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."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Classic TV: Have Gun, Will Travel (1957)

A number of years back, I had signed up for Columbia House's video collection of the Western, Have Gun, Will Travel, but dropped it due to other expenses after about a year. I will soon be revisiting those videos, but I thought I'd discuss the series this time.

Paladin (Richard Boone) was not your ordinary gunfighter. He was based out of San Francisco, and hired himself out to those in need. The series originated on radio, and made the transition to television in 1957, enjoying a healthy run on CBS. You might say, given the chess piece he used as his logo, that Paladin was TV's original "Dark Knight".

Following is the pilot episode, "Genesis", directed by guest star William Conrad:



Rating: A.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Musical Interlude: Found Out About You (1993)

Before there was Facebook or Twitter or even the internet, it was easier to convey the story of a broken relationship via a song.

Gin Blossoms burst on the scene with their major label debut, "New Miserable Experience" back in 1993. One of my favorite tracks on the CD was "Found Out About You", which could certainly still resonate today, because it sounds so much more direct than the idle speculation that spins out of control via social media.

Uploaded by the band's VEVO channel:

Dunce Cap Award: Alec Baldwin & MSNBC

You'd think Alec Baldwin would at least be happy to put one sordid chapter in his life behind him. Unfortunately, his short temper still gets the better of him when it comes to paparazzi, both professional and the rank amateurs both looking for a quick payday by exploiting their volatile subject matter.

After aspiring actress Genevive Sabourin was sentenced to prison for stalking Baldwin, the Capital One pitchman and neophyte talk show host went off on some fly-by-night camera jockeys looking for some easy dough of their own. As depicted on Inside Edition on Friday, Baldwin physically abused some photographers. As it turns out, it got worse. According to today's New York Daily News, Baldwin lashed out at a TMZ reporter & videographer, unleashing some anti-gay slurs.

On the heels of that incident, MSNBC, which hired Baldwin last month to host a Friday night talk show, suspended the tempermental actor for 2 weeks. Baldwin apologized for his actions via Twitter, but, given his history, it'll come off as being hollow the next time he vents on someone, which could be any day now.

We'll give Baldwin a Dunce Cap, but we're also sending a supply to MSNBC's suits, since apparently they should've known better before hiring Baldwin for his first gig as a talk show host. While we're at it, let's send some to the idiot camera jockeys looking for that easy money. If this doesn't teach you to respect a man's privacy, I don't know what will, but this I do know. You're better off finding a safer line of work.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Celebrity Rock: I'll Find It Where I Can (1983)

I just ran across this on YouTube, and just had to share. But, first, a little history lesson.

The 1980's brought a number of interesting---and unlikely---duets in country music. Kim Carnes followed up her #1 hit, "Bette Davis Eyes", by crossing over and dueting with Kenny Rogers on another #1, "Don't Fall In Love With a Dreamer". Sheena Easton & Rogers covered Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight". Even "Dirty Harry" himself, Clint Eastwood, got in on the act, teaming with Merle Haggard for "Barroom Buddies". Eastwood, at least, had some experience, making his singing debut either on Rawhide or in the movie, "Paint Your Wagon", I'm not sure which.

Waylon Jennings was routinely doing duets with wife Jessie Colter or best buddy Willie Nelson, but who'dathunk he'd team with James Garner?!? Like, who knew the guy who made Jim Rockford & Bret Maverick into household names could sing?

Well, it turns out he certainly could. In 1983, Garner made his recording debut, insofar as I know, on Jennings' album, "Waylon & Company", on the track, "I'll Find It Where I Can". Shoot, had he revived Maverick a little later than he did, this could've made a good soundtrack song.

Unfortunately, Garner & Jennings never made a video, so all we have is the album cut, with a picture of the album cover for you to draw your conclusions with.

What Might've Been: The Chimp Channel (1999)

Not since Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp, a Saturday morning series that spent 2 seasons on ABC (1970-2) had there been a show built around monkeys. After the debacle that was The Chimp Channel, there won't be another for a while, unless someone reimagines Link for a modern audience.

The Chimp Channel was spun from TBS' Monkey'd Movies skits on Dinner & A Movie. Those skits parodied everything from movies to biting the corporate hand that fed it, doing skits based on WCW wrestling and Atlanta Braves baseball. Some genius at TBS thought it might work as a sketch comedy series or a sitcom. However, they found out, just as Saturday Night Live boss Lorne Michaels has discovered a few times, expanding a popular skit into something longer doesn't always work.

Worse, Tom Stern, the man behind Monkey'd Movies, was fired by TBS before the Chimp Channel's debut, after he acted out his frustrations over creative differences via a bizarre form of performance art, or so he'd claim. Despite a talented voice cast that included the likes of Maurice LaMarche (Pinky & The Brain) and Dwight Schultz (ex-The A-Team, Star Trek: The Next Generation), the Channel was shut down after 13 episodes, losing viewers from its lead-in, WCW Thunder. Then again, the quality of wrestling at the time wasn't that great, anyway.

Here's a sample clip:



No rating.

Classic TV: The Facts of Life (1979)

After a couple of seasons on Diff'rent Strokes, NBC executives saw something in the characterization of Edna Garrett (Charlotte Rae, ex-The Rich Little Show) that made them decide to spin her off into her own series. Thus, in August 1979, The Facts of Life made its debut, more than a month ahead of the rest of the fall premieres. In fact, the series lasted almost a decade, outlasting Strokes.

