Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Sports this 'n' that

Major League Baseball has begun handing out its post-season awards, starting on Monday with the Rookies of The Year, one for each league.

To the surprise of, well, no one, Shohei Otani of the Angels was named AL Rookie of The Year, despite missing some time due to injury. Otani apparently won't be able to pitch in 2019, though he might still be able to be a DH, due to needing Tommy John surgery on his elbow. Like, with all the attention Otani was getting during the season, did any other AL rookie have an equal chance?

Over in the National League, Atlanta's Ronald Acuna, Jr. outpointed Juan Soto of Washington to cop the Rookie of The Year. The Mets' Jeff McNeil finished 8th.
Suddenly, it's getting busier in Los Angeles as we get closer to Thanksgiving.

The NFL has moved the International Series game between the Rams and Kansas City to LA next Monday night due to poor field conditions in Mexico City. A Shakira concert last month, and a number of events since, have left the field in such poor shape that the NFL was left with no choice, after ESPN hyped the game to the moon last night, but to bring the Chiefs & Rams back to the US. Some think it might be a Super Bowl preview, provided, of course, that the Chiefs can avenge themselves on New England for losing in Foxborough last month. If the season were to end now, Kansas City would be the #1 seed in the AFC, and you know Tom Brady doesn't like that.
Los Angeles will also host the WWE's Survivor Series on Sunday, and, as of earlier today, one of the marquee matches on the card has been cancelled.

Last night, on Monday Night Raw, Becky Lynch led Smackdown's women into the arena in Kansas City, where Lynch targeted her opposite number, Ronda Rousey. WWE pulled a similar angle last year leading up to the event. and reprisals are expected tonight on Smackdown in St. Louis. Let's take a look at what happened:

It seems that Lynch suffered a concussion and/or a broken nose courtesy of former Raw women's champ Nia Jax. Lynch, as you can see in the video above, was a bloody mess at the end of the evening. Now, the Lynch-Rousey match has been postponed, robbing fans of what many feel might've been the best match on the card. We'll know by the end of the night if Rousey gets a substitute opponent.
You might've noticed that Raw ended promptly at 11 pm (ET) last night, well before the Giants-49ers game ended. USA Network, seeing the abysmal ratings for Raw, decided to take away the 5-15 minute overrun the show usually gets, effective with last night's show. Beats me why it took them so long to make that move. If or when ratings move up to a level satisfactory enough for USA's liking, I'd say the overruns will return.
Concussions have been a frequent problem for WWE wrestlers, both male & female. Lynch becomes the 3rd woman to suffer a concussion in the last month, after Alexa Bliss and Zelina Vega, the latter of whom was cleared for a return to the ring in time for tonight's Smackdown card. Bliss will still be at Survivor Series, albeit in a manager's role, because she's sustained several concussions in recent months, and Vince McMahon will protect one of his golden girls at all costs. Bliss (real name: Lexi Kaufman) should be getting some time off at home to recouperate,  but because she's one of Raw's top heels (villains), she's not getting the luxury of home recovery.

But what happens if Bliss is forced to retire prematurely due to another concussion or another major injury? That's on McMahon for stubbornly refusing to do right by his troupe. There's no getting around that.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Musical Interlude: Magneto & The Titanium Man (1975-6)

Marvel Comics villains "Magneto & The Titanium Man" were immortalized in song by Paul McCartney & Wings on their 1975 album, "Venus & Mars". Turns out McCartney is a comics fan, and invited Magneto's co-creator, Jack Kirby, backstage while on tour in California.

Titanium Man and another villain mentioned in the song, Crimson Dynamo, are associated with Iron Man. Magneto, as you know, has been both a foe and an ally of the X-Men in the books over the years.

The video was recorded on the Venus & Mars Rockshow tour in 1976.

Dedicated to the villains' co-creator, Stan Lee.

Stan Lee (1922-2018)

He was a proofreader at 17, an editor at 19, a prolific writer throughout the 50's & 60's, and publisher of Marvel by age 50. In fact, his very name is synonymous with Marvel, having created many of the characters who've been adapted into movies & television shows since the 70's. The Marvel Studios movies of 2019 likely will be the last where he'll make obligatory cameo appearances.

To sum it up, Stan Lee has passed away, about six weeks shy of his 96th birthday, after a battle with pneumonia, among other issues.

