Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What Might've Been: The Sixth Sense (1972)

Perhaps it's safe to say that The Sixth Sense was ahead of its time.

Sense, which bowed as a midseason replacement on ABC in January 1972, never made it to the next calendar year, cancelled in December due to declining ratings. Not only that, but, to borrow the title of one of the shows it aired opposite, achieving long-term ratings success for this show was in truth, dare I say it.......Mission: Impossible.

Gary Collins (ex-Iron Horse) starred as Dr. Michael Rhodes, a professor in parapsychology, who specialized in the study of extra sensory perception (ESP), which was a growing phenomenon in itself at the time. Otherwise, Sixth Sense, which was spun from an ABC Movie of the Week, "Sweet, Sweet Rachel", was a standard mystery series. Just a couple of years later, ABC & Universal would try again, opting instead for a horror of the week format in Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which developed a cult following despite lasting just one season, something Sense was unable to achieve. In later years, the series was folded into Night Gallery's syndication package, with each 1 hour episode split into two parts.

In season 2, movie legend Joan Crawford made her final acting appearance on Sense. In a change of format, just for this episode, Collins appeared as himself as host, interviewing Crawford in a separate segment at the end of the show, and didn't appear as Dr. Rhodes. Perhaps the producers were testing the waters for a permanent format change that would never come to fruition, but for Collins, this would be a harbinger of things to come, as he would resurrect his career in the 80's as a talk show host (Hour Magazine), after one more starring role (Born Free, 1976) led to failure.

Ed Rigby provides the open & close. Pay close attention to the narrator during the open. You will be surprised as to who it is........



I did not realize this at first myself, but as someone commented in response to Mr. Rigby, the voiceover belongs to game show host Bob Eubanks (The Newlywed Game). Until I read that, I wouldn't have even suspected. I'd have thought Collins himself did the narrative.

Rating: B-.

Sports this 'n' that

The NFL Draft is now history, but the drama has only just begun in New York.

You see, after the Jets drafted quarterback Geno Smith (West Virginia) in Friday's second round, the tabloids were quick to grease the skids for the departure of incumbent QB Mark Sanchez, whose skills have regressed in the last two seasons. The New York Daily News even used a front page headline in Saturday's  edition, suggesting that Sanchez was done. However, there are still less than three months before training camp starts as I write this, and a lot can happen, including a protracted contract holdout by Smith if his agent(s) don't think the Jets are giving him a fair offer.

Meanwhile, the Jets' new GM, John Idzik, who came over from Seattle, hasn't exactly made friends with the fan base, not after dealing away defensive back Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay a week ago, a move the tabloid media claims was green-lit by owner Woody Johnson. On Monday, the Jets made the long expected move to release QB Tim Tebow after one season, and today's tabloids are crowing about that, too. A Yahoo! blogger suggests that the Jets traded for Tebow a year ago strictly for publicity purposes, then decided to treat him like a spare part instead of giving a fair opportunity to supplant Sanchez.

Let's face it. Tebow just wasn't cut out to be an NFL QB, despite his college successes in Florida. If any team wants him now, they should consider giving him a new position, either as a running back, a tight end, or, for all the irony, a defensive back. Denver found out over the course of two seasons that what worked in college didn't translate in the pros, largely because Tebow's physical limitations (size, lack of arm strength) could easily be exploited, as the NFL's Evil Empire, the New England Patriots, so gleefully demonstrated.

The bloom is suddenly off the rose for the Mets, who have lost 5 in a row after a 15th inning heartbreak vs. Miami on Monday. Shaun Marcum, Saturday's starter, came on in relief, and lost his 2nd decision in 3 days (well, actually, 4, since it was after midnight when the game mercifully ended). Teams have already adjusted their pitching to shut down the Mets' offense, so now, the burden gets heavier as we move toward the merry (?) month of May in Flushing.

Back to football. The Arizona Cardinals spent a 3rd round pick Saturday on troubled former LSU defensive back Tyrann Matthieu, aka "Honey Badger". Matthieu missed the entire 2012 season after being expelled from the team, and was arrested for drug possession six months ago. To believe the Yahoo! sports blog, the Cardinals have to give Matthieu some guaranteed money, perhaps not as much as Matthieu or his agent might think, but they also don't want him flushing that money away on drugs. Matthieu will be tested, perhaps more often than most rookies because of his well-publicized drug history, bringing more scrutiny than really needed, but what can you do?

What I found most amusing during the first week of playoffs in the NBA was the fact that ESPN, one of the league's media partners, thought it was newsworthy to report on a series of tweets issued by Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who missed the team's 1st round loss to San Antonio due to injury. Please. What a waste of time!

At the same time, most media outlets seem to think that the Miami Heat will repeat, but if they do, it will really be because that's what the league wants, as they would rather promote LeBron James as the league's #1 gate attraction. Like, it's a team sport. As long as the NBA continues to defer to advertising nerds and suits on Madison Avenue to promote certain players (i.e. LeBron) above the game itself, it isn't going to be back to where it was before David Stern took office.

A week ago, the Mets designated pitcher Aaron Laffey for assignment, and he eventually returned to Toronto, where he was promptly torched by the Yankees in an emergency start over the weekend. On Monday, Laffey opted for free agency, ending his 2nd go-round with the Blue Jays. Do the Mets take him back? I doubt it very seriously. The black cloud of misfortune hanging over Citi Field just won't go away, as evidenced by the Mets' current losing streak, referenced earlier. Even though the National League East standings are now starting to look the way they were meant to, save for the top 2 spots being reversed, it hardly seems stable.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Classic TV: Quincy, M. E. (1976)

Originally a component of the NBC Mystery Movie, Quincy, M. E. became far more successful as a stand-alone series, lasting 7 seasons before ending in 1983.

It had been a year since The Odd Couple ended when Jack Klugman was cast as the mono-monickered Dr. Quincy, a coroner who ended up helping the police solve murders. Helping the good doctor in the lab was his assistant, Sam (Robert Ito), while in turn, Quincy was both a help and a bit of an annoyance to Lt. Monahan (Garry Walberg, who appeared with Klugman occasionally on Odd Couple). As you could tell from the open, Quincy was also a ladies man, but producer Glen Larsen decided to put an end to Quincy's wandering eye by giving him a wife (Anita Gillette) near the end of the show's run.

To be sure, the CSI franchise wouldn't exist today if it wasn't for Quincy opening the door for viewers to get a look at how important forensic sciences are to police work.

Retrorebirth uploaded the open:



Rating: A.

Musical Interlude: Gold (1979)

When John Stewart climbed the pop charts with "Gold" in 1979, I thought he was just another new guy. He, in truth, wasn't. He had previously sung with the Kingston Trio, and made the transition from folk to pop-rock rather easily. However, "Gold" would be his biggest solo hit, and he wasn't heard from again.

The following clip comes from the pilot for Solid Gold as they counted down the top hits of 1979, though this show aired in 1980. The Solid Gold Dancers provide an alluring distraction, but missing from the picture are Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham & Stevie Nicks, who played on the track (and Stevie's vocals are heard in the chorus). Well, that was something else I wasn't aware of......


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Classic TV: Star Trek (1966)

In the mid-60's, the television landscape was dominated by comedies, variety shows, and crime dramas. Westerns were gradually fading out. Science fiction was making an inroad, thanks in large part to Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea & Lost In Space. Batman, which bowed in January 1966, re-opened a doorway for comics fans that had been closed after The Adventures of Superman had ended 8 years earlier. Spies were taking over, be they serious (The Avengers made their American debut in '66) or not (Get Smart).

Into this mix came perhaps the most famous science fiction series of them all, Star Trek. Creator Gene Roddenberry even went so far as to compare his series with the Western, Wagon Train, which, admittedly, was a bit of a reach. However, the "five year mission" of the USS Enterprise initially lasted three, as a shrinking viewer base convinced NBC suits to end the series in 1969. Of course, you know the rest of the story, how syndicated reruns led to the resurrection of the series as a movie franchise, and Paramount eventually made 4 more series, including one prequel series, to keep the brand active.

