Sunday, November 30, 2014

What Might've Been: The Persuaders! (1971)

For all of his accomplishments in Hollywood, Tony Curtis took up television late in his career. Starting with a guest appearance on The Flintstones (as Stoney Curtis) in 1965, Curtis began taking more of an interest in the small screen, and landed his first series in 1971, ITC's The Persuaders!, in which he co-starred with Roger Moore (ex-The Saint), still a few years away from his first role as James Bond.

Curtis played Danny Wilde, a New Yorker who enlisted in the Navy to escape the slums, then became a nillionaire investing in oil. Lord Brett Sinclair (Moore) was a race car driver who had little success on the track, but had his own fortune to fall back on. The two met in the French Riviera and at first weren't exactly pals, getting into a fight. A retired judge (Laurence Naismith) hires them on as special agents to solve crimes that the police can't. Not quite like Department S or The Champions or any of ITC's other adventure series not named The Saint or Danger Man. Predictably, the series, airing on ABC here, lasted just 1 season, and marked the end of ITC's era of adventure, which, they claimed, began with Danger Man in 1960.

Curtis would land a couple more series gigs, but his only other starring vehicle was another 1 year wonder, McCoy, as part of the NBC Mystery Movie, before joining the cast of Vegas.

Here's the opener:



Suffice to say, you'd be hard pressed to find a cabler willing to take a chance on this or any other ITC 1-year series today, but it is available on DVD, at least in the UK.

Rating: B.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Classic TV: Bowling For Dollars (1976)

The concept of Bowling For Dollars actually goes back to the early 70's, but we're focusing on the New York version of the show, which lasted a few years in the 2nd half of the 70's.

What you might not know is that the franchise, which had different hosts in each city, was the brainchild of Bert Claster, the man who was also behind Romper Room, so it stands to reason that some of the same stations  (i.e. WOR in NYC) had both Romper Room and Bowling For Dollars. Like, how cool is that?

Anyway, WOR hired WHN DJ Larry Kenney as their host. Kenney might be better known for his later cartoon work (i.e. the original Thundercats), but back then, he was a big name in the Big Apple. My folks and I would sit and watch every night, since bowling was the one sport we all played. Scope out a sample episode, one I've previously posted over at Saturday Morning Archives.




It's just too bad no one in the Albany market was willing to try this concept out. But, by then, Romper Room had lost its local affiliate, and.......!

Rating: A.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Moron TV: Now [adult swim] is parodying infomercials------badly (2014)

Normally, I'd reserve anything connected to [adult swim], Cartoon Network's loopier "sister network", for Saturday Morning Archives, but since the following isn't animated, we'll cover it here, and give it the lambasting it deserves.

These days, [adult swim] has resorted to making mock infomercials to fill time. As if the real ones weren't enough of a blight on our society as it is. Unfortunately, the parodies are even worse. Take In Search of Miracle Man, for example. It's one of two mockfomercials that tweak the viewers with religious sensibilities (ye scribe included). Like, it's clear that this "Miracle Man" is meant to be a parody of Jesus.

I tried watching this On Demand, and bailed a couple of minutes in. Try watching this, and you'll see why......




There's also something about a "Book of Christ", which Jesus Himself supposedly wrote. I'm sorry, jabronies, but leave the comedy writing to people who actually know how to write.

Rating: F.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Musical Interlude: All You Get From Love is a Love Song (1976-7)

The Carpenters scored a modest Top 40 hit in the winter of 1976-77 with "All You Get From Love is a Love Song", which some folks might mistakenly refer to as "Dirty Old Shame", which starts the chorus.




Karen Carpenter left us too soon. Period.

Monday, November 24, 2014

On DVD: The Halls of Ivy (1954)

Not long ago, we reviewed the radio version of The Halls of Ivy, starring the husband & wife team of Ronald & Benita Colman. Now, let's take a look at the short-lived television version.

Halls lasted just 1 season, with Ronald Colman doubling as executive producer in addition to reprising his role as Professor William Todhunter "Toddy" Hall. Future icons Mary Wickes, better known for later roles in Dennis The Menace and The Father Dowling Mysteries, to name two, played the Halls' housekeeper, while Ray Collins, a couple of years away from Perry Mason, was a professor.

