Friday, July 31, 2015

Roddy Piper (1954-2015)

Piper's Pit has been closed forever.

News has come across the wires of the passing of WWE Hall of Famer "Rowdy" Roddy Piper at 61 from natural causes.

Billed as being from Scotland, Piper (real name: Roderick Toombs) was really from Canada, and regardless of which side of the moral fence he was on, Piper's rapid fire gift of gab charmed viewers, be it on a regional level (he lived in the Portland area most of his life) or national (NWA, WWF/E, TNA, WCW).

I first saw Piper on TV when he was in the NWA, working out of the Georgia & Mid-Atlantic areas, and appearing on WTBS (now simply TBS) on their Saturday night wrestling show. In 1984, he made the move to the north and signed with the then-World Wrestling Federation, touching off a long run that was interrupted only for movie roles in "Hell Comes to Frogtown" & "They Live". Unfortunately, after the John Carpenter classic, which co-starred Keith David & Meg Foster, Piper's film career was consigned to the direct-to-video file. He moved back to television, and co-starred with long time pal Jesse Ventura in a failed pilot, Tag Team, which was previously discussed. He made guest appearances on The Outer Limits, Walker, Texas Ranger, & The Mullets, among others, and often returned to WWE, if he wasn't committed elsewhere, to revive his legendary interview segment, Piper's Pit. He also appeared on the WWE Network series, Legends House.

Following is Piper at his brawling best, against former tag team partner and fellow Hall of Famer Paul Orndorff from Saturday Night's Main Event.




I would expect a 10 bell salute to "Hot Rod" on Monday. WWE owes Roddy that and so much more, for all he did for them.

Rest in peace, Roddy. The HWF (Heavenly Wrestling Federation) awaits.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Celebrity Rock: Don't Look Back (2010)

If someone ever thinks of doing a biography of the late pop icon Karen Carpenter for the big screen, they might want to consider actress-singer-songwriter Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), 1/2 of She & Him, for the lead.

Evidence of this would be the following track from She & Him's "Volume 2", released in 2010. "Don't Look Back" is a throwback to AM radio pop of the 60's & 70's, with Zooey's voice falling in between Carpenter, and either Linda Ronstadt or the late Lesley Gore. Scope out the video, and let me know what you think.




I can picture Zooey covering "(They Long to Be) Close to You" or any other Carpenters hit, can't you?

Classic TV (?): Celebrity Sweepstakes (1974)

Since we're into thoroughbred racing season at Saratoga, I thought we'd take a trip back in time for a game show with a horse racing theme.

Celebrity Sweepstakes was a collaborative effort between producers Ralph Andrews (You Don't Say!) and Burt Sugarman (The Midnight Special), and stood out among the games with gambling themes, such as CBS' Gambit & The Joker's Wild, the latter of which ended its first run after being lapped in the ratings by Sweepstakes in early 1975. Jim McKrell served as series host for both the NBC version and two subsequent syndicated evening shows.

Sweepstakes was a rarity in its time because, other than NBC stablemates Hollywood Squares & Jeopardy!, the latter of which ending its first run shortly after Sweepstakes bowed, and CBS' Price is Right (still going strong 43 years into its current run), very few game shows would get through a year at the most. Sweepstakes lasted exactly 2 1/2 years (April 1974-October 1976).

Let's take a look at a sample clip from the series' final episode, October 1, 1976:



Jim McKrell would turn to acting to keep his career going, as he didn't do too many more game shows after Sweepstakes. His resume includes a guest shot on The Golden Girls and some movie roles.

Rating: A-.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Modern Classic: Highway to Heaven (1984)

If there was one star, other than Johnny Carson, who was a fixture at NBC for the bulk of his career, it would be Michael Landon.

After Bonanza, Landon branched out on his own with Little House on the Prairie, and followed that with Highway to Heaven, which lasted 5 seasons total (1984-9), the last as a mid-season replacement. Prairie co-star Victor French (ex-Carter Country) came along for the ride in what would be his last series. French passed away after production on the series had ended.

Jonathan Smith (Landon) is an angel sent to Earth to help people. Mark Gordon (French) befriends Smith and becomes his partner. They travel from city to city, adopting different identities and jobs to fit in.

Let's take a look at a sample episode, which reunited Landon with one of his former co-stars from Bonanza, Lorne Greene:




The 90's series, Touched by an Angel, worked along similar lines, perhaps helped along by the fact that one of its stars, singer-actress Della Reese, was also an ordained minister. Currently, Highway is airing on stations such as Retro and INSP.

Rating: A-.

Dunce Cap Award: Jenrry Mejia

As a Mets fan, I am appalled and disappointed with this news.

Reliever Jenrry Mejia, who had been activated from the suspended list earlier this month, was busted again for performance enhancing drugs on Tuesday, and gets a 162 game ban, which will extend into the 2016 season. Mejia's 1st suspension, under the new guidelines, left him ineligible for post-season play this year, and now, he's also ineligible for the 2016 post-season.

It's easy to assume, too, that Mejia has pitched his last game for the Mets, who are in the thick of a pennant race for the first time in seven years. He has had injury issues in his career, which slowed his development (I still have his rookie cards from 2010), and ended up missing Opening Day in April with an injury. That enabled Jeurys Familia to move into the closer's role, so that problem was solved rather quickly, though Familia has struggled since the All-Star break. On Monday, the Mets acquired Tyler Clippard from Oakland for a minor leaguer. Clippard, formerly with the Yankees & Washington, now slides into the set-up role Mejia had shared with another former closer, Bobby Parnell, and gives the Mets another experienced closer.

When I first saw the headline on TV Tuesday night, my first thought was, yeah, Mejia is done in New York. Maybe in the majors, period. How could he be that gullible to go back to the same PED that got him in trouble in the first place? Again, consider his injury history. His agent, whomever it is, didn't exactly help him out here.

In New York, he'll be considered a flash in the pan. He had a very good year last year as the Mets' closer, but now, Mejia will have to wear a Dunce Cap to illustrate how he's closed his own career  due to his own stupidity.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What Might've Been: Iron Horse (1966)

ABC saw the success CBS was having with Wild, Wild West, which was entering its 2nd season in 1966. They figured, the protagonists on that show use a train to get around, so why don't we come up with a show like that?

Well, it was something along those lines, but not quite. While Wild, Wild West crossed James Bond with steampunk to a degree, Iron Horse was a whole 'nother breed altogether. It was a straight-up Western, in an era where Westerns were still plentiful, but the herd was thinning out, if you will.

Dale Robertson headlined as Ben Calhoun, who won the right to build a railroad in a poker game, and, yes, tooled around on the titular train. Gary Collins (ex-Wackiest Ship in the Army) co-starred. The series lasted two seasons before being cancelled, due to the aforementioned fading interest in the Western genre. Collins would make one more series for Columbia/Screen Gems, that being the first adaptation of Joy Adamson's Born Free, and, as you know, that was preceded by a run with The Sixth Sense for Universal & ABC. As we mentioned before, Robertson moved on to Death Valley Days as its last host while the series was in production. When country singer Merle Haggard took over Days, he was really fronting a "best of" collection with new wraparounds. I digress.

Here's a long lost commercial promoting the show.




Screen Gems was looking for another hour-long drama that would prove to be an enduring hit on the order of Naked City or Route 66. Iron Horse, because of the genre, wasn't it. Wackiest Ship and 1968's Here Come the Brides were classified as comedy-dramas, but you get the idea.

No rating. I barely remember seeing the intro as a child, or at least a commercial.

The NFL upholds Tom Brady's suspension. What's next?

The New England Patriots will begin defense of their ill-gained Super Bowl on September 10 without quarterback Tom Brady under center. The National Football League upheld the suspension of Brady for 4 games, largely for his refusal to cooperate with Ted Wells' investigation into Deflate-Gate. This after it was learned that as a symbol of Crybaby's defiant stance, he destroyed his cell phone, and taking with it any pertinent evidence that actually might've been able to exonerate him.

And, so, barring the Players' Association following through on its threat to take the league to court, Brady will be sitting for the first month of the season. All Crybaby did was strengthen the league's case against him, rather than weaken it, by childishly destroying the phone. Given the Patriots'----and Crybaby's---history, it will be business as usual come October if 2nd year signal caller Jimmy Garappolo doesn't get the Pats off to a quick start. If they're, say, 1-3, and sitting in the basement of the AFC East (where they belong), Crybaby will return with a massive chip on his shoulder, and he'll have his way anyway. Only problem is, Crybaby has to make 2 trips to the Meadowlands this year instead of 1, as the Pats will play the Jets AND Giants during the regular season.

I personally believe the league wasn't harsh enough with the Patriots. Given the history of sins that have gone unpunished, such as Brady's post-game tantrum in Charlotte in 2013, this is what the league should've done:

*--Redact the Super Bowl and AFC East & Conference titles. Had the league actually bothered to act on the complaints from the Colts & Ravens with great haste, chances are New England doesn't get to the big game, and the path was probably smoothed because of some backroom dealing to ensure major TV ratings.

