Thursday, June 30, 2016

Musical Interlude: Candyman (2016)

As we know, M & M's candies turn 75 this year. It's been 45 years since Sammy Davis, Jr. recorded "The Candy Man" for the movie, "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory".

As part of the celebration of the former, Mars, Incorporated commissioned Zedd and vocalist Aloe Blacc to record a new version of "Candyman" (note the spelling), the video of which uses some of Davis' original vocals, plus assorted clips of M & M's commercials from the 50's through today.

Tri-City Valleycats fans have become accustomed to hearing an excerpt of "Candyman" as walk-up music for the team's leading hitter, Carmen Benedetti, in the first two weeks of the season.



Now, that's a sweet sound.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What Might've Been: The Second Hundred Years (1967)

It can be argued that Screen Gems executive Harry Ackerman might've gone to the well one time too many with fantasy-based sitcoms in the 60's.

In 1967, Bewitched was entering its 4th season, and ABC was looking to Ackerman to provide them with another sitcom. He decided to go the fantasy route again, but this time grounded a little more in scientific improbability.

The Second Hundred Years told the story of turn-of-the-century prospector Luke Carpenter (Monte Markham), who had been awakened from more than six decades of suspended animation after an avalanche in Alaska uncovered his body. That's news to his son (Arthur O'Connell), especially when Luke is brought home via military escort, and finds that his grandson, Ken, is his exact lookalike (Markham in a dual role).

Viewers, unfortunately, voted by changing channels. Six months later, Years was moved to the Thursday 7:30 (ET) slot recently vacated by Batman as that series had ended a 2 year, 3 season run. Didn't help, as ABC pulled the plug a week later. O'Connell was consigned to character roles for the rest of his career. Ackerman turned to Markham again 18 months later to headline a series version of the movie, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Unfortunately, that, too, was cancelled.

Frank Pilato serves up this sample open/close, the latter taken from a USA Network broadcast in the 80's.



I remember seeing, I think, promos, but I don't recall seeing any episodes. No rating.

Musical Interlude: We Built This City (1985)

Starship (formerly Jefferson Starship) rebooted and released "Knee Deep in the Hoopla" in 1985. The first single was the bouncy "We Built This City", with co-lead singers Mickey Thomas & Grace Slick alternating on vocals. As for the DJ heard in the bridge? Former DJ Les Garland, at the time an executive with MTV, lent his past expertise in a brief vocal cameo.



Even though Garland clearly referenced San Francisco, Starship's home base, the phrase "city that never sleeps" is, of course, more commonly associated with New York City, MTV's base. Go figure.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Classic TV: The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967)

After their sitcom had bombed during the 1965-6 season, the Smothers Brothers returned a year later with the now legendary Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which was posited in CBS' Sunday lineup, opposite Bonanza on NBC and The ABC Sunday Night Movie.

Tom & Dick Smothers went in a different direction than the average variety show. They courted controversy by attracting guests with political messages, presenting satirical sketches that had CBS' censors reaching for the pruning shears, if you will. The series' initial success can be attributed in no small part to having The Ed Sullivan Show as a lead-in. I believe the initial run of What's My Line? was coming to an end, and if memory serves from past research, Line was coupled with Candid Camera in back of the Smothers Brothers.

As they say, you can't fight city hall, and inevitably, the series was cancelled in the spring of 1969 after 2 full years, 3 seasons, on the air.

I had misspoken when I said that the brothers' 1980's NBC series, Fitz & Bones, was their last series. It wasn't. They revived The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1988 in the wake of a writers' strike, but it was just a short-term deal. Same went for a 1975 revival, also for NBC. In 1993, E! picked up the 1967-9 series, and brought in Tom & Dick Smothers to do wraparound segments to acquaint a new generation of viewers with their original variety show.

Following is a September 1968 episode, taken from the E! run, with the intro by Tom & Dick Smothers. Musical guests are Mama Cass Elliott and Harry Belafonte.



I didn't see enough of the E! rerun cycle to form an opinion, so there won't be a rating.

On The Shelf: Returns, delays, and other musings

DC Comics should be happy with the spike in sales for their books in the first few weeks of the Rebirth initiative. The home town store can't keep books in stock, attracting curious, casual consumers drawn to the reduced cover price of $2.99 per copy like moths to flame & light. I've only put orders in for a select few, based on my own point of interest.

The latest Rebirth 1-off I picked up was Titans, which picks up in part where DC Universe Rebirth left off last month, and in part from the conclusion of the Titans Hunt miniseries. Wally West (the original version, not the one used on The Flash) has returned, sparking the memories of his former teammates and friends. Mr. Twister, the villain in the miniseries, apparently will return, but there's something else afoot. Hmmmm.

Rating: B.

Dynamite Entertainment's latest The Shadow miniseries may be of the bait & switch variety.

The Death of Margo Lane sounds like it's fan-service to those in the fan base who are not fans of the character, introduced in the radio dramas, and most famously played by Agnes Moorehead, three decades before Bewitched made her an icon. The Shadow does have to rescue a kidnapped woman, and solve a mystery tied into it. However, do you really think they'll kill off Margo? After all this time? Your guess is as good as mine.

Rating: A.
==============================================
It didn't take long for DC to run into some creative issues with some of their recent releases. For example, Future Quest issue 2, due this week, has been pushed back a week with no explanation. As it was, when you do the math, they gave artist Evan Shaner an extra week, since this would've been five weeks between issues, to finish this issue, but expect the series to be continued on a six-week schedule instead of 4-5 weeks. Just a hunch.

Meanwhile, speaking of bait & switch, the long, unawaited return of Scrappy-Doo in the pages of Scooby Apocalypse will have to wait until issue 3, as he didn't appear in issue 2. Writers Keith Giffen & J. Marc DeMatteis have fallen into the trap of playing to the internet haters and using Scrappy as a villain, like he was in the 2002 "Scooby-Doo" movie. Amazingly, issue 2 arrived just 3 weeks after the 1st issue. Hmmmmm.

DC is also experiencing issues with some of their bi-weekly books, including Action Comics. This was to be expected, as DC foolishly decided to double the number of issues per month. In the case of Action & Detective, the idea is to speed up the countdown to the 1000th issues for both books. Ok, so why not do the same for Superman, Wonder Woman, & Batman?
================================================
Archie Comics' 4th "New Riverdale" series will be Josie & the Pussycats, debuting in September, and written by Marguerite Bennett (DC Bombshells). With Sabrina making her "New Riverdale" debut in Jughead 9, also in September, it seems they're trying to suggest that maybe there's an attraction between the teenage witch and Jughead. Don't be surprised if another Sabrina book comes out next year as the 5th "New Riverdale" book, to offset the oft-delayed Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Also returning in September is DC's Doom Patrol as the 1st book in the company's new Young Animal line, which will also include Shade the Changing Girl (yes, that's right), which, one can assume, would be the daughter of the original, who was introduced nearly 40 years ago by artist Steve Ditko. Then again.......!


Musical Interlude: Rhythm of the Rain (1990)

"Rhythm of the Rain" originally was recorded by the Cascades way back in 1962. Since then, artists as diverse as Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Neil Sedaka, Jacky Ward, and Dan Fogelberg have covered "Rhythm".

With storm clouds in the vicinity of my home area, here's Fogelberg's soulful cover:


Monday, June 27, 2016

What Might've Been: American Dreams (2002)

Once we entered the 21st century, you'd think Hollywood would simply move forward on the nostalgia front, and begin to celebrate the 80's. Ah, but there was still some interest in earlier generations, too.

