Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Classic TV: The Goldbergs (1949)

Several months back, I was doing some channel surfing, and happened across Jewish Life TV (JLTV for short), which has been home to a number of classic series from the 50's, and even has Soupy Sales' late 70's series often mixed in with his original show.

One of those hidden treasures, if you will, is The Goldbergs, spun off from the radio show of the same name, created by actress-writer Gertrude Berg, who launched the radio version 20 years earlier. Historians look at the radio show as both a sitcom and a soap opera. Go figure. The TV version, however, underwent a number of cast changes in the course of 7 seasons. Not only that, but it went through 3 networks (CBS, NBC, DuMont) before finishing in 1st-run syndication. It won't be confused with the current Goldbergs, airing on ABC, by any stretch.

Gertrude Berg tried a modest comeback in the 60's with The Gertrude Berg Show, aka Mrs. G. Goes to College, a sitcom from Four Star that failed to connect. After that series ended, Berg settled into retirement.

Following is the episode, "The Distinguished Guest":



Rating: B.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Musical Interlude: Ride Away (1965)

If you've seen that new GEICO ad with the "free roaming" chicken, you've probably heard the following song playing in the background.

"Ride Away" was recorded by Roy Orbison 50 years ago for MGM Records, but peaked at #25 on the pop chart. Of course, there's no official music video for "Ride Away", but we'll settle for a still of an album cover........


They say death comes in threes.......

This morning, I read of the passing of actress Jayne Meadows, widow of humorist and icon Steve Allen, at 95. Meadows collaborated with Allen on PBS' Meeting of Minds, which would be her last series gig, but well before that, it seems the producers of What's My Line? cooked up a wee bit of a surprise, back in August 1954, shortly after the Allens got married.......



The youngest of the Partridge Family, Suzanne Crough left Hollywood around the end of the 70's to start a family and a new life away from show business. Word came across the wires today that we had lost Suzanne at 52.

Meanwhile, pro wrestling lost another of its storied legends with the passing of AWA founder and former champion Verne Gagne at 89. Gagne had been suffering from dementia in recent years, and accidentally killed a man in the nursing home they shared. There will be some AWA footage over at Saturday Morning Archives in memory of Gagne.

Rest in peace.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Classic TV: Peyton Place (1964)

20th Century Fox adapted a fair number of their movies into television series in the 60's. In 1964 alone, there were at least three: 12 0'Clock High, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and our next subject, Peyton Place.

If you've ever wondered why Batman aired twice a week when it started in 1966, look no further than the success enjoyed by Peyton Place, which bowed in 1964, and aired twice a week as well for most of its run. The cast included Dorothy Malone, Mia Farrow, Ed Nelson, and Ryan O'Neal. Farrow left the series, and O'Neal eventually did, too, to pursue film careers.

In fact, this sample episode would be Farrow's last. You'll hear the familiar voice of Dick Tufeld (Lost in Space) as the announcer.




Several years after the series ended, Fox decided to revive Peyton----as a daytime soap. Return to Peyton Place aired on NBC for a few months, but as with most soaps, I doubt it's on DVD.

No rating.

Musical Interlude: Pain Lies on the Riverside (1991-2)

I was more into alternative rock in the early 90's, and one of the best bands from that period was Live. What got me interested was "Pain Lies on the Riverside", from their 1991 CD, "Mental Jewelry". It was the 2nd single from the CD, and it was all the motivation I needed when the band rolled into town to play at RPI in 1992. Frontman Ed Kowalcyk was recently in town on a solo acoustic tour, but the tickets were priced out of my range. Meh.

Let's go back to the 90's.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Classic TV: Love, American Style (1969)

Love, American Style was usually at the bottom of ABC's lineup during the course of its 5 year run (1969-74), largely due to the adult themes in some episodes. Nonetheless, reruns found their way into the network's daytime lineup during the early 70's, and, eventually, into syndication.

The anthology format used on the show was later perfected by Aaron Spelling for The Love Boat, augumented with unconnected story arcs weaving in and out of each episode, a tactic Spelling also used on Fantasy Island.

The Cowsills performed the show's theme the 1st season, but a studio band credited to musical director Charles Fox, took over with season 2. The theme won't be heard in this season 1 entry. Guest stars include Paul Winchell and Henry Gibson.



Love, American Style, however, is best known as being the home to a backdoor pilot for Happy Days. The episode was originally titled, "Love & the Television Set", but was changed to "Love & the Happy Days" for syndication. Curiously, while Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard, ex-The Andy Griffith Show) narrated the story, this device was not used when Happy Days went to series. As we all know, Harold Gould was the original Howard Cunningham, but due to film commitments ("The Sting"), Gould was unable to return for the series, opening the door for Tom Bosley to take over, and the rest was history. I believe Love also housed a backdoor pilot for Hanna-Barbera's Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home, which also starred Bosley.

Rating: B-.

On the Shelf: An old school Western, done Disney style, plus other musings

I meant to discuss this last time, and, well, as they say in the Old West, wal, ah plum fergot.

Marvel is adapting one of Disney's "Kingdoms", a thrill ride called Big Thunder Mountain Railroad into a 5-part miniseries, available now. I'm loving the old school feel to the artwork. Old school as in, of course, old school Marvel from way back in the day. Basically, it comes down to this. A millionaire's daughter decides to be a bit of a rebel and go adventuring, running into outlaws and the titular mountain.

But because Marvel can't help themselves, the series will be collected in a trade paperback about a week or three after the final issue, due in July, comes out. You'd think they'd wait it out a wee bit longer, but no. They ain't doing things the way they used to, and sometimes, that comes back to bite them on their corporate backsides.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad gets an A-.

Time for some retro reading. Just for kicks, I was in a second hand book shop earlier and snagged a copy of DC's Crisis On Multiple Earths trade paperback, which collects reprints of the original Justice League of America books from the 60's, particularly the annual team-ups with the Justice Society of America. Gardner Fox's scripts seem so easy to understand even today, compared to the present day editorial dictums that have DC & Marvel doing "event" storylines every year, failing to realize that while they're able to hook a few new, casual readers, older fans may be turning away because today's writers don't know how to write comics in its simplest form.

Conversely, looking at some of today's books, Mike Sekowsky's artwork doesn't hold up as well. In fact, when DC marked the original Justice League's 200th issue by revisiting the "origin" of the league in the winter of 1981-2, the horrific creatures that Sekowsky had created some 20 years earlier looked so much better rendered by the likes of George Perez.

We'll give Crisis on Multiple Earths a B-.

In advance of "Avengers: Age of Ultron", arriving in theatres next weekend, Marvel is putting out a special Avengers Magazine for free at comics shops. Reprints and rehashes of Avengers history and info that most older fans would know inside out and sideways. Plus some previews of other Marvel releases.

Rating: B--.

Over at Saturday Morning Archives the other day, I brought up Brian Michael Bendis' dopey decision to ret-con Bobby Drake, aka Iceman, as gay. As my brother reminded me last night when he visited, DC has created some original gay superheroes in the past (i.e. the New Guardians of the 80's had a gay member), but they didn't go over too well with mainstream audiences. In today's more tolerant society, why is it so hard to create a totally original gay character from scratch? Archie did it successfully with Kevin Keller 3-4 years ago, and it will be interesting to see how Kevin is used in the revamped Archie series come June. All DC & Marvel have done since the failure of DC's New Guardians is repeatedly reboot pre-existing characters, such as the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott, as gay for today's audience.

