Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On DVD: Famous TV Detectives (1957-63)

For once, Alpha Video didn't completely deliver the goods on one of their video compilations. "Famous TV Detectives" brings together episodes of Peter Gunn, Burke's Law, & Richard Diamond, Private Detective, but while the episodes themselves are entertaining, there are a couple of issues I have with this package. We'll start with Richard Diamond, which finishes the disc.

There are two episodes of Diamond presented here, neither of which features Diamond's sexy "secretary", after a fashion, Sam, so any hope of seeing some early Mary Tyler Moore goes out the proverbial window. One episode, "Picture of Fear", appeared on an earlier compilation I'd acquired from Radio Spirits a while back, but the advantage Alpha has on their print is the use of original commercials as they were first presented, in this case for Maxwell House coffee. Diamond had started on radio with Four Star co-founder Dick Powell in the title role. The TV version launched David Janssen (later of The Fugitive, among others) into stardom. Regis Toomey (Burke's Law) turns up in the 2nd episode.

Updated, 9/10/13: Here's "Picture of Fear:

Speaking of Burke, "Who Killed Jason Shaw?", from 1963, features the likes of Tammy Grimes, Keenan Wynn, and Burgess Meredith among the guest stars. However, the villain of the piece is a suspect you'd least expect. A classic whodunit done right. Where Alpha fails, however, is deleting the Four Star logo at the end of the show (the famous banner logo had not yet been created during Diamond's run). Sci-fi fans will remember Gary Conway for his later starring gig on Land of the Giants.

Updated, 9/17/13: Here is "Who Killed Jason Shaw?":

The biggest, most glaring problem comes with Peter Gunn, which still airs 5-6 days a week on RTV (check local listings), making it easy to recognize that Alpha subbed out Henry Mancini's famous theme song for a bargain basket imitation, done strictly on the piano. I discussed this with my brother the other day, and he opined that it might be because Alpha wasn't willing to pony up royalty fees to Mancini's estate. Certainly seems that way. I had a VHS compilation of Gunn that had the iconic theme intact. Of course, Alpha shamelessly acknowledges their "special edition" of Gunn was issued in 2008.

We cannot overlook the fact that the 2nd of the two Gunn episodes offered here features Ross Martin (Wild, Wild West) who was co-starring on another series from the same producers, Mr. Lucky, around the time Gunn was on the air, I believe. Has anyone ever wondered if Craig Stevens (Gunn) was separated at birth from Jack Webb (Dragnet)? In some cases, their facials are almost the same.

Edit: 4/11/14: Here's "The Fuse", with Ross Martin:

So, out of the three shows, only Richard Diamond goes unscathed.


Richard Diamond: A-.
Burke's Law: A. (We'll forgive the lack of a logo)
Peter Gunn: B--(points taken off for phony theme music).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010)

Word has just gone over the wires of the passing of actor Leslie Nielsen at the age of 84 after a battle with pneumonia.

Nielsen distinguished himself as both a dramatic & comic actor, appearing in films as diverse as "Forbidden Planet" & "The Reluctant Astronaut" before 1980's "Airplane!" re-established Nielsen as a gifted comic performer. On television, Nielsen starred in The New Breed, The Bold Ones: The Protectors, Bracken's World, and Police Squad!, the latter of which was spun off into a series of feature films under the "Naked Gun" title. Nielsen also was cast in a live-action feature film version of the venerable Mr. Magoo animated shorts, but that film ran into criticism from advocacy groups over the exploitation of nearsighted persons such as Magoo.

In recent times, Nielsen had returned to dramatic acting, starring in a one-man Broadway production, "Darrow", a biography of famed lawyer Clarence Darrow. I would not be at all surprised to find tributes on the cable channels in the form of marathons of movies and/or Police Squad! over the next few days.

Rest in peace, Leslie. You'll be missed.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Michael Brea

Mr. Brea is a struggling actor, whose only credit of note was a gig on Ugly Betty a while back. Brea made headlines this week when he brought home a Masonic sword, then proceeded to slash his own mother to death, claiming that she was possessed by the devil. Brea claimed it was "God's will". I call it blasphemy, as well as murder.

If I had a dollar for all the people who used this same excuse for their crimes, I'd be rich. Let's face facts, folks. Michael Brea is the one who is not of sound mind, deceived by voices in his head that he thinks are coming from God. His mother didn't deserve this, right before Thanksgiving. Appropriately, Michael Brea, as of press time, is at Bellevue in New York, in their prison ward. He let his frustration over being unable to land another acting gig distort his sense of reality.

