Thursday, October 31, 2013

Old Time Radio: The Lives of Harry Lime (1951)

The Lives of Harry Lime, otherwise known as The Adventures of Harry Lime in the UK, was not a follow-up to the 1949 film, "The Third Man", in the traditional sense. Instead, it was actually a prequel to the film, enabling radio listeners to be better acquainted with Lime, portrayed as a con man in the movie, but had his character softened a bit as more of an anti-hero in the radio series. In both cases, the part was essayed by Orson Welles in what I believe was his last radio series.

As we've documented, "Third Man" spawned a TV series by the same name, with Michael Rennie as Lime, but now let's take a look at the radio show. Keeping with the theme du jour, here is the episode, "Voodoo":

Bear in mind that this was before Welles became a wine salesman and a regular at Dean Martin's Celebrity Roast specials.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On DVD: The Wrestler (2008)

Darren Arenofsky's "The Wrestler" is a case study on the life of one wrestler who tried to recapture past glories, despite a heart condition that could take him down for the final three count.

Robin Ramzinski, aka Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke), was a star in the 80's. As this film begins, Robinson is keeping his career going by working weekend independent shows in the Northeast, while working at a deli counter. Estranged from his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), the Ram soldiers on, even after a post-match heart attack in the locker room and subsequent surgery. In attempting to mend his fractured personal life, he tries to form a romantic bond with Pam, a single mom working nights as a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei).

It all leads to the finale, a match recalling Robinson's greatest feud of the 80's, with The Ayatollah (former WCW & WWE wrestler Ernest Miller). Just when it looks like Robinson's about to win the match, despite his heart troubles, the screen fades to black, and we're left wondering.

Ring of Honor & Combat Zone Wrestling, two Northeast-based promotions, took part in the production of the movie. There are also some faces familiar to fans of WWE & TNA, such as Ron "The Truth" Killings, now operating under the name R-Truth, and Austin Aries, a recent TNA champion. The production came under fire from certain activist groups, particularly over the portrayal of The Ayatollah, failing to see that it was in fact just a character. A Middle Eastern heel played by an African-American. Couldn't they see that as plain as day?

Rourke & Tomei each earned Oscar nominations for their work. Bruce Springsteen recorded the title song, which made its way up the charts in 2009. Rourke, of course, has since made a couple of other hit films, "Iron Man 2" & "The Expendables", a sure sign that his career, like that of "Iron Man" star Robert Downey, Jr., is back on the upswing. Fox Searchlight's YouTube channel offers the trailer:

What I find amusing is Hulk Hogan, who recently left TNA---so we think---having claimed in an interview with Howard Stern that he was approached for the part. Aronofsky said no way, it was meant for Rourke all along. In the physical condition Hogan was in then and now, he's obviously dreaming.

Rating: A.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What Might've Been: Struck By Lightning (1979)

CBS was looking for something to mine the fantasy-sitcom vein that ABC had found with Mork & Mindy. The "Tiffany of the Networks", which had fantasy-coms in the 60's that were hit or miss (i.e. My Favorite Martian, My Living Doll), discovered that while they had a good idea, it was on the wrong night. And it came from the same studio that produced Mork!

Struck By Lightning didn't even last a month here in the US, but all 11 episodes would air overseas. Jack Elam (ex-The Texas Wheelers) starred as the monster of Frankenstein, now working as a common handyman, but needing the formula that brought him to life renewed. It turns out that Dr. Frankenstein has a modern descendant, a science teacher (Jeffrey Kramer), who has just moved into the neighborhood.

Elam was better known as a character actor who played a lot of guest parts, usually in Westerns, but was never able to carry a show in a starring vehicle of his own. Too bad, because this could've helped change that culture. I never saw the show, so we'll forsake a rating, and close with the open and  a sponsor tag, courtesy of Gilmore Box:

A Modern Classic: Charmed (1998)

Two years after Sabrina, the Teenage Witch had conquered primetime, the WB network decided to jump into the fire, if you will. However, their idea was to do a fantasy/crime drama, which served pretty well for 8 seasons.

Charmed, created by writer Constance Burge and produced by Aaron Spelling's production company, was bounced all over the dial during its 8 year run, and continues today on cable (WE-Women's Entertainment-is one of the rights holders), which would explain CBS' boneheaded decision last week to commission a new version of the series, cashing in on the success of current fantasy series, such as FX's American Horror Story: Coven. 7 years have passed since we said goodbye to the Halliwell sisters, as far as first-run episodes go, but that doesn't seem to matter, apparently, considering that Hollywood is almost totally bankrupt from a creative standpoint.

Charmed started with three very familiar stars: Holly Marie Combs (ex-Picket Fences) as Piper, Alyssa Milano (ex-Who's The Boss) as Phoebe, and Shannen Doherty (ex-Beverly Hills 90210) as Prue. The sisters possessed the "Power of Three", which they needed pretty often to turn back supernatural menaces. Prue was killed off at the end of season 3, leading to half-sister Paige (Rose McGowan) replacing Doherty, though she's included in the modified open we'll see shortly. The ladies owned a nightclub in San Francisco, and had ties to certain of the SFPD. The series did attract some interesting guest stars, including Robert Englund, who guest-starred in season 4. There was also a crossover of a sort with World Championship Wrestling, which sent grapplers Scott Steiner, Marcus Bagwell, & Booker T to make a guest appearance as villains in season 3. Of the three, Bagwell had the most acting experience, having made some low budget films while with WCW.

Love Spit Love recorded the show's theme song. Lead vocalist Richard Butler had previously been with the 80's band, the Psychadelic Furs:

One other note. After leaving the series, Doherty went on to be the first host of SyFy's Scare Tactics, and Julian McNamara (Cole/Balthazor) left to work on FX's Nip/Tuck, then got back into the fantasy business in the 2005 "Fantastic Four" movie.

Rating: B.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dunce Cap Award: Kanye West & Dez Bryant

Two Dunce Caps to hand out for the week ending yesterday.

Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant gets one for his sideline temper tantrum in the waning moments of Dallas' 31-30 loss to Detroit. According to Pardon The Interruption co-host Michael Wilbon, Bryant wanted to prove he was better than Detroit's Calvin Johnson. Sorry, but that wasn't happening. Johnson caught 14 passes from QB Matthew Stafford for a team record 329 yards. That Stafford pulled a Dan Marino trick with a fake spike to win the game isn't of consequence here. What is of consequence is Bryant behaving like a petulant child who didn't get his way.

Can't we just get rid of the "divas" in pro football? Divas are meant to be a feminine term, after all.

Meanwhile, rapper & tabloid magnet Kanye West has gotten himself in hot water at this desk, and it ain't for renting out a stadium to make an unnecessary spectacle out of proposing to Kim Kardashian, who should be working for a living instead of sponging off soon-to-be-ex-stepdad Bruce Jenner's fame (the sisters had a reunion with Bruce over the weekend) and anyone else more famous than she is, such as West, who has a history of doing stupid things, then tripping over himself trying to explain himself. His ego dwarfs his future wife pro tempore (because the tabloids are already claiming trouble in paradise, and, well.....), such that he felt there was no problem hiring an actor to play Jesus Christ on stage as part of his act. West is touring in support of his new CD, "Yeezus". Some people, especially in the South, might see it as blasphemy. I doubt West knows what it means. Remember, this is the same guy that crashed the party at the VMA's one year because Taylor Swift beat Beyonce for an award. Reading some of his interviews of late, I'd say the guy's crazier than a whole pack of pet raccoons. West had an earlier hit with "Jesus Walks", but I don't think he knows what it means to be humble, either. If he really follows the Bible, and had any sense, he'd give Kim one and make sure she reads from cover to cover. She might actually learn something.

Then again, I doubt that very seriously. Meanwhile, E! may be making plans to film the wedding, just like Kim's last one (to basketball player Kris Humphries, now with the Boston Celtics). That's all she knows. Nothing is private nor without a price tag. Yeah, let's give Kim a Cap, too.

Creepy TV: Swamp Thing (1990)

DC Comics' track record with adaptations of their properties on TV hasn't been very good. Unless it has to do with Superman, it's not going to last.

One such case was the first series based on a DC property sold to a cable network. That would be Swamp Thing, which spent three seasons on USA, but hasn't been seen since reruns had aired on Sci-Fi (now SyFy) & Chiller in recent years.

