Sunday, August 31, 2014

What Might've Been: The Late Show (Starring Joan Rivers)(1986)

Talk shows like Today & The Tonight Show helped put NBC on the map back in television's infancy. Rupert Murdoch, the owner of 20th Century Fox, decided he wanted to follow that path in launching his network.

In October 1986, the Fox network debuted with The Late Show, which made an immediate splash by hiring away comedienne Joan Rivers from Tonight, where she'd been Johnny Carson's designated fill-in. Unfortunately, that decision severed the personal & professional relationships between Rivers & Carson, and the aftermath would also prove costly for both Rivers and her new employers.

For example, an Omaha, Nebraska station refused to carry the show out of loyalty to Carson, who started his television career in the area in the 50's. Regional loyalty isn't as much a problem as the overwhelming national loyalty of millions of viewers, who chose to stick with Carson. After early success, ratings, predictably, began to decline. Rivers clashed with executives behind the scenes, and was sacked after 7 months in May 1987.

That led to a parade of fill-ins, ranging from fellow comedy icon Mel Brooks to original MTV VJ Martha Quinn, less than a year removed from being removed from the then-music channel. As a comic, as she would demonstrate again on Evening at the Improv later that year, Quinn was no Brooks, Rivers, or Carson. Not even close. By the end of the summer, the network thought they had their man in Arsenio Hall, but Hall left after 13 weeks due to movie commitments ("Coming to America", with Eddie Murphy). In due course, the show was finally cancelled, only to be brought back in 1988 with another unknown comic, Ross Shafer, taking over. Shafer's tenure was marked with cast reunions of Gilligan's Island & Batman, but otherwise it was unspectacular.

Rivers & Hall had the benefit of having 70's 1-hit wonder Clint Holmes ("Playground in My Mind") as announcer, and Mark Hudson (yes, one of the Hudson Brothers) as musical director. Holmes was not brought back when the series resumed under Shafer, as I believe Holmes had moved on to Broadway by then, mostly as a playwright.

Here's a sample from the series premiere with Joan Rivers:

With Rivers now in a medically induced coma, according to recent reports, following some heart issues, maybe now might be a good time to remember her at the peak of her powers.

Rating: C.

NFL 2014 preview, part 2

Let's move North, shall we?

NFC North: The four teams in the division used to be, of course, in the Central, which ESPN's Chris Berman used to lovingly refer to as the "Norris Division", after one of the former divisions in the NHL. Calling it the Norris today would still be appropriate.

Chicago lost one of their best defensive players in Julius Peppers (Green Bay), and let backup QB Jordan Palmer (Buffalo) walk a week ago. So who gets to back up injury-prone Jay Cutler now? Mr. Magoo? Mr. Miyagi? Hong Kong Phooey? Who cares. Tight end Martellus Bennett, in his 2nd year after coming over from the Giants, was suspended for detrimental conduct or whatever, which won't help Cutler and the offense.

Having Peppers in Green Bay is a good thing for the Packers, since B. J. Raji was injured a couple of weeks back. What will ensure the Pack and QB Aaron Rodgers going deep into the playoffs is Rodgers not making any more stupid ads for State Farm. Instead, he could team with Tim Tebow and do an instructional DVD available at churches for the kids. Minnesota drafted QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisvile), and will have him sit behind Matt Cassel to start the season. Good move, but what happened to Christian Ponder? I'll skip the obvious puns and suggest that this wasn't such a good idea.

That leaves us with Detroit, which needs to figure out how to keep Subway pitchman Ndamakong Suh out of the NFL's doghouse. If he stays focused and doesn't draw too many penalties, he could finally be among the league's elite on defense. Offensively, Matthew Stafford and the Lions could stand some consistency in order to stay in the playoff hunt all the way into Christmas. Not much has changed.

Projected order of finish:

1. Green Bay

2. Detroit

3. Chicago

4. Minnesota

AFC North: Cincinnati has won 3 straight division titles, coinciding with the Bengals drafting QB Andy Dalton & receiver A. J. Green 3 years ago. However, winning a 4th straight title won't be so easily accomplished. The running game took a hit Saturday when Benjarvus Green-Ellis, who came over from New England last year, was cut. One step up and two steps back, as Springsteen once said.

Cleveland did the smart thing and named Brian Hoyer the starting QB over Johnny Manziel. Manziel is the new Tebow, really, although from a moral standpoint, he's the diametric opposite of Tebow. He relishes being a tabloid magnet. In this writer's opinion, he came out too soon, letting his freshman success at Texas A & M go to his head very quickly. Doesn't help that like a lot of kids his age, he's surrounded by a bunch of glad-handing leeches telling him what he wants to hear. He could learn a lot from Baltimore's Joe Flacco, for example. Flacco came from a smaller school (Delaware), but has put up the necessary numbers to be an elite QB, and already has something that Manziel and the Browns covet---a Super Bowl title. The Ravens picked up Steve Smith (Carolina), which fills a void created a year ago when Anquan Boldin fled west to San Francisco. However, standing pat on defense might not have been the best move for the Ravens.

Age is an issue in Pittsburgh, where Ben Roethlisberger begins his 11th season. Receiver Jerricho Cotchery is gone (Carolina), and after picking up LeGarrette Blount (New England), coach Mike Tomlin couldn't be too happy to have Blount and Le'Veon Bell picked up for drugs on a traffic stop. Who did they think they were? Brewer & Shipley? On defense, Larry Foote left, this time for Arizona, and Lamar Woodley is in Oakland. It's going to be a long season. Maybe Tomlin can call Bill Cowher, provided he's not on a soundstage filming a Time Warner Cable commercial, for help........

