Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Classic Reborn: Super Password (1984)

2 1/2 years after Password Plus ended, NBC revived the franchise anew as Super Password, which lasted nearly 5 full years.

Bert Convy (ex-Tattletales, Snoop Sisters) was tapped as host, and there was one tweak to the game. 5 clues were linked together to form the Password Puzzle, which increased the drama. Otherwise, it was the same game as it was always played.

Right now, let's check out a sample episode with Charles Siebert (Trapper John, MD) & Jo Ann Worley (ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In)



After skipping the 90's, Password would be reincarnated one more time in the 00's. We'll look at Million Dollar Password another time.

Rating: A.

Musical Interlude: Karma Chameleon (1983)

I'm not a big Culture Club fan per se. In fact, the only song I actually liked off their debut, "Kissing to be Clever", was this next item, "Karma Chameleon".

The video finds the band in 19th century Mississippi. Boy George just couldn't be bothered to wear period clothes, unlike his bandmates, which is why he stays off to the side. And, yet, when he landed a guest gig as himself on The A-Team, where was the rest of the band? Hmmmmm.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

Easily one of, if not the, most popular cast members of the original Star Trek, has been beamed up to Heaven.

News broke earlier today of the passing of Leonard Nimoy at 83 after an illness. An accomplished character actor by the time Gene Roddenberry had cast him as the cerebral, emotionless Mr. Spock, Nimoy proved he was much more than one role. After Trek ended its initial run in 1969, Nimoy moved over to Paramount stablemate Mission: Impossible, replacing Martin Landau as the resident master of disguise for the IMF team.

In the mid-70's, Nimoy returned to science fiction, serving as host-narrator for In Search Of..., a syndicated series that was later revived on cable. In tribute, we present an episode of In Search Of.....




SyFy is already making plans to honor Nimoy with a 5 hour marathon that includes some classic Trek, including the movie, "The Undiscovered Country", as well as an appearance on Twilight Zone.

Rest in peace, Leonard. Live long & prosper.

On the Shelf: Archie darkens its Circle, and other odd things

Long before Archie came on the scene, his namesake company was known as MLJ Comics, and, like just about everyone else in the Golden Age, they were doing superhero comics. However, when Archie Andrews arrived on the scene, he quickly became the company's number one star, and, of course, the rest was history.

Characters like The Shield and Steel Sterling would be brought back from time to time, each time to increasing indifference from a marketplace that now saw them as 3rd rate, or lower. Archie Comics even went so far as to license the characters, albeit rebooted for a new generation, to DC in 1991, but the ultimate result was the same, despite some nice stories and artwork.

In recent times, after reacquiring the likes of The Black Hood and others, Archie has tested the waters anew. The success of their mature-readers takes on Archie and Sabrina to this point has prompted the publisher to rechristen their Red Circle line as Dark Circle, hoping against hope that the dark, gritty look of the 90's still resonates with today's readers.

Black Hood is the first to roll out under the Dark Circle umbrella. The artwork recalls a former Hood artist, Gray Morrow, and one panel of his was lifted for the first issue, to illustrate the fact that the former Hood, Kip Burland, is dead, and a disfigured Philadelphia cop has become the new Hood. The coarse language is new for Archie, in an attempt to inject some realism into the storyline. Too many f-bombs, however, dilute that goal. My brother thought the art was a swipe of Alex Maleev, but the roots go further than that. We'll see how this plays out in the long term.

Rating: B.

When we reviewed "Guardians of the Galaxy" last August, I mentioned that Marvel's original Guardians, introduced in 1968, had been left out, save for Yondu, rebooted as a bounty hunter. Realizing that there was bound to be a backlash from older readers, Marvel decided to reboot the original version of their galactic super-team, hence Guardians 3000, which launched in November. On a whim, I bought the first four issues, but found the artwork to be a bit too busy for my tastes. With Marvel rebooting everything this summer, thanks to a reboot of Secret Wars, it'll be interesting to see how far this goes. I wanted to like this, as I like the story to a certain extent, but the art just doesn't move me.

Rating: C.

DC's current Catwoman series has generated controversy since the relaunch in 2011. Current scripter Genevieve Valentine, a newcomer to DC, has pushed the envelope even further with the announcement on her blog, and making the rounds of the press since issue 39 dropped on Wednesday, that Selina Kyle, insofar as Valentine is concerned, swings both ways. In other words, she's a bisexual.

SAY WHAT?

The first hints of this, I think, might've been during Frank Miller's Batman: Year One arc back in 1987. Miller's vision had Selina, with a very short haircut, as a dominatrix. A male patron, not shown, whined, "Why do you hate us?", to her. To me, that wasn't the Catwoman I grew up reading and watching. As a writer, Miller has fallen off the rails often in recent times, but one must wonder if Valentine was inspired by that story. And they now say it's canonical? I for one am interested in how the majority of readers feel about this twist.

After crossovers with fellow Hanna-Barbera icons The Flintstones & The Jetsons in the last two issues, Scooby-Doo will welcome Jonny Quest to DC in issue 10 of Scooby-Doo Team-Up, out in May. This was inevitable after Dr. Benton Quest made an appearance on Mystery Incorporated during season 2. Now, all we need is Dynomutt and a few other H-B heroes to make the scene. The first six issues have been collected in a trade paperback, out now, by the way. Hit & miss, that's all I'll say.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A tale of two schools

Sectional play began in high school basketball on Tuesday night in upstate NY. In Class AA, there were two games of particular, peculiar interest that illustrate the pros and cons of how NY's Section II determines who is eligible for sectional play.

Once upon a time, Albany High and Bishop Maginn were two elite teams in boys' hoops. Like their brethren in the defunct Big 10, they were left to put together an independent schedule this season, and, the results were, well, not great. In fact, the women's teams at both schools probably could've beaten them in co-ed scrimmages. Between them, Albany & Bishop Maginn's boys teams won 4, maybe 5 games the entire season.

On Tuesday, Maginn, having been thrashed by nearly 50 points by Troy High a week earlier, didn't appear to put up much of a struggle with Guilderland, losing 84-40. The Griffins had won just 2 games, and there are rumors regarding the future of the school, due to a decline in enrollment. From what I understand, rising tuition costs at Bishop Maginn, in contrast to charter schools such as Green Tech or Albany Leadership, might be convincing parents to send their children to the latter schools. Maginn has been in operation for over 30-35 years, and the Catholic Diocese may be looking at closing the school.

In sharp contrast to Maginn's misfortunes on the court, Albany put up a valiant effort in their first round game vs. Bethlehem, a team they're likely to see next year in the Suburban Council, depending on the schedule. The Eagles won by only 5, which, given the Falcons' record, gives Albany at least a moral victory. Albany, as previously documented, is one of four schools (Troy, CBA, & Schenectady are the others) headed to the Suburban in the fall, so they'll get a steady diet of Bethlehem, Shaker, & Guilderland, among others. The Suburban Council is considered one of the toughest leagues in Section II, now swelling to 16 teams (2 8-team divisions).

So what is Bishop Maginn's future? For now, uncertain. With the drop in enrollment, I doubt that they would retain their status in Class AA, and would instead drop down to no lower than B. I'm told they have less than 200 students enrolled there now, but what if it gets worse?

I don't think we want to know.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rockin' Funnies: Wild Thing (1988)

The late Sam Kinison, son of a preacher, took up the pulpit himself before turning to comedy. The high pitched scream that was his trademark was also part of his high energy sermons.

However, Kinison made his fame as a stand-up comic and actor, debuting in Rodney Dangerfield's 1986 film, "Back to School". 2 years later, Dangerfield returned the favor as one of several guest stars in Kinison's video cover of the Troggs' "Wild Thing". Kinison added some new lyrics, and got to roll around in a cage with Jessica Hahn while a number of rock luminaries, including Jon Bon Jovi, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, and Billy Idol, hooted, hollered, and cheered.

Despite the predictable heavy airplay on MTV, the producers of "Major League" asked the band, X, to record a cover of "Wild Thing", rather than use Kinison's version. X's rendition became the entrance theme for relief pitcher Rick Vaughn (Charlie Sheen). Today, it's more likely Sheen would prefer Kinison's version, since Screamin' Sam might've been a kindred spirit........


Maybe they need to put a barricade around the court........

I'm sure you've heard by now about how Kansas State students stormed the court after their basketball team defeated Kansas Monday night, resulting in Kansas coach Bill Self being pinned to the scorer's table, and other hazardous things.