But, let's go back to where it all began. Today's generation might think of William Shatner for those goofy Priceline ads, but before Trek, the Canadian-born Shatner was already an accomplished character actor, having made the rounds of shows like The Twilight Zone. His characterization of James T. Kirk, Captain of the Enterprise, came across as being what James Bond would be like if he had to lead a team. It seemed that it was news if Kirk didn't hit on some alien babe in a given episode. In contrast, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), the rational Vulcan second-in-command, routinely stole the show, being order to Kirk's brand of chaos. Kind of like the older brother having to calm his sibling's frat-boy urges.

When the series was in weekday repeats in the 70's, I must've seen every episode at least 3-4 times each. I do have my favorites, but I couldn't find them on YouTube. We must, then, settle for Roddenberry's take on the counter-culture movement of the period, as Skip Homeier and a young Charles Napier guest star in "The Way to Eden", one of the rare cases where Lt. Chekov (Walter Koenig) gets the girl........

Edit, 8/5/16: The episode was deleted due to copyright issues. Here's a rarely seen teaser for the episode:



It can be said that the mission was allowed to continue when Paramount reached a deal with Filmation to produce an animated version of the series, 4 years after the original show ended, once again on NBC, but only 21 episodes were produced over 2 years, and, thus, it can be suggested that the paperback novels released in the interim period between the original series' end and the release of the 1980 movie, helped complete the mission.

Rating: B.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Weasel of the Week: Jeff Loria

The owner of the Miami Marlins certainly deserves to be (dis)honored this week.

More than 10 years into his stewardship of the Marlins, Jeff Loria has proven to be the absolute worst owner in the National League. I'd say in all of baseball, but apparently there are heirs apparent to the egocentric throne of the late George Steinbrenner there, too. Anyway, Loria is exploiting the lack of managerial experience at the major league level of current Marlins skipper Mike Redmond, a former player who has a World Series ring (2003) from his previous tour of duty with the team. According to Yahoo!, Loria insisted on flipping pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Jose Fernandez for a Tuesday doubleheader at Minnesota, making Fernandez, a rookie, a higher priority than the veteran Nolasco, who reportedly has already demanded a trade. Small wonder, of course, that the Marlins, as expected, occupy the basement in the NL East while Atlanta, and not Washington, threatens to run away and hide, while the defending division champion Nationals have to jockey for position with------the Mets! (like, whodathunk?)

Loria considers Fernandez to be a personal pet project, but he fails to understand that most owners should be heard but not seen. The Steinbrenner brothers aren't craving the back pages in New York, like their father did almost to the point of obsession. The Cubs & Braves, to name two, are owned by corporate interests (Tribune Corp. & Time Warner, respectively) that don't feel it necessary to make knee-jerk decisions on what amounts to "luxury" holdings, if you will. Loria, on the other hand, is like the spoiled rich boy with the shiny toy that he feels needs to be attended to as much as possible, and at all costs. Loria has alienated the fanbase time and again with his impulsive fire sales, such as the one that started in midseason last year when Hanley Ramirez was dealt to the Dodgers, but he doesn't care. However, by undercutting a rookie manager who likely knows more about the team's needs than Loria does, Loria is setting himself up to  face additional apathy, not from his team----Lord knows that's building as we speak----but from fellow owners who probably feel sorrier for the players at this stage.

Let's face it. Owning a sports franchise ain't rocket science, but Jeff Loria, this week's Weasel, ain't a Rhodes scholar, either.

George Jones (1931-2013)

It has just come across the news wires, and there will be much mourning at the Grand Ole Opry this weekend.

Country icon George Jones passed away at the age of 81, leaving behind a lifetime of classic hits, either as a solo artist or in duets with Tammy Wynette. You could probably recognize the hits just by the titles alone. "He Stopped Loving Her Today". "White Lightning". "The Race is On". I believe it would be fitting to present a 1985 hit that recalls when country music was at its pop culture peak in the 60's & 70's, as Jones references Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and others in "Who's Going To Fill Their Shoes?":



Many thanks to Ned Nickerson, who posted the video. Rest in peace, George.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Allan Arbus (1918-2013)

Character actor Allan Arbus played a number of different and diverse roles, but the one he will remain associated with was that of psychiatrist Sidney Freedman on M*A*S*H. Even though he only appeared in a handful of episodes over the course of the series' 11 year run, Arbus was as much a part of the fabric of the show. Earlier this week, Arbus passed away at 95. Following is a video montage of some choice bits with the good doctor........



We also say goodbye to singer-songwriter Richie Havens, best known as the opening act at Woodstock in 1969, who left us at 72, and baseball pitcher Rick Camp, who was a relief pitcher for several seasons in the 80's for Atlanta, perhaps best remembered for his part in one of the longest July 4 games in history, vs. the Mets, in which he hit his first homer in a game the Mets ultimately won. I'll have a Havens video up soon.

Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Musical Interlude: Rock & a Hard Place (1989)

I have never really been a big time Rolling Stones fan. In fact, I can count the number of Stones songs I like on my hand and leave room for a finger or two. One of those songs is "Rock & A Hard Place", the 2nd single off their 1989 CD, "Steel Wheels". Nearly 25 years later, the Stones are still going strong, easily the most durable of the British Invasion bands of the 60's, as they celebrated their 50th anniversary last year.

Uploaded by the band's officially authorized YouTube channel:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Musical Interlude: Mr. Businessman (1968)

Most people only know singer-songwriter Ray Stevens for his off-beat novelties, such as "Guitarzan", "Ahab The Arab", and, most notably, "The Streak". But Stevens has his serious side, too. 1968's "Mr. Businessman" appealed to the counter-culture revolution of the period. Unfortunately, there isn't an actual clip of Stevens performing the song that I could use. MrPurser put a picture of the Monument Records mono 45 up, and let the song play.



And, then, there is a stereo version, uploaded by MusicClipsVideo, which plays behind a FakeryTV montage, which includes GW Bush and the Clintons.....



Stevens would score another, even more serious hit 2 years later with the gospel themed "Everything is Beautiful", which, until "The Streak", became his signature song.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Classic TV: Room 222 (1969)

High schools have long been a fertile ground for movies & television, from Our Miss Brooks (which transitioned from radio to TV) and Mr. Peepers in the 50's to Welcome Back, Kotter in the 70's to Saved By The Bell & Beverly Hills 90210, and the film---and subsequent TV series---"Dangerous Minds" in the 90's.

Perhaps one of the best known high school-centric series of our generation would be Room 222, which spent 5 seasons on ABC from 1969-74. Created by future Emmy & Oscar winner James L. Brooks, Room was just as much about the faculty as it was the students themselves, and addressed prevalent social issues of the period. Producer-director Gene Reynolds also worked on another popular series for 20th Century Fox----M*A*S*H, shortly before Room ended its run.

What made the show work was the chemistry of the ensemble cast. Room 222 was billed as a comedy-drama instead of a straight-up sitcom, and thus didn't have a laugh track. It really didn't need one, and, in its later years, neither did M*A*S*H. Hmmmm, ya wonder..........

Saturday morning buffs will recognize a couple of names in the cast, particularly Judy Strangis (later of Electra Woman & DynaGirl on The Krofft Supershow) and Nicole (spelled Nichole) Jaffe, the original voice of Velma Dinkley on Scooby-Doo, which premiered the same year over on CBS. To my knowledge, Ms. Jaffe's appearance may have been a 1-shot deal, as she's not included in Wikipedia's listings for recurring cast members.

Anyway, here's the series opener, "Richie's Story":



It's just too bad real-life high school wasn't this good.

Rating: A.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What hath the NRA wrought? A teenager is arrested for wearing an NRA shirt

The paranoia of school administrators, especially in the South, is getting out of hand.