The articles I read tell of a quiet young man, and, predictably, those around him cannot understand why Brea attacked his own mother. This scene has played out so many times, it has become a cliche unto itself. Brea's actions suggest that he, not his mother, was possessed. For him to claim he was acting as an agent of God is a hollow, defensive mechanism. Any lawyer that buys into this will begin arguing for an insanity defense. Did Brea really know what he was doing? That will be for the courts to decide. For now, he gets a set of weasel ears for his blasphemy after the fact.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Toons: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)

8 years after the seminal A Charlie Brown Christmas premiered on CBS, the Peanuts gang added a Thanksgiving tradition, which had its 2010 airing on November 18 on ABC. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has the usual slapstick comedy from Snoopy & Woodstock, and the ageless gag of Lucy playing a football prank on Charlie Brown. Udontknowwhatluvis uploaded this clip to YouTube, showcasing Linus, who leads the gang in a Thanksgiving prayer:

You'll notice that Peppermint Patty sounds more like a boy. Well, it turns out that, in fact, in a rare reversal of casting tradition, the producers actually cast boys to voice Patty and her best friend, Marcie. As women have done boys' voices for years, a tradition that continues today with Nancy Cartwright on The Simpsons, they figured, why not go in the other direction? As you probably noticed, it didn't quite work out so well.

Rating: A-.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Common sense wins the last dance

After all the drama over the last few weeks, intensified by scandalous accusations, Dancing With The Stars wrapped its fall season Tuesday night, and in the end, age prevailed over youth and politics.

Actress Jennifer Grey, who'd led the competition virtually from the start, outpointed Kyle Massey (ex-That's So Raven) and Bristol Palin in the final round to claim the mirrorball trophy with professional dance partner Derek Hough. In the end, the Tea Party's efforts to carry Ms. Palin over the top were nullified. Publicity surrounding rumors of fake e-mail addresses and other means of "ballot stuffing" prompted a record-setting number of calls following Monday's broadcast. It seems that for every vote for Ms. Palin was answered with at least 2 or 3 more for her competition, as if America was saying, we don't want this show tampered with by political agendas. Amen!

Dancing is set to return in the spring, hopefully without the stunt casting that caused so much trouble this time......

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Toons: B. C.: The First Thanksgiving (1973)

I remember seeing this when it first aired. Johnny Hart's legendary comic strip, B. C., was brought to life just this one time, in 1973. Once you get past the opening segment where B. C. himself is doing a Jack Benny routine, you'll find this is very entertaining. Cargoplex uploaded this clip to YouTube:

Most folks these days associate B. C. more with a golf tournament that bears his name (it also stands for Broome County, where you'll find the city of Endicott, which hosted said golf tournament for years), than this little-seen special, which hasn't seen the light of day in years.

Rating: B+.

The last man you'd expect to be a champion

Some of you might remember Michael Mizanin from MTV's Real World and Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Nowadays, the alternate persona he created on Real World, that of "The Miz", has become a steady, if not also annoying, presence, on WWE television.

Mizanin entered the "$1,000,000 Tough Enough" tournament on Smackdown in 2004, only to finish 2nd to eventual winner Daniel Puder. Puder, however, didn't pan out with WWE, making his only PPV appearance at the 2005 Royal Rumble, and was released less than a year later. Before '05 was out, Mizanin was called up, serving as a "host" on Smackdown, but that gig didn't really do him any favors. He swapped his microphone for his tights & boots a few months later, and he was on his merry way.

Consider what the man has done in the last 3 years alone. 2 US titles. 3 tag team titles. And, as of last night, history. Mizanin cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase on Randy Orton, who'd already been laid out by Wade Barrett and Nexus, and won the WWE title.

There are those who will decry Miz's title reign as the second coming of actor David Arquette, who was given the WCW title 10 years ago in order to help sell the movie, "Ready to Rumble", in which wrestlers such as Diamond Dallas Page & Bill Goldberg co-starred with Arquette. Miz, because of his media connections already in place, is the kind of champion Vince McMahon wants as we near the end of 2010. TMZ and other outlets have already done articles. It's all about raising WWE's media profile, especially in the aftermath of former CEO Linda McMahon's failed bid for the US Senate earlier this month. Just the kind of stunt you'd expect from Vince.