Complete episodes aren't available on YouTube, so we'll settle for this compilation put together by Doug Quick:




While shows set in high schools (i.e. Our Miss Brooks) thrived on both radio & television, Halls, due to its being set in college, slightly higher up the educational ladder, failed because of trying to emulate the success of Brooks, as well as its radio precursor.

Rating: B.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Classic TV: Alice (1976)

Back in the day, CBS had a pretty decent comedy block on Sunday nights, which featured The Jeffersons, Archie Bunker's Place, One Day at a Time, and our next subject, Alice.

Spun off from the 1974 film, "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore", Alice enjoyed a 9 year run (1976-85), and I'd venture a guess that more people remember the series than they do the movie.

Widow Alice Hyatt (Linda Lavin, ex-Barney Miller) is en route to Los Angeles to pursue a singing career, but her car breaks down, forcing her and her son, Tommy (Philip McKeon) to settle in Phoenix, where Alice finds a job as a waitress. Most of the episodes put an emphasis on the ensemble cast, which, when the series began, had only one holdover from the movie, that being Vic Tayback reprising his role as Mel Sharples, the grumpy but good-hearted owner of the diner.

Amazingly, there were only three waitresses in the diner, the two constants being Alice and neurotic, dimwitted Vera (Beth Howland). Brassy Flo (Polly Holliday) was the breakout star, meriting her own series after the 4th season. Problem was, the producers had trouble filling the void. Diane Ladd was brought in as a new character (she played Flo in the movie), and won a Golden Globe, but had off-air issues that led to an abrupt departure. Celia Weston then was brought in as Jolene for the rest of the series, which led to a minor crossover with WB stablemate Dukes of Hazzard in which J. D. "Boss" Hogg (Sorrell Booke) and Enos Strate (Sonny Shroyer) visited. Seems Hogg was a distant relation of Jolene's. There were a couple of regular customers frequenting the diner. Henry, a telephone repairman (Marvin Kaplan, ex-Top Cat), often complained about the food. Earl (Dave Madden, ex-The Partridge Family) was Tommy's basketball coach.

The series was last seen on Ion a few years back, but otherwise is sitting in the WB vaults, although it'd be a good fit for Me-TV now.

Following is the first season open. The theme, "There's a New Girl in Town", is sung by Linda Lavin.



Rating: A.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Celebrity Rock: WC Fields does Three Dog Night? (Naaaaaah!)(1970)

Ok, students, I'm going to play this track first, then tell you about it.



Paul Frees, who worked for just about everybody in Hollywood back in the day, found some time to cut a record for MGM in 1970. "Paul Frees & the Poster People" found Frees, impersonating WC Fields, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and others, covering hits by the likes of Three Dog Night, Dusty Springfield, and the Beatles, among others. The final track, a cover of BJ Thomas' "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" (from "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid"), is a Frees "jam" piece. To be honest with you, I didn't know about this album until just a few minutes ago, and decided to give it a shot. If this doesn't put a smile on your face, I don't know what will.

What I didn't know was that Eric Burdon & the Animals had recorded "Mama" first, in 1966. I had always thought it had been written for TDN (by Randy Newman).

We know the man can sing in his own voice, having done so in a couple of Rankin-Bass Christmas specials, so I doubt that this can be classified as "Golden Throat" material. What do you think?

Advertising for Dummies: Would you buy a car from an action figure? (2014)

The folks at Honda should've asked Michael Bolton for an encore.

Instead of bringing back the crooner for a 2nd season of "Happy Honda Days" ads, the automaker's ad agency decided to take a page from [adult swim] and use action figures to sell the cars this holiday season. Among the spokestoys are Stretch Armstrong, Strawberry Shortcake, the original GI Joe, who joins 80's cartoon songstress Jem, and Fisher-Price's Little People. Factor in Art Clokey's legendary claymation hero, Gumby, accompanied, of course, by Pokey, and this 80's villain.........