Perhaps the most curious thing about American Dreams, which lasted 3 seasons on NBC (2002-5) was that the show was equal parts a family drama and a homage to an iconic music series that aired on another network, that, of course, being American Bandstand. Dick Clark served as co-executive producer for Dreams with actor-turned-producer Jonathan Prince (ex-Throb). Remember, too, that Clark had done Bloopers & Practical Jokes for NBC in the 80's (co-produced with Johnny Carson's company), in addition to Bandstand and The $10,000-100,000 Pyramid (CBS, ABC), and was well respected in Hollywood.

Digressing. Dreams was set during the 60's, during a time when Bandstand was still based in Philadelphia, before moving to Los Angeles, centered on a teenager yearning to get on Bandstand as a dancer. I never saw the show, so there's not going to be a rating.

We'll leave you with a clip from the show, built around a Bandstand appearance by Marvin Gaye (Usher Raymond), who performs "Can I Get A Witness". Paul D. Roberts appears on camera as Clark, but you can clearly tell a classic Clark intro was dubbed over.



So why was Dreams cancelled after 3 seasons? Declining ratings, of course, and there aren't enough episodes, amazingly, to warrant a syndicated run.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Classic Reborn (again): Match Game (2016)

I was reading the television listings in the paper today, and found it rather odd that the revival of Match Game was being graded "TV-G", while The $100,000 Pyramid was marked "TV-14". Shouldn't that have been the other way around, considering Match is at the bottom of ABC's Sunday lineup?

Anyway, Match Game is back for a 10 week summer run, hosted by Alec Baldwin (ex-30 Rock). The questions this time tend to be a little more self-deprecating to not only the panelists, but, in the first game on tonight's opener, to Baldwin himself.

So what's to love? Rosie O'Donnell occupies the late Brett Somers' chair, but otherwise, it's a panel that changes on a week-to-week basis. Tonight's lineup included Debra Messing (fresh from The Mysteries of Laura), NYC cable personality JB Smoove, and Broadway star Sutton Foster. Two games are played per hour. Why it's an hour, only ABC knows for sure, and they fumbled the ball the last time they had Match Game, dumping it from their daytime block 25 years ago.

Let Baldwin explain things in this promo:



To think that Baldwin's first primetime gig was Knots Landing, which was a lifetime ago.

I look at it this way. This plays better in 2016 than To Tell The Truth does, though, in truth, ABC overshot their wad by bloating both shows----and Pyramid---by expanding them to an hour apiece. This will be a fun trip, and if it's a hit, it will return sooner rather than later, and probably on a better night.

Rating: A.

Classic TV: 77 Sunset Strip (1958)

Novelist-turned-producer Roy Huggins took one of his earlier books and adapted it for television, after the same book had been turned into a movie a few years earlier.

However, most people remember 77 Sunset Strip for what it was, a crime drama that lasted six seasons on ABC (1958-64), and made stars out of its three leads, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Roger Smith, and Edward Byrnes.

Byrnes was the jive-talking hipster, Kookie, and became a pop culture icon, with a novelty record duet with Connie Stevens ("Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb") spinning out of the series. Byrnes left for a year, then came back as a full-fledged partner in the firm of Bailey & Spencer. However, WB suits, playing with fire after a dispute with Huggins led to his departure, altered the format in the final season (1963-4), leaving Zimbalist as the only regular. Not only that, but the new show-runner knew a little something about detectives, having played one himself----Jack Webb, who was was a couple of years away from reviving Dragnet for NBC. People forget that Webb originally was with WB.

After 77 Sunset Strip ended, Zimbalist returned in another iconic role, as Federal agent Lewis Erskine in The F. B. I., which WB co-produced with Quinn Martin's production company. Byrnes would not land another series gig for several years.

I wish I could remember seeing the show in reruns as a youth, but I don't, so there won't be a rating. We'll leave you with a sample episode, "A Bargain in Tombs":


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Videos of Summer: Round of Blues (1992)

Shawn Colvin's sophomore release, 1992's "Fat City", peaked at #142 on the album chart, and it would be four more years before "Sunny Came Home" cracked the top 40 singles chart and made Colvin a mainstream star.

"Round of Blues", the 2nd single from "Fat City", still gets a good amount of airplay nearly 25 years later. What you  might not know is that among the guest stars on "Fat City" are fellow singer-songwriters Bruce Hornsby and Mary Chapin Carpenter, the latter of whom would also contribute to Colvin's 1994 CD, "Cover Girl".

Friday, June 24, 2016

What Might've Been: The Bill Dana Show (1963)

Bill Dana was known for one thing. Dana created the persona of Latino everyman Jose Jiminez in his comedy act. As Jimenez, Dana appeared on Make Room For Daddy with Danny Thomas, and that ultimately led to Dana getting his own self-titled series.

While Jose operated an elevator in Danny Williams' (Thomas) apartment building, he landed a new job on The Bill Dana Show, which lasted 16 months on NBC (September 1963-January 1965) before being cancelled. In it, Jose now was a hotel bellhop, just another variation on a familiar trope in these sitcoms. Two of Dana's co-stars, though, would go on to much bigger successes.

Don Adams was cast as hotel detective Byron Glick, who morphed into secret agent Maxwell Smart later in 1965 when Get Smart premiered, also on NBC. Jonathan Harris resurfaced as Dr. Zachary Smith in Irwin Allen's Lost In Space, which lasted 3 seasons (1965-8) on CBS. Harris kept his comic timing intact, thankfully, but that was one of the few things about 1975's Uncle Croc's Block, a satire of children's shows that aired as part of ABC's Saturday block.

Dana, as Jose, was one of a number of stars who made window cameos on Batman, but otherwise, Jose remained part of Dana's standup act, and appeared on Comic Relief when HBO launched its standup answer to Live Aid.

Here's a sample clip with Dana, Adams, and Harris.



Dana, of course, would guest on Get Smart, but not as Jose.

No rating.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Videos of Summer: Where's the Playground, Suzie? (1969)

Here's a Glen Campbell song that's a personal favorite of mine. Why is "Where's the Playground, Suzie?" a "Video of Summer"? Uh, you see a couple on the beach, don't you, during the video? 'Nuff said.




What Might've Been: The Bobby Heenan Show (1989)

Let me try to explain this one.

Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, veteran heel manager, was given his own talk show as a spin-off from Prime Time Wrestling in 1989. When it came to promos on his men's opponents, Heenan spouted clich├ęd insults, but ran like a coward when confronted, as a villain like him is wont to do. Unfortunately, instead of being the 2nd coming of Don Rickles, Heenan came across as a flesh-&-blood 2nd coming of Wacky Races' bumbling villain, Dick Dastardly.

It wasn't long, of course, before Vince McMahon and USA Network pulled the plug on this experiment in silliness. While Heenan was doing this, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper replaced him as Gorilla Monsoon's partner on Prime Time, but before long, the three of them were sharing time after The Bobby Heenan Show bit the dust.

McMahon must've figured that the interview segments he gave to people like Piper, Jake Roberts, Jesse Ventura, and others might still work if stretched out to at least a half-hour. As has often happened since with other outside-the-box ideas from Chez McMahon, it flopped harder than a basket of dead fish. Left all by himself, save for Lord Alfred Hayes as a poor man's Arthur Treacher, the same role, mind you, that Hayes had on Tuesday Night Titans four years earlier, whatever charisma Heenan possessed dissipated like morning dew.

Ya don't believe me? Scope this sample clip.



McMahon should've learned his lesson from Titans, his Tonight Show parody, but he didn't. Nearly 30 years later, he still hasn't figured out what went wrong.