Arquette lasted just a month as champion. Miz figures to last at least one, maybe two, before reality sets in and he loses the title. Mizanin is the first Tough Enough graduate to hold the WWE title. Pretty heady stuff, but unless Miz talks about it himself on Raw next week, and I imagine he will, don't expect the announcers, especially Miz's #1 cheerleader, play-by-play announcer Michael Cole, to acknowledge much of the past. Six years after being second best in a tournament for a million dollars, Michael Mizanin feels like a million dollars now. However, the pressure is on him now to prove he can finally, once and for all, cast aside his MTV past and stake his claim to being among the WWE's elite. 8 years of hard work, starting after his Real World gig had ended, prepared Mizanin for last night. To borrow a line from the late Hall of Famer, Gorgeous George, Mizanin is the new "sensation of the nation", at least in the eyes of TMZ and tabloid media.

Past champions like Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, & John Cena have done the talk shows, Saturday Night Live, etc., and Miz will follow that same path. Being champion, however, will change a man. Miz is the annoying bad guy now, after he failed to win the fans' affections 5 years ago, but the more WWE puts him out there as an ambassador for the company, the more likely it is he will become their hero. It won't happen overnight, of course, but, in McMahon's wacky world, stranger things can, have, and will happen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Toons: Mouse on the Mayflower (1968)

In the days before local stations began airing news at the noon hour, NBC would follow their Thanksgiving Day coverage of the Macy's parade in New York with a variety of specials. These days, that 12 noon (ET) slot is reserved for a dog show sponsored by Purina and hosted by John O'Hurley (ex-Family Feud, Seinfeld). In 1968, though, Arthur Rankin, Jr. & Jules Bass, looking to add to their holiday resume, 4 years after Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, decided to give Thanksgiving a try with Mouse on the Mayflower

 Edit, 11/10/22: A copyright claim was placed on the video, so we've replaced the video with a screencap of the title card:

It's a shame that Mouse doesn't air anymore, and I'm not sure if it's available on DVD. I remember watching this at least once or twice as a little rugrat back in the day, but I don't recall seeing it from start to finish. Mouse does establish the now-familiar formula of using better known guest voices to complement the omnipresent Paul Frees, a formula that would serve Rankin-Bass well for the next couple of decades with their annual collection of Christmas specials. 

 Rating: A-.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Steve Hagwell

Mr. Hagwell is the commissioner of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC), and he's at the center of a local controversy this week.

One week ago, after his RPI team lost to Union, a loss that would be avenged the next night, Seth Appert, the Engineers' coach, played a video of a controversial play at the end of the game, in which a potential game-tying goal was waved off by referee Bryan Hicks. Hicks claimed the Union goalie was interfered with. The video evidence presented by Appert seems to say otherwise. It was a heat of the moment situation. As Ed Weaver wrote in today's Record, had Appert waited an hour, he wouldn't have played the tape. Instead, the tape was used as evidence to suspend Appert for 1 game, next Friday night as part of a Thanksgiving weekend tournament.

Pressed to explain the rationale behind the suspension and/or Hicks' judgment, or lack thereof, Hagwell opted to clam up. "No comment", he said, over and over again. It's not the first time that Hicks has screwed RPI in a game against Union, according to Weaver. On February 7, 2009, Union won a game in overtime on a goal that should've been disallowed due to interference on the part of a Union player. Hicks blew that call.

Blown calls happen all the time for one reason or another. But the leagues take a dim view of coaches & players questioning the integrity of their game officials, often issuing fines or, in Appert's case, a suspension. Problem is, by issuing such penalties, the leagues are sweeping a glaring problem right under the rug. Referees and umpires are human, prone to mistakes, and thus must be held accountable for those errors, especially if it affects the outcome of a game.

Weaver is questioning why Hagwell decided to suspend Appert. The only official explanation is that it had to do with the coach's "actions" after the game last Friday. All he did was play a video illustrating a glaring mistake made by a game official with a past history of bad calls against RPI. If that was an offense, why didn't Hagwell, when given a chance to clarify his position, acknowledge it as such? What need is there to cover it up?

In this case, the wrong person is being punished. Bryan Hicks has now screwed RPI at least twice in the space of three seasons. His commissioner is covering for him by suspending Seth Appert, who made the bold move of presenting the evidence in a public forum. RPI, if they so chose, could consider taking action to rectify this problem, but do they risk their standing in the ECAC by doing so?

