Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Classic TV: The Arsenio Hall Show (1989)

After nearly stealing the show from pal Eddie Murphy in "Coming To America", Arsenio Hall made history as the first African-American late-night talk show host, first attempting to salvage Fox's ill-fated Late Show, then being given his own, self-titled chat-fest, which lasted for 5 seasons (1989-94). You all know how the open goes, courtesy of retroboywontdie:

On September 9, Hall returns to late night, after signing a new deal with CBS Television Distribution, which owns the rights to the earlier series. I'd be surprised if announcer Burton Richardson didn't return with him, as this gig made Richardson as much of a household name as Hall. Richardson would later begin working on the former Goodson-Todman properties, such as To Tell The Truth & Family Feud, before being replaced on the latter by singer Joey Fatone when Steve Harvey took over as host of the Feud. You have to assume that when WWE's Ricardo Rodriguez does a long, drawn out intro for Alberto Del Rio, it might have been inspired by Richardson introducing Arseniooooooooooooooooooooooooo Halllllllllllll!

Rating: A-.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Videos of Summer: Kokomo (1988)

The Beach Boys returned to the Hot 100 in 1988 with "Kokomo", from the movie, "Cocktail". Plenty of film footage in the video, which means you get equal doses of the film's star, Tom Cruise, and actor-musician John Stamos, who was on Full House at the time, but these days is on Necessary Roughness. John mans the bongos for this track. This was part of a deal where some of the band members made guest appearances on Full House, and Stamos became a part-time member of the legendary group......

On DVD: Barney Miller (1975)

Nat Hiken's Car 54, Where Are You focused on 2 beat patrolmen, though it was really an ensemble comedy. It lasted two seasons.

Don Adams' first post-Get Smart series, The Partners, lasted 1 year. That was largely because of the fact that NBC put it on Fridays, opposite The Brady Bunch. Enough said.

It wasn't until a veteran comedy writer, Danny Arnold, came up with a winning formula in the 1974-5 season that there was a police sitcom that actually worked.

Barney Miller debuted in January 1975, after a pilot had aired the preceding summer. Arnold & Theodore Flicker created the staff of the 12th Precinct as a diverse group of personalities, a virtual melting pot, representing various ethnic groups. Miller (Hal Linden) was of Jewish background, and the first season put equal emphasis on his personal & professional lives. However, wife Elizabeth (Barbara Barrie) was gradually phased out of the series after season 2.

Meanwhile, the staff evolved into a unit that we could all wish represented our communities:

Chano (Gregory Sierra, Sanford & Son) was a Latino detective whose quick temper led to fits of rapid-fire Spanish. Sierra left the series after 2 seasons, and returned to Sanford to reprise his role there as Julio during that series' final season.

Wojo (Max Gail) was a stereotypical Polish-American--naive, none-too-bright, and early on was also quick tempered.

Yemana (Jack Soo, ex-Valentine's Day) seemed to be more interested in looking for a sure thing at the track. Soo passed away in 1979, during season 5.

Harris (Ron Glass) eventually became an author during the course of the series' run. Glass & Soo were added to the opening credits in season 2.

Fish (Abe Vigoda) was the elder statesman, a veteran cop who was a couple of years away from retiring, but also seemingly was hen-pecked. Wife Bernice (Florence Stanley) made her debut in season 1, and would appear infrequently during the first three seasons, although another actress filled in for one episode. The Fishes left after the third season, spun off into their own series, Fish.

To fill the void created by Fish's retirement, Arthur Dietrich (Steve Landesberg) joined the squad, added to the opening credits in season 4. A virtual walking encyclopedia of knowledge, Dietrich befuddled co-workers and suspects alike.

During season 1, there were a couple of short-term officers. Wilson (Rod Perry) went undercover in drag in his only appearance. Perry moved on to S.W.A.T. the following season and Wilson was never heard from again. Janice Wentworth (Linda Lavin) appeared in 2 episodes in the first season, even though she'd already been promoted to the vice squad after her first appearance. Of course, Lavin left to star in Alice.

The season 1 DVD features guest appearances by a number of familiar faces, including Vic Tayback (pre-Alice), Brett Somers (Match Game), Marla Gibbs (The Jeffersons), Howard Platt (Sanford & Son), & Nancy Dussault (later of Too Close For Comfort).

Following is a montage of opens. Ron Carey (Levitt) was added around season 4 as well, became more of a regular after Jack Soo passed away.

While still working on Miller, Hal Linden added the Sunday morning children's show, Animals, Animals, Animals, and the daily interstital segment, FYI, to his workload. He'd only get one more primetime series, the short-lived Blacke's Magic, near the end of the 80's.

Rating: A.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's a different kind of sports summer

NFL training camps have opened, but for fans of the New York Giants, there's a bit of a culture shock to be had this year.

After renting space from the University at Albany 16 of the last 17 years, the Giants decided to move their training camp closer to home, to the Timex Performance Center in East Rutherford, NJ. The team opened the Timex Center 2 years ago after a lockout cut the pre-season short. In the team's defense, it's all about economics, saving on travel expenses by centralizing pre-season operations, rather than outsourcing, which is what they did by going to Albany.

It hurts Albany as the Giants' departure takes away revenue streams from the city and the university, but are there enough fans, given the economic climate, willing to drive to New Jersey to see their heroes work out? Good question, but I don't have an answer.

The Giants being gone is a benefit to Saratoga Race Course, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. It's also meant to be a benefit to the other summer sports teams as well. Aside from the obvious (Tri City Valleycats), there are the teams that are flying under the radar, such as the Troy Fighting Irish, a semi-pro football team which plays its home games in Schenectady, even though their former home base, Troy High, has had their refurbished field in place for 2 years now. It's one of those things I'll never figure out. Meanwhile, the Albany Dutchmen of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League are enjoying their best season since joining the league, but they don't get the same kind of press as the Valleycats. And theirs is a shorter season.

Speaking of short seasons, the NY Sportimes of World Team Tennis played most of their home matches at UAlbany's SEFCU Arena this year, but the Sportimes failed to make the playoffs. WTT has by far the shortest season of any pro sports league. Blink, you'll miss it, because it's over in 3 weeks. Only die hard tennis fans lured by the promise of some of the top pros, past or present, appearing at the arena, are willing to pay the coin to attend the matches, since the ticket prices are also the highest of any summer sport.

In a couple of weeks, Joe Average Fan will be watching Giants pre-season games as if nothing had happened. It was that way before the Giants came to Albany, and it'll be that way now. Will they return to Albany? I doubt it. After all, their new building is meant to take a licking and keep on ticking........

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Musical Interlude: Knock On Wood (1979)

A little known soul singer, Eddie Floyd, had his only hit with "Knock On Wood" in 1966. 13 years later, Amii Stewart put a disco spin on the song and took it all the way to #1. When people think of "Knock" now, they think of Stewart's version, largely because it was more up-tempo, and there's the whole business of a video, which handsomepigg uploaded to YouTube:

Classic TV: The Partridge Family (1970)

The Partridge Family was inspired by the real-life Cowsills, who had a few hits in the 60's, but had all but faded from the scene by the time this series launched in 1970. ABC smartly packaged it as part of a sitcom block that included The Brady Bunch, which was entering its 2nd season, on Fridays.

The mother-son combination of Shirley Jones & David Cassidy headlined, but only Cassidy did his own singing, despite Shirley having some experience in musicals. Studio musicians were used for the rest of the family band. Dave Madden (ex-Camp Runamuck) was cast as the band's manager, Reuben Kincaid, referenced in the show's original theme song, "When We're Singing", which was replaced by "Come On, Get Happy" after the first season.

Also after the first year, there was one minor cast change. Jeremy Gelbwaks was let go, and Brian Forster cast as Chris Partridge. Viewers didn't seem to notice much difference, and Forster reaped the benefits, including landing a side gig, along with TV sibs Danny Bonaduce, Susan Dey, & Suzanne Crough, on Goober & the Ghost Chasers, which also aired on ABC during the Partridges' final season (1973-4). Of course, there's also that misguided offshoot that sent the family into the future, which CBS picked up in 1974, but the less said about that, the better.

Shirley Jones narrated some of the early episodes, like the opener, which also has a cameo by Johnny Cash, whose variety show was also packaged by Screen Gems:


Too bad the Cowsills and the Partridges never got together. It would've been something to see, even on, ah, Family Feud.

Rating: B.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Classic Reborn: You Asked For It (1981)

You Asked For It began as The Art Baker Show, so named for its original host, in 1950, and between two networks---DuMont & ABC---it ran for 9 seasons. Subsequent revivals, however, haven't been quite as successful.

After a failed syndicated run in 1972, the series returned in 1981, with impressionist Rich Little serving as host. This was Little's 1st series since his short-lived variety series 5 years earlier, and this time, the supporting cast was a wee bit different. Jack Smith, who had taken over the original series from Baker in 1958 and hosted the 1972 version, narrated vintage clips from the 50's. Jayne Kennedy (The NFL Today) & Desiree Goyette, the latter now better known for her work as a songwriter for animator Phil Roman on his Garfield specials, conducted interviews. Little did a few of his famous mimics from time to time, usually to queue up a segment.