Now, they're calling for a stop to what has become a tradition in college sports, particularly football & basketball, where students and other fans will storm the court or field if their school wins against a major opponent. It's been going on for years, and beefing up security isn't going to help. At least, not in the traditional sense.

No, what is needed is for each of the universities' administrations to make it clear to the student body that running onto the court or field, even at the end of the game, is not acceptable. It's expressly prohibited during games in both college and the pros, and even in high schools. Most of the time, the student rush is fueled not by adrenaline or school spirit alone, but, of course, by excessive alcohol consumption. Celebrating is fine if, say, for example, Indiana State, a school that is only famous because of one player (Larry Bird), beat Notre Dame, but because of the safety not only of the players, coaches, & officials, not to mention broadcasters, but those same students and fans as well, there has to be a greater emphasis on decorum. Administrators need to treat the playing field the same as the classroom. Period.

During football season, we've seen how students will tear down the goalposts during these mass celebrations, ignoring the fact that it will cost their school upwards of hundreds, even thousands of dollars, to replace the posts. In basketball season, the danger is greater, and thus, there's a bigger chance of potential litigation against the school if a visiting player or coach is injured, such as what happened at K-State on Monday. We don't know if Self was hurt, but you can imagine there would be more attention given to this discussion if he was seriously injured.

It's one thing if the winning team's players will cut the nets, but leaving it in the hands of a few hundred drunken students? You don't even want to think about it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What Might've Been: Letters to Laugh-In (1969)

The runaway success of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In prompted NBC to commission a daytime spin-off series. Sad to say, Letters to Laugh-In lasted just 3 months on the air.

Letters featured some of the familiar regulars from the primetime show, including Jo Ann Worley, co-host Dan Rowan, and, serving as both MC & announcer, Gary Owens.

Edit, 10/12/17: The episode previously posted was deleted. We have just a portion of that episode's intro left:



Silly, yes, but perhaps a little too over the top for daytime audiences. I never saw the show, so there's no rating.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Classic TV: Sea Hunt (1958)

If someone asked you about TV producer Ivan Tors, what's the first thing that comes to mind?

Of course, it'd be either Daktari or Gentle Ben or Flipper. But before he forged a working relationship with MGM, which produced all three, Tors worked with Ziv Television on his first two series.

The first was Sea Hunt, which launched in January 1958, and ran for 4 seasons total. Lloyd Bridges starred as ex-Navy frogman Mike Nelson, who now was a freelancer who helped battle spies and common crooks. Tors had tried to sell Sea Hunt to the networks, but was unsuccessful, and partnered with Ziv to put the show in syndication.

Following is the series premiere, "60 Feet Below":




More than 25 years after the series ended, Sea Hunt was revived, again for syndication, this time with Ron Ely (ex-Tarzan) as Nelson. Ely's TV debut was in Tors' next series, The Aquanauts, aka Malibu Run, which lasted just 1 season, as did the 1987 remake of Hunt. Today, Sea Hunt airs on This TV, and distribution rights are held by MGM, and, assuming by extension/association, Sony.

Rating: B.

A Classic Reborn: The Odd Couple (2015)

It's been worth the wait.

CBS made viewers wait until the February sweeps to launch their remake of The Odd Couple. The reasons could include the network's commitment to NFL football on Thursdays for 2 months at the start of the season, as well as the lingering stigma of last season, when the late Robin Williams' last series, The Crazy Ones, was hyped to the moon and launched in the fall, but was not renewed. I still believe that the decision to cancel Crazy might've played a role in Williams taking his own life 6 months ago.

As with Crazy, the new Odd Couple has a familiar face getting top billing, in this case, Matthew Perry (ex-Friends), who co-authored the teleplay for the series opener, as well as having developed the project in the first place. Perry's still looking for a hit series he can call his own after failing with Go On a couple of seasons back.

Perry assumes the role of Oscar Madison, who's still in sports journalism, but to update the concept for the 21st century, Oscar now hosts a talk show or podcast (it's not established which) out of his apartment, which is notably larger than the one occupied by Tony Randall & Jack Klugman in the 1970-5 series. Oscar's still a slob, as evidenced by assorted items strewn about the apartment. Believe me, I can relate. I have a friend who kept an apartment the same way more than 20 years ago, and it got him in trouble.

Thomas Lennon (ex-Reno 911!) stops short of a Randall mimic as neatnik Felix Unger, who, in this version, hijacks Oscar's sports ticker to get his roommate's attention. You know the story, I'm sure. In this edition, it is established that Oscar has been divorced for about 18 months. His ex-wife has been rechristened Gabby (short for Gabrielle, of course), as opposed to Blanche in previous incarnations of Couple. Similarly, Felix's ex-wife was renamed Ashley for this series (it was Gloria in the 1970 series, and that was a change from Neil Simon's original vision). Felix is newly divorced, and it is also established that he & Oscar were college pals. Good move on the part of Perry and his fellow writers to set that in stone early. The origins were shuffled a couple of times in the earlier series.

While I'm not sure if the two hotties we see in the opener are meant to be analogues for the Pigeon Sisters from the original, at least there won't be a shortage of romantic plot twists. Another nice move was at least retaining part of the beat of the classic 1970 theme, composed by Neal Hefti of Batman fame.

The opener was hammocked in between The Big Bang Theory and the series finale of Two and a Half Men, so it's in a good spot. Bear in mind, too, that the previous versions aired on either Thursdays or Fridays. We've previously discussed Garry Marshall's ill-advised urban remake from the 80's.

Right now, let's scope out the intro:



Lennon absolutely nails it as Felix, and anyone that followed Friends closely would've thought that Chandler had a little Oscar to him until he got married. That said, provided CBS doesn't screw up, this Couple should stay with us. It took 3 days before Time Warner Cable added the opener to their CBS On Demand portal on their Primetime on Demand channel. Hopefully, subsequent episodes won't take as long.

Rating: A.

Weasel of the Week: Rudolph Giuliani

He was once dubbed, "America's Mayor", by Oprah Winfrey in the wake of 9/11/01. However, 13 1/2 years later, former NYC mayor and NY Attorney General Rudolph Giuliani is just another political has-been searching to make himself relevant all over again.

You may have read about Giuliani's rant last week where he claimed that President Obama supposedly doesn't love this country, which I think had something to do with the President's hesitant, borderline soft stance on militant Muslim groups such as ISIS, who trade on fear, intimidation, and an unhealthy hate of the US and its allies, subverting the teachings of their own Quran (Koran) because of blind hatred. Giuliani went so far as to accuse Obama of being a Communist.

SAY WHAT??

Where Giuliani got his information, I don't know, but in this regard, he's way, way off base. Look, I didn't vote for Obama myself, but I respect the man and his office. He's nearing the end of his run in Washington, but Obama should be safe in knowing that as of now, Giuliani has next to no shot of getting the Republican nomination next year. Ditto for former governor George "Rikki-Tikki" Pataki, who, according to Mike Lupica in today's New York Daily News, is playing the role of Dittohead to Giuliani's Rush Limbaugh. Speaking of guys looking to regain relevancy, well, there's another right there.

Of course, it could get worse. It could get the brainless "Birthers" out of the closets again, and we don't need that.

We all know the water's polluted down in NYC. How else to explain the nest of Weasels down there, which now includes the once revered Giuliani, this week's winner? It only goes to prove that it ain't just the downstate Democrats (i.e. Sheldon Silver) that have lost their minds. The Republicans, the so-called Grand Old Party (GOP should now stand for Geezers On Pot, at the worst), aren't much better.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Classic TV: The Carol Burnett Show (1967)

For 11 seasons, Carol Burnett charmed audiences with her weekly variety show, a mix of sketch comedy, audience participation (usually during the monologues), and elaborate, Broadway style musical numbers.

Contrary to what most folks might believe, Carol's core supporting cast wasn't always together for the entirety of those 11 seasons (1967-78). For example, Tim Conway (ex-McHale's Navy) was trying his hand at headlining his own show at the time Burnett's series started. Unfortunately, Rango, for ABC, was a dud. Two self-titled series, one a variety show, came and went on CBS 3 years later. It wasn't until season 9 when Conway finally came aboard, after Burnett had appeared on his 1970 show. Lyle Waggoner had moved on (to Wonder Woman), and Conway filled the void, creating his own distinctive, goofy characters, including Mr. Tudball, whose professional relationship with his secretary, Mrs. Wiggins (Burnett in a blonde wig), became instant classics.

