Friday, September 30, 2016

Musical Interlude: I'll Be Around (1994)

Rappin 4 Tay had just 1 hit on the Hot 100, and it had a familiar beat, a familiar vibe.

"I'll Be Around" wraps new lyrics around the chorus of the Spinners' namesake hit from the 70's. Scope the awesome.

High School Fridays: Broadalbin-Perth @ Troy (women's soccer), 9/30/16

Back in the 80's, the New York Daily News, in chronicling the struggles of Columbia University's football team, which was on a lengthy losing streak extending over a few years, began using an illustration of a begging lion (Columbia's team name was the Lions) with the caption, "Is this the one?", as in, would the Lions finally end the losing streak. Yes, they eventually did.

The struggles of Troy High's soccer teams in 2016 aren't quite as epic or full of despair, unless you're like me, and you're an alumnus, and you take the losses harder than I or others do. Going into play tonight, the Flying Horses' boys & girls teams were a combined 0-21-2. Ouch.

The advantage of one fewer team on the women's side in the Suburban Council is that it gives teams flexibility to schedule non-league games. Such was the case tonight on a rainy Friday at Picken Memorial Field, where the Lady Horses welcomed the Lady Patriots of Broadalbin-Perth, out of the Foothills Council. The two schools' junior varsity teams played earlier, and Troy's girls' JV's, which also was winless on the season, picked up their first win. It must've been a heartbreaker for Broadalbin-Perth, because as I was entering Picken Field, one B-P player was leaving with her parents, and trying to fight the tears. I could feel her pain, because I've been there. I played one year of varsity soccer, at now-defunct Capital Christian Academy in 1978. We weren't great, just mediocre, but wins were hard to come by for us, too.

On to the varsity game. Coming off a 5-0 shutout loss at the hands of Shaker on the road on Wednesday, Troy opened a 4 game homestand, and, well, let's just say they made the boys team look weak by comparison. I had attended a boys game vs. Ballston Spa about three weeks ago, and was disgusted by the, shall we say, passive defensive effort in a 4-0 loss. In sharp contrast, the Lady Horses played a tighter defense, jockeying for position on each possession. It took some time, but freshman Abby Burns found the back of the net to give Troy a 1-0 lead. Burns finished with 2 goals, as did Heather Avery, with Heather Moss adding an insurance goal in the second half, and Troy snapped a 11 game winless streak with a 5-0 victory. Broadalbin-Perth, which had 1 win on the season, had their chances, but their best shots seemed to fly wide of the net.

The Troy JV's will be right back in action Saturday, welcoming in-city rival Emma Willard in what should be the touchstone for future varsity meetings between the two schools. Emma Willard plays in the Central Hudson Valley League (CHVL), as does Heatly, who will be Troy's senior night opponent on October 8. In between, the Lady Horses jump back into Suburban Council play on Tuesday as Shenendehowa comes to town, followed by Schenectady on Thursday, before Heatly comes in. Troy wraps the regular season on October 13 at Albany, a sectional berth highly unlikely unless they can run the table.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Forgotten TV: The Bicentennial Minute (1976)

40 years ago, in honor of the US' 200th anniversary, CBS embarked on an ambitious primetime experiment, one that should've expanded into daytime programming across the board, but didn't.

The Bicentennial Minute was a year long series of short essays on historical events that took place on a specific day in 1776, and was produced by CBS News.

The only one that appears to be available features actor Gary Lockwood, from January 22.

Rating: A.

On The Shelf: New Riverdale expands, and two DC teams come together

We'll get to the news later, but let's get to some reviews.

A few years ago, writer-artist Matt Wagner put Batman, Superman, & Wonder Woman together in a miniseries entitled, Trinity, which was a big seller. With all that has happened at DC since then, the Rebirth initiative seemed like the right time to do a new, this time ongoing, Trinity book, one that doesn't require the reader to also invest in the heroes' individual books or Justice League.

As you probably know by now, the Superman we're seeing now is the one that existed prior to the New 52 era (2011-6), as the Man of Steel we read about the last five years has passed on, or so we think. This is the Supes who married Lois Lane, and, wonder of wonders, they have a son, Jonathan, named for Superman's adoptive Earth father. What writer-artist Francis Manapul is attempting to do is establish the theme of family in this book, with Wonder Woman & Batman, or, in this case, Princess Diana and Bruce Wayne, on a getting-to-know-you mission with Superman & Son. He's off to a good start.

We'll reserve a rating until later.

Speaking of Justice League, DC screwed the pooch with the last incarnation of Justice League of America, pulling writer-artist Bryan Hitch off that book to draw Justice League: Rebirth and script the subsequent ongoing relaunch of Justice League. Unfortunately, the central theme here is so confusing, I can't quite get on board with it. Not feeling it in the least bit. When you consider that for his comics debut, writer John Semper, the producer of the 1990's Spider-Man cartoon, is tweaking Cyborg's origin, perhaps in line with the storyline in Justice League, well, let's just say the books are better off in more capable hands, like those of Cyborg's co-creator, Marv Wolfman, who barely got started on the last Cyborg book before that was rebooted.

Justice League: Rebirth gets a C-. Justice League is worth a C.

As we're getting caught up with Green Arrow, some of you might be a wee bit confused about Oliver Queen's sister in this book, Emiko. Is she meant to be an analogue for Thea, from Arrow? Can't say for sure. I wasn't too thrilled with the conclusion of the first arc, as it got bogged down with supernatural themes that don't belong with GA. The 2nd arc is spotlighting Emiko and her mother, Shado. I guess then that Emiko is really Ollie's half-sister or something. Yeah, kind of like Thea.....!

Green Arrow's rating falls to a B-.

The other day, we found ourselves scoping out Afterlife With Archie 10, an interlude issue that shows us what writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has done with Josie & the Pussycats. Judging from the Francesco Francavilla cover, I'd think they were turned into werewolves or something, but, well, not quite. They're vampires in this continuity, all of them over 100 years old. Aguirre-Sacasa has created his own pocket universe with the horror line, but as we've noted, he refuses to share his vision with others, otherwise the book would be further along than it is. Aguirre-Sacasa has been spending the bulk of his time in Hollywood working with producer Greg Berlanti on Supergirl and the forthcoming Riverdale. At least Afterlife can be considered a bi-monthly title, with the next issue scheduled for October, and issue 12 in time for the holidays. Luckily for Pussycats fans, the band now has their own "New Riverdale" book, which launched this week. We'll scope that another day.

Meanwhile, we speculated last time that the next "New Riverdale" book after Josie would feature Sabrina, off her appearance in Jughead. Nope. December sees the relaunch of a long dormant series, Reggie & Me, the "me" in the title being, most likely, Reggie's dog, Vader, something he didn't have in the original Reggie & Me back in the day. That series ended years ago, as did a companion book, Reggie's Wise Guy Jokes, and reprints from those books will be collected in a 1-shot special debuting a week after Reggie & Me volume 2 bows.

When ABC had The Bionic Woman & Wonder Woman on the air back in the 70's, no one gave a thought that there'd ever be a crossover, especially considering the two shows were produced by two different studios (Universal and WB, respectively). The success DC & Dynamite enjoyed with Wonder Woman '77, a sporadic series of specials, and The Bionic Woman: Season 4 miniseries, respectively, has led to the two iconic heroes coming together for the first time, under the Dynamite banner this time. Andy Mangels is writing the miniseries, also launching in December. That may be worth a look.

Meanwhile, DC finally pulls the trigger on a miniseries featuring two of their biggest teams, in Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, a 6-part weekly mini launching right before Christmas. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's overpriced at $4 per issue. The "Suicide Squad" DVD should be out by then, so maybe if you know someone who is a fan......!

DC & Boom! Studios' Batman '66 Meets Steed & Mrs. Peel wraps in December, so what could DC do for the next Batman '66 miniseries? Well, there hasn't been any word that I've picked up on at present, so let's just speculate. DC & IDW are doing a sequel to their popular Star Trek-Green Lantern miniseries, also in December. Since the Dynamic Duo have been meeting with well known TV spies, that gets me thinking.

What if Batman & Robin were to meet The Saint? or Maxwell Smart (Get Smart)? Or you could have Batgirl meet the Girl From U.N.C.L.E.. Yeah, that'd be along similar lines to Wonder Woman '77-Bionic Woman, but still.......! Now, can someone ask DC real nice about a series set in the universe of the Adventures of Superman.....?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Musical Interlude: Winning (1981)

Santana's "Winning" dominated radio airwaves in the summer and fall of 1981, right after ye scribe graduated from high school. Unfortunately, it didn't quite crack the top of the Hot 100, and was #2 on the "Mainstream Rock Tracks" chart, a minor chart used by Billboard.

