Monday, September 30, 2013

Classic TV (?): Knight Rider (1982)

In the 60's, there was the legendary sitcom, My Mother The Car, a fantasy-com that lasted just one season. Its premise suggested some sort of bizarre form of reincarnation or some such contrivance. However, viewers were made to assume that a talking car wasn't going to be a hit.

In 1982, producer Glen Larsen decided to test that theory with Knight Rider, which would end up being, I believe, his last series for Universal, as Larsen moved his tack to 20th Century Fox the following year.

Knight Rider told the story of a police officer, Michael Long (David Hasselhoff, ex-The Young & The Restless), who was recruited by the Foundation for Law And Government (FLAG), which essentially was a variation on the Witness Protection Program in that Long was supposedly dead. Rechristened Michael Knight, he became an agent for FLAG, and given a supercar, the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT), which had an onboard computer that talked to its driver. William Daniels, who was starring on another NBC show, St. Elsewhere, around the same time, was the voice of KITT, and I'd imagine most people will remember him more for this gig or his later role on Boy Meets World than for his 60's series, Captain Nice.

Knight Rider lasted four seasons, but there've been two revivals since, the last coming 5 years ago. The 2008 model, with Val Kilmer taking over as the voice of KITT, was a failure, largely because it was airing on the wrong night.

Following is the open, and closing credits from a sample episode. Richard Basehart (ex-Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea), who played Wilton Knight in the pilot episode, is the narrator, but his vocals have been deleted.

Of course, we all know that David Hasselhoff followed up with Baywatch, which lasted almost three times as long as Knight Rider did, and his non-involvement in the 2008 revival may've played a part in that series' abrupt end.

Rating: B.

Musical Interlude: Enter Sandman (1991)

Everyone knows this Metallica classic by heart, just about. "Enter Sandman" was the 1st single off the band's self-titled 1991 album, otherwise known as the "Black Album" because of the color of the cover. Uploaded by MetallicaTV:

Of course, it's also closely associated with a certain newly retired pitcher, who got the spotlight to himself when he entered the All-Star Game in July:

And as if that wasn't enough, Metallica showed up at Yankee Stadium 8 days ago to personally honor Mariano Rivera:

The only other sports figure---well, close to it, anyway---with whom "Enter Sandman" is associated is the pro wrestler known as The Sandman. The next time they play "Enter Sandman" at Yankee Stadium will be at Rivera's 1st Old Timer's Day appearance. Other than that, expect it to play in Cooperstown in 2018.......

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Only in the South: Two boys are expelled from school for playing with a toy gun-----at home

This is just plain ridiculous.

A school board in Virginia decided earlier this week to suspend a pair of boys for playing with an airsoft gun. I'm assuming it's a toy gun, but the issue here is the boys were playing with the gun at home, which, the last I checked, is outside the jurisdiction of the school board.

The paranoia over guns, whether they're toys or the real thing, hasn't abated, 9 months after the incident in Newtown. This particular case comes a little more than a week after a mentally disabled man shot up the Washington Navy Yard. The school board, as usual, won't acknowledge who was on the disciplinary board that not only suspended the students, but extended it into a full expulsion for the season, pending what amounts to a glorified "parole" hearing in January. From an article in the Daily Caller comes this statement from the school board:

“This is not an example of a public educator overreaching. This was not zero tolerance at all. This was a measured response to a threat to student safety.”

Not overreaching? I beg to differ. If they were playing on school grounds, I would say they might have a case, but this was off campus, and at home, which rightfully would be a safe haven as long as there's parental supervision.

And if you think that's bad, try the case of another seventh grader, this one in Rhode Island, who was hit with a 3 day ban and barred from participating in a class field trip, all because of a tiny, harmless, gun-shaped keychain that fell out of his pocket. The kid won the keychain at a video arcade, but after he loses the chain, another kid picks it up and shows it off to other students like an idiot. Educators see the chain, and hit the panic button. Of course the parents of the boy who owned the chain are upset, and rightfully so.

The biggest fools are the educators and administrators who are overreacting, contrary to the denials issued in Virginia. They're making it very hard for these kids to actually be kids. What they want is for the kids to grow up before they're ready. Pretty soon, they'll be asking the same question that Michael Jackson posed in one of his songs 20-odd years ago:

"Have you seen my childhood?"

Saturday, September 28, 2013

On The Air: The Crazy Ones (2013)

AMC's Mad Men has proven that the advertising business still provides fodder for some good stories. Veteran producer David E. Kelley returns with a laugh-track-less sitcom set in an advertising agency, whose owner isn't exactly the most stable of people.

The Crazy Ones marks the return of Oscar winner Robin Williams to series television, 31 years after his seminal sci-fi sitcom, Mork & Mindy, ended its 4 year run. This time, Williams is an advertising executive whose bizarre behavior might cost him his job anywhere else. What keeps Simon (Williams) grounded is his daughter, who is now his business partner (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who manages to succeed where Simon fails, especially in the opener, in which Simon decides to revive an old McDonald's ad campaign from the 70's, provided he can convince singer Kelly Clarkson to sing the jingle, "You Deserve a Break Today".

Williams' 1st scene is typical. Simon is sparring with a giant Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot. Kelley gives Williams room to do some of his improvisations, the better to liven things up. However, it's Gellar, whose 1st post-Buffy The Vampire Slayer series was a bust, who holds everything together, even knocking out an a capella rendition of "Break" to convince Clarkson to take the gig.

To give you some idea of what to look forward to, here's a trailer:

The only downside is where CBS placed Crazy Ones. NBC has Michael J. Fox's new show airing directly opposite it, as CBS is unwilling to split up The Big Bang Theory & Two and a Half Men, the latter of which deserves to be moved to 9 (ET) due to its more ribald, adult themes. We'll see how the viewers vote, but if Crazy gets in trouble, the critics could have a word at the ready that Williams himself coined 35 years ago------"Shazbot!"

Rating: A-.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Musical Interlude: Roar (2013)

Katy Perry's back with a brand new hit single that is just hard to resist. From her VEVO channel, here's "Roar". If I'm Vince McMahon, I'd seriously consider getting a license to use this song for current Divas champion AJ Lee, since it fits her to a tee.

A collection of Weasels & Dunces

Time to hand out a bunch of Weasel ears & Dunce Caps. Some people may be getting both.

One such person is James Dolan, owner of the NY Knicks, Rangers, Madison Square Garden, & Cablevision. On Thursday, Dolan dismissed Knicks GM Glen Grunwald, and replaced him with Steve Mills, who begins his 2nd tour of duty with the Knicks. If I'm coach Mike Woodson, I have reason to worry now. Mills is the same man who hired former Detroit star Isaiah Thomas as coach & GM a number of years ago, and that ended in disgrace over a sexual harrassment scandal. Thomas still hasn't proven he can coach, if a disastrous run at Florida International is any indication. However, because he's become close buds with the insecure Dolan, the NBA's answer to the late George Steinbrenner as far as NY is concerned, Thomas has to be on speed dial in case the Knicks get off to an extra slow start that costs Woodson his job.

Why a Dunce Cap? Because Dolan is on the brink of repeating a business mistake and doesn't care. He gets another set of Weasel ears because of his reputation as a poor judge of talent.

Moving to the Bronx, we find that Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, set to become a free agent, is reportedly asking for more than $300 million over a 10 year period on his next contract. Cano dismissed Scott "20 Mule Team" Boras as his agent earlier this year, and signed with the firm run by Shawn Carter, better known as rapper Jay-Z. Carter gave up his interest in the Brooklyn Nets not long ago, but why would he have his firm follow the Boras Method of fleecing owners? Lord only knows. Cano's getting a Dunce Cap for even making such a ridiculous demand that will drive him away from the Yankees, who actually need him next year. He was the only one in their starting infield who actually played a full season, and this was on top of leading the Dominican Republic to the World Baseball Classic championship. I'd like to know who in Jay-Z's camp is feeding him bad advice, so we can send him a set of Weasel ears for being a fool.

