Friday, November 30, 2012

Dunce Cap Award: Alec Baldwin

30 Rock star and Capital One Bank pitchman Alec Baldwin proved he's not as smart as he thinks he is.

Baldwin's back in the news, particularly the New York tabloids, after Genevieve Sabourin, who reportedly had been stalking the actor for some time, even before he wed Hilaria Thomas earlier this year, was arrested earlier this week. Sabourin is this generation's Margaret Ray, a celebrity stalker who just won't go away. More on that later.

After New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser wrote a piece in Thursday's editions in support of Sabourin, Baldwin earned his Dunce Cap Award by ripping into Peyser & the Post via Twitter. Understandably upset over Sabourin's harassment of his wife, also via Twitter, Baldwin went on the defensive, but by venting his rage at the paper, he only gave them more grist for the mill. If you want the gossip hounds off your trail, don't feed them crumbs every time you turn around. How simple is that? If only Lindsay Lohan, who did get a runner-up vote this week, by the way, would learn that painful lesson.

Sabourin claims she's had a 2 year relationship with Baldwin. Oh? So how come they've never been seen dating? Because the relationship, it seems, is all in the poor woman's head, like so many other deluded souls before her. She went after Hilaria Thomas-Baldwin simply to get under Alec's skin yet again. Classic. We can't give Sabourin a Dunce Cap because she just isn't in her right mind, and needs psychiatric help.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the tragic story of Margaret Ray, she famously, and repeatedly, broke into David Letterman's home and would claim to police that she was the talk show icon's wife, which of course wasn't true. No amount of psychiatric care could cure her, apparently, and she left us a few years back. I have this feeling that Genevieve Sabourin is following that same primrose path.

Oh, and one more thing. We'll give Andrea Peyser the Weasel ears for not reading between the lines and realizing that Sabourin, whose cause she's championed, is in the wrong for pursuing the Baldwins the way she has, and using her column to beg for, oh, I don't know, sympathy, maybe, for Sabourin? Alec Baldwin should've known better than to give the media more fuel for the fire, further tarnishing his own star. After 30 Rock ends its run this season, and after the likely other shoe dropping if Capital One decides to cut Baldwin from their celebrity roster, it'll be hard for Baldwin to land another high profile gig so quickly. Of course, I could be wrong.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Countdown to Christmas: The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

It is regarded as one of the worst Christmas specials in television history, which is a little bit odd, considering that it is spun off from one of the biggest movie franchises of the latter half of the 20th century.

In 1978, CBS presented The Star Wars Holiday Special, which reunited most of the cast of the previous year's sci-fi blockbuster. Critics panned it, and it was never shown on television again. It would be another few years before the next film, "Empire Strikes Back", hit theatres, and, you know the rest.

FuzzyMemories.TV uploaded this clip, which includes Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) singing an "Ode to Life Day", which is how they celebrate Christmas in a galaxy far, far away.........



Rating: D. What I saw of this wasn't that great, and I was looking for something else to watch in short order.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Marvin Miller (1917-2012)

For years, Major League Baseball operated under a different system that bound players to their teams, leaving the players with little or no say as to their contract status.

In 1966, Marvin Miller, a labor economist who'd worked with some labor unions, such as the United Auto Workers (UAW), was elected as the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). It was Miller who negotiated baseball's first collective bargaining agreement in 1968. Because it was a labor union, after all, inevitably, the players went on strike three times, and were locked out twice, under Miller's watch (1966-82). In between, Miller opened the doorway to free agency and arbitration, leading to the steadily increasing salaries today's owners are still dealing with. In short, if you've got a beef with today's players adopting a vagabond, mercenary mentality, changing teams on a seemingly annual basis, well, Miller would get the lion's share of the blame.

Miller passed away on Tuesday at 95, long since retired from his involvement with baseball, and has been denied entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, despite endorsements from Commissioner Allan "Bud" Selig all the way down to current players. Miller won't be eligible until the class of 2014 after his last bid failed, and it'll be every three years going forward. It is believed that the pool of current & former team executives on the Veterans' Committee denied Miller induction out of spite because of what his efforts had done to them in an adverse manner. Because he made as much of an impact on the game to this day as any player, manager, or executive of that same era, Miller should finally be allowed his place.

Rest in peace.

Countdown to Christmas: A Vision of Sugar Plums (Bewitched, 1964)

From Season 1 of Bewitched comes this holiday tale that illustrates two sides of the story about caring for orphans at Christmas.

Abner Kravitz (George Tobias) is only agreeing to take in an orphan for Christmas only, despite wife Gladys' attempts to convince him otherwise. They don't have children, and this would be a good start. Meanwhile, Darrin (Dick York) & Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery), with a new Christmas tree installed at home, welcome a young boy (Billy Mumy, one year before Lost In Space) into their home. I am not certain, but this might've given the producers the impetus to eventually give the Stephenses their own children (Tabitha & Adam) in later seasons to complete the family.



Update: 12/19/15: This episode is included on a DVD compilation I recently acquired, so I finally got to see this. The colorized version you're seeing (now all in one, though the Dailymotion poster put the wrong episode number & title on it purposely to avoid the copyright police), presumably, comes from a rebroadcast when the series went to color. Look close for a cameo by Bill Daily (one year before I Dream of Jeannie) and Gerry Johnson (who took over for Bea Benaderet on The Flintstones) at the end of the show.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Celebrity Rock: Windmills of Your Mind (1969)

If you only know Ed Ames from his work as Mingo on Daniel Boone, it's easy to forget that he was a singer first, and had a pretty fine run of success with the Ames Brothers some years prior to Boone. In July of 1969, Ames was a guest on The Johnny Cash Show and sang Henry Mancini's "The Windmills of Your Mind".  Ed was on a bill that also included the Monkees (minus Peter Tork) and Roy Clark (Hee Haw). PeterRabbit59 uploaded this long missing gem, complete with intro by Johnny Cash.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Let the kids play: Storybook Squares (1977)

In the late 70's, NBC, presumably after years of viewer requests, decided to bring back the Storybook Squares as a holiday treat on the parent Hollywood Squares. Storybook, as a stand-alone Saturday afternoon series, aired for 8 months in 1969. This time, announcer Kenny Williams is blowing one of the trumpets and acting as town crier instead of the "Guardian of the Gate", as they didn't completely reassemble the original Storybook set, which was pretty cool when you think about it.

The biggest change is that it's not just the kids that are playing this time. Their parents get in on the action. Jared Oswald uploaded this July 1977 offering with guests including Karen Valentine,



Sadly, as the franchise has been revived twice since the original series ended in 1981, no one has bothered to try the Storybook format again. You know MTV ain't gonna, not with Hip Hop Squares.

Rating: A.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Three for the reaper

Hollywood is mourning the loss of two talented performers, and the sports world is saying goodbye to a boxing icon of the 80's.

Boxer Hector "Macho" Camacho passed on Saturday at 50 after his family took him off life support, days after Camacho had been shot in the head in a robbery attempt. Camacho's last fight was 2 years ago, but his glory years were in the 80's, when he fought the likes of Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, Roberto Duran, & Olympic hero "Sugar" Ray Leonard.

Actress & businesswoman Deborah Raffin left us more than a week ago at 59. What most of you don't know is that Raffin was a pioneer in the development of the audio book industry, in addition to be an unsung performer in movies.

Finally, TV icon Larry Hagman lost his battle with cancer on Friday at 81. Hagman is best remembered for 2 iconic roles. First, as astronaut Anthony Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie (1965-70) and corrupt oilman J. R. Ewing on Dallas (1979-91, 2012-present), which once and for all redefined Hagman as an actor, casting aside the image he'd created on Jeannie. In between, Hagman & Donna Mills co-starred in the short-lived 1971 sitcom, The Good Life, which didn't even finish out its lone season. Mills would reunite with Hagman on Dallas near the end of its original run after the passing of co-star Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie).

Rest in peace.

Classic TV: I Dream of Jeannie (1965)

One year after Bewitched became a hit for ABC, NBC wanted a piece of the supernatural sitcom action. The end result was I Dream of Jeannie, which didn't last quite as long (5 seasons as opposed to 8 for Bewitched), but was just as popular, thanks to the chemistry of its stars, Barbara Eden & Larry Hagman.

