Sunday, July 31, 2016

What Might've Been: The Girl With Something Extra (1973)

Sally Field's third and final sitcom for Screen Gems was a fantasy-com that tried to cash in on the popularity of extra-sensory perception (ESP). Unfortunately, viewers were voting with their remotes.

The Girl With Something Extra landed on NBC, and as memory serves was hyped to the moon. That was the good news. The bad? It aired on Fridays, a notoriously bad night for the network in those days. Actor-singer John Davidson co-stars along with Jack Sheldon (ex-Run, Buddy, Run).

My folks just weren't into this show or ESP in general, although they did give the Gary Collins drama, The Sixth Sense, a look when that aired a year earlier.

Here's the intro:



I think part of the reason this failed was that Field's previous series, The Flying Nun, was in syndication at the time, and thus readily available. As a result, viewers weren't ready for Sally to be someone other than Sister Bertrille just yet.

No rating.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

What Might've Been: Hec Ramsey (1972)

If you thought the idea of Rod Serling creating a Western was odd, then one such series that came from Jack Webb might be just as, well, daunting, for lack of a better term.

Hec Ramsey was part of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie anthology wheel with Columbo, McCloud, & McMillian & Wife, but lasted just 10 episodes over 2 seasons (1972-4), which, when you think about it, would represent the beginning of the end for Webb at NBC. Ramsey joined Adam-12 (4th season) and Emergency! (2nd season) on the NBC schedule, but unlike the others, due to the Mystery Movie format, it aired less frequently.

Ramsey was a comeback vehicle for Richard Boone (ex-Have Gun, Will Travel), and would be his last series. Ramsey was a different sort of Western hero. What Webb intended to do was fuse together the procedural investigative format of Dragnet with the Western genre, as Ramsey used the latest crime solving techniques, unique to the turn of the 19th century to the 20th. He comes to the aid of the Chief of Police (Rick Lenz) of a small town in Oklahoma, who most certainly needs his help.

Let's take a look at the series opener. Harry Morgan (ex-Dragnet), listed as a guest star, is also the narrator, and would direct 2 subsequent episodes.



In doing research, I also discovered that future 80's icon Nicholas Colasanto (later of Cheers) directed one episode. Small world, no?

No rating.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Classic TV: Three on a Match (1971)

After leaving Goodson-Todman Productions, Bob Stewart started his own production company, and, for the longest time, was working almost exclusively with NBC.

One of his more successful series was Three on a Match, one of the seemingly bazillion games hosted by Bill Cullen, whose association with Stewart began when both were at G-T (Stewart developed The Price is Right) in the 50's. While the title is based on a superstition that suggests three on a match representing bad luck, the game show was anything but bad luck, lasting nearly three full years.

Combining certain elements of Price and NBC's own Concentration, Three on a Match was actually a simple true-or-false quiz where a certain amount of cash won could be used on a prize board for bigger things.

Take this 1973 episode for example.



The show's format changed a month after this episode aired, and not for the better, as it was cancelled a year later.

Rating: A.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sesame Street----gentrified? Three actors are released

Earlier this year, Sesame Workshop, the producers of Sesame Street, entered into a deal with HBO to create new episodes that would air first on the premium cable giant before airing on PBS. So maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that someone decided that the show's cast needed to get younger, and to accomplish that goal, they needed to cut three of the longest tenured performers on the show.

Bob McGrath, the one actor most closely identified with Sesame Street, had been with the show from its inception in 1969. Emilio Delgado joined the series as Luis in 1971. Roscoe Orman became the 4th actor to play the role of Gordon Robinson when he joined in 1974. All three were dismissed today, a move that is bound to send shock waves to generations of viewers who've grown up with Sesame Street.

I remember owning a Sesame Street album in my youth, around the 1st or 2nd season, I forget which. I know that the departures of Orman, Delgado, & McGrath will have people saying that a large piece of their childhood has been ripped away, because it happens to be true. McGrath's departure leaves Loretta Long as the only original cast member left from the 1st season, and that in itself is quite an accomplishment.

Let's take a step back in time and scope out a bi-lingual rendering of "Sing", a Joe Raposo composition later made famous by the Carpenters, from 1971.



One online commentator used the word gentrification to describe the decision, and another was under the assumption that HBO, a Time Warner unit, had taken over full ownership of Sesame Street. Over-reaction? Yep, because I am not entirely certain that Sesame Workshop had actually turned over complete control of the show, which in this writer's opinion would not have been best for business.

Forgotten TV: Empire (1962)

Not to be confused with the current Fox series of the same name, Empire was an odd duck in the 60's.

A modern day Western, if you will, Empire was built around ranch foreman Jim Redigo (Richard Egan) and his employers, the Garrett family. However, NBC wasn't satisfied with the ratings, airing as it did opposite Red Skelton's self-titled CBS show, and cancelled Empire.

Screen Gems wasn't done yet, though. The series was repackaged, trimmed to a half hour, and retitled, Redigo, the following season. ABC took a chance, and lost. The series was finally laid to rest after a truncated 13 episode season.

Screen Gems had envisioned this to be similar in format to Route 66 and Naked City, with Redigo & the Garretts the only regular players meeting various folks on a week-to-week basis. Setting the show in the West may have actually been a viewer deterrent.

Let's take a look at "A Stopover on the Way to the Moon", with guest star Keir Dullea.



No rating.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Celebrity Rock: Ring Around the Rosie Rag (1969)

Judy Carne released a novelty single, "Sock it to Me", during Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In's 1st season in 1968. Turns out she could really belt out a tune, too.

Scope out this performance of Arlo Guthrie's "Ring Around the Rosie Rag" from a January 1969 episode of The Hollywood Palace.




Monday, July 25, 2016

Advertising For Dummies: Verizon now raps about their supposed superiority (2016)

You can't escape this ad.



The song is a parody of Kelis' 2003 1-hit wonder, "Milkshake". Like I said, you can't escape it. Until Verizon pulls it from the air.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Forgotten TV: The Governor & JJ (1969)

In 1969, Talent Associates was, for all intents & purposes, putting all of their eggs in one basket. That is to say, their product was almost exclusively on CBS, with Get Smart moving over from NBC for its final season. The Good Guys returned for a 2nd (and final) season, and the two were now joined by a brand new entry from creators Leonard Stern & Arne Sultan, The Governor & JJ.

Film star Dan Dailey top-lined as the head of an unnamed state in the Midwest. A widower, he has his daughter (Julie Sommars) as his de-facto "first lady". To my knowledge, this was the first show to focus on the home life of a governor. A decade later, ABC spun Benson off from Soap, and that turned out to be an even bigger success.

