Monday, February 29, 2016

Musical Interlude: Games Without Frontiers (1980)

After leaving Genesis, Peter Gabriel embarked on a solo career, but lacked the creativity to come up with album titles, it seems, until 1986's "So". His first three solo albums were all self-titled.

Such quibbles aside, Gabriel used a pastiche of images and some young children to form the basis for 1980's "Games Without Frontiers". The whistling you hear is done by Gabriel and producers Steve Lillywhite and Hugh Padgham. Kate Bush is on backing vocals, and would team with Gabriel for "Don't Give Up" on "So".



I don't think this version of the video ever saw the light of day on either MTV or VH1 back in the day, but it does do more for the song, doesn't it?

Animated World of DC Comics: Gotham Stories (2015-6)

To keep viewers up to speed on Gotham during its winter break, which concludes with the start of "Wrath of the Villains" tonight, DC, Fox, and WB decided to create a short series of motion comics under the title, Gotham Stories. The five short clips combine to form a sub-4 minute mini-movie, featuring the voices of series regulars Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, Robin Lord Taylor, and others.

Mr. Freeze is front & center as we begin:




To see where all this leads, you'll have to tune in tonight. That's all I can say. It's not exactly on the level, animation wise, of the infamous Marvel Superheroes Show from 50 years ago, and could've worked a little better.

Rating: C.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Forgotten TV: How to be Swell (late 80's-1990)

In the early years of Nick at Nite, Nickelodeon's night-time "alter-ego", if ya will, ran a series of interstitals culled from a series of short educational films produced in the late 40's and early 50's. These films were re-edited under the umbrella title, How to be Swell, which, in a way, mocked those same films in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

Take this sample for example. The footage is taken from a 1947 "Shy Guy" short that starred a young, future 60's icon, Dick York, later of Bewitched.



You think maybe the folks that put How to be Swell together ultimately had a hand in the development of [adult swim]? Similar snarky attitude.

Rating: C.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

What Might've Been: A Man Called Shenandoah (1965)

An amnesiac man, left for dead, searches the Old West for anything that would help him regain his memory. Such was the concept behind A Man Called Shenandoah, which ran for 1 season on ABC (1965-6). Robert Horton (ex-Wagon Train), who had previously sworn he'd not do another Western after leaving Wagon Train, took on Shenandoah in the belief that it would allow him more range as an actor. Not only that, but Horton also sang the show's theme song, and released his version of the classic folk song, "Oh Shenandoah", as a single that same year, recording for Columbia Records.

The series is currently part of Get TV's Saturday Showdown block, which allows extra running time to let each series (Shenandoah, Laredo, The Tall Man, Nichols, Whispering Smith, Hondo) run uncut, even with extra commercials. Hence, a half hour series airs for 40 minutes, and a hour-long show is stretched to 70 minutes. Cimmaron City has been added to the block, and will be reviewed at a later date.

No episodes are available in their entirety, but we do have a montage of clips from the series, playing over Horton's theme song.



Other than the amnesiac angle, this played like an average show of the period, a stranger roaming from town to town, often helping others in need or stumbling into trouble not of his own making.

Rating: B.

Now they have to be in a parade.........

The last time Troy High won a sectional basketball title, the Class AA men's title in 2013, they were not invited to be in the Flag Day parade 3 months later. Why that was, I don't know, but this year, the parade committee needs to correct this oversight. With interest.

I say that because the 2016 Class A men's final at Glens Falls on Friday night was an all-Troy affair, with the Flying Horses dueling the Knights of Lansingburgh High, representing the Colonial Council. This wasn't just about the A title, but also unofficial bragging rights for the city, as these two teams don't see each other on the court very often. In fact, I think the last time they may have met was in the now-defunct Uncle Sam tournament in the late 70's or early 80's. Lansingburgh reached the title game by upsetting defending A champion Scotia-Glenville, out of the Foothills Council, on Tuesday, while Troy dismissed another Foothills school, Amsterdam, which, like Troy, formerly played in the Big 10 before that league dissolved two years ago. In contrast, the two schools also met in the women's semi-finals, with Amsterdam ending the Lady Horses' season, earning a date with defending champion Averill Park this afternoon at Hudson Valley Community College.

HVCC will be the next stop for Troy's boys, however, as they used big runs in the 2nd & 3rd quarters to take command and defeat the Knights, 64-49, claiming their 2nd sectional title in 4 years. Between Classes A & AA, the Flying Horses have reached 5 straight sectional title games under coach Richard Hurley, who now can focus on the state tournament, as Troy will play an opponent to be named on March 5 at HVCC. The question then becomes one of whether or not Troy can sustain the momentum after a week's rest.

For Lansingburgh, there's no shame in a losing effort, as no one expected them to get this far. Everyone assumed it would be Troy-Scotia for the 3rd straight year in the A final, but the Knights ended Scotia's run at the top, and established themselves as players in the class for at least another year.

In this writer's opinion, it would be in the best interests of the two schools and the city for both teams to be recognized by participating in this year's Flag Day parade, and as far as I know, based on what I'd read following last year's event, that there will be one this year, set for June 12. Whether or not the parade committee can afford to make it happen is an entirely different story, but we've got 3 1/2 months to see if it does happen.

Troy High is the last of the city's high school sports teams still playing in the postseason. LaSalle & Catholic Central were both eliminated in the first round of the AA tournament, and CCHS' women's team, I believe, was also eliminated early, as were the Lansingburgh women in the A tournament. LaSalle's hockey team reached the semifinals before losing to Tri-Falls one week ago, ending a late surge bolstered by the return of junior Sam Mulson from the injured list. The skating Cadets have a strong nucleus for next year, which one would hope ends with a sectional title. It won't be long before baseball season starts. The local college teams are already playing mostly road games, and the high schools will start in about 4 weeks.

Troy's boys conquered the Suburban Council's Grey division in basketball. Can they do the same in baseball? We'll find out starting next month.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Musical Interlude: Whispering Bells (1970's)

From Sha Na Na:

I don't know who originally recorded "Whispering Bells", but Sha Na Na's cover, as performed on TV, was, as par for the course with the band, top notch. Lennie Baker sings lead, with Bowzer (Jon Bauman) providing the doo-wop bass backup.



In memory of Baker, who passed away at 69.

Weasels of the Week: Ariel Agudio, Alexis Briggs and Asha Burwell

Last month, three UAlbany students alleged they were assaulted by white men while on a CDTA bus bound for the university's campus, I believe. The case got national attention, including a tweet from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. However, the evidence which had been presented from the beginning of the case wasn't completely clear as to exactly what happened.

Within the last 48 hours, the accusers, Ariel Agudio, Alexis Briggs, & Asha Burwell, have become the accused. Accused of falsely reporting an incident, that is. UAlbany police now claim the three students made up the entire story. For what, I can't be sure, but in the wake of a number of incidents across the country, including in Albany, where unarmed African Americans have been shot and killed by police, over the last year and change, racial tensions have been inflamed to the point where, as this case has demonstrated, you really can't tell who's right or wrong in a given situation.

I'd not be surprised if by the end of the weekend, someone invoked the name of Tawana Brawley.

Brawley was the teen who claimed, 30-odd years ago, that she was attacked by six white men, only to have it come out that she made up the whole story. Her case also got national attention before it was exposed as a hoax. It makes one wonder if today's Weasels were thinking about that case when they decided to concoct their little tale of woe.

Some things just can't change.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Musical Interlude: Running Bear (1969)

"Running Bear", written by J. P. Richardson, aka The Big Bopper, reached the top of the charts for Johnny Preston in 1959, then peaked at #10 for Sonny James on the country chart 10 years later.

Richardson's tale of a Native American reboot of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet has been covered by a diverse group of artists, including Led Zeppelin, which would include the song as part of a rock medley in concert, and Danny Davis & the Nashville Brass. Satirist Ray Stevens recorded it for a box set some years back.

In memory of James, who passed away on Monday at 87, we present his version, taken from an episode of Hee Haw, complete with an intro by co-host Buck Owens.

What Might've Been: The Movie Masters (1989)

American Movie Classics, now known simply as AMC, which is better known now as the home of the popular comic book series, The Walking Dead, dabbed its corporate toes into game shows in 1989 with The Movie Masters. However, this was not your average quiz show. There were no real contestants, the celebrity panel was the same every week, something that hadn't happened since the short-lived revival of It Pays to be Ignorant 15 years earlier. The panelists were playing for a lucky home audience contestant.

