Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Another country music channel rides into town

I was channel surfing Monday afternoon after work, and what did I find? A surprising change in digital subchannels.

Fox affiliate WXXA keeps changing its digital sub-station every couple of years or so. First, they had the Variety Channel, which lived up to its name by airing all sorts of public domain programming, including reruns of The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet (now on Retro) and Betty Boop shorts. Then, that was replaced by Untamed Sports, which was meant to be a more accessible complement to the Outdoor & Sportsman's Channels, which are premium channels where I am. Next came TheCoolTV, and while that was quickly a destination point, it didn't deliver music 24/7/365, pausing for TimeLife infomercials and a daily kids' program, the latter to meet FCC E/I guidelines.

Now, TheCoolTV quietly bids farewell, replaced by The Country Network, out of Boca Raton, Florida. They, too, will pause for kids' programming, but it's a 3-hour block on Saturdays of Gina D's Kids Club. The Country Network is linked mostly with Sinclair Broadcasting stations, and WXXA is one of the rare affiliates not linked with Sinclair (rivals WRGB & WCWN were bought by Sinclair a few months ago). The jury's out on The Country Channel, which has a playlist dating back to the 80's. As long as they don't deviate too far and start running repeats of, oh, I don't know, Desperate Housewives........

Tony Martin (1913-2012)

Most people probably remember Tony Martin for his most successful recording, "I Get Ideas", back in the 50's, but by then, Martin was well established as a singer and an actor, having appeared on radio with George Burns & Gracie Allen, and in movies with the likes of the Marx Brothers and others. Martin passed away recently at 98.

Martin was married twice, most recently to dancer-actress Cyd Charisse, who passed on back in '08. The couple even collaborated on an autobiography together to best illustrate their long marriage.

For now, let's take a look at a performance from a 1984 TV special. John Bartholomew Tucker is the announcer.



Rest in peace, Tony.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Musical Interlude: Fool (If You Think It's Over) (1978)

Chris Rea burst onto the charts in 1978 with "Fool (If You Think It's Over)", which comes from his debut record, "Whatever Happened to Benny Santini". The following video is taken from an appearance on the BBC series, Top of the Pops.


Friday, July 27, 2012

On DVD: Mr. Wong, Detective (1938)

I suppose you all assume that Boris Karloff is famous for 1) Frankenstein's monster and 2) narrating How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and not much else. Think again.

In 1938, Karloff was cast as Oriental detective James Lee Wong in a series of short features produced by Monogram Pictures. Karloff starred in 5 of the 6 movies in the series. The last, a prequel, "Phantom of Chinatown", had Keye Luke in the title role (and was previously reviewed in this space).

The opener, "Mr. Wong, Detective", finds Wong, an Oxford-educated investigator, hired by chemical magnate Simon Dayton (John Hamilton, better known for his later work as Perry White on Adventures of Superman), arriving in Dayton's office for an appointment, only for his client to have been murdered through curious means.

Monogram wanted their own inscrutable Oriental sleuth in opposition to the more well known Charlie Chan, whose rights were held by Fox at the time. A few years later, Monogram would take over the Chan license, finding it necessary to add comic relief (Mantan Moreland) where it wasn't really needed. Wong, thankfully, doesn't need comedy relief. However, Capt. Street (Grant Withers, who appeared in all 6 movies), was used as a sort of foil for Wong, befuddled by the detective's findings and theories.

Without further ado, Thevideocellar presents "Mr. Wong, Detective". Mind you, the Alpha Video DVD I have edited off the Monogram logo which appears at the beginning of this film........




I am not sure why Karloff left the series after 5 films, prompting the last to be reformatted as a prequel. One theory might be money and/or creative differences might have gotten in the way. In no way, shape, or form was Karloff used as a stereotype, as Wong speaks perfect English, the product of his Oxford training, which is the only advantage he'd have on Chan. It's too bad Wong is remembered by so few.......

Rating: B.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chad Everett (1937-2012)

Hollywood lost another TV icon, less than 24 hours after Jeffersons star Sherman Hemsley passed away. This time, Chad Everett, best remembered as Dr. Joe Gannon on CBS' Medical Center, succumbed to lung cancer at 76, a month after his birthday.

Everett had made a few movies and guest roles on TV shows such as Surfside Six before landing his first series role alongside Jack Elam on The Dakotas in 1963. Six years later, Everett was cast in Medical Center, which anchored CBS' Monday lineup during its run. Everett remained active as recently as this year, guest-starring on ABC's Castle, but his last regular role was on the pay-cable series, Mulholland Drive, for Showtime, back in 2001.

Bretmaverick2004 uploaded the open to Medical Center:



Rest in peace, Chad.

Weasel of the Week: Torrence Brown, Jr.

Less than a week after James Holmes opened fire and killed 12 people, wounding 50 others, at an Aurora, Colorado multiplex, one moviegoer decided he's going to sue Holmes' doctors, the theatre, and Warner Bros.. That makes him a Weasel in every sense of the word.

Torrence Brown, Jr. attended the midnight (MT) screening of "Dark Knight Rises" with his friend, AJ Bolk. Bolk was killed in the massacre, but Brown came out of it physically unscathed. Now, he's looking for a payday by claiming "extreme trauma". He is suing the Century 16 Theatre in Aurora for negligence by not equipping the emergency exits with alarms and/or security guards. He is suing Holmes' doctors for failing to properly supervise Holmes as reports have surfaced that Holmes was on medication for a unspecified illness. WB is being sued because "Rises"----what a shock---is deemed too violent by Brown. All the guy wants is accountability.

The problem is, he's calling attention to himself, and not to his late friend, Bolk, or any of the other victims. As noted, Brown wasn't injured. He's just another guy who thinks filing a lawsuit will equal an easy payday, never mind the fact that whatever settlement he gets----and I doubt he'll ever get any----will be parsed out to his lawyers before he gets to spend any money. He's failing to take into account that maybe Holmes had cut whatever alarms were in the building before he started his attack. The Century 16, like most theatres not located in malls, probably has to rely on police for security in case of riots or fights. Maybe they did have one or two off-duty officers or security guards on call, but there's no guarantee they'd respond as quick as Brown would've liked.

It's a clear case of a man looking to leech some fame at the expense of other people's suffering and tragedy. That makes him a Weasel.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Two more say farewell

To say that death has been busy lately would be a gross understatement. Hollywood has lost two more beloved actors in recent days.

Ginny Tyler began working in radio in her native Seattle in the 30's, then came to Hollywood to join The Mickey Mouse Club, and was promoted to head Mouseketeer in 1963 to host reruns of the original series. Cartoon fans will recognize her voice from her work on Davey & Goliath, Space Ghost, and in Disney's "The Sword & The Stone", among other credits. Ginny left us nearly 2 weeks ago at 86.

When Sherman Hemsley was cast as George Jefferson on All In The Family as a point-counterpoint to Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), he not only became a player on the other side in relation to Archie's bigoted ways, but he also became just as much a cherished television icon. The Jeffersons was spun off from Family in 1975, and lasted 10 seasons. Rights to the series belong to TV One and I'm not sure if TV Land still has a share. Not one to rest on his laurels, Hemsley returned to television on Amen, acting opposite Clifton Davis (ex-That's My Mama), who ironically is now a real-life minister. Amen didn't last as long as The Jeffersons, but Deacon Ernest Frye was every bit as cranky and selfish as ol' George.

In the 90's, Hemsley was reunited with Jeffersons co-star Isabel Sanford for a dramatic guest turn on, of all places, Lois & Clark:The New Adventures of Superman, and did a couple of ads for Old Navy. Hemsley passed away earlier today in his home in El Paso at 74. Cause of death, as of press time, is undetermined.

Following is the open to The Jeffersons, from one of the first episodes.



Rest in peace, Sherman & Ginny.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Musical Interlude: Rocket (1987)

Def Leppard paid tribute to the musical heroes of their youth in 1987's "Rocket", off their CD, "Hysteria". Listen close, and you'll hear singer Joe Elliott name-check songs by the Beatles, Elton John, and David Bowie, among others (regarding Bowie, Elliott references Ziggy Stardust and the 1969 song, "Space Oddity"), and there are stills or video clips of Bowie, T-Rex, the Beatles, Freddie Mercury (Queen), and Gary Glitter, plus news bytes of British Prime Minister Edmund Heath and former President Richard Nixon.

Uploaded by choppothegreat1:

A little too much punishment

Earlier today, the NCAA announced that Penn State's football program would face severe sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

For starters, the school was fined a whopping $60 million dollars, with the money earmarked to go to an endowment to benefit the welfare of children. The football program is barred from the postseason for 4 years and is on probation for 5. The school can only offer 15 football scholarships per year for the next 4 years. Incoming or returning student-athletes now have the option of transferring to another school and retaining their athletic eligibility for this season.

