Thursday, November 30, 2017

Jim Nabors (1930-2017)

Well, gollllllly!

News has just crossed the wires of the passing of actor-singer Jim Nabors, just a day after his 87th birthday.

Nabors, of course, is best remembered as Gomer Pyle, USMC. Gomer debuted on The Andy Griffith Show, then was spun off into his own series, which ran for five seasons (1964-9). In a way, Gomer's solo series was modeled after Mort Walker's still-running comic strip, Beetle Bailey, except that Gomer was a Marine, as opposed to Beetle being in the Army.

As demonstrated in this clip from Gomer Pyle USMC, Nabors' Southern drawl disappeared when it came time to sing. This would explain how he was also a million-selling recording artist for Columbia....

For 43 years (1972-2014), Nabors also sang at the Indianapolis 500, performing "Back Home Again  in Indiana":

In 1975, Nabors landed his last series gig, this time starring in a Saturday morning sci-fi series, The Lost Saucer with Ruth Buzzi (ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In). The series, however, lasted just 1 season, and other than the occasional movie gig, Nabors would wind down his career rather quietly.

Nabors spent his final years in Hawaii, and, as noted, passed away earlier today, just a day after celebrating his birthday. Rest in peace, Jim. You've earned it.

Section II players opt for prep school before graduating. Does it make sense?

Reporting in today's Albany Times-Union, James Allen wrote that some premier Section II basketball players are taking their talents elsewhere this season. The prep school bug has hit Section II again, and for some teams, the timing just couldn't be worse.

Two years ago, Troy High's boys basketball team lost star guard Zach Radz when he opted to transfer to a prep school. Today, Allen is reporting that Daniel Buie, who would've been in his senior season at Troy, and was the basketball equivalent to Joey Ward with the Flying Horses, transferred to Gould Academy in Bethel, Maine, a member of the New England Prep School Athletic Council (NEPSAC), which counts Albany Academy For Boys among their member schools in football and hockey. Suddenly, five days before the season opener at Shenendehowa, interim coach Greg Davis is facing an even rougher road than he thought.

Stop and think for a second. Davis is filling in for Richard Hurley, who decided to take a year off to spend more time with his family, although he's still fulfilling his other duties as an assistant to principal Joseph Mariano, Jr.. Once that news got out in March, after Troy's 1-&-done elimination in the sectionals, I suspect the other shoe may have dropped, depending on when Buie decided to transfer, be it before the end of the school year, or over the summer. According to Allen, Buie has reclassified as a junior once more, and will play two seasons at Gould.

Greg Davis coached at least one game in Hurley's absence last season, a home loss to Bethlehem. Now, I cannot be certain if there were any issues between Buie and Davis, and I doubt that there were any, but considering that Hurley coached Buie's brother, Taran, at Bishop Maginn, maybe Buie felt more comfortable listening to Hurley, and having a different voice calling plays this season than accustomed may or may not have been a factor in his decision.

Meanwhile, Colonie's Bryce Waterman, Columbia's Grace Heeps, and Glens Falls' Sophie Tougas have all transferred to prep schools as well. Heeps & Tougas are attending NEPSAC schools, per Allen's report, but while there was no mention of where Waterman was going this season, I suspect he, too, is attending a NEPSAC member school.

So why the switch? As I've written before, these moves are made with an eye toward bolstering one's chances of being recruited to a Division I college (i.e. Duke, Syracuse, UAlbany). Tougas, like Buie, has reclassified as a junior, so maybe grades are a factor, too.

For Troy, which won the Suburban Council Grey division title in their first season in the league, then dropped to 3rd last year, and already dealing with the prospect of not having certain players (i.e. Joe Casale) ready by the Shen game on December 5 due to the length of football season, the departure of Buie likely brings this reaction:

There is a downside to going to a NEPSAC school, though, for student-athletes, as Albany Academy already knows. Local media coverage will be minimal, if not sparse, due to a lack of available resources for local newspapers and television stations.

For Troy fans, it's going to be a looooooooong winter.

And, so, they fall like dominoes.........

Not a day goes by now without a headline or two telling us that someone prominent in politics, television, movies, etc., is facing charges of sexual harassment dating back years in some cases.

For example, right before airtime on Wednesday, NBC sacked Matt Lauer, who'd been on Today for 2 decades. Seems to me that in the mind of Lauer's detractors, this was a long time coming. Later in the day, Garrison Keillor, creator and former host of A Prairie Home Companion, was given the boot by Minnesota Public Radio.

All of this comes on the heels of revelations of similar improprieties involving Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore, Minnesota senator and former TV personality Al Franken, actor Kevin Spacey, movie execuitve Harvey Weinstein, and Andrew Kreigsberg, who earlier this week was bounced by Warner Bros. Television.

Today's Record tells us that there may be a scandal close to home, too.

Newly elected Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin is dealing with some issues from the recent past during his tenure in the state Assembly involving---what else?---interns. Just what the county GOP doesn't need, as they retained control of the County Executive's seat, at least for now. If an investigation is warranted, though, I suspect McLaughlin won't last long in his new post, as there may be so much public pressure for him to step down before he can actually settle in.

And what of the Pervert-in-Chief? Let's remember that a nation of disenfranchised voters elected Donald Trump last year, despite the fact that an 11 year old Access Hollywood video surfaced right before the election where Trump bragged that because of his celebrity status, he could do anything and get away with it.

However, America's biggest man-child is now claiming the video was doctored. Typical Trump, resorting to childish tantrums to avoid manning up and accepting responsibility for his actions. He even went so far as to call for an investigation into NBC News head Andrew Lack and commentator Joe Scarborough, recalling a cold case from Scarborough's days as a Florida politician in which an intern had been found dead in his office. The authorities say the the victim suffered from cardiac issues. Trump, not knowing all the facts, and already in an online feud with Scarborough, claims there was a cover-up. Predictably, on Morning Joe, Mika Brezinski, speaking for Scarborough, refuted the President's false claims.

37 years ago, Ronald Reagan was elected President, the first to make the transition from Hollywood to the Oval Office, having warmed up for the Presidency by serving as Governor of California. Because of that experience, Reagan is held in high esteem for his two terms in office. Trump? For a man who reportedly became a born-again Christian last year, the President is behaving like anything but, and that's not good. Instead, he continues to play the role of the Ugly American, stirring up the gullible fan base to deflect from his inexperience in handling political matters. As I've written in this space before, VP Mike Pence might need to add Chaplain to his duties, and remind Trump that he has a responsibility not only to a base of disgruntled citizens, but the entire country, which views him now with a collective side-eye because of his own sordid past, and his unwillingness to address the real issues before him without resorting to a juvenile Twitter-tantrum when things don't go his way.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

On The Air: Crisis on Earth-X (2017)

The ratings sweeps for this month are wrapping up, and the CW held their biggest draw right to the end.

The network bumped freshman military drama Valor for one week, moving Arrow from its usual Thursday berth so that they could have the four-part DCTVU miniseries, Crisis on Earth-X, run across just 2 nights of programming. Seems the suits thought that a 3-night, 4-part crossover last season wasn't feasible enough. For what it's worth, a rerun of Penn & Teller: Fool Us, which usually airs during the summer, will fill in for Arrow tomorrow night.

Anyway, the miniseries starts with Supergirl. The titular heroine (Melissa Benoist) is prodded by adoptive sister Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) to accept the invitation to the Earth-1 wedding of Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Grant Gustin) and his lady love, Iris West (Candice Patton), with Alex as Kara's guest in place of ex-beau Mon-El (Chris Wood), who had just returned to Earth-38, the setting of Supergirl, but his relationship with Kara has become compromised. I'll have to explain that one another time.

After last year's crossover, Kara was given a remote transport device that opens a "breach", or, dimensional warp, to Earth-1, so she & Alex step into the breach to visit some old friends. Meanwhile, on Earth-1, Star City Mayor Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and his on-again, off-again lady fair, Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) arrive in Central City for the nuptials. Members of the Legends of Tomorrow reach home from 12th century England after wrapping up a case there, and this creates an awkward moment when Mick Rory, otherwise known as Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) is reacquainted with Captain Singh of the CCPD.

But, just as Barry & Iris are about to say "I do", the minister is vaporized, and a group of modern-day Nazis, led by evil dopplegangers of Green Arrow and Supergirl, storm the church, leading to a pitched battle. These Nazis come from Earth-X, an alternate world where the Nazis won World War II and altered the course of history there. Comics fans know that Earth-X gave birth, also, to the super team known as the Freedom Fighters, who will star in a CW Seed animated series, which, apparently, is or will soon be available online. This miniseries, then, is a prequel to the cartoon. Go figure.

Rather than spoil things for anyone that hasn't seen any of the 4 parts over the last two nights (it'll be On Demand by the end of the week), scope the trailer.

On the plus side, the network began airing teasers for the next entry from producer Greg Berlanti, Black Lightning, which bows January 16, replacing Legends, which apparently will be shifted to another night for the 2nd time in as many years.

On the whole, Crisis on Earth-X was largely entertaining, though your actual mileage may vary.

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Musical Interlude: There is a Time (1964)

Any time the bluegrass group The Dillards appeared on The Andy Griffith Show as the Darling brothers, you had to know there'd be a musical number or two mixed in. This is no exception.

Here, the Darlings (The Dillards, Maggie Peterson, & Denver Pyle) are jamming again with Andy, this time on "There is a Time". Now, Andy sang this one solo earlier in the series' run, mixing in some whistling. This time, Charlene (Peterson) sings lead, and it is such that Andy & Briscoe (Pyle) stop playing. In the Darling patriarch's case, it's just as Charlene feared. He starts crying.

