Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Modern Classic (?): Wiseguy (1987)

Wiseguy lasted 3, almost 4 seasons, but was different from most crime dramas.

Vinnie Terranova (Ken Wahl), a government operative, goes deep undercover in various criminal organizations to take them down from the inside. What made Wiseguy so different, and, at the same time, innovative, was that there wasn't an over-arching story arc. Instead, each arc would last a few weeks before reaching its conclusion.

Wahl left the series after the 3rd season, but CBS and producer Stephen J. Cannell moved forward with Steven Bauer as the new lead. They wrote off Wahl by selling the idea that Terranova had been abducted, which was retconned out in a 1996 TV-movie, produced for ABC instead of CBS, that had Vinnie doing some wiretapping. The movie bombed due to the fact it was airing opposite NBC's powerhouse Thursday block. The series itself aired on Wednesdays.

Kevin Spacey, currently in Netflix's House of Cards, appeared in season 1. Other notables included Ray Sharkey, musicians Glenn Frey and Debbie Harry, Deidre Hall (Days of Our Lives), and, in season 2, comedy legend Jerry Lewis, in a dramatic turn as the owner of a dry cleaner under siege from a mob boss (Stanley Tucci).

Here, though, is the intro:

Today, the show languishes in the vaults. I wonder why.

Rating: B.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Classic TV: It's Academic (1961)

It's Academic, a high school equivalent to the GE College Bowl, has been on the air in some form for nearly 55 years in Washington, DC, and has come & gone in other parts of the country, including New York. No, the series didn't air in my home district, but the closest it got was in Watertown, per TV Guide, in the 70's. Here at home, we had Answers Please, which was reviewed several months back in Saturday Morning Archives.

WNBC in New York carried the series from the mid-60's through at least 1972, according to research. Art James, later of shows like Temptation and The Who, What, or Where Game, and sportscaster Lee Leonard served as hosts. As noted, the show is still running in Washington, and the extensive list of alumni includes actress Sandra Bullock, NY Senator Chuck Schumer, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Let's take you back to 1963 and Art James for WNBC's It's Academic.

No rating.

Sounds of Praise: Turn Your Radio On (1972)

Ray Stevens put aside the satires that had made him a country icon and released "Turn Your Radio On" in the winter of 1972. The title track had been written by Al Brumley in the late 30's, and is one of two Brumley compositions Stevens covered, the other being "I'll Fly Away". Stevens wrote two other tracks for the album, which was later reissued on Columbia.

Edit, 4/13/22: I've removed the Hee Haw clip previously used, and replaced it with one from an appearance Ray made on a TV show in Vancouver around the same period.

You might not realize this, but most of the backing vocals were also done by Stevens in the studio.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

What Might've Been: Monopoly (1990)

Don't laugh. It actually happened.

In 1990, Parker Brothers licensed the long running board game, Monopoly, to entertainer-turned-game show mogul Merv Griffin to adapt for television as a game show. Griffin initially intended for the series to go into syndication alongside his revival of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, which are still running 25 years later.

Unfortunately, Monopoly didn't survive the summer of 1990 as a Saturday night entry on ABC, back when that night of the week still mattered to network suits. Parker Brothers has since been absorbed, along with some of their competitors, by Hasbro, which has licensed Monopoly to lotteries in various states. The scratch-off game, Monopoly Millionaires Club, has been in turn adapted into a hour-long TV show, debuting tonight (check your listings), hosted by actor-comedian Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly).

Right now, let's turn back the clock to July 1990 and Monopoly, whose host, Mike Reilly, was a contestant on Jeopardy! and had gone back to his day job as a waiter before Griffin called him back to Hollywood......

I've played the game, and that usually turns into a marathon affair, often tedious and frustrating. I didn't watch the show, though, so there's no rating.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bubblegum crimefighting: The Hardy Boys-Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977)

I grew up reading some of the classic Hardy Boys books credited to Franklin W. Dixon, which, as I'd find out later, was just a house pseudonym used by the Strathmeyer Syndicate and its publisher, which, back in the day, was Grosset & Dunlap. I also read a few Nancy Drew books, just to pass time. I was hooked on mysteries from reruns of Dragnet, Perry Mason, etc., so what did you expect?

Enough digression. The Hardys were first adapted for television by Walt Disney for the original Mickey Mouse Club in the 50's. That series was reviewed over at Saturday Morning Archives many moons ago. Just punch up Hardy Boys in the search box and see what you'll find. Nearly 20 years later, Frank & Joe Hardy returned, this time in primetime.

ABC and Universal took over the license, and got three seasons out of not only the Hardys, but Nancy Drew as well, in the network's latest attempt to find an anchor for their Sunday night lineup, and it seemed as though they'd found their answer, though in the final season, the series was moved down an hour to 8 pm (ET) to make room for the original Battlestar Galactica. Unfortunately, both series went down at the end of the season.

Musician-turned-producer Glen Larson's version served as a vehicle for actor-singer Shaun Cassidy, following in the footsteps of big brother David, who later flopped in an adult crime drama of his own (Man Undercover). Cassidy was cast as Joe, and given the opportunity to sing every so often. Yeah, that's also a call back to the animated Hardys of 1969, which also aired on ABC. Parker Stevenson, a relative unknown, was cast as Frank.

In the first season, the Hardys & Nancy alternated. Pamela Sue Martin was cast as Nancy for the first two seasons, with William Schallert (ex-The Patty Duke Show), for a time a studio announcer for ABC, as her father, Carson. The locale of River Heights was shifted from a Chicago suburb to New Jersey. Don't ask. The only thing I can figure is that because the Hardys' adventures were set in Massachusetts, where Bayport was located, they wanted Nancy close by for those crossovers. However, Martin left during season 2, replaced by Janet Louise Johnson, who was never heard from again after the show was cancelled. Martin went on to Dynasty, then vanished. The producers' obsession with pushing Cassidy led to more Hardys and less Nancy, which prompted Martin's departure. Johnson lasted just 3 episodes, including a crossover with the Hardys, before she, too, was let go, as the Nancy Drew half was cancelled after 2 seasons.

I didn't get to watch the show much due to church. The parish I was attending had evening services, and by season 2, was close enough to home that I could get there on foot. I was a little put off by the fact that this was, as noted, a means to sell records for Cassidy. Speaking of selling records, that brings us to season 2's "The Mystery of the Hollywood Phantom", which has JD Cannon & Dennis Weaver visiting from NBC's McCloud, but Weaver is credited as playing himself. No, that's not Peter Falk as Columbo, though that series would later resurface on ABC. Instead, American Top 40 host Casey Kasem dons the rumpled raincoat for the first time since roasting Telly Savalas on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast.

Edit, 11/15/16: The original 2-part video has been deleted, so we are substituting this excerpt:

Rating: B-.

Old Time Radio: Meet Corliss Archer (1943)

Back around Christmas 2013, we reviewed the TV version of Meet Corliss Archer. Now, it's time to go further back to the radio show.

Corliss began as a story in a magazine, and was picked up for radio in 1943, heard on ABC & CBS radio during its run. For the majority of the run, Corliss was portrayed by Janet Waldo, better known for her cartoon work (i.e. The Jetsons). One of her first cartoon roles came when she was working on Corliss, a Tom & Jerry short for MGM. You'll recognize her voice as Corliss as the same one she used, beginning in 1962, as Judy Jetson.

Right now, we'll go back to 1947 for an episode sponsored by Campbell's Soups. "The Beauty Contest":

Corliss was adapted into comics around 1948, but Fox Comics could only generate 3 issues. As with a lot of Golden Age books, it's still a collector's item, especially with photo covers of Janet Waldo on 2 of the issues.

Rating: B.

Friday, March 27, 2015

On DVD: George Jones' Golden Hits (1994)

This one's for the "caveat emptor" file. In case you don't know, that Latin phrase translates to, "let the buyer beware".

I was shopping the other week, and figured I'd grab a discount DVD or two to pad out the collection. Being that I was raised on country music, why not one of the legends, like George Jones?

Well, as it turns out, Jones' 1994 "Golden Hits" compilation is a wee bit deceiving. Promising "vintage performances", it ends up with a bit of a cheat at the end. While the tracks, such as 1959's "White Lightning", are shown in chronological order, the last portion of the DVD is actually concert footage with guests Mark Chesnutt & Tracy Lawrence sitting in on "I Don't Need Your Rocking Chair".

Personally, I wasn't much of a fan of Jones. I was more of a Charley Pride/Johnny Cash/Tom T. Hall guy. Scope out the DVD.

I guess Jones wasn't much for making music videos, as a large chunk of the clips, even during the dawn of the music video era, come from various TV shows, such as POP! Goes the Country and the Grammy Awards.

Rating: C-.

What Might've Been: Make Me Laugh (1979)

Paramount obtained the rights to revive a failed 50's comedy game show, Make Me Laugh, in 1979. The show would've lasted longer than one season had it not been for the death of host Bobby Van (ex-Showoffs), or if the ratings for the syndicated series were better than they were in some cities. In my area, the series aired at lunch time, before the local NBC & ABC affiliates decided to enter the noon news race.

Reruns aired on USA cable in the mid-80's, leaving everything intact, including Artie Butler's swank, simple theme. This sample episode features the Unknown Comic (aka Murray Langston), better known as a semi-regular on The Gong Show, and Bill Kirchenbauer, later of Growing Pains and its short-lived spin-off, Just the Ten of Us.

With the parents at work back in those days, I had something to watch at lunch time when home on vacation from school. Seems to me the ratings failure, more than Van's passing, signalled the end of the series. It would return, when Comedy Central acquired the rights in the late 90's, and got a couple of seasons out of it, with just as many hosts. We'll take a look at that another time.

Rating: A.

Weasel of the Week: James Street

Racial tensions are still running, but not as much in a fever pitch as they were last summer, in Missouri.