Rating: C-.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Musical Interlude: Classical Gas (1968)

Mason Williams netted three Grammy awards for his 1968 hit, "Classical Gas". It may be his only Top 40 hit, but it became a phenomenon all by itself. Scope out this clip from The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour:



Williams also earned an Emmy for his work on the show as a writer, and is the genius behind Pat Paulsen's faux run for President in 1968. Williams also was the one who hired a relative unknown onto the show as a fellow writer, and watched him become a bigger star. That man was Steve Martin, who today would be more likely to hunker down and do a duet with Williams on "Gas", albeit with Martin on banjo........

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Classic Reborn: Tarzan (2003)

Many moons ago, there was a film, "Tarzan's New York Adventure", which sent Edgar Rice Burroughs' iconic jungle hero to the Big Apple. While I confess I haven't seen the film from start to finish, renting it on DVD one day might erase the stigma of having seen the last attempt at domesticating the ape-man.

Aside from Smallville, which was in its 3rd season, the WB Network wasn't exactly connecting with fans of genre shows of that nature. For example, Birds of Prey, from Smallville producers Brian Robbins & Mike Tollin, was a dud because of an embargo on a certain dark knight. Tarzan was part of that same freshman class in 2003, the classic tale reimagined for a 21st century audience with tropes that, simply put, didn't belong.

Travis Fimmel was given the lead role as Tarzan, aka John Clayton. Ah, but he is not the Earl of Greystoke here. Instead, Greystoke is the name of a coporation owned by Clayton's uncle, Richard (Mitch Pileggi, ex-The X-Files), who rescued his nephew in Africa. As it turns out, of course, John is the heir to the Greystoke company fortune, and Uncle Richard is the greedy "big bad" bent on seeing to it he gets all the money, assuming of course his sister (Lucy Lawless, ex-Xena, Warrior Princess, The X-Files) doesn't help John stop him.

In this version, Jane Porter is a police detective. Go figure. The supporting cast also includes Sarah Wayne Cailles (later of Prison Break) as Jane, plus Miguel A. Nunez, Jr. (ex-Tour of Duty) and Leighton Meester (later of Gossip Girl). I think you can see why it failed.

I tried watching this show one night, back when the WB was programming six nights instead of five (Sunday-Friday). It was so bad (chorus: how bad was it?), everyone involved has probably long since disavowed any knowledge of it.

Here's the intro:



Veteran producer David Gerber would produce one more show for television, the 2006 miniseries, Flight 93, before he passed away in 2010, but this had to have been his first major project since the 80's. And what was Eric Kripke thinking, putting the show in the big city?

Rating: D.

Advertising For Dummies: Beer requires "man law"? (2006)

What was Miller Brewing thinking when they commissioned the "Man Law" series of ads for their Lite beer in 2006?

What Miller did was recruit an array of talent including actors Eddie Griffin and Burt Reynolds, rodeo star Ty Murray, former Pittsbuirgh Steelers star Jerome Bettis, coaching icon Jimmy Jonnson (Fox NFL Sunday), and the WWE's Triple H. Ironically, the "Cerebral Assassin", who only appears in 2 of the spots in the following compilation, is reportedly more of a teetotaler, and was probably brought in because "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (What?) wasn't available. Austin, as memory serves, was off shooting the movie, "The Condemned".

Besides, how much you wanna bet that everyone has forgotten "Man Law" after 10 years, anyway?

Monday, June 20, 2016

What Might've Been: Tightrope (1959)

Some shows often are a victim of their own successes, such that either the network, or, at the time of our next subject, a sponsor might have some issues that result in the show going off the air.

One such case is Tightrope, a half-hour Screen Gems crime drama that crammed nearly 40 episodes into its only season (1959-60), and made a star out of Mike Connors, eight years before he would land an even bigger success with Mannix.

Connors played an undercover cop, whose assignments often resulted in fellow officers being kept in the dark. Connors narrated each episode, much like Richard Diamond or Dragnet. Unfortunately, it's long been off the air, though I suspect that Sony-owned Get TV might get its hands on it sooner rather than later to reintroduce the series to a new audience.

Take for example the episode, "Getaway Day". How many familiar tropes can you find?



So why was it cancelled? The J. B. Williams Company, at the time the makers of Aqua Velva & 'Lectric Shave, objected to CBS moving the show to a later time, and Connors also had issues with rumors of the show being expanded to an hour and adding an unnecessary sidekick.

Rating: B+.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Old Time Radio: The Jack Benny Program (1932)

Jack Benny presented himself on the air as an eternal 39 year old miser who didn't see the value in extravagance, even when it came to his on-again, off-again girlfriend (and real-life wife), Mary Livingston. Over the course of a grand total of 33 years between radio and television, Benny created his own little world that became the stuff of legend.

On the air, Benny had a housekeeper/valet/chauffeur, one Rochester Van Jones (Eddie Anderson), who was anything but your normal stereotypical African American of the period. Instead, Rochester proved to be as sly as a fox, often getting the better of Benny. Over the course of 23 years on radio (1932-55), Benny went through 3 bandleaders, most notably Phil Harris, who was spun off into his own series with wife Alice Faye, and Bob Crosby (Bing's brother). Most people might think that Dennis Day was the only "boy singer" Benny had, but that's not true, either. Day, who also landed his own show, was the 2nd one to occupy that gig, after Kenny Baker.

Day's role otherwise was that of a naive, well-meaning, but dim-witted 20-something who did his share of annoying and aggravating Benny. Then, there's announcer Don Wilson, often the target of jokes about his girth (as illustrated when the cast did a cartoon for WB, "The Mouse That Jack Built"; Wilson was represented by a plus-size mouse). Often heard from as well were Sheldon Leonard, Frank Nelson (neither of whom factor into our sample episode), and Mel Blanc.

Let's take a trip to 1948. Benny is able to smoosh together a satire of the Tyrone Power film, "Nightmare Alley" with a send-up of frenemy Fred Allen's Allen's Alley. Harris' character even uses Kenny Delmar's signature catchphrase, "That's a joke, son!".



If you ain't laughing, you ain't trying, pilgrims.

Rating: A.

And, then, there's a letdown (Connecticut 9, Tri-City 5, 6/18/16)

The Tri-City Valleycats, perhaps not so surprisingly, said farewell to manager Ed Romero after the 2015 season. Romero, now a volunteer high school coach in Florida, won 3 division titles and a league championship. His successor, Lamarr Rogers, won a league title with Greenville last season, and so it was assumed that swapping one successful manager for another wouldn't be a problem.

However, every manager experiences bad nights, and Rogers had his first bad night on Saturday night.

Valleycats starter Ben Smith was like a deer in the headlights. He had control issues, and wasn't helped along by his defense committing 2 errors in the first inning. Smith couldn't get out of the second inning, giving up eight runs (five earned) on three hits and four walks. The Connecticut Tigers batted around in the first, scoring five of those runs, en route to a 9-5 decision over the 'Cats, squaring each team's record at 1-1. The game was played in what Yankees announcer Michael Kay would call "an unmanageable" 3 1/2 hours. Connectict's Joey Havrilick's 3-run homer in the 2nd, for all intents and purposes, iced the game for the Tigers, though Tri-City scrapped back, but left the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th.

The bright spots for the 'Cats were left fielder Stephen Wrenn, who continued his hot start with three hits and three runs scored, and reliever Hector Perez, who replaced Smith in the 2nd, and held the Tigers off the board, striking out six.

Up next for Tri-City is a quick road trip to Brooklyn before returning to Troy on Wednesday to play the Vermont Lake Monsters. Then, they'll be on the road again at Lowell next weekend.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Musical Interlude: Mony Mony (1968)

You know we're time trippin', friends, when you scope out the following video.