Dick Durock reprised his role from the 2 feature films in the 80's, enabling Swamp Thing to be a little more eloquent than he'd been presented in the comics to that point. His nemesis, Anton Arcane, would be a regular on the show, played by Mark Lindsay Chapman (Louis Jourdan played Arcane in the first film). The series blended together the original origin, as written by Len Wein and illustrated by Berni Wrightson, with a mid-80's revamp by Alan Moore that made Swamp Thing an elemental, giving fans the best of both worlds. Ex-MTV personality Kari Wuhrer (Remote Control) joined the show in season 2 as a synthetic woman created by Arcane, but now with an independent personality.

As you'll see in the intro, DIC co-founder Andy Heyward served as a co-executive producer as well, as DIC would produce an animated miniseries a year later.

MTE Entertainment, which co-produced the series with Michael Uslan's Batfilms company, was an arm of Universal, marking this the only time DC & Universal did any business together.

Rating: B+.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Weasel of the Week: Stephen A. Smith

ESPN radio & television personality Stephen A. Smith gets the Weasel ears this week, and it's long overdue.

Smith got in hot water earlier this week for using the N-word on the air on First Take during his daily debate with Skip Bayless, formerly of the Dallas Morning News. Three times in as many years, Smith, who was among the voices critical of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper for using the N-word earlier this summer, has dropped an N-bomb on the air in the course of his commentary. In each case, ESPN suits have blindly covered for him by denying anything actually happened. Media columnists, such as Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News, called out Smith for his obvious hypocrisy and ESPN for protecting him for the sake of popping a rating.

I call BS. African-Americans use the N-word in common conversation among themselves on the streets. I know. I've heard it. Rappers use it in their lyrics, and people wonder why they don't get put under the moral microscope. Smith, because he's on national television, gets grilled by the press, largely because he already has a reputation of being a blowhard on the air.

I listen to him talk, and I picture an African-American reincarnation of the late Howard Cosell. Is he loud & obnoxious? Yes. Overbearing? Definitely. He doesn't know when to shut up sometimes. Controversial? You betcha. Here's an idea, Stephen. If you need an N-word to use with "please" in a sentence, let me recommend "Number", as in, your number may soon be up if ESPN's corporate parent, Disney, decides they've had enough of your antics. They say controversy creates cash---and ratings---but in this case, ignorance isn't bliss.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sports this 'n' that

Two games into the World Series, and it has all the feel of a preseason game with all the errors. Each side has given away a game with defensive lapses, and as the scene shifts to St. Louis on Saturday night, Boston will lose a little on defense as DH David Ortiz moves to first base, which either sends Mike Napoli to the bench or back to his old position as catcher, where he played for the Angels & Rangers before coming to the Red Sox. If Napoli does catch, that allows the Sox to retain their strongest offensive players, though I highly doubt it.

Realistically, the momentum has already shifted to the Cardinals, who'd be heavily favored against a team of Duck Dynasty wannabes. It's either that, or the Red Sox players are growing beards just for the sake of posing for a box of Smith Brothers cough drops.

By the way, after winning a bet by default from Oakland's Josh Reddick earlier this year, don't you think the WWE's Daniel Bryan would want to lay a wager with any of the Red Sox? Actually, the Boston players might be waiting for a group deal with Gillette........!

The struggles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one of two winless teams in the NFL as of now, recall the team's formative years in 1976-77, when it took them nearly 2 full seasons before they finally won a game. The fans have turned on 2nd year coach Greg Schiano, who might be better off waiting for his former employers at Rutgers to ask him back if in fact he does get the axe before the season ends. Schiano is finding out, as South Carolina's Steve Spurrier did before him, that success at the college level doesn't translate to the pro game that easily.

Closer to home, high school football playoffs begin tonight. Earlier this week, I wrote about a Texas parent that cried foul over perceived bullying after a game that saw Aledo blow out Western Hills, 91-0. Makes the games in New York seem like small potatoes by comparison. Last week, Christian Brothers Academy made mincemeat out of LaSalle in their annual game to the tune of 70-6. Ouch! Troy High, not to be outdone, has blown out their last two opponents, Averill Park & Mohanasen, by an aggregate score of 104-20. Tonight, Troy plays Gloversville in a rematch of last year's quarterfinals, which was another beatdown, as the Flying Horses romped, 56-14. This could be over early, and fans could be headed for the exits by halftime if this is a rerun.

Brett Favre is content coaching high school football in Mississippi and making commercials for Wrangler, which is grooming New Orleans' Drew Brees as an eventual successor to Favre as Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s running buddy in those ads. So why did the St. Louis Rams waste their time asking Favre to come out of retirement to replace Sam Bradford, gone for the season with a torn ACL, as their starting quarterback, after picking up Brady Quinn, whom the Jets cut earlier this week without playing a single down. Anything to get attention, I suppose, but no NFL owner is willing to pick up the phone and talk to Tim Tebow about filling a vacancy. Tebow won't give up his dream of being a starting QB, but he's got a better chance of landing a talk show on Trinity Broadcasting than fulfilling his fondest wish. Just sayin'.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Creepy TV: Friday The 13th: The Series (1987)

With a week before Halloween, we're debuting a new feature, "Creepy TV", dedicated to those horror series that didn't quite reach "classic" status.

We'll start with Friday The 13th: The Series, which was a sneaky way of cashing in on Paramount's namesake movie series without Jason Voorhees. Producer Frank Mancuso, Jr., who co-created the series, also worked on most of the movies, and decided to use the "Friday the 13th" title as a means of hooking viewers in.

In truth, he shouldn't have bothered. All he really needed was a sexy female lead, and he had one in Micki Foster, played by Louise Robey, who only used her surname on the show. Micki and her cousin-in-law, if you will, Ryan (John LeMay) retrieved cursed items for their antique shop. LeMay, however, left the series before or during season 3, I am not sure which, and the series, admittedly, fell apart after that. Veteran Chris Wiggins rounded out the core cast as Jack, the cousins' mentor and partner.

I never really bothered with the movies at all----slasher movies aren't my cup of tea---and only offered an occasional glance at this show, but enough to foster a review.

Edit: 10/9/15: Episodes previously posted in this space have been deleted due to copyright issues. Instead, we'll use the intro, complete with a long-missing voice-over narrative.

Aside from the lovely Ms. Robey, there's not much to write home about with this show.

Rating: C.

Here we go again

On the heels of NBC cancelling its remake of Ironside comes news that the network is picking up an option on another Universal property, and making the same mistake that doomed reboots of Ironside and, before it, Kojak.

This time, it's Murder, She Wrote which will have an urban twist by casting Octavia Spencer ("The Help") as mystery writer/amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher, only this time Jessica's primary vocation is as a hospital administrator who self-published her first novel, and now wants to play detective on the side.

I was talking with my brother via telephone last night, and we talked about how Universal keeps making the same mistake over and over with their reboots. They're choosing series that were "star-driven", such as Murder, which was built around Angela Lansbury for 12 seasons, or Ironside, which was originally a comeback vehicle for Raymond Burr, a couple of years after Perry Mason ended. Oh, if only we had known about this one.

My bro noted how CBS' reboot of Hawaii Five-0 has succeeded to this point, much like the original did, because of 1) location, and 2) an ensemble cast. It wasn't a star vehicle like the others that have been redone. NBC & Universal, and the other networks and their studio parents, for that matter, should take a long look at Five-0's success, even though CBS made a bonehead move shifting it to Fridays this year, and try to consider rebooting other ensemble series from the Universal library. The only reboot Universal succeeded with was Battlestar Galactica, another ensemble drama that lasted 5 seasons on SyFy. Why not try something in that direction?

For what it's worth, whomever's in charge of green-lighting these reboots for Universal and/or NBC should spend more time in the video library, and not come out until they have something that can be usable and marketable in this era that isn't star-driven. Yeah, I know. Good luck with that.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On DVD: Charlie Chan & the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981)

Earl Derr Biggers' legendary detective returned to the big screen for the final time in 1981's "Charlie Chan & the Curse of the Dragon Queen". The producers, however, brought shame & embarrassment to the legend with this comic farce that should've been a TV-movie, nothing more.

Chan (Peter Ustinov) comes out of retirement to help Chief Baxter (Brian Keith, ex-Family Affair) of the San Francisco Police Department solve a series of bizarre murders. Keith hams it up, as Baxter seems to have a never ending laundry list of ailments. Chan's grandson, Lee, Jr. (Richard Hatch, ex-Battlestar Galactica, All My Children) is an aspiring sleuth, hoping to follow in Grandpa's footsteps. Unfortunately, he seems to be following the lead of another detective, Inspector Cleuseau. I guess the idiots in charge of this folly wanted to see if Hatch could do physical comedy. And you wonder why Hatch didn't make another picture after this one......

