Sunday, May 31, 2015

Musical Interlude: Moonlight on Water (1990)

Singer-songwriter Laura Branigan made an attempt to return to the charts in 1990 with "Moonlight on Water", which had been recorded a year earlier by Kevin Raleigh, but neither version made any ripples on the Hot 100. In fact, Branigan's version, while it received a good amount of radio airplay, was not released as a vinyl single at all. "Moonlight" turned out to be Branigan's last radio hit.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

On DVD: Captain America (1979)

It's funny how things work sometimes.

CBS didn't want to be pigeonholed as the "superhero network", so they cancelled Wonder Woman and The Amazing Spider-Man, but kept The Incredible Hulk on the air for 5 seasons (1977-82). Universal, which produced Hulk, also served up a pair of TV-movies with Captain America and one with Dr. Strange.

Captain America first aired in January 1979, and starred Reb Brown as Steve Rogers. Recognizing that leaving Cap in World War II wasn't going to work, the producers set the movie and its subsequent sequel in the present. Rogers is an ex-Marine and an artist, the latter a profession that Rogers actually did take up in the comics around the same time or later. Any references to WWII would refer to Rogers' father, who was killed, and was nicknamed Captain America in derision. Rogers is pulled into a curious mystery when a friend turns up dead, and some thugs think Rogers knows something about some film that a corrupt businessman, Lou Brackett (Steve Forrest, ex-S.W.A.T.) wants. Dr. Simon Mills (Len Birman) had worked with the elder Rogers, and recruits Steve to help solve the case.

Here's a trailer to help you along, covering both TV-movies:

The supporting cast includes Robin Mattson (General Hospital), Heather Menzies (ex-Logan's Run), Jason Wingreen (All in the Family), & Lance LeGault (better known to 80's fans from his run on The A-Team). Cartoon fans will find Buster Jones (Super Friends) in a small role. Personally, Universal and CBS blew it by not trying to do a crossover with Hulk, and when the sequel aired as a 2-part miniseries in November, it was worse. Christopher Lee was brought in to be the villain, and Menzies was replaced with Connie Sellecca (pre-Greatest American Hero) without explanation. The plot was all over the place more than this was.

Rating: C.

Videos of Summer: Surfin' Bird (1987)

Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello teamed for the first time in over 20 years in 1987's "Back to the Beach", but one of the real hooks to the MTV crowd was the appearance of Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens), who puts his own spin on the Trashmen's 1-hit wonder from the 60's, "Surfin' Bird". Sure enough, halfway through, Frankie and Annette join Pee-Wee on stage......

Pee-Wee was in between seasons 1 & 2 of his CBS Saturday show when this came out. Makes one wonder if Reubens can sing when not in character as Pee-Wee......

Friday, May 29, 2015

Classic TV: SCTV (1976)

SCTV had a checkered history on television over a 10 year period, starting in 1976 in Canada. The first season was produced irregularly over 2 years before they settled into a more appropriate production schedule. During this period, the series made its first inroads in the US, as reruns were syndicated by Rhodes Productions, as memory serves.

In 1981, NBC acquired SCTV and expanded it to 90 minutes, first as SCTV Network 90, then dropping the 90 part when the series was trimmed. Rather than move to an earlier slot when NBC decided to launch Friday Night Videos, SCTV shifted to pay cable, specifically Cinemax here in the US, for its final season, its run time trimmed to 45 minutes. Edited reruns were released in syndication before the end of the 80's.

Of course, you know that most of the cast moved on to bigger & better things. For example, Harold Ramis, who represented the Chicago Second City troupe while the series was based in Toronto, went on to a successful career in films, writing, directing, and/or starring in films such as "Ghostbusters". John Candy likewise scored on the big screen, whether it was in "Uncle Buck" or sharing the stage, if you will, with Steve Martin in "Planes, Trains, & Automobiles". Rick Moranis & Dave Thomas, aka the McKenzie Brothers, scored a modest novelty hit in 1982 with "Take Off", featuring Rush vocalist Geddy Lee. Moranis & Candy ventured into cartoons (Gravedale High & Camp Candy, respectively). After joining SCTV, Tony Rosato, Robin Duke, & Martin Short gravitated over to Saturday Night Live. Short also co-starred in the short-lived ABC sitcom, The Associates.

Let's go back to 1976 for the intro to the first season, eh?

No rating. Didn't watch the show often enough to merit a rating.

What Might've Been: Just Men! (1983)

Cop-turned-producer Rick Rosner (CHiPs) turned his attention to game shows in the 80's. His first entry would also be his last network series.

Just Men! lasted just 13 weeks in the beginning of 1983 on NBC, but netted a Daytime Emmy award for hostess Betty White (ex-The Mary Tyler Moore Show), who, after years of being a guest on a number of game shows, including working with her late husband, Allen Ludden, on Password, was being asked to be an MC herself, something she hadn't done since Pet Set a few years earlier.

Following is a sample episode:

So what hurt the show? It aired in the lunch hour death zone (12 noon ET), simple as that. Despite this, as noted, White earned an Emmy, but hasn't been given another game show gig. As we all know, Rosner would team with Orion Television to revive Hollywood Squares (1986-9) and High Rollers (1988-90) before leaving television altogether.

No rating.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A "quiet" season ends with a whimper

It's hard to believe, but in the eyes of local media in the home district, lacrosse has overtaken baseball & softball in terms of media coverage. Worse, some schools have been, pardon the pun, lax in reporting scores during the regular season, which negates the newspapers' objective to direct readers to their online models.

Tonight, Troy High played Queensbury for the Section II Class A baseball championship. Troy had finished the regular season at 9-11, but had upset Burnt Hills and Scotia en route to the title game. Queensbury, one of the hottest programs in the area, entered play tonight at 17-5. As the #1 seed, the Spartans were designated as the home team for the game, played at Joe Bruno Stadium.

Troy, in their 2nd game at "The Joe" this month, sent freshman David Judge to the hill. The key word being, "freshman". Playing on a bigger stage than usual at Bruno Stadium, Judge didn't have his best stuff. In fact, at times it was worse than his complete game effort vs. Shenendehowa 3 weeks earlier. Queensbury scored the only run they needed without the benefit of a hit in the 1st, and pitcher Kyle Chambers took it from there, holding Troy to just 4 hits in a complete game shutout. The Spartans won, 7-0, adding 2 runs each in the 4th through 6th innings.

Was it nerves that did in Judge? Perhaps. He had trouble holding his focus on the strike zone almost from the get-go, and coach Will Whitty finally had to shuffle his infield in the 5th, moving Judge to first base. He has, though, the benefit of three more years of varsity ball, three more prospective post-seasons.

The game was played in a speedy 85 minutes. With the new pace of play initiatives in the majors, a lot of games are being played in less than 2 1/2 hours, never mind three hours. It makes one wonder if those same initiatives have been in high schools right along. I shan't, then, be surprised if a MLB game ends up clocking in at under 2 hours for 9 innings before this season's done. It's happened a few times in recent years, so it's not out of the realm of possibility.

An old classmate asked me about attending some THS football games next fall. It's been 4 years since the first time I'd seen the football team play. Ever since the start of the year, one of the changes in my personal life has been spending more time supporting my alma mater's sports teams. That will continue in the fall, and I'm looking at taking in at least 2-3 football games and a few basketball games next season. I'd been asked also about some regular season baseball, but that's unlikely. By the time I get back into town after work, especially given the rapid pace of games like tonight's, by the time I get to THS, the game would most likely be over or close to it. If they play at "The Joe", that's one thing.

And that's also a place where I'd like to see the softball team play someday. The girls advanced to the Class A final by dispatching South Glens Falls, 7-4, advancing to the title game vs. top-seeded Averill Park at Shen tomorrow. Looking ahead, though, it wouldn't hurt to have Troy book a softball-baseball double header at "The Joe" in the future. If that doesn't bring the fans out, what will?

The Troy baseball team finished 11-12 on the season, and I dare say about a majority of those games went under-reported. That has to change in 2016.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Musical Interlude: Chain Reaction (1983)

Some of you might be looking at this video for the first time ever and will think that Journey all of a sudden were hiring themselves out as a wedding band because of the suits and bow ties. NOT!

Steve Perry shares vocal chores, for once, on "Chain Reaction", aided by guitarist Neal Schon. The two play romantic rivals bickering via the lyrics. Of course, Neal ends up with the last word.......

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Modern Classic: Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (2007)

There's a reason why Fox has brought back Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? for a summer run this year. Even though reruns of the original series have faded away from cable in recent months, it's still a popular show.

The object of the game is for an adult contestant to win up to a million dollars, kind of like Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, except that the stage is set up like a mini classroom. The children can help, up to a certain point.

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy is the series host, and returns to the franchise tonight after 3 years of American Bible Challenge on GSN. It seems Challenge was cancelled due to the revival of 5th Grader and Foxworthy being unable to do both. Unsurprisingly, there've also been the predictable celebrity episodes, where stars, including Foxworthy's pal and Prilosec pitchman Larry the Cable Guy ("Cars"), played the game.

To give you some idea of the game, here's a sample of the original series:

Jeff does look like a school teacher, doesn't he?

The series lasted two years on Fox the first time, then two more in syndication (2009-11), before fading out, and, as it turns out, taking a lengthy hiatus. Reruns of the syndicated version have aired on cable on CMT, GSN, and Up (formerly the Gospel Music Channel). The new episodes will be available On Demand within 24-48 hours of broadcast (check with your cable system).

Rating: A.

Monday, May 25, 2015

On the Shelf: What hath Secret Wars wrought?

Marvel's revival of Secret Wars is a sprawling mega-event, larger in scale than the original, which was published 31 years ago. This version is a rip-off, of a sort of DC's now legendary Crisis on Infinite Earths, which in turn marks its 30th anniversary this year.

What Marvel has done is put many of their regular books on hiatus for a few months, and subbing in a few miniseries set on what is known as Battleworld, the end result of two universes being destroyed by a now godlike Dr. Victor Von Doom. On a lark, I decided to try out two of these short-run series.

