Thursday, July 31, 2014

Classic TV: The Honeymooners (1955).

Often imitated, but not always successfully duplicated (see below), The Honeymooners remains an iconic television classic more than 60 years after it began as a series of skits on DuMont's Cavalcade of Stars. Those sketches would later be rediscovered for a new generation of fans more than 30 years after their initial airings.

However, the beloved series we all know was spun off from the original Jackie Gleason Show after Gleason had left DuMont for CBS, and would remain a part of Gleason's repertoire, if you will, after he went back to the variety show format in the 60's.

Gleason "supervised" the entire series, even though Jack Philbin was credited as executive producer. Gleason based the franchise on his own hardscrabble childhood in Brooklyn, and so Ralph Kramden (Gleason) and his wife, Alice (Audrey Meadows), were based in the Bensonhurst section of the borough. Meadows was the 2nd Alice. Pert Kelton originated the role, but could not continue after the franchise moved to CBS due to being on the blacklist. Helping Ralph with his futile get-rich-quick schemes----and raising his blood pressure in the process---was free spirited sewer worker Ed Norton (Art Carney, ex-The Morey Amsterdam Show), who acted as though he was about as smart as a brick, though that wasn't always the case. Then again, Ralph wasn't exactly a brain surgeon himself.

In 1966, the Honeymooners were reborn in a series of new sketches on the Jackie Gleason Show, which was now based out of Miami. You might remember Gleason employing iconic game show announcer Johnny Olsen as his announcer for the 4 year run (1966-70), with Olsen referring to Miami Beach as the "sun & fun capital of the world". I honestly wish I could find some of those color episodes. Sheila MacRae took over as Alice, with Jane Kean as Trixie. In the course of this nearly 20 year run between DuMont & CBS, Carney took home 5 Emmy awards for his work as Norton. A series of reunion specials would follow during the 70's, heightened by Gleason resuming his movie career (i.e. "Smokey & The Bandit") and Carney adding an Oscar to his resume ("Harry & Tonto").

What you might not know is that Gleason also composed the show's opening instrumental theme, "You're My Greatest Love", and had released a series of albums for Columbia during the 50's & 60's of instrumental easy listening music, proving his worth as a songwriter. Gleason was not credited for any of the music, but musical director Sammy Spear is more closely associated with the variety shows.

The late Elaine Stritch was the original Trixie Norton, but the role was recast after 1 skit in 1951, since Trixie was originally conceived as a burlesque performer, but then was rebooted as an ordinary housewife (Joyce Randolph).

In 1985, Joe Piscopo & Eddie Murphy recorded "Honeymooners Rap", a comic hip-hop homage to the franchise, with the comedians doing dead-on mimics of Gleason & Carney as Kramden & Norton.

Currently, the series lives on through reruns ariing on Me-TV and in syndication. WPIX in New York has had the series for what seems like an eternity, such that they were compelled to put the show back on the schedule due to viewer demand.

Now, from 1956, here's a satire on quiz shows of the period, "The $99,000 Answer", in which Ralph fancies himself to be an expert on music, but is exposed when he makes a critical error.




The 80's also brought the Honeymooners back to comics for a short run. Oh, what fun! However, loyalists might be willing to disown an urban reboot in a 2005 feature film with Cedric The Entertainer (now the host of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? as Ralph........!

Oh, and as for the imitators? Of course you know about The Flintstones, which ran for six seasons in primetime on ABC (1960-6), and was a Saturday morning mainstay for years after. Dom DeLuise tried to emulate Gleason with Lotsa Luck, based on a British comedy, On The Buses, rather than The Honeymooners, and perhaps that would explain why Luck lasted 1 season.

Rating: A.

All that was missing was a police car

This morning, I went to pick up the morning papers, as per usual, and walked right into the tail end of a botched robbery.

Seems this one fellow had tried to leave the store with a bottle of Powerade without bothering to pay for it. He'd been in line, according to the clerk, but he caught sight of her and got nervous. Instead of waiting it out, he decided to bolt. She confronted him, and as I was coming in, he threw the unopened bottle at her, but missed, as she chased him out. Expletives and threats were issued.

But instead of holding him there and calling the police, she let the guy drive off. She said that she had his license plates memorized from past encounters. I'm told he's shoplifted from the store several previous times. All they need to do is lift his image from the security cameras and forward it to the police. He's been told he's banned from the store at least twice, but apparently, either he's a glutton for trouble, or just plain ignorant of common sense. Odds are pretty good, then, that this loser will return, probably with a "little friend"..........

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Might've Been: Please Don't Eat The Daisies (1965)

It started with a book of essays by Jean Kerr in the 50's, became a movie in 1960, and moved to television in 1965, lasting two seasons. So why doesn't Please Don't Eat The Daisies get the same kind of respect as a lot of other domestic sitcoms from the same period?

For one thing, there were simply too many sitcoms at the time, of various genres, and Daisies fell into line with other domestic comedies of the period, like, for example, The Donna Reed Show. During the 2nd season, NBC, realizing things weren't going to get better, moved the show to Saturdays, coupled with another MGM property, Maya, which we recently reviewed. Problem was, it was pitted against the 2nd half of The Jackie Gleason Show on CBS. Thanks, we'll see you later.

The movie starred Doris Day & David Niven, but there really was no correlation between the film and the sitcom, which toplined Patricia Crowley, because it was a different family, though both used the Kerr book as an inspiration.

True story. While I was attending a private academy as a high school freshman, a classmate tried to sell me on the idea that he and another classmate were the Fithian twins, who played the youngest boys. I wasn't buying into this at all. A year later, our classmate moved away out of state, and the tall tale about them working on Daisies was proven to be just that. Utter balderdash.

Gilmore Box provides the open:



I'm begging Me-TV to take a chance on bringing this one back, just for kicks.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Classic TV: The _______ Pyramid (1973)

There's a reason for the blank in the subject line. The long running Pyramid franchise, now controlled by Sony, began as The $10,000 Pyramid, which launched in March 1973 on CBS, and hosted by American Bandstand host-producer Dick Clark, in a rare case of an MC working two shows on separate networks concurrently. As time wore on, inflation raised the dollar amounts from $10,000 to $20,000, then $25,000, and finally, $100,000.

However, CBS was unable to sustain Pyramid, and dropped it, resulting in ABC picking up the series, enabling Clark to appear on their network six mornings a week. A syndicated $25,000 Pyramid, hosted by the inestimable Bill Cullen, bowed in 1974, and when it was decided that Pyramid would be back on the network, the word New was added to the title to avoid confusion with the syndicated evening version.

In the 80's, before he became the 3rd "master of the Hollywood Squares", singer-actor John Davidson (That's Incredible) hosted a syndicated version of $100,000 Pyramid, which didn't have the same kind of success. Viewers had trusted Cullen, and grew to trust in Clark. At the time, Davidson was still an unknown commodity as a game show host. After this version ended, the Pyramid was shut down until 2002, when it was revived, sans dollar amount in the title, with another singer, Donny Osmond, trying his luck. Osmond lasted two years.

Not long ago, GSN entered the picture. The Sony-owned cable network tapped Mike Richards as host, but this version lasted just 40 episodes, or two months, and was quickly cancelled. Reruns currently air on weekends on GSN.

The game is as simple as it gets. Six topics, 6-8 questions to be answered in under a minute. The winning team (one contestant, one celebrity) would move to the Winner's Circle. The GSN version capped at $10,000, going old school, which may have contributed to its sudden demise.

Let's go back to 1973 and the $10,000 Pyramid.



Ah, those were the days.

Rating: A.

Musical Interlude: Kiss & Tell (1987-8)

Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry scored a huge solo hit with "Kiss & Tell", which was originally released on his 1987 CD, "Bete Noire", then included on the soundtrack to "Bright Lights, Big City" the following year, one of three hits off the soundtrack (MARRS' "Pump Up The Volume" and New Order's "True Faith" also charted).




To me, it's still good soundtrack music for any tabloid magazine show.

Monday, July 28, 2014

TNA has one foot in the grave-----or do they?

The biggest story in pro wrestling today isn't in the WWE. Instead, it's in TNA.