Harvey Korman left after season 10, lured away by ABC to do his own show, which also was a failure. Frequent guest Dick Van Dyke was brought in to fill the void, but didn't stay very long. The writing was on the wall, and Burnett chose to end the series on her terms, in March 1978.

Perhaps the most popular skit was "The Family", which ultimately was spun off, following a reunion special in the 80's, into the NBC series, Mama's Family, though only Vicki Lawrence reprised her role from the original skits. Burnett would return as Eunice periodically, but between NBC & syndication, Mama gained iconic status of its own.

Last month, Me-TV acquired the syndicated Carol Burnett & Friends rerun package that was last seen locally during the 80's. What I didn't know at the time was that the package only collected material from seasons 6-10 (1972-7). A DVD release that has been hawked on TV the last couple of years, initially through Guthy-Renker and now Time-Life/Starvista, should address the absence of material from the 1st 5 seasons.

Let's scope out the first ever Tudball/Wiggins skit:




Most of what I saw on The Carol Burnett Show came from the syndicated package, though I did see a few 1st run episodes during the final 2 seasons. Bear in mind, it didn't always air on Saturdays. It started on Mondays, then Wednesdays, then Saturdays, and moved to Sundays at the end of the run.

Rating: A.

What Might've Been: Painkiller Jane (2007)

Before beginning his run at Marvel Comics, Joe Quesada was running his own company, Event Comics, in the mid-90's, and produced just two series of note. One of them has been far more successful and visible----Painkiller Jane.

The story of detective turned vigilante Jane Vasko lasted through a 5 issue miniseries in 1995, leading to a number of crossovers with other companies, and even a motion picture franchise ("Terminator") over the next 13 years. In the midst of this, the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) optioned a TV-movie, based on Quesada & Jimmy Palmiotti's miniseries, but completely deviating from the original concept.

2 years later, Jane returned, this time in a weekly series, with Kristianna Loken in the title role, which lasted just 1 season, but was closer in concept & scope to Palmiotti & Quesada's original vision.

Here's a sample clip:



Today, Dynamite Entertainment holds the comics rights to the series, rather than Marvel. However, it is the experience of developing the series that would explain, in some way, Quesada being involved with Marvel's TV arm, as co-executive producer for their animated series and Agents of SHIELD. However, overseeing the transition of his pride & joy to the small screen doesn't exactly qualify Quesada to be a competent TV executive, as demonstrated by his & Jeph Loeb's micromanaging of the cartoons at Marvel.

No rating. Never saw the show the 1st time around.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Musical Interlude: Video Killed the Radio Star (1979)

This is the 1st video ever played on MTV, back in 1981. Thing is, it preceded the channel by 2 years.

The Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star", and its accompanying album, "The Age of Plastic", actually landed in stores in 1979, but most folks associate it with the dawn of MTV, and assume it was released in '81.




Can you say, 1-hit wonder? Thought you could.

On The Air: Svengoolie (1970)

Yes, the date is correct. Svengoolie started as a regional phenomenon out of Chicago in 1970, one of the last regional horror movie hosts. Jerry G. Bishop, the original Svengoolie, put his makeup kit away after a few years, and the current Sven, Rich Koz, started as the "Son" of Svengoolie in 1979, graduating to becoming Sven himself a few years later.

Since 2011, Svengoolie, with Koz, has been a Saturday night fixture on Me-TV, and all the classic horror movies we watched on cable as kids (or syndication if you're of an older generation), have returned in full glory. Sven does his stand-up routine from the safety of his coffin, but still gets rubber chickens thrown his way if a joke bombs. The open mixes in some Three Stooges footage, which is odd, considering that most of the movies come from the Universal library, including the Stooges' contemporaries, Abbott & Costello. Sound bytes range from various Looney Tunes to Beavis & Butt-Head and a zillion points in between.

As shown on a recent broadcast, Koz was honored by the Chicago Museum of Television & Broadcasting for his 35+ years on the air. He's the last of a dying breed, but maybe, just maybe, he could start a new generation.

Scope out a recent clip:




He just needs better joke writers, is all.

Rating: B+.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Musical Interlude: Be Good Johnny (1981)

Australia's Men at Work broke through big time in 1981 with their debut, "Business as Usual". The album was released in the US in 1982, and spawned the hit singles, "Down Under" & "Who Can it be Now?". A 3rd video, "Be Good Johnny", made the rounds on MTV, but was not released as a single otherwise.

Singer Colin Hay plays the father figure to a 9 year old dreamer. Additional spoken dialogue was done by keyboard player Greg Ham.




Why this wasn't a single in the US, I don't know. I wish it was.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What Might've Been: Harper Valley PTA (1981)

In 1968, Tom T. Hall wrote a song that became a huge hit, albeit a 1-hit wonder, for Jeannine C. Riley. "Harper Valley PTA" topped the charts, if memory serves, and still gets some airplay on some oldies stations even today.

More than a decade later, producer Sherwood Schwartz, still looking for a hit that had nothing to do with either of his earlier franchises (Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island) adapted the song into a TV-movie for NBC, with 60's icon Barbara Eden (ex-I Dream of Jeannie) as Stella Johnson, who challenged the stuck-up nabobs and eventually joined the PTA herself. The series launched as a mid-season replacement in January 1981, plugged into a familiar spot for Schwartz----airing on Fridays, where the Brady Bunch used to call home. It held its own against Dukes of Hazzard, enough to warrant a 2nd season.

However, with the new season came some changes. First, the title was shortened to Harper Valley and became just another sitcom. Second, Mills Watson came over from Lobo, which had been cancelled, to play Stella's brother. Watson must've been a contract player for Universal by this point.
Anyway, with Watson added to an ensemble that already included Fannie Flagg and George Gobel, you'd think the show would continue to putter along. Nope. It ended up cancelled.

Following is a season 1 intro, preceded by a network bumper:



No rating. As mentioned before, my house was a Dukes house in those days.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lesley Gore (1946-2015)

Word has just come across the wires of the passing of singer-songwriter-actress Lesley Gore at 68.

Ms. Gore scored a number of hits in the 60's, including "It's My Party" and "She's a Fool". Her fame landed her a role on Batman in season 2 as an accomplice of Catwoman (Julie Newmar). She flirted with Robin (Burt Ward), who briefly joined up with Catwoman thanks to some chicanery, but just when you thought the Boy Wonder would actually have something close to a relationship, it'd fizzle in seconds.

Anyway, in this clip, Pussycat (Gore) uses Catwoman's other henchmen as a test audience while she sings the title tune from Lesley's 1966 album, "California Nights":



Too bad there wouldn't be a sequel. "California Nights" turned out to be Lesley's last commercial release.

Rest in peace, sweet pussycat.

MLB 2015 preview, part 2: Yankees breakdown

The big question surrounding the Yankees this season has to do with the prodigal vagabond, Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees don't want him starting at 3rd, but rather splitting time at DH, or even backing up Mark Tiexiera at 1st. Of course, there are still a lot of fans who'd rather see the Bombers cut bait and send A-Roid off to the abyss or somewhere else, just to get rid of him. As a tabloid magnet, he can be a tiresome read.

Yankees infield:

We knew that replacing Derek Jeter at shortstop was going to be a hardscrabble, but the Yankees traded for Didi Gregorius (Arizona) to fill the hole, and re-signed Stephen Drew, who was put at 2nd last season. For the 2nd straight off-season, no one was willing to play Scott Boras' usual shell game with Drew, so you figure Boras had to cave in to what GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner brothers were willing to offer for 1 year. Unfortunately, they also parted with a former teammate of Gregorius in Martin Prado (Miami), a move which could come back to haunt them. Drew is just a stop-gap at 2nd, since all they have otherwise are a couple of unproven kids, including Rob Refsnyder. Ideally, had they stuck with Prado, he'd be at 2nd, with Chase Headley at 3rd, and Drew getting first call to back both up.

Outfield:

You have Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, & Carlos Beltran patrolling the outfield. That made Ichiro expendable (Miami again), but having Chris Young, who came over from the Mets in mid-season, isn't too bad for a 4th wheel.

Catching:

Brian McCann, backed by J. R. Murphy & Austin Romine? Meh. The Yankees did it again, giving a catcher away to Pittsburgh (Francisco Cervelli) that could've helped them. The scouting department needs help.

