Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Musical Interlude: Do You Wanna Hold Me? (1983)

The key to Bow Wow Wow's appeal in the US laid with teenage singer Annabella Lwin, who was just 14 when producer Malcolm McLaren hired her to sing with the band, which otherwise was formed after McLaren persuaded 3 members of Adam & The Ants to leave that band. Bassist Leigh Gorman is the only one left who is still in Bow Wow Wow today as it plays the nostalgia circuit.

In the winter of 1983, BWW released what would be its last single in the US. "Do You Wanna Hold Me?" was a commentary on American pop culture, with visual references to President Reagan, the Pink Panther, and various superheroes, including Superman, Spider-Man, & Batman & Robin (all played, I think, by the same person).

Annabella does fill out Peter Pan's costume pretty well, doesn't she?

Dunce Cap Award: Donald Trump

Since when has Donald Trump been taking public speaking courses from Pat Robertson?

The one thing the real estate mogul/media whore/Presidential candidate-wannabe has in common with aging evangelist Robertson is that both of late have had an annoying tendency to put their collective foot in their mouth on certain issues.

Trump, who somehow acquired the Miss USA & Miss Universe pageants some years back, will have to peddle them to another network, one not owned by NBC-Universal-Comcast, after some ill-advised remarks about Mexico & immigrants came back to bite him on his backside, beginning late last week, when Univision, which holds the Mexican broadcast rights to the beauty pageants, announced it would not air this year's edition, scheduled for July 12. Then, on Monday, NBC followed suit, ending its long standing relationship with the champion of the birther movement for the same reason. An episode of American Ninja Warrior will air in place of the Miss USA pageant on July 12.

Although Celebrity Apprentice will continue with someone on board to replace Trump, it's parent series, The Apprentice, has officially been cancelled, per NBC. The conglomerate wants to distance itself as far away from Trump as possible, and who can blame them?

Now comes the issue of where the pageants will air. Would CBS, the former home of the pageants, want to take it back? I seriously doubt that either CBS or ABC would risk a political firestorm if they welcomed Trump. Fox? They've been known to push the envelope in their programming, and bringing in Trump would be just business as usual. However, they, too, would face some issues. Trump's Dunce Cap Award winning diatribe will still be fresh in people's minds over the next few days.

No, I think the best place for the pageants, even with their years of having been aired on broadcast TV, would be online, where there's less chance of any sort of political backlash.

I don't even watch these events anymore, so I don't know about ratings. Does it matter at this point?

Enjoy your new Dunce Cap, Donald. There may be more coming if you keep this up.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Classic TV: The Patty Duke Show (1963)

Talk about seeing double!

The gimmick to The Patty Duke Show had the star playing identical cousins. Cathy Lane (Duke) emigrated to the US from Scotland to live with her cousin, Patty (Duke again) and her family. If you thought that was enough "twin magic", think again. In one second season episode, Duke played a 3rd Lane cousin and gained special guest star credit, something that wouldn't happen today.

In addition, the cousins' dads were played by the same actor as well, nattily dressed William Schallert, who played Martin Lane's twin brother in 3 season 1 episodes, and added a 3rd persona in the form of an uncle, Jed, later in the series.

Maybe it should surprise no one that the concept was the work of two men who would utilize the "twin magic" gimmick after moving to Screen Gems the next year. William Asher created Bewitched, and eventually went with the identical cousin gimmick. Future best-selling author Sidney Sheldon followed that with I Dream of Jeannie, which bowed during Duke's final season (1965), but opted for the standard twin sister instead of cousin for star Barbara Eden. Jeannie, of course, aired on NBC, while Bewitched and Duke aired on ABC. Y'think maybe the folks at United Artists, which produced Duke, rued the day they let Sheldon & Asher jump to Screen Gems?

Currently, This TV, which has a lot of MGM/Sony properties on its roster, airs Duke. Check local listings. In the meantime, scope out the open:

Schallert was later used as a studio announcer at ABC for a few years before ceding the gig to Ernie Anderson. Duke parlayed the sitcom into a brief singing career, leading to a crossover with Shindig!.

Rating: B.

Musical Interlude: Urgent (1981)

Right before I graduated from high school, Foreigner released the album, "4". The first single, "Urgent", was in heavy airplay on local radio throughout that summer. But what you might not know is that the sax solo on the track was actually performed by Motown legend Junior Walker. A then-unknown Thomas Dolby, a year away from his debut record, contributed to the track as well. Neither Walker nor Dolby appeared in the video, however.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

On DVD: Fractured Flickers (1963)

After skewering pop culture for four years via Rocky & His Friends, aka The Bullwinkle Show, maverick producer Jay Ward turned his irreverent eye toward silent movies. Unfortunately, while Fractured Flickers is silly fun, it's considered blasphemy by fans of the silent films.

What probably hurt Flickers was that Ward was trying to do too much, parodying talk shows in the middle of the show with a short (thankfully) interview between host Hans Conreid and a studio guest, like, for example, Fabian or Rose Marie (The Dick Van Dyke Show). Otherwise, Conreid and most of Ward's repertory company (Paul Frees, Bill Scott, June Foray) added dialogue to the silent classics, mostly obscure or forgotten, save for a true classic, such as John Barrymore's version  of "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde", which was turned into a wacky comedy about seltzer water, with Scott, utilizing his Dudley Do-Right voice, as Dr. Seltzer (Jekyll). Conreid & Frees took turns as narrators.

While Conreid claimed to be in front of a studio audience, the laughter was definitely canned. Just the same, Conreid demonstrated some talent for stand-up comedy. Desilu handled distribution through its sales department. Don't ask. 

No complete episodes are available. On the other hand, looking at the animated intro, I suspect the outside animators Ward hired also created the intro for the syndicated run of What's My Line? a few years later.

Having seen a few silents in my time, I can understand why the fans of that era would have issues, but they don't get Ward's brand of subversive humor.

Come to think of it, that same kind of indignation applies today in another genre, with comics fans upset about how their favorites have been reinterpreted for recent films or rebooted entirely for a new generation that has been conditioned not to require learning about the rich history of those same characters.

Rating: B.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Celebrity Rock: Lucky Enough For Two (1983)

Greg Evigan has kept himself busy with movie roles, usually in DTV's, and hasn't had a TV series gig in years. You have to imagine he's also still doing some recording, nearly 40 years after his first series, A Year at the Top, and the subsequent album he recorded with co-star Paul Shaffer, went belly up.

In January 1983, Greg guest-starred on Fame in the season 2 episode, "Relationships". "Lucky Enough For Two" starts as a solo number for an audience of one, but when that captive audience picks up the melody, it becomes a duet. Series regular Valerie Landsburg (daughter of producer Alan Landsburg) is the duet partner.

Unfortunately, "Lucky" didn't chart.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What Might've Been: Thicke of the Night (1983)

Even a programming genius like Fred Silverman can misfire.

Silverman had left NBC and was on his own as a producer in the early 80's. One of his first projects turned out to be one of his worst, if not the worst of his career.

In 1983, Canadian actor-singer-songwriter-talk show host Alan Thicke was lured away by Silverman to front a late night talk show. Unfortunately, Thicke of the Night lasted just 9 months in a doomed effort to topple then-late night kingpin Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. If there is a bright side, it's the fact that Thicke made enough of an impression in Hollywood, aside from being the husband of soap star and singer Gloria Loring (Days of Our Lives), to be given another series, except that this time, it'd be a sitcom. Growing Pains would last until near the end of the decade for ABC.

If you want to draw comparisons, Thicke, accustomed to doing daytime, might be unfavorably compared to entertainment mogul Merv Griffin, who'd also failed with a late night effort vs. Carson, albeit for CBS, a few years earlier, but was thriving with a syndicated show that now aired much earlier at this point. Like Thicke, Griffin could sing, too, and we'll discuss him another time.

American audiences had first heard Thicke, though not seeing him, as he recorded the theme for fellow Canuck Alex Trebek's 1st American series, The Wizard of Odds, around 1973. Yep, that, too, was a bomb.

Anyway, rather than strain your brain cells with any interviews, let's take a musical interlude with Bon Jovi and their 1984 hit, "Runaway":

Funny thing. Thicke's repertory company included Gilbert Gottfried (ex-Saturday Night Live) and a couple of guys who later became icons in their own right. Arsenio Hall, who's had a couple of late night turns himself, and Richard Belzer, who recently retired from his role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Thicke hasn't been heard from much since Pains and Animal Crack-Ups ended, but son Robin has inherited the musical genetics, plus a gift for controversy.

Rating: D.

Patrick Macnee (1922-2015)

I came home from the Valleycats game last night, and came across a notation on a message board I frequent that Patrick Macnee, star of The Avengers, among others, had passed away earlier in the day at his home in California at 93.

Macnee, despite an extensive resume in films and television, will always be best remembered as secret agent John Steed in both TV itinerations of The Avengers, but it's easy to forget that when the series started, he had second billing, under Ian Hendry (as Dr. David Keel), but was elevated when Hendry left the show. After the short-lived New Avengers had completed production, and before it emigrated to the US, Macnee began finding steady work, appearing on such shows as Columbo, Battlestar Galactica, Gavilan, Super Force, & Thunder in Paradise.

Following is an sample Avengers clip with Macnee & Diana Rigg.

Rest in peace.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer is officially here in upstate NY: Valleycats season has begun

After going 3-3 on the road to start the 2015 season, the defending Stedler division champion Tri-City Valleycats began the home portion of their NY-Penn League season tonight in grand style. In front of a sold out crowd, David Paulino and 3 relievers combined for a 1-hit shutout, as Tri-City defeated the Staten Island Yankees, 6-0.