Stanley Martin Lieber went to work for Timely Comics while still in high school, working as a proofreader and doing other minor tasks, in 1939. His first published work was a text piece on Captain America, published around 1940-1. After Cap's co-creators, Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, left for DC, Lee, not yet 19, was named editor. He left to serve in the Army in World War II, and returned to Timely after the war.

In 1961, Lee ushered in what has become known as the Marvel Age of Comics with the introduction of The Fantastic Four. By this point, Kirby had returned, and co-created the FF, as well as the company's interpretation of the Norse Thunder God, Thor, with Lee. In 1966, Marvel contracted with Canadian animators Grant Simmons and Ray Patterson to adapt Silver Age tales of Thor, Captain America, Sub-Mariner, Iron Man, & The Incredible Hulk in a syndicated daily series which lasted one season. In some form or another, Marvel's heroes have been a television fixture ever since.

I actually met Lee when a class field trip in New York made a stop at Marvel in 1973. He had boundless enthusiasm, as you could tell from his monthly editorials. Around this time, Lee appeared on To Tell The Truth:

In 1982, with Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends entering its 2nd season on NBC, Lee was added to the show as narrator, and 1st season reruns were re-edited to add his narration for continuity purposes.

Lee also did commercials. He shilled for Personna razor blades in the 70's, but good luck trying to find the ads.

Such was his dedication to Marvel that he has made cameo appearances in virtually every Marvel movie in the last decade. That string, as I wrote above, will end next year, and that "Captain Marvel", Marvel Studios' 1st film of 2019, will be dedicated to Lee.

Rest in peace, Stan. Excelsior!!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

On The Air: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has been castigated in this space for refusing to share his vision for Archie Comics' horror line. Other writers have been able to save the line with new alternate continuity titles, while Aguirre-Sacasa went to Hollywood and abandoned the two books he was writing.

One of them, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, was adapted and rebooted into a Netflix series by Aguirre-Sacasa and Greg Berlanti (Riverdale, Arrow, etc.). The continuity of the series is not the same as the comic book, which may actually be a good thing.

On her 16th birthday, Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka, ex-Mad Men) is faced with a choice. Either she commits to signing her name to the Book of The Beast and move to the magic realm, or remain with her mortal friends, including her boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch, ex-Austin & Ally). Sabrina's parents, Edward, a warlock, and Diana, a mortal, were killed in an accident. In the comic book, Diana was sent to a mental hospital while, in the most recent issues, Edward had possessed a previously killed Harvey. Sabrina's aunts, Hilda & Zelda, are forever at odds. Hilda (Lucy Davis, "Wonder Woman") is more sympathetic than Zelda to their niece's concerns.

As with the live-action sitcom that aired on ABC & WB (1996-2003), the show is set in Greendale, which is adjacent to Riverdale. At Baxter High, Sabrina has to deal with strict Principal Hawthorne (Bronson Pinchot, ex-Perfect Strangers), while forming a new circle of friends. A friend asked about the cast of characters, and, aside from Hilda, Zelda, Harvey, Ambrose, and family familiar Salem, the supporting cast was created for the show. Madam Satan, however, is also the villain in the comic book, and her history dates back to the Golden Age.

Then again, it wouldn't be a Berlanti show if there wasn't an established supporting character rebooted for the LGBT community, and in this case, it's Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), described in notes on the show as pansexual.

There's also a callback to a classic literary tale as Sabrina retains the services of a lawyer named Daniel Webster (John Rubenstein) to argue her case.

Check out the trailer.

In terms of appearance, the producers nailed it right on the button with cute-as-a-button Kiernan Shipka, who captures Sabrina's classic look, save for the hair, which remains golden blonde, as opposed to the platinum blonde that Sabrina sported back in the 60's.

It's fitting, then, that Chilling Adventures dropped five days before Halloween, and has already been renewed for a second season.

Sabrina's story is more about establishing her independence and her identity. But what price would she pay for that?

Rating: B--.

Sports this 'n' that

The Los Angeles Dodgers went about the formality of releasing infielder Chase Utley from his contract, all so Utley could retire, as he said he would. He won his only World Series title 10 years ago with Philadelphia, but was left off this year's World Series roster by the Dodgers.