Projected order of finish:

1. Baltimore

2. Cincinnati

3. Pittsburgh

4. Cleveland

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Remember the Colgate "Wisdom Tooth"? (1990)

Pat Morita had reinvented himself in the 80's. Best remembered as Arnold on Happy Days, Morita reintroduced himself to a new generation as wise Mr. Miyagi in the original "Karate Kid" movies with Ralph Macchio and, later, future Oscar winner Hilary Swank. With this came something Morita hadn't had during his run as a TV fixture in the 70's & 80's (Happy Days, Sanford & Son, M*A*S*H). That being a commercial endorsement deal.

Playing off his Miyagi persona, Morita returned in a series of spots for Colgate Tartar Control toothpaste in the early 90's, billed as the "Colgate Wisdom Tooth". Internet Lurker gives us a look at one of these ads:

Sadly, while this particular brand of Colgate toothpaste has not been heavily promoted since, we lost Morita some years back. This would be his last extended run in television.

Musical Interlude: Baker Street (1978)

Former Stealers Wheel frontman Gerry Rafferty became a solo act again with the release of "City to City" in 1978, and that album produced a pair of hits, "Right Down the Line" and, of course, "Baker Street". As the video suggests, the song was written as a homage to the area's most famous ficticious citizen, Sherlock Holmes.

"Baker Street" is still getting good airplay on radio today, mostly on adult contemporary and oldies channels.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Weasel of the Week: Josh Shaw

Steve Sarkisian returned to USC for this?

Much was made in the news earlier this week about how senior defensive back Josh Shaw supposedly had rescued his nephew by leaping off a 2nd floor balcony, injuring his ankles in the process. However, there was a bit of skepticism about what really happened, and, not surprisingly, it ended with Shaw morphing from hero to villain in a matter of seconds when it got out that he didn't really leap to the rescue, but rather, to escape after an incident involving his girlfriend.

Sarkisian had to face the press and tried to do the right thing. However, considering that Shaw was a holdover from former coach "Wisteria" Lane Kiffen's regime, well, should we be surprised at all that he wasn't totally honest? USC booted Kiffen a month into the season last year, but they should've had any returning players take lie detector tests on top of everything else once spring practice started. I saw a headline earlier that said that the USC locker room had turned on Shaw after this imbroglio, and after another player quit, alleging racism on the part of Sarkisian, which I'm not so sure has any basis, I'm not so certain USC will actually be in contention for a national championship this year.

That said, we're giving Josh Shaw the Weasel ears this week for his lack of honesty as well as sheer stupidity. Should've known that in this day of social media and excessive media intrusion, he should've considered telling the truth right off the bat.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Classic TV: Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969)

At the end of the 60's, it was thought that there was still an audience for medical dramas. CBS had Medical Center. ABC answered with Marcus Welby, M.D..

Welby served as a comeback vehicle for Robert Young, who esentially had reinvented his on-screen image after he'd been known for Father Knows Best years earlier. Marcus Welby was your neighborhood clinician, who looked after your families with the utmost care and concern. His assistant, Dr. Steven Kiley (James Brolin), was a bit of a rebel, as he rode on a motorcycle. He represented what was then the "Now Generation".

The series housed a back-door pilot for Owen Marshall, Counselor-At-Law, which, unfortunately, didn't have the same kind of staying power. Given the subject matter of many of the episodes, you can understand why, despite the fact that children were often patients at risk on the show, it never aired before 10 pm (ET).

Edit, 7/27/21: Have to change the video again. This time, we have "Echo of a Baby's Laugh", with Richard Thomas (later of The Waltons):

No rating. I have little memory of actually watching any episode to merit a rating.

Sports this 'n' that

I was reading the sports page of one of the local newspapers at lunch yesterday, and did a double take when I noticed that even though classes don't start for another week in high schools in New York, the season has already started for some schools' golf & volleyball programs.


I know football practices, like their college & pro brethren, begin in the summer. For high schoolers, it's in August, keeping the kids away from Saratoga Race Course for a few hours. Like, you know they'd like to tag along with the parents just to get a look at the old Spa. Digressing. I also know school has started in other states, with New York one of the few to still start after Labor Day. But boys' golf? Girls' volleyball? In August? Boggles the mind! My alma mater, Troy High, isn't one of the schools that has gotten a head start. Yet.

Meanwhile, while the Tri-City Valleycats won their 3rd straight Stedler Division title, they actually backpedaled into the title, since they've had a run of bad luck lately. Right now, they're the #2 seed in the New York-Penn League, meaning they'd face #3 State College in the 1st round next week, while Hudson Valley would draw the wild card, be it Brooklyn or Connecticut. In today's Albany Times-Union, manager Ed Romero was quoted as saying he felt his team had suddenly started quitting on him. The problem, really, may be a team-wide malaise of complacency, with the division wrapped up. During Tuesday's loss to Vermont, Romero was seen pulling out his lineup card after Terrell Joyce fanned for the 3rd time, perhaps contemplating pulling Joyce. He didn't follow through, and Joyce grounded out in his last at-bat.

Now, I realize the 'Cats' offense has been depleted, as their top players have been promoted within the Astros' chain as the season has progressed. That means the players who are still in town need to turn up the intensity and drive in order to reach the championship round again, vying for a 2nd straight league title.