Paulino went 4 1/3 innings, which would not be enough to qualify for a win, but didn't give up a hit, striking out six while walking two. What had been ruled an infield hit in the top of the fifth inning was later changed to a fielder's choice and an error on the shortstop. Staten Island got their only hit two innings later, so it didn't matter.

Yankee starter Luis Cedeno was almost as brilliant. He got through five innings, but ended up the loser, giving up 4 runs (3 earned) while striking out 7. Major League Baseball's pace-of-play initiatives apparently haven't reached the short-season NY-Penn League yet, as this game clocked in at just under 3 hours. Having seen my share of major league games over the first half of the season, I'd gotten accustomed to the quicker pace, and I'd wondered why the message hadn't gotten down to what amounts to a beginner league, coming out of the entry draft 2 weeks ago.

Part of it might be because pace-of-play isn't an issue in the college game yet, either. In the just concluded College World Series, Monday's opener clocked in at close to 3 1/2 hours to play 9 innings. If you think that's bad, consider that a lot of college football games swell close to 4 hours per game now, and it's not just for strategic timeouts or high scoring offenses. I digress.

The Valleycats' promotions have changed somewhat. The "mayor's race" is queued to the theme from Wacky Races, of all things. A promotion tied to the NY State Lottery version of Wheel of Fortune uses the theme music to a rival game show, Family Feud. Now, that's wack. Wacky Races, to tell you the truth, should actually apply to the 8th inning Hot Dog race, in which a trio of volunteers dressed in hot dog costumes race in various vehicles, including bicycles. In wrestling parlance, it's a worked contest, meaning that "Relish" never wins, and that ream's been going on for years.

If tonight was any indication, Tri-City is looking at another dominating season at home. They just have to get the kinks out on the road.

Videos of Summer: Land of 1000 Dances (1988)

Two and a half years after Vince McMahon's crew had massacred "Land of 1000 Dances", Wilson Pickett, one of two artists closely associated with the song in the 60's (Cannibal & the Head Hunters was the other) revived it, with an assist from Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) and his band. "Land" is the closing track in the movie, "The Great Outdoors", starring Aykroyd & John Candy.

The video has movie footage mixed with conceptual pieces. You can tell that Aykroyd had gained quite a bit of weight, dating back to before the 1st "Ghostbusters" movie, since "Blues Brothers" came out in 1980. Maybe Elwood was trying to fill in for his late brother, Jake (John Belushi, who'd passed away some time earlier).

Judge for yourselves, kids.

This was the 3rd cover of "Land" to chart in the 80's. The J. Geils Band was first with a live version on their 1982 album, "Showtime".

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On the Air (again): Tough Enough (2015)

WWE has decided to revive Tough Enough yet again, 4 years after the last series. As was the case in 2011, the series will air on USA, with WWE Network getting repurposing rights, something that didn't happen last time.

In all honesty, this may actually be weaker than past incarnations. On one hand, you have a return to the familiar reality show format favored during Tough's MTV run (2001-3), and discarded when the competition was stitched into Smackdown in 2004. On the other, taking its cues from American Idol and other reality shows, the home audience will decide who stays and who goes. Also, the judges each have a "save" to use during the course of the 10 week season. "Season 6" is projected to finish at the end of August.

With "Stone Cold" Steve Austin off doing reality shows for CMT, former champ and Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho takes over as host. That might not be a good thing, since Jericho's track record as an MC hasn't been good. His most recent series, Robot Combat League, for SyFy, also in 2011, lasted just 1 season. Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan joins current stars Daniel Bryan and Paige as judges. Booker T, who was a judge last time, is a coach this time, along with Billy Gunn and Lita. Booker, as a result, is on hiatus from his color analyst role on Monday Night Raw.

The manufactured drama recalls season 2 of the MTV era, which I felt was the weakest of that period. WWE figures that as long as they can still lure eyeballs to Total Divas on E! (which is moving off Sundays to a new night), they can replicate the formula here. Personally, I'd rather they didn't. Jericho has the chops as a game show host, but WWE & USA would be better served if they can keep Tough Enough on the air this time after this 10 week cycle. And if that wasn't enough, WWE is also reviving their Diva Search, which was last run in 2007.

Do yourselves a favor, WWE. Be original once in a while.

In case you missed it last night, here's a sample.

A good chunk of the live portion of the show is at the Performance Center at Full Sail University, home of NXT, in suburban Orlando. One of the first physical challenges was taped at the Citrus Bowl in Jacksonville.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Old Time Radio: The Mel Blanc Show (1946)

After co-starring with the likes of Jack Benny, Judy Canova, and others, the "Man of 1,000 Voices", Mel Blanc, was granted his own radio show in 1946, through the sponsorship of Colgate-Palmolive.

Listeners finally got to hear Mel speak in his natural voice, in addition to playing a character whose mannerisms were derived from Porky Pig, Zookie, an assistant in Mel's repair shop. Mel's trying to make ends meet so he can finally marry his girlfriend (Mary Jane Croft), but there's always something getting in the way.

Unfortunately, the series lasted just 1 season because there were already a few sitcom/variety shows on the air with similar formats, and The Jack Benny Program was one of those shows. Give a listen to the series opener, and you might understand why it was cancelled after 10 months on the air.

Mary Jane Croft is better known for her long association with Lucille Ball (i.e. I Love Lucy). Fellow voice-over vets Bea Benaderet and Alan Reed were recurring guests.

So what sank the good ship Blanc? The writing. The plot of the opener sounds a little too contrived.

Rating: C.

Dick Van Patten (1928-2015)

It's just come over the wires in the last hour or so that we've lost another TV icon.

Dick Van Patten, after years of character roles and guest star appearances, scored his only hit with Eight Is Enough, which aired on ABC from 1977-81. Prior to Eight, Dick had a supporting role in Mel Brooks' Robin Hood satire-sitcom, When Things Were Rotten, which aired on the exact same night as Eight (Wednesdays), but lasted just a season. Van Patten had also appeared in some of Brooks' movies, including "Robin Hood: Men in Tights", and other films, such as "Soylent Green", with Charlton Heston, and "Charly", with Cliff Robertson.

While he was still continuing to act, Van Patten took an interest in pet foods, and founded Natural Balance Pet Foods, creating healthy foods for dogs and other pets. In the 80's, he teamed with Sherman Hemsley (The Jeffersons) in this spot for Jiffy Lube:

Van Patten has passed away due to complications from type 2 diabetes at 86. Rest in peace, Dick. You will be missed.

Forgotten TV: Hawk (1966)

Before Burt Reynolds became a box office superstar in the 70's, he'd tried his hand at television. Aside from a run as a supporting player on Gunsmoke, he hadn't had much luck. Riverboat, in which he co-starred with Darrin McGavin, lasted a year at the most. In 1966, producer Hubbell Robinson, who moved his tack from Universal to Screen Gems, cast Reynolds as Hawk in a one hour ABC crime drama.

John Hawk (Reynolds) was a full-blooded Iroquois Indian. In real life, Reynolds was part Cherokee in background, so it made a bit of sense in a way. Unfortunately, Hawk was cancelled after 1 season, and the same fate would befall Reynolds' next TV project, Quinn Martin's Dan August, 4 years later.

Curiously, Reynolds would land a hit TV show as his film career was winding down, returning to CBS in the 80's to headline the sitcom, Evening Shade.

The following is taken from ABC's fall preview special for 1966, with clips of the series opener. The villain is another future movie superstar, Gene Hackman.

NBC obtained the rights to Hawk in 1976 to cash in on Reynolds' growing popularity at the box office. CBS had done the same thing, acquiring Dan August. This particular practice has gone the way of the Edsel, sad to say, leaving a lot of shows like this in the vaults.

No rating.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Classic TV: Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre (1956)

Four Star co-founder Dick Powell must've been a fan of the Western novels of Zane Grey, such that he obtained the license to adapt some of those novels for an anthology series he produced for CBS.

Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre lasted 5 seasons (1956-61), and, other than standard Western fare of the period, didn't really do anything to make Grey's work stand out from the zillion other oaters on the air at the time. Back then, Four Star was specializing in Westerns, moving to crime dramas a short time later.

Cable viewers now get the chance to see this long missing series, as it airs on Grit, a digital subchannel that recently made its debut in upstate NY. Grit runs a block of Zane Grey every morning, but some episodes don't appear to have held up well, nearly 60 years after their debut.

From season 3, here's "Jericho", with Guy Madison (ex-Wild Bill Hickok), Claude Akins (billed as Claude Aiken), Beverly Garland, and Allison Hayes, whose fan channel supplied the video:

You've seen one Western from this period, well, really, you've seen them all.

Rating: B-.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day: Father Knows Best (1954)

Father Knows Best was another series that transitioned from radio to television, and proved to be just as successful on video.

The radio version debuted in 1949 on NBC Radio, with Robert Young starring as Jim Anderson, husband and father of three. Five years later, Young was the only one to make the transition to television. Not only that, but Jim had been softened from his radio persona. More of a doting dad than a sarcastic one. Additionally, Young was a co-producer. Rodney-Young Productions was his partnership with one Eugene Rodney, who was not heard from again after Father signed off with its last original episode in 1960 after 6 seasons.