*--Reduce the number of home games from 8 to 4. I'm not kidding. New England rarely loses at home, even in pre-season, due to the influence of owner Bob Kraft, who probably serves copious amounts of macaroni & cheese to game & league officials before each game. Well, I am kidding about that part. In order to properly punish the Patriots for a litany of sins, you have to take away the home field advantage(s). 12 games on the road, as opposed to 8, plus.....

*--The season opener is moved off Thursday, Sept. 10, and moved to Sunday, Sept. 13, in Pittsburgh. New England's only 4 home games, in my view, would be divisional games, plus a cupcake (i.e. Washington). The message from the other owners to Kraft would be, screw with us, we'll screw with you, and you have to like it.

Of course, it ain't gonna happen that way. Meantime, is there any way we can photoshop Brady and his wife, Gisele, into this 1985 Godley & Creme video?:




Well, it could be worse. I was going to suggest making Crybaby actually cry for the camera to pitch Maypo.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Celebrity Rock: Gentle on my Mind (1969)

John Hartford's "Gentle On My Mind" is often associated with Glen Campbell, who scored a mammoth hit with it, and used it as the opening theme to his CBS variety show.

In 1969, actor Dale Robertson, at the time the host of Death Valley Days, took a turn as a country crooner on The Johnny Cash Show, performing a cover of "Gentle". Like, who knew?




Robertson's previous series, Iron Horse, ran for 2 seasons (1966-8), and came from the same studio that packaged Cash's variety show---Screen Gems. Small world, eh?

Moron TV: The Ropers (1979)

The Ropers was spun off from Three's Company and was included in ABC's sitcom-heavy Tuesday lineup in the spring of 1979. In fact, it was one of two new shows in the block. The other, 13 Queens Boulevard, was discussed some time back.

Stanley & Helen Roper (Norman Fell & Audra Lindley) had sold the house that was the setting for Company, and moved into an upscale neighborhood. While Helen tried to fit in, Stanley didn't bother. The realtor who sold them their new home (Jeffrey Tambor) was also their new neighbor, and had a 7 year old son (Evan Cohen), who was being posited as a modern day Dennis The Menace, if you will, as he wanted to bug Stanley, but never was able to cause much trouble.

In all, The Ropers, like Three's Company, based on a British sitcom (George & Mildred, which was spun from Man About The House, the British basis for Company), lasted exactly 1 year before it was cancelled. Where ABC went wrong, and hence the "Moron TV" designation for this entry, was moving the show to Saturdays for season 2. You know what they say about square pegs in round holes? Exactly.

Here's the open:




Yes, that is former child actress Patty McCormack, playing Tambor's wife on the show.

No rating.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Forgotten TV: Arnie (1970)

What would happen if an ordinary rank & file employee were suddenly thrust into a management position?

That was the premise behind Arnie, which spent 2 seasons on CBS (1970-2), but got the Rodney Dangerfield treatment. In other words, it got no respect from the network or viewers.

Arnie was perceived as a comeback vehicle for Herschel Bernardi (ex-Peter Gunn), but the truth is Bernardi had been doing voice work in cartoons (i.e. Mighty Heroes) in the 60's, and was the voice of Charlie the Tuna in a zillion Starkist Tuna ads. Bernardi was cast as Arnie Nuvo, an average factory worker who gets a shocking promotion into management. Because he's still in a union, Arnie can use his position to negotiate contracts and avoid work stoppages.

Roger Bowen, who had been in the film version of "M*A*S*H" earlier in 1970, was cast as Nuvo's boss, Hamilton Majors, Jr., who was wealthy but also eccentric. Speaking of eccentric, in season 2, CBS moved the show to Mondays, coupled with My Three Sons, and 20th Century Fox brought Charles Nelson Reilly over from the just-cancelled Ghost & Mrs. Muir to play a parody of Graham Kerr's Galloping Gourmet. Unfortunately, that tactic didn't work. Arnie moved back to Saturdays to play out the string.

Gilmore Box provides the open:




Arnie came from the mind of David Swift, who, years earlier, adapted Ted Key's comic strip, Hazel, for television. It would also be Swift's last effort for TV.

Rating: B.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Celebrity Rock: There is a Tavern in the Town (The Drunkard Song)(1949)

Wally Cox was one of those performers who was taken too soon. Cox passed away in 1973 from a heart attack at 49, leaving behind a career great in its diversity.

His slender build hid a lanky, powerful frame, which might be a good reason why he was cast as the voice of Underdog in 1964. 15 years earlier, Cox appeared on the radio program, Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, and though he lost the competition that night (Talent Scouts' format was a forerunner to the 80's series, Star Search), he made a lasting impression with a comedy routine that flipped gears when he began to sing. A yodel-heavy cover of "The Drunkard Song", or, "There is a Tavern in the Town", was the capper to Cox's performance, and was subsequently recorded for RCA. "Tavern" had previously been done by Rudy Vallee, among others.

One of these days, I may just pull up Cox's appearance on I've Got a Secret, in which he and host Garry Moore did some construction while the panel was blindfolded. You'll see what I mean. For right now, here's an audio-only performance of "The Drunkard Song (There is a Tavern in the Town)":




Not only could Wally Cox do comedy (i.e. Mr. Peepers), but, as we documented before, he top-lined the comedy adventure, The Adventures of Hiram Holliday, based on the books of Paul Gallico, and other dramatic performances included guest roles on Wagon Train, It Takes a Thief, Mission: Impossible, & Alias Smith & Jones. I remember him doing commercials for Canada Dry's now-defunct Sport cola, and we'll have something along that line another time.

Dunce Cap Award: Colin Cowherd & Hulk Hogan

There is dumb, and then, there is DUMB.

Earlier this week, Colin Cowherd took the high road when discussing his pending departure from ESPN Radio for Fox Sports Radio, and praised ESPN for giving him a chance when he started there 10 years ago. Before the week was over, however, Cowherd was out at ESPN.

Cowherd was fired Friday after he made some insensitive comments about Latin players in baseball, noting that a good percentage of players come from the Dominican Republic. You'd think he'd just quote the statistics and move on, but there were things he said that upset the Major League Baseball Players Association, which threatened to boycott both ESPN & Fox unless something was done with Cowherd. When his Fox Sports program bows, I'd believe he'd have to do a major mea culpa to make peace with the MLBPA.

Cowherd's dismissal came just hours after WWE did the same with Hulk Hogan.

Hogan, until yesterday, was serving as a judge on the current Tough Enough, but didn't really contribute anything noteworthy in the first month of the season. What cooked his goose were some recorded comments made between 2007 and 2012, the latter while filming a sex tape with Heather Clem, the wife of Hogan's now-former BFF, Todd Clem, aka radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge. Hogan is involved in litigation against the website Gawker.com over the tape. Unsurprisingly, the National Enquirer, desperate for a legitimate headline to sell papers, since it now belongs in the fiction section of bookstores instead of on supermarket shelves (If you don't believe me, check out the latest faux headlines), got hold of some of the audio tapes. Where Hogan went wrong was in using the N-word repeatedly on these tapes, and in the case of his recording with Heather Clem, in describing daughter Brooke's relationship with an African-American.

Others have noted the hypocrisy involved in this case, seeing as how Vince McMahon, who's more out of touch with reality than Hogan, used the N-word in a skit with John Cena and Booker T a few years back. There's also the whispers that Triple H, despite his good works behind the scenes, is a closet bigot, which might explain why he didn't drop the World title to Booker in 2003. The attitude, then, from WWE, would be to do as we say, but not do as we do.

The lesson? We live in a hypersensitive, politically correct society today. In Hogan's case, there will be people digging for dirt wherever they can find it, and make it public, even if the tape is nearly a decade old. Never has the phrase, "the public has a right to know", been more overused than it has in recent years. Cowherd & Hogan each receive a Dunce Cap. Cowherd for his own contradictions, and Hogan for past verbal indiscretions being brought forward in a negative light.

And while we're at it, we might as well send a box of Dunce Caps out WWE's way, since I'd not be surprised if, within 2-3 years or less, Hogan is welcomed back with open arms, and all would be forgiven. If he's smart, and he clearly hasn't lately, Hogan would be better served quietly walking off into retirement. Then we'd all move on.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Classic TV: Zorro (1957)

Many of us grew up with Disney's programming airing on NBC, but, in the late 50's & early 60's, ABC was the network of choice for the Mouse House, which ultimately purchased ABC nearly 20 years ago.

While The Mickey Mouse Club was standard after-school fare, Disney served up a variety of primetime programs as well, either via its Disneyland anthology series, or in stand alone series, such as Zorro.

Johnston McCulley's Old West hero made his TV debut in 1957. Don Diego de la Vega (Guy Williams) is summoned home to Los Angeles to help his father, Don Alejandro, defend the city from the tyranny of Commandante Monasterio and others. The series lasted just 2 seasons, but when the Disney Channel launched in the 80's, Zorro was brought back in reruns, perhaps to soothe the pain of CBS' failed comedy-adventure series, Zorro & Son, which lasted just 5 weeks before getting the axe. We'll discuss that failure another time.

