Sunday, June 29, 2014

Celebrity Rock: Yankee Doodle Dandy (1941-2)

Friday is Independence Day, and one classic song that is commonly associated with the 4th of July is George M. Cohan's immortal "Yankee Doodle Dandy".

Bones McNally put together two clips, in reverse chronological order. The first is the most famous version of "Yankee Doodle Dandy", from the movie of the same name, with James Cagney. A year earlier, Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland teamed up in "Babes on Broadway". Judy, 2 years removed from "Wizard of Oz", was just 19, meaning she was 17 when she made "Oz", but is just stunning here, looking older and more mature than she really was at the time.

Now, judge for yourself, pilgrims.


Classic TV: The Prisoner (1967)

The Prisoner lasted just 1 season, but it was enough to merit it cult status.

There are those who dispute the idea that Prisoner was created as a follow-up to Patrick McGoohan's previous series, Danger Man (known as Secret Agent in the US), a collaborative effort between the star and writer George Markstein. Markstein, it seems, intended for the title character, code-named Number 6, to be, in fact, John Drake, but that's been debated for nearly 50 years, and nothing since, not even a comic book adaptation by Dean Motter for DC, or a miniseries produced 5 years ago for A & E and starring Jim Caviezel (currently on Person of Interest), has resolved the issue.

This much we know. A retired secret agent (McGoohan) has left his agency and is preparing for vacation, unaware that he's been followed. Knockout gas is pumped into his apartment, and he wakes up in someplace known simply as "The Village". Escape is nigh impossible, thanks to a balloon-like entity, Rover, who either recaptures or kills escapees. George Orwell would've loved this.

Here's the intro:





Wack, man.

Rating: B.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Classic TV: Kraft Suspense Theatre (1963)

Back in the day, it was fairly common for sponsors to attach their brands to specific television shows, whether it was as the primary sponsor, or the company name would be attached to one of a number of anthology or variety shows that were just as common in the early years of television.

One such case was Kraft Suspense Theatre, which spent 2 seasons on NBC (1963-5), a co-production of Universal/Revue and Perry Como's production company. Yeah, I know. Whodathunk, right?

Suspense Theatre was built around mysteries, not always involving murder, although the episode we'll have up for you does involve murder. My first exposure to the series was when it aired in syndication in the 70's. Coincidentally, it aired back then on the same channel that today is an NBC affiliate.

The episode, "Once Upon a Savage Night", was later expanded and repackaged for theatres under the title, "Nightmare in Chicago", which is how I first ran across this story. It's hard to believe that a year or so after this program aired, Philip Abbott, who was the villain of the piece, would be on the other side of the law, co-starring in The F. B. I.. Again, whodathunk? Those of you who think of Ted Knight solely for later comedy work, particularly his Emmy winning turn as Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, would be impressed with his dramatic turn here.

Because of Knight's, and Robert Ridgely's, cartoon backgrounds, this episode was previously posted on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives, some time back. Anyway, for now, let's pull back the curtain on "Once Upon a Savage Night":



A couple of years ago, Suspense Theatre, or, to use its alternate title, Crisis, resurfaced on Retro, but was gone by the time the network left my cable system. Maybe one of Universal's cable channels, like, say for example, Cloo, could bring it back. All I know is that the animated opening, with music by future Oscar winner John Williams, did leave an impression.

Rating: B.

Videos of Summer: Hot Fun in the Summertime (1992)

The Beach Boys made one last run at the charts in the early 90's, but the two singles that came off their 1992 effort, "Summer in Paradise", were covers. "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" might be better known to today's generation after being covered by Aerosmith in the 70's, but its roots go back a few years.

The same goes for "Hot Fun in the Summertime", originally recorded by Sly & The Family Stone in 1969. That had been covered in the interim by artists as diverse as Hall & Oates, Chaka Khan, and Michael Jackson, but the MTV generation discovered "Hot Fun" thanks to the Beach Boys (with Full House co-star John Stamos on drums).


Friday, June 27, 2014

What Might've Been: The Lone Wolf (1954)

It is said that Leslie Charteris' seminal anti-hero, The Saint, was inspired by the literary exploits of a gentleman thief-turned-private detective named Michael Lanyard, otherwise known as The Lone Wolf. I find this amusing, as Wolf wasn't able to make as smooth a transition to the small screen as Simon Templar would a few years later.

Both characters appeared in films, books, and on radio. However, The Saint became a pop culture icon in the 60's, thanks to ITC's adaptation of the character, starring Roger Moore. Louis Hayward was cast as Lanyard in 1954, but the Lone Wolf lasted one season, largely because Hayward looked more like just another detective, not a reformed criminal trying to make amends. In short, a generic hero.

Keep an eye open for a pre-Star Trek DeForest Kelley, who made a few appearances in this series, in the episode, "The Murder Story":




Oddly, Moonstone Press adapted and rebooted Lone Wolf for comics some years ago. Why a reboot? Because the Wolf in this case was a woman. Don't ask.

Rating: D.

Dunce Cap Award: Ann Coulter

"Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay."--Ann Coulter, 6/25/14.

Apparently, Ms. Coulter never played the game, and doesn't understand its global appeal.

Moral decay? Has she lost her mind? 

Personal note: I played one year of soccer at a private academy in North Troy. It was the school's 1st year of sports, and we only played in 2--basketball being the other. Our team did better at soccer than at hoops, let's put it that way. I played fullback, and didn't get much credit. So you'd understand my taking offense to Ms. Coulter's lame remarks. Has she not heard of Pele? Giorgio Chinaglia? There are professional soccer leagues in this country, with some of the players in those leagues participating in the current World Cup tournament.

Leave it to Ann Coulter to put her foot in her mouth and expose herself as being ignorant about one of the world's most popular sports. Maybe she should get together with those other short-fused blowhards, Donald Trump & Alec Baldwin. Whomever runs out of hot air first loses. Wouldn't that be fun?

Suffice it to say, Ann Coulter earned herself a Dunce Cap this week. Throwing cold water on this country's advancement in the tournament only proves the only game she knows how to play is tiddly-winks, if that.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What Might've Been: The Wackiest Ship in the Army (1965)

Let's consider the scenario for a moment.

It's 1965. McHale's Navy is entering its final season on ABC. Hogan's Heroes was beginning a 6 year run on CBS. Screen Gems figured they had something in the Columbia vault that would fit right in. Well, they thought they did.

The Wackiest Ship in The Army, based on the movie of the same name, aired for 1 season on NBC, airing in back of Bonanza on Sundays. A 1 hour comedy-drama with an ensemble cast that included Jack Warden and Gary Collins at the front. So, why did it fail? Easy. CBS had Candid Camera & What's My Line? at the bottom of their Sunday lineup, often bumped further back by football over-runs, I would think, since that practice continues today.

The series was dusted off the Sony vaults and aired on cable several years later, airing on Saturday nights this time, as memory serves, on the then-Family Channel (now ABC Family). I never really got into it.

Post-series, some of the cast moved on to other series. Rudy Solari would have another 1 year wonder the next year on ABC with Garrison's Gorillas. Jack Warden, in 1967, starred in N.Y.P.D. for producer David Susskind's Talent Associates. That same year, Mark Slade went to the Old West in another NBC series, The High Chapparal. It would be a while before Gary Collins would land another series, this time on ABC with The Sixth Sense, before starring in an adaptation of Born Free.

Here's "Liberty Was a Lady":



Rating: B.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Videos of Summer: One Summer Night (1958)

Let's take a step back in time to the Golden Age of Rock & Roll.