A-Force is an all-female Avengers team, headed up by She-Hulk. You may need to read Secret Wars itself to get a handle on what's going on here, but if it's girl power you want, you're getting that in excelsis. Problem is, the vibe I'm getting from this book isn't that strong.

Rating: C.

Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, is back in his own series. When he was introduced 40-odd years ago, Shang was posited as the son of Dr. Fu Manchu. However, sources tell me that Marvel never obtained a license from the estate of Sax Rohmer to use Manchu or any related characters, which explains in a nutshell why you'll never see a trade paperback reprint collection of the series. Now, Shang's dad is referred to as Emperor Zu. Still a big bad, but not quite on the level of Fu Manchu.

When we first see Shang in this story, he's uncharacteristically drunk. Perhaps a call-back to Jackie Chan's "Drunken Master", for all we know. Razor Fist, an old enemy, shows up out of costume, and doesn't recognize Shang at first. But, Shang sobers up rather quickly and does what he's always done to Razor Fist. That is, hand him a whooping. I've been a Shang-Chi fan since first picking up a copy of the original series on a lark back in the day. This will be a fun thrill ride. For now.

Rating: B.

A few years ago, Marvel let Howard Chaykin create his own set of Avengers. What this did was give Chaykin the opportunity to revisit his 1970's creation, Dominic Fortune, and team him with Nick Fury, Sabretooth (!),  Kraven the Hunter (!), and Golden Age star Blonde Phantom, among others. That was fine, but where Avengers 1959 crosses the border into camp silliness is the inclusion of a British agent who bears a passing resemblance to actor Patrick MacNee, whose own iconic Avengers is a favorite of mine dating back to the early days of cable. Luckily, Chaykin avoids the pitfall of making Fortune & Fury look too much alike, as most of his male leads tend to be appearing to be off an assembly line. Nice work if you can get it, but it drags at the end.

Rating: C.

We'll leave you with the first of the trailers for incoming comics-related primetime shows. Legends of Tomorrow will arrive this winter as relief for either Arrow or The Flash in much the same way Marvel & ABC use Agent Carter to spell Agents of SHIELD. I'll be surprised if this is not the case.

Videos of Summer: Summertime (1991)

DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeff Townes) and The Fresh Prince (Will Smith, of course) premiered the video for "Summertime", off their 1991 CD, "Homebase", on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (naturally), but they also made their way onto Soul Train for an on stage performance.

They say Memorial Day is the gateway to summer. So we start our "Videos of Summer" today.

Forgotten TV: The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage (1991)

The late author-producer Stephen J. Cannell got his start at Universal, helping develop The Rockford Files and Black Sheep Squadron (aka Baa Baa Black Sheep), among others, before launching his own studio in the 80's.

So what brought Cannell together with Disney? Your guess is as good as mine, but then-Disney honcho Michael Eisner thought he could work outside the box and team with Cannell to create a supernatural-driven action adventure series that had the usual Cannell hallmarks, including explosions and high tech gadgetry. Unfortunately, despite the good intentions, the two studios' lone venture, The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage, was a bomb, lasting just 2 months in the spring of 1991 for NBC.

The concept? A con man (Daniel Hugh-Kelly, ex-Hardcastle & McCormick) flees to the Caribbean to escape justice. There, he encounters the ghost of the pirate, Black Jack Savage (Stoney Jackson, "Streets of Fire"). The two join forces to take down a corrupt governor (Bert Rosario), and it goes from there. Disney tried to recapture the magic of the adventure shows they had back in the 50's & 60's (i.e. Zorro), with help from Cannell, but it didn't work. Keep an eye open for Roma Downey, a few years before Touched by an Angel made her a star, in the pilot.

Edit, 1/30/22: The video was deleted due to a copyright claim from Disney. In its place is the intro to the series:

Just one week later, there was a cast change. Jackson was gone, replaced by Steven Williams (21 Jump Street) with no explanation. Methinks that subtle, cosmetic change might have made all the difference in the world.

No rating.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Anne Meara (1929-2015)

Hollywood this weekend is mourning the loss of another classic comic genius.

It has come across the wires over the last half-hour that actress-comedienne Anne Meara had passed away at 85. One half of the comedy team, Stiller & Meara, with husband Jerry Stiller, Meara branched out to act in movies and television, with film credits including the original "Fame" (1980), and, with son Ben Stiller, "Zoolander". Her last film role was in the CGI animated feature, "Planes: Fire & Rescue", last year. On TV, she earned an Emmy nomination as a dramatic actress in the short-lived 1975 series, Kate McShane, and later appeared on Archie Bunker's Place, The King of Queens (where Jerry also had a supporting role), and she & Jerry had their own short-lived series in 1986.

Here are Stiller & Meara, early in their careers, on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson:

Rest in peace, Anne. You will be missed.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Musical Interlude: Too Young to Fall in Love (1983-4)

This is what put Motley Crue on the map back in the day.

Call it metal with a conscience. "Too Young to Fall in Love", from the 1983 CD, "Shout at the Devil", spins the tale of what appears to be an illicit relationship involving an underage girl. Closer examination reveals a completely different story. The absurdity of it all is a short fight scene in which the band beat up some ninjas.

Unfortunately, the song failed to crack the Hot 100, peaking at #90. Whodathunk?

Here there be Weasels

We have three sets of Weasel ears to hand out.

We'll start in New York for the first two sets. I'm sure by now you've seen the headlines reporting that Dominique Sharpton, daughter of political activist/rabblerouser/talk show host Rev. Al Sharpton, filed suit against the City of New York for a purported ankle injury, then turned around and posted pictures on her Instagram account of a recent hiking trip, proving that she wasn't as injured as she claims, and that she took a page from daddy's old playbook, making a grab for money and publicity. As if she needs the former. Now, the City is fighting back, according to today's papers. Their lawyers want to make sure Ms. Sharpton doesn't delete any of the pictures that have already been mass-published. As it is, she's already torpedoed her case with those pictures. So, for that, we'll throw in a Dunce Cap Award.

Meanwhile, Isaiah Thomas, Sr. still thinks he did nothing wrong when he was nailed with a sexual harassment suit a few years back that led to his ouster from the Knicks. Now that his patron, the mentally challenged James Dolan, brought him back to run the WNBA's Liberty, Thomas isn't exactly going out of his way to make mea culpas. He wants to return to the NBA, and the tabloid press wasted no time in assuming the worst, that if the Knicks get off to another bad start next season, coach Derek Fisher and/or president Phil Jackson would be out the door in favor of guess who.

I'd rather reserve a room in Bellevue for Dolan, right next to that other brain-dead executive, Vince McMahon, but that's just me. Dolan & Thomas, who've already gotten Dunce Caps, want you to forget what happened 8 years ago. The press, on the other hand, will make sure the fans remember. That Thomas is trying to spin his way out of it to look like a hero gets him a set of Weasel ears instead, to go along with his Cap.

Finally, there's the story of Josh Duggar, who copped to some sexual misadventures, including some of the pseudo-incestuous kind toward his sisters as a teen, prompting TLC to cancel the Duggar family's 19 Kids & Counting on Friday. Didn't Duggar pay attention when 7th Heaven reruns were pulled due to star Stephen Collins' indiscretions earlier this year? Or the ongoing imbroglio involving Bill Cosby that forced his iconic 80's series off syndication in some areas? They say confession is good for the soul. Duggar's confession had the hyper-sensitive suits at TLC and their corporate parent reaching for the axe for his show. Like Dominique Sharpton, Josh gets both the Weasel ears and a Dunce Cap.
Those of you in the home district who read The Record will find a letter to the editor from ye scribe in today's editions, commenting on the remarks made by former Mayoral candidate Carmella Mantello, who has, since the letter was written nearly 2 weeks ago, opted to make a run at a return to the Troy City Council, where she first gained political fame in these parts several years back. The letter should've appeared before today, online or in print, but the editorial armadillos ran wire service pieces in the letters section the last couple of days, and the timing of the letter's publication couldn't be worse. It makes me look bad. Then again, some wire service articles appear in the paper a day after they appear in competing papers. I have to talk to my brother and see if they let blind mice edit the editorial section this week..........

On The Air: America's Funniest Home Videos (1988)

If you're looking for the roots of today's glut of "reality TV", the answer might be a show that owes its existence more to Candid Camera than anything else, even though the cameras used weren't hidden.

America's Funniest Home Videos is one of ABC's longest running active primetime shows, having launched in 1988. Keeping it in series format is a different story altogether.

The first episode was meant to be a 1-shot special, hosted by actor-comedian Bob Saget (Full House), but was a ratings bonanza, such that ABC ordered it to series almost immediately. Originally a half-hour show, Funniest eventually expanded to a full hour, initially with 2 separate episodes, then the current one hour format used the last several years. Saget left after a few years, and Funniest was put on the bench to start the 1997-8 season. When it returned, former VH1 personality John Fugelsang and MTV alumnus Daisy Fuentes (ex-House of Style) took over. That didn't last long, just a couple of years. Funniest went back to the bench for specials hosted by the likes of D. L. Hughley before returning to a series format, and its present hour-long itineration, in 2001, with Tom Bergeron (Hollywood Squares, Dancing With The Stars) as host.

However, after 14 seasons of multi-tasking, Bergeron is stepping down, and earlier this week, ABC named his successor, recent Dancing With The Stars winner Alfonso Ribiero (ex-Catch 21, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Silver Spoons). There've been a couple of occasions where the series has been in syndication, but it doesn't stick in some cities due to the glut of talk and courtroom shows. Ironic, isn't it?

Following is an compilation of clips from the Saget era, specifically, the series opener:

Art Linkletter was right. People are funny.

Rating: B.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What Might've Been: The Westerner (1960)

Before becoming a legendary movie director, Sam Peckinpah plied his trade writing and directing in television. After directing some episodes of The Rifleman, Peckinpah was able to sell Four Star on his own creation, The Westerner. That was the good news. The bad? It was cancelled after 3 months due to low ratings, airing as it did opposite Route 66 and The Flintstones.

