Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Classic TV: The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967)

After their sitcom had bombed during the 1965-6 season, the Smothers Brothers returned a year later with the now legendary Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which was posited in CBS' Sunday lineup, opposite Bonanza on NBC and The ABC Sunday Night Movie.

Tom & Dick Smothers went in a different direction than the average variety show. They courted controversy by attracting guests with political messages, presenting satirical sketches that had CBS' censors reaching for the pruning shears, if you will. The series' initial success can be attributed in no small part to having The Ed Sullivan Show as a lead-in. I believe the initial run of What's My Line? was coming to an end, and if memory serves from past research, Line was coupled with Candid Camera in back of the Smothers Brothers.

As they say, you can't fight city hall, and inevitably, the series was cancelled in the spring of 1969 after 2 full years, 3 seasons, on the air.

I had misspoken when I said that the brothers' 1980's NBC series, Fitz & Bones, was their last series. It wasn't. They revived The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1988 in the wake of a writers' strike, but it was just a short-term deal. Same went for a 1975 revival, also for NBC. In 1993, E! picked up the 1967-9 series, and brought in Tom & Dick Smothers to do wraparound segments to acquaint a new generation of viewers with their original variety show.

Following is a September 1968 episode, taken from the E! run, with the intro by Tom & Dick Smothers. Musical guests are Mama Cass Elliott and Harry Belafonte.

I didn't see enough of the E! rerun cycle to form an opinion, so there won't be a rating.

On The Shelf: Returns, delays, and other musings

DC Comics should be happy with the spike in sales for their books in the first few weeks of the Rebirth initiative. The home town store can't keep books in stock, attracting curious, casual consumers drawn to the reduced cover price of $2.99 per copy like moths to flame & light. I've only put orders in for a select few, based on my own point of interest.

The latest Rebirth 1-off I picked up was Titans, which picks up in part where DC Universe Rebirth left off last month, and in part from the conclusion of the Titans Hunt miniseries. Wally West (the original version, not the one used on The Flash) has returned, sparking the memories of his former teammates and friends. Mr. Twister, the villain in the miniseries, apparently will return, but there's something else afoot. Hmmmm.

Rating: B.

Dynamite Entertainment's latest The Shadow miniseries may be of the bait & switch variety.

The Death of Margo Lane sounds like it's fan-service to those in the fan base who are not fans of the character, introduced in the radio dramas, and most famously played by Agnes Moorehead, three decades before Bewitched made her an icon. The Shadow does have to rescue a kidnapped woman, and solve a mystery tied into it. However, do you really think they'll kill off Margo? After all this time? Your guess is as good as mine.

Rating: A.
It didn't take long for DC to run into some creative issues with some of their recent releases. For example, Future Quest issue 2, due this week, has been pushed back a week with no explanation. As it was, when you do the math, they gave artist Evan Shaner an extra week, since this would've been five weeks between issues, to finish this issue, but expect the series to be continued on a six-week schedule instead of 4-5 weeks. Just a hunch.

Meanwhile, speaking of bait & switch, the long, unawaited return of Scrappy-Doo in the pages of Scooby Apocalypse will have to wait until issue 3, as he didn't appear in issue 2. Writers Keith Giffen & J. Marc DeMatteis have fallen into the trap of playing to the internet haters and using Scrappy as a villain, like he was in the 2002 "Scooby-Doo" movie. Amazingly, issue 2 arrived just 3 weeks after the 1st issue. Hmmmmm.

DC is also experiencing issues with some of their bi-weekly books, including Action Comics. This was to be expected, as DC foolishly decided to double the number of issues per month. In the case of Action & Detective, the idea is to speed up the countdown to the 1000th issues for both books. Ok, so why not do the same for Superman, Wonder Woman, & Batman?
Archie Comics' 4th "New Riverdale" series will be Josie & the Pussycats, debuting in September, and written by Marguerite Bennett (DC Bombshells). With Sabrina making her "New Riverdale" debut in Jughead 9, also in September, it seems they're trying to suggest that maybe there's an attraction between the teenage witch and Jughead. Don't be surprised if another Sabrina book comes out next year as the 5th "New Riverdale" book, to offset the oft-delayed Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Also returning in September is DC's Doom Patrol as the 1st book in the company's new Young Animal line, which will also include Shade the Changing Girl (yes, that's right), which, one can assume, would be the daughter of the original, who was introduced nearly 40 years ago by artist Steve Ditko. Then again.......!

Musical Interlude: Rhythm of the Rain (1990)

"Rhythm of the Rain" originally was recorded by the Cascades way back in 1962. Since then, artists as diverse as Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Neil Sedaka, Jacky Ward, and Dan Fogelberg have covered "Rhythm".

