Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Spook Rock: Back Off Boogaloo (1972)

There's only one way to describe Ringo Starr's 1972 hit, "Back Off Boogaloo". Bizarre.

I mean, the man was out there with this one. A Frankenstein monster clearly gender-confused making a play for Ringo? Uh, hello, MCFLY! I can see Ringo playing along with this in the video, but the concept had to be the result of a three day bender or a drug induced coma, or both. If Ringo had any more facial hair, he could pass for the Wolf Man, y'dig?

Uploaded by EMI Music's VEVO channel:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Musical Interlude: Jeopardy (1983)

Greg Kihn's last top 40 hit came in 1983 with "Jeopardy". Not to be confused with a certain game show, although "Weird" Al Yankovic did something about that a year or two later, but this was Kihn's only "solo" record, as there was no more Greg Kihn Band. The spooky stuff comes near the end with a monster emerging partially through the floor of the church. That would be the stuff that "B' movies are made of, even today.


Football this 'n' that, and some baseball, too

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should be enjoying a heaping helping of crow right about now.

Before the season began, Jones invited Cowboys fans to see their beloved team beat the defending Super Bowl champion NY Giants, and it was assumed that he'd open up the Temple of Excess, aka Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, so folks could watch the Sept. 5 season opener, which Dallas won. In truth, Jones was pointing to the rematch in Arlington, which took place yesterday.

Since losing opening night at the Meadowlands, the Giants had gone 5-1 to move into first place in the NFC East. Dallas, with 10 days off after the opener, lost to Seattle in their 2nd game, and have been, well, mediocre ever since. In the first quarter and a half on Sunday, they looked positively awful, as Big Blue raced to a 23-0 lead. Dallas sliced it to 23-10 at halftime, and came all the way back to take a 24-23 lead in the 4th quarter. The Giants had taken their collective foot off the throat, and it cost them dearly.

However, back come the Giants, with 2 late field goals, and they sweated out an apparent game-winning touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant, which was later ruled incomplete, as Bryant landed with his left hand out of bounds, to run their winning streak to 4 in a row, extending their lead in the division to 2 1/2 games.

Meanwhile, the Jets looked flatter than a stack of stale pancakes, as Miami earned a split of their season series, beating Gang Green 30-9 at the Meadowlands. At least the Dolphins kept the pressure on all day, as they were never threatened. The fans and the media are still calling for Rex Ryan to make a change at QB, from Mark Sanchez to Tim Tebow, but the defiant Ryan may be writing his ticket out of town sooner than he'd like by sticking with Sanchez, the 4th year signal caller out of USC, claiming Sanchez gives the Jets the best chance to win. With New England threatening to run away and hide in the AFC East again, the time for change is now.

On the other hand, Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid is a little more receptive to the prospect of changing QB's, after the other Gang Green lost again, 30-17, to unbeaten Atlanta. Michael Vick, we might as well admit, may not be the elite quarterback he was before going to prison, and may never be again, but at least Reid is willing to admit that he's open to making a change for the good of the team.

I'm sure you've heard by now that Denver QB Peyton Manning, who doesn't know how to make unannoying commercials, has bought nearly 2 dozen Papa John's Pizza locations. This on top of upstaging Papa John himself in one of those annoying ads that won't go away. What is it with an anti-telegenic guy like Manning and commercials? The ads he did for MasterCard were just lame, and it seems that all of a sudden, DirecTV has put aside the bits he did with Deion Sanders, probably because Peyton discovered that brother Eli actually makes him look bad in front of the cameras.

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants, who won their 2nd World Series in 3 years Sunday in Detroit. For the Tigers, it was a bad case of deja vu. 6 years ago, they had a week's layoff before the Series vs. St. Louis, and were promptly dismissed. After sweeping out the Yankees in the ALCS, the Tigers again had a week's rest, and it cost them. They caught the Yankees' offensive disease. Their best pitcher, Justin Verlander, was rocked in game 1, and the Tigers never recovered.

As a nod to the Tri-City Valleycats, Giants right fielder Hunter Pence became the first alumni of the Astros' farm team to win a World Series title. Playing for his 3rd team in 2 seasons after being traded from Philadelphia in July, Pence became a media sensation with his pre-game ritual in the dugout. Like, who'dathunk? Of course, we should also note that there were two ex-Mets on the Giants' roster, too. Angel Pagan, we all know, was traded last offseason, but as noted before, NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro started his career in 2002 with the Amazin's. Since the Giants were gracious enough to bring the World Series trophy to Troy last year, there's no reason for them to do it again, but there are Giants fans in town that probably wouldn't mind.......

I cannot figure out oddsmakers. Atlanta was a home underdog against Philadelphia. On Saturday night, Notre Dame was a substantial road dog vs. Oklahoma. Both teams remained unbeaten, and you'd have been a fool not to have bet on them. I looked at the lines in the newspapers, and I'm, like, are these guys idiots, or what? Like, even Yogi Bear would've known better.



Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sounds of Praise: Praise You in This Storm (2005)

In a bizarre way, this would seem appropriate with Hurricane Sandy about to touch down on the East Coast.

The gospel group Casting Crowns released "Praise You in This Storm" a few years back, and at the time it was getting pretty heavy airplay on Music Choice's Contemporary Christian channel on cable. With a very real storm headed to the mainland, it's comforting to know that God will protect us from harm.

Neyolov uploaded this concert clip.



Dunce Cap Award: Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith, a purported "NBA insider" for ESPN, is one of the most annoying personalities on the network's talent roster. Every time he appeared during SportsCenter to talk pro hoops, all he did was talk on his favorite subjects, namely, superstar players Kobe Bryant & LeBron James. Whooop-de-freakin'-do. He made it sound like he was close friends with both players. He was hip, alright. Hip to be square, or, as they used to say on Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids, he was NC. No Class.

Smith's been roiled by fellow media types, and was named "Dweeb of the Week" by NY Daily News sports media columnist Bob Raissman in today's edition, for dropping an N-bomb, if you will, during First Take the other day, then denying it, even though it was on tape, and was censored out of rebroadcasts. Smith also had the lack of brains to invent a nonsensical word, "fastily", in a vain, lame attempt to explain himself. I believe he meant to say, "hastily", but the bottom line is that Smith tried to avoid accepting responsibility for a mere slip of the tongue. Apparently, his ego believes he's above reproach.

Smith is on his 2nd tour of duty with ESPN, and if memory serves, his motor mouth got him in trouble the first time, too, costing him a talk show gig on the channel. The sad part about it all is that Smith is trying to talk street on national television, when most of the audience probably doesn't get it. It's one thing when rappers put N-bombs in their lyrics, and when African-American citizens use the N-bomb in common speech. It's another when you're a journalist on a major cable network, owned & operated by Disney, I might add, and you've suffered a case of brain cramping so early in the morning on a live broadcast, leading to you using an N-bomb on the air.

In case you wonder, Tom Hanks dropped an accidential F-bomb on the Today Show earlier in the week, whilst promoting his new film, "Cloud Atlas", and promptly apologized. It's the lack of apology that gets Stephen A. Smith a Dunce Cap. Apologies & responsibility apparently are foreign concepts to a mouth that doesn't know when to stop running.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Classic TV: Bosom Buddies (1980)

Before he won his 2 Academy Awards in the mid-90's (for "Forrest Gump" & "Philadelphia"), Tom Hanks starred in a silly little comedy that owes some of its origins to the wacky feature film, "Some Like it Hot".

Bosom Buddies centered on a pair of ad agency guys (Hanks & Peter Scolari) who are homeless after their apartment building is demolished. A co-worker (Wendi Jo Sperber) gets them into an all-female apartment complex, but of course there is that one condition. They have to dress in drag. For 2 seasons, it somehow worked.

Singer Telma Hopkins, formerly of Tony Orlando & Dawn, landed one of her first acting jobs as a member of the ensemble. Co-producer Thomas Miller would cast her in a later series, Family Matters, a few years later. Hanks & Scolari would reunite doing voice work on the 2005 animated feature, "The Polar Express".

Squaresyourtrue uploaded the open & close, complete with the Paramount logo of the period. The title song is Billy Joel's "My Life", covered by an anonymous studio singer, though I could swear they actually used the original version at one point.



I think the only reason I watched this at home was because it came on after Mork & Mindy, or it was because Buck Rogers was a rerun......

Rating: B.

Major League Baseball's winners & losers of 2012

The postseason awards won't be officially handed out for at least another week or two, but it wouldn't hurt to guess who could get what.

AL Cy Young Award: Jared Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. So what if the Halos didn't get into the postseason despite acquiring C. J. Wilson from division rival Texas and all-world slugger Albert Pujols from St. Louis? Weaver was the closest they had to a sure thing on the hill every 5 days for most of the season. If only he had some support, Wilson aside, in the rotation.......!

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers. He won the Triple Crown, becoming the first player in 45 years to accomplish the feat, and yet a lot of wags want to hand the MVP to Mike Trout of the Angels. Cabrera led the offensive charge that put the Tigers in the World Series, overtaking Chicago to win the Central Division. Enough said.

AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This wasn't even close. In fact, I can't think of anyone else that would've been in shouting distance.

AL Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles. Hired during the 2011 season, Showalter continued the job he started and got the Birds within an eyelash of the Eastern Division title, snagging one of the two Wild Cards in the process, only to lose to division rival New York, his first employer as a manager, mind you, in the ALDS. The Orioles, of course, in order to get to the ALDS, eliminated two-time defending AL champion Texas, which was a feat unto itself. As long as management doesn't screw up, and since owner Peter Angelos is a George Steinbrenner wannabe, it's almost certain he will, Baltimore will contend for a while.

NL Cy Young Award: R. A. Dickey, New York Mets. Of course, I'm being a bit biased here. A knuckleball pitcher has never won the Cy Young, and Dickey had a season for the ages, winning 20 games and leading the league in complete games, among other games. Never mind that the Mets imploded right after the All-Star break. I'm still trying to figure that one out, but Dickey was their most consistent starter. The Mets will reward him with a new deal. They have to.

NL MVP: Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals. LaRoche, son of former pitcher Dave LaRoche, proved that even a veteran can have a breakout season deep into his career. LaRoche first came up with Atlanta at the end of their dynasty, and has bounced around since, including an all-too-brief stop in Boston a couple of years back. It was LaRoche, not Bryce Harper or Jayson Werth, who carried the Nats on his back, leading the team in homers. If he doesn't get this, there should be an investigation.

NL Rookie of the Year: Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks. Bryce Harper got all the hype and the headlines, but had also suffered from bouts of immaturity. Never mind that the D-Backs fell out of contention during the summer. Miley was to Arizona what R. A. Dickey was to the Mets, their most consistent performer in the rotation, and he will be a key cog in the Arizona rotation for a while to come. 

NL Manager of the Year: Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals. Like his counterpart across the Potomac, Buck Showalter, Johnson took the Nationals from the outhouse to the penthouse, winning the East rather handily, ending Philadelphia's 5 year run. There are parallels to his early years with the Mets in the 80's. A mix of veterans (Werth, LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman) and rising young stars (Harper, Ian Desmond, Stephen Strasburg) coming together at just the right time. Johnson & GM Mike Rizzo will still be castigated in the media for ending Strasburg's season a wee bit early in the name of future health, but in the long run, they may actually be right.

And, then, there are the losers, who only wound up with fool's gold.

Boston Red Sox: Ok, they got rid of Bobby Valentine after 1 season, and some say they shouldn't have hired him in the first place. They wanted Valentine for the rivalry with the Yankees, more than anything, and the media exposure he'd get in the larger markets. However, Valentine's style is so last century. Trading for former pitching coach John Farrell, who spent the last two years in Toronto as their manager, to fill the void, is a risk, but Farrell isn't the long term answer.

Miami Marlins: Jeff Loria spent all that money like it was water out of a faucet, and at the end, Miami sank like a stone. Ozzie Guillen's gone, and good luck finding someone to repair the damage done. Loria should've paid closer attention to the fact that it took the Heat two years to win a title with their all-star team instead of one. The Philadelphia Eagles are still trying to find the right formula. The tabloid media in NYC tried to suggest trading for Alex Rodriguez, a Miami native, getting him from the Yankees, but even with the Bombers footing most of the bill anyway, it's throwing more bad money on top of bad money. Here's a better idea. Sell the team to someone who knows what they're doing.

New York Yankees: Yes, they won the AL East---again---but their bats were MIA in the playoffs, and it didn't help that they were psychologically crushed when Derek Jeter went down in Game 1 vs. Detroit with a broken ankle. "A-Rod" being a distraction didn't help, either. How could they take their collective foot off the gas pedal? Easy. They took it for granted they'd persevere and reach the Series. Such thinking really doesn't work anymore. Here's a thought. Instead of W. B. Mason sponsoring some of their programming on YES next season, they should sign a deal with Geritol.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: So owner Artie Moreno emptied his expense account to acquire Albert Pujols & C. J. Wilson, and what happens? The Angels open the season in the AL West basement. No one thought to foresee Oakland having a better season than anyone thought, leaving the Halos to finish in 3rd. What does this tell us? Money doesn't always equal championships, and the fact remains that owners are the last ones to realize it. Especially when it's too late.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Musical Interlude: Him (1980)

Rupert Holmes came out of nowhere to score a monster hit with "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)", in 1979. However, he'd only place two more songs in the Top 40.

The immediate followup to "Escape" was "Him", which climbed the charts in the spring of 1980. For those of you keeping score, the last major hit was "Answering Machine", which followed a few months later. In recent times, Holmes has turned his attention toward Broadway, having had some success in the theatre as a composer.

Here's "Him", a tale of broken hearts and betrayal.

Jeff Blatnick (1957-2012)

Long before Kurt Angle won his Olympic gold medals and starting pimping them in the WWE & TNA, there was another American Olympic hero in Greco Roman wrestling.

Jeff Blatnick won titles at the regional & national level in the late 70's and was on the 1980 team that boycotted the Moscow Olympics. Recovering from Hodgkins' lymphoma, Blatnick won the gold in Los Angeles in 1984, but unlike Angle, who would follow Blatnick's footsteps to gold 12 years later in Atlanta, Blatnick opted against turning pro. He wasn't that fond of pro wrestling, anyway, even though he did make some appearances on AWA programming for ESPN.

When the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) launched in the 90's, Blatnick was on board as a color analyst, and why UFC ever let him walk away, I'll never know. Blatnick helped develop the rules that are in place, based on the regulations set forth in New Jersey.

In recent years, Blatnick returned to upstate New York, working as a varsity wrestling coach at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School. On Wednesday, Blatnick passed away at 55 from complications from heart disease.

Angle has bragged about wrestling with a broken neck in Atlanta in 1996. Small potatoes, compared to what Blatnick went through en route to the gold. The fact that Blatnick had beaten lymphoma on his way to the gold medal made him a bigger hero, bigger still for not compromising his own values and submitting to the lure of big bucks and a national spotlight. Today, Angle is a shell of his former self, coasting on past successes in TNA. Blatnick will be remembered as a hero, in more ways than one, and that's the way it should be.

Rest in peace, Jeff.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Weasel of the Week: Donald Trump

If Donald Trump has learned anything from his friendship and professional association with Vince McMahon a few years ago, it's how to pull a bait & switch on the public.

On Monday, Trump appeared on Fox & Friends on Fox News Channel and claimed he had a big announcement that would be made today that "would shake the election". Apparently, Trump hired McMahon's crack creative team, or at least the ones McMahon fired recently, because all he came up with was little more than the usual shallow need for attention.

Trump offered to donate $5 million to one of the President's charities if President Obama would publicly release his college transcripts. All this was, in truth, was a veiled attempt at once again trumpeting the Birthers' claims that the President was not born in this country. Give it a rest! Perhaps tired of Trump's act, many took to Twitter to reduce Trump's proposal to mere twaddle. Apparently, Trump knows that if he publicly attempts to continue his and the Birthers' witch hunt against Obama, he's going to lose a lot more credibility than he already has. It wasn't so long ago---last week, in fact---that Trump was touting a new season of NBC's Celebrity Apprentice. Who's going to watch that now, knowing Trump has taken the Vince McMahon path and presented himself to the public as a deranged lunatic?

In addition to a fresh set of Weasel ears, plus a tail, we'll send Mr. Trump an all-expense paid, one way trip to the Candyass Cafe, right next door to the Smackdown Hotel at the corner of Know Your Role Blvd. & Jabroni Drive. If he's lucky, he can actually buy the place.......

Baseball this 'n' that

The World Series begins tonight with a fresh matchup. Literally.

The Detroit Tigers & San Francisco Giants have never met in the Fall Classic, not even when the Giants were in New York back in the day, and back then, they were routinely facing the Yankees. For Detroit, it's their third trip to the Series in the last 28 years, dating back to their dominating run in 1984, when they beat San Diego to win the title. San Francisco is looking for its 2nd championship in 3 years, having bested Texas in 2010.

In terms of pitching, it's pretty much a wash. Most pundits are conceding tonight's opener to Detroit because they have their ace, Justin Verlander, on the hill, and Verlander is likely to go at least twice in this series if it goes beyond four games. 

On Monday, the Giants took a page from Detroit's playbook and played lockdown defense against St. Louis in the NLCS finale, romping in the rain, 9-0. This postseason run has made infielder Marco Scutaro an overnight star. Pretty heady for a journeyman whose career began with the Mets, then took him to Oakland, Toronto, Boston, & Colorado before the Giants traded for him in July. Oh? You didn't know he was a Met? That figures. That makes 2 ex-Mets on the Giants roster, as the Amazin's traded outfielder Angel Pagan to San Francisco in the offseason, and right now, the Giants are making it look like a steal in their favor. That figures. I digress.

I'm figuring this series to go the full 7 games. Detroit's had almost a week's rest after sweeping the Yankees, and there's no rest for the Giants. All that tells you is that MLB needs to further tinker with their television-driven post-season makeover.

Meanwhile, there are other names making headlines.......