Pitching: 

Masahiro Tanaka no longer has his countryman, Hiroki Kuroda, to help him get acquainted with the majors, as Kuroda went home to Japan. A rotation of Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, and either Adam Warren or Chris Capuano or Esmil Rogers doesn't really scare folks. Given the injuries to the first four, an ambulance may be needed on standby, just in case. The bullpen was retooled after the Yanks foolishly let David Robertson walk (White Sox), and they went out and got David Carpenter & a unproven arm in Chasen Shreve (Atlanta), plus Nathan Eovaldi (Miami), who could factor in as a starter after all. He got lit up like a Christmas tree last I'd seen him pitch against the Mets. Either Dellin Betances or Andrew Miller will be the closer, but we're looking at closer-by-committee for the start of the season. Not good.

Prediction: 4th.

A Modern Classic: Doogie Howser, MD (1989)

At the end of the 80's, ABC was experimenting with producing comedy-dramas, now known as "dramedies", without laugh tracks. Veteran producer Steven Bochco helmed two of them, Hooperman (with John Ritter) & Doogie Howser, MD.

Douglas "Doogie" Howser (Neil Patrick Harris) is the youngest licensed physician in the country. He aced his SAT's at 6 (!!!), graduated high school at 9 (!!!), and college at 13. Not humanly possible in this day and age, but then....!  Doogie follows in the footsteps of his father, David (James B. Sikking, ex-Hill Street Blues), and joins him at Eastman Hospital.

At the same time, Doogie also must deal with the usual issues that go with being a teenager. His best buddy, Vinnie (Max Casella) dispenses advice, and fixes Doogie up with a classmate, Wanda (Lisa Dean Ryan).

Doogie Howser, MD lasted 4 seasons, but things didn't really end well for Doogie & Wanda, as they split up when she went to college. Ryan would resurface in MTV's short-lived sci-fi drama, Dead at 21. Casella co-starred in the orignal feature film version of "Newsies" for Disney, and we all know what Neil Patrick Harris has done in recent years, including the recently concluded How I Met Your Mother.

Scope out the pilot that served as the series opener, courtesy of Hulu:




Mature themes aside, ABC could've used this series to provide some backup for their Saturday morning lineup, especially when NBC went to an all-live-action lineup in 1992, Doogie's final season.

Rating: B.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

On video: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

I read Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon when I was in high school. I knew there'd been a film version with Humphrey Bogart as detective Sam Spade, and it was just a matter of time before I obtained the film on video or DVD.

Anyway, personal thoughts aside, it was the directorial debut of John Huston, and it's a dandy.

Spade starts off as 1/2 of a firm with Miles Archer, who ends up getting killed while tailing a possible suspect when the partners are hired by Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor). It all has to do with the titular bird, a statue that dates back centuries, and is pursued also by Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and Kasper Gutman, a most polite individual (Sidney Greenstreet). When we first meet Cairo, he makes the mistake of drawing a gun on Spade in the detective's office, and winds up eating a quick KO. To think that Bogart, Lorre, & Greenstreet would team again in "Casablanca". Warner Bros. must've treated them pretty well. If you've never read the book or previously seen the movie, trust me, the twist ending is not too surprising.

Anyway, here's a trailer to get you interested.




Too bad there weren't any sequels. WB could've made a ton using the Sam Spade radio show as a template for later films.

Rating: A.

2015 MLB preview, part 1: Mets breakdown

Baseball training camps open this week. Pre-season play starts in 2 weeks. Time to take a look at separating the contenders from the pretenders. Before we break down the six divisions, we'll take a look at our "local" teams first, starting with the Mets.

The Amazing Orange & Blue Crew shocked everyone by forging a second place tie with Atlanta, several lengths behind Washington. While the pundits have the two teams trending in opposite directions due to off-season activity, let's remember that it's a six month marathon, not a quick sprint.

Mets infield:

Everything seems to hinge on the health of 3B/team captain David Wright. However, 1B Lucas Duda had a breakout season in 2014, with 30 HR's. 2B Daniel Murphy is a doubles machine, and the Mets would've been stupid to move him. Then again, they have a history of making dumb moves based on false perceptions. The battle is at shortstop between Ruben Tejada & Wilmer Flores, who hit about 8-9 HR's between them last year. Eric Campbell proved the Mets right by letting Justin Turner go after the 2013 season, as he produced when able to play, not only in the infield, but in the outfield as well. To think that the tabloid press expected the Mets to make a move for Colorado All-Star Troy Tulowitzki. Maybe GM Sandy Alderson was right to stand pat in this area.

Outfield:

Curtis Granderson moves to left field to accomodate Michael Cuddyer, a childhood chum of Wright's who was picked up as a free agent from Colorado. To make room, another ex-Rockie, Eric Young, Jr., who can also play 2B (his original position), was let go, and landed in Atlanta earlier this week. Given that the Mets figure to start the season with Matt den Dekker & Kirk Nieuwenheis as their backup outfielders, that's a risk. There's no messing with rocket armed Juan Lagares in center, who earned his first Gold Glove, and prompted announcer Gary Cohen to create a catchphrase when Lagares makes a highlight reel play. "Where extra base hits go to die!" Lagares, if he can get his offense to catch up to his defense, will be an All-Star soon enough. They moved the fences in at Citi Field to accomodate Granderson & Wright, and not only that, but they signed ex-Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long, who was Granderson's mentor in the Bronx.

Pitching:

Enough about the return of Matt Harvey. They're talking innings limit with him, and you can't really blame them, though Harvey's bulldog mentality will challenge them during the summer. With Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Rookie of the Year Jacob DeGrom, Bartolo Colon, & either Jon Niese or Dillon Gee in the 5 hole, the rotation isn't a problem. Daisuke Matsuzaka returned home to Japan, but they still have swing man Carlos Torres, so at the most, the rotation is 7 deep. Scary. Jenrry Mejia, Bobby Parnell, & Jenrys Familia, in reverse order, could match Kansas City's late game pen. No wonder there's optimism in Queens.

We won't discuss catchers Travis d'Arnaud & Anthony Recker, since the Mets can't or won't opt to sign a veteran to back them up. D'Arnaud, however, showed some life in terms of power numbers, and he & Recker combined for about 20 long balls. Nothing to worry about.

If the Mets get off to a fast start, they have to keep up the momentum all season long, with no threat of breakdowns. Of course, the Citi Field injury curse could still be a factor.

Prediction: 2nd again, this time by themselves, and in line for a Wild Card.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gary Owens (1934-2015)

Hollywood is mourning the passing of another icon of the 60's this weekend.

Actor, comedian, and radio personality Gary Owens left us at the age of 80. Gary is best remembered as the announcer on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, and as host-announcer for its daytime spin-off, Letters To Laugh-In, as well as for cartoon fans, the voice behind such characters as Roger Ramjet, Space Ghost, and the Blue Falcon, owner-partner of Dynomutt, Dog Wonder. Owens also hosted a syndicated radio oldies show, Gary Owens' Supertracks, during the 80's, insofar as I can recall. In addition to Laugh-In, his primetime credits included a recurring role as a TV newscaster on The Green Hornet.

Gary's last TV job was voicing Space Ghost one final time, on Cartoon Network's Batman: The Brave & the Bold, a 1-time only teaming of the Sentinel of the Spaceways and the Dark Knight.

Following is the very first Roger Ramjet cartoon, as Roger and his team meet Dr. Ivan Evilkisser. This video is also available over at Saturday Morning Archives.




Rest in peace, Gary.

What Might've Been: Jennifer Slept Here (1983)

As fantasy sitcoms go, this one was a few years too late to find an audience.

In fact, one critic dismissed Jennifer Slept Here as a cheap knockoff of Topper, except that the titular ghost (Ann Jillian) was an actress who was killed when she was run over by, of all things, an ice cream truck. Time passes, and Jennifer's lawyer and his family move into Jennifer's old home in LA.

Jennifer bonds with the lawyer's teenage son (Glenn Scarpelli, ex-One Day at a Time), and there were hints that she was more than just the kid's ghostly guardian. Unfortunately, the series initially aired on Fridays, and was thumped in the ratings by Dukes of Hazzard. Enough said there, but NBC tried it out as a summer replacement on Wednesdays to recoup production costs. While the ratings were better, it wasn't enough to save the show.

After the series, Ann Jillian, who co-wrote the show's theme song, sung by Joey Scarbury (Greatest American Hero), revealed she had breast cancer. That would spark interest in her earlier series, It's a Living, such that it would be revived a couple of years later, though Jillian would only appear during the first year of the revival.

