Monday, July 27, 2015

Celebrity Rock: Gentle on my Mind (1969)

John Hartford's "Gentle On My Mind" is often associated with Glen Campbell, who scored a mammoth hit with it, and used it as the opening theme to his CBS variety show.

In 1969, actor Dale Robertson, at the time the host of Death Valley Days, took a turn as a country crooner on The Johnny Cash Show, performing a cover of "Gentle". Like, who knew?

Robertson's previous series, Iron Horse, ran for 2 seasons (1966-8), and came from the same studio that packaged Cash's variety show---Screen Gems. Small world, eh?

Moron TV: The Ropers (1979)

The Ropers was spun off from Three's Company and was included in ABC's sitcom-heavy Tuesday lineup in the spring of 1979. In fact, it was one of two new shows in the block. The other, 13 Queens Boulevard, was discussed some time back.

Stanley & Helen Roper (Norman Fell & Audra Lindley) had sold the house that was the setting for Company, and moved into an upscale neighborhood. While Helen tried to fit in, Stanley didn't bother. The realtor who sold them their new home (Jeffrey Tambor) was also their new neighbor, and had a 7 year old son (Evan Cohen), who was being posited as a modern day Dennis The Menace, if you will, as he wanted to bug Stanley, but never was able to cause much trouble.

In all, The Ropers, like Three's Company, based on a British sitcom (George & Mildred, which was spun from Man About The House, the British basis for Company), lasted exactly 1 year before it was cancelled. Where ABC went wrong, and hence the "Moron TV" designation for this entry, was moving the show to Saturdays for season 2. You know what they say about square pegs in round holes? Exactly.

Here's the open:

Yes, that is former child actress Patty McCormack, playing Tambor's wife on the show.

No rating.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Forgotten TV: Arnie (1970)

What would happen if an ordinary rank & file employee were suddenly thrust into a management position?

That was the premise behind Arnie, which spent 2 seasons on CBS (1970-2), but got the Rodney Dangerfield treatment. In other words, it got no respect from the network or viewers.

Arnie was perceived as a comeback vehicle for Herschel Bernardi (ex-Peter Gunn), but the truth is Bernardi had been doing voice work in cartoons (i.e. Mighty Heroes) in the 60's, and was the voice of Charlie the Tuna in a zillion Starkist Tuna ads. Bernardi was cast as Arnie Nuvo, an average factory worker who gets a shocking promotion into management. Because he's still in a union, Arnie can use his position to negotiate contracts and avoid work stoppages.

Roger Bowen, who had been in the film version of "M*A*S*H" earlier in 1970, was cast as Nuvo's boss, Hamilton Majors, Jr., who was wealthy but also eccentric. Speaking of eccentric, in season 2, CBS moved the show to Mondays, coupled with My Three Sons, and 20th Century Fox brought Charles Nelson Reilly over from the just-cancelled Ghost & Mrs. Muir to play a parody of Graham Kerr's Galloping Gourmet. Unfortunately, that tactic didn't work. Arnie moved back to Saturdays to play out the string.

Gilmore Box provides the open:

Arnie came from the mind of David Swift, who, years earlier, adapted Ted Key's comic strip, Hazel, for television. It would also be Swift's last effort for TV.

Rating: B.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Celebrity Rock: There is a Tavern in the Town (The Drunkard Song)(1949)

Wally Cox was one of those performers who was taken too soon. Cox passed away in 1973 from a heart attack at 49, leaving behind a career great in its diversity.

His slender build hid a lanky, powerful frame, which might be a good reason why he was cast as the voice of Underdog in 1964. 15 years earlier, Cox appeared on the radio program, Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, and though he lost the competition that night (Talent Scouts' format was a forerunner to the 80's series, Star Search), he made a lasting impression with a comedy routine that flipped gears when he began to sing. A yodel-heavy cover of "The Drunkard Song", or, "There is a Tavern in the Town", was the capper to Cox's performance, and was subsequently recorded for RCA. "Tavern" had previously been done by Rudy Vallee, among others.

One of these days, I may just pull up Cox's appearance on I've Got a Secret, in which he and host Garry Moore did some construction while the panel was blindfolded. You'll see what I mean. For right now, here's an audio-only performance of "The Drunkard Song (There is a Tavern in the Town)":

Not only could Wally Cox do comedy (i.e. Mr. Peepers), but, as we documented before, he top-lined the comedy adventure, The Adventures of Hiram Holliday, based on the books of Paul Gallico, and other dramatic performances included guest roles on Wagon Train, It Takes a Thief, Mission: Impossible, & Alias Smith & Jones. I remember him doing commercials for Canada Dry's now-defunct Sport cola, and we'll have something along that line another time.