However, Little was let go after the first season, and Smith took over as host. Subsequently, the series was cancelled again after 2 seasons. Smith was well known in my district as the host of a regional Cerebral Palsy telethon for several years, and gained iconic status with a guest appearance on Happy Days in a 2-part episode that included a satire of You Asked For It, entitled, You Wanted To See It, which was revisited in 1994 by the rock group, Weezer, in their "Buddy Holly" video.

In the 90's, comic Jimmy Brogan (ex-Out Of The Blue) resurfaced to host You Asked For It, Again!, which bombed after 1 season. NBC picked up the ball on the last revival, with Phil Morris (ex-Mission: Impossible---yes, he's Greg's son) as host. That was also short-lived.

Being a Little fan, I was drawn to this show as lunch hour comfort food while I was in between jobs. Magicusa uploaded this clip, featuring magician Dorothy Dietrich.

Syndicator Sandy Frank, who had also packaged a revival of Face The Music around the same time, produced the 1981-3 series.

The 1981 series is the only incarnation I've seen. Rating: B.

What Might've Been: David Cassidy--Man Undercover (1978)

It had been 4 years since The Partridge Family ended, and David Cassidy had pretty much faded from the spotlight. He smartly passed on an animated version of Partridge that had bombed, and watched brother Shaun begin his rise to stardom on The Hardy Boys-Nancy Drew Mysteries. Someone convinced him that he could play a detective, too, so David landed a role on NBC's long-running anthology series, Police Story, which, like Partridge, was from Columbia Pictures Television (Now Sony Pictures Television). The end result was that Cassidy was spun off into his own series. Problem was, NBC could not find the right night for him.

David Cassidy--Man Undercover debuted as a mid-season replacement in November 1978, airing on Thursdays, but lasted just 10 episodes before NBC, then struggling to find a hit, pulled the plug. Cassidy reprised his Police Story role of undercover detective Dan Shay, but, sorry to say, even with a new hairstyle, he still looked too much like his earlier character of Keith Partridge. That, friends, may be what kept folks from tuning in. TV vet Simon Oakland (ex-Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Black Sheep Squadron) was his boss.

Here's a sample clip, including the open with a pretty bad theme song.

Never saw the show, so I can't fairly rate it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Classic Reborn: Here's Lucy (1968)

After six seasons of The Lucy Show, Emmy winner Lucille Ball would only consent to continue with one provision----that her children would co-star with her.

Daughter Lucie Arnaz had made a guest appearance on The Lucy Show, and her brother, Desi, Jr., had appeared with his father on The Mothers-In-Law. Now, they'd be together with their mother in Here's Lucy, which anchored CBS' Monday lineup, alongside, of course, Gunsmoke, for six seasons of its own (1968-74).

As was the case at the end of The Lucy Show's run, Lucy relied on major celebrity guest stars, such as Elizabeth Taylor and then-husband Richard Burton, and Joan Rivers, to help reel in the viewers. Well, it worked, and one must assume that the series ended because Lucy had finally decided to walk away after 12 seasons. She'd spend the rest of the decade carefully selecting movie roles and was feted by Dean Martin on his Celebrity Roast.

Edit--11/24/15: The intro has been deleted. In its place, we offer a network promo for the show.

Rating: B.

It's time for these Weasels to go away

New York City is the biggest media center in the US, and as a result, there is a never-ending cycle of scandal for the tabloid press to beat into the ground. Consider:

*--Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, running for Mayor of NYC, is in hot water again after he admitted Tuesday that he hadn't stopped the lurid online chats that led to his resignation from Congress a couple of years ago. This time, Weiner used the pseudonym Carlos Danger, hoping that would keep the media hounds away. Yeah, and there's a bridge for sale in Brooklyn, too.

2 of the city's three newspapers, the New York Times & New York Daily News, issued editorials on Wednesday, calling for Weiner to drop out of the race. NY1 reported Wednesday night that Weiner was leading in a recent poll taken before these latest revelations became public.

Amazingly, no one has taken the bait and tried hot dog jokes. Apparently, Oscar Mayer isn't interested in endorsing Weiner.

*--Alex Rodriguez has one foot out the door, as far as the Yankees and their fans are concerned. Earlier this week, I made mention of the fact that a number of youth baseball players in the NYC area had turned on Rodriguez. Now comes word that Rodriguez had an outside doctor go on a radio talk show Wednesday to dispute the Yankees' claim that Rodriguez had strained a quadricep muscle last weekend, and that he wants to play as early as Friday. He knows his time is almost up, as reports have Major League Baseball ready to give him a lifetime ban, which would be the first such ban since Pete Rose nearly 25 years ago. Rose was banished for gambling. What "A-Roid" has done is far, far worse, wasting his natural talent by relying on PED's, then not coming completely clean. He claimed he only used PED's while with the Texas Rangers, who dealt him to the Yankees in 2004 for Alfonso Soriano. However, if the evidence provided by Anthony Bosch, whose Biogenesis clinic is at the center of MLB's latest investigation, is in fact true, then Rodriguez was juiced when he joined the Yankees and never stopped using.

It never ends, does it? Why stop at Rodriguez? Why not go after people like his former agent, Scott Boras, who've enabled his blatant disrespect of the game by allowing him to continue to use PED's? Boras, a lawyer by trade, could redeem himself in the eyes of a lot of baseball fans if he spoke out against Rodriguez---and any of his other clients, past or present----if he knew anything about PED usage. In an age where athletes and their agents, handlers, and assorted leeches (depending on who the player is) are only interested in chasing the money more than chasing history, disclosure would help solve a lot of problems.

That all being said, Weiner & Rodriguez are being bestowed Weasel ears this week.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Videos of Summer: Summer in the City (1966)

No other song says "Summer" than the Lovin' Spoonful's seminal 1966 hit, "Summer in the City". I don't know what show the band was on from whence this clip was made, but right now, that doesn't matter, does it?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Classic TV: The Lucy Show (1962)

Five years had passed since I Love Lucy had ended its run. After 13 one hour specials, under the title The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, across 3 seasons (1957-60), Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz had divorced. Arnaz, now President of their joint production company, Desilu, asked his ex-wife to return to headline a new series, seeing as how Desilu was down to one series on the schedule (The Untouchables). Lucy agreed.

The Lucy Show, like I Love Lucy before it, aired on Mondays on CBS, and spent six seasons, netting Lucy 2 Emmy Awards, to go with the 2 she won for I Love Lucy. The staff of writers, including Bob Carroll, Jr. & Madelyn Davis, were brought back, but things had changed. Trying to rewrite some classic I Love Lucy episodes as solo vehicles for Lucy didn't work out so well this time. Over the course of six seasons (1962-8), Lucy Carmichael went from being a widow to simply a single woman, and the locale changed from Connecticut to California halfway through the series.

In addition to the writing staff, musical director Wilbur Hatch and actress Vivian Vance returned, but neither were around at the end. Vance opted out after three seasons, choosing to remain in Connecticut and avoid the wear & tear of constant cross-country commuting. There were other cast changes. Charles Lane was cast as the manager of Lucy's bank early on, but left after being unable to recite his lines in front of a live audience. Lane at one point was pulling double duty, as he also had a recurring role on Petticoat Junction. Gale Gordon (ex-Our Miss Brooks, Dennis The Menace) was cast as Theodore Mooney, who took over at the bank in season 3, and moved with Lucy to California in season 4. By the time the series ended, Lucy was working for Mooney. Go figure.

After Vance left, it took some time before Lucy found her new sidekick in Mary Jane Croft, the wife of one-time producer Elliott Lewis, who would go on to work with Desi on The Mothers-in-Law. It just wasn't the same.

From the first season, here's "Lucy's Sister Pays a Visit". Said sibling is played by cartoon icon Janet Waldo. Also guest-starring a pre-Hollywood Squares Peter Marshall:

Rating: B.

Baseball this 'n' that

They didn't have fireworks night at Joe Bruno Stadium Monday, but they nearly sold out the joint just the same.

The lure was a local boy who made good---so far. Jamie Schultz, who was a high school star at Maple Hill High in Schodack, started for the Hudson Valley Renegades vs. Tri-City on Monday. Schultz had a huge following of his own, a combination of family & friends from home and Renegades fans who made the pilgrimage from Wappingers Falls, where the Renegades play their home games. Unfortunately, things didn't end well for Schultz, who was lifted after three innings. His only mistake was a 2-run HR by Valleycats outfielder Jon Kemmer in the 2nd inning, which put the hosts up for good. Schultz was tagged with the loss as Tri-City prevailed despite a hour-long rain delay in the bottom of the 8th after a leadoff walk to Kemmer.

Schultz is just the latest "homegrown" product to play at "The Joe", all but one for the opposition. The others:

Casper Wells (Schenectady High): Drafted by Detroit, now plays for the Chicago White Sox, his 4th team this year alone.

Joe Mahoney (Catholic Central): Drafted by Baltimore, now in the Miami chain.

Chris Salamida (Watervliet): Drafted by Houston, pitched one season for the 'Cats before moving up the ladder. However, Houston cut him, and at last check, Salamida was back home, pitching in the Albany Twilight League.

Here's to hoping Schultz eventually joins ex-Valleycat Ben Zobrist with the Tampa Bay Rays and gets on the main stage.

They may be 11 games out of first in the NL East, but I'd venture to say that if the Mets continue to play as they have of late, we could be hearing network pundits saying other teams are sleeping on the Amazin's.

Despite losing to Atlanta Monday, the Mets had picked up two games in the standings on the first-place Braves as they won 2 of 3 from the hated Philadelphia Phillies while Atlanta stumbled against the White Sox, whom the Mets had split 4 games with earlier this season. Bear in mind, too, that the Mets' 8-2 record against the AL this season may be among the best in the NL. I wouldn't write them off just yet.

More than a year and a half after avoiding a 50 game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs (PED's), Milwaukee's Ryan Braun had his season end Monday when he was suspended by Major League Baseball for 65 games. The league office said the ban would also include any postseason games the Brewers would play, but, in all honesty, that's a pipe dream at present. The New York tabloids are so sure that injured Yankees slugger and tabloid magnet Alex Rodriguez is next on Commissioner Allan (Potato Bud) Selig's hit list. The New York Daily News, for example, declared on their front page today, "You're Next, A-Roid!".

The tabloid media in New York turned on Rodriguez a while ago, but can't stop writing about him. He was supposed to be activated Monday, but is still on the DL due to a strained quadricep muscle suffered over the weekend. MLB may as well just go right ahead and drop the hammer on Rodriguez, just so the tabloid jockeys can find someone/something else to write about obsessively. Rodriguez has the biggest contract in the game, plays in the biggest media center in the country, and has youth baseball players in the area turning on him as well, according to an article in the Daily News. What better example can be made?

The lesson is simple. If you can't succeed on your own skills and abilities, you just need to work harder. You know the old homily. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What Might've Been: The Mothers-in-Law (1967)

By the mid-60's, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball had been divorced, and Lucy had since remarried. Desi tried to soldier on, producing some pilots that never made it to air. The only one that did lasted two seasons, marked by cast changes and the sponsor, seeing how the ratings weren't up to par, had decided to make a change. In those days, they could.

The Mothers-in-Law was neatly hammocked in between The Wonderful World of Disney & Bonanza in NBC's Sunday lineup, but if you looked at an episode, you'd think Arnaz and his staff were trying to recreate the vibe of I Love Lucy without Lucy and with an extra couple. Eve Arden (ex-Our Miss Brooks) headlined, but the breakout star was meant to be young Deborah Walley ("The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini"), so fetching as Suzie. Unfortunately, after the series ended, Ms. Walley found it hard to find other TV gigs before her passing a number of years back. Roger C. Carmel, so memorable as Harry Mudd in 2 episodes of Star Trek, left after 1 season, replaced by Richard Deacon (ex-The Dick Van Dyke Show), which pretty much killed Mothers dead.

Edit, 5/31/2020: We now have a clip featuring the rock group, The Seeds, appearing as The Warts, and performing "Pushing Too Hard". Note the focus on Deborah Walley's dancing.

The series currently airs on Me-TV, as Ivan Shreve has reminded us when he reviewed the series over at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.

Rating: C.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

On DVD: Good Night, & Good Luck (2005)

Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy ignited feelings of paranoia & fear with his "witch hunts" of suspected Communists in the 50's. CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow decided that McCarthy was as wrong as wrong could be on a number of counts, and exposed him on the air on TV.

This conflict was the basis for George Clooney's "Good Night, & Good Luck", which takes its title from Murrow's signature tagline. Nominated for six Oscars, "Good Night" was filmed in black & white, as opposed to color, to reflect the subject matter. Clooney himself plays producer Fred Friendly, with David Straithairn headlining as Murrow. Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov opted to use archived footage of McCarthy rather than undertake the arduous task of finding an actor for the part. The ensemble cast also includes Jeff Daniels (currently in the HBO series, The Newsroom), Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey, Jr., & Alex Borstein (Family Guy, MadTV).

In order to fund the movie, Clooney got help from a number of sources, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Like, whodathunk?

Straithairn is spot on as Murrow, and rightfully earned a nomination for Best Actor, as did Clooney for Best Director.

Rotten Tomatoes uploaded the trailer:

Rating: A.

Classic TV: I Love Lucy (1951)

It was, and still is, one of the most cherished & beloved series in the early years of television, such that, more than 60 years later, it continues to charm audiences on cable.

I Love Lucy lasted six seasons (1951-7), but its titular star, Lucille Ball, remained a television fixture far longer, thanks to two solo series in the 60's and various appearances on talk shows and movies.

Unemployed housewife Lucy Ricardo (Ball) yearned for some excitement in her life, and so, either alone or with the aid of best friend Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance), Lucy embarked on some wacky misadventures, and periodically tried to break into show business at the expense of husband Ricky (real-life husband Desi Arnaz) and his nightclub act. Television history was made early on in the series run when Lucy, expecting her first child, had it written into the show, leading to the birth of Little Ricky (Keith Thibodeaux), who figures prominently in a video clip below.

After the series ended, the Ricardos & Mertzes returned in The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, a short-lived series long thought lost, much like the original open to I Love Lucy, until Viacom located tapes of the series, leading to a brief run on TV Land, if memory serves me correctly. After that, William Frawley (Fred Mertz) would move on to My Three Sons before ill health forced him off that series.

Ratedbforblog serves up this montage of clips from January 1957, when George Reeves guest-starred in a sort-of-crossover with The Adventures of Superman:

As usual, Lucy means well, but chaos always seem to dog her trail......!

Rating: A-.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

On DVD: RED (2010)

Here's a movie adaptation of a DC Comics series that wasn't produced by Warner Bros.. Go figure.

"RED", which, as we learn through the movie, is an acronym for "Retired: Extremely Dangerous", was based on a miniseries written by Warren Ellis & illustrated by Cully Hamner a few years ago. The movie made enough money, such that it warranted a sequel, which just opened.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis, "The Expendables") is a retired CIA agent who learns that he's been marked for assassination because of certain secrets, particularly involving the Vice President (Julian McMahon, "Fantastic Four", ex-Nip/Tuck). Moses is joined by three of his former teammates (John Malkovich & Oscar winners Morgan Freeman & Helen Mirren) to uncover the plot. Along the way, he finds love, which is where some of the humor in this movie comes from. Mary Louise Parker (Weeds) is very convincing to the point you'd think she might actually become a vital part of the team instead of being arm candy.

Anyway, let's get to the trailer:

The supporting cast also includes James Remar and, in one of his last roles, Ernest Borgnine. You may need to rent this before seeing the sequel.

Rating: B-.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Classic TV: Airwolf (1984)

Universal, which already had a hit series about a talking car (NBC's Knight Rider), sold one about a high tech helicopter to CBS, created by producer Donald Belisario (Magnum, P. I.).

Airwolf was a mid-season replacement, bowing in the spring of 1984, and spent three seasons on CBS before shifting over to USA Cable for one final season on a smaller budget.

The concept was simple. Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent, ex-Danger Island) had been a test pilot for the government, but after flying one mission aboard Airwolf, decided to keep the 'copter as a sort of collateral until they located his brother, St. John, who was reported missing in action. The funny thing was, after the series ended its CBS run, and was revived, St. John miraculously returned. We'll get to that soon. Hawke was joined by his mentor and family friend, Dominic Santini (Ernest Borgnine, ex-McHale's Navy), who'd served with Hawke's dad in World War II. In season 2, the producers added some girl power in the form of Caitlin (Jean Bruce Scott), but missed the boat on making her a potential romantic interest for Hawke, in this writer's opinion.

In 1987, The Arthur Company, an independent studio which had its series distributed by MCA (then-parent to Universal), acquired Airwolf, one of four series the company revived (the others were revivals of Dragnet, Adam-12, & The Munsters, all in syndication), and sold it to USA. Barry Van Dyke was cast as St. John, and previously established continuity was ignored. The cast included two future stars in Geraint Wyn Davies (later of Forever Knight) and William B. Davis (The X-Files).

Here's the intro everyone knows:

I think most people tuned in for the climatic firefights at the end of each episode.

Rating: B.

Musical Interlude: Shutting Detroit Down (2009)

With news that the city of Detroit has declared itself bankrupt, it would seem appropriate to call back to 4 years ago, when John Rich, one half of Big & Rich, released a solo single, "Shutting Detroit Down", which was actually more about the bailouts given to certain major players in the auto industry.

Kris Kristofferson & Mickey Rourke guest star in the video, uploaded by Rich's YouTube channel.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The sorry state of the WWE, summer 2013

With the Money in the Bank PPV now behind us, and the push to next month's Summerslam show underway, let's just consider what is wrong with WWE, because there's more wrong than there is right.

Start with Monday Night Raw.

