Friday, March 31, 2017

Celebrity Rock: Just In Time (1970's)

Ok, I didn't know about this until I ran across this clip earlier today.

The late Allen Ludden moonlighted, if ya will, during the early years of Password and recorded an album of standards. He and wife Betty White did a summer stock production of the film, "Bells Are Ringing", which movie mavens will associate with actress Judy Holliday.

However, this might be the only time that I know of that the Luddens sang together on television. The occasion was a guest appearance on Dinah! & Friends in the late 70's. Password either was off the air or soon to return as Password Plus. Dinah Shore, along with Hal Linden (Barney Miller) and his wife, are as enraptured as the audience as Allen & Betty sing "Just In Time":

Forgotten TV: The Steve Lawrence Show (1965)

By the mid-60's, variety shows were gradually overtaking Westerns on network schedules. In 1965, CBS took a chance with singer-actor Steve Lawrence, giving him the 10 pm (ET) berth behind a powerhouse comedy block that included The Lucy Show, Hazel, & The Andy Griffith Show, though not in that order.

However, The Steve Lawrence Show didn't get past Christmas, cancelled in December 1965 due to poor ratings. It was the last variety show filmed in black & white, and maybe that may have played a hand in the series' sudden demise.

I was but a toddler then, and never saw the show, so no rating this time. However, what I can tell you is that the announcer at the start is future game show icon Gene Wood.

I guess by this point, variety shows were quickly becoming a dime a dozen, just like Westerns, sitcoms, and crime dramas.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Baseball preview 2017, part 2--American League forecast

Major League Baseball now starts their season on a Sunday, and this year, it's not just confined to the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball opener, as there are day games on the bill. I can't think of a better time than to continue our preview of the season, and focus on the American League. The National League preview comes on Saturday.
American League East:

Toronto lost a large chunk of offense when Edwin Encarnacion took the money and ran to AL Champ Cleveland in the offseason. Outfielder Michael Saunders is gone, too (Philadelphia), as are pitcher R. A. Dickey (Atlanta) and reserve catchers Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole. Thole is now in Arizona. While Marcus Stroman helped carry Team USA to the World Baseball Classic title last week, I don't know if he can sustain the momentum. Boston will try to make it two division titles in a row, and all they did with the departure of David Ortiz (retirement) was retain Pablo Sandoval, hoping he can relocate his confidence and power stroke. Add him to an already lethal offense fronted by two-sport star Mookie Betts, and this could be the Year of the Panda after all. The Sawx let Travis Shaw go to give Sandoval his job back at third base. The Yankees don't have much pitching past Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda, but they did get Aroldis Chapman back to close after he won a World Series with the Cubs. We already discussed the Bombers in detail. Tampa Bay is rebuilding, and I'd not be surprised if they finally sent Evan Longoria packing for prospects. I would not sleep on Baltimore. The Orioles will always be a threat.

Projected order of finish:

1. Boston.
2. Baltimore.
3. Yankees.
4. Toronto.
5. Tampa Bay.

American League Central:

Kansas City may have made a mistake in letting Wade Davis leave (Cubs). Mourning the loss of pitcher Yordano Ventura, who passed away in the offseason, the Royals now have Danny Duffy as their #1 starter. Second generation player Raul Mondesi, Jr. has made the opening day roster. While his dad was an outfielder with the Yankees and Dodgers, the younger Mondesi is an infielder. Who knew? Cleveland is in the same position the Royals were in. Oh so close to ending a title draught before falling in 7 to the Cubs, but I don't think they can sneak up on anyone this time. If the World Series didn't teach the lesson, the WBC certainly proved that Andrew Miller is mortal after all. Terry Francona can only go so far with a no-name rotation. Detroit is also in a period of mourning, as owner Mike Ilitch, the founder of Little Caesar's Pizza, passed away. Ilitch also owned the Red Wings, who've already honored him. Winning WBC manager Jim Leyland is an assistant to the GM, but I'd not be surprised if, coming off the WBC, he's coaxed back into the dugout if management sours on Brad Ausmus before the All-Star Break. Chicago jettisoned Robin Ventura and brought in Rick Renteria, whose stint with the Cubs was cut short so the North Siders could sign Joe Maddon. However, ace pitcher Chris Sale is gone (Boston), and while Jose Quintana impressed in the WBC, he's not a real #1 starter, in this writer's opinion. Minnesota needs a quality starter other than Ervin Santana and decide if Joe Mauer can transition full-time to first base. Bear in mind, the Mets tried that with Mike Piazza at the end of his run with them, and it failed spectacularly. San Francisco's doing the same thing with Buster Posey. Cincinnati, as memory serves, tried out Johnny Bench at both first and third at the end of his career. Bench & Piazza are in the Hall of Fame. Mauer could get there, but only if the Twins can end a 26 year draught.

Projected order of finish:

1. Cleveland.
2. Detroit.
2 (tie). Kansas City.
4. Chicago.
5. Minnesota.

American League West:

The window of opportunity for Los Angeles DH/1B Albert Pujols to win another World Series may be closing. When the bulk of your offense is Pujols, Mike Trout, and Kole Calhoun, it's no wonder the Angels haven't lived up to expectations. Seattle acquired infielder Jean Segura (Arizona) to give them speed at the top of the lineup and a better double-play partner for Robinson Cano. Not sure if that will be enough to take them to the top. The division will again be a Lone Star showdown between Texas & Houston. The Astros welcomed back Carlos Beltran, who split last season between the Yankees and Rangers, but they're hoping he can recapture his post-season 2004 form. Beltran is being reunited with catcher Brian McCann, who lost his starting job with the Yankees due to the emergence of Gary Sanchez. The Troy-to-Houston pipeline continues to produce, with AJ Reed & Joe Musgrove reaching the bigs last year. Meanwhile, in Arlington, the Rangers are hoping Josh Hamilton can find his missing stroke, but they've got a blossoming star in second baseman Roughned Odor, who just signed a contract extension the other day. As for Oakland, rebuilding starts anew. That's all I can say.

Projected order of finish:

1. Houston.
2. Texas.
3. Seattle.
4. Los Angeles.
5. Oakland.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

When MTV was cool: Remember Randee of the Redwoods? (1987)

It's too bad this guy never got to be a guest VJ on MTV back in the day----or did he?

Randee of the Redwoods (Jim Turner) was one of those new faces that popped up in the late 80's, appearing in short interstital skits leading into or out of commercial breaks. Only a small handful of these were made between 1987-1990, and then, Randee was gone. Turner went on to make a few movies, including MTV's own "Joe's Apartment".

You've probably seen this next item on MTV Classic....

Like, cool, man.

Only in the South: Kentucky fans scapegoat a referee and attack his out-of-state business

It's well known that some college officials have day jobs to go back to during the week. It just happens that one referee is feeling a long distance backlash after Sunday's North Carolina-Kentucky Elite 8 game in the NCAA basketball tournament.

John Higgins owns a roofing business in Nebraska, and you'd think he'd have a nice plane ride back home after the game, won by North Carolina, 75-73. But, in the eyes of Kentucky's rabid fan base, Higgins screwed over the Wildcats with some questionable fouls during the game. Now, I didn't see the game myself, so I can't judge, but it's clear that some of the more brain-dead Kentucky fans took things to far by finding the Facebook page of John Higgins Weatherguard, Inc., in Omaha, and leaving some nasty comments.

It's one thing to be upset with the man and his secondary job, but to disparage and trash his primary business? Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic. I get that they treat college hoops in Kentucky like a secondary religion in much the same manner Texans obsess over football, be it high school, college, or the NFL's Cowboys and/or Texans. But, here's the problem. Obsessing over sports is not the be-all and end-all of anything.

Let me give you an example. I work in an office where the company president is a die-hard Miami Dolphins fan. The office manager is a fan of both UAlbany and Syracuse football & basketball. One customer service rep is a Mets fan, like me, and also roots for the Cowboys. One of our sales reps is another Mets fan. None of us obsess over our teams. We just take things one game at a time, one day at a time. Where the Kentucky fans have a problem is that they leave common sense at home when they go to the games or, if the Wildcats are on the road, to the nearest sports bars. Kentucky hasn't had a pro basketball team since the original ABA folded, taking the Colonels with them, so the Wildcats' hoops teams are treated as if they're the #1 gate attraction, aside from the Kentucky Derby in May.

Bottom line: Kentucky fans owe John Higgins an apology, especially once it's proven he doesn't have it in for their team.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What Might've Been: Paris 7000 (1970)

ABC had backed themselves right into a corner. The early returns on the adaptation of Harold Robbins' The Survivors (as it was billed) were not good. The network had gotten a full season commitment from Universal for the series, but, by the holidays, it was decided to shelve The Survivors, leaving only co-star George Hamilton, for a new series to rise from the ashes.

Unfortunately, while Paris 7000 sounded like a nice idea, it was saddled with the stigma of the Survivors debacle.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't even know this show existed until I read an entry in a reference book I keep at my desk. Hadn't seen anything on it online until tonight. Hence, no rating. We'll leave you with the intro:

How do you fax a beer? (1992)

This had to be one of the wackiest ad campaigns in human history.

Budweiser called upon country singer Hank Williams, Jr. to record a tune that would be used in an ad campaign in 1992. At the time, the use of fax machines was still in relative infancy, having launched in the late 80's.

