Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Video Valentine: Heart of the Night (1979)

This week being Valentine's week, you can expect this next song to get some airplay in the usual places, like adult contemporary channels that never go out of style.

Poco's "Heart of the Night" was the 2nd single from their 1979 album, "Legend". The band had struggled for the first decade after their formation, with personnel changes on a seemingly annual basis. However, they're best remembered for this song and the other hit off "Legend", "Crazy Love".

Classic TV: The Name of the Game (1968)

In a way, Universal Television & NBC set about reinventing the wheel in the late 60's.

What I mean by that is reinventing the concept of the anthology series. The first such case, it would appear, was The Name of the Game, which ran for three seasons (1968-71), with three rotating leads: Gene Barry (ex-Burke's Law, Bat Masterson), Robert Stack (ex-The Untouchables), and Tony Franciosa, whose last series had been the sitcom, Valentine's Day. The common link was a media conglomerate whose lines of magazines formed the basis for the stories.

Franciosa left during the third season, and so guest stars would fill in when his scheduled episodes would air. The glue holding things together was Susan Saint James, whose character of Peggy Maxwell, I believe, actually worked with all three leads. I never saw the show, so I really don't know all the details.

Game was the 2nd 90 minute series produced for NBC by Universal, with The Virginian being the other. Wagon Train, I think, went to a 90 minute format when it moved to ABC for the end of its run earlier in the decade.

Following is the episode, "All the Old Familiar Faces", uploaded by a YouTube fan channel devoted to guest star Lois Nettleton, and featuring the pop vocal group, the Third Eye, who serve as a sort of Greek chorus, performing the title song throughout the episode.

Could Game be redone today, reflecting on the changes in journalism in the 21st century? Perhaps, if the networks could be persuaded to veer away from the glut of so-called reality television programs....!

No rating.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Video Valentine(s): Save Your Last Kiss For Me (1978) & My Funny Valentine (1978?)

A double dose of Happy Days musical numbers as we draw closer to Valentine's Day.

First up, Anson Williams (Potsie) teams with future bride Lorrie Mahaffey for "Save Your Last Kiss For Me", co-written by Williams. Then, Donny Most (Ralph) croons a surprisingly faithful cover of "My Funny Valentine".

In more recent times, Most has drifted away from acting and forged a singing career of his own, but veering more toward jazz and standards. Like, who knew? I'll have something of more recent vintage up soon.

Sports this 'n' that

As the late Gorilla Monsoon might've aptly put it, Super Bowl 50 was not a feast for the eyeballs, especially if you're into offenses scoring at will.

The difference was the Denver Broncos' top-ranked defense, which was as advertised. Defensive end Derek Wolfe, lineman DeMarcus Ware, defensive back Chris Harris, Jr., and linebacker Von Miller weren't on the field two years ago when Seattle's Russell Wilson shredded Denver's defense in a 48-7 rout. Ware was in Dallas, and signed with Denver as a free agent that summer. Wolfe was ill, and Harris & Miller were injured. Add to that the return to Denver of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who'd worked with Ware in Dallas for a time, and those pieces made all the difference in the world for Denver in a 24-10 verdict over Carolina. Cam Newton didn't run as free as he'd have liked, but the Broncos' defense turned the Panthers into a 1-dimensional team in much the same way that they'd done to their hated rivals, the New England Patriots in the AFC title game two weeks prior.

Miller was named MVP, and rightfully so, leading the charge that led to 7 sacks, one of which set up the game's 1st touchdown, as Malik Jackson recovered a Newton fumble in the end zone to give Denver a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.

Coincidentally, during the parade of past MVP's, which delayed the start of the game by about 10 minutes because CBS didn't have the sense to put in a request to have the ceremony before the scheduled 6:30 (ET) kickoff, Patriots QB Tom Brady was roundly booed, just because. And here I thought it might've been because he thought he was too cool to step onto the yellow dot meant for photo ops. Not to worry, Baltimore QB Joe Flacco did the same thing and avoided the yellow dot like the plague, but he didn't get booed.

Now, the question remains. Is this in fact the last rodeo for QB/pizza & insurance salesman Peyton Manning? He probably knows, but right now, he's not sharing.
New York Knicks/Rangers owner James Dolan inherited the late George Steinbrenner's penchant for quick trigger personnel moves. While Steinbrenner's sons, Hank & Hal, have chosen patience rather than impulse to guide their business decisions in operating the Yankees, Dolan proved once again that he cannot trust a true basketball man, such as Phil Jackson, to make the necessary moves to improve the Knicks' fortunes. With the All-Star game a week away, 2nd year coach Derek Fisher was given the heave-ho today after the Knicks lost to Denver yesterday on what amounted to the undercard to the Super Bowl in the Mile High City, though this game was played at Madison Square Garden. Former Lakers player and coach Kurt Rambis takes over on an interim basis, but don't expect that to last too long past the season. Just sayin'.
In a couple of hours, former WWE champion Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) will appear on Monday Night Raw to elaborate on his announcement on Twitter earlier today that he, because of a series of injuries that have limited his appearances the last couple of years, was retiring at 34. The WWE won't activate Bryan from the injured list, out of fear that one more major injury would end his career anyway.

