Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Forgotten TV: Stick Around (1977)

Welcome to the year 2055. Androids serve humans, but are also capable of human emotions, intentionally or not.

Stick Around was designed as a vehicle for comedian-performance artist Andy Kaufman to use the "Foreign Man" character from his stand-up act, albeit in a different sense. TAT Communications, the folks behind The Jeffersons, tried shopping this show in 1977, surrounding Kaufman was largely unknown performers, aside from character actor Cliff Norton. Unfortunately, no network took a chance on Stick, but we know the rest of Kaufman's story, don't we? "Foreign Man" evolved into Latka Gravas on Taxi, and Kaufman would revisit the android character in the feature film, "Heartbeeps", with Bernadette Peters, a few years later.

Here's Stick Around:



Not sure what became of Fred McCarren or Nancy New, but Louise "Liberty" Williams (at the time a recurring player on Bustin' Loose) would land a couple of sitcom gigs herself, only to see them (13 Queens Boulevard & Baby Makes Five) fail. You might not recognize Louise with the platinum wig around the 20-21 minute mark, but she used the same shrill, doll-like voice in a guest role on Three's Company a couple of years later.

Rating: B. Deserved a better fate than it got.

Celebrity Rock: Running Home To You (2017)

Yes, there is a soundtrack CD accompanying last night's episode of The Flash. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's available only through digital media. I'd rather have a CD that I can pop into my player and revisit the episode, "Duet", as often as needed.

The episode's closing number, "Running Home To You", was written by two of the songwriters of the Oscar-winning "La La Land". Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) chooses this as he prepares to re-propose to his girlfriend, Iris West (Candice Patton).



There was only one other original track, written by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom, and we'll probably visit that soon. The show also featured covers of Henry Mancini's classic "Moon River" and Jackie DeShannon's "Put a Little Love in Your Heart", as well as some material from "Guys & Dolls" that showcased Broadway vets Jesse L. Martin ("Rent") and, visiting from Legends of Tomorrow, albeit as different characters, Victor Garber & John Barrowman.

More tracks will follow over the next few days, unless of course WB sets about blocking the videos from YouTube and other sites to protect copyrights. In this case, they really should see about releasing "Running" as a single for radio airplay.

Chuck Barris (1929-2017)

Heaven's gong has called for Chuck Barris.

The eccentric television producer and entertainer has passed away at 87, leaving behind a treasure trove of iconic television hits, dating back to the late 60's.

Of course, we have to start with Chuckie himself, on the original Gong Show:



Barris was also a songwriter, having composed Freddy Cannon's hit, "Palisades Park". Barris took the royalties from "Palisades" to start his production company, which began with The Newlywed Game. Scope out a 1969 daytime episode:



And, then, there's The Dating Game. Here's a 1968 primetime episode with Richard Dawson, Bill Bixby, and Steve Martin:



Of course, Chuckie couldn't resist appearing in a 1979 syndicated episode that also featured Gong regular Jaye P. Morgan......



Jim's joke intros in game 1 sound like Chuck might've written them for him, don't ya think?

Barris' autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, became a feature film in 2002, directed by George Clooney, but anyone that read the tome probably figured that by that point, Barris was permanently out to lunch. A CIA assassin? Barris? Yeah, right. Had to be on something back then.

Rest in peace, Chuck, or, as you'd probably put it, 'bye, y'all.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Celebrity Rock: My Funny Valentine & Where or When (2016)

It has become an annual tradition on The Flash to find a musical number or two mixed into an episode. In season 1, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin, ex-Glee) and Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) spent some time at a karaoke club. Last season, while undercover on Earth-2 as his counterpart, Barry encounters that world's Joe West (Jesse L. Martin, ex-Law & Order) doing some crooning.

Tonight sees Glee alumnus Darren Criss bring to life a villain from Batman: The Brave & The Bold, the Music Meister. While some folks were wishing that Neil Patrick Harris, who originated the role in the cartoon, could've been brought in for the shot, it was decided to have Criss come in for a 1-shot mini-Glee reunion with Gustin and Supergirl star Melissa Benoist. The Music Meister's machinations began last night at the end of Supergirl, but while you're waiting, let's go back a year for last year's musical interlude, with "Where or When" & "My Funny Valentine".



One local paper teased that Carlos Valdes (Cisco) would also be singing in this episode. We shall see.