Closer to home, arrests are being made in the vandalism of former NFL lineman Brian Holloway's home in Stephentown last month. Six "ringleaders", as the Albany Times-Union describes them in today's edition, have been charged, and police are still calling for the rest of the kids to come forward as it will mean lighter sentences, like probation topped with community service. Some of the partygoers have already done their part in the healing process, cleaning up the mess they made, but what's left is the motive behind this. Who felt Holloway, who spends his summers in Stephentown, and the rest of the year in Florida, was deserving of this kind of mindless treatment. The ringleaders are getting the Weasel ears for perpetrating this heinous act of foolishness.

Back to NYC  we go, and to the sports editors of the New York Post, we send a truckload of Weasel ears for insinuating that the Mets should've put it in the tank this week to better their chances of getting a high draft pick next year. All the Amazin's did was take 2 of 3 from playoff-bound Cincinnati and dismiss the Post's ideas as nothing more than idle gossip that found its way into print when it shouldn't have. That being said, those editors are also getting Dunce Caps.

Finally, entertainment mogul Eric Bischoff still has his hands in the water in TNA, albeit behind the scenes, at least for the moment. While his son Garett is wrestling, Eric is a producer, and likely also head scribbler. His current storyline, involving TNA president Dixie Carter and AJ Styles, one of the company's top stars, mirrors what WWE is doing these days with Triple H and Daniel Bryan. That speaks to desperation on the part of TNA, which is unable to move the meter as far as ratings go. Bad enough that the HHH-Bryan angle on WWE-TV has seen a drop in ratings this week, but the amateur night copycat is DOA. Bischoff gets the Weasel ears for even green-lighting this bad idea. And, yeah, he gets a Dunce Cap, too.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Musical Interlude: Shadow Dancing (1978)

Andy Gibb had the same kind of talent as his brothers, Maurice, Robin, & Barry (Bee Gees), a voice like Barry, and, also like Barry, could play the guitar. He was taken way too soon at age 30, but left behind his own legacy, particularly a trio of #1 hits in 1977-8.

"Shadow Dancing" was the last of those three #1's, and spent nearly 2 months at the top in 1978.

A return to times past

On Tuesday, the hometown newspaper, The Record, returned to the "broadsheet" format it had used in its earliest days, but had abandoned a number of years ago in favor of the "tabloid" format favored by the likes of the New York Post & Daily News, among others. A welcome return, perhaps a by-product of the paper's parent company deciding to shut down and tear down their ancient presses last month in favor of outsourcing the printing at rival Albany Times-Union's Colonie plant. That move was meant to save money. The change in formats makes perfect sense, since the T-U has always used the "broadsheet" format.

However, there are "cons" as well as "pros".

The biggest "pro" I can think of is the format change opens the door to adding new features and making the paper bigger in size without forcing a price increase, which would be the inevitable next step, since The Record has held the line at 75 cents an issue, Monday-Saturday, for the last several years, while their competitors are at $1 per issue. For now, though, it's also the thinnest of the three local dailies most days.

That says that the parent company may need to hire additional reporters to bolster the staff in the long term, or find extra wire service pieces that might be of interest to readers, material that isn't already appearing in the other papers.

One big "con" lies in the Sound-Off section, where callers are already complaining about the changes. The callers are usually seniors who don't understand the need for the changes. Others complain about the outsourcing of printing because it creates an earlier deadline that forces that night's sports scores to appear a day later than normal. For example, tonight's game summaries wouldn't appear until Saturday's issue, though the competitors would have it tomorrow. That's just a necessary evil as part of the transitional process. It's not fair to The Record's readers, but that's just the way it is. The parent company can't afford to buy a modern day press, and have scrimped on the paper's content, even in the "tabloid" format, the last few years.

The knock against the corporate parent in this case is that it's an out-of-state concern that doesn't know the demographic base it serves. The changes made these last few weeks are meant to benefit everyone concerned, but there will be the few who will pick up the phone and complain. For those whining about the lack of overnight sports scores, there's always YNN, one of the sports talk radio stations, or, if they have a computer, they can access their needs online. For the older readers already complaining about the print type, it will cost the parent company more money to enlarge the print. Maybe it'll happen, maybe not, but the senior demographic seems to be the one hit hardest by the changes.

To paraphrase Ricky Nelson, in his last hit record, "Garden Party", you can't please everyone.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The silly season is almost here

In the final week of baseball season, all five playoff spots have been filled in the National League, while they're still trying to settle the Wild Card in the American League. How wack is that?

Let's start in the NL. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, & St. Louis will all advance. One wins the NL Central (St. Louis is currently in 1st), while the others claim the Wild Cards and will have at it in a 1-game playoff to determine the official #4 seed. Cincinnati needed a walk-off win over the Mets Monday to punch their ticket, while Pittsburgh, ending a 21 year draught, beat the Cubs. They're still trying to figure out who's #1 between Atlanta, St. Louis, & Los Angeles in terms of overall records. As it is, the Braves & Dodgers already clinched their divisions, but the Central 3-way will come down to the wire.

Over in the AL, Oakland & Boston have clinched, but Detroit would have to beat Minnesota and hope the White Sox can spoil things for Cleveland in order to lock up the Central. The Wild Card is unsettled, as Tampa Bay tries to hold off the Yankees, Cleveland, Texas, & Kansas City after sweeping 4 straight from Baltimore. The Orioles are clinging by a thread as a result. Right now, Tampa & Cleveland hold the Cards, but each has 6 games left.

It's too soon to predict anything in the AL. They love milking the drama, but it's just about done in the NL. Once the Central is decided, so will the Wild Card. My projection:

1. Atlanta.
2. St. Louis.
3. Los Angeles.
4. Cincinnati.
5. Pittsburgh.

We'll all find out how this ends come Sunday or sooner.

What Might've Been: It's About Time (1966)

As Gilligan's Island began its 3rd & final season, series creator/executive producer Sherwood Schwartz sold a 2nd series to CBS, but this time, he might've taken his fish out of water concept a little bit too far.

It's About Time sent two astronauts (Frank Aletter & Jock Mahoney) all the way to the Stone Age. Apparently, it was obvious that the show was not going to succeed, so Schwartz decided to reverse field about halfway through the season, and enabled the astronauts to return home, bringing their hosts with them. All that did was postpone the inevitable.

Imogene Coca is still better known for being Sid Caesar's sidekick on Your Show of Shows, and had tried a sitcom on her own, Grindl, a few years earlier. Joe E. Ross, of course, was on Car 54, Where Are You?, and transitioned into a new career as a voice actor in the 70's, landing a gig at Hanna-Barbera from 1971-78. Frank Aletter would sign with H-B as well, landing the male lead in the Danger Island serial on Banana Splits 2 years later.

Following is an intro/close, uploaded by PIMannix:

No rating. Never saw the show.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Old Time Radio: The Shadow (1937)

"Who knows where evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"

So went the intro to The Shadow's radio dramas, which began in 1937, but the character's roots go a little deeper than that.

In 1930, the character debuted not as the crime fighter we all know, but as the anonymous narrator of something called The Detective Story Hour. Frank Readick, Jr., one of the actors essaying the role, is also the man that recorded the above introduction for the later radio dramas, though he didn't continue in the role.

In fact, the radio plays began 2 years after Detective Story Hour had ended, due to Street & Smith insisting on the Shadow being utilized the same way he was in their pulps. A number of different actors followed Readick as the Shadow, whose alter ego on radio and in later comic books was that of Lamont Cranston. Students of the character's history know that originally, writer Walter Gibson, using the pen name Maxwell Grant, established that the Shadow's real name was Kent Allard, who had supposedly coerced Cranston into letting him assume his identity while Cranston traveled the world.

It's this kind of complexity with identities, I think, that led to Marvel Comics' introduction of Moon Knight in the 70's, but that's a completely different kettle of fish........

