Thursday, May 31, 2012

TNA's latest quick fix might be more damaging than helping

As TNA (Total Non-stop Action) Wrestling approaches its 10th anniversary in June, the company continues to struggle to find its own identity. As I've often written here and elsewhere, they keep tripping over themselves looking for the right formula for success.

Beginning tonight, and lasting through the summer at the very least (and probably no further), Impact Wrestling will be broadcast live from Orlando, and, if they're very smart (doubtful), they'll finally take the show on the road on a more consistent basis, which has been the one major stumbling block that they have been hesitant to address in 10 years. Not only that, but, TNA is moving their show up by an hour to 8 (ET), rather than 9. That, I don't have a problem with, even though I don't follow TNA much anymore (and WWE is getting close to that same point, based on recent follies). Where I do have a problem is the patch for this latest quick fix in search of higher ratings.

TNA President Dixie Carter, proven time and again to be both a mark for the business and an easy mark for fading stars looking to extend their careers in exchange for easy money, is letting figurehead GM Hulk Hogan play the nepotism card by hiring on his daughter, Brooke, as the figurehead in charge of the women's division. Apparently, the failure of her VH1 reality show and her singing career hasn't deterred young Brooke from pursuing a career in show business, and she thinks riding on her dad's coat-tails is the only way she's getting anywhere.

Brooke spent what amounted to a cup of coffee in WWE 6 years ago as a supporting player in a storyline involving her father and Randy Orton, leading to a match at Summerslam. In this writer's view, she had all the charismatic presence of a broken toothpick. Apparently, she went to the same acting teacher as her father, which isn't saying much. It's not the first time that TNA has hired on the daughter of a famous wrestler. Just a couple of years ago, they had Lacey Von Erich, whose father, the late Kerry Von Erich, spent some time in WWE in the pre-Attitude Era 90's. Unfortunately, she lacked his charisma, too, and had the skills of a mannequin. Seriously. TNA let her go less than a year later, at her request.

Insofar as I'm concerned, Brooke is better off having her dad find her a gig doing commercials, just like Daddy (Hulk, in case you've been living in a cave, teams with Fox NFL analyst and former Cowboys QB Troy Aikman in a series of spots for Rent-a-Center.), but apparently, Hollywood has enough girls in her age range such that there aren't any openings.

For once, I am going to watch Impact tonight, just to see how things turn out. I think I know the result already, but if I'm Brooke, I'm asking Eric Bischoff (who produced her reality show) to find her another gig that will require her to actually do some acting, just in case she decides this ain't for her. Dixie Carter has said that Brooke won't don a leotard, tights, and boots to wrestle in the footsteps of her father, but I've a feeling the lure of the squared circle might be too tempting before the year is over. I hope I'm wrong, and I'd rather see her audition for General Hospital or 90210, anyway.

Like, look at it this way. Vince McMahon's daughter, Stephanie, made only one commercial (AT & T, w/Carrot Top, 2003), and quit while she was ahead, WWE PPV promotions aside. She proved she has screen presence, but opted to take the Kenny Rogers approach ("You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away....."). Brooke might be well served to follow if things get too risky too quickly, and in TNA, well, let's say Murphy's Law does apply........

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Weasel of the Week: Donald Trump

For the 2nd time, Donald Trump, not content with plotting the next season of Celebrity Apprentice, or any of his other business ventures, has earned a pair of weasel ears, and this time, we'll add a tail, because, let's face it, the man has absolutely no shame.

Trump hosted a fundraiser for Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday, and also called into the CNN program, The Situation Room, engaging in a debate with host Wolf Blitzer over----what else?---Trump's link to the "birthers". Trump thought the discussion was going to be about jobs and other campaign issues, but Blitzer, it seems, had other ideas.

The scenario now presented with Trump hitching his wagon to Romney tells me that Trump, who flirted with making a run for the White House himself before common sense took over, may be the x factor that costs Romney the election. Trump has never met a camera he didn't like, and he'll use the Romney campaign to keep the "birther" movement afloat for a few more months. It isn't enough that President Obama's approval rating is dropping, which ideally would set the stage for Romney to win the election in November, but Trump's involvement may offset that. Voters may be inclined to believe that they'd rather have the lesser of two evils, bearing in mind that under Obama's watch, our military forces took down Osama bin Laden a year ago, and might stick with the current President instead of making a change now. As long as Trump gets photo ops in the vicinity of Romney, it compromises the former Massachusetts governor's campaign.

The bottom line is, the "birthers" have, according to a Yahoo! article, been discredited, and the subject should be closed. As long as Trump's around, it won't be. If Romney wins, that won't be the end of the "birther" debate, because then, Trump may be looking at further discrediting the President. Do we really want that happening? I don't think so.

Dunce Cap Award: Benjamin I H Doyle

This week, we're sending out a Dunce Cap to a father in Iowa who committed the cardinal sin of trespassing on the field of play during a high school soccer game-----to pull his son off the field!

Benjamin IH Doyle, who is employed at the University of Iowa, felt that his son's grades were not good enough to warrant him playing soccer. Now, where I live, in upstate NY, soccer is a fall sport, has been for years. I guess the song is right. To everything, there is a season. I digress. Anyway, school officials, and the child's mother, presumably an estranged spouse or girlfriend of Doyle's---she was never identiified and neither was the child---felt that the kid's grades were actually good enough to allow him to play. I guess Doyle wouldn't be satisified unless his son was a straight-A student, and the kid, for all we know, could be getting B or C level grades. Police arrested Doyle, charging him with trespass and he's been banished from Iowa City High activities.

He admitted he let his temper get the best of him later on, realizing his mistake. And now you know why he's getting a Dunce Cap instead of weasel ears.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Eyesore no more: RPI rededicates the Chasan Building

The timing couldn't have been any better.

Days before Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) held its commencement exercises for the Class of 2012, renovation work was finally completed on the Chasan Building (misspelled as Chasen in The Record's articles the other day), which was rededicated a couple of days later. For several months, RPI-hired crews worked on the outer facades of the building, closing off the sidewalk at the corner of Broadway and Fourth Street, but, as with many construction projects, it dragged on for months for a number of reasons, not including weather.

What might've prompted the hasty conclusion of the renovations might've been not just a need to have it ready in time for graduation day, but also to open up the sidewalk in time for Troy's annual Flag Day parade on June 10, sparing citizens and tourists alike from a potential safety hazard. Throughout the last several months, a larger than needed barricade had been erected, forcing pedestrians to detour to the roadside, or across the road, when walking up Fourth Street, en route to, for example the post office. CDTA had to relocate a bus stop back down to State & Fourth Streets, a stop that had been discontinued months before, to accomodate the renovation process.

What RPI intends to do with the Chasan Building, reportedly, is use it for office space to make up for the state workers leaving for Albany. The usual detractors will complain that the building, which has previously housed a supermarket, a bank, and a sporting goods store, will be taken off the tax rolls. RPI has purchased a number of properties in recent years, expanding its campus community into downtown, to the point where there are more than a few people who think that eventually, the school's current president, Dr. Shirley Jackson, might be persuaded to make a run for the mayor's office. It has been under her watch that RPI has become more like a corporate land baron collective. Indeed, the Approach serves as a gateway from the campus directly into downtown, and has for years, but it might be in the school's best interests to create more of a interactive relationship with the rest of the city, rather than buying up and privatizing various properties for their own use. Dr. Jackson needs to be aware that as long as RPI maintains a dominant presence in the city proper, it needs to do its part to help the city's less fortunate.

To do that, RPI needs to reach out to the city's homeless and offer them the means to better themselves. Housing & jobs would be a good start toward rehabilitating the able-bodied-but-physically-unwilling and setting them on a path toward a better life. A step in that direction might be to put some of those homeless to work, even if it's menial labor, to help maintain the Chasan. We'll just see how it all plays out.

Musical Interlude: Take a Letter, Maria (1969)

R. B. Greaves had a huge one-off hit in 1969 with "Take a Letter, Maria". I remember hearing this song on the radio as a child, but at the time I never quite caught the artist's name if mentioned on the air. It took me a few years before I finally matched the artist to the song.

