Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Musical Interlude: Livin' on a Prayer (1986)

Back in the 80's, Bon Jovi looked like another hair metal band, but the truth was, these Jersey boys were aiming at the pop charts, and had been since their 1984 debut.

1986's "Slippery When Wet" produced back to back #1 hits, the second of which, "Livin' on a Prayer", tells the story of two average kids trying to survive despite individual hardships. If you were watching Supergirl on Monday night, this was on the soundtrack.

Anyway, let's take a trip back to the fall of '86 for the video, which was all about the band and not the story.

Sounds like Jon Bon Jovi was trying to mine the same trail as fellow Jersey icon Bruce Springsteen, doesn't it? Sounds like "The Boss"' kind of tale.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

On The Air: Black Lightning (2018)

In the winter of 1976-7, DC Comics introduced Black Lightning, the first series from the company to be headlined by an African-American hero. Jefferson Pierce returned to his hometown of Metropolis to become the principal at Garfield High, and adopts the identity of Black Lightning to fight the 100, an inner city gang fronted by Tobias Whale, posited to be DC's answer to Marvel's plus size mob boss, the Kingpin. Series creator and fellow blogger Tony Isabella has reset the series in his hometown of Cleveland in the current Cold Dead Hands miniseries, which has been met with glowing reviews since its premiere a couple of months back.

Meanwhile, Black Lightning becomes the 5th DC Comics series adapted for television by Greg Berlanti and his staff, and gets the cushy slot behind The Flash. That's the good news. The bad is that the first season is just 13 weeks, and will wrap in mid-April.

In this series, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams, ex-Hart of Dixie) had been Black Lightning until retiring 9 years ago. The setting is different, too, having shifted to the fictional town of Freedland. Pierce is the principal at Garfield High, where his youngest daughter, Jennifer, is a student, and his oldest, Anissa, is a teacher. They also happen to be metahumans, just like their father, as we will see over the course of the next three months.

Whale is here, too, but, as embodied by rapper Marvin "Krondon" Jones III, isn't a Kingpin wannabe any longer. Bear in mind, too, that it was assumed that a short-term Arrow villain last season, Tobias Church, was meant to be an analogue for Whale, but now we can't be sure.

Pierce is at a crossroads as this series begins. He would rather focus on his day job and keep his kids and the school safe. Of course, gang violence is bound to find its way to Garfield High. He's also looking to make amends with his ex-wife, Lynn. Well, not everything's meant to go according to plan......

For now, Black Lightning will not intersect with the rest of the Berlanti-verse family of shows, but, then, they also said the same thing about Supergirl, and we all know how that went.

What works in this show's favor is that it has the seal of approval of Tony Isabella, who's worked closely with the creative staff. That may make all the difference in the world, considering how the other shows have fallen off the rails, or are threatening to, of late.

Rating: A.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Musical Interlude: Dreams (1992)

The Cranberries' "Dreams" was first released as a stand-alone single in 1992, then included on their major label debut the following year. It took a while, but the song did manage heavy airplay on MTV, largely because the network had three versions to choose from.

In memory of vocalist Dolores O'Riordan, who passed away at 46.

The NFL's Final Four: Can a new champion arise?

We are now down to four in the NFL playoffs. All but one of the weekend's games were packed with enough drama to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Can you care to guess which one lacked drama?

Saturday: Old Man Winter's latest barrage in the Northeast suggested that both games would be played in sloppy conditions, but that wasn't the case. NFC East champion Philadelphia, the conference's top seed, took the insult of being a 3 point home underdog against defending NFC champ Atlanta as motivation, and ensured there would be a fresh opponent on the NFC side at the Super Bowl on February 4, taking down the Falcons, 15-10. Ye scribe only saw less than half the game due to other commitments, but from what I did see, it was a good game.

The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots spotted the Tennessee Titans an early touchdown, and then did their best impression of a horde of vampires, sucking the drama out of the game by blowing out the Titans, 35-14. Reading an article on Yahoo! Sunday morning, I noted that the author, speaking for Patriot haters other than me, felt the officials were favoring the Patriots a little too much. Seeing as how I didn't watch the game, I can't rightly judge. I won't be watching the AFC title game next Sunday, either, but if the Patriots think the road to Minneapolis got a little easier, well.......

"Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it."---George Santayana.

Sunday: AFC South champion Jacksonville jumped out to a 21-0 lead early against North champ Pittsburgh, and had to hold on to advance to their first AFC title game in 19 years. Forced to abandon the running game, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin relied heavily on QB Ben Roethlisberger to bring the team back. However, a late field goal by Jacksonville's Josh Lambdo, coupled with a botched onside kick by the Steelers, sealed a 45-42 win for the Jaguars. If Tomlin didn't have Santayana's famous quote on his bulletin board, he should have, considering that Jacksonville won at Heinz Field for the 2nd time this season (they upset Pittsburgh back in October).

