Friday, August 31, 2012

ESPN's next great SportsCenter team (?)---created by Vince McMahon

A vital ingredient in teamwork is chemistry. You hear about it all the time with great sports dynasties like the Yankees, Cowboys, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Celtics, etc., and comedy teams like Abbott & Costello, the Three Stooges, and even, well, Beavis & Butt-Head.

It also applies to anchor teams for ESPN's SportsCenter, and to be honest, they really haven't had a team that actually gelled like Dan Patrick & Keith Olbermann back in the 90's. Until now, and they have an unlikely benefactor to thank for that. Fella by the name of Vincent Kennedy McMahon.

Earlier this week, former WWE announcers Jonathan Coachman & Todd Grisham were reunited on primetime broadcasts of SportsCenter on ESPNews. Grisham joined ESPN last year after a 9 year run with WWE, during which time he spent some time working on Sunday Night Heat alongside Coachman, who left WWE in 2008 after 9 years. A 3rd ESPN anchor, Max Bretos, also came from WWE, but wasn't as well known as the others because he wasn't utilized as often, which explained why he left WWE around the same time Coachman did.

On Heat, Coachman had already established a heel persona as a sidekick to then-GM Eric Bischoff and tried passing himself off as a bit of a playboy. In truth, he came across as a cross between Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribiero on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and Leon Phelps (Tim Meadows on Saturday Night Live). That is to say, as a playa, he was a poseur. Period. Grisham's biggest moment in WWE was perhaps a Halloween edition of Raw when he did a mimic of Chicago sports icon Harry Caray on the air. Spot on. Grisham even incorporated Caray's home run call ("It might be! It could be! It is!") into his play-by-play commentary. The two actually worked well together on Heat, and it stands to reason that since they were good friends off camera, Coachman might've gotten a word in for Grisham when he became available a year ago.

On SportsCenter, Grisham & Coachman showed some of that chemistry in doing baseball highlights. A meeting of three fielders behind 3rd base on a pop fly led to a chorus of "We have a communicate!" Hilarious. Now, mind you, Coachman has been on ESPN as host of NBA Shootaround and has been a studio anchor during college football & basketball games. Grisham is still the new kid on the block a year later, but, paired with Coachman, he may have found his comfort zone. Not sure if he's dusted off his Caray impersonation on air, though I'd not be surprised if he did in covering highlights of a Cubs game. In time, they may have more catchphrases between them to go into the ESPN lexicon with these:

"From way downtown.......BANG!" (Olbermann)
"Cool as the other side of the pillow." (Stuart Scott).
"Get outta town....and he means it this time!" (Steve Levy)
"Holla at a playa if you see him in the street!" (Scott)
"The simplicity of this game amuses me. Bring me your finest meats & cheeses!" (Kenny Mayne)

And, of course, a virtual dictionary full of nicknames created by Chris Berman.

I think that inside of a year's time, we'll see Coachman & Grisham anchoring the 6:00 pm (ET) SportsCenter on ESPN. That is, barring a screw-up by either one, and Grisham has already made a faux pas on the air before being teamed with Coachman. Hey, it took time for them to find themselves in WWE, so this shouldn't be so hard, especially for Coachman, who was a sportscaster in his home state of Kansas before WWE came a' calling. And a few clicks down the road in Stamford, Vince McMahon will tune in to ESPN with a smile on his face. We think.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The dream couple everyone's waited for finally comes together

DC Comics first teased it some 20-25 or so years ago. There have been a seemingly infinite number of fan fiction stories written projecting them as eventually getting married. To a jaded fan like me, this really isn't a big deal after all.

Let me bottom line it for you. Beginning with the new issue of Justice League, in stores tomorrow, writer Geoff Johns & artist Jim Lee have put Superman & Wonder Woman together as a romantic couple. This would explain why, when DC relaunched its universe in the "New 52" initiative a year ago, Superman was no longer married to investigative reporter Lois Lane, ending a 15 year coupling. By the same token, the Amazing Amazon's long-standing relationship with military lifer Steve Trevor was treated as past tense when the "New 52" began.

DC, however, is playing this up as major news, getting ink in the papers and online within the last 24 hours. Two of the company's icons, both of whom had some major tweaking done to them in the "New 52", now the very definition of "power couple". Oh, sure, as fans of the animated Justice League Unlimited are aware, WB tried pairing Wonder Woman with The Batman for a brief time, but that was doomed to fail. It would've been something if DC picked up on it and tried to transfer it to their monthly books, and, yes, there've been fan-fics about Batman & Wonder Woman, too. You have to understand that the classic pairings could eventually be put together anew down the line, but the only way that happens is if the union of a Kryptonian orphan and a Amazon Princess-turned-goddess ends up failing.

Oh, wait, you're saying. Wonder Woman, a goddess? Yeah, that's what was done a year ago. Someone decided that instead of being molded out of magic clay, Wonder Woman was now the daughter of Zeus, which would make her Hercules' half-sister or something. I stopped reading Justice League a few months ago, and I wasn't reading Wonder Woman, so I found out about her altered lineage via a piece in today's New York Daily News. My brain hurts just thinking about it.

I am not sure about how older fans, especially those in my age bracket, are reacting, but as I said at the start, to me, this is not a big deal. I get that DC wants to try something that, to most readers, is relatively new. However, I just don't see this working out in the long term.

Let's say DC pulls the trigger and marries off the two icons. Then, some genius comes along with a radical idea to again reboot the DC Universe, and we're back at square one, and this will have all been for naught. In hindsight, DC was better off leaving well enough alone, and maybe, just maybe, they'll learn that lesson the hard way.

Videos of Summer: You Get What You Give (1998)

New Radicals only released one album, and were a true 1-hit wonder with "You Get What You Give", which dominated airwaves in 1998. Singer-songwriter Greg Alexander is joined by actress-turned-singer-songwriter Danielle Brisebois (ex-Archie Bunker's Place), who'd released her debut record a couple of years earlier, and a few close friends for a day of anarchic mayhem in a shopping mall.

Uploaded to YouTube by the band's VEVO channel:

Monday, August 27, 2012

NFL Forecast 2012

As I write this, we are 9 days away from the start of the 2012 season. Last year's pre-season was shortened because the players were locked out. This year, the NFL has locked out the referees, and of course that has led to some blown calls by their subs, and some even more glaring errors. If this remains par for the course when it all starts on September 5, there will be chaos.

Let us consider the 8 divisions:



All roads to the Super Bowl still run through New England until further notice. In this writer's opinion, the Patriots shouldn't have been in the Super Bowl in February, and thus karmic justice was served when Bill Belichick's crew lost----again----to the Giants. For some reason, the schedule makers, perhaps on the take, have the defending champs returning to Foxborough, where the Pats lost to the Giants last year, too, for a late-season game. Apparently, Belichick doesn't want to make more than one trip to the Meadowlands per year. Whatever.

Word on the street is that Buffalo is cutting loose QB Vince Young, who infamously anointed his last team, the Eagles, as a "Dream Team" last year, and we know how that turned out. Instead, the Bills are working on a deal to bring Tavaris Jackson over from the Seahawks to back up Ryan Fitzpatrick. All that tells me is that the Bills still haven't figured out how to get out of the cellar.....! Miami took a chance on Chad Johnson, then cut him loose nearly 2 weeks ago when he was busted on a domestic assault charge. Well, another "diva", Terrell Owens is available, now that the Seahawks have dropped him like a bad habit, but I don't see him faring any better than Johnson did. In New York, the Jets, amazingly, have forgotten how to score touchdowns, having gone 0-3 in August because of this malaise, but all the tabloid media wants to play up is the QB controversy, such as it is, between Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. Please, give me a break.

Projected order of finish:

1. New England
2. Jets
3. Miami
3 (tie). Buffalo


Pittsburgh fans got their last look at WR Hines Ward in a cameo role in "The Dark Knight Rises". They're probably wishing he'd stick around at least another year, what with his heir apparent, Mike Wallace, having held out for most of the summer. The only real controversy surrounding the Steelers might be whether or not Troy Polamalu has to do any more shampoo commercials with Minnesota Twins star Joe Mauer. Last year's bits weren't exactly comedy gold. However, it's been proven that the Steelers aren't even the top team in the division any more, and neither, really, are the Bengals. Cincinnati hasn't won back-to-back division titles in I don't know when. And, then, there's Baltimore, hungry to get back to the Super Bowl after getting screwed by the Patriots in January. Maybe if Joe Flacco can land an endorsement deal or three, something Tom Brady doesn't have right now, by the way, maybe the power brokers will finally see things through for the Ravens. Cleveland? They gave up on 2010 1st rounder Colt McCoy already, drafting Brandon Weeden to be their new QB. Oh, stop the pain. At this rate, WWE Intercontinental champ Michael "The Miz" Mizanin, a native of suburban Palma and a former high school gridiron star, might get a call. Not.