Let me give you another example. Police detective Renee Montoya was one of two female characters who crossed over into the mainstream DC Universe from Batman: The Animated Series in the 90's (Harley Quinn, of course, is the other). I remember reading that she had harbored a crush on the Batman, but then Gotham Central writer Greg Rucka, for some reason, decided that Renee would be gay, breaking the hearts of a lot of young boys, I'm sure. Renee has been portrayed this way on Gotham, but has been sparsely used in the second half of the season.

So what's the problem? The writers and/or editors at DC & Marvel are reluctant to organically create new gay characters out of fear that they might offend the very same audience they're trying to reach. Taking established characters such as Renee Montoya or Bobby Drake or, as Marvel tried a few years ago, the Rawhide Kid (Johnny Bart), and repackaging them as gays serves as a safety valve against the likely backlash from GLAAD or other groups.

The solution, of course, is simpler than you think. DC introduced a completely new gay hero, Bunker, in the pages of Teen Titans, not that long ago, so that says to me that maybe, just maybe, they did their due diligence and consulted with GLAAD. If they can, why can't Marvel do the same? If you know, tell me, and we'll both know.

Speaking of DC, we know that in the New 52, Wally West was rebooted as being of mixed race, which would in part explain why Joe & Iris West (Jesse L. Martin & Candice Patton) on The Flash were cast as African-Americans. Now comes word that a African-British actor has been cast for the "anthology" spin-off series as "Jay Jackson", which fans are seeing as a cover for possibly Wally or someone else, such as Static (not likely) or even Black Vulcan (from Super Friends), who was never established as having a dual identity previously. All we can say for now is, stay tuned.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Musical Interlude: Rhinestone Cowboy (1975)

40 years ago next month, Glen Campbell released "Rhinestone Cowboy", a cover of a 1974 song by its author, Larry Weiss, which failed to raise a ripple for Weiss, but topped the pop & country charts for Campbell.

Seems to me that Campbell's label, Capitol, was ahead of the curve by producing music videos well before it became fashionable. Judge for yourself.


Weasel of the Week: Tom Brady

The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, 2 1/2 months removed from a last-second win over Seattle, were honored at the White House on Thursday. All well and good, except for one thing. Quarterback Tom Brady, perhaps still feeling some resentment over the remarks made by a White House aide regarding the still-unresolved "Deflate-gate" scandal, refused to attend. His PR people claimed he had a previous engagement, presumably with supermodel wife Gisele.

Like, if you were Brady, and you won your 4th Super Bowl, wouldn't you drop whatever you had planned and hop on the chartered team jet and fly to Washington to meet the President? Of course you would. Even people like Darrelle Revis, who signed with the Jets a few weeks after the game, showed up. Presumably, Vince Wilfork and Stevan Ridley, who also left the Pats in the offseason, followed suit. Ah, but Brady, thin skinned as usual, decided to either be a prima donna or make people think he's a Republican, neither of which would be a good idea right now, and no showed.

You can make all the excuses you want, Tommy boy, but at the end of the day, you failed your team. Rare though it is, you made the wrong decision this time. For that, you get yourself a pair of Weasel ears. Wear them well, chump.

While we're at it, we will also retroactively award some Weasel ears to the White House flacks who decided that the 2014 NCAA men's hockey champs from Union College weren't worthy of meeting the President. They made the Dutchmen wait a year before making the announcement a few weeks back. Makes ya wonder if one of these jabronies had a hockey bracket that got busted by Union........

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Classic TV (?): Donny & Marie (1976)

I wonder if there was any sort of unofficial rivalry between Donny Osmond and the late Michael Jackson.

Jackson and his brothers landed an animated series, though they didn't lend their voices to their cartoon counterparts, in 1971. Donny and his brothers followed a year later. The Osmonds must own the rights to that short-lived series, since it hasn't seen the light of day since ABC took it off the air.

A few years later, the Jacksons were given a primetime variety show on CBS. See where this is going? In January 1976, Donny & Marie premiered on ABC, as the network strove to reclaim control of Friday nights, and outlasted The Jacksons by plenty. In all, Donny & Marie ran for 3 calendar years (1976-9), but by the time the series ended, it'd been rechristened, The Osmond Family Show, and if memory serves me correctly, it'd been moved to Sundays.

Originally, the Osmond family's production company co-produced the series with Sid & Marty Krofft, giving the Saturday morning icons, who'd once worked for Dean Martin, a return to primetime. The format was rather simplistic. There'd be ice skating skits, a healthy mix of country (Marie) and rock (Donny) music, and the usual cornucopia of celebrity guests, including unofficial series regular Paul Lynde (Hollywood Squares), who was spun off into his own Halloween special a year and a half later, also on ABC. Beginning with season 3, the Osmonds moved production out of Hollywood and to their new studios in Utah, ending their association with the Kroffts, who moved on to their last project for ABC, the ill fated Brady Bunch Variety Hour. Once that and Krofft Supershow were cancelled at the end of the 1977-8 season, the Kroffts said good-bye to ABC for good.

It can be said, too, that the success of Donny & Marie also led to the siblings' likenesses being used for a pair of Saturday morning cartoon characters who debuted in the comics in the spring-summer of 1977. I refer, of course, to the Wonder Twins (from Super Friends), who were modeled after Donny & Marie. Just take away the twins' pointed ears, and Jayna's ponytail, and, well, you get the picture if you're a serious comics fan.

Right now, let's take a time trip to January 1976, and the debut of Donny & Marie. Vincent Price and the aforementioned Paul Lynde are among the guests.




As we've previously documented, Marie moved to NBC in 1980, but her solo series didn't last too long. The sibs reunited for a talk show that ran for 2 seasons at the end of the 90's. Donny was last seen doing an infomercial, of all things. Marie tried another solo series, this one for Hallmark Channel, but that faded out a while back.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Forgotten TV: Whodunnit? (1979)

NBC experimented with a mystery/game show hybrid in the spring of 1979. Unfortunately, it might've been ahead of its time.

Whodunnit? was coupled with Highcliffe Manor on Thursday nights for about a month, as NBC was struggling to find hit series. Tonight Show announcer Ed McMahon served as host. McMahon was no stranger to game shows, having last MC'd Snap Judgment, a daytime game, in the 60's.

Unfortunately, complete episodes are hard to come by. We have just this sample clip, with guest star Eve Arden ("Grease") and panelists Barbara Feldon (ex-Get Smart) and Vincent Baggetta (The Eddie Capra Mysteries).




McMahon would recover from this failure and land another hosting gig, one that lasted for nearly a decade--Star Search.

Rating: C.

Out of the late night graveyard: ABC's Wide World of Entertainment (1973)

For years, CBS & ABC fought a losing battle for late night ratings against NBC's Tonight Show, especially during the Johnny Carson era (1962-92). Each network had tried their own talk shows. CBS recruited Merv Griffin, who soon found out his show was better suited to earlier hours, and, near the end of the Carson era, Wheel of Fortune MC Pat Sajak, whose short-lived talk show was previously reviewed. ABC tried out Joey Bishop, but had more success with Dick Cavett.

Unable to resist the temptation of trying again, ABC, in January 1973, began a late night checkerboard format under the title, ABC's Wide World of Entertainment, which included new Cavett interviews, plus comedy specials and other various items, including, beginning in 1974, reruns of primetime series, either their own, or acquired from other networks.