I guess they couldn't find the old villains home and contact Boris Badenov. Skeletor as a car salesman? What's next?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Classic TV (?): BJ & The Bear (1979)

BJ & The Bear preceded CBS' Dukes of Hazzard to the air by a month, but only lasted 2 1/2 years as opposed to Dukes' 6 year run (1979-85, 6 1/2 seasons). Go figure.

BJ McKay (Greg Evigan, ex-A Year At The Top) was a truck driver making his living taking jobs all over the country, and finding trouble and adventure at every turn. Aside from the last part, I can relate, since I had an uncle who drove a 18 wheeler for a prominent company back in the day. Digressing aside, BJ had frequent run-ins with corrupt sheriff Elroy Lobo (Claude Akins, ex-Movin' On), who became so popular himself, that he was spun off into his own series. Once Lobo left, BJ had a new nemesis in another corrupt lawman, Rutherford Grant (Murray Hamilton), who made Lobo look like a choirboy by comparison.

The final season not only saw the emergence of Grant, but also a team of female drivers, including Grant's own daughter, which put Grant at a moral crossroads. As a result, like Lobo before him, Grant would forge a temporary truce with BJ against a common foe.

Executive producer Glen Larson composed the show's theme song, sung by Evigan with an anonymous group of female singers.



Today, the show sits in Universal's vaults, not even airing on Cloo. Try figuring that one out. If Lobo's solo series could land a berth on Retro a couple of years back, why not BJ & The Bear? And whatever happened to Bear, anyway?

Rating: B.

Destination: Bargain Basement---TNA finds a new home that few have heard of



The text was originally published at www.2xzone.com on November 20.

An era ended on Spike TV (formerly the Nashville/National Network, or, TNN) on November 19. However, TNA's era of errors continues unabated by common sense.

Raise your hand if you've heard of Destination America, the new home for Impact beginning in January. All we know is that it's one of the Discovery Communications family of networks, but most people know Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery Family (formerly the Hub & Discovery Kids), and the Oprah Winfrey Network (formerly Discovery Health). Destination America? That sounds like a clone of the Travel Channel to me.

So, when TNA books Slamniversary in June, marking its 13th birthday, they will have been on 3 networks in the course of about 11 years, starting with a floating timeslot on Fox Sports Net, then 9 years and change on Spike, when they replaced the WWE, and now Destination America. Early rumors had them going to another Discovery network, Velocity, which in some cities is only available on the HD tier of your cable system. Heck, I had to do a search to see if my cable provider had Destination America, which they may just be adding in time for the addition of Impact.

The point is, insofar as I know, Destination America, or, DA for short, is in fewer homes now than Spike is. As usual, TNA went shopping in the bargain bin for a new deal. Once again, Dixie Carter demonstrated the business acumen of a blind mosquito. Then again, the fact that Fox wasn't interested in reacquainting themselves with TNA, despite the departure of founding father Jeff Jarrett, coupled with Spike, a Viacom network, deciding to get out of the wrestling business, left Dixie with few options. Time Warner wasn't interested, else TruTV, which is in more homes than DA, would've been a perfect fit. With WWE firmly wedded to NBC/Universal/Comcast, TNA wasn't going there without raising the ire of the McMahons.

Considering the questionable state of TNA of late,and the fact that one of their hottest heel characters, Ethan Carter III, the fictional nephew of Dixie Carter, is on the shelf with an injury, I'd not be surprised if we read in a year's time that TNA on DA ends up being DOA. TNA let Sting, AJ Styles, Frankie Kazarian, Mickie James, and Christopher Daniels walk, and Kurt Angle and Team 3D may be next, depending on negotiations. WWE can always dangle the carrot of a Hall of Fame berth, which Team 3D got last month at Bound For Glory, to bring Angle, Ray & Devon back, bringing Tommy Dreamer with them. WWE could do more for Dreamer's House of Hardcore promotion, given the sloppy way TNA did an angle with Dreamer over the summer in New York. Angle, in WWE's eyes, would be better suited not as a wrestler, since Vince McMahon had advised Kurt to retire 8 1/2 years ago, but as an administrator, the role he has now. Daniels & Kazarian are in Ring of Honor. Styles is floating between ROH & New Japan, and is the IWGP champ and a member of their NWO-esque faction, the Bullet Club, which just inducted one Jeffrey Jarrett into their ranks recently. Then again, Jarrett helped kill the NWO in WCW by joining in 2000 after it'd already jumped the shark. Maybe the Bullet Club is on its last legs.