Total Non-stop Action (TNA) Wrestling's contract with Spike TV is up at the end of September or early October, and word got out earlier today that the network would not renew the contract. Some sources cited the rehiring of former head writer Vince Russo, this time as a consultant, as a reason for the non-renewal, but that might not be the only reason.

Russo, an over-the-hill scribe who's also worked for WWE & WCW, was at his best when he had someone editing and filtering his ideas (i.e. Vince McMahon). However, when he left the then-World Wrestling Federation in the fall of 1999 to join his pal Jeff Jarrett in WCW, he got a big head and thought that his ideas could work there, unfiltered, uncensored. Instead, WCW went in the toilet in the ratings, and was bought out by McMahon less than 18 months after Russo arrived. He's on his fourth tour with TNA, the first without Jarrett being there to vouch for him, and you can bank on him joining Jarrett when the former champ's new promotion, Global Force Wrestling, debuts next year.

The other problem involves co-owner Dixie Carter, who became more of an on-camera character within the last year, morphing into an amalgam of Vince & Stephanie McMahon, another example of TNA's current creative team being bereft of new ideas, and that's only because Russo doesn't have anything new himself. He'd rather recycle old ideas or copy what WWE is doing. In an angle that is set to air next month, since television was taped weeks in advance in New York, Carter was plunged through a table by Bully Ray, and reportedly suffered some legit injuries to her back, despite Ray's best efforts to protect her from the impact (pun intended). Carter was written off television as a result. Carter's main problem is that she is and always has been a mark for the business, and repeatedly hired people off WWE's cut list, including Bully Ray (formerly Bubba Ray Dudley), Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, and Ken Anderson, relying on such name recognition to pop an extra rating point, having next to no faith in the talent that had been with the company virtually from day one (i.e. James Storm, Christopher Daniels). 

When Jarrett was helping run the show, he insisted on being put over as the NWA champion (TNA was part of the National Wrestling Alliance for the first few years), even though he didn't need to be. His act was stale, and never really changed, even with a couple of babyface runs. Now, he's developing another promotion, as noted above, and one hopes he's learned from his mistakes.

However, updated headlines as the day progressed have thrown cold water on fans' hopes that TNA would have one foot in the grave. It's being reported now that they're still negotiating with Spike TV, and it's rumored that it's for a lower rate, which won't help the promotion's bottom line. TMZ Sports made the initial report on Sunday, but we should've known a gossip site wouldn't have all the facts or details readily available. If TNA were to leave Spike, where would they go? Fox might not take them back. The Fox Sports Net regional networks were TNA's 1st TV home a decade ago, but a floating time slot meant low ratings, and after a brief stint of internet-only programming, they arrived on Spike in October 2005.

Times have changed at Spike, too. Sure, they're playing reruns of Cops into the ground (it's a Viacom channel, what did you expect?), just as they did the same with Star Trek: The Next Generation a decade ago. They don't know how to program effectively anymore. None of the MTV Networks do. The network needs a makeover, and there's a rumor that they would be willing to buy out TNA in order to keep it at the network. They bought the Bellator MMA promotion to keep that going, but would they be willing to take a chance on a ship that's already sinking?

If in fact TNA is gone from Spike come October, Bellator and another MMA promotion, Glory, can fill the void, or they can negotiate with Sinclair to bring Ring of Honor Wrestling to the network. For most discriminating fans, that would be a win for both sides in that case. NBC-Universal is not an option for TNA, not when they're home to the WWE. But what about, irony of ironies, a Time Warner channel, like TNT? Would they try to turn back the clock to 1995 again and restart the "Monday Night Wars"? I don't think so.

No, what I think will happen is that Spike will go ahead and non-renew TNA, and be done with it. They need to change their identity, and so does TNA, and it'd be better for both sides if they part. Period.

Musical Interlude: Here Comes the Rain Again (1983)

England's Eurythmics reached #8 on the Hot 100 with "Here Comes the Rain Again", the 1st single from the album, "Touch", the 2nd of two albums released in 1983. With heavy, heavy rain sweeping across the northeast the last couple of days, I thought this might be appropriate.......


Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Modern Classic: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1994)

The most successful graduate of Universal's ambitious Action Pack movie anthology series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys transitioned into a 1 hour weekly series in January 1995. The series would last six seasons total, though the final season consisted of just six episodes.

Hercules (Kevin Sorbo), the son of a mortal woman and the Greek god Zeus, traveled with a number of companions, most notably Iaolus (Michael Hurst), who was initially killed off at the start of season 5, only to have an evil god take over his body before it was driven out by Hercules. Some episodes had Hercules meeting other heroes of myth, including Jason, in his travels. After a couple of appearances in season 1, Xena, Warrior Princess was spun off into her own equally successful series.

For some reason, some episodes in seasons 4 & 5 took the most extreme of tangents, as the producers took a light-hearted look at themselves, the idea being to either use past clips, or, in one instance, just to give Hercules a little, ah, vacation. Actor Bruce Campbell (Autolycus) directed at least one of these episodes, as well as a few others during the series. Campbell would also appear on Xena, and then landed his first headlining series in the short-lived Jack of All Trades.

In some cities, Hercules would air premiere episodes in primetime, then repeat them a week later in a much earlier time frame, usually between 1 & 3 pm (ET), giving fans additional chances to catch up. In all one episode could air as much as three times in the course of a week, since the series would replay on a Sunday morning after a Saturday evening premiere.

From season 3, here's "Doomsday":






The poster got the title wrong or mixed up.

Two feature film versions of "Hercules" this year haven't exactly been blockbusters, and Kevin Sorbo reportedly was a bit miffed that he wasn't even asked to make an appearance in the current film, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, which I believe finished behind "Lucy" this week.

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys gets a B.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Celebrity Rock: Try To Remember (1979)

Long after Daniel Boone had ended, Ed Ames went back to his first vocation as a singer, and made the usual rounds, and some unusual ones.

One of those "unusual" rounds brought him to PBS' Over Easy for a broadcast that aired on New Year's Eve, 1979. After an interview conducted by host Hugh Downs (20/20, ex-Concentration, The Today Show), Ames performs "Try To Remember", from the Broadway show, "The Fantasticks".




Enough said.

What Might've Been: Then Came Bronson (1969)

Then Came Bronson lasted just 1 season, perhaps because it was a tad ahead of its time, but part of its concept seemed to have been borrowed from elsewhere.

Reporter Jim Bronson (Michael Parks) gives up his job after a friend (Martin Sheen) commits suicide. Bronson had sold a custom motorcycle to his bud, then buys it back from the widow after his pal passes. After that, Bronson goes off on the bike, wandering the country, helping people in need. In a way, this was Route 66 on 2 wheels instead of 4. Parks also recorded the show's closing theme, "Long Lonesome Highway", which was a huge hit, and two albums compiling music from the series were released.

Executive producer Herb Solow was a show-runner for Star Trek, and brought in producer Robert Justman after Trek had ended. The guest stars during the season included some familiar names, including Trek's James Doohan, Elsa Lanchester, Jack Klugman (one year before Odd Couple made him an icon), and Penny Marshall (ditto). MGM was hoping Bronson would be as big a hit for NBC as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had been, but for some reason, perhaps being on the wrong night (Wednesdays), it just didn't work.

Following is a preview clip from NBC's fall preview for '69, which we previously posted, narrated by Hugh Downs.




No rating.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Videos of Summer: A Summer Song (1964)

Here's another summer song that was actually released well after summer had ended.

Chad & Jeremy released "A Summer Song" in the fall of 1964, but would parlay it into appearances on The Patty Duke Show & Batman, the latter of which came more than 2 years after "Summer" climbed the charts. The duo were central to a plot by Catwoman (Julie Newmar), who seemed to have a thing for pop music, considering in another storyline, singer Lesley Gore was her sidekick.

Anyway, from a weekday episode of American Bandstand, Dick Clark introduces "A Summer Song" & Chad & Jeremy:


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Modern Classic (?): Weird Science (1994)

The late John Hughes' 1985 film, "Weird Science" was enough of a cult hit, such that it took nearly a decade for someone to consider converting it into a TV show. Once it hit cable, Weird Science lasted 5 seasons on USA Network, though the final five episodes were farmed out to sister network Sci-Fi (now SyFy) without explanation.