Lee Chan, Jr. was adopted by the widow Lubowitz (Lee Grant) years earlier, but we don't know what happened to Lee, Sr. to explain the adoption. Lubowitz's husband was killed by the Dragon Queen (Angie Dickinson, ex-Police Woman) in Hawaii some years prior, but was captured by Charlie Chan. The "Curse" in the title was little more than what the wrestling business would call a swerve, as Dragon Queen is not the true villain of the piece.

Michelle Pfeiffer makes one of her first appearances as Lee's fiancee, Cordelia. How she can put up with a klutzy boyfriend is another mystery. Roddy McDowell was wasted here as a butler who uses a wheelchair to get around when he doesn't need one. He'd have been better served checking into the prospect of reviving Planet of the Apes as a TV franchise.

Here's a commercial for the movie, as seen on TV:

Nearly a decade earlier, Chan had been brought back in a TV-movie, "Happiness Is A Warm Clue". I wish I could find that on DVD. It'd at least be better than this.

Rating: D.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Musical Interlude: You're Sixteen (1973)

Ringo Starr's cover of Johnny Burnette's "You're Sixteen" was originally released in the winter of 1973-4. In April of 1978, Starr headlined an NBC special to promote the album, "Bad Boy", which was about to be released. Just for kicks, he made a video for "You're Sixteen", nearly 4 1/2 years after its inital release.

If the young lady in the video looks familar, she should. It's Carrie Fisher, nearly a year removed from "Star Wars".

Apparently, some parents don't quite understand bullying.........

Four days ago, a Texas high school football game ended with Aledo defeating Western Hills by the score of 91-0. Such blowouts are commonplace for Aledo, which has a 7-0 record this season, and averaging 69 points per game.

Yahoo! is reporting that a parent of one of the Western Hills players decided to file a bullying report the next day because of the score. Texas state regulations require Aledo High administration to conduct an investigation.

Where I have a problem is that there are blowouts in high school games across the country every week. My alma mater, Troy High, for example, blew away one opponent, 55-14, a week and a half ago, and earlier this season dropped 62 on another opponent. The parent in this case is overreacting, in my opinion, especially when the coaches of both Aledo & Western Hills agreed that there was no intention to run up the score to ridiculous levels. Consider Western Hills coach John Naylor for a moment:

"I think the game was handled fine. They're #1 for a reason, and I know Coach (Tim) Buchanan. We're fighting a real uphill battle right now. We ran into a buzzsaw, you know. Aledo just plays hard. And they're good sports, and they don't talk at all. They get after it, and that's the way football is supposed to be played in Texas.", Naylor told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

And here's Aledo coach Tim Buchanan, in an interview with the same paper:

"I'm upset about (the bullying report). I don't like it. I sit there the whole third and fourth quarter and try to think of how I can keep us from scoring. I looked around (after Friday's victory) and asked, 'Is there anyone here that feels good?'".

What that says to me is that Aledo simply tore the Western Hills defense to shreds, and Coach Naylor gave Aledo's players their props out of respect. Western Hills tried, but they couldn't stop the opposition. One parent throws cold water on the whole thing because in that person's mind, Western Hills didn't have a chance. This isn't even worth handing out a Dunce Cap.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lou Scheimer (1928-2013)

The following also appears on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives:


Filmation co-founder Lou Scheimer passed away on Thursday, two days shy of his 85th birthday. Not only was Scheimer involved on the production end of things, but he also had the time to contribute some voice work to many of Filmation's cartoons, often either uncredited or using a stage name. His two children from his first marriage, son Lane and daughter Erika, would follow him to the microphone during the 70's.

Scheimer was also the announcer for most of Filmation's live-action entries in the 70's, including Shazam!, Jason of Star Command (he was the announcer for Tarzan & The Super 7, anyway) & The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam! (1981). His voice work included Bat-Mite (New Adventures of Batman) & Orko (He-Man & The Masters of the Universe). Imagine if Filmation and not Ruby-Spears had acquired Alvin & The Chipmunks in the 80's. Scheimer probably wouldn't need his voice sped up, like Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. did.

Last year, Scheimer was honored at Comic-Con International in San Diego, as he made his final convention appearance. Author Andy Mangels is the moderator. Here is the video:

Rest in peace, Lou. Thanks for the memories.

Suppose they came to a party that didn't happen?

There are lessons in college that aren't taught on campus, but should.

Take for example what happened Saturday night in my home area. A small-time promoter, Boss Cross Entertainment, had supposedly booked a huge party that would occupy Bingo Green at the Uncle Sam Atrium as part of Homecoming Weekend for the University at Albany. A smaller party was taking place down the street at Kokopellis, a hole-in-the-wall nightclub, situated a few doors from my home, and had been promoted via a sandwich chalkboard on the sidewalk in front of the club.

So what happened? In the words of an other-worldly philosopher, one Gordon Shumway, utter chaos.

500 UAlbany students were dropped off at the Atrium around 9:30, only to find the venue was closed. No one knew why the party had been cancelled so suddenly, and at the very last second. DJ TGIF, according to the Albany Times-Union, tweeted that the show had been called off. He'd been one of  two DJ's scheduled to work the show, and, like the students, had no clue as to why the party had been cancelled. So, the students, looking for someplace to go, made their way to Kokopellis. One problem. You had to have a ticket for their party to get in, and not everyone who had a ticket for this event was able to get in amidst all the confusion & chaos.

Fortunately, it didn't end in violence, though Troy Police, taking no chances, called in backup from other agencies, and three hours later, the buses returned to take the students back to Albany.

The Times-Union, having obtained a promotional flier for the Atrium event, contacted one of the people affiliated with Boss Cross. He wouldn't say why the party had been cancelled, but acknowledged that the students had paid in advance. The first 100 tickets were sold for $10 each.

Uh-oh. If that doesn't sound like a scam, then what else could it be?

According to Troy Police, a SUNY-Albany rep said that the show had no connection with the school, which didn't promote or sponsor it. Right now, Boss Cross staff aren't facing criminal charges. Yet. Something about this just doesn't feel right. I get that there've been issues between the city of Albany and one of its longest-running venues, the Washington Avenue Armory, which would've been a more logical location than a bingo hall across the river. Would RPI even sanction a student event outside of Troy? I highly doubt it, so the only thing I can figure is that, yes, those kids were scammed. Until we learn more details, the worst case scenario may just be the only one.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Old Time Radio: The Saint (1944)

As I was growing up, I became acquainted with Leslie Charteris' The Saint through the popular TV series starring Roger Moore, and by reading some of the paperback novels I obtained at the library. Not once was I apprised that The Saint had also been on radio until a few years ago, when I found an entry in a Radio Spirits catalogue.

The details are sketchy, but this much we do know. Horror legend Vincent Price starred as Simon Templar for four years (1947-51) before being replaced by Tom Conway, who'd starred as another radio sleuth, The Falcon, in a few films, while his brother, George Sanders, made a few films as Templar. Shoot, aside from the predictable guest appearances on comedy programs, I never knew Price had done radio, either.

So I took the bait and bought a tape compilation of the show, which billed Templar as "The Robin Hood of modern crime", which might explain why, on the TV show, Templar was being pursued by the law no matter where he went.

Anyway, we present to you a 1949 episode, "Connolly Silver Mine":

This episode runs together, which isn't how it usually works. Aberrations happen.

Rating: B+.

Familiarity breeds a World Series rerun

You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.---The Rolling Stones

What a lot of people may have wanted to see in this year's World Series, which begins Wednesday, was a fresh matchup. Neither Boston nor Detroit had faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Fall Classic, and either team vs. the Dodgers would've made for compelling television. LA's storybook rebirth would've reached its pentultimate chapter, attempting to win its first title since 1988.

Unfortunately, the St. Louis Cardinals had something to say about that. The Redbirds eliminated the Dodgers on Friday, ensuring that we would instead have a rematch of a recent Series. With Boston eliminating Detroit last night, that rematch is 9 years in the making.

In 2004, Boston broke the infamous "Curse of the Bambino", ending years of frustration. St. Louis is making its 3rd Series appearance since, and has won the last two times out (2006, 2011). This time, it's about revenge, redeeming themselves for losing in '04.

The pitching is even. Since Boston has three days to prepare, they can come right back to Jon Lester to start Game 1, and last night's starter, Clay Buchholz, would wheel back in Game 2 on Thursday. St. Louis can start with their ace, Adam Wainwright. What befuddles me is how the Cardinals didn't use 15-game winner Shelby Miller, who was such a phenom in the early part of the year, opting for another rookie, Michael Wacha. All Wacha did, of course, was hold the Dodgers scoreless in 2 appearances. I'd sub out Joe Kelly in favor of Miller, and give Miller some shine time. Game 7 is scheduled for Halloween, which means a bad moon rising, with apologies to Creedence Clearwater Revival, for one of these teams.