Miami cut bait on Ozzie Guillen, whom they traded for last offseason. Let's face it, they didn't learn the lessons of other so-called "dream teams", though they smartly didn't apply the label to themselves, and sank like a stone in the NL East, a couple of miles in back of division winner Washington. It was almost a sure thing that Guillen was going to be gone, but just a question of when. Of course, the Bobby Valentine-to-Miami rumors will start again, considering that Valentine also was bounced after 1 season by Boston, and like Guillen, controversy followed him all season long. It hasn't stopped. A headline today insinuates that Valentine feels injury-plagued slugger David Ortiz allegedly quit on the BoSox. Oh, really? 

Let's just call it the way it is. Valentine was a square peg in a round hole in Boston, and, 12 years removed from taking the Mets to the World Series, Valentine just didn't have the master's touch he once did. With Terry Francona now in Cleveland after a year as an ESPN analyst, the door may be open just a crack for Valentine to return to the network, but somehow, I doubt it. He's done as a manager, and needs to walk away for a while and reassess his future in baseball.

Boston traded for manager John Farrell, who left the Sox after the 2010 season to take the manager's post in Toronto. He wasn't that far up the ladder with the Blue Jays in the standings this year, despite a strong start, and he has some rebuilding to do in Boston after the mess Francona & Valentine have left behind. Would Toronto take a chance on Guillen? Nah, not with his penchant for putting his foot in his mouth. Manny Acta, a bust in Washington & Cleveland, might be a better bet unless ownership tries to find someone with a proven track record as a winner.

MLB Network has decided to rebrand their off-season news program, Hot Stove, as their morning show, effective next month. They're better off taking a chance and buying up tapes of older sports shows, like Greatest Sports Legends, particularly the baseball-themed episodes, and leave Hot Stove as the off-season  night program it's been since the network's inception. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Might've Been: The Chicago Teddy Bears (1971)

Was America ready for a sitcom about gangsters? Apparently not, but CBS gave it a try in 1971.

Perhaps the real reason The Chicago Teddy Bears failed was where it was placed on the schedule. Fridays at 8, opposite the higher-rated Brady Bunch. Enough said. CBS dropped the show after 3 months.

Teddy Bears was built around a stable ensemble cast, headed up by Dean Jones, better known for his work in Disney movies such as "The Love Bug" and the original "Shaggy Dog". Jones' production company co-produced the series with WB, but this apparently was the only project he'd have on the air. The cast also included some familiar faces and voices, including Marvin Kaplan (ex-Top Cat, later of Alice), John Banner (fresh from Hogan's Heroes), ex-Bowery Boy Huntz Hall (primetime debut), and Jamie Farr (later of M*A*S*H & The Gong Show). Art Metrano, better known now for his comedy-magic act, was given second billing in his first primetime starring role.

Gilmorebox uploaded the open, which, sadly, is in black & white.



Admittedly, this was a welcome alternative to the Bradys, but not enough people thought that to be the case. Their loss. Rating: B.

DC wastes a headline by recycling an old story. Marvel wastes one with another bad idea.

By now, I'm sure you've seen the headlines in USA Today and elsewhere, spoiling a plot point in Superman (3rd series) 13, out tomorrow. In truth, it's a new twist on an old storyline, and when I say old, I mean, more than 40 years old.

In the 70's, editor Julius Schwartz and his staff of writers created a media conglomerate, Galaxy Broadcasting, which would buy the Daily Planet and link it up with WGBS, a Metropolis television station. Galaxy head honcho Morgan Edge would later be revealed as a master villain in his own right, as demonstrated during Jack Kirby's run on Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen. Edge stuck around, as memory serves, after Kirby left DC, and was downgraded as time wore on. In this storyline, Clark Kent moved from the Planet, transitioning into a TV news anchor, which would be his role for the rest of the pre-Crisis era.

Fast forward to today. Veteran writer Scott Lobdell is now writing Superman and has decided to pull Clark out of the Planet office again, this time with no other job available, which of course would allow Kent to spend more time as Superman anyway. How long this storyline lasts is uncertain, but unlike some of these other media-pimping news releases DC & Marvel have put out in recent months, this actually has some backbone to it. Literally. It's just how Lobdell runs with the story that will require some study, as this leads into a story arc running through all the books in the Superman line, at least through the early part of the winter.

Meanwhile, over at Marvel, Amazing Spider-Man ends with issue 700, and a new book, Superior Spider-Man, starts in January, and hints are that it won't be Peter Parker under the red webbed mask.

SAY WHAT?!

Let me invoke the words of George Santayana:

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

In 1993, DC killed off Superman pro tempore, and introduced four new characters to star in the various books in his stead. Of course, the big guy returned a few months later, and the only quibble was that the time away gave him a longer hairdo. A year later, DC made another stupid decision and put Batman on the disabled list in order to "test out" Azrael as the Dark Knight, mostly to appease violence-obsessed fanboys who were tired of the traditional Caped Crusader, or so it seemed. "Az-Bats" went over about as well as, well, Crystal Pepsi, for example, which means to say, not well. Batman was back inside of a year.

What, then, makes Marvel think that tinkering yet again with one of their franchise heroes, in this case coming out of his 50th anniversary, will have any different result? Writer Dan Slott has all these ideas, but at the end of the day, in all probability, Peter Parker will return. Hasn't enough damage been done to this franchise in the last decade already under Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley, & Axel Alonso? Luckily, the newspaper strip is for now safe from such tampering, though Quesada tried to implement his "Brand New Day" story arc into the strip a couple of years ago, only for that to go over like a lead balloon. Personally, I'd rather read the newspaper strip and play my DVD's..........


Monday, October 22, 2012

Spook Rock: Eye of the Zombie (1986)

Former Creedence Clearwater Revival vocalist John Fogerty introduced himself to a new generation of listeners in 1985 with his solo CD, "Centerfield". The follow-up, "Eye of the Zombie", dropped a year later, and the title track certainly would be appropriate fare for this time of year, with Halloween a little more than a week away as of this writing.

Well, CCR was labeled "swamp rock" to begin with, and zombies usually are associated with swamps in some stories......

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Classic TV: Night Gallery (1970)

After his seminal horror anthology series, The Twilight Zone, had ended its run, creator-host Rod Serling had moved on to other projects, trying to find another hit series. He first attempted a change of genres to Westerns, creating The Loner for CBS, the same network that was home to Twilight Zone. Loner lasted just one season, but might be better known as having been produced by William Dozier and hitting the air 4 months before Batman made Dozier a household name.

In 1969, after Serling's adaptation of "Planet of the Apes" had been a success at the box office, he returned to television and changed networks. This time, the experimental 45-minute science-fiction drama, The New People, produced by Aaron Spelling & Danny Thomas, aired on ABC. It, too, was a 1-year wonder. Because of its unique format, it's not been rerun in the 43 years since its premiere. Meanwhile, Serling was already plotting his next project, and a return to horror.

In November '69, NBC presented Night Gallery as a made-for-TV movie which starred, among others, movie legend Joan Crawford in one of her final roles. The very next year, Gallery was on the fall schedule as part of a "wheel" anthology series, Four-in-One, airing once a month in a hour-long format, much like Twilight Zone in its early years. Four-in-One was another 1 year casualty, but Gallery & McCloud were spun off, with McCloud moving into another "wheel" as part of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie.

Here's the intro:



Currently, Me-TV holds the cable rights to the series, presumably shared with NBC-Universal's Chiller and/or SyFy networks. However, it remains in half-hour increments, as it has for years.

Rating: B.

Celebrity Rock: Tumbling Tumbleweeds (1986)

Here's one for the "Bet'cha Didn't Know" file.

Before he was cast as Festus on Gunsmoke for the final 11 years of its run, Ken Curtis had already had a long, distinguished career in show business, mostly as a singer. Curtis sang with the Sons of the Pioneers, and with the Tommy Dorsey & Shep Fields bands. With Dorsey, Curtis stepped into some pretty big shoes, as he succeeded------Frank Sinatra. Talk about a tough act to follow!

Curtis came to Gunsmoke after a 2 year run on Ripcord, and created the distinctive appearance of Festus, a scruffy, illliterate sort who became more or less Matt Dillon's sidekick. After Gunsmoke ended, Curtis returned to his musical roots, taking the occasional acting job.

Following is a clip of Curtis performing a song commonly associated with the Sons of the Pioneers, "Tumbling Tumbleweeds", recorded in Germany in 1986.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Musical Interlude: All You Zombies (1985)

Try figuring this one out.

The Hooters burst onto the scene in 1985 with their major label debut, "Nervous Night". The first single, "All You Zombies", is a wee bit difficult to classify. The title implies a horror theme, but it's not even close. The lyrics reference two prominent figures in the Old Testament, Moses & Noah, and the final verse is a query asked of God, as the song goes, "Where have all Your children gone?". What that suggests is a very real problem in some societal circles when it comes to religion.

This is not to say that the band members are Christians or of some other denomination, like Catholics. I cannot say for certain what their views were.

Uploaded to YouTube by the band's VEVO channel.

