Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Moron TV: The Mullets (2003)

It was one of UPN's dumbest shows by far, but they thought SOOOOOO highly of it, they forced WWE to give up a half-hour of Smackdown one night so they could air a sneak preview of this supposed sure-fire hit. Oh, it was sure-fire all right----straight to the basement.

The Mullets was a silly little comedy about two adult brothers who behaved as if they never left their teenage years behind. Apparently, "out-freakin'-standing" was supposed to be a key catchphrase. The only episode I bothered to watch was one with wrestling legend Roddy Piper, who knows a few things about acting, as a guest-star, and an end-of-show parental advisory from co-star Loni Anderson (ex-WKRP in Cincinnati), who still looked hot, 25 years after WKRP made its debut. John O'Hurley, in between game shows at the time, was the other "name" co-star.

Here's the open:

The mullet hairdo has gone out of style, and was probably on its way out before this show hit the air.

Rating: D.

Musical Interlude: I Fought The Law (1966)

The Bobby Fuller Four only had on big hit, and, oh, how it resonates even now.

"I Fought The Law" is rather simplistic in its storytelling, about a man who committed crimes, got caught, and now regrets what he did.

I have no clue what show this comes from. If anyone can tell me, I'd appreciate it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Classic TV: The World at War (1973)

England's Thames Television was at the center of a programming experiment with WOR of New York around 1976, the end result of which introduced the likes of Benny Hill and dramas as diverse as The Oneidin Line & The Sweeney to audiences in New York. Upstate viewers got in on the fun via cable, you see.

The 1973 documentary miniseries, The World at War wasn't really part of the Thames on 9  package, although some think it was. In truth, the series made its American debut on PBS in 1975, and aired on WOR in 1976, independent of the promotion.

Sir Laurence Olivier narrated The World at War, which aired on Sundays on WOR. My father, having served in World War II, made sure my brother & I would be watching, as this was, after all, educational in content. However, the series was edited for American broadcast to accomodate extra commercials, in addition to concerns over graphic content.

Thames has its own YouTube channel, from where we get the opening moments of one particular chapter, including the haunting opening credit montage.

Locally, it has aired on PBS at least once or twice since its WOR run, and is available on DVD.

Rating: A.

What Might've Been: The Bobby Goldsboro Show (1973)

In the 70's, almost every major pop star landed their own variety show. Some were successful (i.e Sonny & Cher, Bobby Vinton, Donny & Marie Osmond), while others have been unfairly forgotten.

Bobby Goldsboro was a regular on the Top 40, country, and adult contemporary charts in the 60's & 70's, and in 1973, he landed a self-titled, syndicated half hour show, which lasted 2 seasons. After having made guest appearances on the usual stops (i.e The Tonight Show), now Bobby was hoping to return the favor. The series served as an outlet for his classic hits, such as "Honey", "Watching Scotty Grow", and 1963's "See The Funny Little Clown", shown in the following video. The "10th anniversary" statue Bobby's sitting on represents the 10th anniversary of "Clown"'s original recording, and maybe Goldsboro's recording career.

Bobby Goldsboro's still active, but not as much in music as you'd think. He's also taken up oil painting, and created a children's series in 1995, for which he voiced all the characters. I'll have to locate that one down the road........

Rating: B.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Weasels of the Week: Matthew Lombardo & Donald Sterling

You've heard of the term, "full-court press" in basketball, right? It's nothing compared to what Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is facing now.

The 80-year-old Sterling has been accused of making some racist remarks to a now-former mistress in a recorded conversation that somehow ended up in the possession of the likes of scandal-mongering sites like Deadspin and TMZ. Supposedly, he's incensed because said mistress, V (for Vivian) Stiviano had a picture posted on Instagram with 80's icon Earvin "Magic" Johnson, now one of the owners of baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers.

Then, the media reports came pouring out about how Sterling's been like this for years, and that former commissioner David Stern tended to look the other way, and let Sterling, because he's a millionaire, pass. He's supposedly not only racist, but also a misogynist, making sexist remarks as well. Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver now has to make an important decision. Suspending Sterling is easy. Getting him to give up the Clippers isn't. However, the media, particularly ESPN, one of the league's media partners, is picturing a scenario that, ironically, has Johnson, who starred for LA's other NBA team, the Lakers, buying the team. Would that the NBA could dream up a similar scenario to get rid of the worst owner in the league after Sterling, Knicks owner James Dolan, but that's for another time.

However, the key word here is "accused". We don't know for sure if Sterling's voice was actually on that tape. All that needs be done is to do a audio match, comparing the voice on the tape to any interview that's been conducted in recent years with Sterling. You see that occasionally in the movies.

What bothers me more is that Sterling is married, but has had these other women on the side, which, above all else, makes an immoral, unrepentant Weasel.

In New York, the Daily News reported in today's edition that playwright Matthew Lombardo is suing actress Valerie Harper for $2 million, alleging that the 70's icon (Rhoda) didn't fully disclose that her cancer had spread to her brain a year ago, before she was to go on tour in a production she had starred in on Broadway. Ms. Harper had to drop out, replaced by another TV icon, Stefanie Powers (ex-Hart To Hart) in the play, a bio on actress Tallulah Bankhead. Lombardo is claiming lost revenues resulting from Valerie Harper's resignation from the production. You want to talk about kicking someone when they're down? Give to me the break!

The Daily News accurately described Lombardo's lawsuit as a "cash grab", which is really what it is, plus a grab for 15 minutes of infamy. If Valerie and her husband felt she could go through with this project in spite of her condition, well, they had no way of knowing that the cancer, which started in her lungs, would move all the way up to her brain, contrary to what Lombardo is alleging. As for Lombardo, our East Coast Weasel this week, do yourself a favor, pal, and do some research into your claims before you say something you'll regret later.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cult Classic: The Greatest American Hero (1981)

School teachers are regarded as real-life heroes, trying to help their students reach their full potential.

Stephen J. Cannell came up with the idea of making a teacher a different kind of hero, with the results falling along the lines of camp comedy in most cases.

The Greatest American Hero premiered in the winter of 1981 with a 2-hour TV-movie, then went right to a regular series, anchoring ABC's Wednesday night lineup for three seasons. Sure, it was pure, escapist fun, good while it lasted, but it didn't last too long, and perhaps maybe it was for the best.

Second generation actor William Katt (son of Perry Mason co-star Barbara Hale) top-lined as special education teacher Ralph Hinkley, who was given his "union suit", as they say in the comics, by an alien in a random encounter in the desert, at which point he was also introduced to his FBI contact/partner, Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp, ex-I Spy). The super-suit comes with an instruction manual, which Ralph loses. Uh-oh. Expect much chaos.

As Maxwell, Culp comes across more as a fast-talking hustler in order to coax Ralph into his missions. On the other hand, his divorce lawyer-turned-girlfriend (Connie Sellecca) provides some inspiration. Culp also wrote & directed one episode.

After the series ended, NBC decided to give it a whirl, rebooting it with a female lead, but then turned right around and rejected the pilot, which was later shoe-horned into the syndication package. It's also available as a stand-alone DVD you could probably find in a bargain basket at Walmart or Target. Interestingly, ABC executives Marcy Carsey & Tom Werner left the network after the series launched to form their own production company. In more recent times, Katt was able to gain the rights to adapt the series into-----a comic book. A miniseries was published, written by Katt. Go figure.

By way of YouTube, here's the episode, "The 200 MPH Fastball", in which Ralph goes undercover as a baseball pitcher in the heat of a pennant race.

