Monday, July 31, 2017

The Four Seasons shill for Beech-Nut (1966)

Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons were contracted by the folks at Beech-Nut in 1966 to do a couple of commercials for the company's gum products. Take a look, for example, at their ad for Beech-Nut Peppermint gum:

And if the beat sounds familiar, that's because the lyrics were actually a reworked version of the group's 1965 hit, "Let's Hang On". And on that note:

To think that Valli is still going strong even today......

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Now, this is how you make your boss look bad (What's My Line?, 1967)

On July 16, 1967, near the end of What's My Line?'s CBS run, Mark Goodson sat in on the panel with regulars Bennett Cerf and Arlene Francis and guest panelist Sue Oakland. The "mystery challenger" segment saw 4 more Goodson-Todman MC's challenge Goodson and the panel. Password's Allen Ludden, Gene Rayburn (Match Game), Bud Collyer (To Tell The Truth), and Ed McMahon (Snap Judgment). 2 CBS hosts and 2 NBC hosts. Announcer Johnny Olsen puts in a cameo at the end after the game ends.

Not mentioned, of course, was the fact that Collyer (the voice of Superman) and McMahon (The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson) had other gigs at that time as well, as it wasn't pertinent to the subject matter. One wonders if Goodson, being a good sport, gave all 4 MC's a slight pay raise......

Rating: A.

On the wrong end of history (Staten Island No-hits Tri-City, 2-0, 7/29/17)

After winning the first two games of their series vs. the Staten Island Yankees in walk-off fashion, the Tri-City Valleycats went for the sweep Saturday night on Social Media Night at a packed Joe Bruno Stadium. Instead, the 'Cats' bats went to sleep.

Four Yankees pitchers combined to no-hit Tri-City, allowing only 5 walks, with 2 more runners reaching on fielder's choices, while striking out 12, as the Baby Bombers salvaged the final game of the series, 2-0.

In a strange move, Yankee starter Jhony Brito was lifted after the 1st inning, despite throwing just 8 pitches and retiring the 'Cats in order. Eventual winner Juan De Paula came on in the 3rd, after Alex Bisacca similarly stifled the Valleycats in the 2nd. DePaula went into the 7th before being lifted himself, but there was very little the Valleycats could do, regardless of who was on the hill for Staten Island. DePaula finished with 6 K's in his 4 1/3 innings of work. Justin Kamplain finished for the save.

Kit Scheetz was the hard luck loser, giving up a run on six hits in 3 2/3 innings while striking out 5. Colton McKee went 1 1/3 innings, and Juan Robles finished, striking out 4 while giving up an unearned run in the 6th. Next for Tri-City, the Vermont Lake Monsters come to town for a series beginning today at 5 pm, wrapping up the series and the homestand with the final camp day of the season on Tuesday.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

On The Air: Outside The Lines (1990)

It is ESPN's sports-centric answer to 60 Minutes, albeit in a more compact form.

Outside The Lines launched in 1990 as a series of monthly investigative specials, anchored by long time SportsCenter anchor Bob Ley. Ratings success led to the specials graduating into a half-hour series, which first aired on Sundays, then added a daily berth. The Sunday edition was discontinued earlier this year when ESPN decided that another, similar series of specials, E:60, was ready to become a weekly series, supplanting Lines and The Sports Reporters (previously reviewed) from the Sunday morning lineup. Befitting its title, Outside The Lines looks past the headlines and digs deeper into the reality behind the stories. The daily version continues on to this day, at least for now.

In 1999, Outside The Lines took a look at professional wrestling, and its impact on sports.

Ten years later, Vince McMahon would famously tell Jeremy Schaap that he'd never retire, though the ratings today suggest that maybe he should ignore his own boasts. Maybe it requires a fresh Outside The Lines to make him understand that.

Rating: A.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Weasel of the Week: LaVar Ball

The world's worst stage parent is at it again.

LaVar Ball, he of the delusional ego and overpriced, as yet unavailable sneakers, is coaching an AAU basketball team in Los Angeles this summer, but at the rate he's going, he may not finish the season.

For the 2nd time in as many weeks, Ball pulled his team off the court, this time after he'd been ejected from the game after being assessed a pair of technical fouls. A female college referee working the game was the object of Ball's ire. Obviously, the words "sore loser" are not in his vocabulary, something son Lonzo may need to address before the start of NBA season at the end of October.

You'll notice in the following video a camera crew following the elder Ball, so he apparently has a deal in place for a reality show to extend his rapidly expiring 15 minutes of infamy. The man just doesn't get it, and probably won't, even after Big Baller Brand goes belly-up (and you know it will):

Imagine if on Sanford & Son back in the day, Fred (Redd Foxx) tried this kind of behavior coaching an AAU team in place of son Lamont (Demond Wilson). Yes, it would get laughs, but in this day and age, it'd be looked upon as sad. That's just the way the world is today.

LaVar Ball is this week's Weasel for taking the coward's way out two weeks running, just because his team is losing, for one thing, and making himself the center of attention, when the attention should be on the kids who need it more than he does. Of course, it could get worse. Ball could always hire that other bloviator, Stephen A. Smith, as a publicist. Naaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!

Forgotten TV: Meet Mr. McNutley, aka The Ray Milland Show (1953)

Film star Ray Milland transitioned to television in 1953 with the sitcom, Meet Mr. McNutley, which was under the umbrella of General Electric Comedy Theatre on CBS. Milland had the title role as college professor Ray McNutley, who taught English at Lynnhaven College, an all-girls school.

Meet Mr. McNutley came from the pens of prolific writer-producers Joe Connolly & Bob Mosher, four years before they hit the jackpot with Leave it to Beaver, which turned their fortunes around at Revue Studios. However, for the 2nd season, the series was rechristened, The Ray Milland Show, and a minor scramble of letters turned the professor into Ray McNulty. Don't ask. McNulty now taught drama at a more conventional co-ed university.

However, what kept the series from succeeding past the 2nd season was its most persistent competition through the entire run. You Bet Your Life, Groucho Marx's seminal quiz show, which, like McNutley, had transitioned from radio, was too firmly entrenched with viewers. Milland would return in the crime drama, Markham, in 1959.

To be truthful, I just never envisioned Milland as a comic actor, as I haven't seen a lot of his movies. Check out the episode "Fashion Model", in which Ray's wife, Peggy (Phyllis Avery), takes part in a fashion show. Gordon Jones (later of The Abbott & Costello Show) co-stars, but left after the 1st season. The late June Foray guest stars in this one.

It's a standard issue sitcom of the period, and the plot of Peggy trying to tell her husband about the fashion show sounds like something that could've been used on, oh, say for example, another CBS sitcom, like I Love Lucy.

Rating: C.

Sports this 'n' that

The Troy Fighting Irish sit atop their division in the Northeastern Football Alliance at 5-0, but who would notice? Aside from a pre-season feature piece in the hometown paper, and maybe also the Albany Times-Union, the Irish are not getting any coverage at all, and just finished a 3-game homestand last weekend. They're off this week, then hit the road the following week. What is it going to take to bring the media to a game?
Across town, the Tri-City Valleycats have climbed out of the basement in the Stedler division of the NY-Penn League, having won five of their last six after a walk-off grand slam beat the Staten Island Yankees last night. They're still within shouting distance of first place, and with more than a month left in the season, maybe there's still a chance for a playoff run.

The 'Cats got a boost last weekend when Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, a 2009 Valleycat, started vs. Lowell while on injury rehab. Have to believe that, aside from a Camp Day loss to Vermont on the road on Tuesday, the 'Cats have gotten their season turned around thanks to Keuchel. At last check, the Baby Bombers were atop their division, while the parent Yankees are chasing Boston.
The fire sale has begun in Flushing for the Mets.

First baseman Lucas Duda, one of the team's top sluggers, was traded Thursday to Tampa Bay for minor league pitcher Drew Smith. This clears the path for top 1B prospect Dominic Smith to be called up after the trade deadline on Monday. With utility infielder T. J. Rivera out with an elbow injury Thursday, Jay Bruce was moved from right field to first in a 7-5 loss to San Diego. Bruce filled in earlier this season when Duda was on the DL, but it was more like filling a round hole with a square. Bruce, who was a trade deadline acquisition last season, has put up the same kind of numbers that he had in Cincinnati at this time a year ago, and is reportedly being shopped, as the Mets begin to reload their farm system for the future. I'd normally say it's too soon, but with Washington threatening to run away and hide in the NL East, GM Sandy Alderson & the Wilpons have given up too soon.

Expect Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario to be called up Monday or Tuesday, as the Mets will again shuffle their infield.
NFL training camps are opening this weekend, but in a major surprise, the league has moved the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio for the 2nd time. It used to be a Saturday afternoon game back in the day, then moved into a primetime berth on the Sunday after the induction ceremony to accommodate ratings-obsessed network suits at ESPN & NBC. This year, the game will be on a Thursday night for the first time, airing on NBC, two days before the induction ceremony. Last year, ESPN had the game, while MLB Network was given a Sunday night baseball game. That plan backfired when the Hall of Fame game was cancelled due to a field snafu.