My first encounter with The Shadow came when WQBK-AM (now WGDJ-AM) had obtained a number of old radio shows to fill time in the early 70's. Not long after, DC began their first Shadow series, set in the pulp era. Dynamite Entertainment currently holds the license to produce the Dark Avenger's comics adventures, and has created a whole line of Shadow books over the last couple of years.

But, it's the radio show we're looking at now. Let's take you back to the Golden Age, to Halloween, 1937, and "The Three Ghosts", starring Orson Welles & Agnes Moorehead.

Hard to believe, isn't it? 30 years later, Agnes Moorehead was better known for her work as Endora on Bewitched, and it wasn't until the radio show returned to syndication, around the time Bewitched ended, that fans discovered the actress' earlier work. Of course, by then, Welles was busy selling wine.........

Rating: A.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What Might've Been: The Rogues (1964)

Charles Boyer & David Niven were two of the owners of Four Star Productions, along with Dick Powell. The three actors alternated appearing on Four Star Playhouse, but Niven & Boyer would have one more series together.

The Rogues came from the pens of creators Ivan Goff & Ben Roberts. Their vision entailed a family of retired con artists who now used their skills to outwit other criminals. If this sounds familiar, well, this Robin Hood mentality would be used again, this time with a single protagonist, on It Takes a Thief 4 years later, and its star, Robert Wagner, would trod that ground again in Switch. We've reviewed those two shows before, so now let's take a look at The Rogues, which, despite a talented ensemble cast, lasted one season.

My first memory was seeing syndicated reruns of the series airing on one of the local channels in the 70's, even though it didn't have enough episodes to justify syndication by today's standards. The series was last seen airing overnight weekends on Me-TV.

Here's the open:

Rating: B.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rockin' Funnies: Dog Police (1984)

Here's a one-hit wonder that really went to the dogs.

"Dog Police", by the band of the same name, was a winner on MTV's Basement Tapes, but that's not where I first came across this clip. Instead, it was on Night Flight on USA Network. The chorus is a ripoff of the theme from the Spidey Super Stories segment on the original Electric Company, a fact that seems to have escaped the notice of most music critics. If you're of a certain age like me, and you'd remember both "Dog Police" and Spidey Super Stories, well, I think you'd get the idea..........

Friday, September 20, 2013

The most famous referee's call in NFL history---too funny (1986)

It's unfortunate that the actual game footage isn't available, so all we have is a TV news account of a 1986 game between Buffalo and the Jets, who, it so happens, play each other this Sunday. Referee Ben Dreith became world famous for this call:

It happens that in more recent times an ACC referee made a similar call, but not quite as emphatic as Dreith's. Whodathunk you could get 15 yards for "giving him the business"?

What Might've Been: Tuesday Night Titans (1984)

Long before Ted Turner created the TNT network, where reruns of Law & Order and other off-network shows get played into the ground, there was another TNT on the air, courtesy of Vince McMahon.

Back when WWE was still the World Wrestling Federation, and during Hulk Hogan's 1st year as champion, McMahon decided to expand his broadcasting empire beyond his twin syndicated programs. He'd had a standing deal with USA Network to air live cards from Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden, and other locales, bringing them to free TV after live events had aired on HBO in the past. That wasn't enough anymore. Since he was the lead announcer, McMahon got it into his head he wanted to be as big a star as his wrestlers, long before his J. R. Ewing-inspired "Mr. McMahon" persona entered the picture.

So what happened? McMahon decided to do a primetime talk show that was a parody of the likes of Merv Griffin and The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, among others. The end result was Tuesday Night Titans, which spent 2 years on USA, getting bumped at least three weeks a year for the Westminster Dog Show and the US Open tennis tournament, back when USA had cable rights to the latter. Lord Alfred Hayes, who was doing sponsor plugs for the syndicated shows, would be Arthur Treacher to McMahon's Merv, Ed McMahon (no relation) to Vince's Johnny Carson. The saving grace was that Vince never tried doing stand-up comedy. A monologue is a foreign concept to him in its traditional context.

Instead, Titans was a mix of comedy sketches, usually performed by Don Muraco & Mr. Fuji, doing parodies of movies and television, conversation, and wrestling matches taped for Coliseum Video, then the WWF's video division. As a result, it was hit or miss, more miss than hit, to be honest, but a 2 hour talk show, as opposed to 1 hour or 90 minutes, was stretching things just a wee bit too much. I don't think Vince had heard of the even longer Spanish language variety shows that would become popular here in due course.

Two years later, the series was cancelled and replaced with a magazine series, Prime Time Wrestling, which allowed manager Bobby Heenan, who was doubling as a color analyst by this time, and Gorilla Monsoon, the two men calling the action on Wrestling Challenge, to spend 2 hours debating the week's action, with their weekend schtick carrying over. That series lasted 6 1/2 years before it was phased out, and by the time it reached its end in 1993, it had morphed into a variety show itself, complete with studio audience, as if McMahon had decided to give the Titans format one more try.

Anyway, we have a sample clip, showcasing Muraco & Fuji parodying a certain popular crime drama of the period.....

Rating: B-.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Classic Reborn: Ironside (2013)

Universal has had a poor track record when it comes to reviving older properties in recent years. Their latest could end up repeating an earlier mistake, or it could live up to its pedigree.

There are two major changes to Ironside as the series returns, rebooted for the 21st century. For one, the series setting changes from San Francisco to New York, which suggests to me that there may be a crossover with Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in the offing, especially if this series gets off to a good start.

The other is the most glaring. Det. Robert T. Ironside has been remolded as an African-American detective. Yes, he's still confined to a wheelchair, and there are flashbacks that will piece together just how that happened in this version. But unlike the original series, this Ironside (Blair Underwood, ex-L. A. Law, who is also a producer on this show) is a ladies man. You know, kind of like "Shaft" back in the day.

However, if you get past the notion of Ironside being recast as an African-American, you can appreciate this series as a classic whodunit, complete with modern-day acrouements in technology to complement old fashioned police work. The pilot episode, directed by Peter Horton (ex-thirtysomething) happens to be available On Demand, two weeks before it debuts on NBC. In it, Ironside is using more vigilante tactics to take down a suspect, something we would never have seen in the original series. Remember, this is a very different era we're in.

Here's a sample clip:

In addition to the change in setting, there's a new supporting cast, which includes a 2nd generation actress, Spencer Grammer (daughter of Kelsey), who plays Holly, one of Ironside's assistants. Trust me, the boys will tune in to see her, but they'll learn something, too, along the way.

Will it work? The original lasted 8 seasons, and is currently airing on Me-TV. I think, honestly, that Raymond Burr would be proud of this reincarnation.

Rating: A-.

Weasel of the Week: Joe Banner

It's only the 3rd week of the NFL season, but one executive has already made what amounts to the bonehead play of the year.

Trent Richardson was the 1st round pick by the Cleveland Browns out of Alabama in 2012. His rookie season was plagued with injuries. Still, NFL's marketing suits thought it'd be a cool idea to have him, along with Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Atlanta's Matt Ryan & Julio Jones (the latter a teammate of Richardson's at Alabama), carrying fantasy league owners on their shoulders in a commercial that's already been played to death. However, after the events of Wednesday afternoon, I'd be shocked if that ad still airs in its present form going forward.

That's because Richardson was inexplicably traded by Browns CEO Joe (no relation to Bruce) Banner to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a 2014 draft pick. Richardson gets moved because the Colts needed an extra running back after 2nd year man Vick Ballard was placed on season-ending injured reserve earlier this week. Richardson, then, would share duties with 5th year back Donald Brown and free agent pickup Ahmad Bradshaw (ex-NY Giants), both of whom have had their fair share of injuries as well.

By trading Richardson, Banner claimed the 2nd year back didn't fit into new coach Rob Chudzinski's offense. Oh, really? Veteran, unemployed running back Willis McGahee, who's previously played for Buffalo, Baltimore, & Denver, was reportedly being brought in for a tryout today and may end up in the lineup on Sunday against Minnesota. Banner also mortgaged the Browns' chances of making the post-season with this fool's folly. The Browns are 0-2, and will also have a new starting quarterback on Sunday in little used Brian Hoyer, whom you might remember from his college days at Michigan, because Brandon Weeden, their other top pick last year, has an injured thumb and can't play. At this rate, even the worst high school teams could beat the Browns.