Projected order of finish:

1. Pittsburgh
2. Baltimore
3. Cincinnati
4. Cleveland


The Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis officially ended when he went on IR last year. Now, Manning and his commercial endorsements have gone west, and 1st round pick Andrew Luck takes over at QB. He's as advertised, despite having lost to the Steelers on national television 8 days ago. However, Houston, marking the 10th anniversary of the Texans this year, is the defending division champ, and has virtually everyone back from last year, including QB Matt Schaub, who was injured for most of 2011. Jacksonville will have Blaine Gabbert starting at QB on opening day, and pried CB Aaron Ross away from the Giants to help the defense, despite his injury history. However, Maurice Jones-Drew is holding out, and the Jaguars are not willing to trade him. I don't blame them there. Tennessee enters year 2 of the Matt Hasselbeck-Jake Locker era, and maybe gets back to the postseason. Stress maybe.

Projected order of finish:

1. Houston
2. Tennessee
3. Indianapolis
4. Jacksonville


Denver started the vicious circle of QB transfers by cutting Tim Tebow after signing Peyton Manning. As per usual, you can't escape Manning on your TV, as he's shilling for Buick, DirecTV (w/brother Eli & Deion Sanders), and Reebok. Pray he still isn't doing ads for MasterCard, because that was getting tiresome 2 years ago. The Broncos also let Kyle Orton walk (the Cowboys took a flier on him), and so Manning has to mentor someone after all. At this rate, y'think maybe Tebow should've stayed? Oakland let Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens walk, weakening their WR corps. Schilens is with the Jets, and Murphy signed with the Panthers. There's nothing to get excited about. As for Kansas City & San Diego, it's business as usual. They'll fight for a playoff spot, but they'll also be chasing Peyton.........

Projected order of finish:

1. Denver
2. San Diego
2 (tie). Kansas City
4. Oakland



This is not how you begin defending a Super Bowl title. The New York Giants lost Aaron Ross (Jacksonville), Brandon Jacobs, Mario Manningham (both in San Francisco), and Jake Ballard (the Patriots gave him a look and passed) to free agency, but picked up Martellus Bennett from the Cowboys to replace Ballard. Eli Manning looks silly with those wings on his back in those DirecTV ads with Deion and Peyton, and deserves better. Unfortunately, they close the pre-season against the hated Patriots, but then they didn't have a winning pre-season last year, either....! In Dallas, Dez Bryant must feel like he's back in college, as the word is the Cowboys placed him on double secret probation. Ask anyone who's seen "Animal House" what that means. Tony Romo has to prove he actually can win when it counts, especially in December, but what they really should do is give Jerry Jones, the NFL's answer to the late George Steinbrenner in terms of hot air, a muzzle so he doesn't write checks with his mouth that his team won't be able to cash. Philadelphia did the smart thing by jettisoning Vince Young after last season's debacle. Unfortunately, there is too much talent in the division to allow the Eagles to take the title. All the rage in Washington, of course, is Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, who is already an inescapable presence in terms of endorsements. Gatorade & Subway signed him up in mere heartbeats, as if they needed more people shilling their products. Griffin, though, may be the last piece of the Redskins' title puzzle. 

Projected order of finish:

1. Giants
2. Washington
2 (tie). Dallas
4. Philadelphia


Chicago upgraded their receiving corps by drafting Alshon Jeffery from South Carolina. Johnny Knox starts the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, so Jeffery will be under heavy pressure to produce immediately. Green Bay got some bad press when the New York tabloids bleated how Clay Matthews Jr. was spewing sour grapes about a playoff loss to the Giants. There is a rematch, you know, so a receipt is due. Detroit, despite a solid 2011 season, has to fight for 2nd place. Minnesota just needs to avoid the cellar.

Projected order of finish:

1. Green Bay
2. Detroit
3. Chicago
4. Minnesota.


New Orleans has to rely on QB Drew Brees and the offense more than usual, since the defense was ravaged by suspensions caused by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' bounties. They're better off if the only bounties in the locker room are a certain brand of paper towels. Carolina stands to benefit the most, as 2nd year QB Cam Newton came of age late last season. However, they need to get past Atlanta & Tampa Bay to earn a playoff spot. The Buccaneers had a down year in 2011, but it has to be just an aberration. As for Matt Ryan and the Falcons, they just have to win consistently on the road.

Projected order of finish:

1. Atlanta

2. New Orleans
3. Carolina
3 (tie). Tampa Bay


San Francisco returned to the top of the division last year under Jim Harbaugh, and all they did in the offseason was add to their offense, prying Mario Manningham & Brandon Jacobs from the Giants. Like, doesn't QB Alex Smith have enough weapons already? Seattle named rookie QB Russell Wilson, out of Wisconsin, as their opening day starter over ex-Packer backup Matt Flynn. Tavaris Jackson wasn't even considered. The Seahawks ditched the reclamation project of Terrell Owens, who will land somewhere, I'm sure, as long as the price is right. In St. Louis, Sam Bradford and the Rams are on the doorstep. They just need a key. Arizona? Uh, not this year.

Projected order of finish:

1. San Francisco
2. St. Louis
3. Seattle
4. Arizona

Wild cards: 

AFC: Baltimore, San Diego
NFC: New Orleans, Washington

We'll see where the chips fall in January.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Classic TV: Gilligan's Island (1964)

What started as a "three hour tour" has turned into a cult classic creeping up on 50 years.

Gilligan's Island launched on CBS in 1964, the brainchild of writer-producer Sherwood Schwartz, and has remained a beloved favorite in syndication and on cable ever since ending its network run in 1967 after three seasons. The popularity of the series was such that not one, but two animated follow-ups were produced, sandwiched around a trio of made-for-TV movies that aired on NBC during the early 80s.

Audiences were already familiar with some of the cast. For example, Alan Hale, Jr. (Jonas Grumby, the Skipper) had previously appeared on Biff Baker, USA & Casey Jones. Jim Backus (Thurston Howell III) was, at the time, also the voice of Mr. Magoo, whose Famous Adventures series also bowed in 1964, but lasted just the one season. Of course, Bob Denver (Gilligan) was already a fan favorite from his days as Maynard G. Krebs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Suffice to say that Gilligan was completely different from the work-phobic Maynard would be an understatement.

As previously documented over in Saturday Morning Archives, Schwartz reassembled most of the cast, save for Tina Louise (Ginger), who'd disassociated herself from the franchise, and Dawn Wells (Mary Ann), who had conflicting commitments, for the animated New Adventures of Gilligan, 7 years after the original series had ended. Just a few short years later, with Schwartz developing projects for NBC, the network landed a series of TV movies that saw the castaways return home to the mainland, then ultimately return to the island and turn it into a tourist paradise, now armed with modern technology. The last of those films co-starred the Harlem Globetrotters, along with Scatman Crothers (ex-Chico & The Man), Martin Landau & Barbara Bain (ex-Space: 1999 & Mission: Impossible), with David Ruprecht subbing for Backus as the newly created Thurston Howell IV. Gilligan's Planet rehashed the New Adventures series, bringing the castaways back to their original network, CBS, in 1982, but was beached after 1 season.

In recent years, TBS tried rebooting the franchise with a "reality" show, The Real Gilligan's Island, which was, if memory serves, a colossal flop. You know what they say. If it ain't broken, you don't fix it, which is what the TBS suits tried to do. Dawn Wells resurrected Mary Ann, or a facsimile thereof, for a commercial that has probably been forgotten. I think it was for Western Union, but I can't be certain of that.

Anyway, here's the season 2 open & close. The Wellingtons, who'd recorded the theme the first season and appeared on the show, were jettisoned in favor of an anonymous artist who recorded a more up-tempo version. George Wyle, who co-wrote "The Ballad of Gilligan's Island" with Sherwood Schwartz, would later be Flip Wilson's bandleader.

On the whole, it was wholesome fun. Too bad the TV-movies don't get as much airplay as the series anymore.

Rating: B.

Sounds of Praise: Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)(1965)

Folk legend Pete Seeger used the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, as a template for "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)", which became a worldwide hit for The Byrds in 1965. This would be the closest thing to a gospel record the Byrds would record, but I shan't be surprised if some Christian stations play this song occasionally.

Mcd220 uploaded this clip from Shindig!:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) & William Windom (1924-2012)

While the sports headlines speak of the embarassment visited upon Lance Armstrong, another American hero named Armstrong has left us.

Neil Armstrong passed away earlier today at 82, his place in American history secure as the first man to walk on the moon in July 1969. His statement, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!", has become as iconic as Armstrong himself.

And we're finally catching up with one Hollywood obituary. Character actor William Windom, who starred in The Farmer's Daughter (1963-6) and My World & Welcome to It (1969-70), then began landing guest parts on series such as Night Gallery before settling back into series television as Seth Hazlett on Murder, She Wrote in the 80's, passed away on August 16.

Furryisthenewedgy uploaded this NBC promo for My World from 1969:

Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The shaming of an innocent man

The US Anti-Doping Agency should be ashamed of themselves.

Someone high up in that august body has a vendetta against 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, and has succeeded in completely defaming the cancer survivor, as it is being reported today that Armstrong has given up his fight to clear his name. What that means is that Armstrong will be stripped of his 7 Tour titles, and despite having recently retired from competition, he will be banned for life from the sport.

And for what? Because some jealous jabroni claims Armstrong used PED's? Armstrong has pointed to numerous tests taken during that run, and they all came back negative, meaning he passed. Apparently, whomever it is in the USADA that has it in for him didn't believe Armstrong or the tests. This person failed to acknowledge what was already a matter of public record, that Armstrong had beaten cancer, had established the LiveStrong Foundation for fellow cancer patients, and was being hailed as a hero.

Armstrong attempted a brief comeback a couple of years ago, but didn't win another Tour. He decided then and there that he'd raced for the last time. That should've been the end of it, but to the USADA, it wasn't. It isn't up to them to strip Armstrong of his wins, but they're applying the pressure. Why would a cancer survivor resort to taking a shortcut to succeed when he wants to prove he's a role model for fellow patients?

The USADA claimed they had witnesses that could prove Armstrong's guilt, but refused to produce them for the press. That's enough to tell me that they were bluffing, and had been all along. They refused to end their hounding of Armstrong, so convinced were they that the man was a fraud. They should look in a mirror and see the real frauds. Themselves.

On The Air: American Bible Challenge (2012)

You've probably seen ads on some of your favorite websites promoting a Bible trivia series for kids, What's In The Bible?, from the creators of VeggieTales. Now comes a game show that gives adults the same opportunity to test their knowledge of the Good Book.

The American Bible Challenge bowed Thursday on GSN, pitting three teams against each other. It may look like a typical game, but at the end of the night, it really isn't. The winners forward their winnings to a favorite charity, such as a Christian organization like Samaritan's Purse. Actor-comedian Jeff Foxworthy cut his teeth as a game show host with Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, the rerun rights of which are partially held by GSN, which airs it in a marathon block on Sundays at last check. In this video, from the GSN YouTube channel, Foxworthy explains why he landed the gig:

Actual episode footage, at least what's already been aired, isn't available on YouTube just yet. What I can tell you, though, is that you're in for a rollicking good ol' time. There's an 8-voice choir putting a fresh, up-tempo spin on gospel standards leading in and out of commercial breaks, and if that doesn't keep you from changing channels during commercials, I don't know what does.

Seeing some of the topic titles appear on the screen on the opener, I wondered if they hired some of the writers for Win Ben Stein's Money, because the puns were that bad.......!

Rating: A++.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Celebrity Rock: Don't Give Up on Us (1976)

David Soul began his career as a masked singer-songwriter under the handle, "The Covered Man", in the 60's. The ski mask came off, however, when Soul landed his first series gig with 1968's Here Come The Brides, and his music career was put on hold, although Soul did sing a Christmas duet with Bobby Sherman on the show.

8 years later, with Starsky & Hutch a massive hit for ABC, Soul went back to the recording studio, signing with Private Stock Records, and released the romantic ballad, "Don't Give Up on Us", which hit #1 in the UK in the winter of 1976-7, and I believe it went top 5, if not #1 as well, here in the US.

Kristen Roels uploaded this clip.

Dunce Cap Award: Bartolo Colon & Skip Bayless

Two more Dunce Caps to hand out, and for pretty much the same reason.

Oakland A's pitcher Bartolo Colon, 10-9 on the season, was scheduled to pitch today vs. Tampa Bay. It's not happening, because, for all intents & purposes, Colon's season is over, suspended by Major League Baseball for 50 games for the same exact reason that Melky Cabrera drew the ban last week. Colon tested positive for testosterone, and this is from a guy who had a stem cell treatment done a couple of years back, and made a comeback last year with the Yankees.

When this season began, I questioned why the Yankees didn't keep Colon around, as they made pretty much the same mistake the crosstown Mets did three years ago, opting to retain Freddy Garcia over Colon. Garcia has bounced between the starting rotation and the bullpen, and has not had a good season overall. Colon, we thought, was doing great guns, keeping Oakland in contention for at the very least a wild card spot. HGH and its ilk are actually legal in Colon's native Dominican Republic, and Colon was treated by a physician there. He should've seen it coming after Cabrera, scam aside, was tagged a week ago.

The sad part about all of this is, Cabrera & Colon are veteran players who should've known that taking such shortcuts would no longer be accepted in baseball, and should've pursued other, legal avenues.

Closer to home, ESPN pundit Skip Bayless, a long time columnist for the Dallas Morning News and contributor to ESPN2's First Take, took a blind man's leap of faith Wednesday when he accused the Yankees' superstar shortstop, Derek Jeter, of using PEDs to explain his increased numbers this season. Jeter has 13 home runs, more than double his 2011 total, but everyone knows that Jeter has never been a power guy to begin with. Maybe Bayless is reading too much into Jeter's stats this year and tying it to the drug suspensions of ex-teammates Cabrera and, as it was announced later in the day, Colon, I don't know, but considering that another teammate and fellow tabloid magnet, Alex Rodriguez, owned up after the fact to using PEDs earlier in his career, maybe Bayless is thinking there's an underground culture in the supposedly sainted Yankee clubhouse that not even the scandal-obsessed New York media has dug up. Yeah, right, and chickens have lips.

I'm not a Yankee fan, but I will give Jeter credit for what he's accomplished this year. He reached 3,000 hits last year, he hit career HR #250 earlier this week. If he'd been on PEDs all along, as Bayless seems to be implying, don't you think Jeter would've had double the HR numbers?

Maybe it's because Bayless has to put up with the self-absorbed know-it-all Stephen A. Smith at the debate table on First Take most of the time, instead of grizzled, self-absorbed Woody Paige (Around The Horn), who used to occupy Smith's chair, but he has lost his mind on this one. For that, he gets a Dunce Cap, along with Colon. Maybe he'll be like that moron in the DiGiorno pizza ad and double his IQ.......

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Two overexposed guys in the spotlight----as if they need it

One is a disgrace to his sport, despite vindication. The other walked away from his, but you can't escape him because of his endorsements, among other things.

Earlier this year, Roger Clemens was cleared of charges that he'd lied to Congress about using performance enhancing drugs. Now 50, Clemens has signed on to pitch for an independent minor league team in his home state of Texas. Sure, it's a publicity stunt, but, predictably, the media is overplaying it by suggesting that Clemens is using the Sugar Land Skeeters as a springboard to a major league comeback. Uh, no. The guy's spent most of the summer playing softball, and admitted that he's not in perfect shape. He's become a regular guy. I don't see any major league team taking a chance on him in 2013, unwilling to risk the persistent media scrutiny, which can get out of control, especially in scandal-happy New York. Just let him play out the remainder of the Skeeters' season, and move on.

Meanwhile, in New York, the Daily News and other outlets are reporting that former New York Giants star Michael Strahan (Fox NFL Sunday) has been tapped as Kelly Ripa's new partner, succeeding the retired Regis Philbin (who's still doing commercials), effective September 4, which, of course, is the day before the Giants open defense of their latest Super Bowl title by hosting Dallas in a rare Wednesday night tilt at the Meadowlands. Strahan, thus, will now be working 6 days a week, but then there's also the fact that he is one of a slew of celebrity endorsers, along with Fox NFL Sunday cohort Jay Glazer and Olympic hero Michael Phelps, for Subway. As far as television executives go, Strahan, who failed with a Fox sitcom a couple of years back, has the most famous gap tooth this side of David Letterman, and, thanks to his Fox work, is accustomed to live television. Six days a week, though, may be asking too much, but we'll wait & see. Live With Kelly, oh, by the way, is produced by Disney, so they could be looking at trying to pry Strahan away from Fox with a sweetheart deal beyond the morning show. Ya just never know.

As for the Skeeters, well, no one outside of Texas had heard of them before they took a chance on Roger Clemens. It's 15 minutes of fame, stretched out across a month at the most. A footnote in history. No one will remember them by this time next year, unless they find another ex-major leaguer to boost ticket sales......

