Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Classic TV: Joe Friday's Big New Year (Dragnet, 1954)

Pizzaflix brings a New Year's Eve themed episode of Dragnet that was first broadcast in November 1954. "The Big New Year" depicts what amounts to an atypical night for the LAPD.



Rating: A.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Classic TV: The Waltons (1972)

The roots of Earl Hamner, Jr.'s seminal generational drama, The Waltons, would begin with the 1963 adaptation of his book, Spencer's Mountain, into a feature film by the same name. Eight years later, CBS & Lorimar Television presented the TV-movie, "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story", which served as the pilot for the series, with Andrew Duggan, Patricia Neal, & Edgar Bergen, the latter in a rare role without Charlie McCarthy by his side. The parts were recast for the regular series with Ralph Waite, Michael Learned, & Will Geer, respectively.

The Waltons aired for 9 seasons (1972-81), the story told through the eyes of John Walton, Jr., aka John-Boy (Richard Thomas), based on Hamner, who served as the show's narrator as well as executive producer. Jon Walmsley (Jason) enjoyed a brief musical career spinning out of the series, leading to an appearance in my area at the annual Cerebral Palsy telethon one year. What historians might not know is how a supporting player would later become a superstar after leaving the series.

That would be John Ritter, who made his debut as Rev. Borthwick in the 7th episode, "The Sinner". Ritter became a recurring player until leaving for what would be his big break on Three's Company. Geer passed away during the show's run, and his role as Zeb Walton was not recast. Rather, Zeb had passed on as well. Ellen Corby (Esther) suffered a stroke and was gradually written out.

There were six TV-movies during the 80's & 90's that brought the remainder of the cast back together. INSP has the rights to those films, and is one of the cablers carrying the series proper.

Let's take a trip back with a sample of "The Sinner":




Rating: A.

Now, the silly season begins

The regular season is over in the NFL. The rites of winter have already begun with what is commonly known as "Black Monday", when teams begin dumping coaches after bad seasons.

The Cleveland Browns couldn't wait. They dismissed Rob Chudzinski after just 1 season following Sunday's finale, a loss to division rival Pittsburgh. In Chudzinski's defense, the front office betrayed him by trading away their top draft pick of 2012, Trent Richardson, to Indianapolis, and the Colts made the playoffs. So, obviously, the Browns got the worst of that deal. Nothing new there.

On to today. Four more coaches were given the gate:

Washington, as expected, dumped Mike Shanahan after 4 seasons, 1 year after an improbable NFC East title. Everyone knows the drama surrounding Shanahan, QB/Subway pitchman Robert Griffin III, and clueless owner Daniel Snyder ultimately did in Shanahan. Son Kyle, the Offensive Coordinator, is likely gone as well. Griffin's dad came close to bagging a set of Weasel ears for campaigning to have Snyder lure RG3's college coach, Art Briles of Baylor, to Washington. Please. Snyder's already gone the college route once (Steve Spurrier), and that didn't work.

What Snyder really should've done, in this writer's opinion, was trade the Shanahans and 3rd string QB Rex Grossman to Houston in exchange for either Matt Schaub or TJ Yates to caddy RG3 next year. Like I said, Snyder's about as smart as a grain of sand when it comes to football decisions..........!

Similarly, Minnesota gave up on Leslie Frazier one year after he took the Vikings to the playoffs. While former Bears teammate Ron Rivera one-upped him by leading Carolina to the NFC South title, Frazier was undone by what had to be the disturbing trend du jour this season, ineffective play at quarterback. Star running back Adrian Peterson was hurt the last couple of weeks, and that didn't help. Central division rival Detroit dumped Jim Schwartz after 5 seasons, 2 years removed from a playoff run. The Lions choked away the NFC North title, dropping 6 of their last 7, the lone win over that period a blowout over Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day.

At Tampa Bay, the bloom fell off the rose for Greg Schiano after 2 seasons, and going 0-8 to start the season, invoking bad memories of the Buccaneers' early years, spelled doom. Ownership found out, as Snyder did before them, that luring a hot college coach doesn't always work. Schiano angered a lot of people last year with a radical defensive approach, and while he backed away from breaking up the victory formation at the end of games, he didn't win a lot of friends, meaning he will likely end up back in the college ranks. I'm sure Rutgers would like him back.

On the other hand, Philadelphia's Chip Kelly, lured away from Oregon, led the Eagles to the NFC East title. He'd be Coach of the Year except that his predecessor, Andy Reid, may have locked that up with the job he did in Kansas City.

Now, let's talk playoffs.

The Wild Card round offers some interesting matchups that could go either way. Unfortunately for the AFC, the road to the Meadowlands and Super Bowl 48 runs through not only Denver, but Foxborough as well.

AFC:

Wild Card:


San Diego at Cincinnati: The Chargers have peaked at the right time. The Bengals, in the playoffs for a 3rd straight season, peaked a bit too early for my tastes. Andy Dalton, in his 3rd season out of Texas Christian, has been a bit inconsistent, costing Cincinnati some games they could've won. Pick-San Diego.

Kansas City at Indianapolis: Like Dalton, Andrew Luck, in his 2nd season out of Stanford, has had fits that suggested a sophmore jinx had taken hold. Either the Colts blow out opponents, or they get blown out. Kansas City's been consistent all season, save for getting swept by San Diego in some tight games that came down to the wire. Reid's only mistake this season was resting his starters in the finale vs. the Chargers. He won't make that mistake again. Unfortunately for Reid, a win here, and the Chiefs have to play Tom "Crybaby" Brady and the Patriots, who think it's their birthright to be in the Super Bowl this year. It isn't, and doesn't deserve to be. It might be in the league's best interest to have Indianapolis advance and play Denver, a matchup that didn't materialize last season thanks to Baltimore knocking off the Broncos in the first round en route to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the Colts, it's "wait 'til next year"---again. Pick-Kansas City.

That sets up KC-New England and a rubber match between San Diego & Denver in the divisional round. Somebody get Brady a pacifier, 'cause he ain't making it to the title game this time. I see Kansas City & Denver in another rubber match.

NFC:

Wild Card:


San Francisco at Green Bay: The 49ers, last season's NFC champ, finished 2nd in the West behind Seattle, and now must travel to the "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field to play the resurgent Packers, who were happy to get Randall Cobb and State Farm salesman Aaron Rodgers back Sunday in beating Chicago. It's funny how things work. First Detroit, then "Da Bears", choked away the North, allowing Green Bay to win the title. With Baltimore already out of the picture, we're assured a new champ this year. Might as well make it certain by sending San Francisco packing early as well. Pick-Green Bay.

New Orleans at Philadelphia: I don't know about you, but I've had a hard time figuring out the Eagles this year. Like Indianapolis, the Eagles have been ridiculously inconsistent, but it appears that Chip Kelly's figured it out just in time. However, Nick Foles' Achilles heel has been exposed during the win over Dallas, which could prove costly, except for one thing. The last time the Saints played in the Northeast, they lost to New England. Hopefully, Drew Brees stocked up on Vicks products (no, not Michael Vick). Pick-Philadelphia.

In the divisional round, that sends the Eagles to Carolina and Green Bay goes to Seattle. Rodgers won't be handing out any discount double-checks to the rabid Seahawks fans, but the Pack will be looking for revenge after getting screwed by the replacement refs last year. Just don't see it. It'll be at least another 3-4 years before Seattle loses another home game. I see the Eagles ending Carolina's magical run, setting up a matchup of former Pac-12 rivals (Carroll vs. Kelly, one more time) as it'll be Eagles-Seahawks in the title game.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What Might've Been: Ellery Queen (1975)

Ellery Queen, one of the best known names in mysteries, has been adapted for television on a couple of occasions, the last being in 1975 in a short-lived series for NBC, four years after the network had aired a TV-movie, "Ellery Queen: Don't Look Behind You". Series creators William Link & Richard Levinson had established a solid pedigree, having previously created Mannix (for CBS) & Columbo, the latter a stablemate of Ellery Queen at Universal. The two were also the masterminds behind "Don't Look Behind You", and were rewarded for their patience with Queen, as well as the success of Columbo, with Queen being finally green-lighted as a series in 1975, airing as a lead-in, as a matter of fact, to Columbo and the other components of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie.

Jim Hutton was cast as the cerebral Queen, presented here as a bit of a klutz for comic effect, and aiding his father, NYPD Inspector Richard Queen (David Wayne) in solving cases. The fact that this was not a full adaptation of the character, but rather a more loose one, might've been what led to the series being cancelled after 1 season.

Sadly, Hutton passed away three years after the series ended. Wayne would land one more series gig, the sitcom House Calls, in the 80's, again for Universal, and airing on CBS, before he passed on.

Following is a sample clip:



With all the procedural crime dramas out there now, it's unfortunate that Ellery Queen isn't being given another chance. Then again, Levinson & Link retooled their concept, getting rid of the protagonist talking to the audience to set up the ending, and scored one final hit more than a decade later-----Murder, She Wrote, with Angela Lansbury.

Rating: A.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Old Time Radio: Damon Runyon Theatre (1949)

Author Damon Runyon's works have been adapted into movies (i.e. "The Lemon Drop Kid" & "Sorrowful Jones", both with Bob Hope), but did you know there was also a radio show devoted to Runyon? Well, neither did I, until I latched onto a 3-CD set from Radio Spirits a few months back.

Damon Runyon Theatre spent two years on the air (1949-51), the second year made up entirely of reruns, it would appear. Your tour guide through Runyon's vision of New York is a chap named Broadway (John Brown), who often spins his yarns as 1st person narratives. Broadway, then, figures into the plot of "Little Miss Marker":



Yes, "Little Miss Marker" was also made into a movie. Today's Hollywood isn't interested in revisiting Runyon's New York, but maybe they should.

Rating: B-.