Two teens create what they consider to be the perfect female on computer, but a lightning storm brings her to life, giving them what amounts to a cyber-genie, if ya will. Co-star John Mallory Asher might not have gotten another series gig after Science ended, but there was a fringe benefit----working with his mom, TV vet Joyce Bulifant (ex-The Mary Tyler Moore Show), who played Gary's mother. Series co-star Lee Tergeson later moved on to HBO's Oz, among other things, but one wonders what Vanessa Angel (Lisa) is doing these days?

Oingo Boingo's theme song carries over from the movie, but if the producers were smart, they might've been able to get lead singer Danny Elfman to compose new music for the show, as he was into creating TV themes back then (i.e. Batman: The Animated Series). Each episode brackets the credits with clips from the horror classic, "Bride of Frankenstein", but Lisa is hardly Frankenstein material.

Here's the opener, "She's Alive", courtesy of Hulu:




Too bad the series now sits in NBC-Universal-Comcast's vaults.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Classic TV: This Is Your Life (1952)

It is one of the grandfathers, if you will, of reality television. Sadly, because this generation's version of reality television is so oversaturated, two attempts at a 21st century revival of This Is Your Life have never gotten past the talking stages.

Life, the brainchild of host-producer Ralph Edwards, launched on radio in 1948, and ran for 4 years before shifting to television in 1952 for a 9 year run, ending in 1961. 10 years later, the series was brought back, with Edwards as host, but this version, which I remember seeing, was only on for a year before being cancelled. Subsequently, a 2nd revival, with actor Joseph Campanella (ex-The Bold Ones, Mannix) as host, also failed to catch on. The reason for that was, the shows were taped, as opposed to the original series being live, and promos on stations in the syndicated network spoiled everything.

But not every guest was actually thrilled to have their story told on the air. There's been reports of Lowell Thomas, Stan Laurel, and others being angered by being, well, ambushed or tricked into appearing.

Let's go back to 1956 for a tribute to comedy legend Lou Costello. Like, who knew he was also a basketball star?




And, from 1971, an excerpt from an episode with Shirley Jones (The Partridge Family):




Edwards also helped launch Thames Television's version of the series in England, with Eammon Andrews eventually becoming host after being the first subject on that series. Here is an episode with boxing legend Muhammad Ali:




The dead air, trust me, killed the vibe.

I only saw the 1971 series, but the overall rating is an A.

WWE needs to get out of the pocket universe and embrace reality

Vince McMahon just wants to tell stories his way, and doesn't care what you think. That much is obvious, and has been for years.

Right now, he's applying a creative full court press on other races & cultures, with two, soon to be three, storylines all running concurrently that will get people talking, but not in the way the senile chairman would like.

First, there is an American female playing the role of a Russian named Lana, who is the valet for Bulgarian strongman (Alexander) Rusev. The first name is in parenthesis because the lamebrains in the creative office decided Rusev only needed to be marketed with one name. Like, people will remember him 5 or 10 years from now. In the wake of a Malaysian Airlines jet getting shot down  over the weekend, with the media linking Russian president Vladimir Putin to the people responsible, WWE had to go into damage control after Lana cut a promo prior to Rusev's match on Sunday vs. American Jack Swagger. Critics felt it was in poor taste to let this angle continue. While Rusev has yet to lose a match since being called up from NXT, there are reports that he won't get a rematch vs. Swagger, whom he beat on Sunday.

For that reason, McMahon is pushing ahead with another reboot of his old Nation of Domination gimmick from the late 90's Attitude Era.

For those who came in late, the original Nation, in various increments, included the Rock, Ron "Faarooq" Simmons, Mark Henry, and the late Owen Hart as a token white member, added to the group after his brother, Bret, left for WCW. In 2002-3, Theodore Long started a new African-American heel group that included Henry and the husband & wife team of Rodney Mack & Jazz, with Mack having replaced D-Lo Brown after Brown's dismissal from the company.

The common thread is that the shelf life of these groups was kept short, no more than a year or so. In 2014, such a group would consist of Xavier Woods, Big E., & Kofi Kingston, with some dirt sheet sites reporting that----wait for it----Mark Henry would be added to the group. Talk about being unoriginal. It would work best if these guys would remain on the right side of the law, unlike the previous groups, but that's not how McMahon rolls. It wasn't that long ago that the now-defunct Prime Time Players, Titus O'Neil & Darren Young, were given Abraham Washington as their manager. He ran his mouth too often and said the wrong things one time too many, and Washington (Brian Jossie) was shown the door. Young's now on the DL nursing an injury, and O'Neil, one of a few former college athletes on the roster, might be part of the crowd forming here.

To prove they're equal opportunity offenders, the company has corporate heiress Stephanie McMahon, the public face of the Be A Star anti-bullying campaign, going hypocrite and playing a bully on TV. Her targets have included the Bella Twins, Brie & Nikki , who weren't exactly angels to start with themselves, but have become bigger stars because of 1) Total Divas and 2) their higher profile mates. Brie married Daniel Bryan earlier this year, and Nikki is linked with current champ John Cena.

On Monday Night Raw last night, Brie, who "quit" in storyline last month to be with her injured husband, was at ringside in Miami as Nikki was put in a 4-on-1 handicap match. Why? Because "on her way out", Brie slapped Stephanie. So Stephanie makes a point of coming down to ringside to confront Brie before the match. She collects a receipt with a slap of her own, inciting Brie into attempting to get at her soon-to-be-future opponent (it's going to happen), only to be sent away by security. Later in the show, after hosting a mini-concert by local star Flo Rida, Steph is in turn confronted by "local police" and "arrested" for "battery". Yeah, her dad went off to the pokey in a storyline 15 years ago, but unlike her mentally challenged pops, Stephanie wasn't shown going through the usual booking process.  In 11 years, she's gone from damsel in distress, feuding with pops, to being the WWE's answer to, say, Veronica Lodge (that would make Triple H more like Reggie Mantle than Archie Andrews, but I digress) at her worst.

The Bellas (real last name Garcia) and former figurehead executive Vickie Guerrero, who left last month, are Latina in background, and at least Brie sparked up in anger. Vickie had been a joke that had worn out its welcome long ago, compromising her faith to play her role as a power-mad villain. It's a wonder that there isn't as much of a backlash because of the hypocrisy, since off-camera, Stephanie leads a small group of wrestlers, heroes & villains both, to schools and libraries to tout Be A Star. She has tried to balance things out, explaining that what goes on TV is, after all, a story.

In order for that to work, maybe the disclaimer her father used to recite every week back in the 70's should come back into play, the sooner the better. The WWE cannot continue to exist in its own little pocket universe and think it's okay to do things as presently constituted. It's not. The downplaying of Lana was a first step. Ending the bullying is the next, and biggest one.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Classic TV: The Rockford Files (1974)

James Garner returned to television in 1974 with a crime drama that seemed like a reincarnation of his Western hit, Maverick, if but because the character traits are almost exactly the same.

The Rockford Files cast Garner as ex-con-turned-private-investigator Jim Rockford, who had as many run-ins with the police, largely because of his past more than anything, as with the suspects he was pursuing. If he needed advice, he turned to his father, Rocky (Noah Beery, Jr.), but he was vulnerable to being lured into one scheme after another by fellow ex-con Angel Martin (Stuart Margolin), who just couldn't stay on the straight side. Rockford's police contact was Lt. Dennis Becker (Joe Santos), who was alternately warning Rockford away and asking for help.

While the series ended in 1980, Garner revisited the role in a series of TV-movies during the decade, after a brief return to his earlier role of Bret Maverick. Today, the series airs on Me-TV six days a week (check listings), at least through the summer. Most people might remember Garner more for Rockford than either Maverick or the Polaroid ads he did with Mariette Hartley during the 70's.

In memory of Garner, who passed away today at 86, we present a season 3 episode, "The Becker Connection", in which Becker is being set up for a fall. The episode reunites Garner with Maverick co-star Jack Kelly. Jack Carter also appears.




Rockford also birthed a spin-off in the short-lived Richie Brockelman, Private Eye, which amounted to a summer replacement series one year. Its star, Dennis Dugan, is better known now as a filmmaker, having worked with Adam Sandler on a couple of films.