Unfortunately, the checkerboard format didn't work after all, and the block was laid to rest after 3 years, with ABC opting to stick with the reruns under the new title, ABC Late Night, though that wouldn't survive the decade, either.

Curiously, game show mogul Mark Goodson chose ABC, rather than CBS, and Wide World of Entertainment, for a 25th anniversary salute to What's My Line?, largely because its original moderator, John Daly, was moonlighting from his day job as a news anchor for----wait for it---ABC. What's My Line? At 25, with Goodson, Daly, & Arlene Francis, aired in May 1975.




Back in those days, of course, ye scribe couldn't stay up that late, so there's no rating.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What Might've Been: Cassie & Co. (1982)

Police Woman had been off the air a few years when NBC asked Angie Dickinson to return to primetime. Perhaps what sweetened the deal was the fact that Cassie & Co. came from Johnny Carson's production company.

This time, Angie's playing a private eye, who's taken over her husband's business. Unfortunately, scheduling the show on Tuesdays, against ABC's powerful comedy block, turned out to be a mistake, and the series was cancelled after 1 season.

I swear, the intro looks like the producers were looking to get Angie booked for a pantyhose commercial, since the camera focuses on her legs most of the time.........




Rating: C.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Modern Classic (?): SportsCentury (1999)

At the turn of the century, ESPN launched its own answer to Biography with SportsCentury, which not only profiled athletes, but historical events.

Chris Fowler, who ended his run as anchor of College GameDay last season, and will continue to call college football for the network, served as host/narrator. The success of SportsCentury may have prompted the New York Yankees, when they launched the YES network 3 years later, to create their own version, Yankeeography, with radio announcer John Sterling as host.

ESPN Classic, now a premium channel in some places, ran SportsCentury into the ground during its 8 years on the air (1999-2007), airing it on a nightly basis, trying to copy Biography on A & E. To give you some idea, here's a profile on Pete Rose.




Rating: A-.

Sports this 'n' that

Two weeks into the baseball season, and what have we learned?

For the 2nd time in 4 years, the Miami Marlins have so far failed to live up to expectations. Most pundits picked them to finish 2nd behind everyone's presumptive favorite to win the NL East, Washington. Instead, the Marlins are back in a familiar place, in the basement, after getting swept by the Mets. And who would've believed that the Mets, and not Washington, would be in 1st place, 2 weeks into the season, despite the usual spate of injuries and misfortune that seem to dog every move the team makes?

Think back to 2012. The Marlins signed away defending NL batting champion Jose Reyes from the Mets, and acquired pitcher Mark Buehrle from the White Sox. Miami finished last. Reyes & Buehrle are now in their 3rd season in Toronto, and even though the Blue Jays had a bad week, now in a tie for 4th in the AL East, there are those that do see them as a playoff contender this season. In 2015, Miami already is making a move toward youth, benching veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia in favor of rookie J. T. Realmuto. Dee Gordon went 5-for-5 vs. the Mets on Saturday in a losing effort. Were he still with the Dodgers, it probably would've been a win. The New York press is putting out the rumor that former Mets star Wally Backman, currently the manager of the Mets' AAA team in Las Vegas, would replace Mike Redmond if the Marlins continue to falter because of the impatience of owner Jeff Loria. Loria's wasteful spending has gotten the Marlins in this mess again, because he hasn't learned from the mistakes of his, ah, role model, the late George Steinbrenner.

Kevin Kernan, writing in the New York Post nearly 2 weeks ago, nailed it when he suggested this might be the Mets' new attitude. "Make a mistake, and we own you.", he wrote. Miami's Tom Koehler was the latest victim on Sunday. After skating through the first three innings, Koehler melted down and gave up all 7 Mets runs, making a winner out of Matt Harvey (3-0). Next for the Orange & Blue Brigade is a rematch with Atlanta, followed by part 1 of the 2015 Subway Series with the Yankees.

He may have been away for a year, but Alex Rodriguez is off to a suspiciously fast start for the Yankees, with 4 home runs through 2 weeks. Unsurprisingly, this raises a red flag, considering his history. Did he really need to use PED's all that time when natural ability should've been enough? Or is he so stupid to think no one would notice if he's still using? We don't know for sure, and it's still early. The Yanks are at .500 going into tonight's game vs. Detroit.

Just when you thought it was safe to read about NFL news before next week's draft, word comes from Philadelphia that Eagles coach "Tortilla" Chip Kelly has brought in Tim Tebow, last seen working for ESPN's SEC Network, likely to be little more than a Wildcat QB should he make the team. Rumors have the Eagles trading either 2013 1st round pick Matt Barkley or Sam Bradford, whom the Eagles picked up from St. Louis earlier this year, to make their draft position better, but do they really need to attract a media circus? Tebow has not played a regular season game since 2012 (Jets), and was last seen on the field with New England in the 2013 preseason, and was one of their last cuts. Unlike Rex Ryan, now in Buffalo, and Bill Belichick, Kelly is an offensive coach, and he probably figures Tebow can be plugged into his high energy offense. We'll know come summer.

We're used to the New York Rangers being in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It's been 21 years since they last hoisted the Cup, but they've been regulars in the tournament more often than not. Their 1st round series vs. Pittsburgh, a rematch from last year, is knotted at 1 going into tonight's game. Meanwhile, the real story is on Long Island, where the Islanders, in their final season in Uniondale, lead Washington, 2-1, after an overtime win on Sunday. It's been eons, it seems, since the Isles, who will play in Brooklyn next season, were in the playoffs, period. More than 30 years since their last Cup. Couple this with the early successes of the Mets and Yankees, and sports radio in NYC is off the charts.

We have to hand out a Dunce Cap to New Orleans coach Monty Williams for complaining about noise during a playoff game vs. Golden State. Unlike certain NFL teams, NBA teams don't need artificially enhanced crowd noise. Their arenas are a little more intimate in setting, and the acoustics work to the advantage of the home teams. Maybe he should use sign language and ear plugs.

Same goes for Masai Ujiri of the Toronto Raptors. How this Dunce is still employed by the team after dropping some expletives during a team rally, in listening distance of NBA commissioner Adam Silver, for the 2nd year in a row, is beyond me. All that says to me is that Toronto isn't long for this year's playoffs.



Musical Interlude: Fallen Angel (1988)

In the late 80's, "hair metal" was all over MTV like a cheap suit. You couldn't get away from it.

Poison was one of the bands at the forefront of the "hair metal" movement, and while some of their songs were the usual, there were some story songs that had deeper meanings.

"Fallen Angel" falls into this category. It tells the tale of a young girl who shocks her folks by deciding she's relocating to California to seek her fortune. She falls in with a sleazy modeling agent, but finds that to him, she's just another girl. Model-actress Susie Hatton was dating lead singer Bret Michaels at the time, and, so it's fitting, really, that it's Bret who shows up at the end of the video to give our wayward starlet-in-waiting a ride while another girl arrives with the same dreams. The cycle goes on.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Forgotten TV: Dog & Cat (1977)

During the summer months back in the day, networks often burned off shows that weren't good enough to air during the regular season. These programs often lasted anywhere from 6-10 weeks, then would fade back into the archives, never to be seen again.