Tommy James & The Shondells' "Mony Mony" reached #3 in 1968. Nearly 20 years later, British singer Billy Idol reached #7 with a cover, released on his "Vital Idol" CD. Idol had actually recorded his version six years prior, but it really picked up steam during the Minnesota Twins' run to their first World Series title.

Now, don't ya think Nehru jackets will eventually come back into style after seeing this video?

Now, that's starting out with a bang! (Valleycats 13, Tigers 1, 6/17/16)

Joe Bruno Stadium was rocking Friday night, as the Tri-City Valleycats opened defense of their Stedler Division title with the first of a two-game series against the Connecticut Tigers.

For all intents & purposes, it was all 'Cats, all night. Starter Akeem Bostick, on a rehab assignment from Class-A-Advanced Lancaster, shut down the Tigers on just 2 hits with 2 strikeouts on just 70 pitches in 6 dominating innings. Bostick retired the first 9 batters in a row, even collecting a pair of infield assists in the first inning. According to the 'Cats' website, Bostick will have one more start before returning to Lancaster.

Outfielder Stephen Wrenn gave Bostick all the offense he really needed, leading off the home 1st with a home run. Tri-City added a single run in the 2nd, five in the 5, and six in the 7th, four on a Taylor Jones grand slam. By that time, it was time to turn out the lights. Tri-City opens with a 13-1 win.

The series concludes tonight, and, then, the 'Cats head downstate to Brooklyn to play 3 against the Cyclones before returning home on Wednesday.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Forgotten TV: Michael Shayne (1960)

Brett Halliday's hard-nosed private eye, Michael Shayne, had been a success on radio, but, like a fair number of radio series, the transition from radio to television proved to be a tougher nut to crack.

A pilot had been shot in 1958 that didn't sell. Two years later, Four Star picked up a license to adapt Shayne for the small screen, having already scored a hit with Richard Diamond. Richard Denning (ex-Mr. & Mrs. North) was cast as Shayne. What resulted was a 1 season series that had the usual tropes of the genre, including the titular hero being routinely beaten up by a suspect's subordinates well before wrapping up the case.

In "Call For Michael Shayne", a corrupt politician tries to force Shayne to give up his latest case, reopening the death of the politico's wife, which had been ruled an accident.



Standard fare for the period. Because it lasted just 1 season, and deserved a better fate, despite airing opposite studio stablemate The Detectives, it never made it to syndication.

No rating.

Welcome to the tragic kingdom

It has not been a good week in Orlando, Florida.

First, Christina Grimmie, a finalist 2 years ago on NBC's The Voice, was shot to death by a gunman, who then turned the gun on himself to avoid accepting responsibility for his actions after being tackled by the victim's brother. The incident came after Ms Grimmie had given a concert. A promising career cut short, and, of course, the media is trying to label the killer as an obsessed fan or having some other motive.

However, that has since been overshadowed by what happened more than 24 hours later at Pulse, a popular nightclub reputed to be favored by the LGBT community. Another lone gunman opened fire and killed 49 people, wounding several others, before police killed him.

Predictably, presumptive Republican Presidential candidate and professional self-promoter Donald Trump stuck his foot in his mouth again and again, patting himself on the back for predicting something like this might happen, and raising the alarm that this was an act of terrorism. The killer in this case was a natural born American citizen of Afghan parentage. The Islamic State took credit for Omar Mateen's actions, and Mateen reportedly told a local television station what he was doing. Trump has since accused President Obama of being sympathetic to the terrorists. Total BS is what that is, because, once again, Trump is stirring up the masses and calling attention more to himself than the issues at hand.

All that says is that Trump is ill-prepared to handle foreign policy. He thinks he can treat the entire country like it's one of his business holdings. News flash, Dumb Donald. It ain't like that, never has been, never will be. At least two Republican Presidents of yore are turning over in their graves over Trump's bigoted rhetoric, maybe three. Care to guess?

Trump, however, isn't the only one in hot water.

Rev. Peter Jiminez, in Sacramento, California, used the pulpit on Sunday to applaud the massacre, implying that it was "God's will". Four days later, Jiminez's remarks made headlines, and leaves ye scribe shaking his head. The New Testament does tell us that God doesn't approve of a sinful lifestyle, but on the whole, it tells us that God is a loving Father after all. Seems that preachers such as Jiminez can't find it in their hearts to provide Biblical love. Just as predictably, the hate-mongers from Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas also applauded the Pulse massacre.

I'm sorry, but regardless of how the victims lived their lives, their families are in need of prayer to recover from the tragedy. Trump & Jiminez's hate-filled words get them this week's Weasel of the Week award. Trump's gotten a few of those already.

Finally, there is the tragic tale of 2 year old Lane Graves of Nebraska, on vacation with his family.

Lane was snatched by an alligator on Monday, and police found the body on Wednesday. The boy's father tried to save his toddler, but to no avail. There are no signs in the area where this happened that warned against roaming gators, but instead advised not to go in the water for swimming, among other things. The Graves family must've thought Lane would be safe. Nuh-uh. Five gators had to be put to sleep, and now investigators have to figure which of the five killed the child.

Even Mickey Mouse is in mourning this week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Musical Interlude: 'Till The Rivers All Run Dry (1975)

I've often acknowledged in this space that I grew up in a household that preferred country music. I do have my favorites in the genre. Johnny Cash. Charley Pride. Buck Owens. Roy Clark. (Hee Haw, of course) And, then, there is Don Williams.

There's often been a debate over "Amanda", which was a huge hit for both Williams and Waylon Jennings in the 70's. Williams' gentle, carefree version has proven to be much the better. One of my favorite Don Williams songs, though, is 1975's "'Till The Rivers All Run Dry", a soft ballad of reflection & rumination. The following video is from a 1979 concert.

What Might've Been: Stanley (1956)

Comedian Buddy Hackett headlined only 2 series during his career. One was a revival of You Bet Your Life in the 80's. The other was a short-lived sitcom, Stanley, that lasted just 19 episodes during the 1956-7 season.

Stanley (Hackett) was a hotel clerk who got into a number of inevitable sitcom scrapes. Carol Burnett, in one of her first TV gigs, co-starred. Heard but not seen or credited was future icon Paul Lynde as their boss. Lynde is also the narrator.



Yes, that is Don Pardo as the announcer at the start of the show, since it aired on NBC.

No rating.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Classic Reborn: To Tell The Truth (2016)

To Tell The Truth marks its 60th anniversary in December. ABC becomes the 3rd network to pick up the series, after CBS (1956-68) and NBC (1990-1). Of course, there's also been some syndicated runs. To refresh your memory, here's a quick history lesson.

CBS (1956-68): Aired in primetime first, and added a daytime version 6 years later. The evening show ran for 11 years, while the daytime show aired for 6. Bud Collyer hosted both.

Syndicated (1969-78): Collyer was offered the opportunity to return, but was in ill health and declined. Garry Moore came out of retirement to take the gig until his health began to decline. Bill Cullen and Joe Garagiola filled in, with Garagiola inheriting the MC's chair from Moore after the latter went back into retirement one episode into the final season (1977-8).

Syndicated (1980-2): Relative unknown Robin Ward was tapped to host. The traditional set had been altered, and would change again and again in subsequent incarnations.

NBC (1990-1): Australian Gordon Elliott (now the announcer on ABC's The Chew) was the first host, but didn't last long. Ex-Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann, moonlighting from ABC Sports, filled in for about a month before ultra busy Alex Trebek (Jeopardy!, Classic Concentration) took over.