From 1958, here's the Danleers and "One Summer Night":




Some of you might be thinking back to those first dates back in the day after this. I don't blame you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What Might've Been: Checkmate (1960)

Checkmate was not your ordinary detective show. Well, actually, it was, but what was so different was that Revue packaged it in conjunction with Jack Benny's production company. Now, before you scoff, bear in mind that Benny did do some drama during his career, guest-starring with Dick Powell on Four Star Playhouse, for example.

Checkmate lasted just 2 seasons, probably because of a glut of crime dramas on television at the time. You had a trio of sleuths (Sebastian Cabot, Doug McClure, Anthony George) solving crimes in normal fashion. George left The Untouchables for this gig.

Future Oscar winner John Williams composed the score, and would be responsible for quite a few more themes for both Revue/Universal and 20th Century Fox during the 60's before turning full-time to movies.

Following is the episode, "Waiting For Jocko", with guest star Jeffrey Hunter. The score for this episode was composed by Pete Rugolo:



Of course, Doug McClure moved directly to another Revue/Universal entry, The Virginian, after Checkmate ended, and that would keep him busy for 9 seasons. Sebastian Cabot is better known for the original Family Affair than anything he did before or after.

Rating: A.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Classic TV: WKRP in Cincinnati (1978)

A moribound radio station changes its format to rock music, which has its former target audience up in arms, but television viewers are left in stitches.

WKRP in Cincinnati was hailed by real-life DJ's as the first show to accurately depict life at a radio station. It was not the first show set in a radio station, though---that distinction went to Good Morning, World a decade earlier, and that was on the same network that was home to WKRP---CBS.

Gary Sandy starred as station manager Andy Travis, brought in to give WKRP a much-needed facelift, if you will. Sandy fronted an outstanding ensemble that was right up there with some of the better sitcoms of the day. Gordon Jump was Andy's boss, Art Carlson. Howard Hesseman and Tim Reid played trouble-prone DJ's Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap, respectively, and became icons in their own right. And, then, there was Loni Anderson, lighting up the screen as receptionist Jennifer Marlowe.

WKRP lasted 4 seasons, then was brought back for a syndicated revival in 1991 that lasted two more years. However, by then, Hesseman & Reid had moved on to other series (i.e. Hesseman on Head of the Class), and would return as special guests. Former Odd Couple announcer Bill Woodson handled those same chores for both incarnations of WKRP, the revival being one of his last known jobs.

Hulu brings us the 1st season episode, "I Do, I Do....For Now", in which Jennifer pretends to be Johnny's wife to fend off an old boyfriend, played by actor-singer Hoyt Axton, who performs his hit, "Della & the Dealer".




I'm waiting for Me-TV to pick this one up. Aren't you?

Rating: B+.

Videos of Summer: Macarena (1996)

Los del Rio had actually recorded "Macarena" as early as 1993, but the song took off like a runaway rocket three years later, thanks to a Miami DJ.

The resulting revamp of "Macarena", with the remix credited to the Bayside Boys, hit #1 on the Hot 100. Take a close look at the ladies in the video, and you'll find future sitcom star Tracie Ellis Ross (later of Girlfriends). Hey, I didn't know until I did the research!




"Macarena" was SO hot, they set a record for the largest group demonstration of the dance at, of all places, Yankee Stadium. I kid you not. Los del Rio also produced a Christmas version of the song. I'll see if I can find that come December.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Classic Reborn (again): The Brady Brides (1981)

4 years after an ill-advised variety show co-produced with the Kroffts, Sherwood Schwartz decided to return to the Brady Bunch franchise. But this time, it wouldn't be on ABC.

The Brady Brides focused on Marcia (Maureen McCormick) and Jan (Eve Plumb), who'd gotten hitched in the TV-movie, "The Brady Girls Get Married", which, like the series, aired on NBC. Schwartz had successfully re-established his other franchise, Gilligan's Island, at the network with a trio of TV-movies, and he was also responsible for a Bob Denver solo flick, also for NBC, "The Invisible Woman", which I think either has or will one day air on Me-TV. I digress.

Schwartz and Frank DeVol wrote new lyrics to the classic theme song, which I believe may have been sung by McCormick (uncredited). Sadly, that's about the best thing that can be said about Brides, as its shelf life was worse than 1977's Brady Bunch Variety Hour. The only other regular to return was Ann B. Davis (Alice), but Florence Henderson (Carol) guest-stars in "The Mom Who Came to Dinner":




Henderson would return at least one more time, as I recall seeing a clip of her, McCormick, & Plumb, all in leotards, doing some exercising, I guess for a self-defense course in a story about the girls getting robbed or some such. Unfortunately, Brady Brides, while it aired on Fridays, lasted barely a month. By 1981, CBS owned the night with Incredible Hulk, Dukes of Hazzard, & Dallas. As you can tell from the above clip, the Family Channel had the rights for reruns years later, and today, I think TV Land was the last network to air the series. Since Me-TV owns the rights currently to Brady Bunch, could they be persuaded to do Brides, at least in a 1-day block? We'll see.

Rating: C.

What Might've Been: Gidget (1965)

There are things that I just don't get.

Of course, I was a mere toddler when Gidget debuted on ABC in 1965, and lasted 1 season. Aside from the fact that it was set during summertime, and most episodes revolved around the title character (Sally Field) spending most of her time at the beach, most viewers were unwilling to give this show more than a second look for some reason.

Still, because the character had been introduced in books and movies some years earlier, the series developed a fan following, such that, in the late 80's, Columbia brought Gidget back in reruns to test the waters, then introduced the syndicated New Gidget, with Caryn Richman in the title role this time, which I think was around the same time they tried the New Monkees. Richman, if memory serves, lasted two seasons, but hasn't been heard from since, while Sally Field, whom most people still associate with Gidget nearly 50 years later, is still going strong (currently in "Amazing Spider-Man 2"), although she doesn't look as cute as she used to.

Co-star Peter Duel (spelled Deuel in the credits) bounced right back with another Screen Gems entry, Love on a Rooftop, paired this time with Judy Carne, before Alias Smith & Jones cemented his status as a pop culture superstar in waiting before his untimely passing. Don Porter, who played Gidget's dad, would do a lot of guest shots, mostly in dramas. Guest star Dick Wilson is better known for his many years as Charmin pitchman Mr. Whipple. The theme song was done by Johnny Tillotson, and may have been his last shot at the charts.

Here's the episode, "All the Best Diseases Are Taken":




Of course, we all know that Sally Field would fare much better with Flying Nun, which lasted three seasons (1967-70), and had some of the same creative personnel.

Rating: B.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Videos of Summer: First Day of Summer (1984)

Tony Carey exploded onto the scene 30 years ago with the album, "Some Tough City", the first single of which, "Fine, Fine Day", got heavy airplay on MTV and radio. The follow-up, "First Day of Summer", was played quite a bit more on radio.

Seeing as how this is the 1st day of summer on the calendar, this would be appropriate, don't you think?


On the Shelf: Batman & Green Hornet meet again!

Dynamite Entertainment is cancelling their current Green Hornet series with issue 13, due out next month. Seems writer Mark Waid ran into some unforeseen issues on both this series and Archie/Red Circle's The Fox, but while the latter stayed on schedule thanks to artist Dean Haspiel, Hornet had 1 issue delayed at least a month. After all the bally-hoo, Dynamite may either go back to the drawing board with the Hornet, or will let their license expire.

Meantime, the Hornet & Kato will spend the rest of the summer, and into autumn, renewing acquaintances with Batman in a brand new mini-series, set in the format of DC's Batman '66 series. In fact, it's a sequel to a two-parter from season 2 of Batman.

Authors Kevin Smith & Ralph Garman have taken Colonel Gumm, the villain of that piece (memorably played by Roger C. Carmel), and have turned him into an amalgam of two Marvel Comics villains, the Trapster and Baron Zemo. The latter because of an accident with an experimental adhesive that Gumm himself created while in prison, leaving his face coated in adhesive, and the former because the now-General Gumm uses a glue gun of a higher grade than Trapster to attach our four heroes in a standing position on the roof of a train in the issue 1 cliffhanger.

And if Smith thinks no one is going to pick up on such a blatant rip-off, he's delusional. Let's just hope he stays on deadline. Artist Ty Templeton took an extended leave from the monthly Batman '66 to work on the miniseries, and this stuff looks great.

Rating for Batman '66-Green Hornet: A.

Fans of Super Friends can look forward to issue 6 of Scooby-Doo Team-Up in September, but the question is which iteration of the franchise will we see? Given how DC has given writer Sholly Fisch creative license to hopscotch all over the place (Scooby has seen two distinctly different Robins in 4 issues), we won't know for sure. After all, the last Super Friends series barely lasted a year, if that, a few years ago as part of a beginners' line experiment.

Archie is giving Afterlife With Archie a summer vacation so writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa can work on the second set of 5 issues, which likely will wrap up the series.

I say that because the trade paperback collection of the first miniseries (it's not ongoing after all) is out, and I can, at least, give you a little synopsis of what's happened.

Seems that in this alternate reality, it's public knowledge that Sabrina and her aunts are witches, or at least the gang knows Sabrina is. Jughead comes a'callin' one rainy night with Hot Dog in his arms, the victim of a hit & run driver, who, it turns out, is Reggie. Sabrina tries a forbidden spell to raise Hot Dog from the dead, but accidentally touches off what's described as a zombie apocalypse. Aunts Hilda & Zelda punish their well-meaning niece by shunting her off to limbo, mute & powerless, for "a year of silent rumination" to consider what she's done. That tells me that when the year is over (think October, when the first miniseries debuted), Sabrina will return, her voice & powers restored, to set things right. I know. Too easy, right? Exactly. As I noted before, Sabrina is depicted here as a platinum blonde once more, not the natural blonde look she's had for 18 years in television. I can dig.

Rating: B.

Friday, June 20, 2014

On the Air: The JBL & Cole Show (2012)

It's been a while since we took a look at WWE's YouTube lineup.

Commentators Michael Cole & John "Bradshaw" Layfield have been moonlighting since the end of 2012, co-hosting the JBL & Cole Show (the former champ gets top billing due to ego), while also doing a radio show. On YouTube, a select group of WWE superstars & divas share the stage with the hosts (Cole doesn't appear in the following episode) in a 4-5 minute block of what can only be described as surreal silliness.

Reporter Renee Young fills in for Cole in the following episode. In case you wonder, Renee is from Canada, and that would explain, in a flashback to an earlier episode, Renee, along with Cody Rhodes & Wade "Bad News" Barrett, wearing old school Wolverine cowled masks. Apparently, they had one that was two sizes too small for Barrett. Also, JBL's "nephew", Clem, is actually WWE wrestler Heath Slater, doing some actual acting. Who knew?

Try deciphering what's going on here..........




Yes, Slater shaved his head to play Clem. I'd pay money to see Renee wear that Wolverine cowl again, though, but with the complete costume, if she can find one.

Rating: B+.

Videos of Summer: Summer Rain (1967)

Johnny Rivers' "Summer Rain" may have peaked in the Top 40 in December 1967, but the very nature of the song itself lends to the days of sun and surf.




Enough said.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What Might've Been: Time Express (1979)

Vincent Price had made guest appearances on shows as diverse as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Mod Squad, and The Bionic Woman, and his previous series gig was the children's series, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein. Surely, he had the name recognition to carry a series of his own in primetime.

CBS thought so, and introduced the sci-fi time travel series, Time Express, in the spring of 1979. Price and his wife, Coral Browne, were the couple in charge of the titular train, which took passengers back in time to specific events they wanted to change. Yes, it was another anthology series, not unlike, say, Fantasy Island, which seemed to be what CBS & Warner Bros. aspired to emulate, though Express aired on Thursday nights. However, 10 pm (ET) seemed to be too late a time for fans of the debonair Price, and the Express was sent back to the station after 4 weeks. If I'm not mistaken, the last time this series aired anywhere, it was on the then-Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy), back when they aired short-lived series under the umbrella of the Sci-Fi Series Collection.

Here's the open:



No rating. Never saw the show.

Idolatry or blasphemy?

The New York Daily News reports today that the most overexposed woman on the planet today, Kim Kardashian, was the subject of an art collection being displayed in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. The problem? Mrs. Kanye West was being depicted as both the Virgin Mary-----and Jesus.

SAY WHAT?

Artist Hannah Kunkle told the Daily News that while she isn't religious by nature, she is "strangely fascinated" by Kardashian, who just won't go away because the press enables her continuing her 15 minutes of fame on a daily basis. It doesn't help, either, that Kanye has been cited here as a blasphemous sort, too, with the very nature of his recent concert tour, which he's in no hurry to resume, it seems, after getting married recently.

Pastors from two different New York City churches were critical of Ms. Kunkle's exhibition. Rev. Michael Perry of Our Lady of Refuge Church called the collection, according to the Daily News, "dumb & stupid". Rev. Reggie Stutzman, who is attempting to convert a Bronx strip club into a church, was more offended by the image of Kardashian dressed as Jesus, complete with a crown of thorns, and said it was inappropriate.

The images were photoshopped, and were showcased last week. It also included Kardashian presented as a Satanic priestess, three Hindu goddesses, three nuns, and Joan of Arc. Talk about over the top. As Rev. Stutzman observed rightfully, "There are other ways to depict that imagery without combining those images". So true.

It's art that belongs in a theatre bizarre, that's all I'll say.

Meanwhile, comedian-talk show host-part time actor Bill Maher may be getting himself in hot water with actor Liam Neeson (currently in "A Million Ways to Die in the West") and the Daily News.

Maher taped a rant for the animal rights activist group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) slamming Neeson for taking up the cause to save New York's carriage horses. In case you haven't followed the story, mayor Bill DeBlasio made a campaign promise last year to ban the horses, claiming safety hazards, among other things. Neeson stepped up to the plate and has been the public face of the fight to save the horses. What also gets Maher a pair of Weasel ears this week is the fact that he mocked the people of Boston for honoring the victims of the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, saying that "your city was not leveled by Godzilla".

Please. Give me a break.

In the past, Maher has also slammed us for "cowardice" on 9/11, and presents himself as the perfect model of political incorrectness. After all, his first talk show was titled, Politically Incorrect, but apparently he feels offended by the fact that the PC police would rather he censor his comedy routines. He did, after all, title one of his books, I'm Swiss, but he's anything but neutral. Wake up and join the 21st century, Bill. It seems that your current series, Real Time, isn't quite as relevant as it once was, so you're drumming up attention for all the wrong reasons. I knew PETA had their collective heads in the sand, but this is ridiculous.