At least, after 35 years, since I've never seen this music video until today, we have a face---and a name---to match the voice on the track. The lead singer here is Alex Ligertwood. Hasn't been heard from much since.

It wasn't until Carlos Santana released "Supernatural", and began using a collection of guest vocalists, such as Rob Thomas and Chad Kroeger, on the singles, that the guitar legend was back on the charts. Too bad Charlie Sheen never considered this song as his personal theme a few years ago.

Weasel of the Week: Arthur Gannon

On Tuesday, this week's Weasel was sentenced to spend virtually the rest of his life in prison. Why? He spent a decade sexually molesting two young girls, beginning when they were as young as 4.

Arthur Gannon, according to press accounts, showed no remorse, and at sentencing on Tuesday, quoted Biblical scripture as well as passages from the American Bar Association's guidelines. His morals have been compromised, but I find it a little unsettling that he would resort to using the Bible to justify his actions.

The saddest part about all this was that Gannon's wife, Heidi, who was arrested along with Gannon earlier this year, didn't try to stop him. Apparently, to Gannon, this was a bizarre, sadistic, ah, hobby, for lack of a better description. Apparently, the Gannons had no children of their own, insofar as we know, but does that give a middle-aged man the right to abuse someone else's kids? Of course not.

The two victims, now teenagers, are scarred for life. One, according to today's Albany Times-Union, sees herself as a survivor. The other expressed anger in her statement, wishing that Gannon would suffer in prison the same way she did at his hands. Something tells me I doubt that will happen, although it is said that convicts don't take too well to sexual predators preying on children.

If you really believe in the Bible, Arthur Gannon, maybe you should consider studying it a little more closely. It will be your best defense in prison. Otherwise, enjoy the Weasel ears.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What Might've Been: Garrison's Gorillas (1967)

In the wake of "The Dirty Dozen", Selig J. Seligman, a programming executive at ABC, commissioned a series in the mold of the "Dozen". Unfortunately, Garrison's Gorillas lasted just 1 season, and deserved to go longer.

Seligman's production company, Selmur (named for Seligman himself and his wife, Muriel), had also produced Combat!, Shindig, & General Hospital, and by 1967, only the latter, a daytime soap, was still on the air, and remains to this day. Seligman must've assumed that Garrison was a worthy successor to Combat!, considering that it started with a back-door pilot on that series.

Ron Harper, who'd bombed out previously with The Jean Arthur Show and 87th Precinct, led an ensemble that also included Cesare Danova, Rudy Solari, and Golden Globe winner Brandon Boone. Sure, there were just the five of them, counting Garrison himself, just to avoid accusations of an out-and-out ripoff of "Dozen". In truth, it was really a WWII version of CBS' Mission: Impossible, which was entering its 2nd season.

Let's take a look at a sample episode:

As with a lot of television shows from this period, there was a comic book version of the series, published by Dell. Lasted just a couple of issues.

No rating. I cannot recall seeing an episode.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Musical Interlude: A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)

I don't think there's anyone who hasn't heard this next entry on radio. The video you're about to see, though, is another rare bird, as I have no recollection of seeing this on MTV or VH-1.

Procol Harum's seminal 1967 hit, "A Whiter Shade of Pale", hit #1 in England and #5 in the US that fall, and still gets airplay today, nearly 50 years later.

Three sports, three passings

They say that death often comes in threes. It certainly did in the sports world on Sunday.

Let's start on the local tip. Former Bishop Maginn football coach Joe Grasso, serving as an assistant at Christian Brothers Academy this season, passed away on Sunday morning following a heart attack at 66. Grasso was on the sidelines for CBA's last game two nights prior, and from all accounts appeared to be in good health.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, lost his life in a boating accident. The news of Fernandez's death stunned not only the Marlins, but all of baseball, to the point that Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz asked the homestanding Tampa Bay Rays to cancel a pre-game ceremony in his honor, as he was playing his final game at Tropicana Field. The Marlins and Atlanta Braves cancelled their Sunday game for obvious reasons. Mets star Yoenis Cespedes, like Fernandez a Cuban emigre, had a special Mets jersey with Fernandez's name and uniform number (16, worn by Alejandro De Aza on the Mets) hung in the dugout during the Mets' 17-0 demolition of Philadelphia at Citi Field.

Fernandez was taken way, way too soon. Period.

Finally, golf legend Arnold Palmer passed on at 87. The "King" of golf won 7 major titles, including 4 Masters tournaments between 1958-64. After retiring from full-time competition, Palmer took on more commercial endorsements than the average active PGA Tour player. He lent his likeness and name to Arizona's Half & Half (lemonade & iced tea) soft drink, promoted video games and medicines, and might still be best known for pitching Pennzoil as far back as the 70's....! Here's one from 1983:

Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

What Might've Been: Instant Recall (1990)

While "tabloid television" was starting to take over syndicated daytime, there was a news magazine series of a different kind swimming against the tide.

Instant Recall lasted just one season (1990-1), and deserved a better fate. The goal of producer-packager King World was to create a series that appealed to baby boomers, who were otherwise shunned by advertisers who targeted younger viewers.

Former NBC newscaster John Palmer was tapped as host/narrator. Part of the reason the show failed, one might guess, would be that it wasn't fixated on one particular day per episode, but rather cris-crossed the timestream. One such example is in this sample episode.

King World would also enter the "tabloid television" business with Inside Edition, which is still going strong today. As you're doubtlessly aware if you are a fan of Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy! or even Inside, King World was absorbed by CBS some time back.

Rating: A.

God appreciates co-ed sports. Too bad they didn't teach that in Arizona

Let me start with a personal note.

I attended a Christian school, long since closed now, in the hometown for 2 seasons before transferring to Troy High. In 1978, the school initiated what would be a short-lived athletic program based on merit and "priveleges" which would fill out the all-male rosters. The female students were cheerleaders. We played at least one game against a school that fielded a co-ed (men & women playing together) roster. The girls would cross their arms over their chests for protection. All we boys had to do go around them to avoid a collision. I know I did.

I've also played on a co-ed community softball team fielded by a local charity. We only had one or two women play in the course of the 5 years I was on the team (1983-6, 1990), and only one was a regular (1986). Growing up in the North Central section of Troy, it was normal for the kids on the block, men & women both, to play pick-up games of softball or kickball after school or during the summer.

My point? A poster on Google Groups posted a link to a Deadspin article that tells of an Arizona Christian school that decided to forfeit a soccer match because the opposing team has two women on their roster. Those two girls were benched in an earlier game, but the team voted to play the full roster this time.

Now, what could be so wrong? Seems to me the forfeit was a coward's way out to avoid the likely embarrassment of either one of the two ladies scoring a goal in the game, were it played. I keep reading online stories about how some young ladies are being forced to adhere to absurd dress codes, especially in the South, because parents and administrators there think that all boys, once they reach puberty, have to avoid the temptation of impure thoughts. In sports, you're taught to have respect for your opponent, regardless of gender. God would tell us the same thing.

Maybe they need to add classes in sportsmanship.......!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

What Might've Been: Fantasy (1982)

It was billed as a game show, where contestants were offered a chance to make their dreams come true.

But what might've hurt Fantasy, which spent a year as part of NBC's daytime lineup, was that it was a sacrificial lamb fed to the then-white hot General Hospital. Game, set, & match.

Fantasy marked the return of co-host Peter Marshall to NBC after 2 years away, one year removed from the ending of the original Hollywood Squares, which had ended its run in syndication after 14 years on NBC (1966-80). Marshall this time was joined by actress-singer Leslie Uggams, who would go on to win a Daytime Emmy award for her work on the show. Coincidentally, Fantasy, Merrill Heatter's first series without now-retired partner Bob Quigley, was a collaboration with Columbia Pictures Television, which was co-producing a similar, yet fictional series about people realizing their dreams over on another network---Fantasy Island. I think you can see just about all the reason that's there for why this show flopped.

Let's check out a sample clip with Joan Rivers, Rip Taylor, and Willard Scott (The Today Show).

No rating. At the time, we had one set in the house, and it was tuned to----wait for it----General Hospital.

High School Fridays: Shaker @ Troy (football), 9/23/16

Everyone knew this was going to be a war of attrition. A matter of who'd make the fewest mistakes.

Three weeks ago, James Allen, high school analyst for Time Warner Cable Sports and the Albany Times-Union, wrote that he felt Shaker, the defending Liberty Division champion in Class AA, would run the table, thereby winning another division title. He also predicted Troy High would finish 6-1, presumably losing to Shaker.

As Lee Corso of ESPN would say, not so fast, my friends.

In front of the biggest home crowd of the season, Troy took the opening kickoff and marched down the field, ending with QB John Germinerio taking it in himself from 5 yards out. However, the extra point was blocked, and Troy led, 6-0, after 1 period.

