Friday, October 31, 2014

Creepy TV: The Evil Touch (1973)

In the early 70's, US audiences were getting acquainted with programs based on British shows, and there were still some imports from England (i.e. The Persuaders). But there was more from the UK.

The Evil Touch was the first series produced in Australia that wasn't a cartoon or aimed at children to hit American screens. Wikipedia claims that it aired on NBC, but I have no memory or record of the series airing on any of the American networks. Locally, the then-NBC affiliate did have syndication rights to the show, and aired it on various days, usually on Sunday afternoons.

Distinguished actor Anthony Quayle served as host. The episodes, based on the copyright at the end of the closing credits, appeared to have been produced in 1972, but went to air a year later globally. I think what the producers wanted was to develop a series similar in style to a NBC series from the 60's, Thriller, hosted by another British screen legend, Boris Karloff. However, Touch lasted just 1 season to Thriller's 2.

Following is a sample open/close to an episode headlined by Harry Guardino (The New Perry Mason).



Australian shows would be imported to the US sporadically (i.e. Prisoner: Cell Block H), but few have been successful. At least they have something in common with the ITC & Thames imports from England.....

Rating: B.

On the Air: Constantine (2014)

11 years ago, Warner Bros. attempted to adapt DC Comics' snarky British mystic, John Constantine, to the big screen. Problem was, its star, Keanu Reeves, hot off the "Matrix" trilogy of films for the studio, couldn't be bothered to adopt a British accent. Same problem, for all intents & purposes, doomed "Bram Stoker's Dracula" in 1992. Reeves didn't want to dye or bleach his hair, either, and so, Constantine came off, based on what I've been told, as a generic Reeves character. I'm not even sure Reeves even bothered with reading any comic books.

Fast forward to now. DC & WB are trying again, this time with a TV series for NBC. Matt Ryan (ex-Criminal Minds) has the right look and captures Constantine perfectly. The only quibble lies in the writing.

Here's a sample clip:



I'm not really thrilled with Constantine having a guardian angel (Harold Perrineau, ex-Lost), because I don't think he has one in the books. What he does have, however, is an on-again, off-again relationship with DC's sexy sorceress, Zatanna, so one wonders if we'll see her appear on this show.

What sets Constantine apart from DC's other series is its creative pedigree. No, I don't mean Constantine's creator, Scottish writer Alan Moore, who has disowned everything he's done associated with Marvel & DC, it seems, but rather, producer David S. Goyer, who has some serious cred with comics fans thanks to the "Blade" trilogy of films, and his contributions to "Dark Knight Rises" & "Man of Steel" the last two years. What this says is that Constantine may play closer to its source material than Arrow, The Flash, & Gotham, rather than dwell in a pocket universe like those shows. Either that, or Goyer will develop his own world. Manny, the angel, seems to be a step in that direction.

History tells us that placing a fantasy/horror series on Fridays at 10 (ET) is risky at best (i.e. the original Night Stalker, last year's Dracula). NBC is hoping Constantine can retain the audience from its lead-in, Grimm. We'll see soon enough.

Rating: B.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

On the Air: Lucha Underground (2014)

Vince McMahon thinks WWE has no competition. Hollywood producers Mark Burnett (Survivor, "Son of God") and Robert Rodriguez ("Sin City: A Dame to Kill For", From Dusk 'Til Dawn) intend to prove him wrong once and for all.

Rodriguez's El Rey Network, launched late last year, is home to a new wrestling promotion, a collaboration with Mexico's AAA promotion. Lucha Underground bowed Wednesday night, 3 weeks later than originally planned, for reasons known only to Rodriguez and his partners at El Rey. Suffice to say, the opener offers some promise of things to come.

It's been described as a cross between pro wrestling, as we know it, and the movie, "Fight Club", especially with the way the show is filmed, rather than videotaped, in some segments. Yes, there is a master villain, in figurehead owner Dario Cueto, who showed his true colors in the climax to the opener. The roster is filled mostly with AAA wrestlers from Mexico, including Blue Demon, Jr., and some names familiar to American audiences, including Chavo Guerrero, Jr., whose resume includes stops at WCW, WWE, & TNA, as well as Puerto Rico, carrying on the family tradition. Johnny Mundo is the former John Morrison (real name: John Hennegan), who spent nearly a decade with WWE before being released in 2011. While it's claimed that he hadn't wrestled in 3 years, that isn't true. He'd worked some indies in his native California, including Family Wrestling Entertainment, which also boasts play-by-play announcer and former wrestler Matt Striker (another WWE alum) on their roster as well. Striker is paired with Vampiro, unrecognizable with a shaved head and no makeup from his days with WCW and the ill-fated Wrestling Society X.

Following is a brief trailer, narrated by former WCW & TNA star Konnan, with some comments from Mundo.



Episodes were taped weeks in advance, much like TNA & Ring of Honor currently do, and others before them. That's not always a winning proposition, especially in this era, when fans can hunt for "spoilers" online before the show airs.

Fortunately, El Rey has seen fit to air the series twice on Wednesdays, at 8 & 11 (ET), the better for folks to catch the show later in the evening if they've got other plans and can't DVR.

Rating: A-.

What defines a dynasty?

Baseball season is officially over.

The San Francisco Giants won their 3rd World Series in 5 years Wednesday, besting the Kansas City Royals, 3-2, to take the Series, 4 games to 3. There's no need to reiterate what's already been written and said about the game itself. Rather, we'd like to ask a simple question.

Is it fair to refer to the Giants, under manager Bruce Bochy, as a dynasty, after 3 titles in 5 seasons? Team of the Decade? Too early for that, obviously, since the decade isn't even half over, but a dynasty? Let's consider.

It wasn't that long ago that the last baseball dynasty was, of course, the Yankees, who won 4 titles in 5 years, 3 of them in a row, and reached the Series 6 times in an 8 year span (1996-2003) under eventual Hall of Famer Joe Torre. Under current pilot Joe Girardi, like Bochy a catcher in his playing days, the Yankees have only reached the Series once, winning it all in 2009. Right before the Giants began their run.

In the NBA, you've had Miami reach the Finals 4 straight years, winning 2 titles. Of course, they ended up losing the centerpiece of that run, LeBron James, when he decided to return home to Cleveland after the Heat were dusted by San Antonio in June. No one's anointing the Spurs as a dynasty, despite 5 titles during the Tim Duncan era. The 90's had Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The 00's started with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, and the Los Angeles Lakers, whose history dates back to the golden era of the NBA, along with ancient rival Boston. However, today's NBA isn't the same as it was back in the day. Not when it seems to be the same teams making the playoffs every year over and over again. The league markets individual stars, not teams. That, sadly, is the league's biggest problem. One they're in no hurry to cure.

The closest the NHL has to a dynasty right now are two teams. The Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks aren't exactly like the Montreal Canadiens of legend, or even the NY Islanders and Edmonton Oilers of the 80's. However, they have split the last 4 Stanley Cups. It's just a question of which one will prove more durable over the course of the next, say, 3 years.

In the NFL, the last dynasty is the league's Evil Empire, the New England Patriots, although the lustre has been tarnished of late. Crybaby Tom Brady and the Pats have lost their last two trips to the Super Bowl, but the only real reason that they're a perennial playoff team isn't how good they are, but rather, well, political in nature. In that regard, the NFL is no different than the NBA, giving certain teams and/or star players preferential treatment to ensure that the teams that the league feels their audience needs to see in the playoffs get there. It's almost as if those leagues are begging for Vince McMahon to buy into them. But do we really need him? Nope. The business model needs to change.

In Major League Baseball, you could make a case for the following:

Boston Red Sox: 3 titles in a 10 year span (2004-13) are counter-balanced by a lean period which has seen them in the "second division" 3 of the last 4 years, interrupted only by winning the title last year.

St. Louis Cardinals: 2 titles, and nearly a 3rd, between 2006-13. They lost to Boston last year, after beating Detroit in 2006 and Texas in 2011.

Detroit Tigers: Perennial AL Central champs, but have only reached the Series twice (2006, 2012), losing both times (Cardinals, Giants).