Proof of this is a relatively minor incident involving a former baseball player, Curt Ford, who played for St. Louis & Philadelphia in a short 6 year major league career (1985-90). Ford, now coaching a collegiate summer league team in Springfield, MO, was accosted by James Street, 37, for no other reason than perhaps racial motivation.

Ford & Street were approaching the same pump at a gas station in Fenton. Ford, ceding the space, moved on to another pump, but when he went into the grocery portion of the station, was sucker punched by Street, who used the "N-word" in suggesting that Ford move to nearby Ferguson, which has been at the center of a racial firestorm since last summer. Street fled, but was later arrested by police and charged with what amounts to a hate crime.

Ford was minding his own business, not looking for trouble. He did the right thing by conceding the pump he had initially wanted to use to Street, but Street just didn't see it that way. He was looking for an excuse to cause trouble, and that, in this case, gets him a set of Weasel ears. What bothered me more was the comments from a few shallow, small-brained individuals on Yahoo! stirring things up. While some of it reeked of sarcasm, it was still out of place. Just like Street's priorities, if he actually had any.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sounds of Praise: Angels (1984)

Christian songstress Amy Grant made one of her first mainstream TV appearances on Hee Haw in 1984. Now, pilgrims, I didn't even realize this until I ran across this clip. Until now, I'd assumed that her pop debut was her duet with ex-Chicago singer Peter Cetera, "The Next Time I Fall", which came out in 1986, followed by "Find a Way", a year later. Nuh-uh.

Amy joined the cast in the cornfield for a comedy segment. The punch line she delivered to Gailard Sartain at the end of this video is just a killer all by itself. In between, Amy, with then-husband Gary Chapman on guitar, performs "Angels", which climbed Billboard's Contemporary Christian charts at the time.

It's too bad K-Love doesn't play a lot of older songs going back this far, but maybe a few requests could change their minds.........

Old Time Radio: Gunsmoke (1952)

Three years before beginning a landmark run on television, Gunsmoke burst onto radio airwaves.

Originally envisioned as a Western in the mold of Philip Marlowe, Gunsmoke starred William Conrad as Marshal Matt Dillon, "the first man they want to see, and the last one they want to meet", as Conrad intoned at the beginning of each episode. Conrad narrated most, if not all, episodes from Dillon's point of view. The supporting cast included Georgia Ellis as Miss Kitty, Howard McNear (later of The Andy Griffith Show), easily recognizable vocally as Doc Adams, and Parley Baer as Chester, Dillon's deputy. Baer would also find his way to Mayberry, cast as the Mayor in a few episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, but what some of you might not know is that Baer was also the voice of Ernie Keebler in all those animated cookie commercials.

There was a time when the TV & radio shows were actually running concurrently, though not on the same night. It's said that Conrad, because of his size, was never considered to transition to the TV version, hence James Arness being cast as Dillon for TV, and becoming an icon in the process.

The Internet Archive serves up a 1957 episode, "The Peace Officer". Announcer Jack Walsh worked on both the radio & TV versions all the way to the latter's end in 1975.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Celebrity Rock: What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (1996)

Here in the US, we're not familiar with the British duo Robson & Jerome, largely because I don't think any of their records, and there weren't that many, anyway, emigrated here. However, long before American Idol made him a household name, producer Simon Cowell recruited actors Robson Green & Jerome Flynn of the British series, Soldier, Soldier, to record a cover of the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody", which was used on their show. Two CD's followed, full of cover songs by artists ranging from the Monkees ("Daydream Believer") to Jimmy Ruffin, whose "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" had been a hit just a few years earlier for another Brit, Paul Young, off the soundtrack to "Fried Green Tomatoes", but ended up being Young's last US hit.

Today, Flynn can be seen on HBO's hit, Game of Thrones. Right now, from 1996, here's "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted":

Moron TV: Just Say Julie (1989)

Hot off her film debut in "Earth Girls Are Easy" and a novelty hit, "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun", Julie Brown (to be referred to as Hollywood Julie going forward) landed her first series gig in 1989.

MTV, which already had "Downtown" Julie Brown on their VJ roster, signed up Hollywood Julie for Just Say Julie, a goofy, sorta sitcom that lasted two years and change, and was in the center of the network's 7:30 pm (ET) checkerboard in back of Remote Control for most of its run.

The format was, in a way, derivative of CBS' Pee-Wee's Playhouse, in that Julie would address not only the studio audience, but the home audience as well, when visitors dropped by, unless it was a specific storyline that prohibited said format. One example came in 1990 when original VJ Martha Quinn, fresh from The Bradys, was the guest, and got into a storyline catfight with Brown over the primetime gig. I had a sample of that particular episode up a while back, but it was taken down after the YouTube user deleted the video.

Anyway, Hollywood Julie moved on to Fox's The Edge after leaving MTV, but, aside from a guest voice gig on another Fox series, Batman: The Animated Series, hasn't done much TV since. She now has her own YouTube channel, from which we get this sample:

It's not that I didn't get the comedy. The writing wasn't exactly quality satire. In other words, the writers probably taught the nimrods at Cartoon Network their creative writing course.

Rating: C-.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Classic TV: The Hollywood Palace (1964)

A true variety show mixes not only music and comedy, but a total mixture of daredevil stuntmen, jugglers and assorted other performers. CBS had The Ed Sullivan Show for 23 years (1948-71). ABC, in the winter of 1964, finally found their answer.

The Hollywood Palace had the same kind of mix, but with a different host each week, the latter a format utilized today by Saturday Night Live. Palace was a mid-season replacement, debuting in January 1964, after Jerry Lewis' 1st primetime series was cancelled, and was recorded in the same studio as Lewis' show.

ABC loaded up on music on Saturdays back then. At various times, Palace was coupled with The Lawrence Welk Show and/or, if memory serves me, The Johnny Cash Show, and I believe also the King Family were given a similar spot. Today? Saturdays means college football in the fall, and movies and reruns the rest of the year.

Adam West, appearing in costume as Batman to start the show, emcees this sample from October 1966. With a star-laden lineup including Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, George Carlin (clean-shaven, pre-hippie), Joey Heatherton, and Ray Charles, West takes his turn at singing in bookend segments. Yes, he sings as Batman. Oddly, his Bat-number had been recorded by Burt Ward around the same time, but Ward seemingly shied away from this sort of thing.

Uploaded by---wait for it---Hollywood Palace:

West's rendition of "Summer Wind", more associated with Frank Sinatra, is worth waiting for. It's just too bad Frank Gorshin couldn't be coaxed to at least do an audio cameo as Riddler.

I do have memories of watching this show as a toddler. After all, it was on a Saturday night.

Rating: B+.

MLB 2015 preview, conclusion: How to win the West

We're wrapping up our baseball preview series by breaking down both the NL & AL West in one fell swoop.

NL West:

San Diego made a lot of noise in the offseason, getting Matt Kemp away from the Dodgers, and Justin Upton from Atlanta in trades. Throw in James Shields, who figures to be their opening day starter (Kansas City), and everyone seems to think they're a playoff contender already. Well, I'm not with everyone else. The Padres gave up Yasmani Grandal to get Kemp, but was that the right call? Los Angeles, you would think, might've gone into fire sale mode, not only getting rid of Kemp, but also stolen base champ Dee Gordon (Miami), and yet, they're the popular pick to win the division. They gave up on oft-injured Chad Billingsley (Philadelphia), figuring that Zack Greinke is enough to be a #2 starter behind Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, but Billingsley's absence will hurt more than help.

The pundits who think the Dodgers will win are ignoring the defending World Series champs, San Francisco, which would like to prove they can win in an odd-numbered year this century. Three titles in 5 years to most folks spells dynasty. The Giants start the season without Hunter Pence, who could be off the DL a few days or weeks into the season to boost the offense. Yes, they cut loose World Series hero Pablo Sandoval (Boston), and picked up Casey McGhee (Miami) to take his place. The offense, though, won't really kick in until Pence comes back, and, for Giants fans, that can't come soon enough.

Arizona & Colorado need more than just help. Divine intervention, anyone?

Projected order of finish:

1. San Francisco.
2. Los Angeles.
2 (tie). San Diego.
4. Arizona.
5. Colorado.

AL West:

As we've seen, it's not a good idea to anoint a team as a division champion just because of some off-season moves. It takes time for adjustments in team chemistry, among other things. Still, Seattle made a good accounting for itself last year after Jay Z's crew fleeced them for nearly $300 million to get Robinson Cano. Nelson Cruz comes from Baltimore to give the Mariners a power bat to complement Cano & Kyle Seager. However, aside from Felix Hernandez, the pitching does not scare.

Oakland swapped 3rd basemen, sending Josh Donaldson to Toronto for Brett Lawrie, and, in a curious move, let first baseman Brandon Moss go (Cleveland) after picking up ex-Met Ike Davis, who finished last season with Pittsburgh. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are the popular pick to win the division, and would like to prove that it was a fluke that they were eliminated so quickly last October. Problem is, they might not have Josh Hamilton for a length of time, if rumors of a substance abuse-related relapse are true. Bear in mind that Albert Pujols is on the downside of his career, and, aside from Mike Trout, the Angels have enough to get by on offense.

Down in the Lone Star State, Houston surprised everyone by moving out of the cellar. Hey, as long as owner Jim Crane can find a way to keep some of the players promoted from the Tri-City Valleycats in the organization long enough to reach the bigs, the Astros could be contenders again in another couple of years. Meanwhile, Texas is in rebuilding mode, more so after Yu Darvish went down for the season (Tommy John surgery). Think they're regretting letting a utility player like Craig Gentry leave (signed with Oakland last season)? Of course.

