Saturday, March 30, 2013

Classic TV: It Takes a Thief (1968)

In the movie, "The Dirty Dozen", the military recruited prisoners to form an elite squad. ABC copied the concept with the 1967 series, Garrison's Gorillas, which lasted just one season. Undaunted, the network decided to try again, but this time, simplifying the concept.

In It Takes A Thief, jewel thief Alexander Mundy (Robert Wagner) is recruited by the SIA to essentially play Robin Hood, robbing from the bad guys in the name of the government. Thief lasted three seasons, and spent a large chunk of the 70's in syndication, which is where I actually became acquainted with Dave Grusin's kickin' theme song.

Edit, 8/11/21: Have to change the video. For now, we have a 1st season episode with Lynda Day, Ben Murphy, and Brenda Benet:

After 2 seasons, actor Malachi Throne, who played Mundy's handler, Noah Bain, left the show, and later served as narrator on ABC's Saturday morning series, Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. Throne, who passed away earlier this month, was missed as a presence, but Universal tried to fill the void by adding Fred Astaire to the show as Mundy's dad, Alistair. Cue cancellation notice.

More recently, there was a reality series that co-opted the Thief title, airing on Discovery, but that speaks to the lack of original thinking. In the comics, DC's Catwoman was granted her first regular solo series in 1994, recast in the mold of-----wait for it----Alexander Mundy. Unfortunately, creative changes led to the series moving away from this formula a few years into the run.

Rating: A.

Friday, March 29, 2013

On DVD: Doomed To Die (1940)

Boris Karloff makes his final go-round as detective James Lee Wong in 1940's "Doomed to Die". As with the rest of the films in the series, this flies by very quickly.

The owner of a steamship company is in dire straits after one of his ships goes down in flames. After a dispute with a prospective son-in-law, whose father is waiting in the next room, a shot is fired, the mogul is dead, the son-in-law-to-be is framed for the crime, and, well, you know the drill, don't you?

It's a shame that Karloff, toward the end of his career, never got the chance to play another detective role, the kind of veteran sleuth that would be embodied by the likes of Buddy Ebsen (Barnaby Jones), Angela Lansbury (Murder, She Wrote), and Dick Van Dyke (Diagnosis: Murder) in later years. As I've written before, Karloff demonstrated that he was a lot more versatile as an actor than most give him credit for. The final film in the Mr. Wong series was a prequel with Keye Luke in the lead, and we covered that sometime back. Rating: A-.

National League Central & West 2013 preview

We wrap up our baseball preview by taking a look at the NL Central & West.

NL Central:

The bad news is that the teams in this division don't have Houston to kick around anymore. Well, at least they still have the Chicago Cubs, but that's another story. After 15 seasons of having 6 teams in the division, it's down to 5, and, in effect, Houston's departure to the AL West completes what amounts to a protracted swap. Y'see, Milwaukee moved to the NL Central in 1998, moving laterally across from the AL Central.

The Brew Crew are in rebuilding mode. They foolishly let Zach Greinke, their big free-agent signing prior to 2012, leave (now with the Dodgers), and aside from Yovanni Gallardo, there ain't much pitching. Shaun Marcum, injuries and all, is in New York (Mets), and reliever Francisco Rodriguez is a free agent. The New York media floated the idea of K-Rod returning to the Mets, but the Amazin's didn't bite. There won't be a playoff run in the beer capital of the world this year, either.

Cincinnati made the smartest move of all by keeping Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen as their closer. After seeing Texas' similar experiment with Neftali Feliz result in a season ending injury last year, it makes sense to have the fireballer work the 9th, with Jonathan Broxton (formerly with the Dodgers & Kansas City) setting up. Dusty Baker is like old man river. He just rolls on. The Cubs, in year 2 of the Dale Sveum/Theo Epstein era, picked up Scott Hairston as a free agent (Mets) to help with the outfield, especially if something should happen to Alfonso Soriano. The Mets will regret letting Hairston go, I assure you, but unlike on Knight Rider 30 years ago, one man will not make a difference with the Cubs..........

Pittsburgh came oh-so-close to making the playoffs for the first time in 20 years last year, only to fade down the stretch. They were blessed by New York in picking up Russell Martin (Yankees) & Lucas May (Mets) to back up Mike McKendry, although May will likely start the season in the minors. Andrew McCutcheon is the most exciting player the Bucco's have had since, well, Barry Bonds, before the steroids. After having a bounce-back year in his first year in Pittsburgh, AJ Burnett is the Pirates' opening day starter. Aside from that? Well.......

In St. Louis, the Cardinals didn't sweat losing Albert Pujols after all. They made the playoffs, and the Angels didn't. 'Nuff said. But can mamagers such as Mike Metheny experience a sophomore jinx? Not in this town. However, third baseman David Freese, a World Series hero in 2011, opens the season on the DL. The Cards can only go so far with Carlos Beltran and a no-name offense to back up Adam Wainwright and the pitching staff. Closer Jason Motte also starts the year on the DL, and that doesn't bode well in the first month.

Projected order of finish:

1. Cincinnati.
2. St. Louis.
3. Pittsburgh.
4. Milwaukee.
5. Chicago.

NL West:

Don Mattingly may be praying for a miracle as he begins his 3rd season managing the Dodgers. He might be better off asking Tom Lasorda to dust off his Dugout Wizard cap (from his days on The Baseball Bunch in the 80's) and give him enough sage advice to get through. Arizona hurt their chances by getting rid of Justin Upton, because you know who got the better of that deal. And they just cut veteran catcher Rod Barajas, who will likely resurface somewhere else in short order to haunt the D-Backs again. The best thing San Diego has going for it is they have their own ageless wonder in the broadcast booth in Dick Enberg, back for his 3rd year. He doesn't look to have aged too well, unlike Vin Scully in LA. All-Star third baseman Chase Headley opens the year on the DL, and that hurts the offense. San Diego will make a run, but when? Colorado doesn't really scare, if but because their roster is always in flux. They let slugger Jason Giambi leave (Cleveland), leaving them with no experience at first to back up Todd Helton, assuming Helton's still playing. For a while, they were the NL's answer to Minnesota in that you could count on them to make a run late, even if they fell short. Not so much now.

San Francisco welcomed back Andres Torres & Ramon Ramirez after a year in New York, then cut Ramirez, only to re-sign him to a minor league deal. Sergio Romo made everyone forget Brian Wilson, who's looking for a job. Apparently what's stopping him is that no one wants that beard. His Taco Bell ads weren't exactly world beaters, by the way. With Torres & Angel Pagan in the same outfield, the Giants will be better there. Tim Lincecum hasn't figured out the problems that plagued him as a starter last year in this preseason, so he's better off swallowing his pride---especially after cutting his hair----and becoming a reliever. Bank on this. If something happens to Romo, Lincecum, if he gets off to a bad start in the rotation, will close.

Projected order of finish:

1. San Francsico.
2. Los Angeles.
3. Arizona.
4. Colorado.
4. San Diego (tie).

Wild Cards: NL: Atlanta, Los Angeles. AL: Baltimore, Toronto.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter Theatre: Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971)

Since it aired last night on CW, I thought it'd be a good idea to re-open the Easter Theatre with Here Comes Peter Cottontail, which Rankin-Bass adapted from the book, The Bunny That Overslept, in 1970.

Peter (Casey Kasem) is in the running to be the new Easter Bunny when Colonel Bunny decides to retire. However, January Q. Irontail (Vincent Price) schemes to claim the title for himself by any means necessary, and sends Peter on a wild calendar chase, if you will. Helping Peter out is peddler-magician Seymour S. Sassafrass, who also is our narrator (and voiced by Danny Kaye), and Antoine, a caterpillar (Kaye again, using a French accent), who morphs into a butterfly at the end of the story.

Bearclaws Village uploaded a digitally remastered version, which probably is the same one you might've seen last night.

Delightful fun, but unfortunately, its airing on CW was the first in a looooooong time.

Rating: B+.

National League East 2013 preview

Now, we turn our attention to the National League, and start again in the East.