Disney eventually colorized the original episodes, 25 years after the series' launch, and while a revival was airing on the then-Family Channel (now ABC Family), with Duncan Regehr in the title role.

Let's go back to season 1 and "Adios, Senor Magistrado":



I happened to see some of the original black & white episodes whenever Disney, at the time a premium channel, had a free weekend. This is one case where the colorization actually improves the product.

Of course, Guy Williams would return a few years later with Lost in Space, which lasted three seasons.

Rating: A-.

On the Shelf: Batman rents his house, then becomes a vampire (sort of), and other silliness

Next week, Warner Home Video releases the feature film version of Justice League: Gods & Monsters on DVD. If you've seen the shorts posted at Saturday Morning Archives, you know what to expect. If you don't have access to a computer, however, take heart. DC is helping with a series of 1-shots, which began this week.

As was established in Machinima's online shorties, Batman, Wonder Woman, & Superman are not the heroes you know & love. For example, in this bizarre alternate continuity, Batman is Kirk Langstrom, who'd otherwise be the Man-Bat, a character introduced in the late 60's-early 70's post-television period. Langstrom's story is even more tragic than before, since he's gone to the other bat-extreme. He's a vampire. A reluctant one, like Marvel's Morbius, which lends itself to the prospect that Langstrom was repackaged here as DC's answer to Michael Morbius, since they're both scientists. Matthew Dow Smith's art is appropriately dark and meant to be scary. I think you'll have to get the DVD to get the full story.

Rating: A.

On the other hand, the Batman we all know, Bruce Wayne, somehow lost possession of Wayne Manor (suspect shenanigans), and when Arkham Asylum collapsed, the patients were moved in, leading to the short-lived Arkham Manor series, which launched last fall to much fanfare, alongside Gotham Academy. The book was cancelled after six issues, due largely to writer Gerry Duggan bolting for an exclusive contract at Marvel, as DC's editors weren't comfortable continuing the series with another writer. A better artist would've made just as much sense, really. Shawn Crystal's artwork falls somewhere between underground favorite Charles Burns, and one of my least favorite Bat-artists of all time, Kelley "Along Came" Jones. I get the mood that Crystal was searching for artistically, but it doesn't work. I bought the trade paperback for the story, and found that to be wanting as well, as it fell apart about halfway, leaving me to ask myself, why did I even bother?

Rating: C--.

Marvel has had their share of clunkers tied into Secret Wars, version 2.0, and now I know I made the right call by not bothering with that miniseries.

Captain Britain & the Mighty Defenders offers up a female Captain, as the original one that has been around nearly 40 years seems to have retired in this continuity.  She-Hulk, also prominent in A-Force, shows up here, wielding a gavel that makes her a "Thor", which on Battleworld means she's a judge, I guess. I'm not on board at all with Dr. Doom as a god. I guess that because the Beyonder, created for the original Secret Wars 31 years ago, became a joke himself, parodied by John Byrne during Byrne's run on Superman, Marvel's creative idiots decided to use Doom, who will figure prominently in "Fantastic Four", opening in 2 weeks, but it just reeks of blasphemy in my book. Alan Davis' always lush, beautiful art doesn't save this one from being a loser, however.

Rating: D.

I haven't watched The Blacklist in the course of its two seasons, for any number of reasons. That will soon change, now that I've sampled Titan Comics' adaptation of the series. Set during season 2, the comic continues the story of Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader, "Avengers: Age of Ultron"), a rogue who turned himself in to the feds, and now is their ally. Oh, what fun. The DVD's of the series might be pricey for now, but season 2 is On Demand, after all.

Rating: A.

Apparently, interest was low for DC's revival of Prez, such that the book's issue count has been sheared in half to six issues, ending in November. Some people just didn't get the political/social satire in Mark Russell's script, but I do. Issue 2 just came out, and skewers Scientology something fierce. Wonder if this Russell is related to the namesake political satirist from the 70's & 80's......! Batman '66 may be on the verge of jumping the shark. Editorial dictums, it seems, are responsible for the insertion of newer Bat-villains who weren't around in the 60's, such as fan favorite Harley Quinn, who debuts as the Harlequin in the latest issue, with Killer Croc to debut in October as a former henchman of King Tut. Not only that, but I'd like to see them explain how they can use both TV Catwomen (the Eartha Kitt model shows up in the new issue as well) and tie it together, something William Dozier and his writers were unable to do nearly 50 years ago.

More bad news from Archie's Dark Circle division, tempered with some good. The oft-delayed relaunch of The Shield has been pushed back again, this time to September, with veteran artist Drew Johnson now on board. A quick check of the Dark Circle web page shows that The Web, also with a female protagonist, will debut after the first of the year. The Hangman bows in October, and looks appropriately creepy. On the main Archie line, the "New Riverdale" relaunch of Betty & Veronica might not be ready until after the first of the year, either, as issue 278 of the current volume is set for October, but we'll see.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Forgotten TV: The Whistler (1954)

Many a radio program transitioned to television in the 50's. Some were successful (i.e. Gunsmoke, Jack Benny Program, Burns & Allen). Others, like our next subject, The Whistler, were not.

I first discovered the radio version of Whistler a few years back after getting a free tape from a mail order house. I assumed it was a regional program since I didn't previously know it had existed. In 1954, CBS commissioned an independent producer to do a TV version of the radio mystery series, with William Forman reprising in the title role, as the Whistler narrated each episode.

What might've caused the show's demise was the fact that it played out just like the radio show. In fact, some episodes were adapted from radio, much like Dragnet

Here's the intro:



Rating: C.

Musical Interlude: Love is the Drug (1980-6)

In 1980, singer-actress Grace Jones recorded a cover of Roxy Music's "Love is the Drug". Problem was, it didn't do very well on the charts. Five years later, after Jones' star turn in the James Bond movie, "A View to a Kill", "Drug" was reissued on a compilation album, with the following video released a year later to modest airplay on MTV.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Modern Classic: Xena, Warrior Princess (1995)

The success of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys led to an inevitable spin-off that ultimately became just as popular as the parent series, if not more so.

Xena, Warrior Princess premiered in 1995 after Xena (Lucy Lawless) had appeared in 3 episodes of Hercules. The story is that Xena was supposed to be killed off after her 3rd appearance, but she'd already become a fan favorite, such that the spin-off was warranted.

There has been a great deal of debate over whether or not Xena and her partner-in-peril, Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor), were carrying on a lesbian relationship during the course of the series. While we can't really say for sure, Xena did become a very popular show with the LGBT community. Not sure if Viacom's Logo, which serves the LGBT community, has ever acquired the rights to the series. You'd think they would've by now.

Towards the end of the series, as was the case with Hercules, Xena drifted into camp adventure and comedy. I'd stopped watching the series by that point. Just wasn't interested anymore, that's all.

Recently, it's been reported that NBC is looking at reviving Xena for next year, with original producers Robert Tapert and Sam Raimi already attached, and Lawless has expressed interest in participating.

Xena's weapon of choice, a chakram that doubles as her necklace, might've been inspired by the 70's Wonder Woman series, in which the Amazing Amazon (Lynda Carter) often used her tiara like a chakram or boomerang. Similarly, Jana of the Jungle, an animated series that aired in 1978, had its titular heroine wearing a chakram/necklace as well.

Here's a 1st season intro:




The only reason I can think of for NBC rebooting Xena would be to grab an extra piece of the genre pie, as one online writer already suggested that Xena would be coupled with Grimm on Fridays, where Constantine and others have failed the last 4 seasons. I disagree with this logic. Since Xena is technically a superhero in the mold of Wonder Woman, using the revival as counter-programming to any of the comic book series currently on the air (i.e. Arrow, Walking Dead, Flash) makes more sense, and isn't as much of a risk.

Rating: B.

On The Air: Pardon the Interruption (2001)

ESPN's late-afternoon block stabilized 14 years ago with the launches of Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption, the latter best described as a sports fan's answer to CNN's now-defunct political debate series, Crossfire.

Washington based sportswriters Michael Wilbon, originally from Chicago, and Tony Kornheiser are the hosts, though each will take lengthy breaks for various reasons. In Wilbon's case, it often has to do with other ESPN-related duties, such as working NBA coverage. One hallmark of the series' long run is the often-goofy intros the two do. While Wilbon is serious, Kornheiser is a clown. I used to read Tony's columns in ESPN's monthly magazine when I had a subscription. He's just as funny on TV, although slightly more annoying. He must've taught Norman Chad everything he knows.

In case you wonder, Chad, a syndicated columnist, is also an ESPN employee, covering poker, and has guest-co-hosted PTI during its run. It can be said that Highly Questionable, originally named for its host, Miami Herald columnist Dan LeBatard, is a spin-off of PTI, based on LeBatard's frequent guest-hosting stints. He's another clown, and ten times moreso than Kornheiser.