Projected order of finish:

1. Los Angeles.
2. Seattle.
3. Oakland.
4. Houston.
5. Texas.

Wild card picks:

NL: Mets, Dodgers.
AL: Red Sox, Mariners.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Monday, March 23, 2015

On DVD: Wine, Women, & War (1973)

"Wine, Women, & War" is the second of three TV-movies serving as precursors, if you will, to The Six Million Dollar Man becoming a regular series, which, as we have discussed before, began in the winter of 1974.

After a mission ends rather badly, Steve Austin (Lee Majors) talks his boss, Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson, ex-Dan August), into letting him take a vacation. Ah, but Oscar wants Steve to finish the mission. In order to facilitate it, two other agents (Earl Holliman & Michelle Carey) are dispatched to the Bahamas. Convienently, they're joined by a Russian friend of Austin's (David McCallum, ex-The Man From U.N.C.L.E.). Eric Braeden (The Young & The Restless) and Britt Ekland also star. For Braeden, the former Hans Gudegast (Rat Patrol), this was a rare return to primetime.

Unfortunately, all we have is the open & close, complete with a cheesy theme song composed by producer Glen A. Larson (who was replaced by Harve Bennett when the series officially started), and sung by Dusty Springfield.

Each of the movies were later re-edited into two-part episodes of the series, which made them easier to include in syndication packages. If you get past the lame theme song, and Larson wrote better music than this, trust me, and get deep into the story, it isn't as bad as you might've been led to believe. Alan Oppenheimer replaced Martin Balsam as Dr. Rudy Wells, and appeared in a few series episodes before he was, in turn, replaced by Martin E. Brooks. Oppenheimer would then move on to voice work in cartoons, which, I think, he's still doing today.

Rating: B.

Forgotten TV: MTV Half Hour Comedy Hour (1988)

In the late 80's, MTV began experimenting with non-music programming. It got to the point where they would fill the 7-8 (ET) hour with such shows to allow the metalheads and other musically fanatic couch potatoes to catch their breath. With Remote Control a runaway hit, the network needed something to complement it. The answer, airing 4 nights a week, was the Half Hour Comedy Hour, which lasted a couple of years tops.

At first, the series didn't have a regular MC. They didn't think they really needed one, but after A & E's Evening At The Improv, airing in late night, took off, they hired actor-comic Mario Joyner to serve as host for the bulk of the run, though others would later fill in. Viewers got their first looks at Drew Carey, Brian Regan, Louis CK, and Pauly Shore, who would later land his own MTV series, and return to guest host. The late John Pinette was a frequent performer.

Clips available on YouTube are in such bad shape, it's a risk to put one on, so we'll go with the animated open that was used near the end of the series' run.

Too bad it ain't out on DVD, though it should be.

Rating: B.

What Might've Been: The David Letterman Show (1980)

If it wasn't for the fact that I had a summer job between my junior & senior years in high school, I'd probably have been vegging out on the sofa watching The David Letterman Show. The future late night legend's 1st talk show was a mid-morning effort that lasted 4 months (June-October 1980) on NBC.

In fact, I did watch the show briefly when the summer gig ended. There was a little period of transition at the end of August. By that time, Bill Wendell, a long time NBC studio announcer, was working with Letterman, and would join him on Late Night 2 years later. Veteran newsman Edwin Newman, who had the 12:55 (ET) newsbreak, was inserted to do news briefs at least twice per day. The series started off at 90 minutes, then was trimmed to an hour due to poor ratings. Folks just weren't ready for a live, comedy-oriented chat fest that early in the morning. Then again, with Today having mutated to 4 hours these days, maybe now they are.

Comic Rich Hall, a frequent guest, was also one of the writers. Bob Sarlatte was the original announcer, but was sacked after just a few weeks, so it's Wendell you'll hear in the following clip. Oh, by the way, that's Casey Kasem (American Top 40, etc.) intoning, "This is NBC" before the show starts.

The early cast of Saturday Night Live were known as the "Not Ready For Prime Time Players". It's unfair to say Dave wasn't ready for daytime (he'd been a panelist on The Gong Show at least one week), but that his brand of comedy didn't fit. 35 years later, as he's getting ready to retire and turn his CBS show over to Stephen Colbert, he can look back on this and laugh with the rest of us.

Rating: B.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

On DVD: Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936)

This next item is also reviewed at Saturday Morning Archives as part of a discussion on WSBK's Mystery Theatre series from the 80's.

Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) treats his ginormous family to a trip to the circus, but murder, intrigue, and, well, other interests await in "Charlie Chan at the Circus".

If they just let Lee (Keye Luke) apply some natural charm to a prospective girlfriend, instead of being heavy-handed in his attempts at courting, things might've been different.

Rating: A.

On the Shelf: DC & Marvel revive some forgotten titles

In the 60's, 70's, & early 80's, it was common to find anthology titles from both DC & Marvel, as well as other publishers, on the spinner racks at the neighborhood newsstands. However, as we got deeper into the 80's, the anthologies were being phased out. Charlton & Gold Key had faded out, while DC & Marvel became more involved in developing line-wide "universes".

In recent years, DC has revived some of their old anthology titles under the Vertigo label. House of Secrets and House of Mystery didn't have the staying power of their earlier incarnations, largely because the host characters created for those books in the late 60's, DC's versions of Cain (House of Mystery) & Abel (House of Secrets and, later, Unexpected) were co-opted by acclaimed author Neil Gaiman for his legendary Sandman series, later spun off into The Dreaming, with allusions that they were in fact the original Biblical characters, albeit with pointed ears. Please. In short order, Weird War Tales, Weird Western Tales, & Strange Adventures were all brought back as Vertigo miniseries. The stories were written in the same manner as in the original books, but without the restrictions of the now-defunct Comics Code Authority, giving the creators greater artistic freedom.

The latest revival is that of a short-lived series from the 70's, Strange Sports Stories, which lasted 4 issues the first time around, but was later collected in a digest-sized TPB in the 80's. As usual, it's 4 issues, but 48 pages per, with a $5 cover price. We mentioned before how former WWE & Ring of Honor champ CM Punk was doing some writing for this miniseries. His first DC story appears in issue 3, in May. If you thought he hit one out of the park in the Thor Annual for Marvel, this might be his encore.

The material in the 1st issue offers a portent of things to come. The emphasis is more on science fiction than the original series ever was, with soccer among the sports themes. Artwork's nice, too.

Rating: A.

In 2011 & 2012, DC/Vertigo revived two long running anthologies as 1-shot specials. Ghosts & The Unexpected couldn't match the magic of their earlier incarnations, but it was decided to combine the two into a trade paperback volume under the Unexpected title. Despite solid contributions from fan favorites such as Phil Jiminez, Paul Pope, David Lapham, Gilbert Hernandez, and the late Joe Kubert (his last story, neither inked nor colored, was published in one of the two volumes), and previews of Voodoo Child and yet another anthology revival, Time Warp, the latter featuring the Dead Boy Detectives, who now have their own series, the writing is wildly inconsistent, as there were some stories that left me scratching my head and trying to figure out what the writer(s) were trying to say. Being a sucker for the old titles, I invested, and regretted it.

Rating: C.

Marvel gets in on the act again in May with the return of Where Monsters Dwell, only this time, there is a storyline that runs through the entire series. We'll see how this plays out.

Retro reads:

Staying with the anthology theme, Dark Horse in 2009 published the first Archives volume of a treasured Gold Key series that I actually had issues of back in the day. Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery launched in 1962, with the first two issues using the title of Karloff's NBC series, Thriller, before a title change in issue 3, coinciding with a reduction in cover price (!) from 25 cents to 12, and a lower page count. Artists familiar to DC readers, including Mike Sekowsky and Dan Spiegle, worked on the series, which ran for 18 years total before being cancelled in the 80's. Another TV anthology adapted to comics, The Twilight Zone, lasted a bit longer than that, and has been revived by other publishers since the end of its Gold Key run (Dynamite---what a shock---has the license for Zone today). That, I think, is because Zone had a longer TV run than Thriller, which was cancelled after 2 seasons (and previously covered in this space), and is better known by comics and TV fans alike. Too, GK hasn't exactly been treated very well, though some of the properties it was known for have been revived by Dynamite and other publishers as well.

Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery gets a B.

After taking over Strange Tales (1st series) in the 60's, Dr. Strange was granted a 2nd chance in the 70's, spinning out of Marvel Premiere. As a jaded fan today, I am looking back at some of these stories that I've read in the past, some of them when they were brand new, and wondering why I was even interested back then. It was the writing of ace creators such as Steve Englehart that hooked readers, plus the likes of Jim Starlin, Marv Wolfman, and Gene Colan. The series included a cross-over with Wolfman & Colan's legendary Tomb of Dracula (1st series).

Rating: B.

The Metal Men were one of Robert Kanigher's many creations to debut during the Silver Age at DC. The gimmick was that the "token female", Platinum, or, Tina, if you will, was crushing on her creator, Dr. Will Magnus, who couldn't for the life of him figure out why she had any emotions in the first place. Now, this was a series begging to be adapted for television, and never did in its prime years. DC revived the series twice in the 70's, first in a series of reprints, one of which I copped, and then, new material began appearing, illustrated by Walt Simonson, which was awesome in and of itself. You don't believe me, scope out The Groovy Agent's Diversions of the Groovy Kind, which has showcased some of those Simonson specials.

Metal Men gets an A-.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What Might've Been: Hello, Larry (1979)

For all we know, McLean Stevenson may have made the biggest career blunder just by leaving M*A*S*H.

None of Stevenson's series had any staying power. The closest thing to a hit was Hello, Larry, which was a mid-season replacement series that launched in the winter of 1979. Writer-producers Dick Bensfield & Perry Grant were also working on One Day at a Time around the same time, and developed this series, casting Stevenson as a divorced radio talk show host who moves his two daughters to Portland in order to not only continue his career, but start a new life. Eldest daughter Ruthie was played by Kim Richards, who was making her return to TV (ex-Nanny & The Professor) after the "Witch Mountain" movies for Disney.