What I'm trying to say is, quite frankly, TNA shot themselves in the collective foot again. Dixie's role models aren't the McMahons, whom she's tried to imitate, but, rather, classic bumblers like Wilton Parmenter (Ken Berry on F-Troop, nearly 50 years ago), and Inspector Cleuseau of the "Pink Panther" movies (Peter Sellers or Steve Martin, take your pick). To borrow from the Climax Blues Band, TNA still "Couldn't Get It Right". A year from now, I may be writing their final epitaph. Watch & see.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Would you actually give a tip to the Joker? Or Cookie Monster?

If you live in or visited New York City, particularly in Times Square, you've probably seen them. Men & women dressed as familiar cartoon or television characters, such as Sesame Street's Elmo, or Minnie & Mickey Mouse, or Batman, or even one of the Dark Knight's nemeses, The Penguin or the Joker, offering to pose for pictures with tourists, and sometimes asking for, or, according to reports, demanding, tips.

Over the summer, some of these costumed, self-employed business-persons ended up in the news when some more aggressive types among their brethren got in trouble with the law. On Wednesday, one man dressed as the Batman, real name Jose Escalona Martinez, 41, testified before the NYC City Council that attempts to have these street performers register with the city is some kind of violation of their first amendment rights.

Now, I'm not exactly sure if what they do falls under free speech, but there is one question that I do have. Why doesn't the city see if they have licenses to appear in these costumes? After all, DC Comics, home to Joker, Batman, & Penguin, and Marvel, home to Spider-Man, are based in New York, and like anyone else, I would venture to guess that a street performer who is asking, or as the term goes, busking, for money, may require having a license to use the images of copyrighted characters. This particular issue has, to this point, not been raised, and maybe it should.

Unsurprisingly, the New York Post saw fit to have Martinez, in full Bat-regalia, circa 2005 ("Batman Begins"), appear on their front page in today's editions to give them a respite from the legal squabbles involving another cherished, now tarnished, icon, Bill Cosby. Can't blame them there, but if Martinez had any sense at all, he'd have left the costume at home. Some of his fellows opted to appear in civvies to plead their cases. Surely, DC/Time Warner and Marvel/Disney would have their lawyers contacting these folks already if things were worse than they are, wouldn't they? Of course they would.

Sure, these folks have to eat, too, but it'd be better for all concerned if they actually produced licenses and proper documentation before city officials. Otherwise, this could get ugly, and quickly.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Glen A. Larson (1937-2014)

We all remember Glen A. Larson as a prolific producer of television shows in the 70's & 80's, including yesterday's subject, Automan, as well as Switch, The Fall Guy, Knight Rider, Alias Smith & Jones, The Hardy Boys-Nancy Drew Mysteries, B. J. & The Bear, & the original Battlestar Galactica, just to name a few. But Larson, who passed away earlier this week at 77, was also a singer and a songwriter. Well, the writing part we knew about, since he composed some of the themes to his shows........

Larson's first meeting with fame came as a member of the vocal quartet, the Four Preps. The Preps' biggest hit, "26 Miles", peaked at #2 on the pop chart, and was co-written by Larson, who sang baritone. The Preps also regularly backed up Ricky Nelson on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, and made 2 appearances on the Saturday Beech-Nut Show, hosted by Dick Clark.

Following is a compilation of those appearances, with the Preps performing "Down at the Station" and "26 Miles". Seeing Clark made up as an old prospector, with beard, is worth the price of admission alone, since few of us have seen him as anything but clean shaven.