Mrs. Garrett left the employ of Phil Drummond (Conrad Bain) and moved on to Eastland School, a private academy for women. Drummond and his adopted sons, Arnold (Gary Coleman) & Willis (Todd Bridges), visited Eastland in the series opener, which we'll show shortly. Not all of the girls would remain through the course of the show's run. In fact, Molly Ringwald left the show early on, and would resurface in films like "Sixteen Candles". It would be more than 20 years before Molly would try TV again (the short lived Townies). Nancy McKeon (Jo) wasn't there at the beginning, but would arrive soon enough.

Toward the end of the series' run, another future film star, George Clooney, joined the show, a few years before E. R. made him a household name. As for the rest of the regulars:

Lisa Whelchel (Blair) made a triumphant return to television several months ago, this time as a contestant on Survivor.
Kim Fields (Tootie) returned to series TV in Living Single.
Nancy McKeon "moonlighted" doing cartoons for Ruby-Spears & ABC, particularly the Weekend Special spin-off, The Puppy's Great Adventures, while continuing with Facts. Post-Facts, Nancy's last series was the cable drama, The Division.
Mindy Cohn (Natalie) is in cartoons these days. Since 2002, she is the voice of cerebral sleuth Velma Dinkley in the Scooby-Doo DTV series, as well as the three TV series (What's New Scooby-Doo, Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!, & Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated) produced during this period.

Like Strokes and other series under the Norman Lear/Bud Yorkin family tree, Facts dealt with more mature issues, including alcoholism, during the course of its run. Instead of being a Tandem Production, like Strokes, Facts was one of the first series produced by Embassy Television.

Now, here's the first episode, "Rough Housing". The theme song is performed by actress-singer Gloria Loring (Days of Our Lives):



Sony owns the rights to the series, and is in no hurry to put it on cable television, at least as far as I can see.

Rating: B.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What Might've Been: Gentle Ben (1967)

Ivan Tors already had Flipper on NBC, and, if I'm not mistaken, had misfired with Maya on the same network. CBS was home to Daktari, and Tors gave them a 2nd series in 1967, Gentle Ben.

Gentle Ben was neatly tucked in between Lassie & The Ed Sullivan Show at the front of CBS' Sunday night lineup, but lasted just 2 seasons. Considering that Lassie & Ben were up against Disney programming on NBC, it's good enough that it was able to get past the first season.

It was the story of a boy & his bear, which was a bit of a twist to the original concept behind Lassie. Clint Howard, brother of Ron (The Andy Griffith Show), and Dennis Weaver (ex-Gunsmoke) were the human stars. Unfortunately, there are no episodes available on YouTube as of now, but reportedly, the series is set to be released on DVD.

In 2002, Animal Planet revived Ben in the first of two TV-movies starring Dean Cain (ex-Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), but it didn't go to series. Chalk it up to a missed opportunity.

SupremeTeam68 uploaded the open:



So, aside from Disney, why was Gentle Ben cancelled after 2 seasons? Declining ratings, obviously. Folks figured out that Tors was simply copying what used to be the basic concept to Lassie, and I can't say for sure if it applied to Flipper, which managed to last a bit longer.

Rating: B.

On the Shelf: New looks for old friends

To capitalize on the current ABC series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel decided to cobble together a 1-shot reprint volume, S.H.I.E.L.D. Origins, collecting recent storylines that help explain to the mainstream audience why Nick Fury looks more like Samuel L. Jackson.

When Marvel launched the Ultimate line several years ago, writer Brian Michael Bendis, taking a radical approach, opted to reimagine Fury as an African-American, modeled after Jackson, who had himself taken on another classic hero, "Shaft", in the movies in 2000. That Jackson would be cast as Fury in the "Avengers" family of movies that started with "Iron Man" 8 years later was just a happy coincidence, it seems. 5 years after that, Marvel decided that they needed to phase out the original Fury, a Silver Age creation of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby who fought in World War II and was kept alive by something called the Infinity Formula, an anti-aging serum introduced in a Fury 1-shot in Marvel Spotlight more than 30 years ago, and introduce the new Fury as a long-lost, illegitimate son of the original. Fury 2.0 had been an Army Ranger named Marcus Johnson, which tells us this was a son that Nick Fury never knew until recently.

Unfortunately, the reprint includes a couple of issues of Superior Spider-Man, and the less space given to that atrocity, the better. It's balanced out by a Lee-Kirby reprint from Strange Tales (1st series) that explains how Fury (the original) joined S.H.I.E.L.D. in the first place.

Rating: C.

Marvel is also making news and taking a huge chance with another of their characters.

Ms. Marvel is getting a makeover, more than 35 years after her debut. Carol Danvers, introduced in Captain Marvel (1st series) in 1968, became Ms. Marvel 8 years later, and has gone through a number of identity changes, including inheriting the mantle of Captain Marvel herself. That leaves Ms. Marvel unaccounted for, as far as Marvel's concerned, so they're taking a risk by reimagining the character as a Muslim female. Given the cultural & political tensions involved, it's safe to say Marvel is looking at this as a move toward cultural diversity, along the same line as the racial reimagining of Nick Fury noted above. Marvel has had several countries represented in their books over the years, from England & Ireland to Israel and China. I believe the new Ms. Marvel, though, won't be the first hero of Arab descent. I recall a 1-shot character who appeared in Incredible Hulk back in the early 80's, the Arabian Knight. We'll just have to see how this plays out.