Musical Interlude: Oh, What a Night (December 1963)(1975)

Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons made a modest comeback on the charts in the mid-70's, starting with "Oh, What a Night (December 1963)", released in 1975 Valli, of course, would go solo and score with the theme from "Grease" three years later.

With Clint Eastwood's adaptation of the muscial, "Jersey Boys", opening this weekend, I thought this might a little something to tie you over.........


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Modern Classic: The Equalizer (1985)

"One man can make a difference"---Wilton Knight (Richard Basehart), 1982, Knight Rider.

Three years later, another Universal series used that same logic, and rode it for four seasons.

The Equalizer anchored CBS' Wednesday lineup from 1985-9. It starred British actor Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, a former intelligence agent who now came to the aid of innocents in time of need. Perhaps the biggest selling point to the series wasn't the plot, but rather, the music. Police co-founder and drummer Stewart Copeland, who made his acting debut on the series, composed the stirring score, which led to a solo record, "The Equalizer and Other Cliffhangers" (italics mine).

Woodward was sidelined with a heart attack somewhere between seasons 2 & 3, which led to the producers having to find substitutes who would cover for McCall while he was in absentia.

With the series turning 30 next year, there's a brand new feature film reboot coming soon, but this time, McCall will be an American. An African-American, that is, played by Oscar winner Denzel Washington, who's admitted he's never seen the original series, which might be because he used to be on St. Elsewhere, which aired opposite Equalizer during its run. Yep, Universal's done it again, but this time for a movie.

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

Universal's recent history with race-changing in casting has not been good, as the quick hooks given to 21st century reboots of Kojak and Ironside would attest. Plus, a proposed urbanized reboot of Murder, She Wrote was rejected by NBC.

That's Classic uploaded the open to The Equalizer:




The feature film version, depending on how audiences look at it, could break the stigma. At least, that's what Universal is hoping for. After all, when was the last time Denzel Washington made a box office dud?

Rating: B.

What Might've Been: UFO (1970)

After creating and producing a number of puppet shows for kids during the 60's, Gerry Anderson felt he was ready to branch out and try a live-action series. He'd produced one live-action film, "Journey to the Far Side of the Sun", also known as "Doppleganger", but in 1970, his first live-action series, aimed at adults, hit the air in England.

UFO was set in the then-future time of 1980, when it was feared aliens would invade the earth. Ed Bishop, who had worked on the puppet series, Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons, toplined as Straker, the leader of a government agency tasked to uncover the pending invasion.

The series, however, lasted 1 season, par for the course for ITC's dramas not named The Saint. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a British series other than Doctor Who, The Saint, or The Avengers that has had a long shelf life.

In 1972, ITC syndicated UFO in the US, and at first, were entertaining the idea of reviving the show, but as ratings here dipped near the end of the season, ITC changed its tune and the series was permanently dry-docked in cancellation. A couple of years later, Anderson reworked his pitch for the UFO revival into a new series that would last at least 2 years, and is more familiar to American audiences---Space: 1999.

Right now, let's scope the first part of the series premiere, "Identified":



Barry Gray, who composed the music for virtually all of Anderson's productions, was the musical director here, as well.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

As the parade passes through again...........

Death has been mighty busy lately, and so ye scribe needs to catch up.

Major League Baseball has been hit with a double whammy in the last week, days after the passing of Don Zimmer. Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who played his entire career with San Diego, lost his battle with cancer on Monday at 54. Former All-Star pitcher Bob Welch, who famously dueled with the Yankees' Reggie Jackson in the World Series while with Oakland, passed away a week ago at 57.

In Gwynn's case, he'd been back in the game as a coach for San Diego State. Son Tony, Jr. currently plays for Philadelphia, and likely has taken bereavement leave for the duration.

Actress Ruby Dee was also a social activist, in addition to her long career, often with husband Ossie Davis, who passed away a few years ago. Ms. Dee passed away last week at 91. A list of accomplishments would require more space than is available here.

Chuck Noll coached the Pittsburgh Steelers to their firsr 4 Super Bowls between the mid-70's and early 80's, including some memorable battles with the Dallas Cowboys. Noll passed away at 82, and I would guess the current Steelers will dedicate the 2014 season to his memory.

Finally, and we covered this in greater detail over at Saturday Morning Archives, radio & cartoon icon Casey Kasem lost his battle with Dewy's Body disease on Sunday at 82. His radio career spanned more than 50 years, starting at the regional level in his hometown of Detroit before landing in Los Angeles in the mid-60's. He made a number of guest appearances on shows such as Ironside, Charlie's Angels, Matt Houston, Hawaii Five-O, & Saved By The Bell, in addition to founding and launching the long running radio series, American Top 40, which is still on the air nearly 45 years later (currently hosted by Ryan Seacrest, an acknowledged fan of Kasem's work). Of course, most people will think of Kasem more for his cartoon work, particularly as Norville "Shaggy" Rogers in the many incarnations of Scooby-Doo.

Rest in peace, one and all.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What Might've Been: The Adventures of Superboy (1961)

Several years ago, I acquired the rarely seen 1961 pilot for The Adventures of Superboy, Whitney Ellsworth's last live-action adaptation of the Superman franchise. Coming three years after Adventures of Superman, one would think that one of the networks could've picked this up as a Saturday morning entry, five years before Superman would return as an animated cartoon.

You might recognize one of the villains in this story. It's Stacy Harris, who was a frequent guest star on both versions of Dragnet. Yes, the plot is right out of the same cookie cutter as the Superman series. No originality might explain why this wasn't picked up, but, to be fair, just judge for yourselves.



At least this was better than Ellsworth's Superpup pilot.........!

Rating: B.

What Might've Been: Maya (1967)

Maybe this is how India's Bollywood got started.

Maya, a 1-season entry for NBC in 1967, was spun off from a feature film of the same name, released a year earlier, and marked the return of Jay North (ex-Dennis The Menace) to primetime television. Both the movie and the series were filmed entirely on location in India, produced by independent producer Frank King in conjunction with MGM. Coupled with Tarzan, which entered its 2nd and final season, and I Spy (3rd season), NBC now had three series filming overseas. Unfortunately, the cost was too great, and, as it turned out, all three were cancelled after the season was over.

I barely remember seeing the show myself, just a hazy memory of watching it, trying to stay awake one Saturday night at my aunt's house, as memory serves, so there won't be a rating.

Anyway, the series' plot was a familiar device. Terry Bowen (North) is searching for his father, who has gone missing and is presumed dead. A year earlier, Clint Walker (ex-Cheyenne) was cast as the father in the feature film. Apparently, the King brothers couldn't get Walker to commit to doing the series, so they used this device to fuel the series.

This ended up being North's last live-action series. Two years later, he'd move on to cartoons before entering the Navy.

Here's the open. Mind the video quality.




Indian teen star Sajid Khan didn't do much else in the US, and with the show being filmed in India, local talent was used, saving on the expense of bringing in additional American actors. I think what the Kings and MGM were going for was the same kind of chemistry demonstrated between an American and an Indian in the animated Jonny Quest.

There are some things that kids should not emulate their fathers doing........ (1967)

How many of you remember this next ad?

You've heard the old adage, "like father, like son"? That's the theme of this spot, narrated by actor Lloyd Bridges (ex-Sea Hunt, The Loner). Little boys will copy things that their fathers do, but smoking shouldn't be one of them.




My late father was a smoker, and was what you'd call a recreational drinker, but would imbibe a wee bit too much some nights. That alone convinced me that his vices were not meant to be mine. Thanks, Dad.

Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Videos of Summer: A Matter of Trust (1986)

Billy Joel knows how to draw a crowd.

What only appears to be a rehearsal in New York draws a large throng, including Billy's then-wife Christie Brinkley, as Billy and the band offer a little musical relief from the sweltering heat of summer.

From the 1986 CD, "The Bridge", here's "A Matter of Trust", from Billy's VEVO channel.




Ah, 1986. The Mets, not the Yankees, owned baseball in New York, and I think "Trust" was blaring over the loudspeakers at Shea Stadium back then. Oh, what fun.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

WWE releases almost a dozen

I like to call this the season of the Turk. If you're a football fan, you know what that means. The Turk is a term for an assistant coach tasked to inform players who've been cut to turn in their playbooks and pack their bags.

In the WWE, they haven't really done anything like this in quite a while, which makes today's wave of cuts all the more stunning. One "Diva", three former tag team champs, and a few other long-tenured talents were shown the door. To wit:

*---Aksana: The lone diva on the cut list, she also had the least amount of time on the main roster, roughly about 2-2 1/2 years. The emergence of the "Ravishing Russian", Lana, valet to the Bulgarian strongman, Rusev, convinced WWE Uncreative that they didn't need two Russian women (Aksana was billed as hailing from Lithuania). The problem is, Lana doesn't wrestle, and comes across to me as playing a role similar to Brigitte Nielsen in "Rocky IV".

*---Curt Hawkins: Initially called up as 1/2 of the Major Brothers (w/Zack Ryder) in 2007, Hawkins was one of the forgotten men, reduced to being a JTTS in the current NXT program in Florida. It's easy to forget that Hawkins & Ryder were tag team champs six years ago.

*---Drew McIntyre: The Scotsman was first called up in 2007, partnered with England's David Taylor, then sent down after Taylor was removed from the roster. McIntyre returned two years later, rebilled as the Chosen One, anointed as such by CEO/Chairman Vince McMahon. All McIntyre netted out of that was an Intercontinental title and a tag title, the latter with Cody Rhodes.

*---Jinder Mahal: Along with McIntyre, Mahal was part of the tag team 3MB (w/Heath Slater), and, so, another tag team bites the dust. Mahal came in with such promise, but really fell off the radar rather quickly.

*---JTG: The surviving half of Cryme Tyme lasted 8 years with the company, but had become a punchline in recent years, sticking around while everyone else was getting pink-slipped. Not anymore.

*---Evan Bourne: Spent most of the last two, nearly three, years on the DL, plus had a couple of Wellness violations, which stifled his push. Won a tag title with Kofi Kingston, but that seems so long ago. The most likely landing spot for Bourne would be Ring of Honor, where he previously starred as Matt Sydal. Current ROH wrestler Mike Sydal, yes, is his brother.

*---Marc Harris: Who? Exactly. Actually, he was a referee who had been up for a bit, probably around the same length of time as Aksana.

*---Camacho: He's the son of former WCW & WWE star Haku, aka Meng, and was in a tag team with Hunico, but that team was split when Hunico was given the Sin Cara ID a while back after the original Sin Cara was cut and returned to Mexico. Camacho was last seen on NXT feuding with Adam Rose.

*---Brodus Clay: Two years ago, he was the dancing "Funkasaurus", after then-authority figure John Laurinaitis had intended for him to be called up from developmental as a monster heel, then stalled. More than 18 months later, Clay turned heel, but it didn't really help his standing.

*---Yoshi Tatsu: He exploded onto the scene when ECW was a third brand, but after ECW was folded, Tatsu went down the chute, and like Hawkins & JTG, would end up as a jobber in NXT.

*---Theodore Long: Easily the longest tenured person on the list. Long's run with the company stretches all the way back to the Attitude Era, when he returned to his former vocation as a referee. Shifted back to managing in 2002, then became GM of Smackdown in 2004. In all, Long had two lengthy tenures in that role (2004-7, 2009-12), with a brief stint on ECW in between, and was last seen as a senior advisor to Booker T on Smackdown (2012-3). The way Long got railroaded out of the GM's office, and this happened three times, would suggest that he wasn't exactly a favorite of Vince McMahon's any more than Jim Ross was.

Classify it as more of a salary dump, clearing space for some more talents to be brought into NXT to be trained. However, I don't think we've seen the last of any of these folks. Jeff Jarrett has already stated on Twitter that the door is open for any or all to sign with TNA, but don't get your hopes up.

Classic TV: Name That Tune (1952)

On The Honeymooners, Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) was a contestant on a game show similar to Name That Tune. Of course, Brooklyn's most famous lovable loser, after the Dodgers in those days, that is, wasn't a big winner.

However, Name That Tune was a big winner, one of the most successful quiz games of all time, and that's largely because there weren't that many music-centric quizzes. In the course of its history, it's been hosted by a few legends in the game show business, such as Bill Cullen, Dennis James, Jim Lange, and the most definitive MC, Tom Kennedy.

There were two daytime runs, including in the 70's on NBC, but it was more successful in syndication, and helped launch the careers of Kathie Lee Gifford (then Kathie Lee Johnson) and Steve March-Torme. Kathie Lee will be seen in this sample clip from 1977.



This was fun, to be sure. And didn't Kathie Lee look so cute back then?

Rating: A-.

Rockin' Funnies: The Muppets do Bohemian Rhapsody (2009)

If this doesn't brighten your day, I don't know what would.

In 2009, the Muppets recorded a cover of Queen's 1975 classic, "Bohemian Rhapsody", better known to today's generation as having appeared on the soundtrack to "Wayne's World". Anyway, the surviving members of Queen lent instrumental backing, but didn't appear in the video. Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem stand in for Brian May & Queen. Almost everyone's in on the act, and that includes the usually incomprehensible Beaker. Gonzo starts it, and Ms. Piggy finishes it. Gee, there's a shocker for you, with Piggy lying atop Rowlf's piano..........


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Another look at: Dick Tracy (1967)

Several months back, we took a look at William Dozier's ill-fated pilot for an adaptation of Chester Gould's comic strip, Dick Tracy. Now, thanks to Dailymotion, we've got the whole kit 'n' kaboodle.

In "The Plot to Kill NATO", Tracy (Ray MacDonnell) deals with Mr. Memory (Victor Buono, aka King Tut from Batman). Dick's wife, Tess, and daughter, Bonnie (Eve Plumb, later of The Brady Bunch) were mentioned in passing, but didn't appear. Perhaps the best part is the theme, composed and performed by surf rock icons, The Ventures.




As I wrote before, I am not sure if Memory was a Gould creation, or was developed for television by writer James Fonda. He sure does fit the profile, though.

Rating: C.

What Might've Been: Camp Runamuck (1965)

With summer right around the corner, I thought we'd get into the mood with a whimsical comedy set at summer camp.

Camp Runamuck ran for 1 season (1965-6) on NBC, opposite Screen Gems' stablemate The Flintstones, which was entering its final season for Hanna-Barbera & ABC, and another newcomer, The Wild, Wild West on CBS. What it all boiled down to was a juvenile battle of the sexes between two summer camps, one for boys, the other for girls.

I will acknowledge not seeing much of this show, even when it was revived in reruns several years later, first on Nickelodeon, then on Comedy Central. Me-TV missed the boat by not adding this show for its Summer of Me promotion this month.