We will continue to showcase some of the shows from the Larson collection during the remainder of the week. Rest in peace, Glen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Might've Been: Automan (1983)

Inspired by Disney's "Tron", the late producer Glen A. Larson developed a sci-fi adventure series that was, admittedly, a bit ahead of its time.

Automan didn't get very far, airing on ABC during the 1983-4 season. In fact, the network held one episode off the air, and it would see the light of day a decade later on the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy). Simply put, it was another show airing on the wrong night of the week.

Desi Arnaz, Jr. starred as Walter Nebicher, who wanted to be out on the beat, but his superiors felt he was better suited working behind a desk, where he could utilize his computer skills. Well, he ended up giving his bosses a valuable secret weapon in Automan (Chuck Wagner). Scope out the sample video:



When your bosses are played by two veterans in Robert Lansing and Gerald S. O'Loughlin (ex-The Rookies), it should be a positive. However, Walter was set up as a put-upon underachiever who caught the biggest break of his life. Arnaz was never given another chance to step out from under the shadows of his parents.

Rating: B-.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

On The Air: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999)

Dick Wolf began his Law & Order franchise in 1990. As Law & Order itself was halfway through its 20 year run (1990-2010), Wolf added a second series, which is the only one keeping the franchise going.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has been an NBC fixture since 1999, though the series has moved around the schedule quite a bit in recent years. Not only that, but cable cousins Cloo & USA are playing the reruns into the ground with relentless marathons, especially on the weekends on USA. Then again, Law & Order was likewise played to death on TNT, and now on WE.

Second generation star Mariska Hargitay is the only original cast member left as we're now into season 16. Her character, Det.-Sgt. Olivia Benson, now has a new team to work with, as all the fan favorites have left in recent seasons, including Fin (Ice-T), and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni). Benson was promoted to Sgt. last season, after Capt. Don Cragen (Dann Florek) retired. The beat simply goes on. The stories, sometimes ripped from the headlines, cover recurring themes such as domestic violence, rape, murder, and child porn.

Hargitay is also the founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation, the group behind the "No More" ad campaign, which now includes some NFL players, including the Giants' Eli Manning. I'd not be surprised to see those ads air during current episodes of SVU. Here's a sample intro, from season 7 (2005-6):



SVU has attracted big name guests in recent years, including Carol Burnett and Robin Williams, the latter playing a villain in a turn similar to his film, "One Hour Photo". Luckily, I don't think we'll ever see tabloid magnets like the Kardashians ever appear, but then......

Rating: A.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Musical Interlude: Shake It Off (2014)

Nashville's loss is pop music's gain.

Taylor Swift made the decision to shift from country to pop, perhaps feeling she's done everything that needed to be done on the country charts. Her first full-on pop CD, "1989", already has two singles out. The first, "Shake It Off", was all over the place this summer. We already knew that Taylor was easy on the eyes, and she even looks great dressed as a ballet dancer.



With all the crossovers between the pop & country charts over the years, maybe Taylor thinks she can teach pop thrushes like Ariana Grande, who has become tabloid bait of late, a few things.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Classic Reborn: Make Room For Granddaddy (1970)

Danny Thomas had, you would think, settled quite nicely into being just a producer after his last series, alternately titled, The Danny Thomas Show or Make Room For Daddy, had ended in 1964. Thomas was teaming with Aaron Spelling, who came over from Four Star, and the two had a pair of modest successes, The Guns of Will Sonnett and The Mod Squad, the latter of which was on the air when Thomas returned to primetime himself in 1970 with the sequel to his seminal sitcom.

Make Room For Granddaddy continued the story of the Williams family, six years after the first series ended. Angela Cartwright had been available since Lost In Space ended two years earlier, for example. The funny thing is, the gang had gotten back together for a couple of reunion projects, the last of which, also titled, Make Room For Granddaddy, had aired on CBS in 1969. Thomas didn't like the timeslot the network offered him, and since he already had a business relationship with ABC through his partnership with Spelling, took Granddaddy there.

Sid Melton (Charley) came over from Green Acres, which was also in its final season. Sherry Jackson (Terry) only appeared in the opener, to drop off her son (Michael Hughes), leaving the lad in her parents' care. The fact that across the board, the networks were purging shows that were skewing older and/or rural areas, doomed Granddaddy, despite Thomas pulling out all the stops. His guest list included Diana Ross, Frank Sinatra, and, in this episode, from January 1971, Lucille Ball.



Thomas would have 1 more series, the sitcom, The Practice, a few years later, but that, too, was a failure.

No rating. I have no memory of seeing this show.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Moron TV: The Howard Stern Show (1990)

Radio icon Howard Stern first gave television a try in 1987, when he was approached by Fox suits about replacing Joan Rivers on their Late Show. He'd eventually appear on Hollywood Squares, filling in as an announcer/panelist for a week while regular announcer Shadoe Stevens subbed for host John Davidson. To say that Howard sleepwalked through that gig would be accurate, as he was lacking enthusiasm.

Fox had him shoot 5 pilot episodes, but plans for him to begin a regular one were scotched. Three years later, WWOR, based in New Jersey, and, ironically, now owned by Fox flagship WNYW, took a chance on Stern, and gave him a summer berth on Saturday nights. The Howard Stern Show lasted two years (1990-2), and gave viewers a visual version of the outrageous comedy skits Stern and sidekick Robin Quivers, and friends, did on radio. He parodied Squares and Dating Game, rebooting them with gay/lesbian themes. If you didn't get the joke, you were lost.

One skit that stood out was a parody of "From Here to Eternity", with MTV doll Martha Quinn in Deborah Kerr's role opposite Stern, who wasn't exactly Burt Lancaster, much less a teen idol-level leading man. I'll see if I can find it as a stand-alone skit. Meantime, scope the series opener, from 1990. As the disclaimer says, viewer discretion is advised.



According to executives at WWOR, money is what led them to cancel the show. In other words, it was getting too expensive to produce, and, not only that, it was now in syndication, too. Stern would sign with E!, first for an interview series, then video repurposing, albeit edited, of his morning radio show. The latter lasted 11 years before Stern ended his run at WXRK, and went to satellite radio.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's official: Vince McMahon has lost his mind. Grumpy Cat on Raw?!?

Part of the WWE's mission statement is to put smiles on people's faces. But can they get a certain cat to smile?

That seems to be the idea behind the latest sweeps month stunt from WWE & USA Network. Grumpy Cat, one of the latest internet sensations, thanks, of course, to YouTube, will appear on Monday Night Raw on November 17. Grumpy, complete with perpetual frown, will likely get the attention of the women, but not so much the men, though that remains to be seen. The cat will also be the subject of a Lifetime Christmas TV-movie next month, and has already made the rounds of talk shows, including Anderson Cooper's now-defunct daytime show last year........



I just don't see the value. If you didn't think WWE Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon had lost his mind before, well...........

Monday, November 10, 2014

Classic TV: The Streets of San Francisco (1972)

After bombing with Dan August in 1971, Quinn Martin sold another crime drama to ABC the next season, and this time, gave the network another tentpole.

The Streets of San Francisco, based on a novel by Carolyn Weston, lasted 5 seasons, and introduced second generation star Michael Douglas to viewers. Douglas played Inspector Steve Keller, a junior partner to fellow Inspector Mike Stone (Karl Malden). The format was the usual Martin cookie cutter of the period, but the hook was that kickin' theme music, composed by Patrick Williams. At the time of its launch, Streets wasn't the only crime drama set in San Francisco. NBC had Ironside, and, if memory serves me correctly, Rock Hudson's McMillian & Wife, also on NBC, was set in San Francisco, as well.

Today, Me-TV holds the rights, and airs the series as part of a crime drama block on Sundays.

Here's the intro:



Douglas left the show after the season 5 opener, which was a transitional episode in which Douglas was given "special guest star" status, clearing space for Richard Hatch (ex-All My Children), whom network suits were pretty high on. After Streets ended, Hatch moved on to the original Battlestar Galactica, which we'll discuss another time.

Rating: B.

Musical Interlude: Quarter to Three (1961)

Gary US Bonds scored a huge hit with "Quarter to Three", all the way back in 1961.