Meanwhile, over at DC, there exists a major disconnect within the "New 52". When the line was rebooted two years ago, certain ideas that had just begun to develop before the changeover were retained. That would explain the continuing existence of Red Lanterns, as well as those who've wielded the blue & orange lanterns. Pin that on Geoff Johns, who was promoted to a front office position around the time of the "Green Lantern" movie, and didn't want to see his newest creations retconned out before they actually had a chance to get off the ground. Batwoman's series had been promised before "New 52", but was delayed so that it would launch with the rest of the books, but exists in its own "bubble", if you will, with little interaction with the rest of the Bat-family, though a recent creative change might fix that problem.

Wonder Woman is also in her own bubble. Writer Brian Azzarello (ex-100 Bullets) decided that Princess Diana of the Amazons wasn't made of clay after all, but instead the product of forbidden love between Zeus & Hippolyta. However, this has not been addressed in Justice League or in Diana's new joint series with Superman. Yet. On a lark, I was able to obtain trade paperback volumes 1 & 2 of the current series. I'm a firm believer that if it's not broken, there's no need to fix it. Azzarello has his vision, and I'm assuming that DC, in order to keep him happy, decided to give him total autonomy. I'm sorry, but this also threatens to key into certain rumored subtexts, that would do more harm than good to Wonder Woman's image.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Classic TV: General Hospital (1963)

There ain't that many soap operas left on daytime television these days. In fact, ABC has trimmed its soap roster down to one-----General Hospital, which marked its 50th anniversary earlier this year. The others, All My Children & One Life to Live, were revived online several months back, with Oprah Winfrey's cable network picking up the broadcast rights.

Now, I ain't much for soaps myself, but, like everyone else, I was tuned in once I got home from school or work during the 80's, when the series veered away from traditional soap story arcs and into escapist adventure. While that was going on, fitness guru Richard Simmons joined the show as a means of calling attention to his syndicated series, which aired in the morning locally. As a result, Simmons was name-checked in the lyrics to the Afternoon Delights' one-shot, "General Hospi-tale", released in the spring of 1981, right before I graduated from high school. Once I got my current job, I tuned out, once and for all.

Naturally, there has been quite a bit of cast turnover over the years, and more recently, James Franco ("Spider-Man") spent a few weeks on the show, proof that the franchise still has some pull at 50. Not many of the cast from the 80's are still around, particularly Anthony Geary, Jaclyn Zeman, & Genie Francis, who only turns up periodically for a specific storyline. Bob Hastings (ex-McHale's Navy) joined the show in the late 70's as then-police Capt. Bert Ramsey, who worked his way up to Commissioner before leaving. Bob's brother, Don, had starred for years on CBS' now-defunct As The World Turns, so soaps seemed to run in that family.

Now, let's take you back to the days of escapist adventure, back in 1980-1, with the Afternoon Delights. They never made an actual video for "General Hospi-tale", so enjoy this fan-created montage........



Rating: B-.

What Might've Been: Supergirl makes her TV debut----but not as Superman's cousin (1962)

Supergirl, if memory serves me correctly, had already debuted in the comics when Garry Moore put together the following skit on his CBS show in 1962. Instead of the Girl of Steel being the cousin of Superman, she is presented instead as a parody of the Metropolis Marvel. The sort that would more likely be found in the pages of Mad Magazine, which today is distributed and promoted by DC Comics.

Anyway, get ready to meet Clara Clean (Carol Burnett), of the Daily Tabloid. The final portion of this video is something you've already seen if you've seen the infomercials hawking Burnett's DVD collection. Moore sets it all up.

Uploaded by BigGleeArchives:



Poor Durward Kirby. Never saw that coming, did he now?

After Moore ended his show, he went into retirement for a few years before being tapped to revive To Tell The Truth. Kirby moved over to Candid Camera as Allen Funt's broadcast partner, and, of course, Carol Burnett launched her own show, learning her lessons from her apprenticeship under Moore.

No rating. I just thought I'd post this for your benefit.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Classic TV: Little House on the Prairie (1974)

Michael Landon hadn't been away very long after Bonanza had ended when he began his next series. He simply reinvented himself, the process of which had begun while on Bonanza when he began writing episodes of that series, some of which would end up being reused for his new project--an adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House On The Prairie series of books, which lasted a grand total of 9 seasons. Landon was around for all but one as a performer, perhaps laying the groundwork for his next project.......

Little House began with a 2 hour pilot movie that aired in March 1974. 5 1/2 months later, the series premiered, airing on Wednesday nights for the first two years, then moving to Mondays for the rest of the run. Landon was Charles Ingalls, a father of three when the series started. Middle daughter Laura (Melissa Gilbert) was the focus of several episodes, particularly dealing with bratty frenemy Nellie Oleson (Alison Arngrim). Before the series was over, both girls, along with Laura's older sister, Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson), would all be married and starting families of their own.

Landon and Karen Grassle left the series after 8 seasons, leading to a title change to Little House: A New Beginning. It was a new beginning, alright, with new families entering the town of Walnut Grove, Minnesota, introducing viewers to two young stars-in-waiting---Jason Bateman & Shannen Doherty. NBC saw star potential in Bateman, and promptly gave him a sitcom of his own, It's Your Move, a couple of years later, which didn't work. Most of you know Doherty's story, though, as she ended up becoming tabloid bait while doing Beverly Hills 90210. Landon continued to write, but the handwriting was on the wall--New Beginning, without Landon as the on-camera center, flopped. Landon would rebound with Highway To Heaven, his last hit series. The cast also included ex-NFL star Merlin Olsen, making his acting debut. Olsen would also be a color analyst for NFL coverage on the network, and left Little House briefly to star in his first series, Father Murphy, but that lasted just one season. Co-star Moses Gunn (ex-The Cowboys) came over with Olsen after Murphy was cancelled. The Laborteaux brothers, Matthew & Patrick, debuted on Little House. Matthew was first, cast as Willie Oleson, and Patrick would join the show later. Patrick's still around, last seen on JAG a few years back.

