Sunday, January 31, 2016

Forgotten TV: Good Heavens (1976)

For a long time, a sitcom about religion was a hard sell, even harder for viewers, especially in Midwestern & Southern states, where the Bible is taken very seriously, almost to the point of fanatic obsession.

In the mid-70's, the networks tried to make a go of it, as there were two short-lived religious-themed sitcoms. On CBS, you had McLean Stevenson, who had left M*A*S*H, top-lining In The Beginning. I think that was gone well before Christmas.

In the spring of 1976, ABC trotted out Good Heavens, which gave Carl Reiner his first headline role. It was unique in that this was the first half-hour anthology sitcom, and viewers were already accustomed to religious anthologies of a more dramatic bent (i.e. Insight). Mr. Angel (Reiner) granted random, ordinary folks wishes, and if that sounds remotely familiar, well, ABC went back to that particular well, but with a more dramatic, supernatural bent, not too long after Heavens went off the air with the original Fantasy Island. Of course, it might've helped that Columbia Pictures Television (now Sony Pictures Television) actually collaborated with Aaron Spelling on Fantasy Island, since Heavens was one of their bazillion failed properties.

Nearly a decade later, the idea of an angel on earth was revisited, again with a dramatic touch, but this time, over at NBC, when Michael Landon replaced Little House on the Prairie with Highway to Heaven, which lasted a few years. And, then, there was Touched by an Angel, over at CBS. Enough said.

Gilmore Box serves up the intro to Good Heavens:



Bear in mind, of course, that CPT had also sold ABC a delayed follow-up to Bewitched, but misfired by having Tabitha experience a major growth spurt to adulthood, by-passing her teenage years. Small wonder, then that Tabitha lasted a full season and no more. It looked like the days of the fantasy sitcom were coming to an end....!

No rating.

High School Basketball: Green Tech @ Troy High, 1/31/16

To paraphrase Billy Joel, it was a pretty good crowd for a Sunday afternoon.

Less than 48 hours after absorbing an 8 point loss to Shenendehowa, Troy High was back on their home court, welcoming Green Tech, which plays an independent schedule. Tip-off was a half hour late as the junior varsity game, won by Green Tech, 55-54, ran long.

It looked as though the Eagles would complete the sweep in the varsity game, running out to a quick 8-0 lead three minutes into the first quarter. They led by as many as 13 in the first half, and entered halftime with an 8 point lead at 29-21.

Then, it became the Daniel Buie show.

Held to 4 points in the first half, the sophomore exploded in the second half, scoring Troy's first 11 points in the third quarter. By the end of the frame, Troy had taken its first lead, and never gave it back. Buie finished with 32 points. Darius Holmes-Hines and Jack McLaren added 10 each, and fans started filing for the exits with about a minute and change left, knowing the game was over. Troy rebounded nicely from the loss on Friday with a 68-57 verdict. Dasier Lukes led Green Tech with 12 points before fouling out in the 4th quarter.

The Eagles have a team so talented, using what looks more like an NBA-style defense, that a second generation player like Derrick Rowland, Jr., son of an Albany Patroons great from the 80's, isn't a starter. Rowland played limited minutes and failed to score.

Worth noting, and I didn't bring this up on Friday. Troy's JV team dressed only eight players both on Friday and today, and because the JV teams don't get even minute coverage, unlike the old days, when a mere linescore would appear beneath a varsity box score, there doesn't seem to be any explanation. Despite the lack of depth, which one must assume is attributed to a combination of injuries and/or disciplinary issues, such as student suspensions, the Troy JV played hard right up to the final buzzer, just like their varsity brethren.

Now, Troy can focus on the three remaining Suburban Council games left, all against familiar foes, with the Grey division title on the line. 4th place Albany comes in Tuesday night. Then, it's the road finale at Schenectady on Friday, before CBA visits on Senior Night (February 9). All Troy needs to do is win at least two out of three. A win Tuesday eliminates Albany from the division title chase. The fact that the four teams, all in their first season in the Suburban, are in the top four spots in the division should tell you something about the quality of competition in the division this year.

Curiously, as fans were leaving, there was a greater police presence outside the school, including a K-9 vehicle. Apparently, there are concerns about drugs and/or gang violence. Don't ask why, because I have no clue. Just saying.

Video Valentine: Do You Believe in Love? (1982)

Valentine's Day is 2 weeks away, so starting today, we're rolling out a fresh set of Video Valentines.

As the Stray Cats were bringing the sound of rockabilly back to radio airwaves in the early 80's, San Francisco's Huey Lewis & the News were doing the same with doo-wop. I mean, stop and think about it for a second. Take this next item, "Do You Believe in Love?", from the album, "Picture This". Picture it in your mind being done in the style of doo-wop classics from the 50's & 60's like the Del Vikings' "Come Go With Me" or the Tokens' "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". Ya can't go wrong.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

What happens when NASA gives in to marketing nerds? Chaos! (2015)

I've seen the short version of this next item while playing games on MSN.com. The sheer absurdity of it all mandates that I had to comment on it.

Adobe took a poke at what might happen if NASA let a bunch of know-nothing marketing geeks dictate their shuttle missions. Judge for yourselves, kids, while watching this long form ad, which runs nearly 90 seconds.

Classic TV: Mr. Novak (1963)

Mr. Novak lasted just 2 seasons (1963-5), and deserved a better fate than it did. Then again, it aired opposite Combat! on ABC and Red Skelton on CBS in its first season alone.

James Franciscus had the lead as teacher John Novak, with Dean Jagger as the school principal for the first year and a half. Jagger left halfway through season 2, replaced by Burgess Meredith, whom you'll see in the following video. Jagger's character had been promoted to superintendent of schools as a way of explaining away Jagger's departure. As memory serves, TNT was the last cable network to carry the show several years ago, but I never got the chance to see it, since Novak, as memory serves, aired during the pre-dawn hours at that time.

Here's the intro from season 1:



Looking back as I was growing up, I think schools missed out on a golden opportunity to use this series, and later on, Room 222, as a teaching tool.

We'll pass on the rating for now.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Shillin' Squares: Peter Marshall for Product 19 (1967)

The Hollywood Squares hadn't been on the air that long when host Peter Marshall landed an endorsement deal with Kellogg's. Here, Peter's doing some jogging to promote Product 19, which Kellogg's created to counter General Mills' Total. Sad to say, Product 19 isn't around anymore, but Total not only has survived, but has added additional flavors. Note that Peter didn't always wear his specs on the show. It was more of an on-again, off-again thing during the course of Squares' initial 15 year run (1966-81).


High School Fridays: Shenendehowa @ Troy (boys' basketball), 1/29/16

A prominent law firm in the home district uses the motto, "We expect to win". That same adage applies to Shenendehowa's sports teams.

The Plainsmen made their first regular season visit to Troy High tonight, in front of the largest crowd of the year at Clem Zotto Memorial Gym. Some ill informed media types assumed that Shen would simply blow away Troy like they have everyone else. Ah, but the Flying Horses aren't everyone else, as Shen coach Tony Dzikas found out.

A feature article in the hometown paper focused on Troy's senior center, Jack McLaren and his matchup with Shen's Mike Pizziketti, who, 8 days ago, burned Albany for 32 points while the Falcons held Kevin Huerter to 18. Tonight, it was the other way around.

Troy jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead, but that lead soon evaporated under the usual Shen barrage of 3-pointers, led by Huerter, who finished with a game high 34 points, 21 of those in the 2nd half. Troy's sophomore star, Daniel Buie, had 22, but just 4 after halftime, after Shen shifted to a box-&-1 defense. The Plainsmen moved one step closer to the Suburban Council Blue division title with a 72-64 verdict.

If it was a blowout the media hordes were looking for between Shen & Troy, they'd have to go to Shen for the women's game. In a game that saw Shen star Carly Boland held to just 9 points, and Troy's Sabrina Wolfe either scoreless or unable to play, the Lady Plainsmen blew out Troy, 64-22. Troy had its worst scoring output of the season, and it doesn't bode well going forward. The loss clinched the Grey division title for the Lady Falcons of Albany High, who now lead Troy by 4 games with just 2 league games left. The Lady Flying Horses have now lost three of their last four, and have to travel to Albany on Tuesday before Senior Night next Friday vs. Schenectady.

Back to the Troy boys. They retain a 1 1/2 game lead over Schenectady, as the Patriots lost to Niskayuna. Christian Brothers Academy is 2 games back, and Albany is 3 back with 3 league games left. The Falcons come to Zotto Gym on Tuesday, but before that, Troy hosts Green Tech for a twilight game Sunday afternoon. Albany needs to beat Troy to have any hope of staying in the division race, but I don't see that happening. Meanwhile, Shen can't seem to shake 2nd place Guilderland in the Blue division, as the Dutchmen remain a game out with 3 to play. Had Troy beaten Shen, the Plainsmen would've been in a flat-footed tie for first, although Shen has the tie-breaker in head-to-head competition.

And there is some good news for Troy sports fans tonight. LaSalle's hockey team snapped a six game losing streak (eight game winless streak overall) with a 4-3 verdict over Niskayuna-Schenectady, as the Cadets closed a 5 game homestand. They'll play at Bethlehem on Wednesday, then return home to face Saratoga next Friday and Senior Night will be February 10 vs. Tri-Falls before closing at Queensbury on the 12th. A sectional play-in game, also at Bethlehem, looms likely on the 15th.

Musical Interlude: White Rabbit & Somebody to Love (1967)

This next item also appears over at Saturday Morning Archives, since this is a clip from American Bandstand.

Jefferson Airplane performs "White Rabbit" & "Somebody to Love" on Bandstand, with Dick Clark interviewing the band in between. Dedicated to the memory of guitarist Paul Kantner, who passed away at 74.