There is some fluidity, in that there are teams on the verge (i.e. Baltimore, both LA teams) of breaking through. What keeps teams like the Mets and Yankees away for now are a combination of age (especially the Yankees), injuries (especially the Mets), and excessive media scrutiny, just because they play in the biggest media center in the country, and in a city so spoiled by winning over the years that some citizens think it's a birthright. That creates undue pressure, especially on the Mets, who, despite 2 titles (1969, 1986) and nearly a 3rd (1973), are always perceived as being the #2 team in town.

The oddsmakers will waste everyone's time with "morning lines" for 2015 well before spring training begins, but fans' attention can be turned fully to football, hockey, and, as of this week, basketball. So we'll close and give our congratulations to the Giants. The next, most difficult task, of course, is repeating. We'll see if they can finally do that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On The Air: Saturday Night Live (1975)

Hard to believe, isn't it?

Saturday Night Live is in its 40th season this year, and while the cast isn't exactly brimming with household names yet, save maybe for former Nickelodeon kid Kenan Thompson (ex-All That), there have been plenty of classic moments.

The series was originally known as NBC's Saturday Night when it launched in 1975 with the "Not Ready For Prime-Time Players" (Garrett Morris, Jane Curtin, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman, John Belushi, & Gilda Radner---Bill Murray would join a short time after the launch), all of whom would go on to some greater successes, be it in primetime (Curtin, Chase, Morris), or movies (Chase, Belushi, Aykroyd, Murray, and to a lesser extent, Newman & Radner). Somewhere along the way, the title was amended to its present form. I should note that in my market, the series didn't start airing right away. The then-NBC affiliate, now a CBS affiliate, eventually added the show after word of mouth led to some viewer requests.

The alumni list reads like a Hall of Fame all by itself. The 80's brought the likes of Eddie Murphy and already established veterans like Billy Crystal (ex-Soap), who springboarded into a lucrative movie career, Martin Short (ex-The Associates, SCTV), Michael McKean (ex-LaVerne & Shirley), and McKean's Spinal Tap partners, Harry Shearer (now on The Simpsons) and Christopher Guest. Toward the end of the decade, we saw the development of another group that included Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, and Phil Hartman.

From time to time, we'll serve up some choice skits from the show's 40 year history, so you might see some great guest hosts, such as Steve Martin and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, too. Here, for example, is Phil Hartman, as Frank Sinatra, leading a satire of PBS' McLaughlin Group. The Sinatra Group sees Ol' Blue Eyes surrounded by old pals Steve Lawrence (Myers) and Eydie Gorme (Victoria Jackson), plus then current music stars Sinead O'Connor (Jan Hooks), Luther Campbell (Chris Rock), and Billy Idol (Sting). I first saw this skit during VH1's I Love the 90's miniseries, and couldn't stop laughing.




So when will NBC schedule a 40th anniversary primetime special? Your guess is as good as mine, 'cause I haven't seen it booked yet.

Rating: B.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Three more depart for Heaven

More passings to pass on......

The most tragic case is that of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Tavares, 22, who was killed in an auto accident in his native Dominican Republic over the weekend, less than 2 weeks after the Cardinals were defeated in the NLCS. Tavares had just finished his rookie campaign, and while the Rookie of the Year award hasn't been announced yet (not for another week), his passing won't make the baseball writers rethink their final vote, regardless of what some people might think.

We also lost musician Jack Bruce, who played bass and shared vocal chores with Eric Clapton in Cream back in the 60's, and actress Marcia Strassman (ex-Welcome Back, Kotter), who lost a battle with breast cancer at 66. Strassman's passing makes it 4 Kotter cast members to have passed on (following John Sylvester White, Robert Hegyes, & Ron Palillo).

In tribute to Jack Bruce, we present a clip of Cream performing "Sunshine of Your Love":




Rest in peace.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Celebrity Rock: Salty Dog (1963)

From The Andy Griffith Show:

The Darling family (Denver Pyle, Maggie Peterson, and the bluegrass group, the Dillards) are in jail, but Sheriff Andy Taylor (Griffith) joins them for an impromptu jam. Charlene (Peterson) sings lead on "Salty Dog", with the family band aided by Andy on guitar.



16 years later, Pyle would play another backwoods father figure in Jesse Duke on Dukes of Hazzard, but never sat in with any of the musical guests on the show. Then again, co-stars John Schneider & Tom Wopat never used the show to further their budding musical careers, either.

Dynasty Pro Wrestling @ Troy Boys & Girls Club, 10/25/14

After an absence of nearly 18 months, pro wrestling returned to the Troy Boys & Girls Club on Saturday night, as Ultimate Wrestling welcomed a new promotion into town.

Dynasty Pro Wrestling is the brainchild of local wrestler and reality TV star Chris Envy (ex-Wife Swap), who didn't wrestle on this card, but the stage is set for him to return to action on a future show. The crowd was small and enthusiastic, there were lights and a ramp at the entrance area, and the show was being recorded for a future DVD release, for which they were taking pre-sale orders.

You'll have to bear with me on the results. The sound was jacked up, making it impossible for me, sitting in the bleachers, to make out most of the names.

1. Loco de Vitta def. Marcus Facts. Loco pulled the ol' switcheroo near the end. The first Loco was a small guy, cruiserweight level, but at a key point in the match, he went under the ring, essentially luring Marcus, billed as weighing "15 Webster's Dictionaries", into a trap. Marcus made it all the way across, but when Loco reappeared, he had a sudden, well, growth spurt, if you will. Loco II chokeslammed Marcus and won the match, while the original Loco would later reappear during intermission.

2. The Party Patrol def. South Philly's Finest. SPF stormed the ring and cut a promo on NY sports fans. Unfortunately, all the heat died there. Kyle Brad, last seen with Ultimate Wrestling East as its Interstate champion last June, makes up 1/2 of the Party Patrol.

3. Non-title: Cam Zigotti def. Anthony Bagnole via DQ when Bagnole, this promotion's US champ, refused to break the crossface while Zignotti was in the ropes on the ref's 5 count. Envy came back out, so I'm assuming his issue is with Bagnole.

4. Donovan Dijak (w/Fenris Fortune) def. Viper (Adam Badger) and Blue Rocker (?) in a handicap match. Fortune was doing color commentary for the DVD, then left the desk to bring out Dijak. El squashola. Badger gave himself away with the "Spectacle" on the back of his tights. He hasn't won a match in this building yet, and this didn't help.

5. Captain Wayno def. Tyreck in a quick squash. Nothing more.

6. Next up was an open challenge issued by a female wrestler, whose name was lost to the sound system. Kenny Roberts answered the challenge, and it looked like this would be another squash. However, after twice slamming his opponent's knee into the post, Roberts---and everyone else, for that matter---was stunned to see Mike Mitchell come out to make the save. The ref never rang the bell. Think Umaga vs. Maria Kanellis in WWE several years ago. Mitchell ain't exactly John Cena, but you get the idea. Envy made his final appearance of the evening and made the next match.....

7. Mitchell def. Roberts. I kept thinking there was a swerve of some kind, but that thankfully wasn't the case.

8. Foxx Vinyer, working as a babyface this time, def. Travis Dorian, managed by Mister Mann. Mann was last here 3 years ago with the Ohio-based Conquest Pro Wrestling when they had a joint promotion with the short-lived Skull Wrestling Federation. Mann got involved frequently, and paid for it after the match. Vinyer, who had a title belt with him during intermission, didn't bring it out for the match, so that might've been for another promotion to show off to the homies. Billed as being from Troy, though the last I knew, Vinyer was based out of Watervliet. Meh. Very even bout, despite Mann's persistent interference, and Vinyer won with a Falcon Arrow.

Speaking with a rep from a video company working on the show before bell time, I was told the next show is set for December 6. All in all, a decent show. The online ticket agent working with the promotion, however, got the site confused with another Boys & Girls Club in North Troy, listing that location on their website, and not the downtown club. That confusion may have resulted in some online ticket holders missing out on all the fun. Hopefully, that will not happen this time. The only other quibble was that posters didn't go up in downtown until 8 days before the show, which I'm told does make some sense, though this was a bit risky.

Before we go, we'll pay tribute to Southern wrestling legend Douglas "Ox" Baker, who passed away earlier this week. Perhaps the only other man aside from Stan Stasiak to have popularized the heart punch back in the day, Baker gained national attention on a different forum 33 years ago, when he was a contestant on The Price Is Right, back when Bob Barker was still hosting the show........



