Sunday, April 19, 2015

Musical Interlude: Eminence Front (1982)

Pete Townshend was in between solo albums when The Who got back together to record "It's Hard", released in 1982. While "Athena" was the 1st single and got most of the attention from radio, the first video from the band was "Eminence Front". If the backbeat sounds familiar, it should, since it's being used by GMC in their current ad campaign.

Mind the fact that Guitar Gods, who posted the video, enlarged the picture to avoid the copyright police.

Both Townshend and Roger Daltrey would release solo records the following year, and Daltrey would end up with a commercial endorsement with Anheiser-Busch (Michelob Light used his song, "Move Better With The Night", for an ad campaign.).

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Classic TV: Chico & The Man (1974)

Producer James Komack put himself back on the map beginning in 1974 with the debut of Chico & The Man for NBC. Komack, who'd acted, as well as writing and producing, on The Courtship of Eddie's Father, struck paydirt on his first try.

Komack had discovered Freddie Prinze (Chico) when the young comic appeared on The Tonight Show a year earlier, and developed Chico with Prinze in mind. Jack Albertson ("Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory") was cast as embittered garage owner and widower Ed Brown, who initially didn't want Chico Rodriguez around, but Chico saw something positive inside of Ed, and did some late night, ah,  maintenance work in the garage. Brown eventually was won over and hired Chico.

Halfway through the 3rd season, unfortunately, Prinze, suffering from depression, took his own life. Rather than end the series, Komack opted to work around the loss of his star, such that when the series was renewed for a 4th season, he opted to create a "new Chico" in 12 year old Raul (Gabriel Melgar). This also brought Charo on board as Raul's Aunt Charo. Della Reese became a series regular as well, to add additional veteran presence to Albertson and Scatman Crothers (whose animated series, Hong Kong Phooey, premiered the same year as Chico). However, the ratings, which started to decline after Prinze's passing, continued to tumble, and the show was finally cancelled.

After scattered cable runs, Chico now rests in the WB vaults. Try figuring that one out.

Following is a montage of opening & closings from seasons 1-3, plus excerpts from a season 2 episode with guest star Jose Feliciano, who plays Chico's cousin Pepe, giving Feliciano an excuse to perform the show's theme, which he co-wrote, and an excerpt of his cover of the Doors' "Light My Fire".

During its NBC run, Chico was perfectly placed on Fridays, in back of Sanford & Son. The idea being that while Sanford addressed racism from the African-American point of view, Chico offered the white POV. In a way, Chico and Lamont Sanford (Demond Wilson) had something in common.

Rating: A.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Forgotten TV: The Young Rebels (1970)

The late Aaron Spelling had made his first inroads in television as a writer and producer for Four Star Television before branching out in the mid-60's, teaming with entertainer Danny Thomas to develop The Guns of Will Sonnett, The Mod Squad, and to a lesser extent, because they were unsuccessful, Rod Serling's New People, and Tim Conway's 1st solo series, Rango.

With Mod Squad entering its 2nd season in 1970, Spelling was hired by Screen Gems to produce the Revolutionary War drama, The Young Rebels, for ABC, with whom Spelling would have a lasting relationship throughout the 70's & 80's, once he began his own studio (taking on Leonard Goldberg as his new partner). Thomas, meanwhile, had revived his earlier series as Make Room For Granddaddy, which aired on Saturday nights, also on ABC. Rebels was posited on Sundays, replacing Land of the Giants at 7 (ET), opposite Lassie and The Wonderful World of Disney. Good luck with that. As you could've figured, Rebels, which boasted future Oscar winner Lou Gossett, Jr. in the cast, was cancelled after just 1 season.

Right now, here's "The Suicide Squad".

The title graphics at the start appear to have been remade, but aren't exactly as they should appear.

No rating.

On the Shelf: A fox returns, and a new Batman is revealed

Archie Comics' Dark Circle line debuted Mark Waid & Dean Haspiel's second The Fox series on Wednesday, promising that this one will be an ongoing concern as opposed to the 5-issue miniseries issued in 2012-3. "Fox Hunt" has Fox (Paul Patton, Jr.) promising to retire after his latest adventure, but of course, things aren't meant to go smoothly. They never did. The only quibble, of course, is the fact that Archie raised their cover price for all their titles to $3.99 a few months back, and that won't help generate interest in their on-again, off-again line of in-house-created superhero books. Their latest incarnation of The Shield has been delayed to mid-June, so deadline problems continue to plague them.

The Fox gets a B.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina returns with its long-delayed 2nd issue. This was supposed to have been out in December, but writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, as we've documented, has been busy with the live-action Riverdale project for Fox, but in a letters-page memo, danced around the issue, giving readers a lame excuse for the 4 month delay between issues. His promise that this won't happen again rings a bit hollow, just like the story.