On Thursday, 14 year old Jared Marcum, an 8th grader at Logan Middle School was arrested and charged with "disrupting an educational process" (SAY WHAT?) and obstructing a police officer. The source of the problem? An NRA (National Rifle Association) t-shirt, which Marcum reportedly refused to remove while in line for lunch at the school cafeteria. According to a report by the Associated Press and picked up online by Yahoo!, Marcum had worn the shirt through 5 class periods without incident. Come lunch, an unnamed teacher sees the shirt, forces Marcum out of line, and orders him to either turn the shirt inside out (which would've prevented further drama) for the rest of the day, or remove it altogether. Marcum, knowing that the shirt was not in violation of the school dress code, refused, and, well, you know the rest.

Getting away from the topic for a moment, what in the name of Julia Child is going on here? Lunch constitutes an "educational process"? If there'd been no complaints about the shirt in 5 earlier classes, why bug the kid during a lunch break?

The problem at the core, is, of course, the NRA, whose influence in Congress has resulted in gun reform bills being defeated in Congress because the gun lobby has too many lawmakers in their pockets. Wayne LaPierre and his legion of followers whine about the 2nd Amendment being violated, but what they fail to see, blinded by the money they toss around, is that the 2nd Amendment has been abused by an assortment of people, and by defending the Amendment, the NRA is unwittingly enabling more psychologically or morally challenged individuals to obtain firearms with few or no restrictions. In this case, the mere presence of the NRA's logo has become anathema to certain people, and if those people are in positions of authority, they in turn are misinterpreting their own rules to satisfy themselves, leading to some embarrassing situations such as the one in West Virginia described above. If anyone was actually causing a disruption in the cafeteria, it was the teacher who was upset with young Jared Marcum and his choice of t-shirt.

Trust me, if Marcum chose a University of West Virginia shirt to wear, there'd not be a problem.


Christina Amphlett (1959-2013)

You might not know the name, but Christina Amphlett was the lead singer of the Australian group, Divinyls, whose biggest US hit was "I Touch Myself", which merited some heavy MTV airplay back in the day. News has come across the wires that Ms. Amphlett has passed away at 53.

Divinyls had pretty much called it a day a while back, leaving behind a raunchy musical legacy with "Touch", the double entendre-laced lyrics likely to create some discomfort for some folks. However, let's take a time trip back to when the band first started, back in the early 80's. The clip for "Boys In Town" was shot in 1981, though Divinyls' debut album didn't come out until 1983.



Rest in peace, Christina.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Classic TV: Happy Days (1974)

Happy Days was actually the second series to bear that title, the first being a short-lived comedy-variety show that aired on CBS in 1970, from the producers of Hee Haw, and starring Louis Nye. This Days has its genesis in a pilot that aired on Love, American Style, with a different cast than the one we would come to know & love. For example, veteran Harold Gould was the original Howard Cunningham, but, when Gould became unavailable for the series, another character actor, Tom Bosley, stepped in, and became an icon.

Happy Days was set in the mid-1950's in Milwaukee, and built around a trio of teens attending Jefferson High: Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard, ex-The Andy Griffith Show), Warren "Potsie" Weber (Anson Williams), and Ralph Malph (Donny Most). Whenever these guys ran into a sticky situation, they usually called on an older friend, Arthur Fonzarelli, aka Fonzie (Henry Winkler, "The Lords of Flatbush"). As time wore on, Richie, Ralph, & Potsie formed a band, giving Williams an outlet to sing on a regular basis, and saving Paramount some royalty revenues that otherwise would have to have been paid to the original artists whose hits comprised the show's soundtrack.

The series' original theme song was Bill Haley's classic, "Rock Around The Clock", but ultimately, Pratt & McLain's "Happy Days" became the definitive theme when it was added around season 2 or 3, I'm not sure which. Before we get there, though, a little history lesson is in order.

Happy Days was one of the more successful sitcom franchises of its time, as it spun off five series, and nearly a sixth:

Laverne & Shirley: Penny Marshall, sister of series creator Garry Marshall, and Cindy Williams ("American Grafitti") played a pair of brewery workers who were trying to better their stations. The series ended after the title characters and friends fled west in the final season.

Mork & Mindy: After a backdoor pilot, Orkan observer Mork (Robin Williams) settles in modern day Colorado, falls in love, and ultimately gets married.

Both of these series would spawn animated counterparts, as Days also did, but in Mork's case, it was a sort of prequel, set in high school, after the main series had ended.

Joanie Loves Chachi: Joanie (Erin Moran) and Fonzie's cousin, Chachi (Scott Baio, "Bugsy Malone") try life on their own, and follow in the footsteps of Richie, Potsie, & Ralph with a brief musical career. The series' abrupt cancellation allowed for a more fitting coda on Days, as the couple were married in the parent series' final episode.

Fonz & The Happy Days Gang: Fonzie, Richie, & Ralph are lost in time in a variation on 1972's Josie & The Pussycats in Outer Space. Keeping with the nostalgia theme, legendary DJ Wolfman Jack (The Midnight Special) was the show's announcer. Lasted 2 seasons (1980-2) on Saturday mornings with little, if any, cross-promotion advertising on the parent show.

Out of the Blue: As we discussed the other day, Blue, like Mork, resulted from a backdoor pilot, with Random, an angel sent from Heaven (Jimmy Brogan) landing in present-day America for the series, which was a total bust.

There had been talk of spinning Howard & Marion Cunningham (Tom Bosley & Marion Ross) off into their own series around the time that Days ended, but it never got past the talking stage.

Today, Henry Winkler's selling reverse mortgages in infomercials and has recurring roles on Royal Pains & Arrested Development. Ron Howard is better known as a very successful filmmaker and producer these days, and also was the voice-over announcer on Development, which he produced. Scott Baio is starring Nickelodeon's See Dad Run, produced by wrestling personality Eric Bischoff's company, which also did a pair of reality shows with Baio for Nick's sister network, VH1. Reruns of Happy Days currently air on Me-TV & INSP, among other places.

Here's a sample open, using Pratt & McLain's theme:



Rating: A.

A little of this 'n' a little of that

I fail to see the logic in the New York Jets trading away their best defensive player, Darrelle Revis, who missed virtually the entire 2012 season due to injury, even if it's for draft picks. I'm sorry, but even though Revis could be a free agent after the 2013 season, the Jets would be better served if they don't trade him before the draft, which starts on Thursday. If they do, regardless of how it pans out, it will come back and haunt them for a while to come.

Meanwhile, while most of us expected the Mets to be a second division team in the National League East, they're playing like anything but pretenders three weeks in. They recovered from a dismal sweep at the hands of the red-hot Colorado Rockies in chilly Denver to win 2 of 3 from the defending division champion Washington Nationals. All the media hype surrounds second year pitcher Matt Harvey, who outdueled Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg on Friday, but beyond Harvey & Jonathan Niese, the Mets' de-facto #1 starter with Johan Santana gone for the season, there are questions. Aaron Laffey wasn't an answer, and he was designated for assignment today. Jeremy Hefner isn't a starting pitcher, but management hasn't yet figured it out. He can only go so far before he falls apart, and lasted just 4 innings on Saturday. Shaun Marcum is expected to come off the DL next weekend to face the Phillies, but the Mets need another quality arm. Period.

Speaking of media hype, everyone seems convinced that the NBA title is pre-ordained for the Miami Heat. Uh, wait a second. Atlantic division champion New York beat Miami 3 of 4 in the regular season. Carmelo Anthony is playing his best since coming to the Knicks, and wants to prove he's not the forgotten man in the 2003 draft that also produced Miami's big 3 (LeBron James, Chris Bosh, & Dwyane Wade). Winning the first NBA title for the Knicks in 40 years would go a long way towards accomplishing that goal, but if you believe certain sportscasters on a national or regional level, it's almost as if David Stern is conducting the playoffs like Vince McMahon runs the WWE, if you know what I mean and I think you do. (Apologies to Joe Bob Briggs for cribbing his tag line)

Time to get personal. While there've been many instances over the years of certain individuals escaping a tragic fate due to good fortune, fate, or coincidental happenstance, the most famous of which might be future country music legend Waylon Jennings giving up his seat on the fatal flight that claimed the life of his mentor, Buddy Holly, along with Ritchie Valens & J. P. (Big Bopper) Richardson more than 50 years ago, the Boston Marathon bombings last Monday might've hit close to home for folks in my home district.