Rest in peace, Ox.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Creepy TV: Dracula (2013)

2013 was not a good year for NBC when it came to certain of their freshman class.

Take the revival of Ironside. Not only was the iconic detective rebooted as an African-American (Blair Underwood), but the star was also a producer. The series didn't even make it to Thanksgiving.

Then, there is Dracula. It was billed as a reimagining of Bram Stoker's classic novel, which has been adapted into a movie time and again over the last several decades, mostly at Universal, which co-produced this version as well. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (ex-The Tudors) not only had the title role, but, like Underwood, was also a producer. As it turned out, that was again, not a good thing.

This version has Dracula posing as an American businessman, Alexander Grayson, offering new ideas for the British people, but in secret, he's seeking revenge on the Order of the Dragon, a secret society, which, in turn, is stalking him. The series lasted 10 episodes, and was not renewed.

Following is a trailer:



I tried to watch the first episode On Demand one night, and couldn't get through it without a series of facepalms and head-shaking. Why would Dracula have some secret society chasing him? Why is he being presented as an anti-hero? The answer lies in the simple fact that NBC was looking to get a piece of the youth demographic that CW has tapped into with The Vampire Diaries and its spin-off, The Originals, both of which represent the Twilight generation of vampire fans. Coupling Dracula with Grimm was meant to be a stroke of genius, but viewers weren't buying into a gentleman vampire with a secret identity and an enemy foreign to the source material.

Rating: D.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Classic Reborn: Dark Shadows (1991)

20 years after the original, daytime series had ended, Dark Shadows returned, this time as a primetime, midseason replacement series, not on ABC, mind you, but on NBC.

It began with a 2-part miniseries before shifting to a Friday night berth, where many a genre series had gone to die. Ben Cross was tasked with taking on the role of Barnabas Collins (played by Jonathan Frid in the original series), fronting a cast filled with veterans, like Roy Thinnes (ex-The Invaders) and horror legend Barbara Steele ("Black Sunday"), and future stars such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt (pre-Third Rock From The Sun) and Adrian Paul (before Highlander made him a household name for a time). Unfortunately, it didn't survive its only season, in contrast to the original series' 5 year run (1966-71).

Following is the intro:



It didn't have the magic of the original, or the mystique.

Rating: C.

Weasel of the Week: Whitehall Board of Education

This was too easy.

Six days ago, a brawl broke out halfway through the 3rd quarter of a high school football game between Whitehall & Rensselaer, with Whitehall leading, 28-6. Two days later, Whitehall coach Justin Culligan was fired from that position, though retaining his teaching job. A Board meeting last night didn't solve anything, as a 6-2 (1 abstention) vote affirmed the dismissal, much to the disgust of the community assemblage at the meeting.

Earlier this week, Time Warner Cable Sports analyst James Allen, otherwise a high school beat reporter for the Albany Times-Union, offered what was likely the motive for the firing. He noted that this same Board had voted to remove Culligan back in July, but reversed field a month later. His predecessor, John Millet, was inducted into the Capital District Football Hall of Fame last year, but it seems that Millet may have some powerful, influential friends on the Board who were looking for an excuse to dismiss Culligan. The brawl gave them that excuse on the proverbial silver platter.

The Board has refused to explain why they fired Culligan, despite numerous requests. They're citing personnel confidentiality issues. Bollocks! It's a political hot potato, clearly, and they don't want to risk naming a new coach now, with Whitehall's 1st playoff game a week away. If they ask Millet to come back, there will, in all probability, be more protests, and Millet will be caught in the firestorm as an innocent bystander, one who'd only be back on the sidelines because the Board wants him there. The Board, as a collective, because they voted unanimously in the first place, with three people backpedaling last night, gets the Weasel ears this week, for, ahem, railroading Culligan, who attempted to play peacemaker in the fight, off the field, when an assistant coach, clearly more involved, wasn't dismissed himself. Eventually, the truth will come out, as painful as it will be for a small town who've come together for a common goal.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

On the Shelf: Sabrina goes back in time---sort of----and other stuff

Archie Comics continues to build its teen horror line by giving Sabrina, The Teenage Witch a new solo series, not connected to the runaway smash from last year, Afterlife With Archie in any way, and, when you think about it, just as well, considering that in that book, Sabrina lost her powers and voice in the first issue, and then, according to reports, was forcibly married off to a Lovecraftian demon in issue 6.

Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa opts for a little trip back in time in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which is set in the late 50s-early to mid-60's. The reason for that is a belated 50th anniversary present for the teen witch and her fans. Sabrina made her debut in 1962, but Archie Comics didn't do a 50th anniversary trade paperback or omnibus to mark the occasion. However, Aguirre-Sacasa, also creative director for the company, reached into the archives to pull Sabrina's debut story from '62 as the backup feature. What that does is offer a sharp contrast to the dark, dreary storyline in the lead feature.

We are introduced to Sabrina's parents, and for most of us, it's a long time coming. Sabrina was the product of a warlock's forbidden marriage to a mortal woman. Howard Spellman took custody of Sabrina from his wife, Diana, and sent the missus off to a sanitarium. However, Howard didn't escape unscathed, as we see he's been turned into a tree. Sabrina is under a spell herself, left unaware of her parents' real fate, and led to believe her mother is dead. She thinks her father will return someday, but that may be a longer time coming.

One change from the classic Filmation cartoons of the 60's & 70's in effect here has to do with Sabrina's warlock cousin, Ambrose, rebooted as a British-born youth, presumably slightly older than Sabrina. Sabrina notes that Ambrose sounds like the Beatles' Ringo Starr. Give Aguirre-Sacasa credit for giving Ambrose & Sabrina both a taste for the pop sounds of the day. Unfortunately, this is offset by the fact that Harvey Kinkle, long the love of Sabrina's life in every itineration of the series, save perhaps for the current cartoons, has been rebooted as a blond jock, instead of being dark haired. I guess that's so he can't be confused with Ambrose. Aguirre-Sacasa clearly makes this an alternate reality by implying that the company's two other iconic babes, Betty Cooper & Veronica Lodge, are also junior witches, and that their teacher, Ms. Grundy, is also a high priestess. Egads, it's clear this guy lost his mind.

Robert Hack's atmospheric, moody artwork works perfectly in the right settings, but not in the high school scenes. Toward the end, we see the debut of a Golden Age character, Madame Satan, who will be fully formed in issue 2. Personally, I'd prefer Sabrina as I remember her best, from the formative years of my youth, and not in a dark, gothic setting as Aguirre-Sacasa insists on. The cover price ($3.99), a uniform change for the entire Archie line, may be a turn-off to budget conscious readers. The one plus is that Sabrina has been given telepathic powers, and we've seen her Aunt Zelda employ some shape-shifting. I'd not mind seeing Sabrina doing some of the latter myself.

Rating: C+.

Dynamite Entertainment has had a partial license on Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter, Warlord of Mars for some time, in part because Marvel had the rights to do an adaptation of the recent Disney movie adaptation. Come next month, however, that all changes, as Dynamite will launch a monthly John Carter series. Previously, they could only use the title, Warlord of Mars, just as they could only refer to their first adaptation of TV's Six Million Dollar Man as The Bionic Man before getting full rights at the end of last year. Hmmmm, maybe for their next trick, they can link up with Moonstone and get the rights to The Saint........!

We previously noted that Scooby-Doo would meet The Flintstones in issue 7 of Scooby-Doo Team-Up, due in 2 weeks. Come January, in issue 8, Mystery, Inc. will go on a time trip in the other direction to meet The Jetsons. Since today's Cartoon Network stars have their comics rights held by other publishers (IDW, Boom! Studios), having Scooby meet, say, Ben (10) Tennyson is out of the question, unless it's a collaborative effort with IDW, which has the rights to adapt the Ben 10 franchise. However, if you think that'd be wack, try this on for size. Word out of Archie Comics has the Riverdale gang meeting up with a certain movie franchise whose license is held by Dark Horse. Yep, get ready for Archie Meets Predator. You've been warned.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Musical Interlude: Don't Give Up (1986)

Peter Gabriel's 1986 CD, "So", brought home a truckload of awards, mostly for the off-the-wall video, directed by Stephen R. Johnson, for "Sledgehammer", which dominated the MTV Video Awards that year. Johnson also directed the follow-up, "Big Time", and those two videos alone netted him the plum gig of directing Pee-Wee's Playhouse that fall.