Panic in the Bronx? part 2

The Detroit Tigers punched their ticket to the World Series Thursday night, eliminating the suddenly punchless New York Yankees for the 3rd time in 7 years, 8-1. However, if you go by the tabloid media in New York, that ain't the story.

The Yankees have won just one World Series in the 9 years that Alex Rodriguez has been in the fabled pinstripes. As the postseason wore on, the media repeatedly harped on "A-Rod"'s repeated playoff struggles, all but saying that his 2009 heroics were in fact an aberration. However, whatever the malady is that hits Rodriguez like a ton of bricks every October, save for '09, it spread like a contagion through the rest of the lineup, as they seemed to have done just enough to oust division rival Baltimore in the ALDS a week ago, but couldn't get the lumber awakened fast enough. Suddenly, the Saturday night heroics of Raul Ibanez, who came over from Philadelphia in the offseason, were forgotten. Wednesday's postponement delayed the inevitable. Regardless of how they play in the regular season every year, the Tigers have the Yanks' number when October rolls around.

Over the last two days, there has been speculation that the Yankees would eat the remainder of Rodriguez's ridiculous contract, renegotiated during the 2007 postseason, during which time, "A-Rod" had seemingly parted company with that noted con artist/barrister/sports agent, Scott Boras, but the exorbitant deal was Boras level highway robbery. In order to effect a trade of Rodriguez, who has already stated that he would not waive his no-trade clause, even if it meant going home to Miami and join the moribound Marlins, the Yankees would have to absorb the bulk of the contract. Simply put, "A-Rod" is going nowhere.

However, Ichiro Suzuki, the hitting machine from Japan who came over from Seattle at the trade deadline, is a free agent. So is Nick Swisher, who can play both outfield & first base. If I'm Brian Cashman and/or the Steinbrenner brothers, I'd keep Ichiro, let Swisher go, and let Ichiro play right field, his natural position, next year, now that Brett Gardner is healthy. "A-Rod" leaving is not happening, if but because the WWE will have Wrestlemania at the Meadowlands next Spring. Rodriguez attended this year's big show with ex-WWE &WCW femme fatale Torrie Wilson at his side.

Funny thing is, Wilson seemed not to buy into the idea that Rodriguez was cheating on her with some unnamed female fans at Yankee Stadium during the ALCS, throwing baseballs with his phone number on them, according to press reports. Maybe Torrie should talk to actresses Cameron Diaz & Kate Hudson.......!

Let us consider the pitching. CC Sabathia suffered another October meltdown, just like he did with Milwaukee 4 years ago vs. Philadelphia. Aside from Andy Pettite & Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees don't really have anyone dependable behind Sabathia. Ivan Nova fell apart at season's end. Phil Hughes has been schizophrenic on the hill. The Yanks are hoping to get ace closer Mariano Rivera back in 2013, but will they also retain his substitute, Rafael Soriano? Michael Pineda, acquired from Seattle, spent the entire year on the DL, but will he be a factor in 2013? So many questions, and yet all the press wants to talk about now is one player that they want gone.

The Yankees will be back, of course. It wouldn't be October without them, and it's always interesting with them, win or lose. Panic, though, should no longer be an option.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Musical Interlude: Come As You Are (1992)

Nirvana was at the forefront of the early 90's grunge rock movement, led by tortured singer-songwriter Kurt Cobain. "Come As You Are" was the 2nd single off their major label debut, "Nevermind", and, in sharp contrast to "Smells Like Teen Spirit", it was a lot easier to listen to.

Sadly, Cobain would take his own life just 2 short years later, and, aside from some posthumous releases, Nirvana was no more. Drummer Dave Grohl has since moved up to the front as the lead singer and guitarist of his own group, Foo Fighters.

Uploaded via the band's VEVO channel on YouTube:

Weasels of the Week: Executives at Cartoon Network & Fox

When I was a senior in high school, one of my teachers had a pet phrase that would illustrate her frustration over her students' lack of attention on a particular day.

"Stupidity runs rampant!"

Never has this been more apparent than in the television industry, and especially in the last five days.

Our first stop is Atlanta, home of Cartoon Network, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an elaborate programming stunt this month. On October 13, CN programmers felt it necessary to bump aside the mid-morning DC Nation block in favor of reruns of Riders of Berk, a spinoff from the movie "How To Train Your Dragon". The key components of DC Nation, those being Green Lantern & Young Justice, had just started their fall seasons two weeks prior. There was, predictably, no advance warning, no explanation forthcoming.

The backlash was immediate & intense. With DC maintaining a presence at the New York City Comic-Con, there was bound to be some bombardment of questions regarding the fate of the the two series (DC Nation fills some of the commercial time with short bumper pieces) that had already been established. Still, nary a peep out of CN suits, and the only rational explanation available was that something had to be put aside for the 20th anniversary party, and, unfortunately for superhero fans, DC Nation drew the short straw. Before the end of the weekend, it was learned that CN has placed DC Nation on hiatus until at least January 2013. Then again, we've heard promises before from CN about certain of their other shows, such as Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, which began its 2nd season---finally---over the summer, but the first 13 episodes were burned off in a weekday afternoon berth over a 2 1/2 week period, with no room on the evening schedule for replays. Promises never kept are always broken.

It wasn't until Tuesday that I ran across a discussion thread at Toon Zone's DC Animation Forum. There, I'd learned that social media outlets were exploding over this issue. I weighed in, and offered this.......

[CN has contracts not only with DC/Warner Bros. Animation, but with Dreamworks. Let's say that Dreamworks' deal calls for Riders of Berk to air every Saturday, regardless of what promotion is in effect, such as the 20th anniversary celebration---and let's face it, if CN suits had any sense, they'd have done that starting at the beginning of 2012 and made it a year long thing----and WBA/DC doesn't, then Dreamworks gets priority. That's just the way it works out. It on the surface doesn't seem fair, but that apparently is the way the Snyder-Sorcher administration chooses to do business. Rob Peter to pay Paul, if you will.]

Stuart Snyder and his chief lieutenant, Rob Sorcher, are Public Enemies #'s 1 & 2 with fans because of their insistence on including live-action programming, some of it not having anything to do with cartoons at all, on the CN roster, and Snyder has been a previous "winner" of the Weasel ears. They are cited for not properly planning out the anniversary celebration and  also not accounting for DC Comics' fanbase and their loyal support of DC animated series. Yeah, Snyder also gets the tail since he's a repeat offender.

Now, we move west to Los Angeles, with a pit stop in St. Louis. Fox has the National League Championship Series, and game 3 between St. Louis & San Francisco was scheduled to run beginning at 4:00 (ET). Rain was in the forecast, and Fox had their primetime schedule filled with The X-Factor. By the 7th inning, the rain came pouring down in St. Louis, and play was suspended for more than 3 1/2 hours. Rather than go to X-Factor as scheduled at 8 (ET), Fox made a bonehead play of their own and subbed other programming they could plug in just in case they had to cut away for an update from St. Louis, which they did.

According to Yahoo!, X-Factor judge & producer Simon Cowell was said to be furious. This is X-Factor's 2nd season on Fox, and for the second straight year, an episode has been pushed aside because Fox & MLB can't figure out a contingency plan for rain delays during the playoffs. X-Factor has been rescheduled for Tuesday at 7 (ET), bumping local syndicated programming as a result. Hey, you can't have everything.

The correct decision in this case would've been to suspend play for the night and pick it up the next day before playing game 4, as if you were doing something like this in the regular season. However, the playoffs mean extra ratings points for Fox, which to them is the bottom line, ahead of player safety.

I don't really know who the appropriate party at Fox would be in this case, so we'll attach a baseball and a cap to the Weasel ears. I think they'll get the message. Then again........

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Spook Rock: Marie Laveau (1974)

Country singer Bobby Bare scored his only #1 hit in 1974 with the tale of the legendary voodoo mistress, "Marie Laveau". I can remember hearing this song on the radio back then, and the local country music stations would bring this back every Halloween, appropriately enough.

The following clip is of more recent vintage, with Bare appearing at Church Street Station, which I believe is a Nashville venue, and was also the name of a music series on TNN (now Spike TV) in the 90s.

DC shuffles the deck again

Newsarama reported on Monday that DC is cutting 4 titles in January, with one of them transitioning into a new book. It was also reported that there is at least one cancellation in December. The cut list:

GI Combat (2nd series-ends with issue 7 in December): DC is finding out the hard way that war books just don't sell in the 21st century, not when our real-life soldiers are overseas in a long, protracted war designed to shut down terrorism. DC ran into this same problem when they revived Men of War last year, only to cancel it after 8 issues and replace it with the revived GI Combat. The returning Haunted Tank is arriving too late to save the series from cancellation. Factor in, too, that it's 40 pages for $4, and that might be a turn-off for some folks as well.

January cuts:

Legion Lost (2nd series-ends with issue 16): What worked in the 90's doesn't work now, apparently. Despite the fact that the Legion of Superheroes franchise has a loyal fanbase dating back to its earliest days, something about this book is turning those fans away.

Grifter (ends with issue 16): Giving this book to writer and cover artist Rob Liefeld was, in fact, the kiss of death. Grifter also appears in the revived Team 7, but I don't like its prospects of survival, either.