So when will CBS & Fox join the rotation? Who knows?
The defending NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys are holding their collective breath hoping that 2nd year tailback Ezekiel Elliott doesn't get suspended for a domestic violence case that didn't result in an arrest. However, with the league facing heavy scrutiny for their past bumbling on such matters, media wags are predicting Elliott, who's since had more legal issues, would sit for no fewer than 2 games. Meanwhile, Giants receiver/shampoo salesman Odell Beckham, Jr. is pulling the money card, looking for a raise as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. In this writer's opinion, he's looking to remind that he's still the top attraction at his position for Big Blue, even though they lured veteran Brandon Marshall from the Jets to give Eli Manning an extra scoring threat.
Since I don't follow horse racing as much as I did in my younger days, it came as quite a shock to learn that former baseball player Paul LoDuca, who spent a couple of years with the Mets, swapped his catcher's gear for a career as a racing analyst. The NY Racing Association (NYRA) hired LoDuca earlier this summer for their on-track programming, seen locally on the OTB channel and likely also on MSG, as an analyst to replace former jockey Richard Migliore.

Hall of Fame NFL coach Bill Parcells spends a lot of his summers in Saratoga, and even owns a few horses, which probably prohibited him from taking the gig if it was offered to him, for all we know. Haven't seen LoDuca on TV yet, but I'd imagine folks going to the track may be carrying some of his baseball cards (Mets, Dodgers, Marlins, etc.) for autographs......

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Is Maxwell Smart shilling for Schlitz? (1980)

In the summer of 1980, Don Adams reprised his iconic role as secret agent 86, Maxwell Smart, in the feature film, "The Return of Maxwell Smart", or, as it was known in theatres, "The Nude Bomb". They changed the title when the movie premiered on NBC, as I recall.

Anyway, around the same time, Adams appears to have dusted off his trenchcoat for this spot for Schlitz Malt Liquor. Seems he's been captured by an enemy agent (Leon Askin, ex-Hogan's Heroes).......

Schlitz used a number of celebrities to shill their Malt Liquor, famous for its bull insignia. Film star James Coburn, meanwhile, shilled for Schlitz Light. Big difference.

June Foray (1917-2017)

She was the grand dame of cartoon voices, and was still working up to her passing yesterday, just a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday. Today, we mourn and celebrate the career of June Foray, both here and in Saturday Morning Archives (naturally).

It's easy to recite some of June's best known voices. Rocky, the flying squirrel, a role she played well into this decade, with an appearance in a GEICO commercial a few years back. Granny, who owned both Tweety & Sylvester, and was later rebooted as the Looney Tunes' answer, if ya will, to Angela Lansbury's Jessica Fletcher (Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries), and the original voice of Witch Hazel, who often sparred with Bugs Bunny (Hazel, for some reason, was rebooted as Lezah, and recast for the Looney Tunes Show, even though Foray reprised Granny on the same show). She voiced all the female characters in Jay Ward's various productions, and was Cindy Lou Who in How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). Finding some of her work in front of the camera will be a project. I do have something over at the Archives of an appearance on Johnny Carson's CBS series in the 50's, and I'll bring that over another time.

For now, we're bringing out a GEICO ad from 2014, in which June would voice Rocky one last time....

Rest in peace.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

ABC Fall Preview 50 years ago (1967)

Time to look back at what primetime television was like 50 years ago. We'll see about locating NBC & CBS' fall previews from that year, and also the 1962 editions if at all possible, but we'll start with ABC.

ABC went with a shorter presentation this time around, narrated by Gary Owens (Space Ghost, ex-The Green Hornet), who was a network announcer at the time before being cast in Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, which further cemented his icon status.

The freshman class of 1967 (all have been reviewed here or, in the case of Off to See The Wizard, in Saturday Morning Archives):

Off to See The Wizard:  Chuck Jones and MGM tried their version of The Wonderful World of Disney on Friday nights, replacing Green Hornet, but met the same fate. Some of the same movies, split into two parts on this series, would be used on the SFM Holiday Network years later.

NYPD: Jack Warden, Frank Converse, & Robert Hooks star in this entry from David Susskind's Talent Associates (Get Smart). Might as well say this was meant to be an East Coast version of Dragnet, but without the narration and factual source material.

Judd For The Defense: Carl Betz (ex-The Donna Reed Show) returns as a Texas lawyer. Lasted two seasons.

The Guns of Will Sonnett: Walter Brennan, whose last series, The Tycoon, flopped three years earlier, has the title role of a God-fearing parent searching for his missing son. Second series collaboration from Danny Thomas & Aaron Spelling, after Tim Conway's Rango flopped earlier in the year as a mid-season replacement. Guns lasted two seasons as well.

Garrison's Gorillas: "The Dirty Dozen" meets Mission: Impossible in this World War II actioner, the last primetime series from Selig Seligman's production company. Seligman, you may not know, was a network executive at the time.

Custer: Wayne Maunder as George Armstrong Custer. Viewers tuned this out, knowing how Custer's story would end.

The Flying Nun: After Gidget had failed two years earlier, Sally Field returns as a nun with a most unusual gift. Ran for 3 seasons.

Cowboy in Africa: Chuck Connors' 3rd post-Rifleman series comes from Ivan Tors (Daktari, Flipper, Gentle Ben), but lasts just 1 season. Why? Gunsmoke, that's why.

Now, scope the video. Mind the audio quality:

Rating: B.

What Might've Been: My World......And Welcome To It (1969)

Aside from I Spy, Sheldon Leonard didn't have much luck creating hit series at NBC. All of his sitcoms ended up lasting a season or less.

His last American-produced entry for NBC, My World.....And Welcome To It, was given the lead-off spot in NBC's Monday lineup in 1969, leading into the 2nd year series, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Problem was, My World was slotted opposite the first half of Gunsmoke. Enough said.

William Windom (ex-The Farmer's Daughter) top-lined as John Monroe, who had appeared in a number of books by James Thurber, upon whom the show was based. DePatie-Freleng provided the animation for the opening sequences and some bumpers. Monroe was a cartoonist prone to Walter Mitty-like fantasies, Mitty being one of Thurber's best known creations, which hampered Monroe's personal & professional lives. Joan Hotchkis & Lisa Gerritsen co-starred. Humorist Henry Morgan (ex-I've Got a Secret) appeared periodically as a friend of Monroe's, who was based on another humorist, Robert Benchley.

Never saw the show, so we'll forego the rating again. Here, though, is a sample episode.

Leonard would land one last series at NBC, the British-produced From a Bird's Eye View, the first of his two collaborations with England's ITC, the next season, and that would be it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Videos of Summer: Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini (1960)

Brian Hyland scored a huge summer hit in 1960, and probably inspired the folks at Coppertone, for all we know. From Dick Clark's Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show, here's "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini":

Hyland's last hit record was a cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Gypsy Woman" in 1970. Could he have had a few more? We'll never know.

Monday, July 24, 2017

What Might've Been: The Bing Crosby Show (1964)

As a television producer, Bing Crosby had some success in the 60's, largely with two hit series--the medical drama, Ben Casey, and the WWII sitcom, Hogan's Heroes. In between, Crosby tried to give it a go in a sitcom of his own, which was posited by ABC as a lead-in to Ben Casey on Monday nights in 1964.

In The Bing Crosby Show, Crosby played Bing Collins, singer-turned-electrical engineer, husband, and father to two precocious daughters. He did manage to slip in a number or two, not including the theme song, each week, but it seemed viewers were more interested in what Andy Williams was doing on NBC at the time, which is why Crosby folded his tent after 1 season.

Edit, 9/16/21: Have to change the video. From November 1964, here's "The Liberated Woman":

Crosby didn't try to cast himself in another series after this. Instead, he opted for the periodic variety specials that culminated with his famous 1977 show with David Bowie, broadcast after Crosby's passing.

No rating.

Musical Interlude: Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive (1982)

Men at Work served up a left-handed homage to not only Robert Louis Stevenson's legendary literary classic, but also Jerry Lewis' original "Nutty Professor" with "Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive", the 3rd single from the album, "Cargo".

Dr. Heckyll (Greg Ham) is developing a potion that would improve his image. Two unsuspecting female guests take swigs of the potion, not realizing what it's for, and end up transformed into palm trees, much to Heckyll's disbelief. His emotional reaction triggers the transformation to Mr. Jive. Ham, in this form, looks like he wasn't sure if he wanted to emulate Richard Widmark or Frank Gorshin, or both.

Oh, what fun.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Classic Cloned: University Challenge (1962)

The GE College Bowl ended its original run in 1970, and was revived several years later for a brief time on Disney Channel. In the UK, however, the Bowl, which spawned high school-centric copycats around the country, including It's Academic and the local series, Answers Please, also managed to inspire the British series, University Challenge.

University Challenge first hit the air in 1962, produced by Granada Television, and ran for 25 years (1962-87), before being discontinued. The BBC acquired the series and brought it back on BBC 2 in 1994, where it continues today. Jeremy Paxman is the current moderator. The format is the same as College Bowl and its "clones", if you will, and is the kind of spirited cerebral competition that could still work here today.