Friday, December 27, 2013

What Might've Been: He Said, She Said (1969)

Former baseball player Joe Garagiola swapped his spikes for a microphone, but it wasn't just to move to the broadcast booth.

A catcher with the St. Louis Cardinals in his playing days, Garagiola became a fixture on TV between the late 60's and mid-80's. He called NBC's Saturday Game of the Week, either as a color analyst or play-by-play commentator, the latter usually with ex-Yankee Tony Kubek. However, Garagiola filled the rest of the week---well, except Sunday---doing game shows.

In all, Garagiola hosted four game shows, plus his Monday night pre-game show, The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola, between the late 60's and mid-to-late 70's. Two of those gigs he inherited from someone else---To Tell The Truth, which he took over from Garry Moore upon the latter's retirement in 1977, and the original Sale of the Century (from actor Jack Kelly) a few years earlier. Being based in New York, where he also contributed to NBC's Today Show, might've had a lot to do with those game show gigs, too.

In 1969, Garagiola began an association with Mark Goodson & Bill Todman, tapped to host He Said, She Said, a game that pitted four couples, usually celebrities, against each other. One variation on the format had one celebrity couple against three civilian pairs. Either way, the syndicated series lasted one season, though a pilot for a revival was produced in 1971, a year after the series ended.

Part of the reason the show failed, at least from where I sit, wasn't because it was in syndication in the daytime, but rather another case of a show being ahead of its time. In those days, network daytime programming was seemingly in a constant state of flux, especially when it came to game shows. Back then, it was more common for networks to schedule game shows at 4 pm (ET), though some affiliates apparently had the option to move them to earlier air times so they could use the 4 pm hour for syndicated programming that was much more profitable to local advertisers.

Here's a sample episode, uploaded off a broadcast on Game Show Network.



Goodson-Todman didn't give up on the concept, though. In 1974, a retooled version, with three celebrity couples instead of four, and with the entire audience involved, bowed on CBS as Tattletales, which had two runs of its own (1974-8, 1982-4), hosted by actor Bert Convy. That series was taped in Hollywood, while Garagiola remained in New York. Truth would be his last game show.

Rating: B-.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

What Might've Been: Birds of Prey (2002)

After Smallville took off like a runaway rocket for the WB, the network commissioned producers Mike Tollin & Brian Robbins to develop another DC Comics series for TV. Unfortunately, something got lost in the transition & translation of Birds of Prey from comics to TV.

Writer Laela Kalogrodis took liberties with the established comic books that had spawned the series, perhaps a few too many, as only 13 episodes were produced. Ironically, it aired on the same night, though not the same time slot, as the current Arrow. Some might argue that it was ahead of its time, but in truth, it was a mess.

The core characters were not always together in the comics:

Barbara Gordon, aka Oracle (Dina Meyer): The then-former Batgirl (shown in costume in a flashback in the open) was well reestablished in her new ID by this point. Her paralysis at the hands of the Joker (from Alan Moore's The Killing Joke) was retained, but Meyer plays Barbara as a glorified distaff copy of Ironside, although on this show, she has a day job as a school teacher.

Helena Wayne, aka The Huntress (Ashley Scott): Kalogrodis went with the Earth-2 origin of Huntress as the daughter of the alternate earth's Batman & Catwoman, with the twist being that Catwoman was killed by Clayface, working for the Joker, and Batman has left Gotham City behind (the town was rechristened New Gotham for no real reason).

Dinah Redmond, nee Lance (Rachel Skarsten): No, she's not meant to be the Black Canary. That was her mother (Lori Loughlin, ex-Full House), who turns up in one episode. Instead, this Dinah is a developing telepath.

Joker's girlfriend, Harley Quinn, aka Dr. Harleen Quinzel (Mia Sara) was set up as the show's primary antagonist, seeking revenge for her beloved, who'd been recast as a major league crime boss in flashbacks. Mark Hamill lent his voice to "Mr. J" in flashbacks while a stuntman played the Clown Prince of Crime. Quinn was posited as a "player on the other side" opposite Barbara, but it seemed as though they rushed the ending of the series, as this could've gone much longer.

Where WB made a mistake was not placing Birds on Thursdays, in back of Smallville. Letting it stand alone to sink or swim was not a good idea, and the mish-mash with the characters didn't help at all. The outside the box thinking has worked for Arrow, now halfway thtough its 2nd season, but didn't do anything for the Birds.

Co-star Shemar Moore (ex-Young & the Restless) moved over to Charmed to replace Dorian Gregory, and is currently on Criminal Minds. Ian Abercrombie (Alfred) provided the only real link to the Bat-family in the series, but was not much of a factor in the episodes I'd seen.

Here's the open:



Rating: D.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Musical Interlude: Put a Little Love in Your Heart (1988)

Normally, you wouldn't associate "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" with the Christmas season, but it was included on the soundtrack of the Bill Murray comedy, "Scrooged", in 1988, more than 20 years after Jackie DeShannon had originally charted with "Love".

Rev. Al Green came out of chart retirement to team with Annie Lennox of Eurythmics to send "Love" racing back up the charts. It marked the first single for Lennox without regular partner Dave Stewart, and propelled her into a successful solo career in the 90's.

Classic TV: The Doris Day Show (1968)

Over at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, Ivan Shreve has been chronicling each episode of The Doris Day Show, which spent 5 seasons on CBS as part of a formidible Monday night lineup, which led off with Gunsmoke, and, by the end of the series, if memory serves me correctly, it finished with Medical Center.

The story goes that Doris Day hadn't been aware of her TV deal until after her husband had negotiated it without her knowledge. Her husband passed away 5 months before the series premiered, so it was appropriate, after all, that her character of Doris Martin was a widow with 2 boys. They'd moved to the suburbs to live with her father, Buck (Denver Pyle, up 'til then better known as Briscoe Darling from The Andy Griffith Show). The supporting cast was rounded out with James Hampton (ex-F-Troop) as handyman Leroy, whom Ivan has taken an immediate dislike to.

However, in season 2, it was decided that some changes needed to be made, likely mandated by the network, so Doris now was working for a magazine as a secretary and later writer. Hampton & Pyle were reduced to appearing in a few episodes each, and Doris was now joined by Rose Marie (The Hollywood Squares, ex-The Dick Van Dyke Show) & McLean Stevenson, who'd leave after season 3 to begin work on M*A*S*H. Season 3 brought more changes, as the Martins moved back to San Francisco proper, to an apartment building, whose landlords became friends with the family rather quickly. Kaye Ballard (ex-The Mothers-in-Law) & Bernie Kopell, one of the busiest men in show business at the time, were the landlords. Kopell was also still working on Get Smart, which was in its final season, and the Saturday morning spy spoof, Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. In fact, if you listen close, the German accent Kopell used for KAOS frontman Conrad Siegfried was the same used for his Link character of Baron Von Butcher. So, it was rather easy for him to adopt an Italian accent. Kopell had also been on That Girl, which had, I believe, ended by this point. Yep, really busy, that guy.

After the "Rural Purge" of 1971, there were more changes for Doris. As noted, Stevenson left, and so did Rose Marie, who was replaced by Jackie Joseph (Josie & the Pussycats), whose husband, Ken Berry, had just ended a run on Mayberry, RFD. John Dehner, a radio & television veteran, was cast as Doris' boss. By the end of the series, Kopell & Ballard were gone, too, as their characters had sold the building to persnickety Willard Jarvis (Billy DeWolfe, ex-Good Morning World), whom we met in season 3. The network wanted the series to continue for a 6th season, but Doris had decided she'd gone as far as she could go. After all, since the kids had been written out with no legitimate explanation in season 4 (we can assume they moved back to Grandpa's house, although Pyle had also been written out), maybe she'd had enough of network meddling, and who could blame her?

The Doris Day Show made its Me-TV debut on Christmas Eve with Christmas episodes from seasons 2 & 3, and in each case, Doris would step away and out of character to address the audience to wish them a Merry Christmas, something that was a bit of a common practice, even used on soap operas, in those days, but not so much in recent years. Here's to hoping Me-TV can find room to give the series a permanent berth alongside more recognizable hits of the period, like Gilligan's Island, F-Troop, & The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

UKwebwonders gives us the opening for season 2:



Rating: A.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: Yule Log (1966)

It is a New York City tradition that, while it was on hiatus during the 90's, it has still fallen victim to the bottom line mentality that has gripped television networks and stations in recent years.

WPIX launched the annual Yule Log as emergency programming in 1966. Then-station president Fred Thrower came up with the idea when he was searching for alternate programming after a college basketball game scheduled for Christmas Eve had been cancelled. Upstate viewers were introduced to the Log when WPIX and its NYC rivals, WNEW (now WNYW) & W(W)OR, arrived on local screens in the early 70's. However, the tradition ended in 1989, not so much due to declining ratings, but rather what it was doing to the station's profit margins, or so the story goes.

After being left on the bench, so to speak, throughout the 90's, the Yule Log returned more than a decade ago, but, again, to appease the station's beancounters, it's not the overnight marathon it once was. Instead, it is limited to just a few hours. Kind of like how the Muscular Dystrophy Association has cannibalized their annual telethon the last few years when you think about it.

And, so, as a Christmas gift to you, gentle reader, we present the Yule Log:



Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: A Star Shall Rise (1952)

Independent producer Roland Reed was a major player in the early days of television, but a lot of his series have usually ended up in public domain.

One such case is this Christmas episode of Family Theatre, produced in 1952. A Star Shall Rise take a closer look at the Three Wise Men: Gaspar, Melchior, & Balthazar, who'd eventually travel to Bethlehem for the birth of the Baby Jesus. Raymond Burr, well before achieving iconic status as Perry Mason, was cast as Balthazar.

Edit: 11/30/15: The video was deleted by YouTube. All we have now is this 3 minute sample.



