Friday, August 30, 2013

What Might've Been: Good Morning, World (1967)

Sheldon Leonard had made the successful transition from actor to producer, becoming one of the most prolific producers in television in the 60's. However, even the best can produce a few clunkers, even when they weren't meant to fail.

Good Morning, World, it can be said, was well ahead of its time. The series spent one season on CBS (1967-8), under the umbrella of one of Leonard's various production company labels. Seems he had one for almost every one of his CBS shows. In this case, it was Discus Productions, complete with logo.

Jobey Baker top-lined, but after the series was cancelled, he wasn't heard from again. Leonard brought Ronnie Schell over from Gomer Pyle, USMC to play Baker's sidekick, but then, after the series ended, Schell went back to Gomer to resume his role as Duke Slater, one of Gomer's best friends, even though the series only lasted another year before star Jim Nabors decided to switch gears and try his hand with a variety show. Most folks will only remember Billy De Wolfe for his work 2 years later in the animated Christmas classic, Frosty the Snowman.

USA Network picked up the series out of the recycling bin back in the 80's, and ran it as part of a weekday anthology block of forgotten shows. That's where I remember seeing it, since I was but a toddler when it first aired.

Following is a sample episode.

It certainly deserved a better fate than it got, but CBS would try another radio-centric sitcom a decade later that was much better received---WKRP In Cincinnati.

Rating: B.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Musical Interlude: Gangster's Paradise (1995)

Our look back at school-themed (sort of) videos continues with Coolio's breakout hit of 1995, "Gangster's Paradise", which was used in the movie, "Dangerous Minds". That, of course, explains why the film's star, Michelle Pfieffer, appears with Coolio, reprising her role from the movie as real-life ex-Marine-turned-teacher LouAnne Johnson. L. V. , who performs the chorus, later re-recorded "Paradise" himself as a soloist, adding new lyrics.

Most folks know that Coolio wasn't too thrilled with the way "Weird" Al Yankovic went about creating his satire, "Amish Paradise", which came out a year later, as some miscommunication led to Al recording "Amish" without consulting Coolio first. These days, Coolio's better known for his acting than his rapping. Go figure.

Weasel of the Week: Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was all over the television these last few months, appearing in tourist ads touting that the Garden State is "Stronger Than The Storm", in reference to the Jersey Shore area's recovery from Superstorm Sandy nearly a year ago.

However, all that goodwill went out the window this week when WFAN in New York asked Gov. Christie to try something new----talk show host. Gov. Christie was asked to sub for morning host Boomer Esiason, partnered with comedian Craig Carton for the broadcast, simulcast on Madison Square Garden's TV network. Gov. Christie wasted little time proving that his role model for this gig is a past Weasel, Rush Limbaugh, as he lambasted New York Daily News sports writer Manish Mehta for continuing to press Jets coach Rex Ryan about his use of quarterback Mark Sanchez in the 4th quarter of the Jets' 24-21 win over the Giants last Saturday. Sanchez was injured in the game, and Ryan's been second-&-third guessed by everyone since. Mehta was only doing his job.

The governor's problem? He's a friend of Ryan's, and used his guest host gig as a bully pulpit to rip not only Mehta, but also Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr., for the firing of manager Charlie Manuel 2 weeks ago, and Yankees radio announcers Suzyn Waldman and John Sterling. Then again, those two get lambasted regularly in the print media, especially Sterling, so it's nothing new there, but Gov. Christie, who is a Mets & Cowboys fan, was way out of line. The Daily News reacted by referring to him as "Fatso" on the front page of Tuesday's edition. Reporters expect to get slammed by the people they're covering, not someone outside their beat. The slings & arrows come as part of the territory.

Governor Christie aspires to run for the White House in 2016. He's got a better shot of landing a daytime talk show as the reincarnation of Morton Downey, Jr., given his bombast & vitriol. Then again, pairing him with Alec Baldwin to do a radio show might not be a bad idea, either. It's either that, or he's auditioning for one of the kings of Weasels, Vince McMahon. Yes, Governor, you get the Weasel ears this week. Stick to your day job.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Only in the South: Florida High School cheerleaders can't wear their uniforms in class. Say what?

Back when I was in high school, it was a tradition, still holding fast today, for football players to wear their uniform shirts in class the day before a game, and for the cheerleaders to wear their uniforms as well. In the cheerleaders' case, it was straight through basketball season. There were never any dress code issues.

Then again, I don't live in Florida.

Yahoo! and the Tampa Bay Times are reporting that there are school districts in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area that have decided that the traditional cheerleader uniforms, consisting of a sleeveless top and a short skirt, cannot be worn in class, going forward, because, in the opinion of district officials, the uniforms are, get this, "too vulgar".


Seems the dweebs in the district felt that there was a double standard in place, since they'd be enforcing the school dress code on other females who were wearing the same size (or shorter) skirt or same style top, especially one that would also allow for a little cleavage to peek out. Naturally, parents of the cheerleaders aren't digging, and there are steps being taken to reach a compromise. Countryside High principal Gary Schlereth, according to the Tampa Bay Times, had asked the cheerleaders to order up some special jackets to wear to cover their arms. Since school has already started in Florida, they've already started football season, and on the day of Countryside's first game, the issue of the skirts' length came into play.


Here's an idea, Mr. Schlereth. Why not stop at the jackets, and have the district order warm-up suits, like gymnasts and basketball players wear? The suits will serve the required purpose of covering the girls' arms & legs, and make the narrow-minded school board suits happy.

Let's see ESPN's Outside The Lines address this issue!

Musical Interlude: Teacher, Teacher (1984)

:38 Special raced back up the charts in 1984 with "Teacher, Teacher", the theme from the movie, "Teachers", which wasn't exactly a box office smash, despite the ensemble cast assembled, which included TV stalwarts Richard Mulligan (Soap, later of Empty Nest), William Schallert (ex-The Patty Duke Show), Judd Hirsch (fresh from Taxi), and future Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (ex-The Electric Company), though Nick Nolte got top billing.

NFC Preview 2013

Sorry about the delay, but let's finish the 2013 NFL forecast by taking a look at the NFC.

NFC East:

If the Giants are going to get back to the postseason, it's going to be with the cast they now have. They let running back Ahmad Bradshaw (Indianapolis) and defensive standouts Osi Umenyiora (Atlanta) & Chris Canty (Baltimore) go via free agency, and almost lost wideout Ramses Barden, who re-upped when he couldn't find anyone on the open market. However, after what happened last season, the hill is steeper.

That's because Philadelphia finally cut coach Andy Reid (Kansas City), and brought in college whiz Chip Kelly from Oregon. The Eagles then drafted Matt Barkley out of USC, but all he'll do at the start of the season is carry a clipboard for Michael Vick. They tried shopping Nick Foles, but found no takers. Barkley will be well served waiting his turn instead of being thrust into the spotlight immediately, unlike his predecessor at USC, Mark Sanchez (Jets). Dallas is the same, and will remain so as long as owner Jerry Jones, who still thinks he knows how to build a team and won't hire a GM, wears too many hats. Washington won the division last year, blessed not only with Robert Griffin III at QB, but also Kirk Cousins. Rex Grossman's days in DC may be yet numbered, especially if comeback kid Pat White, who washed out in Miami 4 years ago, can prove he can still play. Washington returns almost the same cast, and will have Subway pitchman Griffin at QB on opening day.

Back to the Giants. Running backs David Wilson & Andre Brown won't be sneaking up on anyone this year, and the defense has to step up to make up for the losses. Like the Jets, the Big Blue got an ex-Panther, Dan Connor (who was in Dallas last year) via free agency, but he promptly got into legal trouble. Must be something in the waters down in Charlotte.

Projected order of finish:

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

NFC North:

The Green Bay Packers are the NFC's answer to the New England Patriots, except they don't take shortcuts to success. They never have to. As per usual, the division is theirs to lose, and as long as Aaron Rodgers and friends don't get sidetracked making more of those stupid commercials for State Farm, they'll be fine. Maybe they can loan out Clay Matthews, Jr. to the WWE to straighten out the mess there after the season. I digress. Detroit may be a player for sure, now that they swapped out Jahvid Best, who at last check hadn't signed anywhere, for Reggie Bush at running back. Bush is revitalized, or so it seemed after he ran through the buttery Patriot defense last week. If only Ndamakong Suh can go through a season without getting into trouble. Minnesota made another mistake, letting receiver Percy Harvin go, as he followed Sidney Rice to Seattle. Not smart. Chicago dumped coach Lovie Smith for Marc Trestman, but that won't change things in the division by December.

