Friday, February 28, 2014

Classic TV: CHiPs (1977)

It was a twist on the familiar crime drama formula of two partners who were also best pals. This time, the focus was on the California Highway Patrol's motorcycle patrol.

CHiPs spent six seasons (1977-83) on NBC, and was bounced around, airing on weekends, and, if memory serves, at least one weeknight. Series creator-executive producer Rick Rosner had served with the Highway Patrol, and got the idea for the series after seeing two motorcyle officers on patrol one night. The series is best remembered for making Erik Estrada ("The Cross & The Switchblade") an icon, but the real beauty of the series was it was an ensemble cast built around Estrada and Larry Wilcox. 

As with Jack Webb's Adam 12 & Emergency!, multiple cases were handled during the hour, but there was also time for a little downtime. I remember one episode toward the end of the run where Ponch (Estrada) actually got on the mic to sing Kool & the Gang's "Celebration". I have to find that clip someday.

Wilcox left the show after 5 seasons, which ultimately was the "Jump the Shark" moment, since Ponch now had to break in a new partner. The ensemble cast changed over the course of six seasons, and Rosner took a chance on former Olympic hero Bruce Jenner for one season. Future stars Michael Dorn (later of Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Clarence Gilyard, Jr. (Duck Factory, Matlock, Walker, Texas Ranger) made their earliest appearances during the run as well.

The season 1 open seems to have been lost, but this was the definitive theme, starting in season 2:

Rosner developed another primetime series, 240-Robert, which wasn't quite as successful, before turning to game shows in the 80's.

Rating: B+.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What Might've Been: Thunder in Paradise (1994)

Near the end of his iconic run with the then-World Wrestling Federation, Hulk Hogan took time off to make another movie. No, not the silly "Mr. Nanny", but rather a pilot for his first TV series.

Thunder in Paradise's pilot was shot in Florida in April 1993, and went straight to video before being included as the two-part series premiere when the show launched in syndication nearly a year later. Most of us know that TNT picked up the series after Hogan signed with World Championship Wrestling, in order to cash in. Hogan would subsequently make a TV-movie or two for the network before leaving WCW in 2000.

In Thunder, Hogan was cast as R. J. "Hurricane" Spencer, who piloted a high tech speedboat, which is the Thunder in the title. At his side was his best pal, Bru (Chris Lemmon, ex-Duet), who'd served in the Navy SEALS with Spencer. Hogan's real-life wrestling compadres, including Jim Neidhart, Ed Leslie (aka Brutus Beefcake), & Jimmy Hart made frequent appearances. Hart had been managing against Hogan in the then-WWF, but the two were in real life best pals. However, they were never part of any of the plots.

The supporting cast included supermodel-turned-actress Carol Alt and 60's icon Patrick Macnee (ex-The Avengers, Super Force). What hurt Thunder was the fact that few stations picked up the show during its syndicated run, and it didn't air in my area until it was picked up by TNT.

You might recognize the open:

That it came from the creators of Baywatch meant it was supposed to attract fans of that series, but, as TNT found out, Hogan's mainstream appeal was waning. This came a few years after an unsold pilot he made aired on ABC (Goldie & The Bears), with little or no support from Vince McMahon & company. Oh, TNT & WCW pushed the show as heavy as they could, but Thunder wasn't exactly Knight Rider on water. Not even close.

Rating: C.

Jim Lange (1932-2014)

Television has lost one of its best matchmakers of all time.

Jim Lange, original host of The Dating Game, passed away Tuesday at 81. Lange started as a radio disc jockey, much like The Newlywed Game's Bob Eubanks, before turning to TV. He was tapped to host Dating Game when it launched in 1965, spending 8 years on ABC, with a few more in syndication later in the decade. After that, he became closely associated with Jack Barry & Dan Enright's Bullseye.

As it is, Jim now joins one of his famous celebrity guests in Heaven. Here's a segment from 1972 with Michael Jackson!

Obviously, Michael never married any of the three young ladies on this show, but don't ya think maybe he should have?

Rest in peace, Jim.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Classic TV: Concentration (1958)

When I was young, the most popular game shows on daytime television seemed to belong to NBC. I grew up with the original incarnations of Jeopardy!, Hollywood Squares, and.......Concentration.

It was a variation on the memory game, only there was a puzzle laid hidden under 30 tiles. The more matches the contestants made, the easier it was to solve the rebus puzzles. Prizes could be won and lost in the same game, thanks to tiles that revealed "Forfeit 1 Gift". The original Concentration, developed by Jack Barry & Dan Enright for NBC, lasted 14 1/2 years (August 1958-March 1973). Early on, the network bought the show outright after Barry & Enright were forced out of business due to the quiz scandals of the late 50's.

Hugh Downs, who was Jack Paar's announcer on The Tonight Show, and would later host The Today Show, was Concentration's first emcee, lasting nearly 11 years before stepping down to concentrate (pardon the pun) on Today. Bob Clayton moved from the announcer's booth to succeed Downs, but, reportedly, there were some issues from advertisers, which led to another Tonight announcer, Ed McMahon, to take over for 6 months in 1969. McMahon's only other game show hosting gig was also for NBC, the long-lost Goodson-Todman entry, Snap Judgment, in 1967. Clayton returned in September '69, and would remain for the final 3 1/2 years.

One of the more popular features was the annual Challenge of Champions, which began in 1963 to mark the series' 15th anniversary. At Christmas, children were given the chance to play, and there were also occasions where surprise guests, dressed as Santa Claus, would appear. As memory serves, there was one instance where two Santas played against each other. Courtesy of Internet Archive, we present a Challenge of Champions episode from 1968.

6 months after the series ended, Concentration would return, 25 years after its initial launch, for a 5 year syndicated run, produced this time by Goodson-Todman. We'll deal with that another time.

Rating: A.

Weasel of the Week: Jack Burkman

The timing is just too convienent and ridiculous at the same time.

According to media sources, Washington-based lobbyist Jack Burkman is pushing for legislation that would ban gay athletes from ever competing in the NFL, this two weeks after Missouri's Michael Sam came out, and just a few days after the NBA's Brooklyn Nets welcomed back Jason Collins, who came out 10 months ago. Collins is on his 2nd tour of duty with the Nets, having played when the team was in New Jersey at the start of his career.

