Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The season of silliness begins

On Saturday, the NFL's silly season gets underway with the first round of playoffs. For the first time, ESPN, which has a schedule loaded with college bowls this week, will have one of the four games, instead of NBC carrying a doubleheader. ESPN gets the Arizona-Carolina game, leading off.

Anyway, let's look at the field:


Wild Cards:

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (NBC, Saturday): With three North division teams in the field, ya had to figure two of them would play each other, and you can figure on this being a low-scoring affair. Like, with 8 Super Bowl titles between them, there's a strong pedigree on the field. We like Pittsburgh, which signed Ben Tate as a sub for LeVeon Bell, who doesn't figure to play because of an injury suffered vs. Cincinnati on Sunday. Tate, formerly with Houston, started the season in Cleveland, then went to Minnesota, only for the Vikings to cut him two weeks ago. As noted, we'll go with the Steelers here.

Cincinnati at Indianapolis (CBS, Sunday): The Bengals may have wasted most of their offense in upsetting West champ Denver on Monday Night Football 9 days ago, but a win over the South champion Colts won't send Cincinnati to Denver for a rematch. No, instead they go back to Foxborough and play the hated Patriots again. New England bullied the Bengals earlier this year, so at least it's a revenge game. However, revenge will have to wait for the Bengals. We like to see round 2 between the Broncos & the Colts, because this will not be the year Cincinnati ends their playoff losing streak.

Divisional round:

Pittsburgh @ New England: These two will meet in Foxborough next season, but in this writer's opinion, because New England has manipulated the system so much, mostly to protect & pacify Crybaby Tom Brady, they should switch and make the Pats go to Pittsburgh, playing only 4 home games a year until they admit they've broken rules all along. Enough ranting. The Evil Empire of the NFL must fall and fail to win another Super Bowl. Period.

Indianapolis @ Denver: Andrew Luck will be seeking to avenge an early season loss to his predecessor with the Colts, insurance & pizza salesman Peyton Manning. Not going to happen.

Yeah, Pittsburgh @ Denver in the title game appeals more than anything involving the Patriots.


Wild Cards:

Arizona at Carolina (NBC, Saturday): For the 2nd time in 5 seasons, a division winner enters with a losing record. Arizona is down to its 3rd & 4th string QB's due to injury, and can only go so far. We'll go with the home team here, and we figure Cam Newton and the Panthers can exploit any weaknesses the Cardinals have.

Detroit @ Dallas (Fox, Sunday): You know how this goes. Tony Romo supposedly can't win a playoff game. The Lions are quickly developing a rep on defense of employing thugs, including Ndamakong Suh, until recently one of the Subway NFL pitchmen. Dallas has more weapons and will be motivated to close the home season on a winning note.

Divisional round:

Carolina @ Seattle: Cinderella's slippers get ground into dust by the Seahawks' Legion of Boom defense. Oh, what a rush!

Dallas @ Green Bay: Maybe Aaron Rodgers can sell Romo some State Farm insurance and give Jerry Jones the number of the ad agency.........! Packers over Cowboys.

So, our final four would be Pittsburgh, Denver, Green Bay, & Seattle. Perfect.

We're off until Friday. Happy New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Classic TV: The Wild, Wild West (1965)

The Wild, Wild West might have been set in the post-Civil War America of the late 19th century, but had elements that suggested not only the influence of, say, Jules Verne, but also Ian Fleming's master secret agent, James Bond. Some might say the series was the forerunner, or the father, of the steampunk genre of fiction.

Federal agents James West (Robert Conrad, ex-Hawaiian Eye) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin, ex-Mr. Lucky) were tasked by President Ulysses S. Grant to investigate some of the most bizarre crimes of the era. On a few occasions, the duo were menaced by Dr. Miguelito Loveless (Michael Dunn), who made up for his small stature with a brilliant, though misguided, mind and a love of music. In the opener, however, the villain of the piece is Count Manzeppi (Victor Buono). The season 1 DVD also includes an early appearance by future comedy legend Richard Pryor, for those who might be interested.

Right now, though, here's "The Night of the Inferno":

Barry Sonnenfeld's feature film version from 1999, with Will Smith as West and Kevin Kline as Gordon, was understandably a bomb. CBS managed to do a couple of TV-movie reunions that made for more entertaining viewing than that.

Rating: A.

Weasel of the Week: Johnny Manziel

I've believed all along that Johnny Manziel left Texas A & M too soon. He has become a case study in taking way too much stock in one's press clippings.