An impressive production, long forgotten, save for the 2011 Mill Creek "Holiday Classics" DVD compilation.

Rating: A-.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Musical Interlude: Rush Hour (1988)

They referred to Paul McCartney as the "cute Beatle". I guess in the 80's, the female equivalent would be the Go-Go's' Jane Wiedlin, who was clearly the cutest of the five women in the band, and, to my knowledge, the only other one besides lead singer Belinda Carlisle to release a solo record.

In 1988, Jane played up the playful girl-next-door imagery by scuba diving and swimming with dolphins in her video for "Rush Hour", the first single from her sophomore CD, "Fur". Unfortunately, after releasing one more solo disc two years later, she wasn't heard from again until 1) the band reunited and 2) she was cast in a Scooby-Doo DTV (she was one of the voices of the goth band, the Hex Girls).

Anyway, this will make you feel like you're at the beach. Here's "Rush Hour":

Dunce Cap Award: Phil Robertson & A & E

Let me go on record first by saying that I've never watched Duck Dynasty. The reality series is one of A & E's biggest hits currently, and yet network suits are threatening to trample the golden goose.

I'm sure you have heard by now that "Duck Commander" Phil Robertson, patriarch of the clan that makes up the cast of Duck Dynasty, was suspended by the network for anti-gay remarks made in an interview with GQ. Consider that the show--and the Robertson family---are based in Louisiana, so the viewpoint really isn't a surprise. We're talking deep, deep South here, people. Cajun country, where until Duck Dynasty came along, the state's best known domestic exports were Popeye's Chicken & Britney Spears, and one wonders what the Robertsons think of Britney, given her less-than-angelic behavior in recent years.

The New York Daily News, in today's edition, uncovered a 3 year old still of a video of Robertson speaking at a Pennsylvania church, where he also railed against the gay community. Look, I get where he's coming from. In the deep South, they take their religious views very, very, very seriously. It's all black & white, no middle ground. From Anita Bryant in the 70's through today, the biggest outrage against the gay community has come from the South.

Robertson has fallen into the same trap that others before him have. An innocent interview in a national magazine to promote his show touches off a firestorm because of a remark or statement in opposition to specific viewpoints embraced by society in general and overplayed by tabloid media. With one of the most famous beards this side of ZZ Top, Robertson should've realized how his views would be micro-analyzed by media types fishing for a salacious, scandalous story to sell papers. He ain't the second coming of Jed Clampett, mind, but apparently, he didn't pass Media Scrutiny 101, either.

Robertson ain't alone in getting a Dunce Cap, though. As speculation continues on the future of Duck Dynasty, which begins a new cycle of episodes next month----we think----the suits at A & E are getting Dunce Caps as well, for even considering cutting off the golden goose for a simple error in judgment. After all, we've all been taught that two wrongs don't make a right. Instead, two wrongs make a bad situation even worse. Being that the show is about a family of duck callers, one wonders how it landed on A & E in the first place. Even if Disney-owned ESPN was interested, they wouldn't take it now in the wake of this imbroglio. The Sportsman Channel, which is a premium service in my area, would be a more appropriate place. Maybe even RFD-TV, if not CMT (a step-sister to music-phobic Empty-V, Empty-V2, VH-None, et al), would give it a sniff. And, while we're at it, let's toss a few to the tabloid jabronies for bashing Robertson and trampling on his 1st Amendment rights. Serves them right.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Musical Interlude: Ride Like the Wind (2013)

Christopher Cross' 1st single from his self-titled 1979 debut, "Ride Like The Wind", has been revived for the new movie, "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues". On the soundtrack, second generation star Robin Thicke recorded a cover of "Ride", aided & abetted by the film's star, Will Ferrell, in character as goofy, self-serving newsman Ron Burgundy, who actually makes the late Ted Knight's legendary pompus newser Ted Baxter (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) look like a Pulitzer Prize & Emmy Award winner by comparison.

Burgundy's been everywhere as part of the hype for the movie, even conducting an interview with photogenically-challenged pizza salesman/All-Pro quarterback Peyton Manning on SportsCenter earlier this month. The final stop on the promotional tour brings Burgundy & Cross, but not Thicke, to Jimmy Kimmel Live, which has its own YouTube channel. Cross even posted to YouTube to promote his appearance on Thursday evening.

The CD version by Thicke & Burgundy clocks in at over 6 minutes, mostly Burgundy being his usual self, but no video's been made yet. So, here's Burgundy, who looked like he snatched a cap from "Captain" Daryl Dragon, introducing Cross, and nearly bigfooting the scene.



Michael McDonald should sue for copyright infringement. Burgundy sings McDonald's part, or at least tries to, but is about as wooden as frozen toilet paper. Eeeeewwww.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: Cannonball Christmas (Petticoat Junction, 1963)

Homer Bedloe was the Frank Burns of his time, and the perfect guy to be cast as a modern-day Scrooge in this episode of Petticoat Junction.

Much like Burns a few years later on M*A*S*H, Bedloe (Charles Lane) was too by-the-book for his own good. His sole purpose was to reclaim the Hooterville Cannonball by any means necessary, usually by abusing his authority, convinced that the Cannonball was still property of the local railroad company, of which he was vice president. His boss (Roy Roberts) sets out to set him straight, resulting in an ironic twist of an ending in "Cannonball Christmas".

PizzaFlix uploaded this episode to YouTube. I have it on the Mill Creek "Holiday Classics" DVD set, but their print doesn't have the familiar theme song, which will deduct points from the forthcoming review of the set, by the way.




You know, I feel sorry for Floyd. Dumber than a box of rocks, but as sensitive as the next guy. If it wasn't for Bedloe, odds are Floyd would still have ended up as Santa, don't ya think?

Rating: A.

Only in the South: Would you try swapping an alligator for beer?

This is just too silly, but it actually did happen.

Fernando Caignet Aguilera attempted to buy beer the other day, but he had no money. Rather than beg for change like most destitute folks do, Aguilera had a novel, but, as it turned out, illegal, solution. He went into the store with the only "collateral" he thought he could use---a 4 foot long alligator he'd caught in a city park.

SAY WHAT?

Yes, you read that right, effendi. According to Yahoo!, Aguilera didn't know it was against state law to trap and/or trade alligators, and was subsequently cited by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

In an unrelated note, Wally Gator is somewhere in Florida, breathing a sigh of relief.

What Might've Been: Meet Corliss Archer (1954)

Like a good number of its radio contemporaries, Meet Corliss Archer transitioned to television in 1954 as a mid-season replacement, albeit in syndication. Unfortunately, 8 months later, the show was cancelled, and the Christmas episode was likely the last, as the radio version would continue for 2 more years.

Based on a story by F. Hugh Herbert, Meet Corliss Archer chronicles the life of a typical teenager (Ann Baker), her family, and her well meaning but bumbling neighbor-boyfriend, Dexter. The casting of Ann Baker in the title role is significant because of a more famous voice that essayed the part on radio for a good chunk of the series run-----Janet Waldo, better known for her years of work for Hanna-Barbera (i.e. The Jetsons, Perils of Penelope Pitstop), among others. For some reason, whether it was Ms. Waldo's decision or that of the producers, she was not cast for the television version, although Corliss does look like the prototypical teen that Janet specialized in.

Here's the Christmas show. Famed director Hy Averback is the narrator.



We'll look at the radio version another time. Rating: B.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A few old friends passing on

It's been a while since I've written an obituary, but we've got a few to cover.

I held my peace while everyone else paid tribute to Nelson Mandela, who passed away a week and a half ago at 95. What this man meant to South Africa, and to the world in general, is beyond words, and that's all that needs be said now.

Hollywood lost a couple of iconic performers over the weekend.

Peter O'Toole will be remembered mostly for "Lawrence of Arabia", or something along the lines of "My Favorite Year", which came out in the early 80's. O'Toole was 81. Tom Loughlin, meanwhile, is known for just one role----"Billy Jack". A series of films in the 70's presented Loughlin as a martial arts anti-hero, but there isn't much else on his resume.

Finally, it's come across the wires that country singer Ray Price has passed, a month shy of his 88th birthday. Price had a handful of #1 hits on the charts, including "For The Good Times" (1970) and "She's Got To Be a Saint". Price recorded "Release Me" more than a decade before it became a pop hit for Engelbert Humperdinck, and he'd also recorded songs written by fellow singers Roger Miller & Willie Nelson.

From The Johnny Cash Show, here's Price with "For The Good Times":



Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What Might've Been: Alias Smith & Jones (1971)

Inspired by the success of the movie, "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid", Writer-producer Roy Huggins (the brains behind Maverick and others) and producer Glen A. Larsen developed Alias Smith & Jones, which was another series spun from the ABC Movie of the Week when it debuted as a mid-season replacement in January 1971.

The TV-movie, narrated by Ralph Story, told the tale of Hannibal Heyes (Pete Duel, ex-Love on a Rooftop) & "Kid" Curry (Ben Murphy), members of the Devil's Hole Gang, a gang of outlaws whose claim to infamy--or fame, depending on who you asked---was that they never shot anyone. Inevitably, however, there is a falling out between Heyes and the rest of the gang, with Curry, his cousin, leaving with him to strike out on their own, hoping to go straight. They're captured, but are told by Sheriff Travers (James Drury, The Virginian) that the governor would be willing to grant them amnesty because they hadn't killed anyone. However, for political reasons, this needs to remain a secret.

That allows the cousins to adopt new identities as Joshua Smith (Heyes) & Thaddeus Jones (Curry). Over the course of 2 full years---encompassing 2 1/2 seasons---Smith & Jones ride the dangerous trail, hoping to win their freedom.