Gilmore Box provides the open to Jennifer Slept Here.




No rating.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Video Valentine: Game of Love (1965)

Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders had two big hits in the 60's. "Groovy Kind of Love" was covered some 20 years after its initial run as a solo hit for Phil Collins from his film, "Buster". "Game of Love" hit the charts in 1965, which would explain its inclusion in the soundtrack to Barry Levinson's "Good Morning, Vietnam", which came out 22 years later.

The following clip is taken from Hullabaloo. Like, let's take a time trip, yo.


Dunce Cap Award: David Moore and Jesse Jackson

There is dumb, and, then, there is dumb.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, seizing an opportunity to get back in the national spotlight, tried to play the race card in the Jackie Robinson West Little League scandal. Not only were the Chicago Little Leaguers stripped of their World Series national title, but also a regional title that earned them the golden ticket to Williamsport six months ago. What Jackson sees, which few do, except maybe a few small minded folks in Chi-town, is that because this was an all-African-American team, and a very good one at that, based on what I saw last summer, cobbled together the way they were by adults with a win-at-all-costs mentality that included a willingness to bend and/or break Little League rules and regulations, that Little League International's decision, announced Wednesday morning, had racist overtones.

Guess what? It doesn't. Not in the slightest bit.

An executive from another Little League, whose all-star team was crushed by JRWLL, 43-2, waited until nearly 2 months after the fact to file a complaint with LLI. In December, the governing body decided no action would be taken, but more evidence came to light, leading to Wednesday's decision.

By politicizing the issue, Jackson has made the situation worse than it already is. The kids have gotten support from President Obama and a number of Chi-town sports stars, including Lance Briggs, Ryan Mundy, & Alshon Jeffrey of the Bears. They all realize the adults used these kids as pawns in a grand scheme that ultimately resulted in JRWLL losing in the title game. The adults should bear the blame alone, and, as I wrote on Wednesday, the kids have to endure the stigma of a label they don't deserve. They have to work extra hard at the next levels to regain lost credibility. Jackson should preach from his pulpit wearing a Dunce Cap, because, let's face it. His narrow vision doesn't let him see both sides of the story.

Now, we move west to Montana, and state senator David Moore, who wants to expand an existing indecent exposure law to prohibit wearing yoga pants in public.

SAY WHAT?

In an era where women are commonly wearing tights, leggings, jeggings,  or stretch pants with skirts, and yoga pants fall into the latter category, I think, Moore wants to force them into wearing, say, jeans over the yoga pants. The way I see it, Moore is out of line. A Montana school has already stated that they don't consider tights, leggings, and jeggings to be in the same category as pants. The tights I can see, since they're really in the same category as nylon hose, but apparently Moore doesn't get out enough to recognize changing trends in fashion.

What I see is a moralist pushing his value system, hard, on his constituents, without regard to their personal interest. That doesn't make him a Weasel. Instead, he earns a Dunce Cap. As with Rev. Jackson, Senator Moore suffers from an acute case of tunnel vision. At this time of year, I can understand having to cover up, but I'd not be surprised if Senator Moron forced the women of his district to wear ski suits over their dresses and tights/yoga pants in order to get to their jobs. He's that out of touch.

As long as we're at it, we'll add one more Dunce Cap, to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, for taking a pass on penalizing Knicks owner James Dolan for his acid-laced e-mail to Irving Bierman. Dolan, the worst sports owner in New York, if not the entire country, has, along with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, has redefined what it means to be out of touch with his fan base. Silver, paying no attention to the firestorm created before the Super Bowl of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell visiting with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a political ally, wants to stay on Dolan's good side, I get that. Problem is, Dolan doesn't have a good side, if you follow media reports about his mishandling of the Knicks or his other interests, including Cablevision. Nearly a year after forcing Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers, Silver should be similarly putting on a full court press on Dolan to change the way he runs his team, or risk being forced out. Period. If he doesn't, the media will assume he's in Dolan's pocket, not that it would help the Knicks any, since Dolan doesn't know diddly about basketball at all, and Silver, nearly a year into his administration, needs to create his own identity. It's time he reinforces that, and not a second later.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Musical Interlude: Knock Three Times (1970)

Here's a little something you might not know about Tony Orlando & Dawn.

While Telma Hopkins & Joyce Vincent Wilson were the visible backing singers behind Orlando, as shown in the following video, it wasn't until after "Knock Three Times", and the title tune from Dawn's debut album, "Candida", climbed the charts. Toni Wine, better known for the female vocals for the Archies, was among the studio singers working with Orlando, who had given up recording demos and was working as a producer at the time.

"Knock" hit #1 in early 1971, after "Candida' peaked in the top 5. The group would later land their own TV show, which lasted a couple of years before being cancelled. Hopkins would move on to a very successful acting career, continuing today in the cast of Are We There Yet?, based on the Ice Cube movie of the same name.

Right now, here'a rarity in and of itself. A clean shaven Tony Orlando, with Dawn, and "Knock Three Times":


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sports this 'n' that

College basketball lost two of its all time great coaches within the last four days.

On Saturday night, Dean Smith, who led future NBA stars Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, & James Worthy to a national title in the early 80's, passed away at 83. Three nights later, Jerry Tarkanian, a man who was, basically, Smith's polar opposite, a rebel who did things his way at Long Beach State, Fresno State, and Nevada-Las Vegas, winning a national title in 1990, and losing to Duke in the finals a year later, succumbed at 84. While Georgetown icon John Thompson was known for carrying a towel on his shoulder, Tarkanian did him one better, and chewed on the towel during games. Both Smith & Tarkanian will be missed.

Hindsight being what it is, maybe people are now wishing that Mo'Ne Davis and her Little League All-Stars from Philadelphia had reached the championship game after all in last year's World Series.

That's because Jackie Robinson West Little League of Chicago was stripped of the US title when it was proven that league officials had tampered with boundary rules in order to recruit kids from outside their district, just so they could have a "super team", one that ultimately lost the World Series finale nearly six months ago.

It's not the fault of the kids, but rather the greedy, self-serving suits in charge of the league. The manager has been suspended indefinitely for his part, and it's doubtful that JRWLL will even be eligible for the regional tournaments this year. Now, these talented kids, as they move on to the next level, have to work twice, maybe ten times, as hard to prove themselves, and erase the stigma of their mentors' dirty pool.

A Modern Classic: The Daily Show (1996)

Later this year, Comedy Central's Daily Show will be looking for a new host/anchor, who would be the 3rd in the series' 19 year history.

Daily, especially since Jon Stewart took over in 1999, is the sole reason, arguably, for the decline of supermarket tabloids such as the Weekly World News, which specialize in fictional articles. Whereas the series mocked and tweaked pop culture under original host Craig Kilborn, Stewart steered it toward the political arena, becoming just as important to viewers as the nightly newscasts it parodies.

Stewart, who'd previously helmed a pair of self-titled talk shows, including one on MTV, is the 3rd late night MC to step away from his desk within the last year following CBS' Craig Ferguson (who replaced Kilborn on the Late, Late Show) & David Letterman, who will depart in the spring, with Daily Show alumnus Stephen Colbert moving in to The Late Show in the fall. Colbert actually makes 4, but Comedy Central cancelled The Colbert Report outright, replacing it with Larry Wilmore's Nightly Show last month, and, as noted, Colbert will shift over to CBS.

The success of Daily Show under Stewart prompted the host to film the movie, "Rosewater", which came out late last year. Comedy Central hasn't said who will succeed Stewart, but Kilborn, I think, is available, and in today's editions, the New York Post suggested that suspended NBC anchor Brian Williams could fill Stewart's chair, assuming NBC drops the other shoe and cuts Williams altogether in the wake of recent events.

Following is a sample clip from last year.



Rating: A.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Video Valentine: Lotta Love (1978)

Nicolette Larson spun off from being a session player behind Neil Young to forge her own career, and scored a #1 hit in 1978 with "Lotta Love". How many couples are requesting this song this week, with Valentine's Day on Saturday?


Monday, February 9, 2015

On DVD: Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958)

Most people think of Steve McQueen as a movie star, but before films like "The Blob", "The Sand Pebbles", and "Bullitt", there was Wanted: Dead or Alive.

For three seasons, McQueen roamed the Old West as bounty hunter Josh Randall, a rare sort in that he often gave his rewards, albeit anonymously, to charity. How else to make a bounty hunter a positive role model?

