Thursday, January 30, 2014

Super Bowl or super chill?

Everyone knows the Super Bowl will be this Sunday, but the Chicken Little types in the NFL are floating the idea that if it gets really, really nasty, weather-wise, they'll move the game back a week or so. Now, you see why the Grammy Awards were handed out this past weekend, so they could clear some ratings space.

It's been beaten to death in the press that Peyton Manning's kid brother, Eli, led the Giants to another win over the New England Patriots in Indianapolis 2 years ago. By then, however, it was likely that Peyton had already played his last game as a Colt, and it was confirmed when he signed with Denver a few weeks later. This time, it's in Eli's house, MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, where Seattle shut out the Giants back in November, and in September, Peyton's Broncos blew Big Blue out of the yard.

So, both Denver & Seattle have had 1 game under their belts on-site, which takes away any advantages either team might have going in. Also, you can kiss the crowd noise good-bye, as Seattle won't have the "12th Man" with them. Given how Manning clowns around in those pizza commercials, he's got to prove again he can function in the cold, like Eli does. The "Legion of Boom" defense of the Seahawks will be tested moreso than they were in November in the same building, and would love for a Manning sweep. I just don't see it happening.

Neither defense is really going to be stout on Sunday, as Manning and his counterpart, Russell Wilson, will light up the night sky in New Jersey as if it was the 4th of July. Peyton will get his 2nd ring, to match Eli and Broncos VP John Elway, who retired after his 2nd Super Bowl win. People have asked Peyton if he'll retire. Nope. He just likes the camera too much.

Broncos, 48-44.

What Might've Been: Getting Together (1971)

It started as a back-door pilot at the end of season 1 of The Partridge Family, but ABC had no room for Getting Together in its Friday lineup. Looking back, maybe the show would've succeeded if it did air as part of a block with the Partridges & The Brady Bunch.

It had been a year since Bobby Sherman's last series, Here Come The Brides, which we discussed last time, had ended. Recording for Metromedia Records, Sherman kept busy touring and recording before he was called in for a guest shot on Partridge, in which he & Wes Stern were first partnered as Bobby Conway & Lionel Poindexter, aspiring songwriters, reportedly based on the team of Boyce & Hart, who'd written hits for the Monkees and Jay & The Americans, among others. Coincidentally, Sherman was now with the same studio (Screen Gems) that gave the Monkees their break.

Instead, Getting Together aired on Saturdays, opposite CBS' All In The Family & NBC's Emergency!, ensuring a quick demise. Pat Carroll (ex-Make Room For Daddy) & Jack Burns (ex-The Andy Griffith Show) were part of the supporting cast. Stern hasn't been seen much since the series ended, and Sherman traded his microphone for a gig as a paramedic, something I think he still does today!

Gilmore Box uploaded the open. Sherman sings the theme song.




Rating: None. Never saw the show.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What Might've Been: Here Come the Brides (1968)

Screen Gems, then the TV arm of Columbia Pictures, and presently the 3rd movie brand of the studio, had experimented with a 1 hour comedy-drama with The Wackiest Ship in The Army, only to see that fail after 1 season. Perhaps it was a little too early, but then, Wackiest was treading on ground already tread by the shorter, more popular McHale's Navy.

In 1968, Harry Ackerman, in charge of sitcoms at Screen Gems, commissioned the studio's 2nd hour long comedy-drama, Here Come The Brides. Set in 19th century Seattle, which of course wasn't the metropolis it is today, the series focused on the Bolt brothers--Jason (Robert Brown), Joshua (David Soul), & Jeremy (Bobby Sherman)---at the core of the show's ensemble. The cast also included Joan Blondell, Henry Beckman, and Mark Lenard, better known for his work on Star Trek. Unfortunately, Brides lasted two seasons, and after a syndication run in the 70's, hasn't seen the light of day much since.

Sherman was under contract to Screen Gems, and while he started climbing the pop charts with songs like "Easy Come, Easy Go", he returned with the musically themed sitcom, Getting Together, which would be his last series. Brown's last entry was the short-lived Ivan Tors series, Primus, which few people saw in 1972. Of course, David Soul went on to Starsky & Hutch and iconic status, even scoring a 1-hit wonder with "Don't Give Up on Us" in 1976.

Here's the open, including a vocal version of "Seattle", the show's theme song:




Was it ahead of its time? Hard to say, but it was fun to watch.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

Singer-songwriter. Activist. Icon. Folk legend Pete Seeger was all of these, and then some. Today, the music world mourns the loss of Seeger, who passed away at 94 after a lengthy illness.

While I never saw Seeger live in concert, nor had much opportunity to see him on TV, he wrote one of my favorite songs of the 60's, an interpretation of the words of Ecclesiastes that became "Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything, There is a Season)", which was a monster hit for The Byrds. He was just as well known around these parts as a political activist, with songs like "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy".

Here, Seeger pays a visit to The Johnny Cash Show in 1970, and teams with the "Man in Black" for "Working Man's Blues":




Rest in peace, Pete.

A Classic Reborn: The New Avengers (1976)

Right around the time that The Avengers was maintaining steady airplay in syndication, at least in New York, the series was revived in England, but lasted two seasons (or series, as they're called over in England).

The New Avengers was actually a sequel to the original series, with only one constant---Patrick Macnee, reprising his iconic role as John Steed. Macnee was in his 50's when this series began, and the producers questioned whether or not he could keep up with his new, younger co-stars. Steed had not one, but two partners this time around----Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt), who was fulfilling the playboy aspect of Steed's younger days, and the mono-named Purdey (Joanna Lumley), who was described by sources as an amalgam of her predecessors, such as, of course, Emma Peel (Diana Rigg). It's explained that Purdey was a former ballet dancer, which would explain her high kicking fighting style, which here in the US would remind fans of Yvonne Craig's portrayal of Batgirl on Batman a decade earlier. Craig, you see, was also a dancer.

It took about 3-4 years before the series reached American shores, picked up by CBS for the now-anthologized CBS Late Movie, but since then, the series has not seen the light of day here in the US. After production ended, Macnee returned to the US and made appearances on shows like Battlestar Galactica (the original), Super Force, & Thunder In Paradise. Joanna Lumley's only other notable TV hit was Absolutely Fabulous, which spent some time here in the US on Comedy Central several years back. Personally, I prefer her as Purdey.

Musical director Laurie Johnson revamped his classic theme......




It's just too bad ABC, which was home to the original series here in the US, passed on the sequel. Would've looked great right next to Charlie's Angels.

Rating: A.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Modern Classic: In The Heat of the Night (1988)

More than 20 years after John Ball's novel was adapted into a feature film with Rod Steiger & Sidney Poitier, In The Heat of The Night became a TV series, marking the return of Carroll O'Connor (ex-All In The Family) to primetime.

Heat was a midseason replacement series when it bowed on NBC in 1988, and was the latest entry from former network executive turned producer Fred Silverman, who'd previously revived Perry Mason as a series of TV-movies, and had brought Andy Griffith back to television in Matlock, both also for NBC, although the latter would finish its run on ABC.

O'Connor inherited the role of police chief William Gillespie, played by Steiger in the movie version, but things are different in Sparta, Mississippi this time around. In the course of 8 seasons---the final season consisted of 4 TV-movies---the Sparta Police Department would begin hiring African-American officers, the end result of prodigal son Virgil Tibbs (Howard E. Rollins, Jr., ex-Wildside) returning to Sparta, with wife Althea (Anne-Marie Johnson). In the course of the series, O'Connor had developed creative control, gaining a title of executive producer, despite clashes with veteran producer Juanita Bartlett (ex-The Rockford Files), which led to Bartlett's ouster. O'Connor's adopted son, Hugh, joined the cast, but passed away before the last of the TV-movies aired in 1995.

In season 3, Denise Nicholas (ex-Room 222) joined the show as councilwoman Harriet DeLong. As with Tibbs, Chief Gillespie had an adversarial relationship with Harriet at first, but in time, the two fell in love, and were married around the start of season 7, by which time the series had moved to CBS. Gillespie was dismissed as chief, leading to Carl Weathers joining the show as the new chief, while Gillespie became a county sheriff.

Anne-Marie Johnson left the series to join the ensemble of the Fox series, In Living Color, and it was explained that Virgil & Althea Tibbs were separated. Rollins left after season 6 due to legal issues, but would return later on, with Tibbs having left the force to ultimately become a lawyer. Currently, This TV, which has a number of MGM, Orion, & United Artists movies in its library, airs a 4 hour Sunday night block of Heat (check listings), marking its return to cable after a run on TNT a number of years back.

Here's the intro:



Rating: B+.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Musical Interlude: Human (1986)

You've seen Liberty Mutual insurance's ad campaign, built around the theme of "Humans". What you may not know is the music playing in the background of those ads.

England's Human League released "Human" as the first single from their 1986 CD of the same name, but it would end up being one of their last hits in the US. Astralwerks holds the rights to the band's catalogue these days, and thus the video, taken off VEVO, comes from Astralwerks' YouTube channel:

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Old Time Radio: The Green Hornet (1936)

From the same creative team that introduced The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet roared onto radio airwaves in 1936 for a 16 year run.

As we all know, newspaper publisher Britt Reid of the Daily Sentinel adopts the guise of the Green Hornet to infiltrate and expose criminal operations, all the while getting the police and the press to believe that the Hornet was a crook as well. In time, his secretary, Lenore Case, becomes privy to his dual identity, known only to Kato, Reid's Asian associate. I think the idea was for Miss Case to be to Reid what Margo Lane was to The Shadow, but it never got that far.