However, Gabriel turned to fellow Brits Kevin Godley & Lor Creme (10CC) for his next video. "Don't Give Up" is a duet with Kate Bush that has the two locked in a nearly romantic embrace for the entire clip:



Awwwwwwwww, don't they make a cute couple?

2014 World Series preview

And, so, it's down to two.

The San Francisco Giants are seeking their 3rd World Series title in 5 years. It's too easy to ascribe the term dynasty to describe Bruce Bochy's tenure in San Francisco, considering that he had previously managed in San Diego, where he played most of his career. However, he is looking more and more like he will follow Joe Torre, who won 4 titles, and reached the World Series 6 tiimes in an 8 year stretch (1996-2003), into the Hall of Fame.

Giants ace Madison Bumgarner will start Game 1 on 5 days rest, having pitched in the clinching game of the NLCS vs. St. Louis. The bad news for Bumgarner is that he won't be able to bat, since the game is in Kansas City, and AL rules apply. James Shields opposes Bumgarner, wrapping up his 2nd season with the Kansas City Royals, who have been, for all intents and purposes, the story of the postseason.

The last time the Royals were in the World Series, they won it all in 1985 behind George Brett & Bret Saberhagen, who likely will get to throw out the first pitch tonight and/or tomorrow. This year's team is a collection of role players, much like the Giants, but for people like Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon, this is their coming out party. The Royals have been on the cusp the last couple of years before breaking through this season. They dispatched the AL's top two seeds, Los Angeles and Baltimore, to get here. San Francisco went through Washington and St. Louis, resulting in a very fresh matchup in the Fall Classic.

One note to consider: In 1985, before the Royals won the World Series, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute won the NCAA hockey title. This past spring, another school from my home district, Union College, won the NCAA hockey tournament. A portent of things to come? Maybe, but then there's also that whole even-numbered year thing with the Giants. 2010, 2012, 2014. There will not be a sweep this time. Instead, the Series will go 7 before San Francisco raises the trophy again.

Of course, I could be wrong, and I have for most of the postseason already........

Monday, October 20, 2014

Classic TV: Dark Shadows (1966)

Johnny Depp and the idiots that turned this classic soap into a movie got it wrong. Oh, did they ever!

Dark Shadows was not your ordinary daytime soap opera. Not by a long shot. They didn't even try this on radio back in the day, although radio was a haven for horror as well.

I will admit that I never watched the original series. How could I? I was a toddler when it started, and in school when it ended. Anyway, Dan Curtis' seminal drama spans three centuries, from the 18th to the 20th. Ultimately, it centers on Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), who was converted into a vampire in the late 18th century, and is resurrected in the 20th century.

What I do know of the show was that it spawned a pair of TV-movies and a comic book series, published by Gold Key, that continued long after the series had ended. I read a couple of those books, and found them to be entertaining. Frid's portrayal of Barnabas as a, well, reluctant vampire might well have been the inspiration for Marvel developing a "living vampire", Morbius, about a year after the series ended. At least Morbius is still around, and if Marvel thinks of it, they may do a movie about him soon enough.

Some years later, Curtis revived Shadows, this time as a primetime series, but for NBC, instead of its original home, ABC, with Ben Cross as Barnabas. We'll discuss that another time, but for now, let's pay a call on the newly undead Barnabas..........



I didn't see Depp's attempt at crossing the Collins family with the Addams Family, though it's my understanding that it failed miserably, like that lame "Lone Ranger" reboot Depp big-footed last year. We'll use what I read in the comics, and what I saw in the above video as a template, and give Dark Shadows a B+.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What Might've Been: Blacke's Magic (1986)

In the winter of 1986, NBC decided to try an old concept, with a twist.

Blacke's Magic was a different kind of crime drama, starring two actors accustomed to playing cops in Hal Linden (ex-Barney Miller) and Harry Morgan (ex-Dragnet, M*A*S*H, etc.). Linden was retired magician Alexander Blacke, who, albeit reluctantly, moved into a new career as a detective specializing in bizarre murders. Morgan was Leonard Blacke, Alexander's dad, a career con artist. Mark Shera (ex-Barnaby Jones, S.W.A.T.) was their police contact.

Blacke's Magic came from the brilliant minds of legendary writer-producers Richard Levinson & William Link (Mannix, Columbo), and producer Peter Fischer, at the time a relatively new name in television. The trio would find greater success with another series they sold to Universal, Murder, She Wrote, for CBS. So, the question becomes one of why Blacke failed as a mid-season replacement. Well, for one thing, as memory serves, the show aired on Wednesday nights, serving as a lead-in to St. Elsewhere. Plus, it combined elements of two series from the 70's. On one hand, there was Bill Bixby's 1972 series, The Magician. Alexander Blacke might've sounded too close to Bixby's Anthony Blake. On the other, there was The Feather & Father Gang, with Stefanie Powers & Harold Gould, which in turn was a sort-of reboot of The Rogues from the 60's. Like Gould, Morgan was playing a con artist whose offspring was on the right side of the law. Given the resumes of Morgan and Linden, this should've been gold. However, it'd been 4 years since M*A*S*H ended, giving way to AfterM*A*S*H, and 3 since Barney Miller ended, and both series were thriving in syndication. Viewers were still identifying the actors with their earlier roles.

Following is the open. I think the music may have been recycled somewhat for Murder, She Wrote, or, at the very least, the two series had the same musical director.



This was, in fact, comfort food during the winter. Too bad it wasn't renewed, because it certainly deserved to.

Rating: A-.

Musical Interlude: Boy From New York City (1981)

The Manhattan Transfer are currently on tour, marking the group's 45th anniversary, but also marking the passing of the lone founding member who was still with the group at the time of his passing. Tim Hauser passed away on Thursday at 72.

1981's "Boy From New York City", off "Mecca For Moderns", was the group's 1st top 10 hit, peaking at #7. Two years earlier, their tribute to Rod Serling's seminal Twilight Zone had reached the top 20, but went no further. The following clip of "Boy" comes from Fridays, and introduced by Larry David, impersonating Howard Cosell, as they're transitioning out of a skit parodying Monday Night Football:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What Might've Been: Marie (1980)

We have often discussed how network suits have this habit of bringing back older stars, giving them new shows, and plugging them into familiar time slots in the hopes that viewers will be drawn back to those stars. It doesn't always work.

One such example involves Marie Osmond. A year and a half after Donny & Marie had ended its run on ABC, Marie returned, this time with a solo series, back on Friday nights, but this time on NBC, which was starving for a hit primetime series that wasn't Little House on the Prairie at the time. Unfortunately, Marie couldn't carry the load by herself, and the show was cancelled after about a year. It would also be the last series produced by the Osmond family's production company.

Oh, sure, Donny would drop by from time to time, and brothers Jay & Alan served as co-executive producers, but the viewers had moved on. Back then, Fridays belonged to CBS, which had taken over the night after Donny & Marie ended. The problem was that the show was on the wrong network. Had the Osmonds stayed at ABC, and Marie aired on another night, like, say, Saturday, things might've been different. A few short years later, Marie began her musical comeback on the country charts, scoring a #1 hit with "Meet Me in Montana", a duet with Dan Seals, who had been "England Dan", as in England Dan & John Ford Coley, in the 70's.

Following is a sample episode with guest star Andy Gibb, who'd later co-host Solid Gold:



These days, Marie is doing ads for Nutri-Systems, and periodically fills in on CBS' The Talk, after her self-titled Hallmark Channel talk show ended its run a year ago.

Rating: B.

Celebrity Rock: Bill Cosby sings the blues (or tries to)(Arsenio Hall Show, 1992)

Hey, hey, hey! In the waning days of the first Arsenio Hall Show, ol' triangle head thought it would be a good idea to have Bill Cosby sit in with no less than B. B. King. Judge for yourselves, pilgrims, as this is more of a protracted comedy sketch than anything else.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How much does your car mean to you (2014)

Dodge is doing all they can to get the Dart back out in the public consciousness. To that end, actors Craig Robinson ("Hot Tub Time Machine") & Jake Johnson (New Girl) star in a series of spots in which Robinson is very protective of his Dart.