An ex-classmate of mine----we'll call her Angel for the purposes of this piece---lives in the Boston suburbs with her husband and sons. After the bombings, I felt the need to send her an e-mail Monday night to see if she was okay, perhaps fearing the worst. Four nights later, she responded and said she'd gotten a bargain on an airline package that allowed her to take the family on vacation last week, so she missed the whole thing. I said a silent prayer of thanks when I read the message yesterday, knowing that Angel was safe and sound.

While the media now attempts to paint the usual picture of the bombing suspects, I would rather they tried to be original and dealt in facts and not stereotypes. Period.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Weasel of the Week: Col Allan

As glad as I am that the crisis in Boston has been resolved, it could've been worse, thanks to the hair trigger snap judgment of the New York Post.

Never has yellow journalism been so blatantly obvious as it was in the Post earlier this week, when they falsely accused Salah Barhoum, without so much as formally accusing the young man, of being one of the Boston Marathon bombers, just because his attire matched the description of one of the suspects. Editor-In-Chief Col Allan, in Friday's New York Daily News, said his paper was standing by its story. Then again, they also initially stood by ridiculous claims that 12 people, not three, were killed in the explosions, and that a supposed "Saudi national" was in custody, without completely checking the facts. Talk about putting the cart out before the horse!!

Barhoum, though, has some company in a historical sense. 17 years ago, Atlanta security guard Richard Jewell was wrongly accused of being involved in a bombing during the Summer Olympics. If Jewell can recover from this bout of misfortune, so can Barhoum, though I'd not be surprised at all if his family decides to file a slander/defamation suit against the Post and its owner, Rupert Murdoch, for dragging the poor kid through the mud without getting all the facts before them, just in a rush to print a story.

In the end, it falls on Allan for failing to do diligent research to get those facts straight, likely because of the credo that "controversy creates cash". Not in this case, as not everyone bought into the Post's pack of lies. Allan not only gets the Weasel ears, but a Dunce Cap for being so ignorant of protocols in relation to his job and reality in general.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sounds of Praise: We Are (2011)

Christian singer Kari Jobe was a contestant on tonight's episode of The American Bible Challenge on GSN. Her team advances to the 2nd semi-final heat, which will be played on May 9, with the finals the following week. To tie you over until then, here's the song that put Kari on the map with a lot of folks, 2011's "We Are". This acoustic recording comes from Kari's own YouTube channel.

What Might've Been: The Fantastic Journey (1977)

Just a few months before "Star Wars" made science fiction cool again in pop culture, NBC took another whirl at the genre with The Fantastic Journey, which, despite the 1976 copyright, bowed in February 1977, and lasted only four months, the time stretched out by reruns and pre-emptions.

Veteran producer Bruce Lansbury helmed this series, then went on to work on Wonder Woman after Journey was cancelled. Jared Martin toplined as a healer-musician from the future, Varian, and was backed by a veteran supporting cast including Carl Franklin (ex-Caribe), Ike Eisenmann (the original "Escape From Witch Mountain"), and Roddy McDowell (ex-Planet of the Apes), who joined the series as rebel scientist Jonathan Willaway in episode 3. Unfortunately, only 10 episodes were shown, as Journey was simply on the wrong night, airing opposite high rated competition like The Waltons and Welcome Back, Kotter. It should be noted that it would be a while before a sci-fi-centric series would actually have any staying power, and it'd be a sitcom (Mork & Mindy) that would turn the trick.

Following is the episode, "An Act of Love":



Sony hasn't seen fit to release the series on DVD, and it was last seen, methinks on the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) back in the early years when they showcased cancelled series.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Two cherished icons say farewell: Pat Summerall & George Beverly Shea

His association with the NFL, to most, is more as a broadcaster than the player he was for 10 seasons. Pat Summerall called games for CBS, then Fox, from 1964 (as a color analyst) to 2002 (as a play-by-play commentator) before settling into semi-retirement. I say semi-retirement, because Fox would bring him back to call the Cotton Bowl every January, though that was not the case this year. On Tuesday, Summerall passed away at 82.

In addition to his NFL work while at CBS, Summerall also called the US Open Tennis Championships and the Masters golf tournament. After 10 seasons as a color analyst, Summerall was promoted to play-by-play in 1974, and worked with only two partners---Tom Brookshier, who was also his co-host on the syndicated This Week in Pro Football, and John Madden, who left CBS with Summerall to go to Fox. Today's generation doesn't realize that Summerall did in fact play the game, too, as a kicker for the Chicago Cardinals & NY Giants in the 50's and early 60's.

Earlier this morning, while listening to the K-Love radio network, I was apprised of the passing of gospel legend George Beverly Shea. For many years associated with evangelist Billy Graham, Shea actually began his career in radio, after placing second in an amateur contest hosted by comic Fred Allen. Shea, who passed away days after his 104th birthday, was one of the cornerstones of Graham's worship team on his crusade tours, along with Cliff Barrows.

From 1969 comes this performance by Shea of the gospel standard, "How Great Thou Art":



Let us not forget, of course, the three innocent lives lost in the bombings at the conclusion of the Boston Marathon on Monday. Some 170 more people were injured, some losing arms and/or legs in the surprise attack. As of this writing, the perpetrator hasn't been found, and it will be some time, it seems, before someone even deigns to cop to the attack, for whatever reason or agenda.

Rest in peace.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Musical Interlude: Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)(1994)

The fusion of jazz & hip-hop in the 90's didn't get very far. Groups like Us3 and Digable Planets were only successful for the proverbial 15 minutes, and then, gone.

Digable Planets' debut single, "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)", from the CD, "Reachin' (A Refutation of Time & Space)", landed major airplay on MTV back in the day, and one can guess it wasn't just because of the rappers. Scope out the horns, man. Doesn't that beat sound like they're sampling the theme from Spider-Man (circa 1967)?

EMI Records now holds the rights, and the video comes from the label's VEVO channel.

What Might've Been: Out of the Blue (1979)

One year after Mork & Mindy took off like a runaway rocket, ABC & Paramount thought another out of this world sitcom might create the same kind of buzz. Well, to an extent it did......the same kind of buzzing a bee makes when it passes on.

A while back, I reviewed Out of the Blue on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives, only because ABC took the incentive to air the show on a Saturday as a late substitute when their Saturday morning lineup was delayed for three weeks due to a strike of some kind. Truth be told, that was the only time I saw the show. The producers did the smart thing and had Mork (Robin Williams) make an appearance in the opener. His greeting to Random, the angel-turned-mortal housekeeper (Jimmy Brogan)? "Hey, brother, sell me some wind!"

Random debuted, as Mork did before him, in a back-door pilot on Happy Days, but, unfortunately, Jimmy Brogan lacked the one thing that made Mork so special. Charisma. Viewers stayed with Mork for most of his four seasons (five if you count an animated reboot), but couldn't give Random the time of day, and he was gone almost as quickly as he came.

Here's the open:



Rating: C.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Celebrity Rock: The Riddler sings! (1966)

Holy rockin' Riddles, Batman!

The late actor-impressionist Frank Gorshin became a household name and a cultural icon as Riddler on Batman, and this led to him recording a semi-novelty track in character that was released in the fall of 1966, leading to his appearing on the Dean Martin Show. Ol' Dino appears at the beginning of this clip to set things up, this after Gorshin had done a stand-up act comprised of some of his familiar impersonations (i.e. Richard Burton, Burt Lancaster) that would also be used when he made frequent appearances on Martin's Celebrity Roasts in the 70's & early 80's.

Which begs us to wonder why he was never given a chance to have a musical sidekick for at least one storyline, as Catwoman (Julie Newmar) did when Lesley Gore was cast in a 2-parter. On the other hand, Gorshin did hit the jackpot with the hotties surrounding him on stage for this number.......