For the 2nd year in a row, the red brand's MITB case went to a sage veteran. Randy Orton, already with 9 WWE or World titles, won the case, and that is the Uncreative team's way of setting up Orton turning back into a nasty heel. However, he doesn't need the case, given his resume, any more than John Cena, who won the red case last year, and couldn't win the big one. Now, Cena's the champ, and he has Daniel Bryan, who won a blue case in 2011, at Summerslam. Orton, as befitting his nickname, "The Viper", will be slinking in the shadows. The match was billed as an "all-star" affair, but Uncreative botched it by not putting the case in the hands of someone who needed it more than Orton did. That would've been Christian, who's won 2 World titles and 2 ECW titles since returning 4 years ago, and has 2 NWA titles on his resume as well.

Former Raw GM AJ Lee is the current Divas champion, and had her storyline romance with Dolph Ziggler end on Monday, but the New Jersey native has been mishandled by Uncreative for over a year and a half. After being cast as being schizophrenic, now they have her playing mental games with her former friend, Kaitlyn. Wouldn't be too shocked to see Kaitlyn & Dolph, who had a brief affair on NXT during season 3 of that series, tag up real soon.

Current GM Brad Maddox has all the presence of an empty candy wrapper, but when has that stopped Vince McMahon before? McMahon, 67, ranted at the audience on July 8 as he appointed Maddox after Vickie Guerrero was removed as "managing supervisor" following a 9 month run. Guerrero's act is beyond stale, but McMahon keeps going to her in a position of power. Why?

The answer is real simple, but McMahon, so enwrapped in his personal pocket universe, doesn't want to take a chance on employing this logical conclusion. That being, he's secretly in an affair with the widow Guerrero, and has for a while, despite his periodic turns of philanthropic face-dom where he puts the pressure on Vickie to do something for the audience's benefit. The right thing to do for business here is to expose that dirty little secret before the end of the year, as that may be the one thing that permanently boots Vickie from any future GM roles.

{Spoiler alert: Do not read if you plan to watch Friday Night Smackdown tomorrow:

Vickie is reinstalled as Smackdown GM in another vindictive move by McMahon, continuing his feud-in-waiting vs. Stephanie & Triple H.}

Over, then, to Friday Night Smackdown:

Damien Sandow, who has been in McMahon's employ off and on for years, usually under the name, Aaron Stevens, has the blue case, and is a case of Uncreative getting it right, although rumors have Sandow battling erstwhile tag team partner Cody Rhodes (son of Dusty) at Summerslam over the case. Sandow is a journeyman who finally caught his big break. All it took was the right gimmick at the right time.

Current World champ Alberto Del Rio has lost some of the fan support he had online before his arrival 3 years ago. Fans are tired of his act, even though he turned back heel just a few weeks ago. Sidekick Ricardo Rodriguez is serving a suspension for violating the Wellness policy, but they're well served to break him away from Del Rio in due course. The act has been bordering on stale for a while.

The US & Tag titles have been held hostage by The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, & Seth Rollins), and that doesn't look like it'll end anytime soon because Uncreative doesn't know how to put an end to their hypocritical antics. Worse, another three-man heel group just arrived in the Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, & Erick Rowan), copying the Shield's MO by randomly attacking various wrestlers just because they can. That will get old real fast.

This is proof, all by itself, that McMahon needs to step down, preferably yesterday. I've stated the reasons why he's been in need of retirement plenty of times in this space and elsewhere, but the problem is the man himself. Triple H has been, according to reports, pushing for a physical home for the WWE Hall of Fame, which would be a godsend for a lot of fans. He's also the brains behind the recently opened Performance Center, the new training facility for their developmental talents in Florida. To think that 10 years ago, he was the most hated man in the company. Now, he is in the position to be the company's savior. Who'd have thought that was possible?

As far as I'm concerned, though, I don't think I'll be watching any more WWE from start to finish until things begin to change for the better. And I won't be alone.

Classic TV: Barnaby Jones (1973)

Nearly 2 years after the conclusion of The Beverly Hillbillies, Buddy Ebsen returned to television with another hit series, this one lasting almost as long as Hillbillies, but so far removed from it, he became an icon all over again.

Barnaby Jones came from the Quinn Martin factory, and was meant to be a spin-off from Cannon, which was in its 2nd season. Instead, CBS bought the show before a pilot episode could air, which led to detective Frank Cannon (William Conrad) appearing in the series opener, "Requiem For a Son". Barnaby was a mid-season replacement that lasted 8 seasons, ending in 1980. As proof of the dual iconic status of Ebsen, he reprised as Barnaby in a feature film adaptation of Hillbillies, complete with Barnaby's theme music playing. About the only cool thing about a movie that didn't live up to the hype otherwise.

Lee Meriweather (ex-Time Tunnel) co-starred as Barnaby's daughter-in-law-turned-business partner, Betty. Mark Shera came over from S.W.A.T. in season 5, which helped things as Ebsen lightened his workload due to his advancing age.

Here's "Requiem For a Son":

Edit, 9/11/23: Paramount Global has filed a copyright claim on all available episodes. Hence, we have the intro for "Requiem For a Son":

To think that this actually started the trend of veteran stars (i.e. Dick Van Dyke) using mysteries as comeback vehicles in later years.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Classic TV: Hazel (1961)

To think that it started with a modest strip written & drawn by Ted Key for The Saturday Evening Post.

Hazel was adapted for television in 1961 by Screen Gems and enjoyed a pretty healthy run in syndication during the 70's. Shirley Booth starred as Hazel, the housekeeper who was, for all intents & purposes, the major domo of the Baxter household. Her boss, George Baxter (Don DeFore), could've just as easily had Hazel help him with his business, she was that good.

After the first few years, DeFore & Whitney Blake left the show, and I believe it was George's brother who moved in. Unfortunately, that also spelled the end of the series. Blake, meanwhile, is better known for having created another seminal sitcom in the 70's and early 80's---One Day At A Time.

Right now, here's "Hazel's Secret Wish":

Rating: B.

Hatelines in the News

When the verdict was announced on Saturday night that George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin last year in Florida, we should've known what would happen next.

While there've been peaceful protests across the country, including in Albany on Monday, there were some mooks who decided to use the protests as an excuse to loot & pillage in Los Angeles, just like they did 21 years ago. Yeah, it felt like the Rodney King case all over again, and it shouldn't have had to be that way.

Those that chose to exploit the moment to feather their own nests should be ashamed of themselves.

Speaking of shame, that brings us back to the infamous cult passing itself off as a church. Yep, Westboro Baptist Church is back in the news, this time making plans to protest the funeral of actor-singer Cory Monteith. As we've seen of late, the haterizers have done a lot of barking, but not a lot else to back up their threats. As I've said before, if they've got a problem with the gay community and same-gender marriage, take it up with the state governments. No, these clowns just want to extend their 15 minutes of infamy and piggyback on someone else. They claim God punished Monteith for supporting an openly gay cast member on Glee? Balderdash! Their interpretation of the Bible apparently stops at the end of the Old Testament.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Musical Interlude: War (late 1980s)

Edwin Starr recorded "War" around 1969-70, but on the same album, he also recorded "Stop The War Now". Talk about working both sides of the fence. "War" was the most popular of the two, and gained a new audience of fans in 1985 when Bruce Springsteen released his version on his "Live 1975-85" set. If you've seen the "Rush Hour" movies with Jackie Chan & Chris Tucker, you know, then, that Chan has tried to cover it, mostly for laughs.

So imagine being a fan at a Springsteen concert in the late 80's, and Starr comes out to join The Boss and the E-Street Band for a duet of "War". Wellllllll......

Enough said.

Cory Monteith (1982-2013)

Glee fans are heartbroken over the sudden passing Saturday of one of the show's stars.

Cory Monteith was found dead in his hotel room on Saturday. Cause of death has not yet been determined, but the actor-singer, 31, had a history of substance abuse issues. No one is more devastated, it seems, than Monteith's co-star/girlfriend, Lea Michele, according to reports.

While I don't follow Glee myself, all I could come up with was this clip from The Ellen DeGeneres Show, in which Monteith, in the course of an interview, recreates his Glee audition. Uploaded by the talk show's YouTube channel:

With Glee on Summer vacation (and pre-empted this week for the All-Star Game), Fox will likely rush out a tribute, or they'll honor Monteith on the season opener in the fall. Rest in peace.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Musical Interlude: Smile a Little Smile For Me (1969)

The Flying Machine's only hit came in 1969 with "Smile A Little Smile For Me". A tender ballad that probably could stand a little revisiting by a new generation artist.

Uploaded by SeaOvJapan:

Weasels of the Week: Pittsburgh Pirates fans & announcers

As human beings, we're imperfect by nature and design. We're prone to making mistakes, and we often own up. So why do some groups act like a bunch of spoiled brats with artificial senses of entitlement?