Just check out this goofy commercial:

The complete song appears on Williams' CD, "Maverick". Williams never produced a full-length video outside of the commercial, so let's just settle for this:

Y'think maybe Hank had a few too many cold ones when he wrote this song?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Forgotten TV: Not For Women Only (1968)

Long before developing The View into the long running mid-day talk show it is today, Barbara Walters tried her hand at hosting a talk show outside of NBC's Today. Bear in mind that Walters didn't ascend to the lead anchor position on Today until the passing of Frank McGee in 1974, but by then, she was already six years into the syndicated Not For Women Only.

I never saw the show, so there won't be a rating. However, the video below will show that this series had a blueprint that other syndicated talkers would use for years to come.

It's unfortunate that the episode is incomplete. Similarly, there isn't much online information about the show, which is why it's filed under "Forgotten TV", despite the fact that it was really a prototype.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Musical Interlude: Hold The Line (1978)

"Hold The Line" was the first single from Toto from their self-titled 1978 debut album. "Line" reached the top 10 in both the US & UK.

Songwriter-keyboard player David Paich, in case anyone wonders, is in fact the son of composer Marty Paich, who scored a number of movies and television shows in the 60's & 70's.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Baseball 2017 preview, part 1: Mets & Yankees

In a little more than a week, it all begins for real for Major League Baseball. A number of questions abound. Can the Cubs repeat? Can the Nationals finally get past the 1st round and break the Dusty Curse? Can they even make the post-season 2 years in a row? And do the Mets and/or Yankees have enough to get to the post-season? In the Mets' case, that would be for the 3rd year in a row, something they've never done.

We'll start with the Mets & Yankees.

Yankees: Amidst the retirements of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixiera, the Yanks finished 4th last year, but they're thinking the influx of youth into the lineup in the form of first baseman Greg Bird and outfielder Aaron Judge, assuming the latter makes the roster by this time next week, surrounded by remaining veterans on the order of Jacoby Ellsbury and Starlin Castro, will make them contenders again. In the words of ESPN's Lee Corso, not so fast, my friends.

Not only are Teixiera and Rodriguez gone, but so is Brian McCann (Houston), leaving 2nd year phenom Gary Sanchez behind the plate. I've seen some of these guys come along like a house of fire right off the bat (Shane Spencer, anyone?), only to flame out rather quickly. Sanchez would be the first home-grown backstop to be an All-Star since Jorge Posada, but let's see what he can do over a full season. Bird missed all of last year due to injury. Expect him to split time with Chris Carter (Milwaukee) at first. There's no guarantee Carter will be around long-term, though, not with a low batting average in pre-season. Too many strikeouts. I think now you can see why Houston let him go after the 2015 season. The Yankees also signed Matt Holliday (St. Louis) to play both outfield and first, although the outfield positions are pretty much set (Brett Gardner, Ellsbury, Judge or Aaron Hicks).

Unfortunately, they start the season without shortstop Didi Gregorius, who injured his shoulder during the World Baseball Classic. Gregorius is out until May at the very least. Where the Yanks have other questions is, of course, pitching. Sure, they made the World Champion Cubs look stupid as Arolids Chapman returns to the Bronx, but the concern is with the rotation. Aside from Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, there aren't other proven commodities. Luis Severino was hot & cold last year, more cold than hot, actually. Adam Warren returned from Chicago when Chapman was traded in July, but is he really a dependable starter?

Prediction: The Yankees will contend for the Wild Card, but fall short again. They have to hope either Boston or Baltimore implodes enough to let them slip through. 3rd place, at least, means they did improve.

Mets: In comparison, as Terry Collins begins his 7th season in Flushing, there's relatively more stability in the lineup than there is in the Bronx. The Mets retained second baseman Neil Walker and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, but questions remain about the long-term health of third baseman David Wright, which is why the right side of the infield remains a rotation of Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores, and, if he makes the opening day roster, Eric Campbell. They don't have insurance at first anymore behind Lucas Duda, as James Loney returned to Tampa Bay via free agency. Outfielder Brandon Nimmo may begin the season on the DL with a hamstring injury sustained during the WBC, which would mean that Michael Conforto would be on the roster to start the season, alongside Cespedes and Curtis Granderson.

Catching may be a problem. Travis d'Arnaud didn't have a good year last year. Neither did Kevin Plawecki, but the Mets decided to keep them, and let Anthony Recker walk (Atlanta). Veteran Rene Rivera should be the starter if d'Arnaud starts slowly again. Period.

Pitching isn't as bad a problem as it is with the Yankees. Yes, Bartolo Colon is gone (Atlanta). Jon Niese's 2nd tour of duty was short, and now he's in the Bronx. Closer Jeurys Familia likely will be suspended to start the season, due to domestic issues (see Aroldis Chapman last year), but there is a veteran closer in Addison Reed to fill the void. Colon's departure opens the door for Zack Wheeler to break back into the rotation, but given his performance in the WBC, Seth Lugo deserves a look. Either one could fit right in with a killer trio of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Matt Harvey, although the latter has been shaky this spring. All three, of course, also give the Mets extra bats in the lineup. Syndergaard, in particular, has hit 4 home runs the last two years. Expect more comic book jokes in regards to Harvey & Syndergaard. And maybe more home runs.

Prediction: I'd be wary of Atlanta, as they reloaded big time with the addition of Brandon Phillips in addition to Colon. Washington hasn't made back-to-back post-seasons, and they're not the same as they were last year, after getting rid of Met-killer Danny Espinosa. Health at the infield corners is paramount for the Orange & Blue Brigade. They will make the playoffs for a 3rd year, again as a Wild Card, but this time, they'll advance. 2nd place finish.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Forgotten TV: Breaking Away (1980)

Breaking Away was an example of a hit film failing to convert into a television show meant to continue the story. Peter Yates, who directed the movie, served as an executive producer for the series, which was meant to premiere in the fall of 1980, but delayed two months due to a strike, and bowed on Thanksgiving weekend.

Shaun Cassidy (ex-The Hardy Boys-Nancy Drew Mysteries) assumed the lead role essayed by Dennis Christopher in the film, joined by Jackie Earle Haley (ex-The Bad News Bears), Barbara Barrie (ex-Barney Miller), Vincent Gardenia (ex-All in The Family), John Ashton (later of the "Beverly Hills Cop" movies), & Thom Bray (later of Riptide). Haley, Ashton, & Oscar nominee Barrie reprised their movie roles.

Breaking Away aired on Saturday nights, when it was still a viable programming night. However, poor ratings forced a quick exit, and the series returned in the summer of 1981 on Monday nights.

Cassidy isn't the only 2nd generation star featured in our sample. "Heart Like a Wheel" features an early appearance by Chris Lemmon.

Producer Glenn Gordon Caron, of course, would go on to create the 80's cult hit, Moonlighting. Co-producer Sam Manners came over from Columbia, where he'd worked on Route 66 & Naked City, among others. While the movie was a critical favorite, the two month delay before the series started proved to be costly to 20th Century Fox & ABC. Bear in mind, too, since the sport of choice was cycling, that this all came out before international races such as the Tour de France gained bigger headlines.

No rating.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Musical Interlude: Lookin' Out My Back Door (1970)

Creedence Clearwater Revival peaked at #2 on the pop chart in the spring of 1970 with "Lookin' Out My Back Door", which name-checks Hee Haw co-host Buck Owens, one of the band's inspirations. The surreal lyrics also suggest another odd influence----Dr. Seuss.

On The Air: First Take (2007)

ESPN's First Take, which spun from the ashes of Cold Pizza 10 years ago, is the network's marquee morning show, mostly a bully pulpit for its debaters, Max Kellerman (ex-Around the Horn, SportsNation) and beef jerky salesman Stephen A. Smith, a long time basketball analyst for the network better known now as more of a Howard Cosell wanna-be. Kellerman joined the show a few months back, replacing Skip Bayless, who took the money and ran to Fox Sports 1.

Since returning to ESPN, Kellerman has been a model citizen for the most part, more mature than he was during his first tour of duty with the network more than a decade ago. Kellerman moved to First Take from SportsNation, which is based in California, where, up until recently, Kellerman was also doing a radio show for ESPN Radio (probably still does, via satellite). We've said enough about "Screamin' A." in this space. A poor man's Mike Francesa, Smith thinks he's all that and a bag of chips. Oh, he's a bag, alright. A bag of hot air that never empties. His Cosellian delivery grates on the senses.

In January, First Take "graduated", if you will, from ESPN2 to ESPN, with an eye toward improving the show's profile and ratings. A better idea would've been to deep-six Smith once and for all, replacing him with ex-WWE commentator Jonathan Coachman.

Speaking of WWE, former champ Paul "Triple H" LeVesque stopped by on Tuesday. "Screamin' A" was a fanboy, while Kellerman would've been better served if he & Molly Querin, the show's moderator, conducted the interview without Smith......

Here's an idea. Coachman is likely to be in Orlando for Wrestlemania next week, representing ESPN. Maybe he can take "Screamin' A" with him to get beaten down.......!

If you haven't figured it out yet, I'd take anyone over Smith as Kellerman's partner any day of the week.

Rating: A-.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Forgotten TV: Stick Around (1977)

Welcome to the year 2055. Androids serve humans, but are also capable of human emotions, intentionally or not.

Stick Around was designed as a vehicle for comedian-performance artist Andy Kaufman to use the "Foreign Man" character from his stand-up act, albeit in a different sense. TAT Communications, the folks behind The Jeffersons, tried shopping this show in 1977, surrounding Kaufman was largely unknown performers, aside from character actor Cliff Norton. Unfortunately, no network took a chance on Stick, but we know the rest of Kaufman's story, don't we? "Foreign Man" evolved into Latka Gravas on Taxi, and Kaufman would revisit the android character in the feature film, "Heartbeeps", with Bernadette Peters, a few years later.