Blue Beetle (3rd DC series-ends with issue 16): DC rebooted this series back to #1 to start the New 52 line, but co-creator Keith Giffen has a new book, Threshold, which will continue Jaime Reyes' story. If DC was looking to reach out to the Hispanic-American audience with this series, let's give them credit for at least  being persistent.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (ends with issue 16): Some might be surprised it lasted as long as it did. The creators fitted in the Creature Commandos, a superteam that was first introduced as a World War II team in Weird War Tales (1st series) back in 1980, to give DC's version of Frankie some backup. Unfortunately, there seems to be not enough room for more than 2 monster books now, as I, Vampire will stick around along with the current incarnation of Swamp Thing.

Having flipped through the pages of the new Phantom Stranger, we find that former Teen Titan Raven will return as a central player in this series, leading into a major storyline event tied to the Justice League line next year. Bonus points for reviving the classic cover title logo for the series, though DC exec Dan DiDio has a long way to go to earn readers' trust, since his reboot of OMAC bombed earlier this year. Based on what I've read of the January solicitations, I think I'm making some changes with my reading list, probably before January. Stay tooned.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Panic in the Bronx?

The New York Daily News devoted several pages on Monday to what the media and Yankees fans will point to as the root cause of the Bronx Bombers' demise in the American League Championship Series vs. Detroit if the Yankees don't break out of a 2-0 hole starting tonight. All-Star shortstop Derek Jeter is gone for the season after fracturing his left ankle late in Saturday's game. On Sunday, journeyman Jayson Nix, acquired in the offseason as a free agent, started in place of Jeter. I had thought about giving the Yankees a collective Dunce Cap for taking Eduardo Nunez off the ALCS roster, as he's been with the club a couple of years, and, yup, has filled in for both Jeter and Alex Rodriguez often enough to the point where he could be counted on. However, Nunez, like everyone else, wasn't hitting all that well in the ALDS, and manager Joe Girardi decided he needed an extra pitcher rather than an extra bat on the bench.

Turns out that decision might just be a bad enough one to cost the Yankees another trip to the World Series.

To their credit, the Yankees played well enough to win on Sunday, but couldn't hit. The media focus after this game was a blown call at 2nd base by umpire Jeff Nelson (no relation to the former pitcher of the same name who hurled for the Yankees, Rangers, & Mariners, among others) that cost the Yanks an out and conceivably the game. Replays clearly showed that Detroit's Omar Infante was out at 2nd, but because Infante's body screened Nelson from seeing the tag applied by Robinson Cano, he called Infante safe. Girardi argued and ultimately was ejected while making a pitching change as he decided to continue the dispute.

So, the Yankees are down 2-0, headed for Detroit, where the Tigers' ace, Justin Verlander, awaits. The doom & gloom has already set in, but let's remember that the Yankees have beaten Verlander before. He's not that invincible. With the media already poor-mouthing the Yankees' chances of recovering, it has some assuming the series will be over tomorrow. No, it won't. The Yankees have hit enough and scored enough to get to this point, but now, it isn't enough. The offense has to finally wake up after a 7 game slumber party. Of course, the absence of Jeter will be a problem psychologically, but that's something that needs to be addressed well before game time.

You know what they'll say if the Tigers advance to the Series. Never mind that it could be a rematch of the '06 Fall Classic, which in turn was a rematch from 1968, should St. Louis also advance. The media will tell you that without the Yankees, the ratings will drop like a bag of stones. Tigers-Giants could be a fresh matchup. So could Yankees-Giants or Yankees-Cardinals in this modern era, should New York turn things around. The Yankees have their backs against the collective wall. An entire city, not to mention a state, worries about them. Going into game 3, the Yankees only have to look back at what they did vs. Verlander in the regular season. All that talk about throwing past records out the door in the playoffs doesn't always work. It's time the Yankees proved that point, to themselves, to their fans, and to everyone. It starts tonight.

Spook Rock: Monster Mash (1962)

Bobby Pickett only had one huge hit, and it's a seasonal tradition.

"Monster Mash" was released in 1962, co-written by Pickett in tribute to his love of horror movies, and particularly, one could guess, the work of Boris Karloff. Pickett sings this song in a mimic of Karloff's voice, which would explain why some genius on YouTube posted a video of Karloff's appearance on Shindig! and dubbed over Pickett's recording to make it sound like Karloff was doing a cover.

But why bother with something like that when you can find the man himself? The following clip comes a few years after "Mash" actually climbed the charts. The blurred line covers up the recording date & time, presumably, of the original date of the clip.....

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gary Collins (1948-2012)

In the 60's & 70's, he was a dependable character actor and a frequent presence on primetime television. He reinvented himself in the 80's as an MC, winning a new generation of fans. Today, Hollywood mourns the passing of actor-talk show host Gary Collins at 74.

Collins first appeared in the 1965 service comedy-drama, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, which enjoyed a brief revival on cable in the 80's, perhaps to cash in on Collins' gigs as host of the talk show Hour Magazine, and the Miss America Pageant, inheriting the latter gig from Bert Parks. Wackiest Ship lasted just one season, and then Collins resurfaced, co-starring with Dale Robertson in Iron Horse. He finally headlined his own series with the 1972 supernatural drama, The Sixth Sense.

Collins' only other primetime headlining gig was the adaptation of Born Free, which lasted just one season as well. In 1980 came Hour Magazine, a weekday talk show that resurrected Collins' career. After he stepped down as host of the Miss America pageant, Collins gradually stepped away from the spotlight, taking fewer roles.

Ejrigby uploaded the open & close to Sixth Sense:



Rest in peace, Gary.

And now, there are four......

The Beltway Series ain't happening yet.

There ain't gonna be a Bay Bridge Series II, either.

The League Championship Series begin on Saturday night with the AL East champion NY Yankees facing the Central division champion Detroit Tigers, the team that ousted the Bombers in the Division Series a year ago. Over in the National League, it will be a meeting of the last two World Series champs, as the defending titlists, the St. Louis Cardinals, will meet NL West champion San Francisco.

All four Division series went the maximum five games, with plenty of drama to be had. Detroit defeated Oakland behind their ace, Justin Verlander, in Thursday's finale. The Yankees' CC Sabathia matched Verlander's effort with interest, hurling a complete game as New York eliminated Baltimore, 3-1, in the early game on Friday night. Washington, the top seed in the NL, squandered a 6-0 lead and saw St. Louis stage a furious comeback late, ousting the Nationals, 9-7. Say this for the Nationals & Orioles. They will return, and there one day could be a Beltway Series.

San Francisco spotted Cincinnati a 2-0 lead in games, and swept the Reds in Cincinnati, with Buster Posey putting the exclamation point in Thursday's deciding game with a grand slam off Mat Latos. The road team won all 5 games in the series, which makes it imperative that the Giants maintain the home field advantage they've just earned.

Let's take a closer look.

ALCS: Detroit at New York: As mentioned earlier, the Tigers eliminated the Yankees in the LDS last year, and did so also in 2006, only to lose to St. Louis in the World Series. Last year, the Tigers fell to Texas in the LCS, as the Yankees did in 2010. While it hasn't been officially announced as of this writing, it's likely the Yankees will have comeback kid Andy Pettite on the hill for Saturday's opener, as there is no rest for the weary Bombers, whose anemic bats eventually have to come to life, knowing they won't see Justin Verlander until game 3 on Tuesday.

For Detroit, the impetus is also on waking up the offense, and provide some backup for Prince Fielder and Triple Crown champ Miguel Cabrera, surrounded as they are by a no-name lineup. The Yankees already have to deal with the media bringing up Alex Rodriguez's continuing postseason failures. Just when they thought A-Rod got that monkey off his back 3 years ago, it's latched itself on again, but it's a team-wide malady at the plate. Shoot, a lot of the big stars weren't exactly lighting up the scoreboard these last few days in either league.

It will come down to the bullpens, particularly the closers. Detroit's Jose Valverde or New York's Rafael Soriano will have the most pressure on them, more so on Soriano since he is filling in for the injured Mariano Rivera. This will go six, with the Yankees moving on to the Series.

NLCS: St. Louis at San Francisco: With apologies to Fox, we present the Ex-Mets Factor. Angel Pagan & Carlos Beltran were teammates at the start of the 2011 season. Now, they're on opposite sides playing for a berth in the World Series. Beltran finished 2011 in San Francisco, and signed with St. Louis as a free agent (no thanks to his agent, Scott "20 Mule Team" Boras), so the Giants got Pagan in a trade with the Mets, and it looks like they got the better of the deal at this point, though that could change once Zack Wheeler debuts in New York, which might be as early as next year.

Beltran provided the power bat that the Cardinals lost when Albert Pujols went West to the Angels as a free agent, and is firmly entrenched as a #2 hitter, batting in front of Matt Holliday. Pagan leads off for the Giants, but outside of Pablo Sandoval & Buster Posey, the Giants don't scare a lot of people offensively (contrary to their football namesakes in New York). Aside from swapping out Pujols for Beltran in the free agent market, St. Louis returns virtually the same crew that won it all last year, seeking to become the first NL team to win back-to-back Series since the Reds did it all the way back in 1975-6. The Yankees were the last team to repeat, having turned that trick from 1998-2000. The Giants may have found a solution to Tim Lincecum's problems by having him come out of the bullpen, picking up a win in game 4 vs. Cincinnati. However, with the Cardinals' penchant for late-inning magic, not even "The Freak" may be able to stop them from a return trip to the Fall Classic and a chance to win their 3rd title in 7 years. The pick is St. Louis in 7.