Offensively, both teams need consistency. Boston got a spark from speedster Shane Victorino last night with, of all things, a grand slam, to put Boston back in front to stay. Victorino is a table setter, not a power hitter. Aside from Carlos Beltran, who finally reaches the Series after being a bridesmaid 3 previous times (2004 w/Houston, 2011 w/San Francisco, and 2012 w/St. Louis), the Cardinals offense has been working in spurts, same as Boston. As we saw in the ALCS, the last thing the fans need is to be put to sleep again for as many as 7 more games.

In 2004, Boston, shockingly, swept St. Louis. 9 years later, the Cardinals will get their revenge. They can pick up the tempo and get the games completed in under 3 hours, as we saw in the NLCS. Let's go old school. This is the 3rd meeting between these two in the World Series. St. Louis, of course, thwarted the Impossible Dream in 1967. I've picked against St. Louis twice and gotten burned. Not this time. Cardinals in 6.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Musical Interlude: Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do) (1981)

Christopher Cross scored a mammoth hit with "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" in 1981. A year later, Cross was invited to appear and perform on the ABC special, Night of 100 Stars, a moment made even more special when Dudley Moore, who starred in "Arthur", sat in and played piano for a condensed version of the song.

Now, here's the complete song:

The axe falls too quickly for some new shows. Will network executives never learn?

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

Yeah, I know, I used that line to lead a piece over in Saturday Morning Archives the other day, but ever since Tim McCarver first used the line during a Mets broadcast in the 80's, it's become a favorite of mine. Can't be helped, but it seems NBC & Universal didn't get the message. Again.

News has come over the wires that they're pulling the plug on their urban remake of Ironside after just three weeks, and will fill the space with Chicago PD, a new entry from----who else?---Dick Wolf, who had the 10 pm (ET) space for years, first with Law & Order, then last year with Chicago Fire, from whence we get this new show.

When I reviewed Ironside last month, I said I didn't have a problem with an African-American, Blair Underwood (ex-LA Law), filling the wheelchair made famous by Raymond Burr, but instead warned that NBC & Universal were playing with fire. Universal had gotten burned a few years back by casting Ving Rhames ("Mission: Impossible", "Striptease") in a urban remake of Kojak, and that lasted only one season. Being that it was on USA Network, it went the full season, something Ironside won't get, unfortunately. I liked Underwood, who reinvented Robert Ironside as a tortured, but proactive sleuth who wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty. Of course, Kelsey Grammer's daughter, Spencer, was easy on the eyes, too, which helped. The last two episodes are available On Demand, so I'll catch up.

Ironside isn't the only one getting the quick hook from panicky NBC suits. Welcome To The Family, a first year sitcom, also got canned, making room for Community to return. Apparently, NBC offended fans of the latter series by putting it on the bench to start the season. Those same viewers wanted no part of Welcome, forcing the network's hand.

The same can be said over at CBS, which apparently will ice We Are Men, a new sitcom that brought Tony Shalhoub (ex-Monk, Wings) back to his sitcom roots. It also marks another failure for Jerry O'Connell (ex-Sliders, Crossing Jordan), whose last CBS entry, a remake of The Defenders, at least got through the first half before getting the hook. ABC needed only 2 weeks to decide that Lucky 7, which was at the back end of their all-freshman Tuesday lineup, wasn't worth keeping around.

Why is this? With more original series airing on cable, viewers have many more choices and are voting with their remotes, for one thing, and since each of the broadcast networks is tethered to a larger concern (i.e. NBC to Universal, ABC to Disney, etc.), there is less margin for error. Fox is staggering their debuts, largely due to their sports commitments, but they're not immune to making snap cancellation decisions. It was reported that a cartoon ticketed for their Saturday late night lineup, Murder Police, won't make it to air for some reason. That's being shopped, and either Fox saves face and farms the series out to FXX (formerly Fox Soccer) or FX (which already has an animated series, Archer), or passes it off to Cartoon Network, which has bought cable rights to Fox's Sunday toons, except for The Simpsons. Murder Police would fit perfectly on CN's [adult swim] lineup.

The problem I have is that the network suits are just too panicky, with itchy trigger fingers and not giving the new shows a chance to establish themselves. Ironside was a risk, in more ways than one, not just because of the casting, but the fact that Universal, as we previously discussed, has had a terrible track record with reviving old franchises in recent years (i.e. Kojak, Knight Rider). Unfortunately, that track record worked against them yet again. Not only that, but they didn't learn another lesson, one gleaned from ABC's misbegotten idea of relocating Charlie's Angels from LA to Miami a couple of years ago. When something works, you stick with it, and if it isn't broken, you don't fix it. Unfortunately, NBC & Universal are just slow to realize these points. Their loss.

Spook Rock: Angie Baby (1974)

How this Helen Reddy hit hasn't been made into a horror movie, nearly 40 years later, is a mystery unto itself.

"Angie Baby" tells the story of a young girl who seems to have magic powers. How else to explain a would-be rapist disappearing, presumed dead. The late Alan O'Day, who'd score a hit of his own a couple of years later with "Undercover Angel", wrote "Angie Baby", perhaps after watching one of those horror anthologies.

I don't know the date of the live performance shown here, but I do know that Ms. Reddy was in my home town earlier this year, a performance I missed. Oh, well, let's take a step back in time, shall we?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Does Archie Comics dare to break with tradition? Look what they have planned for Betty & Veronica!

One of the eternal questions in comics has been which of his two girlfriends Archie Andrews would eventually choose to marry. Now, the same writer that postulated two possible answers to that question is moving in a completely different direction.

The best known love triangle in comics, with Archie caught between spoiled heiress Veronica Lodge and tomboy Betty Cooper, is at risk if writer-producer Michael Uslan has his way next year with a proposed series that sends Betty & Veronica away from Riverdale, with two new girls moving in to take their places.

Uslan is better known for his association with DC Comics. As a producer, he's been involved with every Batman movie since 1989, and before that, he also worked on the two Swamp Thing movies and subsequent TV series. However, what you might not know is that Uslan began his association with Archie Comics with the alternate reality "Archie Gets Married" arc that spun off into the current, magazine sized Life With Archie, with comics veteran Paul Kupperberg picking up the baton and writing the series, which is over 30 issues old at this writing.

So why would Uslan mess with tradition? Like its competitors, Archie Comics is looking to boost its profile with casual readers, and, like DC & Marvel, is getting the word out through mainstream media. The proposed Farewell to Betty & Veronica, due next year, was first announced at the NY Comic Con last weekend, on the heels of the company's latest hit, Afterlife With Archie, the first issue of which has gone to a second printing, a rarity for an Archie book, after selling out its entire print run last week. Archie and friends have been around almost as long as Batman has, and the status quo has rarely changed. To paraphrase a line from the 1968 Archie Show's theme song, it wouldn't be the Archies without Betty & Veronica, however.

That said, expect this to be another alternate reality that Uslan is exploring, and fans can relax. Even if Betty & Veronica go away for a while, they will return. The last thing Archie Comics needs is for readers to riot over a tradition spanning nearly 70 years.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What Might've Been: Police Squad! (1982)

After the success of their film, "Airplane!", producers Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers turned their attention to television. While their first attempt didn't last very long, it did spawn a movie franchise.

Police Squad! was a mid-season replacement that aired on ABC in the winter of 1982. Leslie Nielsen, who'd starred in "Airplane!", made his return to series television after more than a decade away (his previous series, both on NBC, were Bracken's World and The Protectors, a component of The Bold Ones), but his first as a comic actor lasted less than 2 months. Despite this, Nielsen and the producers parlayed this into a modestly successful movie trilogy, and Nielsen would spend the rest of his career doing comedies, including other spoofs, such as "Spy Hard".

Hank Simms, long time announcer for Quinn Martin's line of crime dramas, was the announcer, and played it straight, despite the obvious silliness that the viewers saw before them. Oh, the irony of it all! Had ABC marketed this show better, maybe it hangs around a little longer to properly set up the first film, "The Naked Gun".

Here's the intro to the opener, "A Significant Gift" (aka "The Broken Promise"):

A few years later, ABC would try again with another cop spoof, Sledge Hammer, which had a benefit that Police Squad! didn't, namely, a comic book tie-in. Unfortunately, that, too, didn't last.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Celebrity Rock: Jailhouse Rock (1998)

These days, former Hootie & the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker is doing just fine as a solo act, crossing over onto the country charts. Here, Rucker cedes the stage to actor Woody Harrelson (ex-Cheers), and the band plays backup behind Harrelson's cover of "Jailhouse Rock" at Farm Aid in 1998.