Nearly 20 years later, Bonds would have his last Top 40 hit, with the Bruce Springsteen-penned "This Little Girl". However, most fans still regard "Quarter" as his most successful hit.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Classic TV: Space: 1999 (1975)

In some respects, Gerry & Sylvia Anderson's Space: 1999 marked the end of an era. The Andersons ended their professional and personal partnership after the 1st season, ultimately divorcing, and when the series ended after 2 seasons, it would be the last live-action project Gerry Anderson would undertake.

Space: 1999 would be what amounts to the British answer to Star Trek, but in reality, it's basic concept has more in common with another American franchise that bowed after it ended---Battlestar Galactica. Space: 1999 begins on Moonbase Alpha, which explodes in the first episode. The remains spiral out of orbit, but not in such a manner that those on the base are in any real mortal peril. Like Trek, the survivors on the base meet beings from other worlds. Like the later Galactica, they would begin searching for a new home.

Lord Lew Grade, ITC's head man, personally selected the husband and wife duo of Martin Landau & Barbara Bain (ex-Mission: Impossible) to star as Commander John Koenig and Dr. Helena Russell. Another 60's icon, Barry Morse (ex-The Fugitive) joined them only for the first season. Morse had worked for ITC before, acting alongside Gene Barry in the short-lived The Adventurer a few years before Space: 1999. Grade made the casting decisions over the objections of Sylvia Anderson. When she & Morse left after the first season, Grade brought in veteran writer-producer Fred Freiberger, whose resume was as diverse as you could possibly imagine. Freiberger had worked on Trek, as well as The Wild, Wild West, and spent some time at Hanna-Barbera, where he developed Korg: 70,000 B. C., and before that, tried his hand at writing cartoons, particularly, Josie & the Pussycats in Outer Space, which, in effect, was a Trek parody.

Also piping aboard in season 2 was Catherine Schell as the shape-shifting Maya. Schell had guest-starred as a different character in season 1, but with Freiberger putting more emphasis on action and adventure, Schell took center stage, and I could swear at least one of the crew had fallen for Maya during the season.

There was also a comic book tie-in, as Charlton published a black & white magazine based on the series. You'd be hard pressed to find mint condition issues today.

Right now, let's take a look back at the series opener, "Breakaway":



We previously documented that Space: 1999 rose from the ashes of an earlier Anderson entry, UFO, and it certainly established its own legacy. The series marks its 40th anniversary, officially, anyway, next year, but consider that it took two years to get the series on the air in the first place!

Rating: B+.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Musical Interlude: Shock the Monkey (1982)

"Shock The Monkey" is one of Peter Gabriel's weirder, more surreal videos. If ya don't believe me, scope it out.



32 years later, I still don't get the facepaint on Gabriel, or the significance of the different colored suits he wore.

Weasels of the Week: Alex Rodriguez and the Parents Television Council

Yep. They're ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-ack!

The self-appointed media nannies, the Parents Television Council, came out of hibernation earlier this week to do what they do best, whine and complain about how a network schedules programming. In this case, it was ABC's dopey idea of slotting It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown directly in front of their adult drama, Scandal, which, according to reports I've read, has been a target of the nannies before. President Tim Winter complained that, with the way the networks compress and/or edit closing credits these days, kids were subjected to less than a minute of a steamy scene on Scandal coming right out of the cartoon. A sensible parent would've already put the kiddo's to bed at the last commercial break. That's what my folks did when I was little. Anyway, Winter and his minions are griping just to remind us they're still around. Do us a favor, Tim. Go away, and take a box of Weasel ears with you.

And, then, there's A-Roid.

Alex Rodriguez was reinstated onto the Yankees' roster last week, after the World Series had ended. Like, do they really expect him to be ready to play next season? Give me a break. The reason A-Roid gets the Weasel ears, plus a tail and a snout, to boot, is the revelation that, yep, he did use PED's after all while playing for the Bombers, meaning he'd lied to Katie Couric and everyone else a few years ago. He also paid his equally weaselly cousin,  Yuri Sucart, nearly a million dollars to keep his mouth shut. Sucart was really only looking for the money anyway, like any gold digging leech.

