Sunday, July 31, 2011

Me-TV comes to Albany!

I came home from work the other day and got a major shock.

My brother was visiting for the day whilst on vacation from his job, and informed me that our cable provider now had Me-TV on their roster. The NBC affiliate, losing ratings from their digital subchannel, which was a localized weather station, more than anything, ditched that format, and replaced it with Me-TV.

Now, fellow blogger Ivan Shreve has been singing Me-TV's praises since it began airing in his area. Some see it as an alternative to Retro, but in truth, it's a complement, in this writer's opinion.

Take for example Me-TV's Saturday lineup. It includes The Wild, Wild West (a personal favorite) and Marshal Dillon (half-hour syndicated reruns from the early years of Gunsmoke), both of which have previously aired on Retro. And, then, there's this nugget of joy:

Branded holds the distinction of being one of the few non-game show entries from Mark Goodson & Bill Todman, and hasn't been seen in this market since it ran on WOR in NYC back in the day, back when we had the NYC channels on our system. Many thanks to spudtv for providing the clip.

The roster also includes other shows that this market hasn't seen in years, including Honey West (last seen on FX, back in their early years) and Quinn Martin's lone collaboration with 20th Century Fox, 12 O'Clock High. Others, like M*A*S*H and I Love Lucy, have been readily available on other cable channels for a while now. Such is the way cable works these days in that there is no exclusitivity to a lot of the classics. As I told my mom, we now have more options at night after the Mets game ends.

The best part is that Me-TV is all oldies, 24/7. No infomercials! How cool is that? Now, I just have to learn how to use the DVR to record Stagecoach West one of these days........

Saturday, July 30, 2011

MTV turns 30, but where's the party?

On August 1, MTV officially marks its 30th anniversary, but as of press time, there is no indication that the channel, which has undergone some radical changes over the last two decades, gradually veering away from its initial mission statement, opting to discard music videos, or at the very least, consign them to early morning blocks, in favor of cheap-to-produce reality shows that are already being played into the ground (i.e. Jersey Shore) and scripted programming (Teen Wolf, Awkward), was willing to return to its roots.

Over the years, MTV has been a breeding ground for a number of talents, both in music and elsewhere. The non-music list reads like a present-day who's who. Before taking the anchor's chair on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart toplined a late night talk show on MTV that lasted about a year or two. Remote Control (1987-90) introduced viewers not only to host Ken Ober, but also Colin Quinn (later of Saturday Night Live), Kari Wuhrer (who'd later appear on Sliders & Beverly Hills 90210), Denis Leary (Rescue Me; people forget he was part of the repertory company), & Adam Sandler (who preceded Quinn onto SNL). Jay Mohr, who was most recently on Ghost Whisperer, hosted the game show, Lip Service.

This weekend, MTV is again shoving Jersey Shore down the viewers' throats, rather than acknowledge its storied past. Instead, that task is left to sister network VH1 Classic, which will rebroadcast the 1st hour at exactly 12 midnight on August 1. It seems to me that the current administration in charge of MTV Networks just doesn't want MTV to re-embrace the past, even for a day. More fools they, since it doesn't seem to register that their ratings aren't what they used to be.

VH1 turned 25 last year, and it was the same thing. No celebration, no flashbacks. El yawn-o. MTV is bringing back Beavis & Butt-Head in an all-new series later this year, but Mike Judge's Texas twits will be hard pressed to even find something that doesn't suck now, since the lifeblood of their original series, the videos, are nearly an endangered species to MTV suits. Small wonder it's easier to call the channel Empty-V nowadays.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

On Stage: The Producers (2011)

I will readily admit I've never seen either feature film version of Mel Brooks' comedy classic, "The Producers", nor did I venture to Broadway for the revival a decade ago with Matthew Broderick & Nathan Lane. However, the staff at my day job ventured to the Park Playhouse at Washington Park in Albany to see a local production of "The Producers" Wednesday night, and I have to say, I was impressed.

The concept is very simple. Max Bialystock (Jason Marks) has produced one bomb after another, and his latest, "Funny Boy", closed in just one night. Enter a neurotic accountant, one Leopold Bloom (Jason Jacoby), who finds there is a way to turn a profit even with a loser. Inspired, Bialystock takes Bloom in as his partner and they find what they think is the absolute worst play available, "Springtime for Hitler".

The pieces soon fall into place. Bialystock & Bloom obtain the rights from its author, who also is recruited to be in the show. They hire a swishy director whose track record is almost as bad as Bialystock's. A naive Swedish girl comes in for an audition, and is hired to also serve as the team's secretary/receptionist/office housekeeper. Max then raises money the only way he knows how, by working the old ladies in the neighborhood.