Today, Richards is better known as being related to heiress Paris Hilton and being part of one of Bravo's Real Housewives series. Quite a comedown from the 70's, eh?

Stevenson would land two more series in the 80's, including the series version of the hit film, "Dirty Dancing", but he couldn't shake the stigma of fate dealing him a bad hand. At the end of his career, he would make an annual pilgrimage to Albany to co-host the Cerebral Palsy telethon every winter.

Right now, let's take a look at the intro:

NBC would try again with a sitcom about a radio talk show host, nearly 15 years after Hello, Larry ended. As Larry was linked by storyline to Diff'rent Strokes, Frasier not only was spun off from Cheers, but succeeded the latter series and thrived for a decade itself. Maybe Hello, Larry was ahead of its time.

No rating.

2015 MLB preview, part 6: AL Central breakdown

Two weeks before opening day. Let's move on to the AL Central.

Amazingly, at least one media outlet has bought into the belief that the Chicago White Sox, in former star Robin Ventura's 3rd season as manager, could win the division. For openers, after DH/First baseman Paul Konerko retired, the Sox needed to find a power bat to fill the void. So, they signed Adam LaRoche (Washington) as a free agent. LaRoche will spend more time at DH due to Jose Abreu being the incumbent at first. For more offense, Chicago signed Melky Cabrera (Toronto) to shore up the outfield, but the biggest changes are on the mound. Former Notre Dame football star Jeff Samardzija returns to Chicago after a mid-season sojurn in Oakland after the Cubs gave up on him for whatever reason. David Robertson, after a year of trying to fill the void in New York created by Mariano Rivera's retirement, moves in as the Sox's new closer. That's going to cost the Yankees. Trust me.

However, folks are sleeping on the defending AL champs, the Kansas City Royals.Yes, they lost some offense, seeing Billy Butler (Oakland) and Noriyuki Aoki (San Francisco) leave as free agents, and after all the hoopla of getting James Shields at the trade deadline in 2013, he's fled as well (San Diego). Taking his place is Kris Medlen, who couldn't pitch at all for Atlanta last year due to Tommy John surgery. Alex Rios (Texas) replaces Aoki in right. Kendrys Morales (Seattle) replaces Butler at DH. The post-season provided a showcase for the Royals' killer bullpen, and I think they may be key to the Royals getting back to the post-season on this, the 30th anniversary of their lone World Series title.

In Detroit, there is still some life in the Tigers, even though Justin Verlander didn't perform as well as normal last year. Then again, having Kate Upton as an off-field armpiece may have something to do with that. Brad Ausmus' club has to reload the starting rotation with Max Scherzer (Washington) & Rick Porcello (Boston) gone. Alfredo Simon, who came over from Cincinnati, is only part of the answer, not all of it. Not so sure about Shane Greene, who came over from the Yankees. Greene was inconsistent last season. Detroit starts the season with an outfield of Yoenis Cespedes (Boston), Anthony Gose (Toronto), and J. D. Martinez, who moves from left to right after the former Valleycat had a breakout season last year. Torii Hunter returned to his original team, the Minnesota Twins, and I'd not be surprised if this will be the end of the trail. Hall of Famer Paul Molitor takes over for Ron Gardenhire in the dugout, and has to rebuild, if not also reboot, a club that tumbled all the way to the cellar the last couple of seasons. The Twinkies jokes will start again if Minnesota doesn't get off to a fast start.

The Cleveland Indians said goodbye to DH Jason Giambi, who retired after last season, and another ex-Yankee, Nick Swisher, might be best suited to fill the position due to recent injury issues. Cy Young winner Corey Kluber is a late bloomer that everyone slept on last season. Brandon Moss comes over from Oakland to platoon with Carlos Santana at first. Santana, who has also been a catcher and 3rd baseman, has seen his stock fall due to injury as well, and the Indians, no longer able to trust him behind the plate, went out and got Yan Gomes from Toronto before last season. Meh. Sure, they made a nice run late, but they can't afford to fall too far behind this time.

Projected order of finish:

1. Kansas City.
2. Chicago.
2. (tie) Detroit.
4. Cleveland.
4 (tie). Minnesota.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sounds of Praise: Shake (2013-4)

MercyMe's "Shake", from their latest CD, "Welcome to the New", has been in heavy airplay on K-Love since it was released as a single in 2013. The song peaked at #6 on the charts, but there's no escaping that bouncy, high energy beat.

Forgotten TV: The Life of Riley (1949)

Irving Brecher's pride & joy, The Life of Riley, first jumped from radio to television in 1949. However, due to filming the feature film version of the series, William Bendix was unable to reprise his lead role as Chester A. Riley. Brecher then hired Jackie Gleason to sub for Bendix.

However, this version lasted just 1 season, due to an impasse between Brecher, sponsor Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, and the network about extending the season to a full 39 weeks. As we all know, Riley would return in 1953, with Bendix back in the title role. Gleason's run as Riley prepared him, you might say, for his seminal sitcom, The Honeymooners, just a few years later.

Right now, scope out this sample episode:

Rosemary DeCamp is better known to viewers of another generation for her role as Ann Marie's mom on That Girl, two decades later.

Rating: B-.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Weasel of the Week: Scott Boras

This shouldn't be a surprise, should it?

Boras, the failed minor leaguer-turned-lawyer-turned-greed merchant (read: agent), whined in the press about the Chicago Cubs' decision to keep rookie phenom Kris Bryant in the minors until mid-April, in order to preserve one year's service time before Bryant inevitably becomes a free agent, which would now be after the 2021 season, rather than 2020.

Boras, unfortunately, is letting greed get in the way of common sense. He wants Bryant, who has already clubbed six homers in pre-season play in Arizona before being sidelined with a shoulder injury, on the Cubs' roster when regular season play starts on April 6. In other words, Boras wants to exploit Bryant's skills at the highest level ASAP. Has it even occurred to him that his star client is injured at the moment? No, of course not.

Manager Joe Maddon doesn't seem to have a problem with Boras' irresponsible thinking, but the decision is in the hands of GM Theo Epstein and team ownership, not Maddon. Boras' ranting, raving, and, well, whining to Bob Nightengale of USA Today only galvanizes his detractors even more than usual. Like, don't you think folks are tired of people like Boras dictating to baseball owners in regards to his myriad of clients? Of course.

All Boras is about is over-maximizing his commissions on his clients' contracts, and has more than realized the millions he never earned as a ballplayer himself. He's got so many players snowed just because he can make them a lot of money, never mind the fact that he gets more than his fair share right along with them. Robinson Cano & Alex Rodriguez both tired of his act, but both have also made mistakes since leaving Boras. In Cano's case, it was signing on with Jay Z's group, which opted to copy the Boras playbook, hence fleecing Seattle last year. We all know Rodriguez's sordid story, of course.

If Boras actually cared about his players' health-----something that seems to be lost in the narrative in the case of Bryant----he should've done something with A-Roid long ago, but couldn't be bothered. No, he thinks he's JG Wentworth, and wants his money now. Sorry, bub, but all you're getting from this desk is another set of Weasel ears, plus the usual accessories.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Musical Interlude: Gonna Getcha (1966)

Ok, kids, time for a little history lesson.

Jaye P. Morgan (or "Jaye P. Morgone" (pronounced Mor-goan), as Chuck Barris would introduce her on The Gong Show), was a singer before becoming an actress and game show panelist. Even recorded with Perry Como. Her recording days had ended when she signed on for Gong, but her experience served her well as a judge when it came to musical acts.

To prove the point, here's Jaye, with blonde hair, no less (she might've gone to the dye bottle in the 70's), guest-starring on My Three Sons, from Season 7 (1966), performing "Gonna Getcha". Co-star Don Grady leads the band.

It's too bad Chuck never asked Jaye to sing on Gong. While it might've diluted the impact of the parody concept, it would've helped.

On The Air: iZombie (2015)

5 years ago, DC Comics' Vertigo division introduced a quirky supernatural series, iZOMBIE, which continued for nearly 2 1/2 years. The lead character took a job as a gravedigger to support her appetite for human brains.  Her best friends were a were-dog and a ghost. Y'think maybe it was inspired by the British TV series, Being Human, before that series emigrated to the US?

After the book was cancelled, the CW network, a partial corporate sibling to DC, picked up an option on an adaptation of the series, but there would be a few changes, due largely to Being Human arriving in the US on SyFy. The lead, formerly Gwen Price, was rechristened Olivia "Liv" Moore, and instead of being a gravedigger, Liv works for the Medical Examiner's office in Seattle.

Hmmm. Quincy crossed with The Walking Dead and The Dead Zone. Why the latter, you ask? Because Liv (Rose Maciver) absorbs the memories of murder victims, plus some perculiar habits, depending on the case, just from ingesting some brain cells. Her boss passes her off as a psychic (Psych says hello) to a rookie police detective, who then begins asking for Liv's help.

Co-creator Mike Allred contributed new artwork for the show's opening sequence. The TV show is in the capable hands of Rob Thomas (ex-Veronica Mars), who directed the opener. Liv, like other detectives, narrates her own adventures.

Following is a trailer:

To make room, CW has moved Supernatural to Wednesdays for the rest of the season, at least, meaning iZombie (note the lack of caps) will be coupled with DC stablemate The Flash, and air opposite Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, which is too tied up with Marvel's cinematic universe for casual fans to keep track. I'd not be surprised, though, if iZombie eats into SHIELD's audience to be renewed for a 2nd season. The fact that Liv is now working in the medical examiner's office opens the door, if Thomas and Flash showrunner Greg Berlanti are interested, to a crossover between the two and/or Arrow, Berlanti's other CW hit. You just never know.

