Thursday, March 31, 2016

Classic TV: The Thin Man (1957)

One of the pluses of Get TV is that its corporate parent, Sony, is diving headlong into the MGM library to fill out their program schedule.

Wednesday's primetime schedule usually consists of a block of episodes of a long forgotten series. In March, it was The Thin Man, with Peter Lawford assuming the role of detective Nick Charles, originally portrayed by William Powell in the movie series two decades earlier, and Phyllis Kirk as Nick's wife, Nora (Myrna Loy in the movies). The closest that Hollywood ever came to recreating the vibe of Thin Man might've been with Aaron Spelling's Hart to Hart in the late 70's-early 80's, except that Jonathan Hart (Robert Wagner) wasn't a practicing detective, but he and wife Jennifer (Stefanie Powers) did have a dog, Freeway, who was a poor puppy's Asta.

Lawford had one previous series, Dear Phoebe, under his belt when he signed on for Thin Man, which lasted two seasons on NBC (1957-9). Unfortunately, he wouldn't land another series gig after this one ended. The one episode I watched last night was entertaining, but the plot was as transparent as plastic wrap. Since I haven't seen any of the movies---yet---, I can't honestly compare.

The Rap Sheet offers this intro:

For what it's worth, The Thin Man was the creation of noted mystery novelist Dashiell Hammett, whose most famous creation remains Sam Spade ("The Maltese Falcon"), who, like the Charleses, made it to radio, but didn't land a TV series.

Rating: A.

WWE's Hall of Fame Class of 2016

On Saturday, WWE will hold its annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony, with an edited tape delay broadcast airing on USA Network one week from tonight at 10 pm (ET). This year's class:

Sting (real name: Steve Borden): Two years after his original tag team partner, the Ultimate Warrior, was inducted, Sting enters the Hall of Fame, becoming the first man to be inducted into both the TNA & WWE Halls of Fame. Expect the Dudley Boyz (Team 3D) to be next, as early as next year, in this writer's opinion. Yes, Sting fell victim to Vince McMahon's political agenda last year at Wrestlemania 31, and injuries have ensured that he won't compete this year---some say he's retiring---but his body of work over 30 years in the business can't be ignored. Which is what gets him in.

Stan Hansen: 40 years ago, a mere bodyslam broke the neck of fellow Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino. Hansen's feared clothesline, or lariat, was developed after that incident. And while he didn't wrestle for the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation after his feud with Sammartino ended later that year, he made a name for himself in the NWA, Japan, and AWA, winning the latter's championship in 1985 from Rick Martel.

Jacqueline Moore: Country singer Brenda Lee was billed as "Little Miss Dynamite". Actress-singer-comedienne Vicki Lawrence had the nickname, "Little Miss Fireball", when she entered a talent competition, where she was discovered by Carol Burnett. Jacqueline is both, wrapped in a feisty package of beauty and brawn. Holds the distinction of holding not only the WWE women's title, but also the cruiserweight championship, the only woman in WWE's short history with the cruiser belt to hold that title.

The Godfather (Charles Wright): He first entered the then-WWF as Papa Shango in 1992. Three gimmick changes later, the Godfather made "Pimpin' ain't easy!" a national catchphrase. Being buddies with the Undertaker doesn't hurt, as it was the Dead Man who had a hand in bringing Wright to WWF in 1992.

The Fabulous Freebirds: Vince McMahon had the chance the last time the big dance was in Texas to induct the ground-breaking tag team, but didn't. Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy passed away in the summer of 2001, and Buddy Roberts left us just a couple of years ago. Their sons will stand in with the sole remaining founder, Michael Hayes, and later partner Jimmy Garvin. With other premier tag teams of the 80's, such as the Four Horsemen, the Road Warriors, and the 'Birds' long-time rivals, the Von Erich brothers, already in, this makes sense, but why did McMahon wait 15 years?

The Big Boss Man (Raymond Traylor): The other posthumous induction this year is for the former real-life Georgia prison guard, who, as Bubba Rogers, won his only "world" title in the Universal Wrestling Federation before jumping to WWF and being repackaged. In his final stint during the attitude era, Traylor traded his prison blue uniform for a black outfit as he reverted to heel, a role he would play for the rest of his career.

In the Celebrity Wing:

Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus): A long time WWF/E fan, Snoop has appeared and peformed at past Wrestlemania events. His cousin is current "diva" Sasha Banks, who will challenge for the Divas title on Sunday.

The Warrior Award, named for the Ultimate Warrior, will be given to former newscaster Joan Lunden (ex-Good Morning, America), who is battling breast cancer.

The way the Sunday card is shaping up, it looks like the Hall of Fame class might actually be more interesting.....

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Patty Duke (1946-2016)

News came over the wires a short while ago of the passing of actress-activist-singer Patty Duke, three months removed from her 69th birthday.

In the course of her career, Patty earned three Emmy Awards, an Oscar, and two Golden Globes for her acting. She won her Oscar, as well as a Golden Globe, for the feature film adaptation of "The Miracle Worker". When "Worker" was adapted for television a few years later, Duke won the last of her three Emmy Awards.

"Miracle Worker" aside, Duke, who was married four times, perhaps most famously to fellow actor John Astin, is still remembered for her 1963-7 self-titled sitcom. Here's the opener:

It wasn't until the 80's when Patty was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Her earliest managers had plied her with drugs when she was a teenager, and exploited her talent to feather their own nests, going so far as to steal her earnings for themselves. I'd say she recovered pretty nicely from that ordeal, don't you think?

We're also saying good-bye to actor James Noble, best known as bumbling governor Gene Gatling on Benson, at 94, as this news came over just hours before Patty Duke's passing.

Rest in peace.

Monday, March 28, 2016

On DVD: The Ernie Kovacs Show (ABC version, 1961)

The late entertainer Ernie Kovacs had a half dozen series under his belt between 1952-61, ending with his passing in January 1962. The last incarnation of The Ernie Kovacs Show, sponsored by Dutch Masters cigars, was a series of monthly half-hour specials airing on ABC from 1961-2.

Kovacs' brand of comedy was non-pareil, sublime if you will. A series of quick gags would run with the German version of "Mack the Knife" playing in the background. Like his contemporaries, Jackie Gleason & Red Skelton, Kovacs had his own silent character, Eugene, and a November 1961 special devoted to the character netted Kovacs and co-director Joe Behar an award from the Directors Guild of America. Kovacs also earned an Emmy for the ABC series.

In this sample clip, from a Western themed episode, Kovacs takes a poke at Rod Serling's seminal The Twilight Zone:

My brother bought me the DVD, and after we watched it yesterday, I told him I had to get the rest of the set, since this particular volume was sold separately. It's on my shopping list for down the line. The rest of the Ernie Kovacs Collection, that is.

Rating: A-.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sounds of Praise: The Old Rugged Cross (1990's)

"The Old Rugged Cross" was written more than 100 years ago by George Bennard, and has been covered by artists such as Alan Jackson, Alabama, Andy Griffith, Ricky Van Shelton, Johnny Cash, and the Statler Brothers.

Following is the Statlers' performance from their 1990's self-titled variety show on the Nashville Network (now Spike TV, though a new Nashville Network exists online).

Happy Easter.

Dynasty Pro Wrestling @ Albany Boys & Girls Club, 3/26/16

Two weeks after In Your Face Wrestling held their 2nd show at Albany's Polish Community Center, Dynasty Pro Wrestling moved their season debut across the river from Troy to the Albany Boys & Girls Club on Delaware Avenue for what ended up being the longest card in terms of time to date.

Play-by-play announcer Brian Cady doubled as ring announcer once again, suggesting that Matthew James is no longer with DPW, as James' absence in August wasn't just a one night thing. Cady wasted little time in introducing Mike King as DPW's new General Manager. Looking like a deer in the headlights, King said he was a wrestling fan since he was a child, and was thrilled to be the GM. Enter DPW champ Mike Verna and P. J. Stackpole. Friends, let me tell ya something. Stackpole looks more like Lex Luthor than Jesse Eisenberg does in "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice". I am not kidding. It was billed as Verna Appreciation Night, but how do we appreciate a champion who can't win a match without a shortcut? Verna & Stackpole wanted the night off, but Mike Orlando had other ideas. Orlando now has a hot valet (whose name was lost due to the microphones cutting out randomly through the course of the night) to offset Stackpole, who has all the credibility of an empty can of Pringle's. King's 1st decision was to put Verna into a match right then and there, but Orlando would have to win his later to earn a rematch......