Dunce Cap Award: Colin Cowherd & Hulk Hogan

There is dumb, and then, there is DUMB.

Earlier this week, Colin Cowherd took the high road when discussing his pending departure from ESPN Radio for Fox Sports Radio, and praised ESPN for giving him a chance when he started there 10 years ago. Before the week was over, however, Cowherd was out at ESPN.

Cowherd was fired Friday after he made some insensitive comments about Latin players in baseball, noting that a good percentage of players come from the Dominican Republic. You'd think he'd just quote the statistics and move on, but there were things he said that upset the Major League Baseball Players Association, which threatened to boycott both ESPN & Fox unless something was done with Cowherd. When his Fox Sports program bows, I'd believe he'd have to do a major mea culpa to make peace with the MLBPA.

Cowherd's dismissal came just hours after WWE did the same with Hulk Hogan.

Hogan, until yesterday, was serving as a judge on the current Tough Enough, but didn't really contribute anything noteworthy in the first month of the season. What cooked his goose were some recorded comments made between 2007 and 2012, the latter while filming a sex tape with Heather Clem, the wife of Hogan's now-former BFF, Todd Clem, aka radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge. Hogan is involved in litigation against the website over the tape. Unsurprisingly, the National Enquirer, desperate for a legitimate headline to sell papers, since it now belongs in the fiction section of bookstores instead of on supermarket shelves (If you don't believe me, check out the latest faux headlines), got hold of some of the audio tapes. Where Hogan went wrong was in using the N-word repeatedly on these tapes, and in the case of his recording with Heather Clem, in describing daughter Brooke's relationship with an African-American.

Others have noted the hypocrisy involved in this case, seeing as how Vince McMahon, who's more out of touch with reality than Hogan, used the N-word in a skit with John Cena and Booker T a few years back. There's also the whispers that Triple H, despite his good works behind the scenes, is a closet bigot, which might explain why he didn't drop the World title to Booker in 2003. The attitude, then, from WWE, would be to do as we say, but not do as we do.

The lesson? We live in a hypersensitive, politically correct society today. In Hogan's case, there will be people digging for dirt wherever they can find it, and make it public, even if the tape is nearly a decade old. Never has the phrase, "the public has a right to know", been more overused than it has in recent years. Cowherd & Hogan each receive a Dunce Cap. Cowherd for his own contradictions, and Hogan for past verbal indiscretions being brought forward in a negative light.

And while we're at it, we might as well send a box of Dunce Caps out WWE's way, since I'd not be surprised if, within 2-3 years or less, Hogan is welcomed back with open arms, and all would be forgiven. If he's smart, and he clearly hasn't lately, Hogan would be better served quietly walking off into retirement. Then we'd all move on.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Classic TV: Zorro (1957)

Many of us grew up with Disney's programming airing on NBC, but, in the late 50's & early 60's, ABC was the network of choice for the Mouse House, which ultimately purchased ABC nearly 20 years ago.

While The Mickey Mouse Club was standard after-school fare, Disney served up a variety of primetime programs as well, either via its Disneyland anthology series, or in stand alone series, such as Zorro.

Johnston McCulley's Old West hero made his TV debut in 1957. Don Diego de la Vega (Guy Williams) is summoned home to Los Angeles to help his father, Don Alejandro, defend the city from the tyranny of Commandante Monasterio and others. The series lasted just 2 seasons, but when the Disney Channel launched in the 80's, Zorro was brought back in reruns, perhaps to soothe the pain of CBS' failed comedy-adventure series, Zorro & Son, which lasted just 5 weeks before getting the axe. We'll discuss that failure another time.

Disney eventually colorized the original episodes, 25 years after the series' launch, and while a revival was airing on the then-Family Channel (now ABC Family), with Duncan Regehr in the title role.

Let's go back to season 1 and, "Adios, Senor Magistrado":

I happened to see some of the original black & white episodes whenever Disney, at the time a premium channel, had a free weekend. This is one case where the colorization actually improves the product.

Of course, Guy Williams would return a few years later with Lost in Space, which lasted three seasons.

Rating: A-.