Rating: A.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Forgotten TV: Stand Up & Cheer (1971)

Today, we're debuting a new feature. I call it, "Forgotten TV", and, yes, it spins out of the "What Might've Been" file because a lot of entries there actually should've been filed as "forgotten", at least to most folks.

Our first entry is Stand Up & Cheer, a comedy-variety series from Pierre Cossette, which lasted 2 1/2 seasons in syndication (Sept. 1971-January 1974).

Studio singer Johnny Mann and his vocal group are the stars of this show. You were expecting maybe Up With People? Anyway, it was a standard half-hour show of the genre for the period. Mann and his troupe not only sing, but perform carefully choreographed dance numbers.

In this clip, Mann finds the time to do some teaching to the audience, bringing out the show's choreographer, Howard Parker. Oh, by the way, the announcer is singer-voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft, better known as the original voice of Tony The Tiger.

To my knowledge, this might've been Ravenscroft's only gig as an announcer. Selling breakfast cereal did more for his career, anyway.

No rating. Didn't see enough of the show to merit a rating.

Another look at: Mr. Terrific (1966)

Note the year, pilgrims.

CBS had first commissioned a pilot for Mr. Terrific in the spring of 1966, clearly inspired and influenced by the success ABC was enjoying with Batman. However, as we already know, the network then ordered a 2nd pilot, with a completely new cast.

Alan Young, fresh from Mister Ed, was cast as Stanley Beamish. Edward Andrews, who had starred on ABC's Broadside, was his government contact. Veteran actor Jesse White, for years the Maytag repairman in commercials, played Stanley's boss. In this version, Beamish is a bumbling shoe salesman in a department store.

Obviously, the network figured they needed a younger actor to be the lead, hence scrapping this pilot in favor of a 2nd, headlined by a relative unknown, Stephen Strimpell. Although Young still had a flair for physical comedy, time was not on his side.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Jack Webb does comedy (The Tonight Show, 1968)

If you thought that Jack Webb was all work and no play, with the closest thing to a joke being on radio (Pat Novak For Hire), think again.

Webb branched out and tried a radio comedy show in 1946. Didn't get very far, but then.......! 22 years later, with Dragnet a hit again, Webb appeared on The Tonight Show and did a quick 2:00 skit with Johnny Carson that went down in history as one of the greatest skits in the Carson era (1962-92). If you know anything about tongue twisters, then you're ready for the "Copper Clapper Caper":

You might not know this, but none of Carson's writers, nor Carson himself, wrote the skit. Webb did. Like, who knew Joe Friday actually had a sense of humor?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Classic Reborn: Concentration (1973)

Six months had passed since NBC pulled the plug on Concentration, ending a nearly 15 year run. A casual flip of the dial one night found that the series had returned, now in syndication, and taped in Hollywood. Not only that, but Mark Goodson & Bill Todman had picked up the rights.

Veteran MC Jack Narz was chosen to helm the new Concentration. Around this period, Narz hosted another Goodson-Todman game for CBS, Now You See It, which didn't quite last as long. In fact, Concentration spent a good five years in syndication, bringing its overall total to 20 years on the air when the series ended a 2nd time.

The series would return nearly a decade later for another 4 year run, back on NBC, still under the Goodson banner (Todman had passed on), but with ever-busy Alex Trebek (Jeopardy!) hosting. We'll cover that another day, but here's one from the Narz era. Another game show icon, Wink Martindale, has his own YouTube channel, from whence we get this entry:

For what it's worth, and it probably ain't much, the Trebek series had Classic added to the title, as if NBC was afraid viewers would stay away. Who were they trying to fool?

Rating: A.

On The Shelf: Of ducks, shadows, and female spiders, oh my!

One of the big problems in comics these days is that we have a generation of writers who can only tell one kind of story. The editors at DC & Marvel want them to write stories that build to their endless, mind-numbing, annual "events", which seem to be the only way they can keep the cash registers ringing. Please. Give me a break.

For example, one of Marvel's "events" at the end of 2014 was something called "Spider-Verse", in which they gathered together the Spider-Man we know and love, plus the Ultimate Universe's current version, a African-American/Hispanic youth named Miles Morales, and a host of other variants against a common threat. At the same time, the editorial staff decided that Peter Parker wasn't the only one bitten by a radioactive spider after all.

Bollocks, I say. Why tamper with a simple origin story that's worked for more than 50 years?

Because the editorial hierarchy at Marvel, consisting of Chief Creative Officer (HA!) Joe Quesada, Editor-in-chief Axel (Grease) Alonso, publisher Dan Buckley, and "executive producer" Alan Fine, who has that same gig in the TV department, and is more believable there, felt the need for a little, ah, gender equality. Hence, the debut of Silk. Predictably, the fanboys are eating it up, as the 1st issue sold out rather quickly, and all I could find this weekend, with issue 2 due this coming week, was a variant cover edition that one local shop had marked up to $8. Hey, supply & demand, y'know? I'll wait for the inevitable trade paperback to get acquainted with Silk.

One other spider-variation was even hotter.

We all know the tragic story in the core Marvel Universe, played out in last year's "Amazing Spider-Man 2". Gwen Stacy was Peter Parker's 1st true love, until she was killed off by the Green Goblin. Oh, sure, the Marbleheads mucked the waters in recent years, but if there was one thing the movie's producers got right, this was it.

Nearly 40 years earlier, in What If? (1st series) 7, Marvel postulated some alternate universes that had someone other than Peter getting that famous bite. Back then, they didn't think of using Gwen or even Mary Jane Watson, but rather Daily Bugle secretary Betty Brant to be the female analogue. Oh, it was fun. So, the writers of Spider-Verse decided to correct what they felt was an oversight and make Gwen into a Spider-Woman on an alternate earth. They hyped this to the moon, but didn't feel the need to go to the mainstream press with it (Thank God!). Spider-Gwen debuted last month, with issue 2 arriving this past week. The hometown shop sold out of both issues rather quickly, largely due to subscribers ordering extra copies in the faint hope of recouping a profit. News flash. In 2015, speculating doesn't do ya any good, effendi.

Anyway, Gwen, attired in a black & white costume, instead of the traditional red & blue, or even red & yellow, like the more established Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), confided in her father, police detective George Stacy, during Spider-Verse. On her world, Gwen must deal with not only the usual rogues gallery (Vulture is the first one on the menu), but you get Frank Castle as a cop, instead of as The Punisher. Matt Murdock isn't Daredevil, but he's in the pocket of Wilson Fisk (Kingpin). It's kind of like looking into a mirror, to an extent. On this world, Peter Parker is dead, and Gwen, as Spider-Woman, is being blamed by---who else?---J. Jonah Jameson. Some things will never change.

The artwork looks a little less busy than, say, Guardians 3000, but they're trying to copy the look of Batgirl over at DC these days. Meh. Whatever.

Rating for Spider-Gwen: B+.

The Shadow returns in a new prestige format 1-shot from Dynamite. The subject is racism. Can't tell if this is set in the 40's, or closer to modern times. The focus is on Jericho Druke, a lesser known agent, who goes undercover to try to save his brother, an ex-con who went to work for a bigot who just happens to be an old enemy of the Shadow. It's decent, a little better than the recent Justice Inc. miniseries, and worth the $8 cover.

Rating: A.

Marvel spins off a new Howard the Duck monthly from a post-credit cameo in last summer's "Guardians of the Galaxy" film. Here, Howard is trying to make a go of it as a private eye, and has Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, on retainer as his lawyer. Gee, there's a shock. The creative team is trying to recapture the manic, satirical spirit of Steve Gerber's original series from the 70's, nearly 40 years old itself. Howard looks the same as he did in the movie on purpose, a little thinner than I remember, still snarky and sarcastic, distrustful of "hairless apes" (humans). Too bad the one human who loved him, Beverly Switzer, isn't around. Yet. The fun will really start in issue 2 when Howard teams with Rocket Raccoon. Oh, don't tell me he'll end up joining the Guardians. They don't need any more comedy relief.

Rating: B-.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Musical Interlude: Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me) (1965)

Most folks associate "Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)" with the Doobie Brothers, who recorded it for their 1975 album, "Stampede". However, it was actually a remake of a lesser known Motown record.

Kim Weston recorded the original version, with a couple of lines added at the top, 10 years earlier. Admittedly, it's easier to follow, since Tom Johnston's vocals on the cover version were partially swallowed by the background music.

What Might've Been: Hell Town (1985)

It's almost as if Baretta swapped his badge for a Bible.

Robert Blake returned to primetime in 1985 with Hell Town. It was on the same night as Baretta (Wednesdays), but on a different network (NBC). I think you know where I'm going with this, right? Yep. The show lasted just 4 months, the last episode airing on, ironically, Christmas night.

Blake was cast as ex-con-turned-Catholic priest Noah "Hardstep" Rivers, whose parish was in the same Los Angeles neighborhood where he grew up. Whitman Mayo (ex-Sanford & Son) co-starred. The theme song was performed by-----who else?----Sammy Davis, Jr., who made Baretta's theme, "Keep Your Eye On The Sparrow", as much of an icon as he or Blake.

Suffice to say, viewers just weren't ready. It wasn't long, though, before NBC tried again with a religious themed series on Wednesdays. Michael Landon came along with Highway To Heaven about a year or two later, and we'll cover that in due course. Also, we'd be treated to a lighter dose with Amen.

No rating. Never saw the show.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Three Stooges for Simoniz (1960)

Remember Simoniz? Long eclipsed by Turtle Wax as one of the leading automobile polishes, Simoniz hired The Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine, & Joe DeRita) for a series of ads in the 60's. Here's one, courtesy of Internet Archive:

Note how the slapstick had gotten softer due to the Stooges' advanced age.  DeRita's hair appeared to be growing back in this spot. Still lots of fun.