The odd thing was, Father aired on CBS for the first season, moved to NBC for seasons 2-4, then back to CBS for seasons 5 & 6. While Jane Wyatt played Jim's wife on the show, the part had been played for a time on radio by cartoon legend Jean VanderPyl (later of The Flintstones, of course).

Post-Father, Young would return near the end of the 60's, creating another iconic role as Marcus Welby, MD. Elinor Donohue moved on to The Andy Griffith Show for about the first year or so, and was last seen on The Young & The Restless as a justice of the peace. The cast came back together for a TV-movie that aired on NBC in 1977.

Right now, let's take a look at the series opener, "Bud Takes up the Dance":

Antenna TV (check listings) has cable rights to the series after it'd aired on TBS, the Family Channel, and TV Land in recent years.

Rating: None.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

On The Shelf: Girl power to the Nth power

Marvel Comics recently ended their Spider-Gwen series after 5 issues due to Secret Wars more than anything else, as the Gwen Stacy of an alternate universe appears in Spider-Verse (2nd series), which will run until the current Secret Wars ends in October. Beyond that, who knows?

Meanwhile, DC decided to copy the hero-is-a-rocker theme with the latest Black Canary series. Seriously. Dinah Lance has torn her trademark fishnet stockings to pass herself off as a rock chick, and is fronting a band called---wait for it---Black Canary. Seems one of the other band members has some mystical powers, and now Dinah has to protect the band from some demons. Uh-oh. The torn hose look is so 25 years ago, though. After thinking this over for 2 days after reading the first issue, well, I don't see this going very far. I give them less than a year before pulling the plug.

Rating: C-.

35 years ago, George Perez and Marv Wolfman reinvented the Teen Titans, introducing three new characters to join founding members Robin (Dick Grayson), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy), and Kid Flash (Wally West), plus ex-Doom Patrol member-turned-actor Garfield Logan, aka Beast Boy, or, when New Teen Titans started, Changeling. Today, two of those newbies now have their own books.

Cyborg was promoted, for lack of a better term, to the Justice League 4 years ago, and his solo series launches next month. Meantime, Princess Koriand'r of Tamaran, aka Starfire, has relocated to Key West, Florida for her new series, which debuted 10 days ago. The husband & wife team of Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Connor, who also chronicle Harley Quinn's two books (yes, she now has a 2nd title, she's so hot with readers), have been tasked with rebooting Starfire as a, well, fish out of water. Only now is she learning about life on earth, after being here for 35 years? Her costume's been remade in the image of her cartoon attire, covering up her cleavage, which should work pretty well in the Bible Belt states. I digress. What the Palmiottis are trying to do is use the vibe created by Mork & Mindy nearly 40 years ago, and ramp it up to the nth power, if at all possible.

I should note that, back in the day, Perez drew Kori with golden skin, which now has been recolored orange, to match her hair, and that, oh, by the way, isn't quite as long as it used to be. The jury's out on this one, so there's no rating for the time being.

The late Joe Simon returned to DC in 1972, and, with artist Jerry Grandinetti, created Prez, which suggested that it was possible that a teenager could become president. 43 years later, the concept has been revived as a political and social satire, but the titular chief executive this time is a girl. It's not that DC is foreseeing a certain carpetbagger becoming President next year (not gonna happen), but the new Prez, a 12-issue maxiseries, is set 21 years into the future. No age limits for voting, and you can vote via social media? Well, the latter seems more likely to actually happen down the road, but relaxing age restrictions? Not so much. I'm actually digging this, as there some legit laugh-out-loud moments in the opener. Think back to Howard Chaykin's similarly themed American Flagg! from the 80's, but without the sexual innuendos mixed into the satire, and, you've got Prez.

Rating: A-.

Back to Black Canary. Earlier this year, award winning writer-producer Paul Dini wrote a graphic novel for DC that paired Dinah with that other fishnet-clad heroine, Zatanna (a personal favorite of Dini's, since he's married to a magician, Misty Lee). Now, Bloodspell is available in trade paperback for almost $10 less than the hardcover original edition. Artist Joe Quinones, currently working on Howard the Duck for Marvel, made Dinah look about 10 years older than she should be. Our Gals pair up to take on the ghost of an evil magician who has a habit of possessing other people's bodies. Yeah, that's been done in the movies ("Fallen" comes to mind), and while Quinones is trying to capture the DC Animated style perfected by Bruce Timm nearly 25 years ago, he comes up a wee bit short, like he expects the male readers to be more interested in Dinah & Zatanna's legs than their faces. Meh, please. Dini delivers a fairly good story, so we'll let that lone quibble pass.

Rating: B+.

Taking another trip into the Convergence family of miniseries, we find out how even villains can have compassion. Brian Buccellato wrote Crime Syndicate, showcasing the evil dopplegangers of the JLA from Earth-3, who take stock with their own mortality when faced with extermination. Phil Winslade's art is always nice to look at, though it seems a little restrained this time. The Justice Legion Alpha from the 853rd century appear to represent other planets. For example, the Aquaman of this era is a green-skinned native of Neptune. Wonder Woman hails from Venus. Products of Grant Morrison's fevered imagination, of course. Decent stuff, but it drags.

Rating: B--.

For some male-centric humor, I wouldn't recommend either of the miniseries DC has introduced. Bat-Mite, written by Dan Jurgens, has the 5th dimensional imp exiled to Earth, where he'll encounter various heroes, including Batman & Hawkman in the first issue. Not on board with the storyline, not enough laughs. Bizarro is saddled with an artistic look that suggests that it's actually aiming for the Teen Titans Go! audience, and even they don't deserve that.

Bat-Mite gets a C--. Bizarro merits a D. Both are six issues. You might want to wait for the trade paperbacks. Seems DC wants to posit Bat-Mite as their answer to Howard the Duck, and it fails.

Forgotten TV: The Plot Thickens (1963)

A while back, we discussed NBC's short-lived 1979 murder-mystery game show, Whodunit?. As it turns out, this wasn't the first time a program of this nature had been attempted.

Sixteen years earlier, Harry Ackerman, head of comedy programming at Screen Gems, took an idea from filmmaker William Castle, and pitched a pilot for a mystery-game show hybrid, The Plot Thickens. Unfortunately, none of the networks were interested in what amounted to an attempt at getting comedy legend Groucho Marx back on television. Jack Linkletter, son of 50's icon Art Linkletter, was the moderator, aided by sexy Warrene Ott, whose "bailiff" attire consisted of a black leotard, with a cat's tail attached, and sheer hose with flat shoes. As you'll see, Groucho is flirting with Warrene, which was meant to be a running gag had Plot gone to series. Actress Jan Sterling is on the panel for this one.

Linkletter's last series was America Alive for NBC, several years later. Castle, remaining at Columbia, gave TV another try 9 years later with Ghost Story (previously reviewed), which would morph into Circle of Fear halfway through its lone season.

The Internet Archive brings The Plot Thickens, which otherwise was released on a You Bet Your Life DVD compilation.

Rating: A-.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Classic TV: My Favorite Martian (1963)

Who says Martians hate us?

In 1963, CBS and producer Jack Chertok decided to prove that we could have good relations with Mars. My Favorite Martian told the story of a Martian anthropologist (Ray Walston) stranded on Earth when his ship crashes. Reporter Tim O'Hara (Bill Bixby) finds the Martian and brings him home, passing him off as his uncle Martin, keeping the Martian's true identity a secret.

The series lasted for three seasons, the last filmed in color at MGM. A 2nd Martian, Andromeda (Wayne Stam) appeared in just one episode, but was brought back when Filmation obtained a license to adapt the series into animated form, 10 years after the original show's debut. Unfortunately, My Favorite Martians lasted just 1 season, with Jonathan Harris (ex-Lost in Space) subbing for Walston as the Martian.

Walston wouldn't land another hit series for nearly 30 years before being cast as a judge on Picket Fences, also for CBS. Bixby, of course, moved on to The Courtship of Eddie's Father, The Magician, and, finally, The Incredible Hulk, while also serving as a full-time panelist on Masquerade Party during its short-lived 70's revival.

Following is an excerpt from the opener:

To think that this was the show that kickstarted the fantasy-com boom of the mid-60's.

Rating: B.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What Might've Been: Judge Roy Bean (1955)

Though the lead character was, in fact, a real person, Judge Roy Bean, a one-year syndicated series, painted a cleaner picture of Bean than in real life.

Bean (Edgar Buchanan) was not only the Justice of the Peace in Langtry, Texas, but a shopkeeper (in real life a bartender), who operated his courtroom in his general store. Recast as a hero for the sake of a family-friendly audience, Bean solved crimes and used his wits to catch the crooks.

Nearly a decade later, Buchanan would resurface as Uncle Joe Carson on Petticoat Junction (1963-70), and did one more Western, co-starring with Glenn Ford in Cade's County (1971-2). Seeing him as Bean, you wouldn't know it was the same man who made viewers laugh during the 60's.

Internet Archive serves up "Deliver The Body". Producer Russell Hayden was a recurring regular on the show, and would replace Bean the next season with 26 Men. Funny thing. Peter Piech is credited as an executive producer. Piech is more famous in the same capacity working for Jay Ward (i.e. Rocky & His Friends) a few years later.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Musical Interlude: Heart of Gold (1971)

Before recording his 1972 album, "Harvest", Neil Young tested out "Heart of Gold" on an acoustic tour in 1971. The studio version featured backing vocals by James Taylor & Linda Ronstadt, but here, in this concert clip, it's all Neil, with just a guitar and harmonica. The reason he's seated is because of a back injury that left him unable to play his electric guitar for a while........

Awesome, isn't it?

The candidate nobody wants

Let's be realistic. There is no way that Donald Trump would be the Republican candidate for President next year.

Trump, who announced his candidacy on Tuesday, is clearly doing this for the sake of one thing. His ginormous ego. He's repeatedly ripped President Obama, casting his lot with the Birther movement that claims Obama wasn't born in the US, and, as memory serves, he similarly made a run during the 2012 campaign, only to bail after failing to win a single primary. That same fate awaits him next year, and you'd think he'd realize that by now.

The problem is, all Trump is doing is what he does best. Blow out more hot air than a parking lot full of balloons. I doubt very seriously that when primary season starts this winter, he'll still be in the race. He's just using this as an excuse to promote his NBC reality series, The Apprentice, which could wind up being put on hold if Trump carries through with his intentions this time. Equal time rules, you know.

There's only one person I could think of that would be the perfect running mate for Trump, and that would be WWE CEO/Chairman Vince McMahon. Neither one would be a realistic candidate, and, yes, Vince did sabotage his wife's Senate bid 5 years ago with some on-camera stupidity, which only exposes that he's just as ill-suited a candidate as Trump. Which makes them two-of-a-kind. Their campaign, if it were to go in this direction, would be sponsored by Planters, Almond Joy candy, Wonderful Pistachios, and, well, you get the idea.

Trump has already gotten himself in hot water with singer-songwriter Neil Young for using Young's 1989 rock anthem, "Rockin' in the Free World" without permission. However, Trump's campaign flacks claim that Trump did pay a licensing fee for the song. Translated: Trump thinks he can do no wrong when it comes to minor details.

If there was ever a time where a 3rd party candidate could finally win the White House, this is it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Wells Fargo ad that upset Franklin Graham (2015)

You've seen this ad, I'm sure:

Consider what has happened since this ad premiered. Second generation evangelist Franklin Graham, son of living legend Billy Graham, decided to withdraw the funds of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association due to the pro-LGBT theme of the above ad. Consider, too, the context of the ad. The two women are learning how to communicate with their adopted daughter, who is deaf. This is lost amidst all the furor.

Unsurprisingly, the American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Mississippi, has decided to follow Graham's lead. While our society is becoming more and more socially inclusive, it doesn't ring out in the Bible Belt states, such as Mississippi and North Carolina, where Graham is based. The AFA and the Graham Evangelical Association acknowledge it's ok to make friends with gays, but public advocacy is a different matter altogether.

Sports this 'n' that

The Toronto Blue Jays went into Citi Field in New York on Monday riding an 11-game winning streak. The Mets, who had baseball's other 11-game winning streak back in April, took care of that in dramatic fashion, beating the Jays in 11 innings, and giving rookie reliever Hansel Robles his 1st major league win, the 2nd rookie in as many days to do so, after Sean Gilmartin on Sunday.

Aside from scoring 2 runs in the top of the 11th off Robles, the Jays' offense consisted of two Jose Bautista homers, one each off starter Noah Syndergaard, and closer Jeurys Familia. Familia has blown two saves, but his mates have bailed him out both times.
For the 3rd time in six years, the Chicago Blackhawks hoisted the Stanley Cup on Monday, dispatching Tampa Bay to win the best of 7 series, 4-2. While the word "dynasty" will get tossed about with these 'Hawks, much like baseball's San Francisco Giants, this night was bittersweet for the 'Hawks and their fans.

You see, one of Chicago's greatest players, Stan Mikita, according to media reports, is dealing with dementia, and has lost his memories of his playing career. A wire service article making the rounds today suggests that this might be Lewy's Body Syndrome, the same disease that claimed radio & cartoon legend Casey Kasem a year ago this month. Understandably, Mikita wasn't in attendance for the finale, but as fans learned of his ordeal, the joy of their Blackhawks winning another Cup was tempered with sadness. Today's generation might remember Mikita only from a cameo appearance in "Wayne's World" back in 1992, having never seen him play. I barely remember seeing him on TV myself.
The winter sports season will end either tonight or Thursday, depending on how the remainder of the NBA Finals play out between Golden State and Cleveland, two teams whose fan bases have waited years for a title.

It's been 40 years since the Warriors, who moved west from Philadelphia, Wilt Chamberlain and all, many moons ago, were NBA champs. We all know the story in Cleveland. 51 years since any Cleveland sports team won a title. The closest they've come was when the Indians were beaten by the then-Florida Marlins in the 1997 World Series. LeBron James came home to bring a title to Cleveland, but has practically been forced to be a 1-man team due to injuries to teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Golden State, whose 1st year coach, Steve Kerr, knows something about winning championships from his days in Chicago with some guy named Jordan, leads 3-2 going into tonight's game in Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, which has hosted the WWE the last two nights. I will not be surprised if they go to a game 7 in Oakland on Thursday.
More Mets: The team finally cut bait on pitcher Dillon Gee on Monday, designating him for assignment after diminishing returns, due largely to injuries over the last three seasons, counting this one. Gee had been the subject of trade rumors the last several months, but there were no takers. The Mets have 10 days to release Gee (likely), trade him, or put him through waivers before sending him to their AAA team in Las Vegas (doubtful). Reliever Akeel Morris was called up Monday, all the way from their A team in Port St. Lucie. Anything, it seems, to avoid calling up another young gun in AAA in Steven Matz until such time where arbitration/free agent issues will not be a factor (see also Kris Bryant and other rookies).

The funny thing was, throughout Gee's tenure in New York, no one with any of the papers even thought about nicknaming him "Marshal", in reference to Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke, perhaps afraid some of today's readers might not get the reference, despite Gunsmoke being readily available on cable. Where's the fun in reading the papers these days?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Videos of Summer: Give to Live (1987)

After joining Van Halen, Sammy Hagar released a solo CD in 1987, which produced the single, "Give to Live". Hagar had been regarded as the total antithesis of David Lee Roth. While Roth was a ham on stage, given to camp comedy, Hagar, a veteran of nearly 20 years at this point, was far more serious.

Original MTV VJ Mark Goodman, nearing the end of his run with the channel at the time, makes a cameo to introduce the song as a young couple is watching the channel.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

On The Air: E:60 (2007)

E:60 is a periodic series of documentaries airing on ESPN. Six years after profiling Vince McMahon, and showing the world what fans already knew, that McMahon, now pushing 70, is nuttier than a case of walnuts, Jeremy Schaap visits the Performance Center in Orlando for a look at NXT.

As we've documented in the past, Michael Cole worked in the home district under the name Sean Coulthard for a local radio station as a newsreader in the late 80's. The earlier episode with McMahon was also part of the E:60 series, as was a profile piece on Scott Hall that followed a few years later. ESPN uses E:60 to cover a wide range of sports topics, not just wrestling.

Behind the Curtain comes across as WWE's----and ESPN's, for that matter----answer to Barry Blaustein's controversial film, "Beyond The Mat", which spotlighted Terry Funk, Mick Foley, and Jake "The Snake" Roberts, back in 1999. The big difference is in the production values. A second generation reporter, Schaap knows to keep the spotlight on the subject matter throughout.

Behind the Curtain merits an A+. E:60's grade is incomplete, pending future reviews.

Classic TV: Real People (1979)

Now, this is what you call reality television.

George Schlatter, the brains behind Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, delivered one more classic series for NBC with Real People, which launched in 1979, when NBC was struggling to find a primetime hit not named Little House on the Prairie.

People initially aired on Wednesdays, as did Little House before it. Veteran comic Fred Willard came over from the syndicated Fernwood/America 2Night to help anchor a lineup of co-hosts that included fellow comics Bill Rafferty, Skip Stephenson, and political satirist Mark Russell, who seemed to be happy to be on a network other than PBS. Sarah Purcell (ex-The Better Sex) rounded out the group, which would later include Byron Allen and child actor Peter Billingsley.

The focus was, obviously, on ordinary folks like you and me, in small towns you probably had never heard of or can't find on a map. Schlatter, with urging from the network, added two more series to the franchise. Unfortunately, Real Kids, with Billingsley, seemed out of place in primetime and belonged as an accessory to NBC's developing Saturday morning block. Speak Up America, anchored by Marjoe Gortner, was slightly more successful, but not by much. In all, Real People lasted 5 seasons,  moving to Sundays at the end of the run, which might not have been the smartest of moves.

Post-People, Rafferty took over a revived Mark Goodson-Bill Todman series, Card Sharks, but was later cashiered out in favor of game show icon Bob Eubanks. Byron Allen, you probably know, has become a producer through his Entertainmentstudios.com, but venturing outside of infomercials hasn't borne a lot of fruit of late.

Here's a sample clip:

Rating: A.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Musical Interlude: The Three Bells (1959)

In memory of Jim Ed Brown, who passed away Thursday at 81, we present perhaps his biggest hit, as a member of the country-folk family combo, the Browns.

"The Three Bells" was released in 1959. The following clip is from a 1965 Grand Ole Opry broadcast.

In later years, Brown would be teamed with Helen Cornelius, and landed a few more hits on the country charts.

Retro Reading: What If? (1976)

If you're relatively new to comics, you might not know that some of the ideas pouring out of Marvel these days had their roots in a whimsical, alternate-reality anthology series the company introduced nearly 40 years ago.