Projected order of finish:

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

NFC South:

They're raving about Carolina after the Panthers beat the Super Bowl champion Ravens last week. Meh, whatever. They got Ted Ginn, Jr. from San Francisco via free agency, which will prove costly to the Niners. Tampa Bay's defense improved with the acquisition of Darrelle Revis from the Jets, but 2nd year coach Greg Schiano needs to improve the offense, too. Atlanta gets Osi Umenyiora to shore up the defensive line. 9 years ago, they did the same thing, getting John Abraham from the Jets, and he's still around. New Orleans seemingly stands pat, but this is the toughest division in the league, and now all 4 teams are contenders.

Projected order of finish:

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

NFC West: 

As noted, San Francisco gave up Ted Ginn, Jr., and that will weaken special teams as well as the offense. They also gave up on ex-Giant Brandon Jacobs, cutting him before the post-season, denying him his 2nd straight Super Bowl appearance. Not sure where Jacobs is playing, if at all, this year. Seattle added Percy Harvin to their collection of receivers, giving Russell Wilson an extra burner to throw to. Nice. Arizona starts over, having jettisoned coach Ken Whisenhunt and QB Kevin Kolb. Back to the drawing board for the Cardinals. St. Louis doesn't look like anything changed there, either, but they won't be in the cellar.

Projected order of finish:

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

Wild cards: Washington & San Francisco. Sorry, Giants fans.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Classic TV (?): Dance Fever (1979)

Ever wonder why Merv Griffin made the decision to revive Jeopardy! as a syndicated entry in the 80's, five years after it had ended its 2nd run on NBC?

Well, the answer may lie in the fact that Griffin already had a foothold in syndication, between his own nightly talk show and a weekend competition show that bowed as a mid-season entry in January 1979, Dance Fever. Not sure exactly when Wheel of Fortune began its syndicated run, by the way.

Fever cashed in on the fading disco craze of the mid-to-late 70's, and was hosted by Denny Terrio for the first seven seasons. Beginning with season 8, Adrian Zmed (T. J. Hooker) replaced Terrio as host, with no discernable explanation for the switch. Must've made a difference in the long term, since the series ended in 1987 after 9 seasons.

The series returned in 2003, this time on cable, on ABC Family, but lasted a little more than a month before it was cancelled.

Here's a sample clip.

Comic Freeman King was the announcer for the first two seasons, but was replaced by the late Charlie O'Donnell beginning with season 3. Now, what could've been wrong with that idea?

Rating: C.

Musical Interlude: (She's) Sexy & 17 (1983)

While school has started again for the young ones in different parts of the country (the Northeast catches up beginning next week), let's take a time trip back to 1983. Not sure if they still have school teachers as stern as the educator making a cameo at the start of the Stray Cats' 1983 hit, "(She's) Sexy & 17", off the album, "Rant 'N' Rave With The Stray Cats".

Uploaded by EMI's YouTube channel:

Like, radical, man!

Monday, August 26, 2013

NFL 2013 preview, part 1: The AFC

Pre-season's almost over, so let's take a look at how things might shake out in 2013 in the NFL.

AFC East:

As was the case last year, the division is New England's to lose. This is despite the fact that the Patriots' biggest offensive weakness headed into training camp was at tight end. Aaron Hernandez is now in jail facing murder charges. Rob Gronkowski's perpetually hurt, and may never be 100% again. They signed Tim Tebow, but the way the press looked at it on Friday, after New England got spanked by Detroit, that Tebow might get cut, since he at present is the #3 QB behind Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett. However, Tebow has shown a willingness to try new things. The Jets, after all, used him as a punt protector last year, but didn't give him much chance to really shine at QB.

Speaking of the Jets, the dumbest move in the offseason was hiring John Idzik as GM. Idzik came from Seattle, but the personnel moves he's made have to be called into question. He let Shonn Greene walk (Tennessee). He just cut Joe McKnight and Braylon Edwards today, the latter might be a mistake given the questionable health of Santonio Holmes. Mike Goodson, who came over from Carolina in the offseason, promptly ran into legal issues, but just returned to camp today. 1st round pick Geno Smith, out of West Virginia, has an ankle problem. Mark Sanchez, entering his 5th year, hurt his shoulder on Saturday in a win over the Giants. That leaves 3rd year QB Greg McElroy, who looked great in a brief go-round last year, as a probable starter opening day if Smith and/or Sanchez can't go. What is Rex Ryan thinking? What is Idzik thinking? Will they be here in 2014? In the words of Homey D. Clown, I don't think so.

Buffalo thought things would be better after luring coach Doug Marrone away from Syracuse. They drafted EJ Manuel (Florida State) as their QB of the future, and let Ryan Fitzpatrick go. Now, Manuel's hurt, and so is Kevin Kolb, who came over from Arizona, suffering his 3rd concussion in 4 years. They announced today that Jeff Tuel (WHO? Exactly!), an undrafted free agent, will start opening day. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's against the Patriots. Thanks for coming, kid. Miami let Reggie Bush go, and that was a major error. He's in Detroit, and ran wild on New England the other night, which tells you something about the continuing defensive defects on the Patriots.

This division is too easy:

1. New England. 2. Miami. 3. Jets. 4. Buffalo.

AFC North:

Baltimore said goodbye to Ray Lewis with a Super Bowl win. However, they also lost Ed Reed (Houston) and Bernard Pollard (Indianapolis) in the offseason. They did shore up the defensive line by luring Chris Canty away from the Giants. As a result, the Ravens were toasted by Carolina on Thursday. Not a good feeling headed into a week 1 match against Denver. Pittsburgh welcomed back Plaxico Burress, but he gets hurt, and is on IR for the season. They let last year's rookie running back, Chris Rainey, go after the season due to legal issues, but the running back by committee got smaller when they let Rashard Mendenhall go as a free agent. Mike Tomlin has a lot of questions to answer as the season begins.

Cleveland cut bait on Colt McCoy (San Francisco), opting on keeping Brandon Weeden as their starter. They also picked up Dion Lewis, a 2010 draft pick by Philadelphia who comes from my neck of the woods, but like Burress, Lewis is gone for the season after suffering an injury a week and a half ago. Lewis was meant to be a backup to 2nd year runner Trent Richardson. Cincinnati needs to prove they can keep it together and build a consistent playoff team. Sure, they made the post-season 2 years running, but a 3rd, coupled with another division title, would be better for the team's fanbase. All the pieces remain in place.

Projected order of finish:

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

AFC South:

Houston has been the class of the division the last two years, but now, the Indianapolis Colts are officially back. They got Ahmad Bradshaw from the Giants via free agency. Andrew Luck still has Reggie Wayne & TY Hilton to throw to. Defensively, they improved by picking up Bernard Pollard from Baltimore. Scary to think about. Houston also plumbed the Ravens' D by bagging Ed Reed. The offense looks like nothing's changed. Tennessee got Shonn Greene from the Jets to back up Chris Johnson, but let Matt Hasselbeck walk. Who's Jake Locker's backup now? Jacksonville has a lot of work to do, building around Blaine Gabbert & Maurice Jones-Drew. That's really all that needs be said.

Projected order of finish:

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

AFC West:

The big story in the division is Andy Reid taking over in Kansas City after what seemed like a lifetime in Philadelphia. That doesn't guarantee that anything changes from last year, for Reid or the Chiefs. The road to the title still goes through Denver and Peyton Manning. Too bad he couldn't buy a Papa John's franchise in my area, as the pizza chain pulled up stakes and abandoned the upstate corridor, just like Quizno's did last year. San Diego finally has someone new at head coach in Mike McCoy. Yeah, whatever. Oakland still plays revolving door with quarterbacks, although Terrelle Pryor, a supplemental pick a couple of years ago out of Ohio State, may just beat Matt Flynn (acquired from Buffalo) for the starting job, and make things exciting again for Raider Nation. However, I doubt that.

Projected order of finish:

1. Denver. 2. Oakland. 3. San Diego. 3. (tie). Kansas City.

Wild Cards: Houston, Pittsburgh.

Tomorrow: the NFC.