Manziel started exactly one game this season for Cleveland-----and got shelled by Cincinnati. He ended up with a hamstring injury, and didn't play the season finale. Cleveland, which was on the verge of a playoff spot, ended up in its customary spot in the cellar. Then, it comes out that Manziel threw a party at his house for some of his teammates, and a few of them were suspended by coach Mike Pettine for the game. Manziel even was late for a team meeting or practice during the week.

Bear in mind, too, that Manziel had claimed he was growing up. Unfortunately, that ended up being about as hollow as a certain Snickers commercial he made......

Johnny Jam-Boogie? How about Johnny Weasel? Yep, the party boy gets the weasel ears this week for hypocrisy, more than anything else.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

What Might've Been: Name Droppers (1969)

Two of the least successful game shows produced by Merrill Heatter & Bob Quigley had one particularly common trait. Both were hosted by a pair of radio personalities whose fame didn't quite extend too far outside of their normal millieu.

Al Lohman, who'd spent some time at WABC in New York in the early 60's before moving to Los Angeles, and Roger Barkley were tapped to host Name Droppers, which was H-Q's answer to the long running Goodson-Todman series, What's My Line?, which had been revived in syndication. Name Droppers aired on NBC for a few months in 1969 and 1970 before being cancelled, but H-Q called on Lohman & Barkley again when they tried to experiment with a late night game, Bedtime Stories (previously reviewed) in 1979. That was even less successful. 13 weeks and done.

Blanquepage offers us a sample clip from Name Droppers with a couple of guys named Bob (Cummings & Newhart) on the panel.......

No rating.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Classic TV: Night Court (1984)

What Barney Miller did for police, Night Court set out to do for small claims courts. Of course, it helped that Court sprang from the mind of writer-producer Reinhold Weege, who'd been a writer for Miller.

Night Court was a mid-season replacement series that bowed in January 1984, and continued for 9 seasons total. Harry Anderson top-lined as judge Harold T. Stone, a good-natured jurist who tried to find the positives in everyone. In the course of those 9 seasons, Stone went through three public defenders and three female bailiffs. Weege cast actors who'd worked on Barney Miller for small roles. For example, Florence Halop, who joined the show in season 3, had made a few appearances on Miller, but while her character's name changed with each appearance, she'd retain the same appearance. Halop was brought in after Selma Diamond had passed away following season 2. Regrettably, Halop herself passed on at the end of the season, and Marsha Warfield took over in season 4.

Much of the background by-play, beginning in season 3, was Stone courting public defender Christine Sullivan (Markie Post, ex-The Fall Guy), who in turn had to fend off the lecherous advances of prosecutor Dan Fielding (John Larroquette, ex-Black Sheep Squadron). Standing tall in the background was bailiff Bull Shannon (Richard Moll), a gentle giant who wasn't exactly the sharpest tool sometimes.

Miller alumnus Florence Stanley was cast as another judge, and was later spun off to join Paul Reiser & Greg Evigan on My Two Dads. Unfortunately, that was as close as viewers would get to see anyone from Miller's core cast appearing on Night Court.

The following intro/closing comes from the pilot, produced in 1983. Gail Strickland was replaced soon after.

During the show's run, the producers brought in John Astin (ex-The Addams Family) as Harry's dad, and, in addition, singer Mel Torme made frequent appearances (Anderson was a fan).  Today, it'd be real cool for a cable network to run Night Court alongside Barney Miller, just for comparison's sake, although Court devolved into slapstick comedy later in the run. There was also an experiment where Looney Tunes icons Road Runner & Wile E. Coyote made a guest appearance. I'll have to locate that one for Saturday Morning Archives.

Rating: A.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Classic TV: The Ruggles (1949)

Film star Charlie Ruggles was one of the first television sitcom stars. However, few remember The Ruggles, which was broadcast live for three seasons (1949-52). This is likely due to being recorded on kinescopes instead of videotape.

A Christmas episode from season 2 is included on Mill Creek's holiday DVD compilation........

I wanted to like this. However, it put me to sleep. Literally. That's about all I can say.

Rating: C.

On The Shelf: Archie gets a makeover, and a lost Batman case surfaces

Some years back, Archie Comics hired manga artist Tania Del Rio to give Sabrina, The Teenage Witch a makeover, which lasted about 2 years or so before the book ended up getting a new creative team. While it did make the series stand out from the rest of the line, sales inevitably declined after the "curiosity period" ended.

That having been said, it's not a problem questioning Archie's latest decision in relation to a creative makeover. You've probably heard by now that the core Archie series is being rebooted back to #1 in 2015, but with a decided new look, courtesy of artist Fiona Staples and writer Mark Waid.