But the biggest penalty affects the record of the late Joe Paterno, whose legacy has been irrevocably tarnished by the Sandusky scandal and last week's Freeh Report tying the legendary coach to a institutional cover-up. 111 victories, encompassing a 14 year period from 1998, the year Sandusky was first accused of child molestation, through 2011, have been vacated, dropping Paterno from 1st to 5th on the all-time victory list, reinstating Grambling's Eddie Robinson to the top spot overall, with retired Florida State coach Bobby Bowden once more the #1 winningest coach in Division 1-A.

To the players who were on the field over those 14 seasons, that hardly seems fair, but NCAA President Mark Emmert was not in any position to be fair at all. This was more about sending a clear-cut message that no program, no matter how elite, pristine, or lauded, is immune to NCAA sanctions. Not anymore. No more   trips to Namby-Pamby Land when it comes to meting out the punishment. Emmert might as well have been the reincarnation of Judge Roy Bean, even if he looks more like a distant cousin of Newt Gingrich.

As I wrote previously, Paterno was being tossed under the bus, six months after his passing. His family has said they will conduct their own investigation, obviously with an eye toward vindication and correcting what they feel is a haphazard decision made to appease the growing sentiment against the late coach. He did what he felt he was supposed to do, but that his superiors, such as Graham Spanier & Tim Curley, did exactly nothing. Why the Freeh Report claims Paterno was just as culpable, I cannot fully fathom.

Penn State removed the statue of Paterno in front of Beaver Stadium on Sunday. 24 hours later, Mark Emmert lowered the boom, stopping short of making Penn State the 2nd football program to suffer the death penalty. Southern Methodist is the only one, back in the 80's. Come September 1, Beaver Stadium will still be packed for a non-league home opener vs. Ohio, with ex-New England Patriots assistant Bill O'Brien at the helm to begin a new era. It will take a few years for the Nittany Lions to regain their former stature on the field, even longer for the truth to restore Paterno to his rightful place in football history. His on the field accomplishments shouldn't have to have been penalized because of a perceived lack of action off it. The NCAA will claim Penn State was lacking institutional control by not getting rid of Sandusky sooner and getting him help. They enabled him to protect their image.

The message sent to the other programs is clear. Screw the images. As they say in New York in those MTA ads, if you see something, say something. Don't play see-no-evil with it. Penn State did, and look what it got them.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Videos of Summer: Pinch Me (2000)

Canada's Barenaked Ladies returned to the charts in 2000 with "Pinch Me", the first single off the CD, "Maroon".

Lead vocalist Ed Robertson is a bored, perhaps depressed worker at a restaurant which is supposed to be a send-up of the Big Boy chain, though I'm not sure what the Canadian equivalent might be. The clientele---and in a few scenes, the band---are dressed in homage to the Nickelodeon series, Blue's Clues. It's either that, or a fan convention for PBS' Zoom, take your pick. Look close for a cameo by actor Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) as one of said customers.

For what it's worth, guitarist-vocalist Steven Page is under heavy makeup as the restaurant mascot brought magically to life in the closing segment of the video. One dance routine late in the clip is another homage, this one to the June Taylor Dancers from The Jackie Gleason Show. If you remember back that far, you'll get the reference.

Uploaded by Nettwork Records' YouTube channel:


Friday, July 20, 2012

On the Air: Monday Night Raw (1993)

On July 23, WWE Monday Night Raw marks 1000 episodes. Of course, they're bragging that they've logged more episodes than any other primetime show. Well, at least they're qualifying it, since there are daytime shows that have racked up more episodes.

WWE's feat took 19 1/2 years to accomplish, as Raw first hit the air as a 1 hour broadcast on January 11, 1993, live from New York City. Vince McMahon was at the mic, partnered with locally based radio personality Rob Bartlett, who was otherwise one of Don Imus' sidekicks back then, and the late Macho Man Randy Savage. This trio didn't last the year, as Bartlett was gone, I believe, before the series reached its first anniversary. Savage left some time after that, his seat filled by Jerry "The King" Lawler, who's been there for the most part since, save for a lengthy stretch in 2001.

Raw, in the course of its evolution over 2 decades, not only brought pro wrestling back to primetime television after a long absence, but also was the gateway that led WWE away from traditional pro wrestling to "sports entertainment". We should've known then that McMahon, long hailed as a visionary as well as a bit of a maverick, was gradually going off the deep end in real life before he reinvented himself by creating the on-screen persona of a ruthless executive who didn't care what the fans thought or wanted. Some say that the "Mr. McMahon" persona was an extension of who the man was behind the scenes.

We know now that McMahon, who'll be 66 next month, lost his creative touch a long, long time ago. Savage passed away last year. Bartlett's current whereabouts are unknown, as I don't think he's still with Imus, either, and I doubt he'll be invited to the party on Monday. Bobby Heenan, whom you'll see in an opening skit with Sean Mooney, retired a few years later due to throat cancer, and was later inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Mooney moved on and is now working for Fox Sports Net out west.

Now, then, let's set the WABAC machine to January 11, 1993, with the help of WWE's YouTube channel.



Rating: B-.

A gunman opens fire at the movies. What's next?

What hath Rush Limbaugh wrought this time?

Apparently, and this is just a guess, the talk-radio gasbag's commentary on a Washington columnist's assertion that "The Dark Knight Rises" had political subtexts related to GOP candidate Mitt Romney, struck a chord in one James Holmes, 24, prompting the young man to don riot gear and break into a midnight screening of "Rises" in his home city of Aurora, Colorado earlier this morning. He tossed out some tear gas, and began shooting. 12 dead, several others wounded, including a 3 month old baby.

What isn't clear as of this writing is what motivated Holmes. An early background check drew the conclusion that Holmes had no links to any terrorist organizations here or abroad. A bomb was found in the theatre, and Holmes admitted to police he had explosives at home. His mother, contacted in San Diego, spoke with ABC earlier this morning, and said she'd not been contacted by police at that point, but then said she needed to fly out to Colorado to visit her son and find out more information. If more parents took responsibility for their children's action as grown adults, I don't think we'd have too many of these sorry cases.

Warner Bros. announced that a planned premiere in Paris was being cancelled. While there is no indication as to why, one must assume there are concerns about a possible copycat attack. Factor in the Summer Olympics starting in London next week, and you can understand why there were concerns about terrorism. I can only guess, again, but I'd not be surprised if security was heightened at theatres across the country, as "Rises" opens in wider release today.

I'm willing to guess that if Limbaugh didn't open his yap and fan political flames in relation to the movie so soon before its opening, none of this would've happened. It's enough that there are comics fanatics up in arms over pre-release negative reviews, such as Christy Lemire of the Associated Press, whose critique appeared in some papers on Wednesday. We don't need another misguided political reactionary adding further damage.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Celebrity Rock: Deeply (1977)

During his run on Happy Days (1974-84), Anson Williams decided to give it a whirl as a pop singer. As Warren "Potsie" Weber, Williams had covered a number of classic oldies on the show, and so an opportunity was created for him to perform an original number, composed by the series' musical directors, Norman Gimbel & Charles Fox.

I cannot say for sure when "Deeply" was released as a single, but it's clearly aimed at the adult contemporary audience as well as the Top 40. The setting is a graduation ball for Jefferson High, so I'd guess this would be around 1978-9. Funny thing. As much as I'd seen reruns of the series, this is actually the first time I've heard this song.



Edit: 7/19/15: I've since learned this aired originally in February 1977, and "Deeply" was released as a single at the end of the season.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dunce Cap Award: Rush Limbaugh

A while back, radio gasbag Rush Limbaugh was cited as a Weasel of the Week for his haranguing of a college student who took a stand on contraception. It should've been inevitable, then, that Limbaugh would put his foot in his mouth again, but this time collecting a Dunce Cap for his lame remarks.

On Tuesday, Limbaugh went on the air and condemned the new movie, "The Dark Knight Rises", as an attack on Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, all because the lead villain is a guy named Bane. Romney, in case you've been living under a rock, has had some connection to Bain Capital. The spelling of the name is totally different, but try telling that to Limbaugh, who hurled some accusations at co-writer/director Christopher Nolan and Warner Brothers. He claims that, given the four year lead time between "The Dark Knight" (2008) and "Rises", which is set 8 years after the last film, that there's been a debate over the selection of Bane, a character introduced in the comics nearly 20 years ago, and whether or not there was any intent on the part of Nolan---purely for political reasons, Limbaugh asserts---to influence voters.

To Limbaugh, I say, GET A FREAKIN' CLUE!


Limbaugh then referenced a blog from the Washington Times that made the same dumb-as-dirt assumption. Apparently, Limbaugh hasn't been up to speed on comics, particularly Batman, else he'd know that Bane came along a year before Romney made his first bid for political office. It's well known, however, that the movie was being shot while the Occupy movement was in full swing in New York last year, but that just happened to be a coincidence of timing.