The following clip is taken from an episode of ABC's short-lived variety series, Music Scene. The last clip I pulled from that particular series featured Three Dog Night ("Eli's Coming"), but there are so few clips overall representing the series. Oh, well.......

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Classic TV: The Avengers (1961)

To most people, the British Invasion of the 60's centered on pop music, with the emergence of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Moody Blues, Herman's Hermits, The Who, and so on. However, music was not all that was imported from across the pond in those days. In fact, the UK had a fair number of television programs that crossed over to the US around that time. At first, it was shows like The Adventures of Robin Hood, and The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, which paved the way for its distributor-producer, ITC, to make a greater impact with spy shows like Secret Agent (aka Danger Man), and The Champions, crime dramas such as The Saint, and children's fare, using puppets (i.e. Stingray & Thunderbirds).

The spy explosion of the 60's also opened the door for The Avengers to cross over, but by the time it arrived here, the series had already made a couple of casting changes.

When The Avengers bowed in 1961, its stars were Ian Hendry & Patrick Macnee. In fact, Macnee would be the constant through the course of the entire series, as his character of agent John Steed became ultra popular rather quickly. Hendry left, and Honor Blackman was cast in his place as Catherine Gale. In recent times, the A & E network acquired episodes from the Blackman era, but I'm not so sure about the Hendry run.

When ABC in the US acquired The Avengers, Blackman had left to make movies, and was succeeded by Diana Rigg as presumed widow Emma Peel. You can imagine how sales of black leather jumpsuits skyrocketed as a result. I say presumed, you see, because after a couple of years, Rigg left the show, and the exit was in the form of Mrs. Peel learning that her husband was in fact alive. So much for the flirting between Mrs. Peel and the wisecracking Steed. Enter Tara King (Linda Thorson), who at first looked to be a little on the demure side, but, as you'll see in the following video montage, was repackaged as a near-ringer for Mrs. Peel, and they again began to play up a potential relationship between the two partners in peril. Unfortunately, this incarnation of the series came to an end, leaving viewers wondering what might've been.

In the mid-70's, reruns aired in NYC on WOR, channel 9, early in the evening, and when I could, I'd watch in lieu of the evening news. I was hooked. At the end of the decade, the series was revived as The New Avengers, as Patrick Macnee returned to the role that made him an icon, this time joined by Joanna Lumley (years before Absolutely Fabulous) as the sexy, mono-named Purdey, and Gareth Hunt, who doesn't have as deep a resume, it would seem, as Mike Gambit. CBS picked up New Avengers as part of a rotation for its CBS Late Movie package, and, as with reruns of The Saint that the network had also acquired, I found myself falling asleep and missing chunks of episodes.

Having never bothered with Absolutely Fabulous, I'd be considered biased by saying that Joanna Lumley looked a lot hotter as Purdey, but that's just the way it is.

Interestingly, musical director Laurie Johnson's score was released on an album issued by----get this---Hanna Barbera's record label. I kid you not. It makes one wonder, though, whether or not the animation giant was angling for a licensing deal to adapt The Avengers into an animated series, but nothing ever came of it, even if it were in the talking stages.

The classic era of Steed & Mrs. Peel also found its way into comics, first with a short run at Gold Key in the 60's, and then, more than 2 decades later, a miniseries first published by Eclipse (and since reprinted by another publisher), and written by Scottish writer and fan of all things 60's, it would seem, Grant Morrison. I actually had that miniseries at one time.

As I noted when I reviewed "Marvel's The Avengers" earlier this month, the comics giant put their name on the film to avoid confusion with the 1998 adaptation of The Avengers, which starred Sean Connery, Uma Thurman, and Ralph Fiennes, and is considered one of the worst films of the decade, if not of all time. I don't think that would preclude anyone from trying again, although some might think Mike Myers may have been influenced somewhat as he prepared the spy spoof "Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery", as Powers was a parody cross between James Bond and Maxwell Smart, with a dash of Steed thrown in for good measure, at least in this writer's opinion.

Anyway, for those of you who've never seen the Ian Hendry era, here's a sample open/close:

Writer Dennis Spooner is better known for his work with ITC.

Now, I'm sure you recognize this from the Rigg era:

Rating (covering only the Peel-King era and what I saw of New Avengers): A-.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Musical Interlude: And We Danced (1985)

A night at the drive-in, and the main attraction is......The Hooters?

That was the idea behind the video for "And We Danced", the 2nd single from the band's 1985 album, "Nervous Night". With drive-in theatres having opened for the season, you wonder sometimes why bands don't play there as opening acts anymore.......!

Uploaded by the band's VEVO channel.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What's next? Kosher Bat-franks? (2011)

Hebrew National has long prided itself on being 100% kosher, with no additives, preservatives, et al. I can recall a classic spot where they had a guy dressed as Uncle Sam holding a Hebrew National frank in hand as an off-camera narrator extolled the virtues, then acknowledged that Hebrew National answered "to a higher authority".

A brand new ad campaign, launched last year in conjunction with the Funny or Die online folks, has brought Hebrew National straight up into the 21st century. There are no references to God this time, but the shocking part here is the selection of narrator. No less than Adam West (ex-Batman), currently playing an animated version of himself on Family Guy to keep himself on the pop culture radar. If only they'd made this back in the 60's...........

Edit, 3/28/17: This isn't the same ad we used before, but it'll do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rockin' Funnies: Cow Tippin' (mid 1990's)

The Lawn Sausages were a novelty rock act that were at the very heart of the upstate New York music scene in the 1990's. Founded by a couple of local businessmen who just wanted to channel their inner rock stars and have some fun doing it, the Sausages, based out of my home town of Troy, played only a small handful of gigs a year, and usually some of the bookings were for charitable causes. Others found them at the usual area nightspots, such as Valentine's & Bogie's in Albany and the defunct New Town Tavern in downtown Troy.

I've seen these guys do their act a few times, and they're the kind of guys you'd invite to a frat party for entertainment. They'd fit right in.

BillyBelaire uploaded this concert performance of "Cow Tippin'", recorded at Valentine's.

They're not the kind who'll play bar mitzvahs, but, hey, stranger things have been known to happen..........

Weasel of the Week: Dan DiDio

DC Comics publisher Dan DiDio made an announcement at a recent convention in London, England that has the industry abuzz. Problem is, the speculation over that same announcement could lead to one of the biggest letdowns of all time.

In case you missed it, DiDio dropped a hint that a pre-existing character would "come out of the closet", becoming the most prominent gay character in comics. He didn't say when it would happen, nor who it would be, the latter likely because even he isn't sure about who it'll be. One thing is certain. The announcement served a specific purpose, to gain some mainstream attention, and only because DC is lagging behind when it comes to promoting its gay & lesbian characters.

Consider the following:

Batwoman: Kate Kane was introduced about 4 years ago, and is the first gay heroine to headline her own ongoing series, at least that I know of. I do recall seeing some articles that promoted the book, but the series saw a several months gap between issues 0 & 1 so that it would be included as part of the "New 52" last fall. The fact that Batwoman is linked to one of the company's iconic characters, the Batman, by association, certainly doesn't hurt.

Renee Montoya: Formerly a detective in the Gotham City Police Department, Renee was introduced to fans 20 years ago on Batman: The Animated Series, and later transitioned into the mainstream DC Universe. At one time, it was suggested she harbored a crush on the Dark Knight himself (and what girl wouldn't, really?). In the pages of Gotham Central, Renee was outed as a lesbian, which was strange considering there had been no previous hints in that direction. The outing seemed to come out of left field. These days, Renee has traded her badge for the featureless identity of The Question, having taken over that identity about 4 years ago.

These two examples alone would practically disqualify Batman, who has been the target of gay rumors ever since Dr. Frederick Wertham's infamous Seduction of the Innocent was released in the 50's. Not only that, but there is the small matter of the Caped Crusader getting busy with Catwoman in the pages of her book last fall. Like, don't ya think Batman has more than a little James Bond to him, after all, an attribute passed down to past Robins, such as Dick Grayson (now Nightwing) and Jason Todd (Red Hood)?

Some will suggest it's Wonder Woman only because of the fact the Amazons live by themselves on an island, and that the Amazing Amazon herself was borne out of clay, and not through natural means. If DiDio goes in this direction, there will be a major backlash to be had.