So what went wrong? Well, for one thing, there was one big cast change halfway through season 2. Pete Duel, dealing with depression via alcohol, committed suicide in December 1971. Roger Davis, who had taken over as narrator when the series began, took over as Heyes/Smith, and Story returned to resume as narrator. Sheriff Travers would return, but played by two different actors, due to Drury's commitments to The Virginian, including Mike Road, better known at the time as a pitchman for Fireman's Fund insurance, and before that, as a voice actor for Hanna-Barbera (Jonny Quest, The Herculoids). Sally Field (ex-The Flying Nun) appeared in 2 episodes as Clementine Hale, and there were also appearances by Burl Ives (The Bold Ones), Earl Holliman (later of Police Woman), & Walter Brennan (ex-The Guns of Will Sonnett).

Hulu presents "The Root of it All":



The series was last seen on Retro a couple of years back. Where it is now, I'm not sure.

Rating: B.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: The Big .22 For Christmas (Dragnet, 1952)

Last year, I'd gotten my Christmas episodes of Dragnet mixed up. Not going to happen this time.

We've read or heard all the stories about kids accidentally shooting other kids with guns when the trigger is accidentally pulled. Seems that one of the earliest cases was depicted on Dragnet in 1952 in "The Big .22 For Christmas". The ".22" in the title is a .22 caliber rifle that a father meant to give to his son as a Christmas present. Unfortunately, the little boy got curious, found the rifle, and decided, inexplicably, to play "Show & Tell" with his best friend. I think you know where this goes.



Rating: A.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Classic TV: The Fugitive (1963)

Quinn Martin had left The Untouchables halfway through its run to start his own production company. His first entry for QM Productions, The New Breed, was a bust, lasting just one season. His next entry, however, would propel Martin into iconic status.

The Fugitive, reported to have been loosely based on the real-life Sam Sheppard murder case and/or Victor Hugo's classic tale, Les Miserables, lasted 4 seasons, same as The Untouchables did, and, like The Untouchables, would be revived by a different studio years later.

The plot was basic. Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen, ex-Richard Diamond, Private Investigator), convicted of a crime he didn't commit, is freed by a twist of fate, and spends four seasons on the run from Lt. Philip Gerard (Barry Morse), whose single-minded determination to recapture Kimble recalls Les Miserables. Fittingly, both have been adapted for the big screen in later years, with the 1993 feature film version of The Fugitive, marking the 30th anniversary of the series, eventually leading to the aforementioned revival, which, unfortunately, lasted just 1 season.

William Conrad (ex-Rocky & His Friends) narrated, beginning his own association with QM, which would lead to his own series, Cannon, four years after The Fugitive ended.

The basic format's been copied a number of times since, most notably, and ironically, by the television adaptation of The Incredible Hulk, who made his debut in the comics the same year that Fugitive debuted, and the subsequent TV series, with the man-monster and his alter-ego (Lou Ferrigno & Bill Bixby, respectively) pursued not by the law, but a tabloid reporter looking for a big break (Jack Colvin). Hulk lasted 5 seasons, and aired on the same network that would be home to the revived Fugitive, CBS.

Now, let's go back to 1963, and the episode, "The Garden House":



Rating: A.

Moron TV: Cousin Skeeter (1998)

It was one thing when ALF was a puppet interacting with humans. His gimmick was he was supposed to be from another planet. More than a decade later, Nickelodeon decided on an urban, more human version.

In fact, DisneyXD's current Crash & Bernstein wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Cousin Skeeter, which predates Crash by about 15 years or so. The concepts are incredibly similar. Puppet character is passed off as human, has wacky misadventures, etc..

Skeeter (ex-MTV VJ Bill Bellamy) lives with his cousin Bobby (Robert Ri'chard) and his family, but where this gets off the grid is the claim that Skeeter actually knows some famous people, such as rapper MC Lyte. The series was co-created by actor-turned-producer Brian Robbins (ex-Head of the Class), who was developing several diverse series for Nick at the time.

Here's the intro:



I just could never warm up to this show.

Rating: C-.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The puppy love story continues......

Yesterday, I made mention of a Yahoo! article that told the story of six year old Hunter Yelton, who'd been suspended for kissing a female classmate on the hand, then branded a sex offender by his school district.

Well, as you might've figured, the district in Colorado backpedaled yesterday, and reinstated Hunter, reducing his offense to that of simple misconduct. Unfortunately, a woman who says her daughter is the object of Hunter's affection went on social media and claimed that it is sexual harassment after all.

Now, it becomes a case of he said, she said. The worst case scenario I can see out of all this is a dramatization of the events airing inside of a year or two from now on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, assuming the series will stick around that long.

Back to the story. The mother claims Hunter's been sneaking up on her daughter repeatedly, and has been reported by other students. As noted before, he'd served a previous suspension for an unrelated offense. But what's a boy to do when he feels the first pangs of puppy love at such a young age? I get that this mom is trying to protect her daughter, but what if her little girl really does like Hunter, like he says she does? Then mommy is going a wee bit too far.

Actually, this calls for Linda Ellerbee to revive Nick News on Nickelodeon to address this matter. There are lessons to be learned after all.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What Might've Been: Cimarron Strip (1967)

CBS was looking for another Western to complement Gunsmoke, if not also Wild, Wild West, and they thought they had it with Cimarron Strip. Unfortunately, not enough viewers seemed to agree.

Cimarron Strip, at 90 minutes, matched the length of NBC's The Virginian, which had a 5 year head start, but not the fan base. Stuart Whitman starred as Marshal Jim Crown, who had a lot more ground to cover, shall we say, than Matt Dillon (James Arness) did on Gunsmoke. Four years after the series' original premiere, CBS brought the show back to fill time during the season, and that's where I first ran across Cimarron Strip, a show that may actually have been before its time.

Here's the open:



Rating: A.

Now they want to outlaw puppy love

Children under the age of, say, 10, wouldn't understand the first thing about sex.

Which begs to ask why Hunter Yelton, 6, was suspended by his school district in Colorado, just for kissing a female classmate on the hand. Worse, the child has been listed by the district as a sex offender.

SAY WHAT??

It's one thing to have school administrators across the country over-react to kids using toy weapons or creating guns with their fingers or, in the case of a Pennsylvania boy, also suspended, gesturing as if to shoot a bow & arrow, likely inspired by the current CW series, Arrow. It's another thing altogether to emotionally traumatize a first grader who's barely able to make friends to begin with.

According to reports compiled by Yahoo!, the girl involved in this scenario was ok with Hunter giving her a loving peck on the hand---he'd previously kissed her on the cheek---which would suggest that there is mutual interest between the two. Back in the day, no one would've thought twice. Then again, no one would've thought twice back then about finger-guns when kids were playing "Cops & Robbers", either. Sadly, the small-minded administrators in young Mr. Yelton's school are refusing to budge from their position, however wrong though it is, which would almost certainly mean litigation is in order from the Yeltons, assuming they can afford to hire a lawyer.

I know the air is thin in Colorado, but this is beyond ridiculous.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas is For Children (1968, 2013)

The other day, I happened to spot a Glen Campbell Christmas compilation CD, released by Capitol as part of the Icon series. So, I decided to buy it, since I wanted to hear his interpretations of classics like "Pretty Paper" and "The Christmas Song". In addition, there was a lesser known song that was the title cut to this 2013 reissue package, "Christmas is For Children", which was originally released in 1968.

Verycoolsound uploaded the song, and provided a sort-of universal greeting card, to boot. There hasn't been any actual footage from back in the 60's that I've been able to find of this track, so we'll take what we can get.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What Might've Been: Working Stiffs (1979)

Before he became a box office superstar in the 80's ("Mr. Mom", "Beetlejuice", "Batman", etc.), Michael Keaton had tried three different times to score in primetime. First, it was as part of Mary Tyler Moore's repertory company on her short-lived variety show. Then, it was this 1979 entry from Paramount & CBS, Working Stiffs, which paired him with Jim Belushi.

Now, I never saw the show, but I do remember ads for it airing in the summer of '79. Belushi & Keaton played a pair of knuckleheads whose apartment in Chicago wasn't exactly perfect for a bachelor pad. Allan Arbus (M*A*S*H), Val Bisoglio (ex-Roll Out), & Lorna Patterson (later of Private Benjamin) co-star. Producers Nick Abdo, Bob Brunner, & Arthur Silver had worked on Garry Marshall's family of sitcoms over on ABC (i.e. Happy Days), so the pedigree was there, but it was on the wrong night.

Here's the open:



No rating.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Classic TV: The Bob Cummings Show (aka Love That Bob)(1955)

"Hold it! I think you're going to like this picture!"

I don't know if that was actually a catchphrase professional photographers used back in the 50's, but it was Bob Cummings' catchphrase to open his self-titled 1955-9 sitcom, which bounced back & forth between NBC & CBS after debuting as a mid-season replacement in January 1955.

Bob Collins (Cummings) was a playboy shutterbug based out of L.A., living with his sister and nephew. Over the course of the series' five season run, there were the usual, predictable misadventures. Cummings also would periodically double up and play Grandpa Collins, such as in this Christmas offering from season 2. There are the subtle clues that give this away in the course of the episode.

Series creator Paul Henning had been a writer for Burns & Allen, and of course would go on to greater success with the trilogy of sitcoms he produced in the 60's (Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, & Green Acres). Dwayne Hickman (Chuck) followed up with The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Rosemary DeCamp would later surface in the late 60's series, That Girl. Finally, Ann B. Davis (Charmaine "Schultzy" Schultz) gained iconic status with The Brady Bunch and reprised as Schultzy in, of all things, the first "Brady Bunch Movie" with Shelley Long in the 90's.

"Grandpa's Christmas Visit", like some of the other entries this week, and leading up to Christmas, appears on a "Holiday Classics" DVD compilation released by Mill Creek 2 years ago.



Rating: C.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: Frosty the Snowman (1990)

21 years after Jimmy Durante spun the tale of Frosty the Snowman on TV for the first time, there was a brand new recording of the song that inspired the cartoon. This one's a duet between erstwhile detergent salesman Leon Redbone (who was better known at my house for shilling for All detergent in the 80's) and Dr. John. Dig it!