Bad timing, then, for Limbaugh to present himself yet again as being as sharp as a dead tree stump. Lucky for him that Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? has ceased production, otherwise, he'd be a candidate for embarassment on that show. Hope he likes the Dunce Cap.

Weasel of the Week: Sheriff Joseph Arpaio

Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joseph Arpaio is in the news for two reasons. Try to guess which one gets him the weasel ears.

On the one hand, it seems that Arizona's controversial anti-immigration law got the attention of actor-comic George Lopez, who made light of it with some remarks directed toward Arpaio in a stand-up comedy special that aired on HBO over the weekend. Arpaio responded by inviting Lopez to meet him for a "Mexican lunch". Arpaio, known, according to Yahoo!, as "America's Toughest Sheriff", has been outspoken about illegal immigration, but it is another cause celebre that raised the profile even higher.

See, since March, Arpaio has conducted an investigation into the legitimacy of a certain birth certificate. Yep, the issue over President Obama's place of birth has come up again, and Arpaio is convinced that the document released by the White House in April is fake. 

Who is he trying to fool?

Arpaio is 80, still serving his home county at an age when most men are retired and enjoying their golden years. A 95 year old former state worker, who had signed the President's birth certificate, explained some of the numeric codes on the certificate that Arpaio and his staff couldn't quite understand. Well, guess what, Sheriff Jabroni, it's none of your concern! Why can't you and the birthers leave the President alone?

I get that this sort of thing is bound to come up during an election year, and the nation is divided over whether or not President Obama is worthy of a second term in office. Officials in Hawaii, of course, verified yet again on Tuesday that the chief executive was a native Hawaiian. Joshua Wisch, a special assistant to Hawaii's attorney general, dismissed Arpaio's claims as "untrue" and that they "misconstrue Hawaii law".

Of course, Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who'd stand the most to gain from this outrageous grandstand play, has not said anything publicly about this latest imbroglio. Just as well, too, because if he were to even so much as endorse this fool's folly, it would cost him the election.

Back in the day, the United Negro College Fund ran some PSA's with the slogan, "a mind is a terrible thing to waste". One wonders why Sheriff Arpaio is even bothering to waste his time and the taxpayers' money to further someone else's smear campaign against the President. Apparently, the only reason he's still sheriff is because he's just unwilling to step down and let someone else carry on his work. In this case, it might be time for him to consider grooming a successor.

Just as long as that successor has an open mind and isn't looking for weasel ears to wear as an accessory.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

William Asher (1921-2012)

He was credited with creating the television situation comedy, or, sitcom. Most people might remember William Asher's name in the credits for Bewitched, which starred then-wife Elizabeth Montgomery, but the prolific director's career was much more than that.

Asher, who passed away Monday at 90 from Alzheimer's Disease, also helmed episodes of shows as diverse as Our Miss Brooks, I Love Lucy, Make Room For Daddy, The Colgate Comedy Hour, Racket Squad, Alice, & The Dukes of Hazzard, with his last series of note being Kay O'Brien in 1986.

Asher also directed some of the Frankie Avalon beach party movies, which fellow blogger Sam Wilson referenced over at Mondo 70. During the Bewitched era, Asher & Montgomery formed their own production company, Ashmont, which continued after their divorce in 1973. After Bewitched ended in 1972, Ashmont placed two new shows on ABC's schedule, Temperatures Rising, which was a showcase for Cleavon Little moreso than for James Whitmore, and The Paul Lynde Show, which put the Hollywood Squares & Bewitched icon as a family man, but when that series bombed, Lynde replaced Whitmore on Temperatures, only to see that flop as well. The last project that I can recall being under the Ashmont banner was Tabitha (1977), with Lisa Hartman starring in the belated spinoff from Bewitched.

Rest in peace, William.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A busy weekend for death

Time for another round of what fellow blogger Ivan Shreve calls, "the passings parade", but before we do that, let's take a look at some hometown news.

In Albany, one of the city's popular tourist attractions, the Aqua Ducks, which travels on land and sea, ended an 8 year run on Sunday. The vehicles are, as we speak, en route to their "retirement" destination in Key West, Florida, having been sold recently. Declining business due to the economics of today would be the only reason this decision was made.

Now, on to the obituaries.

Author Steven Covey passed away over the weekend at 79 due to injuries sustained in a bicycle accident in April. Covey's best known book is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but Covey was also known as a respected motivational speaker.

Oscar winning actress Celeste Holm left us at 95. Her passing earned a rightfully large write-up in today's New York Daily News, but other papers may have given her less space for editorial reasons.

Donald J. Sobel introduced readers to a juvenile crimestopper 49 years ago, and 80 books later, Encyclopedia Brown may be solving his last cases. Sobel's 80th book, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Schemers, is due later this year. According to Yahoo!, there had been some interest in Hollywood in adapting the long running book series into a feature film, but despite the support of stars such as Chevy Chase and Anthony Hopkins, it hasn't happened yet. There was, however, an Encyclopedia Brown series that aired on HBO a number of years back. Sobel was 87.

Finally, it was reported within the last hour that country music pioneer Kitty Wells had passed on at the age of 92. Wells' biggest hit came in 1952 with "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels". Manbehindthescreen1 uploaded this video to YouTube:



Farewell, then, to the Ducks, and to the others we say, rest in peace.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sounds of Praise: Revelation (2008)

It's been a while since I posted a gospel video, and so I found this performance clip of Third Day's "Revelation", from the CD of the same name. The band appeared on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson in November 2008, a few months after the CD had been released.

In Theatres: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

10 years ago, Sam Raimi brought Spider-Man to the big screen, and put together three epic thrillers in the space of 5 years, with Tobey Maguire in the webs. Raimi's only flaw, it seemed, was skipping past Peter Parker's first true love, Gwen Stacy, who was reduced to a convienent plot device in "Spider-Man 3", and going straight to Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), only because MJ was Peter's wife in the comics, and still is in the newspaper strip (Thank GOD!). Raimi knew how to utilize the characters available to him, even if the quality of the writing started to slip with the last film.

Unfortunately, the bottom line-obsessed corporate nerds at Sony decided they wanted to hit the reset button, rather than give in to Raimi's request to use a classic villain, the Vulture (Ben Kingsley would've been perfect as Adrian Toombs). Exit Raimi, Maguire, & Dunst. Enter the appropriately named Marc Webb ("(500) Days of Summer"), Andrew Garfield ("The Social Network"), & Emma Stone, the latter cast as Gwen. Mary Jane is nowhere to be found this time, and neither is J. Jonah Jameson (played by J. K. Simmons in the Raimi movies), who is more of an intregal part of Spider-history. And that's just the beginning of the errors plaguing "The Amazing Spider-Man".

We begin with a young Peter being taken by his father, Richard (Campbell Scott) to the home of his Aunt May (Sally Field, ex-Brothers & Sisters) & Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen, ex-The West Wing), so they can care for Peter while Richard and wife Mary go away for a while. A few years later, Peter discovers that his parents have died. In the comics, Richard & Mary Parker didn't become a focus until the late 90's, when someone at Marvel, marking the 35th anniversary of Spider-Man, decided that the Parkers were secretly spies. In the movie, Richard is a scientist who had been working on a genetic experiment with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).

This is also wrong. In the comics, Connors had been working alone, for one, and had a wife & son, who are not seen in the movie. The writers, including Alvin Sargent, who had worked on the entire Raimi trilogy, fumbled the ball big time by ignoring the sympathetic aspect of Connors' character. By tying Spider-Man's origin to that of Connors' morphing into the Lizard, those writers are making the same mistake the scribes behind 2005's "Fantastic Four" made, and I never thought I'd see such shoddy ignorance of comics history again. Sargent, for one, should've known better.

Another mistake was the way Ben was killed off. In the comics, and in Raimi's first film, it was a prowler in the Parker house who killed Ben. Instead, you have an ordinary street thug who shoots Ben after a brief struggle while Ben is walking the streets, looking for Peter after an argument. The thug robbed the same store that Peter had been in, trying to buy chocolate milk. In the comics, Peter had already created his costume and had been attempting to get into show business when he let a crook pass. Again, Sargent should've known better, but the blame falls on James Vanderbilt, credited with having written the story. Who is this guy trying to fool?

Where else do these scribbling idiots go wrong? I'm not sure if in the comics Gwen was ever privy to Peter's secret, and we do know that her father, Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary, currently heard in "Ice Age: Continental Drift"), had known before his passing. How he knew, I'm not sure, but in the movie, he finds out by unmasking Spidey after capturing him. Like, he didn't need Jameson to point the way for him now, did he? However, once he realizes Gwen's aware of the secret and is helping Peter in attempting to thwart Lizard, Capt. Stacy lets him go. Stacy then sacrifices himself in the line of duty (though in the comics, the Lizard had nothing to do with Stacy's death, as most fans know) to help Spider-Man save the city.