Opening night comes, and Franz, the author cast as Hitler, suffers a broken leg, and has to be replaced by the director at the very last second. In effect, it's the last piece of the puzzle, as "Springtime" is a surprise hit, the worst case scenario for Bialystock & Bloom.

The sudden success lands the producers in prison, only to be pardoned by the governor after a prison play becomes another smash and lands on Broadway, cementing Bialystock's comeback.

Jason Marks is just fantastic as Bialystock. Referring back to the original film with Zero Mostel & Gene Wilder 43 years ago, I can imagine that Mel Brooks might have initially had Jackie Gleason in mind to play Bialystock, because the character fits in with Gleason's seminal TV persona of Ralph Kramden (The Honeymooners). That doesn't mean that Art Carney could've been Bloom. That part, given the fact Bloom is a neurotic, could've been handled by the underappreciated Wally Cox (Hollywood Squares), who was doing a lot of guest-star gigs on TV back in the late 60's. Brooks caught lightning in a bottle twice. Park Playhouse may have found it the 3rd time, because the cast assembled hit all the right notes. Maura Hogan nearly steals the show as Ulla, the Swedish hottie who eventually wins Leo's heart.

Not including intermission, the play clocks in at 2:25. Rating: A-.

Weasels of the Week: Lee Silber & Mitch Watson

Their offenses are as different as night & day, but both deserve the weasel ears this week.

Lee Silber, 61, made headlines this week when it was revealed that he had developed an unhealthy obsession with WWE Diva Maryse Ouellette. TMZ, predictably, caught hold of the story, but has not been able to contact Silber to verify Ms. Ouellette's accusations. Silber supposedly has promised to take the former Divas champion to Heaven with him. I guess it hasn't occurred to him that the object of his affection is, well, already spoken for! Ms. Ouellette has been linked romantically with fellow WWE star Michael "The Miz" Mizanin for a while now, and while the usually motormouthed Mizanin hasn't spoken publicly on the subject, don't ya think for once the dude could be the least bit offended that a guy nearly twice his age is hitting on his girl long distance?

As for Mitch Watson, he's the principal writer for Cartoon Network's Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, which wrapped its 1st season in the US on Tuesday (much sooner in Canada, as fellow blogger Scoobyfan1 will helpfully point out). When the series launched a year ago, it was hailed as a fresh start for the 40-something franchise. However, over the last three months, it has become apparent that the reboot was in truth, a bastardization of said franchise.

What Watson has done, you see, is establish a completely new continuity, one in which team leader Fred was abducted from his supposed real parents as a baby and raised by the corrupt mayor of their home town of Crystal Cove. The parents of the rest of the team disapproved of the gang taking up the detective business while still in high school, or just doing it altogether, which to me is just as unnatural, and suggests a bigger plot looms as yet unspoken.

Think back to the 2002 "Scooby-Doo" feature film. Early on, the gang splits up over dissent and mistrust, which are part of the reason the team breaks up at the end of season 1 of the current series. CN hasn't divulged when season 2 will begin, and, right now, I honestly don't care. Watson has ruined the show for its loyal fans far worse than anything prior (i.e. the introduction of everyone's least favorite supporting character, Scrappy-Doo), and will need to have someone come in to try to clean things up for him in season 2 and beyond, because if he remains the sole credited writer, the series will end being cancelled when viewers turn away in droves. It was one thing for Watson to crap on another Hanna-Barbera entry (1971's Funky Phantom), but the implication I get is that he's a fanboy putting his own spin on the franchise, whether long-time fans agree with it or not. The dude is in over his head, and needs help, and he'd better cop to it, soon!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Are you ready for some football?

Common sense has finally prevailed, as the National Football League's lockout ended today, just in time for the start of training camp.

However, the New York Giants had already decided not to hold their annual camp at the University at Albany, a decision that was made a couple of weeks ago by team owner John Mara, citing time constraints based upon the then-uncertain end of the lockout, which began in March. There is hope, of course, that "Big Blue" will return to Albany in 2012 to make up for the cancellation this year. Training camp for the Giants will instead be closer to their New Jersey base.

The timing, of course, works out perfectly for both sides, as it allows the annual Hall of Fame game to take place as scheduled in Canton on August 7, as the start of pre-season play.

Now, the impetus is on the NBA to end their lockout, preferably sooner rather than later, but to prevent this from happening again and again in the future, because you know it inevitably will, owners will have to break down and offer public disclosure. If they're losing money, the public has a right to know how. It's not just from overpaying the players, I'm certain of that.

At least now we don't have to worry about seeing Sundays & Mondays go by without football starting in September........