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Weasels of the Week: Melky Cabrera & Juan Nunez and the Muscular Dystrophy Association

Last week, we awarded now-suspended San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera a Dunce Cap for letting his team down by drawing a season-ending 50 game ban for violating the Major League Baseball drug policies. Now, it's come out in the wash that Cabrera wasn't exactly forthcoming with his admission.

On Sunday, the New York Daily News reported that Cabrera, in conjunction with some nothing happening jabroni named Juan Nunez, on the books as a consultant to Cabrera's agents, Seth & Sam Levinson, concocted a convoluted scam to try to reverse the result of his test. A dummy website, fake drugs, not much in the way of brains. Cabrera, who started his career with the Yankees before embarking on a vagabond journey that took him to Atlanta & Kansas City the last two years before going to San Francisco, was looking at a bigger free agent score.

Now, ESPN analyst Rick Sutcliffe, a former Cy Young winner with the Chicago Cubs, is calling for Cabrera to be served with a lifetime ban. You'd think today's ballplayers would understand that MLB has had to take a harder line on performance enhancing drugs, largely because commissioner Allan "Bud" Selig has had his head in the sand on the subject for so long before being forced into action, and would finally, once and for all, forsake the lures of easy riches. Nuh-uh. Before these guys start counting their money, they'd better check themselves in the mirror.

Meanwhile, thanks to feature article on comedy legend Jerry Lewis in Time Magazine, we send a bag of Weasel ears to the current administration of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Maybe it's a year late, considering that Lewis, who has devoted much of his career to raising awareness of MD in all of its forms, was dismissed as honorary national chairman a year ago, and the annual Labor Day telethon was downsized from 21 1/2 hours down to a mere 6 last year. This year's edition, ticketed for September 2, is being chopped in half, down to a paltry 3 hours. What purpose does that serve?

If television ratings have been down in recent years, especially after last year's event, I would understand, but MDA's hierarchy is keeping things close to the vest. The three hour format makes the telethon more palatable for networks looking for something to fill time before the start of the fall season, which would be a switch from the telethon being syndicated ever since it began in the mid-60's. I just don't get it.

It also begs to ask if the business model used for telethons such as MDA's is now obsolete. United Cerebral Palsy tried to copy MDA's formula with a national, star-studded telethon back in 1979, but that was a Saturday-Sunday affair, and it lasted only a few years before the national format was discontinued and the regional telethons resumed as before. Should the affiliated stations making up MDA's "Love Network" start producing their own, shorter telethons? It would seem to me that this is the direction they're being pointed to, but we don't know that for sure.

In this writer's opinion, MDA is doing a disservice to the millions of MD patients they've served over the years, and to the public who have supported them. That earns them the Weasel ears. End of story.

Videos of Summer: When the Sun Goes Down (2003)

Uncle Kracker first emerged on the scene as one of Kid Rock's entourage, then began recording his own records. In recent years, Kracker, as well as the Kid, have gravitated from pop and rap to country, and Kracker's duet with Kenny Chesney, "When the Sun Goes Down", the title tune from Chesney's 2003 CD, began this transition that also saw veteran rockers like John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow, & Bruce Springsteen find airplay on CMT and GAC, of all places. Of course, Crow & Kid Rock had a huge hit a year later with the romantic ballad, "Picture".

Monday, August 20, 2012

Phyllis Diller (1917-2012)

I just learned of this sad news a short time ago.

Phyllis Diller, the wild-haired, self-depreciating comedienne and actress who charmed audiences for 6 decades, passed away earlier today, a month after her 95th birthday. As of this writing, the cause of death has not yet been made public, and toxicology and autopsy results won't be available for at least a month.

Diller only pretended to be smoking, as her signature cigarette holder was merely a prop. In real life, she was a non-smoker. She transitioned into show business after leaving behind a career in the advertising business, where she was a copywriter. She went on USO tours and made movies & television specials with Bob Hope, whom she considered a mentor, and had tried her own primetime series in the late 60's. For ABC, she starred in The Pruitts of Southampton, which was later retitled, The Phyllis Diller Show in a last-ditch effort to save the show, which didn't work. The very next year, she returned, switching to variety with The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show, which also failed.

What some folks don't realize is that Diller was also a trained pianist, as will be ably demonstrated in this clip from Liberace's syndicated 1969 series, uploaded by showmanlee.

Rest in peace, Phyllis.

Scott McKenzie (1939-2012) & Tony Scott (1944-2012)

We are saying farewell to two more today.

Filmmaker Tony Scott is remembered mostly for the mid-80's actioner, "Top Gun", which starred Tom Cruise & Val Kilmer, but he also directed a number of other films during the 80's & 90's. Scott, reportedly, took his own life, reasons unknown, at 68.

Singer Scott McKenzie had just one big hit back in the 60's, "San Francisco", which still gets some airplay today on oldies radio stations. What some people might not know is that "San Francisco" was written by John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas. 

McKenzie was 63.

Rest in peace.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A classic reborn: Dragnet (1967)

Perhaps it was popular demand after a feature film had been released a few months earlier, but Jack Webb's seminal crime drama, Dragnet, which first transitioned from radio to television in 1952, returned to NBC in January 1967 as a mid-season replacement, and this version ended in 1970 after 3 1/2  seasons.

As before, Webb wore multiple hats as director, producer, and star, as Sgt. Joe Friday (Webb) narrated each episode. This time, Webb was partnered with Harry Morgan, who at the time was better known for his sitcom work, cast as Officer Bill Gannon. The tag team of George Fenneman (ex-You Bet Your Life) and John Stephenson were the announcers.

In "The Big Explosion", Friday & Gannon have to locate some stolen gelatin dynamite. Another television veteran, Olan Soule (ex-Captain Midnight), who, like Morgan, had been busy doing sitcoms (i.e. The Andy Griffith Show) prior to Dragnet, was cast as forensic scientist Ray Murray, but also got in some time as a judge in at least one or two episodes. Murray provides Friday & Gannon with some important advice in their investigation.

As we all know, Dragnet would be reborn on the tube twice more, first in the syndicated New Dragnet in the late 80's, following Dan Aykroyd & Tom Hanks' comic homage to the series in a 1987 feature film that saw Gannon promoted to Lieutenant, and in 2003, when Dick Wolf (Law & Order) took over the franchise and remolded it as a 1 hour series starring Ed O'Neill (ex-Married....With Children) as Friday.

Here's "The Big Explosion".

Rating: A+.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Celebrity Rock: Swingin' The Alphabet (1938)

In the classic Three Stooges short, "Violent is the Word For Curly", the boys are mistaken for college professors. In this segment, Moe Howard sings lead on "Swingin' The Alphabet". Now, we've all known that Larry Fine was, in fact, a proficient violinist, which came into play in a few shorts, but who would've thought these guys actually could sing? Well, they did do some recording, though the one record I had was during the later years with Joe DeRita.

Anyway, here's "Swingin' The Alphabet", uploaded by Dave820.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Videos of Summer: Days Go By (2003)

I know summer's drawing close to its end, but for a lot of you, this Keith Urban hit seems to fit perfectly, doesn't it? "Days Go By" drew a lot of airplay when it was released around 2003.

Oh, by the way, I realize Keith's from Australia, as is actress-wife Nicole Kidman, but don't ya think he might've been separated at birth from American actor-comic David Spade (Rules of Engagement)?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Crackpots walk among us

Last night, I walked out to the bus stop to wait for a bus to take me to church for a mid-week service. Normally, everything's fine, but this time was different.

I'd run into this guy before, a year ago, at the same bus shelter, posting up the same, tired, useless fliers and advertisements promoting a catalogue of garbage being put out by radio talk show host Alex Jones on his website. Jones is one of a zillion idiots out there who has a standing beef not so much with President Obama, but with the present structure of government. This local zealot, whom we'll call "John Doe" because I don't know his name, is also trying to debunk, for lack of a better term, the mental health system. Oh, please! Give me a break! 

Let me quote for you what "John Doe", a middle-aged fellow, wrote on one of his fliers:

Under the heading of "Sickness Symptoms":

To watch all you ever worked for and had wars be played...given no be only given: spots & shots & parroting like tots.....always stay asleep forever.....

Incomprehensible? You bet. The Bible warns us, in the Gospel According to Matthew, to watch for false prophets & teachers. "John Doe" fits. He wants us to get rid of credit & debit cards and pay cash only. That's only fine if you're paranoid about identity theft such that you don't want to use the plastic. Gas & store cards fall into this line as well. He wants to put the world's banks out of business, but in the next sentence he demands that only Americans should be employed. Oh? Where? 