Series creator Sidney Sheldon is better known now as an acclaimed author (i.e. The Other Side of Midnight), but Jeannie actually put him on the map in the first place. His concept was rather simple. Astronaut Anthony Nelson (Hagman) finds a bottle washed up on a beach, cleans it up, and out pops Jeannie (Eden), who instantly develops an attraction to Nelson, such that she becomes jealous of any other woman that crosses his path. This same concept was revisited in Hanna-Barbera's animated reboot, Jeannie, which lasted just one season in 1973 for CBS, but with a teenager as the male protagonist.

In the course of the series' 5 seasons, Nelson, along with best buddy and sidekick Roger Healey (Bill Daily) is promoted to Major, and he & Jeannie eventually wed, which would actually mark the beginning of the end for the series. Eden, like Elizabeth Montgomery over on Bewitched, would don a black wig and play Jeannie's twin sister (as opposed to Serena being Samantha's cousin) in a few episodes to create more chaos.

Here's the season one open & close.:



And, from the first season, the initial segment from the opener, narrated by the inestimable Paul Frees (ex-The Millionaire):



And, finally, the color theme that everyone knows:



Rating: B+.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas Lights (2010)

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, the Christmas Rush has started. What better way to begin Countdown to Christmas 2012 than with some fresh (well, not so fresh) holiday music.

Coldplay released "Christmas Lights" back in 2010, and the video comes from the band's VEVO channel.

Classic TV: Wonder Woman (1975)

Some say that if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. They also say that sometimes, the third time's the charm. Both homilies certainly apply to Wonder Woman.

We have previously discussed William Dozier's ill-advised ultra-campy pilot, which went unsold in 1967 for 20th Century Fox, and intended for ABC, one would think. 7 years later, ABC tried again, this time with a Movie of the Week that cast Cathy Lee Crosby as a blonde, costume-less Amazing Amazon, clearly riffing off the "Emma Peel wannabe" period of the late 60's-early 70's when Princess Diana was stripped of her powers and was given a blind Asian advisor as a partner in peril. Journeyman actor Kaz Garas was cast as Steve Trevor, with Ricardo Montalban as the villain of the piece, a corrupt businessman named Abner Smith. This didn't register too well, so ABC went to the well again a year later with a 2nd Movie of the Week, "The New, Original Wonder Woman", set in World War 2, and with another relative unknown, Lynda Carter in the title role. Jackpot!

The movie aired in November and was a ratings bonanza. 2 "specials", also set in WWII, aired the following Spring, and it went to full series in September 1976. Lyle Waggoner came over from The Carol Burnett Show to play Trevor. Stanley Ralph Ross, a writer-producer on Batman, served in the same capacity for Wonder Woman. The series was still set in WWII, and was a top 5 hit. However, it was expensive to produce, and because it was a period piece, it was a problem for ABC, prompting them to drop the show. Warner Bros. then moved it to CBS, and re-set the show in the then present, with Waggoner now as the son of Trevor, who along with Diana Prince (Carter), was working for a government agency. The series ended its run in 1979, when CBS decided it didn't want to be typecast, if you will, as the superhero network, having Wonder Woman coupled with Incredible Hulk on Friday nights. WB stablemate Dukes of Hazzard replaced Wonder Woman, which enjoyed a pretty healthy run in syndication during the 80's after cancellation.

The season 1 open is not available to be posted here at the moment, so I have a season 2 open, uploaded by Spockfalcon. When the series shifted to CBS, it was retitled, The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, though I believe the change was reversed the following season.



Waggoner had tested for Batman years earlier, which explains why Ross cast him as Steve Trevor in the first place, as a sort of make good. Waggoner demonstrated some impressive acting range, as he'd been better known as a comic actor from his run with Carol Burnett. The guest stars during the course of the series run ran the gamut, from Dick Van Patten and Stella Stevens in season 1 to the likes of Dick Gautier and a pre-General Hospital Rick Springfield during the CBS years. Yes, it did get silly toward the end. A 2011 pilot, helmed by noted producer David E. Kelley, died stillborn, but there's always hope for another go-round......

Rating: A-.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Arthur Ginsburg, aka Mr. Food (1931-2012)

He was a local guy who made it big. Very, very big.

What started as a simple, recurring feature on a locally produced talk show in the 70's turned into a national phenomenon and a cottage industry that is still thriving. The man behind it all, Arthur Ginsburg, better known as "Mr. Food", passed away Wednesday at his home in Florida at the age of 81 from pancreatic cancer.

Ginsburg began his career appearing on the local talk show, Coffee Break, which aired on WAST (now WNYT) in the early-to-mid-70's. His simple approach to cooking caught on with viewers. Before the end of the decade, Ginsburg moved to WRGB, where his "Mr. Food" segments appeared frequently on the 6:00 news. He wrote several cookbooks, and landed a syndication deal in the 80's.

In more recent times, Ginsburg helped launch the career of another locally-based "foodie" who went national herself, Rachael Ray. A second syndicated series began and will continue, to carry on the legacy that started with "Mr. Food".

WLFITV uploaded this piece, which is appropriate for today, Thanksgiving Day:



While I never met the man himself, I went to school with his son, and I personally extend my condolences and sympathies to the family. Rest in peace, Arthur. Heaven just got a new master chef.

Black Friday begins at Thanksgiving? WTF?

You've probably noticed the last year or two that some major retailers are opening their doors for "Black Friday" sales a lot sooner. Like, on Thanksgiving night.

SAY WHAT?

I think the idea is to reduce crowd congestion in the early morning hours of Friday. There are going to be people camping out in the parking lots, no matter what, because they want to be the first ones to get the "hot" toys for their kids, and all the cool stuff for themselves, and to heck with the consequences. For the retailers, it's all about the bottom line. The sooner they start the sales, the more money they make, increasing their profit margins. If you've got claustrophobia, this ain't for you. You're better off sitting at home, watching football, college basketball, wrestling, or whatever else turns you on. Moi? I'm watching football. I have to wade through the morning mob anyway, falling asleep on the bus as I go.

For simple commuters like me, it ain't happening tonight because public transportation to the malls will be cut off in the early evening, as if this was a Sunday.

Whatever happened to celebrating Thanksgiving and taking a day off? The hype machines are beckoning the simple to the altar of the Almighty Dollar, advance at your own risk because of the fly-by-night shoplifters & pickpockets looking for quick scores of their own. Security will have their own issues because of the likely overcrowding, leaving some of these eager beaver shoppers as easy prey for the parasites hiding in the mob.

Bottom line? For your own safety, stay home tonight, and wait until the mob clears out of the mall, sometime tomorrow. Your shopping list will thank you for it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Celebrity Rock: Mechanical Man (1978)

From Sha Na Na comes a rare musical number performed by a non-musician.

Veteran actor-comedian Avery Schreiber (ex-My Mother The Car) was a regular on the show briefly, but hung around long enough to get a song he'd written some years earlier put on the air. Josh Schreiber (related?) uploaded "Mechanical Man" to YouTube:

Weasel of the Week: Bill Belichick

Ya had to know this was coming sooner or later, didn't you?

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick gets the Weasel ears and a Dunce Cap this week, basically for the same offense.

New England blew out Indianapolis by 35 on Sunday, but the bigger story came out after the game when it was reported that star tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a broken arm late in the game as he was on the field for an extra point following the Pats' last touchdown. Why he was still in the game at that point, with the outcome already assured in New England's favor, only Belichick knows, and he ain't telling. Gronkowski will be out 4-6 weeks, according to reports, and that means he'll miss the Thanksgiving night game vs. the Jets.

Belichick has a habit of running up the score, even in preseason, but this was beyond ridiculous, almost as if the Spygate scandal 5 years ago didn't deter him from continuing to use shady tactics to gain unfair advantages on other teams. If the Pats set out to embarrass Indianapolis rookie QB Andrew Luck, they certainly did, but in a manner more befitting a schoolyard bully, which is the perception fans have of the team. To think that Belichick was once an assistant under Bill Parcells on 2 Super Bowl winners with the Giants now seems like a lifetime ago.

Most teams will pull their starters in a blowout to protect them from injury. Not Belichick. He'd rather let Tom Brady and the NFL's evil empire pad the stats and resumes, as if they were throwing up a collective middle finger at the haters in the media and the fans. Belichick put one of his stars at great risk, and is going to pay for it over the final six weeks of the regular season. New England has a 3 game lead on the rest of the AFC East, but that could shrink if everyone else catches up in a mighty hurry. The Jets will be looking for an el receipto on Thursday, provided they can sustain the momentum they built in beating St. Louis on Sunday.