Of course, co-creator Stan Lee gets his obligatory cameo in, this time a silent spot as a school librarian listening to some music. Cute. Leary was just flat out brilliant, one of the few bright spots in the flick. Garfield was way too awkward in trying to capture the wiseacre Spidey of the early days, and his scenes with Stone (now his real-life honey) were also uneven. I just wasn't feeling this at all. Ifans was fine, and we get a hint that an old foe may resurface in the next film (and there will be one).

My only other problem might've been with Sally Field. Sure, the years have finally caught up with her, and she is no longer the eternally youthful actress who charmed us in Gidget, The Flying Nun, "Norma Rae", and so many other films, but May Parker was originally written as being frail and physically fragile. Field's May is only emotionally fragile, not physically, and she's anything but frail.

The trailer block offered us the following:

"The Dark Knight Rises" (opening Friday). Like, it has its flaws, which I'll discuss after seeing it, but it is storytelling 101, something "Amazing Spider-Man" is not.

"The Watch" (July 27). Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, & Jonah Hill in a community watch program, going after aliens. Nothing good can come from this.

"Lawless" (August). Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman follow up "Dark Knight Rises" with this ensemble drama.

"Here Comes The Boom". Kevin James, a big time wrestling fan who was on a high school wrestling team with ring legend Mick Foley in Long Island, tries MMA. With Henry Winkler & Bas Rutten.

"Total Recall" (August). Colin Farrell tries one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's old roles. Kate Beckinsdale & Jessica Biel provide the eye candy. It's going to take some convincing to prove it's better than the original from more than 20 years ago.

And speaking of trailers, here's one for "Amazing Spider-Man":



Rating: D.

Friday, July 13, 2012

And, so, the other Idol shoe drops......

Yahoo! is reporting that, after much speculation and contemplation, singer-actress Jennifer Lopez is leaving American Idol after 2 seasons, following Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler out the door. Yahoo! & Us Magazine are also reporting that the lone original judge left, Randy Jackson, may leave the judges' table, too, moving into a mentoring role for season 12, still ticketed to start in January, meaning that the entire panel will have gotten a makeover.

There are rumors floating involving a past Idol runner-up, Adam Lambert, who would conceivably fill Tyler's chair, or Jackson's if he does step away, and singers Mariah Carey and Sarah Ferguson, aka Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, and no stranger to talent contests (as a member of Wild Orchid, Ferguson hosted the kid-centric Great Pretenders, which came and went before Idol even launched), being the front-runners to take over the judges' table next season.

Carey's selection would be a coincidence since Jackson is her manager, and husband Nick Cannon is the host of NBC's America's Got Talent, which, while not a direct competitor, is cut from the same basic cloth. Mariah would almost certainly be placed in the chair occupied by Lopez, and before her, Ellen DeGeneres & Paula Abdul.

Yesterday, I wrote that it wouldn't be out of the question for producers to invite Abdul back after three years away, and that's still possible if talks with the other candidates fall through. It should be noted that X Factor, which dumped Paula after 1 year, is skewing younger with Britney Spears and Demi Lovato (ex-Sonny With A Chance) filling the seats vacated by Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger (who is doing the UK version of Factor) for season 2 in the fall.

I still think, though, that the clock is ticking, and no amount of changes can prevent the inevitable from happening.

A new way to kick a man when he's down

Joe Paterno's last months as head football coach at Penn State were marred by the growing scandal surrounding former assistant Jerry Sandusky, who last month was convicted on child sex abuse charges. When Paterno passed away in January, he was hailed, and at the time, rightfully so, as one of the most successful coaches in Division 1 football. Six months later, the media is quick to reverse their long standing beatification of Paterno, turning him from a saint to a sinner, and all because, according to a just released report, he knew more than he was letting on about Sandusky.

They are calling for the statue erected in Paterno's honor outside Beaver Stadium to be torn down. The school, clearly, is in damage control mode, and is working to erase everything linked to Paterno, as if a career spanning six decades must now be removed from history. In comics, we call that retconning. In life, we call it kicking a man when he's down and unable to defend himself. In this case, it's been six months since Paterno passed away.

He still has his defenders, including former players like Matt Millen, now a broadcaster for ABC/ESPN. In defense of Paterno, what Sandusky did to these kids had no effect or bearing on what happened on the field. No effect on the students who wore those blue & white uniforms with honor, dignity, and pride. No effect on the Nittany Lions' most devoted fans. But because it happened on school property, Paterno, along with his now-former superiors, is being held culpable in covering up Sandusky's dirty secrets.

If you go by the spin doctoring in the media now, the picture of Penn State as an elite, pristine university is forever tarnished by the fact it housed a pedophile who preyed on unsuspecting children and hid behind an administration more committed to protecting the school's image than doing the right thing. Paterno, six months into the grave, is being thrown under the bus.

Former FBI director Louis Freeh's investigation supposedly has uncovered all the facts, but as of now, there's been no comment from the Paterno family. This story is far from over.

I am reminded of something that happened five years ago in the WWE. Wrestler Chris Benoit had died suddenly, and Vince McMahon made the snap decision to suspend storylines for a week to honor the former champion. By the end of the week, after a tribute show had been taped for Friday Night Smackdown, the grisly truth came out, that Benoit had slain his wife, Nancy, and son Daniel, then committed suicide. McMahon's reaction was sudden, swift, and, in typical McMahon fashion, vindictive. He decreed that there would be no more references to Benoit on WWE television, despite everything he'd accomplished. Any older tapes of him from his ECW or WCW days would have references to him deleted. In the blink of an eye, Benoit had gone from saint to pariah. He would never be considered for the WWE's Hall of Fame.

In contrast, Joe Paterno is already in the College Football Hall of Fame. Would they take the unusual step of ejecting him from that shrine? I doubt it. The Hall of Fame is about on-field accomplishment. After all, many a player enshrined in Cooperstown's Baseball Hall of Fame had some character flaws to them, too, but no one's calling for them to be tossed out. I'd rather we remembered Paterno for what he did on the field, mentoring generations of athletes, winning championships. The scandal-obsessed media would rather smear all that by focusing on the scandal that forced Paterno out of Penn State in November, dashing the Nittany Lions' Big 10 title hopes in the process. Until we learn the whole story, no matter how sordid it is, the knee-jerk reactions and demands will continue to echo until they are heard and fulfilled. And they shouldn't be.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Maybe it's time to retire American Idol

We're still six months away from another season of American Idol, but even though Fox has it on its winter schedule, should they even go ahead with it for another year?

I ask because they may have to start hunting around for new judges again to work with the Last Original Judge, Randy Jackson. Jennifer Lopez is being coy about leaving. Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, on the other hand, made his intentions crystal clear earlier today when it was reported that he was leaving after 2 seasons.

Suffice it to say that Tyler had his fair share of tabloid moments in his 2 years on Idol, but he embarassed himself with a campy commercial for Burger King that made the rounds a few weeks back (I'd post it here, but it is not worth the time), easily the lamest of the series that also featured Salma Hayek, soccer star David Beckham (twice), and The Tonight Show's Jay Leno.

As for J-Lo, to borrow a line from an old Clairol shampoo ad, will she or won't she come back. She's dropped hints that she won't return. If she doesn't return, well, in this writer's opinion, that leaves the door open for Paula Abdul to return. A reunion with Simon Cowell on The X-Factor didn't work so well, and she was bounced after 1 season there. I am not sure about the series she did for CBS earlier this year, but if that also was a failure, suffice to say it might not take much for Nigel Lythgoe and Simon Fuller to pick up the phone and ask her to come back "home". Over the last couple of seasons, they've tried out Ellen DeGeneres, who left after 1 year, and Lopez as replacements for Paula, but while it hasn't been admitted yet, I'd venture to guess that there is a certain amount of discomfort in filling the center chair.

In Tyler's case, there ain't exactly a rush to find another aging rocker to fill the void. About the best candidate for the job might be former Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider. I honestly can't think of anyone else at this point.

Meanwhile, NBC's The Voice is welcoming singer Michael Buble for next season, but no indication if anyone is actually leaving, insofar as I know. All I read about when it comes to America's Got Talent isn't so much the contestants themselves, but rather a feud between Howie Mandel (ex-Deal or No Deal) and Howard Stern, who joined the show this season after Piers Morgan left for CNN. Mandel, in case you haven't paid attention, replaced David Hasselhoff, who's off mooching Cumberland Farms coffee these days.

Is it safe to assume that all of these talent shows are in line to jump the shark? Yes. However, as long as these shows continue to deliver the ratings the networks want, they'll press on, however gamely. Fox has six months to figure out if they can deliver a 12th season for American Idol, or otherwise find something different that would be more appealing to an underserved corner of the audience. If in fact Jennifer Lopez does follow Steven Tyler out the door, some disreputable rags will start the death march, knowing they ain't going to have the annual fabricated tales of these shows being rigged to fall back on.