However, in what now seems like a preview of that retirement announcement, Danielson shot this short video for Tide detergent.

Since that spot was done, Danielson has cut his hair and beard to a more socially acceptable appearance. Yes, there are those on social media who feel WWE didn't do enough for him, and there are those that feel a compromise was never reached that could've saved his career because Danielson didn't want to compromise what had brought him to the dance in the first place. Something tells me there'll be a spot on the announce team for him sooner rather than later.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

How to ruin a Classic in one easy lesson: Amos Burke, Secret Agent (1965)

It's said that if it isn't broken, you don't fix it. Someone at ABC was desperate to have a spy show on the schedule to counter NBC's Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2nd season) and CBS' incoming steampunk spy series, The Wild, Wild West. So they prevailed upon producer Aaron Spelling at Four Star to retool Burke's Law into something it wasn't meant to be, at least in the eyes of Amos Burke's creator, Frank Gilroy.

The end result, Amos Burke, Secret Agent, would've killed the Burke franchise dead, if it wasn't for Spelling having the foresight to acquire the rights to the series later on. Honey West, a Burke spin-off, bowed the same year (1965), and also lasted one season, but that, as we discussed before, was because viewers seemingly weren't ready for a strong female lead just yet.

Gene Barry continued as Burke, who now answered to someone known simply as "The Man" (Carl Benton Reid), who was in the military as a general. The idea was to reboot Burke as a James Bond clone, and it failed. Period.

Let's take a look at a sample episode.

Nearly 30 years later, Spelling would bring back Burke's Law, this time at CBS, and got 2 seasons out of it. With Burke back in the states as a police detective, it was as if his globe-trotting season as a Secret Agent had been ret-conned out of existence.

I remember seeing the original series in reruns as a youth, but I don't think this final season was included, so there's no rating for Amos Burke, Secret Agent.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Forgotten TV: Marblehead Manor (1987)

In 1987, NBC attempted to create a pre-primetime checkerboard block of programming to lead into their 8-11 pm (ET) evening block. Five sitcoms on five different nights, all with familiar or soon-to-be-familiar faces.

Over at Saturday Morning Archives, we took a look at Out of This World, which was a comeback vehicle for Donna Pescow (ex-Angie), and was the most successful of the block, lasting four seasons. The trick was that stations not affiliated with NBC were able to acquire these shows as well, hence the varying results. World will turn up here, too, ere long, as we honored co-star Joe Alaskey, a local native, who passed away earlier this week, and is better known for his work as a voice actor post-World.

Next up, then, is Marblehead Manor, which, to be fair, was an attempt at creating a British sitcom of a sort on American shores. As would be the fate of the bulk of the block, Marblehead lasted one solitary season, but three of its stars are quite known. The series, first & foremost, marked the return of actress Linda Thorson (ex-The Avengers) to American television, 14 years after her Avengers predecessor, Diana Rigg, had toplined a sitcom of her own that also lasted a season. The network? Wouldn't you know, it was NBC. Next, you had second generation actor Phil Morris, trying his hand at comedy. Marblehead's failure enabled Phil to move on to the revival of the show that made his father, Greg, famous, Mission: Impossible, the very next season. Finally, there is Michael Richards (ex-Fridays), already playing the kind of goofball characters that would lead to his iconic role as Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld. Richards moved on from Marblehead to the "Weird" Al Yankovic movie, "UHF".

Let's scope out a sample episode:

This is best filed under, what were they thinking?

Rating: C.

Of Weasels and Super Bowl dreams

"One's a born liar, and the other one's convicted."--Billy Martin on Reggie Jackson & George Steinbrenner, respectively, in the late 70's.

Let's try to apply that above quotation to this week's Weasels, shall we?

The "born liar", of course, could apply to both Donald Trump, a repeat offender, and erstwhile Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel, who soon could be out of a job----and a lot more, if his father's hunch is right---because he simply hasn't grown up.

Let's talk Manziel, or, from this point forward, Johnny Manchild, first.

I've said all along Manchild left Texas A & M too early, listening to all the huzzahs from friends and hangers-on about his fame on the gridiron, which resulted in being the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012. The problem, as has been emphasized since Cleveland drafted him in 2014, is immaturity off the field. He suffers from a different form of, ah, affluenza than fellow Texas twit Ethan Couch in that because he's a star athlete, not a priveleged child enabled by a wealthy family, he's above rules and regulations.