Gene Rayburn, four years removed from a nasty departure from Break the Bank, was tapped to host, and it was clear that Gene just didn't have it anymore, having to be escorted onto the stage by a young model. The panelists were Clive Barnes, long time movie critic for The New York Times, and To Tell The Truth alums Peggy Cass and Kitty Carlisle Hart. The series bowed in August 1989, but was cancelled 5 months later. Why? AMC didn't have the subscriber base it has now, and the network was still in a feeling out process, 5 years into its existence.

Let's scope out a sample episode.



The intros were a call back to What's My Line?, poetry aside (Where was Nipsey Russell when you really needed him?), and the puzzles recalled Concentration, but Mark Goodson had nothing to do with this show, despite the alumni gathering.

No rating.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Classic Reborn: Today's FBI (1981)

By 1981, Quinn Martin was out of the television business. His production company had been sold to Taft Broadcasting, which, at the time, made QM a sister company to animation giant Hanna-Barbera, but after 1980's "The Return of Frank Cannon", QM no longer existed.

ABC had been interested in reviving one of Martin's more successful series for the network, The F. B. I., but with a new look. Unfortunately, public opinion had turned against the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the interim, and folks weren't interested in Today's F. B. I., which, like the original, aired on Sunday nights, another attempt at reclaiming an audience that had long moved on.

MTV was barely a month old when Today's F. B. I. launched in the fall of 1981. The real-life F. B. I. opted to work with Columbia Pictures Television (now Sony Pictures Television) instead of Warner Bros., which co-produced the original series. Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. thus was not brought back. Instead, executive producer David Gerber, in one of his last projects for CPT before moving on, brought in another TV vet, Mike Connors (ex-Mannix) to lead the new team, which otherwise was comprised of younger agents, perhaps unintentionally meant to attract the youth demographic.

The Rap Sheet offers the intro:



I have no memory of seeing the show, so no rating.

Musical Interlude: Living in a Box (1987)

I had this video up before, but then the person who posted it on YouTube decided to privatize his videos, and so it had to be taken down. Thanks to Dailymotion, Living in a Box's self-titled one-hit wonder from 1987 is back. Dig the infectious beat!




Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Classic TV: Benson (1979)

It isn't very often that a spin-off is better than its parent show. Then again, Benson, spun off from Soap in 1979, opted to play out as a traditional sitcom, not a satire of soap operas.

Brainy, brilliant Benson DuBois (Robert Guillaume) left the employ of Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond) to work for her cousin, governor Eugene Gatling (James Noble), a widower with a young daughter (Missy Gold). Dividing time between being a single dad and running an entire state was taxing enough to the point where Gatling was presented as being often dumber than a tree stump. Benson had been brought in to be put in charge of "household affairs". Apparently, it wasn't politically correct to continue to refer to him as a butler in the governor's mansion. In time, however, Benson found himself promoted onto the governor's staff, first as budget director, then lieutenant governor.

That led to, in the final season, Benson running for governor against Gatling. The series ended with a cliffhanger, as we'd never learn who won the election.

There was quite a bit of turnover in the cast over the course of seven seasons (1979-86). Caroline McWilliams was the governor's secretary, but left after 2 seasons as her character was written out via marriage. Didi Conn ("Grease") took over, but left after season six as her character took a job with NASA after marrying budget director Pete (Ethan Phillips, who also left at the end of the sixth season). Gatling's first chief of staff, John Taylor (Lewis J. Stadlen, son of voice actor Allen Swift) left after the first season, bringing the pompous, adversarial Clayton Endicott (Rene Auberjonis) on board to give Benson someone to bounce his insults off.

What you might not know is that Stadlen wasn't the first choice to play Taylor. David Hedison (ex-Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea), who hadn't done a sitcom before, had been cast in the pilot, which would've been his first TV role in more than a decade. Oy!

The following open is from the first season:



Phillips & Auberjonis, of course, would later find greater success as part of the Star Trek franchise. Auberjonis would play the shape-shifting Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Phillips was plucked from obscurity to appear on Star Trek: Voyager. Didi Conn would return in the children's series, Shining Time Station, after having worked on the animated Fonz & The Happy Days Gang before joining Benson.

Rating: A.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Musical Interlude: Dancing in the Dark (1984)

Bruce Springsteen----star maker?!? Yep.

"The Boss" released "Dancing in the Dark" as the first single off 1984's "Born in the USA", and while the infectious rhythm kept "Dancing" on car radios throughout the spring and summer of '84, the concert clip for the song introduced America to a young, aspiring actress who'd become an icon herself, Courtney Cox.



Cox parlayed "Dancing" into a very successful television career, although her first series, 1985's Misfits of Science, did a tank job in the ratings for NBC. She'd follow up with Friends, and the rest is history. Today, she's a co-executive producer, with ex-husband David Arquette, among others, of the syndicated game show, Celebrity Name Game. Bruce was just in town a couple of weeks back, but average guys like ye scribe can't afford to pay through the nose for tickets......

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Modern Classic: Head of the Class (1986)

Try to think of Head of the Class as the flip side of Welcome Back, Kotter.

Whereas in the latter series, teacher Gabe Kotter (Gabe Kaplan) had returned to his high school alma mater to teach the same remedial education course he'd taken as a student, aspiring actor Charlie Moore (Howard Hesseman, ex-WKRP in Cincinnati) lands a job as a substitute teacher for a class of academically gifted teenagers. Six episodes in, we learn that the teacher Moore is filling in for (Roscoe Lee Browne) isn't returning, so Moore stays on as a permanent teacher. Well, at least for four years. Hesseman left the show after four years, and Scottish comic Billy Connolly stepped in as a completely new character in the final season.

Class introduced viewers to two future producers in Brian Robbins and Dan Schneider, both of whom cut their teeth behind the cameras at Nickelodeon (Schneider's still there), as well as future tabloid bait Robin Givens, whose ill-fated union with boxer Mike Tyson, for all intents & purposes, derailed her career, and second generation comedienne Rain Pryor, who's currently doing a stand up tour in tribute to her father, Richard Pryor. Dan Frischman (Arvid) would find his way to Nickelodeon as well, as Robbins cast him on the All That spin-off, Kenan & Kel, as a foil for Kel Mitchell & Kenan Thompson.

In 1988, Class became the first American sitcom to film an episode in the Soviet Union, breaking new ground at a time when the Cold War was nearing its end.

Here's the intro for the first season:



I think part of the reason Saved by the Bell's primetime spin-off, The College Years, flopped in 1993 was not just because of fatigue with original cast members, but the fact that with those characters three months removed from graduating high school, viewers were expecting an upgrade of sorts from both the parent Bell, as well as Class, which preceded Bell to the air by a couple of years.

Rating: B.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

In theatres: Deadpool (2016)

Marvel Comics rolls out the first of its movies for 2016, this one from 20th Century Fox, as it has its ties to the X-Men franchise.

"Deadpool" has zero to do with "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", which is where moviegoers were first introduced to Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds). In that film, Wilson was part of the same Weapon X program that ultimately created Wolverine. Not so here. Instead, Wilson is just getting to first base with a woman he just met named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, Gotham) when he learns he has cancer. He signs up for what is promised to be some sort of experiment to give him enhanced abilities and powers, but, because this is a diametric opposite of your average superhero movie, Wade is mutated into, for lack of a better term, a living zombie. Virtually unkillable (we think), with a healing factor to rival that of Wolverine.

Now, and after giving himself his code name, Deadpool goes after the quack that turned him into a poster boy for the Centers for Disease Control, one Francis Freeman, code named Ajax. While he's stronger than dirt, Freeman doesn't have a lemony fresh shine to him. On the other hand, his assistant, Angel Dust (Gina Carano) holds her own with the X-Men's Colossus, who's tagging along for the ride to provide the sledgehammer for the viewer that, yes, Deadpool is part of the X family tree.

"Deadpool" bites the hand that feeds it, parodying every superhero movie trope & cliche you can think of, and still have room for Stan Lee to make an appearance, this time as a DJ at the strip club where Vanessa works. It's Lee's first appearance in a Marvel-Fox movie since "X-Men: The Last Stand" 10 years ago, which tells you something about the corporate discord between Fox & Marvel Studios. Unfortunately, while the trailer ensemble includes "Captain America: Civil War", due May 6, it doesn't include "X-Men Apocalypse", which follows 3 weeks later. Hmmmmm.

