Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The season of silliness begins

On Saturday, the NFL's silly season gets underway with the first round of playoffs. For the first time, ESPN, which has a schedule loaded with college bowls this week, will have one of the four games, instead of NBC carrying a doubleheader. ESPN gets the Arizona-Carolina game, leading off.

Anyway, let's look at the field:

AFC:

Wild Cards:

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (NBC, Saturday): With three North division teams in the field, ya had to figure two of them would play each other, and you can figure on this being a low-scoring affair. Like, with 8 Super Bowl titles between them, there's a strong pedigree on the field. We like Pittsburgh, which signed Ben Tate as a sub for LeVeon Bell, who doesn't figure to play because of an injury suffered vs. Cincinnati on Sunday. Tate, formerly with Houston, started the season in Cleveland, then went to Minnesota, only for the Vikings to cut him two weeks ago. As noted, we'll go with the Steelers here.

Cincinnati at Indianapolis (CBS, Sunday): The Bengals may have wasted most of their offense in upsetting West champ Denver on Monday Night Football 9 days ago, but a win over the South champion Colts won't send Cincinnati to Denver for a rematch. No, instead they go back to Foxborough and play the hated Patriots again. New England bullied the Bengals earlier this year, so at least it's a revenge game. However, revenge will have to wait for the Bengals. We like to see round 2 between the Broncos & the Colts, because this will not be the year Cincinnati ends their playoff losing streak.

Divisional round:

Pittsburgh @ New England: These two will meet in Foxborough next season, but in this writer's opinion, because New England has manipulated the system so much, mostly to protect & pacify Crybaby Tom Brady, they should switch and make the Pats go to Pittsburgh, playing only 4 home games a year until they admit they've broken rules all along. Enough ranting. The Evil Empire of the NFL must fall and fail to win another Super Bowl. Period.

Indianapolis @ Denver: Andrew Luck will be seeking to avenge an early season loss to his predecessor with the Colts, insurance & pizza salesman Peyton Manning. Not going to happen.

Yeah, Pittsburgh @ Denver in the title game appeals more than anything involving the Patriots.

NFC:

Wild Cards:


Arizona at Carolina (NBC, Saturday): For the 2nd time in 5 seasons, a division winner enters with a losing record. Arizona is down to its 3rd & 4th string QB's due to injury, and can only go so far. We'll go with the home team here, and we figure Cam Newton and the Panthers can exploit any weaknesses the Cardinals have.

Detroit @ Dallas (Fox, Sunday): You know how this goes. Tony Romo supposedly can't win a playoff game. The Lions are quickly developing a rep on defense of employing thugs, including Ndamakong Suh, until recently one of the Subway NFL pitchmen. Dallas has more weapons and will be motivated to close the home season on a winning note.

Divisional round:

Carolina @ Seattle: Cinderella's slippers get ground into dust by the Seahawks' Legion of Boom defense. Oh, what a rush!

Dallas @ Green Bay: Maybe Aaron Rodgers can sell Romo some State Farm insurance and give Jerry Jones the number of the ad agency.........! Packers over Cowboys.

So, our final four would be Pittsburgh, Denver, Green Bay, & Seattle. Perfect.

We're off until Friday. Happy New Year.





Monday, December 29, 2014

Classic TV: The Wild, Wild West (1965)

The Wild, Wild West might have been set in the post-Civil War America of the late 19th century, but had elements that suggested not only the influence of, say, Jules Verne, but also Ian Fleming's master secret agent, James Bond. Some might say the series was the forerunner, or the father, of the steampunk genre of fiction.

Federal agents James West (Robert Conrad, ex-Hawaiian Eye) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin, ex-Mr. Lucky) were tasked by President Ulysses S. Grant to investigate some of the most bizarre crimes of the era. On a few occasions, the duo were menaced by Dr. Miguelito Loveless (Michael Dunn), who made up for his small stature with a brilliant, though misguided, mind and a love of music. In the opener, however, the villain of the piece is Count Manzeppi (Victor Buono). The season 1 DVD also includes an early appearance by future comedy legend Richard Pryor, for those who might be interested.

Right now, though, here's a sample of "The Night of the Inferno":



Barry Sonnenfeld's feature film version from 1999, with Will Smith as West and Kevin Kline as Gordon, was understandably a bomb. CBS managed to do a couple of TV-movie reunions that made for more entertaining viewing than that.

Rating: A.

Weasel of the Week: Johnny Manziel

I've believed all along that Johnny Manziel left Texas A & M too soon. He has become a case study in taking way too much stock in one's press clippings.

Manziel started exactly one game this season for Cleveland-----and got shelled by Cincinnati. He ended up with a hamstring injury, and didn't play the season finale. Cleveland, which was on the verge of a playoff spot, ended up in its customary spot in the cellar. Then, it comes out that Manziel threw a party at his house for some of his teammates, and a few of them were suspended by coach Mike Pettine for the game. Manziel even was late for a team meeting or practice during the week.

Bear in mind, too, that Manziel had claimed he was growing up. Unfortunately, that ended up being about as hollow as a certain Snickers commercial he made......



Johnny Jam-Boogie? How about Johnny Weasel? Yep, the party boy gets the weasel ears this week for hypocrisy, more than anything else.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

What Might've Been: Name Droppers (1969)

Two of the least successful game shows produced by Merrill Heatter & Bob Quigley had one particularly common trait. Both were hosted by a pair of radio personalities whose fame didn't quite extend too far outside of their normal millieu.

Al Lohman, who'd spent some time at WABC in New York in the early 60's before moving to Los Angeles, and Roger Barkley were tapped to host Name Droppers, which was H-Q's answer to the long running Goodson-Todman series, What's My Line?, which had been revived in syndication. Name Droppers aired on NBC for a few months in 1969 and 1970 before being cancelled, but H-Q called on Lohman & Barkley again when they tried to experiment with a late night game, Bedtime Stories (previously reviewed) in 1979. That was even less successful. 13 weeks and done.

Blanquepage offers us a sample clip from Name Droppers with a couple of guys named Bob (Cummings & Newhart) on the panel.......




No rating.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Classic TV: Night Court (1984)

What Barney Miller did for police, Night Court set out to do for small claims courts. Of course, it helped that Court sprang from the mind of writer-producer Reinhold Weege, who'd been a writer for Miller.

Night Court was a mid-season replacement series that bowed in January 1984, and continued for 9 seasons total. Harry Anderson top-lined as judge Harold T. Stone, a good-natured jurist who tried to find the positives in everyone. In the course of those 9 seasons, Stone went through three public defenders and three female bailiffs. Weege cast actors who'd worked on Barney Miller for small roles. For example, Florence Halop, who joined the show in season 3, had made a few appearances on Miller, but while her character's name changed with each appearance, she'd retain the same appearance. Halop was brought in after Selma Diamond had passed away following season 2. Regrettably, Halop herself passed on at the end of the season, and Marsha Warfield took over in season 4.

Much of the background by-play, beginning in season 3, was Stone courting public defender Christine Sullivan (Markie Post, ex-The Fall Guy), who in turn had to fend off the lecherous advances of prosecutor Dan Fielding (John Larroquette, ex-Black Sheep Squadron). Standing tall in the background was bailiff Bull Shannon (Richard Moll), a gentle giant who wasn't exactly the sharpest tool sometimes.

Miller alumnus Florence Stanley was cast as another judge, and was later spun off  to join Paul Reiser & Greg Evigan on My Two Dads. Unfortunately, that was as close as viewers would get to see anyone from Miller's core cast appearing on Night Court.

The following intro/closing comes from the pilot, produced in 1983. Gail Strickland was replaced soon after.



During the show's run, the producers brought in John Astin (ex-The Addams Family) as Harry's dad, and, in addition, singer Mel Torme made frequent appearances (Anderson was a fan).  Today, it'd be real cool for a cable network to run Night Court alongside Barney Miller, just for comparison's sake, although Court devolved into slapstick comedy later in the run. There was also an experiment where Looney Tunes icons Road Runner & Wile E. Coyote made a guest appearance. I'll have to locate that one for Saturday Morning Archives.

Rating: A.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Classic TV: The Ruggles (1949)

Film star Charlie Ruggles was one of the first television sitcom stars. However, few remember The Ruggles, which was broadcast live for three seasons (1949-52). This is likely due to being recorded on kinescopes instead of videotape.

A Christmas episode from season 2 is included on Mill Creek's holiday DVD compilation........




I wanted to like this. However, it put me to sleep. Literally. That's about all I can say.

Rating: C.

On The Shelf: Archie gets a makeover, and a lost Batman case surfaces

Some years back, Archie Comics hired manga artist Tania Del Rio to give Sabrina, The Teenage Witch a makeover, which lasted about 2 years or so before the book ended up getting a new creative team. While it did make the series stand out from the rest of the line, sales inevitably declined after the "curiosity period" ended.

That having been said, it's not a problem questioning Archie's latest decision in relation to a creative makeover. You've probably heard by now that the core Archie series is being rebooted back to #1 in 2015, but with a decided new look, courtesy of artist Fiona Staples and writer Mark Waid.

Wait a minute. Mark Waid? A superhero writer doing a humor book? Yep.

Waid made his Archie Comics debut a year ago on the Red Circle line, scripting the Fox miniseries with artist Dean Haspiel. The Fox will return as part of the rebooted Dark Circle line, as creative director Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is looking to give Fox, Black Hood, and others a grittier look for the 21st century. In that regard, it's all about re-establishing most of the heroes, who've been around since either the Golden Age (Black Hood) or the Silver Age (Fox, Fly), but have been considered second-or-third class heroes, due mostly to the camp revival of the 60's. Waid on Archie, however, is a real challenge. While the long running series has been doing more teen drama story arcs in recent years, spinning off the recently concluded revival of Life With Archie, Waid may be asked to inject some more realism into the storylines. Yes, Archie welcomed its first gay character (Kevin Keller), and used Life to address what Kevin would face as an adult. But what about high school?

