Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Modern Classic: Hunter (1984)

Some things take time to develop. That's been a truism of television since day one.

Hunter falls into this category. Stephen J. Cannell sold the pilot to NBC in 1984, and in its initial run lasted 7 seasons. After a trio of TV-movies brought the cast back together between 1995-2002, Hunter would get a brief revival in 2003.

Former NFL star Fred Dryer, who'd cut his acting chops in a recurring role on the sitcom, Cheers, was cast in the title role as Rick Hunter, a sergeant, later lieutenant, with the LAPD. We were told during season 1 that Hunter was the son of a mobster (somehow I missed that when watching episodes on a sporadic basis), but opted to become a cop. Characterized as a small screen version of Clint Eastwood's legendary "Dirty Harry", Hunter did everything within and above the law to catch his man. His sexy partner, Dee Dee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer) had her hands full keeping Hunter in line.

For a time, Saturday Night Live alumnus Garrett Morris joined the show as informant Sporty James, but left the show after a couple of seasons. Kramer left after the sixth season to pursue a musical career and other acting opportunities. McCall's departure was explained away by her getting married (2nd marriage) and moving away. Network suits wanted Hunter & McCall to become a couple, thanks to a plot twist in season 6, but it went nowhere.

After the 1st season, Cannell brought in his mentor, Roy Huggins, who'd gone to Columbia to work on the failed TV version of Blue Thunder, to serve as executive producer. The ratings went up, but when Dryer was promoted to executive producer in season 6, that might've been the jump the shark moment.

Hulu brings us the pilot:

Rating: B.

Monday, March 2, 2015

2015 MLB preview, part 3: NL East breakdown

Beginning today, just before the first preseason games are played, we'll take a look at the 6 divisions, and we'll start with the NL East. We've already tabbed the Mets to finish 2nd and contend for a Wild Card. Let's scope the other teams.

Washington: Had Matt Williams not made a rookie blunder in the NLDS, maybe it's the Nationals and not the Giants winning it all. It's that simple.

Infield: Ryan Zimmerman moves across the diamond to 1st after the departure of Adam LaRoche (White Sox) via free agency. This allows Anthony Rendon to be the full time 3rd baseman, and he performed well while Zimmerman was on the DL much of last year. The middle of the infield remains solid, with Ian Desmond at short and Danny Espinosa at 2nd. Still, GM Mike Rizzo took a flier on fading vet Dan Uggla as insurance at 2nd. Uggla split time between Atlanta and San Francisco last season, but was left off the post-season roster. Tyler Moore figures to be the understudy for Zimmerman at 1st.

Outfield: The only problem might be with Jayson Werth having to hear "Jailbird!" chants early on, as he did a short stint in the pen (DUI) in the offseason. All that's needed is for Werth & Bryce Harper to stay healthy.

Catcher: Met-killer Wilson Ramos needs to stay healthy, too. Period.

Pitching: The addition of former Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (Detroit) has the Nats 6 deep in the rotation, but there were some wiseguys online who thought Rizzo would deal away Stephen Strasburg. Are you kidding? Where Rizzo screwed up was letting lock-down set-up man Tyler Clippard (Oakland) and utility hurler Ross Detwiler (Texas) leave. Rafael Soriano, at last check, is still looking for work. After blowing game 2 of the NLDS, Drew Storen remains the closer. Can you say Achilles' Heel?

Miami: Giancarlo Stanton returns after getting his face broken. Like the Nats, the Marlins' outfield is relatively intact, but owner Jeff Loria opened the checkbook to lure Ichiro Suzuki (Yankees) to Miami as insurance. Jose Fernandez is already being tabbed by the pundits as the #1 starter. His only weakness? Immaturity. Loria heisted Dee Gordon from the Dodgers, sending Donovan Solano to the bench. Martin Prado (Yankees) replaces Casey McGhee (San Francisco) at 3rd. Meh. Aside from Fernandez, the starting pitching does not scare.

Atlanta: All of a sudden, the Braves look like they did before the 90's. Jason Heyward (St. Louis), Justin Upton (San Diego), and Evan Gattis (Houston) are gone, leaving Freddie Freeman with little protection in the lineup, aside from maybe infield mates Andrelton Simmons & Chris Johnson. Nick Markakis (Baltimore) was signed to replace Heyward. Melvin (Don't call me BJ!) Upton, Jr., after 2 seasons of underachieving alongside his brother, now must function alone, as he did in Tampa Bay. As for Freeman, I'm waiting for someone at ESPN or Fox to make with the Captain Marvel references. Injured last year, Kris Medlen (Kansas City) & Brandon Beachy (Dodgers) left via free agency, two more stupid moves by new GM John Hart, who was lured away from MLB Network, but after replacing Frank Wren, Hart is acting as if Stimpson J. Cat is inhabiting him. If you don't get the joke, you just don't get it. Starting pitching, like Miami, no longer scares. Just getting to closer Craig Kimbrel will be an adventure.

Philadelphia: Jimmy Rollins' departure to the Dodgers sends a message that GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. can't protect his veteran core any longer. Reports had Cole Hamels wanting out, and who can blame him? Cliff Lee may have peaked already. AJ Burnett bombed in his only season with the Phillies, and went back to Pittsburgh. The outfield lost some depth with Marlon Byrd moving on (Cincinnati). Rollins' departure opens shortstop for Freddy Galvis, so he doesn't have to caddy Chase Utley anymore. I don't see closer Jonathan Papelbon sticking around past July.