One such case was Dog & Cat, which anchored ABC's Saturday night lineup in the summer of 1977. The term "Dog & Cat" was police slang for a male/female team of police officers. That being the case, you could say that, in the 80's, a better version came along in the form of Hunter (previously reviewed).

Dog & Cat was a sort of reward for actor Lou Antonio, his first starring role after years of guest roles on other shows, such as Star Trek (where he was famously paired with Frank Gorshin). Kim Basinger was a relative newcomer at the time, looking for her big break, which would come in movies a few years later.

There will be no rating, as I never saw the show, but mind the Italian voice over accompanying the intro. The video was uploaded by an Italian Basinger fan.





Musical Interlude: Eminence Front (1982)

Pete Townshend was in between solo albums when The Who got back together to record "It's Hard", released in 1982. While "Athena" was the 1st single and got most of the attention from radio, the first video from the band was "Eminence Front". If the backbeat sounds familiar, it should, since it's being used by GMC in their current ad campaign.

Mind the fact that Guitar Gods, who posted the video, enlarged the picture to avoid the copyright police.




Both Townshend and Roger Daltrey would release solo records the following year, and Daltrey would end up with a commercial endorsement with Anheiser-Busch (Michelob Light used his song, "Move Better With The Night", for an ad campaign.).

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Classic TV: Chico & The Man (1974)

Producer James Komack put himself back on the map beginning in 1974 with the debut of Chico & The Man for NBC. Komack, who'd acted, as well as writing and producing, on The Courtship of Eddie's Father, struck paydirt on his first try.

Komack had discovered Freddie Prinze (Chico) when the young comic appeared on The Tonight Show a year earlier, and developed Chico with Prinze in mind. Jack Albertson ("Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory") was cast as embittered garage owner and widower Ed Brown, who initially didn't want Chico Rodriguez around, but Chico saw something positive inside of Ed, and did some late night, ah,  maintenance work in the garage. Brown eventually was won over and hired Chico.

Halfway through the 3rd season, unfortunately, Prinze, suffering from depression, took his own life. Rather than end the series, Komack opted to work around the loss of his star, such that when the series was renewed for a 4th season, he opted to create a "new Chico" in 12 year old Raul (Gabriel Melgar). This also brought Charo on board as Raul's Aunt Charo. Della Reese became a series regular as well, to add additional veteran presence to Albertson and Scatman Crothers (whose animated series, Hong Kong Phooey, premiered the same year as Chico). However, the ratings, which started to decline after Prinze's passing, continued to tumble, and the show was finally cancelled.

After scattered cable runs, Chico now rests in the WB vaults. Try figuring that one out.

Following is a montage of opening & closings from seasons 1-3, plus excerpts from a season 2 episode with guest star Jose Feliciano, who plays Chico's cousin Pepe, giving Feliciano an excuse to perform the show's theme, which he co-wrote, and an excerpt of his cover of the Doors' "Light My Fire".




During its NBC run, Chico was perfectly placed on Fridays, in back of Sanford & Son. The idea being that while Sanford addressed racism from the African-American point of view, Chico offered the white POV. In a way, Chico and Lamont Sanford (Demond Wilson) had something in common.

Rating: A.

Friday, April 17, 2015

On the Shelf: A fox returns, and a new Batman is revealed

Archie Comics' Dark Circle line debuted Mark Waid & Dean Haspiel's second The Fox series on Wednesday, promising that this one will be an ongoing concern as opposed to the 5-issue miniseries issued in 2012-3. "Fox Hunt" has Fox (Paul Patton, Jr.) promising to retire after his latest adventure, but of course, things aren't meant to go smoothly. They never did. The only quibble, of course, is the fact that Archie raised their cover price for all their titles to $3.99 a few months back, and that won't help generate interest in their on-again, off-again line of in-house-created superhero books. Their latest incarnation of The Shield has been delayed to mid-June, so deadline problems continue to plague them.

The Fox gets a B.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina returns with its long-delayed 2nd issue. This was supposed to have been out in December, but writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, as we've documented, has been busy with the live-action Riverdale project for Fox, but in a letters-page memo, danced around the issue, giving readers a lame excuse for the 4 month delay between issues. His promise that this won't happen again rings a bit hollow, just like the story.

Rating: C.

Afterlife With Archie, oh by the way, is due to return next month. However, the question is whether or not the newly reminted Archie Horror line can retain its audience after the long delay.

Other news: Come June, DC Comics readers will be introduced to a new Batman, but unlike the last couple of times where Bruce Wayne has been shuffled off stage, Dick Grayson, too busy being DC's answer to James Bond these days, won't be donning the Batsuit. Instead, writer Scott Snyder threw the fanbase a major curveball by tying his latest idea to a certain Fox drama.

Yep, the new Batman, safely tucked into some high tech armor, is police commissioner James Gordon. To me, this reeks of Snyder cashing in on Gotham. We'll see in a couple of months if readers agree.

The proposed "Wonder Woman" movie at WB has had to change directors due to the dreaded "creative differences". Seems there was an idea about giving the Amazing Amazon a sidekick. More specifically, a pet tiger.

SAY WHAT???

Wonder Woman won't ever be mistaken for, say, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, but this illustrates how difficult it is to mount a feature film, much less a new TV show, without raising a few eyebrows. I suppose the tiger was thrown in so there'd be some toys to push. Fortunately, with a new director on board, the tiger is now out of the picture. We hope.

Saw a headline online that reported that NBC has, in fact, cancelled Constantine, rather than farm it out to SyFy for next season. Well, if it was airing at 8 (ET) all season instead of 10, we wouldn't be discussing this bad news, would we now? Who can say, really?

Current episodes of Doctor Who air on BBC America, but it was a major shocker the other day when it was announced that recent reruns with David Tennant in the title role would turn up on, of all places, DisneyXD. Could it be that the Mouse House has plans for the Doctor down the line? Marvel, now a Disney subsidiary, once had a license on the Doctor 35 years ago. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Death has been busy lately

I would be remiss if I didn't make note of a few passings over the last few days.

Actor Richard Dysart, best remembered by certain generations for his work in the 80's series, L. A. Law, passed away a week ago, as did humorist Stan Freberg. This week, we lost singer Percy Sledge ("When a Man Loves a Woman"), and comics legend Herb Trimpe, most closely associated during the 70's with The Incredible Hulk. Trimpe had been a regular at comics conventions here in the home district. Tony Isabella offers his personal recollections over at his bloggy thing.

It would be too easy to put up a clip of Sledge and his signature hit. Instead, we'll leave you with one of Stan Freberg's classics. "St. George and the Dragonet", a parody of Dragnet, featuring voice-over legends Daws Butler & June Foray, was recorded on Capitol in 1953. I don't know when this claymation video was released. One YouTube commentator suggested it might've been some early Art Clokey work, well before Gumby or Davey & Goliath.

Freberg got permission from Jack Webb to use the familiar theme song, "Danger Ahead", composed by Walter Schumann. Turned out Webb was a fan of Freberg's work. Freberg also influenced the man who for all intents & purposes would be the heir to his throne, "Weird" Al Yankovic.

Here's "St. George & the Dragonet":




Rest in peace, one and all.

On The Air: Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (1999)

It was a sensation when it arrived in the US right at the turn of the century. Today, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? is the 3rd longest running syndicated game show on the air, behind, of course, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, which have been around much longer.