Thus, it can be said that Governor was ahead of its time. In year 2, ratings slid so far so quickly, such that CBS pulled the plug just before Christmas.

I have no memory of seeing any episodes, so there won't be a rating. Let's serve up a sample open/close.



Dan Dailey would give series television one more try a few years later with another short-lived series, Faraday & Company, this one for NBC. Julie Sommars, after a few guest roles in the intervening years, later resurfaced for a time on Matlock.

A Modern Classic (?): MadTV (1995)

It was Fox's answer to Saturday Night Live, except that it was pre-recorded and produced in Hollywood. MadTV was spun from the pages of the legendary---and still running---humor magazine, Mad, but with a cast that created new characters that have become just as memorable to fans of the series.

Like SNL, Mad's ensemble had quite a bit of turnover over the course of 14 seasons (1995-2009), but also introduced viewers to a number of performers who would go on to bigger things, including Nicole Sullivan (later of The King of Queens), Alex Borstein (Family Guy), Phil LaMarr, Will Sasso, Artie Lange (Game Over, The Howard Stern Radio Show), and the team of Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele, who just wrapped their Comedy Central series a few months back. Sasso and Sullivan are returning for the revival of the series, launching Tuesday on CW for 8 weeks. A 20th anniversary special, broadcast in January, got enough of a rating to warrant a revival.

Let's take a look at a sketch involving one of MadTV's most popular characters, Miss Swan (Borstein):



MadTV becomes the 2nd comedy series revived by CW that had aired on another network, with Whose Line is it Anyway? being the other. Coincidentally, the two will be coupled on Tuesdays to mark time until the fall season begins in October (CW historically starts later than the other networks).

Rating: B.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Classic TV: People Are Funny (1954)

People Are Funny began as a radio show in 1942, originally emceed by Art Baker and produced by John Guedel. Less than a year into the run, Baker was replaced by Art Linkletter, who would go on to achieve iconic status with the show, continuing as Funny transitioned to television in 1954.

The video version lasted for six years, and was the subject of a Looney Tunes satire, "People Are Bunny", in 1959. The stunts weren't quite as wild or bizarre as on, say for example, Truth or Consequences, but rather a little more sophisticated and simple. Some of the games played on the show would be picked up by other producers. See if you can figure out which ones as we scope this sample episode, courtesy of Internet Archive.



In 1984, the show was revived as a spring replacement, hosted by actor-comedian Flip Wilson, but didn't survive the summer.

Rating: A.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Videos of Summer: Sunny Afternoon (1966)

Fittingly, the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon" was released as a single in June 1966, and a month later topped the charts in Ireland and their native England, but peaked at #14 here in the US. Go figure, right? Right.

Classic (?) TV: Amos 'n' Andy (1951)

Freeman Gosden & Charles Correll's legendary radio show, Amos 'n' Andy, transitioned to television in 1951 on CBS with an all-African American cast. This version lasted just 2 years, while the radio series, which launched in 1928 as a regional entry in Chicago, ran under different formats for 32 years.

The actors cast for the television series were instructed by the producers to try to replicate the vocal patterns created by Gosden & Correll. Come to think of it, Tim Moore (Kingfish) may have pulled off a perfect mimic of Correll's characterization.

As you'll see, this comes across as a typical sitcom of the period, though I'd imagine some of Gosden & Correll's original scripts were modified and/or adapted for television. Take for example "Andy Gets Married".



In 2012, a Houston-based online network began airing the series, so there's a chance that, say for example, Aspire could pick up Amos 'n' Andy to reintroduce it to a national audience.

No rating.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Advertising for Dummies: Chunkamania? (1986)

Here's a commerical that I can honestly say I never saw before today.

The then-World Wrestling Federation was landing merchandising endorsements for a number of their wrestlers in the 80's. You had King Kong Bundy doing print ads for Commodore computers. I think there was a commercial with Tony Randall and George Steele for the same product. Paul Orndorff, whom we'll see in the following video, shilled solo for Absorbine, Jr. (do they still make that stuff?). Hulk Hogan, of course, was shilling his own brand of vitamins, which, for all we know might've come from the folks at Miles Laboratories, since they might as well have been rejected Flintstones vitamins...!

Here, Orndorff and Roddy Piper duke it out over the best way to eat Campbell's Chunky Soup. Jesse Ventura is the commentator.

Forgotten TV: Knockout (1977)

Since the 50's, at the very least, television executives have figured out that comedians make the best game show hosts. From Jan Murray (Dollar A Second, Treasure Hunt) and Groucho Marx (You Bet Your Life) to Steve Harvey (Family Feud) and Wayne Brady (Let's Make a Deal), comedians have parlayed their stage presence and ability to connect with audiences into landing game show host gigs. Some have worked, such as the four mentioned above. Others, not so much.

One such example came in the fall of 1977. Ralph Edwards had been forced to move Name That Tune into syndication after two failed network runs. However, he sold another game to NBC that played off a familiar trope from Sesame Street, which I'll explain shortly. He hired actor-comic Arte Johnson (ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In), who otherwise was working on the animated Laugh-In spin-off, The Nitwits, for the network when not appearing on The Gong Show, to host Knockout, which was also the first, and perhaps only, show that Jay Stewart, long associated with Monty Hall's production company, announced for Edwards.

That Sesame Street trope I referenced? Johnson would have four items appear on a video screen, and contestants had to figure out which one didn't fit with the others, which in turn would lead to a specific topic. Johnson's experiences as a panelist on Gong, Hollywood Squares, and CBS' Match Game had kept him in the public eye after Laugh-In had ended, and he looked so natural as MC. Unfortunately, he ran up against a brick wall in the form of a pair of Goodson-Todman games on the other networks, namely, Family Feud and The Price is Right, which ultimately led to Knockout getting knocked out after nearly six full months.

Let's scope a sample episode, which is the only one available, as it happens.



Rating: B.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What Might've Been: Hey, Landlord (1966)

A young man discovers that he's inherited an apartment building his father owned, so now he has the run of the joint, but chaos often ensues.

Hey, Landlord was the first series created for television by Garry Marshall with writing partner Jerry Belson. The two would later develop The Odd Couple for ABC, and that turned out to be the first of a series of lasting successes, mostly for Marshall, who stayed at ABC and built a cottage industry of sitcoms (i.e. Happy Days) during the 70's.

Will Hutchins (ex-Sugarfoot) was the heir to the apartment building, though we can't say there was a fortune to be had. Sandy Baron co-starred as his best pal/sidekick, which was of course a regular trope in sitcoms in those days.

Never saw the show, so there won't be a fair rating. What we will do, though, is leave you with a short clip that features a future star in Richard Dreyfuss.