Nearly 30 years later, actor-comedian Jim Carrey recorded an a capella solo version of "Somebody to Love" for his movie, "The Cable Guy". Have to put that up some time.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Classic TV: Gambit (1972)

Regular visitors to this here blog know I grew up with game shows occupying a lot of home time during the summer months and school vacations. Hey, it was better than nothing.

In 1972, Merrill Heatter & Bob Quigley sold two series to CBS. One, The Amateur's Guide to Love, with Gene Rayburn, was a flop. The other, Gambit, would stick around for 4 years (1972-6). The two shows marked the first H-Q series since the studio joined forces with Hanna-Barbera for Wacky Races, a children's show, four years earlier.

Gambit was a quiz game built around a simple game of blackjack. Host Wink Martindale asked the questions of two contestant couples, who played a best 2-of-3 match. Oh, this was so much fun!

Now, let's scope out a sample episode from Martindale's YouTube channel:



Four years after the series ended, H-Q revived the series, and relocated it to Sin City itself, as Las Vegas Gambit. However, rather than return to CBS, H-Q sold the revival to NBC, which used it to replace David Letterman's failed daytime yak-fest. Las Vegas Gambit lasted a year before being cancelled. The show was taped at the Tropicana Hotel, which would later be home to Let's Make a Deal. Ironically, the Tropicana was also home to a short-lived series that was slightly derivative of Gambit during its first run---Dealer's Choice, a syndicated series that went through two emcees during the course of its run. We'll discuss Dealer's Choice another time.

In more recent times, Heatter revived Gambit anew, but under a new name, Catch 21. This time, there were three individual contestants, with actor Alfonso Ribiero (currently hosting America's Funniest Home Videos) as emcee. That series lasted about 2-3 years, and now is in reruns on GSN.

Rating: A.

On the Shelf: Two miniseries for the price of one

We told you before about DC's plans to roll out a string of miniseries beginning this month. As it happens, the company's plans changed, perhaps for the better.

Fresh from having her ongoing series cancelled after less than a year, Katana returns, but instead of a stand-alone miniseries, editorial decided to merge it with one for Deadshot under the umbrella title, Suicide Squad's Most Wanted, as part of the promotional push for the "Suicide Squad" movie, due in August. Katana's creator, Mike W. Barr, returns to DC after a lengthy absence to script Katana's story, which sends her to Markovia, home of Geo-Force. If you remember the original Batman & the Outsiders series that Barr wrote in the 80's, Geo-Force & Katana were teammates. We are reintroduced to Dr. Jace, an award winning scientist and mentor to Prince Brion of Markovia, aka Geo-Force, who will play a part in this drama, to be sure. However, Markovia is under attack by the forces of Kobra, who intends to take over the country for the usually obvious reasons.

Meanwhile, Deadshot learns that his father is near death, and despite Amanda Waller's refusal to allow him some downtime, Floyd Lawton sees the opportunity of a lifetime when a mission puts him within distance of his father. We're also introduced to a new player, one Will Evans, an African-American. Now, if you think Evans is the character being played as Deadshot by Will Smith ("Concussion") in the movie, you're wrong. We think. Smith reportedly is playing Lawton. Debate that decision all you want, but the reason Smith is on board is because of his track record with summer blockbusters, though "Concussion", which was released last month, was swept beneath the runaway train of a certain space movie. Evans, though, comes off in the eyes of writer Brian Buccellato as more of a Cyborg wanna-be than a Deadshot-in-waiting. Hmmmmmmm.

Not too keen on the $5 cover, but then, they are blending two miniseries together that individually would have trouble drawing flies, which is why Katana's solo series died as quickly as it did.

Rating: B+.

Now for some big news for baby boomer cartoon fans. We hinted at this over at Saturday Morning Archives earlier, but DC is expanding its presently Scooby-Doo-centric Hanna-Barbera line of books come May. Stop and think about this:

Wacky Raceland: The Wacky Races hasn't been adapted into comics in 20 years, when the racers appeared in 2 issues of a H-B anthology at Archie. The designs are by an artist who worked on "Mad Max: Fury Road" last year, and that, friends, is a selling point.

The Flintstones: You can say this would be a spin-off from the "modern stone age family"'s appearance in Scooby-Doo Team-Up 7 more than a year ago. Amanda Connor, co-author of Starfire & the Harley Quinn line of books, based her designs on the movie, "The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas". As if giving Fred 5:00 shadow doesn't disguise the fact he's modeled after actor Mark Addy. Barney looks like a plumper version of actor Stephen Baldwin. Mark Russell (Prez) is writing. An artist hasn't been named, but will be by this time next month, though we won't mind if Connor and husband/writing partner Jimmy Palmiotti took the gig.

Future Quest: Imagine if Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, Frankenstein, Jr., Mightor, & The Herculoids, just to name a few, were all in the same universe. For those of us who wanted the original versions of Mightor, Space Ghost, and Birdman, well, consider the wish granted. Baby boomers rejoice! Jeff Parker (Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) is writing. Expect great things. And, yes, Jonny would also be spinning off from Scooby-Doo Team-Up.

Scooby Apocalypse: Zombie apocalypse, that is. Jim Lee, Keith Giffen, and Howard Porter lead what appears to be a slightly older Mystery, Inc. team through this adventure. Fans are already complaining about the tattoos Fred & Shaggy are sporting in preliminary sketches, plus Shaggy having a full beard and a handlebar mustache. Well, from a creative standpoint, it can't be any worse than Sholly "Tuna" Fisch's by-the-numbers scripts for the team-up book, can it? Of course not! Besides, with Afterlife With Archie still on a creative siesta due to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's extended stay in Hollywood, who else would you want aping The Walking Dead, anyway?

As of now, DC hasn't said if any of the four are ongoing or miniseries. I'll hazard a guess and say that all but The Flintstones are miniseries, just to test the waters. Let's just be thankful they're doing this, and be done with it.

We forgot to discuss Batman '66-The Man From U.N.C.L.E. previously, so let's do it, since we're a third of the way through. Like, who'd ever believe this would've been done back in the 60's, anyway? U.N.C.L.E. had a head-start on Batman, as it was halfway through its 2nd season when Batman launched 50 years ago this month, but both series ended roughly around the same time. The Dynamic Duo & Batgirl against T.H.R.U.S.H.? The enemy agents recruiting some of the Caped Crusaders' lesser enemies? The mind boggles! And if that isn't enough, the follow-up mini sees Batman & Robin meet a certain pair of British Avengers. You've been warned.

Rating: A.

Of course, we'd be happier still if Batgirl got to share an adventure with The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., but let's not get our hopes up......!

Spring promises a Lost in Space miniseries, and a brand new Three Stooges comic book, both from independent publishers. Ye scribe's personal reading list is about to grow.....!

We mentioned before that in the current issue of The Hangman, writer Frank Tieri and artist Felix Ruiz based their humanoid personification of the Devil seemingly on actor Tom Ellis, the star of Lucifer. What has us bugging is Ruiz's artwork, influenced by 80's icon Bill Sienkiewicz, might be the reason why it took three months between issues instead of six weeks. Not happy with the lack of an explanation from editor Alex Segura, but we'll spare him our dreaded awards.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What Might've Been: Love, Sidney (1982)

Five years after Soap broke ground as the first primetime series to prominently feature a gay character, NBC took it one step further, and commissioned a sitcom about a gay man.

Love, Sidney tells the tale of one Sidney Shorr (Tony Randall, ex-The Odd Couple), who moves in with a single mother (Swoosie Kurtz) and her daughter (Kalena Kiff). Predictably, the show caught flak even before it aired from conservative groups in the usual places (i.e. Bible Belt states). I never saw the show, so there isn't going to be a rating.

We'll leave you with the intro, the theme performed by Randall, Kurtz, & Kiff.



In today's more progressive, permissive, inclusive society, this might've been a success.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Abe Vigoda (1921-2016)

After years of false reports, such that he could've invoked the words of Mark Twain anytime he wanted to, character actor Abe Vigoda passed away at 94, one month shy of his 95th birthday.

To audiences in the 70's, Vigoda might've been what we'd call a late bloomer. He appeared in "The Godfather", but is better known for portraying police detective Phil Fish on Barney Miller (1975-82) and a short-lived spin-off, Fish (1977-8). Vigoda also appeared in character in a quick spot for Fresca around the late 70's, and appeared at the end of a Snickers commercial that also featured that other ageless wonder, Betty White.

In the 90's, Vigoda was cast in a supporting role in the animated movie, "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm". Cast as a mobster, Vigoda's film career had, in effect, come full circle. He appeared on stage with the rock group, Phish, as recently as 2013. What you might not know, though, and I only found this out myself, is that Fish's wife, Bernice (Florence Stanley), was named after Vigoda's real-life wife.

A while back, I did a review on Fish, but had to settle for a commercial, since no episodes were available at the time. Meantime, scope this sample clip:



Rest in peace, Abe. You've earned it.

Monday, January 25, 2016

On The Air: Lucifer (2016)

"Oh, what fools these mortals be....."---William Shakespeare, MacBeth.

Even the Devil gets bored.

British author Neil Gaiman postulated a scenario in which Lucifer would leave Hell for Earth, just because he was bored with the underworld. DC's Vertigo division spun Lucifer off from Gaiman's seminal The Sandman some years back, and it had a pretty good run. About a year and a half ago, Warner Bros. and producer Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its family of shows) agreed to adapt the book into a TV show. To ensure that there would be a fan base ready and waiting, DC relaunched Lucifer in its Vertigo line last month. Now, despite an online petition from the conservative One Million Moms, Lucifer is on the air.

That, at least, is good news, adding one more comic book series to the television schedule, and Vertigo has one more on the way, as AMC is adapting Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon's Preacher, due later this year, to go along with Lucifer and the CW's iZombie.