Rating: B+.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

In Theatres: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

This ain't your father's Planet of the Apes, or your grandfather's, and perhaps it's better that way.

Pierre Boulle is best known for The Bridge on The River Kwai, but because 20th Century Fox has cultivated Planet of the Apes into a very successful cinematic franchise over the last 46 years, it may not be long before that becomes Boulle's seminal work instead. However, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes", and its predecessor, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", are loose adaptations of Boulle's opus. Instead of astronauts landing on an alternate-future Earth ruled by apes, this version is set in the not-too-distant future, where the apes have been genetically altered by modern science.

"Dawn" begins with a montage of flashbacks to key moments in "Rise", leading to the apes developing their own little colony, living in peace and harmony, while the remaining humans are trying to rebuild San Francisco, which was devastated in the last film. Hmm. If memory serves, one of the films in the first "Apes" series was set in Los Angeles. I guess it's true that it never rains in Southern California, and they wanted rain for this film. I digress.

Peace between apes & humans is uneasy at best. Dreyfus (Gary Oldman, looking like he moved off the set of "Dark Knight Rises" right into this film) doesn't trust the apes, and, at first, the feeling is mutual. However, Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his nurse-wife, Ellie (Keri Russell, ex-Felicity) believe they can work with Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his tribe in order to gain access to a power grid in order to restore lighting to the city. It isn't easy on the apes' side, either, as Caesar has to deal with a duplicitous aide, Koba, who threatens not only war with the humans, even going so far as to capture and cage several of them, a call back to the original "Apes" movie, but with Caesar as well, even leaving him for dead after shooting him with a rifle he'd stolen. However, that leads to a climatic battle for ape supremacy, and the door is opened for the next film, due in 2016. Ironically, the last film was set in 2016, and this one starts in 2026, so maybe the next one is set in 2036?

Here's the trailer:




And a few other trailers:

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay" is teased with a pirate broadcast cutting into a transmission by President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

"Unbroken" (December) is the latest directorial effort from Angelina Jolie, about an athlete's will to survive and compete against adversity.

"The Judge" (October 10): Robert Downey, Jr. is a lawyer who has his toughest case yet---defending his father (Robert Duvall) on a murder charge. With Billy Bob Thornton.

"The Equalizer" (September): Denzel Washington in a loose adaptation of the 80's TV hit.

"A Most Wanted Man" (date TBA): Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last roles, stars in an adaptation of a John LeCarre thriller.

"The Fluffy Movie" (July 25): Stand-up comic Gabriel Iglesias doesn't see himself as fat, or a Latino Louie Anderson, but, well, "fluffy". That's his gimmick. Problem is, he's up against "Hercules". Thanks for coming, Gabriel.

"Sin City: A Dame to Kill For": Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez adapt another of Miller's graphic novels, with Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and a few close friends.

"The Maze Runner" (TBA): One of these teen coming-of-age-over-adversity stories.

Rating: B+.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Musical Interlude: Tacky (2014)

You know you've made it as an artist if your hit song has been skewered by the redoubtable "Weird" Al Yankovic.

Earlier this week, Yankovic released his latest, "Mandatory Fun", issuing 8 videos all at once. It's likely all of them can be found on Al's VEVO channel, which is where we found his send-up of Pharrell Williams' "Happy".

"Tacky" is Al at his goofiest. Aided by Aisha Tyler (The Talk, Whose Line is it Anyway?), Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), Jack Black, Kristen Schaal, & Margaret Cho, Al rhapsodizes on loud fashions and other things that are, well, "Tacky":



Where were the Hawaiian shirts when you really needed them?

Classic TV: Get Smart (1965)

Inspector Gadget would never have sprang into being without the existence of Maxwell Smart.

Get Smart, a brilliant satire of the spy genre, lasted 5 seasons (1965-70), the first 4 on NBC, which foolishly dumped it, along with another iconic series, Star Trek, after the 1968-9 season, only for CBS to pick it up for the fifth & final season. Maxwell Smart, aka CONTROL Agent 86, was a blend of Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau ("The Pink Panther") and James Bond. Don Adams played Smart as a confident, but often oblivious, agent who seemed to be a little slow on the uptake until the clues came together, a formula he'd replicate for Inspector Gadget 13 years after Smart ended its first run.

While Bond had Miss Moneypenny pining for him, Smart had a strikingly gorgeous partner in Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon), who made sure Smart stayed on the trail of the bad guys, and ultimately captured his heart as well, as the two agents were married in season 4. The Chief (Edward Platt) could probably empathize with Clouseau's boss, since Smart could be irritating with his mental lapses. Fortunately, he didn't go insane.

On the other side was KAOS, whose leader, Mr. Big (Michael Dunn, The Wild, Wild West) was seemingly killed off early on. Once Dunn was cast as Dr. Loveless on West, he wasn't brought back to bedevil Smart a 2nd time. From that point, KAOS' point man was Conrad Siegfried (Bernie Kopell), who was about as over the top as you could get. Despite being mortal foes, Siegfried and Smart had a mutual respect, which became part of a plotline later in the series. Because Siegfried only appeared a few times a year, Kopell had time to work on other series, such as That Girl and The Doris Day Show.

NBC must've felt the well had run dry after the 4th season, since Smart & 99 had wed. However, the producers had other ideas, and the Smarts welcomed twins in season 5.

Here's the intro everyone remembers:





Two years after Smart ended, Adams returned to NBC with The Partners, and brought along his cousin, Robert Karvelas (Larrabee on Smart), as a serial confessor. Unfortunately, Partners lasted 1 season. Following a 1980 feature film, "The Return of Maxwell Smart", aka "The Nude Bomb", it would be 15 years before Smart would be in another series. Fox picked up the baton and took a chance on Get Smart, Again, which saw at least one of Max & 99's kids join the family business. Ed Platt had passed on in the interim, and would be the only regular from the original series missing from the remake. We'll look at that another time.

Rating: A.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Captain America's being replaced----again----and other nonsense from Marvel

On Tuesday, I hinted there'd been something out there regarding a change in Captain America. I had based that on reading an online interview with actor Anthony Mackie, who'd played Sam "Falcon" Wilson in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" back in April that speculated that maybe, just maybe, Wilson would eventually swap out his avian costume for the red, whie, & blue of the Captain.

Well, insofar as Marvel is concerned, that was the other shoe dropping Wednesday night on Comedy Central's Colbert Report. Joe Quesada, 1/2 of the two-headed monster ruining Marvel's animated product, has been a frequent guest of admitted comics geek Stephen Colbert, and dropped by to announce that, yes, Wilson will be the new Cap come the fall.

Like Thor, Cap's been replaced before in the past, more recently when his former partner, James "Bucky" Barnes, now the Winter Soldier, donned the costume for a time. Now it's Wilson's turn, and it's long overdue.

Sam Wilson was introduced in the comics in 1969, and quickly gained co-star status in Cap's book, although that lasted just a few years before Cap went solo again under co-creator Jack Kirby's watch. While Quesada said that this was strictly in the comics for right now, an online article today in Yahoo! wonders if the fans might have something to say about that, since Chris Evans, who will play Cap for the 4th time in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" next spring, has said he'd retire from acting once his contract is up.

In sharp contrast to the decision to create a female version of Thor, the elevation of Sam Wilson into the role of Captain America feels more like a passing of the torch. As noted, he's been around for 45 years. Steve Rogers sees himself in the costume as being a symbol of freedom. While Marvel can use cultural diversity as an excuse for this latest change, which would be the 5th or 6th time someone other than Rogers has worn the costume since the 50's.

It's not the first time that this has happened to an established superhero.

In the late 80's, DC experimented with Green Lantern by spotlighting the African-American member of the Green Lantern Corps, John Stewart, after Hal Jordan had lost his ring, if memory serves. The funny part was that Stewart's adventures were being drawn by a British artist, Dave Gibbons, and while it was a fun and interesting read, it didn't last long. Stewart, of course, was chosen to represent as GL on the animated Justice League series a decade ago, a move made in the name of cultural diversity, and it made sense. Now, Marvel is rolling the dice with Sam Wilson. If it doesn't work, would he go back to being the Falcon? That remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, director Josh Trank has dug himself a deeper hole with fans of the Fantastic Four.