The Philadelphia Phillies fell to 3rd place last year, and to .500 (81-81), their string of five straight division titles snapped. What was strange was that the Phils' management seemed to give up a wee bit too early, shipping outfielder Shane Victorino to the Dodgers (now with Boston) and Hunter Pence ended up winning a World Series with San Francisco. The shuffling continued in the offseason, but it looks like Philadelphia can contend again. Placido Polanco was cut loose and signed with Miami as a free agent, but the Phillies picked up Michael Young (Texas) to take his place. In the outfield, Philadelphia picked up Ben Revere (Minnesota) while saying farewell to reserve Ben Francisco (now with the Yankees). However, catcher Carlos Ruiz begins the season finishing out a suspension for PED's that started at the end of last season, and ace Roy Halladay hasn't looked sharp in recent outings. It won't be easy.

Everyone sees Miami finishing last again. After gutting the roster, leaving only Giancarlo Stanton as their only legit power threat and Ricky Nolasco as their #1 starter, the Marlins are back in rebuilding mode with a former player, Mike Redmond, as their new manager. This will not be fun at all. The Mets, meanwhile, have the usual injury issues. David Wright may be ready for the opener vs. San Diego, but Johan Santana won't, as he still has shoulder issues that just won't go away. Shaun Marcum, picked up in the offseason to be the #2 starter, also has arm issues. Chris Young was recently cut by Washington, so there's a chance he could return after all. However, the Mets may be relying way too much on Wright, Ike Davis, & Lucas Duda to supply the bulk of the power. Super-sub Scott Hairston and catcher Rob Johnson are in Chicago with the Cubs. In fact, all 4 of the catchers the team used last year are gone, as minor leaguer Lucas May was let go and ended up in Pittsburgh, where he'll back up Russell Martin. Mike Nickeas & Josh Thole ended up packaged with R. A. Dickey to Toronto, and Thole was just sent to the minors. For what it's worth, the Mets moved their Triple A franchise from Buffalo to Las Vegas, and the Bisons are now Toronto's top farm team. Go figure. It's going to be a long year, and likely the last for manager Terry Collins.

Atlanta said goodbye to retired slugger Chipper Jones after last season, then shipped his backup, Martin Prado, to Arizona, as part of the deal to get Justin Upton. The Braves also gutted 3/5 of their rotation, dumping Randall Delgado (Arizona), Jair Jurrgens (Baltimore), & Tommy Hanson (LA Angels of Anaheim). If the balance of the offense consists of the law firm of Upton, Upton, & Heyward, with a heaping helping of Freddie Freeman (no Captain Marvel jokes, please), the Braves will be happy.

That leaves the defending division champs, the Washington Nationals. Almost everyone is back. Edwin Jackson (Cubs) has been replaced in the rotation by Dan Haren, and Rafael Soriano, late of the Yankees, will be the closer. Mike Morse is gone, but the Nats are fortunate to retain first baseman Adam LaRoche, who had a career year last year. Better still, the reins are being taken off ace Stephen Strasburg, so that he'll be able to pitch throughout the season, including a presumptively likely playoff return.

Projected order of finish:

1. Washington.
2. Atlanta.
3. Philadelphia.
4. Mets.
5. Miami.

Oh, so golfers are supposed to be tough guys, too? (2013)

The ad people at EA Sports have gone from the ridiculous (MLB The Show 13) to the sublime with their ad campaign for their PGA 14 video game. To paraphrase ESPN's Kenny Mayne, the timing of this commercial amuses me. This showed up on YouTube not long after Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer-hosted tour event at Bay Hill for an 8th time on Monday.

So what do we have here? Woods & Palmer en route to somewhere, intercepted by a bunch of thugs coveting their trophies. Never mind the Mr. T wannabe near the end of the clip. I don't think T himself would've signed on for this even in his heyday 30 years ago.

This audition for Tiger as an action hero comes from EA's YouTube channel:

Geez, I never realized Lee Trevino was so short.........

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Local sports this 'n' that

High school basketball season is over. Section 2 gained one Federation title, as Albany Academy, in an independent league, defeated John Adams High of NYC on Saturday. Troy High's women's team finally ran out of magic in losing to Long Island Lutheran, but there is every possibility remaining, in this writer's opinion, that the Lady Flying Horses will be honored by marching in the Troy Flag Day parade on June 9. Congratulations to all the teams on a sensational season.

Union College claimed the ECAC hockey title for the 2nd straight year, and thus are going to the NCAA tournament. RPI, however, was denied even an at-large bid, which again speaks to the bias against upstate New York's colleges. This was just as evident in the NCAA basketball tournaments, as the University at Albany's teams were fed to ACC powers Duke (men) & North Carolina (women). The Lady Danes nearly pulled off an upset that might've knocked Florida Gulf Coast off the headlines, but lost by 5 to the Lady Tar Heels. So, naturally, the speculation has begun on what will happen to UAlbany's coaches, Will Brown & Katie Abramson-Henderson, who might be entertaining offers from bigger schools. UAlbany seems willing, however, to break the bank to keep them in town. Which would be the best thing to do.

It appears that after 3 shows, 787 Pro Wrestling may be in trouble. As I wrote on Sunday, no date was announced for the next show, and now the promotion's Twitter & Facebook pages, along with the website, have been taken down. All that's left are the videos that are available on YouTube. I honestly don't know what's going on. Angles were set up at Sunday's show, as I reported, but if there's no follow-up show, it will have been done in vain. The web pages were up on Monday, and gone today. It just doesn't make sense, unless everything is being reconfigured, but fans are being left in the dark, with no clues. Let's just hope that, yes, everything is being reset. As soon as there is news on this matter, I'll pass it along, that's all I can say and do for now.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Classic TV: Car 54, Where Are You? (1961)

Nat Hiken skewered the military with The Phil Silvers Show, aka You'll Never Get Rich, aka Sgt. Bilko. So what could he do for an encore? How about a buddy comedy about cops?

In the early 60's, the screen was filled with police dramas, and so the genre was ripe for comedy. Enter Car 54, Where Are You?, which centered on two patrolmen, Gunther Toody (Joe E. Ross) & Francis Muldoon (Fred Gwynne), although, like Bilko, the ensemble was just as valuable.

Toody was about as sharp as a broken thumbtack. Muldoon was a by-the-book officer who had to try to keep Toody in line as best as able. Difficult to do over the course of the series' run. The cast also included Charlotte Rae (later of Diff'rent Strokes & The Facts of Life), Al Lewis (who would join Gwynne in The Munsters and achieve cult icon status), & Nipsey Russell, who wasn't reciting poetry on the show.

Car 54 lasted two seasons, and spawned a feature film version more than 30 years after it ended, with actor-singer David Johansen, aka Buster Poindexter, in a lead role. Small wonder that it flopped.

Following is the episode, "Remember St. Petersburg", with guest star Larry Storch (pre-F-Troop):

Joe E. Ross would parlay his signature "Oooh! Oooh!!" into a brief career in cartoons in the 70's for Hanna-Barbera, landing few live-action roles post-Car 54. Now, that's one mystery I'll never solve.

Rating: B.

AL Central & West 2013 preview

With a week before the start of the season, we will continue our previews by covering both the AL Central & West divisions in this chapter.

AL Central:

Detroit won its 2nd straight division title last year virtually on the last day, then reached the World Series, where they were swept in 4 by San Francisco. The Tigers do not return intact , however, as outfielder Delmon Young left via free agency to Philadelphia. Closer Jose Valverde is gone as well, and for now, manager Jim Leyland will go with a committee of potential closers, including veteran Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke, who was part of the deal that sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees. Offensively, the Tigers remain solid, even with Young gone.

Cleveland is making noises, having picked up Nick Swisher (Yankees) & Michael Bourn (Atlanta) via free agency, while Shin Soo Choo moved to Cincinnati. Chicago remains a threat, but they're not making all that much racket with the same group that came within an eyelash of the title last year. Kansas City made a big trade with Tampa Bay, netting pitchers Wade Davis & James Shields, and if the preseason is a barometer, they could be a sleeper. Minnesota picked up pitcher Mike Pelfrey (Mets) in the offseason, but didn't get much help for the offense.