Case in point. Eight days ago, Colleen Crowley, Manchild's ex-girlfriend, told police her ex-lover struck her in a Dallas hotel while taking her back to Fort Worth, and threatened to kill her. According to her father, Crowley is getting some help. I wish the same could be said for Johnny Manchild.

A year ago, he entered a rehab facility in Pennsylvania to address his drinking issues, but promptly back-slid back to being the careless party boy who has become the poster child for leaving school too soon without fully transitioning into adulthood. His father, Paul, fears that Johnny Manchild won't live to see his 24th birthday, already aware that the Browns intend to cut Manchild next month. The Manziels tried to get Johnny admitted into rehab twice this week, but he wanted no part of it. Paul Manziel told the Dallas Morning News in Friday's editions that his son might be suicidal. Now, there's a surprise.

I think I know what the root of the problem is. Johnny Manchild has seen another party boy-turned-superstar athlete, New England's Rob Gronkowski, succeed in the NFL and retain his frat boy social life. The difference is, Gronkowski does all the right things off the field, and hasn't gotten into trouble with the law. At Texas A & M, Manchild thought that if Gronk could do it, so could he. Unfortunately, at 23, when he should be preparing to graduate, Manchild has finished his 2nd and last season with the Browns. Cowboys owner/GM/president-for-life Jerry Jones has openly coveted bringing in the problem child, but does he really want to after this latest episode? If Paul Manziel's right, his son needs to be far away from the nightclubs and in a rehab center yesterday. Figure on this. The Browns will cut him next month, and eat the rest of his contract. The best case scenario, since he can't play college football anymore, is for Johnny Manchild to go back to school, preferably far away from cameras (camera phones included), get a degree, then start thinking about a comeback.
Meanwhile, Dumb Donald Trump put his foot in his mouth again after losing in the Iowa caucus on Monday to Senator Ted Cruz. On Tuesday, Dumb Donald accused Cruz of "stealing" the victory. Oh, please. Give me a break. Trump made the accusation on Twitter, then amended his post. Just the same, all that says is that Dumb Donald is a sore loser. Then again, we found that out 4 years ago, when he whined after President Obama was re-elected, complaining on behalf of the woebegone Birthers he's been supporting. An online article earlier this week suggested that Trump has orchestrated every piece of his strategy for his campaign, just to get people talking. Gee, that does sound like he got advice from his pal, Vince McMahon, doesn't it?

Since Trump already has 4 sets of Weasel ears and two tails, let's just send him a bodysuit this time. Or, the autobiography of that well known wrestling Weasel, Bobby Heenan.
The continuing soap opera that is the downward spiral of Johnny Manchild won't overshadow Sunday's Super Bowl 50. The commercials, of course, will run the gamut from absurd to asinine to awesome, but let's talk about the game.

Two years ago, Peyton Manning and the Pizza Salesmen (Denver Broncos) were thrashed by the Seattle Seahawks and QB Russell Wilson. Like Wilson, Carolina Panthers QB/yogurt salesman Cam Newton, the 2010 Heisman winner out of Auburn, is a dual threat who can kill defenses with his legs as well as his arm. Denver's defense hasn't changed all that much since getting blown out of Super Bowl 48 by Seattle, and one difference this time is that linebacker Von Miller, who didn't play two years ago, is healthy and will be in the lineup. However, there is a flaw in the defense that coordinator Wade Phillips hasn't figured out yet, and that's closing the running lanes for read-option QB's like Wilson and Newton.

There've been hints that this might be the end of the trail for Manning, but today's New York Post has a couple of different ideas on where the telegenically challenged QB could go if Denver decides to cut him loose and retain Brock Osweiler as their starter next year. Hall of Famer Joe Namath thinks Manning could go to the Jets. Then again, Broadway Joe forgot about the last future Hall of Famer the Jets grabbed off the scrap heap. Brett Favre lasted one season, fraught with scandal, in New York. Meanwhile, Eli Manning was quoted as suggesting that big brother could be brought in as a quality control coach to help him out with the Giants next season. Considering that the Giants promoted Ben McAdoo to head coach and gave him an oversized suit that probably came from the David Byrne collection (Talking Heads fans will get the reference) for his presser a few weeks back, I'm not so sure that's such a good fit. Where would Peyton find the time for coaching, since it seems he'll be clogging our TV screens anyway with his commercial endorsements (Papa John's, Nationwide, DirecTV)?

Joking aside, Peyton reportedly told Patriots coach Bill Belichick after the AFC title game that "this might be my last rodeo". If it is, maybe NBC can build an all-star edition of The Voice around him so he can get singing lessons. Anyway, in this writer's opinion, referencing what I wrote nearly two weeks ago, Father Time (Manning) will, in wrestling parlance, "do the honors" for Baby New Year (Newton).

Carolina, 41-24.

Of course, I could be wrong.