In an interview with Esquire Mexico, reported online by Yahoo!, actress and NY Giants heiress Kate Mara made these comments:(boldface italics mine):

“I don’t feel more responsibility with this role that I’ve felt with others. I understand that there are many fans of Fantastic Four and I guess they expect a lot from me, but I prefer not to be pressured by that. We are also trying to create a new way of seeing these superheroes, I’m focusing on making her (Susan Storm) as real as possible.”

“I’ve never been a fan of comics, I’ve never actually read one. I was going to for this movie but the director said it wasn’t necessary. Well, actually he told us that we shouldn’t do it because the plot won’t be based on any history of anything already published. So I chose to follow his instructions. The one fact is I am a fan of comic book movies, so it’s very exciting to be part of a movie like this.”

Translated, effendis, based on Ms. Mara's statements, Trank is ignoring comics history in order to enforce his vision, skewed as that is, on the fan base. There's a reason why it's been so difficult over the last 20 years to make a reasonably good FF movie, and Trank, this week's Weasel of the Week winner, isn't helping the cause. In addition to the obligatory Weasel ears, we'll send Trank a copy of the works of George Santayana, and we'll see if he even has clue one what that means.

We'll close on a positive note, with a tip of the cap to Woody Paige of ESPN's Around The Horn. In effect, Woody exposed himself as a closet fan when he used his "Face Time" after winning Wednesday's game to talk up the current issue of Life With Archie, which we had reported on back in April. You know the one, where Archie Andrews, at least in this reality, buys it, taking a bullet meant for Kevin Keller. What Paige neglected to mention was the fact that this is an alternate reality, and that the regular Archie line will continue unabated, save for Betty & Veronica leaving Riverdale next month. We didn't know you were a reader, Woody. Cheers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Celebrity Rock: Up, Up, & Away (1968?)

From Petticoat Junction comes an unlikely cover tune. Meredith McRae, Lori Saunders, & Linda Kaye Henning perform an acoustic version of "Up, Up, & Away", which Jimmy Webb wrote in 1967, and became  a hit that same year for the Fifth Dimension. Mike Minor (Steve) provides the captive audience.




I think the song was edited for time.

What Might've Been: Dead at 21 (1994)

MTV first delved into scripted, non-reality-TV drama in 1994 with the short-lived Dead at 21, which didn't even survive the summer.

The plot basically welded together concepts from some popular shows of the 60's, such as The Fugitive and Run For Your Life, in that the protagonist, Ed Bellamy (Jack Noseworthy) has a year to live after discovering that he has a chip implanted into his head when he was just a baby, and unless he can find a way to get the chip out of his head, or if the people responsible for the chip find him first, he'll be dead on his 21st birthday, hence the title. To make matters worse, Ed has been framed for a murder he didn't commit.

Lisa Dean Ryan (ex-Doogie Howser, MD, Class of '96) co-starred as Ed's girlfriend, with Whip Hubley as the agent in pursuit of Ed.

Here's the open:




Noseworthy hasn't been heard from since the series ended. MTV seems to have learned from this misfire, as they successfully rebooted Teen Wolf into a gothic youth drama, contrary to the campy horror-comedy it was nearly 30 years ago.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Advertising for Dummies: How Dew you make a lame commercial? (2014)

NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr. added Diet Mountain Dew to his commercial endorsements a while back, and he isn't the focal point of his 2nd ad for the soft drink.

Unlike his 1st ad, where he swapped his race car for a can of Diet Dew, Dale is summoned with an equivalent to a duck call.




He's better off selling Wranglers with Drew Brees and Brett Favre.

Has Marvel lost its collective mind (again)? Thor to be female in a new series

Will Marvel never get it?

First, there was a report that Steve Rogers would be replaced as Captain America. Now comes word that a 2nd Avenger is getting a unnecessary makeover, even if it's just short-term.

Thor has been replaced before, most notably by Beta Ray Bill during Walter Simonson's run on the series in the 80's. Marvel even postulated an alternate reality where Thor's mortal sweetheart, Jane Foster, would adopt the guise of the Thunder God(dess) in What If? (1st series). However, with the annual Comic Con in San Diego a few days away, Marvel's really pushing the envelope this time, but you and I both know this will not stick. After all, Cap came back from the dead. Peter Parker was restored as Spider-Man not too long ago. This is just another grab for mainstream attention.

As it happened, news broke on national television on ABC's The View just a short time ago. Moderator Whoopi Goldberg made the announcement, and even joked it would be her being used in the role. All we know is that Thor is being relaunched at #1---again---this fall, probably alongside the umpteenth Captain America #1 in the last 20 years. Jason Arron, who is the writer for the current Thor monthly, stressed that the name is nothing more than a title to be bestowed by Odin.

I'm sorry, but I'm not buying. Considering that the next Avengers movie comes out in 10 months, that tells you right away the lifespan of this book.

Now, Marvel can say they are doing this for the sake of gender equity, but to paraphrase the late Jim Croce, you don't tug on Superman's cape, spit in the wind, pull the mask off the Lone Ranger, or mess with Thor. Under publisher Dan Buckley's watch, Marvel has repeatedly messed with tradition for the sake of a quick buck and a spot on the nightly news. To that, I say, enough already.

Musical Interlude: Friends & Family (2001)

Trik Turner only came up with one big hit single, but it has a riveting message.

"Friends & Family" got a ton of airplay on MTV & VH1, back when those channels actually played videos, as well as other outlets, in 2001. The band released two separate videos conveying the same theme.

The video opens with a prostitute getting busted, and it turns out she just had twins and is trying to make ends meet for them. The children are put up for adoption, and are separated but eventually are reunited.

One version posits the twins as boys, the other has twin girls. The boys' version was the one I saw more often back in the day, and it's the one we'll use here, courtesy of VEVO:


Monday, July 14, 2014

What Might've Been: Police Surgeon (aka Dr. Simon Locke)(1971)

There was a time when we were getting shows not just from England, but also Canada. That was good news. The bad news was that some shows had all the production value of a cancelled postage stamp.

Police Surgeon was one of those shows. The series lasted three years in Canada (1971-4), slightly less, if memory serves, here in the US. Funded by the folks at Colgate-Palmolive, which sponsored the NBC soap, The Doctors, Surgeon starred Sam Groom (Another World) as Dr. Simon Locke. During the first season, Jack Albertson ("Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory") played Locke's boss,  but quit after the first season because the Canadian producers were el scrimpo when it came to accomodations.

For the final two seasons, Larry D. Mann replaced Albertson. Not much difference, really.

Here's a sample clip:




Somewhere along the way, the show's title was changed to Dr. Simon Locke, after Groom's character, but that didn't help matters, either. My memory is hazy, but it did air on, I believe, Monday nights in my area, on the same channel that was the NBC affiliate at the time.

No rating.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

What Might've Been: DC Follies (1987)

After conquering Saturday mornings, and making a few primetime inroads, in the 70's, Sid & Marty Krofft made a modest comeback----with puppets and politics.

It is said that DC Follies, which had a run of 33 episodes stretched across two seasons (1987-9), was inspired by England's Splitting Image puppet troupe, which gained global acclaim by appearing in Genesis' video for "Land of Confusion". However, the puppets couldn't be trusted to run the show by themselves, unlike the popular Muppet Show. Instead, the Kroffts needed a human star to help move the show along. Fred Willard (ex-Fernwood 2Night) got the call, playing a bartender at a Washington, DC club where most of the action takes place.

Stations across the country had different ideas about how to schedule Follies. In my home market, for example, it aired in late night on Fridays. It aired earlier in the evening in other places. I can imagine, though, that there were the inevitable comparisions to the Muppets and their squeaky clean brand of comedy. Translated, the Kroffts were fighting a losing battle from the go, and ever since Follies was cancelled 35 years ago, it hasn't seen the light of day much.

Here's a sample clip:

 

No rating. Never saw the show.

Musical Interlude: Emotion (1977-8)

Australian singer Samantha Sang had only one big hit in the US, and it was a huge one. Then again, it was written by two of the Bee Gees, who were absolutely HOT in the late 70's.

"Emotion", co-written by Barry & Robin Gibb, with Barry on backing vocals, peaked at #3 in the winter of 1978. 23 years later, Destiny's Child covered "Emotion", but only got as far as #10 on the Hot 100. Maybe the fact that the original was still getting decent airplay on oldies channels had something to do with that, I suppose.