Projected order of finish:

1. Detroit.
2. Chicago.
3. Cleveland
3. (tie) Kansas City.
5. Minnesota.

AL West:

Oakland showed what could happen when you don't buy your way to the top. However, no one's going to be surprised by the A's this year. Texas is finally showing signs that they are no longer the class of the division, after getting run out in the wild card round by Baltimore. Josh Hamilton is gone, taking most of the offense with him to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, where he joins Albert Pujols and Rookie of the Year Mike Trout. Hamilton may be the last piece of the puzzle that owner Artie Moreno needed to take the Angels over the top. Houston joins the division this year, just to give everyone a punching bag to play with, as they're nowhere near ready to contend. Manager Bo Porter (Washington) may as well hear the theme from Mission: Impossible play before home games, although the increase in in-season games vs. Texas will boost attendance. If what happens in March meant anything, Seattle would be considered a sleeper threat, as they've blown out some teams in the Arizona sunshine. However, with Ichiro Suzuki having gone East to the Yankees last summer, they're lacking a drawing card at the box office.

Projected order of finish:

1. Angels.
2. Texas.
3. Oakland.
4. Seattle.
5. Houston.

We'll cover the NL East in part 3.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

On DVD: It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown (1984)

A few days ago, we reviewed a 1991 Peanuts special, "Snoopy's Reunion". Now, let's turn the clock further back about 7 years to 1984.

Aerobic exercise was all the rage in the early 80's, and for that reason, early on in this episode, we see Peppermint Patty lead an exercise class, sporting a pink leotard & leg warmers and white sneakers in place of her usual sandals. Future pop star Stacy Ferguson, aka Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, made one of her first appearances here, voicing Sally. The soundtrack was composed by Desiree Goyette (ex-You Asked For It) and Ed Bogas, who would later become her husband (she was married at the time to producer Lee Mendelson). Goyette also teams with 1-hit wonder Joey Scarbury ("Believe It Or Not", the theme from Greatest American Hero) on the title song, "Flashbeagle", which of course is a satire on 1983's "Flashdance".

One thing the movie and the cartoon have in common is dancer Marine Jihan, who doubled for actress Jennifer Beals in "Flashdance", and performed the intricate dance sequences in "Flashbeagle" that were rotoscoped onto Snoopy. Because the special dates itself, it's rarely shown anymore, even though it's been nearly 30 years since its initial airing on CBS.

Jedi Juggernaut uploaded this sample, which shows Snoopy getting ready for a night at the club.........

Wikipedia notes that this was the 27th primetime special in the series, nearly 20 years after the first, "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Unfortunately, they ain't making 'em that often anymore......

Rating: B.

787 Pro Wrestling Chase for the Championship, 3/24/13, Troy Boys & Girls Club

787 Pro Wrestling's 3rd event, "Chase For the Championship", took place earlier today at the Troy Boys & Girls Club. There were some last minute changes from the originally announced card, as you'll see.

As opposed to last month's show, the "dark" match began at 2:30. Hale Collins debuted and squashed another newcomer, Roberto Castillo, in less than 2 minutes. Collins hit a float-over version of the 3 Amigos, then hit the flying elbow drop off the top. Castillo never got out of the blocks.

The official card then got underway at 2:35. Hey, these things happen, folks.

Four teams were entered for the tag team title tournament, but Capital Punishment (Rob Coleman & Foxx Vinyer) wasn't originally one of them. The Joint Task Force was scratched at the last minute. There was an open spot still left, filled by Josh Jordan and Jamal Justice. Coleman pinned Jordan to advance.

In the other heat, the Monarchy got past the Peacock Experience, but not without some chicanery involved. The Outkast Killaz (Oman Tortuga & Diablo Santiago) attacked Dalton Castle on the floor, while his partner was pinned after being blinded by the powdery makeup the Monarchy uses. Real lame, but it also sets up a tag team program going forward between the Killaz and the Experience. Tortuga turned on the same fans that cheered him last month, and Santiago introduced himself as the Devil incarnate. Sorry, Santiago, but I think someone else in this business has that all but trademarked.

In the finals, Vinyer turned on Coleman by walking out on him, leaving Coleman to be pinned by Zachary Beaulieu to enable the Monarchy to claim the tag titles. Figure Vinyer & Coleman to clash at the next show.

Meanwhile, Kyle Brad recovered from losing last month by beating Kriptic Keegan. Ring announcer Brian Cady brought out former WWE/ECW wrestler Colin Delaney out for an interview. Oh, was this awkward. Delaney now has shorter hair than when we last saw him on TV 4 years ago, and comes across as a total geek. Bill Carr, whom they said was in WWE developmental for a time, came out and challenged Delaney. That brought out Antonio "The Promise" Thomas, most recently in Ring of Honor, but billed as a former tag champion in WWE. To my knowledge, that wasn't true, although Thomas and partner Romeo Roselli were, I believe, tag champions with OVW. Local product and ROH tag champ Bobby Fish was the last one out, with his belt around his waist. The issue at hand was over who would be #1 contender for Vik Dalishus' 787PW title. JP Black acknowledged that he was the man in charge (and worked as the timekeeper for the 2nd straight show), and set up a fatal four-way. Fish got into it with Black, which may lead somewhere. While people were chanting for Fish, he made sure to keep himself heel. When match time came after intermission, Fish had to scramble to leave the merchandising area (they didn't set up a table for him this time, unlike the last two shows) and prepare for the match. He did a lot of stalling---and talking. After several minutes passed without a fall, Black rang the bell to end the match, pointing at his watch as if to say the time limit (which was never established) had expired, resulting in a draw. Despite the fans chanting for 5 more minutes----and Thomas & Delaney encouraged the chants---the match was in fact over.

Dalishus was out next, and said he could take the day off since the winner was supposed to face him for the title. Black said an open contract was being offered to anyone who'd be willing to take on Dalishus. Randy Walker answered the challenge, and perhaps should've thought better of it. Protracted squash, as Walker didn't get much offense in at all. Dalishus sandwiched two spinebusters and a dropkick in between two superkicks, the 2nd of which knocked out Walker, resulting in the ref ending the match on a TKO, so Dalishus leaves with the title, but he too may have gotten into Black's doghouse with his antics after the match, going after Walker's valet-wife, Brandi, before Thomas, Carr, & Delaney came out and chased the champ out.

The main event was for the Interstate title. "Buttery" Bert Williams had qualified, but was a late scratch, and what was announced as a fatal 4-way at last month's show was changed to a 6-man gauntlet match, contested in stepladder format. Sgt. Fury was moved from the tag title tournament into this match, ostensibly to replace Williams. There were two other additions to the match, namely Lenn Oddity & Coconut Jones.

1st fall: Oddity pinned Fury, using the Widow's Peak (Tara's finisher).
2nd fall: Cloudy used his umbrella to eliminate Oddity.
3rd fall: Cloudy eliminated Chris Envy using the tights.
4th fall: Jones ended Cloudy's bid for the title.
5th fall: Jones won the title, upsetting CJ Scott. Scott tried to use the belt, taking it away from Black, but as the ref confiscated the belt, Jones caught Scott coming through the ropes with an inside cradle for the win.

Jones didn't have time to celebrate, as Scott laid him out with his billy club after the match, setting up a rematch at the next show, which is supposed to be April 28, but Brian Cady never said when the next show would be, only to advise checking the promotion's website for more details. Uh-oh. Sounds like trouble. If it does happen in April, there are at least three matches lined up as noted above:

Vinyer vs. Coleman
Outkast Killaz vs. Peacock Experience
Interstate title: Jones vs. Scott.

Figure also that the #1 contender's spot for the 787PW title will be filled at the next show as well. All we can say for now is stay tuned.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rockin' Funnies: I Lost on Jeopardy! (1984)

With April Fool's Day following Easter this year, let's start the celebration of silly with a dose of Weird Al Yankovic.

From his 1984 "In 3-D" CD, Yankovic takes on Greg Kihn's "Jeopardy" from a year earlier and skewers that other Jeopardy!. Three months before the hallowed game show franchise returned, Yankovic was able to coax original host Art Fleming out of retirement, bringing along announcer Don Pardo (still chugging along on Saturday Night Live nearly 30 years later), and a cameo appearance from Kihn himself in a sendup of the final scene from his "Jeopardy"  video.

"I Lost on Jeopardy!" (italics mine, of course) peaked at an unsightly #81 on the Hot 100. Some people just didn't get it:

Weasels of the Week: NBC executives & Rush Limbaugh

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

You would think that the suits at NBC would have studied that time honored line by now, because, well, in the words of Ronald Reagan, there they go again.

Word has gotten out that in order to lure back the 18-34 demographic that advertisers want more than any other age group, NBC wants to supplant Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show again, this time replacing him with current Late Night host and College of St. Rose graduate Jimmy Fallon (ex-Saturday Night Live). To say that Fallon has risen up the network's ladder would be an understatement. Fallon is also one of the three primary pitchmen for Capital One Bank, along with Jerry Stiller and Alec Baldwin. The one advantage that Fallon has on Leno, demos aside, is that he can also sing, as he's demonstrated on Late Night & Saturday Night Live. That would be a throwback to the days of Mike Douglas & Merv Griffin, the latter of whom did both daytime & nighttime talkers.

What brought this on? ABC moved Jimmy Kimmel Live up to 11:35 (ET) a few months back, and that drew the college crowd away from Leno & David Letterman. CBS is not yet making any noise about bumping Letterman, if only because he has his own fan base with the 18-34 set. For NBC it's a dilemma similar to their morning issues, as Today has fallen behind Good Morning America, and long time anchor Matt Lauer is being blamed for some of the problems there. That's another issue for another time.

The bottom line is that NBC needs to think this through. Leno's not getting any younger, and he is nowhere near the level of charisma that the late Johnny Carson, his predecessor, had. NBC tried once before to appease Leno with a weeknight primetime show, and that bombed worse than their much-hyped winter drama, Do No Harm, which came and went in 2 weeks. The best move they can make---and the right one, which they should've made before---would be to give Leno a series of primetime specials, a la Bob Hope in the 60's & 70's, and see how that works.

And, then, there is Rush Limbaugh, putting his foot in his mouth again.

In today's New York Daily News, Limbaugh was raked over the coals for likewise ripping Beyonce's new CD, completely misinterpreting one of her songs as something it wasn't. All that did was expose Limbaugh again as being clueless about current pop music and culture, and as one critic surmised, it's possible Limbaugh didn't even listen to the CD at all.

Limbaugh stopped being relevant a long time ago, and every time he makes the news now, much like 700 Club founding father Pat Robertson, he comes across as being out of touch, and yet unwilling to step down and let someone else move into his chair. His feeling, methinks, is that as long as he's got something to talk about, he'll stay on the air. Fair enough, but he is quickly becoming a national joke, if not also a disgrace. For that, Limbaugh not only gets the Weasel ears again (2nd time), along with the NBC idiots, but also a Dunce Cap for being so quick to make a pointless misjudgment. Come to think of it, we'll send a box of Dunce Caps to NBC, too, just for fun.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

American League East 2013 preview

Today, we begin a 6-part baseball preview, one division at a time. First up, the American League East.

The Toronto Blue Jays have to hope someone has a copy of the works of Santayana available for reading. Otherwise, they could grossly underachieve like the Miami Marlins did last year. Miami spent all that money on free agents, and then landed in the basement in the NL East. So what happens? Jose Reyes, one of those free agents, gets shipped, along with Josh Johnson, among others, to Toronto. John Buck, who was part of that trade, was later flipped to the Mets for R. A. Dickey, Josh Thole, & Mike Nickeas. Dickey didn't look sharp in 2 games in the World Baseball Classic, and thus would be a #3 or 4 starter north of the border. Like last year's Marlins, a lot of folks are doing some bandwagon-jumping on the Jays. I'm not one of them.

Toronto welcomes back John Gibbons as manager after trading John Farrell to Boston for shortstop Mike Aviles, who was later flipped to Cleveland.. Meanwhile, the Bosox are undergoing a bit of an overhaul of their own after the debacle of the Bobby Valentine error last year. That's all that need be said.

Baltimore surprised a lot of people by earning a Wild Card last year, and upset 2-time AL Champ Texas to advance to the ALDS, only to fall to the Yankees. Buck Showalter has built winners everywhere he's gone (Yanks, Arizona, & Texas were his other stops), and maybe now he can take the next step with the Orioles and unseat the Yankees, who happen to be ripe for the picking.........

That's because the Bombers are a M*A*S*H unit in development. Alex Rodriguez isn't expected back until July, if at all. Mark Teixiera could be back in June, but faces the prospect of season-ending wrist surgery. Curtis Granderson will be back around May, but for insurance, the Yanks got Kevin Youkilis to cover for A-Roid and Brennan Boesch to sub for Granderson. I don't see why they don't try Travis Hafner at first base, which was his original position in Cleveland, unless his recent spate of injuries leaves him more of a defensive liability. Derek Jeter may not be ready for opening day, either, due to a balky ankle, but that seems to be the least of the Yankees' worries, really. If only they could figure out who follows CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, & Andy Pettite in the rotation.......

That leaves Tampa Bay, which foolishly let two of their best players go in James Shields & Wade Davis (Kansas City). Aside from Evan Longoria, who's left? BJ Upton's in Atlanta. They only brought back Carlos Pena as a rental, and now he's in Houston. This will be ugly and won't end well.

Projected order of finish:

1. Yankees.
2. Baltimore.
3. Toronto.
4. Tampa Bay.
5. Boston.

The way I see it: Baltimore noses out Toronto for a Wild Card berth, then collects a receipt on the Yankees.

We'll cover the AL Central in part 2.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Assessing the Yankees' chances in 2013: A Fan's Perspective

Not long ago, I wrote about the Mets' chances for possible post-season play in 2013, and I'd promised I'd do the Yankees as well. Here goes.

It's safe to say that despite the seemingly bottomless pit of money at their disposal, the Yankees aren't that much better off than the Mets in the grand scheme of things. The American League East's landscape is changing all around them, but it appeared during the offseason that the Bronx Bombers were reluctant to really make a splash.

Consider the subtractions. Catcher Russell Martin is in Pittsburgh. Reliever Rafael Soriano is in Washington. Outfielders Nick Swisher & Andruw Jones are in Cleveland and Japan, respectively, although presently, Jones is competing for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. Backup infielder Ramiro Pena is in Atlanta. Outfielder/DH Raul Ibanez returned to Seattle. Considering that the Yankees have been ravaged by injuries of late, the reluctance to open the checkbook may come back to haunt them.

Alex Rodriguez, if you believe the media, may be done as a Yankee. They filled the hole at third by signing Kevin Youkilis (Chicago), so that isn't as much of a problem as you'd think. However, their signing of Travis Hafner (Cleveland) proved to be handy after Mark Teixiera was forced to withdraw from the WBC before Team USA could play a game with a wrist injury that has him out until at least June. In today's New York Daily News, there were hints that Teixiera might be lost for the year if he has surgery on the wrist. Hafner is a first baseman by trade who has been mostly a DH because of injuries the last couple of years. Youkilis can also play first, but for now, he'll be the regular third baseman. Curtis Granderson went down with a broken arm, and won't be back until May at the earliest, so the Yankees signed one of his former mates from Detroit, Brennan Boesch, last week. Another problem solved, and yet, the media still acts like the sky is falling. It's New York. What did you expect?

In order for the Yankees to repeat as division champs, they have to not only hold off Baltimore, last year's runner-up, but the suddenly revamped Toronto Blue Jays, as well. Tampa Bay & Boston? Not so much. As loaded as Toronto appears to be, the one Achilles heel they may have might in fact be pitcher R. A. Dickey. The 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner with the Mets was not sharp in 2 WBC starts for Team USA. Luckily, the Jays loaded up on starting pitching in the offseason to make them the popular choice. The WBC has kept the new-look Jays from fully developing team chemistry, and with 2 weeks before opening day, well.....!

So, do the Yankees win the division? I am still not sure. Division previews begin later this week, and we'll see about the AL East then.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Classic TV: The Real McCoys (1957)

Long before the Beverly Hillbillies struck oil and headed west, there was another cornpone sitcom that struck a chord in rural areas.

The Real McCoys was the creation of writer Irving Pincus, and spent 6 seasons (1957-63) on the air, first on ABC, then shifting to the Hillbillies' home, CBS, for the final season. I remember seeing this show in syndication as a kid, airing after school on a local channel, but wasn't really that impressed.