The bad news, though, is that Fox has had a checkered history with genre programming. I had a discussion on this subject with a friend the other day. Seems that while one division of the network buys genre programs, such as the newly revived X-Files, Sleepy Hollow, & Lucifer, the programming department seems to be more interested in sabotaging those buys. Hollow, for example, moved to Thursdays this season (its 3rd) to make room for first Minority Report, which wrapped a few weeks ago, and now, Lucifer, both of which have been scheduled opposite CBS' 2nd year series, Scorpion.

On to Lucifer.

Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis, ex-EastEnders) now owns a nightclub in Los Angeles, but doesn't have a complete understanding of the human condition. In the opener, he reconnects with a former chanteuse (guest star AnnaLynne McCord), who is promptly killed in a drive-by shooting. The shooter is, in turn, killed in an auto accident with an 18 wheeler.

It is here where the show turns. Lucifer's curiosity prompts him to join forces with a female homicide detective assigned to the case, who, in turn, has issues of her own, particularly her ex-husband, who's also on the force. Since when, you think, did the Devil decide he wanted to be a hero?

In reality, it's a variation on a trope that has been used in comic books and on television in the past. Fox, in fact, had a 1 year series a few years back, Brimstone, whose premise had a cop sending criminals down to Hell. It had been done in the comics dating back as far as the 70's, as I can recall. Atlas Comics' Grim Ghost told the tale of a Colonial era highwayman sent back to the mortal plane in the then-present to send criminals down to Hades. The book was briefly revived a few years ago with little success. Currently, Archie Comics' Dark Circle division revived an old Golden Age hero, The Hangman, and borrowed the concept of Grim Ghost. Well, at least that's the direction I think they're taking. It just happens to be a bit of a coincidence that the personification of the Devil in that book bears a slight resemblance to Tom Ellis. Hangman #2 arrived in stores 5 days before the launch of Lucifer, so draw your own conclusions.

Right now, let's scope out a trailer:




Ellis tries playing Lucifer as a wiseacre who's succumbing to the mortal desires of the flesh, a little at a time. Something tells me that, given Fox's history with genre programming, it will be nothing short of a miracle if Lucifer is brought back for a 2nd season. Bear in mind, by the end of next month, it'll be paired with Gotham. Comics geeks will be overloading their DVR's for weeks to come.

Rating: B--.

Super Bowl 50: A passing of the torch?

The old story goes that Father Time waits for Baby New Year to ring in the next year before moving on. In football, that story conceivably could play out on February 7 at Super Bowl 50.

In this case, "Father Time" is Denver QB Peyton Manning, with nearly 20 years in the league under his belt. Manning is making his 4th appearance in the Big Game, 2nd in 3 years with Denver, and his overall record is 1-2. "Baby New Year", the new kid on the block, if you will, is 5th year Carolina QB Cam Newton, who, unlike Manning, can actually say he won a national championship in college, following the 2010 season with Auburn.

Madison Avenue likes them both. Newton pitches Dannon's Oikos Greek yogurt. Manning, of course, is all over the place (Papa John's, Nationwide, DirecTV), despite being telegenically challenged. The media would like you to believe that had the Broncos lost to the hated defending champion New England Patriots, that would've been it. That would've been the end for Manning. Virtually no one gave the Broncos a chance----on the same home field where they ended the Patriots' season-opening 10 game win streak two months ago---to advance to the Super Bowl. All those doubting Thomases can eat crow for the next two weeks. Denver, you can say, has gotten this far not so much with Manning, but with the league's top-ranked defense, which now faces the task of containing Newton. Tom Brady, he ain't. Newton is part of the new generation of running quarterbacks, with what they call the read-option offense (see also Seattle's Russell Wilson and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick). Newton's not one to slide, either. If he can break off a big run like a running back, he'll do it, and has done it. That Manning ran for 12 yards to gain a key first down vs. New England was news all by itself.

Carolina's defense ain't too shabby, either, forcing Arizona's Carson Palmer into 4 interceptions, the last a pick six by Luke Kuechly, his second in as many weeks, and third of the season, to slam the door shut in a 49-15 blowout of the Cardinals. The oddsmakers have already installed Carolina as a 4 point morning line favorite. Again, they underestimate the heart of the old man in this matchup.

Part of me thinks that this could be Peyton Manning's victory lap, his last hurrah. John Elway, his boss, went out a champion with 2 straight Super Bowls. Manning wants to go out a winner, like Elway did. Somehow, I can't see that happening. Nor do I see Manning returning next season. I can't see him leaving Denver for another team, and do what Brett Favre did at the end of his career, extending it by playing at less than 100%, his skills eroding as the season progresses. Favre did that with the Jets and Vikings before he finally decided it was time to go. There've been other quarterbacks who did that, hanging on well past their expiration dates.

However, I'm not entirely sure yet that this is Newton's and the Panthers' time. Carolina is missing a couple of key players on defense, though linebacker Thomas Davis reportedly says he'll play in the Super Bowl despite a broken arm. He'd gladly do that in exchange for forfeiting his spot in the Pro Bowl, being played next Sunday in Hawaii, even though this would've been his first Pro Bowl. I won't really know for sure until I'm ready to make my pick, which won't be for another 12 days. There'll be more than enough stories to sift through by then.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

On DVD: Colonel March of Scotland Yard (1956)

At the twilight of a brilliant film career, Boris Karloff, having already conquered stage & screen, set his sights on television. Most of you are familiar with his 1962 NBC series, Thriller, but before that, he'd had two series in his native England, neither of which is well remembered. One was The Veil, an anthology series similar in vein to the later Thriller, and might've been the inspiration for producer Hubbell Robinson to hire Karloff on for Thriller.

The other was Colonel March of Scotland Yard, which was distributed in syndication here in the US by Official Films in 1956. Fountain Films, a subsidiary of ITV (ITC), produced the series in England. In scope, it is not all that dissimilar to Karloff's "Mr. Wong" movies, produced 20 years earlier. Colonel March, like the Oxford educated James Wong, is somewhat derivative of England's most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and creator John Dickson Carr might've had Holmes in mind when he wrote The Department of Queer Complaints (under the pseudonym Carter Dickson) in 1940. However, Inspector Ames, often March's partner, is more of a comedy relief buffoon than a competent investigator, which actually does a disservice to the Yard.

Unfortunately, Alpha Video's prints do not hold up very well. Internet Archive came up with a print from a different source, it seems, of the episode, "The Silver Curtain":




As we've discussed previously, a fair number of ITV/ITC series didn't go too far past one season, with a few exceptions (i.e. The Saint). Were Colonel March to be revived today, more than 75 years after his debut, the challenge would be to find an actor to essay the part not entirely similar to Karloff.

Rating: C.

Retro Reads: Shazam! (1972)

It was big news when DC acquired the rights to rival Fawcett's line of superheroes, leaving the latter publisher with just Dennis The Menace on store shelves. More than a decade later, Dennis' license was transferred to Marvel for a brief bit, but that's another story for another time.

Anyway, because Marvel had a Captain Marvel book on the shelves at the time, about an alien hero, DC couldn't quite revive Captain Marvel Adventures, and didn't feel as though Whiz Comics was a marketable brand in the Bronze Age, although Whiz #1 would later be reprinted in one of their oversized reprint volumes. Instead, the "Big Red Cheese" starred in---wait for it---Shazam!, which lasted 35 issues in all from 1972-8.

C. C. Beck, Captain Marvel's creator, was on board for the first 10 issues, before the art chores were turned over to editor Julius Schwartz's staff of artists, including Bob Oksner and Kurt Schaffenberger, with Denny O'Neil, Elliott S! Maggin, and Edward Nelson Bridwell doing the bulk of the writing. Over the course of the first couple of years, the series remained faithful to Beck's original vision. However, in 1976, someone at DC decided that, with the TV version of Shazam! in reruns, it was time to reboot the book, and transform "Uncle" Dudley into the comics version of the show's Mentor (Les Tremayne), giving him the travel trailer used on the show to take him and Billy Batson, who thankfully wasn't turned into a teenager like on the show (as played by Michael Gray), across the country. Unfortunately, in the minds of readers, this was where the series jumped the shark. The book was downgraded from 8 times a year to bi-monthly, and was cancelled prior to the DC Explosion in the summer of '78.

I actually bought a few issues when they first came out, gave them away to clear space in my room, then reacquired as many as I could through back issue hunting after moving downtown. Ah, those were the days.

DC collected the first 33 issues, or at least most of them, since all 33 covers are represented, indicating that a few issues were reprints, for their Showcase line of black & white reprint volumes. The final issues were left off, likely for a second volume to come.

Rating: B+.

Around 1973, comics icon Jack Kirby was asked to take over one of DC's long running war books, Our Fighting Forces, an anthology series that needed a major sales boost. So, Kirby revived a feature from earlier in the run, The Losers, writing and pencilling 12 issues in all, inked by regular partners D. Bruce Berry and Mike Royer, though some of the covers were done by another legend, Joe Kubert. As memory serves, Captain Storm was later spun off from the original Losers series in the 60's into his own book, but that was a distant memory by the time Kirby got his hands on him. Kirby's artistic style had changed during his run at Marvel in the 60's, and used the same approach on all of his DC projects (Kamandi, The Demon, New Gods, etc.). While there weren't too many two page splashes like in his more contemporary action books, Kirby treated the characters with the respect they deserved. His run ended with Our Fighting Forces 162 as he headed back to Marvel and to one of his earlier creations---Captain America.

Rating: A-.

The last time Poison Ivy had a book bearing her name, it was a 1-shot special right around the time of the movie, "Batman & Robin", in 1997. Until now, she hadn't had a series of any length, but DC has changed all that with a six issue miniseries, bearing the sub-title, Cycle of Life & Death. Rebooted as a sort of eco-terrorist some years back, Dr. Pamela Isley, aka Poison Ivy, is getting the same kind of anti-hero vibe that Catwoman & Harley Quinn have enjoyed. Writer Amy Chu, perhaps with a little editorial persuasion, wrote Harley into the first issue, and Catwoman will play a part as the story rolls along. I'm loving S. Clay Mann's artwork here, and the cover to the first issue looks like a poster waiting to be sold. If this clicks, and it probably will, look for Ivy to get an ongoing series, preferably by the same team, before the end of the year.

Rating: A.

Rumors are circulating that DC will relaunch their line yet again come June. Will they never learn? Not even five years after the "New 52", and they feel they have to hit the reset button again? I believe it was Shakespeare who wrote, "what fools these mortals be?". Fools, indeed.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

On the Air: Jessica Jones (2015)

Jessica Jones doesn't have the decades-old publishing history of Marvel Comics compadres Daredevil, Spider-Man, or even Luke Cage. In essence, her story is still in the malleable stage.

Created by writer Brian Michael Bendis 15 years ago for Marvel's now-defunct Max line of mature titles, Jones is a failed heroine turned private eye who still has her powers, including flight and super strength. Rather than take an established character and do a total reboot, Bendis built Jessica from the ground up, from scratch.

At the heart of Jessica's problems is one Zebediah Killgrave, alias the Purple Man, a villain more associated with Daredevil. Bendis found a means to make Killgrave interesting again after years of inactivity. Due to an accident involving some odd virus, Killgrave gained the ability to control people's minds merely by talking directly to them. That control, as we find out, will linger, even if the man himself isn't around to witness his handiwork.

The first two episodes of Marvel's latest Netflix entry try to suggest that on one hand, Killgrave (David Tennant, ex-Doctor Who) is but a cipher, a ghost haunting Jessica (Krysten Ritter) because he's supposed to be dead. However, it's clear that the Purple Man is alive and well, as he manipulates a girl into killing her parents, then insinuates himself into the lives of another family. Meanwhile, Jessica gradually forges a relationship with hero-for-hire-turned bartender Luke Cage (Mike Colter). If you thought the barroom brawl on Legends of Tomorrow was wack, you have to see Luke & Jessica take apart a gang of thugs that supposedly were a rugby team.

Comics fans know that Luke & Jessica eventually would marry and start a family of their own. Whether or not that carries over here remains to be seen, as Jessica Jones has been renewed for a second season, likely to start in the fall, while Cage gets his own series, also later this year.

One supporting character that comics fans will recognize as having ties to Cage is attorney Jerryn Hogarth, who has been rebooted as Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), a lesbian barrister who has to keep Jessica out of trouble while finding assignments for the detective, balancing this with her complicated love life.

Let's take a look at a trailer:



I think over the course of the series, we'll see flashbacks to Jessica's career as Jewel, an otherwise obscure former member of the Avengers, at least per Bendis. From what I've seen so far, there's a lot more where this came from.

Rating: B+.

......and down the stretch they come!

The title of this piece is, of course, more associated with horse racing, but we are in the homestretch of the regular season in high school basketball in New York's Section II.

Consider the Suburban Council for a moment. The toughest league in the section also has the tightest races in both divisions, Grey & Blue, for both men & women.

Ladies first.

In the Grey division, Albany has the title just about wrapped up, despite losing to Blue division leader Shenendehowa last night. Troy, in second place, didn't gain any ground, as they lost to Shaker, and remain three games back with three league games left over the next two weeks. Troy visits Shen next Friday, and need to win out to have a chance of catching Albany. Sorry, but it just ain't gonna happen. The Lady Falcons and Lady Plainsmen figure to meet again in a league title game in about three weeks after running the table. Troy closes the league schedule with games at Albany and the home finale vs. Schenectady before traveling to Long Island Lutheran on February 7 to finish the season.

You would think Shen was running away and hiding in the Blue division, but they're not, as Shaker, with one loss, is a game and a half out with three to play. You know they'll be rooting for Troy next week after beating the Lady Flying Horses by 12 last night. Shaker is actually the only team with a chance of catching Shen, but, again, I just don't see it happening.

Similarly, on the boys' side, Shen can't shake Guilderland, which is a game out with four to play in the league. The Plainsmen make their first regular season visit to Troy next week, and that could be the Flying Horses' first sell-out at Zotto Gym in years, aside from perhaps CBA, who will close the regular season at Troy on February 9. In between, Troy hosts Green Tech for a Sunday twilight game on January 31, and Albany on February 2 before paying Schenectady a visit on February 5. In contrast to Shen, Troy leads Schenectady by a game and a half, CBA by three, and have all but closed out Albany, which is four back with four to play. If Troy can do the impossible, and upset Shen, they'll be a step closer to a Grey division title. However, they close with the aforementioned division games between February 2-9, and they're all going to be even more critical if they lose to Shen.

Albany Times-Union high school sports reporter James Allen, writing at the start of the season, felt Shen would have problems at Zotto Gym. We'll know for sure next Friday, but something tells me this battle of division leaders, which one would think is a league championship preview, could still tip in Shen's favor. They have a second generation star, Kevin Huerter, whose father, Tom, Sr., played his college ball at Siena, and is now a broadcaster for the Saints (Tom, Jr., currently at a prep school, is already committed to following his father's footsteps at Siena next fall), but, as Albany found out Thursday night, stopping Huerter only means someone else steps up for Shen. Troy's offense is like that, too, and only now has the hometown paper caught on to the emergence of sophomore Daniel Buie, whose brother, Taran, and half-brother, Talor Battle, played for coach Rich Hurley at Bishop Maginn a few years ago, as the Flying Horses' leading scorer. Said paper is, as noted previously, hamstrung by financial constraints, leaving Troy boosters frustrated with the on-and-off coverage of the hoops teams.

My heart, of course, is with Troy. But, the reality is, they have a tall order in front of them as they start a three game homestand in six days. Murderer's Row, boys' version? Yep. Troy's already passed the first hurdle, knocking off Shaker last night by six. Getting through the rest of the gauntlet isn't as easy, though, and that's the scary part.

What Might've Been: The New Andy Griffith Show (1971)

How often does this happen?

A returning star, trying to avoid typecasting, tries his luck with a half-hour drama, only for viewers to turn away in droves. The network cancels the show, replacing it with a sitcom headlined by the same star.

The star in question? Andy Griffith.

Two years after the end of The Andy Griffith Show, Griffith returned to CBS with the half-hour drama, The Headmaster, which was his & CBS' answer to ABC's Room 222, the latter in its 3rd season, I believe. Headmaster was dismissed before Christmas break, and replaced in January 1971 with----wait for it---The New Andy Griffith Show.

While Headmaster was set in California, this new sitcom sent Andy back to his native North Carolina, this time to Greenwood. No, Andy Taylor wasn't back. Instead, the character's name was Andy Sawyer, and he was the acting mayor of the town, taking the job in an emergency. Sure, the title is unoriginal, and the concept was closer in scope to the earlier Andy Griffith Show. This time, Mayor Andy is married and has two kids. Lee Meriwether (ex-The Time Tunnel) and Ann Morgan Guilbert (ex-The Dick Van Dyke Show) co-starred.

So why did Griffith fail a 2nd time? Both Headmaster and The New Andy Griffith Show aired on Fridays, where ABC now owned the night with The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, and.....Room 222, I do believe. Viewers felt Andy Sawyer was too close to Andy Taylor to have any distinct difference. Couple that with the networks' sudden need to purge rural themed programming, and Andy was effectively screwed.

Gilmore Box offers the open, and we'll leave you with that, as we never saw the show.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Forgotten TV: Our Planet Tonight (1987)

The presentation of news on television has often been ripe for satire or parody, dating back to television's earliest days. From Johnny Carson's earliest shows to Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update to today's Daily Show and its brethren, the headlines of the day have also been a fountain for topical humor.

However, not all parodies work so well. Weekend Update and Daily Show are branches of a tree that started with That Was The Week That Was in the 60's. Some genius thought that adapting the joylessly unfunny Weekly World News into a weekly television show would work in the 90's, and it bombed, despite having a legit newsman in Edwin Newman in the anchor chair, a good enough sport to subject himself to ridicule at the end of his career. After all, he'd been a newsreader for David Letterman on the latter's short-lived daytime show nearly two decades earlier, before Letterman joined him in achieving iconic status.

In 1987, Jim Abrahams and Jerry & David Zucker, the masterminds behind the "Airplane!" movies, Police Squad!, and the subsequent "Naked Gun" trilogy, all starring Leslie Nielsen, tried again to post their tentpoles in television. But, much like Police Squad!, Our Planet Tonight, a 1-shot special for NBC, failed to find an audience large enough to warrant a sequel.

It wasn't for lack of trying, to be sure. Planet had the right idea, spoofing the concept of primetime newsmagazines such as 20/20, 60 Minutes, etc., although the pairing of actors John Houseman (ex-The Paper Chase) and Morgan Fairchild (ex-Flamingo Road, Mork & Mindy, Dallas) actually was a goof on ABC's pairing of Barbara Walters & Harry Reasoner for their evening news a decade earlier. Houseman played his part as though his Chase character, Professor Kingsfield, had moved from the classroom to the newsroom. That was part of the joke, of course.

The supporting cast, if ya will, included Jay Leno, future filmmaker Peter Farrelly, and, in this sample clip, Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello, ex-Saturday Night Live), and Martha Quinn, who was in between tours of duty at MTV.




Small wonder, then, that Team Zucker didn't try another television special after this failed to impress in the ratings. Why it was never exhumed by Comedy Central, for example, we'll never know.

Rating: B+.

High School Fridays: Burnt Hills at LaSalle (hockey), 1/22/16

These are the times that try men's souls---Thomas Paine.

If there was ever anything that could sum up the plight of the skating Cadets of LaSalle Institute, that would be it. 0-January, winless in their last seven games entering play tonight. Time is running out on the regular season for the Cadets, who want to improve their position with sectional play to begin on February 15.

Two weeks ago, LaSalle lost to Burnt Hills-Ballston Spa. Tonight, the Spartans came to town hoping for a series sweep. Not only that, but after Burnt Hills' basketball teams were crushed by Troy High on Tuesday night, a restoration of school spirit & pride was in order.

After a quiet, scoreless first period, Burnt Hills' Santino Benamati broke through for the first goal of the game in the second, beating Cadet goaltender Zach Hurst to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead. Not long after, LaSalle answered back, as Ben Leinweber got one past Spartans goalie Mark Stocker to even the score. Before the period was over, however, Sam Swingruber put Burnt Hills back on top, 2-1, and added an insurance goal in the third period.

That last goal turned out to be the difference, as Christian Rudd brought LaSalle back within one at 3-2 late in the third, but Stocker and the Spartan defense slammed the door shut, sending the Cadets to their sixth straight loss, and seventh in their last eight games (0-7-1 over this period). With five games left, LaSalle needs to run the table to have any chance of improving their position for the sectional tournament. The Cadets will be right back at home next week vs. Niskayuna-Schenectady, as they play three of their final five games at home following a week's rest. It won't be easy. No one ever said it would be.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Musical Interlude: Renegades (2015)

Most of you are familiar with the song, "Renegades", from those Jeep commercials.

The band behind "Renegades", X Ambassadors, hail from Ithaca, and the following video salutes a different kind of renegade. It's a celebration of disabled athletes learning to overcome their disabilities, be it blindness (like band member Casey Harris), or being without hands and/or feet.

Fittingly, in the home district, an annual telethon for the Albany-based Center for Disability Services is right around the corner. Originally a telethon for Cerebral Palsy, the scope has expanded over the last 30 years. If we're lucky, maybe X Ambassadors will be added to the card......!


On The Air: Legends of Tomorrow (2016)

This ain't exactly the Justice League, not even close.

Greg Berlanti's latest addition to his growing DC TV Universe, Legends of Tomorrow, adds one more name from the DC Archives to the mix. That would be time traveler Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill, ex-Doctor Who), who has gathered together an unlikely crew to take down immortal despot Vandal Savage (Casper Crump). Consider:

*--The Atom (Brandon Routh): Dr. Ray Palmer has been rebooted on Arrow as not only a scientist but, up until the end of last season, he had his own company, something he never had in the books. Not too fond of the armored costume he was given, which really is a waste of the budget.

*--Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), soon to be known as White Canary: Raised from the dead earlier this season on Arrow, and prone to berserker rages due to having been resurrected in R'as Al Ghul's Lazarus Pit.

*--Hawkman & Hawkgirl made their TV debuts in November on Arrow & The Flash. In Berlanti's world, Kendra Saunders had just relocated to Central City as a barista, and fell for Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). However, fate has her tied to Carter Hall. Comics fans among you know the story, which, in the Berlanti-verse, is tied to that of Savage.

*--Leonard Snart, alias Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and best pal Mick Rory, aka Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell), are the two wild cards. They're in not so much to save the future, but to loot history.

*--Professor Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and Jefferson "Jay" Jackson (Franz Drameh). Jackson replaces Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) as 1/2 of Firestorm, the Nuclear Man. At first, he's not too keen on the mission, but, predictably, changes his mind by the end of tonight's opener. Personally, I don't get why they needed to create a new African American character when an established one, Jason Rusch, had already been introduced, in a way, on The Flash last season. Only Berlanti knows the answer.

Before I go further, here's the network trailer:



Now, let's talk about tonight's episode.

Hunter assembles his team, but under false pretenses. It all unravels when Chronos, a foe of Atom in the books, surfaces, bent on capturing Hunter. In the comics, Chronos is a common thief, and has been repackaged here as a far more sinister adversary. In 1975, the crew locates a man who Hunter claims can help them locate Savage, but it turns out he has ties to certain of the team. Perhaps the best part of the show finds Sara, Mick, & Len at a bar, and then, the shizzle hits the fanizzle, if you get the drift.

Miller & Purcell figure to be two of the busiest guys on the tube this season, as their earlier series, Prison Break, is being revived on Fox later this year, in much the same way X-Files is returning, starting Sunday, in a limited run format. The one scene where it seems Sara is flirting with Len opens the door to some interesting possibilities.

However, after an uneven start, and a script that read more like something you'd read from Marvel, not DC, Legends needs to find its footing, and quickly. Otherwise, it will be the weak link in the chain, and you'll start reading more rumors about the CW's 3 Berlanti-verse entries linking with a certain CBS show........

Rating: B-.

A collection of dunces

Time to hand out some Dunce Caps, and, oh, there are a few.

We'll start with music "journalist", and I use that term loosely in this case, Gersh Kuntzman. Formerly employed by the New York Post, Kuntzman had a short opinion piece published Tuesday in the rival New York Daily News. The latter paper's editors will get Capped as well for placing Kuntzman's piece next to a feature article detailing the passing of Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey, who passed away on Monday. While Kuntzman is entitled to his opinion, and he stated he isn't an Eagles fan, which is perfectly okay, the timing of his piece had most Daily News readers ready to tear him a few new ones in today's letter column. He has his supporters who share his dislike for the soft rock legends, but they were a minority, based on the layout of today's paper.

Had Kuntzman waited, say, two weeks, and published a longer point-counterpoint screed in another, more respected publication, like, say, Time, then he gets spared. Instead, he gets Dunce Capped for poor timing.

Daily News & New York Post editors will share the next set of Caps for the equally amusing but poorly timed decision to run back page photoshop pictures of New England Patriots QB Tom Brady in Wednesday's editions. The defending champs will face the Denver Pizza Salesmen (Broncos) on Sunday, and the trash talk between the two clubs is normal, ratcheted up with the graphic nonsense from New York. Brady was accused of whining to refs about getting sacked, which suggests that he is a real vanity case. Considering the Pats' bad reputation, this is the sort of thing that will backfire on Denver and QB/pizza & insurance salesman Peyton Manning come Sunday afternoon.

Then again, Brady gets one, too, for a poor choice of subject matter in trying to deflect the "whiner" accusations in a Wednesday press conference. Brady claimed he doesn't remember a lot of the alleged complaints because he's taken so many hits in his 16 seasons. In the eyes of the press, he was making light of one of sports' biggest health hazards, concussions, especially considering the movie, "Concussion", is playing in theatres. As a stand-up comic, Brady would be a curtain jerker on open mic night.

That moves us to the political arena, and a certain pair of Republican dimwits.

Former Alaska governor and failed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin threw her support to Geezers on Parade front-runner "Dumb" Donald Trump earlier this week. At the same time, son Track wound up in jail on a domestic abuse charge. What Mrs. Palin is hoping for, and not likely getting, since the High Priest of Hot Air ain't getting the nomination this summer, is another crack at being VP. All we're seeing is the end result of poor parenting skills with (Wrong) Track being in stir, if he hasn't already been bailed out.

Like, who was Mrs. Palin's role model growing up? Bullwinkle?

On the other hand, Dumb Donald gets one for botching a Bible recitation at Liberty University in Virginia on Monday. Why Jerry Falwell, Jr. invited the Baron of Bloviation to Liberty, I don't know, but it certainly sounded like Trump hadn't seen the inside of a church since his last wedding, otherwise he'd know that the Apostle Paul's second letter to the Corinthians is referred to as "Second Corinthians", not "2 Corinthians", as it reads in shorthand in some Bibles. I understand the students got a few unexpected laughs.

Finally, actress-turned-political pundit Stacey Dash left her brains at home when she appeared on Fox & Friends on Wednesday to talk about Hollywood's hottest topic, the controversy surrounding the Oscar nominations, and why African American actors were being shut out for the 2nd straight year. Living up to her character in the movie & TV series, Clueless, Dash went so far as to suggest that Black History Month, celebrated next month, be abolished, and that BET, a Viacom owned cable network that houses reruns of her last series, The Game, would wave good-bye, too. Sorry, Stacey, but that's like fighting City Hall. A battle that cannot be won.

And, to the Academy voters who gave actors like Michael B. Jordan, whom the critics say deserved a Best Actor nod for "Creed", rebounding from the atrocity that was "Fantastic Four", the el snubberino, we also give out Dunce Caps, because, when Sylvester Stallone, who was never nominated for a Best Actor as Rocky Balboa in six earlier films, but was nominated for writing, gets a nod for Best Supporting Actor this time over a younger, more deserving actor, regardless of color, then you know there's a certain amount of political sentiment at work. There always is, but in this day and age, the Academy needs to take a long, hard look at the root of the problem. Itself.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Musical Interlude: Behind Blue Eyes (2003)

The late 90's-early '00's rap-rock revolution had one unwritten rule. There just had to be a power ballad somewhere.

Limp Bizkit's idea of a power ballad was to cover the Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" for the soundtrack to the 2003 movie, "Gothika", starring Halle Berry & Robert Downey, Jr.. Rather than post the video that was made with movie footage, why not a concert clip instead?


Monday, January 18, 2016

A Modern Classic: Walker, Texas Ranger (1993)

After a string of popular but critically panned movies, martial arts ace Chuck Norris landed his first series in 1993.

Walker, Texas Ranger, it's said, was inspired in part by one of Norris' films, "Lone Wolf McQuade", in which he acted opposite another martial arts icon, David Carradine (ex-Kung Fu). Vietnam veteran Cordell Walker (Norris) was a sergeant in the Texas Rangers. To be honest with you, until I did some research, I didn't know he had a rank. Anyway, Walker was aided in his investigations by James Trivette (Clarence Gilyard, ex-Matlock, The Duck Factory), and gained advice from his paternal uncle, Ray Firewalker (Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman, who left the show either after the first season or during season 2), so named, presumably, after another of Norris' movies.