Bullying is a major issue these days, and that, in my opinion, may be a possible topic in the Waid-Staples era of Archie. Stay tuned.

DC, timing the release to coincide with the long awaited DVD release of Batman, unearthed an unproduced script by science-fiction icon Harlan Ellison for a 1-shot special. However, the company went overboard.

Batman '66: The Lost Episode adapts Ellison's story, showcasing Two-Face, with Len Wein, a Bat-veteran in his own right, having scripted and/or edited Batman during the 70's & early 80's, writing the story for publication, drawn by Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez. Not only does the reader get that story, but also a rough cut version, with just Garcia-Lopez's breakdowns, and some other extras. The Lost Episode was better off being served as an Annual, not a mad grab for greed. Is it worth the $10 cover price? No. You don't need all those bells & whistles.

Rating (overall presentation): B--.

Having reviewed Cartoon Network's Sonic Boom over at Saturday Morning Archives, I should mention the comics version of the series, which debuted from Archie in November. It's loaded with inside jokes, moreso than the regular Sonic monthly and the defunct Sonic X, which Boom has replaced. The kids will dig it, though Archie's recent decision to raise cover prices across the board to $3.99 will have cost-conscious parents thinking twice.

Dynamite Entertainment is bent on being a major player, or at least rivaling IDW when it comes to licensed titles. On the heels of reviving the former Gold Key heroes (last at Valiant), Dynamite is going full bore with a line of King Features heroes, including Prince Valiant, Flash Gordon, and the Phantom. The jury's out. Again, there's that cover price to consider. $4 per issue, in this day & age, for fans on limited budgets, is asking for trouble. Dynamite can justify the price because of recouping licensing fees, because they have no original series they can truly call their own, though sooner or later, that could change.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Joe Cocker (1944-2014)

It came across the wires this morning that Joe Cocker had passed away at 70 after a lengthy battle with lung cancer.

Most of Cocker's hits were covers. For example, he made his first splash at the original Woodstock festival in 1969 with a cover of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends". His cover of Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful" was later used as the theme to the short-lived sitcom, Struck by Lightning. "Friends" was later used as the theme to The Wonder Years. With help from Leon Russell, Cocker hit with a remake of the Box Tops' "The Letter"........




Cocker would finally score with some original compositions in the 80's. His duet with Jennifer Warnes, "Up Where We Belong", from "An Officer & a Gentleman", hit #1. He missed the top 10 with "When the Night Comes", and charted with "You Can Leave Your Hat On".

Rest in peace, Joe.

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas with the Addams Family (1965)

The Addams Family celebrates Christmas as only they can in this season 2 episode, courtesy of Hulu:




Typical silliness. Posted in memory of Ken Weatherwax (Pugsley), who passed away a couple of weeks back.

No rating. I have no memory of seeing this episode.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: Mr. White's Christmas (The Rogues, 1964)

Earlier this morning, during their pre-dawn double-play of The Rogues, Me-TV unspooled the episode, "Mr. White's Christmas", which didn't actually air until the spring of '65. By that time, the decision had already been made to cancel the series. John McGiver guest stars, and Larry Hagman, a few months away from I Dream of Jeannie, fills in, although Charles Boyer has the spotlight.

The complete episode isn't available, and so we will settle for a sample clip:




No rating, as I have little memory of seeing the episode in its entirety.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas with Liberace (1954)

Liberace was granted his own television show not once, but twice.

The first series bowed in 1954 and enjoyed a healthy run of a couple of years. However, when he returned in a syndicated offering in 1969, it lasted just 1 season. Why that was, I don't really know, because I've never seen that version.

Liberace was close to his family, though. Brother George was his musical director, and his mom was reportedly a producer. Following is a compilation of clips from a Christmas episode from 1954. Liberace solos on "O Little Town of Bethlehem" & "O Holy Night" (instrumental only), and then, at the end of the show, the family gathers for a round of "Jingle Bells" (George is dressed as Santa Claus).




To think that this well respected musician and entertainer was working the other side of the street, if you catch my drift, was quite the surprise years later.

Rating: A-.

Weasel of the Week: Devar Hurd

"How do I know you're not sick? You could be some deranged lunatic!"--The Fresh Prince (Will Smith), 1987

In a nutshell, that describes this week's Weasel, Devar Hurd. 5 years after being released from prison for sending X-rated selfies, intended for R & B singer Ashanti, to her mother, Hurd is on trial again for stalking the singer and her family anew. You'd think this guy would've learned his lesson, but no. He chose to be his own defense lawyer, as if he actually learned anything while in stir.

He claims, according to media accounts, that Ashanti invited him in by accepting his messages, not realizing that he'd sent them to her mom instead of Ashanti herself. Blocking him on Twitter would've ended it all, but since he was using various aliases, how would Ashanti know if he was trying to contact her?

That he's in court is one thing. Proving he needs to go back to jail is another. In between, if it's love he's really looking for, like so many of these other dullards chasing hot actresses or singers, he'd be better served trying online dating. At least there he can find plenty of fish in the cybersea.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: The Girl in the Emporium (The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, 1959)

As part of Mill Creek's Holiday Classics compilation, we present one of four Christmas episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet.

Rick Nelson and his friend, Wally (Skip Young) are out Christmas shopping, then decide to apply for jobs at the same store, as both are interested in the same girl, a comely clerk who waited on them both.



We'll have a more comprehensive review of the series another time. This episode, on the other hand, merits a B.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Classic TV: Bat Masterson (1958)

Some people might think of Gene Barry for either Burke's Law or The Name of the Game, but before either one of those series, Barry had already established himself.

Barry was cast in Bat Masterson, a fictionalized account of the exploits of the real-life Wild West gentleman and gunfighter. The tailored suits Barry wore would become his trademark, as he was similarly outfitted in his later series.

The series lasted three seasons (1958-61), and airs today on Encore Westerns, a premium service, and has aired on This TV as well. The following entry is an episode that was included on a DVD compilation I had some time back. From Internet Archive, here's "The Fighter":



As simple as it gets.

Rating: A.

NFL this 'n' that

With two weeks left in the regular season, only three division titles, four playoff spots overall, have been decided. Normally, you'd think they'd have everything wrapped up around this time. Nope.

3 of the 4 AFC divisions have been decided, and it looks like both AFC Wild Cards will come from the North. A 1/2-game separates Cincinnati from Pittsburgh & Baltimore. The Bengals effectively eliminated Cleveland from title contention on Sunday---more on that shortly---, but get tone-deaf Peyton Manning and the Broncos on the season finale of Monday Night Football. Regardless of what happens, the North champ is locked into the 4 seed in the AFC, especially considering the WWE-style schedule manipulations of the East champs, the New England Patriots. The Pats and Philadelphia both got the luck of the draw with their division foes being their last three opponents. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Dallas collected a receipt on Sunday for the Thanksgiving Day Massacre, and hold a couple of tiebreakers in their favor.

Personally, I'd rather the Pats play their home games on a neutral field. Does Leavenworth have a football stadium? There's just something screwy about Crybaby Brady and his Col. Flagg wannabe coach, Belichump.

Back to the Browns. Coach Mike Pettine gets a Dunce Cap for deciding that rookie QB Johnny Manziel would get another start after the former Heisman Trophy winner stunk it up against Cincinnati, and the Bengals defense threw his on-field antics back in his face. All that proves to me is that Manziel let the success go to his head at Texas A & M, and should've stayed in school instead of listening to the leeches he surrounds himself with.

Don't ya think Browns management wishes they hadn't let Brandon Weeden, now Tony Romo's backup in Dallas, walk after 2 years? Of course.

The New York tabloids wanted the Jests to lose to Tennessee, so they could draft this year's Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota, or last year's, Jameis Winston, the latter being instant tabloid bait. Winston is like Manziel in that he has not matured enough to warrant turning pro now. He needs another year at Florida State. So the Jests went out and completed Tennessee's Dismal Double, after the Titans lost to the Giants a week earlier.

Meanwhile, while Giants QB Eli Manning didn't make any X-Men wannabe ads for Toyota this season, he did do something worthwhile, like doing a "No More" spot for the Joyful Heart Foundation. ESPN's Cris Carter is also among the talent.........




Maybe in his spare time, Eli can get his brother Peyton an appointment with a voice coach. Trying to string together words to the tune of Nationwide Insurance's jingle doesn't work. Period.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Celebrity Rock: Ballroom Blitz (1992)

One of the highlights of "Wayne's World" in 1992 was the soundtrack. Sure, Mike Myers (Wayne) & Dana Carvey (Garth) and their writers seemed to throw everything in but the kitchen sink, including a homage to Scooby-Doo with a false finish, but the retro soundtrack was a winner. They put Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" back in the public consciousness, but that wasn't the only gem from the 70's, it seems.

The Sweet scored a big hit with "Ballroom Blitz". However, ye scribe never heard their version prior to the movie, and I'd imagine a number of you were in the same boat. So it might come as a shock that actress Tia Carrere's cover was just that. A cover. And a pretty good one, too. If only they didn't include Wayne & Garth's hammy antics in the video......




Schwinnng!!!

Countdown to Christmas: Joe Santa Claus (1951)

Ever wonder just how a department store Santa is cast in the role? Some stores, especially chain stores, choose an employee already in their employ to be reassigned to the toy department from where he normally works to don the red suit & white whiskers during the Christmas rush.

Such is the case in "Joe Santa Claus", which, as it happens, was the series finale of DuMont's Gruen Guild Theater, which was rebooted as Gruen Playhouse a few weeks later. Hardware salesman Joe Peters is reassigned to the toy department, and.........




Now, you'd think Joe would've jumped at the chance, if it meant a few extra bucks in his pay. He took stock in his slight build and youthful appearance, and reasoned he couldn't play the part. As we see, his outlook, predictably, changes by the end of the show.