Projected order of finish:

1. Washington.
2. Mets.
3. Miami.
4. Atlanta.
5. Philadelphia.

Of course, I could be wrong (and usually am).

What Might've Been: Gemini Man (1976)

After flopping with an adaptation of H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man, Universal & NBC decided to try again. Only the name of the show was changed, but the concept of the series remained the same, with one twist.

In Gemini Man, secret agent Sam Casey (Ben Murphy, ex-Alias Smith & Jones) is exposed to some radiation whilst on a underwater mission. He is turned invisible, but regains visibility by means of a DNA stabilizer, shaped like a wristwatch. Casey can only be invisible for 15 minutes per day. Any longer, and he dies.

The pilot aired in May 1976, with the series launched 5 months later. Unfortunately, it lasted a scant more than a month before it was cancelled. Like David McCallum's Invisible Man, Gemini Man simply was on the wrong night of the week.

Gettoblaster uploaded the episode, "Suspect Your Local Police", which was never shown in the US, presumably until the Sci-Fi Channel was able to run Gemini Man as part of its Series Collection anthology package.

The complete series did air in other countries, which seem to put less value on television ratings.

Rating: B.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Musical Interlude: Accidentally In Love (2004)

Counting Crows haven't been heard from much since earning an Oscar nomination for "Accidentally in Love", from the movie, "Shrek 2".

The following video is the version most of you are familiar with. A stuffed toy rabbit (singer Adam Duritz) comes to life and serenades a woman, prompting her to leave her boyfriend/roommate behind. Is it just me, or doesn't the rabbit look like the Nesquik Bunny?

There is an alternate version without the movie footage and with the band actually appearing. Unfortunately, it's like a rare coin. Unattainable at the moment.

Dunce Cap Award: New York Section 2 Basketball Committee

I don't know about high school basketball tournaments in other parts of the country, but New York's Section 2 needs to get a clue or three, and quickly.

Take for example the Class A boys basketball tournament quarterfinals, held today at Hudson Valley Community College. The 1st game on a 4 game card went double overtime before Amsterdam defeated Queensbury. Section 2 had figured on each game going 90 minutes from start to finish, with no time in between for fans to empty the bleachers and the next crowd to refill.

Big mistake.

College tournaments allow for a 20-30 minute window for intermission between games played at the same venue. A good example of this is the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), which will hold their annual tournament later this week at Albany's Times Union Center, where Siena is the host team. Such sensible thinking is lost on the suits in charge of Section 2, and probably their counterparts across the state, as well. With 8 minutes per quarter in regulation (overtime is 1/2 as long), they think that should be enough to finish the game on time. Uh, haven't they watched enough college or NBA games to know better? College games are usually plugged into a 2 hour TV window in the regular season, regardless of network (CBS, Fox, ESPN), but because coaches save time outs for the end of the game, and teams that are trailing in the last 2-5 minutes begin fouling like crazy in an absurd attempt to try to create an avenue of escape, if you will, games usually swell past 2 hours, especially if it goes to overtime. Rare is the time when a game is finished in less than 2 hours.

Digression over. I went to HVCC, bent on seeing my alma mater, Troy High, play Mohonasen. The game was scheduled for a 4:30 tip, but didn't start until almost 5:15 due to the 1st game going double-OT, and the 2nd one also going to overtime. By my figures, the nightcap, set for 6, would tip at 7.

This wouldn't happen if tournament suits planned things a wee bit differently.

Yesterday, in addition to 4 Class AA quarterfinals, HVCC hosted two games in lower classes, with the first game tipping off at 11 am. Six games in all, and they all ended in regulation, but, due to the traditional late game strategies of saving time outs and wasting fouls, there were the minor delays. The bigger problem is crowd congestion. Organizers need time to get fans who aren't staying for the next game to leave the gym in an orderly fashion, though this was probably not a problem with the last two Class AA games yesterday, or today's Troy-Mohon game (Troy routed Mohonasen by 39), as fans likely headed for the exits early anyway, with their teams comfortably in front. I know I did.

Paraphrasing a line from The Band's "The Weight", the Section 2 Basketball Committee might be collectively feeling about half past dumb, because they've got some Dunce Caps headed their way. They've got a whole year to figure out a solution to an age old problem, otherwise we may have this discussion again.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Classic Reborn: Super Password (1984)

2 1/2 years after Password Plus ended, NBC revived the franchise anew as Super Password, which lasted nearly 5 full years.

Bert Convy (ex-Tattletales, Snoop Sisters) was tapped as host, and there was one tweak to the game. 5 clues were linked together to form the Password Puzzle, which increased the drama. Otherwise, it was the same game as it was always played.

Right now, let's check out a sample episode with Betty White and Richard Simmons.

After skipping the 90's, Password would be reincarnated one more time in the 00's. We'll look at Million Dollar Password another time.

Rating: A.

Musical Interlude: Karma Chameleon (1983)

I'm not a big Culture Club fan per se. In fact, the only song I actually liked off their debut, "Kissing to be Clever", was this next item, "Karma Chameleon".

The video finds the band in 19th century Mississippi. Boy George just couldn't be bothered to wear period clothes, unlike his bandmates, which is why he stays off to the side. And, yet, when he landed a guest gig as himself on The A-Team, where was the rest of the band? Hmmmmm.