The 2013 edition of Farm Aid took place last month in Saratoga, but no, I didn't go. No transportation, no interest. No clue as to any surreal moments like this. Come to think of it, though, had someone wanted to do a live-action "Scooby-Doo" movie back in the day, Harrelson would've been perfect as Shaggy!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Might've Been: Kevin Seal: Sporting Fool (1990)

Kevin Seal was part of MTV's 2nd wave of VJ's, arriving in 1987. Unfortunately, his tenure ended not long after his Tuesday night series, Kevin Seal: Sporting Fool, was deep-sixed due to low ratings.

To be fair, without Sporting Fool, there wouldn't have been MTV Sports, which arrived a year or two later, hosted by Dan Cortese, and lasted about 2 years. Seal wanted to be a guinea pig, if you will, taking up various extreme sports, such as paragliding, as you'll see shortly, to show viewers the positives & negatives attached to those sports.

So why did it fail? Wrong night of the week, methinks. MTV had a standout checkerboard lineup at the start of 1990, with Colin Quinn (Remote Control) spinning off into his own series, Manly World, on Mondays, "Hollywood" Julie Brown in Just Say Julie (previously reviewed) on Wednesdays, Ben Stiller's 1st self-titled series on Thursdays, and Pirate TV on Fridays. The Half-Hour Comedy Hour would fill out the hour Monday-Thursday (Pirate TV was a 1 hour show). Smart thinking would've been to move Pirate to a later time after the Top 20 Video Countdown, and have Sporting Fool air on Fridays, setting up the weekend perfectly.

Seal was last heard from trying his hand at something else entirely---voice acting. Kevin worked on another short-lived series, Cartoon Network's Sheep In The Big City, a few years back, and has not done television since. Now, let's take a look back at Kevin's attempt at paragliding in Seattle.

I think he missed his true calling. Rating: B-.

Monday, October 14, 2013

What Might've Been: Ensign O'Toole (1962)

While Four Star was best known for its line of Westerns and crime dramas, the studio's seeming weakness was its sitcoms.

It was Four Star that gave the Smothers Brothers their first TV series, a half-hour sitcom that we'll discuss another time. It, like our next subject, Ensign O'Toole, lasted but one season.

Ensign O'Toole was Four Star's answer to McHale's Navy, which Revue/Universal made for ABC and got four seasons out of. The big difference was that O'Toole looks like it was in a post-war setting, remaining stateside. Dean Jones is better remembered for his work for Disney (i.e. "The Love Bug"), but this was his first starring vehicle, and it would take another 9 years before he'd get another (Chicago Teddy Bears, which he co-produced, lasted one season as well, in 1971 for CBS, and we reviewed that a while ago). The supporting cast, as you'll see also includes Jack Albertson, years before Chico & The Man, and Harvey Lembeck, who later became a filmmaker, and also is better known for his role in the beach movies with Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello, plus having two children follow him into acting (son Michael & daughter Helaine).

The only time I remember seeing this show was when it aired on a Saturday afternoon on WRGB in syndication in the 70's. I think what hurt the show was ratings, more than anything. No rating, as I don't remember enough to properly rate it.

On The Shelf: A trip back in time, and a mistake revisited

It's been a while, but let's take a look at some recent releases.

45 years after Batman ended its ABC run, DC has finally decided to pay homage with the whimsical Batman '66, which bowed in July on store shelves after launching online several months earlier. However, other "digital first" books have fallen by the wayside due largely to poor sales. The fact that DC is charging a dollar more for the "digital first" line than most of their regular books may have something to do with it, and the fact that anyone that has already downloaded the online version doesn't need to spend any additional money.

I digress. Writer Jeff Parker captures the spirit of the series perfectly, and while DC's rights & clearances department couldn't get all the actors' likenesses, they're doing the best they can. For example, in issue 2's backup feature, Chandell more closely resembles Michael Douglas, who played Chandell's portrayer, Liberace, in a HBO special earlier this year, instead of Liberace himself. Also, an editorial directive to include as many characters as possible who debuted after Batman ended, such as Harley Quinn and, coming soon, Killer Croc, may in time be a hindrance instead of a help, since it'll take away from the spirit of the project. It's the only DC book I'm buying now, and may be for a long time. Rating: A.

Dynamite Entertainment has been hit or miss with a lot of their licensed titles, and some of the current crop is no exception.

On the heels of the recently concluded Masks miniseries---in which ye scribe correctly guessed the identity of the main villain on a message board two months before the reveal---Dynamite teams The Shadow & Green Hornet together in another miniseries, Dark Nights, which pits the two heroes not only against each other for a time, but also against Shadow's ancient nemesis, Shiwan Khan. In turn, they're taking creative liberties with historical figures by linking Khan with Hitler and the Axis Powers, since this is set at the dawn of World War II. The idea of two radio legends teaming up required the rights holders to both signing off on the project, though with Dynamite's history of not going all the way with licenses (i.e., their Tarzan book being published as Lord of the Jungle), I wonder if they actually did. It's a decent read, which looks like it could go 8 issues, as Masks did before it. Rating: B+.

Meanwhile, Khan figures into another Shadow miniseries that Dynamite just released, and would've been better off if a different writer, with a better vision, put the story together.

The Shadow Now posits the Dark Avenger in the present day, having preserved himself by hiding out in Asia for a number of years, then returning to America, posing as the grandson of Lamont Cranston. Writer David Liss, in the Shadow's narrative, acknowledges that Margo Lane was the Shadow's girlfriend, and that her granddaughter is part of the current network of agents. However, there's a traitor in the midst, involving another 3rd generation agent, whose grandfather hasn't appeared in the current Shadow monthly. I like the realistic, computer painted artwork, but that's all I like about it. I recall Howard Chaykin taking similar liberties with the Shadow in the 80's (and Dynamite picked up the rights to reprint his story, Blood & Judgment), setting the stage for DC's 2nd Shadow monthly, which Street & Smith, the rights holder, pressured DC into ending while Kyle Baker was drawing the book. Mr. Liss should be sent a copy of the writings of Santayana posthaste.

What the story should be is what it might be if the Shadow & Khan existed today in their primes. Liss misfires, and loses at least one reader. Rating: D-.

Archie Comics is getting back into the horror business with the new Afterlife With Archie, which bowed last week. I don't know about you, but the neighborhood comics shop under-ordered, and sold out before I even had a chance to sample the book. Sabrina figures prominently in the first storyline, and one has to assume she has her short platinum blonde hair back. Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa cut his comics teeth at Marvel a decade ago, and is attached to a movie adaptation of Archie's adventures. Looks like I'll have to invest in a trade paperback for this one.

Coming attractions: Archie welcomes back one of their 60's heroes, one that didn't make the jump to DC in the 90's, with The Fox, due later this month. Could be the start of a revival of their Red Circle Adventure heroes at long last. I'll go along with that. Dynamite, predictably, picked up the license for Doc Savage, and the Man of Bronze will return in December. Good way to end the year.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Musical Interlude: La Bamba (1987)

When the producers of the Ritchie Valens bio, "La Bamba", needed someone to cover the title song, still Valens' signature hit, the LA-based group Los Lobos stepped up to the plate, and, oh, did they deliver.

Star Lou Diamond Phillips joins the band at a carnival midway during the video, then, as you'll see, he straps on a guitar to sit in. These days, Phillips is making B-movies for SyFy, and hasn't had an A-list hit in forever. The video also includes movie footage and a vintage clip of Valens himself, plus cameos by Brian Setzer (as Eddie Cochran), Marshall Crenshaw (as Buddy Holly), & Howard Huntsberry (as Jackie Wilson). Too bad "La Bamba" was the only hit off the soundtrack.

Weasel of the Week: Alan Gottlieb

Oh, I'm sure you've heard about this.

In the news on Friday came a report that some gun lobbyists want to mark the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre as "Guns Save Lives Day".

Are these dweebs really that insensitive, or what?

Alan Gottlieb, author, gun lobbyist, and founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, among other organizations, is the brains behind this lame scheme. Actually, crediting him with brains would be giving him too much credit.

December 14 should be a day of remembrance for the victims of the massacre, not as a rallying point for the gun lobbies and their supporters. The well-heeled in charge of these groups are the ones who have certain politicos in their pockets preventing anti-gun legislation from getting passed. If you believe the tabloid media in New York, Gottlieb's idea is like spitting on the graves of those innocent children and educators whom Lanza senselessly gunned down 11 days before Christmas. Shame on you, Gottlieb. For your lack of sensitivity on this issue, your mule-like stubbornness in unwitting defense of the twits who get their hands on guns without any idea about human life, you get a set of Weasel ears. Do us all a favor, Gottlieb, and do the right thing. Reverse field. If you're going to be in Newtown on December 14, the first place you should do is find the nearest church, and pray for forgiveness.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Classic TV: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1964)

Ian Fleming's super spy, James Bond, had become a fixture in movie theatres in the early 60's, such that the clones & copycats began coming out of the woodwork in short order.

