Saturday, April 30, 2016

Musical Interlude: Harvest Moon (1992-3)

In the 90's, Neil Young put aside his electric guitar and went back to the acoustic sound that made him a rock legend in the 70's. You might not see her, but Linda Ronstadt joins Neil on vocals for the title tune from his 1992 CD, "Harvest Moon", largely accepted as a sequel to his seminal 70's album, "Harvest":

Dunce Cap Award: Digital First Media

"You can't have an oversight committee on stupidity!"---Woody Paige, Around The Horn.

It has been a tradition since, well, before I was born, that when newspapers and other publications raised their prices, they would, at the very least, give their readers a heads-up by including a short note on the front page, or within a couple of pages thereof.

Digital First Media, the out-of-state parent company of The Record and its sister newspapers, The Daily Freeman (Kingston) and The Saratogian, seems to think that recycling the oft-recited line about inflation and increased costs of printing their papers when they have to raise their prices is unnecessary. They forget, yet again, that a large chunk of their readership, at least in the hometown, are seniors who have to factor in such increases in their monthly budgets.

On April 1, DFM very quietly raised the price of the daily edition of The Record and its sister papers to $1.25 per copy, which is the same price as the two tabloids in New York, the Daily News & New York Post. The Sunday price remained at $2, or a quarter more than the NYC papers. The Record had held the line at 75 cents per day, 6 days a week, for what seemed like an eternity. However, as the #3 paper in the home market, trailing behind the Albany Times Union and Schenectady's Daily Gazette, something had to be done to improve the bottom line. Ignoring tradition and not informing the readers of the increase led to at least two callers to The Record's Sound Off! page raising a stink a little more than a week into the increase.

"Well, here you go again!"---Ronald Reagan.

Three weeks later, and ye scribe didn't notice it, having bought last Saturday's papers with the groceries, until today, DFM raised the price of the Saturday Record to a full $2, to match the Sunday edition. Not only that, but in a move designed to mirror what the Times Union has been doing the last few years, the Sunday comics and supplements are now included on Saturdays, too. Once again, DFM decided not to notify the readers with a statement. I'm expecting more of the same from the Sound Off! Whiner Squad, perhaps as early as tomorrow's edition, or no later than next weekend.

Digital First Media, then, is guilty of a lack of accountability to its upstate New York reader base, and for that, the corporate barons in charge get the Dunce Caps this week. Two price increases in a month equals desperation, I get that, but I'm looking out not for rational types like myself, but for older readers, for the reasons I described above. Would it hurt to address the increases, coupled with the reaction from the older demographics, in an editorial? No, but when your hometown paper's budget is thinner than a box of shoestrings........!

Friday, April 29, 2016

What Might've Been: Cover Up (1984)

After Glen A. Larsen moved his production company from Universal to 20th Century Fox, his production began to trickle down. The Fall Guy was, really, his last big hit, as the other shows he made for Fox didn't exactly have any good fortune. We've previously discussed Manimal as well as Fall Guy. Now, let's take a look at a CBS entry from Larsen/Fox that a clear case of tragic misfortune.

Cover Up told the story of a widow (Jennifer O'Neill) who takes on her late husband's job as a government agent. Her partner is a former Special Forces operative (Jon-Erik Hexum, ex-Voyagers!), who poses as a model, as the widow is a photographer by trade. The series marked the return of Richard Anderson (ex-The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Dan August) to series television.

The tragedy? Hexum died on the set a month into the season when he was playing Russian roulette with what he thought was a prop gun. It was big news at the time. Antony Hamilton, who would later resurface in the remake of Mission: Impossible, took over for Hexum, but the accidental death cast a pall over the show for the rest of the season.

CBS scheduled Cover Up on Saturday nights, and as memory serves was the first series that Larsen had sold to CBS since his days with Universal. Unfortunately, ABC still had The Love Boat. Game, set, & match.

Following is the episode, "Death in Vogue", with guest stars Herbert Jefferson, Jr., who worked for Larsen on the original Battlestar Galactica, Hoyt Axton, and Tristan Rogers (General Hospital). Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For a Hero", which was a huge hit mere months earlier, is the show's theme song, performed here by singer-voice actress E. G. Daily, who would later do another Tyler cover on The Voice several years later.

No fair rating. Never saw the show.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Musical Interlude: Runner (1984)

Manfred Mann's Earth Band scored their last major American hit with "Runner", which was released in 1984, and included on the American issues of their 1983 album, "Somewhere in Afrika". As you'll see, the video is themed to the Olympics.

Fittingly, as I write, the Olympic torch is en route to the site of this year's Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

A follow-up single, "Rebel", was also included on the American version of "Somewhere", but not other versions, and would be the last video the band would produce. Vocalist Chris Thompson  had returned to the band after releasing a solo hit, "If You Remember Me", 4 years earlier.

On The Shelf: Sometimes, pairing two icons doesn't always work

Dynamite Entertainment pulled a bit of a bait & switch with its just released miniseries, The Twilight Zone: The Shadow. You see, if you go by the cover, you'd think the pulp legend was the subject of an all new tale inspired by Rod Serling's seminal anthology series.

Well, he is.....not.

Writer Chris Roberson's story actually involves a radio actor, who bears less than a slight resemblance to Orson Welles, and not the Dark Avenger itself. I had my doubts seeing the pre-release teasers, but decided to take a chance. I was better off remaining a skeptic. Roberson's attempt at emulating Serling's writing style fails, badly. His recently concluded Doc Savage miniseries wrapped with a villain designed in the image of disabled scientist Dr. Stephen Hawking, and that might not have been by accident. Seems to me he might be going overboard cashing in on the success of the TV version of one of his earlier efforts----iZombie

Rating: C--.

Meanwhile, Dynamite brings back The Six Million Dollar Man for an all-new miniseries, launching in July. If that wasn't enough, they've signed Michael Uslan to script a generational tale that links together two generations of legendary heroes: The Lone Ranger & the Green Hornet. The idea, it seems, would be to imagine the Ranger surviving into the early days of the Hornet's career. Hmmmmmm.

Before signing on to play Malcolm Merlyn on Arrow, John Barrowman had appeared on Doctor Who and its spin-off, Torchwood, the latter of which ended after three seasons, or series, as they're called in England. Come July, there'll be a couple of books on the shelves bearing Barrowman's by-line as a writer. One is a Torchwood book that aspires to be the 4th season of the series, published by Titan Books. The other is a digital first offering from DC, Arrow: The Dark Archer, which offers the "untold story" of Malcolm Merlyn. The digital series is being collected in one handy trade paperback that fans of Arrow that don't invest in the online version will want for their collections. Something tells me DC will look at the sales of the trade and see if they can persuade Barrowman to do a follow-up. He's already done interviews on the project, in case anyone wonders.

If it seems like it's taken forever for Archie to finally relaunch Betty & Veronica, it's because it has. The 2nd volume slogged to the finish line, dropped to a bi-monthly schedule, and even then it was fraught with delays. Now, volume 3 begins in July, with acclaimed writer-artist Adam Hughes on board. The idea here is that the girls are on opposite sides when it comes to a national chain of coffee-themed restaurants settling down in Riverdale. If you've been following the revamped Archie, you know he's not undecided anymore when it comes to these two, but maybe, just maybe........! As with Archie & Jughead, the plan is to have new issues out every six weeks.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Musical Interlude: Bitter Sweet Symphony (1997)

The Verve were a 1-hit wonder with 1997's "Bitter Sweet Symphony", though vocalist Richard Ashcroft's rude bulldozing through the streets could've been replaced with a different video image.......

I love the backbeat. Wonder if they used violins........

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What Might've Been: Get Christie Love! (1974)

African-American actors were gradually making inroads in television. Before his career went down in flames and disgrace, Bill Cosby won 3 Emmy awards for his work on I Spy, and eventually gained additional plaudits for Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids and The Cosby Show. Diahann Carroll became the first African-American female to headline a sitcom since the Golden Age of television with Julia (1968-71), while Barbara McNair and Sammy Davis, Jr. headlined their own variety shows.

In 1974, producer David L. Wolper, better known for fronting documentary specials like The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and the National Geographic series, ventured into scripted dramas for the first time with Get Christie Love!, which started as an ABC Movie of the Week in January before graduating into a weekly series 8 months later. Wolper lured Teresa Graves away from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In to essay the title role of Christie Love, an undercover detective. Cosby had already proven that comedians also serve well as action heroes on television, and, as memory serves, I Spy was in syndicated reruns at the time.