Dunce Cap Award: Alex Rodriguez

At this rate, the only way Alex Rodriguez will ever make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is either by buying a ticket or being on a work release program from the nearest prison.

The New York tabloid media is having a field day with reports that Rodriguez allegedly was attempting to acquire documentation linking him with the controversial Biogenesis lab in Miami that supposedly supplied him with PEDs a while back. Apparently, Rodriguez thought this was more important than continuing his rehabilitation from hip surgery that is keeping him out of the Yankee lineup until July at the earliest. If you believe what the newspapers tell you, the Yankees wouldn't mind at all if A-Rod (or should that be A-Roid?) never came back. They signed Kevin Youkilis in the offseason not only as insurance in case Rodriguez can't play at all this year, but to ensure stability at third base, though Youkilis can also play first base, as he did for Boston for several years.

The fact that Rodriguez supposedly wanted to spend---or should that be waste?---money on damning evidence that could destroy his chances of being elected to the Hall tells us that Rodriguez just doesn't care about the consequences, but rather protecting what little integrity he has left. There was another curious headline earlier this week that claimed he had a new girlfriend in the Dominican Republic, though there's been no mention of him splitting with ex-wrestler Torrie Wilson that I've read. Talk about dum-de-dum-dum-dummmmmmmmbbbbbbbbbb!!!!

I shan't be surprised if eventually the prices of his baseball cards drop dramatically during the course of his season as public opinion gradually continues to turn against him. For all of his talent, Rodriguez has wasted it by becoming dependent on performance enhancers, and doing so in the worst place in the world to get caught. In the media fishbowl known as New York City. We suggest a large size Dunce Cap be sent to Mr. Rodriguez, and recommend that Torrie fit it on for him, then wrap him in a headscissors if in fact he cops to cheating on her, too.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Musical Interlude: Quicksilver Lightning (1986)

Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who, was enjoying a modest solo career in the mid-80's, but his last solo hit came in 1986 with "Quicksilver Lightning", from the movie, "Quicksilver", which starred Kevin Bacon (currently on Fox's The Following). Film footage is interspersed with clips of Daltrey in the recording studio.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Jonathan Winters (1925-2013)

News has just come across the wires on the passing of a comedy legend.

Jonathan Winters passed away on Thursday at 87. Winters is best remembered for his improvisational brand of comedy, and hosted two self-titled television series, the last being in the early 70's. He was also an inspiration to a newer generation of comics, including Robin Williams and Jim Carrey. Williams offered his idol a role on his ABC series, Mork & Mindy, in the series' final season, leading to Winters being cast as Mearth, the offspring of the title characters. A little bizarre, but that was the whole point. Unfortunately, that might have plunged the series into Jump The Shark territory.

RandomPosts offers this vintage clip of Winters on stage. Here, he plays an airline pilot.



Winters also did commercials, mostly for Hefty garbage bags, and appeared in a number of movies. His last role, though, was as the voice of Papa Smurf in 2011's "The Smurfs", and likely also, the pending sequel, but his best known movie role was in the ensemble classic, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World".

Rest in peace, Jonathan. You will be missed.

Weasel of the Week: George Chando

Mr. Chando is the superintendent of the Phillipsburg (NJ) School District, which is in the news today for a 6 month old incident that has resulted in a subtitute teacher filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the grounds of religious discrimination.

On October 12, Walt Tutka quoted a passage from the New Testament to a student who was last in line. The line reads, "The first shall be the last, and the last shall be the first.". This modern day interpretation comes from, in particular, Matthew 19:30 & Mark 10:31. The student asked a number of times from whence Tutka came with the remark. Tutka told him and asked if the student owned a Bible. When he found out the student did not, Tutka handed the youth a pocket-size Bible, presumably a New Testament, that he had with him.

Someone raised a stink with Superintendent Chando, and three months later, after being placed on suspension, Tutka was fired. Chando had recommended termination as of October 18, but it wasn't until January 14 that Tutka was formally dismissed. Chando's rationale? Tutka was wrong to even quote a passage from the Bible, even in passing. How absurd can you get?

The school district has refused to comply with requests by local media and other news outlets for e-mails & other documentation related to Tutka's employment, according to Yahoo! News. That tells us that someone, either Chando or someone else higher up, has something to hide. However, since it was Chando who felt the most offended back in October, he gets the Weasel ears for pushing for termination without due process. Besides, I don't think this would prevent Tutka from teaching Sunday School now, would it?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Classic TV (?): Win Ben Stein's Money (1997)

Comedy Central has had a few hit shows, but aside from South Park, The Daily Show, and its spinoff, the Colbert Report, few have had the cultural impact, even done tongue in cheek, as Win Ben Stein's Money, which had a healthy run of six years on the network (1997-2003). Future talk show host Jimmy Kimmel was Stein's original partner in pandemonium, serving as MC most of the time during his three years on the show. Kimmel left in 2000 to co-host The Man Show before ABC signed him to be their late night talk host.

Howieandkeyshia uploaded this odd episode from June 1999 in which Stein, currently a pitchman for Visine eye drops, among other things, and Kimmel trade places for a day.





As you can tell from the above, GSN acquired the series, but I think Disney still owns the rights to the series, so it's languishing in the vaults.

Rating: A+.

Musical Interlude: Rock Me Amadeus (1985)

"Rock Me Amadeus" ended up being the last American hit record for Austrian singer Falco, whose earlier song, "Der Kommissar", was covered by 1-hit wonder After the Fire in 1982.

From the artist's VEVO channel comes the version we all know:



There is supposedly an English language version, but for now, we'll settle for a quick lesson in Austrian-German.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Annette Funicello (1942-2013)

She was the quintessential girl next door, as presented by Disney, during her stint on The Mickey Mouse Club in the 50's. But, like later starlets like Britney Spears, Annette Funicello stepped out of Walt Disney's shadow with a series of beach movies with fellow pop icon Frankie Avalon in the 60's. After a series of commercials promoting Skippy peanut butter, beginning in 1979, Annette stepped away from the spotlight, returning for the occasional special or movie project.

Today, we celebrate her life and career, as Annette lost her battle with multiple sclerosis at 70.

Not only did Annette venture into movies during the 60's, but also the pop charts, scoring with such hits as "Tall Paul" and "Pineapple Princess". Following, however, is the title tune from the Disney movie, "The Monkey's Uncle". And look who's playing behind Annette-----The Beach Boys!



I can't honestly say how much peanut butter Annette sold in the 80's, but, trust me, if they had asked her to sell anything at all, from bug spray to cough syrup, it'd probably have been big business nonetheless.

Rest in peace, Annette.

Sports this 'n' that

Over the next two nights, the college basketball season will come to an end, and Louisville is in a position to sweep the men's & women's championships. The women's team will face Connecticut, the last school to sweep the two championships, on Tuesday, but tonight, the men will face Michigan, whose current roster has been hyped as the second coming of their fabled Fab Five of the early 90's. Unfortunately, in this era where hype and ratings mean more than actual athletic competition, the men's game won't tip off until almost 9:30 (ET), ensuring that millions of kids won't watch the conclusion, which will be somewhere close to midnight.

That has to stop. The NCAA, under fire for its mishandling of investigations of recruiting violations at Miami, for example, and CBS need to consider that it is better to treat this like the Super Bowl and let the game tip at a more reasonable hour. Say, for example, 8:05?

It's only been a week, but consider the following:

The Yankees are 2-4. So is Toronto. So is Philadelphia.

The Mets are tied for 2nd in the NL East with Washington, a game behind Atlanta.

SAY WHAT?

Blue Jays management is finding out very quickly, just like Miami owner Jeff Loria did last year, that money doesn't exactly ensure immediate success. Cy Young winner R. A. Dickey is 0-2 in his return to the American League, and the last I checked, before he signed with the Mets three years ago, Dickey wasn't exactly a winner in past AL stops (Minnesota, Texas, Seattle), and he's gotten a rude "Welcome back!" over the last week. Boston torched him on Sunday en route to a 13-0 shellacking of Toronto. Yes, the Mets could use him right now, but his confidence has to be a bit shaky after a rough start in his new home park.