Case in point: Mets slugger David Wright is the team captain of Team NL in Monday's Home Run Derby. He got some people in Pittsburgh hot under the collar when he didn't select their star 3rd baseman, Pedro Alvarez, whom some folks might've figured would've been a slam dunk pick in the first place, considering that Alvarez is from New York and this would've been a sweet homecoming. Instead, Wright opted for one of his Virginia homeboys, Colorado's Michael Cuddyer, which at the time gave the Rockies half the team for the Derby, as the NL HR leader, Carlos Gonzalez, was also picked, but on Thursday, Gonzalez withdrew due to a finger injury, although he did play in games this weekend.

Suffice it to say, Pirates announcers encouraged fans to boo Wright every time he came to the plate in the weekend series vs. the Mets. The jabronies without brains in the stands happily complied, despite the fact that before Friday's game, Alvarez was named to the team to replace Gonzalez, and, as a gesture of goodwill, shook hands with Wright on the field. That Pittsburgh won 2 of 3 was beside the point. Their own announcers encouraged a disgraceful show of disrespect, one that could eventually come back to haunt the Pirates in the second half.

To their credit, as noted, Wright & Alvarez handled the crisis like true professionals. As for Wright, Yankees star Robinson Cano, the AL captain for the 2nd straight year, can relate. Last year, Cano took heat for not including Kansas City's Billy Butler on the AL team for the Derby, and thus was lustily booed when the Yankees played in Kansas City, moreso than usual for a visiting player, as Wright has endured these last three days. Despite that, Cano was named AL captain for the Derby again this year, only because Tuesday's All-Star Game is in New York. This time, he had no drama that we know of.

But let this cautionary tale be an object lesson for future Derbies. Major League Baseball did offer Wright some advice (they recommended Washington's Bryce Harper), but not enough, apparently, to warn him about the small-brained goofs in the Steel City. Take a chill pill, peeps, and enjoy your Weasel ears.

Classic TV: F-Troop (1965)

I previously reviewed F-Troop on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives, a ways back, but now, let's take another look.

As the theme song says, the Civil War was nearly over when Wilton Parmenter (Ken Berry) caught a very lucky break. A timely sneeze, likely due to an allergy, led to a reversal by Union forces turning defeat into victory. As a result, the bumbling Parmenter was assigned as commander of Fort Courage, the Army outpost of last resort, if you will. There, Parmenter had to deal with Sgt. Morgan O'Rourke (Forrest Tucker), a shifty wheeler-dealer in and out of uniform who was making secret business deals with the local Native American tribe, the Hekawis, along with his sidekick, Corporal Randolph Agarn (Larry Storch, Tennessee Tuxedo), and at the same time attend to the affections of local storekeeper Wrangler Jane (played by teenager Melody Patterson, who got by by looking older than she really was).

F-Troop attracted an eclectic group of guest-stars during its two year run, including Vincent Price, Paul Lynde (Bewitched), and Harvey Korman. The writing was sometimes a little uneven, but the chemistry among the core players was good enough such that had the ratings been a little stronger, they could've had a 3rd or 4th season. As it was after the series ended, James Hampton (Dobbs) moved on to The Doris Day Show, which Ivan Shreve is reviewing weekly over at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.

Tucker & Storch would reunite in 1975, co-starring in a CBS Saturday morning series, Ghost Busters, which lasted a year. Berry headlined a variety show that also failed before landing another hit series as part of the ensemble of Mama's Family. Everyone else seemed to just drift off into obscurity.

Of course, you know this season 1 open:

Rating: B+.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What Might've Been: O'Hara, US Treasury (1971)

After years of police dramas on radio & TV, Jack Webb decided the time was right to expand his horizons. Unfortunately, his first experiment was a ratings failure though a critical success.

O'Hara, US Treasury was the first series Webb had developed for a network other than NBC, with this series sold to CBS in 1971. It served as a comeback vehicle for veteran David Janssen (ex-The Fugitive), marking a return to the network where he'd scored his first hit (Richard Diamond, Private Eye) nearly 20 years earlier.

But there was one problem, and it was a big one. CBS placed the show on Fridays, where it was trying to fill a hole created by the cancellation of Get Smart after the previous season. The problem wasn't the time slot, but rather the competition, specifically, ABC's lineup, which included The Brady Bunch & The Partridge Family, entering the 3rd & 2nd seasons, respectively. As a result, O'Hara lasted 6 months before being decommissioned in March 1972. By that time, Webb had already struck gold again at NBC with Emergency!, as he moved his focus back to his home area in LA.

SupremeTeam68 uploaded the open:

No rating. Never saw the show.

Money in the Bank 2013 predictions

Money in the Bank has evolved from a gimmick match at Wrestlemania to a stand-alone PPV event that serves as a bridge to Summerslam, the 3rd of WWE's 4 major PPV shows. This year's edition is a hodgepodge, to be sure:

Pre-show (on Yahoo!, WWE.com, & YouTube): WWE tag titles: The Shield (Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins) vs. Jey & Jimmy Uso. Reigns, the son of Hall of Famer Sika (Wild Samoans), is a cousin to the challengers, who are the sons of former tag team & IC champion Rikishi. Rollins is still better known to most folks as Tyler Black from his days in Ring of Honor, and, before that, the short-lived Wrestling Society X. Of the four men in the match, Rollins is the most experienced of the group, and that will be a big difference maker. Meanwhile, the Uso twins are finally getting a shot at the gold that their father once held. Unfortunately, it's before the PPV, which has some people rankled. Considering the guy running the company doesn't have both oars in the water.....! On PPV, they'd get more time, to be sure. A short match favors the champs, so the pick is the Shield.

WWE Intercontinental title: Curtis Axel (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Michael "The Miz" Mizanin. Miz can relate to the Usos and the Shield's plight. At Wrestlemania, his IC title match vs. then-champ Wade Barrett was bumped to the pre-show. Miz won, then dropped the title back to Barrett the next night so he could leave to make a movie for ABC Family, airing later this year. Axel, the former Michael McGillicutty, is the son of the late Curt Hennig, himself a 2-time IC champion and a Hall of Famer. Too soon to change the title again, so Axel gets the nod here.

WWE Divas title: AJ Lee (w/Big E. Langston) vs. Kaitlyn. A year ago, these two were the best of friends and tag partners as the Chickbusters (though that name was never used on WWE-TV). 7 months ago, a mentally distraught Lee turned heel, and, well, you know the rest of the story. Former champ Layla El has done her part to help Kaitlyn, but rumors have her turning heel, which makes little sense since 1) the Divas aren't getting enough air time, what with a reality show debuting later this month, and 2) the prima donnas doing most of the promoting for said show, the Bella Twins, figure to cut to the head of the line for the title, regardless of who wins. Now, it's Kaitlyn who's gone psycho, thanks to the psych games Lee's been playing. But Layla knows about that sort of high school level drama, since that was part of her repertoire as a member of LayCool 2 years ago. Best move here is to let the champ & challenger go at it, and may the best woman win. Too soon for another change again, so Lee retains.

Money in the Bank ladder match for the right to a WWE World title match: Wade Barrett vs. Jack Swagger vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Antonio Cesaro vs. Fandango vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow.

Let's break this down in terms of odds:

Ambrose, the US champion (7-1): Some say he could add to the gold he already has, but no, not now. Too soon to start thinking about splitting up the Shield, though that group has hit the wall.

Barrett (10-1): Former 3-time IC champion can't win the bigger prizes, but needs to win out here to get back into serious contention for the World title. He didn't exactly endear himself to Zeb Colter, Swagger & Cesaro's manager, not too long ago, which makes it all the more curious about Cesaro's association with Team Xenophobia. Barrett is there mostly as a tentpole for the others.

Swagger (6-1): The Oklahoma native is the only one in this field who's a past winner, which would actually make him a fit for the All-Star match for the other briefcase, but that's creative for you. Never sharp at the right time. Recent legal troubles prevent him from repeating here.

Cesaro (5-1): The "Swiss Sensation", as noted above, made a curious choice aligning himself with Swagger & Colter, one that I figure will eventually blow up in his face, especially if he wins. The bloom's off the rose on Colter, anyway.

Fandango (8-1): The dance master formerly known as NXT season 4 winner Johnny Curtis was in line for the IC title until a concussion knocked him out of last month's PPV, opening the door for Axel to take his spot. This may be a make-good for that misfortune.

Rhodes (3-1): Dusty's boy already made history by being part of the 2nd brother team to hold the IC title (Dustin, aka Goldust, was a multi-time IC champ). If he splits with Sandow here, as some think will happen, a long awaited face run begins. Cody's way overdue to make a big run to "tha pay winda", as papa Dusty would say. He's still got time on his side.

Sandow (3-1): Co-favorite in the field. He's playing Cody like a fiddle, waiting for the right time to finalize the split in their failed tag team. Too pompous to be holding the briefcase, which for a thug like him is a weapon he doesn't need.

My final four: Rhodes, Sandow, Fandango, Cesaro.

The final pick: Fandango.

Chris Jericho vs. Ryback. Ryback has been in a rut. Hasn't won a PPV match in almost a year, and has been badly misbooked by the fickle creative team and the brain dead chairman. The worse news for Ryback is that rumors have the stalest heel act on the roster, Vickie Guerrero, becoming his manager. That's a step backward for Ryback, really. As a vested veteran, Jericho will help elevate the younger wrestlers, because it's good for business. Pick: Ryback.