Burkman, according to those same sources, such as the Huffington Post, has a brother who is also gay and works in Seattle. Jim Burkman spoke out against his brother, claiming that Jack is looking for publicity to promote his firm. Well, no one had heard of either brother before today. Besides, this really isn't for Congress to decide. There is still the NFL Draft, which is in May this year, but that's another story for another time. It's not up to Congress to decide who should play where and why. That is up to each of the major professional leagues.

To push for this legislation, however, is also promoting open discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that is wrong. Jack Burkman won't get very far with his lame idea, except to receive a pair of Weasel ears, which should look pretty good on him, don't ya think?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Classic TV: Biography (1961)

Current cable documentary series such as Behind the Music and the E! network's True Hollywood Story wouldn't have come into being without Biography, the one that launched the genre in 1961.

Biography, produced by documentarian David L. Wolper for CBS, lasted 3 seasons (1961-4), narrated by newsman Mike Wallace. I recall seeing this in syndicated repeats as a youth, usually on a Sunday afternoon. However, those reruns eventually went away until the 80's, when the Arts & Entertainment Network, now known simply as A & E, acquired the series. The reruns, revived for a new generation, produced strong enough ratings to warrant A & E commissioning a full-on revival in 1987, and at one point, this incarnation of Biography would air six nights a week. A & E would later launch the Biography Channel as a spin-off from the series.

In between, CBS tried reviving it themselves with a short-flight relaunch in 1979, with actor David Janssen (ex-The Fugitive, Richard Diamond, etc.) as host-narrator, but it didn't take.

Let's go back in time with a sample from the original series, the first three minutes and change of an episode devoted to Pope Pius XII:

Rating: A.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Another look at: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)

After Battlestar Galactica's 1st voyage ended in cancellation, Universal & producer Glen Larsen went back and brought back a sci-fi legend.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century anchored NBC's Thursday night lineup for 2 seasons, and during season 1, ABC, skittish, moved Mork & Mindy to Sundays to avoid a head-to-head clash that might've finished Mork a little bit sooner. Then again, we'll never know how this really would've developed.

Capt. William "Buck" Rogers (Gil Gerard) had spent 500 years in suspended animation before being revived in the latter part of the 25th century. During the first season, there were the familiar elements, including nemesis Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley) and Kane (Henry Silva), and, of course, Wilma Deering, who would eventually fall to Buck's charms. They tried to create tension between Buck & Ardala along the lines of Batman & Catwoman, but it just didn't click. Speaking of Batman, Frank Gorshin guest-starred in a 2-part episode that recalled his dramatic turn on Star Trek several years earlier. It's just too bad that there are no clips of this story available on YouTube.

Season 2 brought changes. Buck & Wilma, along with Buck's robot sidekick, Twiki (Felix Silla, ex-The Addams Family; voice by the inestimable Mel Blanc for most of the series) had moved aboard the Searcher, as they went for a Star Trek style vibe. Dr. Huer (Tim O'Connor, ex-Peyton Place) had left, and some new faces emerged, including Dr. Goodfellow (Wilfred Hyde-White), and Admiral Asimov (Jay Garner), named after the legendary author, Isaac Asimov. Also, the intro, narrated by William Conrad (Cannon) in season 1, was now being read by long-time QM announcer Hank Simms, as you'll hear shortly. Unfortunately, those changes spelled out "jumping the shark", as the series was cancelled after 2 seasons.

Here's the season 2 open:

Having been acquainted with the original serials, I was interested in this show. Teenage boys were tuning in for Wilma (Erin Gray), for obvious reasons. It's just too bad that these kids didn't know how to fill out a Nielsen rating book.

Rating: B.

Musical Interlude: Anything She Does (1986)

After they went mainstream in the early 80's, Genesis became known not just for their music, which began gravitating toward Top 40 and Adult Contemporary, but also their music videos, which offered some comic moments.

One of these cases is in "Anything She Does", off the "Invisible Touch" CD, from 1986. British actor-comedian Benny Hill resurrected his Fred Scuttle persona as an inept security guard. Anyone that followed Hill's variety show when it was imported to the US a few years earlier would know that Scuttle was dumber than a bag of hammers, anyway. The intro with Scuttle was later used as an entrance video for the band on tour.........

Friday, February 21, 2014

Musical Interlude: Neutron Dance (1984)

The movie "Beverly Hills Cop" spawned a few hits off the soundtrack in 1984. The first of these was the Pointer Sisters' "Neutron Dance", which features movie clips in the video, and a guest appearance by one of the film's lesser-known (at the time) stars, Bronson Pinchot, who plays the girls' supervising usher at a movie theatre.

Here, then, is the video everyone remembers. Pinchot eventually gets into the groove by the end, and between this and his role in the movie, he eventually landed his TV gig on Perfect Strangers. Also, watch for a quick cameo by Gary Burghoff (ex-M*A*S*H), who also gets into the beat.

Sports this 'n' that

You knew the Winter Olympics weren't going to go without any kind of controversy, didn't you?

First, it was barely acknowledged that there were some issues with the officiating in the US Men's hockey match vs. host Russia last weekend. However, the Russians won't be able to collect payback until the next Winter Olympics in South Korea in 2018, since they were eliminated earlier this week by Finland. I'd seen a newspaper article or two, but it wasn't discussed on TV that I could see.

Then, Yahoo! reports today that figure skater Ashley Wagner railed against the judging system after finishing 7th in the women's competition. Implying, but not outright accusing, that eventual gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova and Julia Lipnitskaia, who finished 5th after leading Russia to the team gold a week earlier, had their scores inflated. The identities of the judges from each country are kept secret, but Wagner is looking for accountability.

This isn't new. However, after defending champ Yuna Kim of South Korea finished with a silver medal, a petition went online, presumably started in South Korea, demanding that the scores be reviewed, suspecting that the Russians weren't exactly on the up and up. However, as long as the judges remain anonymous, there is no proof. The petition is meaningless, since the IOC won't do anything about it, even with over a million signatures to this point.

Turning closer to home, it's back to the drawing board for Catholic Central High School's men's basketball team, eliminated in the first round of sectional play Tuesday by Niskayuna of the Suburban Council. Christian Brothers Academy is the lone team from the Big 10 left in class AA play, but the road isn't as easy as some might think. CBA finished 3rd in the Big 10 behind CCHS & Troy High, and had 5 league losses, which is rare for a pristine program that has just 1 star player.