Walter Brennan starred as Amos, the grandfatherly patriarch of the McCoy family, with Richard Crenna (ex-Our Miss Brooks) as his son. Typical sitcom fare of the period, and like a vast number of shows back in those days, was filmed at Desilu Studios. Marterto Productions, which co-produced the series, is Danny Thomas' production company. Thomas was starring in Make Room For Daddy at the time.

Here's the opener, "Californy, Here We Come!":

Even though it got a four year headstart on Beverly Hillbillies, most folks have all but forgotten about the McCoys. In retrospect, that is a disservice, since even though it was a formulaic, by-the-numbers sitcom in its time, it would fit nicely on channels such as INSP or Hallmark today.

Rating: B-.

This is NOT how you sell a video game, or baseball, to today's kids! (2013)

Sony's Playstation video game module is running a series of stupid commercials clearly aimed at fantasy baseball enthusiasts who dream and deal in what might've been.

Take the following spot, for example. A smug interviewer tries to sell the idea to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey that the Giants didn't win the series. As you'll see, this doesn't end well, as Posey's actions speak for those of us who aren't fond of this lame ad campaign. Playstation's YouTube channel uploaded this unamusing ad.....

More proof that whomever dreamed up this ad campaign didn't think this through. Epic fail!

New York's Day of Champions

Saturday brought a bounty of basketball championships in upstate New York, both at the high school & college levels. Oh, what a glorious day and night it was, right before St. Patrick's Day, no less.

The University at Albany is sending both their men's & women's basketball teams to the NCAA tournaments next week. The men won their 3rd America East title, snapping a 8-game losing streak to league rival Vermont on the Catamounts' home court. The game aired nationally on ESPN2, starting just before lunch (most likely at the behest of the network). The Great Danes had plenty of time after the game for a happy bus ride back to Albany, especially to cheer on the women's team, who completed an undefeated season in league play by beating Hartford to win their 2nd straight AE title.

Over the next 48 hours, UAlbany will learn where their teams are going in the Big Dance, and, as per usual, since the America East is a "mid-major" conference, it'll likely be one-and-done, as the Danes will be fed to a bigger, higher profile team yet again.

Meanwhile, Section 2 copped 4 state titles on Saturday:

Class A women: Troy High won its first state title since 1989 by beating Maine-Endwell. Next up for the Lady Flying Horses likely is the Federation Tournament of Champions next week in Albany.

Class B men: Watervliet.
Class C men: Lake George.
Class D men: Argyle.

The last two teams are league rivals in the Adirondack League. Watervliet represents the Colonial Council. Theirs, of course, is a big story, since they had to overcome forfeiting a number of games early in the season due to an ineligible player who lied about his residency. Curiously, that case has since been swept under the rug, as there has been no followup in the press.

Back in Troy, however, the season is over for the boys' basketball team, losing to Bishop Kearney out of Rochester in overtime at Glens Falls. Still, I'd expect that the city will honor both hoops teams at the Flag Day parade in June.

In college hockey, Union College advanced to the next round of the ECAC tournament, sweeping Dartmouth in 2 straight. RPI could join them, provided they beat Brown in the rubber match on Sunday night. Both teams had earned byes after finishing in the top four in the ECAC standings.

This much I do know. I'll pick up the papers in the morning, and find the Troy High women's basketball team on the front page again, and deservedly so. Considering it's part of the color schematics of both Troy High & UAlbany, I'd say that Saturday was a great day to wear purple as much as green.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Weasel of the Week: Charlie Sheen

This is not about "winning". Not even close.

Anger Management star Charlie Sheen is back in the news today, dealing with a societal problem most of us have had trouble solving-----bullying. It's his bizarre solution that caught my attention.

A wire service story making the rounds today says that Sheen was forced to pull his daughter out of a California school because she was being bullied. A 9 year old fellow student was persistently taunting and teasing young Sam (short for Samantha) Sheen, Charlie's daughter by ex-wife Denise Richards, on a number of topics, including daddy's infamous dismissal from Two And A Half Men. The girl's parents are in denial, claiming Sam has lied to her mom, who has met with school officials on three occasions.

It figures. The parents of the bully don't see anything wrong because they don't know all the facts, and stand by their "little angel"'s story. It's Charlie's reaction that has people talking, suggesting via Twitter that people should pelt the school with rotten eggs, toilet paper, and, worst of all, dog feces. Sorry, Charlie, that will only make things worse for you as well as your daughter.

Denise Richards tried to do the right thing, and talk to school officials. Predictably, it seems they have their heads in the sand on a she said-she said imbroglio that ended with Sam being pulled from the school. While I get that Charlie's trying to help his little girl, he's actually doing more harm than good, knowing there are a few misanthropic dweebs out there who'd take Sheen's "advice" at face value, which would only exacerbate the situation. For that reason, Charlie gets the Weasel ears this week. The kids are better off playing a game of To Tell The Truth, so we can all finally get the real story, but that doesn't seem likely.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What Might've Been: Anything You Can Do (1971)

Part of the reason that long-time game show announcer Gene Wood took over as host of Beat The Clock in 1972 was because he had a little experience as a host of a similarly themed show produced in Canada, and imported to the US a year earlier.

Anything You Can Do bowed in 1971, and ran for three years total, but as memory serves, only the first season---with Wood---aired here in the US. When Wood left to take over Clock, Canadian entertainer Don Harron (Hee Haw) was hired as his replacement. Stations had the option of airing Anything as a daily or weekly series, and I can't say for sure if any of the Harron episodes aired here in the US.

Videoarchives1000 offers up a sample episode:

Wood's run on Beat The Clock was not that successful, either, as I recall, and so you can understand why he stuck with being an announcer for the rest of his career.

Rating: C+.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Politics & wrestling shouldn't mix

I've always felt that politics has no business in pro wrestling. Especially now.

If you follow WWE programming, you're probably aware of how Jack Swagger (real name: Jake Hager), a former World champion and a 2-time academic & athletic All-American at Oklahoma, returned to the fold after sitting out the last 1/3 of 2012. They teased that Swagger would turn from villain to hero, after he'd said he was watching at home and didn't like what he saw. The truth is, Swagger remained a villain, and was given a new manager, one Zeb Colter, to help him feud with current World titlist Alberto Del Rio.

WWE has been criticized for using the Swagger & Colter characters to bash the Tea Party. Which is funny considering that the McMahons happen to be Republicans themselves. They wanted conservative commentator Glenn Beck to appear on Monday Night Raw in a segment with Swagger & Colter, and he turned them down. Smart move, because this angle is, in this writer's opinion, dead on arrival.

Swagger has been with WWE for 4 1/2 years. Colter is better known as "Dirty" Dutch Mantel, a veteran grappler whose last tour of duty with WWE was in the pre-Attitude Era mid-90's. Swagger's feud with Del Rio echoes a similar storyline involving grappler-turned-commentator John "Bradshaw" Layfield and the late Eddie Guerrero in 2004. Like Swagger & Colter, Layfield tried to posit himself as a patriotic American, attempting to block Mexicans from crossing the border into the US illegally, but at the same time employing illegal tactics to win matches. Hypocrisy & xenophobia seem to run together, but in 2013, xenophobia should be applying for endangered species status.

Another funny thing. A video was posted on Alex Jones' YouTube channel that has an interview with ex-WWE star Val Venis, who isn't too thrilled with Swagger & Colter himself, or maybe it's the creative minds involved, including Baltimore Sun columnist Kevin Eck, who was identified on a website as the brains (?) behind this angle. In the intro to the interview, they repeatedly stated that Swagger was a "new villain", which tells me that they weren't aware that he had been around for a while. Then again, Jones is a few fries shy of a happy meal himself, just like Vince McMahon.

The bottom line is, Del Rio, who was a villain himself until 4 months ago, is, like Guerrero before him, defending his championship vs. Swagger. This time, it's at Wrestlemania 29 at the Meadowlands on April 7. Some fans expect that either Swagger wins the title, or Del Rio retains. Either way, a 3rd party, Dolph Ziggler, who has been teasing using his Money in the Bank contract forever, might finally cash it in at the big dance. However, Ziggler may be facing an uphill battle of his own behind the scenes. By all rights, he should've cashed in his contract by now, but methinks he might've rubbed certain of the hierarchy the wrong way, which tells me that even if he does win, it'll be anti-climatic and close to irrelevant, because few will actually care. Perhaps fewer still than those who actually buy into the Swagger-Colter rhetoric.