Brian Keith top-lined as Dave Blassingame, a uneducated drifter who, as you'd expect, was proficient with a gun. Four Star would later repackage the series as part of a wheel and amended the title to The Westerners for syndication, with Keenan Wynn hosting the framing sequences. Wynn and Lee Marvin would co-star in a pilot for a revival a couple of years later. Keith reprised as Blassingame in 1991 in one of Kenny Rogers' Gambler TV-movies.

The last time The Westerner aired on broadcast cable, that I know of, was a few years ago, when TV Land ran it as part of its weekend TV Land Goes West anthology package, and that's how I became acquainted with the series. Let's take you back to September 1960, and the series opener, written and directed by Peckinpah, about a woman named "Jeff".

Rating: B.

Shillin' with the Lone Ranger: Aqua Velva aftershave ad (1970s)

With The Lone Ranger in syndication during the 70's, a few advertising executives were able to lure Clayton Moore & Jay Silverheels into a reunion doing some commercials. Silverheels went solo for one spot, a truck ad which we'll show another time, and made a rare guest appearance on The Brady Bunch.

Here, Moore & Silverheels shill for Aqua Velva aftershave. The announcer is Fred Foy, who was the best known announcer on Lone Ranger, and at the time this was made, he was Dick Cavett's announcer on ABC.

We'll have a legendary ad for Jeno's Pizza Rolls, directed by Stan Freberg, up soon, as well.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Local boy done good

I don't watch The Voice. After this season, maybe I should make room next season, except for the simple fact that it airs opposite Gotham on Mondays, and The Flash on Tuesdays. In truth, I'm not really much for these talent competitions.

However, The Voice crowned a new champ last night, and he's representing the home district.

Sawyer Fredericks is just 16, but sings like he's 21 or older. I've read all the hype, and this morning's Albany Times-Union gave Fredericks a front page headline, putting him on equal footing with local sports teams winning championships. Maybe even better, assuming he can add a few gold records down the line.

Sawyer is from suburban Fultonville, and, yes, that leads to a lot of Green Acres jokes, as you could imagine, since he does live on a farm. He's been homeschooled, and I'd imagine he taught himself to play the guitar.

So what do you think clinched it for him? How about a stirring cover of Neil Young's "Old Man", performed on Monday.

20 years ago, I was in a relationship with a female musician. If they had shows like The Voice or American Idol back then, maybe she gets the big break she was hoping for. Sawyer's already played a couple of freebies at a local venue during the competition, and his next visit hopefully won't break the bank for his friends and fans, unlike a lot of concerts these days that are way overpriced due to promoters' greed. Let's just pray Sawyer doesn't fall prey to those kind of sharks.

Congratulations, Sawyer. You earned every bit of it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Musical Interlude: Bad Blood (2015)

You want girl power? How about Taylor Swift's latest single off "1989"?

"Bad Blood" isn't a remake of Neil Sedaka's 1976 record, but a new composition, a duet with Kendrick Lamar, loaded with guest stars, including Lena Dunham (Girls), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), Selena Gomez (ex-Wizards of Waverly Place), Karlie Kloss, who's become Taylor's best bud of late, Zendaya, Cindy Crawford, and Ellen Pompeo (Grey's Anatomy). Scope!

Notice how Lamar stays far away from the fray? Some guys are smart like that. Can we get T-Swizzle a part in the next "Avengers" movie?

Classic TV: The Mod Squad (1968)

Aaron Spelling & Danny Thomas had launched two Westerns in 1967. Rango, with Tim Conway, was a flop, but The Guns of Will Sonnett, with Walter Brennan, returned for a 2nd season, now joined by a contemporary crime drama, The Mod Squad.

A precursor to the 1990's version of 21 Jump Street, Mod Squad put together a trio of socially disenfranchised young people as undercover detectives. Pete Cochran (Michael Cole, no relation to the WWE announcer) came from a wealthy family that seemingly disowned him. Lincoln Hayes (Clarence Williams III) was involved in the infamous Watts Riots. Julie Barnes (Peggy Lipton) was a flower child whose mother was a prostitute. Banded together by police captain Adam Greer (Tige Andrews), they got into places the cops couldn't to get the goods on the bad guys. The series lasted 5 seasons (1968-73), perhaps ending a wee bit too soon, in this writer's opinion.

Mod Squad also ended up being the last hit series Spelling & Thomas developed together. 2 years later, with Squad entering its 3rd season, the two parted ways, with Thomas reviving his earlier series as Make Room For Granddaddy, while Spelling teamed with Screen Gems to produce The Young Rebels, and, on his own, launched his first two entries, Silent Force & The Most Deadly Game. All four series were cancelled after 1 season.

Here's the intro everyone knows, with Earle Hagen's kickin' score:

Me-TV holds the rights to the series currently. Catch it if you can.

Rating: B.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Forgotten TV: Diana (1973)

After leaving The Avengers, Diana Rigg concentrated on making movies, but was lured back to television in 1973 by producer Leonard Stern to headline a sitcom for NBC.

Unfortunately, Diana was NBC's attempt at copying the success of CBS' Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was starting its 4th season. Worse, the show aired on Mondays, opposite Gunsmoke & The Rookies, and barely made it into the new year before being cancelled.

Diana Smythe (Rigg) moves from London to New York to take over her brother's apartment, and ends up dealing with his various, ah, companions. Barbara Barrie, 2 years away from Barney Miller, co-stars. The scene stealer in the episode, "The Guilt Complex" (Guilt is spelled Gilt on screen, and that error foreshadowed the show's fate), however, is Michael Bell, wrapped in a green towel, and playing one of Diana's neighbors. Unfortunately, Bell was just a 1-shot guest.

Diana's last TV gig was for PBS, hosting Mystery! for a few years. Richard B. Shull, whom we saw in Holmes & Yoyo the other day, appears here as well.

Rating: C.

Retro Reading: Night Nurse (1972)

In 1972, Marvel Comics decided to do something bold. Two new books bowed, which wasn't anything new, except for the fact that both were written by women. Unfortunately, both lasted just 4 bi-monthly issues, and were cancelled.

I remember buying the final issue of (Claws of) The Cat at the newsstand, my then-10-year-old eyes drawn to the vision of the title heroine in blue & yellow. However, not once did I see any issues of the other title in question, Night Nurse. It should've really been "Nurses" with a plural, like the 60's primetime drama, The Nurses, but, ehh, whatever.

I read all the hype about the book, but never got to see it, until Marvel, 42 years after the series was cancelled, issued a reprint collection that covers all 4 issues, plus an issue of Daredevil's current run, in which writer Brian Michael Bendis introduced a generic "Night Nurse" who looked nothing like the three stars of the original series. Timed to coincide with Netflix's current Daredevil series, which seeks to ret-con Luke Cage's ex, Claire Temple, into the role of Night Nurse, the volume, admittedly, was ahead of its time. Editor Roy Thomas handed the writing assignment to his 1st wife, Jean, with veteran Winslow Mortimer drawing the series. Jean Thomas was joined by Cat writer Linda Fite for the final issue, which, if I recall correctly, would be Ms. Fite's last writing credit.

As noted, Night Nurse chronicled the story of three first year nurses--Linda Carter, Christine Palmer, and Georgia Jenkins. As a non-superhero book in those days, with interest in humor books from the big 2 fading, the series struggled to find an audience despite some very good stories. My lone quibble is the Daredevil tie-in, as lame as that is. Bendis couldn't be bothered to bring back the original nurses and reboot them into the present, and went instead with a generic looking brunette. I like a good story as much as the next guy, and a human interest drama can work today under the right circumstances.

Could there be a new Night Nurse in the offing? Uh, no, not as presently suggested.

Rating: A-.

There are those who will feel as though Scott Snyder has jumped the shark on Batman by taking the cowl off Bruce Wayne, the 4th time that has happened in the last 22 years, and putting Jim Gordon in an armored suit and stopping short of being a total corporate sell-out. It happens that Snyder has run out of real ideas that would work.

One of his better stories was a 5-issue miniseries, Batman: Gates of Gotham, which went back and forth between then-present day Gotham, circa 2010, and the Victorian era, telling the story of four of the city's wealthiest families--the Waynes (DUH!), Cobblepots, Elliots, and the Gates, the latter added to the mix for the storyline, as the Gates family has not been part of the New 52. Regrettably, artist Trevor McCarthy missed a deadline, and they had to have a fill-in for the pentultimate issue, number 4. McCarthy returned to right the ship in the finale, but hasn't gotten a lot of work lately from DC. Hmmmm.

Rating: B-.

CM Punk makes his DC/Vertigo debut in Strange Sports Stories issue 3. His tale is a veiled ode to his beloved hometown Cubs, referencing the "curses" associated with the team, including Steve Bartman's ill-advised involvement in the 2003 NLCS. Ironically, the Cubs, winners of six in a row entering play today, are contenders in the NL Central at this writing. Punk topped his Thor entry for Marvel, and it wasn't hard. The best stories are often told straight from the heart.

Rating: A+.

NXT @ Washington Avenue Armory, Albany NY, 5/16/15

Less than a month after Monday Night Raw made its semi-annual visit to Albany's Times Union Center, the far more popular NXT made its Albany debut at the venerable Washington Avenue Armory. The action was hot virtually the entire night, but the venue, still reeling from losing its liquor license two months ago, still had some issues to deal with.

Specifically, the house lights were kept off before the show, forcing fans to scramble for lighting of some sort so they could read the seat assignments on their tickets. The house lights were finally turned on at intermission. Just before the first match, ushers finally appeared to direct people to their seats. You'd think the Armory would've learned a painful lesson from 2 months ago.

Host Greg Hamilton got the crowd popping right off the bat. Like, these folks were happy to see something other than the stale, boring main roster product, and it didn't really matter to them who was face or heel, with a few exceptions. Ring announcer JoJo Offerman's mic wasn't working properly, so they played a standard instrumental recording of the national anthem.