Rating: C.

Afterlife With Archie, oh by the way, is due to return next month. However, the question is whether or not the newly reminted Archie Horror line can retain its audience after the long delay.

Other news: Come June, DC Comics readers will be introduced to a new Batman, but unlike the last couple of times where Bruce Wayne has been shuffled off stage, Dick Grayson, too busy being DC's answer to James Bond these days, won't be donning the Batsuit. Instead, writer Scott Snyder threw the fanbase a major curveball by tying his latest idea to a certain Fox drama.

Yep, the new Batman, safely tucked into some high tech armor, is police commissioner James Gordon. To me, this reeks of Snyder cashing in on Gotham. We'll see in a couple of months if readers agree.

The proposed "Wonder Woman" movie at WB has had to change directors due to the dreaded "creative differences". Seems there was an idea about giving the Amazing Amazon a sidekick. More specifically, a pet tiger.


Wonder Woman won't ever be mistaken for, say, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, but this illustrates how difficult it is to mount a feature film, much less a new TV show, without raising a few eyebrows. I suppose the tiger was thrown in so there'd be some toys to push. Fortunately, with a new director on board, the tiger is now out of the picture. We hope.

Saw a headline online that reported that NBC has, in fact, cancelled Constantine, rather than farm it out to SyFy for next season. Well, if it was airing at 8 (ET) all season instead of 10, we wouldn't be discussing this bad news, would we now? Who can say, really?

Current episodes of Doctor Who air on BBC America, but it was a major shocker the other day when it was announced that recent reruns with David Tennant in the title role would turn up on, of all places, DisneyXD. Could it be that the Mouse House has plans for the Doctor down the line? Marvel, now a Disney subsidiary, once had a license on the Doctor 35 years ago. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Death has been busy lately

I would be remiss if I didn't make note of a few passings over the last few days.

Actor Richard Dysart, best remembered by certain generations for his work in the 80's series, L. A. Law, passed away a week ago, as did humorist Stan Freberg. This week, we lost singer Percy Sledge ("When a Man Loves a Woman"), and comics legend Herb Trimpe, most closely associated during the 70's with The Incredible Hulk. Trimpe had been a regular at comics conventions here in the home district. Tony Isabella offers his personal recollections over at his bloggy thing.

It would be too easy to put up a clip of Sledge and his signature hit. Instead, we'll leave you with one of Stan Freberg's classics. "St. George and the Dragonet", a parody of Dragnet, featuring voice-over legends Daws Butler & June Foray, was recorded on Capitol in 1953. I don't know when this claymation video was released. One YouTube commentator suggested it might've been some early Art Clokey work, well before Gumby or Davey & Goliath.

Freberg got permission from Jack Webb to use the familiar theme song, "Danger Ahead", composed by Walter Schumann. Turned out Webb was a fan of Freberg's work. Freberg also influenced the man who for all intents & purposes would be the heir to his throne, "Weird" Al Yankovic.

Here's "St. George & the Dragonet":

Rest in peace, one and all.

On The Air: Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (1999)

It was a sensation when it arrived in the US right at the turn of the century. Today, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? is the 3rd longest running syndicated game show on the air, behind, of course, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, which have been around much longer.

Millionaire began as a primetime entity, airing almost on a nightly basis at one point, on ABC, which overmilked the ratings-boosting phenomenon a little too quickly. Talk show icon Regis Philbin hosted the ABC version during its 3 year run (1999-2002), but due to his daytime talk show, couldn't continue when the series moved to syndication in September 2002.

At that point, Meredith Viera (The View) was tapped to succeed Philbin. Having played the game certainly helped. During her run, Viera began a 4 year stint on NBC's Today (2007-11), concurrent with her Millionaire duties. After 11 seasons, Viera stepped down, and actor-comic Cedric the Entertainer (The Soul Man) took over. However, Cedric lasted one season, and was replaced by Terry Crews ("The Expendables", Brooklyn Nine-Nine) this season. It was reported earlier this week that Crews is stepping aside for The Bachelor's Chris Harrison this fall.

The game itself is rather simple, though it was tweaked 5 years ago for no other reason than to try to freshen the franchise.

Let's take a trip back in time with Regis, dating back to March 2001.

I haven't seen it since it went into syndication, but the above video represents what I remember.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On the Air: Superhero Fight Club (2015)

If you watched iZombie last night, you probably caught this short piece designed to hype up the final month's worth of episodes of The Flash & Arrow.

Arrow (Stephen Amell) leads Flash (Grant Gustin) to the "fight club", where there are no rules. Even villains get in on the action, and Atom (Brandon Routh, "Superman Returns") is late to the party.........

There will be a betting pool on whether or not producer Greg Berlanti will actually do a "Fight Club" episode of either Flash or Arrow next season.

Rating: B+.