Sunday, May 1, 2016

What Might've Been: Mary (1978)

It's funny how things work in show business sometimes.

After The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended a 7 year run, Ed Asner's cranky Lou Grant was spun off into his own series, which would be the last spin-off, after Rhoda & Phyllis (Betty White's self-titled series was not a spin-off, as she didn't continue as Sue Ann Nivens), except that Grant was a drama. By that same token, for what it's worth, Trapper John, M. D., while not technically a spin-off from M*A*S*H (because of a different actor in the role), also went the dramatic route instead of continuing in a sitcom or dramedy format. Both of those series had decent runs.

Moore, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky. She transitioned to trying a variety show, hoping to follow in the ratings path of her friend, Carol Burnett, who had ended her series a few months prior to the launch of Mary. Moore retained writers Tom Patchett & Jay Tarses, who had worked on her sitcom, and built an ensemble that included James Hampton (ex-F-Troop, The Doris Day Show), Dick Shawn, and a couple of future stars in Michael Keaton and David Letterman. Mary was even given Ed Sullivan's old time slot at 8 (ET) on Sundays, as CBS was cognizant of the fact that ABC had tried and failed with two variety shows in as many seasons in the 7 pm slot with Bill Cosby and the Brady Bunch, and, as memory serves, Donny & Marie moved to Sundays to finish its final season.

So where did Mary go wrong? I can't rightly say, since I never saw the show. CBS would later build a comedy block on Sundays that would remain intact well into the 80's, but apparently, variety shows were slowly dying out, and weren't feasible or viable on Sundays anymore. Fellow blogger Ivan Shreve would probably find an excuse to blame the charismatically challenged Hampton, but he was just one piece of the puzzle, as was usually the case in his career.

There won't be a rating, so we'll leave you with the series opener.

Should've saved the monologue for someone like Letterman, Mary.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Musical Interlude: Harvest Moon (1992-3)

In the 90's, Neil Young put aside his electric guitar and went back to the acoustic sound that made him a rock legend in the 70's. You might not see her, but Linda Ronstadt joins Neil on vocals for the title tune from his 1992 CD, "Harvest Moon", largely accepted as a sequel to his seminal 70's album, "Harvest":

Dunce Cap Award: Digital First Media

"You can't have an oversight committee on stupidity!"---Woody Paige, Around The Horn.

It has been a tradition since, well, before I was born, that when newspapers and other publications raised their prices, they would, at the very least, give their readers a heads-up by including a short note on the front page, or within a couple of pages thereof.

Digital First Media, the out-of-state parent company of The Record and its sister newspapers, The Daily Freeman (Kingston) and The Saratogian, seems to think that recycling the oft-recited line about inflation and increased costs of printing their papers when they have to raise their prices is unnecessary. They forget, yet again, that a large chunk of their readership, at least in the hometown, are seniors who have to factor in such increases in their monthly budgets.

On April 1, DFM very quietly raised the price of the daily edition of The Record and its sister papers to $1.25 per copy, which is the same price as the two tabloids in New York, the Daily News & New York Post. The Sunday price remained at $2, or a quarter more than the NYC papers. The Record had held the line at 75 cents per day, 6 days a week, for what seemed like an eternity. However, as the #3 paper in the home market, trailing behind the Albany Times Union and Schenectady's Daily Gazette, something had to be done to improve the bottom line. Ignoring tradition and not informing the readers of the increase led to at least two callers to The Record's Sound Off! page raising a stink a little more than a week into the increase.

"Well, here you go again!"---Ronald Reagan.

Three weeks later, and ye scribe didn't notice it, having bought last Saturday's papers with the groceries, until today, DFM raised the price of the Saturday Record to a full $2, to match the Sunday edition. Not only that, but in a move designed to mirror what the Times Union has been doing the last few years, the Sunday comics and supplements are now included on Saturdays, too. Once again, DFM decided not to notify the readers with a statement. I'm expecting more of the same from the Sound Off! Whiner Squad, perhaps as early as tomorrow's edition, or no later than next weekend.

Digital First Media, then, is guilty of a lack of accountability to its upstate New York reader base, and for that, the corporate barons in charge get the Dunce Caps this week. Two price increases in a month equals desperation, I get that, but I'm looking out not for rational types like myself, but for older readers, for the reasons I described above. Would it hurt to address the increases, coupled with the reaction from the older demographics, in an editorial? No, but when your hometown paper's budget is thinner than a box of shoestrings........!

Friday, April 29, 2016

What Might've Been: Cover Up (1984)

After Glen A. Larsen moved his production company from Universal to 20th Century Fox, his production began to trickle down. The Fall Guy was, really, his last big hit, as the other shows he made for Fox didn't exactly have any good fortune. We've previously discussed Manimal as well as Fall Guy. Now, let's take a look at a CBS entry from Larsen/Fox that a clear case of tragic misfortune.

