Saturday, May 31, 2014

When TV icons get together for a meal (1989)

McDonald's wanted to cash in on the nostalgia wave at the end of the 80's by bringing together a group of TV icons from the 50's & 60's for a few spots, two of which are shown twice in this montage. How about this dinner group?:

June Cleaver & Eddie Haskell (Barbara Billingsley & Ken Osmond, Leave it to Beaver).
Maxwell Smart (Don Adams, Get Smart).
Grandpa Munster (Al Lewis, The Munsters).
Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen, Beverly Hillbillies).
Gilligan (Bob Denver, Gilligan's Island).

Admittedly, I don't remember seeing these spots the first time around, and the ads represented some of Buddy Ebsen's last work. Barbara Billingsley had been in cartoons, working on Jim Henson's Muppet Babies at the time, and I think Don Adams was doing a cable show, Check It Out!, around this period, since Inspector Gadget was out of production and between series.

Somehow, it just didn't work.

A Weasel gets bagged

We have a follow-up on a recent Weasel of the Week award to pass along.

Andrew David Truelove, from Virginia, was arrested Friday and charged with the theft of memorial signs dedicated to victims of the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Truelove, according to the New York Daily News and other media outlets, reportedly has a history of mental illness.

Let me stop for a second. That part doesn't surprise me at all. Truelove's lawyers want to use mental illness to explain away the fact that he traveled far from his home to steal two memorial signs and take them back to his home in Virginia. No, mental illness has nothing to do with it. The guy's an idiot, and so are the other "Truthers" who think that the massacre wasn't real. These goofs have an axe to grind with the government, and are using a real-life tragedy to push their agenda by attempting to deconstruct the facts.

In fact, there are truther sites that should be watched carefully. The way they see it, Truelove is the 2nd man, at least, to have been arrested. There was another, who was posting his warped viewpoints on YouTube, and he, too, was arrested, likely because he was nosing around where he didn't belong.

As I understand it from reading online (the print edition of today's Daily News didn't have enough space for the story), Truelove was already in jail in Virginia on an unrelated probation violation, having been arrested on Monday, nearly 3 weeks after the theft in Stonington, and he's likely going to be extradited back to not only Connecticut, but New Jersey, where the other theft occurred. In short, he's going to be going away for a long time to come, because the prosecution will shoot down any claims of mental illness. He had to be in his right mind to do what he did, plain & simple.

In other, unrelated news, it wouldn't be fair to give ousted Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling a set of Weasel ears, but we have to.

Sterling, 80, gave the go-ahead to his estranged wife, Shelly, to sell the team ahead of an NBA owners meeting to force the issue. Former Microsoft executive Mark Ballmer has agreed in principle to buy the team for $2 billion, and ESPN claims he had plans to move the team to Seattle, which has been without a franchise since the SuperSonics moved south and morphed into the Oklahoma City Thunder a few years ago. However, Sterling, proving that his advanced age has eroded his mental skills, has filed a lawsuit for half the amount that Ballmer is shelling out. Ballmer's agreement with Mrs. Sterling, though, would protect the team and the league from any sort of mindless litigation such as this. There are reports that Sterling has Alzheimer's disease, which would explain away his erratic behavior of late, but only a hypocritical Weasel would do two directly opposite things, almost at the same time. That being said, if Shelly Sterling had an inkling that her husband was falling ill any sooner than this, maybe the team should've already been sold, and we wouldn't have this kind of drama.

Friday, May 30, 2014

What Might've Been: Can You Top This? (1970)

In the 50's, there were a couple of comedy games that made the rounds, then revived in the 70's.

The first of those shows to be revived was Can You Top This?, the concept of which is pretty self-explanatory. A contestant sends in a joke to be read by a celebrity joke teller. Three other comedians are then asked to top it. Apparently, this was the weakest of the comedy games, as this version only lasted 1 season.

Only one episode is available on YouTube. Wink Martindale is the MC. Richard Dawson (Hogan's Heroes) is the joke teller. Our panel consists of Jack Carter, Paul Winchell, and Morey Amsterdam (ex-The Dick Van Dyke Show), who doubled as a producer. Reportedly, Amsterdam held the rights to the series, and Four Star packaged the show for syndication. The studio was on its last legs at the time, since they didn't have any series on the network by this point. If memory serves, I believe Amsterdam was also continuing as a recurring panelist on Hollywood Squares, the better to plug Can You Top This?. Winchell didn't leave his ventriloquist dummies behind. Jerry Mahoney makes a cameo appearance at the start.

The jokes are told in much the same way they'd be if our stars were appearing on, say, The Tonight Show or any of the other talk shows. Winchell, of course, didn't do much stand-up to begin with, but acquits himself very well. It's just a pity this wasn't renewed for a 2nd season.

The other comedy games? It Pays to be Ignorant, which began on radio before going to TV, just like Can You Top This?, and was revived by Monty Hall & Stefan Hatos in the mid-70's, and Make Me Laugh, which Paramount brought back in 1979 with Bobby Van. It would've been renewed for a 2nd year, except that Van passed away after production ended. Laugh was the only one to return a 2nd time, this time on cable's Comedy Central, and lasted about 3-4 years with 2 hosts.

Can You Top This? merits an A.

Classic TV: Cheers (1982)

It was the place "where everybody knows your name", according to the theme song. For 11 seasons (1982-93), Cheers, for the most part, was appointment television, one of the first links in the chain that would become NBC's Must-See TV Thursday block.

Set and partially filmed in Boston, Cheers' strength lay in its ensemble cast. The idea was to imagine a typical neighborhood bar whose clientele have become like unto a close knit extended family. Sam, the bartender (Ted Danson) was previously a pitcher for the Red Sox, who at the time were enjoying greater cable television exposure outside of Boston. Then, there's Cliff, the mailman (John Ratzenberger), who's also a bit of an annoying know-it-all who ended up one night appearing on Jeopardy!. Norm, an accountant by trade (George Wendt), seemed to be the most popular guy in the room. His wife, Vera, was discussed but never seen. In later seasons, Norm took up interior decorating as a side gig, probably to pay his overflowing bar tab.

The series began with Diane (Shelley Long) taking a waitress job at Cheers after she was jilted at the altar. The crux of the storylines in the early years was built around Sam's pursuit of Diane, but never quite reaching the finish line, if you will. Long left the series to pursue a movie career, and Diane was written out after jilting her latest beau, psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer, who'd joined the series in season 3). Frasier would, in turn, find true love and marry psychologist Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth), only to divorce at the end of the series, with Frasier heading west to Seattle and a solo series that lasted 11 years itself. The other barmaid, Carla (Rhea Perlman) was tart, often rude, but was softened in later years to the point where they teased pairing her with Sam after her 2nd husband, Eddie (Jay Thomas) passed away. Eddie, a hockey mascot, was killed off when he was trapped under the ice by a zamboni.

Then, there was Coach (Nicholas Colasanto), a former baseball coach who was the other bartender, and a good listener who solved customers' problems. Coach was written out after the 3rd season when Colasanto passed away from a heart attack. That cleared the way for dim-witted Woody (Woody Harrelson) to fill the void. To say that Woody wasn't the sharpest tool in the drawer would be an understatement. In season 6, Kirstie Alley joined the show as Rebecca, Sam's new boss, who at first was able to resist and turn back Sam's advances.

Cheers spawned not one, but two spin-offs. The first, The Tortellis, came about after Carla's 1st husband (Dan Hedaya) remarried, but his new bride (Jean Kasem) was actually more of a match for Woody in the IQ department. The Tortellis, however, didn't last very long, and seems to be swept under the rug in the CBS-Paramount vaults. As noted earlier, Frasier lasted 11 years of its own (1993-2004), with Dr. Crane adding a gig as a radio talk show host. Apparently, Paramount wasn't comfortable with Frasier concentrating solely on his practice, which would've drawn comparisons to The Bob Newhart Show from the 70's.

If memory serves, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name", co-written and sung by Gary Portnoy, actually enjoyed a significant amount of radio airplay during the early years. Where it finished on the Hot 100, I don't know. Give it a listen:

Today, Ted Danson is giving drama a whirl, starring on CSI. George Wendt reprised a Saturday Night Live skit in a pair of ads for State Farm. John Ratzenberger popped up in a Radio Shack spot that aired during the Super Bowl. Could a reunion special be far off, even though most of the cast are busy these days? One never knows.