Millionaire began as a primetime entity, airing almost on a nightly basis at one point, on ABC, which overmilked the ratings-boosting phenomenon a little too quickly. Talk show icon Regis Philbin hosted the ABC version during its 3 year run (1999-2002), but due to his daytime talk show, couldn't continue when the series moved to syndication in September 2002.

At that point, Meredith Viera (The View) was tapped to succeed Philbin. Having played the game certainly helped. During her run, Viera began a 4 year stint on NBC's Today (2007-11), concurrent with her Millionaire duties. After 11 seasons, Viera stepped down, and actor-comic Cedric the Entertainer (The Soul Man) took over. However, Cedric lasted one season, and was replaced by Terry Crews ("The Expendables", Brooklyn Nine-Nine) this season. It was reported earlier this week that Crews is stepping aside for The Bachelor's Chris Harrison this fall.

The game itself is rather simple, though it was tweaked 5 years ago for no other reason than to try to freshen the franchise.

Let's take a trip back in time with Regis, dating back to March 2001.




I haven't seen it since it went into syndication, but the above video represents what I remember.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On the Air: Superhero Fight Club (2015)

If you watched iZombie last night, you probably caught this short piece designed to hype up the final month's worth of episodes of The Flash & Arrow.

Arrow (Stephen Amell) leads Flash (Grant Gustin) to the "fight club", where there are no rules. Even villains get in on the action, and Atom (Brandon Routh, "Superman Returns") is late to the party.........



There will be a betting pool on whether or not producer Greg Berlanti will actually do a "Fight Club" episode of either Flash or Arrow next season.

Rating: B+.

Dunce Cap Award: Alfonso Marquez

The stereotype against baseball umpires is that they're "blind". That's not always true, but their senses do betray them from time to time.

Case in point is this week's Dunce Cap "winner", umpire Alfonso Marquez, who, perhaps unwittingly, went out of his way to try to tip Tuesday's Mets-Phillies game in favor of the visitors from Philadelphia.

In the 3rd inning, Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis was hit by a pitch from Mets starter Matt Harvey. Mets manager Terry Collins hemmed and hawed, but was late in calling for a challenge. As I understand it, since I didn't see the play live, it was one of those deals where the ball barely, if at all, grazed Galvis' shirt. Given that the Phillies have gotten the benefit of some dubious calls in New York in the past, this wasn't a surprise.

2 innings later, Marquez incorrectly called catcher's interference against the Mets' Travis d'Arnaud, awarding Ryan Howard first base. Replays clearly showed Marquez was wrong as wrong could be, but he refused to ask for help, which Collins apparently had asked for. Collins instead was ejected. The end result? The Mets won their 3rd straight game, 6-5. The arrogance of Marquez, refusing to seek a 2nd opinion, if you will, was just glaring.

The arbiter finally did something right, however, when he warned both benches after Chase Utley was plunked by Harvey. Utley, who has a reputation for leaning into a pitch to get hit, was cool with Harvey's old school approach. He finished the night going 3-3 with the HBP, 2 HRs, 2 runs scored.

Major League Baseball, like the other major sports leagues, doesn't usually allow game officials, such as umpires, to be made available for post-game interviews, unless it's something really major. It's time they stopped catering to the umpires' union and held the men in blue accountable for egregious errors in judgment. Marquez's lack of clear vision nearly cost the Mets the game. If he checked his ego at the door, he'd finally realize the game ain't about him or his fellow umps, and own up.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Classic Reborn (again!): Hollywood Squares (1998)

Hollywood Squares marks 50 years in 2016, so you'd think Sony would be on the watch to see if there's interest in bringing the legendary, star-studded, tic-tac-toe game back one more time. After all, it's been on in some form in each of the last 5 decades, the last incarnation being MTV's regretfully short-lived Hip Hop Squares, which MTV2 gave up on a couple of years back, due largely to airing in late night.

In 1998, Sony brought back Squares, 9 years having passed since the John Davidson era had ended. Actress-comedienne Whoopi Goldberg signed on as both the regular center square and as an executive producer, through her One Ho Productions. Tom Bergeron, formerly of FX's Breakfast Time, took over the MC's chair, with Shadoe Stevens (who'd been on Dave's World in the interim) back as announcer, only this time, Stevens remained in the announcer's booth.

However, after four seasons, Goldberg walked away, and 70's icon Henry Winkler took over as executive producer. Bergeron stayed on, but Stevens was gone, as well. Actors John Moschitta, Jr. & Jeffrey Tambor alternated as announcers, often also serving as panelists. The affiliate network, however, had diminished, and the series ended in 2004 after six years.

Today, Bergeron & Goldberg are both employed by ABC. Whoopi is the current moderator on The View, succeeding Barbara Walters in that role, while Bergeron hosts Dancing With The Stars & America's Funniest Home Videos. He's even doing an infomercial in his spare time. Then again, original host Peter Marshall also went on the infomercial circuit last year, paired with 2nd generation singer Debby Boone. I digress.

Right now, let's take a time trip to the Goldberg era. The episode was uploaded off an airing on GSN, which has long since dropped Squares, even though GSN is a Sony property, too. Martin Mull & Caroline Rhea (Sabrina, The Teenage Witch) are on the panel, though Mull wasn't credited for his primetime gig.......




Oh, yeah, before I forget, Whoopi also sings the theme song. Considering that a few years earlier, she'd recorded an a capella cover of Roy Orbison's "You Got It" for her movie, "Boys on the Side", it's a wonder she hasn't tried this more often.

Rating: A.

Baseball this 'n' that

It's just a week into the season, no need to really get excited, or upset, depending on who your favorite team is, but some interesting things pop up in the standings after 1 week.

Pending the outcome of today's game with Washington, Boston sits atop the AL East, as some expected, except that they're sharing the balcony with Toronto. This after getting pasted, 14-4, by the Yankees on Sunday. The Bombers, at 2-4, headed into their series with Baltimore, have more concerns about pitching than they do their offense. Yes, Masahiro Tanaka rebounded from a loss on Opening Day to Toronto, but he ran out of fuel early, even though the game was, for all intents & purposes, in his back pocket as New York opened a 10-0 lead in the 4th, and knocked out Clay Buchholz. Anyone else would've been gone after that 7-run first inning, but....!

As I write, the Mets have sole possession of 2nd in the NL East after disposing of Philadelphia, 2-0, behind Jacob deGrom and company. Counter-balancing this was the 80-game suspension handed to injured closer Jenrry Mejia on Saturday after testing positive for PED's. Even if the Mets make the playoffs, Mejia won't be on the post-season roster, due to rules changes that went into effect last year.

Worse, some moron decided to throw beer at Phillies left fielder Grady Sizemore, a tactic you might expect from a Phillies fan, but at Citi Field? The home fans were doing their best Philly impersonations all day, right down to booing the trainers when they were introduced prior to the game.

SAY WHAT?

Nothing more to note here. Let's move on.

No one expected Atlanta to be atop the NL East, with Washington in 4th, as we all thought the positions would/could be reversed by season's end. If it holds, Fredi Gonzalez may be in line for Manager of the Year.