The Dillards actually made the rounds on variety shows as themselves, including an appearance on The Judy Garland Show. We'll have that up soon.

A little of this and a little of that

First off, congratulations to England's Prince Harry and his new fiancee, actress Meghan Markle (Suits), who announced their engagement on Monday. Wedding is sometime in the spring, and, oh, the media circus that will follow. Certain disreputable supermarket tabloids have been claiming the engagement/and or nuptials had already taken place as a means of trying to attract readers to their now useless rags, which belong in the fiction section of your local newsstand, not at the front counter, alongside, say for example, Time, which is dealing with its own problems with perception, especially as it relates to a certain deranged lunatic running the country.
And, as for President Trump, he put his foot in his mouth again Monday. In attendance at an event honoring the Navajo codetalkers of World War II, Trump took the occasion to make a subtle dig at one of his Democratic rivals, Senator Elizabeth Warren. As long as there are cameras present, Trump is going to make a fool of himself, but only he and his brainwashed followers won't see it that way.

Trump is a 70-something man-child who reacts the way a little boy would when things don't go his way, except that little boys, say around kindergarten age, don't know how to use Twitter, and abuse it the way Trump does.

The President railed against the NFL again as well, and his detractors see it as a distraction from the real issues at hand, including the national tax bill, which Trump doesn't know how to address, or care to. Seems to me much of his policy was borne after watching "Wag The Dog" a few times too many.
Troy High senior tailback Joey Ward's dazzling touchdown run vs. Lancaster made ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 Plays for Sunday. As Albany Times-Union and Spectrum News high school analyst James Allen tweeted on Sunday, and it was retweeted by Troy High's Twitter account, Ward "spin-dried" four Lancaster defenders en route to the end zone. Watching the game on TV, I'd say this was an accurate description.
Even though New England & Pittsburgh have matching 9-2 records with 5 games left, the Steelers are the #1 seed in the AFC as of now based on a greater conference record, and the two teams are set to meet next month, which would decide the #1 seed once and for all. Pittsburgh struggled to put away Green Bay on Sunday night, thus making fools out of the oddsmakers who installed AFC North leaders as a 14 point favorite. New England was favored by as much as 16 1/2 vs. Miami, and covered, but they, too, had their struggles, despite the fact that Miami was without starting QB Jay Cutler (concussion).

I still think the Pats should do more to diversify the offense (didn't see the game, as it was not available in the Albany market), rather than cater to Tom Brady's ego and keep the offense based on him. Rex Burkhead, who came over from Cincinnati in the off-season, scored two TD's on Sunday, and between Burkhead and Albany native Dion Lewis, New England does have a good enough running game, but in the mind of CIA wanna-be Bill Belichick, it's an afterthought since he has to pacify his primadonna QB first.
Time to hand out a belated Dunce Cap, if but because the story was late in reaching the local press.

Joseph Cooper, 30, was arrested not once, but twice on shoplifting charges last week, and on the same day, no less.

You see, Cooper first stole some items at Market 32 (formerly Price Chopper) on Hoosick Road, and was arrested by state troopers, who issued an appearance ticket, charging him not only with petit larceny, but also drug possession, since they found cocaine in his car.

Not to be outdone, the troopers were called later that afternoon to Walmart, further up the road, and Cooper was arrested again. This time, he was sent to the county jail.

Now why would this Dunce let himself get busted twice in the same day? I'd say he may have still been stoned from the cocaine enough to lose sight of the fact that even though he went back to the general area where he was busted the first time, he got nailed again. Probation isn't the answer in this case, but rather a few months in the jail should straighten out his few remaining brain cells.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Countdown To Christmas: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (1944)

From "Meet Me In St. Louis", here's Judy Garland's take on the classic Yuletide song, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".

Sunday, November 26, 2017

What Might've Been: The Smith Family (1971)

Don Fedderson hadn't sold a series to ABC since My Three Sons moved to CBS. When the 1970-1 season began, he had just 1 series left, and that was The Lawrence Welk Show, which moved to syndication in the fall of '71.

In the winter of '71, Fedderson sold The Smith Family to ABC. Originally meant to be a comedy-drama, sort of like Room 222, except it was about a cop (Henry Fonda) and his family, the format was changed in the 2nd season to a straight sitcom, and the show's theme song, a cover of "Primrose Lane", sung by Mike Minor (Petticoat Junction), was added.

When you consider that the supporting cast included Ron Howard (ex-The Andy Griffith Show), three years away from Happy Days, and British actor Michael James-Wixted, you'd think the kiddo's would've been sitting in watching with the parents. Well, we don't know that for sure. After the show was cancelled, the only TV work Fonda would do going forward was a series of commercials shilling for GAF's View-Master.

Following is a network promo, which looks like it was joined in progress. Voiceover by John Erwin.

I cannot recall if I've seen the show, so no rating.

The quest for history: Lancaster vs. Troy (Class AA championship), 11/26/17

Through the course of the 2017 season, Troy High, in its quest to win back-to-back state titles in football, played some of the same opponents they beat last year en route to the title (i.e. Shenendehowa, CBA, Newburgh). To win their 2nd straight Class AA title, they had to beat a team that was in its first state title game.

Lancaster, out of the Buffalo area, was, like Holy Trinity in Class C on Friday, in their first title game. The football program at Lancaster had been in operation for 98 seasons, far fewer than Troy, which opened the high school all the way back in 1852.

Lancaster took the opening kickoff, but after one initial 1st down, turned the ball over on downs. Troy did the same on their first possession. On Troy's 2nd possession, it was business as usual, with Joey Ward running it in to give Troy a 6-0 lead. Michael Fazio's PAT was blocked. On Troy's next possession, Joe Casale hit Dev Holmes for a TD toss. Off the Wildcat formation, Ward ran in the 2 point conversion to make it 14-0.

Back came Lancaster. Andrew Hersey ran it in from 5 yards out to bring the Legends within 14-7. On the next Lancaster possession, QB Ryan Mansell was picked off by Holmes at the Lancaster 4. Casale then directed a 96 yard drive, ending with his 2nd TD toss to Holmes. However, the PAT was blocked again, and Troy led, 20-7, at the break.

Troy took the 2nd half kickoff and marched down the field again, as Casale threw his 3rd TD pass of the game, this one to Ward. Casale ran the 2 point conversion in himself to make it 28-7.

Lancaster, however, wasn't about to wave the white flag. Mansell found Hersey in the corner of the end zone, beating Luis Virola, and suddenly, the lead was 28-14. We had a game after all. At least for now. Troy came right back, as Ward scored his 3rd TD, but the conversion failed, and it was now 34-14.

A Troy fumble set up the Legends deep in Troy territory, and multi-tasking specialist Joe Andreessen, who split time as a lineman and running back, ran it in from 3 yards out to make it 34-20. After Troy's next possession ended on another turnover on downs, Mansell hit Kyle Barger with a 72 yard bomb. PAT was no good, making it 34-26. Time to squirm if you're a Troy fan.

However, the Flying Horses put the game away once and for all on their next drive, as Ward scored his 4th TD of the game, 3rd on the ground. Jordan Audi, who handled kickoffs all day, kicked the PAT. After Lancaster turned it over on downs with under 90 seconds to play, Troy ran out the clock, running their winning streak to 26 in a row with a 41-26 verdict.

As per normal, penalties nearly did in the Flying Horses, as they were called for about a dozen, most of them in the 2nd half, but Lancaster was flagged only twice the entire game. As the entire starting offense is graduating next June, following the obligatory appearance in the Flag Day parade, since Troy doesn't do ticker tape parades, coach Bob Burns will stress discipline more than usual when training camp starts in August. Fazio will either be the the quarterback or kicker or both next season, and Troy does have some skill players coming back, such as Xavier Leigh, plus whomever is promoted from the junior varsity.

History was made twice in Section II this weekend, as Cambridge repeated as D champ on Friday. Now, the mission is to, well, three-peat. We'll see.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Sports this 'n' that

Normally, you don't see colleges firing coaches in mid-season. However, with bowl season right around the corner, three have been dismissed in the last week, including today, joining former Florida coach Jim McIlwane & Tennessee's Butch Jones on the unemployment line.

UCLA quietly dumped Jim Mora, Jr. a week ago, and earlier today announced the hiring of "Tortilla" Chip Kelly, who returns to the college ranks, and the Pac-12 in particular, after a 4 year stint in the NFL (Philadelphia, San Francisco). While this will ratchet up the in-city rivalry in Los Angeles with USC, it won't really do anything on the national landscape as long as most of the attention is focused on the SEC.

Arkansas bounced Bret Bielema after 5 seasons on Friday, mere seconds after the Razorbacks lost to Missouri. Earlier today, Nebraska sacked coach Mike Riley. You think maybe the Cornhuskers are regretting ever moving from the Big 12 to the Big 10? They just don't fit, but administration there just chases the money, and that's all that matters to them.

The latest rumor has Mike Leach ready to bolt Washington State to take the Tennessee job. There were rumors earlier this week that had "Wisteria" Lane Kiffin, now the head man at Florida Atlantic, possibly giving it another try in orange & white. Nope. Not going to happen.

Seems the rumor mills have finally gotten a clue and stopped name-dropping ESPN's Jon Gruden every time there's a coaching vacancy. My own thinking on that is that Gruden is holding out for another NFL job, not specifically as a head coach, but the dream job, in this writer's opinion, would be to join brother Jay in Washington as an "associate head coach". Jay Gruden could use the help, even though the Trumpets beat the Giants on Thanksgiving night. I just don't think Jon Gruden, who also has an endorsement deal with Corona thanks to his ESPN gig, wants to rock the boat in the NFL right now.
In high school football, Cinderella's glass slippers broke at the worst possible time.