Here's Stick Around:

Not sure what became of Fred McCarren or Nancy New, but Louise "Liberty" Williams (at the time a recurring player on Busting Loose) would land a couple of sitcom gigs herself, only to see them (13 Queens Boulevard & Baby Makes Five) fail. You might not recognize Louise with the platinum wig around the 20-21 minute mark, but it's her. She'd later land a guest role on Three's Company a couple of years later.

Rating: B. Deserved a better fate than it got.

Celebrity Rock: Running Home To You (2017)

Yes, there is a soundtrack CD accompanying last night's episode of The Flash. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's available only through digital media. I'd rather have a CD that I can pop into my player and revisit the episode, "Duet", as often as needed.

The episode's closing number, "Running Home To You", was written by two of the songwriters of the Oscar-winning "La La Land". Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) chooses this as he prepares to re-propose to his girlfriend, Iris West (Candice Patton).

There was only one other original track, written by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom, and we'll probably visit that soon. The show also featured covers of Henry Mancini's classic "Moon River" and Jackie DeShannon's "Put a Little Love in Your Heart", as well as some material from "Guys & Dolls" that showcased Broadway vets Jesse L. Martin ("Rent") and, visiting from Legends of Tomorrow, albeit as different characters, Victor Garber & John Barrowman.

More tracks will follow over the next few days, unless of course WB sets about blocking the videos from YouTube and other sites to protect copyrights. In this case, they really should see about releasing "Running" as a single for radio airplay.

Chuck Barris (1929-2017)

Heaven's gong has called for Chuck Barris.

The eccentric television producer and entertainer has passed away at 87, leaving behind a treasure trove of iconic television hits, dating back to the late 60's.

Of course, we have to start with Chuckie himself, on the original Gong Show:

Barris was also a songwriter, having composed Freddy Cannon's hit, "Palisades Park". Barris took the royalties from "Palisades" to start his production company, which began with The Newlywed Game. Scope out a 1969 daytime episode:

And, then, there's The Dating Game. Here's a 1972 clip with Richard Dawson:

Barris' autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, became a feature film in 2002, directed by George Clooney, but anyone that read the tome probably figured that by that point, Barris was permanently out to lunch. A CIA assassin? Barris? Yeah, right. Had to be on something back then.

Rest in peace, Chuck, or, as you'd probably put it, 'bye, y'all.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Celebrity Rock: My Funny Valentine & Where or When (2016)

It has become an annual tradition on The Flash to find a musical number or two mixed into an episode. In season 1, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin, ex-Glee) and Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) spent some time at a karaoke club. Last season, while undercover on Earth-2 as his counterpart, Barry encounters that world's Joe West (Jesse L. Martin, ex-Law & Order) doing some crooning.

Tonight sees Glee alumnus Darren Criss bring to life a villain from Batman: The Brave & The Bold, the Music Meister. While some folks were wishing that Neil Patrick Harris, who originated the role in the cartoon, could've been brought in for the shot, it was decided to have Criss come in for a 1-shot mini-Glee reunion with Gustin and Supergirl star Melissa Benoist. The Music Meister's machinations began last night at the end of Supergirl, but while you're waiting, let's go back a year for last year's musical interlude, with "Where or When" & "My Funny Valentine".

One local paper teased that Carlos Valdes (Cisco) would also be singing in this episode. We shall see.

Sports this 'n' that

Per James Allen of Spectrum (formerly Time-Warner Cable) Sports & the Albany Times-Union, Albany Academy for Boys will not play football within Section II this fall, opting instead for the New England Prep League. The Cadets have taken on more of an independent schedule, not beholden to any of Section II's leagues, for the last few years, though one of their more recent alums, running back Dion Lewis, won a Super Bowl last month with the New England Patriots. Anyone see a connection there? Just askin'.
Meanwhile, the Jets have signed journeyman quarterback Josh McCown as their likely new starter for 2017, or at least to compete with Bryce Petty & Christian Hackenburg. Geno Smith has swapped Jets green for Giants blue, as he moves across the hall, following behind receiver Brandon Marshall. Smith flamed out too quickly to suit Jets fans after being drafted out of West Virginia in 2013. McCown, like other wanderers, could use Hank Snow's "I've Been Everywhere" as his entrance music.......
One aspect of Charter Cable taking over Time-Warner and making with the name change to Spectrum Cable is the addition of channels like AXS-TV, the American broadcast home of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Problem is, for now, AXS-TV is a premium channel, meaning you'd have to pony up some extra cheddar to add the network. Now you know why my friend Ivan Shreve, Jr., proprietor of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, refers to Charter as "Charred-her". Just sayin'.
You knew the Mets wouldn't keep former Jets/Broncos QB Tim Tebow on the major league roster (he's not ready for that particular show), so he was sent down to the team's Class A affiliate in Columbia, South Carolina. Because of Tebow's celebrity status, dating back to his college days in Florida, SNY will track his progress throughout the season. So will ESPN & Fox Sports 1, just because.
Speaking of the Mets, pitcher Seth Lugo, catcher Rene Rivera, and infielder T. J. Rivera (no relation to Rene) could be bringing home the World Baseball Classic trophy at the end of the week, provided Puerto Rico wins the whole thing on Wednesday night. Puerto Rico is undefeated to this point (7-0), after beating the Netherlands. Team USA plays two-time WBC champ Japan tonight. After what I've seen of the Japanese team so far, with the Dominican Republic out of the picture, the US & Puerto Rico will have their hands quite full.

I wouldn't mind MLB Network getting domestic rights to Japanese pro baseball, would you?
So they found Tom Brady's lost Super Bowl jersey. Not just the one from last month, but also from two years ago. Seems a Mexican reporter is also a collector, as he also swiped other Super Bowl items. Convienently quit his job, claiming health problems, to try to cover up his crimes. Too late for that, pal, 'cause the horse has been brought back to the barn. All this jabroni did was prove President Trump has a point about building a wall.......
The WWE's Hall of Fame Class of 2017 is now complete, or so it'd seem, as there is still time for a last minute entry. The Class:

*--Kurt Angle: 1996 Olympic gold medalist parlayed amateur fame into a nearly 20 year pro career. There is talk of Angle lacing them up again in WWE, nearly 11 years after they cut him loose.

*--Beth Phoenix: The Buffalo native retired a few years back, then married fellow-Hall of Famer Adam "Edge" Copeland after winning a few women's/divas titles. Became one of a small, select group of women to compete in the Royal Rumble, eliminating India's Great Khali.

*--Rick Rude: Posthumous entry for the former IC & NWA International champion, who was taken from us too soon. Has the distinction of being with WWE, WCW, & ECW, all within the same calendar year, and for that matter on Nitro & Raw on the same night, the latter via videotape.

*--The Rock & Roll Express: Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson were the "teen idol" tag team in the NWA in the 80's, forever feuding with the Midnight Express. Ironically, the Midnights' manager, Jim Cornette, is returning to WWE to induct the Express, perhaps a sign that Cornette could get a HOF ring of his own one day.

*--Diamond Dallas Page: A late blooming success story, Page started as a heel manager in the AWA, but found his greatest success in WCW as both a manager and a wrestler, winning 3 world titles. Today, he might be better known for developing a successful yoga-based fitness training program.

*--Theodore Long: Referee-turned-manager-turned-on-screen authority figure, Long has also been involved in civic affairs in his hometown of Atlanta for many years. I guess he forgave the McMahons for publicly humiliating him so many times between 2008-16.

Also, the Warrior Award, named for the late Ultimate Warrior, will be presented to former Rutgers University star Eric LeGrand, whose football career ended with a paralyzing injury in 2010. Still, Topps honored him with a rookie card in 2012. Today, LeGrand is a motivational speaker.

Noticably missing from the list is former champion Ivan Koloff, who, surprisingly, for whatever reason, has not yet been inducted. Apparently, Vince McMahon couldn't be bothered to add Koloff as a last minute posthumous entry. Maybe next year.
10 days ago, the Section II football schedule, or at least a preliminary version of same, was released by the Albany Times-Union and other media outlets. Defending state Class AA champion Troy's schedule reads as follows:

September 1: vs. Columbia
September 8: @ Guilderland
September 15: @ LaSalle
September 22: vs. Bethlehem (homecoming night)
September 29: @ Schenectady
October 6: @ Shaker
October 13: vs. Colonie (senior night)

Just three home games on this year's schedule, but, considering that coach Bob "The Builder" Burns has not lost a home game in 2 seasons at Troy, going 11-0 over that span (12-0 if you can count the Class AA title game at RPI as a home game, which it should've been), maybe that's not so bad.

Troy just has to focus on spring sports now. Scrimmages are scheduled to start for lacrosse, softball, & baseball in the next few days, weather permitting, with the lacrosse opener scheduled for March 30 at home.

Monday, March 20, 2017

On the Air: Iron Fist (2017)

To the uninitiated, Marvel & Netflix's latest, Iron Fist, may be slow and plodding at times, but that is by design. On the other hand, the plot that has been presented at the beginning, that of a corporate heir who supposedly died with his parents 15 years ago, only to return to discover that his late dad's business partner has taken the firm over completely, screams out, "Rip-off!", because it certainly does draw its influence and inspiration not so much from the source material itself, but rather the CW's Arrow, whose protagonist returned to general civilization after 5 years on a deserted island. In the case of Daniel Rand (Finn Jones), those 15 years, mostly formative, were spent in a mystical dimension known as Kun Lun.