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Welcome to the New World of DC Comics

DC Comics' ambitious initiative to relaunch its "universe" begins in earnest at the end of August with the conclusion of its Flashpoint miniseries and the re-launch of Justice League. So, just what exactly are they up to?

Well, for starters, the general idea explained by the brains behind the project, co-publishers Dan DiDio & Jim Lee, is that for today's generation, the age of heroes supposedly began 5 years ago. The object of this exercise is to introduce a new generation of readers to familiar characters without requiring going through a mountain of back issues. We've had the Golden Age, the Silver Age, and the Bronze Age. For lack of a better description, it'd be safe to refer to the new DC Universe as the launch of the Digital Age, since most, if not all, of the books will be released digitially concurrent with their print releases.

Following is a thumbnail summary of each of the 52 new books, along with the respective creative teams.

Justice League: The classic superteam reforms yet again. The 6-page preview in DC Comics: The New 52 does not give away too much of the plot. (Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, & Scott Williams)

Justice League International: Batman will appear in this book as well, leading a global unit that includes a recently created hero, August General in Iron, from China. (Dan Jurgens, Aaron Lopresti, & Matt Ryan)

Justice League Dark: Call it the paranormal branch of the League, with Zatanna the only member with links to past incarnations of the League. Replaces Zatanna's solo series. (Peter Milligan & Mikel Janin)

Aquaman: The classic version returns, having given up his throne as King of the undersea world of Atlantis. (Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, & Joe Prado)

Wonder Woman: The Amazing Amazon ditches the long pants for a more classic look, but can she be trusted? (Brian Azzariello & Cliff Chiang)

The Flash: Barry Allen is back as the Fastest Man Alive. However, writer-artist Francis Manapul has been criticized as one of the slowest creators alive. Co-written by Brian Buccellato.

The Fury of Firestorm: Two generations of Nuclear Men, united, with the original (Ron Raymond) retconned back to high school. (Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone, & Yiidiray Cinar)

Captain Atom: The former Charlton Comics hero, reborn for the 21st century. (JT Krul & Freddie Williams II)

The Savage Hawkman: The adjective, I think, is to attract the violence-obsessed fanboys, but it's the same guy you remember. (Tony Daniel & Philip Tan)

Green Arrow: The Emerald Archer is even more like Robin Hood, an outlaw chasing other outlaws. (JT Krul, Dan Jurgens, & George Perez)

Mr. Terrific: Spun off from the dormant Justice Society of America. Mr. Terrific is the 3rd smartest man in the world. Bill Gates, though, never had it this good. (Eric Wallace & Glen Luca)

DC Universe Presents: Anthology series. Deadman stars in the first 5 issues. (Paul Jenkins & Bernard Chang)

Action Comics: One of the company's flagships, just barely past 900 issues, rolls back to #1, and with it, Superman is rebooted with elements of his Golden & Silver Age personas merged together. (Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, & Rick Bryant)

Superman: The one thing that fans don't like, is that Superman isn't married to Lois Lane anymore. Marvel caught flak for breaking up Spider-Man's marriage, so DC thinks that they can do it better. Yeah, sure. (George Perez & Jesus Merino)

Supergirl: Don't we mean Super-bad-girl? Who decided she needed an attitude adjustment? (Michael Green, Mike Johnson, & Mahmud Asrar)

Superboy: I think this time, the plot is inspired by the current Young Justice cartoon. (Scott Lobdell, RB Silva, & Rob Lean)

Batman: Albany native Greg Capullo takes over the artwork, as the true Dark Knight is the only one again. (Written by Scott Snyder, inked by Jonathan Glapiuon)

Detective Comics: A new era means new enemies for Batman. (Tony Daniel & Ryan Winn)

Batwoman: After months of delays, the series finally begins in earnest. (JH Williams III & W. Haden Blackman)

Batman: The Dark Knight: Consider with caution. Writer-artist David Finch never finished the first volume of this book.

Batman & Robin: Can always be retitled, "Batman & Son". Yes, they are sticking with the current Robin, Damian Wayne (Bruce's son by Talia). (Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, & Mick Gray)

Batwing: Spun off from Batman, Inc., which goes on hiatus until 2012. Africa's Dark Knight gets his own book. (Judd Winick & Ben Oliver)

Batgirl: Barbara Gordon is back in costume. I predict that this may be a top 5 seller first week out of the box, simply because Barbara has never headlined her own series, though two successors to her cowl have. (Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf, & Vincente Cifuentes)

Nightwing: Dick Grayson returns to the ID first established in the 80's. Seems like a demotion every time he gets to be the big Bat. (Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrows, & JP Mayer)