After the series ended, some of the stars moved on to better things. Dave Ketchum, for example, joined the cast of Get Smart as Agent 13. Hermoine Baddeley would not land another series gig until the mid-70's, when she joined the cast of Maude. Leonard Stone became a prolific character actor, appearing frequently on Dragnet, among others. Of course you know that Dave Madden would return on The Partridge Family 4 years after Runamuck ended.

Gilmore Box provides the open:




No rating.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sports this 'n' that

The Albany Times-Union's high school sports columnist, James Allen, reports today that one of the premier high school sports leagues in New York's Section II is on the verge of dissolution.

The Big 10, not to be confused with the collegiate conference of the same name, has been in existence since the late 1970's, and competes in all sports except for football, where Section II went with a classification format a few years ago. Amsterdam High, once a power in the league, is changing affiliations to the Foothills Council beginning in the fall. The Foothills Council has suddenly become a major player of late, with Scotia winning State & Federation titles in boys' basketball three months ago, and Burnt Hills has become a major power in football the last few years. The Big 10 will not have a basketball schedule this season, allowing its member schools, such as perennial powers Christian Brothers Academy and Troy High, and resurgent Catholic Central, to pursue independent schedules for 2014-5. Seeing as how Albany Academy, formerly of the Colonial Council, and Green Tech, which has no league affiliation, have thrived under an independent scheduling structure, this makes sense, at least in the short term.

Closer to home, Troy will still play its annual rivalry home-&-home series with Catholic Central, CBA, & LaSalle, one would think (Allen confirmed Troy & CBA will meet at least twice in the coming season), but the door is now open to revive a long dormant pre-season tournament that would involve all 4 of Troy's high schools, adding Lansingburgh (Colonial Council) to the mix. The Uncle Sam basketball tournament was discontinued sometime in the 1980's, but I can't think of a reason why it can't be done now.

I used to watch hockey quite a bit when we first got cable TV back in the 70's, but got away from it. With time to kill before the Mets-Giants game on Saturday, I flipped on game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Rangers and Los Angeles, and was appalled by a glaring gaffe in officiating.

In the 3rd period, LA's Dwight King scores a goal to bring the Kings within a goal at 4-3, with the Rangers leading. Problem was, the goal should never have counted. King instead should've been cited for goalie interference for impeding New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, just as New York was assessed a penalty earlier for interfering with LA goalie Jonathan Quick. Fair's fair, after all, but even though the replay showed a referee blowing his whistle, it was to confirm the goal, not to call a penalty. The play was right in front of him, for crying out loud. How could he have missed it?

The Kings now lead the series 3-0 with a 3-0 win last night. However, they got some home cooking that they didn't need, and that taints the first series between teams from LA & NY since the 1981 World Series (Dodgers beat the Yankees in 5). Oh, does it ever! LA is playing for its 2nd Stanley Cup in 3 years, the Rangers are in the finals for the first time since they won it all 20 years ago. It's a story that writes itself, but one bad apple has poisoned the whole bunch.

Although California Chrome failed in his bid to win the Triple Crown at Belmont, and owner Steve Coburn has apologized for 2 days of rants, he did have a point in calling for change to what is now an archaic, antiquidated system.

The Kentucky Derby, Preakness, & Belmont Stakes form the Triple Crown, and are contested over a 6-7 week period. It's been that way for years. However, changes in conditioning horses, as well as all athletes, have made completing the quest for the crown nigh impossible. The people in charge of the Preakness, contested at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, have been calling for their race to be moved to the first Saturday in June, with the Belmont moving to a July date. Some media types, though, don't see a reason to change the system, but if they want to see the 1st Triple Crown since Affirmed held off Alydar three times in 1978, well, change is necessary.

I say, this can work. Belmont can have their big race be the coda to their spring-summer meet. Considering how the Saratoga meet now starts in mid-July, why not let the Belmont take place on the last Saturday before shifting upstate? This way, if they go ahead and move the Preakness to June, you would have four weeks between the Derby and Preakness, and as much as 4-5 weeks between the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. NBC owns the rights to the races now, so they could be of the same mind, and leverage the move if necessary. I'd not be surprised if they did.

Finally, we're handing out a set of Weasel ears to Donald Sterling. Talk about backtracking. First, he decides to file suit against the NBA, feeling they had no real justification for banishing him for his racist comments, recorded without his consent though they were. Then, when his estranged wife brokers a deal with a former Microsoft executive, Steve Ballmer, Sterling withdraws. On Monday, however, the most out-of-touch executive in sports and/or entertainment, and that does include Vince McMahon, by the way, decided to backpedal and move forward with his idiotic lawsuit. Paul Simon said it best, in "Mrs. Robinson", and the following line applies to Sterling, the world's oldest Weasel:

"Any way you look at it, you lose".

Ain't that the truth.

Monday, June 9, 2014

What Might've Been: The Pruitts of Southampton and The Phyllis Diller Show (1966-7)

Picture this scenario. You're filthy rich beyond your wildest dreams. You have everything you've ever wanted. That is, until the Internal Revenue Service comes a'callin', and claims you owe a ton of money in back taxes. Now, you're broke, but you get to keep the tony mansion, with all the coolest swag kept hidden under lock & key.

So went the premise of The Pruitts of Southampton, one of two sitcoms Filmways sold to ABC in 1966 after the demise of The Addams Family. Phyllis Diller toplined, and sang the show's theme song.........



Unfortunately, viewers weren't buying into a premise that was, for all intents & purposes, a reverse of another Filmways series, CBS' Beverly Hillbillies. They could see through it all, and ABC pulled the show back into the shop for repairs, if ya will.

When the series returned, it was rechristened The Phyllis Diller Show, but the concept remained the same, although the open suggested more slapstick comedy was on the docket. Addams star John Astin joined the cast, as the Pruitt mansion was rejiggered into a boarding house. DentelTV1 uploaded a sample episode:







The concept was the brainchild of executive producer David Levy, who also adapted Addams for television. Writer-producer Nat Perrin was also a holdover from Addams, but in hindsight, they might've been better off renewing Addams Family for a 3rd season and add Phyllis as an eccentric, heretofore undiscovered relative or something. Richard Deacon, fresh from The Dick Van Dyke Show, was cast as IRS agent Baldwin, sympathetic to the Pruitts' cause, but also vulnerable to the silliness that was going on.

Could something like this work today? Go back to what I said earlier about this being a reverse of Beverly Hillbillies. A feature film version of that cherished classic didn't work at the box office, and with the economy what it is now, doing this over again won't work, either.

Diller would turn to variety for her next---and last---series. Yep, that failed, too.

No rating.



Musical Interlude: In Too Deep (1986-7)

During the 80's, Genesis made the transition from alternative rock to pop and adult contemporary, finding a permanent home in the latter category with soft, dreamy ballads such as "In Too Deep", the 2nd single from the 1986 CD, "Invisible Touch". Vocalist Phil Collins has long since become a mainstay on the adult contemporary charts as a solo act as well, but it's been a while........




Sunday, June 8, 2014

Classic TV: Tic Tac Dough (1956)

As kids, we all played old fashioned tic-tac-toe on a piece of scrap paper. One sheet of paper could lead to an infinite number of games played during recess. It was total fun.

In 1956, Jack Barry took that simple little game and turned it into a television classic.

Tic Tac Dough first aired on NBC, and ran for 3 years. Barry hosted the daytime version for the first two, before the game show scandals forced him off the air. Since the show was set in New York, Gene Rayburn, a few years before Match Game, took over, followed by someone named Jay Jackson. At night, Win Eliot was the series host. Eliot is better known as a sportscaster who anchored The Race of the Week when it aired on either CBS or in syndication in the 70's, mostly from New York horse racing tracks. Oh, but when I moved downtown at the end of the 70's, I ran across a two-volume reference guide on television that told me how Eliot had done the original Dough and other games. Go figure, right?