Speaking of trailers, here's "Deadpool":



Once upon a time, when he was introduced 25 years ago, Deadpool was conceived as a serious, villainous character. Then, someone thought he might be better served as a comedy character. Sort of like a humanoid Daffy Duck on steroids. After making major moo-lah-dee as "Green Lantern" five years ago, although the movie was critically panned, and after "The Losers" tanked, Reynolds has finally found his comic book franchise. Maybe.

Rating: B-.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Musical Interlude: Lovelight (1979)

After the Monkees initially went their separate ways, Michael Nesmith was the first to release a solo record, going so far as to sign with Warner Bros. or one of its associated labels. Davy Jones, of course, continued to act and made the rounds of guest star appearances, usually asked to sing (i.e. Brady Bunch, New Scooby-Doo Movies). Peter Tork would later form a new band. Micky Dolenz? Gee, didn't he do anything on his own, besides cartoons?

Yes, he did.

After a few voice jobs for Hanna-Barbera between 1971-77, Micky went back into the studio and cut his own record. "Lovelight" didn't get much airplay on local radio that I know of in 1979, but I just happened across this on YouTube, and just had to post it. Known as a drummer and vocalist with the Monkees, it turns out Micky can also play the harmonica, as you'll see here. Oh, by the way, he directed the clip himself.



Written as an ode to his then-wife, Trina, Micky should've gotten more attention, even on the adult contemporary charts, but pop radio was dominated by disco, even though that was on its last legs.

Rebirth? Nah, just another excuse to attract first issue marks

That's really what it all comes down to in relation to DC Comics' "Rebirth" project, which begins with an 80-page 1-shot special in May. The "fun" then starts in earnest in June.

Some of the books listed below are getting first issues yet again, which is meant mostly for the speculators, the first issue marks who are attracted to such things like moths to light and bears to honey. If the number crunchers at DC bothered to do math, they wouldn't be rebooting to the first issue every few years. Same thing applies to Marvel, by the way.

Anyway, here's the lineup:

June:

Rebirth Specials:
  • AQUAMAN REBIRTH #1
  • BATMAN REBIRTH #1
  • THE FLASH REBIRTH #1
  • GREEN ARROW REBIRTH #1
  • GREEN LANTERNS REBIRTH #1
  • SUPERMAN REBIRTH #1
  • TITANS REBIRTH #1
  • WONDER WOMAN REBIRTH #1
New #1 Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
  • AQUAMAN #1
  • BATMAN #1
  • THE FLASH #1
  • GREEN ARROW #1
  • GREEN LANTERNS #1
  • SUPERMAN #1
  • WONDER WOMAN #1
New Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
  • ACTION COMICS #957
  • DETECTIVE COMICS #934

July

Rebirth Specials:
  • BATGIRL & THE BIRDS OF PREY REBIRTH #1
  • HAL JORDAN & THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS REBIRTH #1
  • THE HELLBLAZER REBIRTH #1
  • JUSTICE LEAGUE REBIRTH #1
  • NIGHTWING REBIRTH #1
  • RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS REBIRTH #1
New #1 Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
  • HAL JORDAN & THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #1
  • JUSTICE LEAGUE #1
  • NIGHTWING #1
New #1 Issues (Shipping monthly):
  • BATGIRL #1
  • BATGIRL & THE BIRDS OF PREY #1
  • THE HELLBLAZER #1
  • RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #1
  • THE SUPER-MAN #1
  • TITANS #1

Fall

Rebirth Specials:
  • BATMAN BEYOND REBIRTH #1
  • BLUE BEETLE REBIRTH #1
  • CYBORG REBIRTH #1
  • DEATHSTROKE REBIRTH #1
  • EARTH 2 REBIRTH #1
  • SUICIDE SQUAD REBIRTH #1
  • SUPERGIRL REBIRTH #1
  • TEEN TITANS REBIRTH #1
  • TRINITY REBIRTH #1
New #1 Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
  • CYBORG #1
  • DEATHSTROKE #1
  • HARLEY QUINN #1
  • JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA #1
  • SUICIDE SQUAD #1
New #1 Issues (Shipping monthly):
  • BATMAN BEYOND #1
  • BLUE BEETLE #1
  • EARTH 2 #1
  • GOTHAM ACADEMY: NEXT SEMESTER #1
  • SUPERGIRL #1
  • SUPERWOMAN #1
  • SUPER SONS #1
  • TEEN TITANS #1
  • TRINITY #1
Text taken from http://www.polygon.com.

The one curiosity I see is Super Sons. Back in the Silver & Bronze Ages, DC concocted tales of the "sons" of Batman & Superman, back at a time when continuity wasn't as important as it is today. These characters were phased out in the late 70's in World's Finest (1st series). Creative teams will be announced at a later date. Make your plans with your local comics shop now, and strike while the iron is hot.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

On The Air: Join or Die with Craig Ferguson (2016)

Halfway through his 2nd season of the syndicated Celebrity Name Game, Craig Ferguson brought his stand-up tour to the home district two months ago. Couldn't get the cheddar together to buy a ticket, and passed. Now, Ferguson is filling what free time he had left with a new show for the History Channel.

Join or Die with Craig Ferguson starts off the same way his run on CBS' Late, Late Show did, with a quick monologue in which Ferguson walks out and stands directly in front of the camera, but not too close to prompt fish-eye shots. The monologue sets up the discussion du jour, which Ferguson debates with three panelists. Jimmy Kimmel guests on the opener, and cable's busiest guy, Chris Hardwick, is on the panel in the 2nd half hour (2 episodes on opening night, but it won't be that way every week). There is one other holdover from the Late, Late Show, and that is announcer Shadoe Stevens (ex-Hollywood Squares, Dave's World, American Top 40), heard during the 2nd half hour.

The opener took a look at history's biggest political blunders. The panel pares it down from six to one in the course of the half hour, though it's a little curious that a list of political blunders that didn't include former President Bill Clinton just isn't complete.

Following is a short promo from History Channel's YouTube channel:



Rating: A.

On The Shelf: DC rolls back prices as part of their Rebirth project

The official solicitations for DC Comics titles landing in stores in May are online now, and will be in your hot little hands in the pages of industry catalogue Previews next week. However, come June, DC is pulling a Walmart, if you will, and rolling back prices on several titles, lowering cover prices to $2.99.

Geoff Johns, one of the masterminds at DC, was given a forum by Comic Book Resources to discuss what readers should expect:



"Rebirth" may explain why the Titans Hunt limited series, originally meant for 12 issues, has been trimmed to 8, with the last issue coming out in May. Having two linchpin titles, Action Comics & Detective Comics, revert to their original numbering, which would put them close to 1,000 issues each, a milestone not achieved since the days of Four Color Comics way back when.

Meanwhile, DC's expanded Hanna-Barbera line is taking shape. The previously announced Scooby Apocalypse & Future Quest will roll out first in May. Both are ticketed with $3.99 covers, but there's a big difference.

Future Quest will, as reported previously, team Jonny Quest with fellow 60's adventure heroes Space Ghost, Birdman, Frankenstein, Jr., and so much more. Acclaimed writer-artist Darwyn Cooke is attached, and is doing at least some covers, which will be a homage to Alex Toth, who created the looks for all of the above heroes except Quest, who came from the pen of Doug Wildey. The first issue is 40 pages to justify the $4 cover. Scooby Apocalypse, meanwhile, is 32 pages for the same price, and is set in an alternate universe, kind of like the book it's mirroring, Archie's on-again, off-again Afterlife With Archie, which won't return until writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa returns from Hollywood, where he's a producer and occasional writer on Supergirl, in addition to developing Riverdale for the CW and producer Greg Berlanti. Digression aside, Apocalypse is already getting some heat from Scooby-fanatics who don't quite get the concept, much less the tattoos that Fred & Shaggy are sporting.

Dynamite, on the other hand, has added Xena, Warrior Princess to their line of licensed titles, debuting in April. Likewise, they're bringing together some of Gold Key's action heroes of the 60's in a miniseries that could be a spring sleeper. More on those when they hit shelves. I'd not be at all surprised to learn that Vampirella's new, more conservative attire in her new Dynamite series is due to pressure from moral zealot groups in the predictable places. I get the idea, but I suspect it'll backfire.





Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What Might've Been: The Family Holvak (1975)

The success of CBS' The Waltons had reached the point where NBC, which already had Little House on the Prairie, wanted a Depression-era family drama of their own. Unfortunately, they were undone by playing a game of schedule chicken with CBS.