Rating: A-.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Classic Reborn: Return of the Saint (1978)

Nearly a decade after the original series had ended production and entered international syndication, ITC brought Leslie Charteris' legendary hero, The Saint, back to television. Sad to say, while Ian Oglivy made a suitable successor to original star Roger Moore, and was being considered to succeed Moore again, this time as James Bond in movies, Return of the Saint lasted just 1 season (the original lasted 7 years).

Not long after production ended, Return was imported to the US and aired not on NBC, which had the original series in its final years, but rather CBS, which ran it as part of an anthology package under the CBS Late Movie heading. Oddly, after Return was cancelled by CBS, it had sparked so much interest in the original series, such that CBS picked up The Saint. I remember falling asleep on many a Thursday night trying to watch the show before going to school the next morning. I am not making that up. Unfortunately, Return didn't follow the original series into syndication, and thus has been lost.

Here's the intro, which updates a bit of Charteris' original theme composition:

So what went wrong? Oglivy didn't look enough like Moore to get himself into a bit of a pickle with fans, but with Moore still active and making the Bond movies every couple of years, the comparisions, though unwarranted, were inevitable and unfortunately too negative to ignore.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What would motivate you to get a GED? (2014)

I've seen this ad playing a few times the last few weeks, and with high schools wrapping up in the next month, it seems so appropriate to bring this up.

How would you like it if you didn't finish high school, and needed a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) in order to find a job? You probably might need a little help, and that's what this ad is all about, featuring talents as diverse as Jerry Stiller (ex-Seinfeld, The King of Queens), Terry Crews ("The Expendables"), Danny Trejo ("Machete"), Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy), Debra Jo Rupp (ex-That 70's Show), former WWE champ Mike "The Miz" Mizanin, rapper DMC (Darryl McDaniels), and Jamie Lynn Sigler (ex-The Sopranos). Oy!

Each of the stars cut a separate, individual ad to go along with this group job. Keep watching, you're bound to find one.

Edit, 6/28/15: Unfortunately, all that is left is this pep talk from Danny Trejo.

The weirdest excuse for mass murder

I've held my peace long enough. Now, it's time to offer my own opinion on the late Elliott Rodger, son of an assistant director on the "Hunger Games" movies, who stabbed his three college roommates to death, then went postal, killing three more people before making like a coward, unwilling to stand trial, and taking his own life.

The one thing that struck me as odd about this entire case, right from the go, based on the news accounts I've read, was that this was about his inability to either make love, or, at the very least, get a date. Quite simply, Rodger couldn't get any.

Like, couldn't he have taken a sex education course either in high school, or at college? His role models must've been Beavis & Butt-Head instead of, say, Andrew "Dice" Clay. Mike Judge's animated airheads couldn't get any, either, and it didn't bother them one bit. Then again, neither one of them was exactly a brain surgeon to start with.

On the front page of Tuesday's New York Daily News came a headline declaring that the source of Rodger's hate was his junior high school crush, who at the time was only 10, while Rodger was 12. The tabloid smartly blurred the face of the young lady, now 20, to avoid giving her any undue embarrassment. Apparently, Elliott's dad spent so much time working in Hollywood, such that he never taught his kid anything, or couldn't get up the cheddar to hire Dr. Ruth as a tutor. Please.

Of course, there's the usual whining about guns, but Rodger didn't profile as being a few fries shy of a Happy Meal, and obtained his weapons legally. That means his teachers, as well as his parents, missed something along the way. He internalized his anger toward women until he could contain it no longer. That says to me he thought he could deal with it himself, but internalizing feelings doesn't always work. In today's paper, the father of one of the victims lashed out at Congress for not doing anything, considering how the NRA and other lobbyists have supposedly such a firm control of certain lawmakers. That's because money gets in the way of justice in these cases. The 2nd Amendment is supposed to allow us to defend ourselves, but in the 21st century, there are too many people out there who've lost their way, and, like Rodger, are lashing out in the worst possible way. The NRA protects them, but shouldn't. Considering that it's run by a moron, well......!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

On the Air: The Price is Right (1956)

In 2 years' time, The Price is Right will mark its' 60th anniversary. Yes, you read that right. Sixty. Today's generation may only know of the incarnation that has been with us since 1972, but it, in turn, was a revival.

Price began in 1956, airing both in daytime and primetime on first NBC (until 1963), then ABC (1963-5), with Bill Cullen as host, and the inestimable Don Pardo was the announcer. Not sure if Pardo carried over when the series shifted to ABC, since he rarely took jobs away from NBC. The original Price's game play was radically different than the current version. To wit:

Cullen, of course, moved on to MC a bazillion other games, mostly for Price creator Bob Stewart after the latter launched his own production company, spinning off from Goodson-Todman. Pardo announced most of those shows, since they were taped in New York. Cullen would return to Goodson-Todman as a panelist and part-time guest host on To Tell The Truth during the Garry Moore/Joe Garagiola era (1969-77).

When Price returned in 1972, it completed the rare trifecta of having aired on all three major networks of the period when CBS picked up the show. Bob Barker (Truth or Consequences) was chosen as MC, since the show was now based in Los Angeles, and Cullen, of course, was busy in New York. Initially, it remained a half-hour, like the original, but would morph into its current hour-long format.

Here's the 1st episode of the current series. Johnny Olsen is the announcer. Note the subtle difference in Olsen's call to contestants, as opposed to later episodes.

Price would return to primetime periodically for themed specials, and at one point, was used as a summer replacement series. It also aired in an on-again, off-again, syndicated evening edition, which has had the likes of Dennis James and soap actor Doug Davidson (Young & The Restless) as hosts.

In 2006, Barker retired, and after a year, Fremantle Media, which took over the series from Goodson-Todman, hired actor-comedian Drew Carey as Barker's successor. Perhaps the biggest selling point was the Cullen-esque buzzcut that was one of Carey's trademarks. Drew has since grown out the hair, and, nearly 7 years in, has proven all the doubters wrong.

The following is the first one that Carey had taped in the fall of '07:

Currently, George Gray (ex-Weakest Link) is the announcer, having taken over for Rich Fields a while back.

Last month, Carey switched places with Craig Ferguson, a castmate from his ABC sitcom, for an April Fool's Day stunt. Carey would bring the models along to The Late, Late Show, while Ferguson and announcer Shadoe Stevens (ex-Hollywood Squares) and friends took over Price for a day. It's not going to be a tradition, though, as Ferguson has already made it known he will be leaving his show at the end of the year, presumably due to being passed over as David Letterman's successor in favor of Stephen Colbert.

Edit, 1/12/22: The video was deleted due to a copyright claim. We now have the intro:

This stuff never gets old.

Rating: A-.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Celebrity Rock: (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 (1964)

When you think of the TV show, Route 66, you think of the instrumental theme performed by musical director Nelson Riddle with Gil Grau conducting the orchestra. However, the song, "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66", came before the show was even a thought in the minds of Sterling Siliphant & Herbert Leonard, the show's creators.

Most of you remember the late actor Bobby Troup as Dr. Joe Early from Emergency! (1972-7), and an assortment of other character roles. What you may not know is that Troup was also a jazz singer-songwriter who composed "Route 66" several years prior. It was a hit for artists as diverse as Nat King Cole, John Mayer, & the Rolling Stones (!), but it was Troup who started it all. Troup didn't mix his singing with his acting all that often---2 appearances on Perry Mason and a recurring, pre-Emergency! gig on Mannix seems to be the extent of it---but let's take you back to 1964, when Troup and his jazz combo told us to "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66". The video begins with a brief clip of Troup's wife, singer-actress Julie London (Troup's 2nd wife), as this was from her variety show.

It was one of those little ironies, as the Troups were cast by Julie's ex-husband, Jack Webb, for Emergency!, but to my knowledge I don't think they ever did any musical numbers.......