From 2012, a pair of Cambridge universities square off.

The current season, or, series, as they refer to seasons in the UK, has ended, and University Challenge likely will return next season. Now, let's see if any American producer has the stones to bring back the College Bowl......

Rating: A.

Sounds of Praise: I Will Remember You (1991)

"I Will Remember You" was the final single from Amy Grant's 1991 crossover CD, "Heart In Motion", released as a single in the spring of 1992. It peaked #20 on the pop chart, and #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Old Time Radio: What's My Line? (1952)

Yep, you read that subject line right. What's My Line? also aired on radio for a time in the early 50's.

However, it wasn't for very long. NBC Radio had the show for a few months in 1952, and, then, it moved over to CBS Radio, where it finished its run in the summer of 1953. ABC News reporter John Daly continued as host, and the format was almost exactly the same as the CBS TV version, which, in hindsight, made the mystery guest portion a bit more challenging, since the "challengers" couldn't sign in.

Let's scope out a CBS Radio episode.

I wouldn't mind having this collected on CD.

Rating: A.

Forgotten TV: What's The Law? (1967)

This next item may look like something from the Goodson-Todman factory, but it isn't, although announcer Chet Gould did work for G-T on What's My Line? during its syndicated run.

What's The Law? is an unsold pilot from independent producer Jerry Hammer and Official Films which was produced in December 1967. It's a "Forgotten TV" entry simply because there's little or no record of it, other than the video we're presenting today. Cerebral comedian Henry Morgan (ex-I've Got a Secret) is the host, and the panel follows the familiar G-T formula of two men (Barry Nelson & Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in this case) and two women (Joan Rivers and a pre-Alice Linda Lavin, who was appearing on Broadway at the time, a few years before landing a temporary gig on Barney Miller).

Real court cases, mostly small claims cases, are discussed. Poster Ira Gallen left about 10 minutes-plus of dead air on the back end of this video.

Not the average game show by any stretch, although I think Goodson-Todman would've known what to do with it. The public just wasn't ready for something like this.

Rating: B-.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Classic TV: Daktari (1966)

Ivan Tors' Daktari was spun off from the 1965 movie, "Clarence, The Cross-Eyed Lion", marking the 2nd series to come from one of Tors' theatrical films (Flipper was the other). Daktari bowed on CBS in January 1966 as a mid-season replacement, and, in addition to Clarence, Judy the chimp and human co-stars Marshall Thompson & Cheryl Miller continued from the movie.

Daktari continues the story of widowed doctor Marsh Tracy (Thompson) and his daughter, Paula (Miller), and their work in the Wameri animal preserve in Africa. Not everyone appreciated the Tracys' work, as there was a collection of generic poachers, smugglers, and disgruntled farmers causing all sorts of problems. I don't remember seeing this in primetime, but rather, in syndicated reruns after the series ended. In all, Daktari lasted four seasons (January 1966-December 1968) across three calendar years.

After the first three seasons, Yale Summers left the series, replaced by Ross Hagen. In addition, Erin Moran, better known from her later work on Happy Days, landed her first series role when she joined the cast in the truncated final season. Post-Daktari, Hari Rhodes moved on to The Protectors, a 1-season component of The Bold Ones, and later appeared in one of the "Planet of the Apes" movies.

Let's take a look at the intro and closing. The video quality isn't exactly perfect,  but.....!

If memory serves me correctly, "Clarence" would be included as part of the SFM Holiday Network package of movies in the 70's, but hasn't been seen all that much since. Then again, no network that I know of is running Daktari these days, but should, just for fun.

Rating: A-.

Now you can watch high school football on your computer.....

Spectrum Cable has announced its lineup for the High School Football Game of the Week, which returns September 1. There are, however, some changes from past years.

For one, there will be a pre-game show in the studio, anchored by Spectrum News' sports director Marissa Jacques, who also anchors their Sports Night report on weeknights. Also, there won't be just one game on the docket each week. If you go to Spectrum's website, you'll be able to choose from three additional games that will stream live online.

For Troy High alumni such as ye scribe, there will be three opportunities to see the defending Class AA State champs during the regular season. The first two will be online options, starting with the September 15 road game at LaSalle, and then the Homecoming game the following week vs. Bethlehem. Two weeks later, coach Bob Burns' Flying Horses travel to Latham for a rematch of the Class AA title game vs. Shaker. That will be shown on Spectrum Cable channels 1, 9, & 200 (Spectrum discontinued the regional sports channel a while back). Due to the pre-game show, kickoff is being pushed back to 7:15 pm (ET). Troy beat Shaker twice last year en route to the state title, so the Blue Bison will be looking for payback. The later start will enable fans extra time to make it to the game in time for kickoff.

Our High School Fridays feature returns September 1 as well, as Troy will open at home vs. Columbia, one of just three home games in the regular season.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Celebrity Rock: The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins (1967)

Earlier today, over at Saturday Morning Archives, we took a look at the short-lived summer music series, Malibu U., from 1967. This time, however, we've got a real spacey treat for you.

Everyone knows that Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) recorded an album, as did co-star William Shatner. Nimoy appeared on Malibu U. to serve up the whimsical "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins". Scope!

Well, we should've known "Mr. Spock" could carry a tune, unlike "Captain Kirk", whose lack of emoting on record is the stuff of legend. Hmmm, seems I'd now be interested in Nimoy's take on the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man"........

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What Might've Been: Riptide (1984)

In the 80's, Stephen J. Cannell was churning out action shows, one right after the other, for both ABC & NBC, including The A-Team and Hunter for NBC and Hardcastle & McCormick, Tenspeed & Brown Shoe, & The Greatest American Hero for ABC.

As 1984 began, Cannell added another notch on his belt at NBC with Riptide, about a pair of Army buds (Perry King, Joe Penny) who start a detective agency after mustering out of the military. Aided by a computer whiz (Thom Bray) whom they met while in the Army, the sleuths, operating out of the titular houseboat, took on the bad guys for 3 seasons total (1984-6).

Could it have gone longer? Maybe, but halfway through the 3rd season, NBC moved the show from Tuesdays to Fridays. At that time, they parodied ABC's Moonlighting, which conceivably could've been a jump the shark point. NBC's mistake was moving it off Tuesdays, where it had stablemate A-Team as a lead-in. After Riptide was cancelled, NBC doubled down on the stupidity by moving A-Team for Fridays for its final season.

Chuck Collins supplies the intro:

Currently, reruns are airing on Get TV (check listings).

Rating: B.

Baseball's silly season has begun

With baseball's trade deadline now less than 2 weeks away, teams are making deals either to enhance their chances for the post-season, or, if you're, say for example, the Chicago White Sox, building for the future.

Last week, the ChiSox sent pitcher Jose Quintana across town to the World Champion Cubs, and paid immediate dividends in his first start. Tuesday, the White Sox made another deal, sending closer David Robertson back to the Yankees, along with relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle and infielder Todd Frazier, for Tyler Clippard and some minor leaguers. Thus, Clippard ends his 3rd tour of duty in New York (2 with the Yanks, 1 with the Mets), while Robertson begins his 2nd go-round with the Yankees. Kahnle was, as memory serves, drafted by the Yankees, then shipped to Colorado a ways back, so he too comes home.

In a way, the trade is also a homecoming for Frazier, the 2015 Home Run Derby champ. As a youth, the New Jersey native led his team to a Little League World Series title. A 3rd baseman by trade, Frazier will likely move to 1st base, with Chase Headley the starter at 3rd, while the Yanks wait for Greg Bird to finally be healthy enough to play.

Kahnle, like Colorado's Jeff Hoffman, has local ties as he's a graduate of Shaker High in Latham.

That should kill the online rumors that had the Yankees eyeing the Mets' Lucas Duda, but that doesn't mean that the Mets won't still shop Duda, as it's more likely that they won't make the post-season this year. The usual wags are suggesting that veterans like Curtis Granderson, Addison Reed, and Jay Bruce, all in their walk years, could be moved. Bear in mind, too, that the Mets acquired Bruce at the deadline last year. To trade away the veteran leaders, however, would send a sign to the fan base that the Mets are giving up on the season. A lot can still happen in the final 2 1/2 months of the season to overcome the injury plague that keeps haunting the Amazin's. Just sayin'.

Meanwhile, former Tri-City Valleycat J. D. Martinez, who became a big star in Detroit, was sent to Arizona for some prospects. Why Houston gave up on Martinez, I'll never know, but now he's got a new sandbox to play in, now that he's in the National League, joining infielders Paul Goldschmidt & Jake Lamb to create a potent middle of the order that could reignite the Diamondbacks' offense in the stretch run as they attempt to chase down the Dodgers.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Musical Interlude: You're So Right For Me (1963)

I have read of the chemistry Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney shared on screen in the movies. Admittedly, the only one of Garland's films I can remember watching from start to finish as a youth was, of course, "The Wizard of Oz". I don't remember seeing any of the films she made with Rooney.

Just the same, Rooney was her first guest when she launched her self-titled variety show, troubled as that was, in 1963. It was actually the first show taped, but the 10th to be broadcast. Don't ask.