What Might've Been: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century should've been a huge hit for NBC when it bowed in 1979. The network was starving for a hit show, and thought they had one. Unfortunately, a strike in Hollywood slowed production on the 2nd season, leading to premature, at least in this writer's opinion, cancellation.

The series began, as did Universal stablemate Battlestar Galactica a year earlier, with a feature film released to theatres. Six months later, the movie was edited into the 2-part series opener, "Awakening". Producer Glen Larsen, who also was the show-runner for Galactica, chose a relative unknown, Gil Gerard, for the title role as Captain William "Buck" Rogers, who had been in suspended animation for 5 centuries before being revived in the year 2487. Larsen's plan, it seemed, was to try to pick up the mojo left over from Paramount's Star Trek a decade prior by having Buck charming a different woman each week in season 1, even though he was the object of Princess Ardala's desires, and, in turn, it took a while before Buck began to draw closer to his commanding officer, Colonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gray).

Tim O'Connor (ex-Peyton Place) played Dr. Huer, the head of the Defense Directorate. Buck was given a robot sidekick, Twiki (Felix Silla, ex-The Addams Family; voiced by Mel Blanc for most of the series), which was mostly to lure in the kids. However, in season 2, Buck, Twiki, & Wilma were moved aboard the Searcher. The writers' strike cut the episode order down to 11 for the season, leaving out any and all explanation for Buck & Wilma's reassignment. That, all by itself, pretty much killed the show.

William Conrad, fresh from Cannon, served as series announcer for season 1 and narrated the movie. In season 2, for some odd reason, long time QM announcer Hank Simms replaced Conrad. Another bad move, y'think?

Anyway, here's a network promo plugging the series opener:

ABC blinked and moved Mork & Mindy to Sundays for its second season, rather than risk airing opposite Buck Rogers, but would move back via viewer demand in due course. In recent years, Buck has turned up on Sci-Fi (now SyFy), Me-TV, & Retro. Ya never know where the series will surface again.

Rating: B+.

MDA breaks with tradition---the last desperate act?

One year ago, we handed out Weasel ears to the people in charge of the Muscular Dystrophy Association for the clumsy, disrespectful manner in which they bade farewell to longtime telethon host-founder Jerry Lewis. This year, MDA will soldier on, but they have once again reduced the amount of time allotted for their annual special, now known, as of last year, as the MDA Show of Strength.

This year's edition won't be in syndication. Rather, for the first time, the program will be aired on a national network---ABC. MDA must've made some sort of sweetheart deal with Disney for this to happen, after being able to function independently for decades. Show of Strength will air from 9-11 pm (ET) on September 1, but to me it will once again be a joyless affair, looking more and more corporate with each passing year. It just isn't the same.

On the homefront, CBS affiliate WRGB, which has broadcast the telethon since its inception in the late 60's, will carry on with a locally produced special, Capital Region Cares, airing on August 29. The promos aired relentlessly, twice per commercial break, during Sunday's Mets-Tigers broadcast on sister station WCWN, the CW affiliate, and during all of WRGB's programming as well. This should've been a sign to me that there was something amiss. Why do this on a weeknight before Labor Day weekend? As I found out earlier today, it's because the station is no longer part of the "Love Network", as Lewis so fondly referred to the stations that carried the telethon for years.

MDA is slowly distancing itself from the common folks, the people who've given so much from day one, preferring instead to build their telethon around the corporate entities that have been a part of the equation, if you will, from that same day one. MDA broke the traditional business model two years ago by cutting the telethon to a measly six hours, three last year, and now, two. The ratings will tell ABC & MDA if this was a gamble worth taking. I seriously doubt it.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Videos of Summer: Glory Days (1984-5)

The late George Steinbrenner, when he owned the New York Yankees, was known as "The Boss". His tyrannical, publicity-addicted method of operation has been passed down, not to his sons, Hank & Hal, but to WWE's head nutjob, Vince McMahon, who was a friend of George's back in the day.

Meanwhile, the Mets could count on a "Boss" of their own among their fans.

How else to explain a clip of Dwight Gooden in action during the video for Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days", one of the last singles to come out of his 1984 album, "Born in the USA"?

At the end of the clip, Bruce references giving up a game winning hit to Graig Nettles, who at the time was with San Diego, having long since left the "Bronx Zoo". The video comes from Springsteen's VEVO channel:

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Modern Classic: Sabrina, The Teenage Witch (1996)

Nearly 30 years after her television debut, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch returned to television in 1996, this time in a live-action sitcom that made some subtle changes.

The series began with a TV-movie that aired on the Showtime pay-cable network, and moved to broadcast television when Viacom sold the series to ABC that fall, starting a 7 year run that ended on the WB in 2003.

As for those changes?

Sabrina, originally created by George Gladir & Dan DeCarlo in the 60's, was a platinum blonde, but since finding an actress with a matching hairstyle is almost impossible, the producers opted for a natural blonde. As it turns out, star Melissa Joan Hart (ex-Clarissa Explains It All) and her mother had started their own production company, so they had a major stake in the series. Hart, of course, wasn't about to cut her long blonde hair so it'd match Sabrina's shorter 'do in the comics.

Sabrina's aunts, Hilda & Zelda, were also given makeovers. Hilda swapped out her stereotyped emerald skin, and Zelda her plus-size figure, for the appearance of modern-day business women, as embodied by Caroline Rhea & Beth Broderick, respectively. The family familiar, Salem, long silent in past incarnations, was rebooted as a warlock transformed into a cat as punishment for attempting to take over the world, or some such. Comic Nick Bakay, who later became a producer on the show, put words in Salem's mouth, making the black cat comedy relief.

The only other member of Sabrina's supporting cast to transfer from the comics was her sweetheart, Harvey Kinkle (Nate Richert). However, the producers tried to mess with that relationship by writing Harvey out after the first few seasons when Sabrina went off to college.

As season 4 began, an animated prequel aired on ABC & UPN, with Sabrina now a pre-teen (and voiced by Emily Hart, Melissa's sister). Melissa took over the dual roles of Hilda & Zelda, with Bakay the only other cast member also doing the cartoon. Sabrina: The Animated Series lasted two seasons, and merited a follow-up, Sabrina's Secret Life, in 2002.

Dailymotion presents the series opener/pilot:

Currently, cable rights are split between the Hub and MTV2/TeenNick. MTV2 began airing the series with a marathon earlier this month to help TeenNick fulfill its contract before it expires.

Rating: B.

Of missing heads and potentially bad ideas

The Record, my hometown paper, reports today that the missing head of "Uncle Rainbow", one of the Uncle Sam statues that had been assailed by unknown parties in recent days, was recovered-----in Mechanicville. The perp hasn't been caught, though, but now a motive is beginning to come into focus.

As I wrote earlier this week in designating the "John Doe"s responsible for the attacks on the statues as Weasels of the Week, one idea might be that these irresponsible people might be looking to see what they can score by selling the head for scrap metal. The missing head was found unattended and returned to Troy on Thursday. It's now in the hands of the Police, which will hold it for evidence until this case finally closes, likely with the thief being foolish enough to return and try to reclaim his "prize".

What the thief needs, though, is to be brought before a public----very public, I might add---forum to explain himself, the better to dissuade future copycats.

Meanwhile, in Hollywood, word comes down the pike that WB has cast their new Batman for a proposed feature, due in 2015 that would serve as a sequel to this year's "Man of Steel". Henry Cavill will return as Superman, but taking over as the Dark Knight? Wouldja believe------Ben Affleck?

10 years ago, Affleck was cast in "Daredevil", with future wife Jennifer Garner as Elektra, and subsequently getting a spin-off movie of her own 2 years later. As I recall, "Daredevil" wasn't exactly the box office smash Marvel was looking for. Then again, they didn't do too well with their first big screen "Hulk", as Ang Lee's reimagining flopped badly as well. You'd think that would sour casting directors on giving Affleck another shot at a comic book movie, but then, this is an industry that rewarded writer Akiva Goldsman with an Oscar ("A Beautiful Mind") after Goldsman and Joel Schumacher nearly ruined the Bat-franchise. Go figure..........

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Classic TV: The Incredible Hulk (1977)

In the Bullpen Bulletins pages of Marvel Comics in the late 70's, Stan Lee and the crew were gushing over The Incredible Hulk, which Universal obtained a license for in 1977 to adapt for television. When you consider how different the series was from the comic books, you'd have reason to smile, too.