PTI's early success also led to a TV show based on Kornheiser. Unfortunately, Listen Up, which paired Jason Alexander (ex-Seinfeld) with Malcolm-Jamal Warner (ex-The Cosby Show), bombed as a Monday entry on CBS in its lone season. The actors guested on PTI to promote Listen on its premiere night. Kornheiser briefly doubled up by working on Monday Night Football, but gave up that gig after 2 seasons.

Current Around the Horn moderator Tony Reali doubled as statistician on PTI until last year, when Horn relocated to New York from its Washington base. Reali has not been replaced on PTI, and perhaps that's for the better.

Here's a sample clip:



One wonders if Kornheiser had been a stand-up comic in his spare time.

Rating: A.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Forgotten TV: Sweepstakes (1979)

NBC was desperate to put together a primetime slate that would actually work, as they had so few hits during the latter half of the 70's.

Sweepstakes, an hour long anthology series, was one of those desperate entries. Modeled in a way after Don Fedderson's The Millionaire, which was in reruns in syndication in some cities at the time, Sweepstakes focused on multiple people experiencing sudden windfalls, and how they handled their new found riches.

Unfortunately, no episodes are available, just the theme song, performed by Ron Dante, formerly the voice behind the Archies and other pre-fab 60's groups, but by this point was tweaking the knobs in the studio for Barry Manilow.




For Edd Byrnes (ex-77 Sunset Strip), Sweepstakes represented the first step in a career comeback. He would make a few guest appearances after this series' quick demise.

Rating: C.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Celebrity Rock: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (late 70's-early 80's)

I don't know which season of Happy Days this next item comes from, but if you guys can help, I'd appreciate it very much.

Potsie (Anson Williams) performs a solo cover of the Shirelles' "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?", which was a huge hit in the early 60's.

Personal note: my high school sweetheart, with a lone guitarist accompanying her, performed this same song at our senior class talent show. Williams' version may or may not have been the inspiration.


Weasel of the Week: Donald Trump

This actually isn't a surprise.

Once again, we bestow the dreaded Weasel of the Week award upon motormouth media whore Donald Trump for once again putting his foot in his mouth. Actually, I think he put both feet in on this one.

Dumb Donald ripped into Arizona Senator John McCain the other day, claiming that McCain, who was a POW (Prisoner of War) in Vietnam before being released during the Nixon administration, wasn't a war hero, saying he likes "people who weren't captured". Ever hear of making sacrifices for the greater good, Dumb Donald? Obviously not, because you don't know what it is to make a sacrifice of any kind due to that over-inflated ego.

Once again, Dumb Donald led with his mouth, and is getting raked over the coals by fellow Republicans, and, according to a headline on Yahoo!, there is a call for Dumb Donald to drop out of the Presidential race before he really does something he'll regret. Now, he's blown his chance to at least get some positive advice from McCain before the primary season begins this winter. I've said all along that all he's interested in is how much face time he can get and how long it would take before he wears out his welcome. Seems to me he's already done that.

On Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids, the character Dumb Donald wore his ski cap over his eyes, with two holes cut out so he can see. This Dumb Donald needs to get rid of the rose colored contacts he's been wearing, because he's virtually guaranteed NOT to win the nomination from the Geezers On Parade next year. If we're lucky, he won't reach the starting gate in New Hampshire. What he needs instead is a new room, one with four padded walls, no windows, and no media access. Again, if we're lucky, his pal, Vince McMahon, might be persuaded to join him........

Saturday, July 18, 2015

In Theatres: Ant-Man (2015)

Marvel's 2nd film of the summer illustrates just how the company's movie division cherry-picks events in comics history, and retro-fits them to fit their cinematic universe. It's not perfect, but then, neither is science.

"Ant-Man" begins with a flashback to 1989, and Dr. Henry Pym (Michael Douglas) tendering his resignation upon learning that SHIELD intended to use his technology, seemingly without his consent. Look quick, and you'll find Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter) in a brief cameo. Fast forward to the present day, and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is being released from prison for his latest escapade. However, when he shows up at the home of his ex-wife and daughter for the latter's birthday, he finds resistance in the form of his ex's fiancee, a cop. He gets a job under an assumed name, only to lose it when his employers learn the truth. Things are going south when his former crew convince him to take on one more job. Talkative Luis (Michael Pena) takes more time than necessary to explain to Scott what the job entails. Sounds like the WWE could use him.

That job takes Scott into Pym's home, where he finds the Ant-Man suit, complete with cybernetic helmet, which for the movie, covers the eyeholes with the same kind of fabric found in the costume. Frightened, Scott returns the suit, only to be arrested and sent back to jail. Pym contacts him and arranges for Scott to escape.

It all leads to Scott, as an agent of Pym as the new Ant-Man, taking on Pym's former protege, Darren Cross, a real sleazebag who is selling the tech, along with a Yellowjacket suit, to Hydra. The x-factor here is Pym's estranged daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly, ex-Lost), who works for Cross, but is secretly helping her dad ensure that Cross doesn't sell the tech.

Digression time: Ant-Man debuted in the books before Spider-Man and was a founding member of the Avengers. Hope was introduced in Tom DeFalco's MC2 line of alternate-universe books several years later, but as a villain, which led me to think that maybe she'd be a double agent in the opposite direction. Here, she's a stand-in for her mother, Janet, who, as the Wasp, wearing a similar costume to that of Ant-Man, disappeared into a sub-atomic universe, and is presumed dead. Translated, that sets up a sequel.

The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) makes an appearance as Scott ends up at Avengers HQ, apparently going in the wrong direction on his mission. Yes, that does help set things up down the line.

Trailers:

Tom Cruise introduces a behind-the-scenes bit for "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation", opening in 2 weeks. Apparently, he's desperate for this to be a hit.

"Fantastic Four" (opens in 3 weeks) has its final trailer. Ok, so there's some hope that this could actually work, though I'm still not sold on Josh Trank(quilizer)'s skewed vision, adapted from the Ultimate line version of the FF.

"Everest" (fall): Based on a true story about the fabled climb up Mount Everest, but seems to be exaggerated just enough for the sake of drama.

"Superman/Batman: Dawn of Justice" (2016): Henry Cavill returns as Superman opposite Ben Affleck as Batman. Right now, Supergirl, featured on First Look, looks a little better, but there's still time. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor? Casting mistake. Apparently, they haven't figured out how to properly portray Luthor on the big screen since Gene Hackman.

"Goosebumps: The Movie" (October): Jack Black as R. L. Stine. Yes, the kids' horror series is being played for laughs.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (December): Yeah, Luke, Leia, Han, and the rest are back. Deal with it.

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay", part 2 (November): Whatever.

And, here's a trailer for "Ant-Man":




I think I can see why Edgar Wright, who still got some credit, left the project. However, the final product came out just fine.

Rating: B.

What Might've Been: Saved By The Bell: The College Years (1993)

I've often felt that there were certain shows aimed at families, more specifically children, that could've been run on Saturday mornings instead of in primetime (I'm looking at you in particular, Meego, and we'll deal with you another time). And, while this notion is nullified by the way cable networks such as Disney Channel program their live-action comedies to be run into the ground, NBC thought they could go in the opposite direction, and move their biggest Saturday property of the 90's into primetime.

Saved by the Bell: The College Years was spun off from the main Bell, which, in order to differentiate, added the sub-title, The New Class, to the Saturday show, which was now in a hour-long block. It gave producer Peter Engel his first taste of primetime, and he'd later have greater success with Last Comic Standing. Unfortunately, College Years wasn't so big a hit as the network and the franchise's fan base had hoped.

For one thing, when the series started, Bell's triad of male leads, Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack), Dustin Diamond (Screech), & Mario Lopez (A. C. Slater), were the only ones moving over from the Saturday show. Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (Kelly) would soon join them, probably not as quickly as had been envisioned, but once the first ratings came in, the return of Kelly was necessary in order to advance her storyline with Zack.

The quartet had moved on from Bayside High to California University, not to be confused with the real life University of California, so we can't call them Golden Bears here, though Kelly probably could've managed to wear the mascot's costume and look good. Anyway, real life football hero Bob Golic, who starred at Notre Dame and played in the NFL, was added on in his acting debut. Brother Mike has a better gig these days at ESPN Radio.

Anyway, scope this sample episode:



As I mentioned, the show's early failure to generate ratings forced Engel to accelerate plans, and that led to the series-ending TV movie, Wedding in Las Vegas, in which Zack & Kelly tied the knot. After College Years was cancelled, Dustin Diamond returned to the Saturday show, as Screech returned to Bayside as an assistant to Principal Rich Belding (Dennis Haskins). Actually, he was brought back as comedy relief, but it kept him busy for the next six years. As you all know, the others have found fertile ground in primetime, and Lopez currently anchors Extra. He & Gosselaar would return to the main Bell for a guest appearance, along with Lark Voorhies (Lisa). We covered that over in Saturday Morning Archives a while back, and because reruns of this series aired on TBS, which had rerun rights to Bell for, like, forever, we'll run this over in the Archives as well.