Wait a minute. Mark Waid? A superhero writer doing a humor book? Yep.

Waid made his Archie Comics debut a year ago on the Red Circle line, scripting the Fox miniseries with artist Dean Haspiel. The Fox will return as part of the rebooted Dark Circle line, as creative director Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is looking to give Fox, Black Hood, and others a grittier look for the 21st century. In that regard, it's all about re-establishing most of the heroes, who've been around since either the Golden Age (Black Hood) or the Silver Age (Fox, Fly), but have been considered second-or-third class heroes, due mostly to the camp revival of the 60's. Waid on Archie, however, is a real challenge. While the long running series has been doing more teen drama story arcs in recent years, spinning off the recently concluded revival of Life With Archie, Waid may be asked to inject some more realism into the storylines. Yes, Archie welcomed its first gay character (Kevin Keller), and used Life to address what Kevin would face as an adult. But what about high school?

Bullying is a major issue these days, and that, in my opinion, may be a possible topic in the Waid-Staples era of Archie. Stay tuned.

DC, timing the release to coincide with the long awaited DVD release of Batman, unearthed an unproduced script by science-fiction icon Harlan Ellison for a 1-shot special. However, the company went overboard.

Batman '66: The Lost Episode adapts Ellison's story, showcasing Two-Face, with Len Wein, a Bat-veteran in his own right, having scripted and/or edited Batman during the 70's & early 80's, writing the story for publication, drawn by Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez. Not only does the reader get that story, but also a rough cut version, with just Garcia-Lopez's breakdowns, and some other extras. The Lost Episode was better off being served as an Annual, not a mad grab for greed. Is it worth the $10 cover price? No. You don't need all those bells & whistles.

Rating (overall presentation): B--.

Having reviewed Cartoon Network's Sonic Boom over at Saturday Morning Archives, I should mention the comics version of the series, which debuted from Archie in November. It's loaded with inside jokes, moreso than the regular Sonic monthly and the defunct Sonic X, which Boom has replaced. The kids will dig it, though Archie's recent decision to raise cover prices across the board to $3.99 will have cost-conscious parents thinking twice.

Dynamite Entertainment is bent on being a major player, or at least rivaling IDW when it comes to licensed titles. On the heels of reviving the former Gold Key heroes (last at Valiant), Dynamite is going full bore with a line of King Features heroes, including Prince Valiant, Flash Gordon, and the Phantom. The jury's out. Again, there's that cover price to consider. $4 per issue, in this day & age, for fans on limited budgets, is asking for trouble. Dynamite can justify the price because of recouping licensing fees, because they have no original series they can truly call their own, though sooner or later, that could change.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Joe Cocker (1944-2014)

It came across the wires this morning that Joe Cocker had passed away at 70 after a lengthy battle with lung cancer.

Most of Cocker's hits were covers. For example, he made his first splash at the original Woodstock festival in 1969 with a cover of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends". His cover of Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful" was later used as the theme to the short-lived sitcom, Struck by Lightning. "Friends" was later used as the theme to The Wonder Years. With help from Leon Russell, Cocker hit with a remake of the Box Tops' "The Letter"........

Cocker would finally score with some original compositions in the 80's. His duet with Jennifer Warnes, "Up Where We Belong", from "An Officer & a Gentleman", hit #1. He missed the top 10 with "When the Night Comes", and charted with "You Can Leave Your Hat On".

Rest in peace, Joe.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: Mr. White's Christmas (The Rogues, 1964)

Earlier this morning, during their pre-dawn double-play of The Rogues, Me-TV unspooled the episode, "Mr. White's Christmas", which didn't actually air until the spring of '65. By that time, the decision had already been made to cancel the series. John McGiver guest stars, and Larry Hagman, a few months away from I Dream of Jeannie, fills in, although Charles Boyer has the spotlight.

The complete episode isn't available, and so we will settle for a sample clip:

No rating, as I have little memory of seeing the episode in its entirety.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas with Liberace (1954)

Liberace was granted his own television show not once, but twice.

The first series bowed in 1954 and enjoyed a healthy run of a couple of years. However, when he returned in a syndicated offering in 1969, it lasted just 1 season. Why that was, I don't really know, because I've never seen that version.

Liberace was close to his family, though. Brother George was his musical director, and his mom was reportedly a producer. Following is a compilation of clips from a Christmas episode from 1954. Liberace solos on "O Little Town of Bethlehem" & "O Holy Night" (instrumental only), and then, at the end of the show, the family gathers for a round of "Jingle Bells" (George is dressed as Santa Claus).