Wrestlemania has come and gone, and, to the surprise of no one, John Cena, the poster boy for a lot of haters these days, is back atop the mountain after beating the Rock at the Meadowlands. Michael "The Miz" Mizanin, whose WWE Studios release, "The Marine 3: Homefront", went direct to video, beat England's Wade Barrett for the Intercontinental title. All Mizanin needs now is to win the WWE title again and he will have had at least 2 of every one of his championships.

However, Dolph Ziggler still holds the Money in the Bank briefcase, and people wonder if, not when, he'll finally get the green light to win the World title. Time is running out, as his one year contract for the title match expires in July. Blame it on the Uncreative team and Vince McMahon, who can't seem to agree on something for more than 10 seconds at a time. Ziggler was saddled with AJ Lee and Big E. Langston, the latter also the NXT champ, over the winter, a fair exchange, really, considering he had Vickie Guerrero hanging all over him like a remora on a shark for 2 years, but they add nothing, instead robbing him of what credibility he has left. As if he actually had any, actually.

It's been a season of streaks in the NHL & NBA. Don't look now, but with the regular season fast coming to a close, the Knicks, having already locked down a spot in the playoffs, have won 12 straight. They are one of the few teams to solve the Miami Heat, having beaten the defending champs 3 out of 4 this season, and that could prove huge in the postseason, provided the Association and their advertising partners don't meddle and decide that it's more important for Miami to reign again. What purpose would that serve?

Meanwhile, the NHL is looking like it'll be Pittsburgh vs. Chicago in the Stanley Cup finals in June. In a short season, the cream rises to the top fairly quickly, and if it is the Penguins & Blackhawks in the finals, it won't be boring. Trust me.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Wrestlemania 29 predictions and Hall of Fame preview

It is the WWE's annual rite of Spring. Wrestlemania weekend. This year, Wrestlemania goes outdoors at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands of East Rutherford, NJ, but tonight, the annual Hall of Fame induction takes place at hallowed Madison Square Garden. Let's take a look first at the Class of 2013, which has a decided New York flavor........

*Mick Foley (inducted by Terry Funk): Foley has oft told the story about how he was at MSG 30 years ago when "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka dove off the top of a steel cage onto "Magnificent" Don Muraco after their match. Now, he joins them in the Hall after arguably becoming more famous than both. In addition to his 3 WWF titles and a number of tag titles in WWF & ECW, Foley has also become a best-selling author in both non-fiction (his memoirs) and children's literature.

*Donald Trump (inducted by Vince McMahon): 6 years ago, Trump put his famous weatherproof hair up against McMahon at the big dance, but, like, did you really think the hair was really in danger? Now, McMahon, whose ring persona was a candidate for the looney bin for the last decade and change, will welcome his good friend into the celebrity wing of the Hall. Trump is the only one to host back-to-back Wrestlemanias (4-5 were at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City in 1988-9), and that's not likely to change. On the other hand, with all the hot air Trump's been spewing out lately, do we really need him in this spot? Hmmmmm, wellllllll, of course not!

*Bob Backlund (inducted by Maria Menounos): In his prime, the Minnesota-born Backlund had heels taking advantage of the revival of a certain 50's icon in their promos, dubbing him "Howdy Doody" because of his cherubic face. He has the record for the longest stretch between title reigns (10 years, 11 months), having lost the title in December 1983 to Iron Sheik, then beating Bret Hart in November 1994, only for that final title reign to last just a couple of days before losing to Kevin Nash (as Diesel). For those keeping score at home, current champion Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson went 10 years and 5 1/2 months between title reigns (lost to Brock Lesnar at Summerslam in August 2002 before beating CM Punk at the Royal Rumble in January 2013).

*Booker T. Huffman (inducted by Lane Huffman, aka Stevie Ray): Queue up Harlem Heat's theme song, "Rap Sheet", as the former WCW tag champs will reunite for one night. Stevie Ray retired rather than join his brother in the then-WWF in 2001, and watched little brother add 4 more tag titles and a World title during his first WWF-E run (2001-7), among other things. Currently the figurehead GM of Friday Night Smackdown (complete with a look that makes him look like Whoopi Goldberg's little brother), Booker's not about to dust off the tights & boots any time soon.

*Trish Stratus (inducted by Stephanie McMahon): She was only on the active roster for 6 1/2 years, but the Toronto-born Trish made a lasting impact in the women's division, shattering the record for most title reigns by a woman (she retired with 7), a mark not likely to fall any time soon. This will be the first time Trish & Stephanie will be on the same stage at the same time in 12 years (at the most), both now successful businesswomen after hanging up the tights. Sorry, boys, but like Stephanie, Trish is taken.

*Bruno Sammartino (inducted by Arnold Schwarzenegger): This is the one everyone wants to see, and they can thank Triple H for making it happen. Sammartino had a falling out with Vince McMahon several years back over the direction of the company that saw him end his run as a color analyst, during which time he served as a buffer between McMahon & Jesse Ventura. However, I can't think of anyone who sold out MSG more often than "The Living Legend". Not even Hulk Hogan comes close, and wouldn't you know? MSG is sold out for tonight, too.

Now, it's on to Wrestlemania 29 at the Meadowlands. The recent cold snap in the Northeast may be a factor, and not everyone is accustomed to these adverse conditions on a big stage like this.

WWE title: The Rock vs. John Cena: Last year, with no titles on the line, Rock beat Cena, which made a lot of people happy. Those people despise Cena because they don't like that he's been marketed as this generation's Hogan, even though his won-loss record on PPV in 2012 wasn't that good. Cena moves too much merchandise (t-shirts, caps, etc.), so a heel turn ain't happening, despite what a lot of people think. Cena in this spot is like Shawn Michaels vs. Hogan at Summerslam 2005. The difference is, there will still be haters. Rock has another movie opening later this month ("Pain & Gain" with Mark Wahlberg), and while he had a zillion press junkets the last couple of months, he doubled as an ambassador for the company while champion. However, it's time for this thrill ride to end and for things to go back to normal. The Pick: Cena.

WWE World title: Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodriguez) vs. Jack Swagger (w/Zeb Colter): Del Rio is being posited as WWE's new Latino superhero. Rey Mysterio has lost favor, it seems, and Sin Cara has been injury prone and otherwise a disappointment. Del Rio, from this desk, is the 2nd coming of the late Eddie Guerrero, and the feud with Swagger recalls Guerrero's 2004 feud with John Bradshaw Layfield, who will be calling the match alongside Jerry Lawler and either Michael Cole or Jim Ross, depending on what WWE decides by this time tomorrow. However, Dolph Ziggler is waiting in the wings with the Money in the Bank briefcase, which he has teased cashing in, but doing so now would be anti-climatic and a waste of everyone's time, since Ziggler's about as charismatic as a used bar of soap, and has no credibility. The Pick: Del Rio.

Triple H (w/Shawn Michaels) vs. Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman): Return match from Summerslam. Lesnar's broken the "Cerebral Assassin"'s arm twice, but he won't make it three times. I look for HHH to dust off an old submission finisher from his WCW run 10 years ago as Terra Ryzing, and make Lesnar tap if he can with the Indian Deathlock. Heyman's not going to be a factor, and maybe HBK can do us all a favor and knock him out with a superkick so he doesn't return later in the night. The Pick: Triple H.

CM Punk (w/Paul Heyman) vs. The Undertaker: Punk is so confident in thinking he'll end the Deadman's 20-match winning streak at the Big Dance, such that he stole the urn that the late Paul Bearer used to carry. To paraphrase the late Jim Croce, you don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit in the wind, you don't pull the mask off the Lone Ranger, and you don't beat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Enough said.