Banner not only gets the Weasel ears, but also a Dunce Cap for making a trade too early in the season, and essentially telling Browns fans he's waving the white flag already. Even Chicken Little was more of an optimist than this idiot.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Celebrity Rock: For The Sake of The Children (1975)

After leaving Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, poet-comedian Henry Gibson reinvented himself as a quality character actor, which landed him prominent roles in movies such as "The Blues Brothers", and guest appearances on shows like The Dukes of Hazzard.

Where it all seemed to begin was in Robert Altman's 1975 film, "Nashville". Gibson was cast as a country singer, and even co-wrote at least one song on the soundtrack. This wasn't it, though.

I remember lying in bed one night as a teenager, trying to get to sleep, and I could hear the television running in the living room. "Nashville" was airing on some channel---I think it might've been on ABC---, and I heard this next song, "For The Sake of The Children", which is about a father making a difficult decision as his marriage falls apart. Gibson sounded so natural here.

Classic TV: Burke's Law (1963)

Dapper Gene Barry moved out of the Old West (Bat Masterson) and into then-modern-day police work on Burke's Law, which bowed on ABC in 1963. I believe the series is simply on hiatus after Me-TV buried the show in late-late-night for the DVR crowd along with its spin-off, Honey West, which we covered a while back.

Police Captain Amos Burke (Barry) might've been the only cop to merit a chauffeur driving him around. Yes, he was rich, so why continue to work? Because someone had to solve the murders among those in the high society circles that Burke traveled.

Unfortunately, some alleged genius at ABC decided that Burke would swap out his badge and become a secret agent in the third season, facilitating a name change to Amos Burke, Secret Agent. Around that same time came Honey West, and by the end of the 1965-6 season, both exited stage left. Reruns of Burke aired locally when I was a lad, and that's how I became acquainted with the series.

Following is the episode, "Who Killed Jason Shaw?", which featured guest stars Keenan Wynn & Burgess Meredith. The Four Star "banner" logo was edited off this video.

And, just for you, here's Amos Burke, Secret Agent:

In 1994, producer Aaron Spelling, who worked on the original series, acquired the rights to the series and brought Amos Burke back to the police force. CBS aired the series as a mid-season replacement in 1994 and 1995. Peter Barton (ex-The Powers of Matthew Star) was cast as Burke's son and partner. Here's "Who Killed The Sweet Smell of Success?", with Robert Culp & Monte Markham:

Edit: 11/10/17: The original video was deleted. Following is a sample clip from the episode, "Who Killed The Sweet Smell of Success?"

Rating: A.

Monday, September 16, 2013

What Might've Been: E. R. (1984)

Before there was E/R, there was E. R.. Confused? Well, let me clear it up.

In 1984, Norman Lear adapted Stuart Gordon's Chicago theatre production into a sitcom, E.R., which was the first TV series for film star Elliott Gould. Gould played a twice divorced emergency room doctor who worked long hours at a Chicago hospital to support himself and to perhaps settle some issues from his divorces. The supporting cast included Conchata Farrell (ex-BJ & The Bear, currently on Two & A Half Men) and Lynne Moody, with the theme song performed by the inestimable Lou Rawls, and composed by another music legend, Jimmy Webb.

One of the nurses on the show was the niece of George & Louise Jefferson, and Uncle George (Sherman Hemsley) made an appearance in the first episode, which would be the extent of the link between E. R. & The Jeffersons.

So where did this show go wrong? It was another of those wrong-night-of-the-week scheduling deals, in this case airing Tuesdays opposite The A-Team. What links this E. R. to the later drama? George Clooney appeared on both. Clooney, I believe, got his start, at Embassy, which also produced The Facts of Life.

Gilmore Box provides the open:

Rating: B-.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Classic TV: Dragnet (1951)

Dragnet began on radio, then transitioned to television in December 1951. The series has been revived three times since then, with the 1967-70 version the most successful, enabling star-producer-director Jack Webb to expand his Mark VII production company's line beyond Dragnet through the 70's.

In the 50's version, Joe Friday (Webb) went through several partners, the most famous of which was Frank Smith, who was played by two actors during the course of the series, Ben Alexander & Herb Ellis. Try figuring that one out.

Most of us have seen the later version, with Friday paired with Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan). Gunplay was kept at a bare minimum, unlike most police dramas, and there were few instances where the officers had to resort to physical violence to subdue a suspect. However, in the original series, Friday did throw a punch every now and again, only when provoked.

Following is the episode, "The Big Cast", with guest star Lee Marvin, who co-starred with Webb in "Pete Kelly's Blues":

Barney Phillips, who played Ed Jacobs, is better known to cartoon fans for his 60's work (Shazzan), though you might not be able to tell from this episode.

Rating: A.

On DVD: Frost/Nixon (2008)

"Frost/Nixon" adapts a British stage production into an Oscar-nominated feature film from director-co-producer Ron Howard, with Frank Langella as former President Richard Nixon, and Michael Sheen (no relation to Charlie and Martin) as entertainer David Frost, whose interviews with Nixon would be his last major contribution to American television in the 70's.

The film begins with a collection of archived news footage from CBS & NBC (actual reports by Roger Mudd, Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor, and others) chronicling Nixon's resignation from the Presidency nearly 40 years ago, his 2nd term ending in disgrace over Watergate. However, the body of the film is more about the preparation of the interview series, portraying Frost as a jet setting playboy, an image that American audiences weren't accustomed to during Frost's earlier talk show run here. Sheen plays Frost with a great deal of bubbly energy, and some of his facials made me think that if Mike Myers decides not to continue as Austin Powers, Sheen would make an adequate successor.

Following is a trailer:

I wanted to like this film, but there was something a little off-putting that I can't quite put my finger on.

Rating: C.

Another banner will fly in Troy

For the 2nd time in 4 years, the Tri-City Valleycats are the champions of the New York-Penn League, defeating the State College Spikes, 2 games to 1, with a 4-2 verdict on Thursday.

Last year, the shoe was on the other foot, as the 'Cats had won the 1st game of the LCS vs. Hudson Valley at home, only to lose the title to the Renegades on the road. This time, Tri-City lost at home on Tuesday, then had their collective backs pressed against the wall headed to State College, or, as college football fans know it better, Happy Valley (State College is the hometown of Penn State University).

Given the turmoil at Penn State the last couple of years, I can understand the disappointment the fans at State College are feeling. They wanted the championship to put some silver lining in the clouds that have formed the last few years. Maybe next year.

Next June, the Valleycats will raise their 2nd championship banner at Joe Bruno Stadium, but again, there will be an almost completely new cast taking the field. Maybe manager Ed Romero will be the first 'Cats skipper to last just one season before being promoted within the Houston chain. I can picture him in the Astros' dugout within a few years, and this title would be the touchstone.

However, the championship celebration may not be over yet in this region. The Northeast Football Association's title game is Saturday, and the Troy Fighting Irish---who for some unknown reason continue to play their home games in Schenectady----are playing for the title, despite the on-again, off-again local press coverage, and virtually no coverage on radio or television. Not every game was reported by the local paper, though the last I knew, they did have a blogger following the team's progress. That isn't enough.

It also underscores the glaring problem at the paper. They want to drive consumer traffic to their website, which is why they moved their printing operations to a rival paper's offices. All that tells Joe Average Consumer is that the paper's parent company, an out-of-state concern, doesn't care about the market it serves. People have called to complain about the recent changes, which should send this message to the ownership: Not everyone owns a computer. If we all did, there wouldn't be any sniping, but, well...........! Let's see how long it takes for the local paper to tell us if the Irish won their title...........