The theme song, sung by Joey Scarbury, hit #2 on the Hot 100 in August 1981, which was certainly higher than the show's Nielsen ratings, that's for sure.

Rating: B.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Musical Interlude: Ode to Billie Joe (1967)

From The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour comes an all-time country classic.

Bobbie Gentry's haunting "Ode to Billie Joe" was later adapted into a feature film in 1976, produced and directed by Max Baer, Jr. (ex-The Beverly Hillbillies), but it all started with a little piece of Southern Gothic tragedy, which, in fact, was edited down from its original length to make it available to radio.

Friday, April 25, 2014

What Might've Been: Enos (1980)

The success of Dukes of Hazzard was bound to result in a spin-off series, but when that happened, it didn't last long----probably because it happened too soon.

Simple, honest deputy Enos Strate (Sonny Shroyer) captured some big-time bad guys in Hazzard County---with an assist from the Dukes, of course----and it merited him a gig in a much bigger place--Los Angeles.

Enos bowed in November 1980, and if memory serves, it was coupled with Dukes in CBS' Friday lineup. Unfortunately, the series lasted just 1 season. As I said, it may have been borne a wee bit too premature for viewers' liking. Enos would eventually return to Hazzard during season 5 of Dukes, but then relocated back to LA after the series ended, as explained in a pair of reunion TV movies between 1997-2000, during which time Enos finally married his childhood sweetheart, Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach).

Co-star Samuel E. Wright, meanwhile, became better known as the voice of Sebastian the crab in the Disney cartoon, "The Little Mermaid", and its subsequent TV spin-off.

Here's the open:

Rating: B.

Weasel of the Week: Scott Levensen

Mr. Levensen is a spokesman for NYCLASS, a lobbying group at the core of NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio's attempt to ban the use of horse drawn carriages in the city. According to today's New York Daily News, Levensen is bragging about how his group's efforts undermined DeBlasio's opponent in last November's mayoral election, Christine Quinn, and has absolutely no shame in saying so.

Here's my take. It's one thing if the carriages are used in, say, Central Park, as a tourist attraction. To put the carriages in general traffic, especially during rush hour, would be an open invitation to disaster. I have read of carriage horses getting spooked by sudden noise, causing accidents. I'm not in support of banning the carriages altogether, because you're talking about doing away with a long standing NYC tradition. NYCLASS is citing allegations of animal cruelty, but, predictably, have little or no evidence on hand to prove their claims in a public forum. That's the part I don't like. NYCLASS should rename themselves NO-CLASS.

The Daily News has mounted a petition campaign to block the ban, and has taken heat from readers, some of whom probably don't know much about the tradition of the carriages in the first place. We're talking fair weather readers here, influenced by demagogues like Levensen, who should spend a day with the people in the carriage industry and learn a few things. Until then, this unforgiving little Weasel is so duly rewarded with a set of ears.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Classic TV: Candid Camera (1948)

Allen Funt's Candid Camera was one of the first shows to transition from radio to television, and has managed to be revived over and over again. It'll return later this year, airing on TV Land, its latest home, and the 2nd cable network to air the series' original episodes. It last aired on Pax (now Ion) from 2001-4.

It all started with Candid Microphone, a radio show that bowed in 1947. A year later, Funt shifted from radio to television, but although he could've kept the radio version going, he chose to end the radio show. Within a year, Candid Microphone was rechristened Candid Camera, and the rest, of course, is history.

Some of today's prank shows, such as Ashton Kutcher's Punk'd for MTV and SyFy's Scare Tactics, owe their existence to Candid Camera, but as Peter Funt, Allen's son, who joined his father on the show several years back, notes, those programs tend to embarrass their unsuspecting victims more than anything else. Camera has aired on NBC, ABC, & CBS, and on the latter, Allen Funt had a revolving door of co-hosts, including Arthur Godfrey, Durward Kirby, & Bess Myerson. In the 70's, the series moved into syndication, with John Bartholomew Tucker, Fannie Flagg, and Jo Ann Pflug among the co-hosts. Regardless of who sat beside Funt, the basic core of the show remained the same.

Let's take a look back at an "all-request" show from 1953:

For those who wonder, Associated Artists Productions is better known for having syndicated some Popeye and selected Looney Tunes cartoons in the 70's & 80's.

A few weeks ago, it was announced that Camera would return, meaning that even though it hasn't always been on the air, it will have made it to its 8th decade on the air. Quite an achievement, don't you think? One wonders if someone will have the courage to screen Funt's feature film spin-off, "What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?", released in the early 70's?

Rating: B+.

Dunce Cap Award: Michael Pineda

Wednesday's Yankees-Red Sox game was enough of a marquee attraction by itself, but then, the story quickly became one of an act of utter stupidity.

Yankees starter Michael Pineda, down 2-0 in the 2nd inning, went back to the mound with an odd, gooey substance on his neck, later identified as pine tar. With 2 out, and Boston's Grady Sizemore at the plate, Boston manager John Farrell asked home plate umpire Gerry Davis to check Pineda for some kind of foreign matter. Pineda beat the Red Sox two weeks ago at Yankee Stadium, but it was clear he had something on him then, too, as there are pictures of him with a similar, gooey substance, which he claimed was dirt, on his hand. How could he be that stupid to play this same card again, this time on another body part, where it could easily be detected?

The media says it was a blatant act. Let's just call it what it is, an act worthy of a Dunce Cap. Pineda was ejected from the game, and will face a fine and suspension from Major League Baseball. If I'm Pineda, who had to wait more than 2 years to pitch in a game for the Yankees, I'm not wasting time with an appeal. The evidence is overwhelmingly obvious against him.

Oh, by the way, Boston won, 5-1, and Pineda was tagged with the loss.

In hindsight, on a cold night, Pineda would've been better served keeping the rosin bag they keep at the mound in his pocket until the inning was over. Enjoy your Dunce Cap, Michael. Wear it well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Classic TV: Kung Fu (1972)

ABC's Movie of the Week proved to be fertile ground for developing new series for the network. We've previously referenced The Rookies, The Six Million Dollar Man, & Kolchak: The Night Stalker as series spun from the movie anthology series. Here's perhaps one of the most famous series to come out of Movie of the Week.

Kung Fu was not your ordinary Western, though it was set in the 19th century. The story begins in China, where a Shaolin priest, Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine), had killed the emperor's nephew. He flees to America with a price on his head, looking to settle into the melting pot of our country's population, but his training and instincts kick in when he defends the less fortunate from ruthless land barons and other unsavory types.

Flashbacks took us back to Caine's early years as a youth (Radames Pera) and as a teenager (Keith Carradine), under the tutelage of Masters Po (Keye Luke) & Kan (Philip Ahn). The lessons imparted then were put into play by Caine as an adult. Kung Fu was also one of the first series to use slow motion photography during fight scenes, something also used on Six Million Dollar Man.

There has been some debate as to whether or not David Carradine was actually WB's 1st choice. There is an article that says that martial arts icon Bruce Lee (ex-The Green Hornet) had initially developed the concept, and his widow later alleged that WB "stole" the idea. Not so sure if that's really true, considering I'd read of this on Wikipedia.....! Carradine would be joined by father John and brother Robert in one episode, but I am not sure if this was one where Keith appeared in the flashback segments, which would've allowed for all three Carradine brothers to appear on the same show.

It can be said that Kung Fu ended too soon, especially considering the popularity of martial arts movies in the mid-70's, and the fact that in the show's final season, ABC added a Saturday morning cartoon, Hong Kong Phooey, which was more satirical than anything else, since the titular hero was a karate chopping bumbler more on the order of Maxwell Smart. Interestingly, co-star Keye Luke was working for Hanna-Barbera during Kung Fu's first two seasons, starring in The Amazing Chan & The Chan Clan.

