Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Jack Sheldon (1931-2019)

We hate to end the year on a downer, but if you're like me, and you grew up with Schoolhouse Rock, for example, in the 70's, this is going to hurt.

Actor-comedian-jazz musician-singer Jack Sheldon passed away on Friday at 88, leaving behind a body of work, mostly in music, as he was touring as recently as a couple of years ago, based on videos available on YouTube.

In the 50's & 60's, Sheldon began appearing on television as a stand-up comic and musician, playing the trumpet. In 1966, Leonard Stern cast him in the lead of the CBS sitcom, Run, Buddy, Run, which failed to finish the season. Sheldon had the title role of an average dude in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now a target of a mob boss (Bruce Gordon, ex-The Untouchables). The show is just as notable for the fact that the announcer at the start of the show was future Emmy winner Ted Knight.

After Buddy ended, Sheldon joined Jack Webb's repertory company, appearing in several episodes of Dragnet, including this 4th season offering, in which Sheldon's character is a neighbor of Officer Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan):

Sheldon was also making frequent appearances on Merv Griffin's talk shows. One source claimed he served as musical director at one point. In 1973, the producers of Schoolhouse Rock signed Sheldon as one of their lineup of singers, heard on classic pieces such as "I'm Just a Bill" and "Conjunction Junction".

Rest in peace, Jack.

Monday, December 30, 2019

NFL playoff preview

If you go by the playoff brackets, you'd think there would be a changing of the guard in the NFL when playoff action begins Saturday with the Wild Card round. Outside of, say, New England, for example, that may be true.

That's because this time, the road to the Super Bowl goes through Baltimore and San Francisco, the top seeds in each conference. Consider the AFC field:

1. Baltimore.
2. Kansas City.
3. New England.
4. Houston.
5. Buffalo.
6. Tennessee.

The Ravens rested superstar QB Lamar Jackson and some other key players, and still beat Pittsburgh, leaving the Steelers out of the playoffs for the second straight year, and for the fourth time in the last eight. Tennessee and coach Mike Vrabel will try to upset New England for the second straight season, and this time, it means way more than it did in the 2018 regular season. Vrabel, remember, won three rings with the Patriots as a player, and that might be motivation enough for the Titans to upset the applecart, if you will.

We know, also, that the last thing the Patriots want is to go up against Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City again, after the Chiefs upset New England earlier this year. Time is creeping up on Tom Brady, and already, there are the headlines suggesting that maybe, finally, it's time for Brady to move on after 20 years. A 6th round draft pick out of Michigan in 2000, Brady has six Super Bowls, and the only man with more brainwashed followers than Brady and the Patriots is in Washington, and you know who I'm referring to.

Brady's refusal to allow the Patriots to better diversify the offense led New England to trade former understudy Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco, and now, Garoppolo is being seen as the savior of the 49ers, the one to take them back to the days of Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, et al, of the 80's. Let's look at the NFC field:

1. San Francisco.
2. Green Bay.
3. New Orleans.
4. Philadelphia.
5. Seattle.
6. Minnesota.

The Eagles, two years removed from upsetting the Patriots to win the Super Bowl, avenging a loss more than a decade earlier, locked up the NFC East by beating the Giants, despite Dallas blowing away the Washington Trumpets. What killed Dallas wasn't so much a mid-season losing streak or questions about coach Jason Garrett, but the fact that the Wild Card spots were already secured before play began on Sunday. That meant that for all his usual bluster, Jerry Jones, who still refuses to hire a general manager to ease his burdens, was already S-O-L.

Here's a thought. Why not hire on ESPN bloviator Screamin' A. Cosell (Stephen A. Smith) to handle public relations? Then again, why make the Dallas fans suffer any more than they are now?

Consider this. The AFC field's top three teams have 9 Super Bowls between them. The top five in the NFC have 13 Super Bowls among them. That'll make for some water cooler talk over the next month.

Wild Card predictions on Friday.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Musical Interlude: Bob Wills is Still The King (2005)

They might've decided that Elvis Presley was the King of Rock & Roll. Michael Jackson was christened the King of Pop.

In Texas, however, country music fans have their King. Country swing music icon Bob Wills was immortalized by fellow Texan Waylon Jennings several years back. In 2005, on tour, the Rolling Stones saw fit to pay tribute to Wills and Jennings, with Mick Jagger strapping on a guitar to do "Bob Wills is Still The King".

Add to this Ronnie Wood on pedal steel guitar, and you wonder if the Stones, slowly closing in on their 60th anniversary, might follow the lead of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and do a full-on country record.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Dunce Cap Award: Mike Glass III

During bowl season, we've learned to expect the unexpected.

Case in point being the 2019 Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on Thursday night, as shown on ESPN. You had Pittsburgh, representing the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), matched against Eastern Michigan, out of the Mid Atlantic Conference (MAC). A Power 5 conference vs. a mid-major usually means the mid-major gets squashed like a bug.

Not in this case. Eastern Michigan hadn't won a bowl game in more than 30 years, and were less than a minute away from ending the draught when Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett threw the game winning touchdown pass with 47 seconds left. Now, the Eagles of Eastern Michigan needed to come right back to tie or win the game in the final 47 seconds.

We pick up the action on third down.

A frustrated Mike Glass III, seeing the game slip away late because the defense couldn't stop the Panthers, lashed out in frustration, as shown above, and was ejected with 10 seconds left.

Image result for Dimwit Terrytoons

"That wasn't very smart, was it?"

No, it wasn't, Dimwit. Glass just saw his draft prospects plunge with one act of immaturity in his final college game. Not that he would've been a first round pick, anyway, but he'll be lucky if he's even drafted at all in four months' time. Pittsburgh won the game, 34-30, and Glass' consolation prize, as if you couldn't tell, is a Dunce Cap.

It was a great game, even if ESPN had to bigfoot it with the relentless hype over Saturday's College Football Playoff semifinals. However, with one blow, Glass gave the MAC, Eastern Michigan, and mid-majors everywhere one collective black eye.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Why would King Kong grab a Ford truck? (1976)

After the remake of "King Kong" hit theatres in 1976, Ford came up with the idea of using the giant ape to promote their truck line. John Erwin narrates.

It was common practice for the next year's models to be introduced in the last quarter of the previous year, so this would have been out in the fall of 1976.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Countdown to Christmas: Sherlock Holmes in The Case of The Christmas Pudding (1955)

Sherlock Holmes (Ronald Howard) becomes the target of a vengeful con who has cheated death by escaping before he could be hung. Our final Countdown to Christmas entry is "The Case of The Christmas Pudding":

They say it's a more faithful adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works. However, some of the acting, particularly the extras, leaves a little to be desired. And Howard doesn't really move me as Holmes.

Rating: B-.

We'll see you on Thursday. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2019

What Might've Been: Strange Report (1969)

ITC's first import for NBC had been The Saint. In 1971, the network placed two more ITC entries on the schedule as mid-season replacements. One was From a Bird's Eye View, which had been on the NBC shelf for a couple of years before finally being put on the air, and our next subject, Strange Report.

Strange Report used a by this point familiar casting formula also used on The Champions and, the next year, Department S. That is to say, two male leads and one female lead. American audiences may be more familiar with Anthony Quayle from numerous movie roles, plus the fact that he would host the anthology series, The Evil Touch, later in the 70's. Kaz Garas would become a frequent guest star on a number of crime dramas, usually for Quinn Martin. Anneke Willis, the female lead, might not have been heard from much again on this side of the ocean.

Quayle played retired criminologist Adam Strange (not to be confused with the DC comics hero, who was also an archeologist), called into duty to handle some odd cases.

In  the opener, Strange investigates a cult and the apparent murder of a musician.

The Legend of Pamela Franklin, a YouTube fan channel devoted to the actress, who guests in this episode, uploaded this entry.

Department S followed the same tack the next year, and while it, like Strange, lasted just one season, it would spawn a spin-off, something Strange didn't do.

No rating.

Countdown to Christmas: December (2014)

Your ears will not deceive you. Earth, Wind, & Fire reworked their 1978 hit, "September", into "December" in 2014. Just a few minor tweaks to the lyrics, but otherwise the same song you all remember.

This all came about because Sony Legacy asked the band to produce a holiday record. Hey, you can't go wrong.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Forgotten TV: The Lawless Years (1959)

Six months before The Untouchables hit the air, NBC had a similar show set in the same period.

The Lawless Years lasted three seasons, and shined a spotlight on some lesser known mobsters, as well as some of the same major names that would also be chronicled on Untouchables. Producer Jack Chertok partnered with California National, which appeared to be exclusive to NBC, to package the series.

James Gregory starred as real-life detective Barney Ruditsky, and narrated each episode. Ruditsky served as a technical advisor.

The series' 3rd season was a spring replacement, just like the first season. With the success of Untouchables, Lawless had become an afterthought.

From season 2 comes the story of one of those lesser known men, Al Brown (played by Jack Weston).

No rating.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

A little of this and a little of that

I'm sure you've heard by now that close to 4,000 people have signed a petition to have England's Prince Harry and his wife, actress Meghan Markle (ex-Suits), stripped of the royal titles as the Duke & Duchess of Sussex, which Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, conferred upon the couple when they were married.

Of course, the royal couple attract the attention of tabloid journalists on both sides of the ocean, that's just par for the course, and what charity work they do is overshadowed, then, by malicious, and mostly fabricated, puff pieces in the tabloids. Bad enough that the American tabloids now are mostly fabricated articles, but what did they do to offend the citizens of Sussex? Articles I've read have shed zero light on the rationale for the petition. One thing is clear, though. Only the Queen can rescind those royal titles, and I don't think that's going to happen any time soon.

In the words of Queen Victoria, we are not amused.
What was once a go-to destination in Albany is no more.

I'm not sure exactly when Coulson's News Center went out of business, or at least, shuttered its Broadway location, but passing by the other day, I felt sad that no one has thought of taking a lease on the space. Declining business, obviously, did Coulson's in. as with others before it. Sign of the times, y'all.
Across the river and back at home, the Uncle Sam Parking Garage is going to need some repairs after a beam dropped from the ceiling on December 14. The entrance on the 4th Street side will be closed for a bit so repairs can be completed in a timely fashion. I can remember when the garage actually hosted flea markets when my family & I first moved downtown 40 years ago. Those were good times, and the garage, under current owner David Bryce, who also owns the neighboring Atrium, needs to be renovated yesterday.
During ESPN's telecast of the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl on Friday, the announcers amused themselves by poking fun at monotone-voiced referee Ken Antee, and likening him to Ben Stein, who became a pop culture icon in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" 33 years ago, leading to books, a self-titled game show, and years of shilling for Visine.

If you don't remember "Day Off", here's a clip of Stein's most famous line:

To think that he was also once a speechwriter for Richard Nixon..........!
It's just a matter of time.

After President Trump was impeached earlier this week, the editor of Christianity Today published an editorial calling for Trump to be removed from office. It's not that simple, however. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is waiting until the Senate can (willingly) provide the proper framework for a trial, which would start next month.

Christianity Today, founded by the late Rev. Billy Graham, has, in turn, been accused by Trump of leaning far left. It isn't. For a man who professes to be a Christian, as Trump has claimed for 3 1/2 years, though he is perceived in the media as behaving like anything but a Christian, it appears he's being called out for hypocrisy, in addition to the power abuses which led to impeachment.

Let's lay this on the line.

Trump is a businessman first, a political neophyte with even less political experience than the man he succeeded in the White House (and so viciously despised), Barack Obama. He has used his position as if it's just another business holding, and the Oval Office a boardroom, trading on the persona crafted for NBC's The Apprentice more than a decade ago.

Since Christianity Today has come out against Trump, how long will it take before the Bible Belt evangelicals finally realize they've been duped the entire time? While Trump campaigned for, and succeeded in, moving Israel's capital back to Jerusalem, most of the good he's done to keep the evangelicals in his pockets are kept off mainstream media, which he misperceives, purposely, as "fake news". No, Mr. President, your friend, David Pecker, trades on fake news, not CNN or NBC or anyone else that might offend you.

The Bible warns against pride and ego. Grammy winning composer Quincy Jones, in assembling his all-star group for "We Are The World" 35 years ago, trumpeted that point with a simple message:

"Check your ego at the door".

Unfortunately, as the media perceives it, Trump doesn't know how.

Just as unfortunate is the fact that the GOP-controlled Senate, while it will likely exonerate Trump, and continue enabling his Ugly American brand of politics, are accessories just by enabling Trump, who is also being sued by the NY Attorney General's office, likely because of his withholding his tax returns.

Here's the real issue. Trump, pre-Presidency, likely has done business with not only Russia, but North Korea as well, and for that reason, is more than willing to use their leaders as role models for himself. He will not get the term limits abolished that have been in place since the days of FDR. Instead, assuming he actually does get a 2nd term, his next place of residence, Palm Beach aside, would be in a sanitarium.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Countdown to Christmas: The Melodies of Christmas returns, but should WRGB move the show, just for one year?

WRGB's annual holiday special, Melodies of Christmas, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and the 2019 edition is being taped at Proctor's in Schenectady through the weekend.

Melodies has been housed at Proctor's for almost, if not all, of its run. No offense toward Proctor's, but wouldn't it be nice if, just for one year, WRGB and corporate sponsors Price Chopper & Freihofer's could be persuaded to move Melodies across the river to either Albany or Troy. Can you picture Melodies in the cavernous Times-Union Center or the acoustically perfect Troy Music Hall? Why not Albany's spanking new Capital Center? Why should Proctor's monopolize Melodies? For commuters like ye scribe, getting a bus from downtown Schenectady back to Troy or Albany at night would be most difficult, depending on scheduling.

I've seen portions of some Melodies shows through the years, but never a complete show. This year's edition, as always, is a showcase for the Empire State Youth Orchestra & Youth Chorale, with the Irish folk band, the McKrells, among the guests on the card.

WRGB shares broadcasting with sister station WCWN. The CW affiliate gets first crack on Christmas Eve, as WRGB will air Melodies at 12:37 am (ET) on Christmas Day in place of The Late, Late Show With James Corden, and encore at 7 am & 5 pm.

Let's take you back to 2004, and the 25th anniversary show:

Not sure if WGNA-FM is still doing simulcasting.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

What Might've Been: The Julie Andrews Hour (1972)

ABC & ITC needed more than "A Spoonful of Sugar" from Julie Andrews to keep her 1972 variety show on the air.

Andrews, still in demand off "The Sound of Music" and "Mary Poppins", had signed a 5 year deal, but The Julie Andrews Hour lasted just one season.

ABC's biggest mistake was placing the show initially at 10 pm (ET), opposite Cannon on CBS. After a Thanksgiving eve salute to Walt Disney, ABC began alternating Andrews' time slot, so that it could bump the Wednesday edition of the Movie of The Week to 9:30 when needed.

However, after the calendar turned over to 1973, Andrews was moved to Saturdays, where producer Nick Vanoff previously held court with The Hollywood Palace. CBS' opposition included The Mary Tyler Moore Show & The Bob Newhart Show. Ballgame over. Andrews would fill out her contract with movies for ITC honcho Lord Lew Grade.

Following is the Christmas show. Joining Julie and semi-regulars Rich Little (ex-The Kopykats) and Alice Ghostley (ex-Bewitched) are Mama Cass Elliott, Jimmy Stewart, Sergio Franchi, Dan Dailey (ex-The Governor & JJ), and Carl Reiner, who takes his turn at singing, leaving us to wonder why he didn't do it more often.

Comes complete with commercials, including an Ivory liquid spot with Durward Kirby (ex-The Garry Moore Show, Candid Camera). Mind the video quality at the end. The skit with Little (as Jack Benny) playing Scrooge is a hoot.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Weasel of The Week: Shane Keisel

Nine months ago, Shane Keisel and his girlfriend were ejected from the Utah Jazz's home game vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder after Keisel allegedly made some racist remarks toward then-Thunder star Russell Westbrook. The Jazz decided that Keisel was no longer welcome, banning him from their building.

With Christmas a week away, Keisel decided to file a lawsuit against the Jazz and Westbrook, who now plays for Houston. Keisel is asking for $68 million dollars, claiming he was wrongfully accused of hurling the racial remarks toward Westbrook. His girlfriend wants $32 million, claiming defamation and emotional distress.

Meet the couple's lawyer, if ya will:

Actually, the image of this weasel describes Keisel perfectly. Hands out, looking for something he ain't getting.

Seems Keisel's a wee bit butt-hurt because he was singled out while other hecklers are getting what he thinks is a free pass. It all depends on the tone of what he said. Waiting nine months, however, to file suit, in the opinion of this writer, reeks of desperation. If the Jazz and/or Westbrook settle with this punk, then everyone else will have their hands out for an undeserved easy payday if the same thing happens to them. Keisel clearly wants some of the money Westbrook's getting from the Rockets so he doesn't have to work for the rest of his life, assuming he has a job.

$100 million, to me, is asking for too much money. Keisel will be lucky if he makes even 10 cents. Yes, he's this week's Weasel. And that's all, folks.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Musical Interlude: When We Was Fab (1987-8)

"When We Was Fab" is the 2nd single from George Harrison's 1987 CD, "Cloud Nine". Co-written by Harrison and Jeff Lynne, this is a humorous take on the early days of the Beatles. Fittingly, Ringo Starr appears, amidst some CGI trickery.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Countdown to Christmas: A credit card with clout? (1977)

What every shopper dreads at Christmas: Not having enough cash for a gift so desperately needed.

Consider the case of one such luckless shopper (Patti Deutsch), for if not for the timely aid of a fellow shopper (Karen Morrow, Tabitha), she'd be stuck for collateral. Don Galloway (ex-Ironside) is our pitchman for MasterCharge (now MasterCard).....

Sports this 'n' that

Ok, so I had the schedule wrong.

The New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills will play for the AFC East title on Saturday, meaning that New England closes their two game season-ending homestand with Miami, while the Bills finish up vs. the Jests. Fair enough. Both teams clinched playoff berths on Sunday. New England, as expected, vented on Cincinnati, 31-10, snapping a 2 game losing streak. Buffalo kept pace by beating Pittsburgh, 17-10. I thought they'd play on the 29th, but nope.
Speaking of Bills-Steelers, ref Tony Corrente's crew fouled up with a phantom face mask penalty on the Buffalo defense. Replays clearly showed that this team of Mr. Magoo wanna-bes blew it completely, as there was no face mask penalty at all.

Not that it mattered, because the Steelers couldn't cash in their sudden good fortune, and turned the ball over two plays later, which saves these near-sighted zebras the dreaded Dunce Caps.
LSU's Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy Saturday night, but how many people do you think decided not to tune in, after hearing commentators on ESPN & CBS publicly state that Burrow all but had it in the bag hours before the ceremony?

I opted to watch hockey. What about the rest of y'all?
The Giants snapped a 9 game losing streak in battering Miami. It might've been Eli Manning's farewell in the Meadowlands, but given how slowly some ankle injuries heal, I would put money on Eli being back in two weeks for the finale vs. Philadelphia, hoping to atone for the Monday loss a week ago. Just sayin'.
 For years, I've been handing out Dunce Caps and Weasel ears, but never really had any graphics.

That's about to change, starting with the Dunce Caps, right now.

The inspiration comes from the dimmest bulb in the funny animal kingdom, Dimwit, the long time foil of Heckle & Jeckle.

If you don't know who he is, pilgrims, this'll help ya....

Image result for Dimwit Terrytoons

"Duhhhh, hello there.".

Yes, that is his mugshot, used for his own series of solo shorts, which will begin appearing at Saturday Morning Archives if we can find some.

Anyway, Dimwit and I are presenting the Dunce Caps to a group of misguided WWE fans this week. Why? Because they're taking a Monday Night Raw storyline way too seriously.

You see, WWE CEO/Chairman/head wackjob Vince McMahon and Raw executive director Paul Heyman, who came up with some infidelity angles in ECW in the 90's, decided that Rusev (Miraslav Barnyashev) and his wife, Lana (Catherine "CJ" Perry, "Pitch Perfect") would "divorce" so Lana could pursue a relationship with former US, ECW, & IC champion Bobby Lashley.

For whatever reason, heading into last night's TLC show, Lana was getting death threats from some dimbulbs who thought this was real. The FBI's been called in.

Image result for Dimwit Terrytoons

"Uhh, you shouldn't be doing that. No, you shouldn't."

Lana & Rusev live in Nashville in their spare time. It's got to be majorly awkward for them to live out this storyline. WWE officials are working with the FBI on the matter. Oh, by the way, Lashley beat Rusev, thanks to Lana's help, last night, so that arc isn't over by any stretch.

To these John Does out there, you get the Dunce Caps. Deal with it.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Old Time Radio: GI Journal (1944)

In the latter half of World War II, the radio series, GI Journal, also appeared in newsreel form under the title, Strictly GI. It was a comedy variety show typical of radio's golden age, with Kay Kyser, Lucille Ball, Ish Kabibble, Jerry Colonna, and Mel Blanc in this installment. We've had an excerpt of Blanc bringing George Baker's comic book character, Sad Sack, to life, using his Porky Pig voice, or a variation thereof. Now, here's a longer video:

There's an even bigger video, which incorporates a pair of Private Snafu shorts starring Blanc, but that was something the NY State Museum archive put together.

Rating: B.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Countdown to Christmas: Even Santa needs insurance (2008)

I wish Progressive would bring this holiday commercial back, or at least update it.

Flo (Stephanie Courtney) waits on a certain customer who needs insurance for his, ah, vehicle......

Ho, ho, ho!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Musical Interlude: To Be a Lover (1986)

"To Be a Lover", a reworked version of the soul hit, "I Forgot to be Your Lover", was the first single off Billy Idol's 1986 CD, "Whiplash Smile". Idol & Steve Stevens are in a boxing ring for whatever, and you have three hotties as backup singers. Have mercy, baby!!!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Countdown to Christmas: Homey Claus (In Living Color, 1990)

From season 2 of In Living Color:

Homey D. Clown (Damon Wayans) takes over as a mall Santa, and that spells trouble for some "kids" (Jim Carrey, Kelly Coffield, Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier):

The gluttons for punishment would recur in these sketches, but Coffield was exceptionally obnoxious as a loud girl. Carrey's character is meant to be disabled, but that was underplayed.

Rating: B. Coffield dragged the rating down.

Baseball this 'n' that

After re-signing Stephen Strasburg to a 7 year deal, the Washington Nationals decided to let their best clutch hitter last season, Anthony Rendon, leave via free agency. Bad idea.

Rendon is heading west to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, also for 7 years, to the tune of $245 million, or, $35 million per season. The Angels get a much needed power bat to complement Mike Trout and, assuming he'll still be there next season, Albert Pujols. The Nats, and the rest of the NL East, will see the Angels in 2020, as the NL East meets the AL West.
The Mets brought back relief pitcher Brad Brach after a stellar run down the stretch, but now, they've added a pair of starting pitchers in the last 24 hours.

First, they signed former Cy Young winner Rick Porcello away from Boston on a 1 year deal. Same goes for Michael Wacha, who comes over from St. Louis, which treated him like they were asking, what have you done for us lately, due to injury issues and ineffectiveness. Expect to hear a lot of this at Citi Field in 2020:

Remember those Fozzie posters during Wacha's rookie campaign in 2015? The unimaginative fans in Flushing will create some new ones, especially if Wacha, tenatively penciled in as the #5 starter to replace Zack Wheeler (Philadelphia), gets off to a fast start.
Over in the Bronx, the Yankees won the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes, which means they'll be lining Scott Boras' wallet with the commission he gets from a 9 year, $324 million dollar deal ($36 million/year), with an opt out after the 5th year. Cole immediately becomes the Yankees' ace, filling a void created by the retirement of CC Sabathia, and relieving pressure on Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka.

On the other hand, they've found a permanent role for Gleyber Torres, as he replaces Didi Gregorius as the starting shortstop. Gregorius is headed to Philadelphia, which already has Jean Segura, who reportedly will shift to second base next season with Cesar Hernandez gone (non-tendered). What the Phillies did was get some offensive protection for Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, as if they really needed it, with the pitching staff they had.

And there's some bad news for the Phillies, as former ace Cole Hamels returns to the NL East, having signed a free agent deal with Atlanta after spending last season with the Cubs.

You can imagine the so-called experts are already looking at Washington & Philadelphia going 1-2 next season, but don't forget the Braves & Mets, I say. Everyone thought, except moi, that the Phillies would win with Harper, but that didn't happen, and they collapsed late in the season.

This is why they will play the games.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Countdown to Christmas: Sleigh Ride (date unknown)

Grammy & Oscar winning composer John Williams made a triumphant return to television when he became the conductor of the Boston Pops, and led the orchestra on PBS' Evening at Pops for 15 years or so before being succeeded by Keith Lockhart, the last conductor before PBS pulled the plug on the series, which we'll talk about another day.

Now, I'm not sure exactly when this performance clip was recorded, but here's Williams & the Boston Pops with the holiday classic, "Sleigh Ride":

Countdown to Christmas: A holiday edition of Roll Out! (1973)

We took a look a ways back as CBS' African-American service comedy, Roll Out!, from the producers of M*A*S*H. Now, a Christmas episode has happened along, and it turns out this series may very well have been a starting point for Ed Begley, Jr. (later of St. Elsewhere):

The year was '73, not '74.

No rating.

A little of this and a little of that

The CW's annual Arrowverse crossover event, an adaptation of Marv Wolfman & George Perez's epic 1985-6 limited series, Crisis on Infinite Earths, is underway, with chapter 3 airing tonight on The Flash. The final two chapters, however, won't air for another five weeks, on January 14, as the network felt it was necessary to do a cliffhanger leading into the holiday break.

Obviously, due to limitations on character availability and the context of the story, it's not an accurate interpretation of the original story. We'll have a more comprehensive review next month.
Last night's Giants-Eagles game was another piece of evidence that the NFL's current overtime rules still need fixing.

Under the current system, each team is meant to have at least one possession, unless the first possession ends in a defensive safety or offensive touchdown.

I'm dropping a flag on the NFL for lack of common sense.

All the league suits need to do is see how well the overtime system works in college football, where each team is allowed a possession in overtime, an equal opportunity to win the game. Philadelphia won the coin flip prior to OT last night, and marched down the field for the winning score, sending the Giants to their 9th straight loss, and sealing coach Pat Shurmur's fate for sure, 23-17.

The Lords of Football will have their excuses, but the time for waffling is way past over. Adopt the college system for overtime ASAP.
Here's something else that doesn't make sense.

After dropping three of their last five, the New England Patriots play their last road game of the regular season at Cincinnati on Sunday. So what was an independent film crew, hired by the team with no ties to coach Bill Belichick and his staff, doing taping the Bengals' sideline during their loss to Cleveland on Sunday?

Like, Cincinnati, on the surface, poses no threat to the Patriots. They've won just one game this season. 8 minutes of video footage? For a promotional video? I'm figuring New England would take out their frustrations on the Bungles, anyway, so there's no need for such chicanery.

I've heard of kicking someone when they're down, but this is ridiculous.
As Wheel of Fortune approaches its 45th anniversary, the series had to make a temporary change.

Host Pat Sajak was sidelined for three weeks of tapings after emergency surgery, so co-host Vanna White moved from the letter board to the wheel itself, beginning with Monday's episode, taped last month. As part of a promotion with Disney, costumed characters will share the stage with Vanna this week. Like, for example, Minnie Mouse last night.

Sajak will be back, no later than next month, I believe.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas Tree Farm (2019)

Taylor Swift shares some home movies from her childhood in the video for her latest, "Christmas Tree Farm".

Awww, how adorable. Just like Taylor herself.

Sports this 'n' that

It has just been announced that the World Series champion Washington Nationals have agreed to a new 7 year, $245 million dollar contract to retain World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg. That averages out to $35 million per year. While Strasburg's agent-leech, Scott "20 Mule Team" Boras, counts his money, he should be aware that he is one of the reasons fans have been turning away from the game, even though the stench of the steroid era has dissipated. Boras sets the bar for his myriad of clients, playing salary chicken with the usual patsies. In turn, teams are forced to raise concession & ticket prices in order to pay those exorbitant salaries.

How about giving something back to the game, Boras?
In a season where the NFL officials have been even worse than the Keystone Kops in their legendary silent film exploits, the team that usually benefits from such nonsense became a victim themselves.

The New England Patriots have lost three of their last five, and two straight after the Kansas City Chiefs avenged a loss to the Patriots in the AFC title game 11 months ago with a 23-16 win on Sunday night.

Where the zebras failed the Patriots----at Gillette Stadium, of all places----was a blown call on what would've been a game-tying or winning touchdown pass from Tom Brady to rookie N'Keal Harry in the 4th quarter. Harry was ruled out of bounds at the KC 3 yard line, and after a review, the call was, surprisingly upheld, to the shock, dismay, & disgust of the Patriots and their fans. In an interview afterward with reporters, ref Jerome Bogner said that one of the officials was screened out by KC defenders on the play, and a second zebra assumed Harry stepped out of bounds. Problem was, Harry didn't go out of bounds, as his foot was clearly in bounds, and never touched the white line.

For once, the Patriots know what it feels like to be screwed.
However, Buffalo couldn't take advantage, having lost to Baltimore earlier in the day, and so the Bills remain a game in arrears of the Patriots with three to play. Problem with that is, Buffalo goes to Pittsburgh next week, while New England will have cupcakes the next two, with the road finale at Cincinnati before coming home to play Miami & Buffalo.

As a result, Baltimore vaults into the #1 spot in the AFC, and the Patriots are at risk of being a #2 for the second straight season.

Maybe the worm has turned.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Three more say goodbye

It has not been entirely a pleasant weekend, as three stars have passed on.

Carroll Spinney, 85, might not have been a household name, but the characters he voiced on Sesame Street certainly were. Spinney, who retired last year, was the original voice behind Oscar and Big Bird. Spinney first capitalized on his fame by appearing on To Tell The Truth. That particular appearance, plus 1978's "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street", are up over at Saturday Morning Archives.

Ron Leibman, 82, earned Tony & Emmy awards during his career, earning a new generation of fans for a recurring role on Friends as Rachel's father. Earlier, Leibman, who at one time was married to Alice star Linda Lavin (they divorced in 1981), had his own series, Kaz, which came and went in one year on CBS.

Rene Auberjonois, 79, left behind a resume dotted with classic roles, including the feature film version of "M*A*S*H", and the 1976 remake of "King Kong", and, on TV, Benson and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Rene joined the cast of Benson in 1980 as Clayton Endicott, and would wind up on the receiving end of Benson's razor sharp wit.

In this clip, Benson (Robert Guillaume) takes Clayton to Insult School.

Auberjonois also charmed the kids with a role in the original Disney adaptation of "The Little Mermaid" and on Smurfs, among a number of cartoon gigs.

Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Sports this 'n' that

It will be interesting to see the final pairings for the College Football Playoff when they're announced later today.

Ohio State, the #1 team in the rankings, had to come from behind to claim the Big 10 title, beating Wisconsin, 34-21, on Saturday. Earlier, LSU defeated Georgia to win the SEC title, knocking the Bulldogs out of the title picture----we think.

On Friday, 5th ranked Utah lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, so the Utes were eliminated. Oklahoma had their rematch with Baylor for the Big 12 title, and won, so they're knocking on the door. #3 Clemson blew away Virginia to lock down the ACC title.

All well & good, but there's still a lot of squabbling about teams being snubbed because it's a 4-team playoff, not 8, as some would prefer. One online commentator suggested expanding it to 8, ensuring all 5 Power 5 conferences would get in, along with three "at-large" candidates.

Solving this conundrum is a lot easier than you think.

Some teams schedule non-conference "tomato cans", with the promise of a hefty payday for the "victim", and style points for the Power 5 teams. In order to make room to expand the playoff, you swap out one non-conference game in September or October, move the conference title games to Thanksgiving weekend, which would be one last sweeps stunt for the NCAA's network partners (ABC/ESPN, CBS, Fox), and start the playoff tournament a week before Christmas, with the final four meeting around New Year's, as is the case now.

It's so easy, but too complicated for bottom-line-obsessed college presidents. Go figure.
The Mets welcomed back another former player earlier this week, with ex-pitcher Jeremy Hefner, who spent a couple of years in Flushing before injuries short-circuited his career, named pitching coach, working under Carlos Beltran. One of Beltran's ex-Houston mates, Jake Marisnick, comes over to Flushing in a trade for minor leaguers, this after the Mets sent defensive ace Juan Lagares packing, as he's now a free agent. Bet the farm that if no one is interested, Lagares will return in time for spring training. As of this writing, there's been no word that anyone's taken a flier on him.

Like Lagares, however, Marisnick, who returns to the NL East (started his career in Miami), is capable defensively, but light at the plate. Six of one, and half a dozen of another.
Apparently, Josh Shaw had never heard of Pete Rose.

The Arizona Cardinals will be without Shaw for the rest of this season and all of 2020 after he was suspended for gambling on his own team in a recent game. Gambling ended Rose's managerial career 30 years ago in Cincinnati, when he was banned for life by then-Commissioner Fay Vincent

Someone send Shaw a copy of the writings of George Santayana, STAT.
Giants rookie QB Daniel Jones will not play Monday at Philadelphia due to an ankle injury, so Eli Manning slides back into the starting role, likely for the last time. The Eagles still have something to play for, but Big Blue does not. In all probability, when the season ends in three weeks, Manning will be either asked to retire or be released, likely following coach Pat Shurmur and GM Dave Gettleman out the door, as Shurmur and/or Gettleman are most likely outta here at the end of business on the 29th.

Injuries, and an early season suspension to receiver Golden Tate before he set foot on the field in a Giant uniform, had a lot to do with the Giants' 2-10 record. Injuries are out of a coach's control, but management can't account for them, either. If Shurmur goes, he'd be the 3rd coach/manager let go in NYC this year.
That's because the Knicks sent David Fizdale packing on Friday after a 4-18 start. As long as James Dolan continues to mismanage the Knicks, they're not going to get the marquee free agents, because a lot of players don't want to work for or communicate with a man-child who is sports' poster child for arrested development. He's narcissistic and spoiled, Dolan is. Now, who does that sound like?
Rather than put this last item up over at Tri-City SportsBeat, I thought I'd share it here.

Saratoga resident Bobby Fish, part of NXT's leading heel faction, the Undisputed Era, pulled out the humanitarian card the other day in Orlando, helping a homeless family. Seems the father just lost his job and his house. Bobby, who's a parent himself, stepped in to help pay for clothes, groceries, etc.. Who says "bad guys" don't have a heart of gold? 518 Represent!!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Of Recent Vintage: JAG (1995)

The last time a Naval drama had been mounted for television, it had too many soap opera elements, and didn't last long (Emerald Point NAS). With Law & Order being big business for NBC, the network asked producer Don Belisario (Quantum Leap, Magnum, P. I.) to develop a procedural crime drama with a military bent.

JAG, the acronym for the Judge Advocate General of the United States Navy, went to series in 1995. Unfortunately, viewers tuned it out after one season. Undaunted, Belisario and Paramount (now CBS Television Studios) moved the series to CBS, where it was relaunched as a mid-season replacement in January 1997, and continued until 2005.

David James Elliott & Catherine Bell were front & center as the lead investigators. Patrick Labyorteaux (note the spelling, but it's the same guy who, as a youth, was on Little House on The Prairie for 4 seasons from 1977-81) would reprise his role as Bud in 3 episodes of the spinoff, NCIS, and in a cameo in the CBS sitcom, Yes, Dear.

When the series went into syndication after season 4, reruns began airing on USA Network, which subsequently acquired rerun rights to NCIS, and spammed both into the ground.

Here is an intro:

We'll take a look at NCIS and its spinoffs another time. Catherine Bell most recently was starring in The Good Witch for Hallmark.

Rating: A.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Musical Interlude: What is Life? (1971-2014)

"What is Life?" was released as the second single off George Harrison's 1970 album, "All Things Must Pass". The track has been used on a number of movie soundtracks over the years, but there was never a music video until Harrison's widow & son commissioned one to accompany the release of the CD set, "The Apple Years 1968-74" in 2014.

Emma Rubinowitz & Esteban Hernandez of the San Francisco Ballet are the dancers featured in the video.

Isn't Emma adorable?

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Remember the Amana Radarange? (1976)

Amana isn't as well known as a kitchen appliance manufacturer anymore, but they are still around.

The radarange was introduced in 1967, but it didn't become big business until the mid 70's, when actress Barbara Hale (ex-Perry Mason) signed on to endorse the product. Here's one of the commercials from 1976.

The radarange was one of the first microwave ovens, and the technology has changed over the course of 52 years, so one would be hard pressed to find one of these today.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Countdown to Christmas: A holiday edition of the Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour (1983)

Christmas fell on a Sunday in 1983, so The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour had their Christmas show two days prior. Thanks to panelist Marty Cohen, Hanukkah is also represented, with an illustration of a menorah.

Maybe Gene Rayburn should've saved the beard for future Old Man Periwinkle questions......

Rating: B.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Rockin' Funnies: Older Woman (1973)

British entertainer Benny Hill wrote his own songs, and even released an album or three, though I don't think they were ever imported to the US.

I was first exposed to Hill and his Thames variety show when it was imported to the US in the late 70's. His bawdy comedy was one thing, punctuated at the end of the show with Boots Randolph's "Yakety Sax", among other things. However, Hill demonstrated he could sing with the best of them. I can picture my late father having a few chuckles over tracks such as 1973's "Older Woman":

American audiences were introduced to Hill via appearances in movies such as "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (w/Dick Van Dyke) and the original "Italian Job" (w/Michael Caine) before The Benny Hill Show made its way to US TV in 1976.

Countdown to Christmas: Is this the new Oprah? (2019)

Old Navy's new holiday ad campaign features Neil Patrick Harris (ex-How I Met Your Mother, Doogie Howser, MD) in a talk show parody. This particular clip will recall similar giveaways made famous by Oprah Winfrey on her talk show. I think Ellen DeGeneres has picked up that particular baton.......

Get this man a real talk show. STAT!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Before the Bat: Adam West on Petticoat Junction (1964)

A few weeks back, we served up a pre-Batman appearance by Yvonne Craig on McHale's Navy. Now, it's time to give Batman himself, Adam West, some equal time.

Adam plays a doctor in an early episode of Petticoat Junction, summoned by Kate Bradley (Bea Benaderet, The Flintstones) to treat her Uncle Joe (Edgar Buchanan, ex-Judge Roy Bean).

Also, viewers are introduced to the Hooterville Hop, developed by actor-choreographer Paul DeKolf, who appears as Paul Henderson. Musical director Curt Massey, who sings the show's theme, is also the voice on the "Hooterville Hop" song.

No rating. Just a public service.

Football this 'n' that

We referenced this over at Tri-City SportsBeat the other day, but it bears discussion here, too.

"It" being the demise of the Arena Football League, which has filed for bankruptcy under chapter 7, forcing the six teams in the league, including this year's champion, the Albany Empire, to shut down operations.

Couple this with the abrupt termination of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) earlier this year, and the prospects of Vince McMahon's XFL 2.0, to launch in February, are even less promising than had first been considered. Then again, no one's expecting that league to go beyond one season anyway.
The Giants were officially eliminated from the playoffs Sunday after turning in another stinker at the Meadowlands vs. Green Bay, falling 31-13 to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Predictably, second year coach Pat Shurmur is on the hot seat, and is likely gone when the season ends in four weeks. Three of the Giants' next four games are divisional games, including two with Philadelphia. The only non-division game is against Miami on December 15, but after the Dolphins won yesterday, there's no guarantee Big Blue will win that one.

Miami upset Philadelphia, and a win over the Giants would square their record vs. the NFC East at 2-2. Hard as that is to believe, the Beasts of the East are in the AFC. Consider:

New England has already run the table, going 4-0.
Buffalo & the Jets went 3-1, both losing to Philadelphia.
Miami is 1-2. Hey, there is a weak link, after all.

Conversely, the Giants are 0-3 vs. the AFC East.
Dallas is 1-3, having only beaten Miami (naturally), and both they and the Giants can argue about getting screwed in Foxborough.
Philadelphia goes 2-2.
Washington went 1-3, having only beaten Miami.

Bear in mind, Miami will be at the Meadowlands the next two weeks, as they play the Jets next week, then the Giants, before finishing with Cincinnati and New England.
Speaking of the NFL's Evil Empire, they fell to 10-2 after dropping a 28-22 decision to Houston on the road. QB Tom Brady reportedly isn't happy with the offense, but the truth is, Father Time is catching up to the uberdiva, and he's the only one who doesn't realize it. The Patriots have Kansas City coming in next, and if they couldn't stop Deshaun Watson, how are they going to contain Patrick Mahomes? Bob Kraft will send some gremlins out, to be sure.
For fans tired of both the Patriots and Alabama, it was a good weekend.

The Crimson Tide were officially eliminated from the College Football Playoff Saturday after losing to Auburn due to a season high 13 penalties, the last one being caught with 12 men on the field on 4th down late in the 4th quarter. Apparently, there is a price to pay for Nick Saban shilling for AFLAC this season........!
The Jets reverted to the Jests in losing to Cincinnati, giving the Bumbles their first win of the season. Like, did you really think anyone was going without a win this year?
I'm going to go out on a limb here. After going 0-5 vs. Ohio State, which will never sit well with the alumni in Ann Arbor, Jim Harbaugh's days are numbered at Michigan. Yes, the Wolverines have a winning record, but it's that bagel vs. the Buckeyes that will ultimately lead to Harbaugh being run out of town. A bowl game loss may hasten his departure. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Musical Interlude: I've Gotta Get a Message to You (1968)

One of the earliest Bee Gees promo videos is for 1968's "I've Gotta Get a Message to You", about a death row inmate who wants the prison chaplain to forward a message to his wife before his execution.

Ever notice how Robin didn't change all that much over the years?

Countdown to Christmas: Yochim's Christmas (Lassie, 1961)

This Lassie episode is a sequel to an earlier installment.

In "Yochim's Christmas", Curly Mae Yochim (Ellen Corby) and her son visit the Martin family after the father has passed on, and young Billy Joe is interested in finding out if Lassie has any puppies. Then, Billy Joe and Timmy (Jon Provost) meet a man that Billy Joe thinks is the "real" Santa.....

Rating: A.