On DVD: Ramar of the Jungle (1952)

Ramar of the Jungle lasted just two years (1952-4), but what some of you might not know is that this was one of the first series to be, at least in part, produced by England's ITC Productions, which was then under another name. The independent Arrow Productions got top billing in producing Ramar, but the history books tell that it was a collaboration with the future ITC, which was beginning to make inroads in the US.

Jon Hall had the title role as an American doctor working in Africa, where the natives gave him the name, Ramar. Funny thing was, half of the 1st season was shot in India, while everything else was filmed on location in Africa. I'd say it'd be hard to figure out the difference.

Following is the episode, "Evil Trek":

It comes across now, more than 60 years later, as a generic jungle adventure show. In other words, it doesn't really hold up as well as, say for example, the Tarzan movies of the same period.

Rating: C.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

On Video: Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956)

Godzilla marks his 60th anniversary this year, but it took two before his 1st film reached American shores, re-edited and dubbed into English, with additional footage added.

We all know the story. Godzilla, or Gojira in Japanese, rises from the depths of the ocean, and starts by destroying ocean liners, killing innocents. Inevitably, Godzilla reaches land, and not even electrical power lines can stop it. For American audiences, the additional material involves a United World News reporter, Steve Martin (Raymond Burr), who serves as the narrator. Martin was en route to Cairo on assignment when he stopped in Tokyo to visit a friend, and ran into the story of a lifetime.

Here's the trailer:

It was one year before Burr achieved iconic status as Perry Mason, but before "Godzilla", he was already an accomplished radio & film star. When Toho, the Japanese studio behind "Godzilla", decided to remake the original classic in the 80's, Burr was called back to reprise as Martin, and it would be the final time he'd be associated with the franchise.

I think you can understand how the current version has much to live up to.

Rating: A-.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Classic TV: Naked City (1958)

"There are eight million stories in the Naked City."
                                                                           ----tagline to Naked City.

10 years after the feature film of the same name, Naked City became a TV show, airing on ABC for a total of four seasons. However, it almost didn't happen.

Originally, the show was titled The Naked City, a half-hour crime drama, with executive producer Herbert B. Leonard as narrator. It didn't work out so well, and the series was cancelled. However, after a year away, Naked City returned as a 1 hour show, and ran for three seasons.

Following is the episode, "The Highest of Prizes":

Currently, Me-TV has the series airing as part of its Sunday late-night block, with seemingly no confidence in moving it to an earlier time.

Rating: B.

On the Shelf: One Shadow era ends, and another begins?

Dynamite Entertainment ended their monthly The Shadow after issue 25, released earlier this month. Maybe it's just as well, as writer Chris Roberson's story arcs became less and less interesting as time went on. However, taking the place of the ongoing monthly is a new miniseries written & drawn by Howard Chaykin, whose last run with the Dark Avenger marked the pulp legend's return to DC in 1987.

This time, instead of moving the story into the present, as Chaykin did 27 years ago, "Midnight in Moscow" is set in the winter of 1949-50, and has the Shadow contemplating---gulp---retirement. Once again, Chaykin has taken the Shadow out of his classic milieu, and it is the 2nd time Dynamite has tried it. I just can't get into this one at all. Call me old, jaded, and cynical, but trying to transpose the Shadow into modern times, or close to it, loses something in the translation.

Rating: D.

One of my all-time favorite cartoons is, if you follow Saturday Morning Archives, Super Friends. In 1976, with the original series in reruns, DC added a comics version, which lasted 5 years and 47 issues. I got back into collecting in time to purchase the last 12 issues of the series, but trying to find those same books today can be a little pricey.

After two trade paperback collections were released a number of years back, DC has gone back into the vaults to add Super Friends to their Showcase Presents series of reprint volumes. Had they chosen to reprint in full color again, as they did in the earlier TPB releases, it would be more expensive than it is. That's just a fact of business. The Alex Toth cover is, itself, a reprint, first used as the title card for the 1973 TV series, then for a Limited Collector's Edition reprint volume that used a framing sequence by Toth to set up some Justice League of America (1st series) reprints. I think that tabloid-size volume served as a back-door pilot for the Super Friends comic book, if memory serves. Anyway, this affords a chance to read the stories you may have missed back in the day, complete with the television screen-shaped panels used in the books. It was, after all, originally part of DC's ill fated TV Comics line, which also included adaptations of Isis & Welcome Back, Kotter. The first 24 issues are collected here, in order, and including a Wonder Twins origin tale first published in issue 14, the first issue I actually owned for a time. DC, I think, is hoping enough folks will buy into this so they can do a volume 2 and complete the series, once and for all. With the series having marked 40 years last year, it's certainly appropriate.

Rating: A-.

Let's get back to Free Comic Book Day from earlier this month.

England's legendary 2000 AD returns in a magazine-size volume that features popular favorites such as Judges Dredd & Anderson (in separate tales). If you didn't follow the series initially, you are expected to jump right in without prompting. Dredd headlines due to his being the best known character. 2 movies will do that. Rating: B-.

Ted Naifeh's young witch, Courtney Crumrin, returns to duel with a rival who's about her age, but doesn't have the experience. Didn't like the way this one ended. Rating: C.

50's hero Captain Midnight teams with a forgotten Dell Comics hero of the 60's, Brain Boy, as part of Dark Horse's summer event, Project: Black Sky, which also includes two alumni from the company's short-lived 90's line, Comics' Greatest World. X & Ghost were recently revived, and DH now wants to get back to being a major player with their first major event in years. Looks like fun, but I'll wait for the TPB. Rating: B.

The Bleeding Cool website has spawned a magazine of the same name that's more hype than substance. Then again, Marvel used to do a similar book back in the 80's that lasted a good long time. Today's kids want to read the story and look at the panels. But then, isn't that always the way it was? Diamond's monthly Previews catalogue spins off a regular size 1-shot that asks the question, "What's @ Comic Shops?". This is a primer for new readers, basically, to educate them on the comics business. Good idea.

Both books get a B.

Friday, May 23, 2014

On DVD: One Step Beyond (1959)

It was ABC's answer to The Twilight Zone, but John Newland, host of One Step Beyond, was no Rod Serling. Beyond was a mid-season replacement that bowed in January 1959, and lasted a total of three seasons over 2 1/2 years.

Was it really scary? No, it was no different than Zone or any of the other anthologies of this genre in the period in that regard. The stories were supposed to be fact-based, but, like Dragnet, with names perhaps changed to protect the innocent.

Given how some people for some reason have an inordinate hatred of clowns, I guess it's only appropriate to present "The Clown", starring Mickey Shaughnessy & Yvette Mimieux:

Newland and creator Collier Young came back several years later with The Next Step Beyond, but that series lasted just 1 season in syndication, and this time, Newland, who'd gained some experience behind the camera, directed several episodes as well as continuing as host.

Rating: B-.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What Might've Been: The Paul Lynde Show (1972)

There's been many a show built around a star whose best work has been as part of an ensemble, but was proven unable to carry a show on his own. It happened to Tim Conway time and again in the post-McHale's Navy era. It also happened to Paul Lynde. Twice.

It was 1972. Bewitched had ended its run after 8 seasons, and was now running in daytime repeats six days a week on ABC. Lynde, appearing on Hollywood Squares over on NBC, was tapped to star in his own series after gaining iconic status as Uncle Arthur on Bewitched. He was clearly a favorite of Elizabeth Montgomery and her then-husband, William Asher, who'd formed their production company, Ashmont, toward the end of Bewitched's run, and their first post-Bewitched project cast Lynde in a very common domestic sitcom, one whose roots extended a decade.

The Paul Lynde Show actually begins with the 1962 movie, "Howie", a little known feature film based on a Broadway play. The Ashers and Lynde revisited the concept with this series, in which Paul Simms (Lynde) must navigate matters with his son-in-law, the aforementioned Howie (John Calvin). Nice idea, but one problem. It was airing opposite Adam-12 and The Carol Burnett Show. Ballgame.

The series lasted exactly 1 year, but Asher wasn't giving up on Lynde just yet. After James Whitmore was bounced from Temperatures Rising, another Ashmont series, the next season, Lynde was brought on board to replace him, playing a completely new character. Didn't help, as Rising, headlined by Cleavon Little, was another bust.