Example: Jake wants to key the car, but Craig ain't having any of that.........



I wonder how Craig'd react if his next door neighbor was another New Girl star, like, say, Zooey Deschanel?

Dunce Cap Award: Mike Goldberg

In 2008, Vince McMahon made one of his biggest blunders by hiring former NFL & American Gladiators announcer Mike Adamle as a WWE announcer. Adamle was not prepared, and it showed. After Adamle was moved out of the broadcast booth and into the GM's office on Monday Night Raw, it was hoped that he could be better served in smaller doses, but Adamle couldn't handle the pressure, and resigned that fall.

McMahon had long considered UFC announcer Mike Goldberg, but never took a chance on him. Fox, which has TV rights to UFC these days, thought it'd be a clever cross-promotional ploy to put Goldberg in an NFL booth last Sunday. Sadly, he came off looking as bad as Adamle did in WWE. He had players mixed up, and all kinds of other flubs. Chalk it up to nervousness if you like, but let's face it. He was a fish out of water.

To make matters worse, Goldberg didn't take too well to criticism on social media. Instead of giving him the Weasel ears, we'll just give Goldberg the Dunce Cap this week, for his lack of preparation for NFL duty, which lasted 1 week. The Fox suits learned a painful lesson from this, hopefully never to be duplicated. Then again, Adamle, now a sports anchor in Chicago, is available........

Monday, October 13, 2014

Remember Jimmy the Cab Driver? (1994)



The face might not be so familiar, but the voice might. 20 years ago, Donal Logue made a series of in-house ads for MTV as cab driver Jimmy McBride, this after having made his film debut 2 years earlier in "Sneakers" with Robert Redford and Dan Aykroyd, among others. Today, with a resume that includes Grounded For Life, The Knights of Prosperity, Vikings, Copper, Sons of Anarchy, The X-Files, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Logue may be putting himself in line for an Emmy as corrupt detective Harvey Bullock on Gotham. Like, who knew that goofy cabbie would end up like this?

Musical Interlude: I'll Never Find Another You (1964)

The Australian folk group, the Seekers, landed a #1 hit in the UK, but peaking at #4 on the Hot 100, with "I'll Never Find Another You", released in December 1964. Country singer Sonny James must've been a fan, because he covered "Another You" and hit #1 on the country chart three years later. James would later cover another Seekers song, "A World of Our Own".



Singer Judith Durham left the group in 1968, but would return for subsequent reunions.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Advertising for Dummies: Since when does your stomach talk back to you? (2014)

A few days ago, we referenced the current Oberto beef jerky ad with NFL star Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks. Turns out he ain't the only fool to buy into this lameass ad campaign and having to play second fiddle to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith.

The first one, in fact, was soccer hero Clint Dempsey, who should be calling his agent, as should Sherman, for that matter, asking what drugs the ad agency was on when they came up with this:



Smith can't act his way out of a paper bag, much less a plastic one. His role ain't much of a stretch, given his usual loudmouth schtick.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Classic Reborn: Break The Bank (1976)

Break The Bank marked the return of producer Dan Enright to American television following the infamous quiz show scandals of the 50's. Business partner Jack Barry had, shall we say, paved the way by returning himself a few years earlier, and finding success with The Joker's Wild on CBS.

Bank was the 2nd series to bear the name. The first was a completely unrelated show that aired on radio and television between 1948-57, with hosts including Bert Parks and Bud Collyer. The 1976 series began as a daily show on ABC that should've been on a little longer, but network suits saw more value in expanding two of the soaps at the back end of the lineup---One Life To Live & General Hospital, and so they dumped Bank after 3 months, which was the usual lifespan for a lot of games back in those days.

Veteran Tom Kennedy hosted the network edition, which was decried in some circles as a rip-off of NBC's Hollywood Squares because of the use of 9 celebrity panelists, albeit in a different game grid. Some of the same panelists also would routinely appear on Squares, which was a morning show, anyway, so there was no issue there.

Let's take a look at a sample episode.



Dig that funky music, yo! Bank quickly returned in syndication in September 1976, with co-executive producer Barry taking over as MC, as Kennedy, very much in demand by the networks, had moved on. However, the weekly series lasted just the one season, still dogged by the comparisons to Squares. It was a fun time, though.

There would be a 3rd series to bear the title, Break the Bank, just a few years later, and we'll look at that another time.

Rating: A.

What Might've Been: Broadside (1964)

It started with a backdoor pilot on McHale's Navy. Unfortunately, Broadside, the end result of that pilot, was cancelled for a very unusual reason.

Broadside was built around a group of Navy WAVES who were stationed on an island in the South Pacific. Basically, this was a distaff version of McHale, although the commanding officers on this show were male as well, filling the role of the exasperated CO looking to break up the gang. In this case, that gig went to Edward Andrews and Dick Sargent, but they lacked the chemistry of Joe Flynn & Bob Hastings over on McHale. The WAVES included Kathleen Nolan, Lois Roberts, and, by some quirk of fate, boy singer Jimmy Boyd, whose character, Marion, was assigned to the WAVES because of his feminine name. Go figure. Arnold Stang (ex-Top Cat) was also a frequent player.

Why was the show cancelled? Money, and backlot space, to boot. Universal suits saw how the South Pacific sets used for both Broadside & McHale took up too much backlot space, so McHale ended up going on location in Italy the next year, its final season, and Broadside got deep-sixed.

Dick Sargent, as we all know, would join the cast of Bewitched, but before that, he flopped in William Dozier's Tammy Grimes Show. Edward Andrews made the original pilot for Mr. Terrific before being replaced by John McGiver, and didn't land another series.

Here's the intro:




Rating: B-.

Musical Interlude: We Close Our Eyes (1985)

Go West's debut single, "We Close Our Eyes", failed to break the Top 40, but hit #5 on the dance charts here, and #5 in the UK. Go figure.



Maybe it's those manikins.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Now, we're down to four

As I write, the American League Championship Series has begun between Baltimore & Kansas City. We're sticking with our prediction that the Orioles will advance to their first World Series in 31 years, and will end Kansas City's Cinderella run in 7.

Therefore, our focus is on the National League Championship Series, a rematch of the 2012 NLCS between St. Louis & San Francisco, which gets underway tomorrow at Busch Stadium III. We know what you're thinking. It's an even numbered year. The last two World Series in even numbered years went to the Giants. This will not happen a 3rd time.

Giants ace Madison Bumgarner caused his own demise on Monday vs. Washington, committing a critical error, spoiling what otherwise was a gem of a game vs. the Nats' Doug Fister. Giants manager Bruce Bochy may or may not go right back to Bumgarner on regular rest for Saturday's opener, but, given that former WWE champ Daniel Bryan was present at Monday's game (the Giants have adopted Bryan's "Yes!" chants), we would not be surprised, given Bumgarner's post-game antics of late, that another former champ might show up in support of San Francisco. Fella by the name of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Considering Bumgarner was seen slamming down four, ah, "Bumweisers" after beating Pittsburgh in the Wild Card play-in round, and I read something about 5 beers, I think, after the NLDS elimination of Washington, I figure, why not have the "Texas Rattlesnake" be in San Francisco for game 3 on Tuesday? Failing that, having Bumgarner walk to the mound to Austin's classic theme would be the next best thing.

St. Louis is thirsting for revenge on the Giants after the 2012 NLCS. Yes, the Cardinals went all the way to the World Series last year before losing to Boston in stunning fashion, but they have the advantage in pitching, not San Francisco.

If there is one weakness to the Cardinals, it's the fact that they have 2 rookies in their starting lineup to just 1 for San Francisco. However, all of the rookies (Joe Panik for the Giants, Kolten Wong & Randal Grichuk for St. Louis) have been key contributors in the Divisional round. For them, it's a coming of age period. That happens from time to time. Wong has overcome early struggles and injuries to justify all the hype that surrounded him in his initial run last year. Panik was impressive when he played against the Mets, who held Wong in check. It's a wash. What will decide the series is the bullpens. The Cardinals have a shutdown closer in 2nd year man Trevor Rosenthal. The Giants' former closer, Sergio Romo, is now a set-up man for Santiago Casilla, not the other way around. Big difference. The Giants, though, have converted starter Tim Lincecum back in the bullpen. That could be an X-factor, though I doubt it.

