Sunday, April 30, 2017

The origin of a classic: The first pilot for The Munsters (1964)

As everyone knows, The Munsters ran for 2 seasons (1964-6) on CBS. What you don't know is that two of the five leads had to be recast.

Not much is known about Happy Derman, other than the fact that he probably wasn't heard from again after failing to click as Eddie, playing the role with the attitude of a juvenile delinquent and more of a werewolf stereotype, the latter of which was downplayed when Butch Patrick was cast for the final pilot. Joan Marshall (Phoebe) just didn't fit in. When the role was recast, the character was renamed Lily. We cannot be certain if this was simply the same character, having been rechristened. You'll notice, too, that the makeup for Herman (Fred Gwynne, ex-Car 54, Where Are You?) is a tad different. You might say that Herman, ah, bulked up by the time the series actually began.

And who had heard of a laugh track during opening credits, anyway?

Here's the, ah, "rough draft" of "My Fair Munster":



Unfortunately, this is all we have.

Rating: C.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Musical Interlude: Take Me To The River (1983-4)

Talking Heads get help from members of Parliament-Funkadelic and the Brothers Johnson on a live cover of Al Green's "Take Me To The River", from the concert film, "Stop Making Sense", which chronicles the band's 1983 tour in support of "Speaking in Tongues".

In memory of director Jonathan Demme, who passed away earlier this week.




Forgotten TV: The Cases of Eddie Drake (1949-52)

If you thought network executives have itchy trigger fingers for early cancellations now, it's actually a tradition as old as broadcast television itself.

Take, for example, The Cases of Eddie Drake.

Nine episodes of the series were filmed by CBS in 1949, but six of those nine never made it to air. Three years later, DuMont picked up the series and added four new episodes to complete the series. Incredibly, the research guide I've been using doesn't list Eddie Drake, assuming it was meant to be a primetime show.

Don Haggerty top-lined as Drake, who narrated each tale, a la Dragnet or, later on, Richard Diamond. Standard fare, really, but I think you're going to see why CBS gave up on it so quickly.......! Here's "Shoot The Works".



As you can see, they saved money on credits by having actress Patricia Morrison read off the cast at the end of the show. Who'dathunk?

Rating: C+.

Friday, April 28, 2017

What Might've Been: Primetime Glick (2001)

Martin Short returned to television in 2001, this time in a send-up of late night talk shows, Primetime Glick, which lasted three seasons, all in the spring and summer (2001-3), on Comedy Central.

Short used a fat suit and prosthetic makeup to transform into Jiminy Glick, who meant well when trying to interview his guests, but his attention span left something to be desired. Adrian Van Voorhees (Michael McKean, ex-Laverne & Shirley, Saturday Night Live) was the show's bandleader/announcer.

In addition to a weeknight berth, Comedy Central repurposed the series on Saturday mornings, which really wasn't the place for repeats of a series like this. Then again, since the network's only animated fare is actually aimed at teens and young adults (i.e. the long running South Park), what else could they do?

More than a decade after the series ended, Short resurrected the Glick character for his short lived NBC variety series, Maya & Marty, with Maya Rudolph, another SNL alumnus.

So why is this being brought up? Because ABC, in acquiring the late Chuck Barris' talent show parody, The Gong Show, for a summer run under the direction of actor Will Arnett, is hiring on still another SNL alum, Mike Myers, to play a character, Tommy Maitland, as host. What will be the 5th incarnation of Gong, and the first on a broadcast network in nearly 40 years, will launch June 22 as a summer replacement series.

Here's a sample of Primetime Glick:



I didn't see enough of the show to merit a rating, so there won't be one.


Sports this 'n' that

Local sports anchor and Albany Times-Union pundit Rodger Wyland warned the Jets away from drafting a quarterback in the 1st round of the NFL Draft, which began Thursday night. For once, Wyland's advice was heeded. Someone online had suggested the Jets take a chance on Clemson QB DeShaun Watson, but Houston got to Watson first. All that says to me is that the Texans are trying to wipe away the stench of last year's Brock Osweiler debacle (Osweiler was traded to Cleveland in the offseason), and Watson will challenge 4th year QB Tom Savage for the starting job.  As long as talented kids like Watson come out earlier than they should, unrealistic expectations, prompted by the leeches hanging around these star athletes, will always follow.
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ESPN laid off more than 100 employees, mostly on-air talent, on Wednesday. Dottie Pepper, golfer-turned-broadcaster, from Saratoga, was among those let go, but don't feel too badly for Dottie. She still has a job with CBS. There are those, however, who'd prefer that ESPN got rid of First Take blabbermouth Stephen A. Smith and his Cosellian rants. One online columnist complained that veteran journalists such as Jayson Stark and Ed Werder, the latter a 17 year veteran of the network, were let go and Smith, a Philadelphia based reporter-turned-controversy magnet who thinks he knows more than he really does about sports other than basketball, which was his beat when he first came to ESPN, stays. That's because, as Smith himself helpfully points out, First Take is generating good ratings. It's helping, too, that Smith is now getting dressed down on-air by new partner Max Kellerman on a regular basis.
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The Mets have fallen victim again to the injury curse that has plagued them almost every year since Citi Field opened in 2009. Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes came out of Thursday's loss to Atlanta, the team's sixth straight defeat, having reaggravated a hamstring injury that left him out of last weekend's series with Washington. The rematch with the Nats begins tonight, and the Mets are already in free fall. Add Cespedes to an injury list that also includes infielders Wilmer Flores and Lucas Duda, and you wonder if someone isn't sticking needles in voodoo dolls bearing the players' likenesses. Well, that would be a good reason in a movie........
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Meanwhile, it's very curious that Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is denying reports that former Florida governor Jeb Bush and recently retired Yankees star Derek Jeter had "won" a bidding war to purchase the Miami Marlins after media outlets went bananas over the issue a week ago. One wonders if current owner Jeff Loria is having second thoughts, fearing that his cheapskate method of running the team would be replaced by a group that would turn the Marlins into Yankees South. Just sayin'.
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High school beat: Troy High's lacrosse team snapped a six game losing streak Thursday in crushing Averill Park, 14-0. All 14 goals, per the Times-Union, were scored in the 1st quarter. Goalkeeper Casey Episcopo had more saves (15) than his teammates had goals. The softball team beat Bethlehem, 2-1, also on Thursday, as they made up last Saturday's postponement. The girls are right back out on the road today at arch-rival Averill Park, the scene of the crime last year when then-coach George Rafferty had a in-game meltdown that cost him his job. Rafferty is now at Hudson Valley Community College. Meantime, it appears that Wednesday's road games at Guilderland for both the baseball & softball teams have to be made up within the next 2-3 weeks as those games either were postponed or were not reported (the press doesn't even acknowledge rainouts in high school ball).

Unfortunately, there is still a black cloud over the school's tennis & track teams, which have yet to win a meet this season. The boys' tennis team was shut out again, 9-0, this time by Saratoga, in a makeup meet on Thursday. Up next is a road meet today at Averill Park.

Across town, the Friday Night Lights series continues at Joe Bruno Stadium today, starting with a Colonial Council matchup between Cohoes & Watervliet, followed by a Suburban Council game between Columbia & Shenendehowa. The Blue Devils would be the de facto home team, since they're located closer to the stadium, or, at least you'd think so.
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Don't look now, but the Yankees may have the front runner for the AL Rookie of the Year in outfielder Aaron Judge. The way the media fawns on Judge, you'd think he was the 2nd coming of Dave Kingman, who played for both the Mets & Yankees, as well as the Giants, Cubs, & Angels, during the course of his career. Kingman had a propensity for hitting towering home runs as well as copious amounts of strikeouts, just like Judge, who, as we noted previously, is being compared to Miami's Giancarlo Stanton. Judge is a big reason why the Yanks are in striking distance of AL East leader Baltimore in the season's 4th week.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The origin of a classic: That Girl's unaired pilot (1965)

You only think you know everything when it comes to Marlo Thomas' seminal sitcom, That Girl. What you don't know is that a pilot episode, produced but unaired a year earlier, had some slight differences to the finished product.

For example, Ann Marie (Thomas)'s boyfriend, Don Hollinger (Ted Bessell, ex-Gomer Pyle, USMC) was originally Don Blue Sky, a talent agent, before being rebooted as a magazine writer. Ann's parents were portrayed in this pilot by Harold Gould & Penny Santon, but, as we know the roles were recast a year later (Lew Parker & Rosemary DeCamp). This meant that Gould had two such gigs slip through his fingers as a few years later, he was the original Howard Cunningham in the Happy Days pilot on Love, American Style. Santon would later resurface in a string of guest gigs before joining the cast of Matt Houston.

Now, check out "What's in a Name?":



I don't think Ann kept the waitress gig when the series began a year later.