The clip is taken from the former TBS series, Night Tracks. Appropriately, there is a YouTube channel named after the show.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: Nuttin For Christmas (1955)

Christmas season means holiday songs of all varieties, including the novelties that really do put a smile on your face. Our next entry actually may hold a record of the most unusual variety.

You see, "Nuttin For Christmas" charted---get this---five times in December 1955. Five different & diverse artists recorded the same song. That list includes Stan Freberg, aided by voice acting legend Daws Butler, and orchestra leader Art Mooney, whose chosen vocalist would become something of an icon in the cartoon business himself as an adult, though not on the legendary level of Butler.

Barry Gordon is now a professor teaching a course on politics & the media in California, and once made a run for Congress out of the Golden State some years back. Most folks might remember him from stints on Fish & Archie Bunker's Place back in the day. Toonologists will remember him for shows as diverse as Jabberjaw, SWAT Kats, & the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons. He was and might still be the voice of the Nesquik (formerly Nestle's Quik) Bunny. But, did you know his career started when he was barely out of kindergarten? Yeah, I didn't realize it, either, until now.

Anyway, Gordon was just 6 or 7 when he recorded the vocals on "Nuttin For Christmas" for bandleader Art Mooney on the MGM label in 1955. Different accounts don't have any consistency to the age, you see. His version might not be on the same level of iconic status as, say Stan Freberg's, but, well, judge for yourself. The track was played on Music Choice's "Sounds of the Seasons" channel earlier tonight, which was the inspiration for this entry.



Hey, it's gotten worse in recent years. Like, Smash Mouth may have killed their careers asking Rosie O'Donnell (!) to sing with them on their version. Couldn't they have done a casting call for kindergarteners?

Wanted: A sports agent who isn't greedy

Let me just put this out there if you didn't get the message before. I'm not that fond of sports agents. Most of them, it seems, are actually out for themselves more than their clients. They want more than the standard 10% commission on a player's contract, and, if you're someone like Scott Boras, you usually get it while fleecing baseball teams over and over again.

Boras did it again earlier this week, as Jacoby Ellsbury moved from the World Series champion Boston Red Sox to the arch-rival New York Yankees for 7 years and $153 million, which breaks down to $26.5 million per year. Conversely, the Yankees let their only healthy superstar from this season, Robinson Cano, head West to Seattle, as Jay Z and Brodie Van Wagenen priced themselves out of the Yankees' suddenly restricted expense account. Though Cano said last week that he really wasn't asking for $300 million over 10 years, he did get almost as much as now-ex-teammate Alex Rodriguez got.

Jay Z (aka Shawn Carter) is a rookie when it comes to the sports agent business, so he had Van Wagenen, a recent recipient of the Weasel ears and a relative unknown until signing on to (mis)represent Cano, do the talking for him. Van Wagenen, obviously using Boras' playbook, despite the fact that Cano had dumped Boras for him & Carter earlier in the year, overstepped his bounds. At the end, it was Seattle, which if memory serves is still partially owned by Nintendo (can someone check that for me), which decided to take a chance. The Yankees, meanwhile, went low rent and signed Kelly Johnson, a well traveled vet whose resume includes stops in Atlanta, Toronto, Tampa Bay, & Arizona, and it looks like he'll be Cano's replacement at second base. Plus, there's the threat that Curtis Granderson, who is being replaced, it looks like, by Ellsbury in center, could go cross-town to the Mets, according to media reports. Granderson, flanked by Eric Young, Jr. & Juan Lagares, could give the Mets a very scary---to opposing offenses---defensive outfield in 2014. No, Young doesn't have a cannon for an arm, but Lagares does, and most of his outfield assists came playing center. He'd move to right, and get some sage advice from Granderson, should the ex-Tiger sign with the Amazin's.

I'm digressing. The point I'm making is that most agents who haven't played the game----and there are precious few who actually did---live vicariously through their clients. Boras, as we've documented, was a minor league catcher in the San Diego chain whose career was ruined by injuries, and he's the poster boy for living vicariously. They want what they feel they could've had if they were in the bigs themselves. That's called being greedy. What I'm interested in seeing is an agent who actually puts ego aside and does business the right way. Since Boras has a monopoly on a lot of incoming rookies, this is difficult. Maybe the next time he gets the Weasel of the Week award, or a Dunce Cap, Boras should get a Bible along with it. There's a verse in there about love of money being the root of all evil. If you want the respect of the consumers paying your clients' salaries, you need to humble thyself first.

On DVD: The Burns & Allen Show (1950)

When I was growing up, George Burns was reinventing himself, getting back into acting with the "Oh God" movies and a feature film adaptation of Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys", and even moonlighting as a country singer (!).

Back in the day, however, George and his wife, Gracie Allen, starred in their own radio & television shows. Gracie perfected the persona of the well meaning but otherwise scatterbrained housewife, with George off to the side serving as our host & narrator in the TV version, which began in 1950, and never without that ever present cigar.

In this season 2 Christmas episode from 1951, George & Gracie are joined by announcer-co-star Harry Von Zell and, as the Mortons, Fred Clark (later of The Double Life of Henry Phyfe) and Bea Benaderet, whose own work in the 60's made her an icon all by herself (The Flintstones, Petticoat Junction, & periodic appearances on The Beverly Hillbillies). A commercial for the show's sponsor, Carnation evaporated milk, is cleverly inserted, thanks to Gracie.



Personal note: I used to tease my ex-girlfriend by doing my best mimic of George Burns, which wasn't that good anyway, and would call her "Gracie". Unfortunately, she didn't quite get the reference, even though we watched a DVD of the show together one night. Oh, well.

Rating: B.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Classic TV: The Jack Benny Program (1950)

My first exposure to legendary entertainer Jack Benny was in, of all things, a cartoon.

As a favor to radio (and occasional TV) castmate Mel Blanc, Benny made a cartoon short for Warner Bros., "The Mouse That Jack Built", which was rare in that it had live-action footage mixed with the animation. Benny shares the screen with his rodent alter-ego for a few seconds at the end. In the course of the film, if you weren't aware of the legend of Benny, you got a crash course, as Benny brought along most of the regular cast (Mary Livingston, Don Wilson, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson) to join Blanc in the recording studio. Only Dennis Day & Phil Harris weren't available, but then again, they weren't making a full-length feature.

Benny was one of many who transitioned from radio to television. After getting his feet wet on the small screen, shall we say, he began a TV version of the long running Jack Benny Program, which aired on CBS. Revue Studios (Universal) co-produced the series with Benny's own production company. More than a decade into the run, Benny made another deal with CBS, leading to the development of a crime drama, Checkmate, which lasted just a couple of seasons. Most folks of my generation might only remember the series of periodic specials Benny did for NBC, but he did do some guest appearances here and there, like on The Dean Martin Show & The Lucy Show.

JackBennyTV offers this 1955 episode, a crossover with You Bet Your Life, in which Jack schemes to win the jackpot on Groucho Marx's iconic series.



The Sportsmen, the vocal group appearing dressed like Groucho after the first segment, didn't appear in every episode, but they were a welcome distraction here.

In the 70's, WNEW (now WNYW) had rerun rights to both Benny's & Marx's programs, but as memory serves, didn't run them back-to-back. In fact, Benny was buried in late night for some reason.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On DVD: Date With the Angels (1957)

Look up "national institution" in the dictionary, and you're likely to find a picture of actress Betty White. Still going strong in her 90's, and currently co-starring in TV Land's Hot In Cleveland, Ms. White has been a television fixture since the 50's.

Growing up, I wasn't aware of her earlier work, and, like many of you, I only knew of her from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and a zillion game show appearances, including Password & Match Game. By that time, her 50's series, such as Date With The Angels, were withdrawn from syndication, if they were ever available at all.

Let's talk Date With The Angels. The series started as a fantasy sitcom when it launched in May 1957, with Vickie Angel (White) lapsing into regular daydreams, a la James Thurber's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which had been adapted into a feature film starring Danny Kaye (the remake, with Ben Stiller, is due later this month). Producer Don Fedderson (The Millionaire) and his faithful aides, Fred Henry & George Tibbles, would later find success with My Three Sons, which, like Angels, aired on ABC, but unlike Angels, would later move to CBS to finish its run. Bill Williams played Vickie's husband, Gus, and Jimmy Boyd (The Mickey Mouse Club) co-starred, but will not appear in the following episode.

"Santa's Helper" is about an elderly neighbor of the Angels, played by Burt Mustin, whose career extended well into the 80's, if memory serves me correctly. The guest cast also includes Richard Deacon (Leave It To Beaver) & Nancy Kulp, better known, of course, for her later work on The Beverly Hillbillies. Future game show icon Tom Kennedy is the announcer and pitchman for Plymouth, the show's sponsor. Oddly enough, Kennedy's brother, Jack Narz, filled the same role in White's earlier series, Life With Elizabeth, though likely for a different sponsor.

Here's "Santa's Helper":



As you can see, by the time this episode aired, the format had changed to just another domestic sitcom, which might explain why the series ended a month later, replaced by a live solo series for White.

Rating: B-.

Weasel of the Week: "Tracy C."

I am reminded once again of something one of my teachers often said when I was in high school:

"Stupidity runs rampant!"

Never has this been more evident than in the wake of the "Iron Bowl" between Auburn & Alabama on November 30. The nationally televised game ended with the now-instantly-legendary Chris Davis kick return for a touchdown off a missed field goal by Alabama's Adam Griffith. Unfortunately, there are too many people bleeding the red of the Crimson Tide who can't accept the fact that the two-time defending national champions saw their hopes for a 3-peat take a plunge on Saturday night.