Rating: C.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Musical Interlude: Who Wears These Shoes (1984)

From Elton John's 1984 album, "Breaking Hearts" comes "Who Wears These Shoes". Elton spends most of the video sans his trademark glasses. One person commenting on YouTube noted that Elton might've presaged Alfonso Ribiero's "Carlton Dance" from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air by a good six years, but the truth is, some musicians were already swinging their arms from side to side on some songs. It was just normal back then.



Thursday, July 16, 2015

Forgotten TV: Have Faith (1989)

Religious themed sitcoms haven't exactly been big hits, NBC's Amen being a rare exception to the rule.

In 1989, ABC tried out Have Faith, which, to a degree, ended up falling closer to McLean Stevenson's ill-fated In The Beginning than being a clone of Amen. It did have an ensemble cast of TV vets, including Joel Higgins, late of Silver Spoons, Stephen Furst, likewise fresh from St. Elsewhere, and miles removed from Delta House, and Ron Carey (ex-Barney Miller).

Only 7 episodes aired, but only the intro, uploaded by Gilmore Box, is on YouTube, so here it is:



No rating.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Forgotten TV: Hawkeye & the Last of the Mohicans (1956)

James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans has been adapted for television a few times over the years, but with little success.

The first attempt came in 1956, and an independent producer thought it made sense to retitle it, Hawkeye & The Last of the Mohicans. Seems that this idea was counter-productive after all, as the show lasted just 1 season.

John Hart (ex-The Lone Ranger) top-lined as Hawkeye, partnered with Lon Chaney, Jr. as Chingachook, Hawkeye's "blood brother". You could tell Chaney was near the end of his storied career, just from the following video, and the fact that he was taking a lot of TV jobs in the 50's and early 60's.

The 2nd attempt was a syndicated miniseries that aired in the 70's,  but unfortunately may not be available on YouTube, though we're trying to figure a way to find it. The most recent version was titled, simply, Hawkeye, produced by Stephen J. Cannell, and starring Lee Horsley (ex-Matt Houston) and Lynda Carter, in her first series gig since teaming with Loni Anderson in Partners in Crime in the 80's, which was her only other post-Wonder Woman TV series.

For now, scope out a sample episode:



Rating: C.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Musical Interlude: Black Souls (1967)

The Arrows weren't exactly household names in the 60's, and the soundtrack to Dennis Hopper's 1967 motorcycle gang drama, "The Glory Stompers", isn't exactly readily available, either. I'm not even sure this song, "Black Souls", was even worthy of the charts.

The track, however, is now better known because of the narration by one of the film's stars, future radio & cartoon icon Casey Kasem, who speaks in rhyme, which I assume is what his character in the film, Mouth, did.




2 years later, Casey voiced the Cattanooga Cats' drummer, Groovy, who also spoke in rhyme. You'd think Casey could've written a book of poetry in his spare time.......

Monday, July 13, 2015

Forgotten TV: Pirate TV (1990)

Here's another of MTV's freshman class of the winter of 1990.

Pirate TV was an offbeat sketch comedy series that, if memory serves, aired in back of the Top 20 Video Countdown on Friday nights during its short run. I may be wrong about that. Anyway, after the 13 episodes initially aired, MTV re-edited them down to 30 minutes apiece, and it didn't help matters at all.

Pirate TV also has a hometown connection, as cast members Gregory & James Wolfe, aka the Wolfe Brothers, were the sons of a local TV personality. Unfortunately, they haven't been heard from again since Pirate was cancelled.

I never saw the show, so once again, there is no rating. Enjoy this sample episode for your own amusement.


Classic TV: Police Story (1973)

Police officer-turned-bestselling author Joseph Wambaugh, you could say, picked up the baton for Jack Webb in creating a realistic police drama for television. While Webb's last police series, Chase, was a failure for NBC, the network struck gold with Wambaugh's first foray into television, Police Story.

The anthology series also marked the debut of producer David Gerber at Screen Gems, which morphed into Columbia Pictures Television in season 2. Gerber came over from 20th Century Fox, where he was mostly developing sitcoms instead of dramas (i.e. Nanny & the Professor). The studio opted for more of an anthology format, largely because this opened up better options for spin-off prospects. As it is, Police Story birthed three series: Police Woman sprang from a 1st season episode. Joe Forrester, a comeback vehicle for Lloyd Bridges, began with an episode in season 2. Finally, David Cassidy's ill-fated Man Undercover came out of an episode in Police Story's final season. Of the three, of course, Police Woman proved to be the most successful.

If some of the melody of Jerry Goldsmith's closing theme sounds familiar, it might be because he used some of the same notes for his theme to CBS' Barnaby Jones. Ya don't believe me? Scope for yourselves after you've seen "Collision Course", a 1st season episode with Sue Ane Langdon (ex-Arnie), Dean Stockwell, Rosemary DeCamp, and Hugh O'Brian.




Retro TV picked up the series in 2012, but then left the local cable system before I could invest any time in Police Story. I didn't watch it back in the day, so there's no rating.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Videos of Summer: UHF (1989)

"Weird" Al Yankovic's lone feature film, "UHF", wasn't exactly a critics' darling when it was released in 1989, released during a pretty busy summer season that also included "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and "Batman". 'Nuff said there. The title song, on the other hand, is Yankovic at his best. Instead of the usual song parodies, Yankovic tweaks some of the 80's biggest names, including Billy Idol, Guns 'N' Roses, Prince, George Michael, Peter Gabriel, and the Talking Heads, in short scenes interspersed with movie footage. Keep an eye open for Michael Richards (ex-Fridays) as janitor-turned-kid's show host Stanley Spadowski. This gig eventually landed him an even bigger role a few years later on Seinfeld.




The film itself was a hoot, with an ensemble that also included Victoria Jackson (Saturday Night Live), Anthony Geary (General Hospital), Kevin McCarthy, Emo Phillips, a longtime friend of Yankovic's, and a pre-Nanny Fran Drescher. It was just released at the wrong time of the year.

Who's the biggest weasel?

The New York Post splashed a picture of a vagrant urinating in the middle of the street on Friday's front page.

Let me repeat. The vagrant was urinating in the middle of a busy street, out in the open. He's 49, homeless, and answers, according to the Post, to simply, Monk. He hangs out in front of a Victoria's Secret shop, and according to an article in Friday's editions, he scares away business, making things very bad for the lingerie company.

Since Friday, Monk has been arrested twice, taken to Roosevelt Hospital, and released in almost no time at all each time.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE???

NYC City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito wants to decriminalize minor offenses like public urination, ignoring the fact that it's a quality-of-life problem. Has this woman lost her mind?

In sharp contrast to the nonsense in NYC, if a fellow's desperate to heed nature's call and take a leak, he slips into the nearest alley, hoping the police don't see him, does his business, and moves on. More and more businesses in downtown won't admit just anyone to use the restrooms in order to ward off the local vagrants, most of whom waste most of the day on cheap beer and don't have the common sense to better themselves. If Monk was in upstate NY and was busted for public urination, he'd still be locked up either at city jail, or, since it was assumed he's mentally unstable, in the psych ward at Samaritan Hospital or the Capital District Psychiatric Center (CDPC) in Albany.

Some of the blame can be laid at the feet of Mark-Viverito, but mayor Bill DeBlasio has to shoulder the blame, too, as he also has advocated, or so it seems, the leniency toward vagrants.

So, I'll ask the question at the top of this post. Who's the real Weasel? Is it Monk? DeBlasio? Mark-Viverito?

The answer? All three. Under DeBlasio & Mark-Viverito's watch, New York is no longer Fun City in some people's eyes. Monk has threatened people, showing no concern for anyone other than himself, and no concern for his own safety. Roosevelt Hospital was the wrong place for him, unless Bellevue didn't have a bed for him, which is probably why Roosevelt turned him loose twice on Saturday. The man needs help in the worst way. It bugs me even more than the police didn't formally charge him.

While we want to help the homeless better their individual lives, it takes one bad apple like Monk to spoil the whole bunch throughout the state. DeBlasio is close to burning his bridges with Governor Cuomo, which almost certainly will cost him a re-election bid. Mark-Viverito has no clue of what she's doing. Sending Monk upstate won't help. We've got enough guys here who don't get it.

Enjoy your Weasel ears.

Edit: 7/13/15: "Monk" has now been identified as John Tucker, who was back on the streets on Sunday, and the hospital that examined him won't comment on why he was released when he clearly needs help. Tucker is also in denial of the fact it was him on the cover of the Thursday NY Post.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What Might've Been: The Tammy Grimes Show (1966)

Riding high on the success of Batman, producer William Dozier added two more series to ABC's lineup in the fall of 1966. Unfortunately, on a professional level, Dozier had already jumped the shark.