Troy is in class A this year after winning the AA title last year, and will play Mohonasen of the Suburban Council on Sunday. They're also the only hometown team left in the men's tournament, after CCHS & LaSalle were knocked out on Tuesday, and I don't think Lansingburgh (Colonial Council), in class B, even made it into the tournament. No one expected CCHS to fall this quickly, but then, they're finding out that there's still some work to be done.

In New York, WFAN afternoon host Mike Francesa is in an on-air war with Yankee announcer Michael Kay, who hosts an afternoon show on ESPN Radio's NYC affiliate, and is being simulcast on the Yankees' cable network as of last month, after the station ended their association with Francesa, who has a reputation of being an obnoxious windbag who thinks he knows everything, although he's routinely outed as being wrong as wrong could be, such that New York Daily News media columnist Bob Raissman mockingly refers to him as the "Sports Pope".  Francesa didn't exactly endear himself to the Yankees' top brass last year when he had embattled slugger Alex Rodriguez as a guest and opted against being a real journalist. That is, he gave Rodriguez what Raissman likes to call a "Twinkie munch", a soft interview so that Rodriguez could get his point across without the other side of the story being addressed. For Francesa, this has been par for the course ever since he became a solo act.

Back to the Olympics. The US women's hockey team finished second best again, losing to Canada in the finals on Thursday in overtime, but then, the men's teams meet today to decide who advances to the finals on Sunday morning, meaning the American men can atone for the ladies' heartbreaking loss. Canada swept the hockey gold in Vancouver in 2010, but I don't see it happening this time.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bob Casale (1942-2014) & Mary Grace Canfield (1924-2014)

Death has certainly been busy these days.

Actress Mary Grace Canfield, best remembered as Ralph Monroe from Green Acres, passed away earlier this week at 89. Canfield had also acted in an unsold pilot that was the first television adaptation of the long running Archie comic strip. Down in Hooterville, Ralph now joins her brother, Alf (Sid Melton) in Heaven.

Devo has lost another of its founding players. Guitarist Bob Casale left us at 61, just a few months after band-mate Alan Myers had passed on. The Ohio-based band is still better known for their provocative 1980 hit, "Whip It":

Rest in peace.

On The Air: The Tonight Show (1954)

With all the hype surrounding The Tonight Show returning to New York this week, with one of New York's own, Jimmy Fallon, taking over as host, some folks might not realize that the series is marking its 60th anniversary on NBC this year.

Tonight started as a local late night show, emceed by entertainer Steve Allen, who took the show national in 1954. Future game show icon Gene Rayburn was the announcer, with Skitch Henderson directing the band. The success was such that Allen was, in effect, spun off into a primetime series, airing on Sundays, in 1956, prompting NBC to hire Ernie Kovacs to be, in essence, Allen's backup. Kovacs would host two nights a week, to compensate for Allen's Sunday show. Bill Wendell, a long time NBC studio announcer who would cap his career by working with David Letterman in the 80's, was Kovacs' announcer.

In January 1957, at the behest of network suits, Allen left Tonight to concentrate on his Sunday show. Kovacs was dismissed altogether, which proved to be a mistake. NBC opted to convert Tonight into a late night clone of its morning show, Today, amending the title to Tonight! America After Dark, anchored by Jack Lescoulie, and, later, Al "Jazzbo" Collins. This didn't last very long, as affiliates dropped the show. Those same affiliates returned when Jack Paar was hired in the fall to take over. Tonight has retained the traditional talk-variety format ever since.

Paar had infamously walked out on the show in February 1960, leaving announcer Hugh Downs to carry the show that night, but returned a month later, upset that the network had censored a joke about a tourist seeking a bathroom. Paar left for good in 1962, and was ultimately replaced by the man who has become the definitive host, Johnny Carson. However, Carson was under contract to ABC at the time that Paar departed, working on Who Do You Trust?, and thus NBC was forced to wait six months before Carson could begin, even though he had filled in for Paar at one point.

Carson lasted 30 years, and created memorable characters such as Floyd R. Turbo, Aunt Blabby, and, of course, the incomparable Carnac, The Magnificent, who was forever immortalized on record, not by Carson, but by impressionist Rich Little, on Little's 1981 album, "The First Family Rides Again". There were, of course, the legendary skits, including Ed Ames' infamous tomahawk demonstration, and the various animals that accompanied Joan Embry of the San Diego Zoo and took a real liking to Carson. Literally.

We all know what's happened since. Jay Leno ended up with two tenures (1992-2009, 2010-4), after an ill-fated primetime show bombed, forcing NBC to send Conan O'Brien packing. It was the darkest period in the series' history, and you'd understand the media trepidation when Leno decided again to depart, passing the torch to Jimmy Fallon, who, you might say, has risen through the ranks.

Fallon's ascension to Tonight also means that Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels has officially taken over NBC's late night slate, as he also took over Late Night, now hosted by another SNL graduate, Seth Meyers, whose tenure starts next week, when Fallon began his run there. It's expected that Fallon, who brought along the Roots as his house band, will continue some of his popular features, such as "Slow Jam The News". I wonder if he'll bring his toddler co-star from those Capital One ads for a guest shot......!

We'll leave you with a classic Carnac skit from May 1974:

I've never seen a full episode, just a few random segments here & there, starting with the latter part of the Carson era, and haven't seen any Fallon episodes yet. Carnac, though, is a personal favorite, leaving me laughing for hours. In all fairness, I cannot rate the show.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What Might've Been: Showoffs (1975)

Television producers have had a hard time adapting a party game like charades into a bonafide game show. Perhaps the most successful of these shows was Stump The Stars, aka Pantomime Quiz, which was a modest success in the 50's. Trying to duplicate the formula, however, has proven problematic, such that there hasn't been another attempt in 35 years (Celebrity Charades, which lasted 1 season).

Mark Goodson & Bill Todman thought they could make it work, and sold Showoffs to ABC in June 1975. The series lasted six months, however, a victim of a poor timeslot---airing at Noon (ET) in most markets---and a lack of promotion. Entertainer Bobby Van was not the first choice to host, though. That honor had gone to Larry Blyden, who had finished a run on What's My Line? and shot the pilot for Showoffs. Unfortunately, Blyden wasn't around when the series started, having passed away in an auto accident while on vacation. Thus, Van was given his first opportunity as an MC, and made the most of it.