If this is the end of American Idol, Fox only has itself to blame, because the true jump the shark moment may have come one of three ways:

1) when they added a 4th judge (Kara Dioguardi), who lasted two seasons, or
2) when Paula Abdul left, or
3) when Simon Cowell left.

There is such a thing as overmilking the golden goose when it runs dry. It's happened before, it'll happen again, and it'll keep happening as long as network executives don't know when to say when in terms of a show peaking and leaving on top. They tried syndicating reruns of Idol (the short-lived American Idol Revisited), and that didn't work, either. Heck, that might as well be option 4 for a jump the shark moment.

You just know Randy Jackson's wondering where his dawgs are at. Hmmmm. He wouldn't be too tempted to call in Mario Lopez, who's hosting America's Next Dance Crew on MTV, would he? Ya never know, dawg.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Musical Interlude: Wichita Lineman (1968)

A few months back, I posted a video of Glen Campbell's latest, and last, single, "Ghost on the Canvas", the title track from his farewell album. Glen's been one of my favorites for years, and I actually had a few of his early 45's that I acquired via flea markets and antique shops in the 80's before selling off my vinyl collection to clear some space.

To be honest, I gained a greater appreciation for one of Glen's early classics, "Wichita Lineman", after hearing a heartfelt, spot-on cover by Freedy Johnston in Albany a few years ago. To me, the original is still the best, but that's not to slight Johnston, who did the song justice in his own right. 2old2Rock uploaded this performance clip from The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, with Glen spinning his tale of the lonesome "Wichita Lineman"......


Casting a wary eye on the diamond for the second half

Now that the Major League Baseball All-Star Game has come and gone, it's time to consider what could happen during the second half of the season and in the push toward the post-season.

National League: No one expected Washington to still be in first place at the break, but here they are. Given that Davey Johnson is the manager, there have to be parallels to his Mets teams of the 80's. The Nationals have two young phenoms in pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper (think back to Dwight Gooden & Darryl Strawberry). They have a fan base hungry for a championship (when the Mets won in 1986, it'd been 17 years since their first title). They play all 27 outs, and while they've had their share of injuries, like everyone else, the Nationals have continued to defy the experts.

Will they hang on? That remains to be seen. Atlanta & the Mets are on their tails. Philadelphia has gotten their two big bats, Chase Utley & Ryan Howard, back in the lineup, but they're now waiting for ace Roy Halladay to come off the DL. Miami, after all the money that was spent by owner Jeff Loria, needs a second half surge just as big as Philadelphia's to reverse a poor start. I just don't see it.

Over in the Central, it's been 20 years since the Pittsburgh Pirates were in the playoffs. Back then, they had a then-rising superstar in Barry Bonds. Now, like the Nationals, the Pirates have defied expectations, and moved past Cincinnati into first place before the break. Aside from Mets pitcher RA Dickey, this is the feel-good story of the year, a storied franchise emerging from two decades of decline. Yes, they have to hold off the Reds & Cardinals to get back to the playoffs, but I wouldn't count the Bucs out just yet. Out west, the Dodgers have had to get by without All-Star Matt Kemp for a good chunk of the first half with hamstring issues, and it didn't help that he was eliminated in the first round of Monday's Home Run Derby. For 2nd year manager Don Mattingly, it's about validating management's faith in him to lead the team. How fitting would it be, then, if the Dodgers were to renew old post-season hostilities with Mattingly's old team, the Yankees, come October? That would be a story all by itself.

American League: For all the hype surrounding Bobby Valentine taking over in Boston, the Red Sox have been beset by injuries to some of their key players, not unlike the Phillies. And it just keeps getting worse, with former MVP Dustin Pedroia the latest to be disabled. Meanwhile, the Yankees have asserted themselves as the beasts of the East, but they'd have to have a collapse on the level of the Red Sox & Braves from last year not to advance. As long as the White Sox remain in contention at least, first-year manager Robin Ventura will get votes for Manager of the Year in the AL (it'll be between Mattingly, Johnson, & Terry Collins in the NL). I believe they are assured of at least a wild card, provided they're not overtaken by any combination of Detroit, Cleveland, or even Minnesota, and you know the Twins will make a run. They always do. In Kansas City, the fans there are in need of sensitivity training after the break. 'Nuff said there.

Out west, it's down to, as expected, the Rangers & Angels. It took Albert Pujols more time than expected to adjust to the American League's snail's pace level of play and pitching. Meanwhile, the media is going gaga over rookie Mike Trout. The Rangers haven't missed a beat. After all, all they did was replace CJ Wilson (now with the Angels) with Japanese star Yu Darvish, and it's as if nothing's really changed.

As far as the Mets go, they too can't seem to shake the injury bug. Dillon Gee is the latest victim, having used the break to have a blood clot removed from his pitching shoulder on Tuesday. Miguel Batista goes back into the starting rotation until Gee comes back, but Batista's been shaky. The Mets got pitcher Chris Schwinden back last week after he'd been claimed first by Cleveland, then Toronto, and finally, the Yankees, before returning to the Mets, who sent him back to Buffalo. The Indians, oh, by the way, also claimed utilityman Vinny Rottino last month on waivers. The Mets sit in 3rd place in the East, chasing Washington & Atlanta, but they have to watch out for Miami & Philadelphia and avoid another collapse.

Back at home, no one thought the Tri-City Valleycats would be this good this quickly in Stubby Clapp's second season, but the 'Cats sit atop the Stedler division, thanks to an 11 game win streak that ended when the 'Cats were swept by State College last week at home. Tri-City is on the road for the rest of the week, with three games in the hub of Little League, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, tonight through Friday. The way I look at it is, it's an even numbered year. The 'Cats have won all their division titles and the league title in even numbered years, winning it all in 2010 (also won the division in 2004 and 2006). If the pattern holds, fans can plan on some extra baseball in Troy in September.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Celebrity Rock: Blame It (2009)

Actor-comic-singer Jamie Foxx, emboldened by his success in "Ray", has been splitting his time between movies and recording in recent years. If you'll recall, Jamie made his singing debut on In Living Color, but he'd probably get hated on for resorting to using Auto-Tune to augument his vocals for "Blame It", the first single from his 2009 CD, "Intuition".

Director Hype Williams loaded up on guest stars. Jamie is joined on vocals by the King of Auto-Tune himself, T-Pain, plus guest appearances by Jake Gyllenhall, Ron Howard, Forest Whitaker, Samuel L. Jackson, and an uncredited Quincy Jones (how can you miss the Q-Man, anyway?). And to think this musical comeback started not with "Ray", but by appearing in a video with the likes of Busta Rhymes and Diddy.

Uploaded by jerfanian:



One thing I don't get. How could Jamie have been wearing that panda head the whole time when he was in a scene with the panda-man earlier? Someone else obviously had the panda head for most of the video.......

A fresh collection of weasels & dunces, and some other things

I had fun doing this montage of topical matters a while back, so here we are again, with weasel ears & dunce caps to hand out.

Weasel #1: Robinson Cano. The Yankees' 2nd baseman was the team captain of the 4-man AL team in the Home Run Derby last night in Kansas City. The fact that Detroit's Prince Fielder won the Derby became secondary to the fact that the paying customers in attendance booed Cano out of the building.

What was his offense? Supposedly, he'd made a promise to try to pick a player from the host Royals for the Derby, but failed. He went with Fielder, Jose Bautista (Toronto), & Mark Trumbo (Angels). That an AL player would win was guaranteed when three of the four NL sluggers, including team captain Matt Kemp (Dodgers), were eliminated, along with Cano, in the first round of play, and the last NL man, St. Louis' Carlos Beltran, was KO'd in round 2, along with Trumbo, leaving Bautista & Fielder. The KC fans showed their lack of respect for the league by ragging on Cano, which gives them a collection of Dunce Caps to pass around.

Weasel #2: Ian Desmond. The Washington shortstop was chosen as a reserve to back up St. Louis' Rafael Furcal, but then it was reported on Saturday that Desmond was pulling out due to an oblique strain. How, then, to explain Desmond being able to play against Colorado Saturday & Sunday, and hitting home runs in both games? If he's got a strained oblique muscle, and that injury has sidelined some players for lengthy periods, it sure didn't seem that way over the weekend.

Here's the thing. Desmond could still play, even if it was maybe an inning or two at the end of the game. Plus, he'd have a day or two off before the Nationals' next game. I get that he wants to be a maximum health for the Nats' stretch run, but he's not exactly winning respect from his peers by dropping out of his 1st All-Star Game three days before.