Al Hodge, better known to fans of Golden Age television as Captain Video, stars as the Hornet/Reid in the 1939 episode, "Put It On Ice":



During the series' run, there were two serials, with Gordon Jones, later known from The Abbott & Costello Show, as the Hornet and Keye Luke as Kato. Of course, the most famous incarnation was the short-lived 1966 series with Van Williams & Bruce Lee. During the 70's, Green Hornet was one of a number of radio series picked up by stations around the country on a nostalgic rerun cycle that lasted a few months.

Rating: A.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Classic TV: Family Feud (1976)

Earlier this week, we talked about the prospect of Fremantle Media reviving To Tell The Truth again in time for that series' 60th anniversary in 2016. Our next subject will be marking 40 years at the same time.

Family Feud debuted on ABC in 1976, and was almost immediately a hit. Sources claim this to be a spin-off from Match Game over on CBS because of 1) audience surveys, which were the most essential part of the game, and 2) host Richard Dawson (ex-Hogan's Heroes), who would remain a regular panelist on Match for 2 more years, since the two shows aired about 90 minutes or so apart.

Originally, as you'll see in the following video, the family teams were posed in a living room setting as the sliding door opened to introduce them to the audience. Cute, but it was discontinued after a few years. ABC discarded Feud after 9 years and a handful of primetime celebrity-driven specials, all of which generated huge ratings. To think that today, ABC's daytime lineup consists of two talk shows and General Hospital. Yeah, there is something wrong with that picture.

In 1988, Feud returned after a 3 year hiatus, but after a falling out between Dawson & Mark Goodson, comic Ray Combs was the new host. 4 years in, CBS expanded Feud to an hour to match stablemate Price is Right. The syndicated Feud, which had also returned in 1988, waited a while before expanding. However, ratings were dropping, due most likely to the expanded format, which only worked for those all-star specials, to be honest with you. Combs was sacked, and new executive producer Jonathan Goodson (Mark's son) extended an olive branch to Dawson to bring him back and out of retirement. Dawson hadn't done anything after appearing with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie, "The Running Man", in 1987. Dawson's return didn't pull the ratings all the way back up, and Feud's second run ended in 1995.

Another few years passed, and the series returned to syndication, restored to a half-hour format, although these days, stations will program the series in hour-long increments, as they do with a lot of off-network reruns of sitcoms. Louie Anderson was the first host in the new era, and lasted three years before giving way to actor Richard Karn (ex-Home Improvement). Karn also lasted three years, and was supplanted by John O'Hurley (ex-To Tell The Truth), who spent four years at the helm. Currently, actor-comic-talk show host Steve Harvey is in the midst of his 4th season as host, and finding time to do a daytime talk show (2nd season) at the same time. Talk about busy. Matchgameproductions takes us back to the very beginning and the series opener, from July 1976. And, yes, I remember seeing this.



Rating: A.

Musical Interlude: Calypso (1975)

The late John Denver was one of the most prolific hitmakers of the 70's, with songs like "Annie's Song", "Thank God I'm a Country Boy", "Rocky Mountain High", and this next selection, "Calypso".

The footage used in this video comes from the former documentary series, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, which we'll review another time. In a way, Denver was paying homage to Cousteau himself by writing this song, named for Cousteau's boat.



Edit:10/21/14: I've added a live concert performance, so those of you will get to see John perform "Calypso", if the above video doesn't send you.


Once bitten, twice shy, third time lucky?

Hank & Hal Steinbrenner, owners of the New York Yankees, knew all along they had to retool the roster for 2014. I think they knew they weren't getting Alex Rodriguez back, and now that America's Pariah will in fact sit out the season, let's consider the positive moves the Yankees made since the off-season began.

*-Brian McCann came over as a free agent from Atlanta. This is the sort of move the Yankees needed to make after the 2012 season, after Russell Martin left for Pittsburgh as a free agent---and made it to the playoffs. Last year, the Bombers had journeyman Chris Stewart and prospect Austin Romine behind the dish when injuries and a drug suspension cut short Francisco Cervelli's season. Naturally, the offensive numbers suffered at one of the key offensive positions.

*-Kelly Johnson (Tampa Bay) is a journeyman infielder who has also logged time in Atlanta, Arizona, & Toronto. He hurt the Yanks with some clutch hits last season, but is likely to shift all over the infield in the Bronx.

*-Brian Roberts (Baltimore) missed most of last season with injuries. He fills the void created when Robinson Cano chased the money and fled to Seattle on the advice of a moronic agent. In terms of injuries, Roberts has something in common with new teammates Derek Jeter & Mark Teixiera.

*-Carlos Beltran (St. Louis) & Jacoby Ellsbury (Boston) will help in the outfield, but Beltran, because of his own injury issues in recent years, is likely to spend most of the season as a DH in his first year back in the AL (started his career in Kansas City), although I'd imagine he would spell Ellsbury in center and/or Ichiro Suzuki in right. When they're both healthy, the two of them can more than make up for the production of Curtis Granderson, who went across town to the Mets.

*-Japan's Masahiro Tanaka, clearly, is the crown jewel. He signed Wednesday for 7 years and $155 million. However, there's an opt-out clause after the 4th year. Funny thing is, his agent is Casey Close, who has represented Jeter for years. What bugs me is why Close would pull a Scott Boras move and put an opt-out clause in the contract? We all know how that turned out for A-Roid, don't we? The New York Daily News celebrated the signing by splashing a picture of Tanaka's wife, wearing a red 2-piece bikini, on the front page of Thursday's editions. Surely, Tanaka's living right, isn't he?

Note, though, that the Daily News and other media outlets aren't so quick to anoint the Yankees as the prohibitive choice to win the AL East. They remember what happened to Toronto last year when the Blue Jays were the sexy pick to win the division, only to get locked in the cellar, unable to meet enhanced expectations.

And, then, there's Keith Olbermann. The ESPN pundit had his show air extra early on Wednesday night so he could weigh in on Tanaka, and brought up the Yankees' previous failures with Japanese pitchers such as Hideki Irabu & Kei Igawa. Granted, Tanaka will have some company in the locker room in Ichiro & Hiroki Kuroda, who returns for a 3rd season in the Bronx. The question that Olbermann raised was whether or not Tanaka can handle the pressure of playing in the biggest media fishbowl in the US. After going undefeated last season, can Tanaka follow Texas' Yu Darvish and thrive in the AL? That, luckily for the Yankees, will be the story this season, instead of worrying about A-Roid.

Right now, the Yanks are assured of 4 starters: Tanaka, Kuroda, CC Sabathia, & Ivan Nova. Phil Hughes is gone. David Phelps could be the #5, or it could be someone like Michael Pineda, who has yet to see the mound at Yankee Stadium since coming over from Seattle after the 2011 season. Yankee fans, though, have reason to smile right now. Just as long as A-Roid doesn't show up on the back page again......

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Musical Interlude: My Little Town (1975)

I've always been under the impression that "My Little Town" was a solo hit for Art Garfunkel when it was released in 1975. It never occurred to me that it was really the last single by Simon & Garfunkel. Paul Simon wrote it, but the song sat unused until it was released concurrently on both performers' solo albums, Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years" & Garfunkel's "Breakaway". Truth is, I never saw an actual vinyl single until the following video, posted by WABCRadio77. The poster has a promo version of the single that was used by radio stations, including WABC.

About the only time I'd heard it on the radio, the DJ identified it only as a Garfunkel record. Go figure.

Classic TV: You Don't Say! (1962)

NBC thought they were being clever.

The network acquired Ralph Andrews' You Don't Say! in 1963 after the series had started as a local game show in Los Angeles a year earlier. Jack Barry, then blackballed by the networks because of the quiz scandals of the 50's, was the first host, but since he was still persona non gratia, especially at NBC, he was replaced by Tom Kennedy (ex-Date With The Angels) when the show made its national debut.

Basically, the concept of the game was a verbal rebus puzzle, as clues were often plays-on-words, like what was used on another NBC series, Concentration. The game structure otherwise, and for a while, the set as well, resembled Password, such that after CBS and/or Goodson-Todman raised a fuss, Kennedy's podium was moved to the end of the table, instead of the center. The series lasted six years, swept off the table in a game show purge in September 1969, along with Eye Guess, Match Game, & Personality, but that would not be the end of You Don't Say!.

Six more years passed. In 1975, a revival was tested again at KTLA in Los Angeles, with Clark Race (ex-The Parent Game) as host. This time, ABC picked up You Don't Say!, and brought Kennedy back, less than 2 weeks after his last series, Split Second, had been cancelled. This time, the set was changed, and there were now four celebrities instead of 2, with the set closely resembling Match Game, which was now at CBS. However, this version lasted a year before ABC picked up Edge of Night from CBS, thus ending You Don't Say!'s second run after a few months. In 1978, the series returned as a syndicated nighttime entry, retaining the same set as before, but with Jim Peck as the new host, since Kennedy was busy with Name That Tune.

Ironically, Kennedy would find his way over to Password, as he was tapped to succeed Allen Ludden on Password Plus, bringing him back to NBC, but You Don't Say! hasn't been seen since the late 70's. Hmmmm.

Million Colors of Light offers this 1967 episode with Pat Carroll (ex-Make Room For Daddy) & Mel Torme.



Clearly, the later version was ill-advised in adding additional celebrities to counter the more popular Match Game, and we'll see why down the road.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Modern Classic: Full House (1987)

Jeff Franklin must've been a fan of My Three Sons.

How else to explain his seminal sitcom, Full House, which flipped the gender on the children, but otherwise the basic concept was the same. You had a widower (Bob Saget) with three daughters, who needed not only his brother-in-law (John Stamos, ex-General Hospital), but his best friend (Dave Coulier, The Real Ghostbusters) as well, to care for the girls. Full House not only reintroduced viewers to Stamos, who was worlds away from his soap opera days, but also to twin sisters Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen, who shared the role of Michelle, the youngest of the three daughters. The twins only appeared together on the show twice that I know of, in seasons 5 & 8, the latter in the two-part series finale, but thanks to some smart business savvy on the part of their parents, they became brilliant moguls themselves, even though their subsequent series all failed.