Rating: B-.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Millions of children around the world believe in Santa Claus. Sometimes, it takes time for even adults to believe, as illustrated in the 1947 Christmas classic, "Miracle on 34th Street".

Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) is in New York, ostensibly on vacation, though it is never established, when he happens across a department store Santa hired for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade who is totally sloshed to the point where his boss (Maureen O'Hara) dismisses him on the spot, and hires Kringle, unaware of the controversy to follow. Concerned about the growing commercialization of Christmas, Kringle begins a stint at Macy's and politely advises shoppers to look elsewhere for toys that Macy's might not have. Rival Gimbel's (now defunct) follows suit, as the long standing rivalry between the two stores escalates during the most wonderful time of the year.

Mrs. Walker, a divorcee, has taught her daughter, Susan (Natalie Wood), a 2nd grader, not to believe in legends, fairy tales, and myths, including Santa, but Susan is convinced that Kris is exactly what he says he is, the genuine article. Despite the objections of Mrs. Walker and other staff, R. H. Macy only sees a boost in sales, due to Kris' polite approach and gentle manner, even conversing in Dutch with an immigrant who doesn't speak English. Ultimately, Kris is tricked into being sent to Bellevue Hospital, falsely diagnosed as being delusional.

Of course, I don't really need to tell you how this ends now do I?

Fox later produced a made-for-TV version for The 20th Century Fox Hour, and a subsequent remake, also for television, produced in 1973, featured an all-star cast, headed by Sebastian Cabot, fresh from Ghost Story, as Kris, co-starring David Hartman (ex-The Bold Ones), Tom Bosley, David Doyle, and much more.

Sharp eyed viewers will spot William Frawley, 4 years before I Love Lucy, as a political strategist advising the judge. The real kicker is an early appearance by Jack Albertson as a postal worker whose timely discovery sets the stage for the climax.

Now, scope out the trailer.




It's been 20 years since the late John Hughes made the last remake, but by then, Gimbel's had gone out of business, and Macy's was no longer interested in having its name attached to the story. This, then, would be the most definitive version.

Rating: A-.

Classic TV: Lucy meets the Untouchables (sort of)(The Lucy Show, 1966)

Near the end of season 4 of The Lucy Show comes an unexpected treat.

Lucille Carmichael (Lucille Ball) is at first mistaken for, then asked to impersonate, a nightclub singer named Rusty Martin (Ball in a dual role), whose boyfriend is the notorious gangster, Big Nick, in "Lucy The Gun Moll":



It was a mini-Untouchables reunion, with guest stars Robert Stack, Bruce Gordon, and Steve London, plus narration by Walter Winchell. The CBS suits must've loved Gordon's hammy, over-the-top performance as Big Nick, such that they signed him to play a gangster in Run, Buddy, Run the following fall. Gordon & Stack took their bows from the studio audience at the end of the show, and rightfully so.

If you didn't get the inside references, you probably weren't a fan of The Untouchables in the first place.

Rating: A.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Classic TV: GE Theatre (1954)

General Electric Theatre was one of the most successful anthology series of the 50's, lasting into the early 60's. Future President Ronald Reagan served as host for the entirety of the series' 8 year TV run (it started on radio a year earlier), and there is some dispute as to how Reagan lost the gig. Some say it was political, having to do with remarks Reagan made against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), one of GE's biggest clients. Ratings had nothing to do with GE Theatre ending in 1962, but rather the firestorm that Reagan created.

As part of our Countdown to Christmas, we're serving up a sample of a 1954 Christmas show, headlined by Fred Waring & the Pennsylvanians.......




The quibble I had was the fact that the set was being constructed in the middle of the show. Improvised? Maybe. Proper? No. At least Reagan only bookended the show.

Rating: B-.

On The Air: Justice For All with Cristina Perez (2012)

With all the courtroom shows on the air these days, someone was bound to eventually develop a fictionalized version. Comedian-turned-entertainment mogul Byron Allen (ex-Real People) has three of them.

It wasn't enough that he gave a judge's robe to lawyer Gloria Allred (We The People), hoping she'd make a convincing judge. He signed Emmy winner Cristina Perez (ex-Cristina's Court) to front another fictional court show, Justice For All with Cristina Perez, now in its 3rd season. Scope out a sample clip:




To be honest with you, I thought this was another cookie cutter courtroom show, but it's anything but, and when it's surrounded by other courtroom shows, you can't tell the difference, unless you read a disclaimer on the screen at the end of the show.

Rating: C.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Classic Reborn (maybe): Match Game (1990)

Time to do a little backpedaling on an earlier review of the 1990 revival of Match Game.

Previously, we covered this version, as hosted by Ross Shafer (ex-The Late Show). However, Shafer wasn't the producers' 1st choice. It had been decided that Bert Convy (ex-Super Password, Tattletales, The Snoop Sisters), a favorite of Mark Goodson's dating back to the late 60's, would inherit Gene Rayburn's long microphone. However, Convy took ill before the series could start, and had to step away, leading to Shafer being hired.

So, in a clearer case of "what might've been" than usual, here's Convy's one and only go MC'ing Match Game. Gene Wood is the announcer, carrying over from the 1983-4 Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour.




GSN ran this as part of a marathon a couple of years back, back-to-back, as memory serves, with a Shafer episode. The differences were obvious.

Rating: B.

Couuntdown to Christmas: Where's Raymond? (1953)

Ray Bolger will be forever remembered more for one singular role, that of the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz", of course. 14 years after "Wizard", Bolger attempted to conquer television, but his short-lived sitcom, Where's Raymond?, later rechristened The Ray Bolger Show, tried to be two things at once, and not very well.

On one hand, Where's Raymond? aspired to be a sitcom, but, as demonstrated in the Christmas episode, it would morph into a variety show on the fly, a mix of music and sketch comedy within the framework of a sitcom format. Bolger tried to, by playing multiple characters in one long skit, emulate a fellow song & dance man in Danny Kaye.

Here's a sample intro:




Rating: B.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rockin' Funnies: Imposter (1992)

One of the biggest hits of 1992 was "Informer", a reggae-rap hybrid by Canada's Snow, whose incomprehensible rhymes guaranteed he'd be a 1 hit wonder, and even so, he was largely treated as a joke because no one could understand the verse.

On In Living Color, it was left to a fellow Canuck, Jim Carrey, to do a parody. Carrey mixes in a little bit of Popeye with his gibberish, though his lyrics, predictably, make more sense. And, I would be remiss if I didn't take note of the question mark on Carrey's shirt. No one thought of it much at the time, but three years later, Carrey played The Riddler in "Batman Forever", opposite Val Kilmer as the Dark Knight. So maybe, just maybe, we can chalk it up to some retro-foreshadowing?

Here's "Imposter":


Monday, December 8, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: Step Into Christmas (1973)

Elton John's "Step Into Christmas" has been a holiday tradition since its release in 1973. Now, if only they'd play this in regular rotation on radio.......


Saturday, December 6, 2014

On The Air: Arrow (2012)

If producer Greg Berlanti has one hard, fast rule for comics fans when it comes to his reimaginings of DC Comics heroes, it is that you forget what you know. At least when you're watching the show.

Berlanti, who had a hand in the critically panned "Green Lantern" movie 3 years ago, made his own mark a year later with his retooling of a long running DC hero, Green Arrow, turning Oliver Queen from a swashbuckling playboy into a grim, dark avenger not unlike a certain denizen of Gotham City. And Batman ain't coming to Starling City, home of Arrow, any time soon.

However, Berlanti has taken supporting players from the Bat-franchise and placed them in his Arrowverse, such as the Huntress and villains like Deadshot and R'as Al Ghul, the latter of whom figures prominently in the season 3 mid-point episode airing on December 10 before Arrow goes into rerun mode for a few weeks. There've been other DC characters sprinkled throughout, and the success of Arrow, as we have noted before, led to The Flash being spun off this season.

This is what we know. Yes, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) was on a deserted island for a few years, but it wasn't as deserted as we were led to believe in the books. He's had dealings with a veteran DC rogue, Deathstroke, aka Slade Wilson, for example. Some recent concepts, such as the governement agency ARGUS, have been incorporated into Arrow and eventually will make its way onto Flash. There is a Black Canary, but right now she's not Ollie's "pretty bird", as she has been in the comics for years. It's complicated. Berlanti must've been a soap opera fan as a kid.

For the first two seasons, viewers were screwed if they didn't watch the show and had no way of getting to the CW website. This season, Time Warner has heard the pleas from fans, and have added a CW portal to their "Entertainment On Demand" channel. Unfortunately, it's only this season's episodes. They do want you to buy the DVDs, of course. On Demand is where I was able to watch this week's episode, the 2nd half of a 2-night crossover event with Flash. Here's a trailer:




Two supporting characters, John Diggle & Felicity Smoak, have been incorporated into the current Green Arrow book as a by-product of the show's success, much as Harley Quinn moved from Batman: The Animated Series into the DC Universe 20 years ago. And, yes, there is a monthly, digital-first book based on the show.

Berlanti, of course, isn't done. He has a non-superhero series, NBC's Mysteries of Laura, airing opposite Arrow, and in the pipeline has Supergirl ticketed for CBS next season, while he's working with Archie Comics and Fox on a little something called Riverdale. Yep, it sounds like Fox & Warner Bros. are biting their own hands, if Riverdale ends up being what I think it could be (a parody of Gotham). Now, if Berlanti could do something about a certain magician babe............

Rating: None. There will be a review of the Season 1 DVD coming soon. This week was too small a sample to properly rate the show.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: Do They Know It's Christmas? (1984)

Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof founded Band Aid in 1984, and while I'll avoid the obvious question of royalties to a certain American pharmaceutical corporation over the name, I will note that every ten years, it seems, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" gets a reworking with a new group of artists. The 30th anniversary edition is making the rounds now.