In memory of Garry Marshall, who passed away at 81.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Musical Interlude: Teach Your Children (1994)

You might say that when Crosby, Stills, & Nash's "Teach Your Children" was covered by country singers Kathy Mattea & Suzy Bogguss in 1994, the two-part harmonies sounded just as good as the men's three-part harmony on the original. Don't believe me? Judge for yourselves.

On The Air: WWF/E Smackdown (1999)

Six years into Monday Night Raw's 1st run on USA (1993-2000), WWE Chairman (and now also CEO) Vince McMahon decided he wanted a second primetime program.

Smackdown's pilot episode aired in April 1999 on UPN. Four months later, the weekly series began, and over the course of 17 years on the air, has changed networks more than Raw has. Consider:

UPN: 1999-2006
CW: 2006-8
MyNetworkTV:2008-10
SyFy: 2010-5
USA Network: 2016-present

Tonight, after 6 1/2 months on USA, the series shifts to a live format on Tuesday nights, which, in turn, has started a bit of a chain reaction. Rival TNA moved Impact, currently airing on Pop TV (formerly the TV Guide Channel) to its old night on Thursdays, not that it'd mean much in the long term, since TNA is considered an inferior product.

WWE is also splitting the talent roster between the Monday & Tuesday night shows, with a "draft" taking place tonight. That won't mean much, either, since the talent will still shuffle between brands every few months, based mostly on McMahon's whims. You and I both know that. Smackdown's peak years up to now were from 2002-4, coinciding with former ECW frontman Paul Heyman, who served as a figurehead "general manager" from October 2003-April 2004, as the show's head writer. Heyman, who currently owns a marketing business when he's not cutting promos for former WWE/UFC champ Brock Lesnar, should be considered to rejoin the much maligned creative team, since what that lacks is someone who actually knows something about the wrestling business.

Currently, there is a two-tiered system of figureheads atop each brand. Shane McMahon, the prodigal son who returned to WWE in February, is the Smackdown "commissioner", while former champion Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson, Total Divas) is the "general manager". Over on Raw, Shane's sister, Stephanie, who served as Smackdown's 1st "general manager" from July 2002-October 2003, and was an interim "GM" on Raw from November 2008-February 2009, partially in collaboration with Shane, is now Raw's "commissioner", with former champ Mick Foley returning for a 2nd tour of duty as "general manager". He briefly held the post, shared with Eric Bischoff, in the winter of 2003-4.

Following is a montage of show opens spanning the 17 years of Smackdown's existence. See how many faces you can recognize.



Rating: B-.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Classic TV: Tombstone Territory (1957)

Here's another Ziv Western that actually had a decent lifespan.

Tombstone Territory ran for 3 seasons (1957-60), the first two on ABC before moving to syndication for the 3rd and final season. Why ABC gave up on the show, I'll never know. As the title implies, the show was set in the legendary town of Tombstone, Arizona,  but you won't find Wyatt Earp here, or anyone else best associated with Tombstone.

No, the law is enforced by Sheriff Clay Hollister (Pat Conway), and, as such, it's a by-the-numbers Western series, The stories are told by Harris Claibourne (Richard Eastham), editor of the Tombstone Epitaph, from which the producers gained their source material. Advertising man Frank Packer wrote and sang the theme song.

In "Gun Hostage", from the 2nd season, Hollister is sure an escaped convict will hole up with his sister & brother-in-law. Well, you know how this will go......! Lee Van Cleef guest stars.



Today, Tombstone Territory airs weekdays on Get TV (check listings), virtually uncut, as Get offers a few extra minutes to compensate for extra commercial time in this day and age.

Rating: B.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Old Time Radio: Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1949)

Blake Edwards' hard boiled private eye, Richard Diamond, began on radio in 1949, and spent 4 years on three different networks before ending.

Actor-singer Dick Powell played Diamond, a former NYPD detective who left the force to move into the PI business. Every episode ended with Diamond serenading his girlfriend, Helen (Virginia Gregg), with a musical number, owing to Powell's previous run of movie musicals. The musical interludes were discarded when the series transitioned to television in 1957, and David Janssen was cast as Diamond.

To tell you the truth, having seen the TV show, I'm a little more comfortable with that than the radio show. But judge for yourselves while you listen to the series opener, courtesy of Internet Archive.


Powell retained the rights to the series, as his Four Star Productions produced the TV version.

Rating: B-.

Sounds of Praise: You Can't be a Beacon if Your Light Don't Shine (1974)

It's been a long time since we dipped into the gospel music section, so let's give this one a whirl.

Donna Fargo scored her 5th #1 hit on the country chart in May 1974 with "You Can't be a Beacon if Your Light Don't Shine", which certainly should still resonate today.



As you can see, the clip was taken from the syndicated variety series, Pop! Goes The Country, from a time when there seemed to be more of a market for country music programming than there is today.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Forgotten TV: Mackenzie's Raiders (1958)

Ziv Television is best remembered for shows like Sea Hunt, Highway Patrol, & The Cisco Kid. Those series aside, they also produced a large number of series that didn't quite last as long.

Mackenzie's Raiders, a fictionalized account of the exploits of Col. Ranald Mackenzie (Richard Carlson), was one such show. In a way, Raiders was an amalgam of genres. It was a Western, a crime drama, and a spy series rolled into one, as Mackenzie and his Raiders were under secret orders from President Ulysses S. Grant in the post-Civil War US.

In the episode, "The Hawk", Mackenzie faces off with a former soldier (DeForest Kelley, well before Star Trek) he court-martialed years before.



Announcer-narrator Art Gilmore was also serving in the former capacity for Red Skelton around the same time. Voice actor John Stephenson guest stars in this episode, as well.

Rating: B.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Musical Interlude: Mack The Knife (1959)

Three years after Louis Armstrong had recorded an American interpretation of Kurt Weill's "Mack The Knife", Bobby Darin soared all the way to #1 in the US & England.

From The Dick Clark Show comes this performance.



Enough said.

On The Air: Intentional Talk (2011)

Intentional Talk is one of MLB Network's signature programs, bordering on the weird & wacky. This show doesn't really take an off-season. Instead, it's trimmed from an hour during the season to a half-hour, from November to March.

Former ballplayer Kevin Millar co-hosts with one of the busiest men in sports, Chris Rose, who also works for Fox and NFL Network. Rose is no stranger to talk shows, having emceed The Best Damn Sports Show Period a few years back. He's basically the foil to Millar's occasional clowning, but Millar also puts his years of experience to good use in doing interviews.

Sometimes, the show is at MLB's New Jersey studio. Other times, the guys will be out West at their homes (Millar in Texas, Rose in California), linked together by satellite. Granted, some of the highlights are also used, and played to death, on MLB Tonight, and some of the sound effects come from other television genres, used for comic effect.