The first series of What If? featured Uatu, the Watcher, as host, introducing tales of how certain events in Marvel history might change due to a minor twist of fate. For example, Jason Aaron's reimagining of Thor, particularly Jane Foster, might not have surprised as many folks as you think, as I noted before in discussing the big reveal of Foster-as-Thor. Aaron did his homework, having read the original concept in the archives. In the What If? version, it is Foster, and not Donald Blake, who finds the walking staff that houses Mjolnir, and turns into what she calls Thordis. Unlike Aaron's version, which has Foster suffering from cancer, Jane is perfectly healthy in the original story, published in 1977 or so.

A couple of issues prior, writer Don Glut imagined three possible alternate futures involving Spider-Man, all of which factored into the initial Spider-Verse event published last year. Flash Thompson, who'd later house Venom in more recent times, simply shoved Peter Parker out of harm's way, letting his ego (since he was surrounded by two girls) get in the way of fate. Daily Bugle secretary Betty Brant, whom Peter was pining for in early issues of Amazing Spider-Man, was Marvel's original Spider-Girl, but, faced with the murder of Peter's Uncle Ben, gives up the webs, and walks into the sunset happily ever after with Peter. Of course, some 20 years after this story, writer Tom DeFalco revived the concept in an alternate future involving Peter's daughter.

Finally, John Jameson, otherwise Man-Wolf in regular Marvel books of the period, swapped his NASA gear for the webs, much to the chagrin of father Jonah, whose outlook changes in this continuity for obvious reasons.

What If? also allowed for some lighter, goofier ideas, such as the Marvel staff of the 60's (i.e. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby) being granted the powers of the Fantastic Four in one of Kirby's last works for Marvel, a little self-iindulgence, if you will. Speaking of goofy, writer Jeph Loeb wouldn't have gotten the inspiration to expand the Hulk universe if he hadn't read an earlier tale of how Rick Jones became the green goliath instead of Bruce Banner. Rick, now A-Bomb, was Marvel's answer to Snapper Carr (Justice League of America), but with a dash of Kookie (Edd Byrnes, 77 Sunset Strip) thrown in. All Loeb's done in recent years in downgrade Jones' intellect to that of an imbecile. No wonder Hulk & the Agents of SMASH is despised by fans.

I've read a few issues over the years, and What If? ran out of steam in the late 80's, only to be revived a decade or so later in a shorter run. Some stories were good, others not so much. Anthologies are like that.

Rating: B.

Speaking of Jeph Loeb, he and artist Tim Sale collaborated on a number of projects for DC & Marvel before Loeb went Hollywood. He cited Norman Rockwell as inspiration for the DC miniseries, Superman For All Seasons. Sale's Superman looks a little bigger than he has any right to be, taking liberties with the phrase, "larger than life". Each chapter is told from a different perspective, be it Jonathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, or Lana Lang. Unfortunately, after getting the trade paperback on a lark last week, I came away remembering why I didn't get it the first time (1998). Sale's Superman does not register with me. Period.

Rating: C-.

More Convergence: Speaking of larks, I went out and snagged two more miniseries tie-ins to Convergence the last couple of days. I finally found a clunker among them.

I begin to see why people are down on Marc Andreyko as a writer, particularly his handling of Batman & the Outsiders. His story posits Rex Mason, aka Metamorpho, as human once more under the dome that was created in the Convergence series, and shacking up with his girlfriend, Sapphire Stagg, only to revert to the Element Man once the dome breaks and he gets his powers back. I didn't like the artwork overmuch, but Andreyko's script felt like the former Marvel scribe borrowed from an old Fantastic Four script, and expected us not to notice. More fool he.

Rating: D.

Meanwhile, Shazam! was a pleasant trip back to the days when comics were really fun, though we could do without the Gotham by Gaslight-era Batman and some of his rogues. Can we hope, now that everything is supposedly back to normal, that we get a new Shazam! with Billy Batson as Capt. Marvel, offsetting one of Geoff Johns' stupider ideas?

Rating: A-.

Another Secret Wars tie-in from Marvel offers a different take on The Inhumans. In Attilan Rising, writer Charles Soule actually did something different with Black Bolt. He allows Bolt to talk without risk of galactic disaster! Maybe he's on to something here, although I'm not so down on the redesigns of familiar faces like Karnak (who apparently is now blind), who was one of my favorites back in the day. Hmmmm. Possibilities.

Rating: A-.

Archie Comics has delayed the relaunch of Archie to next month, with the final issue of the current series now available, and written by ex-Marvel writer/editor Tom DeFalco, who encapsulates years of Archie history in one tidy package---and ignoring what's been going on with Betty & Veronica over in their book by including them in the story, which is rather appropriate, really. Now, Archie has to find something for DeFalco to do on a regular basis. Meanwhile, a 4th Dark Circle book is on the docket, featuring The Hangman. All we can see now is a house ad, promising the series is "coming soon". Probably October. Creative Director Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is pushing the revival of Madam Satan awfully hard. In addition to being the villain in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, she also appears in The Fox's current issue, and the 3rd issues of both books came out within a week of each other. Don't be surprised to see a Madam Satan book, either from the Archie Horror line or Dark Circle, within a year's time, depending on fan reaction. If so, I'd expect Mark Waid to write it, but he's already got a heavy workload......

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't include a hardcover trade volume I acquired recently.

While The Three Stooges were routinely presented as being ill-educated but resourceful, Moe Howard was also a smart and intuitive businessman. After seeing some sketches by his son-in-law, writer-artist Norman Maurer, Howard decided to let the Stooge franchise branch out into comic books. St. John Publishing obtained the initial license in 1949, then got it back in 1953, with Maurer and his business partner, comics icon Joe Kubert, at the controls of a Three Stooges comic. The St. John series featured Shemp, but when Dell gained the license a few years later, when the Maurer-produced movies with Joe DeRita were being made, DeRita made his comics debut.

Papercutz obtained a license to reprint both series, and issued a hardcover volume in 2012, in addition to a brand new series, tied in, of course, with the feature film that starred Will Sasso and Sean Hayes. I obtained it from a mail order discount house, and I'm glad I did. Maurer's run included the introduction of a regular nemesis for the boys in bumbling swinder Benedict Bogus, whose scams always backfired when dealing with the Stooges.

Maurer, meanwhile, would also produce the 60's animated series through his Normandy III production company, then took the Stooge license with him to Hanna-Barbera in 1977 to create The Robonic Stooges, repositing Moe, Larry, & Curly as a trio of bionic bumblers, crossing The Six Million Dollar Man with Get Smart.

The Three Stooges hardcover gets an A.

Friday, June 12, 2015

(Slightly) Forgotten TV: Motor Madness (1997)

Before changing its name to Spike TV in 2003, The Nashville Network (TNN) made every effort to diversify its programming, replacing Nashville Now (which was later replaced with Music City Tonight) on Fridays with Motor Madness, devoting the entire Friday primetime block to motorsports, mostly monster trucks.

Today, such a program could be found on the CBS Sports Network, if CBS chose to try it. Maybe ESPN would take a shot.

The series launched in 1997, but didn't really pick up steam----or additional viewers----until the 2nd season, when wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes joined the show as a commentator. At one point, Butterscotch Jackson, a comic relief character also added to the show, was presented with an nWo t-shirt. At the time, Rhodes had joined the rebel faction in WCW, but that didn't last very long. Jackson must've been a wrestling fan. Wrestling-style skits were added to the mix, which actually was counter-productive. Eventually, TNN cancelled the series, and would move into the wrestling business themselves in August 1999 by signing a deal with ECW.

In memory of Rhodes, who passed away yesterday, we present an episode of Motor Madness from 1998.

Rating: C.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A parade of passings

News has just come over the wires of the passing of wrestling icon Dusty Rhodes at the age of 69.

Rhodes (Virgil Runnels) was a 3-time NWA World champion, and won a number of other championships during the 70's and 80's. His time in WWE, however, was marked by a goofy gimmick that had him wearing a polka dot jersey and tights, which, when you think about it, was Vince McMahon's way of dissing Dusty, whose greatest fame came with the NWA. 2 of his sons, Dustin (Goldust) and Cody (Stardust), are currently with WWE. Expect some kind of tribute come Monday, since it would be a miracle for them to run a graphic prior to tonight's pre-recorded Smackdown.

Following is a promo Dusty cut on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling 30 years ago.....

And, from 1988, a commercial for Mello Yello soda.

Meanwhile, Hollywood and the world are mourning two gifted actors who have left us in recent days.

Ron Moody starred in the musical, "Oliver!", opposite Jack Wild, and turned down the lead role in Doctor Who, if you can believe it. He would land a short-lived sitcom for ABC, however, a number of years later, long forgotten to the point where it isn't available on YouTube.

Sir Christopher Lee may well be one of the last of the classic horror icons. Together with Peter Cushing, Lee put Hammer Films on the map with their adaptations of "Dracula", "Frankenstein", and "The Mummy". Lee would also co-star opposite Roger Moore in the James Bond adventure, "The Man With the Golden Gun", and acted in the "Star Wars" movies. Lee passed away Sunday at 93. Moody was 91.

We would be remiss if we didn't include a belated round of condolences for character actor Dick Bakalyan, who passed back in February. Bakalyan never top-lined his own show, but instead was a good hand in a number of films, including Disney's Medfield College series with Kurt Russell, which reunited Bakalyan with Cesar Romero, with whom he appeared in at least one episode of Batman in season 3. In fact, Bakalyan also stooged for other villains that same season, including the Penguin (Burgess Meredith).

Finally, courtesy of correspondent Uncle Sam Wilson, we've learned that jazz legend Ornette Coleman has passed away. More details later.

Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Musical Interlude: Roses & Rainbows (1965)

Four years before he became famous as a member of Three Dog Night, Danny Hutton tried his hand as a solo act. The single, "Roses & Rainbows", got him on national and regional music shows, but you'd be hard pressed to remember if "Roses" actually cracked the Hot 100.

The funny part about "Roses" is that Hutton was signed to a record label associated with Hanna-Barbera, which might explain the bubblegum pop sound exhibited in the following clip, from the LA-based series, Shivaree:

I discovered "Roses" when I acquired a triple-CD box set of Three Dog Night hits. There's also some early Cory Wells in that same box set, and we'll locate a video if we can another time.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Forgotten TV: When Havoc Struck (1978)

The mid-70s brought some documentary series devoted to disasters of various kinds and degrees.

Mobil Oil had mounted a series of shows under the Mobil Showcase umbrella, and among these shows was When Havoc Struck. I cannot recall the frequency of these programs, as there isn't an entry to be found on Wikipedia, for example.

What we do know is that actor Glenn Ford, whose two previous series, Cade's County (1971) and The Family Holvak (1973-4), each were cancelled after 1 season, served as host and narrator. Right now, let's go back to 1978 as Ford tells the story of Hurricane Camille.

Rating: B.

Videos of Summer: If This Is It (1984)

Huey Lewis & the News are buried up to their necks in sand in this beach beat-box neo-classic, "If This Is It", off their 1984 CD, "Sports". Ah, back when MTV actually cared about music, and videos were often fun, escapist entertainment......

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Videos of Summer: Ghost on the Beach (1987)

The Insiders came out of nowhere---well, actually, Chicago----in 1987 with a 1-hit wonder, "Ghost on the Beach". One wonders why this wasn't used for a horror movie, or a remake of "Ghost in the Invisible Bikini":

The roller derby dream match that needs to happen

In upstate New York, we have two women's roller derby teams, whose seasons run concurrently, but, for some odd reason, the teams never meet. Both employ a grassroots ad campaign, with old school fliers and posters to promote each home game. However, what would benefit both teams is if, at the crossroads between their seasons, they could meet for bragging rights.

The Hellions of Troy, who actually play their home matches in Rotterdam due to financial reasons, will finish play this month. The Albany All-Stars just wrapped up the home portion of their season, and, for the first time, they actually belong to a national organization, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), so the chances are there for post-season play, but not this year. As track announcer Moe Cheesmo acknowledged during the All-Stars' home finale on Saturday, a 169-117 verdict over Mass Attack Roller Derby out of Massachusetts, the All-Stars had a rough road schedule, which subtly informed the fans in attendance that they wouldn't make the playoffs.

As we've documented in the past, there've been introductory feature pieces on both teams when they started play. The All-Stars, in fact, will mark their 10th anniversary next year, and will continue with fund-raising and recruitment drives during the off-season. Since the initial press coverage, the local papers have opted to ignore roller derby altogether, when there is the potential for a border war rivalry between the Hellions and All-Stars that, while not on the level of UAlbany vs. Siena in basketball or Yankees-Red Sox in baseball (not even close), might get more people through the turnstiles.

The trick, though, is convincing the right people in the hometown to bring the Hellions home, so that the matches can alternate between Troy & Albany. The All-Stars play at the legendary Washington Avenue Armory, whose sound system struck again Saturday, swallowing up nearly a whole concert by local cover band Hot Cousin. The Hellions were priced out of Frear Park and the Knickerbocker Ice Arena (Lansingburgh), forcing them to move to Rotterdam's Rollerama. RPI Field House? Fuhgeddaboutit! The Hellions right now might not be able to afford using any college facility, although converting the rink at the Field House or the Conway Rink at Hudson Valley Community College for roller derby might not be as hard as you'd think.

With the Tri-City Valleycats' home opener little more than 2 weeks away as I write, the time to make the move is now, when there isn't anything else of interest to local fans. What would either team have to lose?

Monday, June 8, 2015

On The Air: Baggage (2010)

Best described as a bizarre love child of Love Connection, The Dating Game, and generic tabloid television, Baggage bowed on GSN in 2010, and gave rise to a spin-off, Baggage on the Road, earlier this year.

The tabloid reference is appropriate, considering that talk show host Jerry Springer is the series host of Baggage, one of two yakkers hired by GSN to helm game shows (Wendy Williams is the other, hosting Love Triangle). The format recalls Dating Game as it posits a contestant opposite three potential dates of the opposite gender, though there was one gay-themed episode, as I understand it.

I'd imagine that if this was what Chuck Barris had actually envisioned for Dating Game, well, maybe it would've been ahead of its time, don'tcha think?

Let's scope a sample clip:

Baggage was hot enough to move into syndicated reruns, a first for GSN, two years into the run.

Rating: C.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Creepy TV: Manimal (1983)

Glen A. Larson's 1st sale to NBC since moving his production company to 20th Century Fox was perhaps his worst.

Manimal told the story of Dr. Jonathan Chase, who possessed the ability to transform into any animal he wished, although most of the time he seemed to limit himself to panthers and birds. To be frank, Manimal lost viewers on Fridays, airing as it did in back of another Larson entry, Knight Rider (his last for Universal at NBC), and ended up cancelled after a little more than 2 months on the air.

Simon MacCorkindale toplined as Chase, a pleasant enough fellow without his powers. Viewers felt shape changers belonged on weekends, though technically that was the case since it was airing on Fridays. William Conrad, who had occupied the Friday 9 pm (ET) slot himself for a time with Nero Wolfe, narrates the cursory origin video that makes up half of the intro:

Chase's drawback was the same as that of Maya (Catherine Schell) on Space: 1999 a few years earlier. In his animal form, he can't talk. Had this been a cartoon, it might've been more successful.

Rating: C.

Musical Interlude: Crawling From The Wreckage (1979)

Howzabout a little British rockabilly to start the day, no?

Dave Edmunds & Nick Lowe were the brains behind Rockpile, which was in various configurations during the late 70's and 80's, whilst both Edmunds & Lowe were also recording solo records for separate labels.

"Crawling From The Wreckage" was released in 1979, but ye scribe didn't discover it until way later on one of those classic rock stations. Unfortunately, the following video, it seems, was off MTV's playlist by the time the channel made its upstate debut in the winter of '82.

Still awesome after all these years.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

What Might've Been: Stagecoach West (1960)

Westerns were big as the 60's began. Perhaps, a little too big.

There were so many series of the genre on the air that inevitably there would be shows that deserved to continue for another season, but couldn't because of the glut that the networks themselves caused and couldn't stop.

One such example is Four Star's Stagecoach West, which was the studio's, and ABC's, for that matter, answer to Wagon Train, which at the time aired on NBC (and would later move to ABC). It was an hour in length, as opposed to most others being a half-hour. Stagecoach is likened to Wagon Train because of its' quasi-anthology format. That is to say, there were regular characters, but the episodes would showcase incidentals on a week-to week basis. 38 episodes were produced, which, by today's standards, would suggest Stagecoach would've been renewed, then cancelled halfway through its second season.

Both leads went on to bigger and better things. Robert Bray, for example, would resurface on Lassie, and spend 5 seasons there, while Wayne Rogers landed the plum role of his career as "Trapper" John McIntyre on M*A*S*H from 1972-5 before making the ill-advised decision to leave and return to drama. His 1st post-M*A*S*H entry, City of Angels, ended up just like Stagecoach West, cancelled after 1 season, because by then, the glut consisted of crime dramas instead of Westerns.

Following is the intro:

No rating.

Dunce Cap Award: Westboro Baptist Church

The cult that calls itself a church, Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, that is, should quit while they're behind.

Ever since the passing of founding father Fred Phelps, the Westboro flock has continued its unholy mission of haterizing, but, as we've documented before, their current frontman, Steve "Down the" Drain, reportedly was confused by a banner expressing sympathy to Phelps' family a while back when they protested at a Lorde concert.

Last month, though, the Westboro Wolfpack----because all they really do now is cry wolf more than anything else----demonstrated total ignorance after author J. K. Rowling proposed a same sex marriage of two fictional characters, her own Dumbledore, from the Harry Potter books, and Gandalf, from J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, to celebrate Ireland accepting same-sex marriage. Of course, the haterizers said they'd protest, not bothering to read between the lines.

And, then, to prove they won't stop crying wolf, they announced intentions to protest at the funeral of Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, scheduled for today. The following comes from USA Today's website:
WILMINGTON, Del. — A Kansas church, known for its strident opposition to homosexuality and picketing of soldiers' funerals, has promised to protest the funeral of Beau Biden on Saturday. The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., will picket outside Wilmington's St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., according to its website. Biden's funeral Mass starts at 10:30 a.m. at St. Anthony.

"As for Beau Biden, his life was cut short by the will of God to whom all glory is given and he has an eternity of answering to the Lord for his own words, thoughts, actions and sins," the protest announcement said.

Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer last Saturday at age 46, served in Iraq for a year in 2008 and 2009 as a lawyer for the Delaware Army National Guard. Wilmington officials said about noon Friday that the Westboro group has not sought the permit required to hold a demonstration. 

The protest announcement also had harsh words for Biden's father, Vice President Biden.

"Lord willing, WBC will zealously warn Joe Biden and the others at that time/place that God has clear standards, that He requires obedience, and that He curses those who refuse to obey, especially those who interfere with His people in their worship of and service to Him," according to the website. "Our faithful warning: Repent or likewise perish!"