Production executive Ronald Jacobs, though, was also attached to a 1965 freshman entry that did sell. That, of course, would be the Emmy-winning I Spy.

No rating. This is just a public service.

The most clueless President ever strikes again

I had written a similar essay earlier, then took it down because a link I had posted wasn't working once it was pasted onto the post. So, let's try this again, albeit with a different link attached.

Anyway, President Trump on Wednesday told the Washington Examiner that he would "absolutely" disband the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, just because a district judge not connected with the 9th Circuit shot down his intended executive order to prohibit funding for so-called "sanctuary cities" that supposedly are protecting illegal immigrants from the Immigration & Naturalization Services (INS).

Like, seriously, Mr. President? From what I understand, you don't have the authority to order the disbandment of the 9th Circuit or any other circuit court of appeals. Congress does. Good luck convincing both houses of Congress to go along with this latest outrageous idea.

The last Republican President, George W. Bush, was decried and dismissed as being clueless when he first took office 16 years ago, but you're making him look like a Rhodes Scholar, Mr. Trump. Never mind the fact that he went to Yale and could probably debate you under the table. At least, he didn't behave like a petulant child every time things didn't go his way. We can tell when you're throwing a tantrum, every time you go on Twitter, which you claim you're not really interested in. Yeah, tell us another tall tale.

Anyway, here's a link to a Time Magazine article:

http://time.com/4758187/donald-trump-ninth-circuit-history/

You'll just have to copy the link and paste it onto your search box.

Here's a piece of advice, Mr. Trump. You have a Bible. Read it. I'm sure you'll find something that will give you something you've been lacking. Clarity.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What Might've Been: The Bobby Darin Amusement Company/The Bobby Darin Show (1972)

Back in the day, it was a common practice, discontinued in the mid-70's, for the networks to sub one existing variety show with a fresh one during the summer, with the incumbent assured of returning in the fall.

At NBC, that incumbent was Dean Martin, who spun off the Golddiggers into their own summer series for three years in a row (1968-70), then turned the summer spot to Vic Damone (1971), and finally, actor-singer Bobby Darin in 1972.

Darin was on the comeback trail, having returned to show business after a three year hiatus in 1970. He'd made a guest appearance on Night Gallery opposite Jack Albertson, as memory serves. In July of 1972, The Bobby Darin Amusement Company bowed, filling the space where Dean usually was on Thursdays until the fall. Bobby's repertory company included future icons Steve Landesberg (later of Barney Miller) & Geoff Edwards, better known for his many game shows (i.e. Jackpot, The New Treasure Hunt) and character actor Dick Bakalyan, whose resume included a few Disney movies and guest appearances on Batman, particularly in the final season, where he played a handful of different henchmen.

Of course, at the time, 10 pm (ET) was past ye scribe's bedtime, so I never saw the show, hence, no rating. In this clip, Darin's monologue is interrupted by a "network psychiatrist" (Landesberg):



The show was, in fact, a success, such that in January 1973, the series was brought back, now known as The Bobby Darin Show, as a replacement for Quinn Martin's under-performing Robert Forster crime drama, Banyon. Problem was, Darin had taken ill by this point, and passed away in the spring of '73, a brilliant career cut tragically short.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Boldest detergent ever (1968)

Procter & Gamble had a good line of detergent products back in the day. They've sold off some brands (i.e. Oxydol), and retained others (Cheer, Tide, Gain). Somewhere in the middle is Bold, which P & G introduced sometime in the 50's or 60's. The Wikipedia page only says it debuted in the UK in 1974.

Anyway, Jo Anne Worley (Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In) sings the praises of the product in this 1968 ad.

Musical Interlude: A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do) (1981)

Ray Parker, Jr. & Raydio topped Billboard's Hot R & B Singles chart in May 1981 with "A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)", the title tune from the album that had been released three months earlier. It happens this was my introduction to Parker, along with "You Can't Change That".



Back then, it'd be easy to mistake him for actor Billy Dee Williams, largely because of the similar facials. Raydio, unfortunately, split before the end of '81, but Parker's solo career took off soon after.

Monday, April 24, 2017

What Might've Been: Grindl (1963)

Here's a domestic sitcom with a twist.

Grindl, a 1-year wonder for NBC in 1963-4, cast Imogene Coca in the title role of a talkative woman who went from job to job, only because her primary employer was an employment agency that filled vacant jobs for various employers. That's still happening today, but it's not as prevalent.

Creator-producer David Swift already had a hit with another domestic sitcom for Screen Gems with Hazel, who at least had a steady job. Grindl depicted just the opposite. In Grindl's case, she got into some of the same kinds of situations that Hazel would find herself in occasionally, all quite by chance or accident.

Scope out the episode, "She-Wolf of Wall Street", and see if you can't figure out why this series, nestled snugly in between Disney's Wonderful World of Color and Bonanza, ultimately failed. There will be no rating, as I never saw the show (I was just an infant at the time.).




Musical Interlude: Find Your Way Back (1981)

Jefferson Starship's "Find Your Way Back" was the first single off their 1981 album, "Modern Times". The video would, in fact, gain significant airplay on MTV after the channel was launched that summer.



If anything, the introduction of MTV would enable the band to gain a new audience that hadn't been fully exposed to their sound. As I've often noted, I grew up in a country-centric household, so a lot of this was still new to me.

High school this 'n' that

Less than 24 hours after besting Albany Academy, LaSalle was back in action on Saturday, and was thumped, 18-2, by Queensbury. The sad part of this is the fact that The Record, due in large part to sports editor David Johnson being on vacation last week, couldn't send anyone to cover the Friday double-dip at Joe Bruno Stadium. Johnson's absence also results in the cheesiest, laziest game summaries I've ever read in a newspaper.

I've said it enough times. It's equally on the schools and the local press to work together. Not everyone is on social media and/or the internet. Old school journalism, friends, still works.
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Meanwhile, across town at Troy High, I had ventured to the ol' alma mater essentially for my first look at the softball team on Saturday. No such luck. The morning rains on Friday, despite the best efforts of Troy's grounds crew, forced the cancellation of the softball game vs. Bethlehem. No makeup date has yet been set, but figure one will be, with three weeks and change left in the regular season. The girls are scheduled to finish the regular season with a non-league tilt at South Glens Falls on May 12.

As a result, it was a lost day on Saturday for the remaining Troy teams that did play. Bethlehem collected a receipt in baseball, avenging a 2-0 loss on April 5 with a 9-3 verdict on Saturday. Troy starter Isaac Brown, looking like a junior grade Noah Syndergaard with the flowing blond hair, didn't get out of the third inning, and was undone by a sloppy defense, which committed 4 errors early on. The Eagles scored seven runs in the third to ice the game. It was so bad that the fathers of two Troy players left before the Flying Horses got on the scoreboard.
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Bethlehem also shut out Troy in tennis, 9-0. The goofs at The Record, due to an editing error, claimed Troy also faced---and lost to---Schenectady on Saturday, but that would've been earlier in the week, as the tennis courts were vacated for the day by the time I left the campus at 1:15 pm, following the baseball game. The Patriots were supposed to come to Troy on April 3, but that was postponed. Figuring this was moved back to Friday. Troy is winless in tennis this season. The lacrosse team has dropped five straight after falling to Bethlehem, 8-2. I realize lacrosse is a harder sport to master, but if coach Brian Benner doesn't turn things around these final three weeks, it looks like one-and-done come sectional time.
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Back to the softball team. Troy won the Keenholts tournament in Guilderland on Sunday, defeating Shaker, 4-1 in the opener, then downing Cohoes (Colonial Council), 5-2, as senior ace Hunter LeVesque outdueled Cohoes' Isabelle DiChiaro. It's right back to the action today, as the girls come home for a makeup game vs. Colonie. The Garnet Raiders were to have played on April 5, but that game was postponed. The baseball game that day was bumped to make room for the aforementioned non-league game vs. Bethlehem, so it's also being made up today. With the two wins, the softball team moves to 7-1 on the season, and will have a rematch with Shaker next Monday. Weather permitting, of course.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Erin Moran (1960-2017)

It's just come across the wires regarding the passing of actress-singer Erin Moran at 56. Causes unknown at this point, but it brings an end to a tragic post-career tale.

Erin was in her early teens when she was cast as Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days, having already logged a resume that included appearances on Daktari and The Courtship of Eddie's Father, among other places. America, then, watched Erin grow up over the course of a decade. Erin found time to make a guest appearance on The Waltons during either season 2 or 3 of Happy Days. During the second half of the series run, Joanie was paired with Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio), leading to the short-lived spin-off, Joanie Loves Chachi, which lasted parts of 2 seasons (1982-3), before the couple returned to Days and were married off in the series finale.