If in fact WWE is using this angle as a means of tearing a few new ones into the Tea Party, it's their way of saying, your 15 minutes are up. Let's move on. Maybe McMahon is blaming the Tea Party for wife Linda's inability to gain election into the US Senate in 2 attempts over the last three years. Yeah, that would be just like the old man, wouldn't it?

Classic TV: That's Hollywood (1976)

That's Hollywood was a 20th Century Fox syndicated series (as if you can't tell from the logo in the following video) that was an off-shoot of sorts from the "That's Entertainment" movie series in the mid-70's. Amazingly, the series lasted six seasons, but, then again, given Fox's body of work, there was plenty of ground to cover.

Actor Tom Bosley (Happy Days) was the off-camera host-narrator. For some reason, the producers didn't see fit to have him appear on camera as well to help set the stage for each episode. Hey, sometimes beggars can't be choosers.

Here's the open:

If it's airing anywhere now, it'd be on one of Fox's cable networks, most likely FXM (formerly Fox Movie Channel).

Rating: A.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What Might've Been: Don Adams Screen Test (1975)

It can be said that the 70's were the golden age of reality TV. Candid Camera, which seemed to have been around forever, was in syndication. Chuck Barris would create the iconic Gong Show in 1976, and get plenty of mileage out of it. But would you believe that someone decided to develop a reality game based on the concept of a Hollywood screen test?

Ok, would you believe that it managed to last a whole season?

After Get Smart had ended its run in 1970, star Don Adams apparently hitched his wagon to Universal, which would release the feature film, "The Return of Maxwell Smart", aka, "The Nude Bomb", in 1980. Before that, Adams made a couple of 1-year wonders for the studio. The first was 1972's The Partners, which brought Adams back to NBC, Smart's original home. The second was Don Adams Screen Test, which was billed as a game show at the time, but today would be considered more of a reality show.

Contestants were paired with established stars to recreate scenes from famous movies for the screen test, and there were some prizes involved. What Adams, who doubled as executive producer, and Universal had in mind was to show the audience just how difficult a screen test really is.

Unfortunately, while the series lasted 6 1/2 months (26 episodes), it wasn't renewed for a second season, as viewers apparently weren't interested in a disconnect from disbelief, if you will. Good luck trying to find the show now, as all I could come up with was this sample, uploaded by robatsea2009:

Adams wouldn't land another series for a few years, and it didn't help that "The Return of Maxwell Smart" was, in fact, a bomb at the box office. Before reviving Smart yet again, Adams was cast in the cable comedy, Check It Out, which lasted a couple of years.

Rating: B+.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Musical Interlude: Rolling in the Deep (2010)

British singer Adele made a big splash on the US charts in 2010 with "Rolling in the Deep". The retro sound is just infectious, you may just want to dance to it.

Uploaded by the artist's VEVO channel:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Classic Reborn?: The Gong Show (2008)

If Chuck Barris was positing himself as a parody of Ted Mack with the original Gong Show in the 70's, he created a tough act to follow.

Game Show Network, now known simply by the acronym GSN, tried to revive the series under the name Extreme Gong a number of years back, but because GSN wasn't in as many homes as it is now, it didn't get a fair chance to succeed. Sony, which co-owns GSN and holds the rights to most, if not all, of Barris' game show library, decided to try again in 2008 by reviving the Gong Show name, but also attaching the name of its new host, comedian Dave Attell, to the title. The new Gong, co-produced by actor-comedian Adam Sandler's production company, spent two uneventful months on Comedy Central, occupying a late-primetime slot that Attell was accustomed to with his previous CC series, Insomniac. Clearly, this 21st century Gong wasn't going to be family friendly, unlike the original series.

So what went wrong? A glaring lack of word of mouth, that's what. While CC did its best to promote the show, they didn't do a lot of mass media promotion, that is, placing ads in most major magazines like TV Guide or Time. Most folks only tune in to CC for three things: South Park, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, & The Colbert Report. Sony & CC were hoping Gong would make it four. Nuh-uh.

Following is a sample, taken from a Gong podcast, it looks like:

Rating: D.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Classic TV: I Spy (1965)

Sheldon Leonard had turned from acting to producing in the 60's, turning out one hit after another, as he shepherded the successes of Dick Van Dyke & Andy Griffith's self-titled sitcoms, among others. In 1965, Leonard decided to give drama a try, and, in turn, made his first splash at NBC.

I Spy was filmed on location at a number of different, exotic locations around the world. The authenticity of the locales is something you rarely see in scripted television anymore, aside from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which still films in New York, where the show is set. Leonard must've known he had something special, pairing comedian Bill Cosby with veteran Robert Culp (ex-Trackdown). Cosby won the Emmy awards for his work, then opted against any future nominations for himself in The Cosby Show, nearly two decades later, feeling it would be better to share the glory. Then again, when you factor in the accolades Cosby earned for the Saturday morning legend, Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids (1972-85), he might not have had any room in his trophy case. Culp played Kelly Robinson, tennis pro by day, secret agent by night. Cosby was Alexander Scott, Robinson's partner in peril, whose quiet, understated manner fit like a glove.

What kicked it all off, however, was the kick-ass theme, composed by Leonard's ace composer, Earle Hagen:

I Spy lasted three seasons. Culp & Cosby would reunite on The Cosby Show years later, and the chemistry was still there. The same could not be said for a feature film version years later with Eddie Murphy & Owen Wilson. In this version, Robinson (Murphy) is a boxer instead of a tennis pro----like, couldn't the producers have let Murphy model the character after Arthur Ashe instead?----and the reviews were just B. R. Utal. El bombarino, you know.

As of last year, I Spy was airing on Retro (check your listings). Not sure about now, and it is available on DVD.

Rating: A-.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Musical Interlude: Tribute (Right On!) (1988)

Of all the 1-hit wonders of the 80's, perhaps none resonated more than the Pasadenas' "Tribute (Right On!)", which paid homage to the R & B stars the band members listened to in their youth. James Brown, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and the late Marvin Gaye are all name-checked. It's just a pity that the fickle music buying public of the period didn't have the patience to let these guys become real superstars like their idols.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What Might've Been: Tabitha (1977)

Nearly a year ago, we took a look at the first pilot for a proposed Bewitched spin-off, focusing on a now-grown-up Tabitha. The first pilot, which altered the character's spelling to Tabatha, didn't exactly wow network executives, but after the role was recast, ABC bought Tabitha, which debuted in 1977, airing on Saturday nights, at least at first.

As you'll see, Tabitha Stephens still isn't a blonde, but has light brown hair, and played by Lisa Hartman. Brother Adam does turn up from time to time, but Tabitha does have a potential boyfriend, played by TV vet Robert Urich (ex-S.W.A.T.). Unfortunately, the sudden "growth spurt", if ya will, since 5 years had passed since Bewitched had ceased production and was airing in daytime reruns 5-6 days a week on ABC, was still a bit of a detriment. Plus, ABC didn't really have enough faith, otherwise they might've scheduled Tabitha to air on Thursdays, just as Bewitched did for a good part of its run. Of course, the following year, ABC solved their Thursday problem with another series with a supernatural theme of a different sort---Mork & Mindy.

Tabitha is available on DVD, collecting not only the complete series, but both pilots, so you can judge for yourselves if Columbia Pictures Television (now Sony Pictures Television) made the right call in shifting from Louise "Liberty" Williams to Lisa Hartman.

Edit: 7/15/15: Sony has invoked copyrights, so all the available videos have been deleted. RetroAlexander, though, has the open:

Rating: B.

Three more walk through death's door

To say that Death has been busy lately would be a gross understatement.

In Venezuela, they are mourning the passing of President Hugo Chavez. While he was a hero to the people of his native land, doing positive things like making social-economic changes to benefit the poor, he became an enemy of the US for siding with leaders in Iran. Understandably, newspaper editorials would be divided in discussing Chavez's legacy. He was 58 when he succumbed Tuesday to cancer.