Anyway, from that episode comes this little number, "You're So Right For Me", which also appears on an album of duets.

I don't get the idea of Judy kicking her shoes off to dance. Still, the old magic was still there in this sequence. I can only imagine if the two of them actually did the entire series together. I'd think it'd be an upgrade from the buzzkill of having Jerry Van Dyke as the show's only regular aside from Garland. Just sayin'.

Sports this 'n' that

When the Colorado Rockies salvaged the final game of their series with the Mets at Citi Field Sunday, they actually had a cheering section rooting for starter Jeff Hoffman, who ran his record to 4-0 on the season in a 13-4 win.

Hoffman had 30-40 family members & friends who made the trip from Latham for the game. Hoffman was a graduate of Shaker High School. and the local media has made a point of running highlights of his starts whenever possible. Colorado sent Mets starter Steven Matz to an early shower, knocking him out in the 2nd inning, as Matz just didn't have it on Sunday. Hoffman may get another shot at the Mets when the scene shifts to Denver in a week and a half.
Back at home, the Tri-City Valleycats had a rare 1:00 (ET) Sunday start in Batavia, and made the most of it, beating the Muckdogs, 13-8. Monday's home game vs. Connecticut was suspended in the 2nd inning due to rain & lightning, and they'll pick things up today. Under minor league rules, they'll play it like a double-header, with each game going 7 innings instead of 9. The Tigers led, 1-0, when play stopped. Tri-City, which has won 2 straight, needs to make a big run if they want to get back to the playoffs this year.

Next month's All-Star FanFest in downtown will have a country beat, as the Eli Young Band has been signed to headline. 9 years ago, when the 'Cats first hosted the All-Star game, they had Eddie Money headlining the Monday festival. Well, at least they've moved up to current sounds.....
So Roger Federer won at Wimbledon for the 8th time on Sunday. Excuse me while I yawn. No, seriously. Federer is one of the best grass court players in the world, but this just doesn't excite me, and, yes, tennis has been known to put me to sleep from time to time. Just sayin'.
The Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League will have their All-Star game tonight in Amsterdam, but after that, there are only 11 regular season games left for the Albany Dutchmen, who sit in 3rd place, 5 1/2 games in back of front running Amsterdam. What that says is that the league might need to see if they can move the game so that it comes halfway through the season. Yes, it's a 2 month regular season, but still......!
Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball is actually inviting a bidding war among major shoe companies, after wearing Nike & Adidas shoes during Summer League games last week. Seems he realizes his father's Big Baller Brand is doomed to an epic fail because of overpricing, a by-product of Lavar Ball's sudden need for 15 minutes of fame, which are quickly evaporating. Smart move by the kid. Even smarter would be to move out of the nest and let a more experienced agent handle his business affairs, largely because pops has become a toxic presence.
Interesting read in the paper yesterday where a number of backstretch workers from Latin countries won't be at Saratoga Race Course when the season starts on Friday due to fears that immigration officials may be looking at deporting them if they don't have work visas or haven't been naturalized as American citizens. This is the world we live in now under President Trump, who still thinks he can have a wall built to block people from sneaking across the border from Mexico into the US. Even if it is built, people will find a way. Just sayin'.
Ever since WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle was appointed as GM of Monday Night Raw in April, you knew sooner or later the show's uncreative team would develop some lame storyline to build drama where it doesn't need to be.

Well, it's happened, but not in any way that had been teased since.....well, last week.

After dropping hints of an illicit affair with former TNA president Dixie Carter (who was interviewed for a WWE Network special on Angle last week) or Stephanie McMahon (who has been off TV since Wrestlemania, aside from non-WWE functions), they swerved and revealed that Angle "has a son" on the roster. Jason Jordan, 1/2 of American Alpha, was moved from Smackdown to Raw for this purpose, weakening the Tuesday show's tag division.

All that says to me is that, with ratings at an all-time seasonal low, CEO/Chairman Vince McMahon thinks recycling an old storyline with new players would solve the ratings problems. No, it doesn't. While a lot of people assumed that Angle would eventually serve as a mentor to Jordan and Chad Gable, McMahon decided to break up American Alpha and push Jordan & Gable as individual talents on each brand. It's another knee-jerk decision borne out of frustration over the low ratings. One more reason, though, why McMahon has to step down and let Stephanie and her husband, Triple H, who has a firmer grip on things per the success of NXT, take over full-time while he enjoys his sunset years. Vince just doesn't get it, doesn't want to, and doesn't care.

And, so, we are all poorer for his decision making deteriorating before our eyes.

Monday, July 17, 2017

George A. Romero (1940-2017) and Martin Landau (1928-2017)

Hollywood is mourning 2 legends this morning.

Zombie meister George A. Romero passed away early Sunday at 77. Best known, of course, for the rise of zombies as movie monsters nearly 50 years ago, Romero would transition to television in the 80's with Tales From The Darkside & Monsters. As fellow blogger Sam Wilson notes in Mondo 70, Romero was not at all happy with how the undead have been portrayed in recent times, particularly in Robert Kirkman's smash hit comic book & TV series, The Walking Dead. Seems Romero felt insulted that he was invited to direct an episode or two of The Walking Dead, which, in his mind, went against his overall vision of zombies.

A day earlier, Oscar winner Martin Landau passed away at 89. Landau earned his award for Tim Burton's bio of "Ed Wood", opposite Johnny Depp. However, Landau is still remembered more for two iconic TV series. Landau was an original cast member of Mission: Impossible, alongside wife Barbara Bain, but left the series after three seasons. The Landaus would return in the 1975-7 sci-fi series, Space: 1999, their last regular series work.

Landau won his Oscar on his third try, after being nominated in supporting roles in "Tucker: The Man & His Dream" and "Crimes & Misdemeanors" before scoring in 1994 for "Ed Wood". What you might not know is that Landau, at 17, began his career as an assistant to writer-artist Gus Edson on his comic strip, The Gumps.

Here's a clip from Mission: Impossible with guest star Steve Ihnat:

Landau was nominated for Emmy awards all three seasons he appeared on Mission, but didn't win.

Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

On The Air (for now): Talking Smack (2016)

These days, WWE is all about getting viewers over to their online network after Smackdown & Monday Night Raw, as well as "pay-per-view" events. WWE Network is also home to 205 Live, NXT, and various special events, such as the forthcoming Mae Young Classic.

To that end, as part of last year's Brand Extension 2.0, WWE launched a pair of weekly talk shows. Raw Talk now airs Mondays. On Tuesdays, well, until last week, there was Talking Smack, Smackdown's post-show, which instantly became a fan favorite after GM Daniel Bryan and current Intercontinental champ Michael "The Miz" Mizanin, both also on Total Divas, engaged in a verbal sparring match for the ages when Bryan called Miz out for his character's cowardice. Backstage reporter Renee Young hosts, with Bryan and Commissioner Shane McMahon alternating as co-host (color analyst John Layfield has also sat in), but the object of the show is to let the talent let their hair down. There is no script. This is, in effect, SportsCenter for wrestling fans.

Unfortunately, after the July 11 broadcast, CEO/Chairman Vince McMahon decided to be Donnie Downer and terminated Talking Smack as a weekly entity. The next episode airs following next week's Battleground show, but online observers believe it's a matter of time before Vince McMahon, who will be 72 next month, pulls the plug altogether.

That begs to ask. Just why does he have a problem with a show that steps away from the script and lets the wrestlers be themselves? Hey, I've tried psycho-analyzing Chairman Wackjob for the last 15 years from a safe distance, and concluded that you simply can't reason with a man who has played an insane person in front of the cameras for most of that period. The fact that the elder McMahon has again demonstrated his ignorance of his audience earns him another set of Weasel ears, by the way.

It's just a matter of time before Raw Talk similarly is phased out, just because. Just sayin'.

For right now, scope this sample clip as Shane chats up John Cena.

I've got one question for Vince. Jealous much?

No rating. I don't have WWE Network, and the above sample isn't enough for me to give a fair rating.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Classic TV: M*A*S*H (1972)

Two years after Robert Altman had adapted a novel into a feature film, 20th Century Fox decided to revisit the 4077th's Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, or, M*A*S*H for short.

It had been one year since CBS' infamous rural purge had wiped out The Beverly Hillbillies, Hee Haw, Green Acres, and even The Ed Sullivan Show. The network had already reloaded with All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. At first, M*A*S*H was moved around the schedule before settling into a permanent berth on Mondays, where it ended its run in February 1983.

For anyone that didn't really learn anything in school about the Korean War in the 50's, M*A*S*H, to an extent provided some semblance of a history lesson, as seen through the eyes of the 4077th's staff. The ensemble cast experienced quite a bit of turnover in 11 years, more befitting a daytime drama than your average primetime show. Before the series had ended, four core cast members (Wayne Rogers, McLean Stevenson, Gary Burghoff, & Larry Linville) had all left. While the parts were not recast, new characters were created to take their places, or, in the case of Walter "Radar" O'Reilly (Burghoff), Max Klinger (Jamie Farr) was promoted to company clerk, and swapped out his cross-dressing attempts to get a section 8 discharge in favor of a different kind of R & R---respect & responsibility.