Here's the open to The Paul Lynde Show:

It wasn't long after that Lynde wound up doing commercials for Manufacturers Hanover Trust bank in New York. Go figure.

No rating. Never saw the show.

Musical Interlude: What Am I Doing Hanging Around? (1967)

The Monkees go country with this number, written by future pop-country star Michael Martin Murphey, who scored with "Wildfire" in 1976. "What Am I Doing Hanging Around?" has Mike Nesmith on lead vocals, clearly showing a little Stephen Stills influence in his singing. Of course, there is the legend that Stills himself had auditioned for the band, but was turned down. Stills still became a music icon, thanks to Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, & Nash (and sometimes Neil Young).

It's amazing how they managed to make all those songs work without any of the boys playing bass.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Classic Reborn: The New Perry Mason (1973)

It's hard replacing a legend. Harder still when you're filling the shoes of a second legend in doing so.

20th Century Fox had acquired a license to produce The New Perry Mason for CBS in 1973, seven years after the original series with Raymond Burr had signed off into syndication. Monte Markham (ex-The Second Hundred Years) was cast as Mason, with Harry Guardino as Hamilton Burger. All well & good, except that CBS put the series on Sundays, trying to fill yet another void, this one created after The Ed Sullivan Show had ended two years earlier. Markham ended up getting nearly 4 months before the plug was pulled, and it would be 12 years before Burr was called back into duty as Mason, this time in a series of TV-movies for NBC, which we previously covered.

Jpwrites uploaded the open:

No rating.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What Might've Been: Judd For the Defense (1967)

With Perry Mason long gone from the airwaves, save for syndication, by 1967, there was a void in primetime television, and 20th Century Fox felt they could fill it with another courtroom drama.

Judd For The Defense, however, lasted just 2 seasons, and would be the last series for star Carl Betz (ex-The Donna Reed Show), cast in the title role as Texas attorney Clinton Judd, who often left his home base to handle cases out of town. Unlike Mason, Judd addressed social issues of the times, such as racial tensions.

Here is the intro:

Ironically, Fox acquired the rights to Mason 4 years after Judd ended, and cast Monte Markham as Mason. Unfortunately, it lasted 1 season.

Rating: None. I barely remember seeing this, if at all.

Apparently, kids don't matter to Me-TV anymore........

Until recently, Me-TV had been running a 3 hour block each Saturday & Sunday morning to accomodate the FCC's E/I mandates. In recent weeks, though, at least in my market, that is not the case anymore.

Even though the cable guide---and Me-TV's website---shows programs like Green Screen Adventures airing at 8 am (ET) on those days, it's getting bumped aside all of a sudden. Over the last month or better, at least locally, reruns of Gomer Pyle, USMC have been filling the Green Screen slot on the schedule, at least on Sundays. Don't know about Saturdays. From what I can gather, there are now two separate feeds for affiliates to choose from between 8-11 am (ET), and in Albany, they've chosen to dump Green Screen, Edgemont, and others.

Me-TV's Summer schedule is now available on their website, and it shows the two separate feeds, with the alternate feed including Leave it to Beaver, which would replace Gomer on Sundays, effective June 1.

So why the changes? I'm guessing the E/I block isn't generating ratings, and that, of course, is always the bottom line. Effective May 31, the alternate feed on Saturdays will see the return of Westerns like Branded & The Guns of Will Sonnett, which have been off Me-TV for a while now. The Rebel would also gain an extra berth, at 10:30 (ET). Otherwise, there are few cosmetic changes to the summer schedule, which says to me that Me-TV isn't really trying too hard to diversify. The only children's programs left are HR Pufnstuf & Land of the Lost, which will no longer have a 2 hour block, and He-Man & the Masters of the Universe, which will return June 1, airing at 5 am (ET), as before.

The big acquisition for the summer seems to be The Mod Squad, which will replace Ironside at 11 am (ET) on weekdays, while Love Boat adds a morning berth (pardon the pun) at 10, cutting Perry Mason  down to one showing a day.

If anyone can enlighten me as to the network's thought process, other than what I've deduced, I'd appreciate it.

Advertising For Dummies: Who is DirecTV fooling? (2014)

DirecTV's latest, lamest ad campaign, touting the supposed virtues of satellite TV being wireless, instead posits kids and wives/girlfriends as being played by marionettes.

Case in point:

Ironically, GEICO is using a wireless Pinocchio (actually a guy in a costume) in their current ad campaign, which is just as lame. Who's writing these ads, anyway?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Classic TV: Take a Good Look (1959)

After making several appearances on What's My Line?, both as a panelist and a mystery guest, comedian Ernie Kovacs decided to poke fun at the genre by creating his own game show.

Take a Good Look lasted just 2 seasons (1959-61), but was later brought back in reruns during the late 70's in syndication, airing in New York on WOR. Kovacs' wife, Edie Adams, was a regular panelist, usually with the likes of Cesar Romero, Hans Conreid, or Ben Alexander (ex-Dragnet). Dutch Masters, for whom Adams was doing commercials well into the 70's, was the sole sponsor.

Let's, ah, Take a Good Look at a sample episode.

No rating.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Classic TV: Mannix (1967)

Mannix was one of the last dramatic series to be produced by Desilu before the company was absorbed by Paramount, which occurred following the first season. Amazingly, a format change enabled after that first season may be what kept the series going for as long as it did.

Originally, Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) was an operative for Intertect, Ltd., a security/detective agency that had a larger-than-normal office and relied on computer technology. Desilu co-founder Lucille Ball felt that the computers were a little too high-tech, and so, Intertect and its frontman, Lew Wickersham (Joseph Campanella) were phased out. Campanella left the show to move over to NBC's The Bold Ones: The New Lawyers. Mannix would operate on his own for the remaining seven seasons, gaining a secretary, Peggy Fair (Gail Fisher), and subsequent stories would deal with relevant social issues of the times.

Creators Richard Levinson & William Link would leave Paramount, and develop Columbo, Ellery Queen, & Murder, She Wrote for Universal during the 70's & 80's, the latter series bringing them back to CBS. Interestingly, more than 20 years after Mannix ended, Mike Connors would reprise the role in an episode of Dick Van Dyke's Diagnosis: Murder, which served as a sequel to a Mannix episode.

Here's the open for the first season:

I believe that is Hank Simms, who'd later be the announcer for Quinn Martin's family of crime dramas, doing the voiceover for a sponsor cue.

The series had been seen on cable on TV Land in recent years, and would be a good candidate to move on to Me-TV down the road, since that network also has the rights to the other Desilu-Paramount series from the era, Star Trek & Mission: Impossible.

Rating: B.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Musical Interlude: Run, Joey, Run (1975)

David Geddes had tried his hand in the music business, recording a number of songs that failed to make any hay, before deciding to go back to school. In 1975, he was asked by a former producer to record a song the producer had written.

"Run, Joey, Run" peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of '75. It tells the tragic story of two teenagers in love. Julie, it turns out, is with child, which angers her father, who has sworn to kill Joey. Paula Vance, daughter of the producer, is the uncredited female vocalist.

Geddes would have one more hit single, "Blind Man in the Bleachers", as the follow-up, but that would be it.

Due to censorship issues back in the day, they couldn't come right out and say that Julie was pregnant. Today, they would.

Classic TV: Dave Allen at Large (1971)

Irish comedian Dave Allen brought his 1971 BBC series, Dave Allen at Large, to the US toward the end of the 70's. I'd gather this was after the series had ceased production, as memory serves me. The program, a mix of monologues and quick gags, had ended in 1976, but was picked up first by PBS, then went into syndication.

The local PBS station often coupled Dave Allen at Large with England's popular Monty Python's Flying Circus, usually on the weekends. In the 80's, the series resurfaced on cable around these parts, airing on WSBK in Boston.

One of the more popular aspects of the show was its jazzy theme song, composed by Alan Hawkshaw. You'll get to hear it, eventually, in the course of this video.

Unfortunately, Allen is no longer with us, having passed away in 2005, but one wonders what it'd take to put this show back on the air.

Rating: A.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Celebrity Rock: Look Down That Lonesome Road (1963)

CBS could've struck a gold mine back in the 60's with soundtracks from The Andy Griffith Show and its spin-off, Gomer Pyle, USMC, which we covered yesterday.