Westboro's website calls "the modern militant homosexual movement to pose a clear and present danger to the survival of America, exposing our nation to the wrath of God'' and boasts of holding more than 55,000 demonstrations since 1991. More than 400 protests were at "military funerals of troops whom God has killed in Iraq/Afghanistan in righteous judgment against an evil nation,'' the website says.

Westboro is known for its harsh anti-gay beliefs and the crude signs its members carry at their frequent protests, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate groups and advocates for civil rights. The center describes Westboro as "a family-based cult" led by Pastor Fred Waldron Phelps, nine of his 13 children, their children and spouses and a small number of other families and individuals. Phelps died in March 2014.

"They believe that God chooses some to be saved, and those lucky few cannot resist God's call; but God chooses not to save most, and these unfortunate souls will burn in hell forever," the center claims. Church members also are known for getting demonstration permits and not showing up, as they did with the funerals of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Connecticut. Should church members show up Saturday at a funeral where President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy and national and foreign leaders are expected to attend, it would be their third such protest in Delaware. The group also demonstrates at events that are not funerals.

Seven members of the unaffiliated Baptist church held colorful signs proclaiming "America is Doomed" and "Fags are Beasts" during the state's first same-sex marriage ceremonies in 2013. The group also protested during the 2010 funeral of Jean Finnegan Biden, Joe Biden's mother.

John Fluharty, the executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, said the ultra-conservative church and its beliefs do not represent the GOP nationally or locally. Fluharty is openly gay. "I think it's horrifying," said Fluharty, who was a frequent critic of the Democratic attorney general during his two terms in office. Fluharty said he hopes mourners ignore the protest should it occur.

"Beau Biden served his country with honor and distinction and for anybody to question that or use it to serve their personal agenda in a negative fashion is absolutely despicable. They are entitled to their freedom of speech, I'm also entitled to be disgusted." Marianne Gillen, a Wilmington retiree, said she hopes people would form a human wall to shield the Bidens and other mourners from what she predicted would be a disgraceful spectacle. "I'm heartbroken at the grief that the family is going through," said Gillen. "I'm appalled that anybody could even consider doing that for the funeral of Beau Biden or anyone else. There's a lack of respect. A family is deep in grief."

Westboro Baptist Church was most recently in the national news as part of a public social media tangle with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling last month. The Twitter fiasco played out after Rowling posted a celebratory tweet after Ireland legalized same-sex marriage. In saying she would support a wedding between Dumbledore, the Harry Potter character she said was gay, and Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, Westboro tweeted that they would picket the wedding.
There is dumb, and, then, there is DUMB!

As noted, the Westboro Idiot Squad has targeted the Biden family once before to push their hateful agenda, which ignores much of the New Testament. For blindly continuing to extend their 15 minutes of infamy, we're sending a box of Dunce Caps to Westboro. If the Phelps family cult, Drain, and the rest of these insensitive idiots don't get the meaning, well..........

Friday, June 5, 2015

Shillin' With the Lone Ranger: Jeno's Pizza Rolls (1960's)

The late humorist Stan Freberg directed this wacky clip for Jeno's Pizza Rolls, featuring the Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore) and Tonto (Jay Silverheels), which in turn was a parody of a similar ad campaign the William Morris agency was doing for Lark cigarettes. The music is to the beat of---what else?---the William Tell Overture, the Ranger's theme song.

Today, Jeno's is part of the Totino's division of General Mills, but they don't get the same kind of advertising exposure as they once did.

On the Shelf: First issue fever strikes!

Yes, this week starts DC's newly revamped universe. If you read Convergence, which wrapped last week, you have an idea that DC was trying to correct some mistakes made in the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths era, and make things fun again. What will really make things fun for ye scribe would involve a certain pair of siblings who bear some resemblance to a couple of Mormons, and......!

However, we have a lot on the plate that has nothing to do with DC, as I have just 1 DC first issue to review for right now, and we'll get to that later.

Marvel's Joe Quesada made one of the most controversial decisions in the company's history by deciding to end the marriage of Peter Parker (Spider-Man, of course) and Mary Jane Watson. As part of Secret Wars, Marvel is looking to correct that mistake, which, thankfully, doesn't affect the newspaper strip. Dan Slott revisits this particular era with Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, which puts Peter & Mary Jane back together, and posits that their infant daughter, named Anne instead of May, was never taken from them after all. Peter decides to retire, then gets an offer from the Avengers to move into the mansion for maximum protection. Unfortunately, all heck breaks loose, courtesy of some nut job who now calls himself Regent. Oh, yeah, the original Venom (Eddie Brock) factors into this, too. Worth the investment.

Rating: A.

On the heels of the recent Justice Inc. miniseries, Dynamite has entrusted one of the busiest and most knowledgeable men in the business, Mark Waid, to script a monthly series starring Richard Henry Benson, aka The Avenger. Alex Ross paid homage to DC's 1st treatment of the character from 40 years ago by replicating Joe Kubert's original cover, but another busy guy, Francesco Francavilla (Afterlife With Archie), is also doing a variant cover. Anyway, we're reintroduced to Benson's team, last seen in that 1975 DC series, and it feels like home again. Whereas in the earlier series, it was one-and-done in each issue, Waid has crafted a nice story arc to kick things off. Where does he find the time to sleep?

Rating: A.

I've never really warmed up to Rob Liefeld as a writer, not much more as an artist. He peaked 25 years ago when, while doing X-Force for Marvel, he landed a deal with, I think, Levi's, and was interviewed by an off-camera Spike Lee (who also directed). Since then, his ideas have oft been hit or miss, mostly miss, as evidenced by his recent struggles at DC. Back with Image, Liefeld is trying something different. Retelling a classic Bible story from a different point of view.

The Covenant, as in the Ark of the Covenant from the Old Testament, is set in those ancient times, and focuses not so much on the Israelites, but rather, the Philistines and their false god, Dagon. It's one of two new books with religious themes from Image, and easily the better of the two. What Liefeld aspires to do is put more depth into the story that we've read many times since we were kids, but, as noted, from the enemy's view just as much as the Hebrew POV. With conservative nanny groups whining about Fox's pending adaptation of Vertigo's Lucifer, let's see if they raise a stink over The Covenant, too. Or don't the nannies read comic books at all?

Rating: A-.

Nearly 35 years ago, the Omega Men debuted in the pages of Action Comics (1st series) and Green Lantern (2nd series) before being granted their own series. Writer Roger Slifer came over from Marvel, paired with artist Keith Giffen, before Giffen morphed his art style into what it is today. It's been about 30-odd years since the first series ended, and, as we welcome back Primus, Tigoor, Broot, and the rest, they're reposited as outlaws, after supposedly killing Green-turned-White Lantern Kyle Rayner. The artwork looks like it was painted, and looks great. It'll be interesting to see how the Omegas will be seen by the rest of the DCU going forward. You'd have to read Future's End, I think, to understand where this started.

Rating: B.

I tried out a pair of Convergence tie-in miniseries, just for kicks. Glad I did.

Hawkman benefits from revisiting the post-Crisis series of the late 80's, and this was recommended after reading Tony Isabella's Bloggy Thing. Isabella, you see, wrote the late 80's Hawkman series, aided by artist Richard Howell. Given Isabella's issues with DC, it's a question of whether or not that series will be collected, if it hasn't already, in trade paperback. Tim Truman & Enrique Alcatena, who teamed on Hawkworld, do right by the Hawks again, as if there was any doubt.

Rating: A.

Suicide Squad should've been given to writer John Ostrander, who'd helmed the series back in the 80's, and made even Captain Boomerang likeable, albeit as comedy relief. Those of you craving for the plus-size Amanda Waller of the period will be happy. Tom Mandrake, clearly influenced by the late Gene Colan, puts more of a Colanian spin to his artwork here, and, again, it's like coming home.

Rating: A.

You didn't need to read the core miniseries to get into the tie-ins. I have an eye toward getting some more soon.

Hard to believe this last item slipped under the radar (mine, that is) when it first came out, but then, I wasn't that heavy into a comeback just yet at the time. IDW teamed with a smaller independent label to adapt the original 1980's Knight Rider to comics, putting some meat to Michael Long/Knight's backstory, and explaining how KITT got his name. Licensing issues prevented the artists from using the likenesses of David Hasselhoff, Edward Mulhare, et al, and new characters were introduced, suggesting that maybe there were ties to the more recent failed revival, too. Hmmm. Requires more research, perhaps. IDW released the complete 8 issue series in trade paperback, and it's a dandy. The pace is dizzying, but if you know your Knight history from the 80's, you should be fine.

Rating: B+.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Forgotten TV: The Outcasts (1968)

Screen Gems premiered a pair of hour long dramas in 1968 that were as different as night and day.

Here Come The Brides, more of a comedy-drama than a straight drama, lasted 2 seasons. The Outcasts, a Western, lasted just one. 

In a way, The Outcasts, about a former slave and a former slave owner who became a team of bounty hunters in the post-Civil War West, was a Western spin on the film, "The Defiant Ones", only instead of Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, you had Don Murray and Otis Young, and they weren't chained together and forced to co-exist. They were, really, reluctant partners.

Curiously, when TV Land had their weekend Western block in the 90's, I didn't recall them acquiring this show, but they ran almost every other Western they could get their hands on. Maybe Sony wasn't willing to share....!

Anyway, here's the episode, "My Name is Jemal":

Murray waited another decade or so before landing another prominent series gig (Knots Landing). Young was never heard from again.

No rating.

Weasel of the Week: Jennifer Bradford

There's always a buzzkiller somewhere.