Three title matches on the card. First up was the tag title match pitting champions Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy vs. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady. The over-amped sound system at the Armory swallowed the theme music for virtually all of the wrestlers, and made the promos nearly incomprehensible as well. Those who have the WWE Network on their computers followed along with the challengers' intros. I tell you, Amore & Cassady, with valet Carmella, could be the next New Age Outlaws. As for the champs? Well, for starters, someone needs to tell Blake that having a look that suggests a cross between Exotic Adrian Street and Cindy Brady (Susan Olsen, of course) is nothing but trouble. In short, those pigtails have to go! Preferably yesterday! Murphy pinned Amore with a schoolboy rollup after kicking out of one by Amore to retain.

The match of the night belonged to the women, as NXT women's champ Sasha Banks submitted Charlotte with the Bank Statement, which is Melina's old California Dream submission. Banks is the cousin of Snoop Dogg/Lion. Charlotte is, of course, Ric Flair's daughter, and the third of his offspring to enter the business, following sons David & Reid. As some of you know, Reid passed on a while back, and David retired early, realizing he was not destined to be a main eventer like his Hall of Fame father. The match was off the charts awesome, and champ & challenger got phat face pops coming out, even though Sasha is supposed to be the heel. Announced as hailing from Massachusetts might've had something to do with the pop, or it could be that she's just hot, or, as cousin Snoop would say, off the hizzle, fo' shizzle.

Before we get to the main event, let's take a capsule look at the other matches:

Tye Dillinger def. Jason Jordan. Like Sasha, Dillinger is supposed to be a heel, but worked face because the crowd gave him mad pops.

Solomon Crowe submitted Bull Dempsey. Dempsey's stock has dropped dramatically over the last year, from what I've read. Crowe's submission finisher, the Stretch Muffler, was previously known as the Brock (Lesnar) Lock, all the way back in 2002.

Alexa Bliss & Bayley def. Dana Brooke & Becky Lynch. The peeps loved all but Dana, the newbie in the group, who's blonde & muscular, but greener than Scott's Turf Builder. Bayley pinned Brooke with the hugplex, formerly known as the Bayley-to-Belly (belly-to-belly) suplex, a move that hasn't been a finisher since Magnum TA in the 80's. The six women on the card could all be in line for the WWE Divas title down the line. Make it 7 if you add Carmella to the mix.

Baron Corbin def. Tommy Dreamer. Yep, Tommy, who was just in town 4 months ago with Dynasty Pro, was brought in. These two worked the night before in Philadelphia, and the result was the same. Corbin, who was winning squash matches in mere seconds, is being extended, and that tells me he'll be called up to the main roster before the end of the summer.

NXT title: Kevin Owens def. Tyler Breeze and Finn Balor, pinning Breeze after a powerbomb. Owens & Balor got ginormous pops coming out. Breeze? So-so. Seeing him in person for the first time, I get a vibe about Breeze that describes him as the love child of Shawn Michaels and Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller's goofy supermodel), with a touch of Christian thrown in. Owens, formerly known as Kevin Steen, is a guy folks here in town have been waiting to see since Ring of Honor began airing in the local market 3 years ago. And, oh, did he put on a show, or what? He out Cena'd John Cena by hitting the 5 Knuckle Shuffle, and nailed a Swanton Bomb on Balor for a near fall. He cannonballed Balor in the corner for 2. Owens & Breeze doubled on Balor for a while, but while Breeze played to the crowd, Owens, rightfully, took a bow from the appreciative throng. Owens, shall we say, was way past over.

The street team from In Your Face Wrestling handed out fliers to promote a forthcoming show in Duanesburg. One of them said there was an incident that ran them out of Ballston Spa, which had been their base. I asked about coming across the river, and he said they'll be in Albany, at the Polish Community Center, at the end of August, directly competing with Dynasty Pro, which will return to Troy the same night. As for IYF in Troy? Possible, but working with DPW? As another street team member told me, too many cooks involved. A fan that sat next to me said the two promotions don't like each other. Now, when you have an organically created feud like that, why not create some business out of it, and both sides can profit? Problem is, the promoters can't agree on profit sharing. Doesn't that sound familiar to NFL, NBA, & MLB fans? Sure. While CDTA doesn't go directly into the PCC, trying to get there from, say, Crossgates Mall, is asking for trouble. IYF is interested in the Armory, understandably, but RPI would be nice, too.

That's all for now from ringside.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Forgotten TV: Chase (1973)

You might not think this actually happened, but Jack Webb had a lot more output, post-Dragnet, than you might remember.

For now, let's focus on the 1973 season. Webb already had three shows on the air. Adam-12 was in its 5th season. Hec Ramsey, with Richard Boone and Harry Morgan, was in its 2nd and final season. Emergency!, a mid-season replacement in 1972, was already in its 3rd. Because, at the time, Webb was to NBC what Aaron Spelling was to ABC and Quinn Martin to both ABC & CBS, a go-to producer for crime dramas (Martin's 1st sale to NBC, Banyon, was a 1971 frosh), the network asked for, and got, another show from Webb, whose last acting job was in, of all things, a sitcom (The Partners, with Don Adams), and otherwise had stayed behind the camera.

Chase was plugged in on Tuesdays on NBC, and if I remember correctly, it was the same night as Banyon. Anyway, co-creators R. A. Cinader, a long-time Webb associate, and Stephen J. Cannell came up with the idea of a specialized team of detectives who took on severely violent crimes. The gimmick? The cops would use different modes of transportation--an unmarked police car (of course), a motorcycle, which was also standard issue by then, and a helicopter.

Wayne Maunder (ex-Lancer, Custer) was the lone "name" in the cast. It turned out to be his last series, as he didn't headline another show after Chase was cancelled. About midway through, NBC moved Chase from Tuesdays, where it was getting pummeled by CBS' Maude & the original Hawaii Five-0, to Wednesdays, and overhauled the cast. Gary Crosby came over from Adam-12, but as a different character, rather than have him reprise as Officer Ed Wells. Didn't work, and the series was done after 1 year.

One of my teachers was a big fan of the show, as I recall, but back in those days, my folks were more into the trendy sitcoms, like, well, Maude. Go figure.

The Rap Sheet serves up the open.

If some of the melodies of Oliver Nelson's score sound familiar, well, he might've been swiping himself, since he also composed the music for another Universal entry, The Six Million Dollar Man, over on ABC.

No rating.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sports this 'n' that

It's funny how things work in high school baseball.

3 days after beating Troy High in a non-league game, Shenendehowa got zonked by Suburban Council rival Saratoga. Troy, meanwhile, took out their frustrations on cross-town foe Catholic Central in the first half of a home & home series, then got shut out by unbeaten Saratoga Catholic, on Senior Day, before the regular season finale vs. Catholic Central, the result of which hasn't been made public yet, due to the feeble futility of certain personnel at either Troy or CCHS to report the result to the local press. We know Shen will be a top seed in the sectionals, which begin next week. Troy, a Class A school playing an independent schedule, went 6-8 vs. Class AA schools such as Shen, CBA, Shaker, Albany, & Schenectady, sweeping the latter two while getting swept in turn by CBA. Overall, not including Wednesday's game at CCHS, Troy was 8-11 on the season.

Meanwhile, in the bigs, both New York teams are feeling the pinch. The usual injury curse associated with Citi Field has bit the Mets hard----again. Reliever Buddy Carlyle is the latest to go down, right before the Mets were swept by the Cubs at Wrigley Field for the 2nd straight season. The Cubs, like the Mets, want to make a run for the post-season this year, which is why they hired Joe Maddon away from Tampa Bay. The Rays? They merely won 3 of 4 from the Yankees at home. They'll be fine after a slow start. Alex Rodriguez is among the league leaders in homers with 9, but still has a ways to catch Seattle's Nelson Cruz, and both have to be wary of skeptics who might think they didn't learn anything from getting busted for PED's.

For New Yorkers, though, there is some hope. The Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in the NHL again, this time hosting Tampa Bay. Say this for the Blueshirts. James Dolan may own the team, but he leaves them alone. Why? He knows even less about hockey than he does basketball.

Expect Isaiah Thomas' bid for co-ownership of the WNBA's Liberty to be challenged, then denied, due to his past legal issues. If we're lucky, the WNBA will ask a judge to find Dolan guilty by reason of insanity for his complicity in this wacky scheme, and have him sell the Knicks, Rangers, Liberty, et al, to someone who really understands New York sports.

We all expected Crybaby Brady to appeal his 4-game suspension for his complicity in "Deflate-gate". What we didn't expect, though, was to have his agent, the previously anonymous Don (I Don't Hear) Yee, do what his client does best, whine and complain.

Edit, 6/23/17: The video inserted in this space was removed from use in the US by its uploader to YouTube.

Yee gets a set of Weasel ears for trying to spin this into a conspiracy concocted by the NFL against Brady and the New England Patriots. Owner Bob Kraft also gets a set for threatening to file a lawsuit against the league, as if he wants to be the new Al Davis. The whining from these guys makes the usually dialogue-challenged Bill Belichick look like a Nobel Prize winner by comparison. Kraft made his threats after claiming he wouldn't challenge the ruling that was handed down 9 days ago. Yee whined that a neutral arbitrator should hear Crybaby's case. Instead, embattled commissioner Roger Goodell, perhaps tired of being labeled as an unofficial consigliore to Kraft, will hear the case. If the crybabies win, it'll be because Kraft came along with 2 cases of Velveeta, 1 case of Miracle Whip, and Brady, ever the loyal soldier, would throw in some autographed underwear from his wife, Gisele.

Roughly translated, Yee really has nothing to worry about. Or does he? You decide.

B. B. King (1925-2015)

"The King of the Blues", B. B. King, passed away earlier today at 89.

King earned a Grammy for his 1969-70 rendition of "The Thrill Is Gone", which became his signature song. In more recent times, King joined forces with U2 for "When Love Comes To Town", heard in U2's 1988 movie, "Rattle & Hum", and recorded a duet CD with Eric Clapton, "Riding With The King". A sample of King's vocals was heard on Primitive Radio Gods' 1995 1-hit wonder, "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand".

King suffered from diabetes, and made his condition public by becoming a commercial endorser for One Touch Ultra, a leading brand of diabetic testing equipment.

In tribute, we'll close with a 1989 performance of---what else?----"The Thrill is Gone":

Rest in peace.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What Might've Been: Holmes & Yoyo (1976)

The late Leonard Stern was still developing series well into the mid-70's, but had moved his tack to Universal. Sometime after Get Smart had ended its run, Talent Associates had begun partnering with Universal on a couple of NBC Mystery Movie entries, particularly The Snoop Sisters and McMillan & Wife, as well as a few others.

By 1976, however, Stern decided to revive his 60's production company, Heyday Productions, which had produced a one-year wonder of a sitcom, I'm Dickens, He's Fenster, to develop a new fantasy-oriented sitcom for Universal. Unlike the others, Holmes & Yoyo would air on ABC. In hindsight, that might not have been the best of ideas.

The Holmes in the title is no relation to Sherlock Holmes, thankfully. Police detective Alex Holmes (Richard B. Shull) is a clumsy sort, such that 4 partners had wound up in the hospital because of Holmes' bungling. Enter Gregory Yoyonivich (John Schuck, ex-McMillan & Wife), or, Yoyo, for short, a 400 pound robot. Holmes wasn't supposed to learn the truth about his new partner, but in the pilot, he did. Like, what did you expect?

Stern and long time collaborator Arne Sultan thought they had a winner. They thought that they could help ABC laugh at itself with a comedy that satirized the network's other police shows, such as Starsky & Hutch. It didn't work. 13 weeks, and done. ABC had tried a similar series with the one hour comedy-drama, Future Cop, with Ernest Borgnine, and that flopped, as well.

I referenced I'm Dickens, He's Fenster for a reason. Its star, John Astin, who later gained icon status with The Addams Family, directed a few of the episodes, while Jackie Cooper directed the pilot. However, we've picked out the episode, "The Dental Dynamiter", for your perusal.

Schuck would later star in the late 80's series, The Munsters Today, which proved to be far more successful, running for 3 seasons. Schull would later turn up in a Billy Joel music video for "Keeping the Faith".

No rating.

2015-6 Fall Geekview

In the 2014-5 season, there were six shows based on comic books. Tack on AMC's reality series, Comic Book Men, set at Kevin Smith's shop in New Jersey, and Talking Dead, the aftershow airing in back of The Walking Dead, and the total rises to 8. Only one show failed to be renewed for next season, that we know of, and that is NBC's Constantine. Warner Bros. is shopping it to other networks, and Arrow star Stephen Amell has talked about the prospect of a crossover between the two shows, despite being on, at the time, different networks. With Constantine looking for a new home, maybe Amell is trying to lay on the hard sell to his network, CW, to add Constantine to their genre-heavy stable. So far, they haven't bit.

Walking Dead, Talking Dead, & Comic Book Men all air on Sundays on AMC. Walking Dead reruns from the earlier seasons aired this season on MyNetworkTV on Wednesdays, opposite CW's Arrow. Well, that's why they invented On Demand and DVR's, folks.

Gotham, despite inconsistent writing and way too many storylines for a freshman series, returns for a 2nd year. Arrow for a 4th. The Flash & iZombie give CW's comics geeks a 1-2 punch on Tuesdays, as both will return for their sophomore seasons. Over at ABC, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD is set for year 3, and Agent Carter will come off the bench for year 2.

Got all that? Good. Now, get your scorecards ready for next season, as we look at what's new.


Where: Mondays at 8 (ET), starting no later than November 2.
Network: CBS.

Ultra-busy producer Greg Berlanti adds three more series overall to his workload, doubling what he had this season. Berlanti's vision for Supergirl has the Maid of Might as a 24 year old assistant to media mogul (I think) Catherine "Cat" Grant (Callista Flockhart, ex-Ally McBeal). Helen Slater, who played Supergirl in the Salkinds' ill-advised 1984 feature film, and 90's Superman Dean Cain also co-star.

Fans may have a problem with the following:

*--Supergirl will air directly opposite Gotham. Get your DVR's ready. New episodes usually turn up On Demand within 48-72 hours of broadcast, from what I can gather. It's airing Mondays and delayed because CBS has football on Thursdays starting Sept. 17, and CBS had to break up one of their comedy blocks, either Monday or Thursday, come November, to make room for Supergirl.

*--Jimmy Olsen, ace reporter/photographer for the Daily Planet, has been rebooted as an African-American. We'll greet that with a yawn, folks, because you won't see that in the comics.

Supergirl won't be Berlanti's only frosh on Mondays, as he also has Blindspot, starring Jamie Alexander ("Thor: The Dark World"), on NBC at 10 (ET).

Legends of Tomorrow:

Where: date & time TBA, starting January 2016.
Network: CW.

The last of Berlanti's class of 2015-6 will be a mid-season replacement for either Flash or Arrow, with elements of both shows in the mix. If I were to venture a guess, I'd say it'll give Arrow a breather come January. Vandal Savage, an immortal villain introduced all the way back in the Golden Age, will be the "big bad" on this show. Rip Hunter, the time traveller introduced in the Silver Age, is rebooted as a British scientist from the future. Meh, whatever. Two Rogues, Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) & Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell), join Atom (Brandon Routh), Professor Martin Stein (Victor Garber), 1/2 of Firestorm, Hawkgirl, & White Canary, plus nominal appearances from Arrow and Flash (Grant Gustin).


Where: Mondays at 9 (ET), starting no later than January 2016.
Network: Fox.

Fox plans to use this series, based on a defunct Vertigo book spun off from The Sandman, to relieve another frosh, Minority Report, which in turn is based on the Steven Spielberg movie of the same name, and couple Lucifer with Gotham. They made room by moving Sleepy Hollow to Thursdays for what may likely be its final season.

In my opinion, Lucifer & Bones should switch, since Lucifer makes a better partner for Sleepy Hollow.

And, another item that could cause concern in some circles.......

The Muppets:

Where: Tuesdays at 8 (ET), date TBA.
Network: ABC.

Kermit, Ms. Piggy, and friends return in a parody of The Office and other contemporary sitcoms of recent vintage. Heck, the trailer includes a new Muppet designed similarly to The Office's Dwight (Rainn Wilson, whose latest, Fox's Backstrom, has been cancelled).

Fans may have a problem because it airs directly opposite the first half of The Flash, although the season openers won't be on the same night, as far as I know for right now. I'm pretty sure there are comics fans who are also Muppet fans.

I'll post the trailers for the newbies over the next couple of weeks. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What Might've Been: Longstreet (1971)

Longstreet was yet another series that came out of ABC's Movie of the Week. However, unlike other graduates, such as The Rookies, it didn't last very long, largely because it was ahead of its time.

Insurance investigator Mike Longstreet (James Franciscus) had lost his sight in an explosion that killed his wife. He gained the services of a German Shepherd guide dog, but there were those times when he would travel alone, and into danger.

Bruce Lee (ex-The Green Hornet) appeared in 4 episodes, including the opener, "The Way of the Intercepting Fist". After saving Longstreet, Li (Lee) becomes the blind sleuth's martial arts instructor. This would be Lee's last TV gig.

No rating.

Dunce Cap Award: Dave Portnoy, John Feitelberg, Hank Lockwood, and Paul Gulczynski

The above named quartet of morons are New England Patriots fans who descended upon NFL HQ in New York on Tuesday to protest the suspension of star QB and professional crybaby Tom Brady, plus the hefty fines imposed on the team for "Deflate-gate". Brady is appealing his suspension, as expected.

Brady was hit with a 4 game ban, which would mean he wouldn't be able to play in the season opener vs. Pittsburgh on September 9. The reason? It wasn't just "Deflate-gate", or Brady's refusal to fully cooperate with investigators. It was, as some have noted, an accumulation of sins, including, I believe, a post-game temper tantrum in Charlotte after a loss to Carolina in November 2013. That game, a Monday Night Football broadcast, ended with Brady berating a game official in the tunnel, complete with expletives that were barely censored by ESPN. I'm not even sure Brady realized that there was a camera present recording the entire incident. At the time, the NFL did nothing to discipline Brady, which by itself spoke volumes of the conflict of interest involving the team and commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Patriots were fined a million dollars, and forfeited a first round pick in the 2016 draft, and a 4th round pick in 2017. There was static on one message board I frequent because the ruling came nearly 2 weeks after this year's draft. Why? Because the NFL, needing to protect its brand, didn't want the last marquee event before training camp to be turned into a media circus. The fall guys have essentially been banned for life. No surprise there.

Portnoy & friends staged their protest in front of NFL HQ first, then went inside and handcuffed themselves together, which saved the police a little time when they were arrested later on. Unfortunately, they certified their moron stamps and earned Dunce Caps when one of them said they needed to start a account to post their bail. Talk about cheap! They probably spent what little change they had between them on gas to get from Boston to New York. Worse, someone else started a fund to pay the Patriots' fine, as if they thought Robert Kraft didn't have enough in his expense account to cover it. Please. Are the Patriots fans that blind?

What I get from this is that the Pats' fans have a sense of artificial entitlement that makes them no different than any other team's fan base. However, being willing to waste their own money so that Kraft doesn't have to pay the fine himself speaks volumes of these fans closing themselves off to reality. Heh, I'd not be surprised if some of these folks are also fans of another franchise that trades off ignoring reality, and is also based in New England. You know who I mean. The WWE. Wouldn't surprise me at all if Kraft & Vince McMahon belong to some of the same country clubs.........!

Oh, and as for Portnoy? I'm not sure if he's related to singer-songwriter Gary Portnoy, who wrote the theme to the iconic 80's sitcom, Cheers. Tuesday, Dave Portnoy went into New York, where no one knew his name, but 24 hours later, like the Cheers song says, "Everybody knows your name", and in his case, it's mud. Enjoy your dunce caps, fellas. Wear them well.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What Might've Been: The Shadow (1954)

Some years back, I acquired a VHS tape containing some lost, unsold pilots. Several months back, we took a look at Harry Ackerman's take on Archie, and, eventually, we'll get around to The Phantom.