Currently, the series airs on Saturday afternoons on Me-TV, and has been run during the wee small hours on weeknights as well.

Let's take a look at a sample clip:



Nearly 30 years later, a feature film, set in the then-present, cast Rutger Hauer as a descendant of Randall's, but it ended up a colossal dud.

Rating: A.

Weasels of the Week: James Dolan & Kanye West

We've got a pair of repeat offenders for the Weasel ears this week.

First up is perhaps New York's absolute worst sports owner, James Dolan. The New York Daily News reports in today's edition that Dolan responded to a letter from an angry 73-year-old Knicks fan by berating said fan, and accusing him of being an alcoholic. It's official. Dolan is just as out of touch with his fan base, as it relates to the Knicks, anyway, as Vince McMahon is with WWE. Dolan has a rep for meddling with team affairs where he doesn't belong, largely because he, like McMahon, thinks he knows what is best for his franchise and its fans. Dolan even went so far as to suggest to the fan to switch his allegiance to the Brooklyn Nets. And he wonders why people are calling for him to sell the team, as the fan suggested in his letter.

The Knicks aren't going anywhere this season, and you can imagine there are more than a few fans who'd rather see Phil Jackson as coach instead of team president, because one of his former players with the Lakers, Derek Fisher, hasn't been able to properly implement the triangle offense that Jackson had used to perfection with the Lakers & Bulls. Jackson would rather remain retired from coaching, but if it's what it takes to get the populace off Dolan's case, short of Jackson actually, you know, buying the team, maybe he could be persuaded.

Meanwhile, there is Kanye West.

West turned back the clock 5 1/2 years on Sunday when he rushed the stage to spoil the celebration for Beck, who won the Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. As was the case with the 2009 MTV Video Awards, West believed that Beyonce deserved to win. Apparently, we can blame him for Best New Artist winner Sam Smith's pre-Grammys declaration that he'd give the award to Beyonce in case he won, which didn't happen. West, as usual, is calling attention to himself, which makes him a perfect fit with wife Kim Kardashian and her brood. The man just doesn't get it, and likely never will. This time, he walked onstage, then u-turned and let Beck have his moment in the sun. After the show, West directed his anger at the Grammys themselves, but in this writer's opinion, he's just speaking for a small minority, one that includes himself, wife Kim, and best pal John Legend and his wife, model Chrissy Teigen. The Legends really need to consider that they're hanging around with the wrong crowd. West is a world class Weasel, and that's all that needs be said. He claims to fight for creativity? Please. He's only fighting for some spotlight that he doesn't deserve.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Girl Power: The Warrior (1984)

Scandal followed the success of "Goodbye to You" with 1984's CD & single, "The Warrior", which offered a different sort of sound.

There's a reason why this video was in very heavy airplay in the summer of '84.......




"The Warrior", however, was Scandal's swan song, and singer Patty Smyth would move on to a solo career, as previously documented.

It's not the worst of times, but.......!

LaSalle Institute of Troy is marking its 165th anniversary this season, but in terms of athletic achievement, it has not been the best of seasons. If it was a season for the ages, it'd be closer to the dark ages.

LaSalle's varsity football team reached .500 last fall, and got as far as the Class AA semi-finals. The winter sports, however, have fared worse. The varsity hockey & basketball teams have a combined 12 wins between them. Normally, the basketball team would have 12 wins by themselves in the season's final days, but not this year. It's not the fault of coach Steve Sgambelluri, the former College of Saint Rose star. The team, from what I saw three weekends ago vs. Troy, wasn't able to put together four solid quarters in a row, though it seems they finally did vs. Lansingburgh on Friday. It's not a good sign, considering LaSalle will be joining 'Burgh in the Colonial Council next season.

On the ice, the Cadets had gone 5 games without a win (0-4-1) headed into Saturday's match vs. Saratoga. The Blue Streaks are among the elite programs in Section II, period, and they were coming off a big win over their main rival, Shenendehowa, three nights earlier. Nothing says trap game like going on the road against a sub-.500 club when you're looking to solidify playoff position. The Cadets had played better in a 1-1 draw vs. Queensbury, and with the playoffs looming, they had to make a run just to get close to .500.

LaSalle drew first blood late in the 1st period, as Logan DiScanio "put the biscuit in the basket", as ESPN's Keith Olbermann would put it. However, Saratoga evened it up in the 2nd, then took the lead early in the 3rd. Back came the Cadets, who tied it at 2 late in the 3rd to force overtime. Halfway through the extra session, with LaSalle on a power play, DiScanio was taken down by Saratoga's Ian Frey. At first, Frey was going to the penalty box, but after a discussion among the officials, DiScanio was awarded a penalty shot, and Frey felt like a----wait for it----French Frey, as DiScanio scored his 2nd goal of the game to win it for the Cadets.

The attitude of at least one Saratoga player changed after the post-game handshake. As he went down the tunnel, the player dropped a couple of f-bombs out of frustration, right in front of parents and smaller children who were getting ready to leave. Not good. I do have some sympathy for LaSalle coach Tim Flanigan, though. Tim & I were classmates at Troy High back in the day, and Tim has experienced the absolute worst, going a whole season without a win in his senior year. It's not something he wants to deal with again.

What may be even sadder is the glaring lack of press coverage. After a 5-2 loss to Burnt Hills-Ballston Spa 2 weeks ago, The Record's coverage was so half-hearted, they gave the victors almost no credit at all. There were no television cameras at the game, and that's not helping. Seems as though high school hockey, despite the popularity of 2 local colleges and an AHL team in the tri-cities, is treated like a red-headed stepchild these days, as local press would rather devote more space to high school & college basketball, as well as the aforementioned college & pro hockey teams. As has been noted before, while the local papers are bent on directing consumer traffic to their websites, regardless of how many readers have internet access, high school hockey coverage has been reduced to next to nothing.

Then again, some high schools are getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment on the court, too. Sometimes, a box score just isn't enough there. But, that's for another time.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Video Valentine: Valentine (1992)

Nils Lofgren only had a minor run on the charts while with A & M Records in the 80's. Rykodisc signed him in 1992, but to get the attention of MTV, Lofgren got a little help from a couple of his friends.

Bruce Springsteen & Ringo Starr join Lofgren on "Valentine".




Let's see how many people request this over the next week.

On DVD: Boston Blackie (1951)

Star of books, radio, & movies, Jack Boyle's Boston Blackie transitioned to television in 1951, with Kent Taylor in the lead role. Blackie, nee Horatio Black, is a reformed jewel thief who now is a private eye, but, much like Jim Rockford 2 decades later, often finds his criminal past comes back to work against him on some cases.

58 episodes were produced by Ziv over two years (1951-3), and some have found their way to DVD via public domain, like this one, "Cop Killer".




Boston Blackie has found new life, albeit in comic books, in recent years. Moonstone Publishing has released a pair of graphic novels, reintroducing Blackie to a new generation.

Rating: A.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Video Valentine: Heartbeat (It's a Lovebeat) (1973)

The DeFranco Family, from Canada, had a modest run of success on the American charts in the early-to-mid 70's, but seemed to peak with their first hit, "Heartbeat (It's a Lovebeat)", which topped out at #3 on the Hot 100, and went to #1 on Cashbox's charts.

Here's the DeFrancos, from an appearance on The Mike Douglas Show:




Today, Tony, the lead singer, is in real estate. Whodathunk?

On The Shelf: DC shuffles the deck again, while Ant-Man gets his due

I haven't really bought a Marvel comic in a very long time. Oh, sure, a S.H.I.E.L.D. reprint volume a little more than a year ago doesn't really count, but I think for once I've found something that may be worth my while.

Marvel has gone, ah, back to the future, not just with reacquiring a license for Star Wars (which, like Marvel, was acquired by Disney), but with the 2nd Ant-Man, Scott Lang, who debuted in the pages of Marvel Premiere in the 70's, and now headlines a monthly series.

The idea is that the original Ant-Man, Henry Pym, has retired, so Lang, who had been killed off then brought back with less fanfare than Marvel's more high profile sucker shots (i.e. Capt. America, Johnny Storm, and, I assume, Wolverine), begins his series torn between taking a job with Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) and sharing custody of his daughter, Cassie, with his ex-wife. It wouldn't be a Marvel book if there wasn't that kind of emotional angst mixed in, wouldn't it now? Marvel gave us a double-size opener to set the stage, but without any necessary fighting, save maybe for a brief appearance by the new, female Beetle, introduced, insofar as I know, in the recently concluded Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Different, yes, but also pricey at $5 per copy. Marvel has gotten a wee bit too greedy in the Dan Buckley era, y'know. Apparently, they don't believe in pricing anything under $4 these days, unlike DC.