One of those small screen clones was The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which managed to hang around for 3 1/2 seasons on NBC before succumbing to declining ratings and MGM & NBC bowing to the temptation to resort to campy plotlines in an attempt to hold viewer interest.

Robert Vaughn starred as Napoleon Solo, with David McCallum as Russian agent Illya Kuryakin. Leo G. Carroll (ex-Topper) is their boss, Alexander Waverly. Carroll would make history in 1966, as Waverly would also be a player in a companion series, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., which ended up being cancelled after 1 season. This allowed Waverly to be the first character to appear regularly on two shows at the same time. A feat duplicated a decade later when Richard Anderson & Martin E. Brooks reprised their Six Million Dollar Man roles on its sister series, The Bionic Woman.

15 years after the series ended, Solo & Kuryakin would reunite in a TV-movie that aired not on NBC, but rather CBS. Don't ask why, it just happened that way. Four years after that, after Vaughn joined the cast of The A-Team, McCallum guest-starred, as a villain this time, in an episode that was a homage to U.N.C.L.E. in every way possible. Today, Vaughn is retired, while McCallum stars on CBS' N.C.I.S., a long ways from his 1975 Invisible Man series.

Let's go back to 1964, and an early episode, in which our heroes introduce themselves to the audience.

At the time, Jill Ireland was married to McCallum, as they had appeared on a British game show together some time before. Anne Francis, of course, was a year away from Honey West. Rating: B+.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Musical Interlude: Great Gosh A'Mighty (1986)

From the movie, "Down & Out in Beverly Hills" comes the return of a rock legend.

Little Richard began his comeback with "Great Gosh A'Mighty", but his last chart hit came just a couple of years later with the title song from "Twins" in a duet with Earth Wind & Fire's Philip Bailey.

Anyway, since he's also an ordained minister, one can assume Richard reworked the lyrics to turn this song into a gospel rave-up after it was done on the charts. Indeed, "Great Gosh A'Mighty"! Lord have Mercy!

Edit: 6/5/18: Had to change the video. This is a live cut from an appearance on Solid Gold, with the lyrics imprinted on the screen:

Edit, 5/18/2020: Here's the actual video, as it was presented on MTV the night it debuted in February 1986, with voice-over introduction and post-clip commentary by Mark Goodman:

Baseball's final four

Now starts the fun part.

The League Championship Series begins tonight in the National League, with the American League jumping in tomorrow. Totally whiffed on the NLDS, while we hit both ALDS square, so we went 2-2 in the first round. Let's do better.

NLCS: Los Angeles vs. St. Louis: The Cardinals are one of two teams in the final four for the 3rd year in a row. It's been an eternity, it seems, since the Dodgers had gotten this far. Managers Mike Metheny & Don Mattingly should be in the conversation for Manager of the Year, and right now, even though the voting ended when the regular season did nearly 2 weeks ago, you wonder if Mattingly might finally get his just due. As we noted a week ago, it's been 25 years since the Dodgers upset Oakland to win their last World Series. The Dodgers have had a few days to rest since ousting Atlanta, and tonight's pitching matchup favors LA, with Zack Greinke facing St. Louis' Joe Kelly. Overall, the pitching favors LA, the offensive lineups are a wash. We like the Dodgers in six.

ALCS: Detroit vs. Boston: The Tigers are back for a 3rd year. They're looking to make it two World Series in a row, and 3 in the last 8. However, Game 1 starter Anibal Sanchez looked positively mortal vs. Oakland in game 3 of the ALDS. Not a good place to be facing the Red Sox, who won't see the Tigers' two best, Max Scherzer & Justin Verlander, right away. Verlander won the ALDS finale last night, so he'd be ready for game 3 on Tuesday. Boston skipper John Farrell, in this writer's opinion, has locked up AL Manager of the Year. Some jabroni on Yahoo! called for Detroit manager Jim Leyland to be fired if Max Scherzer didn't start game 4 of the ALDS. Well, Scherzer ended up pitching out of the bullpen, and helped the Tigers turn the series around. In this series, everything seems even. Detroit won the regular season series, 4-3. However, this series goes the other way, with Boston winning in 7 boring, turtle paced games that would have to be sponsored by Sominex just by default.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Only in the South: Defend your store, and you get fired. Say What?

The Lowe's department store chain will get a bad rap for this one.

A Lowe's in Kentucky callously fired an 18-year employee after she'd tipped police off to a shoplifter who had stolen a tool kit from her store. She tried to stop the guy, Kyle Heim, but he escaped, only to be caught later by local police after receiving a tip from the employee, Karen Sizemore. Her co-workers dubbed Mrs. Sizemore "Rambo", after the anti-hero popularized by Sylvester Stallone in a series of movies based on the David Morrell books. Right now, they're probably trying to figure out how callous their superiors have to be to hand Mrs. Sizemore a pink slip for doing the right thing.

Lowe's argument stems from a corporate policy which is defined as protecting personnel and customers alike. Like, where was security when Heim decided he wanted something he didn't have the funds to pay for? On lunch break? Give me a break!

Ya have to hope there's a happy ending to this story, since Mrs. Sizemore didn't deserve to lose her job, especially with the Christmas shopping season right around the corner. Can we give the personnel jabroni who gave Mrs. Sizemore a pink slip the address of the Smackdown Hotel? Sheesh!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Do you want some cheese with your Whine?

Ever since the hometown paper began making changes 2 months ago, their op-ed section's Sound Off feature has been filled with people complaining about the changes. They can't find a weekly column by a local news anchor. The print's too light. The paper's too big (!) and they have to spread it out on the kitchen table.

I wasn't too fond of the change in printing locations, but I got over it. I don't usually toot my own horn, but ye scribe decided the best course of action was to address these folks in a letter that appeared in the op-ed section yesterday.

To accentuate the point I was making, I referenced a sketch from Saturday Night Live back in the 80's that describes the disenchanted among the readership very nicely. If you're an SNL fan from way back, you might remember Doug & Wendy Whiner. Today, there's plenty of those kind of people to go around. In case you forgot about them (Joe Piscopo is Doug), here's a sample skit.

Now, complainers, would you like some cheese with your Whine?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Celebrity Rock: Wesley (1965)

Addams Family co-star Ted Cassidy recorded the theme to the Atom Ant cartoon in 1965, but that wasn't the only recording he made. We've previously seen a novelty single based on his Addams character, Lurch, but there was a B-side that presented Cassidy in a different light.

"Wesley" didn't get  much attention, except when Cassidy made the rounds to promote "The Lurch". The single, released on Capitol, was Cassidy's only attempt at branching out away from acting. His promotion brought him to Hollywood-A-Go-Go for this appearance, presumably in October 1965.

Uploaded by ChinaNewsAgency.

A Classic Reborn: The New Addams Family (1998)

A few years had passed since the second of two Addams Family feature films, "Addams Family Values", had been released in theatres. Haim Saban acquired the rights to the franchise, and produced a DTV that made its television debut on Fox Family, "Addams Family Reunion", which didn't complete the trilogy, but instead served as a pilot for a new Addams series. "Reunion" starred Tim Curry ("Rocky Horror Picture Show") as Gomez, but when it came time for the New Addams Family, Curry chose not to return. Another bad move, really, considering that six years earlier, Curry was the original voice of the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series before Warners (which distributed "Reunion") dismissed him in favor of Mark Hamill.

Instead, a relative newcomer, Glenn Taranto, was the new Gomez, and it was easy to see why, as he looked & sounded like the original, John Astin. As a nod to fans, Astin returned, this time as Grandpa Addams, replacing Kevin McCarthy, who essayed the part in "Reunion". Saban and a spinoff company, Shavick Entertainment, produced 65 episodes of New Addams Family between 1998-1999, airing on Fox Family (now ABC Family) here and on YTV in Canada.

Let's take a look at a sample, which happens to be the debut of Astin as Grandpa:

So, essentially, this Family matched the original in terms of length, each going 2 seasons. However, this edition is buried in the vaults somewhere, depending on who has the rights, while Cartoon Network inexplicably has the original airing on Boomerang this month for the 3rd straight year. Try figuring that out.

Rating: B.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A little of this and a little of that

Hannah Montana seems like a lifetime ago now.

Miley Cyrus is just the latest young star to have some bad advice fed to her. How else to explain the controversial "twerking" dance routine with another second generation star, Robin Thicke (son of Alan) at the MTV Video Music Awards on August 25? I get that she wants to be thought of as an adult, and put her Disney past behind her, but she needs to take a closer look at what happened to two other former Disney Darlings in recent years. Of course, that would be Britney Spears & Lindsay Lohan. If Miley continues to listen to whomever it is that's feeding her these bad ideas (definitely not her actor-singer father, Billy Ray), there's always the chance she'll end up following Britney, Lindsay, & Amanda Bynes down that same primrose path to career ruin, although of those three, Britney's already rebounded and gotten out of that dark phase relatively intact.

To avoid taking those bad steps, Ms. Miley needs to respect the opinions of her peers and elders. That doesn't include tabloid magnet Kanye West, who's seemingly out to lunch on a permanent basis based on some of his antics, especially anything not involving the Kardashians. I refer to the open appeal made by 90's star Sinead O'Connor last week. The Irish singer warned Miley about being exploited by her handlers, which clearly is already happening. I get also that Miley's dealing with the recent end of her relationship with actor Liam Hemsworth, but this is not the way to work off the stress. Instead of taking Sinead's sage advice, Miley referenced O'Connor's infamous appearance on Saturday Night Live 21 years ago, in which Sinead ripped a picture of Pope John Paul II and declared, "Fight the real enemy!". There's also the on-again, off-again marital discord between Miley's parents, which might be contributing to her rebellious phase. Billy Ray may want to leave a copy of the Bible on Miley's bed the next time she comes home.

ESPN welcomed back former SportsCenter anchor Keith Olbermann over the summer, giving him a nightly forum to talk about various sports issues. No politics this time. However, Olbermann also landed a gig anchoring TBS' studio show during the baseball playoffs, meaning he's off ESPN until after the NLCS. So who did ESPN hire to sub for Olbermann? None other than legendary talk show host Larry King. Whodathunk!

ESPN also welcomed another prodigal son when original Around The Horn host Max Kellerman was hired to do a talk show for their radio division. Kellerman, who's also done boxing for ESPN & HBO, has been based out of Los Angeles since signing with Fox Sports Net in 2004, and is partnered with former San Diego Chargers lineman Marcellus Wiley. The two are also the new hosts of ESPN's SportsNation, which is now based out of LA to accomodate Kellerman. Say this for Max. He's toned down the abrasive personality that fueled his earlier TV gigs, but count this viewer as someone tired of Tony Reali's schtick on Horn. The next time Reali takes a vacation, could ESPN coax Kellerman into another homecoming? Stay tuned.

Should the Los Angeles Dodgers advance to the National League Championship Series, the least that TBS, which will carry the series, can do is have Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully in the booth for at least a couple of innings when the Dodgers are at home. Scully doesn't travel much anymore, and his voice is still perfect after nearly 65 years in the booth. Fox, which has the World Series, would be advised to follow suit if LA advances to their first Series in 25 years. Hearing Scully and the retiring Tim McCarver in the booth would make great television.

In sharp contrast, time has caught up with that other graybeard in the booth, Ralph Kiner, who still works a few Mets games every year, about 3 innings per game. SportsNet New York (SNY) would be well served to revive Kiner's Korner, this time as a monthly series of interviews during baseball season, perhaps incorporated into their Mets pre-game coverage. Just making a polite suggestion here, is all.

What Might've Been: Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974)

What started with an unpublished novel led to a pair of ABC Movie of the Week entries and a short-lived series that became a cult classic and the inspiration for another cult favorite 20 years later.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker, though, almost didn't make it to series, as creator Jeff Rice had sued Universal over using his central character, reporter Carl Kolchak (Darrin McGavin), without his permission. After 20 of 26 scheduled episodes had aired, the series ended, as McGavin, who doubled as a producer, had cited burnout.

Night Stalker started with a 1972 TV-movie by that name, based on Rice's initial story in the heretofore unpublished Kolchak Papers, which would later be adapted into comic book form, more than 30 years later. The tone of the series was set, Kolchak in pursuit of a modern day vampire (Barry Atwater). A year later, Kolchak returned in "The Night Strangler", produced and directed by Dan Curtis of Dark Shadows fame. The series, initially entitled simply The Night Stalker after the first film, launched in September 1974, but quickly went on hiatus and returned with Kolchak's name added to the title. ABC went so far as to move it from its 10 pm (ET) berth on Fridays to an earlier time on the same night, but it didn't work.

X-Files creator Chris Carter cited Night Stalker as the inspiration for his seminal series, which launched 20 years after Night Stalker, and, of course, lasted far, far longer. However, Kolchak's story wasn't over yet. 30 years after the initial series' ended, ABC brought back Night Stalker, with Stuart Townsend as Kolchak, but its lifespan was even shorter than the original. Then again, it was on a different night (Thursday) and against stiffer competition (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation).

Here's the intro that I'm sure you remember:

Rating: B.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tom Petty was right: Waiting is the hardest part

Last weekend, Ultimate Wrestling East was supposed to return to action after a 3 1/2 month hiatus, the middle part of a three week flurry of wrestling in the home district. In Your Face Wrestling had their scheduled show the week before, and last night, the WWE made its final visit of the year to Albany's Times-Union Center.

So what happened? No one's really certain, but a notice appeared on UWE's Facebook page the night before the show that said the Sept. 28 card was cancelled, and that they were now aiming at returning in January, meaning a scheduled card that was tentatively set for November 16 is also off the board.

There are a number of factors involved. One factor might be regarding the availability of a ring announcer. Brian Cady, a local radio personality who handled the ring announcing duties, was dismissed from his day job in August in the wake of a phone scam that somehow fooled him and embarrassed his station. Another would be the availability of some of the talent. As I had noted back in June when UWE had their last show, the plan was to move the cards to Saturdays for the two autumn shows, the better to avoid conflicts with the NFL (most of the wrestlers, obviously, may be football fans), although Saturday night wasn't exactly a safe bet, either, not with several college games on the bill on cable. Saturday nights usually means some of the talent are working for other independents and might have scheduling issues.

And, then, let's factor in roller derby. The Albany All-Stars, an all-female roller derby league, had their season opener last night, competing with WWE for fan dollars and attendance. Their next event is November 16, which would've put it right in competition with UWE, as well as pro & college hockey.

For some of us who are tired of the recycled soap opera of WWE and/or TNA (right now, they're two sides of the same rusty coin), the extended vacation of UWE only goes to prove that singer Tom Petty was right 32 years ago. The waiting is the hardest part.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What Might've Been: The Ken Berry WOW! Show (1972)

A year after Mayberry, R. F. D. ended, actor-singer-dancer Ken Berry returned to television, this time trying to follow in the footsteps of his friend Carol Burnett by doing a variety show.

I had heard about The Ken Berry WOW! Show, and had seen commercials before it bowed in the summer of 1972. However, I never saw the show, never really had a chance, as it lasted only 5 weeks before ABC pulled the plug. WOW marked Berry's return to ABC, where he had starred on F-Troop (1965-7). Berry was backed by a few future stars, including Steve Martin, Teri Garr, and Cheryl Stopplemoor (aka Cheryl Ladd), the latter of whom had worked with Berry's actress-wife, Jackie Joseph, on the animated Josie & The Pussycats a couple of years earlier. After making the guest-star rounds--including frequent appearances with Burnett---Berry would return to series television 11 years later in Mama's Family, which was spun off from The Carol Burnett Show.

Last item before I step aside for the sample video. Before he arrived in Hollywood, Berry served in the Army. His commanding officer turned out to be pretty famous, too-----Leonard Nimoy. Imagine that. Mr. Spock giving orders to Lt. Parmenter!

Here's WOW!:

No rating.

Spook Rock: Think I'm In Love (1982)

Eddie Money pays homage to classic vampire films---albeit with a twist---in his video for 1982's "Think I'm In Love". The horror movie footage is mixed with performance clips, which will get confusing for people seeing this clip for the first time.

Uploaded by the artist's VEVO channel:

Friday, October 4, 2013

Old Time Radio: Bold Venture (1951)

"Bogie" on the radio? Believe it.

Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall starred in the short-lived radio drama, Bold Venture, which lasted just a year (1951-2). Just the same, there was also a TV version of the series, with Dane Clark in Bogart's role of Slate Shannon. Bogart's movie career was nearing its end, and one has to assume that someone convinced him and Bacall to give radio a try.