M*A*S*H was just a sitcom at first, but as time progressed, the laugh track was phased out gradually, and so the series was reclassified as a comedy-drama, as it dealt with not only the realities of war, but also social & political issues.

With the exception of Burghoff, who didn't land another series, Rogers, Linville, & Stevenson all landed with new projects. Linville wound up with a pair of bombs. First, he was cast opposite Jack Albertson in Grandpa Goes to Washington, then opposite Marla Gibbs in the Jeffersons spinoff, Checking In. Neither series was a success. Rogers (ex-Stagecoach West) tried drama anew and flopped with City of Angels before getting a fresh stethoscope in House Calls.

Stevenson signed on to M*A*S*H after a run on The Doris Day Show, and it can be argued that maybe he left a wee bit too soon. As it happened, of the series that followed, the closest to a real success Stevenson would enjoy was NBC's Hello, Larry before becoming a regular panelist on Match Game PM.

The two rocks at the front of the ensemble were Alan Alda and Loretta Swit, who were there from start to finish. The professional relationship between Hawkeye (Alda) and Margaret (Swit) went gradually from adversarial to one of respect. Maybe the friction might be because "Hot Lips" was in an affair with a very much married Frank Burns (Linville), who was portrayed as a jingoistic patriot who was also gullible and often dumber than a bag of hammers, before finding Mr. Right herself.

After Stevenson left, Harry Morgan came over from Hec Ramsey as Colonel Sherman Potter, and, in hindsight, was the final piece of the foundation.

Let's take a look at a sample clip. It's Halloween, and Major Charles Winchester (David Ogden Stiers) has to treat a patient (a pre-Cheers George Wendt) with an unusual malady.....

All the fresh parts added during the course of 11 seasons managed to fit in seamlessly. Again, kind of like a soap opera.

Rating: A.

What Might've Been: Calucci's Department (1973)

Yesterday, we talked about the workplace comedy, Many Happy Returns. My correspondents, Hal Horn at The Horn Section and TV trivia maven Mike Doran, noted that our next subject, Calucci's Department, while another workplace comedy, was actually set at a branch of the NY Department of Unemployment. I think now you know why this show lasted just 3 1/2 months. Being reminded that there are people out there not being able to earn a living can be depressing.

Of course, it didn't help that the competition consisted of Sanford & Son and The Brady Bunch. Enough said.

Calucci's Department came from Ed Sullivan's production company, with Robert Precht as executive producer. James Coco was cast in the title role as Joe Calucci, the supervisor for this particular branch office. Supporting players Rosetta LeNoire & Jose Perez might be better known for later work. Perez was part of an ensemble in the prison comedy, On The Rocks, just a couple of years later, and LeNoire scored her biggest career success as part of the ensemble of Family Matters. Coco, it turns out, was in line to have another go at fronting a sitcom, this one spun off from Who's The Boss?, but he passed away in 1987 before that could come to fruition.

In this clip, Calucci and his secretary (Candy Azzara) have an awkward discussion, as Calucci's having trouble expressing his feelings......

No rating. My folks were more into Sanford & Son.

Friday, July 14, 2017

What Might've Been: Many Happy Returns (1964)

A workplace sitcom in the 60's wasn't always guaranteed to be a sure thing.

Such was the case with Many Happy Returns, which spent a season on CBS (1964-5), filling a vacancy on the schedule created when Danny Thomas ended his sitcom after 11 seasons. John McGiver top lined as Walter Burnley, head of a complaint department in a department store. Today, that would be known under a broader umbrella as customer service.

Now, I've never seen the show, so there won't be a rating. Anyway, CBS, undaunted, tried a department store comedy again nearly a decade later with James Coco in Calucci's Department, and that also lasted a season.

So why is that?

At the time, audiences were simply not ready for laughs in a consumer marketplace.

Here's the intro:

Co-star Mark Goddard moved on to Lost in Space the next year. Elena Verdugo would later turn up on Marcus Welby, MD. Elinor Donohue (ex-Father Knows Best, The Andy Griffith Show) didn't land another series, I think.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Celebrity Rock: Somebody's Gonna Pay (2013)

She's back with WWE now, but when Mickie James left in 2010, she sought to pursue a career in country music. She had already begun work on a CD, so the stories went, but WWE wasn't willing to support her venture. That fall, she signed with TNA, and of course they got behind her debut album, "Strangers & Angels".

Three years later, James went back in the studio, and recorded "Somebody's Gonna Pay". The title cut may be her strongest track yet. The video features future husband Nick "Magnus" Aldis, and former WWE rival Trish Stratus, who plays a bartender.

During her TNA tenure, Mickie also appeared, along with wrestler James Storm, on one of Cowboy Troy's CD's. She released a new single last year, but not a full album.

Family Feud goes to the mat (1990)

The original Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was nearing its end in 1990. WCW was still a part of the National Wrestling Alliance. Somehow, some way, the two groups would meet---on Family Feud.

Then-host Ray Combs was a wrestling fan, such that he would make an appearance later on at the Survivor Series, which ultimately led to a World Wrestling Federation cross-over with its short-lived sister promotion, the World Bodybuilding Federation. Here, however, a NWA-WCW team, led by then champion Sting takes on a team from GLOW, captained by co-founder Jackie Stallone.

Original host Richard Dawson never had to deal with any of this. There would be a rematch, with a different WCW team featuring Sid Vicious and Dutch Mantel vs. GLOW, and WWE & TNA would also have weeks to themselves during the Steve Harvey (current) era. You wonder, then, if ABC would persuade NBC, whose cable sister, USA, has TV rights to the WWE today, to let current WWE stars appear on Celebrity Family Feud......

Rating: None. Didn't see it the first time.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Forgotten TV: Oh, Nooo! Mr. Bill Presents (1998)

Walter Williams' Mr. Bill returned to television in 1998, this after appearing in a number of commercials for sponsors such as Pringles, Burger King, & Lexus. This time, though, the little guy top-lined a Fox Family entry, Oh, Nooo! Mr. Bill Presents, which lasted 1 season of 42 episodes (August 1998-sometime in 1999).

Now, here's a little fact that I didn't previously know about the Mr. Bill skits from Saturday Night Live. I had been under the assumption that Williams himself was Mr. Hands, but that's not the case. Those hands belong to comedian Vance DeGeneres (Ellen's brother), who returns in this series as well.

Bill (Williams) serves as a host introducing some British comedy skits, including Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean, which had, I believe appeared on HBO previously.

In this sample clip, Bill goes bowling, but not in the way he thinks......

I'm not so sure this kind of absurdist humor would still work today. The above was my first look at the show.

No rating.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sports this 'n' that

The way the MLB Home Run Derby was being marketed for last night, you'd think defending champion Giancarlo Stanton of the host Miami Marlins would reach the finals and face Yankees rookie phenom Aaron Judge.

A funny thing happened. The Marlins & Yankees were the only teams to have 2 players in the tournament, making up 1/2 of the 1st round matchups. Judge dismissed Justin Bour. Stanton, on the other hand, was unable to repeat, as he couldn't get past Judge's teammate, last year's phenom, Gary Sanchez.

They were dancing in the Bronx, and drowning in tequilas along South Beach.

Sanchez, however, ran out of gas in the semi-finals, losing to Minnesota's Miguel Sano. Judge, meanwhile, dispatched fellow rookie Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers' slugger, whose father, Clay, was a relief pitcher with the Yankees many moons ago. Bellinger had advanced by beating Colorado's Charlie Blackmon. Judge, then, completed the gauntlet by beating Sano to become the first Yankee since Robinson Cano to win the Derby.
The Mets are floundering in 4th place in the NL East after losing 2 of 3 to St. Louis over the weekend. Worse, a report has come out quoting pitching coach Dan Warthen as saying that pitcher Matt Harvey's injured shoulder has "atrophied", which Warthen chalks up to the Thorasic Outlet surgery Harvey underwent last year.

What this suggests to me is that the so-called "Dark Knight"'s days as a starter are over, if not also his career. The more pessimistic Mets loyalists will remember how the much-hyped "Generation K" of the 90's (Paul Wilson, Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen) fizzled quickly, due also to injuries. A separate article suggests that Noah Syndergaard could hasten his return by working out of the bullpen, the better, I suppose, to aid the overtaxed relief corps. Becoming a reliever saved Isringhausen's career, and led to a brief reunion with the Mets 6 years ago.

For now, the Yankees own New York again.
We know New Jersey Governor Chris "Chins" Christie is a Mets & Dallas Cowboys fan. We also know he's not the most popular guy in New York or New Jersey these days.

So what happens when he sits in for his buddy, WFAN afternoon yakker Mike Francesa? He alienates listeners, almost as badly as Francesa does. It could be worse. He could've had a seat in President Trump's Cabinet.
The late Johnnie Mae Young was never a women's champion, that I know of, but because she revived her career as a recurring player on WWE programming during the Attitude Era, she's being honored with a women's tournament named for her. The Mae Young Classic will begin unspooling soon, which should resuscitate the women's division in NXT, which is lacking depth after losing the likes of Alexa Bliss, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Carmella, Nia Jax, Bayley, & Sasha Banks in the last 2 years. Folks are waiting for current NXT women's champ Asuka to get promoted to the main roster, but that may not happen until near the end of the year at the earliest.