Producer Ken Johnson (The Bionic Woman) decided to build the series around a variation on the concept of The Fugitive. David Bruce Banner (Bill Bixby, ex-The Magician) wandered from city to city, staying one step ahead not of the police, but rather a tabloid journalist (Jack Colvin), who was looking for the big story that would give him a Pulitzer Prize for journalism, or so he thinks. The famed origin is not included in the series. Instead, Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) is accused of murder, making him a fugitive himself.

The scenes where Banner "Hulks out" are the stuff of legend. Bixby was given green contact lenses for those scenes, and as soon as you see his eyes turn green, you know what's next. Hulk smash, but Hulk not talk. The hearing impaired Ferrigno would've needed someone to dub over his dialogue in order for Hulk to actually speak like he did in the comics in those days. These days, they've made Hulk more intelligent, merging more of Banner's personality with the brute.

Lee had created Hulk with Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde in mind, then turned around and created a Mr. Hyde of his own for another of his heroes, but that's another story for another time.

The series began with a pair of TV-movies. In the first, Banner gives himself an overdose of gamma radiation, as summarized in the intro sequence you'll soon see. Of course, long time fans know that really wasn't the case. Johnson and the Universal suits opted for the simpler approach rather than add a teen idol prospect to play Rick Jones, who was a central figure in the "birth" of the Hulk. In 1978, the series was installed on Fridays, airing in between Wonder Woman & Dallas. Even with the Amazing Amazon dismissed in favor of The Dukes of Hazzard, Hulk retained the genre audience, and would linger around until 1982. Of course, he wouldn't be gone for long, as an animated series, produced by Marvel and narrated by Lee, bowed on NBC that September.

Here's the intro, narrated by Ted Cassidy (ex-The Addams Family):

Next month, Marvel dives back into primetime with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a spin-off from last year's "Avengers" movie. They have to hope it can last 5 years, just as the Hulk did.

Rating: A.

Musical Interlude: One Night in Bangkok (1983)

In the 80's, there were a greater number of 1-hit wonders, thanks to the emerging allure of MTV.

One of those one-hit wonders was Murray Head, who zoomed up the charts with the driving "One Night in Bangkok", taken from the musical, "Chess". Head's vocals sound like those of actor William Daniels (St. Elsewhere, Knight Rider), who took a turn at musicals a few years earlier ("1776"). Ya don't believe me? Scope it, brother.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

On the Air: Total Divas (2013)

12 years after their first plunge into reality TV, WWE tries again, this time with Total Divas, airing on the E! network (USA repurposed the first episode only).

One of the criticisms lodged against Tough Enough at the end of its MTV run (2001-3) was that it supposedly exposed the wrestling business. Now, I can't judge that for sure, but don't you think Total Divas, by revealing the private lives of some of the women, does the same thing? When you stop and think about it, Chairman-CEO Vince McMahon, a frequent winner of our Weasel of the Week award, lives in his own pocket universe. How else to explain the misguided direction of WWE's two linchpin shows?

Speaking of Tough Enough, 2011 runner-up Ariane Andrew was brought back and repackaged as Cameron, 1/2 of the Funkadactyls, the cheerleader/dancers for Brodus Clay and his partner, Sweet T (Tensai). Viewers will be familiar with her and the other girls, particularly the Bella Twins (Brianna & Nicole Garcia), who did most of the media rounds before the series premiered last month, but are presented in the ring as a pair of cactus snobs (they're from Arizona, you see). Even more interesting is the fact that each twin is dating a prominent male wrestler. Nikki is dating former champ John Cena (now on the DL with an elbow injury), and Brie with Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson). Oddly enough, 2 years ago, they did a storyline on TV where both twins flirted with Bryan, only to discover he was seeing someone else at the time. Funny how things work, eh?

But some premium attention is paid to Nattie (Natalya) Niedhart, daughter of 80's star Jim "The Anvil" Niedhart, and her fiance, TJ Wilson, better known to WWE fans as Tyson Kidd, currently on the DL himself with a knee injury. Judging from a recent episode, I'd say TJ scored a prize catch.

Here's a sample clip:

8 episodes were ordered for the first season, and now comes word that six more have been ordered. What did you expect?

Rating: C. If you've seen one reality show, you've pretty much seen them all.

Musical Interlude: Let The River Run (1989)

Remember the romantic comedy, "Working Girl", with Melanie Griffith & Harrison Ford? Well, here's the theme from the movie. Carly Simon scored a monster hit with "Let the River Run":

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Classic TV (?) : The A-Team (1983)

Some say it was a cartoon brought to life, because no one really got hurt. However, The A-Team, which turned 30 in January, was escapist fun, even though it did overstay its welcome.

As the opening narrative tells us, 4 men were wrongly convicted by a military court in 1972, and promptly escaped. The military is still after them 11 years later, which calls into question the statute of limitations on the charges against the men now known as the A-Team. The dogged, relentless pursuit by the military recalls The Fugitive 2 decades earlier, but the soldiers are made to look like buffoons.

So it seemed only appropriate that, not long after winning his first WWF (now WWE) title, Hulk Hogan made 2 appearances on the show, with some of the other grapplers getting some shine time as well in cameos. Culture Club, particularly frontman Boy George, appeared in another story. There were the requisite paperback novels either adapting episodes or with all-new stories. Marvel Comics got in on the act with a 3-issue miniseries.

Mr. T ("Rocky III") was spun off into a Saturday morning series bearing his name but with no link to The A-Team. It lasted 3 seasons itself. The 2010 feature film, with Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, & Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, tried to recapture the spirit of the series, but failed.

Here's the open everyone knows:

Rating: B+.

Weasels of the Week: John & Jane Doe and Vince McMahon

We start today in Canada, particularly the Ontario province.

On Friday, the grandmother of 13-year-old Max Begley received an anonymous letter, presumably from a neighbor who was, as the writer signed the letter, "pissed off" about Max's behavior. You see, Max has autism. His mother, Kara, according to reports, suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS), and thus has Max spend his mornings with his grandmother.

The letter-writer simply wishes Max nothing but ill will, demanding that the Begleys move him into a wooded area, or, worse, have him euthanized. The outpouring of support for the Begley family has been nothing short of tremendous, according to reports I've read. Max can't help what he does. Unfortunately, the writer doesn't understand thing one about autism. One poster responding to an account in the New York Daily News suggests that the writer be charged with a hate crime, and recommends sensitivity training. I'll go along with that, and add a set of Weasel ears for "Jane Doe".

Our next stop is sunny California.

WWE Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon earns another set of Weasel ears for his ham-handed booking at Sunday's Summerslam PPV. Why? Well.......

The main event saw John Cena defend vs. Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson). Champ & challenger were both featured on the company's new reality show, Total Divas, as the significant others du jour of the Bella Twins, Brie & Nikki (Brianna & Nicole Garcia), and speculation was the twins would be part of the main event. Didn't happen, which, in hindsight, may not have been a good idea, because I would've taken the twins' shenanigans over what did happen. Bryan won the title, as Cena is taking leave for an elbow injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of the year at the most.

Randy Orton cashed in his Money in the Bank case at Bryan's expense, 20 months after Bryan had done the same to the Big Show at the TLC event in December 2011. However, that wasn't the story. Triple H, assigned as the guest ref, turned on Bryan and laid him out, leaving him vulnerable for Orton to claim the title. That's not really the problem.

The problem, of course, continues to be McMahon himself, refusing to do the right thing for business, and turning his son-in-law, and daughter Stephanie, against the fans just because he thinks he can get away with it. His business model is damaged beyond repair, and he refuses to allow for an advocate to offset his corrupt administrators (Brad Maddox on Monday Night Raw and the ever-annoying, ever-present (unfortunately) Vickie Guerrero on Friday Night Smackdown).

The correct scenario is having someone come along to expose the truth about Vince, and have him removed from office, at least in storyline. Rumors have him being the hero come Wrestlemania 30, but in truth, he is no hero. He's a Weasel.