Rand was introduced to Marvel Comics readers in 1974 in the pages of Marvel Premiere, the latest martial arts hero that the company had developed in the wake of movies like "Enter the Dragon" and David Carradine's seminal series, Kung Fu. Like the latter and Arrow, Iron Fist indulges in short flashback sequences to try to piece together the story, despite the fact that the memories bring back a fair amount of psychic trauma for Rand.

Time and time again we are reminded of how Daniel's mother was sucked out of a plane, to the point that it became an annoyance within the first two episodes. Nothing says sledgehammer of plot like replaying the same footage in every flashback. We find that Harold Meachum, business partner to Daniel's late father, has some ties to the Hand, the sinister ninja clan from Daredevil. Meachum's son, Ward (Tom Pelphrey), who bullied Daniel when they were kids, recognizes that Daniel is a big threat to his personal plans. The Meachums took over Rand Enterprises, assuming the entire Rand family had perished in the Himalayas. As they will soon discover, they presumed too quickly.

[It should be pointed out for the record that in Roy Thomas' original concept, Ward Meachum is actually Harold's brother, not son, meaning that Joy was actually an only child. Take that for whatever it's really worth.]

The inevitable appearance by Hand ninjas ties Iron Fist to the rest of the line that will lead into The Defenders, due later this year. By then, perhaps Jones will have figured out the missing ingredient in his performance. While he may have found inspiration in Carradine's quiet, solemn Kwai-Chiang Caine in Kung Fu, he lacks the charismatic presence, and comes across as a little too vanilla, although the first manifestation of the titular power he carries will remind some of the bazillion transformation sequences from The Incredible Hulk (1977-82). You'd almost swear Rand was, ah, hulking out.

Here's one of the trailers:

The critics that have hated on Iron Fist had perhaps expected nothing but action right from the jump. Their lack of patience defines them as ill-informed on the subject matter. Over the next 11 episodes, I think we'll find that their premature haterizing was unjustified.

Rating: B+.

What Might've Been: Mrs. G. Goes to College, aka The Gertrude Berg Show (1961)

Gertrude Berg had been away for a bit after The Goldbergs ended its run. After guest-starring on Jackie Cooper's CBS sitcom, Hennesey, the network offered Berg the opportunity to star in her own show again.

The end result was Mrs. G. Goes to College, the G in the title standing for Green, as in Sarah Green, a 62 year old widow (Berg) enrolling in college as perhaps the world's oldest freshman. Cedric Hardwicke and Peter Lorre were two of her professors, and the supporting cast also included Mary Wickes (Dennis the Menace) and future domestic icon Marion Ross (later of Happy Days).

Unfortunately, CBS slotted Mrs. G opposite the Kraft Music Hall on NBC (w/Perry Como) and Hawaiian Eye on ABC. Ballgame over. They even tried rebooting the show by putting Berg's name in the title, but it only postponed the inevitable.

Get TV has acquired the series, which launched earlier today with the series premiere, "The First Day". The network's YouTube channel provides a short excerpt:

Nice idea, but I'd say it was on the wrong night.

Nearly 10 years later, CBS would have the same problem with Andy Griffith, as he returned to television after 2 years away, but his school series, The Headmaster, was an even bigger bomb, leading to The New Andy Grifftith Show, which would mark the end of Griffith's association with CBS.

Rating: B.

Update, 8/3/18: We've added a full episode with Peter Lorre. Here's "The Trouble With Crayton":

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Jimmy Breslin (1928-2017)

He was a New York legend who wrote about the average citizens more than he did the kingmakers and power brokers. Serial killer David Berkowitz corresponded with him. He wrote for virtually every newspaper in New York except for maybe the New York Times, and was writing a weekly column for the New York Daily News until his passing. Today, all of New York, nay, the world, mourns journalist and best selling author Jimmy Breslin, who passed away at 88.

Breslin even entered the late night television wars in the 80's, hosting a twice weekly newsmagazine for ABC, but cancelled it himself because affiliates, including flagship WABC in New York, delayed the broadcast to 2 am (ET) due to commitments to syndicated programming airing after Nightline.

However, Breslin's most enduring image is that of him in a bar, mingling with average folks and shilling for Piels beer in 1978:

Rest in peace, Jimmy.

On The Shelf: The Hardy Boys go noir, and DC hits the Badlands

Dynamite Entertainment contracted with the Strathmore Syndicate to adapt The Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew for a brand new series, done in more of a noir style, from the looks of things, that enables the characters to grow up just enough to satisfy the most hardcore of fans.

Not only that, but, in part 1 of "The Big Lie", other Strathmore characters, particularly Tom Swift and the Bobbsey Twins, are name-checked, and Swift appears in a flashback sequence, meaning they'll be pivotal to the story as well. As was the case with Papercutz's ill-fated Hardy Boys series a few years back, the characters have been brought forward to the present day, with the use of modern tech also vital to the plot.

Speaking of the plot, it seems that Frank & Joe's dad, Fenton, was railroaded into jail, and made to have committed suicide. The challenge to the reader, then, is to figure out the truth, which might actually be easier than watching certain CW shows. I think what Dynamite is ultimately hoping for is that someone in Hollywood can take another crack at the Hardys & Drew, whose last TV adaptations were just a few years ago, half-hour series that didn't air in my market, and didn't last long. It wouldn't hurt.

Rating: A.

AMC's Into The Badlands begins a new season tonight. To mark the occasion, the network contracted with DC to produce a preview special, which was issued with a select group of titles, such as Green Arrow, with the two books bound in a polybag. Into the Badlands is drawn with a 3-color scheme--black, white, & red---that creates the appropriate mood for the show. Not fond of the concept, however, as it isn't my cup of tea. Meh.

Rating: C.
Should it surprise anyone that Adam Hughes' rendition of Betty & Veronica is running mad late? Of course not. You know what they say at the carnival. You pay your money, you take your chances.
In the last On The Shelf, we referenced the pending DC-Looney Tunes specials due starting in June. Before anyone gets into an uproar, I suspect very strongly that characters like Harley Quinn will, in fact, interact with the WB menagerie. The Flash raced Speedy Gonzales and Road Runner in the 2000 miniseries I referenced last time, but if the more realistic depictions of Wile E. Coyote and the Tasmanian Devil are any indication, a more realistic Speedy could be coming, too.
Youth horror icon R. L. Stine makes his comics debut with a bizarre take on Marvel's Man-Thing. Seems that Ted Sallis, the scientist-turned-monster, regained the ability to talk recently, and is trying to make his luck in Hollywood. I look it thusly. This is a veiled satire of DC's Swamp Thing, who was adapted into two feature films in the 80's, followed by a pair of television series, one animated, the other live-action, in the early 90's. Manny made it to Hollywood well before the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in a low-budget film that has aired maybe twice on SyFy or Chiller, then disappeared. Stine's script is a reflection of Hollywood's attitude toward Manny, but you can't help but chuckle at the whole idea of Man-Thing talking and, inevitably, cracking jokes, as most Marvel heroes were wont to do back in the day.

Stine is also writing short back-up pieces that recall the horror anthologies that date back to the later years of the Golden Age, even name-checking Marvel's Chamber of Chills. Is this actually worth $4 per issue (it's a 5-issue miniseries)? Yep.

Rating: A-.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

"Johnny B. Goode". "Maybelline". "Sweet Little Sixteen". "School Days". "Memphis". I think you know what this means.

Chuck Berry passed away at 90, leaving behind the above hits and so much more. Yes, his career was briefly derailed with a prison sentence for transporting a 14 year old girl across state lines, reputedly and allegedly for prostitution. He would eventually receive a Lifetime Achievement Grammy and be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Mere words just aren't enough.

We'll leave you, then, with this 1973 performance of "Johnny B. Goode" from Soul Train:

Rest in peace, Chuck.

When News Was News: The Huntley-Brinkley Report (1956)

We didn't include this in our salute to the early years of television news last week, but let's just get to it, ok?

A regional newscast caught the attention of NBC executives, who then decided to pair David Brinkley with Chet Huntley for what was originally a 15 minute newscast, later expanded to 30 minutes. The Huntley-Brinkley Report ran for nearly 14 full years (October 1956-July 1970), ending with Huntley's retirement.

Brinkley, who had been part of the Camel/Plymouth News Caravan with John Cameron Swayze, was based in Washington. Huntley was stationed in New York. There were no bells & whistles, as none were needed.

Our sample comes from 1969.

I barely remember seeing this as a youth. For what it's worth, the producers of Batman created parodies of Huntley & Brinkley during the 2nd season, with game show host Dennis James as "Chet Chumley" and Allen Ludden (Password) as "David Dooley". Several years later, Brinkley left NBC for ABC to finish his career.

No rating.

A joke 10 years in the making? (2017)

This ad is going to be played into the ground over the next couple of weeks, maybe longer.

Currently in heavy rotation during coverage of the NCAA basketball tournaments, Capital One is pairing Samuel L. Jackson (currently also in "Kong: Skull Island") with CBS/Turner analyst Charles Barkley and filmmaker Spike Lee for a short bit that references one of Jackson's most infamous films of the last decade. I don't need to tell you which one it is....

If I'm Spike, I start thinking about casting Barkley & Jackson in my next movie.......