I'm just looking to see what I can add to my reading list now that the miniseries I was into have concluded. Ant-Man is a start.

Rating: B.

Meanwhile, DC has decided that after nearly 4 years, the "New 52" is waving goodbye after the Convergence event ends in May. Come June, there'll be a revamped roster. Sort of like this:


Batman Beyond :W: Dan Jurgens /A: Bernard Chang
Bat-Mite: (6-issue limited) W: Dan Jurgens /A: Corin Howell
Bizarro: (6-issue limited) W: Heath Corson /A: Gustavo Duarte
Black Canary: W: Brenden Fletcher /A: Annie Wu & Irene Koh
Constantine: The Hellblazer: W: Ming Doyle/ A: Riley Rossmo
Cyborg: W: David Walker/ A: Ivan Reis
Dark Universe: W: James Tynion IV/ A: Ming Doyle
Green Lantern: Lost Army: W: Cullen Bunn /A: Jesus Saiz & Javi Pina
Doomed: W: Scott Lobdell /A: Javier Fernandez
Earth 2: Society: W: Daniel Wilson /A: Jorge Jimenez
Dr. Fate: W: Paul Levitz /A: Sonny Liew
Harley Quinn/Power Girl: (6-issue limited) W: Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner/ A: Stephane Roux
Justice League of America: W/A: Bryan Hitch.
Justice League 3001: W: Keith Giffen/ A: Howard Porter
Martian Manhunter :W: Rob Williams/ A: Ben Oliver
Midnighter: W: Steve Orlando/ A: ACO
Mystic U: W: Alisa Kwitney /A: TBD.
Omega Men: W: Tom King /A: Alec Morgan
Prez: W: Mark Russell/ A: Ben Caldwell
Red Hood/Arsenal:W: Scott Lobdell/ A: Denis Medri
Robin, Son of Batman: W/A: Patrick Gleason.
Section Eight: (6-issue limited) W: Garth Ennis/ A: John McCrea
Starfire: W: Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner/ A: Emanuela Lupacchino
We Are Robin: W: Lee Bermejo/ A: Khary Randolph

Ongoing Titles (retaining their current numbering):

Action Comics: W: Greg Pak /A: Aaron Kuder
Aquaman: W: Cullen Bunn/ A: Trevor McCarthy
Batgirl: W: Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher/ A: Babs Tarr
Batman: W: Scott Snyder /A: Greg Capullo
Detective Comics: W; Brian Buccelato & Francis Manapul /A: Francis Manapul
Batman/Superman: W: Greg Pak/ A: Ardian Syaf
Catwoman: W: Genevieve Valentine /A: David Messina
Deathstroke: W/A: Tony S. Daniel.
The Flash: W: Robert Venditti & Van Jensen/ A: Brett Booth
Gotham Academy: W: Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher /A: Karl Kerschl
Gotham By Midnight: W: Ray Fawkes /A: Juan Ferreyra
Grayson: W: Tom King & Tim Seeley/ A: Mikel Janin
Green Arrow: W: Ben Percy/ A: Zircher
Green Lantern: W: Robert Venditti/ A: Billy Tan
Harley Quinn: W: Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner/ A: Chad Hardin
Justice League: W: Geoff Johns /A: Jason Fabok
Justice League United: Creative team TBD.
Lobo: W: Cullen Bunn/ A: Cliff Richards
Secret Six: W: Gail Simone/ A: Dale Eaglesham
Sinestro: W: Cullen Bunn /A: Bradley Walker
New Suicide Squad: W: Sean Ryan /A: Carlos D'Anda
Superman: W: Gene Luen Yang/ A: John Romita, Jr.
Superman/Wonder Woman: W: Peter J. Tomasi/ A: Doug Mahnke
Teen Titans: W: Will Pfeifer /A: Kenneth Rocafort
Wonder Woman: W: Meredith Finch /A: David Finch

Red Hood/Arsenal & Starfire spin out of Red Hood & the Outlaws, allowing for Dick Grayson's ex-girlfriend to get her own book at last. Prez is a relic from the 70's, co-created by the legendary Joe Simon. The Omega Men are a product of the 80's who had a good run with their first series. Dark Universe is the former Justice League Dark with a new title and creative team. The fact that there will be two dozen 1st issues speaks again to the corporate mentality that a 1st issue will draw more readers. That idea actually doesn't fly as well as it did in the past, especially in the 90's, when speculating on 1st issues got way out of control.

NBC quietly moved Constantine to 8 (ET) on Fridays, but the season ends this month. Now comes word that they're talking about shifting the series to SyFy, where it should've been in the first place, and using the Hellblazer title there. Why didn't those geniuses think of that a year ago?? Another Wonder Woman pilot has been green-lit, this time at---wait for it---CW, where it'll go under the working title, Amazon. I'm sure you can figure that one out.

To make room for the above books, DC is cutting 14 books next month, including recently launched titles such as Klarion, Infinity Man & The Forever People, and Arkham Manor. I'm told that the latter received critical acclaim, but it probably didn't translate into sales. Meh, whatever.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Weasel of the Week: Sheldon Silver

By now, you know the story. Sheldon Silver, long-time Speaker of the New York State Assembly, was removed from that post on Monday, a week and a half after he'd been arrested on a number of charges.

However, Silver, like his downstate associates, Hiram Monserrat and Jose Espada, before him, remains defiant, and is bent on retaining his seat as an Assemblyman, (mis)representing his district in New York City. Recall that Monserrat & Espada faced different charges a couple of years ago, and while Monserrat was removed, Espada was re-elected. There were allegations that Silver may have helped yet another NYC weasel, Vito Lopez, fight charges of sexual harassment.

Silver has also been an enemy of mixed martial arts, preventing UFC, Bellator, and other pro MMA promotions from being licensed in NY. Oh, there are the amateur shows, which have to go out of their way to avoid announcing that it's MMA, else Silver would be on them like a bad rash. One such amateur show is set for the Washington Avenue Armory soon, but it's too expensive for my tastes. The ticket prices skew more toward how they price boxing. That won't get any new fans.

Digression aside, while Monserrat was convicted and thus lost his seat, we'll see how long it takes before Silver regains his power base, because inevitably, should he run for re-election, and win, he'll push to get the Speaker's job back. He shouldn't, and should've been impeached, censured, and removed from the Assembly altogether, pending the trial. Once a Weasel, always a Weasel. You have to believe that Silver was partially responsible for the state budget being late so often in past years, for one reason or another.

Now that he's been tarnished, Silver's not getting his shine back. Period.


Snickers has officially jumped the shark (2015)

No amount of CGI trickery could save this year's Snickers Super Bowl ad from being a total dog.

If it was possible that an ad campaign can jump the shark, well, this is it. The lunatics behind the ads have taken a scene from the Brady Bunch episode, "The Subject Was Noses" (I believe that's the one), subbing in Danny Trejo ("Machete") for Maureen McCormick as Marcia, and Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire) for Eve Plumb as Jan. Factor in Florence Henderson dubbing over herself and a Snickers bar being convienently mixed in via CGI, and......



This is worth as many facepalms as you could muster. It's that bad.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Video Valentine: Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough (1992)

Ex-Scandal lead singer Patty Smyth released a solo CD in 1992, and while "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough" was the only single to really do anything, it does make for a good mood piece in time for Valentine's Day. Today, Patty would be more likely to have her husband, tennis legend John McEnroe, stand in for Don Henley, her duet partner, if she were to play live........




Aww, isn't this cute?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What Might've Been: Highcliffe Manor (1979)

In the winter of 1979, NBC decided to try to parody soap operas, which dominated their afternoon lineup back then. Unfortunately, audiences weren't quite ready for Highcliffe Manor, which aspired to at least be a poor man's Soap, which aired on a different night over on ABC, and was a huge hit. Manor, on the other hand, didn't get very far past the spring thaw, if that.

Shelley Fabares (ex-The Donna Reed Show) headed an ensemble which also included the likes of Harold Sakata (Oddjob from the movie "Goldfinger"), Luis Avalos (ex-The Electric Company), Stephen McHattie, and soap vet Gerald Gordon (The Doctors).