No, the pattern for the Giants will be broken this time. I like the idea of the Cardinals playing in the Series against a team that once called St. Louis home (the Orioles were once the St. Louis Browns). That storyline writes itself. Therefore, we like the Cardinals, also in 7.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

On DVD: Dean's Place (1975)

A year after his variety show had ended, Dean Martin wanted to try something different to complement his Celebrity Roasts. So, Martin and producer-director Greg Garrison came up with Dean's Place, the setting of which was a lavish Beverly Hills nightclub. The idea was that Martin wanted to showcase some new talent, such as comedians Kelly Monteith and Kip Adotta, who would make the rounds in the latter half of the decade, and, as memory serves, Monteith even got his own show----on CBS!

The star studded lineup is filled with familiar names, including Angie Dickinson (Police Woman), Robert Mitchum, Milton Berle, and Jeffersons stars Sherman Hemsley & Isabel Sanford. John Harlan is the announcer.



Too busy, if you ask me, as this was actually trying to do two things at once. Wouldn't ya know, the Muppets would perfect the format a year later.......

Rating: C.

A collection of sports weasels and dunces

Time to hand out some Weasel ears and Dunce Caps.

First stop: Washington, DC. Nationals manager Matt Williams might be still in the running for National League Manager of the Year, but he didn't function like one Saturday night in gane 2 of the NLDS vs. San Francisco.

Top of the 9th. 2 out. San Francisco has a runner on 1st. Starter Jordan Zimmermann, six days removed from a no-hitter, had retired 20 in a row before walking Giants rookie Joe Panik. Pardon the obvious pun, but Williams, ah, Paniked, and pulled Zimmermann, trusting Drew Storen to get the last out. Didn't happen. Storen blew the save, giving up a double to Pablo Sandoval, and was fortunate to escape with just the blown save, as Buster Posey was thrown out at the plate to end the inning. San Francisco won in 18, but Williams, and 2nd baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, were gone by then, both ejected in the 10th for arguing balls & strikes.

Williams gets a Dunce Cap for playing like it was a regular season game, and not trusting one of his hottest pitchers to finish the game. Had Zimmermann stayed, maybe things would've been different. As it was, the Nationals lost the series in 4, thereby postponing the 1st-ever Beltway Series until, maybe, next year.

Next: San Diego. Jets coach Rex Ryan finally pulled the trigger and benched starting QB Geno Smith at halftime of their 31-0 loss to San Diego. Critics will say that this was long overdue. However, after news got out that Smith missed a team meeting on Saturday, citing time management issues (i.e. changing time zones) and seeing "Gone Girl", it's clear Ryan should've just let Michael Vick start the game. Vick then was quoted on Wednesday as saying he wasn't prepared for the Chargers game. Uh-oh.

Worse, Ryan, a 2nd generation coach, decided to stick with Smith as his starter for Sunday's likely suicide mission vs. Peyton & the Pizza Salesmen, aka the Denver Broncos. Considering that the suddenly hot New England Patriots follow 4 days after that, Ryan could be looking at an early offseason for him. As it is, he gets a Dunce Cap for being too stubborn to see that he needed to put Smith on the pine sooner. Instead, he's sticking with his 2nd year QB, who might be following him----and for that matter, GM John Idzik----out the door after the season.

Vick also gets one for acknowledging that, as a veteran, he acted like a rookie in lacking preparation, knowing his team was in deep trouble.

Now, we move to Detroit. It was not a good day on Sunday in Motown. Both the Lions & Tigers lost (oh, my), but the Lions got the worst of the deal.

Turns out 17-year old Mark Beslach decided to bring a laser pointer to the game vs. Buffalo, and shined his light at Bills players, including QB Kyle Orton, and kicker Dan Carpenter, who ultimately overcame the distraction to boot the game winner from 58 yards. If this sounds remotely familiar, well, it is, because it's happened in other sports.

We've previously reported the story of a high school women's hockey game in Massachusetts that was marred by the use of a laser pointer. The team that benefited was allowed to keep the win, since there were no rules in place to address this sort of brainless conduct. In 2009, a Philadelphia Phillies fan similarly used a laser, shining the light at St. Louis Cardinals star Albert Pujols and teammates Julio Lugo & Skip Schumaker in a nationally televised game. The Philly fans covered for their fellow fan, who made good his escape, and the Phils won the game.

The bottom line is that Beslach, who gets a set of Weasel ears as well as a Dunce Cap, thought it was ok to give his team an advantage they didn't need or want. He gets the ears because of his deed, and the Dunce Cap for being stupid enough to boast about it on social media, particularly Twitter, as other idiots have done when they've committed acts of foolishness as a means of getting attention. The Lions aren't just punishing Beslach, but also the season ticket holder who gave him the ducat for the Bills game, who will miss the rest of the season, as his season tickets have been revoked, making that particular fellow, be he a parent of the Weasel or a friend, another Dunce Cap winner.

And, finally, our last set of Weasel ears goes to Richard Sherman of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Why? Because of his post-game taunting of Washington receiver Pierre Garcon. Why kick an opponent after you've already beaten them? The way Sherman rambles on, he's bucking for a post-NFL career in pro wrestling. He's already got the attitude to be a heel. Unfortunately, we must also give Sherman a retroactive Dunce Cap for accepting an endorsement deal with Oberto beef jerky that has him sharing the spotlight with ESPN motormouth Stephen A. Smith. The catch? Smith is the "voice inside Sherman's stomach". ACK! The ad running in heavy rotation now has Smith, wearing a raincoat to protect himself from incoming Gatorade, or whatever it is Sherman is slamming down to hydrate himself, extolling the virtues of Oberto, only to get digested chunks dropped on him, of course. Whomever came up with this ad campaign should've made it a cartoon, since it appears to have been sprung from a child's imagination.

Musical Interlude: Mickey (1982)

Toni Basil is better known as a choreographer, not a singer. However, she attained 1-hit wonder status in 1982, when "Mickey", the first single from her album, "Word of Mouth", hit #1.

Basil, who was, in fact, a cheerleader in high school, got into the spirit of things by donning a Las Vegas High cheerleader uniform for the video, and the album cover. However, most of you have seen the original video a bazillion times in 32 years, so, in the words of the fabled Monty Python troupe, and, now, for something completely different, we offer an extended play version, which subs out the cheerleaders for a studio band, though Toni is still in uniform........



Believe it or else, this is actually a reworking of a British song, "Kitty", which came out three years earlier. Who knew?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On The Air: The Flash (2014)

Earlier, I had said that I thought this version of The Flash might be a little more light-hearted than the original series from 1990. For now, that isn't the case, and the exuberance of Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Grant Gustin), instead, can be chalked up to an adrenaline rush.

As was the case with the 1990 series, Allen is dark-haired, when he was always a blond in the comics. Meh, whatever. This time around, Allen has one singular obsession, that being finding whomever killed his mother when he was 11. Okay, so that's one thing this show has in common with studio stablemate Gotham over on Fox, a primary storyline that will drift during the course of the series as a driving force.

One big difference from the comics has to do with the West family. Comics fans know that Iris was Barry's long-suffering girlfriend, later wife. The casting department has rebooted Iris as an African American, likely an excuse to cast Jesse L. Martin (ex-Law & Order) as her father. That would not exactly preclude rebooting Wally West (Iris' nephew in the comics) the same way, as the casting of the controversial feature film reboot of Marvel's "Fantastic Four" has already taught us. Instead, The Wests took Barry in after his father, Henry (John Wesley Shipp, who played Barry in the earlier series), is sent to prison for his wife's death. As Iris acknowledges in the opener, she & Barry have grown up virtually as brother & sister, rather than as boyfriend and girlfriend. They are setting up someone else to be Barry's love interest, it would seem.