Finally, back at home, another John Doe has damaged an Uncle Sam statue. Again, there is no motive known for the attempt at stealing or destroying the "Uncle Symphony" statue outside the Troy Music Hall. As long as these brazen fools remain at large, the other statues will be targeted, either by the same people or other copycats. While security cameras are being installed at various points in downtown, these lowlifes work under the cover of darkness. No responsibility is ever taken, and we're past the point of assuming it's just a few drunken idiots out carousing and taking dares, as I'd surmised before. Instead, someone with a hateful agenda against the city is going after these statues. If they're trying to steal, it may be to cut the statues down to scrap to sell for profit. Either way, these Weasels must be held accountable, preferably yesterday.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Classic TV: Matlock (1986)

Andy Griffith had tried a few series ever since his iconic, self-titled sitcom had ended in 1968. Two of them came & went in the same season. Then, in 1986, came another iconic character that redefined Griffith yet again.

Matlock was equal parts Perry Mason and Columbo, the latter because of lawyer Ben Matlock (Griffith) being a bit of an eccentric in terms of crime solving. While he employed an ever changing staff of investigators, Matlock frustrated, flustered, and sometimes infuriated prosecutors and judges with his defense of clients.

The series lasted longer than The Andy Griffith Show did, ending its run in 1995 after 9 seasons---6 on NBC, the last three on ABC, where Griffith had failed with two previous projects. There were touches of the old Andy, as Ben often would pull out an acoustic guitar to play a tune once in a while. Former castmates such as Don Knotts, Jack Dodson, & Aneta Corsault made guest appearances, with Knotts joining the series as Ben's next door neighbor, Les, for a while at the end of the NBC run.

Matlock came from producers Fred Silverman & Dean Hargrove, who'd also revived Mason as a series of TV-movies around the same time for NBC. The two had, in essence, created their own universe, enabling Ben to interact with characters from their other shows. For example, Griffith turned up in an episode of Dick Van Dyke's Diagnosis: Murder, and, Jake & The Fatman stars Joe Penny & William Conrad figured in the episode, "The Don":

Unfortunately, "The Don" has been deleted by YouTube due to copyright issues. Here's the open, uploaded by spudtv:

True story. My parents were away on vacation one time, and despite having a head cold, I had a friend over for pizza, and we watched the show. We had the case solved before it was over. Today, the friend is in law enforcement, but hasn't spoken to me in nearly 20 years. Go figure.

Kene Holliday (ex-Carter Country) was cut after 3 seasons, but his replacement, Clarence Gilyard, Jr. (ex-The Duck Factory), would move on to Walker, Texas Ranger when Matlock shifted to ABC. In the final season, the series expanded into a movie-of-the-week format, which spelled the end. INSP & Hallmark share the cable rights to the series, with Hallmark playing marathons at least once a month.

Rating: A-.

Friday, August 16, 2013

If you don't like Uncle Sam, just say so------don't deface the statues!

They say that "haters gotta hate". So why pick on "Uncle Sam"?

Earlier this year, the hometown politicos commissioned a series of statues in the image of "Uncle" Sam Wilson, a Troy native who has long become a national symbol. When the statues were first unveiled in the spring, of course they were a tourist attraction. I can actually say I saw someone posing next to a statue to have pictures taken before going home from college for the summer. In the course of the last couple of months, three of the statues have had their heads removed. One's been repaired, a second head was stolen, and a third was discovered with its head separated from its body and sent to the repair shop. A couple of others have had relatively lesser injuries. One, I read, had a leg broken, and that's since been repaired.

The first idiot that beheaded a Uncle Sam was promptly arrested that same night. While no motive was ever established, let us assume that the perp, a guy from Watervliet, had been out carousing. You can pretty much guess the rest. Considering he was busted around 3 am in the morning, well........!

The other pudding-heads who decided to copy this act of idiocy are still at large as of this writing. The longer it takes for the police to locate these brainless boobs, more statues will be attacked. The likely cause in each case has to be, as was the case with the first incident, that the perp(s) is (are) drunk and/or stoned and have no rational idea of what they're doing. Haven't they heard of security cameras? Tapes from some of those cameras are being checked to ascertain the identity of the fools responsible. Instead of putting the clowns in jail, I recommend strapping them to a chair at the nearest vacant building, put a TV in there, and leave it on an endless loop of those equally idiotic GEICO commercials. You know, including the one with the talking camel.

Forrest Gump said that "stupid is as stupid does". Man, does that ever ring true.

A Classic Reborn: Hollywood Squares (1986)

Two years had passed after The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour had ended. Orion Television, which co-produced the series, had acquired the rights to Squares some time before, and decided to bring the show back, this time in syndication for the first time since the original series' final season ended 5 years earlier.

Once again, Peter Marshall was passed over as host, as he'd just completed a run on ABC with Merrill Heatter's All Star Blitz, which was a scaled down version of the series, using just 4 celebrities and an overhead puzzle board. Singer-actor John Davidson, fresh from That's Incredible!, and a former semi-regular during the Marshall era, was tapped to host, with LA-based DJ Shadoe Stevens as announcer. Halfway through the first season, Stevens became a full-time panelist, which allowed him to read his end-of-show pronouncements on stage on Fridays. Jm J. Bullock (Too Close For Comfort) occupied Wally Cox's old seat in the top left corner, and, in season 2, Joan Rivers became the full-time center square for the rest of the run, inheriting Paul Lynde's old chair.

The series lasted three years, perhaps ending too soon, but by the time the show ended, Stevens added to his workload, taking over the iconic radio countdown series, American Top 40, and would spend the 90's reinventing himself as an actor.

Here's a sample episode from 1988:

Oh, what fun! Too bad it ended too soon!

Rating: A.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Musical Interlude: How Do You Do? (1972)

The Dutch gave us a couple of 1-hit wonders in the early 70's. First, there was Tee Set with "Ma Belle Amie", and then, in 1972, came Mouth & MacNeal with "How Do You Do?", a quirky little ditty that got plenty of airplay on the radio. Unfortunately, Mouth & MacNeal were never heard from again after.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

America's sports nightmare just won't end----now Alex Rodriguez supposedly wants to file a lawsuit

Note the key word in the headline. Supposedly, Alex Rodriguez is planning to sue Major League Baseball if his 211-game suspension isn't lifted in full after his appeal is heard after the season.

Yahoo! is reporting based on what had been reported by TMZ, the online gossip site founded by Harvey Levin, who also is behind the TMZ daily magazine show. TMZ, citing sources who supposedly are close to A-Roid, reports that Rodriguez feels persecuted by MLB Commissioner Allan "Potato Bud" Selig, who, in the last stage of his administration, wants to go all Kenesaw Mountain Landis on Rodriguez, using him as an example to deter others from making the same mistakes Rodriguez made.

Reportedly, Rodriguez was tested for performance enhancing drugs 11 times in the last two years, but all of his tests have come back clean.

Sad to say, but if Rodriguez and lawyer David Cornwell do follow through with a suit, it will definitely spell the end of Rodriguez in baseball. The last guy to challenge MLB, former Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood, lost a case more than 40 years ago, but it ultimately opened the door to the free agency system now in place. Flood's career, however, ended after the litigation closed. By challenging MLB, Rodriguez is putting himself in position to be, in essence, blackballed, because even if the Yankees can release him from his contract, no one else is going to want him.

TMZ's sources, according to Yahoo!, claim MLB has no proof that Rodriguez impeded their investigation, and that Selig and his staff are "harassing & intimidating witnesses". In contrast, Cornwell acknowledged that while he intends to fight claims that A-Roid is guilty of multiple violations of MLB's policies against PED's and other drugs, he wasn't sure he'd completely clear his client.

Remember when TMZ was planning to spin off a site dedicated to sports? If this is the kind of reporting we'll get, they're better off leaving it to the professionals.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

On DVD: In Like Flint (1967)

James Coburn's 2nd and final outing as secret agent Derek Flint, "In Like Flint", sends Flint on an impromptu world tour to put down an attempt at world domination from some unlikely sources.

The Fabulous Face spa in the Virgin Islands serves as a front for a group of wealthy, likeable women who want to take over the world. To this end, they abduct the President (Andrew Duggan) and replace him with an out of work actor who has been turned into the chief executive's exact double via plastic surgery. Spy chief Lloyd Cramden (Lee J. Cobb, The Virginian) discovers that his stopwatch was working at the time, and now, there's three minutes he can't remember.

Flint's trail takes him on a circuitous path to Moscow, where he joins the ballet to meet a contact (Yvonne Craig, right before she joined the cast of Batman), who turns out to be a double agent. Once he escapes the Russians, Flint finally makes his way to the Virgin Islands, but the women of Fabulous Face have in turn been betrayed by a more power-hungry General who decides to go up into space to detonate a nuclear device. Yeah, this does get wacky at the end.