The story goes that CBS was thinking of moving Waltons to Sunday nights, and putting Cher's solo variety show on Thursdays, then reversed field. NBC had already reserved the 8 pm (ET) Sunday slot for The Family Holvak, originally known as simply Holvak, as you'll see in the following video. Glenn Ford, whose last series, Cade's County, had aired on Sundays 4 years earlier on CBS, returned for one last series go-round. Holvak was the end result of a TV-movie, The Greatest Gift, which NBC ran in November 1974.

So what did Holvak----and, for that matter, Cher, in? The Six Million Dollar Man owned the hour on ABC.

MattTheSaiyan uploaded this preview trailer, culled from NBC's Fall Preview special for 1975. Lloyd Bridges, who returned to television himself that season in Joe Forrester, narrates.



No rating. Never saw the show.

Weasel of the Week: Kanye West

Last week, he had to share the dubious honor. This week, repeat offender Kanye West is a Weasel unto himself.

Where do we begin this time? How about the fact that West refused to attend Monday's Grammy Awards because he wasn't----get this---promised Album of the Year, which went to----wait for it---Taylor Swift. Like, was he expecting the record industry to rig the voting just for him?

It's official, as if it wasn't already. He's lost his mind.

On top of this, West is also crying poverty, claiming he's $53 million in debt. Curiously, that's the net earnings of his wife, reality show starlet and otherwise unwilling to actually work for a living Kim Kardashian in 2015 alone. We get it. West is addicted to attention. I'd say he's addicted to something else, too, but it can't yet be proven.

There are suckers starting a GoFundMe page for West, who says he needs the money to fund "ideas". Here's an idea, Kanye, though I doubt very seriously you'd even pay attention. Get off the freaking bong or whatever it is you're taking, and start taking some real stock in your life. Not just your career, but your life. You're trying to bring down T-Swizzle because you're jealous that 1) she's a better singer and songwriter than you and 2) she's 100 times hotter than Kim is. Sorry, bubbelah, but that is, all by itself, an epic fail.

We're not going to waste the dunce caps on the idiots starting those GoFundMe pages in support of West. The United Negro College Fund was right. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and West wasted his.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Musical Interlude: Freda Comes, Freda Goes (1975)

A while back, I had found a video of the Fortunes' 1971 hit, "Freedom Comes, Freedom Goes", and at the time, I said I remembered hearing a country version of the same song, but couldn't think of the artist.

That mystery's been solved. Four years after the Fortunes told the story of a flower child-debutante named Freedom, Bobby G. Rice hit the top 10 on Billboard's country chart, but rechristened the title character of the song, hence the change to "Freda Comes, Freda Goes". There's no video, but a montage from Guy Miller will suffice for now.

What would you do for a beer? (1993)

The advertising people who create the ads for Bud Light have come up with some really odd ideas over the years. Spuds McKenzie? Ended up a passing fad, despite the bikini babes. But a guy scamming his way to getting some suds?




Study the face of "Dr. Galazkiewicz". Today, actor Eddie Jemison, now with grey hair, has a regular gig on CW's iZombie as Seattle drug kingpin Stacey Boss. I'll bet he could still pull off these "Yes, I am" spots, even though the ad campaign didn't last very long.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Classic TV: The Merv Griffin Show (1965 edition)

Four different incarnations of the same show, between two networks and syndication, over the course of 24 years. This, despite the fact he also had time to not only host a game show or two, but create a couple as well, over this period.

Small wonder, then, that singer-turned-game/talk show host-turned-mogul Merv Griffin is considered a television icon.

Griffin's first talk show aired on NBC, where he'd hosted Goodson-Todman's Play Your Hunch roughly around the same time. In 1965, the show was reborn in syndication under the aegis of Group W Broadcasting, an arm of Westinghouse, the same folks who syndicated Mike Douglas' daytime yak-fest, as well as David Frost's program. After four years, Griffin moved his tack to CBS, where he was slotted in late night, opposite Joey Bishop and NBC's Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. After three years of being Avis to Carson's Hertz, and sending Bishop off to Rat Pack parties (ABC cancelled Bishop's show) as a parting gift from the late night wars, Griffin moved back into syndication. As before, his program was given a flexible time slot. Some stations aired it in the afternoon. In the home district, it aired for a time at 4 pm (ET), an hour ahead of Douglas, who was on another channel. In New York, WNEW carried the show in primetime for the length of the 14 year run.

We're going to take a look at the 1965-9 Westinghouse series, which is airing on Get TV on Monday nights and Sunday mornings. During this period, stations had an option to air the show for 60 or 90 minutes. Get TV is using the 60 minute format, which is heavily edited, and not very well in some cases. Here, Merv interviews another icon, Betty White.



Reelin In The Years Productions, which gets its name from an old Steely Dan record, holds the rights to the old tapes. I think in time we'll see the later shows in color. Just check your listings for Get TV. You'll be glad you did. Unless you fall asleep listening to Merv's interviews. I think now we know who Arsenio Hall's role model was for his brand of interviews..........!

Rating: B+.

What Might've Been: Hondo (1967)

MGM sold at least two series to ABC in 1967. Off To See The Wizard led off the Friday lineup, and was followed by studio stablemate Hondo. Neither series survived the season.

Hondo was based on a John Wayne movie of the same name from about a decade earlier, and Wayne's production company co-produced the series with MGM and co-producer Andrew Fenady's company. Ralph Taeger (ex-Klondike) was cast in the lead role as Calvary scout Hondo Lane, played by Wayne in the movie. I should also point out that it wasn't the only Western with a military theme that season, either, on ABC, as the network was also home to 20th Century Fox's Custer (yep, another 1-season failure).

Currently, the series has resurfaced on Get TV as part of its Saturday afternoon block. Here's to hoping that it will spur enough interest among baby boomers to get a DVD release.

Gilmore Box provides the intro:



In the 80's, after a guest appearance on Father Murphy, Taeger retired from acting and started a firewood business before passing away last year.

Rating: B.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Video Valentine: My Funny Valentine (2005)

Being that this is Valentine's Day, we'll close our Video Valentine series for 2016 with---what else?----"My Funny Valentine", as performed by trumpeter Chris Botti and Sting in 2005.




While Sting's wife, Trudie, was being serenaded, I can't help but think that Botti let his then-girlfriend, Katie Couric, slip through his fingers (Katie got married not too long ago to someone else), and that he could've dedicated this to her, too.

What Might've Been: Nichols (1971)

James Garner returned to television and Warner Bros. in 1971, and established his own production company, Cherokee Productions, for his first NBC series.

For those who believe Nichols was an attempt at recapturing the magic of his 50's series, Maverick, his other series for WB, Garner was actually adhering more to the spirit of the two Western comedies he made for director Burt Kennedy, "Support Your Local Gunfighter" & "Support Your Local Sheriff", one of which had been released mere months before Nichols hit the air. Unfortunately, something got lost in the transition.

While Garner's character was not given a first name on the air in early episodes, it is implied, from military records, that he was named after series creator Frank Pierson. However, ratings were so bad, Garner and producer Meta Rosenberg decided to kill off Frank Nichols and reboot with Frank's twin brother, James (Garner with a mustache) to finish the series. That didn't help, as NBC dropped the axe on Nichols at season's end.

Nichols airs on Get TV at the back of its Saturday Showdown Western block on Saturdays, and despite a supporting cast that includes Margot Kidder (7 years before "Superman") and Stuart Margolin (who'd reteam with Garner in The Rockford Files), it fell victim to confusing viewer expectations. For those expecting a revival of Maverick, Garner would finally deliver that a decade later.

Warner Archive offers a trailer of sorts:



Nichols was one of two 1971 freshman series set in the early 20th century, with CBS' Bearcats! being the other. The two shows were set three years apart, skirting around World War I, but if memory serves, they were slotted against each other for a time.

Rating: B--.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Forgotten TV: The Tall Man (1960)

One of the cool things about Time Warner Cable adding Get TV to their digital tier, at least in upstate New York, is their lineup includes some long forgotten Western series, which fill the Saturday afternoon lineup.

Leading off the block is The Tall Man, a Revue Studios (Universal) entry that ran on NBC for 2 seasons. The Tall Man was a fictionalized account of the on-again, off-again friendship between Sheriff Pat Garrett (Barry Sullivan) and gunslinger William Bonney, alias Billy the Kid (Clu Gulager). Set in New Mexico, Bonney often assists Garrett in capturing other outlaws. The ironic thing was, Bonney was just 21 when he was shot by Garrett. Gulager was 11 years older than that when he was cast as Bonney.