In turn, Walker answered to, courted, and eventually married assistant DA Alexandra Cahill (Sheree J. Wilson), who seemed to be more worried about Walker solving a case than Walker himself was. Retired Ranger C. D., now a restaurant owner (Noble Willingham, "Good Morning, Vietnam"), rounded out the ensemble up until the end of season 7.

After 8 seasons, 9 if you count the three-episode pilot season in the spring of 1993, Walker lives on in reruns, airing currently on Grit and TV Land (check listings), usually in blocks of 2 or more episodes, a practice that began when the reruns aired on USA Network.

Most of you are familiar with this theme, sung by Norris himself, "The Eyes of a Ranger", which was put into use halfway through season 2 for the rest of the run.




Prior to "Eyes", the show used a more generic instrumental theme and intro. Also, Noble Willingham was actually the second actor to play C. D.. Gailard Sartain (ex-Hee Haw) essayed the part in one of the pilots. Didn't know about that, either.

Rating: A-.

A parade of passings

They are dropping like flies already.

A few more passings to consider. We'll start with Monte Irvin, one of the first African American major league baseball players, who passed away the other day. I would imagine the San Francisco Giants have found a point of motivation toward a possible, if not probable, return trip to the World Series this fall.

In Hollywood, character actor Alan Rickman, best known for "Die Hard", "Love, Actually", and the Harry Potter movies, left us a week ago. So did Dan Haggerty, best known for his portrayal of James "Grizzly" Adams in a short-lived NBC series in the late 70's, spun off from a feature film.

But, the music world was rocked today with news that singer-songwriter Glenn Frey, one of the founding members of The Eagles, had passed after complications from, among other things, pneumonia, rheumatoid arthritis, and colitis. Glenn was 67.

I was going to save this next video for next month, as it's more appropriate for Valentine's Day, but we'll leave you with Glenn's 1982 hit, "The One You Love", which we've showcased before.



Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What Might've Been: City of Angels (1976)

After leaving M*A*S*H, Wayne Rogers took a chance on headlining a period piece crime drama that would re-establish him as a dramatic actor.

City of Angels came from the pens of Stephen J. Cannell and Roy Huggins, the latter of whom using a 1946 novel of his as part of his basis, just as he had done 20 years earlier with 77 Sunset Strip. However, Rogers, Cannell, Huggins, and NBC were working against recent television history. Quinn Martin had struck out twice in the previous three years with similar series, Banyon (for NBC, Martin's 1st sale to the network) and The Manhunter (CBS), that were, like Angels, set too far back in time for viewers' interests. What wasn't helping matters was that the definitive period crime drama, The Untouchables, which had Martin as an executive producer for its first three seasons, was in syndication at the time, and was the measuring stick by which viewers in the mid-70's were looking at these kind of shows. As a result, Angels, like Banyon and Manhunter, ended up cancelled after 1 season.

Rogers would later strike gold with another sitcom, House Calls.

The Rap Sheet serves up the intro, with narration by Rogers, in character as detective Jake Axminster.




Based on the description, it looked like Huggins was trying to create another Rockford Files, since there were some of the same tropes, such as Axminster, like Jim Rockford, often getting arrested on trumped up charges, but unlike Rockford, Axminster didn't have any friends on the police force.

No rating.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Best of Bowie Week: Modern Love (1983)

The second single from 1983's "Let's Dance", "Modern Love" continues the theme started with the title track, as David Bowie was looking to get people up and grooving. The video is a concert clip, the only one out of the three videos from the album.


High School Hockey: Beekmantown at LaSalle, 1/16/16

Last month, LaSalle opened its hockey season with a two-game road trip to Beekmantown and Plattsburgh, representing Section 7. The Cadets lost both games, but had a home rematch lined up vs. Beekmantown, set for today.

The change in the calendar year to 2016 has not bode well for LaSalle. It has been three weeks since they last won a game, going 0-4-1 since then, entering today's matinee at Hudson Valley Community College. The Joseph McDonough Sports Complex, which houses Robert Conway Ice Arena, also hosted an indoor track meet in the basketball gym next door, hence a lot more school buses than usual on game day.

The Cadets are playing this week without head coach Tim Flanigan, serving a two-game suspension, reportedly for abusive language in a loss last week at Burnt Hills. While the defense was stout in a 2-1 overtime loss to Shenendehowa on Wednesday night, it dissolved and disappeared in the course of today's game. Offensively, LaSalle couldn't solve the Eagles' complex defense and get close enough to goaltender Cole Harvey to mount any real threats.

Beekmantown drew first blood in the opening period on a goal by Christian Wawrzynski, and never trailed. Matt Maggy, Brendan Davison, and Brant Marion also scored for the Eagles. LaSalle made it interesting in the second period with a goal by senior tri-captain Brendan Haverty, but didn't light the lamp again until senior tri-captain Logan DiScanio scored with barely a second left in the game. What hurt the Cadets, more than anything, were an avalanche of penalties, as the referees called the game as tight and close as possible. Cadets players met with one of the officials at the end of the second period, trying to make a case to, well, even things out, since it seemed as though, in their minds, the referees might've missed a few too many calls that could've gone against Beekmantown. As it was, the 4-2 loss extends the current winless string to six games (0-5-1).

Unofficially, this was the start of "revenge week" for the Cadets, who have return matches at home next week vs. Christian Brothers Academy (Wednesday) and Burnt Hills (Friday), before wrapping up the current five game homestand vs. Niskayuna-Schenectady on January 29. Momentum is key over the next two weeks, because following a road rematch vs. Bethlehem (February 3), the Cadets close the home schedule with Saratoga, the runaway leader in the Capital District High School Hockey League, and a rematch with Tri-Falls before finishing the season on the road at Queensbury.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Best of Bowie Week: Space Oddity (2013)

David Bowie's seminal "Space Oddity", which began the story of Major Tom, was originally released in 1969. While Bowie would continue the story in subsequent releases, such as 1980's "Ashes to Ashes", German singer Peter Schilling reportedly reimagined "Oddity" as "Major Tom (Coming Home)" in 1983, which ye scribe thought was Schilling's idea of a sequel.

30 years later, "Space Oddity" resurfaced, and was reimagined as a sort-of duet for the soundtrack to the remake of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". Co-star Kristen Wiig (ex-Saturday Night Live), who plays the romantic interest of Ben Stiller's title character, is imagined playing guitar and serenading Mitty with "Space Oddity".

What happened? My best guess is that "Oddity" was remixed, with Wiig's vocals mixed with Bowie's original 1969 recording.

Decide for yourselves, effendis.


High School Fridays: Averill Park at Troy (Boys basketball), 1/15/16

After a heartbreaking, one point loss to Guilderland on Tuesday that snapped an eight-game Suburban Council winning streak, Troy High completed a two-game homestand tonight, hosting Averill Park.

Consider for a moment the last time Troy lost a league game. It was the season opener vs. Colonie, another late heartbreaker, as the Garnet Raiders prevailed by three. Troy came home three nights later and blew Columbia out of Clem Zotto Memorial Gym by nearly 40 points. Would the same thing happen to Averill Park? 

Uh, yeah, but not quite as badly.

The Warriors led only once, with the first basket of the game. One Ryan Carmello three-pointer later, and the Flying Horses were off to the races. They would not trail again the rest of the night, en route to a 57-35 win. Averill Park falls to 2-8 on the season, while Troy goes to 9-2 (10-3 overall). Jack McLaren led Troy with a season high 19 points. Noah Yearsley had 16 for Averill Park before fouling out in the fourth quarter. At the time, the Warriors had three players in foul trouble (Yearsley, DJ Morone, and Anthony Germinerio, cousin of Troy football QB John Germinerio) and on the court. Coach Dave Pugilese was so frustrated, he used half of his time outs in the first quarter alone!

Next week, Troy goes on the road to play Burnt Hills, then renews a classic postseason rivalry with their first regular season meeting at Shaker. However, I doubt very seriously that the press will even bother bringing up the past.

In fact, the local papers didn't bother hyping up the girls game at Averill Park, a rematch of the Class A title game from last March. A story that pretty much writes itself, to be honest, and this was the first regular season meeting between the two schools. Like the boys game, it was a low scoring affair, but the Lady Warriors got the measure of Troy again, prevailing 46-43. There would be no late magic for Troy this time, after the Lady Horses came back from 11 down to beat Guilderland on Tuesday. As was the case Tuesday, Troy's offense was virtually a two woman show, as Shallie Frierson (14) & Sabrina Wolfe (22) combined for 36 points between them, and only two other players landed in the box score. This doesn't bode well for Troy going forward. Oh, sure, they get a breather with hapless Burnt Hills up next at home before they hit Murderers' Row (Shaker, @ Shenendehowa, @ Albany). Troy falls to third place, three games behind Albany, which blew away Burnt Hills tonight. The Lady Falcons get Averill Park next before a showdown with Shen.
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Too often of late, the local press, for whatever reason, has let some stories go unwritten that would've made good copy years earlier. The lack of pre-game hype surrounding the Troy-Averill Park women's game is one such example. The lone high school hockey team in the hometown, LaSalle, is lucky to get a couple of paragraphs per week, at best, and just when you thought The Record and its sister publication, The Saratogian, would show some love since LaSalle was playing Shen on Wednesday night, they didn't. The game, won by Shen in overtime, 2-1, extending LaSalle's winless streak to 0-4-1 over their last five games (they're 0-for-January so far), merited only a box score in Thursday's Albany Times-Union. Tomorrow, the Cadets host Beekmantown in one of those rare birds, a Saturday matinee at home, an opportunity for revenge after losing at Beekmantown to start the season last month.

We'll talk more about this tomorrow.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

What Might've Been: Mr. District Attorney (1954)

Despite being a success on radio, Mr. District Attorney couldn't find a big enough audience in two tries at television.