Syndicated (2000-2): John O'Hurley (ex-Seinfeld) landed his first game show gig, and would move on to Family Feud a few years after this version of Truth ended.

ABC (June-July 2016): Yes, it's a short-season series, just six episodes, largely to test the waters. Black-ish star Anthony Anderson hosts and is credited as an executive producer. His mother, Doris, joins the fun as a scorekeeper, one of several tweaks to the format. The panel's desk is gone, and the panelists are instead sitting in comfy chairs. There are three regular panelists: reality show vet Nene Leakes, ABC/ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose, and TV legend Betty White, who's no stranger to Truth. The 4th chair will be filled by a revolving door, which starts with Anderson's co-star on Black-ish, Tracie Ellis Ross. Among the other changes is a bonus game for two challengers, doubling their chances to stump the panel. Also, Anderson is a lot more involved in the games, firing his share of zingers at both the challengers and the panel. Worse, one panelist is shamed into tweeting a lie made up by Anderson.

Personally, I think Collyer, Cullen, Moore, and Garagiola are turning over in their graves over some of the silliness. Yes, there are some oddities, and it's being stressed more than ever. The opener, the first of two episodes tonight, featured a pole dancer, a contortionist, and "America's fastest texter".

Unfortunately, trying to stretch the show to an hour is asking for trouble, something ABC will also find out with the revivals of Match Game and The $100,000 Pyramid later this month. The longer format, while it works for Price is Right (because it's been an hour-long show for so long), actually dilutes Truth, and it's not quite as fun.

Here's a promo with Anderson:



One hour per episode. Six episodes over 5 weeks. Shows a distinct lack of faith on the part of ABC. If they were really serious about their Sunday game show block, Truth would be part of it.

Rating: B-.

How can an uncontrollable cough make a man go on a rampage? (1967)

Here's a pair of very rare Vicks Formula 44 cough syrup ads from 1967, both featuring wrestler-turned-actor Harold Sakata, better known, of course, as Oddjob from the 1964 James Bond movie, "Goldfinger".

In the first spot, Sakata is on his way home battling a cough that results in his reflexively karate chopping everything in sight, much to the chagrin of his wife. In the second ad, the couple are in a crowded elevator, but this time, Formula 44 cough discs are being advertised.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Classic TV: The Dean Martin Show (1965)

For someone who didn't like to rehearse, Dean Martin had to be the luckiest guy on the planet.

Five years after his first variety show came to an end, Martin was back, anchoring NBC's Thursday night lineup for most of the run of The Dean Martin Show. This time, Martin presented himself as a lovable goofball. As Paul Lynde famously put it when Martin was roasted on his own Celebrity Roast a few years later, The Dean Martin Show was "television's first family hour----if you come from a broken family". In all seriousness, while his show was formatted similarly to, say, Andy Williams, Martin's brand of sketch comedy skewed toward the more mature audience that tuned in around 10 pm (ET). The series shifted to Fridays in 1973, built mostly around the roasts, as we have previously discussed. In all, Martin managed to hang around at NBC for nearly 20 years between his shows and his annual golf tournament, which NBC also carried. Said tournament has either been discontinued or the PGA found a different sponsor, I forget which.

The guests were mostly the usual suspects, friends of Dean's like Frank Sinatra, Dom DeLuise, Orson Welles, John Wayne, Jonathan Winters, etc.. And, then, there are the sketches where you find some unlikely talents, such as, in this clip, Lee J. Cobb (The Virginian) and Buddy Ebsen (Beverly Hillbillies) doing a song and dance number with Dean, plus prune salesman Jackie Vernon and Charles Nelson Reilly.......



I'm begging Get TV to pick up this show to add it to its collection. Since they have Andy Williams, Jim Nabors, and Judy Garland already on the schedule, why not Dean, too?

No rating.

What Might've Been: The Decorator (1965)

Bette Davis-----in a sitcom?!?!?

Yep, except that it never made it to series.

The Hollywood legend was recruited by no less than Aaron Spelling at Four Star to star in a sitcom he was developing, The Decorator. As it happens, Spelling's track record with sitcoms (i.e. The Smothers Brothers Show) was not that great, and he was nearing the end of the trail at Four Star. In fact, 1965 was not a good year. It was the year of Honey West, and the metamorphosis of Burke's Law into Amos Burke, Secret Agent, with both series on ABC. The Big Valley launched that year, but Spelling had nothing to do with it.

Mary Wickes (ex-Dennis The Menace) co-stars. Scope out this sample.



Bette Davis' film career would get back on track just a few years later, and I think this was the last time Spelling attempted a sitcom for Four Star. His bad luck continued two years later when, after linking up with Danny Thomas, he came up with the Western satire, Rango, with Tim Conway. Yep, that was a flop, too.

Rating: C.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Musical Interlude: The Rain, The Park, And Other Things (1967)

As everyone knows, the Partridge Family was loosely based on the real-life family pop group, the Cowsills. Fans, of course, have their favorites, including the themes from "Hair" and Love American Style, as well as 1967's "The Rain, The Park, And Other Things", which most people assume goes by the name, "The Flower Girl" because of the chorus.

Bear in mind that while the four brothers appear in the video, they're really miming their instruments. Much like the Monkees, studio musicians were used on early albums.

A Modern Classic (?): Charles in Charge (1984)

Charles in Charge was one of the first series of the modern era to find new life in syndication after failing on a network. The series launched on CBS in 1984 as a sort-of knockoff of NBC's Gimme A Break. How? Gimme A Break was built around a housekeeper (Nell Carter, ex-Lobo) who became a maternal figure for her boss' children. Charles in Charge had its titular housekeeper (Scott Baio, fresh from Happy Days) as a big brother figure for his boss' kids. Complicating matters was that Charles' best buddy (Willie Aames, ex-Eight is Enough) was always dragging him into some get rich quick scheme or crusing for prospective girlfriends.

Unfortunately, CBS placed Charles on the wrong night, and not enough people were paying attention. Baio & Aames were dotting the covers of teen magazines at the time, and it was thought that there could be some carryover after Eight and Days had ended. James Widdoes (ex-Delta House) co-starred.

Three years later, Universal relaunched the series in syndication, and Charles had a new family to work with. In fact, Baio & Aames were the only ones to carry over from the CBS run. The series survived for three seasons in syndication (1987-90), but it was diminishing returns that led to its final demise. How it hasn't turned up on cable, I don't know.

Here's a season 2 intro:



Nicole Eggert would later move on to greater fame in Baywatch. Not shown in the above video is Ellen Travolta (ex-Joanie Loves Chachi, Makin' It), who was brought in to play Charles' mother, due likely to the chemistry between Travolta & Baio from Joanie Loves Chachi.

Rating: B.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Classic TV: Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1968)

Like, let's take a trip back in time, man.

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was a mid-season replacement series when it launched in January 1968 on NBC, replacing The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. An amalgam of the British sketch comedy series, That Was The Week That Was, the surrealistic absurd humor of Ernie Kovacs, and the social cultures of the times, Laugh-In lasted six seasons in its original run, with a revolving door of cast members. A pilot had aired in 1967, which did so well that NBC ordered it into series.