Check back here in about a week for a World Series prediction.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Not-so-Classic-TV: Legends of the Superheroes (1979)

A while back, I traded for a VHS compilation of Hanna-Barbera's 2 Legends of the Superheroes specials, which aired on consecutive weeks in the winter of 1979 on NBC, rather than on ABC, home of Super Friends. As you might expect, Legends was routed in the ratings both nights.

I missed out on the first episode, "The Challenge" the first time around, so I finally took a look when I acquired the tape. I don't know how much H-B and/or NBC shelled out to Adam West & Burt Ward to reprise as Batman & Robin one more time (or to Emmy winner Frank Gorshin to be Riddler for the first time in 11 years), but this wasn't much to write home about at all. Barryfreiman uploaded the opening to "The Challenge":



It wasn't exactly the Justice League vs. the Legion of Doom as that storyline was playing out on Saturdays on Challenge of the Super Friends, though members of both teams were represented here. The producers thought they were being clever casting comic Charlie Callas (ex-Switch) as Sinestro, but Solomon Grundy (Mickey Morton) was presented as a total tool, rather than the menace he really was. Oh, please, give me a break!

A week or so later, in a parody of Dean Martin's weekly Celebrity Roast series, they somehow got the heroes together for a roast, MC'd by Ed McMahon (The Tonight Show). Unfortunately, the clips that are available cannot be posted because the embedding codes were disabled, probably to avoid total embarassment.

Thankfully, WB hasn't seen fit to release this on DVD yet, but I'd not be surprised if the morons at [adult swim] got their hands on it......

Rating: D.

NBC gives up the ghost on "Mockingbird Lane"

NBC, given its recent poor track record with revivals & reboots, has decided against going ahead with a full-on revamp of the beloved 1964-6 horrorcom, The Munsters, and will air Mockingbird Lane as a stand-alone, 1-shot special, airing later this month. Creative differences between creator Bryan Fuller (ex-Pushing Daisies) and the network are said to be the cause of this change of heart.

NBC spent $10 million putting this together, but as cast photos appearing on Yahoo! pretty much tell the tale. Fuller was putting himself at risk of alienating fans of Munsters by making the characters appear to be a little more human than originally presented nearly 40 years ago. For example, Jerry O'Connell (ex-The Defenders, Sliders, My Secret Identity) as Herman is identifiable by a large scar around his neck. If that didn't throw up a red flag, what would?

Mockingbird Lane will air 2 weeks from tonight. Beyond that, it'll likely be shunted off to cable cousin SyFy for dumping before being released on DVD to recoup the losses if at all possible (and you know that's likely). I for one can't wait to read the reviews......

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Classic TV: C. P. O. Sharkey (1976)

In the 60's, producer Aaron Ruben turned the Marine Corps on its ear by introducing them to Gomer Pyle, USMC in a spin-off from The Andy Griffith Show. More than a decade later, Ruben decided to go after the Navy.

The premise of C. P. O. Sharkey, set in San Diego, was a tough but lovable Chief Petty Officer training a racially diverse group of recruits. So Ruben thought it was a genius move to cast insult comic Don Rickles as Otto Sharkey. Rickles' brand of humor was as politically incorrect as you could imagine back in the day, though he was actually an equal opportunity offender. If remade today, it'd have to be retooled to appease the PC Police, that much is certain. What Ruben was looking for was to blend together various ethnic characters similar to the police comedy, Barney Miller, over on ABC. He got 2 years, while Miller lasted 7 (and Gomer, as memory serves, went for 4 or 5, as star Jim Nabors decided to move on and do a variety show). So what went wrong?

From what I remember, Sharkey aired on Wednesdays, an often difficult night to program. Here's the intro:



Rickles hasn't had a series gig since, other than his regularly appearing on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast.

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Alex Karras (1935-2012)

News has just come over the wires of the passing of former NFL standout turned actor Alex Karras at 77.

Karras played collegiately at Iowa and led the Hawkeyes to a Big 10 title and a victory in the Rose Bowl, and played his entire NFL career with Detroit, retiring in 1971. During this time, Karras began a successful second career as an actor, appearing as himself in the 1968 film adaptation of George Plimpton's "Paper Lion". Karras more famously had a small role in Mel Brooks' seminal "Blazing Saddles", punching out a horse. ABC hired him as a commentator for Monday Night Football, and Karras was credited with stating that Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Otis Sistrunk, who never went to college, had gone to "the University of Mars".

One thing that Sistrunk & Karras also had in common was professional wrestling. Karras wrestled in, I believe, the AWA in the 60's, moonlighting during the offseason from the Lions, and it served him well while suspended from the NFL in 1963 for gambling. Sistrunk would later swap his shoulder pads for tights and wrestle for Georgia Championship Wrestling, a branch of the NWA, in the early 80's. Karras' mat experience would also serve well during a stint on Match Game in 1975. A lady wrestler, Lola Kiss, was a contestant on the show, and offered to demonstrate some techniques. Panelist Teresa Graves (Get Christie Love!, ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In) tried first, then backed off. Karras was then called on. Movienotes presents this choice clip.......



And, here's Karras as Mongo in "Blazing Saddles", courtesy of TooneyReed:



In the 80's, Karras returned to the spotlight as the adoptive father of Emmanuel Lewis' title character in Webster. Phillipmg78 uploaded the intro:



Earlier this morning, Karras succumbed after complications resulting from kidney failure. Perhaps as early as tomorrow's Steelers-Titans game, the NFL will honor Karras with a moment of silent prayer.

Rest in peace, Alex.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Classic TV: Mork & Mindy (1978)

To think that a mere episode of Happy Days touched off a cultural phenomenon.

Viewers were introduced to a wacky alien named Mork (Robin Williams, ex-The Richard Pryor Show), who wanted to bring back a human to his homeworld, Ork. Of course, Fonzie (Henry Winkler) would have none of that, but it turned out to be a sort-of dream. Or was it?

It wasn't long before ABC decided that Mork merited his own series, set in the present day, hence the debut of Mork & Mindy, which premiered in September 1978, airing on Thursdays, occupying the slot formerly held by Welcome Back, Kotter. Instead of returning to Milwaukee (although he'd do that early on for a 1-shot), Mork now settles in Boulder, Colorado, his egg-shaped spacecraft crashing in a wooded area. Ultimately, he finds shelter with Mindy McConnell (Pam Dawber), who just came out of a bad relationship. Mindy's father (Conrad Janis, ex-Quark), a music store owner and orchestra leader, wasn't too keen on the newcomer at first, which was normal, but his mom, Mindy's grandmother (Elizabeth Kerr) didn't seem to mind.

Still, Mork had a mission, to observe life on earth, and report telepathically to Orson (Ralph James), whom he'd often greet with "Your Immenseness", implying that Orson was a rather large being, a subtle jab at film legend Orson Welles, whose girth had grown in recent times after his movie career had ended.

By the end of season 3, however, Mork & Mindy had become husband & wife, as they had--predictably---fallen in love. In a bizarre twist, it would be Mork that became pregnant with child, and, bizarrely, on Ork, children begin as fully grown adults. In this case, Mork's offspring, Mearth, was played by comedy legend Jonathan Winters, whom Williams looked upon as an idol. The series ended after 4 seasons, but ABC, unwilling to let go, decided to green-light an animated version for the Saturday morning crowd, and commissioned Ruby-Spears to produce the cartoon, which retconned Mork & Mindy to high school. Predictably, the unofficial 5th season was a dud and the series finally came to an end. The cartoons have been tucked away in Paramount's vaults ever since. I have a review of the cartoon on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives.

Hulu takes us back to season 1 and "Mork Goes Public", in which Mork decides to reveal himself and collect a reward from a magazine in order to help Mindy pay her college tuition. Jeff Altman guest stars. Seeing Mindy pretend to be a "Catwoman from Mars", albeit in a costume inspired by Filmation's 2nd Batman series, is worth the price of admission alone.



Last I knew, the Hub had the cable rights to the series, so check your listings.

Rating: A.

Musical Interlude: Under Pressure (1981)

Queen joined forces with fellow British music icon David Bowie for their 1981 hit, "Under Pressure", which appeared on Queen's "Greatest Hits" package.

The video, as you'll see, pays homage to the silent film era. Who knew these guys were fans?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Weasels of the Week: Mitt Romney & Kansas City Chiefs "fans"

I think we've all heard by now that Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has reportedly said he would cut funding to PBS if elected.

SAY WHAT?