In the 2nd period, after a Shaker punt, Dev Holmes called for a fair catch, but the ball went right through his hands, and the Blue Bison recovered. Anthony Johnson took it in one play later, and after an extra point, Shaker led, 7-6. However, this didn't last long, as Germinerio found Ethan Evans in the corner of the end zone. The two-point conversion failed, and Troy led, 12-7. On the ensuing kickoff, Shaker's Matthew Medici appeared to put Shaker back in front as time expired, but the touchdown was called back due to a penalty, allowing the Flying Horses to go in the locker room with the lead.

Shaker took the lead back in the second half, but again, couldn't hold it, as Germinerio took matters into his own hands again, scoring the game winner on a 1 yard keeper. This time, the two-point conversion was successful, and Troy held off a late rally to win, 20-13.

While star tailback Joey Ward didn't find the end zone despite another 100 yard night, he made his presence felt on defense as well with a quarterback sack in the first period. Troy racked up 3 sacks in all in the first half. So much for the irresistible force meeting the immovable object.

Just before halftime, the rains came, which spoiled Homecoming festivities. What started as mere drizzle turned into a downpour just before the half, and ye scribe decided to head home to catch the rest of the game on TV. Unfortunately, I missed most of the second half, and picked up the info via a post-game recap. I'd left my umbrella at home, thinking it wouldn't rain. Well, a weather forecaster I'm not.

Anyway, softball ace Hunter Levesque, actually a 3-sport star at Troy (also is on the swimming team as well as junior varsity basketball), was crowned Homecoming Queen. She received the loudest ovation upon being introduced, and the cheers grew louder when outgoing Queen Ariana Judge laid the tiara on Levesque's head. As was the case at Homecoming last year under clear skies, most folks headed for the exits afterward, this time because of the rain.

Up next for Troy is a road game at Colonie before the Flying Horses return home for Senior Night vs. Schenectady in 2 weeks. They then close on the road at Columbia, and one must assume that if they can avoid a letdown vs. Colonie, they could have the Liberty Division wrapped up by the time they reach Columbia on October 14.

Friday, September 23, 2016

ABC Fall Preview 45 years ago (1971)

Remember when ABC touted that they were the "Place to Be"? In 1971, this is what they offered for the fall season.

We've previously reviewed:

Getting Together
The Persuaders

We'll soon look at (or try to):

Shirley's World
The Man & The City

Unfortunately, NBC's fall '71 preview is not available, and we'll soon see about CBS that same year.

No rating.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Classic TV: Magnum, PI (1980)

After the original Hawaii Five-O  ended its run in 1980, CBS promptly picked up another crime drama to be set in the same general area.

Magnum, P. I. put producer Donald Belisario on the map, as he would later shepherd shows like JAG, also for CBS, and Quantum Leap for NBC. Tom Selleck was cast as Thomas Magnum IV, a former Navy man who now was a private eye operating out of Hawaii. His base of operations was the island estate of reclusive millionaire Robin Masters, who was heard, but rarely seen (Orson Welles provided the voice-over in several episodes, but a different actor essayed the part when Masters was, ah, brought to life near the end of the run). Instead, Masters' major domo, John Higgins (John Hillerman, ex-Ellery Queen), ran the joint, and at one point, Magnum was led to believe Higgins & Masters were one and the same. Of course, that wasn't true.

In a classic moment, Magnum paid homage to Hawaii Five-O during the first season, and the remake of Five-O would later return the favor. There were crossovers with other Universal series, including Simon & Simon and Murder, She Wrote, but the Magnum half of the latter crossover was re-edited for DVD release, rather than shoehorn a Murder episode in the appropriate season set for continuity purposes. In all, Magnum ran for 8 seasons, and of course found new life in syndicated reruns during the 90's.

Today, Selleck stars in another CBS drama, Blue Bloods, but Universal has accepted an offer from another producer to do a sequel, this one involving Magnum's daughter, who had followed in her dad's footsteps as a Naval investigator before turning to the life of a P. I.. However, this version is ticketed for ABC instead of CBS. Go figure.

Here's the intro everyone knows, with the pulsing theme by Mike Post & Pete Carpenter.

Rating: A.

Sports this 'n' that

With roughly 10 games left in the regular season, last year's World Series participants, the Mets and the Kansas City Royals, will have to take the long route back to the Fall Classic.

The Mets sit 9 games in arrears of NL East leader Washington, which presumably will clinch before the end of the weekend. On the other hand, New York is a half-game out of the first Wild Card spot, behind San Francisco, after getting swept by Atlanta the last three nights. Meanwhile, the Royals were eliminated from the AL Central race on Wednesday, yet sit 5 game behind the 2nd AL Wild Card, presently belonging to Baltimore. Kansas City has not strung together three straight post-season berths since their run of AL West titles in the 70's (1976-8), losing to the Yankees in the ALCS each time. The Mets, meanwhile, have not had consecutive post-season berths since 1999-2000.
I found it amusing that the oddsmakers installed New England as a 1-point home underdog for tonight's game vs. Houston. Bear in mind, too, that these odds were probably in place before QB Jimmy Garappolo was injured Sunday vs. Miami. Rookie Jacoby Bressette would get the start if Garappolo can't, and if that's the case, Bressette would be the first African-American QB to start a game for the Pats in their 57 seasons.

No one trusts the Patriots anymore, so expect a lot of their loyal followers to take the point and expect a windfall come tomorrow morning. Just sayin'.
I've heard of schools in other parts of the country who've had Homecoming queens play football. One even was in uniform a few years ago when she accepted her tiara.

At Troy High, on the other hand, this may be a case where a softball player gets the honors.

Softball star Hunter Levesque is one of six candidates to succeed 2015 winner Ariana Judge as Homecoming queen, with ceremonies set for tomorrow at halftime of the Troy-Shaker game. A mini-bio provided to The Record in today's editions reveals that Levesque has also played junior varsity basketball. The Lady Horses could probably use her on the varsity this winter, and pray she doesn't get injured before softball season starts in April.
Speaking of Troy football, the battle of unbeatens vs. Shaker is sounding like a case of the irresistible force (offenses on both teams) meeting immovable objects (defenses). Both teams are coming off dominant, shut-out wins in their last games. It either is a low-scoring affair, or it'll be a track meet at Picken Field.
Conversely, Troy's varsity soccer teams would be happy to finally win a game. Period. They are a combined 0-14 headed into play today. The women, in particular, have been outscored 31-3 in 7 losses. Ouch! They've been shut out five times in those seven games, with 7 league games, including today, left on the schedule, plus two non-league matches vs. Broadalbin-Perth (Sept. 30) & Heatly (October 8), both at home. Sectional berths, unless things change in the next two weeks, are unlikely this year.
With all the talk about pro athletes taking a stand against perceived racial injustice by taking a knee or sitting during the national anthem, it's nice to know that hasn't permeated down to high school level, at least at home. The players for both Troy and LaSalle stood in line, facing the flag, as Troy senior Lewis Blair sang the anthem last Friday.
ESPN devoted part of its broadcast of Wednesday's Giants-Dodgers game to simulcasting Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully's play-by-play during the 4th inning. Would that MLB Network would do the same if the Dodgers were in their "showcase" before the end of the season. More likely, since the Dodgers will be in the playoffs, either Fox or TBS will give Scully some space in the broadcast booth for one final, national farewell. Expect this to happen for sure if the Dodgers reach the World Series.

Not long ago, there was an online headline I read that said that Dick Enberg would also retire from his current role as play-by-play voice of the San Diego Padres, presumably also after this season. Like Scully, Enberg has dabbled in other network ventures, such as game shows (i.e. Baffle), in the course of his storied career. Enberg & Scully would be the last of the old guard announcers, but with the Padres nowhere near a playoff berth, having languished as a "second division" team in the NL West in recent years, it hardly seems fair that Enberg isn't getting the kind of send-off that Scully, who's logged 67 seasons with 1 team in contrast to Enberg, is receiving. Both are equally deserving in this writer's view.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What Might've Been: The Diamond Head Game (1975)

Ask anyone about a television show set in Hawaii, and they're quick to reference dramas like Magnum, PI, Hawaii Five-O, and Hawaiian Eye. I think there've been some sitcoms set on the island state as well. But a game show? That was a bit of a reach.

But a couple of independent producers gave it a shot in 1975. The Diamond Head Game launched as a mid-season syndicated entry in January, hosted by Bob Eubanks, fresh from the first run of The Newlywed Game. Eubanks' partner, Jane Nelson, had previously been on Dealer's Choice.

Standard stuff, although the style of game play was changed about midway through its one and only season. The prize vault in the volcano was a variation on a gimmick that didn't get over. What some of you might not know is that actor-singer-songwriter Alan Thicke composed the music.