There were two TV-movies in the 80's, the second of which starred Brandon Lee as the son of Kwai Chang Caine. However, in the 90's, David Carradine, this time playing the grandson of the original Caine, returned in Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, which lasted 4 seasons in syndication. We'll look at that another time.

Right now, let's take a look at a sample intro. 

Now, don't ya think this should be airing on cable somewhere?

Rating: A.

Musical Interlude: Honey Come Back (1970)

In the 60's & 70's, Glen Campbell was a regular on both the pop & country charts, and veered permanently toward country in the 80's. He even hosted a golf tournament on the PGA Tour back in the day, as other celebrities did.

The Australian series, Hit Scene, is where we find this next nugget of joy, 1970's "Honey Come Back", a story-song about heartbreak and the yearning for reconciliation. Glen is shown writing a letter as the song plays. The woman appearing in the video is his then-wife, Billie.

I actually had a used 45 of "Honey", which I'd acquired when I'd settled into my current home. I was spending a lot of time at second hand shops buying old records for the turntable I owned back then.

Monday, April 21, 2014

What Might've Been: Bedtime Stories (1979)

Los Angeles radio personalities Al Lohman & Roger Barkley were a popular morning team back in the day, but the success they enjoyed on radio never translated all that well on television in two attempts, both for game show titans Merrill Heatter & Bob Quigley.

The first, Name Droppers, spent three months on NBC between 1969-70. A decade later, Lohman & Barkley returned, this time with a late night game that was a bust in the summer of '79.

Bedtime Stories was meant, I guess, to be a variant on relationship games such as Chuck Barris' twin classics, The Dating Game & The Newlywed Game, but a little more risque. Back in those days, though, they didn't have just Johnny Carson to deal with in late night, but in a lot of markets, including mine, thanks to cable, England's Benny Hill Show was making inroads, as memory serves.

As it turned out, Bedtime Stories was, ah, put to bed for good after 2 months. America wasn't ready for a late night game show.

Blanquepage offers a sample from the pilot, produced in March of '79:

No rating.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Musical Interlude: Pearle (1990)

Trip Shakespeare's "Pearle" may have been the band's only hit, but it shouldn't have. With a retro-pop sound recalling the bubblegum pop of the late 60's-early 70's, though perhaps not by design, "Pearle", which was originally recorded on the band's first indie album, gained heavy airplay on alternative rock radio stations in 1990.

Two of the band members would later go on to form Semisonic, and, yep, they too were a 1-hit wonder, with "Closing Time" just a few years later.

Here's the story of "Pearle":

What Might've Been: Fol-De-Rol (1972)

This next item also appears on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives.
I've been dying to do this next item for what seems like forever.

 Sid & Marty Krofft's 2nd project for ABC, after Lidsville, was Fol-De-Rol, a primetime special that aired in February 1972. I will admit that in watching the video, it was the first time I'd actually seen some footage. As a 9 year old back then, I'd gone to bed that night, had trouble sleeping, and could hear the television in another part of the house, so my folks had this on for a bit, looking for something. I know this because I distinctly remember hearing the voice of no less than Howard Cosell during the show, and hearing part of the theme song.

Anyway, the show is an unsold pilot, is set at a Medevial fair, and the segments are such that a number of actors, including Mickey Rooney and Billy Barty, are playing multiple parts. Rick Nelson plays a wandering minstrel. Ann Sothern is the Queen, and you have an ensemble doing a variation on Three Dog Night's hit, "Joy To The World", with new lyrics written for the show. Len Weinrib & Joan Gerber provide the voices for the puppets and other characters. Seeing Mickey Rooney as an executioner having issues with his son is hilarious all by itself.

Anyway, the Krofft logo was not included on the print, but I've got one burning question. What in the hizell is the "Krofft Look"?

Edit, 11/16/23: Had to change the video. What's left is a short excerpt.

Apparently, viewers seemed to agree with network suits that the Kroffts were a wee bit out of their depth with this one, but it would be 4 years before they'd try a variety show-style format again......!

 Rating: B-.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Musical Interlude: E-Bow the Letter (1996)

From their 1996 CD, "New Adventures in Hi-Fi", R.E.M. is joined by folk-rock icon Patti Smith on "E-Bow The Letter".

In Theatres: Heaven Is For Real (2014)

Two months ago, a friend of mine gave me a copy of Rev. Todd Burpo's book, Heaven Is For Real, published in 2010, based on the story of the pastor's son, Colton, who inexplicably went to Heaven while undergoing emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix.

Four years later, the book is now a movie, a brilliant adaptation that may be a wee bit padded out for the sake of creating drama.

Burpo (Greg Kinnear, Rake) is also a volunteer fireman in his hometown of Imperial, Nebraska, and is briefly shown as a coach with the high school wrestling team. His wife is in charge of their church's music ministry. Their faith is shaken, then tested, when 4 year old Colton (Connor Corum) tells them about his trip to Heaven and meeting Jesus.

Predictably, there is also derision and ridicule. Colton's sister, Cassie, goes on the defensive during recess one day when two boys tease her about Colton. The end result? She drops them both with punches to the nose. As for the pastor, news of his son's "miraculous" recovery spreads, causing the congregation to question whether Rev. Burpo can continue. Bank president Jay Wikins (Thomas Haden Church, ex-Wings, and the only other "name" in the cast) is the pastor's best friend who tries to counsel Rev. Burpo.

Even though Rake, a Fox mid-season replacement series, appears to be headed for the gas chamber (Kinnear plays a lawyer), Kinnear is absolutely brilliant as Todd Burpo. Connor Corum, a newcomer, has a good future in front of him.

Don't believe me? Scope the trailer:


"The Giver" (August 15): Based on a children's book, and starring Jeff Bridges & Meryl Streep in a tale of a seemingly perfect world that really isn't.

"Million Dollar Arm" (May 16): Jon Hamm (Mad Men) is a down-on-his-luck sports agent who takes a chance on signing the first major league baseball player from India. Based on a true story.

"How to Train Your Dragon 2": If you've been following the Dragons cartoons on Cartoon Network, you can figure those shows serve as a bridge between films.

"Mom's Night Out": At first glance, I thought this was the remake of "Adventures in Babysitting", but it isn't. Cast includes Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, and country singer Trace Adkins----as a biker with a heart of gold.

"When The Game Stands Tall" (August): Equal parts "Friday Night Lights", "Facing the Giants", and maybe "Remember the Titans". A high school football team's winning streak ends, and tragedy follows, leading to a crisis of faith.

Rating: A.

Friday, April 18, 2014

What Might've Been: The Loner (1965)

Back in the 60's, Westerns were still plentiful in primetime, but not every Western that came along was a surefire hit.

Consider, for example, The Loner, or more specifically, the creative pedigree involved.

The Loner sprang from the pen of no less than Rod Serling (ex-The Twilight Zone), and told the story of William Colton (Lloyd Bridges), a Civil War veteran who went from town to town, getting involved in various disputes. In other words, this was no different than any number of half-hour Westerns of the period.

The last part of the equation was producer William Dozier. The Loner was the only series he sold to CBS, everything else went to ABC, starting with Batman just 4 months later. Oh, and let us not forget the kickin' theme song, composed by Jerry Goldsmith.