Here's the open & close:



Rating: B.

The stars speak out, but will Hollywood listen?

To use an old cliche, when they passed out the brains, today's generation of network executives weren't around. They got theirs from recycling bins or dumpsters.

However, over the last couple of weeks, there's been a backlash over recent decisions to revive two older series, which, if we're lucky, will convince these dimbulbs to start thinking of, well, something fresh.

No sooner had CBS announced that they were optioning a revival of the former WB series, Charmed, than its stars, particularly Alyssa Milano, came forward and said now wasn't the time, since it had only been 7 years since the series ended. Since fantasy dramas are still in vogue, and witches in particular are back in style this season, one can understand the sudden need to bring back the Halliwell sisters, San Francisco's supernatural defenders.

Here's my solution. If CBS is really that desperate to bring Charmed back, why not try out a series of TV-movies with the original cast, rather than risk mass viewer apathy? Like, it worked for Perry Mason, back in the late 80's.

A wire service article appeared today that quoted Murder, She Wrote star Angela Lansbury as saying a reboot of her show, which NBC has picked up, would be a mistake. Lansbury cited the small town setting of Cabot Cove, Maine as part of the show's enduring charm. To move Murder into the big city, and transform its lead, mystery author and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher, into an African-American hospital administrator, is asking for trouble, and NBC had just laid their urban-centric reboot of Ironside to rest when they'd announced the Murder project.

As we've discussed, a star-driven series, such as Murder or Ironside, just won't work in this day & age. Yet, the morons in charge of the network are accepting ideas from people who might've been fans of the original shows (and this is likely), but don't understand the minor flaws inherent in these projects. As noted, Universal has tried twice to change the ethnicity of lead characters in crime drama reboots (Ironside & Kojak), and to attempt it a 3rd time is just fool's folly. Personally, I'd like to invite these clueless nabobs to a little place at the corner of Know Your Role Boulevard & Jabroni Drive for a businessmen's luncheon and the verbal smackdown that's likely to follow. Apparently, none of these folks has ever read Santayana, but now would be a good time to start.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Musical Interlude: Lightning Does the Work (1998)

Chad Brock had what amounted to a cup of coffee with World Championship Wrestling in the mid 90's. He clearly wasn't ready for the limelight in the ring, from what few matches I'd seen. Not long after, he put his tights & boots away and traded wrestling for country music.

Brock signed with Warner Bros. Records and released his debut album in 1998. The first single, "Lightning Does The Work", had its accompanying video appear on WCW programming as a way of Brock transitioning from one career to another. In fact, the late Curt Hennig, after making fun of Brock on the air, ended up becoming a country singer himself as part of a made-for-TV feud with rapper Master P. Oh, the irony!

Brock's singing career seems to have stalled, as he hasn't been heard from in a while. Meanwhile, compliments of Warner Bros. Records' YouTube channel, here's "Lightning Does The Work":

Moron TV: Totally Pauly (1990)

As the 1980's gave way to the 1990's, MTV began to expand its base of operations. Some of their programming was now based in California. Original VJ Martha Quinn had moved out there to pursue an acting career, and, with MTV now setting up a studio in LA, she didn't have to commute back & forth to New York to tape her nightly oldies show. Rockline, which she hosted for most of its run, was taped in LA before Quinn was cut for the 2nd time in 1992.

However, this also allowed for America's Moron, Pauly Shore, a 2nd generation comedian, to land his 1st series, Totally Pauly, a daily, hour-long goof-fest, in 1990, part of MTV's freshman class of comedy series. Unlike the others, however, Pauly was an after-school distraction for the high school & college set, as his show aired opposite General Hospital for the entirety of its 5 year run. The series also would air "Best of" episodes on Saturdays from time to time, but the less said about that, the better.

Shore created the persona of the dumber-than-a-doorknob free spirit he christened, "The Wiezel" (note the spelling--it was Shore's idea, after all), which carried over into his movies, including his 1992 debut, "Encino Man", which also introduced Brendan Fraser to the world. Shore recorded a CD, "The Future of America", in 1991, which produced a novelty single, "Lisa Lisa (The One I Adore)", which wasn't exactly Top 40 material.

Following is a sample clip of a 1991 episode that has Pauly at a Warrant concert:



Shore has his own YouTube channel, too, but it wasn't worth mining a clip off that.

Rating: C.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Art Linkletter would be proud of these kids (2013)

AT&T's "It's Not Complicated" ad campaign provides some of the silliest ads on the air today. At the same time, the interchangable panel of children surrounding actor Beck Bennett, acting as moderator in these ads, would be appearing as if they're auditioning for a revival of Kids Say The Darndest Things, which was a component of Art Linkletter's legendary House Party back in the day. There have been some real gems, and they get played up to 1-2 dozen times a day, depending on where you live, especially during sports programming.

It should be noted that these ads are directed by entertainer Jorma Taccone of the comedy rock group, The Lonely Island. The latest, "Cutest Grapes", features an adorable kindergartener who apparently doesn't understand how you make grapes into raisins..........



Somewhere up there, Art Linkletter is smiling.