In the case of Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner, there is someone named Jennifer Bradford, who launched a petition on change.org on Monday, the same day that the latest issue of Vanity Fair, with Jenner on the cover, hit newsstands. Armed with a sense of history and little else in the way of common sense, Ms. Bradford is petitioning the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to revoke the gold medal awarded to the then-Bruce Jenner in Montreal in 1976 for winning the Decathalon.

The IOC's response? Sorry, it ain't happening.

Ms. Bradford's grandstand play has managed 10,000 signatures in less than a week, and the goal is now at 15,000 signatures. She doesn't get it. The IOC is not going to ask Jenner to return a medal won honestly 39 years ago, just because of a change in gender that came way after the fact. Things don't happen like that very often.

Meanwhile, in Hollywood, rapper Snoop Dogg posted on Instagram referring to Jenner as a science project. While that might've been meant as a joke, there will be people who will respond negatively and dismiss Mr. Dogg as being insensitive at worst. Right about now, you'd think he'd say something to the effect of, "now wait just one minizzle", like he said to Lee Iacocca of Chrysler in a commercial some years back.

So why is Ms. Bradford getting the Weasel ears and not Snoop? Because of a fool's folly that has attracted thousands of suckers, that's why.

And, lest we forget, ESPN, sister network to ABC, which broadcast the now-infamous interview conducted by Diane Sawyer with Jenner a few weeks back, has decided to award Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this summer's ESPY Awards ceremony, and that's got some people bent out of shape, feeling the award is meant for someone more deserving than Jenner, whose transition from male to female has taken nearly a year to complete, with the requisite tabloid speculation along the way.

And that will have the cynics saying this is all a publicity stunt, typical of the Jenner/Kardashian clan. Maybe ESPN's afraid a certain jackass with the initials K. W. might show up and crash the party if they did give the Ashe award to someone else. Of course, I could be wrong.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Classic TV: Cannon (1971)

Quinn Martin, after dealing exclusively with ABC for a decade, turned to CBS for his next project, Cannon, which lasted 5 years (1971-6). The series also reunited Martin with star William Conrad, who'd previously narrated The Fugitive. In Conrad's case, after forging a career in radio (Gunsmoke, in particular) and in Westerns, this was his first starring role on TV, and the first of three such gigs.

Frank Cannon was a former police detective who left the force after the deaths of his wife & son, a case that was left unsolved until the final season. Cannon then became a private detective, and, in standard fare of the period, often took a few lumps before finally closing the case.

Four years after Cannon ended, CBS commissioned a TV-movie, "The Return of Frank Cannon", which brought closure to the series. In between, Conrad went back in the announcer's booth and narrated another QM entry, Tales of the Unexpected, for NBC, and did the season 1 voice-over for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, also for NBC.

Here's the intro:

Rating: B.

Sounds of Praise: Forgive Me (2007)

Group 1 Crew uses the words of the "Shepherd's Psalm", Psalm 23, that is, to kickstart "Forgive Me", off their self-titled 2007 full length CD debut. Spanish subtitles can't be helped.

These days, Group 1 Crew is a duo, as 2 of the original 3 have since left.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

From athletic champion to transgender champion

Once upon a time, Bruce Jenner was an Olympic gold medalist in the decathalon. In fact, the 40th anniversary of that accomplishment is next year. Jenner cashed in the gold with an endorsement contract with General Mills, makers of Wheaties and other cereals.

Here's Jenner, circa 1978:

After dabbling in acting (i.e. CHiPs, "Grambling's White Tiger"), Jenner faded from the spotlight sometime in the 80's, and settled into a relatively quiet and private life.

However, that was no longer the case after step-daughter Kim Kardashian became famous, or infamous, depending on who you talk to, for her plus-size posterior, which made her the butt of jokes from late night comics, as well as rapper Eminem. That, of course, led to Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which somehow stays on the air despite the fact that the family actually has become a charismatic black hole, and that was before Kim married rapper/human buzzkiller Kanye West.

In 2013, Jenner divorced his 3rd wife, Kris, with the dissolution of their union becoming final last year. Around that time, word started getting out that the former Olympic hero, who had experienced a career rebirth thanks to appearing with his step-daughters, had been struggling with his gender identity for years, and had decided to transition into a woman, one now adorning the cover of Vanity Fair and answering to Caitlyn. For all intents & purposes, Bruce Jenner, Olympic hero, is no more. In his place is the world's oldest transgendered person, Caitlyn Jenner, the transition coming at 65.

Here's a video for the magazine cover shoot.

Unfortunately, while Jenner's show business friends have been very supportive, others, such as actor Drake Bell (Ultimate Spider-Man, ex-Drake & Josh), have been exposed as being either ignorant, insensitive, or just plain dumb. Bell, who hasn't exactly done justice with his current cartoon gig, took to Twitter, and got predictably flamed before deleting his tweets. Time will tell before the end of the week if Bell is being fitted for a Dunce Cap.

Just as predictably, Caitlyn Jenner will have her own reality show on E!. It begs, then, to ask how the International Olympic Committee would honor Bruce Jenner's accomplishments next year, when "he" no longer exists? Do they make the same mistake as Drake Bell, and show a lack of sensitivity? Or do they show respect for another example of what has become a more permissive American society? We'll have to wait & see.

If you don't know all the facts, why are you complaining?: One Million Moms demands Lucifer be cancelled before it airs

Fox's adaptation of the former Vertigo comic book, Lucifer, has run into a predictable stumbling block, several months before it even airs. Ticketed for a 2016 launch, Lucifer, starring Tom Ellis as the fallen angel-turned-club owner/vigilante, has been targeted, unsurprisingly, by One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association. Apparently, no one associated with the AFA or OMM has even read a page of the long-defunct book, which was a spin-off from Neil Gaiman's award-winning The Sandman. They think DC/Vertigo, Gaiman, et al, have made a mockery of the Bible.
Comic Book Resources reported the following:

One Million Moms, an organization that attempts to combat "negative influences" in entertainment media, has set its sights on Fox's "Lucifer" series and hopes to convince the network to cancel it with a petition. The petition describes the show as "a new series which will glorify Satan as a caring, likable person in human flesh." "The series will focus on Lucifer portrayed as a good guy, 'who is bored and unhappy as the Lord of Hell,'" it continues. "He resigns his throne, abandons his kingdom and retires to Los Angeles, where he gets his kicks helping the LAPD punish criminals."
Like Fox's other DC Comics entry, Gotham, Lucifer would certainly merit a TV-14 rating when it launches next year. Gaiman, for his part, noted that the AFA had threatened a boycott of The Sandman when it debuted more than 20 years ago, but it didn't work. I find it odd that none of the watchdogs said anything about NBC's ill-fated Constantine last year, but the AFA & OMM, based in the Bible Belt, has a collective cow over Lucifer. There are few Biblical connotations in Gaiman's work, if at all. He did, however, reimagine DC's former horror hosts, Cain & Abel, as their Biblical namesakes, to use one example.

All the OMM and AFA are doing is extending their 15 minutes to get attention. Maybe they should read the books first before passing irresponsible judgments.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Betsy Palmer (1926-2015)

Over the weekend, Hollywood mourned the passing of actress Betsy Palmer at 88. Most media accounts lead with Betsy's most famous film role, in the original "Friday the 13th", as she was the villain of the piece, who eventually set the stage for the slasher movie series' iconic villain, Jason, to debut in the sequel.

However, Betsy Palmer had a long and distinguished career in films and television long before "Friday the 13th", including a lengthy run as a panelist on I've Got a Secret. Betsy would later appear on Knots Landing, Candid Camera, and other shows.

Here is one instance where Betsy left the panel desk on Secret and sat in with the Bourbon Street Six for a round of "Muskrat Ramble":

Rest in peace.

Forgotten TV: The Manhunter (1974)

Bearing in mind that Quinn Martin had started his production company off the success of the first two seasons of The Untouchables, one could understand if Martin wanted an opportunity to return to the era of that series. Twice in the space of four years, Martin tried detective shows set in that era, but both failed.

Today, we're focusing on CBS' The Manhunter, which, to be fair, would be best described as The Waltons crossed with Barnaby Jones, the latter of which had debuted the previous year (1973) as a spin-off from Cannon. Three years earlier, Martin and WB had sold Banyon to NBC, Martin's first sale to the "Peacock Network". That was the other series set in the 30's, and, as would happen with Manhunter, it would ultimately fail.

Ken Howard ("1776") starred as ex-Marine-turned-private eye/bounty hunter Dave Barrett, who used the money from his cases to keep the family farm from being foreclosed due to the Depression. While Manhunter was cancelled in the spring of 1975, Howard would eventually return and score an even bigger hit a few years later with The White Shadow. By his own admission, Howard said in an interview, he wasn't the right guy for the part, which he felt called for a Clint Eastwood-type. Seems he was thinking in terms of "Dirty Harry".

The Rap Sheet provides the open, complete with Hank Simms' narration:

As with Cannon, Simms doesn't read "A Quinn Martin Production" as it appears on the screen. In fact, Martin's last two series for NBC, Tales of the Unexpected (1977) and A Man Called Sloane (1979) didn't use Simms' voice-overs at all, save for Unexpected teasers.

As we know, the majority of Martin's output went to ABC, from The New Breed, The Invaders, and The F. B. I. in the 60's to Streets of San Francisco and Most Wanted, among others, in the 70's. If my count is correct, CBS & NBC bought 3 Martin series apiece.

No rating. Never saw the show.