I handed out Dunce Caps earlier this week to the idiots who posted death threats on Twitter to Alabama senior placekicker Cade Foster, whose misfortune led to his benching in favor of Griffith, a freshman, for the fatal kick. Now, four days later, a set of Weasel ears are being sent to another inebriated fool. Identifying himself as "Tracy C." from Hoover, Alabama, this dimwit thought Davis stepped out of bounds, and thus, the touchdown would be taken off the board, leading into overtime. Auburn is prepping for the Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta this weekend vs. Missouri, and all "Tracy" is doing is trying to mess them up psychologically so they'd lose to Missouri, which would give the Tide a chance, albeit a small one, of getting back in line for the BCS title game next month.

What this moron did was initiate a petition on www.change.org, which reads something like this:

"Chris Davis from Auburn was clearly out of bounds in running the missed field goal back for a touchdown in the 2013 Iron Bowl. There was way to much riding on this game for that to have been missed- a SEC Championship and National Championship. I think they should put together an overtime play for Auburn and Alabama. Yes, I know how impossible that sounds and how much trouble it will be BUT sometimes you have to make wrongs RIGHT and with so much riding on that game the SEC and NCAA needs to make it right for the players, university, fans, coaches, SEC and SPORTS in general. And if they don't like the hassel then go out and make sure your employees, the refs, are not making such HUGE mistakes. And the refs needs to be punished for not even reviewing the play because it wasn't even close- he was CLEARLY out of bounds. Its not fair to say that this is over and overtime can't be played now just because of how much trouble this would be to put together. It was wrong....and you need to make it right regardless of the hassel. SEC and NCAA- do the right thing and make this right for everyone involved!!"

Apparently, "Tracy C." didn't finish school, else he'd have cleaned up his spelling errors.

Luckily, the petition has been closed with more than 700 signatures, most of which, according to the New York Daily News, mocked the pointless venture. I'd give "Tracy" a Dunce Cap, too, but he'd use that as a commode. Instead, he's a Weasel for attempting to ruin what was an instant classic.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Countdown to Christmas: Home Alone For Christmas (1992)

From the soundtrack to "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" comes a bouncy holiday song that brings two generations of musical legends together.

60's pop icon Darlene Love joins forces with the E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen's backup crew, for "Home Alone For Christmas", littered with clips from the movie, meaning healthy doses of Macaulay Culkin, Tim Curry, Joe Pesci, et al.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sports this 'n' that

They say leopards don't change their spots. Six years and change after Spygate, and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick may be asked to defend himself again over allegations that the AFC East leaders may have used a little chicanery in beating lowly Houston on Sunday.

According to Yahoo!, Texans player Antonio Smith was reportedly suspicious of how the Patriots could've made such quick adjustments to the new defensive schemes the Texans employed during the first half. As was the case last week vs. Denver, New England had to come from behind to win, and have all but wrapped up the division. Buffalo is out of the divisional race after losing in overtime to Atlanta, and Miami hopped into second by beating the suddenly punchless Jets, who have now lost 3 straight.

Consider also this. The Patriots staged a similar comeback vs. Denver at home last week, but that was fraught with more obvious issues. The refs gave Rob Gronkowski a free pass when he intentionally slammed into a Denver defender before catching a touchdown pass, a make good for a game-ending no-call six nights prior at Carolina. Then, take a look at the box score of Sunday's game vs. Houston. Only three penalties were accepted, all against Houston. There is just no way the Patriots could go through the game without a yellow flag being called on them, is there? Of course there is. It's called, getting preferential treatment, still ongoing because of the whining of Tom Brady after the Carolina game. No one mentions that Brady sounded like he'd dropped an F-bomb on the air (part of the word was bleeped, making it a non-issue). The NFL has to make their poster boys happy, you know.

Meanwhile, there's a branch of the Sour Grapes Bunch opening in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, after the 2-time defending national champs lost to Auburn Saturday night. A bunch of inebriated idiots took to Twitter to make threats against Alabama placekicker Cade Foster, who missed three field goals, and was benched for the game's final play, a 57 yard attempt that went short right and was returned for a touchdown. No one, reportedly, went after Adam Griffith, who missed that fatal kick, insofar as we know. Those idiots get Dunce Caps for spewing hate without thinking things through.

Dunce Caps are in line for Jeff Triplette's crew of clowns who suddenly lost their brains at the end of Sunday's Giants-Redskins game. Washington's final drive was marked by the incompetence of the officials, who couldn't get the down markers right when they really needed them. NBC's Al Michaels was in shock. So was Washington coach Mike Shanahan, whose team is now out of the playoffs. To say that Washington was screwed stupid would be an understatement, if not so ironic.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Musical Interlude: Palisades Park (1962)

Back when I was a young'un, Palisades Park in New Jersey routinely took out ad space in DC comics. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to go to the park. The only theme park I ever went to was Storytown, USA (now the Great Escape, part of the Six Flags chain) more than 40 years ago.

Palisades Park, however, was immortalized in song by Freddy Cannon in 1962. What's more interesting is the songwriter, who later went on to become a television icon, and now is considered a bit of a flake because he claimed a few years ago to use his TV work as a cover for espionage activities. Yep, "Palisades Park" was written by America's favorite eccentric of the 70's, Chuck Barris.



Come to think of it, if you close your eyes, you can picture "Chuckie Baby" himself reciting the lyrics. Sounds like something he'd do just for kicks to kill time on The Gong Show.........

What Might've Been: Laredo (1965)

Part of the charm of Bonanza was how it could shift from serious drama to light comedy from one week to the next. Well, someone at NBC decided they wanted a lighter Western. Unfortunately, while Laredo lasted two seasons, it didn't have the creative balance that Bonanza, Gunsmoke, or any other Westerns had.

Laredo was built around a 4 man core cast. Neville Brand, a veteran character actor better known for playing Al Capone in the two-part pilot for The Untouchables, got top billing as Reese, but clearly was the  comedy relief of this crew of Texas Rangers. Philip Carey (ex-Philip Marlowe, later of One Life To Live) was Captain Parmalee, who headed up Company B, based in, of course, Laredo. Peter Brown & William Smith were the other members of the team, who seemed to be more interested in finding a good time after wrapping up a case. Chump change to how modern Texas Rangers would later be portrayed.

After its initial 2 year run on NBC, the series resurfaced when WWOR began using alternate programming in its syndicated feed due to FCC "syndex" (syndicated exclusitivity) rules in the 90's. That's how I became familiar with this show.

Following is the episode, "A Matter of Policy", in which Reese puts himself in charge while Parmalee is away. You know what they say. When the cat's away................



I just couldn't get into this show. Period.

Rating: C-.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What Might've Been: Grady (1975)

During season 4 of Sanford & Son, someone at NBC thought that Fred's pal, Grady Wilson (Whitman Mayo) was worthy of carrying his own show. Truth is, he would've been the last choice for a spin-off.

Grady bowed as a mid-season replacement in December 1975, and lasted just 3 months. If memory serves me correctly, the show aired in back of Sanford & Son, which should've formed a pretty formidible sitcom tandem for NBC. Nuh-uh. Not happening, brother.

A quick check of the supporting cast sees two players who went on to better things. Haywood Nelson, for example, landed a starring role on What's Happening!, which was also produced by Saul Turtletaub & Bernie Orenstein, only for ABC. Joe Morton would later resurface in the 80's in films like "Crossroads" & "The Brother From Another Planet", and then turned up in "Blues Brothers 2000" in the late 90's, alongside Dan Aykroyd & John Goodman. After the series ended, Grady would rejoin his buddy Fred (Redd Foxx) on Sanford & Son for the rest of the series' run.

So who could've been a better choice to be spun off? Bubba (Don Bexley)? Nope. He'd have had the same problem as Grady. Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page)? Well, maybe, but it would take another decade for a sitcom that would've fit her like a glove to come along (Amen). Truth is, Lamont (Demond Wilson) would've been the only rational, logical choice to move on to his own show, but the producers and the network didn't see it that way. Wilson would headline 2 more sitcoms post-Sanford, including an urban-centric remake of The Odd Couple, but neither one lasted any longer than Grady did.

Gilmore Box uploaded the open to Grady. If the music sounds remotely familiar, it might be because a similar melody was used for What's Happening!'s theme song.



No rating. Never saw the show.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On DVD: The Untouchables (1959)

After working almost exclusively with CBS from the beginning, Desilu frontman Desi Arnaz sold his first series to ABC in 1959, and that was only because CBS turned down what would become a classic crime drama.

The Untouchables began as a 2-part episode under that same name on the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, hosted by Arnaz himself, in the early part of 1959. Arnaz had wanted Van Johnson to play Eliot Ness, the leader of the crack federal team that was formed to bring down the mob, and, more specifically, Al Capone (Neville Brand). Johnson's manager-wife turned down the role, asking for more money, and so Arnaz turned to Robert Stack, who ended up earning icon status as Ness.

That initial two-parter was reissued for theatres under the title, "The Scarface Mob", and, loosely based on Ness' own memoir, told how Capone would eventually be brought down on tax evasion charges. It also introduced audiences to one of the more influential producers of the 60's & 70's, Quinn Martin, who would be elevated to executive producer for Untouchables. Martin, however, left after the second season, spinning off his own production company, which in turn would last nearly 20 years.

The series premiere, "The Empty Chair", centered on the "Enforcer", Frank Nitti (Bruce Gordon), who would return frequently during the series' 4 year run. Unfortunately for Gordon, a veteran character actor, the part also resulted in typecasting, leading to his last regular series gig, the gangster spoof, Run, Buddy, Run, in 1966. Two years later, Gordon would reunite with Stack to spoof their iconic roles on The Lucy Show, and the last time Gordon was seen, as far as I know, he was still in pinstripes, doing an ad for Canada Dry ginger ale. How ironic, no?