Holy Trinity failed in its bid to win its first state title in Class C on Friday night, despite a furious 4th quarter rally, and dropped a 28-25 decision to Skaneateles. Bear in mind that QB Joe Tortello, who threw 4 touchdown passes on Friday, is just a sophomore. Skaneateles QB Patrick Hackler is a junior, and broke the 3,000 yard mark for the season on Friday, throwing 3 TD's while giving up 2 interceptions, both to Holy Trinity RB/DB Nacier Hundley. Hackler returned the favor after the first pick, picking off Hundley, who had to move to QB for one play when Tortello lost his helmet.

Could we see both teams in a rematch next year? I doubt it. Spectrum News/Albany Times-Union analyst James Allen, who called the Cambridge-Maple Grove game, said he believes there's a possibility that Cambridge will move from Class D to Class C next year, especially after winning back-to-back state titles in Class D. We'll know for sure in about 3 1/2 months.
Jests coach Todd "salad" Bowles was quoted in the press today as saying Gang Green needs to win out to make the playoffs. Sounds like he's hoping to save his job. Unfortunately, the Jests play Carolina tomorrow, then host Kansas City, and have a rematch with New England looming in Foxborough. Bowles, along with his Giants counterpart, Ben McAdoo, will be emptying his office after the last game of the season. Bowles' reluctance to use 2nd year QB Christian Hackenburg or 3rd year signal caller Bryce Petty in place of Josh McCown is going to be what costs him his job.
The Giants' Olivier Vernon is the latest to incur the wrath of the Ugly American-in-Chief.

President Trump has made NFL players' penchant for kneeling during the "Star Spangled Banner" more about disrespect for the flag and the US than about protesting racial inequalities and social injustices. There are better ways to address the latter, but as long as the most attention-addicted President in human history continues to champion racism and bigotry from his bully pulpit in the White House, the players are better off finding those alternate means to address their concerns.

One solution is for the players association to meet with the NFL about giving the players a forum, before the game, of course, to address societal issues, such as the obligatory interviews to the league's media partners (ESPN/ABC, Fox, CBS, NBC, NFL Network). Take that route, though it won't exactly mean it'll get President Trump off the players' backs, and the message will be much louder than it's been since the protests started in the 2016 pre-season.
The freefall of the Dallas Cowboys illustrates the unspoken problem some teams have.

2nd year RB Ezekiel Elliott will return in week 16, but the damage has already been done to the Cowboys' chances of catching Philadelphia and winning the NFC East, if not also any hope of a Wild Card. Factor in also the injury to LB Sean Lee, and the Cowboys' collective psyche has been damaged. The defense hasn't been able to close games, and couldn't stop the Chargers' Philip Rivers on Thanksgiving Day. The offense isn't exactly one dimensional, but teams are forcing 2nd year QB Dak Prescott to try to beat them through the air more than on the ground. I think they will have one more game with the Giants before Elliott returns, which might be the only win over his 6 game suspension.
I find it amusing that certain media outlets think Minnesota's Case Keenum, a journeyman, is hotter than New England's stat-hogging Tom Brady right now. Yes, the Vikings have won seven straight after beating Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, with Keenum starting the last six. The Vikings are winning because they have something the Patriots are reluctant to admit they don't have. A balanced offensive attack. Brady pads his stats to satisfy his ego while the marks genuflect and declare him the greatest QB of all time, which he isn't by a country mile (Joe Montana says hello), and the running game, featuring Albany native Dion Lewis, gets the short shrift. Why do you think the Patriots let LeGarrette Blount go (now in Philadelphia and about to win another division title anyway)? Why did they give up on other running backs like Shane Vereen or Stevan Ridley? Because Brady believes the offense revolves around him and only him. Apparently, he didn't get the message in 2008 when he got hurt in week 1 and missed the rest of the season.

Reality check: Brady is 40. Time will catch up with him.
Just when you think you've got the College Football Playoff figured out, heading into conference championship games next week, think again.

Miami will play for the ACC title next week, but the Hurricanes were ambushed by Pittsburgh on Friday, this after Miami had eliminated old nemesis Notre Dame from contention.

Now, the reigning SEC champion, Alabama, has fallen to in-state rival Auburn, 26-14. The Tigers, now 10-2, advance to play Georgia for the SEC title in Atlanta next week. Only political favoritism will give the Crimson Tide a chance to make the playoff when the teams are announced December 3. Ohio State will play for the Big 10 title vs. Wisconsin next week, but there aren't that many that think the 2-loss Buckeyes, who beat Michigan today, will win the title. When the updated chart comes out Tuesday, we may have an idea.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Rockin' Funnies: Fumble (2017)

Sure, Thanksgiving was yesterday, but Fox NFL Sunday celebrity predictor Rob Riggle may have just upped his worth to the long running series.

Riggle's been punctuating his segments the last couple of years with song parodies, mixing in his selections in the lyrics. For Turkey Day, Riggle is joined by Ken Jeong (ex-Dr. Ken) for a parody of a Kendrick Lamar song. Michael Strahan is sampled, visually as well as vocally, on "Fumble":

If you weren't laughing, you probably weren't watching.

High School Fridays: Cambridge vs. Maple Grove (Class D football championship), 11/24/17

Three Section II teams entered play this weekend on the cusp of history. Prior to today, no Section II team had repeated as state champion in football in any class since classification play began in 1993.

Class D champion Cambridge had the first opportunity in today's opening game, a rematch of last year's state title game vs. Maple Grove, out of the Buffalo area, representing Section VI. The Red Dragons won the opening coin toss, but deferred to the second half. Big mistake.

Just two plays into their first series, the Indians struck, as Zach Rowland hit Brenden Holcomb for a 65 yard TD. Ellen Mooney, one of the few female football players in Section II, converted the extra point, and Cambridge had a 7-0 lead less than 2 minutes into the game. Oh, that sounds familiar.

Maple Grove answered with an 80 yard drive, capped with a 5 yard pass from Easton Tanner to Zach Fischer, son of Red Dragons coach Kurt Fischer, and we were tied at 7 after the first quarter. In the second quarter, Cambridge reclaimed the lead, this time for good, as Colton Dean bulled in from a yard out. However, Mooney's extra point veered wide right, and the Indians were up, 13-7. They'd add another TD, but fail to convert on a 2 point attempt, going into the break with a 19-7 advantage.

Following a scoreless third quarter, the Red Dragons creeped a bit closer. Rowland, seeking to avoid a sack, made a desperate pass, but Tanner picked it off and raced 56 yards to the end zone to bring Maple Grove within 19-14. However, that would be as close as Maple Grove would get. Dean scored his second touchdown of the game, this one from 5 yards out, to ice the game, and Cambridge became the first Section II team to repeat at state champions, 26-14.

Troy High will seek to be the 2nd team to repeat when they play Lancaster on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, Holy Trinity, in their first-ever state title game, will play Skaneateles later tonight. Congratulations to Cambridge and coach Doug Luke, capping his 20th season with his 2nd straight state title.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving at WKRP in Cincinnati (1978)

Being that this is Thanksgiving Day, we're taking a fond look back at a classic holiday episode of WKRP in Cincinnati.

Station manager Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump), tired of being kept out of the loop, decides to take on a more hands-on approach. The end result is the wackiest Thanksgiving promotion ever.

Many of the plots of the series were actually based on real people and/or events at a real-life Cincinnati radio station where series creator Hugh Wilson worked. Fun fact: co-stars Jump and Howard Hesseman actually had some radio experience before being hired for the show.

Here's "Turkeys Away". The opening & closing themes are slowed down to avoid the copyright police.

Strangely, not long after this episode aired, CBS put the show on hiatus for 2 months. Apparently, there were ratings issues early in the run.

Rating: B.

What Might've Been: The Royal Family (1991)

You might say that Eddie Murphy wanted to give something back to television. A decade after he'd been launched into superstardom on NBC's Saturday Night Live, Murphy was moving into the creative side of the business. However, his first series as a producer didn't end so well.

The Royal Family reunited Murphy, serving as a writer and executive producer, with 2 of his "Harlem Nights" co-stars, Redd Foxx & Della Reese. For Foxx, it was his first series since Sanford, and this time, he was playing a happily married retiree, who'd just ended his career in the post office.

Misfortune, however, threw shade on the series. A month into the season, Foxx suffered a heart attack while in the studio taping a future episode. Some of the crew thought he was just fooling around, just like Fred Sanford would pretend to have those heart attacks on Sanford & Son in the 70's, but, no, this was the real thing. Foxx passed away later that night, and production was suspended while the show's writers tried to figure out how to keep the show going. The first solution was to bring in Jackee Harry (ex-227), who originally was cast as the sister of Victoria (Reese), but then, when production resumed, her role was changed to that of the heretofore unseen oldest daughter.

Ballgame over.

Of course, Reese would rebound with Touched By An Angel, and Harry with Sister, Sister. Co-star Larenz Tate would go on to a successful film career (i.e. "Menace II Society"). Reese passed away earlier this week, reunited with Foxx in sitcom heaven.

Never got to see the show, so there's no rating. We'll leave you with a sample from the pilot.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Musical Interlude: Lying to Myself (1990)

Actor-singer David Cassidy made one last run on the pop charts in 1990 with "Lying to Myself", the first single from his self-titled CD. Unfortunately, Enigma, Cassidy's label, went belly up shortly after the album's release.

In memory of Cassidy, who passed away earlier today from dementia at 67. Rest in peace.