Others will claim it's Superman. To them, I say, stop the freakin' pain! DiDio's recent reboot of the DCU erased the Man of Steel's marriage to reporter Lois Lane, and you'd think they'd be building toward putting them back together as a couple.

Still others think it might be Aquaman. Oh, please.

I just have this gut feeling that it's not going to be truly an "A-list" character. Too much backlash if it's either Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman. No, what I see happening is that it'll be someone who's been under the radar that DC wants to promote and bring up to the "A-list". What gets DiDio the weasel ears is the fact that he's risking being accused of pulling a bait & switch because of this. He's getting people talking, but the con is on the fans for falling for this shell game.

Look, I respect the moves made within the industry to appeal to the gay & lesbian community. Archie Comics introduced a new character, Kevin Keller, a few short months ago, as their first openly gay character. He is the first such male to headline his own monthly book for a major publisher, and, if you read the alternate-future, dual-storyline Life With Archie series, Keller has already had a lasting relationship with his partner. At Marvel, Jean-Paul Baubier, aka Northstar, formerly of the Canadian mutant superteam, Alpha Flight, and currently associated with the X-Men, came out 20 years ago, and Marvel is marking the anniversary with their first same-sex marriage, taking place next month, as reported earlier today on Yahoo!. DC took that bold step 10 years ago with two characters from Wildstorm's The Authority, Apollo & The Midnighter, having tied the knot. Where DiDio is failing is putting the word out there before finalizing what his plans are. A lot can change between now and whenever DiDio makes this move official. Then again, the next time the company decides to do a reboot, it'll negate the "outing" if it doesn't click with readers. In that regard, DiDio should heed the words of George Santayana:

"Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it."

5 years ago, Marvel misfired when they hired Ron Zimmerman, a writer for Howard Stern, to reboot the Rawhide Kid as gay. The subsequent miniseries tanked, only because Zimmerman was clearly doing this for laughs and not taking this seriously at all. Then-editor-in-chief Joe Quesada treated it like it was a major event, because he gained mainstream media attention. Suffice to say, DiDio could end up making the same mistake that Quesada made, and, oh, will he ever regret it if he does!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Robin Gibb (1949-2012)

It has just come over the wires over the last half hour, and I just received an e-mail from a contact in Long Island. The music world is mourning anew this evening, this time over the passing of Robin Gibb, one of the founding members of the Bee Gees, at 62 from intestinal cancer, the same disease that claimed his twin brother, Maurice, 9 years ago.

The Bee Gees amassed a string of hits from the early 70's through the late 80's, and even wrote hits for other artists, including Samantha Sang ("Emotion", 1978), Yvonne Ellman ("If I Can't Have You"), and Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton ("Islands in the Stream", 1983). The watershed album remains the powerhouse soundtrack to 1977's "Saturday Night Fever", with the signature single, "Staying Alive".

The Gibb brothers had successfully transitioned from middle-of-the-road pop ("How Do You Mend a Broken Heart", "Massachusetts") to disco ("How Deep Is Your Love", "Staying Alive") and back again ("You Win Again", "One"). Now, Barry, 65, is the lone brother remaining. Youngest brother Andy, for whom Barry & Robin had written hits such as "Shadow Dancing", had passed away years earlier at 30.

As a tribute to Robin, here are the Bee Gees, all together, with "Staying Alive". Courtesy of the band's YouTube channel:

Rest in peace, Robin. Rock on.

In Theatres: Crooked Arrows (2012)

Everyone loves an underdog story, right?

Hollywood has produced a fair amount of sports movies with that particular theme over the years. The "Bad News Bears" series. "Hoosiers". "Miracle". Now comes an independent film that takes on a sport that wasn't quite so popular 30 years ago, and the heritage that comes with it.

"Crooked Arrows" was produced in conjunction with the Onondaga Nation in Western New York, and, in the open, explains the origins of lacrosse, which was created by Native Americans around the 13th century. In 2012, a Native American school lacrosse team fills the underdog role of the likes of the Bears. When we first meet these kids, they're having trouble just scoring goals, let alone winning.

Enter Joe Logan (Brandon Routh, "Superman Returns", also an executive producer and a part-Native American himself), who had played the game at snooty Coventry Academy, but had cost his team the state championship 14 years ago. Today, Logan runs a casino, and is attempting to negotiate a land deal that will benefit both the Sunoquat nation and the businessman he works for. In order to make the deal happen, Logan, reluctantly, becomes the coach of the lacrosse team, aided by his younger sister, who was injured in a game. Not only that, but Logan must also reconnect with his tribal heritage in order to succeed.

In the tradition of the above films, the Sunoquat Crooked Arrows reach the state title game vs. Coventry, a game meriting television coverage (ESPN's Sean McDonough makes a cameo appearance), and, well, I think you can guess the rest. After all the growing pains, both spiritually and as a team, have the Arrows matured enough to finally overcome the one obstacle in their path? Hmmmmmm, you don't suppose.......

Here's the trailer, from the movie's YouTube channel:

It can be construed that this would be a comeback vehicle for Routh, who wasn't exactly a hit with critics as Superman 6 years ago. He comes across as a Tom Cruise clone, circa "Rain Man" more than "Jerry Maguire", but the movie as a whole is equal parts "Bad News Bears" & "Thunderheart".

"Crooked Arrows" is getting the select cities treatment for now, and for once, Albany got to be one of those "select cities". It opens in wider release in a couple of weeks. Some of the trailers were the same ones I saw last week (i.e. "Brave", "Amazing Spider-Man"), plus "Men in Black 3", opening this week, and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days", the 3rd movie in that series. To each their own discretion.

Rating: A-.

Classic TV: Charlie's Angels (1976)

ABC thought they might be doing something right by reviving an iconic series from the 70's last fall, but, marking its 35th anniversary, Charlie's Angels fell flat and was cancelled well before Christmas. Where did it go wrong? Well......

First, the series was set in Miami, rather than in Los Angeles and/or its surrounding environs. Second, it was airing on Thursdays, instead of Wednesdays, which was its home during the original series' run (1976-81). Third, the detectives weren't true Angels in the purest sense, as they were ex-cons instead. Finally, aside from co-executive producer Drew Barrymore, who'd starred in two feature films based on the franchise a few years prior, the only "name" was model Minka Kelly, better known for having been the armpiece of New York Yankees superstar Derek Jeter for a few years. It was a coincidence of bad timing that saw them break up just before the new Angels hit the air.

Today, the original Angels was given an all-day marathon on Cloo, spotlighting mostly season 2 episodes, but let's cover the series in general.

When it launched in 1976, Charlie's Angels was yet another crime drama from the Aaron Spelling factory. Spelling had been supplying series almost exclusively to ABC ever since he'd launched his own studio in the mid-60's after leaving Four Star. The concept had a small element of The Millionaire in that the Angels' boss, private eye Charlie Townshend, was heard but never seen (voiced by an uncredited John Forsythe, ex-Bachelor Father). As Charlie explains in the open, he'd plucked a trio of police academy graduates from menial duties with the LAPD to become his operatives, aided by on-site supervisor John Bosley (David Doyle). After the first season, pin-up icon Farrah Fawcett(-Majors), at the time married to Six Million Dollar Man star Lee Majors, left to pursue a movie career. Cheryl Ladd, at the time more known as one of the singing voices behind Josie & The Pussycats, was brought in. After the third season, Kate Jackson (ex-The Rookies), who'd been a Spelling standby for so long, left, replaced by Shelley Hack. Tanya Roberts took over the following---and final---season. Got all that?

Charlie's Angels came under criticism from the predictable corners (i.e. moral zealots) due to being one of the leaders of the "jiggle TV" movement of the period, which put more emphasis on the use of its female leads as sex objects. The way I look it, watching the reruns through the years, is that if you just follow the stories, and pay no mind to how the characters are dressed, there are no issues to be had.

Let's go back to the Cheryl Ladd era intro:

At the end of the day, Charlie's Angels was just another cookie-cutter crime drama of the period. Spelling would churn out a few more of those, of course.

Rating: B+.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A little bit of this and a little bit of that

The CW announced their fall lineup on Thursday, and, quite frankly, while I give them credit for finally putting together five nights without having the same show air twice, they really need to start thinking outside the box a little more and develop some new ideas. Among the 2012-13 freshman class:

The Carrie Diaries: A prequel to the wildly popular Sex & The City, which still airs in reruns, be it on basic cable or in syndication (check listings), and spawned two movies.

Beauty & The Beast: A reboot of the former CBS hit from the late 80's-early 90's that starred Linda Hamilton & Ron Perlman. Where it led off the night on CBS back in the day, this Beast has the returning Vampire Diaries as a lead-in.

Arrow: As in, Green Arrow, last seen on Smallville, but this time, the role's been recast, and this new series has zero to do with Smallville. The downside is that this will air on Wednesdays, rather than Thursday or Friday, where Smallville aired during its 10 year run.

You could probably guess which one actually interests me......!

The John Travolta sex abuse case just won't go away. John Doe #2, from this point to be known as Jabroni #2, withdrew his suit the other day, perhaps realizing what the rest of us knew, that he had zero chance of getting the money he thought he deserved. Jabroni #1, undaunted by the fact that Travolta had an airtight alibi to begin with, changed lawyers to Gloria Allred, which only extends Ms. Allred's 15 minutes. Business must be bad at her office to take on a lost cause.

Reading reviews on this week's movies in the New York Daily News this morning, I can't help but think that the critics double-faulted first-time actress Brooklyn Decker, who appears in "What To Expect When You're Expecting" (w/Jennifer Lopez) and "Battleship" (w/Rhianna and Liam Neeson). The erstwhile model should know something about double-faults. She's married to tennis star Andy Roddick. The critics weren't kind to either movie, as "Battleship" got the ol' gongeroo, as Chuck Barris used to say back in the day (that is, it got zero stars), and "Expecting" got one star. Then again, it's what the movies earn at the box office that count more, so we'll see come Sunday.

As for "Battleship", the former Milton Bradley game now manufactured by Hasbro (which absorbed MB a while back), who was the alleged genius that sold this idea to Universal? At least we know it wasn't directed by Michael Bay ("Transformers"), though you can't tell by the trailers.........!

Rumors are swirling that Jennifer Lopez is leaving American Idol after 2 seasons because she's "too busy". Now, I know she developed a similarly themed series for the Latin market with her ex-husband, singer Marc Anthony, but at least she's doing something worthwhile, as opposed to fellow judge du jour Steven Tyler. The Aerosmith vocalist is one of a handful of celebrities shilling for Burger King, but his spot just reeks of bad, trainwreck TV. I'm not going to even justify its existence by posting it.

And if J-Lo is leaving, could Paula Abdul, bounced from The X-Factor after 1 season, return to Idol? Like, they've tried Ellen DeGeneres (1 season) and Lopez (2) in her chair, but maybe Idol regains its charm if Paula "comes home"?

WWE announced Thursday that they will expand their flagship show, Monday Night Raw, to 3 hours a week, beginning July 23. That gives them two months to clean up the creative mess they're already in, as they have a charisma-challenged, corrupt GM running the show (John Laurinaitis), and saw the ratings dip below 3.0 this week. Expanding the show is not the answer. Like, didn't they remember that going from 2 to 3 hours started WCW's Monday Nitro on its slow demise?

In related news, TNA will try to broadcast live again beginning at the end of the month. They're planning to move Impact up an hour to 8 pm (ET), and now, they intend to go with live episodes every week. They'd be well served to start making travel plans, because airing the show from Universal Studios in Orlando week after week ain't going to cut it. The promotion is ratings-challenged to begin with. They need a marketing specialist who understands viewers' tendencies to help them map out a path, but that's low on the budget's priority list.. Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan's daughter, Brooke, who has failed as a pop star (no shock) and a reality TV star (ditto) joins her father in TNA, but pray she doesn't put on a leotard and tights and try to follow in daddy's footsteps as a wrestler. Just ain't gonna happen.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Donna Summer (1948-2012)

I first found this out when I was watching the noon news at work. The music business has lost another of its all-time greats with the passing of Donna Summer at 63 after a bout with cancer.

The first lady of the disco era, Summer scored a string of hits with songs like "Bad Girls", "MacArthur Park", "Love to Love You Baby", "Hot Stuff", "On The Radio", "Enough is Enough (No More Tears)"(a duet with Barbra Streisand), and "She Works Hard For the Money" between 1975 and 1983. "Money", in fact, was Donna's first music video to ever appear on MTV.

Ignored by top 40 radio in the 90's, Donna gave acting a shot, guest starring on Family Matters as a relative of Steve Urkel (Jaleel White). The guest shot gave Donna a chance to dust off another of her disco classics, "Last Dance". She even had the opportunity to sit in as a guest co-host for a day with Dick Clark on American Bandstand.

Following is a clip, presumably from Solid Gold, since it sounds like Dionne Warwick did the intro, of Donna singing "On The Radio":

Rest in peace, Donna.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Will the Hulk return to television?

Disney-owned ABC made some noise on Tuesday, but not just with the announcement of their fall schedule.

In fact, they're actually looking ahead to the 2013-4 season, and the prospect of bringing back a fan favorite series from the 70's and early 80's that didn't air on the network the first time around. That would be The Incredible Hulk.

In the late 70's, Marvel Comics, now owned by Disney as well, saw the opportunity to have some of their heroes cross over to the small screen, but not just on Saturday mornings. The Amazing Spider-Man didn't even last a full season at CBS in 1977, and some episodes have surfaced on cable as TV-movie compilations in the intervening years since. Prior to that, the web-spinner had appeared on PBS' Electric Company, with Danny Seagren playing a largely silent Spidey, whose dialogue flashed on the screen in the form of thought balloons, the kind used in the comics. That made Nicholas Hammond the second actor to don the webs, not the first, and certainly not the last, the latest being Andrew Garfield in the forthcoming feature film.

Spidey had the misfortune of having independent producer Charles Fries holding the rights, and the network airing the show on the wrong night (Wednesdays, as I recall). Hulk, seemingly, enjoyed favored nation status, since a major studio---Universal---picked up the license, and got a healthy run anchoring CBS' Friday night lineup, which also included Dallas & The Dukes of Hazzard. There've been two animated series since for Hulk, while we've lost track of all the Spider-toons that have landed in the 35 years since the live-action show crashed & burned. Universal also produced TV-movies starring Captain America (2) and Doctor Strange, but when Incredible Hulk ended, so did the union between Marvel & Universal.

The runaway success "The Avengers" has enjoyed since first opening overseas three weeks ago certainly has created a renewed interest in reviving Hulk as a primetime series, but the tricky part is finding the right actors to play both the green goliath and his "puny" alter-ego, Dr. Bruce Banner. Disney has to understand that they have to find the right combination to please the fans of the franchise, else this version could wind up like the revivals of Bionic Woman, Knight Rider (both on NBC), Night Stalker, & Charlie's Angels (both ABC), and end up cancelled after 1 season.

It also requires finding the right place on the schedule. Fridays, which the Hulk ruled before, could still be a fertile ground. Coupling Hulk with a new breakout hit like Once Upon a Time on Sundays would actually be a ratings boost for ABC. We'll see in about a year's time just how it plays out.

That's just my opinion. Your actual mileage may vary.

Celebrity (?) Rock: My Name is Tallulah (1976)

Now, here's one for the books.

Future Academy Award winner Jodie Foster was just 13 when she made "Bugsy Malone" in 1976. The only other "name" in the cast was Scott Baio, who'd parlay the gig into a run on Happy Days, and, well, you know the rest of his story, I'm sure.

The gimmick to "Malone", a musical that had kids playing adult-type characters in the days of prohibition, was that older performers were dubbed in for musical numbers. One such case involves Ms. Foster, whose character, Tallulah, takes center stage in the following clip, but the singing voice certainly isn't Jodie's at all.