Old Time Radio: Dragnet (1949)

Mention the name Jack Webb, and you'll find he's synonymous with one word----Dragnet.

After two earlier series---Pat Novak For Hire & Jeff Regan, Investigator (aka The Lyon's Eye) had come & gone, Webb developed Dragnet for the NBC radio network in 1949. The familiar Walter Schumann theme heard in the following track is the same one used in the initial TV series that followed a few years later, also on NBC. As we've previously reviewed three of the four TV versions of Dragnet, all that's needed here is that the grandfather of procedural crime dramas got its start here, and as with so many other series, made the transition from radio to television in short order.

The Theatre of the Mind uploaded the episode, "The Big Impossible":



Rating: A.

Classic TV: The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969)

Widowers with children (or widows, for that matter) were fodder for a few series back in the day. There was the Western, The Rifleman, which ran for 5 seasons on ABC, for example. CBS had the sitcom, My Three Sons (which it acquired from ABC), which was still on the air when ABC introduced The Courtship of Eddie's Father in 1969.

Based on the 1963 movie of the same name, Courtship centers on Tom Corbett (Bill Bixby, ex-My Favorite Martian) and his son, Eddie (Brandon Cruz), who is trying to find a wife for his dad, so he can have a mother figure again. Well, you can't fault the kid for trying. The series lasted three years, after which Bixby promptly segued into the short-lived adventure series, The Magician, for NBC. Cruz never landed another series. Co-star James Komack became better known as a producer himself, and would score a 1-2 punch just a couple of years later with Chico & The Man & Welcome Back, Kotter.

Courtship was also one of the last, if not the last, sitcoms produced by MGM, which began focusing solely on dramas, such as Medical Center, as the 70's began.

Warnerarchive uploaded this sample theme intro from season 2:



I'm not sure if Harry Nilsson, who recorded the theme song, reached the top 40 with it. Nilsson, though, would score with "Everybody's Talking", then composed the score to the animated TV-movie, The Point.

Rating: B.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

On DVD: V For Vendetta (2006)

In the 80's, Alan Moore & David Lloyd had crafted the political thriller, V For Vendetta, which made its way to DC Comics at the end of the decade as a miniseries, later collected in trade paperback. More than 20 years later, the story found its way to Hollywood, but Moore, disenchanted by studio executives' mishandling of earlier works, such as "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", chose not to accept screen credit for the adaptation. The same would apply to "Watchmen" 3 years later.

V (Hugo Weaving), his true face hidden behind a mask of Guy Fawkes, wages his crusade against the men who disfigured him, rallying the disenfranchised of futuristic London behind him. His closest ally is Evey (Natalie Portman), a working class girl he rescues from a potential gang rape one night. Considering how Evey would eventually shave her head, I had thought she'd eventually put on a Fawkes mask and at least join V's followers. Instead, she's his eyes & ears.

"V For Vendetta" recalls, as V himself notes, Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo. The love story that gradually develops between the disfigured V and Evey would suggest Beauty & The Beast. There are also elements of The Phantom of the Opera, though I must confess I wouldn't have noticed. V's charismatic presence would also suggest a post-modern Robin Hood or Zorro, railing against the fascist, totalitarian state England has become in the context of this story. No mention of the royal family, which suggests that perhaps the Queen had perished. Moore & Lloyd never really addressed it at all.

I can understand Moore's trepidation with the film. It doesn't capture the atmosphere that Lloyd had created artistically, and trying to cram the story into 2 hours and change doesn't do it justice.

Here's the trailer:



Rating: C.

A Classic Reborn: Perry Mason (1985)

12 years had passed since CBS' noble but failed attempt at reviving Perry Mason, with the task of producing the series having been given to 20th Century Fox. Network executive-turned-producer Fred Silverman felt it was time to bring Mason back.

Perry Mason Returns was the first of 30 TV-movies produced over an 8 year period (1985-93) by Silverman and his new business partner, Dean Hargrove. Raymond Burr returned to the role that first made him a TV icon in the 50's. In fact, this marked the 30th anniversary of Mason's TV debut. Only Barbara Hale remained from the supporting cast of the original series, although Richard Anderson (ex-The Six Million Dollar Man), who'd joined the series near the end of the original run as one of a number of actors tasked to fill Ray Collins' gumshoes as a police detective attached to the DA's office, appeared in Returns.

As Returns begins, Mason isn't a lawyer, but a judge. However, when his faithful aide Della Street (Hale) is wrongfully accused of murder, Mason swaps his robes for his lawbooks and returns to his practice as a lawyer. William Katt (ex-The Greatest American Hero), Hale's son, was cast as Paul Drake, Jr. (William Hopper had passed on after the original series ended), signing on board to carry on the tradition, if you will, of doing the legwork for Mason. Katt didn't stick around long, as eventually, another sleuth was brought in, played by William R. Moses.

Burr wasn't around at the end, either, as, if my memory serves, he'd passed away before the movies were concluded. Mason didn't have Hamilton Burger to spar with, either, as William Talman had also passed on. David Ogden Stiers (ex-M*A*S*H) played a DA in at least one or two of the movies.

The films all aired on Sunday nights, continuing NBC's tradition of Sunday Mystery Movies without the use of that retired umbrella title. SpudTV offers up the open to Perry Mason Returns:



Rating: A.

Friday, November 8, 2013

What Might've Been: A Year at the Top (1977)

TAT Communications, the offshoot of Norman Lear's Tandem Productions that packaged The Jeffersons, thought they had another hit when they sold CBS on the premise of A Year At The Top. Unfortunately, this tale of two struggling musicians making the dreaded Faustian bargain with the Devil didn't make it to Halloween.