Blanquepage offers up a sample video:



The series ended in 1959, forever tarnished, or so it seemed, by the fact that the games were in fact fixed, a scandal that was dramatized, though focusing on another Barry game, Twenty-One, in Robert Redford's "Quiz Show", more than 3 decades later.

Barry returned in the 70's, and had paid his penance via The Joker's Wild and other games. In 1978, Dough returned, this time on CBS and in syndication, with both versions helmed by veteran MC Wink Martindale (ex-Gambit, Can You Top This?, etc.). While it didn't last long on CBS, the syndicated version would continue until 1986, but by then, Martindale was gone, replaced by Jim Caldwell. Can you say, jump the shark? Thought you could.

Now, from the Martindale era, comes the series' most successful contestant, Thom McKee:



England's ITC obtained the rights to at least distribute Dough when it was brought back one final time in 1990, with actor Patrick Wayne as host. The game was the same, but because that other tic-tac-toe game, Hollywood Squares, had ended its 1st revival a year earlier, viewers were burned out, and the Wayne era lasted 1 year.

The 1978-86 series' biggest feature was its up-tempo theme, "Crazy Fun", composed by Hal Hidey. Too bad it was never released as a disco record, but that's just me.

Rating: A (covers the 1978-86 era).

Saturday, June 7, 2014

In Theatres: Godzilla (2014)

This is some way to honor a legend, isn't it?

"Godzilla" turns 60 this year, and its newest incarnation is as distinct and as different from the original, as well as the 1998 reincarnation, as can be. But how can a legendary monster be treated as a supporting player in its own movie?

It's because much of the action is centered on the human characters in the film, much like Roland Emmerich's version 16 years ago. There is a homage to the original "Godzilla", or "Gojira", as it's known in Japan, from 1954, in explaining the backstory, updating it to modern times.

Archival footage aside, the film begins 15 years ago with a husband and wife team of scientists, Joe & Sandra Brody, who are leading a team in Japan. A nuclear reactor erupts, causing a breach. Despite his best efforts, Joe watches helplessly as Sandra and her team are trapped, unable to escape.

Fast forward to the present day, and the Brodys' son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), is now in the military, married to a nurse (Elizabeth Olsen), with a son of his own. Ford receives word that his father (Bryan Cranston, fresh from Breaking Bad), has been arrested for trespassing into a now-quarantined area in Japan, convinced that the Japanese government covered up the 1999 accident that claimed his wife. As it turns out, once Ford arrives in Japan, that Joe was right. There was something hidden beneath the surface, something that the eggheads called a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Object). What it is isn't quite a pterodactyl, or a bat, but more like a hybrid of the two species, and it ain't alone. Its mate surfaces in Las Vegas, and so that legendary city gets wrecked.

And where's Godzilla? It eventually appears, finding its way to San Francisco. Instead of wrecking the Golden Gate Bridge, Godzilla actually holds on to it in order leverage itself into a standing position (which, of course, makes this model infinitely superior to Emmerich's giant creepy crawler), before engaging the MUTO's, who are now together, in battle. It's almost halfway into the movie before Godzilla appears, but if there was any suspense, well, I didn't feel it.

The military wanted to kill all three creatures, failing to realize that Godzilla is on our side. The only other link to the classic franchise is the appearance of Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), who plays a more vital role than he did in the first American treatment of the franchise, the redubbing of the original. An actor associated with the franchise was given a part in the movie, but it was edited off, likely to surface amidst deleted scenes in the DVD release later this year.

With Breaking Bad now history, Bryan Cranston returns to the look of the harried parent from Malcolm in the Middle, and I'd nominate him for a reboot of the Indiana Jones franchise if Harrison Ford wants to hang up his fedora. He channeled Ford quite a bit during the first part of the film.

I will say that this was better than Emmerich's film by a wide margin, and I knew that going in. Godzilla wasn't really 30 stories high, as the theme to the 1978 cartoon says, maybe losing a few inches in height (slightly stooped over), but modern technology ain't perfect.

Trailers:

"Into the Storm" (August 8): It's about tornados. Need any more info?
"The Rover": Robert Pattinson ("Twilight") & Guy Pearce (Madonna's ex) in an Australian produced film.
Plus, trailers we've seen before for "How to Train Your Dragon 2" and "22 Jump Street". The more I see the latter, the less I'm interested in even renting the previous film.

And, here's the trailer for "Godzilla":



Rating: B+.

Friday, June 6, 2014

CBS goes back to the remake well with The Odd Couple. But will it work?

When CBS released its fall schedule a few weeks back, I was disappointed to see that Robin Williams' comeback vehicle, The Crazy Ones, was not renewed. Had Robin lost his touch? No, it's just that Crazy had the misfortune of airing opposite Grey's Anatomy. End of story. Rather than try to just bring back a familiar face or two (Williams & Sarah Michelle Gellar), CBS is going for the downs, and I don't mean it in football terms, either.

It's been 32 years since someone last tried to revive Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, which has been done twice on the small screen. ABC thought they could plug the show back in on Friday nights in 1982, where the original series aired for five seasons (1970-5). Problem was, the landscape was different, and The New Odd Couple barely got out of the starting gate.

Paramount and executive producer Garry Marshall went for the urban audience by recasting the leads as African Americans. Ron Glass had finished up a 7 year run on Barney Miller. Demond Wilson was a Friday fixture for five seasons on Sanford & Son on NBC. Shouldn't have gone wrong, shouldn't it? Unfortunately, it did. Viewers just weren't ready to accept an Odd Couple that didn't have Jack Klugman (who was doing Quincy at the time) and Tony Randall, or the Broadway/movie duo of Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau. Plus, the earlier series was readily available in syndication, and CBS back then owned Fridays with Dukes of Hazzard & Dallas. Ballgame.

For those of you who, like me, never saw The New Odd Couple, this is what it looked like, courtesy of Gilmore Box:




In the fall, Matthew Perry (ex-Friends) & Thomas Lennon (ex-Reno 911!) will attempt to recreate the chemistry of Randall & Klugman, and CBS has slotted this version of Odd Couple on Mondays as part of its powerful comedy block. It wasn't long ago that Perry's last series, Go On, got up and went, and thus he & Lennon face the same challenge that Glass & Wilson did three decades ago. To try to live up to what, in a lot of people's minds, remains the gold standard. It won't help that the original is now available on cable on Me-TV.

To give you a refresher course, here's a sample of the Klugman/Randall Couple, a crossover with Password!




We'll check back in September and see if we have a winner.

A Modern Classic (?): Boy Meets World (1993)

While Fred Savage was growing up in front of our eyes on The Wonder Years, little brother Ben landed his own series, and will be back in your living room later this month.

Boy Meets World lasted 7 seasons (1993-2000), most of it spent on Fridays as part of ABC's TGIF block. The Boy in the title was Cory Matthews (Ben Savage), who faced up to the usual issues with growing up. What actually made the show work was that it wasn't a star vehicle, but rather, like the other shows in the block, an ensemble comedy.

The series also marked the return of William Daniels (ex-Knight Rider, St. Elsewhere), whose character of Mr. Feeny, the school principal, was also Cory's next door neighbor. The series also introduced viewers to the likes of Will Friedle, Ethan Suplee (later of My Name is Earl), and Danielle Fishel. As time wore on the storylines focused more on Cory's relationship with Topanga (Fishel), culminating in the two getting married in the series finale.