Like Sons' patriarch, Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray), Danny Tanner (Saget) eventually would remarry before the series ended, but it was Jesse who got to the altar first in season 4. Now, I'm not sure if Stamos ever had the chance to sing or play music when he played Blackie Parrish on General Hospital, but as you'll see in the opening video later, he proved to be pretty handy with a guitar. We have noted before how he's sat in with the Beach Boys, appearing in a couple of videos with them, so it made sense that the rock legends would make a guest appearance or two on the show. For the teeny-bopper crowd, Tommy Page, who had a 1 hit wonder with "I'll Be Your Everything", also guest-starred, which, like the Beach Boys, was in season 5. The only other music connection? Ex-MTV babe Martha Quinn, who appeared as herself in season 5 (crossover with MTV's Rockline), then briefly joined the cast as radio station manager Alison Axelrod in two episodes in season 6, her first primetime gig since The Bradys (1990). The writers tried to pair her with Joey (Coulier), but it ended up being a non-starter, and Alison was never heard from again.

Post-House, Stamos has been busy, making TV-movies and had one short-lived dramatic series, Thieves, on his resume before joining the cast of USA's Necessary Roughness last year. Otherwise, he's pitching Oikos Greek Yogurt, which leads to a reunion with Coulier & Saget for an ad that will air during the Super Bowl. Saget was the original host of America's Funniest Home Videos during House, but was let go (Tom Bergeron is the current host), and tried his hand as a game show host with 1 Vs. 100 for NBC a few years back. Coulier still does cartoons, and had joined the cast of Real Ghostbusters, taking over for Lorenzo Music around the same time that House had launched. Candace Cameron (DJ), sister of Growing Pains co-star Kirk Cameron, later married hockey player Pavel Bure, and has done a few TV-movies in recent years.

Fullhousedatabase (DUH!) uploaded the open from season 4:



Currently, reruns air on Nick at Nite, and I'd not be surprised if sister network MTV2 picked it up as well, to help fulfill the contract.

Rating: A.

Common sense prevails---for now: NBC rejects Murder, She Wrote pilot, may reconsider another concept later

Three months ago, NBC & Universal announced that they would revive the former CBS hit, Murder, She Wrote, albeit with an African-American lead (Octavia Spencer) in the role created by Angela Lansbury as amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher. The treatment submitted had Jessica rebooted as a hospital administrator who just wrote her first novel, and, well, you can guess where that goes.

Yahoo! is reporting that the pilot was rejected by NBC, although network suits have said they would revisit Murder later on with a different submission. Well, at least they're halfway to common sense.

Let us consider again the fact that Universal has tried several times to revive iconic series of the 60's (Ironside), 70's (Kojak, Bionic Woman, Night Stalker, and submissions for revivals of McCloud & The Rockford Files that never got past the talking stage), & 80's (Knight Rider), only to result in abject failure each time. They haven't figured out yet that star-driven vehicles such as those named left enough of an indelible impression with viewers such that fans cannot see anyone else playing the iconic roles. Murder falls into this category, and should rightfully be left well enough alone.

Better that Universal plumb its vaults for one of their anthology series, like, for example, Name of the Game, if they want to try another revival. Conversely, a current USA series, White Collar, likely wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for the success of It Takes a Thief in its 3 year run (1968-71). The concept is not entirely the same, and for that reason, Collar has been successful itself.

The same should apply to the other networks and studios should they attempt similar revival projects, although WB and the CW network are going forward with a new version of The Flash, which will spin out of the current Arrow series. The first Flash lasted 1 season (1990-1), but then, at the time, consider that it was on the wrong night of the week, airing opposite The Cosby Show. Enough said. For all the talk about Marvel & ABC mounting a revival of The Incredible Hulk, it seems they're hesitating, waiting to see how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. plays out the rest of the season. Hulk was another star vehicle that lasted 5 seasons at Universal & CBS (1978-82), and would fall into the same category as the other revivals, even though the new version would likely be at Disney/Marvel/ABC.

Otherwise, would it be asking too much for Hollywood to take a chance on something fresh for once?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Classic TV: To Tell The Truth (1956)

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Fremantle Media, which acquired the Goodson-Todman library of shows a few years back, took another chance on To Tell The Truth before it reaches its 60th anniversary in 2016.

There has been an incarnation of Truth in each of the last six decades, so why mess with a good thing, especially when it's one of the easiest games to play. It's also the last of Goodson-Todman's original "big 4" games, along with I've Got a Secret, What's My Line, & Password (which replaced Beat The Clock), and thus has achieved iconic status all by itself.

Radio personality Clayton "Bud" Collyer, fresh from Clock, was tapped to serve as host when the series launched in 1956. Newsman Mike Wallace had hosted a pilot, but it's clear CBS made the right choice in going with Collyer. Announcer Bern Bennett came over with Collyer from Clock for the first four seasons, and then was reassigned to Los Angeles, enabling Johnny Olsen to take his place for the rest of the run. As with Password, Truth aired on weekday afternoons as well as a weekly primetime entry, but after it ended its CBS run, it would be a syndicated entity for three of the revivals to follow.

A year after leaving CBS, Truth was revived, but opening night was bittersweet. Collyer had been in ill health, and turned down an offer to return. Garry Moore (ex-I've Got a Secret) was lured out of retirement to take over. Ironically, Collyer passed away the same night that Truth returned. Moore himself would be forced to leave after a few years due to ill health, with first Bill Cullen, then NBC baseball commentator (and former ballplayer) Joe Garagiola filling in, until Garagiola landed the gig for good at the start of the final season (1977). There was even one instance where panelist Peggy Cass swapped places with Cullen in order to recuse herself from questioning a subject, who was a personal friend.

During this period, cartoon icons Chuck Jones and William Hanna appeared on the show, as did Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau and Mad Magazine founder William Gaines. Writer Dick DeBartolo was on the staff of both Mad & Goodson-Todman, and presumably arranged for Gaines & Hanna to appear, even dressing up as Yogi Bear for Hanna's appearance (with Daws Butler doing the voiceover as Yogi). Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee was also on the show, and would later return during the last revival.

In 1980, two years after the last series ended, Truth returned again, this time with Robin Ward as host. Apparently, it didn't register with viewers all that much. Announcer Alan Kalter, who had taken over at the end of the last series, returned for this run. He's currently working with David Letterman on his CBS show. Ward's run lasted just 1 season due to low ratings and, in all probability, a lack of viewer acceptance of the relatively unknown Ward. In 1990, NBC decided to take a chance, but this incarnation of Truth was troubled from the get-go. Actor Richard Kline (ex-Three's Company) hosted two pilots, one of which accidentally made it to air. Australian Gordon Elliott (A Current Affair) was tapped to host, but didn't last long. Former Pittsburgh Steelers star receiver Lynn Swann replaced Elliott, but due to a conflict with his employers at ABC, he was gone after three weeks, and Alex Trebek (Jeopardy!), who was already doing a revival of Concentration for NBC & Goodson, took over for the remainder of the run, which, all told, lasted 1 season again.

The last series lasted from September 2000-December 2001, hosted by actor John O'Hurley (ex-Seinfeld), who would later take over Family Feud for 3 seasons after Richard Karn's run there ended. Meshach Taylor (ex-Designing Women, Dave's World) was the lone regular panelist during this run. Again, I would not be at all surprised if Truth does return at some point, to keep the tradition going, no sooner than 2016. After all, there is a lot of history and legacy with this franchise.

Matchgameproductions uploaded a daytime episode from 1967. Panelists Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean, & Kitty Carlisle were the regulars on both the daytime and nighttime versions by this point.



I have William Hanna's appearance up over at Saturday Morning Archives. Just look for it under "Game Time". There will be more episodes with specific subjects up soon.

Rating: A.

Rockin' Funnies: The Curly Shuffle (1984)

The Jump 'N' The Saddle Band paid homage to the Three Stooges with their 1984 1-hit wonder, "The Curly Shuffle". The only Stooge not shown is Joe Besser (ex-The Abbott & Costello Show), which tells you something about how Stooge fans perceive Besser's time as part of the team.

Uploaded by skiptowneproductions:

Weasel of the Week: Bill Belichick

Some wondered why the New England Patriots parted ways with Wes Welker after last season, and there were rumors that he had fallen into coach Bill Belichick's doghouse. Welker signed with Denver as a free agent, and is heading back to the Super Bowl, while Belichick, less than 24 hours after losing the AFC title game for the 2nd year in a row, did what he does best after a loss. He tried passing the buck on the blame for the loss.

On his weekly radio show, Belichick, without naming Welker specifically, held the veteran receiver responsible for an injury to defensive back Aqib Talib that knocked Talib out of the game, claiming Welker's actions were intentional. Oh? As others pointed out, the Patriots run the same crossing route, like everyone else, in their offensive patterns.

And another thing. There's the matter of Rob Gronkowski deliberately slamming into a Denver defender at Foxborough in the November game between these same two teams, and he, like Welker, wasn't flagged. Sounds to me like Belichick is whining like a baby because his tactics were used against him, when everyone and his brother knows he'd do the same thing 100 times more often.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Bill Belichick.

I think we all knew the whining would start sooner or later. Belichick has little in terms of class or respect for opponents, and when he does shake hands after a game, it's likely reluctant. It's past time Belichick, who won his first two Super Bowl rings as an assistant with the Giants during the Bill Parcells era, stopped acting like he's a spoiled child----a character trait that he shares with Tom Brady, as we saw during the season--and accept the fact that a Super Bowl berth is not the Patriots' birthright.