WWE World title: Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler. Speaking of breakups, Dolph's due for some heartbreak. Not only will he lose the match, but he loses his support team as well, as the schizoid AJ will dump him either that night or the next. Pick: Del Rio.

Money in the Bank ladder match for the right to a WWE title match: Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus vs. Randy Orton vs. Christian vs. CM Punk vs. Rob Van Dam:

Kane has been scratched due to an injury angle on Monday courtesy of the Wyatt Family. RVD will make his return to WWE after 4 years away, the last 2+ spent with TNA. The field:

Christian (5-1): A non-winner in this event, "Capt. Charisma" has 2 World titles & 2 ECW titles in hand since returning 4 years ago. Uncreative fumbled on his return from the DL, but, again, that's nothing new, as they tend to stall for the wrong reasons, due to a certain senile executive. Way overdue, like Cody Rhodes, for the brass ring.

Orton (10-1): Sorry, Randy, you don't need the briefcase. Just challenge your buddy John Cena for the title at Summerslam, and you'll be cool.

Sheamus (6-1): Begorrah, fella! The Celtic Warrior doesn't need the case, either. If either he or Orton wins, marks will think one or the other will turn, and Orton's been teased of late.

Punk (3-1): A 2-time winner (2008-9) in the World title chase, Punk is looking for #3. Not gonna happen.

Van Dam (5-1): They will go absolutely bat-shizzle insane in Philadelphia for a man they adopted as one of theirs years ago. You know what to expect from the guy who won a case in 2006, then cashed it in 2 months later.

Bryan (1-5): Everyone's picking him to win. He & Cena are each dating a Bella Twin, and will be part of that reality show as a result. For that reason alone, they pick him.

My final four: Punk, Van Dam, Christian, Bryan.

The final pick: Bryan.

WWE title: John Cena vs. Mark Henry. 2 years ago at this time, Henry was World champ. He & Cena have feuded before, but they want you to forget the past, as usual. Cena just won 3 months ago, but is better served chasing the title. Upset special: Henry.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Classic TV: Kojak (1973)

Hey, who loves ya, baby?

Kojak marks its 40th anniversary this year, although technically, the series started with the TV-movie, "The Marcus-Nelson Murders". Few, however, recall the film as fondly as they do the series, which spent 5 seasons on CBS (1973-8).

Crime dramas were becoming more ethnically diverse in the 70's. Credit Universal with starting the trend. Kojak was of Greek descent, as was star Telly Savalas, whose brother, George, alternately known as Demosthenes, was part of the supporting ensemble. Over on NBC, you had George Peppard as Polish sleuth Banacek, and, thanks to Don Mitchell's role as Mark Sanger on Ironside, and Hal Williams on Norman Lear's hit sitcom, Sanford & Son, more African-Americans were being cast as police officers, a trend that continues today.

Kojak, you might know, also helped launch the career of iconic actor Sylvester Stallone, who had a small role in an early episode. Just for fun, the Savalas brothers made a guest appearance, as themselves, on Alice one time, which led to the title character (Linda Lavin) serenading Telly. Oh, that was cheesy but fun.

Following is the series opener, "Siege of Terror":

And now you know where the late Jerry Orbach got the inspiration for some of the sarcastic, snarky remarks Lennie Briscoe made on Law & Order, don't you?

Rating: A-.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Videos of Summer: Can't Hold Us (2013)

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis scored a big hit earlier this year with "Can't Hold Us". I have to tell you, I can't get this song out of my head because it's included in the trailer to "R. I. P. D.", which opens next week. If you can get around the odd opening to the video that doesn't have much to do with this song, I assure you, you're going to be singing this the rest of the summer.

Classic TV: The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)

It had been 4 years since The Dick Van Dyke Show had ended and moved into syndication. Van Dyke would soon return, but his leading lady got there first and cemented her own icon status in the process.

Everyone knows the theme to The Mary Tyler Moore Show

For 7 seasons, Moore charmed audiences as Mary Richards, a producer and sometime on-air personality for a Minneapolis television station. Her series would spawn three spin-offs, the last of which, Lou Grant, was a hour-long drama instead of a sitcom, and became a classic in its own right.

Moore had been a fixture, really, since the 50's, when she played "Happy Hotpoint" in a series of ads, and her first series gig was an anonymous one, as viewers only saw her legs as Sam, the secretary to Richard Diamond, Private Eye, a gig she lost before the series ended.

At WJM-TV, the staff was an eclectic bunch. Anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) was vain, pompous, and about as sharp as a soggy toothpick. Producer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod, ex-McHale's Navy) tried to keep things in perspective, and even had a crush on Mary at one point. Then, of course, there was Lou Grant (Ed Asner), tough, but fair, even though he famously told Mary that he hated spunk. As time wore on, Lou & Ted were softened in terms of character. Ted even got married late in the run.
At home, Mary's best friend was Rhoda (Valerie Harper), who would soon return to New York in her own series. Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) seemed to be a 3rd wheel, but she too would merit a spinoff series. However, the first cast member to move on was John Amos (Gordy), who left to star on Good Times. After the series ended, Knight & MacLeod moved to ABC (Too Close For Comfort & The Love Boat, respectively). Mary waited about a year before trying a variety show whose repertory company included two future stars in David Letterman & Michael Keaton, but that series didn't even make it to a full season.

Reruns currently air on Me-TV weeknights.

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Classic Reborn: Dragnet (2003)

Procedural crime dramas such as Law & Order & CSI: Crime Scene Investigation owe their existence to Jack Webb's seminal radio & television series, Dragnet. So it stood to reason, then, that Law producer Dick Wolf, whose studio was affiliated with Universal, which acquired Dragnet in the 60's when Webb revived the series, would take a chance on revisiting his biggest inspiration.

Dragnet returned as a mid-season replacement in the winter of 2003, but instead of airing on NBC, as it had done in two previous network runs, the series shifted to ABC. Not only that, but Wolf tailored his version in the same one hour format as his Law & Order line of shows. The last half-hour version, billed as The New Dragnet and run in syndication for one calendar year (1989-90), was a bust because it was missing a key ingredient---Sgt. Joe Friday, the iconic sleuth created by Webb. The attempt to make the franchise hip was a disaster.

So Wolf had to bring back Friday, but who would play him? To the stunned surprise of fans, character actor Ed O'Neill (ex-Married....With Children), who had some experience playing cops (i.e. "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane"), was given the gig, a chance to once and for all shatter the perception that he'd been typecast as Al Bundy (to this day, my brother refers to O'Neill, currently on another ABC series, Modern Family, as "Al Bundy" out of derision). In this writer's opinion, O'Neill succeeded, but where this version failed was the way ABC treated the show.

Dragnet aired on Sundays initially, but when the fall season began, it was shifted across the calendar to Saturdays, and rechistened L. A. Dragnet for no other reason than to try to boost ratings by making it more of an ensemble drama, which it was never meant to be. Ethan Embry was cast as Frank Smith, a role created by Ben Alexander on radio & TV in the 50's, but written out of the 1967 series (due to Alexander's commitment to ABC's Felony Squad). For season 2, historians will note it was the first series gig for Eva Longoria, better known now for her run on Desperate Housewives. ABC essentially had given up, and cancelled Dragnet 6 episodes into the 2003-4 season. USA picked up the show, but didn't go very far with it, either.

It should be worth noting that Universal has had a poor track record of reviving classic properties in recent years, as evidenced by the failures of revivals of Night Stalker, Kojak, Knight Rider, Bionic Woman, and an ill-advised reboot of The Munsters. What, then, would make them think that rebooting Ironside this fall won't be any different? Someone should hand the suits at NBC-Universal-Comcast a book of Santayana's writings.

Now, let's scope the open to the 2003 Dragnet, with Mike Post revamping the classic theme.

Unlike its forebears, this version ain't out on DVD yet, and they're in no hurry to do so. Their loss.

Rating: A.

On DVD: The Three Stooges: Live & Hilarious (2007)

As I noted yesterday when I reviewed The Ed Wynn Show, I came across this Three Stooges DVD compilation when shopping the other day. The fact that it was going for mere chump change was enough of a selling point.

"Live & Hilarious" collects some rare footage thought lost to the mists of time, including the aforementioned Wynn show, and a New Year's Eve skit from The Frank Sinatra Show. Plus, there's a clip from the movie, "Private Buckaroo" in which Shemp gets dissed by the Andrews Sisters big time. The "Trailermania" portion collects trailers from almost all of the team's films, including their lone feature with Shemp, "Gold Raiders".

Edit, 10/31/23: Had to change the video again. Here are the Stooges in a compilation from the Sinatra show:

Rating: B.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Of Weasels, Twits, and assorted other things

You know, I just can't figure some people out.