Dan Rowan & Dick Martin not only presided over the silliness, but later assumed executive producer duties from series creators George Schlatter & Ed Friendly. Most of the cast were relatively unknown, save for announcer Gary Owens, who had a recurring role on The Green Hornet, and otherwise was better known for his cartoon work (Space Ghost, Roger Ramjet), which he continued to do, as he narrated The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and did some short voice-over bits on Sesame Street, both of which premiered during season 3 of Laugh-In. Alan Sues, who joined the show in season 2, had appeared years earlier in a dramatic role on The Twilight Zone, then had faded into obscurity until being hired for Laugh-In. Arte Johnson, who left after season 5, had also worked in cartoons, particularly for DePatie-Freleng on another NBC show, The Super Six, and would remain associated with DFE for a few more years.

As it was, Laugh-In was a proving ground for a number of stars. Goldie Hawn earned an Oscar for "Cactus Flower", and watched her film career grow after the series ended. Henry Gibson found post-Laugh-In success, earning a Golden Globe nomination for 1975's "Nashville", in which he reunited with castmate Lily Tomlin. Johnson and Ruth Buzzi reprised their characters of Tyrone and Gladys for what amounted to an unofficial spin-off, The Nitwits, Johnson's last series for DFE, which aired on NBC in 1977. That same year, Schlatter relaunched Laugh-In, and introduced actor-evangelist Marjoe Gortner and future Oscar winner Robin Williams to America. Williams would later sign on for Richard Pryor's short-lived series before turning the corner with a certain bizarre alien in Mork & Mindy. NBC decided to cash in on that by reprising the 1977 Laugh-In as a summer 1979 replacement series.

In the midst of it all, series writer Chris Bearde, impressed with the talent search portion of Laugh-In, spun that off into an equally iconic series he developed for Chuck Barris, The Gong Show, which lasted two years on the network (1976-8), this after he had worked for Sonny & Cher and the Hudson Brothers, among others.

Let's take a look at a 2nd season episode with guest stars Greer Garson, Robert Wagner (It Takes a Thief), and Davy Jones (late of The Monkees):



After Hogan's Heroes ended, Richard Dawson and Larry Hovis joined Laugh-In as full-time cast members. Both had appeared during the 1st season, finding time in between tapings of Hogan. The series would return in half-hour reruns during the 80's, which is how I was able to catch up as best as possible.

Rating: B.

Sports this 'n' that

They are laying Muhammad Ali to rest today, one week after he passed away at 74 after a 30+ year bout with Parkinson's Disease. One ill-informed fellow on a message board I frequent mistakenly assumed Ali had Alzheimer's. Big difference. A memorial service was held Thursday in Ali's hometown of Louisville, and the funeral procession seemed as if Ali was a head of state, not a retired boxing champion.

On Wednesday, the El Rey Network, home of Thursday night kung fu theatre marathons and Lucha Underground, followed the latter with a marathon of Ali's short-lived foray into children's television, 1977's I Am The Greatest: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali, which lasted half a season on NBC. I would have expected El Rey to pull up anything else, like, for example, Freedom Road, but nope.
=====================================
Could Brock Lesnar be the man that unites WWE & UFC?

Lesnar, a former champion of both promotions, had to get clearance from WWE to appear at the 200th UFC PPV event, set for next month. He'll then return to WWE for Summerslam, scheduled for mid-August in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center. Talk is that one of UFC's female fighters, such as Paige Van Zant, and not Ronda Rousey, will cross over in exchange. Rousey, you'll recall, appeared at Wrestlemania in 2015. I shan't be surprised if UFC frontman Dana White exchanges other ideas with WWE's resident lunatic-in-charge, Vince McMahon, ere long.
======================================
By now, you know that Shenendehowa pitcher Ian Anderson was drafted by the Atlanta Braves with the 3rd pick in the MLB Entry Draft on Thursday night, and will by-pass his intention of pitching in college for Vanderbilt. It's too bad Atlanta doesn't have a team in the NY-Penn League, which begins its 2016 season next week. The Plainsmen will play in the Class AA Final Four on Saturday at Binghamton, and it would be fitting if Anderson ended his high school career with a state title on his resume.
======================================
In the wake of the fight earlier this week that broke out between Kansas City's Yordano Ventura and Baltimore slugger Manny Machado, both players decided to appeal their suspensions. Ventura, because he's had past issues, was hit with a 9 game ban, but Machado got fewer games. I say, screw the appeal, take the punishment, and move on. Why bother appealing at all?
======================================
I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the passing of internet icon Kevin Ferguson, aka Kimbo Slice, who passed away earlier this week at 42 after heart failure. Ferguson went from having his street fights go viral on YouTube and other sites to landing a deal with first EliteXC, where current WWE trainer Seth Petruzelli shattered Slice's aura of invincibility on national television, and then later with UFC. Slice also appeared in "The Scoripion King 3", which went direct-to-video, and was his last film role.

Finally, hockey icon Gordie Howe has passed away. Howe, you might remember, had retired in the 70's, but then jumped to the then-upstart World Hockey Association (WHA) to play with his sons, Mark & Marty, for Houston. The league folded, and Howe would return to the NHL before retiring for good.

Rast in peace, gentlemen.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Musical Interlude: Take This Job & Shove It (1978)

After 2 years on NBC, Chuck Barris and his talent show parody, The Gong Show, were given the ol' heave-ho due to declining ratings and Barris continually pushing the envelope with NBC censors.

Barris let a staff member guest host the series finale, bookended by a Chuckie's Fables skit, and Chuck passed himself off as a contestant, fronting the Hollywood Cowboys to do a lyrically altered cover of Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job & Shove It".



Well, you knew Chuck was singing badly on purpose, didn't you?

Anyway, Paycheck recorded "Job" a year earlier and took it to the top of the country charts. It spawned a feature film, released in 1981. Now, since any video I run across of Paycheck singing it has some lyrics missing or altered, here's an audio version. The YouTube poster assumed it was from 1980 because of the Pickwick Records reissue, the cover of which is in this here video:



David Allen Coe, who wrote "Job", recorded it himself, and Paycheck re-did it in 1993.

On The Shelf: The Wackiest Race of All Time, and other goodies

Remember Wacky Races? Sure you do.



The 1968 Saturday morning series is getting a major makeover in more ways than one. First, there's word that Cartoon Network and WB are planning on rebooting the series for airing later this year, and this comes 10 years after CN turned down a pilot for a possible generational reboot.

On the other hand, there is DC Comics' Wacky Raceland, which takes the concept of the series, in turn inspired by the 1965 Tony Curtis-Jack Lemmon movie, "The Great Race", and flips it on its engines. There are cosmetic changes galore in this series, inspired in its own way by last year's "Mad Max: Fury Road". Consider:

*--The race announcer (Dave Willock in 1968) is now a disembodied female voice who has assembled the racers in what amounts to a death race that Roger Corman would be envious of.

*--Penelope Pitstop, we learn in issue 1, is of Greek descent, and her parents were killed in a flood that destroyed the world. Penelope's racing suit has been modified into more of a skin-tight pink ensemble, with a cowled mask under her goggles.

*--Muttley, Dick Dastardly's canine sidekick, is twice as big as before, and has the same kind of visual aids that Scooby-Doo has in Scooby Apocalypse. Hmmm. Something tells me there's a crossover between these two books afoot in due course.

*--Sgt. Blast, 1/2 of the crew of the Army Surplus Special, has been gender-flipped, likely so that Penelope can have another female racer to talk to. For what it's worth, Hanna-Barbera had previously introduced viewers to a female commanding officer named Sgt. Bertha Blast (Jo-Anne Worley, ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In) as Olive Oyl's CO on The Popeye & Olive Show in 1981. However, it seems that the original Sgt. Blast underwent gender reassignment surgery somewhere.