I didn't get to see her pitch, but you have to feel that, a week after her Philadelphia Little League team was eliminated in the Little League World Series, teenager Mo'Ne Davis should be relieved that the tournament, and the attendant media scrutiny, are over. Her future, by her own admission, lies in basketball. She wants to go to UConn and swap out her glove & bat for hoops after high school. However, should she make good on her goal, Mo'Ne will have to face the bright camera lights all over again. If the media can leave her alone for the next five years, she'll be fine.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Videos of Summer: Gonna Take a Lot of River (1988)

The Oak Ridge Boys took a page from Genesis' playbook in shooting the video for "Gonna Take a Lot of River", released in 1988, 2 years after Genesis' "Invisible Touch" CD. The Boys are on vacation in this clip, and Joe Bonsall, normally the lead singer, takes a turn with the camcorder while Steve Sanders, who had just joined the group at the time, does the singing. The results are hilarious.

NFL 2014 preview, part 1

This year, we're doing things a wee bit differently. We will cover each division, but in the best interests of time and clarity, we'll cover the Eastern division in each conference in this chapter, and then, the North, and so on.

AFC East: As we noted before the division is New England's to lose. As long as owner Robert Kraft has a position on the competition committee, the Patriots are going to get a lot of preferential treatment, especially at home. That shouldn't be allowed to happen, especially now that Crybaby Brady was exposed last year as a sore loser on a couple of occasions, particularly at Carolina. Tom Brady is entering his 15th season, but his lack of decorum in the loss to the Panthers was demonstrated on ESPN, and led to the zebras pacifying Brady at home six nights later by swallowing their whistles in the 2nd half vs. Denver to help the Patriots pick up a win. The Broncos collected a receipt 2 months later, but that isn't enough. It never is.

So, the race is for second place and a possible wild card berth. I haven't seen Miami play yet, nor have I seen the New York Jets, but in the case of the latter, the tabloids are having a field day. Seems coach Rex Ryan, in his 6th year, has found his missing swagger. In effect, GM John Idzik swapped quarterbacks with Philadelphia, as Mark Sanchez signed with the Eagles after their former starter, Michael Vick, was picked up by the Jets to be the new mentor to second year QB Geno Smith. Buffalo? Sure, they have an exciting rookie wideout in Sammy Watkins (Clemson), but he got hurt a week ago and didn't impress in the Hall of Fame game against the Giants 3 weeks ago. See what I mean about the Pats being a default favorite to win the division again?

Projected order of finish:

1. New England

2. Jets

2. (tie) Miami

4. Buffalo

NFC East: The big story in the division, of course, isn't the defending champions from Philadelphia. No, the Eagles are flying under the radar, despite the above mentioned free agent swap of QBs with the Jets. I had seen an internet headline suggesting the Eagles were already listening to offers for Sanchez, but if anyone can resurrect his career, it would be coach Chip Kelly, who brought a winning attitude with him from Oregon and promptly won the division. Sanchez shouldn't have any pressure on him, now that he's clearly a backup behind starter Nick Foles and probably also 2nd year backup Matt Barkley, like Sanchez a USC product. In fact, Barkley succeeded Sanchez as the QB at USC. Talk about serendipity.

The reason the Eagles are "under the radar" in the preseason is because of the ongoing jibba-jabba over Washington and owner Daniel Snyder's refusal to change the team name. Phil Simms has already gone on record as saying he won't use the name, and he has a Thursday night game to call involving Washington early in the season. Same goes for coach-turned-NBC analyst/moral watchdog Tony Dungy. Snyder is trading on more than 75 years of tradition, figuring that if it ain't broken, you don't fix it. Normally, that would be true, but Snyder's defiance is flying in the face of the PC Police.

Here at The Land of Whatever, we have two solutions for Mr. Snyder to consider. On the one hand, and I suggested this in a letter to The (Troy) Record, Snyder can resurrect a dormant franchise name that baseball's Nationals turned down. Like, considering that team names are commonly shared among pro, college, and high school teams, and even teams in different sports (i.e. Cardinals), why not call them the Washington Senators?

Enough digression. What can get Washington over the hump and back to the playoffs would be new coach Jay Gruden, brother of ESPN analyst Jon. Jay's no stranger to championships, by the way, having been successful in the Arena league with Tampa Bay for a number of years. If he can duplicate what Kelly did last year in terms of changing the culture in the locker room, Snyder will be less of a distraction.

Meanwhile, the New York Giants are surprising everyone by going 4-0 in the preseason to this point. Most of it has to do with 2nd year backup Ryan Nassib (Syracuse) injecting fresh energy into the offense, and that means starter Eli Manning, in his 11th year, needs to stop taking offers for stupid commercials that actually make him look bad and start proving he can still be the leader that directed Big Blue to 2 Super Bowls. I am afraid, however, that Manning has dropped further off the scale than folks thought would happen to his pizza baron brother. First sign of trouble, the faithful at the Meadowlands will be calling for Nassib. Count on it. In Dallas, you'd have to consider sending Jerry Jones to the sanitarium for continuing to put his faith in Tony Romo at QB, because we've seen it every year. Romo cannot close the deal. One playoff appearance in the Romo era would have led to a change in any other city, but in Dallas, where they let defensive lineman DeMarcus Ware walk, Jones still calls the shots because he's too selfish and won't spend the money to hire a GM who actually knows more about football than he does.

Projected order of finish:

1. Philadelphia

2. Washington

3. Giants

4. Dallas

Of course, I could be wrong.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Classic Reborn (Again!): Match Game (1998)

On Christmas Day 2012, GSN gifted fans of Match Game with an all-day (well up to the early evening hours, anyway) marathon which included episodes of the later incarnations. We discussed the 1990 edition earlier this week. Now, let's take a look back at the 1998 series, easily the least accessible edition of the franchise.

I say that because the series didn't play in my market, and so I didn't get to see it until that Christmas marathon. The panel was reduced from six celebrities down to five, a concept that had been introduced in an unsold pilot 2 years earlier. Former talk show host Michael Berger was tapped to MC this edition (actress Charlene Tilton fronted the 1996 pilot), but, to tell you the truth, he was boring. The fact that the producers opted to create a party atmosphere, such that announcer Paul Boland introduced the celebrities and the contestants before bringing Berger out, didn't disguise the simple fact that the franchise had the wrong man at the helm.

As was the case in the 1990 series, each panelist was in play for each round of the game. In this context, since three rounds were played, as opposed to four in 1990, the most points a player could earn would be 15. I get that they wanted the game to be a little more competitive, but it was offset by the even raunchier nature of some of the questions. It's like having your cake and trying to eat it in one sitting. It doesn't work that well.

To prove the point, Steve Sadler, Jr. gifts us with a sample episode.

While 1990 host Ross Shafer was a serviceable successor to Gene Rayburn, despite the fact that he was almost a dead-ringer for Jon Bauman, Berger simply looked out of place. Small wonder, then, that he hasn't been heard from since.

Rating: C.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What Might've Been: The Good Guys (1968)

A year after Gilligan's Island signed off, Bob Denver was back in a brand new sitcom. That was the good news. The bad news? The Good Guys lasted two seasons, and never made it into syndication.

Denver was cast as cab driver Rufus Butterworth, who used an antique car (customized by George Barris, who also worked on vehicles for Batman) for his business. Not content with that, he and childhood pal Bert Gramus (Herbert Edelman), who owned a diner, were looking to improve themselves. On that point, they were trying to emulate The Honeymooners or The Flintstones. And just like Ralph Kramden & Fred Flinstone before them, Rufus & Bert's schemes never worked in the long term.

Just to remind viewers of Denver's last series, Alan Hale, Jr. was a recurring regular as Big Tom, a trucker. Since I never saw the show, I can't judge whether this was good or bad. The only other alum from Gilligan who had gotten a new series in 1968 was Jim Backus, who was co-starring on Blondie, but that lasted 1 season only. Not sure if any of the other ex-castaways appeared on either show.

So, ultimately, why did The Good Guys fail? Gilligan was too fresh in the viewers' minds to accept Bob Denver as anyone other than Gilligan, especially considering that Dobie Gillis was out of syndication by then. I would've liked to have had a chance to see the show, but, well, I was in kindergarten at the time, and......!

Considering the creative pedigree, perhaps a more appropriate analogy would've been I'm Dickens, He's Fenster, which aired on ABC a few years prior, with Marty Ingels & John Astin. Yeah, that didn't last long, either. We'll leave you with the intro & close of a sample episode.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Classic Reborn (Again!): Match Game (1990)

Six years after NBC's experiment in merging Match Game with Hollywood Squares ended, and less than a year than the reincarnation of Squares had faded to black, ABC picked up a revamped Match Game. That was the good news. The bad news was that, like so many game shows before it, Match Game was stuffed in a lunch hour death slot. It had become such since the 70's because local stations started running news at noon in order to get some ad revenues for themselves.

Comic Ross Shafer (ex-The Late Show) was tapped to replace Gene Rayburn as host. That was another mistake. Sure, Gene was getting on in years, and had clashed with the producers of 1985's revival of Break The Bank, leading to his ouster there, but what was Match Game without Gene? Just another game show.

The game play had changed, as you'll see in the following episode. Why Mark Goodson let this happen, I don't know. Why mess with a good thing? You know what they say. If it ain't broken, you don't fix it. Oh, and trust me, it would get worse with the next and final incarnation of the series......

When GSN ran a marathon of the franchise several months back, I was finally able to sample the Shafer version. Not too bad, but they could've put it on at 11 am (ET), where more folks could've watched. Instead, it led most of the country to ABC's soap block. Meh.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rockin' Funnies: Ho Daddy (Surf's Up) (1964)

Bob Denver was in between his two iconic TV gigs when he made the movie, "For Those Who Are Young", released in June 1964, about 3 1/2 months before Gilligan's Island premiered. One of his future fellow castaways, Tina Louise, is also in the picture, along with Paul Lynde, James Darren, George Raft, Nancy Sinatra (whose father, Frank, produced the movie through his production company), and future Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn.

Scope out Bob as a beach bum who breaks into the song, "Ho Daddy (Surf's Up)". I think this might be his only contribution to the Golden Throat archive.

Don Pardo (1918-2014)

He was, unofficially, the last original cast member of Saturday Night Live still associated with the series as it wrapped its 39th season. One would suspect that executive producer Lorne Michaels will open the show's 40th season by paying tribute to Don Pardo, who passed away Monday at his home in Arizona at 96.

Pardo was SNL's announcer for 38 out of 39 seasons, and also had announced on several NBC game shows, including Three On A Match, Winning Streak (both hosted by Bill Cullen), the original Jeopardy!, and the children's show, Choose Up Sides, which may have been Pardo's only Saturday morning job. He also was the announcer for NBC's coverage of Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade until 1999, although, as memory serves, he alternated with Bill Wendell for a few of those years. Before all that, Pardo was a war correspondent for NBC Radio News during World War II.

Pardo, who rarely appeared on camera, did so in a cameo appearance in "Weird" Al Yankovic's video for "I Lost on Jeopardy!" in 1985, along with that series' original MC, Art Fleming. His last on-camera appearance of note was in 2008, when the cast of Saturday Night Live honored him on his 90th birthday.

Rest in peace, Don. We'll miss you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Videos of Summer: Summer Breeze (1972)

To some people, nothing says summer like Seals & Crofts' 1972 top 10 hit, "Summer Breeze". The song peaked at #6 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the Adult Contemporary charts. High Desert Soul presents an acoustic rendering from The Midnight Special:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What Might've Been: 13 Queens Boulevard (1979)

It seems to me that in the course of television history, there've been more sitcoms produced than any other genre, and that includes reality television. However, because of this glut, a lot of shows that critics and/or viewers think should succeed, fail instead.