It happens, then, that while Seattle's Richard Sherman manned up and apologized for his antics after the NFC title game, Belichick has forgotten what an apology is. He has been, still is, and always will be a Weasel, and thus the CIA-wannabe picks up another set of ears & tail.

Monday, January 20, 2014

First, a Beast came home. Now, so does an Animal

2 years ago, the WWE welcomed back former champion Brock Lesnar, who just won't wrestle on TV. As his real-life friend and on-screen manager Paul Heyman puts it, Lesnar "doesn't fight for free", but that's only because it's written in his contract.

Now, I'm not so sure the same can be said for this next guy, who returns to WWE tonight after more than 3 1/2 years away........



Dave Bautista, also known simply as Batista or "The Animal", returns on Monday Night Raw tonight after leaving the WWE in May 2010. He's entered in Sunday's Royal Rumble, a match he won in 2005. Which side of the fence he's on will be determined either tonight or Sunday. Since leaving WWE, Bautista has dabbled in MMA, and moved on to movies, like others before him. His film credits include "Scorpion King 3" (DTV) and "The Man With The Iron Fists", and will be in Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" this summer. So, he has something in common with The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) in that he's returning and using WWE's promotional pull to help promote his outside projects.

Rock. Lesnar. Rob Van Dam last year. Now, Batista. Ultimate Warrior is going into the Hall of Fame. Rumors have Hulk Hogan returning yet again for Wrestlemania 30 and being inducted in the Hall again, this time as part of the 1st Wrestlemania in 1985, along with fellow Hall of Famers Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, Cowboy Bob Orton, & Paul Orndorff, with Mr. T, Muhammad Ali, & the late Liberace likely going into the celebrity wing just for fun. I'm figuring that they'll all come home in New Orleans the first weekend in April. That may be just what WWE needs to bring back disenfranchised viewers who've turned away from current recycled storylines. All I can say for now is, stay tuned.

Dunce Cap Award: Gene Steratore

The Seattle Seahawks, the #1 seed in the NFC, should thank incompetent referee Gene Steratore for ensuring they'd advance to the Super Bowl.

In a season where officials have made numerous mistakes on the field, none were more glaring than in the 2nd half of Sunday's NFC title game between Seattle & San Francisco, a rubber match, if you will, since the two division rivals had split their season series in the NFC West. While most figured Seattle would win, based largely on their stellar defense and the deafening "12th Man" (their fans), no one would've expected Steratore to screw up as royally as he did.

In the 3rd quarter, San Francisco is forced to punt. A Seattle defender, knocked aside, lands on the left (plant) leg of 49ers punter Andy Lee. Seattle is flagged for "running into the kicker", but San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh declines to accept the penalty, which would have only been 5 yards, and let Seattle have the ball. As it turned out, that was a fatal mistake by Harbaugh, but that ain't the story.

Mike Perieira, a former NFL supervisor of officials who now is the officiating analyst for the Fox networks, was asked by Joe Buck about the call, and Periera said that Steratore got it wrong. It should've been "roughing the kicker", a personal foul worth 15 yards, with possession going back to San Francisco. For Niners fans, the worst was yet to come.

In the 4th quarter, Seattle's Jermaine Kearse, who'd scored the game winning touchdown earlier, lost the ball shy of the end zone. San Francisco's Navarro Bowman recovers, but is injured on the play in the ensuing scrum. Replays showed Bowman clearly had possession, but Steratore and his cast of idiots gave the ball to Seattle, which lost the ball on downs on the very next play. The call was not subject to review, although that could change during off-season league meetings in light of this debacle. Later in the quarter, when it looked like they had reached the 2:00 warning, Fox, of course, went to commercial, but had to jump back in, and Buck told the audience that Steratore added 1 second on the clock. San Francisco picked up a first down, so we had another 2:00 warning---at 1:53 left in the game. Was Steratore trying to make good for the Niners? I doubt it. I wonder sometimes how idiots like him are still employed by the league.

Thus, it is for the 2nd time that we bestow a Dunce Cap on Steratore for his egregious stupidity. Niners fans rightfully would be crying foul on the two blown calls, but the system that enables morons like Steratore to work post-season games despite similarly baffling mistakes during the regular season needs work. Upon further review, Steratore should be going back to school.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Classic Reborn: The Life of Riley (1953)

The Life of Riley's television history has two separate incarnations, one more successful than the other. Likewise, there were two radio versions under that title, but the first had no connection with any other series by that name. Go figure.

Irving Brecher was the producer at the helm of the definitive radio Riley, which starred William Bendix as Chester Riley, the prototype for the blustery blue collar types to follow, from Ralph Kramden to Archie Bunker to Al Bundy. The series was spun off into a feature film in 1949. That same year, Riley transitioned to television, but Bendix, a contract performer with RKO, had a scheduling conflict, and so, another future legend, Jackie Gleason, starred in the first video Riley, which lasted a year. Again, go figure.

The Life of Riley returned in 1953, with Bendix back as Chester Riley, joined by Marjorie Reynolds, whom you might remember from the Mr. Wong movies in the 30's, as wife Peg. This version aired in syndication during the 70's and/or 80's, I think, airing on WOR in New York. Not sure about the Gleason series, which we will cover another time.

Anyway, as we look in on the Rileys, they are about to take a vacation........



Rating: B.

A changing of the guard in high school basketball in upstate NY

One of the most competitive rivalries in New York's Section II in boys' basketball over the last couple of years has been Christian Brothers Academy vs. Troy High. The two teams were atop the Big 10 the last two seasons (CBA won last year, Troy the year before), but after a heated Class AA final in 2012 mired in controversy, there wasn't a rematch last year. Green Tech saw to that by upsetting CBA, but fell to Troy in the final. This year, Troy dropped down to Class A, as they do in most other sports, while the improving Catholic Central High moved up to Class AA. The end result? CBA won't win the league title this year, as the crown goes back across the river.

CCHS has been atop the standings for much of the season, the only undefeated team left in the league. Troy is a game back after completing a season sweep of CBA Friday night at CBA, 64-62. However, you wouldn't know that by The Record, which didn't bother to have even a box score on the game, although a quick check of the paper's website reveals there is an account of the game---it was bumped from the print edition for space considerations, which happens way too often to Troy High's boys team these days. CCHS kept its perfect season intact by beating LaSalle, meaning that a season sweep of Troy would settle the issue of who is top dog in the city among the Collar City's trio of Big 10 teams (Lansingburgh plays in the Colonial Council, and is in Class B). CBA, with the loss, is now 4 games out of first. They would need Catholic High to go on a lengthy losing streak to have a chance, and I just don't see that happening.

It's taken coach Chuck Mack 3 years to get the Crusaders back to prominence in boys' basketball, back to the glory days of iconic coach Don Bassett, and his patience, to this point, has been rewarded handsomely. To be fair, CBA has been, for the most part, a 1-man show, with Greig Stire, a nominee for the McDonald's All-American team, being that 1 man. CCHS & Troy simply have too many weapons for the Brothers to overcome. Troy is done with CBA for the season, but the Brothers have to travel back to Troy to play CCHS in another week or two, and there's the prospect of the sectionals, which start next month. CBA will reload. The elite teams always do. Whether or not they will have enough to bring the Crusaders down to earth the next two years remains to be seen, since Anthony Mack, the coach's son, is CCHS' #1 star, and they went to CBA last month and beat the Brothers, despite the younger Mack fouling out. What does that say about the balance of power in the Big 10 changing this year? Plenty. The Crusaders do have a return match with Troy also on the docket, with the league title hanging in the balance. Oh, that will be fun.

Now, all that's left to complete CCHS' resurrection is an improved football team.........

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Musical Interlude: Groovy Kind of Love (1988)

In the 80's, Phil Collins split time between his work with Genesis and a burgeoning solo career. In 1988, Collins covered the Mindbenders' "Groovy Kind of Love" on the soundtrack to his movie, "Buster". Yes, Collins made a movie. It would be his only starring gig, though, as the film didn't win over audiences at the box office. 3 years later, Collins would have a significantly smaller role as a police detective in Steven Spielberg's "Hook", with Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, & Dustin Hoffman.

When most people think of "Groovy Kind of Love" today, they think of Collins' version, rather than the original that preceded it more than 20 years earlier. Sometimes, it happens that way.

Classic TV: What's My Line? (1950)

It was the simplest of games. A panel of four celebrities tries to discern the occupations of ordinary folks, leading up to a mystery guest who, more often than not, is just as famous as the panel, or soon would be.

What's My Line? was a CBS staple for 17 seasons (1950-67), airing in primetime. The series' original host, newsman John Daly, read the news during the week for rival ABC, and later moved to NBC to work on Today, which in and of itself was at the time unprecedented. In addition to Daly, the three regular panelists were, for most of those 17 years, journalist Dorothy Kilgallen, Random House publisher Bennett Cerf, and Arlene Francis, with the fourth chair left open for a revolving door of guest panelists.

When I first watched the series, it had been revived as a weekday entry in syndication, coupled with To Tell The Truth in some places. After a year away, Line returned for 7 more seasons (1968-75), and went through two hosts. Wally Bruner was Daly's immediate successor, and piloted the series for three seasons before departing, spun off into a weekend series, Wally's Workshop, which, sorry to say, isn't available on YouTube, and presumably has been lost to the mists of time. I should note that Workshop was a rare bird in that longtime Goodson-Todman staff announcer Johnny Olsen worked as the announcer, continuing his association with Bruner, even though Workshop was not a G-T production. Aside from his own variety show, the only other non-G-T series that Olsen worked on that I know of was The Jackie Gleason Show, when Gleason moved his base to Miami in the 60's. I digress.