*--Muttley aside, the other prominent animal characters have been flipped to human. Blubber Bear, for example, has been repackaged as a human named Blubber who was Lazy Luke's BFF dating back to their youth, as explained in issue 1. Sawtooth, Rufus Roughcut's partner, appears to have similarly been repackaged. Why DC decided to take this path, I don't know. Doesn't seem to bother writer Ken Pontac, though.

*--Perhaps the biggest change is that the cars now have artificial intelligence (AI) and can communicate with each other and their drivers. Technology, folks. Gotta love it.

Artist Leonardo Manco seems to be having the time of his life drawing this series. I'm so digging Dastardly's punk haircut, and the fact that there exists some comraderie between the racers. Oh, and don't assume Penelope's a damsel in distress this time. Nope. She clocks Dastardly not once, but twice, in the space of a couple of pages.

Rating: A+.
=============================================
Moving on, we left out DC's digital first miniseries, Adventures of Supergirl, from our last report. The series, spun from, of course, Supergirl, has been plagued by some unforseen printing delays that pushed back the first issue by two weeks, and that means the bi-weekly miniseries will wrap just in time for it to be collected in trade paperback in August. For now, we'll give it an Incomplete grade until the next issue happens along.

Meanwhile, Dynamite's Gold Key Alliance is staggering toward the finish line, as it is a 5 issue miniseries. Writer Phil Hester is capable of better, but he hasn't been able to bring all of the characters together after 3 issues, and that should've been done already.

Rating: C. (Was Incomplete)

As of this writing, I only have one of DC's Rebirth relaunches in hand, and it's Green Arrow. Relative newcomer Benjamin Percy has done right by fans of the Emerald Archer who might've been angered by the decision to kill off Black Canary (Katie Cassidy) on Arrow two months ago. What Percy has done is have Canary & Arrow together again for the first time, assuming they never crossed paths at all during the New 52 era (2011-6). He's given us back the Oliver Queen that those of us who grew up in the 60's & 70's remember, the social activist who fought for the little guys, and placed him in Seattle, where Mike Grell set his 80's run on the series. This will be one to watch, kids.

Rating: A-.

Over at Archie Comics, there are changes afoot on Jughead. First, artist Erica Henderson is gone after the first arc to concentrate on her other gig, Marvel's Squirrel Girl. Derek (Good Luck) Charm takes over with issue 7, and writer (Paint) Chip Zdarsky will take his leave after issue 8. Issue 9 sees Sabrina debut in the New Riverdale continuity, which certainly should treat her better than she has in the horror line. Speaking of which, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina issue 5 finally hit stores a couple of weeks back, and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa continues to churn out dreck. First, he killed off Sabrina's canonical boyfriend, Harvey, in issue 4, but now, the dude's been resurrected, with the mind of Sabrina's warlock dad, Howard, inhabiting his body. You know what that means, kids. Aguirre-Sacasa is teasing an incest storyline after a sort. The man spent the better part of a year in Hollywood getting Riverdale sold to the CW, and was a writer-producer on Supergirl, but couldn't bring himself to find someone to take over his books while he was away. I don't know how much longer readers of the horror line can tolerate such crap if Aguirre-Sacasa takes another extended leave of absence.

As it is, Afterlife With Archie issue 9 arrived a week later, but fans have to wait until August for the next issue, featuring Josie and the Pussycats. Something tells me the horror line will be kaput by this time next year.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Forgotten TV: How's Your Mother-in-Law? (1967)

This has one of the oddest titles ever for a game show. By a wide margin.

How's Your Mother-in-Law? (originally Here Come the Mother-in Laws, as you'll see in the pilot) lasted just three months (December 1967-March 1968) on ABC, and with a title like that, it could only come from the warped mind of producer Chuck Barris (The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game). Wink Martindale is the host.



While The Gong Show, The Dating Game, & The Newlywed Game have each been revived multiple times, you have to imagine even Barris was so embarrassed by this flop, such that he never revisited the idea again.

No rating.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Videos of Summer: Hold Me (1982)

Fleetwood Mac's "Hold Me" was the first single off their 1982 album, "Mirage", and began the band's transition toward a more adult contemporary radio-ready sound.

Now, picture yourself out in the desert........



"Hold Me" peaked at #4 for nearly 2 months, and remained in moderate-to-heavy airplay on MTV throughout the summer of '82.

A Classic Reborn: The Gong Show (1988)

The Gong Show made a return to syndication in 1988, but if you've never seen it, you're forgiven. It wasn't picked up by a lot of stations on the East Coast, and maybe the reason for that was the fact that Chuck Barris wasn't around to play ringmaster.

Instead, San Francisco area radio personality "True" Don Bleu was tapped to host, and was the Anti-Barris. Proof is in the opener.



Barris did produce and distribute the series, which is now property of Sony. You might also be forgiven if you confused announcer Charlie O'Donnell (Wheel of Fortune) with Gary Owens, who helmed the previous night-time Gong more than a decade earlier, but gave way to Barris after a few months. If you liked the original, well, suffice it to say, the 1988 version, while toned down, was still fun.

Rating: A.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

What Might've Been: The Jane Powell Show (1961)

Here's another failed pilot from Four Star. This time, actress-singer Jane Powell was given a shot at her own series, after having appeared on The Dick Powell Show and The June Allyson Show. Russell Johnson (ex-Black Saddle), three years away from Gilligan's Island, co-stars. Y'think maybe he landed his Gilligan role as a result of this show?



No rating.

High School Baseball: Cicero-North Syracuse vs. Shenendehowa @ Joe Bruno Stadium, 6/4/16

Originally, I was going to scope the first-ever meeting of the home district's two women's roller derby teams at Times Union Center, but, because it was such as beautiful day, I thought I'd save a few dollars and take in the NYSPHSAA quarterfinal baseball game between Cicero-North Syracuse and Shenendehowa at Joe Bruno Stadium instead. Smart move.

While the crowd was not as big as it was two weeks earlier when Shen defeated Christian Brothers Academy to win the Section II Class AA crown for the 2nd time in 3 years, it was still better than most high school games at the Joe. The main attraction was Shen senior pitcher Ian Anderson, five days away from a likely first round selection in the MLB Entry Draft, and Anderson didn't disappoint.

However, it was Cicero-North Syracuse which drew first blood in the 3rd inning after an uncharacteristic defensive lapse by the Plainsmen. Back to back errors by shortstop Nick Jacques and 2B Nik Malachowski gave the Northstars their only run in the game. Shen answered right back with two in the bottom half of the 3rd, then iced it with three more in the 4th. Cicero starter Luke Dziados swapped places with 1B James Saladone with one out in the 4th, then was lifted from the game soon after, as Zach Williamson finished the game at first base.

Anderson shrugged off the defense's misfortune like water off a duck, and simply dominated, limiting the Northstars to just the one unearned run in the 3rd, scored without a hit, sandwiched around singles in the 1st & 6th innings. Anderson finished with 16 strikeouts, including 7 in a row between the 5th and 7th innings. Mike Sciore's groundout to 1B Joe Fraser ended the game, and the Plainsmen advance to the state semi-finals in Binghamton next week. It'll be an early wake-up call for Shen as they have a 10 am game against West Islip, with the winner advancing to the title game later that afternoon.