The multiple images of Sang in the video is an old gimmick used by movie legend Buster Keaton, then co-opted in the 80's by Paul McCartney (at least twice) and Phil Collins, among others.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Celebrity Rock: The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (1972)

Songwriter Bobby Russell had tried to pitch "The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia" to Liza Minelli, then Cher, but was turned down both times. Cher's then-husband, Sonny Bono, felt the tawdry tale of infidelity and murder in the South might offend the duo's fan base in that part of the country. No one's really sure why Liza turned it down, but then, perhaps, it was for the best, because Russell didn't have to look far to find the right artist for the job.

Russell was, at the time, married to comedienne-actress Vicki Lawrence (The Carol Burnett Show), who went in the studio herself to record "Night", and came out of it with a #1 hit. "Night" topped the Hot 100 and peaked at #6 on the Easy Listening (now Adult Contemporary) chart, and hit #1 in Canada as well.

I actually had a copy of the LP once upon a time, acquired at a flea market several years ago, and it also included covers of "Little Green Apples" & "Killing Me Softly (With His Song)". Small wonder that it went gold, and likely also platinum.

Anyway, Vicki appeared on Dick Clark's short-lived ABC series, Action, a follow-up to the late 60's series, Where the Action Is, to perform "Night" against a backdrop of teenagers playing and grooving on the beach.




"Night" inspired a 1981 film by the same name, but it's a different story than the one we're familiar with. Tanya Tucker sang the title song, which had new lyrics to go along with the movie's plot.

A decade later, Reba McIntire recorded a cover of the original "Night", and expanded on the original tale. The song plays in the background as Reba plays the narrator, now older, confessing to a newspaper reporter.




When Lawrence was hosting her self-titled daytime talk show, Reba was a guest, and the two performed a duet version. Some of the lyrics were messed up, but it's still fun.



One wonders if any of today's country belles (i.e. Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood) would take a crack at this.

On DVD: Mystery Theatre (1951)

Tom Conway was known to film audiences from his role as The Falcon in a series of films based on the radio series. In 1951, Conway made the transition to television to play another detective, Mark Saber, of the Homicide Squad on Mystery Theatre, which ran for a few years on ABC.

With all the crime dramas on the air at the time, Mystery Theatre, by its very title, implied it was an anthology series, until it trumpeted its lone feature. However, Saber was no Falcon. Not that I'd know, since I'd never seen any of the Falcon movies. Saber was just another generic, cookie-cutter gumshoe of the period. After about 2-3 years, ABC gave up and cancelled the show.

However, Saber wasn't going away quietly. A South African actor, Donald Gray, took over the role for a new series, The Vise, later retitled Saber of London, in 1955, and that ran for 5 seasons overseas. Seems the British took to Saber better than we did here.

Anyway, courtesy of Internet Archive, here's "The Case of the Hair of the Dog":




This plays like it wants to be Gang Busters, for example, but doesn't come close.

Rating: C.

Friday, July 11, 2014

What Might've Been: The Pat Sajak Show (1989)

During Johnny Carson's run as host of The Tonight Show, ABC, CBS, and the then-fledgling Fox network took turns trying to mount their own late-night yak-fest. ABC had Dick Cavett for a few years, and also had Joey Bishop (with future icon Regis Philbin as Bishop's sidekick). Fox, of course, famously bombed with The Late Show after Joan Rivers departed. Ultimately, Arsenio Hall was spun into his first syndicated series after taking over the Fox show near the end of its run.

CBS, if memory serves, tried out Merv Griffin, but otherwise went with reruns of primetime shows, either their own or 3rd party acquisitions (i.e. The Saint) or movies. In 1989, they rolled the dice, or, to be more accurate, spun the wheel on a certain game show host.

Pat Sajak had left the daytime Wheel of Fortune, which had moved to CBS from NBC, to give it a go as a talk show host. A former radio DJ before succeeding Chuck Woolery on Wheel, Sajak did have some experience conducting interviews, so that worked in his favor. The ratings? Not so much. 

The Pat Sajak Show lasted a shade more than a year before getting the boot, and of course you know CBS solved their late night problem three years later by prying David Letterman away from NBC.

In this clip, Pat is reunited with Vanna White, who visits to plug her NBC TV-movie, "Goddess of Love". Things get a little awkward rather quickly. Vanna was married at the time, but that didn't matter to the little boys who tried staying up...........




Today, Pat is back on Wheel, which ended its network run many moons ago, and is thriving in syndication. And the flirting continues........!

Rating: C.

Weasels of the Week: Brawley Union High School admininstrators

If Brooks Hanby was a high school student in the South, there wouldn't be any controversy.

However, the Stanford-bound Hanby ran afoul of some small-brained administrators in his California district, which claims they have the right to censor any references to God, prior to his high school graduation last month. Hanby, the salutorian of his class, had to edit his speech 4 times before he finally stepped up to the mic to address his fellow graduates.

Let us just emphasize the point being made. In California, where Scientology runs rampant, you can't invoke the Almighty in a commencement speech.

SAY WHAT?

As William Shakespeare wrote, "what fools these mortals be"!

The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:13, wrote, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me". (King James Version)

Let's assume Hanby had the latter scripture in mind when he was composing his speech. Couple it with the first amendment right of freedom of speech, and the school district is fighting an uphill battle to prove their lame point. Don't any of these people say grace at the dinner table, as Hanby's family does?

While you contemplate that, let's see how Fox News spins it, courtesy of YouTube:




Thus, the administrators at Brawley Union High deserve a truckful of Weasel ears, plus a few Bible tracts, for their short-sighted attempt at censorship. I'll bet you anything at all they wouldn't say anything if someone acknowledged they were practicing scientology now, would they?

Videos of Summer: Summertime Blues (1958)

Eddie Cochran released only one album before his untimely, tragic passing at 21, but he left a lasting legacy with his most successful hit.

"Summertime Blues" has been covered by artists as diverse as Blue Cheer, The Who, Alan Jackson, and Cheech Marin (who used it in 2 of his movies), but it is Cochran's original version that will likely get a lion's share of airplay this time of year.

The following clip was from Town Hall Party, one of the various dance shows inspired by American Bandstand back in the day.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Classic Reborn: The Untouchables (1993)

After Brian DePalma had successfully resurrected The Untouchables on the big screen with Kevin Costner, Robert DeNiro, & Sean Connery, some wondered if there would be more to the story in the modern era. Five and a half years later, fans got their answer.

The Untouchables was revived in syndication, launching in January 1993, but the closest thing to star power they had was in John Rhys-Davies ("Raiders of the Lost Ark") and William Forsythe ("Dick Tracy"), the latter of whom was cast as Al Capone, picking up for DeNiro. Tom Amandes top-lined as Eliot Ness, filling the gumshoes worn previously by Costner and Robert Stack. Unfortunately, nearly 18 months later, the series was cancelled.

So what went wrong? Too much time had elapsed since the movie hit theatres, and had long since been released on video. Capone was not a regular in the original series, appearing in a 2-part pilot and played by Neville Brand. Christopher Crowe felt it was necessary to include Capone this time around to create more conflict between Capone & Ness, which took away from the direction of the earlier series. Obviously, there wasn't a need for a voice-over narrator a la Walter Winchell, but viewers voted with their remotes.

Co-star David James Elliott would resurface on JAG not long after The Untouchables ended. The series served as a bounce-back vehicle for John Haymes Newton (ex-Superboy), but he wasn't heard from again after cancellation. Actress Hynden Walch is better known to cartoon fans these days (i.e. Teen Titans GO!).

Here's the open:




Rating: B.

Musical Interlude: Pretty Pink Rose (1990)

There was a brief period at the end of the 80's when Adrian Belew took a break from King Crimson and cut a solo record.  And, then, there was "Pretty Pink Rose".

It's one of those rare occasions where the incomparable David Bowie straps on a guitar on camera for one of his videos, and here, he trades licks and vocals with Belew.




Enough said.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Classic TV: Combat! (1962)

The same year that ABC had introduced the sitcom, McHale's Navy, they also debuted a 2nd series set in World War II.