The first series aired on ABC in 1951 and lasted 1 season. Two years after that series ended, Mr. District Attorney returned, with David Brian starring as DA Paul Garrett. Unfortunately, this series also lasted one year. Why? Simple. Television was more flooded with crime dramas at the time than radio was, if you can believe it.

Doug Quick offers a sample clip:




As they say on these shows, that isn't much to go on, but no complete episodes of either TV series are available. Servicable, cookie cutter fare, not much more.

Rating: B.

Old Time Radio: The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope (1938)

Bob Hope began his long association with NBC, both in radio & television, in 1938 with the launch of The Pepsodent Show. At the time, Pepsodent was an independent brand, before being acquired by Lever Brothers (now Unilever) in 1944. The Pepsodent Show ran for 10 years on NBC Radio. If you've ever seen Hope's television specials, which are now available on DVD, oh by the way, you have an idea of what to expect, except that this show is just a half-hour in length, as opposed to the hour-long shows Hope did for NBC-TV for so many years.

Following is a sample episode from 1941 with special guest Humphrey Bogart.




If you can picture the prison sketch at the end of the show in your mind, you again have an idea of how Hope worked. On the other hand, it would've worked better on television, minus Jerry Colonna, a one-note comic often satirized, like Hope, Bogart, and other celebrities of the day, in animated shorts.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Best of Bowie Week: Let's Dance (1983)

1983 marked the return of David Bowie, who had left RCA following the release of 1980's "Scary Monsters". This time, Bowie had moved to EMI America, and teamed with producer Nile Rodgers (Chic) to create "Let's Dance", which introduced Bowie to the MTV generation. His earlier hits, such as "Ashes to Ashes", would also wind up on MTV's playlist for a good chunk of the 80's before gravitating over to VH1.

In case you wonder why Bowie is wearing gloves while on guitar in the video for "Let's Dance", it's because he's not really playing. What I recently found out that he & Rodgers had recruited another legend to play guitar. Blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn.


Weasel of the Week: The Angry Parent

In its first season in the Suburban Council, Albany High's women's basketball team had essentially picked up where they had left off in their final season in the Big 10, beating every opponent put before them. And, as of Tuesday night, they hadn't played the league's other undefeated team, Shenendehowa, yet, though that's still to come.

But if the Lady Falcons and their supporters thought they could coast all the way up to the Shen game, they got a rude wake-up call on the road at Bethlehem.

The Lady Eagles welcomed back their senior star, Jenna Giacone, who, except for a cameo vs. Burnt Hills a week ago, had been out of action with a hamstring injury that, in turn, led to water on the knee. Giacone didn't play in either of Bethlehem's wins at Troy High on January 3 & 8, but lit up the Falcons for 27 points, the last four on technical free throws with under a minute to play.

And, then, that's when things got out of hand.

One lone, angry Albany parent threw a water bottle at one of the referees, perhaps feeling that Albany was getting a raw deal. While the incident was downplayed in the press, that one bottle was enough to convince game officials to halt the proceedings with 42 seconds left in the game, giving Bethlehem a 63-53 win, ending Albany's 12 game season-opening winning streak. Not the way anyone wanted the streak to end, obviously, but it's not the way you want to develop a rivalry between the two schools, either.

With both schools in class AA, it's likely the two teams will meet again in sectional play next month, but Section II would be wise to ensure the game is played at a neutral site to ensure there's not a repeat of what happened. Better to err on the side of caution, then, than to put innocent lives at risk.

And, as for the anonymous, angry parent, a set of Weasel ears is headed to Albany High, as they'll know who to give it to.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What Might've Been: The Jerry Lewis Show (1967)

Television, for the most part, hasn't been kind to Jerry Lewis.

Aside from his appearances on The Colgate Comedy Hour with Dean Martin, Lewis fronted three self-titled series, one of which was a 1-week late night talk show in the 80's. To think of Lewis today in conjunction with television usually entails his many years as national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and hosting an annual September telethon that bore his name.

In 1963, ABC signed up Lewis for a Saturday night variety show. 40 episodes were promised, but the series was cancelled after 13, due largely to production being suspended in late November after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, more so than falling ratings.

Four years later, with ex-partner Martin well entrenched at NBC, Lewis joined him there, as The Jerry Lewis Show was rebooted, broadcast in color. This version lasted two seasons, slotted against the likes of Red Skelton and, in season 2, The Mod Squad. While Martin's show was at the bottom of the lineup, Lewis was near the top. It all goes according to the type of comedy sketches each wanted.

Let's take a look at a sample episode, featuring Joey Heatherton and Laurence Harvey.




As great a physical comic as Lewis was in his prime years, viewers had grown accustomed to Skelton on Tuesdays at the time.

Can't fairly rate this based on this small sample.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Best of David Bowie Week: Young Americans (1974)

Just writing an obituary for David Bowie, who passed away yesterday at 69, two days after his birthday, wouldn't do him justice.

Instead, we'll focus on the music that made him a legend. We'll start with "Young Americans", the title track from his 1975 album. The track was released as a single in February 1975, but Bowie, with five backup singers, a group that included future R & B superstar Luther Vandross, debuted "Young Americans" on The Dick Cavett Show three months earlier.





Football this 'n' that

As I write, there are still a couple of hours before Alabama & Clemson will take the field to decide college football's national championship. Three days ago, a guest editorial in the Washington Post suggested that players from both teams should boycott the game because, as student-athletes, they're not getting paid, while the universities, network partners, et al, are getting rich. The suits are mostly white. The players are mostly African-American.

The editorial was written by lawyer and sports agent Don (We Don't Want to Know) Yee, better known as Tom Brady's mouthpiece. While an attempt at unionization by players at Northwestern University fell in defeat last school year, there was unrest at the University of Missouri, which led to the school's president being dismissed, also last year.

While I get the gist of what Yee is trying to convey, his timing is way wrong and way off. Yee would've been better served writing his treatise before the season started in September. Some will see his name in the by-line and think that he may be just fishing for new clients come draft time this spring. The NCAA isn't going to change the way it does business, not unless a consortium of like-minded individuals, and this group would include Yee and perhaps, by extension, Brady, a Michigan alumnus, if he were to be interested, joined forces to force change.

They say that if it isn't broken, you don't fix it. The suits in charge of the NCAA don't see anything wrong with an ages-old system of doing business. In the 21st century, though, a change will do them some good.
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Let's break down the Wild Card games from the last two days.

Kansas City, to borrow a line from the Blues Brothers, is on a mission from God. The Chiefs ran their winning streak to 11 after dismissing AFC South champ Houston, 30-0, and now get to play the defending Super Bowl champs, the New England Patriots, at Foxborough, on Saturday night. It's a revenge game for the Pats, after getting humiliated by nearly 30 points in their last meeting. However, with Brady nursing a sore ankle, you don't know for sure if wide receivers Julian Edelman and/or Danny Amendola will be 100% ready. The champs are vulnerable. Be very afraid.

The Cincinnati Bengals have only themselves to blame for blowing a golden opportunity to end their playoff futility under Marvin Lewis, who is now 0-7 in the post-season. Blame it mostly on Vontaze (Less than) Burfict, who went from hero to zero in less time than it takes to write this article. After a 4th quarter interception by Burfict seemingly put the game away for Cincinnati, Jeremy Hill fumbled the ball back to Pittsburgh just 2 plays later. Ben Roethlisberger, who'd been KO'd from the game, reinjuring his right (throwing) shoulder after being sacked by Burfict earlier, returned to direct the game winning drive with the Steelers down by a point. Burfict practically mugged Antonio Brown, which cost the Bengals 15 yards. But before another snap could be taken, Adam "Pacman" Jones was called for a personal foul while ex-Steeler Joey Porter, now an assistant, attended to Brown. Chris Boswell, who'd kicked three field goals earlier, nailed the game winner, sending Pittsburgh on to Denver for the divisional round.

As with the Pats, Denver is looking to collect a receipt after getting blown away at home last month. So the Steelers return to the scene of the crime, if ya will, on Sunday. Meanwhile, there is still some bad blood between the AFC North rivals that could spill over to next season.

On the other hand, the Bengals would be better served cutting bait and dismissing Jones, Burfict, and, unfortunately, Lewis as well, since he, like Tom Coughlin three weeks earlier, didn't rein in his volatile linebacker. It was so bad, ex-Bengal Boomer Esiason, now a radio talk show host and CBS analyst, ripped his former team to shreds. They're better off, you see, not trying to be Raiders East, but trying to be a new class of Bengals.

Oh, yeah. Burfict is this week's Dunce Cap winner.

Seattle's quest for three straight Super Bowl appearances goes on for at least one more week, but they have Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh to thank for his Shankopotamus impersonation in the 4th quarter, as his attempt at a game winning field goal went wide left. It was, dear hearts, the mother of all shanked kicks.

While Bob Raissman, writing in today's New York Daily News, gave Bob Costas props for his comedy stylings, suggesting that the temperature could reach freezing (32 degrees) by spring, he ignored Al Michaels' opening remarks, as he welcomed viewers to "Ice Station Zebra", referencing an old Lee Marvin movie from the 60's. At least they got viewers in a good mood.....!

Even though he didn't play, Washington's 1st round exit at the hands of Green Bay should signal the end of Robert Griffin III's run with the Congressionals. He didn't play a down this season, spending the entire season in Jay Gruden's doghouse, and even though owner Daniel Snyder decided to pick up the team option on Griffin for next season, odds are Griffin will be dealt or released. We'll be watching the waiver wires between now and the draft.