On the Shelf: Batman rents his house, then becomes a vampire (sort of), and other silliness

Next week, Warner Home Video releases the feature film version of Justice League: Gods & Monsters on DVD. If you've seen the shorts posted at Saturday Morning Archives, you know what to expect. If you don't have access to a computer, however, take heart. DC is helping with a series of 1-shots, which began this week.

As was established in Machinima's online shorties, Batman, Wonder Woman, & Superman are not the heroes you know & love. For example, in this bizarre alternate continuity, Batman is Kirk Langstrom, who'd otherwise be the Man-Bat, a character introduced in the late 60's-early 70's post-television period. Langstrom's story is even more tragic than before, since he's gone to the other bat-extreme. He's a vampire. A reluctant one, like Marvel's Morbius, which lends itself to the prospect that Langstrom was repackaged here as DC's answer to Michael Morbius, since they're both scientists. Matthew Dow Smith's art is appropriately dark and meant to be scary. I think you'll have to get the DVD to get the full story.

Rating: A.

On the other hand, the Batman we all know, Bruce Wayne, somehow lost possession of Wayne Manor (suspect shenanigans), and when Arkham Asylum collapsed, the patients were moved in, leading to the short-lived Arkham Manor series, which launched last fall to much fanfare, alongside Gotham Academy. The book was cancelled after six issues, due largely to writer Gerry Duggan bolting for an exclusive contract at Marvel, as DC's editors weren't comfortable continuing the series with another writer. A better artist would've made just as much sense, really. Shawn Crystal's artwork falls somewhere between underground favorite Charles Burns, and one of my least favorite Bat-artists of all time, Kelley "Along Came" Jones. I get the mood that Crystal was searching for artistically, but it doesn't work. I bought the trade paperback for the story, and found that to be wanting as well, as it fell apart about halfway, leaving me to ask myself, why did I even bother?

Rating: C--.

Marvel has had their share of clunkers tied into Secret Wars, version 2.0, and now I know I made the right call by not bothering with that miniseries.

Captain Britain & the Mighty Defenders offers up a female Captain, as the original one that has been around nearly 40 years seems to have retired in this continuity.  She-Hulk, also prominent in A-Force, shows up here, wielding a gavel that makes her a "Thor", which on Battleworld means she's a judge, I guess. I'm not on board at all with Dr. Doom as a god. I guess that because the Beyonder, created for the original Secret Wars 31 years ago, became a joke himself, parodied by John Byrne during Byrne's run on Superman, Marvel's creative idiots decided to use Doom, who will figure prominently in "Fantastic Four", opening in 2 weeks, but it just reeks of blasphemy in my book. Alan Davis' always lush, beautiful art doesn't save this one from being a loser, however.

Rating: D.

I haven't watched The Blacklist in the course of its two seasons, for any number of reasons. That will soon change, now that I've sampled Titan Comics' adaptation of the series. Set during season 2, the comic continues the story of Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader, "Avengers: Age of Ultron"), a rogue who turned himself in to the feds, and now is their ally. Oh, what fun. The DVD's of the series might be pricey for now, but season 2 is On Demand, after all.

Rating: A.

Apparently, interest was low for DC's revival of Prez, such that the book's issue count has been sheared in half to six issues, ending in November. Some people just didn't get the political/social satire in Mark Russell's script, but I do. Issue 2 just came out, and skewers Scientology something fierce. Wonder if this Russell is related to the namesake political satirist from the 70's & 80's......! Batman '66 may be on the verge of jumping the shark. Editorial dictums, it seems, are responsible for the insertion of newer Bat-villains who weren't around in the 60's, such as fan favorite Harley Quinn, who debuts as the Harlequin in the latest issue, with Killer Croc to debut in October as a former henchman of King Tut. Not only that, but I'd like to see them explain how they can use both TV Catwomen (the Eartha Kitt model shows up in the new issue as well) and tie it together, something William Dozier and his writers were unable to do nearly 50 years ago.

More bad news from Archie's Dark Circle division, tempered with some good. The oft-delayed relaunch of The Shield has been pushed back again, this time to September, with veteran artist Drew Johnson now on board. A quick check of the Dark Circle web page shows that The Web, also with a female protagonist, will debut after the first of the year. The Hangman bows in October, and looks appropriately creepy. On the main Archie line, the "New Riverdale" relaunch of Betty & Veronica might not be ready until after the first of the year, either, as issue 278 of the current volume is set for October, but we'll see.