Combat! outlasted McHale by 1 year, as it ran for 5 seasons (1962-7), and continues to air around the world today, including late night & weekend airings on Me-TV.

I wish I could rightfully say I remember seeing this series, but I don't, even as a toddler. Therefore, there won't be a rating. Unlike McHale, Combat! was produced virtually in-house by network executive Selig J. Seligman's production company.

Here's the open:


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Classic Reborn (again): The Bradys (1990)

By the end of the 80's, the Brady Bunch franchise had moved to CBS with the 1988 TV-movie, "A Very Brady Christmas", which saw Greg (Barry Williams) follow sisters Jan & Marcia into marriage. More than a year later, the clan reunited one more time, but CBS made the same mistake NBC had made 9 years earlier, thinking that installing The Bradys in its familiar Friday berth would bring the fans back. Um, no.

The series ran for 5 weeks (the opener was a 2-hour movie), and continued the story. Cindy (Susan Olsen) was now working in radio, and Bobby (Mike Lookinland) was a race car driver. The opener has Bobby in a big race, with Cindy on-site to report on the action. However, a horrific crash ends Bobby's racing career, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

This not only brings the family together, but there's an unexpected bonus, in the form of Tracy Wagner, Bobby's college sweetheart, who is looking to reconcile. At first, Bobby turns her away with a curt, "It was good, it was fun, but it's over". However, Tracy won't take no for an answer, and eventually, when the two do get together one afternoon, Bobby finds it within himself to pop the question.

The rest of the series addresses a variety of issues, including Mike (Robert Reed) in a bid for political office, Bobby's attempts to walk again, and the girls starting a catering business. Unfortunately, with the original series still in reruns, viewers preferred the classic series and the memories, apparently feeling enough stories had been told.

While Eve Plumb had by-passed the 1977 Brady Bunch Variety Hour, Maureen McCormick opted not to return for this show, but her replacement, Leah Ayres, hasn't been heard from much since the series ended. And let us not forget that the Schwartz family made the genius move of going for the MTV generation by casting original VJ Martha Quinn, on her 2nd tour of duty with the channel at the time, as Tracy. That should've brought a few more eyeballs, even with Martha plugging the show on MTV, but it didn't work. Quinn would later use her experience as a plot point on another MTV show, Just Say Julie, and before leaving MTV a 2nd time in 1992, had a short stint on Full House, her last significant acting gig of note on the small screen.

Here's the open, in triplicate. 3 different themes were used over 5 weeks. Two were instrumentals, the last with Florence Henderson on vocals:



The 1 hour format, obviously, was the right call, with 4 of the kids now married, but CBS would've been well served to run it on another night.

Rating: B+.

Musical Interlude: Happy (2013)

Pharrell Williams' "Happy" seems to have been all over the place in the last year.

First, it was released on the soundtrack to "Despicable Me 2", which explains three guys in Minion costumes and star Steve Carell appearing in the video, along with Jimmy Kimmel, Jamie Foxx, and Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Williams has since released a CD, "G.I.R.L.", and "Happy" can be heard in the background in one of his pal Sean "Diddy" Combs' ads for Fiat.

I only saw part of the video for the first time last night at a Valleycats game, only the clever video department of the team edited in some footage of 'Cats staff grooving and, in some cases, lip-synching to the beat.

Here's the official version:




If that doesn't brighten your day, I don't know what will.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Classic TV: Treasury Men In Action, aka Federal Men (1950)

Some 20-odd years before Jack Webb produced O'Hara: US Treasury for CBS and Universal, the studio's then-parent company, MCA, had worked with the Treasury department for a half-hour crime drama that lasted 5 seasons, but otherwise has been forgotten and lapsed into the public domain.

Treasury Men in Action, also known as Federal Men, aired on ABC back in the halcyon days of television, and, as with Webb's family of dramas, fictionalized real-life cases. The series featured early appearances by future stars such as Ross Martin and Claude Akins, the latter of whom was doing a lot of Westerns in the 50's.

It comes across as just another crime drama of the period when they were being cranked out as if on an assembly line. Come to think of it, various genre shows, be they Westerns or crime dramas or comedies, mostly had a sameness to them, making them difficult to stand out from the crowd.

See if you agree with the episode, "The Case of the Ready Guns":




I think, given the Federal Men title used here, this is a syndicated print.

Rating: B.

Sounds of Praise: You Raise Me Up (2003-4)

"You Raise Me Up" was originally recorded by Secret Garden a few years ago, but has been covered by artists as diverse as Daniel O'Connell, Westlife, and Josh Groban, who took it to #1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart 10 years ago. Unfortunately, it didn't crack the Top 40 on the pop chart, peaking at #73.

"Raise" has been used as a modern-day hymnal at churches. Where I attend church, the entire song does not get played, just the first verse and the chorus, probably for time reasons. I first discovered the song on the radio well after it'd peaked on the charts, right around the time Groban recorded "Believe" for the movie, "The Polar Express".

Here's "You Raise Me Up", courtesy of Warner Bros. Records' YouTube channel.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

What Might've Been: The Interns (1970)

Ever wonder why Mike Farrell felt right at home when he was cast as BJ Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H? It might be because he'd already done a medical show.

While Farrell had his biggest success on M*A*S*H, his first series gig was a 1-year wonder, also for CBS. The Interns had first been a book, then a feature film---two of them, actually----before William Blinn adapted it for Screen Gems & CBS. The Interns, however, landed on the wrong night, or, at least at the wrong hour of the night. Airing on Fridays, it was doomed opposite The Brady Bunch (2nd year on ABC) and High Chapparal (4th season on NBC). Enough said. In truth, it should've aired closer to 9 (ET), but CBS had a directive to run hour-long dramas at 7:30 (ET), which was the start of primetime in those days, the better to hook the younger viewers, in this case teenagers. There were few exceptions (i.e. Beverly Hillbillies) to the rule.

Interns was a comeback vehicle for screen legend Broderick Crawford (ex-Highway Patrol), who played Dr. Peter Goldstone, mentor to 5 young doctors. Character actor Christopher Stone was another of the new faces in the cast, and, if you go by the open, it seems his character might've been inspired by James Brolin's motorcycle riding Dr. Steven Kiley on Marcus Welby, MD.

Dwighttfrye uploaded a sample episode, "The Oath".  The Screen Gems logo was edited off, but scope out the funky theme music.




I barely remember seeing this show, so we'll pass on a rating.

Sports this 'n' that

Major League Baseball will announce their All-Star teams in a few days. Since the voting is slanted toward name recognition and reputation, and not how some players are faring this season, we're likely to see the usual suspects in the usual places.

Though I haven't seen every team on TV this season, I can offer a non-scientific, unbiased projection. To wit:

American League:

1st base: Miguel Cabrera (Detroit).

Likely backups: Joe Mauer (Minnesota), Edwin Encarnacion (Toronto)

2nd base: Dustin Pedroia (Boston).

Likely backups: Robinson Cano (Seattle), Omar Infante (Kansas City).

Shortstop: Derek Jeter (Yankees) will make one final start.

Likely backups: Jose Reyes (Toronto), Elvis Andrus (Texas).

3rd base: Manny Machado (Baltimore).

Likely backups: Lonnie Chisenhall (Cleveland), Adrian Beltre (Texas).

DH: David Ortiz (Boston), Chris Carter (Houston).

Outfield: Adam Jones (Baltimore), Carlos Beltran (Yankees), Jose Bautista (Toronto), Alex Gordon (Kansas City), Josh Hamilton (Los Angeles), Nelson Cruz (Baltimore).

Catcher: Matt Wieters (Baltimore).

Likely backups: Brian McCann (Yankees), Alex Avila (Detroit).

Pitchers: Masahiro Tanaka (Yankees), Chris Sale (Chicago), Mark Buehrle (Toronto), Phil Hughes (Minnesota), Koji Uehara (Boston), Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, & Joe Nathan (Detroit).

You can tell I haven't watched much AL ball this season.

National League:

1st base: Freddie Freeman (Atlanta)

Likely backups: Ryan Howard (Philadelphia), Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona), Lucas Duda (Mets)(longshot)

2nd base: Dee Gordon (Los Angeles)

Likely backups: Daniel Murphy (Mets), Chase Utley (Philadelphia).