Graves was given a full season to prove herself worthy of being considered in the same breath as film star Pam Grier ("Foxy", "Cleopatra Jones"). Unfortunately, ABC gave Christie Love the axe after 1 season, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

The Rap Sheet offers an intro, pulled from a 2014 run on Centric.

Late in the series' run, Jack Kelly (ex-Maverick, Sale of the Century) was cast as Love's new boss, but that didn't help do anything but postpone the inevitable.

No rating. Never saw the show.

Weasel of the Week: James Tracy

Former Florida Atlantic University professor James Tracy is back in the news today. Seems that Mr. Tracy, whose persistent claims that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary massacre was faked----and he said the same thing about a subsequent attack at a Washington, DC Navy yard----cost him his job, is filing suit against the university.

The man just doesn't get it, and neither do the other "truther" idiots who insist on believing that Adam Lanza's cold blooded assault on Sandy Hook didn't happen. Wake up and embrace reality! It did happen! One of the teachers was a Russell Sage College alumnus, so the story had ties, however slight, to the home district.

Tracy claims he was wrongfully fired. Give me a break! By invoking his status as a tenured professor at Florida Atlantic, he brought shame, embarrassment, and humiliation to the university, and now he wants to sue, several months after he'd been dismissed?! Verily, this man is a genuine, lower-first-class Weasel. Enjoy a new set of ears, bubbelah.

Sports this 'n' that

While schools are on spring vacation this week, New York's Section II is trying to make up previously postponed games from earlier this month. To do it, teams are being asked two play two games----against different opponents----on the same day, as was the case on Monday.

For example, Troy High had a road game scheduled at Shenendehowa that was originally penciled in for noon. Yesterday's papers reported that the game had been moved up an hour to 11 am, giving the Flying Horses time to reach their 2nd destination of the day. Yes, they played two road games instead of one. Troy lost to Shen, 5-1, but bounced right back to beat Niskayuna, 9-6, so their record stands at 3-6 headed into a scheduled evening road game tonight at Voorheesville, one that may not get played due to the heavy rains hitting the home district this morning.

10 days ago, Troy played a make up game at home against Saratoga, less than 24 hours after getting whacked by Burnt Hills. Problem was, few outside the school knew the game was being played that day, as the school's website hadn't updated the schedule. I knew there was a lacrosse game scheduled that day (CBA beat Troy), but not baseball, and of course, the lack of media attention wasn't helping. However, it would be in Section II's best interests going forward to leave Saturdays and Sundays available for make up games rather than subject these kids to playing two games in as many cities, as Troy and other teams did on Monday. Even the people in charge have a lot to learn.......
Unfortunately for the New England Patriots, "DeflateGate" isn't over yet.

A federal appeals judge overturned judge Richard Berman's reversal of the 4-game ban imposed on Patriots QB Tom Brady, and although Brady and his lawyer, Don (We hardly know) Yee, could file another appeal, enough is enough. It turned into what amounted to a vendetta against the Patriots, a means for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to save face after looking the other way, if you will, in letting the Patriots take liberties with the rules over the years. I had thought Goodell would've fallen on his sword after the Berman ruling, but nope. He can expect, however, to find no more free deliveries of Velveeta cheese and other Kraft products.....!
ESPN dismissed Curt Schilling last week after the former 2-time World Series hero (Arizona, Boston) made some more disparaging remarks, this time about transgendered people. You'd think they would've dealt with Schilling and his venomous remarks a lot sooner than this instead of a suspension here and there.

Then, it was announced that Mike Tirico, the voice of Monday Night Football the last few seasons, would be leaving the network for NBC, which apparently is interested in grooming a successor for Al Michaels on Sunday Night Football. Coincidentally, when Michaels left ABC/ESPN for NBC, who took his place on Mondays? It was Tirico. Now, Jon Gruden will be looking for a new partner. Word is that Sean McDonough, who's called college football and college basketball for ESPN the last few years, and was CBS' lead baseball announcer back in the day after leaving the Red Sox, has the inside track.

Then again, the other shoe could drop, and Gruden could follow Tirico out the door, especially if some team, pro or college, needs a new coach.
You have to feel sorry for fans in Atlanta and Cincinnati these days.

The once-mighty Braves have reverted back to their woeful, pre-1991 form, and the general excuse is that Atlanta is in rebuilding mode as they prepare to leave Turner Field in favor of suburban Marietta next season. Considering that they moved their top farm team, which had been in Richmond, Virginia, for eons, to Gwinnett, Georgia a few years ago, it seems ownership doesn't dig the bright lights of the big city anymore. Now, they'll represent Atlanta in name only, much the same way the NBA's Washington Wizards (formerly Bullets) did for years when they played their home games in Landover, Maryland. Lest we forget, the NFL's Washington Americans (that's the alternate team name for 2016, kids) play their home games in Landover these days. The Braves looked just shy of pathetic in getting swept by the Mets over the weekend. Remember when "The Ted" was a house of horrors for the Mets? That now seems like a distant memory.

The Reds essentially mortgaged the present by letting Todd Frazier (White Sox) and Aroldis Chapman (suspension-Yankees) walk after last season, and one shan't be surprised if, despite putting up a fight against the Mets last night, Bryan (Sale) Price might be the first manager to be fired this season, with Atlanta's Fredi Gonzalez possibly leaving in step with him.
Headlines on Monday claimed that Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford wants out after 1 season, this after the Eagles traded for him last year. The injury prone Bradford only has Chase Daniel as a backup after Mark Sanchez left for Denver as part of the QB Carousel a few weeks back. It's not that Bradford would be bucking to follow (Tortilla) Chip Kelly to San Francisco, but if we see rumors prior to Thursday about Bradford heading back to the NFC West, with Colin Kaepernick headed the other way, then........!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Musical Interlude: Just Got Lucky (1983)

JoBoxers landed their only Top 40 hit in the spring of 1983 with "Just Got Lucky", off the album, "Like Gangbusters". Scope out the awesome beat!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Forgotten TV: Viva Variety (1997)

The success of MTV's sketch comedy series, The State, resulted in the troupe spinning off three of the cast into a series for sister network Comedy Central. Viva Variety, however, lasted just 2 seasons (1997-9), and has been shuffled off to the Viacom vaults.

Variety was, in fact, spun off from a specific State skit about a divorced couple (Thomas Lennon & Kerri Kenney) who reunite to do a variety show. Perhaps predictably, MTV had no room on the schedule for Viva Variety, so it was farmed out to Comedy Central instead. My memory is hazy on whether or not State reruns ended up there, as well, as CC had its own troupe, the Upright Citizens Brigade.

Here's a sample episode with musical guest Ric Ocasek, formerly of The Cars:

After Viva ended, Lennon & Kenney moved on to another, more successful CC series, Reno: 911!, which we'll discuss another time. Today, Lennon co-stars in the remake of The Odd Couple for CBS, now in its 2nd season as a spring replacement (blame it on football). Kenney, who also was the vocalist for the alternative band Cake Lite prior to Viva and in between seasons of The State, is married with one child. Should also point out that Kerri is a second generation actress. Her father is voice actor/game show host/radio personality Larry Kenney (ex-Bowling For Dollars, Thundercats).

Rating: B.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Videos From The High School Years: Message in a Bottle (1979)

I have to tell you, I was a bit late to the party when it came to The Police. Raised in a country music household will do that. After moving to my current abode, I spent a lot of after-school hours at a now-defunct newsstand, where one of the afternoon managers would invariably play a Police album. The first one I ever bought was 1981's "Ghost in the Machine". In time, I caught up with their earlier works, and ended up getting their box set, "Message in a Box", albeit on cassette (If I can upgrade to CD....!).

One of those earlier works, "Message in a Bottle", is just a mix of brilliant songwriting and musicianship. The video is a combination of performance & studio clips, a combination that would be used again in "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" 2 years later. In both, drummer Stewart Copeland, who was recently in the home district, hams it up in front of the camera.

I had envisioned a conceptual clip where the band were on an island somewhere, and......!

Advertising For Dummies: Progressive's sentient Box is out of control (2016)

Progressive Insurance has had a good thing going for years with spokesbabe Flo (Stephanie Courtney). Unfortunately, not content to leave well enough alone, the ad agency working with Progressive decided that, like GEICO, Progressive needed a secondary ad campaign.

Enter The Box.

A sentient box, representing Progressive's "bundling" of insurance policies for customers, has been appearing in ads for a couple of years now. While Flo is being posited as managing a faux boy band that features real-life 90's pop star Joey Fatone (at last check serving as Steve Harvey's announcer on Family Feud), The Box (voiced by Saturday Night Live alumnus Chris Parnell) is getting more screen time than it really needs. I mean, really.