Long as we're talkin' NXT, Saratoga Springs resident and former Ring of Honor TV & tag champion Bobby Fish made his debut with the developmental brand last month in a losing effort vs. Aleister Black. Fish is scheduled to be in town Saturday as part of the Northeast Wrestling show at Joe Bruno Stadium, but the next time we see him in a local venue after that may be under the NXT flag in Albany.
I hate to keep harping on it, but the only way to keep up with the Northeastern Football Alliance, which has a few teams here in New York, including the Troy Fighting Irish, is to go online to the NFA's website. Local press can't be bothered to cover the Irish, even when the primary summer attraction, the Tri-City Valleycats, are out of town. The Irish are in the midst of a 3 game homestand that continues Saturday vs. Watertown, whose Red & Black dates back to the Empire Football League back in the 70's, when they were rivals of the Metro Mallers. Day of game ticket prices are the same as the 'Cats (lowest price is $7), and although Lansingburgh High is off the bus line, getting there isn't a problem. Now, if only the press could actually show up for a game.......

Monday, July 10, 2017

What Might've Been: Home Run Derby (1960)

With Major League Baseball's annual Home Run Derby taking place tonight in Miami, let's take a look back at when there was a TV series that featured the biggest sluggers of their day competing for cash prizes.

Home Run Derby, a syndicated series that ran during the 1st half of 1960, but taped in September 1959 in Los Angeles, was equal parts game show (because of the cash bonuses) and athletic competition, a forerunner, if you will, to today's annual exhibitions on the eve of the All-Star Game. Actor-broadcaster Mark Scott was the host, and chatted amicably with each player while the opponent was in the batter's box.

Unfortunately, Scott passed away before production could begin on a prospective 2nd season, and so Ziv, which packaged the series, decided to end it.

In later years, ESPN acquired the series, and aired the reruns for a brief period. The series would later move to ESPN Classic. Today, MGM, and, by extension, Sony, owns the series, so you wonder if MLB might have to pay royalties for their annual competition.

Anyway, let's go back to January 1960, and the series premiere, featuring future Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle & Willie Mays. Play ball!

The "other" Wrigley Field, in Los Angeles, was the site of the show. I wonder what they'd have done if the series went "on tour", if you will, to other major league parks during the off-season for tapings.......

Rating: A.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Musical Interlude: Skin Trade (1986-7)

Duran Duran's bouncy "Skin Trade" was the 2nd single off their 1986 CD, "Notorious", and released as a single in January 1987. Naturally, it landed in heavy rotation on MTV back then. I think you can see why.

Duran Duran also landed on Soul Train to perform "Skin Trade" and the 3rd single, "Meet El Presidente". Unfortunately, the clip isn't available to be used here for now.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

In Theatres: Spider Man: Homecoming (2017)

"With great power comes great responsibility."

No one has learned that lesson more than Peter Parker over the course of 55 years. The lesson is reinforced in more ways than one in "Spider-Man: Homecoming", the web-head's 6th feature film in 15 years, and with the 3rd actor to don the webs over that span, Tom Holland, who was introduced last year in "Captain America: Civil War".

In fact, a key scene from that film is revisited, this time through the eyes of the rookie hero, who is recording it for posterity. In that sequence alone, you can see just how in over his head Spider-Man is in this context. He's convinced himself he's ready for the big leagues, but he comes across more as a wanna-be who has to be scolded from time to time by his patron, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). To that end, instead of designing the classic costume himself, Peter is given a tech-riddled suit by Stark, as the home-made costume Peter wears early on, before the epic meeting with the Avengers, looks more like something created for one of those needless Spider-spin-offs, the Scarlet Spider.

So consumed by his new powers is Peter that he gives up his after-school responsibilities, which turns out to be not the best of ideas.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton). We meet Adrian first on a salvage job in the aftermath of "The Avengers". However, Toomes has his contract terminated by a government agent (Tyne Daly), representing Damage Control, which is being funded by Stark. I cannot speak to how Damage Control was actually coordinated in the books back in the day, so I can't say if this is an accurate depiction. Anyway, Toomes goes underground, shall we say, keeping some of the alien tech he's already acquired for his own use. His crew includes non-costumed versions of three more members of Spidey's rogues gallery--Scorpion, Shocker, & Prowler. Hmmm.

The story fast-forwards not five years, but eight, which would suggest this movie is set three years into the future. With Marvel-time, you just never know. Anyway, Peter is 15 in this story, and I cannot recall if being a sophomore here correlates with where he was in the books initially. Not sure if he was a sophomore or a junior when he debuted in Amazing Fantasy back in 1962. His circle of friends is different, too. Yes, there's Betty Brant, but she's a reporter for the school's television station. Flash Thompson is on the same academic team as Peter, which is an interesting improvement. And, then, there is Ned, meant to be an analogue for Ned Leeds, who was introduced as an adult reporter for the Daily Bugle back in the 60's. This Ned is also on the academic team, and totally geeks out when he's chillin' in Peter's bedroom, waiting for his pal, only to discover the biggest secret of his life.

Peter's crush here is Liz, who happens to be Toomes' daughter. See, in this story, Toomes is also a family man looking to provide for them any way he can. Having been screwed over by the government, and there's a valid reason to believe he was wronged, Toomes is keeping secrets from his family, just like Peter has kept his secret hidden from Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), so he can actually relate to Peter.

Sam Raimi had intended to use the Vulture, had Sony not decided to reboot five years ago. Not sure if this was the direction he wanted with Toomes, but the Everyman businessman that Toomes was before turning to crime is consistent with his portrayals in the books. You don't expect to feel sorry for Toomes, but Keaton all but steals the movie. Then again, nobody believed Keaton could cut the mustard as a hero in "Batman" nearly 30 years ago, but he proved his doubters wrong. Coming off "Birdman" a couple of years ago, Keaton has positioned himself in line for another Golden Globe and/or Oscar nomination, though voters might forget by the end of the year.

Trailers, aside from "Dunkirk", which we've referenced before:

"Maudie": Sally Hawkins & Ethan Hawke star. From what I can gather, the title character (Hawkins) may be disabled or autistic. Just don't know enough about the film to be sure.

"Step is Life": Set in Baltimore, a college step team looks for their ticket out of the ghetto.

"An Inconvienent Sequel: Truth is Power" (July 28): The follow-up to Al Gore's "An Inconvienent Truth", with copious doses of Presidents Obama & Trump, the latter on the campaign trail last year.

Here's the "Homecoming" trailer:

Here's to hoping when Spidey returns, he's done some growing up. While there are some legitimately funny moments, and a few unintentional ones, Spider-Man is too much of a klutz to actually merit his rookie status. I don't like the idea of a tricked out costume with an on-board AI. Not every hero is meant to be outfitted like Iron Man.

Rating: B--.

On The Air: Battle of the Network Stars (2017)

When Battle of the Network Stars began in 1976, it was part of a sub-genre of sports entertainment known as "trash sports", which some would argue began with another ABC series, The Superstars, but it lasted for more than a decade, despite diminishing returns.

It may seem like an odd choice to be the middle part of ABC's Summer Fun & Games Thursday block, but there it is. Battle of the Network Stars isn't about the networks battling each other this time, though. Instead, the weekly rosters are a mash-up based on specific themes.

ESPN's Mike Greenberg and Joe Tessitore have been given the yellow Wide World of Sports blazers used for the original Battle, and one variant on the Wide World intro, complete with the late Jim McKay's narration, plays in the open of Battle. I'd think ESPN & ABC may be testing the waters of a Wide World revival for down the road, but we'll see. Because of the hour-long format, not all of the events are shown in their entirety. The original Battle was given either 90 minutes or 2 hours, twice a year.

The 2017 opener sees a team of "TV Sitcom" stars, headed by Tom Arnold and Dave Coulier, taking on "TV Kids", led by Facts of Life alums Kim Fields and Lisa Welchel, the latter of whom was last seen on Survivor a couple of years back. NFL star DeMarcus Ware and UFC ace Ronda Rousey are the team captains who will get different combos each week.

Let's take a look at week 1:

Amusing to some, but your actual mileage may vary.

Rating: B.

Friday, July 7, 2017

What Might've Been: The Weakest Link (US edition) (2001)

At the turn of the century, with "reality" shows becoming a thing, so too were evening game shows coming back into favor. ABC started it by importing Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, which is still running today in a compacted syndicated form.

In 2001, NBC picked up the US rights to The Weakest Link, a more challenging quiz game in which 8 strangers are asked to join together to build a bank that could reach as much as a million dollars. While the original UK Link ran for 12 years (2000-12), its American counterpart could only last two seasons on NBC, and almost as long in syndication.