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado).

Likely backups: Hanley Ramirez (Los Angeles), Andrelton Simmons (Atlanta).


3rd base: Nolan Aronado (Colorado).

Likely backups: David Wright (Mets), Pedro Alvarez (Pittsburgh).

Catcher: Yadier Molina (St. Louis).

Likely backups: Russell Martin (Pittsburgh), Buster Posey (San Francisco).

Outfield: Jason Heyward (Atlanta), Andrew McCutcheon (Pittsburgh), Curtis Granderson (Mets), Carlos Gomez (Milwaukee), Jay Bruce (Cincinnati), Giancarlo Stanton (Miami).

Pitchers: Alfredo Simon (Cincinnati), Tim Lincecum (San Francisco), Bartolo Colon (Mets), Adam Wainwright & Trevor Rosenthal (St. Louis), Stephen Strasburg & Rafael Soriano (Washington), Eric Stults (San Diego), Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta).

Of course, I could be wrong (and will be).
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I've said my piece about this in a couple other places, but now I can get around to it here. Jason Kidd decided to be a diva and over-reached for more leverage and power in Brooklyn with the Nets, got turned down, then got shipped off to Milwaukee for two future draft picks. Now, he's the Bucks' headache. He never matured off the court as a player, and that hasn't changed. His lame power play earned him a set of Weasel ears.

And you thought his career had reached what some would think was a low point 11 years ago when he took part in a Cartoon Network special and channeled his inner toon geek by palling around with a certain Wonder Twin............!
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The NFL is often derisively referred to as the "No Fun League". One more reason came to light with the league's lame decision to ban facemasks that have a few extra bars on them. Former Giants Chris Canty (now with Baltimore) & Justin Tuck (Oakland) wear them for safety reasons, and have been given medical exemptions in the past. NJ.com reports that they will likely get the exemptions again this season, but Canty says that if he isn't allowed to wear his special mask, he's done.

It's rulings like this that make me think the NFL doesn't do enough research before making judgment calls like this. They claim that these particular masks have a damaging effect on the neck. Tuck's argument is the exact opposite. He's claiming his mask protects his neck. Canty uses it, and says he invented it, to protect himself from accidental eye gouging. The NFL relies on a few faceless nerds to come up with silly ideas like these. The funny part is that the directive came from former player turned league executive Troy Vincent, who played for New England, Philadelphia, & Miami during his career, and as a defensive back, didn't need this particular mask.
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Ever notice how quickly the hype over the World Cup stopped after the US was eliminated earlier this week? The media is making last week's Dunce Cap winner, Ann Coulter, look like she knows what she's talking about, but in truth, they're reinforcing the stereotype that soccer is not, and seemingly never will be a premier sport here. I beg to differ.

Classic TV: FYI (1980)

ABC, after having filled commercial space during their Saturday morning lineup with the likes of Schoolhouse Rock, decided to try something similar with their weekday afternoon soap opera block.

FYI aired three times a day, five days a week, from 1980-3, with Hal Linden (Barney Miller) as host-narrator. This was Linden's 3rd and final series for ABC, the other being the Sunday morning series, Animals, Animals, Animals. Each piece takes a minute or less, and while it was geared for adults, it proved educational and vital for teenagers, too, after they came home from high school or college.

In this bit from 1983, Hal talks about babies wearing contact lenses. Yeah, it's actually happened.......




Unfortunately, ABC stupidly ended FYI way too soon. With closing credits now compressed because the network sells more ad time, there's not enough room for reviving these short bits.

Rating: A+.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Musical Interlude: America (1986)

The band formerly known as Jefferson Airplane, and later, Jefferson Starship, splintered into two component bands, if you will, in the mid-80's. Grace Slick & Mickey Thomas fronted Starship, while Jack Casady, Paul Kantner, & Marty Balin formed the KBC Band, which released one singular, self-titled CD in 1986.

"America" garnered a ton of airplay on MTV back in those halcyon days, and on this, the 238th birthday of our great country, we celebrate with "America". Uploaded by Tim Gorman, the keyboard player for the KBC Band.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Classic TV: Hawaii Five-O (1968)

Ah, Hawaii. The most glamorous of tourist destinations does have its dark side, which has been explored since 1968, starting with the iconic Hawaii Five-O.

For 12 seasons, viewers tuned to see if Detective-Lieutenant Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord, ex-Stoney Burke) would solve the case. McGarrett's most persistent nemesis was a rogue intelligence agent named Wo Fat (Khigh Dheigh), who proved to be as much as frustrating foe for McGarrett as, say, Prof. Moriarty was to Sherlock Holmes. Fat, however, was finally collared in the series finale in 1980.

Rather than put up an episode that could conceivably be booted off YouTube, I happened to find the following, an excerpt from a CBS preview promo for their 1968 fall schedule, so you'll see a quick snippet of Blondie before Five-O begins.




While Morton Stevens composed the iconic theme music, most people will recall the Ventures' cover, which hit #4 on the charts in 1968.........



Five-O also attracted an eclectic lineup of guest-stars, some being unlikely to be cast as villains, such as Gavin McLeod (ex-McHale's Navy, two years away from The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and impressionist Rich Little, in a dramatic turn, as a psychotic. I really wish that particular episode was available, to be honest with you.

After a pilot made in the late 90's didn't quite catch on, Hawaii Five-0 (note the subtle change in the title) returned in 2010, and just completed its 4th season, with second generation star Scott Caan as Danny Williams (originally played by James MacArthur) opposite Alex O'Loughlin as McGarrett. I really have to catch up with the current version. Thankfully, this season's episodes, or at least some of them, are available On Demand.

Rating: A-.

Old Time Radio: Archie Andrews (1943)

Everyone knows that Superman conquered radio as well as the movie screen in the 40's. However, the Man of Steel wasn't the only one to spring from the comics to radio.

Riverdale's favorite son---maybe---- Archie Andrews debuted on the air in 1943, but had trouble staying on the air, going through 2 networks over a period of 3 years. It wasn't until the series moved to the NBC radio network in 1946 that it finally took off.

Strangely, the sitcom format that worked so well on radio failed to translate into television, as evidenced by a pair of failed pilots, first in 1964, when Harry Ackerman & Screen Gems tried their luck, and then again 12 years later, when James Komack attempted one, feeling he had the winning formula established with Welcome Back, Kotter. Sure, it was on the same network as Kotter (ABC), but the network felt they had enough teen-driven sitcoms by that point when you factor in Happy Days. They opted instead for the inner-city-driven What's Happening!, and Archie was burned off in the summer.

Back to radio, Archie Andrews spent 7 years on NBC (1946-53), with a then-unknown actor named Bob Hastings in the title role. Hastings was the 3rd actor to essay the part overall, but it was the launchpad for a career that lasted all the way to 2010, his last work being on a video game. Hastings passed away on Monday at 89, and in tribute, as we did over at Saturday Morning Archives, we're serving up a little "Jive Talk", as Jughead has to school Archie on the new slang. Gee, who'dathunk Jughead would actually be teaching anybody anything?




While Archie was enjoying his greatest television success as an animated series (1968-76, 1977-8), no one considered dusting this show off to capitalize, while other radio shows such as The Bickersons, The Shadow, Gang Busters and others were introduced to a new generation of listeners. Go figure.

That said, we'll pass on a rating.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What Might've Been: The Long, Hot Summer (1965)

Just as 20th Century Fox successfully adapted Peyton Place into a very successful, twice-weekly primetime soap opera, the studio thought they could repeat that success by creating a series based on the movie, The Long, Hot Summer. Unfortunately, viewers didn't believe that was possible, and the show was cancelled after 1 season.

For one thing, it was packaged as a 1 hour drama, rather than a 1/2 hour, like Peyton, and while the two of them together were the forerunners of evening soaps to come (i.e. Dallas, Dynasty), it was still a novelty back in the day.

Stuart Fanning uploaded this sample package. Jimmie Rodgers sings the theme song.




No rating.

Videos of Summer: Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer (1963)

Perhaps the most famous ukelele player of my childhood, that I knew of, anyway, was Arthur Godfrey. However, who'd ever think that Nat "King" Cole could also play it? He does here, in a performance of his 1963 hit, "Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer", recorded for a BBC special that year.