tebow, really, although from a moral standpoint, he's the diametric opposite of Tebow. He relishes being a tabloid magnet. In this writer's opinion, he came out too soon, letting his freshman success at Texas A & M go to his head very quickly. Doesn't help that like a lot of kids his age, he's surrounded by a bunch of glad-handing leeches telling him what he wants to hear. He could learn a lot from Baltimore's Joe Flacco, for example. Flacco came from a smaller school (Delaware), but has put up the necessary numbers to be an elite QB, and already has something that Manziel and the Browns covet---a Super Bowl title. The Ravens picked up Steve Smith (Carolina), which fills a void created a year ago when Anquan Boldin fled west to San Francisco. However, standing pat on defense might not have been the best move for the Ravens.

Age is an issue in Pittsburgh, where Ben Roethlisberger begins his 11th season. Receiver Jerricho Cotchery is gone (Carolina), and after picking up LeGarrette Blount (New England), coach Mike Tomlin couldn't be too happy to have Blount and Le'Veon Bell picked up for drugs on a traffic stop. Who did they think they were? Brewer & Shipley? On defense, Larry Foote left, this time for Arizona, and Lamar Woodley is in Oakland. It's going to be a long season. Maybe Tomlin can call Bill Cowher, provided he's not on a soundstage filming a Time Warner Cable commercial, for help........

Projected order of finish:

1. Baltimore

2. Cincinnati

3. Pittsburgh

4. Cleveland

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Remember the Colgate "Wisdom Tooth"? (1990)

Pat Morita had reinvented himself in the 80's. Best remembered as Arnold on Happy Days, Morita reintroduced himself to a new generation as wise Mr. Miyagi in the original "Karate Kid" movies with Ralph Macchio and, later, future Oscar winner Hilary Swank. With this came something Morita hadn't had during his run as a TV fixture in the 70's & 80's (Happy Days, Sanford & Son, M*A*S*H). That being a commercial endorsement deal.

Playing off his Miyagi persona, Morita returned in a series of spots for Colgate Tartar Control toothpaste in the early 90's, billed as the "Colgate Wisdom Tooth". Internet Lurker gives us a look at one of these ads:

Sadly, while this particular brand of Colgate toothpaste has not been heavily promoted since, we lost Morita some years back. This would be his last extended run in television.

Musical Interlude: Baker Street (1977)

Former Stealers Wheel frontman Gerry Rafferty became a solo act again with the release of "City to City" in 1977, and that album produced a pair of hits, "Right Down the Line" and, of course, "Baker Street". As the video suggests, the song was written as a homage to the area's most famous ficticious citizen, Sherlock Holmes.

"Baker Street" is still getting good airplay on radio today, mostly on adult contemporary and oldies channels.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Weasel of the Week: Josh Shaw

Steve Sarkisian returned to USC for this?

Much was made in the news earlier this week about how senior defensive back Josh Shaw supposedly had rescued his nephew by leaping off a 2nd floor balcony, injuring his ankles in the process. However, there was a bit of skepticism about what really happened, and, not surprisingly, it ended with Shaw morphing from hero to villain in a matter of seconds when it got out that he didn't really leap to the rescue, but rather, to escape after an incident involving his girlfriend.

Sarkisian had to face the press and tried to do the right thing. However, considering that Shaw was a holdover from former coach "Wisteria" Lane Kiffen's regime, well, should we be surprised at all that he wasn't totally honest? USC booted Kiffen a month into the season last year, but they should've had any returning players take lie detector tests on top of everything else once spring practice started. I saw a headline earlier that said that the USC locker room had turned on Shaw after this imbroglio, and after another player quit, alleging racism on the part of Sarkisian, which I'm not so sure has any basis, I'm not so certain USC will actually be in contention for a national championship this year.

That said, we're giving Josh Shaw the Weasel ears this week for his lack of honesty as well as sheer stupidity. Should've known that in this day of social media and excessive media intrusion, he should've considered telling the truth right off the bat.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Classic TV: Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969)

At the end of the 60's, it was thought that there was still an audience for medical dramas. CBS had Medical Center. ABC answered with Marcus Welby, M.D..

Welby served as a comeback vehicle for Robert Young, who esentially had reinvented his on-screen image after he'd been known for Father Knows Best years earlier. Marcus Welby was your neighborhood clinician, who looked after your families with the utmost care and concern. His assistant, Dr. Steven Kiley (James Brolin), was a bit of a rebel, as he rode on a motorcycle. He represented what was then the "Now Generation".

The series housed a back-door pilot for Owen Marshall, Counselor-At-Law, which, unfortunately, didn't have the same kind of staying power. Given the subject matter of many of the episodes, you can understand why, despite the fact that children were often patients at risk on the show, it never aired before 10 pm (ET).

Following is "Child of Silence". The poster is named for guest star Lois Nettleton.

Dawn Lyn was better known for being cast on My Three Sons near the end of that series' run, but was hardly heard from afterward.

No rating. I have little memory of actually watching any episode to merit a rating.

Sports this 'n' that

I was reading the sports page of one of the local newspapers at lunch yesterday, and did a double take when I noticed that even though classes don't start for another week in high schools in New York, the season has already started for some schools' golf & volleyball programs.


I know football practices, like their college & pro brethren, begin in the summer. For high schoolers, it's in August, keeping the kids away from Saratoga Race Course for a few hours. Like, you know they'd like to tag along with the parents just to get a look at the old Spa. Digressing. I also know school has started in other states, with New York one of the few to still start after Labor Day. But boys' golf? Girls' volleyball? In August? Boggles the mind! My alma mater, Troy High, isn't one of the schools that has gotten a head start. Yet.

Meanwhile, while the Tri-City Valleycats won their 3rd straight Stedler Division title, they actually backpedaled into the title, since they've had a run of bad luck lately. Right now, they're the #2 seed in the New York-Penn League, meaning they'd face #3 State College in the 1st round next week, while Hudson Valley would draw the wild card, be it Brooklyn or Connecticut. In today's Albany Times-Union, manager Ed Romero was quoted as saying he felt his team had suddenly started quitting on him. The problem, really, may be a team-wide malaise of complacency, with the division wrapped up. During Tuesday's loss to Vermont, Romero was seen pulling out his lineup card after Terrell Joyce fanned for the 3rd time, perhaps contemplating pulling Joyce. He didn't follow through, and Joyce grounded out in his last at-bat.

Now, I realize the 'Cats' offense has been depleted, as their top players have been promoted within the Astros' chain as the season has progressed. That means the players who are still in town need to turn up the intensity and drive in order to reach the championship round again, vying for a 2nd straight league title.

I didn't get to see her pitch, but you have to feel that, a week after her Philadelphia Little League team was eliminated in the Little League World Series, teenager Mo'Ne Davis should be relieved that the tournament, and the attendant media scrutiny, are over. Her future, by her own admission, lies in basketball. She wants to go to UConn and swap out her glove & bat for hoops after high school. However, should she make good on her goal, Mo'Ne will have to face the bright camera lights all over again. If the media can leave her alone for the next five years, she'll be fine.