What Might've Been: The Tim Conway Comedy Hour (1970)

Just a few months after his self-titled sitcom bit the dust, Tim Conway returned to CBS, this time fronting a self-titled comedy-variety hour. Unfortunately, the realization hadn't set in yet that Conway was not meant to be a lead in primetime.

The Tim Conway Comedy Hour lasted just 13 weeks, but boasted a writing staff that included future Oscar winner Barry Levinson and future TV star Craig T. Nelson (later of Coach & Call To Glory). It was the last part of a 3-hour variety block on Sunday nights, airing behind The Ed Sullivan Show and The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, but somehow lost the audience from those two shows. 1970, by the way, was the final season for Sullivan, as his show was a victim of the CBS overhaul of their schedule at the end of the 1970-1 season.

Ernie Anderson, better known to TV audiences for his many years as the voice of ABC and as horror host Ghoulardi, is the announcer, probably the only series he did for CBS.

In this sample clip, Tim is joined by Steve Lawrence and Carol Burnett, and, a few years later, Conway would join Carol's repertory company.

Part of the problem that existed, I think, was that McHale's Navy was in syndication at the time, and viewers couldn't get the image out of their heads of Conway as nothing more than a sidekick as a result.

No rating.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sounds of Praise: Take My Hand, Precious Lord (1988)

It is one of the most frequently recorded gospel songs of the 20th (and so far, 21st) century. "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" has been recorded by artists as diverse as Jim Reeves, Mahalia Jackson, Elvis Presley, Engelbert Humperdinck, and ex-Hee Haw regular Lulu Roman. Actress-singer-ordained minister Della Reese never recorded it as a single, but she did perform it live in 1988.........

In memory of Reese, who was called home by the Good Lord Himself today.

A little of this and a little of that

President Manchild (Donald Trump) is at it again, picking a fight for no other reason than to call attention to himself.

The object of the President's ire this time is Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch, who isn't exactly winning votes for comeback player of the year, based on what happened in Mexico City Sunday, prior to the Raiders' loss to New England. Lynch sat for the "Star Spangled Banner", but stood at attention for the Mexican anthem. That, of course, raised a red flag with the Ugly American-in-Chief, who took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with Lynch, demanding that the Raiders and/or the NFL suspend Lynch. Well, if the league isn't suspending anyone for perceived disrespect of the flag and/or our national anthem before this, why start now, just to appease a 70-something, petulant, narcissistic, in-way-over-his-head Chief Executive Officer in charge of stirring racial tensions in the 21st century?

Obviously, Lynch isn't going to be suspended, so President Manchild should keep his mouth shut on the subject and let the players put the focus of the protests back to where it was when this issue started a year ago, as a means of protesting racial injustice and other societal ills.
Meanwhile, Trump is further enabling another media parasite to extend his 15 minutes. You know who I'm talking about.

You'd think the President would find a kindred spirit in America's worst stage parent, LaVar Ball, but now I'm reading of Ball being an ungrateful parent after Trump had negotiated the release of Ball's son, LiAngelo, and 2 UCLA teammates last week from China. So Trump is now saying maybe he should've left the light-fingered hoopsters in jail. I've made references to Ball as this generation's Fred Sanford, but next to Trump, we're looking at the real-life Archie Bunker and Henry Jefferson (George's brother) from All In The Family.

Again, President Manchild, leave well enough alone and focus on what you're supposed to be doing. The White House is not a bully pulpit.
Troy High's opponent in the NYS Class AA championship game is now set. Troy will play Lancaster on Sunday at the Syracuse Carrierdome, with a 3 pm start. By then, we'll know if Section II's other remaining teams, Cambridge & Holy Trinity, will have won their state titles (Classes D & C, respectively), as their games are on Black Friday.
Death has been very, very busy this weekend.

In addition to AC/DC's Malcolm Young, the obituary list also included:

Jana Novotna, a former Wimbledon tennis champion, succumbed to cancer at 49. Taken too soon.

Terry Glenn, who played with New England & Dallas in the NFL coming out of Ohio State, was killed in an auto accident over the weekend.

Ann Wedgeworth, whose TV credits included The Edge of Night, Another World, Filthy Rich, Three's Company, & Evening Shade, passed away at 89. Her stint on Company was a short one, just nine episodes before being written out, and yet, the online scribes think that's all people will remember her for.

Charles Manson, perhaps the most infamous killer of the 60's, passed away Sunday at 83. He had been in ill health in recent days. Manson had aspirations of being a songwriter years ago, and one of his songs, "Look At Your Game, Girl", was recorded by Guns 'n' Roses in the 80's. The latent talent he possessed had vanished in a heartbeat when he was arrested and convicted in the murder of actress Sharon Tate nearly 50 years ago. Despite numerous attempts at parole, Manson was denied his release, the belief being that he was still too dangerous to be set free.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Musical Interlude: Moneytalks (1990)

AC/DC's "Moneytalks" (yes, that's how they spelled it out) was the 2nd single off the Australian metal band's 1990 CD, "The Razor's Edge", and, like the forerunner, "Thunderstruck", received heavy airplay on MTV.

In memory of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Malcolm Young, who passed away on Saturday.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

One step closer to another title (Troy vs. Newburgh, 11/18/17)

If the Goldbacks of Newburgh Free Academy had one goal in mind going into tonight's Class AA semi-final vs. defending champion Troy High, it was to avoid getting blown out of the yard, the memory of last year's 50-27 demolition in the quarters refreshed in their collective memories.

Say this, then, for Newburgh. They came prepared to play to the final whistle.

Troy, though, took the opening kickoff, and marched down the field, culminating in a 5 yard TD toss from Joe Casale to Isaiah Burdette. However, Michael Fazio's extra point attempt was blocked, and Fazio wasn't heard from again the rest of the night, as fullback/linebacker/punter Lorenzo Brammer handled the kickoffs from that point.

Newburgh's first play from scrimmage looked like something out of the Troy playbook, as Jadon Munroe burst up the middle and outran the defense to give the Goldbacks their first lead at 7-6. In the 2nd quarter, Troy reclaimed the lead as Joey Ward raced down the sideline 50 yards to paydirt. The 2 point conversion failed, and Troy held a 12-7 lead at halftime.

Newburgh took the 2nd half kickoff and marched back into the lead. Their 2-point conversion failed as well, leaving the Goldbacks with a 1 point lead, 13-12, headed into the final stanza. With under 2 minutes to go, Dev Holmes put Troy up for good on an 11 yard touchdown run off a double reverse. This time, the 2 point conversion worked, as Ward hit Holmes on the halfback option, giving Troy a 20-13 lead. However, they left enough time on the clock for Newburgh QB Terry Anderson to try to bring his team back.

But, on the first play after the kickoff, Anderson fumbled the snap, and Matt Ashley recovered, putting Troy right back in the red zone with a chance to run out the clock. Troy turned the ball over on downs with less than 30 seconds left. Newburgh was left with time for one play, and the defense bottled up Anderson, sending the Flying Horses back to Syracuse with a shot at repeating as NYS Class AA champions.

Troy will be one of three teams representing Section II in Syracuse next week. Class C champion Holy Trinity beat Burke Catholic, 28-23, earlier today, and, on Friday, Cambridge blew away Millbrook, 56-8. However, Class B champion Glens Falls, which entered the day sharing the state's longest winning streak with Troy at 24, fell to Pleasantville in a rematch of last year's semi-finals, 20-7. No team in Section II has ever repeated as state champs in any classification in football. Cambridge & Troy have a chance to make history, then, while Holy Trinity's Cinderella story conceivably could have the happiest of endings.

In Theatres: Justice League (2017)

Nearly a decade ago, Marvel Comics enacted a long range plan to bring their large library of heroes and villains to the big screen. That plan reached fruition 5 1/2 years ago with the release of "The Avengers", and, well, with the notable exception of 20th Century Fox's epic mishandling of the Fantastic Four in three attempts in 10 years (2005-15), you might as well say Marvel has become critic proof, and given a license to print money with their movies.

DC, on the other hand, has been behind the 8-ball from the jump. When Marvel put "Iron Man" in theatres in 2008, DC answered with "The Dark Knight", but didn't have anything to respond to "The Incredible Hulk". The fans basically spoke with their wallets. If it wasn't going to feature Batman, it wasn't going to work. 2004's ill-advised reimagining of "Catwoman" being one example of creative stupidity at Warners.

However, WB may want to rethink who's in charge of their DC Comics adaptations going forward.

Zack Snyder's 3rd visit to the DCU, "Justice League", isn't quite as bloated as "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice", released more than a year and a half ago, but it isn't exactly a critic's delight, either. In fact, critics by and large have trashed the film, if for no other reason than to protest Snyder's insistence on a now-out-of-date idea that all heroes have to be dark & brooding. While that works for Batman (Ben Affleck), it doesn't fit for everyone else. What became a chic thing in the late 80's (thanks to Sylvester Stallone's take on "Rambo" and Marvel giving The Punisher his own book in response) is now best left in the history books.

The origin of the Justice League in this context draws its roots from DC's New 52 initiative from 2011, although Green Lantern is missing from the picture, save for an alien GL in a brief flashback. Oh, I'm sure there will be a few kiddo's who might be confused seeing Cyborg (Ray Fisher) as a member of the League when on TV, he's still a Teen Titan. Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is all tatted up and loaded with an attitude that mostly comes from the 90's and an attempt to make him more of a clone of Marvel's Sub-Mariner. Flash (Ezra Miller) is a college student instead of the police scientist we know from TV and years of comics. Snyder's idea was to posit Barry Allen as DC's answer to Spider-Man. The closest analogue to this Barry would be from 2001's Justice League animated series, whose Flash was a clown and a bit of a tool, too.