Catwoman: I once referred to Selina Kyle as DC's distaff answer to Alexander Mundy (Robert Wagner's character from It Takes a Thief). She's also got a bit of Robin Hood to her, which is part of her charm. (Judd Winick & Gullem March)

Birds of Prey: What are the Birds without the former Oracle (now Batgirl)? Dangerous. Looks like Poison Ivy's joining up. (Duane Swierczynski & Jesus Saiz)

Red Hood & the Outlaws: Red Hood is Jason Todd, who was Robin for about 15 minutes in the 80's. The other outlaws are Dick Grayson's spacey ex-lover, Starfire, & Arsenal (more recently Red Arrow). Sort-of replaces Batman & the Outsiders. (Scott Lobdell & Kenneth Rocefort)

Green Lantern: No, it ain't Hal Jordan. That's all I'm going to say about that. (Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, & Christian Alamy)

Green Lantern Corps: Jordan ain't in this book, either (he's over in Justice League). However, the guys that are here can still lay the smack down. (Peter Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin, & Scott Hanna)

Green Lantern: New Guardians: The title speaks for itself. (Tony Bedard, Tyler Kirkham, & Batt)

Red Lanterns: Just what we didn't need. Lanterns with the attitude of Marvel's Punisher. (Peter Milligan, Ed Benes, & Rob Hunter)

Swamp Thing: As the copy says, Alec Holland has his life back. I guess this is what happens when Alan Moore takes his name off the company's Christmas card list. (Scott Snyder & Yanick Paquette)

Animal Man: Buddy Baker's back, but I think soon enough the series title will become Animal Girl, as his daughter appears to have inherited his abilities.(Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman, & Dan Green)

Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE: This was originally the Spawn of Frankenstein, who appeared in the back of Phantom Stranger's book back in the 70's, then was reincarnated by Grant Morrison in his Seven Soldiers book. Now, he leads his own team. (Jeff Lemire & Alberto Ponticelli)

I, Vampire: Can vamps enter the Witness Protection Program? Seriously, this series originally was a serial in House of Mystery back in the early 80's. Andrew Bennett is now Andrew Stanton, but the series exists because of the "Twilight" books, True Blood, and general popularity of the undead. (Joshua Hale Fialkov & Andrea Sorrentino)

Resurrection Man: A series from the 90's makes a comeback. Well, I did say the undead were popular......! (Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, & Fernando Dagnino)

Demon Knights: Etrigan, the Demon in the title, is back, and he's got a new girlfriend (hint: she appears in Justice League Dark). Talk about pushing the envelope! (Paul Cornell, Diogenes Nieves, & Oclair Albert)

Stormwatch: Former Wildstorm series returns, now with the Martian Manhunter on this team instead of being in the Justice League. (Paul Cornell & Miguel Sepulveda)

Voodoo: Former member of the WildC.A.T.S. stars in her own book. You may think there's a touch of Witchblade here, but I don't. I'm thinking Claw the Unconquered. (Ron Marz & Sami Basri)

Grifter: A charming con artist is being hunted because of monsters only he can see? Say what? (Nathan Edmondson & CAFU)

Suicide Squad: The latest reincarnation of this 80's favorite welcomes back Deadshot from his recent stint with the Secret Six (which this book replaces). He brings along another alum from the Six, King Shark, plus a newly remade Harley Quinn, who doesn't look like the Joker's girl anymore! The harlequin now looks like a slut after a bad hair week. (Adam Glass & Marco Rudy)

Deathstroke: The frenemy of the Teen Titans gets his own book again. (Kyle Higgins, Joe Bennett, & Art Thibert)

All-Star Western: Jonah Hex returns to the book where it all began for him 40 years ago. Now, his home is.....19th century Gotham City?! (Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, & Moritat)

OMAC: Jack Kirby created the concept nearly 40 years ago, but he wouldn't recognize it today if he were still with us. (Dan DiDio, Keith Giffen, & Scott Koblish)

Blackhawks: The elite fighting team of World War II is now firmly reset in today, with more of a mercenary bent. I expect a meeting with the Suicide Squad inside of the first year. (Mike Costa & Ken Lashley)

Men of War: Easy Company's back. Enough said. (Ivan Brandon & Tom Derenick)

Teen Titans: I have a problem with this version. Wonder Girl's a thief? Other than that and Red Robin (Tim Drake), this may feel like a flopped negative of Young Justice. (Scott Lobdell, Brett Booth, & Norm Rapmund)

Static Shock: Milestone's breakout star returns, and leaves Dakota behind for the Big Apple. (Scott McDaniel, John Rozum, Jonathan Glapiuon, & Le Beau Underwood)

Hawk & Dove: The 80's incarnation is back, and so is artist Rob Liefeld. There will be a pool on whether or not this can keep its deadlines for more than 2 issues in a row. (Sterling Gates & Rob Liefeld)

Blue Beetle: The current Beetle, Jamie Reyes, is back, but it feels like they've hit the reset button with him. (Tony Bedard, Ig Guara, & Ruy Jose)

Legion of Super-Heroes: Travel 1000 years into the future as one of the most beloved sci-fi series returns again. (Paul Levitz & Francis Portela)

Legion Lost: 7 Legionnaires traveled to our time to prevent the destruction of their future. Their tech fails them at the worst possible time. (Fabian Nicieza & Pete Woods)

I'm actually going to come out of retirement and pick no more than 3-4 of these books and experiment with them through the end of the calendar year. Which ones? I'm not telling. Yet.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)

The music world is mourning the death of singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse tonight at 27.

Ms. Winehouse shot to fame in 2006 with the Grammy winning singles, "Back to Black", & "Rehab", but subsequently, the music was overshadowed by an ongoing struggle with substance abuse.

From the singer's VEVO channel, here's "Back to Black":

Rest in peace, Amy.

In theatres: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

He is one of Marvel Comics' longest running characters, a contemporary, if you will, of DC's "Trinity" of Batman, Superman, & Wonder Woman. For the first time since the Golden Age, "Captain America" makes it to the silver screen in the last prelude to Marvel's magnum opus, "The Avengers", due next May.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, "Fantastic Four") wants to enlist in the Army like so many others during the early days of World War 2, despite the fact that he's asthmatic and skinny as a rail. However, he's tried to enlist in four different places, but getting the same result. His desperation leads him to a chance meeting with Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a defector from Germany, who decides that Rogers will be in the Army after all.

Rogers is assigned to a unit under the command of a Col. Collins (Tommy Lee Jones, "The Fugitive"), who has his own personal choice for Erskine's top secret project. Said project is funded in part by businessman Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), who has designed various weapons for the US, but also is a bit of a showman, a trait that, as we already know, was passed down to his son, Tony, as seen in the "Iron Man" movies. Whereas in the comics, a simple needle injection was enough to give Rogers the super soldier formula, here, he is put in a machine that seems ahead of its time.

At first, Rogers, as Captain America, is sent on a USO tour to sell war bonds. But, when his best friend, James "Bucky" Barnes, disappears while on a mission, Rogers decides the time for theatrics is over, and it's time for action. Cap's squad, it happens, is a version of the popular Howling Commandos from the comics, most notably Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan and Gabriel Jones. Comics fans know that the Howlers were actually under the command of Sgt. Nick Fury, but not here. I don't think they wanted to borrow too much from the books, particularly the idea that Fury is seemingly immortal, similar to Wolverine. Instead, it's Cap who leads the Howlers into action.

The villain of the piece is Col. Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving, "V For Vendetta"), aka The Red Skull, who has possession of the mystic Cosmic Cube. Schmidt is also the leader of HYDRA, which in this continuity is a branch of the Nazis, but as comics fans know, became much more than that, such that Schmidt already has designs on overthrowing the Nazis as part of his plan to take over the world.

Aiding the Skull is Dr. Arnim Zola. Comics fans might be a little stunned to see him in full human form, considering that he's anything but in the books in recent years. However, Zola is captured by Cap and the Howlers, and the last we saw, Zola was being offered a deal that would allow him to escape the wrath of the Skull. To make a long story short, Cap & the Skull engage in one climatic battle that seemingly ends with the Cube being the agent of Schmidt's apparent demise. As for Cap, well...........

He awakens in New York in 2011. How he got there, one presumes, will be explained in "The Avengers".

One interesting irony. Long-time Cap fans know that he had a lengthy relationship in the comics with SHIELD agent Sharon Carter. Here, he falls for agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). One wonders if we'll see the conclusion of that particular subplot in 10 months time. Since Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) appears at the end of the film, the post-credits tease is the first trailer for "Avengers".

Speaking of trailers, here's one for Cap:

And as for coming attractions:

"Final Destination 5": Like, give me a freakin' break! Don't they know when to say when with films like this?

"The Adventures of Tintin": This is on my holiday to-do list.

"Conan the Barbarian": Yes, the remake is here, opening next month.

"The Amazing Spider-Man": Earmarked for July 2012, where it'll compete with "The Dark Knight Rises". I'd rather this was a continuation of the series rather than a reboot, which is what this film is, since Spidey's origin is retold, 10 years after the first film.

"Captain America" gets an A-.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Videos of Summer: Walking on the Sun (1997)

With the temperatures hotter than normal for this time of year, it may feel like the title of Smash Mouth's debut hit could be taken literally. From the band's VEVO channel on YouTube comes "Walking on the Sun"......