They say justice is blind. In this case, it shouldn't have to be. Hagwell gets a set of weasel ears for playing see no evil and trying to cover for a referee's bad judgment. If there was ever a need to change the culture of officiating and its relationship with players and coaches in sports across the board, the time is now.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dancing towards travesty

I will freely admit that I am not a regular viewer or a fan of Dancing With the Stars or any of the current crop of reality shows. Dancing finishes its current cycle on Tuesday, but if the results leading up to this point have been any indication, we're in for the worst finish in the series' history.

The problem centers on Alaska teenager Bristol Palin, daughter of the former governor, Sarah Palin. The younger Palin has repeatedly had the lowest scores, but has been saved by audience vote week after week. One poster on Toon Zone's message board noted that there are people using false e-mail addresses in order to enter multiple votes for Bristol, doing everything possible to extend the family's 15 minutes of fame.

It doesn't help that TLC just launched Sarah Palin's Alaska, as if the former Vice Presidential candidate and Tea Party darling needs any more face time. The Tea Party, clearly, is stuffing the phone lines in support of Bristol, at the expense of more talented performers such as singer-actress Brandy Norwood (ex-Moesha) and former NFL QB Kurt Warner, late of the Arizona Cardinals. Actor Kyle Massey (ex-That's So Raven) is also in the finals, and I believe the other spot went to Jennifer Grey ("Dirty Dancing"). The producers are doing nothing to stop the "ballot stuffing", which only increases the chances of Bristol winning on Tuesday. If she wins, it will be the biggest travesty to hit Dancing since singer Drew Lachey upset NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice and former WWE diva Stacy Keibler in 2006.

Usually, one of the supermarket tabloids will headline that a show like Dancing is fixed in favor of a certain contestant. I haven't seen that yet this season, when it looks more obvious that there is a fix in the voting. Maybe they're waiting until it's over this time, so they don't look like the collective boy who cried wolf. If they're lucky, common sense and justice will prevail on Tuesday, unless Bristol finds a glass slipper and proves her detractors wrong on Monday.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weasel of the Week: David Weaving

David Weaving is serving a sentence for manslaughter after he'd struck and killed a Connecticut teenager, riding a bike, with his car several months back. The case is back in the news because after the victim's parents filed suit against Weaving, he's turned around and filed a counter-suit, claiming said parents were guilty of "contributory negiligence" in allowing their son to ride his bike, I'm assuming, in open traffic. Weaving is asking for $15,000 in damages.

Basically, this counter-suit is sour grapes on the part of Weaving, who obviously didn't see the kid until it was too late to slam on the brakes and stop his car in time to avoid contact. But who in their right mind would try something like this? The case is closed, Weaving's doing his time, but apparently, he still feels he was wronged by the system. From a legal standpoint, they're saying "it's just part of the process". Oh, really?

If Weaving paid closer attention to the traffic, he wouldn't be in this fix. He's trying to shift the blame for the accident on the victim. Real swift, pally. NOT! I've got a set of weasel ears for you, direct from mamby-pamby land.

A correction

I had previously stated that the late Seattle Mariners' announcer Dave Niehaus might be up for consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame. I was reminded via a newspaper article today that Niehaus had been given the Ford Frick Award (for announcers) just 2 years ago for his contributions to the team and the game. My bad.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One last reward for "The Boss"

On Monday, it was announced that the late New York Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner, would be on the Veterans Committee's ballot for consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame's class of 2011. Said committee will also consider three other Yankee greats of note, including pitchers Ron Guidry & Tommy John and Steinbrenner's favorite whipping boy during the 70's & 80's, Billy Martin, who won 5 World Series titles total, 1 as a manager, and 4 more as a player in the 50's.

Steinbrenner is virtually a lock to be elected on the first ballot, since it would be a year after his passing if he is inducted next July. If "The Boss" goes, then it would only be fitting that Martin, who shared many a back page headline in the New York tabloids with Steinbrenner, would go in with him. Would Guidry and/or John go in with them? Right now, I'm not so sure.

Steinbrenner & Martin, though, might not be the only posthumous entries. Longtime Seattle Mariners announcer Dave Niehaus passed away on Wednesday, and you have to believe there will be some politicking going on in the Pacific Northwest for him to go in as well.