Gilmore Box provides the open:



Audrey Landers would later co-star on Dallas, but at least now we know why she seemed so at home on a soap set.

Rating: C.

No, Tom Brady is not the best QB of all time, and never will be

I am taking issue with Gary Myers' assertion in today's New York Daily News that New England Patriots QB Tom "Crybaby" Brady, after winning his 4th Super Bowl, is now the best QB ever.

I'm sorry, but that's way off the mark. Way, way, way off.

Brady has played in 6 Super Bowls, and won 4. The latest one, it will be argued, is tainted because of Deflategate and allegations of other shady tactics in the Patriots camp. More on that later. His idol, Joe Montana, never lost the Big Game. Neither did Terry Bradshaw. Brady's record is 4-2. End of story. You can argue that the two losses to the Giants resulted from what amounted to acts of God, if you will, and it almost happened again on Sunday, with Seattle's Jermaine Kearse making what would've been a highlight reel catch had the Seahawks retained their title.

Brady, as has been documented here previously, is prone to fits of immaturity after losses. I've never heard any of the sort in regards to Bradshaw and/or Montana. You have to believe the fix was in to give Crybaby the MVP trophy, when in this writer's opinion, it should've gone to teammate Julian Edelman. If not for Edelman's game-changing hit on Seattle's Jeremy Lane following a 1st quarter interception, chances are the result would've been radically different. Instead, Edelman knocked Lane not only out of bounds, but out of the game with a broken arm. Remember, Edelman began his career as a defensive back, then became a two-way player, a la former Patriot Troy Brown a decade ago. There's a reason Montana was nicknamed "Joe Cool". Grace under pressure, especially in the biggest games. The only reason Montana didn't win a 5th Super Bowl can be traced back to the Giants' destruction of San Francisco in '86 in the playoffs. Brady wants to play until he's 45 and/or gets his 5th ring. I don't even think of him as an icon. To me, he's just a punk now.

More on Edelman. There was a headline today alleging that Edelman had suffered a concussion, went through the necessary protocols, and went back into the game. Funny thing is, I didn't hear anything from NBC's announcers about Edelman being concussed. Seattle's Cliff Avril suffered a concussion in the 2nd half, and didn't return. Rightfully, if Edelman did suffer a concussion, the wise thing would've been to sit him out for the rest of the game, as Seattle did with Avril, erring on the side of caution, with an eye toward next season. It's not as if coach Bill Belichick hasn't played with the safety of his players before, because he has. In blowing out Indianapolis in 2012, the Pats lost TE Rob Gronkowski to an injury when the game was long decided, and Gronkowski should've been on the bench being saved for the next game. They say if you play with fire, you're bound to get burned. Luckily, if Edelman really was hurt, he has 5 1/2 months before training camp, as does Avril, to recover.

As for Malcolm Butler's game clinching pick, he's lucky to have gotten the ball out of the end zone. Luckier still that he had the 5 yard window to throw a nasty shoulder block at Ricardo Lockette to ensure he'd get the ball. Playground stuff, that's all it is. Out in the open field, the call goes the other way, unless it's in Foxborough, of course.

The sight of Brady jumping up and down like a teenager who just got his first car for Christmas is just flat ridiculous. I haven't seen that kind of emotion from a chump like him in I don't know when. Jump for joy now, but let's see if Deflategate gets swept under the rug before the draft. Then, the detractors will have a field day. They'll continue to crow that commissioner Roger Goodell is in fact in the pocket of Patriots owner Bob Kraft, who probably sent him a case of Velveeta over the weekend.

No, it's going to require a non-partisan committee, preferably out of Washington, and with no ties to Daniel Snyder's crew, whom we'll now refer to as the Generals, to carry out the investigation, because the NFL will protect their golden goose, unless they have no choice but to cave in. And they should. The NFL conceivably could take a huge public relations hit if they do cover up for the Patriots, but if someone like Sheldon Silver can be exposed, so can the Patriots.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Video Valentine: Let My Love Open the Door (1980)

The Who's Pete Townshend released a solo record, "Empty Glass", in 1980. The first single from the album makes for some good Valentine's Day music, doesn't it? Here's "Let My Love Open the Door":


Sports this 'n' that

Ok, here we are. Super Bowl Sunday. More hype than you really need, and kickoff is more than 5 hours away as I write.

It wasn't always this way. Blame the television networks, and their insatiable need for milking ratings points more than needed for moving the game into the night. Blame the networks, too, for moving the "Big Game" from the last week in January to the first Sunday in February because it's a sweeps period for advertisers. If you could DVR the game to avoid some of the dumber ads, more power to you. Let's just break down the game.

For the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, it's about making a run at history, seeking to become the first team in the last 10 years to repeat. It's as simple as that. Coach Pete Carroll would like to have a 2nd Super Bowl ring to go with 2 college titles he won at USC. Carroll, you might recall, was the Patriots' coach before owner Robert Kraft dismissed him after the 1999 season. 2 playoff appearances weren't enough after Hall of Famer Bill Parcells took the Pats to the big dance, only to lose (to Dallas, I believe, and coach Barry Switzer). Carroll has his own place in history, one of only three coaches (Switzer & Jimmy Johnson being the others) to win a Super Bowl and a National Championship, but to beat his former club would be icing on the cake.

Current Pats coach Bill Belichick has 5 rings total, the first two as an assistant under Parcells with the Giants, a run that ended 24 years ago after Big Blue beat Denver. However, the humble assistant has given way to a head coach that ESPN's Chris Berman would usually note for his sartorial splendor, or lack thereof, in Cleveland. 15 years in New England has produced 6 Super Bowl appearances, 3 wins. However, Belichick's Hall of Fame credentials have taken some hits in recent times, due to the shady, suspicious play of his club. We needn't go further into detail with "Deflate-gate" than has already been done. We know they found a patsy to take the fall.

Unfortunately, Tom Brady, a 6th round draft pick out of Michigan in 2000, has regressed into being a spoiled, petulant child when he loses. I reference again his post-game berating of a game official in Charlotte in November 2013 after losing to Carolina on a play that would've gone the other way in Foxborough. He wants that 4th ring to tie Terry Bradshaw & Joe Montana. Unfortunately, he ain't getting it.

While the Pats won't admit it is an issue, revenge is certainly a factor. Last time these two teams met, Seattle came from behind, at home, in October 2012, to beat New England, 24-23. Then, of course, there is Super Bowl 42, 7 years ago, on the same field they're playing in tonight, in Arizona. Eli Manning to David Tyree, and that ridiculous catch in the 4th quarter. Rodney Harrison, now with NBC, is still having nightmares thinking about it, I assure you. Russell Wilson is even more of a scrambler than Eli is, and that spells trouble for the Patriots defense. Darrelle Revis, still looking for that elusive ring, will wait another year.

Each of the Pats' wins in the big game have come down to field goals, and this will be no exception, only that it will be Seattle's Steven Hauschka, not Stephen Gostowski of New England, with the game winner. Seattle, 38-35.
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WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley got caught trying to cheat at a chicken wing eating contest in Philadelphia the other day, but the way I look it, since it happened amidst all the hype over the Super Bowl, Foley may have done this intentionally to tweak the Patriots. He quoted the so-called wrestler's creed, often quoted by Jesse Ventura back in the day, to explain himself, but, like, did anyone here think Foley really planned on winning?
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Martin Brodeur will be going to the Hall of Fame as a New Jersey Devil, but why in the blue hizell did Devils GM (and current co-coach) Lou Lamoriello not offer Brodeur the opportunity that was eventually presented to him when he signed with St. Louis? Brodeur retired earlier this week, and promptly was promoted to a front office position with the Blues. Lamoriello gets a retroactive Weasel of the Week award for doing a total disservice to both Brodeur and the Devils' organization, fan base included. While we're at it, we'll give Lamoriello the daily double and add the Dunce Cap Award.
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Baseball training camps don't start for another couple of weeks yet, but if I'm the Steinbrenner brothers or Yankee GM Brian Cashman, I'm looking to find a means to get rid of A-Roid, who has this crazy notion that he'll be the starting 3rd baseman for the Yanks this season, even though Cashman has publicly stated that Chase Headley is the starter. Alex Rodriguez will turn 40 this summer, and for him, his chances of making it to Cooperstown took a permanent hit with his suspension last year. He's going to have to prove he can succeed without taking shortcuts (i.e. PED's), and I seriously doubt it. There's no farewell tour for this shameless Weasel.