Try this scenario. Let's say Philadelphia does hire Coughlin, who resigned from the Giants last week after 12 seasons. I'd say he would suggest making a play for Griffin, swapping out either Sam Bradford or Mark Sanchez to get RG3. The Bradford for Nick Foles deal, a flop for both the Eagles and St. Louis, may have been the beginning of the end for "Tortilla" Chip Kelly. However, given the revolving door of QB's in Houston, it's more likely Griffin, a Texas native, could head there instead, likely for draft picks.
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I'll save my picks until the end of the week. All I can say for now is, there ain't going to be a repeat in the Super Bowl.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Classic TV: The Original Amateur Hour (1948)

The Original Amateur Hour began as a radio show, founded and hosted by Major Edward Bowes from 1934-45. After Bowes passed away in 1946, his assistant, Ted Mack, took over the franchise, and kept it going on both radio and television. The radio version was revived for four years (1948-52), leading to Mack focusing solely on television from that point forward.

Originally a primetime program, The Original Amateur Hour aired on all four broadcast networks (DuMont, ABC, CBS, NBC) during television's golden age, ending its first run on CBS in 1960. The "Tiffany of the Networks" brought the show back not long after, moving it to Sunday afternoons, usually just before the 6:00 (ET) news. This continued until Mack terminated the series in 1970.

In this regard, CBS seemed to set themselves up pretty well on Sundays during the 60's. Mack before the news, and, after the news, there would be Ed Sullivan, whose variety show had the same kind of potpurri of acts as Mack did, a collection of singers, instrumental musicians, comedians, et al.

Between radio & television, The Original Amateur Hour introduced America to a good number of talents, including Frank Sinatra (radio), Ann-Margret, Irene Cara (who later scored a #1 hit with the theme from "Fame" in 1980), Gladys Knight, and Robert Klein. Pat Boone appeared on the show,  but it later got out that he'd already appeared on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, which disqualified him from the Amateur Hour competition.

My memory of the series is its reincarnation as a Sunday afternoon show. Following is a sample clip from that era:



By then, Geritol, the show's primary sponsor, had become internationally known.

In 1992, the show was revived, with Willard Scott (The Today Show) as host for cable's Family Channel (now ABC Family/Freeform). Unfortunately, Scott only got 1 13 week season, as it was looked upon by a modern audience as being not a revival of a classic, but derivative of another show that had used The Original Amateur Hour as a template----Star Search.

Today's talent competitions, such as American Idol, America's Got Talent, and the defunct Last Comic Standing, owe their existence to the vision of Edward Bowes, who started it all 82 years ago.

Rating: A.

Advertising for Dummies: Are referees really that confused? (2015)

This also appears over at Saturday Morning Archives:

This season's State Farm ad campaign starring Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has him in a more proactive role, rather than being a foil for old Saturday Night Live gimmicks.

Here, it seems a referee got confused on a call.....


Saturday, January 9, 2016

What Might've Been: The Tick (2001)

In the mid-90's, Ben Edlund's superhero spoof, The Tick, had been successfully adapted into an animated series for Fox. The cartoon lasted three seasons, and even landed for a while on Comedy Central, but hasn't been seen since.

In 2001, The Tick returned, this time as a live-action sitcom, produced by Columbia-Tri-Star (now Sony Pictures Television), with filmmaker Barry Sonnenfeld ("Men in Black", "Wild, Wild West") attached, and starring Patrick Warburton (ex-Seinfeld) in the title role.

However, according to remarks attributed to Warburton in a later interview, Fox barely promoted the show because they didn't "own" it. Slotted opposite Survivor on CBS, among others, doomed The Tick, which lasted just 9 episodes. At last check, Hulu has the series on their roster. Meantime, scope out the open:




Due to copyright issues, American Maid & Die Fledermaus were replaced by Captain Liberty and Batmanuel, respectively. Despite the short run, The Tick, like the book, became a cult favorite.

After the series, Patrick Warburton landed a hit series with Rules of Engagement, and currently is doing commercials for National Car Rental. According to rumors printed in People in 2014, Sony was considering bringing back The Tick, but it doesn't appear likely.

No rating. Never saw the show.

Troy High basketball at the halfway point---a tale of two seasons

When the high school basketball season began last month, it seemed as if Troy High would make a smooth transition into the Suburban Council on both the men's & women's sides. Nearly six weeks later, it's a study in contrasts.

The women came out of the gate 3-0, blowing away Colonie, Columbia, & Schenectady. Then, on December 11, a narrow loss to Mohonasen on the road sent the Lady Flying Horses on a downward spiral that now has them three games in arrears of Grey division leader Albany. Troy has lost five of their last nine, including an embarrassing last place finish in their own tournament. Columbia collected a receipt in the first round of the Troy Holiday Hoops Classic on December 30, and, then, Bethlehem routed Troy in the consolation game four nights later. Last night, the Lady Eagles returned to Clem Zotto Gym, and beat Troy again, this time by just two points, 40-38. Mind you, Bethlehem has succeeded without their leading scorer, Jenna Giacone, who's out with an injury. Their defense shut down Troy's Shallie Frierson, who was held to just 2 points, while Sabrina Wolfe led the Lady Horses with 16 points.

Overall, Troy sits at 7-5 (6-3 in the Council), and has lost four in a row at home, including the tournament.

Next week provides what appears to be a breather, as Guilderland is off to a 2-9 overall start before hosting Troy. Then comes a rematch of the Class A title game from last March at Averill Park. Ah, but while the defending champs will by psyched for that one, they're also struggling. Entering play last night, coach Sean Organ's squad sat at 4-3 in league play. After that two-game road swing, the Lady Horses come home to play Burnt Hills, which has yet to win this season, but after that comes a virtual Murderer's Row. Shaker at home. Road games at Shenendehowa and Albany before the senior night finale vs. Schenectady. The season ends on Super Bowl Sunday with a road matinee at Long Island Lutheran. Add it up, and Troy has just three home games remaining in the regular season. Running the table is not going to happen, not with the way Shen & Albany have played this season, and those two teams have yet to face each other.

Meanwhile, the boys team dropped a heartbreaker to Colonie on December 1 on the road. Since then, aside from the recent Bishop Ludden tournament, where Troy placed third, coach Richard Hurley's club has run off eight straight wins in league play, and sit atop the Grey division, leading Schenectady by two, Albany by three, and, surprisingly, Christian Brothers Academy is in 4th, four games back and a game under .500. Of the four teams that are in the top half of the standings in the Grey division, all in their first season in the Suburban Council, you'd think that CBA would've had the easiest transition. Nope.

Troy is home next week vs. Guilderland, looking to collect a receipt from last season, and Averill Park before hitting the road to play Burnt Hills and Shaker. It'll be the first regular season meeting vs. the Blue Bison, though the schools have had a history in sectional play dating back to the early 80's, when a future NBA champion, Sam Perkins, was Shaker's top star. I still have a button from those days, which I've worn this season. Still in nice condition. I digress. Shen makes their 1st regular season visit on January 29, kicking off a stretch of three home games in five days. A non-league game vs. Green Tech on January 31, followed by Albany on February 2. Troy closes the regular season at Schenectady, then a rematch at home vs. CBA. Out of the remaining nine games, there are bumps in the road (Guilderland, Shen, possibly Shaker, possibly CBA) toward a division title. Green Tech isn't going to be a gimme, either.

What that says is that since Troy has just 1 league loss, they're likely going to play Shen a second time, in the league championship game, which would determine sectional seedings. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Troy will go 5-3 in their last eight league games, finishing 13-4, and winning the Grey division, and ending up the #2 seed in the league behind Shen. As for the ladies, as noted, the road is even tougher. Guilderland isn't exactly a slam dunk, and, as we learned from the Mohonasen game, neither is Burnt Hills. Nothing says "trap game" like another winless team hungry for an upset, especially when it's followed by three tough games in a row. The Lady Horses project to end the league schedule 9-7, light years behind Albany. The women's title game in the Council will be Shen-Albany. That much is certain.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Celebrity Rock: Someone to Watch Over Me (1983)

While it's well known that Andy Gibb had courted actress Victoria Principal (Dallas) in the early 80's, she wasn't the only starlet who captured the Aussie's fancy.

In a 1983 NBC special honoring Gibb, host-executive producer Dick Clark set up Gibb for duets with a number of partners including Nell Carter (Gimme a Break!), who'd cut her singing chops on Broadway, and Ann Jillian (Jennifer Slept Here, It's a Living), the latter of whom joins Andy for a rendition of "Someone to Watch Over Me". I had thought about holding this off until next month, but, naaaaaah. This is too good to put off.


Friday, January 8, 2016

Classic TV: The 20th/21st Century (1957)

Back in the day, CBS News contributed more programming to their entertainment siblings than they do now.

For example, the news division had a hand in the documentary series, The 20th Century, later rechristened, The 21st Century. In all, the program ran for 13 years (1957-70), with anchorman Walter Cronkite as host-narrator. The story is that the title change, effected in 1967, was because the show's writers had run out of topics, and decided to look toward the then-distant future.

"At Home: 2001" offers a viewpoint of the perception of life in the 21st century, far more serious than Tex Avery's satirical cartoons of the 50's.




I cannot say for certain what the scheduling pattern was. I do remember seeing an episode or two on a Sunday afternoon, filling time after football.

Rating: A.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Old Time Radio: The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe (1950)

Rex Stout's armchair detective, Nero Wolfe, returned to radio in 1950 with a series of New Adventures that aired on NBC radio. Film star Sydney Greenstreet ("Casablanca", "The Maltese Falcon") was cast as Wolfe, with a number of actors filling the role of Wolfe's associate, Archie Goodwin.

Aside from solving murders, Wolfe had two passions in life--beer and orchids. On the other hand, he wasn't exactly in prime physical condition, such that he had Goodwin doing his legwork for him, and rarely went into the field himself.

On a lark, I acquired a 4-CD collection of the series not long ago. One disc is playing as I write. For now, though, let's take a trip to October 1950, and "The Case of the Care Worn Cuff":



Rex Stout had written 33 Nero Wolfe novels, but one wonders what he'd think if someone wanted to acquire the rights to the character today.

Rating: A-.