One such case is 13 Queens Boulevard, which mustered 8 episodes out of 9 produced between March & July 1979. The show came from the same studio that had provided ABC previously with Carter Country & What's Happening!. Let's consider the factors:

1. ABC placed the show on Tuesdays, where they already had a strong 2-hour block, bookended by Happy Days & Soap. They experimented with expanding the block to a full 3 hours to mark time until another Aaron Spelling crime drama, in this case, Hart To Hart, would be ready to launch. Unfortunately, ABC pulled the plug on Boulevard after the first month or so, then brought it back in the summer to burn off the remaining episodes, only to pull it again before that last episode could air.

2. There would be the black cloud of failure hanging over the show's lone male star, Jerry Van Dyke, returning to series TV for the first time in 12 years (Accidental Family), and still trying to move out of his brother Dick's shadow. It'd be another 8 years before Van Dyke would land another series, this time in a supporting role on Coach.

3. As noted, Boulevard aired at 10 pm (ET), when it could've bumped the controversial Soap into that position. However, because Soap was too well entrenched, well......!

Gilmore Box provides the open:

For Louise Williams, this was her 2nd go-round in primetime, coming 2 years after Busting Loose. She'd get one more crack, 4 years later, with Baby Makes Five. Hmmmm. I wonder if that "Creme de la Creme" blouse would look good on a certain cartoon character........!

No rating. Never saw the show.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

In Theatres: The Expendables 3 (2014)

"If something works, you stick with it!"----Maxwell House coffee catchphrase from the 70's, spoken by actress Margaret Hamilton.

I'd venture a guess and say that Sylvester Stallone subscribes to that particular homily. After all, he's nurtured two previous movie franchises in "Rocky" (1976-2006) and "Rambo" (1983-2005), and now is doing the same with a third, "The Expendables", which began in 2010.

The third installment of this series sees Stallone is running out of contemporary action heroes of the 70's, 80's, & 90's. Although I've read of a possible 4th movie in the series, I doubt that it'll actually happen, unless Stallone has to swallow a little crow and reach into television history from the same period, unless he's convinced to stay the course after this film inevitably makes the same obscene amount of money at the box office.

As the film begins, the team welcomes an old friend in Doc (Wesley Snipes, in his first film since being released from prison), and just in time, too. On a routine mission, Caesar (Terry Crews) is shot, and winds up in the hospital. Worse, it turns out that another former teammate, long thought dead, is responsible. That man, one Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), is now a ruthless arms dealer with a taste for abstract artwork.

Back at home, Barney Ross (Stallone) decides to break up the team, which doesn't sit well with Christmas (Jason Statham), Doc, Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), & Toll Road (Randy Couture). Instead, Ross, taking orders from a new government contact, Drummer (Harrison Ford), to bring down Stonebanks, and bring him back alive (good luck with that) skews young, taking on a weapons expert (boxer Victor Ortiz), a rebel (Kellen Lutz, "Twilight"), a computer ace/adrenaline junkie (Glen Powell), and the first female Expendable, a bar hostess/bouncer (MMA darling Ronda Rousey). Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is along for the ride again, and Yang (Jet Li) returns, after being reduced to a quick cameo in the last film. Added to this motley crew is an overly chatty mercenary, Galgo (Antonio Banderas), who quickly comes off as being slightly more than comedy relief. The new recruits, save for Galgo, are the result of Ross getting advice from Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer), who's a sort of talent agent for the merc set.

Unfortunately, the first mission for the new Expendables leads to near disaster. Stonebanks is captured way too easily, and with good reason. He has a tracking device that allows his men to follow and rescue him, in turn capturing the kids, and leaving Barney to die in the rapids.

That's where Galgo enters the picture. Drummer gets in on the action, realizing the only way he can deliver Stonebanks is if he can physically help capture him. Yang resurfaces at the side of Trench, his new boss. I think you can figure out the rest.

Bad timing on my part resulted in missing the trailers and the first few minutes of the movie. It's been a long time since I did that. Turns out I didn't miss much in terms of the movie. Anyway, here's the trailer:

Rating: B+.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Westboro Baptist needs to just go away

This should come as no surprise.

The haterizers of Westboro Baptist Church are prepared to travel to San Francisco to do what they do best---make jackasses of themselves, pushing their hateful agenda of intolerance at a celebrity's funeral. This time, of course, it is Robin Williams who is the target. The actor's funeral is scheduled as a private affair on Monday, but the Westboro Idiots don't care. They see any opportunity to extend their 15 minutes, and they'll take it, even if it ends up with them backing off, as often happens. You really can't call them a church anymore. Their message doesn't qualify them as such. They're just bullies abusing their gifts that God had given them, and for what?

Fortunately, according to the Huffington Post, a peaceful non-profit group, which has a base directly across the road from Westboro's Topeka base, is planning to blunt the haters with a message of love. As we've documented previously, the Westboro doctrine is stuck somewhere in the Old Testament, and it seems as though they've never bothered to crack open the New Testament. These morons ignore all the charitable work that Williams did, including co-hosting Comic Relief with Billy Crystal & Whoopi Goldberg in the 80's, and prefers to trespass on what are supposed to be solemn affairs to push their agenda. It's a stale act that needs to just go away. Preferably yesterday.