Anne Robinson came as part of the package for the NBC version, but for the syndicated half-hour edition, comic George Gray, now the announcer on The Price is Right, filled the MC's position. Whereas Robinson brought her tart tongue and insults, Gray was a little more watered down, since his Link tended to air in the daytime.

Inevitably and predictably, as ratings began to sag for the NBC version, the network resorted to stunts, including 2 crossovers with WWE (it was still the World Wrestling Federation during Link's run on NBC), using celebrities and themes with charities winning the cash.

Here, though, is a sample episode with celebrity guests Davy Jones (ex-The Monkees), Vicki Lawrence (ex-Mama's Family), Ed Begley, Jr. (ex-St. Elsewhere), and more.

By the time Link had arrived in the US, the networks were already oversaturated with "reality" shows, and began adding new games to try to counter Millionaire, which, at its peak, ran as many as 4-5 nights a week. NBC opted to keep Link a weekly series in primetime, which made sense, but resulted in a too short run.

Rating: A-.

Sports this 'n' that

Normally, the tennis Championships at Wimbledon start in late June, and finish the Sunday after July 4. Not so this year, as the 2017 edition began on Monday, and will wrap on July 16, a wee bit later than normal. Come to think of it, the French Open last month might've been a little later than usual, too. Just sayin'.
So Manny Pacquiao lost a fight last weekend. As soon as I read that ESPN had assigned in-house bloviator Stephen (Screamin') A. Smith to cover the fight, if only because he's a Howard Cosell wanna-be, and boxing was one of the two major sports Cosell regularly covered, I had a feeling Smith, who wouldn't know a right lead from a right guard, was there just to get ratings. His current First Take partner, Max Kellerman, was a boxing commentator for HBO and ESPN during his first tour of duty at the latter, and would've been a better fit. I can only imagine what had happened on Monday's broadcast, because something tells me Max would've taken Screamin' A. to school again.
It must be a slow news day today, because one online piece I read this morning bemoaned the fact that, save for manager Joe Maddon and his coaches and closer Wade Davis, the defending champion Cubs won't have any of last year's World Series heroes (Davis was with Kansas City last year) in the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Miami. Kris Bryant lost out on the NL Final Vote to the Dodgers' Justin Turner. The only way Bryant or any of his mates joins Davis on the roster is by injury replacement over the weekend. It might not sound fair to Cubs Nation, but credit Maddon for not stuffing the reserve portion of the roster with his players, opting for more of a melting pot mix. I'm sure, though, that Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, et al, would be the first ones called if someone pulls out due to an injury over the next 3-4 days.
Women's roller derby doesn't get the same kind of press coverage as, say, pro wrestling, but today's Record is promoting tomorrow night's match between the Albany All-Stars and the Troy Hellions, the latter of whom play their home matches in Rotterdam because they can't afford to pay the rent on either the RPI-Houston Field House or either of the city's rinks (Frear Park and the Knickerbocker Ice Arena in Lansingburgh). The Hellions called Frear Park home their first year, but because they apparently didn't draw enough people to the games (Frear Park is off the bus line), they didn't renew the lease for the next season. As previously documented, the All-Stars now play at the new Capital Center, just up the hill from Times Union Center, where last year's game was played. Now, let's see if someone sends a camera crew.......
The Mets' NY-Penn League affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones, just wrapped their first visit to Troy last night (they return August 19-21) wishing they'd saved some of Wednesday night's offense. After blowing out the Tri-City Valleycats, 10-1, on Wednesday, the Cyclones were given a receipt last night, as the wind was blowing out to left field at Bruno Stadium. The 'Cats erupted for 5 home runs, two of them by Reid Russell, in a 13-0 rout to take 2 of 3 from the Cyclones. Tri-City is back on the road tonight, heading to Aberdeen, Maryland to play the Ironbirds. The upside to the last two games, even though they were blowouts, was that both games were played in just over 3 hours. The July 4 game, won by Tri-City, went more than 4 hours to play 9 innings, delaying the post-game fireworks show to nearly 11 pm.

Pace of play, kids. Let's get with the program.
The Mets are hoping Michael Conforto will be ready to be in Miami on Tuesday, as he comes off the disabled list tomorrow----we think. Otherwise, the Amazin's are in the same boat as the Cubs. It's that kind of year.

Meanwhile, after being rained out of the series finale vs. the Mets Wednesday, the Washington Nationals made their fans wait 3 hours and change before starting Thursday's game vs. Atlanta. Why? They thought a rainstorm headed for the DC area would land as scheduled. Someone at Nationals Park clearly had a Chicken Little moment, and the Nats are taking some serious heat for their overly cautious approach. Some jabroni on suggested that the Nats players voted to the All-Star game (i.e. Bryce Harper) be banned from the game, but that's just being petty and stupid. Not Harper's fault, although we'd have to question his or Scott Boras' sanity for putting him in that lame T-Mobile commercial.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Forgotten TV: Dundee & the Culhane (1967)

Filmways' greatest successes came with sitcoms (i.e. Addams Family, Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies). Until their final drama, Cagney & Lacey, came along in the early 80's, the studio had next to no luck with dramas.

In 1967, the studio signed British legend John Mills to star in a Western, Dundee & The Culhane, for CBS. The network loved the pilot, they say, but subsequent episodes exposed some flaws, leading to a quick hook, two weeks before Christmas.

Edit, 6/11/22: We have a sample clip.

Series creator Sam Rolfe came over from MGM, and wrote some of the episodes himself.

No rating.

Musical Interlude: I Remember The Feeling (1976)

There was a time in the mid-70's when we almost had a full-on Monkees reunion.

Micky Dolenz & Davy Jones joined forces with songwriter buds Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart for a 1-shot album, "Dolenz, Jones, Boyce, & Hart", released on Capitol in 1976. The other Monkees, Mike Nesmith & Peter Tork, were invited, but declined. They, in turn, would record with another set of songwriters, the husband & wife team of Gerry Goffin & Carole King.

Around this time, Dolenz was doing mostly cartoon work at Hanna-Barbera (i.e. Funky Phantom, Devlin), but had "I Remember The Feeling" raced up the charts, things would've been looking up, 10 years after The Monkees.

The energy was there, but radio wasn't interested, it seems.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

On The Air: GLOW (2017)

In the mid-80's, David McLane, a midwestern ring announcer, came up with the idea of an all-female wrestling promotion. The final product, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, ran for 4 seasons (1986-90), filled with a mix of camp comedy skits and less than perfect wrestling. Ursula Hayden, one of the "wrestlers" on the show, now holds the rights to the franchise, and had to have given the green light to Netflix to develop a fictionalized account of how the show came together.

GLOW has a completely new cast of characters, including director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), who has to not only put the cast together, but find some actual grapplers to teach them the finer points of the mat game. Of course it's awkward, especially for Ruth (Allison Brie), an out of work actress who needs a job of any kind to make ends meet. After being cut initially by Sylvia, Ruth is bullied and robbed by a trio of kids, and winds up being rehired. Her former best friend, Debbie, a soap opera actress, gets into the act when she learns her husband's been cheating on her with Ruth.

The 10 episode series builds toward the inevitable in ring confrontation, in front of an audience, between Ruth & Debbie in their new personas. Former NWA & TNA women's champ Kia "Awesome Kong" Stevens lends some credibility to the cast. Tough Enough alumnus John Hennegan, aka current Lucha Underground champ Johnny Mundo, guest stars in the opener, but his character is quickly written off as having been fired by Sylvia off camera.

Check out the trailer:

As with Iron Fist, GLOW walks a rickety tightrope, as there are some rough spots, and plenty of face-palm inducing moments. If you've ever wondered just how difficult it was to mount the original series, well, your questions will be answered.

Update, 9/5/17: Having just finished watching the final episode yesterday, I can safely say that the series earned its renewal for a 2nd season. The twist ending plays like a normal wrestling swerve, and that's all I can say. Would that a certain Marvel-Netflix series currently running would take a few creative lessons.

Final rating: A-.

Monday, July 3, 2017

President Trump vs. the Media----only in his warped mind

When you're elected to public office, you expect to hear it from all sides, positive or negative. It comes with the territory.

President Donald Trump doesn't understand that being the Chief Executive of the entire country means curbing his ego and not taking offense to criticism at every turn. He's accused CNN and other media outlets of "fake news", as if CNN's chief rival, Fox News Channel, isn't biased itself, and some might think it is.

Trump's meritless accusations are only getting worse when illustrated through videos, especially one that a Reddit user and Trump dittohead posted on Sunday. You've probably seen it already, I'm sure. A 10 year old video of Trump taking down WWE Chairman and fellow nutcase Vince McMahon at WrestleMania 23, edited to fit the CNN logo over McMahon's head, surfaced, and has made the rounds.

Edit, 2/16/19: Had to replace the video with this Star TV entry.

A year ago, Inside Edition did a puff piece on then-candidate Trump, which included the actual WrestleMania footage, including an interview with wrestler Bobby Lashley, now with Global Force Wrestling (Formerly TNA/Impact Wrestling).