For this season, the open has both of the guys miming Saliva's "Ladies & Gentlemen":



Not sure how much of a stake Fox has in MLB Network, if not also NFL Network, but they'd be wise to lock up both Rose and Millar long term and keep them away from ESPN.

Rating: A-.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Musical Interlude: Kind & Generous (1998)

Natalie Merchant had actually recorded "Kind & Generous", the 1st single off her 1998 CD, "Ophelia", two years earlier. What's equally interesting is that the video is set in a carnival, and one of the singles off her previous album, "Tigerlily", was entitled, "Carnival", but the video was shot on the streets of New York. Go figure.



Natalie's clearly having fun, and I'm sure we all did watching the video.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Is nothing sacred at Marvel anymore?

The hits just keep on coming at Marvel.

Consider what has happened in Civil War II so far:

1. War Machine (James Rhodes) was killed off in the Free Comic Book Day preview of issue 1, prompting the current conflict.

2. She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters) is in a coma, and there were teases, if not rumors, that she, too, would be killed off.

3. It's been spoiled already, as reported previously, that Tony Stark would shed the Iron Man armor after the conclusion of the miniseries, and his teenage protege, Riri Williams, would be his successor, wearing gender-neutral armor.

And, now........

4. She-Hulk's cousin, Robert Bruce Banner, the original Hulk, is the next one to be killed off pro tempore.

This is the result of the newest Inhuman, Ulysses, having foreseen that Hulk would, in a murderous rage, kill the other heroes.

Ah, but therein lies the rub.

Ulysses has been pushed, in wrestling terms, as the breakout star in the miniseries, as Marvel, throwing shade at Fox, is pushing the Inhumans very hard in their cinematic universe, extending that push into print. If writer Brian Bendis hadn't already taken heat from purists over the passing of the Iron Man armor, and I'm sure that this has happened, though I'm ok with the idea, he has to be getting nuclear heat now from infuriated fans of the Green Goliath. I'm not sure how older readers have received Amadeus Cho as the Totally Awesome Hulk, but a better way to, again, using wrestling terminology, get Cho over, would be to have Banner as more of a mentor, even though Cho is supposedly a genius. A much younger genius.

After more than 50 years of "Hulk smash!", punctuated with long periods of a more intellectual Hulk (and Cho falls into the latter category, I think), Banner is being laid to rest---at least for now. This, of course, isn't going to last, not when Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) factors into "Thor: Ragnarok", due in about a year or so.

You would think Marvel would learn by now that while they're obsessing over mainstream media attention for all the moves they've made, they again are ignoring the salient fact that their product is read by not just kids, but adults of all demographic groups. Fans and shop owners can tell the casual newbies that "it's just a story", but the story is lost amidst the need for attention in the Dan Buckley era at Marvel.

Trust me. By this time next year, they'll come out with something called, oh, I don't know, Hulk: Resurrection. We won't be the least bit surprised.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Forgotten TV: The Ian Tyson Show (1971)

I can remember one night as a youth sitting at home with the parents and watching The Ian Tyson Show, which had a brief syndicated run in the US, at least in my neck of the woods.

In truth, Tyson spent a total of five seasons headlining a variety show in Canada. The first season, it was known as Nashville North, to identify the genre of music that Tyson and wife Sylvia favored, country music, as opposed to pop-rock. The following year, the series was renamed The Ian Tyson Show, and, as memory serves, spent at least a year on then-ABC affiliate WAST (now WNYT, an NBC affiliate). Since my folks, particularly my late mother, were into country, this caught their attention.

Judging from the intro in the following Canadian commercial, Tyson might be considered the Great White North's answer to Johnny Cash.



Unfortunately, I didn't see enough of the show to merit a rating, and, just as unfortunately, no episodes are available on YouTube.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Forgotten TV: The Melba Moore-Clifton Davis Show (1972)

Broadway star Clifton Davis made his first inroad into primetime, in partnership with then-wife Melba Moore, with a summer replacement series for CBS in 1972. The Melba Moore-Clifton Davis Show lasted barely a month, with, as memory serves, minimal at best promotion.

We're again going to forego a rating, and offer a sample clip. The announcer is Johnny Olsen (The Price is Right, Match Game, etc.), and the special guest is Nancy Wilson.



Davis, of course, would follow up, after splitting with Moore, with That's My Mama, but that, too, would fail, and it would be another decade before he'd finally land the hit he'd been seeking (Amen).

Classic TV: Lassie (1954)

It started with a boy and his dog. 19 years later, Lassie became more closely associated with the Forest Service, which would lead to an animated series.

Lassie aired on CBS from 1954-71, falling victim to the infamous "Rural Purge" that also claimed The Beverly Hillbillies, Hee-Haw, Mayberry RFD, and other shows set in rural or suburban areas, although an even longer running series, The Ed Sullivan Show, also left the air in 1971.

Like Hee-Haw, Lassie found new life in syndication, but only for 2 more seasons. My earliest memories of Lassie come from the syndicated era, as I barely remember any of the later CBS episodes, although some, I think, were mixed into the syndicated package.

Early episodes were syndicated under different titles. The first three seasons, with Tommy Rettig and Jan Clayton, were syndicated as Jeff's Collie, named for Rettig's character. Jon Provost succeeded Rettig in season 4, and the episodes from the Provost era were retitled, Timmy & Lassie. After producer Jack Wrather (The Lone Ranger) purchased the full rights to the series from Robert Maxwell (Adventures of Superman), Lassie found its way to color, and a change in format. Lassie became a mascot, of a sort, of the US Forest Service, and under the care of a series of Forest Rangers. After the final season, Filmation obtained a license from Wrather to create the short-lived Lassie's Rescue Rangers, which created a new supporting cast, including some additional animal Rangers. Filmation & Wrather would do business again on an animated Lone Ranger revival in 1980.

From 1968, here's the two-part "Track of the Jaguar", with Jed Allan (later of Celebrity Bowling & Days of Our Lives) as Ranger Scott Turner. Garry Walberg, later of The Odd Couple & Quincy, and Paul Petersen (ex-The Donna Reed Show) guest star.



I mentioned earlier that my memory is hazy on the show, so we'll forego a rating.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Musical Interlude: Sharing the Night Together (1978)

Dr. Hook's romantic ballad, "Sharing the Night Together", peaked at #6 on the pop chart in 1978. The group was actually the 3rd artist to record the song after Arthur Alexander and Lenny LeBlanc (1/2 of LeBlanc & Carr before turning to gospel music), which I didn't even know until doing research. I can remember hearing this on adult contemporary channels as late as the mid-80's.




On The Shelf: Batman meets another 60's icon, and new Iron Men (?)

Ever since this was first announced, I've been stoked, and now, it's here.

Batman '66 Meets Steed & Mrs. Peel, a collaborative effort between DC and Boom! Studios, the rights holders to the latter franchise formerly known as The Avengers, figures to play out the same way that the last Batman '66 miniseries, a crossover with The Man From U.N.C.L.E., did, as the villains of the piece emerge very quickly. Catwoman turns up, but, judging from the first issue, it looks like the Princess of Plunder could end up joining the heroes, as her mysterious employer sent the Cybernauts to silence her. Steed is unaware that he's carrying a listening device, but how long do you think that'll last? This will be fun.

Rating: A.

One of the reasons "The Lone Ranger" bombed at the box office a couple of summers ago was the seemingly implausible idea that Tonto (Johnny Depp) had outlived the Ranger, but then, this was really a vanity vehicle for Depp, and that was one of a series of critical and financial failures.

Writer Michael Uslan, returning to Dynamite Entertainment, is trying a different tack in linking together two generations of crime busters in The Lone Ranger-Green Hornet. That is to say, the Ranger, long retired, is called back into duty, or so it would appear, in the early days of World War II. Doesn't appear to be any sign of Tonto in the 40's. So far. Uslan's paying homage to two classic radio dramas from the Golden Age, but I'm not so sure that this actually works.

Grade: Incomplete.

DC's Super Hero Girls graphic novel, Finals Crisis, was previewed on Free Comic Book Day two months ago, and it looked promising.

Unfortunately, the final product does its target audience a complete disservice. The villain was kept in silhouette for much of the story, but a distinguishing feature gives him away too early in the story. Yes, it's Lex Luthor, back to the battle armor he'd had since the 80's, and trying to wedge his unseen sister into Super Hero High. Well, at least that's the excuse he gives. Just weak.

Final grade: C-.

By now, I'm sure you've read or heard what Marvel is doing with their Iron Man line. After the current Civil War II miniseries ends, Tony Stark will step away from the armor, and no longer headline either IM book.

So who takes his place?

Writer Brian Bendis has introduced a 15 year old, female, African American genius, Riri Williams, who takes over as the star of Invincible Iron Man, presumably in October. Meanwhile, Victor Von Doom, of all people, will be the headliner of Infamous Iron Man, which replaces International Iron Man on the roster. There, you're seeing a replay of the Peter Parker-Doctor Octopus angle in the Spider-Man books from a couple of years ago.

At the end of "Iron Man 3", Stark had walked away and gave up being the Armored Avenger, only to of course return in "Captain America: Civil War" earlier this year. To be honest, "Iron Doom" isn't going to last any longer than Superior Spider-Man did. These short-term stunts that Marvel keeps running out are mostly to get the internet talking. Some work, some don't. I think that Riri (whose name is derived from the nickname of pop singer Rihanna) is being given a high profile try-out before getting her own heroic identity. I'm digging the idea of gender-neutral armor, and one must assume a voice modulator is also part of the package, especially if Riri doesn't want anyone to suspect that the "new" Iron Man is actually an Iron Girl.

We'll see come October.

What Might've Been: Charlie & Company (1985)

It had been more than a decade since Flip Wilson's self-titled variety show had come to an end. In fact, The Cosby Show was occupying Flip's old Thursday night perch by the time his producer, Bob Henry, contacted him about trying a sitcom of his own.

The end result, Charlie & Company, wasn't directly competing with Cosby, airing on a different night on CBS (Cosby Show was on Wilson's old network home, NBC), but viewers saw there were enough similarities, although the setting was different (Chicago as opposed to New York), and made their judgments. Charlie was sent packing after 1 season.

Halfway through, Henry and co-producer Allan Katz called on actress-singer Della Reese to help bolster ratings, and try to convince viewers to give the show another chance. Didn't work. Two of the kids, though, went on to bigger and better things. Kristoff St. John moved on to another CBS series, the long running soap, The Young & The Restless. Jaleel White resurfaced as super-nerd Steve Urkel on Family Matters, and gained icon status as a result. Reese would have two more series on her resume. CBS stuck her on Wednesday nights again, this time with Redd Foxx, in The Royal Family. That also failed to fire, but after the success of the feature film, "Harlem Nights", with Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor, Reese switched gears to drama, co-starring in Touched by an Angel.

Following is the episode, "Rachel and the Stranger". Seems Aunt Rachel (Reese) is afraid to spend the night alone at home, so Charlie is recruited by his wife, Diana (Gladys Knight, who also sings the theme song), to be a houseguest.



No rating.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Jamie Foxx shills for Verizon (2016)

While an ad that includes a send-up of Kelis' 1-hit wonder, "Milkshake", gets most of the airplay these days, Verizon also recruited actor-singer Jamie Foxx as a musical pitchman. Jamie dons a fake mustache & beard as "Past" to rap out "I Got Verizon":



Coolest ad out there.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Moron TV: Weekly World News (1996)

Weekly World News, a short-lived video adaptation, and that's putting it loosely, of the long-running satirical tabloid, was one of those rare news satires that failed to catch on with audiences.

The series bowed on USA Network in January 1996, but was cut after 13 weeks, if that. Veteran newsman Edwin Newman, long associated with USA's sister network, NBC, anchored Weekly World News, the last stop on a long, distinguished career in journalism. Bear in mind that 16 years earlier, Newman was asked to be the news reader for David Letterman's ill-fated morning talk show. The difference? Letterman was funny. Weekly World News, in print or on the air, often wasn't.

What killed the print version was going to the well too many times with the same tired tropes, particularly, claims that music legend Elvis Presley was still alive (and some people still believe that, nearly 40 years after Presley's death), or the fictional "Bat Boy", for whom the current owners of the now-online-only publication named their company. Weekly World News ended its print run in 2007, only to be revived online 2 years later. The TV series suffered the backlash of viewer indifference.

Following is a sample episode that aired on Scottish Television.



Rating: C--.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Forgotten TV: The Man Behind The Badge (1953)

The Man Behind The Badge played out as any crime drama would in the 50's. In the case of a procedural anthology such as this, the viewer is taken, step by step, through an actual case, dramatized, and lifted from the files of a different law enforcement agency each week.

Originally, the series aired on CBS for a solid year from October 1953-October 1954. After a nearly 3 month break, the series returned, this time in syndication, with Charles Bickford, later of The Virginian, replacing original host-narrator Norman Rose. Bickford got a little more than 9 months before the series was cancelled for good.

CBS gave up on Badge because of a glut of crime dramas around this time, and that same glut, perhaps, kept viewers from finding it in syndication.

Following is a season 2 episode, narrated by Bickford, "The Case of the Priceless Passport", starring Willis Bouchey, Claude Akins, and Leon Askin (later of Hogan's Heroes):



The series is in public domain, so anyone could cobble together a DVD release. Either that, or individual episodes will turn up in themed compilation packages.

Rating: B.

Musical Interlude: L. A. Woman (1990)

Perhaps the closest anyone could come to replicating the vocal style of the late Doors frontman, Jim Morrison, could be Billy Idol.

In 1990, Idol covered the Doors' "L. A. Woman" on his CD, "Charmed Life". The video was shot after Idol had been in a motorcycle accident, which explains the cane he's using. While Morrison slipped in a reference to "Mr. Mojo Risin", Idol left that out of his version.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Baseball's All-Star Game needs a change

It is a rite of summer. Major League Baseball's annual All-Star Game, taking place July 12 in San Diego, is already generating a buzz, and only because of who isn't playing.

Let us first consider the rosters, courtesy of Yahoo!:

American League roster:

C: Salvador Perez, Royals
1B: Eric Hosmer, Royals
2B: Jose Altuve, Astros
3B: Manny Machado, Orioles
SS: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
OF: Mike Trout, Angels
OF: Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox
OF: Mookie Betts, Red Sox
DH: David Ortiz, Red Sox

AL pitchers:

RHP: Dellin Betances, Yankees
RHP: Brad Brach, Orioles
LHP: Zach Britton, Orioles
RHP: Alex Colome, Rays
RHP: Wade Davis (on DL), Royals
RHP: Marco Estrada, Blue Jays
LHP: Cole Hamels, Rangers
RHP: Will Harris, Astros
RHP: Kelvin Herrera, Royals
RHP: Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox
LHP: Andrew Miller, Yankees
RHP: Danny Salazar, Indians
LHP: Chris Sale, White Sox
RHP: Steven Wright, Red Sox

AL reserves:

C: Stephen Vogt, Athletics
C: Matt Wieters, Orioles
1B: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
2B: Robinson Cano, Mariners
3B: Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
SS: Francisco Lindor, Indians
SS: Eduardo Nunez, Twins
OF: Carlos Beltran, Yankees
OF: Ian Desmond, Rangers
OF: Mark Trumbo, Orioles
DH: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays

Boston has 4 starters, including David Ortiz, in his final All-Star Game. Ortiz's selection was a given as a result of his pre-season announcement that he was retiring, and cases can be made for the others. Royals manager Ned Yost, piloting the AL team for the 2nd straight year, must know something we don't, since he closer, Wade Davis, is on the DL, and might not be available for next week's game. Otherwise, the starters will draw a collective yawn in years to come because it'll be the same cast over and over again......

National League roster:

C: Buster Posey, Giants
1B: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
2B: Ben Zobrist, Cubs
3B: Kris Bryant, Cubs
SS: Addison Russell, Cubs
OF: Bryce Harper, Nationals
OF: Yoenis Cespedes, Mets
OF: Dexter Fowler, Cubs NL pitchers:

RHP: Jake Arrieta, Cubs
LHP: Madison Bumgarner, Giants
RHP: Johnny Cueto, Giants
RHP: Jeurys Familia, Mets
RHP: Jose Fernandez, Marlins
RHP: Kenley Jansen, Dodgers
LHP: Clayton Kershaw (on DL), Dodgers
LHP: Jon Lester, Cubs
RHP: Mark Melancon, Pirates
RHP: A.J. Ramos, Marlins
RHP: Fernando Rodney, Marlins
RHP: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
RHP: Noah Syndergaard, Mets
RHP: Julio Teheran, Braves

NL reserves:

C: Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
C: Wilson Ramos, Nationals
1B: Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs
1B: Wil Myers, Padres
2B: Daniel Murphy, Nationals
3B: Nolan Arenado, Rockies
3B: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
SS: Corey Seager, Dodgers
OF: Adam Duvall, Reds
OF: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
OF: Odubel Herrera, Phillies
OF: Marcell Ozuna, Marlins

The rampant ballot-stuffing in Chicago screwed Murphy, the NL's leading hitter, as well as Arenado, among the league leaders in homers, and Seager, a presumptive pick for Rookie of the Year, depending, of course, on how many games Seager played last year to retain rookie status. Dexter Fowler is hoping to come off the DL in time for the game, but if he can't go, I'd tab either Gonzalez, Ozuna, or Duvall, the latter of whom is having the prototypical career year, to fill the vacancy. That said, just the same, Terry Collins has a loaded roster, even if Kershaw, the non-pareil ace of the Dodgers, can't go.

So it comes down to the "final 5" in each league to fill out the rosters. In the AL, fans can choose between now and Friday for:

Ian Kinsler (Detroit)
Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay)
Dustin Pedroia (Boston)
Michael Saunders (Toronto)
George Springer (Houston)

And, in the NL:

Brandon Belt (San Francisco)
Ryan Braun (Milwaukee)
Jake Lamb (Arizona)
Starling Marte (Pittsburgh)
Trevor Story (Colorado)

Story got off to a record-setting start in April, and, predictably, has tailed off since. A case can be made for most of these others, too, but do we really need to continue this online vote beyond this year?

In fact, the fans been voting since 1971, and it becomes a parochial popularity contest, more so this year and last, since MLB encourages fans to vote often. Unfortunately, the fans pay little attention to the statistics of players outside of their respective areas, which would explain the Cubs with 5 starters, one of whom was, at last check, on the DL (Fowler), and 7 total. The NFL amended the voting process for the Pro Bowl not long ago, where fan vote accounted for about half of the final tabulation. Of course, they've also scrambled the rosters where it's not by conference anymore, but that's another story.

The way I see it, it should be 50% fan vote, 50% players, coaches, & managers. That way, it reduces the arguments about who gets left off the team. Personally, I wouldn't have minded a couple of extra Mets, but hey.

What do you think?



Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Donald Trump should pay attention to this video (2016)

The Ad Council recruited WWE superstar John Cena for this, the Council's longest PSA ever. Clocking in at over 3 minutes, A camera leads Cena as he walks through an unnamed city. You might say that "Love Has No Labels" might serve as Cena's greatest promo ever.



You think Donald Trump is paying attention? If he isn't, he should, and stop the haterizing rhetoric.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Musical Interlude: Goin' Crazy (1986)

Van Halen's on-again, off-again resident court jester-vocalist, David Lee Roth, released his first full length solo CD, "Eat 'Em & Smile", in 1986.

The 2nd single from the album, "Goin' Crazy", features the same cast of actors, plus Roth's manager, Peter Angelus, from the 1st video, "Yankee Rose". This time, though, Roth doubles as one of the Picasso Brothers, dressed in a fat suit. Angelus is his usual self ("Forget about it!") while trading barbs with Roth. Some subsequent plays of the video have edited out the comedy intro.



To think Roth intended for this to set up a movie that never happened.

Sports this 'n' that

The late Joe Garagiola was right. Baseball is a funny game.

Last season, the Chicago Cubs swept all seven regular season meetings with the Mets, only to see New York collect a major receipt with a 4-game sweep in the NLCS in October. The two teams met again this past weekend at Citi Field, and it was the Cubs, leaders in the NL Central, and owners of the best record in the league, seeking payback.

Not happening.

Instead, the Mets picked up with the Cubs right where they left off last fall, sweeping all 4 games by an aggregate score of 32-11, including a 14-3 bludgeoning on Sunday. Ouch!!

The Mets abused Chicago starter Jon Lester, knocking him out in the 2nd, en route to a record-tying 22 hits, including 5 home runs for the 2nd time in the series. All nine starters, including winning pitcher Noah Syndergaard, had at least 1 hit. Third baseman Wilmer Flores tied a team record by going 6-for-6, the first Met since Edgardo Alfonzo (now the 3rd base coach for Brooklyn) 17 years ago, including 2 home runs.

Up next for the Mets is division rival Miami, which is coming off beating Atlanta, 5-2, on Sunday night. More on that later, but this is a Mets team that tends to fall into lengthy let-downs at the wrong time. Stay tuned.
==================================
Not quite a week ago, the sports world mourned the passing of two premier coaches.

Buddy Ryan was the architect of the Chicago Bears' vaunted "46" defense, so named for linebacker Doug Plank, that carried the reborn Monsters of the Midway to the Super Bowl and a thrashing of New England after the 1985 season. Ryan had won a Super Bowl ring 17 years earlier as an assistant under Weeb Ewbank with the Jets. Count on this. The Buffalo Bills, coached by Buddy's twin sons, Rex & Rob, and the Bears will dedicate their 2016 campaigns to Buddy. The only question is whether or not they can go all the way to the big dance.

Meanwhile, former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt lost her battle with Alzheimer's Disease at 64. Overall, Summitt is among the top 5 coaches in college basketball history, in very distinct company with the likes of Hall of Famers John Wooden and Dean Smith. Summitt helped put women's college basketball in the mainstream, and it's never looked back.
==================================
Back at home, the Tri-City Valleycats are trying to 1) get over .500 and 2) move out of the Stedler Division cellar after the first 2 weeks plus of the season. Tri-City sits at 8-9 after thumping Hudson Valley, 10-0, on Sunday night. I shan't be surprised if their best hitters, outfielder Stephen Wrenn and 1B/DH Carmen Benedetti, are promoted within the Astros' chain in due course. Wrenn leads the New York-Penn League with 7 homers after Sunday's action. Lamarr Rogers is in just his 2nd season with the Astros' organization, and won a league title last year, so adversity might not be a problem.
==================================
Sunday's ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game between Atlanta and Miami originated from Fort Bragg in North Carolina. They were christening the new ballpark there, and the tickets were limited to military personnel and their families. There was at least one Braves fan who had never seen the team play in person, and the Braves arranged for his ticket as a gesture of goodwill.

Unfortunately, some jackass decided to crash the party to extend his 15 minutes of fame.

Zack Hample collects home run balls and foul balls, and scored the home run that was Alex Rodriguez's 3,000th hit last year. There is some question as to how he managed to finagle a ticket for this game, but he claims he has a friend in the military. There was a story on social media that said he was offering $1,000 for a ticket. The 82nd Airborne Division wasn't thrilled with Hample, who comes across as crass and greedy, though he claimed that any balls he found would be donated to charity.

Sorry, Zack, but in this writer's opinion, you're just piggy-backing on a once-in-a-lifetime event just to feather your own nest. That doesn't fly, not with the 82nd Airborne, not with a lot of other baseball fans who chose to stay at home and watch the game to support their teams or just for the sake of watching the game. For your act of shameless selfishness, you get the Weasel of the Week award. Enjoy the Weasel ears, bubbelah, because you certainly deserve them.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Forgotten TV: The Dick Clark Show (1958)

Dick Clark always was a multi-tasker.

Never content with just American Bandstand, which aired in the daytime, Clark experimented with a primetime show that was similarly formatted with The Dick Clark Show, otherwise known as The Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show, though the gum and baby food maker began sponsoring the series three weeks into the run.

The Dick Clark Show lasted two years, airing year round between February 1958 and 1960. As noted, the format was similar to Bandstand, except that it was in a theatre, and the audience sat in their seats the entire time. Musical guests rarely sang live. Lip-syncing was an accepted practice back then, much more so than it is now in the eyes of music fans. Clark also interviewed actors and other celebrities who happened to be in attendance on a given night.

There won't be a rating, as I never saw the show. For now, we'll leave you with the opening to a January 1959 episode, and the first musical guest of the evening, country music legend Conway Twitty, who crossed over to the pop charts at that time with "It's Only Make Believe":

Saturday, July 2, 2016

In Theatres: The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

13 years ago, Warner Bros. tried a Tarzan TV series set in present-day New York. It bombed, badly.

Now comes "The Legend of Tarzan", which tries to recapture the spirit of earlier feature films, dating back to at least the 50's, when the Weintraub family obtained the film rights, and amended the ape-man's language to proper English, in the spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels.

"Legend" begins in late 19th century London, where John Clayton III, or, Lord Greystoke (Alexander Skarsgard, True Blood), is a titled nobleman who has been invited to return to the Congo by King Leopold of Belgium. At first, Clayton is reluctant, but American George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) persuades him when he tells of slavery and other nasty goings-on. Clayton brings along his wife, Jane (Margot Robbie), for the return to Africa, and the couple are greeted with open arms. However, the celebration ends early when captain Leon Rom (Christopf Waltz, "Spectre") shows up, and captures the Claytons, killing a tribal leader in the process.

There are flashbacks that recall Tarzan & Jane's earlier days in Africa, and the fact that a rival monarch (Djimoun Hounsou) wants Tarzan dead in retaliation for Tarzan killing his son years before, if but because the lad had slain Tarzan's adoptive ape mother, Kala. Suffice to say, a lot of issues are settled in due course.

Skarsgard plays Clayton/Tarzan as being more of a reluctant hero returning to the land where he spent his formative years, and it takes time before he finally, ah, warms up. I kept expecting Jackson to break character and ask someone, "What's in your wallet?". One critic complained that Margot Robbie, to be seen next in "Suicide Squad", was underused. No, she wasn't. Apparently, said critic hadn't seen enough Tarzan movies over the years to know better.

Fresh trailers included:

"Sully" (September 9): Clint Eastwood's bio of Navy Captain Chesley Sullenberger's "Miracle on the Hudson" is already getting bad press two months before release for over-dramatizing the story. Tom Hanks stars.

"Bleed Like This": Miles Teller tries to rebound from last year's farcical reboot of "Fantastic Four" by top-lining the bio of 80's boxer Vinny Pazienza.

"Ice Age: Collision Course" (July 22): Ray Romano, Denis Leary, and company return for the latest installment in the series.

"The Light Between The Oceans": Michael Fassbender ("X-Men Apocalypse") stars in this fact-based drama about a couple who find a baby lost at sea.

Here's the trailer for "The Legend of Tarzan":



Rating: C+.

Can we just retcon today's Marvel Comics?

The bad ideas keep coming from what used to be known as the "House of Ideas", Marvel Comics.

They already had to backpedal on last month's publicity grab by having it revealed that Captain America had false memories implanted to explain his supposedly being a Hydra shadow agent. Like, we knew that would happen, but not this quick. As I wrote at the time, Marvel was looking to steal the spotlight from rival DC and grab a cheap headline. Unfortunately for Marvel, the shock value is now non-existent after a decade of lame stunts.

Unfortunately, it's about to get worse.

Sometime in the late 80's or early 90's, I forget which, some genius decided that since the super soldier formula made Cap practically immortal, they just had to make other characters immortal. They'd like you to believe that Wolverine, a character who's been around since the mid-70's, had been born in the 19th century. Talk about the old cliche, "if it isn't broken, you don't fix it". Marvel, unfortunately, doesn't ascribe to that theorem. Around the same time, they made the supposition that the Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff, had been given a formula similar to the super soldier serum. I seem to recall a storyline running in Captain America where the Widow and Wolverine were the guest stars, with flashbacks to, I think, though I am not 100% certain, World War II. The Wolverine part of the equation I got at the time, because he's one of Marvel's most popular characters, and his appearance means a few extra copies get sold.

Now, the Marbleheads are trying to claim that Tony Stark---Iron Man---was adopted, and for the next cheap publicity grab, their storyline in International Iron Man claims that Tony's biological mom is none other than the Widow.

Believe it or else, despite the success of the "Avengers" family of movies over the last 8 years, the comics aren't flying off the shelves on a consistent basis, and so Marvel resorts to these cheap stunts to try to boost sales and avoid having to cancel books that they don't want to cut due to the movies. My Marvel reading list presently consists of only a couple of books, and this is largely because Marvel insists on charging $4 an issue. DC cut the cover price on their main line books to $3 per issue, and they're seeing a surge in sales as a result.

Some decisions made the last few years have been sensible (i.e. Sam Wilson as Captain America). Others questionable, such as what has been described above. The big problem is that the only cha-chings Marvel hears are at the box office when the movies come out, and they have one more movie left this year ("Doctor Strange", out in November).

It's time, then, to leave well enough alone. The more Marvel reboots and retcons story ideas and characters, the more tangled the history becomes, no matter how hard they try to fix it. Here's an idea for Dan Buckley and his crew. Follow DC's lead. Cut the cover prices down to a more respectable level. That's what a lot of your movie fans are waiting for. Stop alienating the older readers by insulting their intelligence. Stop treating your audience like they have attention deficit disorder.

Let me make a wrestling analogy here.

In the 90's, comics & wrestling fan Vince Russo was writing a monthly strip for the then-World Wrestling Federation's monthly magazine (now defunct), in addition to being head writer for Monday Night Raw. After leaving the company in October 1999, he resurfaced---literally---in World Championship Wrestling as a writer and an on-camera performer. He thought that he could still do the same things, but without Vince McMahon to keep him focused. WCW went under less than 18 months later. After 4 tours of duty with Total Non-stop Action (TNA) Wrestling from 2002-2014, Russo still hadn't figured out the formula that made him so successful, and he alienated the fan base with his recycled bad ideas. Today, he's not working for any promotion, because they've all smartened up, wise to the fact that his peak had come and gone.

Marvel needs to see that their readership base is dropping because of their books being overpriced and because they're tired of the cheap stunts to grab meaningless headlines. DC has the advantage here, as opposed to the movies. For Marvel to get their books in sync, financially, with their movies, they need to move in a different direction. Yesterday.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Celebrity Rock: Mind Games (2001)

This might just be what led to Kevin Spacey's bio of Bobby Darin, "Beyond The Sea".

Three years earlier, Spacey, currently starring in Netflix's House of Cards, appeared at a benefit concert for victims of the 9/11/01 attacks in New York and elsewhere, and covered John Lennon's "Mind Games". Scope.

Forgotten TV: 9 to 5 (1982)

One of 1980's biggest movie blockbusters was "9 to 5", a workplace comedy that starred Jane Fonda and country singer Dolly Parton, who also scored a #1 crossover hit with the title song. A year and a half later, Fonda decided to pitch a series version of the film, which landed as a spring replacement at ABC in March 1982. Between that and jumping in on the aerobics mania of the period, Fonda was reinventing herself to erase the political stigma that had dogged her since the 60's.

But it seems network politics got in the way of 9 to 5, and it was cancelled two months into its 3rd season. Bear in mind that Fonda had left before the start of that season, along with co-executive producer Bruce Gilbert. Veteran show-runner James Komack began a brief TV comeback by taking over the series, but his golden touch was still leaden by this point.

Three years later, 9 to 5 returned, this time in syndication, for another 2 seasons (1986-8). Never saw the movie or the show, so there ain't going to be a rating, by the way.

For the series, Fonda brought in Valerie Curtin (cousin of Jane Curtin), Rita Moreno (ex-The Electric Company), and Rachel Dennison (Dolly's sister). When Komack took over, Curtin was axed, replaced by Leah Ayres (later of The Bradys), only for Curtin to return when the series was revived in '86.

The only mistake Fonda might've made the first season was hiring another singer to cover "9 to 5". Phoebe Snow, a 1-hit wonder in the 70's ("Poetry Man"), recorded the theme in the following video. When the 2nd season began, Snow's version was ditched, and the more familiar, original recording by Dolly Parton returned. Not only that, but Jeffrey Tambor (ex-The Ropers) was bounced from the role of tyrannical Mr. Hart (Dabney Coleman in the movie), replaced by Peter Bonerz (ex-The Bob Newhart Show) in one of his last acting roles.

Here's the season 1 video, with Phoebe Snow's cover of the theme song.