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Classic TV: The Dating Game (1965)

Chuck Barris made the outlandish claim in his book, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, that he used his hit series, The Dating Game, as a cover for covert activities for the CIA. The only way his mind could be considered dangerous, in this writer's opinion, is if he was totally stoned out of his mind when he wrote the book, which later became a feature film.

The truth is, Barris was ahead of his time when he launched The Dating Game in 1965 on ABC. The series spent nearly a decade centering the network's afternoon lineup, well before it was flooded with soap operas. In addition, the network tried out a primetime, weekly version for a couple of years.

If anything, Barris, and host Jim Lange, could get some credit for helping some future stars get discovered.

In some cases, the network used Dating Game as a means for stars of other network shows to cross over. For example, Burt Reynolds, at the time starring on Hawk, appeared in a 1967 primetime episode:

Other guest stars included Richard Dawson (Hogan's Heroes), Yvonne Craig (Batgirl from Batman), Don Rickles, and Bill Bixby. In fact, Bixby & Dawson were on the same episode.

The 70's brought more guest stars, including Michael Jackson, Andy Kaufman, Steve Martin, and, from the Brady Bunch, Barry Williams & Maureen McCormick, albeit in separate episodes, I think.

Even after ABC ended the series, it soldiered on, returning for another nighttime run in syndication later in the 70's, with Lange back on board. The show returned in the 80's, and went through two hosts, Jeff MacGregor & Elaine Joyce. Same in the 90's, as comic Brad Sherwood, better known for being on Whose Line is it Anyway?, was supplanted by Chuck Woolery after 1 season. Since the Sherwood-Woolery era ended in 1999, there's been no further need, it seems, for the series to return. Or is there?

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Might've Been: Dan August (1970)

Quinn Martin was looking for another series to sell to ABC to complement the network's Sunday anchor, The F. B. I.. He thought he had it in 1970 with Dan August, but viewers disagreed, and the series lasted only one season, despite a fairly decent ensemble.

Burt Reynolds, who'd previously starred in another ABC crime drama, Hawk, a few years earlier, was a little ways away from launching his movie career, which would turn things around for him. Reynolds had the title role, with an ensemble that included TV vets Norman Fell, who had previously been on NBC's 87th Precinct, and Richard Anderson, at the time known for character roles, mostly on Westerns such as The Rifleman & The Big Valley. The rest of the decade would be very good for all three actors. As noted previously, Anderson moved on to The Six Million Dollar Man and its spinoff, The Bionic Woman, while Fell tried comedy, landing a plum gig on Three's Company.

Regrettably, all that's available now is the intro, uploaded by PIMannix:

By-the-numbers QM fare, which would be copied more successfully as time wore on. No rating, as I have little recollection of actually seeing the show.

Weasel of the Week: Jerry Jones

It wasn't enough that the Dallas Cowboys finally were able to beat the New York Giants at home. Their attention-obsessed owner had to pile on.

On Sunday, the Cowboys used a more aggressive, ball-hawking defense under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to force six Giants turnovers in winning their home opener at AT& T Stadium, otherwise known as JerryWorld, so named for owner-GM Jerry Jones. I refer to it as Jones' Temple of Excess, because it's SO big and sprawling, much like the stereotype about the state of Texas itself. However, leave it to Jones to throw cold water on his own team's success.

On Monday, it got out that Jones was accusing the Giants of faking injuries to try to slow down the Cowboys' offense. Oh, really? There have been other teams, both pro & college, mind you, who've supposedly employed similar tactics, and who here doesn't think that ol' Jonesy would green-light similar stall tactics if employed by his own team? There was no real evidence, although tight end Jason Witten seemed to think otherwise, and Jones claimed he could clearly see it from his skybox perch. Yeah, sure, Jerry, rub it in. Watch what happens when the 'Boys visit the Meadowlands later this season. The Giants will remember your selfish remarks, and, well, you know what payback can be, don't you?

In other words, Jones wasn't satisfied that Dallas finally beat the Giants in Texas. Took them 5 tries to do it since the stadium opened in 2009. No, he had to put salt in the wound. Instead of expressing relief and joy and other positive emotions, Jones had to take the low road. Again. Once a Weasel, always a Weasel. Here's a new set of ears, along with a tail, for you, Jerry. Wear them well. Now you know why you ain't making the playoffs this year, bub. Your mouth gets you in trouble again, and your team will pay the consequences.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What Might've Been: Nanny & The Professor (1970)

20th Century Fox came up with what amounted to their answer to Disney's adaptation of Mary Poppins with the ABC fantasy-sitcom, Nanny & The Professor. Unfortunately, despite being part of a Friday night comedy block that also included fellow frosh The Partridge Family and the 2nd year series, The Brady Bunch, Nanny didn't have any staying power, lasting just a couple of years before it was cancelled.

Juliet Mills top-lined as Phoebe Ficalilly, hired on as a housekeeper-nanny for Professor Everett (Richard Long, ex-The Big Valley), a widower with three children. And, like Mary Poppins, Phoebe also possessed magical powers, the extent of which was never fully explored.

Fox had earlier repackaged one of their feature films into a sitcom (The Ghost & Mrs. Muir), but that wasn't quite so successful, either, as we discussed when reviewing that series. So the question remains, what went wrong?

Perhaps it's just a case of having three family-based sitcoms airing back-to-back-to-back, and viewers growing tired of what they perceived as the weakest link, which is why Nanny was let go after two seasons, although the cast would reunite for a pair of Saturday Superstar Movies, which independent producer Fred Calvert helmed, though Fox owns the rights to those features, and they're not available on YouTube.

Sadly, getting the cast together now is problematic. Richard Long passed away several years back, and I believe it was while working on another sitcom, Thicker Than Water. Long did return for the cartoons, and also filled in for Fred Gwynne on an animated adaptation of The Munsters, also for the Saturday Superstar Movie. Trent Lehman, reportedly, took his own life at 20, though I confess to having no memory of reading anything on the subject. Kim Richards is back in the spotlight, having returned to TV in one of Bravo's Real Housewives reality shows, and is related to debutante and wanna-be actress-singer Paris Hilton. Juliet Mills was last seen on the NBC soap, Passions, a few years ago, and I've read nothing on David Doremus, who was the other Everett child.

TV Toy Memories uploaded this commercial promoting the show.

I'd have pulled the open, with the dreamy theme song recorded by the Addrisi Brothers, but the only clip includes some ads for some 900 phone service, presumably from around the early 90's, so I passed.

Perhaps what hurt this show was ABC had too much sugar in their primetime bowl, if you catch my drift.

Rating: B.

Musical Interlude: Laughter In the Rain (1974)

Neil Sedaka made a modest return to the charts in the mid-70's, fitting right in with all the soft pop-rock that filled the AM airwaves. Over the course of six years (1974-80), Sedaka would score at least 3-4 more hits for himself, and co-wrote the Captain & Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together", a chart-topping smash in 1975.

What got my attention, however, was this dreamy ballad from 1974, "Laughter in the Rain". Neil takes us back in time to the late 50's-early 60's, when he first emerged on the scene. The tempo's a little slower than the high energy hits like "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen", but I would think today, "Laughter" would still get some airplay on adult-contemporary stations.

2 years later, Neil's daughter, Dara, made her debut performing with her father. Here, Dara takes over lead vocals on "Laughter", while papa Neil plays the piano and sings backup:

The Sedakas' last top 40 hit was "Never Should've Let You Go", in 1980. These days, Neil's on TV doing one of those StarVista/TimeLife informercials, but one wonders whatever happened to Dara.......

Classic TV: Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1957)

Blake Edwards' Richard Diamond, Private Detective began on radio, with actor-singer Dick Powell in the title role. A few years later, Powell's Four Star Productions acquired the rights to adapt the series for television. However, Powell decided he wasn't the right choice to play Diamond in front of the cameras. Instead, David Janssen was cast as Diamond, 5 years before his more iconic role of Dr. Richard Kimble on The Fugitive.

The TV Diamond lasted three seasons, and went by the alternative title, Calling Mr. D., when repeats of the first season hit syndication. Diamond's base of operations seemed to be mobile, although there was an operator who seemed to know where to find him.