To think that this well respected musician and entertainer was working the other side of the street, if you catch my drift, was quite the surprise years later.

Rating: A-.

Weasel of the Week: Devar Hurd

"How do I know you're not sick? You could be some deranged lunatic!"--The Fresh Prince (Will Smith), 1987

In a nutshell, that describes this week's Weasel, Devar Hurd. 5 years after being released from prison for sending X-rated selfies, intended for R & B singer Ashanti, to her mother, Hurd is on trial again for stalking the singer and her family anew. You'd think this guy would've learned his lesson, but no. He chose to be his own defense lawyer, as if he actually learned anything while in stir.

He claims, according to media accounts, that Ashanti invited him in by accepting his messages, not realizing that he'd sent them to her mom instead of Ashanti herself. Blocking him on Twitter would've ended it all, but since he was using various aliases, how would Ashanti know if he was trying to contact her?

That he's in court is one thing. Proving he needs to go back to jail is another. In between, if it's love he's really looking for, like so many of these other dullards chasing hot actresses or singers, he'd be better served trying online dating. At least there he can find plenty of fish in the cybersea.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Classic TV: Bat Masterson (1958)

Some people might think of Gene Barry for either Burke's Law or The Name of the Game, but before either one of those series, Barry had already established himself.

Barry was cast in Bat Masterson, a fictionalized account of the exploits of the real-life Wild West gentleman and gunfighter. The tailored suits Barry wore would become his trademark, as he was similarly outfitted in his later series.

The series lasted three seasons (1958-61), and airs today on Encore Westerns, a premium service, and has aired on This TV as well. The following entry is an episode that was included on a DVD compilation I had some time back. From Internet Archive, here's "The Fighter":

As simple as it gets.

Rating: A.

NFL this 'n' that

With two weeks left in the regular season, only three division titles, four playoff spots overall, have been decided. Normally, you'd think they'd have everything wrapped up around this time. Nope.

3 of the 4 AFC divisions have been decided, and it looks like both AFC Wild Cards will come from the North. A 1/2-game separates Cincinnati from Pittsburgh & Baltimore. The Bengals effectively eliminated Cleveland from title contention on Sunday---more on that shortly---, but get tone-deaf Peyton Manning and the Broncos on the season finale of Monday Night Football. Regardless of what happens, the North champ is locked into the 4 seed in the AFC, especially considering the WWE-style schedule manipulations of the East champs, the New England Patriots. The Pats and Philadelphia both got the luck of the draw with their division foes being their last three opponents. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Dallas collected a receipt on Sunday for the Thanksgiving Day Massacre, and hold a couple of tiebreakers in their favor.

Personally, I'd rather the Pats play their home games on a neutral field. Does Leavenworth have a football stadium? There's just something screwy about Crybaby Brady and his Col. Flagg wannabe coach, Belichump.

Back to the Browns. Coach Mike Pettine gets a Dunce Cap for deciding that rookie QB Johnny Manziel would get another start after the former Heisman Trophy winner stunk it up against Cincinnati, and the Bengals defense threw his on-field antics back in his face. All that proves to me is that Manziel let the success go to his head at Texas A & M, and should've stayed in school instead of listening to the leeches he surrounds himself with.

Don't ya think Browns management wishes they hadn't let Brandon Weeden, now Tony Romo's backup in Dallas, walk after 2 years? Of course.

The New York tabloids wanted the Jests to lose to Tennessee, so they could draft this year's Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota, or last year's, Jameis Winston, the latter being instant tabloid bait. Winston is like Manziel in that he has not matured enough to warrant turning pro now. He needs another year at Florida State. So the Jests went out and completed Tennessee's Dismal Double, after the Titans lost to the Giants a week earlier.

Meanwhile, while Giants QB Eli Manning didn't make any X-Men wannabe ads for Toyota this season, he did do something worthwhile, like doing a "No More" spot for the Joyful Heart Foundation. ESPN's Cris Carter is also among the talent.........

Maybe in his spare time, Eli can get his brother Peyton an appointment with a voice coach. Trying to string together words to the tune of Nationwide Insurance's jingle doesn't work. Period.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Celebrity Rock: Ballroom Blitz (1992)

One of the highlights of "Wayne's World" in 1992 was the soundtrack. Sure, Mike Myers (Wayne) & Dana Carvey (Garth) and their writers seemed to throw everything in but the kitchen sink, including a homage to Scooby-Doo with a false finish, but the retro soundtrack was a winner. They put Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" back in the public consciousness, but that wasn't the only gem from the 70's, it seems.