Here's the intro:

I can count how many episodes I actually watched, and leave room for some fingers.

Rating: B.

Advertising For Dummies: GEICO's latest ad campaign is a bad joke (2016)

GEICO's advertising department needs new writers.

The "It's not surprising" ad campaign is one of the worst to come along in a while. The 2nd of these installments features rapper-actor-reality star Ice-T (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), as apparently customers aren't paying attention to the banner at a lemonade stand........

The fact that this ad airs a zillion times a day tells us one thing. GEICO thinks this is gold. It's not. It's fool's gold.

Monday, September 19, 2016

What Might've Been: James at 15 (1977)

There was so much hype surrounding the coming-of-age teen drama, James at 15, back in 1977. I wouldn't know, since I never saw the show, and I missed the TV-movie pilot that had aired in March of '77.

James Turner (Lance Kerwin) and his family have relocated from Seattle to Boston after James' father (Linden Chiles), a college professor, has accepted a post at a Boston university. The series marked the return of producer Martin Manulis to 20th Century Fox, which produced the series. Manulis was also responsible for a couple of hit series at Fox in the 50's---Adventures in Paradise & The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. James at 15 was sort of a hybrid of the two. No, it wasn't a comedy, but it combined the coming-of-age angle of Dobie with the drama of Paradise. Unfortunately, viewers voted with their remotes, and James was cancelled after one season, during which time the title character had turned 16, leading to a necessary title change. Ironically, Kerwin himself was a year older than the character he was playing.

Let's take a look at the intro. The title song is performed by Lee Montgomery. Not sure if it was ever released as a single.

James at 15/16 also saw actress Kim Richards (ex-Nanny & The Professor) return to Fox after having made the "Witch Mountain" movies for Disney. Today, though, she's better known for one of the Real Housewives series at Bravo, and being a relative of the Hilton sisters, Paris & Nicky.

No rating.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

CBS Fall Preview 55 years ago (1961)

Let's take a look back at CBS' fall lineup, circa 1961.

The setting is a carnival. Night by night, the lineups are revealed, courtesy of Andy Griffith, Garry Moore, Sebastian Cabot, Bob Cummings, Rod Serling, Raymond Burr (w/Barbara Hale), and Ed Sullivan, plus cameo appearances by Bud Collyer (To Tell The Truth) and Moore's sidekicks, Durward Kirby and Carol Burnett. The Marion that Moore name-drops is Marion Lorne, later of Bewitched, who rounded out Moore's repertory company back in the day.

We've previously seen:

Window on Main Street
The Alvin Show (reviewed at Saturday Morning Archives)
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Mister Ed

And we'll be keeping an eye on:

Ichabod & Me
The Investigators
Father of the Bride
Frontier Circus
The Bob Cummings Show
Mrs. G Goes to College
The Defenders

Now, let's visit the carnival:

Moore worked two nights a week, with I've Got a Secret airing on Mondays. GE College Bowl, with Allen Ludden, would later move to NBC, but Ludden would not, as he began work on Password, resulting in Robert Earle taking over College Bowl when it changed networks.

I give CBS points for a clever presentation, the kind we just don't see anymore.

Rating: A.

What Might've Been: The Rounders (1966)

MGM took a chance in continuing their 1965 feature film, "The Rounders", as a half-hour sitcom a year later, sold to ABC. Unfortunately, it didn't work.

Chill Wills continued his movie role as ranch owner Jim Ed Love, and would be the only one crossing over from the movie. Patrick Wayne, son of John, co-starred as Howdy, assuming the role portrayed by Henry Fonda in the movie.

The Rounders lasted not quite 4 months, as it lost viewers from its lead-in, Combat!. On the other hand, it was airing opposite Red Skelton's CBS show. Ballgame over.

The next year, MGM sold ABC two more short-lived series, Hondo (previously reviewed), and Off to See The Wizard, both of which deserved better fates. Then again, so did The Rounders, as the third strike against it was the Western theme. Folks weren't warming up to a Western-themed comedy, as Universal & CBS found out with Pistols & Petticoats.

Here's the open.

No rating.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

High School Fridays: LaSalle @ Troy (football), 9/16/16

Troy High & LaSalle have not played each other in football in 4 years. Because of this, the Collar City Cup has been in LaSalle's possession since the last meeting, a 14-7 Cadet win in 2012. Troy moved back to Class AA this year, and when the schedule came out 6 months ago, you knew coach Bob Burns circled September 16 on the calendar. This would be the night for revenge, and to reclaim the Cup.

Mission accomplished, and ridiculously easy, too.

LaSalle won the coin toss, and took the opening kickoff. Unfortunately, there were some issues right from the go. Quarterback Kyle Borey fumbled on 3rd down, and Troy's Derrick Cipriani recovered in the end zone to give Troy a quick 7-0 lead after Jordan Audi's extra point. The Cadets couldn't get anything going in the first quarter, and Troy took advantage of the short fields created by Tyree Gonzalez's poor punts. Joey Ward, showing no ill effects after being removed for precautionary reasons last week, scored two touchdowns, and Troy led, 20-0, after the first quarter.

LaSalle finally found its offense in the second quarter, as the offensive line opened holes for tailback Corey Holloman, but he couldn't reach the end zone. Troy, on the other hand, marched up and down the field at will, it seemed, and even when they had to punt, there were still some dividends. In fact, the Flying Horses only needed to punt once, and LaSalle fumbled that away, too. Game, set, and match to Troy, as the Flying Horses romped, 54-0. Quarterback John Germinerio finished with three touchdown passes, one each to Ethan Evans, James Kelley, and Dev Holmes, and  Ryan Carmello and Matt Ashley rushed for touchdowns. Holmes & Ward sat out the fourth quarter with the game well in hand, but Germinerio, gamer that he is, played the entire game when he too could've been pulled in the final frame.

Up next for Troy is Shaker, which blew out Colonie, 44-0, on Homecoming night. LaSalle, still looking for its first win of the year under 1st year coach Gary Lauver, returns to Sutton Field to play Colonie.

Shutouts, it seems, were the order of the night. Shenendehowa registered its second straight blowout win, thumping Niskayuna, 48-0. Albany Academy handled Ichabod Crane fairly easily, 39-0, in Class B.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Kickstart can make anyone and anything dance? (2016)

How could Pepsi top the internet phenomenon that was Puppymonkeybaby from the Super Bowl?

Well, try out this "Freak Chain", peeps. Scope!

The wackiest 30 seconds on television----until they take the ad off the air......

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Classic TV (?): Tommy Cooper (1973)

Thames on 9 week has come and gone, but we still have some entries from that period to serve up.

Next on the list is Tommy Cooper, the magician-comedian who headlined a self-titled series for Thames from 1973-80 in either a half-hour (as shown on WOR) or one hour format. With his signature fez atop his head, you'd be forgiven if you mistook Cooper for an ambassador or a member of the Shriners.

Nic Nolan put together the following montage of gags and sketches.

Sadly, Cooper passed away from a heart attack during a live performance in 1984. Influenced by his countrymen, Stan Laurel & Bob Hope, among others, Cooper added magic to his act, but I am not sure if it got him across the pond like his idols.

No rating. Didn't see the show when it aired on WOR.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Musical Interlude: Pink Shoelaces (1959)

Dodie Stevens was just 13 when she reached #3 on the pop chart in 1959. "Pink Shoelaces", however, ended up as her only hit.

Dodie got married three years later, and it took another four before she resumed her music career. To think what might've happened had she not taken that 4 year hiatus......

Weasels of the Week: Sam Sotoodeh and Barzeen Soroudi

Last month, Ryan Lochte may have sunk his professional swimming career by lying about being robbed during the Olympics. Turned out he wasn't robbed, but rather behaved like an immature teenager and caused some problems for a local business. So maybe it wasn't the smartest of ideas for Lochte to accept an invitation to appear on Dancing With The Stars so soon after the Olympics, but ABC wanted to capitalize on the success Team USA had in Rio, and Lochte, thinking this would be the first step toward repairing his damaged image, accepted the invite.

On last night's season premiere, Lochte and pro dance partner Cheryl Burke, a multi-time winner, had finished a foxtrot and were being evaluated by judge Carrie Ann Inaba when a couple of jabronies wearing anti-Lochte shirts rushed the stage, but were quickly stopped by security. Viewers never saw the two trespassing imbeciles until well after the show ended, when footage began airing on other channels.

As the Joker (Jack Nicholson) lamented in "Batman" back in 1989, "I have a name for my pain". Or, more specifically, all of America has a pair of names for their collective pain.