Enough said.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

For WWE fans, this is a moment you've all been waiting for........

After the WWE title had been vacated at the start of Monday Night Raw, and after Rey Mysterio & Michael "The Miz" Mizanin had reached the finals of what was supposed to be a 1-night tournament to crown a new champion in the wake of CM Punk defeating John Cena at the Money in the Bank PPV, on Punk's last night (for now) with the company, Vince McMahon came to the ring, bent on "firing" Cena.

Cena had recognized the situation developing before him the night before. McMahon, obsessed with revisiting the darkest night in company history (the 1997 Survivor Series) as often as possible, attempted to do it again, with Cena & Punk substituting for Hall of Famers Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart, respectively. Competitive fire gave way to fear of embarassment for himself and his opponent, and it cost Cena the title.

However, the tables were turned, when the insane chairman's son-in-law, Triple H, appeared as an emissary of the WWE Board of Directors, who'd finally had enough of McMahon's antics and removed him from office (as far as the story goes).

Ever since he went on the disabled list last year, Triple H (Paul LeVesque) has been groomed for an executive's job within the WWE, joining his wife, Stephanie, in the company hierarchy. Ironically, his first major signing, Sin Cara, had been suspended earlier in the day for violating the company Wellness Policy, and rumors have suggested that Cara may not be back. However, with "The Cerebral Assassin" in the forefront, that could change.

So what happens to Vince now? He turns 66 next month, and perhaps he'll finally step further back into the shadows, and enjoy his twilight years playing grandpa on a more full-time basis. For Triple H, who will be 42 next week, it doesn't mean his competitive career is over. His new on-camera role mirrors real life, true, and judging by the reaction he got from the audience in Green Bay, he'll remain a fan favorite for the short term. Everyone expects him to be the arch-villain, filling McMahon's role, in the long term. Realistically, however, this may be the start of some major changes in the company and how it's presented on TV, and that will be the single biggest challenge of "The Game"'s career. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sounds of Praise: Shake Heaven (2011)

I was checking out Gospel Music Channel's Uplifting Urban music block yesterday, and what did I find? How about 90's R & B star Montell Jordan?!

Jordan, according to his Wikipedia page, walked away from the music business after his last CD was released in 2008. He became a born-again Christian and joined with the Victory World Church in Georgia, where he is now the Worship minister. VictoryWorldMusic uploaded Jordan's 1st single in 3 years, "Shake Heaven", to YouTube:

Jordan had rocketed to fame in 1995 with his #1 hit, "This Is How We Do It", which still gets airplay at sports venues everywhere 16 years later. He's not the first mainstream pop artist to make the transition, and may not be the last, either.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Videos of Summer: The More You Live, The More You Love (1984)

"The More You Live, The More You Love", the first single from the CD, "The Story of a Young Heart", was the swan song for A Flock of Seagulls here in the US. Released in 1984, it was the last single to gain considerable airplay on radio & MTV for the group, which has split and reformed, only to split again. Singer Mike Score still tours, but like most nostalgia acts, he's the only original member still playing.

Try to picture yourself on a beach listening to this song:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Dino Puglia

Some of us have heard the horror stories about dishonest independent promoters in the wrestling business. This week's Weasel takes the cake, and then some.

Dino Puglia organized a tribute show to honor the late "Macho Man" Randy Savage, who passed away a few weeks ago. Problem was, the organizations he'd designated to receive the proceeds from the show, including St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., were never contacted nor consulted, and most of the wrestlers advertised, including Savage's brother, "Leaping" Lanny Poffo, and the Honky Tonk Man, never appeared at all. Poffo & Honky in particular had stated beforehand that they weren't going to be there, which suggests that, apparently, Puglia never really contacted them, either.

Worse, there was no ring bell. Puglia would simply intone "Ding!" into the house mic. When it came time to pay the talent that did show up, Puglia claimed a "cardiac emergency", and ran like, well, a thief in the night. He wanted to exploit the memory of Savage, a cherished icon of the 80's & 90's, not honor it. He knew Honky and Poffo wouldn't be there, but he also had to know he was running the risk of being exposed for what he really is, a low grade con artist. Very low grade.

In truth, a proper tribute show dedicated to Randy Savage would require several more weeks to prepare, including contacting interested talent, especially people who had worked with Savage in either the then-World Wrestling Federation, WCW, or, at the end of his career, TNA. One such event would likely take place before the year is out, but you can be sure that a scammer like Dino Puglia would be nowhere near it. By then, he'll likely be in a more appropriate locale----a jail cell.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rob Grill (1943-2011)

If the name above doesn't sound familiar, well, maybe some of the songs he's associated with will stir some memories. How about "Temptation Eyes"? "Let's Live For Today"? "Sooner or Later"?