Friday, March 17, 2017

On The Air: Southpaw Regional Wrestling (2017)

Those of us who've followed WWE over the years know that CEO/Chairman Vince McMahon has made no secret of his dislike of the south, which would explain the repeated humiliations visited upon Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross, among other things. The fact that McMahon, 71, has refused to retire from the only business that he's ever been successful with leads many of us to question his sanity, considering a lot of the recycled angles that keep returning like bad houseguests.

Well, it seems that someone's found a way to tickle even his funny bone with a web series that satirizes the southern territories that McMahon would ultimately plow under in the course of national and global expansion in the 80's & 90's.

Southpaw Regional Wrestling, a parody of wrestling hotbeds of yore such as Memphis, went live today with 4 short episodes, each running approximately 7-8 minutes. You have John Cena wearing a bad wig and attempting a monotone a la Lance Russell or Gordon Solie, as an announcer. You have Rusev, who actually lives in Nashville these days with wife/valet Lana (CJ Perry), as an immigrant farmer. Watch for Chris Jericho, under an even worse wig, as a backstage reporter, Luke Gallows as Tex Ferguson, and more. Oh, by the way, the "Ric Flair impersonator" doing voice-over ads for KFC? It's actually the real thing.

Scope the opener.

Cena's wig looks like that was bought from Steve Austin, dating back to Austin's infamous parody of Eric Bischoff during his brief tour with ECW in 1995-6. Shoot, where was Austin, who could have made this even more hysterical, when you really needed him?

Let's see them shoehorn this onto Raw or Smackdown. Heck, the Surf Dudes With Attitudes (The Ascension) could actually be brought to the ring later this year (Konnor & Viktor need a gimmick change, badly).

Rating: A.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Even stars go bowling: Celebrity Bowling (1971)

This was previously covered over at Saturday Morning Archives a ways back. I was pressed for time at the time, and didn't really go into detail, something we'll do this time in taking another look at Celebrity Bowling.

Spun from a 1-shot 1969 syndicated special, Celebrity Bowling hit the air in January 1971, and, depending on where you lived, it either aired as a lead-in for or opposite to ABC's Pro Bowlers Tour. Actor Jed Allan (Lassie, Days of Our Lives) was the series host and play-by-play announcer. A pair of lanes were installed at KTTV in Los Angeles, where the show was taped for 8 seasons, ending in 1978.

A few years after the series ended, Allan was brought back for a revival, which lasted about a year or two. TVS Sports then picked up the rights and tried out another revival in 2008, but that only went 13 episodes.

In 2014, comedian-actor Chris Hardwick, son of PBA Hall of Famer Billy Hardwick, and founder of the Nerdist website, among other things, tried relaunching the series for AMC. However, the cabler opted out virtually at the last minute, choosing to put more emphasis on scripted programming. Ironically, AMC is one of Hardwick's employers, as he hosts Talking Dead, a talk show that airs after The Walking Dead on Sunday nights. The plan had been for twins Randy & Jason Sklar (ex-Cheap Seats) to host this version.

Let's go back to 1976 for a primer on open bowling on the national stage with Jim McKrell (Celebrity Sweepstakes), Alex Trebek (Double Dare), Dick Gautier (ex-When Things Were Rotten), & Scatman Crothers (Chico & The Man):

More recently, this series has aired on Retro and Decades (check listings). Back in the day, as memory serves, it was a lead in to the Pro Bowlers Tour, at least until the final season and the great affiliate switch in the home district.

Rating: A.

On The Shelf: The DC Universe is about to go Looney---again!

In 2000, DC comics asked writer Mark Evanier to craft a 4-issue miniseries, Superman-Bugs Bunny, in which the two icons would meet for the first time, thanks to the machinations of Yoyo the Dodo and Mr. Mxyzptlk. That wasn't just a trip, it was a whole vacation from reality.

Starting in June, DC will produce a new series of 1-shot specials, all 48 pages for $4.99, mind you, that will have fans talking. This, of course, comes on the heels of 4 1-shot DCU-Hanna-Barbera crossover specials debuting in 2 weeks.

So what's to expect? Wellllllllll..........

Perhaps inspired in a way by the short, "Hare Brush", Elmer Fudd meets the Batman. You see, the phonetically challenged Fudd is presented here as a jealous, resentful fellow businessman. Jealous of Bruce Wayne, that is. Expect "Hare Brush" references.

Wonder Woman will meet the Tasmanian Devil. Jim Lee is doing the cover, but Barry Kitson is the interior artist. Looks like fun. In contrast, Lobo is hired by Wile E. Coyote to hunt down the Road Runner. Can't picture the Road Runner being drawn by Kelley (Along Came) Jones,  but that's what we're getting. Also, Marvin the Martian is still obsessed with destroying Earth so he can get a clear view of Venus. It's left up to the Martian Manhunter to attend to this threat. Jonah Hex meets Yosemite Sam, marking the return of former Marvel artist Mark Tiexiera, who draws a realistic Sam on the cover.

Finally, Bugs meets the Legion of Super-Heroes, dressed as his some-time alter-ego, Super Rabbit, last seen on The Looney Tunes Show. The cover is a homage to Superboy's first meeting with the Legion way back in the day. Luckily, they're not releasing all six books at once, but they'll be released on an every-other-week basis, which will save the strain on your comics budget. I'd not be surprised if the earlier miniseries is reissued in trade paperback as part of the promotion.

Whereas fans have been clamoring for Marvel to similarly cross over some of their heroes with Disney characters in print, in the wake of a Phineas & Ferb special a couple of years back, I think they're waiting to see if DC/WB can make this work before they try it themselves. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What Might've Been: Rodeo Drive (1990)

Rodeo Drive is to Beverly Hills what Madison Avenue is to New York City. The difference, of course, is that Rodeo Drive is mostly for shopping.

In 1990, producer Jay Wolpert, who'd previously developed the original Double Dare for Goodson-Todman & CBS, then started his own company and developed Whew! & Press Your Luck, also for CBS, sold Lifetime a game based on the tony thoroughfare. Rodeo Drive bowed in February 1990, but only got 13 weeks of new episodes before being consigned to reruns and eventual cancellation.

Actress-impressionist Louise DuArt (ex-The Krofft Supershow) was tapped as host, and it wound up being her only hosting job to date. Those of us who were teens watching the Supershow got a good look at the attractive cutie behind the wig and makeup of Kaptain Kool & the Kongs' Nashville, and wondered what took her so long to land another gig in front of the cameras? She was just a perfect fit, using celebrity impersonations when necessary to the game, and should've earned consideration for another hosting job after Rodeo Drive was cancelled.

Today, Louise is married to former ABC programming executive SQuire (that's how it's spelled, folks) Rushnell, still doing stand-up. Jared Oswald takes us back to the premiere of Rodeo Drive:

GSN really needs to take a look at picking this up for kicks. After all, they tried out another Lifetime castoff, Shop 'Til You Drop, a while back.

Rating: A-.

Weasels of the Week: NCAA Basketball Selection Committee

This one is literally a slam dunk.

Basketball fans have complained and argued for years how small, "mid-major" colleges always get the shaft when it comes to the NCAA basketball tournaments. Smaller leagues are only allowed at least one bid, that going to the league champion. Why is this? Because the NCAA and its media partners (CBS, Turner Sports) see money and ratings with only teams from the power 5 conferences (ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12) and the Big East, which has a television deal with Fox Sports 1 (FS1). The more teams from these leagues in the tournament fattens the coffers of the league & college suits.

In the home district, the America East Conference, where UAlbany plays, and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), home to Siena, are considered mid-majors, and the conference champions, in this case Vermont & Iona on the men's side, for example, get the only bids. The UAlbany women won the America East title for the 6th consecutive year. With that kind of streak, you'd think the selection committee would finally get their brains out of their collective tuchis and give the Lady Great Danes some actual respect.

Nope. UAlbany will go one and done. Against the #1 team on the planet, Connecticut. Thanks for coming.

Part of the reason the men's tournament is so bloated (68 teams now, maybe more a few years down the road, knowing these clowns) is because the power 5 conferences will have as many as 3, 4, or 5 entries in the field, for reasons denoted above. Take the ACC, for example. Duke, despite having a poster child for the disciplinary challenged in Grayson Allen, will be there every year, largely because of reputation. Ditto for North Carolina, which gets one of the 4 regional #1 seeds despite not winning their league title. Syracuse doesn't get in, getting a bid in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) instead, due to a poor non-conference record. UAlbany's men's team, the runners-up to Vermont, are playing in something called the College Insiders tournament, or some such. That's a more recent invention in order to alleviate the complaints from mid-majors that don't make even the NIT.

If we limit the field to conference champions only, maybe things are different. Then again, maybe not, but we're going to have this every year until someone finally smacks some reality into the collective heads of the committees.

Back to Albany's women. Joanna Bernabe-McNamee picked up right where her predecessor, Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, left off, running the string of conference titles/NCAA bids to six in a row. Despite this, the selection committee decided that UAlbany would be treated like a tomato can against UConn, winners of 107 consecutive games. Albany doesn't deserve that. The Lady Danes themselves assumed, based on preliminary indications, that they'd be a #14 or #15. So who did Albany piss off to have their tickets punched to UConn?

No one, really. The committee members need to lose the blinders and show mid-majors like Albany some respect.

On the men's side, Illinois State was snubbed, despite the fact that they'd played Missouri Valley champ Wichita State three times, going 1-2. They hadn't been able to schedule games against the power 5 teams until coach Dan Mullen went on Twitter, and was able to land a game for next season against Mississippi (SEC). Part of the reason the power 5 have ignored Illinois State is because they aren't a tomato can team. The suits in those conferences are afraid a loss to ISU would diminish their chances of landing a primo spot in the tournament. That's what the lures of money & television will do. Those suits and the selection committees are so snowblind to reality, it makes everyone around them look bad.