The DVD package includes a testimonial from another fictional spy, Austin Powers (Mike Myers), who said in the 1999 film, "The Spy Who Shagged Me", that "In Like Flint" is his favorite film. Hey, give him credit for good taste.

Don Hanson supplied this trailer:

There are some silly spots where you'd have no choice but to facepalm, but otherwise, it's fine for what it is.

Rating: B-.

What Might've Been: Rollergirls (1978)

James Komack's last series of the 70's was another well-intentioned, but ill-received sitcom, this one centered on roller derby.

Rollergirls aired on NBC in 1978, and, coincidentally, aired on the same night as Komack's previous failure, Sugar Time, which we covered in our last post. The common link between the two shows was actor Terry Kiser, who got top billing on Rollergirls after being credited as a "special guest star" on Sugar Time a year earlier. Rhonda Bates, a Marcia Wallace look-alike, was the leader of the team on the track, but after the series ended was not heard from much again.

By 1978, roller derby was no longer in syndication, as on weekends, it'd been paired with wrestling in some markets, including mine, but would make a ginormous comeback 20 years later.

Here's the open:

Rating: C.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What Might've Been: Sugar Time (1977)

James Komack had two big hits on the air as 1977 began. Chico & The Man on NBC, and Welcome Back, Kotter on ABC. However, no matter how hard Komack tried, he couldn't add another series that stuck.

In 1976, he'd acquired a license to adapt Archie for television, but all that resulted was a 1 hour pilot that was burned off in the summer, and is not available on YouTube. In the spring of 1977, Komack sold a fresh series to ABC, hoping it might catch on. Unfortunately, his luck was continuing to run out.

Sugar Time was designed as a vehicle for former Playboy pinup-turned-actress-turned-singer Barbi Benton, not much more. It was about an aspiring girl group trying to get established. They weren't going to remind anyone of Josie & The Pussycats by any stretch, for example, but they did predate the revival of all-girl groups by a few years.

After the series ended, Benton went on to Nashville to try her hand as a country singer and joined the cast of Hee Haw. Darleen "Didi" Carr would make a few guest appearances here and there over the next several years, but I don't think she landed another series gig of any successful length. Some of you might be surprised to learn she has a sister who was also very successful around the same time, but mostly in cartoons. Said sister being Shannon Farnon, the voice of Wonder Woman on Super Friends from 1973-84.

To try to help the show, Komack recruited Charles Fleischer (Carvelli from Kotter) to play a recurring character, but only got 3 episodes out of Fleischer before the curtain dropped on Sugar Time.

Gilmore Box uploaded the open:

Rating: B.

Only in the South: A judge decides a baby's name----and it's not Messiah

The Associated Press reported on Sunday, and picked up by Yahoo!, that a Tennessee judge changed a 7 month old boy's name, which has the child's mother contemplating an appeal.


You might say that Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew employed the wisdom of Solomon in christening the toddler Martin DeShawn McCullough, after the child's mother, Jaleesa Martin, had named her son Messiah. Citing the fact that the city of Newport, in Cocke County, was part of a large Christian population, Ballew determined that "Messiah" is a title, not a name, even though it ranked #4 among the fastest rising baby names a year ago, according to the Social Security Administration. Apparently, Ms. Martin doesn't realize how some folks in the South take the Bible very, very seriously. She said that she liked the sound of Messiah, alongside her other two children, Micah & Mason. Well, I get the logic there, but I don't think she understands the connotation of the word, which is associated with Jesus Christ.

Ms. Martin said she would appeal the judge's ruling, but a compromise might be in order. You just can't make this stuff up.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What Might've Been: Fish (1977)

It seems viewers appreciated Detective Phil Fish (Abe Vigoda) more as an active member of the 12th Precinct on Barney Miller than they did when he retired and turned his house into a group home on Fish, which spent one calendar year on ABC (1977-8). If they really cared about Fish, he'd have stuck around on his own show longer.

Fish retired from the 12th after the 3rd season of Miller, and now, with help from wife Bernice (Florence Stanley) shepherded a group of foster children. Somewhere along the way, there was a disconnect between Fish and the audience, perhaps because of ABC moving the show to a different night or some other hitch.

After the series ended, Vigoda returned to Barney Miller for a guest-shot or two, and that was the last we'd see of Phil Fish. Todd Bridges (Loomis), who'd demonstrated some chemistry with Vigoda when he guested on season 1 of Miller, leading to his being cast on Fish, went on to Diff'rent Strokes, and, well, you know the rest of his story by now, I'm sure. Florence Stanley's last regular gig, I think, was the 80's sitcom, My Two Dads, with Greg Evigan (ex-BJ & The Bear).

Retrodan5 uploaded this promo for a syndicated run of Fish:

Edit, 1/4/21: We've added the series opener:

Rating: B.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Classic TV: ALF (1986)

In the 60's, My Favorite Martian postulated the prospect of a Martian adopting a human identity and adjusting to domestic life on Earth. Long after the series ended, CBS tried reviving the show as a cartoon, and it bombed.

In the 70's, future Academy Award winner Robin Williams cemented his status as a pop culture icon in Mork & Mindy. Williams acted like he was a wind-up toy. Wind him up, roll the cameras, and turn him loose. ABC, not learning anything from CBS' mistakes nearly a decade earlier, gave Mork a 5th season, albeit as a Saturday morning cartoon that purported to be a prequel, since it sent Mork to high school, when Mindy (Pam Dawber) was a teenager. Yep, that, too, bombed.

In 1986, puppeteer Paul Fusco introduced America to another alien life form, or, ALF, for short. Like Mork & Mindy, the series lasted four years in primetime, but unlike the other shows, ALF's Saturday morning spinoff came when the show was still on the air. Not only that, but there were two of them, which we'll discuss over in Saturday Morning Archives in due course.

ALF centers on Gordon Shumway (voiced by Fusco), a citizen of the planet Melmac who winds up on Earth when his spaceship crashes in the garage of one Willie Tanner (Max Wright, ex-Misfits of Science) and his family. As the Tanners would quickly discover, one of the popular delicacies on Melmac happens to be cats, so a lot of the humor, at least in season 1, anyway, came from Gordon's fruitless quest to make the family cat a dinner meal for himself. For those who wonder, circus performer Mishu wore a costume when Gordon needed to be seen walking.

Currently, ALF is being discovered by a new generation of viewers, thanks to The Hub acquiring cable rights to the series (check listings).

Here's the open:

Rating: A.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Rockin' Funnies: Night After Night (1979)

Not long ago, I located a clip from American Bandstand which featured Lenny & The Squigtones, the comedy band spun off from Laverne & Shirley. That clip, which has the band performing "Love Is A Terrible Thing" & "King of The Cars", is over at Saturday Morning Archives, but could also end up here at a later date.

Livingretro79 posted this choice piece of the band's best known song, "Night After Night". You can tell that Lenny (Michael McKean) & Squiggy (David L. Lander) are having fun. The live audience at the taping of Laverne & Shirley certainly was. The story goes that the roots of what would become Spinal Tap were formed here, as Christopher Guest was credited as a guitarist, under his Spinal Tap alias, Nigel Tufnel.

McKean & Lander brought their act to Albany for the local Cerebral Palsy telethon and played this song, and that was the only time I remember hearing it.

Here's "Night After Night":

Well, now you understand why Lander was hired, presumably by Jerry Lewis himself, to voice the comedy legend's animated alter-ego on Will The Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down, which predated Laverne by a few years.

Weasels of the Week: Derek Medina & John Doe(s)

This week's Weasels are far worse than Alex Rodriguez, for a number of reasons.

In Miami, Derek Medina killed his wife, then posted the end result on Facebook, where he also confessed to the crime.


I am not sure what the motivation was, or the thought process by posting a picture of the corpse on social media, but this was sure strange. Going on Facebook, however, even to confess the crime, won't win Medina any followers. Anyone that does probably doesn't have much of a clue, either.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, the statue of Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson & Pee Wee Reese, which has stood outside MCU Park, the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League, seemingly forever, was defaced with racial slurs and Nazi swastikas on Tuesday, which merited front page coverage in the New York Daily News. While no one is certain how many of these cowardly John Does there were that perpetrated this heinous act of vandalism, what the press hasn't noted is the timing.