Actor-turned-game show host Larry Blyden (ex-Personality) took over for Bruner, and was the last host of What's My Line? for the series' final 4 seasons. He was set to move on to another G-T game show, Showoffs, before perishing in an accident while on vacation in 1975. The memories I have of Line come from the Bruner-Blyden era, and thus, the sample I pulled, uploaded by MatchGameProductions, comes from the 1969-70 season, I have to assume, since Brenda Vaccaro ("Midnight Cowboy") is on the panel, along with Gene Rayburn, whose original Match Game may have ended by this point. Future President Gerald Ford is the mystery guest, and this episode is culled from a GSN print from a tribute to Ford, who passed away in 2006.



Rating: A-.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Musical Interlude: Celluloid Heroes (1972)

Let me start with a little personal note.

In the late 80's, I began dating an aspiring singer-songwriter who was part of a rotating ensemble of performers at a small basement nightclub up the street from my apartment. We'd met a few years earlier when she was working at a since-closed neighborhood bakery, but it took about 5 years before we'd start dating. It lasted 8 years before we split up and went our separate ways. Haven't heard from her in nearly 15 years, so suffice to say, she's moved on with her life, as I have.

The reason I bring this up is because one of the staples of her nightclub set list, before she formed a modestly successful band, was a cover of the Kinks' 1972 hit, "Celluloid Heroes", a reflective ballad celebrating Hollywood's past, enshrined on the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.

There are some concert clips, but the embedding codes have been disabled. I found the following slide show, which features some of the Hollywood legends name-checked in "Celluloid Heroes", one of Ray Davies' best works. So, let's take a walk down Memory Lane with the Kinks and "Celluloid Heroes":

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What Might've Been: The Partners (1971)

The one knock against Don Adams' 1971 sitcom, The Partners, which marked Adams' return to NBC, was that it was too soon after his last series, Get Smart, had ended at CBS. Worse, it was on Fridays, which now belonged to The Brady Bunch over at ABC.

Essentially, Adams was working similar ground, only this time, he was a police detective instead of a secret agent. This was the first of two series he did for Universal, with the other, Don Adams' Screen Test, having previously been reviewed here. Adams would eventually bring the Smart franchise to Universal for 1980's "The Return of Maxwell Smart" (aka "The Nude Bomb"), but by then, it was already too late.

The only holdover from the Smart cast besides Adams was Robert Karvelas, whose role here was as a serial confessor. In other words, he was copping to just about any crime, probably because he thought prison food was so good, and he wanted a steady diet of free meals. I'd imagine that joke got old real fast.

Anyway, here's a sample clip:



Universal was so desperate for this series to work, they actually recruited Jack Webb to make a guest appearance. While Webb might've been able to do a comedy skit with Johnny Carson, I doubt even he could save this show. It lasted only 5 months. I have little or no memory of seeing this show, so I can't rightfully rate it.

Retro Reading: Creature Commandos (1980)

I'm a sucker for the early 80's.

It wasn't too long ago that DC released a trade paperback collecting the original I, Vampire serial that appeared in House of Mystery (1st series), timed to cash in on the early success of a rebooted version of the serial, aimed at the "Twilight" crowd. Sadly, I, Vampire was staked a few months ago due to declining sales.

Now comes another treasure from the class of 1980.

The Creature Commandos was one of two features that alternated in the pages of Weird War Tales (1st series), and debuted in the November 1980 issue, released in August of that year. Yes, it came out around the same time that New Teen Titans made its debut. Like I, Vampire, the Commandos sprang from the pen of J. M. DeMatteis, who was quite the busy writer back then. Anyway, the series was set in World War II, where a top secret government experiment produced a covert operations team that traded on the bizarre. DeMatteis drew upon the continuing popularity of the iconic movie monsters, such as Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Monster of Frankenstein, to build the team. In this case, the Wolf Man was otherwise a timid, stuttering farmboy from Oklahoma. The Monster was rebuilt after he'd stepped on a land mine and nearly died. The vampire was a sergeant who was looking at a 30 year sentence for crippling a superior officer. They'd soon be joined by Dr. Medusa, whose hair was mutated into a nest of snakes worthy of the mythical gorgon.

Over the course of three years, the series endured creative changes, as DeMatteis departed---he'd also left I, Vampire behind when he bolted for Marvel---perhaps a bit too early. However, succeeding writers, such as DC legend Robert Kanigher, kept the spirit of the series intact until Weird War Tales ended its run in 1983 after 12 years.

The Commandos were later revived in a 2000 miniseries illustrated by Tim Truman, who'd expanded on the original concept, and in the New 52 DC Universe, the Commandos appeared in the pages of the now-defunct Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.. All of that is also available in trade paperback, I'm sure, so there had to be a demand for the original stories. Now, all we need, I'd guess, would be to collect Jonny Peril (from The Unexpected), Mr. E (Secrets of Haunted House), and a few other short-flight series from that same period, and we'd be all set.

The stories were drawn by veterans Dan Spiegle, Fred Carrillo, Bob Hall, and others, and were mostly done-in-one stories. Still the best, 34 years later.

Rating: A-.

A while back, we saluted the return of Red Circle Comics at Archie with the launch of The Fox. As of issue 2, another classic hero has returned. The Shield might certainly be insulted that there are a trio of wrestlers in the WWE who've taken his name and thrown dirt on it with their crooked tactics in the ring. Be that as it may, the aforementioned J. M. DeMatteis is scripting the series, running as the backup feature. As before, the Red Circle characters, though mocked by many, are a pleasant alternative to the constant reboots at Marvel & DC. Archie's taking their time with Red Circle this time, and that's a good thing.

Rating: A.

Finally, I just couldn't pass up this next item, especially considering I've only just learned about it yesterday.

Seems that an enterprising soul named Pat Evans composed a poster purporting to promote a feature film adaptation of the Wonder Twins (from Super Friends), with the shape-shifting siblings to be played by real-life lovebirds and former That 70's Show co-stars Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. Now, no comics fan worth his salt would buy into seeing the Twins on the big screen ahead of, say for example, Wonder Woman or Aquaman. Nuh-uh. Not. Gonna. Happen. Evans sent the finished product to Midtown Comics in New York in November, but was there any sort of buzz upstate? Well, as the Fresh Prince (Will Smith) might put it, hmmmmmm, wellllllll......of course not!

Best selling author and fellow blogger Marc Tyler Nobleman was a guest on Evans' Bat-Podcast, and, in the course of learning about Evans' little scam, turned the tables on his host. Reading about it on Marc's blog, Noblemania, yesterday, made my day and my week. While Evans was treating the Twins as a punch line, like so many others have, it's easy to forget that Zan & Jayna had a rotating backup feature in Super Friends (1st series) that appeared infrequently during the series' final 2 years (1979-81), and were written better in print than they were on TV. I've always believed that if Warner Bros. were to go through with a Wonder Twins movie, it'd have to be animated, not live-action, and, of course, done right, with full respect to the characters and their creator, the late E. Nelson Bridwell.

It should also be noted that, on That 70's Show, there was an episode that ended with the gang dressed as the Super Friends, and, if memory serves me correctly, Mila Kunis' character was in fact dressed as Jayna, so that part of the equation fits. Kutcher's character of Michael Kelso was, as it happens, an imbecile. Considering how the TV writers treated Zan as a bit of a braggart whose boasting got him in trouble, maybe that ain't much of a stretch after all. Or, as Jayna herself would say, real spacey.


Musical Interlude: Everyone's Gone to the Moon (1965)

Here's a 1-hit wonder that you've probably heard done by other, more well known artists, rather than the original.

Jonathan King wrote & recorded "Everyone's Gone to the Moon" in 1965, but it peaked at #17 on the Billboard pop chart. King would only release one more single afterward, but "Moon" was later covered by artists such as Chad & Jeremy.

It seems only fair, then, since this was bouncing in my head all day, to give Mr. King his due. No truth to the rumor that the lead protagonist in Filmation's 1968 cartoon, Fantastic Voyage, was named after him.

Here is "Everyone's Gone to the Moon":

Conference championship preview 2014

Now, it's down to the NFL's final four. For ratings purposes, the league's television partners, in this case Fox & CBS, are running the games later than they used to, a practice that's been in place the last few years. It's wrong, but until someone convinces the network suits and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that this is a tradition that must be restored, it's not changing. Anyway.......

AFC Championship: New England @ Denver: In November, the Patriots rallied from a halftime deficit, and benefited from the officials holding their flags on obvious fouls that would've been called on the road, to steal one from the Broncos in overtime. They're not at home this time, and Denver's hungry for some payback Both teams have key injuries on defense, so that's a wash, except that defensive back Marquise Cole, who played for the Pats in November, has switched to Denver, having just been signed this week after the Patriots cut him. That may come back to haunt Tom "Crybaby" Brady and Bill Belichick. It's either that, or Peyton Manning torches the New England defense the way Brady did Denver's the last few times out. After that, Peyton'll likely throw a pizza party at the Meadowlands before the Super Bowl. Pick-Denver.

NFC Championship: San Francisco @ Seattle: The two NFC West rivals split the regular season series, and there's much talk about how it is so difficult to win in Seattle, between the noise, amplified to ridiculous levels, and the Seahawk defense, better known now as the Legion of Boom. I guess they didn't want to be mistaken for a certain group of comic book villains, or couldn't pay royalties for the name "Legion of Doom", which was ultimately the alternate name for the wrestling team, the Road Warriors. I digress. Seattle's Richard Sherman was in the news today, calling out retired coach Kevin Gilbride, who accused the Seahawks of getting away with defensive holding that wasn't called in Seattle's win over the Giants in November at the Meadowlands. Hey, I didn't see much of the game, so I can't say anything either way. The way I see it, Sherman and company will be returning to the Jersey Swamps, hungry for their first title. Pick-Seattle.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Johnnie Mae Young (1923-2014)

She wanted to live to 100, with one goal in mind. That goal, however, will go unfulfilled. On Tuesday night, less than a week after it'd been falsely reported that she'd passed on, Johnnie Mae Young did indeed pass away at 90.