So why did The Loner fail? Go back to what I said at the beginning. There were still a lot of Westerns out there, and Loner didn't stand out from the crowd like Serling & Dozier had hoped. Serling would try out another series outside of the sci-fi genre with The New People for ABC and the team of Aaron Spelling & Danny Thomas in 1969, an experimental 45 minute series that also failed. On the other hand, going back to the more familiar millieu of sci-fi and horror/fantasy with Night Gallery at NBC provided Serling with his last hit series. As we all know, Dozier wasn't so lucky, as after Batman was cancelled in 1968, Dozier, aside from a well known PSA in 1971, wasn't heard from again.

Gilmore Box provides the open. The narrative was deleted for some odd reason from this print.

In watching other versions of the clip, I'm unsure of who the narrator was, but he certainly sounded like NFL Films narrator John Facenda. Go figure.

No rating.

Easter Theatre: The Easter Bunny is Coming to Town (1977)

The Easter Bunny is Coming to Town is the last of Rankin-Bass' Easter themed specials, produced in 1977 for ABC. Fred Astaire reprises his role from Santa Claus is Coming to Town in 1970 as S. D. Kluger, the mailman, this time dressed as a train engineer for a Q & A about the history of the Easter Bunny.

In Rankin-Bass' world, the Easter Bunny started as a young bunny named Sunny (Skip Hinnant, The Electric Company), who, like a young Kris Kringle before him, had to deal with a mean spirited town ruler before he could really get untracked.

Treacly, of course, and while it's not a full sequel to Santa Claus is Coming to Town, it sure looks like a carbon copy of the earlier story, albeit in a different setting.

Rating: C.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Might've Been: The Jimmy Stewart Show (1971)

To be perfectly honest, I didn't even know this show existed.

Movie legend Jimmy Stewart headlined his own primetime sitcom in 1971 for NBC. That was the good news. The bad was that it lasted just 1 season, and this was despite the fact it aired in back of the venerable Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights.

Stewart had tried a series once before----on radio. His Western, The Six Shooter, made the transition to television under the title, The Restless Gun, which we reviewed a while ago. Here, Stewart plays a college professor who opens his doors to his son (Jonathan Daly) and daughter-in-law (Ellen Geer) and their two children. Perhaps another reason this show flopped was the presence of character actor John McGiver, who had previously flopped as a lead (Many Happy Returns) and in a supporting role (Mr. Terrific) in the 60's.

You'll notice that The Jimmy Stewart Show operated without a laugh track, one of the first of the modern era to do so. Series creator Hal Kanter had moved to WB from 20th Century Fox after Julia had ended, but his golden touch seemed to have been left behind.

While I never signed up for it, there is a blogathon devoted to Stewart, mostly his movie work, as I didn't see anyone offer to cover his TV series, much less radio. Stewart would give it another go, but not with a weekly series, two years later. However, Hawkins, a series of TV-movies that cast Stewart as a lawyer, failed to get past 1 season as well. Oddly enough, the concept was tweaked and revisited in the 80's, becoming a huge comeback hit for Andy Griffith as Matlock. Go figure.

Here's the intro:

Perhaps Stewart should take solace in the fact that after his show was cancelled, ABC and producer Don Fedderson tried out another cinema legend, Henry Fonda, in The Smith Family. And, yep, that was also a 1 year wonder.

Rating: B.

On The Air: Let's Make a Deal (1963)

Let's Make a Deal marked 50 years on the air back in December, but there wasn't much mass media to-do over the occasion, and perhaps, it's just as well. It's been like the Little Engine That Could, chugging along on and off over the course of time, and airing on 4 different networks, technically, as well as syndication.

Deal made Monty Hall a cultural icon, and today, the torch has been passed to entertainer Wayne Brady, who's currently pulling double duty with CW's revived Whose Line is it Anyway? taking to the air once more as a mid-season replacement. The show marked its 40th anniversary on its original network, NBC, with Billy Bush, currently on Access Hollywood, trying to fill Hall's shoes, but it failed to score. The charismatic, gifted Brady has had Deal rolling along for 5 seasons and counting, and it doesn't look like the fun's going to stop any time soon. Sure, there've been some tweaks over the years, but the core of the game remains the same.

Let's take a look back at a syndicated episode from the Hall era:

And from the Brady era, a guest appearance by Monty:

Good, clean fun.

Rating: A.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Celebrity Rock (?): Midnight Train to Georgia (2008)

Gladys Knight revisits one of her older hits with her backup group, the Pips, except that the Pips ain't with her this time.

Instead, actors Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr., & Jack Black make up a new ensemble of Pips. Now, we know two of those guys can sing, and apparently, they can also groove. You can also figure out which one is the most challenged in this clip.

Edit: 4/17/14: Thanks to correspondent Magicdog for noting that this comes from the '08 season finale of American Idol.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Classic Reborn (NOT!): Kojak (2005)

Universal seems to have cornered the market on recasting iconic characters that were originally white as African-American.

One of the first examples came in the feature film reimagining of the 1962-6 hit, McHale's Navy, when it was decided that the role of Ensign Charles Parker, played by Tim Conway in the original series, would be given to David Alan Grier (ex-In Living Color). This was hardly noticed, considering that this version, with Tom Arnold as the son of the original McHale (Ernest Borgnine), was a bomb.

To describe the 2005 remake of the iconic 1973-8 crime drama, Kojak, as another bomb would be just too kind. Then again, Universal has continued to repeat the mistake of taking an iconic series from the past and trying to re-fit it into the present, and failing. Badly.

I think the idea behind recasting the lead role of Theo Kojak with an African American actor, in this case, Ving Rhames ("Striptease", "Mission: Impossible"), was that someone at the studio believed that Kojak himself wasn't Greek in background, though original star Telly Savalas was. Unfortunately, Rhames lasted just 9 weeks. USA slotted the series on Sunday nights at 10 (ET), which was fine, though I'm hard-pressed to remember what night the original Kojak aired. However, viewers voted with their remotes. They weren't buying Rhames, a good, quality actor, as Kojak. Period. It ain't his fault. It's the fault of the jobronies who cast him. Chazz Palmatieri co-starred.

Following is a screencap:

There've been rumors of a feature film version, with Vin Diesel attached. Hmmmmmm.

Rating: C.

Two weekends, two champions

85 years.

That's how long it's been since Union College in Schenectady last had a national championship----in lacrosse. I'm not even sure if the Dutchmen still field a lacrosse team these days, since all the attention is focused on the University at Albany's team when it comes to lacrosse around here.

On Saturday night, Union pulled off their own "Miracle on Ice", nearly 35 years after the US Olympic Hockey team upset the Russians en route to the gold medal. The Dutchmen battered Minnesota, one of the major powers in college hockey, 7-4, to win their first NCAA hockey title, and just the 2nd NCAA title in school history. Oh, sure, ESPN, which carried the game, had a little fun with the match-up on SportsCenter, using computer trickery to alter the sizes of their anchors to illustrate how Union, a "David" in that its enrollment is barely over 2,000, conquered a "Goliath" in Minnesota, which plays most of its sports in the Big 10, one of the power conferences of football & basketball.

But it wasn't all fun & games afterward. As has become predictable in similar cases across the country in past years, overzealous----and overinebriated--students threw bottles at cars, and eventually at police. Five people were arrested. Tame compared to other incidents, I know, but then.......!

In sharp contrast,  no one expected Siena College to still be playing deep into the first weekend in April. The Saints cashed in an invitation to the College Basketball Insiders tournament by winning the championship series, 2 games to 1, over Fresno State of the Mountain West conference on April 5. No one got rowdy after that, largely because the deciding game was played on campus at the Alumni Recreation Center, since the Times Union Center in downtown Albany was booked. After Siena was one-&-done in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament last month, the players all assumed, rightfully, that the season was over. Oh, were they in for a shock coming back from spring break. After the shock wore off, they virtually ran the table, a game 2 loss to Fresno State only postponing what suddenly became inevitable. Oh, and they beat a Big 10 team, too----Penn State---along the way.