The Sweet scored a big hit with "Ballroom Blitz". However, ye scribe never heard their version prior to the movie, and I'd imagine a number of you were in the same boat. So it might come as a shock that actress Tia Carrere's cover was just that. A cover. And a pretty good one, too. If only they didn't include Wayne & Garth's hammy antics in the video......


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Millions of children around the world believe in Santa Claus. Sometimes, it takes time for even adults to believe, as illustrated in the 1947 Christmas classic, "Miracle on 34th Street".

Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) is in New York, ostensibly on vacation, though it is never established, when he happens across a department store Santa hired for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade who is totally sloshed to the point where his boss (Maureen O'Hara) dismisses him on the spot, and hires Kringle, unaware of the controversy to follow. Concerned about the growing commercialization of Christmas, Kringle begins a stint at Macy's and politely advises shoppers to look elsewhere for toys that Macy's might not have. Rival Gimbel's (now defunct) follows suit, as the long standing rivalry between the two stores escalates during the most wonderful time of the year.

Mrs. Walker, a divorcee, has taught her daughter, Susan (Natalie Wood), a 2nd grader, not to believe in legends, fairy tales, and myths, including Santa, but Susan is convinced that Kris is exactly what he says he is, the genuine article. Despite the objections of Mrs. Walker and other staff, R. H. Macy only sees a boost in sales, due to Kris' polite approach and gentle manner, even conversing in Dutch with an immigrant who doesn't speak English. Ultimately, Kris is tricked into being sent to Bellevue Hospital, falsely diagnosed as being delusional.

Of course, I don't really need to tell you how this ends now do I?

Fox later produced a made-for-TV version for The 20th Century Fox Hour, and a subsequent remake, also for television, produced in 1973, featured an all-star cast, headed by Sebastian Cabot, fresh from Ghost Story, as Kris, co-starring David Hartman (ex-The Bold Ones), Tom Bosley, David Doyle, and much more.

Sharp eyed viewers will spot William Frawley, 4 years before I Love Lucy, as a political strategist advising the judge. The real kicker is an early appearance by Jack Albertson as a postal worker whose timely discovery sets the stage for the climax.

Now, scope out the trailer.

It's been 20 years since the late John Hughes made the last remake, but by then, Gimbel's had gone out of business, and Macy's was no longer interested in having its name attached to the story. This, then, would be the most definitive version.

Rating: A-.

Classic TV: Lucy meets the Untouchables (sort of)(The Lucy Show, 1966)

Near the end of season 4 of The Lucy Show comes an unexpected treat.

Lucille Carmichael (Lucille Ball) is at first mistaken for, then asked to impersonate, a nightclub singer named Rusty Martin (Ball in a dual role), whose boyfriend is the notorious gangster, Big Nick, in "Lucy The Gun Moll":

It was a mini-Untouchables reunion, with guest stars Robert Stack, Bruce Gordon, and Steve London, plus narration by Walter Winchell. The CBS suits must've loved Gordon's hammy, over-the-top performance as Big Nick, such that they signed him to play a gangster in Run, Buddy, Run the following fall. Gordon & Stack took their bows from the studio audience at the end of the show, and rightfully so.

If you didn't get the inside references, you probably weren't a fan of The Untouchables in the first place.

Rating: A.

Friday, December 12, 2014

On The Air: Justice For All with Cristina Perez (2012)

With all the courtroom shows on the air these days, someone was bound to eventually develop a fictionalized version. Comedian-turned-entertainment mogul Byron Allen (ex-Real People) has three of them.

It wasn't enough that he gave a judge's robe to lawyer Gloria Allred (We The People), hoping she'd make a convincing judge. He signed Emmy winner Cristina Perez (ex-Cristina's Court) to front another fictional court show, Justice For All with Cristina Perez, now in its 3rd season. Scope out a sample clip:

To be honest with you, I thought this was another cookie cutter courtroom show, but it's anything but, and when it's surrounded by other courtroom shows, you can't tell the difference, unless you read a disclaimer on the screen at the end of the show.

Rating: C.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Classic Reborn (maybe): Match Game (1990)

Time to do a little backpedaling on an earlier review of the 1990 revival of Match Game.

Previously, we covered this version, as hosted by Ross Shafer (ex-The Late Show). However, Shafer wasn't the producers' 1st choice. It had been decided that Bert Convy (ex-Super Password, Tattletales, The Snoop Sisters), a favorite of Mark Goodson's dating back to the late 60's, would inherit Gene Rayburn's long microphone. However, Convy took ill before the series could start, and had to step away, leading to Shafer being hired.