Sam Sotoodeh & Barzeen Soroudi felt it was necessary to make their feelings known, hoping to get their 15 minutes at Lochte's expense. However, as with a lot of sporting events these days, the cameras turned away from these clowns so they wouldn't get on primetime television, treated no differently than the drunken morons that hop onto the field of play on a inebriated dare, like the moron who interrupted the Rams-49ers game later that night.

But as with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, there are better, proper ways of going about a protest. Sotoodeh & Soroudi, ignorant of consequence, earned their Weasel ears. Now, ABC has to screen all audience members going forward for the rest of the current season to prevent a repeat. Lochte, granted, raised the ire of a lot of people in the US & Brazil with his impersonation of a frat boy at age 32, but doesn't deserve to be reminded of his failings when he's trying to make reparations as best as possible. We in this country believe in giving people a second or third chance. It's just that there are a few Weasels that blind themselves to reality and get in the way of those chances.

What Might've Been: L'il Abner (1966-7)

Al Capp's seminal backwoods comic strip, L'il Abner, had been adapted into a feature film some years back with Peter Palmer in the title role. In 1966, it was reimagined for television, with Sammy Jackson (ex-No Time For Sergeants) replacing Palmer. NBC burned it off by airing it in September 1967.

Unfortunately, the complete broadcast is unavailable, and only three excerpts, making up about half the show, are available on YouTube.

In this excerpt, Pappy Yokum (Jerry Lester) is trying to keep Abner from getting too intimate with Daisy Mae (Jeannine Riley, ex-Petticoat Junction):

Yes, that's Robert Reed (ex-The Defenders), three years before The Brady Bunch, as Senator Cod. Supposedly, Sherwood Schwartz, the mastermind behind Brady Bunch & Gilligan's Island, was connected to L'il Abner, but since we don't get to see the closing credits, we'll never know for sure.

No rating.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Classic TV: The Life & Legend of Wyatt Earp (1955)

There were, seemingly, a zillion Westerns on television in the 50's & 60's. Seemed to be at least one or two per night.

Anyway, The Life & Legend of Wyatt Earp was billed as one of the first adult Westerns, along with Gunsmoke, which outlasted Earp by 14 years. The dramatizations of Earp's career exploits lasted for 6 seasons (1955-61). Hugh O'Brian was cast in the title role.

As we learn through the course of the series, Earp's appointment as Marshal of Tombstone was the apex of a career progression that began in Kansas. In this sample episode, Earp meets General Robert E. Lee......

In memory of Hugh O'Brian, who passed away last week.

Rating: A.

Sports this 'n' that

Back in the day, Alcoa Aluminum would sponsor a short highlight reel from the previous week during NFL games under the heading, Fantastic Finishes. Well, there were plenty of those on Sunday. Consider:

*--Cincinnati escaped the Meadowlands with a 23-22 win over the Jets after Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted with less than a minute left in the 4th quarter. This came after ex-Jet Mike Nugent booted the game winning field goal.

*--After choking away a half dozen games last year late, the Giants finally got one back, beating Dallas, 28-27. Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams, who should've known better, failed to go out of bounds on what was the last play of the game, spoiling the debuts of rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott.

*--Kansas City rallied from a 3 touchdown deficit to first force overtime, then defeat San Diego, 33-27. The Chiefs are in a 3-way knot atop the AFC West with Denver and Oakland, the latter of whom escaped New Orleans with a late comeback win.

*--New England, a road underdog, fended off Arizona, making Jimmy Garappolo a winner in his first start. As it was, the Patriots were the only AFC East team to win a game, as Miami, Buffalo, and the Jets all fell. The Dolphins also let a 4th quarter lead slip away, losing to Seattle. If you took the points with the Dolphins, though, you cashed in, as Miami was a double-digit underdog on the road.

It should also be pointed out that in the AFC South, Houston was the only winner, as Indianapolis fell to Detroit, 39-35, thanks to 1) a Matt Prater field goal with under a minute to play, and, 2) a safety in the end zone on the game's final play, as the Colts botched an attempt to lateral the ball down the field on the final kickoff. It looked more like they were trying the Harlem Globetrotters' weave play (if you've ever seen the 'Trotters, you know what I mean), and it was an epic fail!
High schools: Four years removed from a Big 10 and Section II championship, Troy High's boys varsity soccer team can't buy a win, much less a goal. The Flying Horses are 0-4 after dropping a 4-0 verdict to Ballston Spa on Saturday afternoon in front of a sparse crowd at Picken Memorial Field.

I could see why they're losing. They're not aggressive enough on defense, leaving too much room for their opponents. Troy has scored just 1 goal in 4 games, mired in the basement of the Suburban Council's Grey division.

The women's varsity team isn't much better. They're also 0-4, and have been outscored 11-3 in their last two losses (Ballston Spa & Mohonasen). Ouch!

I mentioned before the lack of crowd support at Troy on Saturday. A security guard told me that for weeknight home games, students usually stick around after school, but with other options on Saturdays, well....!

Personal note: When I was a student at Troy High (1979-81), the fortunes of the men's soccer team and the football team were the opposite of today's teams. I've often told the story about how the football team couldn't execute a simulated goal line offensive play at a pep rally, of all things, while the soccer team was among the contenders for the Big 10 title. It's funny how times change.

The soccer teams aren't alone in their futility at present. The boys' golf team has won just 1 match that I know of, as results aren't always reported to the papers. The women's volleyball is 3-1 after beating Mohonasen on Thursday night in straight sets. Again, not all the results are reported to the papers. Troy's cross country & swimming teams are also starving for print space.

Meanwhile, Troy's football team, currently 2-0, has something in terms of incentive as it relates to the Class AA Super Bowl. The game will be played on November 3, a Thursday night, at RPI's East Campus Village Stadium, situated behind the Houston Field House, both just a short distance from the Dudley Van Arnam campus that is home to THS and the neighboring Troy Middle School. If Troy makes it to the Super Bowl this year, it's virtually a de facto home game.
Colleges: After reading of the controversy surrounding the end of Saturday's Central Michigan-Oklahoma State game, I cannot help but think that, in the interest of fairness to both schools and their respective leagues (Mid America and Big 12), maybe the referee's decision to end the game after a clear botch shouldn't be the last one. In case you hadn't heard, after a penalty on Oklahoma State, Central Michigan was granted an untimed down, and scored the game winning touchdown. Too often in recent years, game officials have made inexcusable gaffes that have irretrievably altered the course of games. Now, I know the game's not supposed to end on a defensive penalty, so where the problem was is simply poor clock management on the part of game officials. All they needed to do was look at video, figure out how much time was left, and put the time back on the clock. Then, there's no untimed down.
UFC: So CM Punk (Phil Brooks) lost his first MMA fight Saturday night, a submission loss to Mickey Gall in 2:00 of the first round. He says he'll keep on fighting, but UFC chief Dana White thinks Punk should take a step down before he tries to get back into the biggest MMA stage.

Bobby Lashley could probably relate to that. The current TNA champion fought in a smaller MMA promotion before signing with Bellator, and of course there are rumors flying that if Punk wants to return to wrestling, a 2nd tour of duty with TNA would be in the cards (Punk was in TNA in 2003), especially for a big money match with Lashley. Otherwise, Punk would have his developing career as a comic book writer to fall back on, though Marvel just cancelled Drax.
WWE: Speaking of guys who used to be in TNA, former NWA, TNA, & IWGP champ AJ Styles added the WWE World title to his resume on Sunday night, but needed a low blow, after the ref was knocked down, to unseat Dean Ambrose at Backlash. At least Styles succeeded on his own. The same cannot be said for grappler-actor Michael "The Miz" Mizanin, who needed illegal help from his wife, Maryse, to keep the Intercontinental title away from Dolph Ziggler. All that does is continue the narrative established a couple of weeks earlier that Miz has become a coward in the eyes of retired former champion Daniel Bryan, now the GM of Smackdown. 3rd party interference certainly would reinforce that notion, and it reduces Miz's credibility as champion to an all-time low. By the way, I wouldn't call myself an A-lister when all of Miz's movies either go direct-to-video or are made for cable. His 12 year association with WWE has netted endorsement deals with KFC (shared with Ziggler, as we've previously seen) and Domino's, the latter in his current role as the smug, self-overrated actor. Unfortunately, the act is bordering on stale.
Baseball: We're used to the idea that every even numbered year results in the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series. It happened in 2010, 2012, & 2014. However, the Giants are clinging to a wild card at present, with the Mets, Cardinals, and Pirates leading a pack of challengers as we're in the season's final three weeks. It's looking more and more like the Cubs will be the #1 seed in the NL, and Washington would have to avoid another collapse, with the Mets hot on their heels, to perhaps be the #2 seed. Don't look now, but despite losing to Tampa Bay on Sunday, the Yankees are still in position to slip in the back door for a wild card berth of their own. And we all wrote them off just a few weeks ago.........!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Classic TV: The real Colonel Sanders on I've Got a Secret (1964)

If you're like me, and you're tired of KFC going through a revolving door of actors portraying Colonel Harland Sanders (Rob Riggle of Fox NFL Sunday is the latest), why not get acquainted with the real thing. Sanders appeared on I've Got a Secret in 1964. The program also includes actor Wally Cox (ex-Mr. Peepers), a few months before Underdog endeared him to children everywhere.