Weasel #3: National sports media. It isn't just in New York that the media is crapping on NL manager Tony LaRussa, who retired after leading the Cardinals to the World Series last fall, for choosing San Francisco's Matt Cain over the Mets' RA Dickey as the NL starter. Associated Press columnist Jim Litke took LaRussa to task in his column, which appeared in today's papers. It isn't because LaRussa was concerned over the effect of the knuckleball, Dickey's #1 pitch, on Cain's teammate, Buster Posey. It's more a case of the fans voting Posey in as the starting catcher, and it made more sense to have Cain, then, start the game, working with Posey, since they already have a rapport and continuity. LaRussa has promised that Dickey will not share the fate of fellow knuckler Tim Wakefield, who was on the AL team 3 years ago, but never got into the game.

Weasel #4: US Anti-Doping Agency. These shadowy zealots won't leave 7-time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong alone. They continue to insist that Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs, and now they claim to have evidence that proves it, yet they're unwilling to present said evidence or witnesses that they say will testify against Armstrong. Who's running the USADA anyway? Bill Belichick? Look, the last thing we need is a CIA-type agency running a witch hunt in sports, but that's what these guys have been doing, and it needs to stop. Ironically, it's a quote from troubled pro wrestler Scott Hall that comes to mind in this case for the USADA. Don't just sing it, bring it.

And if they can't bring it, Armstrong, who had a lawsuit tossed Monday, will file a fresh one, and, sooner or later, the truth will be told.

Ok, I'm done handing out "awards". Let's move on.

If you're a fan of Family Feud, you have to be wondering if current MC Steve Harvey, after two seasons, will return for a 3rd. Harvey now has a self-titled talk show debuting in September, on top of his radio show and, presumably, Feud. If the show's current handlers, Fremantle Media, Debmar-Mercury, & 20th Century Fox, have any plans for the coming season, they're not talking. Yet. Feud marked its 45th anniversary last year with 0 fanfare. Not a surprise there.

A tip of the cap to Gasoline Alley's Jim Scancarelli. In recent weeks, he's paid homage to comedy legends in his strip. For example, he included characters resembling the Three Stooges, working as exterminators (paying homage to a classic Stooges short, "Ants in the Pantry"). That lasted less than a week. Currently, Skeezix is dealing with a snotty store manager modeled after actor Frank Nelson, best remembered as a member of Jack Benny's repertory company who greeted Benny with "Yesssssss?" every time. Now, if only Scancarelli can fit in analogues of Benny and the rest of the gang..........

What Might've Been: Tabitha (1976)

I posted this over on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives, a week ago, and I said I'd post it here as well.

Most of you are familiar with Tabitha, which was a short-lived and belated spinoff from Bewitched, launching 5 years after the parent series had ended. The series aired on Saturday nights on ABC, with Lisa Hartman, who later hit her big break with Knots Landing before marrying country singer Clint Black, and Robert Urich (ex-S.W.A.T.). However, that was the result of a second pilot that producer William Asher and executive producer Harry Ackerman created for ABC. The first one, which aired a year and a half earlier, didn't really sell (though they say it did sell the show, and the network made changes), and perhaps with good reason.

As RAM '67 reminded me in responding last week, the character's name was originally spelled with three 'A''s, instead of 2, which explains why the original pilot was titled, Tabatha, instead of Tabitha. Secondly, perhaps forgetting at the time that Tabitha was a blonde as a toddler, and played by twins Erin & Diane Murphy on Bewitched, the casting directors went with a brunette for the lead, in this case Louise "Liberty" Williams, who formerly had been with the comedy troupe, the Groundlings, before turning to acting. If her voice sounds familiar, well, it should, if you're a cartoon fan. After failing with Tabatha, and a subsequent sitcom that did make it to air, albeit also short lived (Busting Loose), Liberty was hired by Hanna-Barbera, and spent 7+ seasons as the voice behind Jayna, the sexier, female half of the Wonder Twins from Super Friends, during which time she landed two more short-term sitcom gigs.

Now, let's take a look at Tabatha:



Rating: B.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Musical Interlude: Travelin' Soldier (2003)

Some might say that the Dixie Chicks peaked with their 2003 CD, "Home". The 2nd single from the album is the moving ballad, "Travelin' Soldier", which tells the tale of a soldier forging a pen pal relationship with a total stranger, only to have it end in tragedy.

The familiar video comes from a concert special, An Evening With the Dixie Chicks, and was uploaded by Mark7649.

ABC is risking further viewer alienation........

For as long as I can remember, General Hospital, the lone remaining daytime soap opera on ABC's schedule, has always aired at 3 pm (ET). So why is ABC tinkering with a long standing tradition that made them the #1 daytime network during the 80's?

It's not happening right away, but rather, two months down the road. After The Revolution, a over-hyped yack-fest, launched in January to replace One Life to Live, viewers turned away in droves, such that ABC was forced to cancel Revolution, with the last episode airing last Friday. Today, Good Afternoon, America, a short-term PM twin of Good Morning, America, begins a 2 month run in the same spot vacated  by Revolution & One Life to Live, but that isn't the story. Come September 17, General Hospital moves to 2 to make room for Katie Couric's new talk show.

Ok, I get it. Katie's still a draw in the minds of network suits, who are willing to look past her failure to elevate the CBS Evening News out of the basement while anchoring that program. That said, those same suits feel she is more of a fit at 3 than at 2, but there's one other reason that those suits won't cop to.

It's called the cuteness factor.

In some parts of the country, including my home district, Rachael Ray's talk show airs at 3. You can't escape the grown-up Girl Scout who coined the words, "Delish!" & "Yummo!" on her Food Network shows. That cute-as-a-button face adorns her monthly magazine, Everyday With Rachael Ray. Katie Couric projected the image of a tomboyish, girl-next-door type when she was on the cover of TV Guide many moons ago during her run on Today. Sure, she's older, but she still has a little of that sparkle to her. ABC is banking on nabbing those viewers who used to wake up with Katie, hoping to find some of them, at least, at home either  after or before going to work. You can just imagine a sweeps stunt in November that has both Rachael & Katie in the kitchen, and one of them's bound to be making cookies.

The problem is, ABC isn't paying attention to the erosion in viewers since One Life to Live left. Moving General Hospital to accomodate Katie is not the answer. Yes, soap operas are a dying breed, but the fan base for the ones that remain happen to be fiercely loyal. Waiting until primetime to catch the reruns on SoapNet doesn't cut it with them as much as ABC/Disney thinks it does. By taking General Hospital out of its long-time home, ABC is basically ceding that their viewers likely will wait until later.

I get it. It's all about demographics and ad revenues as much as ratings, but why do the older viewers keep getting the shaft? All ABC wants to do is lure the young adult demo away from not only Rachael, but also Dr. Phil and other yackers. I can think of a better solution. How about reviving some old game shows? It's worked for CBS, so why not ABC?

Of course, that's asking too much of a generation conditioned to think with their calculators........

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ernest Borgnine (1917-2012)

"Marty". "The Dirty Dozen". Airwolf. McHale's Navy. "Law & Disorder".

These are just a few of the many TV & movies on the resume of Academy Award winner Ernest Borgnine, who passed away earlier today due to renal (kidney) failure at 95.

Borgnine was one of those old-school actors who never stopped working. One of his last roles was in the 2-part series finale of ER just a couple of years ago, and his last major film release was the comic book adaptation, "Red", with Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, & John Malkovich. He charmed a new generation of young viewers when he landed the voice role of Mermaid Man on SpongeBob Squarepants in 1999, a gig that reunited him with McHale co-star Tim Conway.

Speaking of McHale, Borgnine had a small part in the 1997 movie version that starred Tom Arnold and Bruce Campbell, and was the only member of the original series' cast to appear.

17 years after McHale ended, Borgnine returned to television in Don Belisario's adventure series, Airwolf, as a sidekick to star Jan-Michael Vincent. This came about after Borgnine guested on Magnum, PI, and Belisario offered him the Airwolf gig. Playing a Navy man came naturally to Borgnine, who actually served in the Navy before turning to acting.

Following is a McHale video sampler, uploaded by Mill Creek Entertainment through their YouTube channel.




Like Andy Griffith, who passed away earlier this week, Ernest Borgnine was an American original. Rest in peace, Ernie. You'll be missed.

Rockin' Funnies: Honeymooners Rap (1985)

Toward the end of his run on Saturday Night Live, Joe Piscopo released his first---and, as far as I know, only---album, "New Jersey", not to be confused with the Bon Jovi album of the same name that came along three years later. Piscopo used a number of his routines from SNL, including mimics of David Letterman, Frank Sinatra (both in the same skit), and the late Andy Rooney.