Sports this 'n' that

Per James Allen of Spectrum (formerly Time-Warner Cable) Sports & the Albany Times-Union, Albany Academy for Boys will not play football within Section II this fall, opting instead for the New England Prep League. The Cadets have taken on more of an independent schedule, not beholden to any of Section II's leagues, for the last few years, though one of their more recent alums, running back Dion Lewis, won a Super Bowl last month with the New England Patriots. Anyone see a connection there? Just askin'.
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Meanwhile, the Jets have signed journeyman quarterback Josh McCown as their likely new starter for 2017, or at least to compete with Bryce Petty & Christian Hackenburg. Geno Smith has swapped Jets green for Giants blue, as he moves across the hall, following behind receiver Brandon Marshall. Smith flamed out too quickly to suit Jets fans after being drafted out of West Virginia in 2013. McCown, like other wanderers, could use Hank Snow's "I've Been Everywhere" as his entrance music.......
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One aspect of Charter Cable taking over Time-Warner and making with the name change to Spectrum Cable is the addition of channels like AXS-TV, the American broadcast home of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Problem is, for now, AXS-TV is a premium channel, meaning you'd have to pony up some extra cheddar to add the network. Now you know why my friend Ivan Shreve, Jr., proprietor of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, refers to Charter as "Charred-her". Just sayin'.
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You knew the Mets wouldn't keep former Jets/Broncos QB Tim Tebow on the major league roster (he's not ready for that particular show), so he was sent down to the team's Class A affiliate in Columbia, South Carolina. Because of Tebow's celebrity status, dating back to his college days in Florida, SNY will track his progress throughout the season. So will ESPN & Fox Sports 1, just because.
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Speaking of the Mets, pitcher Seth Lugo, catcher Rene Rivera, and infielder T. J. Rivera (no relation to Rene) could be bringing home the World Baseball Classic trophy at the end of the week, provided Puerto Rico wins the whole thing on Wednesday night. Puerto Rico is undefeated to this point (7-0), after beating the Netherlands. Team USA plays two-time WBC champ Japan tonight. After what I've seen of the Japanese team so far, with the Dominican Republic out of the picture, the US & Puerto Rico will have their hands quite full.

I wouldn't mind MLB Network getting domestic rights to Japanese pro baseball, would you?
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So they found Tom Brady's lost Super Bowl jersey. Not just the one from last month, but also from two years ago. Seems a Mexican reporter is also a collector, as he also swiped other Super Bowl items. Convienently quit his job, claiming health problems, to try to cover up his crimes. Too late for that, pal, 'cause the horse has been brought back to the barn. All this jabroni did was prove President Trump has a point about building a wall.......
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The WWE's Hall of Fame Class of 2017 is now complete, or so it'd seem, as there is still time for a last minute entry. The Class:

*--Kurt Angle: 1996 Olympic gold medalist parlayed amateur fame into a nearly 20 year pro career. There is talk of Angle lacing them up again in WWE, nearly 11 years after they cut him loose.

*--Beth Phoenix: The Buffalo native retired a few years back, then married fellow-Hall of Famer Adam "Edge" Copeland after winning a few women's/divas titles. Became one of a small, select group of women to compete in the Royal Rumble, eliminating India's Great Khali.

*--Rick Rude: Posthumous entry for the former IC & NWA International champion, who was taken from us too soon. Has the distinction of being with WWE, WCW, & ECW, all within the same calendar year, and for that matter on Nitro & Raw on the same night, the latter via videotape.

*--The Rock & Roll Express: Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson were the "teen idol" tag team in the NWA in the 80's, forever feuding with the Midnight Express. Ironically, the Midnights' manager, Jim Cornette, is returning to WWE to induct the Express, perhaps a sign that Cornette could get a HOF ring of his own one day.

*--Diamond Dallas Page: A late blooming success story, Page started as a heel manager in the AWA, but found his greatest success in WCW as both a manager and a wrestler, winning 3 world titles. Today, he might be better known for developing a successful yoga-based fitness training program.

*--Theodore Long: Referee-turned-manager-turned-on-screen authority figure, Long has also been involved in civic affairs in his hometown of Atlanta for many years. I guess he forgave the McMahons for publicly humiliating him so many times between 2008-16.

Also, the Warrior Award, named for the late Ultimate Warrior, will be presented to former Rutgers University star Eric LeGrand, whose football career ended with a paralyzing injury in 2010. Still, Topps honored him with a rookie card in 2012. Today, LeGrand is a motivational speaker.

Noticably missing from the list is former champion Ivan Koloff, who, surprisingly, for whatever reason, has not yet been inducted. Apparently, Vince McMahon couldn't be bothered to add Koloff as a last minute posthumous entry. Maybe next year.
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10 days ago, the Section II football schedule, or at least a preliminary version of same, was released by the Albany Times-Union and other media outlets. Defending state Class AA champion Troy's schedule reads as follows:

September 1: vs. Columbia
September 8: @ Guilderland
September 15: @ LaSalle
September 22: vs. Bethlehem (homecoming night)
September 29: @ Schenectady
October 6: @ Shaker
October 13: vs. Colonie (senior night)

Just three home games on this year's schedule, but, considering that coach Bob "The Builder" Burns has not lost a home game in 2 seasons at Troy, going 11-0 over that span (12-0 if you can count the Class AA title game at RPI as a home game, which it should've been), maybe that's not so bad.