His whole problem is that he doesn't complete any of his thoughts. He stops and moves on to the next point. He's irrational, and, based on the fact he was writing on hospital stationery, a hospital he likely used to work for, I might add, I'd guess he's spent some time in a psychiatric ward, but as soon as he gets out, he's back putting up his fliers. A year ago, when I first met him, he tried to sell me on his crackpot theories and non-truths, and at the time I suggested to him that maybe he should take his case to a wider forum, and talk to the local newspapers. He didn't, and apparently doesn't trust the press, period. His loss.

The United Negro College Fund's long standing slogan, "a mind is a terrible thing to waste", applies to this clown, as well as Alex Jones and the rest of his followers. If they don't get it, well........!

Dunce Cap Award: Melky Cabrera & Chad Johnson

This time, we have two winners of the coveted Dunce Cap.

Until he signed with San Francisco as a free agent after the 2011 season, Melky Cabrera wasn't an everyday player. He came up with the Yankees, but he's on his 3rd different team in as many years, having gone from the Bronx to Atlanta to Kansas City to San Francisco. On the surface, he was having the season of his life, among the National League leaders in batting, and leading in hits & runs scored. On Wednesday, however, everything came tumbling down.

Wednesday, before the Giants' matinee vs. Washington, Major League Baseball announced that Cabrera had been suspended 50 games for violating the league's joint drug prevention program. He'd tested positive for testosterone. Cabrera, of course, was contrite and apologetic, taking something he shouldn't have. The Giants were tied for 1st in the NL West before losing to the East-leading Nationals, and now they lose Cabrera for the rest of the regular season. Should they advance to the playoffs, Cabrera's suspension will still be in effect. If they don't make the post-season, Cabrera will have 5 games left to serve to start the 2013 season.

Meanwhile, the last of the NFL's "diva" wide receivers, Chad Johnson (nee Ochocinco), hit rock bottom big time.

First, Johnson was arrested on a domestic assault charge when he head-butted his new bride, who subsequently filed for divorce, ending their marriage after 41 days. Next, VH1 cancelled Johnson's new reality show before it even had its first episode broadcast, distancing themselves from the scandal. The last thing VH1, or its parent, Viacom, needed was another reality show stained by scandal. On Tuesday night, HBO's Hard Knocks documented Johnson's release from the Miami Dolphins. You have to believe that 1st year coach Joe Philbin had to feel a wee bit uncomfortable notifying Johnson of the team's decision with the cameras rolling.

Johnson is one of a generation of players who live for the cameras, putting themselves ahead of their team. The Cincinnati Bengals tired of his act, so they cut him loose. He didn't fit in with the New England Patriots last year, and his inactivity, in this writer's opinion, cost the Patriots dearly in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants. While fellow me-first receivers Braylon Edwards & Terrell Owens have landed in Seattle, what are the chances of Johnson joining them there? I just don't see it. These guys become vagabonds because all they're interested in is 1) padding their stats, 2) getting face time on camera, and 3) making money, not specifically in that order. This latest episode, to me, says that it's way past time for Johnson to do something he should've done a long time ago. Grow up.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Classic TV: Welcome Back, Kotter (1975)

Thomas Wolfe famously wrote that you can't go home again. However, that has oft been debunked, most evident in the high school sitcom, Welcome Back, Kotter, which anchored ABC's Thursday lineup during its first three seasons before being shunted off to Mondays---and inevitable cancellation---in season 4 to make room for Mork & Mindy.

Speaking of anchors, co-creator Gabriel Kaplan anchored the show's ensemble cast as school teacher Gabriel Kotter, who returned to his alma mater of James Buchanan High in Brooklyn, and, in a case of irony, taking over the very same remedial education class he himself was a part of as a student. In other words, he was a founding member of the Sweathogs, and thus acted as a friend and mentor to the current group, which led to them visiting him at home at the most inopportune times.

The Sweathogs were a diverse bunch, with Vinnie Barbarino (John Travolta) as their de facto leader. Then, there was athletic, suave Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), geeky but dull witted Arnold Horshack (Ron Palillo), and slippery Juan Epstein (Robert Hegyes), who was forever fabricating excuses from his mother to get out of class or tough homework assignments, to the point where it became cliched and predictable. One thing that Epstein had in his favor was the fact that he & Kotter shared a fondness for the Marx Brothers, as evidenced by Epstein answering Kotter's Groucho Marx mimic by imitating Chico (or, sometimes, Harpo).

Welcome Back, Kotter also opened doors for some of the supporting cast. For example, Charles Fleischer (Carvelli), who was never considered a series regular due to the infrequency of his appearances, had time to co-host the short lived children's variety show, Wacko, during season 3. Debralee Scott (Rosalie Totsie) left after 1 season to co-star on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman before returning for a 1-shot later in the series. Vernee Watson appeared frequently during the first couple of seasons, then left for a beefier role on Carter Country.

It was clear, however, that John Travolta has had the most success thanks to Kotter. He began a recording career during season 1, and had starred in some major blockbusters after each of the first three seasons ("Carrie", "Saturday Night Fever", & "Grease"), such that he was reduced to "special guest" status in season 4, appearing in 8 episodes. That prompted the producers to introduce a new Sweathog, Beau De la Barre (Stephen Shortridge) in season 4, but he wasn't quite the answer. After Kotter ended, Shortridge & Fleischer co-starred with Debbie Reynolds in a short-lived Aaron Spelling offering for ABC, Aloha Paradise. Shortridge wasn't heard from much again after that.

Perhaps ABC fumbled by moving Kotter to Mondays, but, then, they didn't want to risk breaking up their successful Tuesday block, anchored by Happy Days & Laverne & Shirley, which, despite being set in a different time period, could actually have complemented Kotter because both shows appealed to the same audience as Kotter. The Sweathogs were popular enough such that Welcome Back, Kotter transitioned into comics, with a 10 issue run at DC between 1976-77, but as yet not yet collected in trade paperback.

Shout! Factory offers this sample clip of Epstein impersonating Kotter:

Rating: A-.

Three more have left us

The summer of the Grim Reaper continues......

Boxer Michael Dokes, a former World heavyweight champion, passed away on Saturday, a day after his 54th birthday. Dokes was also a Silver medalist at the 1975 Pan American Games, losing to Cuban legend Teofilo Stevenson. Dokes held the WBA & NABF heavyweight titles during his career, which ended in 1997. Dokes succumbed to liver cancer.

Helen Gurley Brown, the founder and publisher of Cosmopolitan, left us at age 90. Since I never read the magazine, there's really little I can say here.

Finally, actor Ron Palillo, aka Arnold Horshack on Welcome Back, Kotter, passed away earlier today in his home in Florida at 63, his passing coming 7 months after castmate Robert Hegyes had succumbed. Palillo was also an artist, having drawn a few children's books, and took part in Fox's ill-fated Celebrity Boxing a few years ago. In the 80's, Palillo reinvented himself as a voice actor, landing the title role in Rubik, The Amazing Cube and a supporting role as a pig serving as a commanding officer on Laverne & Shirley In The Army.

Rest in peace.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Celebrity Rock: Johnny Crawford, the latter-day singing cowboy (1989)

After The Rifleman ended its run in 1963, co-star Johnny Crawford embarked on a second career as a teen crooner. After dropping out of the spotlight, Crawford dropped back in, thanks to Today, in September 1989. Rather than sing any of his hits from the 60's, Crawford reaches all the way back to the mid-30's for this country standard, which, unfortunately, isn't identified directly after an interview conducted by Jane Pauley.

Two cherished icons say goodbye

It has just come to my attention that one of the most beloved sports figures of the Northeast has passed away.

Johnny Pesky, for whom the right field foul pole was named at Fenway Park in Boston, passed away at 92. Pesky spent 60+ years in baseball, most of it with the Red Sox as a player, coach, and goodwill ambassador. I regret that I never had the privelege of seeing him play, but he was as much a beloved, iconic figure in Red Sox lore as Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and so on.

What I wanted to write about was the passing of comics legend Joe Kubert, who succumbed on Sunday at 85.

I don't think there's anyone that hasn't read any of his comics work, dating nearly 70 years. Kubert emigrated from Poland and began his career during the Golden Age, working on one of the characters with whom he's most associated, Hawkman. Kubert also created the Stone Age hero, Tor, who initially appeared for St. John Publishing before Kubert brought him to DC in 1975 for a short run, while Blackthorne Publishing produced 3D reprints of the earlier works during the 80's.

Working with writer Robert Kanigher, Kubert created the iconic WWII hero, Sgt. Rock, whose popularity was such that DC editors, in the mid-70's, as they rebranded some of their war books, made Rock the outright star of the title formerly known as Our Army At War. By the same token, Star Spangled War Stories was rechristened The Unknown Soldier, with Kubert contributing most of the covers to that series as well. Kanigher & Kubert then introduced the urban vigilante, Ragman, in 1976, but more recent incarnations of the character, as with Hawkman, aren't exactly along the same line as originally envisioned.