I cannot recall if there's ever been any other time where anyone has earned posthumous induction into Cooperstown within a year of his passing. If it hasn't happened, then Steinbrenner's would be the first. The WWE, whose Hall of Fame doesn't have a tangible location at present, but should, to mollify its detractors, inducted the late Eddie Guerrero in 2006, less than 6 months after his passing, so there is a precedent, after a fashion.

Steinbrenner's memorial became the centerpiece of Monument Park at Yankee Stadium II over the summer, representing his larger-than-life standing as a baseball icon. The only thing bigger would be the celebration of his induction into the Hall of Fame. The only thing that would stand in his way would be the suspensions in the 70's & 90's, but that would be offset by the 7 World Series titles the Yankees won under his stewardship (1977-78, 1996, 1998-2000, 2009). They point to the fact that Steinbrenner restored the Yankees' winning tradition, though it took three years to reach the playoffs (Steinbrenner bought the team in 1973), and was at the forefront of the free agent feeding frenzy that has spiraled out of control since its inception in the mid-70's. 38 seasons (1973-2010) as owner. 7 Championships. 11 AL pennants. A zillion headlines, and multi-media appearances by the dozen. There is no question about when or if he goes in. It's virtually a slam dunk.

Best use of scoreboard animation in a music video (You Make the Rain Fall, 2010)

Kevin Rudolf's "You Make the Rain Fall", which features a rap by Flo Rida, is also the theme to WWE NXT for its current cycle. The series is now on WWE's website after being dropped by SyFy at the end of September, but this video appears on one of Time Warner Cable's Music Choice on Demand channels, and, well......judge for yourself, pilgrims. Rudolf has one of those VEVO channels on YouTube, from whence we get the clip.....

The censors blotted out the words, "loaded gun", which I don't think they would've done 20 years ago, but it wasn't blotted out when WWE uses this same song. Go figure.

Monday, November 8, 2010

On DVD: Four Star Playhouse: The Dick Powell Anthology, Volume 1 (1953-55)

Four Star Playhouse was one of the studio's first television series, and a showcase for the four partners in the company. The three constants were Charles Boyer, David Niven (both of whom would star in The Rogues) and Dick Powell, the former film & radio star who was, essentially, the major domo in charge until his passing in the early 60's.

Of the four episodes selected in this Alpha Video collection, only one, "The House Always Wins", has the full opening. Alpha engaged in a little bait & switch by emphasizing the presence of comedy legend Jack Benny, but Benny only appears in a brief cameo in this episode. Powell plays a nightclub owner in this episode, trying to keep the existence of a gambling casino within the club a secret from a prying police detective (Regis Toomey, later of Burke's Law). Also, Powell is seen as a lawyer (defending Charles Bronson), a cab driver (paired with one of the men who brought The Shadow to life on radio, Bill (billed here as William) Johnstone), and an executive in need of a vacation, whose daydream sequence looks like the kind we'd see on Rod Serling's Twilight Zone just a few years later. Dina Merrill (Mrs. Cliff Robertson) co-stars in this tale, which leads off the disc.

Edit: 4/11/14: Here's "The House Always Wins". It served as a pilot for the subsequent spin-off series, Dante, which starred Howard Duff in the title role:

Powell had already been known for his versatility as an actor long before making the transition to television, but by this point was spending more of his time behind the cameras. It's a pity they don't try to revive the anthology format in television nowadays. Networks would rather spend the money developing as many "reality" shows as possible to save money and create stars out of average folks, or give established stars some additional shine. I'd rather have something like this on cable than endless marathons of Jersey Shore or any other mindless "entertainment".

Rating: A-.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Troy, NY----City of Champions?

What hath the Tri City Valleycats wrought?

The hits just keep on coming in Troy. First, it was the Valleycats winning the NY-Penn League title nearly 2 full months ago, defeating Brooklyn to bring their first championship home. Then, the Troy Fighting Irish, representing the city in name only (home games were in Schenectady for some unknown reason), won their semi-pro football league title. Now, championship fever has reached down to high school level.