You would think the GOP would've paid closer attention to the bumbling on local levels last year that cost them some elections, including in my home district. PBS, home to Sesame Street, Antiques Roadshow, Masterpiece Theatre, Nova, and so much more, relies on viewer support, and, while I'm not certain about other parts of the country, local affiliate WMHT has had more pledge break periods than usual in recent years. More like every other month instead of every 3-4. Cutting funding, or at least the threat of doing so, has angered some folks, and the fact that Romney name-checked Sesame Street icon Big Bird prompted the giant canary (Carroll Spinney) to make a surprise appearance on Saturday Night Live over the weekend to address the issue with Seth Meyers during Weekend Update.

I am reminded of last year's Mayoral election in Troy, in which the local GOP resorted to a last minute attack ad in a desperate bid to swing the election. Instead, Republican candidate Carmella Mantello was routed at the polls as County Legislator Lou Rosamilla was elected. 11 months later, Mitt Romney's mouth has all but gift-wrapped a second term for President Obama.

The bottom line? PBS means different things to a lot of people, kids and adults alike. Slashing funding has viewers in a panic, afraid they'll lose their favorite shows. Real smooth, Mitt. NOT!

Less than 48 hours after fans in Atlanta pelted the field with debris in protest of a call that went against the Braves and ultimately cost Atlanta a chance to advance in the National League playoffs, another group of overly inebriated morons made headlines in Kansas City, but this time, there was no junk tossed out onto the field.

Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was being attended to by team doctors after taking a vicious hit from a Baltimore player. Cassel would have to leave the game, and it was later reported that he had suffered a concussion. Given the greater emphasis on player safety, the normal thing to do would be if Cassel were to leave the field under his own power, the fans would applaud in support of their player. In this case, with Cassel down on the turf at Arrowhead Stadium, some fans, and I'm using the term loosely here, applauded the fact that he'd been knocked out of the game.

Again, SAY WHAT?

I have to guess that these clueless, classless, pie-eyed clowns weren't Chiefs fans at all, and I doubt very seriously they made the pilgrimage all the way from Baltimore to cheer on the Ravens. The only other time I can think of a classless scenario such as this would be in---where else?---Philadelphia, where Eagles fans cheered when Michael Irvin, then with the hated Dallas Cowboys, now a NFL Network analyst, was similarly removed from a game several years back. Then again, in Philadelphia, they cheer when Santa Claus gets abused, that's how wacky they are. Of course, fans in Philadelphia are also cruel enough to cover for one of their own when they use a laser pointer on opposing players, as happened in a Phillies-St. Louis game on national television 3 years ago.

In this country, we have a God-given right to cheer and boo who we want to and when. Problem is, the line blurs when some people have too much to drink too soon, and while we handed out Dunce Caps to the goofs in Atlanta, the drunks in Kansas City get Weasel ears, for giving the city, the Chiefs, and the NFL a black eye they don't deserve.

Mitt Romney gets the ears for daring to take the pruning shears to PBS. Enough said there.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Let's try it again......

There's a reason why I often tag my predictions by saying, "of course, I could be wrong". Last night's Wild Card games were evidence that such prognostications aren't an exact science. That being said, let's retrench and reconfigure the Division Series only, and take each remaining round as it comes.

ALDS: We'll stick with our pick of Detroit over Oakland. Meanwhile, given how competitive the season series was between East rivals New York & Baltimore, we're pegging this as going the full five games. The real storyline here is former Yankee manager Buck Showalter looking to eliminate his former team and send the Orioles to the ALCS for the first time since 1997, when they lost to Cleveland.

NLDS: We'll stick with Cincinnati over San Francisco, but figuring the Washington-St. Louis series is the same as Yankees-Orioles. This, too, will go five, and it'll be St. Louis moving on, setting up an all-Central division NLCS.

The reason I didn't fill out an online bracket for the NCAA basketball tournament is that it usually gets blown up on the first day or two. Last night, I went 0-2 on the Wild Cards, which reminded me of those failures. Now, if we can just convince Potato Bud Selig and his people to try to avoid dragging every game out to 3-4 hours every night. It's either that, or they can buy stock in Sominex........

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dunce Cap Awards: Sam Holbrook & Atlanta Braves "fans"

In Major League Baseball's quest to maximize profit margins, ad revenues, and ratings points in the postseason, they've added a Wild Card round in each league in what amounts to a play-in game, as if this were college basketball. Now, I know Commissioner Allan "Bud" Selig isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed (he's in the dull tray with President Bush II), but not even he had any idea of what kind of chaos could come out of this Pandora's Box.

The first Wild Card game had some controversy late, and it soiled the reputation of Atlanta Braves fans, who are normally some of the classiest in sports.

Here's the deal. Home 8th, Atlanta down, 6-3 to St. Louis. Runners on 1st & 2nd, one out. Rookie Andrelton Simmons lifts a fly ball to left. Another rookie, St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma, ventures out to shallow left to make a play. Suddenly, he veers to his left, and the ball drops behind him. Everyone's safe, right?

Wrong. For all the wrong reasons.

Umpire Sam Holbrook, manning the left field line in this game (extra umps are deployed in the postseason), signalled that he was invoking the "infield fly" rule, which meant that Simmons was out. However, Holbrook's call was so late, the runners advanced to 2nd & 3rd. Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez came out to argue, and ultimately filed a protest. Meanwhile, irate Braves fans, obviously over-intoxicated by this point, began pelting the field with debris, forcing a delay of 18 minutes. Atlanta ultimately lost the game, an ignominious end to Chipper Jones' career after 19 seasons.

After the game, Major League Baseball denied the protest, claiming Holbrook made the correct call, and not only that, but the "infield fly" is a judgment call and cannot be protested. St. Louis now moves on to play NL East champ Washington in the Division Series.

Holbrook gets a Dunce Cap for making a poor judgment at precisely the wrong time. There will be conspiracy theorists, especially wearing Braves colors, who might think there was something screwy about the timing of the call. Dunce Caps also are being handed out to those anonymous, excessively soused Braves fans for exacerbating the situation with their show of immaturity and disrespect. They gave their team a black eye, but Holbrook gave MLB another for his brain fart. The rulebook clearly states that an "infield fly" must be called immediately. Holbrook didn't do that. There was at least a time lapse of a few seconds before Holbrook made his call. Fellow ump Jeff Kellogg, working home plate, was struck by a bottle while in a conference with Gonzalez and the other umpires during the delay.

Well, I said I could be wrong in my postseason predictions. How was I to know I'd be wrong right off the bat? Oy..........

Thursday, October 4, 2012

2012 MLB Playoff preview & predictions

And, now, the real fun begins.

The regular season is over for Major League Baseball. We are down to 10 teams as the playoff chase begins with the new 1-game Wild Card playoff round, which essentially is a play-in game to reach the final eight. Let's take a look at the field.

American League:

Wild Card round: Baltimore at Texas.
For Ron Washington & the Rangers to reach the World Series for a 3rd straight year---they would be the first AL club since---who else?---the Yankees to pull off this feat---they have to go as a wild card after losing the AL West to Oakland on Wednesday. On Friday, they send Japan's Yu Darvish to the hill against the upstart Baltimore Orioles, who dropped two of three to Tampa Bay, enabling the Yankees to win the AL East.


Baltimore's been a nice little feel-good story all season, mirroring the rise of their neighbors across the Potomac, the Washington Nationals. In fact, I'd not be surprised to see Buck Showalter cop Manager of the Year honors in the AL (see below) while Davey Johnson does the same in the NL. It's been 15 years since the O's were last in the post-season, and at that time, they lost to eventual AL champ Cleveland. The bad news is that regardless of who wins on Friday, the Yankees await on Sunday in the Division Series.

The Rangers have run the gauntlet two years running, and I can't see them going one-&-done.

Division Series:

Texas vs. New York: It used to be that the Rangers would roll over and play dead for the Bombers, but not anymore. They eliminated the Yankees two years ago en route to the World Series, for example. Offensively, it is almost a perfect match. Pitching, however, is a different story. The Yanks have question marks outside of CC Sabathia & Hiroki Kuroda, as Ivan Nova & Phil Hughes faded in the stretch. I'd not be too surprised if Derek Lowe and/or Freddy Garcia were promoted from the bullpen for a spot start, as I don't think rookie David Phelps is ready to accept this mission. The Rangers have Darvish, and traded for Ryan Dempster in July. It's going to come down to the bullpens during this series, but, sorry to say, there will not be a 3rd trip to the Series for the Rangers. Pick--Yankees in six.

Detroit vs. Oakland: You've heard all the cliches already about Oakland slipping in the back door to take the West on the final day of the regular season. Supposedly, we never saw it coming. We expected Detroit to dominate the Central, but they had to rally to overtake Chicago in the final month. It wasn't that easy. Oakland has 5 rookie starters, including Tom Milone, who came over from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez trade. Detroit has Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Doug Fister, who came of age a year ago. Detroit also has Triple Crown winner and likely MVP Miguel Cabrera to complement Prince Fielder. Enough said. Pick---Tigers in five.

ALCS: Yankees over Detroit in six.