Sam, short for Samantha, was the operator, but viewers never got a good look at her, as, more often than not, they would only see her legs. Occasionally, they'd get the jawline, but that was about as far as it would go. At least two actresses essayed the part, but not given proper credit, as Powell wanted Sam's identity kept a secret. Mary Tyler Moore was the original Sam, but was dismissed when she blurted out the truth in an interview, and was replaced by Roxanne Brooks for the rest of the series. Moore, of course, would become an icon in her own right, first with The Dick Van Dyke Show, then her own self-titled sitcom, while Brooks faded into obscurity.

However, Sam won't be heard from in this first season episode, uploaded by filmsaboutstuff. Here's "Picture of Fear":

Could Diamond make a comeback today? Sure, but keeping Sam's identity a secret in this day & age would be impossible. Casting would be overanalyzed, and.......!

Rating: A.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Musical Interlude: Waiting For a Star to Fall (1988)

Songwriters George Merrill & Shannon Rubicom, aka Boy Meets Girl, scored their only Top 40 hit in 1988 with "Waiting For a Star to Fall", a breezy pop ballad that could've fit any number of artists. Merrill had written "How Will I Know?", which was a huge hit a year or so earlier for Whitney Houston, but this would be his only chance to prove he could carry the mail himself. Sad to say, he & Shannon divorced 12 years after climbing the charts.

And, yeah, if you listen real close, Merrill's vocal style is similar to that of Michael Bolton, who was emerging around the same time.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Classic TV: The Six Million Dollar Man (1973)

I will freely admit that I've never read any of the novels by Martin Caidin that led to the development of The Six Million Dollar Man, perhaps one of ABC's biggest hits of the 70's.

Caidin wrote his initial novel, Cyborg, in 1972. A year later, it was adapted for television as an ABC Movie of the Week, the first of three such films that would lead to Six Million being spun off into a series that bowed in January 1974. The series initially aired on Sundays, then moved to Mondays at the end of its run.

Lee Majors, whose resume included The Big Valley, The Virginian (during the final season, aka The Men From Shiloh), & Owen Marshall, Counselor-at-Law, was cast as Air Force Colonel Steve Austin, who was critically injured when an experimental plane crashed during a test run. Austin was, as the story goes, fitted with bionic parts to replace an arm, both legs, and an eye. In the first TV-movie, which I again will confess I've never seen---in fact, I never saw any of the three "pilot" movies----Austin's supervisor wasn't Oscar Goldman, as in the books, but another man, played by Darrin McGavin. However Goldman would appear in the subsequent TV-movies and series, played by character actor Richard Anderson (ex-Dan August).

In the books, Caidin envisioned Austin as a cold-blooded killer. Of course, we couldn't have that on television in the 70's, although a fresh adaptation today might be more faithful to the books. Instead, Austin became a secret agent for the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence), and Goldman, his handler, became more like a best friend. Within a couple of years, there was a spinoff, The Bionic Woman, with Lindsay Wagner as Austin's childhood sweetheart, tennis pro Jaime Summers. That series lasted three years, finishing its run at NBC in one of the biggest bonehead moves in ABC history. Then again, NBC made some equally incomprehensible changes leading to the show's cancellation, but that's another story.

NBC would pick up the rights to air a trilogy of "reunion" movies in the 80's, leading to Steve & Jaime finally getting married, with a young Sandra Bullock appearing in one of the films as a potential successor to Jaime. Bionic Woman was revived by NBC a few years ago, but that incarnation did a quick crash & burn. Gee, I wonder why?

There was the inevitable tie-in comic book, but it was Connecticut-based Charlton, which printed their books on paper towels----I kid you not----as a means of saving money, that produced adaptations of both series, including a black-&-white magazine version of Six Million. None of the books lasted very long, and today are hard to find. Filmmaker Kevin Smith had pitched a reimagining of the series in the 90's, which was rejected, but was adapted into a comic book by Dynamite Entertainment a couple of years ago under the title, The Bionic Man. Apparently, Dynamite, while able to license particular titles, couldn't obtain full licensing rights, hence the alternative name for the series. They've done this with 2 Edgar Rice Burroughs properties as well, but, again, that's another story. Yes, Bionic Woman has returned to comics as well, also at Dynamite, but the less said about these books, the better.

It should be pointed out that there were three actors to play Dr. Rudy Wells. Martin Balsam was the first, in the first TV-film, but was replaced by Alan Oppenheimer, who left the series after season 2, replaced in turn by Martin E. Brooks, who would also appear on The Bionic Woman. There were two men who played the robotic Bigfoot---Ted Cassidy (ex-The Addams Family) and wrestler Andre "The Giant" Rousimoff. In these stories, Bigfoot was presented, as noted, as a robot, rather than the urban legend some have made him out to be.

Following is the season 1 opening. In later seasons, Richard Anderson, who provides part of the voice-over narrative, along with executive producer Harve Bennett, was given co-star credit, cementing his icon status.

The series is available on DVD from Time-Life, which means it's pretty pricey, but as of now is not on cable anywhere, at least as far as I know. Maybe Me-TV can pick it up sometime soon......

Rating: A-.

Classic TV: Switch (1975)

Suppose Alexander Mundy left the spy business and became a detective, working with Oliver Douglas?

Well, the closest thing to that concept was visualized in Switch, a comedy-adventure-turned-crime-drama that lasted three seasons on CBS (1975-8). Switch was the first series sold to CBS that had been produced by the prolific Glen Larsen while with Universal, and starred Robert Wagner (ex-It Takes a Thief) and Eddie Albert (ex-Green Acres). The concept had con artist Peter Ryan (Wagner) teaming with the police detective who put him in prison in the first place, Frank McBride (Albert), to form a detective agency that specialized in out-conning the con men.

Switch was inspired by the 1973 George Roy Hill film, "The Sting", but wasn't the only one. Another Universal entry, McCoy, starring Tony Curtis, lasted just 5 extra-length "episodes" (1 90-minute and 4 2-hour Mystery Movie entries) for NBC during the 1975-6 season. The following year, as memory serves, ABC got in on the act with the Columbia Pictures TV offering, The Feather & Father Gang, which also bombed out after a season. Its star, Stefanie Powers (ex-The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.), would later team with Wagner in Hart To Hart as husband & wife detectives. In turn, it can be said that the current USA Network series, White Collar, may also be a branch from the same conceptual tree.

Switch also marked a rare dramatic turn for manic comedian Charlie Callas, who otherwise was making regular appearances on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast around that same time and the usual variety show rounds. Seven years before getting her own badge on Cagney & Lacey, Sharon Gless was the receptionist-part-time operative for McBride-Ryan Investigations, giving the guys a little help.

Here's the open:

Rating: B+.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dunce Cap Award: Tim Tebow

When the New England Patriots signed Tim Tebow earlier this year, I said at the time, and so did a few others, apparently, that the Patriots would be well-served shifting the Heisman Trophy winner from quarterback to tight end to address a glaring need. It didn't happen, and Tebow was cut a week ago. Tebow then tweeted that he would continue his pursuit of becoming an NFL quarterback. Apparently, Tebow didn't get the message.

On Thursday, NBC & Sports Illustrated pundit Peter King reported that an unnamed NFL team wanted to sign Tebow and try him out at----wait for it----tight end. Tebow turned that offer down. Yahoo! labeled him as stubborn, unwilling to accept the fact that NFL owners don't see him as a quality QB after 3 seasons in the league with Denver and the Jets. He would've been carrying a clipboard behind Tom Brady & Ryan Mallet in New England had he stayed.

While I respect Tebow for his faith as a brother in Christ, let's look at this realistically.

In the last three seasons, NFL defenses exposed the flaws in Tebow's game. He wasn't fully developed as a quarterback in Florida, where he won the Heisman. Yes, he can run, but so can Cam Newton, another Heisman-winning QB from the mighty SouthEastern Conference (SEC), the big difference being that Newton, despite the attendant scandal in his senior season at Auburn, was fully developed as a QB. Of course, there's also that size differential to consider. Teams now look at Tebow as a novelty, a flash in the pan who caught a lucky break at the end of his run in Denver, only to have the Patriots expose him in so many ways, although they lose points for running up the score like a bully would.