1. Non-title: Kyle Brad def. Mike Verna (w/P. J. Stackpole). All you need to know is that Orlando remained within shouting distance of the ring,  but not once did he make physical contact with Verna. On the other hand, this telegraphed the end of Orlando's match later in the show. Brad rolled up Verna via a Pat O'Connor roll and perfect bridge for the victory.

2. Wolfgar def. Sonny Kiss via submission. Kiss, a newcomer, plays the effeminate card very well, but is light and athletic also. Unfortunately, the Dragon Slayer was too strong and locked on a full nelson with a leg grapevine to get the tap-out.

3. The Amazing Graysons def. the World Class Gentlemen & South Philly's Finest in a triple threat tag team match. It wasn't your normal triple threat, as only two men were in the ring at a time to start. The Graysons are new, and will remind some of the Young Bucks because of their speed & athleticism, but not the attitude. SPF teased the finish as Jimmy Konway locked on a sharpshooter after Luca Brazzi nailed one of the Graysons with a frogsplash right out of the late Eddie Guerrero's textbook. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there, as Konway was rolled up for the pinfall.

Chuck Deep came out and cut a promo. He said his mom had passed away recently, and was a major part of the Dynasty family. A 10 bell salute was interrupted by the Southern Boys (Bull Hightower & Aiden Andrews), who ambushed Deep and left him lying. A tag match was made for later.

4. Hoss def. Mark Hart. Mark is not related to the Hart family of Canada, but his valet, Niccolina, is easy on the eyes. They remind me of Natalya and her husband, Tyson Kidd. Typical big man vs. cruiserweight match. Hoss hit a chokeslam, then a legdrop, but got just 2, then finished Hart with a sitout powerbomb.

5. "The Flippin' Kid" Travis Gordon def. "Mr. Must See" Tyler Vincent. Two more newcomers, bringing the total to six to this point. The winner earned a roster spot. Gordon picked up the win, but the story was after the match.

Vincent cut a promo on Dynasty frontman Chris Envy as well as In Your Face Wrestling champ Drake Evans. Vincent said he'd waited six months, though the last DPW show was actually seven months ago, for this. Envy came out like a fly into a spider's web, because the next thing you know, a number of IYFW wrestlers, led by C. J. Scott, hit the ringside area and brawled with Envy & security after Envy had given Vincent his bags, asking the kid to leave after bad-mouthing Envy. This ain't over yet by any stretch. Vik Dalishus & Hale Collins made the save, and cut a promo apologizing for what had happened. Apparently, Dalishus & Collins were going to start tag teaming together as The Now. Now, we have a video of the incident, with Cady & DeLuise on the call.

You see, competition, regardless of what a certain senile executive in Connecticut will claim on national television, is good for business, and both DPW & IYFW will benefit from a border war storyline.

After intermission, there would be auditions in the ring for substitute attendants for homecoming hero Dalton Castle, who was in the main event. Castle's ROH gimmick has him accompanied by a pair of young boys, which probably doesn't play well in the Bible Belt. Nate Short came out first, followed by Captain Wayno and his soon-to-be-ex-tag team partner, Travis Dorian, with Mister Mann following Dorian. A 3rd contestant, Flip Gordon, came out after Short had left, but was not identified by Cady.

6. Travis Dorian def. Christian Casanova and Captain Wayno. Wayno did all the work, but Dorian snuck in and picked up the win. Post-match, Dorian turned on Wayno and beat him down. Mann argued with Cady, and Cady was beaten down, his night over. Mann replaced him at the broadcast table, but R. J. DeLuise (no relation to Dom) took over the ring announcing.

7. Chuck Deep & Brute VanSlyke def. the Southern Boys. VanSlyke is another newbie. Since Deep's regular partner, Kyle Brad, had wrestled earlier, Deep needed a sub, and since "Bad" Brad Wesley was in absentia after mending his fences with Deep in August, Brute matched up perfectly with Bull Hightower. They brawled to the back while Deep defeated Aiden Andrews.

8. "The Enigma" Storm defeated Hellen Vale & Tequila Rosee in a triple threat match. Some idiot at the sound board decided to have the entrance music play over DeLuise's ring intros. Storm won by submission.

9. Dalton Castle def. Mike Orlando. This would've been great, a happy ending to the night, except that Mike Verna & P. J. Stackpole came back for a receipt. The ref ejected them once, but after the arbiter was bumped down, Verna returned and hit a Superman punch on Orlando. Castle didn't see it, either, and hit his finisher, Bang-a-Rang. The ref recovered long enough to administer the three.

Post-match, the champ beat down Orlando even further, using a chair and a kendo stick, so expect some sort of stipulation for the grudge match. Mike King took his time coming down, which suggests he might also be involved with IYFW, as is Chase Belmonte, who took over color commentary for the last two matches. DPW is in deep trouble if they can't mount any sort of retaliation against IYFW. In Your Face's next show is set for April 30 in Duanesburg. DPW returns to Troy the following week. Hmmmmmmm.

In Theatres: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

It is one of the oldest tropes in comics. Two heroes meet for the first time, and, under curious circumstances, fight until they realize they've been manipulated by a third party with an agenda.

In a nutshell, that's what "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" comes down to. The Man of Steel (Henry Cavill), dealing with a distrusting public and government, is pulled into a battle with the Dark Knight (Ben Affleck), who has begun resorting to branding his defeated foes. Something that is SO NOT BATMAN.

At the center of it all is Alexander "Lex" Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), wealthy industrialist, scientist, geek, and sociopath all rolled into one. If you were expecting Lex to be in finely tailored suits throughout the movie, you're going to be badly disappointed. This Lex is a nerd who prefers dress casual. The bit about being abused by his father? Borrowed from Smallville, one would imagine. Unfortunately, Lex's mindset is more along the lines of the writers merging him with the Joker, and Eisenberg doesn't totally sell it so well. And since the Clown Prince of Crime is busy elsewhere, as you'll see this summer, using Lex as a surrogate just fails. Color me unimpressed.

I'm told there is a R-rated cut that will be available on DVD later this year. You'll need that if you really need to see Lois Lane (Amy Adams) totally in the buff. That whole bit where Clark Kent joins her, fully clothed, mind you, in the bathtub early on is one of the cuter bits of the movie.

And, then, there is Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). In the mind of director Zack Snyder and co-author David Goyer, among others, Princess Diana of the Amazons is seemingly immortal, and has been around at least 100 years, as Bruce Wayne uncovers a picture of Diana dating back to 1918. Of course, Wonder Woman has actually been with us since the Golden Age, but that's neither here nor there at this point. Funny how William Moulton Marston, Diana's creator, wasn't given credit, unlike Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster (Superman) and Bob Kane & Bill Finger (Batman). Hmmmmm. We also get glimpses of The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa), setting up next year's "Justice League, Part 1". The scenes with Diana & Bruce hint at something down the road that might be a call-back to fans of the Justice League cartoons from a decade ago.

Where "Dawn of Justice" ultimately missteps is using one too many false climaxes to set up the last one. I won't spoil it for you, but suffice it to say, if you're a long time comics fan, you'll remember it, because WB has adapted it before. Luthor finally loses his hair, but it's shaved off in prison. Don't ask why. I wasn't down with the clownish, curly look that makes Lex look like the younger brother of the Wendy's babe.

I won't list all the trailers. Suffice to say, they include:

"Warcraft" (June): Based on the video game series.
"Suicide Squad" (August): Jared Leto as the Joker. Plus, Will Smith, Viola Davis, and Margot Robbie. I'll be up front. I'm not digging the grills on the Joker's teeth. That is SO NOT THE JOKER!

"Central Intelligence": Kevin Hart, after 2 "Ride Along" movies with Ice Cube, now tries to get the rub from the people's movie star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

"X-Men: Apocalypse" (May 27): Last chance to see Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2" (April). The Heroes in a 1/2-Shell are back. The human supporting cast includes Megan Fox, Fred Armisen (Portlandia, ex-Saturday Night Live), Stephen Amell (Arrow), and WWE superstar Sheamus (credited under his real name, Stephen Fennelly, from what I'm told). From director Michael Bay, so expect more explosions than actually necessary.

"Ghostbusters": Ivan Reitman's 80's franchise is getting a distaff makeover, fronted by Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly), who will be in theatres in "The Boss" in about a week or two.