Created by Heywood "Woody" Kling, Year told the story of two ordinary schlubs (Greg Evigan & Paul Shaffer) who made that deal in exchange for stardom. For this, Shaffer took a break from Saturday Night Live, where he was what they would call now a "featured performer" and not a regular member of the "Not Ready For Prime Time Players". As it turned out, Shaffer & Evigan recorded a whole album of material for the show, but you can imagine that the album flatlined almost immediately upon release.

For the stars, there is a happy ending, after all. 5 years later, Shaffer began his association with David Letterman, still going strong more than 30 years later. Evigan promptly rebounded with B. J. & The Bear (for which he also sang the theme song), then scored another hit in the 80's with My Two Dads. As for cracking the charts in real life, Evigan never did, but Shaffer took a crack with his 1989 novelty, "When the Radio is On", which we showcased a while back.

Gilmore Box offers up a commercial for the show, focusing on Evigan.



No rating. Never saw the show.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Musical Interlude: Ma Belle Amie (1969)

The Dutch band Tee Set had their only US top 5 hit in 1969 with "Ma Belle Amie". Yes, the title and some of the lyrics are French. Go figure.

This was another of those songs that I heard a lot of when I was younger, but never caught the name of the artist.

Monday, November 4, 2013

What Might've Been: Rango (1967)

After leaving Four Star, Aaron Spelling joined forces with Danny Thomas to start their own production company. The union lasted just 5 years, with Thomas walking away. Spelling, of course, veered away from sitcoms by then. In fact, I think this might've been his only one with Thomas.

Rango tried to fill the void created by the cancellation of F-Troop, another sitcom set in the Old West. Instead of an army base, however, Rango (Tim Conway, ex-McHale's Navy) was a Texas Ranger. He was a bumbling, pratfalling sort, not unlike F-Troop's commanding officer, Wilton Parmenter (Ken Berry), forever exasperating his commanding officer (Norman Alden). In short, series creators Harvey Bullock & R. S. Allen tried to cross F-Troop with McHale's Navy, albeit with fewer elements from either show, plus modeling Rango after Maxwell Smart (Get Smart), and failed. Director Sidney Lanfield worked with Conway on McHale, so there was some continuity after a fashion.

Unfortunately, Conway would discover time and again that while he was a valuable commodity as part of an ensemble, he couldn't carry a show by himself. I don't think Rango even finished out its only season, and it would be Conway's only project working with Spelling & Thomas.

Gilmore Box provides the intro:



Viewers voted with their remotes. With Get Smart in its 3rd season, they didn't want a clone, even if Conway were to end up with a sexy sidekick of his own (but didn't).

Rating: C.

Football this 'n' that

Earlier this season, Jerry Kill, head football coach at the University of Minnesota, left the team for medical reasons for the second time in the last couple of seasons. This weekend, two NFL coaches joined Kill on the sidelines.

On Saturday, Denver Broncos coach John Fox was taken to a hospital after complaining of being dizzy & light-headed, while out on the golf course in Charlotte. Fox, a former coach with the Carolina Panthers and before that a defensive coordinator with the Giants, underwent heart surgery earlier today, and will be away for 4-6 weeks, during which time defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who has head coaching experience (Jacksonville), will be the interim coach.

The scenario repeated itself the next night in Houston. Texans coach Gary Kubiak collapsed on the field at halftime and was wheeled off the field on a stretcher. Another defensive coordinator with head coaching experience, Wade Phillips, previously the head man in Dallas & Denver, took over the team for the 2nd half of their game vs. Indianapolis, and witnessed the Colts' comeback from an 18 point deficit to defeat Houston. It hadn't been made official as of press time, with Kubiak still in the hospital, but if he is to miss any significant time, Phillips would be the interim coach, in all probability.

Meanwhile, the dark cloud of racism reared its ugly head in Miami.

Offensive lineman Richie Incognito was suspended by the Dolphins earlier today, the culmination of an internal investigation into some cyberbullying perpetrated against Miami rookie Jonathan Martin, who left the team prior to last Thursday's win over Cincinnati. Dolphins officials obtained a voice mail message, left reportedly by Incognito, that was riddled with racial slurs and coarse language. It is widely assumed that Incognito, who had some behavorial issues in college, has played his last game in a Dolphin uniform.

Incognito picks up a Weasel of the Week award for resorting to the trendy cyberbullying to haze his rookie teammate. A real man would speak his mind if he had a problem with a rookie, and tell it to the man's face, regardless of consequence. Apparently, one must assume that Incognito felt he could get away with living up to his name and hassle Martin without the rest of the team knowing about it. Dolphins management has a box of Dunce Caps headed their way for not nipping this problem in the bud. You know they'd love to have Martin back for their next game on November 10, but will he "come home", if you will, knowing his tormentor is gone? We'll see.

It is necessary for management on all 32 teams to ensure that what happened in Miami isn't happening in their locker rooms, too. Incognito may have been playing for the wrong team all along. In another age, he'd be a perfect fit for the Oakland Raiders, but today, he'd fit right in with Bill Belichick's CIA-like New England Patriots, don't you think?

Classic TV: The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (1973)

Dean Martin was a fixture on NBC for 2 decades in primetime, starting with The Dean Martin Show, which anchored the network's Thursday lineup for 8 of its 9 seasons, moving to Fridays for the final year (1973-4). During that final season, the series was renamed, The Dean Martin Comedy Hour, which began a series of shows that were meant to be a cleaner, less bawdy version of the Friars' Club's legendary roasts.

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts were spun off into its own series in 1974, starting as a series of periodic specials before landing a weekly berth for a while. 54 roasts were presented in all. Once the ribbing starts, you can't stop laughing. Trust me.

For years, infomercial kingpins Guthy-Renker hawked a "best of" DVD collection, but as of 2 years ago, Time-Life took over the license, through its new StarVista division. The disc I have has edited versions of the Hope & Johnny Carson roasts. Edited not so much for commercials, but sudden jump cuts from one roaster to the next. StarVista warns ahead of time that the quality of their disc isn't great, doing what they could to remaster the footage.

The 1973-4 roasts were taped at NBC's Burbank studios, but beginning sometime after the Hope roast, the scene shifted to Las Vegas at the MGM Grand. Following is a sample of the roast of Johnny Carson, with DVD commentary by Rich Little:



The Hope/Carson Roast DVD also includes a 1975 failed pilot, Dean's Place, which I'll review another time. Trust me, there's a reason it failed.

Rating: A.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Old Time Radio: Suspense (1942)

TV's horror anthologies would never have sprang into being if it wasn't for the success they enjoyed first on radio. One of the most enduring and successful radio horror shows was Suspense, which aired for 20 seasons (1942-62). In turn, the series had one particular episode that was a true fan favorite, "Sorry, Wrong Number", which was broadcast several times, each one an original production in and of itself, no repeats that I can ascertain.

Agnes Moorehead (The Shadow) starred in each of the productions of "Sorry", and was cast in a smaller role in the feature film version, the first and perhaps only such film spun off from the series. The movie starred Barbara Stanwyck in the role originated by Moorehead. Who'd ever think either of these actresses would later become TV icons themselves? (Moorehead on Bewitched & Stanwyck on The Big Valley, both on ABC)

"Sorry" first aired on Suspense in 1943. The following episode, though, was recorded two years later, on September 6, 1945.



Scary, isn't it? Rating: A.

Celebrity Rock: Brotherhood of Man (1996)

From the season 1 finale of The Drew Carey Show comes this gem. Carey shows off his singing ability with a cover of "Brotherhood of Man", from "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". His then-boss, Mr. Bell (Kevin Pollak), would end up being dismissed by his corporate superiors shortly thereafter. Carey had done a short bit over the title card to the show in the first season, and this would eventually lead to his being cast as Gepetto in a musical, live-action version of "Pinocchio", like his show, airing on ABC, a few years later.

Musical Interlude: Wildside (1991)

"Marky" Mark Wahlberg took the late Lou Reed's controversial classic, "Walk on the Wild Side", wrote new rap lyrics based on actual events in and around his native Boston, and scored a huge hit for the Funky Bunch with "Wildside". Of course, Wahlberg later swapped the rhymes for an acting career, and the rest is history.



Saturday, November 2, 2013

On The Shelf: An old friend returns, plus some Halloween treats

In the mid-80's, Archie Comics took a chance and expanded their line beyond Archie and his pals, reviving their "Mighty Heroes", who'd been around since the company was known as MLJ Comics back in the Golden Age. Anyone who felt that the Archie brand wasn't their bag but were adventure/superhero fans were meant to be the target audience.

Unfortunately, the Red Circle line, later rechristened "Archie Adventure", didn't last very long. For me, it started one night when I was going into Albany for an event, and, while waiting for a bus connection, I stopped at a local newsstand and picked up an issue of the revived Blue Ribbon Comics. The headliner was The Fox, in this case a 2nd generation hero picking up where his father had left off years before. Through local comics shops, I was able to pick up as many Red Circle/Archie Adventure titles as I could. It was a nice alternative to DC & Marvel, but, as noted, it didn't last, ending after about 2-3 years. DC would pick up a license to reboot many of the characters or concepts in 1991 under the Impact banner, but that, too, was short lived.

In 2013, the Red Circle label, first established by Archie in the 70's for a horror anthology book, has been revived again. The two local comics shops in the hometown hadn't been carrying the first of these new titles, the New Crusaders, but, as I was thumbing through a recent Previews catalogue, I caught sight of The Fox. finally being granted his own series. I subscribed through my neighborhood shop straight away.

The Fox captures the whimsical spirit of the 60's, and the drama of the 80's incarnation all in one neat, nice package, as presented by veteran writer Mark Waid (Green Hornet) and illustrator Dean Haspiel, whose artistic style is a mix of Steve Ditko, Alex Toth, & Carmine Infantino. In fact, Haspiel's cover work evokes memories of Toth in particular. As disenchanted as I've become with DC's "New 52", and being uninterested in "Marvel Now", I'm always looking for alternatives. This is one that should stick around for a while this time, provided it gets enough attention. Unfortunately, Archie devoted all their media attention in October to Afterlife With Archie, which promptly sold out its first printing. Once again, Archie's heroes have a steep climb to make.

The success of Free Comic Book Day was bound to lead to something similar being created for Halloween. I'm not sure exactly when Halloween Comicfest started, whether it was last year or this year, but amazingly, it didn't get the same kind of attention as the spring tradition, even though Halloween fell this year exactly 8 days before "Thor: The Dark World" is to open in theatres. Unlike FCBD, the neighborhood shop has no restrictions on the books you can pick up for free, so I grabbed as many as I felt I needed.