In recent times, Kubert went back to creator-owned work, a la Tor, with graphic novels such as The Redeemer and the critically acclaimed Fax From Sarajevo. DC is planning a Kubert anthology miniseries, due in October, while the iconic creator is currently on the shelves with a Before Watchmen miniseries starring Nite Owl, a project completed before Kubert's passing.

Sons Andy & Adam are currently instructors at the Kubert School in New Jersey, which has produced a good number of current talents, including Amanda Connor, carrying on the legacy of Joe Kubert, a true legend.

Rest in peace, Joe & Johnny.

Weasels of the Week: Michael & Margaret Pollara

While we're trying to determine who in the WWE deserves the Weasel ears, we're handing out two pairs to a mother-son team of thieves/con artists who targeted over 100 Toys R Us stores across the country, stealing expensive, big-ticket toy items, stashing them inside boxes meant for cheaper product, in effect undercutting the retailer at the checkout, then selling the hot property online to the tune of over $2 million.

Margaret Pollara, 70, and her son, Michael, were arrested in Miami on Thursday. The biggest mistake they made was the younger Pollara using a store-issued rewards card to make his purchases, enabling authorities to track the chain of events leading to the Pollaras' arrest.

What motivated the Pollaras? What else? Flat, outright greed, thumbing their noses at the system. Now, authorities will be likely working with eBay to locate the customers who purchased the stolen toys from Michael Pollara, delivering the sad news that they may have to return those toys to Toys R Us. The World's Biggest Toy Store was indeed big enough to let these two selfish Weasels run their little shell game without impunity for way too long.

Bank on this. Santa Claus already has these two ticketed for a lifetime supply of coal. We'll forward their address to the Candyass Cafe, corner of Know Your Role Blvd. & Jabroni Drive. Since they were in Miami, well, maybe they'll find a picture of the Rock waiting for them when they get there, people's eyebrow raised and glaring........

Who's more deserving of being a Weasel?

Here's an interesting conundrum.

A couple of weeks back on Monday Night Raw, talk show host-turned manager Abraham Washington, or, A. W. for short, wearing a live headset microphone, made a wisecrack referencing basketball star Kobe Bryant's alleged rape in a Colorado hotel room during a match involving one of his men. The timing was just way off, coming as it did days after the "Dark Knight" massacre in Aurora, Colorado.

11 days later, Washington (real name: Brian Jossie) was dismissed by WWE for making those remarks and some others. Reports say that there are those in the WWE locker rooms who felt that the firing was unjust, but, again, with the company's former CEO, Linda McMahon, campaigning for a US Senate seat out of Connecticut, the last thing Vince McMahon wants is to give his wife's opposition fuel to further slam the company and the campaign. Jossie took to Twitter to take shots at the company's PG-rated content. Mere days before, he issued an in-character post pledging his support to Mrs. McMahon's campaign.

This was Jossie's second go-round with the big club, the first being in 2009-10 on ECW with the aforementioned talk show, designed as a parody of late night yakkers such as Jay Leno and Arsenio Hall. It took too long for McMahon to discover that the joke wore thin way too quickly, and Abraham Washington found himself upstaged by his sidekick, Hall of Fame wrestler-turned-stooge Tony Atlas, whose forced laughter went over bigger. After ECW was, shall we say, retired, 2 1/2 years ago, Jossie was sent back to Florida Championship Wrestling, where he split his time between managing, announcing, and actually wrestling a few matches. He was recalled earlier this year, and his ring name shortened to A. W., now presented as the owner of All World Promotions. The headset mic, I felt, was eventually going to get this guy in trouble, and it did.

Now, Dave Meltzer, of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, has raised the issue of whether or not WWE should bring back the A. W. character, preferably sans microphone. I don't think so. Since Jossie's Twitter rants went public, it sounds to me like the man has already burned his bridges with the company, but then, there have been others who did and later were welcomed back. We'll know later tonight if he's another that was invited back with a mea culpa.

So, then, who's the weasel? Is it Jossie, whose remarks as A. W. weren't scripted, allowing him to ad-lib, despite the prospect of damaging words being spoken? Or is it Vince McMahon, for pulling the plug, some say too early, in an effort to protect his wife's political aspirations? While I get the rationale in either case, what I can't figure is if it's fair to bestow the Weasel ears on one or both or neither man? Feel free to offer your opinions.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Musical Interlude: Until It's Time For You To Go (1965)

Before he was cast as one of The Monkees, Michael Nesmith had tried to make a go of it as a solo act. Using the name Michael Blessing, he made the rounds a year before his big break, with a modest single, "Until It's Time For You To Go".

After Monkees ended in 1968, Nesmith, recording under his own name, formed a new group, the First National Band, and ultimately landed a crossover hit, "Joanne", that I remember hearing on a country music channel in the early 70's. He'd later parody that with a tribute to the Japanese monster, "Rodan". Anyway, here's "Until It's Time For You To Go", taken from The Lloyd Thaxton Show:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What Might've Been: What if someone else hosted Hollywood Squares? (1965)

The Hollywood Squares marked its 45th anniversary last year, but what some people might not know is that Peter Marshall wasn't the original choice to emcee the show during its initial run (1966-81).

Instead, when the pilot was shot in 1965, entertainer Bert Parks, better known as the long time host of the Miss America pageant, was in the host's chair, and, as you'll see shortly, the contestant's seats were reversed from their traditional positions. I regret the fact that the video is not in the best of shape, but what can you do, effendi?

Anyway, this was one of those deals where they made a few tweaks to get the show on the air, and in this case, it worked for the best. Marshall presided over Squares for 16 seasons, and that includes the various night-time editions that aired on NBC & syndication, and the short-lived Storybook Squares, which was originally a mid-season replacement on NBC's Saturday morning block from January-August 1969, before being revived as a special theme week edition of the parent series in the mid-70's. You see, then, that MTV2's Hip Hop Squares, currently on hiatus, has a vast legacy to uphold.

Now, then, judge for yourself and see if Bert Parks would've made an adequate game show host..........

Parks would later dabble in acting, specifically if it had to do with beauty pageants, including a guest turn as a villain on The Bionic Woman in the mid-70's. No rating.

Classic TV: Wild Kingdom (1963)

Before NBC began airing a Sunday night newscast ahead of its primetime programming, the network filled that gap between local news and The Wonderful World of Disney with Wild Kingdom, sponsored by Mutual of Omaha, at the time one of the most recognized life insurance companies. However, like Hee Haw & The Lawrence Welk Show, Wild Kingdom was cancelled in 1971, only to continue on in syndication for another 17 seasons until the program finally ended in 1988.

Producer Don Meier and series host Marlin Perkins, director of the St. Louis Zoo, had previously worked together on the syndicated Zoo Parade, and Kingdom came about as a result of meetings that Perkins had with representatives from Mutual of Omaha. 14 years after the series ended, it was revived and aired on Animal Planet, though I am not certain if the revival has continued. Perkins was forced to retire due to health reasons after the 1984-5 season, and long time aide Jim Fowler took over as series host for the final three seasons of the original run.

SupremeTeam68 uploaded the open & close.

Wild Kingdom was one of the last shows to do a direct segue into commercials, with Perkins using analogies linking a mother lion protecting her cubs to Mutual of Omaha protecting their clients' life insurance interests. In today's glut of "reality" television shows, I'd imagine the revival is out of production because it was lost in the shuffle. I never saw the revival, so the rating is based on the original series, which was, in fact, appointment viewing at home back in the day.

Rating: A.

Will the spoils of success spoil the Valleycats?

It's easy to say that the Tri-City Valleycats, 2 years removed from winning the New York-Penn League title, are the surprise team in the league this year. The 'Cats sit atop the Stedler Division with a 38-14 record after dispatching Staten Island on Friday night, but before the game, they lost three key players to promotion within the Astros organizational chain.

Outfielder Andrew Aplin, among the league leaders in batting and stolen bases, and relief pitcher Kenny Long have been sent to Lancaster in the California League, while Catcher-DH Jobie Morales was promoted to Lexington of the South Atlantic League. Aplin & Morales were two of seven Valleycats selected to play in the NYPL All Star Game, set for Tuesday night in Niles, Ohio. So far, the 'Cats have made do with the changes, as, according to an article in today's Troy Record, manager Stubby Clapp indicated that Emilio King, returning to Tri-City after a stint in Lexington, and infielder Neiko Johnson, in his second season in Troy, would platoon in center field to replace Aplin. Catcher Cristian Moronta was transferred from Lexington to Tri-City to replace Morales on the roster in an even swap of backstops.