A number of years back, I found a copy of the soundtrack album----on vinyl, mind you---at a second hand store. I put it back on the shelf, but not before reading the back cover and learning who actually did the vocals. The actress whose voice you'll hear in "My Name is Tallulah", is comedienne-turned-voice-actress-turned-gourmet chef Louise "Liberty" Williams, who would appear on the sitcom Busting Loose the following spring, but may be better known to a couple of generations of cartoon fans as the voice of Wonder Twin Jayna on the Super Friends from 1977-84. Louise may have honed her singing talents while with the comedy troupe, the Groundlings, before turning to television, for all we know. Check it out for yourself, pilgrims, and let me know what you think......

"Bugsy Malone" is hardly shown on television these days, depending on who has the cable rights, but I think it may be available on DVD.

WWE 2012: Stuck in a rut they can't get out of

I've been watching professional wrestling off and on, mostly on, since the 70's, when it aired on both Saturday and Sunday in my home market. The advent of cable created more options for viewing, which I didn't really exploit until years later. However, there comes a time when one must recognize when the product that has been the most dominant in its industry is so totally stuck in a holding pattern, unable to adjust to the times in an appropriate manner, such that even the most diehard fan needs to walk away.

Now, I'm not quite ready to walk away entirely. Not with Ring of Honor now available on local television on the weekends. Suddenly, it might be a good idea to wait until Saturday anyway, given the treadmill the WWE's been on.

10 months ago, WWE's oft-criticized creative staff decided that Vince McMahon's "Mr. McMahon" persona had seemingly run its course after 14 years and Vince, who will be 66 in August, had to step away from the cameras. Indeed, he's only made off-air appearances at some events since then, his last television appearance on Monday Night Raw having been back in October. His influence, however, is still very apparent, annoying, and needs to be completely expunged for WWE to move forward in 2012.

Former wrestler John Laurinaitis, uncle of St. Louis Rams star James Laurinaitis, is the figurehead GM of both Raw & Friday Night Smackdown, but, having been a constant presence on television since July, is guilty of perpetuating one of the moldiest acts in the company. In effect, Laurinaitis, who will wrestle on an American PPV for the first time since the 90's on Sunday, is acting as a proxy for McMahon, a plot point the creative team has for now been told to ignore until such time when they'll be allowed to put it across. Problem is, most fans already have figured it out, and are slowly tuning out. Last night's installment of Raw had simply too much Laurinaitis in terms of air time. In other words, he's long since worn out his welcome, just like McMahon, and in a remarkably shorter period of time.

Consider the following:

1. The Big Show was screwed out of another match by a distraction from Laurinaitis, all because one week ago, after Laurinaitis walked into the colossus, who was minding his own business, Show mimicked Laurinaitis, and was forced to apologize. Of course, Laurinaitis wasn't buying it then, and he didn't buy it last night, either, and "fired" the former champion.

2. Laurinaitis will face another former champion, John Cena, on Sunday. The Board of Directors, sensing the match would spiral out of control with McMahonesque last minute stips, acted to block such action by decreeing that there would be no outside interference. However, by "firing" Show, Laurinaitis has given himself an escape route, one that can still be negated if the scribbling idiots can figure it out in time, and I doubt it. Figure on this. Big Show returns on Sunday, turns on Cena, and gift wraps the match for Laurinaitis, with the obvious explanation the next night that he needed to do it to get his job back. Western Union couldn't have telegraphed it any easier.

3. The one man who could put a halt to all this, Triple H, has his own issues at the moment, leading to a PPV match vs. Brock Lesnar, likely at Summerslam in August, though rumors suggest it could happen sooner than that. The right thing to do would be for HHH to act on Monday and overrule the result, citing the obvious backdoor deal between Show & Laurinaitis, in the hope of showing the giant how much of a dirtbag Laurinaitis has become, so drunk with power is he.

The problem is that McMahon has gone to the well one time too many with the evil boss gimmick. Since 1997, it's been McMahon himself, despite periods where he's been a babyface, Eric Bischoff (now with TNA), Paul Heyman, Kurt Angle (who put his career aside for 3 months in 2004), and Vickie Guerrero, whose own gimmick is so moldy, bacteria has gone on strike, and now Laurinaitis, who had a run as an evil boss at Ohio Valley Wrestling back around 2003-4, when OVW was a farm program for WWE. It has to stop, and eventually, it will, but apparently, not as long as McMahon still has a pulse and a say in company matters. I've said for years that the chair shots McMahon had taken, starting with an accidental one from Roddy Piper around 1991, had addled his brain such that not only is his on camera persona borderline insane, but so is the man himself, and that's something he'll never cop to, to protect his own ego and image.

Sooner or later, McMahon will return, forced back to cop to this latest scam, and if creative plays it right, it will be end game for McMahon, who may be also suffering from premature senility. Any man his age should be bouncing the grandkids off his knees and reading bedtime stories. Not McMahon, who hasn't learned the lesson of the late Al Davis, whose blatant mismanagement of the Oakland Raiders went unchecked until he finally passed away last year. Even George Steinbrenner, who passed away 2 years ago, knew when to step back. Triple H and wife Stephanie are more than ready to take the reins of the company for real, but are being held back by a man whose stubborness would make mules jealous.

In times like these, I often remember a line from "Batman":

"Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?"

I'd like to have someone whisper that in McMahon's ear someday, and see how he reacts, because, let's face it, judgment day is coming for him, and soon.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Musical Interlude: I Love a Rainy Night (1980)

The late singer-songwriter Eddie Rabbitt started his career writing hits for Elvis Presley & Ronnie Milsap, among others, but by the end of the 70's, he was climbing the charts himself.

From 1980's "Horizon" album comes "I Love a Rainy Night", which would be appropriate mood music, one would think, if it is in fact raining. Uploaded by zretro, who pulled this clip from an episode of Solid Gold.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sounds of Praise: Everything is Beautiful (1970)

Ray Stevens is better known for novelty hits like "Ahab the Arab" & "Guitarzan" in the 60's, and "The Streak" in the 70's, and even headlined his own NBC variety show in the early 70's, as memory serves.

But, there was a more serious side to Stevens, steeped in gospel music, and, mixed in with those comedy classics were a couple of tracks that crossed between the gospel and country or pop charts. One was a cover of the traditional hymnal, "Turn Your Radio On", and the other was 1970's "Everything is Beautiful". I remember the youth pastor of a church I attended in the 70's teaching kids the opening lines to "Beautiful", but never making the connection until I acquired a used 45 of the song at a second hand shop after moving to my current abode.

The following clip, culled from Stevens' YouTube channel, was shot in more recent times for a DVD release, and thus you have a different chorus than the original track, which was comprised mostly of Sunday School children, I think.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

In Theatres: Marvel's The Avengers (2012)

Let me just get this out of the way first. While it hasn't been confirmed, a good reason why Marvel Comics put their name on "The Avengers" was to avoid confusion with an ill-received feature film based on the other Avengers, which came out a few years ago. Some people are anal like that.

Enough digression. Let me just summarize "Marvel's The Avengers" for you.

It starts with Loki, the adopted (so he says) half-brother of Thor. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been tasked to locate the Tessaract, which comics fans know better by the more common appellation of the Cosmic Cube. Now, who would hire on Loki to be a courier? Ah, that would be telling, and while most online fanboy critics have already spoiled it, I ain't one of them. Anyway, in the course of hijacking the Cube from S.H.I.E.L.D., Loki subjugates agent Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and a scientist friend of Thor's to do his bidding. Considering that Barton's backstory for this movie has him as an assassin instead of a carnival archer, this fits.

Confounded and concerned, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) begins assembling the troops, starting with the sexy superspy, Natasha Romanoff, aka the Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen), who is herself being interrogated by some enemy agents. Handcuffed to a chair, the Widow still manages to beat the crap out of these guys and make good her escape. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is busy pounding away on a heavy bag when Fury comes a'callin'. The Widow locates Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in another country. Agent Phil Coulson meets with Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), and one surprise is the seeming friendship between Coulson and Stark's secretary-girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Tasty. As Captain America, Rogers locates Loki in Germany and engages him in battle.

Surprisingly, Loki is captured, but that's when the fun really begins, especially after Thor (Chris Hemsworth, "The Cabin in the Woods") takes him out of S.H.I.E.L.D. custody to exact his own vengeance. That leads to the predictable battle royale with Cap & Iron Man. In due course, with Loki back in custody, the seeds of discord are planted among the heroes. Inevitably, Banner morphs into the Hulk and there is something that was left over from ol' Greenskin's last film brought to bear.