One year after falling in the Class A Super Bowl to Burnt Hills, Troy High, back in Class AA, won the championship Friday night in Colonie, dismantling Shenendehowa with surprising ease, 38-0. Of their 10 wins this year, Troy has posted 6 shutouts, a far cry from the luckless, winless, dark days when I was a student there 30 years ago. With the tradition that Shen has, you'd think this would've been a shootout that would've ended up, say, 45-44, or something. Nuh-uh! I watched the game on TV, and was stunned. Troy's defense was as advertised, and shut down Shen star Bronson Greene. The game was essentially over after the 3rd quarter. Shen's Hall of Fame coach, Brent Steuerwald, had warned in Friday's Albany Times-Union that his Plainsmen couldn't afford to fall behind early against Troy. Unfortunately, the message didn't get through fast enough.

Tonight, Lansingburgh will try to do what Troy couldn't a year ago, and that is beat Burnt Hills for the Class A title. If they succeed, it will be another notch on the belt for the city. Meanwhile, Troy rolls on to represent Section II in state playoffs, presumably against Section IX champ Monroe-Woodbury.

Back when I was at Troy, the football team was so bad, they couldn't execute a simulated goal-line offense-----at a pep rally! It was that bad. No, I take that back. If they were dared into a pickup game of touch football with the cheerleaders, they'd probably have lost that, too. Just kidding.

Now, if only they could do something to make the basketball team more competitive at the start of the season........

Weasel of the Week: Charles Nagel

There is a fine line between fandom and fan obsession. Charles Nagel, supposedly an aspiring songwriter from Philadelphia, crossed that line when he began stalking and harassing actress Kathryn Erbe (ex-Law & Order: Criminal Intent). On Friday, Nagel was found guilty, but was cleared of interstate stalking charges.

Nagel went so far as to convince his 12-year old daughter to say that she, not her dad, drew a picture of a cockroach on a picture of Ms. Erbe's daughter, coupled with a caption balloon that says, "I'm ugly". I cannot see how a child at that age can buy into her father's delusions to take such steps, and so I believe the younger Nagel was coerced somehow into taking the rap for the graffiti. Nagel himself has claimed he was duped by an online "imposter". Right. The jury didn't buy that defense one iota. While there have been people pretending to be others, including other celebrities, on social sites like Facebook & MySpace, it's easy to tell an imposter from the real star. Seeing as how I am not on either of those sites, I couldn't give you an honest, first-hand account, but if you asked the right questions....!

What Nagel needs, more than anything, is psychiatric help. Jail isn't going to be much help unless he seeks treatment and reconciles himself to the fact that he was in the wrong.

For implicating his own child in his delusional actions, Nagel earns the weasel ears.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The curse of being Vince McMahon

Once hailed as a visionary in professional wrestling, Vince McMahon can't seem to make any headway in any other venture, and that misfortune has extended to his wife, Linda. Consider the litany of McMahon's failures over the last 20 years.......

The World Bodybuilding Federation (early 1990's). McMahon started to make an inroad into the bodybuilding market that was virtually monopolized by the Weiders around 1990. First, there was a magazine comparable to the fluff mags that McMahon produced for the then-World Wrestling Federation (now WWE). In 1991, McMahon launched the WBF, and followed that by adding a weekly TV show, BodyStars, which debuted on USA in April 1992, only to be cancelled 9 months later. The WBF folded at the end of 1992.

ICOPRO (1990's). McMahon sunk his money into this line of nutritional supplements, which his WWE & WBF talent promoted weekly on TV. Today, ICOPRO is just a faded memory, and McMahon sort of poked fun at this folly a few years back, hiring wrestler Mike Bucci to play a heel fitness guru named Simon Dean, a flopped negative parody of fitness icon Richard Simmons.

Xtreme Football League (2001). In 2000, McMahon began beating the drums for a winter-spring football league that would help gridiron fanatics deal with the NFL's offseason. Franchises were placed in markets large (NY, Las Vegas, Los Angeles) and small (Birmingham, Memphis, Orlando). However, McMahon reckoned without the media bias that had been built up against him over the "Attitude era" content of his wrestling programs. Gadflies like Phil Mushnick of the New York Post (and, at the time, TV Guide) essentially warned viewers away, for all the wrong reasons. It didn't help that McMahon also relied on some of his own announcers, including Jim Ross, Memphis legend Jerry "The King" Lawler, and Jonathan Coachman (now with ESPN), to call the games. The XFL lasted just the one season, folding in April 2001 after the league crowned its only champion.

WWE Studios (2006-present). McMahon has only had one real box office hit, and that came when he was given an executive producer credit for "The Scorpion King" (2002), which jet propelled Dwayne Johnson (formerly The Rock) into superstardom as an action hero by going straight to #1, despite negative reviews from some critics. Jonathan Foreman, writing for the New York Post, blasted the movie, even though it read as if he hadn't really seen it and slammed it just because of the WWE tie-in.

4 years later, with Johnson long gone from WWE, McMahon decided to launch his own film division. The critics have savaged virtually every film to come from WWE, with one lone exception to date. "Legendary", which paired John Cena with screen vets Patricia Clarkson & Danny Glover, received glowing reviews before a brief 2 week run in theatres in September. While the movies aren't making hay at the box office, McMahon is making his money back in DVD rentals/sales, and that's why he continues to crank out the flicks. Cena has another one due next year, and there are also films on the board starring Randy Orton and Triple H (who has 2 in the can), the latter of whom hasn't made a movie since "Blade: Trinity" 7 years ago.

Finally, there was Linda McMahon's run for US Senate as a Republican candidate from Connecticut. As I noted last night, there's been no connection between the McMahon family and the Tea Party movement, not that the Tea Party would've been of any help. Vince McMahon, as I suggested last night, sabotaged his wife's campaign with an ill-advised comedy skit on Monday Night Raw, failing to realize that a regional Senate race is of little consequence to a world-wide audience. As of press time, there were indications that Mrs. McMahon might give it another try in 2012, but if I were Linda, I'd make sure Vince stayed far, far away from the fray this time.

Try as he might, Vince McMahon may never be able to succeed outside his own professional balliwick, if you will. If Donald Trump taught him anything about business, McMahon probably ignored it. His loss.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The easiest of elections

The Governor's race in New York, despite the back & forth attack ads between Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Tea Party-backed Republican Carl Paladino, was a foregone conclusion long before New Yorkers took to the polls this morning, and word from various news outlets confirms it.

While I have not bothered to follow election night coverage on local channels---I hardly do anymore---I let my curiosity get the best of me and I decided to check a couple of local sites, to see the result, rather than wait for the morning papers.

It turns out that New Yorkers made history today by electing Cuomo, son of former governor Mario Cuomo, as the next governor, replacing David Paterson, who opted not to seek election amid a scandal at the beginning of this year. Paladino, realistically, never had a chance despite "upsetting" luckless Rick Lazio in the primary 2 months ago. In fact, Paladino killed his chances himself by contracting foot-in-mouth disease with some of his remarks the last few weeks. That created the perception in voters' minds that Paladino, who could've passed for a lookalike of the late actor Dennis Hopper, in this writer's opinion at least, was too much of a loose cannon to be counted on to lead the state for at least 4 years.

This marks the 2nd straight election that voters chose a sitting attorney general as governor (Eliot Spitzer, now a CNN talk show co-host, was elected in 2006). Cuomo, though, wasn't the only AG to move up in rank, if you will.

Over in Connecticut, in a race that gained national attention, that state's AG, Richard Blumenthal, held off former (and likely soon to be) WWE CEO Linda McMahon, but in truth, Linda's husband, Vince, may have sunk his wife's chances with an ill-advised comedy skit last night on Monday Night Raw, in which Mr. McMahon tried to sell the audience on the idea that he's been in a coma for at least 4 months, after an on-camera beatdown in the ring. Actor Freddie Prinze, Jr. ("Scooby-Doo", "Wing Commander"), back in the employ of WWE, played the attending physician while McMahon wore a hospital gown littered with bumper stickers of his wife's campaign and a Blumenthal poster hung on his backside.

What killed that skit dead was the public knowledge that McMahon stumped for his wife at a WWE event in Hartford on Saturday afternoon, his first public appearance at a WWE event since June. Last night, McMahon jokingly suggested while in character that maybe he'd make a run for the White House in 2012 (he'll be 67 by then), but, considering his wife's defeat tonight, that plan is but a pipe dream by now.

At no time during the campaign, though, was Mrs. McMahon even considered to be a part of the Tea Party, which thus can breathe a sigh of relief.

At this rate, no matter how much the Tea Party wants to push former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who failed in a VP bid 2 years ago, as a Presidential candidate in '12, voters would be more likely to vote in a ventriloquist dummy by then than stomach Mrs. Palin, who has become way more overexposed than any of McMahon's wrestlers combined, for 4 years.

Don't scoff at that last paragraph. It may be written in jest, but stranger things have happened, and probably will.