This time, though, it's The Shadow. The legendary hero of pulps & radio was brought to television in 1954 by radio writer Peter Barry. Unfortunately, what worked on radio didn't translate into television. Specifically, the Shadow's ability to cloud men's minds by making himself invisible. Today, with improvements in technology, the special effects would make this even more effective. Not so 61 years ago. As much as I am a fan of the Shadow, and have been since the 70's, even I could see that this was, well, risky business.

Unlike radio contemporaries like Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, Dragnet, & The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, at least in the 50's, just wasn't ready for television, and I'm sure even the Dark Avenger himself would attest to that.

Rating: C.

On the Shelf: Wonder Woman goes back in time, and the new Thor is unmasked......

Nearly 2 years have passed since DC launched Batman '66, a love letter of sorts to fans of the seminal 1966-8 live-action series. Now, they're doing it again, this time with a certain Amazon.

Wonder Woman '77 Special #1, it can be said, is a pilot for a possible ongoing series, molded in the same style as Batman '66, save for the simple fact that it's setting is a decade later, and, more specifically, the final season of the live-action series that starred Lynda Carter and Lyle Waggoner. The double size issue, priced at $8, is worth the trip, and the artistic direction is similar to the way the books were done back then. The lone quibble in the two stories is that DC was unable to gain the license to use Waggoner's likeness as Steve Trevor, Jr. (son of the original), but, then, they've had similar issues with Batman '66, so it's become accepted and expected. Sales will determine if/when they'll go with an ongoing series.

Rating: A-.

I'm sure you've probably seen the headlines before paying this little column a visit, but if you're a long time comics fan like ye scribe, you probably weren't as surprised by the reveal of the female Thor. The 8th issue hits stores tomorrow, but the big reveal has been leaked.


Lady Thor, as I prefer to call her, is really Dr. Jane Foster, the on-again, off-again girlfriend of the real Thor, who returned in issue 7. Unlike in the two movies, and bear in mind that actress Natalie Portman opted not to appear in "Avengers: Age of Ultron", Jane is suffering from breast cancer, which has left her bald and thin. Roughly translated, she's become frail, much like Thor's former mortal alias of Dr. Donald Blake. I would believe that there were more than a few people who've seen the movie(s) and read the books, then connected the dots on their own.

If I had read the solicitations correctly over the last couple of months, next week's issue is also the finale due to Secret Wars.

It's not the first time, really, that Marvel has toyed with the idea of Jane as the Goddess of Thunder, though. One need only refer back to What If? (1st series), back in the 70's, for the original, alternate reality version of the story. In sharp contrast to the present day story, Jane was hale, hearty,  & healthy at the time. I think I see now what writer Jason Aaron was thinking when he came up with this, but if he thought he could fool readers into thinking a completely new character was wearing the helmet, I'd not be surprised to find that he'd be more wrong than he thought possible.

Did I think it might be Jane? Yes, but I never spoke publicly about that possibility. It was, though, in the back of my mind. Now that the secret is out, people will now say that this is similar to Marvel's decision to give Captain America's shield to Sam Wilson (pka The Falcon) around the same time. A legacy move, steeped in cultural diversity. Jane Foster has long been associated with Thor, and, actually, a wee bit longer than Sam Wilson, who was introduced in the late 60's, a few years after Jane debuted in the pages of Journey Into Mystery (1st series). If the current series does not resume following the current Secret Wars, then this has all been for naught.


Other stuff: Jonny Quest makes his DC debut in Scooby-Doo Team-Up 10. Arch-foe Dr. Zin appears as well, and while it's played for laughs, I'd think DC should think long and hard about a possible Quest series, even if they test it online first. I flipped through it, but I wasn't interested in actually investing in it. Sholly Fisch, the series' writer, would've been well-served to do this as a two-part adventure instead of a done-in-one. The guest appearance by Superman in issue 9 was just a breather in this series of team-ups with other Hanna-Barbera characters. Secret Squirrel, marking 50 years this year, makes his DC debut in issue 11, out in July. Anyone care for Atom Ant or Magilla Gorilla to follow? Personally, I wouldn't mind a sequel to the Super Friends cross-over from issue 6, albeit with extra players and a better writer.......!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Musical Interlude: Driver's Seat (1979)

The British band Sniff 'n' The Tears had been around for 6 years before they scored their only American hit, "Driver's Seat", which peaked at #15 on the Hot 100 in 1979. It's been used in movies and ad campaigns since then, and still gets some play on oldies channels.

Didn't know until now, though, that there was a video........

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Classic TV: The Christophers (1952)

There have been a number of religious anthology series over the years. Several months back, we took a look at Crossroads, a relatively obscure series in contrast to its contemporaries.

Today, our focus is on The Christophers. Founded by Father James Keller in 1945, The Christophers bought air time for a weekly anthology series that began airing, according to IMDB, in 1952. Wikipedia, less reliable, let a writer claim the TV series also launched in 1945. I'm more inclined to believe IMDB. I had heard of the series as a youth, seeing pieces of it in syndication, and I decided I was going to see if I could find something. As noted, Wikipedia's entry pays more heed to the organization itself, and not the TV show, which is mentioned in passing. Indeed, IMDB's entry doesn't give a date when the TV program had been cancelled. Supposedly, it aired on ABC before going to syndication.

We're going to pass on a rating here. Instead, take a look at an episode from 1957, "A Link in the Chain", starring movie legend James Cagney.

In time, we will also cover Insight & This is the Life, the more well known anthologies.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Classic Reborn (again): Sanford (1980)

At the end of the 70's, NBC was struggling to find hit shows not named Little House on the Prairie or Saturday Night Live. In March 1980, they called on an old friend.

Redd Foxx reprised his role as Fred G. Sanford, going solo this time. The storyline explanation for his being in absentia in Sanford Arms was ret-conned out, as if that series never happened. Son Lamont (Demond Wilson) was, according to this series, in Alaska, working on the pipeline. One of his former co-workers, Texas native Cal Pettie (Dennis Burkley) signs on as Fred's new business partner and roommate. Lamont's old running buddy, Rollo (Nathaniel Taylor) returns, now working for Fred in Lamont's old role as a delivery driver.

Fred even finds himself a new girlfriend, Evelyn (Marguerite Ray), whose brother (Percy Rodrigues, ex-The Silent Force) isn't approving. Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page), perhaps the one constant that ties the three series together, appears in a couple of episodes in the first season, then becomes a series regular in season 2, making sure that Fred isn't a bad influence on her son, Cliff (Clinton Derricks-Carroll). Esther is now a widow, as husband Woody had passed away in the time after Sanford & Son had ended.

NBC started the series on Saturday nights, then moved it to Fridays, where the previous two series had aired, in the fall of 1980. Unfortunately, if they thought ol' Fred could reclaim the night for them, they were mistaken. CBS, with Dukes of Hazzard and The Incredible Hulk, now owned Fridays at this point. Season 2 was terminated after a month, with the remaining episodes burned off in the summer of '81.

Here's the 1st season intro, with the return of Quincy Jones' iconic theme song, "The Streetbeater":

No rating.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Musical Interlude: The Metro (1983)

Most people think Berlin's first hit single was 1986's "Take My Breath Away", from "Top Gun". Nope.

Three years earlier, MTV viewers were introduced to singer Terri Nunn and Berlin with "The Metro".

Too bad this wasn't used in a movie, too.

High school baseball @ Joe Bruno Stadium---you had to be there

Tonight was the last of three doubleheaders in the Coaches Against Cancer Friday Night Lights Series. Yeah, try saying that three times fast. Anyway, It was mostly a Suburban Council showcase. In the opener, Bethlehem defeated Mohanasen, 7-5. That game was wrapping up when I arrived and bought my game ticket and program.

The three week event was sponsored by the Tri-City Valleycats, who've done a lot of off-season work for the area, including renovating various Little League fields. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the 'Cats were sponsoring the event, the local press downplayed all three weeks. 11 days ago, a letter I'd written to the Troy Record was published. I was playing the role of an unofficial promoter, urging fans to support their communities and/or schools by attending the games. Little did I know when I wrote the letter that the closest thing to a sellout came a week ago, when Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) shut out LaSalle in what amounted to a home game for the Cadets, whose campus is right across the road from Bruno Stadium.

The nightcap, pitting Shenendehowa vs. Troy High, was delayed 25 minutes from its scheduled 7:05 start. Apparently, there were some issues with the honored guests scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitches or some other problem. The scoreboard took an unscheduled "siesta", if you will, before the game, and finally lit up during the top of the first.

After the two teams played evenly through two innings, the Plainsmen broke through against Troy pitcher David Judge in the third, tagging him for four runs. At least two of them were unearned as the result of a Troy error. Shen would add two more runs in the fifth, and despite Troy's leaky defense committing five errors total, the Plainsmen were shut down after the fifth. Not that Shen was altogether brilliant on defense, as they committed two errors, one of which led to Troy's lone run in the seventh.

Oh, Troy could've had one sooner, but for some confusion between the umpires. With two out and a runner on third in the fourth inning, Shen pitcher Ben Anderson picked the runner off for the third out. Or did he? The base umpire made the call, but seconds later, the plate umpire called a balk on Anderson. At the urging of Shen coach Greg Christodulu, the arbiters conferred---their second such conference of the game---and the original out call stood. Considering that the umps got confused on an attempted Troy double play earlier, one in which a Shen batter appeared to have beaten the throw to first, but was called out, a call that went in favor of Troy, it sort of evened out.

Troy & Shen had previously scrimmaged for eight innings at Shen in late March, and that was more of a barometer of how the regular season would go for both schools. Shen won handily that day, 15-4. Unsurprisingly, they sit atop the Suburban Council. Troy, playing as an independent, would be happy to be at or above .500 with three games remaining in the regular season. Judge, who went the full seven innings, as did Anderson, lost control of the strike zone in the second, and never really recovered, as he was wild much of the night. Anderson checked Troy on three hits until the seventh, when the Flying Horses plated their lone run on two hits and a Shen error.