So, in a clearer case of "what might've been" than usual, here's Convy's one and only go MC'ing Match Game. Gene Wood is the announcer, carrying over from the 1983-4 Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour.

GSN ran this as part of a marathon a couple of years back, back-to-back, as memory serves, with a Shafer episode. The differences were obvious.

Rating: B.

Couuntdown to Christmas: Where's Raymond? (1953)

Ray Bolger will be forever remembered more for one singular role, that of the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz", of course. 14 years after "Wizard", Bolger attempted to conquer television, but his short-lived sitcom, Where's Raymond?, later rechristened The Ray Bolger Show, tried to be two things at once, and not very well.

On one hand, Where's Raymond? aspired to be a sitcom, but, as demonstrated in the Christmas episode, it would morph into a variety show on the fly, a mix of music and sketch comedy within the framework of a sitcom format. Bolger tried to, by playing multiple characters in one long skit, emulate a fellow song & dance man in Danny Kaye.

Here's a sample intro:

Rating: B.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rockin' Funnies: Imposter (1992)

One of the biggest hits of 1992 was "Informer", a reggae-rap hybrid by Canada's Snow, whose incomprehensible rhymes guaranteed he'd be a 1 hit wonder, and even so, he was largely treated as a joke because no one could understand the verse.

On In Living Color, it was left to a fellow Canuck, Jim Carrey, to do a parody. Carrey mixes in a little bit of Popeye with his gibberish, though his lyrics, predictably, make more sense. And, I would be remiss if I didn't take note of the question mark on Carrey's shirt. No one thought of it much at the time, but three years later, Carrey played The Riddler in "Batman Forever", opposite Val Kilmer as the Dark Knight. So maybe, just maybe, we can chalk it up to some retro-foreshadowing?

Here's "Imposter":

Monday, December 8, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: Step Into Christmas (1973)

Elton John's "Step Into Christmas" has been a holiday tradition since its release in 1973. Now, if only they'd play this in regular rotation on radio.......

Saturday, December 6, 2014

On The Air: Arrow (2012)

If producer Greg Berlanti has one hard, fast rule for comics fans when it comes to his reimaginings of DC Comics heroes, it is that you forget what you know. At least when you're watching the show.

Berlanti, who had a hand in the critically panned "Green Lantern" movie 3 years ago, made his own mark a year later with his retooling of a long running DC hero, Green Arrow, turning Oliver Queen from a swashbuckling playboy into a grim, dark avenger not unlike a certain denizen of Gotham City. And Batman ain't coming to Starling City, home of Arrow, any time soon.

However, Berlanti has taken supporting players from the Bat-franchise and placed them in his Arrowverse, such as the Huntress and villains like Deadshot and R'as Al Ghul, the latter of whom figures prominently in the season 3 mid-point episode airing on December 10 before Arrow goes into rerun mode for a few weeks. There've been other DC characters sprinkled throughout, and the success of Arrow, as we have noted before, led to The Flash being spun off this season.

This is what we know. Yes, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) was on a deserted island for a few years, but it wasn't as deserted as we were led to believe in the books. He's had dealings with a veteran DC rogue, Deathstroke, aka Slade Wilson, for example. Some recent concepts, such as the governement agency ARGUS, have been incorporated into Arrow and eventually will make its way onto Flash. There is a Black Canary, but right now she's not Ollie's "pretty bird", as she has been in the comics for years. It's complicated. Berlanti must've been a soap opera fan as a kid.

For the first two seasons, viewers were screwed if they didn't watch the show and had no way of getting to the CW website. This season, Time Warner has heard the pleas from fans, and have added a CW portal to their "Entertainment On Demand" channel. Unfortunately, it's only this season's episodes. They do want you to buy the DVDs, of course. On Demand is where I was able to watch this week's episode, the 2nd half of a 2-night crossover event with Flash. Here's a trailer:

Two supporting characters, John Diggle & Felicity Smoak, have been incorporated into the current Green Arrow book as a by-product of the show's success, much as Harley Quinn moved from Batman: The Animated Series into the DC Universe 20 years ago. And, yes, there is a monthly, digital-first book based on the show.

Berlanti, of course, isn't done. He has a non-superhero series, NBC's Mysteries of Laura, airing opposite Arrow, and in the pipeline has Supergirl ticketed for CBS next season, while he's working with Archie Comics and Fox on a little something called Riverdale. Yep, it sounds like Fox & Warner Bros. are biting their own hands, if Riverdale ends up being what I think it could be (a parody of Gotham). Now, if Berlanti could do something about a certain magician babe............