Closer to home, the local media, coupled with the weather the first two weeks of high school season, have conspired to make it impossible to keep track of your schools' teams on the diamond. Troy High, if my math is right, is 3-2 after dropping a game to Lansingburgh on Saturday, while the softball team finally played over the weekend, and thumped Catholic Central. In e-mail correspondence with Albany Times-Union beat writer/Time Warner Cable sports analyst James Allen, I was reminded that the home teams do have the responsibility for reporting scores, but it seems they also need to remind the editors of their schedules, too. Box scores are one thing, but if you don't see your team's game listed, check your school's website. Best thing to do.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

On the Air: Daredevil (2015)

In the late 80's, when NBC acquired the rights to The Incredible Hulk for a series of TV-movies, the second of those films introduced viewers to blind attorney Matt Murdock, alias Daredevil. As played by actor-singer Rex Smith (ex-Street Hawk), Daredevil aided the jade giant (Lou Ferrigno), or, maybe, it was the other way around, against corrupt businessman Wilson Fisk, alias the Kingpin (John Rhys-Davies). You would think a spin-off series would've come out of that, but none came.

Nearly 30 years later, the Man Without Fear is back, 12 years after a disastrous feature film with Ben Affleck in the title role. This time, Charlie Cox (ex-Boardwalk Empire) is Murdock/Daredevil, and the series is the 1st installment of Marvel Studios' deal with Netflix. In other words, effendis, don't look for this on your TV unless it comes out on DVD.

As with the movie, the story begins with young Matt's encounter with some radioactive chemicals, causing him to go blind at age 9. Frequent flashbacks to Matt's youth suggest Marvel is trying to copy what DC's done with Arrow over the course of its three seasons, a plot device that goes as far back as Kung Fu more than 40 years ago.

Much of the series, while giving credit to co-creators Stan Lee & Bill Everett, is centered on the rebooting of Daredevil by writer-artist Frank Miller over two tenures on the long running book in the 70's & 80's. In the following trailer,  you'll see Scott Glenn ("The Right Stuff") as Stick, Matt's equally blind trainer.......



Foreshadowing later Marvel/Netflix offerings, in episode 2, we're introduced to nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), who nurses Matt back to health after a disastrous encounter with some human traffickers that was kept off-screen. In the books, you see, Ms. Temple was the on-again, off-again girlfriend of one Carl Lucas, alias Luke Cage, Hero For Hire, who will be showing up on Netflix down the line. In time, Fisk will turn up, this time in the form of Vincent D'Onofrio (ex-Law & Order: Criminal Intent).

All 13 episodes are already available. It'll be up to Marvel whether or not the series goes to DVD down the road. Personally, I would love it if they did.

Rating: B+.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Forgotten TV: The Outsider (1968)

Darren McGavin was TV's original Mike Hammer in the 50's, before Stacy Keach, Jr. revived Mickey Spillane's iconic detective in the 80's. While most folks will remember McGavin for either "A Christmas Story", the original Night Stalker, or  playing Adam Sandler's dad in "Billy Madison", the actor had hard luck landing a series that lasted beyond a year.

The Outsider began with a 2-hour TV-movie in 1967, which aired earlier today on Grit, a digital channel now available in my home district (check listings). NBC thought enough of it to make it into a series the very next season, despite McGavin's track record (Riverboat, which co-starred future icon Burt Reynolds, also may have gone one year and no further. I'll have to look into that one.). Unfortunately, yep, Outsider, because of the glut of crime dramas,  lasted just the 1 season. Universal, the studio behind Outsider, was responsible for a good chunk of that glut.

The Rap Sheet provided the intro:




McGavin played ex-con-turned-private eye David Ross, and if the entire idea of a reformed ex-con going on the other side sounds familiar, well, Universal went to the well again a few years later with James Garner and The Rockford Files, which was much more successful. Go figure.

No rating.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Celebrity Rock: New River Train (1960)

We lost one of the most unsung performers in Hollywood earlier this week with the passing of James Best at 88. Best remembered, for better or worse, as Sheriff Rosco Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard and its animated spin-off, Best had logged a pretty healthy resume in movies and television before signing on for Dukes.

In his memory, we present a clip from his first appearance as aspiring guitarist Jim Lindsey on The Andy Griffith Show. When we first meet Jim, it seems he's been in Mayberry before, and is already well acquainted with sheriff Andy Taylor (Griffith), who arrests him for disturbing the peace. However, the two have a shared interest in music, and, at jail, Andy pulls out his guitar for an impromptu jam on "New River Train". However, Best really isn't playing. The sound of an electric guitar was dubbed in. As you'll see, Barney (Don Knotts) joins Andy on the second round of the chorus.




Jim Lindsey would return just once more, also in Season 1, but after that, was forgotten. James Best, however, isn't.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What Might've Been: All-Star Blitz (1985)

After Hollywood Squares ended its initial run in 1981, producer Merrill Heatter tweaked the basic concept, and came up with two different shows for two different networks. Down the line, we'll look at Battlestars, which was the first of those "tweaks", but for now, we'll focus on the second of those variants, All-Star Blitz.

Blitz ran from April-December 1985 on ABC, with original Squares emcee Peter Marshall as host and co-producer. The celebrity panel was cut from 9 on Squares, and 6 on Battlestars, to 4, with a video board above the panel, hence announcer John Harlan proclaiming this to be "the game that's right over their heads".

As with the other two shows, contestants had to agree or disagree with the celebrities' answers, though there were fewer bluffs. So, you might ask, what caused this to fail? Well, Squares' 1st Marshall-less comeback had come and gone, and was still fresh in some people's minds, and, for another thing, Blitz was slotted opposite Price is Right. Enough said.

Following is a sample episode with panelists Rich Little, Abby Dalton (Falcon Crest), Martha Smith (Scarecrow & Mrs. King), & Ed Begley, Jr. (St. Elsewhere):




ABC was stuck between a rock and a hard place. They ended Family Feud's 1st run 2 months after Blitz began, and after six months of declining ratings, pulled the plug on Blitz, which, I think, was Peter Marshall's last project with Merrill Heatter. No way would ABC break up their soap opera block, but maybe they could've.

Rating: A-.

Musical Interlude: Freedom Come, Freedom Go (1971)

"Freedom Come, Freedom Go" is one of the Fortunes' lesser known hits, and if I'm not mistaken, it was also covered by a country artist within a year of its release.

Freedom must've been a flower child, for all we know.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What Might've Been: Ferris Bueller (1990)

Sometimes, if you wait too long before adapting a movie to television, something gets lost in the transition.

Case in point--Ferris Bueller. 4 years after the late John Hughes crafted a high school comedy that became a cult classic, Paramount brought Ferris back, this time on TV, and thought that riding on the coat-tails of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would be enough to get by. Nope. Fox had jumped the gun and introduced a similarly themed series, Parker Lewis Can't Lose, which anchored its network's Sunday lineup for 3 seasons.

Charlie Schlatter was cast as Ferris, and in the pilot, made a statement that ultimately doomed the series by cutting the head of a Matthew Broderick cardboard cut-out (Broderick played Bueller in the movie) with a chainsaw while in the midst of a 4th wall breaking monologue. The whirring of the saw gets the attention of Ferris' sister, Jeanne (Jennifer Aniston, 4 years before Friends). The producers goofed by flipping the grades for the sibs, moving Jeanne to senior while Ferris was a junior (it was the other way around in the movie). The monologue takes too long, and it's enough to make the viewer turn away. A lot of them did, and Ferris was cancelled in December, with one last episode brought out one year after the show's launch.