I first discovered Venture when it was included on an old time radio CD I picked up from Radio Spirits a ways back. Now that I'm starting to give more attention to those old radio shows of the past, now's a good time to join Slate and his partner, Sailor Duvall (Bacall) aboard Bold Venture. VistaRadioShows uploaded the series opener:

It plays like any number of Bogart films, and with good reason. Reportedly, it was inspired by one or two of the movies Bogart & Bacall did together. The chemistry is there, but it's just unfortunate that it didn't last.

Rating: B.

Dunce Cap Award: Alex Rodriguez

This is just too easy to resist.

The appeal of Major League Baseball's 211-game suspension of Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez began earlier this week, but the embattled Rodriguez is only pouring more gasoline on the fire.

It was reported by Yahoo! earlier today that Rodriguez and his team of legal beagles have decided to file a lawsuit against MLB. Apparently, waiting for the arbitrator's decision isn't enough, as Rodriguez is using every option available to him, whether he really needs to or not. To file litigation against MLB is almost certainly career suicide. Reports of a similar suit against one of the Yanks' trainers would seal the casket on his 10 year run in New York. I don't really need to tell you anything more that you don't already know, except to say that Rodriguez should enjoy another Dunce Cap. Next time, try Judge Judy, and see what you get, A-Roid.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Weasel of the Week: Jean Kasem

This is a little difficult. A bitter pill to swallow.

It isn't so much the fact that radio & cartoon icon Casey Kasem (ex-American Top 40) is ailing and has advanced Parkinson's disease, but rather the idea that his wife of 33 years, Jean, is preventing his three children from his first marriage and other family members from visiting him to lend their support.

It was all over the news on Wednesday. One article I read earlier this afternoon says that Casey, 81, was diagnosed with Parkinson's about 7 years ago, which would explain his eventual decision to hang up his microphone and retire. But what I don't get is why Jean, who had a cup of coffee in primetime in the 80's, landing a starring role in the short-lived Cheers spinoff, The Tortellis, would turn her back on her step-children, as well as Casey's brother, Mouner. The children say it's not about the money. They were written out of Casey's will some time back and don't have a problem with that. They only want to make sure their father is in good enough health.

In a case like this, the right thing to do would be to put past hostilities aside. Apparently, Jean Kasem doesn't see it that way. She isn't talking to the media, so they're only hearing one side of the story. That isn't all, though. It's come out that earlier this year, the Kasems were filing suit against a LA city agency over some issues involving water and sewage service to their home. Given Casey's present condition, one would guess Jean was really the only one filing the suit, which was kept out of the press until now.

Right now, this is one mystery that even Scooby-Doo can't solve. What Jean Kasem is doing shows a great deal of disrespect not only to her step-children, but to her husband as well, and she supposedly is trying to protect him. For that, she gets a set of Weasel ears. As a fan of Casey's from waaaaay back, my prayers are with him, and if you're also a fan, I'm hoping you're praying for him, too.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Spook Rock: The Devil Comes Back to Georgia (1993)

14 years after "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", Charlie Daniels revisited the classic tale, this time with a little help from a few friends.

In "The Devil Comes Back to Georgia", Marty Stuart plays Johnny, Travis Tritt gives voice to the Devil, and Daniels trades licks on the fiddle with Mark O'Connor, leaving lead vocals to fellow legend Johnny Cash. This appeared on O'Connor's CD, "Heroes"

I think they left room for another sequel......

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

On The Air: Marvel's Agents of SHIELD (2013)

Marvel Comics has been waiting a long time to get back into primetime.

Marvel was, in fact, involved with the syndicated series, Mutant X, a decade ago, and got three seasons out of that series. That, however, has become a distant memory, just like the comic book version, lost to the mists of time. The same shouldn't be said for the company's latest primetime effort, the first one to come from their own studio.

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD is meant, like the animated series, Avengers Assemble, airing on DisneyXD, to hold fans' attention until "Avengers: Age of Ultron" hits theatres in 2015, assuming the series lasts that long. So far, so good.

The primary mystery surrounds agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who had been killed by Loki in "Avengers" last year. There are hints about his "resurrection" in the opener, and if you're a comics fan from way back, like I am, you might have at least an idea of what co-executive producer/co-writer/director Joss Whedon has in mind. In the opener, Coulson's not the only one back from the movie. There's also Maria Hill (Cobie Smoulders, How I Met Your Mother), giving Coulson some grief. The case at hand, though, involves an ordinary joe, an unemployed factory worker (J. August Richards, ex-Angel), who was given super powers via the Extremis experiment (comics fans know what kind of crap that can be), and because of the nature of the Extremis' instabilities, he's become a clear & present danger. Not only that, but a hacktivist took his picture when he rescued a woman from a burning building, and is trying to recruit him for something called Rising Tide. However, the hacktivist is instead recruited by Coulson to join SHIELD, which means Rising Tide will be a recurring problem.

Whedon also called on another old friend, Ron Glass (ex-Firefly), to play a SHIELD scientist who knows a little something about the "resurrection" of Coulson, hoping that Coulson doesn't ever find out. Oh, really? The internet is buzzing with rumors that Samuel L. Jackson could reprise as Nick Fury in a cameo, as early as tonight's episode. Of course, Marvel's people ain't talking, but they want us to discuss at the water cooler in the morning.

Unfortunately, this show also counts among its executive producers, besides Whedon, the dreaded duo of Joe Quesada & Jeph Loeb, who have had a lead touch when it comes to Marvel's animated product of late, marketing the toons to the small fry and ignoring the older fans who actually make up a large chunk of the audience. Their short-sighted approach won't be a factor here, since they're not writers (Thank God!).

Genre fans feel Whedon used to own Tuesdays a decade ago with Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and its companion series, Angel. His TV output since then, a pair of Fox entries (Firefly & Dollhouse), were fan favorites of course, but ratings failures. Now, they're hoping that Whedon & SHIELD can take Tuesdays away from NCIS on CBS.

Marvel Entertainment's YouTube channel provides this trailer:

Rating: B+.

2013 baseball playoff preview

Now, the fun really begins.

After Tampa Bay punched its ticket to the playoffs by besting Texas last night, the AL field is now set:

1. Boston.
2. Oakland.
3. Detroit.
4. Cleveland.
5. Tampa Bay.

Cleveland @ Tampa Bay (Wednesday): The Indians have been a nice story this season. Terry Francona left ESPN after one year, and now could be in line to be AL Manager of the Year, taking Cleveland into the postseason. While some might think Cleveland could advance to a Division Series matchup with Boston, I don't see it. The Indians have already peaked. Tampa Bay is hitting its stride. That's the good news. The bad news is that Boston will have had extra rest and will be ready, and it'll be another few days before the Rays cane return home. Pick: Tampa Bay.

Division series:

Tampa Bay @ Boston: The only other manager who'd be a perfect candidate for Manager of the Year is Boston's John Farrell, who took the Red Sox from worst to first in record time. Pitchers Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester benefited from their mentor's return, and in any other year, Buchholz would be in line for the Cy Young, but that's reserved for Max Scherzer in Detroit. 'Nuff said. This will go the full five, and the Sox will advance.

Detroit @ Oakland: A rematch from last year's Division Series, which Detroit won en route to the World Series. There's a certain amount of coincidence with Oakland, though. 40 years ago, they won their 2nd straight AL East title en route to a repeat in the World Series, besting the Mets in 7. As was the case last year, though, this is as far as the A's will go. Detroit in 4.

Let's move to the National League:

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (tonight): These two clashed over the weekend, with Pittsburgh clinching home field for this game on Saturday. The Pirates are in the post-season for the first time since 1992, when they were eliminated by Atlanta in the NLCS. Pittsburgh is clearly hungry enough to go further. Cincinnati wanted to win their 3rd division title under Dusty Baker, but were denied. Seems to me they're on a downward curve, just like the Texas Rangers in the AL. Pittsburgh moves on to the NLDS.

Pittsburgh @ St. Louis: The Cardinals went through the play-in round last year, but this time, they claimed the Central Division title. Of course you know they won it all 2 years ago, and would like to do it again, but the field is much tougher this time. This will go the full five, with Pittsburgh advancing in an upset.

Los Angeles @ Atlanta: The Braves are back atop the NL East after being a bridesmaid behind the Mets (2006), Phillies (2007-11), & Nationals (2012). The post-Chipper Jones era has started with a bang, but now the Braves also are gaining an unsightly reputation, as confrontations in recent weeks vs. Miami & Milwaukee would suggest. Don Mattingly should be in line to be NL Manager of the Year, with Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh) the only real competition. However, for Donnie Baseball, it's one step at a time, and this step is a lulu. This will also go 5, with Atlanta advancing to a rematch with Pittsburgh of the '92 NLCS.

Of course, I could be wrong.