Why is Belichick getting a Dunce Cap? For leaving his stars in the game when it was already decided, and getting one of them injured needlessly. Why is Belichick a Weasel? For disrespecting the opposition by leaving those stars in the game long after it'd been decided. If he were a high school coach taking such risks, he'd have been fired long ago. If this fool's folly costs New England either the division title (highly unlikely) or a trip to the Super Bowl, the fault will be his, too. And well deserved.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What Might've Been: The Rich Little Show (1976)

Rich Little is perhaps the best known, and most accomplished impressionist in show business. Billed as "The Man of 1,000 Voices", the Canadian-born Little was a regular guest on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast at the end of the 70's, and made the usual rounds of talk-variety shows (i.e. Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, Merv Griffin) back in the day. He even headlined a couple of HBO specials that allowed him to do 1-man productions of A Christmas Carol, among other things.

In 1976, NBC took a chance on Little and gave him his own comedy-variety show, airing on Mondays. Most viewers forget that this was where they were introduced to sitcom icon Charlotte Rae (later of Diff'rent Strokes and its spin-off, The Facts of Life). Tweaking the television establishment of the time, Little would feature the Family Hour Fairy (Julie McWhirter) in short skits which were quite fun.

Most of all, Little was allowed the opportunity from time to time to sing, usually with A-list guests, such as Bing Crosby, as you'll see shortly. Of course, Little reaches into his deep repertoire of voices to make this medley work. Sadly, the show was not renewed for the fall season, as there weren't enough viewers interested. You see, NBC had given up airing baseball on Mondays, and ABC scooped up the contract with Major League Baseball. NBC's attempts at counter-programming during the spring & summer, then, were often met with abject failure.

Now, here's Rich & Bing:



Little would get one more chance at his own series, hosting a revival of You Asked For It as a daily series just a few years later, but that didn't sustain itself in the long term, either.

Rating: B.

Classic TV: Green Acres (1965)

The final part of the rural trilogy of sitcoms from Filmways landed on CBS in 1965, and, admittedly, Green Acres seemed to be the best of the three, largely because of the ensemble cast built around stars Eddie Albert & Eva Gabor.

Attorney Oliver Douglas (Albert) buys a farm sight unseen in rural Hooterville, and decides to relocate from his tony penthouse in New York, much to the discomfort of wife Lisa (Gabor). However, while Lisa is quickly embraced by the townsfolk, Oliver is perpetually befuddled and conned by snake oil salesman Haney (Pat Buttram), and exasperated by scatterbrained county agent Hank Kimball (Alvy Moore).

Perhaps the real breakout star of Green Acres, or so it would appear, was Arnold, a pig that was treated like a son by his owners, the Ziffels. In other words, he was a porcine answer to Snoopy, the iconic beagle from the Peanuts strip, except that he could not walk on his hind legs, as Snoopy could.

Add to the mix the Monroes, a brother & sister team of plumbers who billed themselves as "brothers", although Ralph (Mary Grace Canfield) was clearly a woman, smitten with the dimwitted Kimball. Alf (Sid Melton, ex-Make Room For Daddy, Captain Midnight) was the more rational half, but disappeared for a time near the end of the series' run (Melton reunited with Danny Thomas on Make Room For Granddaddy). Problem was, the Monroes never finished anything they started!

Amazingly, no one thought to adapt this into a comic strip, as there were plenty of gags that could translate well into a daily strip. There was, however, a comic book version of the series, which, sadly, didn't last very long.

Here's the classic theme song, sung by Eddie Albert & Eva Gabor:



There was a reunion movie, back in the late 80's, but most of the cast has left us since then.

Rating: B.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rockin' Funnies: You Look Marvelous (1985)

After Soap ended its run in the early 80's, Billy Crystal gravitated over to Saturday Night Live, and while he was only there maybe a year or two, the impression he left behind was an indelible one.

One of his most popular characters was Fernando, the self-absorbed pseudo-talk show host who seemed to be more concerned with himself than his guests most of the time. In 1985, Crystal cut a comedy-music album, following the lead of SNL alums Joe Piscopo & Eddie Murphy, who'd also released records that year. In case you wonder, Piscopo finished a pretty poor 3rd in terms of sales. Unlike the others, Crystal recorded for A & M (Piscopo & Murphy were on Columbia), and like Murphy, scored a huge hit with the Fernando-centric "You Look Marvelous". Crystal also appears dressed as Sammy Davis, Jr., Tina Turner, & Prince, among others. Grace Jones appears as herself, having co-starred in the James Bond adventure, "A View To a Kill", around the same time.

Crystal would follow up with a cover of the holiday classic, "Twelve Days of Christmas", utilizing Fernando and mimics of not only Davis, but also Howard Cosell & Muhammad Ali. I'm going to see if I can find a video for that one. In the meantime, Classic80'svideos uploaded "You Look Marvelous":

In theatres: Skyfall (2012)

Daniel Craig's 3rd outing as superspy James Bond also marks the 50th anniversary of the screen debut of Ian Fleming's iconic secret agent.

"Skyfall" is a combination of things. On the one hand, we are introduced to rebooted incarnations of two key members of the Bond cast. Q (which stands for Quartermaster, as we discover) is now a 20-something computer geek. Miss Moneypenny, who pined for Bond in the grand old days of Sean Connery and Roger Moore, now is, I would guess, African-British, and pretty cute, too. Although she's working with Bond virtually throughout the movie, it isn't until the very end that we learn her identity. Hmmmm, if that sounds sort of familiar, well, a similar device was used in a certain summer blockbuster..........!

The general plot surrounds a former MI-6 agent, code name Silva (Oscar winner Javier Bardem), out for revenge after being decommissioned some years earlier. Silva's a goofy fellow, almost on the level of, well, the Joker, perhaps? However, he isn't insane, just insanely brilliant, hacking into the computer system seemingly at will, even though, like the Joker in "Dark Knight" 4 years ago, he's already been captured, but, as Bond deduces, that was part of the overall plan.
Silva has it in particularly for M (Dame Judi Dench), who has enough to deal with, considering that Silva and his goons stole a disc that contains the IDs of various MI-6 agents already embedded elsewhere, and that security breach has brought M before a committee that includes one Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who gets off on the wrong foot with Bond.

As I noted, Silva is captured a wee bit too early, which gives away that he'll escape and the chase will start anew. The sight of Silva removing some dentures to reveal what had happened to his real teeth was just flat disturbing. The chase leads to Bond's ancestral home in Scotland, from which we get the title of this film, and where its caretaker (Albert Finney) lends a hand to Bond & M. Bond makes use of some old school weapons, including his father's old rifle. The inscription of AB (the initials of Andrew Bond, 007's late father) on the rifle also serves as a bit of a tribute to the late producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, whose family still controls the license on the Bond film franchise. Nice touch. They're already promising that Bond will return, but there will be some changes anew, as hinted at the end of the film.

The screening I went to was rather sparsely attended, since I opted for a neighborhood multiplex instead of the mall. What to look forward to? Hmmm.....

*"The Last Stand" (January): Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Southwestern sheriff. It's vintage Arnold, complete with one-liners. Forest Whitaker co-stars.

*"Zero Dark Thirty" (next month): From the producer of "The Hurt Locker". Creepy stuff.

*"Iron Man 3" (May): Robert Downey, Jr., Don Cheadle, & Gwyneth Paltrow return, but with all the explosions, one has to hope they didn't replace Jon Favreau as director with Michael Bay..........!

Posters in the lobby show that the Smurfs will return next summer. How are they going to top last year's film?

Sony's YouTube channel offers the trailer for "Skyfall":



The theme is performed by British singer Adele. Good, but not among the better ones.

Rating: A-.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The end of Twinkies isn't a national crisis----or so you'd think!

In an era where society has become increasingly health-conscious, and "junk food" is becoming more and more of an endangered species, if you will, comes word that the maker of some of that "junk food" is calling it a day.

Hostess Brands announced today that they were shutting down, having been crippled by a strike by one of the unions that represent a goodly number of the company's employees. Hostess is better known for its family of snacks including Twinkies, Ho Ho's, and Hostess Fruit Pies. More recently, the company had acquired the Ding Dongs brand of snack cakes from Drake's, a former subsidiary of Borden, and had taken over the Dolly Madison line of products that at one time were endorsed by Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. Also, the company made the Wonder & Home Pride brands of bread. Wonder, of course, was well known for its ad campaign, which promoted healthy eating among children.

The brands, reportedly, are going up for sale. Hostess had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the beginning of the year, and a sale of their iconic brands would be the only way those brands remain in the marketplace.

The end of Hostess as we know it means the end of classic commercials featuring their animated mascots, which haven't been done in years. This 1980 ad features Twinkie the Kid and Fruitpie the Magician.



Some will say that this was inevitable, with the greater emphasis on healthy eating. Of the brands on the block, Wonder & Home Pride are likely to be moved first, as I can see someone picking them up real quick. Smaller food companies, like Mrs. Freshley's, for example, would be looking at upgrading by buying the Hostess or Dolly Madison brands, provided of course that they have the resources to do so. We'll just have to wait & see.

Classic TV: Adam-12 (1969)

Jack Webb's revival of Dragnet was entering its final season in 1969. Just the same, NBC asked him to develop another police drama. What resulted was another TV icon that actually outlasted Dragnet's 2nd run.

Adam-12 followed veteran officer Pete Malloy (Martin Milner, ex-Route 66), serving as a mentor to rookie patrolman Jim Reed (Kent McCord, who'd made a couple of appearances---as different officers---on Dragnet). By the time the series ended in 1975, Reed & Malloy both had earned promotions, which would've suggested that if the series were to continue, Reed would've become the mentor.

The buddy format had served Milner well on Route 66 years earlier, and the chemistry with McCord was natural, as if they'd been friends for years. Milner & McCord were at the head of an ensemble that also included William Boyett as Sgt. McDonald, and Gary "Son of Bing" Crosby as officer Ed Wells. To help launch the series, Reed & Malloy appeared in an episode of Dragnet, and a couple of years later, they would in turn pass the baton, as Webb's next hit series, Emergency!, launched as a back door pilot on Adam-12.

There is so much to like, including the pulsing theme, composed by Frank Comstock, who also took over as musical director on Dragnet, and created an up-tempo version of the famous "Dragnet March".

Here's a sample intro:



As with Dragnet, Adam-12 was revived in the late 80's, but with new characters that, regrettably, viewers couldn't connect with. The New Adam-12, airing in syndication, was an abject failure.

Rating: A.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rockin' Funnies: Owwwww! (1989)

Arsenio Hall wasn't content with just a hit talk show. Copying his best pal, Eddie Murphy, Hall went into a recording studio and created the comic alter-ego, Chunky A, and recorded the CD, "Large & In Charge", which, like the talk show, came out in 1989.

Hall waddled about in a fat suit, but didn't feel comfortable padding out his face, figuring that hiding his distinctive hairdo, which earned him the nickname, "Triangle Head", under a porkpie hat would be enough. Considering that this would be his only foray into music, it turned out to be true.

"Owwww!", the first single, is a left-handed sendup of Cameo frontman Larry Blackmon, who appears with his group early in the video. Of course it got a ton of airplay on MTV, but apparently, it ain't cool enough for VH1 Classic to air it on Totally 80's. Go figure. With Hall re-entering the talk show wars next year, renewing an old rivalry with Jay Leno, among other things, I'd not be surprised to see "Owwww!" and the follow-up single, "Sorry", back in play somewhere.

Ricola2727 uploaded "Owwww!".



As they used to chant in the dawg pound, "Woof! Woof!".

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Musical Interlude: Deeper Shade of Soul (1990)

Urban Dance Squad only managed one Top 40 hit of note, and should've had more. Their fusion of hip hop with 70's style soul offered the promise of mass appeal, but the group faded out rather abruptly.

Alexandre580 uploaded "Deeper Shade of Soul" to YouTube:



Totally radical, man.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Weasels of the Week: James Dolan & Vince McMahon

A pair of repeat offenders get the Weasel ears this week.

James Dolan picks up yet another pair, but it has nothing to do with his sports ventures. While Knicks players are among the sports personalities pitching in to help relief efforts in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which hit the tri-state area 2 weeks ago, Dolan's primary business, Cablevision, is playing Scrooge a month early.

While Cablevision's chief rival, Time Warner Cable, has provided credits to customers still without cable and/or internet service, Cablevision is refusing to follow suit, opting instead to adhere to its longstanding policy of requiring customers to call and provide specific details of their problem(s) in order to qualify for a refund.

SAY WHAT?

It is taking forever and a week for certain agencies in the area to complete the process of restoring power to affected areas, and all Dolan is worried about is his profit margin? Gee, what a surprise. Dolan comes off as being selfish, greedy, and irresponsible all at once. Par for the course for this lifetime Weasel. I shan't be surprised if I read the paper tomorrow or Thursday and read that he's been shamed into changing his tune. If any civic theatre group is looking to cast an adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Dolan would be perfect as Scrooge. He lives the part, after all.

Meanwhile, in Columbus, Ohio, Jerry "The King" Lawler returned to work on Monday Night Raw after 2 months off recovering from a heart attack suffered while on the air in Montreal. However, a feel-good moment was scorched when WWE Champion CM Punk and his manager, Paul Heyman, came out and, in the course of cutting a promo on Lawler, picking up a minor feud that had started before the heart attack, Heyman pretended he'd suffered a heart attack himself. No one was buying.

Heyman & Punk are better than agreeing to something this lame. However, it's business as usual for WWE CEO-Chairman Vince McMahon, who routinely has made mockery of the misfortunes of other employees (i.e. Jim Ross) for "cheap heat". However, with Raw suffering from its annual autumn ratings maladies due to heavy competition from Monday Night Football and other sources, spoiling the return of a beloved figure in the business wasn't the smartest of ideas. Then again, McMahon, who's just a few years older than Lawler, isn't exactly a Rhodes scholar.

A week ago, I mentioned the equally boneheaded storyline involving former figurehead GM's AJ Lee & Vickie Guerrero, former champ John Cena, and would-be champ Dolph Ziggler, and while that just won't end---the writing is twice as atrocious---it also runs counter to the Be A Star anti-bullying program the WWE has invested a ton of time in. Vickie's role in all of this as the heel is that of a jealous, hypocritical bully who is calling out Cena and the 20-something Lee on a "inappropriate" affair when it's pretty well known that the widow Guerrero has engaged in similar dalliances with Ziggler and others over the course of the last 5 years. Her message might be, "do as I say, but don't do as I do", but the way this angle's been written to this point, one-sided in favor of the power-addicted Guerrero, it comes off as crass, irresponsible, abusive behavior exhibited by Guerrero against a woman half her age, and it's wrong. It should've been stopped at the jump.

Guerrero's act went stale a long time ago, but McMahon just doesn't see it, as I've said before. The problem is creating an appropriate punishment for the heels. I'd say, put Guerrero in a sensitivity training course and have her participate in a Be A Star forum or three. As a parent herself, Guerrero needs to look in the mirror and realize that the persona she projects on TV reflects badly on her children.

McMahon gets the Weasel ears because he's allowing this to continue, in turn continuing a tradition of crass, poorly written storylines that cross the boundaries of bad taste, making it increasingly difficult for WWE to recover its audience. Guerrero, Punk, & Heyman can't be blamed for their roles. They're doing their jobs, perhaps too well, but as long as the ratings continue to slide, it isn't going to matter how well they perform. Current head writer David Kapoor (aka Ranjin Singh, Great Khali's storyline brother-interpreter) is under heavy pressure to produce, and is capable of better. He just needs the opportunity, if McMahon will let him have it, to close this storyline without further offending the audience. McMahon just has to man up and accept the fact that this is wrong and move on. We all have to hope he does.

Classic TV: Gunsmoke (1955)

The most successful Western in television history got its start on radio, like a number of other television series in the 50's. The only difference is, Gunsmoke far outlasted The Life of Riley, The Jack Benny Program, Gang Busters, Dragnet, and so on, lasting 20 years before CBS ended the series in 1975.

Most folks knew about the town of Dodge City from the stories of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. However, they weren't around when Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) was in charge, which suggests that Gunsmoke is set well after the "Gunfight at the OK Corral". On radio, William Conrad, better known for his television work (i.e. Cannon), played Dillon. Arness simply picked up the baton and ran with it, playing Dillon with the same intensity that Conrad had (I have to assume; I've never heard the radio version, but judging from Conrad's TV work, well......).

Dillon had a handful of deputies during the course of the show's run, including Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver) and, of course, Festus Hagin (Ken Curtis, formerly of the Sons of the Pioneers). For most of the series' run, the core cast was filled out with Doc Adams (Milburn Stone) & Miss Kitty, the owner of the Long Branch Saloon (Amanda Blake). In the early years, Gunsmoke was a half-hour show (syndicated under the title, Marshal Dillon) before expanding to the 1 hour format everyone knows. I actually got the chance to see those half-hour reruns when they aired on Retro a few years back, but I don't know of anyone that has them now. The one-hour edition airs on Me-TV and, I think still, TV Land, among other places.

Here's a sample episode from the half-hour era:



In time, the series would expand to an hour, and would remain so for the rest of the run.

The popularity of Gunsmoke was such that they would bring the cast together again for some TV movies in later years.

Rating: A.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Classic TV: Baretta (1975)

The 70's were filled with police dramas, virtually every night of the week, and most produced by the same studio, Universal, which was pumping them out as if they were off an assembly line in Hollywood. Well, if it wasn't from Universal, it was either Quinn Martin or Aaron Spelling, but you get the idea.

One of the most beloved Universal crime dramas of the decade was Baretta, which spent three seasons on ABC from 1975-8, and came about only because another show, Toma, based on the life of real-life NY detective David Toma, had abruptly ended with the resignation of star Tony Musante.

While Toma was drawn from real-life, Baretta was another cookie-cutter police drama of the day. It also marked a career revival for star Robert Blake, who had first emerged as a child star in some Our Gang (aka Little Rascals) comedies years earlier. You know the drill. Baretta had a pet cockatoo, Fred, who apparently was his only roommate. Dana Elcar (Black Sheep Squadron, later of MacGyver) played Baretta's boss. However, perhaps the one thing viewers remember more about Baretta was the theme song, "Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow", sung by Sammy Davis, Jr..

SupremeTeam68 uploaded the open:



Blake would headline one more series, Hell Town, for NBC, in the mid-80's, and, yep, Davis recorded the theme to that series, too. Unfortunately, it lasted just one season. We all know about the legal troubles Blake has had since, and those issues are the reason you don't see Baretta anywhere on cable anymore. It's a shame, but the only way you can catch up would be by getting the series on DVD.

Rating: B.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What Might've Been: The Immortal (1970)

Suppose you had a gift so valuable that everyone wanted it, regardless of cost or consequence, even if the gift wasn't something that could be freely given.

Ben Richards (Christopher George, ex-The Rat Patrol) has Type O-Negative blood, but unlike most of us, Richards' blood makes him immune to disease, enabling him to seemingly live forever. Thus is the premise of The Immortal, which was spun from a 1969 TV-movie, which in turn adapted a novel by the same name.

In a way, The Immortal was formatted like a classic ABC series of the 60's, The Fugitive, in that Richards was forever on the run from the minions of an eccentric billionaire who wanted Richards' blood to preserve his own life, and keep Richards a prisoner.

The series' intro was narrated by voice-over legend Paul Frees (ex-The Millionaire), who was also cast in the movie. Unfortunately, Immortal lasted just 15 episodes and was cancelled in January 1971, only to return in the summer to fill time, which is when I believe I came across the show one night. I was only 8 at the time, so I didn't quite get the gist of the show, and wouldn't until more than 20 years later, when reruns aired on the then-Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy).

Bart Broadhead uploaded the open:



Suffice to say, it was ahead of its time. I don't know if anyone in Hollywood, given all the recycling they're doing now, would approach this again.

Rating: B.

Musical Interlude: 8th of November (2009)

Big & Rich might come off as a couple of modern-day party boys, but they can also bring the serious in their music.

One such example is "8th of November", which tells the story of a 1965 incident in Vietnam as seen through the eyes of a man who lived through it all. Today being Veteran's Day, this song is rather appropriate. Actor-singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson, who would later appear in John Rich's solo video for "Shutting Detroit Down", provides the intro.

Uploaded by the band's VEVO channel:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Classic TV: Batman (1966)

We've previously discussed this series over in Saturday Morning Archives, but because of its iconic status, Batman deserves a mention here, too.

Executive producer William Dozier was having struggles over at CBS with the Rod Serling-created Western, The Loner, which would be inevitably more indictitive of Dozier's overall output. He acquired a license to adapt Batman for television, but not quite as serious as the last comics series adapted for TV, Adventures of Superman, which had enjoyed a 6 year run in the 50's, and was thriving in syndication. Instead, Dozier opted for a campier, comical format, with diagonal camera angles, to go along with cliffhangers in the vein of the theatrical serials of the Golden Age.

Batman soon became appointment television in terms of casting. It seemed just about everyone wanted in on the Bat-action, and would over the course of its 2 years plus on the air. The last original episode rolled out in March of '68, in which Dozier and producer Howie Horwitz made cameos.

Adam West (ex-The Detectives) landed the "plum" role of Batman/Bruce Wayne, and struggled to avoid typecasting for years to come, but would later resurrect his career. These days, West is voicing an animated version of himself as the Mayor of Quahog on Family Guy, and did some ads for Hebrew National hot dogs earlier this year, one of which we showcased a while back. Burt Ward (Robin/Dick Grayson) was a relative unknown who didn't land too many other gigs after the series ended, and would reprise in a PSA for the Dept. of Labor in 1971 (see Saturday Morning Archives) and reunite with West for 2 projects near the end of the decade, both of which have been previously discussed.

In season 3, Batgirl was added to the mix after ABC opted against buying a spinoff series, perhaps discouraged by Dozier's failures with Green Hornet & The Tammy Grimes Show. Yvonne Craig was cast as the "Dominoed Dare-Doll", but the producers goofed by giving Batgirl a purple costume with a 2-tone (purple & yellow) cape. In the comics, it's been black, with a blue cape, much like Batman himself. Don't ask me why, 'cause I have no clue about the messed up colors. The writers tried to tease a relationship between Bruce Wayne and Batgirl's alter ego, Barbara Gordon, but, as it turned out in the comics, Babs might've been more interested in pursuing Dick Grayson instead, but Dick would make the first forward moves himself a decade later.

Following is a sample clip from season 3, which illustrates how far they went with the campy silliness. Here, the Joker (Cesar Romero) has lost to Batman in a surfing contest, and an undercover Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton) finds a missing surfer......



Yvonne Craig would don her Batsuit one final time in the aforementioned 1971 PSA, and more than 40 years later, she still makes Alicia Silverstone's version in 1997's "Batman & Robin" look like chump change. Unfortunately, Kim Kardashian didn't know the difference, as she wore a 1997 model costume (the Silverstone version) for a recent Halloween party. The less said about that, the beter....

With Christopher Nolan's Bat-trilogy having concluded, maybe the next Bat-movie series will bring Batgirl back into the mix. We'll have to wait & see........

Rating: B.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sports headlines, dunce caps, & weasels, oh my!

A wacky week in sports in capsule:

Baseball: The Mets agreed to part ways with outfielder Jason Bay, who because of injuries, more than anything, failed to match the All-Star numbers he'd put up in Pittsburgh & Boston over the course of three seasons in Flushing. More than once, Bay fell victim to the unspoken injury curse that has plagued Citi Field since its opening in 2009. Meanwhile, Lucas Duda, likely to end up the starting left fielder next season with Bay gone, injured himself while moving furniture at home. Will this madness ever end?

Worse for the Mets, they don't seem to be in any hurry to re-sign outfielder Scott Hairston, who had a breakout season in 2012. As usual, procrastinating will cost the Mets dearly, especially if Hairston signs with a division rival, like, say for example, the hated Phillies? The Mets look like losers in trading for Andres Torres last offseason, as they have no plans to bring him back. Torres also underachieved in orange & blue, while his former team, the San Francisco Giants, won it all. Go figure.

It probably didn't help that New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden had a brain fart the other day and had Hairston confused with his brother, Jerry, Jr., a utility player who was with the Dodgers this season. That's usually a bad sign.

Basketball: Earlier today, the Los Angeles Lakers, unaccustomed to slow starts, dismissed coach Mike Brown after a 1-4 start. The Lakers haven't started that badly since 1994, and this was the fastest coaching change since Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes resigned after 1 game with Buffalo in 1971.

Oh, you didn't know Buffalo had a basketball team? The Buffalo Braves are now known as the Los Angeles Clippers. 'Nuff said.

New Orleans coach Monty Williams was fined for criticizing officials. Nothing new there, except it had to do with concerns over concussions. Speaking of brain farts, Williams earned himself a Dunce Cap for his ill-advised rant. As was noted on ESPN's Around the Horn earlier this week, basketball players are more at risk of concussions because their heads are exposed. No protection. If they're taking precautions with football players, even at the high school level, for concussions, what do you think the NBA, image conscious as it is, should be doing for their players? In case you wonder, Williams played for the Knicks during his career, but wasn't a big star.

Football: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones earns this week's Weasel of the Week award. How? He was asked what he'd do if anyone other than himself were the GM of the 'Boys. Well, duh! He'd fire the poor schlep. So why doesn't Jonesy take the hint and hire a GM to take some of the burden off his own shoulders? Because he's got an ego bigger than the state of Texas itself. Dallas is 3-5 when they could easily be perhaps leading the NFC East, were it not for late game implosions and foul-ups, like Dez Bryant failing to keep his hand in bounds on a potential game winning TD vs. the Giants 12 days ago. With the NFL voiding the contract extension New Orleans gave to suspended coach Sean Payton, there is speculation that Jonesy, the NFL's heir apparent to the late Al Davis as its most stubborn executive, would covet Payton to replace Jason Garrett. Look, it ain't Garrett's fault that Dallas is 3-5. The players are failing at the wrong times, like in the aforementioned loss to the Giants. If I'm Saints owner Tom Benson, I'm dead set on retaining Payton for 2013........

Don't look now, but the Indianapolis Colts have already erased the stink of their putrid 2011 season. The Colts are The Colts again with rookie Andrew Luck at quarterback, and Luck did his best impression of fellow rookie Robert Griffin III on Thursday, rushing for 2 touchdowns in a win over Jacksonville. The Colts are 6-3, and chasing Houston for the AFC South title. I'd say that they've got a Wild Card in their sights at the very least. Oh, and, yeah, Denver, with newly minted pizza baron Peyton Manning, leads the AFC West (what a shock). I smell a playoff meeting between the Colts & Broncos getting hyped to the moon and back.

The game ain't been played yet, but the New York media (what a shock) is dredging up some old news as the Jets get ready to play Seattle on Sunday, the first meeting of the two clubs since Pete Carroll was hired as Seahawks coach. Carroll, who previously coached the Jets & Patriots in the 90's, had Mark Sanchez at QB at USC, and went public stating that Sanchez was making a mistake in turning pro early. While Sanchez led the Jets to the AFC title game 2 years in a row, he's fallen almost completely off the radar in the last year and a half, and so the media now is hyping how Carroll may be proven right after all, and he's got a rookie QB, Russell Wilson, out of Wisconsin, who can help his case.

Speaking of USC, current coach "Wisteria" Lane Kiffin is in trouble again. It came out the other day that a student manager was fired for---get this---deflating game balls during the blowout loss to Oregon last weekend. Kiffin claims he had nothing to do with it. Yeah, right, and chickens----or should I say, weasels---have lips. The media, skeptical of Kiffin because of his rap sheet, ain't buyin'. Who'dathunk a pristine school like USC would stoop so low as to employ tactics that would make the Three Stooges jealous? Then again, they keep letting boosters wave wads of cash at star basketball & football players, knowing that the whistle'll get blown the second those players turn pro (i.e. Reggie Bush, Joe McKnight, OJ Mayo).

Here's a thought. If Jerry Jones wants to be a coach so bad, why doesn't he sell the Cowboys (yeah, right) and take a job as a college coach? Naaaah. Some schools would send for the guys in the white coats before letting him on the sidelines........

What Might've Been: The Amazing Spider-Man (1977)

While we're celebrating Spider-Man's 50th anniversary this year, let's take a look back at what happened when the web-spinner marked his 15th.

CBS, which already had Wonder Woman on their roster, soon added The Amazing Spider-Man & The Incredible Hulk to their primetime schedule. In fact, ol' Greenskin joined the Amazing Amazon on Friday nights, but Spidey wound up on Wednesdays. As we've seen in recent years, Wednesdays aren't exactly the best nights for superhero shows, although CW's freshman adventure series, Arrow, is hoping to change that.

The Amazing Spider-Man began with a pilot movie in 1977, but despite the primetime series berth, it wasn't kept on the schedule full-time, despite excellent ratings. A handful of episodes aired during season 2 in 1978, and the series ended with a TV-movie in the spring of '79. For a while, movie compilations of episodes were shown on cable, but that hasn't happened in a while. Nicholas Hammond, whose only other major credit was appearing in "The Sound of Music" several years earlier, was cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. In the pilot, David White (ex-Bewitched) was cast as J. Jonah Jameson, but was replaced by character actor Robert F. Simon in the series. None of Spider-Man's familiar enemies appeared in the series, similar to the Adventures of Superman in the 50's, but while Superman fought mostly gangsters, Spidey dealt with the usual assortment of wackjobs looking to take over the world, none of whom were worthy of appearing in the comics.

Biib Tone uploaded the season 2 open:



So what killed the show? CBS didn't want to be pigeonholed as a "superhero network". They cancelled Wonder Woman along with Spidey, but the Hulk hung around for another 3 years, centering a Friday block with Dukes of Hazzard & Dallas. For once, Hulk was living the high life better than he was in the comics. Par for the course for Spidey, don't ya think?

No rating. Never saw the show.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Musical Interlude: Back To Paradise (1987)

Summer ended nearly 2 months ago, and Spring Break is some 4 months away. To tie you over until March, we present a little sampling of Spring Break, Nerd style.

In 1987, 38 Special recorded "Back To Paradise" for the movie, "Revenge of the Nerds 2: Nerds in Paradise", and included the track on their CD, "Flashback". I can tell you that I wore out the vinyl single I had, I loved this song so much. After roof raising rockers like "Back To Paradise", "Caught Up In You", & "WIld Eyed Southern Boys", 38 Special dialed it down and crossed over to the Adult Contemporary charts a couple of years later with "Second Chance". Go figure.

"Back To Paradise" was uploaded by David Puls to YouTube:

On The Air: The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange (2012)

Ever since they launched [adult swim] 11 years ago, Cartoon Network has seen the benefits of going back to the Golden Age of Television and producing 15 minute series. In the last couple of years, CN began producing shows under this format such as Mad & Adventure Time for their primary programming schedule, and this summer brought the latest 15 minute series.

The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange, otherwise known simply as Annoying Orange, began as an online series in 2009, and production on the television series began a year later. Computer technology places human eyes & mouths on the characters, but to be honest with you, I don't see anything really annoying about this orange. Then again, I ain't the target audience. I think.

Here's a promo:



Rating: C.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Day winners & losers

Ok, so President Obama won re-election by nearly 100 electoral votes over former Massachusetts Governor Willard "Mitt" Romney. It wasn't the landslide some people thought it would be, because reportedly, the popular vote was much closer. Congratulations, then, to President Obama and Vice President Biden. Now, the speculation should start sometime around 3 years from now on who would be in line to succeed them. Trust me, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo's name will be bandied about by then..........

In Connecticut, former WWE CEO Linda McMahon failed in her second---and, she says, last---attempt at the US Senate. This time, while husband Vince appeared on Monday Night Raw, airing on same-day tape from England, he didn't try anything that would sabotage his wife's chances. Playing the good guy for a change, McMahon subtly put some pressure on figurehead executive Vickie Guerrero, perhaps in an attempt to convince her to stop her bullying tactics, as we had outlined on Monday. Whether or not that succeeds is still to be decided, but if Mrs. McMahon is sure about her decision not to make another go at it in 2014, more power to her. They actually need her back at Titan Towers to help Vince hire some creative people who actually know what they're doing......!

Meanwhile, America's Wet Blanket, Donald Trump, was at it again, criticizing the result of the election. All that says is that the Obama administration has 4 more years of Trump and his birthers raising cain to extend their 15 minutes of infamy, or, in "The Donald"'s case, the downward spiral of his celebrity. In fact, NBC news anchor Brian Williams blasted Trump on the air on Tuesday, mindful of the fact that Trump has his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, on the docket to return in March. If he keeps making a jerk out of himself between now & then, though, this might be the end of the trail for a reality show that's been on life support since Trump joined the birther movement.

Closer to home, not much of note changed, other than the fact that former Troy Mayor Henry Tutunjian failed in his bid to win a full term in the Rensselaer County Legislature. Tutunjian was appointed to fill the seat vacated by current Mayor Lou Rosamilia last year, in effect swapping positions. According to The Record, Tutunjian is ready to walk away from politics and into private life. You can bet, however, that he'll be back at some point, perhaps returning to the starting point of his political career, and running for City Council all over again. Not right away, but probably before the end of the decade.

Perhaps the oddest result of the election was that two states legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, which likely would set off another chain reaction. Problem with this is, too many people will use the pot for something other than medicine, just as they always have. I'd say, to make this work, you'd have to have some sort of documentation, and I don't mean a prescription, mind you, to prove you intend to use it as medicine.

Somewhere out there, Cheech & Chong are packing their bags for Colorado.........

On DVD: Hall & Oates: Our Kind of Soul (2005)

I happened to snap this one up at a discount store the other day, just for kicks.

Daryl Hall & John Oates have been playing together for nearly 40 years, but it's been about 20 or so since the last time they were in the Top 40. Pop radio just doesn't want them anymore. It's kind of like how in television, advertisers want the younger generations. Same applies in radio, which is why they relentlessly play the newer stars into the ground to the point where some folks can't stand them anymore.

Hall & Oates, though, have stood the test of time. "Our Kind of Soul", a concert tribute to the sounds they grew up with, and some that played as they were just starting out, was recorded in the Bahamas in 2004, and the DVD was released about a year later. The club setting isn't exactly the huge stadiums the duo played in the glory years of the 70's & 80's, but because they now record for an independent label, rather than RCA or its now sister label, Arista (Hall recorded some solo work for Columbia in the 80's), for whom they had hits like "Sara Smile", "One on One", "I Can't Go For That", "Maneater", and so on. Some of those classics are here, but as bonus material not on the main portion of the disc. Go figure. The body of the concert includes covers of classic Motown (The Four Tops' "Standing in the Shadows of Love" leads off), Barry White, and the 5 Stairsteps, whom Hall & Oates toured with early in their careers.

The more intimate club setting serves and suits them well. MTV Archives uploaded their cover of the 5 Stairsteps' "Ooh Child", more recently covered by Donnie McClurkin & Kirk Franklin.



Rating: A.

Musical Interlude: It Ain't What You Do, It's the Way That You Do It (1982)

The British vocal group Fun Boy Three spun off from the ska band, The Specials, and scored their only American hit in 1982 with "It Ain't What You Do, It's the Way That You Do It", which was a duet that introduced audiences to the female trio, Bananarama, which would achieve greater success here in the US than Fun Boy Three, though they did return the favor and had Fun Boy Three join them for the song, "You're Really Saying Something".

Interestingly, Fun Boy Three's last hit in their native England was a cover of The Go-Go's' "Our Lips Are Sealed", but that never made it over here. Hmmm.



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

We can't go kooky for Suzuki anymore, can we?

News has just come across the wires that Suzuki has announced it will not manufacture cars for the US market, opting instead to adjust its focus on motorcyles, marine equipment, & all-terrain vehicles (ATV's), due to the American branch of the Japanese company filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The title refers to a slogan that has been used, perhaps not nationally, but at least in my region. One local dealer uses the phrase, 'Go kooky for Suzuki", and the commercials often include a shot of a dog rolling over into a standing position (on all fours, of course). Nationally, there've been some wacky ad campaigns which supports the prospect of the slogan being national in scope after all. Then again, most commercials are intended for the low IQ's among us.....!




Monday, November 5, 2012

Musical Interlude: Pushin' Too Hard (1966)

Before I get into this next video, let me offer a little personal perspective.

I grew up in a household that was geared more toward country music than rock. If I wanted rock, I had to listen to my transistor radio. As a teen, I began branching out, not only to rock, but gospel, and, later, blues & jazz. At no time during this period did I hear this next song, only discovering it via YouTube over the last several months, and learning, albeit so late, about The Seeds.

The Seeds' biggest hit, "Pushin' Too Hard", released in 1966, not only got some major airplay, but it landed the band plenty of primo television appearances. Not just in the usual places, mind, but Sky Saxon and company landed a guest gig on the sitcom, The Mothers-In-Law. Who'dathunk, right? Now, what could I have known back then? I was but a toddler.

Anyway, Saxon passed away 3 years ago, and up until recently, some enterprising soul grafted "Pushin' Too Hard" onto some Flintstones footage, including an ep with guest star James Darren. I think that clip's been pulled due to copyright issues or some such, which might be just as well. Following is a performance clip of "Pushin'", from the Los Angeles-based weeknight variety show, Shebang!, complete with an introduction by series host Casey Kasem, who later does a brief interview with Saxon.

Does Vince McMahon really want his wife in the Senate?

With Election Day looming tomorrow, it seems the Presidential election is the furthest thing from the mind of at least one man........Vince McMahon.

For the 2nd time in 3 years, Vince's wife, Linda, is running as a Republican candidate for United States Senator out of Connecticut. However, the local Democrats have again made things difficult, questioning why Linda, who resigned as CEO of WWE in order to make her first run for the Senate 2 years ago, would even be qualified to serve in the first place. Unfortunately, as was the case in 2010, Vince may be unwittingly sabotaging his wife's campaign via the product presented on television.

One of the key storylines on Monday Night Raw involves 20-something A. J. Lee, who was ousted as the youngest figurehead executive in company history two weeks ago amid curious allegations of a "inappropriate" relationship with fellow wrestler John Cena. The charges were raised by Vickie Guerrero, whose character is that of a chronic offender that gets drunk on power every time she is given the opportunity to be a general manager or, in this case, a "managing supervisor", despite the fact that the widow's act has been stale for, oh, I don't know, three years?

Vickie's antics this time reek of hypocrisy, and it casts her on the whole as a bully toward A. J., and this runs counter to the Be A Star anti-bullying program the WWE has been very involved in for over a year. When Guerrero was appointed as "managing supervisor" on 10/23, the ratings dropped to a 2.4, the lowest since the dawn of the "Attitude Era" 15 years ago. What that should tell Vince McMahon is that Vickie is toxic in terms of ratings, and that she has more than worn out her welcome as an on-camera performer after 5 years. No redeeming qualities that would enable a face turn. No remorse. No shame. No admitting that 2 years ago, Guerrero was in a "inappropriate" relationship of her own with a man she still manages, Dolph Ziggler. The sad part is that in the storyline, the WWE's Board of Directors seems to look the other way and let Guerrero have chance after chance, despite the fact that:

1. The fans absolutely hate her. This is not Vickie doing her job. This is the public deciding that they are tired of her act. Right now, moldy bread would taste good with bananas and peanut butter, by comparison.

2. In 2009, Guerrero wilted under the pressure of doing a live broadcast every Monday (tonight's show is on same-day tape from England), and quit in June, taking a 4 month vacation to spend time with her daughters before returning to work in October.

3. She has been a bully in an administrative role in every instance. Think back to the winter of 2009-10, when she was placed in a position as a sort of corporate snitch against Smackdown general manager Teddy Long. Vickie, along with LayCool (Layla El & Michele McCool) relentlessly bullied and harassed former champion Mickie James (now with TNA), who ended up being cut in April 2010. It was juvenile, high school level drama that didn't belong on WWE television. As an "executive consultant", this is something that Vickie shouldn't have indulged in, but, again, the Board looked the other way and let her get away with it.

4. A year later, after a failed palace coup against Long, Guerrero & Ziggler were "fired" within a week of each other, but inexplicably returned on Raw, with Guerrero now billed as Ziggler's "business partner". This is the part that is going to come back to haunt Guerrero in short order, because all that is needed is for Cena to pull the footage from the archives, and let the world see that Vickie's just as guilty.

That having been said, McMahon has to pull the plug on this "scandalous" storyline, because it isn't working. If a simple guy like me can figure it out, so can the rest of the audience, especially those of us who don't forget past angles. With the election tomorrow, the last thing he wants to do is blow it for his wife again. In 2010, McMahon made a cameo appearance in what amounted to a dream sequence, but that put the final nail in the coffin for Linda, as she lost the election.

Tonight, I'm going to do something a little radical. I'm not watching Raw. I've got better things to do to kill time before Monday Night Football, and, for that matter, this jaded fan is tired of railing against McMahon for being too stubborn to see that his ideas don't work that well anymore. Even when they recap Raw's key angles during Smackdown, I'm changing the channel until they go back to in-ring action. I'm not all-in with WWE anymore. TNA doesn't excite me. That leaves Ring of Honor on Saturday nights. That's really all I need now.

As for tomorrow, I'd not be surprised to read if Linda McMahon fails again. I wrote back in 2010 about all the non-WWE projects Vince took on that failed, and this is one of them. I don't need to quote Santayana again, as I've done that in relation to McMahon enough times, but he's not getting the message. He will, once the ratings fall to, oh, maybe, 1.0? Then, again, he's bound to do something even more stupid next week. He always does......

Sunday, November 4, 2012

On Demand: Knuckleball! (2012)

I rarely order pay-per-views. Armed with a coupon that was due to expire today from Time Warner Cable, I decided to indulge myself.

"Knuckleball!" is a documentary that enjoyed an all-too-brief run in theatres back in September, near the end of baseball's regular season. Counting Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me") among its executive producers, "Knuckleball!" focuses on the last two men to utilize the toughest pitch in the game, Tim Wakefield, who retired after the 2011 season, and R. A. Dickey, a candidate for the 2012 Cy Young Award as a pitcher for the New York Mets.

The story has oft been told in the press of Dickey engaging in a knuckleballers' summit with Wakefield and some of their forebears, including Wilbur Wood (Chicago White Sox), Charlie Hough (Rangers, Dodgers, Marlins), & Phil Niekro (Braves, Yankees). Another hurler, Tom Candiotti (Dodgers, Indians, Blue Jays), is among those interviewed as well. We get sound bytes from various Red Sox & Mets games from the 2010 & 2011 seasons and interviews with two of Dickey's former teammates, Carlos Beltran (now with St. Louis) & Gary Sheffield (retired), and current Met Josh Thole, plus current Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and former catchers Doug Mirabelli & Jason Varitek (now an executive with the BoSox after retiring this spring).

The format of the documentary recalls Barry Blaustein's "Beyond the Mat" wrestling doc which was released in 1999 to a mixed reaction. The critics in New York, of course, fell in love with "Knuckleball!", largely because the dream season Dickey enjoyed this year felt like a sequel in the making, with Dickey winning 20 games this year. The film's coda is essentially Wakefield winning his 200th career game with Boston last year, then retiring earlier this year, for all intents & purposes passing the torch to Dickey, who will return to the Mets in 2013.

Both men have had long, checkered careers. Wakefield was a rookie sensation with Pittsburgh in the early 90's, and led them to the NLCS, only to fall to Atlanta, and sending the Pirates to their present run of misfortune. Dickey started with Texas, and has also been with Seattle before landing with the Mets 2 years ago. Up until now, the knuckleball wasn't getting much respect, despite the long careers enjoyed by the men who threw it. Wakefield, for example, played virtually for 2 full decades. Hough played 25 seasons, Niekro 24.

TrailersplaygroundHD uploaded the trailer:



If you haven't seen it yet, and you're a true baseball fan, you really should.

Rating: A+.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

What Might've Been: Human Target (1992)

After a lengthy run on General Hospital in the 80's, actor-singer Rick Springfield decided to give primetime a try. Nice idea, but as an action hero?

Producers Danny Bilson & Paul De Meo had previously adapted DC Comics' The Flash for television in 1990 for CBS, only for that series to fall victim to the then #1 show on the planet, The Cosby Show. Nearly 2 years later, they mined DC again, this time for the adventures of Christopher Chance, aka The Human Target, who debuted in the pages of Action Comics in the early 70's. Unfortunately, ABC opted to utilize Target as a summer replacement series at the end of the 1991-2 season. The series was revived by Fox just a few years ago and managed to hang on for about a year and a half before being cancelled, so why did the original fail?

The simple answer is that ABC didn't have much faith in the first place. As you'll see in the following video, Chance was given a team of assistants, when in the comics he was a solo act. In a sense, Bilson & De Meo wanted to create a vibe similar to Mission: Impossible, which was briefly revived by ABC at the end of the 80's and, coincidentally might've been the inspiration for this show. If ABC suits actually thought Target actually had a chance, pardon the expression, they'd have green-lighted a full season a lot sooner.

In recent years, Springfield has returned to General Hospital and at last check continues to record. Amazingly, I don't think he had to sing on Human Target, which might've been what fans were hoping for.

Here's the open:



Rating: B.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Classic TV: Petticoat Junction (1963)

The success of The Beverly Hillbillies led CBS to commission another rural sitcom from writer-producer-creator Paul Henning. The end result was the launch of Petticoat Junction in 1963.

Petticoat was set at the Shady Rest Hotel, situated on a railroad line between Hooterville & Pixley. What you may not know is that there really is a town of Pixley, but it's in California, a long ways away from its fictional counterpart. The Shady Rest is owned & operated by Kate Bradley (Bea Benaderet, The Flintstones, ex-The Burns & Allen Show), aided by Uncle Joe Carson (Edgar Buchanan, ex-Judge Roy Bean). Uncle Joe wasn't exactly the sharpest tool in the drawer, but he was a father figure to Kate's three daughters, Billie Jo, Betty Jo, & Bobbie Jo, who used the water tower as a swimming pool, as you would see in the open.

Currently, the series airs on Me-TV, weekday mornings, but if you're looking for the early black & white episodes, forget it. Me-TV only has the color seasons (seasons 4-7). Bea Benaderet left The Flintstones to commit full time to Petticoat, but I am not sure if it was at the start of the series (Flintstones began its 4th season in 1963). Subsequently, Petticoat begat a spinoff series, Green Acres, which amazingly has become a more popular show in reruns, probably because it was available in a lot more markets in syndication.

Here is the series premiere, "Spur Run to Shady Rest".



The last two seasons saw Uncle Joe take charge of the hotel, as Kate had gone on a long vacation. In truth, Bea Benaderet was in ill health, and left the series. She passed away in April 1969, just before the end of season 6. Ultimately, June Lockhart, fresh from Lost In Space, was brought on as Dr. Janet Craig to fill the void. Petticoat Junction was the first series to fall victim to what ultimately became the infamous "Rural Purge", ending in 1970, its timeslot filled with another TV classic, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Musical director Curt Massey co-wrote and sings the theme song, in case you wonder.

Rating: B.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Weasel of the Week: Scott Boras

Bill Madden of the New York Daily News calls him the "Avenging Agent", largely because he lives vicariously through his many clients, realizing beaucoup bucks he couldn't make as a player himself due to a knee injury suffered in the minors. However, Scott Boras is and always has been a Weasel, and he proved it again this week.

Among those clients is pitcher Rafael Soriano, who on the bad advice of Boras opted out of his contract with the Yankees. Apparently, both Soriano & Boras need a refresher course on Santayana, because the last time Soriano tested the free agent market, two years ago, the Yankees were the only team willing to take a chance on him. Good thing, too, considering that their All-Star closer, Mariano Rivera, went down with a knee injury in May, and Soriano filled the void by racking up 42 saves. His overall numbers weren't exactly Rivera-level, though, but Boras, proving once again why there are some teams that don't want to deal with him, still thinks Soriano can command big bucks on the free agent market. If no one other than the Yanks wanted him 2 years ago, would anyone want him now?

Maybe. Soriano has now gone through 4 teams in his career. Before the Yankees, he was with Seattle, Atlanta, & Tampa Bay. With Boras' reputation of fleecing teams into overpaying for free agents, there's bound to be a patsy somewhere. I've often thought that Boras' primary vocation as a lawyer wasn't paying the bills, but he is the kind of guy that is all wrong for sports. Yet, the MLBPA lets him get away with it because he makes their members rich. Look up the word "greedy" in the latest Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and Boras' picture is bound to be there, as he is the very physical definition.

Boras was a minor league catcher in the Padres chain when he suffered a knee injury that ended his career. With a seemingly lucrative gig as a lawyer, why would he repeatedly snow-job teams the way he does? Because he feels he could've been making the same kind of money as a player at that position as, say for example, Ivan Rodriguez, Gary Carter, or, to use today as a template, Joe Mauer or Buster Posey. We can't say for sure about that because we don't know what his minor league stats were. His vicarious profiteering has lasted for too long, and if the MLBPA won't do something about it, MLB should step in and invoke the clause about the "best interests of baseball". I'd be willing to bet if Boras were taken to a small claims court, the ones you see on TV, mind, Judge Judy would have a field day with him.

That all being said, Scott Boras gets his 2nd pair of Weasel ears, plus a tail. It suits him.

Musical Interlude: Elevation (2001)

U2 had some fun with this one.

Commissioned to compose a track for the "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" soundtrack, the Irish band served up "Elevation", and somehow found a way for guitarist The Edge to interact with Lara Croft herself (Angelina Jolie). Edge is a bit of a ham, but for this video, he gets to be the luckiest guy on Earth.

Uploaded by Island Records' YouTube channel: