Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Classic Reborn: The New WKRP in Cincinnati (1991)

Nearly 10 years after the original series ended, The New WKRP in Cincinnati hit the airwaves in syndication. Not everyone was back, as Howard Hesseman (Johnny Fever) and Tim Reid (Venus Flytrap) had moved on to other series. Hesseman, in fact, was starring on ABC's Head of the Class at the time, and only made guest appearances in this series. Reid had switched gears to drama, landing a supporting role in the 80's on CBS' Simon & Simon before moving back to comedy later in the 90's (Sister, Sister).

The revival lasted two seasons, or one year less than the original.

Following is an episode that brought back Tim Reid as Venus Flytrap.

No rating.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Musical Interlude: One Toke Over The Line (1970-1)

The folk duo Brewer & Shipley only had one big hit, and it was "One Toke Over The Line", which suggests drug use based on the title alone. Released in 1970 on the album, "Tarkio" (aka "Tarkio Road"), the song peaked on the Hot 100 a year later. Hence being listed as a 1971 song in the following clip, taken from VH-1's initial My Generation series with Herman's Hermits frontman Peter Noone as host. Noone does not appear in the clip, however.

Believe it or else, the song was covered on, of all places, The Lawrence Welk Show, where they assumed it was a "modern spiritual", due to mentioning Jesus in the lyrics. All I can say is, judge for yourselves.

Weasel of the Week: Ethan Couch

One of the more popular tropes in crime dramas that I've seen in recent times has youthful suspects, either teens or 20-somethings, from wealthy families who think their parents' money will get them off. It doesn't always work.

This week's Weasel is a real-life version of that trope.

Ethan Couch, now 18, made headlines in 2013 when he ran over 4 people while under the influence of alcohol & Valium. Instead of going to jail, he got probation when a shrink, no doubt paid off by Couch's parents, argued that Couch had been so spoiled he couldn't be held responsible.

Obviously, I call BS. "Affluenza", a term coined by Couch's case, is just a coward's way out. The Couches didn't want Ethan going to jail, and why was that? Were they afraid their little boy wouldn't survive prison? Apparently, yes.

Couch is back in the news because he and his mom decided to flee to Mexico to avoid Ethan finishing the terms of his probation. They were extradited back to Texas, and it's likely that both of them are headed off to jail. The District Attorney's office will seek to have the probation revoked, which would force Ethan to serve jail time, but Mommy will end up doing time, too. I can't see them getting off a 2nd time.

To borrow a line from Jewel Aikens' 1-hit wonder, "The Birds & the Bees", Ethan, it's time you learned about the facts of (real) life. Way past time. Your parents and their money are not always going to save you, and this time, you just have to man up and accept the consequences of your actions.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Musical Interlude: Ace of Spades (1980)

In memory of Motorhead bassist-vocalist Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, who passed away over the weekend at 70, we serve up the title tune from the band's 1980 album, "Ace of Spades":

Funny thing, I never saw this on MTV during its glory years.........! Rest in peace, Lemmy.

Monday, December 28, 2015

What Might've Been: The Better Sex (1977)

The success of Family Feud prompted ABC to commission another survey-based game show from Mark Goodson & Bill Todman.

Unfortunately, The Better Sex lasted six months (July 1977-January 1978), trapped in the lunch hour death slot due to ABC opting for reruns of Happy Days or other primetime shows at 11 am (ET). Country singer Bill Anderson was partnered with Sarah Purcell, introduced together by announcer Gene Wood, unlike Wheel of Fortune over on NBC, where original host Chuck Woolery introduced letter-turner Susan Stafford, who was perceived more as a sidekick, not a co-host. In Albany, the local stations began shuffling network affiliations 2 months into Better Sex's run, which didn't help matters at all.

Let's take a look at one of the pilots:

As you probably know, Sarah Purcell went on to greater success in primetime with Real People (previously reviewed). Bill Anderson was given one more game show, but not on broadcast television. Anderson was hired to host Fandango for the nascent Nashville Network (the original version, known now as Spike TV) in the early 80's. We'll look at Fandango another time.

No rating.

A little of this and a little of that

Have the Yankees lost their collective minds?

With a domestic abuse charge hanging over his head, not yet formally applied, mind you, Aroldis Chapman, arguably the most dominant left-handed closer in baseball, has been traded by Cincinnati to the Bronx Bombers for 4 minor leaguers. Never mind that the Yankees already have a proven closer in Andrew Miller, whom they re-signed, and home grown star Dellin Betances, at the end of the bullpen, but GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner brothers decided to follow old George's blueprint and mortgage the farm to win now. The Reds had to void a deal that would've sent Chapman to the Dodgers because of concerns over the reports of domestic abuse a few weeks ago. For the Yankees, this is equally risky, because if Chapman is formally charged and faces jail time, then this is a wasted move, and the Bombers are left holding the bag.

From the Reds' perspective, however, their pen is suddenly weaker than ever. Yes, they were an also-ran in the NL Central this year, and they already dealt Home Run Derby winner Todd Frazier this offseason. They won't be in contention next year, but then......!
I didn't watch the Jets-Patriots game on Sunday, so I was taken aback when reading the bottom line on Fox during the Cardinals' massacre of Green Bay. The defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots had a chance to lock down the #1 seed in the AFC, and flushed it because of a simple coin flip in overtime. It is said that when the Pats win a coin toss, they usually defer a decision to the opposition for strategic reasons. Not this time. Coach Bill Belichick defended the decision of reserve wide receiver and special teamer Matthew Slater, who must've felt like A. C. Slater (Mario Lopez from Saved by the Bell), looking like such a deer in the headlights. As it happened, the Pats' offense never saw the field in OT, as the Jets marched down the field and Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Eric Decker with the game winning TD pass, beating Super Bowl hero (and rightful MVP) Malcolm Butler in the end zone.

All will be forgiven in paranoid Patriot Nation if Denver, the 3 seed, can knock off 2nd seeded Cincinnati tonight, which would lock up the #1 seed for New England.
By now, I'm sure you've heard about the Al Jazeera documentary that purports to link Denver quarterback/insurance & pizza salesman Peyton Manning, along with baseball players Ryan Howard and Ryan Zimmerman, to usage of HGH. However, Charlie (on the) Sly, who didn't know he was being recorded when he made the on-camera statements, has since recanted his remarks. Al Jazeera America, formerly Al Gore's Current network, is desperate for ratings, I get that, but this brought out the jingoistic idiots online who note that the core Al Jazeera network is based in Qatar, and, well, enter the usual Islamophobia from these dorks.

Reportedly, there are also conflicting accounts that put Sly's actual employment with the pharmaceutical firm involved in question. Al Jazeera's trying out a poor man's 48 Hours (the CBS series), and failing. Badly.
Closer to home, you wouldn't know there was a high school hockey tournament the last two days, due to a glaring lack of press coverage. Didn't see anything on TV, didn't read anything in the newspaper. LaSalle reached the championship game Sunday afternoon at Union College, losing to Essex Junction (Vermont). Both The Record and the Albany Times-Union whiffed on covering the tournament, but you can bet the farm they would've had someone at Union if CBA or Saratoga were playing. I know LaSalle's experiencing some lean times these days, but these kids are getting routinely disrespected, especially by their hometown paper, and that's wrong.

Meanwhile, on the hardwood, Troy High salvaged 3rd place in a holiday tournament at Bishop Ludden High in Syracuse, winning a consolation game on Sunday after having their six game win streak snapped by Liverpool on Saturday. Troy's boys have a week off before league play resumes January 5. Meanwhile, the girls host the Troy Holiday Classic, starting Wednesday, with an all-Suburban Council field. The Lady Horses will have a rematch against suddenly hot Columbia on Wednesday, with the winners facing the winner of a game between Shaker & Bethlehem on Sunday afternoon.
We have to close with some sad news.