Meanwhile, the New York Daily News and other media outlets have been taken to task for their coverage, overblown as it is, of Williams' passing this week. I get they need to sensationalize things, but if that was mandatory, the weekly rags would have nothing to do, except make like a bunch of parrots. Bad enough that the supermarket tabloids have sunk so low, they'll need certification to make the New York Times' best-seller list, since almost all of their articles now are works of fiction. We're all saddened and stunned by the loss of a beloved icon, but let the guy rest in peace, ok?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Classic TV (?): PDQ (1965)

PDQ was one of a fair number of game shows produced by Heatter-Quigley. It lasted 4 years in syndication (1965-9), co-produced by Four Star.

Dennis James served as host, with Gisele McKenzie (ex-Your Hit Parade) and Stubby Kaye, who had hosted H-Q's Shenanigans a year earlier, paired with contestants. I actually came across this episode on a website a number of years back, and thought this might be worth a few laughs.

A few years later, NBC & Heatter-Quigley would bring PDQ back, but under a new title, Baffle, and with sportscaster Dick Enberg (Sports Challenge) as host. Inevitably, after a few months, NBC tweaked the format and went with all celebrities in order to boost ratings. Didn't work. The concept has not been revisited again since, even though this is a game you could play with a dry erase board at a party.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Celebrity Rock: I Am The Walrus (1998)

2 years after covering Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody To Love" in "The Cable Guy", Jim Carrey (ex-In Living Color) went back to the recording studio, this time to contribute to a CD paying homage to the Beatles' long time producer, George Martin. Who else could've been such a perfect fit for one of the Fab Four's most surreal, bizarre hits?

Anyway, this video features Martin conducting an orchestra, while Carrey is in the booth, performing "I Am The Walrus".


Lauren Bacall (1924-2014)

They say celebrity death usually comes in threes. On Monday, it was Robin Williams. Before that, it was JJ Murphy of Game of Thrones. On Tuesday, it was movie legend Lauren Bacall who left us at 89.

She was only 19 when she co-starred with future husband Humphrey Bogart in "To Have and Have Not", and would make a few more films with "Bogie", as well as the radio drama, Bold Venture, playing Sailor Duvall opposite Bogart's Slate Shannon. In the 70's, Bacall turned to Broadway, and earned a pair of Tony awards, including one for "Woman of the Year". Her lone Oscar nomination, unbelievably, came for "The Mirror Has Two Faces", in which she co-starred with singer-actress Barbra Streisand. However, the Academy would eventually recognize her body of work and award her an honorary Oscar a few years later, perhaps to make up for the oversights of years past.

As Sam Wilson pointed out over at Mondo 70, Bacall made a guest appearance on, of all things, Family Guy (though The Simpsons would've made more sense, in this writer's opinion), not too long ago. Adding her presence to a live-action series, be it, say, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, or even a silly comedy like Community would've made headlines for sure. As Sam and others have also noted, her passing marks the end, almost, of a golden era in Hollywood.

Rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On Demand: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Over the weekend, Time Warner Cable subscribers were treated to a free weekend of Starz. On Sunday, I took advantage, and took a look at "Thor: The Dark World", Marvel's last film of 2013.

I'll sum it up simply. An ancient evil resurfaces after seemingly forever, and the potential consequences prompt Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to release half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from prison, meaning the warring half-sibs will team up for a rare occasion. We see Loki employ some shape-shifting, allowing for a quick cameo from Chris Evans as Captain America (but with Hiddleston talking) early on. We also get to see Sif (Jamie Alexander), who's just as hot for Thor as mortal Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is, so that triangle begins to play out, and the Warriors Three. Ray Stevenson ("Punisher War Zone") is unrecognizable as Falstaff, as is Zachary Levi (ex-Chuck) as Fandral. Turns out Levi was the original choice for the part, but was unavailable last time.

If you're one of those people who sticks around for the credits, especially when it comes to Marvel movies, then you got your first look at the Collector (Benicio Del Toro), who played a more prominent part, albeit for a slightly longer stint than in this film, in "Guardians of the Galaxy". Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

Here's the trailer:

We all know Thor will return next year in "Avengers: Age of Ultron", but another sequel in this series is likely, too, as Loki's up to no good....

Rating: B-.

Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Shazbot! For a lot of us, this hurts.

Oscar, Grammy, & Golden Globe winner Robin Williams passed away Monday, ending his own life at 63 after a bout with depression. What could've brought on the depression, you might ask. I cannot say for sure, but I would suspect that what Williams, and a lot of us, for that matter, thought might be a sure-fire hit, The Crazy Ones, was instead cancelled after one season, cutting short what had been a triumphant return to series television.

After being part of Richard Pryor's repertory company, Williams, of course, hit it big with Mork & Mindy, spun off from his appearance on Happy Days. Mork ran for four seasons, five if you count the ill-advised, misguided, animated prequel that ABC commissioned from Ruby-Spears & Paramount after the main series ended. However, Williams turned his enormous talents to movies, taking full advantage of his training at Julliard. The hits came one right after the other. "The World According to Garp". "Good Morning Vietnam". "Dead Poets Society". "Good Will Hunting", for which Williams won his only Oscar. "The Fisher King". Sure, there were the clunkers mixed in (i.e. "Cadillac Man", with Tim Robbins), but a lot of those were not his fault.

For an example of what he was capable of, let's look back at a time when Robin pulled double duty on Mork:

In recent times, Williams was making spot guest appearances on shows as diverse as Whose Line Is It Anyway? (w/Drew Carey) and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the latter the last of his villain roles. He has four more movies due out over the next few months, including "Night At The Museum: Secret of the Tomb", with Ben Stiller & Owen Wilson, which will be out for the holidays, and likely dedicated to Williams' memory.

I would imagine that there will be a Mork & Mindy marathon announced shortly (Hub was the last network to hold the rights, unless TV Land has a share), plus a sudden run of films airing on any number of cable channels. Whatever demons drove Williams to this point took away a genius who still had much to offer.