Couple this with the NY-Penn League's Tri-City Valleycats winning their 2nd league title 7 months ago, and you wonder if all of a sudden, championship fever has swept through upstate New York. It's too bad the pros in Western NY and New Jersey didn't catch any of it........

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sounds of Praise: Waiting Here For You (2011)

This morning, at church, the pastor had a sheet printed with the lyrics to "Waiting Here For You", which got a ton of heavy airplay on K-Love, a Christian radio network, back in 2011. Co-written by Chris Tomlin & Martin Smith, it became a huge hit for Christy Nockels. Here's Christy, performing live. The clip comes from her VEVO channel:

Classic (?) TV: The Felony Squad (1966)

In the fall of 1966, 20th Century Fox sold a pair of crime dramas to ABC that were as different as night & day. The one everyone knows, of course, was an adaptation of The Green Hornet, from William Dozier's Greenway production company. Ended up being the last series Dozier would get on the air, and lasted one season.

The other was The Felony Squad, more of a traditional crime drama focusing on police work. Howard Duff (ex-Dante), who starred as Sam Spade on radio, was another guy named Sam---Sam Stone, a detective with the major crimes unit of an unnamed West Coast city's police department. Stone was mentoring his partner, Jim Briggs (Dennis Cole), whose father (Ben Alexander, ex-Dragnet) was also on the force.

Felony Squad lasted 2 1/2 seasons, cancelled in January 1969 after the series was shifted from Mondays to Fridays, a risky and, ultimately, fatal scheduling decision. Duff made a cameo appearance as Stone on Batman in one of those "window cameos", and later teamed with wife Ida Lupino to ham it up in a 3rd season episode of that series.

Alexander doubled as a technical advisor on the series, likely drawing on his experiences from working on Dragnet. Here's the open:

Dennis Cole would move on to NBC's Bracken's World, then to a 1-year wonder for ABC, teaming with William Shatner in The Barbary Coast, in 1975, before turning his attention to directing. Ben Alexander passed away a few months after Squad ended, and it would be a long while before Howard Duff landed another TV gig (Flamingo Road). Too bad this series has been buried in Fox's vaults.

Rating: B.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

In Theatres: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America (Chris Evans) and the Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) return in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", which is more about espionage than heroics when you get right down to it.

In fact, when Cap was granted his own series at Marvel in the 60's, they made it more about spies than common wackjob criminal masterminds, so this really is nothing new. However, the context of "Winter Soldier" has its roots in a few other films, even if Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin (Rhymes with Siege) Feige wouldn't admit to it when asked.

It starts when Cap and the Widow lead a SHIELD team on board a ship to rescue hostages from pirates led by Jacques Batroc (MMA star Georges St. Pierre), whom comics fans know as a misguided freedom fighter who gave Cap many battles back in the day. Among the hostages is Jasper Sitwell, who is another familiar name to old school readers. As it turns out, predictably enough, Sitwell doesn't do gratitude very well, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Back stateside, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is shot and seemingly killed by the titular villain (Sebastian Stan), whose costume looked like a reject from "Mortal Kombat". I am not kidding. It looked that out of place, and never mind the cybernetic arm. This after Fury manages to evade some rogue cops & SWAT units. His superior officer, one Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) and Widow ask Steve Rogers why Fury made it into his apartment. Rogers isn't even sure. Next thing ya know, Rogers is on the run, taking the Widow with him.

Before he had undertaken his mission, Rogers had befriended Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a vet now working at the VA. Wilson later factors into things, but this origin of the Falcon leaves a little something to be desired. Like, retractable wings and a jet pack?!?


Any comics fan worth his salt knows, and so does anyone that watches Avengers Assemble or the Marvel Super Hero Squad Show, that Falcon had a standard costume in the comics. First, it was green, and then they switched to red & white, which made more sense. He even had a falcon sidekick. Well, they did take the tights away from Hawkeye, and......! All I see is a waste of special effects money, and that won't be the last of that coming from Marvel this year.

Long story short, Hydra, SHIELD's traditional comics nemesis, rears its multiple ugly heads, but there are no masked soldiers. Instead, they're working covertly, right under the nose of the government. Then again, they've got their hooks in the government, too, particularly a Congressman we've seen before (Garry Shandling, who looks like he should be doing Nutri-Systems ads next).

Perhaps the most amusing part of the movie is Widow actually alternately flirting with Rogers and trying to play matchmaker for him. There's even a scene where she ends up falling on his lap while they're in a car being chased by Hydra. Fortunately, Falcon's at the wheel. Rogers did some flirting of his own early on, meeting his next door neighbor, who turns out to be more than she seems. Yep, that would be Agent 13 from SHIELD (Emily Van Camp, Revenge), whom we'll see again in the next film, and, yes, that's in the planning stages.

If you've been following Agents of SHIELD right along, you now know how dependent that series has become in relation to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even though the Whedon family and Jeph "Ear" Loeb and his tag team partner-in-stupidity, Joe Quesada, have zero to do with this movie (Thank God!), you can pretty much see why Agents has been lagging behind CW's Arrow. Way behind. The most recent episode follows events in this movie,  but if you haven't been watching it lately---and ye scribe has fallen way behind--you may need some Maalox after watching it On Demand. Just sayin'.

The vibe I get from this recalls Tom Cruise's 1st "Mission: Impossible" movie (think of Redford in Jon Voight's position), and other spy movies, such as one of Redford's classics, "Three Days of the Condor". Seen one, didn't see the other. So didn't dig what I did see back then. This is actually a little higher up the scale, but could've stood to have had better writers.......!

Here's a trailer, courtesy of Marvel's YouTube channel:

Speaking of trailers.......

"Amazing Spider-Man 2" (May 2): Andrew Garfield dons the webs again, this time dealing with not only the expected Green Goblin (son of the original), but also Electro (Jamie Foxx) and the Rhino (Paul Giamatti, in another waste of special effects money). Emma Stone & Sally Field also return.

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" (May 23): 3 weeks later, the X-Men return. Two Marvel movies in the same month?! Yep. Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, & Halle Berry return, with Jennifer Lawrence ("Hunger Games") as Mystique. One more reason for the little boys.......!

"Godzilla" (May): 16 years ago, Sony rebooted the Japanese icon, forgot one important detail. Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures make up for that. Looks like fun.

"Earth To Echo" (July): Remember "ET: The Extra-Terrestrial"? Similar story, but with an AI (artificial intelligence) from another world or something.

"A Haunted House 2" (Friday): Delayed from last month, likely to avoid "Noah". Marlon Wayans, Cedric the Entertainer, & Gabriel Iglesias send up horror movies.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" (August 1): More from Marvel. Zoe Saldana in green paint. WWE's Dave Bautista as Drax. Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket Raccoon. Can your heart stand it?

"Expendables 3" (August): Sylvester Stallone has recruited Antonio Banderas, Kellan Lutz, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, and MMA hottie Ronda Rousey for this next mission. Mel Gibson plays a bad guy for a change. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs on to team with Sly again, but Ford basically replaces Bruce Willis.

"Lucy" (August): Scarlett Johannson returns, blonde this time, playing a woman who's gained genius level intellect. Morgan Freeman co-stars.