The pickings must be rather slim for political races in New York City this year. The tabloid media is having a field day with the news that Anthony Weiner is making a run for City Hall to succeed Mike Bloomberg, who has termed himself out after three terms. Weiner, we all thought, was done after he was forced out of Congress a couple of years back after pulling a Brett Favre with his private areas and a cell phone, if you get my drift. However, figuring that voters are a fickle, forgetful lot, despite their claims to the contrary, Weiner threw his hat in the ring. Somehow, I get the feeling it ain't going to end well for Weiner, whose next gig should be as a commercial spokesman for----what else?----hot dogs.

On the heels of Weiner's re-entry into the political arena comes former governor and failed talk show host Eliot Spitzer, who, according to today's New York Daily News, is entering the race for NYC Controller, since the guy currently in that position, John Liu, is running for Mayor. It's been five years since Spitzer was forced to resign in disgrace after it got out that he'd been involved with call girls. The funny thing is, former madam Kristen Davis is one of his opponents. Unfortunately for Davis, she's on the Libertarian line, which automatically means her chances of winning are S-O-L. Then again, it'll be a nightmare for women's groups if Spitzer & Weiner are both winners on Election Day.

Now, it's time to hand out some Weasel ears.

We'll start in Rockford, Il., with Marilyn Meyers, whose grandson, Cody Scarpetta, plunked Alex Rodriguez with a pitch on Saturday night in a minor league game. A-Rod, of course, is on injury rehab and figures to rejoin the Yankees in due course. Problem is, he ain't hitting worth a tinker's dang, but that didn't stop the media from picking up the story of young Mr. Scarpetta, the son of a career minor leaguer, hitting Rodriguez on the injured hip while pitching for the Brevard County Manatees. What gave the tabloids some juice was the fact that Mrs. Meyers, as well as Dan Scarpetta, Cody's dad, took aim at Rodriguez's damaged character. Talk about piling on and kicking someone when they're down. It would appear that Mrs. Meyers would rather that A-Rod just hang 'em up and go away.

Considering how badly Rodriguez is faring to this point, I'd say that, yeah, this is the last roundup. Hence, we'll send a case of Weasel ears to the editors at the Daily News for making a mountain out of a molehill when it wasn't necessary.

Now, it's on to everyone's least favorite Twit, Amanda Bynes, who's at it again, this time declaring on Twitter that President Obama, whom she tried enlisting aid from after a traffic arrest a ways back, and his wife, Michelle, are "ugly". Watch. In about a day or two, she'll backtrack, like she's done before with others. Face it, friends, the girl needs help. Shutting down her Twitter account to stop the schizophrenic twaddle, whether she likes it or not, would be a good start. By the way, Amanda, you're still more attractive as a brunette, so let the hair grow back and lose that lame blonde wig.

Closer to home, the sniping between Democrats & Republicans over Assembly Speaker Sheldon (Not So Sterling) Silver's inaction in the Vito Lopez mess is getting worse by the day.

Referencing the Daily News again, it seems that Silver's designated mouthpiece, Michael Whyland (shouldn't that be Whineland?), is accusing state GOP head Ed Cox of hypocrisy and using the attacks on Silver and Lopez as a cover for their own failures on women's issues. That's one thing, but what's worse is what's surfaced upstate over the last couple of weeks. Some anonymous jabroni went around Watervliet with fliers accusing Assemblyman Phil Steck of "violating the Constitution", presumably by enabling Silver's alleged mistreatment of women. There's no evidence to support this mystery writer's claims, and I haven't seen anything in the local papers on the matter regarding Steck. All I can figure is that this "John Doe" (or is it Jane Doe?) is another GOP type, but he/she is not getting the message out the right way. The fliers are one thing, but what will get the voters attention are evidence, and cooperation from the press. Taking the story to the local media would help, if this person has the stones to try it. It wouldn't hurt. However, until then, until evidence is produced, Mr./Ms. Doe gets a set of Weasel ears for casting aspersions without merit. As for the bigwigs, well, all that needs be said is that Silver, despite the accrued power, has overstayed his welcome in Albany. Even Teflon breaks eventually, and maybe this will finally send the message that Silver should step down, forget the perks that come with his gig, and walk away.

What Might've Been: The Ed Wynn Show (1949)

Ed Wynn, aka "The Perfect Fool", headlined his own comedy-variety show for CBS as part of the Camel Comedy Caravan in 1949, but it lasted just one season. Why? Not really sure, but the episode that I have for you today is a real hoot.

The Three Stooges (Moe & Shemp Howard and Larry Fine) are the special guests, playing a ficticious trio of CBS executives, allowing Wynn to bite the hand feeding him at the time. Right there, you think, maybe this is why they got rid of him so quickly. Well, we're not entirely sure of that.

Edit, 10/31/23: Had to change the video. This copy is colorized:

The episode is available on a Stooges compilation disc I picked up for chump change the other day, and it also has trailers of some of the Stooges' film efforts, some of which have already been reviewed here.

The Ed Wynn Show gets an A.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Classic TV: Whose Line is it Anyway? (1998)

After 10 years on radio & television in England, Whose Line Is It Anyway? was imported to the US in 1998, airing on ABC. If you've ever wondered why Drew Carey became the host of The Price is Right after Bob Barker retired, other than the fact that he might've reminded people of original Price host Bill Cullen (hint: crewcut and glasses), well, here it is.

The story is that Whose Line was brought to Carey's attention, presumably by Ryan Stiles, one of his co-stars on The Drew Carey Show and a regular performer on the British version of Whose Line. Carey then pitched the idea to executives at ABC, and, well, the rest is history.

The success of Whose Line also brought benefits for regulars Colin Mochrie and Wayne Brady. Mochrie landed some commercial endorsement deals with Mohegan Sun and Nabisco, albeit short-term. Brady was spun off into a self-titled variety series on ABC that showcased his considerable talents as a singer, and from there had a brief daytime run with a syndicated talk show. Currently, Brady, following Carey's footsteps, is hosting another classic game show, Let's Make A Deal, which, depending on where you live, may be coupled with Price on CBS. Later this month, Whose Line returns, this time on CW, with Aisha Tyler (The Talk) taking over for Carey, and joined by Brady, Mochrie, Stiles, and rotating guests.

Whose Line has also led to some similarly themed series after it ended its ABC run. Carey helmed two of them himself, one for CW, and one for the GSN cable network, neither of which was successful. Meanwhile, MTV created a hip-hop themed version, Wild & Out, with Nick Cannon (currently MC'ing America's Got Talent) serving as host. While it has its roots in England, debuting on BBC Radio 4 in 1988, the series may also have some roots here in the US via the comedy game, Make Me Laugh, although the contestant participation on Whose Line is minimal and is part of the improvisational theme of the show, as demonstrated in this clip with special guest star Robin Williams (ex-Mork & Mindy), making a rare return---at the time, anyway---to primetime television after winning an Oscar for "Good Will Hunting":

Could you picture Williams hosting this show? I could.

Rating: A-.

On DVD: The Fatal Hour (1940)

Boris Karloff returns as Hugh Wiley's inscrutable detective, James Lee Wong, in "The Fatal Hour". This was Karloff's next to last performance as Wong, and it's business as usual.

A close friend of Police Captain William Street (Grant Withers) is murdered, and Street, unofficially, hires Wong to help find the killer. Throw in pesky reporter Bobbie Logan (Marjorie Reynolds), and it becomes a formulaic whodunit. Karloff's quiet, understated performance as Wong demonstrated he could do more than horror movies, but, sadly, there were few roles outside the genre that could attract Karloff after the Wong series ended.

Cult Cinema Classics uploaded "The Fatal Hour":

Rating: B.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sports this 'n' that

This happens every year in the New York-Penn League. One team gets off to a hot start, then fades quickly. Usually, it's because one or more of that team's best players are promoted within the parent club's organizational chain.

That's exactly what's happened with the Tri-City Valleycats. Two weeks into the season, the 'Cats have seen their lead in the Stedler Division shrink to a mere game over 2nd place Lowell, after the Spinners won Thursday night. Following Tuesday's doubleheader split in Vermont, OF/DH Dan Gulbranson was promoted to Quad Cities, ending his tenure with the 'Cats, just two weeks into his 2nd season with the team. Gulbranson was hitting just shy of .400, and was the team's offensive centerpiece. Tri-City has lost two games since Gulbranson's departure, meaning that there is a certain amount of psychological distress affecting the team that needs to be addressed ASAP. Still, Tri-City is a tidy 7-2 at home headed into play tonight vs. Lowell, and there's 2 months left in the season. Plenty of time for things to change for the better.

A week ago, the wrestling community lost a veteran performer in Matt Borne, whose peak years were in the 80's on the West Coast, mostly in his native Oregon and in Texas (with World Class), but then created the character of Doink the Clown in WWE in 1992-3, first as a villain, then as a beloved fan favorite after a midget sidekick, Dink (Tiger Jackson) was added to the act. However, by that time, I think, Borne was gone, and another man donned the makeup. Long time WWE mainstay Steve Lombardi was the last man to assume the identity of Doink a year ago, losing to Heath Slater on Monday Night Raw.

It wasn't too long ago that a man using the Doink ID appeared for Ultimate Wrestling East on the undercard. I do not know for certain who essayed the character that day. Unfortunately for Borne and the WWE, online headlines made it seem as though Doink himself had passed away right along with his originator. I would think WWE would have something to say about that, as they, to my knowledge, have not acknowledged Borne's passing.

Speaking of Ultimate Wrestling East, their next two shows, the last shows of 2013, will be on Saturday nights (Sept. 28 & Nov. 16), to avoid a conflict with the NFL. I can see the rationale there. UWE will move back to Sunday matinee cards in January, even though that still puts them in conflict with the NFL playoffs, especially if the Giants are in the hunt for the Super Bowl. Another benefit to an evening card is that there might be crossovers with Ballston Spa-based In Your Face Wrestling, which regularly books Saturday night shows, and just opened a training camp in Lansingburgh. Some of the UWE wrestlers, such as CJ Scott and GM JP Black, also work for IYFW, which makes cross-promotion a very real possibility.

The next thing either promotion could stand to add is a deal with Time Warner Cable that would allow for tape-delayed broadcasts of the cards to air on public access channels. It wouldn't hurt.

The NCAA needs to wake up and embrace the 21st Century.

Yahoo! reported on Thursday that Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey would be suspended for 1 2014 tournament game for criticizing officials during this year's tournament. What irritates me is how the NCAA and pro sports leagues insist on fining players and coaches for making remarks about the officials when it's clear that some of these boneheads in zebra stripes have to be held accountable for making mistakes that have a damaging effect on games.

In Mulkey's case, her star player, Britney Griner (now in the WNBA) was getting brutalized in the paint, and it seems the referees were holding their whistles and holding back on calling fouls. That happens all the time in the men's game, both pro & college. While there are those who have accused the NBA of fixing games to benefit their television partners (ESPN/ABC, TNT) for the sake of ratings, who's to say that the NCAA isn't doing the same thing (ESPN has exclusive rights to the women's tournament, and TNT shares rights to the men's tournament with CBS)? The archaic, allegedly august body that calls itself the NCAA needs a total overhaul, preferably yesterday.

Classic TV: Death Valley Days (1952)

Death Valley Days was a syndicated Western anthology series that was in production for 18 seasons (1952-70), but continued in syndication a few more years after production ended. In all, there were five hosts for the series during its run:

*Stanley Andrews, billed as "The Old Ranger".
*Ronald Reagan, who left to begin a far more successful political career.
*Robert Taylor (ex-The Detectives).
*Dale Robertson (ex-Iron Horse).
*Country singer Merle Haggard took over when the producers wanted to continue the series after production had ended, and repackaged selected episodes with new intros by Haggard.

I barely remember seeing episodes from the Taylor & Robertson runs. What I do recall is that it aired in my area usually on Sunday afternoons, but I think the station that had the rights in my area dropped the show before the Haggard run began. However, Platinum Entertainment included a couple of early episodes with the Old Ranger in a 2-disc DVD anthology package that also included Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Bat Masterson, Sugarfoot, & Stories of the Century, among others. The plots have been replicated on other Western shows many times over, including this one, "Dear Teacher", which was uploaded by Borax Laundry:

Rating: B+.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Musical Interlude: I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow (2000)

From Joel & Ethan Coen's "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" came a blockbuster hit single from the soundtrack.

The Soggy Bottom Boys were credited with "I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow", but while stars George Clooney, Tim Blake Nelson, & John Turturro lip-synched in the video, they didn't record the song. Dan Tyminski of Union Station, Allison Krauss' backing band, was the lead vocalist. To his credit, Nelson did record a song on the soundtrack CD, which I'll try to locate at a later time.

In Theatres: The Lone Ranger (2013)

Even the best creative minds can make bad decisions.

Director Gore Verbinski's take on "The Lone Ranger" is a total farce. This is clearly not your father's Lone Ranger, much less your grandfather's. The story that everyone knows is buried under nearly 2 1/2 hours of padded folly designed as a star vehicle not for Armie Hammer, who has the title role, but rather Johnny Depp, whom Verbinski directed in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series. Worse, Depp's Tonto is more of a poser than Hammer's John Reid, aka the Lone Ranger. We've all seen the trailers and commercials for the movie, which presents Tonto with black & white face paint and a stuffed crow atop his head. That is not Tonto!!! The story is told in flashbacks, framed by an elderly Tonto (Depp again) haltingly, haphazardly recalling the adventure for a young Lone Ranger fan. I'm sorry, but that is an insult to a franchise that is 80-something years old.

Even the outlaw Butch Cavendish is mistreated in this movie, given a disfigured appearance that I don't recall seeing in previous interpretations. There are some funny moments, all of them involving the Ranger & Tonto, but this isn't supposed to be a comedy. The three jabronies who wrote this fool's parade and Verbinski should all apply to have credit turned over to "Alan Smithee", this was so bad.

Three times now, in the last 32 years, Hollywood has tried to revive the Ranger, and has failed all three times. 1981's "Legend of the Lone Ranger" tried to remain true to the source material, but was a box office flop. A 2003 TV-movie was another mistake, completely disassociating the Ranger from his spiritual descendant, The Green Hornet, with Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill) as someone named Luke Hartman. Excuse me? Seems I was lucky not to have seen either one of those films, and the 2003 movie seems to be a cipher now.

The trailers were worth more of my time. To wit:

"Pacific Rim" (next week): WB & Legendary Pictures' "other" summer blockbuster.
"R.I.P.D." (July 19): Ryan Reynolds & Jeff Bridges as undead detectives. Think of it as "Dead Heat" crossed with "Men in Black".

"The Wolverine" (July 26): Hugh Jackman returns as everyone's favorite X-Man.
"Thor: The Dark World" (November): Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, & Anthony Hopkins continue the Thunder God's story.
"Red 2" (July 19): Hopkins & Catherine Zeta-Jones join Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, & Helen Mirren as Warren Ellis' comic book merits a sequel.

"Battle of the Year" (September): If you've seen MTV's Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew, you get the idea, except that this one's on a global scale. No sign of Mario Lopez, though.

"Delivery Man" (November): Vince Vaughn as a man whose life is turned upside down when he learns just how many kids he fathered via artifical insemination. Thor will blow this loser away.

And, now, as a public service, the "Lone Ranger" trailer:

Rating: D-.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What Might've Been: The Double Life of Henry Phyfe (1966)

Comedian Red Buttons' schtick was that he felt he "never had a dinner", meaning, he was never the guest of honor. If his 1966 spy spoof, The Double Life of Henry Phyfe, was more successful than it was, well, maybe he would've gotten his "dinner".

Double Life, a Filmways entry for ABC, didn't survive its one and only season. The studio was looking to supply ABC with another hit show to complement The Addams Family, which would be dropped after 2 seasons, but, as fate would have it, it wouldn't happen. After failing twice with Phyllis Diller, Filmways never sold another series to ABC.

So why did Double Life fail? It wasn't a rip-off of Get Smart, which was airing on NBC at the time, because Phyfe wasn't a full-time spy, unlike Maxwell Smart (Don Adams). Phyfe had a regular job, but was called upon at most inopportune times to serve his country by his handler (Fred Clark). In essence, Double Life had more in common with Wally Cox's failed comedy-adventure series, The Adventures of Hiram Holliday, from a few years earlier. Like Cox, Buttons was more of an Everyman comedian, but lacked a certain amount of charismatic appeal that would've helped his show succeed.

Consider the following sample episode. How do we know it's a Filmways production? Vic Mizzy is the musical director, and had the same gig on almost every Filmways show of the period, save for The Beverly Hillbillies. For what it's worth, Mizzy also scored a non-Filmways series, NBC's Captain Nice, a year later, and was hired by Universal to score Don Knotts' movies.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Musical Interlude: Free Man In Paris (1979)

Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris" was originally released in 1974, and I remember hearing it quite a bit on the radio back then. Five years later, Mitchell included "Free Man" in a concert recorded for her 1980 film, "Shadows & Light". Jazz enthusiasts will recognize two of their favorites, Lyle Mays & Pat Metheny, sitting in with Mitchell.

Nearly 40 years later, I still don't get the chorus.......

Classic TV: The Rat Patrol (1966)

ABC filled their primetime schedule with diverse varieties of adventure in 1966. On one side, you had Batman (2nd season), now joined by William Dozier's straight-forward adaptation of The Green Hornet. Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (3rd season) was joined by The Time Tunnel.

And, then, there were the shows set in World War II. Blue Light was cancelled after 1 season (as were Hornet & Tunnel). Meanwhile, The Rat Patrol gave viewers a front-line view of the war, at least on one front. Patrol lasted just two seasons, but could've gone on longer had it not been for declining ratings and other factors in season 2.

Christopher George was the headline star, but only one cast member is still active today. Back then, he was known as Hans Gudegast, who played one of the German soldiers. Today, soap opera fans know him as Eric Braeden, who has been a mainstay on The Young & The Restless almost from the series' beginning. Like, whodathunk, right?

Anyway, here's the open, uploaded by Chuck Collins:

It's too bad no one has the courage to put this back on the air, to help educate today's audience.

Rating: B.