Cover Up told the story of a widow (Jennifer O'Neill) who takes on her late husband's job as a government agent. Her partner is a former Special Forces operative (Jon-Erik Hexum, ex-Voyagers!), who poses as a model, as the widow is a photographer by trade. The series marked the return of Richard Anderson (ex-The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Dan August) to series television.

The tragedy? Hexum died on the set a month into the season when he was playing Russian roulette with what he thought was a prop gun. It was big news at the time. Antony Hamilton, who would later resurface in the remake of Mission: Impossible, took over for Hexum, but the accidental death cast a pall over the show for the rest of the season.

CBS scheduled Cover Up on Saturday nights, and as memory serves was the first series that Larsen had sold to CBS since his days with Universal. Unfortunately, ABC still had The Love Boat. Game, set, & match.

Following is the episode, "Death in Vogue", with guest stars Herbert Jefferson, Jr., who worked for Larsen on the original Battlestar Galactica, Hoyt Axton, and Tristan Rogers (General Hospital). Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For a Hero", which was a huge hit mere months earlier, is the show's theme song, performed here by singer-voice actress E. G. Daily, who would later do another Tyler cover on The Voice several years later.

No fair rating. Never saw the show.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Musical Interlude: Runner (1984)

Manfred Mann's Earth Band scored their last major American hit with "Runner", which was released in 1984, and included on the American issues of their 1983 album, "Somewhere in Afrika". As you'll see, the video is themed to the Olympics.

Fittingly, as I write, the Olympic torch is en route to the site of this year's Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

A follow-up single, "Rebel", was also included on the American version of "Somewhere", but not other versions, and would be the last video the band would produce. Vocalist Chris Thompson  had returned to the band after releasing a solo hit, "If You Remember Me", 4 years earlier.

On The Shelf: Sometimes, pairing two icons doesn't always work

Dynamite Entertainment pulled a bit of a bait & switch with its just released miniseries, The Twilight Zone: The Shadow. You see, if you go by the cover, you'd think the pulp legend was the subject of an all new tale inspired by Rod Serling's seminal anthology series.

Well, he is.....not.

Writer Chris Roberson's story actually involves a radio actor, who bears less than a slight resemblance to Orson Welles, and not the Dark Avenger itself. I had my doubts seeing the pre-release teasers, but decided to take a chance. I was better off remaining a skeptic. Roberson's attempt at emulating Serling's writing style fails, badly. His recently concluded Doc Savage miniseries wrapped with a villain designed in the image of disabled scientist Dr. Stephen Hawking, and that might not have been by accident. Seems to me he might be going overboard cashing in on the success of the TV version of one of his earlier efforts----iZombie

Rating: C--.

Meanwhile, Dynamite brings back The Six Million Dollar Man for an all-new miniseries, launching in July. If that wasn't enough, they've signed Michael Uslan to script a generational tale that links together two generations of legendary heroes: The Lone Ranger & the Green Hornet. The idea, it seems, would be to imagine the Ranger surviving into the early days of the Hornet's career. Hmmmmmm.

Before signing on to play Malcolm Merlyn on Arrow, John Barrowman had appeared on Doctor Who and its spin-off, Torchwood, the latter of which ended after three seasons, or series, as they're called in England. Come July, there'll be a couple of books on the shelves bearing Barrowman's by-line as a writer. One is a Torchwood book that aspires to be the 4th season of the series, published by Titan Books. The other is a digital first offering from DC, Arrow: The Dark Archer, which offers the "untold story" of Malcolm Merlyn. The digital series is being collected in one handy trade paperback that fans of Arrow that don't invest in the online version will want for their collections. Something tells me DC will look at the sales of the trade and see if they can persuade Barrowman to do a follow-up. He's already done interviews on the project, in case anyone wonders.

If it seems like it's taken forever for Archie to finally relaunch Betty & Veronica, it's because it has. The 2nd volume slogged to the finish line, dropped to a bi-monthly schedule, and even then it was fraught with delays. Now, volume 3 begins in July, with acclaimed writer-artist Adam Hughes on board. The idea here is that the girls are on opposite sides when it comes to a national chain of coffee-themed restaurants settling down in Riverdale. If you've been following the revamped Archie, you know he's not undecided anymore when it comes to these two, but maybe, just maybe........! As with Archie & Jughead, the plan is to have new issues out every six weeks.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Musical Interlude: Bitter Sweet Symphony (1997)

The Verve were a 1-hit wonder with 1997's "Bitter Sweet Symphony", though vocalist Richard Ashcroft's rude bulldozing through the streets could've been replaced with a different video image.......

I love the backbeat. Wonder if they used violins........