The Untouchables brought an Emmy Award for Stack after season 1, and Elizabeth Montgomery, 4 years before Bewitched, guest-starred in the season 2 opener, and was nominated for an Emmy herself. The supporting cast was seemingly changing on a regular basis. Anthony George & Jerry Paris left after season 1, and would land other gigs (Checkmate  & The Dick Van Dyke Show, respectively) at CBS. John Beradino, who appeared in "Scarface Mob", was cast in Quinn Martin's 1st series, The New Breed, then shifted to daytime 2 years later in General Hospital. Newscaster Walter Winchell was the narrator, and he & Stack were among the few who were there from start to finish.

There's no mistaking Nelson Riddle's pulsing theme song, but after Martin left, Desilu tried out other producers, such as Leonard Freeman and Jerry Thorpe, and eventually hired Pete Rugolo to record a new version of the theme song in season 4. That, friends, would be the kiss of death.

Nearly 30 years after "Scarface Mob", director Brian DePalma and writer David Mamet brought The Untouchables to the big screen, with Kevin Costner as Ness, and Robert DeNiro as Capone, a far superior Capone than Brand's to be honest. This would lead to the series being revived in syndication in the 90's, with Tom Amandes as Ness. The new version lasted just a couple of years, largely because of the time lag in between the movie and the series being longer than the original.

Following is the episode, "The Empty Chair":



If there was one criticism with Untouchables, it was in the negative portrayal of Italian-Americans, an issue addressed in season 1 when Nicholas Georgiade was cast as barber-turned federal agent Enrico Rossi, whose role would increase in the final season.

Rating: A.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Two future movie superstars turn the Dating Game upside-down (In Living Color, 1990's)

A while back, we served up a Hollywood Squares parody skit from In Living Color. Series host-executive producer Keenan Ivory Wayans was able to get original Squares host Peter Marshall for a guest shot, but couldn't repeat the trick in sending up Chuck Barris' Dating Game.

Original Dating Game host Jim Lange wasn't available, so for this skit, another Jim---Carrey, that is---is a nameless "obligatory" host. Enter Wanda, the Ugly Woman (Jamie Foxx in drag) as a bachelorette. Enter silliness.



And to think, 20 years later, Carrrey & Foxx have made a few million bucks each at the box office, putting this behind them.......! No rating, as I never saw this skit on the air.

What Might've Been: N. Y. P. D. (1967)

One of the first crime dramas I laid my eyes on as a child was N. Y. P. D., which was meant to be ABC's---and the East Coast's---answer to Jack Webb's revived Dragnet over on NBC, except it aired on a different night.

There had been crime dramas set in New York before, and there've been a few since, of course. N. Y. P. D. lasted just 2 seasons (Dragnet, because it was a mid-season replacement, got 4), and came from producer David Susskind's Talent Associates. Yep, the same studio that was behind the popular spy spoof Get Smart also produced a smartly written series that should've lasted longer than it did.

Susskind, it should be known, is better known for his long running talk show, which was airing at the time on channel 5 in New York, reruns of which now air periodically on Jewish Life TV (JLTV). Until recently, I didn't know Talent Associates was his company.

Anyway, N. Y. P. D. was centered on three detectives instead of Dragnet's two, and starred Jack Warden (ex-The Wackiest Ship in the Army), Frank Converse, whose earlier series, Coronet Blue was dusted off from the vaults by CBS earlier in '67, and Robert Hooks. The series may be better remembered in some circles for an early appearance by future film star Al Pacino. Here's the open:



In the 70's, N. Y. P. D. aired in syndication, with channel 9 in New York holding the rights. However, it hasn't been seen since then. You'd think maybe Me-TV, which currently holds the rights to Dragnet, would take a chance......

Rating: B.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What Might've Been: Lotsa Luck (1973)

Nearly 20 years after The Honeymooners told the story of a Brooklyn bus driver and his get rich quick schemes, Carl Reiner (ex-The Dick Van Dyke Show) and writer-producers Bill Persky & Sam Denoff (ex-That Girl) took a British sitcom, On The Buses, and transformed it into Lotsa Luck, which lasted one season on NBC in 1973.

I think the only reason Dom DeLuise landed the lead was because he was a frequent guest on The Dean Martin Show, and the network was doing Dean a favor or some such. Sad to say, it was Dom's only series gig as a lead, and the only reason I can figure that it failed was that it was too soon after Jackie Gleason's revival of Honeymooners had ended on CBS (his show ended 2 years earlier), and despite the British connection, viewers might've felt it was more of a ripoff of Gleason's work, despite the creative pedigree involved.

Bobby Cole uploaded the open:



A year earlier, NBC had tried an animated series that was a funny animal cross between Honeymooners & All In The Family. The Barkleys also bombed. Kind of foreshadowed the state NBC was in for much of the 70's, didn't it?

Rating: C.

On the Shelf: Some old friends get together

41 years ago, on The New Scooby-Doo Movies, the titular dog and his friends met Batman & Robin in 2 episodes, which, of course, led to Hanna-Barbera going all-out with a license from DC for Super Friends, which lasted 13 years total. With Batman & Scooby now under the same corporate roof, the producers of Batman: The Brave & The Bold brought the two teams back together for a 1-shot mini-segment several months back. All of that was for television. Now, for the first time in print, the two teams meet again.

DC finally realized they had a potential gold mine on their hands, since they've been publishing Scooby's adventures for the last 16 years, and launched Scooby-Doo Team-Up, a bi-monthly miniseries that may in fact be just for the benefit of celebrating the first meetings of Mystery Inc. & the Dynamic Duo. We know it's a miniseries since DC acknowledges it themselves on the promo page, the back page of the first issue. Instead of fighting the Joker & the Penguin again, as they did three times on TV, Scooby-Doo & the Caped Crusaders take on Man-Bat and a trio of enterprising thieves hoping to capitalize on the mutant's spree of violence. Sholly Fisch's script captures the spirit of the original 1972 cartoons perfectly. We don't know how many issues will be issued in all, but one must hope they can finally let Scooby interact with other denizens of the DC Universe.

Rating: A.

Dynamite, earlier this year, rebooted June Tarpe Mills' Miss Fury as a time-hopping rip-off of Catwoman. Now, they've come up with another clone of the Princess of Plunder. The Black Sparrow, making her Dynamite debut in the first issue of Noir, is meant to be to The Shadow what Catwoman is to Batman, a part-time adversary who has feelings for her nemesis. However, the script for this issue, while attempting to establish the Sparrow, does the Shadow a disservice. Fury only shows up on the last page to set up the next issue, even though she was headlined on the cover. Bait & switch doesn't always work, and it's time Dynamite's editors woke up to that fact.

Rating: C+.  Nice art, lame script.

The WWE's history with comic books has been, to be fair, checkered.

In the early 90's, when they were still the World Wrestling Federation, they entered a licensing agreement with Valiant Comics during that company's first go-round. The resulting series, WWF Battlemania, lasted 5 issues, and some of the stories were reissued in Golden Books-style mini-books for younger readers.

A few years later, during the Attitude Era, the company joined up with Chaos! Comics. The body of work was a little more substantial. To wit:

The Rock & Mankind each merited 1-shot specials. Chyna got 2. Stone Cold Steve Austin starred in a 4-issue miniseries. The Undertaker was the clear favorite of the publisher, as he was given an ongoing series that lasted a total of 14 issues (0-12 & an issue #1/2 published in conjunction with Wizard: The Guide To Comics) before the two companies ended their agreement.

Just a couple of years ago, Titan Comics of England published a 3-issue WWE Comics miniseries that I don't believe made it to American shops. Now, they're trying again, this time with an American publisher.

Papercutz, which specializes in licensed titles (i.e. Geronimo Stilton), will launch an all-new WWE book, debuting in stores December 11. The hook, in addition to using some of the same wrestlers that populated the last series, is that it's written by Mick Foley (aka Mankind, Cactus Jack, & Dude Love), who has become a prolific, best-selling author since signing with the promotion 17 years ago. Foley's also written some children's books featuring WWE characters, at least one or two of them drawn by Jill Thompson of Scary Godmother fame. Previews, the comics industry's phone book sized monthly catalogue, produced by Diamond Comics Distributors, may be taking rush orders on the first issue, since it may have slipped right through the cracks the first time. Like, with Foley writing, it can't be worse than the drivel they're producing for TV now. Can it? We'll find out soon enough.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Back when newspapers were a nickel......

I wish I could add to the chorus of remembrances of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated 50 years ago yesterday, but I can't. The simple reason being is that I was but an infant, 9 1/2 months old, in November 1963. I was likely sleeping in my crib when word came down that Kennedy had been shot down in Dallas.

As part of the 50th anniversary commemoration, the New York Daily News published a reprint volume of the 11/23/63 issue with yesterday's edition, filled with articles on the assassination, and how television & radio dealt with the severity of the event. All three broadcast networks pre-empted all programming up through Sunday morning, I would imagine. You've heard, I'm sure, of the controversy surrounding the NFL's decision to play on, especially in Dallas. Much like the 9/11 attacks nearly 40 years later, we turned to sports to begin the national healing process.

Let's consider the Daily News for a moment. Back then, newspapers cost a nickel, not $1 or better like most do today (the Daily News carries a $1.25 cover price, $1.75 on Sundays), and that nickel brought a lot of news and other features. The late sports columnist, Dick Young, had his piece in the back of the sports section. The New York Racing Association's season had already ended, and there wouldn't be year-round racing for several more years. And, then, there are the comic strips. Old friends like Dick Tracy, Dondi, Moon Mullins, Terry & The Pirates, Winnie Winkle, Brenda Starr, Louie (a British strip imported to the US, as I discovered via Wikipedia), Gasoline Alley, L'il Abner, & Joe Palooka. Of these, only Gasoline Alley is still being run in the Daily News. By the time I began reading the Daily News, Joe Palooka had been dropped, and my first memory of that strip came from the Troy Times Record, not the Daily News. Dick Tracy is still around, but not in New York. Go figure.