Today's generation only knows Mae from her appearances with WWE, starting during the Attitude Era of the late 90's-early 00's, when her friend, rival, and fellow Hall of Famer, the Fabulous Moolah, brought her along for appearances on Monday Night Raw & Smackdown. She was one of a number of women that the Dudley Boyz put through a table during the winter of 2000, which likely drew the wrong reaction from New York Post gadfly Phil Mushnick, whose hatred for the WWE was so strong, he even questioned the validity of wrestlers making special appearances at hospitals to visit sick kids. Young participated in a ridiculous storyline with Olympic strongman Mark Henry in 1999, poking fun at the May-December relationships that have been and still are fairly common.

Today, Mae joins Moolah and Sherri Martel in that wrestling arena in Heaven. Rest in peace, Mae.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Who's the real Weasel?

The New York Daily News, in today's editions, splashed on its front page a quote attributed to local radio & television pundit Fred Dicker, a political analyst for the rival New York Post. The question is, who's really deserving of the dreaded Weasel of the Week award? Judge for yourselves, kids.

On his WGDJ-AM talk show Monday, Dicker referred to the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings as "a little convienent massacre" in reference to NY Governor Andrew Cuomo introducing anti-gun legislation which went into effect a year ago at this time. Dicker got raked over the coals by anti-gun activists for his remarks, which, he told the Albany Times-Union, were taken out of context. He said it with a sarcastic bent toward Cuomo. Considering he had a political satirist I'd never heard of in the studio as a guest, I'd guess that the clucking against Dicker was another case of hyper-sensitive over-reaction, 13 months after the shootings.

All the Daily News did was exploit the situation to their advantage as it related to their rival tabloid. What it did in general was give Dicker national exposure, something I don't think he's ever had until now.

So, again, I ask. Who's the real Weasel? Dicker, or the News editors. You decide.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Classic TV: The Saint (1962)

Leslie Charteris' The Saint made the move to television in 1962, with Roger Moore (ex-Maverick) cast as Simon Templar, a role that ultimately would prepare him to play another literary icon, James Bond, more than a decade later.

The Saint aired for seven seasons total (1962-9), arriving in America near the end of the run with color episodes airing on NBC. Ye scribe discovered the series in syndication in the early 70's, and began reading the paperback novels while in high school. Around that same time, CBS acquired the rights to air reruns as part of the CBS Late Movie, which was really an anthology package by that point. Needless to say, during senior year in high school, I was hustling just to get to class on time after dozing off watching Saint the night before. I was hooked.

Unlike the radio series with Vincent Price that we previously reviewed, Templar was presented here as having an adversarial relationship with at least one lawman, which would continue throughout the series. I didn't really notice anything of the sort in the books, to tell you the truth. If anything, Charteris, who also composed the theme music, believe it or not, had set up his hero as a "Robin Hood of crime", as they said on radio, but, to be technical, he was more of a vigilante.

If you're only familiar with the color period, which would be the last three seasons, you know this version of the theme song by heart.



Currently, Me-TV has the series buried in overnights on Sunday nights/Monday mornings (check your listings), but it probably airs elsewhere as well. Not sure if Retro still has it.

Rating: A-.

On The Air: Mind of a Man (2014)

Game Show Network, more commonly known as GSN, has been beating the drums for their latest original game show for the last couple of months. Mind of a Man has been on the air almost a week, and the first two episodes have already been played into the ground, since GSN feels they have to maximize the air time to recoup the investment. In other words, playas, you're stuck with it for a while.

Comedian DeRay Davis hosts Mind of a Man, which sounds like a gig tailor made for Steve Harvey if he wasn't so busy with 1) Family Feud, which GSN has been playing to death, 2) his self-titled daytime talk show, in its 2nd season, 3) his self-titled syndicated radio show, and 4) being in demand to promote the first two. Davis is fine, but do we really need another game show that, when you get right down to it, comes down to relationships? GSN already has the revived Newlywed Game, currently hosted by Sherri Shepherd (The View), plus Baggage (w/Jerry Springer, also available in syndication), and, more recently, Love Triangle, which is more like a ramped up Love Connection for the 21st century (w/Wendy Williams).

Mind of a Man does nothing for me. I think what kills it is bringing out a guy dressed as a geek, and billing him as "The Playa". It's times like this where I think of Damon Wayans' Homey D. Clown from In Living Color. Like, I don't think so. Homey wouldn't play dat, and neither should you.

As a public service, here's the promo that was playing around Thanksgiving like an overstuffed turkey. From GSN's own YouTube channel:



I'm giving this a year, max, before we say goodbye. Rating: D.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Classic TV: Highway Patrol (1955)

The text of this article was originally written in 2012, but has been updated with a fresh video.

==========================

Along with Jack Webb's seminal Dragnet, Highway Patrol was a benchmark in early TV crime drama. ZIV, which produced Patrol, has long since been forgotten by most television historians, but this was one of their best series.

Following is a sample open & close:



In the 50's, most crime dramas were set right in the heart of the city. Highway Patrol reminded viewers that crime can be found anywhere. 20 years later, its spiritual successor came along in the form of CHiPs, and with it the evolution of the highway patrol, adding motorcycles to navigate the more treacherous freeways of the larger cities.

Rating: A.

Old Time Radio: The Lone Ranger (1933)

The Lone Ranger marked his 80th birthday rather inauspiciously last year, with a travesty of a movie, previously reviewed, that didn't do the character or Tonto justice at all. The less said about that one, the better.

So, let's go all the way back to the beginning. The Lone Ranger was one of three classic series developed and broadcast at WXYZ radio in Detroit. Sources differ on who actually created the Ranger, be it station owner George Trendle, or series head writer Fran Striker, who was, in fact, credited as the series creator when Lone Ranger came to television more than 15 years later.

We've already gone over the story. The Ranger is John Reid, lone survivor of a Texas Ranger ambush at the hands of outlaw Butch Cavendish. Nursed back to health by Tonto, he begins his crusade for justice by avenging the death of his fellow Rangers, then continued the fight for law & order in the early West. Thanks to Striker and/or Trendle, The Green Hornet is in fact a great-nephew of the Ranger, a fact all but ignored in William Dozier's 1966 adaptation of that series.

Here, we have an episode from July 4, 1938, with Earle Graser as the Ranger, and John Todd as Tonto.



In the 70's, WQBK-AM (now WGDJ-AM) in Albany began running repeats of classic radio shows, and Lone Ranger aired in the afternoons, but with Brace Beemer as the Ranger. Beemer was the announcer at first, then stepped into the title role upon Graser's passing. As memory serves, Lone Ranger was part of an afternoon block with Gang Busters and The Shadow. It wasn't long after that cable television came to the Albany area, and reruns of the TV show, airing on WPIX in a block with Batman & Adventures of Superman, were an after-school staple. Today, those reruns are airing somewhere.....

Rating: A.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Classic TV: Racket Squad (1950)

Second generation producer Hal Roach, Jr. was pretty active in the 50's. While we must assume he had something to do with his father's Our Gang & Laurel & Hardy shorts going into syndication, the younger Roach did pretty well for himself in television.

One of young Roach's most famous series was Racket Squad, which started as a syndicated series in 1950, then was picked up by CBS the next year, and would remain on the network until 1953. Reed Hadley starred as San Francisco detective John Braddock, head of the title division of the city's police department, which dealt with con artists of various stripes.

Let's take a look at the 1952 episode, "Check & Double Check".



After the series ended, Hadley would do another series for Roach & CBS, The Public Defender, in 1954. Racket Squad is available on DVD through any number of public domain distributors.

Rating: A.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The most famous hamburger ad of all time (1984)

30 years ago today, Wendy's, after years of trailing behind McDonald's & Burger King, if not also any number of regional restaurants, put themselves on the national map with an innovative, snarky bit that took a pot-shot at McDonald's & Burger King.

Three seniors are checking out a "big bun", which contains a tiny burger with a pickle. Just a few seconds in, Clara Peller becomes an icon.



Not long after, Democratic Presidential candidate Walter Mondale invoked "Where's The Beef?" in referencing the shortcomings of rival Gary Hart. Unfortunately, Mondale ended up losing the election. Peller would later resurface at, of all places, Wrestlemania 2 as a timekeeper, but after doing an ad for another sponsor where she said, "Where's the beef?", Peller was dismissed by Wendy's. She passed away a few years later.

Divisional playoff preview

Now, it's down to 8 in the NFL playoffs. It's going to get ugly real quick.

Saturday's card:

New Orleans @ Seattle: These two last played each other on Monday Night Football a few weeks back, and Seattle won in a walk. Expect more of the same, as the novelty of the Saints winning on the road wears off. Pick: Seattle.

Indianapolis @ New England: Crybaby Tom Brady and the Patriots schooled the Colts in 2012, running up the score in a blowout win, which, if memory serves, is when overrated tight end Rob Gronkowski was first injured, which would prove costly for the Patriots. For Andrew Luck and the Colts, it's payback time. Madison Avenue will have an influence on this game. Either you go with the tried and true (Brady), or go with the hot money matchup of the moment in the title game (Indy vs. Denver). CBS' Dan Dierdorf hangs up his microphone after this one, and there won't be any drama if the Pats run up the score again. Common sense prevails here, as does justice. Pick: Indianapolis.

Sunday:

San Francisco @ Carolina: Cam Newton's 1st post-season start will be a learning experience, just like it was for Luck last year. In other words, with the Panthers' good luck charm, hometown legend Ric Flair, having turned his back on them, the defense won't be enough to win this one at home. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wants to get back to the Super Bowl, and he's one step closer. Pick: San Francisco.