The selection committees get the Weasel ears this week because of their ignorance, which in this case is not bliss. Just shame.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Musical Interlude: The Battle of New Orleans (1959)

I remember buying a single of Johnny Horton's 1959 hit, "The Battle of New Orleans", in an antique shop shortly after moving to my current abode. Portions of the following clip have been used in infomercials over the years, but now we can see that the clip comes from The Ed Sullivan Show. Ed introduces Horton and a special guest....

That may have been the only time I've ever seen a white coonskin cap........

Monday, March 13, 2017

What Might've Been: The Origins Game (1982)

Here's a game show I'm sure you've never heard of. Not only that, but it's from a studio you wouldn't expect to produce a game show.

Filmation's Norm Prescott & Lou Scheimer thought they could be the next Merrill Heatter & Bob Quigley, or Mark Goodson & Bill Todman. They partnered with SFM Media Services to develop a pilot, The Origins Game, which was taped in February 1982, but never shown or sold. The only reason we know about it now is because animation veteran Jim Korkis was a contestant on the show. He blogged about his experience on Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research website. Beck has the video, which he posted to YouTube, and we'll show you in a bit.

Game show icon Bob Eubanks is the host.

This is also available, because of the Filmation connection, on Saturday Morning Archives.

Rating: A.

Sports this 'n' that

Remember how they marketed the NBA "Dream Team" that represented the US in the 1992 Olympics? Take that, and multiply it in this year's World Baseball Classic. Almost every team in the field has a connection to Major League Baseball, not just the predictable (USA, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, all of whom are loaded with MLB stars), but upstart Israel, who, at last check, was taking it on the chin against the Netherlands (another team with major MLB ties) this morning in Tokyo.

The second round pools have started thus:

In Tokyo: Israel, Netherlands, Cuba, & host Japan.
In San Diego (starting tomorrow): USA, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and either Venezuela or Italy, pending a "tiebreaker" tonight in Jalisco, Mexico. The Mexicans, despite beating Venezuela last night, were eliminated.

The bottom line: Either the Dominicans, the defending champs, repeat, and most think they will, or either the US or Puerto Rico will send them home, setting up a 3rd different champion in this tournament (Japan won the first two in 2006 & 2009).
High school basketball season is winding down for New York's Section II, with just three teams left in state competition. Lake George for the boys, and Shenendehowa & Mekeel Christian Academy for the girls. Mekeel, formerly Schenectady Christian Academy, has been under the radar the last couple of years since they play in Class C. We as fans are being reminded again that once you get to the state tournament, the opposition gets tougher. Lest we forget, Albany Academy for Boys, an independent, may still sneak in the back door and play the Federation tournament next week, looking to repeat as Federation champs.

Despite the snow headed our way early Tuesday morning, Spring is just a week away.
Baseball season in Section II officially begins the first weekend in April after scrimmages are scheduled, assuming they can clear the snow in time, starting next week. Troy High, in their 2nd season in the Suburban Council, has to get off to a better start. To that end, they will play a non-league game, set for April 1, vs. Bethlehem, before a league game takes place three weeks later. The fun part? Both games are at home. The other non-league games for Troy this season have them at Amsterdam (Foothills Council) on April 8, at Ichabod Crane (Colonial Council) on April 15, and city rival LaSalle will provide the Senior Day opposition on Monday, May 15. By then, Troy will have had an idea about sectional chances. The softball team will scrimmage Lansingburgh, then visit the Lady Knights in April for a regular season tilt.

While there are lights at Ed Picken Memorial Field (football/soccer/lacrosse/outdoor track), that is not the case for the neighboring tennis courts and baseball & softball diamonds. If the baseball program was more successful than it has been in recent years, I'd think there'd be a call to add lights on the far end of the sports complex on the Van Arnam campus. Just sayin'.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Musical Interlude: He's The Greatest Dancer (1978)

Sister Sledge hit #1 on the Billboard R & B chart in March 1979 with "He's The Greatest Dancer", written by Chic's Bernard Edwards & Nile Rodgers, and released as the first single off the album, "We Are Family", at the end of 1978.

Rodgers & Edwards had intended "Dancer" to be a single for Chic, but it turns out they made the right call.

In memory of Joni Sledge, who passed away this weekend at 60.

A Classic Reborn: Burke's Law (1994)

I know I included an episode of the 1994 remake of Burke's Law when I did an overview of the series many moons ago, but I felt that I needed to revisit it.

To recap: Aaron Spelling served as a producer on the original Burke and its spin-off, Honey West, among his last projects for Four Star before starting his own company. Burke's Law may have been a crime drama at its core, but it was cast as if it were an anthology series, much like The Dick Powell Show or Spelling's later anthology hits, Hotel, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat.

By the mid-90's, Spelling had moved on to developing evening soaps like Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place, both for Fox. CBS came calling asking for a revival of Burke, thinking that the classic whodunit could work in a more modern setting. This might've been because ABC had revived the former NBC series, Columbo, as a series of TV-movies. NBC had also been the last home to another classic whodunit, Ellery Queen, and CBS' own Murder, She Wrote was holding the fort on Sunday nights. The ratings convinced the network suits that another whodunit would bring the same results.

So what happened? Burke's Law was set up on Friday nights, which, if memory serves, was its original night when it aired on ABC. As we have seen, time and again, such schedule familiarity doesn't translate to long-term success the 2nd or 3rd time around.

This time around, Amos Burke (Gene Barry) is aided by his son, Peter (Peter Barton, ex-The Powers of Matthew Star), and still tools around in a Rolls Royce. Barry had appeared on Murder, as memory serves, and that might've been when CBS approached him about a Burke reboot.

In "Who Killed Mr. Game Show?", Peter Marshall, the original "Master of the Hollywood Squares", is cast against type as a television producer without a heart of gold. The cast also includes Lyle Waggoner (ex-Wonder Woman, The Carol Burnett Show), Richard Karn (Home Improvement, later a game show host in his own right in the revival of Family Feud), and Dom DeLuise.

I remember sitting down with my folks to watch, sometimes falling asleep. Not my fault. I would be exhausted after a long day at work. Have to see about the DVD release of this series........!

Rating: A.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

When News Was News Week: Face The Nation (1954)

CBS' Face The Nation has been on the air for 62 years and counting (doesn't turn 63 until November). Like NBC's Meet The Press, it expanded from 30 minutes to a full hour, with that expansion taking place in 2012. And that begs to ask. Why expand at all?

The simple reason is that for network news programs of this caliber, 30 minutes is not enough anymore. Nation still covers the hot button political topics du jour. Current moderator John Dickerson recently spoke out against the media's obssessive-compulsive coverage of current President Donald Trump, likening the "hysterical" coverage to that of meteorologists forecasting incoming major storms in certain areas.

Ah, but let's go back to a simpler time. This October 1960 episode, one of the last moderated by Stuart Novins, has three men interviewing soon-to-be Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Unlike Press and yesterday's subject, Issues & Answers, I have not seen enough of Nation to warrant a rating.

Weasel of the Week: Ed Nordholm

It was one thing when Anthem Sports & Entertainment decided to excise the acronym TNA (Total Non-stop Action), and use the name of the promotion's Thursday night wrestling program, Impact, as the new name of the promotion. That was all well and good. Unfortunately, Anthem President Ed Nordholm, who brought founding father Jeff Jarrett back into the promotion, and, by extension, Jarrett aides Dutch Mantell and Bruce Prichard, threw gasoline on it because of a misperception of reality as it relates to the company's now-former tag team champions.

At issue is whether or not the Hardys' "Broken" gimmick, which has been a vital part of Impact for nearly a year, is, in fact, intellectual property of Impact Wrestling/Anthem. The Hardys left the promotion a week and a half ago, choosing not to sign a new contract. What was even more galling, depending on who you believe, is that the contract had arrived a wee bit too late. Supposedly, Anthem's legal team was taking forever and a week to iron out the details of the contract. Just three days after leaving Impact, Matt & Jeff Hardy showed up at a Ring of Honor event, with their gimmick intact, and defeated the Young Bucks for the ROH tag titles.

That's when the trouble really started.

Prior to last night's ROH PPV, celebrating the promotion's 15th anniversary, the Hardys retained the titles in a Las Vegas Streetfight match over the Bucks and Rappongi Vice. However, due to a last minute cease & desist order issued by Anthem's lawyers to the Hardys and Ring of Honor, the "Broken" gimmick couldn't be used.

So, what's the problem?

Anthem is also the parent company of the Fight Network, which carries both ROH's weekly television show and Impact in Canada. They've publicly stated they want to build a business relationship between the two promotions, but this is no way to go about it. For all the mistakes that Jarrett and former TNA president Dixie Carter have made over that same 15 year period, this had to be one of the biggest blunders in company history. Matt & Jeff Hardy have had more than 20 years experience in the wrestling business, and even started their own promotion in their native North Carolina before signing with WWE in 1996. Matt and his wife, Rebecca, aka Reby Sky-Hardy, contend that Matt developed the "Broken" gimmick himself, admittedly while under contract to TNA, and recently filed for a trademark in Pittsburgh, where WWE will be this coming week. Nordholm and Anthem claim "Broken" is theirs. Oh, the legal drama to follow.

The real question is why wasn't a new contract submitted to the Hardys before February 28? Nordholm and his staff had to know the Hardys were drawing interest from Ring of Honor, and, by extension, New Japan Pro Wrestling, as well as WWE, even though the brothers were cashiered out of the latter between August 2009 (Jeff's drug problems) and February 2010 (Matt's contract was non-renewed). To issue a cease & desist order at the 11th hour, threatening to ruin any plans for future business with ROH (which has had issues with TNA in the past), isn't helping matters at all, but only exacerbating the problem. For that reason, Nordholm, as the public face of Anthem Sports, gets the Weasel ears this week. You reap what you sow, dude.

Friday, March 10, 2017

When News Was News Week: Issues & Answers (1960)

Growing up in the 70's, I remember when my folks would sample each network's political interview programs on Sundays. NBC, as we saw earlier this week, has Meet The Press. CBS has Face The Nation, which we'll look at this weekend. For 21 years, ABC's Sunday entry was Issues & Answers, which went through a number of moderators over the course of its run. The series ended in 1981 when the network signed David Brinkley away from NBC and gave him the Sunday space with the hour-long This Week.

Our sample of Issues & Answers is a 1966 episode with future President Richard Nixon.

Rating: A.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

What Might've Been: XFL Football (2001)

Aside from being filthy rich, the only other thing that WWE CEO/Chairman Vince McMahon and President Donald Trump have in common is that they both were involved with short-lived football leagues. Trump had begun building his global brand, if you will, when he fielded a team in the USFL in the early 80's. That league lasted a couple of years and had a juicy national television contract with ABC & ESPN, before the two networks were joined together via acquisitions by the Walt Disney Company.

McMahon, meanwhile, had a dream of developing a winter football league, with the idea of keeping interest in the sport hot after the Super Bowl finished the NFL's season. Unfortunately, since this was during the Attitude Era, and since McMahon was already getting heat from the Parents Television Council for the content of his programming, the XFL was doomed virtually from the jump.

Recently, ESPN marked the belated 15th anniversary of the league's lone season with a 30 For 30 documentary, but it's better to think back and try to figure out just where the XFL went wrong.

McMahon managed television contracts with NBC, TNN (now Spike TV, soon to be the Paramount Network), and UPN. He felt it was necessary, however, to have some of his wrestlers cut promos to support the league, and split up Monday Night Raw commentators Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler, assigning them different partners. Due to issues not related to the league, Lawler left before the first month was over. Ross was paired with then-Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura. Granted, the two of them had NFL commentary experience, with the Falcons and Buccaneers, respectively (insofar as I know, Ventura didn't work any Vikings games), but so accustomed as they were also to calling wrestling matches, the fear was that they and Lawler might feel out of place. Current ESPN announcer Jonathan Coachman was also a play-by-play announcer for the XFL. McMahon also took a chance and had his daughter, Stephanie, do interviews with fans in the bleachers, in contrast to her role in WWE programming as the then-storyline trophy wife to her now-real-life husband, Triple H. As it was, flooding his XFL broadcasts with WWF/E talent proved to actually be a detriment more than a luxury.

Why was that? Media gadflies such as Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who at the time was also writing a weekly column for TV Guide, wouldn't give the new league even half a chance because of McMahon, and the pre-established bias against his promotion. NBC executive Dick Ebersol, a friend of McMahon's, helped found the league, and ran into trouble almost immediately, as one game ran into overtime, threatening the start of an episode of Saturday Night Live. That's the risk you take with live sports in primetime, something that's been around since the dawn of television.

Let's go back to the very first nationally televised game between the New York-New Jersey Hitmen and the homestanding Las Vegas Outlaws.

Hitmen coach Rusty Tillman was a respected special teams coach in the NFL. Can't recall whether or not he would land another coaching job upon returning to the NFL. Matt Vasgersian, now with Fox & MLB Network, worked some of the Sunday games for either UPN or TNN, so the experience didn't damage his career all that much.

The presentation was typical McMahon. Some innovations, such as the roving overhead camera, were adopted by the NFL in due course. Some players, including Rod "He Hate Me" Smart, also found NFL jobs.

The lesson? If McMahon restrained himself and stayed out of the way, maybe the league succeeds.

Rating: B--.

When News Was News Week: CBS Evening News (1948)

The CBS Evening News was the first network newscast to make the jump from 15 minutes a night to 30, followed closely by The Huntley-Brinkley Report a week later. As it nears its 70th anniversary next year, it remains the industry standard.

The nightly newscast launched in 1948 as CBS Television News to differentiate from its radio counterpart, and was anchored by Douglas Edwards for 14 years, the last 10 of which under the title, Douglas Edwards With The News. In 1962, Edwards was reassigned, and Walter Cronkite took over the evening news, which adopted its current title a few years later.

I have to say I grew up with "Uncle Walter", as my folks watched the CBS Evening News for much of his tenure (1962-81). Cronkite, as we've previously documented, also served as host-narrator for the documentary series, The 21st Century, during this period. Dan Rather began a 24 year run by succeeding Cronkite. Save for a 2 year period where he shared the anchor desk, albeit reluctantly, some say, with Connie Chung, perhaps mindful of ABC's similar experiment with Barbara Walters & Harry Reasoner nearly 20 years earlier, Rather wasn't quite must-see-TV at home. Just sayin'.

Today, Scott Pelley is the weekday anchor, and while I haven't seen the CBS newscast in several years, I can't say for sure if the standards of the golden age are being kept.

Just to get this in, Douglas Edwards was still with CBS as I was growing up, as he was doing 5 minute mid-day micro-newscasts, back when they were still fashionable.

Let's go back in time to 1968, and the incomparable Walter Cronkite.

Like the man said, that's the way it is.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What Might've Been: Broken Badges (1990)

Stephen J. Cannell sold most of his series to either NBC or ABC during the 80's. One of his first sales to CBS may have, in fact, been inspired by the Michael Keaton-Christopher Lloyd movie, "The Dream Team", except that you have a trio of misfit cops on leave from their California base and working with a psychiatrist and a New Orleans maverick.

Broken Badges was a mid-season replacement that launched in November 1990, but was yanked before the holidays, only to return for a brief summer run in June 1991. There are familiar names in the cast, including Jay Johnson (ex-Soap, Celebrity Charades), Ernie Hudson ("Ghostbusters"), Charlotte Lewis ("The Golden Child"), Eileen Davidson (The Young & The Restless), and 2nd generation star Miguel Ferrer.

Never saw the show, so there won't be a rating. Unfortunately, it's also fallen off the face of the earth, now that Comcast has shut down the Cloo channel. Here's the intro:

Could it be done today? Hmmmmmmmm.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

When News Was News Week: Camel News Caravan (1949)

John Cameron Swayze, to folks of a certain generation, may be better remembered for shilling for Timex watches. However, he was a newsman first, before turning into a commercial pitchman.

Swayze was NBC's first news anchor. In 1948, the network launched the NBC Television Newsreel, which morphed a year later into the Camel News Caravan, a 5-days-a-week, 15 minute newscast that swapped out the newsreels for actual, same day filmed news footage. This may have been the only network newscast that included a sponsor in its title. Toward the end of the Caravan's run, R. J. Reynolds, makers of Camel, pulled back on their sponsorship, cutting it from 5 days to 3. Chrysler's Plymouth division took over the other two days.

Among the staff of reporters was a young David Brinkley, who would move into the anchor chair himself in 1956, beginning a 14 year run as one-half of the Huntley-Brinkley Report.

Let's go back to October 1954, on the eve of that year's World Series between the Giants and Indians.......

Swayze would ultimately leave NBC for ABC to finish his news career.

We will not be rating the nightly newscasts.

Storm clouds on Burdett Avenue: One coach fired, but will there be more?

It should come as a shock to, well, no one, that Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) dropped the curtain on men's hockey coach Seth Appert on Monday, after the Engineers were swept out of the first round of the ECAC playoffs. RPI finished with an 8-28-1 mark for the 2016-17 season. Appert had just finished his 11th season at the helm, but was only able to put together 5 winning seasons out of those 11. It will be closer to summer before RPI will be able to name the next head coach for the program.
Meanwhile, just down the street at Troy High, The Record reports in today's edition that women's varsity basketball coach Paul Bearup, also having just finished his 11th season, and four years removed from a state title, is facing allegations of inflicting emotional distress on some of his players. Something tells me this method of coaching would explain the erratic performance of the Lady Horses since that state title win in 2013. However, not all the facts are in as yet. Despite this, the article was filled with anonymous quotes from parents, as well as current and former players, although at least one or two former players actually did speak on the record.

Ever since the demise of the Big 10, Troy's women's team has had a pattern in the last three seasons. A quick start, a mid-season slide, and then a struggle just to get in position for a favorable sectional berth, the latter of which wasn't the case this year. It just happens to be a coincidence that this comes out less than a week after Troy was eliminated from the sectionals by Suburban Council blue division champion Shaker in a 34 point blowout.

If the allegations are proven to be true, Bearup would be the second Troy coach to be let go in the last year. Varsity softball coach George Rafferty was not only "removed" 10 months ago, but is no longer at the school.The last thing they need at Troy now is a scandal, but the storm clouds of one are just starting to appear. You have to hope that this story doesn't go away so quickly.

Monday, March 6, 2017

When News Was News Week: Meet The Press (1947)

NBC's Meet The Press marks its 70th anniversary this year, and I can't think of a better way to kick off a week of revisiting old school news programming than to commemorate the occasion.