MLB 2015 preview, part 5: NL Central

Let's move out to the midwest, shall we?

NL Central:

I find it amusing that the Sporting News, an august publication, would anoint the Chicago Cubs as World Series champions, just because of two offseason moves. First, GM Theo Epstein reeled in manager Joe Maddon, who maneuvered his way out of Tampa Bay, then reunited with former Boston ace Jon Lester. Mix in a nucleus of young and upcoming talent in Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Addison Russell, and Kris Bryant, and you're led to believe that this is the year the Cubs finally break through. Nuh-uh. As Lee Corso on ESPN would say, not so fast, my friends.

The road to the division title still runs through St. Louis. The Cardinals are dedicating this season, no doubt, to the late outfielder Oscar Taveras, a rising star in his own right, who was killed shortly after the World Series ended. St. Louis filled the void by trading for Jason Heyward (Atlanta), then added some veteran presence in the infield by signing Mark Reynolds (Milwaukee). To get Heyward, the Cardinals gave up pitcher Shelby Miller, but that allows Carlos Martinez an opportunity to break into a deep rotation.

Some wags are down on Cincinnati. Please. Give me a break. Journeyman outfielder Marlon Byrd's 2nd tour in Philadelphia lasted a year, as he signed with the Reds as a free agent. Byrd moves to left field, as there's no way they move Jay Bruce out of right. Not gonna happen, unless Bruce gets hurt. Backup Chris Heisey is gone (Dodgers), which takes away some depth. The pitching took a hit, with Alfredo Simon (Detroit) & Mat Latos (Miami) departing. That still needs to be replaced.

Pittsburgh welcomes back AJ Burnett after a horrible year in Philadelphia. Russell Martin is gone (Toronto), but another ex-Yankee, Francisco Cervelli, comes in to take his place as the starting catcher. Something Cervelli was never guaranteed he'd get with the Yanks. Otherwise, the offense remains intact, as they have Gregory Polanco for a full year.

Milwaukee let Rickie Weeks walk (Seattle), opening second base for Scooter Gennett. The whole right side of the infield has changed, as Adam Lind replaces Mark Reynolds at first. Lind was heisted from Toronto, and will have to acquaint himself with National League pitching. Maybe he finally gets the recognition he deserves, but then, in a division that has Joey Votto, Matt Adams, and Anthony Rizzo? Good luck.

Projected order of finish:

1. St. Louis.
2. Pittsburgh.
3. Cincinnati.
3 (tie). Chicago.
5. Milwaukee.

Musical Interlude: Billy, Don't be a Hero (1974)

Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods had been together nearly a decade before they landed a huge hit with "Billy, Don't be a Hero" in 1974. The track alone sold more than 3 million copies, and got heavy airplay on radio.

However, after the follow-up single, "Who do You Think You Are?", the hits simply disappeared, and after a brief fling with country music, the band split, only to return as a nostalgia act.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sounds of Praise: Lose My Soul (2007-8)

Christian rapper TobyMac's 2007 hit, "Lose My Soul", is still getting some regular airplay on Christian stations such as the K-Love & Air 1 networks. TobyMac is joined by Kirk Franklin and Mandisa on the song. The video, set in a pawn shop, has an added intro by Franklin not usually heard on the radio.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Old Time Radio: Let George Do It (1946)

George Valentine, newly returned from the war, is eager to find work. However, unable to find gainful employment, he hires himself out as a detective-for-hire.

Let George Do It ran for 8 years (1946-54), and starred Bob Bailey in the title role for most of the run. When Bailey left to do Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, Olan Soule, better known for his television work (i.e. Dragnet, The Andy Griffith Show, Captain Midnight), stepped in to succeed Bailey.

The Internet Archive presents the series opener, "The First Client":

It plays like some of those lighter detective movies, but things would get serious as time wore on. For the uninitiated, the part of Caleb, the elevator operator, was played by Joseph Kearns, a radio veteran who is also better known for TV (Dennis The Menace). Frances Robinson is the Janet Waldo soundalike as Claire, the first of three actresses to essay the part.

Rating: B+.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rockin' Funnies: Lonely at the Bottom (1973)

Before the Blues Brothers, before being cast on Saturday Night Live, John Belushi was part of National Lampoon's Lemmings comedy troupe. It was here where John perfected his dead-on mimic of singer Joe Cocker, which led to a 1-time-only duet with Cocker on SNL 3 years later.

Here, Belushi, impersonating Cocker, performs "Lonely at the Bottom", from a Lemmings Roadshow, back in 1973, 2 years before SNL. And, yes, that is Chevy Chase on the drums. Chase had played with a pre-Steely Dan Walter Becker & Donald Fagen before turning to comedy.


A Modern Classic: 21 Jump Street (1987)

21 Jump Street, when it aired on Fox from 1987-91, was described as a comedy adventure show. The feature film reboot put more emphasis on slapstick comedy, which might've turned off fans of the original series.

It came from Stephen J. Cannell's factory, with one of Cannell's former proteges, Patrick Hasbrough, starting his own company to co-produce. The concept is the same. Adult cops undercover in high school. Thing is, in the movies, there's just 2 (Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum), who've been depicted to be a few steps higher up the IQ ladder than, say, Beavis & Butt-Head. I only needed to see the trailers for the movies to make that assumption.

21 Jump Street is Johnny Depp's only TV series to date, and it was the last time that Depp played a character that wasn't quirky or bizarre that I know of. Depp fronted an ensemble that also included Peter DeLuise (Dom's son), Holly Robinson (later Peete), who also sang the theme song, and Steven Williams ("The Blues Brothers") as their CO. The early success of the series led to a spin-off, Booker, as someone thought Richard Grieco might be a breakout star. Didn't happen, as Booker was done after 1 season.

Here's the intro:

One wonders why Depp chose to veer away from roles like this in later years. He didn't really stand out on this show, as the ensemble, not one person, carried the show.

Rating: B.

Weasel of the Week: Stephen A. Smith

Ya knew this was going to happen, right?

A story making the rounds on Monday has to do with ESPN yakker Stephen A. Smith using his pulpit on First Take to all but accuse Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly of racism. Why? Because the Eagles cut two of their skill position stars, only to see them sign with other teams (the deals will be finalized later today). Running back LeSean McCoy joins an already crowded backfield in Buffalo, meaning Rex Ryan may have to cut incumbents Fred Jackson and/or C. J. Spiller to make room, and wideout Jeremy Maclin opted to reunite with his original coach, Andy Reid, in Kansas City.

And Smith thinks this makes Kelly a racist? Hello? Reality check time.

To replace McCoy, the Eagles apparently plan to sign Frank Gore, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. QB Mark Sanchez just reupped for 5 more years, and he's part-Latino, as if you couldn't tell. I would venture to say that a large percentage of the Eagles roster is comprised of African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans. That also applies to every NFL team. Bear in mind that Smith didn't come right out and make an accusation that would obviously be recanted within minutes if he actually did point a finger at Kelly.

He also forgets that Kelly has had a succession of star African-American running backs at Oregon. LeGarrette Blount, for example, just won a Super Bowl with the Patriots. No, this was business as usual for Smith, who thinks he's this generation's Howard Cosell, just in the way he talks. Just because he used to be based in Philadelphia doesn't make Smith an authority on Philadelphia sports. He's just out of touch.

No, what Smith ended up doing was setting himself up for ridicule from other media outlets' writers, reading between the lines. He also set himself up for a set of Weasel ears for even inferring a false accusation leveled at a well-respected coach. Considering that Smith moonlights as a talking stomach in beef jerky ads, should we be at all surprised that he is out of touch? With reality, that is.

Update: The latest word is that Gore won't sign with Philadelphia after all, but is headed instead to Indianapolis. To clarify Smith's remarks, it suggests not so much racism, but that Chip Kelly seems to prefer certain kinds of personalities. Either way, Smith, with no evidence to support his bombast, has to adhere to the credo, "don't just sing it, bring it".

Monday, March 9, 2015

What Might've Been: The New Adam-12 (1989)

Producer Arthur Annechirico thought he'd struck gold when he rebooted The Munsters as The Munsters Today. and got three seasons out of that series. However, when he tried to revive two of Jack Webb's crime dramas, something got lost in the translation.

We've previously covered The New Dragnet. That means it's time to check in on The New Adam-12, which also had two seasons encompassed over 1 calendar year. That's because, for reasons known only to the producers, season 2 began in the spring. Little did Annechirico realize that he had actually started a trend that was later picked up by cable networks.

Peter Parros (ex-Knight Rider) and Ethan Wayne co-star in this update of the original series. It's an update because the original cops, Pete Malloy (Martin Milner) & Jim Reed (Kent McCord) are still with the LAPD, long since promoted to Captain and Lieutenant, respectively. Unfortunately, the chemistry they demonstrated was not revived, as Milner & McCord appeared separately, on back-to-back weeks.

NBC-Universal has no plans to issue this series on DVD, though supposedly it's available on Hulu. The intro was posted to YouTube.

No rating, as I never saw the show.

Comics this 'n' that

I spent some time lurking on a couple of message boards I don't usually frequent over the weekend, once I picked up on some folks being concerned with the chronic, and surprising, tardiness of Archie Comics' two horror series.

After launching in October, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina hasn't had issue 2 arrive in stores. Likewise, Afterlife With Archie has seen the bloom fall off its rose, as issue 7 was the last issue released, part 2 of the current story arc. It was noted that there was a few months gap between issues 6 & 7. Meanwhile, the reprint magazine version of the series, promoted that Sabrina 2 would be out "soon". That was a couple of months ago.

