Monday, November 30, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth (1977)

This would be Bing Crosby's coda, his final Christmas entry, as he'd passed away before his 1977 Christmas special aired. What follows is a one-time-only meeting of Der Bingle and rock chameleon David Bowie. Seems Crosby wasn't aware of Bowie's career before this, but his kids probably knew, and so did his management team. A medley of the classic "Little Drummer Boy", coupled with an original composition, "Peace on Earth", favored by Bowie, and one wonders if radio stations will play this charming package over the next 4 weeks.

Football this 'n' that

With 5 weeks left in the regular season, only one team remains undefeated in the NFL. Surprisingly, it isn't the New England Patriots.

The Evil Empire's bid for a 2nd perfect regular season came a'cropper in the Denver snow Sunday night, losing to the Broncos in overtime, 30-24. The ironic part being that Denver won without starting QB/insurance & pizza salesman Peyton Manning, reduced to a glorified assistant coach due to a foot injury. 4th year pro Brock Osweiler is now 2-0 as a starter, which will lead to the inevitable, predictable questions about whether or not Manning will return later in the season.

There've been online headlines this morning that say there's some whining coming from the defending champs about some of the officiating. Well, join the club, guys. Nice to know you're not any different from anyone else after a loss, although one headline said that QB Tom Brady was reportedly "pissed off" after losing. Like, get used to it, man. You're not going to be on top forever, no matter what you do.

By the way, the Jets say thanks, since they now are the only team with a realistic chance of catching the Pats, being 4 games back with 5 to play after completing a season sweep of Miami on Sunday. New England has 3 of their final 5 on the road (Houston, Miami, Jets), and 2 relative cupcakes left at home (Philadelphia, Tennessee). They'd have to win the first 2 (Eagles, Texans) or have the Jets lose their next game, to wrap up the division.

The last undefeated team standing is the Carolina Panthers, who embarrassed the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, and sent QB Tony Romo back to the arts & crafts room (read: injured reserve) in the process. If you've seen Romo's DirecTV ad, you know what I mean. Will Carolina run the table? Four of their remaining five games are division games, including 2 with Atlanta. I don't see it happening. Still, barring any playoff upsets, it all points to a possible Super Bowl rematch between the Panthers & Patriots come February 7.
High school football season in upstate New York ended yesterday with the last of the state title games in Syracuse's Carrierdome. The kids were given Saturday off due to Senior Day for Syracuse's football team, as the Orange closed a terrible season by beating the equally hapless Boston College, who matched Syracuse's 8 straight losses.

Section II didn't fare too well. Class AA champ Saratoga was blown out of the yard by Aquinas, 44-19, and the Blue Streaks scored all their points in the 4th quarter to save face. B champ Schuylerville's bid for their first state title came up short vs. Cazenovia, the same Cazenovia that beat Class A power Queensbury back in September. On Friday, C champ Greenwich's title hopes were dashed with a loss to Chenango Forks. In fact, teams from the Western half of the state swept all of the title games.

Basketball season actually started last week with pre-season tournaments and limited league play. Everything kicks into gear tomorrow, as the vast majority of Section II schools will begin their hoop schedules.
If there was a way to determine localized Nielsen ratings for college football, I'd say the chances are pretty good of the Big 10 title game, airing on Fox on December 5, getting a huge number.

That would be attributed solely to Iowa senior running back Jordan Canzeri, a Troy High graduate, who gashed Nebraska's defense on Friday. If Canzeri can duplicate that performance against Michigan State, the Hawkeyes, whose uniforms are modeled after the Pittsburgh Steelers, in case you've never noticed, would punch their ticket for a College Football Playoff game on New Year's Eve. Section II has had a few players reach the NFL, most recently Joe Vellano (CBA), who won a ring with the Patriots back in February, only to be cut this season. Canzeri would be the first from Troy, to my knowledge, to make the NFL. The Collar City has produced a few major league baseball players, the last being Rudy Meoli, a bench player for a number of teams, including the Cubs, in the 70's, but no pro football or basketball players----yet.

I don't know about you, but I know I'll be rooting for Iowa on Saturday night.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Forgotten TV: Lucan (1977)

During the 70's, ABC kept trying to find a suitable lead-in to Monday Night Football or, during the rest of the year, the ABC Monday Night Movie. Lucan, spun off from a TV-movie of the same name, was thought to be a hit, but flopped, cancelled after 11 episodes.

Lucan (Kevin Brophy) was raised by wolves until he was 10 after something had happened to his parents. Now an adult, Lucan was unjustly accused of a crime he didn't commit, when he instead had tried to prevent said crime. Following in the path of The Fugitive, Lucan's trail is followed by a government agent, hoping to recapture the young man, who does possess wolfen senses & powers.

Co-star John Randolph narrates the intro:

Another co-star, Stockard Channing, would go on to appear with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in "Grease" before landing her own CBS sitcom, so some good came out of it......

Rating: B-.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Musical Interlude: What a Fool Believes (1979)

The late 70's brought some changes to the Doobie Brothers, particularly, the departure of vocalist-guitarist Tom Johnston, and the emergence of keyboard player Michael McDonald as the new lead singer. McDonald and guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter were also studio players with Steely Dan around this time. "What a Fool Believes" turned into a big hit for the Doobies in 1979, moving them closer to the adult contemporary & pop charts and away from album-oriented rock (AOR).

After the Doobies initially called it a day three years later, McDonald released his first solo album, and now is more of a Motown cover specialist, or so it would seem. 36 years later, though, "Fool" still resonates.

Countdown to Christmas: The Day They Captured Santa Claus (McHale's Navy, 1962)

From Season 1 of McHale's Navy:

McHale (Ernest Borgnine) plays Santa for some island orphans, but his annual visit is jeopardized by an invasion attack by the Japanese. Of course, McHale's also playing Robin Hood, having had Gruber (Carl Ballantine) heist some turkeys from the officer's club, angering Capt. Binghamton (Joe Flynn), but Binghamton is forced to help with the rescue mission. After all, it is Christmas.

Here's "The Day They Captured Santa Claus":

Anna Lee (Miss Parfrey) & Bob Hastings (Lt. Carpenter) would work together again several years later on General Hospital, with Miss Lee as the matriarch of the Quartermain clan.

Rating: B+.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Forgotten TV: Window on Main Street (1961)

I think a lot of us assumed that Robert Young had taken a few years off in between Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby, MD, but in truth, he had tried out one more sitcom in between, and it didn't work.

Actually, Window on Main Street is classified as a comedy-drama, or, in the modern parlance, a dramedy, as there's little in the way of a laugh track. Young plays widower-author Cameron Garrett Brooks, who is still getting over the death of his wife, which was touched on in the Christmas episode, "Christmas Memory", which we'll get to later on.

Window, like Father, also boasted Young as one of its producers through his production company, which this time leased out some space at Desilu to film the show (Father Knows Best is otherwise a Screen Gems production). The series lasted just 1 season, which might've been enough to convince Young that it was time to change gears, leading to Welby, a medical drama, a few years later.

Gilmore Box supplies the open:

And here's "Christmas Memory", courtesy of Internet Archive:

Except for its inclusion on Shout! Factory's Merry Sitcom Christmas compilation DVD, I had not heard of this show beforehand.

Rating (based on the Christmas episode): B.

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas night on The Hollywood Palace (1965)

Christmas is 4 weeks away, so we'll start our annual Countdown with a Christmas night episode of The Hollywood Palace, emceed by Der Bingle himself, Bing Crosby. The guests include Dorothy Collins, Fred Waring & the Pennsylvanians, and the cast of Hogan's Heroes, which was in its freshman season, as the Palace was in its 3rd.

We told you before about how Heroes cast members Werner Klemperer & John Banner dueted on an Austrian version of "Silent Night". That's immediately followed by Robert Clary performing a French carol, both numbers coming during the 2nd half of the show. Commercials are included, but, sadly, part of the audio goes missing when Crosby is introduced by announcer Dick Tufeld (Lost in Space).

Back in those days, weekends were really appointment television if you were into variety shows like this and The Ed Sullivan Show, which aired Sundays on CBS.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Musical Interlude: Boogie Wonderland (1979)

Ever wonder why the dance trio The Emotions joined forces with Earth, Wind, & Fire on 1979's "Boogie Wonderland"?

For starters, the three women in The Emotions were cousins of EWF lead singer Maurice White. Second, "Wonderland" was originally meant to be an Emotions single, but for some reason turned into a group "duet", if ya will (both groups, IIRC, recorded for Columbia or one of its sister labels).

Now you can dance into Thanksgiving morning. We'll be back on Friday.

Dunce Cap Award: Johnny Manziel

I've said all along that Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel turned pro a little too early. So did Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston, but while Winston is an NFL rookie this season, Manziel is a second year pro who's running the risk of throwing his career in the trunk already.

You'll recall last year's lame Snickers commercial in which Manziel adopted the alias, "Johnny Jam-Boogie" as an aerobics instructor. He's still Johnny Boogie, as in Johnny Boogie Fever, hitting the clubs after telling people he'd take advantage of the Browns having extra time off after a Thursday night game (which they lost to then-undefeated Cincinnati) to "relax". Photos surfaced, which made coach Mike Pettine upset enough to bench Manziel and reinstall opening day starter Josh McCown as the starter for the Browns' next game, a divisional battle vs. Baltimore. Online wags are wondering if Manziel's days in Cleveland are numbered. I'd say, yes.