"42", the biography of Robinson, was released on DVD a couple of weeks back after opening to critical acclaim in theatres earlier this year. Could the vandals have rented the video, and acted as they did afterwards? Probably. The Daily News is offering a reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of these racist Weasels. Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins spoke out on Thursday, condemning the vandals to "rot in hell". Robinson has meant so much to baseball, and, in particular to New York, because he played virtually his entire career in the media capital for the Dodgers. What makes this act even more galling is that Wednesday's game was a "Camp Day" matinee, where the ballpark would be filled with children. Workers cleaned up the statue as best as able Wednesday morning before the game, and what wasn't cleaned was covered with a garbage bag until after the game.

My guess is, the vandals were likely drunk, because when they wanted to paint a Nazi salute, they misspelled it. Drunk, insensitive, and likely uneducated in historical matters. That alone merits the Weasel ears. Medina gets his---and a Dunce Cap, to boot---for just being, well, out to lunch in terms of his crime.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Classic TV: The Outer Limits (1963)

Everyone, I'm sure, knows this clip......

The Outer Limits has been compared to Rod Serling's seminal Twilight Zone, but initially didn't have the lifespan of the latter series. Musical director Dominic Frontiere doubled as a production executive, since his company, Daystar, co-produced the series with United Artists. The two had previously collaborated on less successful series, Stoney Burke, which was an early vehicle for Jack Lord. Actor Vic Perrin was the "Control Voice" who served as a "host", for lack of better description, for the series. Unfortunately, it lasted just 2 seasons on ABC before clocking out in 1965.

30 years after the series ended, MGM revived Limits, this time airing on cable, first on Showtime, then, for the final three seasons, on Sci-Fi (now SyFy). Shifting to cable allowed the series the freedom to employ more risque storylines, and, at least on Showtime, coarser language, which they couldn't use in the original series.

Rating: B.

Advertising For Dummies: Football on Your Phone (2013)

Just when you thought DirecTV and the Manning family could sink no lower, Peyton & Eli are at it again, this time dragging papa Archie along for the ride.

Last year, the brothers were given fairy wings alongside Deion Sanders, but while Peyton sleepwalked through his 2 ads, Eli was all in, hamming it up. DirecTV sacked the ad campaign after a few weeks, but it didn't prevent Eli from pretending to be a telepath in 2 ads for Toyota, or Peyton's spot for Buick airing a zillion times a week. This time, these two clowns want to rap.

Now, we all know Peyton is about as charismatic as a tree stump, the dullest athlete to star in commercials since Larry Bird 20 years ago, shilling for McDonald's with Michael Jordan. He & Eli have made some winners before, like their annoying series for Oreo cookies, but this is just wack. Like, they think pretending to be younger and wearing wigs is going to sell NFL Sunday Ticket on mobile phones? Judge for yourselves.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What Might've Been: Love on a Rooftop (1966)

Most people often get the misconception that British actress Judy Carne made her American debut on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. However, that isn't true.

Carne had 2 failed sitcoms under her belt when she was cast by Screen Gems producers Harry Ackerman & Bernard Slade in Love on a Rooftop in 1966. On the show, she played Julie Hammond-Willis, whose father wasn't exactly thrilled with 1) her choice of husband (Peter Deuel, later of Alias Smith & Jones), whose salary was less than $100 a week, and 2) their spartan apartment accomodations.

Impressionist Rich Little, in his first series gig, played Stan, a neighbor of the Willises who was the Kramer of his time, popping in unannounced with some wacky get-rich-quick scheme. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled after 1 season, despite out-polling another ABC frosh, That Girl, in the ratings. Apparently, at ABC, if it wasn't Bewitched, a Screen Gems sitcom had difficulty sticking for a while.

GIlmore Box uploaded the open:

Cashing in on Alias Smith & Jones, ABC brought Rooftop out of the vaults in 1971 as a late-season replacement series, and that's how I came across the show.

Rating: B-.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Musical Interlude: Green River (1969)

I cannot say for sure from what television show the following clip comes from, but given that Creedence Clearwater Revival's sound was classified as "swamp rock", the setting seems appropriate. Anyway, Marcos Creedence (!) takes us back to 1969 and the title tune from the album, "Green River". Enjoy!

If it isn't an injury, something else always hurts the Mets.......

When it rains, it pours.
                                     ----Old Morton Salt slogan.

Not only has the Citi Field injury curse struck again, but the Mets have other problems to address.

Last week, All-Star third baseman David Wright went on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, and will be gone for at least a month, but if by this time next month, the Mets are totally out of contention, I'd not be surprised if ownership decides that Wright should sit out the remainder of the season and prep for 2014. Second-year reliever Josh Edgin also went down, but in his case, it's a rib injury that could finish his year as well.  However, the injuries are the least of the Mets' problems now.

Yahoo! is reporting that Jordany Valdespin, recently demoted to the team's Triple A team in Las Vegas, may also be done for the year, but for a different reason. After getting hit with a 3 game suspension for starting a fight last week, after he'd showboated upon hitting a home run, now comes word that Valdespin's name has been added to the list of players suspended for use of performance enhancing drugs (PED's).

If Valdespin really was using PED's, they certainly didn't help his performance at the major league level this year, otherwise he wouldn't have been sent down to Vegas. It isn't helping that he ripped into manager Terry Collins on the way out. The immaturity alone would almost be enough to write Valdespin's ticket out of town, ending his time with the Mets' organization, but a PED suspension certainly seals the casket, doesn't it?

The Mets were expecting to lose another minor leaguer, outfielder Cesar Puello, to a PED-related suspension, but you can imagine there's a whole heap of face-palming going on.

On a positive note, veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd manned up and accepted responsibility for some misadventures in right field in Sunday's loss to Kansas City. If anyone can relate to the misfortune of Puello & Valdespin, it's Byrd, whose 2012 season ended with a PED suspension after being released by Boston. The next move for him would be to counsel his younger teammates to avoid the mistakes he, Valdespin, & Puello have made and let their natural talents mature instead of succumbing to peer pressure and putting their futures at risk.

Would that a certain Weasel in the Bronx would also man up, and stop being so selfish, to the point where the New York Post, in today's editions, made a 2-word suggestion under his picture:

"Just go!"

Some guys just don't get it, and for Valdespin, maybe the sad saga of A-Roid should be a wake-up call, even if he does get shipped out of Queens.

Advertising For Dummies: Would parents really neglect their baby for some fancy soda? (2012)

Pepsi's ad campaign for their Pepsi Next soda demonstrates the worst thing that could happen with first-time parents.

In this spot, a young mother is playing with her infant son when her husband comes home with a couple of 12-packs of Pepsi Next. They then ignore the kid, who then takes extremes to get their attention back.....

Edit, 3/27/17: The original ad has been pulled, so the updated version, with a guitar-playing infant, is in its place.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Classic Reborn (NOT!): The Brady Bunch Variety Hour (1977)

I don't know who it was who convinced Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz that it might be a nice idea to bring back the Bradys and have them star in a variety show. I'd have sooner been making darts out of cactus needles.

Anyway, ABC green-lighted the Brady Bunch Variety Hour to lead off its Sunday lineup, and soon regretted it. It wasn't that long before that they had tried the same thing with Emmy winner Bill Cosby, who was still working on CBS' Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids when Cos came and went in less than a year. I think, too, that Sunday might've been the night for Ken Berry (ex-F-Troop) and his ill-fated WOW!.

After 5 seasons of playing Jan Brady, however, Eve Plumb felt she'd had enough, and opted against completing a family reunion for the show, leading to Geri Reischel being signed to take her place. That, friends, was the kiss of death right there. The Variety Hour failed to finish the season, just like the others, and it would be the end of the Bradys' association with ABC. Subsequent sequels to the original series would surface first on NBC, then CBS, in later years.

Schwartz and Paramount Television teamed with Sid & Marty Krofft, who'd ceded control of Donny & Marie to the Osmond family after 2 seasons, and the Kroffts wanted another variety show to complement their Saturday Krofft Supershow, and serve as an outlet for that series' house band, Kaptain Kool & The Kongs, to appear in primetime. Bad idea, eh?

Anyway, here's a clip from the pilot.

No rating. Never saw the show.

Of Dunces & Weasels

The sad, sickening story of Alex Rodriguez just won't end.