Rest in peace, Robin. Heaven's comedy club awaits.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How many times have you seen this ad? (2014)

M & M-Mars premiered this ad for M & M's candies during this year's Super Bowl, but I'll bet you've seen this at least a few dozen more times since, depending on how often you're at the multiplex.

This spot precedes the trailers and is, in fact, a parody of some of those trailers, which makes Ford's summer campaigns last year and this year look like vanity dressing.

Need I say more?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Musical Interlude: Games People Play (1980)

Here's a rare glimpse of the Alan Parsons Project, whose 1980 hit, "Games People Play", off "The Turn of a Friendly Card", was the first song I'd heard from the band.

From the band's VEVO channel:

Thursday, August 7, 2014

WWE is missing the point on one match at Summerslam

One of the spotlight matches at WWE's August "special event", Summerslam, sees corporate heiress Stephanie McMahon returning to competition for the first time in nearly 11 years. However, this time, she's not the crowd favorite, unlike in 2003, when she had the support of the fans against her insane father, Vince. This time, Vince is using her and her husband, Triple H, to continue his tired old schtick of the authority figures screwing with the talent. He's pulling the puppet strings because he knows his own act is tired and stale, and he should be at home with the grandchildren.

Stephanie is being pitted against former Divas champion Brie Bella, wife of former champ Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson), who is on the DL with neck & shoulder injuries. Rumors have Brie's twin sister, Nikki, turning on Brie, and also having Triple H, in a clear conflict of interest, as the referee.

Let's address these rumors, one at a time.

1. Having the Bella Twins feud does nothing for either sister, or the Divas division. Period. It would work better if Bryan were on the active roster, but he isn't, and may not be for a while to come. Plus, while fans have been screaming for Nikki's squeeze, current champ John Cena, to turn heel, that won't happen anytime soon, either, because his merchandise brings in too much money to the WWE coffers.

2. Triple H would be better served as a manager, assuming Bryan makes it to LA to be in his wife's corner, risking further injury. However, the "Authority"'s power abuses over the last year require having a neutral advocate to ensure there won't be any sort of a screwjob.

Since I'm overqualified to be a member of WWE's much-maligned creative team, let me offer a solution.

Since this week's television is already taped, let's set the scene for next week.

Raw: The main attraction may be a birthday party for Hulk Hogan, but a couple more surprises would impact the McMahon-Bella match. To wit:

1. The return of Linda McMahon. I'm not kidding. The former CEO has kept a low profile since losing her second attempt at political office in 2012, and who else could perhaps force some sense into her daughter & son-in-law six days before one of the biggest PPV's of the year?

2. The identity of the special referee needs to be a real surprise. The way I see it, you need someone with no vested interest in either competitor, nor any past history on either side. Clues would be sprinkled throughout the 3 hour show, and since Hogan will likely get the final segment, this has to start the 3rd hour. By this point, Mrs. McMahon will have made her presence known and back in a WWE ring for the first time in several years. She isn't taking back her old job, but she is serving as an advisor to the new GM, since WWE needs a babyface administrator to offset McMahon-Helmsley Era II. We'll get to that in a bit, but as for the ref, Linda also has that figured out, and has some long forgotten music queued, leading with:

"I'm the lady to mess with!"

Yep, former women's champion Victoria (Lisa Varon, most recently with Ring of Honor after a lengthy run in TNA as Tara) would return after several years away. The shocked expression on Stephanie's face would be priceless. There would be no advance warning in either of these cases, and the crowd pop in Portland, Oregon would be off the charts for Victoria. Trust me on that.

Victoria would cut a promo promising she would be impartial, and, glaring at Triple H, she won't take any crap from anyone, period.

Linda then adds Hogan as an outside enforcer.

Let's see how WWE Uncreative screws this up.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

In Theatres: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Before we discuss Marvel's 4th feature film of the year, a little history lesson is in order.

The Guardians of the Galaxy were originally a group of 31st century wayfarers, long since ret-conned as an alternate reality, thanks to all the excessive tweaking Marvel has done with its rich history over the years. More than was really necessary, to be honest. The current group was put together six years ago, marking the 40th anniversary of the franchise with an eye toward creating a building block for Marvel's cinematic universe.

These "Guardians" are a band of outlaws, though long time fans know that wasn't always the case. To wit:

Peter Jason Quill, aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt, Parks & Recreation) was introduced in Marvel Preview, a black & white magazine that came out in the mid-70's. Created by Chris Claremont & John Byrne before they began their epic run on X-Men, Star Lord was a hero from the beginning, as reprints of his earlier adventures will attest.

Drax, the Destroyer (WWE star Dave Bautista, aka "The Animal" Batista) was originally a human named Arthur Douglas, transformed into a green skinned cosmic assassin during Jim Starlin's run on Captain Marvel and Warlock. Douglas' daughter became the telepath Moondragon, but that history doesn't apply to this film. It would appear that this Drax's origins lay elsewhere. Stress appear.

Gamora (Zoe Saldana, "Star Trek", "Avatar") also was a Starlin creation from the same period. In the film, she was introduced as the adopted daughter of Starlin & Marvel's answer to Darkseid, Thanos, but, oh, is she easy on the eyes, or what?

Rocket Raccoon (voice of Bradley Cooper) also debuted in Marvel Preview, albeit in a back-up feature, and wandered about before landing his only starring gig in a miniseries in the 80's. Sure, he has his own book again for the first time in 30 years as part of the hype for the movie, but I'd always believed he was meant for comic purposes, as in a parody.

Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) actually predates them all. He was introduced as a villain in 1960, as an alien scientist who experimented on humans. He'd later battle the Incredible Hulk and otherwise lived a life of obscurity, with his initial appearance reprinted several times.

British writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning were tasked six years ago to reboot the Guardians for a new generation, to better integrate the characters into today's Marvel Universe, and, as mentioned before, to prepare them for their movie debut.

The film itself draws inspiration not just from the above mentioned source material, but from other sources as well. The idea of a rag-tag team thrown together against a common enemy's been done many times, both in comics and in movies and television. These "Guardians" have a vibe that is equal parts "A-Team" (thank you, Bradley Cooper) and, well, either the Keystone Kops or the animated Galaxy Goof-Ups. Yes, there are some legitimately funny moments in this film, like "The Avengers" two years ago.

The plot: Ronan the Accuser, described as a fanatic, wants to destroy a particular planet or species, and, despite the obvious differences of opinion, the Guardians are thrown together, just by the simple coincidence of being just in the right place at the right time, but not under the right circumstances. Quill, abducted as a child after losing his mother to cancer, was essentially raised by a group of scavengers known as the Ravagers, whose leader, Yondu, is the only historical link, as far as older fans go, to the original Guardians. Yondu feels Quill has betrayed him one time too many, and now wants his blood, as well as feeding the seeming cannibalistic tendencies of his crew. Gamora wants the same orb that Quill just heisted. With a bounty placed on Quill's head, that's where Rocket & Groot enter the picture. Drax? He wants to kill Ronan, since the Accuser supposedly killed his family. Drax later discovers, to Gamora's displeasure, that it was Thanos who did that deed.

As you can imagine, there are plenty of explosions and fights. Quill discovers late in the movie that he is not completely human himself, and I would guess that will lead to the next film. A sequel has already been announced.

A fine supporting cast, including Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, and Djimon Hounsou, helps keep this from going completely off the chain. What really helps is a swinging 70's soundtrack, thanks to Quill and an ever-present Walkman that he has to retrieve before escaping prison. Sure, it gets silly, and Ronan is ultimately treated like a chump, which is odd since he's best known for hassling the Fantastic Four, And as for that little teaser after the credits? Well, let's just say someone actually appreciated a certain turkey of a movie from the 80's, and leave it at that...........!


"Annie" (December): Same one we saw before, with Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.

"Night at the Museum 3" (can't recall the sub-title right now): Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, and friends head off to London. Who saw this coming?

"Hobbit 3". If you've been following Peter Jackson's adaptation of the Tolkien books, well, you know how this goes.

'The Giver" (August 15): Jeff Bridges stars in yet another movie based on a book I've never heard of. Also stars country singer Taylor Swift, who doesn't appear in the trailer.

"Alexander" (November): Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner star in this Disney comedy about a family that experiences Murphy's Law all in one day. Feels old school Disney, doesn't it?

"Big Hero 6" (November-December): Disney produces what is really Marvel's 5th and last film of the year, since it's based on one of their lesser known books of the 90's. CGI silliness for the kiddo's.

"Dumb & Dumber To": Jeff Daniels & Jim Carrey are back as Harry & Lloyd, 20 years after the original film. Does anyone here think that Mike Judge's Beavis & Butt-Head inspired these bozos?

And, now, the trailer for our feature presentation:

On WWE Raw 2 months ago, Triple H, who hasn't exactly been a box office champ ("Blade: Trinity", anyone?) told the then-departing Batista that he hoped "Guardians" bombed. Look for Batista to return to make him eat those words, after he's laughed all the way to the bank.

Rating: A.

Musical Interlude: All I Have To Do Is Dream (1972)

This could've been the last hit record for the late Bobby Darin, but, alas, it wasn't released as a single.

In 1972, Darin had his own variety show, The Bobby Darin Amusement Company, airing on NBC as a summer replacement for Dean Martin, which gave the versatile Darin the opportunity to not only sing, but demonstrate his acting skills in comedy skits.

In this clip, he teams with Petula Clark for a cover of the Everly Brothers' "All I Have To Do Is Dream", which had been covered by Glen Campbell & Bobbie Gentry, and later by actress Victoria Principal, of all people, and Andy Gibb.

In doing research, I checked the discography on Darin, and that's how I know this version of "Dream" wasn't released as a single. Ms. Clark had also stopped reaching the Top 40 by this point as well. But, ah, don't they make such a cute couple?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Classic TV (maybe): The Benny Hill Show (1969)

Benny Hill charmed audiences around the world with his self-titled comedy-variety shows between 1955-91, an astonishing 36 seasons. American audiences first met Hill in a pair of films, "The Italian Job", with Michael Caine, and "Chitty Chitty Bang! Bang!" with Dick Van Dyke, in the 60's, and became acquainted with the risque funnyman all over again when Thames' 1969 version of The Benny Hill Show was imported to the US in the late 70's, initially as part of a promotion with stations in New York & Los Angeles that Thames was undertaking. The series subsequently went into general syndication through the 80's, in a compact half-hour format, editing some of the more bawdier skits.

Hill, like his American contemporary, Jackie Gleason, was also a songwriter. However, unlike Gleason, Hill was a singer, rather than just a composer-conductor, and quite good, too. He certainly had a good ear for American music--Boots Randolph's classic "Yakety Sax" was Hill's closing theme song.

Hill further achieved international fame by appearing as one of his best known characters, Fred Scuttle, in a music video for Genesis' "Everything She Does", in the mid-80's. Around that time, Hill returned to Thames for another run, which ended in 1989.

I'm guessing this is from his first Thames series, as we have a skit where Benny parodies the popular game show, $ale of the Century.

The Benny Hill Show, for the majority of its American run in the 70's & 80's, aired in late night syndication, but no one ever considered the prospect of Hill actually coming to the US to promote it. Hmmmmm.

Rating: C.