Once again, Manziel's immaturity has gotten in the way of his progress as an NFL QB. He left Texas A & M too early (he'd be a senior this year, and the Aggies need him, apparently) to chase the money. He expected to start right away, but that's not how it works. Unlike that other well known NFL frat boy, New England's Rob Gronkowski, there's little likeable about Manziel, who gets a Dunce Cap this week for his immature approach to his pro career. It's no wonder he didn't get any commercial endorsements this season. Madison Avenue doesn't want him, either.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rockin' Funnies: The Thanksgiving Song (1992)

During his time on Saturday Night Live, Adam Sandler was given plenty of room to perform musical numbers, usually during Weekend Update. Armed with an acoustic guitar, Sandler croons "The Thanksgiving Song", which was later released on his debut CD, "They're All Going To Laugh At You" (1993). Kevin Nealon provides the intro.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Forgotten TV: Wally's Workshop (1972)

Long before Bob Vila made his fortune teaching folks how to improve their homes, former newsman and What's My Line? host Wally Bruner was doing just that.

Bruner left Line after 4 seasons (1968-72) to create and host Wally's Workshop, aided by his 2nd wife, Natalie, whom he met when she was a contestant on Line. The redoubtable Johnny Olsen served as announcer, one of the rare times where he wasn't working on a game show.

Locally, Wally's Workshop aired on Sunday mornings, ahead of a locally produced bowling show. However, while research shows Workshop lasted approximately 13 seasons (1972-85), I don't recall it being on past the mid-point of the 70's, which suggests that the local station, now a CBS affiliate, dropped the show after about a year or three.

Here, then, is a sample episode.

I look at it this way. It was better than watching a variety show imported from Italy without subtitles.

Rating: A.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Musical Interlude: Wild, Wild Life (1986)

We talked before about the issues between Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and his label, Sire Records, as it related to Byrne's 1986 film, "True Stories". Byrne felt it best that a soundtrack CD featuring the film's cast would be released, but the suits at Sire opted instead for the Heads to record the same songs themselves.

The video for "Wild, Wild Life" is mostly movie footage, which includes the band members (Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Chris Franz, Tina Weymouth) joining in on the fun in quick cameos. The husband & wife team of Franz & Weymouth impersonated Prince and his then-squeeze, Apollonia, for example. Harrison dressed up as Billy Idol. Byrne appeared as himself and a couple of other "characters". Throw in John Goodman, and, well......!

Now, compare the video with the lip-sync parade as depicted in the movie. Latin musician Tito Larriva is among the performers.

Byrne later released "Sounds From True Stories", which was released on LP & cassette only, as it is not available on CD, which sucks.

Weasel of the Week: Ashleigh Wade

You're a 20-something African-American. You've convinced your boyfriend that you're pregnant with your first child. You see an old friend for the first time in what seems like forever, and she's 8 1/2 months pregnant. Rightfully, what you should be doing is wishing her well and praying for her.

Ashleigh Wade, on the other hand, killed her pregnant friend.

Wade had pretended she was pregnant, and had her boyfriend so snowed he didn't realize that the ultrasound pictures on Wade's Facebook page were phonier than a $4 bill. On Friday, she killed Angelikque Sutton, and stole the unborn fetus to pass it off as her own. We've seen this scenario before. While the tabloid media tries to paint Wade as being delusional, so trapped in her own web of lies, the truth is, and I can only speculate here, mind you, she was perhaps afraid her boyfriend would leave her for someone else. Seeing Sutton with child, and less than a month away from giving birth, then, made her jealous and desperate. Jealous because Sutton was soon going to be a first-time mom and she wasn't, and desperate because if it got out that she wasn't pregnant after all, Wade's elaborately created fantasy would crumble and fall apart. The boyfriend likely would have said goodbye, and Wade's parents would've turned on her for lying to them, too. Parents are like that, of course.

How many times have we seen this story unfold, both in the papers and in adaptations on, say Lifetime or on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit? In this writer's opinion, too many in the last decade alone. I shan't be surprised if Wade's lawyer tries to use the insanity defense, but that's the lazy man's way out.

When Wade was arrested Friday, she stuck to her lie, which made no sense, except that perhaps she wants the insanity defense. How much do you wanna bet there are also drugs in the equation?

Ashleigh Wade gets a set of Weasel ears, and, while in prison, we recommend that someone order a DVD of the Australian soap opera, Prisoner: Cell Block H. That should snap Wade back to reality.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

On DVD: Do You Trust Your Wife? (1956)

We conclude our look at the game shows featured on Mill Creek's TV Guide Spotlight compilation DVD with Do You Trust Your Wife?, a Don Fedderson entry that began as a primetime entity on CBS in 1956 before moving to ABC and changing hosts as a result.

Ventriloquist Edgar Bergen was tapped to host, the idea being that this would be Fedderson's answer to Groucho Marx's ultra-popular You Bet Your Life, with Bergen augumented by his trio of puppets, Mortimer Snerd, Effie Clinker, and, of course, Charlie McCarthy.

However, when the series changed networks, Team Bergen did not go for the ride, presumably either due to contract issues, or Fedderson needed a change. He did, however, acquire the services of Johnny Carson, whose self-titled CBS series had come to an end, but was still under contract to CBS for another seven months. Carson, however, left after 5 years to take over NBC's Tonight Show and, well, you know the rest of that story. Woody Woodbury was hired to replace Carson for end of the show's run, as it was cancelled in 1963.

Under Carson, the game play changed to allow individual players to compete, plus the addition of sound-proof booths, much like on Twenty-One, for example, but without the controversy.

Following is a sample episode from Bergen's run, which appeared on the DVD:

As ventriloquists are supposedly able to refrain from moving their lips while operating their puppets, the cameras repeatedly picked up Bergen mouthing the words spoken by either Charlie, Effie, or Mortimer. Clearly, he was nearing the end of his career, and his skills were fading. One of his last jobs, without the entourage, mind, was in the TV-movie, "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story", which was the pilot for The Waltons, in 1971. When the series was picked up, Bergen was replaced by Will Geer.

Now, let's take a look at an episode from the Carson era:

Apparently, ABC asked for the changes to avoid any sort of legal issues with Groucho.

Rating: A-.

Ready for a gumfight? (1979)

Wrigley's introduced a new brand of gum in 1979. Hubba Bubba bubble gum needed a specific advertising gimmick to get the public's attention, so they went with an Old West theme.

The Gumfighter (Don Collier) rides into town in a parody of those Western shootouts, his arrival heralded by what you might call the town jester (Dub Taylor, later of Hee Haw, who was in a bazillion Westerns back in the day).

Wrigley's discontinued Hubba Bubba in the 90's, likely due to declining sales, then brought it back in 2004.

Here's a curious little sidebar. Turns out Wrigley's had been bought out by Mars, Inc. some years back. Recently, Mars reassigned two of their products, Starburst and Skittles to the Wrigley brand. Hmmmmm.

Friday, November 20, 2015

In Theatres (NOT!): When An Alien Robot Crash-Lands in Troy, NY (2015)

To paraphrase ESPN's Kenny Mayne, the simplicity of this film amuses me. Really, it does.

Bobby Kendall's silent film, "When An Alien Robot Crash-Lands in Troy, NY", had its premiere just three weeks ago at the Albany Public Library, and tonight, crosses the river for a hometown screening at the Troy Public Library's downtown branch.

The beauty of this film, indeed, lies in its simplicity. The robot is our guide through a tour of downtown & South Troy, including a jaunt through the outdoor Farmers' Market, shot as it was during the summer. The setting is early August, which was probably the day it was filmed.

Kendall and his band, lastdayshining, provided a live musical score, as the library converted its 2nd floor reference room into an impromptu theatre/performance space. The fact that there were more people than seats provided speaks well of the prospects for future events down the road, and the library's board of trustees would be well advised to consider that idea.

To break the film down into simple terms, the robot represents the curious child in all of us, as it looks with a mixture of amazement, curiosity, and, perhaps, disbelief at its surroundings. Ironically, while the film was meant to be a family movie, a couple of children couldn't maintain their focus, and kept moving from the front of the "theatre" to the back, and back again. Apparently, they've never been in a real theatre before.

Kendall also provides a trailer.

At 52 minutes, "Alien Robot" makes its point. That's really all that needs be said.

Rating: A.

On the Shelf: A larger than life biography

Idea & Design Works (IDW) has come up with the perfect Christmas gift for the discriminating wrestling fan.

Andre The Giant: Closer To Heaven is a moving biography of the "Eighth Wonder of the World", from his beginnings in France to eventually beginning a long association with the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation (today's WWE). It also covers his forays into acting, appearing on The Six Million Dollar Man in the 70's, and the now-iconic late 80's fantasy, "The Princess Bride", as well as his legendary preference for beer. Stone Cold Steve Austin has nothing on Andre when it comes to the suds, let me tell you. Andre's extraordinary metabolism allowed him to consume far more beers in one sitting than most humans should be allowed.

Too bad they couldn't get WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler to draw a cover. No shade on the artist on this book, but Lawler's detailed depiction of Andre on the cover would've been an even stronger selling point, especially if WWE were even bothered to promote the book on the air, and so far, insofar as I know, they haven't. Their loss. If you thought you knew Andre, think again.