Come to think of it, maybe that was when they should've tried the spin-off, don't ya think?

Erin's personal problems, including depression, led to her career going downhill. Her last film of note was "Not Another 'B' Movie", two years after she had appeared on VH1's Celebrity Fit Club.

We'll see if Me-TV or any other cabler with the rights to Happy Days does a Joanie-centric tribute marathon. Meantime, let's revisit a 2nd season episode of Joanie Loves Chachi. Amazingly, it turns out that Erin really wasn't interested in doing the show when it aired. Maybe she had the same idea, that it should've waited until after Days ended, I don't know.



I echo the sentiments of Erin's castmates, including Henry Winkler & Anson Williams, when I say that Erin has found her peace at last. Rest in peace, shortcake. You'll be missed.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Even monsters prefer cable over satellite television (2017)

You've seen the short version of this next item, I'm sure, over the last few weeks.

You have a werewolf, a mad scientist, the Grim Reaper, and a mummy on a train. The latter pair seem to have settled into domesticated life, each having kids.

This is the long version that hasn't seen as much air time, and lacks the voice-over narration at the end.



I'm still trying to get my head wrapped around a mummy and the personification of death having gotten married and raising families........

Weasel of the Week: Kim Kardashian West

Nearly three years after New York artist Hannah Kunkle depicted her as the Virgin Mary, among other things, Kim Kardashian West is shopping some items similarly depicting her in the same role.

Fittingly, the New York Post, which broke the Kunkle story, also reports in today's editions about the reality star incurring the wrath of the Catholic League for exploiting the imagery of the Virgin Mary for profit on her website. She must've liked the attention Kunkle gave her so much, she must've bought the paintings, and used them as inspiration for this latest act of blasphemy. Curiously, the Post hasn't yet made the most obvious of connections.

It only goes to prove that being around a head case like Kanye West will kill your brain cells. Mrs. West picks up her 2nd Weasel of the Week award as a result of this shameless disrespect. Get a real job to support the kiddo's, why don't ya?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Celebrity Rock: Adam West sings! (1966)

We've previously shown you a skit from 1966's Milton Berle Show with guests Adam West (Batman), and Van Williams & Bruce Lee (Green Hornet). In that same episode, West also performed a musical number. I believe the song is called, "This is The Life", as part of a skit that reveals that the captain's hat & jacket are just pro tempore as West is actually a deck hand borrowing "Captain" Berle's spare hat & jacket. Scope!



Like his contemporaries, William Shatner & Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) and David McCallum (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), West did release an album. Well, let's put it this way. He's got Shatner beaten already.

High School Fridays: Albany Academy @ LaSalle (baseball), 4/21/17

It's that time of year again. Third weekend of the high school baseball season means the Coaches Against Cancer Friday Night Lights series at Joe Bruno Stadium. A combination of unsettled weather and poor pre-game promotion resulted in a smaller than expected crowd for the nightcap, as homestanding LaSalle entertained Albany Academy in the Battle of the Cadets.

In the opener, an all-Suburban Council affair, Mohonasen defeated Shaker, 7-0, as the Blue Bison's offense has seemingly disappeared over the last two days. Shaker had dropped an 8-2 decision to Christian Brothers Academy a scant more than 24 hours earlier.

Then, it was time for the Battle of the Cadets.

For the first two innings, it was a pitchers' duel between LaSalle's John Weber and Academy's Ben Seiler. In the third, the roof caved in on Seiler, who gave up five runs on four hits and three walks, capped by an inside-the-park grand slam by Noah Grandjean. In all, Seiler went four innings, giving up seven runs on eight hits with six strikeouts and four walks. For some reason, the scoreboard operators had the attention span of a blind gnat, and didn't give LaSalle credit for a hit in the third. The hosts finished with eleven hits, not ten as shown on the scoreboard. The ball & strike counts were consistently behind for much of the night. Don't worry. It happens when the Valleycats are playing, too.

Weber & James Rubino combined on a 3-hit shutout. Weber reached his pitch limit with one out in the seventh, and was lifted. Curiously, Rubino didn't warm up in the bullpen, but rather was in the dugout, and hugged Weber as they met in between. The two combined for seven strikeouts on the evening, as LaSalle came away with an 8-0 victory to run their record to 8-1 on the season. Academy falls to 4-2.

The host Tri-City Valleycats had issued a press release on MILB.com on Tuesday, and a friend had e-mailed me that night to alert me to the LaSalle-Academy game. Unfortunately, the local papers didn't find the space for a feature article in today's editions, although the LaSalle-Academy game was listed on the schedule in at least one local paper. Once again, LaSalle gets the Rodney Dangerfield treatment from the hometown paper.
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Meanwhile, across town, the fortunes of Troy High's spring sports teams are in different directions at the halfway point of the season.

After a 3-0 start, Brian Benner's lacrosse team has dropped 4 straight, the latest a 18-1 thrashing at the hands of Niskayuna on Thursday. After a day off today, a rare Saturday game awaits the Flying Horses at home vs. Bethlehem. The baseball team, after losing to Nisky, 8-1, on Thursday, will entertain Bethlehem for the 2nd time this month on Saturday morning. The Eagles will be looking to avenge a 2-0 non-league loss two weeks ago. In contrast, the softball team has been almost a runaway train, having won two straight after losing to Ballston Spa on Monday, the latest victory a 19-4 drubbing of Nisky. Bethlehem is next, and then the girls go right back on the road to play in the Keenholts tournament in Guilderland vs. Shaker and Cohoes on Sunday afternoon. Seven games in as many days. While that would be routine for major league baseball, it is a challenge at the high school level. As noted before, the Ballston Spa game was a makeup for a rainout last week. The boys' tennis team's last two matches have not been reported (vs. Saratoga & Niskayuna), but given that they've yet to win this season (same goes for the track team), one must figure the scores are not reported to avoid embarrassment.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Classic TV: Family Ties (1982)

Consider the average American family in 1982, at least in the eyes of Gary David Goldberg, creator-executive producer of Family Ties.

Steven & Elyse Keaton (Michael Gross, Meredith Baxter) had been hippies in the 60's, then started a family, raising a son and two daughters. Ties ultimately put the focus on Alex (Michael J. Fox), an idealistic young Republican, but made sure to give his two sisters,  Mallory (Justine Bateman) & Jennifer (Tina Yothers) equal shine time. By season 4, a second son, Andrew, was added, ultimately played by Brian Bonsall.

At first, NBC bounced Ties across the schedule, looking for what they felt would be the most appropriate spot. Around season 3, it seemed as though they'd settled on Thursdays, with The Cosby Show as a lead-in, helping NBC develop a powerhouse lineup that would remain intact for the next three years. In August 1987, NBC moved Ties to Sundays to make room for the Cosby spin-off, A Different World. The success of Ties enabled Goldberg to sell a second series, Day by Day, to NBC, where it would be partnered with Ties on Sundays. A second spin-off, focusing on Mallory's beau, Nick (Scott Valentine), never got past the pilot stage.

Speaking of pilots, here's the one for Family Ties:



Believe it or else, the show's theme song wasn't originally recorded by Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams. Another duo, including actress Mindy Sterling, had recorded the song first, but for some reason, be it NBC or Paramount, the change was made, likely with an eye toward having the song released as a single for radio. Williams was an emerging star who would peak with "Let's Hear it For The Boy", from "Footloose", by the mid-80's.

Rating: A-.

Remember the McDLT? (1985)

Not realizing that their long-running Big Mac is the actual equivalent to Burger King's Whopper, McDonald's introduced the McDLT, which put an emphasis on the lettuce & tomatoes, hence the name, in 1985.

Suffice to say, the McDLT didn't last very long, and gave way to the Big & Tasty (later Big Tasty), but that's gone now, too.

Anyway, let's go back to 1985 and---yow!---a pre-Seinfeld Jason Alexander, with a full head of hair, as a song & dance man extolling the virtues of the new sandwich.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

When MTV meant something: Rockumentary (1989)

As the 80's drew to a close, MTV began expanding its programming beyond just music videos. The network had added a weekly countdown show and a daily viewer request countdown, the latter of which was heavily in favor of the then sub-genre of "hair metal". The news department moved beyond having the VJ's read news headlines, as that assignment was given to veteran journalist Kurt Loder.

The news division was also responsible for periodic specials such as Rockumentary, which bowed in 1989, and lasted nearly a decade, mostly with Loder serving as narrator. This was basically Biography, but specialized for music fans. Not only that, but it can be argued that Rockumentary was the forerunner to sister network VH1's long running Behind The Music, which was a weekly series as opposed to, say, monthly, as Rockumentary seemingly was.