That leads to the sequel, Girl Meets World, launching later this month on Disney Channel, which was home to reruns of Boy for a few years before the rights moved to MTV2, where it currently airs weekdays in a lunch hour block with Saved by the Bell. Most of the cast will return, and Disney is putting out the full court hype press.

One of the more surreal, if not also absurd, plots on Boy involved pro wrestler Vader (Leon White), who appeared in two episodes. Seems that in this series' universe, Vader was a former student of Feeny's whose bullying ways were passed on to his son (Suplee). As you'll see, Cory finds himself in a handicap match vs. Vader & son, plus 1, until Feeny steps in........




At the time, Vader was with the then-World Wrestling Federation, after winning a couple of World titles with WCW. Have to believe Vader helped put together the wrestling sequence himself, working with 4 actors during the short match.

In a follow-up episode, Cory was split between a Sweet 16 dance with Topanga and accompanying his former tormentor to a show to see Vader wrestle. Vader would not return after that.

It fit with the block alright. Whimsical, often with life lessons to be taught.

Rating: B+.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

As the mourning parade passes by..........

They say death often comes in threes. In the course of the past week, it certainly has.

Award winning poet Maya Angelou passed over the weekend. The New York Daily News' front page headline the other day referred to Angelou as an "Angel of Harlem". Taking this in mind, we dedicate U2's 1988 hit, "Angel of Harlem", from the movie "Rattle & Hum", to Ms. Angelou:




I was hoping to find something other than a movie clip, but this was all that was available on YouTube.

On Wednesday, baseball lost one of its most enduring personalities. Don Zimmer, who spent more than 65 years in the game as a player, coach, manager, and executive, passed away at 83. Zimmer was Joe Torre's bench coach during the Yankees' last dynasty, which saw them appear in 6 World Series in 8 years, winning 4. His last job was as a senior advisor for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Finally, Ann B. Davis, whose television career consists mostly of two memorable supporting characters, left us. Well before she was cast as housekeeper Alice Nelson on The Brady Bunch (1969-74) and its subsequent sequels (save perhaps for the ill-fated variety show), Davis plays Charmaine Schultz, or, "Schultzy", on The Bob Cummings Show, also known as Love That Bob.

In this clip, Alice and Carol (Florence Henderson) have to deal with Peter (Christopher Knight) and his sudden obsession with Humphrey Bogart:



Rest in peace.

What Might've Been: It Pays to be Ignorant (1951)

It Pays to be Ignorant made the transition from radio to television in 1951, airing on NBC. However, the transition wasn't a smooth one, as the series didn't last very long.

Series creator and host Tom Howard had started the show on radio seven years earlier as a satire on shows as diverse as Doctor IQ and Information Please. It lasted 9 seasons on radio, but, as noted the TV run was short. In fact, if you add a 1973 revival to the '51 series, it still doesn't add up to the radio run.

Gilmore Box provides this open:




Stefan Hatos & Monty Hall (Let's Make a Deal) revived Ignorant as a syndicated venture in 1973, as noted above. Actor Joe Flynn (ex-McHale's Navy), who had made a few movies for Disney while doing guest roles on other shows, was tapped as host. Charles Nelson Reilly moonlighted from his daytime gig on Match Game, paired with Jo Anne Worley (Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In) and British comic Billy Baxter. That's the version I remember, but there are no clips on YouTube. The format was the same as the original, and it was a hoot. As memory serves, Worley sang the closing theme. Unfortunately, it lasted just 1 year. Baxter was never heard from again, and Flynn drowned in a swimming pool accident.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Musical Interlude: Sweet City Woman (1971)

Like, good day, eh? The Stampeders are known here in the US for only one big hit, 1971's "Sweet City Woman", which topped out at #8, while going all the way to #1 in their native Canada. Yeah, bet you didn't know, eh? Once you discover the band's really from Canada, it's easy to deduce that they got their name from the famous Calgary Stampede.

Anyway, here's "Sweet City Woman".


What Might've Been: The Legend of Jesse James (1965)

Someone at 20th Century Fox felt that amidst all the Westerns, there needed to be one that used an outlaw as a protagonist. So, they figured, why not the most famous outlaw of them all?

The Legend of Jesse James was sold to ABC in 1965, and about the best thing going for it seems to be the swinging theme song. Christopher Jones landed the title role as Jesse, who, along with brother Frank (Allen Case, ex-The Deputy), lived with their mother (Ann Doran) when not on the road. Not sure if Mrs. James had any inkling of what her sons did for a living, though.

Dwighttfrye uploaded the series premiere, "Three Men From Now", with guest star Jack Elam:




Forgive the poor condition of the video, as that is apparently the only episode available now on YouTube. Fox didn't have much luck with some Westerns in the mid-60's. Mind, too, that this was the same year that Fox had sold Rod Serling's The Loner to CBS, and that also was a 1 year wonder. There were just too many Westerns on the air, just as there'd be a glut of crime dramas in the next decade.

Rating: B.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Classic TV: The Monkees (1966)

With the Beatles and their musical brethren from England dominating the American pop charts, someone decided that there needed to be an American band with a pop sound similar to the Fab Four.

The Monkees were the result of a Hollywood casting call that led to two actors and two musicians forming the so-called "Pre-Fab Four". Ironically, one of the two actors, Davy Jones, was British himself. Drummer-vocalist Micky Dolenz had previously worked for Screen Gems on Circus Boy (under the name, Mickey Braddock), and, presumably, was still a contract player for the studio. Monkees turned his career around completely.

The series lasted two seasons, and each of the four (Jones, Dolenz, Peter Tork, & Mike Nesmith) got equal amounts of spotlight time. Dolenz & Jones, for another irony, did the bulk of the singing, especially in the first season. Oh, it could've gone longer, but the band imploded during season 2, and there were also disputes with the producers over any number of things. After the series ended, Jones & Nesmith released solo albums for different labels. Nesmith, who'd recorded under the name Michael Blessing before the series began, moved to the country charts and scored his biggest solo hit with "Joanne". Tork ultimately formed a new band, The New Monks, which didn't last long, in the early 80's. Dolenz, as has been documented over at Saturday Morning Archives, began a career as a voice actor, working for Hanna-Barbera between 1971-77. Oddly, he wasn't called when Jones was cast in an episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies in 1972, and so H-B blew an opportunity for at least a mini-reunion.

But the band, sans Liquid Paper heir Nesmith, would regroup in the mid-80's and release a few CD's here and there, starting with 1987's "Pool It". After the series ended its run on NBC, reruns aired on Saturday afternoons first on CBS (1968), then on ABC (1972), before settling into syndication. MTV picked up the series in 1986 to mark the show's 20th anniversary, but now, the series doesn't have a cable home that we know of.

Following is the season 2 episode, "Art For Monkee's Sake", in which Peter takes up painting. Vic Tayback, more than a decade before Alice, and future voice actor Michael Bell guest star. We previously ran an excerpt of this episode over in the Archives.



Rating: B.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Musical Interlude: King of Wishful Thinking (1990)

Go West made one last run at the charts in 1990, contributing "King of Wishful Thinking" to the soundtrack to the Julia Roberts-Richard Gere romantic comedy, "Pretty Woman". It had been 5 years since the duo debuted with "We Close Our Eyes", and you'd think they'd make the most of a second chance, but nothing came of a follow-up.