I should note that at the time, the concept of a lunch hour newscast in my home area was still an idea, and that allowed some of these failed game shows to air in the Albany area. A great theme song, composed by the folks at Score Productions, which composed music for many of Goodson-Todman's shows in the 70's, was wasted.

Gilmore Box uploaded a sample open:

Van would bounce right back the very next year, resurfacing at NBC with The Fun Factory, which failed to get past a year as well. Three years later, Van was signed by Paramount to host a revival of Make Me Laugh, but that lasted a year and no more.

Rating: B.

Weasel of the Week: Frank Wood

It would not surprise me in the least bit if this next story is fodder for an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

On February 2, a 40 year old woman was raped in the ladies' restroom at Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica, Queens. What was so special about this case, as it was brought to light in today's New York Daily News? The victim is mentally challenged, and has been described by her own mother has having the mental capacity of a toddler.

More than 2 weeks later, her attacker, Frank Wood, was arrested and charged with the crime, among other things. What kind of depraved individual would exploit a disabled person like that? Someone with little or no moral scruples, obviously, but in this case it is far worse. The victim has already dealt with enough issues, and being forced to disrobe in a public restroom---at a racetrack, of all places---and perform oral sex against her will, adds to whatever trauma she'd already suffered before this.

It will only get worse once this case goes to trial, assuming it actually does. I can just picture the press trying to get a statement from the victim or her family, or even a photo of the victim. That's only going to add to the trauma.

The price Frank Wood pays here, in this forum, for humiliating a defenseless, disabled woman, is a set of Weasel ears. They used to say that the mind is a terrible thing to waste, and in some cases, that's certainly true. In Frank Wood's case, he wasted two people's minds. His own, and his victim's.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Old Time Radio: The Mysterious Traveler (1943)

I have to be honest with you, pilgrims.

I wasn't aware of The Mysterious Traveler radio show until just a few years ago. I had heard of a comic book spin-off of the series, after a sort, published by Charlton, but before that, there was a 1-shot from another publisher, released in 1948, and series creators Robert Arthur & David Kogan had launched a pulp-style magazine in the early 50's, just before the radio series ended its 9 year run.

The Mysterious Traveler rode on a train and spun his yarns of mystery & suspense from 1943-52, with Maurice Tarplin in the title role. In print, at least in the Charlton series, there was a physical form created to go along with the radio character, though Charlton's version, reportedly, had no actual ties to the series. One of the most popular episodes in the series was "Behind the Locked Door", about two prospectors lost in the dark. Following is a 1951 rebroadcast, which was included on a Radio Spirits compilation that I have.

Rating: B-.

Classic TV: MacGyver (1985)

He's a quiet, unassuming scientific genius who's also a government agent with a knack for improvisation. In another era, MacGyver might not have been as successful as it was, but in the mid-80's, it was a breath of fresh air in primetime television.

Richard Dean Anderson (ex-General Hospital) was cast in the title role as Angus MacGyver (the first name was not revealed until near the end of the series), an agent for the Phoenix Foundation, which in turn was part of something called the Department of External Services (DXS). In this regard, this would be no different than the Foundation for Law And Government (FLAG) over on NBC's Knight Rider. However, MacGyver didn't need a talking car to help him out. Instead, taking his cue from another NBC hit, The A-Team, MacGyver cobbled together ordinary household items to create tools for escaping difficult situations, but even that wasn't so unique. On the animated Josie & the Pussycats, 15 years earlier, one of the band members was improvising escape tools even then.

Helping MacGyver along was his boss and best friend, Peter Thornton (Dana Elcar, ex-Black Sheep Squadron, Baretta), who gave MacGyver his assignments, and often went along for the ride. Then, you had other players popping up periodically, like Jack Dalton (Bruce McGill, ex-Delta House), a freelance mercentary, who exploited his friendship with MacGyver for a piece of the action, often needing his fat pulled out of the fire. And there was Penny Parker (Teri Hatcher), who pretended in one episode to be MacGyver's girlfriend---and pregnant, at that---in order to gain access to his apartment, but was there mostly to be a damsel in distress. Well, that would give Hatcher some practice, since she went on to Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, which launched a couple of years after MacGyver ended.

MacGyver lasted 7 seasons (1985-92), but returned in 1994 in a pair of TV-movies that acted as an unofficial coda to the series. In 2003, WB had an option on a Young MacGyver prequel series, but passed. Perhaps that was just as well, since their reboot of Tarzan bombed, and they fumbled the adaptation of DC Comics' Birds of Prey (previously reviewed). Young MacGyver would've met the same fate, but its intended star, Jared Padalecki, rebounded by landing one of the leads in the current Supernatural.

Now, here's the 1st season open to MacGyver:

Cloo has the rights to the series, and aired a marathon on Sunday.

Rating: B.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

What Might've Been: The Comedy Shop (1978)

Talk & variety shows have been havens for stand-up comics since the dawn of television. Mounting a show strictly about stand-ups, however, is a different animal altogether.

HBO had its annual Young Comedians specials, showcasing up and coming talent. In syndicated broadcast television, veteran comic Norm Crosby was tapped to host The Comedy Shop, the title of which was a riff on the real-life Comedy Store club in Los Angeles. The guests were a mix of veteran and future stars, the latter of whom were already making the rounds.

Comedy Shop lasted three seasons (1978-81), but where I live, the local station kept moving the show around, throughout the three years, so there was no stable time slot, which proved costly. In recent years, an independent distributor, The Peter Rodgers Organization, acquired the rights, and was able to place the series on Retro a couple of years back as a Saturday afternoon entry, but then Retro was pulled from local cable before I'd get a chance to reflect back on this show.

Ageless malaprop master Crosby found room for as many as 5-6 guests for each show. Let's take a step back in time for this sample episode, with Dick Martin as the opening act. 

A year later, the game show Make Me Laugh was revived, with entertainer Bobby Van as host, but that was dumped after just 1 season. In the late 80's, MTV launched the Half-Hour Comedy Hour, which revived the same concept of Comedy Shop, and lasted about as long. Fox tried out Comic Strip Live, but that was a one year wonder as well.

Rating: B.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Classic TV: You Bet Your Life (1950)

We've talked a few times before about how some shows, when they've been revived, have failed because they were "star vehicles", that is, they were built around a particular performer.