Given that there's less than a month left in the regular season, it's a surprise the Astros hadn't promoted a lot of these players sooner, and it's very, very likely that Aplin, Morales, Long, and others will eventually surface in the bigs in due course. In the Valleycats' 11 seasons, 26 players have eventually made it to "The Show", though a good number of them ended up with other teams in doing so.

And no matter how deep into the postseason the 'Cats go, there's no guarantee that Clapp will return for a 3rd year in Troy. His predecessor, Jim Pankovits, left for a job in the Mariners organization after winning the NYPL title 2 years ago. Clapp is following the same pattern as Pankovits. The 'Cats struggled in Pankovits' 1st year, then won it all. Then again, the Valleycats' better years usually are in even-numbered years, with division titles in 2004, 2006, and 2010, the latter being the championship year. Under Clapp, the 'Cats battled to stay out of the cellar last year, but got off to a stronger start this year, and so far, haven't looked back. That's more than can be said for the parent Astros, of course, once a perennial contender, but now struggling to get over .500 while preparing to switch leagues in 2013, moving from the NL Central to the AL West and a greater in-state rivalry with the Texas Rangers.

While they haven't gone public with plans, I'd not be surprised to read or hear of playoff tickets going on sale in the next two weeks, barring a total collapse on the order of the Braves and Red Sox of last year. That's the last thing fans in the home district want to hear, but the reality is that if there are more promotions in the final month of the season, that and not diminished play in the field might be what spoils the 'Cats' chances of a 2nd title in 3 years. We'll just have to see, because that's why they play the games in the first place.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What Might've Been: The Adventures of Superpup (1958)

Sometimes, the noblest of ideas end up failing due to poor execution, and the final product becomes so bad (How bad is it?), that no one wants to admit it ever existed.

Producer Whitney Ellsworth, who was also an editor at DC Comics, wanted to create a series similar to the successful Adventures of Superman, but with dogs, albeit people in dog suits. In 1958, Ellsworth produced a pilot for the Adventures of Superpup, using the dog-costumed actors and puppets. After you watch this sample, you might begin to wonder if Ellsworth should've considered animation..........!

Edit, 4/28/22: The video was deleted after Warner Bros. (now Warner Brothers Discovery) filed a copyright claim. In its place is the intro:

Three years later, Ellsworth tried again, this time with the original pilot for the Adventures of Superboy. That pilot didn't sell, either, but ultimately was released, as was Superpup, on video. I actually had the Superboy video at one time, and later traded it, but if I can find it on YouTube, it'll eventually turn up here. Superboy, of course, would finally become a series nearly 30 years after Ellsworth's version, and has recently been reviewed on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives.

Rating: D-.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Videos of Summer: Tuff Enuff (1986)

The Fabulous Thunderbirds introduced themselves to the MTV generation with 1986's "Tuff Enuff". Flanked by a half dozen hotties dressed as construction workers, Kim Wilson and the band were in heavy rotation throughout the summer. Ya know, some guys do have all the luck.......

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Marvin Hamlisch (1944-2012) & Judith Crist (1922-2012)

Two more passings to report.

Judith Crist may be well known as a film critic, her reviews having appeared in the New York Herald Tribune & TV Guide, and Crist was a regular contributor to Today before Gene Shalit took over as their in-house film critic, if memory serves. Mrs. Crist passed away at 90, was still teaching classes on film, I believe, up to her passing. She is survived by her son, Steven, a handicapper for the Daily Racing Form.

Composer Marvin Hamlisch passed away suddenly over the weekend at 68.  Hamlisch will be remembered for introducing Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" to a new generation of listeners in the 1973 movie, "The Sting", and followed that up with the title song to the 1974 film, "The Way We Were", the title song sung by Barbra Streisand. Hamlisch also co-wrote "Nobody Does It Better", which became a hit for Carly Simon, on the soundtrack to the James Bond adventure, "The Spy Who Loved Me".

Rest in peace.

Musical Interlude: You Were On My Mind (1965)

I was but a toddler when the San Francisco pop combo We Five emerged in 1965 with "You Were On My Mind", released on A & M Records. It was still garnering airplay on AM radio in the 70's as I was growing up, and one wonders what might've been had singer Beverly Bivens not left the group 2 years later to start a family.

Anyway, Rumandcocacola44 uploaded this clip from The Hollywood Palace, complete with introduction by host du jour Fred Astaire.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Musical Interlude: Only One You (1982)

T. G. Sheppard scored a #1 hit on the country charts in the winter of 1982 with "Only One You". The only video I could find for the song was this live cut from around that same time. Uploaded by Johnrichnow to YouTube. It makes a great love song any time of the year.

In theatres: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Christopher Nolan meant it when he said he wanted to end his Batman story in "The Dark Knight Rises". We just didn't know just how far he'd go, and, to be honest, even though it has topped the box office chart for 3 weeks running, I don't believe it actually fulfilled all expectations.

Even though for us it has been four years between films, Nolan doubled the time in the story, making it 8 years since Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart, seen only in flashback and in photos) and Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhall in "Dark Knight") had died, and Batman (Christian Bale) had taken the blame for Dent's passing, resulting in a big lie that led the citizens of Gotham to believe Dent died a hero, turning the Dark Knight into an outlaw.

In the interim, Bruce Wayne has retired his alter-ego and settled into reclusive retirement at Wayne Manor, slowed by a litany of injuries that leads to the use of a cane to move about. He hosts a social gathering one night, and finds that one of the maids isn't who she seems to be, but rather a slippery burglar, one Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, "Get Smart"), who makes off with not only a pearl necklace that belonged to Bruce's late mother, Martha, but also Wayne's fingerprints from the safe, meant for a business rival, John Daggett, who is looking to take advantage of Wayne's remaining in absentia and taking over Wayne Enterprises.

Meanwhile, there is Bane (Tom Hardy), a hulking mercenary supposedly excommunicated from the League of Shadows, Ra's Al Ghul's group. Bane intends to bring Gotham City to its knees, and carry out Al Ghul's mission, however twisted that is. As was the case when he was introduced in the comics nearly 20 years ago, Bane puts the Batman on the shelf after a brief comeback by breaking his back. However, he then takes Batman to the very same prison where Bane himself grew up.

When Bane was introduced in the books, he was dressed more like a pro wrestler, which would doubtlessly explain why Joel Schumacher cast the late grappler Robert "Jeep" Swenson as Bane in "Batman & Robin" 15 years ago. Obviously, Bane was treated much better this time-----most of the time.

Wayne is so out of touch with business matters, he leaves himself vulnerable to a Trojan Horse play by bringing in Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), and putting her in charge of the company when the stolen fingerprints are used in a scam that leaves Bruce penniless. Everything then begins to crumble. Alfred (Michael Caine), fearing for Wayne's life, resigns. Bane appears to have won, after Selina had betrayed the Batman, and, as a result, learns his secret identity, though, in a clear case of poor continuity, this is forgotten later in the film.

Nolan had tried to keep the exact nature of Cotillard's role under wraps, but that's kind of hard to do when you have millions of comics geeks with access to the internet, coupled with their own instincts. They got around the attempted swerves thrown by Nolan & Cotillard, and, as it happens, when Miranda betrays Batman as well, it's because of who she really is----Talia Al Ghul, Ra's' daughter, seeking to avenge her father's death in the first film. Liam Neeson returns in a brief bit as a ghostly apparition, and, in another nod to "Batman Begins", Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), aka the Scarecrow, is presiding over a twisted version of The People's Court. Crane ain't exactly Judge Wapner, not even Judge Roy Bean, but it doesn't last very long. If Nolan had chosen to be more direct with his use of Talia, fans would be more understanding and/or forgiving. There was a brief time in the comics back in the 80's when Batman was courted by both Talia and Selina, with a side order of Vicki Vale, and since Nolan was using comics from the 90's as a template, well, why not dig deeper?

But it's not just the comics that were a template. There was also the classic Batman: The Animated Series, marking its 20th anniversary this year. On that show, there was a criminal businessman named Roland Daggett who was a bit of a thorn in Batman's side.

I have to disagree with fellow blogger Sam Wilson over at Mondo 70 on one point, and that is the usage of John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, to be seen next in "Premium Rush" & "Looper"), who, like Bruce Wayne, was an orphan, and deduced Wayne's secret identity. We'd later learn that Nolan would use Blake as a means of fitting in one otherwise missing piece of the Bat-mythos that had been deliberately left out of the series. You can figure that one out.