Troy just has to focus on spring sports now. Scrimmages are scheduled to start for lacrosse, softball, & baseball in the next few days, weather permitting, with the lacrosse opener scheduled for March 30 at home.

Monday, March 20, 2017

On the Air: Iron Fist (2017)

To the uninitiated, Marvel & Netflix's latest, Iron Fist, may be slow and plodding at times, but that is by design. On the other hand, the plot that has been presented at the beginning, that of a corporate heir who supposedly died with his parents 15 years ago, only to return to discover that his late dad's business partner has taken the firm over completely, screams out, "Rip-off!", because it certainly does draw its influence and inspiration not so much from the source material itself, but rather the CW's Arrow, whose protagonist returned to general civilization after 5 years on a deserted island. In the case of Daniel Rand (Finn Jones), those 15 years, mostly formative, were spent in a mystical dimension known as Kun Lun.

Rand was introduced to Marvel Comics readers in 1974 in the pages of Marvel Premiere, the latest martial arts hero that the company had developed in the wake of movies like "Enter the Dragon" and David Carradine's seminal series, Kung Fu. Like the latter and Arrow, Iron Fist indulges in short flashback sequences to try to piece together the story, despite the fact that the memories bring back a fair amount of psychic trauma for Rand.

Time and time again we are reminded of how Daniel's mother was sucked out of a plane, to the point that it became an annoyance within the first two episodes. Nothing says sledgehammer of plot like replaying the same footage in every flashback. We find that Harold Meachum, business partner to Daniel's late father, has some ties to the Hand, the sinister ninja clan from Daredevil. Meachum's son, Ward (Tom Pelphrey), who bullied Daniel when they were kids, recognizes that Daniel is a big threat to his personal plans. The Meachums took over Rand Enterprises, assuming the entire Rand family had perished in the Himalayas. As they will soon discover, they presumed too quickly.

[It should be pointed out for the record that in Roy Thomas' original concept, Ward Meachum is actually Harold's brother, not son, meaning that Joy was actually an only child. Take that for whatever it's really worth.]

The inevitable appearance by Hand ninjas ties Iron Fist to the rest of the line that will lead into The Defenders, due later this year. By then, perhaps Jones will have figured out the missing ingredient in his performance. While he may have found inspiration in Carradine's quiet, solemn Kwai-Chiang Caine in Kung Fu, he lacks the charismatic presence, and comes across as a little too vanilla, although the first manifestation of the titular power he carries will remind some of the bazillion transformation sequences from The Incredible Hulk (1977-82). You'd almost swear Rand was, ah, hulking out.

Here's one of the trailers:



The critics that have hated on Iron Fist had perhaps expected nothing but action right from the jump. Their lack of patience defines them as ill-informed on the subject matter. Over the next 11 episodes, I think we'll find that their premature haterizing was unjustified.

Rating: B+.

What Might've Been: Mrs. G. Goes to College, aka The Gertrude Berg Show (1961)

Gertrude Berg had been away for a bit after The Goldbergs ended its run. After guest-starring on Jackie Cooper's CBS sitcom, Hennesey, the network offered Berg the opportunity to star in her own show again.

The end result was Mrs. G. Goes to College, the G in the title standing for Green, as in Sarah Green, a 62 year old widow (Berg) enrolling in college as perhaps the world's oldest freshman. Cedric Hardwicke and Peter Lorre were two of her professors, and the supporting cast also included Mary Wickes (Dennis the Menace) and future domestic icon Marion Ross (later of Happy Days).

Unfortunately, CBS slotted Mrs. G opposite the Kraft Music Hall on NBC (w/Perry Como) and Hawaiian Eye on ABC. Ballgame over. They even tried rebooting the show by putting Berg's name in the title, but it only postponed the inevitable.

Get TV has acquired the series, which launched earlier today with the series premiere, "The First Day". The network's YouTube channel provides a short excerpt:



Nice idea, but I'd say it was on the wrong night.

Nearly 10 years later, CBS would have the same problem with Andy Griffith, as he returned to television after 2 years away, but his school series, The Headmaster, was an even bigger bomb, leading to The New Andy Grifftith Show, which would mark the end of Griffith's association with CBS.

Rating: B.