We have previously discussed at length The Green Hornet, which led off ABC's Friday slate. It would've succeeded on its own merits if the network and/or Dozier hadn't insisted on a crossover with Batman. Having the Hornet & Kato (Van Williams & Bruce Lee) interact with the Dynamic Duo led viewers to expect another camp adventure series, but Hornet was anything but, and subsequently was cancelled. This also led to ABC, and the other networks, for that matter, not picking up Dozier's pilots for Dick Tracy and Wonder Woman (both previously discussed) the following year. Wonder Woman was awful, perhaps even worse than our next subject........

Bear in mind that before Batman, Dozier's 1st series was the CBS Western, The Loner. The combination of Dozier, at the time an unknown quantity, with actor Lloyd Bridges (ex-Sea Hunt) and series creator Rod Serling (Twilight Zone) should've equaled ratings success. It didn't, because there were still enough oaters on the schedule, such that 20th Century Fox, which would have difficulties mounting a hit Western the rest of the decade, was left on Boot Hill.

So, to complement Hornet & Batman at ABC, Dozier went in the other extreme, trying a straight sitcom. Comedienne-singer Tammy Grimes had been originally considered for Bewitched two years earlier before Elizabeth Montgomery landed the career defining role of Samantha Stephens. ABC felt they needed to do something for Grimes, hence, The Tammy Grimes Show, which instead goes down in history as one of the worst sitcoms of all time. And the 60's were full of clunkers, you know.

Future Oscar winner John(ny) Williams composed the mod score. Williams was well established at Fox, having composed the themes for Lost in Space and another Fox/ABC frosh, Time Tunnel, but a sitcom? Well...! Dick Sargent, fresh from being released from his contract at Universal after the cancellation of Broadside, played Tammy's "twin" brother. Fraternal twin, I would assume. He'd move on to Bewitched after this dismal failure, since Grimes lasted just a month.

Suffice it to say, after Batman ended 18 months later, Dozier's success rate would put him under baseball's Mendoza line, when you factor in the unsold pilots.

Following is a sample clip.




I imagine if they wanted a vocalist for the theme, Tammy would've done it herself.

Rating: D.

Old Time Radio: The Green Lama (1949)

The Green Lama isn't quite as well known as some of his pulp contemporaries, such as The Shadow or Doc Savage, though all three transitioned into comics and other media.

In 1949, CBS Radio took a chance and tried out a radio version of the series for a short summer run. The inestimable Paul Frees, long a supporting player in a number of productions, was cast in the title role as Jethro Dumont, aka The Green Lama. Frees gave voice to almost all the male characters, including in this sample episode, courtesy of the Internet Archive:



CBS, undaunted, commissioned a TV pilot the following year, but it didn't get very far. That is to say, it wasn't made. Green Lama was meant to be a competitor to The Shadow, and Frees used his well known Orson Welles mimic to play Dumont/Lama (Welles is regarded as one of the definitive radio voices of The Shadow). I may be wrong about this, but it may be the only time Frees was actually cast in a lead role, aside from his later cartoon work.

Rating: B.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Classic Reborn (?): The New Monkees (1987)

While three of the Monkees were on a 20th anniversary tour, some genius at Columbia Pictures Television (now Sony Pictures Television) thought it'd be cool to revive the TV series with a new set of musicians/characters, and a completely different setting.

Unfortunately, The New Monkees was a major bomb, cancelled after 13 episodes. The lone album failed to produce a major hit, even though the four guys in the band were all musicians this time, one of whom already had a contract with his own band, the Wigs.

I never got to see New Monkees, and maybe it's just as well, considering the concept that placed them in a mansion, even though none of them were rich enough to warrant it. Just to illustrate how lame this was, check out the intro:




If you ain't dizzy from watching that, I'm happy for you. Y'think maybe they missed the boat by not doing any promos on MTV, which actually supported the original group's anniversary tour and had rerun rights to the original series? Um, yeah.

No rating.

On The Shelf: Archie's new look

In the course of over 75 years, Archie has undergone changes in his physical appearance just twice, the latest being his current look, introduced in the relaunch of his long-running series.

Bob Montana & Vic Bloom's original concept had Archie Andrews, nicknamed "Chick", with buck teeth and looking like he stepped out of a failed casting call for Our Gang. That first episode, reprinted as the backup feature, explains how Archie's long time honey, Betty Cooper, had just arrived in Riverdale, with Archie as her "welcoming committee", for lack of a better description.

Of course, the ensuing years have been kinder to both characters and their circle of friends, but after 50-60 years of a house style that had fallen behind the times, Archie Comics decided that their core characters needed a more realistic 21st century makeover, mostly in order for the company to better compete with its competitors. As if their horror line hadn't already put them in that position.

Award winning writer Mark Waid, more associated with superheroes (i.e. The Fox, which he's co-writing with artist Dean Haspiel), sets up the new Archie with a fourth-wall breaking nod to Saved by the Bell, moreso than reality television, which I initially thought Waid was mocking. There is nothing to mock, however. Waid's 1st story arc begins with Archie & Betty having just split up, and the rest of the kids at Riverdale High making an effort to reunite them any way they can. Veronica Lodge isn't around, but that will change, as it's explained she & her family are moving in (debuting in issue 3) from out of town, so already the status quo has been shattered, and that's a good thing.

For years, Archie Comics have been low on the readers' priority list behind DC, Marvel, and other publishers. In the Silver & Bronze Ages, you could argue for Harvey & Gold Key being ahead of Archie with younger readers. Today, you'd substitute IDW, Boom, & Dynamite with their bazillion licensed titles, and it'd be the same thing. Waid, aided by artist Fiona Staples, better known for Image's Saga, is changing the perception.

The overall makeover will continue as previously noted with the relaunches of Jughead (by Chip Zdansky & Fiona Henderson) in October, and Betty & Veronica (by Adam Hughes), probably in the winter. Kevin Keller, whose series ended last year, will return online, and Archie, seeing the success DC's had with digital-first books, could follow suit if interest warrants.

Archie (2nd series) gets an A-.
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Meanwhile, as the first story arc to Dark Circle's reboot of Black Hood wraps with this week's 5th issue, the series will be on a 2 month break before returning in October with a 1-shot by Howard Chaykin, which immediately is an artistic upgrade.
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The first piece of big news coming out of the San Diego Comic-Con is the announcement that DC's Vertigo division will add 12 new books in the fall. The lineup, courtesy of Newsarama:

OCTOBER:

THE TWILIGHT CHILDREN #1 (Gilbert Hernandez, Darwyn Cooke)
SURVIVORS’ CLUB #1 (Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorsen, Ryan Kelly)
CLEAN ROOM #1 (Gail Simone, Jon Davis-Hunt)
ART OPS #1 (Shaun Simon, Michael Allred)

NOVEMBER:

 UNFOLLOW #1 (Rob Williams, Mike Dowling)
 SLASH & BURN #1 (Si Spencer, Max Dunbar, Ande Parks)
 RED THORN #1 (David Baillie, Meghan Hetrick)
 JACKED #1 (Eric Kripke, John Higgins)

DECEMBER:

SHERIFF OF BAGHDAD #1 (Tom King, Mitch Gerads)
NEW ROMANCER #1 (Peter Milligan, Brett Parson)
LUCIFER #1 (Holly Black, Lee Garbett)
LAST GANG IN TOWN #1 (Simon Oliver, Rufus Dayglo)

Obviously, the relaunch of Lucifer coincides with the Fox series of the same name, which figures to relieve Minority Report after the first of the year, if not sooner. We'll have to wait & see when the solicits come down the next three months.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Musical Interlude: Love is Your Name (2015)

Over the last decade or so, a number of rock artists have crossed over to country, or, at least, had their videos appear on CMT. Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow scored a monster crossover hit with "Picture" in 2004. Uncle Kracker teamed with Kenny Chesney a year prior with "When the Sun Goes Down", the title tune from Chesney's CD. I've seen Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp videos air on CMT. Of course, you know also that former Hootie & the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker decided to shift to country to forge a successful solo career.

And while Taylor Swift has gone in the opposite direction with her first pop album, Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler is giving country a whirl. Like Springsteen and Mellencamp, Tyler might be a wee bit long in the tooth to make a career change, and, admittedly, were it not for the sound of banjos in the background, you'd think "Love is Your Name", from Tyler's solo CD, was just another Aerosmith song. It most assuredly isn't. Check it for yourselves.





Dunce Cap Award: Sony casting department

You know, of course, that Sony wants to reboot "Spider-Man" again, this time with a much younger lead, 19 year old Tom Holland (Who? Exactly!), after two films with Andrew Garfield in the webs disappointed many in the fan base.

Now comes word that the people in charge of making casting decisions for this movie have real reason to have their collective brains checked out, with news that Oscar winner Marisa Tomei ("My Cousin Vinny") is being cast as May Parker, Peter's aunt.

In the words of Wayne Campbell, exsqueeze me? Baking powder?