You Bet Your Life, which got its start on radio, is one of those cases. Comedy icon Groucho Marx hosted both the radio & TV versions of the series, aided by announcer-sidekick George Fenneman. Marx would engage the contestants in conversation before the quiz part actually began. Plus, there was the added hook of a "secret word", which, if spoken by one of the contestants, would net them a cash bonus.

In the 70's, the series was revived in syndication under the title, The Best of Groucho, which is how I first ran across the show. WNEW (now WNYW) in New York had the rights during the mid-to-late 70's, but this definitive version seemed to disappear after Bet was revived in the early 80's by game show vet Bob Eubanks (The Newlywed Game), trying his hand as a producer for the first time. Eubanks kept the format the same, but host Buddy Hackett didn't have the charismatic presence of Groucho, and the revival was quickly cancelled.

In 1993, in the final season of his NBC sitcom, Bill Cosby took over Bet, with Marcy Carsey & Tom Werner having picked up the rights. Unfortunately, despite his track record and rep, Cosby couldn't get people to tune in to Bet, either.

Now, let's go back to 1954:

Rating: B+.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Weasel of the Week: Drake

The decision by the editors of Rolling Stone to place a picture of the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman on their latest issue didn't sit well with Canadian rapper Drake, who was the original cover subject.

Yahoo! is reporting that Drake had a snit over the perceived snub, but I don't think he understands the point of it all. Hoffman's passing is filed under "breaking news", and as such, if the editors felt it needed priority, then it was going to be the cover story. Drake ripped into Rolling Stone, then declared on Twitter that he was done giving interviews. Yeah, sure, and when it comes awards time, you'd be singing a different tune, eh?

Yahoo!'s article states that Drake agreed to an interview with Rolling Stone with the understanding he'd be the cover story. "Breaking news" will, in a lot of cases, take precedence, especially if there's enough time at the deadline to change the cover. Perhaps Drake's issue is that the editors didn't notify him of any changes at the last second, and that's what's at the core of his tantrum. That having been said, Drake gets the Weasel ears this week for a lack of sensitivity and failure to check his ego. Other Twitter users ripped into him, and with justification. Maybe he should talk to fellow Canucklehead Justin Bieber about the perceptions the press give artists like them. Preferably when Bieber is not surrounded by a bunch of morons.......

Ralph Waite (1928-2014)

They're mourning on Waltons Mountain again.

Just a few weeks after Joe Conley, who played Ike Godsey on The Waltons, had passed away, a core cast member has left us.

Ralph Waite, who played John Walton, passed away on Thursday at 85. Waite was still working as recently as a year or two ago, when he guest-starred on NCIS. His credits, in addition to The Waltons, included Roots, the films "Five Easy Pieces" & "Cool Hand Luke", and the short-lived 1985 drama, The Mississippi, which was his last starring vehicle.

As we documented in reviewing The Waltons, Waite was not the original choice for John Walton, as Andrew Duggan (Lancer) essayed the part in the pilot movie, "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story". Despite his other work, Waite will still be remembered for The Waltons, which, it can be said, was his break-through role.

It would be too easy to use a Waltons clip, so we'll go with the open & close from The Mississippi, albeit a German version, which is the only clip available.

Rest in peace, Ralph. At least John Walton now joins his parents in Heaven.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Musical Interlude: How Long (1974)

Paul Carrack's only hit with Ace came in 1974 with "How Long". This clip was culled from The Midnight Special and can also be found on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives for that reason.

Sid Caesar (1922-2014)

He was one of the greatest, most respected entertainers of our time. His ground-breaking series, Your Show of Shows, wrote the template for sketch comedy series for years to come, including Saturday Night Live and those that have followed. Today, Hollywood mourns Sid Caesar, who passed away Wednesday at 91.

Of course, Your Show of Shows and its follow-up, Caesar's Hour, were before my time. I think I'd seen him on some daytime talk shows, like Mike Douglas or Dinah Shore, not sure which was first, but then today's generation may know him as the gym teacher/football coach at Rydell High in the 1978 film adaptation of "Grease", part of the ensemble supporting John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John.

I did get to see an episode of Caesar's Hour that was included on a Johnny Carson DVD set, but the following clip wasn't included. Here, Sid, along with Howard Morris & Carl Reiner, ham it up as a parody of 50's pop bands, the Haircuts. Looks like they got their wigs modeled after Moe Howard's bowl cut 'do.

I believe Reiner's the only one left from that halcyon era. Rest in peace, Sid.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Video Valentine: Valentine (1997)

Pianist Jim Brickman teams with country singer Martina McBride for the tender ballad, "Valentine". Appropriate music this week, no?

On DVD: The Buster Keaton Collection (1939-41)

Buster Keaton has been hailed as one of the greatest comedians and filmmakers of all time. Unfortunately, when he signed with Columbia Pictures to do a series of short subject comedies, it appeared as though he was being pigeonholed into a studio style of slapstick comedy, a la Columbia stalwarts The Three Stooges, and it didn't always work.

"General Nuisance" leads off Sony's "Buster Keaton Collection" DVD set, which collects all 10 of Keaton's shorts for the studio, produced between 1939-41, but not in chronological order. "Nuisance" was made in '41. Columbia gave Keaton the same theme song they used for other non-Stooges shorts, treating him as just another guy. Bad move.

In "Nuisance", Keaton is a lovesick millionaire who enlists in the Army to get close to a nurse (Dorothy Appleby) who's caught his eye, but she doesn't return the affection, though her friend (Elsie Ames) does. Ames & Appleby were regular co-stars in the Keaton series at Columbia. Keaton, as usual, performed his own stunts, making the pratfalls much more believable. Unfortunately, the script doesn't do him any favors.

"Nuisance" is the only one of Keaton's Columbia works available on YouTube, and even then, it's in excerpt form.......

Columbia tried to force Keaton to fit their mold, and the end results show that was doomed to fail.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Classic (?) TV: The Fall Guy (1981)

Producer Glen A. Larsen moved his tack from Universal to 20th Century Fox in the early 80's, but his output at Fox was, well, middling.

Larsen's 1st offering for Fox was The Fall Guy, an action series that told the story of a stuntman, who, along with his cousin and a female stunt performer, moonlighted as bounty hunters in order to make ends meet.

Fall Guy was a comeback vehicle for Lee Majors (ex-The Six Million Dollar Man), who had the title role as stuntman-bounty hunter Colt Seavers. The series lasted 5 seasons (1981-6), but good luck finding it on DVD or cable. For some reason, it ain't out there, though the first season was released on DVD to poor sales.