Andy would frequently break out a guitar and play a number now and again, often accompanying the Darlings (played by the folk singing Dillards), or, in this case, moonshiner-turned-farmer Rafe Hollister (Jack Prince), who, in the episode, "Rafe Hollister Sings", performs "Look Down That Lonesome Road".

Nearly 30 years later, Prince and Hal Smith, as Rafe & Otis, would appear on TNN's Nashville Now, and we'll have that another time.

Weasels of the Week: Sandy Hook "Truthers"

Nearly 18 months later, there are still idiots who think the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a hoax. It doesn't matter to these anonymous morons that their theories couldn't hold water if you handed them a box of pails.

Earlier this week, one of these idiots stole a sign from a playground in Mystic, CT. that was dedicated to Grace McDonnell, one of the victims in the massacre. The same fool somehow got hold of the phone number of Grace's mother, Lynn, called, and taunted the parent, claiming Grace never existed. Sorry to say, we don't have a name for this unrepentant Weasel, but as soon as the cops find him, he's getting hauled off either to jail, Bellevue, or both, one at a time.

And, that goes also for the "truther" idiots who vandalized another playground, this one in Hartford, dedicated to Anna Grace Marquez-Greene. A sign there was tagged with the acronym, "BEKS", a peace sign, and dedicated "to Sandy Hook".

Just how cruel can these fools be? None of their theories, based in large part from early media reports the day of the incident, before the pieces could be put together, will ever hold up.

I say, once the police round up these Weasels, have them pay for the damages done, and issue a public apology to the families of the victims, in a very public setting, so that everyone sees what kind of lamebrained fools they are.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Classic TV: Gomer Pyle, USMC (1964)

As they say in their advertising, the Marines are looking for a few good men. In 1964, they found one.

Gomer Pyle, USMC was spun off from The Andy Griffith Show after Gomer (Jim Nabors) spent one year on the parent show. In a way, series creator Aaron Ruben riffed on the movie, "No Time For Sergeants", which, in turn, helped mold Griffith into the icon he would become. That movie was adapted into a sitcom itself, for ABC, instead of CBS, but lasted one season. Viewers identified Sergeants with Griffith and Don Knotts too much to give that series a chance, and ABC was looking for a service comedy to complement McHale's Navy. We'll take a look at Sergeants another time.

After season 4 of The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer left his gas station behind and joined the Marines. His naivete didn't exactly endear him right away to Gunnery Sgt. Vincent Carter (Frank Sutton), but in time, Carter would warm up to the well meaning Pyle. Y'think maybe it might be the fact that Gomer could also deliver a show-stopping number every so often? After all, Nabors was a million selling recording artist for Columbia back then.

After 5 seasons, Nabors, taking his cue from Griffith, decided he'd gone as far as he could go with Gomer, and swapped the series for a self-titled variety show. Sutton and co-star Ronnie Schell came with Nabors for the new show, which, unfortunately, didn't last long. The fluid ensemble of Gomer Pyle, at times, also featured a couple of other familiar faces. For example, Ted Bessell left after the first two seasons to co-star on That Girl, and before he was cast as Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H, William Christopher was a series regular on Pyle. Like, who knew?

These days, Gomer Pyle can be found on Me-TV on weekends. Of late, for some unknown reason, the network has bumped Green Screen Adventures on Sundays in favor of Gomer, although their website still claims that Green Screen is on the schedule. I've a feeling this may be a case where Green Screen has run out of gas in terms of ratings, and if Me-TV is allowing it, affiliates may be subbing in Gomer for that reason.

Edit, 10/19/22: CBS (Paramount) has invoked copyrights on several videos. So, we're now using the intro from season 2.

Rating: B+.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What Might've Been: Department S (1969)

It's funny, really.

The "British Invasion" of the 60's not only brought artists like Herman's Hermits, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Petula Clark, Cliff Richard, the Beatles, and the Moody Blues to our shores, just to name a few, but the British also had been importing some of their television shows here as well, something that had been going on since before the start of Beatlemania.

Lord Lew Grade's ITC imported several series during the 50's, 60's, & 70's, mostly spy & adventure shows. Of course, the most famous of those imports included The Saint and The Persuaders, both starring Roger Moore. The train stopped, however, after Space: 1999 and The Muppet Show, the latter produced in America, arrived in the mid-to-late 70's. You'd be surprised to know that, aside from The Saint, the average lifespan of a spy series from ITC was about 1 year. That's it. Danger Man, known here in the US as Secret Agent to most folks, is the only other one I know of that went past a year.

Department S was one of those one year wonders, although it did get 2 seasons. Launched as a mid-season replacement in the Spring of 1969, the series managed only 28 episodes total, which were imported to the US in the mid-70's. I have a recollection of seeing this show on WOR in NY on a Saturday night at one point.

However, Department S was not so much about spies, but rather unusual crimes. A different sort of whodunit, though the team seemed to be England's answer to the IMF (Mission: Impossible). Stewart Sullivan (Joel Fabiani) was the field leader, teamed with author-playboy-adventurer Jason King (Peter Wyngarde) and analyst Annabelle Hurst (Rosemary Nicols). King would later be spun off into his own self-titled solo series, which never made it here to the US.

Here's the intro:

As noted, the series aired in NYC, but not locally, in a brief syndication run. There were others that met the same fate, as we'll see down the road.

Rating: B.

On the Shelf: A few Free Comic Book Day entries, and some noteworthy TV news

Comics fans will have plenty of reasons to watch TV this fall.

As the current season wraps this month, there are three comic-book-based series on the air: CW's Arrow (wrapping its 2nd season tonight), AMC's The Walking Dead, and ABC's Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, which finished its freshman campaign last night. In the fall, they'll have some company.

ABC is adding a second Marvel Studios production, Agent Carter, spun off from the Captain America movies, but in a post-WWII setting. Hayley Atwell reprises as Peggy Carter. Downside is that viewers will have to wait until mid-season.

DC has 4 new shows joining Arrow, which will return for its 3rd year. One is a reboot of The Flash, which will be a spinoff from Arrow, set in the same alternate universe. CW has also optioned iZombie, which ran for 28 issues between 2010-2. However, the TV version will be radically different from the book created by Chris Roberson (now at Dynamite) and Mike Allred. None of the characters from the book will move to the series, as this will be more of a supernatural-procedural crime drama, a la NBC's Grimm. CW gave up on the revival of the British series, The Tomorrow People, in favor of iZombie. Rob Thomas, the brains behind Veronica Mars, not the Matchbox Twenty frontman, is attached.

Speaking of NBC, they're hoping Constantine can give them a supernatural series to complement Grimm, considering their short-form reboot of Dracula failed to click last fall. Finally, and most importantly, Fox has Gotham, which will focus on the early career of eventual police commissioner James Gordon. Bruce Wayne will be seen as a young boy, but they're also touting some of Batman's Rogues Gallery before they became infamous. That, though, is a reach. Gotham will be coupled with the returning Sleepy Hollow on Mondays. This one actually piques my interest.

As for Agents of SHIELD, ABC will drop it down to 9 (ET) for year 2, hoping that the ratings will pick up. If they had any sense at all, they'd jettison the two-headed monster that has ruined Marvel Animation, Joe Quesada & Jeph Loeb, but that isn't happening, as they're also attached to Agent Carter. Here's to hoping Agents can finally find its footing.

Free Comic Book day was nearly 2 weeks ago, but I'm finally getting around to discussing some of this year's crop. Here's the first sampler:

Fantagraphics has taken the reprint rights for some of the classic adventures of Donald Duck & Uncle Scrooge, particularly those drawn by Don Rosa. The lead feature, "A Matter of Simple Gravity", pits the Duck family vs. old foe Magica De Spell. Gladstone Gander is featured in the backup. Stuff like this never gets old. Rating: A.

DC's big summer event is Future's End, a weekly series that is set a few years into the future (DUH!), in which the DCU is under the thumb of the rogue satellite Brother Eye, so this wipes out the miniseries, The OMAC Project, from a few years back. Jack Kirby, Brother Eye's creator, might as well be spinning in his grave on this one. Too many writers are involved in crafting this fool's folly. Save your money. Rating: D.