Presented as a public service.

On the shelf: Girl power revived and revisited

When DC decided several months back to repackage Batgirl by moving her into a heretofore unseen section of Gotham City and revamping her costume, I thought, she doesn't need any hipster cred. The Timberland-style boots clash with the rest of the costume.

Well, prior to the latest reboot in the "Rebirth" initiative, Batgirl was one of the better-selling titles at DC, such that when "Rebirth" hit, the company decided to reform the all-female super team, the Birds of Prey, which Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) founded while still working as Oracle. What drives the first story arc is that someone has co-opted Babs' former online alias for herself, forcing Batgirl and Black Canary (whose solo series was cancelled) into an alliance with the Huntress (fresh from Dick Grayson's James Bond-wannabe solo book), reforming the Birds. Armed with the intel she gathered as an agent of Spyral, Huntress holds her knowledge of Batgirl and Canary's dual ID's like two swords of Damocles.

So much negativity. Can your heart stand it?

Rating: B--.

Meanwhile, a year after the "New Riverdale" initiative began at Archie, Betty & Veronica returns, written and drawn by one of the premier "good girl" artists in the business, Adam Hughes. That's the good news. The bad is that Hughes had to have been told he needed a gimmick to sell the book. That gimmick is using Jughead's sheepdog sidekick, Hot Dog, as narrator.

I loved Hughes' work on the crime drama series, The Maze Agency, nearly 30 years ago. As writer and artist, Hughes is letting his imagination run wild, hence the use of Hot Dog, though I'm not digging. Meanwhile, the on-again, off-again BFF's are at odds when a major coffee chain that Hiram Lodge owns decides to open a shop in Riverdale, driving Pop Tate's restaurant out of business unless Betty and the rest of the gang can do something about it. At least the friction between the girls is consistent with their usage over in Archie. The six weeks or more between issues should work to Hughes' advantage, but the company's decision to raise their cover prices to $4 an issue a couple of years back will start driving readers away soon.

From this desk, it's weaker than the other books.

Rating: C.

Perhaps realizing that the horror line is on life support due to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's television commitments, Sabrina is being integrated into "New Riverdale", beginning in the current issue of Jughead. No sign of Harvey Kinkle, however, at least not yet, as they're teasing pairing Sabrina and Jughead as a couple. This starts when Juggie falls for the "Burger Lady", finding out on the last page who she really is. The use of a new logo for Sabrina suggests she'll get a "New Riverdale" book sometime next year. Might be just as well.

For those of you who haven't been reading the horror books, Harvey was killed off in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 4, only to be possessed by Sabrina's oh-so-evil pops in the next issue. Eeeeeewwwwww!

DC is launching a new line of titles under the name, Young Animal, which includes the revivals of Doom Patrol and Cave Carson, the latter a science fiction hero from the 60's, but now outfitted with a bionic eye. Shade has also been revived, but it's not the character created nearly 40 years ago by Steve Ditko. Oh, no. Instead, it's Shade, The Changing Girl, a teen from Meta who has emigrated to Earth looking for Rac Shade, her idol. She possesses a human teenager to learn about Earth life. Again, the cover price is a problem for those with tight budgets, as each book is ticketed at $4 per issue. As a local dealer confided, it may be because DC knows the line will fail and they want to make as much money as possible.

If I've read recent online articles correctly, it seems DC has already cut one of their 4 Hanna-Barbera books. Wacky Raceland reportedly will end with issue 6, out in November, suggesting that it was actually a miniseries, though never solicited as such. Apparently, despite the swank Leonardo Manco artwork we talked about previously, that $4 cover is what's driving people away. I get that in this case there are licensing fees involved, even though it's intra-company, but Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes doesn't believe in corporate synergy. His loss.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

What Might've Been: 87th Precinct (1961)

Crime novelist Ed McBain's legendary series, 87th Precinct, was adapted for television by producer Hubbell Robinson in 1961. That was the good news. The bad? It was cancelled after just 1 season, and it deserved a better fate than that.

The TV version had an ensemble cast, headed up by Robert Lansing, and also featuring Ron Harper and Norman Fell. Robinson had hitched his wagon to Revue Studios, which also co-produced Boris Karloff's anthology series, Thriller, but after Thriller was cancelled, Robinson was not heard from again.

So why did it fail? There were plenty of crime dramas on the air at the time, some were a half-hour, and others, like 87th Precinct, were one hour shows. Perhaps it came along at just the wrong time. We'll never know.

Right now, let's take a look at the opener, "The Floater", with guest star Robert Culp.

The cast in this episode also includes Victor Sen Yung (Bonanza) and Dallas McKennon, later of Daniel Boone, but at the time better known to millions of kids as the voice behind Gumby & Courageous Cat.

Rating: A.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Musical Interlude: Angel of the Morning (1981)

Take a close look at Juice Newton in the following video. Notice any sort of resemblance between Juice, who was in her late 20's when she released a cover of Merrilee Rush's 1967 1-hit wonder, "Angel of the Morning", and current pop (and former country) princess Taylor Swift?

Maybe Taylor would be wise to cover "Angel" down the road......

Thames on 9 Week: Love Thy Neighbour (1972)

Love Thy Neighbour is a rare British sitcom whose American counterpart retains the same title, though with a slight spelling change. Tell you about the American version after we see the series opener of Thames' version from 1972.

I'm more familiar, though just barely, with a short-lived American Love Thy Neighbor, with a similar theme song, to boot, that aired on ABC in 1973, and starred Ron Masak (later of Murder, She Wrote) and Joyce Bulifant (who otherwise played Gavin McLeod's wife on The Mary Tyler Moore Show). Didn't watch much of that, and it's not available on YouTube.

No rating.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Thames on 9 Week: Man About The House (1973)

In the 70's, American writers began looking across the pond to England for new ideas, or at least what they could adapt. For example, Steptoe & Son was rebooted here as Sanford & Son, using a mostly African-American cast. 'Til Death Do Us Part begat All in The Family. The racy sitcom, Three's Company, was an adaptation of Man About The House.

The basic plot is the same. Two young women, working for the same employer in this series, take in a male roommate to replace a female friend who has moved away. In order to get past the landlord's restrictions regarding relationships, the male, Robin Tripp, is passed off as gay, but by the 2nd episode, the landlord's wife finds out the truth, and, to get back at her husband, flirts with Robin.

When House was brought stateside as Three's Company in 1977, Robin Tripp became Jack Tripper. George & Mildred Roper were now Stanley & Helen Roper. Maintaining the links to its British origins, Company spun The Ropers into their own series, just like George & Mildred. Can't say for sure if Robin's Nest, the follow-up to House, is directly linked to Three's a Crowd, though.

From series 2 comes "Colour me Yellow". Seems Robin has taken up judo, but gets a bully bothering the girls to back off with mere words, a decision he soon regrets.

I think part of the reason The Ropers bombed was because Norman Fell, long a supporting player, had previously proven unable to carry a show as a lead, having previously top-lined Needles & Pins. Not sure about George & Mildred, though. House had ended production by the time it aired on WOR on this date in 1976.

Rating: B.

Forgotten TV: The Six O'Clock Follies (1980)

While M*A*S*H was rolling along on CBS, NBC decided they needed a brand new service comedy, albeit one set during the Vietnam War. What they got was a total bomb.

The Six O'Clock Follies was a spring replacement series in 1980. Six episodes were ordered, but only four aired. The show was set around the AFVN (Armed Forces Vietnam Network) news team. You've heard of Armed Forces Radio, I'm sure, but not so sure they tried television. Too costly and dangerous, you might think.

Randall Carver came over from Taxi to star in this show. Turned out to be a big career mistake, although Taxi didn't last too much longer after this. In fact, a few years later, Taxi moved from ABC to NBC to finish its run. Joby Baker hadn't done anything since Good Morning, World in 1967, which happens to be the year Follies was set in. The ensemble also included some future stars in Philip Charles McKenzie (later of Brothers), Laurence "Larry" Fishburne (most recently on CSI), whose next TV gig was the Saturday morning series, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, six years later, Bill Paxton, and Phil Hartman (later of Pee-Wee's Playhouse, Saturday Night Live, Newsradio, & The Simpsons).