Ms. Tomei is 50, which, in comparison to Rosemary Harris, who first essayed the role of Aunt May 13 years ago at 74, is light years younger, and, perhaps, too young for the role. Sally Field, another Oscar winner ("Norma Rae"), was nearly 70 herself when she was cast opposite Garfield in "The Amazing Spider-Man" films. Field & Harris were believable in the role. Marisa Tomei would need a ton of makeup for this gig.

So the question needs to be asked. Why are Hollywood casting directors thinking that Aunt May needs to look like she's been to the fountain of youth? Lord only knows. Granted, there are people who don't look their age, and that's apparently the idea.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not sold on this any more than I am on the whole idea of hitting the reset button yet again on Spidey. Holland will make his debut as Spider-Man in the 3rd "Captain America" movie, subtitled, "Civil War", and due in 2017, as the web-head joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe (finally), but Marvel/Disney needs to get their counterparts at Sony together to discuss a few things, like common sense casting and not trying to pander to certain advertiser-coveted demographic groups. As it is, the Sony casting department gets a box of Dunce Caps this week.

Like, don't ya think an older actress, say for example an icon like Lynda Carter (ex-Wonder Woman) would make more sense as Aunt May?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Classic TV: Don Kirshner's Rock Concert (1973)

After years of being a record producer and music supervisor for TV (i.e. The Monkees, The Archies), Don Kirshner stepped in front of the cameras with his own syndicated Rock Concert, which launched in 1973, and ran for 8 seasons, ending in 1981. Kirshner served as host and executive producer up until the final season (1980-1). His vocal delivery, described as flat by critics, was parodied by Paul Shaffer on Saturday Night Live. Prior to Rock Concert, Kirshner had produced ABC's In Concert series, so he'd already broken ground in trying to compete with NBC's Midnight Special.

Depending on where you lived, the show aired on either Friday or Saturday nights, and in some cities, it would wind up going opposite SNL after it launched in 1975.

To give you an idea, here's a clip from 1980 with Pat Benatar performing her one of her first hits, "Heartbreaker":




Oh, I'm sure the little boys got excited seeing Pat in leotards & hose, but you have to remember she was already spoken for (married to guitarist Neal Geraldo), shattering the dreams of millions of teenage boys.

Producer Andrew Solt (ex-The Ed Sullivan Show) owns the rights to Don Kirshner's Rock Concert through his SOFA Entertainment company, so you might have to petition him for DVD releases.

Rating: None. Didn't see enough episodes to merit a rating.

Forgotten TV: Double Trouble (1984)

Liz & Jean Sagal, daughters of writer-producer Boris Sagal, parlayed a lengthy gig as Wrigley's Doublemint twins into their one and only sitcom, Double Trouble, which aired as a spring replacement series in both 1984 & 1985, since it wasn't generating enough ratings to be brought back in the fall each time.

Most of you probably caught the show in reruns on USA during the late 80's or early 90's. Before we go further, let's serve up the season 1 intro. Danny Dark (Super Friends) was an NBC studio announcer at the time, and is heard at the start.




When Double Trouble returned in the spring of '85, Donnelly Rhodes had been written out, having played the twins' father, and replaced by Barbara Barrie (ex-Barney Miller), who played their aunt. The supporting cast also included Michael D. Roberts (ex-Barreta) and Patricia Richardson, better known for her 90's gig on Home Improvement. The twins' dance moves come naturally, too. Their stepmom was Marge Champion. Older sister Katey has become better known thanks to lengthy runs with Married....With Children, Futurama, and the just concluded Sons of Anarchy.

No rating.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Musical Interlude: Der Kommissar (1982)

After The Fire scored their only hit with an English language cover of Falco's "Der Kommissar". You might've heard it in the background during the season finale of iZombie last month.




And here's your Austrian lesson for the day. Falco's original version:


On the Shelf: Two old friends return, and more are coming attractions

Will Eisner's seminal hero, The Spirit, has gotten the Rodney Dangerfield treatment from fans, and, to some extent, Hollywood, in recent years. Frank Miller's ill-advised feature film adaptation a few years ago was an abomination from the go, rightfully panned. DC tried twice to make a Spirit book work, with an appearance in the First Wave miniseries, standing alongside Doc Savage & Batman, in between. The message from readers was, succinctly, time had passed the Spirit by.

Matt Wagner and Dynamite Entertainment would like to think this is not the case. For that reason, The Spirit has joined Dynamite's ever-growing lineup of licensed titles. Wagner is only writing the book, as I doubt he could adapt his style to emulate that of Eisner, in contrast to Darwyn Cooke, who wrote DC's 1st adaptation, and could've just as easily drawn the series, too. The Eisneresque artwork captures the aura of the series, which has but one major change. Ebony White, no longer the stereotyped African-American sidekick, is now grown up and a practicing private eye himself.  His mission? To find his missing mentor, presumed to be dead once and for all.

I may be in the minority with this series, but I'm willing to give it a chance. Rating: A.

The same, however, cannot be said for DC's relaunch of Martian Manhunter. I disagree with the idea that J'onn J'onzz, a character who's been around nearly 60 years, was sent here with malicious intent in mind, per the new origin given the character. This is filed under the premise of "everything you know is wrong", but the truth is, this reboot is wrong on so many levels. If you thought what they're doing with Superman was wack, this is even worse.

Rating: D. As in, Dead on arrival.

Come January, DC will be saying hello again to some old friends. 8 miniseries have been ordered, and while the artistic teams have not been announced yet (that won't be for another 3-4 months), the writers have, most of them sage veterans.

For starters, Len Wein will be reunited with one of his seminal creations, Swamp Thing. Wein, who contributed to the Before Watchmen collection of miniseries a couple of years ago, will also pen the return of the Metal Men. We'll have to see who gets to draw these books before considering an investment. Meanwhile, Amy Chu, who is winning raves for her work on the digital-first revival of Sensation Comics, which is again a secondary title for Wonder Woman, is being tasked to script a Poison Ivy miniseries that promises to be completely opposite of either of Harley Quinn's books. In other words, serious stuff. Aaron Lopresti is tapped to write, and probably could also draw, Metamorpho.

Firestorm will be in the hands of co-creator Gerry Conway, who's gotten back into comics recently after spending most of the last three decades writing for television (i.e. Father Dowling Mysteries, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit). Maybe Greg Berlanti should give him a call to help with Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. Just saying. Two 80's heroines will also be reunited with their original writers. Raven will be written by Marv Wolfman, who, like Conway, had done some TV work in recent years, but in cartoons (i.e. Dragon Tales), while Mike W. Barr tries to undo the damage done to Katana after her last series died a quick death due to a backlash over writer Ann Nocenti's diminishing skills in the eyes of fans.

The icing on the cake is Keith Giffen's grown-up take on Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike. Yes, I said, grown-up. The toddlers you grew up with from 1956-71 are now adults, working as private eyes. Dare we even think they've fallen in love? Bear in mind, peeps, that these two were the original Rugrats back in the day. As noted, artistic teams will be announced when the solicitations for January books come out before Thanksgiving, if not sooner.

Edit: 7/8/15: It's been reported that artist Howard Porter, who collaborated with Giffen on the recent Justice League 3000, will draw Sugar & Spike. The remaining artistic teams will likely be revealed before November if they're willing to share now.

Which ones would I be interested in? Curiosity suggests Sugar & Spike, Poison Ivy, Metal Men, and either Firestorm or Metamorpho. We'll see come winter.

Marvel is trumpeting its "All-New, All-Different" line debuting in October, but the constant rebooting to #1 for the sake of first-issue collectors needs to be retired. Period. Didn't they learn anything from DC's "New 52"? Apparently not, and they don't care.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Forgotten TV: Passport to Danger (1954)

Before being cast as The Joker on Batman, Cesar Romero had forged an impressive film career, sometimes as a romantic lead. In 1954, second generation producer Hal Roach, Jr. cast Romero in Passport to Danger, playing a US diplomatic courier named Steve McQuinn, who traveled the world, finding adventure and trouble at every port.

Passport lasted just 1 season, however, and hadn't been seen in years. Scope out the episode, "Tangier" (the poster confused it with "Tehran", which was the next episode in the series):




I hadn't seen any of Romero's movies, and didn't know he'd made this series. Six years later, he starred in the Kraft Mystery Theatre production, "The Suicide Club" (previously reviewed). Between these two roles, he had the potential to parlay his run as Joker into another headline role in a crime drama, but it never happened. Instead, he would make a few guest appearances on shows such as Murder, She Wrote near the end of his career.

Rating: B.

Baseball this 'n' that

Just got back from Bruno Stadium, after seeing the Tri-City Valleycats win two out of three from the Stedler Division leaders, the Lowell Spinners, winning the rubber match, 7-4. The funny part about all of this is that the 'Cats' normally crack promotions team, which has played some pranks with visiting teams in the past, held off on doing so this time. Fortunately, the Spinners will be back in town next month, giving them a month to put together a playlist of the "other" Spinners, the R & B legends from the 70's (i.e. "I'll Be Around", "Mighty Love") to play between innings.