Just so this isn't entirely a sports article, and this has taken me two weeks to get to, local TV icon turned Rensselaer County legislator Ralph Vartigian passed away earlier this month. Vartigian was known to children as "Commander Ralph", anchor of WTEN's Good Ship News, which gave way to Young People's News in the mid-70's as those same kids were growing up, and Vartigian retired his Navy uniform. He also co-hosted Dialing For Dollars (1970-5) and was one of the first anchors of the station's 12 noon news before leaving WTEN to move into the political arena. Unfortunately, there is no video footage of either of his 5 minute news programs to be had on YouTube.

Dave Henderson will be remembered for helping the Boston Red Sox end a 11 year World Series draught by leading the BoSox to the 1986 AL pennant, defeating the Angels before falling to the Mets in the Series. Henderson passed away in a Seattle hospital last week at 57.

Finally, perhaps the greatest Harlem Globetrotter of them all, George Meadow (Meadowlark) Lemon III, passed away over the weekend at 83. Lemon played for the 'Trotters for 26 seasons total (1955-79, 1994), founded two more barnstorming teams of his own, then swapped his singlet for a pulpit, becoming an ordained minister.

In 1971, the 'Trotters, with Meadowlark front & center starred in an ad for Vitalis.......

The current Globetrotters will be in Albany on February 7. Have to wonder if there will be a tribute to Meadowlark during the current tour.

In case anyone wonders, we'll hand out Dunce Caps to Yankee owners Hank & Hal Steinbrenner & GM Brian Cashman for going through with the Chapman trade. They're going to need a miracle to turn this into a winning trade.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Classic TV: Martin Kane, Private Eye (1949)

Martin Kane, Private Eye ran concurrently on radio & television from 1949 through about 1952, and may be better known for its blatant product placement more for the plots and in-show commercials for its sponsor, the United States Tobacco Company.

William Gargan is the actor most associated with Kane, but he wasn't the only one to essay the part. Both versions of the series, on radio & television, followed a particular formula that called for the commercials to originate from a tobacco shop. Sometimes it served the additional purpose of moving the story along.

From Mill Creek's TV Guide Spotlight DVD compilation of classic detective shows comes "The District Attorney Killer", from March 1951. Frank DeKova, better known to baby boomers as Chief Wild Eagle from F-Troop in the 60's, guest stars.

DeKova later turned up during the 1st season of The Untouchables before swapping his fine-tailored suits for Native American garb. William Gargan would reprise in a sequel, The New Adventures of Martin Kane, produced overseas for United Artists, likely as a 1-season wonder, in 1957.

Rating: B.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Musical Interlude: Ain't Even Done With The Night (1980)

Before rebooting himself as a Midwestern Springsteen, with a touch of Dylan, John Cougar Mellencamp was making inroads on the charts, and peaked at #17 with 1980's "Ain't Even Done With The Night", off "Nothing Matters and What if it Did?".

The video includes a sneaky little homage to James Brown at the end. You'll see what I mean.

It would take two more years before Mellencamp would crack the top of the pop charts with "Hurts So Good" & "Jack & Diane", off "American Fool", the last album to use the Cougar pseudonym.

What Might've Been: Decoy (1957)

What Jack Webb and Dragnet did, dramatizing and adapting cases from the files of the Los Angeles Police Department, other shows were copying. In New York, one such series took a look at police work from a woman's point of view.

Decoy lasted just 1 season as a starring vehicle for Beverly Garland ("The Alligator People"), whom most TV trivia scholars might associate more with her run during the later years of the sitcom, My Three Sons. Garland was cast as undercover detective Casey Jones, and, like Webb, Garland doubled as narrator.

In "To Trap a Thief", Casey poses as a blackmailer who'd already been captured to capture a previously undetected suspect in a robbery case.

Even though there were sitcoms (The Goldbergs, Beulah) and Westerns (Annie Oakley) with female leads, it seems that folks weren't quite ready for a crime drama with one. Not only that, but, as we've noted before, there was a glut of crime dramas in those days, moreso than there is now.

Rating: B.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!: A Christmas Carol (aka Scrooge) (1951)

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been one of the most frequently adapted works in literature, as there have been numerous stage productions, as well as feature films and television specials over the years.

One of the most celebrated adaptations was released in 1951 in England under the title, "Scrooge", with Alastair Sim in the title role. The movie was released here as "A Christmas Carol", as American exhibitors felt that it was an easier sell to moviegoers under the book title, not realizing that nearly 20 years later, there would be a musical version of "Scrooge" with Albert Finney in the lead.

I'm sure you all know the story. Ebenezer Scrooge, whose hard heart may have been the inspiration for Dr. Seuss' Grinch, for all we know, has turned his back, shall we say, on Christmas, and it takes the intervention of the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley, and three additional spirits, to change his miserly ways. Keep an eye out for a couple of players better known to American audiences in later times. Hermoine Baddeley, who joined the cast of Maude late in its run, plays Mrs. Cratchit, and Patrick Macnee, a decade before The Avengers, appears as Marley in a flashback sequence when Marley & Scrooge first met.

You would think from reading reviews that Sim would've been up for the British equivalent of the Oscars for his performance, but I know not that he earned any nominations in England or the US.

Rating: B.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

On DVD: Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story (2013)

Originally presented on Hallmark Channel two years ago, "Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story" doesn't tell the whole story of one of the greatest hockey players of all time.

The film starts with archived footage of Howe early in his career, leading up to his retirement after 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. The balance of the film is a dramatization of Howe's comeback, playing alongside sons Marty & Mark, for the Houston Aeros of the short-lived World Hockey Association, which merged with the NHL in time for the 1979-80 season. Howe (Michael Shanks) finds himself a bit of a pariah with his former club, whose ownership at the time vowed that there would never be a merger of the two leagues, feeling betrayed, for lack of a better description, by the decision of Howe to come out of retirement to help his sons and the Aeros win the WHA title.

It ends with footage of the 1980 NHL All-Star Game, and the real Howe, who would return to the NHL with Hartford. I believe the 1980 All-Star Game was his last. Aside from game action, it plays as a standard, cookie-cutter cable movie.

While the complete film is available on YouTube, I think we'll be safe with the trailer:

Rating: C.

Sports this 'n' that

I took advantage of a discount offer in the Albany Times-Union the other day and took in Tuesday's game between Siena and St. Bonaventure at Times-Union Center. This game says a lot about what college basketball is meant to be. Players who stay the full four years, rather than listen to a bunch of nabobs and leeches who want them to chase the money before they're ready. No "one-&-done" players here.
Siena got sloppy on defense in the second half, and it nearly cost them before they escaped with a 73-70 verdict. Nice way to spend a Tuesday night on the town when certain primetime shows are in reruns.
For all intents & purposes, the Giants' playoff chances might as well have been flushed down the tubes, not so much with the 38-35 loss to Carolina on Sunday, but the glaring immaturity of Odell Beckham, Jr., who will sit out the next game, a primetime game at Minnesota. The tabloid media in New York over-hyped a potential one-on-one matchup between Beckham, a second year receiver, and Carolina DB Josh Norman, who drew a mere fine from the league, as opposed to a 1-game suspension handed to Beckham.

What bothered me more was that 1) neither player was ejected when they started scuffling in the 1st quarter, and that the game officials couldn't be bothered to throw the book at them. Dean Blandino, VP of officiating for the league, went on record as saying Beckham, at least, should've been tossed. Critics have found fault with both the players and the game officials, the latter for their incompetence. I get that they were trying to give Beckham, an emerging star, some leeway, rather than send him to an early shower, which would've had fans upset well before halftime. As it was, Beckham and Norman had 5 personal foul calls between them. 2) The appeal process that both players are using is a waste of time in this case. Everyone saw what was going on, so take the punishment and move on. 3) Now it's coming out that supposedly Panthers players were making some derogatory remarks toward Beckham before the game. Gamesmanship is one thing, but this was just flat out stupid. In this writer's opinion, it changes the perception of the NFC South champions, who you'd hope would be the antithesis of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. A perception that, hopefully, can be dissipated in due course.