Guitarist Alvin Lee was the driving force behind the rock group Ten Years After in the 60's & 70's, and was best known for "I'm Coming Home". Lee was 68 when he passed, also on Tuesday, due to health complications. Following is a live performance of "Slow Blues in C" from 1984, as posted by red3356:

Finally, wrestling personality William Moody, a mortician in his spare time, was better known as heel manager Percival "Percy" Pringle III in World Class and in Florida in the 80's. When one of his more famous charges, Rick Rude, signed with the then-World Wrestling Federation, he brought up Pringle to company high-ups, and in 1991, Moody got the call, but, with Vince McMahon mixing in Moody's side gig as a mortician, the portly manager was morphed into a Gomez Addams lookalike named Paul Bearer. Aside from an altogether too brief stint in TNA a decade ago, Moody finished his career in WWF/E. He, too, was 58 when he passed from health complications on Tuesday. A tribute video likely will be shown on WWE-TV starting if not on Friday, but Monday.

PlotsnTom uploaded this interview Percy Pringle gave to Bill Mercer in World Class in the 80's:

Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Victory is sweet and shared

It has been a banner year already for Troy High. In the fall, the boys' soccer team won their first ever Section  II title, but were promptly eliminated from the regional tournament. That they made it that far was an achievement in and of itself for a program that had been one of the stronger sports at THS when I was there in the early 80's.

Over the last four days, however, it is the school's basketball teams who have become the toast of the campus. First, it was the girls' team, who defeated the top ranked class A women's team in New York, the Academy of Holy Names, on Saturday afternoon, and merited the front page of the Record the next day. On Tuesday, the girls traveled to LeMoyne College and won a regional semi-final. Next stop is SUNY Potsdam on Saturday to face Massena. The ultimate goal would be the Federation tournament later this month at Times Union Center.

Troy's boys would love to return to the Albany arena, provided, of course, they get through regional play unscathed. A year after a heart wrenching loss to Christian Brothers Academy, which some still say was tainted by a pro-CBA bias on the part of the game officials from the 2nd quarter onward, Troy High redeemed itself by ending the Cinderella bid of Green Tech, a 3rd year varsity program, on Monday. For the boys, regional play begins on Saturday.

However, the Record, while giving the boys a back page headline on Tuesday, didn't give them the front page, as they did with the girls two days earlier, another instance of inconsistency in the editorial department. Granted, there was a more important story that merited the front page, but if the Troy girls could get the front page for winning a championship, why not the boys? It makes little sense from a fan's viewpoint. Where are the editor's priorities?

All of this would become moot if the school succeeds in garnering state titles in both women's Class A & boys' class AA by the end of the month, with both teams likely getting invited to march in the city's annual Flag Day parade on June 9, as football teams have done in the past after winning state titles. It would only be fitting and fair.

The same would be said for Watervliet's boys' & girls' basketball teams, who swept the Class B titles a week ago, and begin regional play tonight in Plattsburgh. The Cannoneers, at least on the boys' side, have recovered from having to forfeit a few early victories because of an ineligible player, and ran the table, culminating in a Class B title win in Glens Falls. While Troy High's boys' team used redemption as their theme after last year's screwjob loss, the same would apply in 'Vliet.

I can recall when the 'Vliet & Troy football teams gathered at the Congress Street-Watervliet bridge after winning their state titles. Can you picture the basketball teams from those schools doing the same thing? Yep. The job isn't finished yet, but I've a feeling history will repeat itself.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What Might've Been: Blue Light (1966)

You might not recognize the name, but Larry Cohen was one of the more prolific yet also unsuccessful writers in Hollywood in the mid-60's.

Cohen created at least four series between 1965-7. Coronet Blue didn't hit the air until as a mid-season replacement on CBS in 1967. We've previously reviewed Branded & The Invaders, Cohen's most recognizable works. That leaves the World War II spy drama Blue Light, which Cohen developed for 20th Century Fox & ABC in 1966.

Blue Light starred actor-singer Robert Goulet as journalist-turned-double-agent David March, who crossed enemy lines and pretended to be a Nazi sympathizer in order to sabotage the Nazi war effort. Unfortunately, because of the success of the similarly themed CBS comedy-adventure series Hogan's Heroes, which was in its 2nd season, and the fact that Light essentially complemented another WWII-themed comedy, McHale's Navy, on the ABC roster, viewers might not have been ready for a more serious espionage series in the same era. Also, ABC would try a house-produced one hour drama, Garrison's Gorillas, the next year, and that too also lasted one season, though that series owed its existence more to the film, "The Dirty Dozen", than anything else.

I picked up a compilation movie, "I Deal In Danger", the other day, which collected episodes from the series. Unfortunately, that isn't available on YouTube, so we'll settle for a sample episode:

Goulet tried, but he just wasn't believable enough in the role of David March. That, along with the other factors mentioned, might've contributed to the show's demise.

Rating: C.

On DVD: Rockin' In The Rockies (1945)

As with "Have Rocket, Will Travel", which we reviewed yesterday, "Rockin' in the Rockies", featuring the Three Stooges, appears on a DVD compilation from Sony that also includes a trio of animated shorts that used animated likenesses, but not the voices of the boys, plus some solo shorts with Shemp Howard, Joe DeRita, & Joe Besser. Ivan Shreve reviewed the compilation over at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear several weeks back, and my brother decided to get this DVD set for me for my birthday last month.

I digress. "Rockin'" is a change of pace for the Stooges in that they're not entirely a team.

Moe Howard is cast as Shorty Williams, a prospector who's also a bit of a con man. He's minding the store for his brother, who is away at agricultural college, enabling Shorty to take full run of their ranch. Larry Fine & Curly Howard, meanwhile, are basically their usual selves, except that Larry has to be the foil for Curly early on, since Moe's been broken away from the act for the better part of the movie. Larry & Curly are a couple of freeloading drifters on the run from the local sheriff. A sudden windfall gets Shorty's attention, and he gets them into his latest mining project, which soon also includes a pair of nightclub singers and the ranch hands, who themselves are trying to make a second career as musicians.

However, Rusty, Shorty's cousin, returns early from school for a meeting with----wait for it---Samuel Clemens, but that gets all bollixed up, too. This isn't up to the usual Stooge standards, but it works out just fine. The Hoosier Hotshots, in real life, never made it big, and this was the closest they'd get to the big time. It's a shame, as they sound pretty good.

Well, at least Larry gets to play his violin in the course of the movie. That's always a plus.

Rating: B.

Weasel of the Week: Ralph Napiersi

We're getting the Weasel ears out of the way early, because there's no way anyone tops this week's winner for the gall alone.

Ralph Napiersi thought he could get away with sneaking into a private conclave of Catholic cardinals in Rome, or, more specifically, Vatican City, as they are seeking to determine who will be the next Pope in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation for health reasons. Posing as a bishop of a phony Italian church and calling himself Basilius, Napiersi almost got in. However, according to a report posted on Yahoo!, someone noticed that Napiersi's cassock & crucifix were being worn a wee bit too short to seem legit. Napiersi was promptly booted from the building, but it seems as though we may not be done yet with this clown. Yahoo! uncovered a website that links Napiersi to a phony Catholic group that sounds like something out of "The DaVinci Code".

In other words, we're dealing with a guy who's got his priorities all wrong, though they may be in the right place.

However, Napiersi picked the wrong time to gain his 15 minutes of fame. The last thing they wanted was to have some outsider spoil things for them just to get his name in the paper. For that, Napiersi gets a pair of Weasel ears. Given his obsession, maybe we can tell him they were descended from Judas. Naaaaahhhhhh.

Monday, March 4, 2013

On DVD: Have Rocket, Will Travel (1959)

In the late 50's, the Three Stooges were enjoying a resurgence in popularity, thanks to their classic shorts having found their way to television. Since science fiction was all the rage in Hollywood at the time, and the Stooges had already made some sci-fi-themed shorts, they were sent back into space for a brief time in "Have Rocket, Will Travel".