Rating: None. There will be a review of the Season 1 DVD coming soon. This week was too small a sample to properly rate the show.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: Do They Know It's Christmas? (1984)

Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof founded Band Aid in 1984, and while I'll avoid the obvious question of royalties to a certain American pharmaceutical corporation over the name, I will note that every ten years, it seems, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" gets a reworking with a new group of artists. The 30th anniversary edition is making the rounds now.

However, it's time to look back at the original, which, of course, got a ton of airplay back in the day on MTV. The Band Aid roster then included a Who's Who of British music of the period, including Boy George (Culture Club), Paul Young, Sting, Bono (U2), Geldof, and so many more.

The message remains to this day, as there are still starving children in the African countries, as well as other parts of the world.

What Might've Been: He & She (1967)

Talent Associates, the studio founded by New York media personality David Susskind, was looking for a new sitcom to replace the failed Run, Buddy, Run on CBS' schedule. You'd think that He & She would've filled the bill, but it didn't.

He & She, like Buddy, lasted just 1 season, but was later brought back as a summer replacement 2 years after the series ended, and that's where I first ran across it as a 7 year old. The real-life husband & wife team of Richard Benjamin & Paula Prentiss starred, but the real breakout was Jack Cassidy as egomaniacal actor Oscar North, star of the fictional series, Jetman. Cassidy wouldn't land another series gig, and neither would Prentiss, but Benjamin did, nearly a decade later (Quark) before turning permanently to movies.

Here's the open:

The next season, CBS bought another series from Talent Associates that fared slightly better. Bob Denver's comeback vehicle, The Good Guys, lasted 2 seasons, followed by Dan Dailey in The Governor & JJ, and, in between, Get Smart moved from NBC to CBS to finish its run.

He & She merits a B.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Musical Interlude: Little Jeannie (1980)

I had this one up before, but it got booted by YouTube, and brought back, so here it is again.

"Little Jeannie" was Elton John's last single for MCA during his first run there, as he left for Geffen the following year, only to return to MCA in 1987. Those of us who heard the song during the summer of '80 definitely could find lyrics to fit any woman not named Jeannie, too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What Might've Been: Dear Phoebe (1954)

To most, Peter Lawford was one of the "Rat Pack", with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, et al., but he'd had a pretty decent run in television. It just wasn't as successful as the rest of the gang.

Lawford's 1st series was a 1-year sitcom, Dear Phoebe, which aired in 1954. Lawford played a newspaper columnist who wrote an advice column, from whence we get the show's title. Yes, he was writing a column supposedly being written by a woman. Awkward, no?

The TV show which Lawford is most associated with, of course, was an adaptation of The Thin Man, and we'll get to that another time. Here, then, is the intro:

Rating: B-.

Sports this 'n' that

It's another lost football season for the fans in New York City. The Giants (3-9) and Jets (2-10) will be sitting home when the playoffs start next month, but there will be some organizational changes to be sure.

Giants: It will be a miracle if the Giants actually retain Tom Coughlin for a 12th season as coach. QB Eli Manning's skills have become schizophrenic. One week he's up, the next, he's picking himself off the turf after being sacked or dropped a few times by the opposing defense. You can make a case, though, that he has regressed, as witnessed by the two dozen interceptions last year, but injuries to key players (i.e. Time Warner Cable pitchman Victor Cruz) haven't helped. At least Eli didn't sign on for any more Toyota ads. Instead, he's part of the NFL group doing those "No More" spots for Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation.

Big Blue should've seen this coming after the defections of defensive stars Osi Umenyiora (Atlanta) and Justin Tuck (Oakland) the last couple of years. If there's going to be a fall guy if Coughlin stays, it's likely defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and/or offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. Why the Giants let Kevin Gilbride walk (to NBC Sports Network) after last year remains a mystery, and one of the most dimwitted decisions in team history.

Jets: Rex Ryan knows he's done after six years, and if we're lucky, he can take professional saboteur John "Idiot" Idzik with him. Idzik deliberately botched the last two drafts, with an eye toward getting rid of Ryan and bringing his own coach in, reportedly Seattle assistant Dan Quinn. Problem is, Idzik, who is about as telegenic as a tree stump (Peyton Manning is a few steps higher, but not too high), has to go, because the 2-10 record is his fault more than Ryan's. The Jests will play out the string vs. Minnesota, New England, and a rematch vs. Miami, among other things. Not an easy one in the bunch.