Larsen went back to Universal for one last series, Knight Rider, then his next project for Fox was the infamous Manimal, both series for NBC. Fall Guy, however, was the first series to give Larsen's production company its own logo. Go figure, after all the work he'd done at Universal..........!

Majors also sang the show's theme song, "The Unknown Stuntman", which sounded like it was worthy of a run on the country music charts at the time, which is being kind, since Majors' singing debut, on Six Million a few years earlier, was Golden Throat level. Anyway.........

Now comes word that the series is the latest to be resurrected as a feature film. Dreamworks has picked up an option, and has cast wrestler-actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the title role. Given that Johnson is a proven box office draw, that would 1) put the series back on cable and 2) bolster demand for a complete series DVD release. Not that I'd be interested, since I wasn't too crazy about this show, though my late father was.

Rating: B-.

Shirley Temple (1928-2014)

News came across the wires this morning of the passing of singer-actress---and later UN Ambassador---Shirley Temple at 85.

Shirley made her debut at the tender age of 3, something that isn't done all that often anymore, but she came along during the Great Depression of the late 20's and early 30's, while Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President. She charmed audiences with her singing, dancing, and acting in films such as "Curly Top" & "Captain January". You've probably seen the commercials in recent years hawking a DVD collection of her films, and I'd not be surprised if there's a marathon of her movies in the next few days.

In recent years, as mentioned earlier, Shirley became a United Nations Ambassador until retiring a few years back. However, the lasting memory will be that of the angelic prodigy of the 30's, as depicted here in "Curly Top". I'm sure some of you know the song, "Animal Crackers in My Soup":

Rest in peace, Shirley.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Classic TV: Police Woman (1974)

Police Woman wasn't really breaking any new ground when it premiered on NBC in 1974. More than 2 decades earlier, there was Decoy, with Beverly Garland, but that had long been lost to the mists of time when NBC green-lighted this entry from executive producer David Gerber and Columbia Pictures Television (now Sony Pictures Television).

The series was a showcase for Angie Dickinson, who played the title role as Sgt. "Pepper" Anderson, an undercover detective. Essentially, this was the template that would get tweaked by Aaron Spelling when he introduced Charlie's Angels 2 years later, except that the three Angels were now working for an independent private eye to do their undercover assignments. Police Woman lasted 4 seasons, and enjoyed an all too brief run in syndication in the early 80's. During the mid-80's, Dickinson would make a comeback with the short-lived Cassie & Co., which was one of the first primetime shows packaged by late night icon Johnny Carson's production company, but it lasted just 1 season.

David Gerber came over to Columbia from 20th Century Fox, where he'd produced sitcoms like Nanny & The Professor a few years earlier. Gerber was also responsible for Police Story, among his other accomplishments at CPT.

Jpwrites uploaded the open that everyone knows:

These days, Police Woman isn't airing anywhere, and that's a shame, as the series marks its 40th anniversary this year.

Rating: B.

Video Valentine: Every Little Kiss (1986)

Bruce Hornsby & the Range scored a number of hits off their 1986 major label debut, "The Way It Is". "Every Little Kiss" sounds like a good bet for tons of requests this week, with Valentine's Day kicking off the weekend...........

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What Might've Been: Wildside (1985)

While I never saw Wildside, I was intrigued by the concept, which was, essentially, an Old West knock-off of NBC's A-Team. Unfortunately for Wildside, it was slotted by ABC opposite another hit NBC show---The Cosby Show. Enough said.

The plot was interesting all by itself. A reformed outlaw, now the governor of California, often had to call on his former comrades, now honest businessmen themselves, to fight crime in the small town they now called home. The cast included Howard Rollins (later of In The Heat of The Night), William Smith (ex-Laredo), pro wrestler Terry Funk, who'd cut his acting teeth in "Paradise Alley" with Sylvester Stallone, and future box office doll Meg Ryan (ex-As The World Turns). Jason Hervey, a couple of years before The Wonder Years, was also on the show, but you might not have noticed, since the series lasted just 5 weeks in the spring of 1985.

Long time ABC house announcer Ernie Anderson sets the stage......

J. Eddie Peck (Sutton) was hardly heard from after the series ended, but if the name's familiar, it's because his father, Ed Peck, was a frequent guest on Happy Days as a suburban sheriff often at odds with Fonzie. Post-series, Terry Funk went on to the then-World Wrestling Federation for his first tour of duty, then made a couple of movies--"Over the Top" with Stallone, and "Road House", with Patrick Swayze & Ben Gazzara. He's still fighting after all these years.

No rating.

It was 50 years ago today.........

While everyone and his brother is recalling where they were when the Beatles made their first of three consecutive appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, the first of these having been on this day in 1964, it's caught my attention that the band's first actual American TV appearance was just a couple of months earlier on, of all places, The Huntley-Brinkley Report, over on NBC. Like, couldn't they have had Perry Como, whose production company was in charge of the Kraft Music Hall, negotiate to get the Fab 4 on that show?

Digressing aside, it is the stuff of legend. Time Warner is marking the occasion with a Life special edition, among other things. I don't know who owns the cable rights to the 1965 Beatles cartoons, but you'd think they'd dig those toons out of the vaults to join the party!

Anyway, here's a short sample of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" from that night....

And Sullivan thought it was crazy when he had Elvis on the show a few years earlier......

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sports this 'n' that

Alex Rodriguez finally manned up and took his medicine on Friday, giving up his ludicrous twin lawsuits against Major League Baseball and the Players' Association and opting to serve out his year-long suspension. Now, all that's left for Rodriguez is to issue a major mea culpa and finally, once and for all, admit that he actually did continue to use performance enhancing drugs (PED's) while with the Yankees. The defense's primary argument all along has been that Rodriguez never failed a drug test, but after wasting a ton of money and time on ambulance chasers and needless litigation, Rodriguez needs only to see how Mark McGwire was able to redeem himself in the eyes of the Lords of Baseball after admitting his own usage. An act of contrition on the part of Rodriguez would not only appease the media, but baseball's hierarchy as well.