Tebow turned down the option of exploring offers from the Canadian Football League. What made me laugh was that an American rugby league was interested in him, too. They would only do that for their 15 minutes of fame, mind you. Tebow has to look at this logically. No team is going to take a chance on him as a QB again, so if he wants to remain in the NFL, he has to understand that QB is going to be a secondary position going forward. Take Brad Smith, for example. Now a kick returner/wide receiver with Buffalo, Smith was a QB at Missouri when he was drafted by the Jets, but only used at the position in the "Wildcat" formation when he wasn't catching passes or returning kicks, which he does very well. If Smith can make the adjustment, so can Tebow. He just has to accept the fact that his legs are what will make him the most money, not his arm. For now, as a Yahoo! blogger suggested, Tebow should look in the mirror and see why the NFL doesn't see him as a QB any longer. The Dunce Cap is headed his way, blessed with holy water.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Before he was a Bat: Adam West shills for Kellogg's (early 60's)

I'm not sure when this ad originally aired, but it was well before Adam West was cast as Batman. He'd already had at least one series under his belt, a supporting role with Robert Taylor on The Detectives, probably by the time this ad for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes was made. Paul Frees, who'd later work with West on a Nestle's Quik ad, is the narrator.

Rockin' Funnies: Roses (2003)

Outkast's last single from their 2003 double CD package, "Speakerboxx" (Big Boi) & "The Love Below" (Andre 3000) presents one of the worst choreographed fight scenes in music video history, if not the absolute worst.

Big Boi & Andre used their individual CD titles as the names of street gangs in this send-up of "West Side Story", among other things. Andre chews up the scenery as he sings, but central casting really blew it by not getting former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy (now with ABC/ESPN) to play the school principal. He'd have been perfect in the fight scene. However, whatever the boys' intentions were for the girl they're both interested in, Katt Williams comes along and makes off with the maiden fair. As silly as it sounds.

Unfortunately, Outkast has slipped well past the radar since. Andre's been busy making movies and commercials (he did a couple of ads for Gillette), and developed the short-lived cartoon, Class of 3000, for Cartoon Network, which didn't give the show a fair enough chance to succeed.

Anyway, here's "Roses", from Outkast's VEVO channel:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Celebrity Rock: Whenever I'm Away From You (1976)

One year before "Saturday Night Fever", John Travolta was making the rounds to promote his first album, recorded during a break in taping Welcome Back, Kotter. Most of you know he landed on American Bandstand, but that wasn't the only ABC variety show he did.

The Captain & Tennille Show welcomed Travolta in 1976. Travolta teamed with the titular hitmakers to cover Elton John & Kiki Dee's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", which Elton himself would re-record several years later with RuPaul. However, the spotlight gets turned on Travolta for "Whenever I'm Away From You", which sounds like a cover of a 60's soul number, but, well, judge for yourself.

What Might've Been: Delta House (1979)

The long running humor magazine National Lampoon may have peaked commercially in the 70's & 80's. How, you ask? Well, there was a namesake radio show, and, in 1978, the hit feature film, "National Lampoon's Animal House", which was star John Belushi's ticket out of Saturday Night Live. The "Vacation" movie series with another alum of SNL, Chevy Chase, came along in the mid 80's. The last film to bear the magazine's name, "Van Wilder", introduced America to Ryan Reynolds. Hey, not everything works, ya know?

Also filed under "not everything works" was a short-lived sitcom spin-off from "Animal House". Delta House spent four months on ABC in 1979, returning five cast members from the movie, but not the most important one. I believe Belushi was still doing SNL at the time, and about to begin "Blues Brothers", so he wasn't available to reprise as "Bluto" Blutarsky. That led the producers to create a heretofore unseen brother, Blotto, played by a second generation actor, Josh Mostel (papa Zero was in "Fiddler On The Roof" & the original "The Producers"). While it was a great idea to continue the story, viewers didn't agree, and turned away in droves. I guess Belushi was the selling point to the movie, after all, and if he's not there, they're not digging.

I believe this was the last series that Edward Montagne produced for Universal, I'm not sure, a dubious end to a career spanning three decades in television.

Of course, there was some light at the end of the tunnel. Stephen Furst (Flounder) would resurface in a more serious role a few years later, first on St. Elsewhere, then on Babylon 5. John Vernon turned to cartoons and worked on Batman: The Animated Series. What I would later discover is that Vernon actually had been doing cartoons before "Animal House". He worked on the Canadian produced Marvel Superheroes Show in 1966.

Gilmore Box uploaded the open:

Simply put, ABC put the show on the wrong night. Had it been fitted into their powerful Tuesday lineup, fitted somewhere between Happy Days & Three's Company, which I think was already on Tuesdays by then, maybe it succeeds after all.

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Is there a dynasty in Troy? Maybe.

The Tri-City Valleycats have overcome all kinds of adversity in the NY-Penn League this season, but on Tuesday, they succeeded in their mission to repeat as Stedler Division champions, despite the annual roster turnover, and having a different manager at the helm.

The Valleycats won their 2nd straight division title, and 3rd in 4 years, by besting Brooklyn, 6-3, in a game played under overcast skies, and with a smaller than usual crowd for a weeknight. With school about to start, and despite an earlier start (6 pm as opposed to the usual 7 to accomodate the back-to-school crowd), I think it was a rare night where the 'Cats didn't have close to their average attendance.

Tri-City has seen its usual player promotions further up the Houston Astros' organizational chain, but they took a big hit on Friday, when DH/1st baseman Michael Martinez, the team's leading home run hitter, and outfielder D'Andre Toney were suspended for 50 games after testing positive for amphetamines last week while the team was in Brooklyn. After getting swept by the last place Vermont Lake Monsters, and losing a Saturday game to Lowell, the 'Cats responded by winning their next three games to put the Spinners away and clinch the division. They'll play McNamara division champion Aberdeen in the first round, with the opener in Aberdeen on Friday, and game 2 Saturday in Troy. The Ironbirds were a nemesis for the 'Cats this season, and have a 1st year player with a Hall of Fame-level pedigree in Mike Yastrzemski, the grandson, I believe, of former Boston star Carl Yastrzemski. The series will go the full three games, and with the 'Cats having rebuilt momentum, I see them advancing to the league championship series once again.

Three division titles in four years. Five in the team's twelve years in the league, with one league title (2010). I haven't seen that kind of consistent success since the long-defunct Albany Firebirds in the Arena Football League back in the 90's, and that's saying something. The city of Troy hasn't had a sports dynasty since Troy High was making routine trips to Syracuse for the state football championships, also in the 90's. And, oh, yeah, football season starts on Friday around these parts. Momentum's a great thing to have, and, luckily for Troy High, the 'Cats' season will end before they play their home opener on Friday the 13th. Let's hope the momentum carries over........

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Musical Interlude: Hot For Teacher (1984)

This is Van Halen at their goofiest.

The classic lineup (Eddie & Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth, & Michael Anthony) co-wrote "Hot For Teacher", with the video built around a geek named Waldo, headed back to school for a new season. What you don't know is that the very adult voice of Waldo belonged to the late entertainer Phil Hartman, long before he landed on Saturday Night Live. How else to explain Waldo sounding like John Wayne, no? Roth also co-directed the video with frequent collaborator/manager Peter Angelus, so figure that this was an example of what to expect from Roth's solo material a year later.........

No, I don't know who voiced Waldo's mom, in case ya wonder. Now, don't ya think this might've encouraged some boys to pursue relationships with their teachers?

What Might've Been: Project UFO (1978)

Jack Webb's last series, Project UFO, marked the end of an era, although, in truth, the series was a bit ahead of its time.