Rodriguez, reportedly, will be activated by the Yankees on Monday, despite the fact that there are reports already in the media that the defiant pariah will be hit with a suspension covering more than 200 games. Meaning, A-Roid will be out of action until early 2015 unless the Yankees make the playoffs either this year or next. Rodriguez, for his part, is unwilling to negotiate any sort of deal with Major League Baseball, and has been portrayed as being more concerned about his bank account than his being held accountable to the game, his team, and his dwindling fan base.

I posed this question in responding to a blog post at Sports Card Forum. Since Rodriguez's former agent, Scott Boras, no saint himself, given how he's fleeced so many teams to feather his own nest (and the only reason for that is that his primary vocation as a lawyer ain't paying the bills, and he wants to recoup lost revenues he could've had as a player himself), negotiated the initial contract, which he & A-Roid voided after the '07 season via a stupid opt-out clause, shouldn't he be held accountable for not warning Rodriguez about the PED's? I would think so.

Rodriguez picks up another set of Weasel ears for defying Major League Baseball. Allan "Potato Bud" Selig would be well served to just throw the book at Rodriguez, with no chance of appeal, much less parole, and we'd be rid of this selfish goof forever.

Yankee owners Hal & Hank Steinbrenner, however, get Dunce Caps for even dreaming of letting A-Roid play for them again. To think that he could help the moribound offense at this stage now is a pipe dream at best. A playoff spot is a longshot at present.

There must be something in the waters at all of the colleges in Florida. A-Roid went to Miami, which already has a tarnished reputation that not even its most famous alumnus, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, can clean. Florida is quickly catching up, if recent media reports are to be believed.

Just when you thought ex-Gators Tim Tebow & Aaron Hernandez were going to be reunited in New England, well, you know how that went, with Hernandez getting busted on suspicion of murder and getting cut by the Patriots the same day. Hernandez, like Rodriguez, has been defiant, and is claiming innocence, in a letter to a fan that was leaked to the media the other day. However, that ain't the only problem in Gainesville when it comes to alumni.

A 3rd ex-Gator, Riley Cooper, was in the news this week when a video of him uttering a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert went viral. Chesney, reportedly, has blasted Cooper, right along with one of the receiver's own Philadelphia Eagles teammates, and a number of others. Yahoo! is reporting today that Cooper told team officials he was being threatened before the video went viral. Cooper has taken a leave of absence from the team and likely is bound for a sensitivity training course, which would be the best thing he's done in an otherwise non-descript NFL career.

Chalk up a Dunce Cap for Cooper, because he should've realized that there's always going to be someone with a camera-phone looking to create a story...........

Saturday, August 3, 2013

On DVD: Tony Rome (1967)

Stop and think about this for a moment.

It seems to me that the members of the "Rat Pack", save for Joey Bishop, had all given it a go as detectives or secret agents in the movies. In Peter Lawford's case, he top-lined a short-lived adaptation of the Thin Man for television well before his compadres went to gumshoes for the movies.

While Dean Martin was playing secret agent Matt Helm in a short series, Frank Sinatra brought novelist Marvin Albert's hard boiled sleuth "Tony Rome" to life in a pair of movies for 20th Century Fox in 1967-8.

In "Tony Rome", the title hero is hired by different members of a wealthy family on a number of issues, chief among those a diamond pin that had gone missing when Rome was summoned to pick up a young heiress who was on an overnight bender. If I could hazard a guess, I'd say Albert used Dashiell Hammett's Maltese Falcon as inspiration for his story, Miami Mayhem, on which "Tony Rome" was based.

Sinatra is supported by an ensemble cast that includes Jill St. John, Gena Rowlands, Simon Oakland, Lloyd Gough (The Green Hornet), and, in cameos, boxing icon Rocky Graziano and Joe E. Ross (ex-Car 54, Where Are You).

Edit, 11/4/19: The trailer I had was deleted. We're trying something new, so here's a copy of the movie poster, pulled from a Wikipedia entry on the movie:


Edit, 2/26/21: The trailer is back, narrated by Michael Rye.

There was one more Sinatra involved in the movie. Daughter Nancy recorded the title song, but there was not enough room to give her a cameo. Hey, you can't have everything.

Rating: B-.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Musical Interlude: In The House of Stone & Light (1994)

Toasterrodeo uploaded a 1-hit wonder from Martin Page, circa 1994. "In The House of Stone & Light" garnered a ton of airplay---well, at least on radio; not sure about VH1 or MTV---and was the title song from Page's major label debut. The guest stars on the CD were more of an attraction. Folks like Brenda Russell, J. Robbie Robertson (The Band), & Phil Collins helped Page out considerably. Page, unfortunately, hasn't been heard from much since.

Hmmm, I wonder if this could be revamped with Christian sensibilities.........

After the hype, a letdown (TNA's mystery wasn't a mystery after all)

For the last week, TNA (Total Non-stop Action) Wrestling had hyped a video sent by an "anonymous" party who promised he'd be present for Impact Wrestling on August 1, with the show originating from Wichita Falls, Texas. We were led to believe it would be some sort of major player. In the end, the creative team laid another egg.

The shared Figure Four Weekly/Wrestling Observer website actually had provided a clue, whether they realized it or not, by running a poll regarding a rumored mixed martial arts (MMA) fight between Tito Ortiz and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. "Rampage" had recently signed with TNA. Ortiz has been associated with TNA in the past, and, wouldn't ya know, he returned to the fold on Thursday night, appearing at the end of the Impact broadcast. The cameras repeatedly went back & forth between Jackson & Ortiz, confirming that the hype of "#August1Warning" was just a facade. More established wrestlers, such as former NWA champion Adam Pearce and former WWE champion-turned-actor/MMA fighter Dave Bautista ("The Man With The Iron Fists"), had denied having anything to do with the videos. That should've made solving the mystery that much clearer, but, as has been documented here and elsewhere in the past, TNA's creative staff isn't exactly comprised of Rhodes scholars. Given the company's recent personnel cuts due to financial concerns, one wonders just who is actually in charge of TNA's creative team now, since Bruce Prichard was recently dismissed.

TNA's been struggling all along to improve their television ratings after nearly 8 years on Spike TV, but, as usual, their creative staff keeps fumbling the ball. And that would be appropriate since pre-season football starts Sunday with the NFL Hall of Fame game. Dixie Carter, Jeff Jarrett, Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, and everyone else in the decision-making department at TNA should've known better than to try something this lame. It's not even worth handing out Weasel ears or Dunce Caps, so we won't. If anyone deserves them, it'd be the TV viewers lured in, thinking that someone else was coming in that would add marquee value. While Tito Ortiz is still a marquee name in MMA, even though he hasn't fought in a while, he doesn't add anything that the over-the-hill retreads TNA already has haven't already added. Which is to say, nothing.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What Might've Been: Operation Petticoat (1977)

Some of us complain now about how Hollywood is creatively bankrupt. In the 70's, of course, that wasn't the case.

In 1977, Universal reached into its storied film vaults to adapt one of their movies into a television series. Operation Petticoat was first a feature film starring Tony Curtis & Cary Grant, released in 1959. Nearly 20 years later, the crew of the Sea Tiger rose again for a new generation. Problem was, interference from either network (ABC) or studio suits torpedoed the show after 2 seasons.

Petticoat marked the return of 60's icon John Astin (ex-Addams Family) to television, inheriting the role created by Grant. The cast also included Jamie Lee Curtis (Tony's daughter), Richard Gilliland, and Melinda Naud. ClassicTelevisionFan uploaded the season 1 intro:

For reasons known only to Universal and/or ABC executives, the series cast was overhauled for season 2, with only Naud retained from the previous season. Jim Varney (later better known for his commercials & movies as Ernest P. Worrell), Warren Berlinger, Jo Ann Pflug, & Randolph Mantooth (ex-Emergency!) piped aboard. The wholesale changes resulted in ratings taking a crash dive to cancellation. Here's the open:

I never saw any of the 2nd season episodes, and I wasn't too fond of the series in the first place. Astin tried to shed the image he'd forged as Gomez Addams more than a decade earlier, and while he could get away with camping it up when subbing for Frank Gorshin as The Riddler on Batman, attempting to reinvent himself may have cost him goodwill with studio suits. Mantooth may've been a contract player at Universal, hence his being brought in to replace Astin.

Rating: C.