San Diego @ Denver: The Chargers kickstarted their late push with a win over the Broncos, and, as we've seen of late, Peyton Manning and the Pizza Salesmen are vulnerable. However, as noted above, the money game is Manning vs. Luck in the title game. People whined that Colts-Broncos could've been this week if San Diego lost last week. Well, what's wrong with waiting another week? Pick: Denver.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Classic Reborn: I've Got a Secret (1976)

Several months back, we reviewed the classic game show, I've Got a Secret. However, there was one incarnation of the series we forgot.

CBS reacquired the series as a summer replacement in 1976, lasting just 4 weeks. If memory serves me correctly, it aired on Tuesday nights this time, opposite reruns of Happy Days. Unfortunately, even reruns of Fonzie, Richie, & the gang were more popular than a 25 year old game show making another comeback.

Game show icon Bill Cullen, one of the most prolific MC's in the business, and a regular panelist on the original Secret, hosted this version, which, if I'm not mistaken, would be his first for CBS. He'd do two more for the network, Pass The Buck & Child's Play, in succeeding years. The panel consisted of IGAS regular Henry Morgan, journalist Pat Collins, actress Elaine Joyce, and ever-busy Richard Dawson, who was racking up the frequent flyer miles, since he was also still on Match Game at the time, and Family Feud was just getting rolling. The featured guest is comedy icon Rodney Dangerfield, who by this point had opened a nightclub, Dangerfield's, in New York. Rodney brought along with him second generation voice actor Vance Colvig, whose father, Pinto, was the original voice of Goofy. As you'll see, Vance was a chip off the old block, since his secret involves something Goofy would likely do. Oh, by the way, Vance's family background was never brought up.

Uploaded by Million Colors of Light:



Had it been on another night, maybe this gets renewed for the fall. Instead, it'd be almost 20 years before the series would return.

Rating: A.

Only in the South: Why would a state champion fire its coach?

High school football scores tend to be lopsided, largely because most leagues are comprised of have's & have not's, the latter being the football equivalent of "tomato cans" in boxing, opponents who are so overmatched, they'd have trouble with a Pop Warner squad. However, in Virginia, a state football championship brought a terrible price for Carl Turner, coach of Bishop Sullivan Catholic High in Virginia Beach.

Turner lost his job.

SAY WHAT?!?

Turner's crime was no different than any number of coaches at the same level across the country. He ran up the score on overmatched opponents, in defiance of an edict from administrators at BSCHS. On Wednesday, the school released an official statement claiming Turner resigned to spend more time with his family. However, according to Yahoo!, Turner claims he was coerced into signing off on the statement from the school's spin doctors. They didn't want it to get out that they weren't thrilled with how he went about it. Oh? Haven't they watched enough college games down there? Where most schools run it up in order to increase their standing with the polls, and schedule at least 2-3 "tomato cans" per year?

Apparently, just because it's a Catholic school in a Southern state means you can pull in the reins and be different from the rest. Fair enough, but it was the way they went about this that was all wrong. As Turner himself said, after copping to the piling on in a local newspaper, the administration would've been better served if they dismissed him sooner than this just for running it up. If running up the score was a crime, most college coaches would be shuffling around more often, and pro coaches, like a certain Weasel in New England, would be getting grilled under greater scrutiny than they already are.

Private academies in my home district don't have a problem with running it up on overmatched opponents. It just happens that for some of them, there's just too many mismatches in their leagues. As the Yahoo! article suggests, this story ain't over. Not by a long shot. I'm sure there's more to this, but we'll get an answer sometime next decade.....

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Sports this 'n' that

So now the college football season is over, save for the all-star games that I think still exist (i.e. the Senior Bowl). That means ESPN & Fox Sports 1 & 2 will turn their attention to college basketball for the next three months. Yeah, whatever. I'd rather they increased the attention given to college baseball, but that's just me.

Meanwhile, with her son not playing in the BCS finale, Dee Dee Bonner, mother of Alabama quarterback A. J. McCarron, picked up a Dunce Cap for being critical of Florida State QB & Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston's speech as he was being interviewed by ESPN's Tom Rinaldi after the Seminoles ended the SouthEastern Conference (SEC) gridlock in the BCS by beating the Kardiac Kids from Auburn, 34-31. McCarron's model-girlfriend, Katherine Webb, who became a national celebrity last year, thanks to ABC/ESPN's Brent Musberger crushing on her on the air---and regretting it later---also made similar bad moves, playing follow the leader, if ya will. Both she & Bonner have since apologized and deleted tweets.

Winston, by the way, is the 2nd straight freshman to win the Heisman, following Texas A & M QB Johnny Manziel. Now, the onus is on him to duplicate and/or exceed his effort next season.

Closer to home, there won't be a next season for Troy High football coach Jack Burger. After 19 seasons at the helm of the Flying Horses, Burger, who retired from teaching last summer, was told Tuesday he would not return in the fall, as the Troy school district couldn't find another job for him. According to the Albany Times-Union, junior varsity coach Mike Hurteau, who played on state championship teams for Burger in the 90's, may be in line to succeed his mentor. Budget cuts are being blamed for the coaching change. Seems sports always gets the short shrift in school budgets, doesn't it?

Sticking with the ol' alma mater, the Troy women's basketball team is---gasp---in a losing streak. The defending state champs dropped their 3rd straight to defending Big 10 champ Albany on Tuesday, their first loss in league play, after finishing last in their own holiday tournament. A non-league home game vs. Oneonta was postponed Saturday due to the weather, no makeup date announced, but one wonders if the ladies are dealing with too much pressure to repeat after a magical run last year.

On the boys' side, Troy beat Albany Tuesday night on the road after dispatching LaSalle the night before in a game postponed from last weekend, due again to the weather, but all of a sudden, Troy isn't the best men's hoops team in town. That would be the resurgent Crusaders of Catholic Central High, who knocked off Troy right before the Christmas break, and followed that up by upending Christian Brothers Academy on Tuesday on CBA's home court. CCHS is undefeated, and when was the last time you could say that? 3rd year coach Chuck Mack, a former player at both CCHS & LaSalle, has completed an amazing turnaround. While all the pundits thought CBA would win the Big 10 title, the Brothers have 2 league losses (Troy & CCHS), sitting in 3rd place. Suddenly, the Brothers aren't quite so dominant anymore. I believe the correct term here is a changing of the guard. And it's a welcome one, too.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What Might've Been: Tarzan (1966)

After nearly 50 years of feature films, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan was adapted for television by independent producer Sy Weintraub, who'd acquired the rights to the character to continue the movie series a few years prior. NBC carried the series for 2 seasons (1966-8), but, sadly, it was lost amidst the campier adventure shows of the period.

Apparently, Weintraub didn't believe that Mike Henry, who was the current movie Tarzan at the time, could make a smooth transition to television. So, he cast another relative unknown, Ron Ely, to play Tarzan. Like Henry, Ely's Tarzan was well spoken and had returned to the jungle after being educated in civilization. Where Weintraub made a fateful mistake was leaving Jane Porter, the jungle lord's wife, out of the series. Also, while there was a juvenile "sidekick", he was christened Jai, rather than the politically incorrect "Boy". 

Much like ABC's Green Hornet, Weintraub opted to play it straight with Tarzan, who came across as more of a jungle detective. 8 years after the series ended, Filmation acquired a license to adapt Tarzan  in animated form, and it lasted 6 seasons, mostly in reruns after the first 2 years, on CBS (1976-82). There've been three live-action reboots since, the last coming in 2003, as well as a few more movies, including Disney's take, which led to another animated series.

Jimmyredproductions uploaded the extended open, which I think was only used in the series opener.



Ron Ely would later resurface as a game show host, emceeing Face The Music, and even had a turn hosting the Miss America pageant. Tarzan's cable whereabouts are presently unknown, but if someone like, say, Me-TV, can get their hands on it........!

Rating: A.

What Might've Been: The Life & Times of Grizzly Adams (1977)

Sunn Classic Pictures no longer exists, but the Utah studio, founded by author Charles Sellier, Jr. may be most famous for films like "The Adventures of the Wilderness Family" and "The Life & Times of Grizzly Adams", the latter of which was adapted from Sellier's 1972 novel, and would later be adapted again for television.

The Life & Times of Grizzly Adams only ran for 2 seasons on NBC, starting as a midseason replacement in 1977, nearly 3 years after the movie had been released. Loosely based on real-life trapper James Capen "Grizzly" Adams, it told the story of how Adams (Dan Haggerty) had been forced to retreat into the mountains after being wrongly accused of murder. As it turns out, Sellier might've had Doctor Doolittle in mind when he created Adams, as Adams had developed a rapport with the animals of the forest.

Adams only had 2 human allies--Mad Jack (Denver Pyle, ex-The Doris Day Show), who served as the show's narrator, and Nakoma, a Native American (Don Shanks) who was to Adams what Mingo was to Daniel Boone a decade earlier, a trusted friend. Other than that, there was Ben, a grizzly bear that Adams had saved when Ben was a cub. Jack had #7, a pack mule that was his regular companion.

I should note that Thom Pace, who wrote & recorded the show's theme song, "Maybe", took it to the top of the charts----in Germany---a year after the series ended, and won the European equivalent of a Grammy. Go figure.

Here's a promo from Shout Factory for a DVD release. The intro, narrated in character by Denver Pyle, is here, but "Maybe" is not.



So why only 2 seasons? Viewer indifference, I'd guess. NBC was struggling to find a hit show other than Little House on the Prairie, but counter-programming, likely on ABC, led to an early end. The storyline was finally resolved in a 1982 TV-movie. Stunt double Gene Edwards took over the role in a 1990 movie that had no connection to the earlier works.

Rating: A.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Musical Interlude: Everything Falls Apart (1995)

I guess this is what they call "emo" music.