National League:

Wild Card round: St. Louis at Atlanta. Most folks picked the Cardinals to win the Central. I picked Atlanta to take the East and end Philadelphia's 5 year run at the top. Well, I was half right. I also correctly picked Cincinnati to win the Central, so I did know something after all....! Atlanta has won 23 straight games started by Kris Medlen, a converted reliever who takes the hill on Friday night. That no longer means anything in the post-season, but this is Chipper Jones' farewell tour, and the Braves would like to send him out a winner. Of course, they tried doing that for Bobby Cox 2 years ago, and that didn't work.......! I can't see the defending champs advancing here.......

Division Series: Washington vs. Atlanta: The one thing that will prevent the Nationals from advancing is their hare-brained idea of shutting down Stephen Strasburg for the season last month, just to protect his arm from future injury. This move will come back to bite Washington on its collective tuchis. Trust me. Pick---Atlanta in five.

Cincinnati vs. San Francisco: The Reds get manager Dusty Baker back just in time for the playoffs. The Giants, looking for their 2nd title in 3 years, have to hope Tim Lincecum can find his lost form in time. Right now, the "Freak" is just another pitcher, and that's bad news for San Francisco. Offensively, the teams are about even, but if it comes down to the bullpens, well, the edge goes to the Reds. Pick---Cincinnati in six.

NLCS: Atlanta over Cincinnati in seven.

World Series: Atlanta avenges past Series losses to the Yankees and takes it in six.

Of course, I could be wrong, but we'll see.......

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The last highlight of a lost season

When baseball fans cheer a strikeout, it's usually a pitcher on their team that puts the "K" on the board. Tuesday night was an exception.

The Miami Marlins had tried to duplicate the success of the NBA's Heat and form a super-team to break the Philadelphia Phillies' stranglehold on the National League East, but despite the talent lured to South Beach, including mercurial manager (and former Marlins player & coach) Ozzie Guillen, despite owner Jeffrey Loria breaking the bank, the Marlins never quite got out of the blocks the way they wanted to. On Tuesday, Loria gave a 1-day contract to a player whose career was nearly derailed permanently seven years ago. Ironically, Adam Greenberg, who was a rookie with the Chicago Cubs at the time, was struck by a pitch in a game against----wait for it---the Marlins. Loria, in a show of humanitarian compassion, reached out to Greenberg and gave him the opportunity to fully realize his dream. Greenberg had not played anywhere this season, even in the minors, and otherwise was playing for Israel's national team in a qualifying tournament for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

So, the good news was that Greenberg was back in the majors. The bad news? He would face Cy Young Award candidate R. A. Dickey of the New York Mets. Prior to the game, on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption, co-host Tony Kornheiser predicted that Greenberg would strike out against the knuckleball specialist. In the 6th inning, Greenberg was sent up to bat for Bryan Peterson, and got a loud ovation from the fans in Miami. Three pitches later, he received another ovation as he walked away, having whiffed. Greenberg received hugs and high fives from his teammates du jour. In the 7th, Greenberg was replaced on defense by Scott Cousins, but the feel-good story of the night had been told.

Up next for Greenberg, then, would be the WBC, should Israel make it into the tournament next year. The 2009 tournament introduced American audiences to Japan's Yu Darvish, now with the Texas Rangers. In that same tournament, Pedro Martinez proved he was healthy enough to pitch, and signed at mid-season with Philadelphia, but has not toed the rubber on a major league hill since. Even if Israel doesn't make it, surely whomever is in charge of the American team can find a spot for Greenberg if he impresses enough in the qualifiers. After all, every Cinderella story deserves a happy ending.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spook Rock: Are You Ready For Freddy? (1988)

From "Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master" comes this wacky offering from the Fat Boys, aided and abetted by the one, the only, Freddy Krueger himself (Robert Englund). The question is, "Are You Ready For Freddy?"

Uploaded by Nightmarecompanion:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Classic TV: The Addams Family (1964)

Charles Addams created his bizarre Addams Family in a series of one-panel cartoons for The New Yorker, and in 1964, Gomez, Morticia, and their brood transitioned to television, achieving icon status in the process.

Simply put, the Addamses flew in the face of common sense. Gomez (John Astin, ex-I'm Dickens, He's Fenster) was a lawyer, but we never saw him in a courtroom. However, it was a stroke of genius to have a lion on hand in lieu of a watchdog. Who'd ever try to rob a house guarded by a lion, anyway? Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan) seemed immune to electricity, such that he could charge up a light bulb by putting it in his mouth. The Addamses seemed happy with failure, and upset with success, exactly opposite of everyone else. Go figure.

Here's a cute little clip of Wednesday (Lisa Loring) trying to teach Lurch (Ted Cassidy) how to dance....



The series lasted just two seasons, but would be revived three times, twice in animated form (1973, 1991), and spawned a pair of feature films, with Raul Julia as Gomez. It's just too bad no one has tried to revive the series again.

Rating: A-.

Spook Rock: On Our Own (1989)

For "Ghostbusters 2", they needed a soundtrack hit that had the same kind of pop culture appeal as Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" in the first film. However, "On Our Own" was more of a vanity showcase for Bobby Brown, who was all over the joint. One of the movie's co-stars, Rick Moranis, appears early on, but other than that, the guest stars are rather sparse, most notably, Christopher Reeve, Jane Curtin, and Donald Trump.

Brown was a hot commodity in those days, as he was coming off a hot album, "Don't Be Cruel", which produced a handful of top ten hits, including the title track.

The WWE can carry on without its biggest star----can it?

Even though he currently isn't the WWE Champion, John Cena is the focus of WWE's flagship program, Monday Night Raw, and his merchandise (i.e. t-shirts, hats) are the biggest sellers at the souvenier stands. However, the company is taking a risk by still promoting him for a title match against the current champ, CM Punk at the Hell in a Cell PPV on October 28, when in all reality Cena might not be ready that night.

Two weeks ago, Cena suffered a minor ankle injury in a match vs. Punk at Night of Champions, then had surgery two days later to remove some bone chips from his right elbow, a procedure that would require him to be out of the ring for 4-6 weeks, meaning there's not a 100% chance he'd be ready for the next PPV. That puts the much-maligned creative team in panic mode, scrambling to find someone that would be a reasonable challenger to Punk if Cena is ruled out of the PPV.

Last Monday on Raw, they teased that Ryback (Ryan Reeves), who has mowed down every opponent put in front of him, might be the guy when he confronted Punk at the end of the show, this after Punk had given special guest Mick Foley, who was chillin' backstage, a low blow just for speaking out against him earlier in the show. There are some who say Ryback, who'd beaten Intercontinental champ Michael "The Miz" Mizanin earlier in the night, isn't ready, and that WWE would have to accelerate his rise. There are others who'd be more worthy........

The Big Show, who turned heel earlier this year, was used as a babyface challenger vs. Punk on the road the last two weekends. He has credibility as a former champion, and has feuded with Punk in the past. Miz is also a former WWE champion, and there've been teases that maybe, just maybe, the reality-TV alumnus might be moving toward the face side of the ledger as well. He's played the same obnoxious character for years, his persona created while he was on The Real World before coming to WWE in 2004. Show is locked into a match for the WWE World title vs. Sheamus on 10/28, but as of now, Miz has an empty dance card. WWE has four weeks to fill out the card and create a reasonable, legitimate substitute to be on call if Cena is not medically cleared to go.

What this requires is for Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon to swallow his pride and roll the dice, but not with Ryback. It's a certainty that Punk is meant to remain champion heading into the Royal Rumble at the end of January for a title fight with actor-wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and having Ryback lose to the champion at this juncture might kill his momentum. Saving Ryback for a later date is a better option, one more likely to be ignored due to panic.

This is exhibit A of why the creative team is in the dire straits it's in. When your creative staff is made up of failed Hollywood writers who are not being taught the basics of wrestling, and an emergency comes up like this, they're going to do whatever is needed to appease the big boss, and not do the smart thing, which is find a way to sell the audience on a more marketable matchup. Miz vs. Punk won't work because with Punk now a heel, fans will cheer for him over the more annoying IC champ. The downside with Ryback is that he rarely talks and there is no logical reason----yet----to put him forward as a challenger. If McMahon is as stubborn as I think he is, he'll stick with Cena, who will go into the match with one good arm and risking further injury to his surgically repaired elbow. Game, set, & match to Punk. What is needed is a challenger that the people can get behind and create some doubt about Punk's aura of invincibility. Doubt was cast two weeks ago, as Punk escaped with a double-pin draw vs. Cena, but he's been around the block with Cena enough times over the last year and change. He needs a fresh opponent. Ryback, as much as I like the guy, ain't the answer, and I'm sure McMahon knows that to be true.

Another solution is Smackdown Money in the Bank winner Dolph Ziggler, who's been stalking Sheamus. What would happen if he were to listen to an offer, without the advice of his parasitic manager, Vickie Guerrero, and cash in the briefcase vs. Punk, who turned back a challenge from Cena (who had the Raw MITB case) in July? There is a pocket of fans who've taken to Ziggler, and I'm sure those fans realize the widow Guerrero is holding hm down, leeching off his heat to call attention to her stale gimmick. Ziggler hasn't been tested as a babyface yet, and is overdue.

The ball's in your court, Vince. Don't dribble out of bounds. Just do the right thing.