Rating: A-.

Now, let's check back with Chip Zdarsky & Erica Henderson's revamp of Jughead.

So far, the events in this book haven't crossed over into Archie, and the next issue of that book is out next week, in time for Thanksgiving, so that means each book seemingly has its own continuity to start. In the case of the Jugster, that's not good.

After Principal Waldo Weatherbee had been forced to retire in the first issue, more changes are afoot at Riverdale High, as Coach Harry Clayton (Chuck's dad) has been dismissed, replaced with an ex-Marine, Coach Eng, whose ultra-strict program threatens Jughead's surprisingly clean record. There's something shady going on, and a mid-story dream sequence recalling the short-lived 1990 series, Jughead's Time Police, is actually a distraction. I'd not be surprised at all if Zdarsky continues with Jug's Walter Mitty-esque fantasies to do a call-back to Jug's 60's alter-ego, Captain Hero. However, I'm finding the same flaws in Zdarsky's writing that I did on his first Howard the Duck series for Marvel. The dream sequence distractions suggest that Zdarsky doesn't have a completely coherent idea of where he's going with this story arc. He's gone from a commentary on PC-driven changes in the school lunch program to RHS being overrun by an unnecessary shift in faculty, to the point of some conspiracy at its heart. I hate Coach Eng already, that's how bad it is. We'll see how far this goes, given the next issue comes after Christmas.

Rating: B-, down from last month.

Well, we knew DC couldn't stick with Jim Gordon as Batman for very long, and, in February, the skids start getting greased for the return of Bruce Wayne to his iconic alter-ego. However, local artist Greg Capullo is going on vacation, and Yanick Paquette gets to draw the game-changing issue. Now, if we can get Dan DiDio and friends to promise not to mess with their iconic characters for the sake of a quick fix ever again, we'll be happy.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

What Might've Been: Search (1972)

Warner Bros. suits had a simple idea. What if you took a simple spy show, amped it up with some ahead-of-its-time gadgetry to complement a veteran cast, and successfully sold it to a network?

In 1972, that idea, conceived by Leslie Stevens (ex-The Outer Limits), became Search, which had started under the title, Probe, for a 2-hour pilot film before it got out that Probe was also the title of a British series running at that time. Search barely got through the first month of its 2nd season before getting the ax from NBC.

The show focused on three specific agents, or Probes, as played by Hugh O'Brian (ex-The Life & Legend of Wyatt Earp; this would be O'Brian's last series), Doug McClure (fresh from The Virginian/Men From Shiloh), and Tony Franciosa (equally fresh, albeit from The Name of the Game), under the direction of the curiously named V. C. R. Cameron (Burgess Meredith, ex-Batman, Mr. Novak). In a way this was Man From U.N.C.L.E. crossed with Mission: Impossible, the latter of which was still on the air at the time.

Stevens brought in veteran producer Robert Justman (ex-Star Trek) in that role, and it seemed as though NBC & WB had a hit on their hands, but, as noted above, it didn't sustain itself. Can't be sure of why, since I never saw the show. Some folks might've gotten shocked seeing Meredith on the side of good after 3 seasons of playing The Penguin, especially since Batman reruns were plentiful in syndication.

The Rap Sheet provides an intro for a sample episode with guest stars Edward Mulhare (ex-The Ghost & Mrs. Muir), Mary Frann (later of Newhart), and James Gregory (later of Barney Miller).

Let's see if WB would be willing to try this concept now. No rating.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Musical Interlude: I'll Be Over You (1986)

I had this item up before, then it got taken down when the last copy was pulled by YouTube due to copyright issues. Let's just hope this doesn't happen again, as this is off Toto's Vevo channel.

From 1986, here's "I'll Be Over You", a throwback to the love ballads of the 60's, with an assist from Michael McDonald.

What Might've Been: Twenty-One (1956)

Twenty-One was immortalized in Robert Redford's expose of the 50's game show scandals, "Quiz Show", but it wasn't always rigged.

The series, sponsored by Geritol, and hosted by co-producer Jack Barry (ex-Juvenile Jury), ended up running for just 2 years (1956-58) before being booted off the air after it was revealed that, following the series opener, Barry & partner Dan Enright, fearing pressure from Geritol, began rigging the game, as if it were a carnival game, mind you, in order to 1) improve the quality of the show, 2) increase drama and ratings, and 3) appease the sponsor.

The initial episode had two contestants who didn't know many of the answers. That infuriated the suits at Geritol's then-parent company.

After Barry was forced off the air, he would not return to television for 11 years before replacing Dennis Wholey on ABC's Generation Gap (previously reviewed), and, then, reforming his production company, which enjoyed a revival in the 70's & 80's.

However, plans to revive Twenty-One, with Jim Lange (ex-The Dating Game) as host failed to get past the pilot stage in 1982. Lange, though, would host a Barry-Enright game after all, Bullseye, which we'll discuss another day. Meanwhile, in 2000, NBC revived the series, entrusting production of the show to former program director Fred Silverman, and bringing in talk show host Maury Povich as MC. This version lasted 13 weeks before moving to the Pax network (now Ion), where it finished its run rather quietly, and without scandal.

Following is an episode with two contestants at the heart of the fixing scandal, Charles Van Doren & Herb Stempel (played by Ralph Fiennes and John Turturro, respectively, in "Quiz Show").

Knowing what we know now, we can't rightfully say we could enjoy the reruns. If this comes back again, they can always ask Vince McMahon to produce it....!

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Musical Interlude: Glamour Boys (1988)

Living Colour may have been meant to be a metal band, a rare breed at that, being an African-American metal group, but they crossed over to pop metal with "Glamour Boys", the 4th single from their 1988 CD, "Vivid".

The video is a commentary of a sort, as the "glamour boys" are actors wearing mannequin head masks. In one scene on a subway train, singer Corey Glover pokes his head out from behind an issue of the British comic book, 2000 A. D. Monthly. Like, who knew?

Football this 'n' that

There are now just 2 undefeated teams in the NFL after Houston downed Cincinnati, 10-6, Monday evening. Interestingly, the schedule makers didn't pair up The AFC North and East (New England) leaders in what would've been the game of the year in the regular season. That means the only time the Patriots and Bengals would meet might be the AFC title game in January.

While I didn't see the game, the reigning Super Bowl champs escaped their first visit to the Meadowlands with a 26-24 verdict over the Giants, thanks to a Stephen Gostkowski field goal on the last play from scrimmage. The road for New England just got a wee bit easier, though, as a road match vs. Denver on November 29 just lost its lustre.

That's because pizza & insurance salesman Peyton Manning is out "indefinitely" with a partially torn ligament in his foot. Couple that with various other injuries that have accumulated, and you might as well pencil Manning in for the injured reserve list. That would allow the Broncos to take a longer look at 4th year pro Brock Osweiler, who was drafted out of Arizona State in 2012, but has been mostly mopping up or holding a clipboard for his first 3 1/2 seasons. Osweiler was inserted into the game Sunday against Kansas City after Manning threw 4 interceptions.

Bottom line? Sometimes, your body will tell you something your brain doesn't want to hear, like when it's time to quit.

For New England, however, four of their final seven games are on the road, as they also have rematches with Miami & the Jets after Christmas. Their detractors will claim it's business as usual, and that owner Robert Kraft was compensated for the Deflate-Gate mess with a favorable schedule.
Consider the harsh reality we were left with on Sunday. Green Bay has lost three in a row for the first time in what seems like an eternity, and fell out of first place in the NFC North (Does ESPN's Chris Berman still refer to it as the Norris Division?), a game in arrears of Minnesota. Whomever comes out of the NFC Least with the division title, regardless of who it is (and it's still up for grabs), is assured of a 4 seed in the playoffs unless one team gets hot at the right time. And is it possible that Seattle, after 2 straight Super Bowls, could miss the playoffs? They've lost 2 games at home this season (Carolina & Arizona), and at best will be fighting for a Wild Card in the final 7 weeks. Who'dathunk?

Back to the Packers. Insurance salesman Aaron Rodgers was more concerned about some moron in the stands making some ill-timed remarks during a moment of silent prayer prior to Sunday's game vs. Detroit. Teams all over the league were honoring the victims of a massive terrorist attack in France, and some already-soused halfwit decided to ruin the moment. While I get that some folks are a little too jingoistic in the Midwest and certain Southern states, that doesn't give someone license to show disrespect. Green Bay conceivably still can make the playoffs as a Wild Card (since only 1 team from the NFC Least will make the playoffs), but it just won't be the same to the community-owned Packers.
Consider, then, how the division leaders would rank if the playoffs started next week:

AFC: 1. New England. 2. Cincinnati. 3. Denver. 4. Indianapolis/Houston.
NFC: 1. Carolina. 2-3: Arizona/Minnesota. 4. Giants.