This was the first film to feature Joe DeRita as the 3rd Stooge, replacing Joe Besser (ex-The Abbott & Costello Show), and the film was written clearly to use him as a sub for the late Curly Howard, hence DeRita being billed as Curly Joe. A couple of classic gags were recycled in the course of the movie---any Stooge fan worth his salt will know what I mean, but otherwise the film falls flat.

The boys are working in the maintenance department for a NASA-type agency which is trying to send a rocket into space. One rocket lands not far from their quarters, and through some trial & effort, they retrieve a monkey who was sent as part of an experiment. A pretty scientist (Ana-Lisa) briefs the guys on the project, while at the same time trying to rebuff her psychologist boyfriend (Robert Colbert, later of The Time Tunnel), who is proposing marriage. Predictably, the Stooges try to help, and develop a formula for rocket fuel by throwing in almost everything they can think of, short of the kitchen sink. They end up in the rocket, and head for Venus, or so it would appear. The "Venusian" terrain looks too suspiciously like Earth to actually be alien turf. There, they encounter a talking unicorn (an uncredited Dallas McKennon) and a malevolent robot (Don Lamond, who also narrated), who creates evil doubles of the boys. However, the Stooges escape and make it back to Earth, where they are given a hero's welcome.

We soon find that the shrink and the scientist got married off-camera, but that plot point was ignored most of the way.

Following is the opening credits to the movie, with the theme song sung by the Stooges themselves:

There would be a few more features in the next few years, culminating with "The Outlaws Is Coming", which featured a pre-Batman Adam West.

Rating: C.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Bonnie Franklin (1944-2013)

For 9 seasons, Bonnie Franklin starred as divorcee Ann Romano on CBS' One Day at a Time, and even if she didn't headline another series, her legacy was actually secure. In recent years, Ms. Franklin had made a bit of a comeback, even landing a gig on another CBS series, the daytime soap, The Young & The Restless, before reuniting with one of her TV daughters, Valerie Bertinelli, on TV Land's Hot In Cleveland a year or so ago. Bonnie Franklin passed away Friday at 69.

Most fans, though, will only remember One Day at a Time. Jhomase uploaded the open.

Rest in peace, Bonnie.

On the Air: Robot Combat League (2013)

The evolution of fighting robots in popular culture began with Marx Toys' Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots back in the 60's. I don't think I ever had those 'bots myself, but I remember seeing the commercials.

Warp forward to the last decade, when there were no less than 2 attempts at creating shows built around robot fighters. Battlebots lasted a couple of years on Comedy Central, a rare case of the network going outside its niche. Stepsister network TNN (now Spike TV) had Robot Wars, which also lasted a couple of seasons, each hosted by a different WWE personality. Incoming Hall of Famer Mick Foley in season 1, and Joanie "Chyna" Laurer in season 2, after she'd left WWE. A companion series geared for children aired on Nickelodeon, but didn't last as long, gone after 1 season.

So what spurred this latest attempt? How about a little feature film that came out about a year and a half ago, "Real Steel", with Hugh Jackman? The movie did enough business to have someone consider the idea of taking the concept of fighting robots to television. SyFy picked up an option, and hence, we have the Robot Combat League, the latest reality show built around competition. As with Robot Wars, RCL has a WWE tie-in, with former champion and Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho as host-announcer. It's not Jericho's 1st rodeo as an MC, as he had a short-lived series on ABC a couple of years back that didn't get very far.

However, the rock arena atmosphere of RCL fits Jericho like a glove. He's everywhere, doing commentary with Dave Farra, to offering encouragement and support to the contestants. SyFy has the series airing on Tuesdays, and at least the series opener was replayed on Friday, in back of Smackdown. Truth be told, SyFy would be wise to leave RCL on Fridays to take advantage of the WWE lead-in, since they've had trouble in terms of ratings on a consistent basis on Tuesdays, as the WWE is well aware.

Here's a sample clip:

While SyFy is crowing about the early ratings returns, it's how well the series does going forward that will determine its final fate.

Rating: B.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Oscar's bad boy, Girl Scout cookies, and other things

What started as a favor for a friend has gotten reality TV moppet Alana Thompson, aka "Honey Boo Boo", in trouble with the Girl Scouts.

The 7-year old Ms. Thompson isn't a Girl Scout herself, but, perhaps on the advice of her mother, June Shannon, used her Facebook page to help a friend sell some cookies, complete with price list. The Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia weren't digging, feeling that with "Honey Boo Boo"'s picture beside the price list, plus contact info for Alana's 700,000+ online fans, some folks might be misled into thinking "Honey" was selling the cookies herself.

Now, while it's normally a neighborly, noble gesture to help a friend in need----and that's certainly what Alana had in mind, methinks----the Girl Scouts feel it's more appropriate to employ the old fashioned door-to-door method. Where they have a problem is that the cookies in the Georgia area are being sold to other parts of the country. I'm not quite sure if Alana or June understands that Girl Scout cookies aren't like sports cards or DVD's that can be traded online. If the cookies are earmarked for a specific portion of the country, they're to be sold in that particular region only.

I get that "Honey"'s detractors will have a field day, since they think she's using her sudden fame to help move a few cookies. Well, that would've been all well and good if she actually joined the Scouts.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) knew what they were getting when they signed Family Guy creator-star Seth MacFarlane to host this year's Academy Awards. Sure enough, most of the post-show buzz surrounded MacFarlane's R-rated comedy antics, including a show-opening number that celebrated how a lot of actresses have gone topless in some films. The real surprise is that the most likely voice of dissent, the Parents Television Council, hasn't weighed in on this publicly as yet. MacFarlane has taken himself out of consideration for a return gig, knowing he was competing against himself in the ratings in the first place, and perhaps knowing the backlash that was coming. Whomever green-lighted the decision to hire MacFarlane for this gig gets a Dunce Cap Award for being so dumb as to almost irretrievably damage the prestige and tradition of the Oscars.

And we have some Weasel ears to hand out, closer to home. It started when some Saratoga High students made some derogatory remarks toward Shenendehowa student Bailey Wind, still recovering from an accident 3 months ago that claimed the life of her boyfriend, Chris Stewart, and another student, Deanna Rivers. For all of the work that Shen & Shaker students have done to raise funds for the victims' families, it all unraveled at a Section II hockey playoff between Shen & Saratoga one week ago. Bottles were being thrown from both sides of the rink, according to published reports, and students at both schools have been disciplined. What I don't get is why Ms. Wind had to be subjected to such needless, mindless taunting---I wouldn't call it bullying, in this case---nearly three months after the accident. Tragedies take much longer to get over emotionally than most injuries. While students at both Shen & Saratoga are getting the Weasel ears for the bottle throwing war, the Saratoga cretins who used social media to taunt Bailey Wind are getting Dunce Caps as a result, because let's suppose one or more of these kids has to go through the same thing down the road. The first thing they'll hear is, what goes around, comes around. Otherwise known as karmic justice.

What Might've Been: Captain Nice (1967)

Just because Batman was an overnight phenomenon as a mid-season replacement in the winter of 1966, that didn't mean that lightning would strike again.

NBC found that out the hard way when they introduced a hero who was a real mama's boy---Captain Nice. Buck Henry, who co-created Get Smart with Mel Brooks a year and a half earlier, gets sole creative credit on this farce, which lasted 8 months, debuting in January 1967. Now, I never saw the show, so there won't be a rating.

William Daniels starred as chemist Carter Nash, who was more of the definition of meek & mild mannered than Superman's alter ego of Clark Kent was at the time. Alice Ghostley played his mom, who encouraged and enabled her son's moonlighting----by designing his costume. Yeah, it gets worse from there, doesn't it? Henry served as executive producer, and would recover nicely from this failure, resurfacing as an early contributor to Saturday Night Live nearly a decade later. As we already know, Alice Ghostley would turn up next on Bewitched & Mayberry RFD. Daniels, thankfully, also recovered pretty well. You might remember him better for his star turn as John Adams in "1776", and then achieving iconic status in the 80's as the voice of KITT on Knight Rider, while at the same time starring on St. Elsewhere, with both series airing on NBC, and following that with a stint on ABC's Boy Meets World.

Following is the intro:

Don't ya think the Greatest American Hero could've learned how to fly by not learning from Captain Nice? Just a thought......