Anyway, the series opener details how Barry became the Flash in this incarnation. An experimental particle accelerator, designed by Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanaugh, ex-Ed), explodes. A sudden surge of lightning strikes Barry, which Wells seems to think was, well, pre-destined. However, that same accident has also triggered a chain reaction of metahuman development. Comics fans will recognize this as the "Big Bang" in the pages of Static back in the 90's. That same explosion, then, will be the mutual cause of Barry's familiar Rogues, such as Heat Wave, Captain Cold, and tonight's opponent, the Weather Wizard, gaining their abilities. Barry undergoes training at S.T.A.R. Labs under Wells' supervision, aided by Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow, whom comics fans know as Vibe (New 52 version) and Killer Frost, respectively, though it's undetermined if they've been affected the same way via residual effect. Too early to tell. As Barry debuted on Arrow last season, the Emerald Archer (Stephen Amell) makes a cameo appearance in the opener. Before the season is out, we'll see other names familiar to comics fans, including Firestorm, the Nuclear Man (Robbie Amell, ex-The Tomorrow People), and, yes, there will be a more formal crossover with Arrow in due course.

One important detail. Barry can't reveal his powers to Iris, per an agreement made with her father, leaving her out of the loop. I have a feeling that won't last.

Edit: 10/28/15: Here's a long trailer for the first season:



I haven't seen Arrow yet, but I have an unopened season 1 DVD set to get to. This, actually, will be easier to digest, in my opinion.

Rating: B.

DC Comics in primetime: A chronology

A week ago, I wrote that while Marvel has a distinct advantage over rival DC at the box office, the reverse holds true on television. DC not only has a deeper resume of primetime television programs, they've largely been successful. Then again, they did have a few years' headstart on Marvel......

The Adventures of Superman (1952-8): George Reeves will be more remembered as television's 1st Man of Steel, but the veteran actor, whose resume included "Gone With The Wind", essayed the role in an era where Superman's classic enemies were, oddly, left out of the loop. There were the requisite merchandising tie-ins, but Reeves' Kellogg's spots were mostly as Clark Kent, not Superman, though the Metropolis Marvel did make a cross-over appearance on I Love Lucy that became just as legendary as his own show.

Batman (ABC 1966-8): Producer William Dozier had bombed with a CBS Western, The Loner, earlier in the 1965-6 season, but struck pop culture gold when the Caped Crusader (Adam West, ex-The Detectives) arrived as a mid-season replacement in January 1966. It was, during this period, what anthology shows like Aaron Spelling's Love Boat & Fantasy Island would become a decade later, a popular destination point for not only viewers, but stars as well. Today's audience would rather see Batman as a grim avenger, not a clown, however.

Wonder Woman (ABC/CBS, 1975-8): After Dozier had produced an atrocious pilot that didn't sell in 1967, Warner Bros. picked up the rights, and hit the jackpot with Lynda Carter as the Amazing Amazon. Lyle Waggoner, who'd auditioned for Batman a decade prior, came over from The Carol Burnett Show to play Wonder Woman's beau, Steve Trevor, though the romance was virtually non-existent on the show, which shifted in time from World War II to the present after changing networks.

Superboy (syndicated, 1988-91): Alexander & Ilya Salkind, after 4 Superman feature films, decided to explore the hero's younger days, which were being altered in comics canon. Litigation with the estates of co-creators Jerome Siegel & Joe Shuster, which has kept the Teen of Steel's animated adventures off DVD, has done the same with this series, it would seem.

The Flash (CBS, 1990): The first video version of Barry Allen's adventures had John Wesley Shipp (The Young & The Restless) in the title role, but it was on the wrong night, airing opposite The Cosby Show. Shipp returns in a different role in the new version, debuting tonight.

Human Target (ABC, 1992): Rick Springfield (General Hospital) was cast as secret agent/master of disguise Christopher Chance. Unfortunately, producers Danny Bilson & Paul DeMeo, who'd bombed with Flash, made a major miscalculation by assuming they could build a Mission: Impossible-type team around Chance, who in the books was a solo act. No wonder ABC decided to burn this off as a spring-summer replacement series.

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (ABC 1993-7): The 2nd live-action Superman series made stars out of Teri Hatcher (ex-MacGyver) and Dean Cain, but was also the first to take creative liberties with established characters, such as creating an African American Toyman (Sherman Hemsley, ex-The Jeffersons, Amen). Mirroring the comics, Lois got her man to the altar, but you wonder if the series ended too soon.

Smallville (WB/CW, 2001-11): The most successful DC series of all time, period. Producers Mike Tollin & Brian Robbins came over from Nickelodeon and tapped into the mother lode. They made a point of keeping Clark (Tom Welling) out of costume as he learned and developed his powers. The 2nd half of the series saw the development of Tollin & Robbins' vision of the Justice League, but subsequent producers have not followed up, opting for their own ideas.

Birds of Prey (WB, 2003): Loosely based on the DC series of the same name, this featured Barbara Gordon as the wheelchair bound Oracle, though not using that name, along with a costume-less Huntress (Ashley Scott) and Black Canary. Yep, this was also from the Tollin-Robbins factory. WB placed it on Wednesdays, rather than air on Thursdays, coupled with Smallville, from whence it could've gotten a bit of a rub, but it didn't happen, and it was gone before the holidays.

Human Target (Fox 2010-12): Mark Valley took over as Christopher Chance, who this time was a solo act. As a result, the series lasted two seasons the second time around.

Arrow (CW, 2012-present): Producer Greg Berlanti has redefined how to bring DC's heroes to the screen, creating a pocket universe, if you will, where he can use any and all established heroes and villains however he sees fit. Does it offend older fans? Yes, it does, but DC (& Marvel) reboots every few years, whether it's necessary or not, in an effort to try to bring in a new audience, choosing to cast aside years of history, thinking that the audience still has a short-attention-span mentality. With the internet, history is just a click away, though. A full review is yet to come.

Gotham (Fox, debuted Sept. 22): As I wrote a week ago, what Smallville did in redefining the Superman legend, Gotham aspires to do the same for Batman. Producers Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon have three villains-to-be in the mix presently, as they have established their own pocket universe. Expect DC to follow with a comics version soon.

The Flash (CW, debuts tonight): Spun off from Arrow, this version figures to be a little on the lighter side as opposed to the original series, if the trailer that played over the summer is any indicator. Grant Gustin is the new Scarlet Speedster. We'll see if he can get past 1 season.

Constantine (NBC, debuts Oct. 24): After failing on the big screen a decade ago, John Constantine resurfaces. The good news is that he is a blond this time, but due to network mandates, the cigarettes are gone. There is still the stigma of that Keanu Reeves movie to overcome, though.

And, there's more on the way. CW will also be home to iZombie, based on a Vertigo series, later this season, and, as reported last week, CBS has an option on Supergirl, both from the camp of Greg Berlanti. While noted producer David E. Kelley failed to get a Wonder Woman pilot sold three years ago, I believe that, eventually, the Amazing Amazon will be back on the small screen. DC & WB just have to have faith, and find the right people to make it happen.

By comparison, Marvel's TV track record, not including TV movies, is smaller, and not quite so sparkling. We'll look at that another time.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Geoffrey Holder (1930-2014)

They likely dimmed the lights on Broadway tonight, in memory of multi-talented Geoffrey Holder, who passed away Saturday at 84 from pneumonia.

Holder, an accomplished painter as well as an actor and choreographer, will be remembered for 2 Tony Awards for choreography, both for "The Wiz" during its initial Broadway run in the 70's. Holder also starred as the seemingly indestructible voodoo master, Baron Samedi, opposite Roger Moore in "Live & Let Die", and as Punjab, the bodyguard, in the original musical adaptation of "Annie". Holder's last film role in a major production was just a couple of years ago, when he narrated "Charlie & The Chocolate Factory".

However, Holder will likely be better remembered by millions for his work as a commercial pitchman for 7-Up. Scope out this classic spot, in which Holder passes off a lemon and a lime as "uncola beans".



Rest in peace, Geoffrey. They're serving 7-Up in Heaven, just for you.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Paul Revere (1938-2014)

It has just come over the wires that Paul Revere, as in, the 60's group Paul Revere & The Raiders, had passed away at 76.