Closer to home, The Record elicited a guest piece from veteran radio broadcaster Joe Condon, who was with WTRY at the time, and more recently was doing weekends for WYJB (formerly WROW-FM). They didn't feel it necessary to go all out to mark the occasion, and their limited resources probably wouldn't allow it, anyway, although I wouldn't have minded them doing a reprint volume, too.

Today, the conspiracy theories linger on. There are those who believe Lee Harvey Oswald, who was himself killed by Jack Ruby two days after the assassination, didn't act alone. The fact that Ruby got involved pushes those conspiracy theories forward, one would imagine, since I for one never quite understood what motivated Ruby to act in the first place. In the intervening years, tabloid media has obsessed over not Kennedy's political policies, but his supposed affairs while in office. Given how supermarket tabloids today all resort to fictional headlines in a vain attempt to remain relevant in the face of cyber & social media, this is a headache that should've gone away long ago.

The point I'm making is this. Next year marks 45 years since the Mets' 1st World Series title. Would the Daily News do another reprint, or wait until that momentous event also reaches 50 years (2019)? Or neither? If you're going to go the extra mile for a news event that resonates nationwide like this, why not a sports story of equal resonance? I'd say it's up to readers and how they react to this reprint. We'll wait & see.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rockin' Funnies: You Can Call Me Al (1986)

For years, I've wondered why Paul Simon let his friend, actor-comic Chevy Chase (ex-Saturday Night Live, most recently on Community), lip-sync for him in the video for the first single from his Grammy winning 1986 CD, "Graceland". Well, it turns out Chase knows a little something about music, too.

If you have digital cable, and you've tuned to Music Choice's 70's channel, invariably you'll find a track for Steely Dan. Among the trivial nuggets shown as the songs play (i.e. "Deacon Blues") is the fact that Steely Dan's co-leaders, Donald Fagen & Walter Becker, once played in a band that had Chase as the drummer! That's why Chevy looks like he'd be right at home playing the bongos that are sitting in front of him during "You Can Call Me Al". The closest that Chase ever got to revisiting his musical career, aside from this video, would be when he starred in "Three Amigos" with Steve Martin & Martin Short.

Anyway, now that we've established that Simon was not doing a ventriloquist act with Chase, here's "You Can Call Me Al", from Simon's VEVO channel:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

An old Saturday Night Live skit returns in a commercial......(2013)

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been doing commercials for State Farm insurance for three seasons now with the "discount double check" gimmick, which started when he used the wrestler's "I want the belt" gesture, which he uses as his "touchdown dance", as explained in an early ad. Teammates BJ Raji & Clay Matthews, Jr. eventually appeared in ads with him, which led to Matthews getting endorsements of his own, including one for Gillette this year.

This season, however, Rodgers is playing fall guy for 2 guys from an old Saturday Night Live skit dating back to 1990. The "Superfans" here are Carl (Robert Smigel) & Bob (George Wendt, ex-Cheers), who've been the most prominent characters since the skits ended 20 years ago. Former Bears coach Mike Ditka has appeared in one bit, on a break from his current gig with ESPN.

Here's part one of "State of Turbulence", in which Rodgers may as well be wishing he could trade a Bible (he's also a born again Christian) and an autograph to get the window seat he thought he was getting in the first place. Wendt's the more easily recognizable of the two fans.

Uploaded by State Farm's YouTube channel:


William "Rip" Rowan (1935-2013)

Upstate New York lost a sports icon Tuesday when former sportscaster and baseball executive William "Rip" Rowan passed away at 78 after a brief illness in Florida.

For many of us who grew up in the 60's & 70's, and into the early 80's, Rowan was sports director for WTEN. A former semi-pro baseball player before turning to television, Rowan turned his passion for the game into a second career as an executive with the Albany-Colonie Yankees of the Eastern League, the independent Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs, and the NY-Penn League's Tri-City Valleycats before retiring in 2009.

Rest in peace, "Ripper". You'll be missed.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Weasel of the Week: Brodie Van Wagenen

It's not as if the New York Yankees have enough problems on their hands, but the tabloid press in New York will beat this story into the ground all winter long if they have to. Thankfully, it has nothing to do with Alex Rodriguez.

At the beginning of the year, Robinson Cano dismissed the greediest agent in the business, Scott (20 Mule Team) Boras in favor of linking up with rapper Jay Z's Roc Nation group, which in turn is associated with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the most powerful agencies in show business. We all know Boras' habit of fleecing owners to feather his nest, largely because he never made it to the big leagues himself as a catcher in the Padres' chain back in the day. Unfortunately, CAA & Roc Nation have the same mentality.

Jay Z gave up his interest in the NBA's Brooklyn Nets to get into the sports agent business, and assigned some nothing happening jabroni named Brodie Van Wagenen to (mis)represent Cano. Van Wagenen's 1st mistake was claiming Cano, who led his native Dominican Republic to the World Baseball Classic championship in March, wanted as much as $300 million for a free agent contract. Boras, you'll recall, conned the Rangers, and later, the Yankees, into paying A-Rod up to $275 million. Van Wagenen, obviously, has studied the Boras playbook. So far, no one's biting, not even the Yankees, which suggests that Van Wagenen overestimated his client's total worth.

The Yankees, obviously, see Cano as their new cornerstone. Derek Jeter likely will get one more year, at the very least. A-Rod? Fuhgeddaboutit. Van Wagenen has never represented a professional athlete before, and is over-reaching the same way Boras always has. Jay Z is playing right along, like a fool, and should know better, having been on the other side of the negotiatiing table with the Nets. Is Robinson Cano worth $300 million? Maybe, but he folded up in the postseason in 2012, just like A-Rod had in past years. Then again, the Yankees as a team did an el-fold-o against Detroit. The media believes Van Wagenen & Cano will come down to earth and accept a more reasonable price tag. Not quite A-Rod-level excess numbers, but enough to keep Cano in pinstripes.

Because he dove in head first without doing enough proper research & due diligence, and earning Cano the likely wrath of Yankee loyalists should he leave, Brodie Van Wagenen is our Weasel of the Week. Accept no substitutes, pal. You reap what you sow.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Classic TV: Doctor Who (1963)

Doctor Who, the BBC's long running science fiction series, marks 50 years this year. However, I believe it's only been known to American audiences less than that.

My first introduction to the good Doctor was at the end of the Tom Baker era in the early 80's. The PBS affiliate here picked up the show to run on Sunday afternoons for a while, following along with each succeeding Doctor until the station could no longer afford to run the program. Today's audience is acquainted anew with the Doctor via BBC America's revival, which aired for a time on SyFy as well. During this modern era, singer-actress Kylie Minogue, still better known here for her flirtation with the pop charts in the late 80's, joined the cast for a season.

Marvel Comics got in on the action by devoting 4 issues of Marvel Premiere, one of their anthology books, to reprints of the Doctor's exploits---using Tom Baker's likeness, I should note---first published in England. Too bad it didn't get further than that. Then again, given how Marvel is constantly rebooting their franchise titles to #1 every few years, they would've cheapened the Doctor's appeal by doing that to his book, too.

Now, let's take a trip all the way back to the beginning, and up to the recent present. With news that the Doctor is about to regenerate again (the part's been recast), the following video will present the openings to each series, as it's known in the UK, up to the most recent season that aired on BBC America.



I'm only acquainted with the Tom Baker version, barely saw any Bruce Davison episodes. Based on what I've seen, I will give a rating of B.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Musical Interlude: Draggin' The Line (1971)

Tommy James & The Shondells scored a few big hits in the 60's, such as "Crystal Blue Persuasion", "Crimson & Clover", "Mony Mony", & "I Think We're Alone Now", the latter three all being covered by other artists in the 80's (Joan Jett, Billy Idol, & Tiffany, respectively). In 1971, James was repackaged as a solo act, but it's generally accepted that he still had the Shondells behind him on his lone "solo" hit, "Draggin' The Line". The following video would seem to bear this out.

Proof that oddsmakers sometimes don't know what they're doing.......

I've often believed that the Las Vegas oddsmakers are prone to making incomprehensible errors in judgment and common sense. Never was that more evident than yesterday.

Consider first the game between Houston & Oakland. The Texans had lost 7 in a row, and were getting head coach Gary Kubiak back after a week off due to a "warning stroke" he suffered in Indianapolis two weeks ago. So why in the blue hizell were they made a 7 point favorite over an improved Raiders team that would be starting undrafted rookie QB Matt McGloin (Penn State) with Terrelle Pryor out with an injury? If you can tell me, then we'll both know!

Anyway, the Texans' losing string reached 8, as Oakland won, 27-23. Anyone that bet Oakland cleaned up, I'm sure. The sudden fall of Houston after reaching the postseason the last two years has been sudden and surprising, and that's still a mystery.

Meanwhile, the NBC game of the week pitted the top two teams in the AFC West, Kansas City & Denver, against each other. With the game at Denver, and the Broncos a game out of first place at kickoff, the oddsmakers installed Denver as a 7 point favorite over KC, figuring that the rematch two weeks hence would be in the opposite direction. Luckily for these knuckleheaded nabobs, pizza baron-in-training Peyton Manning and the Broncos won, 27-17.

Rightfully, in each case, the spread should have been no lower than 3 points, the minimum in most cases for a home favorite. In each case, the home team giving more than 3 points was asking for trouble. At the end of the night, the bookies can say they broke even on those two games. I'd say they were lucky they still had their shirts. We'll see what the morning line'll be in 2 weeks, when the scene shifts to Kansas City, with the Chiefs, the last undefeated team to fall in the NFL, out for revenge.

OTB's publicity machine had it right years ago when they created the tag line, "Bet with your head. Not over it."