Schlatter would later resurface on Diagnosis Murder, replacing Scott Baio. Who'dathunk that'd ever happen? Anyway, Jennifer Aniston was one of two, maybe three, second generation actors on the show. Not sure if Charlie's related to Laugh-In's George Schlatter, but Ferris' gal, Sloan, was played by Ami Dolenz, daughter of Micky Dolenz (The Monkees). Jennifer's dad, John, appeared on Days of Our Lives.

Right now, check out the pilot:




NBC already had a sitcom where a male lead broke the 4th wall, and it was on Saturday mornings. Saved By The Bell. And, unfortunately, from where I sit, Bell was a much better show.

Rating: D.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sounds of Praise: By His Wounds (2007)

Seeing how it's Easter Sunday, it's fitting that we feature a song that is drawn from the book of the prophet Isaiah.

In 2007, "By His Wounds" gained heavy airplay on K-Love and other Christian radio stations. A collaborative effort among Mac Powell (Third Day), Mark Hall (Casting Crowns), Brian Littrell (Backstreet Boys), and Steven Curtis Chapman, the song tells how Jesus gave His life for our sins.

The clip is from the 2007 Dove Awards.




Happy Easter.

Dynasty Pro Wrestling @ Troy Boys & Girls Club, 4/4/15

The Troy Boys & Girls Club hosted Dynasty Pro Wrestling's "Driven" on Saturday night in front of a standing room only crowd. Still some issues with the sound system, which ring announcer Matthew James would later attribute to the speakers, but, ehhh......

1. Vik Dalishus went to a No Contest with Poco de Risa. Poco, wearing a Shark Boy mask, pulled the size switcheroo under the ring after getting press-slammed over the top by the former Ultimate Wrestling East champ. I knew what was going to happen next, even if the guy next to me didn't. The ref lost control of this one and threw it out.

2. Aiden Andrews def. Chuck Deep due to interference from Brad Wesley. Wesley plays the cowardly heel so well, but facially, now that I've had a good look at him, he reminds me of Jason Hervey as Wayne from The Wonder Years, and a little bit of Seth Green, too. As in Scott Evil from the Austin Powers movies. Deep wanted Wesley, but "Bad" Brad stayed at the announce table until a ref bump gave him an opening. Unfortunately, it led to one of the worst brass knux spots in human history.

3. The Mann Sons (Captain Wayno, billed as Insano Wayno by Mister Mann, and Travis Dorian) def. the Excerguys. Wayno's gimmick, as noted last time, is akin to George Steele in the late 80's, though the doll is now a puppet, and Eugene a decade ago. Wayno was being destroyed while Dorian left the ring and talked to the announcers. Mann had to plead with Dorian to come back. He did, and tagged himself in while Wayno was on offense. After an elbow drop, Dorian swooped in and made the cover.

Fenris Fortune left the desk to do his talk show, Money Talks. Guest: The Easter Bunny. Lame. Fortune cut a heel promo, and if you didn't know what was coming, you'd be embarrassed. Bunny low-blows Fortune and unmasks to reveal Chris Envy underneath. Envy is giving up being the figurehead GM to enter a tournament to determine the 1st champion, which starts next month.

4. Shady upset Ben Ortiz. Yes, I said upset. Ortiz dominated, but missed a corner charge. Shady with a schoolboy, and a win. Ortiz destroyed him after, then got a good look at his likely next opponent......




Yep, Hurricane (Gregory Shane Helms) blew into town and cut a promo of mostly fat jokes about Ortiz. No one saw this coming, except for a last minute poster that was at one of the merchandise tables.........!

And, then, the main attraction of the evening.......



After intermission, Jake "The Snake" Roberts came to the ring and gave an anti-drug speech, appropriate considering the venue. He felt he had one more match in him, so of course a challenger showed up in the form of Tyrek.

5. Roberts def. Tyrek. Jake sold for Tyrek, and made him look like a future star. You knew the DDT was coming, but it was just a question of when. Yes, there was a snake, too.

6. Wolfgar, a newcomer, def. Foxx Vinyer. Foxx had a valet with him, likely his girlfriend or wife. Didn't help. Wolf won his debut, and could be a playa down the line.

7. Brad Wesley def. Kyle Brad. Brad said in a pre-match promo that if he beat Wesley, "Bad" Brad would have to face Chuck Deep next time. So, of course, Wesley screened the ref from a low blow, then hit three kicks to the head to get the win and avoid the inevitable.

8. Valkyrie, a "video warrior" dressed like a ninja, won a fatal 4-way over Davienne, Ms. Belmont, & Sammi Pandora. A 5th woman, the Iron Maiden, entered after and destroyed Valkyrie and Pandora.

9. Sean Burke def. King Kekoa. Kekoa wasted too much time trying to get himself over as "royalty", demanding people bow before him. Burke won a back & forth match with the TKO.

Former WWE Diva Ashley Massaro, advertised only for a meet & greet pre-show, was a late scratch from what I understand. Roberts was in the area on Friday at Rotterdam Square Mall. Matt James said the May card would be at a mall, with more info to follow on the promotion's website and/or Facebook page, as early as next week. Local star Dalton Castle wasn't there this time, as instead he was working the Ring of Honor tapings in San Antonio. Sign of things to come, methinks.

Updated, 4/24/15: The next show is Mall Brawl, set for Rotterdam Square Mall's TJ Maxx location, on Saturday, May 30. Troy fans will see the 3rd annual Diamonds Are Forever show in August. WWE Hall of Famer Koko B. Ware has been signed for Mall Brawl, so the Dynasty has hit on a winning formula.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Celebrity Rock: Release Me (1980)

Foster Brooks is best known for his stage act as a "drunkard". But who could've known the man could also sing?

Brooks was a surprise guest on the syndicated country music series, POP! Goes The Country, hosted by Ralph Emery, and later, Tom T. Hall, in 1980, and delivers a cover of "Release Me", a song more closely associated with crooners like Engelbert Humperdinck.




This started when I was trying to find a commercial Brooks did a few years earlier for the Cole Muffler chain. He did the radio ads, and thought he did television spots for them, too. However, those are not available on YouTube. Yet.

A Classic Reborn: Muppets Tonight (1996)

Hi-ho! The Muppets returned to television in 1996, this time on ABC, in a brand-new series, Muppets Tonight. ABC ordered 13 episodes, but only aired 10. Why? It aired on Sunday nights at 7 (ET). Then, as now, that means 60 Minutes provided the main competition. Parents accustomed to the newsmagazine opted against turning the set over to the kiddo's for a half-hour, so ABC cut bait.

The Disney Channel picked up the show and ordered 9 more episodes, airing the 3 that ABC passed on, plus the 1st 10, for a total of 22 episodes. The series ended in 1998, rather quietly.

Nearly 20 years after Muppets Tonight launched, however, comes word that Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the gang, fresh off two very successful feature films, will make another go at primetime TV, again on ABC. This time, ABC & the Muppets are under the Disney umbrella, so there's a greater chance for a corporate synergy and cooperation.

Muppets Tonight was formatted similarly to The Muppet Show (1976-81), except that it was set at a television studio instead of an old theatre. Scooter's uncle leased the studio to Kermit and friends, but wasn't afraid to join the party, participating in some skits.

Episodes have been posted to YouTube, but in 3 pieces each. We'll settle for the intro, and you'll meet Clifford, the show's "host" (Kermit still welcomes viewers, but is now a producer):




Had ABC scheduled this on another night, like, say, Saturday, and promoted it better, maybe it doesn't migrate to cable, no?