Personal note. In my day job, I work for an insurance agency, and one of the companies we represent is Progressive. While we've gotten some promo material from the company featuring Flo, we haven't yet gotten anything with the annoying Box. Just as well. I'd be looking to buy a dart board right about now....!

Anyway, in this ad, the Box wants to be a crooner. "Go Paperless (Don't Stress Girl)", in better hands, might do something for radio. Not here. We think.

Not sure if Parnell is trying to mimic the late Lou Rawls or someone else, but they could give him better stuff to do, too.

Friday, April 22, 2016

High School Fridays: Colonie @ Troy and Shaker vs. CBA, 4/22/16

Tonight marked the start of the 2016 Coaches vs. Cancer baseball series in Section II. The theme of today's doubleheader might as well be diversity. As in, diversity in the style of play between the two games, and diversity in attendance, which was as different as night and day.

Take the opener, for example. I would estimate about 50-60 people----and, mind you, that's being generous---took in the 1st ever regular season meeting between Colonie and Troy High. Coach Will Whitty's Flying Horses have stumbled out of the gate, losing five of their first six and four in a row during this stretch. They were no-hit in their last game, a 4-0 loss to Columbia on Wednesday, the 3rd shutout loss of the 4 in the current streak.

It seemed as though Troy had remedied the problem when they jumped on Colonie starter Kyle Lambert for 5 runs in the 2nd inning. Lambert's defense betrayed him as well, committing 2 errors to prolong the frame.

However, Troy starter David Judge was having control issues, and let the Garnet Raiders back into the game, as Colonie scored twice in the 3rd and once in the 4th to get within 5-3. It seemed as though the prosperity of having runs to work with isn't the problem with Judge. It's a lack of focus on the mound. The sophomore often had problems following through on pitches, which would drift out of the strike zone. After plating two insurance runs in the 6th, Coach Whitty, rather than go to his bullpen, let Judge try to finish it out. Colonie got the two runs back, but Antony Mantova, who had been 3-for-3 entering his last at-bat, grounded out to end the game, as Troy snapped its 4 game losing streak with a 7-5 verdict. Judge had to battle to earn the win, but for the entire team, it's a monkey off their backs.

Kyle Lambert went 5 innings in the loss. Brett White relieved in the 6th and gave up 2 runs while striking out 2. Judge & Nick Pastore had 3 hits apiece to lead Troy.

Take the estimated attendance in that first game, multiply it by 5, and you'd have a rough figure on the crowd for the nightcap.

By reputation, Christian Brothers Academy's fans travel well, and it seems Shaker's do, too. The bleachers were awash in Shaker blue and CBA purple. CBA, in fact, had t-shirts printed to promote the game. You'd think the other teams would follow suit? Shaker was tops among the 12 participating teams in terms of overall fund-raising for the American Cancer Society. Troy? Colonie? They're probably contemplating at least putting an ad in the paper for someone to start the promotions department to aid the athletic department in coordinating publicity for events like this. Yeah, it's that bad.

Digression aside, CBA & Shaker were engaged in a pitchers duel for six innings, as Shaker's Ryan Lozano matched zeroes with CBA's William Van Beusekom. Lozano struck out 8 in six innings, but was lifted in the bottom of the 7th when Van Beusekom, who'd moved from the mound to right field in the top of the inning, lined a double to left. That finished Lozano in favor of Dino Ferrarese, who was left off the roster printed in the program, due to an oversight on Shaker's part. Van Beusekom was himself lifted for a pinch runner, Daniel Skiba. One out later, Skiba raced home on a base hit by Davis Payne with the only run of the game. CBA remains unbeaten after a 1-0 victory. Andrew DiNovo, who relieved Van Beusekom to start the 7th, was the winning pitcher. Van Beusekom, for his part, fanned 7 in six innings.

Next week, the series continues, as LaSalle hosts Pittsfield in the opener, with Columbia taking on Voorheesville in the nightcap. The series concludes on May 6, as Taconic meets Averill Park, and another Suburban Council matchup wraps up the series, as Shenendehowa faces Ballston Spa.

Musical Interlude: Radio Free Europe (1983)

R. E. M. had initially recorded "Radio Free Europe" for an independent label in 1981. Two years later, signed to I. R. S. Records, the band reissued "Radio" on their debut album for the label, "Murmur".

Today, EMI holds the rights to all the material recorded before the band bolted for Warner Bros..

Yeah, I know. I had a TV performance of "Radio" posted a ways back when the band called it a day. This, though, is the official video that played on MTV in moderate-to-heavy rotation back in the day.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A parade of passings

Death has been busy lately. Very, very busy.

We'll start in the sports world. Former Syracuse and NBA star Dwayne "Pearl" Washington passed away earlier this week at 52. Washington, who played professionally with the then-New Jersey Nets in the NBA, had been in ill health for some time, and was hailed as a phenom in his youth. However, off-court issues torpedoed his career rather prematurely.

Baseball pitcher Milt Pappas played with Cincinnati and the Chicago Cubs during his career. He passed away a day or two prior to Washington. Didn't quite catch how old he was upon his passing.

It has come across the wires that music legend Prince had passed at 57. Cause unknown. Born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis, he may have been small in size, but larger than life as a R & B/funk/rock icon in the 80's with hits like "1999", "Little Red Corvette", and composing his own soundtrack to 1989's "Batman", including a duet with Sheena Easton, "The Arms of Orion". He was just as legendary for being protective of his image and work, and thus you won't see a video here.

Actress Doris Roberts may be best known for Everybody Loves Raymond, but that actually revived her career. Roberts had supporting roles on Remington Steele and Angie, among others, before landing the plum part of Marie Barone on Raymond. Doris Roberts was 90.

Finally, and this was also a shocker, former WWF women's & intercontinental champion Chyna (Joanie Laurer) passed away Wednesday at 46. Speculation is she died from an overdose, but nothing's been confirmed at press time. Chyna was in the WWF (now WWE) from 1997-2001, and departed after her contract expired, due largely to the fact that her then-beau, Triple H (Paul Levesque) left her for his eventual wife, Stephanie McMahon. What has kept her out of the Hall of Fame, some say, and HHH has been quoted as noting this, is the fact that Chyna's post-WWF acting career has included some adult films. She did, however, make guest appearances toward the end of her WWF run on 3rd Rock From The Sun and Whose Line is it Anyway?, and did commercials for Stacker 2.

Rest in peace.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Celebrity Rock: Listen to the Flower People (1984)

It can be said that Spinal Tap might've risen from the ashes of Lenny & the Squigtones, the pre-fab band Michael McKean & David Lander formed on Laverne & Shirley. Christopher Guest introduced his ST persona as Nigel Tufnel when he sat in with the Squigtones on American Bandstand in 1979. Five years later, Spinal Tap is brought to life in the mockumentary, "This is Spinal Tap", directed by Rob Reiner (ex-All in The Family).

McKean is David St. Hubbins opposite Tufnel and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), and is the band's lead singer. The trio also wrote the movie with Reiner and wrote the songs, including this soft rock track, purported to be from 1967, "Listen to the Flower People".

Having never seen the movie, I have to say I'm impressed.

Weasel of the Week: Robert Iger

Pity poor Kelly Ripa. The actress/talk show host/toothpaste salesgirl was "blindsided" for the 2nd time in 4 years Tuesday with news that her current broadcast partner, Michael Strahan, merely one of the busiest men in television today, would be leaving Live! With Kelly & Michael at the end of the season to move into a full-time gig on ABC's Good Morning, America, for which he has been a part-time contributor for the last 2 years.

Live!, you see, is distributed nationally by Disney, whose CEO, Robert Iger, is a former executive at ABC before being promoted in-house by the Mouse House. It was also on his watch 4 years ago that Ripa and producer Michael Gelman were left in the dark before it became public knowledge that Regis Philbin, whom Strahan succeeded, was "retiring", only to resurface doing commercials and taking a short-lived gig for Fox Sports 1 within a year of leaving Live!.

And so it is that Strahan will still work six days a week---we think---, commuting to Los Angeles for Fox NFL Sunday, unless his new deal with ABC/Disney prompts the end of that gig, which would make him the 2nd one to leave the long running pre-game show. ABC swiped Jimmy Kimmel away for a late night talk show several years ago, so you get the idea.

Iger gets the Weasel ears for keeping Ripa & Gelman out of the loop so that Disney suits could make a press conference after Tuesday's episode of Live! concluded. In protest, Ripa skipped today's show, with former Saturday Night Live actress Ana Gasteyer filling in. One gets the feeling that Ripa would be more than willing to bring in her actor-husband, Mark Consuelos, who has been a fill-in in the past, to be the full-time replacement for Strahan, who might not have time for any more Metamucil commercials for all we know.