I was hoping to have today's episode, with guest star James Coburn, accompanying this piece, but, unfortunately, it isn't available on YouTube. Yet. Instead, we'll give you the intro:



Series creator Samuel A. Peeples would move his Western tack to 20th Century Fox after The Tall Man ended. At Fox, Peeples produced Custer & Lancer, both starring Wayne Maunder, but Peeples is also known for having written some classic Star Trek episodes. Coincidentally, another writer associated with Trek, Dorothy "D. C." Fontana, also wrote for The Tall Man.

Rating: B.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Video Valentine: To Make You Feel My Love (1997)

Now, here's a Valentine's song with a real musical pedigree.

Bob Dylan wrote "Make You Feel My Love" in 1997, but before he could release it as a single, Columbia label-mate Billy Joel added an extra word to the title and released "To Make You Feel My Love" on his third Greatest Hits compilation. It would also be the coda to Joel's career on the charts.


Here there be Weasels (& a Dunce)

If you thought the controversy surrounding the 2014 Little League World Series had died down, think again.

The parents of the Jackie Robinson West LL All-Stars who had their US title stripped from them due to boundary issues have chosen to file a lawsuit against not only Little League International (good luck winning that case), but also ESPN pot-stirrer/beef jerky salesman Stephen (Screamin') A. Smith, and the opposing coach who blew the whistle in the first place.

It is the very definition of frivolous, and it flies in the midst of other racial controversies of a more tragic stripe, with an assortment of cases of police officers shooting unarmed African Americans from Albany to Cleveland to Ferguson, Missouri. I don't know who the legal Weasel is who convinced the parents to take a fool's gambit on a lawsuit, but those parents are also getting Weasel ears for listening to the ambulance chaser's bad advice. Case closed.
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Mets GM Sandy Alderson decided to re-sign troubled relief pitcher Jenrry Mejia during this off-season, knowing that Mejia still has to serve out a suspension for PED use.

Unfortunately, it seems Mejia is baseball's current answer to Johnny Manchild, last week's Weasel, because it just came across the wires that Mejia has short-circuited his career by testing positive for PED's for the third time in a year, and now has been banished by Major League Baseball. He can apply for reinstatement in 2018, but I doubt the Mets would take him back this time.

Stop and think about this for a second. Three positive PED tests in a single year. What was Mejia thinking? Apparently, he wasn't. Well, there's only one way to best describe this week's Dunce Cap winner.....



Consider that Mejia pitched in a handful of games between his first two suspensions last season, and the Mets have found a more reliable closer in Jeurys Familia.
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It should surprise absolutely no one that we have some repeat offenders, too.

Trouble magnet Kanye West is in trouble again for leading with his mouth.

West revisited his 2009 VMA incident with Taylor Swift on a track on his new CD, then had the lack of brains to claim that T-Swizzle signed off on the name-check. No, she didn't, say her reps and friends. Especially, since West dropped the b-word in reference to Ms. Swift in the lyrics. Wife Kim Kardashian needs to do the right thing for once, find the drugs that her Weasel of a husband is taking on the side, and flush them down the nearest toilet, then send him off to rehab.
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Finally, WWE Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon gets another set of Weasel ears, plus a tail, for overreacting to an otherwise innocent act at the end of Monday Night Raw.

For those who missed it, the actual footage has since been edited by WWE to remove the supposedly "offensive" incident, in which wrestler Titus O'Neil grabbed the 70 year old chairman by the arm. McMahon shoved O'Neil away and seemed to enjoy it, then turned around and suspended O'Neil the next day for 60 days for what he perceived to be unprofessional conduct. O'Neil says that he was only trying to ensure that Vince's daughter, Stephanie, left the arena ahead of her father, following a code of conduct. He might've gone about it the wrong way, but it's another sign that the elder McMahon, long derided in this space for being out of touch, has to step aside. He's gotten so thin-skinned in recent years that the phrase, "walking on eggshells", seems to be very real in WWE around him. O'Neil was trying to be a perfect gentleman, and look what it gets him. I shan't be surprised if before the end of the year the former Florida Gator is shown the door and signs elsewhere. And it will be Vince's fault for being insensitive at the wrong time.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Video Valentine: To Love Somebody (1967)

The story goes that Robert Stigwood, the manager of the Bee Gees, had asked the Gibbs to write a song for Otis Redding. Unfortunately, Redding, who'd scored a monster hit with "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay", had passed on before he could record it, so the Bee Gees recorded it themselves, and it became one of their earliest hits.

Here's "To Love Somebody":

High school sports this 'n' that

The regular season is just about over in high school hockey. LaSalle closes out on the road vs. Queensbury on Friday, and, pending a meeting of the Section II hockey committee on Sunday, the Cadets are, presently, the 7th seed in the sectional tournament. 10 of the 11 teams in the Capital District High School Hockey League (CDHSHL) play in Division 1 (Queensbury plays in Division 2), and in order to get the field pared to 8, there will be two play-in games on Monday at Bethlehem. If the current standings hold, LaSalle would get a rematch vs. Guilderland-Mohonasen-Scotia, after winning the lone regular season meeting between the two teams at HVCC a few weeks back.

However, the focus now is on Queensbury, after avenging an earlier loss to Tri-Falls last night with a 5-2 win in the home finale at HVCC. The Cadets welcomed back Sam Mulson from the injured list, and Mulson responded with a hat trick. Now, it's a matter of whether or not LaSalle can sustain the momentum going forward.
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I'm not entirely aware of the State Education Department's Basic Education Data System (BEDS), but it paid dividends for Troy High & Lansingburgh High earlier this week.

According to sportswriters D. J. Eberle & Stan Hudy of The Record/Saratogian, the two schools will upgrade their football classification this fall. Lansingburgh, which has bounced between Classes A & B in recent years, moves back to A for 2016. The Knights will be the only Colonial Council school in that classification, as Class A is filled with teams from the Suburban Council (Averill Park, Mohonasen, Niskayuna), Foothills Council (Scotia & 2015 A champ Amsterdam), and the Adirondack Conference (Queensbury).

Meanwhile, Troy moves to Class AA, meaning they'll play Suburban brethren CBA, Colonie, Shaker, and/or Shenendehowa, depending on which division they'll play in, but the key to this move appears to be the resumption of a in-city rivalry with LaSalle. The two teams have not met on the gridiron in a few years, and if the teams are matched on the schedule, which becomes public in mid-August, you can expect either Sutton Field at LaSalle or Ed Picken Field at Troy High to be close to full capacity.
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The regular season for high school basketball is over, and sectional play will start on Friday night for the lower classes (i.e. Class C, D). The biggest surprise, at least to this writer, comes in Boys' Class A. Defending champion Scotia is the #2 seed behind Suburban Council Grey champion Troy, despite the fact that the Tartans, who finished second in the Foothills Council behind Glens Falls, had a better overall record.

One must assume that strength of schedule was a factor in the Section II Basketball committee's decision, rendered last night. Troy had a tough non-conference schedule, including going 1-1 in the Bishop Ludden tournament back in late December (they finished 3rd). Troy & Scotia both get 1st round byes, and will play their first games on February 21 at HVCC.

One change that Section II made, perhaps in response to complaints from fans and parents last year, was in the schedule for boys and girls games at HVCC on February 20-21. If you look close at the times, you'll see each game is expected to be completed within a span of 1 hour, 45 minutes. This time, it would appear that they are trying to account for overtime, but also, they realized the need to improve fan traffic between games. At least, it's a start.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Video Valentine: Heart of the Night (1979)

This week being Valentine's week, you can expect this next song to get some airplay in the usual places, like adult contemporary channels that never go out of style.

Poco's "Heart of the Night" was the 2nd single from their 1979 album, "Legend". The band had struggled for the first decade after their formation, with personnel changes on a seemingly annual basis. However, they're best remembered for this song and the other hit off "Legend", "Crazy Love".


Classic TV: The Name of the Game (1968)

In a way, Universal Television & NBC set about reinventing the wheel in the late 60's.

What I mean by that is reinventing the concept of the anthology series. The first such case, it would appear, was The Name of the Game, which ran for three seasons (1968-71), with three rotating leads: Gene Barry (ex-Burke's Law, Bat Masterson), Robert Stack (ex-The Untouchables), and Tony Franciosa, whose last series had been the sitcom, Valentine's Day. The common link was a media conglomerate whose lines of magazines formed the basis for the stories.