Patriots coach Bill Belichick should consider putting that quote on his bulletin board. The Jags went into Gillette Stadium in August and knocked off the Super Bowl champs in a preseason game. Patriot Nation might think it was a fluke then, but considering the banner year the Jaguars had under coach Doug Marrone, it really wasn't. Not only that, but Jacksonville has some Kryptonite in the front office for New England to worry about. Former Jags/Giants coach Tom Coughlin is now in the front office with Jacksonville, and all he needs do is flash his 2 rings, and give coach Marrone a primer on how to beat the Pats when it counts.

Meanwhile, the NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings moved a step closer to their first Super Bowl in 41 years, and becoming the first team to actually be a home team at the Big Game, by holding off New Orleans, 29-24. The Vikings, the NFC's #2 seed, needed a miracle on the last play of the game, and got it when Case Keenum hit Stefon Diggs for the game winner, a 61 yard TD catch & run that sent the fans into a frenzy. Minnesota now travels to Philadelphia next Sunday night for the right to go home and not only host the big dance, but play it, too. The Vikings avenged a loss in the NFC title game 8 years ago in beating the Saints, who put down Minnesota in 2009 en route to their only Super Bowl victory.

If anything, if the Pats lull people to sleep again, wake up call will be 6 pm (ET) for the NFC title game.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

This revolution was televised: Extreme Championship Wrestling (1994-2000),

Eastern Championship Wrestling broke away from the National Wrestling Alliance in 1994 after Shane Douglas won a tournament to determine the NWA champion. Infamously, Douglas threw down the NWA title, and cut a promo on the august promotion.

Subsequently, the E in ECW became Extreme, as the combined forces of promoters Tod Gordon & Paul Heyman, the latter better known at the time as Paul E. Dangerously, turned wrestling on its ear. The rulebook was essentially tossed out the window, as ECW specialized in hardcore street fights where anything and everything usually went.

Thus, ECW's weekly TV show was renamed, ECW Hardcore TV, and aired in late night on weekends on MSG Cable starting in 1995. ECW introduced viewers to the Dudley Boys, who originally were a dysfunctional clan of half-brothers of odd parentage, but by the time ECW folded in 2001, only to be resurrected by WWE (2006-10), the Dudleys were down to a trio, Bubba Ray, D-Von, and 1/2-brother and on-again, off-again ally Spike. Raven (Scott Levy, formerly Scotty Flamingo, Scotty the Body, and Johnny Polo) resurrected his career in ECW, and used this guise for the rest of his career.

In 1999, ECW added a network berth on TNN (now Spike) as part of the network's short-lived Friday Night Thrill Zone block, coupled with Rollerjam, a roller derby revival. The format was the same except that the violence was slightly toned down for primetime, and language sanitized.

Some veteran wrestlers used ECW as a stopover before moving on to bigger things. For example, in 1995, Steve Austin, who had been released by WCW via phone call, came to ECW, and cut a memorable promo....

Austin would also take out his venom on WCW's Eric Bischoff with a riotous parody of WCW Monday Nitro that demonstrated that he could do comedy with the best of them. Oh, and that spot-on Dusty Rhodes mimic in the above video is classic. It was here that Austin began to develop what would become Stone Cold more than a year later in the then-World Wrestling Federation, and propel him to their Hall of Fame.

Today, the spirit of ECW lives on via Tommy Dreamer's House of Hardcore promotion, which doesn't have a television contract, but wherever Dreamer goes, he promotes House of Hardcore. One wishes HoH could make a stop in the home district, but, well.......

Rating: ECW Hardcore TV gets an A-.

Musical Interlude: Rockin' Fu Music (1980)

The acclaimed British actor-comedian Peter Sellers passed away 2 weeks before his final film, "The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu", hit theatres. This odd, satirical take on Sax Rohmer's legendary villain had an even odder twist ending.

Sellers plays both Fu Manchu and his arch nemesis, Sir Denis Nayland Smith. In the final scene, Fu, now much younger than his 168 years, has formed a rock band.......

I can't say for sure if they found someone as a voice double for Sellers for this number, but I'd imagine they did.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The untold story of Gatorade (2007)

Gatorade marked its 40th anniversary in 2007 with an ad campaign that explained the sports drink's origins. Developed by doctors at the University of Florida, Gatorade made its sideline debut at the 1967 Orange Bowl.

This short spot starts with a snippet of the Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City", and is narrated by sportscaster Keith Jackson.