If you believe some corners of the internet, Utley will never be forgiven for a take-out slide in 2015 National League Division Series vs. the Mets that all but ended the career of fellow infielder Ruben Tejada. The rules were rewritten after the 2015 World Series to eliminate the threat of injury to middle infielders. At his core, Utley was an old school ballplayer, one of the last of a gradually phased out breed.
Having clinched a share of the Liberty League title a week ago, RPI put all their focus on the annual Battle of The Dutchmen's Shoes vs. Union on Saturday. It was also Senior Day at East Campus Village Stadium, and RPI sought to maintain a perfect record headed into the post-season.

Union, however, had other ideas. After six years in Troy, the Shoes are headed back to Schenectady, as Union routed RPI, 34-10. While they might not have seen much action, if at all, the game also marked the first time former Troy High teammates John Germinerio (now a sophomore at Union) and Matt Ashley (RPI freshman) would play against each other. It'd been two years since they'd been on the ECVA turf together (2016 Section II Class AA Super Bowl). Given the spotty reporting of El Cheapo Media, we'll never know if either one saw the field on Saturday.
Speaking of Section II, we started with 5 teams advancing to state football playoffs. This morning, we're down to 3.

On Saturday, Class D champion Warrensburg dropped a 37-16 decision to Moriah. Less than 24 hours earlier, Class C champion Cambridge-Salem, which, when it was just Cambridge, won the last two D titles, was eliminated by Ogdensburg Free Academy. Class B champion Glens Falls, led by Joseph Girard III, advanced on Friday night by beating Beekmantown, 21-7, at Shenendehowa.

AA Champ Shaker and A titlist Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake had the week off, and begin state play next Saturday.
When the Buffalo Bills play the Jets today, both teams will have veteran backup quarterbacks under center.

The Bills are on their 4th different starting QB this season, having signed Matt Barkley, a bust with Philadelphia and Chicago, two weeks ago. 2nd year QB Nathan Peterman hasn't been officially pronounced a bust himself, but it seems he can't win when it really matters. The Jets, meanwhile, wary of a foot injury by rookie QB Sam Darnold last week, will bring Josh McCown off the bench to start. If Darnold has to be declared inactive, 2nd year QB Davis Webb, acquired from the Giants in the offseason, would be signed from the practice squad to back up McCown.

Another intriguing matchup sees AFC East tyrant New England visiting former defensive star Mike Vrabel and Tennessee. The Titans are coming off an upset of Dallas six days ago, in which the Titans defense did to Dallas what New England did to Green Bay the night prior, shut them down in the second half. You know Vrabel will have Tennessee ready for this one. All he's gotta do is flash his Super Bowl rings to motivate the team. If anything, Vrabel will be ready for anything his former coach, Bill Belichick, will try. The Patriots have already lost to former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and Detroit earlier this season, but haven't lost since. You know what that means. Crybaby Brady and his ego have taken over. Ex-Patriot and local product Dion Lewis will be in the backfield for Tennessee, part of a 1-2 punch with Derrick Henry. This will be emotional, but not an easy game for either side.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Musical Interlude: What Kind of Fool (1980)

One of the biggest albums of 1980 was "Guilty", a collaboration between Barbra Streisand and Bee Gees frontman Barry Gibb. Two singles came out of the album, the title cut and "What Kind of Fool".

In December, Marie Osmond decided to take a swing at "Fool" on her self titled NBC variety hour, paired with Jeff Conaway (Taxi, "Grease").

Conaway was also part of the Broadway cast of "Grease", so his musical chops are legit. Unfortunately, Marie was off the air not long after this episode aired.

Classic TV: Eye Guess (1966)

Prolific game show producer Bob Stewart left Goodson-Todman in 1966 to start his own company. His first sales were The Face is Familiar for CBS, which we'll review another day, and Eye Guess for NBC, both co-produced with Filmways.

Bill Cullen, at the time a regular on I've Got a Secret and having been the original host of The Price is Right, was tapped to host. The format was a hybrid of standard quiz shows with the memory aspect of Concentration. The series lasted three years (1966-9), and maybe should've gone longer, except that NBC did a purge of game shows in '69, having cut the original Match Game right along with Guess.

Check this sample out:

Stewart would produce several more shows for NBC, as well as ABC & CBS, over the next 20 years before shifting to cable.

Rating: A.