As I noted before, the local press has all but ignored the Coaches Against Cancer series. Time Warner Cable had their cameras at Bruno Stadium last week only. The attendance tonight closely resembled what I'd seen on TV two years ago, when Troy beat CBA. Not good. As has been noted, it's up to the schools to provide game information to the media. Where it goes from there? Seemingly, the twilight zone, since it appears that local press is more interested in lacrosse, a sport growing in popularity here due to the success that the University at Albany has enjoyed in recent years, than baseball or softball. Go figure. It's almost as if the editors are giving the baseball & softball teams the Rodney Dangerfield treatment. No respect.

As has been noted, the local papers are more concerned with attracting eyeballs to their websites. Problem is, the high school baseball and/or softball scores aren't always on the web, either, and that ain't going to get the job done.

It's not just the newspaper sites. Troy's website, for example, hasn't updated their baseball schedule with scores since the middle of April, and their softball page hasn't been updated since last season. What's up with that? How are the fans supposed to keep up? Telepathy? Please.

Both sides (schools & press) need to get with the program, and quickly.

Tough Enough returns, but is it for good this time?

4 years have passed since Tough Enough returned to the air, this time on USA, and now it seems WWE Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon believes the time has come for the series to return.

The format will be different, but while the cast will be populated by "contestants", some of whom have actual in-ring experience, such as independent star LuFisto, the spotlight will be on the veteran talent essentially "running the show".

Wrestler-singer-reality TV veteran Chris Jericho picks up the MC's baton from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who was in charge of the 2011 edition. Jericho is no stranger to hosting, having previously done shows for SyFy & ABC. Announcer Renee Young will be the co-hostess, having already likened herself & Jericho to Paula Abdul & Ryan Seacrest in the early days of American Idol. As for the judges? Hall of Famers Hulk Hogan and Lita (Amy Dumas) are joined by current stars Daniel Bryan and Paige. Clearly, McMahon & USA are hoping to reel in viewers of different generations.

Tough Enough began on MTV in 2001, and had three "seasons" there (2001-3). Season 4 was incorporated into Smackdown in 2004, when that series was still on UPN. It also marked the end for original head trainer Al Snow's association with the series (Snow is now with TNA). The '11 series was season 5, so this time, we're in season 6. Makes one wonder if McMahon should've done more to keep the series going after it left MTV. Like, for instance, moving it to USA when WWE began their current association with the network in 2005?

Tough Enough will air on Tuesday nights this summer, debuting June 23, as apparently using Monday Night Raw as a lead-in last time might not have been as beneficial as they thought. The series likely will be repurposed on WWE Network during the week, and almost certainly will be available On Demand from cable operators after the relaunch  Audition videos are airing on WWE programming until they decide on who will populate the cast for this edition.

Maybe this time, it'll stick, but knowing McMahon, maybe not. His loss.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Forgotten TV: The Sanford Arms (1977)

When Redd Foxx bolted NBC after 6 seasons of Sanford & Son, you'd think that would've been the end. Foxx left for ABC to headline his own variety show, which, as it turned out, wasn't quite so successful any more than NBC's attempt to fill the Sanford void.

Picking up a plot thread from the final season of Sanford & Son, co-executive producer Bud Yorkin, teamed once again with Saul Turtletaub & Bernie Orenstein (What's Happening!, etc.) was able to sell NBC on the premise the series could continue. One problem. Demond Wilson (Lamont) also bolted in a salary dispute, meaning that the new show would have to start from scratch.

The end result was The Sanford Arms, which lasted a month, and was one of the first casualties of the 1977-8 season. As memory serves, it aired at the same time (8  ET) as Sanford & Son, a slot occupied the next year by Joe Namath's infamous attempt at a sitcom, The Waverly Wonders, on Fridays. Yeah, Waverly was a bomb, too.

Theodore Wilson, whose resume included stints on Roll Out, Good Times, and featured roles in movies like "Cotton Comes to Harlem", after beginning his career as a singer, toplined as the new owner of the Sanford Arms hotel, and the accompanying Sanford residence. Fred (Foxx) & Lamont had relocated to Arizona so Fred could retire in peace due to his health. Only three regulars from Sanford & Son were retained: Don Bexley (Bubba), LaWanda Page (Esther, who was now the de-facto hotel manager), and Whitman Mayo (Grady), who'd returned to Sanford & Son when his own series tanked.

Here's the open:

Foxx would reprise as Fred Sanford in another series, Sanford, a few short years later, but that, too, failed to connect.

No rating.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Modern Classic (maybe): Nash Bridges (1996)

Don Johnson tried to recreate the magic of Miami Vice, albeit with a change of scenery, in Nash Bridges, which began as a spring replacement series in 1996, and hung around until 2001. Pretty much the same amount of time as Vice. Same night, different network (CBS), different locale (San Francisco), and a new partner (Cheech Marin).

Johnson was also one of the executive producers, which may explain why this seemed so much like a west coast clone of Vice. One big difference. Bridges was twice divorced with a teenage daughter (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe), while Sonny Crockett was single. Marin played Joe Dominguez, a retired inspector called back into duty by Bridges, an old friend.

Much like Miami Vice, Nash Bridges' casting choices bordered on the pop culture tip. In season 4, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin joined the show as ex-cop-turned-bounty hunter Jake Cage. To think they were planning a spin-off before Austin was injured in the ring.........!

Here's the season 1 intro:

After a cable run on USA, the series has faded from view. Here's to hoping someone picks it up, even if some of the material's already dated.

Rating: B.

Sports this 'n' that

James Dolan doesn't get it, and likely never will.

Dolan, the owner of the Knicks, Rangers, Madison Square Garden, Cablevision, Radio City Music Hall, and the WNBA's Liberty, seems to think that former Knicks coach and executive, and before that, a Hall of Fame superstar with the Detroit Pistons, Isaiah Thomas, has still got some skills as a businessman. Seven years after Thomas was dismissed in disgrace after a sexual harassment suit filed by a Knicks employee, "Zeke" is back in New York, this time as team president and co-owner of the Liberty.

Since his playing days ended, Thomas' resume as a coach and/or executive has been the diametric opposite of his days at Indiana University and the Pistons. He ran the Knicks into the ground, and, as noted above, Dolan was forced to cut him when Anucha Browne Sanders filed suit, citing a hostile working environment. As if it's changed since then, given the man-child that Dolan is as an owner, and it hasn't. Thomas flopped as a college coach, too, at Florida International. While there, Dolan tried to bring Thomas back into the Knicks fold as a "consultant". The NBA would have none of that, and Thomas found himself floundering. I think he lasted maybe 2-3 years at FIU.

The calls for Dolan to sell the team are only going to get louder as WNBA season begins. He doesn't care about his paying customers. His sports teams are just playthings to him, and his general message to his critics, basically, is "screw you".

Adam Silver, your move.

Sticking with the WNBA, the league is under fire for not disciplining Brittney Griner after she and her partner were involved in a domestic dispute a couple of weeks back. Griner, out of Baylor, has already agreed to counseling, which puts her one up on the league suits. She admitted she was wrong, and is willing to take the necessary penalties. Had this been in the NBA, even with a marginal player, Silver wouldn't have hesitated to act, but the WNBA is still investigating?


One online commentator on Yahoo! claims the WNBA is trying to protect its brand and image. Gee, that sounds familiar, doesn't it? Of course. However, we're already past that stage, and the league needs to get with the program.

It was just announced that the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots may not have been completely honest about Deflate-gate. Gee, there's a shocker right there. Investigator Ted Wells' report implicates two Patriots employees, both of whom have been with the team since before Bob Kraft bought the team, in the scandal that tainted the Pats' latest title run. Some commentators online are already calling for the Pats to be stripped of this latest Super Bowl. QB Tom "Crybaby" Brady has also been implicated, meaning that when he was pressed for a comment about the scandal, he essentially lied. No amount of Velveeta cheese is going to save Kraft's bacon this time.

Where I have a problem is that the findings were announced nearly a week after the NFL Draft, and that, friends, was on purpose. Again, it was to protect the image of the league on one of its marquee dates. Commissioner Roger Goodell didn't want the league's media partners peppering him with questions during the 3-day draft. Those same online wags are calling for the draft picks already used this year to be taken from the Patriots. That won't happen. Next year? Different story.

Should it surprise anyone that they did have a fall guy or two already available to be handed up? Of course. The report, though, exonerates Kraft and coach Bill Belichick, but in order to truly send a message to the rest of the league and its fan base, Goodell cannot let this pass. It's time to drop the hammer on the Patriots, just like he did with New Orleans a few years ago. The crime is different, but if New England gets a mere slap on the wrist again, the complaints will next be about double standards, especially considering Goodell's already cozy relationship with Captain Cheesehead (Kraft).

This all being said, James Dolan and the WNBA officials get Dunce Caps this week. For now, we won't pile on the Pats until punishment is meted out.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Musical Interlude: Follow You, Follow Me (1978)

Genesis had started as a quintet, with Peter Gabriel on vocals. By 1978, however, the band was down to a trio: guitarist Mike Rutherford, keyboard player Tony Banks, and drummer-vocalist Phil Collins. Genesis had morphed from an art-rock combo to soft rock. "And Then There Were Three" presented a portent of things to come with the melodic single, "Follow You, Follow Me", which is still getting airplay today on adult contemporary radio stations.

Apparently, Collins was already losing his hair by this point. It's the only reason to explain wearing a baseball cap in the video......

Classic TV: Laramie (1959)

Westerns were plentful in primetime television in the 50's & 60's. Revue Studios churned out more than their fair share, but outside of, say, Wagon Train or The Virginian, a lot of their Western fare have largely fallen by the wayside.

Laramie lasted 4 seasons on NBC (1959-63), and was one of the first to be shown in full, living color. The only real familiar name in the cast would be Robert Fuller, who moseyed on over to Wagon Train after Laramie ended, but is better known for a more contemporary gig as Dr. Kelly Brackett on Emergency! (1972-7). Character actress Spring Byington co-stars.