The wild card field in both conferences is too crowded to figure at this juncture.
Back to the Patriots for one final thought. Their status as the NFL's Evil Empire aside, the team also comes off as being Raiders East, due to the player reclamation projects they've engaged in the last few years, most of them on offense, such as upstate NY product Dion Lewis, plucked from the scrap heap after injuries (Cleveland) and lack of playing time (Philadelphia) seemed to cut his career short. Lewis, who still calls Albany home, played his high school ball at Albany Academy for Boys, but his season ended with a torn ACL nine days ago vs. the Washington Congressionals. That, coupled with a foot injury to WR/KR Julian Edelman, makes the Pats' decisions to cut running backs Jonas Gray (Miami), Stevan Ridley (Jets), & Shane Vereen (Giants) in the off-season all the more ridiculous. Like, who besides another reclamation project in LeGarrette Blount, the only back they kept from last season, can provide some depth at the position with Lewis gone? Eventually, teams will see New England as one-dimensional (guess who?), and eventually figure out a way to shut them down. My brother, a converted Patriots fan while he was in college, wondered why teams haven't copied the Giants' blueprint that Tom Coughlin used to beat them in 2 Super Bowls, and nearly did it again on Sunday.

The simple answer is that every other coach thinks he has his own answers. Peyton Manning's been reported in the press as being a bit paranoid, per reports that the Pats supposedly bugged the visitors' locker room at Gillette Stadium, which only adds more credence to the CIA mentality exhibited by either Brady, if not Bill Belichick, or Kraft, to win at all costs, and rules be damned. Eventually, the league needs to have its own house overhauled, and let some people who actually know something about enforcing rules and laws deal with the Evil Empire. Until that happens, it's going to be, as David Byrne once sang, the same as it ever was.

Monday, November 16, 2015

On DVD: TV Guide Spotlight on: TV's Greatest Game Shows (2015)

Over the last few days, we've been taking a look at some classic game shows from the 50's & 60's, thanks to TV Guide Spotlight on: TV's Greatest Game Shows, a recent release from Mill Creek Entertainment, which I acquired through Radio Spirits, a respected mail order firm that specializes in----wait for it---old time radio.

The collection consists of 26 episodes covering 15 different series. Some shows are represented by just 1 episode. You Bet Your Life, which we discussed a while back, has 7 episodes, taking up half a disc all by itself.

But there are some clunkers in the mix. We looked at Cliff Saber's ill-advised, and ill-preserved, for that matter, Pass The Line the other day, for example. The back cover advertises an episode of the original Tic Tac Dough as hosted by sportscaster Win Elliot. Nope. Jay Jackson is the MC here. Other shows, such as Dollar a Second with Jan Murray and Beat The Clock with Bud Collyer, were reviewed some time back as well.

We'll be taking a look later this week at Jack Barry's infamous Twenty-One, and Edgar Bergen's Do You Trust Your Wife?, but for right now, we'll look at a sample of an early Bill Cullen hosted show, Place The Face, and yes, this was another Goodson-Todman entry. Their answer, if ya will, to Ralph Edwards' This is Your Life.

Bill was trying too hard to be a comedian here, and it wasn't working out so well. In fact, he was the third and last host of Place, following Jack Smith (later of You Asked For It) and Jack Bailey (Queen For a Day, which we reviewed last time). The comedy seems a little awkward, considering it's, presumably, live television.

Place The Face merits a B-. The TV Guide Spotlight compilation gets a B.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Classic TV: Queen For a Day (1956)

Queen For a Day, like a nunber of shows from the 50's, had its roots in radio before moving to television. NBC picked up the TV version in 1956, and aired it for 4 years before it moved to ABC for 4 more (1960-4), all of it with Jack Bailey as host.

There was really no contestant competition involved. The audience chose three or four women to vie for the title of Queen For a Day. These "nominees" would share their real-life tales of personal trials, and whomever earned the most applause from the audience was the winner.

Believe it or else, the series has been revived twice. The first was a short-lived syndicated version, hosted by Dick Curtis, which lasted 1 season (1969-70). The second aired on cable's Lifetime with actress-comedienne Mo'Nique (ex-The Parkers) as hostess. That didn't last, either. What killed the 1969 series, sad to say, was that the producers cheapened the concept by rigging the show. Big mistake.

Following is a 1963 circus-themed episode from the ABC era, which appears on the Mill Creek TV Guide's Greatest Game Shows DVD compilation:

Kimberly-Clark should've been a sponsor, because you can imagine some stories had viewers reaching for the Kleenex.

Rating: C.

Nick Bockwinkel (1934-2015)

To my knowledge, Nick Bockwinkel never set foot in a WWE/F ring, though he would eventually be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

No, along with Verne Gagne, Bockwinkel was one of the standard bearers of Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA), holding its World title 4 times and winning 3 tag titles with Ray "The Crippler" Stevens before Stevens jumped to the then-World Wrestling Federation in the early 80's. Like Gagne and some of his contemporaries, including Ric Flair, Bockwinkel also played college football until a knee injury ended his gridiron career at Oklahoma.

A heel (villain) much of his career, managed by Bobby Heenan before Heenan followed Stevens to the WWF, Bockwinkel became a beloved fan favorite at the end of his career, entering into a splendid feud with the late Curt Hennig in the mid-80's, including an hour-long draw that aired on ESPN.

But did you know that before becoming World champ, Bockwinkel made his first non-wrestling appearance on a game show? Yep. Bockwinkel was a contestant on the evening edition of Hollywood Squares with Peter Marshall in 1968:

Now, let's scope out Bockwinkel in a familiar milieu, as he prepares to face Hulk Hogan in 1983 for the AWA title. Gene Okerlund conducts a pre-match interview.....

Bockwinkel would resurface in WCW in the late 90's for a time as a figurehead commissioner, but didn't last very long, probably because of the shenanigans at the time.

Rest in peace, Nick. Hennig & Stevens are waiting for you.......

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Forgotten TV: The Engelbert Humperdinck Show (1969-70)

Looking to duplicate the success they'd enjoyed with This is Tom Jones, ABC & ITC added another British singer to the network's roster with The Engelbert Humperdinck Show, which lasted six months total during the 1969-70 season.

Humperdinck, who'd scored his first major hit with "Release Me" in 1967, did the standard comedy-variety show of the day, and in the following clip, it seems as though the producers sought to emulate the formula that made Carol Burnett's CBS show so successful, if not skewering it at the same time. Here, Humperdinck shares the stage with fellow Brit Dusty Springfield and comedy icon Jonathan Winters.

So why did it fail? Perhaps the same problem that faced a number of different television genres in those days, gluttony. There were quite a few variety shows at the time, and ABC, in particular, would bid Tom Jones farewell not too long after this series ended, as well.

No rating. No memory of seeing the show.

For Troy High, the litmus test is about to begin........

Football season ended for Troy High last week with the loss to Amsterdam. That signaled the end of the fall sports season, so now the focus is on winter sports, such as bowling, swimming (!), and, most of all, basketball.

As we've documented, Troy is in its maiden season as a member of the Suburban Council, cut off from the city's other high schools (LaSalle & Catholic Central, two long time rivals of Troy, will now dicker with Lansingburgh and the rest of the Colonial Council). The closest thing to a territorial rivalry that Troy would have now would be with Averill Park, but the teams are in separate divisions. AP plays in the Blue Division, Troy in the Grey, and therefore, the two teams will meet just once, as the men's teams will meet at Clement Zotto Gym on January 15, while the women, who last met in March at Hudson Valley Community College in the Class A title game, won by Averill Park, will be at Averill Park. The only way the schools meet again after that date would be in the sectionals, which begin in mid-February.

I had read that Troy is in as an "associate" member, which would explain why they're not on the Suburban Council's webpage, although the other schools that made the jump, Albany, Schenectady, and Christian Brothers Academy, are. A strong showing this season might force the league to shuffle the deck next year, and allow for home-&-home games vs. not only Averill Park, but also Columbia, the latter for more nostalgic and parochial reasons.

Columbia men's varsity coach Curtis Sankey played at Troy for coach Joe Geiger in the late 70's & early 80's, and the Blue Devils' only visit to Troy this season is the Flying Horses' home opener on Friday, December 4. However, I have zero confidence that the hometown paper, hamstrung by budget constraints, would actually try to do a feature write-up, as I'm assuming this is Coach Sankey's return to THS for the first time since graduation, prior to the game. As a friend reminded me not too long ago, my late journalism teacher at THS would not approve of the lack of reporting.

The only other major highlight of the season at THS would be the first regular season meeting, on the men's side again, between Troy and perennial Suburban Council power Shenendehowa, which is set for January 29. The women's teams will meet at Shen for the 2nd straight season (the last meeting was last December 23, with Shen winning). With the changes in classification in recent years, Shen is now a Class AA school, as Troy was until dropping down to Class A two seasons ago (after they won the AA title in 2013), and so there is no chance of revisiting the classic sectional matchups between the two schools' women's teams from the 90's.

Given that Troy's fall sports teams outside of football struggled in their first year in the Suburban Council, the pessimist in me believes the hoops teams, despite the belief among media pundits that they will be players for division titles, may also experience some growing pains. We'll all find out together beginning on December 1, when Troy opens vs. Colonie (women's home opener, men on the road).

On DVD: Play Your Hunch (1958)

Long before he started his own production company and developed his own game shows, Merv Griffin worked for Mark Goodson & Bill Todman as host of Play Your Hunch, which, over the course of its 5 years on the air, had a checkered history.

The series started on CBS, then moved to ABC within its first year. Utimately, Hunch, based out of New York, moved to NBC for the remainder of its run, but Griffin left after 4 years to start the first of his self-titled talk shows and develop Jeopardy!, the latter also for NBC, and was replaced by Robert Q. Lewis on Hunch.