The blame can easily be laid at the feet of writer/creative director Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who has been too busy lately trying to pitch TV ideas to the networks for Archie, and has fallen way behind on his writing. In addition, artist Francesco Francavilla is working on outside projects, mostly covers for other companies' titles, having become very much in demand over the last nearly year and a half, and his particular style can't be duplicated. So where does that leave Sabrina artist Robert Hack? No clue, effendis. The fear, of course, is that the books will end up cancelled without any resolution to the storylines, and that would be SO unlike Archie.

The delays aren't just in the horror line. Betty & Veronica's much-publicized farewell to Riverdale storyline has run into delays as well, with the next chapter, as previously noted, now solicited for release next month.

In the 80's, one local shop would put press releases from, say for example, DC, out near the racks so that customers could see some rational explanation behind a book or two being delayed. Would that Archie, or any other publisher, for that matter, could find it within themselves to do so today.
I'm sure by now you've seen actress Melissa Benoist (ex-Glee) in her new Supergirl costume. Where I have a quibble is with the fact that the Girl of Steel has been given knee boots. Yeah, I get that they're still all the rage in terms of fashion these days, but come on! DC made a similar mistake with Zatanna a few years back, and gave her the same knee boots, while still dressing her in her signature fishnet stockings. Speaking of legwear, notice, too that Benoist/Supergirl has dark colored tights, perhaps in an attempt to emulate the attire of Superman (Henry Cavill) in "Man of Steel" 2 years ago. That doesn't bother me as much as the knee boots do.
On a lark, I scoped out Marvel's 2015 Thor Annual. The theme seems to be future, present, & past, in that order.

The opener, set in the distant future, imagines Thor as the new King of Asgard, with Odin having long passed on. It seems that the Thunder God is destined to marry at some point, as he's joined by the Girls of Thunder, who are his grand-children. What helps is some beautiful art by veteran Tim Truman.

The current, female Thor is showcased in the 2nd story. Let's just say she's earned her stripes as it relates to the Warriors Three (Hogun, Fandral, & Volstagg), and leave it at that. We'll learn who she is in another couple of months, but with the remake of Secret Wars right around the corner, she might not be around much longer.......!

Finally, CM Punk, in between leaving WWE and signing with UFC, makes his comics writing debut, spinning a humorous yarn about a young Thor, before he could gain the use of Mjolnir, drinking Marvel's personification of the Devil, Mephisto, under the table. Rob Guillory, the artist behind Image's Chew, has the honors here, and keeps it rather simple. Punk crosses over to DC's Vertigo division for his next assignment, as he's contributing to the revival of a forgotten 70's book, Strange Sports Stories, which is being relaunched as a miniseries later this month. It's not the first time Marvel's had a wrestler write for them. Raven (Scott Levy) crafted, with help from Brian Azzarrello, a Spider-Man's Tangled Web issue 13 years ago that didn't get any play on WWE programming, as Raven was with WWE at the time.

Obviously, the Punk story was the lure, as he got top billing among the creators credited on the cover. Once again, he gets to be in the main event, and makes it count.

The Thor Annual, on the strength of the bookend stories, gets a B+.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How not to fall in love in one easy lesson: The Three Stooges in Brideless Groom (1947)

Hee-bee-bee-bee-bee! Shemp Howard becomes the most eligible bachelor in town when word gets out that his uncle left him an inheritance. The hitch? He has to get married in order to collect the money! It's one of the most violent Three Stooges shorts of all time, "Brideless Groom"! Dig it!

Emil Sitka's role as the justice of the peace was his best as a Stooge foil, by far.

Rating: B+.

2015 MLB preview, part 4: AL East breakdown

Now, we turn our attention to the AL East. We've previously pegged the Yankees to finish 4th. As for the rest of the division, well, let's just say we disagree with the majority.

1. Toronto. 22 years after their last World Series title, and 2 years after everyone and his brother assumed the drought would end, the AL East title will finally move back north of the border. Native sons Russell Martin (Pittsburgh) & Michael Saunders (Seattle) have been brought in to bolster the offense. Toronto swapped third basemen with Oakland, getting Josh Donaldson in exchange for Brett Lawrie. The intention, according to some wags, is to have slugger Edwin Encarnacion as the DH, perhaps to minimalize the risk of injury. Encarnacion had been splitting time at first with Adam Lind, but Lind is gone (Milwaukee), replaced by Justin Smoak (Seattle). For now, the Blue Jays are carrying three catchers, with Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole retained from last year.

2. Boston. Remember when Toronto was the sexy pick in 2013? Or when Miami was thought to win the NL East in 2012? The so-called experts have short memories.

After gutting their starting rotation last season, the Red Sox reloaded by welcoming back Justin Masterson, who was a summer rental for St. Louis, and signing Wade Miley (Arizona), Rick Porcello (Detroit), and reliever Anthony Varvaro (Atlanta). Of course you know about their offensive additions in Pablo Sandoval (San Francisco) and Hanley Ramirez (Dodgers), but the head-shaker is moving Ramirez into the outfield. What if Xander Bogaerts struggles? How soon does Red Sox Nation call for Ramirez, a former Boston draft pick, to move back to his original position at short? Sandoval's signing made Will Middlebrooks expendable (San Diego), and upgrades the offense all in one move. Of course, the Kung Fu Panda will have 3 World Series rings to motivate his new mates.

3. Baltimore. You know Buck Showalter will have his team contending to the very end. He'll get Manny Machado & Chris Davis back, although Davis still has one game left on his season-ending suspension from last year. Thing is, Davis now has an exemption to use Adderall due to an existing medical condition. Watch. A-Roid will try that defense next. Problem is, despite the returns of Machado & Davis, the Orioles still lost some offense with the departures of Nelson Cruz (Seattle) & Nick Markakis (Atlanta).

5. Tampa Bay. Good-bye, Joe Maddon (Cubs), hello, basement. The Rays mortgaged their future by dealing away 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers (San Diego) and ace utility players Sean Rodriguez (Pittsburgh) & Ben Zobrist. To replace Myers, the Rays picked up Steven Souza, Jr. (Washington), who showed some flashes last year in a late season sample. Otherwise, Tampa is going back to square one. 7 years removed from their lone World Series appearance, they're now cannon fodder. Who'dathunk?

Projected order of finish, as if you couldn't tell:

1. Toronto.
2. Boston.
3. Baltimore.
4. Yankees.
5. Tampa Bay.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

It just wasn't meant to be

Basketball season is over at Troy High, my alma mater. It ended on a pair of sour notes, as both the men's & women's teams dropped Class A finals this afternoon.

When I arrived at Hudson Valley Community College for the women's title game, I was apprised of the end result to the boys' game, played in Guilderland. Defending champion Scotia won their 4th straight A title in a walk. I'm told the final margin was in double digits. That meant the girls had to win to salvage what otherwise was a lost afternoon.

Unfortunately, it didn't happen. Like the boys did vs. CBA in the 2012 Class AA game, Troy ran out to a 12 point lead after 1, but saw it whittled to 9 at the half. Averill Park kept fighting to the very end, and with under a minute scored the game winner. A last second lay-up by Troy came up short, and Averill Park walked out a 58-56 winner. It was an edge of your seat thriller, much like last year's Troy-Scotia boys game, which went to double OT before the Tartans won.

However, the implication implied in today's Troy Record suggests that Scotia, which didn't need any help from the officials, got it anyway with a "controversial" foul called on Troy star Zach Radz in the 2nd OT frame that led to the game winning points. It can't be proven, of course, but why in the world does it have to happen at the high school level? We see it in college and pro games too often, games decided by questionable calls just because of a team or player's reputation. Bollocks! The game should be decided by the 10 players on the court, not the guys in the striped shirts, whose objectivity becomes second-and-third guessed by the losing team's alumni and fan bases.

In the women's game, credit goes to Averill Park for not giving up after falling behind by as much as 14 during the game. They kept coming back. Oh, sure, some of the fouls were of the ticky-tack variety that one fan sitting a few feet away from me said usually aren't called during the sectionals. I think the officials wanted to send a message. That being, we're going to call it like we would in the regular season. Which is exactly how it should be done.

Next year, with Troy entering the Suburban Council, the women will have a chance to avenge this wrenching loss, depending on the schedule. I haven't seen any highlights of the boys' game, but I know I'll read about it in the morning. Scotia, representing the Foothills Council, may not see Troy again until next year's tournament, barring a preseason tourney that both teams would be invited to. Their best player, Joe Cremo, graduates this June, so the question lies with the Tartans. Can they continue their recent run of success?

Two years ago, when Troy won the AA boys title and the A girls title, neither team, to my knowledege, was invited to march in the Flag Day parade. That snub, for all we know, might be a bad omen that has haunted them ever since. Now comes the familiar refrain that sports fans know so well.

"Wait 'til next year".

Celebrity Rock: Soul Man (1978)

I think we're all in agreement that John Belushi left us too soon.

The mutual interest he shared with Saturday Night Live castmate Dan Aykroyd in music, particularly the blues and 60's soul, led to the creation of the Blues Brothers in the late 70s. Belushi had sat in with Joe Cocker when the latter had appeared on SNL to perform "Feelin' Alright" after impersonating Cocker in some skits, but the alter-ego of Joliet Jake Blues brought out the closet soul singer.

Aykroyd has revived the act in the intervening years since Belushi's passing, with John's brother Jim and John Goodman joining the act. In fact, Goodman & Aykroyd appeared as the Blues Brothers on SNL's 40th anniversary special last month. Anyway, here's the original Blues Brothers, Elwood (Aykroyd) & Jake, performing the Sam & Dave hit, "Soul Man", co-written by another soul legend, Isaac Hayes.

The longer video we've seen on VH1 and/or MTV paid tribute to Belushi by using footage of various skits he'd performed on the show. However, this is the original clip of "Soul Man". Like, can you dig it?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Classic TV: Victory at Sea (1952)

My late father was a war buff. I guess it made sense, considering he served in the Navy in World War II, and he had an interest in a lot of war movies.