The Cube is being used to create a portal that will bring an alien armada to our world. Barton is finally freed from Loki's control by the Widow, and there are hints of the romance that they had shared in the comics way back when. You really need to see what happens when Loki tries to reason with Hulk. In a word, hilarious.

Suffice to say, the invasion is thwarted, Loki, Thor, & the Cube head back to Asgard, and everyone else settles back into their own lives. Well, almost everyone. One casualty to speak of. I won't say who.

Seems to me that writer-director Joss Whedon, the genius who gave us Buffy, the Vampire Slayer 20 years ago, thought one hot agent in a black jumpsuit wasn't enough. It's uniformly necessary for S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, particularly Maria Hill (Cobie Smoulders, How I Met Your Mother), cast here as Fury's second in command. The closing credits give us a clue as to what to expect in the eventual sequel, which won't be ready for at least another 3 years. "Iron Man 3" is on the docket for next year.

Clocking in at a shade over 2 hours, "Avengers" works, but drags in spots. All the predictable Marvel touches are there, including the inevitable cameo by Stan Lee.

Among the trailers:

"Battleship" (next weekend). Ugg.
"Dark Knight Rises" (July 20). I don't like Bane's outfit, particularly the mask, but it looks like they hit the jackpot with Catwoman.
"Amazing Spider-Man" (July 6). The wild card may actually be Denis Leary (ex-Rescue Me) as Capt. Stacy, more so than the use of the Lizard.
"Brave" (coming out next month, I believe). A female Robin Hood? Sort of, but not quite.
"End of Watch" (September). Reminds me of "Colors" a generation ago, but with a different vibe.
"Frankenweenie" (October). Tim Burton returns to Disney. That's usually a winning combination.

Speaking of trailers, here's one for "Avengers", compliments of Marvel's YouTube channel:

Rating: A-.

Friday, May 11, 2012

If you're afraid of going to jail, why do the crime?

"Don't do the crime if you can't do the time"---line from "Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow", the theme from Baretta, as sung by Sammy Davis, Jr..

We've seen this happen with these mass murders here, there, and everywhere in this country the last few years. A guy opens fire for no reason,  but when he realizes he's going to go to jail, he kills himself to avoid prosecution. Oh, sure, that might save the taxpayers a few thousand dollars in court costs to go through with a trial, but the fact remains that the perpetrator, in essence, took the ultimate escape route.

And, then, there is the case of Adam Mayes, 35, of Guntown, Mississippi, who decided to take his own life rather than be captured by local and federal authorities on kidnapping & murder charges.

Mayes, based on news accounts, had to have been mentally disturbed when he killed JoAnn Bain and her oldest daughter, Adrienne, 2 weeks ago, and abducted Mrs. Bain's other two daughters, Alexandria & Kyliyah, taking them and the dead bodies across state lines from Tennessee to Mississippi, where he tried to pass the two girls off as his own.  Mayes' ex-wife and mother were arrested earlier this week for their roles in the case. The ex-mother-in-law, Josie Tate, told an ABC news affiliate that her daughter, Teresa, and Mayes argued over whether or not Mayes was in fact the father of the two girls. In order to prove his claims, then, Mayes decided he had to have them, regardless of the consequences.

Now, if Mayes was of sound mind, and clearly, he wasn't, he could've challenged the paternity of the children. He didn't take that step, probably because he didn't have the funds to try. He became obsessed with the two children, convinced that they were his. Sadly, he opted to take the coward's escape by taking his own life, rather than let the truth come out through a psychological examination. We can only speculate, but it seems there's more to this story, and it'll trickle out in due course. The worst part of it all is, some huckster will sell the story to a certain cable network for a quickie TV-movie that'll get played into the ground within a year of its premiere..............

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Musical Interlude: A Girl In Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing) (1984)

Last night, I was watching TheCoolTV, and caught a clip of Romeo Void's "Never Say Never". I was then reminded of their other major hit of the 80's, the cautionary "A Girl In Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)", from their 1984 album, "Instincts". I had never seen this video until now, and until last night, I hadn't seen "Never", either.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

These Weasels have no names to protect them from public humiliation

We are handing out some more Weasel of the Week awards, as Teresa Bloodman's brainless lawsuit in Arkansas was just the tip of the iceberg, if ya will, when it comes to the actions of a few mindless souls.

In Minnesota, an unwed mother and her beau shaved the head of her 12 year old daughter and made her wear a diaper (!) as a bizarre form of punishment because of bad grades. Yo, when I was a kid, a bad report card simply meant I was grounded for a few days. Seems to me that Mama Nutjob may have spent too much time doing anything other than raising her kid beforehand, if ya catch my drift.

In Los Angeles, two masseurs have separately sued actor John Travolta for lewd conduct, which will begin a fresh round of insinuations about his true sexual orientation. Travolta's lawyer says that Travolta was nowhere near California when any of the alleged incidents went down, and that the masseurs might've been fooled by a lookalike, or a reasonable facsimile of one, such that they thought it was the real deal. I was tempted to pockmark this with some classic Vinnie Barbarino schtick from Welcome Back, Kotter (I think you know what I mean), but we'll pass.

Meanwhile, a small hip-hop label is suing the Beastie Boys for copyright infringement due to some samples used on their first two CD's, "License to Ill" & "Paul's Boutique". Problem is, the copyright laws the jabroni label is referencing didn't go into effect until well after those records were released. I won't even waste time mentioning the name of the label to save them further embarassment.

One of my teachers in my senior year in high school said it best. Stupidity runs rampant. Oh, it sure does.

Weasel of the Week: Teresa Bloodman

Only in the South would something like this happen.

An Arkansas parent is suing her school district and the high school where her son attends classes simply because the lad was cut from the varsity basketball team.

Now, wait, you're saying. Why is this story coming out now, when high school hoops season ended two months ago or better for most kids?

Consider for a moment the judgment of the coaching staff at Maumelle High in Arkansas. After two preseason tryouts in August, they had their team. 10 out of the 11 players picked, including the son of our subject, were inexplicably cut in favor of players from the football team. No explanation.

Football players in other sports is fairly common at the high school level, especially at my alma mater, Troy High, where football players regularly will segue to basketball once the gridiron season is over. Some players will move on to other pursuits, such as hockey or baseball. As far as Teresa Bloodman is concerned, her son was wronged, and so she wants Maumelle High's coaching staff to explain themselves, claiming her son has a Constitutional right to participate in school sports.

What Mrs. Bloodman fails to comprehend is that while her son was good enough to make the team in summer tryouts, and bear in mind, the lad is a freshman who has three more years of eligibility left, time that could get flushed if mommy goes through with this frivolous litigation. I might add, the coaches still had three months before basketball season, time enough for some of the football players to ask in, and get their wishes granted.

Discrimination? Not a chance. It just happens to be business as usual. However, what gets Mrs. Bloodman a set of weasel ears is the hare-brained decision to file suit. She is doing this on her own, and hasn't gotten a whit of support from the parents of the other players who were cut the same way. It seems to me she is a stage parent who doesn't get it. No matter how talented your child is, he/she is not guaranteed a spot on a team just on your say so. The coaches have the last word, and if you don't like it, don't file a lawsuit. Pick up the phone and talk to the coach and hope for a straight answer. Even Judge Judy would tell you that.

Two more to mourn

When we were kids, I think we all read Where the Wild Things Are, which became a movie just a year or two ago. The genius behind that story, Maurice Sendak, passed away earlier this week at 83. The film version of Wild Things may have brought Sendak back into public consciousness, but it wasn't that big a hit here in the US. Despite the author's overall body of work, Wild Things remains the one Sendak's most recognized for.