There were pro scouts on hand to watch Anderson, as I detected at least two radar guns in the section to the right of my seat behind home plate. In speaking with a Valleycats staffer, it seems that if Houston drafts Anderson, he likely won't be assigned to Tri-City, but you never know.
===============================================
It's been a good couple of days for Section II, both in baseball & softball. In addition to Shen, Class C champ Greenwich and Class B titlist Schalmont advanced to the state final four in their classes. On the women's side, Troy High continued its post-season rampage, crushing Jamestown-DeWitt, 10-1. The Flying Horses have now won 4 in a row since coach George Rafferty was "removed" following a rampage of his own on May 12 at Averill Park. His fate won't be decided until after next Saturday's state final four at Moreau State Park in South Glens Falls, or, if it has been decided, it won't be announced until after next week. In all honesty, it wouldn't be fair, since Troy hasn't had a losing season under Rafferty in six seasons, to let him go just because of one emotional meltdown. Oh, the drama........

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)

He was the most recognizable name in boxing in the 60's & 70's, such that he crossed over into television and movies, made commercials, and even lent his likeness and voice to a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon. Part athlete, part showman, part ambassador for peace. Add it up, and you had Muhammad Ali.

Wrestlers such as Superstar Billy Graham and Hulk Hogan have cited Ali's ability to communicate in interviews as an inspiration for their personas, and Ali even got into the ring to confront another wrestler, Gorilla Monsoon, in the mid-70's. He fought Japanese legend Antonio Inoki to a draw, and would officiate the first main event at Wrestlemania in 1985.

In the 70's, it seemed as though every time Ali had a fight, he would turn up a week later on ABC's Wide World of Sports to discuss said fight with Howard Cosell. The two would turn up to roast each other on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast. Ali even guest-starred as himself on Diff'rent Strokes. Everyone still talks about the so-called "phantom" knockout of Sonny Liston more than 50 years after the fight. However, it was that lengthy boxing career that led to Ali contracting Parkinson's disease, which finally claimed him last night at 74.

Following is Ali's appearance on the British version of This Is Your Life, from 1978.



Rest in peace, champ.

Friday, June 3, 2016

What Might've Been: Strictly For Laffs (1961)

What if you hosted a party with several of your closest friends, and decided to bring a camera crew along to record the proceedings?

That, I think, was the idea behind Strictly For Laffs, an unsold pilot that was made in 1961, loaded with some familiar faces, including Sid Melton (Make Room For Daddy, ex-Captain Midnight), Jesse White, Rose Marie (The Dick Van Dyke Show), Moe Howard of the Three Stooges, Mel Blanc (The Flintstones, The Bugs Bunny Show, The Jack Benny Program), and some you might not recognize, such as Tommy Noonan, whose biggest claim to fame might be who his partner was in his nightclub act (future Hollywood Squares host Peter Marshall), Willard Waterman (The Great Gildersleeve), Marvin Miller (ex-The Millionaire), and Alan Reed (The Flintstones).

Dave Barry, not the newspaper columnist, but a well known comic from the 50's & 60's, served as host.



It looked like the setting changed as the show wore on, which was not good. That might've killed the concept right there. However, a show about comics engaged in conversation, but about other topics that didn't require punch lines, would emerge years later in the form of Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect.

Rating: B.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Videos of Summer: Suddenly Last Summer (1983)

The Motels' "Suddenly Last Summer" wasn't released as a single until well after the summer of 1983 ended, but the imagery allows it to fit as a "Video of Summer". Actor Robert Carradine, later of the "Revenge of the Nerds" movies and Lizzie McGuire, gets to canoodle with lead singer Martha Davis on the beach. Awwwww.

Family Feud done celebrity style (2008-present)

Later this month, Celebrity Family Feud and current Feud host Steve Harvey return to ABC for another summer season. However, while the Feud franchise marks 40 years next month, the current Celebrity variant was first launched on NBC in 2008 as an outlet for Today Show weatherman Al Roker. Perhaps the success Roker enjoyed, though NBC decided not to bring it back, led to Harvey taking over the regular, syndicated Feud a couple of years later.

ABC, though, chose to use Feud as the anchor for a Sunday night game show revival block that will have Match Game, emceed by actor and former Capital One shill Alec Baldwin in his first series since Knots Landing, and the return of the $100,000 Pyramid with Michael Strahan. Well, at least one of these shows will be sponsored by Metamucil.

Anyway, let's scope a 2008 Celebrity Family Feud:



And, let's follow up with one from last year with Steve Harvey:



Of course, the original Feud, hosted by Richard Dawson, was augumented with some periodic All-Star specials, which we'll look in a couple of weeks.

No rating. Yet.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

In Theatres: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Hollywood writers adapt comics for the sake of the casual, non-comics-reading fan, not the diehard "true believers", as they say at Marvel. Sometimes, they get it right. Sometimes, particularly more often than not, they don't.

"X-Men: Apocalypse", the conclusion of the prequel trilogy, falls into the latter category. Screenwriter Simon Kinberg was also attached to last year's "Fantastic Four" fiasco, but the truth of the matter is, Kinberg writes his characters like he's throwing darts on a velcro board to see what sticks.

Case in point: For anyone who has followed the X-Men since their inception 53 years ago, the founding members were Scott Summers (Cyclops), Jean Grey (Marvel Girl, later Phoenix), Warren Worthington III (Angel), Henry McCoy (Beast), and Bobby Drake (Iceman). Drake is the only one missing from this film, for reasons known only to Kinberg and 20th Century Fox. McCoy, instead of being a student, is a teacher and an assistant to Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). Angel is in an underground fight club when we first see him in the movie, and, as seen in the comics in later years, is recruited by Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) as one of his Horsemen, becoming Archangel. Ah, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

The script also purports that Scott's brother, Alex, aka Havoc, joined the team before he did, instead of the other way around. Given that the history of the franchise in the books has become so twisted and convoluted, maybe it is better that a writer tries to navigate it by revising said history such that it conceivably could make sense.

In that underground club, Angel has disposed of an opponent, which closely resembles a long time X-Men enemy, the Blob, but he's never identified by name. Next up is Nightcrawler, aka Kurt Wagner, a German mutant who has the physical appearance of a demon, but the soul of a saint. In fact, according to research, Wagner actually was ordained a Catholic priest at one point. However, as the fight rages, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, "The Hunger Games") shows up, and gets Kurt out, but Angel is left behind to be picked up by Apocalypse.

As for the villain, En Sabin Nur's origins go back thousands of years to ancient Egypt, which would make him history's first mutant. To me, he's just another demagogue with a god complex out to change the world in his image, kind of like DC's R'as Al Ghul, but far worse. Apocalypse awakens in the year 1983 while CIA agent (?) Moira McTaggert, Xavier's ex-girlfriend, is on a mission in Egypt. He first recruits Psylocke (Olivia Munn), who in the context of this film is an assistant to Caliban, a mutant information broker better known to readers from his days as a Morlock, an underground-dwelling group of mutants introduced in the 80's.

Next is Storm (Alexandra Shipp), a juvenile street thief, but slightly older than she was when she was introduced 41 years ago. In the context of the story, it is Apocalypse, not Xavier, who finds her.

Finally, there is Erik Lensherr, aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Since the events of the last film, Erik has fled to Poland, where he started a new life, got married, and has a daughter, Nina. A random accident, prevented by Erik using his powers, outs him to the government police. After his wife and daughter are killed, Erik lashes out and uses his daughter's pendant like a glorified chakram to kill the officers.

Unfortunately for X-fans, this film, barring another reboot, figures to be the end for Angel & Havok. That's all I can say for right now. The final, climatic battle, after Xavier has been captured and conscripted to do Apocalypse's bidding, is perhaps the easiest way of utilizing the cliche of "saving the best for last".

Trailers include "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" (Friday), this time a more extensive look at the film, "Suicide Squad" (release date moved up to August 5), "Doctor Strange", and the sequel to "Independence Day". Now, scope the trailer for "X-Men: Apocalypse":



Rating: B--.