With storm clouds in the vicinity of my home area, here's Fogelberg's soulful cover:

Monday, June 27, 2016

What Might've Been: American Dreams (2002)

Once we entered the 21st century, you'd think Hollywood would simply move forward on the nostalgia front, and begin to celebrate the 80's. Ah, but there was still some interest in earlier generations, too.

Perhaps the most curious thing about American Dreams, which lasted 3 seasons on NBC (2002-5) was that the show was equal parts a family drama and a homage to an iconic music series that aired on another network, that, of course, being American Bandstand. Dick Clark served as co-executive producer for Dreams with actor-turned-producer Jonathan Prince (ex-Throb). Remember, too, that Clark had done Bloopers & Practical Jokes for NBC in the 80's (co-produced with Johnny Carson's company), in addition to Bandstand and The $10,000-100,000 Pyramid (CBS, ABC), and was well respected in Hollywood.

Digressing. Dreams was set during the 60's, during a time when Bandstand was still based in Philadelphia, before moving to Los Angeles, centered on a teenager yearning to get on Bandstand as a dancer. I never saw the show, so there's not going to be a rating.

We'll leave you with a clip from the show, built around a Bandstand appearance by Marvin Gaye (Usher Raymond), who performs "Can I Get A Witness". Paul D. Roberts appears on camera as Clark, but you can clearly tell a classic Clark intro was dubbed over.

So why was Dreams cancelled after 3 seasons? Declining ratings, of course, and there aren't enough episodes, amazingly, to warrant a syndicated run.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Classic Reborn (again): Match Game (2016)

I was reading the television listings in the paper today, and found it rather odd that the revival of Match Game was being graded "TV-G", while The $100,000 Pyramid was marked "TV-14". Shouldn't that have been the other way around, considering Match is at the bottom of ABC's Sunday lineup?

Anyway, Match Game is back for a 10 week summer run, hosted by Alec Baldwin (ex-30 Rock). The questions this time tend to be a little more self-deprecating to not only the panelists, but, in the first game on tonight's opener, to Baldwin himself.

So what's to love? Rosie O'Donnell occupies the late Brett Somers' chair, but otherwise, it's a panel that changes on a week-to-week basis. Tonight's lineup included Debra Messing (fresh from The Mysteries of Laura), NYC cable personality JB Smoove, and Broadway star Sutton Foster. Two games are played per hour. Why it's an hour, only ABC knows for sure, and they fumbled the ball the last time they had Match Game, dumping it from their daytime block 25 years ago.

Let Baldwin explain things in this promo:

To think that Baldwin's first primetime gig was Knots Landing, which was a lifetime ago.

I look at it this way. This plays better in 2016 than To Tell The Truth does, though, in truth, ABC overshot their wad by bloating both shows----and Pyramid---by expanding them to an hour apiece. This will be a fun trip, and if it's a hit, it will return sooner rather than later, and probably on a better night.

Rating: A.

Classic TV: 77 Sunset Strip (1958)

Novelist-turned-producer Roy Huggins took one of his earlier books and adapted it for television, after the same book had been turned into a movie a few years earlier.

However, most people remember 77 Sunset Strip for what it was, a crime drama that lasted six seasons on ABC (1958-64), and made stars out of its three leads, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Roger Smith, and Edward Byrnes.

Byrnes was the jive-talking hipster, Kookie, and became a pop culture icon, with a novelty record duet with Connie Stevens ("Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb) spinning out of the series. Byrnes left for a year, then came back as a full-fledged partner in the firm of Bailey & Spencer. However, WB suits, playing with fire after a dispute with Huggins led to his departure, altered the format in the final season (1963-4), leaving Zimbalist as the only regular. Not only that, but the new show-runner knew a little something about detectives, having played one himself----Jack Webb, who was was a couple of years away from reviving Dragnet for NBC. People forget that Webb originally was with WB.

After 77 Sunset Strip ended, Zimbalist returned in another iconic role, as Federal agent Lewis Erskine in The F. B. I., which WB co-produced with Quinn Martin's production company. Byrnes would not land another series gig for several years.

I wish I could remember seeing the show in reruns as a youth, but I don't, so there won't be a rating. We'll leave you with a sample episode, "A Bargain in Tombs":

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Videos of Summer: Round of Blues (1992)

Shawn Colvin's sophomore release, 1992's "Fat City", peaked at #142 on the album chart, and it would be four more years before "Sunny Came Home" cracked the top 40 singles chart and made Colvin a mainstream star.

"Round of Blues", the 2nd single from "Fat City", still gets a good amount of airplay nearly 25 years later. What you  might not know is that among the guest stars on "Fat City" are fellow singer-songwriters Bruce Hornsby and Mary Chapin Carpenter, the latter of whom would also contribute to Colvin's 1994 CD, "Cover Girl".