So, what is the President's point? He doesn't trust the media, the same news media that has covered him since his emergence on the national scene as a NYC businessman more than 30 years ago. Trump should just let go of his childish Twitter tantrums and go about his business as a President should, instead of picking fights for no other reason than to feed his own scarred ego.

Baseball this 'n' that

The All-Star rosters are out. The only question I have is, well, what's wrong with this picture?

American League:


Outfield: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
Outfield: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Outfield: George Springer, Houston Astros
Catcher: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
First Base: Justin Smoak, Toronto Blue Jays
Second Base: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
Shortstop:  Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
Third Base:  Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
Designated Hitter: Corey Dickerson,  Tampa Bay Rays


Mookie Betts, outfielder, Boston Red Sox
Michael Brantley, outfielder, Cleveland Indians
Avisail Garcia, outfielder, Chicago White Sox
Gary Sanchez, catcher, New York Yankees
Yonder Alonso, first baseman, Oakland Athletics
Jonathan Schoop, second baseman, Baltimore Orioles
Starlin Castro, second baseman, New York Yankees
Francisco Lindor, shortstop, Cleveland Indians
Miguel Sano, third baseman, Minnesota Twins
Nelson Cruz, designated hitter, Seattle Mariners
Chris Sale, starting pitcher, Boston Red Sox
Ervin Santana, starting pitcher, Minnesota Twins
Jason Vargas, starting pitcher, Kansas City Royals
Corey Kluber, starting pitcher, Cleveland Indians
Andrew Miller, relief pitcher, Cleveland Indians
Craig Kimbrel, relief pitcher, Boston Red Sox
Dallas Keuchel, starting pitcher, Houston Astros
Luis Severino, starting pitcher, New York Yankees
Yu Darvish, starting pitcher, Texas Rangers
Michael Fulmer, starting pitcher, Detroit Tigers
Lance McCullers Jr., starting pitcher, Houston Astros
Dellin Betances, relief pitcher, New York Yankees

National League:

Outfield: Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies
Outfield: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Outfield: Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins
Catcher: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
First Base:  Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
Second Base:  Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals
Shortstop: Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds
Third Base: Nolan Arenado,  Colorado Rockies


Cody Bellinger, outfield, Los Angeles Dodgers
Giancarlo Stanton, outfield, Miami Marlins
Michael Conforto, outfield, New York Mets
Ender Inciarte, outfield, Atlanta Braves
Yadier Molina, catcher, St. Louis Cardinals
Paul Goldschmidt, first baseman, Arizona Diamondbacks
Joey Votto, first baseman, Cincinnati Reds
Josh Harrison, second baseman, Pittsburgh Pirates
DJ LeMahieu, second baseman, Colorado Rockies
Corey Seager, shortstop, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jake Lamb, third baseman, Arizona Diamondbacks
Clayton Kershaw, starting pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers
Max Scherzer, starting pitcher, Washington Nationals
Carlos Martinez, starting pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals
Robbie Ray, starting pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks
Greg Holland, relief pitcher, Colorado Rockies
Kenley Jansen, relief pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers
Zack Greinke, starting pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks
Stephen Strasburg, starting pitcher, Washington Nationals
Wade Davis, relief pitcher, Chicago Cubs
Brad Hand, relief pitcher, San Diego Padres
Corey Knebel, relief pitcher, Milwaukee Brewers
Pat Neshek, relief pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies

The lone Met on the list, Michael Conforto, is currently on the DL, and might not be ready for the game next week. The Mets' best pitcher, Jacob deGrom, was given the el-snubbino by NL manager Joe Maddon, whose defending champion Cubs have just 1 player on the roster, too, in closer Wade Davis, which is, pardon the pun, maddening. The Yankees, meanwhile, have just 1 starter, rookie sensation Aaron Judge, and 5 players in all. So why are the Mets & Cubs getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment? The starters are still voted on by the fair weather fans who will spam the internet with multiple votes. Fair weather because of this season's trendy teams (Colorado & Arizona in the NL, Houston  in the AL). Worse, there's no way deGrom gets on the team unless he's named at the last minute by Maddon, since he's not part of the Final Vote (which is a farce unto itself). Maddon, surprisingly, didn't pull rank to add more Cubs, although Kris Bryant is in the Final Vote, but there's always going to be someone getting snubbed for the big dance. There's no way around it.

On the upside, this year's game will not determine home field in the World Series. That farcical stipulation enacted by former commissioner Bud Selig was excised after last year's game.
It's going to be a long summer for the Tri-City Valleycats. They've already lost the first two games of their series with Staten Island, and entering play tonight, are in 3rd place in the Stedler Division, in danger of falling into the cellar. Friday's game at Connecticut was suspended due to rain, and will be made up next month, when the 'Cats make their final trip to Connecticut. Tri-City comes home for their annual July 4 clambake Tuesday vs. Brooklyn. Too bad Spectrum Cable can't be bothered to give the 'Cats a TV deal.....!
More Mets. After posting a respectable 4-2 ledger vs. Miami & Philadelphia last week, they go back on the road at Washington tonight, then St. Louis this weekend before the All-Star break. Terry Collins' crew needs to figure out how to shut down ex-teammate Daniel Murphy, who has had a hit in every game vs. the Mets dating back to last year. Someone should've taken away his playbook, because how else to explain it? They can't go a week without someone going on the DL, which makes one wonder if there really is someone putting a curse on the team.....!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Old Time Radio: Mr. & Mrs. North (1942)

Mr. & Mrs. North ran on radio for 12 years (1942-54), the last two concurrent with their television run. After Richard Lockridge's novels had been adapted for Broadway and the big screen, Jerry & Pam North transitioned to radio, with Joseph Curtin & Alice Frost in the title roles.

Edit, 12/1/21: Had to change the video. Here's "Operation: Murder":

On radio, the series was not too different from other mysteries of the period. Nothing special, which might explain why the TV series only lasted two years.

Rating: B.

A Modern Classic: Empty Nest (1988)

Sitcoms had been done before built around widowers and their kids. The difference between those and Empty Nest was that on this show, the kids were all grown up and working for a living, coming home to give their father some company after their mother passed on.

Empty Nest was a spin-off from The Golden Girls that went to series the second time around. The first backdoor pilot, in 1987, featured Paul Dooley, but it didn't get the reaction that Touchstone Television & NBC wanted, so back to the drawing board they went. The final product reunited stars Richard Mulligan and Dinah Manoff with their bosses from Soap, executive producers Paul Junger Witt & Tony Thomas, and series creator Susan Harris. The show was built around Mulligan as widowed Dr. Harry Weston, whose only companion at the start was his dog, Dreyfus. Soon, Weston's daughters (Manoff and Kristy McNichol) come home to set the stage for the series.

Isuzu pitchman David Leisure was cast as Weston's neighbor, Charley, who, based on the description I read, would routinely show up in the Westons' apartment unannounced, a la Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) on Seinfeld, which came along roughly around the same time. Some plots centered around Weston at work in his clinic with his nurse (Park Overall). In season 6, Dr. Weston had retired from his practice, but now had a new assistant (Marsha Warfield, ex-Night Court), although Overall's character would soon return after she'd left the clinic. In adddition, Estelle Getty joined the cast full-time, reprising her Golden Girls role as Sophia. Golden Girls had ended its NBC run in 1992, and made the ill-fated move to CBS, where, as The Golden Palace, it had ended after the 1992-3 season.

Let's take a look at the pilot.

Kristy McNichol had left the show after 4 seasons, only to return for the series finale in 1995. Disney holds the rights to the series, but good luck finding it on cable these days.

Rating: B.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

What Might've Been: City Beneath The Sea (1967)

The year was 1967. Irwin Allen had gotten renewals for Lost in Space & Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which would enter their final seasons that fall. Time Tunnel, however, was cancelled after 1 season at ABC, and Land of the Giants, intended for the 1967-8 season, was delayed a year, where it would eventually replace Voyage on ABC's schedule.

NBC, understandably, wanted a piece of the action. Network VP Herb Schlosser, showing little or no faith in Star Trek, commissioned Allen to produce a series for the Peacock Network, meant to replace Trek. Of course, as we all know, Trek had already become a fan favorite despite being a little challenged in the ratings, and would forge ahead for 2 more seasons.

City Beneath The Sea wound up being passed over when Trek was renewed. Undaunted, Allen would try again 4 years later, but with a different cast. In addition, he took City to WB for his 2nd attempt, which at least saw the pilot film air, but no series.

The 1967 version is headlined by Glenn Corbett (ex-Route 66) and James Brolin. Lloyd Bochner was posited as the villain of the piece in much the same way Jonathan Harris was as Dr. Smith on Lost in Space 2 years earlier, and Kurt Kasznar would have that same distinction in Giants.

The fight scene between Corbett & Bochner, or at least their stunt doubles, resembled a generic Trek fight scene (the monkey flip spot is the dead giveaway) in its concept. The basic premise, though, would tip the direction Allen would take with his disaster movies in the 70's.

Surely, NBC could've found room for both City and Trek, but didn't. Something tells me Schlosser was looking at profit margins, thinking City wouldn't cost as much to make as Trek, but I can't be certain of that at all.

Rating: B-.