End result: Beckham and referee Terry Macaulay's crew get Dunce Caps. Beckham for an ill-advised appeal. The zebras for ignoring common sense.
ESPN's advertising department thinks they're being cute & clever using Santa Claus to help promote 5 NBA games airing tomorrow on ESPN & ABC. Don't ya think ol' St. Nick would be looking for something better to do after today?
For high schools, Christmas means holiday tournaments. Troy High's boys team will be in Syracuse Saturday & Sunday at Bishop Ludden's tournament, riding a six game winning streak that has them two games up in the Suburban Council's Gray division. The girls, meanwhile, will host the Troy Holiday Classic beginning on Wednesday night, starting with a rematch with Columbia. The Lady Horses blew away Columbia three weeks ago, but the Lady Devils have gotten hot since, having won four of their last five. Troy, on the other hand, has won three of five over the same stretch, winning their last two after getting blown out at home by Albany a week ago.

The road for both Troy teams doesn't get easier in January, not with Shenendehowa waiting at the end of the month. The Plainsmen have been blowing teams away, but then, what else is new? On the other hand, a much anticipated rematch of the Section II Girls' Class A final between Troy & Averill Park on January 15 sees both teams chasing the leaders in their respective divisions. Troy is 2 back behind Albany in the Gray Division. Averill Park is 4 behind Shen in the Blue Division. This will be Troy's 1st regular season visit to Averill Park, whose boys team likewise makes its first trip to Zotto Gym that night. There is also anticipation for a sellout at Zotto Gym two weeks later, when Shen's boys come to town.

Now, all we need are television cameras......!
The National Hockey League's annual Winter Classic on January 1 will be the 2nd one for the Boston Bruins, and this time, since they've already used Fenway Park, the game will be played in Foxborough, at Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots. However, if the weather remains unseasonably mild & warm next week, it won't feel like winter to start the new year. Maybe if they can get Bob Kraft to cover the field with Miracle Whip and whipped cream, who'd know the difference? (Just sayin')

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What Might've Been: The Last Precinct (1986)

Imagine, if you will, the "Police Academy" movies as if envisioned by Stephen J. Cannell.

From there, you'd have a pretty good idea about Cannell's short-lived action comedy, The Last Precinct, which skewered the usual conventions about cop shows, but had the life span of a leaky can of oil, which is to say, not much.

Last Precinct was a parody, particularly, of another NBC series of the period, Hill Street Blues, and the fact that the parody was on the same network might've offended enough people to the point that it caused a quick cancellation. It also served as a comeback vehicle for Adam West (ex-Batman, The Detectives), who, like Leslie Nielsen, was resurrecting his career as more of a comic actor, realizing that straight drama, other than a guest turn on, say, Murder, She Wrote, was not in his future. The ensemble also included Keenan Wynn, Lucy Lee Flippin, tennis star Vijay Armitraj, and comic Rick Ducommon. Suffice to say, Cannell never tried another comedy after this.

Gilmore Box provides the intro. Ironically, Mike Post, Cannell's go-to guy for composing themes, also wrote and charted with the theme from Hill Street Blues.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What Might've Been: Code 3 (1957)

In the wake of Dragnet's runaway success on radio & television, there were the inevitable imitators.

Code 3, for example, adapted cases from the files of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's office during the course of its 9 months on the air (April-December 1957). Producer Hal Roach, Jr. didn't really have the master's touch like his father did.

But because there were so many crime dramas on the air in 1957, along with Westerns and sitcoms and variety shows, Code 3 was lost in the shuffle. Roach apparently wanted to keep his production values simple, much like his father's famous comedy shorts of a past generation.

Let's check out "The Benson Case":

Rating: B.

Countdown to Christmas: Someday at Christmas (2015)

For their 2015 Christmas ad campaign, Apple recruited R & B legend Stevie Wonder to revive a 1967 holiday composition, "Someday at Christmas", aided by Andra Day.

And, from last month, a live performance, recorded by a fan, at Madison Square Garden:

To be honest, I'd never heard "Someday at Christmas" before this year. Go figure.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Classic TV: The Galloping Gourmet (1969)

Graham Kerr's Galloping Gourmet only was on the air for 2 seasons (1969-71), but without the success of the series, there wouldn't be cable networks devoted to cooking, and we wouldn't have ABC's current The Chew, which we reviewed the other day.

Kerr, from England, had been doing a cooking show in Australia when a Canadian syndicator approached him about creating a new show that would also air in the US. In recent times, however, Kerr, now a born-again Christian, has renounced Gourmet, due to the more, ah, risque elements of the show. Kerr returned with a 5 minute syndicated program, Take Kerr, in 1975. Reruns aired on CNN as time filler when the network launched in 1980.

Kerr was also a bit of a clown on Gourmet, as you'll see in this sample episode:

As you can see, the Cooking Channel either has or had the cable rights to the series.

Rating: A-.

Celebrity Rock: Freebird Road (2012)

Michael Hayes is the last of the original Fabulous Freebirds, currently employed by WWE as a member of their creative team. In the spring of 2012, Hayes released a music video tribute to his fallen teammate, Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy, "Freebird Road", which was written a few months earlier to mark the 10th anniversary of Gordy's passing. While the Freebirds as a collective unit only had what amounted to a cup of coffee with the then-World Wrestling Federation, managed by Cyndi Lauper's then-beau Dave Wolfe, in the mid-80's, there's still a clamor for the team to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and it could come as early as this coming spring, with Wrestlemania 32 scheduled for Arlington, Texas.

A Hayes fan channel posted the video:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Forgotten TV: Dick Tracy (1950)

Chester Gould's seminal sleuth, Dick Tracy, made a transition from comic strips to movie serials to television, reaching the then-new medium in 1950 for a 2 year run. Ralph Byrd, who played Tracy in the serials, reprised here, but, other than that, the series wasn't anything to write home about.

Still, it was included on a TV Guide DVD compilation of classic detective shows, released by Mill Creek. Live action television really wasn't any more kind to Tracy than it was to, say, The Shadow, a couple of years prior.

Take for example "Dick Tracy & Flattop". Makeup just couldn't create Flattop's signature look. Shoot, the guy doesn't even have freckles!

15 years after the series ended, William Dozier had obtained the rights, but his pilot, which fell somewhere between Batman & Green Hornet, went nowhere. It wasn't until Warren Beatty's 1990 film that Tracy and his Rogues Gallery were finally given a proper amount of respect.

Rating: C.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (1987)

U2 had one of the better cuts on 1987's "A Very Special Christmas" with their version of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home":

On The Air: The Chew (2011)

Back in the day, if you wanted a daily cooking show, it was either reruns of Julia Child's PBS series, The French Chef, or Graham Kerr's syndicated Galloping Gourmet (and, later, the even shorter Take Kerr). The continuing expansion of cable has resulted in a revival of cooking shows as a sub-genre under the talk show umbrella.

ABC's The Chew (rhymes with The View) launched in 2011 after the network pulled the plug on All My Children. Cable personality Clinton Kelly (What Not to Wear) is the moderator, and, at least over the last two weeks, has doubled as announcer in the absence of executive producer Gordon Elliott (ex-To Tell The Truth). The free-form format allows Kelly to get the audience involved in some mini-games that pay homage to classic games of the past, such as Match Game. The rest of the regular panel consists of chefs Mario Batali, Carla Hall, & Michael Symon. Occasionally, ABC/ESPN college football analyst Jesse Palmer (ex-The Bachelor) drops by to help out.