It's either that, or obtain corporate sponsorship from Colgate and host the show solo next season.

And on that note, should Strahan remain at Fox in addition to Good Morning, America, maybe Procter & Gamble (Metamucil) could gain a share of corporate sponsorship for the Sunday show. Unless they already have......!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Classic Reborn (?): The Dating Game, a la WWE (2007)

There was a time, not long ago, when WWE's Monday Night Raw would try anything to keep its audience. One example came in 2007, when the maligned creative team came up with the idea of parodying The Dating Game. Considering that Vince McMahon is just as loopy as Chuck Barris, maybe this shouldn't surprise anyone.

William Regal, at the time the GM of Raw (he now holds that same position in NXT), gets to be Jim Lange for a night. Maria Kanellis (now in TNA and married to Mike Bennett) is the contestant who has to go through Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Ron Simmons to get matched with storyline beau Santino Marella.

Maria played the role of a ditz for most of her WWE run (2004-10), but now as a heel, first with Ring of Honor and now with TNA, she's gone in the opposite direction. Marella was forced into retirement and runs a school in Canada. This was just beyond silly.

Rating: B+.

Monday, April 18, 2016

GEICO jumps the shark again! (2016)

GEICO's "It's What You Do" ad campaign, which began last year, has jumped the shark with its most recent spots. If you think "Alligator Arms" was wack, skewering Tarzan, a few months before a feature film reboot of Edgar Rice Burroughs' iconic jungle hero hits theatres, was actually infinitely worse. If you don't believe me, scope out this silly spot.

Where did they find the jabroni to play Tarzan, anyway?

Forgotten TV: It's News To Me (1951)

As print media is gradually giving way to digital in this era, there actually existed a game show built around the headlines of the day.

It's News To Me aired as a summer replacement for Edward R. Murrow's interview series, Person to Person, on CBS. ABC newsman John Daly added News to his CBS workload, as this was concurrent with his other gig for Goodson-Todman as moderator of What's My Line?. However, another legendary newsman was at the moderator's chair at the end of the series----Walter Cronkite. Like, we've shown you Mike Wallace hosting the pilot for what would become To Tell The Truth, and Douglas Edwards, best known for a 5 minute midday newsbreak for CBS in the 70's around these parts, also was asked to be a game show host. Have to find that one down the road.

I have to believe that Buzzr (check local listings), which holds the rights to a good number of Goodson-Todman shows, some of which shared with Game Show Network (GSN), would have News in their library. Or do they?

Following is a sample episode.

No rating.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Musical Interlude: Would I Lie To You? (1985)

Eurythmics' 1984-5 album, "Be Yourself Tonight", represented a change in direction for the British duo, moving from synth-pop to more of an R & B beat. Evidence of this in our next entry, "Would I Lie To You?".

In the storyline of the video, Annie Lennox is running late due to a possessive boyfriend (Steven Bauer), who ends up getting his just desserts before the video is over.......

Friday, April 15, 2016

Weasels of the Week: WNBA owners

There are 12 teams in the WNBA, which held its 3-round draft last night. Folks around these parts assumed that Jamaican-born Shereesha Richards, soon to graduate from the University at Albany as its all-time leading scorer in women's basketball, would have been selected by one of the 12 teams, particularly the New York Liberty, as Richards had played her high school ball across the river in New Jersey after emigrating from Jamaica as a youth.

Unfortunately, Richards wasn't drafted. She took the disappointment in stride, accepting the possibility of either a free agent deal with any WNBA team or playing overseas, as other players from local colleges in the home district have done.

So why was Richards given the el-snubbino?

Because, for one thing, UAlbany, which has won 5 straight America East titles, isn't enough of a marquee school to entice the Lords of WNBA, which includes Liberty owner James Dolan, who also owns Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, and the Knicks & Rangers. Dolan, of all people, should've recognized the regional market value in Richards, who adopted New Jersey as her home, and did nothing but win at UAlbany under since-departed head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. The Lady Danes have appeared on ESPN's family of networks during their recent run of success, so there's national recognition.

But at the end of the day, Dolan and his fellow owners are guilty of ignorance because of the bias against mid-major programs such as UAlbany and its America East brethren. They'd rather stock their WNBA rosters with players from the power conference schools (i.e. Duke, Notre Dame, Connecticut, etc.), and thumb their noses at the likes of Richards. This has been going on for too long.

And it's not just the colleges in the home district, either. Many Section II players go on to to bigger programs, such as Thomas Huerter, Jr., son of a former Siena player-turned-broadcaster, who is headed for Siena next season, while brother Kevin is headed for Maryland, which now plays in the Big 10. There's no guarantee the Huerters will move to the next level, either. Their father wasn't drafted after his playing days at Siena ended.

Richards' snub serves as a cautionary tale headed into the NFL Draft in 2 weeks. Troy High grad Jordan Canzeri, finishing his senior year at Iowa, could face the same fate as Richards, ignored by all 32 NFL clubs. Yes, there have been some players from the home area who've played in the NFL, most recently Joe Vellano, who won a Super Bowl ring with New England. However, Vellano, if memory serves, was let go---twice---by the Patriots the following pre-season.

You might think the "Smallbany" mentality is confined to the music business. It isn't. That same lame mindset applies in sports, too, and that is a shame.

And, so Dolan should expect a familiar box in his office real soon. It contains Weasel ears, not just for him this time, but for his fellow owners, for ignoring talent comparable to the players coming out of Duke, UConn, and so on. This has to stop, preferably yesterday.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

On The Air: American Grit (2016)

American Grit, Fox's newest reality series, can be best described as being a cross between CBS' Survivor, the WWE's on-again, off-again Tough Enough, and, staying on the wrestling tip, Steve Austin's CMT series, Broken Skull Challenge.

4 military veterans, including double amputee and former Dancing With The Stars contestant Noah Galloway, lead teams of 4 through 13 weeks of grueling, military-style challenges. The carrot dangled before the contestants? A cool million dollars.

Fronting the competition is WWE superstar and reality TV vet John Cena (Total Divas), who is host, narrator, announcer, and head cheerleader, and is credited as an executive producer. Talk about busy. No wonder he's in no hurry to return to action...!

Rather than try to explain this in detail, let's watch a sample clip:

And you thought boot camp was brutal. The opener included some footage from Tribute to the Troops from years past, to establish the link Cena has forged with our armed forces. The only part about this I don't dig is the unnecessary drama among the contestants. Can we do one of these shows without creating drama that doesn't exist?

Look at it this way. Once Cena hangs up the jean shorts and retires from WWE competition, he's got a future as a narrator or a game show host. We think.

Rating: B.

On The Shelf: A 90's icon returns, and DC reimagines some ideas from the 60's & 70's

With news that Xena, Warrior Princess is returning to television more than 20 years after her debut, Dynamite Entertainment has obtained a license to bring Xena and her BFF, Gabrielle, back to comics. Topps had the previous license back in the late 90's, but then shuttered their comics division due to low sales or some other issue.

Genevieve Valentine (ex-Catwoman) is the writer for the new series, and already there's one quibble, and that is setting the story in mid-stream, then jumping into a flashback that will last for at least a couple of issues. I'm not really a fan of that particular brand of storytelling, to be honest with you, and doesn't Gabi's clothing look a little too modern to you in the first couple of pages?

The overarching plot has to do with the fact that Xena & Gabrielle have been away for a while thanks to an enchantment from Ares, and they're walking into a little stranger world as a result. I just don't know what to make of it, and it may take a couple more issues to figure out what the heck is up.

Grade: Incomplete.

Meanwhile, Doc Savage: The Spider's Web wraps up as Doc has a one-to-one conversation with the big bad, posited as a sort-of analogue to real life scientist Stephen Hawking by writer Chris Roberson. I am not fond of Roberson's insistence on making Doc an immortal. Pulp legends like Doc have it hard enough trying to find an audience in the 21st century, and so it's a catch-22. Leave him in the past, in his proper time, and no one wants to give him more than a second look. Move the story forward through time, as Roberson has done on both of his runs with Doc, and you're going to alienate some folks. What started as a promising story went off the rails, and was only saved by an intriguing final chapter that could've still been done well had the arc been set in the Golden Age.

Final rating: B-.

Award winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates made his comics debut as the new scripter for Black Panther, whose latest series bowed last week. Coates isn't the first non-comics writer to pen T'Challa's story. Filmmaker Reginald Hudlin, now the head honcho at BET/Centric, had that honor when T'Challa was moved to the now-defunct Marvel Knights line a ways back. Coates' 1st arc looks interesting, as T'Challa must deal with civil unrest in Wakanda, and fading public support. Hmmmmm. Political commentary, anyone?

Rating: B+.

DC made readers wait two weeks before their solicitations for June became available in print with the first-ever DC-centric issue of Previews. What ye scribe can glean from it are these little nuggets of joy (and sadness):

*National City, home of TV's Supergirl, is integrated into the DCU proper with the Maid of Might's new monthly, set for September. Next month, a digital-first series, Adventures of Supergirl, makes its print debut to give readers their first look at National City---and an African-American James "Don't call me Jimmy" Olsen (played by Mehcad Brooks). Adventures will start off as a bi-weekly series to warm fans up for the next Supergirl ongoing. The difference between the two? In the DCU, Kara "Don't call me Linda" Danvers is a teenager in the DCU. Just like old times.

*Some of DC's "imaginary stories" of the 60's and 70's are being reimagined and entered into DCU canon in the 21st century. For example, the Super Sons were a frequent fill-in feature in World's Finest (1st series) as the sons of Bruce Wayne (Batman) & Clark Kent (Superman), using the unoriginal civilian ID's of Bruce Wayne, Jr. & Clark Kent, Jr.. In 2016, the Super Sons return, but now it's Damian Wayne, a regular Dennis the Menace in tights who is virtually everywhere these days, and Jonathan Kent, currently appearing in Dan Jurgens' Lois & Clark miniseries, from which Super Sons is one of the spin-offs.

You see, the "New 52" model Superman, as envisioned by Grant Morrison and friends, is dying. The pre-Flashpoint Superman & Lois Lane are back, and the more traditional model is poised to reclaim his perch, if you know what I mean and I think you do. Problem is, the fading Man of Steel's powers are being distributed, for lack of a better term. Among the designated distributees? Lex Luthor, who returns to headlining Action Comics, which Jurgens is taking over. Kenji Wong, from China, is recruited by his country's efforts to form its own Justice League (smell the crossover from as far as you can). And, then......Lois Lane???

Yep, but we don't know if it's the pre-Flashpoint Lois currently in the miniseries, or the "New 52" model. Regardless, in a scenario mirroring Marvel's current Mighty Thor, Lois' new powers are killing her. Now, there'd been an imaginary story or three where Lois was given Superman's powers by some contrivance or another. Phil Jiminez must've read those stories, because he's using them as part of his template for Superwoman, debuting in August (New Super-Man, starring Kenji Wong, bows in July).

Wong's sitch isn't too original, either. Several years ago, Batgirl fought a Chinese scientist commissioned to create a genetically altered race of "Sino-Supermen", replicating the powers of the Justice League. See what happens when you mine the past for fresh ideas, kids?

*The return of Christopher Priest. The award-winning writer, long associated mostly with Marvel (when he went by his birth name of Jim Owsley), returns to comics after a long absence to take over a rebooted Deathstroke. That should make a few headlines somewhere.

*The Birds of Prey return. Writers Julie & Shawna Benson (The 100) make their comics debut, and for their first act, resurrect Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon's old alias of Oracle---but the new Oracle is a villain. Hmmm.

Also, John Semper, Jr., better known for his work in the 90's as a writer-producer on Spider-Man, will be the new writer on Cyborg. Scott Snyder moves from Batman to Detective Comics, where the Dark Knight will be joined by Batwoman, Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan (Cassandra Cain with a new alias), and.....are you sitting down?----Clayface. Yes, a heroic Clayface. Whod'athunk? Some books will be published bi-weekly to start. For how long that lasts, I don't know. As we've talked about before, the cover price per issue drops down a dollar to $2.99, though licensed titles, such as Wacky Raceland (debuting in June), will be $3.99. The kids line (Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo) holds at $2.99.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot. Some might think that the writers of Arrow might've fumbled big time by seemingly killing off Laurel Lance, aka Black Canary (Katie Cassidy) last week, but when Green Arrow relaunches this summer, Oliver Queen will be reunited with Dinah Lance, the Canary that comics fans know & love. As I wrote on a message board the other day, Dinah is to Ollie what Catwoman is to Batman. The One True Love. Now, let's see if the Arrow crew can wind their way out of the creative corner they painted for themselves.....

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What Might've Been: The Lieutenant (1963)

Get TV's monthly rotation of Wednesday night blocks features Gene Roddenberry's 1963-4 military drama, The Lieutenant, this month. The series lasted just 1 season (1963-4) on NBC. Why? We'll explain as we go along.

Gary Lockwood (ex-Follow The Sun) top-lined as Lt. William T. Rice, stationed at Camp Pendleton. You might say that Roddenberry found some of the core cast for his later series, Star Trek, in casting guest stars for episodes of The Lieutenant, including Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and Majel Barrett (Mrs. Gene Roddenberry). Nichols' guest appearance, in the episode, "To Set It Right", never aired due to content, as it involved a clash between a white private (Dennis Hopper) and an African American (Don Marshall, later of Land of the Giants, and, yes, he also guested on Star Trek).

The Lieutenant gained some decent ratings, but the outbreak of the Vietnam War made it harder for television to mount military dramas set in the present day, and that was the reason Lieutenant was cancelled. Co-star Robert Vaughn and executive producer Norman Felton came right back the next year with The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which lasted 4 seasons, and Roddenberry's seminal Star Trek (3 years) followed two years after U.N.C.L.E.'s debut, both on NBC.

Following is a compilation of footage spotlighting guest star John Doucette, from the episode, "A Million Miles From Clary", which also guest stars Bill Bixby (My Favorite Martian).

Standard fare of the day. Setting it on a military base made it stand out from the other dramas of the time. In the episode, "Cool of the Evening", Rice is caught between a lounge lizard (Norman Fell, of all people) and a cigarette girl, who falsely accuses Rice of accosting her. Yeah, sounds like a generic plot, doesn't it?

Rating: B--.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Next, they'll make a protest record: Rock legends boycott North Carolina

We know they take religion very seriously in the Bible Belt. Perhaps a little too seriously.

In case you haven't been following the news lately, rock legend Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert over the weekend in North Carolina in protest of that state's newly minted law discriminating against gays & lesbians. Canadian star Bryan Adams followed suit, announcing the cancellation of a pending show in Mississippi. As society in general has become more accepting of the gay community in recent years, it is the Bible Belt states, such as Mississippi and North Carolina, who are most resistant to societal change, citing the Old Testament of the Bible as the basis for their arguments.

31 years ago, Springsteen, along with bandmate "Little" Steven VanZant (alternately nicknamed Miami Steve), Hall & Oates, Jackson Browne, Run-DMC, George Clinton, Bono, Pat Benatar, Peter Wolf, and dozens of other artists formed Artists United Against Apartheid to protest the political policies, since abolished, in South Africa. Remember "Sun City"?

Something tells me the more artists that decide to follow Springsteen & Adams, the more likely it is we'll see a similar protest record. Just sayin'.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mike Wallace, game show host? (Nothing But The Truth, 1956)

Ah, the early days of television. Seems it wasn't always enough to be working for a network's news department.

Take for example John Charles Daly, moderator of CBS' What's My Line?. That, you see, was his "moonlighting" gig, as he was a news anchor----for ABC---during the week.

To that end, CBS decided to let one of their own newsmen try his luck hosting a game show. The late Mike Wallace had two chances, and this, I think, was the first one. In December 1956, Wallace taped a pilot for a game show called, Nothing But The Truth. Of course, we know it better as To Tell The Truth. Producers Mark Goodson & Bill Todman thought this would work. Wallace oversees a panel that includes fellow newsman & watch salesman John Cameron Swayze and future icon Dick Van Dyke.

To Tell The Truth made its formal debut on December 18, 1956, with Bud Collyer as moderator, and Wallace wound up on the panel. He would get another game show gig, and we'll cover that another time.

The gameplay was tweaked as the series went along during its first 12 year run (1956-68). The audience vote was, in fact, dropped, then brought back several years later. We've discussed Truth's storied history previously, but for the fact that there were plans as recently as last year for a pilot intended for ABC, with actor Anthony Anderson as host. We'll see if that happens.

Rating: A-.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Musical Interlude: Suddenly (1980)

There are those that believe that "Xanadu" was one of the worst films of all time. The soundtrack couldn't be at fault, as it generated 4 singles in all, three of them featuring the film's star, Olivia Newton-John. Now, I've never seen "Xanadu", so I can't rightfully judge.

Here, though, is a rarely seen video for Olivia's duet with Cliff Richard, "Suddenly", which would end up being Richard's last American hit, coming as it did a year after "We Don't Talk Anymore".

It would take three years before Olivia made another movie, as she reunited with "Grease" co-star John Travolta for "Two of a Kind".

Saturday, April 9, 2016

On The Air: Wynonna Earp (2016)

A common trope in comics is to employ elements of "steampunk" in works of fiction set in the Old West. Supposedly, the 1960's series, The Wild, Wild West, fit this category.

But what if you flipped things around a bit and created a "steampunk" drama in the present day?

Nearly 20 years ago, comics writer Beau Smith created Wynonna Earp for Image Comics. A descendant of the legendary lawman, Wyatt Earp, Wynonna discovered that carrying on the family tradition meant more than upholding law & order. Seven years later, Smith moved his pride & joy to Idea & Design Works (IDW), where he had held down a front office job for a spell. Now, Wynonna's back, both at IDW, and making her television debut on SyFy, marking the 1st time that a property active at IDW had been adapted for television.

According to the television show, Wynonna had left her hometown of Purgatory as a juvenile delinquent. Now, she comes home to find she is tasked to rid the town of demons, vampires, and such, and, at the same time, break the curse that seems to go with the Earp family. One online site review describes Wynonna Earp as a cross between Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and Justified. Judge for yourselves while you watch the following trailer.

This will attract fans of AMC's The Walking Dead and CW's Supernatural because of the subject matter. NBC-Universal-Comcast wisely placed Wynonna on SyFy after NBC's take on DC's Constantine was mishandled and cancelled after 1 season. Wynonna's reluctance to be a hero also parallels Netflix's Jessica Jones, but that's as far as the comparison goes.

Now, the only night where there's no comics-related live-action programming is Saturday. AMC is prepping an adaptation of the former Vertigo series, Preacher, but I suspect it will be part of the Sunday schedule instead, to give Walking Dead a running mate.

Having not previously read the books, and not being much of a fan of the "steampunk" concept, even though I am a Wild, Wild West fan, I felt as though I'd seen something like this before, and the Buffy comparison seems to make sense. I think I'll wait for the inevitable DVD release.

Rating: B--.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Forgotten TV: Year 1999 AD (1967)

Remember Tex Avery's "________ of Tomorrow" animated shorts for MGM back in the day? Philco, a now defunct division of Ford, certainly did. In 1967, the company presented the following promotional film proposing a possible future, in the year 1999. Now, we're well into the 21st century, and some of the innovations that the Philco suits had considered haven't really come to pass, but then.....!

Game show icon Wink Martindale stars with Marj Dusay and child actor Kerry MacLane, later of the Saturday morning series, Curiosity Shop. This might be a rare acting job for Wink.

No rating, of course.

Dunce Cap Award: Michael Kline

I watched exactly one college basketball game from start to finish this season, and that was Siena beating St. Bonaventure @ Times Union Center back in December. Not much of a college hoops fan anymore. High school's more my beat, don't care for the NBA and its marketing-fueled politics.

Then, I read about a whiny North Carolina fan who's bent out of shape because the Tar Heels lost to Villanova on a last second basket on Monday night. The Wildcats hadn't reached the finals, for cryin' out loud, since the Rollie Massimino-led Wildcats upset Georgetown 31 years ago.

Consider Michael Kline's statement on

"This game was poorly officiated from the tip off to the end. It was a one sided called game all the way through. The officials called fouls against UNC that should have not been called and never called Villanova for the fouls they committed. The officials never called Villanova for multiple travel violations either. Also I want a complete investigation into the officials as it was them that decided the game not who played better."

Or, to put it another way, "Waaaaaah! We wuz robbed! Waaah! Waaaah!"

Seeing as how I didn't see the game at all, I can't judge whether or not Kline's whining has any merit to it. All it is, then, is the slanted viewpoint of a fan who doesn't see things clearly. The audio (radio) call of the game-winning shot was heard all over the place Tuesday morning, including on K-Love, a syndicated Christian radio network, and that's how I found out about Villanova winning. Good for them, I thought, it's a long time coming. Now, Kline throws shade on the Wildcats, whining that the referees were biased in their favor.

As we're sending Kryin' Kline a Dunce Cap for being such an out-of-touch idiot, let's consider that without proof of any wrongdoing to prove his point, Kline has no case. The NCAA will retroactively vacate victories due to off-field indiscretions (i.e. overzealous boosters giving student-athletes financial assistance when they're not supposed to, having ineligible players), but they've never reversed a result. That just isn't done in the real world. In fiction, yes, but not in real life. Not that often.

We're also sending Dunce Caps to those moronic New England Patriot fans intent on filing a lawsuit to have the NFL reinstate the draft picks the Pats had taken away from them due to the Deflate-gate scandal. I get that these people are passionate about their teams, to the point of obsession, but they come across as being whiny, spoiled, filled with artificial entitlement, well, you get the idea. Might as well send some baby bottles along with the Caps, filled with spring water.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What Might've Been: Cain's Hundred (1961)

Cain's Hundred has been described as a cross between Dragnet and The Untouchables. Unfortunately, it didn't have the staying power of either.

Nicholas Cain (Peter Mark Richman) was an attorney working for the mob, until a botched hit cost his fiancee her life. That prompted Cain to turn around and begin pursuing the 100 most notorious men for prosecution.

I'd not be surprised to see this turn up on Get TV in due course, considering Sony has rights to the MGM library. I've never seen the show, so there isn't a rating. We'll leave you with a sample open/close video:

Retro Reads: Black Lightning (1976)

Ya gotta love the 70's. DC & Marvel were pulling out all the stops. Licensed titles (i.e. Tarzan, Doc Savage, Conan). Expanded lines for established stars (i.e. Spider-Man, Batman). New ideas by the bucketful. They were cashing in on the social & pop culture trends du jour, like martial arts and inner-city issues. Meaningful stories were told.

In the midst of this era, DC introduced their first book to be headlined by an African-American lead.

Black Lightning burst onto the scene in 1976, the creation of prolific writer and fellow blogger Tony Isabella, who'd also written Black Goliath, The Living Mummy, and Luke Cage, Hero For Hire/Power Man, among his many Marvel credits. School teacher Jefferson Pierce had returned home to Metropolis, and found his old neighborhood, known as "Suicide Slum", was overridden with drugs and crime, under the thumb of The 100, a mob fronted by Tobias Whale. On his first day as a high school teacher, Pierce took down a drug pusher who was hustling a student in the hall. When another student is killed for helping Pierce run off one of the 100's enforcers, one Joey Toledo, Pierce turns to a father figure from his youth, tailor Peter Gambi, to help him create his electrifying alter ego.

Ah, but it isn't that simple. Isabella mixes in some tropes familiar to Marvel readers more than DC's to add to the drama, and among the 100's henchmen is a foe who might be familiar to fans of a certain CW show, even if his wardrobe isn't. Isabella and artist Trevor Von Eeden left the series after 10 issues, and Denny O'Neil took over, aided by artist Mike Nasser (Netzer). Unfortunately, their first issue was also the series' last, as it fell victim to the dreaded DC Implosion of '78. Issue 12's cover would be used for the just released trade paperback, but the interiors would find their way to World's Finest (1st series). Gone too soon? You bet. It would take nearly 20 years before Black Lightning merited his own series again.

Assuming the sales are sufficient, a second volume is planned.

Rating: A+.
Back in the 80's, the concept of a trade paperback was still in its infancy, and, as such, collecting a four issue story arc wouldn't break your wallet.

On the heels of killing off Robin II (Jason Todd), Batman editor Denny O'Neil enlisted writer Marv Wolfman to craft a follow-up that would ultimately introduce Robin III (Tim Drake). "A Lonely Place of Dying" appeared in 2 issues each of Batman (1st series) and New Teen Titans (2nd series), drawn by Jim Aparo & George Perez, respectively.

The plot is as simple as it gets. Drake is introduced as a fanboy who studiously followed Batman & Robin's careers, and even deduced their dual identities. And, so, after Todd's death, Drake, aware of the chasm between Bruce Wayne & Dick Grayson, sets out to reunite the classic Dynamic Duo. At the same time, Two-Face has returned to wreak havoc, egged on by what he thinks is an unseen voice, which turns out to be Todd's killer-The Joker, who would return in short order to menace Batman again. Grayson had, by this point in time, graduated from being Robin and adopted the guise of Nightwing, a role he'll soon be playing again, oh, by the way.

Of course, as you are probably aware, "Lonely Place" has long since been ret-conned due to Todd having been resurrected in recent years, but re-reading the story for the first time in more than 25 years took me back to a simpler time.

Rating: A.
Speaking of Batman, that brings us to fellow blogger Marc Tyler Nobleman's 2012 bio of the Dark Knight's co-creator, Bill Finger.

Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman is an expertly researched biography of Finger, who finally got the credit he richly deserved from Warner Bros. when they added his name to the creator's credit for Batman on Gotham earlier this season, and in recent animated DTV's and the current "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice", as well as in recent DC Bat-books. Finger developed much more of the Bat-legend than Bob Kane, and,  yet, for years, Kane took all the credit when he shouldn't have. Batman made both men's careers, and Kane cashed in by creating an animated funny-animal version, Courageous Cat, for television in 1960, following that up with the spy spoof, Cool McCool, who turns 50 this year. Finger had written one two part episode of Batman, but also had written several others for DC, and would be, in this writer's opinion, the most prolific Bat-writer in the more than 75 years of the Masked Manhunter's career.

Let us not ignore the contribution of artist Ty Templeton, who delivers the most realistic work of his career. Every page just feels so lifelike, it's just amazing.

And if ya don't believe me, friends, scope out Marc's blog, Noblemania. Just type in "Bill Finger" in the search box, and you'll see how much work Marc put in preparing the book. You'll be glad you did.

Rating: A+.
Dynamite Entertainment is putting a different spin on the Gold Key heroes they acquired, putting them all in the present day----we think----for a brand new miniseries, Gold Key Alliance.

For example, Turok, Son of Stone is now a park ranger and reality television star. He's actually more in line with the Dinosaur Hunter reboot from his Valiant run in the 90's, as his caveman days are far in his rear view mirror. Mighty Samson is a paranoid homeless man. Magnus, Robot Fighter and his girlfriend, Leeja Clane, are now secret agents. Apparently, keeping Samson & Magnus in their futuristic settings didn't take in past reboots, but would this be any different in terms of sales? Remember, Dynamite has similarly rebooted the King Features heroes, so their penchant for taking creative liberties with licensed characters has not been abated. Time will tell if this one will work.

Grade: Incomplete.
Finally, the Three Stooges return to comics after a lengthy absence, with American Mythology Press acquiring a license for the comedy icons. The first issue includes two brand new short stories, one of which has the Stooges (Moe, Larry, Curly) as more pro-active than they ever were back in the day. This tale has them as detectives hired by a hottie to dig up some dirt on her ex, and, as it happens, they're actually a butt-kicking distraction.

The issue closes with a reprint from Four Color Comics featuring Curly Joe DeRita, and written by future television writer-producer Jerry Belson. Like, who knew? Nyuk, nyuk.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Merle Haggard (1937-2016)

It has just come across the wires that the good Lord has called Merle Haggard home on this, Merle's 79th birthday.

Haggard was part of the Bakersfield music scene along with Buck Owens during the 50's & 60's. His 1968 hit, "Mama Tried", was drawn from his own real-life stint in prison, much like fellow country legend Johnny Cash, whose 1958 concert at San Quentin Prison inspired Haggard to turn to country music himself. Today, Merle joins Johnny, Buck, and other country legends in Heaven.

In his memory, we present another 1968 hit, "The Fightin' Side of Me", culled from The Porter Wagoner Show:

Rest in peace, Merle.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Musical Interlude: Too Much Time on My Hands (1981)

Styx's "Too Much Time on My Hands" was the 2nd single off 1981's "Paradise Theatre" album, and was one of the few times where guitarist Tommy Shaw, rather than keyboard player Dennis DeYoung, sang lead, though DeYoung and James "JY" Young sang backup.

Shaw also wrote "Time", which still gets some airplay on classic rock channels even today. If you didn't think Styx couldn't top themselves, they would, just 2 years later, with "Mr. Roboto", the first single off "Kilroy Was Here".

Monday, April 4, 2016

Forgotten TV: Madame's Place (1982)

The late ventriloquist Wayland Flowers landed his big break with a guest appearance on The Andy Williams Show in the 60's, and parlayed that into a lucrative run with his puppet, Madame, a bawdy, older entertainer. After succeeding Paul Lynde as the center square on the original Hollywood Squares, Flowers & Madame began appearing on the syndicated Solid Gold, and in 1982, they were spun off into a weekday series from Gold co-producer Brad Lachman, Madame's Place, a daily syndicated sitcom.

Much like The Muppets this season, Madame's Place had a show-within-a-show, as Madame not only invited viewers into her home, but also hosted a talk show, as Flowers used his experiences from appearances with the likes of Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, and Johnny Carson to create this scenario. Judy Landers (ex-BJ & The Bear), Corey Feldman, Ty Henderson (formerly of the Saturday morning series, Space Academy), and Johnny Haymer, late of M*A*S*H, filled out the supporting cast.

Here's a sample episode:

Sadly, we lost Wayland Flowers in 1988, and Madame has long since been retired. Never saw the show, so there's no rating.

Sports this 'n' that

After watching Sunday's season opener between the Mets & Kansas City, the only way to describe the outcome, a 4-3 Royals win, would be to borrow a line from David Byrne, specifically off the Talking Heads' 1980 opus, "Once in a Lifetime":

"Same as it ever was!"

Oh, indeed. Kansas City's Edinson Volquez outdueled Matt Harvey again, and the Mets were held off the scoreboard until a 3 run rally in the 8th against the Royals' bullpen. It didn't help matters that ESPN milked this for more than it was worth, covering the Royals' pre-game celebration of their World Series victory, and delaying the first pitch until nearly 8:40 (ET). Tuesday's game, the finale of the two-game series, will start around 4 (ET), so maybe the daylight can help the Mets. Then again, maybe not......
Meanwhile, the rematch of last year's AL Wild Card qualifier between the Yankees & Houston has been put off due to snow. I know we didn't get a whole lot of snow during the winter, but every now and again, a mild winter produces a white Spring in the early going. It happens, peeps.
The snow has also threatened to wreak havoc with high school sports in the home district today. Troy High was supposed to have its softball and lacrosse home openers this afternoon, and, as of this writing, I haven't heard of any cancellations. Shan't be surprised if everyone was given the day off. It'll take a couple of days before they'll be able to try again, methinks.
Staying on the hometown tip, with Troy moving back up to Class AA next fall, at least in football, Section II announced last week that the Flying Horses' home opener will be on September 2-----vs. Shenendehowa. Coach Bob "The Builder" Burns and his crew are being thrown to the wolves right away, but the upside is that the schedule includes a revival of the in-city rivalry with LaSalle, which is also a home game, two weeks later, on September 16. The full schedule:

Sept. 2: Shenendehowa
Sept. 9: @ Bethlehem
Sept. 16: LaSalle
Sept. 23: Shaker
Sept. 30: @ Colonie
Oct. 7: Schenectady
Oct. 14: @ Columbia

4 home games this year, and, barring a scheduling conflict with the Valleycats on Labor Day weekend, I should be able to cover all 4 for "High School Fridays".
Meanwhile, Bishop Maginn announced last week that it would not field a football team for 2016. Coach Joe Grasso was quietly let go in January. The Griffins only dressed 21 players last season, and the lack of depth was evident in a loss to Troy. According to media accounts, only 5 boys tried out for football for this coming season. I know Maginn's been on hard times, having moved into a new building at the start of the school year (Green Tech is moving into the former Maginn building), but could the end be near after 40-odd years?
As Chaucer wrote, "all good things must come to an end". And, so, the University at Albany is saying goodbye to women's basketball coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, aka "Coach Abe", after six seasons. "Coach Abe" is heading south to Central Florida to try to turn that program around. With 5 straight America East titles in hand, the Lady Danes know that their next coach has a tough act to follow. I wonder if they could find a way to bring former Siena coach Gina Castelli back to the home district.......!
Some folks were wigging out over the fact that ESPN decided to extend their business relationship with WWE by sending SportsCenter anchor (and former WWE announcer) Jonathan Coachman to Texas last week to cover the Showcase of the Immortals. Like, no one whined when ESPN began covering UFC, so what's the difference? Not that I was actually interested, but what this suggests is that down the road, WWE Chairman/CEO/resident nutcase Vince McMahon may be looking at some leverage when his current deal with his other media partner, NBC/Universal/Comcast, home of USA Network, comes up for renewal. Would Raw and/or Smackdown move to the ESPN family of networks? Considering that reruns of the AWA broadcasts that ESPN had in the 80's air in rotation on ESPN Classic (now a premium channel), it's entirely possible, or that McMahon may be angling to acquire the AWA/Global/USWA library from ESPN down the line. Stay tuned, pilgrims, that's all I can say.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Musical Interlude: Kung Fu Fighting (1974)

Carl Douglas had just one big hit, and it would ultimately become a pop culture legend.

"Kung Fu Fighting" hit #1 on the pop & soul charts as one of the first disco records of the mid-70's. It served as the theme for martial arts explosion in popular culture. Today, El Rey is revisiting those times with martial arts movies on Thursdays.

34 years later, Jack Black & Cee-Lo Green recorded a politically correct cover for the soundtrack to "Kung Fu Panda", but nothing, really, beats the original.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Forgotten TV: Dolly! (1976)

Country singer Dolly Parton, who'd gotten her big break singing with Porter Wagoner on his TV show in the 60's, landed her own syndicated series in 1976, from the producers of Pop! Goes The Country, whose host, Ralph Emery, was Dolly's announcer.

The format was basic. Musical numbers mixed with comedy sketches. Unfortunately, Dolly! lasted just 1 season, 26 episodes in all, and was gone. Parton then moved forward, crossing over to the pop charts in 1980 with the title song from her movie, "9 to 5", which hit #1 on both the pop & country charts, leading to a spin-off series that lasted much longer than this show did.

20 years after Dolly! was cancelled, Parton was lured back to television, this time with a network deal from ABC. Dolly, however, lasted one season as well, despite a more diverse lineup of guests, ranging from Hulk Hogan to the Muppets.

It wasn't so long ago that Parton covered Collective Soul's "Shine", with altered lyrics to reflect her faith. In this clip, Dolly queues up a gender-flipped cover of Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy", which, in Parton's hands, becomes "Rhinestone Cowgirl":

Two episodes of Dolly! aired recently on Get TV, so they have the rights to the series, which is now on DVD under the title, Dolly & Friends. One of these fine days, we'll take a look at the later Dolly.

No rating.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Advertising For Dummies: The weirdest kind of mutant shills for Mountain Dew (2016)

Since it is April Fool's Day, let's serve up one of the strangest, creepiest commercials from Super Bowl 50.

Mountain Dew Kickstart is getting a lot of mileage out of this spot.

Of course, it's CGI, but it's also quickly becoming a merchandising machine for Pepsi. Whodathunk?

2016 Major League Baseball preview

This year, we're doing things differently. We'll cover all six divisions in one fell swoop, with a minimum of commentary:

AL East:

1. Toronto: The defending division champs now have Troy Tulowitzki, a mid-season acquisition from Colorado, for a full season. We think. Otherwise, the same crew as last year, plus Drew Storen (Washington) is being brought in to set up new closer Roberto Osuna.

2. Yankees: The Bronx Bombers solved their 2B problem by heisting Starlin Castro from the Cubs, then bagged OF Aaron Hicks from Minnesota to provide depth.

3. Boston: Rick Porcello had a bad 1st year in Beantown, and some pundits think the addition of David Price will help the rotation? Nope. After spending nearly $100 million to get Pablo Sandoval from San Francisco after the 2014 season, the Red Sox have "Kung Fu Panda" on the bench. For that kind of money, you could rent Jack Black and there wouldn't be much difference.

4. Baltimore: Scott Boras did what he does best, fleece management to overpay a client, in this case, conning the Orioles to overpay to retain Chris Davis. For his next trick, Boras should take up magic. Maybe he can do us all a favor and make Donald Trump disappear.

5. Tampa Bay:  End of the trail for a team that once was a contender.

AL Central:

1. Kansas City: The Royals haven't won back-to-back division titles since they were in the AL West back in the day. They added Ian Kennedy to the roatation and----prepare to cringe, Mets fans---Dillon Gee will work out of the bullpen to start the season.

2. Detroit: The Tigers reloaded the rotation, getting Mike Pelfrey (Minnesota), Daniel Norris (Toronto), and Jordan Zimmermann (Washington) to back up Justin Verlander & Anibal Sanchez. Add new closer Francisco Rodriguez (Milwaukee), returning to the AL, and you're talking a Wild Card lock.

3. Cleveland: Mike Napoli finished last season in Texas after leaving Boston. Juan Uribe finished with the Mets and reached the World Series. Cleveland is hoping both can contribute. It ain't enough.

4. Minnesota: Doesn't scare anyone.
5. Chicago: If the White Sox don't get off to a fast start, Robin Ventura's 2nd tour of duty on the South Side will end rather abruptly.

AL West:

1. Houston: Don't laugh. The Astros will be players this year, as they've kept quite a few players who came up the pipeline from Troy (Tri-City Valleycats).

2. Los Angeles: The Angels brought in Andrelton Simmons (Atlanta), sending Erick Aybar to Atlanta. Could be the last chance for Albert Pujols to get back to the World Series.

3. Texas: The Rangers aren't all the way back yet, despite adding Cole Hamels at the deadline last summer. Taking Ian Desmond out of Washington and putting him in the outfield may haunt Texas rather quickly.

4. Seattle: A near total overhaul won't change anything.
5. Oakland: They brought back Jed Lowrie (Houston) for a stay in the cellar?

NL East:

1. Mets: Never mind the current pre-season winless streak, at 14 going into tonight. When the bell rings in KC on Sunday, they'll be ready. The offense just has to remember to play all 9 innings.

2. Washington: So they lured Daniel Murphy away from the Mets. As noted above, they lost Ian Desmond (Texas) and Jordan Zimmermann (Detroit). Ben Revere (Philadelphia) replaces Denard Span in CF, but his bat is made of lead.

3. Miami: Barry Bonds was hired as batting coach for Don Mattingly, who came from the Dodgers. As if Giancarlo Stanton needed any more incentive. Unfortunately, with closer Steve Cishek gone (Seattle), AJ Ramos is your closer, and not a lock.

4. Philadelphia: Cliff Lee retired, so the Phillies got Jeremy Hellickson (Arizona) as their new ace. Vincent Velasquez (Houston) is their #5 starter and a sleeper.

5. Atlanta: Remember the days when (W)TBS was added to Northeastern cable systems so we could listen to Skip Caray and friends try to soft-pedal some bad Braves teams? Here come those days again, except they're not on TBS anymore.

NL Central:

1. St. Louis: All the Cardinals do is play "Next Man Up". John Lackey is in Chicago, but Mike Leake (Cincinnati) will help fill the void. 

2. Chicago: The Cubs not only got Lackey, but outfielder Jason Heyward from St. Louis as well, as if they needed another bat. Well, then again, they did lose Starlin Castro (Yankees), replaced by Ben Zobrist, who split 2015 between Oakland and Kansas City. Zobrist is reunited with his former manager at Tampa Bay, Joe Maddon. Aside from Lackey, Cy Young winner Jake Arietta and Jon Lester, Cubs pitching did it mostly with mirrors and good fortune in 2015. They're not sneaking up on anyone this time.

3. Pittsburgh: The door is closing and quickly for Clint Hurdle's team to reach the next level. They signed Jonathan Niese away from the Mets to bolster the rotation, and a change of scenery will help Niese who hit some sort of glass ceiling in New York. 

4. Cincinnati: Exit Mike Leake (St. Louis), enter........? Todd Frazier fled for Chicago (White Sox), taking some serious power out of the Reds' lineup. Aroldis Chapman went to New York (Yankees), but starts the season suspended for domestic issues.

5. Milwaukee: The Brewers shored up the offense by getting Chris Carter from Houston, Kirk Nieuwenheis from the Mets, and Aaron Hill from Arizona. However, the pitching doesn't scare.

NL West: 

1. San Francisco: It's an even numbered year. Speaking of bolstering the rotation, the Giants did that by getting Johnny Cueto away from Kansas City. Jeff Samardzija spent a year with the White Sox, and finally flees Chicago. Offensively, Denard Span comes from Washington to give the Giants a quality lead-off man.

2. Arizona: The biggest deal in the offseason saw the Diamondbacks heist Zack Greinke away from Los Angeles. Tyler Clippard ended up a 3 month rental in New York, so now he'll set up closer Brad Ziegler. The Mets will regret that decision, I assure you. Jean Segura came over from Milwaukee in the Aaron Hill deal.

3. Los Angeles: Dave Roberts replaces Don Mattingly (Miami) in the dugout. Otherwise, it's a mess with Greinke gone.

4. San Diego: Exit one Upton (Justin), enter another (Melvin). Meh, not much difference, save for the fact that Melvin's on the downside.

5. Colorado: Meh. Whatever.

Wild Cards: 

AL: Detroit, Yankees.
NL: Arizona, Chicago.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Musical Interlude: Thunderstruck (1991)

To illustrate how Australia's AC/DC was embraced by the mainstream, the NBA's New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets co-opted this next song as their entrance music for a few years. "Thunderstruck" was the first single off 1991's "The Razor's Edge", followed by "Money Talks".

I'll bet it still gets played in some sports arenas today.