Big Show, Sheamus, & Randy Orton vs. The Shield (Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, & Dean Ambrose): Since crashing the party at Survivor Series, the Shield have run roughshod over everyone. They always travel as a pack, like unto a gang of muggers, and they claim to fight injustice. Sorry, but they're the ones perpetrating the injustices, and their warped world view needs to be straightened out. Internet "insiders" seem to think Orton's due to turn heel. Show just turned face after his latest heel run netted a World title run, but now's the time to shut down the Shield. The Pick: Show/Sheamus/Orton.

Chris Jericho vs. Fandango: Fandango (they want you to pronounce it Fahn-dahn-go) is the former Johnny Curtis, winner of Season 4 of NXT, with a new gimmick. They've stalled on his first match as long as they could, which in this writer's opinion is wrong. The gimmick is lame, and Fandango's top rope legdrops on Jericho on Monday barely landed on target. Still, Vince McMahon wants to push this kid to the moon, even though he'll probably flame out before the end of the summer. See, McMahon is nuts. Jericho, though, is the vested veteran who doesn't need to win here. The Pick: Fandango.

Mark Henry vs. Ryback: Ryback (Ryan Reeves, formerly Skip Sheffield) is finally in the ring with someone who matches up with him in the power department. Henry's in the Jericho role of the vested veteran. Like, if Brock Lesnar could hit Henry with the F-5 11 years ago, the former Olympian could get a case of Shellshock. The pick: Ryback.

Intercontinental title: Wade Barrett vs. The Miz: Barrett, the current champion on his 2nd go-round as IC titlist, would, on paper, have enough of an advantage on the smaller Miz (Michael Mizanin), who has adopted the figure four leglock as his new finisher of late. The trick is getting Barrett down long enough to apply the submission and get him to tap. I don't see it. The Pick: Barrett.

WWE tag titles: Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan & Kane vs. Dolph Ziggler & Big E. Langston (w/AJ Lee): There has been talk of merging this match with a Divas title match between current champ Kaitlyn and Lee, with both titles on the line, which would ensure that Team Ziggler captures all the gold, and set up Ziggler for a World title match later in the show with the idea of being greedy enough to have virtually all the gold (save for the IC or US titles). However, they're better served just putting the tag titles on Ziggler & Langston. The latter is the NXT champ, but they've stalled on putting him in a match on WWE-TV as well for no real reason. Team Hell No's run ends here, and Bryan loses at the Big Dance for the 2nd year in a row. The Pick: Ziggler & Langston.

Divas title: Kaitlyn vs. AJ Lee: If they're smart, they'll leave Ziggler & Langston out of this one and let Lee, who hails from New Jersey, go it alone against her former friend and tag team partner. The last time AJ wrestled in front of her family & friends before the cameras, she was screwjobbed on Raw six months ago, but of course they want you to forget that now. It's time for AJ to get a reality check. The Pick: Kaitlyn.

The Pre-Show match, airing on YouTube, sees Tensai (the former A-Train), Brodus Clay, & the Funkadactyls (Naomi & Cameron) vs. Team Rhodes Scholars (Damien Sandow & Cody Rhodes) & the Bella Twins, who re-upped last month. Tensai's stock dropped in a hurry after returning last year, and he's been in a similar tag team gimmick before, with Scotty 2 Hotty 11 years ago. Figure Tensai & Clay win here, positing them as challengers to Ziggler & Langston in due course. Have to get the show off to a positive start.

Also on tap: 80's rockers Living Colour have been added to the bill, likely to play "Cult of Personality" for CM Punk. Sean "Diddy" Combs was previously announced as a performer. These kind of segments are distractions that cost the fans extra matches. They complain online, of course, but for McMahon it's all about getting across as many demographic platforms as possible for his bottom line. Not only that, but you'll get this on DVD 5-8 weeks later..........

Of course, I could be wrong about the picks. I usually am.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Blurring the lines of local newscasts

In my home district in upstate New York, we have six broadcast channels, each attached to a network affiliate. Not all of them have locally produced nightly newscasts, but that may soon be changing in more ways than one.

The trend started a number of years ago when CBS affiliate WRGB of Schenectady had a joint sales agreement with WNYA, the MyNetworkTV affiliate. Currently, WRGB is now under the same corporate roof as CW affiliate WCWN, both having been purchased by Sinclair Broadcasting at the end of 2011. Anyway, for the duration of their link with WNYA, WRGB would repurpose their morning newscast on the latter channel. Today, WCWN airs a 10:00 pm (ET) newscast, utilizing WRGB personnel, which has been heavily promoted since its inception. The CW15 News at Ten has grown in the last couple of years from a 10 minute broadcast to a more traditional half-hour, and gives the station a bridge from CW programming to syndicated fare.

Recently, the area's Fox & ABC affiliates have entered into an agreement which enables news personnel from both stations to work together under the News Center umbrella. Long-time WTEN meteorologist Steve Capporizzo, also the host of the station's nightly Pet Connection feature, is now pulling double duty, delivering forecasts for WXXA as well. That moves Steve Teeling, who had been the meteorologist for WXXA, to the anchor desk, where he shares duties with Christine Arangio for WTEN's noon news. So far, it's been a good fit. Veteran news anchor John Gray is on the shuttle as well, co-anchoring WTEN's 6 pm news as well as WXXA's 10 pm broadcast. Gray, also a columnist for the Troy Record, surprisingly hasn't made much mention of his increased duties in his Wednesday columns. Hmmmmmm.

On the heels of the WXXA-WTEN union came rumors, reported by the Albany Times-Union a few weeks back that WNYA would soon be on the way to a sales agreement with NBC affiliate WNYT, which could conceivably lead to WNYA finally getting its own evening news. With MyNetworkTV likely to be a distant memory down the road, as their schedule consists entirely of reruns outsourced from other networks (i.e. USA's Burn Notice), the station is searching for its own identity, and potentially could get there with WNYT's help. We'll just have to wait & see.

None of this is unprecedented. In New York City, WWOR & WNYW are under the same corporate roof, with the New Jersey based channel 9 having been bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation a while back. Granted, this would've been unheard of at least 15 years ago, but in an age where digital media is taking over, bit by bit, traditional news outlets are finding that it may be necessary in the long term to pool resources together for each channel's future health. I cannot speak for anything outside New York, as I know nothing of any similar mergers in other parts of the country, but this could be a growing trend.


Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Just one day after announcing he was taking a leave of absence from writing movie reviews due to a recurrence of cancer, Roger Ebert lost his battle with the disease, just 2 months shy of his 71st birthday.

Ebert was a Pulitzer prize winner for his work in the Chicago Sun-Times before a local television station there signed him and rival Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune to host a monthly series, Coming Soon.....To a Theatre Near You, in 1975, which evolved into Sneak Previews, which went national on PBS in 1977. Siskel & Ebert hosted the series until 1982, when they left the show over a contract dispute. It didn't take long for them to land a similarly themed series, At The Movies, which spent six years in syndication, distributed by Tribune, Siskel's long time employer. After that, Disney signed the team for Siskel & Ebert & The Movies, which lasted under that title until Siskel's passing in 1999.

To say that Ebert was a fighter would be an understatement. Thyroid cancer cost him a portion of his jaw seven years ago, which resulted in the loss of speech and the ability to eat. He continued to write, and for his appearances on television, a voice-over narrator would read his reviews. As noted, Ebert had only just announced on Tuesday that he was stepping away for a period as the cancer had returned. Unfortunately, fate, it seems, had other ideas. The movie industry has lost one of its most powerful voices, and Chicago, one of its most famous native sons.

Rest in peace, Roger.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Another black eye for basketball.......and maybe lacrosse, too.

Rutgers basketball is better known for its women's team, coached by C. Vivian Stringer, which was publicly embarrassed by radio talker Don Imus a few years back. The men's team, however, is making headlines for something even more embarrassing.

On Wednesday, coach Mike Rice was fired after a video went public showing Rice verbally & physically abusing his players during practice. Rice wasn't a winner in three years at the New Jersey school, and I'd not be too surprised if someone suggested they couldn't beat the women's team in a co-ed scrimmage. Rice is shown pushing and taunting players, using homophobic slurs, and even tossing basketballs at them.