"Honeymooners Rap" was released as a novelty single, and, if memory serves, the lone single off the album. Piscopo did his mimic of Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, with Eddie Murphy backing him up by doing a spot-on Ed Norton (Art Carney), who, as it can be determined from the following slide show, was also the inspiration for not one, but two cartoon icons----Yogi Bear & Barney Rubble. Barney you can understand, since The Flintstones was inspired in turn by The Honeymooners. As it happens, toon fan Piscopo was able to bring in two voice-over legends, June Foray & Bill Scott, to appear on the album as Rocky & Bullwinkle.

Sadly, if Piscopo & Murphy actually made a music video for "Honeymooners Rap", ya can't find it on YouTube. Of course, Murphy released his own music album, "How Could It Be", the same year, relatively around the same time, and scored a #2 hit on the Hot 100 with "Party All The Time", which hit #1 on the R & B charts. "Honeymooners Rap" didn't even come close to smelling the Top 40. The careers of these two comics have similarly followed divergent paths since.

Anyway, here's a slide show that mixes footage from Honeymooners with stills of Piscopo & Murphy, plus a photoshop that pairs them with Gleason & Carney.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Only in the South: Racism in the name of the Lord?

I just read this piece on Yahoo!, and had to share my thoughts.

Rev. Mel Lewis has been hosting a most peculiar conference this week in his home state of Alabama. The peculiarity? It's open only to "white Christians", which means "minority Christians", such as African-Americans, Asian-Americans, etc., are excluded. The signs of the Ku Klux Klan are present, such as flags and slogans defining white supremacy. They're planning a cross burning tonight, but billing it as----Get this!---a cross lighting.

SAY WHAT?


Who is Lewis trying to fool? He claims this is for white Christians who feel they've been unfairly treated. Oh, please, give me a break. Lewis claims they're not breaking any laws or ordinances, but to preach under these conditions? Lewis says that those attending his little conference are "of the chosen race". Oh, stop the freakin' pain!!!! Understandably, the citizens of Winfield, Alabama are up in arms, and Mayor Wayne Silas told a local televisions station that the city "doesn't condone" what Lewis is doing. Amen, brother!

Event organizers, according to Yahoo!, claim the Klan is not sponsoring the event, and that Lewis' ministry, Christian Identity Ministries, is not a hate group. Right, and pigs will suddenly sprout wings and fly. There are warnings in the Bible of false preachers and phony doctrines, and this is about as phony as it gets. It surprises me that the wackos of Westboro Baptist in Kansas haven't joined the party, but, then, Lewis probably doesn't want them stealing his 15 minutes of fame.

I know I had handed out the Weasel of the Week award earlier this week, maybe too early, but it's not too late to add another Weasel, and that, Rev. Lewis, is you. God doesn't condone racism, and your exclusion of Christians of other races at your conference is just plain wrong, no matter how you dress it up!!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

On DVD: The Guns of Will Sonnett (1967)

After starting his career as a producer at Four Star, Aaron Spelling hitched his wagon to that of another Hollywood icon, Danny Thomas. Their first collaboration was a Western for ABC, The Guns of Will Sonnett, which aired from 1967-9, and was the last starring vehicle for actor Walter Brennan (ex-The Real McCoys), whose other series, The Tycoon, was a bust a couple of years earlier.

Brennan played the title character, a retired military man turned homesteader who now was traveling through the West with his grandson, Jeff (Dack Rambo) in search of Jeff's father, James (Jason Evers), who would show up from time to time, always a few miles ahead of his kin. The stories offered conflicting accounts of James' character as a gunman, but Will & Jeff persevered, always believing that they'd be one day reunited with James.

Timeless Media now holds the distribution rights for the DVD, while syndication rights belong to CBS through its acquisition of King World. Timeless, as they've done with other Westerns, released a sampler single disc to stores, then a full release would soon follow. The prints they used come from King World's syndicated run, which currently airs Saturday afternoons on Me-TV, but they also include the original ABC network intro card, which is not included in the following clip, provided through Timeless' YouTube channel:



Will would always end each episode with a short prayer of thanks, and I think that was what attracted the attention of CBN (now ABC Family), which carried the series during the 80's. In fact, the above intro was spoken as if it were a poem, and a very good one at that. The series also featured a collection of talent, including Harry Dean Stanton, Charles Grodin, Claude Akins, Paul Fix (ex-The Rifleman), Hank Patterson (Green Acres), and, in an early appearance, Jack Nicholson. The selling point was the familial theme, different from most Westerns of the day.

Rating: A.

Dunce Cap Award: Jeff Ellis

Mr. Ellis owns a private company that provides lifeguards for beaches in some areas in the country. On Monday, one of his lifeguards, acting on instinct, rescued a man who was drowning in an at-risk zone. The reward for the lifeguard, Tomas Lopez? Termination of employment.

Ellis is quoted in an interview in the Orlando Sun Sentinel as saying taht "we are not a fire-rescue operation", and one of his supervisors talked about concerns with liability issues. Give me a break. If you have enough lifeguards to cover the entire beach, including at-risk areas, why would they be so concerned about liability issues?

Answer: It has a damaging effect on the company's bottom line. Well, duh! What a shock. According to Yahoo!, the case is now under review, which means there is a chance that Lopez could get his job back.

What earns Ellis a Dunce Cap is the fact that his private firm and its rules are actually hamstringing their employees and their instincts, borne from their training. Baywatch, this ain't. Consider the thoughts of Renee Crichton, City Manager of Hallandale Beach, where the incident occurred. She believes that "whether they are in a protected area or unprotected area.....aid must be rendered.". Damn straight!

It's time Ellis restructured his contract and opened up the field for his lifeguards to cover the entire beach, not certain parts agreed upon. Those contracts cater to the so-called privileged, not the general public, in this writer's view. Everyone uses the beach, and therefore fall under the jurisdiction of the lifeguards. Methinks Mr. Ellis has had a little too much sunburn on the brain, if you get my drift......

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Videos of Summer: Here Comes the Hotstepper (1995)

Now, understand, pilgrims, that I'm not much for reggae, but Ini Kamoze's 1995 hit, "Here Comes the Hotstepper", from the movie "Pret-a-Porter (Ready to Wear)" is a real party starter. In ECW, the tag team of Public Enemy (not to be confused with the rappers, of course) came to the ring to this music, and got the fans to wave their arms like they didn't care.

So, then, thanks to youpi144, it's time to raise the roof on the 4th. "Here Comes the Hotstepper".

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Musical Interlude: America (1981)

From the remake of "The Jazz Singer" comes this instant classic from Neil Diamond that has become as much a patriotic anthem as, say, "The Star Spangled Banner".

Personal note: A local lounge lizard sings this during the Flag Day parade every year, but he lacks Diamond's charismatic presence. This guy gets the gig every year anyway because he's related to a well known politician from my district, and no one has come along that could knock "America" out of the park better----unless the city could pull off a miracle and bring Diamond himself in for the 1-shot. That would rule, of course, but it would take a lot of cheddar for that to happen.

Uploaded by kamdan2011.


Weasels of the Week: New York tabloid press

Ever since it was announced at the end of last week that actors Tom Cruise ("Rock of Ages") and Katie Holmes (ex-Dawson's Creek) were ending their marriage, the editors of the New York Post & New York Daily News have treated this as front-page news when it does not deserve such status. Personally, I'm sick of it already, and I'd not be surprised if you are, too.

The facts are these, according to the gossips and the tabloids. Katie doesn't want daughter Suri going through formal indoctrination in Scientology, the controversial pseudo-religion that Cruise has been involved with for years. I don't blame Katie for wanting her child to live a normal life, but even Joe Average had to be creeped out to the max when both the Post & the News reported Monday that there were five men in an SUV with Tennessee license plates staking out the apartment that Ms. Holmes has rented for the duration. Reportedly, these goons started questioning innocent, curious bystanders, as if they had something to hide. Well, duh!

There are more important issues in the world, like the heat wave, for example, that should get front-page coverage, but we're stuck with this soap opera slop until a bigger story breaks, and I do mean bigger. When Michael Jackson passed away 3 years ago, the tabloids kept him on the front page for days because they felt it was in the public's best interest, just as they do now with the former "TomKat". I call BS.

It's funny. John Travolta, whose new film, "Savages", opens later this week, is also a Scientologist, but there was no mention of that when the tabs dished on the parasites filing suit against him a few weeks back for alleged sexual assault. And that quickly went away without incident, didn't it? Of course. However, because it's Cruise, perhaps the biggest name in the Scientology congregation, the tabs want to play up the so-called religion for what it really is, a cult. This inconsistent reporting irks me, too. I for one don't buy into Scientology because it's a bunch of BS created by sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard, and too many people, including movie stars like Cruise, Travolta, and Will Smith have bought into the lies. Travolta even made a movie, "Battlefield Earth", that was inspired by Hubbard's garbage, and, predictably, it was a stink bomb at the box office.

Cruise didn't score a #1 with "Rock of Ages", as that was nudged out of the top spot on its opening weekend by "Madagascar 3", and "Ages" has gradually faded since.