Marvel preps fans for the August film adaptation of Guardians of the Galaxy with not one, but two books. However, both the Guardians and Rocket Raccoon have additional features that really don't fit.

Rocket Raccoon, if memory serves, marks his 30th anniversary this year. British writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning included him, along with two Jim Starlin creations, Drax the Destroyer & Gamora, in their 2008 reboot of Guardians (upon which the movie is based). This creates a vibe that these Guardians are Marvel's answer to the Suicide Squad over at DC. Who says this isn't the Marvel era of non-originality?

Starlin will return around August as well, with a new Thanos graphic novel. The preview looks great, like classic Starlin of old. That may be on the buy list down the road....! Unfortunately, while it's the last of three features in the Guardians' book, fans have to sit through a Spider-Man short that helps set up the Spider-Verse event later this year.

Meanwhile, Rocket's backup feature is a reprint from the comics version of Ultimate Spider-Man. You can't escape dreck if you can help it.

Guardians gets a B. Rocket gets a B-.

We'll cover more FCBD books another time. Meanwhile, there are some other offerings:

Marvel rebooted Ghost Rider, and people wonder why they even bothered. It just looks lame. Rating: D.

Meanwhile, at DC, after three issues with Batman & Robin, Scooby-Doo Team-Up takes a slide down to Know Your Role Blvd. & Jabroni Drive by making the 4th issue a cross-over with Teen Titans Go!. About the only saving grace to Sholly Fisch's story is a conversation between Daphne & Starfire making indirect references to two of Robin's voice actors over the years (Casey Kasem & Scott Menville). Otherwise, it's a typical TTG! plot,with Scooby & Mystery, Inc. tossed in. Good news for Scooby's fans, though, is that the next issue features Wonder Woman. Hmmmmmm. Rating: C-.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sounds of Praise: Now The Green Blade Riseth (2014)

It's amazing what you can do with just a few bells in a church choir.

The Winens Memorial Bell Choir at Catskill United Methodist Church perform "Now The Green Blade Riseth" during the 2014 Easter service. The significance of this video is that my aunt is in the choir, so this is a little slice of home.

Uploaded by Heather Lane.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Classic TV: St. Elsewhere (1982)

Two of NBC's most popular shows of the 80's share a common city, so you had to figure that somehow, some way, they'd find a way to do a crossover between Cheers & St. Elsewhere.

St. Elsewhere was another ensemble drama from MTM in the mold of Hill Street Blues, and, surprisingly, those two shows never crossed over. Instead, three cast members from Cheers----Rhea Perlman (Carla), John Ratzenberger (Cliff), & George Wendt (Norm), appeared in Elsewhere's 3rd season finale in 1985. Go figure.

Elsewhere lasted six seasons in all, but it seemed to be undone by a bizarre series finale in which it was revealed that the entire series was a dream in the mind of Timmy Westphall, son of one of the doctors. And you thought it was weird when Dallas did the same thing to end just 1 season.

St. Elsewhere's ensemble cast included, at various times, talents as diverse as Ed Begley, Jr., Terence Knox, Stephen Furst (ex-Delta House), future Oscar winner Denzel Washington, William Daniels (who also worked on Knight Rider concurrently during the first three seasons), and Howie Mandel, whose role of Dr. Wayne Fiscus was mostly comedy relief for the first couple of seasons before Fiscus was shot during season 4, and endured a near-death experience. Interestingly, you had a White Shadow character, now all grown up, on the staff at St. Eligius during this show's run, which should've dropped a hint that things weren't what they seemed.

20th Century Fox now owns the rights to the series, which has bounced around on cable in recent years, including stints on TNT & TV Land. Right now, here's the 1st season open:

I didn't follow the show all that much, so there's no rating.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

In Theatres: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

There are positives & negatives to "The Amazing Spider-Man 2", the current #1 movie in the country.

Positive: Electro, aka Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), gets an upgrade. When we first meet Max, Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) rescues him during a rampage by a saboteur named Alexi (Paul Giamatti), who would later become the Rhino. More on that later. An accident lands Max in a vat full of electric eels, and turns him into a blue skinned walking dynamo who later gains the ability to travel via electrical lines. He goes from being a geeky Spider-Man fanatic to one of his most dangerous adversaries practically in no time at all.

Negative: Rhino gets his costume at the end of the movie, and it's a waste of special effects money. Alexi is fueled by revenge against Spidey, of course, but it seems as though this fight is set up to segue into the next film. The trailers and ads led fans to believe Rhino would play a bigger role.

In the middle: The plot. Peter Parker is haunted by the ghost of Capt. George Stacy (Denis Leary), and the promise between them that Peter would leave Stacy's daughter, Gwen (Emma Stone). Peter misses Gwen's graduation day address as the valedectorian (look for Stan Lee's cameo in this sequence), but it was recorded, and Peter plays it back later on. He also learns the truth about his father (Campbell Scott), and the idea created by the writers of these movies that Richard Parker implanted his DNA on some spiders, including the one that bit Peter in the first film. Preposterous? Of course. The whole idea of Richard Parker being a spy of some kind was introduced in the books in the 90's, along with wife Mary, and even then I thought this was a little convoluted, since there was very little about Peter's parents in the books up until then.

Peter breaks up with Gwen, but then they gradually get back together, just as Gwen lands a job at Oscorp. She gets into trouble when she decides to do some investigating for Peter into Dillon, and that gets the attention of some nasties at Oscorp, who covered up the accident. Gwen also is accepted into Oxford, but if you know your comics history, well..........

In the middle: Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). In the books, he was a high school classmate of Peter & Gwen, but here, he was shipped off to a private boarding school at age 11 by his father, Norman. Norman passes away early on in the movie, but he's not the same menace he was in the Sam Raimi series, not by a longshot. Harry discovers he's dying, and is convinced Spider-Man can help him. Spidey turns him down. Harry then finds out that there was some spider-venom hidden away in Oscorp's vaults, and manages to get himself injected, turning into the Green Goblin, though he was never referred to by that name, even with the familiar glider in place. He figures out Peter is Spider-Man, and stands between the webhead and Gwen in a critical point in the movie.

In the comics, it was Norman, the original Goblin, who had been responsible for Gwen's death. I'm not spoiling anything here, since most of you had seen the movie before I did, but making Harry the first Goblin was a big mistake, erasing a large chunk of Spider-history. I guess in theory, it might seem better if Gwen's death was caused by someone in her own age group, rather than an older man. In today's society, Norman stalking Gwen would be way creepier than it was 40+ years ago.

Harry & Electro team up, with the former creating new duds for Max, the better to contain Electro's powers. Unfortunately for Harry, the makeup used on him when he becomes the Goblin doesn't work. I get that they are looking to use Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde as a sort of inspiration for the Goblin, much like the Incredible Hulk, but, again, it fails, badly. Harry as Goblin isn't scary. Instead, he looks like a case of a bad hair day coupled with going without brushing his teeth for a month. Gross.

As noted, the story moves up 5 months after Gwen's death, and Spider-Man has taken a leave of absence, only to return when Rhino does, when a much younger Spider-fan, complete with costume, decides to be brave and confront Rhino. The CGI that was wasted on Rhino is all wrong. Rhino's late appearance also teases the rumored "Sinister Six" movie, since he & Goblin will be partners, and likely Electro as well, since there's a clue as to his whereabouts after his 2nd battle with Spidey.

Was it better than the first film? Yes, but not by much. It's not better than "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", and "X-Men: Days of Future Past", which opens in 2 weeks, will be a better film as well. Speaking of which, Marvel's marketing department made a cheeky move by cutting into the credits for a teaser, showcasing Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, "The Hunger Games"). Maybe Marvel Studios is hoping to get 20th Century Fox & Sony to play nice and blend into the Cinematic Universe. Would it work? You bet it would, especially if Marvel can get the rights to Spider-Man back from Columbia, and the X-Men & Fantastic Four from Fox.


There was a fresh trailer for "Days of Future Past", which we discussed before. We also discussed "Maleficent" (opening May 30), "Expendables 3" (August), & "Godzilla" (next week). As for the others:

"Annie" (December): Jamie Foxx returns as a politician who befriends the comic strip icon in this reboot. Since it's a musical, can we hope Jamie sings on the soundtrack?