In 1952, NBC launched a Sunday afternoon series, Victory at Sea, which chronicled over 26 weeks the Allied effort on the seas in WWII. Leonard Graves narrated.

Yes, folks, it was a finite series, not meant to be renewed, but it did resurface years later, airing on some PBS stations, which is how I came across it.

Rating: B.

Local sports this 'n' that

The Glens Falls Civic Center won't be hosting the New York State Section II Class A boys' basketball semi-finals & finals, or anything else, for that matter, for a while.

A portion of the building's roof collapsed on Tuesday, forcing Section II to scramble to find alternate sites for the remaining games in classes other than AA. With Albany's Times Union Center unavailable due to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) tournament this weekend, the A semi-finals will be played at Guilderland tonight, with the finals shifting to Hudson Valley Community College on Sunday, since the women's finals are there on Saturday.

For Troy High, this could be a good omen. The Flying Horses' women's team will play Averill Park on Saturday for the A title, with Troy looking for its 2nd crown in 3 years. The two schools' men's teams play at Guilderland tonight, with the winner advancing to likely face defending champion Scotia on Sunday. With this late development, Troy High would like nothing better than to win both A titles on what amounted to a de facto home court for the men last Sunday (they'll be the visitors on Sunday if they get there). Not only did the women win the sectional title in 2013, so did the men, who at the time were in AA. This time, they're both in Class A. This is their only season as an independent, and it'd be a sweet story come Monday if they do sweep.

Update, 3/6: Section II will have the boys A finals at Guilderland on Saturday, as HVCC is tied up on Sunday with other commitments. This ensures a "neutral" court, as if the game were played in Troy, there was a chance that Troy High, despite the likely designation as a visiting team, would have a larger partisan interest.

Back in Glens Falls, the AHL Adirondack Flames are now homeless, playing out the string before trading places with their "cousins" in the organizational chain, if ya will, from Stockton, California, next season. There's about a month left in the season, and the Flames have to scramble to find a temporary home to finish the season. Considering that the Flames won't make the playoffs, this gives the city of Glens Falls a little extra time to enable repairs on the aging Civic Center while also allowing the possibility of building a newer, state-of-the-art facility to take its place down the line.

Local radio personality Dalton Castle, who spends his weekends as a wrestler, made his television debut last month for Ring of Honor, taking part in the promotion's annual Top Prospect tournament, but was eliminated in the first round. Undaunted, Castle, who is billed as the "Party Peacock" in the ring, flew to Orlando a couple of weeks back to take part in tapings for future TNA pay-per-view events. Meanwhile, ROH figures to air the conclusion of this year's tournament, perhaps as early as this weekend. Another grappler with ties to the hometown, sort of, is in the finals. Donovan Dijak, who made his area debut in October for Dynasty Pro Wrestling, has impressed in winning his two matches to this point. Pending the outcome of the tournament, it will be interesting to see if Castle and/or Dijak will be back for Dynasty Pro's next show, on Easter weekend.

Dynasty Pro nearly filled the Troy Boys & Girls Club for their last show, headlined by Tommy Dreamer. WWE Hall of Famer Jake "The Snake" Roberts and former WWE diva Ashley Massaro are scheduled to appear this time. Seeing as how Ashley posed for Playboy while with WWE, should we expect to see her wearing bunny ears in Troy? We'll know for sure in a shade more than a month. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What Might've Been: My Living Doll (1964)

My Living Doll predated the movie, "Weird Science", and its TV spinoff, by 20 years and change. To say that this fantasy-com from producer Jack Chertok (My Favorite Martian) was ahead of its time would be an understatement. It just happened to have the misfortune of launching the same year that Bewitched did, and lacked the audience numbers generated by the ABC frosh.

Bob Cummings returned to television to headline the series, as a scientist entrusted with an android female code named, Rhoda (Julie Newmar), for whom he had to conceal the fact that such an attractive woman wasn't really human. Cummings, taking note of the low ratings, left the show near the end of the season, and Jack Mullaney became Rhoda's caretaker for the final 7 episodes.

Of course you know that Julie Newmar recovered rather nicely from the failure of My Living Doll, achieving icon status as the slinky, devious Catwoman in seasons 1 & 2 of Batman.

Here's one intro:

No rating. Never saw the show.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Modern Classic: Hunter (1984)

Some things take time to develop. That's been a truism of television since day one.

Hunter falls into this category. Stephen J. Cannell sold the pilot to NBC in 1984, and in its initial run lasted 7 seasons. After a trio of TV-movies brought the cast back together between 1995-2002, Hunter would get a brief revival in 2003.

Former NFL star Fred Dryer, who'd cut his acting chops in a recurring role on the sitcom, Cheers, was cast in the title role as Rick Hunter, a sergeant, later lieutenant, with the LAPD. We were told during season 1 that Hunter was the son of a mobster (somehow I missed that when watching episodes on a sporadic basis), but opted to become a cop. Characterized as a small screen version of Clint Eastwood's legendary "Dirty Harry", Hunter did everything within and above the law to catch his man. His sexy partner, Dee Dee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer) had her hands full keeping Hunter in line.

For a time, Saturday Night Live alumnus Garrett Morris joined the show as informant Sporty James, but left the show after a couple of seasons. Kramer left after the sixth season to pursue a musical career and other acting opportunities. McCall's departure was explained away by her getting married (2nd marriage) and moving away. Network suits wanted Hunter & McCall to become a couple, thanks to a plot twist in season 6, but it went nowhere.

After the 1st season, Cannell brought in his mentor, Roy Huggins, who'd gone to Columbia to work on the failed TV version of Blue Thunder, to serve as executive producer. The ratings went up, but when Dryer was promoted to executive producer in season 6, that might've been the jump the shark moment.

Hulu brings us the pilot:

Rating: B.

Monday, March 2, 2015

2015 MLB preview, part 3: NL East breakdown

Beginning today, just before the first preseason games are played, we'll take a look at the 6 divisions, and we'll start with the NL East. We've already tabbed the Mets to finish 2nd and contend for a Wild Card. Let's scope the other teams.

Washington: Had Matt Williams not made a rookie blunder in the NLDS, maybe it's the Nationals and not the Giants winning it all. It's that simple.

Infield: Ryan Zimmerman moves across the diamond to 1st after the departure of Adam LaRoche (White Sox) via free agency. This allows Anthony Rendon to be the full time 3rd baseman, and he performed well while Zimmerman was on the DL much of last year. The middle of the infield remains solid, with Ian Desmond at short and Danny Espinosa at 2nd. Still, GM Mike Rizzo took a flier on fading vet Dan Uggla as insurance at 2nd. Uggla split time between Atlanta and San Francisco last season, but was left off the post-season roster. Tyler Moore figures to be the understudy for Zimmerman at 1st.

Outfield: The only problem might be with Jayson Werth having to hear "Jailbird!" chants early on, as he did a short stint in the pen (DUI) in the offseason. All that's needed is for Werth & Bryce Harper to stay healthy.

Catcher: Met-killer Wilson Ramos needs to stay healthy, too. Period.

Pitching: The addition of former Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (Detroit) has the Nats 6 deep in the rotation, but there were some wiseguys online who thought Rizzo would deal away Stephen Strasburg. Are you kidding? Where Rizzo screwed up was letting lock-down set-up man Tyler Clippard (Oakland) and utility hurler Ross Detwiler (Texas) leave. Rafael Soriano, at last check, is still looking for work. After blowing game 2 of the NLDS, Drew Storen remains the closer. Can you say Achilles' Heel?

Miami: Giancarlo Stanton returns after getting his face broken. Like the Nats, the Marlins' outfield is relatively intact, but owner Jeff Loria opened the checkbook to lure Ichiro Suzuki (Yankees) to Miami as insurance. Jose Fernandez is already being tabbed by the pundits as the #1 starter. His only weakness? Immaturity. Loria heisted Dee Gordon from the Dodgers, sending Donovan Solano to the bench. Martin Prado (Yankees) replaces Casey McGhee (San Francisco) at 3rd. Meh. Aside from Fernandez, the starting pitching does not scare.

Atlanta: All of a sudden, the Braves look like they did before the 90's. Jason Heyward (St. Louis), Justin Upton (San Diego), and Evan Gattis (Houston) are gone, leaving Freddie Freeman with little protection in the lineup, aside from maybe infield mates Andrelton Simmons & Chris Johnson. Nick Markakis (Baltimore) was signed to replace Heyward. Melvin (Don't call me BJ!) Upton, Jr., after 2 seasons of underachieving alongside his brother, now must function alone, as he did in Tampa Bay. As for Freeman, I'm waiting for someone at ESPN or Fox to make with the Captain Marvel references. Injured last year, Kris Medlen (Kansas City) & Brandon Beachy (Dodgers) left via free agency, two more stupid moves by new GM John Hart, who was lured away from MLB Network, but after replacing Frank Wren, Hart is acting as if Stimpson J. Cat is inhabiting him. If you don't get the joke, you just don't get it. Starting pitching, like Miami, no longer scares. Just getting to closer Craig Kimbrel will be an adventure.

Philadelphia: Jimmy Rollins' departure to the Dodgers sends a message that GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. can't protect his veteran core any longer. Reports had Cole Hamels wanting out, and who can blame him? Cliff Lee may have peaked already. AJ Burnett bombed in his only season with the Phillies, and went back to Pittsburgh. The outfield lost some depth with Marlon Byrd moving on (Cincinnati). Rollins' departure opens shortstop for Freddy Galvis, so he doesn't have to caddy Chase Utley anymore. I don't see closer Jonathan Papelbon sticking around past July.

Projected order of finish:

1. Washington.
2. Mets.
3. Miami.
4. Atlanta.
5. Philadelphia.

Of course, I could be wrong (and usually am).