Highlights:

DC is reissuing the classic maxiseries, Batman: The Long Halloween, by Jeph "Ear" Loeb & Tim "Garage" Sale, as a (presumably hardcover) graphic novel, meant for Christmas shoppers. DC also is showcasing another Bat-book, Batman: L'il Gotham, which looks like it was drawn with watercolors. Not my idea of a fun read, but the kids might dig. Archie is reviving Archie's Pals & Gals just this one time, in an ashcan format filled likely with reprint material you'd find in the digest books carried by Walmart, Rite Aid, and other stores. Their other entry isn't an ashcan of Afterlife, but rather a preview of Sonic: Lost World, based on Sega's latest Sonic The Hedgehog video game, which will be on a lot of people's shopping lists between now & Christmas Eve.

Marvel is reissuing Thor: God of Thunder 1 & doing a special 1st issue of Ultimate Spider-Man (based on the inanely lame TV show). The latter also includes random pages of Steve Ditko Amazing Spider-Man artwork, rewritten with bad jokes which does a disservice to Ditko & Stan Lee's original stories from the 60's. Avoid at all costs! Image serves up an ashcan of Robert Kirkman's Super Dinosaur. Kirkman, the creator The Walking Dead, has become Image's most prolific writer in years. Over at Dark Horse, Art Baltazar's latest, Itty Bitty Hellboy, gets the ashcan treatment as well. It's meant to be DH's answer to Baltazar's Tiny Titans series at DC, where he is wrapping up The Green Team, which, oh, by the way, ends its run in January after 8 issues. Itty Bitty Hellboy aspires to be a homage to Harvey Comics' Hot Stuff and its ilk from back in the day, but Hellboy isn't meant for this sort of thing. Avoid!

Idea & Design Works (IDW) is the new home for Cartoon Network properties previously published by DC. Samurai Jack merited only a 1-shot from DC about 10 years ago, but IDW had just released the first issue of a new series earlier in October. About a week later, The Powerpuff Girls followed. Ben 10 appeared in a CN anthology book at DC, but his comics rights are shared by Viz, which is doing a Ben 10 Omniverse book, based on the current series. IDW is adapting the original Ben 10. Meh.

We reported a week ago that CN was putting Beware the Batman on the bench due to low ratings, and giving the series the same kind of shabby treatment accorded other CN series that are favorites of older fans, not the target demographic CN is looking for, which, in this writer's estimation, would be tweens and under, something in the vicinity of 6-9. Fortunately, DC has come to the rescue with a comics version of Beware, released 10 days ago. Producer-head writer Mitch Watson made his comics debut on the sampler released in May, but isn't writing the book. Maybe he should give comics a shot, since CN has turned their back on him in recent months. The book looks nice, and picks up the story as seen on CN. I'm still not on board with a younger, 20-something Katana, but whatever. If CN history is any barometer, this will be, sadly, a short-term series, and it shouldn't be.

We give both The Fox & Beware the Batman a rating of A-.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Musical Interlude: November Rain (1991-2)

Guns 'N' Roses' classic ballad, "November Rain", was issued on 1991's "Use Your Illusion 1", and was released as a video single one year later, with the song peaking at #3 on the Hot 100. For a change, W. Axl Rose is at the piano. If you didn't think they could top this, well, they did, at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, when Elton John joined Rose for a piano duet on "Rain", which became an instant classic all by itself.

Sadly, "Rain" would be GNR's last top 10 hit, as none of the singles from "The Spaghetti Incident?", released the following year, cracked the upper echelon of the charts.

From GNR's VEVO channel, here's "November Rain":

Weasels of the Week: Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, & Chad Hurley

Earlier this week, we sent a sort-of "engagement present" to Kim Kardashian and fiancee Kanye West in the form of Dunce Caps, Kim for putting herself up for more criticism for getting engaged when most people figure she's again doing this strictly for television, and Kanye for being a blasphemous egomaniac.

Well, that overblown ego has gotten West a pair of Weasel ears this time. Kim gets a set, too, if but because of the couple's joint lawsuit against YouTube founder Chad Hurley, who leaked footage of the engagement, which was meant to be aired on E!'s Keeping Up With The Kardashians, a reality show that has long worn out its welcome, and only proves that Kim and her sisters are only interested in making public spectacles of themselves, no thanks to their mother, whose talk show test run bombed over the summer.

Hurley's no saint, either. As the suit alleges, Hurley was the guest of an invited guest, and used the opportunity to shoot the footage for his new site, MixBit. He figured that if Kim, a real-life, female Maynard G. Krebs, & Kanye were willing to put themselves out there and run the risk of their special moment being exploited, well, so be it. Hurley gets a set of Weasel ears, too, for this shameless bit of pandering.

Meanwhile, what also gets West the ears is the fact that, according to Yahoo!, he's postponed dates on his "Yeezus" tour because of vehicle damage to some of his concert equipment he claims is vital to his "creative vision". Yeah, sure. In the late 90's, he was thought of as a prodigy, but now, he's a self-centered jackass who can't get enough attention. Being with the Kardashian girls has not rubbed off on him; he's been like that for a while.

The equipment will take some time to replace, if only because West is putting his wedding plans on the front burner. Fair enough, but by not disclosing at least a tentative date for rescheduling cancelled shows, including one set for tonight, only shows he doesn't really care about his audience. The lawsuit is just a waste of everyone's time, and likely will be settled out of court. If we're lucky, the egocentric couple will get exactly zilch out of this. Maybe that'll teach them a lesson. Then again........