"Maleficient" (May 23): Remember "Sleeping Beauty"? This Disney live-action film fills in some of the blanks about the motivations of Maleficient (Angelina Jolie).

Rating: B+.

Friday, April 11, 2014

What Might've Been: The Adventures of Hiram Holliday (1956)

A newspaper proofreader prevents a punctuation error from seeing print, and saves his employers from a libel suit. His reward? A world tour, which turns him into a globetrotting, unassuming, plain-clothed crime buster who was far more formidible than his slight appearance would suggest.

The Adventures of Hiram Holliday began as a novel, published in 1939, and written by the acclaimed author, Paul Gallico, who posited Holliday as an Everyman hero who was skilled in a number of different talents, including martial arts. Fittingly, Wally Cox, fresh from Mr. Peepers, was cast as Holliday. In real life, Cox was a perfect match for Holliday, his slight appearance hiding a muscular frame. One wonders if Cox was not only drawn to Holliday, but also the animated superhero whom he's also famously associated with, Underdog.

However, NBC pulled the plug a wee bit early, leaving 3 episodes unaired, although the entire series was shown in England on the BBC. Aside from Underdog, Cox never headlined another series, although he would make a number of guest appearances on shows as diverse as Beverly Hillbillies and It Takes A Thief, and became a regular panelist on the original Hollywood Squares until his passing in the early 70's.

Gilmore Box uploaded the open:

In my own opinion, the sitcom format killed the show. Had it been played more as a drama, playing to Cox's physical strength more than his comic strength, he would've escaped the typecasting that came out of Peepers.

Rating: C.

On The Air (for now): The Colbert Report (2005)

Humorist Stephen Colbert first made his name on Comedy Central's Daily Show. As that series sends up nightly news programs, Colbert's spin-off series, The Colbert Report, parodies Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor. After nearly 10 years, however, the Report is soon going to be signing off for good.

That's because Colbert is moving up in the world. On Thursday, it was announced that Colbert would succeed David Letterman as the host of CBS' Late Show. He's even admitted that the schtick he's been doing will not carry over with him. In other words, after 15 years (including his run on Daily Show), Stephen Colbert will finally get to be himself in front of the cameras, and not a character that shares his name.

It had been reported that Craig Ferguson (The Late, Late Show) had right of first refusal to take the promotion, but it seems CBS suits figured on the younger-skewing Colbert, whom some college kids might also know was the voice of Phil Ken Sebben on [adult swim]'s Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. Also, CBS wants what ABC & NBC are doing, going with younger hosts for their late night shows (Jimmy Fallon & another Comedy Central alum, Jimmy Kimmel).

Colbert, to an extent, has also become this generation's Pat Paulsen, a comedian who's also made overtures about running for political office, but unlike Paulsen, who kept putting his name in the hat for the White House as his only remaining schtick for years, Colbert was aiming lower, like maybe Congress.

Here's a recent sample of The Colbert Report, compliments of Comedy Central's own YouTube channel:

Simply put, if you're not into Bill O'Reilly, you might dig Colbert.

Rating: B.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A variation on a sickening theme

This time, guns weren't used. That's the good news. The bad? 21 people were stabbed with kitchen knives, and at least 5 victims are in critical condition, according to the latest reports.

16 year old Alex Hribal went on a stabbing spree Wednesday in the Pittsburgh suburb of Murrysville, and after he was captured, according to CNN's website, he supposedly told the police he "wanted to die".

There's the usual stories about how Hribal's a nice kid and no one ever suspected something like this would happen. So what made him snap? What gave him suicidal thoughts? We don't know the answers to those questions----yet. The FBI's involved, as per normal in these kinds of cases, and the high school where this happened, Franklin Regional, will be closed for the remainder of the week. Meanwhile, there'll be the usual tabloid media overplay of this story. At least Hribal, who was arraigned as an adult, rightfully, will be given psychiatric counseling to help determine what caused him to go on a rampage.

His father said he was praying for the victims and their families. The prayer list should also include Alex as well.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

James Hellwig, aka The Ultimate Warrior (1959-2014)

It was just 4 days ago that he had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. His last public appearance came two days later on Monday Night Raw. Having made his peace after years of conflict with WWE Chairman-CEO Vince McMahon, the Ultimate Warrior abruptly passed away Tuesday afternoon at 54.

Born James Hellwig in 1959, the Warrior first made his name as part of Powerteam USA with Steve Borden (Sting), under the tutelage of Rick Bassman, before signing with Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling. Hellwig & Borden were billed as Rock & Flash, the Blade Runners, a heel team managed by the late Eddie Gilbert. After about a year, the team split, with Rock heading west to World Class Championship Wrestling, undergoing a name change to the Dingo Warrior, managed at first by Percival Pringle III (Bill Moody, aka Paul Bearer), but then turning babyface, a role Hellwig would play for the rest of his career.

Within a few months, Dingo Warrior jumped to the then-World Wrestling Federation as the Ultimate Warrior, who sprinted from the locker room to the ring, and squashed a jobber or two on a regular basis. He'd eventually win the Intercontinental title and the WWF title, the latter in a memorable match at Wrestlemania 6 in Toronto vs. Hulk Hogan, a portion of which follows, courtesy of WWE's YouTube channel:

After an aborted comeback in 1996, the Warrior resurfaced, known simply as the Warrior, in WCW in 1998, brought in to challenge a then-heel Hogan for the WCW title. This run was also short-lived, and would be the last time the Warrior would appear on a national stage until his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Warrior also ventured into comic books, self-publishing a short-lived series, Warrior (naturally), which lasted about three issues before disappearing off shelves. Strangely, Sting was not present to see his former training and tag team partner enter the Hall of Fame, as this alone would have been enough inducement for him to sign with WWE, but the newsboards still believe that this is imminent.

Rest in peace, mighty Warrior.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On The Air: Jeopardy! (1964)

A: It is one of the longest running game shows in history, celebrating 50 years in 2014.

Q: What is..... Jeopardy!?

It's true. Jeopardy! launched in 1964, and while it hasn't aired for a full 50 years, there certainly is cause for celebration this year. Art Fleming was the first host, and his first run on NBC lasted 11 years (1964-75), ending only because program director Lin Bolen wanted to attract younger viewers, and thought that Jeopardy! was skewing too old. During the final year (1974-5), Jeopardy! made its first voyage into syndication with a weekly nighttime version, also helmed by Fleming.

After three years away, Jeopardy! returned to NBC in 1978, but lasted a year, with a spiffed up format. John Harlan took over as announcer, with Pardo concentrating on Saturday Night Live. The current edition, hosted by Alex Trebek, marks 30 years in September, and it'll be interesting to see if Sony & CBS, which share the rights to the series today, will do anything in the way of flashbacks. The "Battle of the Decades" tournaments running of late encompasses only the Trebek era. Worse, there aren't a whole lot of quality prints from the Fleming era.

One of those prints, however, is from 1974:

Fleming & Pardo cemented their pop culture status in 1985, when "Weird" Al Yankovic made a video for "I Lost on Jeopardy!", which mashed up the series with Greg Kihn's hit song, "Jeopardy". Pardo can even be heard on the CD.

Rating: A.

Weasel of the Week: "John Doe"

Last month, the Jets and Philadelphia Eagles, via free agency, had essentially swapped quarterbacks. Michael Vick signed with the Jets, who then released their former starter, Mark Sanchez, who then signed with Philadelphia.

With the Jets due to open training camp at SUNY-Cortland in July, some anonymous little Weasel with nothing better to do than raise a ruckus, initiated a petition on, aimed at SUNY-Cortland adminstration, demanding that Vick be banned from the campus.