Does Geno Smith have to take the fall, too? Some say he began to regress before he graduated from West Virginia, and Idiozik had no patience to let Smith carry a clipboard for a season while Mark Sanchez (now in Philadelphia) recovered from an injury in 2013. Matt Simms (Phil's kid) has the bloodlines, but not the trust of Idiozik or Ryan, and should've gotten more playing time last year than he finally got.

Here's where it gets wacky. The tabloid press is claiming either the Jests or the Giants should make a play for San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, since it seems he's almost surely a goner after this season. There's better money on Harbaugh going back to the college ranks, like, for example, his alma mater, Michigan. If I'm Woody Johnson, the Jests' owner, I'd offer Smith, 2 draft picks, and a case of baby shampoo to the Niners for Harbaugh. If I'm John Mara, I'd offer Eli Manning, Perry Fewell, two draft picks, and a partridge in a pear tree. Seriously, though, Harbaugh's not going east, if he's going anywhere at all. Former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo would be happy to return to the Meadowlands to take over the Giants OR the Jests, for example.

For those of you who think Florida State's Jameis Winston will declare for the draft after this season, you----and he----are fools. He's not mature enough to play the pro game just yet, and his Houdini act every week is getting tiresome. Of course, we could recommend a therapy course for Winston, but then, one of those relentless Law & Order: Special Victims Unit marathons might be helpful, too......

Can someone do us all a favor and take Stephen A. Smith, the poor man's Howard Cosell, and Mike Francesa, who's doing Bullwinkle's "Mr. Know-It-All" schtick worse than B. J. Moose used to back in the day (listen to his radio show, and you'll know what I mean), and chain them to a dead cactus? Those two might be the cause of most people's migraine headaches, for all we know.

While we're at it, can someone finally find it in themselves to call out Scott "20 Mule Team" Boras for what he really is? He's not a sports agent. He's a con artist. Owners are tiring of his act, but it goes on, because there aren't enough of them who can see through him. He'll string out free agent pitcher Max Scherzer (late of Detroit) as long as he can until someone gets stupid enough to fall for his con. As if that worked for Stephen Drew & Kendrys Morales last year, and it didn't.

Next thing you know, Boras will claim the USA Network series, White Collar, should've been about him.

High school basketball season is just starting, but you wouldn't know it by the lack of pre-season press. My alma mater, Troy High, has their home opener tonight, but not a shred of ink in the local papers. They're playing an independent schedule this year, with the demise of the Big 10 league in the home area. That means playing bigger, tougher teams, which could eventually mean getting the attention of certain cable networks that have a phobia about the northeast. Searching online for information isn't helping.

Countdown to Christmas: Do You Hear What I Hear (1963)

I first heard the song, "Do You Hear What I Hear" on one of those compilation LPs that WT Grant's used to release during the Christmas shopping season. In fact, I had two of those LPs as a youth. One version was recorded by John Gary. The other? How about the incomparable, inestimable Der Bingle himself, Bing Crosby.

Appearing on his buddy Bob Hope's show two days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Crosby performed "Hear", with pre-recorded background vocals and instrumentals. "Hear" has been covered many times over since, most notably by the late Whitney Houston on "A Very Special Christmas" nearly 25 years after this performance.......

Monday, December 1, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: The Voice of Christmas (The Brady Bunch, 1969)

Here's a Christmas treat from The Brady Bunch & Hulu:

Carol (Florence Henderson) comes down with laryngitis right before a Christmas pageant. Now, that's no way to prepare for the holidays, is it now? Here's "The Voice of Christmas":

Edit, 12/13/21: Hulu lost the rights a while ago. All that's available now is this sample clip.

This episode was repeated every year during the series' run, as memory serves, and why not?

Rating: A-.

You wanna talk about fake boxing? Mickey Rourke has nothing on the Three Stooges

We all know that actor Mickey Rourke has moonlighted as a boxer during his long career. At 62, at an age where perhaps only George Foreman would be the only other fighter to get a license, Rourke traveled to Russia for an exhibition, and scored a 2nd round TKO.

Problem is, according to England's Daily Mail, the opponent, despite his experience in the ring, was a homeless man who was paid to take a dive. While this cannot be proven or disproven at this point, leave it to a British tabloid to throw cold water on Rourke's latest fight.

However, 80 years ago, the Three Stooges exposed the seamier side of the sweet science in the comedy, "Punch Drunks". You'll see what I mean:

In the wrestling business, a staged fight is called a work. Does anyone actually believe Rourke's fight was just that?

"Punch Drunks" gets an A.