Dog's Eye View's only Top 40 hit came in 1995 with the bouncy "Everything Falls Apart". A musical pity party that starts when the singer cops to having gotten drunk. That bender might explain the line "I met God this afternoon"........

Uploaded by the band's VEVO channel:

A Classic Reborn: Password Plus (1979)

On Wednesday, the first reincarnation of Password marks its 35th anniversary.

Password Plus bowed on January 8, 1979, airing not on ABC or CBS, but on NBC, where host Allen Ludden had presided over a short-lived series, Stumpers, several months earlier. For the most part, the game remained the same. The Plus in the title was the new bonus game, Alphabetics, in which a contestant had to identify 10 passwords in alphabetical order in 60 seconds for some serious cheddar. Alphabetics would be retained in the next incarnation of the series, Super Password.

As the original Password was marked with bad network decisions at both CBS & ABC, Password Plus was benchmarked with tragedy. Ludden took ill about a year or so into the series, and took a leave of absence, during which time fellow game show icons Bill Cullen and Tom Kennedy filled in. In fact, after Ludden's passing, Kennedy became the permanent host for the remainder of the run. Between the two of them, Cullen & Kennedy have their own separate wings in the game show museum somewhere. I am not kidding.

Anyway, let's go back to January 8, 1979 for the opening installment of Password Plus. The husband & wife team of Robert Foxworth (ex-Storefront Lawyers) & Elizabeth Montgomery (ex-Bewitched) are the guests.



Alphabetics actually added to the excitement. It was certainly more fun than the Lightning Round in the original series.

Rating: A.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Musical Interlude: Ladies & Gentlemen (2007)

Saliva's "Ladies & Gentlemen", released in 2007, was co-opted by the WWE a year later as the theme for their annual Wrestlemania PPV. I'm sure you can see the reason why, as Josey Scott and the band built the music video around a boxing ring, with Scott as a bespectacled ring announcer. One wonders, though, if the models hired as the boxers were meant to parody Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan..........

What Might've Been: Shane (1966)

Jack Schaefer's 1949 novel led to a feature film adaptation 4 years later that became a iconic Western, thanks to its final scene. However, 13 years later, Shane would ride again.

Paramount sold the series to ABC, but Shane lasted just half a season due to low ratings and likely very stiff competition. It was the first starring vehicle for David Carradine, who assumed the role created on the big screen by Alan Ladd. Jill Ireland and Christopher Shea co-starred as Marian & Joey Starett, the widow & son of Joe Starrett, Shane's employer. Carradine, quiet & unassuming, didn't look like he fit the part.

Shea might be better known for something else in the 60's. He was the original voice of Linus in the Peanuts cartoons over on CBS, and to my knowledge, this was his only live-action gig. Carradine, of course, would rebound just a few years later, attaining iconic status for himself with Kung Fu.

More than 30 years after its run, Shane would resurface on cable's TV Land as part of its weekend Western block, and that's the last most of us have seen of it, unless the rights are currently held by the premium service, Encore Westerns.

No complete episodes are available on YouTube, so we'll settle for this 5:00+ clip from the episode, "Killer in the Valley":



Perhaps it wasn't a coincidence after all that the producers of another iconic ABC series, Batman, parodied Shane with the introduction of an outlaw named Shame (future Oscar winner Cliff Robertson) during seasons 2 & 3. Robertson played the outlaw as being almost punch-drunk.

Rating: B.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Classic TV: Password (1961)

It is the simplest of games, a word association game that became the last of Goodson-Todman's "Big 4" game shows (along with What's My Line?, To Tell The Truth, & I've Got a Secret) to land on CBS, which was also home to Beat The Clock.

Password launched in 1961, with Allen Ludden (ex-GE College Bowl) as host. The format was simple, two contestants, each paired with a celebrity partner, competed for cash & prizes by guessing simple words. The series began on weekday afternoons, and spawned a nighttime version, which began as a mid-season replacement in January 1962.

However, a network decision in 1966 proved to be costly. When CBS decided to cover a Congressional hearing on the Vietnam War, while NBC & ABC didn't, it cost Password a large chunk of its fan base, which moved on to ABC's newly minted Newlywed Game. A year later, then-programming chief Fred Silverman, who wasn't a fan, cancelled the series as co-executive producer Mark Goodson opposed a permanent move to Hollywood, which the network wanted so they could continue to produce the show in full color, something they weren't able to do in New York at the time.

Four years later, after syndicated reruns of the series produced high ratings, ABC approached Goodson about reviving Password, which ran for four years, including a jump-the-shark moment in which the iconic series went to an all-celebrity format, rechristened Password All-Stars. Again, viewers turned away in droves. Another format change, whilst retaining the All-Stars set, only postponed the inevitable, and Password ended its 2nd daytime run in 1975.

We'll deal with the later revivals another time. Right now, let's take you back to 1964, as Lucille Ball & family play:



Announcer Jack Clark was one of a number of fill-in hosts for Ludden, who also had an opportunity to play the game himself while actress-wife Betty White took his place as MC during the ABC era, getting her first initiation as a game show host. Clark would later land a couple of hosting gigs of his own, including The Cross-Wits in 1975.

Of course, as everyone knows, Ludden guest-starred as himself on The Odd Couple as Felix (Tony Randall) & Oscar (Jack Klugman) played the game. It helped, obviously, that Randall & Klugman had both previously appeared on Password, and Klugman famously did a week during the ABC era with then-wife Brett Somers, later of Match Game.

Rating: A.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Catching up with some forgotten shows

Let's see what we've passed in our DVD pile of late.......

There was a great deal of hubbub in the press when 50's star Robert Alda guest-starred on son Alan's series, M*A*S*H, a few years into the series' run. So it was a little odd to see father & son pictured together on the cover of a DVD compilation of Robert's 1955 series, Secret File USA, a show so obscure, there are no available clips on YouTube to speak of.

What happened was some jackass decided to photoshop a shot of Alan, in his role as Hawkeye, alongside Robert, to make it appear as though Alan actually appeared on the show, which was highly unlikely. I watched three of the four episodes on the disc, and concluded that the otherwise reputable Miracle Pictures, which held the rights, had engaged in a little false advertising in order to attract attention to Secret File, which otherwise probably doesn't get much sales, even for a public domain release.

Secret File is a pedestrian espionage series filmed overseas, and likely wasn't given much of a chance, if any at all, to catch on with American audiences, lasting just 1 season. Robert Alda is fine, but that's about it.

Edit: 8/19/15: There are now some episodes available on YouTube. Here's "Mission: Firebird":




Rating: D.

On the opposite end of the scale is ageless wonder Betty White. In her 7th decade on television, Betty is still plugging along, her latest series being TV Land's Hot In Cleveland, which teams her with Wendie Malick (ex-Just Shoot Me), Valerie Bertinelli (ex-One Day at a Time), & Jane Leeves (ex-Frasier). Not exactly Golden Girls for a new generation, and it's easy to make jokes and suggest that Betty might be able to outlive Methuselah, but we can conclude that today, she's virtually critic-proof.

That cannot be said, however, for her first series, Life With Elizabeth, a Don Fedderson entry that spent a couple of seasons on ABC, the first of three in a row for White, the last being her first self-titled series.

Life, with each episode split into three "sketches" in the form of chapters, is a poor man's I Love Lucy, but co-star Del Moore is no Desi Arnaz. Future game show host Jack Narz is the MC, and helps Elizabeth (White) along from time to time, such as in the episode, "Whistler's Father":



As we documented before, Narz's brother, Tom Kennedy, handled announcing duties for White's next series, Date With The Angels, another Fedderson sitcom. Unfortunately, Fedderson never considered either brother for his game show, Who Do You Trust?, which went instead to Johnny Carson. Otherwise, Trust might've lasted longer.

Life With Elizabeth gets a C+.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Modern Classic (?): The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990)

As the 90's began, rapper Will Smith, aka The Fresh Prince, turned his attention to acting. NBC took a chance, and introduced The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in September 1990, as the lead-off to their Monday lineup.

To be fair, Fresh Prince could be described as a bit of a cross between the 70's sitcom, Good Times (with Smith filling Jimmie Walker's role), and one of the series' contemporaries of the period, ABC's Family Matters, in that the sitcom Will, having been transplanted from Philadelphia to Bel-Air, California, was a fish out of water trying to fit in. Kind of like Matters' ultra-annoying resident geek, Steve Urkel, but a little more mature. That might explain the decision made by Matters' producers to give Urkel a mature alter-ego in later seasons, but we don't know that for sure.

Will moved in with his aunt & uncle, Vivian & Philip Banks, and their two children, son Carlton (Alfonso Ribiero), and daughter Hilary (Karyn Parsons). While the series was designed as a vanity vehicle for Smith--recording partner "Jazzy" Jeff Townes was a frequent guest-star---it ultimately was the ensemble that made the series work. It should be noted that while Tyra Banks has made her millions as a supermodel-turned-TV personality, her first primetime gig came on Fresh Prince when she joined the show near the end of the run, cast as Will's girlfriend.

Oddly, halfway through the series, the part of Vivian Banks was recast, as Janet Hubert-Whiten left the show, replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid (ex-Frank's Place), and, in the tradition of sitcoms & soap operas past, no one noticed any difference.

Smith & Townes also used the series to premiere music videos, such as 1991's "Summertime", the first single from the CD, "Homebase". Coupled with Blossom, which arrived the following fall, Fresh Prince gave NBC a strong lead to their primetime lineup, but these days, CBS has reclaimed its throne, going back to comedy-heavy Mondays.

No full episodes are available on YouTube at present, so we will offer a sample clip, showcasing lawyer Philip Banks, as played by James Avery, who passed away today at 65.



Smith has attempted to produce another series, the short-lived All of Us, for UPN, but these days is focusing on his movies, TV long behind him, and who can remember the last time he released a CD?

Rating: B.