Franciosa left during the third season, and so guest stars would fill in when his scheduled episodes would air. The glue holding things together was Susan Saint James, whose character of Peggy Maxwell, I believe, actually worked with all three leads. I never saw the show, so I really don't know all the details.

Game was the 2nd 90 minute series produced for NBC by Universal, with The Virginian being the other. Wagon Train, I think, went to a 90 minute format when it moved to ABC for the end of its run earlier in the decade.

Following is the episode, "All the Old Familiar Faces", uploaded by a YouTube fan channel devoted to guest star Lois Nettleton, and featuring the pop vocal group, the Third Eye, who serve as a sort of Greek chorus, performing the title song throughout the episode.



Could Game be redone today, reflecting on the changes in journalism in the 21st century? Perhaps, if the networks could be persuaded to veer away from the glut of so-called reality television programs....!

No rating.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Video Valentine(s): Save Your Last Kiss For Me (1978) & My Funny Valentine (1978?)

A double dose of Happy Days musical numbers as we draw closer to Valentine's Day.

First up, Anson Williams (Potsie) teams with future bride Lorrie Mahaffey for "Save Your Last Kiss For Me", co-written by Williams. Then, Donny Most (Ralph) croons a surprisingly faithful cover of "My Funny Valentine".



In more recent times, Most has drifted away from acting and forged a singing career of his own, but veering more toward jazz and standards. Like, who knew? I'll have something of more recent vintage up soon.


Sports this 'n' that

As the late Gorilla Monsoon might've aptly put it, Super Bowl 50 was not a feast for the eyeballs, especially if you're into offenses scoring at will.

The difference was the Denver Broncos' top-ranked defense, which was as advertised. Defensive end Derek Wolfe, lineman DeMarcus Ware, defensive back Chris Harris, Jr., and linebacker Von Miller weren't on the field two years ago when Seattle's Russell Wilson shredded Denver's defense in a 48-7 rout. Ware was in Dallas, and signed with Denver as a free agent that summer. Wolfe was ill, and Harris & Miller were injured. Add to that the return to Denver of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who'd worked with Ware in Dallas for a time, and those pieces made all the difference in the world for Denver in a 24-10 verdict over Carolina. Cam Newton didn't run as free as he'd have liked, but the Broncos' defense turned the Panthers into a 1-dimensional team in much the same way that they'd done to their hated rivals, the New England Patriots in the AFC title game two weeks prior.

Miller was named MVP, and rightfully so, leading the charge that led to 7 sacks, one of which set up the game's 1st touchdown, as Malik Jackson recovered a Newton fumble in the end zone to give Denver a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.

Coincidentally, during the parade of past MVP's, which delayed the start of the game by about 10 minutes because CBS didn't have the sense to put in a request to have the ceremony before the scheduled 6:30 (ET) kickoff, Patriots QB Tom Brady was roundly booed, just because. And here I thought it might've been because he thought he was too cool to step onto the yellow dot meant for photo ops. Not to worry, Baltimore QB Joe Flacco did the same thing and avoided the yellow dot like the plague, but he didn't get booed.

Now, the question remains. Is this in fact the last rodeo for QB/pizza & insurance salesman Peyton Manning? He probably knows, but right now, he's not sharing.
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New York Knicks/Rangers owner James Dolan inherited the late George Steinbrenner's penchant for quick trigger personnel moves. While Steinbrenner's sons, Hank & Hal, have chosen patience rather than impulse to guide their business decisions in operating the Yankees, Dolan proved once again that he cannot trust a true basketball man, such as Phil Jackson, to make the necessary moves to improve the Knicks' fortunes. With the All-Star game a week away, 2nd year coach Derek Fisher was given the heave-ho today after the Knicks lost to Denver yesterday on what amounted to the undercard to the Super Bowl in the Mile High City, though this game was played at Madison Square Garden. Former Lakers player and coach Kurt Rambis takes over on an interim basis, but don't expect that to last too long past the season. Just sayin'.
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In a couple of hours, former WWE champion Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) will appear on Monday Night Raw to elaborate on his announcement on Twitter earlier today that he, because of a series of injuries that have limited his appearances the last couple of years, was retiring at 34. The WWE won't activate Bryan from the injured list, out of fear that one more major injury would end his career anyway.

However, in what now seems like a preview of that retirement announcement, Danielson shot this short video for Tide detergent.



Since that spot was done, Danielson has cut his hair and beard to a more socially acceptable appearance. Yes, there are those on social media who feel WWE didn't do enough for him, and there are those that feel a compromise was never reached that could've saved his career because Danielson didn't want to compromise what had brought him to the dance in the first place. Something tells me there'll be a spot on the announce team for him sooner rather than later.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

How to ruin a Classic in one easy lesson: Amos Burke, Secret Agent (1965)

It's said that if it isn't broken, you don't fix it. Someone at ABC was desperate to have a spy show on the schedule to counter NBC's Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2nd season) and CBS' incoming steampunk spy series, The Wild, Wild West. So they prevailed upon producer Aaron Spelling at Four Star to retool Burke's Law into something it wasn't meant to be, at least in the eyes of Amos Burke's creator, Frank Gilroy.

The end result, Amos Burke, Secret Agent, would've killed the Burke franchise dead, if it wasn't for Spelling having the foresight to acquire the rights to the series later on. Honey West, a Burke spin-off, bowed the same year (1965), and also lasted one season, but that, as we discussed before, was because viewers seemingly weren't ready for a strong female lead just yet.

Gene Barry continued as Burke, who now answered to someone known simply as "The Man" (Carl Benton Reid), who was in the military as a general. The idea was to reboot Burke as a James Bond clone, and it failed. Period.

Let's take a look at a sample episode.



Nearly 30 years later, Spelling would bring back Burke's Law, this time at CBS, and got 2 seasons out of it. With Burke back in the states as a police detective, it was as if his globe-trotting season as a Secret Agent had been ret-conned out of existence.

I remember seeing the original series in reruns as a youth, but I don't think this final season was included, so there's no rating for Amos Burke, Secret Agent.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Forgotten TV: Marblehead Manor (1987)

In 1987, NBC attempted to create a pre-primetime checkerboard block of programming to lead into their 8-11 pm (ET) evening block. Five sitcoms on five different nights, all with familiar or soon-to-be-familiar faces.

Over at Saturday Morning Archives, we took a look at Out of This World, which was a comeback vehicle for Donna Pescow (ex-Angie), and was the most successful of the block, lasting four seasons. The trick was that stations not affiliated with NBC were able to acquire these shows as well, hence the varying results. World will turn up here, too, ere long, as we honored co-star Joe Alaskey, a local native, who passed away earlier this week, and is better known for his work as a voice actor post-World.

Next up, then, is Marblehead Manor, which, to be fair, was an attempt at creating a British sitcom of a sort on American shores. As would be the fate of the bulk of the block, Marblehead lasted one solitary season, but three of its stars are quite known. The series, first & foremost, marked the return of actress Linda Thorson (ex-The Avengers) to American television, 14 years after her Avengers predecessor, Diana Rigg, had toplined a sitcom of her own that also lasted a season. The network? Wouldn't you know, it was NBC. Next, you had second generation actor Phil Morris, trying his hand at comedy. Marblehead's failure enabled Phil to move on to the revival of the show that made his father, Greg, famous, Mission: Impossible, the very next season. Finally, there is Michael Richards (ex-Fridays), already playing the kind of goofball characters that would lead to his iconic role as Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld. Richards moved on from Marblehead to the "Weird" Al Yankovic movie, "UHF".

Let's scope out a sample episode:




This is best filed under, what were they thinking?

Rating: C.

Of Weasels and Super Bowl dreams

"One's a born liar, and the other one's convicted."--Billy Martin on Reggie Jackson & George Steinbrenner, respectively, in the late 70's.

Let's try to apply that above quotation to this week's Weasels, shall we?

The "born liar", of course, could apply to both Donald Trump, a repeat offender, and erstwhile Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel, who soon could be out of a job----and a lot more, if his father's hunch is right---because he simply hasn't grown up.

Let's talk Manziel, or, from this point forward, Johnny Manchild, first.

I've said all along Manchild left Texas A & M too early, listening to all the huzzahs from friends and hangers-on about his fame on the gridiron, which resulted in being the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012. The problem, as has been emphasized since Cleveland drafted him in 2014, is immaturity off the field. He suffers from a different form of, ah, affluenza than fellow Texas twit Ethan Couch in that because he's a star athlete, not a priveleged child enabled by a wealthy family, he's above rules and regulations.