Let's face facts, people. Rodriguez is damaged goods, and the Steinbrenner brothers would be better served cutting bait and cutting A-Roid before next season, and see if anyone's stupid enough to take a chance on him. He's nearly 40. He's past his prime, assuming he really had one without the drugs. He has 1 ring (2009), and thinks he can help the Yankees get back in the playoffs? Nothing says pipe dream more than that, folks. Cooperstown won't be calling him anytime soon. Neither should the Bronx.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Musical Interlude: It's Mighty Dark to Travel (1968)

I've documented before that I was raised on country music. I wasn't really that big on bluegrass, though, but, then, as I was growing up, the local country radio stations were only playing bluegrass in short blocks on the weekends, which I think they still do.

David Akeman, or, to use his stage name, Stringbean, had been a regular on Hee Haw during the CBS years (1969-71), and maybe a wee bit into its syndicated run before he was killed. What most of you probably don't know was that Stringbean was quite proficient as a country singer, particularly in bluegrass as a banjo player. I think it was after Stringbean passed on that the producers gave another bluegrass veteran, Grandpa Jones, more time with his banjo. Digressing. Anyway, here's Stringbean, a year before Hee Haw, mind you, appearing on the Wilburn Brothers Show to cover Bill Monroe's 1944 opus, "It's Mighty Dark to Travel":

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What Might've Been: The Champions (1968)

A trio of secret agents are bestowed with enhanced senses and other powers by an equally secret tribe in the Himalayas. Such was the concept of ITC's 1968 series, The Champions. Unfortunately, the series lasted just 1 season, and aired in the US on NBC.

Most audiences are familiar with Stuart Damon from his later work on General Hospital, but this was his first series. Damon had also appeared in a production of Cinderella with Lesley Ann Warren, as memory serves. Here, he plays Craig Stirling, a pilot and agent for the multi-national agency, Nemesis. William Gaunt & Alexandra Bastedo co-star.

How the Nemesis agents became The Champions is explained in the opener, "The Beginning":



As we've documented, very few ITC series lasted more than a year (The Saint & Danger Man, aka Secret Agent, being two exceptions of note). To be honest with you, I haven't been able to fathom exactly why.

No rating.

Old Time Radio: The Halls of Ivy (1950)

While Eve Arden & Gale Gordon were making audiences laugh at high school follies on Our Miss Brooks, the husband and wife team of Ronald & Benita Colman took aim at college life with The Halls of Ivy, which lasted two years (1950-2), sponsored by Schlitz Brewing. Appropriate choice of sponsor, no?

Ivy is both the name of the small college where William Todhunter "Toddy" Hall (Ronald Colman) was the President, and the name of the town where the show was set. The Colmans had demonstrated a flair for comedy with frequent appearances on The Jack Benny Program, and, unsurprisingly, Benny would later return the favor and appear as himself on Halls. The cast also included radio veterans Willard Waterman (The Great Gildersleeve), Bea Benaderet, and Alan Reed, the latter of whom played an English professor.

Two years after the series ended, Halls was resurrected as a TV sitcom, produced by England's ITC, but lasted just 1 season, with Ray Collins (later of Perry Mason) replacing Waterman. We'll deal with the TV show another time. Right now, here's the episode, "The Stolen Gift":



It seems that when Hollywood tries to convert a radio sitcom set in high school or college to television, something gets lost in the translation, as very few succeed in the video medium. The TV version of Our Miss Brooks is one exception. Halls was not.

Rating: B.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Those good ol' boys are back again! (2014)

The Dukes of Hazzard turned 35 this year. To mark the occasion, the folks at Auto Trader.com got Bo & Luke (John Schneider, Tom Wopat) back together for an ad campaign. The familiar theme song, "Good Ol' Boys", plays in the background, sung by Shooter Jennings, whose father, Waylon, recorded the original version back in 1979, and narrated the original series (1979-85), even making an on-camera appearance or two.



Now, let's see if some genius tries to revive the series for television this time.