We're giving the tabloid media a box of weasel ears this week because they deserve them for doing a disservice to their readers. If they want soap opera, all they need is look down the shelf for the usual garbage that passes for supermarket tabs. Do yourselves a favor, jabronies, and find something else for your front page headlines the rest of the week.

Andy Griffith (1926-2012)

For eight years, he was the gentle voice of reason in a small North Carolina town that became just as much of an icon as he was. His next series took him back to a former vocation, but viewers didn't take too well. A career rebound would see him become the most unpredictable lawyer this side of Perry Mason. To think, then, that it all started with a modest school teacher turned comedian turned Broadway star whose humble, folksy charm made him a legend.

It has just come across the wires that actor-comedian-singer Andy Griffith has passed away at 86. Griffith first came to prominence in 1955 on the US Steel Hour in a production of "No Time For Sergeants", which would later be adapted into a feature film just 3 years later. In between, Griffith appeared on Broadway in an adaptation of "Destry Rides Again", and in the film, "A Face in the Crowd".

In 1960, Danny Thomas cast Griffith in an episode of Make Room For Daddy that served as a backdoor pilot for The Andy Griffith Show, which went on to enjoy an 8-year run on CBS.

Following is a video montage of clips, set to the beat of Griffith performing his show's theme song, the Earle Hagen-penned "Fishing Hole":




After the series' spinoff, Mayberry RFD, ended its run, Griffith returned in The Headmaster, which harkened back to his teaching days. The series bombed, however, and was later rebooted as The New Andy Griffith Show, but that failed to click as well. In 1975, Griffith moved to ABC, and shifted from comedy to drama. The crime drama, Adams of Eagle Lake, and the subsequent sci-fi adventure series, Salvage 1, were also failures.

On the heels of a reunion movie, "Return to Mayberry", Griffith was given one more series, this time as a genial, often unpredictable Southern lawyer, in Matlock, which ran for 9 seasons (1986-95). Griffith won a People's Choice Award for his work as attorney Ben Matlock. Griffith returned to movies, appearing in the comedy-adventure "Spy Hard", opposite Leslie Nielsen, and his last film was 2009's "Play The Game", which featured Rance & Clint Howard. Rance had appeared frequently on The Andy Griffith Show in small roles while son Ron played Andy's son, Opie. Clint (ex-Gentle Ben) had a recurring part as well, usually offering ice cream or peanut butter sandwiches.

As fans of both Matlock & The Andy Griffith Show know, Griffith would also pick up a guitar and play on occasion. He even recorded a version of "The Fishin' Hole", the theme to The Andy Griffith Show, as part of a country-gospel album released sometime in the 60's. Post-Matlock, Griffith went back into the studio, this time to record gospel albums, and guest-starred in country singer Brad Paisley's video for "Waitin' on a Woman" (2008). The video comes from Paisley's VEVO channel:




And SpudTV offers up the theme from Matlock.



Rest in peace, Andy. You will be missed.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Videos of Summer: Life is a Highway (1991)

Former Red Rider frontman Tom Cochrane returned to the charts in 1991 with the snappy "Life is a Highway", but unfortunately found that he'd fare just as well on the Billboard Hot 100 as a solo act as he did with Red Rider. That is to say, not well. "Highway" ended up a 1-hit wonder, just like "Lunatic Fringe" nearly a decade earlier.

Most people know "Highway" from the cover version recorded by the country group Rascal Flatts for the Disney-Pixar smash, "Cars", a few years back, but, through the courtesy of EMI's VEVO channel, here's the original "Life is a Highway".

Breaking down the MLB All-Stars of 2012

The 2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game takes place July 10 in Kansas City, and the rosters were announced yesterday. Some surprises, some predictable.

American League:


Starting Lineup:


Catcher-Mike Napoli, Texas.
First Base-Prince Fielder, Detroit.
Second Base-Robinson Cano, Yankees.
Shortstop-Derek Jeter, Yankees.
Third Base-Adrian Beltre, Texas.
Designated Hitter-David Ortiz, Boston.
Outfield: Jose Bautista, Toronto; Curtis Granderson, Yankees; Josh Hamilton, Texas.


Reserves:


Minnesota: Joe Mauer.
Baltimore: Matt Wieters, Adam Jones.
Texas: Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler.
Cleveland: Asdrubal Cabrera.
Detroit: Miguel Cabrera.
Chicago: Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn.
Kansas City: Billy Butler.
Los Angeles: Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo.


Pitchers:


Baltimore: Jim Johnson.
Oakland: Ryan Cook.
Texas: Matt Harrison, Joe Nathan.
Cleveland: Chris Perez.
Seattle: Felix Hernandez.
Chicago: Chris Sale.
Los Angeles: Jered Weaver, C. J. Wilson.
Tampa Bay: David Price, Fernando Rodney.
Detroit: Justin Verlander.



The Yankees' CC Sabathia was chosen by AL/Texas manager Ron Washington despite the fact that Sabathia is on the DL and wouldn't be ready to return until after July 10. Try figuring out the logic of that wasted pick.


National League:


Starters:


Catcher: Buster Posey, San Francisco.
First Base: Joey Votto, Cincinatti.
Second Base: Dan Uggla, Atlanta.
Shortstop: Rafael Furcal, St. Louis.
Third Base: Pablo Sandoval: San Francisco.
Outfield: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis; Melky Cabrera, San Francisco; Matt Kemp, Los Angeles.
Designated Hitter: To be determined.


Reserves:


St. Louis: Yadier Molina.
Philadelphia: Carlos Ruiz.
Houston: Jose Altuve.
Chicago: Starlin Castro, Bryan LaHair.
Washington: Ian Desmond.
Mets: David Wright.

Milwaukee: Ryan Braun.
Cincinnati: Jay Bruce.
Colorado: Carlos Gonzalez.

Pittsburgh: Andrew McCutcheon.
Miami: Giancarlo Stanton.


Pitchers:


Mets: R. A. Dickey.
San Francisco: Matt Cain.
Washington: Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg.
Cincinnati: Aroldis Chapman.
Philadelphia: Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon.
Pittsburgh: Joel Hanrahan.
Atlanta: Craig Kimbrel.
Los Angeles: Clayton Kershaw.
St. Louis: Lance Lynn.
Arizona: Wade Miley.
San Diego: Huston Street.

Proving that the fans weren't paying much attention, the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, who happens to be the captain of the NL Home Run Derby team, gets in despite missing a large chunk of time due to hamstring issues. While I can't argue with the pitching choices, Pittsburgh's James McDonald, a former Dodger, deserved to go, but NL manager Tony LaRussa, coming out of retirement for this one game, felt the Pirates' closer, Joel Hanrahan, was more deserving. I would say there's no guarantee that Hanrahan gets in the game, but this is LaRussa we're dealing with, the guy who uses more manpower per game than any other manager in history.



We'll see how it all plays out in 8 days.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Classic TV: Perry Mason (1957)

This was the show that actually got me interested in reading and watching mysteries as a youth.

Of course, the original Perry Mason was before my time----I was but a wee toddler when it ended its run---but the syndicated reruns that aired after school during the early 70's piqued my curiosity about police work and what motivated people to commit crimes, though more often than not, these were murder cases.

The success of the reruns prompted CBS to revive the series in the middle 70's, but the cast was given an understandably complete overhaul. For one thing, Raymond Burr had moved on to another iconic character---Ironside, and CBS blundered, if memory serves, by putting the Fox-produced New Perry Mason, with Monte Markham (ex-The Second Hundred Years) as Mason, opposite Ironside. Talk about a suicide mission!

In the 80's, Burr returned to the role of Mason in a series of TV movies which Viacom produced for NBC. Burr passed away a few years later, and no one has attempted to revive Mason since.

The formula in the classic series became cliched rather quickly. Mason takes a case, detective Paul Drake (William Hopper) locates the clues, and, in the courtroom, Mason matched wits with DA Hamilton Burger (William Talman), winning all but one case. As a child, reruns were appointment television around 5 (ET) in the afternoon, right around dinner time.

These days, the rights are split between Me-TV, which airs Mason Monday-Friday, twice a day, and Hallmark Movie Channel, which gets a lifetime supply of weasel ears for using still footage of the open and a compacted theme in order to save time for commercials. You just don't do that sort of thing, especially to a classic piece of TV theme music like Fred Steiner's "Park Avenue Beat", which has been covered by, of all acts, the Blues Brothers!

CBS has its own YouTube channel, from whence we get this short season 1 open.



Rating: A+.

Videos of Summer: Born in the USA (1984)

You know you're going to hear this song quite a bit this week, maybe all summer. Bruce Springsteen cemented his status as a music icon with his 1984 album, "Born in the USA". Springsteen's VEVO channel uploaded the title track.