Case in point. Eight days ago, Colleen Crowley, Manchild's ex-girlfriend, told police her ex-lover struck her in a Dallas hotel while taking her back to Fort Worth, and threatened to kill her. According to her father, Crowley is getting some help. I wish the same could be said for Johnny Manchild.

A year ago, he entered a rehab facility in Pennsylvania to address his drinking issues, but promptly back-slid back to being the careless party boy who has become the poster child for leaving school too soon without fully transitioning into adulthood. His father, Paul, fears that Johnny Manchild won't live to see his 24th birthday, already aware that the Browns intend to cut Manchild next month. The Manziels tried to get Johnny admitted into rehab twice this week, but he wanted no part of it. Paul Manziel told the Dallas Morning News in Friday's editions that his son might be suicidal. Now, there's a surprise.

I think I know what the root of the problem is. Johnny Manchild has seen another party boy-turned-superstar athlete, New England's Rob Gronkowski, succeed in the NFL and retain his frat boy social life. The difference is, Gronkowski does all the right things off the field, and hasn't gotten into trouble with the law. At Texas A & M, Manchild thought that if Gronk could do it, so could he. Unfortunately, at 23, when he should be preparing to graduate, Manchild has finished his 2nd and last season with the Browns. Cowboys owner/GM/president-for-life Jerry Jones has openly coveted bringing in the problem child, but does he really want to after this latest episode? If Paul Manziel's right, his son needs to be far away from the nightclubs and in a rehab center yesterday. Figure on this. The Browns will cut him next month, and eat the rest of his contract. The best case scenario, since he can't play college football anymore, is for Johnny Manchild to go back to school, preferably far away from cameras (camera phones included), get a degree, then start thinking about a comeback.
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Meanwhile, Dumb Donald Trump put his foot in his mouth again after losing in the Iowa caucus on Monday to Senator Ted Cruz. On Tuesday, Dumb Donald accused Cruz of "stealing" the victory. Oh, please. Give me a break. Trump made the accusation on Twitter, then amended his post. Just the same, all that says is that Dumb Donald is a sore loser. Then again, we found that out 4 years ago, when he whined after President Obama was re-elected, complaining on behalf of the woebegone Birthers he's been supporting. An online article earlier this week suggested that Trump has orchestrated every piece of his strategy for his campaign, just to get people talking. Gee, that does sound like he got advice from his pal, Vince McMahon, doesn't it?

Since Trump already has 4 sets of Weasel ears and two tails, let's just send him a bodysuit this time. Or, the autobiography of that well known wrestling Weasel, Bobby Heenan.
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The continuing soap opera that is the downward spiral of Johnny Manchild won't overshadow Sunday's Super Bowl 50. The commercials, of course, will run the gamut from absurd to asinine to awesome, but let's talk about the game.

Two years ago, Peyton Manning and the Pizza Salesmen (Denver Broncos) were thrashed by the Seattle Seahawks and QB Russell Wilson. Like Wilson, Carolina Panthers QB/yogurt salesman Cam Newton, the 2010 Heisman winner out of Auburn, is a dual threat who can kill defenses with his legs as well as his arm. Denver's defense hasn't changed all that much since getting blown out of Super Bowl 48 by Seattle, and one difference this time is that linebacker Von Miller, who didn't play two years ago, is healthy and will be in the lineup. However, there is a flaw in the defense that coordinator Wade Phillips hasn't figured out yet, and that's closing the running lanes for read-option QB's like Wilson and Newton.

There've been hints that this might be the end of the trail for Manning, but today's New York Post has a couple of different ideas on where the telegenically challenged QB could go if Denver decides to cut him loose and retain Brock Osweiler as their starter next year. Hall of Famer Joe Namath thinks Manning could go to the Jets. Then again, Broadway Joe forgot about the last future Hall of Famer the Jets grabbed off the scrap heap. Brett Favre lasted one season, fraught with scandal, in New York. Meanwhile, Eli Manning was quoted as suggesting that big brother could be brought in as a quality control coach to help him out with the Giants next season. Considering that the Giants promoted Ben McAdoo to head coach and gave him an oversized suit that probably came from the David Byrne collection (Talking Heads fans will get the reference) for his presser a few weeks back, I'm not so sure that's such a good fit. Where would Peyton find the time for coaching, since it seems he'll be clogging our TV screens anyway with his commercial endorsements (Papa John's, Nationwide, DirecTV)?

Joking aside, Peyton reportedly told Patriots coach Bill Belichick after the AFC title game that "this might be my last rodeo". If it is, maybe NBC can build an all-star edition of The Voice around him so he can get singing lessons. Anyway, in this writer's opinion, referencing what I wrote nearly two weeks ago, Father Time (Manning) will, in wrestling parlance, "do the honors" for Baby New Year (Newton).

Carolina, 41-24.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Video Valentine: After the Love is Gone (1979)

Sometimes, a bad breakup is something that can be regretted.

That seems to be the message in Earth Wind & Fire's 1979 hit, "After the Love is Gone". The band's Vevo channel serves up a concert clip, date unknown. Dedicated to the memory of singer Maurice White, who passed away earlier this week.


High School Fridays: Saratoga @ LaSalle (hockey), 2/5/16

"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."---Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.

The above quotation, in a nutshell, would describe the fortunes of Saratoga High and LaSalle Institute as the two teams faced off in hockey this evening at Robert Conway Arena on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College. Which is which? Read on.

Last year, the Blue Streaks suffered a heartbreaking, agonizing loss to LaSalle that prompted one Saratoga player to swear up a---wait for it---blue streak after the game as he walked down the tunnel to his locker room. This season, Saratoga leads the Capital District High School Hockey League (CDHSLL). LaSalle, with just 4 wins entering play tonight, is near the bottom of the standings. Could lightning strike twice in the same place?

Saratoga had struggled two nights ago, breaking through in the 3rd period to beat arch-rival Shenendehowa, 2-0. Meanwhile, LaSalle suffered another heartbreaking loss, this one on the road to Bethlehem, 7-5. I shan't go any further, but rather try to find some positives in this game.

The first period played like the first two of the Shen-Saratoga game on Wednesday night. A scoreless, defensive battle. LaSalle's Zach Rentz was stout in goal, registering 17 saves in the first period alone. But while the Cadets' defense kept Saratoga off the board, the offense couldn't get close enough to netminder Tom Fornabia. A shot on goal for LaSalle in the first period was as rare as a day without a quote from Donald Trump.

That all changed in the second period. Saratoga's Jonathan Luse broke the ice (pun intended) with a power play goal to put the Blue Streaks up, 1-0. Mere minutes later, Ben Leinweber evened the score with a 1-timer past Fornabia. However, LaSalle couldn't sustain the momentum, and Saratoga continued to crowd the net around Rentz to the point where Rentz could've complained of claustrophobia if at all possible. Josh Dagle put Saratoga up for good, and Elliott Hungerford add two more goals, including a power play goal, to give the Streaks a 4-1 lead after two periods.

Mere seconds into the third, Kevin Mainello backhanded a pass from Tom Ryan past Fornabia to get LaSalle within two goals at 4-2, but Luse put the game away two minutes later with his second tally of the night. LaSalle could get no closer, and the Blue Streaks kept their league record perfect with a 5-2 verdict.

So what did LaSalle in? Defensive breakdowns, costly, ill-timed penalties, and special teams being out of sync. It's been a season-long malady for which coach Tim Flanigan has yet to find a cure. Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control are kind of busy with mosquitoes and flu viruses these days. The Cadets have three games left, including a play-in game just to qualify for the sectionals.
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Turning to basketball, it was a big night for Troy High. The girls team welcomed back Shallie Frierson after she'd missed the last three games, all losses, and she tallied 17 points as the Lady Flying Horses snapped the losing streak by burying Schenectady, 53-23. The boys, meanwhile, clinched the Suburban Council's Grey division title by similarly blowing out Schenectady, 63-34. Daniel Buie was "held", if you will, to 14 points, but was one of four Troy players in double figures, as the Flying Horses ran their current winning streak to three in a row. Second place Christian Brothers Academy comes to Clem Zotto Gym on Senior Night on Tuesday.

A night that will live in infamy (1988)

28 years ago today, the way most of us look at professional wrestling was changed forever.

Saturday Night's Main Event spun off a primetime special, The Main Event, headlined by a rematch from WrestleMania 3 between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, who was now a full on heel, managed not only by Bobby Heenan, but the two had entered into a shady business deal with "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase.