Rating: B.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Forgotten TV: Swiss Family Robinson (1975)

In 1965, Irwin Allen adapted Johann Wyss' classic tale, Swiss Family Robinson, into the futuristic adventure series, Lost In Space, which lasted three seasons. After reinventing himself as the master of disaster movies (i.e. "The Poseidon Adventure"), Allen returned to television in 1975, and brought the Wyss tale to life again, this time, a more faithful adaptation of the novel.

Swiss Family Robinson was the 2nd series in as many seasons to adapt the novel, the first having been a half-hour Canadian show that was, for all intents & purposes, forced out of production when word got out of Allen's project. It was the 3rd Allen series to air on Sundays on ABC (after Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Land of the Giants), so the expectation was that Allen, who managed a grand total of 6 seasons with his 2 previous Sunday efforts, might strike gold again.

Martin Milner, fresh from Adam-12, and Cameron Mitchell (ex-The High Chaparral) were the two primary stars, but two of the younger talents turned out to become big stars themselves. Willie Aames returned a couple of years later with Eight is Enough. He would follow that up by co-starring with Scott Baio (ex-Happy Days) in the movie "Zapped" and the sitcom Charles in Charge in the 80's. Helen Hunt went on to bigger TV success in the 90's with Mad About You. She also scored a feature film hit with "Twister".

ABC would continue to have trouble leading into their Sunday movie, especially in the 7 pm (ET) slot, which was filled by Bill Cosby and the Brady Bunch the next two seasons.

There will be no rating, as I never saw the show. Here's the intro:


On The Air: Lip Sync Battle (2015)

To think that this all started with a few YouTube videos, but the lineage of Lip Sync Battle goes much further than that.

It's been about 30 years or so since the syndicated Puttin' On The Hits first hit the air, and 15 since the Saturday morning cable series, Great Pretenders, had been cancelled. Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon must've been a fan of either one or both, because he, along with YouTube talent Stephen Merchant and actor John Krazinski (ex-The Office) are responsible for Battle being spun off from its periodic appearances, first on Late Night, during Fallon's tenure there, and Tonight. Bear in mind that it's been little more than a year since Fallon brought the latter series back to New York, where Battle will also tape.

The series launched last night on Spike, which needed some fresh programming, as opposed to blocks of repeats of, say for example, Cops, for their Thursday lineup. NBC must not have had room to plug the show in as a spring replacement series. Their loss.

Fallon factors into the opener, but he's dueling with the People's Movie Star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Host LL Cool J (NCIS-Los Angeles), who knows a thing or twenty about lip sync himself, is joined by supermodel Chrissy Teigen as a commentator. Teigen's husband, John Legend, took part in episode 2 (Spike will air 2 episodes in a row to fill the hour). No cash prizes, unlike the other shows, just some fun.

Given that it's The Rock in the opener, of course there's going to be some wrestling-style promos thrown in. Here, Johnson decides to do some "Tay-Tay". You know, Taylor Swift. All we have is this short promo.



Legend was matched with his "Selma" duet partner, Common, in episode 2. Expect to find this On Demand, so you and your family can amuse yourselves over Easter weekend.

Rating: A.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Rockin' Funnies: Going Back to Brooklyn (1989)

Toward the end of Remote Control's run on MTV, Colin Quinn was given an opportunity to showcase his talents in a solo special, Going Back to Brooklyn. Ben Stiller & Danny Aiello are among the guest stars, and also appear in the namesake video, a parody of LL Cool J's "Goin' Back to Cali", which was released 2 years earlier for the movie, "Less Than Zero".

These days, Colin is still doing stand-up comedy, and making the occasional movie, such as the "Grown-Ups" movies with former Control and Saturday Night Live castmate Adam Sandler and friends.





A Classic Reborn: Biography (1989)

After a failed revival on CBS 10 years earlier, the Arts & Entertainment Network (A&E) acquired the rights to Biography, and gave the series a new life.

Expanding from a half-hour weekly series to a hour-long, five (later six) nights a week entry, Biography expanded its scope to include other types of iconic figures, such as Santa Claus. Newscasters Jack Perkins & Harry Smith and actor Peter Graves were among the hosts. Voice actor Neil Ross served as narrator. Yeah, it took two people to do the work of the late Mike Wallace, the original host of Biography. Ya wonder why that was, don't ya?

A&E spun off an entire channel from the series, and dropped Biography from the schedule in 2006 after 17 years. The Biography Channel has been rechristened FYI, not to be confused with the former ABC interstital series with Hal Linden from the 80's, of course, but, nearly 10 years after the last original episode aired, it appears Biography may be in the vaults.

The following sample episode, from 1994, spotlights real estate mogul/media whore Donald Trump.



Because of the wider scope, episodes were often more hit or miss than before, and there were some subjects that might've been better off not covered.

Rating: B-.

Dunce Cap Award: Rob Gronkowski

Oh, this was too easy.

Apparently, there's no such thing as an off-season for Rob Gronkowski of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Appearing on Jim Rome's CBS Sports Network talk show, Gronkowski likened brain damage caused by concussions to drinking.

Rodger Sherman, writing for Yahoo!'s SB Nation, wrote:

"(Gronkowski) basically says that the late-life symptoms of brain diseases caused by repeated head injuries are more or less the same as when he has a wild night and drinks too much.
This is a frighteningly inaccurate comparison. It's true that memory loss is a common symptom of both drinking too much and CTE. But CTE has a variety of other symptoms. CTE leads to dementia. CTE leads to depression. CTE turns people into confused, angry husks of their former selves who hate being alive. CTE makes people kill themselves.
(Of course, drinking isn't great for your brain either -- longterm heavy alcohol use can also lead to dementia. And there's also a correlation between longterm alcohol abuse and depression, although nobody can say for sure which causes which. But Gronkowski isn't comparing CTE to severe alcoholism -- he's comparing it to his Tuesday night, which we imagine was pretty fun.)"
 
Mind you, this is the same brainless dolt that Bill Belichick left in a blowout win over Indianapolis and ended up blowing out his knee as a result. Apparently, he didn't spend enough time studying biology in either high school or in college.
 
What Sherman doesn't mention is whether or not Rome tried to debunk Gronkowski's frat-boy theory. To me, this is reason enough to send Gronkowski back to college for a refresher course in common sense 101. With this week's Dunce Cap Award as a token from this desk.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fool's Day: Three Stooges in Sing a Song of Six Pants (1947)

The Three Stooges (Moe & Shemp Howard and Larry Fine) are tailors down on their luck when a crook on the lam becomes a customer in their store. A delinquent customer, to be sure, but the chaos that follows will have the bad guys wishing they could "Sing a Song of Six Pants":



Supporting player Joe Palma would figure prominently in later shorts. After Shemp passed on, Palma was brought in when they needed to mix in new material with recycled scenes from earlier films involving Shemp. Something they are doing with "Furious 7", opening Friday, in that the late Paul Walker's brothers are serving as doubles for him in some scenes that had to be completed after his death.

Rating: A-.

Musical Interlude: Young Love (1981)

Sha Na Na wrapped its 4-year run in 1981, and did so in style. Donny York goes acoustic to cover "Young Love", closely associated with actor-singer Tab Hunter on the pop charts, but, living in a country music-favored household as I was, I'm more familiar with Sonny James' version, which to me is more definitive, although York places a close second.