This is not how you teach your players to be winners. The frustration, clearly, had set in for Rice, but school officials had a chance four months ago to cut bait with him after a former assistant coach, Eric Murdock, presented video evidence of abuses. Instead, Murdock was fired himself. Obviously, Rutgers suits didn't want a situation similar to what happened at Penn State in 2011 happening to them, but, sad to say, it may just happen anyway. The athletic director and president of the university have come under fire for not acting sooner than they did. The most glaring question raised by the media on Wednesday, particularly on ESPN's Around the Horn, was why Rutgers administration sat on the tape for 3-4 months when they could've nipped the whole thing in the bud?

For his part, Rice has apologized and expressed regret & remorse for his foolish actions. However, I doubt very seriously he'll land another head coaching job right away.

Closer to home, a similar situation has erupted at Shenendehowa High in Clifton Park, where boys' lacrosse coach Chuck Holohan has been suspended indefinitely. School officials have kept mum on specific charges, per school policy, but according to local press, it seems Holohan may also have engaged in some physical abuse. As of now, there are no videotapes exposing any of the abuse that has been alleged, but given that Shen has one of the most respected athletic programs in upstate New York, and has for years, this is even more shocking. The timing of the allegations against Holohan, in light of the Rice case, is merely coincidental. Shen officials made the decision to suspend Holohan prior to Tuesday's league opener against Niskayuna.

Naturally, all the facts will emerge in due course, and then the case will simply go away, like things like this usually do in Section II. Unless someone with a video camera comes along........

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Weasels of the Week: David Stern & LeBron James

In November, the NBA issued a fine of $250,000 to the San Antonio Spurs because coach Gregg Popovich chose to leave stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, & Manu Ginobili back in Texas while the rest of the team traveled to Miami for a nationally televised game against the Heat. There was a great deal of controversy about that one, of course, but when the Heat traveled to San Antonio for an Easter Sunday game...........

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, & Mario Chalmers were held out of the game with injuries. They claimed that James suddenly pulled a hamstring, and that Wade & Chalmers had ankle issues. Miami still won, but not in blowout fashion. No fines were issued. Why? Because the Heat have gained favored nation status with the NBA office, due largely to the commercial endorsements of James (Sprite, State Farm) and Wade, whose two ads for Unilever's Dove Men-Plus Care products are getting major airplay this month. Couple this with James' whining about Chicago's rough play when the Heat saw their attempt at erasing the Los Angeles Lakers' 33 game winning streak go by the boards last Wednesday. Double standards and sour grapes, anyone?

Of course. The Heat have taken some heat for some choppy play, particularly by Wade, over the last couple of years, and James in particular thinks he is untouchable, because he sees himself as the NBA's golden child. Well, apparently, the office and their Madison Avenue partners think so, too, which is why Heat owner Mickey Arison's wallet hasn't gotten lighter. The Association announced Monday that there would be no discipline forthcoming against Miami, even if there exists a perception that the injuries may be a case of playing an April Fool's prank a day early, a little gamesmanship in the name of payback for Duncan, Parker, & Ginobili being too tired to fly to Miami in November.

It's wrong either way, and David Stern picks up his 2nd set of Weasel ears for allowing this to go unpunished. More than a year ago, James' circle of leeches were cited for doing something stupid just because of their association with James. This time, after I'd considered not doing so, I've decided to hand LeBron a set of Weasel ears as well, along with a pacifier for crying like a baby 'cause things didn't go his way. Reality is calling, pal. You ain't winning the title again in June. For the sake of the league and the game.

Sports this 'n' that

Union College was the last team from my district vying for a winter season championship, but were denied entry into the NCAA Frozen Four, losing Sunday to ECAC rival Quinnipiac, 5-1, the same score by which the Dutchmen had beaten Boston College the night before. Congratulations to coach Rick Bennett and the Dutchmen on another sensational season. The rivalry between Union & Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is on a par with UAlbany vs. Siena in basketball, as momentum shifts between the two schools every so often. Maybe one day, both RPI & Union will make the Frozen Four. Like, hey, stranger things have happened.

Everyone, including this writer, picked the Mets to finish 4th in the National League East, miles in back of Washington. Well, the Amazin's served notice Monday that even though Johan Santana is gone, presumably for good this time, due to re-tearing his surgically repaired shoulder, they will be players in the division. Then again, we've seen teases like this before. While I didn't see the game, I am heartened by the 11-2 thumping they administered to San Diego opening day. I just can't see them doing that to Washington, Atlanta, San Francisco, et al.........

787 Pro Wrestling is no more. After three shows, the promotion is changing, due to some issues that cropped up at their last show 9 days ago. General Manager J. P. Black addressed this issue recently in the first public comments since the promotion's website and Twitter & Facebook pages were shut down a week ago............
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FROM THE OFFICE OF GENERAL MANAGER J.P. BLACK-
In the hours immediately following the 787 Pro Wrestling event entitled “Chase for The Championships,” a number of issues were brought to my attention by the Ultimate Wrestling Board of Directors, New York State, and fans that were in attendance. The biggest issue that needed to be addressed was the behavior of two particular wrestlers – 787 Pro Wrestling Star Cloudy, and the 787 Pro Wrestling Champion himself, Vik Dalishus.
787 Pro Wrestling was created upon the foundation of being a company aimed to entertain to the masses in a family-friendly environment. That has been the mission since the inception of this company and it shall remain that way for the entire duration of 787 Pro Wrestling’s existence. We do not condone, nor tolerate vulgarity of any kind, whether it be verbal or physical in nature.
The actions of Cloudy and Vik Dalishus are highly frowned upon by the entire Board of Directors, and their actions will be addressed in greater detail in the very near future. For the time being, there is no immediate punishment for either wrestler going forward. However, we recognize the severity of their actions and have decided to make a swift, wholesale change to our wrestling company.
Therefore, effective immediately, the brand of 787 Pro Wrestling has been folded and will cease to exist from this day forward. In its place, the Board Directors and myself have agreed to maintain the name of our governing body, Ultimate Wrestling. The new brand extension, specifically named Ultimate Wrestling EAST, will hold its next event as scheduled. “RedLine” will take place on Sunday May 5th, 2013 2:30pm at the Troy Boys and Girls Club.
Since our inaugural event back in January, we have set out to change the face of the Independent Wrestling scene in the Capital Region, and we intend to continue that mission by upholding our promise to deliver family-friendly entertainment in a fun and exciting atmosphere. It is the foundation upon which this company has been built and we will continue to deliver the very best of what we offer. Please continue to stay up to date on events, matches, and all news regarding Ultimate Wrestling at our new website, ultimatewrestlingeast.webs.com, new facebook page, facebook.com/UWeast, new twitter page, twitter.com/UWeast, and main website UltimateWrestling.US. Thank you for your continued support, and we’ll see you all in Troy on May 5th.
Sincerely,
J.P. Black
General Manager
Ultimate Wrestling EAST
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Whew! If I were Vik Dalishus & Cloudy, though, I'd be thinking about going to confession. Considering there are a handful of churches in the immediate vicinity of the Boys & Girls Club........!

Monday, April 1, 2013

On DVD: Slappily Married (1946)

Before joining The Three Stooges, Joe DeRita starred in a quartet of 2-reel shorts for Columbia, all of which can be found on a 3-disc Stooge DVD compilation that also features shorts starring Shemp Howard & Joe Besser.

You may have figured out that when DeRita finally joined the team to do movies, he'd shaved his head so's to closely resemble the late Curly Howard. Well, in "Slappily Married", a remake of an Andy Clyde short from a few years prior, DeRita has a full head of dark hair, combed to resemble Shemp's signature 'do.

Stooge damsel Christine McIntyre plays Joe's wife. Uploaded by 2reelers.



I'd say he should've quit while he was ahead, but he was never really leading man material.

Rating: C.