Hunch enjoyed two short primetime runs, in addition to its 5 year daytime stint.

Here's a daytime episode:

As you can tell, Hunch was a variation on one of G-T's more successful and longer running properties, To Tell The Truth, except that it was two teams of contestants trying to discern what one of the challengers on stage were doing. Haymes appeared in one of these segments, then was brought back out for a full musical number.

Could Hunch be revived today? I don't think so. G-T tried a different angle, using ESP, for the short-lived Mindreaders in 1979, again for NBC, and using teams of contestants captained by celebrities. We'll look in on Mindreaders another time.

Rating: B.

Maybe you should draft fantasy teams for free..........

Personal note before we start.

For the last few years, I've played a "Pick 'Em" contest on, where I pick the winners of pro & college football games during the season. No entry fee, being a member of the website's community is enough. I actually won 1st place one year, and this season, I'm in the top ten among players on both the pro & college contests. As we say, I'm in the hunt.

Where I draw the line, though, is with fantasy leagues that require money to play. Sorry, but my budget doesn't allow for that. I tried a free fantasy league through one of the New York tabloids a few years back, but didn't go anywhere with that, so I decided I wasn't trying that again.

And, then, there is the emergence of sites like and, which promote weekly fantasy leagues, where you can change the lineup on a week-to-week basis, allowing players to go with the "hot hands", if you will, and make oodles of money.

You can't go a day without seeing one of these spots for FanDuel......

However, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman believes that this is a form of gambling, claiming FanDuel & Draft Kings' games are games of chance, not skill, as its defenders will claim. On Friday, FanDuel announced it would no longer service customers in New York. Draft Kings hasn't said anything, but inevitably, the other shoe will drop, and what has been a hot commodity of late will end up being little more than a passing fad.

Even more galling to NFL observers is the fact that two NFL owners are among the investors in one of the sites. Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who also owns Major League Soccer's New England Revolution, and the Cowboys' Jerry Jones, put their considerable stroke into the mix. Given Kraft's involvement, one wonders if this hasn't influenced Tom "Crybaby" Brady to run up the stats for himself during the Pats' season opening 8 game winning streak, as he's thrown more passes than really needed, creating an offensive imbalance (there is a running game, which Brady seems to be ignoring), and making some wonder if Kraft offered Brady a piece of the action.....! Jonesy? His Cowboys have suddenly become so inept with Tony Romo on the sidelines, he's probably regretting his decision to jump in.

With the news of Kraft & Jones being investors made public, I shan't be surprised if someone decides to call out either one (likely Kraft since the Pats are Public Enemy #1 in the NFL right now) for what amounts to a conflict of interest, and alerts Schneiderman to that.

Off Track Betting had it right with their slogan, used in the 70's & 80's. Bet with your head, not over it. It does apply to something besides horse racing, after all.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Musical Interlude: Burning Down the House (1983)

Talking Heads, it seems, were never content with just an ordinary music video.

For example, for the clip for 1983's "Burning Down the House", from the CD, "Speaking in Tongues", David Byrne and friends had 4 "ordinary folks", including the late actor-comedian Rockets Redglare (later of films such as "Talk Radio"), alternating with them in the course of the video. Redglare would alternate with, and also share time on stage with guitarist Jerry Harrison.

"Burning" peaked at #9 on the pop chart, the most successful Heads single in the US. Yeah, better than the trippy "Once in a Lifetime" (1980) or the bouncy "Wild, Wild Life" (1986). Go figure.

On DVD: Pass the Line (1954)

The other day, I acquired a TV Guide DVD compilation of classic game shows, mostly public domain copies of episodes of shows you're all familiar with (i.e. What's My Line?, You Bet Your Life, The Price is Right), but Mill Creek, which put this package together, also included a real loser.

Pass The Line was an unsold pilot, created, produced, and emceed by Cliff Saber, who was never heard from again, I think. Unfortunately, 61 years later, the footage hasn't stood the test of time, and it's clear that Saber really didn't have clue one what he wanted to do with what amounted to a party game.

The idea here was that each of the panelists, which included a young Jonathan Winters, would copy the lines of a drawing. 30-odd years later, Burt Reynolds & Bert Convy took a much simpler tack with Win, Lose, or Draw, which proved to be a mild success.

Here, for better or worse, depending on your point of view, is Pass The Line:

Luckily, one bad apple didn't spoil the barrel, as we'll discuss further when we look at the TV Guide game show compilation.

Rating: F.

Creepy TV: Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1991)

It's Friday the 13th, the last one of the year, so I thought we'd serve up some spooky leftovers that we didn't include last month.

Nickelodeon's Are You Afraid of the Dark? ran for seven seasons in all, with a three year gap between seasons six & seven. Initially, it was part of the network's Snick Saturday primetime block (8-10 pm ET), with reruns airing in earlier day-parts later on. Based on a series of books by D. J. McHale, and produced in Canada, Dark became a destination for older viewers as well, and attracted a wide range of guest stars, including, in the series' final season, Olympic skater Tara Lipinski, and, in earlier seasons, Emmy winner Frank Gorshin and the Mowry twins, Tia & Tamera (Sister, Sister). The Midnight Society's membership included a future star in Rachel Blanchard, later of Clueless.

We previously covered Dark over at Saturday Morning Archives, but it's time to give it some love here, too. The pentultimate episode of the series, "The Tale of the Many Faces", can be construed as a commentary of sorts on identity theft. In it, a 300 year old actress, Madame Visage, steals the faces of unsuspecting young volunteers, leaving them as faceless slaves, forced to wear masks to hide the damage. At first glance, it would appear that Nick alumnus Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, ex-Clarissa Explains it All), using a pseudonym, played Visage, as there is no listing for Hart having guested in any other episode.

Here's "The Tale of Many Faces":

While reruns have aired more recently on TeenNick, there was no inclination to air them on Nick during Halloween two weeks ago, but the way Nick schedules programming, and that's been a problem for 25 years and counting, leaves viewers cold.

Rating: B.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Musical Interlude: The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1962)

Bobby Vee soared to #3 on the pop charts in 1962 with "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes". Given the beach setting of this video, I'm sorry I didn't find this during the summer...........

On DVD: The Name's The Same (1951)

As we documented yesterday, game shows were fairly common in primetime during TV's early years, especially during the 50's. It was a lot easier taping game shows in, say, New York, because you wouldn't have to detour traffic like you would to film a sitcom or drama.

One of Goodson-Todman's prominent games of the period was The Name's The Same, which worked along the same lines as stablemates To Tell The Truth, What's My Line?, & I've Got a Secret in that the celebrity panel had to deduce the contestant's particular quality, and in this case, it meant sharing a famous name, or, in the case of one game, if their home town had a peculiar name that was known for a more familiar connotation.

Robert Q. Lewis emceed for the first three years (1951-4) before departing to do a series of variety shows for CBS (Name aired on ABC, as opposed to the above mentioned stablemates, which were all on CBS). After a hiatus, Name returned, with Ralston Purina as the sponsor (Purina is now part of Nestle, and Ralston's most famous cereal brand, Chex, was acquired by General Mills), and Dennis James as moderator. James only lasted about 4 months before the comedy team of Bob Elliott & Ray Goulding took his place. The moderator merry-go-round ultimately killed the show in 1955.

Now, let's take a look at a sample from the Lewis era, with panelists including Carl Reiner and Joan Alexander, the radio/cartoon voice of Lois Lane.

Delightfully silly. One wonders why Fremantle Media, which owns the G-T library, doesn't consider reviving the show.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Forgotten TV: The Generation Gap (1969)

Game shows were still fairly common in primetime in the 60's, but this trend was gradually fading away from the networks, as established series such as Hollywood Squares and Let's Make a Deal would soon find the syndicated market as fertile ground to revive their evening incarnations.

In 1969, Daniel Melnick, one of the heads of Talent Associates, the folks behind such shows as diverse as N.Y.P.D., Get Smart, & He & She, decided that TA and its parent, Norton-Simon, Inc., would get into the game show business. The Generation Gap, which pitted two teams representing the older and younger generations, against each other, launched in February as a Friday night entry on ABC. Melnick opted to avoid the "old boy network", if you will, and hired a relatively new face in Dennis Wholey to serve as host. Wholey, however, lasted 2 1/2 months before, ironically enough, Jack Barry, sprung from TV's blacklist because of the quiz show scandals of the 50's, was hired to replace him. Barry lasted just the final 5 weeks, as Gap was cancelled in June.

Barry's career was successfully revived, as he'd develop The Joker's Wild for CBS, and eventually bring back his business partner, Dan Enright, after a couple of years. Wholey, as memory serves, ended up doing something for PBS, I think it was, in the 70's.

Now, I never saw the show, so there won't be a rating, but we'll leave you with the series opener, hosted by Wholey.

Producer Chester Feldman worked for Goodson-Todman for most of his career. Director Mike Gargiulo was at the helm for virtually all of Bob Stewart's game shows for NBC, CBS, & ABC in the 70's & 80's. Announcer Fred Foy (ex-The Lone Ranger) would also handle those chores for Dick Cavett's talk show, also on ABC. And doesn't Foy sound like he went to the same voice coach as Don Pardo? The video ends with a short clip of Honeymoon Race, for whatever reason, as that series had come and gone two years prior.

Weasel of the Week: Matthew Mills

Next month marks the 3-year anniversary of Adam Lanza's senseless assault upon Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Ct.. Unfortunately, there are still idiots out there that think the massacre wasn't real.

Matthew Mills is one of these imbecilic "truthers" who sold his brains to follow a big lie.

On Saturday, a 5K road race named in memory of one of the victims, Victoria Soto, was run, but disrupted by Mills, who got the attention of the cops, tried to run away, and was eventually arrested. The sad part about it is that Mills actually had enough cash to post a $10,000 bond, and will face a court hearing next week.

What this moron needs is a psychiatric evaluation, and if he's got the money to bail himself out of jail, he can find the best psych help he can find to cure his delusion, and likewise, those like-minded, misguided souls that believe, as he does, that the government somehow staged the incident. I highly doubt that to be the case, of course, because why would the government sacrifice nearly 2 dozen civilians at an elementary school?

The fact that it took four days after the Soto race took place before any of this made the papers tells me this is something that isn't as newsworthy as it might've been two years ago, upon the 1st anniversary of the attack.

All Mills and other morons like him are doing is further traumatizing the families of the victims. It's coming upon three years. Let it go, and enjoy your Weasel ears, Mills.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Celebrity Rock: The Good Ol' Boys (1999)

In the spring of 1999, WCW (World Championship Wrestling), which had been overtaken in the "Monday Night Wars" by the then-World Wrestling Federation, needed something to lure the viewers back in, despite the fact that the stable that powered their ratings rise in 1996-8, the New World Order, was sl-o-o-o-wly fading away.

Some genius came up with the idea of bringing in rapper Master P for an appearance on WCW Monday Nitro, and sparking a feud with veteran wrestler Curt Hennig, late of the NWO, and before that, the Four Horsemen. While the No Limit Soldiers, named for Master P's rap label, were supposed to be fan favorites, the thug style didn't play very well with the Atlanta-based WCW, and while Hennig was supposed to be the bad guy, the fans embraced him and his new crew, fellow second generation grapplers Barry & Kendall Windham and Bobby Duncum, Jr., who would wind up being billed as the West Texas Rednecks (nee Outlaws).

Master P made only the one appearance, and the damage was cleaned up before the end of the summer. In that time, Jimmy Hart wrote a pair of songs for the Rednecks. The first, "Rap is Crap", was a slow, drawling rant against hip-hop. Next came a more up-tempo country rave, "The Good Ol' Boys"......

Eric Bischoff would subsequently bring in heavy metal legends KISS and Megadeth, and signed ex-MTV VJ Ricki Rachtman (ex-Headbanger's Ball) to join the announce team. Unfortunately, the Rednecks, who'd add a 5th man, "Curly Bill" (Mike Jones, formerly Virgil in WWF and Vincent in WCW/NWO), would disband in October, before the human poison pill, Vince Russo, arrived on the scene. The irony, of course, was that Hennig was from Minnesota, but was very adaptable.

Monday, November 9, 2015

What Might've Been: The Barbary Coast (1975)

In the mid-70's, ABC was struggling to find a show that could serve as a lead-in to Monday Night Football. That inexact science has never offered a proper solution.

Anyway, in 1975, ABC tried out The Barbary Coast, a poor man's Wild, Wild West in that it was set in 19th century San Francisco, but it lacked a lot of things, including originality.

Barbary Coast started as a TV-movie pilot that aired on the ABC Sunday Night Movie in May of '75, and generated enough ratings, such that it went to series that fall as a comeback vehicle for William Shatner (ex-Star Trek), who had been making movies and guest appearances in the interim. Shatner played government agent Jeff Cable, who was set up as an amalgam of Wild, Wild West protagonists James West & Artemis Gordon, the latter, like Cable, a master of disguise. Joining Cable was gambler/con man Cash Conover (Dennis Cole in the pilot, Doug McClure in the series).

Ok, you're thinking. Maverick crossed with Wild, Wild West. That might've been the reason that the producers subbed out Cole (ex-The Felony Squad) for McClure (ex-Checkmate, The Virginian), who was better suited, in their opinion, to emulate James Garner's portrayal of Bret Maverick. Barbary came from the pen of Douglas Heyes, who'd worked with Cole on Bearcats! 4 years earlier, but might've been overruled after the pilot.

I can only speculate because I never watched the show. I had only seen commercials. Problem was, the local ABC affiliate seemed to pre-empt Barbary every so often once they realized the series was a ratings loser. The network ultimately took the hint, and cancelled the show.

Following is the open to the pilot movie, directed by Bill Bixby (ex-The Magician, My Favorite Martian, Courtship of Eddie's Father):

Of course, Shatner would come back with T. J. Hooker and the Trek movie series, which put him back on producers' A-lists. Cole turned to directing, and McClure would make movies for the rest of the 70's.

No rating.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Advertising For Dummies: KFC's "reality" bites (2015)

Earlier this year, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) enlisted Saturday Night Live's current announcer, Darrell Hammond, to "resurrect" its founding father, Colonel Harland Sanders. For whatever reason, the ad agency then switched gears and went into the SNL archives to find another Sanders impersonator in Norm McDonald (Mike Tyson Mysteries). Don't ask. The campaign has since jumped the shark, but this quickie creates a smooth transition from Hammond to McDonald.

"The Real Colonel Sanders"? Hardly.

So close, yet so far away........

I was late returning from a day trip in Albany yesterday, so I missed most of the first half of the Section II Class A title game between Troy High & Amsterdam. Maybe, just maybe, it's just as well.

Amsterdam had run off six straight wins after losing a heartbreaker at home to Troy on September 18, 26-21. They knew they could exploit Troy's porous run defense, because that was how they mounted their comeback the first time. On both offense & defense, to go by what the announcers were saying, it was, again, a showcase for Amsterdam senior star Bryan Stanovich, who ran for 2 TD's in the first half, passed for another on the halfback option, and scored on defense as well. The Rams led 35-7 at halftime.

Troy's only 1st half score was a John Germinerio TD toss to Dajuan Hudson. The two connected again twice more in the 3rd quarter, wrapped around an Amsterdam TD, to make the score 42-21. However, it should've been 42-28 at the end of 3, but a Germinerio TD pass to Dev Holmes was wiped out by not one, but two penalties against Troy. The sad part about that, though, is that it took the game officials about 5 minutes and two rounds of donuts to figure out what happened. Those of us who weren't there at Shenendehowa High could only watch and feel as though the zebras were trying to stick it to Troy again, just like they tried 8 nights earlier vs. Queensbury. Albany Times-Union high school beat writer James Allen, calling the game for Time Warner Cable, said he couldn't see where the penalties were, which only lends itself to the conspiracy theory that someone in Section II didn't want Troy advancing to the state title game, and would go to any lengths to achieve that unsavory goal.

However, Troy mounted a furious rally in the 4th, only to fall short, as Amsterdam put up one last TD to ice the game, punching their ticket to the state semi-finals in Kingston on November 21 with a 49-35 verdict. The win streak is now 7 in a row for Amsterdam, but this one is tainted by some selective officiating that went in their favor. Germinerio didn't help his cause, throwing a season high 3 interceptions, as Troy's 9 game win streak came to a crashing end.

While Amsterdam has two weeks to prepare for their next game, Troy can focus on basketball, and hope that the schedule makers send the Rams to Picken Field next year for the return match. Revenge will be on the menu that night, to be sure.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

In Theatres: Spectre (2015)

If Daniel Craig had been serious about turning in his license to kill as Agent 007, James Bond, then his 4th go-round, "Spectre", sees him going out with a figurative bang.

Director Sam Mendes tied in elements from the last three films ("Casino Royale", "Quantum of Solace", & "Skyfall") into "Spectre" to create an overarching storyline that reintroduced Spectre as a criminal organization, one not seen since the non-canonical Sean Connery film, "Never Say Never Again", in 1983. There had been some litigation issues involving the rights to Spectre and 1965's "Thunderball" that had precluded the use of Ernst Stavro Blofeld and company for several years, which is why Blofeld wasn't a factor at all during the Timothy Dalton & Pierce Brosnan eras of Bond in the 80's & 90's.

Anyway, the film starts with Bond in Mexico on an unofficial mission during the Day of the Dead festivities, which makes the timing of "Spectre"'s release even more coincidental, what with Halloween being last week. I digress. Let's just put it this way. Bond makes a mess. Word gets back to his boss, M (Ralph Fiennes), who orders Bond to stand down. Turns out the previous M (Judi Dench in a video cameo) had given Bond his marching orders just before she was killed in "Skyfall". Defiant, Bond's next stop is Rome. Meanwhile, it turns out that the united MI5 & MI6 are being undermined by plans to bring British intelligence into the 21st century----by phasing out the 00 program, and putting Bond out of business.

When we first see Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), he's working under the guise of Franz Oberhauser, who supposedly had perished in an avalanche 20 years ago. Somehow, he's able to detect Bond's presence at a meeting. Putting out a call for a new hired assassin, Blofeld/Oberhauser is introduced to the dapper, silent, but brutal Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista, "Guardians of the Galaxy"), who, incidentally, is never mentioned by name in the movie, an oversight in the script. What the writers were hoping for was a secondary villain in the mold of old school Bond foes Oddjob (Harold Sakata) and Jaws (Richard Kiel). Unfortunately, it seems that Hinx ends up one and done, but you know what they say about finding a body.......! Suffice to say, even though it seems his final scene was just that, I suspect the ringing of millions of cash registers at the box office could impact the prospect of a return. Money talking and all that.

Without saying much more, while there is the chance that Blofeld could return in a subsequent follow-up, the film's ending suggests that, yes, this might be it for Craig, as Bond rides off into the sunset with a lovely "Bond girl" at his side.

Rather than bore you with showcasing the trailer as usual, we'll focus instead on the theme song, "Writing's on the Wall", by Sam Smith, which incorporates film footage.


"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, part 2" (Nov. 20): Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, et al return. Feeling underwhelmed yet?

"The 33" (Nov. 13): Fact-based story of the Chilean miners who were buried alive in a cave-in 5 years ago, and the subsequent rescue effort.

"Room" (Nov. 20).  Not my cup of tea. Let's just put it that way.

"Spectre" gets an A-.

Friday, November 6, 2015

What Might've Been: The Adventurer (1972)

In the 70's, ITC began experimenting with half-hour series, as opposed to their standard hour-long dramas. The formula, though, was new. These half-hours were tailored around a veteran American star. Unfortunately, the end result remained the same. One season and done.

One such case was The Adventurer, which cast Gene Barry, a year removed from The Name of the Game, as actor-secret agent Gene Bradley. Barry Morse (ex-The Fugitive) was Bradley's handler, Mr. Parminter, and appeared in all but one episode.

I regret to say I've never seen the show, so there won't be a rating. I don't even have any memory of it airing in my area. We'll leave you with a sample clip, courtesy of The Rap Sheet:

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Musical Interlude: She (1967)

The Monkees cranked out one great song after another over the course of the series' 2 seasons (1966-8). Here, the guys adopt the suit & tie look to perform "She", with Micky Dolenz on lead vocals. Looks as though this was filmed separately from the core storyline, which had the guys saving a circus.

On the Shelf: Spies, demigods, and destroyers, oh, my!

A ton of stuff has crossed my desk over the past week, so let's just take a look, shall we?

For openers, Cartoon Network's been doing more business with Boom! Studios' Kaboom! imprint of late, as well as IDW (Idea & Design Works), licensing some of their original series (i.e. Adventure Time, Uncle Grandpa). For a forthcoming [adult swim] series, however, CN decided that corporate sibling DC Comics would get to preview Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter, a 5-part live-action miniseries that will air December 7-11 on [as] and On Demand.

On a lark, I decided to grab the Neon Joe freebie. Nice story, and a twist on an old theme. Joe was at first raised by werewolves, who otherwise were an ordinary couple. Mom was a lawyer, for example, but when Dad ran off with the nanny, Mom went ballistic and threw herself into a hail of silver police bullets. So Joe went off and joined up with a pack of normal wolves, only to be their mentor instead. Yeah, as warped as you'd expect from [as]. However, the husband & wife team of Tom Mandrake & Jan Duursema create the perfectly atmospheric artwork that makes one wish this would be an ongoing comic book.

Rating: B+.

Marvel's latest reprint 1-shot collects some classic material with Blade, Marv Wolfman & Gene Colan's vampire hunter from Tomb of Dracula, who's been tried out as a solo act a couple of times in recent years with limited success. "Undead by Daylight" borrows its title from the last of three Tomb reprints, but we are reminded again that this version of Dracula is just how the vampire icon should be presented, not the silver-haired refugee from some RPG that the current administrative Marbleheads decided should be the personification of Dracula. Yeah, I'm looking your way again, Jose Quesadilla (Joe Quesada) & Jeph Loeb. The volume wraps with a reprint of the previous graphic novel, "Crescent City Blues", in which Blade teams with Hannibal King, the vampire PI, and Brother Voodoo. Colan drew all four stories, but the last one lacked the zip of the classic Tomb stories.

Rating: B.

Meanwhile, in the modern world, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby's itineration of Hercules returns in an all-new series, written by Dan Abnett. Gilgamesh, who was a member of the Avengers for about 2 hours in the late 80's, is along for the ride. Abnett's mission, aided by artist Luke Ross, is to make Herc more of a serious hero, instead of the playboy Lee had envisioned him to be more than 50 years ago. Of course, a certain TV show from 20 years ago also helped make this Herc look like chump change, but that's another story altogether. Abnett's got a lot of work to do, and, unfortunately, I don't see this going very far. We'll give this a little more study before assigning a rating.

After a short Thor story and an ode to his hometown Cubs earlier this year, CM Punk returns as co-author of Drax, which, of course, is part of the Guardians of the Galaxy line of books. Punk (Philip Brooks) is co-scripting with Cullen Bunn, and the first issue looks more like it was mostly Bunn laying the groundwork. Drax is off on his own on a break from the current Guardians lineup (Kitty Pryde as the new Star-Lord?!? How in the blue hizell did they decide to have her shack up with Peter Quill in the first place?), which includes Venom (Flash Thompson, not Eddie Brock) and The Thing, along with, of course, everyone's favorite odd couple, Rocket Raccoon & Groot. Punk knocked one out of the park in Strange Sports Stories, and while Bunn's teaching him the Marble style of storytelling in a monthly series, we wouldn't mind him doing a Star-Kitty solo story somewhere down the road, too. He just has to picture his wife (AJ Lee) as Kitty, and he's all set. I have faith this will work, and I shan't be surprised if there is the predictable crossover among the books in the line next year. Drax is hunting Thanos, of course, but that may be a mission impossible.

Rating: B.

A classic Archie Comics hero returns in Dark Circle's latest entry, The Hangman, which the company is hoping will end up more like DC's Spectre in how he is presented going forward. Writer Frank Tieri cut his teeth at Marble in the 90's, writing The Punisher for a bit, and will have a full plate as of next month, when he adds Catwoman (DC) and Red Sonja (Dynamite) to his schedule. This is the first Hangman series on its own, and it's a keeper. Seems there's a changing of the guard, not quite unlike the first arc in Black Hood. We're curious.

Rating: Incomplete.

Just in time for Daniel Craig's 4th go-round as Agent 007, James Bond surfaces at Dynamite, with one of England's best writers, Warren Ellis, at the helm. That's enough of a selling point. The recent changes with Ms. Moneypenny, M, et al, enacted in "Skyfall", are in place here. Like, do you really need any more incentive?

Rating: A.

And, yeah, a review of "Spectre" will appear here at The Land of Whatever this weekend.

Also from Dynamite is a little oddity, Cage Hero. A troubled high school wrestler finds himself recast in a very different role that he might not be ready for. Kind of like "The Karate Kid" crossed with "VisionQuest" and some science fiction. We'll hold on a rating for now.

More Marblehead silliness. Somewhere along the way, some alleged genius decided that Timothy A. "Dum Dum" Dugan's consciousness would be kept alive in a series of Life Model Decoys (LMD's), similar to the THUNDER Agent No-Man, such that it allows Dugan to be the leader of a new set of Howling Commandos. No, not like the original Nick Fury & Dugan's bunch from World War II, but a group of monsters, including Man-Thing and something called Teen Abomination (Say what?). Yeah, I get it. A ripoff of DC's Creature Commandos, which actually had better writing back in the day. The "Vampire by Night" merits a spinoff series all by herself (naturally), but we are so not digging, and we don't see it lasting a year, though we'll see if we're right about the spinoff.

Rating: C.

We'll close with some entries from last week's Halloween ComicFest:

Doctor Strange: The Oath previews a forthcoming trade paperback compilation by Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin, and is not attached to the new Jason Aaron-Chris Bachalo monthly that debuted a couple of weeks prior. Wong has taken ill, and Dr. Strange literally may have to go through hell and high water to find a cure. The Oath had been published as a miniseries some time back. This might be of interest, but we'll pass.

Rating: B--.

Meanwhile, Marvel pimps out two of their DisneyXD cartoons in one single issue, trying for the old school format of, say, Tales to Astonish, which some readers would be if they realized the toons aren't as good as Marble thinks they are.

Dr. Strange factors into the Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors tale, as Peter Parker is dealing with Strange's old nemesis, Nightmare. Unfortunately, and, predictably, Jim Zub's script doesn't mesh very well. What did you expect? The Avengers Assemble story leads off, as the Avengers are in Latveria to help Dr. Doom, of all people, battle Dracula (the silver-haired goof I referenced earlier). Nice art by Ron Lim saves an otherwise dim script.

Rating: C.

As for the rest:

The Adventures of Psycho Bonkers (Aspen) is equal parts comic book and activity book, but not quite in the way of Marvel's old Fun & Games monthly from the 80's. In catering to different demographic groups, it fails. Rating: D.

Zenescope's Grimm Tales of Terror reprints its 2nd issue for the 2nd time. Three writers collaborated on the plot, with one writing the final script, which is meant to be a homage to old school horror (think EC), which means plenty of blood & gore. Meh. Whatever. Rating: B.

IDW serves up Donald Duck's Halloween Scream. You'll scream, alright, with lots of laughs. The two tales are 25 year old reprints from Disney's own imprint, published by Gladstone, as memory serves, and they're a real hoot. Too bad IDW can't be bothered to lower the price on the current Disney line and other kid-friendly series, as all of their titles are licensed, and carry a uniform $4 cover price.

Rating: A.

Stan Lee's Chakra the Invincible, created & produced for India, apparently is a digital first book from Graphic India. The 1-shot here is a series of short stories that fly by way too quickly to suit. You need to slowly turn the pages to process the action. Rating: B.

Finally, from Action Lab, we have two manga-inspired mature titles in a single 1-shot. Vampblade & Zombie Tramp can be dismissed as little more than nice ideas ruined by bad writing. Actionverse features Molly Danger and Dog of Wonder (not to be confused with Hanna-Barbera's Dynomutt by any stretch), and the writing of former DC scribe Jamal Igle. Lots of fun, to be sure.


Actionverse: A.
Vampblade/Zombie Tramp: D-.

We previously mentioned the miniseries that DC will roll out beginning in January. Seems they've had a change of heart on Katana, as the Mike Barr-penned storyline will be paired with Deadshot and linked to Suicide Squad, all to tie into the forthcoming movie. Katana's last book bombed out after 8 issues, so DC wants to cut any chances on another failure. Len Wein is back writing Swamp Thing, which is, of course, good news, but the bad is that it's being drawn by Kelley (Along Came) Jones, whose artwork is a cross-section of Berni Wrightson and Sam Kieth, leaning toward the latter, and not in a good way. We're more interested in the Poison Ivy miniseries, having seen Clay Mann's artwork.

Moron TV: That 70's Show (1998)

To paraphrase Grandpa Jones on Hee Haw back in the day, it beats me why That 70's Show lasted so long.

One of the last hits, along with NBC's 3rd Rock From the Sun, to come from the Carsey-Werner factory (i.e. The Cosby Show, A Different World, Roseanne), That 70's Show looked through a skewed viewpoint of life in the 70's, and I do mean skewed.

Character actor Kurtwood Smith, better known for his dramatic work, played one of the parental figures on the show, Red Forman, whose son, Eric (Topher Grace), and his friends often hung out in the basement of the Forman house, just goofing off. The breakout star, however, wound up being Ashton Kutcher, who played dumber-than-two-bags-of hammers Michael Kelso, but wound up getting an endorsement deal with Canon cameras, plus spinning off on his own to develop the modern day answer to Candid Camera, MTV's Punk'd.

Co-star Mila Kunis (Jackie) joined the cast of another Fox series, Family Guy, as put-upon Meg Griffin, while 70's was still running. Wilmer Valderrama (Fez) developed the Disney Channel series, Handy Manny, following Kutcher's lead in moving to the creative side of things.

What I was thinking of doing was posting a clip of Kelso and the gang's fantasy sequence as the Super Friends, but after seeing Jackie and Hyde (Danny Masterson) as the Wonder Twins, and making out, I backed off. That scene, I think, might've either inspired Frank Cho's infamous homage to Hanna-Barbera that also had the Twins in a liplock (Ewwww! Much disrespect!) with each other, or was inspired by that piece of blasphemy. Instead, I picked out this short clip, in which Eric & Red go backstage to meet 70's wrestling star Rocky Johnson, marking the acting debut of Rocky's son, Dwayne, aka The Rock. The late Hall of Famer Ernie Ladd plays Rocky's manager.

So, for those of you who have issues with the People's Movie Star leaving WWE a wee bit too early in his career, this is the spark that started it all.

I just couldn't see much of the humor to this show, which, to its credit, actually gave Tommy Chong some steady work while his regular partner, Cheech Marin, was moving into drama with a supporting role on Nash Bridges. Personally, I think Cheech got the better of the deal.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What Might've Been: Crossword (1966)

Nearly a decade before The Cross-Wits, there was a simple little show called Crossword that didn't quite make it.

George Fenneman, who'd been Groucho Marx's sidekick on You Bet Your Life, and would share announcer's duties on Dragnet during its 1967-70 revival, was tapped to host. I had previously seen this on the TV4U website some time back, but now is available on YouTube. Let's scope it out. 

Edit, 1/30/22: The video's been deleted. In its place is a sampler with Carolyn Jones, fresh from The Addams Family, and Michael Landon (Bonanza):

The more recent Merv Griffin's Crosswords fell more into line with this show than the much more successful Cross-Wits. Small wonder, then, that it ended up failing.

Rating: C.

Monday, November 2, 2015

What Might've Been: Whew! (1979)

Some game shows have had the oddest titles. Once, there was a show called, How Do You Like Your Eggs? Folks, I ain't making this up. In 1979, an independent producer, Bud Austin, packaged his only show, the cleverly named Whew!, for CBS. The show lasted a year, and was another line on the resume of game show icon Tom Kennedy.

Speaking of icons, Wink Martindale has an episode from the fall of '79 on his YouTube channel. Let's scope it out.

Announcer Rod Roddy would later work for Goodson-Todman, succeeding Johnny Olsen on The Price is Right, then venture into cartoon work for Disney (House of Mouse). Tom Kennedy, now retired, seemed to have one, sometimes two series per year during the 70's & 80's. Talk about being in demand.

Rating: A.

Now comes the hard part for the champions........

And, so, it's over. The Kansas City Royals marked the 30th anniversary of their first World Series championship by winning this year's edition in 5 games over the Mets. The two teams won't have to wait long to meet again, however, as they'll open the 2016 season at Kaufmann Stadium next April.

To give credit where it's due, the Royals played like the hungrier team, wanting to prove that their run last year, ending in a 7 game loss to San Francisco, wasn't a fluke. Fox announcer Joe Buck stressed during the fatal 12th inning the Royals' familiarity with Mets reliever Addison Reed, dating back to his days as the closer with the Chicago White Sox. Many of the same players on both teams had previously met when the Royals won 2 of 3 at Citi Field in 2013, so there was some familiarity there, too. While the scouting reports were fresh entering the series, I would not discount the fact that the Royals could've kept the reports they used 2 years prior on the likes of Lucas Duda and David Wright. They knew Cespedes and Curtis Granderson from the AL (Granderson with the Tigers & Yankees, Cespedes with Oakland, Boston, and the Tigers). They certainly knew Bartolo Colon. No matter how far back it went, a scouting report does go a long way.

For the Mets' Cinderella story, the clock, appropriately enough, struck midnight, as Sunday evening gave way to Monday morning after another bullpen meltdown resulted in a 5 run 12th inning for the Royals, breaking a 2-2 deadlock, for a 7-2 win. Mets closer Jeurys Familia couldn't slam the door shut after Matt Harvey pitched into the 9th inning, suffering his 3rd blown save in the Series. Familia's struggles were just one sign that the Mets' youth movement's general inexperience in the postseason had finally caught up with them. The Young Guns (Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz) were as advertised, but fell victim to bad luck more than the opportunistic Royals offense. NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy's home run stroke disappeared, and his defensive struggles returned in the final 2 games, which would have his detractors justifying the Mets' rumored decision to cut bait and let Murphy test the free agent waters.

Yoenis Cespedes was kept in the ballpark the entire series, and was knocked from the game on Sunday after fouling a ball off his left knee. It might be that he's played his last game as a Met if Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports team decides to have him chase the money. Mets owner Fred Wilpon would be wise to open the checkbook to retain Cespedes, especially if Juan Lagares, reduced to a reserve role in the 2nd half, needs surgery on his elbow, which affected his throwing. Considering that Cespedes has played for four teams in the last two seasons now, and quickly became a fan favorite in Flushing, the Mets cannot afford to be presented again as cheap.

And we don't want to hear from America's Parasite, Scott (20 Mule Team) Boras, as it relates to Harvey's bulldog effort in Game 5. He can take his medical reports and stick them where the sun won't shine.

As for the champs, the hardest part, of course, is retaining the core of the team, as they too must guard against free agency. It would mean a lot if both teams actually have the same units on the field when they meet again in five months' time. ESPN would love to have them open the season on Sunday Night Baseball if possible. The Royals waited 30 years for another championship. George Brett, who was on the 1985 team, is now an executive, and earned his 2nd ring as a result. Could they reach the Series for a 3rd straight year? The last team to turn that trick? The Yankees, who were the Royals' nemesis in the glory years of the late 70's-early 80's.

The Mets, though, can learn from this experience, and follow a pattern. The Royals came up short last year, then won it all. The Mets will mark 30 years since their last title next year. Will we see an October rematch? Well.........!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Celebrity Rock: Hey, Look Me Over (1976)

Here's a lost gem from Dinah!, Dinah Shore's syndicated talk show that ran for six seasons total (1974-80; the title was amended to Dinah! & Friends in 1979).

Dinah is joined by Lucille Ball and Valerie Harper (Rhoda) for a rendition of "Hey, Look Me Over", from the 1961 Broadway musical, "Wildfire", which Ball produced, and Harper starred in.

We'll take a closer look at Dinah! another time.

Here's what Al from Happy Days was doing after the show ended (1991)

In memory of actor Al Molinaro, who passed away at 96, we take you back to the 90's, when Al was a pitchman for On-Cor frozen dinners.

It's safe to say Molinaro had a full career. The original Odd Couple (he was Murray the Cop) led to his eventually being called in by producer Garry Marshall to replace Pat Morita on Happy Days when Morita left for James Komack's short-lived Mr. T & Tina, and pulled double duty on the spin-off, Joanie Loves Chachi. His last gig of note came when he appeared with Kenosha, Wisconsin homeboys Weezer in the Days tribute video, "Buddy Holly", in 1994.

Rest in peace, Al. The card game is probably waiting for you.