Rob Grill was the bassist and lead vocalist of the pop group, The Grass Roots, who had a string of top 40 hits in the late 60's and early 70's. At 67, Grill was still doing the nostalgia circuit with a revamped Roots lineup, playing all the classics. However, he suffered a stroke prior to a recent concert in California and fell into a coma. Grill passed away Monday as a result of complications.

Rest in peace, Rob. "Heaven knows" they just found another bass player.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sherwood Schwartz (1916-2011)

Hollywood is mourning the loss of a television icon tonight.

Sherwood Schwartz, who began his career as a writer for Bob Hope on radio before creating a pair of iconic sitcoms in the 60's & 70's, passed away earlier today at 94.

After writing for Hope as well as Alan Young on radio and on television for Red Skelton, Schwartz struck gold in 1964 with Gilligan's Island. Oh, I'm sure you know the theme song by heart, nearly 50 years later.

Gilligan would continue on with 2 animated series and 3 made-for-TV movies. TBS tried to revamp the entire concept with a lame reality show, The Real Gilligan's Island, a few years ago, which, predictably, flopped. Series star Bob Denver would team with Schwartz again in 1973 on the syndicated Dusty's Trail, this time set in the Old West, with Denver in the title role, playing opposite Forrest Tucker (ex-F-Troop). Trail lasted one season.

In 1969, Schwartz created another classic series, The Brady Bunch, which spent 6 seasons on ABC, and spawned an animated spin-off, The Brady Kids, in 1972. Both series were gone after the 1973-74 season, but, as we all know, Schwartz struck a deal with Sid & Marty Krofft to put the Bradys in a variety series, which, understandably, failed.

And, then, there's the theme song:

I should point out that Schwartz composed the themes to both Gilligan and Brady Bunch, adding to his legend. In the 80's, the Brady franchise experienced a rebirth, starting with a TV-movie, which led to the spin-off series, The Brady Brides, whose theme song was derived from the original series' theme. Both Gilligan and the Brides ended up on NBC. Around this same time, Schwartz also produced a TV-movie that didn't quite click, "The Invisible Woman", reuniting Schwartz one more time with Bob Denver. The Bradys would be the last link in the franchise's TV chain in the winter of 1990, and airing on CBS.

In addition, Schwartz landed one other series for NBC, an adaptation of the country hit, Harper Valley, PTA, produced by Universal as a comeback vehicle for Barbara Eden (ex-I Dream of Jeannie). That lasted two seasons before fading.

Schwartz produced two other series for CBS, It's About Time, which joined Gilligan on the schedule, and Together We Stand, a 1986 entry with Eliott Gould. His first series for NBC was the Saturday morning entry, Big John, Little John, which starred "Cousin Oliver" himself, Robbie Rist. That, too, lasted just 1 season. Proof that not everything Schwartz touched turned to gold, but the imagination that fueled his ideas was, in fact, quite vibrant.

Rest in peace, sir. You will be missed.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The New Channel in Town

Channel surfing can be productive sometimes.

As I wandered over the digital cable landscape yesterday, I happened across one of the newest additions to Time Warner Cable's lineup, at least in the upstate NY market. The Gospel Music Channel (GMC) must've debuted within the last week, but TWC never bothered with a memo to its subscribers, or, at the very least, I didn't see one with my bill.

Anyway, GMC doesn't just play music (What? Does Viacom own this station, too? Boo! Hiss!). Like the other music channels, they also mix in movies and old TV shows, some of which you're already familiar with, I'm sure. The programming lineup includes 227, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Highway to Heaven (Michael Landon's 1980's drama, which also has been added stealthily to Retro's lineup as of July 4, but TWC won't acknowledge it), Amen, & The Waltons. I think you can see the pattern forming. Yesterday, GMC ran a marathon of the "Left Behind" movie series, based on the novels by Tim LeHay. Well, that does serve as perfect counter-programming to ABC Family playing the "Harry Potter" movies into the ground over the last two days.

Like MTV, GMC restricts its music blocks to mornings and late nights, with familiar gospel favorites like Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith on the playlist. Now, the only question remaining is if they are like other cablers and will insult viewer intelligence by compressing the closing credits to fit in advertising. I'll have to find that out shortly. TWC, as a result, now has 4 religious-themed channels (TBN, Daystar, & EWTN are the others). Hey, it works.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Videos of Summer: Cotton Eye Joe (1994)

If you've been to a baseball game at any level, save maybe for high school, chances are you've heard "Cotton Eye Joe" by the Swedish band, Rednex. This leads to some audience participation at Tri City Valleycats games, where fans, mostly children, are invited to dance atop the dugouts to the beat of this song.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Ken Bronstein

Mr. Bronstein is the head of NYC Atheists, which made the news earlier this week when the group decided a street in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn that had already been rechristened to honor 7 firefighters from the borough who'd lost their lives during the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks needs to be changed again.