Meanwhile, game show mavens are mourning the passing of Bob Stewart. You might not know the name, but Stewart became a major player in the daytime game arena after leaving Goodson-Todman in the mid-60's, this after creating a trio of iconic classics: The Price is Right, To Tell The Truth, & Password. In running his own studio, Stewart produced a seemingly endless stream of shows from the mid-60's through the 80's, including The Face is Familiar, hosted by sportscaster Jack Whitaker for CBS, Eye Guess, Three on a Match, Personality, Jackpot!, and, of course, his most famous creation, The $10,000 Pyramid, which underwent a few inflationary title changes under Stewart's watch, and was hosted by the late Dick Clark for much of its run. Subsequent revivals post-Stewart saw John Davidson (ex-Hollywood Squares) and singer Donny Osmond try to fill the host's job that Clark performed so well. Perhaps the only other host who thrived under Stewart was Bill Cullen, who MC'd Eye Guess, Hot Potato, Three on a Match, Blankety Blanks, and the original Chain Reaction, and was the original MC for Price, which might in part explain why comic Drew Carey, who had a Cullenesque buzzcut early in his career, and has since grown it out, was hired to succeed Bob Barker a few years ago. The current Price, marking 40 years this year, isn't quite the same as Stewart's original vision, but it endures just the same.

Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dunce Cap Award: Cole Hamels

Way, way back in the day, before Major League Baseball's suits began altering the game in the name of player safety, among other things, brushback pitches were fairly common. If Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies was legitimately thinking of initiating Washington Nationals rookie Bryce Harper, old school style on Sunday night, on national television no less, he went about it the wrong way, and, oh, has he paid for it in spades.

By now, you know that Hamels plunked Harper in the first inning, only to see Harper steal home. Now, that should've been the end of it. It's what happened after the game, a 9-3 Philadelphia win, that created more controversy.

You see, Hamels admitted after the game that he hit Harper on purpose. It was his way, he said, of welcoming the rookie into "The Show". Ok, so Hamels was a bit late to the party on that one. On ESPN's Around the Horn earlier today, panelist Woody Paige defended Hamels, while the rest of the panel basically buried him. A proper initiation, in fact, would've been the ol' brushback, the way Hall of Famers like Bob Gibson would've done it. Panelist Kevin Blackistone labeled the HBP, "dumb", and Hamels' post-game admission, "dumber". Exactly.

Major League Baseball responded to Hamels' admission by slapping him with a 5-game suspension, which some critics are deeming a mere slap on the wrist. Hamels will make his next start on Mother's Day, a day later than normal, so he really isn't being punished at all. If MLB really wanted to do it right, they'd make it 5 starts, and sideline Hamels until next month. There will be those who will see this as a case of the Phillies getting a break from the commissioner's office. Lord knows there've been allegations of worse offenses, not to mention the infamous laser pen incident vs. St. Louis 3 years ago.

The real motivation behind Hamels' act, in this writer's opinion, is a case of petty envy, if not so much jealousy. Philadelphia opens play tonight in last place in the NL East, while the Nationals are in first. Usually, it's the other way around, and things could reverse itself before the season's over, but maybe it's a harbinger of a change in the divisional pecking order. The arrogant Phillies don't like it, but, hey, let's remember they're missing a couple of key players, and it's frustrating to them that they're not in the upper tier of the division where they're accustomed.

Hamels picks up a Dunce Cap to go along with a 5-game vacation, and we'll send some caps to the commissioner's office, too, for not coming down harder.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

George Lindsey (1928-2012)

He charmed audiences for nearly 30 years as a simple country boy, splitting time between Mayberry, NC & Kornfield Kounty, USA, but few people may be aware that George Lindsey had already led two careers before turning to acting. Better known as grease monkey Goober Pyle (nee Beasley) on The Andy Griffith Show (1964-68), Mayberry, RFD (1968-71), & Hee-Haw (1971-93), Lindsey was a graduate of what is now known as the University of North Alabama, and served in the Air Force before spending a few years as a teacher before relocating to Hollywood in the 60's.

Lindsey's other acting credits include two appearances on Gunsmoke, one each on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, M*A*S*H, & Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and a supporting role on The Tycoon, a short-lived Walter Brennan sitcom. Lindsey also made some movies, including a trio of Disney cartoons; "The Aristocats", "Robin Hood", & "The Rescuers", and "Cannonball Run". In 1985, Lindsey tried his hand as a talk show host, guest hosting Nashville Now on the Nashville Network (now Spike TV).

It is with sadness that we report that George "Goober" Lindsey, actor, comedian, and humanitarian, passed away earlier today at 83 after a brief illness. We celebrate his career, and we would be remiss if it was not mentioned that in recent years, he'd been involved in working with the Alabama Special Olympics.

During his early run in Mayberry, Lindsey also took a turn at singing, recording the 1-shot, "My Home Town", which was an ode to Mayberry. WCFL1000 uploaded a slideshow that collects pictures of Lindsey in his most famous role. Rest in peace, George. They're opening a service station in Heaven just for you.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Free Comic Book Day 2012: A sampling

The first Saturday in May means Free Comic Book Day. Today, my original plan was to visit three shops, but time constraints and having my brother visit trimmed it down to a quickie at the neighborhood shop. Oh, well, can't have everything, amigos. Maybe next year. Anyway, let's see what landed on my desk today:

Spider-Man: Season One preview: The full-length graphic novel, which brings the webhead's origin forward to the present day with the references to modern communications, such as texting, hits stores on Wednesday. It's a good way to warm up for "The Amazing Spider-Man", starring Andrew Garfield, opening in July, as Sony is hitting the reset button on the "Spider-Man" movie franchise. They've got their own reasons, but we'll discuss that again another time. Between this and the current family of Spider-Man monthlies, plus the Ultimate Spider-Man TV series on DisneyXD, some folks might get a wee bit confused with the various interpretations. Old schoolers like me won't be. I like the artwork. The graphic novel is filed under "consider". Rating: A.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron preview: Even though the AvX miniseries event is out now, Marvel is preparing for the next event in the Avengers family of books with the return of one of the team's deadliest enemies, Ultron, a sentient robot whose intelligence supposedly exceeds most of us. Uh, right. Writer Brian Michael Bendis, one of the busiest scribes in the business, is joined by a couple of veteran artists in Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary. As they used to say to promote such things at Marvel back in the day, miss it not. My wallet's telling me I have to. Common sense, you know. Rating: A.

Valiant 2012 preview: 20-odd years ago, Valiant was a major player in the comics industry, and had no less than Jim Shooter at the helm. Today, the characters introduced in the early 90's are back, rebooted for the 21st century. X-O Manowar is already on the shelves, with revivals of Harbinger & Bloodshot due later this summer. The artwork looks gorgeous, but I've a feeling these are going to be kinda pricy this time around. Decide for yourselves, folks. Rating: A.


DC: The New 52 previews a forthcoming storyline in Justice League, plus the next wave of titles, some of which, including Earth 2, are already out. DC also serves up the latest in their Adventures line for younger readers with Superman Family Adventures, the cover of which looks like it might be along the lines of the late Tiny Titans book.

Hermes Press may not be as well known as a lot of other publishers, but they are sort of a niche company in that they specialize in reprinting older titles that came from other sources, particularly Gold Key. Hermes' contribution to FCBD '12 is a reprint of GK's adaptation of the TV series, My Favorite Martian, with art by Dan Spiegle, who did a lot of work for Gold Key, DC, and others for many years. Fan favorite writer Grant Morrison wrote the preview for Dinosaurs vs. Aliens, which I believe is meant to be a feature film from "Men in Black" director Barry Sonnenfeld. Blue Water, which made 60's icon Adam West into a comic book character last year, has done the same with his Batman co-star with Burt Ward, Boy Wonder. I suppose next year, to complete the trilogy, they'll get Yvonne "Batgirl" Craig to sign off on a similar project. That, actually, might not be such a bad idea.

Marvel had a 2nd Avengers book, reprinting an earlier issue drawn by John Romita, Jr., all part of the push for the "Avengers" film, which opened in the US yesterday. The neighborhood shop has a rule restricting customers to 3 books per person, and even with the rule in place,  most of the freebies were gone by the end of business this afternoon, which I think might be a first, I just don't know.

Well, I did acquire the first issue of IDW's Popeye miniseries a week ago, and it is faithful to the original Thimble Theatre strips by Elzie Segar back in the Golden Age, except for one thing. Bluto, the villain of the piece, was not really a major adversary in the strip. He became more of an icon thanks to his inclusion in the animated shorts. However, writer Roger Langridge came up with a wonderful script that bridges both the strip and some of the best of the shorts. It's done in one, so there's no cliffhanger, and we can move on to the next issue. Rating: A.

I am still referring to it as a miniseries, though there are those who claim it's actually an ongoing title, and that Diamond, which solicited it as a miniseries initially, may have been misinformed. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Adam "MCA" Yauch (1964-2012)

The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year, but could not take part in the ceremonies. The reason? It's not that they were following the lead of Axl Rose and dissing the Hall. Hardly. One of the founding members of the group was simply unable to attend, and so the Boys couldn't perform.

Adam Yauch, better known as MCA, passed away earlier today, losing a lengthy battle with cancer at 47. Yauch was first diagnosed with the cancer in his neck in 2009, which pushed back the release of a CD that ultimately came out last year, and perhaps will be the final Beastie Boys album.

In the course of their 26 years together, the Beastie Boys went from just a trio of frat-boy white rappers to a gifted, versatile combo that could also play instruments as well as throw down rhymes. The adjustments had to be made in order to stay relevant in hip-hop, of course, but it also allowed the Boys to remold their image, getting away from the frat party imagery cultivated by their 1986 debut hit, "Fight For Your Right (To Party)", and moving forward to more adventurous visual efforts, including 1998's "Intergalactic", and 1994's homage to 70's crime drama, "Sabotage", which I've chosen to represent the Beasties at their best as we pay tribute to MCA today. The video comes from EMI's VEVO channel. Rest in peace, Adam.

Panic in the Bronx: Now the Yankees have an injury epidemic

It's one thing when a key position player goes down with a significant injury and misses a large chunk of time. The Mets know about that all too well. However, it's their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, the supposedly indestructible Bronx Bombers, who are suffering from a damaging injury plague, and at the wrong time, too.

One week after Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey had his season end due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, performed earlier this week by Dr. James Andrews, the Yankees saw star closer Mariano Rivera  go to the ground during warmups prior to Thursday's game at Kansas City, a game the Royals would win to send the Bombers to their 3rd straight loss and 4th in their last 6. It was later revealed that Rivera had torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and was likely lost for the season, pending a second opinion. The Yankees are already missing outfielders Brett Gardner & Nick Swisher, the latter of whom could be back as soon as next week, for all we know.

Prior to the start of the season, Rivera had hinted that 2012 would be his final season. Then again, Atlanta's Chipper Jones had dropped similar hints a couple of years ago, but also had to deal with injuries that shortened his season. Jones has made it clear that this is his final season, regardless of injury or how much the Braves might need him in 2013 to make a transition to the next generation. We're barely a month into the season, and Rivera, the anchor of the Yankees' bullpen corps, if not also their pitching staff, is gone.

Luckily, the Yankees have Rafael Soriano, whom they acquired prior to the 2011 season. He had a shaky first year in New York, but now, he has to fill Rivera's role as the closer, a role he had in previous stops in Atlanta, Tampa Bay, & Seattle. It's better than having to force an untested rookie into the role, something neither the Mets nor Yankees would even want to do, not with the media in New York micro-scrutinizing their every move. That said, the Yankees will be fine for now, but toward the end of the season, they may need some insurance in case something were to happen to Soriano.

The headlines in the tabloids this morning fanned the flames of panic and fear, but because of deadlines, they didn't have the latest information in hand. The way analysts on MLB Network carried on last night, you'd think Chicken Little was forecasting that the sky was falling. I imagine it was the same on YES & ESPN and elsewhere. Please, give me a break. It's been years since Rivera was on the disabled list, and this only proves that he is human after all.

The Yankees simply have to adjust, regroup, and rededicate themselves to the mission at hand. You know, of course, that's how the late George Steinbrenner would've wanted it, and he---and Rivera---wouldn't want it any other way.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Musical Interlude: Hero (2002)

Sony decided to reboot the "Spider-Man" movie series, with "The Amazing Spider-Man" opening in July and starring Andrew Garfield. To be honest, I don't get the corporate fixation with fixing something that ain't broken, but that's a story for another time.

So, then, let's go back to 2002. The soundtrack to Sam Raimi's 1st "Spider-Man" film featured "Hero", a duet of a sort between Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger and his Saliva counterpart, Josey Scott, who would later take a risk by nerdifying himself in the video for "Ladies & Gentlemen". If you don't believe me, check out the video, and tell me. I digress.

What I don't get is how so many people on YouTube mislabel "Hero" as a Nickelback song, when it is clearly billed as "Chad Kroeger featuring Josey Scott". Big difference, effendis! Then again, considering Nickelback has had a larger body of work in the 10 years since..........!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's only been a month, but who'd have thought this was possible?

Consider what has happened in the first month-plus of the baseball season:

Boston----in last place??? Believe it. Bobby Valentine has made more headlines running his mouth than the Red Sox have winning games. They've been embarassed on Fox's Saturday game of the week twice (vs. Detroit and the Yankees), and ran off six wins in a row before losing to the White Sox on Sunday. However, the AL East is more loaded than ever, as Tampa Bay & Baltimore sit atop the division. Yeah, the Orioles have teased us before, but remember, it usually takes a while before a Buck Showalter-managed team makes the playoffs.

Buck wins a grand!: Showalter won his 1,000th game as manager Tuesday, as Baltimore beat the Yankees, the team that gave him his first big league managerial gig some 20 years ago. Maybe he can do the Yanks a favor and take Freddy Garcia and/or Phil Hughes off their hands.......

Do you believe in Magic?: The Dodgers do, and now, so does Major League Baseball, which approved the sale of the team to a group including NBA icon/broadcaster Earvin "Magic" Johnson and veteran baseball executive Stan Kasten, who helped build the Braves' dynasty and was last seen in Washington overseeing the Nationals. Los Angeles sits atop the NL West, so it's a matter of time before the same stars that usually show up at Laker games (i.e. Jack Nicholson) get primo seats at Dodger Stadium and get name checked by Vin Scully.

Be careful what you wish for, Miami: Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen earned a Dunce Cap in this space a couple of weeks back for some ill-timed remarks about Fidel Castro that were published in Time Magazine, and the team is paying a hefty price, sitting in the basement in the NL East. Owner Jeffrey Loria should also consider reading the works of Santayana. If the NBA's Heat chokes again in the playoffs, well, it's a sign that no matter how much money is spent to make a team better, it's the results on the field that count the most. Shortstop Jose Reyes returned to New York as a visiting player for the first time last week, and the Marlins were swept out of Queens by the Mets, who all but completely shut down Reyes.

Maybe it's not just a tease this time: Washington sits atop the NL East, but the lead has become tenuous. The Nationals have lost 5 in a row, including getting swept by the Dodgers last weekend. They opened the season in 1st once before, a few years ago, but fell out of contention before the 4th of July. This time, I think they'll stay in the race to the end, based on the simple fact that 1) the Phillies are old and vulnerable on offense, 2) the Mets still must deal with the curse of Citi Field, 3) Atlanta's already nipping on the Nats' heels, and 4) Miami isn't what they thought they were---yet----, and may not be until next year.

Every team should have a staff psychologist on hand: Delmon Young of the Tigers got in trouble with the law and didn't play against the Yankees over the weekend. His problem was making some racially-charged remarks to some strangers in New York, and was supposedly intoxicated. When are these guys going to realize that being young and gifted doesn't mean you're also automatically entitled? Speaking of the Yankees, they may need to give Phil Hughes some counseling to figure out what's wrong after he got lit up again, this time by Baltimore. They also need to cut their losses on Freddy Garcia before he becomes like Oliver Perez and writes his ticket out of New York with bad efforts out of the bullpen. The Mets don't just need a psychologist (they had one in the late 80's), but an exorcist. Another run of injuries has me convinced that there might be something else wrong with Citi Field that moving the fences can't cure. Instead of feuding with Angels batting coach Mickey Hatcher, Albert Pujols should offer Hatcher something encouraging, like a Bible.

Apparently, MLB Network has it written in their company manual that only one hot woman can be on their on-air roster.: Sam Ryan came over from ESPN (as did the latter network's long time boxing guy, Brian Kenny), so Hazel Mae became expendable. I'll bet most of you didn't notice or care.