Look, we all know the story. Vick was busted for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring, which cost him his gig with the Atlanta Falcons. He did his time in prison, and, with the encouragement of former Colts coach-turned-NBC analyst and unofficial NFL chaplain Tony Dungy, signed with Philadelphia. That should've been the end of that sordid story, but whomever it is who started this lame-a-zoid petition wants to remind people of what Vick did.

The fact that Vick is now going to play in the league's biggest media center, New York, isn't helping matters. To the tabloids, the media feeding frenzy come July will be like when Tim Tebow came to the Jets 2 years ago. Personally, I don't believe this stupid petition is going anywhere except in an appropriate place. A trash barrel. By the time training camp rolls around in July, this will be a distant memory.

Michael Vick made a mistake, owned up, and paid his debt to society. Whomever this "John Doe" is who started the petition is either a card carrying member of PETA or just a dog lover who just doesn't care that Vick did his time. Well, "Mr. Doe", you've got a pair of Weasel ears headed your way, but just for fun, we'll add a stale bag of Beggin' Strips, because, punky, you're begging for attention. Do us all a favor, and identify yourself next time.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Musical Interlude: It Takes Two (1988-9)

Story time, y'all.

January 1989. Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock were opening for Karyn White at the Palace Theatre in Albany. I went with a buddy, figuring on having a great time. Worst. Concert. Ever.

As memory serves, the show was ticketed to start around 7, but Base didn't take the stage until almost an hour after the scheduled starting time, and didn't even do an hour's worth of music. White, who was promoting her debut CD, was also late starting, and her set clocked in at just under an hour. The promoters were new in the area, and didn't even offer refunds for the late starts. The promoters were out of business, if memory serves, within 4 years or less.

Base ended up being a 1-hit wonder himself, and that one hit was "It Takes Two", which was getting heavy airplay on MTV and at dance clubs. Sure, he had another hit single, "Joy & Pain", but that wasn't quite as successful. These days, he's on the oldies circuit, at least the last I'd heard.

From Base's VEVO channel, here's "It Takes Two", a slightly longer version than the one you're accustomed to.

Mickey Rooney (1920-2014)

Don't be surprised if TCM pulls out an "Andy Hardy" movie marathon sometime in the next few days, in tribute to Andy himself, Mickey Rooney, who passed away Sunday at 93.

Rooney's show-biz career began when he was just a baby, believe it or not. Just a few months, and he was already in front of a camera. He's still best remembered for the "Andy Hardy" series, in which he co-starred with Judy Garland. He also did television, making his small-screen debut in the self-produced Mickey Rooney Show, aka Hey, Mulligan, in 1954, playing the son of a police officer. The series was co-created by prolific writer Blake Edwards, better known, of course, for Peter Gunn and the original "Pink Panther" movies.

Rooney also was on Broadway, in such productions as "Sugar Babies", and he made dramatic films, such as "Boys Town" (with Spencer Tracy). His last television series was the short-lived One of the Boys in the early 80's. Not even the lure of Rooney in a weekly series was enough to get it over the hump. I don't think it even lasted a full season, unlike The Mickey Rooney Show, which we're going to take a look at. Here's the first episode:

As long as I'm thinking of it, condolences also to comic John Pinette, who passed away at 50 due to liver issues. Pinette appeared in a couple of the "Revenge of the Nerds" movies and the 2004 remake of "The Punisher", in a more serious role, opposite Thomas Jane and John Travolta. Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Celebrity Rock: Save The Last Dance For Me

In the late 80's, in between his TV breakout in Moonlighting and feature films like "Die Hard", Bruce Willis decided to indulge in his other passion--music. He paid tribute to the sounds of Motown on the CD, "The Return of Bruno", covering the Staple Singers' "Respect Yourself" as the first single.

Some years later, not sure when, Willis covered the Drifters' classic, "Save The Last Dance For Me". If anyone can tell me when this was released, I'd appreciate it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Classic TV: The Bionic Woman (1976)

It started with a 2-part episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, but just when you thought the story had a tragic ending, it really didn't.

In "The Bionic Woman", Steve Austin (Lee Majors, ex-The Big Valley, etc.) returns home to Ojai, California to visit his parents and reconnects with a childhood sweetheart, tennis pro Jaime Summers (Lindsay Wagner). A skyjumping accident leads to Jaime getting bionic parts of her own, but while on a mission, her implants malfunction, the result of her body rejecting the implants, and Jaime supposedly died on the operating table.

However, because Six Million was a big hit, the fanbase had other ideas, and so did ABC, which commissioned The Bionic Woman as a spinoff series, debuting in January 1976, with Wagner returning as Jaime. Richard Anderson & Martin Brooks reprised as Oscar Goldman & Rudy Wells, respectively, in a rare case of playing the same roles on two concurrent series. The last actor to do that was Leo G. Carroll, whose character of Alexander Waverly was appearing on both The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and its spinoff, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., a decade earlier.

The Bionic Woman lasted three seasons, ending at the same time as Six Million, but the final season saw the series shift over to NBC, and moved to Saturdays, where the "Peacock Network" was looking to replace Emergency!, another Universal series. The other change was the addition of a bionic dog and a new love interest for Jaime, since there would be no more crossovers with Six Million. Viewers voted against the changes, and the series ended with a legitimate finale, "On The Run", in which Jaime had wanted to retire, but goes back to work on a limited schedule.

A decade later, and NBC brought the bionic couple back together in a series of TV-movies, one of which introduced Sandra Bullock as a next-generation bionic woman, and the last saw Steve & Jaime get married. That should've meant closure.

20 years later, NBC decided to bring the series back, rebooted for a new generation of viewers, with British actress Michelle Ryan as Jaime. El-bomb-o, as it didn't even finish its lone season. NBC scheduled it on its original night, Wednesdays, but as often has happened when series are revived or rebooted and placed on what amounts to familiar ground, viewers took a look and didn't respond positively.

While Harve Bennett was executive producer of Six Million Dollar Man, Ken Johnson had the gig for Bionic Woman, and also scored mightily with another super-adventure series, The Incredible Hulk, for CBS, which lasted 5 seasons. The common link? Joe Harnell composed the music not only for Hulk, but the closing theme for Bionic Woman, and became the show's musical director, replacing Jerry Fielding, in season 2.

Let's go back to 1976 and the open:

Don't ya think ABC wimped out on the super-action game back then, since they also dropped Wonder Woman--for financial reasons, a year before dumping Bionic Woman? Just asking.

Rating: A.

A Classic Reborn: The New Dragnet (1989)

How do you remake Dragnet without Joe Friday?

In the late 80's, a small, independent studio, The Arthur Company, acquired licenses for three Universal properties: The Munsters, Dragnet, & Adam-12. Of these remakes, The Munsters Today was the most successful, lasting three seasons. The New Dragnet & The New Adam-12 each managed two "seasons" over the course of a calendar year, with the second season beginning in the spring of 1990.

Where both remakes of Jack Webb's seminal crime dramas failed was in creating new characters for each of the series, rather than find someone who could fill Webb's gumshoes as Friday and narrate, or, in the case of New Adam-12, finding a new generation version of Pete Malloy & Jim Reed. Now, I never saw The New Dragnet, but all I can do is offer the open, courtesy of jpwrites:

13 years after this version ended, Dick Wolf tried a 1 hour Dragnet, with Ed O'Neill (now on Modern Family) as Friday, but ABC suits tinkered with it by phasing out Friday and opting for an ensemble cast, a la Wolf's Law & Order family of shows. That was a mistake as the rechristened LA Dragnet lasted a scant more than a month before ABC gave up. It was their mistake, and their loss.