Press was the brainchild of its first moderator, Martha Rountree, founder of the American Mercury magazine, which spun off a radio show by the same name for the Mutual Broadcasting System in 1939. Rountree & business partner-producer Lawrence Spivak made the move to television 8 years later. Most of us will recall that Spivak was the moderator for a good chunk of the 60's & 70's after serving as a permanent panelist.

After 45 years of a half-hour format, Press morphed into its current hour-long configuration in 1992 under the late Tim Russert, and as the format has continued to evolve, the revolving door of moderators has swung a few times, pausing with current host Chuck Todd, who first came aboard as an editor before taking the moderator's chair in 2014.

The memories I have of Press are of a few Spivak shows in the late 60's or early 70's, some Russert episodes from the 90's, and that's about it. I don't watch it anymore, as I'm out when it's on in first-run on Sunday mornings.

From 1965, Spivak is a panelist interviewing civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..

I'd rather have these kind of interviews than the bells & whistles that come with today's news programs.

Rating: A.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Musical Interlude: Lady Willpower (1968)

Gary Puckett & the Union Gap cranked out five studio albums between 1967-9, with a greatest hits album released in 1970. Signed to Columbia, the band produced the albums between February 1967 and December 1969. In the summer of '68, the band appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show to perform "Lady Willpower", which peaked at #2 on the Hot 100, but hit #1 on Cashbox's chart. Cashbox was a defunct music magazine and rival to the still-running Billboard.

I think Puckett was an influence on future Doobie Brothers vocalist Michael McDonald, just in the style of his vocals.

Local sports this 'n' that

In the course of the last nine months, we've seen a number of droughts come to an end in sports.

It started with the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers bringing a championship to the city for the first time in decades. Four months later, the Chicago Cubs ended more than a century of futility winning the World Series in a thriller over the Cleveland Indians.

Since then, local high school teams seem to have cornered the market on breaking droughts.

This trend started at the end of November, when Cambridge & Troy High, which hadn't won state titles in football since near the turn of the century, left the Syracuse Carrier Dome with championships in Classes D & AA, respectively.

On Tuesday, the skating Cadets of LaSalle Institute ended a 17 year title drought, winning the Section II hockey championship in a double-overtime seat-squirmer, 6-5, over Shenendehowa. Unfortunately, four days later, LaSalle's season came to an end with a 2-1 loss in the state regionals to Massena. Just the same, with six seniors graduating, coach Tim Flanigan's club still has a strong core to make a run at repeating at Section II champs next year. The same can be said for the school's basketball team, which saw its post-season run end Tuesday, losing to Bethlehem.

It had been 45 years since Bethlehem last won a sectional basketball title. That drought came to an end Saturday in Glens Falls when the Eagles upset top-seeded Colonie to claim the Class AA title in boys' basketball. Meanwhile, the women's AA title went to----what a shock---Shenendehowa, as they avenged a regular season loss to Suburban Council blue division champ Shaker. I'm not sure how long it's been since Lansingburgh last won a sectional title in any sport, but after being a bridesmaid last year in Glens Falls, losing to Troy, the Knights downed Averill Park to claim the A title on Friday, keeping the title in the Collar City for a 2nd year.

Now, the challenge is for the Troy Flag Day Committee to extend invitations to Troy, Lansingburgh, & LaSalle to properly honor their champions at this year's parade, set to take place June 11---assuming the committee can raise the appropriate funds in the next three months. That's a story for another time.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

In Theatres: Logan (2017)

In the course of making "Logan", Hugh Jackman stated that this would be the last time he would play the feral, charismatic X-Man. Fittingly, then, "Logan" is a sort of passing of the torch to the next generation.

The year is 2029, or, 12 years into our future. James Howlett, aka Logan, aka Wolverine (Jackman) is now a limo driver for hire, and otherwise is one of two caretakers for nearly 100 year old Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whose mental faculties, understandably, aren't what they once were due to advanced age, and not only that, but Xavier needs medication to avoid disruptive seizures. Caliban (Stephen Merchant) is Xavier's other aide. Those that don't know Caliban's story from the comics would now realize the reason why he prefers the darkness because of his albino skin.

Anyway, Logan reluctantly accepts an assignment to transport a Latina nurse and her patient, an 11 year old girl, to North Dakota. After delivering medication to Xavier, Logan discovers the nurse is dead, and the girl is being pursued by Donald Pierce, the head of security for a medical company responsible for developing a new generation of mutants for their own purposes. The girl, Laura, has Logan's DNA, making her his daughter. In the comics, she was known as X-23, and today, the grown-up Laura has inherited the Wolverine identity, since the Old Man Logan appearing in comics today comes from an alternate reality. Translation, the Wolverine we've known for more than 40 years was killed off some time ago.

Dafne Keen debuts as Laura, and the fact that she doesn't talk initially led me to suspect that the development of the character in the comics might've been in response to DC's attempt to create a new Batgirl with Cassandra Cain (now code-named Orphan) prior to the turn of the century. However, we do find that Laura can speak--she's bilingual, speaking English & Spanish---and the father-daughter chemistry slowly begins to build, leading to a climax that will mark the end of Jackman & Stewart's association with the X-franchise after 17 years.

The soundtrack includes a snippet of the late Jim Croce's "I've Got a Name", which leads off the trailer:

One of the other young mutants, Rictor, is actually a known commodity to long time fans, so including him as part of the X-project that Dr. Rice was running was just an example of the writers not finding anything appropriate to introduce the character. Another velcro dart of plot, if you will.

Speaking of trailers, the lineup includes "Ghost in the Shell", Scarlett Johannsen's latest, due at the end of the month, along with:

"The Circle": Emma Watson follows up "Beauty & the Beast" with this adaptation of a young adult novel. Tom Hanks co-stars.

"Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2" (May): Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, & Baby Groot return. Rocket, oh, by the way, currently is appearing in the daily Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip. Anyone wanna bet the rest of the Guardians could show up before that story arc ends?

"War For The Planet of The Apes" (July). Well, you knew that was coming, didn't you?

"Dunkirk": Christopher Nolan's latest.

"The Fate of The Furious": Kurt Russell joins the ever growing ensemble with Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, & Michele Rodriguez.

"Life": Jake Gyllenhall & Ryan Reynolds star in a sci-fi thriller that looks like a clone of a certain franchise. Speaking of which:

"Alien: Covenant": Said franchise returns, with director Ridley Scott.

Rating: A-.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Musical Interlude: Sultans of Swing (1978)

Dire Straits' debut hit, "Sultans of Swing", was originally written and recorded between 1977-78. It was after the band signed their first contract when they re-recorded the track for their self-titled debut album. However, after an initial single release failed to crack the charts, it was reissued in the winter of 1979. The rest is history.

Only in the South (?): Alabama theatre pulls planned showings of "Beauty & the Beast remake

The original story of Beauty & the Beast, which has been loosely adapted by Hollywood in a number of ways in the last 25, nearly 30 years, didn't have any gay characters.

There was a time, not long ago, when the name Disney stood for wholesome, family-friendly entertainment. Walt Disney's vision has been warped and tampered with by the present day obsession with societal inclusion, such that a live-action remake of the kid-friendly musical adaptation of Beauty, due to open in 2 weeks, has seen a supporting character reimagined as gay, if for no other reason than to address the LGBT community, which some media outlets seem to think is still under-served.

Suffice to say, this won't play well in the Bible Belt, and won't play at all at a Christian-owned drive-in in Henegar, Alabama, which changed ownership right before the holidays. The current owners took to Facebook to express their opinions behind their decision, stating that they wouldn't feel comfortable bringing their grandchildren to see the movie.

It was one thing when Disney allowed for the inclusion of a talking teapot in the 1990's animated reimagining of the tale, as that was for a different reason entirely, to sell toys, especially in McDonald's Happy Meals. The decision made by the screenwriters of the new version to turn LeFou, the aide-de-camp of the film's villain, Gaston, gay, is meant to illustrate the confusion that LeFou (Josh Gad, ex-The Comedians) has over his sexual identity, something that a lot of people today are facing. The problem is, the film is still being marketed for kids as well as adults, and it's a slippery slope that Walt Disney never imagined his company would ever approach.

LeFou, then, becomes the latest pre-existing character in any form of literature to be turned gay just for the sake of filling a perceived need in the audience, something Walt Disney Pictures' corporate step-sister, Marvel Comics, has had an issue with for several years. I've written before about how difficult it is to just organically create an original gay character in the comics. Archie Comics has done that successfully, and DC, less so (Bunker of the Teen Titans), but DC and Marvel both have struggled otherwise with creating new, original gay characters. Every single character that Marvel has outed in the last decade had not been gay previously. Save for Bunker, the same applies to DC. The CW's Arrowverse family of series and Riverdale, for a few examples, have prominent gay characters. In the case of Riverdale, one pre-existing character, Marmaduke "Moose" Mason, who has had a long-running relationship in the books with a steady girlfriend, has instead been rebooted for television as a bi-sexual, as the show's creator, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, chose not to use the girlfriend (Midge Klump) just yet. Aguirre-Sacasa just couldn't develop a partner for Riverdale's only openly gay teen, Kevin Keller, for the show, for whatever reason, and opted to turn Moose instead.

Sad to say, looking at recent ratings, the first year series is showing a rapid decline, largely because of fan apathy over the overall misuse of the concept. Digression over.

Henegar may not be the only town that doesn't run "Beauty" when it opens on St. Patrick's Day. We just don't know yet if anyone else will follow their lead. Just figure on the ones that do being also based in Bible Belt territory.