Gilmore Box offers the intro. The theme song is performed by Joe Cocker.

I had heard of the show through commercials, but never saw it otherwise. No rating.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Thames on 9 Week: Callan (1967)

About the only genre that Thames Television didn't have had to be a Western. They seemed to have everything else.

That includes spy dramas. Callan, which launched in 1967, ran for 4 "series" of varying length, totaling 43 episodes. For viewers here in the US, it was an introduction to Edward Woodward, who essayed the title role, and would later top-line an American drama, The Equalizer, in the 80's.

Callan's basic concept saw the title spy walking away from The Section, which might be a darker version of, say for example, the CIA here in the US. Part of the reason Callan quit was because he had become interested in learning about the targets he'd been assigned to kill. It's not quite unlike Patrick McGoohan's seminal psychological drama for ITC, The Prisoner, which ran for one series around the same time that Callan launched.

Here's the pilot, "A Magnum For Schneider":

The series' coda actually came with the 1981 TV-movie, "Wet Job". Some episodes are available on DVD, depending on where you look.

No rating. Didn't see it when it aired on WOR.

Musical Interlude: Beer For My Horses (2003)

Toby Keith's final single from his 2003 CD, "Unleashed", pairs him with Willie Nelson on "Beer For My Horses".

The video has Nelson as a retired lawman aiding Toby and guest star Corin Nemec (ex-Parker Lewis Can't Lose) in catching a serial killer.......

To think that Nemec would follow this up with a string of made-for-cable and/or direct-to-video clunkers, including something called "Mansquito", which popped up a couple of years after this video.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Thames on 9 Week: The Sweeney (1975)

American television was overrun with crime dramas as much as sitcoms in the 70's. For cable viewers, there would be a temporary alternative.

Thames' The Sweeney bowed in January 1975, and lasted until 1978, spawning two feature films in the process. Now, try figuring this out. The show chronicled the exploits of the "Flying Squad", the British equivalent, if you will, of a Major Crimes Unit for a local police force here in the US. The Cockney slang for Flying Squad took its name from Sweeney Todd, the "Demon Barber of Fleet Street", whom most of you know from a Broadway production and subsequent feature film.

I wish I actually had been able to watch the show when it aired on WOR on September 8, 1976, but I didn't, so there's no rating. We'll leave you with a sample open & close.

Seems there was a movement afoot to revive the series in England as recently as a couple of years ago. I wouldn't mind a DVD release made available here in the US. Wouldn't you?

Sports this 'n' that

The NCAA sent a pretty loud message to the NFL after their first week. The message? NFL week 1 has a tough act to follow.

ABC/ESPN delivered two thrillers in as many nights to make up for the snooze-inducing Alabama blowout of USC on Saturday night. First, Texas needed double overtime to defeat Notre Dame in a rare Sunday night tilt. More on that shortly. Then, last night, Florida State overcame a 22 point deficit to beat Mississippi. Simply put, the Rebels of Ole Miss took their collective foot off the Seminoles' collective throat, and it cost them. Big time.

Back to Texas-Notre Dame. It comes out in today's papers that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly had a gripe with the game officials over a non-call in the final minute of the 3rd quarter. The issue? A targeting foul wasn't called on a Texas defensive back after he reportedly led with the helmet with a hit on Notre Dame wide receiver Torii Hunter, Jr., the son of the former baseball player who retired after last season.

The bigger issue that hasn't been addressed is the choice of game officials. Notre Dame, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference after years of independence, should've requested neutral officials, since they were playing Texas, a Big 12 school. Big 12 officials worked the game, and, less than 48 hours after the game had been played, you wonder if the Big 12 zebras might've been biased toward one of their member schools at the end of the night. Yes, Texas was the home team, the game was in Austin, after all, and wasn't one of these made-for-TV specials that ensures neutral officials as well as a neutral field. A tape of the hit on Hunter has been sent to the ACC offices, in the hopes they'll contact their counterparts in the Big 12.
NFL rosters were pared down to 53 on Saturday, but the Giants & Jets made some bonehead moves that may just come back to haunt them later.

Both teams gave up on 2014 draft picks. In the Jets' case, tight end Jace Amaro, who was on injured reserve and didn't play last year, was picked up on waivers by Tennessee. Typical Jets. They play eeny-meeny-miney-moe to figure out who has to be the last cut, and they get burned.

The Giants cut running back Andre Williams. I'd not be surprised if another team claims him before the Giants can bring him back. Then again, Big Blue and Gang Green weren't the only ones wasting draft picks from the 2014 class. Tennessee dumped QB Zach Mettenberger, who was picked up by Pittsburgh. Apparently, Johnny Manchild isn't playing this year, as Johnny Manziel has gone back to Texas A & M to get his degree, something he should've done before signing with Cleveland two years ago. His career, then, is on hold. Best thing for him.
It seems as though the Mets are following a familiar script this September.

Most pundits had already written them off before the weekend series vs. Washington. The first-place Nationals won on Friday, but the Mets, with rookies Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo standing in for Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom (the latter pitched on Thursday), won the next two, then beat Cincinnati on Monday. Entering play tonight, the Mets are 1 game out of the 2nd NL Wild Card, held by St. Louis at present, 8 1/2 games behind Washington in the NL East. As the late Yogi Berra reportedly said, it ain't over 'til it's over.

The Mets have followed this underdog trail before, in 1969 and 1973. It has been 30 years since they steamrolled the NL en route to a World Series win over Boston. I wouldn't write them off until the season's final game.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Thames on 9 Week: Bless This House (1971)

In sharp contrast to yesterday's Thames on 9 subject, Get Some In!, Bless This House, a standard domestic sitcom, had more episodes on average per "series" (The British term for season). 65 episodes were produced over the course of 6 "series" (1971-6), or, an average of 10 episodes apiece. The first three series had 12 episodes each. Series 4 had just 6, series 5 had 10, and series 6 had 13 to sort of get things back to normal.

Sidney James starred as Sid Abbott, husband, father, Arsenal fan (soccer fans will know the reference). Bless plays out similarly to the standard American domestic sitcoms of the day. Case in point, the episode, "A Beef in His Bonnet", when Sid's children, Mike & Sally, bring home a crate full of corned beef........

If memory serves me correctly, Bless has also aired on PBS stations here in the US, but is not to be confused with a short-lived 1996 CBS sitcom by the same title, which was an attempt to resurrect the career of stand-up comic Andrew Dice Clay.

Rating: B.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Thames on 9 Week: Get Some In! (1975)

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Thames on 9, the programming exchange between Thames Television and WOR-TV of New York.

To kick things off, we'll begin with the service comedy, Get Some In!.

Yes, the British were willing to poke fun at their own military, just as much as we did in the 60's (i.e. McHale's Navy, F-Troop) and early 70's (Roll Out!). Get Some In! lasted 5 seasons, with each season, or series as they're known in England, lasting 6-7 episodes each. I think now I know where our cable networks got their idea for short-season programming, don't you?

Let's take a look at a sample episode:

By the time Get Some In! aired on WOR on Sept. 7, 1976, they were about to begin their 2nd or 3rd "series". I think part of the reason they made so few episodes for each series was the fact that Thames didn't have enough faith to warrant a full "series" each year. That lack of faith is justified, since Selby has no redeeming qualities, unlike, say, for example, Captain Binghamton (Joe Flynn, Mchale's Navy). As you doubtlessly can see, Fremantle Media now owns the rights.

Rating: B--.

A Classic Reborn: The $100,000 Pyramid (2016)

Once upon a time, syndicators would break up hour-long programs into half-hours to make it easier to sell the reruns to stations. Now, it's the other way around, and this change in strategy has moved to ABC.

As we documented previously, the network, in reviving To Tell The Truth & Match Game, as well as our next subject, The $100,000 Pyramid, for summer broadcast, expanded them to a full hour, just as they would be in syndication today. The idea now is that a half-hour just isn't enough to hold a viewer's attention for a game show. Actually, that's not true. It's just a case of lazy programming.

As I wrote in reviewing the revived Truth, the weakest of the revivals, ABC was better off including it in their Sunday block, especially considering host Anthony Anderson (Black-ish) crossed over to Pyramid, as did Match panelists such as Rosie O'Donnell and Sherri Shepherd. Continuity, kids. It works.

Michael Strahan (Good Morning America, Fox NFL Sunday) was tapped to serve as host for the new Pyramid, after GSN (a Sony network) flopped three years ago with Mike Richards as host for their half-hour revival. Like Anderson, Strahan, also a Metamucil pitchman, goes all Arsenio Hall in fawning over the female guests, such as Shepherd. Otherwise, he's fine. Game play stays the same, although gimmicks like the "Lucky/Super 7" have been excised for the nonce. Pyramid, along with the other games, will return next summer, preferably all together, and while they're at it, since they plumbed the Goodson-Todman vaults serviced by Fremantle Media, ABC can always ask for Password or What's My Line?, two more games that thrived in primetime back in the day, to be revived.