And, now, a sample of "Dawn of Justice":

Affleck was fine, Jeremy Irons was sublime as Alfred. You know Superman will return, along with the others, which made the final climax a little bit of overkill. While the money's rolling in already, and it will turn a profit, DC/WB needs to figure out a better way to convey their overall stories so it doesn't tax the fans' collective psyche.

Rating: B+.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sports this 'n' that

Senator John McCain once referred to mixed martial arts (MMA) as "human cockfighting". The Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) has since made a lot of changes, evolving as it has over 23 years. And, now, it's on its way to New York at last, pending the signature of governor Andrew Cuomo to legalize MMA in the Empire State. "Amateur" competitions have been taking place for the last few years, but, very soon, the big boys will finally be coming, and the UFC, under the direction of Dana White, have a event scheduled later this year---in pencil, mind you, pending the governor---at Madison Square Garden. Albany's Times Union Center is a likely landing spot down the road, but you have to worry, if you're Joe Average Consumer, about ticket prices and how they'll be at a level more compatible with boxing than pro wrestling.
That allows us a segue to the next item. Dynasty Pro Wrestling's 1st event of 2016 was originally booked for the Troy Boys & Girls Club for tonight. However, and you can chalk this up to the homecoming for Ring of Honor star Dalton Castle if you like, ticket sales have spiked to the point where the Troy B & G Club can't hold the show, so they're moving across the river to the Albany B & G Club on Delaware Avenue. Show time is the same, 7 pm. Castle's last appearance for Dynasty was 14 months ago, on the undercard to a show headlined by 90's hardcore icon Tommy Dreamer. If you've seen him on ROH since then, you know what to expect.
Dallas Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones gets a Dunce Cap and a set of Weasel ears this week. Why? Because he's out of touch with reality. That's what he gets, really, for inviting Vince McMahon into his luxury box at AT&T Stadium at the end of last season, communing with a guy who's just as mentally challenged as he is. AT&T Stadium hosts Wrestlemania 32 next week, oh, by the way. Anyway, Jones went on record deriding reports confirming the connection between football and CTE, a disease caused by repeated blows to the head over a lengthy period of time. Like, in the 27 seasons he's overseen the Cowboys, you'd believe he has had a few players, including QB-turned-Fox broadcaster Troy Aikman, suffer concussions on the field. In fact, it was the concussions that convinced Aikman to swap his shoulder pads for a Fox blazer. Fox studio co-host Terry Bradshaw has owned up to having had concussions during his playing career in Pittsburgh, and I'd imagine his colleagues, Howie Long (Raiders) & Michael Strahan (Giants), have probably dealt with the same as well.

For Jones, this is a case where he's proving to the entire world once again how clueless he really is about the darker side of the game. He's turned the Cowboys into Raiders South by picking up troubled players, such as Greg Hardy, in recent years, in an effort to win another Super Bowl. All teams have the revolving doors, shuffling players on and off the roster, but Jones is just too stupid to realize he cannot run the team by himself anymore. It's not the same as being an oil magnate, which is where he made his fortune before buying the team in 1989. It's past time Jones hired some actual football-savvy people to run the team, before he puts his foot in his mouth again!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Advertising For Dummies: A singing portrait? (2016)

An eccentric artist creates a portrait of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, made entirely of Skittles. Scope out Tyler's reaction:

Not sure about the actor playing the artist, but he does bear some slight facial resemblance, though a tad paunchier, to Victor Garber (Legends of Tomorrow). Bear in mind that even before they bought Wrigley's and farmed out Skittles & Starburst to that brand, M & M/Mars had commissioned some real corkers for the two products. This falls to the bottom of the creative barrel.

Musical Interlude: Falling For The First Time (2000-1)

From their 2000 CD, "Maroon", Canada's Barenaked Ladies served up the surrealistic "Falling For The First Time".

I fell in love with this song when I first heard it, then went out and got their greatest hits set. Digressing. The video is set at a museum where a bored guard (Harland Williams) goes nuts when he can't change the channel once the song starts. Williams, for what it's worth, is the cousin of keyboard player Kevin Hearn.

Wack, man.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Classic TV: Card Sharks (1978)

Ever hear of the card game, Acey-Deucey? Well, that was the basis that Mark Goodson & Bill Todman used for Card Sharks, which has had three different runs over the course of nearly 30 years as a stand-alone series.

Card Sharks utilized the audience survey format favored by G-T stablemate Family Feud over on ABC, mixed with standard quiz questions, leading to a bonus "Money Cards" game where the winners could conceivably win up to $5,000, a little higher in subsequent revivals. Jim Perry was tapped to host the series when it aired on NBC. G-T recycled the theme from their failed 1976-7 CBS series, Double Dare (not to be confused with the Nickelodeon series of the same name) for Card Sharks, and even today, it still rocks.

After nearly 3 full years, NBC pulled the plug on Card Sharks in 1981. Five years later, Goodson, now a solo act as a producer, revived the series, which moved to CBS, with Bob Eubanks (ex-The Newlywed Game) taking over as host, as Perry had moved on to a revival of Sale of the Century. Concurrently, a syndicated version, emceed by Bill Rafferty (ex-Real People) was run in an attempt to unseat Merv Griffin's top-rated duo of Jeopardy! (w/Alex Trebek) and Wheel of Fortune, which are still running today. This revival also lasted just shy of 3 full years. The show was brought back in syndication again in 2001, with Pat Bullard as host, but it bombed, lasting 1 season. The final configuration revived the original stage set from 1978 for CBS' Game Show Marathon in 2006, with talk show host-actress Ricki Lake hosting.

Would Fremantle Media, which now owns the rights, bring back Card Sharks again? I doubt it, considering the poor response to the last series.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Joe Garagiola (1926-2016)

His playing career wasn't as distinguished as you'd think, considering he went into the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster, not a player. Joe Garagiola parlayed it into a considerably fruitful career outside of baseball.

After 9 seasons with St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and the NY Giants, among others, Garagiola retired in 1955 and turned to broadcasting, starting with the Cardinals, before going national with NBC. His association with the network opened other doors for Garagiola, including hosting the original Sale of the Century, serving as co-host of The Today Show, and, in addition to his work as both a play-by-play announcer and color analyst, the latter with the ageless Vin Scully, Garagiola hosted the Monday pre-game show, The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola, from 1972-5, a clip of which follows:

Garagiola's 1st book, 1960's Baseball is a Funny Game, was loaded with ancedotes and jokes, some of which were the self-deprecating kind that helped reintroduce Garagiola as a humble broadcaster. Kind of like another catcher who turned to broadcasting--and is still at it today--Bob Uecker.

Garagiola signed on with Goodson-Todman to host He Said, She Said, which was later rebooted as Tattletales, and To Tell The Truth after the retirement of Garry Moore. He retired from broadcasting in 2013 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, for whom his son, Joe, Jr., I believe, is still employed.

Today, Joe joins his St. Louis childhood pal, Yogi Berra, in baseball heaven, having passed away at 90. We'll all miss you, Joe. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Celebrity Rock: The Windmills of Your Mind (1969)

Noel Harrison may be better known for playing Stefanie Powers' partner on The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., and, yes, he did some time on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., too, but it may surprise you to know that he recorded "The Windmills of Your Mind" as the theme to the original "Thomas Crown Affair". "Windmills" has been covered by a great number of artists since.....

Monday, March 21, 2016

Easter Theatre: Bunnies don't lay eggs, do they? (Of course not!) (1970's)

The other day, a caller to The Record's Sound Off column asked on behalf of his 5 year old daughter how the Cadbury Creme Egg bunny can sound like a chicken. Well, first, a history lesson is in order.

Cadbury, now part of Hershey's, at least in the US, introduced the creme eggs as a seasonal treat in 1971, but its origins date back to the UK a decade prior. Being that we're talking about a television commercial here, the chicken's clucking is dubbed in. Actor Mason Adams narrates the following ad:

With Easter being this Sunday, I thought I'd share.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Celebrity Rock: King of the Cars & Love is a Terrible Thing (1979)

Earlier this week, we served up a little Lenny (Michael McKean) without Squiggy (David Lander) from Laverne & Shirley. Now, we bring back a video that had previously been sent into exile (this was also put back in Saturday Morning Archives earlier in the week) due to an earlier poster getting pinched for copyright issues.

Lenny & the Squigtones appeared on American Bandstand in June 1979, a rare case of network cross-promotional synergy. The band also includes Christopher Guest, appearing as----wait for it----Nigel Tufnel, the character he'd play in "Spinal Tap" a few years later. McKean shows off a talent for impressions on the two tracks you're about to hear. First, the guys salute the likes of the Beach Boys with "King of the Cars" (McKean sounds like one of the Wilson boys on vocals). Then, after the obligatory interview with Dick Clark, We get McKean trying out an Elviseque voice on "Love is a Terrible Thing".

If Lander could make Squiggy sing like Jerry Lewis (Lander worked on Will The Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down?) opposite Lenny as Dean Martin, then maybe they'd have gotten more respect, don't you think?

Section 2's secret weapon

It's easy to assume that after Elmont Memorial defeated Troy High six days ago to win the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Class A title at Glens Falls, it was the end of high school basketball season in Section 2.

Wrong! We forgot someone.

Albany Academy For Boys plays more of an independent schedule, and has done so the last few years after dropping out of the Colonial Council. They still play old foes Lansingburgh, Cohoes, and, I think, Watervliet every year, but coach Brian Fruscio's team flies under the radar by playing schools from outside Section 2. So it was a bit of a wake-up call when the schedule for the Federation Tournament of Champions at Times Union Center was announced. The Cadets, and not Troy, were the last Section 2 team still playing. Today, Albany Academy will play for the Federation title against Elmont Memorial after disposing of Canisius. Yes, Albany Academy is a Class A school, which makes for a lot of "what if" scenarios. As in, what if they played in the Colonial Council this season? Would it have been Albany Academy and not Lansingburgh in the sectional finals three weeks ago at Glens Falls? Or, they could've taken Troy's place, depending on how the brackets would've shaken out. We'll never know the answer, but, sometime between 6:30 and 7 pm tonight, we'll see if the Cadets can bring home a Federation title. Canisius, by the way, halted Scotia's attempt at the Federation title last year, so now we're assured of a new champion.
Last year, the University at Albany's men's basketball team earned their 1st NCAA tournament win, albeit in the made-for-cable "First Four". This year, the Great Danes' run of America East titles came to an end with a 1st round upset loss to Hartford. As a consolation prize, UAlbany, along with Siena, landed a spot in the College Basketball Invitational, the same tournament that Siena won 2 years ago. Unfortunately, both teams were eliminated in their first round games earlier this week.

Meanwhile, UAlbany's women's team won their 5th straight America East title, and were seeded 12th in the East Region, earning a 1st round date with Florida, out of the SouthEastern Conference (SEC). No matter how many league titles the Lady Danes will win, the politics of the NCAA will ensure that a mid-major league champion will never be treated with the same respect as the "power" conferences (i.e. SEC).

On Friday, in Syracuse, UAlbany flipped the script, and, as the men did last year, the Lady Danes got the monkey off their backs by upsetting Florida, 61-59. You have to imagine that the Carrier Dome, usually swathed in Syracuse orange, was filled with fans in UAlbany purple making the trip to support the America East champions, and will be again tomorrow. Whatever happens now, the Lady Danes know they've taken one large step forward.
As basketball season winds down, high school baseball & softball will be getting underway. This year, Troy High's teams will be together, more often than not, as the Suburban Council schedules show that most of the games will be played concurrently, and usually at the same site. One big difference is on April 22, when Troy hosts Colonie. The baseball teams will meet at Joe Bruno Stadium, while the softball game will be played at Troy High, but both start at the same time (4:15 pm). What it means is that most schools in the league have two fields, one each for softball & baseball. Contrast this to basketball, where the women's team usually plays at the opposite site of where the boys' game is played. To be honest, I don't know if this has always been the case. It is Troy's 1st season in the Suburban, of course, and after copping a boys' basketball Grey division title, you wonder if the Flying Horses can pick up the momentum and add divisional titles in baseball & softball. We'll find out together starting on April 4, when the softball team opens its season.

Friday, March 18, 2016

On The Shelf: Get ready to get Lost in Space again

Yes, you read that right, effendi. Lost in Space returns to comics this week in a brand new book from American Gothic Press, which is the current home of the former Warren publication Famous Monsters of Filmland.

This series adapts a pair of unproduced scripts that were intended for the show's 3rd & final season (1967-8), both of which had been written by prolific writer Carey Wilber. The first story arc focuses on John & Will Robinson and Major Don West, plus the Robot, dealing with an unknown menace. Given how campy Lost in Space became in its final season, you hope that editor Holly Interlandi, who is writing the adaptation, can avoid the pitfalls that ultimately doomed the series. Given that it's been more than 25 years since the last comic book version of the series, and that one was written for the most part by co-star Bill Mumy (Will), you wonder also if fans will embrace this book, coming as it does six months after the series' 50th anniversary.


Legends of Tomorrow has been renewed for a 2nd season by CW, but fans will be disappointed to find that DC's newly released miniseries shares just the name and one character. The company had said all along they weren't adapting the series---yet---but Firestorm would appear, in a story arc written by co-creator Gerry Conway. Jefferson "Jax" Jackson was created for television, so Ronnie Raymond, who was killed off on The Flash, is paired with Jason Rusch, who has also appeared on Flash, while Professor Martin Stein isn't part of the Firestorm Matrix. Try figuring that one out. The plus is that Conway, who introduced Firestorm nearly 40 years ago, is at the helm. Producer Greg Berlanti could use his help with Legends.

The back-up features are, like Firestorm, originally meant to be in their own stand-alone miniseries, but DC decided to cut their perceived losses by merging 4 books together into one. Sugar & Spike have been reimagined as adult private eyes in the vision of writer Keith Giffen, who, over the course of six issues, will have them meeting certain familiar faces, though we can't guarantee the big guns will be involved. Aaron Lopresti is behind the reboot of Metamorpho, both as writer & artist. Lopresti brings us in after Rex Mason has already been mutated into the Element Man, but Sapphire Stagg, Rex's long time honey, isn't in that role---yet. Java, Simon Stagg's henchman, is more than just a simple caveman now. Instead, he's been given intelligence by the elder Stagg, who supplies Java with medication to keep him from going berserk. The Metal Men are in the capable hands of Len Wein and Yindray Cinar, the latter of whom has redesigned the team with a more 21st century look, although I disagree with giving Gold more of a vain personality. Platinum still looks hot, but her armored body isn't silvery white anymore.

So why is DC rolling the dice by merging 4 books into 1? There isn't as much of a market for nostalgia for characters from the 60's & 70's anymore. For $8 an issue, you're buying into the exploitation of a hot television property. The hometown comics shop only ordered 10 copies, virtually all of them for subscribers. Were it not for Firestorm, folks would see this 80-page, $8 book, and turn it aside.

Sugar & Spike is the only feature that isn't a continuing story, just a series of done-in-one tales. Giffen has holes to fill with the characters, who haven't been seen since the end of their own series in the late 60's-early 70's. Give this a B+. The others are Incomplete, since we'll need a couple more months to properly gauge the story arcs.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Modern Classic: Smallville (2001)

If you gathered together all of DC Comics' live-action television adaptations, you would find that the top three series in terms of longevity all feature Superman.

At the top of the list is Smallville, which in the course of its 10 seasons (2001-11) chronicled the development of Clark Kent (Tom Welling) into the Man of Steel. Producers Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Mike Tollin, & Brian Robbins opted against putting Welling into the iconic red & blue suit, though there supposedly is a revision to the series finale.

For the most part, the producers opted to cast relative unknowns in key roles, with the only names being John Schneider (ex-Dukes of Hazzard) as Jonathan Kent, Annette O'Toole, who'd appeared as Lana Lang in "Superman III" nearly 20 years earlier, as Martha Kent, and John Glover, who'd voiced the Riddler on Batman: The Animated Series, as Lionel Luthor, Lex's father. As for Lex (Michael Rosenbaum, Justice League), his descent into villainy was gradual by design, as the story was just as much about him as it was about Clark. Moving outside the box, the producers came up with the novel idea of marrying Lex off to Lana (Kristen Kreuk) for a time. In the books during this period, Lana was actually married to another childhood friend, Pete Ross. In a casting quirk that has become commonplace since, the producers opted to turn Pete into an African American (Sam Jones). Don't ask, because I have really no clue, other than the cultural diversity defense.

During the second half of the series' run, the producers began developing their vision of the Justice League, which included founding members Aquaman and Martian Manhunter, as well as Green Arrow (Justin Hartley). As noted in a previous post, when Arrow launched a year after Smallville ended, a different set of producers opted to utilize their own vision of the Emerald Archer, and now Arrow has been renewed for its 5th season, surpassing Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman as the 3rd longest DC adaptation in television history.

There were also ties to the WWE, thanks to Smackdown airing on CW from 2006-10. Smallville marked one of the first acting roles of Dave Bautista ("Spectre") in season 9, but a couple of years earlier, Kane (Glenn Jacobs) guest starred in the season 6 episode, "Combat", an excerpt of which follows:

As you can see, Clark isn't 100% invulnerable, a condition that mirrors the comics as of the late 80's. If he was, would he have been bleeding in the course of this battle? Doubtful, and that's the beauty of it all.

DC kept Smallville going with a series of comics after the TV show ended for a couple of years. If you're lucky, you can probably cop a trade paperback or three even today.

I've been more of a Batman guy than a Superman guy, so I wasn't really that interested, but I did see some episodes late in the run. Just not enough for a fair rating.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rockin' Funnies: The Look (1981)

Here's a rare instance from Laverne & Shirley where Lenny (Michael McKean) doesn't have BFF Squiggy (David Lander) as a duet partner. Instead, Laverne (Penny Marshall), albeit rather reluctantly, joins Lenny for "The Look". Not to be confused with the Roxette hit of the same name that came out 6 years after this song debuted.

Weasel of the Week: Chris Christie

It wasn't so long ago that New Jersey Governor Chris "Chins" Christie was appearing in commercials touting the Garden State as a tourist landing spot in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Today, however, Christie's political career is trending in the wrong direction. After withdrawing from the GOP race for President, Christie has thrown his support behind Donald Trump, and it's gotten him in trouble at home.

Rather than honor his responsibilities as governor and attend the funeral for a New Jersey state trooper killed in the line of duty last week (he delegated the responsibility to the lieutenant governor), "Chins" was on the stump for Trump in Ohio and other states that held primaries yesterday (Trump lost in Ohio), putting politics ahead of state duty. Bad move, Chris.

Add to this the fact that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was caught on a live mic ripping Christie a new one during a commercial break when she appeared on Hardball on CNBC. That, of course, made headlines in New York & New Jersey, with Clinton and host Chris Matthews both of the opinion that Christie, were he to run for Senator, would lose to current NJ Senator Cory Booker, and that it was time to stick a fork in Christie's political career, assuming he & Trump don't reach the White House (and they won't).

For a breach in political ethics while holding the highest office in his state, Christie gets himself a set of Weasel ears. Come to think of it, if some alleged genius decides to reboot The Sopranos, Christie would be the heir apparent to the late James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano. He's already larger than life in his own mind.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What Might've Been: Mindreaders (1979)

ESP was pretty big in the 70's. Mark Goodson & Bill Todman sought to cash in with Mindreaders, a short-lived NBC game show that ran just shy of six months (1979-80), and emceed by Dick Martin (ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In), who was one of the celebrities rotating in Richard Dawson's old chair on Match Game at the time. Martin's only other game show hosting gig was the satirical Cheap Show, which aired in syndication.

Following is a sample episode with singer Jack Jones and actress Joyce Bulifant (ex-The Mary Tyler Moore Show), who was another semi-regular panelist on Match Game.

Had it been on earlier in the morning, maybe it works. No rating.

Musical Interlude: Sad Eyes (1979)

Here's a 1-hit wonder that is still getting some airplay occasionally on adult contemporary radio.

Robert John was never heard from again after "Sad Eyes" climbed the charts in 1979. Now, admit it. How many of you did slow dances to this tune? The clip is taken from Solid Gold, by the way.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Classic (?) TV: The Richard Simmons Show (1980)

To think that once upon a time, Richard Simmons actually considered being a priest. At that time, Simmons, you see, was obese, tipping the scales at close to 270. A life & career change, including a move to Los Angeles, turned Simmons into an 80's exercise icon.

One of Simmons' 1st TV appearances was on NBC's Real People, and it went from there. A syndicated exercise/talk show was parlayed into a series of appearances on General Hospital, both over the course of a 4 year period (1980-4). The sight of Simmons leading some of the show's nurses, who'd swapped their hospital whites for leotards & tights for these segments, was worth the price of admission for some young teenage boys (interested in the nurses) just as much as the girls.

The Richard Simmons Show aired in the morning in most cities, avoiding a scheduling conflict with Hospital, an ABC afternoon staple (and the only ABC soap opera left). As noted, Simmons not only did exercise segments, like on General Hospital, but was more of a full-service talk show host, doing interviews and cooking segments. Kind of like Jack LaLanne crossed with Graham Kerr and David Frost, if you will.

Simmons is back in the news these days, as there'd been reports, refuted by Simmons on an appearance on Today earlier today, that he was supposedly being held prisoner in his own home. Draw your own conclusions, but as Simmons is in his late 60's, and with pal David Letterman having retired from broadcasting, it would be more likely to assume that Simmons himself has gone into retirement, and leave it at that. Must've been a slow news day to think he was in dire straits.....!

Following is the first half of a 2-part show on "Candy Criminals":

As I noted in reviewing General Hospital upon its 50th anniversary 3 years ago, Simmons was immortalized in the lyrics to the Afternoon Delights' 1-hit wonder, "General Hospi-Tale", in 1981, cementing his status as an icon.

Rating: B+.

Musical Interlude: We Are The Young (1984)

Dan Hartman's follow-up to "I Can Dream About You" was the bouncy, up-tempo "We Are The Young". Look for a quick cameo by actor Stoney Jackson, who lip-synced vocals in "Streets of Fire", and the rest of that film's group, The Sorels, near the end of the clip as Hartman invites them on stage.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Classic TV: Jackpot Bowling (1959)

In the early days of television, networks were looking for some sort of sports programming to fill time in the evening hours. Bowling, it turned out, was one option.

Jackpot Bowling aired on NBC between 1959 and 1961, ending in March of '61 as ratings declined. The game play was different from the usual 10 frames in that each bowler threw one ball per frame, as strikes were key to success. Nine frames per game, kind of like baseball, in order to fit two games into a half-hour broadcast.

Where NBC ran into trouble was finding a host for the show. Baseball Hall of Famer Leo Durocher was the first one, but lasted two weeks. Venerable Mel Allen was out of his millieu, but was given two tours of duty as host. The same went for Bud Palmer, who would later serve as a fill-in for ABC's Pro Bowlers Tour whenever Chris Schenkel was unavailable due to scheduling conflicts (i.e. Olympics, golf, etc.). Finally, comedy legend Milton Berle took over as host in the fall of 1960, with long time Lakers announcer Chick Hearn describing the action. Unfortunately, the Berle-Hearn team lasted six months before the network pulled the plug.

Let's take a look at an episode from January 1, 1961, broadcast live a few hours after Hearn worked the Rose Bowl that afternoon in Pasadena, which is mentioned in passing (Washington defeated Minnesota that day).

The show originally was based in New Jersey before moving to LA. Berle brought some energy with a short monologue, but he was no longer the box office draw he had been before with Texaco Star Theatre, also for NBC. Five and a half years later, he'd return to primetime with a self-titled comedy-variety show (previously reviewed), which would be his last headlining gig.

Rating: A.

It was a great season.......

I'm not a gambling man, but I'm willing to at least guess that not a lot of folks believed Troy High's boys' basketball team could go as far as they did this season.

The season ended for the Flying Horses this afternoon in Glens Falls in the New York Public High School Athletic Association (NYPSHAA) Class A title game, losing to Elmont Memorial, 57-43. Troy had a 3 point lead after the first period, 17-14, but could only muster 26 points the rest of the way as Elmont took control in the second period and pulled away. Daniel Buie & Jack McLaren led Troy with 13 points each.

It can be argued that fatigue might've been a deciding factor. Troy was playing its 2nd game in less than 36 hours, after destroying Williamsville-South, 78-39, Saturday morning. Nearly 28 hours later, they were accepting the silver medals as the runners-up in Class A. As it was, the Flying Horses were the last Section 2 team playing, and that itself was remarkable. Shenendehowa, the state's top ranked men's AA team, were upset in overtime by Aquinas on Saturday. The Lady Plainsmen also fell, as did Class B men's champ Hudson, on Saturday. Entering play today, Troy was Section 2's last hope for a state title, but, alas, it just wasn't meant to be.

To think that 3 1/2 months ago, Troy lost their Suburban Council opener to Colonie. Then, they ran roughshod over the Grey division en route to winning the title. It's a pity the league didn't have time or room on the schedule for a overall league championship game that would've been a rematch between Troy & Shen from January 29, as Troy was the only team to lose to Shen by less than 10 points in league play. After losing the league finale to CBA, Troy ran off five straight wins before losing today. Credit Elmont Memorial with making defensive adjustments in the second period, and keeping Troy off balance the rest of the afternoon.

Up until today, no one had heard of Elmont Memorial, which, like Troy, was looking for its first State title. Most of us know of the city of Elmont as home to Belmont Park, site of the Belmont Stakes every June. Now, the city has something else to be proud of.

The upside for Troy is that they will have their starting backcourt of Buie and Ryan Carmello back next year, and should see some fresh blood promoted from the JV. Now, baseball season awaits........

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Musical Interlude: Funkytown (1986)

Six years after Lipps, Inc.'s 1-hit wonder hit #1 on the Hot 100, Pseudo Echo raced up the charts with a cover of "Funkytown" that, in this writer's opinion, was one of those rare birds that was better than the original.

Unfortunately, within a year, the album was in cutout bins.

Yes, they served Shasta Off-Broadway (1977)

I don't think Shasta's line of sodas are around anymore, but they sure did give Pepsi and Coca-Cola a run for their money in the 60's & 70's. I think Shasta faded away somewhere around the early 90's, I'm not sure, but by then, it was reduced to being a 3rd-tier brand of soft drinks. No advertising, and you could've probably gotten two six packs for $10.

Back in 1977, Barry Williams, fresh from the disaster of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, was cast as an Off-Broadway actor in this spot. Casey Kasem is heard doing a voice-over near the end of the spot.

It's too bad Shasta's diversity in flavors wasn't sustained in the long term.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Classic TV: The Virginian (1962)

You might say that The Virginian was the original Man With No Name, and he predated Clint Eastwood's spaghetti western anti-hero by several decades. Owen Wister's original story, which provided the basis for 2 films (1929 & 1946), and a half-hour pilot commissioned by Screen Gems for Decision in 1958, was loosely adapted by Revue/Universal for NBC, and was the first 90 minute Western. Stablemate Wagon Train, which moved to ABC to make room, expanded to 90 minutes in answer.

James Drury, who was first cast for the Decision episode in 1958, was brought back 4 years later and headed an ensemble cast that, other than Doug McClure, seemed to go through a revolving door every so often. The Virginian (real name unrevealed) was the foreman at Shiloh Ranch in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, which was originally owned by Judge Henry Garth (Lee J. Cobb), who sold the ranch  halfway through the 4th season when he was elected governor of Wyoming. Cobb, you see, left to work on the Derek Flint spy spoofs with James Coburn for 20th Century Fox. Morgan Starr, played by radio veteran John Dehner, purchased the ranch. However, Starr proved to be unpopular with the audience, and so the ranch began changing hands again.

Charles Bickford took over as the ranch owner in season 5, and after his passing two months into the 6th season, John McIntire (ex-Wagon Train) was brought in, just as he had succeeded Ward Bond on Wagon Train upon Bond's passing a few years earlier. In 1970, the series was given a total makeover, rechristened The Men From Shiloh, and the open created a look similar to the spaghetti westerns which had become popular. Percy Faith's driving score was replaced with a new theme by Ennio Morricone. McIntire was gone, replaced by Stewart Granger. Lee Majors, a year removed from The Big Valley, joined the show, making his debut with Universal.

The supporting cast's revolving door also included Tim Matheson (ex-Jonny Quest), Clu Gulager (ex-The Tall Man), and, in season 7, David Hartman, who left not long after to work on another Universal project, The Bold Ones.

Following is a sample intro/close, with the iconic theme by Percy Faith:

Rating: A.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Advertising For Dummies: Would you dance while chewing gum? (1960's)

Clark chewing gum struck a gold mine in the 60's when they co-opted "The Mexican Shuffle", by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, as "The Teaberry Shuffle", named for one of the flavors of chewing gum marketed by the company.

This ad reportedly is from 1967.

The seemingly generic announcer would later become a bit of an icon to millions of children. Danny Dark was the voice of Superman in various incarnations of Super Friends from 1973-86, and had concurrent gigs as a studio announcer, first for CBS, then NBC, succeeding SF castmate and radio legend Casey Kasem in the latter.

What Might've Been: Kingston: Confidential (1977)

One of the common problems network programmers have had over the years is when a veteran, beloved star returns in a new series, a knee-jerk reaction is to put the new show on the same night where the star's previous series had aired. It's either that, or if you're reviving an iconic series, the idea is to put the revival on the same night as the original.

Kingston: Confidential falls into the former category. A spring replacement series for NBC in 1977, Kingston marked the return of Raymond Burr, nearly 2 years after Ironside had ended its run. What does NBC's programming department do? They schedule Kingston on Thursday nights, where Ironside had aired for most, if not all, of its run, as memory serves.

Burr created a new production company, R. B. Productions, to co-produce the show, with David Victor (ex-Marcus Welby, M. D.) as executive producer. As R. B. Kingston, modeled after newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Burr didn't really stray too far from the usual millieu of mysteries. It was, at the end of the day, still about catching the bad guys. Pamela Hensley, later of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Art Hindle co-starred.

The Rap Sheet offers the intro. Theme music by the inestimable Henry Mancini.

The following fall, Lou Grant, the last spin-off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, bowed on CBS, with Grant (Ed Asner) now a newspaper editor instead of a television producer. Were there mysteries? Sure, and Grant enjoyed a healthy run with a built-in audience that followed Asner to a new night, as Grant aired on Mondays, as opposed to Moore being a Saturday fixture. The moral of the story? NBC should've found a different night for Kingston than Thursday. Then again.......!

No rating.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Musical Interlude: Weapon of Choice (2000)

British DJ/musician Fatboy Slim opted not to appear in the video for his 2000 single, "Weapon of Choice". The track also features funk legend Bootsy Collins, but the star in this video is actor Christopher Walken, who has become a modern day pop culture icon thanks to this video and appearances on Saturday Night Live.

Now, what I can't figure out is why Walken wasn't asked about a feature film biography on Fred Astaire......

I think Slim borrowed the chorus ("You can go with this, or you can go with that") from Black Sheep, as anyone who's seen that Kia Soul commercial would surmise.

Weasel of the Week: Rev. Carl Gallups

How do I know you're not sick? You could be some deranged lunatic!---The Fresh Prince (Will Smith), "Parents Just Don't Understand", 1987.

The New York Daily News, in today's editions, trumpets the fact that Republican (?) Presidential candidate Dumb Donald Trump has embraced the support of a deranged Florida preacher who claims the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary didn't happen. Reverend Carl Gallups claims, as do the idiotic "truthers", that there was no massacre in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, and that at least one pair of grieving parents were actually actors.

Predictably, Dumb Donald isn't distancing himself from Gallups, who endorsed the millionaire demagogue in January, much to Trump's "delight". Please. Trump is accepting endorsements from the worst kind of people, from former Ku Klux Klan leader-turned-Louisiana politico David Duke to Gallups, and Lord knows who else in between. Well, at least some military vets are supporting Trump, and they may be the among the few sane ones. Trump is making a lot of ridiculous statements to attract the attention of the disenfranchised, angry, disgruntled voters, which would explain why he's winning a lot of primaries so far, something he wasn't able to do the last time he made a run for President.

Gallups gets the Weasel ears this week. Why? Even though his endorsement was 2 months ago, and the Daily News is only just finding out about this along with everyone else, he betrays his faith by spewing the lies of a few imbeciles who, like him, have disengaged themselves from reality. What do these morons need? Death certificates? No, that wouldn't work, as the "truthers" would dismiss those as fake as well. What Gallups needs is divine intervention, and a vacation in a padded room.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Musical Interlude: Guilty of the Crime (2009)

The Bellamy Brothers have been recording for nearly 50 years, and it's been going on 40 since their first major hit, "Let Your Love Flow", hit #1 not on the country chart, but on the Hot 100. Go figure that one out. Howard & David Bellamy have been known mostly as a country act since then.

In 2009, they released a greatest hits compilation that included this next entry, "Guilty of the Crime", a throwback to the glory days of the 70's & 80's. In doing a search on "Guilty", I discovered that the Eagles had also recorded the song. Now, if this version has an Eagles vibe to it, it's only because another set of brothers---the Bacon Brothers---join the Bellamys for this track. Mix in Shannen Doherty (ex-Charmed, Scare Tactics, Beverly Hills 90210), and, well.........

I'd known Kevin Bacon (ex-The Following) had been moonlighting as a musician in recent years, but this is really the first time I've heard him sing. You try telling me he's Golden Throat material.

Forgotten TV: It Takes Two (1969)

Vin Scully is preparing for his 67th season as the play-by-play voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, remaining in LA while Charley Steiner, formerly with the Yankees and ESPN, is calling the games for Time Warner Cable's LA Sports channel, some of those games airing on MLB Network this month.

Back in 1969, however, Scully was given room to, ah, moonlight, if you will, by hosting a game show.

It Takes Two aired on NBC, and while my memory of the show is fuzzy, to the point where there won't be a rating, it does give us pause to take a look back, for those of you who aren't old enough to remember when Scully did more than just Dodger baseball.

This sample episode comes from June 1970. The series would end in August of that year. Gary Crosby (Adam-12), Pat Harrington, and their wives face off with the father-daughter team of Gordon & Meredith McRae.

As we noted yesterday, Scully would return to daytime television two years after the series ended, hosting a talk show for CBS, but that was a dud, due largely to affiliate disinterest. As memory serves, it didn't play in the home district, unlike It Takes Two.

There would be two more series under this title. One was a sitcom with Patty Duke & Richard Crenna. The other was a revival of this show, with Dick Clark hosting for the Family Channel. We'll take a look at both another time.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Forgotten TV: The Amateur's Guide to Love (1972)

For the balance of his career, Gene Rayburn was associated with game show icons Mark Goodson & Bill Todman. One of the few times he worked for someone other than Goodson-Todman found him with their chief rivals, Merrill Heatter & Bob Quigley, in a short-lived series for CBS, The Amateur's Guide to Love, which lasted a few weeks in 1972.

I think it can be best described as Candid Camera crossed with The Dating Game, except that while there is a hidden camera, the celebrity panelists are there to dispense advice of some sort. I never got to see the show, since I was in school when it was on.

Anyway, CBS pulled the plug early, then decided to try something even more dicey, thinking that baseball icon Vin Scully, the longtime voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, could do a daytime talk show. He'd done a game show three years earlier (It Takes Two, for NBC), but that flopped as well, and Rayburn returned to CBS---and Goodson-Todman---with a revived Match Game. You know the rest of the story.

Gilmore Box gives us the open to Amateur's Guide to Love, and we'll leave you with that.

New York Mets 2016 preview

30 years ago, the Mets, after playing bridesmaid for 2 consecutive seasons in the National League East, steamrolled to the division title, then were extended to six games by Houston (then in the NL West) and seven by Boston in the World Series before bringing the championship back to New York.

Last year, the Mets shocked all the experts and won the division, upsetting heavily favored Washington, then beating the Dodgers in the Division Series, and avenged themselves on the Cubs, who had swept the regular season series, 7-0, by digging out the brooms in the League Championship Series, only to fall to Kansas City in the Series.

A lot has changed since. The biggest change? NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy left as a free agent for Washington, after going from hero to virtually zero in the Series. Jonathan Niese was dealt to Pittsburgh for 2B Neil Walker, a switch-hitter with power who represents an immediate upgrade at second. Late season rentals Tyler Clippard (Arizona) and Juan Uribe (Cleveland), reserve outfielder Kirk Nieuwenheis (Milwaukee), catcher Anthony Recker (Cleveland), and reliever Bobby Parnell (Detroit) were all cut loose. Alejandro De Aza, whose resume includes stops with Baltimore and the White Sox, replaces Nieuwenheis, and it was thought that he'd be cut before preseason play began after the Mets resigned Yoenis Cespedes. Asdrubel Cabrera (Tampa Bay) gives the Mets infield depth, such that Wilmer Flores will get a look as a backup first baseman to spell Lucas Duda periodically.

The strength of the Mets, however, is their pitching, as it has been for most of their 54 years. Consider the starting rotation. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, and ancient veteran-turned-folk hero Bartolo Colon, plus Zack Wheeler looming in the distance, coming off Tommy John surgery, due back in the summer. The bullpen has been strengthened with the return of Jerry Blevins, who missed most of the season with arm issues, and the signing of former foe Antonio Bastardo, who had some good years with Philadelphia before moving to Pittsburgh last year. Josh Edgin is due back from Tommy John surgery in May, meaning the bridge to closer Jeurys Familia has got a stronger foundation. Bear in mind that while Washington picked up Murphy, they lost two of their starting pitchers from last year, with Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister both headed to the American League. They went from a scary Big 5 to a Big 3 (Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez), and yet some pundits still think the Nationals, with an aging, volatile Jonathan Papelbon closing, could reclaim the division. I think not. Now, it's the Mets who have the Big 5. Health is key to repeating in the division, something the Mets have never done.

Bear in mind, too, that last year, the Royals marked the 30th anniversary of their first World Series title appropriately by winning the title. The pattern is there. The Mets have never played in back-to-back World Series, either, but that is going to change. How do I know? You'll find out when we talk about the NL East in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Musical Interlude: American Dream (1988)

You could probably tell that musical interests were changing when Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young's 1988 CD, "American Dream", didn't see any singles crack the Top 40. "Got It Made" was the closest, peaking at #69. The title track, a commentary on the scandals of the day, with clips of Jimmy Swaggart and Oliver North, among others.

Seems to me that the band's label, Atlantic, was trying to tell us something. What it was, I can't be sure.......

Surreality: Armed & Famous (2007)

Some "reality" shows just aren't meant to succeed. Period.

Someone convinced the programmers at CBS that sending five celebrities to Muncie, Indiana to train to become police officers would make good television. That person should've been sent along---as a tackling dummy.

Armed & Famous was a mid-season entry that premiered in January 2007, and of the five celebrities taking part, only one had any real experience with police work. That would be Erik Estrada, who starred on CHiPs 30 years earlier. The rest of the lineup? Newly retired WWE "diva" Trish Stratus, Jason Acuna (Jackass), LaToya Jackson, who looked like she could pass for sister Janet, and Jack Osbourne, whose mother, Sharon, was a judge on America's Got Talent and currently is on The Talk. Young Mr. Osbourne would move on to another potentially successful reality series, Haunted Highway, but that got cut short when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

It's safe to say CBS gave up on Armed rather quickly, because after the first week, the show was slotted opposite American Idol. Ballgame over. CBS yanked Armed three weeks later, and suspended production. Cable step-sister VH1 picked up the series and played the two remaining episodes, along with the four that had aired on CBS. Today, it's safely tucked away in the vaults.

In this promo clip, Estrada, Acuna, & Jackson get tasered, with comments by Osbourne & Estrada.

The cast would've been better off if Estrada hosted a marathon screening of CHiPs at a community theatre.

Rating: C.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Videos From The High School Years: Rise (1979)

This year marks 35 years since I graduated from high school. While a class reunion is not etched in stone just yet---seems there's a phobia about the number 5----I still hunt for videos from those golden years.

Case in point is our next selection. Herb Alpert's "Rise", released in July 1979, took off like a runaway rocket thanks to an unexpected source. It was used as background music for ABC's General Hospital when Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) raped future wife Laura (Genie Francis). "Rise", in effect, became Luke's theme song for a while. The seductive sound of Alpert's trumpet carried "Rise" all the way to the top of the charts.

This video, on the other hand, may not have ever aired on MTV and/or VH1. What did they know?

High School basketball: Christian Brothers Academy (Syracuse) vs. Troy High @ Hudson Valley Community College, 3/5/16

It's funny how things work.

In New York's Section 2, Christian Brothers Academy, based out of Colonie, is a Class AA school, and was eliminated in the quarterfinal round of the AA tournament last week.

Section 3, in Western New York, has a CBA, too, but this band of Brothers is a Class A school, and fell in last year's tournament to eventual state champion Scotia. Today, the Syracuse-based Brothers came to Section 2 country, particularly Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, to take on Section 2 Class A champion Troy High.

Coach Richard Hurley's Flying Horses had a week off after beating cross-town foe Lansingburgh, and early on, it certainly seemed as though that might've been too much time off. Admittedly, they looked a little flat as CBA ran out to an early lead, and tried to solve the Brothers' smothering defensive press. On defense, Troy kept leaving CBA's Charles Pride open, and had he been completely on point all day, it would've been a different story. I lost track of how many points Pride had by the end of the game. In the second half, Troy came out with renewed energy and sense of purpose. They were down by just 1 at the break, and took the lead during the 3rd quarter.

Under a minute to go in regulation, and Troy up by 3, Pride spotted up and tied the game with a 3-point basket to send the game into overtime. He must've kissed an angel good morning to start the day. In overtime, CBA coach Buddy Wieklinski rolled the dice and kept senior Nick Aversa in the game despite 4 fouls. Less than a minute into the extra frame, Aversa fouled out. Under a minute to go, it looked like deja vu, except it was another senior, Matt Purcell, spotting up for 3. Ryan Carmello fouled Purcell, sending him to the line for 3 shots. Again, Troy was up 3, and the fans were holding their collective breath. Purcell sank the first free throw to trim the lead to 2. A glance at the clock showed 10 seconds left in the period. Purcell's 2nd shot clanked off the rim. Time out called. Purcell sank the 3rd free throw. Troy sophomore star Daniel Buie was fouled two seconds later, and sank two free throws to potentially put the game away. Now, it was Troy's turn to apply the defensive pressure, and the Brothers couldn't get a shot off in time. Troy survives, 54-51, in overtime.

For Troy, it's back to the Glens Falls Civic Center, where they won the A title 8 days ago, for the state semi-finals next Saturday. For CBA, it's back to the drawing board. For the 3rd straight season, their quest for a state title fell short at the hands of a Section 2 team. On the plus side for CBA, Pride will return, as he's a sophomore himself, the only underclassman on the team, just like Troy's Daniel Buie. We could see these two tangle again in the next two years.

Insofar as I know, Troy has never won a state or Federation title in boys' basketball. That could all change in the next two weeks. The Federation Tournament of Champions takes place at Albany's Times Union Center on Palm Sunday weekend. Should Troy get that far, it truly will be a season for the ages.

Classic TV: Truth or Consequences (1950)

Truth or Consequences began, as a lot of early television shows did, on radio, launching in 1940. Original host and producer Ralph Edwards has claimed that he got the idea from playing a parlor game that I'd never heard of called Forfeits. Yeah, I'll bet you've never heard of Forfeits, either, but that's another story.

Most of us grew up with the syndicated version that ran from 1966-75 with Bob Barker as host. The format was tweaked just a wee bit with a end-of-show audience game where Barker had a 4-sided box where audience members could conceivably win some big bucks. Just a couple of years later, with The Price is Right airing both in daytime (CBS) and a syndicated night edition, Barker was unavailable for a revival, so Bob Hilton, now better known as an announcer, took over. The New Truth or Consequences lasted 1 season. A similar revival a decade later met the same fate, and Truth hasn't been brought back since.

Let's check out this sample with Jack Bailey, better known for Queen For a Day, as host. He succeeded Edwards in 1954.

The Barker version used a different intro line: "Hello, out there! We've been waiting for you!". To me, that sounds a lot better.

Rating: B+.

Friday, March 4, 2016

What Might've Been: No Time For Sergeants (1964)

Mac Hyman's book, No Time For Sergeants, released in 1954, had been adapted for television for The United States Steel Hour, for Broadway, and for a feature film, all starring Andy Griffith. What Warner Bros. sought to do by putting Sergeants back on television, 10 years after the book's initial release, was take dead aim at the audience who'd tuned to Andy's self-titled CBS sitcom. Even Will Stockdale would have told the studio brass that this move didn't make the least bit of sense.

Sammy Jackson, who had a small role in the movie, meriting one line, earned a promotion of sorts by being cast as Stockdale in the series version, which was being co-produced by WB with George Burns' production company. Burns was starring in another ABC series, Wendy & Me, with Connie Stevens, at the same time, so the two were coupled together on Mondays opposite Griffith. Ballgame over. No Time For Sergeants lasted one season, as viewers undoubtedly saw Jackson as a poor man's Griffith filling the big shoes.

Where ABC went wrong was putting Sergeants on Mondays when it could've been coupled with the network's other service comedy, McHale's Navy, which was entering its 3rd season. However, there must've been some sort of arrangement between Burns, ABC, & WB to enable this scheduling blunder.

Edit, 4/3/18: I had to change the video to a different sample clip, one prominently featuring comedy legend Andy Clyde:

Associate producer William P. D'Angelo later was a writer-producer on The Love Boat after a run of producing shows for children for NBC in the 70's. While Sergeants, set on an Air Force base, could've also stood to be coupled with the Quinn Martin drama 12 0'Clock High, Warner Bros. tried again with a service comedy the next year, going further back in time to the post-Civil War years. Yep, I refer to F-Troop, which essentially replaced Sergeants on the ABC schedule and lasted two years.

No rating.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Classic TV: The Jim Nabors Hour (1969)

After playing Gomer Pyle for several seasons, starting on The Andy Griffith Show, Jim Nabors decided to retire Gomer and move on. Perhaps inspired by the success of his friend, Carol Burnett, with her variety show, Nabors decided his next series would go in that direction.

The Jim Nabors Hour lasted two seasons, a victim of the infamous rural purge of 1970-1, in which the networks, not just CBS, pruned their lineup of shows that skewed in favor of older demographics. Nabors brought along two of his castmates from Gomer, both of whom you'll see in the following skit. Ronnie Schell had left Gomer a couple of years earlier for a Sheldon Leonard sitcom, Good Morning, World, but that lasted 1 season. Frank Sutton wouldn't get much work after this series ended.

The reason we bring this forward? An episode will air on Get TV on March 7. This skit, "The Brothers-in-Law", might be included. It might seem like it's Gomer transplanted into civilian life, as Sutton's character isn't too far removed from Sgt. Carter. Karen Morrow, later of Tabitha, is the hot blonde. Schell plays a drunken taxidermist who's boarding with the others.

My memory is pretty hazy about this show. I seem to recall a skit involving "Along Came Jones", and not much else. The chemistry between Nabors, Schell, & Sutton is still there. Now, if only Get TV could be persuaded to give this show a regular berth.....!

Rating: B.

Forgotten TV: I Dare You: The Ultimate Challenge (2000)

Independent producer Bruce Nash made his bones in television producing "reality" programming early in the aughts. One of his first network shows, however, was a mid-season replacement series that seemed to be on the wrong night.

As memory serves, I Dare You: The Ultimate Challenge aired on UPN on either Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday nights. I can't pinpoint the exact night of the week right now, but it certainly didn't belong in the middle of the week. Former football player and American Gladiator Lee Reherman served as host, with legendary stunt cyclist Evel Knievel as an expert analyst, according to the information I have. I Dare You bowed in January 2000, and lasted about six-to-eight months before being bounced.

As this sample clip shows, Reherman, who passed away on Tuesday, was making the most of his latest career change.

Reherman had been lured away from TNN's Rollerjam (his replacement, Marc Loyd, would later surface in the WWE for a couple of years) for I Dare You, then made another career change, turning to acting at the end of his career, appearing most recently on the Disney Channel's KC Undercover. The poor ratings for I Dare You seemed to signal that it just wasn't meant for primetime, and belonged on weekends.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Classic TV: The Andy Williams Show (1962)

If you grew up in the 60's, chances are you might've tuned to The Andy Williams Show at some point.

For me, it was during the 2nd run, which ended around 1971. I remember seeing those insanely silly Cookie Bear skits, which might've inspired Jim Henson to create Cookie Monster for Sesame Street. The Bear (Janos Prohaska in the suit, not sure who did the voiceover), as befitting his name, was always trying to mooch cookies from Andy or guests, and usually failing.

There was a period where Williams had cut it down to doing 3 specials a year before going back to a weekly format. That last weekly run aired on Saturdays, as I recall, and was replaced, if memory serves me correctly, by Emergency!.

One episode, billed as The Andy Williams Kaleidescope Company, aired recently on Get TV, and that's what prompted me to try to find some footage from the show. Here's a sample from 1966, led by the NBC Peacock intro.

Williams also had a hand in country satirist Ray Stevens landing his first TV gig, as Stevens was given his own show as a summer replacement for Williams near the end of the 2nd run. I think Barnaby Productions was Williams' production company, and also the name of the label Stevens initially recorded for.

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What Might've Been: Sarge (1971)

A retired San Diego police detective entered the priesthood after his wife had been murdered. However, Sam Cavanaugh (George Kennedy) can't seem to stay away from police work.

Sarge lasted one season on NBC (1971-2), and had started with a pilot TV-movie early in 1971. After a season-opening crossover with Ironside, Sarge bowed the following week, but only 14 episodes would air before the show was cancelled.

Why did it fail? It wasn't that viewers weren't ready for a crime solving man of the cloth. The original Hawaii Five-O provided some of the competition, along with ABC's Movie of the Week.

In memory of Kennedy, who passed away yesterday, here's the episode, "A Push Over the Edge", with guest stars Vic Morrow and a pre-Happy Days Marion Ross.

Rating: B.