The Raiders' trove of hits included "Hungry", "Kicks", "Good Thing", and, in 1971, "Indian Reservation". For a tribute, however, we'll use a lesser known track, "The Great Airplane Strike", from 1966, and the setting is a performance on The Hollywood Palace, with introduction by host du jour Ray Bolger.



The Raiders seemed to be everywhere in the late 60's, and with it the requisite jokes about the other Paul Revere of colonial fame. The band even appeared on Batman, performing at a political rally for The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), who was trying to pull a fast one and run for mayor despite his criminal record, which would ultimately trip him up.

Rest in peace, Paul.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Weasel of the Week: Larry Klayman

Mr. Klayman is a lawyer who has made headlines this week by filing a petition calling for---get this!---the deportation of President Obama.

SAY WHAT???

Klayman, clearly, is representing the last hope of the birthers, who just won't give up on their mindless belief that Obama was not born in this country. Klayman has gone so far as to claim that the birth certificate issued in Hawaii is a forgery fraught with errors. However, that same certificate has been certified as authentic many times over, and, just when you thought this nonsense had finally died down, along comes some other jackass to start it up again.

My advice to this ambulance chasing idiot is, simply, get over it. There will be another election 2 years from now, and someone else will be in the White House, and Obama will likely return to Chicago and live out the rest of his days in peace. Since business is SO slow at your law office, Mr. Klayman, it's clear you're just looking for attention. What you're getting, bubbelah, is a set of Weasel ears, because, just like the rest of the birthers, you don't get it.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Spook Rock: Witchcraft (1985)

You would never have dreamed of hearing a Frank Sinatra record with a heavy metal beat. It took Joe Piscopo to make it happen.

In 1985, Piscopo (ex-Saturday Night Live) recorded a cover of "Witchcraft", in the voice of Sinatra, for his album, "New Jersey". One can imagine that today, Piscopo, now a morning radio host in his native Jersey, would be prepping this song to play on Halloween night, 4 weeks from now. Until now, though, I didn't think there had been any video for the song. I'm guessing this comes from an HBO special.



I should point out, for the record (pun intended), that on the album, "Witchcraft" is included as part of a skit parodying Late Night With David Letterman. The video, with its gothic theme, would be appropriate for this time of year.

Dunce Cap Award: Troy High football players & cheerleaders

Celebrating school spirit, this isn't.

It's been a week since it happened, but news of this sordid tale of teenage immaturity only crossed my desk today, a testimony to the hometown paper confining it to its website, leaving a lot of Troy High School alumni, such as ye scribe, in the dark about a prank gone horribly wrong.

According to the account reprinted below from the Albany Times-Union, Troy High cheerleaders and football players have engaged in a tradition of pranking each other, lining homes with toilet paper and eggs. I have no record of any of this sort of lame behavior happening when I was a student at THS (1979-81). Then again, back in those days, Homecoming was at the start of basketball season, and didn't get moved up to football season until after I graduated. It only gets mentioned now because of the damage it caused last week at and around Carroll Hill School, which, oh by the way, is also part of the Enlarged City School District of Troy.

Following is reporter Pete Iorizzo's account:

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An annual Troy High homecoming tradition that includes a "war" between football players and cheerleaders has resulted in more than 30 students being disciplined.

Eleven players and 22 cheerleaders have been suspended for Friday night's game because of their participation in a ruckus last week near Carroll Hill School, a member of the football team said Wednesday. Quarterback Zack Johnson, a junior, said Thursday night's teenage high jinks did no damage to school property. But police said damage included eggs and garbage thrown at the school and grass torn up by a car driving on the lawn.

 Capt. Dan DeWolf said no students were charged because the school declined to press charges, but that "it was enough (damage) that you could get arrested." The homecoming incident was part of the annual celebration, which traditionally includes football players toilet-papering the homes of cheerleaders and vice versa before the two sides gather for a "war," or mock fight with shaving cream and eggs. Most of the students received one-game suspensions and Saturday detention, parents of football players said. Two players, Elijah and Isaiah Thomas, both seniors, were kicked off the team after they approached Troy High coach Mike Hurteau about their discipline, said their mother, Martha Thomas, who disputed the assertion that any damage was done to the school. "This is crazy," said Thomas. "Our kids committed no crimes. No one was hurt. Nothing was vandalized. The football players offered to go out there and clean up. But there was nothing there."

Johnson, the quarterback, said he was unfairly given a two-game suspension for driving on the grass. He said he rode on the lawn to move his car, which had been parked behind Carroll Hill School, onto the street. "I drove it over the grass to move it on the street," he said. "That's it." His mother, Michelle Ninstant, said she supported disciplining her son, but only in the same way as all the other students. "What's fair is fair," she said. "All he did was drive his car across the grass." She said she visited the scene Saturday and saw no damage. Several calls to Troy High Principal Joseph Mariano Jr. weren't returned Wednesday. Neither Hurteau, the coach, nor Athletic Director Paul Reinisch responded to messages left since Monday, when a reporter first called about the suspensions handed down that day.

The players already had been allowed to play in this past Friday night's homecoming game, a 21-18 Class A Southeast victory over Mohonasen. Troy (2-2, 2-0) plays Bishop Maginn (4-0, 2-0) on the road Friday in the Southeast Division. Ninstant, other parents and players showed up at a school board meeting Wednesday night to protest what they considered to be harsh discipline. Johnson read a letter to the board asking it reconsider his suspension.

"I don't know why I have been singled out to be the only receiving more consequences than other students that was there that evening," Johnson said. "I would like the school board to reconsider my additional consequences and treat me equally and fairly as to receive only the same consequences everyone else that evening received."

Martha Thomas spoke before the board and stated this particular prank is widely known throughout the community and school. "This has been going on for years," Thomas said. "If this was a problem, why didn't someone tell them not to do this?" Isaiah Thomas also spoke and stated he could not understand why he and his brother were both thrown off the team.

At the conclusion of the period allotted for parents and students to speak, Troy superintendent John Carmello said if anyone wants to discuss the punishments further, they need to set up appointments with Mariano and Reinisch. Carmello also added, "Some of the statements are inaccurate."

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By today's editions, the numbers had dropped to 11 cheerleaders, about half the squad, based on what I'd seen when I attended a game a couple of years ago, and 9 football players. Still, these kids should've realized that what might've been a harmless prank back in the day is now verboten in today's hyper-sensitive society. That being said, and it saddens me to do this, as a THS alumnus, to distribute some Dunce Caps to these kids. At worst, for fans of the football team, their chances of advancing to the post-season later this month just took a big hit.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Creepy TV: Freddy's Nightmares: A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series (1988)

The popularity of Wes Craven's original "A Nightmare on Elm Street" movie series was such that it led to the predictable merchandising, including a couple of comic book runs. It also led to a syndicated television series, starring none other than the seminal villain of the series, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, ex-V).

Freddy's Nightmares: A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series (whew) lasted two seasons (1988-90), with Freddy serving as host, rather than being an intregal part of the anthology stories set in his hometown of Springwood. The pilot, directed by horror icon Tobe Hooper, explains how Freddy ended up the way he is. Seems he was acquitted in court, but lynched by angry parents, for lack of a better description. Anyway, because Freddy was always a quick wit, the producers used him the same way as the Cryptkeeper on Tales From The Crypt, providing some morbid humor, complete with bad puns.

Englund would headline one more series after Nightmares ended, co-starring in the short-lived NBC series, Nightmare Cafe.

Here's the open:



Rating: B.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What Might've Been: Darkroom (1981)

Universal tried to reinvent, if you will, Night Gallery, but without Rod Serling, and for another network. Darkroom, you see, is a term associated with photography, and yet someone at Universal thought it'd be a good title for a horror anthology series.

Darkroom lasted 7 weeks from November 1981-January 1982 before ABC shut it down due to, predictably, low ratings. James Coburn, a veteran actor not known for horror, was tapped as host. Not sure when his miniseries, The Dain Curse, aired, be it before or after Darkroom, but most folks associated him with, in terms of television, a gig plugging Schlitz Light beer in the 70's, though his career goes further back than that. Cancellation wasn't his fault. Darkroom had the misfortune of airing opposite Hill Street Blues, one of NBC's few hits of the period.

Here's the open:



Rating: B.