The early success of Rockumentary made it ripe for parody, but while I'm not entirely sure if Saturday Night Live or MadTV took a poke at it, the popular NBC Saturday morning teen-com, Saved by The Bell, did an episode during the 1992-3 season that presented the series regulars forming an Archies-style pop group, with radio & cartoon legend Casey Kasem as guest host-narrator. We'll pull that episode of Bell for Saturday Morning Archives another time.

For right now, let's take a look at a bio on Metallica, first broadcast in 1992, but this is a rerun from around the time Beavis & Butt-Head were given their Christmas show.



Rating: A.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Musical Interlude: Always On My Mind (1972)

Elvis Presley's rendition of "Always On My Mind" was one of several covers of the song released in 1972. It's just that Elvis' version gets the most airplay. The song's actual title is "You Were Always On My Mind", but those first two words were cut out when the single was released by RCA.

The following clip was also used in the documentary, "Elvis On Tour".



10 years later, Willie Nelson, a former label-mate of Presley's at RCA, hit #1 on both the pop & country charts with his version. By that point, Nelson had switched labels to Columbia, which, oh, by the way, was dominating the pop charts at the time along with sister label Epic, thanks to the likes of Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Michael Jackson, among others.

Sports this 'n' that

It happens every year, it seems, around the home district.

During Easter vacation week, Section II reschedules games that were postponed during the first two weeks of the high school spring sports season, taking full advantage of the earlier-than-normal starting times for games scheduled for this week. For example, Troy High's softball team was scheduled for a road game at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, a game the Flying Horses came from behind to win, 11-9. However, there wouldn't be any rest, because the team bus would soon turn around and return home for a makeup game vs. Ballston Spa, one that was supposed to have been played six days ago, but was washed out by rain.

End result? Troy loses the, ah, "nightcap", but has another home game on tap today vs. Saratoga. If you think that isn't fair to the Troy girls, consider that after an off-day tomorrow, the ladies are on the road at Niskayuna, then come home for a Saturday special vs. Bethlehem, before taking part in a tournament in Guilderland on Sunday. Whew! In all, Troy's girls will have played perhaps as much as seven games, assuming they win at least one on Sunday, before they come back to class next Monday.

Of course, that could all change because rain is in the forecast for Wednesday through Friday, and......!

The bigger problem is that the spring season is really the shortest for high schools. Ideally, you've got a 6 week-plus schedule for the regular season (Troy's baseball team finishes on May 15 vs. LaSalle), and except for non-league tournaments, games aren't played on Sundays, though they should in an emergency. My thinking is, why not have regular season games on Sundays, and more league games on Saturdays? Troy's baseball team had non-league games scheduled the last three Saturdays. The first, vs. Bethlehem, was moved up four days to April 5, which Troy won. An April 8 varsity road game vs. Amsterdam was cancelled due to, presumably cold weather, although the two schools' JV teams, as reported previously, had played that same day at THS, with the hosts winning in a rout. On April 15, Troy lost a non-league road game to Ichabod Crane (Colonial Council), 9-0. However, that game wasn't reported to the hometown paper, which, due to financial and manpower restrictions, often collects results and publishes when they feel like it. Bad form.

For what it's worth, Troy will look to rebound vs. Saratoga this afternoon.
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It doesn't matter who's in the dugout, there are always going to be cranky whiners online who will complain when the Mets or any other team loses. Current manager Terry Collins, in his 7th season in Flushing, has been ripped repeatedly as the "worst" manager, and yet he has gotten his team to the playoffs two years in a row. So they've lost 5 of 7 to Miami the last two weeks. It's early. They don't get to play the Yankees until a 4-game home & home weeknight series in August, and otherwise will begin to play the AL West next month. Philadelphia comes to town tonight with payback on their collective minds after the Mets abused them in a 3-game sweep in Philly last week. Bear in mind, too, some of the Mets' regular starters aren't hitting up to par yet, but it's still early.

Contrast that with the Yankees, who've gotten steaming hot over the last week, and they've yet to lose at home after sweeping Tampa Bay & St. Louis last week. It's not the pitching that is carrying the Bombers, but rather the rookies, particularly first baseman Greg Bird and outfielder Aaron Judge, the latter of whom has drawn comparisons to Miami's Giancarlo Stanton because of his prodigious home runs. You would be forgiven if you mistook Judge for a football or basketball player or a pro wrestler because of his size (6'7", 280). The early returns have proven the Steinbrenner brothers made the right moves in trading away Carlos Beltran last summer, and letting Mark Tiexiera retire after the '16 season. I picked the Yankees to finish 3rd, but so far, that might not be the right answer after all.......
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The Albany Devils will extend their final season in town by at least another week, having qualified for the Calder Cup playoffs. However, they open at home vs. Toronto, a team that has given them trouble the last couple of seasons. Sure, the team has a radio deal, but despite the playoffs, WTMM, the ESPN radio affiliate in the market, gives the Yankees top priority, and doesn't carry a lot of road games, which can be streamed live on the team's website. Television? Try live web streaming. Spectrum Cable, back when it was still Time Warner Cable, didn't show too many Devils games, home or away, as college teams were given priority, including sharing feeds from the Western half of the state (i.e. RIT). Go figure.
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Spectrum Cable's Toyota Sports Night is only 15 minutes, shown three times a day, including an early morning replay at 6:15 am (ET), but runs 7 nights a week. Since Spectrum News has a weeknight political news program that is a half-hour, why not do the same for Sports Night, and expand the scope, especially for high school sports, which need the coverage more than the pros do. Just sayin'.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Classic (?) TV: Broken Arrow (1956)

The success of The Lone Ranger on radio & television proved that in the Old West, it was possible for the Native American to stand side-by-side with white men in peace. In the 50's, Hollywood tried to duplicate the formula, but with varying degrees of success.

Take, for example, Broken Arrow. Like the 1950 film it adapts, the series was based on Elliott Arnold's novel, Blood Brother, which told how government agent Tom Jeffords befriended Cochise. The fictionalized account resurfaced in series form six years after the movie, first as a pilot on CBS' 20th Century Fox Hour. A few months later, after CBS chose not to go to series with Broken Arrow, the studio turned to ABC. In all, 39 episodes were produced over two seasons (1956-8), and, today, the series airs Sunday mornings on Heroes & Icons (check listings).

Co-star Michael Ansara (Cochise) would later play Native American lawman Sam Buckhart on Law of the Plainsman, a 1-year wonder from Four Star that was spun off from The Rifleman.

Right now, let's take a look at a sample episode, "Return From The Shadows":



Around the same time, James Fennimore Cooper's novel had been adapted in the syndicated Hawkeye & the Last of the Mohicans (previously reviewed), but that lasted one season.

It happens that I'd seen the series finale, "The Transfer", yesterday, one of those rare cases where a series came to a natural conclusion. Would that this would be possible today, especially with network executives having itchier, quicker trigger fingers.

Rating: A.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Forgotten TV: Flamingo Road (1981)

The success of CBS' Dallas had shown that a primetime soap opera was feasible again, more than a decade after Peyton Place had ended its run on ABC, and a few years after NBC had failed with a daytime sequel to Peyton. Of course, NBC executives wanted some of the new pie, and they knew where to go to get some of the action.

NBC contracted with Lorimar, the studio behind Dallas and its companion series, Knots Landing, to produce the network's first primetime soap. Flamingo Road, based on a 1949 movie of the same name, which in turn had been adapted from a novel, began as a TV-movie in May 1980, and went to series nearly a full year later. It marked the return to series television of Howard Duff (ex-The Felony Squad), this time as a corrupt Florida sheriff, Titus Semple, drunk with delusions of grandeur. The ensemble also included movie veteran Kevin McCarthy, and rising stars such as Morgan Fairchild and Mark Harmon, the latter of whom is still active today (NCIS).

Unfortunately, over the course of 37 episodes, covering a scant more than a full calendar year (1981-2), NBC programmers made a critical error by scheduling Flamingo, save for the summer of 1981, on Tuesday nights, opposite ABC's Hart to Hart (Flamingo moved to Mondays for the summer of '81, and should've stayed there if they really cared). Ballgame over.

Now, I never saw the show, so there won't be a rating. All I can offer for now is an intro for the first season:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Classic TV: The ABC Movie of the Week (1969)

For years, the networks scheduled up to three movie nights a week, usually with films that had been long out of theatres.

In 1969, ABC decided to do something, well, novel. They decided to experiment by producing their own movies, and run them once, sometimes twice, a week. The ABC Movie of the Week aired on Tuesdays, later adding a Wednesday berth, with each film slotted into a 90 minute berth. This ultimately led to a number of series being spun off from initial movies, including:

The Rookies
The Six Million Dollar Man
The Sixth Sense
Starsky & Hutch
Get Christie Love!

Oh, sure, there were a few cult favorites in the lot. ABC tried a Wonder Woman pilot, with Cathy Lee Crosby in the title role, which bowed near the end of the Amazon's "Emma Peel-lite" phase in the comics. "Killdozer" was later adapted into a comic book by Marvel. "Duel", with Dennis Weaver, was directed by future icon Steven Spielberg. Aaron Spelling produced a large chunk of the movies, not just the pilots for Starsky and The Rookies, mind, but also a trilogy of films that started with "The Daughters of Joshua Cabe", which starred Buddy Ebsen, Karen Valentine, and Jack Elam, the latter of whom would appear in one of the two sequels. Unfortunately, "Joshua Cabe" never made it to series beyond the trilogy.

Just as unfortunate was ABC's decision to discontinue the Movie of the Week in the late 70's, building a powerhouse comedy block on Tuesday nights in its place. A lot of films aren't available on DVD, making them that much more desired by classic TV enthusiasts.

Here's the intro, which leads to "Second Chance", starring Brian Keith (Family Affair), William Windom, Juliet Prowse, and Avery Schreiber. Hollywood Palace announcer Dick Tufeld has those chores here.



I didn't see too many of these movies, largely because in those days, ye scribe was going to bed a wee bit earlier than I do now. Down the road, we'll be pulling some of the movies that are available on YouTube, and reviewing them.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Musical Interlude: The Night Chicago Died (1974)

England's Paper Lace may be considered a 1-hit wonder here in the US, but they actually had something to do with a 2nd 1-hit wonder.

You see, Paper Lace had recorded "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" before Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods did, and their version topped the British charts before Donaldson similarly reached the top of the Hot 100. Paper Lace barely cracked the Hot 100 here. Then, their 2nd and final American single, "The Night Chicago Died", went all the way to #1.

"The Night Chicago Died" is set during the Prohibition era of the 20's, and references Al Capone in the lyrics. Fittingly, reruns of the original The Untouchables were in syndication at the time this song climbed the charts in 1974.

Following is a performance clip from Beat Club, as shown on VH1 Classic (now MTV Classic):

Sports this 'n' that

The other day, I ventured up to the ol' alma mater, Troy High, to see a non-league JV game vs. Amsterdam. What I found, outside of the fact that Troy blew away the Rams, is that not only does Troy need lights for their baseball & softball diamonds, which are adjacent to each other, but an electronic scoreboard as well. They have an old fashioned scoreboard where you can write the score as you go on one diamond, but that's it. Small wonder, then, why reporting scores to the paper is so hard.

The varsity baseball team, meanwhile, has lost their last two, dropping a 10-6 decision to Ballston Spa on Wednesday. The softball result was not reported, leaving ye scribe to wonder if the game had been played at all, considering the boys were able to play through less than ideal conditions after it rained most of Wednesday. No programs are available, and there's no PA for the baseball/softball games.

Bottom line: Troy schools need help with their budget, but it may require divine intervention......
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Former Tri-City Valleycats pitcher Vince Velasquez is off to a bad start for Philadelphia this season. Velasquez lasted just 5 innings Wednesday in a 5-4 loss to the Mets, as the visitors completed a 3-game sweep in Philadelphia, running their current winning streak to 4 straight as they head south to Miami this weekend. The problem with Velasquez seems to be a high pitch count, as he's racked up 17 strikeouts in 2 starts, but hasn't been able to get past 5 innings. The Phillies would be in the cellar if but for the fact that Atlanta's already there.

Meanwhile, the Mets' Yoenis Cespedes led a 20 hit barrage on Tuesday in a 14-4 blowout, hitting 3 home runs. The Mets had 7 total for the night, 10 for the series, and sit alone in first place going into tonight's game at Miami.
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ESPN's Stephen (Screamin') A. Smith has put his foot in his mouth again. Gee, what a surprise.

Smith got on his whiner's soapbox on Wednesday's First Take to complain about how the NBA's Dallas Mavericks honored Cowboys QB Tony Romo, who has traded his shoulder pads for a CBS blazer. Smith tried playing the race card, but Max Kellerman shut him down. What Smith didn't get, obviously, was that the Mavericks were representing the city of Dallas in paying tribute to Romo, despite the fact that the Dallas Cowboys play their home games in Arlington, and haven't really represented the city in eons, dating back to their move to suburban Irving back in the 70's.

The only reason ESPN keeps Smith employed, other than to keep him away from Fox or any other cabler, is because of his Howard Cosell-wannabe rants, which generate more controversy than actual thought, assuming Smith ever bothers to think and read between the lines. They expect people to talk about it over the water cooler about the latest crap being spewed by this week's Dunce Cap winner. The truth is, Smith's act wore thin a long, long time ago, such that all that needs be done is to count the days until someone at ESPN or Disney finally gets a clue and cuts bait, sending Smith packing with a lifetime supply of beef jerky to shill.
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It's taken 16 years, but the NFL is finally bringing professional football back to Las Vegas, with reports that the Oakland Raiders will play out their current lease and move to Sin City in about three years time.

I know. You're saying, "16 years? Since when?". Since Vince McMahon's ill-fated XFL placed a team in Vegas back in 2001. The league lasted just 1 season Couple this with the NHL putting an expansion team in Vegas as early as this year, I think, and it's a matter of time before the other shoe drops, and the NBA will follow suit. Baseball? The Mets' AAA team in the Pacific Coast League is based in Vegas, but a MLB franchise? I don't think so. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Musical Interlude: Freeze Frame (1981-2)

After reaching #1 with "Centerfold" in the winter of 1982, the J. Geils Band chose the title tune from their album, "Freeze Frame", as the next single. How many of you guys have had mishaps while painting and listening to this song at the same time?



In memory of John Warren Geils, Jr. (J. Geils), who passed away at 71.

The introduction of Liquid Plumr (1969)

Liquid Plumr drain opener, now a part of the Clorox family, is approaching its 50th anniversary in a couple of years. One of their earliest ads features character actor Allan Melvin.



I think this might've been out shortly before Melvin was cast as Sam the Butcher on The Brady Bunch, but at the time, he was the voice of Drooper, and doubled as the announcer for The Banana Splits.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Musical Interlude: Even Better Than The Real Thing (1991)

U2's first single off 1991's "Achtung Baby" was the visually striking "Even Better Than The Real Thing". It's hard to find a copy of the video with all of the additional "background" audio intact, as some have had the extra audio, including Bono's 2-part bit with a German accent, deleted for unknown reasons. I'm still trying to ID the MTV UK VJ who makes a quick cameo.......



At the Video Music Awards, U2 appeared via satellite and performed "Even Better", aided and abetted at the VMA's by host Dana Carvey, in his "Wayne's World" guise as Garth Algar, supplementing drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.'s beats. I will see if I can find that particular clip down the road.

What Might've Been: High School USA (1984)

It's funny how things work.

In the fall of 1983, NBC presented a made-for-TV movie, "High School USA", which was a blending, if ya will, of the network's current stars, such as Todd Bridges & Dana Plato from Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life's Nancy McKeon, Tom Villard (We Got it Made), and Michael J. Fox (Family Ties), plus Crystal Bernard & Cathy Silvers of ABC's Happy Days, which was in its final season, with older sitcom stars, including:

Frank Bank, Ken Osmond, & Tony Dow (Leave it to Beaver)
Dawn Wells (Gilligan's Island)
Elinor Donohue (Father Knows Best, The Andy Griffith Show)
Angela Cartwright (Make Room For Daddy, Lost in Space)
Bob Denver (Dobie Gillis, Gilligan's Island)
Barry Livingston (My Three Sons)

The movie was enough of a hit to warrant at least consideration for a spin-off series, which, understandably required some cast changes, not just with the younger generation, but the older one as well.

The pilot aired on Memorial Day weekend in May 1984. Only a handful of the original cast returned, including Ken Osmond, Crystal Bernard, and Crispin Glover. Frank Bank & Tony Dow didn't return, replaced by two more Beaver alumni, namely Barbara Billingsley and Beaver himself, Jerry Mathers. Meanwhile, the cast also included Henry Gibson (ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In), who had reinvented himself as a character actor in TV & movies, including "Nashville" & "The Blues Brothers", and from Batman, Julie Newmar & Burt Ward. I think this may have really kickstarted Ward's comeback as an actor, five years after Legends of the Superheroes, also for NBC.

Now, I never saw either the pilot or the movie, but the pilot is here for your perusal. No rating.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Classic TV: The Edge of Night (1956)

For nearly three decades, Procter & Gamble's television arm had a daytime soap opera that could've just as easily played at night. That is to say, at the Edge of Night.

Edge of Night began on CBS in 1956, but never really had a prime spot in the daytime lineup. It has been my experience that Edge was always at the bottom of the lineup. Could've been on earlier before I was born, but, hey, what do I know? Anyway, CBS decided to cancel the series at Thanksgiving in 1975, with the last episode airing on Black Friday (November 28). Ah, but P & G had other ideas, and on December 1, Edge moved to ABC, and as memory serves, it aired in back of General Hospital. I think, too, that this might've been a rare case of P & G selling one of their soaps to ABC, as most of their shows were either on CBS (Search For Tomorrow, which moved to NBC at the end of its run, or As The World Turns) or NBC (i.e. Another World and its spin-offs). Nearly 10 years later, Edge was laid to rest for good.

So what set it apart from other soaps? Instead of focusing on families and infidelities within, Edge was more of a daytime crime drama, the kind I could've sunk my teeth into if I actually understood what it was about back in the day.

Let's go back to the CBS era.



Procter & Gamble, of course, is now out of the television business. I wonder, though, if they still own their shows.

No rating.

What Might've Been: The Edge (1992)

After leaving MTV, Julie Brown tried to reboot her MTV series, Just Say Julie, as The Julie Show, but couldn't find any takers. Along with then-boyfriend David Mirkin, Brown then developed a sketch comedy series, The Edge, which was picked up by Fox in 1992.

By taking the spotlight off herself, Brown opened the door for emerging talents such as Tom Kenny, Wayne Knight, and Jennifer Aniston. Unfortunately, despite airing on Sundays, where comedies have thrived over the years, The Edge, which boasted some short animated bits from Bill Plympton, who was also contributing to MTV at the time, lasted just 1 season. 2 episodes never aired.

In this sample clip, Knight plays a shyster lawyer who shows us how to fake injuries in order to file lawsuits.



Of course, Knight achieved bigger fame on Seinfeld & 3rd Rock From The Sun, and even landed a part in "Jurassic Park". Aniston, after Friends cemented her icon status, currently is shilling for Aveeno between movie gigs, and Kenny is better known to the kids as the voice of SpongeBob Squarepants, among other gigs.

No rating. Didn't see enough of the show to fairly rate it.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Easter Theatre: Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

With Easter a week away, I thought we'd revisit one of the classic miniseries of the 70's.

Jesus of Nazareth spanned over 6 hours in all, spread out over a few nights on NBC. Director Franco Zeffarelli brought the Gospels to life. His interpretation was epic in its scope, with an all-star cast to match in support of a relative unknown, Robert Powell, cast in the title role. I believe it was released in theatres overseas, but not so sure about an American theatrical release.

As Jesus of Nazareth marks its 40th anniversary this year, let's take a close look at a sample clip:



Compare this, if you will, to Mark Burnett & Roma Downey's recent miniseries, The Bible, which spun off the movie, "Son of God". The Burnetts took creative liberties with the source material, which made the movie fall a bit flat. I'd sooner have Jesus of Nazareth on DVD, thank you.

Rating: A.

Celebrity Rock: Being Yourself (1981)

In 1980, producer Robert Evans managed to avoid jail time on a drug conviction when a judge instead ordered him to use his money & influence to create an anti-drug message for young people.

The end result was a 1-shot NBC special, Get High On Yourself, which aired in September 1981. The highlight of the show was a group musical performance as athletes (Muhammad Ali, Magic Johnson, Julius Erving) and celebrities (Bob Hope, Cathy Lee Crosby, Mark Hamill, Paul Newman, Happy Days' Henry Winkler & Scott Baio, Fantasy Island's Herve Villechaize, etc.) joined together with some kids to spread the message of "Being Yourself":



Because this aired on a Saturday night, I didn't see the show itself, and missed this the first time. Amazingly, I don't think this played on MTV, despite the presence of rock icon Ted Nugent.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Classic TV: Trapper John, M. D. (1979)

Trapper John, M. D. was technically not a spinoff from M*A*S*H, which was still on the air at the time, but rather the feature film that spawned that series, said film in turn being an adaptation of a novel.

The concept behind Trapper John, which anchored CBS' Sunday night lineup for 7 seasons (1979-86) was that John McIntyre was now older, wiser, divorced, and chief surgeon at a hospital in San Francisco. Pernell Roberts (ex-Bonanza) was cast as McIntyre, the better to differentiate the character from his younger self, as played by Wayne Rogers in the early years of M*A*S*H.

One thing the two series did have in common was a revolving door with the supporting cast. For example, Mary McCarty, whose character had also previously appeared on M*A*S*H, passed away after production on the first season had ended. The part was not recast, but, rather, another actress, Madge Sinclair, was brought in as a completely new character to fill the void. With McIntyre now essentially the boss/father figure, the focus of youth-obsessed advertisers was on "Gonzo" Gates (Gregory Harrison) and Nurse Gloria "Ripples" Brancusi (Christopher Norris--don't ask why she had a boy's name). As you'll see in the following sample, I think you'd understand why.

Following is the season 2 finale, "Brain Child", with future icon Michael J. Fox as a teenage doctor. Yes, this was a few years before Doogie Howser, M. D..



Unfortunately, no channels on cable systems in the home district carry Trapper John, M. D. at present. Maybe that'll change as the series approaches its 40th anniversary in 2 years.

Rating: B.

On The Shelf: Doc Savage tries to find a missing legend, and more

Dynamite Entertainment brings back Doc Savage, this time for a period piece that's more appropriate for the Man of Bronze. In the 4 issue "Ring of Fire", Doc and his team, along with cousin Pat are on the trail of missing aviatrix Amelia Earhart. Savage's only known nemesis, John Sunlight, factors into the mix. At least this time, they're getting it right, but we'll reserve a rating for after the conclusion.

As will be the case with the DC Universe-Looney Tunes 1-shots coming in June, the crossovers with classic Hanna-Barbera characters are a clear case of fan-fiction service, coupled with writers and artists letting their imaginations run wild. Literally.

Take for example the pairing of the Suicide Squad with the Banana Splits. Artist Ben Caldwell (Prez) has reimagined the bubblegum rockers with more realistic appearances, including giving Fleegle a lisp, due largely to missing a couple of front teeth. Snorky is bigger and meaner, and Drooper & Bingo look more like a true lion & gorilla. Just don't ask how they learned how to play musical instruments. Anyway, when Harley Quinn, Deadshot, & Killer Croc go missing on a mission off the grid, Amanda Waller conscripts the Splits for a rescue mission.

Meanwhile, Snagglepuss is in the backup feature, and they're trying to explain his particular image in a way that his creators at H-B never imagined. We think. Augie Doggie & Peter Potamus make cameos.

Rating: B.

Next, Green Lantern, in this case, Hal Jordan, meets Space Ghost. The angle of the Phantom of the Spaceways as a "peacekeeper" carries over from his 2003 miniseries. Artist Ariel Olivetti worked on that miniseries, so he was an easy choice. Co-author James Tynion IV did his homework for this one.

The backup story brings Ruff & Reddy back to comics, as Howard Chaykin offers a sort-of origin of how the two came together. Both, according to Chaykin, started as nightclub comics. Ruff, you see, can't hang on to a partner. One died of a heart attack on stage. Another, a human female, gives Chaykin an excuse to get in some adult humor that doesn't really belong. As with Snagglepuss, the plan is to try out R & R in their own series down the road. They just have to rein in Chaykin.

Rating: A-.

Adam Strange crosses into the world of Future Quest, and not only meets Jonny Quest and his team, but also Dino Boy, who had made his DC debut in the pages of Future Quest. This story is the followup to the conclusion of Future Quest, which will be out in a couple of weeks. Watch for a cameo by the Herculoids and Birdman. Clearly, DC has something planned after their summer events. Top Cat appears in the backup, and somehow finds his way to Gotham City, crossing paths, not only with Batman, but also Catwoman. Phil Winslade's artwork is on point, as TC retains his familiar look, but on his world, it's an all cat world now, as even Officer Dibble is a feline. Writer Dan DiDio finally got something done right.

Rating: A.

Haven't read the Booster Gold-Flintstones book yet, as that figures to be closer to a coda for the latter book, which ends in June. The next wave of Hanna-Barbera books figures to be out either during the summer or fall.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Classic TV: The Cosby Show (1984)

NBC was beginning to turn things around in terms of ratings by 1984. For adventure, you had The A-Team & Remington Steele on Tuesdays, and Knight Rider on Fridays. NBC was building their Thursday block, piece by piece, starting with Hill Street Blues, then Cheers & Family Ties, while adding Miami Vice to the Friday lineup.

To anchor the Thursday block, programming head Brandon Tartikoff turned to one of NBC's stars of the 60's, Bill Cosby.

Cosby had turned his attention to children's programming in the 70's with a 1 year stint on the original Electric Company leading directly to his seminal, quasi-autobiographical Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids, which had left CBS for syndication after 12 seasons, and a long stint shilling for Jell-O, becoming its most famous pitchman since Jack Benny. His last self-titled series for NBC lasted two seasons (1969-71), so how long would The Cosby Show run?

How about eight seasons? The sitcom environment was different, as instead of being a bachelor, Cosby was now a family man and a doctor.

Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable (Cosby) was almost never seen at work. Then again, his office was also his home, and, so, the focus was on the interaction with his wife, Clair (Phylicia Rashad), and their five children. People tend to forget that this was the series that introduced America to comedian Adam Sandler, who had a brief, recurring gig as a pal of Theo (Malcolm Jamal-Warner), before leaving for MTV and Remote Control.

Unfortunately, due to the sex scandal that has engulfed Cosby in the present day, few, if any, cable networks are willing to run this series or any of his later series, although I Spy & The Bill Cosby Show seem to still be in demand. It's better, then, to count the memories and the laughs with the man who became "America's Dad" from 1984-92.

Our sample comes from the 2nd season.



Cosby would reunite with Phylicia Rashad for a CBS series in the late 90's, which we'll cover another time.

Rating: A.

Sports this 'n' that

For months, I was under the assumption that Troy High was cutting loose baseball coach William Whitty. Not so, it turns out. Seems that Whitty is not a physical education teacher, and with two gym teachers in charge of tryouts and practices, that led to a mistaken assumption. So, to Coach Whitty, I apologize.

That said, the season got off to a good start Wednesday, as the non-league game vs. Bethlehem, delayed from April 1, saw the Flying Horses shut down the Eagles, 2-0. The team begins a 3-game road trip----we think---at Columbia today, followed by a non-league tilt vs. former Big 10 rival Amsterdam, now out of the Foothills Council, tomorrow. Colonie was supposed to be the opponent on Wednesday, but that game will be made up, likely during Easter vacation week (April 17-22).

Meanwhile, after beating Colonie at home on Tuesday, the Troy lacrosse team suffered their first loss, a 7-6 heartbreaker to Columbia on Thursday. The laxmen are right back at it against Amsterdam tomorrow.
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Normally, you'd think LaSalle would play their home lacrosse matches at Sutton Field, but no. For reasons known only to the school, the Cadets are using Watervliet High as a temporary home field.
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CBS Sports president Sean McManus, son of the late broadcaster, Jim McKay, gets the Weasel of the Week award this week for unceremoniously removing former Giants quarterback Phil Simms as CBS' #1 NFL color analyst, replaced by newly retired Dallas QB Tony Romo. The Cowboys, apparently, couldn't convince anyone else to make a trade for Romo, which likely would've involved draft picks, as Romo became expendable last season due to the emergence of Dak Prescott, who led the Cowboys to the NFC East title.

So why does Romo get the plum assignment with no broadcasting experience? Simple. CBS is looking to cut into Fox's ratings. Another ex-Cowboy, Troy Aikman, has established himself as Fox's #1 analyst, so CBS is playing monkey see, monkey do. However, they're throwing Romo to the wolves right away. Better that Romo would start in the NFL Today studio, but this is about ratings chicken, for one thing, plus the fact that CBS has the Cowboys' annual Thanksgiving Day game this year.

In addition to the Weasel ears, we'll see if we can find a copy of the writings of George Santayana for Mr. McManus.
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There is still a lot of talk, and attendant flak, over the LPGA's decision to penalize Lexi Thompson four strokes for misplacing her ball on Saturday afternoon. Golf is one of the few sports, if not the only one, that allows television viewers to participate. I think tennis does, too, but I'm not entirely sure. While Thompson, 22, made up the difference and forced a playoff, which she ultimately lost, she shouldn't have had that happen 24 hours after the miscues took place. She also signed her scorecard for the 3rd round, not knowing about the mistake she made. An anonymous viewer e-mailed the LPGA with his/her findings, but Thompson has gotten support from her fellow pros----on the men's tour, including Hall of Fame icon Jack Nicklaus.

Nicklaus, quoted by Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press on Thursday, believes that once your scorecard is signed and turned over to a tournament official, that's it. Turning golf into an interactive television event is meant to boost ratings and inform Joe & Jane Sixpack about the game, not turn them into remote nannies who nitpick and unwittingly create situations such as what befell Thompson at the ANA Inspiration, the first LPGA major tournament, fornerly known as the Nabisco-Dinah Shore Classic, of the season.

Another former Masters champion, Phil Mickelson, was quoted as saying the LPGA should consider awarding Thompson the trophy after all, but what purpose would that serve? "Lefty" got that one wrong. What's done is done. End of story.
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Finally, we're also handing out a set of Weasel ears to Dan LeBatard, and this has nothing to do with his ESPN comedy-talk show, Highly Questionable, which we'll review another time. No, in this case, LeBatard gets the ears for straying too far off course in the course of an interview with newly-minted WWE Hall of Famer and yoga guru Diamond Dallas Page. LeBatard pressed Page on a reported tiff with former WCW rival Scott Steiner. Page went off on LeBatard, and was cut off after dropping an F-bomb on the air. Page was justified, if but because he'd told LeBatard repeatedly he didn't want to address that issue (an interview with the more volatile Steiner would've ended worse), but was ignored. You'd expect this from some C-list Howard Stern wanna-be, not a veteran journalist like LeBatard, who I believe is also still a newspaper columnist (Miami Herald), but should know better.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Don Rickles (1926-2017)

He was one of the last of the old school comedians. His put-downs and insults of audience members and fellow celebrities alike probably wouldn't be acceptable today, but Don Rickles, alternately known as "Mr. Warmth" or "The Merchant of Venom", the latter a play on Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, made a career out of poking fun at just about everyone with a wink and a nod, shall we say. Sadly, Rickles passed away today, a month shy of his 91st birthday.

As an actor, Rickles demonstrated that his strength in films wasn't his comedy act, but the fact that he could also do drama, as evidenced by roles in films as diverse as "Kelly's Heroes", though it could be construed that he was, in fact, comedy relief, and the vampire film, "Innocent Blood". On television, Rickles had trouble sustaining his own series. Two self-titled shows flopped very quickly, and Aaron Ruben's Navy comedy, C. P. O. Sharkey, lasted two seasons. Rickles also was the voice of Mr. Potato Head in Pixar's "Toy Story" movies.

Rickles was immortalized in comic books by writer-artist Jack Kirby in the pages of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, in the early 70's, and given a heroic alter-ego, "Goody Rickles", in a two-part story. Kirby must've been a fan. In the late 70's, Rickles was regularly featured on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, but in 1970, Rickles was himself roasted by the Friars Club, led by the Tonight Show's Johnny Carson, on The Kraft Music Hall:



Yes, Martin would also roast Rickles a few years later, and was known to undercut Rickles when he was roasting other celebrities.

We're going to miss Rickles' brand of humor. Some would dismiss it now as politically incorrect. One of the few exceptions may be our current President, whose worldview is a little skewed anyway........!

Rest in peace, Don.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Musical Interlude: Jojo (1980)

Boz Scaggs followed "Breakdown Dead Ahead" with the equally jazzy "Jojo" off 1980's "Middle Man". Like, scope it out!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Classic TV: Treasure Hunt (1956)

When I was growing up, one of my favorite game shows was the syndicated New Treasure Hunt, hosted by Geoff Edwards. Now, we'll look at that version another time, but why was it called "New"? Because the original had aired in the 50's.

Treasure Hunt was the brainchild of actor-comedian-game show host Jan Murray (ex-Dollar A Second), better known to my generation as a regular panelist on other game shows, such as Hollywood Squares and Break The Bank. Hunt ran for three years (1956-9), and ended up being the last show emceed by Murray for whatever reason. Jan spent a good chunk of the 60's making movies, such as "Tarzan & The Great River".

Chuck Barris acquired Hunt in 1973, and his subsequent revival lasted 4 years initially (1973-7), ending largely because Barris, who couldn't help himself, wanted to use more pranks & skits, as his version was derivative of Monty Hall's Let's Make a Deal. Hunt subsequently relaunched in 1981, but lasted just one more year.

As was the custom of the day, Treasure Hunt aired both weekday mornings as well as one night per week. The later series were syndicated because no network wanted to take a chance on it again, for whatever reason.

Right now, let's go back to March 1958.



Rating: A.

Sports this 'n' that

"When you think you've got all the answers, I change the questions!"---Roddy Piper.

Everyone assumed that the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team would march through the NCAA tournament and win another title. Some of those same people must've thought a mammoth April Fool's joke was being played when they woke up Saturday morning and saw headlines reporting that the Lady Huskies had, indeed, been defeated in the women's Final Four by Mississippi State. The Lady Bulldogs, however, were in turn denied the title by SEC rival South Carolina on Sunday night.

After 111 straight wins, UConn's women knew the end of the streak was near. Now, they can start a new one in November when the 2017-18 season starts.
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If you were a betting man, chances are you took a bath if you went with the Yankees and the Giants Sunday, as both teams lost on the road. Yankee ace Mashiro Tanaka didn't get out of the 3rd inning, tying the shortest opening day start in franchise history. Mel Stottlemyre (1973) and Ron Guidry (1993) also went just 2 2/3 innings on opening day. Meanwhile, in Phoenix, the Arizona Diamondbacks spoiled Mark Melancon's San Francisco debut by rallying in the 9th inning to beat the Giants, 6-5. Giants starter Madison Bumgarner did most of the offensive damage, too, with two home runs, giving him 16 for his career.

After the game, ESPN's Karl Ravech, on Baseball Tonight, renewed the pitch to commissioner Rob Manfred to have Bumgarner take part in the Home Run Derby in July. I saw the highlights of both of "Mad Bum"'s shots, and the second was a legitimate "bomb", as they call it.

Maybe they should just have a smaller Derby for the pitchers, with Bumgarner, Jake Arietta (Cubs), Noah Syndergaard (Mets), and even Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) in the field. That would be even more entertaining than watching the main Derby.
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Troy High's lacrosse team has never won a league title, and insofar as I know, they've never had a winning season. However, they got off to a good start Thursday, winning, 12-11, in double overtime over Scotia in the home opener.

The downside, though, is that because lacrosse isn't a priority sport in the spring, the school doesn't print game programs like they do for football & basketball, and they don't promote the lacrosse team as heavily as they do the baseball & softball teams. To that end, the Albany Times-Union made the mistaken assumption that the Troy-Scotia game was to take place on Friday. Troy's next lacrosse game will be tomorrow vs. Colonie.

Meanwhile, the softball team opens on the road at Lansingburgh this afternoon, then turning right around for the home opener tomorrow, also against Colonie, while the baseball team, which apparently had their home opener vs. Bethlehem washed out on Saturday, will entertain Colonie on Wednesday.
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Wrestlemania, WWE's spring super-show, has always been about getting mainstream attention. From having Muhammad Ali, Billy Martin, and Liberace among the guests at the first event in 1985 to this year's show, with a mini-concert by Pitbull stretching the card to 5 hours in length, it's always been about getting on Entertainment Tonight or SportsCenter. And last night was full of moments:

*--After beating Total Divas castmates Mike & Maryse Mizanin, John Cena popped the question to his girlfriend of five years, Nikki Bella.

*--New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski hopped the rail to help real-life pal Mojo Rawley win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. That, I'm sure, has been played to death on ESPN & NFL Network already.

*--24 hours after losing the Ring of Honor tag titles, the Hardys returned to WWE, added to Raw's tag team title ladder match, and unseated Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, the culmination of their "Expedition of Gold" that began in TNA/Impact Wrestling. Up to match time, the Hardys had denied signing with WWE for the first time since 2010 (Matt) & 2009 (Jeff). Could've fooled us. Not.

*--The Undertaker (Mark Calloway) formally retired after losing to Roman Reigns by leaving his hat, gloves, & jacket in center ring.

*--In addition to the tag title match, there were other title changes:

*--Naomi regained Smackdown's women's title in a 6-pack challenge, ending Alexa Bliss' 2nd run.

*--Brock Lesnar, as everyone expected, defeated Bill Goldberg to win the Universal title. Manager Paul Heyman has already indicated that Lesnar will be a little more visible as champion this time around.

*--Kevin Owens became a 3-time US champion, defeating Chris Jericho.

*--Randy Orton won his 13th world title, unseating Bray Wyatt in a battle of 3rd generation wrestlers.

*--Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon paid a steep price for interfering in the Triple H-Seth Rollins match, as she was knocked through a table. Expect a 3-hour temper tantrum tonight.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Forgotten TV: The Law & Mr. Jones (1960)

There are a number of actors who rightfully should've been more successful in television, but no matter how many series they had, or how hard they worked, they didn't catch enough breaks where it counted most----in the ratings.

James Whitmore falls into this category. In 1960, Whitmore was cast in the lead of Four Star's The Law & Mr. Jones, which lasted a grand total of 2 seasons, although there was a gap between seasons 1 & 2, which we'll get to. Lawyer Abraham Lincoln Jones (Whitmore) took on a number of clients for a variety of reasons. At the time, a lawyer-centric drama not named Perry Mason would be hard pressed to retain its audience.

Take a look at the episode, "A Very Special Citizen", from March 1961, and you'll see what I mean.



Ok, let's recap. A doctor stops to treat a high school pitcher who's had an accident. The youth ignores the doc's advice, and when his condition worsens, his family sues. What's wrong with that picture? Ego and greed, one would guess.

So why the gap between seasons? The show was cancelled after the first season, but viewer mail turned that around, leading to a return in April 1962. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled for the final time that summer.

Rating: B.

2017 Baseball preview, part 3: National League forecast

Time to take a look at the National League.

National League East:

If there is one negative to Washington having hired Dusty Baker to replace Matt Williams after the 2015 season, it is the fact that the team hired a manager whose one shortcoming is the same as theirs. Neither has been able to get past the division round. For all the talent the Nationals have, it availed them naught against Los Angeles last year. Second baseman Daniel Murphy isn't going to sneak up on people and challenge for the batting title. He'll be a contender, sure, but it won't be a shock. However, he has a new double play partner in Trea Turner, with Danny Espinosa having been shipped out. Catcher Wilson Ramos is also gone (Tampa Bay), as is closer Mark Melancon (San Francisco), with Blake Treinen taking over the 9th inning. Gio Gonzalez is on the back end of his career, so, fittingly, he's at the back of the rotation. Miami compensated for the loss of ace Jose Fernandez, who passed away in September, by signing Edinson Volquez. However, the rotation doesn't scare the way the offense does. Philadelphia let Ryan Howard retire, but they already had a successor in place in Tommy Joseph. They won't sneak up on anyone, but they don't have the firepower to crack the top half of the division. As for the Mets, letting Bartolo Colon go to Atlanta allows their rotation to skew younger with the return of Zack Wheeler. Steven Matz starts the season on the DL (elbow), along with outfielders Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares and third baseman David Wright, who should consider the signs and think about walking away as Jose Reyes learns to play third. Closer Jeurys Familia will be out until mid-April (suspension), but veteran closers Addison Reed & Fernando Salas will help pick up the slack. Meanwhile, Colon wasn't the only Met to fly south, as the Braves picked up catcher Anthony Recker, only to send him to the minors. A third ex-Met, R. A. Dickey, came from a longer distance (Toronto), but he'd have to relocate the magic he left behind in Flushing. Atlanta also signed Jaime Garcia (St. Louis), but while they do have some offense surrounding Freddie Freeman, they don't have enough bullpen arms to get them to closer Jim Johnson. Just sayin'.

Projected order of finish:

1. Washington.
2. Mets.
3. Miami.
4. Atlanta.
4. (tie) Philadelphia.

National League Central:

I wouldn't anoint the defending champion Chicago Cubs as a repeater just yet. They traded for Aroldis Chapman in July, and manager Joe Maddon over-used him, leading to Chapman returning to the Yankees. So what does Theo Epstein do? He gets Wade Davis (Kansas City) as his new closer. The Cubs also signed outfielder Jon Jay (San Diego) to replace Dexter Fowler (St. Louis), but when you have a rising star in Albert Almora, Jr., I doubt he'll be in the minors for long, if at all. St. Louis let Jamie Garcia go to Atlanta, and lost a chunk of offense with Matt Holliday going to the Yankees. Still, they'll find a way to get back to the playoffs. The window of opportunity may be closing for Pittsburgh and Andrew McCutcheon, which is why the Pirates were supposedly so keen to trade their star for prospects. Too soon for that, I say. Cincinnati & Milwaukee are just holding up the floor.


Projected order of finish:

1. Chicago.
2. St. Louis.
3. Pittsburgh.
4. Cincinnati.
5. Milwaukee.

National League West:

Los Angeles is nearing the 30th anniversary of their last World Series title, but they're also beginning a new era with the retirement of announcer Vin Scully. The Dodgers fortified their bullpen by signing Sergio Romo away from San Francisco, adding further fuel to that ancient rivalry. The Giants also lost Santiago Casilla (Oakland), making a playoff run that much harder. However, signing closer Mark Melancon (Washington) should ease the pain. How the Yankees let that one get away is a mystery. Arizona dumped Jean Segura, sending him to Seattle, after 1 season. They still need a piece or two before they can really contend. The same can be said for San Diego & Colorado.

Projected order of finish:

1. Los Angeles.
2. San Francisco.
3. San Diego.
4. Arizona.
4. (tie) Colorado.

Of course, I could be wrong.