After having aired on Encore Westerns, a premium service, for the last few years, Laramie debuted over the weekend on Grit, a digital sub-channel linked in the home district to the CW affiliate. Grit carries a large movie library, mostly war & Western movies, plus classic series such as The Rookies, The Cisco Kid, and, also debuting this week, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre. Laramie airs 3 times a day, with 2 back-to-back episodes in the morning, and one last one at 6 pm (ET).

Here's the intro, from season 3:

Aside from Wagon Train & Virginian, the average lifespan of one of Revue's Westerns ranged from 1-4 years, so Laramie falls right in that range.

Rating: B.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Forgotten TV: W*A*L*T*E*R (1984)

As you could probably tell, 20th Century Fox wanted to continue to mine M*A*S*H for more series. AfterM*A*S*H lasted a couple of seasons, and included what was supposed to be a back-door pilot for Gary Burghoff to get his own show.

Unfortunately, W*A*L*T*E*R, which was burned off in July 1984, didn't connect as well as it should have with network suits.

Walter O'Reilly (Burghoff) cast aside his more familiar nickname of Radar upon returning stateside. He moved back home to Iowa and tried his hand at farming. That failed, and he had to sell the farm. He sent his mom off to live with his aunt, and O'Reilly moved to St. Louis, where he became a police officer.

So what went wrong? The very fabric of the character lay in the nickname. Early on in M*A*S*H, and I believe this was more fully addressed in the movie, O'Reilly had an uncanny precognitive ability to detect arriving helicopters. Those skills were not part of the pilot, as O'Reilly was now just another guy.

Ray Butenika, Noble Willingham (later of "Good Morning, Vietnam" and Walker, Texas Ranger), and Victoria Jackson, later of Saturday Night Live, co-star.

After this aired, Fox & CBS simply closed up the M*A*S*H well. I don't hear of anyone wanting to revive that franchise. Do you? Didn't think so.

Rating: B.

Musical Interlude: Stand By (1983)

Before Brian Setzer traded the rockabilly sound of the Stray Cats for big band and swing with his self-titled orchestra, England's Roman Holliday mixed old school swing with modern pop. However, despite the fact that their only American single, "Stand By", gained a fair amount of airplay on MTV, it didn't translate at the cash registers. "Stand By" peaked at #54 on the pop charts.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Even monsters like soft drinks (1969)

Shasta always ran well behind the more well known brands of soda (i.e. Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper), but they did have some imaginative ads.

For example, in this spot, Dr. Frankenstein sends his monster, christened Igor, to the market to procure some orange Shasta. Tom Bosley narrates. John Fiedler plays the clerk, who doesn't seem to mind that Igor is shoplifting........

On The Shelf: Free Comic Book Day 2015 high-&-lowlights

Yes, that title is correct, pilgrims. We won't be covering every Free Comic Book Day title I've acquired over the weekend. The 2nd day is always great because it's open season and the restrictions stores place on the day itself are eliminated. However, if you follow Diamond's Previews monthly catalog, you could subscribe to as many FCBD books as needed. That's a tactic I will try to remember for next year. Anyway..........

The Best:

These days, Image Comics is known as the home of The Walking Dead, which spawned the AMC series of the same name. However, two of their first books are nearing their 25th anniversaries rather quietly. One of them is Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon. As DC & Marvel are fleecing fans with annual promotional stunts billed as "game changing events", Larsen has soldiered on, with Dragon over 250 issues deep and counting. Not only that, but the current star is a 2nd generation Dragon. Yes, you read that right. Malcolm Dragon is the son of the original Savage Dragon, following in dad's footsteps as an officer with the Chicago PD. Larsen continues to write and draw the series, happy to fly under the radar.

Rating: B.

Valiant Comics is marking 25 years this year, even though the company hasn't been operating the entirety of that time, having relaunched just 3 short years ago. Their anniversary special is an overview of some of their newly relaunched books. The artwork shown is nice and crisp, but the only downside to these books is that they're all $4 per issue, which must be the going rate for most companies these days. If I'm bored this summer, I may go hunting for back issues.....!

Rating: A.

Captain Canuck is a name that some of you might not be familiar with, but the original hero of the Great White North marks 40 years this year. Creator Richard Comely has brought him back and updated the story for modern times. This has possibilities.

Rating : B.

In the Middle:

Marvel, as you probably know, is relaunching Avengers yet again this fall, repopulating the team with current itinerations of Ms. Marvel, Captain America (Sam Wilson, previously the Falcon), Lady Thor, and Ultimate Universe Spider-Man Miles Morales. Yes, this is the end result of their new Secret Wars miniseries (see below), which smooshes together recent, culturally diverse ideas, such as the ones above, but giving Morales the attitude of the animated Ultimate Spider-Man, which I don't dig. At least he's not breaking the 4th wall. Yet. The backup feature in this FCBD preview is an excerpt from Uncanny Inhumans. It has, shall we say, possibilities. Then again, a lot of new books from Marvel start that way, and then somehow, it gets screwed up.

Grade: Incomplete.

Hermes Press has reprint rights to Silver & Bronze Age comic book itinerations of The Phantom, meaning books published by Gold Key & Charlton, to support their new Phantom series, which launched last fall. I'm tempted to invest, and figuring Hermes treats the "Ghost Who Walks" with more respect than Dynamite does....!

Rating: B-.

The Worst:

Marvel's Secret Wars comes a year after the original marked its 30th anniversary last year. The problem I have is that this "game changer" is a total rip-off of DC's original "game changer", Crisis on Infinite Earths, which marks its 30th anniversary this year. I'm not sold on this at all, and to me, it's pointless, and just another stunt to an audience that by now has become desensitized to it all.

Rating: C-.

Meanwhile, DC fared worse with Divergence, which previews three story arcs in their franchise titles starting next month. To wit:

*Superman's next major arc is entitled, "Truth". As in, the exposure of his secret identity. I don't recall people having too many cows when Marvel decided to publicly reveal Iron Man & Spider-Man's true ID's a few years ago, but Supes is treated like a sacred cow moreso than the others because he's been around much longer. I'm not feeling John Romita, Jr. on the artwork, either. It just looks wrong. Not only that, but as some of you are aware, the Man of Steel is swapping his signature costume for casual wear. A t-shirt with the logo and a pair of jeans. The jabroni they hired to write the book thinks that this was what Grant Morrison was planning when Morrison was writing Action Comics 4 years ago. Maybe, but not like this. And Morrison is a better writer.

Rating: D.

*The Justice League faces off with Darkseid. Meh, nothing special, right? Wrong. Writer Geoff Johns thought it'd be cool to give Darkseid a 3rd child. We've become familiar with his warring sons, Orion & Kalibak, for 45 years. Why give them a sibling now? If I had the answer, I'd also come up with a cure for such stupid ideas. Like locking some of these idiots in a library for a month and holding the key.

I digress. The new kid is Grail, Kalibak & Orion's 1/2-sister, born to an Amazon, which makes Grail a cousin of sorts to Wonder Woman. Johns' script also acknowledges what Brian Azzarrello did on the Wonder Woman monthly, altering her origin to make her a demi-goddess, rather than being created from clay, which is now dismissed as a false origin. Did they clear this with the William Marston estate? Grail, though, shares one trait with Orion. She hates her daddy. Hmmmm. I wonder if they also talked to the Jack Kirby estate......

Rating: C.

*Finally, and most incomprehensibly, 5 years after Bruce Wayne had been killed off pro tempore, he once again has been stripped of the mantle of Batman. This time, writer Scott Snyder has jumped the shark. In the latest issue, which hit stores 4 days ago, Snyder decided to make his audience believe he'd killed off not only Wayne, but the Joker, as well. Like, seriously? How stupid does he think his audience is?

And it gets better, or worse, depending on your perspective. Snyder's new arc brings in the Powers family. The name will sound familiar to fans of Batman Beyond. Geri Powers wants what amounts to a "corporate" Batman, and chooses Commissioner James Gordon for the job. Gordon gets a Marine buzzcut and some high-tech armor for his new role. When I first read about this, the first thing I thought of was that Snyder and his editors at DC were cashing in on the success of Gotham, which wraps its freshman season tomorrow night. After reading this preview, I realize that this is the lamest thing that could possibly happen. It won't even last a year before Wayne returns. There's a movie coming next year, you know.

And, I might as well add it here, Snyder gets the Weasel of the Week award for what amounts to the cheapest of stunt story ideas.

Rating: D-.

Meanwhile, elsewhere On The Shelf:

Dynamite recently released a series of 1-shots featuring Doc Savage, The Shadow, & The Avenger in squarebound (Prestige) format, designed to look like the pulps from back in the day. I scored the Shadow volume, and it looks great. Nice story, with a sweet noir-style cover by Robert Hack. If you're a true Shadow fan, you have to have this.

Rating: A+.

Over at Archie, it seems their horror books aren't the only ones experiencing delays. Betty & Veronica was downgraded to bi-monthly some time back, and the current "Farewell" arc, written by filmmaker Michael Uslan, set for 6 issues, has been worse than a snail's pace. Issue 275, a double-size special with reprints thrown in, has only hit newsstands this past week.

The plot: Riverdale's sweethearts are on a global exchange student assignment, and, shockingly, have swapped identities for some reason. In other words, Betty's dyed her hair black to pass for Veronica, while Ronnie has reached for the bleach bottle to turn blonde. Last I checked, there were no bad guys involved, other than Veronica's dad, and, to a lesser extent, Veronica herself, who had rigged things so she'd be the only one going, but a compromise was reached so Betty would tag along. I guess her job is to teach her so-called BFF some humility. They're supposed to be gone for a year minimum, but from what I understand, the foreign exchange students arriving in Riverdale to take their places won't be sticking around. Uslan's done better, and he's better known for his work with Swamp Thing and Batman.

Rating: D-.

Dark Horse is publishing Archie vs. Predator, which is just as well considering Archie Comics' problems of late. Unfortunately, DH should've hired someone to draw the book in a more realistic style, rather than import Fernando Ruiz & Rich Kozlowski from Archie. A Predator drawn Archie-style doesn't work. Neither does this story.

Rating: D.