Weasels of the Week: Mike Francesa, Boomer Esiason, & Craig Carton

There's a reason why New York Daily News sports media columnist Bob Raissman refers to sports talk radio and its attendant audience as "The Valley of the Stupid". The perception being that listeners---and sometimes the hosts themselves---are ill-informed on certain topics, and when the hosts pass off their personal opinions as, well, gospel, to the audience, then things tend to spiral out of control.

Case in point: New York Mets infielder Daniel Murphy missed the first two games of the season to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Considering that about nine months ago, then-teammate John Buck had taken paternity leave and wasn't a target of a media firestorm, you wonder why Murphy was singled out for choosing family over team now.

The simple answer: He missed Opening Day. To the talk radio types, that's on a par with an unpardonable sin, but in truth, it isn't.

It happens to be an unpleasant coincidence that the criticism comes from the team's former radio home, WFAN, which now carries the Yankees (Mets games are on WOR-AM radio, which is ironic considering that WWOR, the Mets' former TV home, is now home to the Yankees' non-cable telecasts). And it doesn't help that two WFAN talk shows are airing on cable.

Morning hosts Boomer Esiason (The NFL Today) and Craig (My face isn't worthy of a milk) Carton (Raissman calls him "Cartoon" because he's a buffoonish comedian) ripped into Murphy as if he'd deserted his team in a time of need, but in truth, he had the blessing of Mets management. Esaison & Carton's show is broadcast on CBS Sports Network, meaning that their pathetic attempt at a bully pulpit was heard nationwide. Ditto for afternoon host Mike Francesa, the biggest egomaniac WFAN has, whose simulcast was moved to Fox Sports 1 a few weeks back after the Yankees' network got tired of his act. In Francesa's case, he acts and thinks like he knows everything, but is routinely ripped for being the biggest fraud in talk radio. To his guests & listeners, his is the only opinion that should matter, and he wants everyone to respect that. Yeah, just what we don't need. A sports talk clone of Rush Limbaugh.

And, so, Murphy and manager Terry Collins were put on the defensive needlessly. Didn't help that the Mets were swept by Washington, with Murphy making his season debut on Thursday, committing 2 errors while going 1-3 at the plate. The way the radio yappers were carrying on, you'd think Murphy's absence on Monday & Wednesday, and not the continuing injury curse at Citi Field or the plight of a revamped bullpen, was the cause of the Mets' losing those two games. I'm sorry, but they're just looking for a scapegoat when there is none to be had.

Consider also the fact that the Mets are no longer on WFAN. Could it be that their yappers were getting instructions from management? We don't know that, but we are handing out Weasel ears to Esiason, Carton, & Francesa. They take the heat, and if they end up handing up their superiors, we can send some extra ears along.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What Might've Been: Mr. T & Tina (1976)

After successfully getting Welcome Back, Kotter off the ground, producer James Komack couldn't land another hit at ABC. Oh, he tried, but for some reason, no matter what he did, it didn't pan out.

In the summer of 1976, as memory serves, I recall seeing a live-action pilot adapting the Archie comics for television. Unfortunately, that's been lost to the mists of time. We told you before about Sugar Time, Komack's homage to girl groups after a fashion. Now, here's a series that made the fall schedule in 1976, but didn't survive Halloween.

Mr. T & Tina brought Pat Morita over from Happy Days via a back-door pilot on Kotter, where he played Toro Takahashi (same last name as his Days character of Arnold). In fact, the Sweathogs appear at the start of the following video, uploaded by Gilmore Box:

Co-star Susan Blanchard might be better known for 2 things. Her husband was soap star Charles Frank (All My Children), and for a number of years, Ms. Blanchard did commercials for No Nonsense pantyhose. Komack brought in veteran writers-producers Bob Carroll, Jr. & Madelyn Davis (ex-I Love Lucy), but their comic talents were of little help. If memory serves, the series was slotted in between Kotter & Barney Miller, so it should've succeeded, but it lost viewers and was gone by the end of October. Co-star Ted Lange (ex-That's My Mama) rebounded and boarded The Love Boat, while Morita returned to Paramount, which cast him in Blansky's Beauties, another flop, this one, as memory serves, headlining Nancy Walker (Rhoda), otherwise known for her ads for Bounty paper towels.

No rating. Never saw the show.

Musical Interlude: Talkin' Baseball (Willie, Mickey, & The Duke) (1981)

Now, here's a 1-hit wonder that will last a lifetime.

Songwriter Terry Cashman wrote "Talkin' Baseball (Willie, Mickey, & The Duke)" in 1981. It came out in the summer that year, otherwise I'd have included that under "Videos From The High School Years". Since Cashman never made an actual video, we have a fan-made slideshow set to the music.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Who's in the wrong? Nickelodeon star boycotts awards ceremony

There has been speculation in recent weeks regarding the future of Nickelodeon's popular teen-com, Sam & Cat, which is wrapping up its 40-episode 1st season. The speculation has to do with one of the show's titular stars, Jennette McCurdy, who got in hot water a few weeks ago when a few selfies of the actress, wearing some skimpy clothing, ended up going viral after she broke up with her boyfriend, an NBA player (Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons).

Last Saturday, Nick held their annual Kids Choice Awards, emceed this year by rapper-turned-actor Mark Wahlberg, and McCurdy, up for an award opposite co-star Ariana Grande, was a no-show. Her decision, not the network's, and she claims it's because Nickelodeon is mistreating her.


Sam & Cat is a spin-off from not one, but two previous Nick teen-coms, iCarly & Victorious, with all three produced by actor-turned-studio-mogul-in-waiting Dan Schneider (ex-Head of the Class). McCurdy has been with Nick for 7 years, and one wonders if the lack of opportunities outside of the network has frustrated her to the point of taking rebellious stances like this. I don't follow Nick's family of teen-coms all that much, so I really don't know what the heck is going on here.

First, it's the selfies. Then, McCurdy skips the awards show. Now, she claims she's been mistreated? Either someone has gotten in her ear that shouldn't, or she is looking for a way out of her Nick contract. Who would you believe?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What Might've Been: The Duck Factory (1984)

The Duck Factory was, I think, the last series MTM Productions sold to NBC in the early 80's. The series bowed 30 years ago this month, and marked the series debut of future box office superstar Jim Carrey, heading up an ensemble cast of veteran and up & coming talent.

Carrey played Skip, an aspiring cartoonist who lands a job at a small Hollywood animation house whose owner has passed away, leaving the studio in the hands of his young wife of 3 weeks (Theresa Ganzel). Real life cartoon legend Don Messick made a rare on-camera appearance, playing voice actor Wally Wooster. The ensemble also included Jack Gilford, Clarence Gilyard, Jr. (later of Matlock & Walker, Texas Ranger), and comedy writer Jay Tarses, in a rare acting gig. Ironically, Tarses' Buffalo Bill, starring Dabney Coleman, was cancelled by NBC to make room for Duck Factory. What are the chances of that ever happening again?

I regret that I never saw the show, so there's no rating. Here's a sample episode:

Rockin' Funnies: The Streak (1974)

Ray Stevens landed a #1 hit on the pop & country charts in 1974 with "The Streak", an amusing commentary on the then-popular fad of streaking, which might've peaked when someone decided to try it at the Academy Awards.

Anyway, while Stevens later re-recorded his classic and made a music video to go with it, we're going to go with the original audio recording from '74.

"Streak", I think, was the last pop Top 40 entry for Stevens, as he's been exclusively a country comic ever since.