Of course, in New York, the tabloid media will deign to believe that whomever is the starting third baseman for the Yankees this year, be it Kelly Johnson or Eduardo Nunez or someone else, will merely be keeping the seat warm for Rodriguez should he in fact return to the Yankees next year. By then, he'll be 40, his prime long since past. One must wonder if Rodriguez's current steady, ex-pro wrestler Torrie Wilson, might've gotten him into a very long, painful hammerlock to get him to finally tap out to the suspension.............

NFL Network & CBS have reached a deal that will have CBS giving up 8 weeks of Thursday night programming in the fall and subbing it out for the NFL Network's Thursday Night Football package. Of course, the pundits are wondering where CBS' hit sitcoms, such as The Big Bang Theory and The Crazy Ones, will land over those two months. Early indications were that those series would have their season premieres held to the November sweeps to maximize viewer interest. Fox uses similar strategy due to their commitment to the baseball playoffs and World Series. Temporary relocation of the Thursday block to Saturdays would solve everyone's problems, methinks.

If this works, I would think ESPN might be willing to share Monday Night Football with step-sister network ABC, from whence they acquired the franchise a number of years back. Given that MNF will be entering its 45th anniversary season in September, it would be appropriate to let part of the celebration be on its original network, wouldn't you think?

With the Winter Olympics having gotten underway in Sochi, those of us who crave watching live coverage will need more than one DVR, trust me. All the live stuff will be on early in the morning, while NBC, which defined "plausibly live" several years ago, will risk ratings with same-day taped coverage in prime time. They simply don't want to give Today a vacation at the risk of those same ratings points. Their loss.

Step-sister network USA will have live coverage in the morning, clearing the decks for their usual prime time fare (WWE, reruns of Modern Family, etc.). One wonders, however, how they'll handle the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, taking place this week in New York, or did ESPN take that away this year?

All I know is that the emphasis on team competition in figure skating, which is supposed to be the Winter Olympic equivalent of gymnastics in the Summer Games, won't really help the sport at all. Just sayin'.

Friday, February 7, 2014

What Might've Been: I'm The Law (1953)

Here's another short-lived crime drama. This one deserved a better fate, especially considering the surprising creative pedigree.

I'm The Law bowed in the winter of 1953, and was cancelled in July of that year after 1 season. George Raft top-lined as police Lt. George Kirby, and you'd think that this would be a perfect showcase for Raft, who had forged a reputation of playing tough characters in the movies. Nuh-uh. There was already a plethora of crime dramas on the air, and Law was lost in the shuffle.

The "surprising creative pedigree" I was referring to? The show counted comedian Lou Costello and his brother Pat as co-executive producers, and Jean Yarbrough, who'd directed several episodes of The Abbott & Costello Show, also helmed the following episode, "The Cowboy & The Blind Man Story".......

Rating: A.

What Might've Been: Three Stooges Scrapbook (1960)

The Three Stooges----in a sitcom? Soitenly!

Well, it almost happened. Norm Maurer, son-in-law of Moe Howard, had tried to sell the following pilot, which was produced in 1960. However, no one bit on Three Stooges Scrapbook, and the animated segments would later be used for the cartoon shorts that did make it to air.

This was actually the 2nd pilot for the Stooges. 11 years earlier, Moe, Larry Fine, & Shemp Howard made a pilot that also went unsold.

Rating: A.

Ralph Kiner (1922-2014)

He played only 10 seasons in major league baseball, most of it with the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, there are at least a few generations that will associate Ralph Kiner instead with the New York Mets, as he was the last of their original announcers. Kiner passed away Thursday at his home in Rancho Mirage, California, at 91 due to natural causes.

Kiner, along with Bob Murphy & Lindsey Nelson, called the Mets games on television and radio during the team's early years in the 60's & 70's, a practice that I'm not sure still exists today. The last team to employ announcers that worked both radio & television, that I can think of, was the Atlanta Braves. What made Kiner a New York legend, more than anything, was his post-game show, Kiner's Korner, where he'd interview players and/or managers of the winning team for that night's game. Given how the Mets were the dregs of the National League more often than not, that allowed Kiner to interview just about everyone. Guests were paid a small sum to appear on the show, a practice that I think went away when Korner was cancelled several years back.

In recent years, Kiner scaled back his schedule, making only a small handful of appearances, working with the current Mets TV team of Gary Cohen and ex-players Keith Hernandez & Ron Darling. In fact, the TV booth at Citi Field is named for Kiner as a testimony to his longevity and years of service to the game.

In memory of Kiner, we present a 1983 episode of Kiner's Korner. Part of the opening was edited off.

Now, Ralph Kiner joins Murphy & Nelson to present classic games in Heaven. Now, there's a happy recap. Rest in peace, Ralph.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Might've Been: Dangerous Assignment (1952)

Film star Brian Donlevy landed his only series gig with Ziv's 1952 entry, Dangerous Assignment, which made the transition from radio to television, but lasted just 1 season.

Donlevy played government agent Steve Mitchell, who traveled the globe chasing down the bad guys. In some respects, the lesser known Secret File USA, which came out a couple of years later, trod the same ground, and also lasted one season.

Here's the intro:

Given today's more volatile climate overseas, I doubt this would be considered for a revival.

Rating: C-.

Video Valentine: A Better Love (1991)

Londonbeat was one of those groups that only had what amounted to a cup of coffee on the charts. Two hit singles, and then----POOF!---gone.

One of those songs was the dance ballad, "A Better Love", uploaded by the band's VEVO channel:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What Might've Been: Where The Action Is (1965)

After Dick Clark moved American Bandstand to a Saturday afternoon berth in 1963, ABC was looking for another music series to fill the after-school void. In 1965, Clark obliged them with Where The Action Is.

The series began as a summer replacement, airing at 2 pm (ET) before shifting to an after-school airtime at 4:30 in the fall. However, the series didn't last very long, cancelled in March 1967 after less than 2 years on the air. Clark, of course, was hardly done. Bandstand soldiered on into the late 80's, and a year after Action ended, Clark created It's Happening, and its Saturday afternoon sister series, Happening '68, but both shows met the same fate.

Clark serves as an off-camera narrator/announcer rather than host. Paul Revere & the Raiders, who'd later host Happening '68, were the house band for the first year, which would explain why they were enough of a lure to merit a cameo appearance on Batman early in that series' run.

Now, I never got to see the show, since I was but a wee lad, but if you were a fan of Bandstand, this does trod the same ground. I will not offer a rating, just to be fair.

Video Valentine: Winter World of Love (1969)

The snowstorm blanketing the Northeast today makes this next entry sort of appropriate, with Valentine's Day more than a week away.