Here's a sample clip.

Rating: A.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

What Might've Been: Alexander the Great (1964-8)

It is the stuff of legend. Television legend, that is.

Alexander The Great was a legendary figure in history, true, but for years I'd read of an unsold pilot shot in the 60's, supposedly so bad it would not see the light of day again.

As a result of Alexander going unsold, two of the principal actors would wind up gaining iconic roles shortly thereafter, and have executive producer Selig J. Seligman (Combat!, General Hospital) to thank for at least giving them an opportunity to share the screen, something they would never have the opportunity to do again.

Additionally, you can imagine that Gene Roddenberry sent Seligman a thank you card, because had Alexander succeeded, he would have had to find another actor to play Captain James Kirk on Star Trek instead of William Shatner, who had been cast in the lead as Alexander. William Dozier, likewise, would've sent thanks, because Adam West would not otherwise have been available for Batman. West already had series experience under his belt (The Detectives) before Alexander. It should be noted that Peter Hansen would later surface on General Hospital as attorney Lee Baldwin, though I am not certain if he'd been part of the show's original cast when it launched in 1963.

Alexander The Great was originally filmed in 1964, but ABC kept it in the vaults until January 1968, when it reportedly was used on the anthology series, Off to See The Wizard. At the time, Batman was winding toward its finish, and Star Trek was halfway through its sophomore season.

As you'll see, the only reason either West or Shatner would land those iconic parts might be on charismatic appeal more than anything else. Shatner's delivery is predictable, given what we know from Star Trek and forward.

Here's Alexander The Great.

I just couldn't sit through this.

Rating: D.

High School Fridays: Shenendehowa @ Troy (football), 9/2/16

After 5 seasons in Class A, Troy High was promoted by New York's Section II back to Class AA in March, marking the first time in six years that the Flying Horses, who won the AA crown in 2010, would be in the upper echelon of high school football.

Coincidentally, their first opponent was the same team they beat to win the 2010 AA title, Shenendehowa. The local press recalled that night in Colonie where, on a muddy field, senior tailback Jordan Canzeri, who just recently graduated from Iowa, led Troy to a 38-0 shutout of the Plainsmen. Coaches Bob "The Builder" Burns (Troy) & Brian Clawson (Shen) were defensive coordinators for Jack Burger and Brent Steuerwald, respectively, that night. And, so, nearly six years later, the two would meet again, this time as head coaches.

The Plainsmen were coming off a 4-5 campaign, a rare sub-.500 record for a Shen team. Troy, of course, fell shy of the A title, losing to Amsterdam despite a furious 4th quarter rally. With the mention of the 2010 game, the Plainsmen now had motivation for revenge. Problem was, would they have enough weapons to get the job done?

The answer for the Green Machine was, well, no.

Troy took the opening kickoff and marched 70 yards in 6 plays, capped by a 25 yard touchdown run by junior tailback Joey Ward, a transfer from Bishop Maginn. Sophomore Jordan Audi added the extra point, and Troy had an early 7-0 lead. Shen, though, answered quickly, as Cole Vincenzi, on a halfback option pass, hit Griffin Wallner for 65 yards to tie the game.

Late in the quarter, senior quarterback John Germinerio found Ethan Evans in the end zone. Audi's point after was blocked, and Troy led, 13-7, after the first period.

Then, it became the Dev Holmes show.

The junior wideout scored on a long bomb from Germinerio and on a reverse sweep. One two point conversion was denied because of an ineligible receiver (lineman Saverio Yamin had his "lineman's dream" taken away), but Troy was able to convert on a 2nd attempt, and led, 27-7, at the half.

Shen starting quarterback Michael Spulnick was largely ineffective under center. He was sacked once, and threw two interceptions. So Coach Clawson put Vincenzi in at quarterback to start the 3rd quarter. Vincenzi put the Plainsmen in position to score, helped along by some sloppy defensive play by Troy and some overzealous officiating, as Troy was flagged about 2-3 times as much as Shen on the night. However, after controlling the ball for half of the 3rd quarter, Vincenzi coughed it up due to one of several high snaps from center in shotgun formation. Luis Virola picked up the loose ball, and was off to the races. His touchdown iced the game, as a late rally by Shen in the 4th quarter fell short, stopped on downs, with Troy winning, 33-7. Vincenzi was sacked himself three times, in addition to the fumble.

Up next for Troy is a road game at Bethlehem, which won their opener over Colonie. Shen continues a season-opening road trip at Ballston Spa, as their home opener is not until Sept. 16 vs. Niskayuna, which, like Troy, moves up from Class A. Troy returns home on the 16th to play in-city rival LaSalle in the resumption of that long running series.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

What Might've Been: The Jean Arthur Show (1966)

Universal supplied CBS with not one, but two new sitcoms in 1966 to replace The Munsters. We've already seen Pistols & Petticoats, so let's take a look at The Jean Arthur Show.

Arthur plays a lawyer, working in partnership with her son (Ron Harper, ex-87th Precinct). That plays a vital role in the sample episode we're going to show. Mother & son are on opposite sides of a case involving a cranky businessman and a rooster, belonging to a neighbor's son (Clint Howard). Olan Soule (ex-Captain Midnight) plays the judge.

Standard sitcom fare, and there were a lot of sitcoms back then. Perhaps too many, forcing this show off the air. Its replacement? Another Universal entry we've previously covered. Mr. Terrific.

Ron Harper would move back to drama with Garrison's Gorillas the next year, while Clint Howard parlayed this gig into Gentle Ben.

Rating: B-.

NFL 2016 preview

I haven't watched a lot of pre-season NFL this summer, and with the season opener a week away as I write, I'm just going to take a wild guess at the divisions.

AFC East:

1. New England: The Patriots have not blown people away this summer, unlike past pre-seasons. Tom Brady will miss the 1st 4 games, serving his suspension a year later than we'd have liked, but there's no guarantee the Pats will make a deep run.

2. Miami.
3. Buffalo.

4. Jets: Owner Woody Johnson is committed to Geno Smith for some reason, even though Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter, such that last year's QB prospect, Bryce Petty, was rumored to be cut, leaving rookie Christian Hackenburg (Penn State) carrying the clipboard.

AFC North:

1. Cincinnati: Like New England, the division is the Bengals' to lose. 

2. Baltimore.
3. Pittsburgh.

4. Cleveland: Exit Johnny Manchild, enter RGIII (Washington). Doesn't matter. The Browns will still reside in the basement.

AFC South:

1. Houston: The Texans basically swapped running backs with Miami (Arian Foster exits, Lamar Miller replaces him). It's their division by default.

2. Indianapolis: Hopefully Andrew Luck won't be making any stupid commercials this year.

3. Tennessee: The Titans gave up on 2014 draft pick Zach Mettenberger. Big mistake.

3 (tie): Jacksonville.

AFC West:

1. Kansas City: Andy Reid has one monkey off his back with a certain rival QB having retired, so the division is his to lose.

2. Oakland

3. Denver: Peyton Manning's still shillin' for DirecTV, so the Broncos wasted money on Mark Sanchez, and handed the starting job to rookie Trevor Simien. This will not end well for the defending champs.

4. San Diego.

NFC East:

1. Dallas: Dak Prescott is the real deal. Tony Romo might as well retire to the arts & crafts studio.

2. Washington: Can Kirk "Kissin'" Cousins lead the "Americans" to the promised land? Well, a Wild Card would be a good start.

2 (tie). Philadelphia.

4. Giants. "Gentle" Ben McAdoo took almost half of last year before his offense began to click. From what I've seen in pre-season, it's more of the same.

NFC North:

1. Green Bay. Same old, same old. The fact that linebackers Clay Matthews, Jr. & Julius Peppers were dragged through the mud because of long-since-recanted allegations broadcast on Al Jazeera America at the end of last year will be a motivating point.

2. Minnesota.
3. Detroit.
4. Chicago.

NFC South:

1. Carolina: Cam Newton retired the "dab", but he'll find some other way to infuriate opponents.

2. Tampa Bay: Don't laugh.

2 (tie): New Orleans
4. Atlanta.

NFC West: 

1. Seattle: Can the Seahawks make it three Super Bowls in 4 years? Hmmmm.

2. Arizona.

3. Los Angeles: Football is back in La-la land, and the Rams will contend for at least a Wild Card to save Jeff Fisher's job.

4. San Francisco: The drama over Colin Kaepernick is going to be a worse distraction than you think.

Too early to think about Wild Cards and playoffs. Check back with me in December. Of course, I could be wrong.