"A Million Ways to Die in the West": Seth McFarlane (Family Guy, Dads, "Ted", etc.) steps in front of the camera, as well as behind it, as he stars & directs an ensemble including Dads star Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron, and Neil Patrick Harris in a sendup of Western cliches.

"22 Jump Street": Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, & Ice Cube return in the followup to the "21 Jump Street" reboot, but this time, Hill & Tatum go undercover in college.

And, here's the trailer for "Amazing Spider-Man 2":

Rating: B-.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Classic TV: Peter Gunn (1958)

Lissen, bub. Lemme tell ya 'bout a man name'o Gunn. Peter Gunn.

Blake Edwards, before he became a Hollywood director, created Gunn for television in 1958. One must assume that Spartan Productions was Edwards' own company, since he also produced and created Mr. Lucky. The other common link between the two shows was the legendary Henry Mancini, who composed the themes for both shows.

Craig Stevens played Gunn, who never seemed to get his hair messed up. Must'a gotten groomin' tips from that Joe Friday feller on Dragnet, lemme tell ya. Big diff, though, was that Gunn had a girlfriend, Edie (Lola Albright), a chanteuse who sang at Mother's, a regular hangout of Gunn's and police Lt. Jacoby (Herschel Bernardi), the gumshoe's best friend. In season 3, Edie made enough dough to open her own juke joint. Go figger that one out, eh?

Anyway, Gunn lasted three years, and a few years back, they resurrected the guy, with Peter Strauss in the role, for a TV-movie that went nowhere. Again, go figger.

Currently, Me-TV has Gunn runnin' in the wee small ones as part of their Sunday late-night block. If'n ya ain't got it on DVD yet, invest in a DVR 'til ya do.

Right now, Internet Archive serves up the 1st season episode, "Let's Kill Timothy", adapted from a Richard Diamond radio drama. Who's Timothy? A seal, dat's who. Yeah, Edwards created Diamond, too, in case ya didn't know.

Me-TV'd be better served movin' the show back up the ladder on the schedule, know what I mean? Some of us regular fellers can't afford DVR's.

Rating: A.

What Might've Been: Pink Lady & Jeff (1980)

Sid & Marty Krofft's 1st primetime series since the ill-fated Brady Bunch Variety Hour brought them to NBC. Unfortunately, viewers just weren't interested for some reason.

The Japanese pop duo Pink Lady shared headline space with comic Jeff Altman in a Saturday night variety hour that sought to recapture the vibe of the past, when the likes of Andy Williams filled the same space. Unfortunately, it just didn't work out. Mei & Kai, collectively Pink Lady, had first appeared in the US as part of a programming exchange known here as Japan Tonight, which aired in New York (WOR) around 1977 or '78. Attractive and irresistably cute, Pink Lady should've had the attention of the boys in the audience, especially with a running gag that closed each episode, in which the girls slip behind a partition and change into bikinis, then lure Altman into a hot tub.

Unfortunately, Pink Lady never charted on the Hot 100 here in the US. After the series ended, Altman redeemed himself with a recurring gig on Dukes of Hazzard as Hughie Hogg, nephew of "Boss" Hogg, who'd turn on his uncle if needed, which was every time he came to Hazzard. Hasn't been heard from much since then, though.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Celebrity Rock: Heartbeat (1986)

In between seasons 2 & 3 of Miami Vice, Don Johnson decided to copy what Moonlighting's Bruce Willis was doing in his spare time, and hit the recording studio. Problem is, Johnson ended up a 1-hit wonder.

Johnson signed with Columbia, and released the CD, "Heartbeat", with the title track as the first single, bolstered by a searing solo from second generation guitarist Dweezil Zappa. The last time Johnson tried any singing, it was a duet with a Columbia labelmate, pop legend Barbra Streisand, about 2-3 years later. He wasn't too bad, to be honest, and "Heartbeat" didn't deserve to get dissed by VH1 on one of their silly talking head festivals that counted down silly little lists and got played to death.

Here's "Heartbeat":

To be fair, Vice co-star Philip Michael Thomas also moonlighted as a singer, signing with Atlantic, if memory serves. We'll put that in the playlist another time.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Classic TV: The American Sportsman (1965)

Back in the day, ABC had three regular sports programs that aired during the first 1/3 of the year: The Pro Bowlers Tour, Wide World of Sports, & The American Sportsman.

Sportsman, of the three, was exclusively broadcast on Sunday afternoons, plugged in after auto racing, basketball, or whatever else was on the network's sports docket on a particular day. The series launched in 1965, hosted by Joe Foss, who gave way to veteran sportscaster Curt Gowdy after a few years, and it is Gowdy, who was also calling football & baseball for NBC at the time, who was more closely associated with the series, which lasted 22 seasons (1965-86) before ABC, citing declining ratings, discontinued the series.

My memories of the series, like a lot of you, begin with Gowdy and a horde of celebrity guest stars, including Bing Crosby, William Shatner, Cameron Mitchell, and so much more. Outdoorsman Grits Gresham was on so often, it is considered he became a co-host by some sources.

In 2002, ESPN, plumbing the ABC vaults, revived the series as a primetime entry on ESPN2. This version lasted 4 years, with 3 different hosts, including actor Rick Schroeder (ex-Silver Spoons, NYPD Blue) and two-sport icon Deion Sanders (SAY WHAT?). Now, all that's left is to convince Disney to release the series on DVD.

Meantime, scope a promo for the 1972 season, as Gowdy previews the guest stars who'll be joining him. Uploaded by Bionic Disco.

Despite hosting Sportsman for the majority of its run, Gowdy never called any sporting events for ABC. Go figure.

Rating: B.

Musical Interlude: Sacred Emotion (1989)

One of the most interesting trends, short-lived though it was, at the end of the 80's, was the re-emergence of a pair of former teen idols on the pop charts.

David Cassidy (ex-The Partridge Family) made a run around 1990 with "Lyin' To Myself", but that turned out to be a 1-shot deal. Of late, he's been making news for the wrong reasons with his legal troubles.

And, then, there is Donny Osmond.

Osmond beat Cassidy back to the Hot 100 in 1989 with a self-titled CD, released on Capitol, which produced two Top 40 hits, "Soldier of Love" and this one, "Sacred Emotion", which appears to have been filmed in a desert somewhere. Last I knew, they didn't have deserts in Utah. Anyway, this video is taken from an episode of TBS' now-defunct Night Tracks series:

Monday, May 5, 2014

What Might've Been: Man With a Camera (1958)

As radio stars gravitated toward television, in turn, some of TV's earliest stars moved on to movies, such as Steve McQueen (Wanted: Dead or Alive), Warren Beatty (The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis), and Charles Bronson.

Bronson's only starring vehicle was Man With a Camera, which was only lasted two seasons. Funny thing was, those seasons were from October-January only in each season. Don't ask, 'cause I don't get it myself.

Bronson played Mike Kovac, a former military photographer who's now a freelancer, available to the press, the police, anyone who's willing to give him a gig, allowing him to sometimes moonlight as a private eye, which would explain Bronson narrating each episode as well.

Pizza Flix provides the episode, "Double Negative":

So, you wonder, why did this show fail? To me, it seems ABC didn't have enough faith to commit to a full season or better. It doesn't make sense, I know, but who can figure out network executives sometimes?

Rating: B.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Classic TV: The FBI (1965)

The F. B. I. was Quinn Martin's most successful series, lasting 9 seasons (1965-74), co-produced with Warner Bros.' TV arm. It was appointment television at home on Sundays growing up, but sometimes we'd switch out for The Wonderful World of Disney if F. B. I. was a rerun.

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (ex-77 Sunset Strip), a long time contract player at WB, was cast as Inspector Lewis Erskine, based out of Washington, as you could probably tell from the familiar opening & closing to the show. Zimbalist & Philip Abbott were the only series regulars to appear throughout the 9 years the show was on the air. I think that part of the reason it took so long before he landed another series gig was because he might've felt typecast, after playing a detective on 77 Sunset Strip, followed by F. B. I.. For whatever reason, though, this was one of the shows that got me interested as a youth in the prospect of a career in law enforcement, one dream that went unfulfilled.

Here, Zimbalist is on location in Virginia for a promo prior to the first season:

But here's the open that we all know, taken from the series opener, with guest star Jeffrey Hunter.

In 1982, ABC tried out a new version, Today's F. B. I., with a new set of characters, and starring Mike Connors (ex-Mannix). Same night as the earlier series, but from a different studio. It was, I think, the last series that David Gerber would produce for Columbia Pictures Television. We'll look at that another day.

The F. B. I. merits an A.

Musical Interlude: Voices (1984)

Russ Ballard is remembered mostly as a songwriter and producer, but he did have 1 shining moment in 1984. His song, "Voices", was included on the TV series, Miami Vice. I can't tell you how far "Voices" went on the Hot 100 (hint: not very far), but it was resurrected 12 years later when Chuck Negron (ex-Three Dog Night) recorded a cover for a solo album.

I think you can make a case that Ballard was begging to do an episode of Miami Vice.......

Saturday, May 3, 2014

NBC 45 years ago, come the fall

Last night, I pulled up a preview video for The Bold Ones, one of NBC's freshman series in 1969.

Well, wouldn't ya know, pilgrims, I've uncovered the rest of NBC's fall preview special for '69, hosted by The Today Show's Hugh Downs & Joe Garagiola. In addition to The Bold Ones, the class of '69 included:

The Bill Cosby Show: Cosby goes solo for the first time, and would get 2 seasons.

The Debbie Reynolds Show: I never got to see this one, but we'll discuss that another time.

My World...& Welcome To It: William Windom (ex-The Farmer's Daughter) headlines this series, which I think might've been the last one that Sheldon Leonard sold to NBC. Based on the works of James Thurber.

Now, here's the preview:

No rating, as I'd never seen this show.

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (1918-2014)

Today, Hollywood is mourning the passing of actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., best known for his work in the series, 77 Sunset Strip & The F. B. I., and to a generation of younger viewers as the voice of Alfred Pennyworth on Batman: The Animated Series and its sequels, at 95.

Son of a classical violinist, and father to actress Stephanie Zimbalist, Efrem became a TV icon thanks to his role as investigator Stuart Bailey on 77 Sunset Strip. I am assuming that he was a contract player at Warner Bros., since WB co-produced Quinn Martin's seminal The F. B. I. from 1965-74. Zimbalist returned to WB to work on Batman, becoming the 2nd actor to essay the role of Alfred, the Dark Knight's major domo (Clive Revill was the 1st Alfred for a few episodes), this after he'd left The New Zorro after 1 season. His other television credits included Maverick and, alongside daughter Stephanie, Remington Steele. In recent years, he did some interstital reading of Biblical passages for the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).

Following is a promo for The F. B. I., narrated by Bill Woodson, as the series entered its 5th season:

Rest in peace, Efrem.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Classic TV: The Bold Ones (1969)

In the 50's, 60's, and 70's, a common operation in television was the anthology, or, "wheel" series, in which series were rotated under a common title.

NBC's The Bold Ones lasted four seasons (1969-73), anchoring the back end of the network's Sunday lineup. Universal had several of these "wheel" series at NBC over the course of a decade, including the network's Mystery Movies and The Name of the Game.

In the course of the four seasons, there were four different features:

The Protectors, aka The Law Enforcers, lasted just the first season. Leslie Nielsen plays a detective often at odds with the district attorney (Hari Rhodes, ex-Daktari).

The Senator replaced Protectors, but also lasted 1 season (1970-1). Hal Holbrook had the title role.

The Lawyers got a head start with a pair of pilot movies produced during the 1968-9 season. Singer-actor Burl Ives (ex-OK Crackerby), still better known for his work on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, heads up the law firm with his partners being played by Joseph Campanella (ex-Mannix) and James Farentino.

The New Doctors, meanwhile, drew the rub of a crossover with Ironside, and maybe that's because it came from the same production company (Harbour). EG Marshall (ex-The Defenders) was paired with John Saxon and David Hartman. Saxon left 3 episodes into the 4th season, replaced by Robert Walden, who is better known for his later work on Lou Grant.

A few years back, Retro brought back Bold Ones to air on weekends, but it didn't last long. Current cable whereabouts are unknown.

We'll start with a season 1 intro, narrated by actor Marvin Miller (ex-The Millionaire):

Now, if only a DVD could be made available......

Rating: B.

Musical Interlude: High Enough (1990)

As the 90's began, a couple of "supergroups" formed, but found fame to be fleeting, despite the pedigrees of the personnel involved.

One of those groups was Damn Yankees, which featured Ted Nugent, Jack Blades (Night Ranger), & Tommy Shaw (Styx), with newcomer Michael Cardellone on drums. Cardellone would later join Lynyrd Skynyrd, presumably based on his work with Damn Yankees.

The self-titled debut CD on Warner Bros. Reocrds produced a couple of hits, including "High Enough", but one wonders what the point was to the storyline in the video having any correlation to the song. A drifter and his girlfriend are on a robbery spree until caught. Nugent inexplicably is doing a guitar solo right in the middle of a police shootout, and doesn't get hurt.

The video ends with the girl taking the last mile, having been sentenced to death. In another odd quirk, Nugent doubles as the priest. Go figure.

Rhino Records now holds the rights to the Damn Yankees catalogue, and so the video comes from their channel.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Classic TV: Matt Houston (1982)

If the basic concept of Matt Houston seemed so familiar when the series launched in 1982, well, look no further than the guy who was the show's producer---Aaron Spelling.

Series creator Lawrence Gordon came up with the idea of Houston, a Texas oil magnate, spending his free time in LA as a private eye. Basically, Houston (Lee Horsley) was the diametric opposite of another famous Texas oil magnate in prime time----J. R. Ewing (Larry Hagman, Dallas). Houston spent his money to finance his cases, mostly helping friends in distress. But the point I was trying to get to was that, aside from the oil, Houston was a civilian version of Frank Gilroy's millionaire cop, Amos Burke, and Spelling was a producer on Gene Barry's seminal crime drama, Burke's Law.

Helping Houston along was lawyer C. J. Parsons (Pamela Hensley, ex-Buck Rogers in the 25th Century), who not only dispensed legal advice, but also some tender loving care, and more than once ended up a damsel in distress.

However, not all was well. The supporting cast was overhauled after the first season, with only Hensley returning, aside from Horsley. Paul Brinegar (ex-Rawhide) played a ranch hand, his first TV gig in years. In the 3rd season, TV legend Buddy Ebsen, a few years removed from Barnaby Jones, joined the show as Houston's uncle. That mirrors Universal's decision to bring in Fred Astaire to back up Robert Wagner on It Takes a Thief. The end result was the same. Matt Houston was cancelled after 3 seasons.

Here's the open:

Horsley would follow up with Paradise, which was rechristened Guns of Paradise in its 2nd season, then teamed with 70's icon Lynda Carter in Hawkeye, a one year wonder for producer Stephen Cannell.

Rating: B.

Only in the South: Florida mother is booted from a gym.........for helping her son work out.

What is this? Social insensitivity week?

Yahoo! is reporting that a Florida mom had her membership at a LA Fitness gym revoked one week ago, just because she was helping her son with his workout, and the staff there took that as a violation. The ironic twist is that the woman is herself a fitness trainer by trade.

Krista Grubb assumed that this was just a case of parent-child bonding at the gym when she helped her teenage son with his workout, and this had been going on for a while. Seems some idiot complained to the staff, and one of the staff trainers met with Ms. Grubb a week ago about it. Said trainer took Ms. Grubb's comments to mean she was training her son during her own workout.

This misunderstanding, regardless of whether or not it was a deliberate oversight, cost Krista her membership at LA Fitness. After she had just paid for a full membership. When the local TV station wanted to talk to people from LA Fitness, they predictably were convienently unavailable for comment. Nothing says guilt trip more than being unwilling to comment after you've made a mistake in interpreting a member's intentions the wrong way.

I'd bet that Krista and her son will now either confine their joint workouts to home or she'll land a job as a licensed trainer (which she is) with a rival gym, and not have to go through this imbroglio again.