The following clip of Engelbert Humperdinck's 1969 hit, "Winter World of Love", appears to be taken from his self-titled ABC variety show, which lasted just six months on the air. Have to remember to review the show itself another time. In style alone, Humperdinck was the diametric opposite of Tom Jones, whose high energy performances made him a sex symbol. Humperdinck, on the other hand, while having no regard for the label of a crooner attached to him, is more low-key, and he, too, has his legion of female fans. Problem is, Jones continues to reinvent himself, staying relevant on the pop culture radar, while Engelbert Humperdinck only is acknowledged when his hits from the 60's & 70's are played.

Here's "Winter World of Love":

On DVD: Punisher War Zone (2008)

Four years after Marvel Comics' The Punisher had been rebooted for the big screen, Frank Castle is back in action, but for the third time in as many films, a different actor essays the part in "Punisher War Zone".

Wikipedia claims that "War Zone" is another reboot, more so than a sequel, largely because the lead was recast. Irish actor Ray Stevenson takes over for Thomas Jane as Castle in what ended up being the weakest of 2008's field of comics movies. It certainly was the weakest of Marvel's lot.

Considering that DC was represented by "The Dark Knight" that same year, it's easy to assume that the producers subconsciously had that in mind when they chose Castle's nemesis, Jigsaw, to be the villain of this piece. Dominic West plays his part well, but the origin given to Jigsaw, in which he had his face destroyed in a glass cutting machine, is a gross parallel to the better known story of the Joker, Batman's chief antagonist. It is clear that Marvel and/or Lionsgate wanted "War Zone" to be their "Dark Knight", but somewhere along the way, the idea fell off the rails.

Sitcom star Wayne Knight (currently on TV Land's The Exes, but better known for Seinfeld & 3rd Rock From The Sun) plays it straight as Castle's armorer and confidant, Microchip, who was being posited here, as in the comics, as Alfred to Castle's plain-clothed Batman. For those of you who might think this was a bad case of miscasting, I'd disagree. Knight acquitted himself well, and you'd have to go back to the first "Jurassic Park" film for another instance of Knight in a dramatic role.

Overall, however, "War Zone" lacked distinction and originality. Luckily, Marvel's movie division has the rights to Punisher and are planning another reboot. Perhaps they'll get it right this time.

Here's the trailer:

And you wonder why this movie doesn't air that often on TV.

Rating: D.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Musical Interlude: Bad Boys (1987)

The reggae group Inner Circle enjoyed a resurgence in the 80's, capped by their iconic hit, "Bad Boys", which was first released in 1987, then re-recorded and reissued 2 years later, when it became the theme to Cops, which is now on Spike TV.

It was popular enough that Will Smith & Martin Lawrence recited the familiar chorus to "Bad Boys" in their film of the same name a few years later.

Before the Stooges: Shemp Howard in Mr. Noisy (1946)

Before rejoining his brother Moe, and in the process stepping in for his other brother, Curly, in The Three Stooges shorts for Columbia, Shemp Howard was starring in his own series, this after he'd worked with El Brendel, Andy Clyde, and as part of the Glove Slingers series.

1946's "Mr. Noisy" is regarded as one of Shemp's best solo efforts. Here, he plays a heckler who gets under the skin of a major league ballplayer. A pair of gamblers decide to take the heckler to the World Series, but then everything starts to fall apart.......

One thing that Shemp had in common with his successors, Joe Besser & Joe DeRita, is that all three worked with Christine McIntyre, who became a regular in the Stooges series around the same time Shemp joined the series.

Sad to say, this is the only Shemp solo short available on YouTube in its entirety. We'll see about the Glove Slingers another time.

Rating: A-.

Monday, February 3, 2014

What Might've Been: Mr. & Mrs. North (1952)

Mr. & Mrs. North made the transition from radio to television in 1952, but lasted just 1 season. In some respects, the series was a precursor to Robert Wagner's late 70's-early 80's series with a similar theme, Hart To Hart, or, given that Jerry North (Richard Denning, ex-My Favorite Husband) was a publisher, perhaps also Angela Lansbury's Murder, She Wrote. Think of it, then, as Murder, He Wrote.

Denning & Barbara Britton had taken over the roles of Jerry & Pam North on radio, making the transition that much smoother. Sad to say, viewers didn't seem to agree, hence the quick cancellation. NBC picked up rerun rights in 1954, again for 1 season.

Pizza Flix brings the episode, "Target", complete with commercials. Here, Jerry is targeted by an assassin who doesn't realize it's a case of mistaken identity.

Rating: B+.

On DVD: Lady In Cement (1968)

Tony Rome is back and up to his neck in trouble in the 1968 thriller, "Lady In Cement".

Rome (Frank Sinatra) is hired by a fella named Walter Gronsky (Dan Blocker, Bonanza) to find a missing girl. Problem is, Rome's already found the poor girl, as she's the "Lady" in the title, having been stripped and given a cement boot for a watery grave. Oddly, when Rome tries to examine the victim, there's a couple of sharks happening along rather randomly. Mind you, this was 7 years before "Jaws". The victim is fished out of the water, and it only gets dicier from there.

Gronsky to me was just Hoss Cartwright in a modern day setting. During the course of his career, I can't recall too many instances where Blocker was cast in something other than a Western. In a nod to his regular gig, director Gordon Douglas has Gronsky watching an episode of----what else?----Bonanza later in the movie. It's not the only inside reference to be had. In another scene, a few minutes earlier, while Rome is on the run from his police pal (Richard Conte) after having been framed for murder, he runs through a hotel suite where Daniel Boone is playing on TV. The problem with this "cameo" was that we saw the opening sequence, but the closing theme played. Why Daniel Boone? Because that show's executive producer, Aaron Rosenberg, was a producer on "Lady In Cement" and another Sinatra crime drama, "The Detective", which came out the same year.

And, then, there's the alluring presence of Raquel Welch. Enough said there. Scope out the trailer, and you'll see what I mean.

It's funny how this works. While Sinatra was doing these films, Dean Martin was playing Matt Helm in another series that fell closer to James Coburn's "Flint" movies, and a few years later, Peter Lawford & Sammy Davis, Jr. tried their luck as gumshoes in a couple of flicks. Someone must've figured Joey Bishop wasn't detective material.......!

Rating: B+.