Snyder co-wrote the original story with Chris Terrio (no relation to Denny of Dance Fever fame--we think), but the final screenplay was credited to Terrio and Joss Whedon ("Avengers", Buffy The Vampire Slayer, etc.), who actually took over directing when Snyder left the project after a death in the family. On the whole, DC/WB would've been better served if Whedon had been lured away from Marvel well before this. Snyder's been losing credibility points with each of his DC films, and this didn't help.

This trailer will help paint the picture:

Let's put it this way. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is the glue holding everything together, and keep an eye out for a mid-credit scene that recalls an iconic moment in DC history.

Other trailers include:

"The Greatest Showman" (Dec. 22): Hugh Jackman swaps Wolverine's claws from a top hat & tails as P. T. Barnum. It's not "Barnum", per se, but if you wonder why Jackman also has a Tony Award or two on his mantle, you'll see why.

"The Quiet Place" (April): A family on the run tries to avoid making noise, but an accident brings a worst case scenario to their door.

"The Commuter" (January): Liam Neeson has to find a particular person or innocents will be killed by a crackpot. Sound familiar?

"Rampage" (April): As if visiting the jungle of "Jumanji" next month wasn't enough, Dwayne Johnson's spring blockbuster looks to be a tale involving a mutated white gorilla named George.

"Samson" (February): The Biblical strongman's story is told for the first time in years.

"Black Panther" (February): Previously discussed.

"Ready Player One": Steven Spielberg's latest is based on a young adult novel, set nearly 30 years into the future.

"Pitch Perfect 3" (Dec. 20): Rebel Wilson & friends return.

"Justice League" gets a C.

Sports this 'n' that

The Bible tells us that no man can serve two masters. Which begs to ask when was the last time LA Lakers coach Luke Walton, not that far removed from his playing career, mind you, actually read the Bible?

You see, Walton hasn't completely relegated rookie Lonzo Ball to the bench despite Ball's recent struggles. Yes, Ball has been benched in the 4th quarter of recent games, but a stronger message would be sent if Ball didn't start until he got out of his funk.

While Walton has acknowledged, along with the rest of the planet, that Ball might be just a wee bit distracted by his brother LiAngelo's legal problems, the easiest solution for all concerned is to sit Lonzo for a few games and get him some extra practice time. Players do that all the time when they're slumping.

Unfortunately, Walton may be just keeping the rookie in the starting lineup to appease LaVar Ball, and that is not in the best interests of the team, much less the Ball family. The elder Ball will be happy as long as his son continues to make headlines, regardless of how well he's done on a given night, because it'll extend his 15 minutes that much longer.

Translated, this wouldn't play well in New York or any other market.
Section II is now down to 4 teams in the running for state titles.

Class A champ Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake had an uncharacteristically bad game on Friday in Middletown, dropping a 34-19 decision to Section I champ Yorktown, which won their sectional title by beating defending state champion Somers last month. The Huskers forced three Spartan fumbles, and played a more aggressive, ball-hawking defense. They were clearly the better, hungrier team, hungrier especially since their sectional title was their first in 19 years.

Class D champ Cambridge punched its ticket back to Syracuse by thumping Millbrook, 56-8. Ouch! No truth to the rumor that Millbrook was offering cases of bread to their supporters after the game.

Holy Trinity (Class C), Glens Falls (B), and Troy (AA) play today.
While the World Series champion Houston Astros were shut out of Gold Glove awards the other day, batting champ Jose Altuve was named American League MVP on Thursday, beating AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge of the Yankees by a comfortable margin. Altuve, who earned his first commercial endorsement this season (5 Hour Energy) wasn't quite a unanimous selection. Then again, neither was Miami's Giancarlo Stanton, who beat out Cincinnati's Joey Votto for NL MVP. And the Marlins new ownership, which includes ex-Yankee Derek Jeter, wants to shop Stanton? Oy.
Less than a week before tomorrow night's Survivor Series, WWE parted company with James Ellsworth earlier this week. Ellsworth (real name: James Morris) was another indy star signed by the company, but unlike the likes of Kevin Owens and Apollo Crews, Ellsworth went from rent-a-jobber to cult favorite underdog to manager/heat leech for women's Money in the Bank winner Carmella, all in the space of a year.

What may have finally written the coda to Ellsworth's run was this ill-advised skit in England on the November 7 Smackdown, right before his intergender challenge match vs. Ireland's Becky Lynch.

Translated, Ellsworth was set up to fail. On the final 5 dates of the fall European tour, Lynch and the rest of the women on the Smackdown roster ganged up on Ellsworth when he tried to make amends with Carmella, who turned on him after he lost to Lynch. The above promo was the touchstone, as Ellsworth, thanks to WWE's moronic writers, played the male chauvinist card, not realizing he was offending his on-air partner indirectly. One more reason WWE needs to lose the Hollywood rejects, especially if they're not being taught anything about what I call Wrestling Semantics 101.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

On The Air: Jimmy Kimmel Live! (2003)

20 years ago, he was just another aspiring comic who'd landed a gig on Comedy Central. Today, he's the longest tenured of the networks' late night hosts, approaching the 15th anniversary of his ABC yak-fest.

Jimmy Kimmel was a relative unknown when Comedy Central brought him in to be the announcer/co-host of Win Ben Stein's Money. While Stein ended up landing an endorsement deal with Visine, Kimmel added a 2nd CC series, The Man Show, to his resume, which he co-produced himself, with co-host/business partner Adam Corolla. The duo were also responsible for Crank Yankers and other CC shows during the period.

In 1999, Kimmel was hired by Fox to be a celebrity handicapper, picking 5 games a week on Fox NFL Sunday, starting a tradition that would continue with Frank Caliendo and, more recently, Rob Riggle. Skits aside, Kimmel turned out to be pretty proficient in picking winners. After 4 seasons, Kimmel left Fox when ABC lured him away with his own late night talk show.

Jimmy Kimmel Live! bowed in January 2003, but the series isn't always live. Like his rivals, Kimmel's show is recorded a few hours prior to broadcast, with live episodes only running on special occasions (Oscar night, NBA Finals, etc.). As the show has evolved, the comedy segments are fundamentally formulaic, especially when it comes to politics. I haven't seen any of the Mean Tweets segments that have been a part of the show the last 5 years, and I don't watch it too often.

Anyway, this choice clip from earlier this week spotlights this week's Dunce Cap Award winners. On Tuesday, Kimmel sent a camera crew out into the streets of Los Angeles to interview ordinary citizens about a certain former Presidential candidate.....

Like, a year later, some of these people have forgotten that Hillary Clinton lost the election, thanks to current President Trump copping the Electoral College vote. They follow the lead of the Chief Wackjob, not realizing you can't impeach someone who's not holding a political office at the present time. Did Kimmel's staff mislead these folks to make the joke work? I can't say for sure, but if you interpret the point of this exercise, it seems they'd be happy if Mrs. Clinton were put on trial for some, if not all, of her alleged crimes.

I guess part of the joke is that in Southern California, being an airhead is part of life.

No rating. We haven't watched enough of the show to merit one.

Sports this 'n' that

UCLA freshmen Cody Riley, Jalen Hill, & LiAngelo Ball have returned home from China, only to find that their troubles aren't over yet.

After it got out that the trio had shoplifted from 2 other stores in the vicinity of their hotel, it took the intervention of President Trump to bring them home. After the narcissistic, attention-addicted Chief Executive wondered publicly on Twitter if the kids should thank him, they held a press conference yesterday to do just that. However, UCLA has decided to indefinitely suspend the trio until the full investigation is completed.

To paraphrase Simon & Garfunkel, nearly 50 years ago, "any way you look at it, they lose".
Despite increasing demand from fans and media alike, the owners of the NY Giants aren't about to send 2nd year head coach Ben McAdoo packing despite a dismal 1-8 start. They're loathe to change coaches in mid-season, and you'd have to go back about 40 years for the last time they did. The Giants are 10 point home underdogs vs. Kansas City on Sunday, the first of a 2-game swing in the Meadowlands for the Chiefs (they stay in town to play the Jets after Thanksgiving). Big Blue has already been eliminated from playoff contention, the earliest that's happened in years.

All I can say is, they're better off doing it now, or no later than Monday, and start with a clean slate after Thanksgiving. Part of the problem is that McAdoo is unwilling to give rookie Davis Webb a chance to show what he can do. By the same token, the Jests have the same problem, as 3rd year coach Todd (Pro) Bowles has similarly used the "best chance to win" defense to avoid using 2nd year QB Christian Hackenburg (Penn State) or 3rd year signal caller Bryce Petty, who actually has some game experience, to replace aging stop-gap Josh McCown, because while the Jests have overachieved beyond fan expectations, McCown has shown his age at times, and so has Eli Manning with the Giants. The future is now, guys. It can't hurt.
New York's worst sports owner, James Dolan, is putting the WNBA's NY Liberty up for sale. We'd all be better off if he also decided to divest himself of the Knicks, Rangers, Radio City Music Hall, AMC, and Madison Square Garden, and just go away.
All 5 Section II football champions have reached the state semi-final round, but only two of them will be on TV this weekend. Burnt Hills (Class A) on Friday, and Troy (Class AA) on Saturday, with both games announced Wednesday as airing on Spectrum News (cable channels 1, 9, or 200). The others (Cambridge, Holy Trinity, & Glens Falls) will have their games streamed online on Spectrum News' sports site.

Add Troy. QB-DB Joe Casale will stay close to home for college, like his predecessor, John Germinerio (Union). Casale gave a verbal commitment to UAlbany on Wednesday. I guess he doesn't want to change the color of his gym bag (UAlbany's color scheme includes purple, just like Troy.). However, Casale will be strictly a defensive player for the Great Danes, which will ensure some playing time as a freshman, unlike Germinerio, who's carrying a clipboard for the Dutchmen this season.
Just when you thought it was over, it apparently isn't.

It would be the embargo Troy High had placed on The Record, prohibiting the hometown paper from interviewing players & coaches. The embargo had apparently been lifted last month, but the paper's account of the Troy-New Rochelle game revealed that Coach Bob Burns, newly elected to the Rensselaer County Legislature three days before the game, was not allowed to talk to The Record, although players did. Burns' run for his first political office went under-reported to begin with, suggesting that he and the school didn't want it to be a distraction of any sort, and I can respect that (Burns finished 4th in the balloting). You wonder, though, if being elected hasn't become a sore spot for the school board or THS administration, and that would explain not allowing Burns to be interviewed by The Record.......

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What Might've Been: Wonder Woman (1974)

Seven years after William Dozier's campy sitcom pilot was rejected by ABC, Wonder Woman returned, this time inspired by her "civilian" phase, if you will, a period that had the Amazing Amazon swapping her traditional star spangled costume and her powers for a white jumpsuit that made her into DC's answer to Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) from England's The Avengers. However, by the time this ABC Movie of the Week first hit the air in March 1974, to be encored five months later, Wonder Woman was back in the red, white & blue in the comics, if my memory serves me correctly.

Veteran sci-fi writer-producer John D. F. Black and director Vincent McEveety cast Cathy Lee Crosby as Diana, with character actor Kaz Garas as Steve Trevor, the only one of Diana's usual supporting cast left intact. The plot deals with Diana taking on a corrupt businessman, Abner Smith (Ricardo Montalban) and his aide, George Calvin (Andrew Prine), who have stolen some top secret code books from across the globe.

Edit, 8/20/21: Had to change the video. Now, we have a compilation focusing on Cathy Lee Crosby:

Later in 1974, Crosby would turn up as a corrupted version of Helen of Troy, or so it would seem, in an episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, before rebounding with the reality-magazine series, That's Incredible, a couple of years later. Montalban landed an endorsement deal with Chrysler right around the time this movie aired or thereabouts, and, of course, parlayed that into Fantasy Island. Wikipedia says that Crosby has claimed to have been offered another shot at Wonder Woman, but we all know who ended up taking over the role a year later (Lynda Carter). In all honesty, Crosby was just not believable enough as Diana to warrant a second chance. However, in the course of Wonder Woman's CBS run, she would run into a few more Abner Smiths and George Calvins, garden variety crooks looking to feather their nest in a misguided belief they were looking to better the world.

In other words, no different than the ordinary folks Wonder Woman encountered on Super Friends at that time.

Maybe I'm a little spoiled, having seen this year's model of "Wonder Woman", epic in its scope, but this comes off as a wee bit pedestrian.

Rating: C.

Monday, November 13, 2017

A little of this and a little of that

While they're still trying to put TV icon Bill Cosby behind bars for ages old cases of sexual harrassment and/or assault, Hollywood now is reeling as more cases are being brought to light in recent days.

The current stream of allegations started with producer Harvey Weinstein, who has since been ousted from his own company. Then, it was actor Kevin Spacey, who subsequently came out as gay as a result of his indiscretions becoming public. The last few days have seen comedian Louis CK, 70's movie icon Richard Dreyfuss, and television producer Andrew Kreigsberg being accused. 

Kreigsberg in particular is galling for fans of CW's DC Comics shows (i.e. Supergirl, Flash, Arrow), especially after it came out that "Wonder Woman" star Gal Gadot, who will return later this week in "Justice League", reportedly said she wouldn't do a sequel to this spring's monster hit unless producer Brett Ratner was cut. Apparently, the dark secrets of the casting couch are still in play in the 21st century.

Supergirl star Melissa Benoist and Arrow co-star Emily Bett Rickards took to Twitter over the weekend, and while they didn't name Kreigsberg specifically, both actresses took a stand against rampant sexual harrassment. Benoist, in particular, made it clear she would return to the set of her show. Warner Bros. suspended Kreigsberg on Friday, pending an internal investigation. DC Comics, meanwhile, suspended long-time editor Eddie Berganza, as he, too, has been caught in the web.

It's only going to get worse before it gets better, friends. Stay tuned.
Albany Academy For Boys' initial football campaign in the New England Prep School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) came to a crushing end on Saturday with a 41-19 road loss to Canterbury. The Cadets, at 4-4 (3-3 in the league) will not advance to any of the NEPSAC bowl games. 

Meanwhile, all 5 Section II teams will be in Middletown, just outside of Poughkeepsie, this weekend for state semi-final games. Courtesy of the Albany Times-Union, here's the lineup:



II-Cambridge (10-1) vs. IX-Millbrook (6-5), 4 p.m.

II-Burnt Hills (11-0) vs. I-Yorktown (11-0), 8 p.m.



II-Holy Trinity (10-1) vs. IX-Burke Catholic (10-1), 11 a.m.

II-Glens Falls (11-0) vs. I-Pleasantville (10-1), 3 p.m.

II-Troy (11-0) vs. IX-Newburgh Free Academy (9-1), 7 p.m.

Troy beat Newburgh last year to advance to the semi-finals, so they're playing the same opponents as last year (Newburgh, New Rochelle), but in reverse order.
Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott served the first game of a 6 game suspension by going out of the country. The result? Dallas lost to Atlanta, enabling idle Philadelphia to gain a 1/2-game on the Cowboys, as well as Washington & the Giants, in the NFC East. Big Blue, accused of going in the tank in a blowout loss to the LA Rams last week, fell to San Francisco, 31-21, but that doesn't assure them of the #1 pick in next year's draft. After all, Cleveland has yet to win a game this season. The calls are growing louder for coach Ben McAdoo to be cut loose.
Similarly, the AFC East leading New England Patriots picked up a game on Buffalo and the Jets on Sunday. The defending champs blew out Denver, while Buffalo was wiped out by New Orleans. The NFC South leaders have now won seven in a row. The Jests, facing former QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, dropped a 15-10 decision to Tampa Bay, which won with just 1 TD & 3 field goals against one of their former QB's, Josh McCown. Luckily for the Jests, they get their bye week next week, but it would've been nice to go into said bye at 5-5 instead of 4-6. Either way, it's better than anyone expected. When the Jests return from the bye, they'll play Kansas City, as the Chiefs, on a bye this week themselves, spend the next two weeks at the Meadowlands (they play the Giants next), and should head home winning both games. Just sayin'.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

What Might've Been: The Tim Conway Show (1970)

Tim Conway had to believe in the age-old expression, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again". By this, I mean that Conway, between the end of McHale's Navy in 1966 and joining the cast of The Carol Burnett Show, had several opportunities to prove he was just as capable a headliner as Burnett or Ernest Borgnine, for example. His first attempt, Rango, was a mid-season replacement for ABC in 1967, and didn't fare very well.

Three years later, Conway moved to CBS, and signed with Talent Associates, whose Get Smart was in its final season. The Tim Conway Show, from Smart producer Burt Nodella, was another mid-season entry, this one reuniting Conway with McHale castmate Joe Flynn.

Flynn was the owner of a struggling, small-time airline, and Conway his only pilot. As it happened, neither were exceptionally skilled. For Conway, this was another variation, just like Rango, of his McHale role as bumbling Ensign Charles Parker. You'd think that by this point, Conway would've been looking for a different kind of role, and he'd eventually get it. This just wasn't it. That Flynn's character, Herbert Kenworth, was just as inept was an attempt to disguise that fact.

Subsequently, only 12 episodes aired, and the last, after being pulled from the schedule twice, aired in June 1970. Three months later, Conway was back, this time with a comedy variety show that also failed.

Here's part 1 of "All of Our Airplanes Are Missing":

The problem? The show aired on Fridays, and ABC had taken control of the night with a lineup led by the freshman Brady Bunch. Ballgame over.

Rating: C.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

In Theatres: Murder on The Orient Express (2017)

"If it was easy, I wouldn't be famous."---Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh).

Dame Agatha Christie modeled the Belgian sleuth Poirot in the mold of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's irrepressible Sherlock Holmes, right down to the meticulous attention to detail. Forty three years after the novel was first adapted for the screen, Murder On The Orient Express is brought to life again, this time with Branagh not only heading an ensemble cast, but directing and serving as co-producer.

It begins with Poirot in Jerusalem closing a case when he receives a telegram from an old friend, the owner of the Orient Express. What follows is a lesson in Whodunit 101. Anyone who's ever watched TV mysteries like Murder, She Wrote or Ellery Queen, for example, would know what I mean.

The passengers on board the train are the predictably diverse group. A fading star, traveling in relative anonymity (Michelle Pfeiffer). An undercover Pinkerton detective (Willem Dafoe). A soldier-turned-doctor (singer Leslie Odom, Jr.). The cast also includes Daisy Ridley (to be seen next in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi", next month), Penelope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, and Johnny Depp. Trust me, you won't see the twist ending coming. Having not seen previous adaptations nor read the original story, it threw me for two loops.

Check out the trailer:

One complaint I read is that Branagh gives himself too much screen time, as if Poirot needs to be in every frame. Maybe this was a vanity project, I don't know, but those of us unacquainted with Poirot will forgive.

Other trailers include:

"Darkest Hour" (limited release Nov. 24): Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. 'Nuff said.

"Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri" (in limited release): Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, & Peter Dinklage are among the stars in this one, as a rural sheriff (Harrelson) is harrassed by the titular billboards and the woman who commissioned them.

"The Man Who Invented Christmas": Dan Stevens is Charles Dickens. Christopher Plummer brings Scrooge to life.

Ye scribe will be looking to rent the 1974 version of "Orient Express", with Albert Finney and Sean Connery, among others, just for comparison shopping.

Rating: A.

Forgotten TV: Headliners & Legends (1998)

After A & E revived Biography in the 90's, it seemed as though everybody wanted to get in on the act. VH1 developed Behind The Music, while sister network MTV had the shorter (usually) Rockumentary. Over at MSNBC, as they were looking to fill time on the weekends, there was a Biography clone, Headliners & Legends.

Headliners covered the same ground, and some of the same subjects. Current Today anchor Matt Lauer was the host, but, unlike Behind The Music, Biography, and more like E!'s True Hollywood Story, an off-screen narrator told the stories.

For a sample, let's take a look at an oft-related bio on the "King" of rock & roll, Elvis Presley:

I think Headliners has long ceased production, swept off the screen by MSNBC's growing line of political programming.

Rating: A.

Friday, November 10, 2017

High School Fridays: New Rochelle vs. Troy (football), 11/10/17

A year ago, in Kingston, Troy High defeated New Rochelle to advance to the NYS Class AA title game. Tonight, the Hugenots came to Section II country, seeking revenge. The site was Columbia High, as Section II hosted a state playoff for the first time in what seems like forever, if ever at all.

On what was easily the coldest night of the season so far, the rematch was as advertised, a game dominated by defense on both teams, a war of attrition that would be decided on the final score of the game. For coach Bob Burns, this was the first game since being elected to the Rensselaer County Legislature earlier this week, a side story that had gone underplayed in the local press.

After a scoreless first quarter, Troy struck first, as Joe Casale hit Isaiah Burdette for a 40 yard touchdown strike. Michael Fazio converted the point-after, and Troy was up, 7-0. However, barely a minute later, New Rochelle answered, as Jared Baron scampered 39 yards to tie the game. Right before the half, Troy regained the lead, as Casale connected with Dev Holmes. However, for the 2nd straight week, Holmes was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, this time after the touchdown was scored, and Troy led, 14-7, at the break.

After the teams played a scoreless 3rd quarter, New Rochelle tied the game on a touchdown catch by Miles Taylor. On the ensuing kickoff, Holmes injured his left ankle, and had to come out of the game, though he would return. Joey Ward, kept out of the end zone, was grinding out yardage to get Troy in position for a game winning score. However, it wouldn't be a touchdown. For the first time this season, Troy set up for a field goal, and with 7 seconds left in regulation, Fazio connected from 24 yards out. The Flying Horses, thinking the game was over, rushed out onto the field to celebrate, which cost them another 15 yard penalty.

No matter, as a desperation pass by New Rochelle fell incomplete as time expired, and Troy moves on with a 17-14 win. The Hugenots, the 3-time Section I champs, are sent packing by a Section II team for the 3rd straight year (Saratoga in 2015).

Next week, Troy leaves the comfort of Section II, and will travel to Middletown to play Newburgh Free Academy, with the winner advancing to the title game Thanksgiving weekend in Syracuse.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

What Might've Been: Bourbon Street Beat (1959)

By the end of the 50's, crime dramas were becoming as common as Westerns and sitcoms.

One year after launching 77 Sunset Strip, Warner Brothers followed up with Bourbon Street Beat, which, as the title implies, was set in New Orleans, which was also the setting of the Western, Yancy Derringer. Bourbon Street Beat, however, lasted just 1 season, although two of the leads were moved to other WB series.

Richard Long headlined as Rex Randolph, the junior partner in a detective agency with Cal Calhoun (Andrew Duggan). Van Williams played Kenny Madison, the aspiring sleuth-in-training. After the series ended, Madison was relocated to Miami, making Surfside 6 a spin-off. Randolph, on the other hand, packed up and moved across country to LA, as Long joined the cast of 77 Sunset Strip for its 3rd season. Duggan, meanwhile, would not headline another series until Lancer in 1968.

The Rap Sheet provides the intro:

So why did Bourbon Street fail? I have zero clue.

No rating.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Musical Interlude: I Just Want to Celebrate (1971)

If you thought that Motown was an exclusively African-American label, you'd be so, so wrong. In its history, Motown has signed a number of white artists, one of whom, Charlene, hit #1 in the early 80's with "I've Never Been to Me". Before that, the jam band Rare Earth, for whom Motown named a label, peaked at #4 in 1971 with "I Just Want to Celebrate", which still gets airplay today on classic rock and oldies channels.

Sports this 'n' that

This is defnitely not how you want to start your college basketball career.

UCLA freshman Jalen Hill, Cody Riley, and LiAngelo Ball were arrested Tuesday in China on shoplifting charges, the accusation being that they stole sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next door to their hotel in Hangzou, where the Bruins will play their an exhibition game this weekend. There are reports that suggest the trio, if convicted, could face 3-10 years in a Chinese prison, ending their college careers before they get started.

Stage parent LaVar Ball had planned on a press conference today, but was advised against it, and is looking for more details. The elder Ball has previously said that he would have his youngest son, LaMelo, who is in China with his family, play there until he's eligible for the NBA draft, rather than finish his high school career in the US. We're all better off if Papa Big Mouth doesn't say anything until he gets home.
The last of WWE's big 4 pay-per-views, Survivor Series, may have just gotten an upgrade on one of their main events.

On last night's same-day-tape episode of Smackdown, A. J. Styles defeated Canada's Jinder Mahal, representing India, to win the WWE title, and will advance to face Universal champion Brock Lesnar on November 19 in Houston. Throughout Mahal's run as champion, he has rarely won a match without the assistance of the Singh brothers (formerly known as the Bollywood Boys), who, like Mahal, are representing India, but are really from Canada. On paper, a match between Styles, who has a slight experience advantage over Lesnar, may actually be more appealing to the casual fans, especially considering how WWE has taken some heat for using Mahal to expand business into India. The Monday Night Raw crew will be in India December 8-9, but there is no guarantee that Mahal would get the title back before then. More than likely, he would be posited as an underdog challenger, and forced to work as a babyface (hero), rather than the villain he's been presented as. It's the fault, of course, of WWE Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon, looking to create a new revenue stream at the expense of common sense, ignoring the fact that Mahal had zero credibility as champion because of the repetitive nature of his title defenses.
The NFL has its answer to LaVar Ball, Kanye West, and President Trump.

Miko Grimes, wife of Tampa Bay defensive back Brent Grimes, made some seriously false statements when appearing on the Revolt network the other day. Mrs. Grimes claimed that the Oakland offensive line took exception to QB Derek Carr's objection to their kneeling during the national anthem, and "let" Carr suffer a back injury.

As it turns out, Mrs. Grimes was as wrong as wrong could be. The Raiders, as well as several media outlets, have pointed out that Carr was supportive of his teammates, and that his injury wasn't in week 3 against the Washington Trumpets, but rather the following week. Miko didn't have her facts straight, and, as of press time, hasn't recanted her statements, now that she knows they're false. President Trump could use her as another minister of misinformation if needed, but until then, she'll settle for something the President has plenty of, a set of Weasel ears
Major League Baseball's Gold Gloves were handed out Tuesday. And the winners are.....

American League - Martin Maldonado, Angels (1)
National League - Tucker Barnhart, Reds (1)

AL - Eric Hosmer, Royals (4)
NL - Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks (3)

AL - Brian Dozier, Twins (1)
NL - DJ LeMahieu, Rockies (2)

AL - Andrelton Simmons, Angels (3)
NL - Brandon Crawford, Giants (3)

AL - Evan Longoria, Rays (3)
NL - Nolan Arenado, Rockies (5)

AL - Alex Gordon, Royals (5)
NL - Marcell Ozuna, Marlins (1)

AL - Byron Buxton, Twins (1)
NL - Ender Inciarte, Braves (2)

AL - Mookie Betts, Red Sox (2)
NL - Jason Heyward, Cubs (5)

AL - Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays (1)
NL - Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks (4)

Let's just break this down:


The Royals, Angels, & Twins have 2 apiece. The World Series champion Astros were shut out, along with the Yankees. Don't worry. Everything will balance out once the rest of the awards are handed out.

NL: Arizona & Colorado each have 2, but nothing for the Dodgers or Mets? Figure the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger will be the NL Rookie of the Year, but the Mets will get Charlie Brown'd altogether after a horrible season.
Condolences to the family of former Phillies & Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay, who was killed in a plane crash Tuesday. Halladay, a 2-time Cy Young winner, reached the World Series twice with Philadelphia, winning it all in 2008, but losing to the Yankees the next year.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Did Chachi steal some of Fonzie's tricks? (1981)

Dr. Pepper needed a new song & dance pitchman while David Naughton was off filming "An American Werewolf in London". So Scott Baio (Happy Days) was signed. Baio had some experience doing commercials before, having shilled for Honey Comb cereal a few years earlier.

Here, though, it looks as though Scott may be acting like he's playing his Days character of Chachi Arcola, who may have just gotten some of cousin Fonzie's gifts when it comes to snapping his fingers.....

Care to guess if this aired during Happy Days? It probably did.

Musical Interlude: Election Day (1985)

Duran Duran took a minor break between 1985-6, during which time the group split into two separate components. John & Andy Taylor joined forces with Robert Palmer and Chic drummer Tony Thompson to form the Power Station. Meanwhile, Simon LeBon & Nick Rhodes created Arcadia. Drummer Roger Taylor appeared on both projects' lone releases, but not in any of the music videos.

Fittingly, then, considering what today is on the calendar, we serve up the first single from Arcadia's lone CD, "So Red The Rose". Here's "Election Day".

Monday, November 6, 2017

Sports this 'n' that

We have reached the halfway point of the NFL season, and it seems the lone dominant force in either conference isn't the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots, but instead the resurgent Philadelphia Eagles, who are at 8-1 and atop the NFC East. There are so many teams at 6-2, including the Patriots, the Los Angeles Rams, and some of the usual suspects (Dallas, Pittsburgh).

Meanwhile, the calls for the Giants to sack head coach Ben McAdoo are getting louder after the Rams laid waste to the Giants, 51-17, on Sunday. There are those who think that Big Blue quit on their coach, chief among them NBC's Rodney Harrison and, closer to home, WNYT sports anchor Rodger Wyland, who contributes a short piece in the sports section of the Albany Times-Union, in addition to his morning radio show on WTMM-FM. Like, the once mighty Denver Broncos, in year 2 AP (After Peyton), also laid an egg on Sunday, giving up 53 to Philadelphia. It's not helping that the Broncos go home to play the Patriots next.

And what happened to Kansas City? The AFC West leaders have dropped 3 of their last 4, including a 28-14 loss Sunday to Dallas. The Chiefs have a bye next week, but play their next two games at the Meadowlands (Giants & Jets, in that order). Oakland is 2 back after beating Miami, and could still make the playoffs.
Two Section II schools will host state football playoffs this weekend, which is a first for the home district, insofar as I know.

Troy will play Section 1 AA champ New Rochelle in a rematch of last year's quarters, but this time the Flying Horses could very well be the home team, as the game will be at Columbia High in East Greenbush on Friday night. Less than 24 hours later, Schuylerville will host a Class C quarterfinal between Holy Trinity and Ogdensburg Free Academy. OFA, in turn, hosts a B quarterfinal (Glens Falls vs. Gouvenour) on Friday. Class D champ Cambridge will play Moriah at Au Sable Valley High, also on Friday. All three defending champs from last year (Troy, Glens Falls, Cambridge) are looking to repeat the trek to Syracuse, where the state finals will be contested Thanksgiving weekend.

Meanwhile, Albany Academy, in their first season in the New England Prep School Athletic Council (NEPSAC), sits at 4-3 with one game to play, on the road. However, press coverage of the Cadets, due mostly to playing in NEPSAC, has been sparse, as local outlets seemingly can't be bothered to regularly cover the team's home games, the mentality being, apparently, that if they're not in Section II, why bother? The only other sport where the Cadets are on the outside is hockey, and they once were a Section II power there. Otherwise, Albany Academy is still a member of the Colonial Council in all other sports (Albany Academy for Girls is also in the Colonial Council).

My message to the local radio/TV outlets and newspapers is this. Lose the bias, and show these kids some respect!!
The fans in Houston have been starving for a pro championship for practically forever, so when the Astros had their victory parade on Friday, there were a few jabronies that were bothered by the fact that pitcher Justin Verlander, a trade deadline acquisition from Detroit, was a no show. Well, he did have a very good reason. Verlander had picked last weekend in advance for his wedding to supermodel and video game sales doll Kate Upton. To the city as a whole, the World Series title is a catharsis in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, so why throw cold water on the party? Some folks just don't get it.
For years, the marathons in Boston & New York have been almost exclusively won by athletes from Kenya or other African nations. On Sunday, Shalane Flanagan ended a long American drought in the race by winning the women's division. The Boston native was the first American female in 40 years (Miki Gorman won back-to-back NYC marathons in 1976-7) to win the event, and outkicked 3-time defending champion Mary Keitany (Kenya, naturally) to make history.

On the men's side, Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya crossed the finish line first. We won't hear about races like this again until they run in Boston in mid-April.

What Might've Been: Nero Wolfe (1977-9)

The late author Rex Stout, creator of Nero Wolfe, despised television. Since his passing in the mid-70's, Stout's classic sleuth has been adapted for television on a number of occasions.

Paramount acquired the rights first, and mounted a TV-movie, with character actor Thayer David as Wolfe, and Tom Mason as Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's trusted operative. However, ABC sat on the film for 2 years before it finally aired as an overnight offering in December 1979. By then, David had passed on himself, and the fact that the film was kept on the shelf for so long killed any chance of a possible series, although Paramount would do just that, 14 months after the movie aired. NBC, as previously reported, took a chance on Wolfe, with William Conrad, fresh from Cannon, in the title role.

The film aired earlier today on the Decades channel, which might just be the only cabler that has the gumption to run it. Burke's Law creator Frank Gilroy adapted & directed Stout's novel, The Doorbell Rang, and made the mistake of trying to remold Wolfe in the manner of his own sleuth, Amos Burke. You'll see what I mean.

David effected a serviceable mimic of Sydney Greenstreet, who starred as Wolfe on radio, but Gilroy's preference to make Wolfe more like Burke, or any other romantic sleuth, wasn't the brightest of ideas.

Rating: C.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Celebrity Rock: Sunshine on my Shoulders (The Muppet Show, 1978)

On a break from Charlie's Angels, Cheryl Ladd stops by The Muppet Show. The closing number has Cheryl performing a cover of John Denver's "Sunshine on my Shoulders", with a backing chorus building as the song plays, including Kermit, Rowlf, Scooter, and Fozzie.

You tend to forget that Cheryl began her career as a singer, and was one of the original singing voices for Josie & the Pussycats back in 1970. During her Angels run, Cheryl also landed a variety special for ABC that gave her a chance to return to her musical roots.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Musical Interlude: Superstar (2017)

Former NFL player Esera Tuaolo is a contestant on the current season of NBC's The Voice, coached by country singer Blake Shelton. Tuaolo, whose NFL career saw him play for Green Bay, Jacksonville, and Carolina, among others, began his singing career while with the Packers, performing "The Star Spangled Banner" in full uniform before a game in the early 90's.

For a recent episode of The Voice, Tuaolo reached back all the way to the late 60's-early 70's for a cover of "Superstar", made most famous by the Carpenters, and covered in later years by the late Luther Vandross. Seems Tuaolo is channeling Vandross on this 2 minute compact cover.

The Yahoo! article I read only acknowledged Vandross' version, but we know better, don't we?

In Theatres: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Comics fans know that Thor Odinson, to use his full name, lost his hammer after he became unworthy to wield it, and it ended up in the hands of his ex-girlfriend, Jane Foster, who otherwise is battling cancer.

Jane doesn't figure into the latest "Thor" movie, as Natalie Portman was not interested in returning. Likewise, the Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander, Blindspot) is also MIA for "Thor: Ragnarok", which is equal parts epic genre drama and slapstick comedy. I'm not kidding.

Recall that in "Iron Man 3", Tony Stark's most famous nemesis, the Mandarin, was reduced to being an out-of-work actor (Ben Kingsley) essaying a part to make some easy money. Kingsley hammed it up, much to the dismay of long time hardcore Marvel fans. To me, "Iron Man 3" was a bit of a farce, more so than "Iron Man 2".

So, the 3rd "Thor" movie goes for the laughs as well, but somehow, it works. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Asgard after dispatching Surtur (voice of Clancy Brown), only to find that half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has usurped the throne, and is impersonating Odin (Anthony Hopkins). That is, until Thor exposes the scam for all to see. In due course, Thor & Loki return to Earth, and meet Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who then sends them off to Norway, where Odin reveals that he is dying, and discloses that Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) is, in fact, their sister, which really is not the case, as anyone who understands Norse mythology and/or Thor's Marvel history would know. Loki's scam, in effect, opened a virtual Pandora's Box by releasing Hela from her prison.

Thor is then sent to a faraway world where he ends up a gladiator for the amusement of the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum, chewing scenery in between commercials), and we find that Valkyrie is working for this goof. So, too, is the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), as this part of the story is taken from the pages of the green goliath's book, and grafted onto the core plot. Apparently, there wasn't enough money in the corporate budget to give Hulk another shot at a solo movie. Skurge, the Executioner (Karl Urban), better known to Marvel fans as the Enchantress' sidekick, is working first for the disguised Loki in the absence of Heimdall (Idris Elba), then for Hela, but that is fated not to last.

This trailer should help explain a few things.

A mid-credits teaser sets the stage, at least a little bit, for "Avengers: Infinity War", one of four Marvel movies on the docket for 2018.


"Justice League" (Nov. 15). Wonder Woman, Batman, and, inevitably, Superman, are joined by the Flash, Aquaman, & Cyborg. As with many of the comic book movies out there, this is based on the more recent reboots of the series, and not the original concept of the series, which was nearly 60 years ago, as DC decided to graduate Cyborg from the Teen Titans to the League 6 years ago.

"Roman J. Israel, Esq." (Nov. 22): Denzel Washington as an attorney facing a moral crisis.

"The Disaster Artist" (Dec. 8): Based on a real-life movie project that was SO bad, I don't think it ever got released.

"Downsizing" (Dec. 22): Matt Damon follows up "Suburbicon" was this fantasy about a man who willingly becomes 5 inches tall, but there's a catch. With Jason Sudekis and Kristen Wiig.

"Black Panther" (Feb. 16): Chadwick Boseman returns as T'Challa.

"Pacific Rim: Uprising" (March): Sequel to a surprisingly popular movie from a couple of years back.

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" (Dec. 15). Enough said.

"Thor: Ragnarok" gets an A-.