I remember where I was that fateful night. I was at Catholic Central High School, watching the homestanding Crusaders knock off Troy High. An enterprising student had brought a battery operated television so he could watch the game and the wrestling at the same time.

Vince McMahon & Jesse Ventura are on the call:



For the first time, viewers saw twin brothers Dave & Earl Hebner in the ring at the same time. Andre's decision to give the title to DiBiase voided his lone World title victory, and sent Andre on a downward slide in his career in the eyes of many fans. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, WWE has never really recovered from a moral standpoint. Nearly a decade later, McMahon traded the righteous indignation of a common play-by-play announcer for the Machiavelli-meets-J. R. Ewing machinations of a corporate baron who would gradually become mentally unbalanced over the course of the next couple of decades.

You can say that this was a watershed moment for McMahon, who shed all notions of wrestling as it was traditionally presented, insisting on referring to it as sports entertainment, dutifully aware that more people knew the matches were pre-determined.

Unfortunately, more people today are turning away from what is now known as WWE, because the product is so moldy & stale, bacteria is threatening to go on strike in protest. McMahon's devious alter-ego is stuck in the latter part of the 20th century, but it's safe to say that Vincent K. McMahon, 70, is also stuck in the past. For nearly 30 years, the worldwide leader in bad business decisions. That's really all you need to know.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Advertising For Dummies: "High-voiced" Peyton Manning? Don't believe it (2015)

When DirecTV rebooted a supposedly popular advertising campaign by replacing actor Rob Lowe with NFL players, I felt they'd jumped the shark.

Back at the start of the season, I posted Eli Manning's "Bad Comedian" ad, which wasn't too bad, but older brother Peyton, who might just be playing his last game in Super Bowl 50 Sunday night, reminds us yet again that when it comes to commercials, he's too naive to say no to stupid human tricks.

Peyton made two ads. One has a "skinny legs" version, thanks to computer trickery, but this one, where he has a high voice, sounds like the only chicanery going on might've been dubbing a female voice in for "high voiced" Peyton. Judge for yourselves, kids.



Well, Foghorn Leghorn might be proud that Peyton tried to cover "Camptown Races", but if Manning does retire, the next place we'll likely see him is in a television studio as an analyst. ESPN's got an opening for Sunday NFL Countdown after jettisoning Keyshawn Johnson last week. It's either that or hosting a revival of Empty-V's Say What Karaoke.

Video Valentine: Hey Paula (1978?)

From Sha Na Na:

Ginger (Pamela Myers, also the show's announcer) didn't get as many chances to sing as the band members did, but when she did, she proved she was equal to the task.

Case in point is this cover of Paul & Paula's seminal "Hey, Paula", partnered with Johnny Contardo.




Overall, the band's covers of 50's & 60's pop classics were on a par with the original material, especially if it's given to Johnny to sing lead.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Advertising For Dummies: You really can learn a lot from a dummy (1978)

Here's another long unseen Smokey Bear ad, this one from 1978. A man in a Smokey costume appears after a speech by Knucklehead Smiff (Paul Winchell). Jackson Weaver, of course, is the voice of Smokey.




Diamonds to donuts Winchell was dressed in the Smokey costume to operate Knucklehead, whose laugh had been recycled for Fleegle of the Saturday morning pre-fab group, the Banana Splits, and for the Scrubbing Bubbles ads.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Video Valentine: Making Love Out of Nothing at All (1983)

This month, you're bound to hear plenty of soft, romantic ballads from Australia's Air Supply, leading up to Valentine's Day.

Jim Steinman had a banner year in 1983. He not only penned Bonnie Tyler's smash, "Total Eclipse of the Heart", but also Air Supply's "Making Love Out of Nothing at All". From the sound of it, I'd think Steinman, also a long time associate of Meat Loaf who ventured out onto the charts himself briefly in the 80's, produced this track, too.


A Modern Classic (?): Prime Time Wrestling (1985)

As he expanded the then-World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) into a national, then global, promotion, Vince McMahon was no longer content with two hours of syndicated fare on the weekends to attract fans to regional house shows. He struck a deal with USA Network to produce some additional weekly programming. We previously discussed his parody of talk shows, Tuesday Night Titans, and I use the word "parody" for a reason.

Mondays on USA used to mean broadcasts of live cards from either Madison Square Garden in New York, the Boston Garden (now the TD Garden), the Capital Centre in Landover, MD (now the Verizon Center), and the Spectrum in Philadelphia, where McMahon actually hired boxing announcer Ed Darien to do ring announcing at least once or twice.

In 1985, that all changed with the launch of Prime Time Wrestling. Former IWA announcer Jack Reynolds was host, paired with newly retired Jesse Ventura, but in short order, Reynolds was gone, replaced by Gorilla Monsoon. Ventura would give way to heel manager Bobby Heenan as "The Body" went to Hollywood to film "Predator", the first of three films where he'd appear with Arnold Schwarzenegger ("The Running Man" & "Batman & Robin" are the others). Heenan & Monsoon were already calling the matches on Wrestling Challenge, so the chemistry was already there. While the show was taped at the promotion's Connecticut studio, they often went on the road to remote locations, such as Churchill Downs in Louisville.

The format was simple. Syndicated weekend matches, plus "exclusive" house show bouts from the above mentioned cities, plus Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, filled out the two hours. In 1989, Heenan was spun off into a short-lived talk show, another parody of the genre, and this one had a shorter shelf life than Titans did.

In 1991, the studio format was tweaked by adding a studio audience, and McMahon decided he wanted to parody Johnny Carson again, albeit without the monologues. Well, maybe he was aping Merv Griffin, since Lord Alfred Hays was the closest thing to Arthur Treacher that McMahon had. But in the summer of '91, McMahon stepped aside, and Sean Mooney (now a sports anchor, last seen in Arizona) took his place. Before long, however, they went to a roundtable format and ditched the audience. Monsoon returned as part of the panel, along with Hays and Heenan, among others, and this was the way it'd be until the show ended in January 1993, giving way to Monday Night Raw.

Let's take a step back in time to October 1989. Monsoon & Heenan are now joined by Roddy Piper, who had filled Heenan's chair that summer. It's the Halloween edition. Monsoon is dressed as Brother Love, while the real deal (Bruce Prichard) shows up, only to run into Piper. No matches are shown, just the studio banter between the three hosts and the ersatz evil evangelist. Heenan is dressed as The Genius (Lanny Poffo's character at the time).



Watching this footage again for the first time in over 25 years was hysterical, thanks mostly to the comic genius of Piper, whom we lost last year. This was "Hot Rod" at his best. It wasn't until he left for WCW, and the advent of the nWo in the late 90's, before Heenan finally became a fan favorite.

Rating: A.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Classic TV: The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour (1971)

Some might think that variety shows in the 70's were a dime a dozen. Seems network executives felt any performer worth their salt would front a hour long comedy-variety show. Some worked (i.e. Flip Wilson, Donny & Marie). Some didn't, mostly because those same network executives thought a flavor of the month (i.e. Starland Vocal Band) could extend their 15 minutes with a weekly show.

Sonny & Cher fall into the former category.

What you might not know is that the then-husband-&-wife team of Sonny Bono & Cher were working the nightclub circuit when then-CBS executive Fred Silverman contacted them about doing a weekly TV show after catching their act one night. The hits had stopped for a while, although Cher scored a solo hit with "Gypsies, Tramps, & Thieves" the year she & Sonny launched their show, in 1971.

The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour lasted three seasons, ending by mutual agreement in 1974 when the couple separated, then divorced. Subsequent solo series didn't work so well, including Sonny moving to ABC to front a Sunday night show in the same time slot that would later claim variety shows fronted by Bill Cosby and The Brady Bunch among their victims. The two would reunite to revive the series after Cher married Gregg Allman, but the magic just wasn't there anymore.

On the surface, Sonny & Cher's show was modeled after Carol Burnett's hit series, with musical numbers mixed with outrageous comedy skits. Check out this "Vamps" skit with guest stars Larry Storch (ex-F-Troop) and Wilfrid Hyde-White (later of The Associates and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) from season 2 in 1972.




As a by-product of their show airing on CBS, Sonny & Cher would subsequently team with Scooby-Doo on the canine sleuth's Saturday morning show, but there were no musical numbers.

I will take this time to mention that as of today, GetTV, still another digital network that mixes movies with old, long unaired shows, has been added to Time Warner Cable's lineup. Sonny & Cher airs on Monday nights and Sundays (check listings).

Rating: B.