Not only that, but it was also "Bark at the Park Night", meaning fans could bring dogs to the stadium. It's a popular annual promotion, and there were dogs of all breeds and sizes on hand. If the dogs could be counted as part of the attendance, it'd be just another night at the ballpark. Another missed opportunity. Valleycats staffers could've dressed up as Snoopy, Marmaduke, Clifford, etc., to attract the kiddo's.

Hey, it could work.
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The Mets only have one player in this year's All-Star Game, and that is the reigning Rookie of the Year, Jacob DeGrom, whose record would be better than it is were it not for the Mets' defense disappearing at inopportune times. Worse, NL manager Bruce Bochy (San Francisco) passed on Mets closer Jeurys Familia, a move that could backfire in the series that started tonight. Familia, with 22 saves in 24 chances, has been lights out since replacing Jenrry Mejia as the closer. Mejia will be activated from the suspended list on Tuesday, and likely will be sharing set-up duties going forward.

Of course, the All-Star starters are pock-marked with injuries, as usually happens. Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton was voted in despite a broken hand that landed him on the DL right before the deadline. St. Louis' Matt Holliday could be activated in time after being sidelined with a groin injury. Cubs rookie Kris Bryant was selected to replace Stanton on the roster, without all the attendant controversy and speculation over Stephen Strasburg three years ago, when Strasburg was called up by Washington mere weeks into the season and the media, mostly TV types, were practically begging to have Strasburg put on the team. Didn't happen. Detroit star Miguel Cabrera will miss the game as well, as he was DL'd on Saturday with a calf injury. The deadline for voting had already passed by that point.

Bottom line: you just can't predict injuries.
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Meanwhile, one Yankee who won't be in Cincinnati is Alex Rodriguez. AL manager Ned Yost (Kansas City) opted for Texas slugger Prince Fielder, who has a higher batting average and slugging percentage, over A-Rod, whose surprising start has healed all the wounds with Yankees fans and New York media, at least for now. Of course, it helps that the Yanks have been hovering around the top of the AL East, which no one expected.

Conversely, remember when all the wags thought Boston would be atop the division? I was one of the few that said it wouldn't happen, and, as of now, I've been proven right. Then again, I picked Toronto, and they're not that far above the Red Sox. Hey, beggars can't be choosers, and can't be right all the time. Similarly, the Chicago White Sox were a popular pick in the AL Central, but they're in a similar strait to the BoSox. The house cleaning will start after the season. If they really want to clean house, maybe retiring "homer" announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson (a former Boston announcer in the 70s with Dick Stockton) would be a good first step. His act gets old pretty fast. Homers tend to be like that. If they weren't, maybe I'd listen to Yankee games on the radio.
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I found it amusing a couple of weeks back when the Mets entrusted Ron Darling with play-by-play duties while lead announcer Gary Cohen was on vacation. They started this experiment in spring training, in games I didn't get to see, but Darling got in a roller derby reference when he used the line, "he called off the jam". Amazingly, Keith Hernandez didn't call him out on it, and he grew up in San Francisco, which has been a major roller derby city for years. Like, who knew?

Of course, radio announcer Howie Rose, when he was on TV for the now-defunct SportsChannel back in the day, often---and probably still does---used a Honeymooners reference (a mere bag of shells) to describe fly balls in the outfield easily caught. All that tells us is that Howie is every bit a Noo Yawkah. The only TV he does now is voiceovers for Mets promotions, aside from being the play-by-play voice of the NHL Islanders. Ah, for the days when they could rotate the radio/TV coverage in-game.......

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Musical Interlude: Time After Time (1984)

I have to admit I was not a big fan of Cyndi Lauper. However, "Time After Time", the 2nd single off "She's So Unusual", is my favorite Lauper song, showcasing Cyndi's more serious side, which has emerged again in recent years as she's veered away from whimsical pop to adult contemporary to creating the Broadway musical, "Kinky Boots".

Then-boyfriend Dave Wolf and the late Captain Lou Albano, at the time steady members of the Lauper repertory company, appear in the video, with Albano as a short-order cook in a diner.




To think that Lauper, the former lead singer of a little known indy band, Blue Angel, and Madonna broke out around the same time (winter 1983-4), and were so different in style, and different in their divergent career paths, and both are still active.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Videos of Summer: Independence Day (1994)

Martina McBride's "Independence Day" has nothing to do with the actual celebration of the holiday, though a parade is depicted on this day in the video, but has to do with a woman gaining independence through extreme means from her abusive husband.

The story is told from the point of view of the woman's daughter, who was 8 at the time. The chorus will be familiar to listeners of conservative radio/TV talk show host Sean Hannity, who uses the song without the permission of its author.





Friday, July 3, 2015

Forgotten TV: The New Gidget (1986)

20 years after the original series signed off, Gidget was brought back in a brand new series, spun out of a TV-movie, produced a year earlier to mark the original series' 20th anniversary.

The New Gidget marked the return of former Screen Gems executive producer Harry Ackerman, who shepherded the remake, as he did with the original. The fact that the new series was syndicated allowed it to go beyond its forebear, as it lasted two seasons this time.

Of course, Gidget is now all grown up and married. Caryn Richman took over the role played by Sally Field in the original series. With Field off making movies, you'd think they'd have thrown a bone and brought her back for a cameo? Nope. William Schallert (ex-The Patty Duke Show) steps in for Don Porter as Gidget's dad, with Dean Butler (ex-Little House on the Prairie) as Moondoggie, aka Jeff Griffin, Gidget's husband.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't see much of this show any more than I did the original, so there's no rating. For this holiday weekend, we find Gidget and company on board for a 3-hour cruise. The crew? Special guest stars Alan Hale, Jr. & Bob Denver (ex-Gilligan's Island)!!!




The open with Gidget trying to write with a colonial-era quill pen was a bit much, though.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Weasel of the Week: "Harry Leon Fleming"

For all we know, this week's Weasel is using a pen name, and declaring himself an apostle to justify his sending threatening letters to three women pastoring African-American churches in South Carolina. Clearly, this guy is riding on the wave after Dylann Storm "Drain on the tin" Roof's assault on an African-American church 2 weeks ago. Since that time, 6 churches in the area have been destroyed by fire, the most recent coming on Tuesday, and attributed to a lightning strike. Three others are believed to be the work of an arsonist.

For the uninitiated, AME stands for African Methodist Episcopal, and, admittedly, I didn't know that myself, even though there are some AME churches in my area. I know of a man who actually has walked out of the church I attend---twice---because the pastor's wife, herself an ordained minister, takes the pulpit on a once a month basis on average. The way I look at it is this. God is calling men and women to be pastors and/or evangelists in this modern era. This is a forward step in the church's progression. One of the top evangelists in this country, it happens, is a woman, Joyce Meyer, who's also a best-selling author. I've heard her preach, and she is dynamic and anointed. Period.

Mr. Fleming, if that is your name, enjoy your Weasel ears. They'll look good on you in prison.

What Might've Been: The Most Deadly Game (1970)

As we've documented, Aaron Spelling began producing series on his own, even though his last collaboration with Danny Thomas, The Mod Squad, was in its 3rd season. Unfortunately, Spelling had trouble finding his footing at first. As we previously discussed, his collaboration with Screen Gems, The Young Rebels, failed on Sundays. His other frosh aired on Mondays, also on ABC, and in front of Monday Night Football.

The Most Deadly Game was one of those two half-hour dramas, and perhaps therein laid the reason why it failed. Spelling was being asked by the network to put together two half-hour series when an hour-long show, like Young Rebels was, would've made more sense. The age of the half-hour crime drama was gradually coming to an end, as, if I'm not mistaken, Jack Webb's Adam-12, in its 2nd season, might've been the last one.

George Maharis (ex-Route 66) & Ralph Bellamy (ex-Man Against Crime) team with Yvette Mimieux in this short-lived series that, were it to be revived today, would be a hour-long show.

MattTheSaiyan offers a short preview, taken from ABC's fall preview special for 1970, and narrated by William Schallert (ex-The Patty Duke Show):



Another day, we'll take a look at Spelling's other entry, The Silent Force.

No rating.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Forgotten TV: Ten Who Dared (1978)

If memory serves, Ten Who Dared was one of the last Mobil Showcase productions, produced jointly by Time-Life's television arm and the BBC. The miniseries hasn't been replayed, save maybe for a run on A & E, since its initial syndicated run in 1978. Actor Anthony Quinn, whose only other series was the short-lived Man & the City for ABC a few years earlier, serves as host.

Another ABC connection is the theme music, lifted from Monday Night Football, and was also used by SFM Media for their Holiday/Family Theatre presentations. For the record, the song, heard briefly in the following excerpt, is called "Heavy Action".

Here, Quinn queues up the episode profiling Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro.




Rating: B+.