I've watched portions of episodes during lunch break at work, but never a complete episode. Let's scope out a recent show with special guest Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey):

Graham Kerr would be proud.

Rating: A-.

High School Fridays: Guilderland (combined with Mohonasen & Scotia) vs. LaSalle (boys hockey), 12/18/15

The focus switches to hockey this time, as the Cadets of LaSalle Institute welcomed the combined forces of Guilderland, Scotia-Glenville, & Mohonasen to Robert Conway Rink on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College on Friday night.

Coach Tim Flanigan's club had lost four of their first five going into play Friday, the lone win coming a week earlier in the home opener vs. Queensbury. With a tournament at Union College next on the agenda next week, the Cadets had to turn things around, and quickly. It helped, then, that the opposition amounted to high school hockey's version of the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.

Kevin Mainello put the hosts on the board halfway through the 1st period, tipping in a shot from Logan DiScanio to give LaSalle a 1-0 lead. Barely more than a minute later, DiScanio lit the lamp himself, and the Cadets led, 2-0, at the first intermission. In the 2nd, Sam (Golden) Mulson made it 3-0, as his shot got a friendly bounce off the edge of the net. Finally, DiScanio put the game away with his 2nd of the night in the 3rd, as LaSalle snapped a 2-game losing streak with a 4-0 win. Guilderville (for lack of a better acronym) went 0-6 on the power play, as the Cadets' defense backed up netminders Zach Hurst & Zac Rentz.

Following next week's holiday tourney at Union, the Cadets embark on a 3-game road trip before returning to Conway Rink on January 13 to play Shenendehowa.
Meanwhile, Troy High's boys basketball team ran its winning streak to five in a row, claiming first place in the Suburban Council's gray division in beating Christian Brothers Academy, 59-50. CBA had also been on a winning streak, as both schools lost their season openers, so something had to give. Conceivably, the division title could be at stake when the two teams meet again in the regular season finale at Troy on February 9. Conversely, Troy's women's team has suddenly run into bad luck, losing two of their last three to fall two games in back of Albany after the Lady Falcons came to Troy on Thursday night and thrashed the Lady Horses, 68-36. Due to a peculiar quirk in the schedule, the Lady Falcons came right back Friday and walloped Schenectady, 74-27. The Lady Horses are back in action today in a non-league match at Glens Falls. The boys, meanwhile, continue their road trip in Saratoga on Tuesday.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What Might've Been: Battlestars (1981)

Merrill Heatter's 1st project without retired partner Bob Quigley was actually a variant on their iconic Hollywood Squares, which had wrapped after 15 seasons (14 on NBC) just a few months earlier.

Battlestars had six celebrities instead of nine. The quiz portion of the game was a little simpler. Panelists had two answers on a monitor to choose from, and from that point the contestant would determine if the celebrity had the right answer or not. Alex Trebek was tapped to host. The series, however, lasted just a scant more than six months due to its competition (Price is Right).

However, NBC brought the show back in 1983 as The New Battlestars, with a new bonus game, but the same host, as Trebek returned. However, announcer Rod Roddy had left to work on Press Your Luck at CBS, so Charlie Tuna (America's Top 10, ex-The Mike Douglas Show) replaced him. Unfortunately, the revival lasted half as long as the original, airing during the lunch hour death zone (blacked out in my market, if memory serves me correctly), resulting in cancellation after 13 weeks.

Here's a Christmas episode from 1981. Save for Richard Kiel and Richard Simmons, the panel is comprised of NBC stars.

Rating: B.

Weasel of the Week: Gilbert Arenas

It's been five years or better since Gilbert Arenas last played in the NBA. More recently, Arenas, who played for Washington & Golden State, among others, while in the NBA, was plying his trade in China.

So what gives him the license to make lame remarks like he did about the WNBA, which will mark its 20th anniversary next year?

Here's the deal. Arenas reportedly posted on Instagram a picture of two women playing one-on-one basketball in their underwear (i.e. bras & panties), and suggested that this is how the WNBA should function. The reaction was swift and angry, not just from the WNBA, which, of course, is a short-season league, but also Arenas' former brethren in the NBA.

Arenas left the NBA 5 years ago after he was suspended for half a year for carrying weapons. This latest controversy won't heal any old wounds he may have left behind, but did he really think people were going to respond favorably to his crap? I mean, come on! For this reason, Arenas gets the daily double of dubious distinction, a Dunce Cap and a set of Weasel ears.

And if he doesn't get the point, maybe he should ask someone who knows about being both a Weasel and a Dunce. You know, like Stephen A. Smith, professional idiot.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Celebrity Rock: Ain't That a Kick in the Head (1990)

In the 2nd half of the 80's, it seemed as though there were more than a few actors who thought they could moonlight as singers. Bruce Willis & Eddie Murphy topped the charts. Don Johnson didn't quite get there, even with Dweezil Zappa as a sideman, but his Miami Vice partner, Philip Michael Thomas, got next to no airplay for his lone CD.

Sneaking in under the radar was Sherman Hemsley, who at the time of this clip, was starring on Amen. Hemsley appeared on Soul Train to perform "Ain't That a Kick in the Head". Like, who knew?

Nearly a year later, on Amen, Deacon Ernest Frye (Hemsley) would get his old vocal group back together in an episode that featured guest appearances by Chubby Checker & Casey Kasem. We'll have "Ernie & the Sublimes", or at least a portion of it, down the line.

Forgotten TV: The Texas Wheelers (1974)

Mary Tyler Moore's production company made its first sale to a network other than CBS in 1974. Unfortunately for ABC, The Texas Wheelers turned out to be a total bomb.

The problem was the Wheelers were slotted opposite NBC's Rockford Files, at least the 2nd half. Like, would any self-respecting fan of that show cut out at the halfway station to scope a sitcom? Nope, but looking back, they could've seen two future movie icons appearing in their first series.

Western vet Jack Elam top-lined as Zack Wheeler, not to be confused, of course with a modern day pitcher for the Mets. Gary Busey and Mark Hamill played his sons. Hamill had gotten his feet wet in television doing some voice work a year earlier (CBS' animated adaptation/reboot of Jeannie, which also lasted a season).

Since my folks watched Rockford, we never gave Wheelers a look, even when ABC brought it back in reruns the following summer. Hence, no rating. We'll leave you with the intro. The theme song is performed by John Prine.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Classic Reborn (again): Break The Bank (1985)

Nearly a decade after its initial relaunch, Break The Bank, returned, but really in name only, as the entire game was different from its 70's counterpart, if not also the original version that aired on radio & television in the 40's & 50's.

Gene Rayburn, a year removed from his final stint as Match Game host, was tapped by producer Richard S. Kline, a former producer & writer for Jack Barry & Dan Enright, to serve as host, but didn't last long. Players had to solve puzzles based on clues provided in a series of questions, a format similar to Password Plus/Super Password over at NBC, except that instead of winning cash straight away, the players earned precious seconds in the prize vault, which was the bonus game on this incarnation.

Rayburn was soon replaced by Joe Farago (Who? Exactly.), but Bank was done after 1 season regardless. After watching this episode with guest star Jm J. Bullock, you'll understand why.

Rating: C.

The pieces are falling into place.....

With three weeks remaining, 2 of the 8 divisions have been decided, and a 3rd is close in the NFL. Let's just break it down:

AFC East:

New England, supposedly, clinched the division when the Giants defeated Miami last night. All that says to me is.....


Miami is in last place, and were officially eliminated from Wild Card consideration. Now six games out of first with three to play, their loss handed the Patriots the title?? As ESPN's Lee Corso might put it, not so fast, my friend. New England clinched a tie for the division on Sunday in beating Houston, but the Jets are three back, and play the Patriots at the Meadowlands on Christmas weekend. What if they beat Dallas on Saturday, then even the score with the Pats?

Well, in truth, some obscure tie-breaker that not even Tom Brady knew about, something called strength of victory, is the reason the Pats were declared division champs. Even if they lose to the Jets in the next to last game of the season, and the Jets win out (they close with Buffalo while the Patriots visit Miami), the Jets can't overtake them. However, losing to the Jets could cost the Patriots their cherished, coveted #1 seed, which they regained on Sunday.

AFC South:

Houston & Indianapolis remain tied atop the division at 6-7, two of five 6-7 teams still alive for playoff berths in a year where sub-.500 teams otherwise would already be eliminated. Both are suffering QB issues. In particular, Indy's Andrew Luck has fallen victim to the DirecTV curse (you know what I mean) that has also claimed Tony Romo and Peyton Manning.

AFC North:

It's down to Cincinnati & Pittsburgh for the division, and the Steelers made their case with a win Sunday over the Bengals.

AFC West:

Denver fell to Oakland on Sunday, delaying the inevitable division title, although with Kansas City rolling along, another loss could cost the Broncos the title.

The way I see it: Kansas City & the Jets will get the Wild Cards.

NFC East:

2 games separate the four teams with three to play. Dallas will play the Jets on Saturday, while the Giants will attempt to derail #1 seed Carolina on Sunday. In fact, the Giants have the toughest draw, as they have Minnesota and Philadelphia the last two weeks. Washington? It would be an embarrassment to the league if they won the division with a sub-.500 record. Then again.......!

NFC South:

Carolina wrapped up the division early. They're young, hungry, and hot. Cam Newton for MVP, anyone? Can't see anyone else coming out of the division, though Tampa Bay could make a late case.

NFC North:

It'll come down to Green Bay & Minnesota. In fact, it seems like Chicago, Minnesota, & Detroit take turns playing second fiddle to the Packers and insurance salesman Aaron Rodgers..

NFC West:

Arizona needs one more win to wrap up the division, coupled likely with a Seattle loss. And who'dathunk the 2-time NFC champs would need to fight for a wild card?

The way I see it: Seattle & Minnesota will be the Wild Cards.



1. New England.
2. Cincinnati.
3. Denver.
4. Indianapolis.
5. Kansas City.
6. Jets.


1. Carolina.
2. Arizona.
3. Green Bay.
4. Philadelphia.
5. Minnesota.
6. Seattle.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Monday, December 14, 2015

When MTV actually meant something: The Basement Tapes (1983)

Back in the early days of MTV, the network began taking a look at up & coming bands that were looking to land record deals. The suits figured, we can do this, but let's soak the viewers by hooking them up with a 900 line (meaning they were paying to vote) to vote for their favorite unsigned bands.

The Basement Tapes lasted, I think, four years (1983-6), ending when the original VJs were being phased out. The series aired in late night on, I think, Sundays, for a few weeks a year during the summer. Cute as a button Martha Quinn was the host, and often went on location, such as in this 1986 episode, co-hosted, literally, by Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, since this episode originates from his Illinois home.

No rating. I never stayed up late enough to watch.

Musical Interlude: The Night is Still Young (1985)

"The Night is Still Young" was one of two new tracks included on Billy Joel's 1985 "Greatest Hits-Volumes I & II" compilation ("You're Only Human (Second Wind)" was the other). I think this would be appropriate at what would be referred to in some circles as the shank of the evening.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Forgotten TV: Bracken's World (1969)

In the post-Star Trek era of 1969, NBC was turning its attention toward, ah, biting the hand that feeds it, if you will.

Whereas Universal's The Name of the Game, in its 2nd season, was set at a fictional magazine, 20th Century Fox's Bracken's World was set at a fictional version of the studio, Century Studios, offering a look behind the scenes in a not-quite-soap-opera-style setting.

Studio head John Bracken was heard but not seen during the 1st season, with Warren Stevens doing voice-overs, communicating with his secretary (Eleanor Parker). However, changes were made headed into season 2. Stevens & Parker were gone, and Bracken was given a new voice, and a body to go with it, as Leslie Nielsen came over from The Bold Ones (The Protectors) to replace Stevens as Bracken. Unfortunately, Nielsen never had much luck fronting a series, and just a few months after The Protectors met its end, so did Bracken's World, which had its last episode on Christmas night, 1970. It would be more than a decade before Nielsen would land another series, this time the police satire, Police Squad!, which became a cult classic, spawning a trilogy of movies despite the fact that the series, like Protectors and, before that, The New Breed, lasted just 1 season. Go figure.

The following compilation comes from the series' pentultimate episode, "The Country Boy", with guest star Tim Matheson playing an aspiring singer. Matheson performs covers of James Taylor's seminal "Fire & Rain" (joined in progress), and, at the start of the episode, The Youngbloods' "Get Together", sung in a voice that suggests the influence of B. J. Thomas, who had a huge hit that year with "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head" (from "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid").

No rating.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: Peyton Manning's vanity project (2015)

Since last year, Nationwide Insurance has done ads having Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning recite his lines to the tune of the company's signature jingle. All I know is that it gets old in a hurry.

For Christmas, and bear in mind this ad was shot before Manning was injured, we're shown what his outdoor Christmas decorations look like.

I would've expected that from Tom Brady, actually.

High School Fridays: Mohonasen @ Troy (boys basketball), 12/11/15

The late Don Meredith punctuated many a Monday Night Football broadcast back in the day when he began crooning "Turn Out The Lights (The Party's Over)" once a game was nearing its end and the outcome assured.

It's just too bad they can't find an audio tape to play over the loudspeakers at Troy High after a basketball game these days, be it men's or women's.

The men's team completed a three game homestand tonight by welcoming the winless Mighty Warriors of Mohonasen into Clement Zotto Memorial Gym. By the time this was over, the Warriors must've felt like they were run over by a runaway freight train.

Mohonasen led only once, 2-1, about halfway through the first quarter. Then, the rout was on, as it was all Troy from that point forward. Daniel Buie led all scorers with 22 points. Darius Holmes-Hines added 15, and Elijah Davis chipped in 12, all in the 4th quarter, as the Flying Horses won their third straight, a 83-37 laugher that was really, for all intents & purposes, over at halftime. Troy led at that point, 39-10, which, considering the mild weather conditions, must've felt like they were playing arena football instead of basketball. Coach Richard Hurley began pulling his starters late in the 3rd quarter, and gave the 4th quarter to his reserves. Every player who got into the game scored. It was so bad (How bad was it?) that Mohonasen's junior varsity team, even though they also lost, actually outscored their varsity counterparts. Ouch.

Troy is now 3-1 on the season, as Mohonasen drops to 0-4. This means, of course, that first place in the Gray division will be likely on the line one week from tonight when Troy visits Christian Brothers Academy. But, before that, Troy will begin a school record 7 game road trip at Ballston Spa, and the boys won't be back on their home court until January 12 vs. Guilderland. Of course, a lot can happen between now & then......

What Might've Been: Cowboy in Africa (1967)

Chuck Connors stayed busy during the 60's, between movies and trying to find a series that matched the staying power of The Rifleman. Branded lasted two seasons. Arrest & Trial, not to be confused with Dick Wolf's reality-based revival of a few years ago, lasted one. So did our next entry.

Cowboy in Africa was one of two series Ivan Tors sold to ABC (Off To See The Wizard, co-produced with Chuck Jones & MGM, was the other) in 1967. Spun from a British movie, "Africa-Texas Style", released earlier in the year, Connors took over the role of rodeo star Jim Sinclair, played by Hugh O'Brian in the movie. Ronald Howard (ex-Sherlock Holmes) was, in fact, the lone holdover from the film.

Gilmore Box provides the intro:

Gerald Edwards may actually be better known for voice acting, particularly Bill Cosby's award-winning Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids (1972-85). For all we know, this might've been his lone primetime gig.

No rating.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Musical Interlude: Stormy (1970)

Dennis Yost's band, Classics IV, produced some soft rock hits in the latter half of the 60's, including "Spooky", "Traces", and, in 1970, "Stormy":

If anyone can tell me where the above clip comes from, I'll be happy to make any necessary adjustments.

The dark side of Downtown Troy

For every business that has opened along River Street in Downtown Troy, an almost equal number have been closing in recent weeks. If only the average tourist would just look past River Street and move further into the heart of the downtown district........!

For example, a Dominican beauty parlor closed its Troy location right before Halloween, and relocated to Schenectady, while maintaining an Albany location. The beauty parlor used the business space directly beneath my apartment, and kept longer hours than advertised, likely so family members could have their hair done at a more convienent time.

A second-hand shop on Third Street, occupying space that once housed a clothing store, quietly closed its doors a week or three later. No fanfare. The owner was a family friend who didn't advertise much, and relied on word of mouth to promote the business. Problem was, anytime I went by, there was never a crowd in the store. The owner tired of the red ink and decided it was better to close.

Finally, a long running newsstand on Broadway shut its doors right before Thanksgiving. A month earlier, the owner, a second generation businessman, had been arrested on fraud charges. Seems he was allowing EBT card holders to use the cards, today's equivalent to food stamps, if you will, to pay for cigarettes and other items that you normally wouldn't use those cards for. I've known the owner since I first moved downtown in 1979, and I understand what he was trying to do, helping the poor and destitute. Unfortunately, his good intentions went in the wrong direction.

There's been bad history in that particular shop. The owner's father, you see, was running a shady operation back in the day, and that eventually got him in trouble with the law. Former Valleycats executive Vic Christopher owns the building, and has already started making changes. While I was at the Victorian Stroll on Sunday, I noticed that one wall had already been torn down, where the owner's office stood. By this time next year, Christopher and his wife, Heather, will have turned it into something else entirely, continuing their makeover of Broadway and Second Street. A bar & restaurant across the street became the 2nd club to have its liquor license suspended in the last three months earlier this week after it was found that more than 170 underage students had been served. Even though the suds are gone, the restaurant remains open, thankfully.

The other club, a urban jazz club on Fourth Street, was shuttered in October, even though their owners claim a fight that broke out outside the club was actually off club property, but the police, taking no chances after the Kokopellis brouhaha a couple of years ago, saw it differently.

This, then, is what has to be a priority for newly elected Mayor Patrick Madden when he takes office next month. New businesses on River Street are nice, but there's still turnover in that area. Rehabbing the businesses in the primary section of downtown, along Third & Fourth Streets, needs to be next on the to-do list.

A Modern Classic: Silk Stalkings (1991)

I don't think the lone survivor of the Law & Order franchise, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, would've gotten off the ground if creator Dick Wolf hadn't seen Stephen J. Cannell's Silk Stalkings, which for all intents & purposes covered similar, if not also repetitive, ground.

Silk Stalkings started as a late-night entry on CBS in 1991, but beginning with season 3 moved to USA Network, where it thrived for the final seven seasons of its run. The series made stars out of its initial leads, Mitzi Kapture & Rob Estes, who both left after the fourth season. Comedians John Byner (2 seasons) and Charlie Brill were in the supporting cast, playing dramatic roles. Chris Potter (ex-Kung Fu: The Legend Continues) was brought in midway through season six when the initial replacements for Kapture & Estes proved to be unpopular with viewers.

Here's the open:

Not sure, seeing as how I haven't scoped out Cloo lately, if it's airing there these days, though you'd think it would. Any other cabler not owned by NBC-Universal-Comcast could pick it up and market it as a precursor to Law & Order: SVU, which it really is.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: Santa Claus is Watching You (1967-92)

Ray Stevens' "Santa Claus is Watching You" was originally released on a 1967 "Greatest Hits" LP. The following video was taken from his "Comedy Classics" compilation, released around 1992.

Sports this 'n' that

It's a disturbing trend in the NFL these days.

Twice in the last decade, a team with a sub-.500 record has reached the playoffs, both in the NFC. However, there's a chance that two teams, one from each conference, could make the playoffs next month with records at .500 or under.

In the AFC South, Indianapolis & Houston are tied for first at 6-6. Both teams have had to deal with key injuries, especially at quarterback. Andrew Luck has become the 2nd QB to get hurt after taking part in the stupid DirecTV ad campaign (the other, of course, is Peyton Manning), so the Colts have gotten by with Matt Hasselbeck, despite the fact he's had injury issues as well. In the NFC Least, of course, you have the Giants, Philadelphia, & Washington all knotted up at an unsightly 5-7, with Dallas a game back at 4-8. Eeeeeew! What the Eagles have in their favor is they did something their rivals could not, and that was beat New England. Then again, the Pats have injury woes of their own, as they were missing a couple of key players (Julian Edelman & Rob Gronkowski) in the loss to Philadelphia, while their special teams were out to lunch.

Speaking of New England, they play at Houston next, and then get Tennessee for the home finale before finishing on the road vs. the Jets & Miami, and, barring a Jets loss prior to Christmas, the division could be on the line at the Meadowlands. Who'dathunk that would happen?
The Mets decided to let NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy walk, and now the door is closed on a return after the NL East champs traded pitcher Jonathan Niese to Pittsburgh for 2nd baseman Neil Walker today, this after the Yankees & Cubs spoiled their plans to sign ex-Valleycat Ben Zobrist, who left the World Series champion Kansas City Royals as a free agent and signed with the Cubs, reuniting with his manager in Tampa Bay, Joe Maddon. This became possible when Chicago sent Starlin Castro to the Yanks for pitcher Adam Warren and another player, presumably utility player Brendan Ryan.

Walker gives the Mets a veteran bat at second, and allows them to continue to develop Dilson Herrera before he is actually ready for a full-time run in Flushing. The trade also unclogs the logjam in the starting rotation, and there's word they are actually considering inviting back Bartolo Colon, who became a folk hero the last two seasons in New York, for a return engagement. Similarly, the addition of Castro solves the problem the Yanks had the last two years at the same position after letting Robinson Cano chase the money after he signed on with Jay Z's management team and landed a phat deal with Seattle. That the Bombers had previously dealt prospect Jose Pirela no longer seems to matter at this point.
Meanwhile, Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts isn't sitting idle this offseason. A multi-sport star in high school, Betts is pursuing another dream taking part in the PBA's World Series of Bowling. Betts averaged 249 in high school, and is already putting up similar numbers in the tournament. To think that he bowled and played basketball concurrently while in high school. I've heard of athletes playing both football & soccer, but this is just off the chain awesome.
Speaking of hoops, any fears that Troy High might struggle in the Suburban Council in their first year playing basketball in Section II's toughest league have been, well, squashed. As of now, the women's team sits atop the Grey division at 3-0 after mauling Schenectady, 70-35, on Tuesday, while the boys team, after a 15 point win over Schenectady, is tied for first with long time nemesis Christian Brothers Academy. Those two teams will meet at CBA on December 18, with the rematch set as Troy's home finale on February 9. Troy will have had a rematch at Schenectady right before that, and, who knows? The Grey division could very well be on the line the 2nd week in February.
Let me just get this in on the trend of high school players finishing at prep schools rather than completing their commitment "at home", if you will. It's all about enhancing the student-athlete's chances of landing a Division 1 scholarship. Troy's Zach Radz, for example, transferred to St. Thomas More Prep, and has already signed a letter of intent to attend Sacred Heart next year. Not exactly Siena or the University at Albany. Radz, former teammate Dyaire Holt, Anthony Mack (ex-Catholic Central), & Andrew Platek (ex-Guilderland) all played on travel teams such as the Albany City Rocks during the off-season, and that gets the attention of college scouts more than it would if those same scouts cared to attend in-season games. Something tells me certain shoe companies are also involved. Would that those same sponsors would also help the schools in this region get on national television (i.e. ESPN, Fox Sports 1), rather than those networks continuing to focus on schools in the "hotbeds" (i.e. South, West, Midwest), but nope.

Do the parents have a say in this? I imagine so, especially in Mack's case, since his dad was also his coach at CCHS. Those same parents gave their blessing to the boys playing for the City Rocks or other travel teams, so they would have no issues allowing the kids to follow their hoop dreams.

However, for every LeBron James, a once in a generation phenom who went directly from high school to the pros, there are dozens of others who don't even get to be the dreaded "one-&-done" types jumping after 1 year of college. That itself is absurd, and speaks to the entourages that develop around these kids, convincing them that they're pro-ready when in most cases they may not be. The ones who go the full four years in college don't get the publicity anymore. They're becoming a minority.

What Might've Been: Pistols & Petticoats (1966)

Western sitcoms don't seem to last very long. Don't ask me why, it just is.

One such example was Pistols & Petticoats, which ran for one season (1966-7), and might be better known as Ann Sheridan's last series. The comedienne passed away during the season, and it was decided to cancel the series after 1 season rather than try to continue with another actress.

Sheridan played Henrietta Hanks, who, along with her parents (Douglas Fowley & Ruth McDevitt), helped clean up the small town of Wretched, Colorado, providing some backup for the town sheriff (Gary Vinson, fresh from McHale's Navy).

Following is a sample clip and intro:

Producer Joe Connolly was on his own for a change, after producing Leave it to Beaver, Calvin & The Colonel, and the show Pistols replaced at CBS, The Munsters, with Bob Mosher. Unfortunately, it would also be Connelly's last series for a while.

No rating.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: Away in a Manger (1960)

From season 1 of The Andy Griffith Show:

Sheriff Andy Taylor (Griffith) and his then-girlfriend, Ellie (Elinor Donohue, ex-Father Knows Best) duet on the classic Christmas hymn, "Away in a Manger", in a climatic scene in the episode, "The Christmas Story".

Since when does Dr. Pepper need a character for advertising? (2015)

Over the years, Dr. Pepper and Diet Dr. Pepper have used various celebrity endorsers, such as David Naughton, Kelsey Grammer, & Dr. Dre.

Since last year, the ad campaigns have dropped down to borderline absurdity. We'll deal with Dr. Pepper's "Larry Culpepper" soon enough, but for now, scope out "Lil Sweet", who's been literally singing the praises of Diet Dr. Pepper for nearly a year now.

Lil Sweet comes off as the love child of Prince and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, but in truth, he's Justin Guarini, who had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth since finishing 2nd in season 1 of American Idol and the subsequent movie with winner Kelly Clarkson ("From Justin to Kelly") that tried to posit them as a modern day Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello (the movie didn't do so well). As Idol prepares for its 16th & final season, starting next month, Guarini is back on the small screen, perhaps praying that someone will give him a record deal........

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Modern Classic: The X-Files (1993)

You know this intro:

Next month, The X-Files returns to Fox for a short run, six episodes in all. The relaunch begins on January 24, then moves to Mondays the next night, where it'll be coupled with Lucifer for the balance of the run, marking time until Gotham returns from its winter break.

The X-Files quickly became a cult favorite after its launch in 1993. The merchandising explosion included the predictable paperback novels, and a comic book adaptation, published initially by Topps, which experimented with a comics line in the mid-90's, which unfortunately didn't last as long as we'd have liked. Currently, IDW holds the license for a comics adaptation, which purports to continue the series as if it had never left television. The current book is subtitled, thus, "Season 11".

Initially, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) was a skeptic, opposite Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), whose sister was supposedly abducted by aliens some years back. Inevitably, what had been a platonic, professional relationship between the two agents turned romantic, continued in the two feature films. However, from what I understand, they're no longer a couple as the series resumes next month. Hmmmmm.

Series creator Chris Carter was able to add two more series to Fox's lineup during the initial run. The Lone Gunmen was a direct spin-off, and lasted parts of two seasons. Millennium lasted a couple of years. It appears that Carter may also be involved with a new Fox series, also debuting next month, Second Chance, but I can't confirm that right now.

Rating: B+.

Rockin' Funnies: Fish Heads (1979-81)

Imagine if Will Robinson had been in a recording studio with Alvin & the Chipmunks.

Actually, Bill Mumy (ex-Lost In Space) and his musical partner, Robert Haimer, formed the comedy duo Barnes & Barnes in the early 70's, and it took them to the end of the decade before releasing an album. It took two more years before the novelty track, "Fish Heads", was released as a single. I don't think you can go a whole episode of Dr. Demento's weekly radio show without hearing "Fish Heads", and it's been a long while since I listened to the show.

Anyway, actor Bill Paxton directed the video, and has a role. See if you can find him. The chorus is sung, Chipmunk-style, as Mumy & Haimer's voices were sped up. Saves money having to contact Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., and.....!

Mumy's put out some more serious albums since. Haimer? Don't know what happened to that guy......

Sunday, December 6, 2015

On The Air: Monopoly Millionaires Club (2015)

It started with an instant lottery ticket, available in several states. Earlier this year, Hasbro, the company that has literally created a monopoly on the toy & game markets, introduced their first syndicated series, Monopoly Millionaires Club. Best described as a cross between The Price is Right and the former Hub series, Family Game Night, which Hasbro's TV arm also produced.

Actor-comic Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly) is the series host, aided by game show veteran Todd Newton, who helmed Family Game Night during its run. Newton's role mostly is to do localized mini-games, one per show, in a separate studio. The series began as a hour-long show back in the spring, but after a summer hiatus, Millionaires Club returned, trimmed to a half-hour, likely because the ratings weren't there. Basically, the show's been given a second---and likely last---chance.

However, even though Wikipedia says the show returned in September, the local CW affiliate, which carries the show, didn't bring it back right away.

Here's a recent episode:

Equal parts game show and infomercial. That's what it feels like.

Rating: B.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: Holiday Affair (Lux Video Theatre, 1955)

From Mill Creek's Holiday Classics DVD comes an installment of the Lux Video Theatre. Scott Brady & Phyllis Thaxter star in "Holiday Affair".

Engaging and treacly at the same time. By today's standards, it seems like a prototype for some of today's cable holiday weepfests.

Rating: B-.

What Might've Been: T. H. E. Cat (1966)

Star Trek was far from the only freshman series airing on Fridays in 1966. ABC had The Green Hornet & The Time Tunnel, and gave Milton Berle a shot at a primetime comeback. NBC, meanwhile, backed up Trek with T. H. E. Cat, a half-hour series about a circus performer-turned-cat-burglar-turned-bodyguard for hire.

Robert Loggia (ex-The Nine Lives of Elfego Baga) had the title role as Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat, former jewel thief, former circus acrobat, now a bodyguard

 Following is a sample episode. Posted in memory of Loggia, who passed away at 85.

Series creator Harry Julian Fink was also the genius who gave us another San Francisco maverick, one "Dirty" Harry Callahan. The jazzy score was composed by Lalo Schifirin (Mission: Impossible, Mannix), who would go on to score a few of Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" movies.

So why did it fail? Airing too late at night might be the answer, since it was penciled in to air at 10 or 10:30 (ET). Then again, NBC didn't know what to do with Star Trek, either.

Rating: B+.

Friday, December 4, 2015

High School Fridays: Columbia @ Troy (boys basketball), 12/4/15

Nobody ever said the Suburban Council was easy. Far from it.

Still, Troy High, which lost non-league games as an independent last season to Bethlehem & Guilderland before officially joining the league, lost their 1st league game Tuesday night at Colonie, 62-59. Tonight's game, the home opener vs. Columbia, was now a must-win to avoid going 0-2 for the second straight season.

It was also a homecoming for a former Troy player, but you wouldn't know it, unless you've been reading this blog, since there was absolutely zero mention in the newspapers prior to the game. Curtis Sankey, who played for Coach Joe Geiger in the late 70's & early 80's, returned to what is now the Clem Zotto Memorial Gym as the coach of the visiting Blue Devils. The funny thing was, he wasn't listed on the program as the coach. A Columbia supporter told me before the game that Sankey had stepped down after last season, and David Romer was the new coach. However, it was Sankey that led the Blue Devils out onto the court for the varsity game, which was delayed 80 minutes at the start due to the freshman game going into overtime, thus putting everyone else behind schedule. More on that later.

Columbia also entered the game at 0-1, having lost their home opener to Albany on Tuesday. There were several lead changes in the first period, which ended with Troy holding a 4 point lead at 17-13. Ryan Carmello, the son of superintendent John Carmello, got things rolling right away with a 3 point basket, and finished with 9 points.

Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, the wheels fell off in the second quarter, as Troy's suffocating defense held Columbia to just 4 points in the frame. The Blue Devils never got back into the game, as Troy allowed only 20 points in the second half en route to a 76-37 win. Senior guard Justin Luther, Columbia's leading scorer, fouled out with 1:55 left in the third quarter, though some might think one foul wasn't meant to be ascribed to him.

Troy's lineup overall had a new look, as their two stars from last season, Zach Radz & Dyaire Holt, transferred to prep schools in the off-season, the idea being that it gives them a better chance to be recruited by a Division 1 college. They're not alone, as Guilderland (Andrew Platek) & Catholic Central (Anthony Mack) similarly saw their stars take the prep school route this season. Now, I'm not entirely certain of high school eligibility rules, but Holt had been a 4 year player, having made the varsity while still at Troy Middle School as an 8th grader. Not sure about the others. The Flying Horses, though, get center Jack McLaren back, after he missed the second half of last season due to injury. Meanwhile, Daniel Buie, who led all scorers with 26 points tonight, demonstrated he's more than ready to fill the void created by the departures.

Tonight's game started a 3-game homestand for Troy. Up next will be long time foe Schenectady on Tuesday, and then next Friday, the Mighty Warriors of Mohonasen come to town. After that, Troy will play seven of eight on the road, starting in Ballston Spa on 12/15, and including a Christmas tournament at Bishop Ludden on 12/26-27. That road trip will be the litmus test for Troy. Time will tell if they will be a player in their first season in the Suburban Council.

The structure of the games today illustrates again that changes need to be made. Each game (freshman, junior varsity, varsity) was scheduled 90 minutes apart, with the varsity game scheduled for a 7 pm tip. The freshman game was set for 4 pm, and, as noted, went to overtime, perhaps double overtime, before Columbia won. However, Troy also won the JV game, which was in the 3rd quarter when I arrived shortly after 7. Section II expects the games can be played within that 90 minute window, with no consideration for overtime. Granted, when the varsity game ended at 9:50, it had in fact been played in exactly 90 minutes. The fact that the local press often ignores freshman & junior varsity results doesn't help put the pieces together.

Nobody said it would be easy. Tonight, it was easier than it had any right to be.

Dunce Cap Award: Twidiots

NBC's latest live stage production, after adaptations of The Sound of Music & Peter Pan, ran up against a social media backlash borne mostly out of, well, lack of understanding.

The Wiz is an all-African-American adaptation of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, and the original production of The Wiz, which started on Broadway, then became a feature film with Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell, & Michael Jackson, is nearly 40 years old, by my count. The best known film version of Wizard, made in 1939 with Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, and Margaret Hamilton, among others, turned 75 last year.

So, why are people hating on a 2015 model of The Wiz, whose cast includes rapper Common, rapper-actress-talk show host Queen Latifah, and David Alan Grier? Why are twidiots and other social media morons spitting on the yellow brick road?

Well, you know what they say these days. Haters gotta hate. Not in this case, they don't. To borrow from Weird Al Yankovic, they "Dare To Be Stupid". Apparently, most of the people whining on Twitter don't know the history of The Wiz and its source material, and can't be bothered to use a search engine. They don't know that The Wiz's most popular song, "Ease on Down the Road", like the production itself, is 40 years old. To me, that means that most of these people aren't old enough to have seen the movie that came out in the late 70's, though I think that's available on video, and last night's show almost certainly will be out on DVD in short order.

The bottom line here is that there is dumb, and then, there are this week's Dunce Cap winners, the Twidiots wasting space with their mindless, baseless complaints about reverse racism. Do yourselves a favor, jabronies, get thee to the nearest Walmart, Best Buy, or FYE, and look for the original film version of The Wiz. You'll be glad you did. I hope.

Musical Interlude: Fall to Pieces (2004)

Looking back now, Velvet Revolver's "Fall to Pieces", the 2nd single from their debut CD, was in fact an autobiographical, cautionary tale describing singer Scott Weiland's very public struggle with substance abuse.

Posting this in memory of Weiland, who passed away at age 48. He had the "Moves Like Jagger" well before Maroon 5 recorded their 2011 hit.....

A fantastic, expressive voice, stilled forever. Rest in peace, Scott. Your suffering is over.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Musical Interlude: Take Me To The River (1980)

Talking Heads turned Al Green's "Take Me To The River" into an FM radio staple that still gets some airplay on classic rock stations to this day. Dig it!

Comics fans just need two more nights to fill...........

If you're a hardcore comics fan, chances are you have four nights a week (Sunday-Wednesday) reserved for either watching at home or DVR'ing your favorite shows. Come next month, make it five, as The CW has confirmed that Greg Berlanti's latest DC Comics series, Legends of Tomorrow, will air on Thursdays, starting January 21, thus bumping "vampire night", if you will (Vampire Diaries & The Originals) to Fridays while Reign and America's Next Top Model/Whose Line Is It Anyway? move to the bench, or, in Top Model's case, close up shop, as supposedly that series is coming to an end.

Legends isn't the only "second team" entry coming in January, of course. Fox's Lucifer debuts January 25, but, in a bizarre scheduling decision, either Gotham will still be in reruns (the second half of season 2 doesn't start until the end of February, bypassing the sweeps period altogether), or Minority Report, which has been struggling to hold on to Gotham's audience, takes its place for five weeks. ABC's Agent Carter will start its 2nd season on January 19, two weeks later than originally planned, due to President Obama's final State of the Union address having been scheduled for January 12.

Let's go back to Gotham for a moment. Viewers are being asked to wait three whole months for the next episode.


Now, I'm not exactly sure when the revived X-Files begins its short-season run next month, but that would in part explain the extra hiatus for Gotham. Coupling X-Files & Lucifer on Mondays sounds like a safe bet, and, in the eyes of Fox suits, would put a crimp in CBS' Supergirl, with the freshman series running neck & neck with Gotham in key demographic ratings as of Monday. Otherwise, the Girl of Steel would have everyone's attention over that three month period.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: Wailing in a Winter Wonderland (The Flying Nun, 1967)

Being in a warm climate, the chances of a white Christmas in Puerto Rico are next to none.

Then again, leave it to Sister Bertrille (Sally Field) of Convent San Tanco, alias The Flying Nun, to try the impossible. In "Wailing in a Winter Wonderland", she tries to help a visiting, ailing nun who wants at least one more white Christmas in her lifetime. Of course, chaos ensues.

Co-star Shelly Morrison (Sister Sixto) would make the most improbable comeback nearly 40 years later, landing a co-starring role on Will & Grace. Of the three sitcoms she made for Screen Gems, Flying Nun was by far the most successful series Sally Field had until a small screen comeback of her own with Brothers & Sisters a few years ago.

Rating: B.