I also disagree with Nolan's decision at the end of the film to seemingly kill off Batman/Bruce, having the world think that Wayne is dead, when instead, he's fulfilling a vision Alfred had, but only in a happier circumstance. Blake gains access to the Batcave as his "inheritance", leading one to believe Nolan, had he wanted to continue, would've had his own version of Batman Beyond if he wanted Blake to inherit the mantle of the Bat completely. Gordon-Levitt was terrific, as was Anne Hathaway as Selina (never referred to as Catwoman, though she'd don a costume that was in effect a homage to TV's original Felonious Feline, Julie Newmar). Tom Hardy, given the ridiculous gas-mask-like apparatus (and is it just me, or is that a bat-emblem around the mouth area?) he had to wear throughout the film (the script explains why), was serviceable, but not quite as menacing as you'd think. I read where Hardy had gained some weight for the role. Given what I said earlier about Bane being modeled after a wrestler, Hardy makes him appear to be more of a football player, which is appropriate given the scene in the football stadium, where newly retired Pittsburgh Steelers star Hines Ward runs the opening kickoff back for a touchdown despite the chaos behind him. Other Steelers, including Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu, appear in this segment as well.

Given the success of the movie, despite the flaws and the unfortunate, tragic episode in Colorado on opening night, I'd not be surprised if there was a call for a "Catwoman" spinoff as a solo vehicle for Anne Hathaway. Her portrayal of Selina strikes close to, again, the character's portrayal in her solo book in the 90's, more as a female version of Alexander Mundy (Robert Wagner in It Takes a Thief), though I'd imagine millions of boys wouldn't mind letting her break into their homes......!

Anyway, here's a trailer from WB's YouTube channel:

Pushing past 2 1/2 hours in length, "Dark Knight Rises" padded the story more than it needed to. Compacting it down would've made it a more enjoyable experience.

Rating: B+.

Sometimes, the system needs fixing, even if they don't admit it....

NBC's new reality series, Stars Earn Stripes, is getting some bad publicity, just a week before the series begins, and the network may actually have itself to blame for some insensitivity toward one of the prospective stars, which has proven costly to another of their shows.

Yahoo! is reporting that Sharon Osbourne has resigned as a judge on America's Got Talent, making her the last of the original four stars to leave the show, but the reason she's leaving has more to do with the perception of discrimination toward her son, Jack, who is currently hosting SyFy's Haunted Highway, and was to participate in Stars Earn Stripes, a collaboration between reality mogul Mark Burnett (Survivor) and veteran producer Dick Wolf (Law & Order and its family of series).

A while back, Jack Osbourne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and, according to Sharon, was looking forward to doing Stripes as a means of showing other MS patients that it's not the end of the world. In an interview with the New York Post, Sharon accused NBC suits of discriminating against Jack because of his condition. I am not sure if it was intentional, considering that Jack already was a part of the NBC-Universal-Comcast family thanks to Highway. No contract was ever signed, though Sharon claims Jack had a verbal agreement with the producers, and was let go 2 days before tapings began.

So, who's at fault? All Jack Osbourne wants to do is be a positive role model for other MS patients, and be as active as possible. There's nothing wrong with that, is there? As far as NBC suits are concerned, apparently, there is, but they're afraid of saying the wrong thing to escalate matters.

Commercials have begun airing for Stars Earn Stripes, and the only celebrity in the ad I've seen is Dean Cain (ex-Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), who's no stranger to reality TV, having hosted a revival of Ripley's Believe It Or Not for TBS a few years back (and the reruns of which air presently on Chiller, another NBC-Universal network), but it is known that the WWE"s Eve Torres is also taking part, which means WWE would have a bit of difficulty scheduling her to be on Raw for the duration beginning August 13.

I don't know who exactly to assign blame to on this matter, but eventually, someone's headed for the Candyass Cafe.......

Friday, August 3, 2012

Classic TV: The Brady Bunch (1969)

"Here's the story/Of a man named Brady......"

Two years had passed since Gilligan's Island had ended its run on CBS, but creator Sherwood Schwartz switched studios, from United Artists to Paramount, and networks, from CBS to ABC, for his next, and arguably, his most successful franchise, The Brady Bunch.

The series has both fans and detractors who are legion, which, honestly, I don't quite fathom. On the surface, it took the usual sitcom conventions and turned them on their ear. The basic premise, two families coming together as one, was borrowed, sort of, from a 1968 movie, "Yours, Mine, & Ours", with Henry Fonda & Lucille Ball, but proved to be far more successful than that film.

Brady Bunch lasted five seasons, the last two concurrent with the first spinoff, the animated Brady Kids, which in turn was borne as the result of the Kids' turn to pop music, beginning in season 3, and including their taking over the vocals on the seminal theme song. However, if you thought the story was over when both series ended in 1974, you'd be sadly mistaken.

In 1977, the franchise was licensed to Sid & Marty Krofft, who'd broken into primetime by producing the first two seasons of Donny & Marie. With the Osmond family taking over production of that series, which, oh by the way, was occupying the Bradys' former home on Fridays, the Kroffts unveiled The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, meant to anchor ABC's Sunday primetime package. However, they found out, as Bill Cosby did a year earlier, that going up against two other franchises in 60 Minutes & The Wonderful World of Disney was an arduous, near impossible task, and the series was cancelled after 1 season.

Four years later, the Bradys were back, but on a new network, NBC. The two oldest daughters, Marcia (Maureen McCormick) & Jan (Eve Plumb) were spun off into The Brady Brides, the result of a TV-movie that somehow ABC stupidly passed on. Schwartz had taken the Gilligan franchise to NBC as well, so a case can be made that maybe a new Brady series was part of the deal with the network. However, Brides bombed out, as NBC quickly discovered that moving the Bradys back to their old Friday night berth just wasn't the ticket, not when the competition included Dukes of Hazzard.

Seven years passed, and the Brady clan returned one more time, this time on CBS, in "A Very Brady Christmas", which led to 1990's short-lived The Bradys. During this time, Greg (Barry Williams) had gotten married, and, as outlined last time, Bobby (Mike Lookinland) tied the knot with his college sweetheart (MTV doll Martha Quinn) in the 2-hour Bradys opener. Unfortunately, this incarnation lasted just 5 weeks total.

After the franchise was resurrected in a pair of feature films starring Shelley Long (ex-Cheers) & Gary Cole (ex-Midnight Caller), you'd think it was finally over. No, it's not. As outlined on Wednesday, the franchise is reborn once more, as CBS has picked up an option on a new version of the classic series, with Vince Vaughn ("The Watch") & Peter Billingsley ("A Christmas Story") attached as producers, along with Lloyd Schwartz, and intended for a 2013 launch. We'll see if lightning can get caught again.

For now, let's turn back the clock to 1971, and the Kids performing "Sunshine Day".

Of the six Kids, only Maureen McCormick & Susan Olsen are still in the music business. Olsen, the last anyone knew, was a DJ in Los Angeles, and McCormick was last heard trying her hand as a country singer. The 2013 Bunch will almost certainly have a new cast, but they have some very large shoes to fill........

Rating: B.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The story of a man named Brady continues....?

More proof that Hollywood is creatively spent comes in a report I read online earlier this morning.

Sometime next year, CBS plans on bringing back The Brady Bunch, updated for the 21st century. It's being billed as a reboot, but based on what I've read, I don't think it really is. Rather, it may be a continuation of the decades-long saga that began all the way back in 1969. Plus, it's the first Brady project without the supervision of series creator Sherwood Schwartz, who passed away several months back.

Linked to the new Brady Bunch, at least from a creative standpoint, is actor Vince Vaughn, currently in "The Watch" with Ben Stiller. However, it isn't Vaughn's first go as a TV producer. He currently has a series airing  on TBS, Sullivan & Son, which has gotten off to a good start. Former child actor Peter Billingsley ("A Christmas Story") is also attached as a producer, along with Lloyd Schwartz, Sherwood's son and former producing partner.

The idea here is that youngest son Bobby would now be the focus of the show, divorced, remarried, and with 3 kids of his own. The remaining question is whether or not the new series does indeed carry over from 1990's The Bradys, which saw Bobby (Mike Lookinland) become paralyzed after a racing accident. When that series ended, he was making strides toward walking again and casting aside his wheelchair. We'll just have to wait and see how that all plays. CBS was home to The Bradys for its all-too-brief 5-week run in February & March 1990, and since CBS, having absorbed Paramount's television division, owns the rights to the Brady franchise, well, it makes sense for the new show to air there. The only question is what the right date would be. The Bradys aired on Fridays, as the original series did, but bombed. A different night would help, under the right circumstances.

Later this month, I'll be taking a look back through Brady history, though the animated Brady Kids has already been dealt with over on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives. Maybe by then, we'll all learn more about the new Bunch.