The syndicated documentary series, In Search Of..... might've been the inspiration for Webb trying one more procedural series, this time veering away from police work. Project UFO bowed on NBC in February 1978, airing on Thursdays, as I recall. A largely unknown cast carried the show for the first season, but when Project was renewed for a second year, Edward Winter (M*A*S*H) took over as the lead investigator. Unfortunately, viewers turned away to ABC's freshman comedy, Mork & Mindy. Enough said.

Frequent Webb collaborator Harold Jack Bloom created the series, and, along with Webb, wasn't heard from again after Project UFO ended.

ClassicTelevisionFan uploaded the open, with narration by Webb:

Rating: C.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Classic TV: Three's Company (1977)

Following in the footsteps of mentor Norman Lear, producer Don Nicholl and his team adapted Thames Television's Man About the House into Three's Company, which launched as a mid-season replacement on ABC in 1977, and lasted 8 seasons, and almost as many cast changes.

Early scripts were adaptations from the original source, with House creators Johnnie Mortimer & Brian Cooke getting some credit. The plot centered on luckless bachelor Jack Tripper (John Ritter, ex-The Waltons) moving in with two attractive women, Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt) & Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers), who'd just had a roommate move out. Landlord Stan Roper (Norman Fell, ex-Dan August) isn't too thrilled, so Jack has to lie and pretend to be gay to appease Roper, though the landlord's wife (Audra Lindley) might have other ideas.

The Ropers were the first ones to go, spun off into their own series after season 3, which led to sitcom legend Don Knotts (ex-The Andy Griffith Show) returning to television as new landlord Ralph Furley. Knotts had tried to carry his own show in the 70's, but failed, and it seems he's more at home as part of an ensemble, as he was with Andy Griffith, and, before that, Steve Allen. Somers left in a contract dispute, with Jennilee Harrison cast as Chrissy's sister, Cindy. However, Harrison left and joined the cast of Dallas, if memory serves me correctly, and thus Priscilla Barnes was brought on as the last of the roommates. Around season 2, Richard Kline joined the show as Larry Dallas, an upstairs neighbor who became Jack's best buddy and sidekick.

Janet was the only one who had a steady job during the course of the series, working in a flower shop. Jack would eventually get one as well, which would ultimately lead to the follow-up series, Three's A Crowd.

Edit: 11/20/13: YouTube has deleted the episode previously posted. In its place is the Season 4 open, which marks the beginning of the Don Knotts era:

TV Land holds the rights to the series at present (check listings), but the earliest seasons were the best.

Rating: B-.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Stupidity runs rampant: A plethora of Dunce Caps are handed out

As one of my high school teachers used to say, "stupidity runs rampant". Just take a look at these examples of human incompetence........

We start in New York. Former Metropolitan Transportation Authority frontman Joe Lhota is running for Mayor on the Republican ticket. On Saturday, he landed on the front page of the New York Daily News, branded as heartless when he stated on Friday that he wouldn't have suspended subway service on Thursday to save a pair of stray kittens that were trapped under the tracks. Despite this, the Daily News, in today's editions, endorsed Lhota for the GOP primary on September 10, after endorsing Christine Quinn for the Democratic primary the same day.

So who gets the Dunce Caps? Lhota, for running the risk of blowing the primary by showing a glaring lack of compassion, and Daily News editors for 1) endorsing Lhota, 24 hours after blasting him in print, and 2) taking a cheap shot at Democratic candidate and scandal magnet Anthony (Son of Oscar Mayer) Weiner with a double entendre headline on the bottom of the front page. A lame attempt at humor, and poorly timed, at that.

Our next stop is Foxborough, where, despite the public support of owner Robert Kraft, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick rewarded Tim Tebow for leading the NFL's Evil Empire to a victory on Thursday over the Giants by cutting the QB. Belichump also refused to even consider keeping Tebow on as a tight end or at any position other than QB, since he otherwise would've been carrying a clipboard for Tom Brady anyway. The Pats cut a couple of spare-part tight ends on Friday, which would've left a roster spot open for Tebow, but returning starter Rob Gronkowski, perhaps the most fragile man on the team, after what feels like a zillion surgeries on his arm, appears ready for the opener next Sunday vs. Buffalo, as he finally worked out with the team today, according to ESPN. Real swift, Belichump. NOT! In fact, if Tebow signs with, say, Miami as a backup QB, I really hope he sticks it to you once and for all!

I went on record saying that Tebow would be best utilized as a tight end, since there was little chance of him seeing any game action during the regular season as a QB, but Belichump didn't see it that way.

Next, we go to College Station, Texas. Texas A & M QB Johnny Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, has let the success go to his head. We all know about the scandal surrounding his signing autographs for memorabilia dealers that was in the headlines all summer. As a sort of compromise, and a lame one at that, mind you, Manziel was "suspended" for the first half of Saturday's season opener vs. Rice, seen on ESPN. All he did was throw 3 TD's and draw a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, specifically taunting, before coach Kevin Sumlin pulled Manziel from the game. Of course Texas A & M won the game, but as ESPN analyst Mark May said earlier today, this arrogant behavior on the part of the sophomore signal-caller has already turned fans against him, and it's almost a given that Manziel won't return for his junior season, as he's likely to turn pro after this season, regardless of whether or not he wins a 2nd Heisman, becoming the first man in nearly 40 years to pull off that feat. I actually doubt that'll happen, to tell you the truth, and his antics yesterday will come back to haunt him 3 months from now.

Finally, NCAA HQ is our last stop, because their archaic, anachronistic policies have become a definition of hypocrisy in college sports. They won't let athletes make money in order to help support themselves, and yet, the NCAA, like the pro sports leagues that they've become a feeder system for, moreso than ever, has a website where they sell replica jerseys of certain star players of various colleges (i.e. Manziel and Alabama's AJ McCarron), so they're making money off these players, but they don't want to give up a piece of the phat pie they share with their broadcast partners (Fox, ESPN/ABC, NBC, CBS) and help some of these kids who come from diverse backgrounds, some of whom probably needed financial aid just to pay tuitions to get into school in the first place. Wake up and join the 21st century! Colleges have become a glorified farm system for the pros, and no one's trying to convince these kids that education comes first!

It's time to change the system, because patchwork repairs ain't gonna get it done.

Classic TV: Make Room For Daddy, aka The Danny Thomas Show (1953)

People of today's generation only know Danny Thomas as the philanthropic entertainer who became closely associated with St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis. However, Thomas before that was a nightclub & sitcom star who landed on TV in 1953 with Make Room For Daddy.

Thomas played Danny Williams, a NY-based nightclub performer, husband, and father of 2. The series lasted 11 seasons, changing its title after the first 4 seasons to The Danny Thomas Show, which is the title used in the video you'll see shortly. There were other changes as well. Jean Hagen, who played Williams' 1st wife, Margaret, left after 3 seasons. Marjorie Lord, who played Danny's 2nd wife, Kathy, joined the show in season 4. Sherry Jackson, who played Danny's eldest child, Linda, left early, and when they decided to bring Linda back, the part was recast. Angela Cartwright, later of Lost In Space, joined along with Marjorie Lord in season 4, and would return for the sequel, Make Room For Granddaddy, in 1970. Rusty Hamer rounded out the core cast, and after Granddaddy ended, essentially retired from show business.

Make Room For Daddy was produced & directed by Sheldon Leonard, and produced at Desilu, a winning combination that would continue into the 60's, including a pair of series that had their roots on this show. The Andy Griffith Show began as a backdoor pilot, and Bill Dana's alter-ego of Jose Jiminez was a recurring character on the show before landing his own series. Toward the end of the run, Danny went on a European tour, as Thomas began cutting back on his schedule, leaving the kids in the care of his manager, Charley (Sid Melton, ex-Captain Midnight) and his wife, Bunny (Pat Carroll).

Following is an episode featuring special guest star Jack Benny:

As of today, the series has joined the Me-TV Sunday lineup, with back-to-back episodes airing at 7 am (ET). If you never had the chance to watch the show before, now's a good time.

Rating: B+.