However, it's time to look back at the original, which, of course, got a ton of airplay back in the day on MTV. The Band Aid roster then included a Who's Who of British music of the period, including Boy George (Culture Club), Paul Young, Sting, Bono (U2), Geldof, and so many more.




The message remains to this day, as there are still starving children in the African countries, as well as other parts of the world.

What Might've Been: He & She (1967)

Talent Associates, the studio founded by New York media personality David Susskind, was looking for a new sitcom to replace the failed Run, Buddy, Run on CBS' schedule. You'd think that He & She would've filled the bill, but it didn't.

He & She, like Buddy, lasted just 1 season, but was later brought back as a summer replacement 2 years after the series ended, and that's where I first ran across it as a 7 year old. The real-life husband & wife team of Richard Benjamin & Paula Prentiss starred, but the real breakout was Jack Cassidy as egomaniacal actor Oscar North, star of the fictional series, Jetman. Cassidy wouldn't land another series gig, and neither would Prentiss, but Benjamin did, nearly a decade later (Quark) before turning permanently to movies.

Here's the open:




The next season, CBS bought another series from Talent Associates that fared slightly better. Bob Denver's comeback vehicle, The Good Guys, lasted 2 seasons, followed by Dan Dailey in The Governor & JJ, and, in between, Get Smart moved from NBC to CBS to finish its run.

He & She merits a B.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Musical Interlude: Little Jeannie (1980)

I had this one up before, but it got booted by YouTube, and brought back, so here it is again.

"Little Jeannie" was Elton John's last single for MCA during his first run there, as he left for Geffen the following year, only to return to MCA in 1987. Those of us who heard the song during the summer of '80 definitely could find lyrics to fit any woman not named Jeannie, too.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What Might've Been: Dear Phoebe (1954)

To most, Peter Lawford was one of the "Rat Pack", with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, et al., but he'd had a pretty decent run in television. It just wasn't as successful as the rest of the gang.

Lawford's 1st series was a 1-year sitcom, Dear Phoebe, which aired in 1954. Lawford played a newspaper columnist who wrote an advice column, from whence we get the show's title. Yes, he was writing a column supposedly being written by a woman. Awkward, no?

The TV show which Lawford is most associated with, of course, was an adaptation of The Thin Man, and we'll get to that another time. Here, then, is the intro:




Rating: B-.

Sports this 'n' that

It's another lost football season for the fans in New York City. The Giants (3-9) and Jets (2-10) will be sitting home when the playoffs start next month, but there will be some organizational changes to be sure.

Giants: It will be a miracle if the Giants actually retain Tom Coughlin for a 12th season as coach. QB Eli Manning's skills have become schizophrenic. One week he's up, the next, he's picking himself off the turf after being sacked or dropped a few times by the opposing defense. You can make a case, though, that he has regressed, as witnessed by the two dozen interceptions last year, but injuries to key players (i.e. Time Warner Cable pitchman Victor Cruz) haven't helped. At least Eli didn't sign on for any more Toyota ads. Instead, he's part of the NFL group doing those "No More" spots for Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation.

Big Blue should've seen this coming after the defections of defensive stars Osi Umenyiora (Atlanta) and Justin Tuck (Oakland) the last couple of years. If there's going to be a fall guy if Coughlin stays, it's likely defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and/or offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. Why the Giants let Kevin Gilbride walk (to NBC Sports Network) after last year remains a mystery, and one of the most dimwitted decisions in team history.

Jets: Rex Ryan knows he's done after six years, and if we're lucky, he can take professional saboteur John "Idiot" Idzik with him. Idzik deliberately botched the last two drafts, with an eye toward getting rid of Ryan and bringing his own coach in, reportedly Seattle assistant Dan Quinn. Problem is, Idzik, who is about as telegenic as a tree stump (Peyton Manning is a few steps higher, but not too high), has to go, because the 2-10 record is his fault more than Ryan's. The Jests will play out the string vs. Minnesota, New England, and a rematch vs. Miami, among other things. Not an easy one in the bunch.

Does Geno Smith have to take the fall, too? Some say he began to regress before he graduated from West Virginia, and Idiozik had no patience to let Smith carry a clipboard for a season while Mark Sanchez (now in Philadelphia) recovered from an injury in 2013. Matt Simms (Phil's kid) has the bloodlines, but not the trust of Idiozik or Ryan, and should've gotten more playing time last year than he finally got.

Here's where it gets wacky. The tabloid press is claiming either the Jests or the Giants should make a play for San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, since it seems he's almost surely a goner after this season. There's better money on Harbaugh going back to the college ranks, like, for example, his alma mater, Michigan. If I'm Woody Johnson, the Jests' owner, I'd offer Smith, 2 draft picks, and a case of baby shampoo to the Niners for Harbaugh. If I'm John Mara, I'd offer Eli Manning, Perry Fewell, two draft picks, and a partridge in a pear tree. Seriously, though, Harbaugh's not going east, if he's going anywhere at all. Former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo would be happy to return to the Meadowlands to take over the Giants OR the Jests, for example.

For those of you who think Florida State's Jameis Winston will declare for the draft after this season, you----and he----are fools. He's not mature enough to play the pro game just yet, and his Houdini act every week is getting tiresome. Of course, we could recommend a therapy course for Winston, but then, one of those relentless Law & Order: Special Victims Unit marathons might be helpful, too......

Can someone do us all a favor and take Stephen A. Smith, the poor man's Howard Cosell, and Mike Francesa, who's doing Bullwinkle's "Mr. Know-It-All" schtick worse than B. J. Moose used to back in the day (listen to his radio show, and you'll know what I mean), and chain them to a dead cactus? Those two might be the cause of most people's migraine headaches, for all we know.

While we're at it, can someone finally find it in themselves to call out Scott "20 Mule Team" Boras for what he really is? He's not a sports agent. He's a con artist. Owners are tiring of his act, but it goes on, because there aren't enough of them who can see through him. He'll string out free agent pitcher Max Scherzer (late of Detroit) as long as he can until someone gets stupid enough to fall for his con. As if that worked for Stephen Drew & Kendrys Morales last year, and it didn't.

Next thing you know, Boras will claim the USA Network series, White Collar, should've been about him.

High school basketball season is just starting, but you wouldn't know it by the lack of pre-season press. My alma mater, Troy High, has their home opener tonight, but not a shred of ink in the local papers. They're playing an independent schedule this year, with the demise of the Big 10 league in the home area. That means playing bigger, tougher teams, which could eventually mean getting the attention of certain cable networks that have a phobia about the northeast. Searching online for information isn't helping.


Countdown to Christmas: Do You Hear What I Hear (1963)

I first heard the song, "Do You Hear What I Hear" on one of those compilation LPs that WT Grant's used to release during the Christmas shopping season. In fact, I had two of those LPs as a youth. One version was recorded by John Gary. The other? How about the incomparable, inestimable Der Bingle himself, Bing Crosby.

Appearing on his buddy Bob Hope's show two days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Crosby performed "Hear", with pre-recorded background vocals and instrumentals. "Hear" has been covered many times over since, most notably by the late Whitney Houston on "A Very Special Christmas" nearly 25 years after this performance.......


Monday, December 1, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: The Voice of Christmas (The Brady Bunch, 1969)

Here's a Christmas treat from The Brady Bunch & Hulu:

Carol (Florence Henderson) comes down with laryngitis right before a Christmas pageant. Now, that's no way to prepare for the holidays, is it now? Here's "The Voice of Christmas":




This episode was repeated every year during the series' run, as memory serves, and why not?

Rating: A-.

You wanna talk about fake boxing? Mickey Rourke has nothing on the Three Stooges

We all know that actor Mickey Rourke has moonlighted as a boxer during his long career. At 62, at an age where perhaps only George Foreman would be the only other fighter to get a license, Rourke traveled to Russia for an exhibition, and scored a 2nd round TKO.

Problem is, according to England's Daily Mail, the opponent, despite his experience in the ring, was a homeless man who was paid to take a dive. While this cannot be proven or disproven at this point, leave it to a British tabloid to throw cold water on Rourke's latest fight.

However, 80 years ago, the Three Stooges exposed the seamier side of the sweet science in the comedy, "Punch Drunks". You'll see what I mean:



In the wrestling business, a staged fight is called a work. Does anyone actually believe Rourke's fight was just that?

"Punch Drunks" gets an A.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

What Might've Been: The Persuaders! (1971)

For all of his accomplishments in Hollywood, Tony Curtis took up television late in his career. Starting with a guest appearance on The Flintstones (as Stoney Curtis) in 1965, Curtis began taking more of an interest in the small screen, and landed his first series in 1971, ITC's The Persuaders!, in which he co-starred with Roger Moore (ex-The Saint), still a few years away from his first role as James Bond.

Curtis played Danny Wilde, a New Yorker who enlisted in the Navy to escape the slums, then became a nillionaire investing in oil. Lord Brett Sinclair (Moore) was a race car driver who had little success on the track, but had his own fortune to fall back on. The two met in the French Riviera and at first weren't exactly pals, getting into a fight. A retired judge (Laurence Naismith) hires them on as special agents to solve crimes that the police can't. Not quite like Department S or The Champions or any of ITC's other adventure series not named The Saint or Danger Man. Predictably, the series, airing on ABC here, lasted just 1 season, and marked the end of ITC's era of adventure, which, they claimed, began with Danger Man in 1960.

Curtis would land a couple more series gigs, but his only other starring vehicle was another 1 year wonder, McCoy, as part of the NBC Mystery Movie, before joining the cast of Vegas.

Here's the opener:



Suffice to say, you'd be hard pressed to find a cabler willing to take a chance on this or any other ITC 1-year series today, but it is available on DVD, at least in the UK.

Rating: B.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Classic TV: Bowling For Dollars (1976)

The concept of Bowling For Dollars actually goes back to the early 70's, but we're focusing on the New York version of the show, which lasted a few years in the 2nd half of the 70's.

What you might not know is that the franchise, which had different hosts in each city, was the brainchild of Bert Claster, the man who was also behind Romper Room, so it stands to reason that some of the same stations  (i.e. WOR in NYC) had both Romper Room and Bowling For Dollars. Like, how cool is that?

Anyway, WOR hired WHN DJ Larry Kenney as their host. Kenney might be better known for his later cartoon work (i.e. the original Thundercats), but back then, he was a big name in the Big Apple. My folks and I would sit and watch every night, since bowling was the one sport we all played. Scope out a sample episode, one I've previously posted over at Saturday Morning Archives.




It's just too bad no one in the Albany market was willing to try this concept out. But, by then, Romper Room had lost its local affiliate, and.......!

Rating: A.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Moron TV: Now [adult swim] is parodying infomercials------badly (2014)

Normally, I'd reserve anything connected to [adult swim], Cartoon Network's loopier "sister network", for Saturday Morning Archives, but since the following isn't animated, we'll cover it here, and give it the lambasting it deserves.

These days, [adult swim] has resorted to making mock infomercials to fill time. As if the real ones weren't enough of a blight on our society as it is. Unfortunately, the parodies are even worse. Take In Search of Miracle Man, for example. It's one of two mockfomercials that tweak the viewers with religious sensibilities (ye scribe included). Like, it's clear that this "Miracle Man" is meant to be a parody of Jesus.

I tried watching this On Demand, and bailed a couple of minutes in. Try watching this, and you'll see why......




There's also something about a "Book of Christ", which Jesus Himself supposedly wrote. I'm sorry, jabronies, but leave the comedy writing to people who actually know how to write.

Rating: F.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Musical Interlude: All You Get From Love is a Love Song (1976-7)

The Carpenters scored a modest Top 40 hit in the winter of 1976-77 with "All You Get From Love is a Love Song", which some folks might mistakenly refer to as "Dirty Old Shame", which starts the chorus.



Karen Carpenter left us too soon. Period.

Monday, November 24, 2014

On DVD: The Halls of Ivy (1954)

Not long ago, we reviewed the radio version of The Halls of Ivy, starring the husband & wife team of Ronald & Benita Colman. Now, let's take a look at the short-lived television version.

Halls lasted just 1 season, with Ronald Colman doubling as executive producer in addition to reprising his role as Professor William Todhunter "Toddy" Hall. Future icons Mary Wickes, better known for later roles in Dennis The Menace and The Father Dowling Mysteries, to name two, played the Halls' housekeeper, while Ray Collins, a couple of years away from Perry Mason, was a professor.

Complete episodes aren't available on YouTube, so we'll settle for this compilation put together by Doug Quick:




While shows set in high schools (i.e. Our Miss Brooks) thrived on both radio & television, Halls, due to its being set in college, slightly higher up the educational ladder, failed because of trying to emulate the success of Brooks, as well as its radio precursor.

Rating: B.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Classic TV: Alice (1976)

Back in the day, CBS had a pretty decent comedy block on Sunday nights, which featured The Jeffersons, Archie Bunker's Place, One Day at a Time, and our next subject, Alice.

Spun off from the 1974 film, "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore", Alice enjoyed a 9 year run (1976-85), and I'd venture a guess that more people remember the series than they do the movie.

Widow Alice Hyatt (Linda Lavin, ex-Barney Miller) is en route to Los Angeles to pursue a singing career, but her car breaks down, forcing her and her son, Tommy (Philip McKeon) to settle in Phoenix, where Alice finds a job as a waitress. Most of the episodes put an emphasis on the ensemble cast, which, when the series began, had only one holdover from the movie, that being Vic Tayback reprising his role as Mel Sharples, the grumpy but good-hearted owner of the diner.

Amazingly, there were only three waitresses in the diner, the two constants being Alice and neurotic, dimwitted Vera (Beth Howland). Brassy Flo (Polly Holliday) was the breakout star, meriting her own series after the 4th season. Problem was, the producers had trouble filling the void. Diane Ladd was brought in as a new character (she played Flo in the movie), and won a Golden Globe, but had off-air issues that led to an abrupt departure. Celia Weston then was brought in as Jolene for the rest of the series, which led to a minor crossover with WB stablemate Dukes of Hazzard in which J. D. "Boss" Hogg (Sorrell Booke) and Enos Strate (Sonny Shroyer) visited. Seems Hogg was a distant relation of Jolene's. There were a couple of regular customers frequenting the diner. Henry, a telephone repairman (Marvin Kaplan, ex-Top Cat), often complained about the food. Earl (Dave Madden, ex-The Partridge Family) was Tommy's basketball coach.

The series was last seen on Ion a few years back, but otherwise is sitting in the WB vaults, although it'd be a good fit for Me-TV now.

Following is the first season open. The theme, "There's a New Girl in Town", is sung by Linda Lavin.



Rating: A.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Celebrity Rock: WC Fields does Three Dog Night? (Naaaaaah!)(1970)

Ok, students, I'm going to play this track first, then tell you about it.



Paul Frees, who worked for just about everybody in Hollywood back in the day, found some time to cut a record for MGM in 1970. "Paul Frees & the Poster People" found Frees, impersonating WC Fields, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and others, covering hits by the likes of Three Dog Night, Dusty Springfield, and the Beatles, among others. The final track, a cover of BJ Thomas' "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" (from "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid"), is a Frees "jam" piece. To be honest with you, I didn't know about this album until just a few minutes ago, and decided to give it a shot. If this doesn't put a smile on your face, I don't know what will.

What I didn't know was that Eric Burdon & the Animals had recorded "Mama" first, in 1966. I had always thought it had been written for TDN (by Randy Newman).

We know the man can sing in his own voice, having done so in a couple of Rankin-Bass Christmas specials, so I doubt that this can be classified as "Golden Throat" material. What do you think?

Advertising for Dummies: Would you buy a car from an action figure? (2014)

The folks at Honda should've asked Michael Bolton for an encore.

Instead of bringing back the crooner for a 2nd season of "Happy Honda Days" ads, the automaker's ad agency decided to take a page from [adult swim] and use action figures to sell the cars this holiday season. Among the spokestoys are Stretch Armstrong, Strawberry Shortcake, the original GI Joe, who joins 80's cartoon songstress Jem, and Fisher-Price's Little People. Factor in Art Clokey's legendary claymation hero, Gumby, accompanied, of course, by Pokey, and this 80's villain.........



I guess they couldn't find the old villains home and contact Boris Badenov. Skeletor as a car salesman? What's next?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Classic TV (?): BJ & The Bear (1979)

BJ & The Bear preceded CBS' Dukes of Hazzard to the air by a month, but only lasted 2 1/2 years as opposed to Dukes' 6 year run (1979-85, 6 1/2 seasons). Go figure.

BJ McKay (Greg Evigan, ex-A Year At The Top) was a truck driver making his living taking jobs all over the country, and finding trouble and adventure at every turn. Aside from the last part, I can relate, since I had an uncle who drove a 18 wheeler for a prominent company back in the day. Digressing aside, BJ had frequent run-ins with corrupt sheriff Elroy Lobo (Claude Akins, ex-Movin' On), who became so popular himself, that he was spun off into his own series. Once Lobo left, BJ had a new nemesis in another corrupt lawman, Rutherford Grant (Murray Hamilton), who made Lobo look like a choirboy by comparison.

The final season not only saw the emergence of Grant, but also a team of female drivers, including Grant's own daughter, which put Grant at a moral crossroads. As a result, like Lobo before him, Grant would forge a temporary truce with BJ against a common foe.

Executive producer Glen Larson composed the show's theme song, sung by Evigan with an anonymous group of female singers.



Today, the show sits in Universal's vaults, not even airing on Cloo. Try figuring that one out. If Lobo's solo series could land a berth on Retro a couple of years back, why not BJ & The Bear? And whatever happened to Bear, anyway?

Rating: B.

Destination: Bargain Basement---TNA finds a new home that few have heard of



The text was originally published at www.2xzone.com on November 20.

An era ended on Spike TV (formerly the Nashville/National Network, or, TNN) on November 19. However, TNA's era of errors continues unabated by common sense.

Raise your hand if you've heard of Destination America, the new home for Impact beginning in January. All we know is that it's one of the Discovery Communications family of networks, but most people know Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery Family (formerly the Hub & Discovery Kids), and the Oprah Winfrey Network (formerly Discovery Health). Destination America? That sounds like a clone of the Travel Channel to me.

So, when TNA books Slamniversary in June, marking its 13th birthday, they will have been on 3 networks in the course of about 11 years, starting with a floating timeslot on Fox Sports Net, then 9 years and change on Spike, when they replaced the WWE, and now Destination America. Early rumors had them going to another Discovery network, Velocity, which in some cities is only available on the HD tier of your cable system. Heck, I had to do a search to see if my cable provider had Destination America, which they may just be adding in time for the addition of Impact.

The point is, insofar as I know, Destination America, or, DA for short, is in fewer homes now than Spike is. As usual, TNA went shopping in the bargain bin for a new deal. Once again, Dixie Carter demonstrated the business acumen of a blind mosquito. Then again, the fact that Fox wasn't interested in reacquainting themselves with TNA, despite the departure of founding father Jeff Jarrett, coupled with Spike, a Viacom network, deciding to get out of the wrestling business, left Dixie with few options. Time Warner wasn't interested, else TruTV, which is in more homes than DA, would've been a perfect fit. With WWE firmly wedded to NBC/Universal/Comcast, TNA wasn't going there without raising the ire of the McMahons.

Considering the questionable state of TNA of late,and the fact that one of their hottest heel characters, Ethan Carter III, the fictional nephew of Dixie Carter, is on the shelf with an injury, I'd not be surprised if we read in a year's time that TNA on DA ends up being DOA. TNA let Sting, AJ Styles, Frankie Kazarian, Mickie James, and Christopher Daniels walk, and Kurt Angle and Team 3D may be next, depending on negotiations. WWE can always dangle the carrot of a Hall of Fame berth, which Team 3D got last month at Bound For Glory, to bring Angle, Ray & Devon back, bringing Tommy Dreamer with them. WWE could do more for Dreamer's House of Hardcore promotion, given the sloppy way TNA did an angle with Dreamer over the summer in New York. Angle, in WWE's eyes, would be better suited not as a wrestler, since Vince McMahon had advised Kurt to retire 8 1/2 years ago, but as an administrator, the role he has now. Daniels & Kazarian are in Ring of Honor. Styles is floating between ROH & New Japan, and is the IWGP champ and a member of their NWO-esque faction, the Bullet Club, which just inducted one Jeffrey Jarrett into their ranks recently. Then again, Jarrett helped kill the NWO in WCW by joining in 2000 after it'd already jumped the shark. Maybe the Bullet Club is on its last legs.

What I'm trying to say is, quite frankly, TNA shot themselves in the collective foot again. Dixie's role models aren't the McMahons, whom she's tried to imitate, but, rather, classic bumblers like Wilton Parmenter (Ken Berry on F-Troop, nearly 50 years ago), and Inspector Clouseau of the "Pink Panther" movies (Peter Sellers or Steve Martin, take your pick). To borrow from the Climax Blues Band, TNA still "Couldn't Get It Right". A year from now, I may be writing their final epitaph. Watch & see.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Would you actually give a tip to the Joker? Or Cookie Monster?

If you live in or visited New York City, particularly in Times Square, you've probably seen them. Men & women dressed as familiar cartoon or television characters, such as Sesame Street's Elmo, or Minnie & Mickey Mouse, or Batman, or even one of the Dark Knight's nemeses, The Penguin or the Joker, offering to pose for pictures with tourists, and sometimes asking for, or, according to reports, demanding, tips.

Over the summer, some of these costumed, self-employed business-persons ended up in the news when some more aggressive types among their brethren got in trouble with the law. On Wednesday, one man dressed as the Batman, real name Jose Escalona Martinez, 41, testified before the NYC City Council that attempts to have these street performers register with the city is some kind of violation of their first amendment rights.

Now, I'm not exactly sure if what they do falls under free speech, but there is one question that I do have. Why doesn't the city see if they have licenses to appear in these costumes? After all, DC Comics, home to Joker, Batman, & Penguin, and Marvel, home to Spider-Man, are based in New York, and like anyone else, I would venture to guess that a street performer who is asking, or as the term goes, busking, for money, may require having a license to use the images of copyrighted characters. This particular issue has, to this point, not been raised, and maybe it should.

Unsurprisingly, the New York Post saw fit to have Martinez, in full Bat-regalia, circa 2005 ("Batman Begins"), appear on their front page in today's editions to give them a respite from the legal squabbles involving another cherished, now tarnished, icon, Bill Cosby. Can't blame them there, but if Martinez had any sense at all, he'd have left the costume at home. Some of his fellows opted to appear in civvies to plead their cases. Surely, DC/Time Warner and Marvel/Disney would have their lawyers contacting these folks already if things were worse than they are, wouldn't they? Of course they would.

Sure, these folks have to eat, too, but it'd be better for all concerned if they actually produced licenses and proper documentation before city officials. Otherwise, this could get ugly, and quickly.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Glen A. Larson (1937-2014)

We all remember Glen A. Larson as a prolific producer of television shows in the 70's & 80's, including yesterday's subject, Automan, as well as Switch, The Fall Guy, Knight Rider, Alias Smith & Jones, The Hardy Boys-Nancy Drew Mysteries, B. J. & The Bear, & the original Battlestar Galactica, just to name a few. But Larson, who passed away earlier this week at 77, was also a singer and a songwriter. Well, the writing part we knew about, since he composed some of the themes to his shows........

Larson's first meeting with fame came as a member of the vocal quartet, the Four Preps. The Preps' biggest hit, "26 Miles", peaked at #2 on the pop chart, and was co-written by Larson, who sang baritone. The Preps also regularly backed up Ricky Nelson on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, and made 2 appearances on the Saturday Beech-Nut Show, hosted by Dick Clark.

Following is a compilation of those appearances, with the Preps performing "Down at the Station" and "26 Miles". Seeing Clark made up as an old prospector, with beard, is worth the price of admission alone, since few of us have seen him as anything but clean shaven.



We will continue to showcase some of the shows from the Larson collection during the remainder of the week. Rest in peace, Glen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Might've Been: Automan (1983)

Inspired by Disney's "Tron", the late producer Glen A. Larson developed a sci-fi adventure series that was, admittedly, a bit ahead of its time.

Automan didn't get very far, airing on ABC during the 1983-4 season. In fact, the network held one episode off the air, and it would see the light of day a decade later on the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy). Simply put, it was another show airing on the wrong night of the week.

Desi Arnaz, Jr. starred as Walter Nebicher, who wanted to be out on the beat, but his superiors felt he was better suited working behind a desk, where he could utilize his computer skills. Well, he ended up giving his bosses a valuable secret weapon in Automan (Chuck Wagner). Scope out the sample video:



When your bosses are played by two veterans in Robert Lansing and Gerald S. O'Loughlin (ex-The Rookies), it should be a positive. However, Walter was set up as a put-upon underachiever who caught the biggest break of his life. Arnaz was never given another chance to step out from under the shadows of his parents.

Rating: B-.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

On The Air: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999)

Dick Wolf began his Law & Order franchise in 1990. As Law & Order itself was halfway through its 20 year run (1990-2010), Wolf added a second series, which is the only one keeping the franchise going.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has been an NBC fixture since 1999, though the series has moved around the schedule quite a bit in recent years. Not only that, but cable cousins Cloo & USA are playing the reruns into the ground with relentless marathons, especially on the weekends on USA. Then again, Law & Order was likewise played to death on TNT, and now on WE.

Second generation star Mariska Hargitay is the only original cast member left as we're now into season 16. Her character, Det.-Sgt. Olivia Benson, now has a new team to work with, as all the fan favorites have left in recent seasons, including Fin (Ice-T), and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni). Benson was promoted to Sgt. last season, after Capt. Don Cragen (Dann Florek) retired. The beat simply goes on. The stories, sometimes ripped from the headlines, cover recurring themes such as domestic violence, rape, murder, and child porn.

Hargitay is also the founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation, the group behind the "No More" ad campaign, which now includes some NFL players, including the Giants' Eli Manning. I'd not be surprised to see those ads air during current episodes of SVU. Here's a sample intro, from season 7 (2005-6):



SVU has attracted big name guests in recent years, including Carol Burnett and Robin Williams, the latter playing a villain in a turn similar to his film, "One Hour Photo". Luckily, I don't think we'll ever see tabloid magnets like the Kardashians ever appear, but then......

Rating: A.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Musical Interlude: Shake It Off (2014)

Nashville's loss is pop music's gain.

Taylor Swift made the decision to shift from country to pop, perhaps feeling she's done everything that needed to be done on the country charts. Her first full-on pop CD, "1989", already has two singles out. The first, "Shake It Off", was all over the place this summer. We already knew that Taylor was easy on the eyes, and she even looks great dressed as a ballet dancer.



With all the crossovers between the pop & country charts over the years, maybe Taylor thinks she can teach pop thrushes like Ariana Grande, who has become tabloid bait of late, a few things.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Classic Reborn: Make Room For Granddaddy (1970)

Danny Thomas had, you would think, settled quite nicely into being just a producer after his last series, alternately titled, The Danny Thomas Show or Make Room For Daddy, had ended in 1964. Thomas was teaming with Aaron Spelling, who came over from Four Star, and the two had a pair of modest successes, The Guns of Will Sonnett and The Mod Squad, the latter of which was on the air when Thomas returned to primetime himself in 1970 with the sequel to his seminal sitcom.

Make Room For Granddaddy continued the story of the Williams family, six years after the first series ended. Angela Cartwright had been available since Lost In Space ended two years earlier, for example. The funny thing is, the gang had gotten back together for a couple of reunion projects, the last of which, also titled, Make Room For Granddaddy, had aired on CBS in 1969. Thomas didn't like the timeslot the network offered him, and since he already had a business relationship with ABC through his partnership with Spelling, took Granddaddy there.

Sid Melton (Charley) came over from Green Acres, which was also in its final season. Sherry Jackson (Terry) only appeared in the opener, to drop off her son (Michael Hughes), leaving the lad in her parents' care. The fact that across the board, the networks were purging shows that were skewing older and/or rural areas, doomed Granddaddy, despite Thomas pulling out all the stops. His guest list included Diana Ross, Frank Sinatra, and, in this episode, from January 1971, Lucille Ball.



Thomas would have 1 more series, the sitcom, The Practice, a few years later, but that, too, was a failure.

No rating. I have no memory of seeing this show.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Moron TV: The Howard Stern Show (1990)

Radio icon Howard Stern first gave television a try in 1987, when he was approached by Fox suits about replacing Joan Rivers on their Late Show. He'd eventually appear on Hollywood Squares, filling in as an announcer/panelist for a week while regular announcer Shadoe Stevens subbed for host John Davidson. To say that Howard sleepwalked through that gig would be accurate, as he was lacking enthusiasm.

Fox had him shoot 5 pilot episodes, but plans for him to begin a regular one were scotched. Three years later, WWOR, based in New Jersey, and, ironically, now owned by Fox flagship WNYW, took a chance on Stern, and gave him a summer berth on Saturday nights. The Howard Stern Show lasted two years (1990-2), and gave viewers a visual version of the outrageous comedy skits Stern and sidekick Robin Quivers, and friends, did on radio. He parodied Squares and Dating Game, rebooting them with gay/lesbian themes. If you didn't get the joke, you were lost.

One skit that stood out was a parody of "From Here to Eternity", with MTV doll Martha Quinn in Deborah Kerr's role opposite Stern, who wasn't exactly Burt Lancaster, much less a teen idol-level leading man. I'll see if I can find it as a stand-alone skit. Meantime, scope the series opener, from 1990. As the disclaimer says, viewer discretion is advised.



According to executives at WWOR, money is what led them to cancel the show. In other words, it was getting too expensive to produce, and, not only that, it was now in syndication, too. Stern would sign with E!, first for an interview series, then video repurposing, albeit edited, of his morning radio show. The latter lasted 11 years before Stern ended his run at WXRK, and went to satellite radio.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's official: Vince McMahon has lost his mind. Grumpy Cat on Raw?!?

Part of the WWE's mission statement is to put smiles on people's faces. But can they get a certain cat to smile?

That seems to be the idea behind the latest sweeps month stunt from WWE & USA Network. Grumpy Cat, one of the latest internet sensations, thanks, of course, to YouTube, will appear on Monday Night Raw on November 17. Grumpy, complete with perpetual frown, will likely get the attention of the women, but not so much the men, though that remains to be seen. The cat will also be the subject of a Lifetime Christmas TV-movie next month, and has already made the rounds of talk shows, including Anderson Cooper's now-defunct daytime show last year........



I just don't see the value. If you didn't think WWE Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon had lost his mind before, well...........

Monday, November 10, 2014

Classic TV: The Streets of San Francisco (1972)

After bombing with Dan August in 1971, Quinn Martin sold another crime drama to ABC the next season, and this time, gave the network another tentpole.

The Streets of San Francisco, based on a novel by Carolyn Weston, lasted 5 seasons, and introduced second generation star Michael Douglas to viewers. Douglas played Inspector Steve Keller, a junior partner to fellow Inspector Mike Stone (Karl Malden). The format was the usual Martin cookie cutter of the period, but the hook was that kickin' theme music, composed by Patrick Williams. At the time of its launch, Streets wasn't the only crime drama set in San Francisco. NBC had Ironside, and, if memory serves me correctly, Rock Hudson's McMillian & Wife, also on NBC, was set in San Francisco, as well.

Today, Me-TV holds the rights, and airs the series as part of a crime drama block on Sundays.

Here's the intro:



Douglas left the show after the season 5 opener, which was a transitional episode in which Douglas was given "special guest star" status, clearing space for Richard Hatch (ex-All My Children), whom network suits were pretty high on. After Streets ended, Hatch moved on to the original Battlestar Galactica, which we'll discuss another time.

Rating: B.

Musical Interlude: Quarter to Three (1961)

Gary US Bonds scored a huge hit with "Quarter to Three", all the way back in 1961.



Nearly 20 years later, Bonds would have his last Top 40 hit, with the Bruce Springsteen-penned "This Little Girl". However, most fans still regard "Quarter" as his most successful hit.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Classic TV: Space: 1999 (1975)

In some respects, Gerry & Sylvia Anderson's Space: 1999 marked the end of an era. The Andersons ended their professional and personal partnership after the 1st season, ultimately divorcing, and when the series ended after 2 seasons, it would be the last live-action project Gerry Anderson would undertake.

Space: 1999 would be what amounts to the British answer to Star Trek, but in reality, it's basic concept has more in common with another American franchise that bowed after it ended---Battlestar Galactica. Space: 1999 begins on Moonbase Alpha, which explodes in the first episode. The remains spiral out of orbit, but not in such a manner that those on the base are in any real mortal peril. Like Trek, the survivors on the base meet beings from other worlds. Like the later Galactica, they would begin searching for a new home.

Lord Lew Grade, ITC's head man, personally selected the husband and wife duo of Martin Landau & Barbara Bain (ex-Mission: Impossible) to star as Commander John Koenig and Dr. Helena Russell. Another 60's icon, Barry Morse (ex-The Fugitive) joined them only for the first season. Morse had worked for ITC before, acting alongside Gene Barry in the short-lived The Adventurer a few years before Space: 1999. Grade made the casting decisions over the objections of Sylvia Anderson. When she & Morse left after the first season, Grade brought in veteran writer-producer Fred Freiberger, whose resume was as diverse as you could possibly imagine. Freiberger had worked on Trek, as well as The Wild, Wild West, and spent some time at Hanna-Barbera, where he developed Korg: 70,000 B. C., and before that, tried his hand at writing cartoons, particularly, Josie & the Pussycats in Outer Space, which, in effect, was a Trek parody.

Also piping aboard in season 2 was Catherine Schell as the shape-shifting Maya. Schell had guest-starred as a different character in season 1, but with Freiberger putting more emphasis on action and adventure, Schell took center stage, and I could swear at least one of the crew had fallen for Maya during the season.

There was also a comic book tie-in, as Charlton published a black & white magazine based on the series. You'd be hard pressed to find mint condition issues today.

Right now, let's take a look back at the series opener, "Breakaway":



We previously documented that Space: 1999 rose from the ashes of an earlier Anderson entry, UFO, and it certainly established its own legacy. The series marks its 40th anniversary, officially, anyway, next year, but consider that it took two years to get the series on the air in the first place!

Rating: B+.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Musical Interlude: Shock the Monkey (1982)

"Shock The Monkey" is one of Peter Gabriel's weirder, more surreal videos. If ya don't believe me, scope it out.



32 years later, I still don't get the facepaint on Gabriel, or the significance of the different colored suits he wore.

Weasels of the Week: Alex Rodriguez and the Parents Television Council

Yep. They're ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-ack!

The self-appointed media nannies, the Parents Television Council, came out of hibernation earlier this week to do what they do best, whine and complain about how a network schedules programming. In this case, it was ABC's dopey idea of slotting It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown directly in front of their adult drama, Scandal, which, according to reports I've read, has been a target of the nannies before. President Tim Winter complained that, with the way the networks compress and/or edit closing credits these days, kids were subjected to less than a minute of a steamy scene on Scandal coming right out of the cartoon. A sensible parent would've already put the kiddo's to bed at the last commercial break. That's what my folks did when I was little. Anyway, Winter and his minions are griping just to remind us they're still around. Do us a favor, Tim. Go away, and take a box of Weasel ears with you.

And, then, there's A-Roid.

Alex Rodriguez was reinstated onto the Yankees' roster last week, after the World Series had ended. Like, do they really expect him to be ready to play next season? Give me a break. The reason A-Roid gets the Weasel ears, plus a tail and a snout, to boot, is the revelation that, yep, he did use PED's after all while playing for the Bombers, meaning he'd lied to Katie Couric and everyone else a few years ago. He also paid his equally weaselly cousin,  Yuri Sucart, nearly a million dollars to keep his mouth shut. Sucart was really only looking for the money anyway, like any gold digging leech.

Let's face facts, people. Rodriguez is damaged goods, and the Steinbrenner brothers would be better served cutting bait and cutting A-Roid before next season, and see if anyone's stupid enough to take a chance on him. He's nearly 40. He's past his prime, assuming he really had one without the drugs. He has 1 ring (2009), and thinks he can help the Yankees get back in the playoffs? Nothing says pipe dream more than that, folks. Cooperstown won't be calling him anytime soon. Neither should the Bronx.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Musical Interlude: It's Mighty Dark to Travel (1968)

I've documented before that I was raised on country music. I wasn't really that big on bluegrass, though, but, then, as I was growing up, the local country radio stations were only playing bluegrass in short blocks on the weekends, which I think they still do.

David Akeman, or, to use his stage name, Stringbean, had been a regular on Hee Haw during the CBS years (1969-71), and maybe a wee bit into its syndicated run before he was killed. What most of you probably don't know was that Stringbean was quite proficient as a country singer, particularly in bluegrass as a banjo player. I think it was after Stringbean passed on that the producers gave another bluegrass veteran, Grandpa Jones, more time with his banjo. Digressing. Anyway, here's Stringbean, a year before Hee Haw, mind you, appearing on the Wilburn Brothers Show to cover Bill Monroe's 1944 opus, "It's Mighty Dark to Travel":

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What Might've Been: The Champions (1968)

A trio of secret agents are bestowed with enhanced senses and other powers by an equally secret tribe in the Himalayas. Such was the concept of ITC's 1968 series, The Champions. Unfortunately, the series lasted just 1 season, and aired in the US on NBC.

Most audiences are familiar with Stuart Damon from his later work on General Hospital, but this was his first series. Damon had also appeared in a production of Cinderella with Lesley Ann Warren, as memory serves. Here, he plays Craig Stirling, a pilot and agent for the multi-national agency, Nemesis. William Gaunt & Alexandra Bastedo co-star.

How the Nemesis agents became The Champions is explained in the opener, "The Beginning":



As we've documented, very few ITC series lasted more than a year (The Saint & Danger Man, aka Secret Agent, being two exceptions of note). To be honest with you, I haven't been able to fathom exactly why.

No rating.

Old Time Radio: The Halls of Ivy (1950)

While Eve Arden & Gale Gordon were making audiences laugh at high school follies on Our Miss Brooks, the husband and wife team of Ronald & Benita Colman took aim at college life with The Halls of Ivy, which lasted two years (1950-2), sponsored by Schlitz Brewing. Appropriate choice of sponsor, no?

Ivy is both the name of the small college where William Todhunter "Toddy" Hall (Ronald Colman) was the President, and the name of the town where the show was set. The Colmans had demonstrated a flair for comedy with frequent appearances on The Jack Benny Program, and, unsurprisingly, Benny would later return the favor and appear as himself on Halls. The cast also included radio veterans Willard Waterman (The Great Gildersleeve), Bea Benaderet, and Alan Reed, the latter of whom played an English professor.

Two years after the series ended, Halls was resurrected as a TV sitcom, produced by England's ITC, but lasted just 1 season, with Ray Collins (later of Perry Mason) replacing Waterman. We'll deal with the TV show another time. Right now, here's the episode, "The Stolen Gift":



It seems that when Hollywood tries to convert a radio sitcom set in high school or college to television, something gets lost in the translation, as very few succeed in the video medium. The TV version of Our Miss Brooks is one exception. Halls was not.

Rating: B.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Those good ol' boys are back again! (2014)

The Dukes of Hazzard turned 35 this year. To mark the occasion, the folks at Auto Trader.com got Bo & Luke (John Schneider, Tom Wopat) back together for an ad campaign. The familiar theme song, "Good Ol' Boys", plays in the background, sung by Shooter Jennings, whose father, Waylon, recorded the original version back in 1979, and narrated the original series (1979-85), even making an on-camera appearance or two.



Now, let's see if some genius tries to revive the series for television this time.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Creepy TV: The Evil Touch (1973)

In the early 70's, US audiences were getting acquainted with programs based on British shows, and there were still some imports from England (i.e. The Persuaders). But there was more from the UK.

The Evil Touch was the first series produced in Australia that wasn't a cartoon or aimed at children to hit American screens. Wikipedia claims that it aired on NBC, but I have no memory or record of the series airing on any of the American networks. Locally, the then-NBC affiliate did have syndication rights to the show, and aired it on various days, usually on Sunday afternoons.

Distinguished actor Anthony Quayle served as host. The episodes, based on the copyright at the end of the closing credits, appeared to have been produced in 1972, but went to air a year later globally. I think what the producers wanted was to develop a series similar in style to a NBC series from the 60's, Thriller, hosted by another British screen legend, Boris Karloff. However, Touch lasted just 1 season to Thriller's 2.

Following is a sample open/close to an episode headlined by Harry Guardino (The New Perry Mason).



Australian shows would be imported to the US sporadically (i.e. Prisoner: Cell Block H), but few have been successful. At least they have something in common with the ITC & Thames imports from England.....

Rating: B.

On the Air: Constantine (2014)

11 years ago, Warner Bros. attempted to adapt DC Comics' snarky British mystic, John Constantine, to the big screen. Problem was, its star, Keanu Reeves, hot off the "Matrix" trilogy of films for the studio, couldn't be bothered to adopt a British accent. Same problem, for all intents & purposes, doomed "Bram Stoker's Dracula" in 1992. Reeves didn't want to dye or bleach his hair, either, and so, Constantine came off, based on what I've been told, as a generic Reeves character. I'm not even sure Reeves even bothered with reading any comic books.

Fast forward to now. DC & WB are trying again, this time with a TV series for NBC. Matt Ryan (ex-Criminal Minds) has the right look and captures Constantine perfectly. The only quibble lies in the writing.

Here's a sample clip:



I'm not really thrilled with Constantine having a guardian angel (Harold Perrineau, ex-Lost), because I don't think he has one in the books. What he does have, however, is an on-again, off-again relationship with DC's sexy sorceress, Zatanna, so one wonders if we'll see her appear on this show.

What sets Constantine apart from DC's other series is its creative pedigree. No, I don't mean Constantine's creator, Scottish writer Alan Moore, who has disowned everything he's done associated with Marvel & DC, it seems, but rather, producer David S. Goyer, who has some serious cred with comics fans thanks to the "Blade" trilogy of films, and his contributions to "Dark Knight Rises" & "Man of Steel" the last two years. What this says is that Constantine may play closer to its source material than Arrow, The Flash, & Gotham, rather than dwell in a pocket universe like those shows. Either that, or Goyer will develop his own world. Manny, the angel, seems to be a step in that direction.

History tells us that placing a fantasy/horror series on Fridays at 10 (ET) is risky at best (i.e. the original Night Stalker, last year's Dracula). NBC is hoping Constantine can retain the audience from its lead-in, Grimm. We'll see soon enough.

Rating: B.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

On the Air: Lucha Underground (2014)

Vince McMahon thinks WWE has no competition. Hollywood producers Mark Burnett (Survivor, "Son of God") and Robert Rodriguez ("Sin City: A Dame to Kill For", From Dusk 'Til Dawn) intend to prove him wrong once and for all.

Rodriguez's El Rey Network, launched late last year, is home to a new wrestling promotion, a collaboration with Mexico's AAA promotion. Lucha Underground bowed Wednesday night, 3 weeks later than originally planned, for reasons known only to Rodriguez and his partners at El Rey. Suffice to say, the opener offers some promise of things to come.

It's been described as a cross between pro wrestling, as we know it, and the movie, "Fight Club", especially with the way the show is filmed, rather than videotaped, in some segments. Yes, there is a master villain, in figurehead owner Dario Cueto, who showed his true colors in the climax to the opener. The roster is filled mostly with AAA wrestlers from Mexico, including Blue Demon, Jr., and some names familiar to American audiences, including Chavo Guerrero, Jr., whose resume includes stops at WCW, WWE, & TNA, as well as Puerto Rico, carrying on the family tradition. Johnny Mundo is the former John Morrison (real name: John Hennegan), who spent nearly a decade with WWE before being released in 2011. While it's claimed that he hadn't wrestled in 3 years, that isn't true. He'd worked some indies in his native California, including Family Wrestling Entertainment, which also boasts play-by-play announcer and former wrestler Matt Striker (another WWE alum) on their roster as well. Striker is paired with Vampiro, unrecognizable with a shaved head and no makeup from his days with WCW and the ill-fated Wrestling Society X.

Following is a brief trailer, narrated by former WCW & TNA star Konnan, with some comments from Mundo.



Episodes were taped weeks in advance, much like TNA & Ring of Honor currently do, and others before them. That's not always a winning proposition, especially in this era, when fans can hunt for "spoilers" online before the show airs.

Fortunately, El Rey has seen fit to air the series twice on Wednesdays, at 8 & 11 (ET), the better for folks to catch the show later in the evening if they've got other plans and can't DVR.

Rating: A-.

What defines a dynasty?

Baseball season is officially over.

The San Francisco Giants won their 3rd World Series in 5 years Wednesday, besting the Kansas City Royals, 3-2, to take the Series, 4 games to 3. There's no need to reiterate what's already been written and said about the game itself. Rather, we'd like to ask a simple question.

Is it fair to refer to the Giants, under manager Bruce Bochy, as a dynasty, after 3 titles in 5 seasons? Team of the Decade? Too early for that, obviously, since the decade isn't even half over, but a dynasty? Let's consider.

It wasn't that long ago that the last baseball dynasty was, of course, the Yankees, who won 4 titles in 5 years, 3 of them in a row, and reached the Series 6 times in an 8 year span (1996-2003) under eventual Hall of Famer Joe Torre. Under current pilot Joe Girardi, like Bochy a catcher in his playing days, the Yankees have only reached the Series once, winning it all in 2009. Right before the Giants began their run.

In the NBA, you've had Miami reach the Finals 4 straight years, winning 2 titles. Of course, they ended up losing the centerpiece of that run, LeBron James, when he decided to return home to Cleveland after the Heat were dusted by San Antonio in June. No one's anointing the Spurs as a dynasty, despite 5 titles during the Tim Duncan era. The 90's had Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The 00's started with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, and the Los Angeles Lakers, whose history dates back to the golden era of the NBA, along with ancient rival Boston. However, today's NBA isn't the same as it was back in the day. Not when it seems to be the same teams making the playoffs every year over and over again. The league markets individual stars, not teams. That, sadly, is the league's biggest problem. One they're in no hurry to cure.

The closest the NHL has to a dynasty right now are two teams. The Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks aren't exactly like the Montreal Canadiens of legend, or even the NY Islanders and Edmonton Oilers of the 80's. However, they have split the last 4 Stanley Cups. It's just a question of which one will prove more durable over the course of the next, say, 3 years.

In the NFL, the last dynasty is the league's Evil Empire, the New England Patriots, although the lustre has been tarnished of late. Crybaby Tom Brady and the Pats have lost their last two trips to the Super Bowl, but the only real reason that they're a perennial playoff team isn't how good they are, but rather, well, political in nature. In that regard, the NFL is no different than the NBA, giving certain teams and/or star players preferential treatment to ensure that the teams that the league feels their audience needs to see in the playoffs get there. It's almost as if those leagues are begging for Vince McMahon to buy into them. But do we really need him? Nope. The business model needs to change.

In Major League Baseball, you could make a case for the following:

Boston Red Sox: 3 titles in a 10 year span (2004-13) are counter-balanced by a lean period which has seen them in the "second division" 3 of the last 4 years, interrupted only by winning the title last year.

St. Louis Cardinals: 2 titles, and nearly a 3rd, between 2006-13. They lost to Boston last year, after beating Detroit in 2006 and Texas in 2011.

Detroit Tigers: Perennial AL Central champs, but have only reached the Series twice (2006, 2012), losing both times (Cardinals, Giants).

There is some fluidity, in that there are teams on the verge (i.e. Baltimore, both LA teams) of breaking through. What keeps teams like the Mets and Yankees away for now are a combination of age (especially the Yankees), injuries (especially the Mets), and excessive media scrutiny, just because they play in the biggest media center in the country, and in a city so spoiled by winning over the years that some citizens think it's a birthright. That creates undue pressure, especially on the Mets, who, despite 2 titles (1969, 1986) and nearly a 3rd (1973), are always perceived as being the #2 team in town.

The oddsmakers will waste everyone's time with "morning lines" for 2015 well before spring training begins, but fans' attention can be turned fully to football, hockey, and, as of this week, basketball. So we'll close and give our congratulations to the Giants. The next, most difficult task, of course, is repeating. We'll see if they can finally do that.