The street, formerly known as Richards Street, was rechristened Seven in Heaven Way. Therein lies the problem, according to Bronstein, who, according to an article in Wednesday's New York Daily News, likens the rechristening to "spiritual 'product placement'". Balderdash! 7 men lost their lives trying to save others while in the line of duty. 10 years later, these get-a-lifes want to whine & complain because of how the street is named? Get a freakin' clue!

Ironically, another atheist, Josh Roxas, falls on the side of common sense. He was quoted by the Daily News as follows:

"These guys gave their lives for us. They deserved that sign."

Well said, Josh. Religion has nothing to do with the sign renaming at all. Unfortunately, Ken Bronstein and his crew of know-nothing idiots don't see it that way. They're also getting Dunce Caps to show how deep their ignorance runs.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Videos of Summer: California Girls (1985)

David Lee Roth will never be mistaken for a brain surgeon (although he has spent some time as an EMT), but after breaking away from Van Halen in the mid-80's, he created some wacky music videos.

Now, I will go on record and admit I've never been a big fan of "Diamond Dave", but I do respect the man's body of work. Case in point is his cover of the Beach Boys' classic, "California Girls", which Roth released in 1985 as the first single from his solo EP, "Crazy From The Heat". Roth would later dial it down and try to do some more serious stuff ("Sensible Shoes" comes to mind), but he was ham, eggs, and a case of juice all rolled into one. I don't know who he recruited to do a Rod Serling mimic in the narrative, though.

If one of those platinum-wigged hotties at the 2:05 mark looks relatively familiar, well, she should. That's original MTV VJ Martha Quinn under the wig and earmuffs on the left. Seems she & Dave were a couple at the time, from what I heard. Anyway, a lot of people on YouTube, commenting on this clip, as supplied by Jonboy122, have compared this to Katy Perry's "California Gurls" (note the spelling). Why bother? I haven't heard Katy's version, so I don't know if there's any reason to compare. Here's Dave and friends:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, America!

Today, the United States of America is 235. So, how do we celebrate? There are the traditional events, such as fireworks celebrations, a nearly full slate of baseball games, and, a novelty event that now is celebrated by being shown on television, the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. I'm surprised Pepto Bismol isn't sponsoring that.

Anyway, I've been at the Empire State Plaza in Albany for the Fabulous 4th on three different occasions, and I can speak from experience. You can't leave until after the fireworks show ends. The joint gets crowded before dark, people shoulder to shoulder, or, as Sting sang in the Police's 1983 hit, "Synchronicity 2", "packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes". You know, like sardine cans.

In 1984, country singer Lee Greenwood wrote what would be a definitive anthem for our country, and in the last decade, "God Bless the USA" has experienced a rebirth. I think it's kind of appropriate to play, today, so here it is.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

On DVD: Little Lulu (1943)

Here's a case of caveat emptor, which is Latin for "let the buyer beware". A while back, I traded for a Little Lulu DVD at a used bookstore in town. I finally got around to playing it last night, and, well, let's just say that Genius Products, which released this DVD in 2005, can be accused of false advertising.

The back cover text to the DVD suggests that there is material from the 1995 Little Lulu series produced for HBO and starring comedienne-singer Tracey Ullman. However, no such material is to be had. Instead, there are 8 shorts, produced in the 1940's by Famous Studios (Paramount). Now, I'd never seen any of these when I was younger, perhaps a rare commodity in that Famous/Paramount's other series (i.e. Popeye, Superman) were readily available on cable. Jackson Beck, the voice of Bluto in the Popeye shorts, and the narrator of Superman's 1966 TV series, is the voice of Lulu's dad in the short, "Chick & Double Chick":

My first exposure to Lulu was in some comics released by Gold Key back in the 70's. As with the books, these cartoons remain faithful to creator Marjorie Buell's vision. After Paramount lost the rights to Lulu, they created their own Lulu clone in Playful Little Audrey, who would also appear in comics herself, with Harvey, in the 60's & 70's.

Rating: A.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Videos of Summer: All Summer Long (2007)

Kid Rock paid homage to one of his favorite bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd, with this bouncy party favorite from 2007's "Rock & Roll Jesus". "All Summer Long" samples "Sweet Home Alabama" (which is also referenced in the lyrics) and the late Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London". Uploaded by----wait for it----KidRockVideos: